Saturday, May 03, 2008

This is mine

In my search for a new place to live I happened across a site that sold the addresses of house in pre-foreclosure. I couldn't afford the $200 fee to get the address and a knowledgeable gentleman with lots of experience in real estate and foreclosures told me it didn't sound kosher to him either. The problem is that I fell in love with pictures of the house and I had two clues: the house was in pre-foreclosure and the street number. I don't know what street it is on but I know it's here in town and the general area. I was resigned to not getting the house, even though it is within my budget. So I kept looking at apartments, and that's when I found the cottage I'm moving into. I'll post pictures later this weekend.

When I talked to one of the landlords, who had just bought a new property in foreclosure, and since I'm a bold and unashamed kind of person, I asked him how one would go about finding a house in pre-foreclosure. He gave me some tips and a web site. Yesterday, while downloading and uploading, I checked some of the other links on the site he gave me and I found a house with the right address. It was close by. My heart raced. My pulse sped up and I could hardly sit still. But I couldn't go look at it until I finished working. I went over there after I finished work, and after cashing the check from Chicken Soup that finally arrived yesterday, although it was dated 04/05/08, and found the house. It wasn't the right one. So I had a steak dinner and came home to watch a little of the third season of X-Files, read a little of the latest review book and went to bed still wearing my jacket because the temperature had plunged from a balmy 57 to brisk 30 even before the sun went down. It's a little frosty this morning, too, but not unbearably so.

I pulled up the pictures I saved of the house and checked the number again. I have a very long list of houses to go through this morning before I get dressed, pack up some things, go to the grocery store, get some gas and begin moving the small things into the cottage this morning. I had the address a little bit wrong, but a little means a lot when you're scrolling through thousands of houses in pre- and foreclosure. I've fallen in love with the house and I am determined to find it and buy it before it can come onto the market. The landlord who's apartment I didn't choose said he would be glad to help me get the house and that they do it all the time. I'm going to save money with the move and all of that, after I pay off my remaining debts, is going into the bank to save for this house, and I will have it. Are you curious yet?

This doesn't mean I'm going to give up the dream of a secluded cabin higher up in the mountains, but there's no law that says I cannot have both places, a cabin in the mountains for summer and weekends in the spring, autumn and winter and a house in the city. I do need both.

The house of my dreams

my house




Now can you see why? I know a lot about that house. It has a two-car garage, three bedrooms and two baths, a Jacuzzi garden tub and glass block stand alone shower, brushed metal zero-degree refrigerator, kitchen island, brand new brushed metal appliances, utility room with washer and dryer, walk in pantry with floor-to-ceiling shelves, atrium, private tiled patio and a fireplace, among other things. The moment I saw the house I knew it was where I would live. Some things you just know. And I'll find it.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, May 02, 2008


There are lilac bushes next to the new house and a planter at the front of the house and along the side from the deck to the back of the house. The side planter is full of low growing evergreens and there's some kind of climbing plant in the front planter. I can't tell what it is because there are just bare branches now.

I went over to the house and unlocked the door with my keys after I picked them up. The place is mine now. I walked through it, checked all the doors and cabinets and it's bigger and smaller than I thought. The bedroom that will be my office has a big closet with a shelf for files and books and there's a built-in floor-to-ceiling bookcase just inside the door. The utility closet is big enough for the washer and dryer and there are hookups. The bathroom is bigger, too, and I have decided to get a hemp shower curtain. I have to measure my bed to see which way it will fit in the master bedroom. It's small, really small, but I'll work it out even if I have to sell my bed and get something smaller. I'll work it out. The refrigerator is smaller than here but it's perfect for the house and fits in with everything else and I can't wait to start using the gas stove and the dishwasher. I want to find out how I can work in some other means of electricity and heat with something like passive solar to cut down on costs, but that will come later. I also want to find a screen for the entry (what people call a mud room nowadays) to camouflage the open closet area. And I think I'm going to buy a grill for the deck so I can BBQ outside once in a while. I can also grill vegetables and smoke meat and vegetables for freezing and canning and meals.

After my quick and idyllic trek to the new place to mark my territory, I came back here and the landlady accosted me in the hall. It has become a habit with her that she rushes out of her apartment to catch me in the hall either coming or going and one of the reasons why I feel like a prisoner here sometimes. It wasn't always this way and my manner of handling it has been to run errands at odd hours or when she's gone. She said she didn't want to leave things as they were (that's obvious) and that she wanted to part on good terms, and I don't have a problem with that, but she wanted all the details of where I'm moving and how much I'm paying and why no one called her for a reference. I told her it was less than what I pay here and it's a house. Since the deal is signed and I have the keys, and the money has been paid, I felt it was time to tell her where I'm moving. We had a short discussion and rehashed the same disagreement and I said thank you and goodbye and came upstairs.

While I checked my email I heard her car start and saw her drive down the street. She turned onto Pikes Peak, the street I'll be living on as of next week, and went east towards the house. I have a feeling she went to check out the house. She either didn't believe me or she's just being nosy, probably the latter.

As I sat in my office and watched the afternoon brighten and clear and the snow clouds break up, I looked around at the mountains, the tree next door filling with dark pink blossoms and a baby squirrel in the squirrel porn tree snacking on buds and new pale yellow-green leaves. The sun room with its wealth of light and warmth and the views of the mountains and the neighborhood is why I've stayed so long. I put up with Nel's moods and noise and the landlady's prying and questions because of that view. I'm reluctant to leave it. Even now, as I sit here writing with the sun glinting off the windows, I feel a little sad and then I see the laundry piled in the corner because I can't use the washer and dryer when I need them, or when it's convenient for me, and the cool dim living room where I can't open the windows at night to breathe the cold fresh air because the landlady sees and calls up to tell me to shut them, and the bathroom that should be filled with light and fresh air but the landlady has warned me about leaving the windows open and listens to me on the phone or climbs up the ladder to "check the gutters" when the blinds are open to listen in and see what she can see and I realize what I love most about this place, this haven, is not worth the hassles.

The landlady is a good-hearted person and she's generous and shares food when she makes five-quart pots of soup or a big fruit cobbler, but more and more it seems a cover, a trade-off. It is beginning to seem like she is nice so she can pry into my life and what's going on in my home. I have seen her go into Nel's apartment and close the windows when Nel's at work because she didn't like having them open when she has the furnace on, and I understand the need to save on heating bills, except there is no working thermostat up here in my apartment or Nel's and she controls the heat; it's all determined by her thermostat. Nel and I have space heaters to compensate for the lack of heat control. The landlady goes into Nel's apartment at other times when she isn't home to check because she hears a sound. She's done it here, too, and I was home when she walked in the door and looked around. I guess she thought I was gone, but her excuse is that she heard something fall. I locked the doors after that and changed the locks when that didn't stop her. She demanded a key, which I had to give her. I can tell when someone has been in my apartment when I've been gone and it's one of the reasons I don't leave here very often, unless she is out, because I don't like having someone go through my things. And yet she's a nice person and I do like her. It's like any relationship, you learn to live with each other's quirks and idiosyncrasies.

I'm sure she isn't comfortable with me either. I keep to myself and I don't like to sit and drink a bottle or two of wine every night. I'm quiet and a bit of a hermit sometimes and I work at odd hours, compared to her and Nel. I don't play the television or radio loudly and I keep to myself most of the time because I'm usually working or writing or researching. I'm not a social butterfly, although I can be, but I have to make a living and further my writing career.

As much as I'm going to miss the light and the mountains and the neighborhood outside the sun room windows, I'm going to enjoy the privacy and not having someone prying into my life and walking into my home whenever they feel the need. The landlady and I can be friends from a distance. It might even improve our relationship. I don't know if she was always this way or became this way after Marius moved in and changed the energy around here, but I know the place feels different. Even my ghost, George, has been quiet lately. I feel his presence less and less as though he's retreating into some forgotten corner. I don't know if it's because of my silence or because he's not happy with me leaving. He's close by and I feel him like a protective warmth, wrapping me in the scent of rain-washed pine, when the landlady is lurking outside the door or outside under my windows when I'm talking on the phone with the windows open, warning me to be careful. It's a little disconcerting sometimes. I didn't know ghosts could be so moody and watchful, but I guess they would be since they have nothing in their own existence to engage their interest.

This place was obviously temporary and that's all right. I'm used to temporary. I know the house is temporary because my house is still waiting for me. If my mother has anything to say about it, my house will be back in Ohio. She read me the list of houses for sale in the neighborhood where I lived as a teenager. Beautiful old Victorian and Craftsman homes listed for under $20,000 with payments below $100. I recognize some of the houses she mentioned and I couldn't believe what she told me. Now is the time to buy real estate. At those rates, I could buy five houses and still pay less than I pay for rent right now, maybe even ten houses. She would like me to come back and live there, especially now since her remaining kidney is failing and she has decided to refuse dialysis and a transplant. I told her since she was so ready to die, this was a good time to do it. Her insurance, even split four ways, will be more than enough to set my siblings and I up for life as real estate moguls. She laughed. Carol wouldn't laugh though if she heard us; she takes a very dim view of joking about death and dying. Mom has her faults but she at least has a sense of humor about mortality. It's another dysfunctional relationship where I've learned to work around the difficulties and find a common ground.

I'm sure I'll have to find some common ground even with the new landlord who told me yesterday he drives by the house every day on his way to and from work. He lives on the west side, too, and has for thirty years. Somehow, driving by the house isn't quite the same as living in the same house and I doubt he'll walk in and go through my things when I'm not home or tell me to close the windows or listen to my conversations when the windows are open or freeze me in the winter and roast me the rest of the time because I will control the heat. I know he won't count how many times I flush the toilets or take a shower or run water to wash the dishes either. I won't be able to see the mountains unless I go outside, and there will be no more squirrel porn tree to watch when I should be working and no trees budding with leaves and blossoms. But there will be lilac just outside the door and space for an herb garden in the front planter. There will eventually be a grill of my own to barbecue, smoke and cook meat and vegetables. There will be space for a table and chairs and a breakfast bar with stools next to a gas stove with a real broiler underneath and plenty of windows to open to bring in the fresh air and the scent of plants and flowers. It will be enough for now and I'll have the time to find what I really want, a home of my own in just the right spot with land for kitchen and herb gardens, flowers and trees with plenty of space and wildlife, and no neighbors right next to me without any breathing room. I have time. In the meantime, there's work and writing, peace and privacy, and memories and photos of the view outside the sun room windows. It's trade-off, but isn't that what most of life is about?

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Falling down on the job

I've been up for hours, about two of them (I went to bed late), and I feel productive and energized. I'm not sure why unless it has to do with the week being half over and moving much closer to getting the keys to the house and actually moving. Or it could be that my brain was activated earlier than usual this morning when I had to respond to a query about editing a trilogy and realized I hadn't updated my writing resume in a long time. I'm caught up now but I'm also a little disappointed that I cannot add all the books that are coming out this year. It would definitely add enough lines to create another page. I'm up to five now, and that doesn't even include all the reviews I've written over the past several years (200+), most of which have been written in the past two years. I do, nevertheless, realize I've fallen down on the job a bit, and not just about updating my resume and organizing references from writers with whom I've worked.

It's a bit of a shock to realize that I can't add the articles and editorials I've written for the ham club newsletter over the past three years because no one sees them outside of the world of ham radio, especially in the rather narrow world of ham radio in Colorado Springs, or the pieces I've written for local newsletters and throw-aways, and that I can't include the posts I write nearly every day in my different blogs. There are quite a few. I'm writing a lot but not the kinds of things I can use on my resume, even if you count the articles I write at Helium. I need to change my focus or at least change my writing focus.

Okay, quit the smiling and celebrating. It doesn't mean I'll stop writing here. I need somewhere to gather my thoughts and try out ideas and words where not too many people venture or read. It's like sending my work out to an uncaring public that will, more often than not, glance past my articles and stories and never comment even to those closest to them. I don't write for the comments. They're nice, but they're not my main raison d’être . I write for the one or two people who might gain in some small way by seeing that someone else has been where they're headed or have arrived. It helps to know you're not alone. That's what writing has been for me ever since I stopped worrying about who might be reading my diaries and journals. Aside from fame and fortune (HA!) and the eternal gratitude of the Nobel and Pulitzer prize committee judges, to name a few, I suspect most writers write because it connects them with others and gives them a witness to their lives. Money and prizes are nice, very nice sometimes, and fame is a heady draught that has turned (and inflated) many a head, but when you get down to it, writing is about connections, a cry in the wilderness carried on puckish winds to . . . someone.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean anything with regard to keeping records, and I have fallen down on the job -- at least temporarily. It's not January, but I resolve to get back into the habit of recording sales and publications as soon as they occur. Someone might be looking.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Quick shot

If you're in the first wave of people with direct deposit looking for your economic stimulus check to be directly deposited, and you read or heard the government was sending them out as of yesterday, don't hold your breath. You won't receive the letter about your money until next week and you probably won't see the deposit in your account until Friday. I know because I've been looking and, after two days of disappointment, I decided to call the IRS directly. The person I spoke with, operator #1903236, was quite polite but also quite stupid. I told her I knew I was in the first wave. I told her I knew the amount I was getting and that it should be deposited on Friday. I also told her that I read about the early deposit of money and if I could expect to see the deposit before Friday. She parroted everything I said without giving me any new information, repeating, "You can expect your direct deposit on Friday."

"Yes, but that's not the question I asked. I asked whether or not my money would be deposited earlier and how they determined who would get the money before Friday since President Bush stated the money was being deposited as of yesterday."

"You can expect your direct deposit on Friday."

"You didn't answer my question."

"You can expect your direct deposit on Friday."

For that, I listened to Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy" for 15 minutes. Resistance is futile and so is talking to a government automaton.

ADDENDUM: In case you missed the fine print, the economic stimulus package has a proviso in the fine print where most high colonics reside. This money is a loan. The government is robbing Peter to pay Paul, but Paul has to pay the government back out of next year's refund. That's it in a nutshell. This money is next year's refund in advance and we get to pay taxes on it, too, unlike a normal refund.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend follies

I spent the weekend in bed, mostly, and I wasn't alone. The weekend was an orgy of food, men, women, cultural discussions and electronics. There were also games and exchanges of ideas. My guests are still in bed with me now but soon will have to move so I can get up and get moving for another week of work before my vacation next week, which will be another week of work getting ready for the move. Yes, it's almost here. Even with the hot bed of activity here this weekend I managed to get a lot done, like the ham club newsletter.

One brand new ham demanded I send him the edited version of his article, which is something I usually do not do. I edit. I publish. You read. That's the way it works. I thought I'd be nice for a change (it's always good to try something new) and sent him the edited version. He added another paragraph to clarify things, which was more of the same and not very clarifying, and then asked me to change his photograph because he was recovering from the super flu in the previous photo. I didn't see much difference, other than a bigger and more detailed shot of his head. I explained that by the time he sent the photo I had already sent the file to the printer and he'd have to be satisfied with seeing his head shot only on the web PDF version. He didn't respond to that email. I don't expect he will.

One regular columnist sent in his article and said, "Try to get my callsign right this time." I emailed back that I would do my best without telling him that I cut and paste and edit but I don't write the articles and that the error in his callsign happened because he sent it that way. I did resent his tone, but didn't blast him the way I initially intended since I'm not going to have to deal with him or any of the rest of them much longer. I have two issues to go before I step down as editor and they still haven't found someone to take my place, which is a shame since I won't stay until they find one. I know how that game works and I'm not falling for it. This morning, after much deliberation, I sent off the PDF version to be emailed and uploaded to the web site. I'm done, except for picking up the printed copy of the newsletter, printing labels, putting on said labels when newsletter is picked up, attaching mailing disks and stamps and putting the rubber banded issue into the mailbox. At least I'm getting it done two weeks early this month.

You probably wonder how I worked in all those men and women while I futzed with the newsletter. Well, I'll tell you. In between downloading and watching Moonlight, Doctor Who and a few episodes of Firefly, which I adore, I plunged into a house of secrets and lies in Victorian England during the time Scotland Yard and the police were trying to decide whether to use dactylography or anthropometry as the tool of choice in discovering and unmasking recidivists. Well, I had to use the words eventually and this is as good a place as any.

Dactylography is fingerprinting and anthropometry is measuring a person from head to toe because supposedly a person's measurements, including distance of eyes, size of nose and ears, lips, fingers, etc., is unique to each individual. The French police during this time period had a department dedicated to anthropometry and were very successful in detecting career, or repeat, criminals (recidivists). The big argument between using fingerprinting versus body measurements is that it was easier to retrieve the data from measuring and nearly impossible to catalogue and quickly retrieve fingerprints data. I guess they hadn't heard of the computer and visual recognition scanning, but they are both rather backward countries. Anthropometry was the tool of choice in England for eight years before fingerprinting became the detection source in 1901. I was particularly impressed that the author managed to find an even more compelling story to weave in and around this bit of scientific trivia. I'll write and send my review later today and then you can read all about it.

That's one of the best things about reviewing books, being introduced to all sorts of writers and stories that I wouldn't have been drawn to in the first place. It has certainly broadened my horizons, although there are quite a few clinkers out there, and one or two near clinkers, like the book about a fiction class. I'm still not sure how to review that one because it is as much a fiction class as it is a story and I'm not sure I'd have paid cold hard cash to be taught by the protagonist. She's a whiny, self involved shrew that at times makes me want to punch her in the nose and I'm not even related to her. However, the fiction class was basic but interesting and helpful. More about that later.

Then I dove into the Indian Mahabharat told from a woman's point of view, for a change. So far, it's fascinating and I find the mythology very different from anything I've read so far. I always wanted to read the Mahabharata and now I can, although I'm still holding off on Mose Tolliver, folk artist. I need to get that one done this week.

In between writing, editing, dozing, watching a little TV on the laptop and reading, I also found out that I can connect my laptop to the TV to watch my shows. There are only three right now, which amounts to about 2.25 hours per week of time that I could be writing but choose to fritter away laughing and sighing over antics and hot guys with and without fangs. As a middle class American, it should be no surprise that in these times of stress and economic uncertainty I would cling to guys with guns, like Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the Firefly class ship Serenity. Go figure.

As for my staying in bed over the weekend, I confess I have a problem. When I sit too long, like the hours I spend chained in my chair at the work computer typing operative reports, my feet and legs swell and the best thing I've found to relieve the pressure is keeping my feet up over the weekend and getting some rest. The swelling is a result of pressure edema, which is a result of my backside turning to lead and forcing all the fluids from my brain and blood to pool in my trapped hips, thighs, calves, ankles and feet after sitting for 10-14 hours a day. I do get up to empty my bladder fairly frequently and get more water to drink so it, too, can pool in the tissues in my lower extremities, but it's a job and it pays every two weeks, so if I have to spend a weekend in bed reading, writing and editing, then that's what I'll do. It's severe punishment, but I've had worse -- and liked it almost as much.

Now it's Monday morning, 5:39 a.m. to be exact, and the birds are rioting outside. The midnight blue sky is lightening just a bit between the budding and leaved branches of the trees and the glittering gems of the lights across town are beginning to look less bright and twinkly. I could turn off the light, close up the laptop and slip back under the covers for another hour or two or I could dive back into Indian mythology for a while. Then again, I could drag my lazy butt out of bed and take it to the shower and get ready for another grueling day of operative reports, punctuated by a trip to the new landlord's office to pay the first month's rent ahead of time and see if he won't let me begin moving a few things in early, and maybe have lunch at Coal Mine Dragon for some soft noodles and shrimp or scallops and vegetables with a side of jasmine tea and fresh orange. Then again, Nel's taking a shower next door and I'm averse to having my warm shower go cold on me right when I get to the good parts. Choices, choices.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

One thousand to one

It's quiet right now, except for the space heater coming on to take the chill off the room. The birds chirp, singing up the sun, and outside the light is an ethereal luminous blue like a full moon on snow. My nose runs and I'm running out of tissue, but the running should stop soon now that I'm up and moving around. The gem lights in the distance fade slowly as it lightens outside and suddenly the birds quit singing, hushed as the sun wells up in the distance. All is silence except for the ticking of my fingers on the laptop keyboard and the soft hum of the fan. Now the heat comes on after being off all night. It never made sense to me to leave the heat off during the night when the nights are so cold, but that will change soon.

Lines and dialogue chase around in my mind as I search for the right combination for a story I need to finish by 11 a.m. It's still wispy in places, darting out of sight as I near to catch them and string them together. The idea's still not clear, but coming closer, clearer, brighter. After chasing around in my dreams all night the story should be a lot easier to catch in the light, but it is shy of the light, playing coy and hard to get. Maybe if I focus on this post it will think I've forgotten it and will leap out at me, fully dressed and ready to speak, because I'm not paying attention so I can grab it by the vowels and consonants, commas, periods and quotes and coax it into the light, or at least onto the page.

After a short discussion with about Great Literature and the Great American Novel and how serious writers look down on genre writers, I am reminded of conversations I had with Andre. She was shunned and slighted early in her career for being just a YA writer. Although she already had more than 100 published books to her credit, she was still just a YA writer. Never mind that she was never just anything or that, although her characters were young, her stories transcended labels; she was just a YA writer.

From where did all this snobbery and arrogance come? The classics didn't become classics in their day but the stories they told have withstood the test of time. Edgar Allen Poe's tales are still literature despite being what would now be considered genre. Does that diminish what he wrote or the characters and stories that are instantly recognizable: the raven, Lenore, The Tell-Tale Heart or Fortunato? Homer wrote down stories that had been told for centuries about Odysseus and the Trojan War, Achilles, Paris and Hector. They too were genre stories, tales of adventure, magic, love and folly. Michael Montaigne wrote about every day things, domestic trials and joys, random thoughts, society and passing thoughts he caught and wrestled to the page, little moments of life in simple language. Guy de Maupassant did the same and so did O'Henry and Twain.

These stories aren't great literature because they're laden with beautiful (and sometimes tortuous) language but because they resonate with the human experience. The words are basic and uncluttered and so are the descriptions but few can forget them; that's what makes Great Literature. It's not about high flown language or over wrought similes and clichéd metaphors; it's about telling a story that touches the reader in some way with truth or emotion or fancy or laughter. It's the kind of literature that leaves you feeling as though you have traveled somewhere and met people that will always remain shadow companions. It's the kind of literature that makes you want to return over and over again, stories that are familiar and yet just a little changed because you are changed by life and experience. It's Heidi and Harry Potter, Arabella and Aragorn, Red Chief and Tom Sawyer and Carrie and Christine Daae.

Don't get me wrong. I like great literature, and sometimes I even understand it, but I love genre stories because they are so much easier to relate to. Dostoevsky simply wrote stories about dysfunctional families and poverty and guilt. Henry Miller's wife, June, lamented that she thought she had sold herself to another Dostoevsky and thought Miller's work was lousy, not even as good as Anais Nin's stories, but Nin isn't remember as much for her stories as for her diaries, the simple, every day recounting of what she did and thought and felt. That, too, is literature, great literature, and so is Henry Miller.

It isn't the minute examination of a May fly moment that has no beginning, middle or end, but the books and stories that sprawl or quickly sear, chronicles of fact and fantasy, that make literature. The guilty secret of writers of great literature is that their favorite books are often genre. Laugh at J. K. Rowling's facile sentence construction and simple language or Stephen King's fantastic horror and flights of fancy, but at the end of the day it's about how many people remember the characters. It's the difference between selling one bottle of perfume for a thousand dollars versus selling a thousand bottles of perfume at one dollar.

That is all. Disperse.