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Sunday, July 29, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 9

The House That Tried To Kill Me.

It’s weird. Shortly after we decided to sell the house things started to go sideways.
I was in the kitchen making coffee last month and my wife was upstairs taking a shower. Then suddenly I was taking a shower, which was strange as I was still in the kitchen. A pipe inside the shower stall wall had broken and water soaked though the kitchen ceiling dry wall, shorting out two of the lights and working its south to destroy part of the living room ceiling. Cost of patchwork, painting and plumber: $1050. Our insurance deductable: $1000.

Where The Shower Head Used To Be

Murphy’s Law
Two weeks later I decided to replace a mattress on a Murphy Bed we have in the guest room as we were expecting a visit from some friends who live in California. I got the mattress off okay and then thought, what the hell, I might as well replace the box springs too. I removed a couple clips that held the box springs to the frame and had it halfway off when the bed when the whole thing shot up life a giant mousetrap knocking me across the room and totally destroying the frame and wood panel that matched the wall when the bed was folded up. I was later told by a Murphy Bed dealer that the springs that helped raise the bed back up into the wall had a total pull force of 600 pounds. We had a choice, replace the Murphy bed ($2,500) or remove the thing completely which seemed like a good idea at the time.
After the bed was removed we realized there was no carpet under where the deadly machine had lain in wait. A patch would show, not good as we are planning to sell.
Now need to put new carpet in the room and repaint walls.

Death From Above
While removing the metal framework that once held the Murphy bed I kept noticing a scratchy, kind of buzzy noise. It seemed to be coming from the guest bedroom ceiling. Thank God there are no pipes up there, but the was something. Rats in the attic? I located what seemed to be the source of the sound and poked where it seemed to be coming from with my index finger. The ceiling was paper thin at that spot and my finger went straight though the dry wall. I got stung five times in very rapid succession and thousands of very pissed off wasps came pouring out. I escaped into the hallway and slammed the door shut. It sounded like there was an airplane inside the room for the next two days. What to do? Finally I put on two pairs of pants, some old cowboy boots, a leather motorcycle jacket and crash helmet with a face plate. Then I took my wife’s vacuum cleaner, removed the end piece leaving an open sucking tube and reentered the wasp filled room. There were hundreds of them waiting for me.

A Few Of The Dead Removed From Vacuum Cleaner Bag

I must admit I sort of enjoyed this part. It was like Star Wars, me with one of those wand things sucking up wasps as they unsuccessfully tried to sting their way though leather and plastic. I got rid of almost all of them and taped up the hole. They had chewed thought the wallboard to collect material for what must have been a good sided nest. “Paper wasps,” the exterminator said.
They guy who repaired the kitchen ceiling is now repairing the wasp hole in the bedroom ceiling.

More Dead Ones Killed By The Exterminator

The Exterminator
I'm beginning to think this house has some kind of evil consciousness. It knows we're leaving and it wants revenge. I’ll be lucky to get out of here alive!

Friday, July 27, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 8

                                                              A Very Special Day

It started the night before, about 9 P.M. 

Lou remembered that she was taking her interview to become a U.S citizen the next morning. She needs to be a citizen to collect the social security she has earned over the years. There were 50 something questions she needed to know answers to, about the government. She knows them all by heart. My wife is very smart. I worry she’s smarter than I am—fluent in two languages. I barely know one. Sometimes I have to ask her how to spell English words, or how to do something on Facebook.
It didn’t seem like a big deal that next morning. She left the house at 6:30 and I didn’t think too much about it. Two hours later hour the plumber showed up. We’re trying to get this house in shape—ready to sell. Then I sold some psychology books she’d she was getting rid of on Amazon and needed to wrap and mail them at the post office.

                 The plumber was missing a part. I went to the hardware store to get what he needed and of course couldn’t find it . . . took forever. The plumber took forever to finish a relatively simple job during which my wife called. She had passed the test. They only asked her 4 questions, she knew all of them of course. It didn’t really matter. She knows more about our government than I do, but she was surprised things went so fast. We’d thought taking the oath would take place in another day or so. But the induction was to  be at 11:30.

                 I didn’t think it would be a big deal at first. It wasn’t like someone coming from a 3rd world country, staking a foothold on another land, a chance to have a life. My wife’s done well both here and Sweden. But it was one of those times where you want to have a couple photographs—an occasion of moment. The plumber finished just in time and I raced to make it to the ceremony just in time . . . two minutes late. Of course things like this never start in time. The procedure went faster than most applicants expected and the applicants families had not had time to get there, so the ritual was delayed—an hour’s wait for loved ones to show up.

                 The ceremony did not go well.  The microphone wasn’t working. You’d think they’d done this show enough times to get it right—bureaucracy. But we could hear him. Applicants were told to be silent, that they were going to be given important information. Children acting out were to be removed from the room. They did of course, and weren’t of course—mothers alone with their young. Some little Asian kid climbed up on the stage and started pulling at the movie screen while waving a small American flag in his other hand. Aspiring actor. Where was mom? Just watching the show I guess. Someone finally came and asked he be removed as applicants filed in, picking up those so valuable papers: a white one, a green one and a certificate with photo.

                 “Do not lose this,” they were told. “Make sure they are correct. It will cost $350 to get them corrected after today."
                 There were 56 who’d passed who passed the test—from 26 countries. Amazing: My wife was the only one from Sweden, others came from China, Japan, Bosnia, Croatia, Eritrea, Argentina, Brazil . . . I lost track of the list. When all were seated there was a corny film. The glory of America. Slide show of views, the mountains, Statue of Liberty, New York, the capital, fields, streams and cities. Then a filmed congratulations from the President.

                “How lucky you are,” They were told. Then a lecture—not too long. Important things new citizens should know. Law 57938: how to apply for family members, 398786: how to apply for passports . . . on and on. I don’t think anyone paid much attention. Then, all of us stood for a pledge of allegiance. I know it by heart but it always makes me a little uneasy, recalling other pledges made at other times in other countries. “We will defend this land, bear arms if called upon.”
                 How lucky I have been . . . to be born in America -1938. So many feelings. The Star Spangled Banner was played and I got tears. These 56 people so grateful to be Americans . . . and my leaving. At the same time happy for my wife. She has dual citizenship now. I felt so happy for her, proud of her, and happy all of those lucky people who would now become Americans.

                A heavy sadness to be leaving for a year or two.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 7


This is the first and only real desk I have ever owned. It’s solid oak and heavy. Lasted 30 years— still good as new. Too big and bulky for the new place – maybe. Almost an antique. Desks are more clever now. They go around corners, wood and glass and chrome. Not sure I want to sell mine, or if anyone would buy. My wife’s been using it for these last 13 years. She has another at her office. My own working space upstairs has been two doors. They give a lot of flat space. That’s what I need. I tend to jump around a lot, three stories at a time and poems now and then. I’ve had good luck with poems. This last 12 months I’ve published twenty in the U.S.A. Brazil and India and England. Total income from all this — $1.00 from a publication I assume wanted to have some kind of legal rights. But that’s poetry. You don’t expect to make money.
The poems and fiction are in various states of progress and revision. Small mountains of paper that require flat space. I have four two door file cabinets in two rooms, each full. I need to sort through those as well. There must be some stuff I can throw away . . . or not. So much is filed that I’ve forgotten what I filed or where I filed it. This why I keep my works in progress in plain sight. In time they morph into a snowfall of white paper—what normal people would call a mess as you can see below. Some works have been ‘in-progress’ years.

Believe it or not I more or less know where things are. The novels, photos I need to scan, a lot of notes, revisions that I’m not sure read better than what they’ve revised, and more revisions to revisions that might work. I’ve kept both pre and post and in between. There are ideas, articles and clippings that relate. The room has looked like this for years and now I’ve got to clean it up, get organized, a Herculean task. I can’t imagine how to start to sort through all of this and organize. There are more books as well. All this will go to Sweden where the bedroom that will be my office space is to small for doors. My wife suggests one of those spiffy high tech corner desks—IKEA. I don’t know. Makes  sense I guess, but there would be less flat space. Maybe I should ship the big old desk. It’s smaller than a door.

Hard to let go of things.

Monday, July 23, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 6


We’re getting rid of books. Not fun. Both Lou and I are avid readers. She’s a psychotherapist and reads such fascinating tomes as: Essays on Advanced Phenomenology, and one of my own favorites, Theories of Neurophysiology. Real page turners. She also reads fiction in both Swedish and English. Big Stieg Larson fan of course. She turned me on to Henning Mankell. I am too embarrassed to admit how many Pattersons I’ve read and can’t recall the plot of any. They were fun to read, something to pass-time-on-the-plane books. 

Been through all of  Steven King’s work. Those plots I remember . . . Cormac McCarthy. I’ll keep those and doubt I’ll ever look a them again—shelf decorations. I have drifted into talking books – CDs. I run one novel in the car. CDs turned my commuting hell to not-so-bad when I was working, and I’ve kept the habit. There’s another story going on an Ipad by the couch at home. I listen for an hour or more with a martini in the evenings and there’s still another novel on a player I keep beside the bed. It’s better than a sleeping pill—like mother reading to you, only better at it. I’ve a quite a lot of hard back books as well. Were getting rid of hundreds and it isn’t fun to take them to the Goodwill store. More sorrow born of parting. Buddha would call this an attachment to sense objects. An addiction to get over. Not so easy letting go. The only other option is to throw them all away. Surely the Buddha would not approve at such waste. I wonder why there’s such attachment to the things. In some dark recess of my mind there is the thought, I’m going to read this again someday. When I get old and there is nothing else to do. This book holds valuable information I might need some day. Right—like I couldn’t find it on Google. Some books have waited for reopening more than 40 years—untouched. Perhaps being a writer causes a psychotic bonding, an obscure respect. The printed word. If anyone of you live in Seattle, we’ve a bunch of  Swedish books on the way out, most mainstream literary fiction, and some poetry. It isn’t easy getting rid of books.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 5

A vast majority of homes in Sweden are painted red, though this seems to be becoming less traditional. There are copper mines that make the paint, some really big ones. One’s in Falun, twenty minutes from the town where we will be.
The mine below must have been one of the worst places on earth to work. Going through it was creepy.
Can you imagine pushing this thing around 12 hours a day? Half of Sunday off if you could prove you went to church.  
It’s been reported that the present Swedish workweek has hit a record high — 26.2 hours
                                                   I'm moving 15 years to late!

Friday, July 20, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 4

                                                      Things That Do Not Travel Well

We’ve got two cats. The male is Bucky, (named after Buckminster Fuller) and a female, Amber. Both are Scottish Folds and go to the vet once every couple years. Needless to say they are both totally spoiled. When they visit to the vet they are put into those car carrier cages for the trip and go completely nuts. Amber does not quit yowling all the way there and all the way back. Bucks us just as bad. They will be also be going to Sweden and I worry the 30 hour trip will put them into post traumatic stress. They already have attitudes.
              If anyone has long distance cat shipping advice or experience I would love to hear it!

                                         Bucks: "If you think I'm going cargo forget about it!"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 3

Sometimes wet eyes
Process of leaving
Break from packing
Trips to Goodwill store
So many things
The toaster - coffee make
Vacume cleaner
Lamps - all things electrical
Wrong voltage
Big flat screen TV we saved for
Tools it took me 40 years to gather
Everything that I might need
Drill press and table saw
Non-metric wrenches . . . sockets.
My guns are not allowed in Sweden
One ficus with me 30 years
Raised from a sprig
The scenery:
Seattle: Emerald City
Puget Sound in walking distance
Mt. Rainier on the horizon
Taken for granted
All these years
No more
No more.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 2


My wife is Swedish. Swedes are allowed dual citizenship. Americans are not. She is now studying to apply for an American passport and knows more about U.S. government than I do. She needs to be an American citizen in order to collect the social security she has earned here. I think many people having green cards do not realize this.

In the meantime I am filling out paperwork to become a permanent resident in Sweden. I am one of those unfortunates who can seemingly never fill out a form without making mistakes, and there are so many details, records, dates – divorces, births, income tax things.

Finally got it done and it was sent to Sweden. Today the Swedish embassy called. They want more information from my wife. The form was e-mailed to us – in Swedish. Thank God I don’t have to mess with this one.

You will notice the word “gifta” at the top of the form. This means marriage in Sweden, one of the few Swedish words I have learned. To be married is to be “gifted.” Marie-Louise has been a gift to me – it took a long time coming but was fun to unwrap.

Monday, July 16, 2012

On Leaving America Part 1

                                                    Last night in Sweden

Heading home tomorrow
In Seattle
We will sell our home
Return to Sweden
One more time
Leaving America behind forever
Lots if feelings this late night
This still midsummer’s light
Enough to read by
Two A. M.
Promise of rain in the air
A strong wind rustles through tall trees
They sway as if in dance
Yielding as they gather rings
Some fall
Most will return to vertical
Awaiting winter’s darkness
So many years
Mine less than they

I won’t die standing up.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Amsterdam Coffee Shop


Music pulsing . . . nice
smoke thick as fog
pale blue.
Customers come and go
like schools of fish
the tide’s gone out now
less than twenty at the tables.
Four computers on the wall—unoccupied
were manned when I came in
expensive habit
coin fed internet.
Zink topped curved bar
runs seven meters
and then tables
one long booth beside a street-side window.

Crowded again 
Sex Pistols blasting
Seventies revisited as
six guys join me at the bar
some rolling joints
most twenty something
two Hispanics and an Asian
three Americans—one black.
Computers are reoccupied
one user searching for hotels
another reading e-mails.
Table of six order espressos
as I drink expensive smoothies
Ah . . . so good.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Amsterdam Canal

Amsterdam Canal
Sidewalk cafe
At leisure
Cat below my table
Sitting sphinx-like
Brown with black stripes running lengthwise
From between its ears
And down is back.
We’re watching boats glide by
The odd duck
People chattering behind us
Muffled laughter
Under early evening sky
It’s been a good day.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Midsummer Sweden

Postcard From Sweden
Midsummer Eve

Sans sunset day
Then twilight until dawn
Another summer solstice
Endless clock of seasons
Twenty-four hours when animals can talk
And humans dream of lovers
Dress the maypole
Join in celebration
Peace and love
At gatherings of thousands
Rock & roll and heavy metal bands
Ecstatic teens at large
Will dance until the music merges with the mist
At morning break.