This week has been filled with laughter and hospitality. My gal B called me on Monday asking if I was home, and if I had any adult beverages. But of course. The fella owns the kegerator, so I’ve had to start getting creative with the bar lately. I pulled out a cheat sheet and looked at my available ingredients- since we primarily drank beer, our bar is a mish-mash collection of liqueors and odds and ends… but I had orange juice in the fridge, and spotted a giant bottle of tequila a friend brought to a party last year, and an ancient bottle of grenadine… I told her the options were mystery wine from the cellar (probably homemade, possibly good, possibly terrible) or a shaker of tequila sunrises. “Tequila! Sunrise!” she replies. She lost a lot of her stuff to a space heater fire a month or two ago, and is just starting to get moved back in after splitting her time between her folks’ place up north and her fellow’s apartment a few blocks away, and was feeling a little overwhelmed by the work to be done at home. A not-at-all unfamiliar feeling, so I was happy to help provide a little liquid courage.
She’d bought some new houseplants to inject a little life and green into the space, done some rearranging and sprucing up, erasing and replacing charred memories, and we both agreed her place was looking pretty good! I poured us both a couple of drinks which echoed the brilliant ruby tones in the upholstery on her new cushions, and we leaned back and had a lovely conversation. She also fairly recently went through a painful break-up with a not-entirely-dissimilar man and it’s always encouraging to see someone else not too far from your situation, thriving. We share tales that lend perspective… such as her mom asking her, of her former partner, “Do you remember how X would come over in the afternoon and have a jumbo cup of soda from 7-11 and he wouldn’t offer us any… because it was half vodka?” And we’d both laugh knowingly… and she’d look at me and say, “Yeah… that’s not normal. And we don’t have to deal with it anymore”.
This girl’s spunk and spirit always get me out of whatever funk I might be in… one of a million reasons I’m as torn up about leaving the house eventually, as it’s so close to her place, and I’d looked forward to years of similar spontaneous hang-outs. I’d love to buy it but I’m certain he won’t sell it, especially now that one of his best friends just closed on the house next door… I’d asked the first time around if he would, when we split up back in April (when B had already bought the house across the street), and he said he loved this house from the first moment he walked in the door, had done way too much work to part with it, and how would I ever finish it on my own? Though of course when it was convenient and we were arguing, he’d say he’d never have bought it if it wasn’t for me, I’d “tricked him” into a giant project that wasn’t what he’d have chosen and wasn’t helping him enough, blaming me for all of the hardship and difficulty… which, since he owns it, and I get to walk away from the work that I put in to the house and garden, I don’t buy for one minute. His default response when we had disagreements was “if you don’t like it you can always move out…”. There was no negotiation, no discussion, no give-and-take… just my-way-or-the-highway. It’s all the more motivation to get my game together and figure out how to get my own place (before the damn speculating investors buy up everything from here to the expressway… urgh. Stop. It.). But this girl is in control of her own destiny. Look out!
Some neighbors to the south invited me over on Tuesday for a soup supper- goulash (in honor of their recent trip to Belarus). Spent the evening around their kitchen table chatting with some old friends and making new ones, and lots of laughs… and as always, I am blown away by what dynamic, compassionate, eloquent and interesting people who live in a three to five block radius of me. We shared stories, of breakup disasters and squirrel-i-cide, of world travels and butterfly gardens, rain barrel maintenance and litterer-confrontation catastrophes, and lots of deep-belly laughs.
Last night, around another table, with the VK’s, another neighbor who stopped by with a freshly-repaired guitar (“no charge… but I’m going to drink some of your beers”), and one of their fellow homeschooling moms whose unrented and vacant condo had just suffered catastrophic pipe freeze-thaw-flood damage. She’d discovered the disaster yesterday, and of course after calling her husband, her first call was Mrs. VK… because the woman knows how to get things done. She got the water shut off, and came up with a triage plan. Today was the aftermath, waiting for workers to come deal with the larger problems… in the meantime, this woman needed comfort. “Insurance isn’t paying for anything. I’m at Home Depot buying an industrial shop vac. Then I’m coming over. Your mission is to get me drunk and to have Sweet Home Alabama playing when I show up, and then meet me in the barn” (she’s from Kansas, don’t judge… and meet me in the barn is code for “I’m going to have a cigarette”- a very occasional vice for her).
Papa VK was making gumbo, with amish chicken and his homemade andouille sausages, and the kitchen filled with layers of spice and delicious smells as he seared the various ingredients, and as the stock slowly simmered on the back burner, bright punctuation notes from the sweet and hot peppers rose above the deeper savory aromas of browning meats and caramelizing vegetables to permeate our conversations with bubbling sizzle. A bowl of pasta with lemon-cream sauce, red onion brunoise, and capers showed up in front of me, and a couple bottles of beer and then a glass of cava. More heartfelt laughter and stories… and then a ride home, with a stop on the way at the fella’s place so I could grab my poor banjo that I left out in the backyard while taking a carload of stuff back to the house (thanks for the help, Tree!), and a stop to drop off guitar-repairing neighbor, who loaned his dehumidifier for the Operation Condo-rescue cause.
I’ve made more progress in two days than in the previous two weeks in rearranging the house into a place that I’m delighted rather than dismayed to come home to. I’m getting the last of my things out of the studio… and mostly down to books and pantry items from the apartment (a chef’s pantry and a bookworm’s library are not a small undertaking to move… but it will get done a bit at a time). I’ve got long term and short term plans to look forward to, and a few exciting surprises (good things always happen when you’re not looking for them). I’m nervous, but in the good-butterflies way, not the anxious dread of weeks ago. I’m going to Barbara and Barbara this afternoon and getting my hair done- it’s been almost exactly a year since my last cut… way too long. I’m sick of everyday boring braids, about all I can do with it at this length… and i could use some of that confidence boost I remember from the last time- feeling frumpy going in and coming out fabulous. I’m singing at the top of my lungs in my chilly house… only I and my sleeping dog can hear. I’m writing, and finding my voice, and remembering all the things I used to love… It feels good. As Cici said the other day, “Go gettem tiger!”. You bet. Grrrrawow!!!