Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Makes a Home?

What makes a home anyway? We've been 'living' in the condo off and on, mostly on, since June 2. Almost two months.

I guess if you have a working kitchen, shower, bed then you can make a home.

The kitchen was reasonably functional the day we moved in. We brought some pots and pans, glasses, plates, silverware and a coffee maker. It wasn't long before we decided we had to move our favorite coffee maker. The refrigerator, stove, microwave, disposal, etc. were all functional.

For seating we had the movers bring a card table and Costco folding chairs as well as our ultimate 'sitting and reading and watching TV' chairs from our old bedroom. Yesterday the bar stools, chairs, table and console you see above were delivered. They'd been in the warehouse a while because we thought they were a bit fragile to have around while cabinet makers drug in hundreds of pieces of wood of varying sizes up to about twelve feet long. We still have to have lighting guys come in with lengths of track and anchor drills for sag support. And big screens TVs to be delivered. But we couldn't wait any longer. I feared the stuff would disappear from the warehouse. And a card table and folding chairs just didn't cut it any more.

We slept on the sofa bed until Monday when, our custom platform bed having been delivered, we got the new mattress. If you enlarge the picture above you can just see that the bedroom is finally not empty save a massage chair and a lamp. Who knows when that new sofa bed will be opened up again? We like to say that the Extended Stay America on Sixth is our guest room.

Really things are functional now. We need office chairs and lighting desparately. We would enjoy better sound and TV. Although a Bose, a 19inch LCD and the right attitude have gone a long way towards entertaining us. Not to mention the scores of bars and restaurants within walking distance of our front door.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Eight Days and a Dark Place

It's been eight days since I was visible here. You are looking at a dark place. I've been in a state of euphoria or a dark place, swinging between the two. These office components were actually supposed to be a lighter stain. We decided we liked the dark okay, but we wish they had used it in the living room so we could have seen it the way we ordered it. We are living with it rather than sending a million little pieces back to the shop. It took them hours to load the trailer with the components to get them here and have us say, "oh, switched the stains." Anyway, it was chaos getting it in. We haven't quite got it finished. There is a punch list of little staining touch up they have to schedule. The room needs light. We recieved no fixture at all in the ceiling junction in this room for our umpty ump dollars. The bid for the track lights I wanted came in on the stratospheric side of implausible. Must get light, though. And new office chairs. And phones, lamps, supplies properly placed. We did get our computers moved. Mine has an annoying problem connecting to the rest of the network. Supposed to get some help with that today. I'm still upset with Apple that the Bluetooth wireless keyboard and (un)Mighty Mouse doesn't work better. They just arbitrarily quit working. Fortunately neither FFP nor I are relying on them. I have the wired versions (the wireless keyboard doesn't have a number pad but you know Mac isn't good with numbers!) and switch when they decide to quit working. FFP blanched at the little toy keyboard and we set him up with a much less sleek and design-driven wireless USB keyboard.

But progress is promised on all fronts. A bid for lighting we might can swallow, the glass desk top. A mattress delivered. (Monday! We've been on the sleeper sofa for six weeks plus I guess. We now have a platform bed that looks naked and alone with no mattress, a retreat for a monk or something.) Tuesday we get our real dining table, chairs, bar stools and console. We decided we better get them delivered before the warehouse lost them. However, we still have the install of track lights, shades (if we don't change our minds) and a speaker system and AV stuff. We'll try to cover the good furniture as we did with our couch and chairs and such while sawdust, paint and stain and six workers were swirling around to put in the cabinets. Finally it will be finished and we can start creating situations that need maintenance, failing to clean often enough, letting dust and piles of papers to be dealt with accumulate.

Meanwhile, at the old house, where we spend time sorting, packing and tossing still? Chaos. And the threat of needing to vacate in less than three weeks.

On the euphoria side is the fun of popping out to have salad and pizza at Frank and Angie's and watching the frenetic nightlife of Saturday night downtown from the safe remove of the tenth floor.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


The other morning I made my regular morning call to my Dad and he said "I have a word for you." He disappeared for a moment and returned to the phone and said 'taradiddle.' Then he spelled it. He found it while reading "Out of Africa." I looked it up (online, of course) and found:

1. a trivial lie;
2. pretentious or silly talk or writing

This seemed funny and appropriate to me somehow.

And I think it is a tribute to my dad that he is still finding words he doesn't know in books he's reading. That's probably the reason he's lived as long (and as independent) a life as he has.


I'm the opposite of homeless. I'm homeful. This hasn't made me feel more at home, however. It's made me feel at loose ends. Like I'm on an odd working vacation in old haunts.

I feel like I'm on a trip and I keep losing my luggage. As I predicted, things are always in the wrong place. Need to write a check at the house? Checkbook is downtown. Come to the house and get a shower after tennis and then try to find a pair of loafers you like in the closet. Things I like to wear keep migrating downtown. I have to carefully sack up my sweaty tennis clothes, however, and take them downtown to launder them so I'll have them when I head to tennis.

When we are at our 'big house' we will go to places in the 'hood like we are folks returning to an old neighborhood where they once lived. Downtown we feel at home in the neighborhood and in our place but we have so little stuff down there that it is exceedingly odd.

There is still enough stuff at Shoal Creek to lead a life. I have a set of toiletries, a few clothes (although besides the loafer shortage I find that I never have a belt and keep going through ones FFP obviously hasn't worn in ages looking for one I can steal).

We keep thinning the stuff. Shredding ancient financial statements and business records. Putting out our 'free' sign with junk at the curb. FFP took another load to the thrift store, several boxes of kitchen stuff, clothes. I don't miss any of it when it's gone. Of course not. In the wake of all these departures, however, the stuff seems to be blooming and growing. Maybe it's dragging open cabinets and drawers and places of refuge. Maybe it's that there is some secret river of stuff that flows through this house.

I feel like I'm on a trip. I've taken along some old clothes and hope to just leave them behind as they get dirty. I haven't actually done this in the past, leaving behind worn out underwear and jackets and shirts with elbows almost (or actually) worn through. I wouldn't do this now if I were going on a real trip. Heck, I might get something new to wear.

The picture above was taken two years ago when we took a car trip in our old Accord. We'd driven straight through until we got to Baltimore where we stayed an extra night so we could have a look around, go to some museums. I don't know that we'd even thought of moving out of the house then. Forrest was settling into retirement. We wanted to go somewhere. And we did. I feel like a lot has changed since then.

Since I have so many places that I randomly find myself these days, I've been having a rather eclectic reading list. Our papers are delivered downtown, dropped in front of our door by the concierge. Sometimes at night I read them there. I have taken a couple of books down there that I'd been trying to finish forever. I have been reading Tobias Wolff's "In Pharaoh's Army" in Forrest's car. (And also when we are out in his car and we go somewhere to eat, just the two of us, which is a time when we read and only converse if the reading leads us to something we want to discuss.) I found myself reading magazines still scattered around the house when I'm there or a section of newspaper from months ago. While eating a sandwich in the kitchen of the house the other day, I read a little booklet of Globe Facts that turned up somewhere and that I was about to toss. The earth is almost a perfect sphere. However, the diameter from pole to pole is twenty-seven miles shorter than the equator diameter. This isn't stuff you need to save a little booklet for reference. (The booklet probably came with a globe I bought at some time in the past.) I should throw it away. But here I am reading it while eating a Thundercloud sub. We never seem to have food at the house and we have gone to the nearby Thundercloud for sandwiches several times. We have revisited Fonda San Miguel Restaurant, Billy's, Blue Star and Mother's in a similar sort of goodbye gesture. But we'll probably still go to these places. We went downtown when we didn't live there, after all.

There are so many things that need doing that I'm often paralyzed from it. I run away to the other house or suddenly 'have' to blog or do something on the computer. Inch by inch I get things done, though, or by power of suggestion FFP does them for me.

One thing I haven't found time to do is keep up my personal journal. I'm sure I'll regret that one day. I'll be trying to figure out exactly when something happened and then information just won't be there. Meanwhile, a pile of hand-written journals awaits the thinning in the storage room at the house. That's a tough one. I get set adrift on a river of memories and can't find my way back to shore.

In a way, when I'm not worrying and obsessing and trying to figure what the heck to do with something, I'm enjoying this. It's like being on vacation in two spots in my own town. I've become used to the keys and access cards for my hotels, found my favorite coffee spots and yet I'm distant enough from work and duty to just enjoy reading for pleasure. Then the work and duty comes roaing back.

Everyone says I will look back on this with amusement, that it will all be over one day. I guess. It seems to have become a permanent lifestyle.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Things are changing so fast for us now. Downtown we are living a temporary lifestyle, sleeping on a sleeper sofa, using a laptop; the two bedrooms are largely empty awaiting built-in furniture. Monday work starts on that in our place (it has been happening in the cabinet maker's shop up to now). At the house, we continue to fix things up for sale and discard and redirect possessions. Two bedrooms, four closets, the original living room and a hallway are empty, repainted and floors refinished. A potential buyer pulled an inspection and we picked up a few more things to do from that. (And other things for which we said, um, OK so what?? or WTF? That's always the way with inspections.) I still find myself at the big house needing a shower after tennis and fortunately there is still a supply of soap, shampoo, towels, underwear, etc. I keep putting on shoes and jeans and polos there which end up at the condo. (I keep my tennis shoes that I play tennis in with me at all times so I have them for the next game. Tennis is my bulwark against change. It's the thing I do that's the same to keep the change from overwhelming me. FFP has some of these things, too.)

In this photo, fragments of reflected FFP and I appear in the window of Las Manitas with its signs and fliers. Also reflected is the growing Austonian. This was taken in June. The Austonian has started to peek up in view from our condo, too. We also are watching the progress of the Legacy apartments on Rainey Street from our condo. And from the exercise room we watch the Spring rising. (That's another condo building.) Things are changing and not just for us.

A couple of my friends have had to see parents go to more managed care situations of late. Our parental units rock along in their houses. My dad was outside today trying to get a little water on the foundation. (If you don't live in Austin, we are amidst a severe drought.) Not much has changed for them which is good. They don't tolerate change well.

Change is everywhere and I'm having to adapt. We've lived (or camped) in the condo long enough that we have to do chores here. Sweep the floor, do the dishes, feed ourselves, wash clothes. We still find the house needing these things, too. We still have maid service there. We are sorting and moving stuff around in the house and migrating stuff downtown. We have to get out of the way of the work that's going to be done there, however so that's another issue.

And so it goes. Change. Change. Change. And yet the old familiar house, the familiarity of Dad's house and the new and growing familiarity with our downtown condo and the places that surround it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Objects Are Closer....

We were walking across a little plaza where Third Street ends going West. Part of someone's shattered rear view mirror was there. I shot this picture of the palm tree and our building before depositing it in the trash.

Bringing our 'surviving' objects to the condo and living close to them is making everything appear closer. Things are lightened from their surroundings and yet sometimes bulky in the new, limited space.

I wish I'd planned more about what stayed, how it was organized in this place. When we have our built-ins a lot will change, though. I wish I'd organized the stuff that looms at home a bit more.

But all my wishing won't reduce the load. Only tossing and giving and thinking about the stuff again does that. To cheer myself up, I think of everything that is already gone, away from us, in the landfill or the lake of secondhand things loose in the world.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Place for Reflection

Yesterday, Independence Day, I caught the reflection of a flag fluttering in one of the porthole 'windows' of the Avenue Lofts. This spot, The Visible Woman, in all its incarnations (it has had a life going back to 1999, first on its own as WWW.VISWOMAN.COM) has always been a spot for reflection (and not just the photo kind). Lately, as I've gone through the motions of chores and duties at both my current 'homes' lots of reflection and introspection has taken place.

Living in the condo with only part of my possessions and no furniture in the bedroom or office has been interesting in many ways. The kitchen and bath are pretty fully outfitted. Despite that I have everything needed to shower, change clothes or cook a meal at what we've come to call 'the big house.' (Of course, there isn't much food at the house and no coffee maker since the little one cup french press got cracked.) We have fully embraced living downtown, stocking the kitchen partly from the Farmer's market, walking to restaurants and bars (and to last night's fireworks party at the Headliners Club), walking on the hike and bike trail and downtown streets, familarizing ourselves with things in our new, dense 'hood. I have the goal to visit all these different places anew, walking to them.

Deciding what stuff to bring to the condo and making new piles at home of stuff to discard or give away has necessitated a new round of touching and thinking about possessions. I've been loath to buy new things while this goes on. Of course, we've made big and little purchases for the condo, things we didn't have at the house or didn't have the thing with the right 'aesthetic.' I've avoided buying clothes, books or new gadgets. We are going to have new computers and TVs here eventually because of the necessity of reducing footprint.

I like my downtown perch and look forward to the day that it's my only spot. I'm ready to look forward and escape the pull of nostalgia that I get in the old house among the memories. I've taken a holiday these last two days and it's hard to know what to do with myself. I watched tennis, read, did a little cleaning around the condo (cleaning is SO much easier with lots fewer square feet...especially when there isn't much 'stuff').

I wish I had something profound to say, but I feel full of cobwebs and confusion, able to focus on the smallest things but losing the big picture, maybe.