Monday, November 23, 2009

Home Again

Our books are loaded into the shelves.

The plumbing is a mess.

We've washed the dishes and learned that the dryer does not get warm, so clothesline it is.

We've installed our computers into their semi-permanent homes and funneled the potful of deep-frying oil into a disposable container. We've removed the mothballs and air-stinkers. We're trying to figure out what is emitting the smell in the refrigerator.

I've tripped over the weird threshold into the kitchen twice and now have a home-shaped bruise.

We've eaten home-cooked meals at our real dining room table and listened to the Guy Garvey show on the sofa in our real living room. We've stood and looked out at late night London with our heads peeking out of the study's skylights.

We have yet to spend much time in the garden as it's been raining, but I did move a potted plant about 4 feet to open up the space a bit. (I then proceeded to dart back inside to dry off. Was it necessary to move the plant? Jeez yes.)

I've organized the toolbox and put the cds into alphabetical order. I've folded all the towels and sheets and put them in neat stacks according to what they are. I've claimed a desk and tidied the spice rack. I'm going to clean the grease off the stove vent soon and mop the kitchen. I cleaned the U-bend from the bathroom sink and Dad of Boy troubleshot the problems with the shower (i.e. it don't work, get a plumber.) In short, I'm working to make the space into something that functions with the inclinations of my brain.

I'm going to the doctor on Thursday to see about my face, which is a red-and-beige model of the night sky. Oh look, Mars is in retrograde.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Last night we moved into our new house.


The entire place is in disarray and our stuff is still mostly in suitcases. It feels very alien.

The place is furnished. I've barely looked at most of the furniture, let alone sat on it.

I still feel like I'm in someone else's home, and they'll be back in just a minute.

All the shelves are empty aside from a few knicknacks and matchbooks that clearly weren't worth transporting. The owners didn't quite finish clearing out before they left so we came in to sheets and towels still in their places from the morning of their flight. Teacups still in the drying rack. Fridge full of food. I don't want to touch anything in case I put it back in the wrong place.

They're in Mexico. They'll be there at least a year. They want us to move in and take over the place. It's our home. We're renting, not house-sitting.

We have an office at the top of the stairs. We have a guest room. We're not guests. We're not guests. We need a rug in the living room. It echos.

We're going to go back for Boy's guitars and books on Saturday. There's heaps of both. I should empty out the suitcases so we can refill them with the acres of pages. I'm chicken. The books may help with the echo. And the sparse look of the place. Empty bookshelves are creepy.

I got to school today. I'm not entirely sure how to get back. I have a map.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Croatan Ridge

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Currently stateside. North Carolina. Cape Hatteras. The lighthouse's historic beam swings through our northern window every seven seconds throughout the night. Blink. Whoosh. Blink. I'm sipping a cold Fat Tire and tuning in and out of my extended family's conversations in the rental palace's olympic-sized kitchen. Blink. Whoosh. Blink. The sun has set and the 5-story tennis court on stilts is emitting a warm, cozy glow. The mother of the bride is panicking in a good-natured way. Blink. Whoosh. ... ...

Well, it does when the island has power.

It tends to lose this luxury when it's swept with gale-force winds for two days straight, accompanied by driving rain that pelts your windscreen with hailstone-like force. As burial of electric mains in flood-prone sand would result in little other than an established regimen of time-wasting for digging crews, the pole-strung power lines get a little wiggly and unreliable during hurricane season.

It would appear that we chose an inopportune moment to brave the barren, dune-covered emptiness of Highway 12, the sole route through the Outer Banks, as Hurricane Ida had decided to vent the last of her remaining fury somewhere between Kitty Hawk and Ocracoke. Pea Island, an untouched nature preserve, was a particularly hairy area to motor through at a crawl--I'm not sure if the head-on sideways rain, the headlight-deep puddles, the utter lack of visibility, the waves crashing over the dunes and onto the car, or the giant heaps of relocated sand dunes were the scariest bit. The roads and bridges were studded with the remains of shorebirds flung into traffic and trees by the relentless wind. For a while I thought it was snowing, but upon closer inspection--while fording a particularly deep road-river--I realized it was very fine, very rapidly moving white sand. Those lovely white-sand beaches. My shaking white-knuckled hands.

Friday, 13 November 2009

We really should have taken today's significant date into consideration when making plans for such an emotionally, spiritually charged event as a wedding. Today the bridge is closed and the rest of the road is periodically filled with crushing waves. The dunes, plasmodic and mobile while I was driving in two nights ago, completely broke, and the ocean is now hogging all lanes of traffic. The only route into and out of Cape Hatteras is under two feet of water, and the road surface itself is destroyed. The Chesapeake Bridge/Tunnel is closed, and all ferry service to the outer banks has been suspended until the storm surge subsides. We've been asked to sit tight, and that's precisely all we can do. My sister is remarkably calm.

Road crews can't get out to the missing areas to begin rebuilding--apparently work vehicles have been washed away and sunk into the sand. The wind is a sustained 50mph gust, coming from the west. All docks are underwater. The second guest house, Sushi, is standing in about 6" of seawater. The front yard has choppy waves.

Family and friends are doing amazing things in spite of or perhaps because of this. The food has been amazing and has come in copious quantities. Everyone is so helpful and selfless. The wedding has been officially moved to the pool house--the upstairs of which is a large, empty hall. We filled it with chairs--originally intended to go around tables outside just for the reception, as the wedding was supposed to be all-standing on the lawn. Instead it has an aisle--something my sister never really wanted to do--and we will have a processional. The bride and groom's friends couldn't have been better suited to make these changes--all the electricians, lighting designers, stage managers, and carpenters pulled out their skills and artistic eyes and made the space beautiful. The seating chart was re-drawn in VectorWorks to fit the dimensions of the hall.

We got our nails done--I have a French manicure. It's lovely.

50 guests, caterers, the musician, the photographer, the hairdresser, and the officiant are stranded on another island. There's no way in hell they're going to get here. Another guest, purely out of a sense of necessity, went and got himself ordained online this morning and can perform the ceremony if it comes to it. The guests are mostly family. We're seeing if we can set up video Skype and have that in a separate party location. The bride is holding it together, but tensions are high. The mother of the bride is starting to crack. The father of the bride is trying to pull a kite off the roof with a fishing pole. It's the most appropriate thing to do, really. My date for the wedding is dismantling my banjo to fit it in the suitcase.

The wedding rehearsal has been postponed until we have a better idea of which ceremony participants will be able to get here. The food for the rehearsal dinner is stuck with the caterers. The fresh fish was going to spoil even in the fridges that the hotel was kind enough to share, so they gave the ingredients to whichever hotel staff could use it. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is on a first-name basis with many of the bridal party and guests. All of the locals know about the wedding and have been hugely accommodating. Dad has the only truck with a high enough chassis to make it down the driveway--the water is 2' deep in places--so when we realized that there was no dinner he went to pick it up from a nice restaurant a few miles away. They're not really a take-out sort of place, but they'd heard about our crisis and made several of each main course on their menu for dad and my uncle to take back, as we couldn't get everyone to the restaurant. The owner gave them some beers and chatted with them while they waited. Happy campers.

I wore a pretty dress! My sister's was much prettier, but it was really fun to smarten up for a few hours after being damp and cold all day. The food was amazing and the mother of the groom made a beautiful toast--to the bride and groom, to our efforts, and even to Ida for bringing out the best in all of us. Then we all got good and drunk.

Throughout the evening phone photos filtered in of the other wedding guests having drinks and toasting the bride and groom from wherever they were--many of whom who had managed to bump into our other stranded friends and relatives and start getting to know one another.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I'm still confused and jet lagged. I spent some time today stringing lights and lanterns outside while the wind attempted to upend the swimming pool on me. Then Ben and I put on neoprene sandals and shorts and walked around in the drive and road outside the house to see if we couldn't chart a course through the water that was less than a foot deep all the way along. We managed 14" if you hugged one side, then cut quickly to the other, and returned with this information to the drivers of SUVs. They were in the process of orchestrating a fleet of small boats to bring wedding guests from Manteo Island to the house for the ceremony. After several hours of discussion they managed to secure 3 boats with sufficient seats for 57 people and got all of the guests from 4 hotels and several rental properties to the dock and in the water. After that we fussed and futzed and got my sister all decorated--her hair was amazing!--until the first guests (and last bridesmaids and the minister and the caterers) began to arrive from the pier by uncle-powered shuttle. The groom's sister's car flooded and began misbehaving during this time, which left the best man stranded with it near the ferry terminal. An emergency uncle was called upon to collect him and throw him in a shower and a suit as quickly as possible.

We rehearsed the ceremony at 6pm and decided to hold the real thing at 8. After a few missteps when the non-theatre folk were confused by references to stage right and cue standbys, we managed a simple, no-frills procession. My sister and her then-fiance decided to walk down the aisle together after the moms and dads.

The ceremony was beautiful and brief. The musician played and sang some very pretty songs for the processional and seating. We all had some good laughs--particularly when the minister announced "We made it!" The bridal party all carried candles. The best man carried the vows, and I was hands-free to receive the bouquet of lavender. My teenage cousin and the groom's half-brother were on hand with rings--my new brother also wore an engagement ring--and in the time it took us to say "we recognize and bless your union" they were hitched.

Then dinner and drinks and a variety of toasts. The best man's was genuine--a well-prepared speech on the meaning of love that became more true and more relevant as the week went on. Then mine: "May the wind be always at your backs, but may it not blow a gale!" And thoughtful and grateful words from my father and the groom. The cupcakes--made onsite by a team of friends and cousins--were amazing. Salted caramel recessed in chocolate. Pumpkin and cinnamon. Sweet Revenge's Pure recipe. Chocolate raspberry. And the centerpiece--a really, really big cupcake--red velvet with cream cheese frosting. OMG. I kinda passed out shortly after all this. As I slept the uncle-shuttle zoomed back into action and got the guests back onto boats and back toward their cars before the break of day.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

We woke up this morning to find that the water has begun to recede and the wind has abated. Sushi house--with its glass block castle door and pagoda-style rear tower--lost its moat overnight. We found bits of dad's kite, which had been flying unmanned for three days off the upper deck of the house, in the road and up a tree. Dad climbed after it and scraped his leg.

The road was still closed--well, gone--and the first ferry didn't go out until after it was too late to make our flight. (The 2 ferries--one to Ocracoke, the other from there to Swan Quarter on the mainland, add at least 4 hours to the trip.) I called the airline and got redirected to Montréal where an AirFrance representative flatly failed to rebook my ticket, resulting in headaches and arguments later in the day.

As calls filtered in of missed and canceled flights from friends and family we pulled chairs out of the pool house and stacked and prepared rented dishes for pickup. We started coming across all the neat things we were going to use and do for the ceremony and reception--all the cute bar tables and stools that were going to go out around the pool. All the bamboo poles that were strung with fairy lights to go outside. All the beautiful driftwood that dad had carefully selected and mom had dried and decorated for centerpieces. All the green beans that went uneaten because a quarter of the guests couldn't make it onto the island. All the dancing we were going to do. All the playlists that had been compiled to create different soundscapes for each floor of the house. All the plans. All the arrangements. All the lightbulbs. All the beer. People were worried about waking up early so it was unintentionally one of the driest weddings I'd ever encountered. Dozens of wine bottles were packed into cars and 6 kegs of local beer are being returned to the brewery untapped. All the well-thought through plan A's, plan B's, plan R's...but when it came down to it, plan play-it-by-ear went pretty well too. And the end result is the same. They're married.

Monday-Tuesday, 16-17 November, 2009

Transit day. Woke up at 4am for 5:00 ferry. Missed 5:00 because of insufficient room as the city has demanded that the fleet of stinky garbage trucks which have been stranded here since Wednesday take priority on the outbound runs. Got the 6:00 in a convoy with dad, the short-notice bridesmaid, and the backup minister. Watched the sun rise while the iconic lighthouse did its last pass of the morning. Blink. Whoosh. Got to Ocracoke at 6:45. Missed the 7:00 ferry as it too was full. Got coffee and the 8:00 to the mainland. Phone died--the power cable didn't work with the adapter at the house so the calls to airlines and car rental agencies drained the battery. Lost track of dad and rest of convoy. Got lost because North Carolina doesn't seem to have laws preventing two roads of the same name from intersecting. Got to airport with a few hours to spare. Returned rental car only to discover that the natural disaster note that had been put on the account had been ignored. Charged late fee and for extra day. Rental desk less than useless. Checked in successfully for flight 1 of 2. Told to check in for flight 2 in Atlanta because it's technically a bulk Air France ticket and we can't process it here, but they'll take care of it there no problem. Smooth flight south. Try to check in for flight 2 to Heathrow. Wind up spending an hour waiting while bitchy service desk person tries and fails to transfer ticket, which was issued, in spite of everything, for the previous day's flight. She tries to blame it on us, but we flatly point out to her that it was botched by a representative of her company, and as she works for them too, it's her job to fix it. She mumbled about it being Air France's fault, but as Delta is in bed with them, and the flight is operated by Delta, she can kiss my lilywhite ass. She winds up printing us boarding passes--which had been reserved, but not tickets--and stapling them to the previous day's tickets. We board, we sleep fitfully. We get through customs and are astonished to find that our luggage came home too. Thank you, Atlanta Baggage Handlers--that was amazing.

We told joy and horror stories when the rest of the family got in. Their terror when it came to the driving conditions was mitigated by the fact that we were telling it, in one piece, in the kitchen. Their oohs and aahs at the suitcase-rumpled formal clothing, the reassembled party lanterns, and pretty mom-made silk stoles sounded slightly sad that they'd missed it, though slightly relieved too. We did some laundry. We fell aslee