Back to Howe- my garage studio is getting a lot of use lately. A kind of a miracle when the owner moved away and took the dog that had chosen me as her personal project, barking furiously and frantically at my presence. In the move and subsequent upgrade of the back of the house, the electricity to the garage was disconnected- Incredibly freeing once I removed all the various electrical devices: lamps, water boiler, heater, projector, a tuner and turntable and crate of LP’s I had just moved in. All this STUFF was in the way of my practice.
First the chaos, then slowly putting things back together, leaner, not meaner. Much more room now, and a big reorganization of frames, canvases, materials. Lucky I am for the enormous south facing window, and knowing how to dress and work in the weather.
The owner left many cans of house paint for me to recycle, and I have been painting everything white- a step stool I found on the street and repaired. I painted the dingy wall, and put nails up and down the studs in a grid to hang frames on. I repaired and repainted the five frames I had built from scrap house trim for my apple illustrations– so fresh and excellent.
On the day of the big “Camp” fire in Paradise, we finished the deck in Canyon. It was a spur-of-the-moment impulse a couple days earlier to abandon the idea of a building that would ruin the view from the little deck. Realizing we now have sufficient, heatable indoor space, and the on-demand water heater, bathtub and shower situated outside, it no longer made sense. Suddenly we were seeking and gathering boards from around the property, sanding them down and fitting them together somewhat at random. The smell of smoke came in early on the morning of November 8, but a little research showed a brushfire near Joaquin Miller park. Around noon a thicker wave came through, but we worked through it and finished attaching all the boards by early afternoon- The smoke got thicker, and over a week later was so bad, funneled through the delta and trapped over the bay area, that N95 masks were required.
Last Friday I came home to a dark digital clock- the whole electric circuit of kitchen wall outlets had gone out. I unplugged the reachable appliances, excluding the post-rat digital/gas stove which is too heavy for me to move. Flipping the breaker and GFI did not restore the power. I am, as usual, loathe to call the landlord until I exhaust all possible, personal attempts to solve the puzzle.
Likely the problem is rat/raccoon damage in the wall, or a failure or short in the digital oven controls. (It could also be a function of the apparently shoddy installation- but I don’t think that is the case.) I looked up the owners manual for the Kenmore range- almost impossible to read the tiny number on the door, which luckily turns out to be the model number. Someone mentioned that there might be a reset button on the back of the unit, so we can look at that, too.
My neighbor, from whom i got the stove- another story- loaned/gave me an electric convection oven which I installed on the small enamel table with a heavy power cord strung around the corner from the bathroom GFI.
Today I got out my electric toolbox- turns out the continuity tester I had in there (it was Steve’s) is missing one leg, so into the electronic recycling bin it goes. I pulled the 2 USB port/power outlet I installed last year which looks fine. I am again shocked at how poorly the box is installed, jammed way back into the original wall, crooked, behind the layer of sheetrock. It took some jiggling and adjusting to get the outlet mounted straight, but now it is better than I had it before.
Meanwhile, a couple of culinary fiascos, including two enormous potatoes that would not bake, after which I bought an adorable small magnet/hook/stand oven thermometer and tested the convection oven, right to 350 in ten minutes, then hovering at 300 throughout the baking of a Trader-Joe’s-mix cornbread–too sweet, but a somewhat-successful baking experiment.
Sometime last month Ann Lippe told me she and David were working to get a family of raccoons out from under her house across the street. A few days later I saw one of them heading across our front yard; then, sounds in the false ceiling over the bathroom. Mandy messaged me that Pat was hearing loud scratching coming from our wall next to their driveway, and I did hear what sounded like scraping noises around the bathroom pipes and overhead.
This had gone on for a few days when one evening (8/21/18, Steve’s 70th birthday) I heard a thump, squealing, and furious scratching- a critter had fallen between the rafters and into a space between the walls. After a few minutes I realized I was not going to be able to sleep with such screeching and scratching going on, so I high-tailed it over to the pub to tell Gary there were screaming critters trapped in the wall, and I was going to Canyon for the night.
By the time I got home from the pub things had quieted down a little–some chittering and scratching, but not insufferable. Also, there was a note Gary had put on the door earlier announcing that the plumber was coming by and water would be turned off for a couple hours at 9:30 AM the following day.
Around 10 AM on Wednesday 8/22 Gary and the fix-it guy/plumber showed up- they were unable to turn the water off at the street. We assessed the situation- I could hear chittering right next to the light switch in the bathroom, so after the guy and I crawled under the house and saw how they were getting in, through a hole they had chewed in the outside wall, and up through the old chimney hole to the porch roof, the decision was made to cut into the wallboard and pull them out. We had to move my locker away from the wall, and open doors and back window so the emerging animal could make a run for it. When he opened the wall, there was just a void- dark, quiet, no sign of crittur (Thoreau’s spelling). We shined a flashlight in to take a photograph, but our cellphones wouldn’t focus. Their contention was that there was no one there, but I kept trying until I got an image of a little face–very hard to see deep in the 20″x4″x9-foot space between the studs. So a decision was made to cut another hole at the bottom of the wall. We all stood back, again, waiting for the frothing wild beasts to come shooting out–when he pulled the cut piece away, there was the furry back of one small raccoon kit, and the face of another–TWO! little guys, quietly huddling in the bottom of the void. After peeking out and seeing- perhaps for the first time- the light of day, they were having none of it. Fix-it guy sent me to get a cardboard box- Gary put on a leather glove and tried aggressively pulling one of the kits out by the leg, which made them huddle deeper into the corner. I suggested he pick them up by the scruff, like a mother cat, or perhaps raccoon, would do, and he pulled them out and dropped them in the box, where they crouched, quietly, until he dumped them out on the deck, then gathered them back into the box and put them out in the yard. I ran with my drill and deck screws, calling Pat to open the gate to their driveway, to get a bit of screen over the hole she had chewed in the wall before the mother raccoon could come around and get the kits back under the house- She came and took one, and about an hour later the other, and posited them under Pat and Mandy’s deck, to the relief and satisfaction of all involved.
So wasted- embroiled in a petty karma battle, confused, spinning my wheels. It took up a great deal of my time, until it became public- then crack! it was over– i think. What was the gift? Where did the time go? I did get a lot done in between, had a lot of adventures in the process.
Now and then I dig out an old sketchbook- I have saved these pages, and reference images, for such a moment, which comes rarely. I don’t know why, but it seems to take enormous moving of planets to get me out of my rut and seated at a table with the materials for a small sketch like this.
“To cultivate that fearlessness, watching PP set up the stage, while we continued to play–that obnoxious command of canvas, string, and poles! To know what I want, and push every living thing aside! to get it. But not to be a total Ahole.”
That was my dream for 2011. Has anything changed?
This should be my art blog! Aren’t the concerns much the same, for music or art? The need for fearlessness, the necessity of going vigorously after what you want?