Saturday, April 25, 2015

Falling & Filling

That plaster ceiling was closer to collapse than we'd presumed. On Tuesday, the contractors were planning to cut around the edge, to replace the main expanse with sheetrock while preserving the elaborate cast molding at the top of the walls. All furniture had been cleared from the room, the doors to the rest of the house shut and sealed with plastic, and a large window to the patio removed for ventillation. Drop cloths were down, and they carefully carried the antique crystal chandelier to the kitchen, then returned to climb on a ladder with a power saw to make the first cut. And suddenly, there was a distinctive popcorn/gravelly sound. All three men dove for safety, and in a tremendous 45-second crash, all 3000-plus pounds of plaster rained down. The aluminum ladder was mangled, and part of the molding precipitated with the ceiling, so it can't be saved. We were just grateful that no one was seriously injured or even killed. And happy that we'd made the right call about postponing the sale until the situation could be fixed.

We spent the week cobbling together a sale out of scraps, which is our least-favorite preparation method. The owners had signed a contract ages ago, but then left only a few 80s-era dregs in the house, much to my sweet boss's disgust. Formica over particle board and grungy upholstery in pale Pepto Bismol pink. And there were very few smalls. Everything was dirty or broken, and mostly both--I'd have been ashamed to run a yard sale with much of it. Definitely not up to our usual standards. We rearranged and accepted vast quantities of consignments, and after washing and fixing and vacuuming and supplementing, it looked to be decent. Again, not as dazzling as normal, but the homeowners will make considerably more on the few things they left because we'd staged it so well--had we not, customers would have simply walked in, shrugged in disgust, turned around and walked out. As it is, turnout has been modest and sales pitiful thus far, with only one more day left to run. Unless it's a blowout, this will have been a less-than-satisfactory experience, financially. I have written a lot in the lull times though, from reviews of the latest Kdramas to musings about the troubles of repatriation, so it wasn't a bust creatively.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Rejecting Virtual Life For Actual

A very real "First World" problem is the subtle trap of living only vicariously, mistaking knowledge about an individual or event for real familiarity--experience and personal relationship built on personal interaction. Oddly, I am not singling out Facebook for criticism, as that has been only a recent and comparably small part of my life, but the many other means by which I have been lulled, or have lulled myself, into thinking that I am engaged with the world around me, but instead have distanced myself from its people, its real problems, and its Creator.

In recent months, I've lamented how close family members can choose to miss out on delightful opportunities to interact with folks like Grandmommy--why they would deliberately avoid such moments of being well fed and better loved mystified me. And yesterday, the sermon at McLean Pres made me realize that I'd been doing the same, albeit on a grander, more awful scale. Isn't it far worse as humans to have the means to know the God of all the universe, and to ignore him? What real joys I have ignored! I feel like an idiot. Anyone can know tremendous amounts of trivia about a given well-known accomplished person, but actually knowing and being known by that one is wholly dissimilar. I am terrible at remembering my friends' birthdates, but I love them dearly--to think this can be demonstrated by not being in regular contact is silly. It's really easy to fritter away my time meaninglessly, not just sitting on the metaphorical winning ticket, but witlessly foregoing a lifetime of friendship with the only Genuine? I pray (really!) that this seeps deep into my marrow, that this burnt marshwiggle moment doesn't recede easily into my bottomless cache of lost memories.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Macon Cleanout, Augusta Marketday, Music

My mother is the antithesis of packratiness--I've always said, "If it's not nailed down, she'll throw it away...and if it's nailed down, she'll pull up the nail and then throw it away." My late father was a packrat, and I (as his clone) am a packrat, and yet my stepdad, bless his heart, once made us look like amateurs (he has voluntarily cleaned out a huge quantity since marrying my mother--evidence of true love!), so I was amazed that he allowed my mother and me, without supervision, to go down to his parents' house in Macon last week to clean out the "Doghouse", an 1000-square foot brick structure where the contents of the main house were stored while the latter was being rented out these past several years. Perhaps John was tacitly expressing his confidence in me to limit my mother's cleaning-out zeal? I rescued as much as possible (tons of items we rough-cleaned and repacked), but there was a lot that proved irrecoverable, since the damp and heat had caused much of the sensitive organic material (paper, cloth)--some of which had been properly boxed--to molder. We were able to make it through only 3/5 of the Doghouse contents in 20 hours of hard work, so we plan to return in early May, after my latest trip to DC and before I pack for Prague.

At dusk Wednesday and Thursday my mother and I drove to Dublin, GA, for food and sleep--Grandmommy was delighted that we came; though the decision to stay the first night was really last minute, of course she managed a sumptuous repast. Thursday evening I was at the wheel on I-16 when I looked down to see the setting sun illumine my wrists, whereon there was a clear demarcation--a dirt line beginning where my work gloves had ended and extending up my arms to my dusty purple shirt and down to my grubby jeans, which had been fresh-washed only that morning. I was filthy top to toe. The minute I made it to Grandmommy's, I peeled off in the laundry room and streaked to the pink bathroom at the end of the hall to scrub every inch with hot soapy water--total body clean had to be established before I could take a bite of dinner, no matter how hungry I was! Mums and I'd bathed before supper two nights running--there's nothing like the memory of mildew and the vestiges of old cobwebs on your clothes to interfere with a good appetite.

Since I was still in Augusta on Saturday (the sale up in DC had been postponed because of the falling plaster in the main room that needed to be fixed before we allowed customers in), I returned to the Augusta Market with the Polish stoneware I'm selling. My new professional sign ("Pottery from Boleslawiec, Poland. Oven, Microwave & Dishwasher Safe") was rather unprofessionally suspended--with twist ties--from the frame of my tent, which dripped from the rain that was falling when we began our setup, but it dried off quickly. I had my first browser early, which was encouraging. Other vendors chatted among themselves and put the final brush up touches to their displays. Two were generously-proportioned white women, one with teal-tinted hair, the other with rose-magenta highlights, each patchily tattooed--never let it be said the South doesn't have visually peculiar characters! Technically, the market opened at 8, and the diehard exercise fanatics with their dogs left for their weekly eight-mile run ten minutes after that, but shoppers were few for the first hour except for the earlybird vegetable buyers, their arms full of empty cloth shopping bags, headed determinedly for their favorite farmer's tables. I'd had little sleep, for the second night running, as I woke up just after midnight and lay there for hours, counting down the minutes until my alarm. Praise God, I rolled out of bed right when it sounded and hustled for downtown, because otherwise I'd have been pushed to the sloping passage through the levee toward the river. A squirrelly market man gave me the last spot by the fountain, next to the largest tree, where I was delighted to discover a dry spot to unload my boxes. It being the final weekend of a certain PGA golf tournament, every vendor was determined to be present in hopes the out of town visitors would be stopping by to shop.

Tuesday, I'd gone with Bella to hear live music at a small subterranean watering hole near her downtown group house. We'd been advised to arrive early, which gave us time to grab a central table and order beverages without having to shout over the super-amplification (we both resorted to earplugs shortly into the concert, and could still hear loud and clear through the foam). It was a four-man ensemble: The bass player--who to prove witty currency was wearing a black t-shirt with the slogan "No Treble"--strummed an instrument that may have been produced by a NC mountain mandolin maker--smooth dark wood for the body of the instrument, almost-white ash pierced in the shape of a heart for the bridge, and shiny nickel fittings. Most of the time he plucked the strings, so the bow was slung in a handmade leather holster on the front, easy to hand. The pleasant tenor was sung by a slender septuagenarian in a spring green golf shirt, as was appropriate for his subject (mostly classic Irish folk) and for the Masters Week crowd, which had rented out every room of the bed and breakfast upstairs, and swelled the crowd as the evening wore on, so there was standing room only. The fiddler could have been the prototype for Johnny in "The Devil Came Down to GA"; that violin was practically smoking as the gut rasped over the strings and his fingers outdanced Michael Flatley's feet. His face bore the flush of one too many whiskeys, and a cluster of brown bottles accumulated beside his seat as song followed song, but if anything he played with ever more swift assurance, his face glowing intensely from alcohol and exertion. Tattoos curled up the neck and down the arms of the drummer, who tapped a small snare with a succession of wooden sticks and steel brushes, rocking along to the melody of the man at his right elbow. And the venue was perfect for an intimate musical evening, in the cleanest, driest red brick basement I've been to, lit with festoons of white Christmas lights, the host a fat man with a balding pate and white ponytail who glad-handed the guests, the hostess a bustling woman with flying grey hair and an attentive "Darlin', you doin' alright?" every time a glass level dropped, and a convivial crowd that sang along cheerfully to the music and knew all the hand gestures to several, like a well-schooled Rocky Horror Picture Show audience (I don't think I will ever forget the movements to accompany the lyrics to "Shearing Sheep in New South Wales", which I found myself humming for days afterwards). I had a lovely time. Bella didn't--she decided that she really doesn't like Irish music, despite being half Irish. Ah, well, to each her own.