Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Furniture, furniture

Oh goody! I have a rare hour or so of isolation while Steve goes to a physical therapist to learn some exercises for his shoulder, which has been afflicted with bursitis because of some of the heavier-than-usual lifting we've both been doing in the past couple of months. I'm interested in whatever routines he's sent home with, because I've had the same problem, just not to the extent he has. With all the walking I've done all my life, my lower body is in fine shape. But I've neglected maintenance of the scaffolding and infrastructure above the waist, and it shows. I guess carrying occasional heavy grocery and trash bags does represent a minimum of upkeep, but I could use more....

Today should interesting. We've been looking at (and buying) some of the furniture the new house is going to need: a couple of love seats for the great room, tables, dressers, pictures, etc. I've mentioned before that the main TV, a 48-inch flat screen, is going to be in the great room in this house. It's an arrangement neither of us is fond of--we don't like making a huge TV screen the focal point of an area meant for conversation--but it's what the space configuration of the house permits. (In the old place, we converted the basement to a media room, problem solved. No basement here.) The solution is an armoire that will stand alone as a piece of furniture when we are having people over, hiding the TV screen while at the same time allowing access to other techie components, such as a good mp3 player. Armoires for today's huge screens, however, are hard to find in most furniture showrooms.

We know North Carolina is renowned for its furniture industry, and have been contemplating a foray to the furniture outlets in the western part of the state to see what we can find. But such an outing has seemed daunting, frankly. We can both get overwhelemed by too much choice, and what we've learned about these furniture outlets is that they are basically a series of airplane-hangar sized buidlings crammed with every style of furnture imaginable. My first impulse upon entering such a place would be to run back out, screaming. Enter Creswell Furniture.

Creswell is a little town about 30 minutes south of us. The furniture store there had an inventory sale last fall which we decided to check out. We were delighted to find beautiful stuff at good prices, and ended up buying almost everything there, thus making the awful trip out west less necessary. Needless to say, we and our furniture dollars have become "best friends" with the manager there, and we mentioned our armoire conundrum to her. It turns out she had exactly the same problem, for the same aesthetic reasons, when she built her house a few years ago, and she found a cabinet maker who happens to live right in Hertford, where we're building. She praised his craftsmanship, as well as his reasonable prices, so we gave him a call. Lo and behold, it turns out he's actually building a house right across the creek from us. All we need to do is bring him a picture of the type of piece we want, and he can make it, adding the custom touches that we'll need. We'll be meeting him today--he'll even be able to come to our house and actually see the space the armoire will occupy.

An armoire is a massive piece of furniture any way you slice it, and it should be fun to play with design details. It will be placed in the part of the room that is under the highest part of the vaulted ceiling, thus making the big size appropriate. We've never had that kind of space to play with, so we're looking forward to what we can do with it. Don't worry, pics will be forthcoming when it all becomes a reality!

We're expecting another major storm this weekend--thank you, El NiƱo, for creating storms that make mudslides in California and then travel our way to create huge nor'easters. All the rain we've been having is starting to interfere with our house construction. Rain makes mud--too much of it for a heavy machine to be able to dig the 50-foot trench for the main drainpipe that will carry waste from the house to the septic tank. No drain means no water hookup; no water hookup means no installation of indoor faucets, showers, toilets, etc. Now is the time all that should be happening, and it can't. Other interior work is continuing, and Gary is still talking about an end-of-February occupancy. He's been known to have a rabbit hidden under his hat in the past--we're hoping he does now!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Here we are in the last week of January of the new year, and I've written nothing at all for the entire month. I hope you can forgive my negligence; my absence hasn't been for lack of desire. (I feel the loss more now that so many of you have told me you enjoy these meanderings and miss them when new ones aren't around. The conscience is a bit easier on you when you think nobody's paying attention.)

Coming down the homestretch of house construction is a busy time. Since so much detail work is being done now, we are needed on hand to decide what pieces of trim go where, how high bathroom lights need to be, etc., etc. It's all the little things in a home that you take entirely for granted in daily life, mainly because they work. Well, they work for a reason. There's an art to the placement of mirrors and lights.

We've also been busy with more clearing, this time of the waterfront. That job has been especially satisfying because the water view was what brought us to the property in the first place. By now we've cut everything down that needed to be, so that when the water returns to the beach we will have only cat tails and native aquatic flowers to look at. Not bad for a few hours' slogging through the mud. If you're interested, here are the pictures of the waterfront (you only need to look at the last 20 or so), and these are of the construction. (Don't let those 300+ construction photos scare you away. Just go immediately to the last page to see the latest.)

For once, I'm thinking today of something that has nothing to do with housing. It was planted in my mind by an encounter with one of our neighbors-to-be, though, so it is a result of our being here.

It has been dawning on me over the past while that we early Boomers, as much as we'd like to think we changed the world back in the 60s, were really not the monolithic presence we were given to believe by all those Time and Newsweek covers that etched themselves into our brains. The times, our laureate told us, they were a-changin'. The girl pleading for help as she knelt by her injured compatriot at Kent State was a symbol for all of us righteously angry young folk.

But take a look at the reality of 2010. Have the times really "a-changed"? It doesn't seem to me that they have, or if change has occurred, it isn't the kind I, for one, had in mind. We may have created a temporary craze for bellbottoms in crazy colors and loosened the nation's sexual and drug mores. We and those just before us, those born in the late '30s to early '40s, also produced incredibly good music, both lyrically and musically. The Age of Aquarius definitely dawned, but sunset came early. The wonderful new world we thought we were creating has not appeared.

What happened?

I'm beginning to think maybe our number wasn't so great, after all. True, the politically liberal among us were the ones who garnered all the attention back in the day. (The outrageous always steal headlines from the run-of-the-mill.) It could very well be that the media made us legends in our own minds and no one else's. Others of our cohort, the quieter ones, were busy doing what 20-somethings usually do: getting married and having children, maintsreaming themselves. They were taking their places in suburbia, identifying with their elders. The politically active among them joined YAF (Young Americans for Freedom), wore coats and ties to class and kept their hair short. They saw what was happening on their campuses and in their streets and were either unfazed by all the hoopla, or angered by it, or just didn't understand it. Their own worlds were as fine as they'd hoped they would be; they were following the paths set down by generations before them, and they weren't interested in anything else. To make a gross generalization, they are now the Boomers who are fine, thanks, with their own health care and therefore see no reason to change anything for anyone else. They are today's Republicans. Which brings me back to our new neighbors.

The overriding impression we have had of the people among whom we will be soon be living is that they are as nice and as kind as the day is long, but not very interesting. They're all about our age, but seem older--I'm 64 and I liken them mentally to my parents. They are all white, all straight and all in late middle-age. At a Christmas party, Steve and I fell into a conversation about movies with one of the women from the neighborhood. She mentioned that she had just discovered "a movie called Harold and...and..." ...she couldn't remember the whole name. "Maude! Harold and Maude! I love that movie," Steve and I both exclaimed simultaneously. And at the same time we were saying how much we liked the movie, she was saying how weird she thought it was, how she just didn't understand it at all. It was a bit awkward. This nice lady, with whom I'm sure I'll be exchanging recipes, is my age or younger, and had never heard of "Harold and Maude," a movie iconic of its time. Moreover, once she finally saw it, she quit it mid-way because she didn't get it and evidently had no desire to. This is a reaction I would have expected from either one of my parents, who were born during the first decade of the 20th century. It was something of a comeuppance, however, to see someone of my own generation reacting in the same way.

We've been aware for a while now that we will have to make it a special project to find people who are like us as friends once we are settled down here, and, ironically, that the phrase "like us" really means "nothing like us." As a couple, Steve and I have never lived in such homogeneous surroundings. Our little street in Arlington, Virginia, was a cross-section of that diverse county. We were one of two long-settled gay couples. There were young and older straight married couples who were American black, Hispanic, and African. Columbia Pike, a 5-minute stroll away, offers literally a world of food, almost too much choice. While I lived in Arlington, I worked at the Peace Corps, the most comfortably liberal sliver of the federal government that could be imagined, even when run my conservative administrations. All those years, I was content to believe I was in the mainstream. Now, however, I'm beginning to believe it may have been nothing more than an echo chamber. I was happily surrounded by people who thought the same way I did, and extrapolated my cozy little world to the bigger one at-large.

Now I look at the current American political scene, at Massachusetts replacing a Kennedy of 40 years' standing in the Senate with a Republican, and I look at my kind-as-can-be new neighbors and I have to wonder. Did so many of my fellow 60s idealists backslide? Have they been bought out by middle class prosperity? Or were there just fewer of us than I thought?