Monday, March 30, 2015

Ick, Cracks & Need

My least-favorite bit of estate sale prep is the occasional encounters with live spider crickets and freshly dead mice. Dead spider crickets smell terrible, too, but they are not as juicy as mice.

Thank God for antihistamines!  I woke up at 3 AM last week with the back of both hands covered in a nasty itchy rash--likely due to the late-season dryness of my skin, but probably also to the extensive cleaning needful in the house we're prepping for a sale, where I spent more than five hours Tuesday sorting through the basement (I drove up to DC after my CELTA application interview). At least there is no mold--that was fully remediated in an intensive six-month treatment my boss required before we started--but it is dusty, and though I was wearing gloves most of the time, there was bound to be some skin irritation.  There is fabulous stuff in this estate--excellent ormolu inlaid French furniture, chinoiseries, a Black Forest schrunk and screen, a furs and vintage fashions, and eclectic jewelry.  If we can sell the light fixtures, I will be thrilled--there is a silver chandelier in the dining room of which the old Russian nobility would have approved, and superb Austrian crystal wall sconces in the living room and main hall. My favorites, though, are two bronze Japanese lanterns in the solarium.

Besides recently-deceased rodents, two of which I found in a tall hand-blown glass bottle that I was cleaning at the sink (that was a nasty surprise!), there is one major concern among us, as the house (which is within sight of the National Cathedral) features a great fissure in the ceiling of the formal living room, a crack in the plaster that we suspect dates from the earthquake that toppled the cathedral spires several years ago. In some places, the split is an inch wide, as the ceiling has descended towards the middle crystal chandelier, making it a full 6 inches lower in the center of the room than around the molding. What if, God forbid, the whole thing caves in during the sale, pummeling shoppers and employees with hunks of hundred-year-old plaster, wrecking the fine furniture that we've assembled in the room? Short of having the whole thing cut out and replaced with sheetrock, I can't imagine a method of remediation.

I have, somewhat presumptuously, created a GoFundMe page for me to attend that CELTA course in Prague. I've already gotten (indirectly) a nasty response from a friend of a friend, who opined via Facebook that she'd grown up poor and never received "handouts", and that such appeals were presumptuous and befitted only those truly destitute. Argh! I hadn't in mind to insult anyone, nor to badger those less fortunate than I, nor to harass friends or relatives, but if one does not ask, one does not receive. This is not a purely pleasurable trip (although I dearly hope it will be great fun--must one suffer meantime to make others' generosity worthwhile?), but focused on the month of 5-day weeks of 9 AM-6 PM classes training me to be a good teacher of English to speakers of other languages. I'm tired of borrowing money from my mother. I've eBayed and consigned items, sold books online, vended pottery at a street market and commuted up here to work in DC until I'm exhausted. Sure, I'm not starving, I have comfortable clothes to wear, and wonderful houses to live in (courtesy of my mother at home and my boss who lets me borrow her guest room up here), and thanks to a sweet girlfriend in Prague, I'll have a great place to stay there. But I cannot easily afford the transportation and course fees, and if someone with extra money were inclined to think my endeavor a worthwhile one, why shouldn't I make it possible for them to fund it?  I'd write them a lovely thank-you note! And they'll get to enjoy a new assortment of interesting blogposts...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ghosts, Politics & Oppressing The Poor

My brother came home from the rural hospital where he's shadowing a primary care physician and told me that everyone in the place matter-of-factly acknowledges that if a patient sees a little boy running around the halls, that patient is going to die (or, in Bob's words, "He's toast.") Apparently, the little boy is a ghost. The decidedly settled and unsuperstitious doctor Bob is following said that his ex-schoolteacher mother was there for her final days and taught the little guy several lessons. Even ghosts can't play hooky forever.

A subcommittee of legislators at the South Carolina statehouse scheduled a hearing earlier this week about allowing nurse practitioners to treat patients for certain conditions which have been limited to physicians (who pay very high rates of malpractice insurance--the nurses don't want to pay these). Bob went to this, as his temporary mentor was due to testify. The hearing was slated for noon, so they arrived at 11. It was then pushed back to 1:30, and didn't actually get underway until 3. The room was stiflingly hot, and many of the nurses had brought campaign placards--which they were forbidden to hold up--but these came in useful as fans. Everyone was limited to a few minutes for statements, and Bob said emotions were high, and yet no one had a coherent argument, but all basically repeated the same themes over and over again. The basic mantra was that whatever legislation passed, rural care would suffer. I said it sounded like a nineteenth-century Southern funeral--everyone dressed up and sweaty and passionately repeating themselves while listeners waved paper fans. Bob said that the smell of death did pervade the room. After a while, people (including committee members) began getting up and leaving, whether overcome by boredom or heat, or a combination thereof, he couldn't tell. He said it was a colossal waste of time, and one of the lady legislators rightly pointed out that this infighting amongst medical professionals was not only unsightly, it didn't do anyone any good, since whatever bill was passed based on their conflicting testimony would be unsatisfactory for all.

As to daily injustice often practiced in more physically comfortable municipal buildings, to crush the helpless, exploit the needy, and stifle the appeals of the unjustly accused are characteristics of a wicked system that cannot be permitted by God or moral people to continue in existence. The stories of economic and legal injustice emanating from places around Ferguson, MO, illuminate a situation where people have so routinely been criminalized for negligible offenses (staggering numbers of arrest warrants for traffic tickets?!) that life has become a misery for most. There is no excuse for this behavior, generally perpetrated by white Haves against black Have Nots, but ultimately preying on those without resources.

I've been reading so many verses in the Bible which talk about God's judgment against people who mistreat the poor. The blight of title pawns and lottery vendors throughout the poor communities--leeches sucking the last few drops of lifeblood from the desperate and the deluded, respectively. The one takes a man's cloak in pledge, the latter entices with dreams of wealth without work.  One prevents productivity by making it difficult for people to retain their necessary transportation, and the other discourages productivity in investment in meaningful enterprise.

Speaking of bureaucratic systems that are working properly, and a poor person's hoped-for financial increase, I got my GA sales and use tax ID number yesterday, thanks to a very helpful lady on the phone from Atlanta who walked me through the Revenue office's online system (not something I could figure out on my own). I plan to begin selling Polish pottery at the Augusta Market on Saturday. I'm not as prepared for this readventure into the world of street markets as I would like, except for plentiful inventory (courtesy of a DC-area Polish friend) and the tax ID--I sold my old tent two years ago; I've ordered another one, but it's not to arrive until next week. I guess I will bring a golf umbrella and hope for the best!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Overdid It

People from Maine to Michigan, Cleveland to Charlotte, are thoroughly sick of winter. It has snowed, and snowed. And snowed. The Washington Post yesterday published a front page, above the fold article entitled "Four Letter Word Blankets Region"; throughout the article, the "s" word was dashed ("s--w") or replaced with descriptive phrases as euphemisms for the expletive it has become. And the Boston/Providence area has seen some of the worst of the East Coast weather--my brother in law sent us a photo of the drifts outside his house reaching to the second floor.  Meanwhile, in Georgia, my mother reported temperatures of 70 and 80, and that she was driving with the roof of her convertible down.

I overdid it on Thursday, and am now stuck with laryngitis.  My cold had mostly abated thanks to a full day's rest and liberal application of zinc spray, but then I worked for 13 hours straight, including two periods shoveling snow (I think the fall totalled over eight inches) and a midnight trudge up to Connecticut Avenue to put an estate sale sign in an ice bank--the atmosphere was still, quiet--the crystalline beauty of fresh-fallen snow over houses, bushes and tree branches, shadowed artfully by streetlights, is impossible to capture with an iPhone camera!  And I had a rough night sleeping on a couch at the house (the roads were too dangerous to go home, so we camped out), waking everybody up at 5 AM screaming (I was in a dream confrontation with a paint-wielding graffiti artist), which didn't do much to improve the collective outlook. I am glad I got in visits to many of my friends the last time I was here in DC, as I am way too germy to associate with any this trip.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


Being ankle-deep in ice water doesn't do wonders for the immune system. I woke up with a sore throat in the wee hours Sunday night and Monday had to leave work after only three, as one of my coworkers pointed out I looked like death. I felt lousy, so I didn't protest. I've been using up a box of Kleenex and a bottle of cold medicine since, spritzing my mouth with mint-flavored zinc and generally keeping to my borrowed bed in the guest room of my boss's house. My hope is that 36 hours of rest and medication will see me hail and hearty tomorrow, so that I can resume work.

Sunday was extraordinarily well attended, given the awful weather. Ice covered everything, including the company signs, all of which were encased in clear frozen water, with icicles three to six inches in length on the bottoms.  I had to gather them after we closed, since my boss had fallen on the ice just before the sale started (she's been having hip pain since--she may have a hairline fracture), and her husband is in his late 80s.  I got chilled in the process, but can't blame that entirely, as the temperature transition from Florida to Maryland was certainly a dramatic one. It's snowed, iced, and sleeted since I got here Thursday (this was to be strictly a working trip, so I told only my boss that I was coming); I'm already sick of winter in less than a week, and can only imagine how miserable all the locals must be!  

Not a single one of the six lamps I put in the sale sold.  I hope those in my booths down south are doing better. I am looking forward to returning to warmer climes in a little more than a week. If gas prices remain reasonable, I'll hope to make one more extended work trip up here before (provided I am accepted into a particular CELTA program) jetting off to an exotic Central European spot for an intensive month-long TESOL course.  Still haven't heard a peep from potential employers in Ukraine, so I've got to take alternative steps.