Its been a wild week in Neihartium, my home base, to oompha-phrase The Man from Lake Woebegon. After a summer-long search for someone to put up my siding, and for someone to fix or replace my totally useless heating system, I got answers. Acclaimed author Annie Lamot says that God always answers your prayers, it’s just that sometimes the answer is “no”. My friend TC has a different take on the issue; he says that there are “strings of chance” that ensue upon making a decision to do one thing or another, and if you make the “wrong” decision, you could end up with a huge pile of stinking bad luck. For him the rewards and punishments of life are like shooting the rapids in a kayak. You’ve got to suss out the most likely place for rocks and holes to be, and then spring forward and hold on. He counts himself very lucky in this life, so maybe he’s on to something.
His method of “sussing” out the situation has two predictors: first you should never choose the path that anyone else told you to take, whether that be in the form of an actual exhortation, or just in the form of convention. He says don’t choose any course of action just because you’re supposed to or because it’s the accepted norm. His second prerequisite is to choose the more bizarre of the options you see in front of you. It’s worked for him, I remind you. And I’m witness to the fact – fact, mind you, not just opinion – that TC has done well in life and is happy – I, on the other hand, have spent a lifetime picking the most bizarre path possible even though I wasn’t even trying to, and it hasn’t worked out so well. Especially not now. I can’t really see how my choices lately have diverged from my lifelong pattern of weird, but the results have trended down. Down. Definitely down. Maybe I need to get bizarre-er. Maybe choosing the bizarre in my case takes me back on the circle toward “normal”. If anyone knows what “normal” is, please let me know. Then I can aim for it or steer away from it as the mood strikes.
Because lawyers are involved, I can’t yet mention just where my ‘strings of chance’ might be diverging, and exactly how bizarre my choices might be, but believe you me; in the fullness of time it will be in the book. Which, it turns out, might have found its publisher. Back when I was arranging the meeting with Katie the Soccer Queen in Waiting, I mentioned to my old (as old as I am) friend Jane that I had a book in me. She refrained from observing (thanks, Jane!) that most people have a book in them, and that’s a good enough place for it, and then she kindly mentioned that the BFF she grew up with had a sister who went on to be a literary agent in New York. Minutes after that phone call ended, you can be sure that I was on the internet googling said friend’s sister, and one short day later, a query letter mentioning Jane’s name was in the mail.
So there’s the possibility that my String of Chance will take me to the New York Times Best Seller list yet, and if that were to come about (perhaps a bad, bad, bad, unlucky and perverse result, but who can say before the fullness of time unfolds?) I could just pay someone to finish my house rather than wrangling and finagling amongst contractors whose primary goal is not even remotely connected with making a customer happy. Since that has not come about, and probably won’t, I’m stuck with the wrangling and finagling types. One of which is Dominic, who I found on Craigslist the online free classified ad site. Most of your fears about hiring someone off of Craigslist, I’m sorry to report, are founded. I engaged said Dominic to put up my siding, so that I could live in a house that didn’t look like Jed Clampet lives here, too. So far the wooden parts of my house have been protected by tar paper, and covering them up requires not only purchasing siding, but measuring it, cutting it and tacking it up with something besides bubble gum and duct tape, which are my specialty. I’m not up to that. I’m just not. Ask me to explain String Theory or how it is that time and space are the same thing, and I can help you out. Do you need some manure shoveled, or some firewood cut down, chopped up and stacked? I’m there for you. Just don’t ask me to measure, cut and screw, staple, nail or whatever is required. Don’t.
There’s a lot about tar paper that is admirable and desirable, insomuch as its cheap and available, but after a year or so on the outside of an otherwise respectable house, it just gives up being a proper construction material and goes on to embrace frowziness with reckless abandon: then its time for it to be covered by something. I was thusly excruciatingly motivated to get it covered, so my judgment was, it might be said, clouded. I gave up canvassing my friends and acquaintances for references to competent and capable carpenters, and started trolling Craigslist. Dominic from Craigslist turned out to be young, and as such, he knows everything. And then some. He found that one of my windows was not perfectly level as he was lining up the siding underneath it, and the look on his face was as unspeakably shocked and disappointed as only an under-thirty face can be. After thirty, we know how unspeakable life is and stop getting that look, but Dominic was still within the demographic that thinks that when they discover something which they have begun to know quite a bit about has not been executed with perfection, the world might as well have ended. Its like when a third grader realizes that the teacher has spelled “wright” wrong. And then the 23 year-old third grader proceeds to tell me for fifteen minutes, at $25 per hour exactly how I got cheated by my builder. I don’t know how many times I said “just put up the siding, Dominic.” Eventually I had to reveal the truth to him: every single contractor who ever worked on this house has blamed previous contractors for doing a lousy job. And every single contractor who will ever work on this house again – including me, Dominic…. – will look back and say you did a lousy job. And when that happens, I told Dominic, I’ll ignore the comment, just like I’m ignoring yours. Now just put up the siding, please.