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October 21, 2022


You said something about the liberating effect of clearing house when you moved to Montreal, and it has stayed with me even as our own 30-year residence accumulates more *stuff*. The embarrassing part of having so many things around is that things kept "because they might be useful" occasionally ARE useful, and it very satisfying to be able to produce a tool or fitting for one of Andy's stage management gigs. After my mom died, my dad devoted a lot of his time to getting rid of unnecessary things and made clearing his house somewhat easier — but we still haven’t finished the last step, getting rid of the inherited things we brought home.

In Cleveland, old factory buildings, with generous light, became artist spaces, and the city even adjusted its zoning to allow live-in lofts. These are being gentrified now, as in Montreal. I wonder if artists who require inexpensive space might be willing to move to smaller cities to adopt old buildings that don't have a strong market as residences. There are churches at loose ends, too. There's an empty Wal-Mart near me that could have a future as a sound stage or the workshop for a hundred foot statue, come to think of it.

Oh, and a belated happy birthday!

The two of us - both octogenarians - live in a four-bedroom house, new when we moved in in 1998. Mortgage paid off 25 years ago. As a result we both have what, for want of a better word, can be described as studies. Easily convertible to bedrooms when segments of the family visit. Nevertheless a ridiculous luxury.

Neither of us is in the best of health and it would make sense to move to somewhere smaller, perhaps under care. But as my younger daughter has pointed out, we're happy here, and we are able to pay a cleaner and a gardener to do the drudgery.

The cleaner, who has been with us for a decade, describes my study as "a tip". True, but not a tip that was randomly arrived at. During the past quarter-century I've used it to write four novels, forty to fifty short stories, a cluster of verses of widely varying quality, run a blog once called Works Well now, ill-advisedly, called Tone Deaf. More recently it's been (expensively) adapted to the receipt of my Skyped singing lessons.

It's a visible archive of my life stretching back to the time I was in gainful employment. Two shelves display die-cast models of forklift trucks picked up during my editorship of a magazine devoted to logistics. Another long shelf holds about fifty novels in French, a tangible reminder of the French lessons I launched into in the mid-seventies. Raggedy folders contain financial info. There's a mass of dictionaries. Pinned to the door of the built-in wardrobe is a road map of the southern half of France which allowed me to plan a myriad of small-plane flights as the basis of my novel Out of Arizona.

All would go if we down-sized; lived somewhere that had no history. Some day bad health will force us to make a decision. Probably some day quite soon. I envy you your decisiveness and your industry even if it was forced upon you for financial reasons. I've railed at nostalgia in others, seeing it as a destructive act of self-hypnosis. I would defend my own "quasi-nostalgia" as an essential crutch to the subjective stuff I do here; writing fiction differs in that sense from, say, gardening. Ah well.

To achieve what you have means putting your hands on every single thing you have owned, a huge undertaking. Though we divested at least 60% of everything in a move a decade ago, I am vigilant about massing up again—new tools, new tech, gear, housewares and the six pairs of socks my daughter-in-law gave me... it creeps in. Now, I do seasonal weed-out days.

re the plight of artists' spaces, I hope you can somehow see the locally-made film, "305 Bellechasse", about the "renoviction" of artists who had worked in that building, many for decades.

Reading through your post reminds me of Mirvish Village in Toronto, which was a vibrant community of artists, craftspeople and musicians. When I visited there in 2015, all the artists were outside selling their work. They had been asked to shut down their studios which they'd had for decades, because the government wanted to convert the street into something else, some kind of development. There was an exhibition in an art gallery there where a photographer had taken beautiful portraits of each and every one of the artists in their studios at Mirvish Village. I remember commenting to the gallery manager about the look of pride in the every one of the artist's faces as they stood in their studios with their work. It was their life.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.