Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Little Adri’s big adventure © by adrian

“Thank you so much, you just saved me a trip into town.” Oh my god, what have I just heard myself say. I forgot to check the marquee outside the theater when I came in. Have I ended up in another western movie? Can’t be, her name isn’t Clementine, and anyway I didn’t finish my sentence with “little lady” but if I had, I bet it would have passed unnoticed. She saved me a trip to town because she just faxed an important document for me and I know they definitely don’t have fax machines in westerns.

I’ve been here three days.

You’d think by now I would have a firm grip on where here is. I quickly scan the horizon to get my bearings. No help at all. Rolling hills covered in snow. One hundred yards away, a lake, covered in melting ice with shimmering patches of water pushing through. The Alps maybe?

This can’t be an Acid flashback, that was way too long ago.

I remember now, and if you knew me like I thought I knew me, you would understand why being in this place is incomprehensible to me. I am in the Laurentiens, it’s late April now, and I’m on a big adventure.

I think this is how it happened.

About nine years ago I ran an ad in the Toronto Star companion section. It’s title was, “Bohemian hermit stuck in the 60’s seeks companion and lover.” I gave my age and a few important details, then went on to write cute and clever things about myself. I could walk and chew gum at the same time, that sort of stuff. If someone is interested in an ad they phone your box number and then listen to any message you choose to put in a voice mail, and if they’re still interested, they leave you their contact information.

During the next six weeks or so, I talked to many women. A few came to my studio for dinner, but nothing really came of those meetings, no sparks. In the voice mail replies I had gotten, only one person sounded like she had any idea of who I might be, and what I hoped to find. She didn’t say much about herself, but I liked her voice and what she did say. She also said she was a school teacher and away on vacation, and I should contact her when she returned in six weeks if I was interested.

So, six and a half weeks later, I phoned her.

Our first conversation was very comfortable and casual as we each described a few small details about ourselves. She mentioned that she was a widow, her 21 year old gay son lived with her, and she didn’t shave her armpits. I mentioned that I earned my living taking provocative photos that some people regarded as pornography. That the lady who had been my partner in the swinging lifestyle for the past twelve years lived in an apartment above my studio and still used my shower everyday because hers didn’t work.

Nothing too substantial really, just some minor details you’d like to get out of the way before you actually bothered to meet up.

One thing we both definitely had in common was that neither of us was interested in a binding or committed relationship, we both abhorred the concept of anything “domestic”.

A little over a year after that first conversation, Linda and I got married.

Now, nine years later, I’m in the Laurentiens. Temporarily on my own, “starting up” the cottage that Linda and her step-sister bought from their parents last fall.

Before I met Linda, I’d been to cottages maybe half dozen times in my life. Cottage life had never appealed to me whatsoever. To begin with, I discovered long ago that I am incapable of walking on water. About three seconds after I learned that, I found out that I’m also incapable of swimming in water. It’s always damp. In this case, we’re fifteen feet from the lake, so it’s really damp. It’s always cold at night. Those that love this call it “crisp”, those of us that know better call it “cold”.

Then there is the province of Quebec. Regardless of the number of cereal boxes I’ve read, or messages from Bell Canada in French and English I’ve heard, I never picked up the language. I also look French. I look mostly old and used now, but if you wanted to identify my background, you would probably pick French. When I am in Quebec, I am often mistaken for Quebecois, and seeing as I can only communicate in English this confuses people.

Half my manufacturing plant was Italian, but I don’t look Italian. I know from a reliable source I shouldn’t claim myself as Italian. About twenty years ago I had an Italian girlfriend who briefly passed through my bedchamber. When she got mad at me (which was often) she would scream out (didn’t matter where we were) “You, you’re not an Italian, you’re a manga cake!” She would then turn slightly sideways and pantomime a huge spit that she would direct to the ground. Ah, Stephania, what a delightfully insane firecracker she was. Anyways, I don’t look Italian.

Buying this cottage was not an easy task. It’s part of two separate deeds, one property is the main house and the other a small cottage. During the past forty years they have intertwined themselves in an elaborate encroachment on each other. Some of the electrical comes from the other place, the septic system is on this property, but services the other house. A water line runs through the middle of this landscape, but is used by the other place. It’s all very baroque.

Her parents could no longer manage the physical maintenance and needed to sell them both and move to more suitable accommodations. They were convinced that because both properties depended on each other, they would have to be sold as one unit and were not prepared to compromise.

I encouraged my bride to make an offer to buy the cottage separately anyway. It was rejected. Her step-sister got briefly interested but then decided it was financially risky and far too difficult to separate the two properties and backed off. I continued working on Linda to keep trying to buy it. Over the years other members of the family had also stayed at the cottage, but it was always Linda’s special place. Of course, I had the advantage of not being discouraged by a fifty year history of dealing with her family. I’m also pretty relentless and not usually swayed by obstacles (a delightful trait in good times, really irritating in bad).

Somewhere along the line her step-sister got reinvigorated and signed on again. A campaign was launched. Linda was in school (learning, not teaching) and was not available so I was dispatched to Quebec to help her step-sister with negotiations. We had been friends since I first appeared in Linda’s life, but had never been involved in anything this complicated before. Our styles are enormously different and sometimes we each wanted to kill the other, and at other times we were a spectacular team together. Linda’s step-sister is inclined to examine everything in miniscule detail, I have more of a put your head down, run across the street and hope there are no cars coming approach to life. One of Linda’s step-brothers also got briefly involved and somehow it all came about, the cottage was co-bought, with half the time allocated to Linda, and the other to her step-sister.

And here I am on my big adventure.

Cottage life seems to revolve around getting water in, septic systems, and getting waste out. Very elemental. The task at hand right now is getting lake water in for washing, and getting what is pleasantly referred to as the “grey water” out. This is achieved here by an elaborate array of holding tanks and pumps (that may or may not still work). As an added bit of silliness the kitchen hot water tap runs cold and vice versa. There are drainage taps that can only be reached by crawling in a semi basement past a very unpleasantly odored composting toilet. The plumbing definitely needs some work. Electrical that previously came from the other house needs to be re-wired. Now that the cottage is owned rather than borrowed, I have been dispatched to fix all these inconveniences and any others I find before anybody stays here.

I have so far completed the re-plumbing tasks and am now working on the pump that brings water in from the lake. Having worked with many pumps in various darkrooms in my career I know it needs to be primed (simply add a bit of water to the intake pipe) and start it up. Any pump I ever primed needed a cup at most of liquid to work. So far I have added a gallon of water and all I’m getting is concerned.

I discover we still have an extension phone connected to the other property that has now been sold to someone else, so I steal their phone line and use my portable computer to dial up and go online to do a search of cottage water pumps. I get pages of information about the best things to buy to prime water pumps. I quickly reason that if someone is prepared to spend $75.00 to buy something to accomplish this task then this sucker probably needs a lot of water in it’s throat to remind it of it’s destiny. I have brought a few five gallon jugs of precious clean drinking water for my stay here, and must now give them up to the pump to get it to work. I’m convinced the pump will work, but saddened to know I will be found dead, having died of thirst because I had no more drinking water. Sigh...

I pour in five more gallons, and it finally starts to gurgle. I pour some more, seal it up and start it. I get water running out the taps and nothing is leaking!

It’s midnight now and the plumbing is completed, I fill the hot water tank and go to bed full of myself.

The next morning I steal the phone line again and send an email to my bride. The subject line is: Wood. The message reads:

Lord, I had a woody the size of a monkey wrench almost all night long that would have made everybody delirious with joy.

I got the shower & wash basin working, and I am full of man testosterone...

Prepare your body for a ravenous feast when I regain ground. You could stop washing anytime now.
(see my story on smells and odors I'll be home soon, don't wash)



Eventually I get two of the outdoor “grey water” exit tanks and pumps working but the third will need some serious repairs and re-wiring to get it working. The black ABS pipe has broken away from it’s tank and will take some time to deal with and it’s still way too cold to work outside comfortably. As everything sits now this place is fully habitable for about two weeks before the third tank must be online and functional. I decide to leave and will make that fix when Linda and I return in May.

What’s special about this place for me is this is where my lovely bride always came to for a retreat on her vacations before we met.

Every time I come here I learn new things about this place and often new things about myself. Everything about this place reminds me of Linda. Almost every day while I am away from her, I discover things about this place that explain why she loves it and thus after nine years of being together I still discover something new and exciting about her.

While I'm here I find I can do things I never dreamt I was capable of, and can no longer do things I always thought I could. It’s just like when I first met Linda, this place is open and yielding, challenging and hesitant. Full of mystery and mischievousness.

When I return home I am full of the newness and discovery of the cottage. The cottage has magically become my mistress, and my mistress is my wife.