Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ninety Degrees.

95 tomorrow, on the first day of June. Summer begins twenty-one days later. 90-something today. 90-something Thursday. The yard's a foot tall because I'm afraid to mow in this heat, lest it burn off to cinders. I'm running the A/C in the building all night just to make it cool enough to sit down at the desk in the mornings. The tomatoes might not set fruit in this kind of weather. The ferns are dead. The dogwood already looks car-crashed. When the breeze blows and the sun's down, you can sit outside. When the breeze quits, you can't. The number of degrees by which my upstairs A/C cannot keep up is directly proportional to how many degrees over 91 it is outside. Today: upstairs thermostat set to 74, upstairs temp at 77. If it's nine in the morning it's already too late to walk the dog. The coneflowers are trying to bloom, but they look distressed. A cat limped across the street this morning. It was trash day on Monday, but it was also Memorial Day, so the neighborhood smells like cooked garbage. All the A/Cs running all through the neighborhood nearly cover the SECU hum. I haven't dumped the pansy pots yet: the plants look microwaved. I was mad all morning and couldn't remember why. AMR wanted to know what in hell was wrong with me. Midafternoon she remembered for both of us, said: you're the only person I know who gets mad at the seasons. Only one season, I said. Still, she said. Yes, I said. It's true.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Severe Threat.

Maybe it's the Toad and my new aversion to things that endanger Toads, or maybe it's the horror that is the photography coming out of Missouri, out of Kansas, out of Texas, out of Oklahoma, out of Alabama, out of what seems like another new town every day, but I am not loving the clear-skied wind we're picking up out front what's back west, and I am not loving the look of what's back west, either. We are, here on the Piedmont, mainly sheltered from the apocalyptic storms they've seen in Tuscaloosa and Joplin and everywhere all else across the center of the country, and so my level of nervousness is more like the systemic hum we've been picking up off the damaged air handler atop the SECU building four blocks up the hill than like the tornado sirens they keep having to ring back west, but still. You see those pictures and you wonder if even a good basement would have saved you. My god those people. My god this violent spring. We had a coneflower bloom out front in our ninety-degree heat today and that thing seemed impossible compared to the barkless trees in Missouri.

When I drove out west, the gas stations advertised deals for weather radios on the moveable-letter signs. We do not have that here. The Appalachians shield us. Nothing has five or ten hours on the ground to spin itself together. Out there, there's nothing. There are the Rockies and then there are beanfields, wheatfields, cornfields.

The dog is not right. She keeps wanting under tables, wanting to be pressed up against my leg.

Maybe it will be nothing. Probably, even. But this is the weather we've all seen this spring, and there it is on the radar, and out the kitchen windows in the full eight o'clock light of late, late spring, the leaves are doing odd things, are turning inside out, and that wind is more than we're used to. You want to say a stupid thing like I should have mowed the lawn. Instead, you console the dog and pour a short drink and stand out on the back deck and look west at the sky like it might tell you something, like that might tell you how ready you ought to be. As if, the pictures tell us, there's anything like ready.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Concrete Slab.

Summer. Thunderstorms in the afternoons, mornings with heat already in them. Limes in the house. Cut flowers. Short pants. Sandals. The shed's doing beautifully, making the insulate-the-floor choice we made look good: Insulate the floor, and it's easier to heat in the winter; don't, and the cool of the night spends all morning coming up through the slab. And which do you want—a roaring fire, or a roaring A/C? Don't answer that. If it's the wrong one, nobody around here wants to know.

One of these days we'll see ninety for the first time this season. Could very well be today. It was 85 at the airport an hour ago, says your tax dollar and mine. This would usually around the forecast be cause for rending of garments, gnashing of teeth, sackcloth, ashes, the whole lying opera. But somehow today it feels alright. Maybe it's the newness, the oddness of the change of season, the persistent green of all these perennials pushing hard for bloom. Maybe it's just laziness or distraction. Either way, it's here, and we're here, and it's hot and hazy and May and we won't see much change until the weekend, so settle in for this or hunker down somewhere cool, somewhere they haven't insulated the floor.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Glimmer.

Fabulous little no-danger midnight storm rolls through the lees of the everybody's-already-gone-home dishes-cleaning-and-drying portion of the work friends dinner party, and there's Tom Petty and also the Rolling Stones and even a little CCR on the radio, and there's one last drink and maybe another half on top of that, a dish towel over the shoulder, and even though the Braves went out west and lost again, we've eaten Vidalias and corn and chicken all off the grill, and nobody yelled at anybody or did anything anybody'd have to apologize for, and it's ten degrees cooler now in the rain than it was earlier, when it was summer for sure, and you think, You know what? This could be OK.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Late Spring.

We emerge from early-onset TLK winter (requirement: it's been hot; it's now not; one can sit on the front porch in jeans and long sleeves during a late spring/early summer calendar month when one arguably should not be able to sit on porch in same; it's gray) and into this last gentle May day, I fear, before May remembers what it's meant to be about and renders unto Caesar etcetera, which is to say, the weekend forecast calls for high eighties and long, long sentences. Not much rain in that five-day, either, and not much in the ten. Tomorrow it may be summer. Consider this your fair warning. If you are not out in the yard and garden and riding around with the windows down and sidewalking your dogs and toads down to the park, then you're doing it wrong.

Birds. The first crickets. Birds again. Everything green, but hanging hard onto that spring green, the lighter shades. We have not fallen into the spinach-green of full summer just yet. Daylilies blooming around the city and verging on it here at the forecast. Coneflowers. Blackeyed Susans. The pansies pulled out and the summer annuals, late but looking fine, in their flats in the empty beds. The Toad like a lit match, a firecracker you're still holding in your hand, going a hundred miles a minute for about 72 hours and then collapsing yesterday afternoon and this morning into hours-long naps, trying to sleep off all the discovery.

I burned a gentle fire yesterday morning in the shed, as much to take the humidity down as to take the chill off. Still. May 18 and a fire in the woodstove. 85 degrees by the time we see May 21. Keep an eye on the weather. We're having most of it at once.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Losing Side.

It is 3:00 on a Monday in the dead center of May and we have only just broken 70 degrees. The sun is out for what feels like the first time in days. I have lost, in colossal and spectacular fashion, either a turf war or a theological debate out at the puppet show, the end result of which has been that I've been thinking hard and with frequency about which turf matters and which does not. Turf upon which resides this novel or any other, and turf which may be home to Toads: important. Turf out there on the other end of 70: let's leave it to flood and fire, pestilence and famine. Locusts. And regardless, summer comes, which means the annual Do-Not-Disturb goes up in regards to all things puppet, so it is time, even if this morning I woke out of a dream having to do with a blue bowl out of which a single ant kept appearing—I'd crush the ant with my thumb, and then another would appear in the bowl, and I'd crush it again, and so on—it is high time to leave to the puppet show what belongs to the puppet show, and high time to come home and pay better and more attention. As it happens, there is as of today one more round of revision coming on the novel, a kind of fortnightlong boot camp to edge up the edges, and then, friends and fans of the losing side of bureaucratic lockjawed meltdown vs. the artistic impulse, we dress it up and take it out and see who wants to take its picture.

A cool week seems to be on tap. The weather's trying to come in from the east this afternoon, which is rare and strange, both. There's beer in the closet but not in the fridge. The Toad has a low fever and a new tooth. I need a new pen for this round, new ink, new coffee, a new cup. I need other things, too, not listed here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Slow Days.

It smells like honeysuckle out there and I'm in here wandering the rooms, eating leftovers, losing my mind. We've got smoke cover from the Pains Bay Fire in Dare County. I did not know the prevailing wind was coming from that side. Shows you what I know. Garbanzo beans, lemon, red onion, green beans, oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, cilantro. Old shed to-do all checked and lined through and finished, new shed to-do hovering and building. We run the dishwasher twice a day, the washing machine more than that. I dream of tornadoes made of fire, of faculty meetings without end. If I could get the two of those into the same dream I'd have one that made sense. The dog stumbles some. The Toad does, too. Kindred spirits. I've got half a flat of impatiens that want into the ground under my unblooming dogwood. I've got half an hour of nap left. I'm all plan and little do. Robins. Robins everywhere, making more. Explosions in the neighborhood last night. What I thought: a sparked gas line had knocked somebody's house off its foundation. What was true: two electrical transformers and a cannon shot in a cemetery. Truth from fiction. Hard to tell.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Final Inspection.

Friends and fans of building codes, of professional plumbers, of semiprofessional electricians, and of hobbyist drywallers like me, know this: one can, in fact, satisfy the City of 2740X Department of Building and Engineering, even if it does take a year. A word of advice: Don't throw up the framing for your shed addition three weeks after the birth of your child. Don't have the slab poured three weeks before the birth of your child. The net effect will be that you don't really remember anything from May to Thanksgiving. The net effect will be that a building permit issued you on 5/19/10 will be finished on 5/10/11. Still: after hitting a parked and shiny PT Cruiser in the parking lot at the puppet show last evening, I was in need of good news, triumphant news, even, and this is that. Persons who know things have turned up to look at what is mainly square and largely waterproof and said yes.

I just missed, is what happened. I was in the pickup and the Toad was riding with me and my head was full of novel and puppetry and time of day and needs of child and then I hit the damn car.

We're sunny out there now, though we started cool and humid, and one does wonder if this is the week we make the quarter-turn to a chance of showers each afternoon, if the weather forecast goes from being science to art, to which way the dog orients herself on the porch and how comfortable she is sniffing the wind. I'd look mainly west, though I think I recall some gentleman on the local cable whatever last night showing a model that had things sliding in from the north, or the northish, and so look there, too. I think he said 'some may be severe,' but once we hit, oh, i don't know, 5/10/XX, isn't the chance there that anything that pops up may be poppier than normal?

The agony of defeat and the thrill of victory, 14 or 15 hours apart. If the Toad were old enough, I'd explain to him that this is usually the best you can hope for. It may be slightly better than that, even. Instead, though, I'll just wait until he comes babbling out of his nap, load him into the backpack, and stroll him around in all this slightly-cooler-than-it-could-be pre-possible-thunderstorm mid-morning tempered triumph. I'll take the dog, see which way she's aiming. There's no better barometer, friends and fans of wanting to know a little more than you know. None.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Of Note.

And again I slide away for a time weatherwise, and for no good reason. The weather went on just fine without me: It rained some, it warmed some, and last evening at about four-thirty or five o'clock it did what we rarely see it do this far into the year, which was clear off a bank of muggy clouds and then snap genuinely cool into dusk and beyond, jeans-and-sleeves temperatures, a little breeze, the boys a block or so over hollering their graduation deep into the night. It would have been a fine night to graduate, I thought. It seemed a fine night to graduate for those boys, anyway. And I kept thinking: Where are the girls? Quiet, and watching the boys holler, or not there at all?

What do we do here on our own back forty? Holler some, sure, but mainly tick item after item off the shed list until it finally has just one box left to check: final. The last side is sided, the ceiling's touched up, the walls are recaulked in those places that were wanting it, those two last batts of insulation are batted in, the last bits of trim are painted and hammer-fit and smoothed into place. It is time to call the city. That will be a nervous-making time. Still, I feel good, and mainly along these lines: How odd to have done something slowly and right. My M.O. breaks generally along other lines entirely.

The novel bides its time in NYC, waits for opinions, ideas, makes and works its own list. The Toad sleeps well and waves with both hands and babbles just about all the time. The dog sleeps more on the downstairs sofa than the upstairs bed. Mother's Day comes and goes like always, and not at all like always. The lawn is in need of a mow. The mower is in need of a tune. The coffee pot's emptied out. Me, too, maybe. There's an in-betweenness in the water over here. Something that would look like inertia if there weren't so many things going on. That's what made the cool night last night so nice: It was something specific, discrete, something that wanted logging, noting. So. Noted, and duly.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Puppet Masters.

Fire in the woodstove this morning. Actual time at the actual desk with the actual book. But splendor never lasts: they're chainsawing six or eight trees out of the catty-corner yard, and I'm headed this evening to the puppet show for a fancified one-on-one meeting with one of the puppeteers. In Which Our Hero Holds Forth On The Way Things Really Ought To Be, And Is Told: There There, Little Boy, Run Along Now. That sort of thing. I'm planning on shaving before I go, but that's more to say I did.

It's cold. It's cold for May, and it's nearly cold for any time. It's surely chilly. All that green out there doesn't quite mesh with the way the air is. One wants a quiet back deck, some reddening maple leaves, etcetera. This isn't totally without precedent—I've got a picture of me somewhere, standing on Carr Street in a watchcap sipping whiskey with the wisteria blooming behind me and the dog layed out on the sidewalk—but the wisteria blooms a month ago, folks. Precedent or no, this is like some slip of the tongue, an accident, an intern left in charge.

How to handle an argument you have no chance of winning: Walk the dog and the Toad through last evening's cooling park, high creek running the opposite way from the way you're walking. Think about what would happen if you did win. What you'd owe them then. What you can do with the time that comes from losing. Which may be, strangely enough, walking the dog and the Toad through the cooling park, and actual time at the actual desk. The things you want anyway. The things that have naught to do with most arguments that take place outside this zip code. So: shave. Just don't feel like you have to do too thorough a job of it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bumpy Ride.

The dog's not right—we've got storms coming in—and there's a new hum: the SECU building on Market threw a bearing or something up in its air handler and now there's a hum. Hum II. Friends and fans of the forecast will remember Hum I (see: late September, 2009), and AMR has already threatened both divorce and bodily harm unless I can come to grips with this lesser hum, and soon, but: goddamnit.

In other news: Finches, I think, in the already dying ferns on the front porch. Baby thrashers and robins and wrens taking flying lessons in the back yard all weekend. The circular saw bounced a springloaded switch off into the yard and now will not operate, and the springloaded switch, owing to its springloadedness, is gone and gone. The last side of the shed, though, is sided. As soon as I can caulk the seams, I can call the city. The one-year mark of the building permit looms. I think if we hit it with no final inspection that the city burns the building to the slab as a firefighting exercise. AMR has also threatened bodily divorce and harm should I not get the giant sinking pit of money city-sanctified by the appropriate date. One does not blame her.

Puppet show, puppet show. Draft floating through Manhattan. Long unscripted days. A new hum. Perhaps I'll step out there into it and see if what's lighting up Winston is visible here yet. And again I think of Alabama, and again, and again.