Friday, June 22, 2007

This is a photograph of what eventually was an 18" deep pile of hail stones that accumulated in about 5 minutes during the storm described in the text below. Since I know many of you won't wade through the written part of this post, all I can say is that this was the most impressive display I have seen in all my years on this planet. This pile took about 3 days to melt in 80+ degree weather.

One of these days, I will organize these posts better so the last photograph of each post is the last chronologically instead of the other way around. I hope my lack of organization of these photos doesn't make it too confusing to follow. It is just a lot easier to post them in sequence from Picasa, and it only allows 4 at a time.
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Like every other dog I have had, Abner just is crazy about ivy.
Unlike other dogs I have had, he sniffs out snakes. This guy is a harmless black snake we encountered on the Ambler's Trail. It didn't seem like it was in much of hurry to get away, although it took some convincing to get Abner to sit and mind his own business while I took these pictures. By the way, it is hard to tell from these shots but this guy was between 6 and 7 feet long.

This is what it looked like when the hail fell. I stood protected on my covered front porch and watched this biblical assault from Mother Nature. What the photos show is impressive, but you can't imagine how loud it was.
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I think I will never get tired of the look of Charleston. Turn down any street you choose almost and it is so inviting you are tempted to just go knock on people's doors and say hi.
Carol Ann, shown above working on Abner's ear scratching needs is another of the people who work at the Outdoor Center at Biltmore. I don't think you can find a nicer, more helpful group of people than the staff of this facility. I believe that a big part of why they are all so nice and seem like they are always in a good mood is that they are being paid to have fun. Nice gig.
This is another entry in my ongoing catalog of amazing fungi. This thing is growing on a log that has been down in the Westover Trail area of Biltmore for as long as I have been walking there, but for some reason, this year, this monstrous thing appeared. It is a dead ringer for some of the corals I have seen diving the tropics. It just amazes me that two life forms, one animal and one vegetable, could resemble each other so completely in physical appearance.
Purple flowers below the Inn on Biltmore Estate. Who knows what they are but I liked their spiky form.
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Asheville isn't alone in the floral department. I have no idea what these are, but I saw them growing along the edge of someone's garden in Charleston and had to include them in this post.
One of the chief urban characteristics of Charleston that makes it so unique is the intimate scale of the streets and little hidden alleys and walkways that make up the large historic district. The above shot is a shared driveway coming off a tiny alley. It is paved in brick, walled in by the garden walls of the adjacent houses, and is lushly foliated. Below is an alley that is so narrow it is only usable for pedestrians and bicyclists. I got a little arty on this shot experimenting with graduating from color to black and white. I guess it is a dangerous sign that I am starting to play with photo software.

This is a typical residential street in Old Charleston. It really looks like nowhere else that I know of in the US.
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I took this picture while hiking with Amy, Matt, Bear, Abner and Mary Anne Payne who was visiting from Sacramento for the second time since I moved here. If you click on it to view it full-size you can see Biltmore House in the distance right in the middle of the picture. This is a view from the Shut In Trail, part of the Mountains-To-Sea system that will eventually connect from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Nags Head in the Outer Banks. The picture below is Mary Anne posing in front of a profusely blooming Mountain Laurel.

These two shots are on the campus of the College of Charleston. The upper shot is of Mary Anne and her friend Jan Geiger posing in front of the Admissions Office. . .good luck ladies. The lower photo shows some old Charleston houses that are now part of the College. If memory serves, these particular ones are faculty offices now.
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Hiking on the estate grounds has changed a little since the completion of the Deer Park Trail. This was put in primarily for bicyclists and Segway tourists, and only joins the Ambler's Trail, which we take frequently, for a short stretch. Nonetheless, we see more people along these routes now than we used to. I guess it really is better that more people are taking advantage of the unbelievable grounds of Biltmore. I just sometimes miss the sense of Abner and my having it to ourselves.
Something happened with the Mountain Laurel which you can see above, and the ferns below, this year. It seems like the hard freeze we had in April that killed off a lot of early blooming flowers, trees and shrubs had the opposite effect on the Laurel and ferns. There seem to be far more abundant displays this year than in the past.
Last year I posted a shot of this spectacular red wildflower. I didn't know what it was last year and still don't but this was a better shot, so I thought I would post it anyway.
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Spring hit with warm weather and no rain for weeks. Although it made for great hiking, the dreaded "d" word is being bandied about by the weather service.
Here is Abner relaxing after a lengthy hike in the woods at Biltmore. Joshua is one of his newer fans. I kind of felt bad photographing him with a big black eye but he plays extreme disc golf and claims that was the source of the shiner.
I believe the above is a type of rhododendron that grows around the lagoon, although perhaps some of you guys who are better at botanical issues than I am can confirm.
These, on the other hand, I am fairly certain, are buttercups and they are profuse.
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In the weeks since I last posted to this running stream of consciousness ramble, much has happened around here that justifies my silence. I simply had too much going on to sit down and let you know what was up. Since it has been about 6 weeks, I may miss some details, but I think you will all get the idea.

When I last posted, Jonathan and Shaghig had headed home, Jean Ann had died quite suddenly, and I was awaiting the arrival of my next set of guests on the 17th of May. I was also in the throes of final negotiations on the sale of my house and lot next door. The short version of the selling-of-the-house-tale is this. Once the weather turned warm this spring, it seemed like everyone and his brother wanted my house. I went, in one week, from having no written offers to multiple written or verbal ones. In the end, I sat down at my dining room table with Corbin and Robert Tucker and hammered out a deal to sell them the house and to let the lot go to my friends Amy Musser and Matt Vande. That lasted for less than two days. Corbin and Robert went home and two days later contacted me saying that they wanted to buy the lot as well, which pretty much left Amy and Matt out in the cold. I hadn’t promised the lot to them, but they had really hoped it would be available even with the sale of my house. It wasn’t to be. Fortunately for them, Eric and Regie Walburgh, who had originally been interested in building on one of the Elk Mountain lots, decided not to go ahead, so Amy and Matt are buying a lot from me up there, assuming my purchase goes through in Mid-July as planned.

The Tuckers and I began the lengthy procedure of appraisals, inspections, and negotiating details like closing dates and rent backs, and finally came to an agreement late last month. I am renting the house back from them on a month-to-month basis for up to a year in order to give me time to build a new house on the property I am still pretty sure I am buying on Elk Mountain. Everything was finally settled and we closed on June 13th so I am now a renter. The house feels the same, but it isn’t mine anymore. I have noticed that I no longer even look at the catalogs from Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware because I no longer am buying anything for this place.

Some of you know details of the deal on Elk Mountain and some don’t but I mentioned it in the last posting and nothing really has changed other than that I have made a lot of progress on the design of the house I want to build and Matt has also gotten pretty far along in the design of his and Amy’s planned home. It is exciting but also a little nerve-wracking. The biggest source of my angst is that I have had to spend a lot of money on getting these lots surveyed and a lot of time with my lawyer figuring out how the deal might work and still more time trying to get to the point with the design of the house where I can turn a lot of the drawing over to a drafter (who will undoubtedly be a great deal faster at producing working drawings that I could) and an engineer. I would like to have completed drawings done in early August to give to my contractor with the idea that construction could begin sometime in September.

In any case, on May 17th Mary Anne Payne and Jan Geiger arrived for a week of hiking, eating, touring, eating, looking at real estate, eating, and even a trip to Charleston for a couple days of touring down there. Jan had never been here before and had never met me so she was a little apprehensive. You see, Mary Anne had given her the link to this blog, which she read in its entirety prior to coming. She got a little bit of a scare when she read my post about Beth’s visit during the winter and saw that I didn’t exactly hold back on what I thought of Irenka’s behavior. Almost the first words out of her mouth when she met me involved a request that I be gentle when telling about her visit here. Of course, in truth, most visitors are really fun to have and generally are great guests, so I wasn’t really worried, and Jan shouldn’t have been. She turned out to be a wonderful visitor and I hope had a good time while she was here.

We started out doing all the usual things I do with my visitors here, including the obligatory visit to Chocolate Fetish on Haywood Street. For those of you who have never been here or aren’t particularly into chocolate, Chocolate Fetish is a local chocolatier located in a tiny shop in downtown Asheville where they make a dizzying array of highly specialized chocolate treasures on premises. This place was rated a few years ago, by the LA Times, as having the best chocolate truffles in the US. So we did some damage there, hit a number of my favorite restaurants and did the galleries, Biltmore, Grove Arcade, and drove around town so Jan could get an idea about the place. In the back of her mind, Jan has been considering moving to Asheville for a number of years but this was the first time she had made it here to check it out in the flesh.

On our first day together, we got back to the house after touring around all day, and on the answering machine there was a voicemail message from Darrell Foreman. Many of you may not remember, but Darrell used to be the President of Sacramento Commercial Bank (which recently got acquired along with the other holdings of Placer Sierra, by Wells-Fargo). 6 years ago, after a long career in banking, Darrell did something like what I did 3 years later. He moved to Cour D’Alene Idaho and dropped out of the working world. Darrell’s move wasn’t quite as radical as mine since he has family there, but it was still a big change. Anyway, you can imagine how surprised I was to hear his voice on my answering machine after 6 years. His message said that he was in town with Linda Kleeman (another name from my past) and that they would love to see me if I had any time. Immediately I called his cell phone and determined that they were in town only for one more evening. . .seems he had tried to reach me earlier but had gotten the phone number for the other Steven Goldstein, who is a real estate attorney here, and consequently had wasted a couple days getting bad info from him before he finally got a correct phone number for me.

We agreed to meet after dinner for coffee and chitchat. As luck would have it, Jan and Mary Anne and I had dinner reservation at a restaurant a block away from where Darrell and Linda were dining so meeting after dinner was easy. It was a little strange for the 5 of us to get together like this. For one thing, Linda, whom I knew only slightly professionally when I had lived in Sacramento, didn’t seem to remember me at all. I knew Darrell pretty well, but he didn’t know Mary Anne or Jan and I barely knew Jan at that point. Nonetheless, it was actually a really pleasant evening. We all walked around downtown and talked for awhile, stopped for coffee and dessert at one of my favorite spots, and ended up saying goodbye a few hours later having had a really pleasant and unexpected encounter.

The big adventure of the week though, was the jaunt down to Charleston. I had had some misgivings about this particular trip because we would be there just a couple days before the opening of the Spoleto Festival. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Spoleto is a very big performing arts festival that has been held annually in Charleston for decades. There are dozens of ticketed events during the festival and numerous outdoor performances that parallel the actual festival, so thousands of people are involved. My fear was that we would be in competition with every tourist in South Carolina for restaurant space, parking, and in general touring historic sites in and around Charleston. As it turned out, my fears were not warranted, but I had made reservations for dinners both nights we were there just in case.

We had reserved rooms at Fantasia Bed and Breakfast from their online appearance. The suite I had reserved had three rooms. One had a queen-sized bed on the second floor of the house and the other two had twins on the floor above. They all shared a large bath with a small sitting area just outside of it. Through email correspondence and a number of phone calls, I had made it very clear that there were three single people, each of whom required his or her own bed. Versions of this conversation took place with both of the owners so I had every reason to believe things would go without a hitch. I had also gone so far as to specifically ask about air-conditioning since, by late May, the weather in Charleston can be somewhat sauna-esque and I knew that none of us would sleep well without A/C. The male proprietor assured me, somewhat miffed that I would even ask such a question, that his facility was quite lovely and well conditioned for our comfort.

As things transpired, he wasn’t exactly a paragon of accuracy. Things started off on the wrong foot when we arrived 20 minutes early to find no one at the house. I called the only number I had and the proprietor answered, telling me that he was at lunch and wouldn’t be able to let us in for a while. I said that was fine. We had to go eat anyway so we just left the car and all our things in the parking lot behind the old house and headed off to lunch. The house, although obviously quite old and not in exactly mint condition, was a classic Charleston single-house in a great location and had off-street parking so I was still reasonably optimistic that things would be fine.

After lunch, we returned to check in, and this is when the troubles started. We rang the bell at the street. In a minute or so, a rather elderly and clearly affected Southern gentleman appeared at the door. He opened it only far enough to wedge his body into the space. He addressed us by observing to me that “you must be Steve” and was fairly dismissive of Jan and Mary Anne in spite of having all of our names on the reservation. . .not to mention the fact that I wasn’t Steve. It was probably in the high 80s or low 90s and humid, and was by then about 3:00 in the afternoon, so the 5 minutes or so that we had to stand on the piazza (what anywhere else in the South would be a verandah) with all of our bags and assorted crap while this old loon spouted a lengthy story about how he and his wife had inherited this house through some unfortunate situation in her family in which all the good property went to the male heirs. I was getting hot and bored and his drawl sounded like it came directly from the Claudine Longet School of Accent Retention, but there seemed to be no way to get into the house without putting up with this detailed history. During this soliloquy, we were warned to never refer to the piazza as a porch or verandah.

Once we finally made it into the front hall, we had to listen to more detail about the art and furnishings of the living and dining rooms. After about 10 minutes, he finally presented me with the only set of keys he intended to provide and made each of us prove that we could, in fact, open the street door with them. When Mary Anne asked if a second set could be obtained his got a very pained condescending expression on his face and whined something about seeing if his wife could find one. Then he took us upstairs to show us the rooms. He informed us that the two women would be sharing the queen bedroom and that I would be in whichever of the twins upstairs I wished. Immediately I pointed out that I had very clearly and repeatedly said that the two women would not be sharing a bed and that we would need all three. At this point he got very pissy about having to make up another bed but said he would get it taken care of by his wife.

At this point, he finally left us alone and the three of us headed up to the third floor to inspect the two additional rooms. They were small garret rooms, which in fact is what he and his wife had said when I booked them, and that really wasn’t so bad. The problem was that the temperature was just about 100 degrees and the A/C didn’t seem to be doing anything on that level other than making a whole lot of noise. Nevertheless, Jan and Mary Anne gamely chose rooms and we all began to unload our stuff as quickly as possible so we could head out for some afternoon touring.

Our charming host, who at no point in the 48 hours of our stay, ever introduced himself, presented us with a second set of keys and said that apparently his wife had already made up all three beds so things were set. Shortly after he disappeared downstairs, we bolted for the street door in hopes of getting out without having to endure any more of his adenoidal attention. Mary Anne practically had to push me out the front door saying in almost panic that she could see him heading toward us through the dining room windows. We bolted and made our escape, spending much of the afternoon strolling along King Street, Meeting Street, Broad, and East Bay. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of seeing Charleston, these are some of the main drags of the historic part of Old Charleston and are a good place to start.

After awhile, Jan, who had some knee issues, headed north to do a little exploring on her own closer to the Fantasia and Mary Anne and I ended up in the bar of Slightly North of Broad, my current favorite dining establishment in town. We all got back to the house in time to clean up and dress for dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Fish. The remainder of the evening went without a hitch until bedtime. In spite of my having lowered the setting on the thermostat by two degrees, it still was uncomfortably hot in the upper rooms so Jan and I wedged a window in her room open a crack to get a little ventilation. This would seem to be a perfectly normal thing to do were it not for the fact that the proprietor (I will, henceforth, call him John, which I believe was his name) had instructed us not to open the windows due to the threat of bats flying in and terrorizing the occupants in the middle of the night.

Once we were all ready to settle in, we decided to go out on the second floor piazza to sit and chat and enjoy the breeze. We did notice while out there, that John was lurking across the street with his dog and was staring up at the gable of the house for reasons we could not imagine. In the morning, when he chastised Jan somewhat mercilessly for the ¼ inch crack she had used in a desperate effort to get air, we found out what his nocturnal investigation was about.

At breakfast we met a very nice younger couple from Columbus Ohio who appeared to be the only other guests at the Fantasia at the time. We had to endure an overabundance of attention once again from John who insisted on seating the two men at opposite ends of the table and the women subserviently on the sides. Breakfast was fine and it actually was nice to have some relatively normal humans at the table with us. As it turned out, Sarah Ann, John’s wife seemed fairly pleasant as well. She had prepared the meal and helped serve it, and at some point after we were done, she had a chat with Mary Anne in the front room of the house while Jan and I were getting ready to head out for the day. The interesting thing was that it turns out that the lengthy description we had endured the previous day about how they ended up owning this rather tired house, was completely fabricated. It had nothing to do with her family, the McClellans from McClellanville (wherever that is). It seems that she and John had bought the house like anyone buys a piece of real estate about 6 years before. It had been used as a designer show house (which explained the appallingly vulgar and overdone bathroom and the drapes in my room which Mary Anne accurately noticed looked like they were made of fabric from Calico Corner) and they had bought it to operate as an inn. I think John has some regrets in this decision, but that is for them to sort out.

In any case we escaped for a pleasant day of sightseeing and shopping. Jan decided she wanted to do an organized tour and found one to take around midday. Mary Anne and I headed out to Folly Beach after completing my favorite walking circuit in town. At the beach we walked out to the Northeast end of Folly where you have a clear view of the lighthouse that used to be on land and now sits in the middle of the water. You can also see the Ravenal Bridge across the Cooper River connecting Charleston to Mt. Pleasant and other suburbs to the Northeast. The bridge, by the way, is named after the father of the recently disgraced treasurer of the State of South Carolina. Seems young Mr. Ravenal, who happens to be Rudy Giuliani’s campaign chair for SC, was arrested in possession of a bit less that a half kilo of cocaine. Just and interesting little aside. After lolling on the beach for an hour and grabbing a snack of she-crab soup and a Folly Beach seafood shack, we headed back into Charleston to meet Jan, relax a little and clean up before still another wonderful meal at SNOB (Slightly North of Broad).

In the morning we were treated to still another spectacle at breakfast courtesy of John. What you have to imagine with this guy is some kind of bizarre “Victor/Victoria” thing in which he appears to be a gay man, pretending to be a straight man, pretending to be a completely over-the-top Southern aristocratic idiosyncratic gay man. This time John regaled us with a story that required him to rub the back and shoulders of the man from Columbus all the while undulating his body up and down Columbus guy’s back. It was a very awkward moment, because I don’t think there was anyone at the table who didn’t get what was going on. We all kind of squirmed and pretended like he wasn’t copping a feel, finished our breakfasts, and headed over to King Street for a little last minute shoe shopping before jumping on the freeway to head back up to Asheville. I did ask Mary Anne and Jan if they had the same very uncomfortable feeling about John that I got and Mary Anne was in complete agreement with me. Jan was a little more open to the idea that he was just a very colorful character.

The stay at the Fantasia was an experience. I have always had something of a terror of B and B’s. Many are perfectly pleasant places where you can have as much or as little contact with the proprietors as you wish. Most do not require you to have a lot of contact with the other guests other than perhaps sharing a breakfast table. Occasionally though, you run across one where the owners treat the experience as mandatory theater. This was one of those. It was a great location, but I won’t be going back.

We returned to Asheville and had a quiet evening at my house with dinner at home. Jan and Mary Anne had an early flight out the next morning so it made sense to stay in and get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Once they were safely deposited at the airport I headed back home to the myriad of details that still had to be worked out with the Tuckers at the time. Still, in the end, everything was settled and the drama and details of selling my house became part of history. Interestingly enough, the day after we closed, a hailstorm of biblical proportions hit. All I could think was, thank God whatever damage this causes won’t be paid for by my now-cancelled homeowner’s policy. As it turned out there was no damage that I could find but not for a lack of trying on Mother Nature’s part. I have never in my 58 years seen hail fall like this. The storm lasted for about 5 minutes, which, in my experience, is one hell of a long, hailstorm. More significant though was the quantity and density of hail. The individual stones were about the size of marbles, which wasn’t all that unusual. What was amazing though was that there was so much and falling so fast and hard that the noise was deafening. I have a slate roof on the house and a canvas awning on the covered porch in the front and the noise was shocking on both. Where the main east-facing slope of my roof shed its load to the ground, a couple of piles of hailstones formed pretty rapidly. By the end of the storm, the larger one was about 18 inches deep and took almost three days to melt in spite of daytime temperatures in the 80s. Quite a bit fell on the awning and, due to its gradual slope, didn’t fall off. It took almost a day for it to melt as well. My power was knocked out for about 2-1/2 hours but came back on before dark so in the end, the only real damage was some damaged calla lilies and a lot of leaves and pine cones lying on my lawn.

After 14 months of frequently very annoying construction activity, the owners of the house next door to me finally moved in about two weeks ago. They are a couple who have lived down the block since before I moved here so I knew them slightly before but we are not close to put it mildly. We used to have a fairly civilized albeit distant relationship as neighbors go. I rarely saw them since they were far enough away that you couldn’t see their old house from mine. We used to chat briefly every time I walked by with Abner and one or both of them were sitting out front. All that stopped though when they started the house. Steve and Karen were very secretive about the house. They refused to let anyone see the drawings, wouldn’t discuss any details of the house like size, style, materials, or location on the site. They acted like, if anyone knew what they were up to that it could cause them problems. The house they built is, in my opinion, a very ordinary, rather poorly designed, suburban looking, glorified tract house that might work OK in some new subdivision somewhere but looks very odd and out of place in Kenilworth and in particular, on Normandy Road. Nonetheless, we have no design review process here so as long as it followed the few limitations invoked by the zoning ordinance, no one could have done anything about it anyway.

Once construction started, when problems involving any of the three immediately neighboring parcels occurred, Steve and Karen’s response was to stonewall. Phone calls were not returned, emails were ignored, and according to their somewhat inept contractor, she was pretty much forbidden from talking to any of us. After a couple months of this I finally gave up and decided just to gut it out until the project was done. Foolishly, I though that if it ever got finished, things would go back to normal and I wouldn’t have much, if anything to do with the Blairs.

Karen is a nurse who works full-time so she isn’t around that much, but Steve retired in his 40s on what scuttlebutt says is a bogus disability claim. He appears to sit around on his butt all day long drinking and smoking cigars. I had heard from other people that he had a belligerent streak before they moved in but all I had ever experienced directly was both of their obdurate refusals to communicate. Well, that is no longer the case. Right about the time they moved in I did something to my back that resulted in my being somewhat immobilized for almost a week and forced me to take pain medication while I waited for the acute stage to pass. Right smack in the middle of that one day, the doorbell rang. I hoisted my sorry excuse for a body off my bed and went to answer it only to find Karen Blair at my front door looking none too good herself. Briefly she told me that the next day they had a tree crew scheduled to remove an oak tree in the back corner of their lot that was hanging over my side of the property line and wondered if their crew could work partially from my side. I said it would be fine and went back to bed.

The next day, as promised, a couple young hicks showed up at my front porch and I told them to just go about their business as they needed to. I locked Abner in the house and went back up to rest my back. It wasn’t until a couple days later, when I was feeling considerably better and was no longer dopey from pain meds, that I ventured out into my back yard to see what they had done. Well sure enough, the tree was gone but they had left a bunch of branches lying on my side and had also damaged a rhododendron and some other shrubs without bothering to even prune off the now dead branches they had broken. I sent Karen an email describing the situation and asked her if she could arrange to have the tree service come back to finish the cleanup they had failed to complete.

As per usual, I got no response, so the next afternoon, before the hailstorm hit, when I was outside in front and noticed that Steve Blair was on his new perch on the new front porch, nursing his cigar, I decided to mention the problem to him. I stood at the property line where a silt fence still blocks one from crossing, and asked him if they had gotten the email. He said they hadn’t looked at email because it wasn’t hooked up yet in the new house and wondered what the problem was. When I explained it to him, his response was to stare at me and say “are you going to put a bark collar on Abner”. This was not exactly the response I was expecting. A brief conversation ensued. I didn’t point out to Steve that at no point had anyone said anything to me about a problem they had with Abner in the week they had been in the house. In point of fact, neither he nor Karen had bothered to say a word to me about anything in the 14 months of construction so his sudden combativeness didn’t sit too well. We quickly reached the point where I had no intention of continuing to talk to this jerk and turned around and went home to draft a stern letter to him and Karen.

The hailstorm interrupted my writing, but by the time the power came back on I was ready to commit my feelings to computer file. I wrote a carefully worded letter letting them know how I felt about the nerve of Steve taking the position he was taking. Besides everything else, the two issues, if there were two, had nothing whatsoever to do with each other but in his mind either putting a bark collar on Abner or locking him in the house seemed to be a required quid pro quo for taking care of the mess they had left in my back yard.

I emailed a copy to Lori and Jay to read it objectively to make sure I hadn’t said anything that would worsen the situation and after a couple days they both weighed in on my letter. Both pretty much felt that I had said what needed to be said and that it was time someone confronted Steve about what an ass he is, but they also felt that I would probably gain absolutely nothing from sending it. So there I was, Sunday morning arose and I had to decide whether to do a final edit on the letter and send it on Monday or just let the whole thing go. After all, I am a short timer at 2 Normandy.

Well you can imagine my surprise when Karen showed up at my front door on Sunday morning to find out what the problem was. She offered to prune the dead branches and clean everything up herself this coming weekend which completely caught me off-guard. She then stuck around for about 10 minutes of pleasant chat before heading home. The only thing I have been able to figure out about this turn of events is that with 3 neighbors, none of whom is on civil terms with them, Karen must be a little uncomfortable about her move into the new house. Maybe she has decided to try to overcome her obtuse husband’s offensive behavior toward everyone else. Who knows? Now the only thing left to see is whether or not she actually does come over this weekend to clean things up.

So that’s pretty much where things are. My back is feeling a bit better although I will still probably end up getting some help for it if it doesn’t improve soon. My brother Michael is due for a couple day’s visit this Sunday so I will be back into tour guide mode although ratcheted back a bit due to the back thing. And I am now going to have to search for drafting help to get the working drawings done on the house. Nothing is ever easy.

Sorry this took so long go draft, but it has been a hectic difficult month or so and I just didn’t have the opportunity to get back to the blog.

Til next month. . .