Dunga Brook Diary: Green Acres

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May 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary 

 

Vicki Whicker

Mother’s Day, 2011

Before we open the front-door, Jim says,

“It’s pretty bad inside— the squatters pulled the electrical panels out and, for some reason, they took the stairs, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.“

My new/old house:

An 1820’s Federal-style farmhouse cloaked in dirty-white siding, surrounded by hundreds of acres of farmland, situated on a two-lane “county highway” in the wilds of central New York.

Awhile back, a friend in L.A. bought a house (it was the 80’s, when you could still afford to buy a house) and called it “my new/old house.” It was probably built in the 60’s but, you know, old for L.A.

She must have said that phrase a million times. “My new/old house”. She was house-proud— something I could not in the least bit fathom— but I loved that friend and she could say anything a million times and I would find it totally interesting.

I haven’t talked to her in decades.

I blame L.A. It becomes the obstacle. A city that big comes between you and life. If you change jobs or move neighborhoods (which I did, often), you also switch grocery stores, beaches, hair salons, friends— all the things that you thought you couldn’t live without, you ditch without a second thought.

Or is that just me?

“See your shed?”

Jim points across the dandelion-covered yard to a shed just big enough for a riding mower.

“It was a pool shed…with a pool…but they filled it in with cow shit and dirt after a baby drowned. His parents both worked on the dairy farm…the dad thought the mom was watching him, the mom thought the dad was…”

Note to self, check for a baby ghost. Cooler spots, watery silhouettes.

“Look at that foundation, hand-cut stone.”

Jim spreads his arms to direct my attention to the foot-high blue and gray blocks.

“That looks worth my $10,000.” I say.

“You got a deal. But, I think you should keep the downstairs as is…clean it up a bit, patch holes, replace broken windows…then fix the upstairs, next year.”

My stomach drops. Half done?

“Um. No.”

All or nothing. I have a hard time with halfway, with gray, with the middle. I’m a black or white kinda girl.

My men are incredibly hot or gone (hot turns into quirky and annoying in no time). I am the life of the party or I stay home. You love me or you don’t get me. Friends are fun or forgotten. Jobs are exciting or I’m unable to lift a finger. Clothes are expensive or I’m naked. Hair is either long or pixie short, blonde or mahogany (anything but the dirt color that it’s morphed into on its own).

I’m either full of energy or under the covers (waiting for another soul-sucking phase of self-loathing and self-reflection to pass).

For me to leave L.A. (exciting, trendy, hip, cool!) for the wilds of nothingness and nowheresville is beyond comprehension. There’s a piece of my brain rattling bars with a tin cup and screaming, “NOOOO”— but I can’t hear it, it’s drowned out by…WHAT IF!

What if I move to the middle of nowhere and change my life completely and in doing so figure out exactly what it is that I am meant to do!

It’s a FEELING.

Inside, we walk over plaster chunks and broken glass and dead bugs and hundreds-of-years’ worth of dirt and dust.

Too many walls.

Too many ceilings.

What the fuck is that coming down in chunks?

Wallpaper peeling.

Paint chipping.

I want to run. I need air. I must have sunshine and bird chirps.

”This is the formal dining room, look at the floorboards, they’re all original, see the wide planks?”

I do, indeed, dirty though they are, they are in surprisingly good shape.

“That’s original woodwork around the windows and doors.”

Jim says “original” like it means “diamond”.

We enter a closet. The air is dead. Ghost?

“This is the bedroom.”

“Bedroom? Are you kidding?”

It reminds me of vintage high-heels in a size six— so tiny and narrow that I can no more put my modern foot in them as I can imagine sleeping in this bite-size room.

“Yeah, bedroom. I’d sleep here,” He says.

I imagine him on a dirty mattress on the floor. Hands behind his head.

His mouth twists into a half smile, he cocks an eyebrow and fixes me with his ice-blue eyes— eyes of a Husky (or a handsome yet crazy person). His horn-rims are all smudgy.

Next, the bathroom…which is a total nightmare of weird walls, dropped ceiling, soiled tub, and rust-stained sink. To the strains of Psycho, it wah-wahs “bad design decisions, circa 1967”.

I stumble out. If I stay, my whole life will unravel.

The kitchen has wonky metal cabinets and a gash where the sink used to be and a picture-window that looks like a 3rd-grade wood-shop project. Don’t ask about the curtains.

Gone, gone, gone.

To get upstairs, we grab the stair-railings and crab-walk up two wobbling boards; I can see the basement from where the stairs used to be.

The large room on the left has a giant, wet hole in the ceiling. The wood floors are “original” but painted my least favorite shade— battleship. Two broken windows face the road….I see fields, rolling hills and woods.


The upstairs has two more “bedrooms”. Too bite-sized to discuss.

Downstairs, in the back, is a garage with a dirt floor. By the window is a mummified rabbit with burdocks still clinging to its fur, it’s tacked to the wall by its hind feet. A unique design element, for sure. I like it. It stays.

Hand-hewn beams catch my eye. The holy grail!

Design ideas percolate in my head.

I want to see them all.

“I want an open interior, full of hand-hewn beams! Any wall that doesn’t hold something up— gone! Any ceiling that isn’t necessary— gone! I want the inside to look like an artist’s loft!”

I am an artist, no? This is the point, yes?

Jim looks at the space, his silence is all I need to hear…he gets it.

The basement is dank but dry, with a giant oil-tank in the corner. Not one for basements, I fling open the door that leads us outside.

Fresh air and sunshine!

Deep, deep, breaths.

Birds are swooping, bees are buzzing, the sky is blue…

Goodbye, city life!


Green Acres, here I come!

What could go wrong?

 

Vicki Whicker is an iphoneographer living near Cooperstown, New York. In 2011, after 25 years in LA, she quit her fashion job and decamped for the wilds of central New York. Without a job, not much forethought, and a vague plan to remodel an 1820’s farmhouse, she had no idea what was ahead. https://www.instagram. com/vicki_whicker/

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