12-6-12, Return to 1213, Getting My House In Order

spacerrepairing the dulcimer on the coffeetable before the fireplace

12/6/12, Alexandria, Virginia.

I sit by the fireplace. I live by the fireplace. I have a wooden footstool I saved from the trash and dried out, an single remaining outdoor chair remaining on the screen porch, and the small, rough-hewn, heavy coffeetable Dad made. I have my old wooden chair ma gave me and the heavy office desk I got her in the other room. It has been quite a trip, quite a moon, intense, difficult, crazy, painful, and beautiful.

Looking back, it is hard to know what to say, where to start, but I am a storyteller, and the story usually starts at the beginning.

airplane parked at the airport terminalThat's easy. It's Halloween, and I stay up all night in SEA-TAC, once again, a routine pattern for me, to catch my flight to National at 7 am. I flew in through the clouds, everything still cloudy and dripping from Hurricane Sandy, which delayed my flight a couple days. Coincidentally, the flight I booked in the Spring would have arrived at the same time Sandy was expected to arrive, though it veered north a bit. Now, coincidentally, I arrive back at 1213 on mom's birthday, November 1st.

I take the metro, then wait to catch a bus out to the house in a cold gusty wind, scattered light rain, and darkness. I haven't slept for a while, once again, running tired, but almost there, full circle. Improbably and coincidentally, one of my neighbors gets on the bus I'm on. As we both leave at the same stop, he so kindly offers to carry a bag, and we head up through the woods to our houses, a few minutes walk talking about my wild summer, the latest summer in the Alaskan wilderness, digging gold north of the Arctic Circle. It is a fine thing, to be welcomed back this way.

1213 Street numbers in Fall leavesBut, no, it's not easy return. I find I really don't want to go back and tell the story, relive those first hard days, especially. I want it to be behind me, like so much else. Though I have managed to hang on to that positive attitude, it is a strain, a difficult task, and there is a bitterness that has crept in, only leavened by the determination that this is the end of this ridiculous stupidity. Mornings are hard, but I put myself together over a cup of coffee each morning. I have a note to myself writ large on a small notepaper, "Do Not Hate". I need it.

I wonder if I even need to tell this part of the story, if I could skip over this part of my life, or just leave it with the simple story, reduced to the dry, bare bones of events. Yet, that is not the real story, or the truth. This is a journal, a window on the life of a Folksinger, and even when it isn't directly about the music, how do I separate them? And though it's been this way for a while, as circumstances have taken me away from the music, as they often have, this is the life that is behind the music, the purpose of this journal from the beginning. I can’t judge or decide what belongs and what doesn't, only do my best to tell the story, while not letting myself use this place to vent bad vibes needlessly. I am not here to judge anyone but myself, to blame anyone, or forgive, to understand or explain. I need to tell the story, which includes what I think and feel, but no more than I need to to tell the story. Just like letting the emotions I feel pass through me without holding on to them, I want to tell the whole story, but stay an impartial observer even of my own pain. I need to be the storyteller, the actor, the folksinger, expressing the pain in the story I tell, without descending into dramatics, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

So, yes, I get back to the house and it just crazy. It is dark, cold, wet night. The house has been emptied of all the things I could have used, and asked to be left, and really made no sense to remove. All that is left is a few things, the piano, the lawyer's bookcase, the big desk, my wooden chair, and this coffeetable I'm writing on by the fire. The rooms are empty and echoing, several have no lights, with the single lamps I left for that purpose taken away. It is late, and cold, but there's a piece of the carpet scrap I saved from the trash for wrapping furniture in, still leaning against the piano. I wrap up in that and try to sleep. I am exhausted, so I pass out for 5 hours or so. I wake up cold and start moving about till the dawn finally comes.

It is a return to craziness, where I am faced with subtle and obvious things that are just not right, something definitely wrong, a strange, weird, twisted energy, I feel something's wrong. I know something's not right, like some dissonance in music, or a smell of something rotten, and I am disturbed and uneasy, and reacting with disbelief, or with shock and a wince of pain to the obvious. I can't understand, and at this point, I no longer try, because I am rational, and I know that it is a vain effort to try to justify or rationalize irrational behavior. I came to accept this over the summer, and get through it and past the pain of it, yet returning to face it again is hard.

But I face into the storm and do it, face the heavy negative energy and emotions I hoped to avoid, facing the disrespect, disregard, and even possible malice directed against me, or what I represent, or the house itself, I can't tell. I’m naturally reacting with sadness, with anger, with pain and regret. So it goes. It was not unexpected, unfortunately. I'd worried this would happen, but could only do so much to prevent it, and worked day and night, literally, the last days before I left to do as much as I could. but I'd hoped for better and instead found the situation bad and ugly. The difference is that the summer has let me put it behind me, and it is, even if continues, it is still over. I am not fighting against it, but accepting the loss of part of my family, the consequences of all of this, and no longer expecting any better, or any reconciliation except over years, but knowing the present situation will be done for good when it is finally over, and it almost is, one way or another.

The worst thing to take was that the yard was butchered, the plants I'd carefully tended for years reduced to ugly stumps.

spacerview of the yard at 1213, wackedview of the yard at 1213, wacked

In many cases, it is irrepairable damage, in others it will take years to recover. It is an old issue, with me and my mom on one side, and on the other, the culture and mind-set that wants to mow and prune flat, straight, and square, unnatural, controlled, everything natural absolutely controlled or driven away. And it has no rational reason, if they expect and intend to sell the house to developers, so that the house will be torn down and the yard bulldozed for a McMansion anyway, except that it hurts me. It is something I'd specifically requested them not to do till the house was settled, not to do anything "drastic."

spacerview of the old yard at 1213view of the old yard at 1213

Ma wanted a natural look to the yard, lots of wildlife habitat, with small meadows, not a lawn, and it was her yard. Though I agreed and did all the work, planting all these plants and tending them, pruning them slowly to a natural shape, and creating a yard that exploded in flowers every year, perennials and annuals, bird and butterfly attractors, and where the leaves could fall naturally into the paths and bushes.

spacerview of the old yard at 1213view of the old yard at 1213

For someone like me, it is deeply shocking, and make me feel sick, and sad, and angry, every time I look at it. It really is a deeply person attack, on my years of effort, and on my sensitivity as a someone who loves to plants and to nature, and lives for an aesthetic life. I am living here, so I can't avoid seeing it. It forces me to recognize too clearly what a deep resentment and antipathy my sisters have, towards me, and ma, and the house, towards the natural world, or something we all represent, some sad culture war, or some war inside themselves, and I feel sad and sorry at this knowledge, and just how much baggage they carry.

spacerview of the yard at 1213, wackedview of the yard at 1213, wacked

But though I can't deny my reactions of horror, I am able to recover slowly from the shock, accept the blow, and move on. Perhaps it is because I have already moved on, it simply confirms and solidifies my resolution. I have the simple strength of knowing it is over, and I won't have to deal with this again in the future, sooner or later. So I make the best of it, though mornings are hard. I have nightmares again. I put myself back together over my morning coffee, and as the weeks go by, I am able to laugh at it, it has just gotten so over the top as to be ridiculous, though the damage is real, and there is a hard and bitter edge to my laughter, to me. I was still open to a new start at cooperation before I got here, but now, I am not giving an inch any more. I am being fair and doing what is right, but I am not taking any more. But I am not aggressive or abrasive no matter what they are, but I am hard.

Brian portrait 11-11-2012I am a hard man, to be truthful. I have been through the fire, many times, and I did not break, but was forged into steel, underneath the easy exterior. I am so nice, quiet, thoughtful, cooperative and easy to work with, willing to compromise, willing to let others have their way, unless you try and push me where I won't go, and when we reach the line, everything stops like hitting a brick wall, and there's no getting past it, no moving me if I refuse to move, no stopping me if I choose to go.

I told my brother, who has been great, cooperative and helpful, when I got back in touch in Seattle, that I wasn't accepting any more abuse, that was over. The house is no longer a priority, or even a big concern, if I am not keeping it. It is not my responsibility any more to do everything, or anything. They’ve had over a year to resolve this and I’ve spent too much time and money waiting for them. I am concerned with my own life, with where I will live, eat and sleep, and my personal priorities, whether it is the music or my rigs or the boats. Taking care of ma, and then the estate, and now the unreasonable demands and delays, has already cost me tens of thousands of dollars. I have glazed over and ignored so much, and done so much, worked and suffered for them, and gotten a negative response. I'm sorry, but I have no sympathy left for whatever they want, it is simple consequentiality. It is just practical reality, that I have turned my back on the whole business. My work is done, and I have left it behind, and I have to return to my own priorities, my own life. It isn't anything vindictive, just simple pragmatic, practical reality.

Alaskan mountain in a snowstormI don't try to deny what I feel, I accept my emotions as the consequences of my experiences. I control my actions. I don't try to control my emotions, but they don't control me, either. If they are negative, I try to let them pass through me, without gripping them in any way, like a storm passing over a mountain, I don't get involved in justifications, explanations, or analysis, don't add to them or deny them, don't hold on to them, and know they will pass on eventually, natural reactions to negative circumstances and experiences, negative energy that I want to pass through and away untouched, and not become entangled with.

I also got in touch with other friends, trying to find out what happened to the plans I had set up to have the house listed while I was gone for the summer, establish a market price, and then when I came out of the Arctic, either have it already sold, or everything ready for it to be bought by me. All I got was an unexpected phone message as I was on my way north to the Arctic that the plan had fallen through due to some craziness, when I would no longer do anything about it, so I headed into the wild, knowing I'd have to deal with it when I got back, and all that last minute effort was useless, just jerking me around, one more time. Perhaps that was the last straw.

I was also told that I don't realize that I am the strongest personality, the strongest will, though I don't use it on anyone. I can be quietly dominant, simply because I cannot be moved against my will, and I am doing what needs to be done and doing it right. What happens is what I decide to do gets done, often because I am the one who does anything, that I am the most competent, and practical, responsible, and all those things. I have to accept that he's right. I get things done.

The Final Resolution

I do get things done, so despite the emotional shock and storm passing through, I get to work, as I have done so many times before, too many times. First are the simple facts of survival. I have to open up the tarped vehicles and dig out a foam pad and some bedding so I can sleep warm, find more clothes. I scavenge firewood so I can build a fire in the fireplace to stay warm. I search for something to cook in, or at least warm up food in, and make hot water for coffee. I have my coffee cup and coffee and road food so I can get by. I can't remember where anything is at this point. I can't find the pots and pans, but I find a box of cast iron, with a frying pan, and that's enough to survive. I find this old laptop. As I work a realtor shows up with a developer, though this is possibly technically illegal, since it isn't listed yet. I'm not concerned, and let them in and show them around, and a cash offer shows up in my email later.

After simple survival, I have to deal with practicalities. I have to get the Toyota running so I have transportation, though I walk to the bank and the grocery store, I am moving forward full speed. I want to get ready to head for Florida ASAP, leave this ridiculous stupidity and horror behind. I want to go and get my life back, get moving forward, get to work on the boats, get back to playing music, especially, and leave all this behind. But when I arrive, I find I need to deal with a huge mess in the driveway. The trailer is piled and blocked in with garbage bags full of who knows what, many of them have caught and held water, not good for whatever is in them. Then the temperature drops and it all freezes. It is just more craziness and chaos, and more work for me, and I can only shake my head, it is all so over the top, and get to work. I arrive Thursday night, by Tuesday I have gotten the front seat of the Toyota cleared out and am able to get it started again, though it is running pretty rough.

raw gold in a blue enamel plate That night I clean the gold and get the finest couple ounces ready to ship, to pay off the credit card debt that paid for the trip, my normal routine for gold mining. The next day I am able to drive to the post office to ship the gold off to the smelter, and go to the library to access the internet. I bring the surviving houseplants I left outside into the house. The plants I left in the house are dried out and dead and I throw them outside. That night there is snow, sleet, and rain. I dig the dulcimer and performance gear out of the van, and clear out the back of the Toyota. I have to fix the amp friday, but Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (Veteran's Day), I am out on the street playing. I'm using a broken pressure cooker without a handle to cook rice, though in another week it will break all together, and I'll buy a cheap stainless stockpot to cook my dinner in, rice and vegetable stew. But inside it I found a small stainless steel mixing bowl to cook oatmeal for breakfast. And I found my popcorn popper and use it over the fire in the fireplace. The best is that I am on stage, and playing again. It is so great to be playing, and be on the street, even. The response from people is direct and intense. At one point I am actually stopped by folks and end up just setting the dulcimer on the ground and playing, ending up with an instant crowd, and children sitting in front of me, and I play for a couple hours right there. I am both surviving, and excelling, and moving forward with my plans. Despite the ugly, painful scene waiting for me when I returned, I create beauty and magic in the world. I am getting it done.

spacerDulci setup on the streetspacerDulci set on the ground being played accoustic

But, of course, that is also the problem, I am the one that gets things done, and the source of my present frustrating situation. Though I returned to find that nothing has happened about the house, I made my plans to move ahead with my life, by heading for Florida, and get right to work "getting my house in order." But now, instead my plans are derailed and I have to make new ones. I am stuck here in Virginia, with my life on hold once again.

What has developed, changed my plans, and became a new essential priority that first week, is that just before I got back, my sisters have found their own realtors, the one who came by after I first arrived, working under the table with a developer. And they have a listing agreement they want me to sign. So I get a copy emailed to me, though of course, I have to get the car started to go to the library. But I get it done. And my sister comes by, but I am not buying it sight unseen, or being railroaded into anything. Though I am willing to finally make this happen, if it will resolve the issue, I am also ready to continue on to Florida and deal with the house later. I have better things to do if I don't get what I want, what is fair. I want what I've wanted all along, the right to buy my relatives out at the at fair market value of our shares determined by the sellers net we'll get from selling now, as is, which is what they want to do. This is what I have been offering for over a year now. At this point, the listing is a means to establish a market value my sisters will accept, so I can buy them out or pass, and let the house be sold. It is the same deal I wanted to happen over the summer while I was gone. But now it is happening at the most inconvenient time for me instead. So it goes. Why do I expect this, now, that my sisters will will either do what is worst for me, either through simple ignorance and disregard for any cost to me, or from conscious or unconscious malice, or all three? Luckily, it doesn't matter, so I don't worry about it.

shakespearean actor figures in cast ironI have no sympathy left. I have no willingness to compromise or appease them any more. I know there has to be a limit, that compromise has to go both ways, and at a certain point, when there is no response, or only a negative one, I have to stop sacrificing my interests. But as a friend reminds me, I am a great actor, and that I have no reason to reveal the truth and every reason to try and skate through this thin ice carefully, and leave it, and them, behind, one way or another. So I act civil and play the part, keeping a near perfect facade. I have the strength of knowing I have already left it and them behind in my mind, through the long hard weeks in the wilderness, and I will not be drawn back into caring or serving them at any cost to me. There is a wall, now, because the work I had to do, promised ma I'd do, is done. I have no doubts about my own motives and actions, that I acted ethically and fairly and in their service, despite whatever they did. But all that is done, and now it is the time for consequences, which means a wall, and no desire on my part to pass it, and no power on theirs to get through it. It is not a good thing, only the best I can do in a bad situation. I have that note I wrote, "Do Not Hate", placed in the middle of my desk, to see each morning. And I get to work.

I struggle to stay positive, but I know again, after this summer, that I am capable of moving mountains, or at least, parts of them. So, though it is a struggle, I know I can make it through.gold digs, bucket of dirt and big hole behind

On the positive side, I am hoping that we will finally resolve the issue of the house, either selling it or allowing me to buy it by matching what we'd get from the best offer. Though I want to let them be in control, so they will be satisfied with the outcome, their efforts are woefully short of competence and long on attitude. So at this point, I have spent weeks trying to get the listing into some realistic form, from just correcting factual errors, to making sure I have the right to match what they would receive from it, and not be liable for the realtor's commission if I do. Then writing up terms and conditions they demanded for the private sale if it happens. At this point, I want guarantees myself, that this listing will end this situation, they will accept the results of this listing as determining the value of their shares, and that they won't try to demand more money from me than they'd get from a sale to someone else, something they have already tried, or set unreasonable conditions. I do not trust them, either their intent or their competence. Their ignorance is appalling, and their attitude as well. Though despite their problems and their actions, I find it hard to believe they are actually bad at heart, that they have crossed that line, and no matter how much their actions harm, it is unconscious, unintentional, from ignorance and ineptness and irrationality, by disrespect and inconsideration for me, and being twisted by their own internal problems. I don't know, and I don't pretend to understand, but I know I can't and won't take any more. So it goes. I am no longer expecting anything else. I am just trying to get it done, and make sure it is done right and I am not trapped into signing something that doesn't work, or traps us into paying a commission to the realtors. And I need to make them understand that if they try to jerk me around any more, I’ll head for Florida. I can’t keep letting them compromise my life and the music, destroy my plans and ignore my priorities and basic needs any longer. I want my life back, and though I have compromised one more time, I am over the line and an inch from blowing it all off. I have more important things in my life, the dulcimer, the music, and the People I serve to waste more time catering to them. This was the painful conclusion I came to last summer, and have to follow through. I only stay here to try an achieve a final resolution, but it is as an increase in costs to me, on all levels, once again. Which makes it hard to really feel positive about it, except in terms of ending this insanity for good.

Dulcimer set up busking in the Torpedo Factory AtriumThe biggest problem is the struggle to be productive and keep those priorities first, as I struggle with this incredible emotional, financial, and time-energy burden imposed on me. So I keep performing, because I have to make money, a simple justification, and more significant and important is that I have to get back to the music, both the physical skill and having the energy flowing through me. I need to make the music my world, once again. It is also a simple focus in a chaotic situation. It is a huge help for my emotional state, to have this great positive force in my life, despite the physical hardships involved. But almost all my time weekdays keeps being used up trying to deal with the listing, get it done right, so I can get past it, but I keep having to deal with new demands and complications from my relatives. After many hours studying real estate legal form books and more hours in the library, the listing is ready to go, and I've written up a private sales contract for everyone to sign. But there is no way of knowing what the result is. So perhaps the house is one of my biggest priorities, or maybe it is a distraction from them. Once the listing is finalized, I have to be ready for them to decide they've gotten the best offer at any time for the length of the listing, which could go through April, or it could all go down any time. I'll have 48 hours to respond. I have to be absolutely ready, either way. I have to keep preparing to leave in 30 days if the house ends up being sold, or ready to liquidate my assets and pay in cash in 45 days if I buy the house. I can't start any work on the house, since I may not get it. I can't make the effort to move everything to Florida and then have to move it all back again if I get the house. I can't be in Florida with a gig or with the boat in the yard, since if I get the house, I'll have to return to close the deal, and go all out to finish the renovation and get it rented before I run out of money to pay the mortgage, as I expect I'll have to rent it, at least till the mortgage is paid. I can't spend any money because I may need it to swing the house. I need to keep making money to keep from depleting my cash reserves just through monthly bills and expenses. I can't book gigs because I may have to leave in 30 days at any point, and gigs usually book farther in advance than that anyway. So I have to try and figure out both how to survive for the winter, to work somehow, to be productive without starting anything I can't wrap up in under 30 days. It is a difficult position to be in.

Dulcimer set up busking at the icecream shopAt least I have the street scene, and both making money and just playing are both necessary and productive. And though it can be hard and harsh, it also is a solid source of positive energy in my life, of beautiful scenes and moments, and playing music feels good, endorphins galore. I've been lucky that the weather has been warm, mostly, but I played through one weekend of below freezing temperatures, and it was hard. The street scene is not going to be good in January, February, and March, though. Or at least, I can't count on it.

But no matter how hard it is, I can try to believe that it is worth it because this is finally the end, and to get through it, and in 60 to 90 days, the situation should be resolved one way or another, and I can pull out all the stops to start moving forward, wherever that is. I keep playing every weekend, have the holiday season to work through, Thanksgiving to New Year's, as hard as I can, despite the distractions of getting the house deal rolling, despite the unreasonable pressure from my relatives, when I know nothing is going to happen till after the holidays. I have lots of practical priorities, like tuning up the Toyota and gathering firewood, and making phone calls to catch up with everyone. And setting up a new plan that will move me forward despite the adverse circumstances. So it goes.

spacerDulcimer set up busking at the icecream shop

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