Milling about within the same household year upon year, voices rise and fall and chatter and go silent and joke and reminisce. Sawing a couch into three parts prompted an ongoing interior design fest. Sawdust and also a unique upholstery-powder, resulting from gigantic rips in a seriously tough durable fabric, both continue to permeate the atmosphere. The monstrous antique’s gothic springs and over-stuffed cushions and elaborately ornate legs occupy a land-fill now; the poor old sofa’s as unidentifiable and as thoroughly wood-chipped as a dismembered actor in the cast of “Fargo”. Our summer HONEY DEW (DO) list commenced. Discussions, sometimes heated, still persist ranging from “Houston, we have a problem” to “All’s Quiet on the Western Front.” Adequate air conditioning provides sufficient marriage counseling thus far.
Thrown together to multi-task and to catch up with ourselves and tackle certifiably odd jobs put on hold for decades now, the game is afoot. So diligent and focused are we within our “castle” that we recently failed to realize that an aging Southern uncle — living 800 miles away — sat sweltering in our driveway texting, cell phoning, and honking to gain our attention. We found his hurried note under a stone — two days after his departure.
Our famed, ancient turtle Brando/Brandy died after I featured him (her, actually) in a newspaper column. Our cat named Joey disappeared off the face of the earth, only to return 13 hours later and saunter up the front steps providing no indication of how or why he left or what adventures he pursued. Zelda Fitzgerald, our schizophrenic “Alpha” dog, collapsed from old age aggravated by a summer drought that only “Rainmaker” Burt Lancaster might reverse if passing through our town with his wagon-load of tricks and cons. All that remains of our girl is a paw print in cement, her euthanasia-cremation tab, and priceless memories of her valor, loyalty, and shenanigans. I myself have withstood two dental emergencies and survived thanks to Dr. Jim McConnell, although this particular summer I have never identified so closely with another living soul as I have with Mildred Natwick of “Barefoot in the Park”!
Our second Lexmark printer hemorrhaged very black ink after repetitiously “popping up” to announce/warn that it was suffering “paper jam-ism” (misdiagnosed itself! not true!) for a solid month prior to its blood-spurting demise, saturating a relatively new, lightly colored braided rug. Currently, bleach-stick spots replace the ebony splatters. Our Internet Provider flagrantly toys with our emotions and sense of confidence in this scattered undependable computer age we’ve all been forced to endure and to somehow attempt to conquer…service is “here today/gone tomorrow”! Let’s face it! We’re all wallowing in the dawn of a new type of ever-changing technology some nut has convinced us that we cannot live without! Our lives no longer can be claimed as our own…we’re driven by mercurial forces beyond our control. Yes, and I quote a computer generated, typically confusing, alarmist bulletin here…my “files have been corrupted” in more ways than I ever could have imagined!
I’ve composed two nostalgia columns per month — for a total of three hectic years — upon a couple of now deceased, discarded computers and searched high and low for old photographs to scan either lovingly or in panic-mode…and only live in the present when I appear on a radio show which is broadcast from Myrtle Beach by way of New York. I accomplish this particular latter feat via temperamental land or (raspy, irritating, voice-delaying) cell phones, and we all know how dependable those devices and their battery lives are. When our engineering-genius son visits, he psychoanalyzes our Dell — aptly dubbed fiendish “Hal” from “2001–A Space Odyssey” — and meanders toward the back room with my kitchen “v-tech” as part of his “consulting with highly qualified Indians” process. High and dry, I decide to explore the possibilities of the brave new fresh iPad world at my fingertips, but the coffeepot and the toaster remain plugged in where the adapter needs to be “thunked”, in order to juice up its latest toy which seems my final link with humanity? I guess? Our kitchen table resembles an origami sculpture fashioned from a vast collection of vital paperwork that might really be (or once have been) of some consequence but presently overlaps or jumbles with expired coupons from 2007, stale graduation “open-house” or wedding invitations, and grocery receipts. Technology collides with reality in at least two rooms of my domicile…what used to be my kitchen and what once was my library/den. Hal’s far-reaching tentacles cannot be denied!
We allow ourselves well-deserved breaks from this self-imposed and monumental reorganization of our house-hold — this home which I have known all too well for scores of years. Don performs the mixed-metaphor ritual of watering his “Black-eyed Susans” transplanted from my judgmental, frank mother’s-in-law yard years ago. (I could rrrreally convey more background information here, but I won’t!) I plop down with myriad boxes of cherished trinkets such as school medals, cat’s eye marbles, old yellowed newspaper articles, report cards, mystery keys which unlocked past doors, tarnished dog-tags, and Sunday School paraphernalia as if I were Scout Finch gawking at and fingering treasures gifted to me by Boo Radley. Additionally, we reward ourselves with an unrelaxing “Mad Men” tele-marathon as we breathlessly strive to settle down and watch its first four seasons thanks to the “boxed-set” conspiracy visited upon our souls by corporate America. This retro-exercise does not qualify as a vicarious experience since we consider ourselves every bit as zany as Don Draper, Roger, Peggy, Betty and Joan combined. (Watch the series for clarification…highly recommended viewing!)
I yearn for a writer’s studio at another undisclosed location so that I might exit this mad-house to write in solitary secluded isolation just as Hoosier Civil War hero and author Lew Wallace used to do at his self-designed “home away from home”, in a part of Crawfordsville at a suitable distance from family and friends. There, in peace and quiet, General Wallace penned “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” in 1880 and “The Boyhood of Christ” in 1888…all alone with no telephone…nor quirky internet providers…nor guilt complexes resulting from neglected uncles in driveways…nor violent, erratic, quickie thunderstorms knocking out doorbells which possibly led to my mis-identification as “Auntie Social”! I implore a little respect IF we do hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on our front door. Nothing personal…it’s just that I’m guessing that people who possess the gall to subdivide a possibly PBS “Antiques Roadshow” caliber couch into three portions already seem disturbed enough as it is! As Julius Caesar famously proclaimed: “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres!”
Check out the radio show in which I portray Nora Redmond in “Sheepshead Bay Boulevard”, a thirteen installment parody in progress of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”! A true riot! And I am far beyond being “ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!”