Two things are on my mind, this extra day in February, 2012.
The first thing is the kitchen sink. Or, more properly, what is in the kitchen sink, that shouldn't be.
Last night, as I was washing up the few dishes from the day, so the kitchen would be a little nicer when John got home from New Brunswick, I noticed that the sink wasn't draining properly. Hell, it wasn't draining at all. I finished the plates that were left, and waited to see if the water was just going to sit there, or if it might slowly seep away, as it sometimes does. If it went down far enough, I wanted to try a household drain cleaner, before resorting to the expense of the plumbers.
The water went away, but the drain cleaner didn't work. This morning, I made an appointment with the professionals. They'll be here, far too early tomorrow morning, to clear out that drain, and take care of a few other little odds and ends, here in what I sometimes call 'Boy House'. Which may, itself, be part of the problem.
Well, think about it. First, there were all those floods, about which some of you may have read, in earlier postings. An upwelling of ground water, right through the joints of the concrete basement floor, usually every two or three years. Which upwelling we've addressed (we hope) by installing the two sump pumps, and the French drain system, around the perimeter of the basement floor. Some of the basement detritus -- mostly art materials of mine, and pieces of blown glass I made years ago, in one hot shop or another, for as-yet-undreamed-of sculptures -- are still huddled under blue tarps at the far end of the driveway, up against the garage. A pile which never gets any smaller, because I hate even to look at it, let alone actually touch any of it.
And I've also noticed that, since John and I have shared a living space, in one city or another, there has been what I refer to as a 'water event' in our abode. This stopped-up sink is just the merest sliver of a problem, compared with, for instance, the spectacular failure of the basement water heater in our Rochester apartment, which gave way one night, leaving water all over the floor, of course. Or, when we'd finished our advanced degrees upstate, and moved back to Jersey City again, the day the ceiling in John's bathroom collapsed. Luckily, he'd already showered and was at work in New York when this cascade of wreckage fell. It happened because the upstairs neighbors, instead of using the laundry in the building's basement, installed their own washer/dryer. More or less. Proper drainage seeming to be a concept they couldn't quite grasp. By the time all the plaster and lath and tile and grout had finished dropping into our tub, the remaining hole reminded me of the Russian installation artist, Ilya Kabakov. It was like having an unwanted skylight. I kept expecting someone to hand us down an upholstered, wing-back chair, maybe in a dull blue velvet, through the roomy gap, and after relaxing in it for a few hours, we would hand it back up again. With room to spare. When repairs finally began, they took months.
I've even joked that, if we ever relocate again, we should choose the most arid spot on earth, because water will find us. A month after settling in the Atacama Desert, we'd be millionaires, selling off the torrents of water we seem to attract. As we have, here in South Orange. (Actually, I just remembered that there was even an ongoing water event, in my place in Hoboken, when John and I met. I had a fourth-floor walk-up, with the roof right above me, and because the hallway light had filled with brownish water, I'd begun thinking of the fixture as a kind of overhead conceptual aquarium. It just needed a small catfish, but I never got around to that)
And then, it dawned on me -- we really do live in Boy House!!! Of course! We are center stage in the classic yin-yang struggle, the cosmic search for balance, which comes up regularly, just to make our lives a little more interesting! Why didn't I think of it before? Here we are, two adult male humans, and two adult male American short haired cats, with nary a spot of whichever the feminine is, of the yin-yang duo. Of course!
And we are all such boys -- the cats do nothing but sleep all day, and then eat like pigs before going back to bed. On the human end of things, John and I wonder how two gay men can have so little of the decorating gene we're supposed to inherit, along with impeccable taste in clothing, and the inborn sense of where to dine, and when. Only last month, after ten years of living with a bare bathroom window, I took down the perfunctory emergency shade -- a sun-bleached purple towel -- and put up actual, real human drapes. Our naked living room windows still present our lives to the public (thank goodness the front porch is deep, the house is back from the street, and the indoor lighting is bad); neither of us seems to identify personally with the state of the kitchen floor.
So I've started buying fresh flowers, and I try to sweep more often, and really do mean to put the clothes away the same week they're washed and folded. It's a desperate, haphazard effort to assuage the churning of the yin (I just looked it up), an appeasement of the restless pool of water I just know is lurking, right under the basement floor.
The other thing. Very embarrassing. So, of course, I have to tell you all about it.
It started like this: years ago, the Rochester daily paper ran one of those human-interest pieces that recycle every few years; this one was about local folks who made their living in unusual ways -- channeling the dead, or deciding what a client should eat, based on the numbers in their lives, or by casting astrological charts. In this case, in a bid for something like respectability, a team of journalists spread out, each visiting one specialist, and reporting back on the experience. The most compelling report, from a self-professed skeptic, was about the astrologer, who seemed to have an uncanny ability to pin-point life events to within six months of their actual occurring. So, of course, I contacted this practitioner, and set up an appointment.
[Sidebar here: though I was going to church regularly at the time --and even teaching Sunday school -- I was fascinated by this alternative way of knowing the world, especially as there seemed to be at least some independent corroboration as to a kind of accuracy in this method. And the way I see it, if there's a Creator out there, caring specifically about me, that Force will use any means possible to be part of my life, wouldn't It? Why pick only one radio channel for the life-saving broadcast?]
The reading, for me, was both familiar, and intriguing, and the next year, I returned, for an update. Even after we left Rochester, I stayed in touch with this man, and tried to arrange either a yearly meeting, or at least a taped reading, for the coming eighteen months or so. Aside from the past life stuff -- things about horses, and unfulfilled religious obligations (!?) -- I have found these readings to be, if not exactly prescient, then at least thought-provoking and generally helpful -- even if only to assure me that whatever horrid thing was happening at the time wouldn't last forever. And then, there was the forecast for last year.
It was going to be wonderful. In the precise time-line he prefers to use, this astrologer said, with some emphasis, that between my 64th birthday and six months later, I would experience a tremendous upsurge in interest in, and purchase of, my creative work -- so much so, he said, that I might actually consider changing residences, both to facilitate greater productivity, and because I would be able to afford it. Who doesn't want to hear that they're going to win the lottery, and by dint of creativity, instead of sheer luck?
And, it seemed, through the beginning of that year, that things were, all by themselves, working in an almost magical way, to prod me toward the possibility of this forecast actually coming true. I had more exhibits that year than ever before, and had the good fortune (or so it seemed at the time) to stumble upon an entirely new body of work, which I was able to feature, in what I still think was a wonderful a solo exhibit, in Maplewood NJ, for the entire month of October. Which, of course, was when I turned 64.
Collectors came to the opening. Gallery folks. People from major museums. I gave little private showings, to those who couldn't get there during the scheduled receptions. The work was documented, and spread all over Facebook. You've all heard of Facebook, right? And I kept on working too. All the while, trying not to notice how often I was looking over my shoulder, expecting... the event.
Which, of course, didn't happen as predicted. In fact, it didn't happen at all. If anything, instead of rolling around in art-generated wealth, I've watched my bank balances shrink to where they might be mistaken for shoe sizes. And how much more embarrassing is it, that I must tell you that I'm still holding out -- maybe there was a mistake in his math? Maybe, because I was born in the Central Time Zone, and live in the Eastern Time Zone, things will be later? Is it just me, or does anyone else detect the pungent aroma of desperation?
What I think both of these little tales point to, in different ways, is my longing for something in which to believe, for something which will give me at least a convincing illusion of safety and control. Some force which, if appeased correctly, will reward me with a little extra margin of safety (and I hasten to note -- I am fully aware that I live a life that, by world standards, is indistinguishable from that of most princes. And I'm not even nearly in that infamous 1%), as I muddle my way toward the inevitable.
But, frankly, I know full well that bouquets of flowers and a clean kitchen floor won't stop whatever needs to occur from occurring. You, of course, knew that all along. No matter how precise the forecast, I'm still left with the knowledge that my life -- no more or less than any other -- is as fragile as an egg shell, as friable as a day-old sand castle as the wind picks up. I think I've already mentioned my feelings about the efficacy, at least in my own life, of prayer. These days, at the oddest, most ordinary moments, it's as if the lights will suddenly go up, and I see, much more clearly than I would like, just how temporary and, in some basic ways, unreliable, all of this business of living is.
So, in spite of my obvious failure to have appeased the yin, or to have seduced monetary success, I went down to the basement today, and started working on some support systems I'll need, to present three of my suspended figures, for a Lenten program at John's church next month. In spite of feeling guilty about spending yet more money on things I'm not sure I have room to store, I've set up one of the braces, and plan to sketch together a second one tomorrow. One unsteady foot in front of the other. One guarantee-free day at a time.