My world has taken a turn for the weird. I have been hearing on and off for a few months from a family who said they wanted to rent my house for four months in the fall. They also wanted to rent the mother-in-law apartment for their nanny. People with nannies are Back East and get into scandals for not paying employment taxes. Here in the egalitarian West we don't hold with such fancifications. We settle social differences with Colt revolvers in the middle of the street at high noon. Winner is played by Gary Cooper in the inevitable movie, loser goes to Boot Hill. Or at least we used to.
For a long time I tried to hold the idea of what to do if they actually did take the house in abeyance. I am not one of those who can easily think in contingencies. But I did come up with some contingent plans.
One was to work on a coffee table book I have had kicking around on my agenda of things to do for a while. Though there are some genuinely startling and appalling gargoyles on the older cathedrals in Europe, mainly in France, there seems to be no collection of photographs of them.
At least there wasn't when I checked ten or fifteen years ago. There may be by now. If there still isn't, it would be fun to make one. One would start with the Romanesque cathedral at Toulouse which is lousy with gargoyles, but they are up high and hard to see. They were intended to scare away demons, not to be admired by the Christians, so there was no reason for them to be visible from the street.
It would be a lot of work and require a lot of time spent in various cities. I already have a good camera, a tripod, and a second hand telephoto lens. I would have to live either in hotels which would be horribly expensive, or buy a used mini-van in France and live in that, and in youth hostels sometimes, and in cheap hotels sometimes.
So that was one possibility.
A second possibility was to live on an ulpan in Jerusalem. An ulpan is a residential Hebrew school, we would say today an immersion program. When refugees were flooding into Israel from Europe in the 1940's and from the Muslim countries in the 1950's, it was necessary for everyone to learn Hebrew as quickly as possible. Otherwise the country would have become a polyglot mess of Arabic speakers from Egypt, Yemen, and Iraq, and Yiddish speakers from Poland, Russia, and Rumania.
The solution was ulpanim. On an ulpan, one lived in a barracks, studied Hebrew in the morning, and did agricultural work in the afternoon. A modern ulpan is quite different, but the underlying purpose is the same. A modern ulpan-nik pays for her stay and her instruction. One does volunteer work if one is so inclined (most are).
Which is itself a measure of the success of Zionism and Israel. Jews no longer arrive in Israel as harried refugees fleeing persecution. Israel is discriminated against and persecuted among the nations, but the Jews within its borders no longer are. Unless they are within rocket range of Gaza. But that is another story for another time.
The third option I considered was living in the RV for the duration, or at least some of it. I lived in the RV during the summer of 2007 and loved it. That summer I spent mostly in northern Canada. Northern Alberta is a pastoral idyll. Parts of it are secretly heaven but have been hushed up to avoid tourism and development. Not a bad place if you don't mind the occasional moose wandering on the road.
One advantage of spending the autumn living in the bus is that North America is my favorite continent and I would spend some time poking around in it. Another is that I could easily get far enough away from the world to not have wi-fi access to the internet time suck. A corollary to that is that in being away from both home and the internet, I might just get off my butt and sit down and write something.
There are several things I would like to write, the essays about deforestation in particular, that I might be more likely to work on if I weren't at home and online all the time. I might actually go to the trouble to learn how to take photos as well.
Anyway, Thursday the promised "check is in the mail" turned out to actually be in the mail. So this madness is on. It apparently is actually going to happen. So come August 21, I am going to set out for North America.
In contemplating which of the several choices to choose, it occurred to me that I should leave for North America whether the tenants rent the house or not. I have been lurking around this dump with only occasional exits (Latvia, Florida, Shanghai, Wisconsin) since coming back from Alaska in 2008. I am getting stale and it is time to get the hell out of here. Especially out of this claustrophobic little apartment and this repetitive little town.
And now I will.
But there is a lot to do. I have to get the house fixed up - rooms painted, termites whacked, dry rot repaired, new rugs added, more sheets and pillowcases, gardening spiffed up.
And the bus requires a lot of work too. It needs the stairs replaced, and I need to be shown how the heater and hot water work.
Actually now that I think of it, I ought to work on the house first. I can have the bus worked on while I am living in it, if need be. The young'uns who are currently renting the joint are off for the weekend, so I can break in and paint some rooms in their absence.
These particular young'uns, unlike the Irish clods who were here in 2008, are creative and intelligent. They are engaged in making an anime commercial for AT&T. I have seen some of the story boards for it and it looks like it will be elaborate, clever as hell, and fun to watch. Some of the work is actually being done in my front room and foyer. How cool is that?
So maybe I should get dressed and start doing that, instead of sitting here? Nah.