Saturday, January 28, 2006

On the last two Saturdays we have been drawing from a live model at the Arts Center. Today Sydney was the model, though you would never know it from my drawing. I had trouble getting her likeness, which is really not supposed to be the point. Nevertheless, when you know the model you feel pressured to produce a likeness for the sake of friendship. I did better last week on Paul Weber, who I don't know very well, and less well on David O. This is supposed to be practice, not geared to results.

We are very professional, the five or six of us who have been attending this activity. We time the poses and mark the placement when the model takes a break. We are serious as we scratch at our paper, erase, smudge, try again. We concentrate, scowling. There is no talking or laughing. We attend to business. Nothing exists but the task at hand. There is no broken hearing aid, no heating bill, no over-drawn bank account. There are no appointments or chores to do. There are no animals to feed or plants to water or meals to cook or shopping to do. There is no misery or happiness. There is nothing but line and form. There is attention brought to a pin-prick, the crayon touching the paper. The world shrinks to fit into this one room, even to one part of the room, where we have assembled our chairs and taken out our materials. Our vision begins at our paper and ends at the model. Our awareness of each other is minimal. We are in a state of grace.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Naughty Boy

I have been busy trying to solve my various financial woes. I've taken steps to consolidate and reduce some expenses to help prevent such potential disaster in the future. Without going into boring detail I have also managed to pay enough money to keep my fuel coming for another month. Compared with some former difficulties, this one was actually fairly easy to deal with.

One of the things I did was switch my satelite TV to the company that owns the phone service. By so doing I was also able to lower my DSL payment by five dollars because the same company owns that, too (and people used to think Ma Bell had a monopoly). An unexpected consequence of this was that Patrick chewed up one of my new hearing aids. I had it in my hand as I was talking to the TV programmer on the phone after the new dish had been installed. She asked me to do something with the remote control, so I absent-mindedly put it down on the coffee table. Almost immediately I became conscious of my own empty hand, but it was too late. He who eats nails, staples, paper towels, paint tubes, rocks, and everything else he can get into his mouth was on the floor chowing down on my $1500. hearing aid. I jumped to retrieve it, but it was in pieces. My emotions bypassed surprise, panic, anger, and regret, landing immediately on resignation. Without so much as a miss in my conversaation with the woman on the phone, I pried it from between Patrick's pointy little teeth. Amazingly, it was still whistling, and I could see that two of the largest pieces were held together by a wire the size of a hair. Dangling from the middle of this hair was a tiny metal square and a few other miniscule parts--apparently the workings of the entire thing. After the phone call was over, I stuffed the innards back into the body and, using small pieces of masking tape, I taped the largest pieces into a shape reminiscient of the original. When I put it in my ear, the fit left a little to be desired, but it nonetheless functions.

I have an appointment at the Hearing Center in Bangor in the middle of February to have a new mold made. Sigh................... Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Monday, January 23, 2006

Trials and Tribulations

With all good intentions, I set out to register the new car today. At the town office I found out that I needed the title to the car, which I did not have. I called Celeste and she had no idea where it was. She said she would look and call me back. I drove back home and waited, then finally called her. She could not find the document and refused to get a new copy because it would cost her $20.00. She promised to keep looking, though. Meanwhile my old case worker Diana arrived as per our appointment to see if she cold help me with my fuel bill problems. She found out from HEAP, the fuel assistance program I applied for, that I had been determined eligible for $180., or thereabouts. Beyond that, the governor has just made emergency funds available to low income people to the tune of $45. apiece. Together these do not even cover half of my recent bill, let alone address the problem of the rest of the winter.

For a few minutes I felt totally defeated, without even a glimmer of an idea of what to do. I still have no idea, but at least I recovered from the shock. I realized I had been counting on fuel assistance to pay my bill, as it always has done in the past. I haven't needed to pay for oil on my own since I left Parkview Avenue. And now the cost is so high I can't possibly afford it.

After Diana left I talked to Celeste again. She still couldn't find the title to the car, so I called the insurance company to change back to the Chrysler while this was worked out. I agreed to pay the fee for the duplicate title and will meet Celeste at the town office tomorrow to fill out the papers and turn over the money. The day turned gray and it started to snow. I slunk into the living room to escape into a book. My trusting little boys gathered around me and lapped my face comfortingly. They settled down to chew their toys happily.

This is the first time in memory that I find myself in a situation where I can see no acceptable solution. There is no cheaper place to live than the one I have. Because of Phyllis' generosity I have the cheapest rent I have ever had. The only place to go from here is subsidized housing, where I would not be able to have my dogs or my chickens. That alternative is simply unthinkable. Or so I think from the point of view a person who can not conceive of giving up her life-style. It is small comfort that people are starving and without shelter, that soldiers are dying, that Avian flu and AIDS are killing children, that New Orleans was ruined and people lost their homes and everything in them, that the Tsunami killed so many people in Asia, that in this country poor people live with rats and eat garbage, and on and on and on. I have come to depend on a certain way of living, a certain freedom to do as I choose. I feel the arrogant "entitlement" of the American middle class, where the worst thing that can possibly happen is that I have to give up my three pedigreed dogs.

And yet, that is the way it is.

Friday, January 20, 2006

"New" Car

I have been thinking about this car for a few weeks. I saw it parked on a lawn across the street from David's with a "For Sale" sign on it and it set my mind in motion. I've been looking for a replacement for the Capitalist Pig Car without much enthusiasm, since I didn't think I could afford one. Still, I feel that the Chrysler's healthy days are numbered and was worried about what I would do when it died. Somehow I felt that this little car might be the answer. I called the number on the sign and arranged to meet the owner yesterday. She told me the car was $1200.

It may be difficult to imagine how a person who can not afford to buy fuel thinks that a $1200 car is within the realm of possibility, but my head whirled with schemes until I had devised a way to do it. I assumed the owner would let it go for a thousand dollars. I had enough credit left on my combined credit cards to come up with part of it. Then the pay days fell this month so I could put off paying my rent for two weeks and use this week's check toward the car. Armed with this idea, I met Celeste at the appointed hour.

With confidence I did not really feel, I drove the car down the street. The car had frozen to the ground and took off reluctantly, leaving pieces of ice and mud the size of boulders in the road for several hundred yards. Eventually it hit its stride and everything went well. I returned to tell Celeste I wanted to take the car to the garage for an inspection and she agreed. We went to Spinney's and left the car there while we went to have coffee. Jim and Ron assured me they would give the car a good going over. While we sipped coffee and ate stuffed mushrooms at the Happy Crab I found out that Celeste shared my affection for chickens. She has three chickens and two ducks that live in the house with her, her dogs, and her cats (as well as her 87-year-old mother). She does keep them confined to the kitchen, where they enjoy bathing and drinking in the sink and roost on the stove. I liked her and enjoyed her loud chatter and flamboyant manner.

When we returned to the garage, Ron told me that the car was in fine shape. He had driven it, put it up on the lift to examine its underbody, tested all its fluids and hoses and whatnots, its engine and lights and heater and wipers, it's tires and belts and whatever else he could do. He told me that it would be a good car for me and advised me to buy it. I paid him twelve dollars for his trouble and off we went to make the deal.

Celeste owns the trailer across from David and that's where we went to do our paper work. Up to this time we had not mentioned price again, but on the way through the door I told her I was prepared to offer her a thousand dollars. She seemed somewhat taken aback, but agreed readily and the deal was done. Over tea and bills of sale and registration transfers, we chatted jovially and promised to get together for coffee again in the future. She tried to sell me everything in the house, including the chairs we sat in and the table in front of us. I had to decline, not that it wasn't tempting, for obvious financial reasons.

So why was I not so creative in solving my fuel bill problem? Because if I had used the same money for that, it would have solved the problem for only a few weeks and then I would be back in the same situation. It is literally the last financial resource I have. I did not want to send it into the abysmal mouth of my furnace.

The car has lifted my spirits no end. I have been embarrassed by the Chrysler since the day I got it. It has been a great car and served its purpose, but I am so happy to have one that looks like other cars on the road instead of a junked presidential limousine. I feel right in a smaller, front-wheel drive car like those I have had in the past. As long as it doesn't have some hidden flaw, I'm convinced the purchase was a good one.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Groceries and Fuel

Winter has returned after a number of unseasonably warm days. I slept until almost eleven o'clock this morning, which I have rarely done since I was a teen-ager. It was windy and cold, and I wanted to stay under the covers with the dogs and enjoy their radiant heat. Eventually, though, they had had enough of lying around and began to insist that I get up and feed them. Patrick's tongue slithered under the sheet to lick my hand and Lytton tapped my shoulder with his paw. Benny began to scratch, wiggling the bed. Though I remained as still as I could, they were not persuaded to go back to sleep and started to jump down off the bed. One by one they hit the floor and the sound of their toenails clicking permeated my consciousness. Before long that dreanlike state of half-sleep drifted away and I was more here than there. Sleep was beyond retrieval and I got up.

Before I had really established myself in the real world, David called and asked me to come over and clean out his refrigerator. He was leaving for Bangor, closing up his house for the rest of the winter. I spent almost a half hour scraping the ice off my car before I could drive it. Even then I had to peer out of two six-inch circles of windshield I had managed to expose. The roads were slippery and some indeterminate kind of precipitation swirled around in the air. The sun was out, too, though, so it was the kind of morning that promised nothing either way.

I arrived at David's with a tote bag to carry home the bouty I expected and I was not disapointed. I loaded up with bags of peppers, potatoes and onions, containers of mik and juice, lemons, apples, ice cream.......enough to keep me out of the grocery store for a week or more. Tonight I will eat some of the Finnan Haddie that David had frozen after our Christmas dinner. It seems right to be having it alone on the day that I lose my friend for the next four months. It will not be a melancholy meal, but a quiet farewell with fond and now wistful remembrances of the time we spent preparing and eating it together. Already I look forward to his return.

The rest of the day was rather quiet, though Sydney came for her lesson and put some cheer into an otherwise undeventful afternoon. She wasn't feeling well, but she always remains happy and fun to be with no matter what symptoms her heart disease or her diabetes may be causing. After she left, she called to offer a suggestion for me to make money to pay my exhorbitant fuel bill. It really isn't something I would actually do, but she is always there trying to help, no matter how trivial or serious the problem. Meanwhile, I have the thernostat set at 61 and wear a heavy sweater. When I go to bed, I turn it down to 57. I hope to make the fuel I have last for a long time, since I don't know how I will pay for what was delivered last week. Without payment, the fuel company will not deliver any more. When I was in eighth grade we saw a movie about the fact that the oil resources of the world would eventually be depleted and we would have a crisis. It terrified me to think of it then, but now that it is happening I feel rather bland about it, knowing that life goes on no matter what..... Somehow we manage to get through, one way or another.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Friday, January 13, 2006

Beautiful Eggs

The girls have begun to lay eggs again.  Posted by Picasa

Speaking of Chicken..........

David and I put on our last dinner party performance last night with Will and Lisa playing the part of the guests. We love the ritual of entertaining so much that we wanted to do it once more before David goes back to Florida. Our menu was shrimp coctail followed by roast chicken, cornbread stuffing (I made the cornbread, of course), sausages with apples and onions, potatoes Anna, home-made cranberry sauce, salad, and deep deesh apple pie with ice cream. The pie was a repeat of Christmas because we liked it so much. Although we failed to reach the zenith of organization that we reached at Christmas, we nevertheless orchestrated the day beautifully. An unexpected, though welcome, visit from Greg snagged us up at the last minute and we did not have the final few minutes to regroup before the guests arrived.

Still, the day passed pleasantly with phone calls of respective progress on table linens and pie crusts, cranberry sauce, boiling giblets, and cornbread crumbs. We came together at mid-afternoon, pooling our individual accomplishments and moving ahead in tandem. As for one of my major contributions, suffice it to say that boiled and peeled chestnuts are good, but really not worth the trouble.

From my point of view the one failure on the culinary front were my potatoes Anna. They sounded good in the recipe, but in the end potatoes with butter, salt and pepper are just that. To add insult to injury, I overcooked them in an attempt to keep them warm through the blue martinis and the word crisp fails to adequately describe their tecture. Nevertheless, process definitely outshines product and the meal was a critical success. We passed the evening in easy, amiable social conversation that outshined any that I have recently subjected myself to. It was notable for its lack of controversy and congenial tone. Not once did I have the urge to kill anyone in the room or run screaming from the table. It was what dinner parties should be. I already feel nostalgic about this holiday season when David and I honed our entertaining skills to a fine and glorious point, loving every minute of it. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 09, 2006

Home is the Kayak......

I used to play the recorder four times a week with Toni, whom I met a few years ago through a mutual acquaintance. We played in a group that was very amateurish. As time went on, though, we decided to try duets. Our skill grew until we were both pretty good and really enjoyed the music and our friendship. We ate together on the days that we practiced amd got to know each other fairly well. We both got kayaks and went out together several times. We played on-line scrabble. We went shopping together, and last year she was one of the guests at David's and my Christmas meal.

Well, it came to pass that I didn't want to spend so much time with the recorder. I told Toni that I wanted to take a break. Her response was drastic. She literally begged me to continue, saying that her life would be terrible without our playing sessions. I agreed to play once a week, unable to be deaf to her pleas. We did that for a couple of months, and then she emailed me that once a week wasn't working for her. She insisted that we increase the time we spent or we would lose our expertise and actually lose ground rather than improve. Since I was not even enjoying the once a week, I refused.

From that point on, the situation grew very bizarre. Toni accused me of insulting her, calling her names, and making things up about her. She said I was mentally unbalanced, scary, even, in my delusions. She suggested I "think about that" and get myself together. Her amazingly distorted perception and her condescension angered me to the point that I told her I didn't want to see her at all. After I cooled down, I tried to patch things up through emails, and we corresponded a few times. She insisted that we go over our former emails to each other and respond to actual quotes. Reluctantly, I did this with a few of her letters, then suggested that we stop the "I said, you said" routine and just forget what had happened. I didn't hear from her, even though I had sent her several emails. Then she wrote that she was not opening any more of my correspondence, and if I wanted to apologize, I would have to do so in writing, by mail. I responded by saying I had tried, but I was through.

This is, of course, my view of what happened. Toni would have a different story. She had told me many times of other people who had turned against her and were no longer her friends. Her stories of their abuses used to shock me, and I wondered why people were so mean to her. She claimed she had even been fired from her last teaching job because the entire faculty conspired against her. When I heard these stories, I assumed that as a person form New York City, she was probably misinterpreted by people in Washington County. Since I have a bias that makes me feel that people from big cities are paranoid anyway, I thought that most likely she imagined a lot of the mistreatment she experienced. I nodded in sympathy, though, not really believing or disbelieving what she said. To me she was not a sympathetic person, too quick to complain and blame others for whatever happened to her.

So why am I writing all of this? It's been in the back of my mind for weeks. I am very uncomfortable with all of it. To my knowledge, no one has ever been so angry with me or thought so ill of me. This is unsettling, yet I'm afraid I don't like Toni enough to pursue the matter. That, too, bothers me. Yesterday David and I drove to Pembroke to retrieve my kayak, which was stored at her house. We returned the keyboard she had leant me at the same time. I had called to make an appointment to do this, and I was worried about having to see Toni in person. She must have felt the same way. When we arrived she was gone. She had left us a note telling us where the kayak was and what to do with the keyboad.

I don't yet know how I feel now that everything has been tidied up and there is nothing left to tie us together. I do know that I put my kayak in the cellar with some glee, feeling that it finally belonged to me, that I was free to use it whenever and wherever I wanted, that my life with it now was independent of Toni, and that because of that, my enjoyment of it had just begun.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Yarn and Birthday

After two days of work, this is the state of my knitted sock project. Why does expensive yarn not come in pull skeins like cheap yarn? I bought this 100% hand-washable wool at the new Wooly Moose downtown. It cost $5.00 compared with what I normally buy at Walmart for $2.00. When I released it from the one strand of yarn that held it in an attractive twisted roll, it fell into a gigantic tangle that only became worse as I tried to roll it into a ball. I began the de-snarling yesterday, then put in three more hours today. When I finally managed to unravel the mess, I photographed the moment. Since I worked from both ends of the continuous strand, I ended up with two balls joined by a single cord, like the twins I sometimes see in utero on Discovery Health Channel. I have not separated them yet, preferring to let them rest in mute testimony to my apparently limitless patience, my dogged determination. Knitting the socks will be anti-climactic.

What possessed me to do this is vague in my mind. Lisa wanted to learn to make socks(her yarn was relatively more compliant than mine), and I agreed to help her. A quick project would give me relief from the never-ending afghan I started last winter, and I do like to make socks. But why did I buy new yarn when I have many skeins of perfectly good acrylic (i.e. cheap and machine washable) left from other projects? Well, I don't know. When they are done, I will have the most expensive and time-consuming pair of socks I ever owned, and I will wear them once. I must pick the occasion carefully.

In other news, my sixty-first birthday came and went with a moderate amount of fanfare. Two cakes were made by Judy and Sydney for our art group to share. Two different people (Judy and Elizabeth H.) called and sang Happy Birthday to me over the phone. Alice and Ann both wished me Happy Birthday in messages. Carrie called, though I wasn't home. David took me out to dinner. Linda gave me a hand painted silk scarf, and David bought me my own domain name. Elizabeth, born on January 5, has planned a Capricorn dinner for Saturday at the Loca. As always, it was wonderful to be remembered, and I warmed to the attention. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year

The holidays run together and New Year's Eve seems almost like the tail of Christmas. There's not really any sense of one being the end of the year and the other the beginning. The two of them split time like the gap in an adjustable bracelet, breaking the circle into a measurable distance. We take time out to notice that the number of years since our birth climbs higher. The new year brings into our consciousness the concept of beginning and end apon which we humans build our lives. Despite the fact that every day is the end of the past and the beginning of the future, we chose this one to pay attention and celebrate.

In Eastport there is the usual quirky take on tradition. As on any special occasion, there are goings on. Our gallery opened up for one final evening before closing for the rest of the winter. June and I got the place ready by six, but the streets were mostly empty. I began to have visions of closing and freezing all the food and drink we had for the next occasion. At eight o'clock, though, people started to wander in. Before long the usual party took shape and we found ourselves dragging out more and more chairs to accommodate those who waited out the evening there. At eleven o'clock we all migrated out to Bank Square to watch a huge Maple leaf made of lights descend from the top of the Tides Institute to recognize the arrival of the new year in Canada, one hour ahead of us. Those who knew the words joined in with a recording of "O Canada." A respectable crowd gathered to support our neighbors across the bay.

After about a half hour of warming up at the gallery, we put on our coats and hats and gloves again and ventured out for the main event. A huge clock was projected on the side of the Tides building, counting down the minutes. A large, blue, contstructed fish, trying to be a sardine to symbolize Eastport's past, began to slowly creep downward from the top of the building. There was a ball of lights at its mouth. The crowd pointed and grinned, clapping and cheering. As the clock's second hand headed for midnight, we all shouted the traditional 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, ....... The sardine hit the street at the right moment and a small brass band broke into strains of Auld Lang Zein. Everyone sang and hugged and wished their neighbors happy new year. A sign appeared in the window of the Tides Institute proclaiming 2006. Horns honked. Times Square may be bigger, but certainly no more enthusiastic.

The celebration went on with a party and breakfast at the Sardina Loca, but David, Diana, and I went back to clean up the gallery, drink a toast with Will and Lisa, and go home. It was quintessential Eastport, the greatest place on earth.