by Dr David, Editor / Publisher
My Mexican neighbor speaks perfect English and a little Yiddish, having worked in a kosher deli in LA for almost ten years. Two weeks ago, as I was descending from my daily yoga session on the upper roof, in the company of two other men, he called up to me, asking me in English if I wanted the house painted. Knowing that my landlady had no money for this sort of thing and that I wasn't going to pay, I declined, "No. No." "They will do it for free. The government will pay," he coaxed. "Yes. Yes," changing my tune, I blurted out and went to fetch La Señora. The color chart, homemade on a piece of brown cardboard box, all the official San Miguel tones, we settled on a light yellow.
Yesterday, when I went out to the market I noticed that the painting crew was finishing painting the side of the tortilleria on the corner. The foreman, the man who arrived with the color chart two weeks ago, gave me a smile in greeting when I passed. As I did one of his laborers, a somewhat fat young man was down on his knees painting the lower half of the tortilleria's side wall. Returning a short while later he gave me a second, bigger smile and nod of approval when I stopped to lecture the fat kid about ruining his knees by kneeling directly on the stones, "You're young now and you are not thinking about it, but it will happen. You should use a piece of cardboard."
Moments ago, sitting here wondering what I would write about this week, the answer came to me in the sound of various extention ladders being drawn open and set into place in the alley right outside my door. The crew is working on the three houses across the way, in one of which lives my Yiddish-speaking neighbor with his mother, in another lives his brother with wife and daughters. Perhaps this afternoon they will paint the facade of our house. I could have asked the foreman when I went to back my car up out of range of any spatter, but I'm in no hurry to know the future.
Once, half my lifetime ago, I was walking down a street in Lower Manhattan with a dear friend, who decided to pop into a storefront fortune-teller. After reading his palm and getting her pay the gypsy turned to me and said, "And you?" I replied, "I don't want to know." I'd rather be surprised.
These days I work with a certain mania, ignoring time and hunger. I'm not proud of it. It is obviously a sort of self-denial, but it does get the job done. In these creative fervors I tell myself that I will take a break when I get to a certain point of completion, but when I do I don't. Not wanting to break the rhythm, I carry on. In my own defense, with my weekly publishing and readting my global website, there is a lot to get done.
Some months ago I convinced my landlady (who lives upstairs) not to prune the bouganvilla this year. Instead I lifted it up, fixing it to the wall and spreading it out. It responded by flowering exuberantly on its newly outstretched wings.
Then my girlfriend Veronica started gifting me plants. Suddenly the patio started looking like a place one might want to spend some time. The walls, however, were a hodgepodge of colors, all very faded, including hollows of unpainted concrete where the top layer had crumbled away. One entire wall had never been painted at all.
A few weeks ago I took matters in hand, going one afternoon to pick out paint, a solar yellow. The next day they delivered and I got to work. The surface was extremely uneven, rough with the large, aforementioned, hollows and many, many smaller pits and cracks. With the surface prep, including banging away insecure concrete, the two coats of paint and also painting the interior of the third floor parapet where I do my yoga, I worked nine hours a day for three days in a row, keeping to the shade the whole time.
The patio now brilliantly transformed, the sun reflects with such force off the far wall that shadows are cast inside my bedroom 40 feet away. I've learned not to stare at that wall when it's lit up; it's blinding, like staring at the sun.
Far from perfect, I understand, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Still, in refurbishing the patio, I have at least made that part of the swine's anatomy much prettier. Now for a table and chairs.
Keeping my two computer programmers busy is a full time job for me and my assistant. Very independent creatures that they are, when they have their nose to the grindstone you want them to keep it there, and not be distracted by a lapse in the supply chain. Usually it really is a team effort and I have to work as hard as them, preparing the next phase, the next work to be done.
Shortly after painting the patio, following one in a series digital work frenzies lasting well into the night, I woke while it was still dark. Before I could stop it, my mind went to work. That means only one thing, insomnia. In the middle of the night that's an uncomfortable problem, but there and then, after lying in bed for 10 minutes and glancing out the window again, I confirmed that the day was beginning to dawn.
What had my mind gone to work on? What was so important? Garbage, literally. I thought of the box-spring and matress that my neighbor, deny it as he might, disposed of, along with a generous amount of padding of the type that is used under carpets, in the empty lot nextdoor here on our small cerrada. He's a nasty sort, who despite my friendliest demeanor doesn't talk to me. If he would, I know better than to ask. He denied it to his younger brother, the one who lived in LA and speaks Yiddish.
One day the offending (and offensive) brother had most of a bedroom airing out in the sun in front of his house. The next day the garbage was in the lot. "Why did you leave that garbage there?" the younger brother inquired. "I didn't put it there," the elder implausiblly denied.
Ugly as the garbage was, the larger problem is that garbage compounds. With that garbage sitting there, people would have quickly added to it.
I had plans to put it all on the roof of my car and take it to the dumpsters on Calzada de la Luz, but a week after the appearance of the I saw a daughter of the offending brother selling the innards of the box-spring and matress, the aluminum and foam, to the junk man, the truck that drives around announcing, "Fiero viejo!" I asked her about the rest of the trash in the lot. She said she would take it out on garbage collection day.
This morning, in the gathering dawn, just after waking I heard the bell and thought, the trash man cometh. Industrious as I am, I snapped into action. Pulling on my shorts and sandals I went out and piling the first load of foam padding onto the shell of the matress dragged it out to where the garbage truck stops.