There’s No Place

‘If Bixby starts running about,’ said Jane, as she rushed out the door, ‘well, call Lorna.’ A quick Goodbye Love, and she was gone. I eyed Bixby in the kitchen bent over his doggie bowl, lapping up water. I considered Lorna and her dawn-to-dusk work habits, how her chances of being at a client’s house this evening are extremely high. Me and the doggies, Jane and her church choir, everyone happily assigned to their chosen groups, awaiting whatever fate.

A strange day. I awakened at 2 AM to the loud and implacable voice of my business partner, hectoring me about money. Within a few seconds of consciousness, I recalled that there is no business partner, that there are always dreams, and often there is sleep. I returned to the latter. But not entirely. Dreams stir up stuff better than a Cuisinart. And there it was, nocturnal stuff in the morning light. Of which there was not much, owing to the advancing clouds. With 40 days and 40 nights of rain having fallen in about two hours, the streets of Menlo Park were aslosh. Jane and I gingerly picked our way toward sushi. Having exited my premises because Lordes, my housekeeper of 20 years, no, make that 25, was going about her business. While David, handyman went about his, plumbing and wiring and generally setting the stage for the arrival of appliances. To whit, a dishwasher, a gas cooker, fridge and microwave.

The rubbish crew had come and gone at a pre-dawn hour, while in bed I listened for their progress in the carport. I had assured myself of their pathway to progress the previous evening, as Jane and I returned from chorus practice. They are very exacting, the rubbish guys, no messing about…they must pass between parked cars with a sort of master rubbish bin, a huge thing into which my piddly bins empty. No asking them to wait while one re-parks, by the way. There is one shot at rubbish emptying, and if you blow it, well, you are entirely out of luck.

As for Dave, we stood in the post-sushi afternoon discussing knobs. Jane had told him to put new ones on the upstairs kitchen cabinets. I had e-mailed him not to. No problem, we happily reverted to Jane’s instruction. For mine is lacking in gravitas. I do not care, that is the thing. And this not caring is nothing to brag about. We are preparing an apartment for rental, trying to make it look good, function well, and generally coax a considerable monthly amount out of any tenant. Business. That is what this is about. Not to mention pavement, flood drains, and a host of other matters relating to surfaces. The parking area needs to be repaved. The kitchen cabinets need to be refinished, according to my brother. The terrace needs to be re-bricked. And at least I did remember to insure the place, though not to cancel the insurance that Tom is carrying.

I am carrying Tom’s Ford Mustang around my neck, in a manner of speaking. Selling a car, everyone assures me, is a straightforward matter. The California Department of Motor Vehicles acts as a stalwart intermediary, decreeing ownership to lie here or there. One completes forms, encloses a check, and it’s a done deal. Tom’s car registered as my car. And since this quadriplegic is as well equipped to drive a Mustang as he is to pilot a 747, the Ford is destined for the auction block. Thing is, I have encountered a perfect bureaucratic storm with regard to this car.

Lorna and I feverishly went about completing the DMV forms and enclosing a check for the right amount, the whole thing posted to Sacramento for prompt attention. And all of this would have gone swimmingly but for two essential facts. First, I wrote a check on a bank account that has been closed for at least two years. The blank checks are still stored in my cupboard, or were, until Lorna disposed of them. And there it was, death echoing from here to Sacramento, the checking account closed after my wife’s passing and the car derived from Tom’s. Second, regarding the other factor in this bureaucratic mess, is that Americans have lost their collective minds around the supposed issue of ‘big government.’ Our motor vehicle department in this particular state is so understaffed and underfunded that once routine transactions now take…well, months. And my particular transaction is not routine. It is riddled with error. Tom’s car may have lost half its value by the time all this is sorted out.

In short, I have inherited more than a building. I have inherited a new life. At this juncture, much of it seems refreshingly practical and down to earth. No dreamily thumbing through the New York Review of Books these days. Time is in short supply. The rent is due. But before it’s due, there must be something to rent and someone to pay rent. The fabric of my life is rent, that’s the other thing. Quite pleasantly torn in many ways, as I am torn. Between a cerebral life of words and thought, and a Home Depot life of fixtures and receipts. At some point, a decision must be reached regarding solar panels on the roof. Semi permeable pavement in the parking area. And, for the near term, what to make of Bixby’s barking. Is he trying to tell me that he has to pee? To pee or not to pee, that is my question 24/7, and surely it must be Bixby’s too. Maybe not. Either way, I am behind in my reading, behind the eight ball, and strangely happy.

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