Friday, April 11, 2008


Just great! The space heater is dying. No wonder it's so freezing cold in here. Don't need to keep the wine in the fridge since it's cold enough outside the fridge. I could probably even freeze meat and vegetables it's so cold. I guess the landlady decided it was spring enough to turn off the furnace, but then she has a space heater that works and Nel has two.

Instead of reading last night or writing in the journal I huddled under the covers and tried to sleep, but that's a little hard to do. I can see every exhaled breath. I may have to turn on the oven, open the door and let that heat the apartment. There's a thermostat on the wall in the living room and the temperature gauge works but it's not attached to anything. The landlady controls the heat and for the past three years it has been either hot as Hades or Ragnarök in here, which is why I had the space heater. I didn't realize the space heater was dying until this morning. I have turned it on and forgot about it for three years and it has never failed me, gotten a bit too toasty but never failed . . . until now. When did balls of brown smelly excrement begin to roll uphill?

Don't get me wrong. I have loved living here, not because of the petty little problems or the occasional bad moods and nasty attitudes of Nel and the landlady, when I usually keep to myself and hide in a book or at the computer with my ear phones on, but because of the view and the sunshine streaming through all the windows, and the view. It's still a big sprawling one-bedroom apartment with baby-poop colored trim, indoor-outdoor carpeting everywhere in shades of blueberry streaked excrement, uneven floors like miniature roller coasters, heat controlled by the landlord who is only interested in her own comfort and not the comfort of those living upstairs, a narrow, steep and poky stairway with not enough light, a toilet that doesn't always flush away the excrement and TP, broken stove burner and oven that is not self-cleaning despite the lever and instructions printed on it that say it is, and a laundry room that can only be reached by the person in this apartment by going down two flights of stairs, out onto the porch, around the house and into a back door that must be scheduled six months in advance because everyone else (landlady and Nel) already have their schedules that must not be changed. For me, the attraction has always been the sun room with its view of trees and the neighborhood and the mountains where all the animals and birds cavorted and perched for my own private amusement and awe. That's what I'll miss, not the stairs or the laundry situation or the baby-pooped trim everywhere I look, but the views. I certainly won't miss the Russian roulette with the heat or having to use a space heater to keep warm on cold days and nights, although the cold living room was nice on sweltering August nights when I wanted to watch a movie. In a way, it's a Zen thing, finding peace and contentment in the midst of turmoil and iffy conditions.

I will also miss the exchange of food and Pastor the long-haired German Shepherd (pastor alemán in Spanish and his name) who was always excited to see me and be petted. I realize it was a selfish thing on his part and it was all about him, but petting and playing with him gave me such pleasure. I guess that's what it's all about -- pleasure. Dogs and cats, and indeed any affectionate animal, are selfish. They want to be loved and petted and cuddled and fed and kept safe and they're not shy about demanding it either. We respond with smiles and affection without question -- at least those of us with souls and feeling hearts. The pleasure they give is outweighed by their selfish need to live comfortably and be loved. They don't spin or weave or grow food, and they could live on their own off humanity's scraps or off the bounty of nature, killing and grazing to keep themselves fed, but instead we support them all their lives, even into their thirties for some pets, and we don't complain (too much) about it. They don't grow up and move away. We don't see them as co-dependent because they are completely dependent.

We don't make them do chores, although some people are mean enough to expect tricks in exchange for treats, or expect them to pick up the garbage they have strewn all over the nice clean kitchen or bathroom floor. Pets lie around and sleep most of the time, or play with their toys long past the time when any child doing so would be considered either mentally deficient, brain-damaged or slacking. We take them for walks for their health when in reality they are accompanying us for our health. They get enough exercise romping in the yard with their toys or jumping the fence for a midnight romp with their buddies or having wild animal sex at 2 a.m. on the back fence where everyone can hear them. They break the rules and we forgive them. They trash the house and we take the blame and clean it up; we shouldn't have left them alone for so long. We put them in cages and order them around when we're feeling pissy and they still curl up on our laps and show their affection after a short period of the silent treatment. They're always excited to see us, but who wouldn't be excited to see the person who feeds, sometimes clothes (and it's criminal what people make their pets wear), waters and takes such good care of them, and never expects them to contribute anything but their presence and affection? They are the animal kingdom version of a trophy wife. See? they say. This person is responsible and caring and willing to share their home with a selfish, self-centered, eating and sleeping machine, and they even clean up the poop so we don't have to. Are you beginning to get the idea that pets own us instead of us owning them?

Yes, living here has been a lot like having a pet: a fair amount of trouble for a good amount of pleasure. It's the same everywhere. No matter how great the apartment or cabin or house, there is always something not quite right or downright awful that I accept in exchange for a roof over my head. Come to think of it, I am probably more tolerant of landlords and neighbors and conditions than I am with my own family because I know when I get angry or irritated with them and tell them so they can't kick me out of my home. They are pretty much stuck with me, and what's worse, I am stuck with them.

Well, at least when I move and have the laundry room on my floor (I should write about the time I bought a washer and dryer (apartment-sized) and had to send it back because the landlady wouldn't allow it in my apartment where I pay rent) and control of the heat -- and air conditioning -- in my own apartment, and I don't have to pay utilities. And I don't have to change my phone number. There are fewer windows and no views of the mountains and no squirrel porn tree outside the window in my office that causes me to waste so much time laughing and smiling and watching in sheer delight when I should be working, but there are other amenities and features that will make it easier to fit into a new rhythm and situation. There will be a few expenses, like rugs for the hardwood and tiled floors, and a work island for the kitchen, bookcases and a new desk, but I won't lack for closet space or room and I'll even have a separate refrigerator for wine and freezer overflow, to make up for losing my view. I might even get more work done without the view, like Stephen King with his drawn shades and desk against a wall away from the temptation of the windows, and I'll get more exercise because I'll have to get up and go outside for a walk to see the mountains and restore my soul. It's a trade-off, but what in life isn't?

That is all. Disperse.

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