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).
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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