Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall's First Rain Tonight

We just installed a nubby 70's low slung easy chair, faded several unfortunate shades of burnt orange, with silver threads--but you can't tell the way it used to look because it's all covered now with an ecru cloth. It sits against a slate wall in front of the chaste, gauzey curtains for the window that overlooks our new street. It’s in what we call ”the office”—one of four rooms in our new house. They are each painted a subtle Ralph Lauren shade. Not counting the bathroom that’s tiled like a spa.

You can go from living room to office (through bathroom) to bedroom then kitchen to living room and round and around again. Which we do, over and over again, to our childlike delight. Trying not to trip over boxes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All Moved In

What a grueling week! I took Monday off from work to vacuum and finish cleaning the old house. It took Morrison 3 round trips to transport almost all the weird stuff at the margin of the move. Daughter #2 came over to help me clean and load the few remains from her old room for a cadged trip to her new place. Quid pro quo except that, at her new apartment Morrison wouldn't start. With the only tools I had available, a vice grip and screwdriver, I removed the battery leads and then scraped them and the battery terminals bright and clean. It was half an hour before I could get Van to fire up for the 6 miles down I-5, exiting at James (giving $2 to curbside beggars, for their luck and my own) and over the hill to John's.

John brought me back and we shared a final beer in the now empty house. John declined the gift of a cunningly constructed old wooden ladder so I tossed it over the eastern fence--payback to the market for all the early morning wake-ups by beeping delivery trucks. Back home, BFF had heroically made the kitchen available for dinner. That was Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday after work I went back to the old house for all the dribs and drabs. On Thursday, I dragged the log holder from the patio to the curb and put a "FREE" sign on it--one I'd printed using the edgy "Cracked" font. The next night, on Friday's traditional trip to Mr Gyro's, I drove by the old house and saw that the log holder was gone. The last tie, removed.

We're getting used to the new place. I think BFF likes it more than I, but I'll come to feel at home, I'm sure. So far, the best thing for me is the view out the basement door where I can pee into the drain and look up past roses and hollyhocks to the big sky.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Last Days

The irony.

We have lived in this house for exactly 3 years. In that time, we have been continuously and increasingly bedeviled by cars and trucks crowding our driveway. Our side of the street is posted no parking, but that has never registered; there is almost always someone out front--no problem unless they make it difficult for us to get in or out. In those cases, we have grumbled, pointedly asked people to move, slapped an equally pointed note under their wipers, but generally, we adapted, because there is usually no other reasonable thing to do. This has been going on for 3 years, and since the market on the corner has been expanding, its construction has made this part of the block an occasional bottleneck.

One thing, though, that has never been a problem: we feel safe here. For us, early morning vandals, thieves, or worse have not existed. We lock our doors, of course, but even though we only live a hundred feet or so from a well-traveled arterial, I have seldom locked Fast Eddie, our car, feeling certain, albeit naively, that it resides within a circle of protection.

Last evening, we all thought our weather was the last reprise of summer—warm and still with a golden sun setting. It was our neighborhood’s monthly Artwalk and all the galleries, taverns and restaurants were doing booming business, beginning about six.

A little earlier my friend John had brought his old scabrous Econoline over for me to use transporting boxes to our new home. John was also going to take my faithful steed of many haphazard work years—good old Trucky, a small grey (I was opting for nondescript) Toyota pickup. I was giving Trucky to John. John is a mechanic, so I knew he could do the amount of work it would take to make Trucky cool running. I also wanted to keep Trucky in the family, so to speak, for that’s how I consider John. So he was dropping off his van—which BFF has since named Morrison—and picking up Trucky.

I had arisen early yesterday—not long after 4AM—just as I’d gotten up early the previous two days. Between the first week of school and this move to a new house, I had become tired and almost frazzled. BFF as well; she has been doing yeowoman’s duty, packing for at least an hour every day after work. Plus, when it comes to cleaning and organization she gets completely compulsive. So, when John came over, we neither of us had much gas in the tank, so to speak. John had recently injured himself again, falling downstairs at his semi-permanently under self-construction house, so he wasn’t at the top of his game either.

John was stoned when he came over and we started drinking beer and, after catching up on news with BFF, and giving me lessons on how to keep Morrison running (although he did not, I remembered later, remind me to lock Morrison), giving me lessons on how to run the rest of my life, after all that we went outside to smoke and drink another beer. A little later, by the time John had gotten around to trying to put legal tags over Trucky's illegal ones, we were both in a state. I was pawing through packed boxes from my workbench while he was swearing at a stuck bolt.

John was also late for dinner with his in-laws who were visiting for a few days from Back East. He didn’t like the old geezer who had married his mother-in-law (and been unspeakingly rude to John) so I guess it wasn’t a big deal for him. He did recognize the potential for a familial imbroglio, though, and at some point in the evening placed a call to his (often considered long-suffering) wife for an update before he he went outside again to begin cursing at switching the license plates. I spun around aimlessly, except twice when I had to politely--but pointedly--remind two different drivers that where they were planning on illegally parking (although the infraction was never enforced, which I did not mention) was also blocking my now overly full driveway. But finally, our own illegal deed done, and amid hugs and vows, John haltingly drove Trucky away. Farewell friend and faithful steed.

Now, I just had time to grab some money from BFF and hustle down to Mr Gyros, before it closed, for our regular Friday takeaway treat. The sidewalks were bustling on Greenwood Ave. but I was running on empty. Back home with the food I shook my head at all the cars crowding my narrow driveway and decided I’d have to eat before I had the fortitude to angle in next to Morrison. Besides, I wanted to mark the driveway as my territory so I paralled Fast Eddie to claim the front. I didn’t consider pulling in to block the sidewalk; with the overgrown chamaecypris there wasn’t any easy way around for pedestrians.

I stumbled upstairs with our orders and BFF and I collapsed into our somewhat Spartan folding chairs to eat. God, that food tasted good! Here it was, the final dinner in our beloved home! As usual, we spun stories about Ellen, Chester, Stormy and Cleanhead--elaborating on our fiction for their lives. They were out just then, in their driveway across the street along with the aging gay couple who run the corner gift store. They were all setting up for their part in tomorrow’s huge celebration of thrift at our annual neighborhood garage sales.

But something began to look out of place outside—a car idling, someone walking around purposefully in the street. I looked closely. It was a lady wearing pressed pants and a white shirt with some sort of epaulet on her shoulders. I looked more closely. She had the blinkers on her car, parked in the street behind mine. The car was white and looked biodegradable. The lady was from parking enforcement. She was leaving me a ticket. Without a thought, I rushed outside. She backed away from me as I prefaced my explanation and implied plea for relief with acknowledgment, which I hoped she would share, of the irony of this situation. How long we'd lived here and never seen anyone ticketed, how put out I'd occasionally been with illegal parkers, our last night blah blah weird person blah maybe a threat blah...

She did not appreciate irony, the ticket had been written, she said, and couldn't be taken back. For some reason she thanked me as she sidled to her flashing vehicle. I came back inside. The phone was ringing. It was John, asking me if I remembered the location of the restaurant where he was supposed to meet his wife, her mother, and her mother’s rude husband. We suggested Googling it.

Putting the long day and its strange ending behind us we went to bed and read and cuddled. We performed the ritual sharing of four Ricola herbal lozenges. As always, we turned on the Noise That Blocks All Other Noise--our air cleaner. We slept deeply and I awoke early, for this was the first day of our two day leave-taking. This was the day we would move all of the nearly 100 boxes arrayed along the walls of every room in the house. Leaving BFF in bed for a few more winks, and before putting on the coffee, I opened the front door to get a feel for the day. It was beautiful and peaceful outside in the early late summer morning. Stuck in the front door jamb, however, was a card with writing on it.

Officer Barron had left his business card dated 5:50 that morning, less than two hours earlier. An Incident Number was written in blue ink. On the back of the card was a straightforward recounting of inexplicable events that had taken place in our front driveway while the sun was still below the eastern mountains. This was so out of the realm of my experience here that it took me a few moments to make sense of what the officer had written.

What I later learned from the market employee who had called the police was that, on arriving to open the store, he had found an obviously disturbed woman pulling bags of ice from their outside locker. Asked for an explanation, she said she had "declared war on the neighborhood." She fled from him a short distance down to our driveway where he observed her opening Morrison. That was when he placed the call. She was gone by the time Officer Barron arrived.

What the officer and I both found on inspection was an odd assortment of objects taken from Morrison's dash and strewn on the van's floor and an obscene note scrawled on our basement window sill. After puzzling over some obvious questions, like, "What's this mean? Why us? Why now?", we concluded that this had been one of those Cosmic Messages. The events of the previous evening, it seemed, had been but part--a prelude if you will--of a small, but odd, and yes, ironic, concatenation of events that were clearly delivering the message: "You are no longer welcome here!"

It was, indeed, time to move.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nine things I'll miss about where we live now:

1. That I can stand on the sidewalk between the chamaecyparis and the house and look to my left and see the Olympic Mountains’ sawtoothed outline amid a crowd of softer shoulders. And then I can swivel 180 degrees and extend my vision over the nearby University District Ridge and then some 40 miles to the nearest foothills and low mountains of the Cascade Range. What’s that? Seventy miles a second? I used to imagine, when I was the age of my students, that I could leap from any point to another on the horizon of my vision, teleporting.

2. The restful bright beauty of our bedroom. Painted white except for a ruby red alcove holding the couch and fountain. It is bounded on three sides by a bank of many-paned windows looking down on sidewalk traffic, giving a peak of the western mountains. On one wall hangs the quilt my dad made of my granddad’s colorful ties—best family heirloom. Our favorite piece of furniture, the bed, is across from those windows, against the southern wall. Sacred objects speaking of our love adorn dressers and wall.

3. Being able to walk around the corner in slippers and sweatpants to our small, well-stocked and unadorned grocery market. Being able to call in an order for General Tso’s Chicken and pick it up across the street and through the little parking lot. Or walking a block up Greenwood to an award-winning neighborhood tavern that serves major league gumbo and the best reuben sandwiches in town. The friendly corner hardware store is a block the other direction, down Greenwood and across the street from a little snobby video store.

4. The patio that is paved in brick, bordered by the house and two high, perpendicular fences that are festooned with clematis and backed by bamboo and a tall cedar. It’s comforting knowing that the neighbors are all close and that we all share the illusion of privacy.

5. The yellow desert orange of our living room, soft sage of my office and the kitchen’s three shades of ecru…not the lavendar, though, and not the Las Vegas bathroom.

6. Being able to drop in on Daughter #2’s utterly hapless but good-natured life.

7. The abundant white cupboards, faux granite counters and picture window of our kitchen, the house's entryway with its split stairs going half a floor up and half a floor down brightened by the puttin’-on-airs cathedral window.

8. The brutish crow brothers who sit on the phone line in front, or at the top of the neighbor's birch and scraw complaints. And the rustling and sideways scrambling of Sammy and Sally Squirrel who have a nest in the ash above our patio adn use the fence top as their highway. And finally, the occasional racoon and occasionaler possum and occasionaest cougar that BFF swears she heard scream in the night last week.

9. All the friendly homeless men selling their publication, Real Change, in front of the market. The small, blond parrot woman with the eponymous birds on her hand and shoulder, always willing to engage in friendly conversation about such issues as the herbal therapy one of them is taking for his obsessive feather plucking. Occasionally seeing my friend Coby, with whom I share a similar Heartland upbringing, at the market. Terry and Roger, with his fake tan and dye job, the couple who own the twee gift shop around the corner. Ellen and Chester with their imagined dramas.

I pray to God that I have some warning before I die and can feel the appreciation for my surroundings at least as much as I have sealed and stamped in my mind and heart the value of where we are living now, for the next 4 days.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm OK. I'm OK!

School--a great crew of good-natured, chatty and mildly motivated nine year-olds.

Living situation--lease signed on a fine workaday house on the crewcut Scandinavian flatland of Ballard--a neighborhood just down the ridge from us. It is owned by a sweet couple who got married not that long ago and are moving from this--her former house--to his remodeled home not much more than a block away from where we live now. Whew! We're moving next weekend. Tomorrow is my birthday.

Daughter #2 is taking to life away from the nest like a slug does to slime.