Saturday, October 28, 2017

House of horrors

"If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There's a roof above and good walls all around."

If you want to fall out of love with your old home, sell it.

A couple of weeks ago, I cried after we signed the contract to sell our Sugar Land home.

It had been on the market for exactly two weeks by then, but we’d already been negotiating the price for several days by then.

We already had negative feelings about the buyers, starting with their first lowball offer. After we declined to counter, their realtor told our realtor that she’d warned them this might happen. Our realtor said something like, well, you can’t blame them for trying.

I did blame them for trying. It got us off on the wrong foot to start.

We also let ourselves be influenced to reduce the price more than I’d have liked. Our realtor implied that the buyers were on a short time agenda and had another house they were also looking at.

Maybe yes, maybe no. Who knows.

Still, it’s just money and I was resigned to the agreed price. The buyers had the house inspected the day after we DocuSigned the contract.

I honestly thought there’d be few surprises. We took good care of our home, I thought. The air conditioning had been serviced and was running well. Neil had put in new filters, new smoke detectors, and LED light bulbs everywhere. We’d had the carpet stretched and shampooed. We’d had our housekeeper deep clean on the last day before we left.

Nothing prepared us for the ugly 41-page property inspection report and the list of 18 items that the buyers wanted repaired, ranging from the exasperating to the mundane. From broken sprinkler heads and knocking water heaters to missing trip ties and sticky windows and compressed attic insulation.The report was accompanied by a repair estimate for the air conditioning system.

Neil was angry, ready to call the whole thing off. It was hard not to take it personally, and frustrating not to be there to handle the small stuff ourselves, things like tightening the attic ladder screws, removing oil stains from the garage floor and lubricating the garage doors.

Yet I had to admit, if I were buying the house, I’d want these things attended to too.

I got out a pencil and walked through the list with Neil, putting dollar values on each item, from zero for tightening the screws on the attic ladder to $500 to fix the whirlpool tub that was working just fine when we left. We erred on the generous side I think, then rounded up and offered cash in lieu of repairs.

The buyers responded by splitting their list into what they wanted done by us and what they’d accept cash for. Neil was ready to say no again, but our realtor claimed we should try to come to an agreement because we’d have to disclose the inspection report to future buyers. Buyers who would have their own inspection done and might find yet more issues.

I’m not sure this is right. My brother thought we’d only have to disclose what we agreed with in the report, but he’s not licensed in Texas.

In any event, for every month the house sits vacant we are paying for utilities, insurance, taxes, yard maintenance, homeowners fees, etc., while more things can go wrong, more dirt and dust can accumulate.

Our realtor stepped up a bit and found us a contractor who could do all the repairs except for the air conditioner and the hot water heaters which supposedly were knocking too badly to simply be flushed. So in the end we offered to cover the ac repair bill, make the other repairs and give a credit for replacing the water heaters.

Neil’s words to the realtor when we cooked up this counter-offer were, I’m getting pretty sick of this. The buyers did try for more, more money, more repairs, and our realtor stood ground and said, do you want this house or not.

They wanted the house it seems.

I suspect we could have taken a harder line sooner, but it’s just money as I said.

And somehow this bit of unpleasantness has helped me let go of the house and move on a little.

Another thing that helped was an accidental conversation Neil had with the buyer when he dialed their number which was on the hvac estimate. We think they are a young professional couple with children.

I’m not sure why that makes it more bearable.

The buyer - the man of the couple - was cordial on the phone with Neil. It makes me wonder whether the whole process could have been greatly improved if we’d been able to sit down at a table together, instead of communicating through two realtors and reports and lists.

I’m not proud to say, I looked at the buyers’ names on the contract and let a host of cultural biases color my reactions at every step along the way.

A voice on the telephone, children’s voices in the background, humanized them, made them individuals instead of the enemy.

I hope they flourish in our house, soon to be their house now barring further unpredicted impediments. I’ll be proud to turn it over shipshape for its ten-year age.

All that remains now is for me to grow to love this house I’m living in.

I’m still struggling with that. We still don't have a comfortable place to sit, I’m still going from achy mattress to hard kitchen chair to abominable sofa.

But the weather is nice, Chelsea and Robert visited, we had fun showing them around.

Rob, me, Chelsea. Photo by Neil.
We had a picnic at Ramsey Creek Park.
We finished building the corner desk, and it fits nicely in the home office/cat room.

I met a new friend for lunch, someone I’d met online, and I had a nice time. We’re planning another outing soon.

I love my new treadmill, well, as much as anyone can love a torture machine. I watched The Five and I’m working my way through Mindhunter. We just started the second season of Stranger Things.

We figured out how to stream music to the house speakers via Sonos.

We found a good sushi place. The North Carolina roll was delicious.

And we saw the deer again. That makes four times.

When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow

Well I never had a place
That I could call my very own
But that's all right my love
'Cause you're my home

When you touch my weary head
And you tell me everything will be all right
You say, use my body for your bed
And my love will keep you warm throughout the night

Well I'll never be a stranger
And I'll never be alone
Wherever we're together
That's my home

Home could be the Pennsylvania turnpike
Indiana's early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There's a roof above and good walls all around

You're my castle, you're my cabin
And my instant pleasure dome
I need you in my house
'Cause you're my home
You're my home.

(Billy Joel)

Friday, October 20, 2017

The magnitude of the problem

"I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me."

In the wake of a glut of sexual harassment and abuse stories in the media, the latest reprobate being Hollywood hotshot Harvey Weinstein, social media erupted with two simple words.

"Me too."

Reportedly it began on Twitter with a post by actress Alyssa Milano.
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
My immediate response was to think, with gratitude, that hasn't happened to me.

And then I thought a little more.

And it's funny, the more I thought, the more I read, the more I remembered, the more I connected.

This is what I eventually posted.

I have never by raped, at least not by brute force. There are other ways to be sexually raped. One is lies. I once was raped by lies. A very pretty liar lied me right into bed, not long after my divorce. Then he ghosted in a flash, quicker than you can say a New York minute.

But that's not the same thing. I won't compare that naive mistake, that stupid shame, to the anguish of women who were physically violated, by strangers, by dates, by fathers, grandfathers, brothers, cousins, husbands. Women who did not give consent or were unable to give consent.

Rape is one despicable, unforgivable kind of assault. There are others.

Initially I thought that, since I'd never been physically, forcibly, sexually violated, and I'd never been subjected to any ongoing threat or crude innuendo or embarrassing allusion or prurient insinuation, that I'd not been sexually assaulted, harassed or abused.

But on reflection it became clear to me that, in broader terms, sexual abuse encompasses any and all unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances and exposures.

I'm not here to debate that, although I have no doubt some would take issue with that definition.

All unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances and exposures are sexual abuse.

I have found myself in situations, not of my own volition, where I was afraid, shocked, disgusted, and shamed by the malapropos behavior of members of the male sex.

My first go round that I remember was when I was in elementary school. We lived one city block from P.S. 144. If I walked one short block, turned the corner and walked one long block, the school would be diagonally across the street. I could see the fourth floor of the school from my bedroom window.

It was on the long block. I used to go home for lunch and I think I was walking back to school after lunch. A man was loitering by a car. My memory is fuzzy right here, but somehow we got into a conversation. Let's say I was 9 or 10 or 11, and a friendly kid.

Then he asked me, do you have any hair yet?

It took me a few seconds to grasp his meaning. And then I felt shell-shocked. Tazed. I walked away, walked on to school. Fortunately it was broad daylight in a residential neighborhood. and probably if he'd pursued me or tried to grab me, someone would have heard me scream.

He didn't try to do anything. Nothing else happened. This was more than 50 years ago, and I feel dirty somehow typing these words on my nice clean blog.

I told my mother that night and I know the police were called and there were PTA meetings held to discuss this. My mom may have walked me to school for a day or two, but after that life went on as usual.

So why do I remember this one small thing today, why does it make me shudder?

When I was 12 years old, I started attending Hunter High School in Manhattan, which meant I rode the subway to school. During rush hour, when I traveled, the subway cars would fill up with a mass of humanity. I was in 7th grade the first time it happened. I had a seat on the local. My last stop took us from Queensboro Plaza to Grand Central Station, under the East River, so it was the longest stop on the ride.

At Queens Plaza, people crammed in and the doors closed. There was a man in front of me and I became aware that he was fondling his crotch. For that whole long stop I was terrified. Objectively I was safe enough, surrounded by people, and the man did not even appear to notice me. I'm not sure how many miles the stop traversed, the subways lines have since been rerouted, but I'd guess it took 5 to 10 minutes if the train didn't slow or stop between the stations.

I remember just shrinking inside myself, freezing and barely breathing until we reached 42nd street, the doors opened, the car emptied out, and I got out and transferred to the train that took me the last few stops to school.

I told no one. I didn't have the words or I was too embarrassed to speak them or I thought I was the only person that this had ever happened to.

During the six years that I rode the subway to school, I saw a fair number of disturbing sights, from mentally ill people dressed in ragged dirty clothing and stinking the air around them, to tottering drunks and people talking to themselves the way people talk into cell phones now, people being sick, people passed out on the platforms, people high as kites and feeling no pain.

I only remember one other specific incident. I was riding home with friends, mid-afternoon, when the trains were less crowded. Seated across from me was a man dressed in ordinary work clothing. He had a briefcase or some books on his lap and below that his fly was open and he was playing with himself. I was older then, in 10th grade maybe, and I looked away, disturbed and disgusted, but I don't remember feeling fear.

I do remember telling my friend what I'd seen after we got off the train and her response along the lines of, why didn't you say something then? She seemed disappointed at having missed the opportunity to see a man exposing himself indecently. Or maybe that's just how I remember it, through the filter of so many years.

There is one more story that I thought of before I needed to stop thinking. I was a freshman in college. I had a cold and I went to the infirmary. The college doctor examined me and as he listened to my lungs I felt him pressing his genitals against my leg. He was clothed of course, as I was, but I thought that I was imagining it or that it was accidental. I shifted position, he pressed against me again.

I didn't tell a soul. I avoided the infirmary for a long time after that. Much later I learned that the doctor had a reputation for this behavior. I remember girls laughing about it, one girl joked that she went in and said, I have a stomach bug, I don't need to take my shirt off. In retrospect, it boggles my mind. The doctor was widely known for this deviant, degenerate behaviour. But we let it go on. We accepted it. No one got angry, no one reported him, no one demanded that he be censured and dismissed. No, it was just a joke, he was just accepted as a pervert.

I suppose I'm lucky that no more egregious episodes of sexually unwanted and untoward attentions spring to my mind. I have intentionally not dug deeper into my memory, nor have I read many of the details that woman have volunteered to support their "me too" declarations.

But as much as I'd have liked to, I could not in good conscience say, "not me."

Me too, sisters. Me too.

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm all right song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep
Everybody's worried about me
In too deep
Say I'm in too deep
And it's been two years I miss my home
But there's a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm all right song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

I know I've still got a lot of fight left in me.

(Dave Bassett, Rachel Platten)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Some deer and a couple of dogs

“These are the clouds of Michelangelo
Muscular with gods and sungold
Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads.”

I saw the deer again.

That makes three times.

We’d been here about a week when Neil spotted them one early morning, in the rain garden behind our property. There were five. Two bigger, two smaller. I thought, two does and their youngsters, plus one young buck with the cutest short velvet horns.

The does weren’t interested. They chased him off. I haven’t seen him again.

A few days later, at twilight we saw the mamma and child foursome again. Their eyes were huge and reflective, like a cat’s eyes in low light.

Most mornings I look for them when I wake up, but sometimes I forget. This was one of those times, but some movement caught my eye, some shape and color drew my attention. It was the same foursome, I believe, although for all I know about deer, there could be many family groups identical to this one. Two mammas and two kids.

One of the kids is a boy I think. He was play humping one of the others, or maybe he was serious but young and uncoordinated. He appeared to be playing, there was a lot of romping and frolicking.

Periodically, they’d freeze, listening to some unseen perceived threat. The stand of trees behind the rain garden isn’t very deep. There’s a walking path behind it that sees a lot of use. Beyond that there’s a clearing and then another wood. I’m not sure how far it goes before it hits more development or perhaps the highway.

Our backyard with the Rain Garden beyond.
The Rain Garden behind our fence, sans deer today.
We can hear the highway, a dull thrum in the distance. Usually it’s there, like a backdrop of white noise, but at times I don’t hear it at all. I’m not sure why. My best guess is atmospheric conditions, as I think traffic is pretty constant on the interstate.

We sold our house in Texas. We signed the contract on October 12, Neil’s birthday. Closing is scheduled for November 6.

It was on the market for exactly two weeks. Naturally, I have mixed feelings. Not by plan, we listed during a typically slow month, although the market hasn’t been truly typical since Hurricane Harvey rent its wrath upon the Texas housing market.

Still, we didn’t have three offers at or above asking price the first weekend, as I’d predicted. We did have a lot of showings, an average of one per day, and people continue to look at the house.

We had only the one offer, that started so low we declined to counter. They came up a good bit, we went down a little, they came up a good bit more, we went down a little more. They came up a little, we went down a little, they accepted.

I think we could have done better if we’d given it a bit more time. But then the realtor dragged out the story about the family who declined to negotiate enough on their first offer and then their house sat on the market for a year.

She actually said, sometimes your first offer is your best offer. I take these stories with a grain of salt. I say, that’s them, that's not us, and our house will sell. The market typically improves in November as people start thinking about a new house for the holidays, about moving the kids between fall and spring semesters.

But I’m also very much a bird in the hand person, and selling sooner means cutting off expenses such as utilities, insurance, and property taxes. It means no more of Neil stressing about the lack of communication by the realtor about feedback from the showings, no more of his anxiety that we priced too high or that the house is defective somehow. It is 10 years old and we’ve only done necessary repairs, which I think is fine, but he worries.

We’re still waiting for the inspection report, and we already know about some repairs we’ll have to do, a cracked window, a broken blind, a smoke detector that will require a massively long ladder to replace. I suspect there will be more. I don’t foresee any deal breakers, but you never know.

Neil is in Texas this week. He’s there to clear out the garage, where we shoved everything that was too shabby to take and too unwieldy to donate. He also wants his car, even though he says that he plans to buy a new car fairly soon and give his old car to Chris.

He’ll be loading it up with last minute things that we’d planned to take but couldn’t jam into my car. Then he’ll drive it here alone, over two days or three.

But he’s also staying with Laurie and having time to play with baby Blake. His trip also happily coincided with a send-off party for one of his former workmates, a family do, with almost all of his former work team.

Despite what seems like better judgment, he also scheduled doctor and dentist appointments while there, and a lunch date with his old work team, things that will add roughly another day’s delay to his return. And now he's talking about getting his hair cut by his old hairdresser while he's there.

For someone so gung ho to move, he's not being very proactive about getting his life set up here.

I’m not happy about being here without him so soon after the move. I could have gone but I’m not ready to leave the cats yet, and do I really want to make that long drive again? Not as much as you’d think, which probably isn’t all that much.

Biscotti, glad I stuck around this week. One of us is.
Things here are still at sixes and sevens. It’s hard to make progress on unpacking until we have furniture. I threaten Neil that he might return to a fully furnished house. An empty threat as it turns out. My back is still very stiff, between the unyielding bed and the lack of soft places to land. I did look at some furniture at Home Goods, neither inexpensive nor well made, and I didn’t feel up to hauling a nightstand in my car, should I have found one I liked enough, which I did not.

I’m still dreaming about getting at least two comfortable chairs by next weekend, when Chelsea and Rob come. I’m irritated that Neil might not even be back until Friday, the day before they arrive. He still has to arrange for the garage to be empty, even if that means paying someone to haul it away. I don’t think there’s much chance he’ll leave before Wednesday.

I think if Chelsea and Rob weren’t coming he’d stay longer. I think he’s enjoying being with Laurie and the baby and seeing friends. I haven’t been the most fun person to be with for a while now.

Face it, I’m grieving. It’s an up and down thing, some days are better than others, but no one, including me, knows when I’ll dissolve in tears. Knowing that it’s silly makes no difference. Sure it’s ridiculous that I’m weeping because I’m living in a beautiful new house, but it is what it is and sometimes all I feel is loss.

The black dog is not rational nor subject to reason. One can only hope that the beast will tire out and move on, erelong.

Until then, I’m another dog. I’m that cur who doggedly guarded the manger and wouldn’t allow other animals to have any hay to eat, even though it wanted none itself. Even though Neil is in Texas dealing with shit that I don’t want to deal with, I am jealous and hurt that he’s having fun that I’m not having.

This isn’t usual. Normally I don’t begrudge him any of the time he spends playing softball or going out to the bar with his buddies or traveling to see his mom and dad.

No, I hurt because he brought me here, to this place I agreed to go only because he wanted it so much, and now he’s left me alone here too soon, before I have my bearings, without the structure in my life that I depend on. I keep losing the plot, the point.

You don’t need to tell me I’m jacked up. I own it, I wear it, I fly the flag.

Some deer. Not ours, but like ours.

I met a friend of spirit
He drank and womanized
And I sat before his sanity
I was holding back from crying
He saw my complications
And he mirrored me back simplified
And we laughed how our perfection
Would always be denied
"Heart and humor and humility"
He said "Will lighten up your heavy load"
I left him for the refuge of the roads

I fell in with some drifters
Cast upon a beach town
Winn Dixie cold cuts and highway hand me downs
And I wound up fixing dinner
For them and Boston Jim
I well up with affection
Thinking back down the roads to then
The nets were overflowing
In the Gulf of Mexico
They were overflowing in the refuge of the roads

There was spring along the ditches
There were good times in the cities
Oh, radiant happiness
It was all so light and easy
Till I started analyzing
And I brought on my old ways
A thunderhead of judgment was
Gathering in my gaze
And it made most people nervous
They just didn't want to know
What I was seeing in the refuge of the roads

I pulled off into a forest
Crickets clicking in the ferns
Like a wheel of fortune
I heard my fate turn, turn, turn
And I went running down a white sand road
I was running like a white-assed deer
Running to lose the blues
To the innocence in here
These are the clouds of Michelangelo
Muscular with gods and sungold
Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads

In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn't see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn't see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads.

(Joni Mitchell)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Nest feathering

I built my house from barley rice
Green pepper walls and water ice
And everything emptying into white.”

We’re somewhere into week three of this crazy move adventure and the weather has turned an insistent muggy gray.

This is too bad because the thing I was enjoying the most about being here was sitting on the screened porch reading and soaking in Vitamin D.

In Texas I avoided the sun religiously. Here I put on sunblock and let the sun warm me and, apparently, boost my endorphins.

Time has been passing quickly. One minute we were watching the premiere of season three of Poldark and in what seemed like no time we were watching the next week’s episode.

Between shopping for things we need for the house and warranty visits from trades to tweak this and that, we’ve been busy. Today was like Halloween, the doorbell kept ringing.

We did have dinner with the first friends we made here, our Airbnb hosts from Davidson. They are super nice, we really clicked with them. So naturally, they just put their house on the market. They’re moving to Portugal for a few years.

On Saturday I went to the Charlotte Area Jewelry Artist’s (CAJA) meeting at the bead store in Mooresville, Ain’t Miss Bead Haven. We made bracelets. I spent more on the supplies for the bracelet than I’d have been willing to buy it for, assuming I’d even liked it, but it was a chance to meet people. People who could become customers, once I get my beads unpacked or my studio going. People who could become friends.

Neil joined a softball team as a mid season fill-in for a “non-competitive” senior team. He says they’re not very good and he hopes to try out for a more competitive team when this league ends.

He played last Wednesday night and was invited out to a tavern afterwards. He wasn’t sure he’d go, but told me he’d be home by 10 pm at the latest. Neil is usually very good about texting me with updates, especially if he’s running late. I was watching something on Netflix and didn’t really give it much thought until about 9:30 pm, when I texted him.

He didn’t respond and I didn’t think a lot about it until my show ended at 10 pm. Then I got insanely anxious. I texted him twice more, with no response. Then I began calling. He had my car and I had no idea what to do if he didn’t get home safely. I had wild visions of a softball accident or a car accident, with Neil’s phone somehow lost.

I looked for him in the Find Friends app we both use and it showed him at home. I called him, walking down to the basement listening for his phone in case he’d left it home. I turned off his iPad. I wondered if he were sitting in the car in the driveway talking on the phone, which he sometimes does. I walked out the front door and around to the driveway, but he wasn’t home.

I saw a car coming down the hill in our dark, quiet neighborhood, and momentarily felt relief, but the car kept going, around our cul-de-sac and up the hill on the other side.

By 10:20, my digestive system had turned to water. I had all three cats sitting in the bathroom with me. Finally, the fifth time I called, Neil answered. He was fine, still at the tavern, had put the phone on the table because he doesn’t have pockets in his softball pants. He hadn’t heard it buzz, had lost track of the time and was surprised that it was past 10 pm.

Relief erased any anger and, although I told him how upset I’d been, I knew his contrition was genuine. The fact that he’s always so good about making sure I don’t worry made me more upset in the instance that he wasn’t.

We’ve been going round and round about priorities. I feel like I can’t properly unpack until we get some furniture. We need dressers and nightstands, and we also need living room furniture. I did finally get all my cushions for the dining table and porch, but my life would be vastly improved by a comfortable sofa.

After a couple of frustrating forays into furniture shopping, an area where I know what I like when I see it, but I have no clear idea where to find it or how much it should cost, I made another pitch for working with a decorator. Furniture shopping with Neil has been frustrating for both of us. He disengages, checks his iphone obsessively, while I try to make sense of it all and point out things, trying to get a reaction from him. Waiting for him to make a suggestion. Waiting for him to pull out a credit card.

It’s no fun at all.

Neil still thinks we can do this ourselves. I drew a line in the sand. I said, I’d give it one more try, we’d spend one day going to one or more furniture places and if we didn’t find one thing we both liked enough to buy, we’d call in some backup.

And somehow we nailed it. We went to one store, based on a good Google review and the fact that the one I really wanted to go to was closed on Sunday. At the back of the store we found a bedroom set we both liked, except for the hardware, and thanks to a helpful salesperson we learned that we could order the furniture with different hardware, as well as with our choice of wood and stain, and with additional complementary pieces to choose from.

The furniture is made in the USA although not in North Carolina. We didn’t make a definitive decision but we finally felt we had a strong suitor. Buoyed by being on the verge of paying the price for quality, Neil spotted a dining room set he liked and we invested some time modeling options online with the help of our friendly salesperson.

Now, we already have a functional dining table with brand new chair pads, so a new dining set wasn’t at the front of my radar. But finding something that Neil really liked at a time he felt committed to making the investment in furniture, I wouldn’t discourage him.

The new set, if we get it, has some similarity to the set we have now, but is a lot more elegant. It also reminds me of the set my family had while I was growing up, which makes me nostalgic, in a good way.

As long as it doesn’t bump a comfortable sofa and some armchairs off the A-List.

Quick iphone shots of the chifferobe, dresser, and nightstands we’re getting, with simpler hardware and in maple with a washed gray-toned finish called sand.

I built my house from barley rice
Green pepper walls and water ice
Tables of paper wood, windows of light
And everything emptying into white.

A simple garden, with acres of sky
A Brown-haired dogmouse
If one dropped by
Yellow Delanie would sleep well at night
With everything emptying into white.

A sad blue eyed drummer rehearses outside
A Black spider dancing on top of his eye
Red legged chicken stands ready to strike
And everything emptying into white.

I built my house from barley rice
Green pepper walls and water ice
And everything emptying into white.

(Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Some things wicked

“I'm gonna free fall out into nothin'
Gonna leave this world for awhile
And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin’“

Crises in the world of late, large and less large, impinge on and overshadow my own little existential disquietude.

The largest mass murder in U.S. history just happened in Las Vegas, on October 1. As usual, social media couldn't wait 15 minutes out of respect for the bereaved before exploding into the guns vs. evil diatribe. Gun stocks went up, as people rushed out to buy weapons, fearing that this is the big one that just might engender stricter gun laws. It won't. Nothing ever has, nor likely ever will.

Before the body count was complete, President Trump was quick to reassure that he would do nothing to restrict any constitutional rights. God bless the Supreme Court's fucked up interpretation of the second amendment.

If there is one issue that I can imagine becoming an activist for it is gun control. It's indisputable fact that a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a suicide, homicide, or accident than in self defense. That states and countries with more guns in the hands of the public have more gun deaths.

I don't hunt, I would not kill animals for sport, I'd give up meat before I'd slaughter my own. But I do eat meat, not a lot but some, and as long as someone hunts responsibly and consumes the spoils of the hunt, I have no quarrel. But I can find no justification for semi automatic weapons in the hands of private citizenry.

It's futile, I know. Every argument has been made and quashed by the gun lobby and the apparently inane silent majority, the same faction that elected a president so clueless, tactless and compassion-less.

I'd love to add spineless but I'm afraid that doesn't quite jibe with Trump's posturing and poking and prodding of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. Not that it's courageous or heroic to goad a country with a nuclear weapon and an equally immature, defiant and combative head of state. No, it's dangerous and imprudent, reckless and foolhardy.

Yet lest we become too appalled or paralyzed or, worse, mobilized, by the threat of global atomic annihilation, the media turns our attention to these alternate, albeit valid, distractions.

What started as quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to remain seated during the national anthem at a pre-season game last year, to draw attention to racism in America, particularly against black men, has evolved into a battle about another constitutional right. But more so, it has become a protest of the president's harsh condemnation of Kaepernick and other NFL players who showed solidarity with Kaepernick by "taking a knee" during the anthem.

Initially Kaepernick explained that "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." Eventually, out of respect for the military, he opted to go down on one knee rather than sit during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

On September 23, 2017, Trump slammed players for taking a knee with this tweet.
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!
I struggle with this a bit. Freedom of speech isn't limitless. There's the classic example that you aren't protected if you shout "fire" in a crowded theater (unless of course the theater is indeed burning). America may be far from perfect but you are not required to live here if you think some other place is superior.

Peaceful protest should be protected but is it appropriate to use a venue where you are representing a franchise that employs you and pays you generously? Sure, use your fame, your position and clout to make noise about disparity and inequality, but do it on your own time. Go on the talk show circuit, give an exclusive interview, hold a public rally, or better yet, a fundraiser.

I realize this is a contradictory perspective coming from a libertarian like myself. And certainly, I disapprove of Trump's little hissy-fit tantrum about it. His choice of venue, Twitter, is just as inappropriate for the dialogue that really should be happening. "I stand for the flag" has become synonymous with "I stand with Trump" and at this point I have to take a knee. I'm not going to stand up to show pride in a man (or in the individuals who elected him and continue to support him) who oppresses black people, people of color, women, people of other nationalities and beliefs, and everyone who doesn't think like he does or isn't just like him.

A man who balked at sending aid to hurricane-afflicted Puerto Rico because he didn't seem to comprehend that the victims of Hurricane Maria were not only human beings but Americans, members of this Great Country that we are allegedly making great again or greater.

It's a bit late to say, don't get me started, so instead I'll say, stop me now.

Oh, wait, Tom Petty died. So much to mourn this month already.

After all that, does it matter if I'm having a rough day. I've been doing OK on the whole, but sometimes it crashes back. Today we took a walk, even though I had no energy and was dragging the whole way. Then we passed a fountain, one that reminded me of the one at the intersection that is the entrance to our subdivision. Was the entrance to our subdivision, I mean.

I'm homesick. There is no home to be sick about really, but I am. I miss my life.

I'm in limbo again. There is no new normal yet. Hell, there isn't a place in this house yet where I'm truly comfortable.

The new bed that I loved so much at first has turned on me. The mattress is too firm. One night my back hurt so much I slept on top of the comforter. I know the mattress is supposed to soften up. Right now I've made my own pillow top with a spare quilt.

I ordered pillows for the deck chairs - or so I thought. What Amazon delivered was pillow covers. My error. So now I'm waiting for the inserts to be delivered.

I also ordered chair pads for the kitchen chairs. We took the first six back to Ikea because they didn't fit. The new set was a better fit but not comfortable to sit on and not well made. So they are going back to Amazon and I'm desperately looking for another replacement. I've given up hopes of economy but I can't find anything suitable at any price. If I'm going to pay through the nose, I should like the pillows if not love them.

A treadmill is on the way from Amazon. Neil will be leaving for a week soon, to tie up loose ends in Texas and get his car. I thought that would be a good time to get back into a walking routine, a good time to have some structure to keep me stable.

It’s not looking like my studio will be up and running soon. The end of October is optimistic.

On the bright side, I’m enjoying the nice weather and our screened porch which gets sun almost all day. I’m looking forward to a visit from my daughter and her boyfriend later in the month. My stepdaughter will also be here for a day on her way home from a business trip.

After that, who knows. For now, you’ll find me here.

She's a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She's a good girl, crazy 'bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too

It's a long day livin' in Reseda
There's a freeway runnin' through the yard
And I'm a bad boy, 'cause I don't even miss her
I'm a bad boy for breakin' her heart

And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin'

All the vampires walkin' through the valley
Move west down Ventura Blvd.
And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows
All the good girls are home with broken hearts

And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin'

Free fallin', now I'm free fallin'
Now I'm free fallin'
Now I'm free fallin'

I wanna glide down over Mulholland
I wanna write her name in the sky
I'm gonna free fall out into nothin'
Gonna leave this world for awhile

And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin'

Yeah I'm free, free fallin'
Oh! Free fallin'
Now I'm free, oh, free fallin'

(Thomas Earl Petty)