We have arrived in the land of cotton and all is well. Actually, it is a dam sight better than well. I was stretched out on the couch in Snooky, the ForseyEngland 21' Chinook home on wheels, tired from crawling around hitting nails with a hammer, perfectly contented with the sunny 70 degree day and attendant soft southern breeze, and I commented to Pat that this was, if even that, only a bare notch below the hammock-on-the-beach Dos Equis tropical island beer ad. Her affirmative reply was: "I think that was a Corona ad." As you can see we continue to supplement one another's minds in an effort to present to the world the illusion of at least one whole and functional person between us. We must be succeeding as our Habitat hosts are finding us, if not all that helpful, at least amusing.
Going back a few months I will toss in the 'shock & awe' component by presenting my new motto: If they try to drive a camera up your dick - DUCK! Have I really come to this - talking about my medical condition? Guess so, folks. We were sitting in a restaurant in Cincinnati with Pat's brother, Bo, and his lady-friend, Joy, and I related to them my adventures in the urologist's office getting the el cheepo schlong&/bladder scan, and Bo cringed and said "I can't believe I am a part of this!" But he was, having just been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and on a slew of new wonder-pills. I used to overhear 'seniors' talking about their surgeries and diagnoses and prognoses and dead friends and be appalled and certain I would never join that crowd. Look again, Donny-boy. I bring this up only because ageing is such an odd process. It is always on the horizon that someday you will be older, maybe even old, but nothing you can do prepares you for the reality. The inexorable grind of the years piling up against the once-insurmountable bulwark of your youth is a startling thing. A veritable medieval siege laid against your personal basket of bones; no escape in sight, delaying tactics sought. As with most human conditions the only even partial anodyne is humor. Well, really good pain meds and antidepressants help, too.
It was a thousand miles to Cincy to see Bo. I will let Pat add in anything she likes about that family dynamic; I could not begin to do it justice. It was a nice visit, and until Pat chips in here its mysteries will remain just that.
Another 500 miles and we fetched up in S. Carolina in the Rodger's family driveway greeted with warm southern hospitality, which, I fear, we have gone from appreciating to expecting - and will soon demand. I am sure it is the curse of good manners to have people from out-of-town take egregious advantage of you.
The next day announced itself as the beginning of 2007, and 'umble-John brought forth his piano-playing-sprite, the fabled Natasha-of-the-Ukraine. She had been much-expected, but unseen since her arrival about 10 days prior. What can I say here that is both honest and diplomatic? Ah, when did I ever care about diplomacy?
Natasha is here after years of effort on her part and John's, and here in the Piedmont despite the fact that at least two sovereign governments helped with the arrangements. It is a sort of prenuptual visit wherein the happy couple is given three months to either tie the knot or pass on like ships in the night. It isn't mail-order bride time as they have known one another for years, but I, for one, can essay that it is possible to live with a woman for years and still not quite 'know' her. I say 'happy' rather tonglue-in-cheek as the stresses imposed by this arbitrary time limit can be daunting. John is nearing 50 - I hear him groan as I baldly announce this to the world, and a confirmed bachelor. Uh-oh! Is this the stuff of sitcom or tragedy? Qualified screen writers please report to the front desk. Current American culture would surely write it up as one or the other; whereas those of us involved in caring about these two are hoping for a more quotidian resolution, but no one really knows how this plays out. It is like the process of ageing; you get yourself ready every way from Sunday, and when the reality arrives you - John, in this case, are as lost as a puppy in fast traffic. There is no advice to be given. Relationships are extraordinarily hard work. Much is demanded of each party. People get peeled in the process. Not everyone sees the ultimate benefit of this.
My own take on Natasha is that she is bright and tough. I think she is frightened; they both are, though the reasons differ. She is, in some sense, made of sterner stuff than John, a survivior with will and tenacity in her favor. How this plays out against John's almost Buddha-like stance is to be seen.
Leaving the up-country angst behind we drifted down the couple hundred miles to our destination on the coast, Bluffton.
A week in the Low Country, and we are loving it. There is a charm here that we both like. A lot of it is visual. Not much we can say about local culture; we work daily with a couple of dozen rich, old white guys - and a few women, who cut boards and hammer nails like the devil. They are an interesting lot, having come thru all the major universities and worked in 'important' jobs on all the continents. I do notice a lot of ego in the air; I would say it is important not to miss tee time at whichever of the twenty-plus local golf courses you play. To contend, though with manners, seems to be in the makeup of these people, and they aren't big on asking for, or taking, instructions. The foreman, an exceptionally able builder, has a fine way with folk: occasionally censorious, especially on safety issues, he generally deals from a deck loaded with chiding humor. These are polite and friendly people, making requsite small talk and bantering good-naturedly. A good example of the milieu is the response when Pat is asked where she is from and replies 'Berkeley'. The comeback is often an enthusiastic one: 'I taught there, did research there, or have three daughters doing their phD's there.' No bragging is intended; these are just folk who stake out their territory and stand at the border with a big, welcoming grin. It seems probable that they are just what I would have been under other circumstances.
The work is fantastic. My toenailing skills are really improved. I can now, with some thought, tell a rafter from a stud, and I remain certain that 2x4's are smaller than 2x12's - though not necessarily shorter... Each day we are allowed to choose what we want to do, and as about 5 houses are in various stages of erection there is always a variety of tasks. Pat has signed on for finishing work: she paints, she caulks, and she scrubs floors and sings 'just knock me up and call me Brigit.' I am learning framing. They seem to like it when tall guys go in for framing. I hate working over my head, and by the end of each day I ache in every joint. The day is an onerous 4 hours, and we work 5 of them each week. It's tough. Actually, if I tried to work any longer I would be so tired there would be accidents. As it is I am clumsy as ever but haven't harmed anyone yet. And when they take out pieces I have just nailed in they only snicker softly.
More will follow, but I will go ahead and publish this. your correspondent at Hilton Head, don e.