Paul and I decide to paint a wall in my studio, the one leading to the loft. Three goals are identified; to mitigate glare from the dormer, to bring ‘my red’ to that part of the room, and to practice painting techniques we read about in a book. Artists, you know. We can’t slap on a color and be happy with a comfortable green. We’re impelled to apply three colors of different value for dimensionality, then a glaze to protect the texture, then enamel white on the picture rail and baseboard, then letterbox the staircase side to create a panel effect, then–
The TV blares while we apply test strokes on an old shelf. Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans, until a levee breaks. More than one levee. Four days of stranded New Orleanians crying for help until a convoy of military trucks glides through the water bringing relief and order to the chaos. The news repeats painful images of elder Americans who died and were left on the roadside or arena causeway.
I say lawsuits will pile-up for years, but Paul says, “They were told to evacuate. Begged, even, by the mayor and governor. That puts it on them.” And he calls himself a liberal.
“Roger must be in New Orleans now working as a lineman to restore power.”
“If that’s really what he does,” Paul agrees.
On the second day we apply a second color. Mario calls from Columbia, South America where he visits family. During the visit, he was reunited with cousins and uncles he hasn’t seen since he was a teenager. There was one incident, though. Mario was almost interred in a local jail for casual banter with uniformed police. Columbians have differing ideas of what constitutes respect. He plans to return to our environs on Sunday.
Dan calls from Colorado. He claims to love his new job photographing tourists and doesn’t miss us at all. I say we eat Mexican food three times a week and never have a thought of him.
On the third day and third color, Jonas calls to get a key or something from Paul and asks what he thinks of the re-arrangement of the deck after the roofers finished resurfacing. It was the first time Jonas participated in deck gardening, helping Candish in Jack’s absence. He moved pots under Candish’s direction, no hands in the dirt, but he wants credit for his ‘art’. Paul really lets him have it about how the trailer-trash placement shows no style or regard for the needs of the plants, and how the garden has been “horrid” all summer.
I hide my laugh. Paul mostly practices a tortured duplicity to remain on friendly footing with fellow tenants. He finally takes a stand? I call him on the tirade, but Paul says, “Jonas is still unformed and therefore the only one who can be influenced to do better work.”
“So that popping off was instruction?” I ask.
Our focus shifts to trickling mama-drama. Katrina plays continuously on the news while children and pets are abandoned in foul sewage water in the lost city. My neighbor Candish, however, goes hysterical about a casterbean plant I rescued a couple weeks ago from being choked by morning glory vines. Candish doesn’t miss the sweet trailing plant until the roofers leave. In the re-rejumble of pots, a plaster Buddha goes missing.
A handwritten message appears on the communal bulletin board saying please return the “Budha” no questions asked, and how she works a real job while gardening two hours each morning and two hours each evening without help, and if somebody wants to take over the responsibility they could because she’s just trying to make it nice for everybody. And how she raised a certain plant from seed, and a person took it when it was finally blooming and that’s called stealing.
We play Budha word games for a short time. “Budha’s out looking for a ‘d’,” and “While Sid and Dartha were out seeking Budha, they Saw Tori.” Then we shrug off the rant.
Gardening is its own reward. Last summer Paul paraphrased a Chinese adage. “If you would be happy for three hours, get drunk. If you would be happy for three weeks, kill a pig and eat it. If you would be happy for three months, get married. If you would be happy for the rest of your life, take up gardening.”
It’s difficult to appeal to a bipolar person for objective resolution, though. Candish doesn’t speak to me EVER, but makes her case through tenants who she believes lend sympathetic ears. I wonder what the others think, but not enough to join the fray. I tell Paul, “Candish and Jack don’t want a resolution to the tension. They want to fight.”
Paul puts it all on Jack. More duplicity.
Anyhow, we’re busy painting the wall in my studio. Cat gimps around like a peg-legged pirate. He puts his nose in each paint can, gets into my closet and the kitchen cabinets, over the furniture, under the furniture. He stalks the sparrows on the windowsill. Jenn and Eddie visit, and cat races in a three-legged gimp to the door. “There’s somebody who loves me and wants to pet me, I just know it,” I pantomime. “Got any bacon? Huh, huh, huh? You got bacon, right?”
Eddie gifts me with a textbook on Art & Civilization because I borrowed it before. They’re sorting books prior to moving to the new place on Belmont and Sheffield. “My comic book collection has the most weight,” Eddie says.
They hate the paint job we’re still completing. I can tell by their tepid response. I way-like the effect we produced, but I can see the strong reds are not to everybody’s taste. “Mitigates the glare,” I defend.
Jenn says something diplomatic like, “The new effect brings red to this part of the room.” Then she compliments the deck arrangement and the gardening work completed by Candish and Jonas. Likes the deck: hates the stress-painted wall. Go figure.
Paul repeats several Budha puns. Eddie adds, “I can’t believe it’s not Budha.”
I check the progress of the casterbean thriving with blossoms and several flat pods. It provides a similar joy for me as the sparrows and cardinals who squabble on my windowsill.