The Better Half … of the Bargain

Review time, everyone:  Lifelongnewyorker headed south to start her job two weeks ago and is living all by herself in a sterile apartment complex.  Mr. NYer is about six weeks behind, having stayed on Staten Island to wait for the closing on the house and generally wrap things up.  In the meantime, he’s still working, continuing to clear out our stuff, monitoring his father’s progress in rehab, and dealing with household stuff both usual (putting out the trash) and unusual (replacing the dishwasher).  

Lifelongnewyorker knows she got the better part of the deal.

She’s beginning to feel guilty.  Speaking to Mr. NYer each night, she can hear that he’s hovering somewhere between tired and overwhelmed.  His day begins early.  How  early she doesn’t exactly know, because she’s never actually been awake before he’s left the house.  He goes to work, where he is trying, I suppose, to hand off a lot of responsibilities to other people as he prepares to retire in about three weeks.  He’s running back and forth to the nursing home where his dad is slowly going through rehab.  There’s all the household chores — laundry, shopping, cleaning, taking care of the cats.  The dishwasher, which had a breakdown the weekend we came south, was going to cost more to repair than to replace.  So he bought a new one, only to have the installers refuse to put it in until a plumber modified the connection.  That one nearly pushed him over the edge.  And I hear it’s bitterly cold in New York.

And then he’s been getting ready for the Moving Sale, which started today and continues tomorrow.  He and the Abandoned One have set it up, following My Hero’s instructions.  (My Hero is the friend who offered to run the sale) Not being there, I can’t be exactly sure what preparing for the sale has entailed, but I gather there’s been cleaning, emptying, protecting non-sale items from prying eyes, and moving furniture.

Last night my phone beeped with a text from the Abandoned One.  “Behemoth shelves down!”  Over thirty years ago, we had two sets of shelves built to hold our vinyl record collection, our stereo equipment and our TV.  We found a woodwork shop that would build them to our specifications so that they filled a thirteen-foot wall in our living room.  Each stood about the height of a kitchen counter, was sixteen inches deep, and over six feet long.

We gnashed our teeth when they arrived and we realized we’d measured the wall at waist height and not at the floor, where the baseboard moulding made it impossible to put the two shelves end-to-end as we planned.  Cleverly using one as a room divider, we managed.  In our next apartment they did run along a single living room wall.  We knew they’d never both fit into the house when we bought it, so we sold one through a classified ad.  

The remaining shelf held the Abandoned One’s basketball and Little League  trophies, board games, books and various collections of stuff.  His keyboard sat on top near Sarge, a large stuffed tiger who has had a hard life.  I vaguely remember carrying the rigid and bulky shelves up to the attic; they barely fit through the doorway to the narrow stairs.  I’m glad — there, I said it! — that I didn’t have to help carry them down.  Nor the dresser that had been in the attic storage area, the dark dark room.  Or the boxes of books and LPs.

I’m also glad that my last sight of Sarge was sitting atop the shelves.  

Sarge came to us via a fundraiser.  Nearly twenty years ago, my homeroom sold more magazine subscriptions than any other.  Our prize was permanent possession of the magazine drive mascot, a large striped tiger, who had previously been awarded to whichever homeroom was ahead for the day.  He settled on a bookcase in the back of the room, next to a map of the Middle East, and watched with his green glass eyes over my lessons in a kind of drowsy but wise way.  At the end of the school year, while cleaning my classroom, I offered the tiger to the Abandoned One, who was perhaps five or six years old.  He named him Sarge.  It only occurred to me recently that it was because of the stripes.

Sarge endured a great deal of love from the Abandoned One, and supported a large collection of stuffed friends who would pile themselves atop him every night somehow.  Sarge was big enough to climb on and, judging from the state of his back, I suspect he stolidly bore the weight of the  Abandoned One often.

Scarred for life when my mother took it upon herself to discard a large white polar bear I had as a child (it was, in her words, “a dust collector”), I respected the bond between Abandoned and Sarge and let him be.  He sat in the room through four years of college and remained when Abandoned moved to Brooklyn.  Gravity took its toll, shifting much of Sarge’s internal mass down to his belly and nether parts.  He could no longer hold up his head, which hung down nearly to his tiger knees.  The cats gave him wide berth.   

Even during the great clean up, I tried not to press the issue of Sarge.  As Abandoned emptied the shelves, he must have come to the point, finally, where he felt he could let go.  Yesterday morning, before the shelves came downstairs, he sent me an email.  “Sarge went out with today’s trash,” he wrote,  ” … was a bit sad to see his stooped frame peeking out from the top of the garbage can.”

I’ll bet it was, and the words  alone nearly made me weep.  That’s when I realized that I am lucky.  I’m not saying goodbye for such a long time to so many memories.

I’m in a kind of emotional grace space.  I feel like I’m on an extended business trip, one that’s going well.  During the day, my work keeps me busy and interested.  I try to eat a big meal at lunch so I can get by with soup and salad at night, both of which are easy to whip up in about three minutes — just open the can and the bag of greens.  After I eat, I settle down to Facebook or to write a blog post.  Perhaps I watch a little television or read a book.  I drink a glass of wine, go to bed early and sleep well.  Aside from doing laundry and running the dishwasher once a week when I’ve used up all the dishes, I have no real chores.  I stop at  one of many markets to pick up a couple of items on my way home and had to remember to put gas in the car once.  It’s not exactly stressful. 

Hey, Mr. NYer — I appreciate what you’re doing.  Tell you what — I’ll pick out a house.  I’m going out again tomorrow.

Sights from my Office

Some people have been clamoring for pictures.  Here are a handful take from or near my office.  Apologies for the haphazard layout — I haven’t figured this part out yet.

I’m on the 4th floor of the SPLC building with windows on three sides of my work area.  The downtown is a mix of office and government buildings and some structures dating from as far back as the mid-19th century.  These, originally homes, are now mainly used as office buildings. 
These pictures are completely inadequate, but give a sense of where I’m at every day. 
Above is the Civil Rights Memorial, designed by Maya Lin.  The memorial and museum behind it are part of the Center, and commemorate the people killed in the modern Civil Rights movement.

 Not sure what is housed in the white columned building, but it’s diagonally across from the center and illustrates the scattered older buildings that dot the downtown area. 

The remaining photos are view from my office.  First is the view looking north.  On the left is the Regions bank tower, and the new construction is being built above a historic courthouse building.  Those cranes, so common in New York, are terrifying when they swing in our direction. 

The red building is the Dexter Avenue King Baptist Church, where Dr. King was pastor. 

The white buildings are mainly state offices.  The domed building beyond is the Alabama capitol.  It’s just two blocks away.

Here are some links:

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

City of Montgomery

Montgomery on Wikipedia

SPLC

Alabama state capitol

Alarm in the Night

Short post tonight.  Lifelongnewyorker is writing as she’s listening to the State of the Union Address.  Right now, the Prez is entering the Chamber, greeting his way down the aisle.

I’m settling into a bit of a routine and, now that the Great Mattress Switch is behind us, I’ve slept soundly.  In fact, I was in a sound sleep last night when I woke at 4:45 a.m. to a distinct chirping sound.  Had one of those mourning doves made it way into my bedroom?  No … they coo in an owlish way; they don’t chirp.  Perhaps I’d imagined it. 

Settling back into the pillow, I drifted off, only to hear it again.  By the third chirp I realized it was the sound of the bedroom smoke alarm, reminding me that it was time to change the battery.  Why do they decide to do this in the middle of the night? 

I am in an up-to-date townhouse apartment complex, and each room has a smoke detector.  The chirp came from the one at the foot of my bed; I couldn’t replace the battery, but I certainly could remove it.  I got up, wondering why Mr. NYer couldn’t be here to take care of this and let me sleep.  Stumbling out to the dining area, I returned with a chair and parked it beneath the alarm.  Reaching up, I twisted off the cover, immediately setting off a distinctive high-pitched wail.  That’s when I saw that this smoke alarm was hard-wired into the ceiling.  No battery to remove. 

I replaced the cover and decided to time the chirps.  Coming once a minute, at least they weren’t increasing in frequency, like contractions.  There was no way I was going to sleep.  Should I go to the other room and sleep on the soft mattress?  Only as a last resort. 

Instead, I climbed the chair again to read the small print on the cover.  It told me to refer to the owner’s manual.  As a renter, I didn’t have an owner’s manual.  Next I grabbed the folder I’d received when I moved in that had the rules of the complex and the renter’s handbook.  Clearly the management office would not be staffed at this hour, but I remembered an emergency number.  Did a malfunctioning, madly chirping smoke detector count?  I read the operative paragraph: emergencies included plumbing and electrical problems.  This was potentially an electrical problem.  It was certainly a problem.  Maybe they could troubleshoot.

I punched the number into the cell phone and heard it ring.  Three rings, but then a human voice.

“All our operators are busy now,” it told me, “please hold on. . .”

[First time the Republicans clap — they’re on their feet for the eliminaton of capital gains taxes on small businesses.  Good thing, I was afraid their faces were going to freeze like that.]

It’s 4:50 in the morning, and all the operators are busy?  Was every occupant in the complex attempting to cope with a chirping alarm?  And why was only one alarm chirping?  After about a minute, I realized that no operator was going to pick up soon, and doubted much help would be offered.  I disconnected.

Now what?  Sleep in the other bedroom, on the too-soft mattress I’d rejected?  Return to bed and sandwich my head between pillows?  Stuff beans into my ears? 

[“No one accepts second place for the United States of America …”– he’s going for the kind of lines the Republicans can’t afford not to be in favor of … like mom and apple pie.]

Really wanting to go back to sweet sleep, I was ready to make one last stab at fixing the problem.  Climbing the chair again, I peered at the detector.  A green light was blinking.  Next to it was a button:  “Push and hold to test alarm.” 

I pushed; it screamed.  But at the same time the blinking light turned to solid green.  Stepping down, I waited and watched the clock.  A minute clicked by, then another.  No chirp.  I crawled back into bed. 

[Republicans don’t seem to be in favor of clean energy.  And I just noticed that Joe Biden’s tie matches Nancy Pelosi’s suit.]

The sun streamed brightly into the bedroom when I woke.  Really brightly.  Why so bright?  Because it was nearly 8 a.m., the very hour at which I should have been walking into the office. I guess I hit the alarm when the first chirp sounded.  I don’t remember, but it’s my best case. 

[“The best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education.”]

Turns out the rush hour — or rush minute, as some call it — is over by 8:15, when my still-damp-from-the-shower self hit the road. 

And now, a brief progress report: 

— I have discovered the back way to Winn-Dixie.

— I have also discovered how to avoid the Bypass (the highway-like road that reminds me of Rte 9 in New Jersey) when taking the local roads to head to Cloverdale.

— Today I received the business cards of both a dentist and a hair stylist. 

— My membership in the Y is in progress. 

Have a good night y’all.

[Ooooo, he just threatened the veto …]

Adaptation

One adjusts quickly to new conditions.

Case in point 1:  On the first day I wore a skirt, despite being told that I could dress much more casually.  That night, Lifelongnewyorker wrote that she would continue wearing skirts and dresses until they wore out.  I wore jeans the next day.

I have not worn a skirt or dress since.  Soon I will go in clad in sweats, or perhaps pajamas.

Case in point 2: This morning I turned onto the bypass en route to I85 only to get stuck in traffic.  I had to wait for one light to change twice before getting through it.  I couldn’t believe it.  “Where the heck did all this traffic come from?” I thought.   My 15 minute commute, already long by Montgomery standards, stretched to 25 minutes.  I was irate.

Case in point 3: I am no longer irritated at being called ma’am.  In fact, I have begun calling other people  ma’am.

Case in point 4: When I stepped outside this morning, wearing a light weight spring jacket, I thought it was rather cold.  It was 36 degrees.  Don’t worry; by the time I drove into the office garage, it was 43, on its way up to the high 50s. 

Case in point 5: I don’t think twice about making right turns on red.

Good golly, am I acculturating already?

Sweet or Unsweet Tea

Montgomery has passed the iced tea test with flying colors.  

No matter where you go, you can get freshly brewed, real iced tea.  Without sugar.  With lemon.  Oh, sure, you can also get that syrupy sweet stuff if that’s your poison, but it’s not mine.

This is a real issue, and frankly one I didn’t adequately suss out before coming.  Mr. NYer and I like our iced tea although our New York habit is mostly a fair weather one.  Come one especially warm day in late March or early April, Mr. NYer will decide that iced tea season has arrived and will drop six  or seven tea bags into a covered pitcher, fill it with water, and sit it on the deck.  Once that day arrives, we keep the fridge stocked with lemons (me) and limes (him) and drink vast quantities of the stuff.

Many years ago, before the Abandoned One was born, we took a camping trip to the Outer Banks.  There we discovered a few things:  1) camping on the beach is not for us; and 2) the iced tea in the south was perfectly awful. 

The only iced tea we could get, it seemed, was a chemical brew that came from a machine, had a metallic taste, and was heavily sweetened.  It was truly closer to Coke than to tea.  This vacation brought a series of indignities and injuries:  high winds ripped our shade canopy on the first day; a tempest-like storm flooded our tent on the second; seagulls stole the steak from our grill on the third.  With only a two-man tent and no canopy, we could not escape the sun.  We thirsted for real tea, and for shade.  Neither was to be found. 

We did the beach, visited the lighthouse, even biked, as I remember, but could never escape the relentless sun.  We decided to take the ferry to Okracoke, the southernmost of the Outer Banks to which you could take a car.  Driving off the ferry, we followed the strip of sand for miles to the little town at the southern tip of the island.  We emerged into the blazing sun and spotted the Okracoke Inn.  It looked shady.  And cool.  We ducked inside for lunch.

The waitress seated us in a large dark dining room with ceiling fans.  We ordered the shore lunch (fresh, huge and wonderful even if it was fried) and, bracing ourselves, asked for iced tea.  She brough it in large ice-filled glasses, and we could tell from its orangey-amber tone that  it was fresh-brewed.  Sliced lemons accompanied it.   We lifted our glasses,  drank deep and set them down, at which point the waitress reappeared with a pitcher and refilled them.  She continued raising the elixir to the brim for the entire time we stayed in that dining room, and we stayed a long time.  We agreed that, most likely, we had died from sunstroke and gone to heaven.

Montgomery must be a room in that heaven, because the same limitless iced tea policy operates here.  They have two kinds, sweet and unsweet.  The waiters sweep along the tables armed not with one, but with two pitchers, ready to top off the glasses of the sugar-obsessed as well as those of us with more astringent tastes. 

I haven’t gotten used to the term “unsweet” tea.  I order “unsweetened tea,” and they must understand me because soon this fresh, golden brew, adorned with lemon slices, is sitting before me.   Give me a couple of months and I’ll adopt the local  lingo. 

Either way, it’s sweet.

The House Hunt Begins

My sister will be so disappointed.  Recently, she observed — enviously — that I was the only adult she knew who could still sleep late.  Not in Montgomery.  I’ve been going to bed earlier and getting up earlier.  Maybe it’s just the time change.

This morning I woke before my alarm and headed out to meet Susan, my realtor, at 9 am.  After taking virtual tours, I had sent her a list of a few properties I wanted to see in person.  By the end of the day, I had seen sixteen.  She was heading out to a birthday dinner party tonight, and I hope she has a good time.  She deserves it.

The realtor made sure the homeowners were out when we came to check into their closets, inspect their bathrooms and poke into their lives.  Only one was home, feeding an infant and apologizing for having taken the extra time to “get this one thing done before we leave.”  Otherwise, the homes, locked and alarmed, blazed with lighted lamps and breathed with the sound of music coming from every room.  

Some years ago I remember one was advised to throw some cookie dough in the oven (advice promulgated, no doubt, by Pillsbury) to lull prospective buyers into a state of helpless house lust.  I detected a candle or two, but today music and light have trumped cinnamon and spice as the way to a homebuyer’s heart.  Everywhere I went, the home’s entire inventory of televisions was tuned to a light jazz cable music channel.  

Sometimes it works.  Sometimes no amount of light and canned music is going to help.

I liked visiting houses with Susan.  Either she shared my taste or had the occupational ability to suss it out and claim it for herself.  By the fifth house she knew in advance if I’d like it, and we freely admired and deplored the same features.

I’ve lived in the New York house long enough to have done everything to it except tear it down and start all over again.  We ripped the roof down to the rafters; replaced the windows — twice; re-sided it; built a deck, and then a few years later, built an addition to the deck; renovated the bathroom; renovated the attic; cut  windows into the living room wall; laid new hardwood floors; converted from a behemoth oil burner/boiler to a miniature and highly efficient gas boiler; replaced the lead water main with 70 feet of copper, buried deep underground; built 70 feet of retaining wall; and renovated the kitchen, twice. 

I don’t want to do one-tenth of that stuff again.  I never want to see the fine particulate dust of three layers of asphalt roof puffing through every crack and seam in the house.  I never want to live for weeks without a kitchen, or have to wash dishes in the bathtub.  If I buy an older house, I want one where someone else has already done all this stuff, and to my taste.  

Is that too much to ask?

Apparently it is.  So I also saw new houses, even though they were farther out than I’d like, and older homes that needed something — like a new kitchen — but were substantially cheaper.  I am not eager to replace a kitchen, but this time vowed to do every bit of the work before we move in.   

Of the sixteen homes I saw, I liked five well enough to keep them in consideration.  That leaves eleven we can celebrate for various degrees of awfulness.

Perhaps I’m too harsh.  But you be the judge.

There was the “classic craftsman and Tudor … charmer” where “the bathroom enjoys a claw foot tub.”   In many ways the house was lovely, inside.  Outside it lacked curb appeal.  The door to the screened-in front porch hung open on its hinges, unable to close.  An odd-looking mound of sand on the front steps turned out, on closer inspection, to be a termite mound.  Even my untrained eye spotted the tunnels. 

Mr. NYer wants to garden, so the unassuming but substantial cottage that sat on the 98 x 200 foot lot looked like a winner.  Inside, it felt like a fortress, with solid wood floors and walls.  Outside, though, in the deepest recesses of the swampy backyard, was an ancient brick cookout that resembled a crematorium.  The house also featured a “guesthouse,” with a tenant, a gentleman who lives alone and seems to enjoy cigars. 

Then there was the gracious 1911 Victorian with beautiful woodwork in the front, great mouldings,  and a kitchen whose floor pitched downhill at about 20 degrees.  In the back, another guesthouse, this one with a roof line like a swaybacked horse, and a three-by-three foot metal roof patch blowing in the wind to reveal a gaping hole beneath. 

Another early twentieth century home, one Susan assessed as a “grandma house” included a large country kitchen with plywood cabinets and avocado dishwasher.  Finally, on the same street was a house so historic it had a name.  To protect the guilty, I won’t repeat it here.  We entered the “Famous Last Name” House to find large, gracious older rooms with full-length windows and French doors.  To the right was the formal living room, with fireplace and doors to the veranda.  To the left, the formal dining room, with fireplace.  Behind that another room that could be … the parlor?  A grand central hallway brought us to a galley kitchen with pink Formica counters.   Behind that, the house lost its senses and continued in a warren of rooms that connected through maze like corridors or anterooms.  Our favorite was a later addition, a huge wood-paneled room with odd stained glass pieces hung here and there.  On its interior walls were two windows revealing where the house used to end.  They opened into a now-interior bedroom that had no other source of ventilation. 

Finally, there was the grand house — also on the same street — where the owners took a corner bedroom and converted it into a master bath complete with separate shower, garden tub, double sinks, and … vinyl floor tile.  They created a sort of secret entrance to this room from one of the bedrooms — NOT the master bedroom as it happened — by removing two closets.  To get from the bedroom to the “adjoining” bath, you passed through a closet door, hung a sharp right and then a sharp left, and emerged from another closet door.

But it wasn’t all bad design and poor maintenance.  We saw some lovely homes, one that I considered making an offer on right away.  One of many nice things about Montgomery homes is the high ceilings and large floor-to-ceiling windows.  Another is the expectation that each bedroom should have its own bathroom, and a walk-in closet.  Since it’s not New York, where you leave your home to meet people, the houses are built for entertaining, with big dining rooms, connecting living rooms, generous galleries, bar areas, and convenient powder rooms. 

I was dismayed to see how many of the homes’ windows were painted shut, and surprised when I realized that none of them had screens.  It’s just too hot, humid and buggy to keep windows open here, Susan explained.  For a few short weeks in the spring and fall you might open the door for a while, but pretty soon you shut the house up tight and work to keep the moisture out. 

Anyhow, I got home, pulled out my notes and proceeded to fill out an excel sheet to compare the homes that got A’s or B’s.  Sent that off to Mr. NYer and we’ll review them tomorrow.  The realtor thinks a new house on a hot street will get listed on Monday recommends I see it.  Woohoo!

Week One

It’s good to start a new job on a four-day week.  Although I’m enjoying playing the rookie role at the office, I think I’ve had enough crammed into my brain for now.

The stuff pouring out of my ears takes several forms.  Each day, I’ve engaged in a sort of one-on-one seminar in the history of my program, along with deep background/mistakes made/lessons learned for my main areas of responsibility, and what the goals are this time around.  Each day I’ve lunched with a different department head, a good way to establish a rapport (or fail miserably at it) and learn who does what.  It doesn’t mean I know how things are done, but knowing who is responsible is a very good thing.  And then there’s the practical — today, for instance, I learned why I have three waste baskets under my desk.  One is for trash, one for recycling, and one for shredding.  I am responsible for emptying the shredded basket into the secure shredder on each floor.

I had a bit of a scare on Wednesday when the gates refused to respond to my security tag.  Had it been revoked already?  A guard came, checked who I was, and directed me to another gate.  It did open, and all was well.

A graduate course’s worth of reading has been recommended to me, and each time I return to my office another book or report or appellate case appears on my chair, with a note that someone (usually my boss) thought it would be good to read.  And it will be.  But I know that all too soon, the tension between learning/preparing and wanting to bust out and actually accomplish something will be hard to bear.

People are friendly here.  Hmmm, that’s reminds me of a line from The Laramie Project.  But it’s true.  The people I’ve met, mostly colleagues, are interesting, smart, intellectually curious people.  And they have opinions about life in Montgomery, mainly where to live.

In Staten Island, the first question is often, “So, are you a native?”  Here, it’s “Have you decided where you want to live?’  And then the lobbying begins.

There are several historic areas, with three very close to downtown and too mixed with restored and run-down homes for me.  I don’t want to live next door to a bail bondsman.  A few minutes away are the late 19th and early 20th century neighborhoods, also historic, of the Garden District and Old Cloverdale.  These are not all that historic in the sense that  I’m used to — most housing is 20th century, in fact I’ve not seen much in the city so far that pre-dates the Civil War — but they are distinctive.  The Garden District has wide avenues with imposing homes; perpendicular to these are smaller streets lined with cottages.  It’s laid out in a grid.  Next to it, Old Cloverdale has curving streets that maddeningly turn sharply left or right while going straight puts you on a completely different road.  The  homes here are cottage-y, in a dizzying variety of styles, from craftsman to Spanish, but they all work well together.  Within walking distance are two small town centers with a few shops.

The Garden District and Old Cloverdale have fierce advocates, people who suggest — strongly — that there’s no where else you will feel comfortable.  It’s a compelling and familiar argument, similar to one I’ve deployed on Staten Islanders, where I can’t imagine why anyone would live on the South Shore.  Basically, these places are the equivalent to West Brighton, Stapleton and St. George.  Only with more greenery.

Some folks lobby for specific homes.  I’m planning to look at a house in the Garden District right across from Ms. Atlantic City.  It looks perfect, but perhaps a bit specific — more on that tomorrow — and a bit more than I’d like to spend.  But Ms. Atlantic City has decided that it is the perfect house for me. 

Another colleague has chosen new cottages on Agnew Street.  The street is lovely, as are the brand, spanking new brick cottages with 10-foot ceilings, granite countertops, and plantation shutters, but they have almost no yards, and Mr. NYer’s sole non-negotiable item was that he wants to garden.

A few people argue for East Montgomery.  This would is like moving to New Jersey.  There’s a “long” commute of about 15-20 minutes, and easy access to golf courses, upscale shopping and large, new and relatively inexpensive homes.  I’m tempted by the latter, having struggled to keep our 90-year old Staten Island house warm, dry and intact.  But neither of us plays golf, and the environment, with its scrubby new trees and vast expanses of lawn, looks too bare.  We fear being isolated from the welcoming ferment of a closer community.

Against that, however, a colleague mentioned Hampstead, one of those Truman Show communities that are carefully planned.  This one, modeled on an English village, features a High Street, a community garden, and some buildings that combine commercial and residential use.   “And,” she said, “a lot of people from Old Cloverdale are moving there.”

Tomorrow I have an appointment with a realtor at 9 am.  I’ve sent her a list of about a dozen homes, in Old Cloverdale and the Garden District, that I want to see.  For due diligence alone, I’ll also make sure I see some in the other areas, too.  I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say tomorrow.  

As I write this, I have opened the French door to my porch.  Some nocturnal creature is singing, and a light fills the room.  Once the heat descends, I’ll have this place hermetically sealed, but right now it’s lovely.