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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Weeding the Garden

Tomorrow Mr. DD and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We chose the summer solstice to be married on as a symbol of our love and the productive and promising parntership we were embarking on. Ten years later our love has endured but mid-life crisis and creative stasis are the likely culprits impairing our professional lives. These dark clouds pull us down. At least we are both in a slump. It's harder when one is riding the wave and the other is lost in the tidewater. Like the image above, from a Sam Shepard play I really loved, these times of faithlessness are universal, so southern, so familiar.

Mr. DD and I are both very much like those sleeping plants that will endure neglect almost indefinitely but as soon as the rains come or someone takes it upon themselves to encourage their growth with a wee bit of care and nourishment they flourish. We have tried to be that for each other and that is enough to keep us going but it isn't enough to propel us off the creative plateaus we both seem to be stuck on.

Oh, its a good bet our ideas are worthy of pursuit (have you been to the movies or an art gallery lately?) but there is that existential WHY? What does it really matter one way or the other? Perhaps we aren't hungry enough or ambitious enough anymore. We used to think it mattered and that was enough.

One thing I did about ten years ago was try to cultivate healthier friendships. I had a lot of crazy friends whose lives were always full of drama and as a consequence mine (always behind the scenes) was equally dramatic. These crazy makers were interfering with my work and goals do I decided to make some changes. It was a good thing in the end but it was hard. I just walked away and left the garden behind.

During my 20's and early 30's there were times when I wanted to walk out the door and never look back. I don't miss that. I don't feel like that NOW... well maybe sometimes... a little... but like then, it passes. For one thing I have Mr. DD now and I would never leave him. Together, well, it would be good for us but it wouldn't be easy. He's a native son and all that... his voice is relevant here and we would miss that.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Have House. Need tenant.

The third Star Wars is on. I've never been able to follow it completely since I've never seen the 2nd one plus Lucas' films truly suffer from being broadcast on cable TV in regular analog. C'est la vie.

We could be pawning our wee color tube unless we line up a tenant for our house on the Hill. Its been one thing after another with that place. Today I had to come up with 4500 bucks to replace the roof on the house and porch. Next week I'll have the floors taken care of... Another 2500 dollars. While I do this I wonder... where is our tenant?

One thing I've learned over the past year or so is that renting a place furnished makes a huge difference in how the property is treated by the resident. For one, getting all their stuff in and out of the space always results in some kind of damage. Then, since they are surrounded by all their STUFF they relax and treat it as if it is their own. In the olden days - like when I was in college - this meant that the place was usually improved upon just because it could be...
this is not the case today. Between the pets they bring in illegally, the nail holes and overall negligence being a landlord is pretty discouraging. I wish I could afford to use the house as my studio. Its a sweet 1910 cottage on a huge lot.

I spent most of the afternoon taming the lawn there and am now nursing blisters. I should have worn gloves. Next time. Tomorrow the step brother of a friend is supposed to mow the lawn. We'll see. He hasn't returned my call so I am not anticipating he'll be there. Should I sell this place? Maybe. Just maybe. We'll see what happens this month. June seems to be the hardest time to list a rental property. Last night Mr. DD and I were foraging through our garage which is now a storage space and came across a mysterious plastic bag full of coat hangers. I realized it was something we probably pulled from our trash when one of our tenants moved out. They'll throw away ANYTHING: alarm clocks, lamps, clothing, books, stationary, telephones, etc, etc, etc. I was organizing the coat hangers and remembering the tenant - she was an MBA. Blonde, discreet. Preppie. Her boyfriend was studying medicine and lived a few blocks away. My picture of her was altered slightly when at the bottom of the bag I discovered two very odd p0rn zines (with photos from the 70's - very retro) and a purple diId0! Mr. DD thought it was hilarious and would make a great cat toy for our kitten. Yes, yes, I have my very own prevert...

The difference between where I rent property and where I WISH I could rent property is illustrated above. I discovered this sweet little square this past spring. I had walked past it many times before I realized it was a public square surrounded by apartment buildings, condos, ateliers, etc. Both public and private, the French seem more comfortable with the duality and differences between their inner and outer worlds.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Walking in circles always helps

The weather has been encouraging so I've been meeting a friend on the vita course not far from our house. I was last there on a regular basis during Katrina. I guess its during times of crisis that we need it most. Its here. We've always loved it and don't know why I don't go there everyday. Something else to add to my list as we walk out the door to mail our father's day cards.

Speaking of which - my dad recently retired and decided his new hobby is calling me several times a day. He must have a great long distance plan. I am happy he wants to talk to ME but usually we talk about my SISTER and her children who are always in need of parental guidance.

Our discourse on what my sister should or shouldn't be doing with her life is time consuming and pointless. I was sold on the nature/nurture research years ago (based on identical twins separated at birth). It concluded that humans are born with their own unique wiring and regardless of what parents do or don't do their kids are born prone to certain traits: narcissism, addiction, cheerfulness, martydom, generosity, rightousness, grumpiness, etc...

I don't know if there is a darn thing we can do to help my sister and her two teenage daughters. She has never taken responsibility for her decisions and her daughters are very much like my sister and me. Both are stubborn and willfull. The oldest takes responsibility for herself and her decisions but pretty much does as she damn well pleases (she's 17) and the younger tries to figure out what you want to hear, tells you that - but then does exactly what she wants to do as well. Their dad doesn't believe in parental guidance. (really) The younger of the two is 16. I adore them but worry about them all the time.

I've always done things my way (for better or worse) but am harder than anyone on me when I come discover the error of my ways. My husband puts up with it better than I would. I am old fashioned in that I believe in accountability - in all our decisions, too (!) and I don't interfere... much. I do have a habit of telling people what I think. This isn't a very popular way of communicating in the 21st C. Many people poll their friends to see what they should think. I lack the kind of filter or security system between my brain and mouth that many people have. Oh well...

When our government can't take responsibility for the error of its ways why should my sister? Until she can embrace her mistakes she'll keep making them... just like our government! Maybe its a Rush thing. She always liked him. We are about as different as two women can be who share the same genes, same parents, same family tree. Its a mystery. Nature vs Nurture... nature wins.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Whittling Away at reasons for being here

This week I learned that a partner I work with is getting married and moving to NYC. Last night I had a premonition that today came true. I wonder if the fiancee is brave or foolish in their decision? Today I asked this same question of myself when I realized that the other two partners in our building will likely want to sell this place within two years. Was I brave or foolish to invest my resources with them? Sources say it was a combination of both seasoned with a taint of desperation.

I was tired of developers running the show so certainly would have avoided this project if I had known this would happen. I thought I was investing in creative independence and studio longevity with two other artists who wanted the same. Nope. Just the real estate. Its all about the money.

Again, the money. Again. I've been trying to understand the detachment I've felt growing inside me for the past month. Am I looking for reasons to leave this place or has the Universe been trying to tell me something I haven't been ready to hear? I don't think Mr. DD and I can deal with another studio move. We thought we'd made my last one but when this happens I think it will be time to get rid of everything. Art, materials, furniture. Is there another documentary in the works?

At least I know not to spend another dollar on the space there. I met with a contractor last week regarding summer projects. Now I am sorry I wasted both of our time.

I am trying to look at the bright side (lessons learned and all that) but I feel like I should have learned this one already. I am not a kid who has the time to repeat dumb mistakes. I just read about the latest batch of university grads whose personal lives are being easily "reviewed" in and Friendster after they've applied for jobs and internships... talk about bad decisions! With parents like mine one thing I grew up knowing was that knowledge is providence however it is gained. My mother would find my diary, read it and then tell all my friends' moms what we had been up to and encourage them to read their own daughters diary's. Then she would make up a less telling source for her information. She should have worked for the C.I.A. THEN they would ground me not for doing whatever I shoudn't have been doing but for lying about it. But, hey - that's another story.

Its tough keeping my sense of humor these days and embracing the irony of it all. I don't know how those cajuns do it.

June 2005


Saturday, June 10, 2006

half empty or half full?

It is a beautiful weekend but I am not feeling all that well since there is a full moon and my gut is full of woe. It would be a good night to walk to catch a good film (are there any out now?) or have close friends over to drink wine and celebrate this unseasonal weather.

The cats and I have toured the house and there are half completed projects throughout. Am I A.D.D. or just an old fashioned procrastinaor or a domestic contractor waiting for my paycheck? Still, I would feel better and could move on to other things if the table top were empty. Our Florida room is half clean, powder room mural 1/3 painted, (our house was built in the 20's) garden 3/4 planted, kitchen 1/4 clean, website 1/2 updated, etc, etc, etc. These home projects don't even take into account the rental property that needs a lot of attention or the projects I have going on in my studio or my language studies. If I think about it all at once it keeps me up at night...which is why I am not the list maker I once was.

We'd like to see the new Al Gore documentary "An Inconvienient Truth". If we can get our bikes in working order (another project) maybe we'll go. Mr. DD and I are not car people. We watch the gas prices rise, know they'll go higher and we don't even use a lot of petro compared to the average American. I don't know how they pay for it. We are so eccentric compared to most people we know and still, we've had to cut down on "premium" consumables as much as possible. Mr. DD drinks PBR now instead of the local micro brew. I don't buy organic vegetables as often as I need to and we aren't buying anything from the nursuries this year. All of our garden bulbs, etc are transplants from friend's gardens.

As soon as we can we hope to buy a "fart car." Its a new automobile which runs off compressed air! Of course American automobile makers will likely fight the import of these innovative new machines which require NO OIL plus they are CHEAP!

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Housing Crisis

Its after 3am. I was sleeping soundly when some loud mouthed, drunken a.h. came barreling down our street yelling out his car window. Our windows are open since it has been such a lovely mild month with a few exceptions.

I am a light sleeper. Problem is I can't go back to snoozeland since my mind is still churning. I am unsure as to what to do with the home I bought before I became Ms. DD.

We lived there for a number of years and put it up for rent after we moved to our current home. Its a special 2 BR house in a quiet neighborhood that has been in the process of s l o w gentrification over the past 25 years. Its a 1910 sweetheart that hasn't been updated in all the ways that count... kitchen, bathroom and central ac. It is on a huge double lot that takes an amazing amount of time and attention to keep it from looking like a jungle. There is bamboo, an herb garden, rose bushes, an amazing crepe myrtle tree. The soil up on that hill is amazing. ANYTHING grows. I was spoiled as a gardener .

My problem is that a)I cannot afford to work in this house as a studio so I need to rent it.
b) I've never had great tenants so its take a beating every time someone moves in and then moves out... Not like PACIFIC HEIGHTS but bad enough.
c) It is probably the sweetest, most sucessfully integrated neighnorhod in the city. Its not perfect but its good. My friend Don described it as a "grandma house in a garden" and I think that's pretty accurate. Its reminiscent of the days when land was something you lived with and worked and most people had more land to take care of than money in their pocket. That certainly describes us now. Its located a corner lot but it very private because of all the trees.

I have been speaking with a rental management co. that tends to property in that part of town. He looked at the house and told me he didn't want to manange it because it would take too much time to rent it. "It will take a special person to rent that house." He's right. "special people" aren't always good stewards of the land. Some are, some aren't. He suggested that I build a prefab home on the extra land and sell it and use the money to fix up the house I own.
Yuck. Its probably the most sensible idea but the whole idea s t i n k s to me.

So -
I am putting money into an empty house. I'll rent it eventually. There are things I would have to do anyway to sell the place. It's just not something I want to be thinking about right now. I want to be making art and studying French and working on my own home which needs a lot of work. 53 windows that all need painted. My husband and I own two and a half fixer uppers and
neither of us are really handy. Its that old southern thing about land... never sell it. Its all ya got. If I sell the place then the money will just go toward paying taxes and who knows what else. If I could sell it for enough to move to Paris with my husband I would. Unlikely. If it were located in another part of town then perhaps that could have happened but I didn't grow up here and didn't study here and didn't even work here. I married here and am now figuring out why. The marriage is good... but this is not Paris. I know, I know... it could be worse.

Still, I try to sleep and I worry. Time for an Ambien! Any suggestions or comments regarding finding good tenants or managing real estate or the current state of the marketplace or economy would be appreciated. Many thanks.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

I was never good at playing games....especially tag

• chore I hate: taxes • dogs/cats: two cats

• essential electronics: apple laptop

• favorite perfume: my garden

• gold/silver: anything vintage or original (one of a kind)

• hometown: the film BABYDOLL with Carol Baker and Karl Malden
was filmed very close to my hometown

• insomnia: before and during my journeys away from home

• job title: Grand Louvre

• kids: no • living arrangements: married ten years this month

• most admired trait: I listen and ask questions.

• number of sexual partners: I am a serial monogamist
who finally fell in love with a like soul twelve years ago.

• overnight hospital stays: I was in traction
for six weeks twelve years ago

• phobia: liars. I once feared I was paranoid but considering the state
of the world I think my phobia is probably justifiable.

• quote: "It coulda been worse..." • religion: refer to phobia above

• siblings: 1 brother & 1 sister • time I usually wake up:
as soon as it is light outside

• unusual talent: writing and backwards and forwards at the
same time with both hands

• vegetable I refuse to eat: anything from a salad bar
though if its homegrown I'll eat anything

• worst habit: procrastination • exotic x-rays: reconstructed hip

• yummy foods I make: mont blanc • zodiac sign: pisces

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Let them eat cake? Swiss cheese!

Strange art for strange times: sculpture depicting babies...
left a baby Charles Manson and right (crawling) a baby Michael Jackson.

No, this isn't a post about cheese all of you foodies out there. If I were to write about cheese it would be an earthy, creamy Roquefort. Last night we made the First Friday art opening and it was a slow, predictable evening. I made the effort (art openings are work for me) in hopes of seeing some good work, running into friends and maybe even meeting a few new people. I haven't been around for the past six months I mad managed to stoke a glimmer of hope for the evening.

We ran into a little of all of the above but finally wound up at a local restaurant with a lovely swiss photographer we've known for many years. She chose to move BACK to the states after working in Berlin for 5 years is now regretting her decision. (She attended graduate school here in the 80's. ) Many things have changed in this country over the past 5 years and they don't seem to be getting better. This feeling was amplified by the fact that she was just in Switzerland where her friends our age have the same kind of jobs we have, make two or three times what we make salary wise and live and eat at about 1/2 the cost of what we spend. Of couse if they have a car they pay a premium for that. No, I've never been to Switzerland but I've befriended many, many Swiss over the past ten years... each so very different, so talented, so articulate. They seem to be born of a place that is what America once aspired to be... Democratic, Neutral, Pluralistic, Diverse, Middleclass. What has happened here? How have we let this happen?

One of things really bugging my friend, I realized, is that an old friend of hers moved back here from S.F. Her friend never finished her university degree and didn't have much job experience. She finally found a job an art director at Capital One. She makes 60K a year doing direct mailing for them. Mr. DD is the senior writer for a magazine he has written at for 13 years and he makes a little more than half that and gets only two weeks of vacation a year. We all know what teachers and nurses make. Its a national f*^ck#$g tragedy, to quote NOLA's Ray Nagin.

One of our favorite new toys is a key chain called "Mayor in da Pocket." It has six buttons, each of which features a memorable Nagin post Katrina sound bite. Its hilarious. I must confess I was hoping he would win the mayoral election to extend the comic relevance of our new toy. (I really didn't think Mitch could do much better anyway....)

After four months in Paris, listening to my Swiss friend's rant and hanging out in the home of a friend who is a card carrying (and newsletter recipient) member of the green party I have made a conscious decision to a) opt out on all credit card mailings I get in the future. I am sick of it.... the waste... the risk.... the clutter in my mail box... and b) join the Green Party.

I've always believed in the Green Party but never made the effort to be a paying member. I may not vote green in National Elections (I would vote for a martian to avoid putting another Republican in Office) but I will give the Greens anything I can afford to give them and vote for them on the local and state level whenever I get the chance. Go Green!

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