As I sit on a Saturday night on the couch with my trusty companion Digby, I’m hearing the thump from a nearby fraternity house. Being so close to campus has a great many perks, but when you’re this much a part of the action, you get to be a part of everything that goes on regardless of whether you want to or not. The bass typically only carries on the last half of the week. I assume the first half is spent recovering from last week’s second half or preparing for this week’s second half. We are also near a four-way stop that really seems to anger people. Cars, after making their brief stop at the intersection of Poplar and 15th, pound that gas like they are trying to outrun the cops or take their pregnant wife in for the birth of their first child. Whatever the case, people feel very compelled to get away from that four way as fast as they can. This creates a set of noises that’s akin to that scene from Jurassic Park where the T-Rex is approaching and the glass of water is shaking, only if the T-Rex was on his way to a tractor pull.
I wasn’t sure how I’d deal with “city sounds,” after living so long in the woods. So far, it hasn’t disrupted my sleep at all. In my former dwelling, every now and then, the coyotes would get a little too wild and I could hear their yips and yowls from the bedroom. So, I’m in a pretty similar situation with the Lamda Chi’s now. Just like with the coyotes, I’m sure I’ll find that if you don’t get mad at them or scared and just listen, you may find it sort of interesting.
Allyson and I have frequent conversations about the population of 15th Street. We have a pretty diverse demographic with a mix of college students and older adults who have probably lived here since these houses were built. It makes for interesting theories on all the people we see. I don’t want you to think we’re taking part in some kind of Rear Window style spying, where we sit at a window 10 hours a day with a telescope figuring out who’s sleeping with whom and who’s plotting to kill whom. You just can’t miss things sometimes. For instance, I walked into our library and right out the window I saw one of our neighbors standing on his front porch, shaving his chest. I didn’t go looking for this–it was right there. And, that’s just not something you can keep to yourself. It’s like an auto accident. It’s really not something anyone should look at. If you get pleasure out of it, you should probably be ashamed of yourself. It isn’t pretty. It’s even sickening to those with weak stomachs. And yet, you tell someone, and he/she has to see for his/herself. You know it happens everyday, but you just didn’t think it would happen on your street, not right in the middle of the day right in front of you.
I don’t mean to give this guy too hard a time. He obviously was doing this outside to avoid the messy clean-up that shaving your small patch of chest hair generates when you do it in the privacy of your bathroom. Or, maybe he was doing it to keep pests away, like how you’ll spread clippings from the barber shop around your garden to scare off the deer. Whatever the case, Allyson and I wondered most why he didn’t do it in the back yard, where at least every car driving by wouldn’t see. Maybe he honesty thought it was sexy, and it might help him meet ladies. You’re a sly one, you sneaky little devil. It’s just not even fair for the ladies, when you play like that.
I should cut this poor guy some slack, though, because I am a recovering chest shaver too. Sixteen years clean, thank God. When I was 19, my chest hair was just starting to fill in, and I didn’t like it, so I decided to get rid of it. Even then, I had this instinct that there was something wrong with this. I certainly didn’t tell anyone out of an intuitive feeling I would bring ridicule down like hellfire and brimstone. And, through all this, I failed to realize that it was obvious every time I went to the pool.
I finally realized that most dudes are supposed to have hair on their chest. Swimmers can get out of it. I’m not so sure about the body builders, but I ain’t saying anything to their face. It’s funny, especially when our body is in a phase of change, how uncomfortable we can get in our own skin. You can try to change yourself all around to what you think everyone accepts, even when you aren’t really sure what it is exactly people accept. Oh, all the things we do to ourselves that hardly matter at all.
This week, the Taylor house is getting an upgrade to help with the bills and the warmth of our feet. We got insulation to go under the floors, and I was more than happy with my time to do something that will save us money and keep us warmer. This requires some rather unpleasant time in the crawlspace, but these are those trails that you tell yourself are for a good cause. I’ve been in worse crawl spaces, but that doesn’t make this experience good. Getting hit twice in the face is worse than getting hit once, but that doesn’t make getting hit once good. This experience will probably be one of the closest I get in my sheltered life to what it was like for Industrial Revolution Era workers who migrated to the city at the turn of the century. First, you are in a constant state of army crawl for the hours at a time you are down there. There are times when there is hardly space for your face to fit between the ground and the floor above. You can really freak yourself out down there–that dark enclosed space can get pretty similar to a coffin if you let your imagination run wild. And then, there are pipes and wires that you don’t want to put too much pressure on. Imagine being in a dark space with little room to move and then getting sprayed with water or sewage. So, when I passed through these spots, I had to contort my body like Catherine Zeta Jones in that movie Entrapment, when she’s ducking under the lasers (I didn’t have on the tight spandex pants, though).
To look at insulation, it seems very friendly. It’s like giant strips of cotton candy, and it’s so soft to the tough. You can lay on this stuff, and it’s better than some mattresses. Let me tell you, though, if you don’t already know: it is not good to sleep on insulation. In fact, you don’t really want to touch insulation any more than you have to. It’s strange how something that looks so much like fluffy pillow stuffing can leave your hand all scabbed up like you have leprosy. This stuff, of course, isn’t made out of clouds or cotton or even sugar. Nope, it’s fiberglass. So, basically, they figured out a way to make something soft and fluffy out of tiny knives. Now, I don’t know if you could kill somebody by attacking them with insulation, but if you hit them enough with it, you could make them look like they got some pretty serious superficial scrapes. My hands look like I got attacked by some small angry animal.
There was this interesting moment under the house, when I had been putting the insulation up for a good while. I shined my flashlight in just the right way, and I caught sight of everything falling from the floorboards. It was a mix of 50 year old dust and brand new, shiny fiberglass particles–both of which will probably give me cancer if I breathe in too much, let too much in my eyes, or eat. But, with the light hitting it that way, it was almost like I was in some weird, dark snow globe. These shiny particles were falling all around me. Initially I thought about how much of this crap I was getting on my face and in my clothes, and that explained why I was itching all over. But, for a moment, when I forgot for a second I was crawling on my bruised elbows and knees with one foot of space between cold dirt and a dusty set of floor joists, it was a pretty thing to watch. A shiny snowfall for me alone to witness as I laid still on my side in the dark. It was a spotlight on a stage, and I was the only one with a ticket to the show.