In the midst of the pandemic, in a happenstance transatlantic conversation, I jostled with my sister Anna, that she never looks at my site. Apparently she does.
I will take a moment to clarify. This website exists because of my daughters. Here, Rosie and Loli have memories of their dad, me, who they rarely see. They mostly know their father from video calls, from rare third-person accounts and from their sporadic travels to the US. I have a full life here, I can’t keep track of my photos for them on my computer anymore and decided to organize the pictures in the form of a website.
When I reached four thousand photos in my archive, I decided to archive and organize them on a website, not expecting anyone to look through that many pictures, myself included.
My sister was busy with chores around her house in Switzerland. On the subject of homes, my Utah house is the legacy of a mad man. One that I have to come to terms with. The house is extremely well designed in places, and in places laughable. To shed some light on the insanity, my bedroom ceiling slants in two directions at once, which means that none of the corners are on the same level. To add insult to injury the windows are floor to crooked ceiling – good luck installing shades.
For now, I figured out a way to prevent my neighbors from seeing me walking around naked, and I’ll carefully consider how to proceed from here without any good ideas of how to make the shades complete.
Moab, a neighborhood of charisma.
The prior resident of my house haunts me. Apparently he was a trust fund kid of sorts. The local delivery guy mentioned that the previous owner wore make up and didn’t answer the door bell.
“One way of looking at it would say it’s hard to find a good reason to stick around when you have to invent an idea for yourself.” I conclude my short story of how the place came to be into the phone.
“Just like you.” Anna commented.
I’m used to the outside perception that I don’t have a job. It might seem that way to a bystander. Engineering is a tricky business. In fact, a majority of my time is spent analyzing the business in the context of how to make the technology better through a multiplicity of lens. Process, unit, measures, redundancies, bottlenecks, fluidity, risk, quality, response, controls, all with priorities and scores, both internal and reported externally. This is a necessary function and has found recognition within the organization. My family, raised on traditional working class values doesn’t recognize a job without a clock on the wall. No matter.
The point is, my team keeps me sane. My future self always laughs at this statement.
Rationale – seems like the prior resident of the house was lacking it. I could posit, his favorite daily chore was a never-ending struggle to deal with the incessant wind chimes hung all over the façade of the house. It took me a good amount of time to figure out what wind chimes are called in Polish. I had to extract approval of my translation from Anna almost by force.
Without being judgmental, it would seem like there wasn’t much of a point to the prior residents life. Philosophy aside, he figured he could spend his days psychologically confronting the sound of the chimes. Without struggling internally over the meaning of life, there’s a deeper insight lying around here somewhere.
My prior installed four industrial-sized wind chimes along the whole patio. It’s just been a month since I’ve lived in the house. I’m sitting on the patio after breakfast, digging into my email account. At the slightest sign of a breeze the damned things start ringing. I gave up. It was officially driving me nuts. I tried to ignore them. Ring, ring ring ring, ring ring.
He must have been mad. The deliver guy implied so.
“Why?” Anna asked.
“He wanted to change into a cat. My apologies, he was turning into a cat.” That’s my best bet based on the delivery guy’s account. Why? I don’t know. I’m trying to make sense of it all myself the best way I can. A crow cawed above me.
“So there was this crazy guy here. Why are we talking about this? Because I’m relating to you moping the floor at your place.” My poor attempt at Transatlantic, multicultural, cross-gender sibling bonding.
“I’m filling you in on what I have to deal with here.” She’s starting to pick up a trace of logic in my story.
I like the house and the somewhat shocking architecture of the place in this particular instance means that the prior resident hung his chimes on hooks at roof level, 12 feet above the patio. The private fact about me is that I have…
“Vertigo.” She interrupts. How did she know?
“Not even, just open space phobia.” I correct her. “If you stand me up on a high enough ladder, my hands begin to sweat.” The point is mute.
“I’m the same way.” Comes an honest admittance. Her anxiety is explained.
I would not want to get up on a ladder to get to the roof out of concern for getting dizzy and falling onto concrete from a significant height. Not the most pleasant experience. I still have to figure out how to swap out the light bulbs of the patio recess lighting without ending myself. Easier said than done. Maybe my next guest will hold the ladder down for me, apparently that eases my discomfort.
Without anyone here I didn’t even bother getting the ladder from the store, that’s how aware I am of my shortcoming.
Meanwhile, the chimes are happily dangling up there, well out of the reach of my hands and keep on boring a hole in my head. What to do? A McGuyver type of a question.
I let them be for a month, but finally my patience has run dry. I came back super exhausted from my last camping trip to Chicken Corners. Today I’m hung over the chair like loose clothing in a sad attempt of composing myself. The 6:30 am monthly pandemic status call didn’t help my recovery. Besides the fact that it’s Memorial Day today, a holiday. I’m on the phone listening to what we’re doing to stay in business.
After the call, I’m sitting on the patio, drinking post-breakfast coffee. And the chimes are at it again. I have a very high tolerance for background noise. Give me some credit, I ignored them for a month. Now time has come – the chimes must go! I took a longer look at them, probably for the first time since they gave me the creeps and reminded me of the decaying corpse in the living room. I figured out that I can cut them off.
I went to war with the chimes and made myself a halberd!
Since the crazy man did pass in the house and then spent several weeks in the living room , the clean up crew had to fumigate the whole house repeatedly and as part of the process get rid of all the closet clothing rods.
Fascinating, the times of the pandemic reshaped.
One of the closets is especially wide, and the rod needed to be of extraordinary length. It so happened, that I just made the trip to Grand Junction and picked up the required rod at the local building supply. I installed a steak knife at one of the ends of the rod with masking tape and guillotined the chimes.
“As you are mopping your floor, I sit here and detail to you my struggles of the silliest kind.” I begin another train of thought. “On the subject matter, my floor is incredibly dirty.”
The quirks of living alone. In the desert, the floor doesn’t even stick to your feet. The wind blows in the finest dust in the smallest amounts. This fine red powder attaches itself to anything and everything that isn’t a solid surface. Since it acts as a clay of sorts, the effect is dirt of a specific sanitary kind. It’s benign. I just wear shoes in the kitchen all the time. It’s not that I care about the kitchen floor that much – a remodel awaits.
“When I look at the kitchen floor I wonder…” I begin my big reveal.
“Do you know where he died?” Interrupts Anna.
“The paperwork says he died in the living room, which shares the space with the kitchen. I took a good look at the floor…” I begin again.
“How old was he?” She jumps in again.
“68” I reply.
“Maybe it’s an omen, you have nothing to worry about, lots to go. It sounds like you connect with him on a spiritual level.” She’s implying a lot.
“I do connect with him. These are small details. The grout next to the island in the kitchen is darkened in a way that makes one wonder if that wasn’t by any chance the spot where the man started sinking into the floor.” I start my deduction, and continue. “Because if he started sinking into the floor in the living room, the floor in the living room lies on a wooden frame that you can inspect from the room below, and you could see the spot from underneath. My assumption is that he keeled over and was finished on the floor in the kitchen, next to the island. So when I look closely at the kitchen floor, I have to squint not to see the dark spot where I have to surrender my prior drew his last breath. And deal with his end, continuously.”
I take a break to collect myself. There is some hidden trauma in my thinking.
I continue: “When I get to it, I will replace the floor, replace the cabinets, change out the bathrooms and I will be at peace. Until then, living alone, I don’t much care about the floors. I am mopping them today for the first time in a month. To be honest, I don’t make much of a mess living here alone. I clean right after everything I make in the kitchen. And even if I happen to leave a fruit out on the counter for a week, it simply starts to petrify.”
“You wouldn’t even know.” Anna’s doubt is all encompassing.
“In the desert, dehydration doesn’t happen through simple evaporation. Quantum level processes allow molecules to lose their structure at a subatomic level. Ion channels and such. Negative humidity.” I continue my explanation. “If you spill some coke on a surface, after two weeks all that is left is a crust of crystalline sugar.”
“Well yes.” Anna is busy cleaning.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon, because if you pour water over such a finding, it simply washes away. Nothing is left behind. Stains, which usually happen under the circumstances of humidity applied to organic matter. Any and every thing first looses all of its hydrogen, then oxygen which is released into the air, and all the time UV rays are baking the substance from within. It’s hard to call remnants of your spill here a stain. I still haven’t found a good name for it. Being used to stains in humid climes, you initially don’t realize what your looking at, these discolorations. We’re used to seeing scarring created by either things rotting or melting. For instance, old monuments in our home town melt under acid rain. Here on the other hand, the sedimentary rocks are sculpted by the bodies of water prevalent in this geography millions of years ago. Their round shapes are the effects of organic decomposition and water sloshing against the edge of a sea. These rocks, once the water disappeared, had nothing else to do and stayed the same for millennia. There was no process here that would cause them to rot or melt. Only erosion. But sediment is especially good at resisting erosion.
“The mountains next to me are a magma intrusion, 70 million years ago. Not a volcano, only a singular event connecting earth’s surface with a deposit under the crust. Not long after setting in, the magma started it’s own life. Magma suffers from erosion a lot more than sediment. Being roughly of the same age, the sediment stayed roughly the same shape as when it was covered with water, meanwhile the magma turned into cones. This all makes sense to you?!” I realize I’ve been talking to myself for a while.
“Yes of course, I’m just busy with the floor over here.” She replies.