Friday, November 20, 2009

Goldie Locks & the Three Chairs

This is an entry that I started a month ago and I am finally just now ending it. Mid October, Dad went into the hospital to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm repaired. The aneurysm was quite large, 10cm, and we were warned that the surgery would be as difficult, if not more so, than Dad’s triple by-pass surgery of two years ago. About a week and a half after the surgery, still not recovering as he should be, Dad’s surgeon placed a nasal gastric tube into his stomach to remove the fluid and air that had built up there. In the following days, Dad continued to grow even sicker from an unknown source of infection (all x-rays were coming back clean), until (about twelve days after the initial surgery) a team of doctors opened him back up for exploratory surgery. They removed a very dead and gangrenous gall bladder, and placed him in SICU. There he remained for another eleven days of close observation. He moved back on the eighth floor for over a week, improving a little more each day. We were finally able to spring him from the joint Wednesday. It was a glorious morning yesterday when I saw Dad emerge from his bedroom while I was drinking my coffee. It is too mild of a statement to say that I am glad he is home.

Here are a couple of the more humorous entries from Dad’s hospital stay, or the time that we like to refer to as Dr. Ferguson’s Science Experiment:

22 October 2009 Day Three in the hospital with Dad.
Massive abdominal aortic aneurysm, 10cm. Planned surgery. Just got him from the ICU, and he’s adjusting to the room. He’s had difficulty breathing since last night, and is just now getting his oxygen levels back to where they need to be. We were schooled on how Dad is supposed to get himself up. He does it the right way when hospital staff are looking, and his own way when they are not. Had a moment with him earlier when he decided that he wanted to get back into the bed because it could be adjusted up into recliner form. He found the bed to be unsatisfactory after sitting there for all of two seconds, and decided that he wanted to sit in the real recliner across the room. Now the room is not very big, so this shouldn’t have been an issue, but FOR REALS this is the most cramped room ever, and when a drug-hazed Dad says he wants to do something, he starts moving, and asks questions later. It is just like a NY apartment, five rooms of furniture crammed into one room. I warned dad that the chair he was interested in moving to was a rolling chair, and that it sat no straighter than the bed. He wanted in it anyway. Had to move him out the other side of the bed, make him stand there while I moved his IV and fluids, put pads down on the chair and finally let him sit. He sat for about five seconds before declaring the chair to not be as comfortable as the first chair. Alright, Goldie Locks…

23 Oct 2009 Zapruder Tape, Part II, Take I
Off the IV for half a day now, and they are not giving him fluids. In fact, they gave him another diuretic to take off any excess fluid. He is dry now. Moved to a larger room. Bought Dad a small cactus garden to brighten up his little postage stamp of the hospital. On the card I write “Treat this plant like they are treating you…give it very little water. Love, your girls.” In addition, I thought a nice football shaped balloon with ALABAMA across the belly would be a pleasant touch to his accommodations, considering the Alabama Tennessee game tomorrow. Dad is catching some shut-eye, and I am enjoying a chapter of The Secret Garden when all of a sudden a gun-shot goes off in the room. I bolt upright, gasping for breath while looking around for Lee Harvey Oswald, and see no assassin, no gun, just the ALABAMA balloon falling flaccidly to the ground, gaping wound from over-inflation…I look across the room to the sleeping trucker, and he’s no longer asleep. His eyes are wide open and he’s looking at me. “Did you have the big one?” he asks. I stammer a moment, say something about the balloon exploding, and then ask him if he’s okay, does he feel lightheaded? He gives me a weak but almost conspiratorial smile and says that it didn’t bother him a bit, but wants to know if I’m okay. After I put my head between my legs, and breathe deeply, I am okay.

Dad’s doctors are an eclectic team, each with his own distinct personality and style. Dr. Ferguson is like a strangely confident and intelligent Kramer from Seinfeld, bursting through the door (almost skidding to a halt) with uncontained medical enthusiasm. Fergie, as my Dad calls him, always shoots it to you with the bad case scenario first just so that when things go blindingly well, you are thrilled to find that you are still alive. Dr. Vipul Amin, Dad’s GI man, is a spiritual yogi of a doctor who promised to not hurt him, and then didn’t hurt him as he re-inserted an NG tube back down Dad’s nose and into his stomach. “LOOK at me, Mr. Roark,” Dr. Amin commanded in his steady voice. “I will not hurt you.” He pushed the tube in. “That is the only discomfort you will feel. Look at me and focus on my eyes…” And finally, there is Dr. Alberto Echeverri, whose demeanor is so soothing, so calming, that you believe everything will be okay if he says it will be so. Dr. Echeverri is the type of doctor who will be walking with his colleagues, see you across the lobby and call out to you so that he can find out how you are doing and how you feel your patient is doing. He always takes time to talk about the surgical and healing processes, and he always wants to know how you as the caregiver are holding up.

And Dad’s nurses are like a major weather front of medical care. In SICU there is the thunder storm of charge nurses, Janie, who runs a tight, orderly and informative ship. Then there is LeeAnn, Dad’s heartbreakingly caring SICU nurse, who is married to the equally heartbreakingly caring Sid. Dad was fortunate enough to have seven days of care from LeeAnn, while receiving seven nights of care from Sid. The two of them together are a tornado of extra special nursing. On the eighth floor there is Joy, Candace, Kayla, and a plethora of other nurses who are like a full-on tropical storm of NG tubes, Jackson Pratts, catheters, IVs and spirometers. And then there are hurricanes Susan and Cindy. If not for the persistence of Susan and Cindy in the weeks following the first surgery, the second exploratory surgery may not have happened when it did. All of these nurses took such a personal interest in my Dad’s care, that they began to see him as family, and acted accordingly. They have been the truest good stewards of my Dad’s health. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

Now, in addition to Dad being down and out, Kansas Slim has had a bit of a run of bad luck, too. Last Sunday while warming up for a cyclocross race at Sloss Furnace, he took a spill and hurt his wrist. He was unable to compete in the race, and by the time he had driven home, the wrist had swollen to an unnatural size. His doctor didn’t have an opening until Tuesday, at which time it was determined that Slim’s wrist was probably broken. A visit to an orthopedist confirmed that yes, indeed, the wrist was broken…so broken as to require surgery. There were two options: apply an external fixator, or open it up for a plate and screws. Neither of the options sat too well with Slim, but there was simply no choice on his part. Surgery came and went on Thursday with the latter of the two options being the choicest for the injury. So, Slim, with a new set of internal hardware, is on his way to recovery. Things have gone well so far, but the pain has recently taken on a new dimension. I’ve never broken a bone, nor have I ever had anything screwed into one of my bones, but I would imagine that eventually a person who has had either of those things happen to them would experience a kind of pain that emanates from the bone in such a way as to make them want to bite that part of their body off. Slim looks as though he is ready to start chewing at his wrist any moment now…

I part with some words from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden that I shared with Dad recently.
“When new beautiful thoughts began to push out the old hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins and strength poured into him like a flood…His scientific experiment was quite practical and simple…Much more surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in a n agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.
‘Where you tend a rose, my lad,
A thistle cannot grow.’”

Friday, September 11, 2009

September Song

I was living in Capital Hill, Denver, CO. We were having a poetry festival that weekend and had writers flying in from all over. My sister and her future husband were visiting from AL. When I woke that morning the first plane had already hit...the second plane followed. I was stunned and confused...worried about my friends who live in NY, worried about our traveling poets who would've been flying out of NY that morning, worried about whatever was happening, because at that moment no one really knew what was happening. None of our frantic calls to NY were going through. The capital was a block away from my apartment, so my neighborhood was locked down. It was surreal. Later that day (or perhaps it was the next, the days all blended), my sister and I walked down to a neighborhood shop just to get out for air. In amongst the chachskis, I found a matchbox with a black and white image of the NY skyline on it. The focus of the image was the Twin Towers. I still have that matchbox.

September Song
Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I'll spend with you
These precious days I'll spend with you

Frank Sinatra sings it best...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Destination: The Urban Family Cincinnati

The GPL reopened Monday after being closed since May 3 because of a terribly leaky roof. A great deal has happened in the past two weeks, most importantly, the birth of our wee Fleegan friend, Cash Dean Catoe. Cash was born in a rather theatrical way, after what seemed to be a pretty typical pregnancy, and the theatrics have only just now begun to subside. He’s a pretty little guy, with red lips and a massive head of hair, and when you hold him, he scrunches down on you like he’s trying to burrow into you. It like he’s not quite ready to be out of the oven, and he’s trying to get back in…

So, while the Catoes were in Birmingham celebrating the birth of 2.0, Slim and I were headed to Cincinnati, the city where I was born. The reason for the trip was to see some of my old Ithaca Urban Family, the famed Brian & Olga Davies. It had been about 9 or 10 years since I had last seen B&O. They had two children during that time, two children whom I had never met, Diego and Marco.

Heading out on a road trip is always fun; heading out on a road trip with someone who is as equally excitable and eager to gawk at (and photograph) roadside curiosities (like the big Brown Squirrel selling furniture in Knoxville, and the road sign for Big Bone Lick, and further down the road, the sign for TMI) as oneself is even more fun. It was a trip of unanswered banana phone calls to friends, and split second decisions to stop at a liquor emporium in KY in the hopes of finding the elusive Original Barrel Bourbon that I just cannot find any longer (freaking Brigadoon of bourbon). By the time we tooled into the Natty, it was after 6PM, and the temperature was blessedly in the upper 70s. We slipped along the lovely Ohio River, and turned into the historic O’Bryonville neighborhood.

The Davies home is located on the corner of a very quiet street that intersects with a very busy thoroughfare. The property is almost triangular, with a tall hedge of camellias cushioning the sounds from the busy side street, and a fenced in back yard where the boys play (while we were there, the boys rarely played in the back yard…they preferred the front yard, or the home of the neighbor, strolling off in their pajamas under the pretext of looking for lizards, and ending up in the neighbor’s house long enough for Olga to have to phone over to have them sent home…they were like the smallest neighborhood ambassadors, spreading their sunny cheer, reminding me of myself and my sister when we were little). The lovely two-story stuccoed house is over a hundred years old, boasts hardwood floors, tall ceilings, and nooks & crannies throughout. The kitchen is magnificent in its amenities. I stood slack-jawed at the marble cabinet tops, double ovens, a stove hood of sleek German line (name promptly forgotten), butler’s sink, and an espresso maker. A Breville espresso maker. An espresso maker that, in the hands of master espresso maker Brian Davies, produced the gateway cup of espresso that knocked me completely off the strict one-cup-of-coffee-a-day wagon. This espresso was soft, like a blanket, and rich in aroma and taste, like a bar of dark chocolate; not too acidic, not too caffeinated…just right. I wanted to lie down in that espresso, and roll in it…

When we arrived just after 6 that evening, Olga was preparing to host a new mom’s PTA meeting for Diego’s school. She was dressed to kill in a white fitted suit, black three-inch heels and a black t-shirt with hot pink lettering that read “Party Girls.” She looked like the third partner of Crocket and Tubbs, and if I had not seen her without her jacket, I would’ve thought she was strapped and packing heat. The PTA plan was to have a mixer featuring heavy hours devours and drinks for the moms…sounded like a PTA group I could get behind. Olga promised to return from PTA in time to have late drinks with us before we toddled off to bed. In the four hours that Olga was gone, Slim, Brian, Diego, Marco and myself walked hand-in-hand up to O’Bryon’s Irish Pub for grub, and then, under the direct request of the imploring Marco, toured Owl’s Nest Park. As we made our way into the dark park, heading towards the swings & slides, Diego made some remark about the bad people who stay in the park at night. Now, Slim and I recognize a parent’s scare tactic when we see one (the best scare tactic to use on Marco is to tell him that whatever bad thing it is that he is doing will result in him getting hurt, and will make him bleed…because evidently, a bleeding Marco is the worst thing in the world that Marco can imagine…and rightly so. A bleeding Carol is not very appealing to me), and wanting to continue into the park without causing great distress to the youngsters, we (including Brian) replied that as long as WE adults were there with them, THEY would be safe. It is only when little children venture into a park alone at night are they in such danger from bad people. The park was donated to the city in 1905, and was a part of a former estate. It is a well-maintained wide-open green space, with a very nice playground. The boys love it. It is a loveable place.

True to her word, after several hours of catching up with Brian, and getting to know the confident Diego and the painfully expressive Marco, Olga returned. We finished the evening off with home-brined olives, glasses of Luis Philip Edwards, and lots of stories. We fell into bed at around 2AM, an hour that has long known my absence.

Morning broke with temperatures in the upper 50s. Olga & Brian slept in while Slim and I followed Diego outside for some fresh air. As Diego searched for lizards, we sat on the front porch waking up. I began to shiver, so I got up to go get my hoodie and discovered the front door was locked. Marco stood on the other side of the glass, looking at me trying to get in, smiling. I smiled back at him, pointed at the lock and asked him to unlock the door. He reached and reached for the dead bolt, but it was not within grasp. With one of his many million dollar expressions, he became frantic at my being locked out and his not being able to assist me, and finally, he dissolved into tears. I told him through the glass that it was okay, to please not cry, but he took off up the stairs for help (I imagined the scene: him running into Olga and Brian’s bedroom, crying and ineffectively trying to tell them that Slim, Diego and I were locked out of the house. Olga & Brian would be caught in a Lassie-like moment when Brian would shout “It’s Timmy! He’s down the well!”). While Marco was upstairs trying to get help, the ever good natured and very cool Diego showed up from his lizard hunt and strong-armed his way into the side porch door, which, unbeknownst to us, had been unlocked that morning when the boys had exited it earlier. I confirmed with Brian later over the breakfast of “leftovers” Olga laid out for us (toast, lox & vodka cream cheese, caviar, and blueberries) that yes, when Marco came into their bedroom, it was like a Lassie episode…and they never could coax the plot out of Marco.

We spent the afternoon at Findlay Market, where Slim and I bought some Hungarian Red garlic and a sad excuse of a black & white cookie. The market was terrific, with locally grown produce, locally raised & butchered meats, cheeses & sweets, as well as soaps, lotions, salts and various other market wares. We worked up a very hefty appetite while we were there, which proved a good thing, for our evening meal (our last supper with the Davies before leaving the next day) was to be a traditional Puerto Rican dinner of beans, rice, pork and tostones. Now, Olga’s cooking is legendary; I learned a great deal from her when I lived below the Davies in NY. And I had spoken on a number of occasions to Slim about the cooking prowess of Olga as well. We thought we were properly prepared for the meal…but no one can EVER be properly prepared for the awesomeness of one of Olga’s meals. She had taken two racks of pork chops (unsliced) the day before, had rubbed them with olive oil & Sazon and left them to marinate. She also pressure-cooked a pot of red beans on the same day. Then, about four hours before we were to eat, she roasted the pork in the oven and reheated the beans on the stove. A pot of rice was made, and plantains were cut and soaked in Adobo water for the tostones. The cooking of the tostones was a thrill to watch; I had forgotten Olga’s methods for making the perfect product. Olga took the Adobo-bathed plantain slices and placed them into a pan of hot oil and cooked them until they were golden. Then she removed them to drain and cool, and flattened them with the bottom of a bowl. Later, right before we ate, she tossed them back into the hot oil to finish cooking; the end result was a crisp, flat tasty chip that the eater could dunk into an olive oil, mashed garlic and Adobo mixture. Dinner consisted of a heavenly chop cut off of the pork rack, a scoop of rice, a scoop of beans, some tostones…and some wine. This meal was (as always with Olgita) perfecto! I don’t think we were able to stay awake for too long after eating…we all drifted off into dreams of sailing down olive oil rivers on rafts made of tostones…

We took our leave very leisurely the next day. Intending to get on the road by 9AM, we finally pulled away from the curb at around Noon. Leaving was made less difficult with a promise from the Davies to come soon to Alabama for a visit. And Slim and I promised that we would not wait too terribly long to return to Ohio…one mention of my Aunt Marilyn’s farm across the river in Covington, a farm that also had a pool, perked the ears of Diego and Marco. Yes, I think Natty is moving into heavy rotation with Chatty these days…

Post Script: After much searching on the internet, I finally found Original Barrel Brand Bourbon Whiskey from Heaven Hill Distilleries in Bardstown, KY, availability in the US: Unknown. It looks like they don’t make it anymore…can you hear the tears streaming down my cheeks as I type this?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tag Team Wildlife

I apologize for the long delay in blogging. School and work are getting in the way of my blogging time, and I regret that I have not finished my latest friends-giving-birth & fabulous vacation/travel blog entry. I promise that I will finish that entry soon, hopefully sometime this weekend. In the meantime, my sister recently shared some old emails I wrote to her and mom back when I lived in Denver. Evidently she thought them funny enough or informative enough to save for posterity (or maybe she knew I would be so terribly forgetful one day). I have to say that when I re-read this email, I had to laugh at what happened back in September 2002…September 7 of 2002, to be exact…and to marvel over the long-forgotten eight-mile hike that I took with friends that day in Estes Park. This email was entitled: Tag Team Wildlife

We got on the road on time, and headed up to Estes Park which is where the Stanley Hotel is located (think Steven King’s The Shining). Didn’t see the hotel, but we did see a bunch of Highlanders in their kilts since the park was hosting their Scotch-Irish festival.

After parking in the lot and suiting up, we waited for the bus to come and pick us up to take us to the glacier trail head. The first part of the trail was really smooth and easy to hike and took us up onto a switch-back course where you could look out over the valley and see the mountains covered with Aspen trees just beginning to turn for Fall. The Aspens made a yellow stripe through the evergreen pines and it was so very pretty. The color of yellow the Aspens sported was the color of a squash, and the leaves on the ground looked like slices of squash, ready to be eaten.

After about a half mile, the trail became rugged, taking us around the top of the mountain. From that point on, the hike became alternately easy, then moderate until we got to the first lake, The Locke.

The Locke was (at its entrance) somewhat small, and opened out into the space between the mountains, becoming bigger and bigger in the middle, then at the other end becoming smaller and smaller until it disappeared into the waterfall region of the mountains where we were headed. We decided to eat lunch on a big rock overlooking the Locke. While I sat on my rock, Friend #1 went down to the waterside to eat his sandwich, where a beautiful Grey Jay flew down on a limb above his head to watch him eat. Then another Grey Jay flew in on the same limb to also watch him eat. I heard a scurrying up behind me and turned to see a chipmunk staring at my sandwich. I turned back around and thought about the warnings of “Do Not Feed The Animals.” Just then, I saw Friend #1 throw a piece of bread down on the ground for the jays to eat and thought, “Maybe we shouldn’t feed these birds because THEY, in fact, are animals...” About that time one of the jays bombed Friend #1’s hand, knocking the rest of his sandwich to the ground and in a flurry, snatched it up and took off. Meanwhile, the chipmunk was alternately running at me from different directions in what I now believe to be an attempt at making me think he was not one, but many chipmunks, and that I would become scared and give up my food to the army of chipmunks who were waging a war at me. Then, all of a sudden, a duck flew out of the trees and began to go after Friend #2. And when Friend #2 got up and moved away, the duck came after me! I was laughing almost too hard to move or defend myself. We decided to get the hell out of our peaceful spot of respite, and on our way out, we stopped to warn the hikers spreading out their lunch on a poolside rock to beware of the animals. We could hear their surprised cries and laughs as we got down the trail and knew that they had not seriously heeded our warnings.

We headed along the trail until we got up to a point of incline where the hiking was about to turn into rock scrambling and climbing, and decided to rest. We began talking to this lone hiker from Iowa who was a former art teacher and outdoors enthusiast who was now retired. And because his wife had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and couldn’t hike anymore, he hiked alone. Iowa would catch up with us periodically and pass, and then we would pass him, back and forth, throughout the remainder of the hike. While walking beside me, he described the glacier lakes at the top and said he would see us there. And then he took off.

The climb to the lakes was at times tricky, but we went slowly and made it to the first lake called Lake of Glass. Clouds had moved into the area at that point and we had to put on our hooded jackets to stay warm. As he promised, we met up with Iowa again and he encouraged us to keep going up to the next lake, the last lake, called Sky Lake. He said it was most beautiful, and that you could see the glaciers really well there. We all took off, including Iowa, and hiked into the top lake. Oh, what a site it was! The clouds moved out just as we were coming into the clearing, so the lake reflected half blue sky and half grey. The color of the water was a teal/emerald. There were rock pyres on one side resembling the Eiffel Tower, while on the other side were remnants of the glaciers. The glaciers looked like smooth grey glass. They were a lot smaller than I had hoped them to be (one dreams of enormous glaciers) but the drought had decreased their size considerably the last couple of years.

We enjoyed the sight and rested there at Sky Lake for about an hour, testing the water temperature (very cold) and eating a snack for return hiking energy and then began our descent. We lost Iowa for awhile as he took an alternate route down the mountain, but we caught up with him again and hiked together till we got back to the Locke. That is where I sat down with him for awhile as he talked about how much he missed hiking with his wife. This time, when we parted, it was for the last time. I’m sure when he got back to his wife at campsite that evening, he had a lot to say about those crazy kids from Alabama he met up with on the trail.

The rest of our trip was just getting home and finding real food. We had buffalo burgers and beer at the Wyncoop Brewery and then went home. I was in bed by eight.

I hope you enjoyed this tale, and I encourage you to share it with my lovely sister as I will not be typing this damn story again for her benefit regardless of how much love I have for her. I love and miss you all! c

And so ends the story of Tag Team Wildlife...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A place where pork meat leaps from the bone onto your tortilla…

Before: You asked for what!?!
I can’t even recall when the seed was planted as my heart’s desire birthday gift, but I’m sure that the original soil would have been that fertile field which is the Catoe Parsonage’s back deck. And I’m quite sure that the seed would’ve been blessed by Mr. Catoe as it began to take root in all of our minds. Then, we would’ve watered that seed well with Pinot Grigio or Riesling or Slim’s home brew beer, or a combination of all three, and called it a night. Who would’ve thought that an honest answer to an honestly asked question would evolve from the seedling of an idea to the Sequoyah of reality? What do you want for your birthday, Carol? A pig roast. A Cuban pig roast…

I may have awakened the next morning after that conversation not even remembering hitting the lever of the wheel I had set in motion. I probably had forgotten the talk of Chef Wood procuring a pig, and Kris offering his back yard for the pit, because there had to be a pit, because I must have dreamily recalled my friend Olga talking about the pit pig roasts of her Puerto Rican childhood. And I probably dreamily recalled standing at her kitchen counter in NY, exactly one floor below my kitchen counter of our apartment building, listening to Spanish music, drinking sangria and helping her peel and mash hundreds of cloves of garlic to rub, with Adobo, into the pig she would be serving at her rehearsal dinner. Pit roasted pigs are not something you see every day, especially in Gadsden, AL. Pit roasted pigs are the stuff of legend (and I would later find out, the cautionary warnings to fictitious offspring of the ornery kind…”If you don’t quit hittin’ your sister with that two by four, the headless pig will get you tonight,” or “Ya’ll keep disobeyin’ me, an I’ll let that headless pig come and take u’uns away…”

So, I went for days, possibly weeks without thinking about a pig roast again. Then, one night while having drinks with the Catoes on their back deck, Mr. Catoe says “Well, the Woods think their house will be done in time for the pig roast, so we’re going to have your birthday party over there.” I sat there for a moment or two, contemplating the size and cost of a pig, size of hole for roasting, number of hungry people, where one can find a pig pusher from which to purchase a pig to roast…things like that. Slowly, I began muttering something like, “Um, what if we just buy some pork shoulders to roast? We can get a bunch of those at the Dixie, and not have to worry about finding a pig and digging a pit in the Wood’s yard.” Mr. Catoe, without hesitating, “Oh, but Chef is already on it. He thinks he has a line on a pig, and the yard won’t be landscaped yet anyway, so you can’t mess up what isn’t fixed. And Chef is really excited about this! He’s never pit roasted an entire pig before.” I glanced over at Slim, he sitting there beside me, looking at me as if I was, by suggesting we cook something smaller and easier than a pig, actually suggesting something so disdainful, I may as well have been suggesting we go out and buy the ten for ten dollars Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pies from Johnson’s Giant Food. Any further protestations died on my lips. My friends had taken up the gauntlet I had inadvertently thrown down. The pig roast was as good as done.

I will never know what took place behind Fleegan communication lines to make that pig roast happen, but I do know that Chef and Slim did some research unbeknownst to me. I also know that a very savvy looking invitation was created and sent out by Dame Catoe. And I do know that by the late afternoon of Friday, May 11th of 2009, Liz and I were helping Chef transport from the SUV to the tub of the Wood’s unfinished bathroom an 80lb. half a pig that Chef had just brought from Weaver to Southside. The pig was wrapped in white plastic trash bags, placed by Chef on black plastic to prevent fluid seepage into the back of his truck. Upon opening the back of the truck, the plastic-wrapped pig looked like the body of some unfortunate deceased hitchhiker, stowed away from prying eyes by the person or persons who had done him in. Liz and I marveled out loud to Chef over the eerie dead-body-like-ness of the pig, to which he responded, with a nervous laugh, “Yeah, the guy who sold it to me said that if I got stopped by the cops on the way back, to not look nervous…”

During: To dig, to set fire to, to rub, and then to cook...
The sun was just beginning to go down that Friday evening when we began digging by hand at the scar on the ground that Chef had begun earlier with some large earthmover.
On this old rock pile, with a ball and chain, they call me by a number, not a name! Oh, lord! Gotta do my time. Gotta do my time. With an aching heart. And a worried mind.
Slim, Les, and I dug through the clay farther and farther down, sometimes passing the shovel off to one another so that we could take a break; the Dame and Cookie Magoo observed from a careful distance. The freshly arrived Mr. Catoe, one week away from surgery, and keeping an eye out for the concerned, and possibly disapproving eyes of Dame Catoe, attacked the hole like a hungry man eating a steak. He took some off the sides, plunged into the middle and made short work of everything in between. I think that we all enjoy doing this kind of work. I know I sometimes miss doing it for a living. But my, oh my, it is hard work.

With the hole dug, and the obligatory mock crime scene photos of me laying in the hole taken, heating the hole up was the next order of business. Slim and Chef laid large flagstone rocks in the bottom of the pit, and then stacked pallets in on top. Various kindling was added, and the proper accelerant was drizzled on top. After backing away from the pit at least three times while Chef tried to light the pile (we feared the entire thing would blast itself out of the ground in a big ball of pallet-fire), it finally caught. What a blaze we had! Very prehistoric and terribly effective for the work at hand.

We then fetched the pig (named either Wilbur or Dinner, depending upon who you ask) from the tub, and laid her out to be prepped on an eight-foot table. I cannot describe the conflicting visions of both gruesomeness and mouthwatering tastiness as Chef, Slim and Liz injected marinade into the muscle of the pig. With marinade seeping from multiple puncture wounds, Adobo was rubbed into the skin, and the pig was covered with aluminum foil, wet burlap and then cradled in a bassinette of metal lathe. She was then slung into the hole, topped with sheets of plywood, and covered with a thin layer of dirt. As we walked away from the pit that night to go, tuckered out, to our respective beds, you could hardly tell that anything lay below the mound of disturbed clay in the Wood’s back yard…

Saturday, May 12 2009

When Slim and I arrived the next day to assist with additional party prep, Cookie was already hard at work, transforming the garage from house-building-storage-area to a Cuban cigar bar. Liz and Chef seemed to be everywhere at once, vacuuming in one area, moving things to another area…and the pig was cooking away in its pit in the back yard, filling the air with the most delicious smell. Chef walked out with us to look at the fissures that had formed around one edge of the pit. It was like a big Glade Air Freshener, except the name of this air freshener would’ve been Adobo Rubbed, Pit-Roasted Pig, instead of Pomegranate Spring. Chef commented on how the smell was so rich because, if you thought about it, all of the cuts of pork were cooking at once in that pit…the shoulder, the bacon, the butt…

By party time, we were almost in a frenzy, so excited to see the results of Fleegan ingenuity. It took the same three people who cast the pig into the pit the night before to pull the pig back out. Slim, Chef and Liz hoisted the steaming body from the pit onto a plywood stretcher and carried it up to the table. As birthday girl, I was given the honor of unwrapping the gift, which was now sitting in a rapidly forming pool of tasty juices. As I pulled away layers of foil, glistening meat began falling away from rib bones, leaping towards imaginary tortillas, imaginary pots of black beans. Wilbur/Dinner was cooked to perfection. That WAS some pig…

I found myself (as I’m sure many other folks did that night), hours later, belly full of pig meat, black bean salsa, guacamole, cheese puffs, rice, pie, fruit, and sangria, sitting at a round table in the Cuban Cigar bar area of the party, puffing away on a cigar. I was in my favorite place to be: that place of food, drink and conversation where you can take communion with friends. It was the best birthday ever.

Post Script: It took me awhile to get around to writing this post because, for days after the party, I felt that no matter what I wrote, I wouldn’t be able to properly do justice to what went down. But once I started writing, it wrote itself. I want to thank everyone who was a part of my Cubano Pig Roast Birthday Party. My heart is filled with great happiness for you all being a part of my life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To Craig

I thought maybe if I read Shells again, and Eric read it with me, then it would turn out that nothing happened to Craig. I thought perhaps if we listened to Jeff Buckley enough times and drank lots of wine, Craig would somehow be magically okay from these efforts. I even thought that maybe if I avoided writing the words that Craig was gone, then maybe it wouldn't be so.  Eric and I (as I’m sure so many others) tried to wish him into safety and continued life, even as Craig was, unbeknownst to all of us, already days gone.

Craig's partner Rebecca posted on Facebook that evening that the search team found evidence that Craig suffered a leg injury, and very soon after that, fell over a precipice. It was a fall he could not have survived. They would continue to search for Craig, but there was no hope of finding him alive. He was gone. Rebecca went on to address her love for Craig, love that was unconditional and lasting. The following morning, Rebecca's post was gone from public view, but was quoted by Ben Fulton of the Salt Lake Tribune in his article Poet fell to death from cliff.

I have seen on the Find Craig Arnold Facebook site that people have begun sharing their personal stories about Craig, people whose names I recognize from another time, another place. Most of the recollections are funny, many of them kind, some of them mischievous. That’s the way I remember Craig, funny, kind and mischievous. He was quite a remarkable fellow. I mourn the loss of Craig, his life and his poetry.

So, when I close my eyes and think of Craig, how do I remember him best? Craig is the “come on” inscriptions he wrote in everyone’s copy of Shells that evening at his rock-concert-like reading and book signing in the Denver of 2001. Craig is a pitcher of mojitos at Cuba Cuba (and another pitcher to for good measure). Craig is the warm pavement of my Capital Hill streets. Craig is the spiciest jungle curry on the menu of Tommy’s Thai. Craig is the intoxicating anise flavor of absinthe. Craig is Jeff Buckley singing Lilac Wine with a voice so sad & sweet, he’ll make you cry.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Craig Arnold

I have copied a letter that I have emailed to Aderholt, Sessions, and Shelby. If anyone else out there can do the same, I would greatly appreciate it. Please help if you can...

I am writing to you on behalf of a friend of mine who, two days ago, was reported missing in Japan. His name is Craig Arnold and he is a Yale Younger Poet, as well as a professor of English at the University of Wyoming. He went missing while hiking a volcano on a small Japanese island. We are afraid that the Japanese authorities are going to call off the search for him before he is found. There is a distinct possibility that Craig is still alive, as he has experience in hiking volcanoes. I don't know if there is anything that you can do on his behalf (contacting someone at the American embassy in Japan, contacting someone you may know in the Japanese government)...but, if there is, I beg you to do it for Craig’s sake. For additional information, you may visit the following blog site that has been set up to keep us updated on the search:

I appreciate all that you do, and all that you can do...


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If the log rolls over, we’re all going to die!

While cleaning out my work email, I discovered this blog entry that I meant to post back from June of 08. Better late than never, right?

So, Jolly Green and I were talking at work yesterday about the negative energy that some of our coworkers exude, and how, as Jolly Green said, it was very much like a swirling whirlpool of fear and threat that sucks you down. I snickered and said, “Yeah, it’s like ‘If the log rolls over, we’ll all drown.’” As I said it, I realized that she might not get the joke, so I waited a second for the sound of crickets when instead, JG busted out laughing and exclaimed, “God, I’ve not heard that joke in years!”

I was so glad that someone other than myself remembered such a stupid joke that I went and googled it to find the original full-text to share with everyone. I believe that the chap I stole this from is British. You will see why...

Voices In the Dunny
A man had been traveling in the night and it was getting quite late so he stopped at a motel for the evening. When he arrived at the motel, he asked if they had any spare rooms left. The receptionist replied, "Yes, but we only have room 13 left and the bathroom is believed to have ghost voices heard in it." Since the man was so tired, he took the room anyway. Later that night when the man was sitting on the toilet doing his business he heard voices calling out "When the log rolls over we will all be dead!" He left straight away and never returned. The next day a woman needed a room for the night and the same thing happened to her as the man the night before. A few days later an exorcist arrived at the hotel. He too got room 13, and that night when he was on the toilet doing his business he heard the voices as well. The exorcist immediately jumped up and ran around the room yelling "the power of Christ compells you!" He listened carefully and when he heard the voices again, they lead him back to the toilet. He slowly looked into the loo to see 3 ants sitting on a crap singing "when the log rolls over we will all be dead!!!!!."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The light was red. We were coming back from a 5K that Slim had just run in Oxford, and were stopped behind a big, white extended-cab Dooley that had every seat in it occupied. From the looks of things, the back seats were filled with children, the front seats with adults. The driver had what appeared to be a wand of mascara in her right hand, and was applying a fresh layer of lacquer while sitting at the light. I looked over at Slim and said, “She’s puttin’ on mascara…” The driver’s right hand quickly disappeared for a moment and then reappeared with a hair pick. The light still held. She began to pick at her straight-as-a-board hair. “I’ve witnessed women doing one thing or another while driving before, but I’ve never seen one actually going through the full beautification process…” Her right hand rapidly disappeared again, this time to reappear with a can of hairspray. There was a fog of hairspray ‘round and ‘round her head. The boy child seated directly behind her began a pantomime of choking and waving until the driver opened up the truck door and fanned out the fumes. At the same time, Slim and I were choking on our own incredulous laughter at the traffic light histrionics before our eyes. We would’ve given them a standing ovation, but the light turned green.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cue: Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays

Lunchtime on a Tuesday, about a month and a half ago:
It was warm in the Lena Martin Room, so we left the door propped open in order to catch a breeze from the opening and closing of the front doors in the vestibule. A group comprised of Southern Baptists, Jews and Episcopalians were heatedly discussing a book about the holocaust. How could a holocaust happen…how can genocide still be going on today…how can people kill and be killed in such numbers without someone doing something to stop it?

One of my arguments was that (always with exception, of course) the aggressor oftentimes has the advantage of planning and surprise, whereas the victim behaves with disbelief and shock. There was agreement among the group. One individual made an example of the three planes of 9/11. Planes number one and two went to their targets as planned by the hijackers, filled with individuals who were probably thinking that theirs was a typical hijacking situation where, if they did what they were told to do, they would end up terribly late for their board meetings and vacations, but inconvenienced and alive. Plane three was filled with individuals who, via cell phone had already learned that theirs was not a typical hijacking situation, that two other planes had already proved the situation to be dire, and who, as an informed group, planned to fight back.

One individual queried, “But why wasn’t there a hero at Columbine…why did those big kids, those football players not take the shooters down?” Putting all reasons why the shooters did what they did aside, and trying to put the fact that I worked with some Columbine students when I worked with high-risk teens at the horticulture school in Golden, CO, I pointed out that although Klebold and Harris were individuals of slight stature, they were so well armed, and had so carefully planned their massacre, they had the advantage of planning and extreme surprise on their sides. At the time of the attack (1999), there had only been two other sensational cases of school shootings, but they had occurred so many years before, and pre modern media, few people were aware that they had happened. Schools did not regularly practice evacuations or lock-downs (they certainly do now). You just didn’t worry about something like that, because something like that couldn’t happen in your school (cue naiveté). For good and bad, what happened that spring day in 1999 prompted schools across the world to be aware of all behavior that could seem suspicious…and it still hasn’t stopped people (young and old, civilian and military) from orchestrating mass shootings at schools, malls, small town civic buildings, and Eastern countries…

As I sat there saying those words to my book talk mates, I heard a walkie-talkie go off in the vestibule of the library. My listeners leaned in towards me, and I continued. “For all we know, that walkie-talkie could belong to a person who has just walked into this library with the intent to set off a bomb that will drive people out of the front doors and into the crosshairs of a shooter who is waiting outside. They may have been radioing that shooter outside just now to give them the signal that it was time to get started…”

Just at that moment, a deafening siren went off and I almost crapped my pants (as I think everyone else must have almost done at that moment). Clutching my heart, I gasped for air and slid back in my chair, closing my eyes for a moment to watch the little-publicized security camera footage from the interior of Columbine High School, dated April 20, 1999…

The siren was the monthly severe weather check that I always forget about. I could not have paid for a better set of events to occur while telling a cautionary tale such as I was telling that afternoon, and I sit here typing this while being revisited by the memory of wanting to crap my pants…

As a somewhat related sidebar:
After the Columbine incident, the Jeffco school district put in place some very strict lockdown codes for their schools. At Warren Tech (the Jeffco technical school where I worked when I lived in Denver), our lockdown procedure required all faculty and students to go to a specific building located in the middle of campus. Now, the greenhouses where I worked were located at the very outskirts of campus, near the foothill trails that led up into the Rocky Mountains. When the lockdown signals were given, we were to gather our students together, and as a group trek all the way across half of campus to get to the building where we were supposed to meet. Well, this wasn’t very smart in our eyes. The horticulture teachers all had an agreement that no other teachers (administration included) knew about. We agreed that we would go through the lockdown motions for drills, but that we would head to the foothills should a real emergency occur. You see, we all understood that if we ever had a shooter on campus, we’d be easy prey for them, especially considering the geography of the path that we would have to take in order to get to our destination. We stood a much better chance of survival on the trails that we knew so well from our flora hikes, and could get into the foothills really quickly if needed be. We never discussed this with anyone, it was just understood…

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Do you remember that one time when...

What do you do when, right as you pull onto 4th Street (between Taco Bell & Chick-Fil-A), one of the two unbelievably heavy industrial shelving racks that are tied into the back of your borrowed pickup truck breaks free from its tethers, rolls straight off the back of the truck, lands upright on its wheels and begins rolling down the street in the opposite direction in which you were going? You grip the wheel maniacally while stopping the truck, yell, “We’ve lost one and it’s rolling down the street!” and watch as Kansas Slim leaps from the passenger side of the vehicle to sprint after the careening cartzilla. Hazard lights get turned on. Slim strong arms the unscathed and unwieldy rack to the grass at the side of the road. Cop cars sit all over the parking lot of the Chick, but no one notices what has just happened in the middle of the street. We decide to let the rack sit where it is until we safely deliver the other rack to Slim’s place (the odds of anyone stealing it off the side of the road are probably nil…these things weigh a ton, and not everyone in Gadrock is into the industrial look). We worry that the remaining rack will fall out too, so we lay the rack over. I hop in back with it and ride like a thirteen-year-old headed to the river on a summer day. Except I’m not thirteen, and it’s not summer. When we go back for the escapee, it is still sitting on the side of the road where we left it. I think it may be sneering at us as we pull up. We manage to get it back up into the bed of the truck, and I distract it with stories of the nice place in the country where it’s going to live while Slim Eagle-scout secures it. I ride in the back again, this time to RBC. I want to call my sister to tell her what I’m doing at that particular moment, but she would probably alert the po-lice and then we’d have a heck of an escort just for shits and grins. Instead, I just keep my head down and my hands on the rack. No one seems to notice the red truck cruising down Rainbow Drive with a redhead hanging on to an industrial shelving rack in the back. Nope, folks ‘round here don’t think that’s unusual at all.

I can’t tell you how relieved we were to finally get that last rack safely stored away. Once we were back on the road (heading again to the mall for the more manageable remainder of the load), every time I took a turn or hit a bump, Slim and I would catch ourselves cringing and looking back at the bed of the truck to make sure nothing was falling out. We would then repeat three times, “There’s nothing back there…there’s nothing back there…there’s nothing back there.” Slim and I agree that we can’t wait until enough time has passed and we have an opportunity to ask each other, “Do you remember that one time when…”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Catching a bad case of glitter from Serge Gainsbourg.

Alex (to me): I can spell Baby Beethoven.
Me (to Alex): Really? Will you spell it out loud for me?
Alex (to me): Yes. B-A-B-Y B-E-E-T-H-O-V-E-N.
Me (to Alex): Wow, you’re brilliant!
Vicki (proudly, to me): That’s what his teacher said about him last week when he wrote it out in class.
Alex (to no one in particular): I’m going to have to pass gas now.
Vicki (to me): Can you spell I-D-I-O-T S-A-V-A-N-T?
Me (to Vicki): E-X-A-C-T-L-Y.

Quote of the day, from Demetri Martin:
The thing about glitter is, if you get it on you, be prepared to have it on you forever. Because glitter doesn’t go away. Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies.

Listening to: Serge Gainsbourg (I love his “come on” French talk-over style of singing).
Reading: Run by Ann Patchett.
Eating: Kababs with Kansas Slim tonight.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Jar Full of Note Paper, 1975

Several months ago, while doing research for a friend, I came across this in the Gadsden Times from March 27, 1975.

The Headline: Suicide note asks authorities not to seek victim’s identity.

Belle Chasse, La. (AP)-He only gave himself 16 or 17 years to “develop into a real person.” Then he bade his parents farewell in a note laced with philosophy and hanged himself from a persimmon tree.
“When you stop growing you are dead. I stopped growing long ago,” wrote the youth, whose body was found six weeks ago but who still has not been identified. His note was found beneath the tree where he hanged himself.
“I never did develop into a real person and I cannot tolerate the false and empty existence I have created,” he wrote in the note, addressed only to “Mom and Dad.”
He added this aside to authorities:
“You are bound to preserve domestic peace and order. If you pursue who I was (and spend hundreds of dollars) you will accomplish little. There are no legal consequences of my death or any kind of entanglements. All that can happen is that you will shatter the domestic peace and order of two innocent lives. Do not deprive them of the hope that their ‘missing’ son will return…Let me be, let it be as if I wasn’t ever here. Simply cremate me as John Doe.”
His body was found on Valentine’s Day by a couple driving through the woods. They noticed a white shape shimmering through the trees. They stopped to look and found the body hanging from a limb of a tree, a bedsheet tied around his neck.
He was wearing a maroon and yellow knit shirt, blue trousers and unmatched socks on his shoeless feet. A jar full of note paper lay against the tree trunk.
“It is best if I cease to live, quietly, than risk that later I will break and shatter by violence or linger years under care,” the boy told his parents in the note.
“I implore you to see a psychiatrist in order that you might understand my death and my life. Ask thoroughly about what I was and you will see that it is not tragic that I am gone but more natural than if I continued…”
The letter concludes, “I am no longer interested in the world and know that it is not interested in me. When you stop growing you are dead. I stopped growing long ago.”
Plaquesmines Parish authorities have circulated “John Doe’s” description and fingerprints to police across the country. But the body still lies in a funeral home, unidentified and unclaimed.

As Valentine’s Day draws near, I can’t help but think of this young man, so wonderfully articulate, and so full of disappointment at how his life turned out, so set on making sure that no one was inconvenienced by his life, or his death. He sounds to me as if he had developed into a real person, just painfully incapable of recognizing it, painfully incapable of allowing others into his life to help. I wonder if they were ever able to determine who he was and if his parents ever found out what happened to him…

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tea and Thorazine

The new Andrew Bird album Noble Beast is out, and it does not disappoint. To listen to the first track go here:

Noble Beast

I first started listening to Mr. Bird when I moved to Ithaca and there was a swing dance revival that busted out all over the place. He was playing with the Squirrel Nut Zippers then, and I totally dug his righteous fiddlin’ and sweet wistlin.’ Years later, he went solo with his own band, Bowl of Fire. Now he is just Andrew Bird. He is still righteous.

The following is an online quote that I remember reading about one of Mr. Bird’s more fascinating songs, Tea and Thorazine (on the album Oh, The Grandeur!):

Tea and Thorazine sets the mood for the rest of the album which tends to stray from the vigor of "Candy Shop" and delve deeper into Andrew Bird's dark world of the mentally disturbed. The tune is slow, with eerie fiddle sounds to set the tone of a horrific mental institution. In the liner notes, the usually private Bird gives some insight into his inspiration- his brother is Autistic and spent some time in an institution where he got his art supplies taken away by some bad doctors.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fried Chicken Livers

Edgemont house is not to be mine. Fannie Mae came down some, I went up some, then we both sort of dug in our heels. No regrets. Moving on. Am putting the house buying on hold for a couple of months so that I can recover from the initial shock of almost owning a house. Plus, class starts tomorrow evening and I need to concentrate on that right now.

Today officially starts day three of a week-long vegetarian experiment that I have embarked upon. This all started when Kansas Slim’s brother told him about giving up meat for two weeks. Slim decided to follow suit. This was announced on the same night that I arrived on Slim’s doorstep with two rib eye steaks (no, it was not the sight of the steaks that reminded him of his brother’s endeavors)…I didn’t do the best job cooking those steaks that night, probably because I was feeling so much carnivorous pressure from the thoughts of possibly showing friendly support of Slim by giving up meat myself. I mean really, why let a friend face that kind of pressure all by themselves? I am aware of how difficult it is to give up something that you enjoy. I have tried a couple of grand gestures of Lenton surrenderings, and have failed miserably. Like the one time, in Ithica, when I gave up armpit shaving because lots of the young women who lived there were carefree and happily harry-pitted. It looked natural and low-maintenance, so I gave it a go. Even now, eleven years later, I still wake at night, bathed in a cold sweat, having relived in my nightmares the horrors of that week and a half I went sans Daisy shaver…make no mistake, I shave my pits religiously now.

But we’re talking meat, not armpit shaving. See, I also tried giving up meat once. It was back in 2004, and I was working at the horticulture school in Golden, CO at the time, and I intended to give up meat for a whole month. After about two weeks, I ended up giving up the giving up of the meat because I was doing manual labor and had zero energy with which to pick ax and shovel, and I felt it was all due to my dietary change. I just couldn’t do it…

So, I decided that since I am not doing much manual labor these days, I might be able to swing a week of vegetarianism this time. Yesterday, Slim and I went through some cookbooks, and talked about the meatless dishes that we already enjoyed on a regular basis. Then we decided on a menu for the week, loaded up our cloth bags and headed to Wal-Mart to purchase what foods we would need in order to have an herbivore’s chance in hell. The following is the list of contenders, some of which we went ahead and made last night to store up in the fridge:

Broccoli Salad-pictured above.
Pita Salad-bagged salad w/ feta and Kraft Zesty Italian dressing.
Black Bean Tacos w/ Salsa
Falafel Burgers-tofu is the main ingredient.
Indian Curried Potato Wrap

I have high hopes this time. I have yet to be hungry, and may actually be eating a bit more in order to offset the psychological stress of knowing that I am purposefully avoiding meat. I woke up craving fried chicken livers this morning though…they’ll have to wait until Friday…

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wanted: A Place To Hang My Hat

So, with the world’s smallest homebuying budget (pre-approved for an amount that is within my terribly realistic and below-poverty-level, but with good credit, means), I began about three weeks ago looking in earnest to purchase a home. After having to shell out what seemed to be millions of dollars in rent in my past life, I felt that I should put my money to work for me by buying instead of renting. I came to this conclusion after having compared the average cost of a single-family home here in Gadsden to Denver. In Denver, a single-family home of approximately 1200 square feet starts at around $275,000. Here in Gadsden, AL, a single-family home of the same size can start at $85,000, or even less. Why would I pay rent if I could build equity?

My first intent was to find something old and bungalow-ish (my favorite type of home), in the downtown area, something near the Catoes, Johnson’s Food and the liberry. I had a bitterly disappointing start with the old Greenwood home on Newton and Turrentine. From the outside, the Greenwood home looks charming and well-built. Once inside, it becomes evident that it is a first-time homebuyer’s nightmare. Too much work, work that would include things like ripping up asbestos tile in the kitchen, taking out an entire house of old wallpaper, replacing the roof that has been leaking so much that the back bathroom’s floor has buckled (meaning some interesting structural damage), replacing what appears to be the very first prototype of a modern central A/C unit, painting the entire inside and out (work that I am not opposed to, as I enjoy painting, but the outside shingles were also made of asbestos), tearing down the barely-standing “garage” that is full of black mold…etc, etc, ad nauseum. My realtor, Judy Hamil of Bone Realty, was very forthcoming when she warned me that I would probably have a difficult time finding something in the downtown area to suit my needs; if I could afford it (did I mention that I have the world’s smallest homebuying budget but pretty high old-school standards?), it would need significant work, which translates to significant money…if I could afford it and it didn’t need work, it would probably not be in a safe area…how sad to hear those words uttered out loud. I had been afraid of that being the case, but hadn’t really wanted to hear that it was, in fact, true.

So, I begged Judy to not knock herself out scouring her listings for me, especially considering my budget, that I would do the research and make a list of homes that I was interested in seeing by myself. With the help of Kansas Slim, we found a couple of places in the downtown area, and one really intriguing foreclosure in Alabama City. Now, Alabama City is my second area choice for living in Gadsden. I love the history of that area and I love the old Mill Village construction of the homes. Looking at the listing of this particular house in Alabama City, I couldn’t determine where it was located. There was not an address, and I didn’t recognize the house (when I first moved back to Gadsden, I was determined to find something in The Village, as I loved the idea of living close to the rodeo grounds, the old Victorian mill supervisor’s homes and, most importantly, Big Lots…so I drove around that area a lot back then). I assumed that the house was in an area that I was not interested in living…you know…Deliverance country...up near Hinds Road (cue banjo music)? But, after putting his super-power reporting skills to work, Eric discovered the address to said home, and we went up to investigate…and am very glad that we did. After first being confused at the orientation of the home (the road runs along the back-side of the homes on that street because the old road ran on the other side of the ravine), we saw enough of the place to know that it was on the list of homes to see with Judy. As a matter of fact, it moved to the top of the list of homes to see with Judy.

Last week, Judy met me at the little craftsman bungalow in the Mill Village. Kansas Slim was there to witness. Sadly, and happily, the Village house ruined me for all other houses. Please see photos on Eric’s and my Flickr sites:

Judy showed me three more places within my price range in the downtown area after having shown me the Village bungalow, and I couldn’t help but compare them and notice that nothing was built as beautifully as the Village bungalow. I made the list of pros and cons…I had Eric, my dad and Kris go through it again with me to make sure that my eyes were seeing what I thought they were seeing…and I made an offer Friday evening. I am now waiting for word. There are lots of things that I’ve left out of this blog about the house, about my homebuying research, about my four mortgage pre-approvals (had to get the best fit for me), about deciding on which home inspector I would use in the event that my offer was eventually accepted, about my lists…lists of pros and cons, room-by-room prioritized lists of things that need to be done, frightening lists of financial things (earnest money, closing costs, pre-paids, on and on)…I wouldn’t want to bore you all. But I’m sure that if I get this house, it will all come out in the end, because I can’t talk about anything else. All I am capable of talking about right now is THE HOUSE. Which makes me impossible to be around. The Catoes have told me that it’s okay, that it’s normal, and that all of my friends have been through something like it before, and that everyone will understand (THEY-the Catoes-are especially understanding…right now the they are redoing their entire kitchen, this after less than a year of living at The Parsonage). My, oh my, but when it rains, it pours.

So, everyone please wish me luck, pray for me, light a candle for me, or do whatever it is you do. I know that it’s gonna be what it will be. It may be my time to own a house, it may not. We’ll see. I’m certainly getting an education in the meantime. I’ll keep you posted. And keep the Catoes in mind during the kitchen redo. I am looking forward to future parties in that new kitchen.

Reading: Amy Sedaris’ Hospitality Under the Influence (because she is my entertaining guru) and Harry Potter’s School Books by J.K. Rowling (a Christmas gift from the Robinsons).
Listening To: My own random thoughts about THE HOUSE.