July 02, 2005
Great to see big smiles on the faces of both Danilo, left, and Cassio. The reason? A couple with local roots who now live in Brazil stopped by today to see the gardens. As soon as I heard they lived in Brazil, I ran and got the guys--and they've been chatting away in Portuguese ever since. The picture is blurry--it was taken through a screen from inside.
First night in the Swamp Castle
Although we are without carpet or a stove or kitchen cabinets, Cassio and I moved in to the house yesterday and stayed there last night. Cassio slept in the guest bedroom, which has a concrete floor, and I placed my bed in the living room. This morning, I sat up in bed to see a swan staring my way from 40 yards away.
The smell from the drying lacquer on the hardwood floor upstairs was a bit overpowering, so about 11 pm last night I opened some windows and shut off the air conditioning and went to sleep to the chirping of the frogs. It is so quiet out there. I could here a dog barking in the distance, as well as any jet which went over. In the middle of the night, a storm cloud came over which dropped just a few drops.
I had trouble sleeping, naturally. While Cassio unpacked in his room, I wandered the house just staring. After dark, all of the wood comes to life. Just a few lights made the entire house look ethereal. I plopped the recliner in the living room and stared at the beams and the knotty pine ceiling and the staircase--I get overwhelmed when I think of the effort, time and creativity that Dean and Jeff put into their work--and then they up and leave while I get to enjoy it for the next forty years.
I played some music on the Bose Wave machine. It fills the entire house. Cassio wasn't too impressed, however. Ever frugal, Cassio thought the price of the Bose too high and said the effect of the acoustics of the house was why it sounded so good--just like when he sings in the shower.
English dilemma this morning over breakfast: Cassio was wondering about the plural of foot, the measurement. I said it is "feet." So, he said, when you have a table that is eight feet long, why do people call it an eight foot table?
I didn't know.
June 30, 2005
That's what today seemed like. A never-ending horizontal mist. I sat in the big room of the Swamp Castle and watched the mist cross the swamp from left to right--you almost feel like you're right in it with all the windows--and I had an odd thought: I can't wait to sit there during a blizzard in the winter! Once again, the grass is greener a few pages ahead on the calendar.
Danilo, Cassio and Nick finished moving stuff out of the apartment. I cleaned the bathroom, Danilo cleaned the kitchen, we left the keys and apartment living for good.
Perhaps this will be my last move. One would hope. I am forty. The house is meant to last me for the rest of my days. I have no nostalgia for any other place I have lived. I do not want to build a house when I am sixty or seventy years old. I want to be creating something else at that age.
Building the house was, and continues to be, an all-consuming experience. It could be agonizing except for that I have enjoyed every step. Now that I am going to be sleeping there, I suspect my patience for continued construction will be short.
The Steven Jobs speech that I linked to yesterday didn't meet with universal acclaim--one other blogger thought that it was destructive to encourage people to "follow your heart." Clearly, this person thought human beings were basically sinful and that the function of our impending death should be to remind us to soberly prepare for the afterlife.
Good grief, that's no fun. But then again, some people believe as the late grandmother of a friend of mine always told her children: "We weren't put on his earth to have fun!"
June 29, 2005
Here is the entire text of Steven Jobs' speech
to graduates of Stanford. It is a keeper.
Due to the rain, Cassio and Danilo spent the day moving my junk from town back to the nursery where most of it now sits in the greenhouse looking like a yard sale in a trailer court. They emptied the garage and hauled most of the furniture--of which I have very little.
Meanwhile, I did things like call the phone company to switch the phone, call the electric company to shut off the apartment in town, and other such pleasantries. The most annoying was a call to DishNetwork, which I had at the old house. I have decided to go with DirectTV for my Twins games. Well, as soon as it became apparent that I was going to cancel, they transferred me to an "account termination specialist" whose job it was to wheedle me into returning to DishNetwork.
I told him curtly that my decision had been made, and I didn't care to defend it. He made it sound like I had to give a legitimate reason for leaving their company before I'd quit getting bills.
To upgrade your service, they only need your phone number. To cancel, they required my social security number, my phone number, and my full 24-digit account number.
So, pulling away from DishNetwork was a bit like ripping off a Band-Aid. Slowly.
I had thought about sleeping in the new house tonight. Then Mom and Dad decided to go on vacation for a couple of days, so Cassio and I are camping out in their house tonight. It is still a little primitive out at the house.
A COUPLE OF DAYS ago, I saw a beautiful 4x12 beam, ten feet long, in the garage. I asked Jeff and Dean if it was earmarked for anything, and they said no, it was surplus. So, I had to find a place for it in the house. I thought about making it into a bench under a window--have it doweled with steel rod into the wall so it looked suspended in air.
I spent an hour last evening walking around the house, looking for a place for that beam, and I finally found it. It will hover five feet over my head as I sleep, suspended between two perpendicular walls. It will conceal some track lighting which will light the wall behind the headboard. I couldn't wait to tell Jeff and Dean. They are pretty good at concealing their reactions to my ideas, so we'll see how it goes.
The fireplace is now finished, and as far as I am concerned, it is beautiful.
Quote from Apple founder Steven Jobs:
"When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: 'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.' It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
June 28, 2005
The recent struggles of the Twins have gotten me thinking about the crazy game of baseball. The difference between mediocrity and excellence is so razor thin in baseball--if you lose your edge at all, disaster hits. Witness the Yankees--they can't seem to get it together, despite their $200 million payroll.
When you're losing, you can't even beat the worst teams. The Yanks lost three straight to Kansas City a couple of weeks ago; now the Royals have lost seven straight to poor teams.
The best teams win, at most, 60% of their games in a season. The best hitters get hits 30% of the time, the worst hitters get hits 22% of the time. The best pitchers give up three runs per game, the worst pitchers give up five runs per game. The best fielders have a 98% error free rate, the worst fielders 94%. The game is won and lost on the margins.
One mental slip at the wrong time can ruin an entire career. Witness Bill Buckner: he played for 21 years and was one of baseball's best hitters for that entire stretch, yet he will only be remembered for letting a dribbling ground ball roll through his legs at first base in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. If he would have caught the ground ball, the Red Sox would have won the Series. As it was, the Mets came back and won and Boston fans blamed Buckner to the point where he couldn't go out in public and still refuses all interviews.
This frankensteinian (new word) vacuum contraption is used to hold the Corian countertop sections tightly together while the chemical which splices them hardens. By the end of the day, after some sanding, the splice wasn't visible.
What a day. Everybody seems to have gotten along. I guess it is my job as general contractor to make sure they do. I didn't have to play traffic cop--all of the people are pros and know that they have to accomodate the others on the job site.
I am getting eager to move in. There will be water in the sink and enough lights in place to see. One shower will be working. There will be some drawers in the kitchen so I can put the silverware away. The fridge should be hooked up. The crew out at the house informed me that the first thing to go in the fridge should be a case of beer. We'll see what we can do about that.
Hosta are my favorite. Here are a couple of pictures which I hope will help you understand why. The leaves display such a wild variety of subtle textures, colors and shapes.
Nothing like a definite move-in date to get things moving on the house. However, today it looks like a county fair out there. I tried to get a picture of all the vehicles, but they wouldn't fit in one frame.
Bill the wood floor guy arrived early this morning. He's sanding the wood floor upstairs. That gives the whole house a good shaking and makes it impossible to hear. That's probably not all bad.
Then Joseph the cabinet maker arrived. Jeff and Dean followed. After that, the Corian guy came with the countertops. Then the electricians and plumbers drove in. Later in the day, the appliances arrive for the kitchen. The washer and drier went upstairs this morning.
So far, peace and goodwill reign. Dean said it looks like one of those extreme makeover shows. We'll see what things look like by the end of the day.
June 27, 2005
My least favorite activity is storekeeping. Waiting for people to make up their mind. Hanging out at the till. Making small talk. It drives me absolutely nuts. I was storekeeper for part of Saturday, Sunday afternoon, and then this morning.
Finally, I blew it. A woman came and wanted something we were out of. There was a lot of groaning and moaning and then--well, what DO you have? Well, what we have is right over there. What kind of plants are over there? Well, there are dozens of plants over there, I am not about to list them for you. Well what would you suggest? Helpless, helpless, helpless. Desperate to draw me in. If I would have suggested a plant, I know darn well the first words out of her mouth would have been, "but I don't like those!"
So, I said here's a box, you pick out what you like. I then went and did something else and forgot about her. Just a few minutes ago, I found a few plants on the desk--but the woman's car was long gone. Apparently, she had found some plants, brought them to the till and got sick of waiting for somebody to show up to take her money.
I am not so worried about the lost sale, but I don't like having somebody upset enough to storm out.
The thing which gets me about storekeeping is that some people take advantage of the fact that you are trapped there as a part of your job. They then milk you for attention and attempt to draw you into their wild, wacky world of indecision. Or they start telling you about things you don't want to know, or ask you about things you don't want to share. It makes me feel cornered, because I have to maintain pleasantness for business purposes. After all, they are here to spend money.
Conflict arises in my mind between my cynical writer self and my eager beaver business self. The way out, I suspect, is to take mental notes of the human absurdities and use them later. I mean, a writer who doesn't have a day job doesn't get a front row seat at the human circus.