"...in our bungling messy world every night shall be lived as if it were the last, and every day as if it were the first."
on my radar
things I have learned
to cook in VT
free loot this month
[xmas gifts don't count]
napkins & bread
travel in '99
W. Topsham, VT
Ft. Mitchell, KY
Apple Creek, OH
St. Cloud, MN
Olympic Peninsula, WA
The party has begun. I think my insulation work paid off because I got the cabin overheated to about 73 last night, while it was four degrees outside. This was probably not necessarily to the pleasure of my guests, some of whom kept sneaking out on the back porch to go "look at the stars..." There were eight people sleeping here last night which is some kind of West Odd record. Two more are staying in town and eight or nine more arrive today. The cabin is small. Small and stuffed with food; everyone brought enough food to feed themselves for two weeks, and I already went shopping. If something bad happens, we will have enough candy and brownies and champagne to last us until we can learn to fashion our own stone tools... I am up early baking bread and getting the coffee and the woodstove going [in that order] before everyone gets up and starts noticing that there's frost on the inside of the windows.
My guests start arriving tomorrow and I have just realized that I live in a cabin, not a house. As a result, I am trying to make it as homey as possible while warning my guests not to expect much. For the past few evenings, I have been obsessively snooping around the place with my newly-made candles trying to figure out where the drafts are coming from and why the place won't warm up above 65 without the furnace on. Of course, it is 3 degrees outside, so that has something to do with it, but still, the air's just a little ... fresh.
Today it's sunny as hell [ha ha Seattle!] so I climbed under the house to check out the scene under there. This was when I had my cabin realization. My house is supported almost entirely on 4x4s which are themselves cemented onto cinderblocks. Insulation is hanging everywhere and huge sheets of styrofoam litter the place. I was raised with a healthy fear of fiberglass insulation and am happy to report that you can get a small bit in your eyes without going blind forever.
The space is not much more than a crawl space, so I spent a few hours on my back stapling insulation up, duct taping the insulation on the ducts [that's actually what it's for, cool!] and layering the sheets of styrofoam against the outer walls and buttressing them with 2x4s as I looked through holes that went straight to the outside.
Another realization I had while under there was if the whole place fell on me -- which I am less worried about now than before my sub-dwelling explorations -- they would never find my body. In Vermont, no one can hear you scream. I sealed the place up Cask of Amontillado style before realizing I had entombed my duct tape in there. Fortunately, like every good artist, I have a spare roll.
Signs of the Vermont Apocalypse:
On the brighter side, I got to Z today in the catalogging project I've been doing for the library. I started with A in November, and have been working on it with one other person. Tomorrow I start non-fiction. Also I finally called the state attorney general's consumer protection office and filed an official complaint about my fuckup roofers. The last time I spoke with them, two weeks ago, they said "How about we do it in the Spring?" and my reply was unprintable. Since they have more than $3500 of mine, I can take them to real court if they don't get going. Hopefully this is a scarier prospect to them than it is to me.
I leave Vermont in less than two weeks.
I don't celebrate Christmas really. Of course, this is an absurd statement because it's like saying you don't celebrate the Super Bowl; everyone around you is going insane anyhow, so you have to at least deal with it, even if you don't diplomatically recognize it.
Ever since I stopped spending it with my family, Christmas has been about movies and food. Last year I was watching movies with about 15 people and eating Chinese food bought with my returned gift money. The year before that, I ate waffles and went to the movies with a bunch of friends, then ate Chinese food, then went home to see more movies. I was anticipating this year being pretty much the same, only out here by myself instead of in the big city. This year I was that person at the general store on Christmas eve with a six-pack and a few videos.
I got up early and decided that I should finally head to the homeless shelter with all the boxes of extra clothes I have. The shelter was open when I got there -- it usually is closed from 7 am to 7 pm -- and they told me there was a meal happening at the church if I wanted to go. I figured I'd go help out, but when I got there there were as many helpers as eaters [about 30 of each] so I helped a bit and ate a bit. There was an amazing spread. The folks at the shelter said it cost them nothing to put on, everything was donated.
When I mentioned where I lived, the helpers told me that they were going to be delivering Christmas dinner to a family out that way if I wanted to drop it by on my way home. So, I stopped by Elsie's place with a shitload of food. Elsie is an older woman who lives up Spencer Mountain and has lived in Orange all her life. She has a splendid looking school bus in her front yard. She gave me advice on my garden ["don't plant summer and winter squashes near eachother, they'll cross-pollinate"] and invited me back any time. I headed back to the shelter to try to help them fix their computer, and they sent me home in the evening with armloads of extra bread and napkins. Later at night I finally watched my movies [I recommend Office Space] and had one beer. Made a few more candles, too. I don't think I saw a single person I knew all day long, and -- with no disrespect to anyone I have previously spent the holidays with -- it was a great day.
I spotted a pigeon feather in my firewood tonight. There is a huge flock of pigeons living in my barn, In fact, they seem to have a perfectly symbiotic relationship with the swarms of flies. Pigeons die, flies eat them, pigeons eat flies. How tight is that? I had to pick through all my firewood to make sure I wasn't burning a pigeon corpse by accident. I can see it now, spending Christmas eve at the truck stop until the smell gets out of my house. Right now it is three degrees outside and seventy degrees in the house. Neat.
I feel like I am going for my Adult Person merit badge sometimes just by living out my day to day life, but there is always something new and surprising about living in the country. Tomorrow I will be able to see if my ice candle scheme worked out. In the meantime I am making regular candles, to further mess up my kitchen. I am scenting them with some of the voodoo oils I rarely use, so I have I Can You Can't candles and Jinx Removing candles and, of course, Stay at Home candles.
I think even if there was a dead pigeon in my firewood I wouldn't be able to smell it by now.
The thing about owning your own house, especially if you live in it alone, is that if you drop something behind the stove you will eventually have to go get it and clean it up, or move. I was always a messy smudge-faced kid. I liked to play outside a lot and wear my favorite t-shirts day after day. I got poor marks in personal hygeine in elementary school. Do they still grade you on hygeine? As an adult, I try to keep myself and my things a bit more tidy but I am losing the battle. It's a combination of the woodstove ["is it Ash Wendesday?" "No, Jessamyn's been heating her house again"], the loose distinction here between indoors and outdoors, and the kitchen.
I suddenly realized that in less than a week I will be having a lot of people in my house for a few days. I have three plates and am low on peanut butter. I figured I'd do some shopping and food prep now so I could spend next week making candles and hoarding batteries. So, I had a kitchen-trashing three burner evening as I prepared pasta sauce [tomato splashes, chopped onion going everywhere], granola [oat explosions, there's always danger when you get the honey out], rice [don't they make glue out of rice?] and more juice [why does my cider always immediately carbonate itself?]. Today I have a cooking hangover and a kitchen that looks like it was ravaged by hungry hedgehogs. But, I also have ten quarts of sauce in the freezer. And if the kitchen proves too tough to clean, it's mine; I can always just repaint it.
I also made it in and out of Howard's Friendly Market without incident.
The solstice is my big holiday. Up with the sun and try to spend a lot of time doing outside-y things. I was back in MA with my family [see my sister's loom, cool huh?] and spent last night at my Mom's. This morning we got up at 6:30 and went for a walk in the fields around the old homestead and looked at deer tracks and piles of squash gone to seed. Now, after a great sunset, the full moon is out -- the alleged wicked full moon -- and I am gearing up to be running around with spazzy moon energy until nearly dawn.
A brief note about the OTHER holiday: when I was at my family's places, I opened a few gifts [I always ask for nothing, I am always ignored] which were remarkably well-chosen -- they can ignore me if they continue to have this kind of luck. I gave my Mom a drill and my sister a thermostat. Practical gifts. To do this, I had to go to Sears. With the exception of their Craftsman tools and their lifetime warranties, I don't care for Sears much, I care for them less now. Basically one thing we have to thank the burgeoning information economy for is even more hassle around the holidays. Anyone with any acumen, marketable skills or typing ability is working someplace in high tech. This leaves the service industry jobs for the non-typists. The guys I dealt with when trying to find my drill were slow. Nice, but slow.
A side note: I rarely ask for help in libraries because I usually have to sit helplessly as the librarian tries the same five steps I tried before ascertaining that no, they really do not have the book I was pretty sure already they didn't have.
In Sears, I got to watch the Sears guys look through the same piles of drills I looked through before loping off to the back to look some more. They were gone a long time. A really long time. I started messing with the Nordic Track machines. Who uses those? Then I started taking pictures of myself messing with the Nordic Track machines. When the guy came back with my drill, I was balancing my camera on a hastily constructed pile of pliers and using the auto timer to get pictures of myself in full pseudo-workout mode, while seven other people waiting for this guy's attention were in line at the register. I hope I brightened their day some. If this is as bad as the holidays get, I think I am doing okay.
Okay, itís post-drama now. I am in Boston hanging out with my sister after having dropped off the Exceptional Houseguest who fixed one of my broken CD players and made me laugh a lot despite a stressful week. He also became a strong data point against naming December the Month of Masculine Hassle, which it appears to be shaping up to be otherwise. A big thanks to everyone who offered to help me out with my little problem, it appears to be mostly fixed now, though there is a good chance I may be out of a caretaking job come April. Just seems to be an even stronger argument for moving here and becoming a raspberry farmer, though I am still mulling over my options. Got any interesting ones?
The weather dropped to zero this weekend which means your power steering freezes and the snow squeaks when you step on it. With the big windows in my living room [aka The Terrarium] my house still can still stay pretty cozy, though I am grateful for the electric sheets.
Still have more room up here for the Billediub. I am expecting about 15 people so far, which doesn't sound like much until you consider that it's 10% of the population of my town. Anyone who wants to make last minute plans to get out of the city, feel free to be my guest.
My life is getting a little dramatic lately. Since this isn't that kind of journal, and because I belong squarely in the if-you-can't-say-anything-nice camp [at least publicly], and because I have a houseguest coming for the weekend, I am going to take a few days off. In the meantime, please amuse yourself with the antics of my alter-ego Jessamyn "Web Celebrity Media Whore" West while Jessamyn "Hermit Bread Baker Country Girl" West gets some R&R:
Additionally, if anyone is in Seattle and wants to make a deposit into the Cosmic Karma Bank by helping me out with some sticky logistical issues [I am here and the hall is there and some things need to be done], get in touch, I'd sure appreciate it.
Since I am almost out of rubber cement after creating and sending a record number of postcards -- perhaps to spite my destroyed mailbox -- I will now tell people I am an artist instead of a librarian, at least until I get a job.
I had a friend in college who was working on his thesis project and feeling sick and went to the doctor. The doctor could find nothing really wrong with him and was perplexed. On a whim, he asked him what he had been eating. My friend thought for a while and said "whiskey and Cheetos." The doctor diagnosed him with impending scurvy.
I went to the supermarket today to fend off my own looming scurvy. Someone informed me recently that potatoes and nuts are not vegetables, so I figured I was in trouble. Parked the car carefully and set the emergency brake. Shopped. Was taking my loot out to the car, daydreaming about celery and cucumbers when WHAM. I plowed my cart right into the all-seeing sliding glass doors [I was too quick for them, you see]. The doors pop open in an outward direction, rather abnormally, when you ram your cart into them. Everyone turned around and gaped at the weirdly hanging door. I quickly rebattered the door into its correct position. Everyone continued to stare. I did a little soft shoe and made a small bow & then headed for the now open door. I know they call the place Howard's Friendly Market, but I seem to have nothing but trouble there.
The icicles outside my house are doing some really strange things. I feel like I should be hawking tickets or something like they do at the Mystery Spot: "See icicles grow in completely weird directions!" Lord knows all I have ever wanted to be was my very own tourist attraction...
My neighbor called up last night and apologized for saying we should be married. I have put the machete back where it belongs. Thanks for your concern.
My confluence is up! If anyone feels proficient in Perl scripting, Alex could really use some help getting the graphics to come up in their own pages with captions -- as it is, the captions are semi-hidden in the ALT tags. Anyone who wants to go confluence-hunting with me, just give a holler. Have GPS, will travel.
The full moon on the Solstice is supposed to be so bright that you can drive around at night without your headlights on. Little do they know that I do that around here every full moon. Have you tried it? It's freaky. The road really is bright enough that you can see it to drive on it, and everything else outside suddenly seems right there with you, instead of the outside split into that which you can see in your headlights and everything else out of range in the blackness. Makes you kind of feel like a dork for even being in your car, really.
My mailbox took a hit from the snowplow last night. It is in pieces scattered around my lawn. The mail that had been in there is now buried somewhere under eight inches of snow [why was I putting mail out on Saturday night? good question.]. I'm going to have to resume going to the post office to pick up my mail which should probably get me a bit more plugged in with the community out here. Speaking of community, I just met another one of my sometimes-neighbors, a guy from MA named Joey who has a cabin across the street. Joey was at Woodstock this year, so we swapped my riot vs. your riot stories again. He brought crazy neighbor Jack with him who shared with me the information that he [Jack] has a huge penis, and thinks we should get married [if it were only that simple!]. Joey, to his credit, told him to knock it off, but I am starting to see some good reasons for getting out of here before everyone goes completely stir crazy.
I burned a book today. But first, some context...
I headed out to Western MA on Thursday to visit my good friends from college, Matthew and Michelle. They had been to the J18 carnival/protest/riot in London this summer and I went to swap my N30 stories with them. M&M live in one of the few households that has more books than my own, so I feel very at home there, and always learn a lot when I visit. I was introduced to the term "subculture tourists." Matthew also told me that the line "first world, ha ha ha!" actually comes from the Zapatista demonstrators chanting as they protested the austerity program imposed by the IMF in the aftermath of the financial collapse. It is also the name of a good book about the same subject.
I had big plans for my trip there -- go to the coed Hampshire sauna, visit all five college libraries, see other friends -- but in the middle of my visit I got some fairly bad news regarding the Odd Fellows Hall and my continued employment there [more on this when it's a bit less fresh in my mind] and I wound up spending a lot of time glued to my email and on the phone. My friends, being true friends, were fine with this, but I felt a bit out of sorts.
I headed home today to find that it was snowing like crazy hell in VT. Gutless has new snow tires, but is also built like a box of shredded wheat when it comes to wind resistance, so I skittered all the way home. In Seattle, when your car skids you worry about hitting another car, and cash and insurance hassles. In VT, when your car skids you just pray you don't wind up in the river [guardrails? what guardrails?]. When I tried to build a fire it would keep blowing out, so I needed to really get it burning. I lit some crumpled newspaper, but then got the bright idea of throwing some of my recycling in. At my dump, we can recycle everything except plain old paper, so I generally burn mine. There was a book that had split down the middle and was basically useless in with the recycling. I tossed it in without really thinking about it. It sure did blaze. You can just call me the bookburner. You know the joke about the sheep, right?
Boy am I happy to be back in VT. Singing in the car happy. More of the same general mania that I've been stricken with all month. Things that made today kick ass: matzoh ball soup, flannel lined pants, home made granola, pop radio, Gutless the Car, free downtown parking for the holidays [down from 25 cents for five hours, a real savings!] the great color old pumpkins have when viewed against a sky that threatens snow... oh yeah and the nice folks at the census.
I went to take my second census test today. I was the only person who was taking only the supervisor test. Most folks had to take the first one as well. I'm not sure why they automagically got to test for supervisor, I earned that right! I think they were mostly war vets, or other government spooks. I got this impression when Mr I Have Five Of My Own Pencils Even Though They Give You Plenty Of Free Ones asked if he could "...um...consult with some people" in the other room before the test was given. We were in the VFW Hall, fer chrissake!
I got to take my test in the corner with my own proctor. I think I will never make supervisor; I was laughing too hard at the questions. Well, some of them were hard because there were actual judgement calls to make [hire the Chinese guy with more schooling, or the army vet with more education experience?] Others were basically testing your ability to read questions. The first one that got me going was discussing the difference between a group home and a family home. Basically in a group home everyone isn't related, or there's more than ten of them, or they have to walk through each other's bedrooms to get to the house [sounds just like where I grew up]. The question was "Which of the following would be considered a group living situation?"
A. A family of ten living in a cave [I burst out laughing here]I guess the point is that people living in caves are still Americans who deserve to be counted, damnit! The last question was about a computer and said "If you are typing at your computer and the keyboard sticks, what is probably at fault?" with the answers essentially being software, hardware, the office environment, and my no good boss. See what this question is for? Once again, I took my scrap paper with me.
I went to my father's party yesterday. He had forbidden his friends from talking to me about the WTO protests, but they did anyhow. Even the postmistress here in West Topsham asked me about it today. The last word on it here, for now anyhow, comes from my email today:
I also brought about nine bags of clothes back with me. My family always seems in possession of surplus everything. Since I frequently operate at a stuff deficit -- or just hate to pay for things that other people would be throwing away or have seven of -- this can come in handy. Most of the clothes I'm going to take to Ruth's, but I may keep a few things for myself. I'm using the lefthand column here to keep track of the irregularly appearing bounty that has become a regular feature of my life lately. I can't keep a regular job, but I can wish for steel wool and have it appear on the sidewalk.
I take my census supervisor test tomorrow, wish me luck.
I have not set foot outside of this house since I got here Wednesday night nor have I put on any clothes more substantial than pajamas. My cold is slowly waning. Tomorrow I head to my Dad's 60th b'day party to hobnob with family members. I figure if I have any trouble there I can always claim some sort of post-riot-stress-disorder brought on by something in the tear gas -- the stories are already starting to fly.
I thought I'd take some time to mention some of the things you might not know about the WTO protest, or at least the part I took part in:
So you may be able to understand, even though I have a serious live-and-let-live mentality when it comes to most things, that I was happy to read that the world trade talks collapsed. I'm heading back to VT in the next day or two, I'm still having a difficult time remembering what time zone I'm in.
Most of my email lately concerns the WTO events. People have been very supportive. This is a far cry from all the media coverage which seems to consist of things getting broken and a lot of people complaining about agitators wrecking their nice city. Did you know that the cops who were involved in the protest had to buy their own riot gear? I'm not saying we should pity them all, but there are many sides to this complicated issue. Here's a letter to the editor that I wrote to the Boston Globe today in response to their dumb-assed article entitled Seattle Caught Unprepared for Anarchists:
To read Friday's front page article, you would think that the word anarchist was synonymous with "violent protestor." As a participant in Tuesday's actions against the WTO, I would like to point out that a majority of those engaging in non-violent civil disobedience were anarchists -- or, as your paper calls them "self-declared anarchists" as if that isn't redundant. Granted, we don't have membership lists or elaborate hazing rituals, just a commitment to direct action and autonomy from external governmental rule. However, we are organized, as Tuesday's action clearly showed. Perhaps this was overlooked in your paper because the thought of a large well-organized group of people who are also opposed to centralized government could seem somewhat scary?
Were you at WTO? Were the police misbehaving? Report it to the ACLU.
I am recovering from an ungodly headcold brought on by too much standing in the rain, compounded with the cold weather, with an extra helping of tear gas for good measure. Asthmatics take note: stay away from tear gas at all costs! I was doing my best until the gas started seeping into the Pike Place Market. So, I'm wheezing and recovering with plenty of grapefruit juice. You can see my very few pictures of the protest [intermingled with some from the procession a day earlier] here. Also, check out the Independent Media Center for non-corporate media angles on what was and is going on. Here's a note I got in email from my friend Rebecca that sums up what I've been thinking: