The Joy of Perfect Pain

Mountains and clouds

Looking northeast toward Pueblo lands

Well, what do I do now?

This old adobe has no built-in closets, but one end of the added-on bathroom has a sturdy shelf of heavy boards that goes all the way across. There’s enough room underneath to hang two lengths of conduit from chains. My wife gets the left side, I get the right. The clothes are hanging right behind you while you brush your teeth, in other words. Underneath the clothes on the left side are covered plastic bins with sheets and towels. The laundry baskets sit on top of those.

On the right side, I have the vacuum cleaner, smaller bins with odd bits of hardware, stereo cables, phone wire, coaxial cable, and vacuum cleaner bags. On top of those, a pile old shoes I can’t bear to throw away, because what if I need to paint a fence and don’t want to get splatters on my boots? And hey, that old pair of Doc Martin sandals just needs a new strap. Look, the soles are hardly worn! [koff-koff] A little dusty, though.

I store things on the shelf above. There’s my 1968 Yamaha 300 acoustic guitar tuned to a semi-open D chord that I haven’t touched in years (inside the case, of course), bins of old Farr family photos, documents, a box of boxes for mailing stuff, a couple of other boxes that are just too big and sturdy to get rid of—I might need them to keep more shoes or magic rocks—and way over on the left, where I put a couple of towels across the boards, is where the cat hides almost every day. She gets up there by jumping onto the sink, a hop to the windowsill, and finally straight up! We call that “the aerie,” as in, “Hey, where’s the cat?”

“Up in the aerie, I thought.”

It’s awfully dim up there. If she’s way in the back, I can’t see her unless I stand on the edge of the bathtub at the other end of the room. There isn’t anything for me to hold onto except a spring-loaded bar for the shower curtain, and I mostly know better than that, so this is kind of dangerous in anything but dry bare feet. We don’t always know if she’s really up there, then, since I might not elect to find out. The resulting edge of mystery is both appropriate and irritating. No doubt the Wonder Cat appreciates it, though. She’s always up there. It’s her home away from home, a private refuge.

I had one of those, but in the abstract, where I usually function best. That abstract is a place of wonder: you put yourself in there and nothing ever hurts, and you can switch out scenes until the cows come home. At least I can. This has to do with the tensions of the Taos housing scene. The flip side of that could be, okay, you ain’t exactly bustin’ ass here, brother, and I know that. But sometimes it’s just all too much, and I wonder why not find a cheaper town and settle this once and for all? A place we can afford right now, somewhere my honey would be happy and I could do some goddamn work. If I got rich, we could pack up and go anywhere we pleased. If I didn’t get rich, I could probably still pay for dental bills. I mean, the idea has a little merit.

But no, no, no, no, no…

For one thing, I just found out it wouldn’t work. There was a house for sale I actually thought we’d like that seemed affordable—this being several states away—so I looked it up in Google street view: very nice indeed. Distracting! Tantalizing, even. The collective never looked so fine, just end the flagellation with a heavy hit of USA. I’d still be who I was, right? I calculated mortgage costs and felt pretty good. Then I remembered to check the property tax: Holy Mother of God, so that’s how they pay for civilization! The hypothetical mortgage payment increased by more than a third. We couldn’t afford it, after all, never mind the moving costs. No aerie for you, you whiny bastard. Wake up!

It hit me pretty hard to leave the abstract. That was my ace in the hole.

Of course, a move right now would take a lot of time. Just enough to pull my entrails out, I figure. After I’d bought a lawnmower again and painted the upstairs, I might remember how to write, and what I’d write about was how I bailed out in a fit of self-denial to punish myself for letting us down. Any idiot can go somewhere and buy a house, real men provide and look out for themselves. I am a man and I am real. And then there’s this: I’ve been pounding the keyboard on this stupid housing theme for years. It’s like a zombie’s got me in a stranglehold. And yet that’s not the main attraction.

Once again I see I’ve missed that everything is perfect and my struggle is a story. The Universe has cut off all escape that leads from what I want and need to do, the only way to handle such as I—it positively reeks of love and genius! To the zombie goes my guilt, then break his fucking arms. May I write many books and sail the Seven Seas.

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  • Rita March 8, 2014, 3:36 PM

    One thing about being older is that it is nigh impossible to make new friends anything like the old friends left behind. i do wish you could find a better rental or a f…ing house. Geeez.

    • JHF March 8, 2014, 7:03 PM

      Yeah, the friends thing. I still think you can meet new people, but you’re right. It’s not the same, and I miss them.

      A better rental would work with the right sort of landlord. We had one like that once: caring, competent, a friend, could rent from him forever. It’s just all so tense and crazy here because most owners would rather sell. Everything is tentative.

      I’d rather buy. We’ll pull something in.

  • terri March 8, 2014, 4:04 PM

    writing like this is Farr opium for me. Feline aeries, perfect!

    • JHF March 8, 2014, 7:08 PM

      Thank you. It’s coming right along.

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