Downsizing, cows, a one-sided shootout, and The Wedding

I have downsized my lifestyle from a 5 bedroom house with 4 bathrooms on a half-acre of steep hillside to a smaller 3 bedroom 2 bath on about a 7,000 square foot flat piece of property.

I bought a seriously abused house on the mend and spent the last few months getting up most mornings and driving 14 miles one way further east to work on the house to get it livable as I renovate it, and I finally moved in about two weeks ago.  The house is located in the hills and is next to a cattle ranch. I wake up each morning to eat breakfast sitting on a folding chair at a folding table sharing my eating space with too many tools and watch cows grazing in pastures on the other side of the house’s in need of replacement sagging chain link fence.

It feels like living in not only a storage unit with boxes and building supplies pilled everywhere; I’m also in the middle of a construction zone with cows as some of my neighbors.

Last week there was a shooting three houses down — not the ranch house up the hill behind my place — when a father and son got into an argument causing the police to be called to deal with the son waving a pistol around. I was told later that the son with the pistol got shot in the leg by the police, who did all the shooting, and stray rounds from the police also hit the father still inside the house and a younger son in the stomach also still in the house. I can already smell the vultures; I mean the lawyers, gathering and a fat settlement.

I think the local police need to spend a lot more time on the range practicing. They were way too close to the crazy older gun totting son to have missed him that many times.

I heard the shots but didn’t go out to investigate like many of the two legged neighbors did. I didn’t see any of the cows join the human spectators. I think the cows had more common sense. I’m a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat vet, and I learned the hard way that you don’t run out to watch a real life shooting in progress. Instead you should stay inside, get behind a big solid piece of furniture, drop to the floor and hug it tight.

After I moved into the smallest bedroom, I started the first stage of installing solid hardwood flooring. Stage one was the living room, master bedroom and the hallway that runs to the master bedroom from the entry of the house. I’ve finished the living room and most of the master bedroom and started on the hallway. Stage one is a little more than 400 square feet of floor. Once done, I’ll be moving out of the smallest bedroom and into the master bedroom and then filling up the smallest bedroom with boxes as I move them out of the living room and family room to make more room for me and future planned renovations.

Stage two for the hardwood floor will be the 200 square foot family room and stage three will be the 2 smaller bedrooms, another 200 square feet of flooring, after they stop being storage units.

But first, before stage 2 and 3 for more hardwood flooring, I have to install shelves and cabinets in the garage. There is also the fence that has to be replaced. Landscaping is last on the list of renovations. Right now I’m mowing the weeds every week to keep them from smothering the house. I had no idea that wild weeds, that don’t seem to need much water to survive and thrive, grew so much faster than thirsty and costly domesticated grass.

This isn’t my house, but you’ll get an idea of what it’s like.

While this has been going on, promoting my books has all but ground painfully to a stop and sales dropped off of a cliff. In fact, my writing has also slowed to the pace of a desperate man in the desert who has gone without food and water for four days and is crawling across the blistering hot sand of Death Valley in the summer toward what looks like a muddy, scummy watering hole surrounded by rattle snakes.

Did I mention the rattle snakes some of my two legged neighbors have warned me about? It seems they show up each summer and find ways to get inside the garage. As evidence that this warning is true, I did find the skeleton of a long dead rattlesnake in the garage while I was cleaning before installing new insulation and drywall.

Anyway, that thirsty, starving, desperate man in the desert that is the metaphor for my writing isn’t moving very fast and sometimes he lays there panting and doesn’t move for hours. Then he reaches out with one hand that looks like a shriveled, blistered, bloody claw and digs in, and gasping for breath, pulls himself forward a few more inches closer to that rattle snake infested water hole before he starts to wheeze and gasp for air and collapses again to gather his strength for the next page of text.

But on a bright note, I was in Berkeley this morning for a scheduled radio interview with the BBC held in the studio for the PBS station located on the Berkeley campus in their journalism/media department at 121 North Gate Hall. The BBC program is called “Our Man in China,” who happens to be the real Robert Hart, the 19th century main character in my first novel “My Splendid Concubine”. I was told that the program will air later this year.

Then there is our Stanford graduate daughter’s wedding. She is getting married and has gone all out to plan a wedding that seems more like a Broadway play in several acts spanning three days with song and dance. Why are today’s young people planning complex, lavish weddings and spending wheelbarrows of cash on those nuptials when half of marriages end in divorce?


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.

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5 responses to “Downsizing, cows, a one-sided shootout, and The Wedding”

  1. […] you read my post about Downsizing, cows, a one-sided shootout, and The Wedding, you’d know that I moved and am renovating a smaller abused house on a much smaller piece of […]

  2. Ah, moving house and then remodeling can certainly disrupt one’s creative flow!

    That said, I find that certain tasks, such as sanding, have a way of freeing up my muse. It’s just hard to get the words down when my hands are gripping a sander!

    As for the shooting, I’m glad you weren’t on your way over to borrow a cup of sugar when it happened…

    Congrats on your radio interview with the BBC. I hope you will tag me in a tweet when there’s a link to share, and that your man in the desert stumbles onto a soothing oasis here soon!

    1. That man in the desert hasn’t found the soothing oasis yet. For me, its using my chop saw and table saw that frees up my muse that seems to be so free, it goes on vacation to some far off land and I’m not there with it.

  3. Why are today’s young people planning complex, lavish weddings and spending wheelbarrows of cash on those nuptials when half of marriages end in divorce? While reading this post, I thought you were going to say, “Why are today’s young people planning complex, lavish weddings and spending wheelbarrows of cash on those nuptials ……… while their parents are downsizing and not having parties and spending all their money on frivolities?”

    Did we not teach them well?

    1. That’s the thing. No one has exclusivity over what a child learns and the person they become. Brain development also influences final outcomes.

      he village raises the children. Parents, teachers, extended family and friends, even neighbors and strangers, all play a roll in what a child learns that molds them into what they become. Even all the advertisements that fill so much of the airwaves play a part. No one element in that village dominates a child’s every waking hour. That’s why most if not all children grow up to not be their parents. I think the reason she is having this complex, lavish wedding is because her parents never did and she wants what they never had. She’s also between 15 and 25 and her brain is still wired to be immature and foolish but she is not aware of this. When I was her age, I made a lot of foolish decisions.

      If she was getting married after her brain was mature (from what I’ve read, that age is about 25) and she was closer to thirty, it might be different because she is currently under the influence of the immature, unfinished adolescent brain. There is a good chance that a child is planning this wedding and not a mature adult.

      The AMA brief argued that: “[a]dolescents’ behavioral immaturity mirrors the anatomical immaturity of their brains. To a degree never before understood, scientists can now demonstrate that adolescents are immature not only to the observer’s naked eye, but in the very fibers of their brains”’

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