Tuesday, April 30, 2013

...in the Middle of our Street

We moved into our new house on April 6th. It's fabulous. I'm not a good mover, so have found the experience stressful, overwhelming and emotional to the tangible detriment of my physical and mental health, but I'm also busting with pride and excitement for what lies ahead.

You see, at age 52, apart from the first five or so years of my life - a period I have no recollection of - I've never before lived in a house. I've lived in all manner of condo/flat/apartment/bedsit and maisonette-type dwellings, but never a house. And the fact that it's ours makes this new experience all the more rewarding.

Over three floors, we have so much space we hardly know what to do with it! That said, we have more than enough stuff to fill it. An embarrassing amount of stuff, truth be told, but it's all books, music and art - the things we love dearly - so we will be surrounded by beautiful things.

Yet the reality of the space is that (a fireplace excepted) every need and desire we had when house-hunting is met. On the top floor we have cozy double and single guest rooms, separated by a sizeable area that will be Susan's "Girl Cave." Finally, we can offer visitors comfort and privacy, and my baby can have a space to call her own and do whatever the hell she wants in, away from her annoying husband. On the main floor we have a dining room with views of Mt. Benson, my large office (also providing aforementioned views), the master bedroom, en suite bathroom and large kitchen with doors leading out to an enormous deck. Many a BBQ will be enjoyed out there, for sure.

Downstairs we have our living room, laundry room, workshop and a second bathroom which we'll be gutting and redecorating somewhere down the line. We also have the ridiculous luxury of a room big enough to house our entire combined music collection, so that's what we're doing with it, and yet another room we don't even know what to do with yet! It formed the main part of the recording studio once operated by the former owner's late husband, but we'll be ripping that out (fantastically, to donate to friends moving to Gabriola Island soon...to set up a recording studio!), then we'll decide how best to use the space. Undoubtedly there'll be more books in there - likely all those devoted to music - and I quite fancy a pool table, but we shall see. It's all very exciting.

As the photos illustrate, we have a front yard and picket fence. In the front yard is one of three different apple trees on our property, and we also have a large cherry tree in the back. The backyard is huge, with a lawn, garden shed and carport, which is formed by the deck on the main floor above. For the first time, then, I have a proper yard at my disposal, and we have grand plans for it. We'll be concentrating on inside the house this year, but next year we plan to install raised beds and start growing our own vegetables. I've wanted to do this for the longest time, so here we go! Serving meals to guests that include vegetables grown yards away is something that thrills me no end. We've been the lucky recipients of such meals at friends' houses here, and there's no flavour or, obviously, freshness to compare. Yay for the 10 Yard Diet!

And we are in the loveliest imaginable neighbourhood. Just a 15-minute stroll away from my workplace and everything else downtown, it is beautifully quiet here. I actually jumped the other day when, for the first time in about four hours, a car drove past. Ridiculous, but true. In the mornings all we hear are birds and the very faintest hum of traffic from nearby Bowen Road.

Our best friends live a three minute walk away, but if we get bored with them we have lovely neighbours. On the day after we moved in, there was a knock at the door. It was Bernice and her daughter Moira from next door, with a gift of a beautiful orchid. "We just wanted to welcome you to the neighbourhood" said Bernice, "and here's something for you to look at when you're sick of looking at boxes!" Exhausted, sweaty, surrounded by the inevitable chaos of a move, we were so touched by this gesture that we welled up with tears there and then. What a delightful welcome! More was to come over the garden fence when we met Seoras, who rents the house on the other side. The owner, Connie, is an organic gardener, but does she realize that the meaning of her tenant's Gaelic name is 'farmer'? Amazing! Anyway, he seems a nice chap. Then across the street is Mark, but we have yet to meet his wife or other family members. An ex-pat like myself, he's a laidback guy who owns a waterfront coffee shop that all of a sudden it seems we may be paying regular visits to!

So, yes, this is all rather incredible. This was always going to be our final move, so the house had to be exactly what we were looking for, and so it is. Being an old house (built in 1912), it needs some work and updating, but that comes with the deal. I would rather have that responsibility and my own four walls than shared walls, rules and regulations and a strata fee every month. We truly are in our element and loving every minute of piecing it all together as we want it.

Most satisfying of all, however, is the truly humbling reaction we've received from friends concerning our purchase. Everyone is utterly delighted for us. Perhaps they recognize that in one way or another we've been through an awful lot of tough times the last few years, and are glad to see us so happy. Regardless, it's very comforting, but we are inclined to agree with them that we've truly earned this little corner of heaven!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blowing a Gasket

In the world of retail one has to serve what I imagine is a reasonably representative cross-section of society. So you get your lovely folks, and you get your bastards. Yesterday I had the deep displeasure of serving (or rather trying to serve) a woman falling firmly into the latter category, and in order to move on from the encounter I feel the need to vent here!

"A lovely store, but I really must take exception to the ridiculous inclusion of Nanci Griffith in the country section," she snorted, approaching the counter with her purchase yet looking all about her rather than addressing my boss Steve or I directly. I took one look at this woman and hated her instantly. We have all met these people who inexplicably wind us up without rhyme or reason before they say a single word, and even without her comment one glance whence it came confirmed this woman was one of mine. She simply had that look and a lofty, superior air, what with her outraged eyes with pin-prick pupils, and half-eye glasses perched right on the very tip of her nose like a school ma'am. "Punch, kick, gouge," I thought.

"Oh, why is that?" I enquired. "Well, she's a bluegrass artist, of course!" proclaimed the evidently Stupid Woman. "No, she isn't," I responded, hackles rising. "Yes, she is," Evil Woman snapped back. Sensing Steve's concern and an almighty ruck ahoy, I put my hands up and said," Well, I beg to differ, so let's leave it there." "She hasn't got a country voice; she has a bluegrass voice," continued Imbecile Woman, with real 'authority' on the subject in her tone.

At this juncture, the old adage of the customer always being right burning hot in my brain, I simply could not resist but pile in once more. "If anything, if you want to get pedantic, Nanci Griffith is a folk artist, so neither a country or bluegrass artist," I countered, "but she is most associated with, and appreciated by, the world of country music. Besides, the defining factor of bluegrass is the banjo, and there's not a lot of fiery banjo in Nanci's music, eh?" The woman looked aghast, especially when her pleasant husband piped in and said, "Aha, he's got you! Please forgive my wife...she's rather opinionated!" Perhaps unwisely, I laughed and said, "Yes, I can see that!"

Anyway, we batted opinions back and forth in an increasingly heated manner as Steve twitched behind the counter, then the woman spat, "Anyway, I have no doubt there is only one person present who was born in Appalachia, and that would be ME! I've been listening to bluegrass my whole life, and Nanci Griffith is bluegrass!" "Okay, fair enough," I sighed in mock resignation, understanding the debate was headed nowhere as she walked out of the store, leaving her embarrassed husband to pay.

I later pictured her in my mind, still all in a tizzy (like I am today), cursing my name and ignorance of the bluegrass giants to her exasperasted, long-suffering hubby, wondering how the hell I got a job in a music store (all those decades ago). I don't want to come across as an archetypal, "Hi-Fidelity"-esque record store asshole or smug music snob, but I know my country music, and I know my bluegrass, and I know that Nanci Griffith is categorically not, nor has she ever been, the latter. When entirely necessary I will bend over and take one in the name of a quiet life, but when confronted with such arrogance, even in a working situation, I will always speak up. So...

The opening paragraph of AllMusic's entry for Nanci Griffith:

"Straddling the fine line between folk and country...has become as well-known for her brilliant, confessional songwriting as her beautiful voice. A self-styled "folkabilly" singer... began as a kindergarten teacher and occasional folksinger. The country scene took her to heart in the mid-'80s, giving her a reputation as a quality songwriter... etc."

Genres: Country, folk, pop/rock
Styles: Contemporary folk, country-folk, progressive country, singer-songwriter, contemporary country

I don't see too much evidence of bluegrass categorization there, do you? So, f*** you lady!