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One

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Blog | 2 comments

Eight billion threads of wool on one loom by one weaver.

How can there be a mistake in a design s/he alone imagines?

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Spain 1959

Posted by on Feb 26, 2019 in Blog | 1 comment

SPAIN & US AIRWAYS 

Marilyn lined up a timeshare on the Costa del Sol in Spain and got a great deal on tickets. I’d been telling her about living there and a trip three of us made at Easter from Seville along a Roman Road built two thousand years ago, riding through country that was little changed from the Middle Ages. There were no schools or electricity or food other than what they grew and butchered, no outside news. The people had never heard of the United States, or even the New World for that matter. We’d ride horseback into a village and people would drop what they were doing to follow us to the plaza or inn where we’d dismount and sit and talk with them. They were simple as children, wide-eyed, sometimes touching our garments to make sure we were real. I was ahead of my time and had long hair and they’d never seen long hair on a man. Dimitri had brass colored hair and Tim was blonde with blue eyes, his face Scottish pink and strange looking, even to us. They watched us like kids do cartoons on television.

One time a stallion galloped up to the mare I was riding and danced around biting her, then mounted her so his front hooves were dug into my legs. He was so turned on he didn’t even notice me. She kicked with both back feet and knocked him over and took off faster than I’d thought she could run, the stallion right behind and more interested than ever. He was circling around to cut her off at a bridge coming up but she made it across and he didn’t follow. We heard his whinnies for miles. I heard that story in all sorts of convolutions for a year in Madrid.

Anyway, Marilyn wanted to travel to the places I’d known in my twenties and hear my stories with a visual reference. Deep down I wanted to leave Spain the way I’d known it, a country cut off from the modern world until the year before we students got there when the borders that’d been closed for 20 years were opened. Generalissimo Franco was still in charge, his troops goose-stepping through the streets of Madrid while Hitler’s Messerschmitts flew in accolades overhead, but his reign was over. The people were waiting for him to die and Prince Carlos to assume the throne. Long wait.

When I lived in Torremolinos after Madrid it was a village on the south coast of a few hundred fishermen. It had one sit-down restaurant, the Bar Central. Now it is part of a resort bandwidth stretching from Malaga to the Straits of Gibraltar. This is where Marilyn and I were headed. We would land in Malaga and rent a car to drive to our timeshare and from here travel to Seville, Granada, maybe even Madrid. I secretly dreaded it. It was like meeting a young lover after fifty years, you have that one look from the heart and then the mind kicks in with a Good God!! What happened to you?

At the University we studied with some of the country’s cultural heroes. One was Joaquin Rodrigo who taught a course with his wife on the history of Spanish music. She played Nacisso Yepes’ recording of her husband’s most famous composition with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra. The two of them sat in folding chairs in front of us, hands in their laps, his eyes unseeing, hers closed, listening to soaring music the likes of which none of us kids had heard.

Marilyn plays the Concierto de Aranjuez a lot. It matters to her that I knew him, that I breathed the same air as him, that I heard his soft voice and watched his wife select the records he called for to illustrate something he was saying about Albéniz or Tárrega or himself. Imagine the simplicity of the country’s greatest composer sitting there with a group of young Americans, wearing a tattered, worn shiny suit with three blind mice black glasses on and speaking to us of the influences on his music, of its roots in his region of the country and the Spanish need to be free.

Marilyn and I flew out of Minneapolis on a late April afternoon en route to Philadelphia where we’d change planes for the Atlantic crossing. We got caught in a storm and circled over the Great Lakes to let it move through, but it didn’t. We landed at Pittsburg to refuel and took off flying in lightning. We were the last plane to land at Philly before the airport was shut down.

The airline had a thousand passengers who missed their transatlantic flights that night and by the time we got to the desk the next day’s flights were booked, and the day after that. They said our luggage was lost along with everyone else’s and for us to check by every hour in case something turned up. How could it turn up when it was on a plane to Spain, and they knew it. But we didn’t. They’d transferred suitcases to the overseas carrier from our flight when we landed, then not waited for us. Our luggage got back to us in Minneapolis three weeks later.

Out over the Atlantic we noticed the light of the sunset changed from one side of the plane to the other. I thought it was a miracle but then the Captain came on the intercom to say there was a small problem that was really nothing but regulations made them head back to have it checked out. Wouldn’t take but a few minutes. Ten minutes later he said we were heading to Boston airport where they had better mechanics, then later said the better mechanics were busy so we were heading to Philly.

The head stewardess announced that no one would be permitted to leave the plane when we got in and Marilyn and I looked at one another and decided we’d see about that. We agreed that our trip was doomed, we’d missed three days of our timeshare, had no luggage and by the time we nestled into our hotel room we’d have three days left. So we had one of the younger stewardesses call back the big, old and ugly one to talk with. She started talking before we did saying she understood how terrified we were but that this was nothing, she’d been through it a hundred times and was still here, big and ugly as ever. She had some travel sickness pills that’d calm us, and turned to go get them. We called her back and explained that we were not afraid, we were giving up the trip, there were only three days left for our visit and so we decided to get off the plane. She repeated that no one was getting off, and the look on her face reminded me of the head nurse in the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. I get calm at a time like this and told her that the rest of them could stay on but we were leaving. The airline had lost our luggage, stalled us three days, now they were turning back and it sounded to us like we were not being given the facts about this emergency. She tried staring me down for a minute, said it was not an emergency, then went forward to describe what she’d just been through with the other stewardesses.

Marilyn and I decided we would get up as soon as the plane was at the gate and get off, opening the door if we had to. We didn’t have to, but we were the only two of 300 passengers who disembarked, and that plane was still parked there three hours later getting a new engine or something when we took off on our flight to Minneapolis. To its credit USAir refunded our money on all tickets, and paid for our way back home. The older man at the desk was a sweetheart, and we took this as another sign that we’d made the right decision.

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Out in the sticks near Tucumcari

Posted by on Jan 16, 2019 in Blog | 2 comments

North of Tucumcari, NM

I was at that trashy rest stop on the Cimarron River, you know the place off highway 54, the one with the railroad span to your right headed south?

I was talking with a tree about how things were and it said it couldn’t complain. Said its mother and father used to be up the road a bit either side of a barbed wire fencing the highway, and they never had it this good. They had full-on wind 365, and the only water they got was what run off the highway twice a year. They made do with what they got and seeded when they could.

This tree said its particular seed blew into this rest stop on a rare north wind, rather than the trades that almost always doomed elm seed to the wastelands, with no chance to sprout and root. Those that did through sheer grit didn’t reach longer than ankle high to a coyote pup before they keeled over and blew away.

The tree said it really liked the community of plants here, they was family, real strong though most every one of’m stunted, starved for love, and cripp’d up pretty bad. But they was alive, that was the thing. The parents never promised them a rose garden, only a chance to root & find out just what-the-hell kinda thing they might be.

That cactus over there found out and’s been complaining ever since, all the time grousing about what a rough deal it was dealt, how it didn’t ask to be a prickly pear bastard, how-come not a yucca with pretty flowers and stuff? Now that yucca was a cactus, not a Mickey-mouse-eared thing everyone talks down to. The elm said the whatever-it-was slept late and got up cranky, you’d think its spines was sticking more in than out.

Now the elm had a real story of deprivation and hard times, being an orphan down the road from its folks’ graves and all, brothers and sisters parched to dust, but you never heard it rankle about it. Elms was tough, they thrived on bad times, they loved bad times because then elms really feel alive and get to dream of turning things around and someday looking like one of them elms down there on the banks of the Cimarron. Runs sand on the surface, but deep down is lots of water. No, up here is good, real good, strong winds, get to see traffic whip by and the train loco-moting cross the span, maybe some horizon even.

I said maybe what that mouse-eared, down-home ugly, bitchy little cactus needed was for another like it to grow nearby, and it’d court it with pollen hauled over by bees and butterflies. Two uglies could make a pretty…

The elm said could be, could be, but… I waved, said I had to get back on the road to Borrego. I went over to the cactus and looked it over. Not bad, really, it had its beauty, the lopsided symmetry, the shriveled-up Mickey-mouse ears and buds and poisonous tiny barbs at the bases of thousands of long sharp spines promising a better yesterday, though not tomorrow. I mean it was saddled. But someone has to be a cactus, y’know. Guess I’d bitch too

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Marilyn and The Kids

Posted by on Jan 12, 2019 in Blog | 5 comments

Marilyn & the kids—Heart of the story

Heart of the Story 

The decisions Marilyn and I made in our new life together were based on what was best for the children. Before I really got it I carried around a few Excepts and Buts but in time forgot them. I’d lived by Buts and Excepts and that was okay when I was alone but once we had kids they got tossed out the back door with the dishwater. The Buts and Excepts.

She made sure I kept this credo as my guiding light. I’d run out on my first born son Ben and his mother years before, when he was still a toddler, and Cristina and Zack from their mother 20 years after, so it was clear to Marilyn that this thing called fatherhood and sacrifice were not more than learned lines for me. When I needed reminding she’d say something that made me feel fatherhood, at least as a responsibility if not a heart centered feeling. She could have gotten my attention by raising hell but that’s not her way, she gently maneuvered my infant sense about what is right, to educate me. She is a teacher, in the spirit of Jesus. It was a long haul and so painful for us both that there were times we both would have gladly died instead of going through what we had to in order to make a mom and dad home for the little kids.

It wasn’t that they didn’t have a home with their mother, they did, but she didn’t want to share them much. When I met Marilyn I’d already adjusted to that. Marilyn un-adjusted me to that. She felt kids needed fathers as well as mothers. You’d think I would’ve figured this out with the three of us boys raised by the angeldust of our mother in Santa Fe. But here I was perpetuating an identical drama reenacting the same things as my father. Kids are chameleons, everything goes into them and serves as blueprints for when they can finally think for themselves, and it may be that even their thoughts were downloaded into them. We are tattooed and pierced in utero.

So this is what I was choosing when I hitchhiked into San Diego from the Pacific Crest Trail. I was going to find The Connector who had come to me in a vision as I slept and accepted my prayer for help. That was what we were talking about in that dream meeting, although I didn’t know it till just now. I didn’t know I’d asked for any help. The vision had stayed in my memory as a mystical thing. I totally missed the part about my asking her to come be the straw boss in my life to work on an impossible project—being a full-on father.

The decisions we made, especially in those first seven years in the furnace of family law, were directed by the intent, mainly on her part, of saving Zack and Cristina from a catastrophic dominoing that my choice to walk away from them had set in motion. I couldn’t undo that but together Marilyn and I could redirect some of the lines of dominoes so they all wouldn’t be tipped over. That meant getting shared custody, something I’d signed away in Santa Barbara when their mother came with them from Fiji where they were living. She wanted two thirds of my income and full custody. She needed it to establish residency. I signed the papers. I’d hit bottom, or thought I had. If the legal papers demanded my soul I’d’ve turned over all fragments gladly.

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Yah?

Posted by on Dec 31, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

I was thinking how neat it’d be to die and see what happens next. I’m in my 80s so I have a vested interest. My feeling is nuthin’ ever dies, the spirit that aggravates, also inculcates, whatever that means. But, thing is this whole thing is Love, and Love means good stuff, so how could Death be bad stuff? For the people we owe, sure! But for the long haul, nope, it’s all sweetness and glory and Hallelulia! and Oh God YES! How do I know? I always knew but made believe cuz it’s cheating to have Life with there being no options other than No Life. We are forever. You. Me. That guy over there. C’mon, not him!? Yah, Him.

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Woodcutter

Posted by on Dec 30, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

13. Santa Clara Peak

I met Marilyn in a dream on the Pacific Crest Trail, but only realized fifteen years into our marriage that I’d seen her even before then.
I had a small sawmill and firewood and fencing business out on Airport Road in Santa Fe., where I’d moved after Galisteo. Our main thing was hand-adzing trees into round roof beams we call vigas in New Mexico, or finishing saw-milled beams that we used a broad axe to shave the mill marks from. In the olden days a round tree was made square entirely by hand-adzing. We created the “illusion” of it being handcrafted by using those same ancient tools.
The best trees for this were Engelmann spruce from way high in the mountains. When they die the bark beetles and other critters don’t attack them because the cambium layer doesn’t taste good and the scaly bark clings too tightly to the wood. So the tree slow dries over the years with minimal cracking. An adzed Engelmann viga is a pleasure to look at, eight or ten of them holding up your bedroom ceiling, herringboned in between with peeled aspen or split cedar saplings. You don’t have to read to fall asleep, you just marvel at this primitive roof above you in your casa on the banks of the Acequia Madre where the Santa Fe farmers used to live.
I was driving the logging truck up the Santa Clara Peak one morning in February going for a load I’d decked earlier in the week. It was light but the sun hadn’t come over the Sangre de Cristo across the Rio Grande valley. A dusting of snow had fallen and mine were the only tracks on the dirt road.
A car came around a bend headed toward me just as the sun rose behind me, a yellow Volvo station wagon with a man and woman up front and two children in back. They waved as they passed, all smiles, beautiful people, radiant in the new sunlight. They zoomed past and I followed their tracks ahead of me, wondering what they’d been up here for. They were dressed for summer in bright colors, yet it was below freezing. Had the car broken down? That was the only explanation I came up with because this main road ended at a deep canyon fifteen miles on near Pedarnales Mesa through deep snowfields. There was a one-track, very rough road carved out of the lava, put in a century ago for horses hauling trees. The road wended down to a village that even a jeep couldn’t make it over at this point. Any other logging roads branched from the trunk road I was on.
A few miles along, I came to where their tracks ended, or began—depending on how I looked at them. There were no wide melty spots you usually see where a car’s been parked in the snow for awhile, or footprints. The tracks just appeared as if the car had touched down from flying along.
Here’s the spooky part. When I met Marilyn in 1991, I was driving the old Buick Regal. When we moved from the trailer court at Lake Morena over to Regner Road in San Diego she showed me a classified ad for a used Volvo station wagon at a good price. She suggested I sell the Buick and buy the Volvo, as there’d be more room in the station wagon for my kids.
I ran an ad and a German student came by and paid me in cash that I used to buy the Volvo. I’d never had one before, and never particularly liked their looks. I didn’t think of myself as a Volvo person, which I thought to be dependable, no-nonsense Nordic types who went for solid and honest craftsmanship in their cars, tools, and wives.
But this Volvo was different, long and sleek, with a turning radius where you could do a U-turn on a two-lane and still clear the far curb by a good margin. It was silver with black leather seats, and a reputation for running 200,000 to 300,000 miles. The car got good mileage, had abundant power, and made me smile just to sit there at the wheel, sniffing its good leathery smell and feeling safe and cozy.
The time we moved to Montana with the kids I hauled it on a flatbed trailer behind the U-Haul, and we explored the valleys and mountains aplenty in that fine car. I loved that Volvo and much later rebuilt it to give to Marilyn’s son, Jonnie, quasi-repairing all the things I’d become used to in the 100,000 miles we put on it. Maybe what I’d seen that faraway morning on Santa Clara Peak in my logging truck was a greeting from the future from a woman I’d not yet met, still busy in Owatonna raising her first family, and from my youngest children who were yet to be born, in a car that hadn’t yet been designed and built, driven by a me that I would become.

Santa Clara Peak is sacred land. The Clara pueblo Indians still drive up there for holy ceremonies in their pickups and hike back to shrines only they know of that their people have maintained for a thousand years. The time I’d found those three decks of abandoned spruce way up there I borrowed a bulldozer from Bob Gibbons in Apache Canyon, the operator he sent was Guillermo, and he hauled the dozer in to clear the trenched logging road back to the decks. He told me he used to cut wood up here back when he was a wino and smoker of weed, something he gave up when he met the woman who became his wife, and she told him, “That stuff, or me,” and meant it.
One day Guillermo saw a few pickups park and some Pueblo men walk up a slope toward the tree line. They were there a few hours before returning and driving away. He knew about their shrines they kept energized with ancient artifacts he figured he could sell to unethical collectors, so he went to rob the shrine. While climbing the slope, lightning struck out of clear sky close enough to where he could smell it and feel the heat. He waited, started again and this time the lightning struck next to him. When he came to, he tumbled down the slope running back to his truck. He told me this story in exchange for the one I’d told him about the time up there with Neil Lane when the two storm fronts collided with one another above us and dropped a tornado on our heads.
When Guillermo and I told Bob Gibbons about it, he said he and his crew were spending the night in a ranger cabin on the mountain when a storm hit with such power that when they went out in the morning the old road to the cabin was covered with blow-down debris, and a new one opened where the tornado lifted out a swatch of trees.
It was Bob who sold me his milling equipment and a Bobcat loader when he went into the adobe hacienda-building business with his mother and brother on the eve of the mass migrations of the elite from both coasts to Santa Fe. When he started his wood business he’d gotten the contract for clearing the ties of an old, narrow-gauge track line near Apache Canyon where he lived. He pulled up and loaded the nine thousand or so ties himself. He said that one time cutting trees he was driven into the ground like a spike by a hammer when a tree fell on him and has never been the same since, the main reason he’d moved on. He said he was lucky it fell on his head. He and his mother and brother started the home construction company called Rational Alternatives and were the only ones building true, adobe pueblo-style homes on four-acre lots east of Santa Fe. This part I know to be true, but his being driven into the ground by a falling tree, or the tornado cutting in a new road and covering over the old with the scything, only he knows.

After Bahia in 1990, I returned to San Diego broke and still broken. When everything goes to hell I get a backpack and find a trail, doesn’t matter where it comes from or where it’s going.
Back on the Pacific Crest Trail, I hiked for days with an eighty-pound pack from the Mexican border forty miles into the mountains on my way to Canada. A young woman came loping along and passed me, huffing gently. Then came a man, then what looked like a street person all raggedy, wearing beat-up leather shoes. Then came a few runner-type guys of the sort dropped from the womb in a starting position, then a long line of them. One said they were doing a fifty-miler. He wasn’t even breathing hard.
At the water and juice table at the Sierra Club Lodge five miles along, I stopped to ask a man about this. He said this was a running club he usually competed in but’d torn a tendon and was helping the runners by passing out drinks and slices of orange. He was over eighty.
I said, “You mean you guys run these races every weekend?”
“Yep,” and he said lots of times they ran in the city where there are plenty of trails and bike paths, “but it was good to get out into the country too.”
I said, “You mean these runners will run back to I-8 and drive back to town after covering fifty miles?”
“Yep.”
I said, “There was a man who looked like a homeless person, long, tangled hair and beard, came by me. Is he a regular?”
“Oh, Ted, yeh, he runs with us. He’s sixty-five, I think. He won a few weeks ago, not much of a running style but he can move when he wants to.”
This unhinged me. My worldview shifted. In my youth, for a person to run five miles was, what? Well, if you were a hard-core transcontinental Indian or the Kenyan Abebe Bikila, or Roger Bannister, sure, some sort of esoterica for the gifted; but where did this sudden athletic ability among street people and octogenarians come from?
What was I doing while this was going on all these years? Did a few athletes break through some sort of impossibility standard that we took as ultimate truth when younger, and open the doors to longer, faster, heavier, and higher?
In the wood business I cut and worked trees all day long, muscling 300-pound logs onto the flatbed and chaining fifty of them down at a time. I felt I was It. Now there’s a street person in his sixties running a Sunday fifty-miler on the PCT for fun. I’m not It.
I sat cross-legged by the campfire cooking some quinoa, no sound except the popping of wood. There wasn’t much left of me. I ate and crawled into the tent, zipped the flap shut, and got into the bag, wearing my clothes. It was February in the desert mountains. I’d done ten more miles on the Pacific Crest Trail and was seriously staved in.
In my sleep I meet a woman in a white pleated gown. She is tall, broad-shouldered, her hair a brassy blonde. We aren’t communicating with words but I’m getting that she is the “Connector.” She brings people together on earth who otherwise wouldn’t meet on their own. Though she works in this dimension she is not of it.
There is no time here. She seems familiar. The eyes. It’s a face I’ve always been drawn to in women, starting with Bailey Mott’s when we were three years old in Oswego, New York. I’m trying to place this woman but there is nowhere to take it, I don’t have that kind of memory connected to me right now. We are connected through the hearts and it’s enough.
I don’t understand what she’s saying, it’s not that kind of talk, but know something is coming into me about her and our destinies. I want to fall to my knees and ask her to take me back to wherever she comes from. I don’t want to stay here. She smiles. She can’t.
She introduces me to a weasely little man with thin mustache and slicked-back black hair in a black three-piece suit. He works for her, connecting people through accident. He has started going too far, putting in more suffering than is needed to bring the people together. He has been doing this increasingly. She tells him to stop it. He says he will and then he’s gone.
She looks into me and I awaken lying flat on my back, naked with the tent door flaps pulled back and the sun directly in the middle of the entryway. I am here and still there for a while until I get my bearings. I get up, not remembering getting undressed or tying the flaps back. I eat some cold quinoa, pack and start along the trail toward Canada.
That was no dream. And who was that? I swear I’ll never forget it. By afternoon I’ve forgotten it.

I get rid of half the weight of my pack, storing it in a hole I mark with stones. I won’t come back for it but some hiker might see the duck and investigate. There’s rice and quinoa and hummus flakes. There’s some dehydrated campfire dinners. I leave some pots and pans and clothes to get the pack down to absolute survival weight. I’ve lost forty pounds over the last few months, lost a wife, kids, business, and money, along with betraying everyone close to me and everything I thought I stood for. I am unlovely meat and bones and don’t have the energy to live. Or didn’t until I met the Connector. Something happened last night but I can’t remember what. I didn’t remember what it was for months.

It started to rain the other side of Warner Springs and it rained for a week, ending a six-year drought. Higher up in the mountains above Palm Springs this was snow that closed the PCT until spring. So I called Frank and Barbara Coates from a payphone back in Warner Springs and asked them to come pick me up. I met Frank in the New York City in the early Sixties when we were wannabe actors.
We missed connections so I hitchhiked to their place in San Diego and lived on their boat “Morning Star” for two or three weeks. Down and out at the San Diego Yacht Club.

One day they said they might like to take their boat out now and then, how would I feel about that? At their house I met Tom from Texas and he told how when he came to town he was penniless and went to a roommates finder agency where they hooked him up with a divorcee in La Jolla on the beach. He became her boy toy. She gave him a new car, had his clothes tailored, they moved among the rich and famous, boated on her yacht and, when she grew tired of him, sent him off with a stipend and the car.
I went to the agency and told Joanne that was what I was looking for. She remembered Tom and the divorcee. She spoke instead of a woman in her mid-fifties in Ocean Beach who boogie-boarded, taught college, and was a home healthcare nurse.
I said I was thinking more mid-thirties over La Jolla way with a beach house. She said this gal she was talking about looked mid-thirties and did have a house on the cliffs just south of La Jolla. Ten miles south as it turned out. She was divorced, vivacious, and a whole lot of fun. She wrote down the name and address along with that of another woman renter in Lemon Grove.

I went to Lemon Grove first and arrived in the midst of an argument on the front porch between a man with two suitcases and a woman with none. She was yelling at him and pointing toward the street. He was doing shoulder shrugs with the suitcases and yelling back. She grabbed one of the suitcases from his hand and heaved it onto the lawn. He said something and she took a swing at him. He went to pick up the suitcase and she noticed me halfway out of my car and waved for me to come on over. I got back in and drove away.
The other woman whose name I’d been given was hard to connect with. I spoke with her son, Jonnie, who said she was hard to reach because she had three jobs. There went my tailored wardrobe. I left Frank’s number and went back to Morning Star. I left a message with Jonnie a few days later that I’d be by at noon the next day.
His mother was coming out the door to go to work and only had a minute to show me the room because I was late. It felt good in the house. The rental room was about six by ten with a narrow bed, small desk, and window facing west. There were two bathrooms for five people and I’d be sharing hers. We looked at a quilt on the wall created by an artist in Morgan Hill, showing a circle of seven men and women as if they’d jumped from a plane to skydive, but without parachutes. They were sewn three-dimensionally in different fabrics and one was sewn together from all the others’ personal fabrics. This was the Cristus. He was the only complete one, the others were missing limbs, and one of them his head. The artist was Barbara Baumgarten. Her conception was titled “World,” the story of humanity in one cover.

Marilyn said again she had to go on house calls and I told her I’d think about the room and call her. She later said she had to bite her tongue to tell me not to bother. Instead she said she usually took only women renters but, since Joanne had made an error in sending me, she’d let me rent the room for a month while I looked for something more permanent. She said primly that her women boarders all locked their doors at night, and I said primly that I did, too.

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