We are a sentimental lot, we Americans.  Not the somewhat stick-to-your-eyeballs gooey of Saturday Evening Post & Norman Rockwell, but a harder sort.  Our sentiments range from baby-kissing to lynching.  Your neighbors on one side want to fondle your puppy, those on the other side would sooner cook it.  We are a wonderfully diverse folk needing to give one another a lot of latitude.  Generally we are pretty good at that, too. 

Speaking of latitude we are considering moving north, up above the 47th parallel - maybe 250 miles north.  If we were to do this while remaining in Maine we would be in some possibly unmapped region named Iciest Moosistan.  But this country being one great tilting board game with the fulcrum, a hard nut of bible-belt sentiment, placed fairly squarely under the evil kingdom of Kansas, we are all more likely to follow the national flow and move east to west.  That is the way the game has always tilted: Manifest Destiny and the peaceful sea in your eyes.  It was once the Oakie Trail; some of our grandparents, or parents, took it in an old rattletrap car with dreams of earning a living in the sun.  Some of us now drift back thataway, called by blood that got left behind on the sidewalks of the left coast.  That the blood is encapsulated in walking, talking, living progeny of ours is all the more moving.  (The sternest picture:  hips moving without thought, babies born, debts accrued and shoulder to the wheel for decades, and at the end of the day a cold beer in the rocking chair on the porch.) On the sidewalks - dried blood is mostly just bitter memories, but the kind that calls you 'granny' has all the charm of ..... descriptions will vary with personal experience and preference.  I will not burden you with my own.  I am in the cold beer in the rocking chair phase of family life.

Pat has turned 73 shouting a new mantra.  Remember the movie Network?  Peter Finch goes off on the air yelling "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"  Pat recently came up with her own version; it is related to the 'fucking wilderness' of the previous letter.  She asserts that she is old enough to get what she wants; that she shouldn't have to settle for less in what time is left to her.  I confess that the first 15 years of our retirement have been spent with an emphasis on dirt, and rocks, and tractors - guy things.  I have had 40 acres in the high desert to learn masonry on, and this place in Maine to practice other rural delights.  It has been about what charmed me in large part.  The least I can do is go fifty-fifty with her and imagine we have at least 15 more years together.  She gets Tacoma and all the amenities.

Pat wants to be able to walk out her front door and stroll to the coffee shop, the Indian, Chinese, and Thai restaurants, the waterfront, the library.  She has always been more of a sophisticate than me.  I can settle for checking out the compost pile with relish, but that is the past.  It is to be the past for both of us.  The future looks like this.  It is called Starbucks and the Gateway to India and the Silk Thai Cafe.  It travels under the banner of extremely rare occurrences of ice on the strolling surface.  It is a goodly land where the sun may not show up every day but sun lamps are available.  It is the $120 round trip 22 hour train trip to the Bay Area to visit kin, which leaves daily.  We happen to like trains.  The Coast Starlight is a soft ride.

Pat wanted a bungalow; she got a Craftsman, not quite a bungalow but the same aesthetic.  You cannot tell a lot from the pics.  Outside it does not look like much; inside it is quite nice.  Five windows in the larger-than-now kitchen.  The entire upper floor a big master bedroom with big bath; we both wanted to get away from more stairs, but I saw this and knew it was for Pat.  We will hold the handrails and tremble our way up and down.  You can see classy dressed granite fireplace and oak floors.  The woodwork is painted, and I don't see us embarking on stripping it, but I do see a lot of places to put in oak built-ins, starting with a mantle and cabinets on each side of the fireplace.  Back issues of American Bungalow are showing me the way.  I will need things to keep me busy as living where the house is bigger than the back yard will be daunting.  The shop space is limited, too.  A single car garage in the basement that might hold a large snowmobile.  I will take all my hundreds of board feet of well-seasoned oak, and my essential machines: 2, or 3?, table saws, a band saw, a drill press, a planer, a jointer, a compound sliding mitre saw - ah the joys of things that make loud noises and sawdust as they cut and sculpt.  I will miss my chickens, and I won't get to harvest the 200 garlics I just planted, or all the young asparagus and berries.  We trade one life for another and it seems not a step down due to age, but merely a shifting emphasis.

How did we find this house?  I saw one we both liked online and arranged with a realtor to fly out to Tacoma and see it. He had a few hours to get ready for me.  Why Tacoma?  Seattle seemed a little too busy, too peoplely.  I will never live in California again, and Portland was likewise maybe a bit too busy.  So, I booked a flight out for Wed. night, spent all day Thursday looking the neighborhoods, and flew back on Friday.  What a hassle that was!!!  If you can get there some other way 'Don't Fly!'  I say this even though no one man-handled my package looking for explosive results - hey, that was 30 years ago!, and no revealing pics were taken of me looking hairier and closer to the ground. 

The East Coast was undergoing some storm emergency and I ended up in Atlanta instead of Philadelphia.  In Atlanta I got to run several miles in various terminals to make a connection; I was running late and creaky.  Got into Seatac hours and hours late, and then things improved.  My rental car was gone so they gave me a minivan with free gas and unlimited miles.  My 2 star motel was quite nice.  I put in a bid for a room on Priceline.com at $40 and was immediately accepted.  Place had a full kitchen.  Not that I was there much.  About 3 hours sleep that night and off to see houses.  Had taken Hal Magellan with me and she was a marvel.  Saved my ass coming out of the airport at 0330 in fog so thick I couldn't see 20 feet.  Sent me right where I wanted to go every time, and I asked often.  How did I ever live without a GPS?  It is weird to be 67 and see things changing so fast and not keeping up and then suddenly discovering what every 12 year old has known for as long as they have known anything.

Met the realtor and didn't like the house.  Gave him a few other addresses to see if we could get viewings that day - I don't ask much.  Then off I drove to ramble in neighborhoods and look.  For sale signs are everywhere.  As I found places I phoned Pat at home in Maine.  She would look them up online and give me the skinny.  If we felt interested I would phone the realtor and add it to the list.

Tacoma is an interesting town.  Some very nice neighborhoods and some a bit gritty.  Everything Pat wanted appeared to be near the University of Puget Sound in a gourmet ghetto along 6th Avenue.  The house you saw above is just at the edge of that area.  Went with the realtor to see it last thing, and I loved it.  We offered full price and asked the seller to cover closing costs.  Everything is now verbally accepted and all the papers are flowing back and forth by email and fax.  The last possible show-stopper is the home inspection.  The house looks real solid but may need a new roof soon.  If we have to counter on that for a reduced price there might be a hitch.  Hard to know.  The owner is an Air Force M.D. who went off to Texas and has been trying to sell the house for many months.  He paid $360k in '05, so it has come down nicely.

The gourmet ghetto is more blue collar than not.  Nice ethnic restaurants may be bookended by veterinary clinics and auto body shops.  For the price, which was about all we wanted to spend, it is great.  I went back to the motel and celebrated with 3 bottles of Anchor Steam Porter, still the best brew in the States, and a Maxi-Mex burrito.  Took off all my duds, flipped on Law and Order and partied.  How better to celebrate the American Dream?

Yes, I am diverging from all my efforts to be in synch with the New America I hear coming down the turnpike, the one where we all raise chickens and garden, but it is simply time.  No regrets and no excuses.  Someone will get a really great place here.  The bee hives are empty; all the little darlings went south while we were on vacation.  Guess it is what they call colony collapse disorder;  they looked fine, and then they were gone.  But there is still Chuckles Kubota, who wouldn't even fit into the backyard in Tacoma, and the greenhouse, and a garden twice the size of the Tacoma lot.  All those improvements, but I don't mind.  If the next people here have a better life for it then I am pleased.  Don't know that we will be able to sell, but we are willing to rent until....   No idea what 'until' encompasses, but if people can live here, afford to pay us some rent, grow food, have a decent life, that is enough to ask.  Maine is a great place for the young - that would generally include anyone under 50.  Maine has been a fine place, and now we move on to that retirement village in the west, Tacoma.

The editor finished reading the above and began to weep.  It's okay.  We move on.  We adapt.  Our lives continue in directions other than what we had anticipated.  Who among us ever really anticipated getting old?  I had not really anticipated being all that adept at raking snow off the roof and running the snowblower and chopping ice off the windshield for that much longer.  Sure the old Mainers do it into their nineties, well, some of them, but I won't be sorry to see the last of 'winter'.  Life really does, quite simply, go on.  We have no alternative, and we might just as well live with it.  Tacoma will be good.  I will be happy to take the stroll up the street with my wife and a couple of handsome Boxer girls to get a cuppa at Fourbux.  The editor will think I am trying to paper-over my anguish with the above sentiments, but it is not so.  We move on, and it works.

Just got the inspection report back.  The roof is a disaster, and I will have to counter with the sellers paying for a new one.  That could easily go $15k, and they may well balk at that.  Somehow I don't think so.  The market is jammed with homes for sale.  Refuse an offer now and not get another for a year?  I don't want to take on a place that has the problems this roof presents.  We will see in a few days.  Next comes an inspection by a roofing contractor, and then the response from the seller.  I think he is not a rich person.  He has already suffered a 33% loss on his own buying price, and he now lives in a similar house, valued similarly to this one, in a town in another state.  A hard thing for those who bought the 'dream' and bought into a market that would never go down.  I am sorry for him but have my own limits.  I got to this point where I can buy his house for much less than he paid just because I paid attention to such limits.

Will send this along now.  Light snow and deep cold, but nothing to get excited about.  Catch you on the other side.  don and pat and the rest.

try this link for pics of the house if the above fails:


or just google 2316 N. 8th St., Tacoma, Wa., 98403

Pat here.  In response to and old friend who admits to turning to drink and league bowling when forced to live in Tacoma many years ago.

With apologies to Willy Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when milky molds
  Upon the lichens lie.
So was it at my mother’s breast;
  So is it now as I move West;
So be it when I sneeze with colds,
  And can’t get dry.
The child of Alameda best
  Loves fog and welkin sunbeam free,
The clammy sand, the wistful Western Sea.

riding off into the sunset - in a u-haul