A Holiday That Evolves With Time (and Hormones)

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Easter has always been a complex and inconsistent holiday for me. When I was a relatively wee lad, the day was filled with baskets of fine chocolates, books, and ensembles perhaps better befitting a young dandy. We would attend church service and return home to a celebratory meal and a day of family bonding.

The imagery and explanations confounded me, however, as I struggled to link the Resurrection with a rabbit in a dinner jacket. Upon over-ponderance, I’d face the weary truths of kickball, grass-stains, and parental over-compensation.

As I approached the twitch of pubescent hormones, the treats were offered, naturally, far less frequently. We did, however, still go to Easter service which was always joyous and offered triumphant music. I realized at a young age that this day was the only one that, being Catholic, the hymns would be upbeat and melodic.

We’d return home to again share a special lunch and to reminisce about relatives I had never met. I would soon-after rush outside to join-up with my neighborhood cronies. I could always frolic until dark, since North Carolina was yet the only state that honored Easter Monday. The next day was another holiday!

As I became a young man, Easter became less of a special day, except that stores were closed. Many folks either went to the beach or spent the day with visiting relatives. Or savored moody independence, like I did.

I usually slept late, stayed in my robe, and spent the day either fervently reading or watching some Easter classic film that was hopefully neither “The Ten Commandments” nor some cloying Jeff Chandler chestnut!

Then as I started my journey of drifting toward and away from serious romantic relationships, the day always meant some spectacular meal: a festive brunch or elegant dinner party with perhaps a dozen guests. Certainly it was a festive day but no one really thought of Easter, its history, or its intent.

We made merry and indulged, and nursed a wretched aftermath.

Of course now I am in my reflective dotage and the day has further evolved. Like all my peers, I am prone to embrace nostalgia and share tales. Jon and I usually fix a special meal, nothing extravagant, but something out of the ordinary. 


This year, perhaps the hospital kitchen staff will make good on their vow to prepare something indeed special. If not, we can enjoy the richly and serene imaginary from equally imaginary open windows. And dine separately together.

We both have such fickle appetites and limitations, that “n’er the twain doth meet!”

Jon will play his sacred music most of the day as he swoons with the swell of the chords and the organ. We will savor a few treats. And we will reminisce about friends and lovers who have passed away and relatives that the other has never met or probably even heard mention.

It’s just the two of us, the cats, and of course the Easter bunny. I doubt I ever stopped believing in her. Yes, I learned long ago that the bearer of such sweet sentiment, gentle nostalgia, and special delicacies had to be a woman: a gentle, patient, and motherly type.

But alas and alack. I will sadly not be playing kickball this year, although it is not for lack of want.

Happy Easter, my friends. 
The Easter bunny is an angel; it’s an unwritten law of nature and divine order, at least at Marklewood and in #3702.

Holiday Bow Jobs: Supplies Not Included

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I worked with a young designer once who, although she was incredibly gifted in matters of both design and detail, was rather innocent, naïve, and occasionally dim. I say that lovingly, matter-of-factly, and without the slightest iota of measurable judgment, I assure you.

Normally I would disguise her name as to protect her anonymity and honor, as well as shield myself from her scorn and revenge, but her very name is so apt in this situation that I shall no longer take the risk. I shall simply and most-fictionally refer to her as Beauxette. You, dear reader, may wonder most privately as to what proper given name could be so appropriate and quick to incite a blush.

One day at the office, Beauxette was preparing a holiday flier announcing her availability for home decoration and fluffing, as well her fee schedule to which she would gleefully add her hourly rate:

$75 to create a custom wreath (excluding materials); 
$250 to decorate a Christmas tree, or similar plantlife (again, excluding materials); 
$50 to create holiday flourishes intertwined in a chandelier; 
and $100 to create a seasonal mantle vignette (yep, excluding materials).

I think you get the picture, my friends. My friend offered a full-service holiday treatment for the home!

Needless to say, Beauxette knew her way around French ribbon and could tie an effulgent, gorgeous bow like no one I had ever or since met! Further, she adored Christmas and would certainly treat each assignment as if it were special and her only one … offering the job both uniqueness and full attention.

After completing her flier, she summoned me to proofread her rough draft, as I was the official grammarian at our firm. While she took a break, I corrected the few spelling errors, reformatted it a bit (perfectionisto that I am!), and started toying with various ideas for a better heading.

I had the naughtiest of epiphanies, if indeed there is such a mixed moment or sentiment. I typed in my fake title, with every intention of eventually returning to the project and creating a more suitable and tasteful banner!

I printed several copies and placed them on my coworkers’ desks, squelched any laughter, and awaited Beauxette’s return. She indeed joined me a few minutes later, read the “final” product, and was delighted: 
”Beauxette’s Bow Jobs”

She looked at me blankly as I finally let loose in an uproar that only could emanate from one as naughty as I! Oh my God: I was going to have to explain it to her! Reluctantly, I did. She was embarrassed, not because of any vulgarity but instead because it went right over her blonde, well-coiffed head!

She had no realization that she had fallen victim to (let’s say) the “aural” version of a trompe l’oeil moment.

Beauxette corrected the phrasing and we printed one hundred pristine tasteful copies of “Seasonal Stylings by Beauxette”.

She then hurriedly mailed them out, anticipating a flurry of responses, yet her efforts only yielded one such Christmas project. At least, it was for a full house of decorations, involving myriad rolls of festive ribbon and what must’ve been a mile of juniper garland. Beauxette did, however, share with me her reluctant irony in this matter. When she was finished, and her client was writing her a substantial check, she noticed her flier on the counter. As she approached it, she soon realized it was one of the original “gag” ones I had prepared. Neither she nor the client ever mentioned anything to each other about this most glaring of “errors”. She simply got in her car and came back to the office.

I, of course, was mortified: filled with mental images of humiliation, embarrassment, and tawdry discourse! Fortunately all was averted.

It seems as though Beauxette’s client was also innocent, naïve, and dim. In this case, I remark thus not-so-lovingly and perhaps indeed with a modicum of seasonal judgment!

“Beauxette’s Bow Jobs”. We all still smile about it, except for Beauxette of course. Then again, she was never fond of innuendo!

I think of my coworker often. That is especially true whenever I finish preparing a gift, with a particularly spectacular bow, with all its perfect and dramatic flourishes.

Don’t even go there, my friends! Don’t even look for the key to that filing cabinet!

(Image: “Red Ribbon” by David Stoupakis, 2006.)

I’m Reviewing the Situation: Which Way, the Query?

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I feel as though I should take September’s advice and look for those ageless life-reassuring sophomore’s books, and if I’m spent on such, step to “reaffirming” my quiet second look.
Life re-assuring is a calm, steady breeze;
Oh, your calm voice and gentle touch at once make gentle a “hard lesson”.

Life-reassuring is the denouement within Mr Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes latest venture; on which to “drag aboard” a bloody drip and a better grip.
Life-reassuring is the last question on an assessment test; in a non-related Human Resources Department.
Life-reassuring is its answer, my pencil down far; too quickly.
Life-reassuring is sharing my brood in a never-ending first scene of a novel; yet put to words.

But I digress. Take my Promethean demeanor straight to bed. Take two metaphors and call me in the morning. I’ll tell you what to do.

(Image: “Reading at the Sea” by Vittorio Matteo Corcos, 1910.)

Today’s Tomato Trivia, As if Tomatoes Could be Trivial!

060_1960_theredlistSupposedly (and we Southerners mostly agree), Chapel Hill’s Merritt Grill has the planet’s best BLTs and BLTAs. They need, however, both coat check and baggage claim procedures.

After all, One will certainly return. One prefers the Double BLT with avocado on artisan Rye bread. One is getting a stirring of “wee hour” munchies.

I have a local friend who cannot, for the life of her, determine what “T” represents. True, I exaggerate but her query has gone unanswered since 2005.

The best of both yellow and red tomatoes can and should be eaten as if it were a fruit. Take a meaty bite, as one might for a golden delicious apple.

Grandmother Dorothy used to say “to-mah-toes”, having convinced herself that she picked up the affectation while a schoolgirl in the Cotswolds.

She, in fact, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1904. When she left home for studies at Oberlin, she didn’t look back. That is, not until the last moments of the cool and aloof Eisenhower years.

It is blasphemously and potentially dietarily incorrect to use a meat-free and, thus, vegetarian bacon substitute.

A veggie BLT should be eaten along side a lactose-free milkshake. My mouth is freakishly watering as I enjoy the tastiest of dreamy visions. But it becomes a small drip of colorless substitutions and lonely calories.

As for palette-pleasing and gastro-lubricating, mayonnaise is the only appropriate condiment. One might “stir in evenly” a diced jalapeño or favorite herbs. But the mixture blooms if chilled overnight in your icebox.

Oh how we love the homegrown summer tomato. We recall the years that our B and our L commingled with unusually superb Ts, yielding a king-worthy sandwich.

Here in the hinterlands, we may wait as many as 7 to 10 years for tomato perfection.

This season, we have been extremely lucky. My beloved and I each consume at least one tomato every day.

However, we first bow our heads in respect and gratitude to Saint Norma Jean, the patron saint of both safe harvest and ripe yield.

Vive les tomates beaux!

(Image: “Tomato, Something Unusual is Going on Here” by Milton Glaser, 1966.)

She Must’ve Gotten Waylaid Against the Wayward Wind

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Finally! I have stumbled upon the Red Meat Fairy. Although she’s known by so many personas, I call her Delmonica. Before I Continue, I must shamefully  apologize to you, Gentle Reader,  and that wisp of a worn wailer, our Ms Grant.

Tomorrow, my beloved and I meet with what seems like the transplant team of the United Federation of Planets. I am weary of the drama. Quite literally, I might add.

However, I am confident that the results will be amenable to all parties, in this case “Vlad”, my former trivia contest handle. I learned many things from those marathon triviathons of yesteryear. I am much more competitive than I ever imagined. Further, I met Vlad who schooled me in the art and value of being incognito.

Unlike me, Jon is less confident about tomorrow’s summit. He’s a reluctant, silver-haired fretter of Edwardian proportion. At least he is fired up and focused. Seeing begets believing. Believing begets joy and melody.

And celebration may just warrant an obnoxiously thick steak grilled rare. That sassy and elusive Red Meat Fairy has dangled it to rouse my spirits.

So I will catch up with you, my friend, on the other side of Friday. Keep your fingers firmly crossed, please. I just want closure and a hasty return to my crest on the transplant list.

The background music fades.

Pray for us singers, eh Gogi?

Shalom.

(Image: “Meat Dancer” by Mark Ryden, 2011.)

A Good Day, Good Friday

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Were tomorrow Friday, my thoughts might be somewhat more relevant and my posting, timely. I apologize for my internal clock which has newly changed batteries and yet seems to be skipping beats to make a point.

The best of Friday felicitations from the sandbox, my friends. For some of you, tomorrow is a reflective holy day, a solemn step toward pending joy.

For others, the day becomes a euphemism as the start of a process, an ultimate new beginning, a resurrection if you will. For most of us, it will be a Good Friday indeed … regardless of its definition or intent.

And for an unlucky few, the day becomes unfortunate and simply a day of thus-pegged and rather pixilated irony.

However you may interpret, plan, or simply allow your day to unfold, may it be what you want it to be. And, more importantly, what ever you NEED it to be.

One lone Friday is but one day. 
I will spend my day in my own manner. I shall pay silent homage to Easters past and those folk who anxiously laid my foundation, and its many subsequent refurbishes.

Henry and I will revel in the brilliant relationships that grace my life today.
 It is those connections that fuel my soul, give me hope, and define my humanity. They also keep me stocked in sweet iced tea, okra pickles, and fresh pineapple.

My soul, my hope, and my humanity (as I humbly understand them) are going to make the most of the day and I shall call it a good Friday.

There is no such measure of time that is “JUST” a day. All days have measure and worth. Believe that!

What ya think, Lillian? Dark chocolate “peanut butter” truffles? Fruit-shaped marzipan? Jelly Bellies?

Doctor’s orders!

(Image: “The Last Supper” by Adam Lister, 2014.)

Ain’t Nothing Going On but the Mortgage Payment

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Naturally, Jon and I don’t believe in traditional, almost stereotypical room identities. The boundaries of bedroom, office, dining room, and den not only overlap quite a bit but are nearly obliterated.

These days, I rarely admit to anyone that I had been an interior designer for almost twenty years. I imagine that ambulance drivers, the men who installed heat downstairs, or even the home healthcare nurses all take a second look and study my long hair, whiskers, and mismatched clothes.

They whisper among themselves that I must be delusional. Eyes roll. Heads shake. As they leave the house, they all mumble something embarrassing and judgmental. The same folks are likely to call a supervisor and report all sorts of “goings-on” at Marklewood.

“I need back-up, Mavis. We’ve got a live one out here in the country. I think he might be some mountain man who wandered far from Stokes County.”

It can be laughed off as an all-encompassing final stage of the serious, but little known Howard Hughes Syndrome.

Besides, we couldn’t be hoarders. The kitchen and bathrooms are neat and relatively tidy.

Don’t ask.

We wouldn’t tell anyway.

(Image: Design Sketch for “Boudoir” by Maurice Dufrène, 1906.)

A Peculiar and Zoloftig Metamorphosis

I do not know what stars ascended or whose prayers were cited, but I awakened yesterday feeling terrific. Beyond that actually. I was energetic, lucid, and motivated. Hmmm. The agony of my pinched nerve was already beginning to subside. Frankly, if I had closed my eyes and allowed my imagination its passage, I’d probably guess it was back when I worked with Evelyn and Chrysanthemum (actually Nancy and Chris) in the most surprisingly stressful business of interior design.

We were all, as they sometimes say in the deepest of Southern annals, “decoratizers” back then. Jon and I were both happy, healthy, financially secure, and extremely employed.

And so it goes. And so it went.

Saturday morning, I didn’t feel like “the guy that lives down that long drive and needs a heart transplant.” I started to actually count my blessings, albeit it on only one hand, the one not communing with my pinched nerve. My dreams had been vivid and emotional with my mother and grandmother, the key players.

For a few moments after I opened my eyes and stared down that darned alarm clock, the two women seemed real and not a memory’s folly. I had to grieve all over again for them, but was still invigorated from the “visit” as it were. In the oddly offered “one word”, I was happy.

As I took my many morning medications, my Zoloft stood out. Yet it had never really had much effect on me. 200mg of “not much at all!”

I had still not pinpointed the Universe’s purpose for my mood. It couldn’t be random, nor could I be getting well. It was time for my morning iced coffee with the rest of the day free to ponder.

My voice has been stronger lately and not the strained prolonged squeak it has been. It was, for a weekend, indeed effortless to talk. I so took advantage of my vocal enigma and talked with a few close friends, my sister, and my cousin (who was two years older than my mother). Catching up is always revitalizing, except for the repetition of pertinent health news.

It was time for a call to my friend Laurie, who recently followed a job to Albany. I was anxious to express and share my jubilation about the recent District Court ruling, making same-sex marriage legal in North Carolina. It was inevitable. The various counties already had the proper forms and our conservative governor announced his plan to respect the judge’s decision.

Of course. the elections are a month away and he might think he can still convince enough democrats to defect. Although that “ship of fools”, I believe, raised its rusty anchor and embarked on its doomed Kathy Lee holiday two years ago. Is it naughty and unkind of me to suggest a convoy of dinghies. “10-4, Good Buddies!” 

My friend Andrew and I had had a month of unfulfilling phone tag … until Friday. After a few minutes of exchanging both questions and answers, we were both ranting. About the upcoming elections. And the state of the Mid-East. And the horrific beheadings. And the inconsistencies from state to state. And how we were each trying to resolve family issues (regarding the ultimate death of a loved one). And, finally, how we had spent well over thirty minutes in heated discussion. The last being quite an inappropriate state for a mid-evening.

My conversation with Polly was particularly satisfying. I knew, when her daughters were 1, 3, and 5, that it would probably be a two-decade wait before she’d be able to have a lengthy conversation. Although they were usually well-intended, interruptions were endless. Friday night, the wait ended and we caught up, both committed to try to resolve any lingering family dysfunction. (Please note earlier reference to both the deaths and the funerals of loved ones.) It was time for me to assign to her a perkier, yet tasteful ringtone.

By ten o’clock Saturday morning: I had emptied the dishwasher, filed all of my papers, and other oft-skipped missions. Normally, any one of these activities would squeeze the breath out of me. But there I was, subconsciously putzing around downstairs while my ponderances were passengers on LaLa Land’s “local”.

I actually gave up trying to make sense of my mood. Perhaps, it was best to neither tempt fate nor make sense out of that which can never be sensible.

Oh, my. I love my iced coffee. In the past few years my java consumption has dwindled from ten or more cups to just one, if any.

The outside cats were gathering at the the double glass doors, pawing the glass. One was climbing a screen to the roof. Little Yorick and the growing Beamer, however, waited patiently for me to deliver their AM victuals. The others reminded me of zombies.

And that, Gentle Readers, reminded me that the season premiere of “The Walking Dead” is to be on AMC Sunday night. That made me smile (In a Chicago or even Cockney Rebel manner).

A stint on Facebook was imminent.

I continue to feel robust, perky, lucid, and motivated.

(Images: by Colleen Parker.)

Et in Saecula Saeculorum

In Memoriam

Pfluffer Marie Markle (aged 11) of Marklewood passed away yesterday, August 1, from an apparent heart event. We were assured by his physician Sandra Grant that he felt no pain.

Master Pfluffer was born in Raleigh and adopted shortly thereafter by Jon and Mark. He remained uncoupled throughout his adulthood, fathering no children and, subsequently, leaving no direct descendants. However, his mother, Nana Pfluffer, still resides in a currently unknown village somewhere in France.

He is survived by many friends: Adoptive Parents, Mark and John, as well as:
Housemates Henry, Hermione, Claudia as well as
The outdoor pusses including Eve, Beamer, Yorick, Kitty Carlisle, Grisaille, and a new litter (that remains yet to be named). Also
Raleigh and U.S. friends Janet, Nancy, Patrick, Brian, Cricket, and both Laurie of Albany, New York and Marty of Hudson, Iowa. Add to those folks, Pfluffer’s many International friends including: Lynn, Sibylle, Dr Bob, Claire, Andrew, Ellen, Joy, Lynette, Anthony, Fiona, Billyboy, and many Facebook friends.

He is predeceased by fellow adoptees and cat angels Samuel, Thomas, and Ishkabibble Markle.
Interment was held Monday, September 1 at Marklewood. The Memorial Service is to be private per the deceased’s instructions.

Pfluffer, who was Jon’s special, beloved and constant lap buddy, will be extremely missed. He would sit on Jon’s lap all day long when Jon was meditating or in the evening whenever he would watch television. His special interests included: birdwatching, pursuing mice, and scrutinizing the printer when it was in use.

As of late, late last night, a visitation had not been scheduled.

Pfluffer Marie Markle
July 7, 2003 – September 1, 2014
Forever Beloved

Summer’s Glorious Peltate Nasturtia

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We love nasturtiums here at Marklewood, but have long-abandoned any hope of maintaining their seasonal glory past the early “Dog Days”. July’s swelter can twist the healthiest of trailing blooms into a writhing braid of viney carnage. Nonetheless, their flat, peltate leaves fascinate Henry and me, as does the perfect palette that a generic multicolor may yield. The nasturtium is always ornamental, often herbal, and sometimes edible.

They give me great joy when they cascade from the rims of weathered aquamarine villa pots that adorn our back stoop.

This year, however, circumstances prevent me from undertaking my usual and obsessive gardening. Yet the yard is a lush oasis of leafy grandeur and effulgent underbrush. The hydrangea are weighted with “Carolina” blue pons. My most cherished of houseplants, the ancient begonias Ruby and Ruby Too, continue to thrive with the former now flaunting a four foot span.

The tea-roses that survived Jon’s marathon 2010 hospital stay continue to proudly appoint a distant birdbath. And lavender impatiens trail down the front of a gargantuan pine that guards our humble home, maintaining vigilant sentry a mere eight feet from our door.

What we need is more color. What I want is a tray of nasturtiums. I need to dig my hands into the pungent potting soils if part of some communal seeding ritual. Nature beckons.

Alas. A lone artist rendering must suffice until the next Spring planting season. I am already “feeling” it and plotting placement of such  understated, yet elegant cress.

Ah, yes. I can visualize at once that fetching “Viennese Teardrop”, Luise Rainer, in some long-misplaced cinematic chestnut. She wears tattered gardening gloves, a sensible smock, and a beam of satisfaction: “The nasturtia are in bloom again.”

Fie! I couldn’t resist the obvious, Miss Hepburn. Your days lie ahead.

(Image: “The Season’s Last Nasturtiums” by Janet Laura Scott.)

I Shall Call It A Sabbatical and Pour Some Iced Tea

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I suspect that I’ll be getting up from a less than luxurious slumber in four hours. Jon and I will need to prepare for the drive to Chapel Hill, with my surgery to commence “promptly” at 6:30am. The doctor also said that they will not wake me for 24 hours afterwards, to jump start the convalescence process and allow for proper observation. I’ve never truly been to such an induced state as LaLa Land so at least that part doesn’t terrify me.

In other words, you probably won’t read anything from me on Tuesday or Wednesday. The LVAD implant surgery takes 6-8 hours, so I expect to be on hiatus from Tartuffe’s Folly until the end of the week.

There’s no telling what anesthesia they’re using but I wish I had it now. The procedure’s reality has firmly set in, along with the anxiety and fear of knowing they have to crack a few ribs. I’m also stressed that I’ll be in the hospital 3-4 weeks. At least Jon will have a rest from taking care of me for so long! By the way, Henry must know something is up; he has been glued to me all day. He has a phobia of not being well-stocked in treats here at Marklewood! I jest not.

Good night! Sweet dreams! You will find something from me in a week or so.

Unless, of course, I have internet capability while I am in LaLa Land.

(Image:“The Great Weevilwrought” by James Clowder, 2012.”

Past The Dead Cow a County Spell

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When I finally accepted the inevitable and moved in with Jon a dozen years ago, it was not unlike some perverse twist on the “Beverly Hillbillies” saga. Jon lived out in the country, in the hinterlands of outer “Raleighwood” … and, as I used to joke, at the end of the second dirt drive just past the dead cow.

That auspicious Sunday still gives me alternating guffaws, at the situation’s mere outrageousness, with shrieks at the abject horror and the rekindled stress. But with “both” echoing in what soon would be my memory, my caravan arrived at the secluded Marklewood. Jon maneuvered a large moving van while others navigated six carloads of clothing, perishables, and the more precious of flowering urns. 

I had always been a “city boy”, usually living in the thick of things, especially when I lived in New York or Boston. Even in Greensboro, from where I was now relocating, my ‘20’s house was only eight short blocks from the slowly-throbbing heart of the city. I knew better than to presume that any transition I was now undertaking would be easy, stress-free, or rapid.

Of course, in all the many days and nights I had spent at Jon’s, I rarely caught glimpse of any neighbors. Yes, I heard engines rev, dogs bark … and the melodic chimes of some ice cream truck further down the road a spell! Yes, I adopt colloquialisms speedily as co-dependent children from a linguistic, yet dysfunctional family often do! (I can still hear my father’s trained and perfect resonant pitch wrapped around a “howdy” or two.)

There was an eclectic mix of homes in the vicinity: small, depression-era cottages; ante-bellum farmhouses with significant acreage; mid-century brick ranches; and a few grand early Victorian country houses with stately landscaping. My curiosity drifted toward the few of what I prefer call “portable bungalows”, the iconic Southern mobile homes. I was surprised that Jon’s house stood apart from all the other local structures … quite literally. Nestled in the woods about a “holler and a half” from the road stood what was once a large barn and converted to a small house in the ‘30’s.

Marklewood, which I would later christen Jon’s house out of fondness and irony, is modest but teeming with charm: a hand-hewn staircase, clever and oddly-placed built-ins and niches, and both an upstairs and a downstairs sunroom. I have always been able to effortlessly touch the ceilings, but generally make no attempt to do so. Missing are the little structural extras such as closets, kitchen counters, a front door. However, I never allow such minutia to strain my joy, well at least not on precipitation-free weekends.

The next few days were arduous and stressful as we unloaded and carried inside my lifetime’s ten rooms of acquired furniture, accessories, Persian rugs. In the tradition of my mother’s family, I had acquired many, many collections: notably my books, quirky art, and porcelain grotesques. I mention those three specific collections because it was the very transition to this house that made me at once realize I had grossly over-accumulated and created thus many specific challenges. But, at that very point in time, it didn’t “make no never mind” (as they say cheekily in the South). It was simply more important to get everything first indoors, as providence would surely later guide each item to its fitting place.

It took three of us two full days to unload that truck and assemble a modicum of order within the house. It took at least a month to get everything neatly tucked away. And it took probably another six months to find everything again! Organization itself was an arduous process that took over five years to achieve.

Before long, however, the novelty and freshness of the situation had worn off. I had abandoned comparisons and nostalgia as, frankly, my life in bigger cities no longer had bearing on the present.

I became oblivious to the dusty dirt roads and the inconvenience of shopping for provisions, and learned to savor the sounds. There was always a chirp, chortle, rustle, or snap emanating from somewhere in the horizon.  And I now relish those intimate sounds of nature and find that there is more life swirling around me than there ever was when I lived “downtown”!

Of course, I wince when I hear Bachman-Turner Overdrive tunes echoing from down the road, but that rarely lasts long as the folks out here go to bed rather early, I presume.

That’d be early except on Friday nights — such as tonight. The Raleigh Speedway is four miles away and I can sit in the sunroom, nursing an iced cappuccino, and hear the dragsters and motorists clock their laps down the road a county spell. It’s a comforting sound that I anticipate each spring and would certainly miss, should we ever leave Marklewood.

In that way it is not unlike those city noises I first missed twelve short years ago, when I mistakenly felt it was all too quiet here. I savor the stillness and serenity, as well as the remarkable absence of commercial signage, tooting truck horns, or an illuminated sky in the horizon.

Incidentally, my sense of directions out here in the hinterlands has finally been honed to both make sense and be direct. However, my surround has made me creative in citing landmarks. You can add to the “dead cow” Ye Olde Bait Shoppe (forgive me for romanticizing), the lakeside grist mill, and my favorite: the Mobile Home Estates a few miles away.

Yes, this is indeed Marklewood and it is my home.

Surreal Estate Dabbling

Understatement is all relevant and, here in the hinterlands, stands alone in such a residence.

For a soul who is nourished by the Universe’s full buffet of colors, the garden is moved indoors. This cottage “imaginaire et pittoresque” would be surrounded and well-guarded by a sentry of ancient oaks, pines, and fruited walnut trees. In a mossy glade just off the stoop, there is a weathered wrought iron table on which the pusses sleep and, under which, they hide.

It thunders and threatens rain. The acreage is now vacant, ready for the next time that the palette is in hand and Marklewood is creaking just a little too often.

The threat is no longer idle.

While the Universe pounds our roof into submission, I survey the clutter and dust, shaking my head. I know that Jon and I are just two more budding “hoarders without borders”.

Henry rubs against my leg until I lift him to my chest. He purrs and, in Cat-onese, confidently suggests: “It is indeed time to call Mini Maids by Miss Haversham!”

Those savvy pusses!

Free to Be: St Ann of the Bridal Shop Window

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One more than pleasant by-product of retiring early (albeit with a meager monthly SSI cheque) is no longer needing to adhere to someone else’s rules, aesthetics, and codes of behavior and appearance.

I really need not shave unless I have a fancy country funeral or somber city wedding to attend. Seven weeks is my current record for not even trimming my goatee. Similarly, my hair seems to get longer and longer in between cuts, although I do have Mullet Prevention Services through AARP.

Yes, I now believe that exercise pants (of the flannel drawstring variety) are appropriate almost everywhere. Beware of a challenge. I’ll proudly wear stripes with plaids, and sole-ful chamois slippers.

I still have limits but they are all mine these days, with perhaps a dash of Jon’s. Thirty years of employee manuals and always obsolete handbooks have been recycled. (The give-away is always the chapter devoted to gloves.)

As Bohemian as I have always been, with the bravado of a Catholic, Southern gay liberal Democrat with a Yankee German heritage, there have always been situations that I’ve spared any taint of post dinner chat. I simply enjoyed a Rusty Nail and politely nodded in accordance.

So when at my desk, I wear my favorite robe, a very tailored Anichini number. Once perfection, and now tattered with grey wool, it sports an intriguing and subtle paisley pattern. It is elegantly finished with long cuffed sleeves, four buttons at the top, and a hem that barely grazes my slippers or my bright chartreuse O-T-Cs … betrayed by a cigarette burn from a melodramatic night in the summer of ’99.

Where is that Marlo Thomas these days? I miss “That Girl” and even refer to Pfluffer as Pfluffer Marie, as in Lew Marie, Ann’s father. Give me a day or two. A have two friends in New York that will help me present the existential values of the ’60’s comedy, and the underlying motivation for the relationship conflicts between Ann and Donald.

Of course, in a new millennium remake, I could wrap myself in a silk kimono-esque robe as this boy has, but I’d have jewel-toned Tommy Hilfiger “snuggies” dotted with anchors on as well. I’d save the tribal but chiefly ornamental head-dress for my beloved. Jon would certainly blurt: “It’s a cranial fit!”

Marie, we’ll toast you with what may be red wine but resembles an Albany attempt at an amber moonshine. (State of the art stills are just across state lines in Vermont.) The bottle leans inward, however, toward that Dapper Benjamin, a mishap-in-waiting. À votre santé!

“Free to be You and Me.” Marlo, my dear, you are an icon.