Exorcism

The Jedi and his niece pulled the carpet in the front room of the Blue Bunker yesterday. The difference in how the house smells now in comparison to how it smelled the past 9 months is palpable. The carpet and pad underneath were holding a lot of cigarette and cat funk. We were happy to discover that the concrete underneath is not badly cracked as we had feared, so the floor is an excellent candidate for tile. Evidently the previous owners just really loved carpet (as is evident from their destruction of the lovely hardwood floors upstairs to eliminate squeaks) and were not trying to cover up foundation issues. There are carpet strips nailed into the concrete, which will not be easy to remove, but will have to occur before we put any type of flooring down. Not looking forward to THAT project.

We also bit the bullet and bought $500 of reed blinds for the gigantic picture windows. Despite following instructions about measurements when we ordered them it turns out we could have easily mounted them inside the window frames, rather than outside, which I’m disappointed about, but they are still an improvement over the heavy masking tape-yellow drapes that came with the house. The tops of the blinds come down, allowing us to get natural light without being on display for all the neighbors.

We learned that the builder of the house trained under Frank Lloyd Wright, and is the grandfather of one of the Jedi’s friends in Havre. He built a beautiful Midcentury cabin in the Bear Paws that looks nothing like this soulless monstrosity. If we planned to live here indefinitely I would try to inject some of that character into this place. However, we don’t want to stay here. The neighborhood is too urban for us. So, whatever improvements we do to the house must make it appealing to a conventional Havre buyer. That means installing flooring in the front room instead of simply sanding the concrete down and polishing it, which is what I would like to do.

The more we inspect the gigantic brick fake fireplace the more I’m convinced we should just rip it out. It serves absolutely zero purpose and takes up a large portion of the room. It also dates the space. We are curious what is behind the fireplace. Since that portion of the room was converted from the original garage, I suspect there’s a door behind it.

Missoula

We had to travel to Missoula for a work retreat last week. I had not been there since September. Traffic was congested then but now it is much worse. Perhaps being in slow, small Havre has influenced this observation, but the reality is the population has increased by 3,000 people just within city limits since the pandemic.

There were NO hotels available. We found ONE airBnB; a small camper 30 minutes outside of town for $100/night that smelled like poop, with musty-smelling towels that caused my face to break out after using them. My body is also covered in tiny, itchy welts. Since we did absolutely nothing outdoors and encountered no mosquitoes, I am blaming the bed linens…

We are part of these statistics. I’m glad we left but am angry we were unable to thrive there also. We should have been able to; our household income was more than the median and we are competent, hard workers. The city has gentrified considerably since I moved there in 2013…it used to be a grungy little place, full of locally-owned shops and restaurants that had been running for 50+ years. Now a considerable number of those establishments are closed and have been replaced by businesses with vapid, Millennial-appealing one-syllable names, like “Plonk” and “Gild”, selling items on their menus like “sipping broth” for $8 a shot.

The work retreat was actually nice…it was good to interact with people in person. There’s something about the nature of remote meetings that totally exhausts me. I struggle to pay attention in them and battling the technology is an exercise in frustration. After one or two Zoom sessions I am completely wiped out for the day, which has made it very difficult to accomplish actual work or to function much outside of work at the end of the day. I keep getting dragged into more and more of these meetings because I am working on so many strategic planning sessions. I just want to disappear into a spreadsheet. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it…leave the planning and arguing to other people.

There were fewer people wearing masks in Missoula than I have observed in some of the smaller, conservative towns. This shocked me; when we left Missoula the city was taking mask-wearing very seriously. I think there’s a correlation between not wearing masks and the large number of vehicles with out-of-state plates. Lots of asshole tourists and new asshole residents. I think the considerate folks are still staying put.

I had intended to stock up on groceries while we were there but was too exhausted to wrap my head around meal planning and too overwhelmed to brave the crowds. So, we just high-tailed it out immediately after the retreat ended, after connecting briefly with some of our friends who are still living in Missoula.

The Grass is Always Greener

My former student worker is in her early 30s. She commented today that she envied my house, my healthy relationship with a wonderful man, and my savings account. I was shocked. It certainly did not occur overnight, and it all required a lot of compromise and work and sacrifice. I’m also over ten years older than she is. At age 33 I was recently divorced and had nothing except for 80k in a retirement account.

I reminded her that it took nearly ten years to get to where I am financially, ten tears (Freudian typo slip) of depriving myself of a lot of things and scrimping and saving. I definitely was not going to the salon to get my hair and nails and waxing done nor was I indulging in much of anything extracurricular. Very little shopping, very little entertainment. I ate frugally and didn’t go to restaurants much. Never went to bars, rarely traveled. Very rarely bought anything new.

I didn’t find a wonderful man until I started working on myself, either. You can’t attract good people until you start respecting yourself. The relationship requires work too. We go to a therapist every other week, which in the US, I admit, is a privilege…but it is also something I prioritize. My health insurance may be expensive and mediocre, but it DOES cover 90% of my therapy sessions, for which I am very grateful.

The Jedi’s Havre friends have kept making funny comments that make me suspect they think I’m well-off. Thanks to the Havre grapevine (our realtor is the mother of one of the members of that group of acquaintances), I think a lot of them know I paid for half of the Blue Bunker with cash. They also see my job title and the fact the Jedi only works part time and assume there’s a large income attached to that. I’ll let them think what they want. It amuses both of us and there are advantages to being seen this way. But it’s pretty far from the truth. That cash was my entire retirement, aside from my meager pension, which, by the time I retire, will probably only be enough to cover taxes on the Blue Bunker or whatever roof we have over our heads at that point.

And of course despite these enviable outward achievements I have a lot of dissatisfaction about things. I have been unable to achieve in my health and appearance what I have been able to achieve with my finances. It’s frustrating and depressing. I hate looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself, and managing the pain and brain fog and lack of energy is a daily struggle.

So, envy away, people! Joke’s on you.

Plodding along

Most of the inflammation caused by the vaccine is down and I am not having to take as much medicine to combat it. Still, my mental exhaustion and brain fog are high. I also have new neuropathy; this time a spot on my right hand, which makes some tasks excruciating. If I accidentally bump it, it feels like I’m getting stung by a hornet or shocked by electricity. The Jedi is also struggling with pain problems that are interfering with manual labor, including work on the house. I suspect it’s also the result of inflammation caused by the vaccine. He had been experiencing these problems before the second Moderna shot, but not nearly to the degree or intensity he is experiencing now. Before the vaccine it was mild; now it is debilitating. He is frustrated with himself.

All of the strategic meetings at work are severely depleting me. I spoke with my boss about it and unfortunately it sounds as if they will only continue to increase. They now have no need for an assessment manager. If this continues I am going to have to find a different job. I am miserable doing this sort of work and while I do my best I do not perform it well. Too many personalities and too much stimulation for me to deal with. Plus I’m continuously operating outside of my comfort zone, which is burdensome and neither motivating nor empowering. It exhausts me so much that I don’t have energy left to focus on the work I enjoy. And, I dread work every day.

We are approaching 9 months living in this house. I am not becoming more fond of it, nor of Havre. But, we aren’t worrying about money as much, which is nice. The past couple of weeks we have had steady temperatures of 90 degrees to over 100 degrees, which has limited the time we spend outside. Probably another reason why everything feels so dismal right now, as going outdoors has been the one redeeming factor in our toolbox.

Our idiotic neocon governor announced this week that the pandemic is over, just as the Delta variant is emerging. I sincerely hope he contracts it and dies.

Sterile

The Jedi has nearly finished plastering and painting the formerly wood paneled, circa 1963 living room. It looks better but is still totally soulless. I think it is going to be impossible to inject any “soul” into this place. This house stubbornly rejects every attempt we make to counteract the conventional. But, due to the location it should be an easy sell, at least, once we patch the holes and get it into the 21st century.

Wall-to-wall carpeting is disgusting and depressing, and the former owners LOVED it. Every inch of the house aside from the kitchen and the bathrooms is carpeted…even the basement. The cat and cigarette smell is working its way out of the carpet pad now. The odor is worse now than it was 6 months ago and especially noticeable when it’s humid. Carpet removal will be the next item on the agenda.

Havre Stare

Havre locals exhibit what I refer to as the “Havre Stare”. If they don’t recognize you or have any suspicion at all that you might be a newcomer, they gaze at you for a lengthy amount of time, much longer than a polite human typically does. When you make eye contact with them, they are not embarrassed. One must be careful about this because they might attempt to enlist you in conversation if you acknowledge them.

Yesterday evening, we went grocery shopping at Wal-mart after 8:00 pm, which is when the dirty underbelly of Havre and its surrounding areas surfaces. After encountering several harmless but unfortunate-looking zombified humans on either heroin or meth, we headed home. We stopped at a crossing downtown for an elderly looking man to cross. He stared into the car ghoulishly several times as he crossed the street, until I remarked about his odd behavior to the Jedi. As we took off, the Jedi calmly stated the evil-looking man was the psychopath (a former employer) who had abused him severely when he was 20. I’m not sure if he recognized the Jedi or not, but he certainly looked into the car more intently than even the most guilty “Havre starers” do.

When we moved to Havre the Jedi had expressed anxiety about the possibility of encountering him in public, which I scoffed at. Surely the man wouldn’t even recognize the Jedi at this point…it has been nearly 20 years. Evidently the Jedi has seen the man twice in public since we moved here and hadn’t mentioned it to me. Finally, as we turned a corner to head in a “safer” direction, we encountered the city’s mosquito fogger, blanketing the street with pesticide. We turned around and hurried home to lock ourselves up in the bunker. No more Havre public for us.

Dog Walks and Fire Hydrants

Twice a day, our neighbor loads his small dog into his big pickup truck and circles the block, letting the dog out at intervals until it does its business in someone’s yard. Sometimes the dog runs off and the owner has to chase him down and capture him.

Little Girl Across the Street was on her bike the other day, trying to rope the fire hydrant on the corner with a lariat. Never a dull moment.

Self-Medicated

The farming and ranching community on the Hi-Line has a long history of homemade innovations, largely due to lack of resources, lack of access, isolation and poverty. Evidently this is not restricted to mechanical or architectural issues.

The Jedi met an old rancher who has prostate cancer. He said doctors “charge an arm and a leg and don’t know what they are talking about anyway” and boasted he is treating his cancer on his own by medicating with bovine de-wormer.

I am curious if he is ingesting it or taking it rectally. Either way, that man is likely going to die…of prostate cancer.

Inn-noculated

The Jedi and I are fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine. He was fine after a day but I have experienced complications from both the first and second shots. I developed new neuropathy on my foot after #1 and after #2 immediately started having trouble with my hands and feet clenching involuntarily into fists, like pterodactyl claws. The first couple days after the shot I couldn’t type for prolonged periods of time because my hands kept locking up. The claw issue has diminished after my doctor put me on a heavy regimen of vitamin C to combat inflammation, but the neuropathy has not gone away. My energy levels also decreased significantly since the first shot and worsened after the second shot. I have very little energy to work and have to take naps during the day. I have not been able to write or do much of anything outside of work and feeding myself.

Living in Havre has been quite the adventure (though not in any romantic sense of the word) and there is so much that I could write about but exhaustion and brain fog is interfering with that process significantly.

Because he is fully vaccinated and feels he no longer can use COVID as an excuse to not work, the Jedi has begun maintenance and groundskeeping at the hotel owned by a rich Greek family in Havre (everyone refers to them as simply “The Greeks”. He has a crew of bottom-of-the-barrel workers who appear to have good intentions and want to impress him but are rather incompetent, to put it mildly. The hotel itself appears to be managed by the “cut corners everywhere you can” philosophy, which makes effective work nearly impossible at times. Most of their equipment is broken and they are reluctant to pay for standard things like trash disposal, instead sending their workers around town to dump their refuse in other establishment’s dumpsters until the establishments complain.

It is apparent the hotel’s management is accustomed to their workers being desperate for employment and has tried pushing boundaries with the Jedi about his work schedule and other things. I keep reminding him he has the power in this situation, not the other way around. We shall see how long this lasts. So far he has not appeared to have too much anxiety about his job but if that changes I hope he quits.