An Air of Bad Ease

An air of bad ease descended upon the rooftop gathering as employees of Hotel Julian listened to Minerva explain her predicament, and, by process of detrimental reliance, their own. Commercial buildings, particularly those housing paying guests, were subject to strict codes designed to protect the public against construction dangers inherent in aging and disrepair of physical systems that might result in unforeseen and unexpected loss to property or life. The purpose of updated codes was to minimize the uncertainty of loss. While Minerva tried to focus on the cost of updating, including the interruption to business, which would probably put the employees out of work long enough they would have to find work elsewhere, Julian argued the building should qualify for state and national historical interest and preservation. Either way, Minerva countered, the costs would be a show stopper. But there might be preservation funds or grants available for which they could apply. But the project would require neighborhood support, and that was certainly uncertain. Besides, current guests could ill afford future rates required to sustain a renovated project. Would there come a new clientele? In this neighborhood? Did Julian want to participate in a gentrification project? Dour looks and quiet space filled the conversation, which was, for the most part, between Minerva and her son. Hotel Julian was, after all, a family owned business. And there was the problem of the tunnel, built under the public road without permit or any kind of engineering approval. The tunnel coming to light had afforded the inspectors no end of curiosity and enjoyment. At that, faces with frowns glowered in my direction. Prior renovations to the building, particularly the one of the late 1940s, adulterated its original character to a degree it would be difficult to argue its historical nature or value. And now an elevator would need to be installed. The fire escape ladders could no longer be used to access the rooftop for public tavern use. There wasn’t anything about the rooftop bar that met any kind of code, license, or fee requirement. Seamen had been berthing in the hotel since the late 1800s; surely that provided some proof of historical interest. There was no business plan. They had, in a sense, been stealing from the business, letting the building deteriorate from improper maintenance. They had let it go, much as a person aging might be prone to let their own body go, ignoring exercise, diet, health care. Not that they didn’t care for their body, or their mind, but that the maintenance and upkeep became too much to bear. The old building contained a history of stories few today cared about. Neighborhoods change, and they had simply gone with the flow, in part, though, responsible for the direction that flow had taken. They were not slumlords, but a low rent district had evolved over time in their surrounds. They had adapted. Minerva asked for suggestions and questions. What about turning the building into a maritime museum? Find a new owner, one willing to invest in the old. The air on the rooftop, rarely used during the day, the sun rising, warming, then heating the tar roof, became too hot without umbrellas, and Minerva adjourned the meeting without ceremony or decision. I stayed on the roof, still nursing my morning coffee, walking the perimeter, watching the yachts come and go down in the harbor, and saw a few sailors dressed in white pulling detail on a distant Navy Destroyer deck. I was thinking about what might come next, while the others climbed down to go to work. I felt at ease, even as I felt somewhat bad about that easy feeling that comes from an ability to both care and not to care when presented with a prospect designed for either.

“An Air of Bad Ease” is episode 41 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Signs

No Vacancy Next Exit Yield Yellow
Curves Ahead Jesus Saves 20 is Plenty
Men Working Wrong Way Slow Down
Beach Turnout R R Trucks Surf’s Up
No U-Turn Warning Coming Merge
Living Together Dinosaur Crossing
Strong Odor Theatre No Syntax
Call Mother Footnotes Wait Here
Boiler Room Home Economics Pool
Skid Row Lemonade Hardware
Look Concrete Buy Sell Trade
Cash for Cool Clothes Shoes Hats
Only the Lonely Steel Plate Cars
Dance Tonight Bingo Poker
Yoga Beer Book Rack Comics
Yes Short Story Masterpieces
Happenings Falls Rounding
Not an Exit Lemon Drops
People Sleeping in Roadway
Birds Icy Spots Leery Reckless
Backstage Backstory Face Front
1000 Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Noises Off Flying Goat Coffee
Trees of Mystery No Roller Skates
Route 66 Las Vegas Barstow
Fabulous No Standing Anytime
Lands End Dip Advertise Here
Mudslide Homes of Happiness
End of the Trail No Lifeguard

A Loss of Intimacy

The Encagement of Typographical ManHow does one create a sense of intimacy with a blog? The very word, blog, heavy and lugubrious, suggests something one may not want to get too close to. Does intimacy imply a kind of secrecy, like the sharing of handwritten letters over time between two persons who have never met in propria persona? The Latin mass seemed intimate, and when, following Vatican II, local masses were said in the vernacular, I felt a loss of intimacy. The words in English had lost their secrecy. The mystery of the mass was no longer much of a mystery, no longer a magic show. The priest talked just like everybody else. This should have led to a greater degree of intimacy, but it did not.

One characteristic of the Internet is its ubiquitous presence, McLuhan’s “global village” realized, but for anyone who’s ever lived in a small town, the Internet might seem its opposite, an absurdly large, strange village, more like something Kafka might have dreamed rather than Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio.” But the paradox of “Winesburg” is found in the irony that one feels intimacy most when one feels most lonely. It is the loss of intimacy when one feels the value of the familiar, of something made known especially for you. But “over the Internet” intimacy is spread as thin as Emily’s gossamer gown.

One blog I follow that seems to have created a sense of intimacy for or with its readers is Spitafields Life. Does follow suggest intimacy? But what if one is followed by a multitude? That would seem hardly the suggestion of intimacy. Yet the Spitafields blog is written by “The Gentle Author,” whose actual name we don’t know. Note the note of secrecy that seems to draw the normally distant intimacy near. The Gentle Author offers a course on how to write a blog. The next one is advertised at Spitafields for May. Maybe I should cross the pond and attend, buy a copy of one of The Gentle Author’s signed books, find out if The Gentle Author is male or female, not that it matters – would that knowledge increase or diminish a sense of intimacy?

Blogs come in many disguises and intents, purposes vary. The lifespan of the average blog is probably not very long, could be as short as a day or two, indeed, an hour or two. One might quickly discover the blogger’s life contains the secret of a crushing intimacy, more sad and forlorn than a single tweet could ever hope for. The sound of the whippoorwill.

So it came as some surprise to see the comment of one distant but familiar reader who found the new format I’m working on for The Coming of the Toads, “less intimate.” The folks who started the Internet, huddled over their code, as anonymous as a telephone pole on a country road, surely must have been among the least intimate of the ones to whom one might want to write. Or I just might have that backwards. IDK. The bloggers among us who prefer writing with words rather than with CSM must rely on canned templates to fulfill our visions! Admittedly though, I’m not even sure what CSM is, but I think it has something to do with the difference between visual and HTML. And so I leave you, no doubt, gentle reader, about as far from intimacy as I can get in this particular post.

How to Build a Bed

Readers of “Penina’s Letters” may recall Salty talking about sleep. In the short excerpt below, he would have us believe he can sleep anywhere, anyhow:

But one thing I had learned in the Army was the useful skill of how to sleep. I had written Penina I could now sleep in private or in public, in a bed or on a floor, with blankets, in a bag, fully dressed including boots or naked, amid noise or in silence, in the dark or under a light, stomach full or hungry, head to toe or hanging upside-down from a chandelier. I could sleep under water if ordered to. But what I wanted now was to curl to sleep with Penina. I didn’t know I’d soon be sleeping with Penina head to toe.

We awoke uncombed, our sleep disturbed, disrobed and distraught, un-wombed. We climbed downstairs. All the beds upstairs. Why not a bed in every room? Where the cats make their beds, now here, now there, anywhere.

Joyce’s Bloom’s bed is built with springs, like the spring, in Bloom’s description, used in a ring toss game. When did you last quoit?

No. She [Molly] didn’t want anything. He [Bloom] heard then a warm heavy sigh, softer, as she turned over and the loose brass quoits of the bedstead jingled. Must get those settled really.

Beds can be awfully noisy at times.

We used to make tables, desks, beds using the same, simple, two-by-four construction design. A 2X4 frame supports a slatted or plywood top. Tools needed: hand saw, hammer, and nails. Nails allow for quicker assembly, but screws allow for easier deconstruction – so add a screwdriver. Parts needed: 2X4’s, plywood, or slats, nails, screws. Sandpaper for very rough spots, but this is not cabinetry work, not furniture, but practical and economical and time-efficient. The pieces are made to easily deconstruct, an important feature in our nomadic days.

I made a futon frame bed this weekend. I made the base, or platform, in two parts, so easier to move up or down stairs, around corners, easily strapped to the roof of a car.

The wood used was purchased years ago, having previously been used in the making of an extra long twin bed, and a desk with bookshelves installed against a wall (not so nomadic, that project). I’m not sure what the wood cost new would be today, and it’s possible that you might be able to pick up a frame unit lighter and cheaper at IKEA or some such store. If so, the utility of this bed construction design is already disappearing, like newspapers. But there are several deconstruction and recycling stores in our area where one can pick up used wood materials cheaply – as well as used tools, nails, and screws.

Note that with a futon mattress, no box springs are needed (the lower mattress in the common, two mattress bed set). And the futon itself is much simpler than the standard mattress: it’s made of cotton, can be rolled up, smells delicious, conforms to your body’s sleep design. The futon also can be deconstructed, though it should last a very long time.

The wood may be hand-rubbed with coconut oil to soften, protect and preserve, and add a flavorful scent to the bedroom digs.