Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Lovenurse Files


After spending much of 2003 chronicling the remodeling of the house I bought (see This Old House It Ain't: Home Remodeling With A Complete Amateur") I decided to re-start the journal today, expanding my musings to include journal entries and essays about topics beyond my property line. Although Jamey and I are fully settled in to the house and all of the interior work is done, we are still finding our place in the neighborhood. "Finding our place" is a bit of euphemism, actually. I am struggling with the aspects of the neighborhood that I did not understand when I bought the house - the poverty, the racial segregation, the flourishing underground economies of drugs and prostitution. I focus my home improvement energies these days on the yard and the neighborhood. Grass, planted from seed, has filled in the dirt patches on the north side of the house. Native plants fill limestone edged flowerbeds in front. An unconscientiously water-needing bougainvillea grows at the SE corner of the house and an impractical sapling pear tree leans precariously near the front fence. Potted plants crowd the front and back stoop. I have cleared the weeds and dead tree limbs from the back yard and even from my neighbor's yard next door, I have a plot in the community garden 5 blocks away, I am meeting more neighbors and am participating in neighborhood association meetings.

My friends admire the place: the aquamarine bathroom and the front flowers are the most frequently praised. And since the house was cheap, Jamey and I spend only a small fraction of our incomes on housing expenses. But I often feel like the psychic costs of living among poverty and desperation are high. We had a burglary last August, and since then I have installed a locking fence to discourage trespassers. Junkies and prostitutes are fixtures in the neighborhood, and I find myself amazingly hardened to their plight. I worry that I am becoming a Republican, on the surface disdainful of the nearby desperation, but underneath terrified of succumbing to the ghetto lifestyle which seems to engulf too many of the neighbors. I spend a lot of time thinking about my future, my career ambitions, my financial aspirations, about my place in this neighborhood and this neighborhood's place in the capitalist system.

I have been thinking a lot about purpose recently. About the path I am on, the path I want to be on, the chasm between the two and how to get there from here. It seems that there has been a natural path leading to everything I do now, where opportunities opened up spontaneously to meet my needs and ambitions. For example, I was interested in music, so I got involved with college radio. Then in Austin, I found KOOP. A slot came open, I moved in. A DJ I knew started working at KUT, the NPR affiliate station, and got me on sub rotation there. Eventually I got my own show. But as one path opens before me, I feel the need to beat down some new paths. I was offered the opportunity to host a TV show on the Austin Music Network, which I took. From there, decided to try my hand at video production, and am now conspiring to write a grant to further fund this project. Similarly, with the house, I started out just looking for a place to live, and ended up with fixer upper taking nearly a year's worth of repair. Now that that is over, I'm making plans to buy another house. It seems that I'm just never happy with anything for long. When the path through the forest gives way to a gravel road, I start thinking I'm going the wrong direction. I get impatient to find the super highway to satisfaction. I get sick of little rocks digging into my feet. I head back to the bushes to beat a new path.

The one path that didn't open was the writer's path: the Chronicle job that never went anywhere. The Lovenurse columns that didn't get published. The goals to write everyday that fell by the wayside. This, I think, is the rough path. The machete in the Amazon style path. But maybe I am the kind of person who needs to be hacking down jungle in order to feel satisfied. Or the person who is not satisfied with success. The compulsive risk taker? That makes sense. But a pragmatist as well. I tried the writer's path and it didn't work out. Struggling through meaningless day jobs, inadequate pay and creative frustration is not what I want. But this is the writer's path, at least for most writers, for most of the time.

So guess I'll try again to write again, about the stuff I know. My daily life, which often is focused on the house or the neighborhood, as well as my other in sundry interests: music, radio, TV, law, sociology. My myriad and often conflicting future plans: an academic career in the social sciences, making a living off real estate sales and development, law school and work in public policy, raising children. This journal, like the house, like life, is still a work in progress. Feel free to email me at with questions or feedback, just make sure to put "Lovenurse" in the subject header so I can tell your message apart from the Viagra spam.

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