Wednesday, November 30, 2005

You shall know by inhabiting

Taking this back for a second, this entry from my notes of the first night.

October 31 (first night in the house)
On the screened porch. Chilly, but with wine, cigarettes and candle. Feel like a lucky interloper in a space not yet mine.

The traffic on 9G's quieted.
Carrie Haddad (former owner) just called - distressed to reach me at her number.
I told her they'd switch the landline soon.
She said, “I hope so.” And hung up.
Hard to like a woman/former owner who leaves an oven so grease-coated I can't begin to see through the window. Hard to warm.

Enjoying first night. Now. Now that I've unravelled a can opener out of the “Cutlery” box in the no-order barn and eaten soup from the can.

Rusticating. Wish I'd pioneer-ed properly and opened the soup with one of those “G” shaped blades rather than the OXO thing.
Vannessa D'aou on, no call from R yet.
Can hear the train but see no lights from here.
No headlights either, a relief. Hate to find they cross the front rooms like search lights.
From this evening, amidst my skeleton set-up of 2 tables, 3 chairs, 4 rugs – I'm enjoying the space.
Or, maybe, I'm enjoying putting things away.
Alba's “Congratulations Courtney” is on the slate board. Miscellaneous candles lit throughout to dispel the sad staleness of Nick's (former owner) smoke.
He smoked with abandon the last few days of clean-up – he'd been relegated to the porch for the 20 years of inhabiting the house. I imagine I'd have too. Like a final pee for ownership.

With my few things on ledges and counters - soaps in the bathrooms, my saint and some books - it feels like we're (me + house) growing together. A little.
A dog would help. Even a fish might I imagine.

I feel like I've come through every ringer this last weekend. House + Circa Trade shop + car.

Probably the most dramatic for its actual danger angle was driving back tonight from the shop this afternoon.

Just past 4 I realized I was doomed. Witching hour, daylight savings – darkness sure to fall before I reached home. Nothing to do but, with good-byes, head to the car and steel for the drive south, home.

As I'd feared (hunched forward in tense anticipation of this new inevitable), I passed my driveway. Surprise, it comes upon you, surprise you're already past it.
I pulled off onto the narrow slope of land tween 9G and my fence, tilted askew and blinker still going, and sat.
And thought – what would the seasoned driver do?
Cars passed. I sat. Hazards? Get out? Continue to next place to turn? Not sure if my reversing would freak out everyone and was the ONE thing you do not do as a driver.

(Note to self: Put big, bright, flashing lights on the barn. So I can see my target well in advance of over-shooting it.)

Can't sleep – continuing notes from the library floor atop high pile carpet, below comforter.
Feel fine now. Solved the bump in the night of the dryer buzzer. Callas only audible on the high notes.

Have realized why I'm drawn to buying properties then inhabiting them (vs. flipping).
It mimics travel.
Same rush, the leap, and the first terror as you come in low over an entirely new terrain that has no shred, yet, of you marking it. From the initial fear (it looks so gray, it could be any city, New York's finer), there's the why bother, how terrifying. And, for the most part, the terrains are indistinguishable (from the air) anyway. Hardly worth the effort, stay home.
But.

You will know it by inhabiting it.

Save for sleep-away camp (though with hearsay and a brochure), I can't recall anything akin to the new home's leap into a life unknown.
(Even prep school had trial overnights with friend's older siblings, and college was an overflow of opinions, information, reputations and, again, the siblings). Even a car you may rent, read about, test, lease and borrow so as to know.

But, the largest of all commitments financially and impact-fully (discounting marriage, which does allow for test-drives, pre-nups and other back alleys), can only be known by inhabiting.

I can hear the train. It's tracing the Hudson's course a mile to my house's west.
(Will I live hear so long I know its direction by its whistle?)
And there's a plane – to Albany? North from the city on an arctic route?
And now a dog (whose?)
Traffic's thinned (thank god). Now just every few minutes.

I had to unplug the stove. A 1970's model baffling in its electronics. With a buzzer eternally set to a clock that circled back (eternally) to 4:11.

There are, indeed, NO lights out back. Which means (now I realize), I have no neighbors (just the road + frequent passers-by). If only I could shift my house from the road too and confirm our isolation by picking up our skirts and, showing some leg, and moving just west and inwards.

There's no guarantee of a clean oven even. For $411,000 you aren't guaranteed a clean oven.
Further: the light switches will be distributed irrationally (front door lights behind/within door of study), or askew, or link to nothing you can see.
Windowsills (between glass + frame) are strictly as is: peeling paint, abandonned pupa, residue of mowings.
The shower may/may not retain the worst sort of vestiges of owners past (and beneath the seat too).

For $411,000 you still get:
someone's last noodle, kidney bean, in the kitchen drain strainer.
The shower head dribbles and the brown (caulk, tub, faucets) will not just scrub.
No one looked behind the fridge, beneath the stove, at the far corners of the cabinets. There are still traces. No getting around, the house retains.

And here on the library floor (literally), I can now attest that no one painted the rough undersides of the pine shelves. You can see the coverage thin as they descend below eye-level.
The dog's hair won't come out from between floor and molding.
There's a Goosebumps sticker on one of the boy's room light switches. With finger nails and polish remover, I can just get it off but there will be residue.
The ceiling fixtures (did I not see them??), are ghastly. They represent an economy-sized generic that I'm now seeing throughout the house. Everything left behind is enormous, nameless, big box (to the 10 gallon bran + raisin box used for a BB target on the lower lawn). This “arty” couple I bought from was (pull back the curtain), cheap and updates were done on weekends, by hand and, possibly, decades ago. The rust was allowed to take, the contagion of brown across the dryer's top allowed to spread, the contact paper to shrivel back from its original points of contact.

It's all tired, old houses do get tired. Why would someone pass on a house without some decay, rot at its edges.

But, really, new home buyer addressed:
Would all this knowledge have changed anything?

No, no I'm sure not.

For, like travel after all. Can only know by inhabiting and so, by the process, know just a little more of the self.

C - now on the cusp of second month of ownership.

1 comment:

wtofd said...

I adore the last two posts. Do you remember Medford's Paul Theroux? He wrote of wanting to be on moving trains always but hating to disembark. In spite of the whistles in the night are you struggling at staying in one place?