Thursday, October 30, 2008
One would think that there are Man Places in the city, too, and there are, but not like in the country. At least not that I’ve ever found. Lowe’s and Home Depot are not Man Places. They are too big, too diluted in character to be a contender. And here is my disclaimer right up front: this is my perspective. Another woman might march right into a Man Place and have no problem with the vibe at all, in fact not even feel the vibe, so strong is her sense of self and her place in the world.
Well, that’s not me. I have a fair amount of anxiety upon entering a Man Place and if I had my druthers, I would never do it again. Not knowingly at least. But, I am sent on a lot of errands during the building of our house. I’m not up to the task of, say, installing plumbing without some tutorials that we don’t have time for, but I am capable of driving to the plumbing supply store—a Man Place!—to get the needed parts while someone else keeps working on the project. (I will not name the Man Places I’ve been to out here, though someone familiar with the area would be able to guess the places I’m talking about. There aren’t that many stores, after all.)
The other day I had to go to the lumber supply store to buy a case of floor glue. I pulled into the gravel parking lot with my tiny, hatchback Honda and parked it between two large pickups. I got out of the car and walked to the door of the place while being watched by two men with their hoods up standing out back where the lumber is stored. They don’t wave, they don’t leer, they just stare. I went immediately into my, Oh god, I’m in a Man Place comportment. Don’t give a little hi-hi wave, don’t smile, look straight ahead and act like you know what you’re doing. There. Okay. I’m in the door. Oh, shit, this is the wrong door! Damnit, I do this everytime.. Okay, walk around the front of the building and head straight to the desk. Don’t try to find this stuff on the shelves, because you’ll never do it and they might think you’re trying to steal something.
To be fair, once I make contact with the employee, or as is often the case out here, owner of the Man Place, things go smoothly. They want my business after all. They are there to help. Everything is O-KAY. But the customers (all men, always, in a true Man Place) still look at me askance. That happened in the plumbing supply store the other day. It was so thick with Man Place vibes in there I thought I would explode from the pressure.
I knew it was a bad sign when I walked in and saw no one. No one except an older man, very grizzled, who sat down on one of the stools they have at the checkout counter for customers. (That there is another bad sign, don’t you think? Is service so slow you need a place to sit down while they compute your order?) The man had two pipe pieces on the counter in front of him, so I assumed that someone was helping him, or would be helping him soon…I took my cue from him, in other words, and had a seat on the stool closest to me and waited. Patiently. The man and I stole glances at one another, but no direct eye contact, no smiles, no way. After several minutes, some employees started appearing. All of them were apparently busy scuttling around the back aisles of the store, fetching things for called-in orders like mine, and for this lone guy. One employee asked me if I’d been helped yet and that started my transaction. Ends up I was glad for the stool as it took a goodish amount of time to rack up the bar codes. In the meantime, I became almost dizzy with the pressures that ensued.
The bell that sounds as someone enters the store kept ringing as man after man arrived. (Who knew that so many people needed plumbing supplies at 4:00pm on a Tuesday? And why aren't any of them women?) One of them looked like a real character with an extremely long grey beard and long hair under a fedora-style hat. The guy ringing up my order called to him by name. The man answered him pleasantly, then stood, hands folded in front of him, about a foot away from me and waited for his turn. So patient. So close to me.
Then another single guy came in. Then a whole group of guys. That group stood around behind me and the bearded man, milling and talking low and being all guy-like. I was keeping it real cool by now. Do not look at anyone! I’m not a robot, though (see here for a very funny Onion story on Cindy McCain) and so I did turn to glance. One of the guys smiled at me. I smiled back, but did not think it a good idea to really smile and get all relaxed and start chatting people up. Please, please, is my order done yet? What’s the damage, c’mon! was all I could think.
$449. 56. Whaaa? Are you sure you counted all those parts right? Oh god, no, don’t do it again. Here’s my credit card. Just get me outta here.
The guy who rung up my order helped me to the car with all my (expensive) supplies, and we got it loaded into the hatchback (including a ten-foot section of pipe) and he was really nice to do that and the guy who smiled at me was really nice to hold the door for us and nothing is really wrong with Man Places, I’m just not comfortable in them.
I will get John back for all these errands to the dreaded Man Places. There is a cute little quilting supply shop I know of and one day, during a quilting crisis, I will make him go fetch me some fabric. “Look, you can sew this quilt if you want, or you can go get me the needed supplies. Which will it be, buddy?” Oh, he’ll be shaking in his boots.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
"Can I just use catnip," I asked, knowing that Feliway would cost me.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Well, here is the same garden today: Ta Da! I am pleased enough. John dug up all the rocks and I put them into formation and hauled away (almost all) of the little ones as agreed. Our partnership worked pretty well. Next year, this is where the cinnamon ferns and hostas and hydrangeas will live. I transplanted the Shooting Star hydrangea that my sister, Kathy, gave me on the Fourth of July. I hope it survives. I had it in a large pot all summer, and just put it in the ground last week. Not sure I’ve given it enough time to establish itself in the big cold world. I will protect it with burlap this winter and keep my fingers crossed.
On to antiquing successes—we found a clawfoot tub for the new house. If you’ve ever looked for a clawfoot tub, you know that there are plenty around. It’s just that they come in a variety of conditions. John bought one several weeks ago and hauled it home in the back of the truck. Trouble was, it was six inches shorter than the standard size. I sat in it and my legs could not extend. (I’m not that tall.) This simply wouldn’t do. I am a hot bath girl in the winter time. I love the ritual of filling the tub with lavender salts, lighting candles, and sinking into the amniotic embrace of hot water. I’ve saved a good deal of money on prescription anti-anxiety drugs with hot baths over the years. So, the search continued.
We had to go to Lowe’s (again) on Saturday, and I suggested we stop at the antique stores on the way to see if they had a clawfoot. Can you believe it, but they did! And it was the right size and it had the most spectacular, original crackled finish I’ve ever seen. I kept marveling about the crackle finish and John warned that we better tell the guys not to scrape it off. He said he could hear them saying, “Hey, we scraped most of that chipped paint off for you. There’s still a little more to do.” And sure enough, when they were getting it out of the truck on Monday, the guys laughed that it was the first thing they said when they arrived and saw it there—“Well, it needs to be scraped, but it’s okay on the inside.”
A few more treasures from the antiques stores... Another red & white plate for my random, red & white plate collection (posed with a kitty):
And a bowl with gold polka dots, hel-loh!
So, if you are in the market for a clawfoot tub to wash your kids in (or if you are 5' tall or under), let me know. I've got just the thing for you.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
This week, the days have been lovely and warm enough to work outside by the time the sun hits the zenith. John and I did so this past weekend. I put a first coat of paint on the front door of the new house and he cleaned up behind the workshop in preparation for stacking wood. Still, I am aware that the stakes have shifted in favor of winter and I feel almost a panic somewhere down deep. I feel like a squirrel wondering, have I stored enough nuts in the right places? I walk around and see things that I thought I’d have plenty of time to do, like till up next year’s garden, and plant the rock garden with ferns (or shell those walnuts!) and realize that it is too late. Those things will have to wait until next year. The other part of it is a feeling of, hurry, hurry, save this! I’ve got to get the paint out of John’s workshop or it will freeze. I’ve got to put the amaryllis bulb and the voodoo plant in the root cellar. What else…what else? I scan the yard for S.O.S. signs.
Inside the cabin, it is a different mood. I’m feeling that familiar surge of creativity that has always come to me in the fall. I still have several weeks to wait until I can have the new house to store non-decorative things like file boxes in, but I got busy one night last week despite that fact. I’ve had these plain white pillows in the cabin for a long time and have always wanted to warm them up, so I took some old yellow and red toile fabric and some buttons and had at it. It is amazing what color will do to help tie a room together. I’m certainly not done yet, but it has already helped the burgeoning color scheme of the cabin’s main room.
Next spring, I’ll probably have a pile of half-finished projects like those pillows, that I thought I’d have plenty of time to get done over the long, dark winter months. And they’ll have to wait until next year, because the outdoors will be calling with all of its chores and charms. I hope I’m that lucky.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
And then we were off to San Diego. John and I drove our rental car to San Juan Capistrano to sight-see at the Mission before meeting up with Karen. I visited missions near Santa Barbara with my parents when I was a kid. They bought a painting on one of our trips and it hung in our home when I was growing up. I loved looking at it and remembering the cool stones and hot sun, the yellow adobe and fuschia flowers, and the endlessly interesting play of shadow and light across the pathways. This shot reminds me of that painting, and is, for me, the quintessential Mission image:And there are those fuschia flowers (with the addition of a sweet hubby).We stayed in a little motel by the ocean that night and watched a sunset. You can't have a travelogue about California without a sunset shot!The next day we continued down the coast and met up with Karen in San Diego. We took another hike--this time along the coast. We began up high and travelled down to the beach. It was another glorious day, although a little hot. Thank goodness we didn't run out of water! Karen!
We returned to LA after a delicious meal at a Mexican restaurant that one of Col's friends recommended--El Agave. We each had a different mole. I wanted to lick the plate, it was that good.
On our last day, we took it easy with Col, laying around, eating one last meal with one last bottle of wine. And then we flew home.
Thanks to Col and Karen for your hospitality and energy. It was so good to see you both. Friends like you are priceless. Thanks, California, for your rugged beauty and for giving me a new reflection of myself. Hello again, Ohio, my undeniable place of heart. It's good to be home.