Snippets 85

Brave New World-Aldous Huxley 

“And that,” put in the Director sententiously, “that is the secret of happiness and virtue–liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that; making people like their inescapable social destiny.” 

In a gap between the two tunnels, a nurse was delicately probing with a long fine syringe into the gelantonlus contents of a passing bottle. The students and their guide stood watching for a few moments in silence. (16) 

Lord of the Cluster-Flies Part 2 

We went to a hotel that night. Had to get out of the house. Had a swim and a hot-tub. My four year old Kein began copying our repeated lamentations about “needing to close on the dang house”. We considered alternatives, renting, starting the process on a new place. None of it sounded great. We swam and surrendered ourselves to the Fates. We just kept on, smiling, midair trapeze artists. Grab that bar or kiss the concrete. 

We couldn’t help but be suspicious. And with not allot of expertise being demonstrated, who knew how this was going to end. And the final bill was steep enough, with no bedroom, no kitchen, none functioning washer and dryer and the dishwasher looks like it’s been leaking for a decade.

Then we close, the 23rd. I said the whole time, that the paradox that lets it rock, was the beauty of the deal, and by beauty I mean, the twisted, hard case type energy I get about things I’m passionate about, is that the hardest part hadn’t even started yet. That after this sketchy real estate deal and move, the almost impossible task of renovation would begin. 

Way later, 2-28-17. I got lost there. Feels weird trying to get this down. Such a haze of events. I’m trying to write more. Don’t really have the energy for it. Same time I feel it bubbling up, the urge. The need to write it all up, while it’s there. 

Two weeks ago I started the Fire. An appropriate place to begin again. It was looking to be a perfect new normal Saturday, unexpectedly warm, high sixties. The flu bug remained, but positioned a retreat. As a result, I was trying to take it slow. I ripped out a closet in what is now known as the Lego Room, its existential fulfillment, things were going smooth. I took a break, had some boxes, be nice to get them burned up, I reflected. I spied a tipped over barrel on the back of the property. 

What’s happens next is the climax of the Great Holiday Squat of 2016-2017. Ancient and historic I felt the madness descend and was powerless to stop it. I locked on to the burn barrel, disdainful of the designated and tried burn pit. The barrel was full of refuse and muck from the previous renovation, including an inordinate amount of white electrical covers. I strongarmed it into the wheelbarrow and pushed it to the dumpster. With admirable brute strength I got it dumped and rolled back to the previous spot. Here is the scene of my supremely stupid (yet oddly beneficial) decision. 

The barrel was now at the border of my two acres, the back acre being mostly overgrown weeds and the like, which is now dead after a full winter. It also had not rained or snowed for a month, and so it was very dry. As I stood there taking it in, Brit advised I dont to it there, but delusional ceremony rebuffed the advice with archetypal ease.

My fire came and grew easily. It was a terrifying, dramatic, and unfortunately comic event. The spell came over in ever escalating wave. On autopilot, my detached self could sense the problem, even asI took  handfuls of the dried weeds and tossed it into the roaring barrel and admired how well it burned, but then here on the ground, hastily crimped weeds, out of place, was bits of dancing fire, and as I began to move, another and another. And before I could kick it into gear, it was really going. 

Stupid mistake two. I got the basics of controlled burning, but still I had made no preparations. No hose, nor trenches, nor plan. I began to try stomping it out, to no success. As I did, the family began to swirl and agitate realizing the train was off the tracks. Then we were sprinting for hoses in the garage and buckets, and then Brit and I took turns, wind sprinting back and forth to the fire and spout. A couple of times we got it down to a ten foot board of fire, but then it would hit a willing patch of downed sticks and would rage on. Down, down, down into a burning ring of fire…

There’s a tractor shed right next to our property, and along the north-western boundary there were a number of tanks, and tractor attachments. We were very worried about these things, but the living, breathing fire monster confused and dazzled us. Should we or shouldn’t, call the fire department, that was the critical and persistent question in the crisis. In such an active situation, it was hard to know what was best. 

It went on for hours. Brit and I took turns running buckets, and hitting it with the broad back of the shovel. We inhaled loads of smoke from the swirling monster. Sometimes it smelled good, some wild aromatic. Other times it was harsh and acrid. I would smell it in my breath for the next day and a half. 

Image the sight. Thick black smoke, a sooty sign in the sky. Here, watch the ape man dance! At some point I had to pee so bad, madness told me to go for it. Hell, it couldn’t hurt anything, right? So there I jumped about, letting it go, to little consequence to the fire. 

Right as things were getting really hairy, hitting that western line of neighbor stuff, the Good (Gandalf the White) arrived. Wordlessly the three leapt from the golf cart and began to help. The two older men grabbed a tractor and moved the equipment. The woman joined me in paddling the fire. 

We worked silently for forty-five minutes. Britney was able to take the gang in and recuperate, while we finished. The neighbors couldn’t have been calmer or friendlier. Britney had introduced herself earlier, when we got here. They told me it happens to everyone. Nothing to worry about. 

I made self-deprecating jokes about wanting to make a proper introduction. Fire did reach the neighbor’s post and fields. They didn’t seem to care. We stopped it at the edge of their ditch and let it burn the rest of the way through mine. We laughed about how this was what we all had wanted to do with our section. It being the right thing to do. They demonstrated back burning to me. Started some more fires moving in the opposite direction. We hooked up our hoses and sprayed a healthy boundary around it. They left me the hose, dripping , dirty, and in shock. 

 Physically and spiritually, I was crushed. As I lay there that night I thought about why it happened. How stupid and dangerous it was. In this whole moving, farm house renovation mode I’ve been in, I’ve had to face so many fears and just keep moving forward. In that process I had grown numb to real dangers. Over confident I thought I could handle any situation. And of course I walked right into it. 

I gave up all projects for the foreseeable future. Smoke inhalation brought the cough back. My lungs ached and hacked. There were so many positives though, staring at me shaken and crispy. First and foremost everyone made it out alive. The neighbors had been extremely helpful and that area did look great cleared out. Maybe more than all of that though was I got the warm, smoky message that I needed to slow down.

Later 3-4-17, morning, 6:30ish, wanted to sneak down to Lego room have a glass of water, read a little. On the Stephen King, Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I’m feeling very accomplished in the new house. Last night removed a piece of drywall which had been haphazardly placed to block an interior door. There was a three foot long mess on the drywall, a perplexing yet appropriate yellow-green, hopefully a candle, maybe pea-soup, likely vomit. First thought was remove it later, to keep the barrier for the dogs, but then we decided to get another prep table and the best spot for it was in front of that door. In all this, thirteen (now 12) chickens joined the team, and became part of all considerations. New table in place we realized it was a sufficient deterrent. Then it came to me to add two shelves on the upper portions of the doors expanse.

Lord of the Cluster-Flies Part 1 

We are our Fathers. And our Mothers. And all of history is written in that. I thought that earlier, standing there on an unfinished floor. At one time, I may have been embarrassed by my own Father’s unfinished plywood floors, but now I appreciated the utility of my own.

Kept meaning to post the other night. Then I got lost telling my wife about my dirty dreams and unlocking the mysteries of the universe. The coyotes howl and cackle often enough, I can hear them out the window now. It’s a strange injured sound. You can imagine them hopping around, fighting about something. Then they go quiet, back on the move prolly. 11:39pm-3/23/17

On an unusually warm February day, I stood  there taking it all in, the mounds, the glowing embers of the fire pit, encircled by a background of fluffy grey ash, almost blue. It’s odd, mostly alone out here, there’s still a sense of being right in the middle of it. The sky fills the space, cupping it upside down. Open, expansive sky. Should make you feel little, but instead it makes you feel big. I’m thinking about that and I hear a rustle, and twelve or more deer go running past in the distance. I’ve never seen a herd or pack or whatever you call it of deer like that before. 

It feels then like I have done more in the last two months, then I have done in the last five years, and that includes starting a family with a 2,4, and 6 year old as the result.I wonder who I am becoming? 

Flashback, December 23, 2016, 5:45 AM. It’s still dark out, but the street lights and reflecting snow keep it all pristinely illuminated. It begins to push a fresh layer of sleet. I drag our queen-size, foam memory mattres, by myself, out to the truck. I have to stack the bed way too high, on the box spring and the kid’s beds. I can barely get the tarp to cover it and it’s a freezing bitch to get the strap down. The tarp is an impediment the rest of the drive, requires multiple stops on a slick highway to readjust it. And what does it matter I must think then, as it all comes down, dragging it along concrete. 

I stuff it so full the dogs barely fit. An absurd sight of degeneracy the whole thing makes. After being told by our Realtor, that the Buyers have somehow rejected our request for an additional hour (my wife with insanity taking hold agreed to the absurd closing time of 10AM) I had a full on Joe Pesci style melt-down. The Buyer still showed up after, while Brit took a load to her Mom’s, and we took our extra hour. As I simmered, sweeping my old floor, hissing and guffawing at the sight of the new notably empty, and expensive model truck, the absurdity of the whole thing fractured the mind and ego. I had somehow slipped into a whole other reality. One where we didn’t occupy this house which had become such a stabilizing and perfect thing. 

We got out though. Left a rug and other miscellaneous which we randomly recall now, never knowing if the thing got left behind, or is somewhere here at the new place. When we finally met the Buyer, he seemed bashful. Said take all the time you need to clear out. No need, we said. It was fine. We were moving on. The dogs and I drove off, never looking back. One because you shouldn’t at moments like that, i.e. Lot’s wife, and also because nobody could move, nor see out the windows or rear. 

I took a sharp turn, about a mile away. Dumped everything on to Old Boy Dante. Thank god The kids were with Grandma. Brit was depositing our paltry cut and staying there for the night with them. That next night they came out to the new place, and began the Great Christmas Squat of 2016-2017, which lasted until January 23, 2017 to be exact. This was the “No-Net”, am I a crazy person? holiday event. 

I couldn’t help but note the thematic irony of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on the radio, as I did my last minute shopping in the city I had just fled. And straight out of a Dickens plot, the delay in our highly anticipated, but murky future closing date, was due to a delay in “original documents”, as they were in transport to a party in England. Thank you for your patience. The sellers were sisters, this and the talk of deeds, and inheritance, peeked a slight suspicon that this may have been a very bad idea. 

I operated with a strange working numbness. I forgot to mention this whole time the whole clan was battling the flu, and the night before the 23rd I had done an epic back and forth from the new house to the country house, over three hours of driving and unloading and reloading the truck in the icey night. Just brutal. 

We bought our house on a contingent (based on the sale of our house) contract, which we knew (thank you Google) was a complicated and perilous way to go about your real estate transactions. We doubled down on the madness, by renting the house for a month before we bought it. This was the purgatory phase of this ordeal. We were technically able to occupy and store our things, but until it was sold it was a pretty grey area concerning what if any improvements we would want to do. We attempted to align the closing dates, but keeping in mind the holidays (so many damn holidays) things could get backed up. 

The house, our 1900s era farmhouse now, was, to put it politely, in rough shape. Mouse shit. Cobwebs. Bubblegum stuck to the floor. Dirt and dust and grime on everything. Half finished remodels. The thermostat was stuck at sixty-two and the old girl whistled. And the flies…I was not familiar with the Cluster-Fly before the new place. Apparently they plant themselves in the dead things and dirt, and camp out in the tiny spaces and cracks of your windows and trim. They like the southern facing windows for heat, and unlike the common house fly they are not all pesky and up in your business.

 Instead their annoyance arises with their proliferation. I began the counterattack with the vacuum and then Shop-Vac, but they returned with regularity. We continued on to chemical warfare and then their bodies shaded the plywood. Effective, yet shocking. We settled on invisible glue strips which go on the windows, quite helpful actually, but more morbid.

I feel like I am highlighting the negative, more for the drama then the reality, because the truth is there were moments and displays of tenderness and family that made the darkest aspect nothing in comparison. Christmas morning, a table strewn full of hastily arranged lights and new treasure. Highlights, a telescope, a drone, massive Avengers Lego set, with tiny Ant-man. Chay, my 6 year old, took the move and transition to a new school like a champ. Just overall, the kids provided the crucial child-like perspective which can take things for what they are, the interest value of the New, and the pleasure of the little things. Sure, the house sucked we could all agree on that, but what about the adventure!

 All five of us for a month slept in the one semi-finished bedroom in the house. Mom and Dad on the floor, in the previously dragged foam mattress (our old box spring never made it upstairs). The kids tucked in cozy behind us, elevated on their beds. We even got used to their snoring. 

The house was awful, but I slept like a rock. I found the remoteness comforting. We remained torn between the desire to the own the place and make all our dreams a reality, and the fear that somehow the whole deal would fall through. Supercharged by the anxiety that we had just made a bad, rushed deal on our old house. We also couldn’t help but note that Jan. 12th would be the one stipulated month of rent in our contract. 

This whole time the amount of work we are facing becomes clear. How much really needed to be done to make it livable. We stay positive though. We remain dirtier, more inconvenienced, more stressed, but still happier. We make it work. Use the laundromat. Eat a lot of take-out. We are told the 18th, not great, but let’s do it. We take a breath, then here the day comes and whoops, Dickens, those darn documents got lost on their way from England. We’ll try again next week. 

….to be continued 

In the next installment…