Sunday, November 9, 2014

House Guestlandia

     We have had two sets of house guests this week. My friend and boss, Lee Lewin, always asks me about my week and said, "You have a youth hostel out there." This week a mother and daughter from Milwaukee, Mike's home state, and Mike's brother and his wife and a cat-on-a-leash.  The Milwaukee woman is a vegetarian but she comes with frozen veggie pizzas, zukes and potatoes and a pumpkin from her garden so helps me in my vow to stop cooking for everyone. She cooks. Her mother does bring me a nice hostess gift from the Penzy catalogue with a dishtowel that celebrates saving the world by cooking. It goes smoothly and I run out at 8:00 the next morning to teach poetry.
     The next day, marks the arrival of my brother-in-law who looks a lot like my husband and has ever since I met him in 1970. They are 13 months apart. I tell Mike he always calls them Irish Twins, born so closely, but he claims to never have used that term and so I don't know where I heard it. We babysat his baby, Adam, in 1970 and Mike said, "This is fun. Let's get married and have a kid. It'll be easy." They came back to San Fran from his naval base for our wedding, where Adam jammed on a set of drums and my parents refused to eat any of the food served.  The cake was whole wheat with avocado sherbet frosting, melting as I wept on the phone upstairs. My cousin Jimmy had called to support me in marrying a non-Jew and I couldn't get off the phone. I didn't know that marrying someone meant you would marry into their houseguests.
     Mike comes from a farm family of 8, all of whom either left the farm at 14 (farmhand/castrator, nun, and Priest/navy) or got pregnant at 16 except for Mike who stayed until university and beyond.  We did have a shotgun marriage however, because his sister was pregnant and we wanted to leave the Bay Area in 1971 (Really???) for the Wisconsin farm where we would serve as sort of a hippie support staff as in a weird LSD trip only this one was 20 months in Wisconsin on the family farm.
     But I stray.  I want to talk about house guests.  Brother Rich and his wife, Joni, (I am Joanie now, changing my nickname from the Joni of my childhood which my mother based partly on her name, Beti with an "i"), have surprised us before on their road trips from their home outside of Portland.  Two years ago the cat-on-a-leash came to downtown Santa Fe with us and was a tad whiny, but now Ms Pooh Pooh is shine, nearly twenty,  and less traumatized, probably because our cat died and she has the run of the place.  Joni is a vegetarian too.  They are model house guests and get to see my three kids and two of the grandkids, and pack everything back into their car after a few nights here and leave.  They do leave the cat-leash by accident and I am thinking of either mailing it back with a New Yorker 2012 article on "Portlandia" or else having it bronzed.
     I have noticed that not one single house guest comes who does not have dietary quirks.  If that is a double negative it is because that is how the combo of houseguests and dietary quirks reacts on me. Half are gluten free and the other half are vegetarian.  The Paleo ones look down on all the others, and I think of running into Denise Lamb at Safeway when we had Safeway in Espanola.  She said, "When food is the enemy something is wrong."  
     Then there was the sweet guy called Harry.  Mike meets interesting folks on his journeys and I had a soft spot for this one, handsome and having my dad's name.  Harry was going to spend the night, and I was cooking and he went out to meditate  on the porch.  He came in and said he was told to leave and with lamb chops in the pan (lamb chops are one of the usually "safe" foods allergy-wise apart from vegetarians) he got in his car and drove back to Albuquerque, a good 90 minutes.  He was very wise for we had a gully washer so big that we couldn't get out for a day.  Harry came again within the week.  He had a job interview nearby.  Again he was going to stay, and went to meditate.  He again was told to leave and asked if he could take a shower before he left.  Of course.  We have one shower and it is in our greenhouse.  He was in and back in a flash, the only person to take a shower quicker than mine.  When I remarked on this he said, "Oh, I was just refreshing my aura."
     Then there was the one whose name has changed several times.  He was here for at least a week and living mostly on organic chocolate, a kind of chocolate shaman.  He was getting higher and higher on his vintage, artisanal, responsibly harvested chocolate and just wafting around the place, occasionally singing and drumming to bless our land. I like when people bless our land, I honestly do, but I asked him if he would consider watering the greenhouse.  He said yes and gave it the most misty of spaced-out waterings, never once glancing at the plants which range from the geraniums of my grandma to the San Pedro cacti of the south.  I asked him to water a bit more deeply, that it would be grounding.  He said, "I don't want to be grounded."  I immediately become the cross wife/mom that I so deeply am and grounding related to earth became parental grounding of You can't take the car in a nanosecond.
     Some of the guests come with their rescue dogs.  I have heard a bit too much about rescue animals.  I want to tell them that you never hear about rescue husbands.  I think I will start introducing Mike that way when people tell me about their rescue fauna. Sometimes the comfort of their dogs takes precedent over my comfort. My late friend Don Grolnik said, "Don't make me uptight in my own house."  We always quote him to one another, Rescue Husband to smiling wife.
     Houseguests are one thing and we have two rentals which bring a longer relationship.  The neighbor. We did not rent to the adorable couple who had a dog called The Golden Love Dog who subsisted on raw grass fed beef for which they would need two freezers. Nor did we rent to the woman who was an animal psychic. I was sure the horses would gossip about us or tell her that we needed to lower the rent.  There was also a woman with an inexcusable skirt, the fake patchwork kind I can't abide by.  I cannot live next to someone who owns that skirt, I heard myself saying.
     I realize that all of this makes me look a bit conservative and grouchy.  I am.  Each house guest leaves something, a hairbrush, a water bottle, a leash.  They all have healthier diets and I vow to follow in their slightly annoying footsteps and switch to Stevia, coconut water, and massaging the kale.  One year, 2008, we had 21 guests from March to August.  I made an art piece, a painting of a clothesline  holding the name of the guests like clothespins. That was the year I said our place was like a Hippy Theme Park, yurt, hot tub, permaculture garden, and our kids living on the land.  I admit, I would be lonely without the houseguests and find something else to gripe about.  I once had a writing student who died from houseguests.  She was probably my age now and was forever running her guests to the opera or a museum.  She died soon after and I knew of what cause.
     If you come, please bring your special tea, strip the bed when you leave, a hostess gift would be nice, and include me in whatever chocolate events you are scheduling.  You are always welcome here.  After all you could be the Messiah, Buddha, or  the prophet Elijah.  You could be Quan Yin and have compassion for us all.