Summer Solstice

Summer solstice in New Orleans is today at 12:16 PM, so this post should come up at that exact moment. Now summer begins in earnest, and it begins yet more earnestly on July 4th. Sleeping the other night next to a canoe I dreamed, quite improbably, that I had ascended a large mountain and my student approval rating had risen to 98 percent.


I had thought my house work would be finished by Memorial Day, and then by the solstice; now all I can say is that I am closing in on it and I will definitely be finished by 4 July. The painters are here now, I think for the last time. They had called yesterday morning, desperate — I am paying them by installments and they had had something come up, wondered whether I could pay them now.

I said no, remember the reason I am paying you in installments is that I have no other choice; remember that I have now agreed to double the originally agreed upon size of the installment and that it means I am flat broke the last ten days of every month; accept that this is the best I can do. And I continued to live and work in this house, with all the furniture piled up into one half of it, as has been the situation since before Mardi Gras.

Today at noon they appeared unannounced and said they wanted to finish the job, so they are finishing now. I told them I was not happy with the quality of work in the two rooms in question, and they told me I had New York standards which were out of place in Maringouin. They said their vision was not strong enough to see the flaws and I said they would have to invest in glasses if they expected to continue in their profession.

It is strange: I have noticed, and some Maringouin natives have noticed, that you often have to fight to get anything done, either by the powerful or by the non powerful, in Maringouin, and I really do not like to fight. I am exhausted and this is why I say housework does take a lot of time: it involves a lot more than cleaning and minor repair, although I wish this were not the case.


I hope the painters will be gone in time for me to go to yoga; I hope we will be on decent terms; I will be very relieved to have my space back. I don’t like these painters because they are so invasive — they make too many personal remarks, and ask questions I don’t even want to hear, such as who, since I am not married, I might be sleeping with, where I might do it, whether I might do women, and so on. I am tired of politely telling them that these questions are inappropriate, and tired of having them appear unannounced when I am deep in work.

The wall repair and paint issue has dominated my life since February — I have been displaced within my own house and nothing I need has been within reach. I’ve always been good at doing several things each day, fitting my main work in among other activities, and I actually think that is good for work. At the same time, I need to have a modicum of control over my space and time and I need not to feel harassed.

Since I am often harassed at work and also on the street here in Maringouin, having home turn into a site of harassment as well has been very difficult. I like to allow one major task to take the foreground of the day. In 2011 that task for me has been, of apparent necesity, endurance since we’re under construction both at work and at home. Images of refugee camps have been pervading my novel, and perhaps one can see why.

And it is not the fact of the disruption that so unnerves me — it is the head painter’s invasiveness of my psychological space. I feel violated by this person and I think my instincts are right. I have this vague nausea and stomach palpitations in connection with him. I will be on edge and have difficulty concentrating until the job really is finished and I have my house key back.


Still to do once the painters leave are:
– touch up paint and flooring indoors (yes I have had help with both of these, and I needed it, but no, not everything is done quite as well as I can do it and want it done)
– hang shades and perhaps acquire and hang additional ones
– reorganize rooms, clean
– clean up yard
– do enough exterior painting so that the boards do not deteriorate while I save to have a real job done
– clean computers and physical files in both the house and the office
– do something deliciously academic every day — not just dutifully academic, but deliciously academic, and do that thing first.


I hope to have all that done by 4 July, and I believe it to be possible. Then I will be able to relax in earnest — work and swim and relax and go out of town on weekends. Once again, I will do something deliciously academic every day — not just dutifully academic, but deliciously academic, and do that thing first.

I might read the fascinating blogs I am behind on, including Northern Gaijin, Feminéma, J’s Theatre, Culture Cat, Amanda Krauss, and  A Corner of Tenth Century Europe. I may be able to watch films seriously — as in, see the complete works of Carl Theodor Dreyer and Kenneth Anger, and other esoteric people. But mostly I want to simplify my life and pare my activities down — go swimming and do work, and not have to argue with workers or think any more about the cost of repairs and strategies for funding them. I do not want to replace this last with any other non central duties.

Since Xiuhtecuhtli may not be entirely descriptive of me, I may spend the rest of summer as a Cipatli and then transform into Miclantecuhtli at the Equinox. I am going to start living like a real professor and a real defector, both at once instead of half of each, all the time. And everything you do, you have to do as itself, as blissfully as you do things when at the beach, I have always said. And with authority, and for pleasure, I also meant.


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