far too much writing, far too many photos

So. To review.

A year ago: me, in Madrid, realizing that my life felt like I’d been treading water for the previous year (or so). Deciding that big changes had to be made. Giving up the flat I’d had for several years, packing up my life there, leaving things in a teeny storage compartment. Returning to northern Vermont on May 1st, intending to begin a process of sorting through my belongings with an eye toward getting rid of lots of it, at the same time working on the house, getting it ready to sell. The house went on the market in mid-October. Just in time for big market slow-down. Found myself slogging through deep northern Vermont winter, waiting for the worst of it to pass so that potential buyers would dust the snow off their clothes and re-commence house-hunting.

I never doubted that someone would go for the house — I knew it would sell itself if people came to see it. And last week, as if the melting snow that’s been in process all month finally hit a threshold, home-buyers woke up from their long winter sleep, began coming to see my modest hilltop palace. One couple seemed very interested, but held off on pulling the trigger. While they vacillated, someone else came along — a wonderful woman (single mom w/ five-year-old boy), who clearly was reacting to the place the way I did when I first saw it as a potential buyer. She and her realtor stayed an hour and a half, all of us talking on and on.

Next morning, she left a message on my answering machine letting me know they were making an offer. They did, I accepted, that was that.

I have two months to organize, pack and prepare for what comes next. The closing happens June 1.

España, te echo de menos

[continued from previous entry]

The trouble with taking FOREVER to relate a happening — like I’ve been doing here these last few weeks — is that big honking piles of other stuff happens as the days square-dance by and some of it never gets chronicled. I realize that in this case the lack of chronicling likely will not have anyone in their right mind shedding bitter tears. But still. Let me have my delusions of importance.

From the last three weeks:

– Sitting on the back stoop during afternoons of radiant sunshine and temperatures mild enough to allow lounging outside without picking up frostbite. One afternoon, almost two weeks ago now, the day grew so astonishingly mild that I needed no down vest, no coat or jacket. (Thermal underwear, yes. I’m not completely whacked out.) There have been a handful of other days since then beautiful enough to get me sitting outside, but none that mild.

Soaking up sunshine, the world around so quiet. The only sounds: birds at the feeder, the occasional sound of vehicles passing on the two-lane down in the valley, the noise drifting up with the breeze. The narrow, curving path I’d kept shoveled between stoop and driveway grew slowly wider as snow cover began giving way before sunlight. Within the last few days, the snow has thinned enough that some of the big lynx pawprints that parallel the house have melted down enough to expose dormant grass — the first patches of faded green visible in the yard.

– Pulling back in on days when cold weather reasserted, especially the ones that came paired with nights of arctic conditions. Feeling my focus narrow down, my overriding concern getting through it until more moderate days brought relief.

– Dragging a lawn chair out on that first amazingly mild afternoon — relaxing, reading, my near fishbelly-white skin picking up the teeniest bit of color. All that with eight or ten inches of snow close by. When the sun began dropping behind the trees and a cool breeze started up, I retreated inside and found that among the insects that had come to life during those hours of near springtime temperatures, a green lacewing had found its way into the house — big and delicate looking, poised on the glass of the kitchen door window, the last rays of sunlight making its wings shine.

– Waking up in the wee hours on two or three occasions, once hearing the sound of a door closing off in another part of the house, once or twice hearing footsteps. The household ghost (you heard me) reminding me it was still hanging around.

That makes two of us then. (Hanging around, I mean.) For now.

España, te echo de menos

[continued from previous entry]

I’d only intended to inflict the first ten or fifteen minutes of the last bit on them. No, really. I hadn’t planned to hijack so much of their Sunday, especially with G. beginning to feel antsy about getting the exercise part of her day going, heading out into the cold, being a fit, responsible human type person. And there was me, the devil on her shoulder, inflicting entertainment on them, encouraging slack, dissolution, lack of discipline (and feeling a teeny-tin sense of guilt about it).

I also knew I had to hit the road sooner rather than later, being that the liars on all the weather reports were warning that a sizeable blizzard was moving in, one that would dump a whole lot of snow on the Boston area that night. The prediction for northern Vermont appeared less alarming — two to three inches, no big deal. So as far as beginning the slog north I felt no terrible urgency, was happy to procrastinate, had no problem at all, really, with the video-fest that taken shape.

The first ten or fifteen minutes of Buffy gave way to half an hour, then an hour, snowflakes flying outside, flurries coming and going. When the story finally came to a close, I packed up, gave G.&S. back their day, got going.

Two hours later, approaching the New Hampshire-Vermont border, I slipped north of the cloud cover, its edge stretching from east to west, a clean, curving line across the sky — gray, nasty weather to the south, blue sky and late day sunlight to the north. The sun slipped behind the Green Mountains as the interstate took me toward Montpelier, a long, radiant sunset unfurled, gave way to twilight, then frigid, late winter darkness.

Next morning, I discovered that the weather fibbers had actually been lying this time around — yes, two to three inches fell overnight, along with a bonus ten to 12 inches. The snow cover once more hip-deep. And fresh lynx tracks extending along both sides of the house. Big round pawprints, as if the cat had been issued snowshoes (explaining their ability to walk on top of powdery snow). One trail stretched across the hillside in front of the house, disappearing into the windbreak of pine trees along the end of the house. Anther trail appearing at the other end of the windbreak, extended back toward the road, the tracks disappearing where the cat jumped down onto the driveway, moving off across the gravel lane and up into the woods.

Once the storm moved by, temperatures skidded way the hell down into minus numbers, me praying that those kind of cold spells would be ending soon, hoping March would make nice. And two or three days later, it began to. All of a sudden, days of lovely above-freezing weather began rolling past, the music of snowmelt water in the house’s rain gutters becoming a part of the days’ soundtrack. March barging in like the proverbial lion, then shifting to something more user-friendly. Not a lamb exactly, since each few days of kinder weather give way to some backsliding, to two or three days of something way colder, not so cuddly or user-friendly. A groundhog maybe. Or a wombat. Possibly a hedgehog.

You get my drift.

[concluded in next entry]

España, te echo de menos

[continued from previous entry]

Sunday morning: woke up in the wee hours, the first hint of a.m. light diluting the darkness. Outside, for the second morning in a row, mourning doves called softly. A sound of hope.

Found myself conscious for real around 7:30, staggered out of bed to find no one else awake (except the kitties, who slinked about, apparently weighing the idea of mugging me for food). Felt myself jonesing for espresso, pulled on clothes. Looked outside, saw a cold, gray world. Pulled on another layer of clothes. Headed out into the cold and gray, found that winter had reasserted itself, a frigid breeze blowing, the occasional snowflake slanting down. Made the trek along Mass. Ave., collar up, hands buried in jacket pockets, thinking comforting thoughts of warm, caffeinated goodness. Arrived at café, reached for door handle, pulled. Door surprised me by remaining firmly closed. Pulled handle again, more emphatically — same result. A glance inside showed lights on, figures working behind counter. A scan at the business-hours sign in the window revealed the place remained closed until 8 a.m. on Sundays. Hadn’t even occurred to me that the joint wouldn’t arrange to be open real damn early to serve barely-conscious clientele like myself (this being the big city and all).

Collected what might laughably be called my wits, glanced at cellphone, saw ten minutes remained until the caffeine palace would allow the rabble in. Continued walking down the Avenue, watching the few cars passing, glancing at store windows. Stopped in front of a record store that had an impressive collection of truly cheesy record covers from decades back. Wrung what entertainment I could from that, turned and looked around at the gray world, shoulders hunched up, breathmist dispersing with the breeze as soon it left nose and mouth.

Headed back to café at the stroke of eight, found myself the first customer there. Ordered, found a table, opened a book, sat reading and sipping, beginning the slow process of rejoining the human race.

Other people began trickling in, my attention wandering between espresso, book, human-watching. At some point — my head resting on a hand, staring at book with unfocused eyes — I found myself imagining looking up and seeing someone I knew, an individual I hadn’t seen in several years, saw them look over and see me. And knew for a certainty that I was going to see them for real. Looked up from book, saw the place slowly filling with customers and life, looked back down at book. Looked up a 30 seconds later, saw the individual I’d imagined a minute earlier. She turned, saw me, pointed at me with a is that really you? expression. I nodded, she approached, we chatted, the interchange a bit formal — in part because neither were at full consciousness, in part because she had once been a friend but seemed to take sides when a relationship I’d been in broke up back when. I kept it cordial, we talked, it was fine. She was en route somewhere, left after a few minutes. I watched her go, pondering life’s twists and turns.

Back at the flat, I found G.&S. up and doing breakfast stuff. Told them about the encounter at the café, ate a little. Laptops appeared, wifi life got slowly got underway. We talked about Dr. Horrible, that led to snooping around YouTube, watching Christopher Walken dance (S. trying to do her morning crossword, losing concentration as G. and I played and replayed the clip, finally giving up, joining us), watching Christopher Walken sing and dance (there really is nothing like watching Himself lip-sync ‘Delilah,’ surrounded by dancing cops), watching babes behind bars singing and dancing. Which led me to inflict Buffy The Musical on G.&S. (the morning giving way to afternoon, G. wanting to get active, go out and run, me being the devil on her shoulder, presenting one video temptation after another).

[continued in next entry]

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Evening sky, mid-March — Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

Sowa (South of Washington Street) turns out to be a neighborhood down near the Southeast Expressway. Real damn urban, and not an area I’m familiar with. G. did an excellent of navigating Sat. afternoon traffic and getting us there, a teeny parking spot presented itself. So teeny the Subaru didn’t quite fit. The driver of the car in front was there, G. got out and asked him nicely if he would inch forward enough to allow her to park. He did, me enjoying an example of urban cooperation instead of a display of urban indifference (or personal combat). Once out of car, it became clear that the temperature had dropped, the day getting colder, more raw. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d been dressed for Vermont. (The previous day’s balmy weather had lulled me into leaving my thermals back in my temporary squat.) But we were quickly inside heated places, so what the hell. Galleries, artists’ lofts, all that. Artiness everywhere.

After spending a while wandering through an impressively oversized building of artists’ studios, hallways stretching on and on, finding the occasional studio open for intruders like us to poke our collective noses into, we headed back out into the cold. Moved the car (me and S. standing in a spot down the street to hold it, shooing away a couple in an overgrown SUV (her looking like she might be ready to fight for the spot until I pointed out that we were abandoning one down the street to move to this one — ahh, urban life)). Hiked to a crowded eatery in the South End, managed (with the use of guile, patience and the occasional well-placed elbow) to get a table G. wanted. Inhaled a light meal of pretty good turkey chili, leaving space for the evening’s main attraction: a Chinese meal at a joint near G.&S.’s flat, a place that produces a fine plate of spicy eggplant.

As we ate, I watched a gent outside in the street, dressed in old clothes, a worn thermal vest, wearing a knit cap bearing the Patriots logo. Sweeping up garbage strewn in gutters and sidewalks, dumping it into a wheeled trash can, doing a careful, thorough job. I commented on him, appreciating that someone was out there cleaning up rubbish in the cold. On the way out, G. spoke with him, he said without work like that he’d be home receiving disability pay, said he’d rather be out doing something productive. Seemed like a good guy — I hope he’s being paid a pile of $$$ for his labor.

A few hours later, after a pit-stop at the flat for relaxation and kitty-tormentingentertaining, we slid into a booth at the Chinese joint, a sizeable flat-screen TV across the aisle from us playing a grade B (maybe grade C) fantasy movie, sound turned off. Actors doing their best with the material, trying to emote believably — your handsome warrior, your beautiful female in flowing, medieval outfit, your gray-bearded wizard trying futilely to put across a version of Gandalf (the kind of role that must now be a bitch, post-Ian-McKellan-making-Gandalf-his-own) In a cavern, carrying torches, dealing with magical traps and like that. (”I’ve got you,” said one of them, “with my magical trap!” Another character said something about magical powers, I immediately overrode conversation between G.&S., repeating, “Magical powers! Magical powers!”) The restaurant had the subtitles turned on, producing info-bits between lines of dialogue that seriously undercut the story’s earnestness, like [both grunting], [both moaning], and [chuckles].

“Why,” I said after that last one, “is he calling her ‘Chuckles’?”

“Huh?” replied S. “He’s not. It means….”

“R. knows,” G. interrupted, putting a hand over one of S.’s hands. “Remember who you’re dealing with.” Which made me feel obnoxiously pleased.

[continued in next entry]

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March snowfall, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

[continued from previous entry]

Here’s an interesting truth: writing that last entry was the most fun I’ve had since returning to northern Vermont last Sunday. Hmmmmm….

My frequent m.o. when staying with G.&S. is to wake up during the wee hours, crank up the laptop and have quiet, wholesome wi-fi fun in my guestroom/hidey-hole. Not this time. Woke up, grabbed a book of S.’s that I’d glommed onto, plowed through a bunch of it. Went back to sleep. Didn’t touch my laptop — why does that make me sound chaste and virginal? — didn’t go carousing around the net. (And before drifting back off to sleep, heard the soft sound of mourning doves coming from outside, a sound of the warm season that felt like a gentle affirmation of the local world having turned a seasonal corner.)

Woke up later, found G.&S. starting their day, being quiet about it so their guest (that would be me) could snooze. G. had plans for the morning, I immediately browbeat convinced S. to accompany me to the nearby café to begin the process of rejoining the human race, me offering to pay (in a pathetic attempt to compensate for the previous afternoon when I’d offered the same but managed to leave all $$$ in my temporary squat, forcing S. to cover everything). Where the previous day’s visit had been like a bit of café springtime — open windows, wafting curtains, caffeine-inhalers looking carefree in a springtime way — cold weather had reasserted during the night, bringing a dose of hard-edged, late-February reality (me hoping the mourning doves wouldn’t wind up frozen to the ground in an alley somewhere).

Back at the flat, waiting for G., to return, S. & I resumed our places on the sofa, laptops open and running. More good, clean wi-fi fun. G. appeared at some point and joined us, me pausing now and then to torment entertain kitties with laser pointer, getting them to run all over the room, up and down furniture, even up walls in pursuit of that elusive point of red light. (The best part: their undeniable inability to actually capture it never seems to discourage them. They’re not rocket scientists, but they are mighty cute.)

G.&S. suggested a field trip to the Sowa district of Boston to nose around, traipse through galleries, do the arty thing. In short order, I found myself in the back seat of their Subaru, watching Saturday afternoon Cambridge spool slowly by (Mass. Ave. traffic keeping progress to a modest crawl). Being chauffered around gets me happy like you would not believe, a kind of overdone happiness that could easily spill over the line into out-and-out obnoxiousness for anyone not sharing my simple-minded joy. G.&S. seem to handle it astonishingly well. In fact, they deal extremely well with my displays of goofy bliss in general which, sadly, propels me into even more cheerful states of being. Their ungrudging acceptance of the undiluted, excessive sunniness I often slip into when I’m in their company is one of the reasons I worship them — not everyone has the constitution to bear up to that kind of perky, near-relentless contentment. Their ability to deal with it is one of those mysteries I prefer not to question or probe. I’d rather just slip into fun mode and exploit that near saint-like forbearance.

(Another tendency of mine you may have noticed: overstating things well beyond the point of common decency.)

[continued in next entry]

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Gray afternoon, early March:

España, te echo de menos

Last Friday morning, through light rain, beneath skies that cleared as I headed south, I followed the interstates down to the Boston area for a fast two-day getaway. Staying once again with G.&S. in Cambridge, taking over G.’s teeny office/guest room.

Cambridge: wind blowing, mild temperatures, sun slanting down through fast-moving clouds. And apart from the remains from mounds of plowed/shoveled snow melting away in sidestreets, no snow. Anywhere. A huge contrast with snow-slathered northern Vermont.

S. welcomed me, the two household cats hovered cautiously in the background. Dumped my stuff in my temporary squat, S. pointed out that the b&w photo I remembered as a guy and a goat [see first paragraph of Feb. 7 entry] was actually a pic of G.’s brother tending to a sheep. An image with disturbing ramifications for anyone with a perverted imagination (though not for me of course, being an individual as pure as the driven blahblahblah).

Unpacked, blabbed with S., found laser pointer and began tormenting entertaining the cats. Realized that a good café was a mere three blocks away, dragged S. outside and down Mass. Ave. to keep me company while I got caffeinated. (S. bought a vat of fancy-ass, la-de-da decaffeinated brew, I thoughtfully kept any smirking, superior, derisive comments to my increasingly hopped-up self. Because we’re friends, and I accept my friends’ flaws and silly errors with affectionate and only slightly condescending tolerance.)

Despite my thoughtfulness, once we were back outside into the mild, windy afternoon (and once we’d ducked into a beauty salon, of all places, to see a nice exhibit of a local photographer’s work), S. pointed us down Mass. Ave., mumbling something about taking a “walk.” Which turned out to be code for “forced march.” Down the Avenue, through the Common, over to Brattle Street, through the Square, into the Holyoke Center, back out and across into and through Haaahvahd Yard, up Oxford Street, back over to Mass. Ave., and finally back to the flat where I could pull off my pointy boots — not made for hikes of any distance, and certainly not made for interminable slogs walked at near light speed — sobbing uncontrollably as I massaged my throbbing, abused feet. (Note: the teensiest bit of artistic license has been taken re: my emotional state in that last bit.)

I pulled out my laptop — why does that sound vaguely obscene? — and retreated to the internet. S. did the same. We sat on the living room sofa together, swapping ongoing commentary as we each stumbled around various corners of the net.

I’d intended the high point of that evening to be a showing of Dr. Horrible, me having brought along my copy of the dvd, intending to give G.&S. a shot of entertainment/culture, after which they intended to watch Friday Night Lights. G. returned from work, they decided to make dinner, a dinner whose preparation went on and on and on until only enough time remained to see the first 15 minutes of Dr. H. before Texas football mania got cranked. Luckily, the chow turned out to be pretty good, keeping me happily occupied until FNL was well underway, at which point I realized what I was in for and did my best to watch graciously, without bitching, moaning or deafening G.&S. with the sound of grinding teeth.

That was Friday.

[continued on following entry]

España, te echo de menos

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