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September 2017

Cabin Bar

Rene’s place is looking emptier. Sort of. All the better furniture from the sixties is gone except for two gold velvet sofas and an elaborate bar. Together they take up an entire room. You have to scoot around the sofas to get inside the front door.

Rene says she can’t figure how they’ll ever get rid of the bar. She thinks her father built the walls around it. It’s massive, tall, puffy, red leather upholstered with black iron trim and matching bar stools. The stools must weigh 200 pounds each. They poke at you with little swords and horns of the bullfighting motif when you try to wedge yourself behind the sofa to sit in one.

A sticky note on one of the sofas is marked $250. So they aren't going anywhere anytime soon either.

Over the bar are dark blue blown glass light fixtures that hang on heavy black iron chains at head-bang height.  Rene jokes that hitting your head is how they get dusted. The lamps provide a dull blue-grey glow and look like they belong in a dungeon.   A deep porch blocks what other light makes it through the trees to the windows. The light strip under the bar doesn't work. Who knows what's down there. Rene likes cold box wine.

Right before Rene left she told me she had something for me. She’s talked about all the cool maps she found or photos, some of my family. I imagine she’ll impart a treasure like that. Or maybe one of those six electric popcorn makers on the upper cabinet.

That evening she carefully handed me a bottle of very very old …Tom Collins mix. The bottle was plastic and slightly warped from multiple yearly freeze-thaws and the color looked funny, nothing like lemonade. The expiration date was 2004.

I thanked her and said they must not like Tom Collins.  She said she found it behind the bar and thought I could use it because I drink so much.

Cabin Clock

There’s a clock way up on the kitchen wall in Rene’s cabin that hasn’t worked for all the years I’ve seen it there. It was a nice a copper frying pan but now it’s stuck at 3:19. The clock is above a crowded row of yellow and avocado-hued small electric appliances, several versions of each. There are mixers, popcorn and ice cream makers, deep fryers, waffle irons and coffee machines. It sounds cooler than it looks.

Rene bought another popcorn maker at a garage sale this summer. I was surprised and pointed out that she had others but she said she couldn’t reach those.

It’s getting bad, her place. The water has gotten to the second floor. The roof leaks all around the chimney and if you poke your head into the attic you can see the sky clear through in quite a few places. There’s bats, squirrels and mice again because that poor guy that went up there last summer pulled out a lot of little dead things but nobody sealed-up the holes. The roofing estimates were so high she got discouraged. She gets vague or changes the subject when it comes up, like when you’re sitting in the living room and a bat flies by.

Her father built it as a summer cabin and never quite finished. He just kept building and filling it up. When he died it was a construction zone full of military salvage. It’s taken his daughters over ten years to clear it away.  It isn’t looking better the more of it you can see.

It’s a funny looking house. Big and green, hulking in tall pines. A truncated corner porch makes it look uneven - like it has one raised eyebrow. At some point they found it was built across a lot line. The guy next door pointed it out. He told Rene’s father, a huge quiet man, how there should be an easement and a set-back here and here, using his foot to draw lines in the dirt. Rene's father didn't say anything and he didn't ever do any paperwork.  He just cut off a corner of the building. It didn’t fix the problem but it shut that neighbor up after he watched him attacking his own house with a chainsaw.


Sierra's Cabin

Sierra. We never knew CR's name until after she died and her obituary came out. That’s how everyone pronounced it. CR.

I never saw an old picture of her but she was always beautiful. She wore graying black hair in a tight bun stuck with chopsticks or silver hairpins. Her long fingers and slender arms were full of rings and bracelets and she always had a cigarette. She gestured and jingled softly as she talked in a tar-ridden contralto and coughed when she laughed. She laughed a lot. I found her intimidating and thrilling.

She would sit with my mother on long summer afternoons in her cabin and they would talk, smoke, and drink coffee while we looked at Playboy magazines upstairs or brooded about the stairwell listening to them.  That was often more interesting.

They would talk about everything - mostly politics and what was going on with their friends. The first sent us back to the magazines but the second often veered into things like who was getting divorced or married and why. Their lower tones would alert us to the sensitivity of the talk. If it got quiet we would arrange ourselves on the top stair to tune in.

CR once told Rene she was a witch. CR had a big laugh about that. Rene believes it to this day. Mom joked that she was joining her coven and never trusted her because she collected all those Hopi Indian dolls. Admittedly, CR was a little weird about the dolls. When they downsized and moved up to Wyoming she had a Hopi craftsman make detailed miniatures that she arranged on a high shelf in her RV just as they had been in her cabin.

Rene says those dolls were why the place sat vacant and deteriorating for years. I told her CR was pulling her leg about being a witch and how nothing had sold after the fire. Then she blamed CR for the fire.

I learned a lot of truths in CR’s cabin, especially sitting on the top stair. One was that Rene’s husband had affairs. Spooking her was CR’s way of avoiding awkward cocktail party invitations. She also found it helpful for avoiding the rest of Rene’s large family, including Rene’s husband.

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