It’s easy to drift into a nap, of an afternoon…and not easy. An excessive flutter of extroverted activity is enough to exhaust anyone, I always say. Particularly of the practical nature. My brother, not one to sit around, rose from his Seattle armchair the other day, declared his intention to drop in on me, and did so, with remarkable haste. Plunging me into practicalities, the very ones I am drowning in anyway, and clearly need help with. But now, with a human witness present, there is no escape.
Because, one after the next, my brother spotted certain defects, and significant ones, in this apartment house renewal project currently under way. Most notable, the very lovely redwood planting box that the contractor and I had sort of swooned over, such was my own delight at half thinking of a project, even somewhat envisioning it, then the crowning moment, deciding that this touch, my touch, would really pull the apartment house façade together. So intoxicating was all this that as soon as the long redwood box was complete, planting earth already deposited in it, something in me was oblivious to the structural failure creeping through the boards. Which, it must be noted, was occurring on two axes. In one dimension, the planks were bowing out, and in another they were cracking. This after only five days of existence. Which may not say much about the lumber quality or the carpentry behind the redwood box. But says much about me. I didn’t see it. To me, the whole thing was my cute little planting box. There it was, box-shaped and redwood. What else was needed?
In any case, my brother got me going on this one, and the contractor got himself redoing it, and now there is a sturdy, reinforced redwood planting box just in front of the apartments. As for bringing the façade together, this is all nonsense, but enjoyable nonsense. People snatch up apartments in this neck of the woods like tickets to Glyndebourne. Never mind. I am enjoying making the place look nice. Even ensuring that the façade is more than that, doing what it takes to get this 1950s box through, say, a major earthquake. Well, that may be overstating it. Shoring up the foundation would be a more accurate, and modest, account.
As for the landscaping, I am chomping at the horticultural bit. The contractors keep insisting that they have to finish painting first. When this “first” will occur is always a matter of some mystery. And then there is the strange position of being in between, say, our suburban nursery and the house painting crew. Your plants are here, and when can we deliver them? These calls come with mounting frequency. I keep supplying the wrong answer, and worse, forget the last answer I gave to either the nursery guy or the painter. Hurry, hurry, I keep thinking. It is good that the principal contractor is now returned from Peru.
Very good, because my brother had a suggestion for him, literally on his way out the door to the airport. This had to do with a decorative structure, a sort of sunscreen, over my apartment terrace. The thing needed to be bolted in a particular way. No nails, my brother added. Well, wood screw should be okay, the contractor insisted. Maybe, said my brother, considering this behind dark glasses. But just to be sure…he even specified the type of structural bolt to use. I had never heard of the latter, by the way. Nor did it occur to me that clamping one board to another would ensure the structural integrity of the wooden frame. In fact, in my mind something very different was going to occur. But no, Richard and the contractor were on the same page, as it were, and I was still thumbing through the index. I have no doubt that the contractor will do it my brother’s way, or come close. In fact, the latter is all one could hope for. And with that, Richard was gone, quite a number of things put right, but it was all exhausting, that is the point. Time for a nap.
Nothing else really being required, for once. After all, thanks to my brother’s presence, I had gotten an inordinate amount done, hadn’t I? So what was now required of me? Nothing, except the passage of unstructured, goal-free time. Such a rare thing in my life. Some would say that such achievement-free zones, purposelessness the order of the day…that these are essential to that thing called creativity. Whatever that is. And at this moment, who cares? That is the point. The point being pointless. Beside the point. Time drifting or progressing or shifting or eating itself. Doesn’t matter. Nothing does, not really, just for this little while….
Here the setting is important. I had stretched out in my reclining chair. To put a finer point on it, my chair had stretched me out. It is an electromechanical thing, after all, controlled by a button. It tilts forward to help me stand up. Extends backward so that I can recline. Which I was doing now. And it struck me, how this chair, wonderful though it is, would hardly be required…if some asshole hadn’t shot me in the spinal cord. Well, duh. But this obvious fact hit home in a particular way. Must have been something I read. In fact, in Salon.com. An article about how gun advocates have gotten so “tired” of hearing from victims. Once I recalled this, funny how awake I was.
And to any good purpose? Oh, yes, for anything that writes itself on life’s blank slate…that is a thing to notice. What purpose? I’m not exactly sure, not at this point, and that’s okay. I am 66 years old, a particular stage of life, and the old answers may not be the current answers. Do victims of gun violence know something that others don’t? Are we particularly qualified to discuss the gun issue?
Note, by the way, that America’s gun lobby contends that the families of the Newtown victims are being used as “props.” A couple of congressmen have suggested that people on the receiving end of gun violence have no place in the debate. All this suggests to me that shooting victims hold more power than we realize. But if so, what kind of power? And what should we do with it?
Good questions. Meanwhile, such ponderings may be admirable, but one must not give up the fight. Shooting victims as “props?” It’s really not much of a concept. One of the NRA’s strongest, most vocal advocates is Susanna Hupp, survivor of a shooting spree 22 years ago in a Texas restaurant. She got herself elected to the state’s legislature on the strength of her views. Actually, I’d like to talk to her. Our conclusions differ, of course, but I respect her experience. Doubtless we will never see eye to eye. But we have seen more or less the same thing. And she has demonstrated one clear fact about shooting victims. It’s not about keeping them out of the debate – it’s about keeping the “wrong” ones out.