Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Miraculously I slept till 6 this morning. And now Tom has rushed out of the house to buy plywood and sheetrock, and now I am gathering my Thanksgiving-dinner responsibilities into bags and coolers, and soon Tom will rush home and we'll eat leftover dinner for breakfast, and then we'll drive west into the future.

Here's hoping you all have a restful/comical/affectionate holiday. Don't forget to go outside and look up at the ragged clouds and then down at the last of the tough old dandelions. Don't forget to dig for gold in your driveway. Don't forget to consult the oracle at Delphi. If you hear an odd whispering noise in the night, do not worry. It will either be teenagers in love or the earth spinning on her axis. Plan ahead for joy, by which I mean: play long ferocious card games with your father and give everyone a chance to try out the guitar effects pedal. Try not to stay awake all night worrying about the fact that your kitchen has no plumbing. Bird augury can be relaxing, but do not sacrifice anything on an altar.

Sending much love--

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


The living room, with elegant lawn chairs. Clever camera angle prevents you from seeing the uninstalled storm door and the old dishwasher waiting to go to the dump.

Stairwell facing from the living room into the mysterious dining room. The ghost lives in the register at the bottom of the stairs.

Oddly compressed view of the  dining room, which is bigger than it looks here. Note the many unattached doors, the piles of kitchen equipment, and the fancy paper-towel centerpiece.

The future guest room/TV-watching room, with no floor showing because it's currently covered in construction equipment and you don't want to look at that. As you may be able to glimpse, the neighbor has a nice garden.

Tree and rock-wall view from the new kitchen door.

Front door, ceiling halo, and building permit taped to the window.

Monday, November 20, 2017

What kind of idiots move at Christmastime two years in a row? Never again.

Yesterday I began the first stages of dismantling the doll-house. We still have no kitchen at the Alcott House, and the upstairs floors still need to be urethaned. But the attics and the dining room are now clean and prepped for storage, so I loaded up my car with kitchen items, art, summer clothes, and the like and lugged them across town. Today: more of the same, plus another few hours spent digging filthy old caulk out of the shower stall. I know I've said this before, but that bathroom . . . Ugh.

I'll spend today and tomorrow working on the house, and then we'll be off to Vermont to pick up Son Number 2 and his friend and drive them up to my parents' place for the holiday. Son Number 1 and his friend, sadly, will be far away, but at least I'll have a few of my dear young people to enjoy. I just hope I can manage to enjoy them and don't waste my hours sleeplessly fretting about house stuff.

But guess what? I fixed a leak in the bathroom sink drain. I installed a towel rack and a new toilet seat. You're watching the birth of the new handy me.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

As you know, the house project has sucked up nearly all of my time and attention. As a result, I am feeling exquisitely un-literary, and exhausted, and mentally unfocused. There is no way I can keep up with Coriolanus or the biography of John Brown. So I have allowed myself to fall into the comfort of Le Carre novels. And indeed they have been a comfort. I carry one around with me and dip into it and feel my anxiety level drop instantly.

But last night, after a long day of tile shopping and appliance shopping and trim painting and toilet-lid assembly, etc., etc., I suddenly realized that Le Carre and John Fowles and Philip Roth all share something . . . voice, point of view, weirdness about women, brilliant evocation of male weariness, deep intelligence, tenderness for the traditions of the language, strange blind spots . . . in other words, An Essay in Embryo.

Eureka! I could have shrieked. I did run into the kitchen, where Tom was washing dishes, and make him listen to me marveling at the miracle: I thought I was simply pouring a genre novel into my exhaustion. But my brain rebelled and informed me, "I'm not going to stop putting two and two together, no matter how much you distract me."

Of course I have no time to write an essay right now. But just having an idea! The essay itself hardly matters.

And of course the joy wore off, which accounts for why I'm awake at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning--because my brain also won't stop reciting the list of everything I need to do need to do need to do need to do. "Wash out the attic space start boxing up summer things start packing dishware figure out how to clean the dryer vent worry about the lack of a bathroom door worry about the smell of urethane scrub the disgusting shower worry about going away for Thanksgiving and missing precious work days worry worry worry worry. . . . "

At 4 I finally gave up pretending to sleep. So here I am, on this dark and rainy morning, trying to resurrect last night's eureka moment. And I can still feel it, a warm synapsy pleasure amid the worries. Feel free to write the essay yourself, if you want to steal the idea. I'm content to have just thought about it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

This morning we go shopping: kitchen tile, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, range hood. It's hard for me to imagine buying all of those items at once, brand new. That doesn't seem like us at all. But such is the situation.

Tom has finished building all of the cabinets at his boss's shop. If the electrician would finish up, then we could actually start putting in insulation and sheetrock. And then the cabinets could go in. And then we could get plumbing. And then we could live there.

Yesterday: Second coat of pale gray on the living room trim. First coat on the bathroom trim. Started prepping the upstairs floors for urethane. Midday I sat down in the dining room, at the child's desk that serves as our picnic area, and ate a sandwich and read my spy novel and looked out the window at the quiet street. Meanwhile, the friendly ghost tapped and sighed.

I look forward to standing in my study, staring out into northern light over the winter yards around me, as the friendly ghost follows me upstairs. I look forward to sitting by the little woodstove in the little living room and planning my sunny front-yard garden. I look forward to having enough counter space to roll out an apple pie.

I am so tired of not being home.

Friday, November 17, 2017

I left Dover-Foxcroft at 6:30 a.m. yesterday, got into Portland at 9, drove to South Portland to pay for the violin pickup we'd been trying out at band practice, drove back to Portland to the new house, and painted trim for 5 hours, went to two grocery stores in the pouring rain, returned to the apartment, cooked dinner, and tried to fall asleep as soon as possible but ended up being restless and awake for most of the night.

I'm coming down with a cold, which is no surprise, given how tired I am. The living room trim is an awful task . . . well, more specifically, the balusters on the open stairway are an awful task, involving little tiny brushes and upside-down crouching and all kinds of cutting in around un-tapable bits and pieces of woodwork. Next up is bathroom trim, which will be blessedly straightforward. The worst thing about the bathroom was the filth, and I think I've got that under control. But yuck.

In non-house-related news:

* My sudden spate of submissions resulted in three sudden acceptances. So that's something.

* I'm beginning to think that John Le Carre, like Raymond Chandler, belongs in that rare class of writers who both define and exceed the restrictions of their genres.

* This violin pickup I just bought will allow me to use an effects pedal to manipulate the sound. And now I've got a borrowed pedal to play with, so my family will be entertaining ourselves with "Violin Sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughn" and "Violin Sounds like Bootsy Collins" during the slow hours of turkey cooking next week.

* Sometimes I wonder why people even own cats. Especially people who really, really need to sleep.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Last night's dream: Tom let a bear cub into the apartment, and we all got fleas.

* * *

I finally took a photo for you. This is the fireplace and the eye of the little woodstove and some of the living room wall. Ignore the yellow painting tape and the crooked camera placement. The ghostly emanation on the left is entirely friendly. Eventually the baseboard will be pale gray.

I finished my editing project, so today I'll be painting and taping until it's time to take a nap before driving north for band practice. Second coat of blue on the bathroom. Maybe a first coat of gray on the living room trim. Definitely some caulk on the bathroom trim. By the way, "Painting around Plumbing" is a great idea for a yoga class. Talk about crazy positions to hold.

I've decided to read another Le Carre novel: The Perfect Spy. I like that it's encased in that old-fashioned sturdy library covering that's like a plasticized version of a paper bag. It's the kind of book cover that could take a bullet but it's also anonymous. I could be reading Ayn Rand and no one would know.