Monday, May 26, 2008

Curmudgeon Moment

Here I am, poised to head in to work at Ho(t)Me(n) Depot, and I'm feeling really crabby.

It's Memorial Day dammit.

Now I will admit that for the better part of my life, Memorial Day meant a long weekend off from school before the home stretch, or an opportunity for a barbecue, or whatever. But back then, there wasn't a war on, little less a war that has taken the lives of over 4,000 americans.

Ho(t)me(n) Depot should not be open today. What the hell? If we don't sell lots of grills and patio furniture then the terr'ists win?

This black mood all came upon me last night when I was driving home and I saw fireworks over Chalfont, PA.

Fireworks? Really?

A fitting way to remember those who gave their lives?

Among the things I found cleaning up my father's bedroom was a little wire with a rippled shiny red plastic disk on one end. I knew immediately what it was. It was the faux poppy he would wear on Memorial Day every year. In his youth, the recent war was World War I, and the poem they had to memorize in school referenced poppies... "In Flanders fields the poppies grow/between the crosses, row on row..."

I believe I threw out my father's poppy, but I wish I hadn't. I would have liked to have worn it today, wrapped around the strings of my orange apron.

Off to work.

Friday, May 23, 2008

In Which Bucky And I Kiss

So Bucky.

You remember him, right?

In October, 2003, this beautiful young man working behind the counter at Starbucks stopped me dead in my tracks. Many an evening I would flirt with him in my oh so subtle way on the porch when he was on his break. After a few months of that, he was off to Minnesota or somewhere in pursuit of this girl he met online. Then, back before Christmas, he re-appeared, told me the details of this homoerotic screenplay he was writing, and was once again fueling my masturbatory fantasies.

We met up for coffee, we talked about getting together for vietnamese food, I called and left a message, I never heard back.

End of story.

Until Wednesday, when I was shocked and surprised to get a phone call from him, asking if the offer of vietnamese still stood.

Absolutely it did.

We made plans to get together last night.

And then, after we said goodbye, but before he hung up, I heard him say, "Okay, so he's gonna meet me. I'll lay it all out for him at the table tomorrow night."

Lay what all out for me?

What gives?

When we met up last night at the Starbucks in Chalfont, Bucky was resplendent in his untucked white dress shirt and cargo pants. We got our respective coffees, then headed off in my Jeep to Pho Thai, the restaurant I had in mind. We talked on the way. Bucky was driving again thanks to a breathalizer thingy. He might have a job at an Outback Steakhouse, and he had found a new place to live over in Phoenixville. He had found the place on craigslist. A house on a few acres ("with a gazebo and everything!") owned by "a couple of guys who seem pretty nice." He was renting a room from them.

For sure, at this point, my antennae were so Up. Who were these two jokers that had cock blocked me? A couple of queens in Phoenixville with a gazebo for pete's sake. Who has a gazebo? (Although if Bucky was impressed by that, I guess I'll have to build a gazebo.)

I calmed myself down before I blew my cool. After all, Bucky exudes sexual ambiguity like you wouldn't believe. The boy just will not be pinned down. No doubt those guys were sitting in their gazebo right then endlessly debating "well is he or isn't he?", a conversation I have long since stopped having with myself.

And we talked about life and about writing and about books we had read and about California and about work and such.

Bucky and I both have the same conversational style, which I guess you could describe as meandering, but that would probably be giving it way too much credit. Many can't tolerate it, and so I do my best to rein it in, but with Bucky, I just let my thoughts and the conversation go wherever it will.

Pho and vietnamese spring rolls were a huge hit with Bucky. And I was glad of that. I like that he likes what I like. And I also got a charge out of introducing the boy to something new. Even if it was just a southeast asian cuisine. We were still talking up a storm when the restaurant staff stood in a line with their arms folded, all the other diners long since departed. Bucky and I headed back to where he had left his car at Starbucks. I was telling him the tale of how I dropped Extasy with Mr. Big Shot Hollywood Producer and confused the effects of the drug with the experience of falling head over heels in love with Mr. Big Shot Hollywood Producer ("Oh I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible..."). Bucky laughed with me at my recounting, and then paused and asked, "When did you first know you were gay?"

And my heart stopped. I almost drove right through a redlight I was so bent out of shape.

"I had a dream," I said.

And I told him the True Story Of My Gay Awakening.

I was fifteen years old and staying down at my grandfather's house in Olney, Philadelphia. My grandmother had died a year or so before, and my grandfather was distraught and broken. I would go down there whenever I had off school to look after him. Since my homelife at that time was awful, it was a convenient getaway. And there, sleeping in my big four poster bead in the front room, I had this dream.

In the dream, the world was coming to an end. The polar icecaps had melted, and the oceans were rising. In only a matter of time, all but the tallest mountain peaks would be underwater. I and my sister were part of a team of scientists who had been called together by the world's leaders to figure out how to save humanity. (You could tell we were scientists because we were all wearing white lab coats. I've since learned that scientists tend not to wear their white lab coats outside of their labs.) We all knew that the only reason that we were called together was so that the world's governments could prevent panic. We were just public relations. In fact, there was nothing we could do. It was all over. So we all sat around my grandparents dining room table, sending up trial balloons ("we could build a giant geodesic dome that would float on top of the waves" "Yeah. That might work." "Or, we could build giant pontoons to elevate some of the major cities." "Huh! Worth a try."). These were all half-hearted, because we all knew it was over.

Then, there was this rumbling sound. Suddenly, I was on the roof of the front porch outside the windows of my second floor front bedroom. My sister and the other scientists were down in the street. There, up Duncannon Avenue, above the rowhouses of Olney, there was this undulating blue-grey haze over the horizon line. It got darker and darker and more distinct. Then, there was a roaring sound, and a huge wall of water came surging down the street. I watched as my sister and all the other scientists were swept away in a flash.

And then, there was this roiling finger-like projection of the water, it rose like the head of a viper over me, then FWOOOOOSH, it swept over me. I vividly felt like when you go under a wave at the beach, not sure which direction was up, tossed by the surf. "I'm dying," I thought. I began to pray: "Please Lord Jesus! Please take me into Your Kingdom! Please Lord! Please!" And then, I felt this incredible peace and acceptance. It was okay. I would be alright.

And I woke up. The morning sun was streaming in through the windows of my bedroom. My dick was shooting like a geyser. "I'm peeing the bed," I thought. But it wasn't piss.

"I'm gay."

It was that simple. Just like that. No torturous questioning and wondering. It was just that simple. I'm gay.

Acceptance and self-possession.

"Huh," said Bucky, "well I'm bisexual."

At long last, now we were getting somewhere.

He told me about his first crush, when he was in 8th Grade, on an exchange student from Spain.

We were back at Starbucks now. Parked in my Jeep next to his car.

"Y'know," I said, "If you ever would want to be gay with me, I would totally be open to that. I liked you for years, Bucky. You're a great guy."

"I'd like that a lot," Bucky answered.

And so we kissed.

Bucky is a good kisser. A really good kisser. His lips are so soft, so sweet.

I was in heaven.

Bucky had to drive back to Phoenixville, so we said our goodbyes.

"And oh yeah," said Bucky, "One other thing I wanted to talk to you about."

And then Bucky proceeded to tell me about this pyramid marketing scheme ("great business opportunity") he was involved in and invited me to meet him tonight for coffee with "one of his business associates."

Oh hell.

One day I am going to take a belt to Bucky's ass and make it good and red for putting me through all this.

But not tonight. Tonight, I'm going to hear some bozo give me a spiel about some pyramid marketing scheme ("and you just sign up friends of yours as business associates and the money just rolls in!").

However, a thought has occurred to me. Maybe Bucky called on me (he must know lots of kids, right?) because he has some misgivings about getting involved in something like this and I'm the smartest guy he knows.

But we'll see.

Gotta run. Don't want to be late and make a bad impression on my new "business partners."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Come Buy My Crap!

Not the best day for a yard sale. It's cold and rainy here in Bucks County. But after weeks of preparation, this is the Big Event.

My brother and his wife--especially his wife--are reveling in it. I just wasn't cut out for this. This morning, when someone asked how much I wanted for some useless thing or other, plastic plant pot that was split up the side or something, I said, "Really? You'd buy this?"

And by "this morning," I really mean This Morning. The official start time was 9 AM, but people were showing up at 6:30. Sometimes they'll make comments like "I don't know where I'm gonna put this" or "I'm not sure just what I'll use this for" but they plunk down their money and cart it off. When one guy mused, "Something like this... you don't want to throw it away, because it might come in handy for something," I just wanted to say, "Au contraire, mon confrère! It is useless crap and you don't need it." But in that instance, I managed to restrain myself.

So for minimalist me, this is like being locked in an insane asylum. All these people are in dire need of the services of mental health professionals, and here I am helping them load stuff into their trunks.

And there must be an easier way to get rid of all of this. For the first few years I lived in NYC, every Wednesday night, I'd take my laundry down to the laundramat and spend the next couple of hours washing and drying and folding. A roommate pointed out to me that that exact same laundramat offered wash and fold services. I protested: Why would I pay someone to do something that I'm perfectly capable of doing myself?

Because, he explained, your time is valuable. If you imagine paying yourself minimum wage for doing your own laundry, right away you see that it's cheaper to outsource.

And he was right. (Also, along with breakfast and fresh cut flowers, fluff-and-fold is one of the great bargains of New York City.) (Or used to be.)

And after all the hours that my brother and his wife have put into this yard sale--you should see the pricing matrix they came up with, determining what costs 10¢, what costs a quarter, 50¢, and so on... It's like a thesis project in some diabolical MBA program--I'd be hard pressed to imagine that selling mismatched china would pay them anything resembling a decent amount. (And keep in mind, all of the proceeds go into the coffers of my father's estate.) But down in Florida, they spend their Fridays buying, "fixing up," and selling stuff at a local flea market.

Now, at the lunch break, business has been swift. Someone actually bought the goofy looking oak "Entertainment Center," which means that I have to think of a good way of preparing one of my baseball caps to eat because indeed the words, "if anybody buys that, I'll eat my hat."

And out the door goes some more of the Kramer Family Treasures.

Speaking of treasured possessions and the careless shedding thereof, I had an interesting dream the other night. I was going on some kind of retreat or off to do mission work or something with some kind of religious group. We were all piling onto a bus and stowing our luggage underneath. Someone pointed out to me that my footwear, my custom made Wesco harness boots, wouldn't work where we were going. So I took them off and was provided with a pair of booties to wear on the bus. I put my boots with the luggage to be stowed and boarded. Inside the bus, I watched as my boots sat forgotten on the curb. Then a homeless guy saw them, tried them on, and walked off in them. In the dream, I was nonplussed by that, thinking something along the lines of, "Well, I guess I needed them."

However, I woke up in a mini-panic, looking over to reassure myself that my boots were still there.

And they were.

But I continue to be a little unsettled. What did that mean? Leaving behind my boots? Is that even something I could do?

Perhaps the dream, like the yard sale, raises the question: getting rid of so much, what will I keep? What will I hold onto, carrying with me into the future.

The "Entertainment Center" can definitely go. But not my Wescos.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

In The Future...

Years ago, I was driving with My Ex, The Man I Left Behind, up that beautiful stretch of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn where you have the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens (in all their glory) on one side of you and Prospect Park (in all it's glory) on the other side of you.

My Ex, The Man I Left Behind, was planning out our future. "So while you're in the seminary, I'll continue to work. When you're ordained, there will be a few years where you're an assistant priest before you get your own church. Hopefully you'll find a parish here in New York City, or maybe in New Mexico. I can probably find a teaching job without too much difficulty. Then, when you get your own parish as rector, I can stop working and devote myself fulltime to making art. If we save our money, you'll be able to retire from being a fulltime rector sometime after you're 55 but before you're 60, and we can retire somewhere with you taking on an assistantship somewhere..."

And about that point, I nearly drove off the road.

My heart was pounding in my chest. I felt light-headed. I couldn't breathe.

Oh. My. God.

He was right.

There it was. The rest of my life, laid out before me. It probably would unfold just as he said.

Scared the bejeezus out of me, being able to imagine, with a high degree of probability where I'd be and what I'd be doing next year, and five years from now, and ten years from now.

And oh yeah. That would all involve being in a relationship with a guy who yelled at me for something or other I did or didn't do just about every day.

And that was part of the reason that I fled.

But now, possibly for the first time ever, I'm experiencing an unknown future in a different way.

I'm afraid.

I've been having these... these... these ideas.

Along the lines of, "Well gosh, after I get the house fixed up so nice, it would be crazy to just go and leave it. Why not postpone putting it on the market for a year, stay here."

Which, I have to admit, is pretty reasonable.

But there's that irrational element that stops me from embracing that wholeheartedly.

I didn't realize it until the other night. Just as I was getting into bed, I realized that I had to piss. The bathroom I currently use is situated out in the front of the house, off the livingroom. (That's not the bathroom that I'm gonna make all fabulous and such, that's going to be made into just a simple powder room.) So that meant down the hall, through the livingroom, and into the bathroom. The house was dark, so I walked slowly, finding my way with my tentative footsteps. In the livingroom, I realized that I was charting a course to avoid colliding with the recliners. As in, the two La-Z-Boys that I had tossed into the dumpster in the driveway and that were by now off in some landfill somewhere.

That nighttime experience, finding my way through a house that was no more, clinging to what I knew and what was familiar, unnerved me.

Egad. Going back to school for Construction Management! Finding a place to live with a dog! And in New York City, a place that changes you when you live there. Am I grounded enough to take that on? Would I become distracted by all that there is to distract me there? And after NYC, what? Where? With whom? How?


And a lot is overwhelming these days.

Or at the very least, now and then I feel pretty whelmed.

The other day I had this landscape architect/horticulturist guy out to look the place over and make some suggestions for improvement and listen to mine.

I was feeling pretty whelmed when he left. "Buying plants is pretty addictive," he explained. "In fact, that's what keeps me in business," he added smiling. "You come to me, and you buy a bunch of plants, and you go home and plant them, and they look great. And it's very satisfying. And a natural reaction is to go out and buy more. But you don't realize that maintaining plants takes a lot of work. They all have to be watered and looked after. In ten years, left untended, you wouldn't be able to see your house. It would all be overgrown. So be careful of trying to make it look better by buying plants."

What I should focus on was to get a dumptruck full of topsoil and put it in the front lawn to get rid of the low spots that keep puddles a week after we get an inch of rain. ("Nobody wants to buy a house where you have to wait a week after it rains to mow the lawn.) And focus on the trees, as in pruning off all the branches up to the crown, opening up the space, and letting people know that the property has been cared for and tended to.

And he went on. Move this garden there. Transplant those rose of sharon to over there by the house. Plow this garden under since it's all naturalized and turn it into lawn.

And on and on.

When he arrived, I was proud of the perennials and annuals I had put in over the past couple of weeks. Gosh, I thought to myself, the place is starting to look pretty good! I think we've got that Curb Appeal Mojo going on! When he left, I just saw all the work that had to be done, so much work that had to be done, and a big brown pile of topsoil in the front yard for two months until grass grew there. And all the money that was going to take.

So yeah, I was whelmed.

Till I sat down and thought about it. Broke it down. Made a list of things I could do right away and things that could wait and we'll see how it goes.

And I'm gonna rein in my buying and planting.


Should I stay or should I go now? Asked the Clash.

Here's what I'm gonna do.

For ten days in June, I'm heading to Southern California. On the Second, I fly into San Diego. I'll stay a few days with Alpha and meet his new Significant Other, then on the 5th or so, I head up to LA to attend this way cool conference that Dwell Magazine is hosting. They have house tours! (And if anyone has any suggestions of somewhere nice to stay on the West Side, please post a comment!) Then, I head to Palm Springs to spend some searing hot days in the desert, soaking up the sun and worshipping Frei houses and hanging at that cruisy coffee place.

So here's my fantasy of what might go down during this trip. I'll here about a job, or a place to live, or something, and I'll be inspired to come back here, pack up my stuff, plop a For Sale sign out in the yard, and head off to start my new life in Southern California. All I think I need is one small dim star to hitch my wagon to.

But we'll see.

Friday, May 02, 2008

House & Garden

Loving this!

I wrote before, a while ago, about my ideas of what constitutes a "Bucks County Garden." The randomness of it, the natural merging seamlessly with the intentional, a lovely, low-maintenance disarray.

And now, I'm doing my best to make that happen. A bunch of annuals have been planted along the side of the house, including black-eyed susans, purple sage, flags, and the like. Two birch trees are awaiting planting along the driveway and I have some irises to go in somewhere near them. The organic Deer-B-Gone that I got at the garden center seems to be working and we may have hosta here for the first time in a decade or so. (I think I've discerned the Secret Ingredient in the Deer-B-Gone. It smells just like cleaning up Faithful Companion's piss.)

Tomorrow, I have a consultation with a horticulturist at Bucks County Gardens, and I hope to get from him some ideas of what I can plant in the low spots in the front lawn to dry them up, along the road under the white pines (ferns, I'm hoping), and what to do about a couple of Borders Gone Wild where the rose-of-sharon and hosta contend with poison ivy and pin oak saplings.

Having last settled into gardening in a twenty-five by forty back yard in Brooklyn, having all this acreage to deal with is a wee bit overwhelming. My strategy is to create different little "rooms" within the vastness the open spaces at the Old Homestead. There's the Vista When You Pull In The Driveway, the View From The Back Window, The Surroundings Of The Screened In Front Porch, The Eastern End Of The Front Lawn That Invites Wandering And Serendipitous Discovery, and Back By The Pond.

Oh. And then there's The North Side Of The Garage. That's going to be Firewood-Central. All the firewood will be neatly stacked there, instead of in the middle of the back yard, and there will be a chopping block for splitting and a sort of lumber yard were limbs and trees can be staged after I haul them out of the woods to be sawed up into logs. A nice lawn chair or two out there, since chopping wood is hard work it's better if you pace yourself and take a break now and then to sip some iced tea.

Right now, I'm really excited about the North Side Of The Garage project most of all. Y'see, Step One is to put down a bed of stone to even it all out over there. And the other day, I got a delivery of a half a dump truck full of stone. Step Two will be to level it all out.

And how, pray tell, is that going to happen?

I'll admit that I initially thought that would happen with shovel (check!), an iron rake (check!), and my young, strong back (uhhh...). But, my back isn't as young and strong as it once was. The guy who drove the stone truck didn't think much of the idea. And so, I went and rented some Heavy. Equipment.

Namely, one of these, the Kubota BX23. I have off on Wednesday, so it will be Mine All Mine for a whole day that day. I'm hoping that the distribution and leveling of the stone goes quickly so I can have some fun doing other stuff around here with the Kubota BX23. The possibilities seem endless. For instance, Wednesday would be a perfect day to dig a nice deep hole with that scoop thingy and plant a mailbox out at the end of the driveway. Or maybe dig a drainage ditch somewhere for some reason or other.

And gosh! What'll I wear? Tooling around on the Kubota BX23 would seem to require something pretty Carhartty, no? Perhaps there will be pictures taken of the event.

On the inside of the house, things progress, but without the immediate gratification that gardening is providing me with. It seems that some of the tile I ordered for my new bathroom won't be ready for shipment until May 24th, so the bathroom won't be going in anytime before then. In part that's a good thing, because once I have my soaking tub that holds sixty gallons of water and--something I've always wanted--a shower with a window, not to mention the beautiful tile work and the natural gauged slate floors, I'll never want to leave the house again for any reason whatsoever. Also, I really have to see about getting a Floor Guy in to tear up the carpet and see about putting down some new flooring (bamboo and cork, mon amour). However, I'm about to embark on a Murphy Brown-esque relationship with a painter, a guy I know from hanging on the porch of Starbucks named Gus. Gus will have the guest bedroom painted and ready for the impending arrival of my brother and his wife on Thursday. I'm really happy about that. Too, Gus is fine about working his way through the interior and the exterior of the house piecemeal over the next couple of months, giving me lots of time to figure out color schemes and such, and clear out furniture so he and his paint crew can work. Since I know and trust Gus, I'm cool with him coming in while I'm not here and setting to work, and so, just like on Murphy Brown, I'll be coming home from work and finding my livingroom a different color than it was when I left the house in the morning.

For the colors on the outside of the house, that's set. It's all going to be based around a Georgia O'Keefe painting, "Lake George Window." More or less. I love the soft blue-greens with the faded blacks and the pure whites. Alas, there's the pale yellow-green vinyl siding to contend with, but hopefully really strong colors will distract from that.

I'm having so much fun with this.

Maybe a little too much fun. If I bankrupt myself making this place beautiful to go on the market but then can't sell it because the real estate market is in the toilet, where will I be then?

Ah well. I'll take the long view. I make it beautiful and trust Providence, then move on to some new challenge.