I spent my long weekend painting the two grotty little bedrooms in the basement, and turning one of them into an office. It was one of those projects that, for much of the weekend, felt like I’d never get to the other side of it. First I had to move all the furniture out of those little rooms — I’d been using one as a guest room, so other than moving a queen-sized mattress by myself, it was pretty simple. But the other room I’d been using as a combination office/storage space and there was a lot of stuff left in there from Patrick’s apartment and from the process of settling up his estate (a word that always cracks me up — as if cleaning out that apartment, dealing with his stuff, and paying his bills was an “estate”?) — that room took a little longer because I had to box up all the last of the Patrick stuff, and then deal with all of my graduate school notes and notebooks that were in there. In the back corner of the basement there’s a canning closet, and it was perfect for storing all this stuff — so, Day One, I got the basement organized and cleaned up. Day Two I painted — I don’t mind the actual painting, it’s the taping and prep that is so boring — but at any rate, by the end of day two I could start to see that the colors were right, and that it was going to be nice down here. Day Three and Four I moved the library. I have a funny little room off the kitchen upstairs — I think it was a bedroom. My house is only about 1500 square feet but they raised 8 kids here, so any space that could be a bedroom, was a bedroom. When I first bought the place they’d been using that back room as a laundry room, because the old lady who lived here had gotten too old to go down the stairs — and I wound up using it as a library. It took me nearly two days to unpack the bookcases, wipe them down, and carry them, one by one downstairs. Took a little while to figure out how they’d fit — and indeed, I lost one bookcase in the process — it just wouldn’t fit — so that meant I had to do a pretty strict triage on the books. I whittled them down significantly — keeping just the stuff I thought I’d actually look at again — fiction and poetry were the least-touched categories, while religion and nonfiction took the biggest hits. It was really freeing, actually, to get rid of most of the theory books from graduate school — not all of them — I kept the ones I liked or that were useful. For example, I kept Camera Lucida : Reflections on Photography and The Pleasure of the Text by Barthes, but shucked off S/Z and Mythologies which I only read out of obligation. All the Genette and Todorov and most of the Irigaray went too along with some weighty philosophy/religion stuff that I’d bought at some point but had never read.
And so this morning I walked the dogs, then came home and retreated downstairs where for the first time in weeks I pulled up the screenplay I’m working on. In the basement one can’t be distracted by the garden, or the dishes in the sink, or the anxiety- and guilt-induced siren call of the Real Job in the front room. In the basement I worked steadily for a little bit, and found a shred of hope that I might be able to breathe some life back into my moribund literary career.