Friday, September 14, 2007

Thanks for your interest and support over the past few years. I can't explain why exactly, but this blog hasn't been a priority for me the last several months - I've been happy and I think more specifically, occupied with interactions with my partner and kids during the times of day I used to post in the past. Writing has gone by the wayside for a while. Maybe its true that my writing is largely driven by angst or anxiety? But the greater feeling is one of being uncomfortable being indiscriminately exposed and wanting to spend my time other ways, thus I am going to label A Line Cast officially inactive and admit I'm an internet slacker for the moment.

Before I log out a quick update though. We are making progress on the new house, although it seems very slow and ground isn't broken yet - might not be until early next year now. We are enjoying the creative aspects of designing and our regular forays scavenging reuse materials are rewarding - this week Craigslist yielded tongue-in-groove clear vertical grain fir at a very reasonable price we can use for trim once we strip the old paint off it. Ebay is another best friend. I know the stuff on the house would be fun blogging material (and actually there's enough angst there for me to lose sleep occasionally) but it doesn't seem to drive me to post about it. We picked apples, pears and blackberries last week, and one night in August we grabbed a bottle of wine, some glasses and drove there at 10pm to watch the full moon rise over the hills to the east. Someday that won't involve a drive.

The wedding date was fall 2008 but we might pull it in now rather than wait for the house to get finished. The combined household seems to be drama-free albeit a bit crowded at times. Five cats was one too many "personality problems" so my kid's Dad agreed to take Rainbow. Mango the dog-cat-bully weighs in at 18 pounds now. The hedgehog passed on after a blissful 3 months playing number one billing in the 6th grade. I went through several days of training and am now doing hospice respite care. The kids continue to do that growing up, negotiating school and finding themselves thing. A week ago they didn't know who Obama was, so we are working on a little election awareness. The son has suddenly gone from being completely uncaring about appearances to needing to buy the black and white checkered Van shoes. Somehow I thought it would be different...asking for Nikes or something. But given his parents tastes in shoes....

Life is real good here and I feel lucky and grateful. Please accept my best wishes for your happiness and contentment. Bye for now.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I apologize for being such a delinquent blogger. We went into overdrive trying to nail down a builder and designer for the house before they filled up for the building season. If we don't make some progress I won't have much more story to tell about the property until 2008!

In the meantime, thought I'd share some other good news with you....

Thursday, January 18, 2007


We followed the trail from rusted wheelbarrow around sequoia
Past shrugging rhodys on to the broken foundation
Where we found the scurried consideration of a foray into the trench.
"Nothing of interest there" decided,
Prints doubled back and up to the brick wall where
Paws would have found a break from the icy cold
A balance beam run and down onto the sidewalk
Leading under the shelter of some haphazardly piled concrete. A new den?
We peeked in expecting pinpoint eyes to peek back.
Prints instead continued out the other side,
Five-toes neatly indenting the whiteness
Crisscrossing another track left by delicate hooves
Both steering off into the neighbor's trees.
Now I understand the circuitous route my dog's nose follows.

In fifty years of living without garbage service,
Kids raised, fruit trees planted and neglected,
Secret parties held, fences built and torn down
Gravel worn away and replaced
It's not surprising we've uncovered artifacts in the dirt here
Both treasures and trash-
A pair of blue glass marbles, a doubling die
A single fish earring and countless blackened tin can lids
The upturned clothes drying rack grown over with blackberries
An occasional coin.
I much prefer the evidence animals leave behind.

Our large footprints made clumsy trails beside the coyote's
Running alongside the woodpile.
I'm relieved tomorrow's thaw will wipe ours clean
But reluctant to lose the reminder of how busy the other residents are
Investigating this little acre of the world.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

There's this tenant, see. Wayne.
I'd change the names to protect the innocent but we figured out several months later that no one knew him by this given name anyhow. We met Wayne the day we toured the property with the real estate people. He worked nights so we needed to visit on his day off to see the house, but he was still there when we showed up. The broker who showed us the property was disabled and didn't get out of the truck so that left Wayne to show us around. From Wayne we learned his mother had lived at the house until about a year and a half ago when she moved into an assisted living center close to her daughter in Oklahoma, then he moved in.
It appeared to us that he slept during the day on the couch in the living room, which made perfect sense after we eventually took possession and saw the state of the two bedrooms. Still, it was dark and dank and reeked of a house that hadn't seen the light of day in way too long. Nor had his pets. No problem, we make an offer on the place, we're going to tear down the house so the stink isn't worrying us.

A counteroffer arrives from the seller, whom we learn is the daughter in Oklahoma, Wayne's sister. They'd like to leave all the contents and the house as is. After some long waits and some wording changes, we all sign the sales contract, pending inspections of various kinds, and start the escrow period. We turn in our inspection results, request a lower price based on all the clean up involved, and they agree but... they haven't done the survey. Which is a bit puzzling because we understand they need the funds badly. So we grant an extension of an additional month for that and some clean up and we have a final deal. Or so we think. The extension period expires, not only have they not completed the clean up or survey, they return with a new sales condition. They claim they won't sell the property unless we agree to keep Wayne as a tenant.
I guess as is meant "AS IS" in their minds.

Visiting the site to deal with inspections of various kinds, we get more chance to chat with Wayne, and it becomes apparent that he does not clearly understand what is happening to his living quarters-and we learn from the broker that he is somewhat mentally disabled.

He talks one moment about how we will have to tear down the house in order to build something new, and then shows us where he is going to have his vegetable garden this summer. One time we arrive to find he has a large stack of pallets newly collected and piled in the driveway, his firewood to heat the house this winter. He's collecting junk we will eventually have to throw out! Even though we like Wayne and feel sad he is stuck in the middle, we can't have him stay in the house. The roof is sagging and could fall on him any moment, he could get ill from the bacteria in the well water... and no one is going to insure this place as a rental. A lawyer advises us we have a perfectly good sales contract without this condition, and warns us that we could get sued with many landlord issues should we agree. So eventually, much to my disgust, we have to send them a letter threatening to take the matter to court if they don't agree to meet their conditions immediately. For some reason they are completely unwilling to budge on this issue until the threat, but finally it seems we have their attention. Our money for the lot goes into the escrow company, and we agree to turn it over as soon as we have survey results, clean up, and Wayne has moved out. We give them one final month to complete this, knowing that Wayne probably does need the time to move.

The week before the last deadline comes due, things suddenly start happening. The diesel and well clean-ups happen. The survey results get turned in. And our escrow officer goes on vacation. Friday the seller (in Oklahoma) claims that they have completed all the terms of the contract by our deadline, and the escrow company fill-in sends the title into the county to be recorded without checking with us or the realtor. Within 24 hours our entire sale amount will be released to the sister in OK, and guess what? Wayne has not moved. In fact, the report that he has found an apartment to move into turns out to be a lie. We go beserk, elevating the issue up the title company chain until they reluctantly back-off (never admitting their mistake) and will hold the money until we tell them Wayne has moved. As long as its within 2 days. We sign up for an expensive liability insurance policy that we hope will cover us now that the title is in our name, and hope that Wayne doesn't get hurt before he moves out. And we show up to talk to Wayne, and his nephew who has arrived from Oklahoma to help sell off his grandmother's belongings.

The nephew is camping in a pup tent out front. Again, seeing the house, this makes sense.
Things are a little chaotic because he's been taking boxes of things from the house and storage shed and dumping them outside as a means of looking for anything worth selling.

There are appliances now dragged out onto the porch,

and in a wacky/twisted teen sort of way he has taken to decorating the place with decapitated doll and toy parts.
A couple of free-form burns have happened in the front grass area. Cigarettes, beer cans, and snack-food trash are strewn all over.

"We need Wayne to move by tomorrow (Tues) because otherwise your Mom can't get the money." "Well he's packed up, but he doesn't have a place to move to" is the response from his nephew. "Wayne, we thought you had found an apartment?" "They won't let me move in without a security deposit and I don't get paid until Thursday. I haven't finished the application, they need my past address and I can't find it."

This is crazy, we think.

"Can't you stay in a motel for a couple of nights?"
There's no money for this either. The irony of how much money we just handed the owners to buy this mess is not unnoticed. "But your sister is getting a huge amount of money from us!" The nephew informs us that in fact, it has been a surprise to Wayne that his sister sold the house. No one explained it well enough. In the 90 days since the original agreement was made, the family didn't bother to help their disabled brother/son find a new living place. There are other sisters and brothers who live in town. But now we were the mean evictors.

"We're sorry, but as of tonight we own this house, and its just not safe for us to let anyone stay in it anymore. We're really sorry."

We leave, agreeing we won't throw out the stuff they still need to move, wondering what will happen to Wayne, and stressing over next steps if he hasn't left.

The next morning its apparent that Wayne has indeed slept elsewhere, and later that day we run into the nephew. Wayne is moving stuff to his wife's place.

"Who's wife's place?"
"Wayne's wife. He's moving back in there."

Later that week as we start clearing things out, we come across a Valentine card dated Feb 2006. From Wayne's wife. "I love you" handwritten on the inside.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Actually this story about the land starts a few months back, but its been pretty busy and so I'll just have to work to catch things up. Lucky for you, that should leave out some rather boring stretches.

Every five or six months since I first moved to Portland 20 years ago I'd been driving up a certain road a few miles east of my house. This may seem a bit odd, but there was a little turn out at the top of a hill where I could stop the car alongside a section of s-curves. There was an old red barn, then acres of grass fields - grazing land - punctuated by trees and creek, rolling down and off as far as you could see. I live about 11 miles west of Portland and the area has turned into a very actively expanding suburb, so over time that rural view became more rare and more appealing. I guess that is what kept pulling me back to park and look out over the hills there. I went as far as looking up the plat maps and figured out the parcel I liked was 8 acres... more than I could afford or keep up... so in my mind it just became the place I dreamed about in no practical fashion.

Middle of last year, I took my boyfriend up to see the place. We parked, noticed how the farther views now included many new rooftops, and then turned around and headed back towards my house. I told him I'd always thought about stopping and seeing if any of the nearby houses would consider selling their places when about a half mile down the road I noticed a brushy grown over place with a sign out front. Sure enough, there was a for sale sign, with a broker's number, which we dialed sitting at the end of the long gravel driveway skeptically looking at the run down house and junk yard hound barking outside. Just under an acre. With a tear-down house and a motivated seller. I'd literally driven along this road for nearly 20 years and there had never been a place for sale along it before. But it wasn't anything like I had pictured sitting up at that turn out.

We set up a time the following day to go see the place and it was pretty scary up close.

The 1950s ranch house was in terrible condition and we couldn't even walk the back third of the parcel due to solid 8-12 foot blackberries and hazel brush. There was an orchard there they told us, but it became obvious there hadn't been any maintenance done in some 20 years. Why would I be interested?

Because of this view, which we could see when we walked to the edge of the parcel from the farmer's field next door.

Within a week we made our first offer. "Motivated sellers", and we offered cash. You'd think we'd wrap up the details quickly....

A late Christmas greeting...captioned "Bah Humbug" by said feline.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dear Dad,
I'm writing you this letter, partly to reassure myself that when tomorrow comes, I needn't dread the loss of you again. A man only dies once I remind myself. Its been quite a year since you died, a lot of things have changed. I'm lucky to have a great relationship with a man whom you'd have loved talking to. Those stock ticker tapes you used to watch all the time when I'd come over? The world financial news? He's right there with you. You'd love how he deals with the kids, and you'd know if you watched him for a while that he takes good care of your daughter when things are rough. Like this week when the tears keep popping out. But anyhow. I guess you won't be surprised, but it seems like its taken all year to do all the estate paperwork, pack up your house and sell it, unpack and reincorporate those things into our house. You'd have been more efficient about it all, but its getting done. I still get mail for you... The Republican party needs you more than ever I might add. The war you had begun to hate has only gotten worse, yet the news you were so fixated with drones on with the same story every day... more people killed in Iraq. Its terrible. I wonder if you would still turn on the TV if you were here.

The kids are doing great, starting new schools this fall and their grades are good so far. They think "the boyfriend" is silly, smart and fun, if a bit nerdy. V. loves bike riding with him and he's learning all about bills of material and perspective drawing. I'm not sure how this could work out so smoothly, but I'm very grateful it is. We've done a bunch of traveling this Spring and Summer, I think you would have liked the trip to D.C. the best. The kids even got to see testimony in the Senate about immigration, one of your favorite hot topics. I liked the trip up to Vancouver the best...something about a road trip and days of freedom without any real agenda. We just got back this week from "the big daughter's" house, where we saw dozens of otters and hundreds of birds on a pontoon boat trip up a slough. There's lots of updates on her side, but I'll let her tell you about them.

I bought an acre of land this summer. Its a few miles from here but much more rural, and it had an old house we had to tear down, and underneath the invading blackberries there's a small orchard and a whole heck of a lot of tires, and we discovered the grapevine produces dark purple grapes that taste just like Welch's only better. There's some pictures I'll probably post soon that would scare the bejeezus out of you but don't worry, we got insurance. The boyfriend and I are looking at house plans now, and maybe by this time next year a new home will be close to finished. In the meantime I am swamping everything out... the garage is finally organized, I make weekly trips to Goodwill, and I hate to tell you this but that Lladro donkey? It's destined for Ebay.

If you're wondering how I'm going to get all this stuff done, that large computer manufacturer laid me and about fifteen thousand other people off. That's ok, twenty three years there was long enough and other people needed their jobs more than I did. I was sick of the migraines and it wasn't getting better. Now I'm not sure how I had time to work but when things slow down after the holidays I'll think more about what to do next. Maybe hospice work. Dying is an amazing process. So is grieving. There's a lot to learn there.

I wasn't really sure what to do about Thanksgiving this year. All those friends that dealt with that phone call just after dinner last year... we've been together on Thanksgiving for years but it seemed so awkward to talk about this time. I thought I'd be bringing up miserable memories for them and started to feel guilty for what they went through... but to a person every friend who was there is coming over tomorrow afternoon, and there will be the usual amount of cooking and mad preparations. The turkey's eighteen-some pounds, I know you'd have asked. We brined it last night and V. is anxious to stuff it and get it ready to bake tomorrow morning. I'm really glad my friends are going to be with me and the kids. I don't know if I can manage the toast to you like I did last year, but my god you are woven into every tradition, every memory, both sad and happy. So I guess I'll say it here Dad, thanks for everything, we miss you. Hope the weather's good there.
Little Daughter

Friday, August 04, 2006

Moonrise over 23rd

Narrow sidewalks force me close enough to smell their gin spiked breath
Citric laughter floating on the air left
In the wake of strappy sandals
Casually expensive belts
And a black lace bodice dress
Reminiscent of one I wore once to a murder mystery party.
I was the madam of ill repute. (But only my fake eyelashes were murderous
As it turned out.)

Tonight I am just a drab watcher
Of glamorous diners with martinis,
Well polished cars
Single men with dogs looking in vain for a place to piss
Gay couples window shopping
And a 5 year old boy dancing outlandishly
For the amusement of his older sister sitting at an outside table
Waiting for the adults to finish talking.
Just in time they notice her brother careening off the curb.

I wonder if the tortie-shell has wandered back into the street
Where she stubbornly sat until I stopped the car,
Got out, and escorted her across, while she
Taunted my fruitless hunt for parking on her block.
All of us hopefully circling
Under the expectant watch of a six month pregnant moon
Just visible over the roof of a trendy Thai restaurant where you could order
Miang Kum and a cup of white tea, if you could just find a place to...

But tonight you’ll find me holed up counterside with a slice of mushroom pizza
Listening closely to the owner’s New York accent as he accuses
A delinquent customer. Disloyal… it’s been months.
He smiles a goodbye as I toss the paper plate and lean into the screen door
Taking my burnt flour footprints out into the round-bellied night.
Maybe next time I’ll ask him why he blows under the dough
As he slides it into the oven, and how he makes it
Selling $2.50 slices of pizza on NW 23rd.

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