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Sunday, 22 August - link

friends of aggressive opitimism

meds cab - photo by Natweeks packed with fourteen hour days culminated in a hastily planned housewarming party. Around 1.15am, I looked up towards the top of the new medicine cabinet in my bathroom, and realized that it's okay, remodeling and moving typically take people a few months. A few months to set the place up, a few months to get all the boxes unpacked, a few months to get the right furniture.

I tried to do all of that in three weeks. I figured, if I knew I was going to be living here for at least three years, the length of my schooling, then I want to immerse as soon as possible. Get it all tricked out, so I can

compress, concentrate that time spent establishing myself in the house into a marathon of morning to nighttime arranging and coordinating. a blur growing increasingly nightmarish and ecstatic. the extremes were augmented by the arrival of a merry crew just after the date of my last posting here

I had two recruits accompanying me on this brilliant scheme, staying in my house we woke up each day to painters, carpenters, movers and boxes. We drew up furniture designs. We shopped for light fixtures. We unpacked. We arranged. They were designers and I was the client; they lived with me and I kept them fed. We lived amidst the work and it went from 7am to 10pm. Beer was consumed.

justin, piper, natalie - photo by sharon
Justin, Piper, Natalie, seated for a slaphappy sofa shot - photo by Sharon

And then our last night we sat around a fire and ate. I'd invited students and faculty from my graduate school program; some showed up. I invited the painters and electricians and plumbing supply person; all expressed thanks for the invitation and none brought their families as I'd suggested. My feet hurt so bad, I could barely stand up. By the end of the party I was tired like I wanted to cry. I couldn't talk. My knees still hurt.

kids, dog, fire
Kids, adults and a dog named Salami enjoy the garden firepit.

I wonder if this pacing runs in my family - I still have a t-shirt that says "I survived Colin's thesis" that my brother had made as thank you gifts for all the people who helped him pull together his marathon college-finishing writing project. Somehow it seems we recruit participants and then work to sweep them up into unrealistic but edifying enterprises. Edifying at least as I'm learning to curb my expectations.

Nat watches Joe wheel in another large boxBehind me there are stacks of old computers wrapped in bubble wrap and boxed in molding cardboard - I moved them from the garden to the utility shed area during the first half hour of the party when the Los Angeles guests were conveniently late and I was struggling to apply a normalcy template to the environment. Natalie was inside, wide-eyed, shaking her head and working to coax back up her near indomitable optimism; the collapse of two built-in office bookshelves had shaken her badly. We had measured and measured again and used levels; all our technique was right. We blamed bad drywall, an out-of-sight sinner. What was to take three hours had taken four days and two shelves had fallen taking wall chunks with them. There were books that remained on leaning shelves; a visible threat to anyone sitting near my office walls.

Nat arranged my ties on a queen mattress in a bedroom painted the color 'peony'I think she had hoped we might unpack and arrange all of it. There is still an empty dumpster outside, taunting promising that I might rid myself of my decrepit technology museum and extensive paper souvenirs. I had done well, anticipating and stating her lessons about object attachment. I was prepared to ditch my emotional attachment to skanky ties and inflatable rockets. But there was no time. Guests might be arriving soon. The garden was still a box-festival. Nat had been staggered by the amount of stuff, the tiny space, the tight timing and the exploding shelves. Pulling together any kind of pleasant party venue would be a God-certified miracle.

None of this had shaken Piper quite as badly, as she seemed to be good at maintaining persistent hammer swinging that this pace demanded. Under my desk, she was at work in her neat skirt and floral print shirt, ballet slippers and pinned up Southern Debutante hair, wielding a screwdriver and cordless drill to secure this work surface better than we could secure the collapsing bloated media archive eating holes in the plaster.

piper at house of hardwood
Piper works over her design for an L-shaped outdoor bench at the House of Hardwood

The party was an arbitrary deadline. I couldn't believe it when it started. We few, we dizzy few, we band of busy blustering homemakers badly needing baths. These women saved my life and lifted me to the next relative stage of my life - graduate school classes starts tomorrow and I have towel racks and doorstops and a plywood desk and two pieces of custom furniture coming in two weeks.

A roofer dropped by today and I have no cable TV. Should I buy a Crate and Barrel couch? These are just garments - nothing to worry about but my mind. I can feel almost a cold building in my throat; something painful has happened to my gums. I had my ear checked by a USC doctor; adangerous hardened wax ball is irritating my hearing. At school, the health center gives away free condoms. Decent quality ones too. I availed myself of a dozen. Optimism prevails.

I would reflect on my feelings, on my place in a fast spinning universe, but only gratitude for these sainted friends leaks from my fingers tonight before sensible sleep overtakes.

feigning sleep amidst the boxes - photo by Nat
feigning sleep amidst the boxes and debris
photo by Nat; she also took the medicine cabinet shot at the top
Posted on 22 August 2004 : 23:30 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.