Thursday, January 31, 2008

When we sat down to one of our favorite dinners last night, fillets of haddock with seafood stuffing, I surprised Fritz by opening a bottle of champagne. There were two reasons to celebrate: one was a happy development relating to Fritz’s business, the other the fact that my younger daughter had just emailed me to say that she and her boyfriend have decided to move in together.

They just got back from a week away in Mexico that included visits to galleries, museums, and Aztec sites in addition to beaches and playtime. I knew things were progressing over Christmas when she used the term “crazy about” before his name.

This is good news. He’s an extremely nice guy and treats her very well. He has a good position and ambitions for an even better career path within his company for reasons of professional growth and satisfaction, not just massive financial gain (not that there’s anything wrong with that). He’s outgoing, speaks in whole sentences, and can hold up his end of a conversation with his potential father-in-law on a variety of topics including the arts, thank you very much. There is joy in Mudville.


The cabinets are finished; we spent yesterday afternoon stacking them in the kitchen and cleaning out the great room, entry hall and master bedroom for the acid dying of the concrete. All the scrap lumber from various parts of the project will be turned into kindling for the wood stoves in the Center and Fritz’s apartment.

As we were finishing up yesterday morning, the tiling guys showed up to begin the two bathrooms. By the end of the day, two walls of the upstairs bathroom had been tile set, topping out at 43” from the floor—no grout yet, but I thought it looked great and was exactly what I had in mind for a 1930s look. Above that I will paint the walls with a pale silver gray color with some deco ornamentation around the medicine chest and wall sconces.

Next week the acid dye wash on the great room, entry hall and master bedroom floors begins. Walls and ceilings in all three spaces will be completely sealed with plastic. The process of coloring, drying, texturing with over-spray, drying and sealing with a clear finish is supposed to take three days.

In the meanwhile, I'm designing the pattern for the Marmoleum tile on the kitchen floor and going to get little sample jars of paint to make test panels for colors in the various rooms before we settle on specific colors. This is all great fun.


From the Rutland [Vermont] Herald:

Standup comedian has day job as Vt. legislator
By JOHN CURRAN The Associated Press

MONTPELIER — Take his committee assignment — please!

Seriously, folks: Didja' hear the one about the Vermont legislator who moonlights as a standup comedian? Jason Lorber has.

Lorber, 41, a member of the state House of Representatives, does standup gigs, produces comedy shows and runs improv workshops when he's not making laws.

"A lot of people say 'What's the difference?' When I first came here, people said 'You're the first comedian to come to the Statehouse.' I say 'I'm the first professional comedian to come to the Statehouse," he said.

As a gay, Jewish politician who has a civil union, a 19-month-old son and all of Vermont to make fun of, he doesn't lack for material. And he isn't shy about mining it.

On why he got into politics: "The real reason for me, why I ran: I wanted to spend less time with my family."

On his partner: "The thing about my partner is he's gay. Which I'm fine with. Growing up, I never pictured myself being with a gay guy. Now, I've come to realize that I could never be happy being with a straight guy."

On driving in Vermont: "I'm used to directions based on what street you're supposed to turn on. In Vermont, directions are based on landmarks that burned down 15 years ago."

Born in Philadelphia, Lorber grew up in California and studied rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley before getting an MBA at Stanford University and establishing a public relations consulting company. He moved to Vermont in 2002, when his partner got a job at St. Michael's College.

A lifelong actor and performer, Lorber — a Democrat — got into politics in 2005 when he ran for and won election to a House seat in Burlington, despite being a "flatlander" — or non-native Vermonter. In the Legislature, his colleagues say, he has distinguished himself as an advocate for prison reform and a supporter of increasing the minimum wage.

He says legislating and performing are both passions for him, but that they're separate worlds.

"I don't see them as linked, per se," he said. "Politics is about changing society and trying to make the world a better place. And performing makes me feel so alive. I love the creative aspect of it."

If anything, he says, he has to suppress his comic instincts when wearing his lawmaker hat.

But on stage, everything is fair game — including himself. He jokes about politics, parenthood and Vermont idiosyncrasies, his comedy veering from groan-inducing one-liners ("I saw this guy walking a dog in shorts, which threw me for a loop, since I've never seen a dog in shorts") to wry barbs to zingers about Southerners, British people and his peers in the Legislature.

On his recent gig before a garden group: "I'm not comfortable performing in front of people who grow their own tomatoes to throw at me."

On keeping warm in Vermont's chilly winters: "I have a regimen for keeping warm: I get up, I put on a tank top, T-shirt, flannel shirt, sweater, jacket and scarf. Then if it dips below 50, I put on more clothes."

On dog-eat-dog life in the Legislature: "There's like 150 people in the House, and they're so nice to you, they show you around, tell you who to talk to, who not to talk to, and then if you don't look closely, they'll stab you in the back. To me, that's what family is all about.'

On former Gov. Howard Dean's unsuccessful White House bid in 2004: "He didn't make it, but he certainly was within shouting distance."

In a 30-minute set Wednesday at the Black Door Bar & Bistro in Montpelier, Lorber — dressed in a suit, with no tie and an open-necked shirt — told the crowd it was his "Obama" look. "It's better than my Hillary look, because I'm more feminine than she is."

His comic productions include "Moo Jew Comedy," a night of Jewish comedy he put on with two other standups at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas and "So … Jew live in Vermont," an upcoming show themed around well-known Vermont Jews.

While standup comedy isn't exactly big business in Vermont — the state has no comedy clubs — Lorber is making a mark, one gig at a time.

"It would seem that he has a gentle touch, but then he throws in a real stinger," said fellow comic Kathleen Kanz.

Fellow lawmakers, meanwhile, say Lorber is making a mark at the Statehouse, too.

"Anybody who can stand up in front of a group of people and try to elicit laughter, maybe being a legislator is the easy part of his life," said state Rep. Floyd Nease, D-Johnson.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The Green Man goes far back into Celtic myth. He appears on earth in visible form around the winter solstice, the same time that the Celts were decorating their homes with holly and ivy to celebrate the return of light after the shortest day of the year.

We’re really feeling the lengthening of the day here now. We can work in the house with decent natural light until about 4:30 each afternoon (there’s one stand of work lights in the house but no overhead fixtures yet). We had a busy weekend working on the cabinets and by this morning we had completed seventeen of the eighteen-—piles of cartons have become stacks of finished cabinets.

The IKEA system is very logical; whenever we thought that perhaps we were one piece of hardware short on a cabinet or that an incorrect part had been shipped, we soon found out that we had miscounted or that the piece was vital to the particular cabinet’s structure in ways we hadn’t anticipated. “Trust Mr. Ikea” has become a mantra we toss back and forth with each other, now.

The design of the parts is such that it's difficult if not impossible to put them together the wrong way. The only exception we found to that rule was the direction to mount the upper cabinet drawer glides into the fourth hole down from the top of the cabinet when it should have been the third.

I elected to pay just a bit more to outfit our cabinet drawers with a little tension device that prevents them from slamming. When you push the drawer shut, it goes in fast until about two inches from the cabinet face after which is decelerates and glides gracefully and gently into the shut position. Fritz has become fascinated with the things and loves to show them off, or even to walk by a cabinet, pull the drawer open and then give it a push just to see it slip ever so gracefully into place. We’re going to love having these mechanisms--IF he hasn’t worn them out by the time get to move into the house.

Our general contractor is leaving for a week and a half to attend to family business in the aftermath of his mother-in-law’s passing. He’s devised a schedule for the various sub-contractors that will have them working intensively but in a coordinated way throughout the month of February. Ceramic tiling will begin shortly in both bathrooms, accompanied by the acid dye staining of the concrete floors in the great room, entry hall and master bedroom.

The original idea was to have the staining done after a great deal of other finish work, but the concrete guy (a rare instance of man who pushes both of our buttons—the definition of “ruggedly handsome” and a great body obviously under the jeans and work shirts) insisted that the danger of his acid dyes and high finish sealers harming other surfaces in the house meant that he had to come in as soon as possible. As it is, the rooms will be heavily tented in heavy plastic, including the ceilings. I think I’m very happy we’re not having more rooms done in this technique.

After the floors are finished and cured, they’ll be protected by a couple of coats of sealer and, when that’s dry, a layer of heavy craft paper until the entire construction process is completed.

We discovered quite by accident that the Marmoleum I wrote about in my last post was manufactured by the Dutch linoleum firm for which Fritz’s niece designs flooring. What are the chances of that? It’s up in the air right now if tile patterns we chose are among the lines she designed. I worked out the Kitchen floor pattern last night and will submit a finished drawing to the company supplying the tile tomorrow.

From where things stand now and given the schedule laid down by the general contractor, it looks realistically like we could be moving in on or about April 1--and yes, I know what April 1 is!

Friday, January 25, 2008


The first IKEA cabinets are rolling off the "assembly line." The last one we did (the taller of the two on the left in the photo) was begun at 11:18 this morning and finished at 11:46--28 minutes total. We may be able to turn them out even faster, but we’ve got a good rhythm going and are devoted to the principle of checking everything twice to make sure we don’t make silly mistakes. [Update: by mid-afternoon we finished one in 20 minutes]

The only cabinet with which we had any problems is the white one (for the laundry room) on the right. The hinge hardware for that one was not mounted in a way consistent with the first one we built, so the first door we attached had to be taken off, flipped, and installed on the other side of the frame. No disaster, but it took several extra minutes and we “lost” a couple of the plastic anchor plugs in the process.

They’re exactly what we wanted—simple, natural wood cabinets in a warm color. The finish carpenter was a little skeptical of the amount of our time it would take to assemble all eighteen cabinets; we pointed out that we estimate we’ll have about $6000 to $7000 worth of cabinets (if fully assembled and sold retail) for just over $3000.

What I didn’t go into with him is how important it is to both of us to be involved in a hands-on way in the actual construction and finishing of the house, above and beyond the economic advantage of our own sweat equity. Other jobs we’ll be doing ourselves include painting all the walls (a base coat and the ceilings will be done by a painter), sealing the underside of all the overhangs with the specified preservative, and I’ll be constructing my own built-in worktable, storage and shelf units up in the studio. We’ll also be heavily involved with the exterior landscape and raised bed construction projects.

While we were working in the great room building cabinets, the red oak stairs were going in and the underlayment for the upstairs Marmoleum flooring was being installed. We chose Marmoleum not only for the exciting color range and textures, but also because it’s very environmentally friendly, produced by a Dutch company that’s heavily committed to sustainable product development.

These are two of the colors we’ll be using in the house. The photo doesn’t do complete justice to the yellow, which is richer and warmer, but the burgundy comes off pretty well.


I was back in Boston last night for the Boston Symphony’s performance of Sir Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. It’s a big symphonic oratorio based on a poem of the same name by John Henry Cardinal Newman, a highly controversial figure in nineteenth century England for his having abandoned an important and influential place in the clergy of the Church of England to become Catholic. Rome considered him a great prize and, after re-ordaining him a Catholic priest, soon elevated him to Cardinal. When I was growing up in Catholic school, his conversion was frequently held up as “proof” that right-thinking Anglicans should realize the error of their church’s ways and “return” to the Pope’s authority.

The performance was gorgeous, driven by both the stupendous work of the chorus on the direction of the BSO’s legendary choral director, John Oliver, and by the orchestra’s passionate and perfect playing. Sir Colin Davis conducted with great authority. Vocal soloists Ben Hepner (Gerontius) and Gerald Finlay (The Priest and the Angel of Agony) were outstanding; Sarah Connolly (Angel) was very, very good but somehow not quite transcendent.

It had been a long time since my previous performance of Gerontius (in the high Byzantine/Victorian splendor of Trinity Church in Copley Square—an incredible venue for a work like Gerontius) and I’d forgotten how torturously Catholic the text is. And how masochistic. So much pain and suffering willingly taken on, or imposed by the deity for self-purification, so much submission to judgment, so very much fear. After a while, I left off following the incense-perfumed late-Victorian text and let myself be submerged in Elgar’s amazing music

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fritz got this from a friend—it’s delightful. Hema is a Dutch online shopping site, and it’s all in Dutch, but that’s completely irrelevant. Just let it load completely, then give it a second to start its routine (it’s safe for work but might be a bit noisy for some workplaces): Hema


I’ve been away from the blog longer than I wanted to. Things are beginning to race ahead on the house, to the point where it takes not only the general contractor but also Fritz and me to keep all the subcontractors and component parts from getting in each other’s way.

Finish carpentry (including installation of the cedar interior of the sauna) is going on now in tandem with tiling in both bathrooms and the shower room [or roomette, depending on your term for a six foot by three and a half foot shower], and more plumbing. We’re interviewing stone masons because April, which is when we’ll be able to start all the exterior stone work, is a little over two months away.

We went up the hill this morning and checked to see if we’d be in the finish carpenter’s way if we began the big job of sorting out all the IKEA cartons of kitchen cabinet parts. We were given the go-ahead and began to lay out over 100 cartons and plastic-wrapped packages by their article numbers. When you buy a kitchen cabinet from IKEA, all its parts aren’t packed in one carton—each of its components arrives in its own separate package with only a stock number to identify it.

I’d begun the process by going through the shipping manifest a couple of days ago and figuring out which doors, hinges, drawer slide systems, and drawer fronts went with which cabinet frame; I then made out a parts sheet for each separate cabinet. When we began today, we made a stack of cartons for each article number, and then pulled cartons from the stacks as needed to make a stack for each individual cabinet or group of identical cabinets. When we were all through, we had every piece we were supposed to have—no mistake had been made in assembling the order, shipping or unloading it.

With that behind us, we’ll begin the assembly process with one simple cabinet to get our feet wet and then just keep on going. I’ve never assembled anything from IKEA before and I’m well aware that there’s a little cottage industry out there of people who hire out, assembling IKEA furniture and cabinets for buyers who tried putting them together and then give up. We’re clever lads and I think we’ll be able to handle it as long as relatively ordinary tools are involved and the instructions aren’t only in Swedish.


Thanks to Father Tony and Chris at farmboyz:

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.
What European City Do You Belong In?

I was delighted to find that I belong in Paris. I’ve loved it there on each of my visits and as my father’s mother was born there, there’s always been a French Connection in my family—a very strong one in point of fact. Other European cities I know from experience that I could live in happily are (in no particular order) Rome, Copenhagen, Munich, and Seville and maybe Lyon. Cities that I loved but couldn’t imagine trying to make a go of for one reason or another are St. Petersburg, Athens and London.


I spent last Saturday in the Boston area, beginning with a delightful lunch with Karl (Adventures in Gastronomy) and boyfriend Randy. It was my first time meeting Randy and a nicer guy you couldn’t imagine. We ate at the Rosebud Café in Davis Square, Somerville. Karl is the first of the Boston bloggers with whom I made contact and it’s really good to see him with such a good man.

After lunch I went out to Waltham for a program by the Boston Wagner Society on the early Wagner opera (begun when he was 20) Das Liebesverbot--The Ban on Love. He adapted Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure, writing both the libretto and the music, a pattern he would continue unwaveringly for the rest of his career. The program was in preparation for the first staged performance in the United states of Liebesverbot, previously (and only very rarely) given in concert. The Glimmerglass Festival will stage the piece this summer in what is currently considered the standard performing edition that takes about three hours in performance, rather than the almost five hours of music in the original score.

Writing at length was something else that Wagner would continue unwaveringly for the rest of his career.

Extensive excerpts from three productions of the opera were played; in audio only from two different German performances, and video from a production in Austria. It became immediately apparent that however unformed Wagner’s style may have been musically at the time (his major models being French and, in particular, Italian early Romantic operas), he already had a pretty good grasp on how to write a scene, how to make a work theatrical. A couple of his contemporaries, Franz Schubert being the most prominent example, never developed this gift. No matter how beautiful their music, their operas don’t really live on a stage. For all it’s occasionally naïve, even gauche, qualities, Das Liebesverbot has recognizable characters and scenes that crackle with vitality and dramatic confrontation.

On my way back into town I stopped off with friends in Somerville to deliver some programs from performances I’d seen in the fall and early winter, and to catch up a bit on recent happenings.

The day ended at Jordan Hall with a recital by contertenor David Daniels. David has always had a striking and beautiful voice, but his work on Saturday night was altogether superior. The tone was large, full and warm. His sense of communication of text and emotion was as sure as ever combined with tremendous ease and a noticeable joy in singing. The program consisted of five songs by Brahms, four songs from the Italian Baroque by Peri, Durante, Caccini and Frescobaldi, and four more by the French Romantic Reynaldo Hahn in the first part.

After Intermission, David blazed through two big Handel arias, from Rinaldo and Partenope, a repertory in which he’s supreme. Huge ovations followed. The announced portion of the second half consisted of six songs by English composers—Roger Quilter, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir Edward Elgar, Herbert Howells and Gerald Finzi. There were three encores of songs and arias by Vaughan Williams, Purcell and a final rousing performance of an aria from Handel’s Orlando.

I went home very happy—good food, friends and music are my kind of day.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I got a call late last week that all the lighting fixtures I had taken up to Maine for rewiring and replacement of missing parts were ready for pick-up. We made arrangements to go up to cape Neddick on Wednesday of this week with the idea that on the way back we’d stop off for a good fish lunch somewhere on the shore road through Kittery’s outlet shopping zone.

The day was brilliant—Fritz even commented on the deep, almost lapis blue color of the sky in the crystal clear air. I happen to love driving, and not being able to during the time I had the hard cast on my foot was a huge frustration for me. Being on the road on such a perfect day was a real pleasure. We got to Cranberry Hill Antiques, which specializes in lighting of all kinds and restoration of antique lamps and hanging fixtures in particular, around 11:30. Here’s what we picked up:

For the front entrance vestibule, an Eastlake cast iron chandelier that I had originally found in an antique store in Waltham MA. It didn't have any of the original glass, so I found "Tiffany"-style opalescent glass and cut it to fit. It takes five ornamental bulbs and one long tube light in the center shaft.

These two will hang in my studio/office upstairs that's going to be all Moroccan/north African in color, layout and decor. The square lantern is something I found the day I took my lights up to Cranberry Hill and grabbed it as I needed a second hanging light in the studio. The clear and colored glass star is something I found at the famous flea market in Norton, MA for something like ten dollars many years ago. It had hung in my Boston studio for years but was badly in need of repair and a complete re-wiring.

I have three of these, all salvaged from the renovation of the Kendall Square T stop in Cambridge. It's just half a block from where our design and production building was at MIT and when the call went out that large numbers of these were being trashed, several of us grabbed as many as we could get our hands on. They weren't particularly appealing--decades of grime and pigeon droppings all over them. But when cleaned up and repainted, they just sparkle. Two will go in our exercise/dressing room and the third will hang in the big attic room under the house's main, pyramidal roof.

This is an antique Chinese lantern in hand-carved wood and embroidered silk. I found it while shopping fro props for an MIT production years ago and got a reduction on it as I was buying so much else for the set of the show. For many years it hung in the front hall of my Boston house. It will hang over a round table in our new bedroom where we'll probably have breakfast and almost certainly have tea in the afternoon. The master bedroom will be very Chinese in any event as we both have furniture and art from China.

And here's the big guy, almost three feet wide, very heavy, and solid brass. This is the chandelier that a couple of friends did a dumpster dive for in Boston's South End and then realized it was wildly out of scale for either of their condos. When offered, I grabbed it for the great room. The owner of Cranberry Hill was able to identify it as French, circa 1875, and worth somewhere between $1500 and $3000 on the antiques market.

All the work was excellently done, particularly the resoldering of the Moorish Star pendant. I know now it’s all safe and ready to go when it’s time to hang everything in the new house.


We began the day today interviewing the first of the stone masons we need to contact to get estimates for covering the concrete piers across the front of the house. We wound up at a local stone and brick yard confirming our choice for sawn New Hampshire field stone. The masses of stone we blasted out of the hillside will work very well for building the planters that run around the entire front of the house and for raised planting beds, but aren't suitable for facing a vertical structure. We'll be looking for at least three estimates and the work could start as son as April 1st depending on the weather.


Many of you guys join me, I know, in relishing it when some of our biggest homophobes—the ones who work to bring legislation against us or prosecute [persecute] gay people in the courts simply for being gay are caught in their own hypocrisy. Here’s an especially satisfying example from Texas:

Texas Prosecutor Who Castigated Gays In Landmark Sodomy Case Embroiled In Sex Scandal
(Houston, Texas)

The district attorney who defended the Texas law criminalizing homosexuality before the US Supreme Court is desperately trying to keep his job following the discovery of e-mails containing sexually explicit videos, racist jokes and what is described as torrid love notes to his executive secretary.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal (R) is facing a state investigation into the emails which were discovered on his office computer. If he is found in violation of "official misconduct'' he could be removed from office. The office computer also contained evidence he had used it for political purposes.

Rosenthal, who is married and portrayed himself as a "family values" candidate, ended his re-election campaign last week after the sexy emails to his secretary were discovered. His current term runs out at the end of 2008.

The e-mails were found during discovery in a federal civil rights lawsuit. The plaintiffs in the case forced Rosenthal into a deposition where he was required to answer questions about the e-mails under oath.

But in 2002 it was "family values" Rosenthal who argued before the US Supreme Court that the Texas law against sodomy was upholding the moral values of the state and was in place to protect families. The case was Lawrence v Texas. In his arguments he condemned adultery and homosexual acts.

"I think that this Court having determined that there are certain kinds of conduct that it will accept and certain kinds of conduct it will not accept, may draw the line at the bedroom door of the heterosexual married couple because of the interest that this Court has that this Nation has and certainly that the State of Texas has for the preservation of marriage, families and the procreation of children," Rosenthal told the justices.

"Even if you infer that various States acting through their legislative process have repealed sodomy laws, there is no protected right to engage in extrasexual - extramarital sexual relations, again, that can trace their roots to history or the traditions of this nation."

In the end the Supreme Court overturned the sodomy law, releasing its opinion in June of 2003. In a 6 - 3 decision, the court said that states cannot make laws regarding the private sexual conduct of Americans.

The ruling said the Texas law violates the Due Process clause of the Constitution. Writing for the majority Justice Anthony M. Kennedy called the ban on gay sex an "unconstitutional violation of privacy." "[It} demeans the lives of homosexual persons," Kennedy wrote.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The ruling negated not only the sodomy law in Texas, but those in a dozen other states.

The case involved two Houston men, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner. They pleaded no contest to breaking the sodomy law in 1998, after police broke into Lawrence's home in search of an armed intruder and discovered the two men engaged in intercourse. No intruder was found and police later said the tip there was an intruder came from an anonymous source.

Both men were arrested under the Texas sodomy statute and imprisoned overnight. Following their conviction they were fined $200 each and ordered to pay court costs. They appealed and fought all the way to the Supreme Court.

© 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Busy days. I got my first physical therapy yesterday morning by a therapist my doctor specifically recommended, in a new facility that opened, ironically, on the same day I fractured the ankle. Located six minutes by car from the house, it’s both convenient and very nicely set up.

From examining me before we began any work, and from the notes the doctor had forwarded, it seems that I’m considered to be ahead of the game in my rehabilitation. This probably comes from the fact that I began to work on the ankle myself during the three weeks I had the removable cast, but I prefer to think that back when I first had the accident, I had a little talk with my bones and told them they were going to be very good bones and were going to heal quickly. I’ve used this approach before, specifically during the time I had braces and told my teeth that I expected them to move FAST and get it over with. I wound up having the braces for only nineteen months rather than twenty-four. I swear that when I talk, my body listens.

After therapy, Fritz and I performed the daily ritual of drying the condensation off the windows and I left for a meeting with my doctor to clear up confusion in the transfer of my medical records from my Boston HMO to my new one up here. I then went down to Boston to shop for food items we cannot get up here (Trader Joe’s we love you!), check in at my old digs at MIT, and then took the T to the church of St. John the Evangelist on the back side of Beacon Hill.

I’m designing Benjamin Britten’s The Prodigal Son, the second of his three church parable operas, for Intermezzo in St. John’s next September. I needed to check out the lighting/electrical possibilities and measure the interior and all its immobile and moveable components to make a model that the director and I can work from.

St. John’s bills itself as an inclusive, liberal Episcopalian community. Ya think? The rector is a lesbian, the church hosts BAGLY meetings, gays make up a large portion of the congregation, and our company has been greeted with open arms. I spent close to two hours there with J, the founder/manager of the company, learning about the space that proved to be surprisingly more flexible and theater-friendly than I could have hoped.

The church, by the way, appointed Harriet Beecher Stowe’s father as its first minister. Sadly, the manse behind the church in which the Reverend and his daughter lived, she the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” which was hugely influential in driving Boston’s Abolition activism, was allowed to fall into partial ruin, was condemned by the city as structurally unsound and demolished in 1953. Otherwise it would have been a valuable companion to the Hill’s African-American Meeting House on the African-American Freedom Trail.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Another week, another major snowstorm. This time we’re situated perfectly for the heaviest core of the storm to pass directly over us and we’ve been told to expect twelve inches and maybe as much as sixteen. The pattern remains consistent—a warm, wet weather system moves up the coast from the south and somewhere in the mid-Atlantic region it’s joined by a cold, dry snow storm coming from the Pacific northwest. When it hits the New England coast it picks up new moisture from the ocean and pumps it inland as huge amounts of snow.

We were scheduled to have a meeting up at the house this morning: the general contractor, the finish carpenter, M who had done the construction drawings, Fritz and me. I wrote them yesterday to see if they wanted to reschedule because of the forecast and they wrote back that they were hardy New Englanders and would be here on schedule. Well, hardy or not, they all thought better of it this morning and canceled.

We’re visiting the house every day even when there’s no new work going on because the drying and curing of the plaster means that our windows are covered by heavy condensation as water evaporates out of the walls. Huge amounts of water are used in mixing plaster and it’s got to go somewhere. It doesn’t take us too long, particularly as I’m able to walk around and climb a ladder easily now, but it’s essential because we have casement-style windows and if we don’t keep mopping up the condensation on the glass, it drips down into the crank mechanism and the hollow parts of the lower window sill where it could cause rust and rot. We’ve been doing this for about a week now and yesterday we began to see the first signs that the volume of moisture in the air and the amount of water on the windows was beginning to decline.


Gee, I thought I had this gay business down cold, but here’s a “how to” course I could take at University of Michigan. It has a recommended prerequisite, do you think maybe they'd accept “equivalent life experience” . . . . ?

ENGLISH 317. Literature and Culture.
Section 002 — How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.
Credits: (3; 2 in the half-term).
Instructor(s): David M Halperin (

Course Description:
Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn't mean that you don't have to learn how to become one. Gay men do some of that learning on their own, but often we learn how to be gay from others, either because we look to them for instruction or because they simply tell us what they think we need to know, whether we ask for their advice or not.

This course will examine the general topic of the role that initiation plays in the formation of gay male identity. We will approach it from three angles:
(1) as a sub-cultural practice — subtle, complex, and difficult to theorize [but I bet he’ll theorize the hell out of it anyway]— which a small but significant body of work in queer studies has begun to explore;
(2) as a theme in gay male writing; and
(3) as a class project, since the course itself will constitute an experiment in the very process of initiation that it hopes to understand.

In particular, we will examine a number of cultural artifacts and activities that seem to play a prominent role in learning how to be gay: Hollywood movies, grand opera, Broadway musicals, and other works of classical and popular music, as well as camp, diva-worship, drag, muscle culture, taste, style, and political activism. [Bears? Leather, anyone?] Are there a number of classically 'gay' works such that, despite changing tastes and generations, all gay men, of whatever class, race, or ethnicity, need to know them, in order to be gay? What is there about gay identity that explains the gay appropriation of these works? What do we learn about gay male identity by asking not who gay men are but what it is that gay men do or like?

One aim of exploring these questions is to approach gay identity from the perspective of social practices and cultural identifications rather than from the perspective of gay sexuality itself. What can such an approach tell us about the sentimental, affective, or subjective dimensions of gay identity, including gay sexuality, that an exclusive focus on gay sexuality cannot?

At the core of gay experience there is not only identification but disidentification. Almost as soon as I learn how to be gay, or perhaps even before, I also learn how not to be gay. I say to myself, 'Well, I may be gay, but at least I'm not like that!' Rather than attempting to promote one version of gay identity at the expense of others, this course will investigate the stakes in gay identifications and disidentifications, seeking ultimately to create the basis for a wider acceptance of the plurality of ways in which people determine how to be gay.

Additional note. This course is not a basic introduction to gay male culture, but an exploration of certain issues arising from it. It assumes some background knowledge. Students wishing to inform themselves about gay men and gay culture in a preliminary way should enroll in an introductory course in lesbian/gay studies.

David Halperin is, of course, a much-respected author with a particular interest in finding and preserving the historical record of gay and lesbian life back through the years when so much had to be so completely hidden. At a conference on sexuality given at Earlham College in 2006, his program bio describes him as presenter of “the notorious course: How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.”


I have dear Michael of Spo-Reflections to thank for this:

# 1-What is in the back seat of your car right now? Ten pounds of kitty litter and a variety of ice scrapers
# 2- When was the last time you threw up? Mid-November, when I was given oxycodone for the pain of my broken ankle. The oxy lasted one day—the pain was preferable.
# 3-What’s your favorite curse word? An expression, actually: fuck, shit, piss and corruption.
# 4-Name 3 people who made you smile today? Fritz, Sam Champion (out gay weatherman for ABC morning news), Tom of From the Ashes in a comment to my last blog entry
# 5-What were you doing at 8 a.m. this morning? Reading email
# 6-What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Beginning to write up this blog entry
# 7-Where were you born? New York City
# 8-Have you ever been to a strip club? Yes. Stock in Montreal most recently
# 9-What is the last thing you said aloud? I asked Fritz if he had found my passport that he was looking for
# 10-What is the best ice cream flavor? Chocolate chip cookie dough, followed by most of the others
# 11-What was the last thing you had to drink?. English Breakfast tea
# 12-What are you wearing right now? A T-shirt, a flannel shirt, an embroidered Tlingit T-shirt over that again, a heavy acrylic overshirt, and flannel-lined jeans. It’s COLD here in New Hampshire
# 13-What was the last thing you ate? Fat-free yogurt with honey and almond extract swirled in, and toast made from Chicago blogger Tate’s recipe for cardamom bread.
# 14-Have you bought any new clothes this week? No
# 15-Where were you last? Down at the house—I‘m up at the center with the wireless internet now.
# 16-What’s the last sporting event you watched? A baseball game on TV two or three years ago
# 17-Who won? I really can’t tell you who was even playing it was so long ago
# 18-Who is the last person you sent a comment/message while blogging? Jason at Let’s say you’re right . . .
# 19-Ever go camping? Yes, with Fritz on a white water rafting trip for gay men
# 20-Where do you live? Southeast New Hampshire, town of Raymond
# 21-What song are you listening to? Nothing right now, and when I do, it’s more likely to be an aria than a song
# 22-Do you tan? Yes, fairly easily.
# 23-Do you drink your soda from a straw? I don’t drink soda. I drink wine and champagne from stemware
# 24-What did your last text message say? I’ve never sent a text message.
# 25-Who are your best friends? Men named Jim and Al
# 26-What are you doing tomorrow? Physical therapy, a doctor’s appointment, a trip to Boston to shop and then to measure a church where I’m designing an opera by Benjamin Britten in September
# 27-Where is your mom right now? Maple Grove Cemetery, Kew Gardens, Queens, New York City
# 28-Look to your right, what do you see? A bookcase, filled, with a coffee maker on top
# 29-What color is your watch? Black with an electric green face
# 30-What do you think of when you think of where you live? The forest--Nature
# 31-Ever ridden on a roller coaster? Yes, but can’t any more as my inner ears start spinning and I get dizzy and nauseous for a half hour or more.
# 32-What is your birthstone? Alexandrite or pearl--June
# 33-Do you go in at a fast-food place or just hit the drive through? Generally the drive through, and only for iced coffee in the summer. I avoid fast food
# 34-What is your favorite number? 3 and yes, it does mean what you think it might
# 35-Do you have a dog? I’m a cat person. As a fairly dominant personality,I need to be put in my place occasionally
# 36-Last person you talked to on the phone? My general contractor on the new house project
# 36-Have you met anyone famous? Yes. Carol Burnett, Shirley MacLaine, Bobby Kennedy, Wolfgang Wagner, and Queen Sophia of Spain
# 37-Any plans today? Get this posted and then work on plans for built-in book and CD/DVD shelves for the new house
# 38-How many states have you lived in? New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire
# 39-Ever go to college? Boston University (undergrad) and Brandeis University (masters)
# 40-Where are you right now? Physically, in the front reception office of the Center. Psychologically and spiritually, I’m in a very good place
# 42-Biggest annoyance in your life right now? Delays on the house
# 43-Are you struggling to forgive someone right now? No. The only candidate for forgiveness has never asked and wouldn’t get it even if hell DID freeze over, given what happened
# 44-Are you allergic to anything? kitch, reality shows, lack of separation between church and state, the American political process as currently practiced, and (drumroll) George W. Bush
# 45-Favorite pair of shoes? Doc Martens every time

Friday, January 11, 2008


I'm an out-cast!

My x-rays looked fine this morning at the orthopedist's office, and I was ushered into a small conference room rather than the big examining room I had become used to. I took this as an encouraging sign, which the doctor confirmed. I'm now free of the skiboot cast except in very challenging outdoor walking conditions. I have a small strap-on ankle brace that allows me to wear regular shoes. I can walk around indoors without crutches or a cane. Outdoors I'll use one crutch or maybe both of them if snow and ice conditions are bad.

Through early February I'll have six or eight physical therapy sessions, although she was pleased with the amount of mobility I'd gotten back in the ankle joint by exercising it regularly. I'll have a final appointment with the doctor (no x-rays) on February 15th, officially ending the entire ankle incident.


Installation of the Aga wrapped up late Wednesday afternoon without a hitch.

J fired it up with a maintenance flame to keep its cast iron innards from rusting in the very humid air we have in the house while the plaster dries and cures. He’ll come back in mid-March to install the vent pipe and adjust the flame to its working setting.

Thursday morning The Gentle Giant movers truck arrived to move the big soapstone dry sink and another antique pedestal bathroom sink up to the house for the plumber to work on. Many of you may remember that I had a very positive experience last July when a crew of three hunky Rumanian guys from GG handled my move up here from Boston. This experience was just as positive as Jay, Andrew and Andy--fine looking men all and extremely pleasant to work with--confirmed why Gentle Giant will always be my first choice and a company I would recommend highly to anyone who needs moving services.


Some fun anagrams, thanks to Watercolour Boy:

DORMITORY rearrange the letters: DIRTY ROOM














And for the grand finale...


Speaking of George Bush, There’s an old expression that swords can be beaten into plow blades, and some clever caligraphic artist has made a collage of Bush slogans, etc. At least they finally have a respectable use.


In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove, who I truly believe to be evil incarnate, has nevertheless come up with a reasoned analysis of Hillary Clinton’s surprise victory here on Tuesday:

Mrs. Clinton won a narrow victory in New Hampshire for four reasons. First, her campaign made a smart decision at its start to target women Democrats, especially single women. It has been made part of the warp and woof of her campaign everywhere. This focus didn't pay off in Iowa, but it did in New Hampshire.

Second, she had two powerful personal moments. The first came in the ABC debate on Saturday, when WMUR TV's Scott Spradling asked why voters were "hesitating on the likeability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more." Mrs. Clinton's self-deprecating response -- "Well, that hurts my feelings" -- was followed by a playful "But I'll try to go on."

You couldn't help but smile. It reminded Democrats what they occasionally like about her. Then Mr. Obama followed with a needless and dismissive, "You're likable enough, Hillary."

The other personal moment came on Monday, when a woman in Portsmouth asked her "how do you do it?" Mrs. Clinton's emotional reply was powerful and warm. Voters rarely see her in such a spontaneous moment. It was humanizing and appealing. And unlike her often contrived and calculated attempts to appear down-to-earth, this was real.

Third, the Clintons began -- at first not very artfully -- to raise questions about the fitness for the Oval Office of a first-term senator with no real accomplishments or experience.

Former President Bill Clinton hit a nerve by drawing attention to Mr. Obama's conflicting statements on Iraq. There's more -- and more powerful -- material available. Mr. Obama has failed to rise to leadership on a single major issue in the Senate. In the Illinois legislature, he had a habit of ducking major issues, voting "present" on bills important to many Democratic interest groups, like abortion-rights and gun-control advocates

The fourth and biggest reason why Mrs. Clinton won two nights ago is that, while Mr. Obama can draw on the deep doubts of many Democrats about Mrs. Clinton, he can't close out the argument. Mr. Obama is an inspiring figure playing a historical role, but that's not enough to push aside the former First Lady and senator from New York. She's an historic figure, too. When it comes to making the case against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama comes across as a vitamin-starved Adlai Stevenson. His rhetoric, while eloquent and moving at times, has been too often light as air.


With thanks to Michael Colbruno, I’m leaving you with some very easy-to-look-at pictures of the Austrian barihunk Günther Groissböck:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

There’s an old New Hampshire Primary tradition that the eighteen registered voters way north in the state in the little village of Dixville Notch stay up and vote starting at one minute past midnight. In the morning, other voters and interested parties check the results as some sort of weathervane to the way the state might go. The vote from Dixville Notch this year:

John McCain 4 votes
Mitt Romney 2 votes
Rudy Giuliani 1 vote

Barack Obama 7 votes
John Edwards 2 votes
Bill Richardson 1 vote

The good folks in the Notch got it sort of right on the Republican side but didn’t take any part in the major news of the Primary, which was Hillary Clinton’s big come-back in the face of the Obama groundswell of support and adoration.

Hillary says she found her true voice here and it may be true. In the last couple of days she became far more personal; the breakthrough may well have been her hour-or-more sitdown with a group of voters talking one on one and softening a bit. I think the pressure on her as the sole female candidate to be strong and in command may have come over as hardness and lack of emotional access previously.

ABC News this morning had some revealing figures on the female vote in this state, a vote that Hillary has NOT been able to reliably call her own anywhere in the country (there was a memorable moment at a McCain public appearance before Iowa when one woman asked him “how can we beat The Bitch?). Women overwhelmingly voted for Hillary over Obama here, with the pro-Hillary percentages getting higher the older the women were. On the experience question, women voted for Hillary over Obama by a 71% to 5% landslide (these figures are all based on exit polls).

As for Obama, he’s still loved, but many of those supporters who created almost-unprecedented mobs at his public appearances may not have been old enough to vote, or didn’t vote, or love him but feel, as I do, that he would be better off as the vice-presidential candidate this time, in preparation for the big job in eight years.

Speaking of vice-president, I was surprised to see that there were two vice presidential candidates on the Democratic ballot and one on the Republican—and here he is:

This is Republican state Senator Jack Barnes, who represents Rockingham County where I now live. He’s an ultra-right wing businessman who owns a couple of area McDonald’s restaurants, and a staunch homophobe. He’s also entrenched. Fritz has had a number of contacts with him over the years--everything from meeting with him as part of a group advocating gay rights, watching him nod his head and say “uh-huh” a lot—and then do absolutely nothing; to writing him in protest of his policies and anti-gay votes, and getting either a dismissive reply or no reply at all.

When civil unions for gay men and lesbians were established here, Boston TV news shows had a clip of him practically purple with fury--foaming at the mouth would hardly be an exaggeration. Should Barnes be running for re-election in November, it will be a pleasure to cast my vote against him.

Romney never came close to winning this Primary. John McCain was the Republicans’ sweetheart from the get-go. As to Romney’s reaction, he indicated that we’ll have him to deal with in this race for a long time. Should his contributions dry up, he can just dig into his many, many millions. What’s interesting is that his media blitzes, outspending all the others by up to 700%, haven’t gotten him a win so far. On the honesty/credibility question, voters here chose McCain over Romney by a wide margin. The word is getting out and people are finally beginning to listen.

Significantly, a sizable majority of the state's Independent voters declared for the Democratic ballot.


A major January thaw is underway, and the new house is full of activity. This will almost certainly be the last day for the plasterers. They have a relatively small amount of the great room left to do, followed by a huge clean-up. J, the Aga engineer, arrived very early today and we met him at 7:15 up at the house. Fritz did a lot of cleaning and neatening in the kitchen area in preparation for him. The base had been prepared by the general contractor and the first heavy cast iron pieces began coming in about 7:30.

It will be a long day for J but, by the time he leaves, the Aga will be structurally complete, the propane feed hooked up, and the pilot light set and ready to go for whenever we actually get to move in and fire it up.

The Aga as of noon today, with J about to take a lunch break.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Got plaster?

Why, yes. Here are shots taken Saturday of my new studio/office, upstairs, and the front entry hall looking into the master bedroom.


My first New Hampshire primary has been a great circus and a lot of fun. The Obama breakthrough in Iowa has become something of a tidal wave here. The latest polls show the Democratic vote running to Obama, Clinton, and Edwards in that order. The exact percentages are hard to call as the massive pool of Independent voters here--a manifestation of old-time Yankee individuality estimated at 44 to 45% of the state’s electorate—is a volatile element that frequently makes up its mind close to the last moment before voting. However, the 1-2-3 placement of the candidates in the predicted line-up remains constant, with Obama given a six to twelve percent lead over Hillary, depending on which pole you read. Edwards places a distant third, just slightly into double digits.

The crowds waiting to get into Obama appearances have dwarfed the turn-out for any other candidate. Once he won in Iowa on a platform that highlighted change, every other candidate suddenly started spouting “change” once or twice a sentence. In one of Romney’s shorter speeches, he used “change” 45 times, never bothering to reconcile that with his clearly stated goal of restoring Reaganism to the White House—and whatever that is, it sure ain’t change.

Hillary’s talking about change also, but it doesn’t seem to be getting her any extra traction. The mood here among Democrats is that Obama not only talks change, but IS change in and of himself. There is also a lot of voter comment about how confident, open and articulate Obama is, articulate being a quality Americans haven’t been able to associate with the presidency for going on three quarters of a decade. It’s nice to see them appreciate a literate, energetic, compelling speaker—or in Obama’s case, flock to him like desert travelers to an oaisis.

On the Republican side, McCain is maintaining a lead over Romney; one political analyst is predicting that his campaign’s reaction to another defeat will be to point out that he scored second CONSISTENTLY (consistency in any form being a desirable quality for Romney to be associated with at this point in his career). Like Edwards, Huckabee looks to place way back in third, although with a slightly healthier percentage of the vote than Edwards’ third. At the debate the other night, everybody seemed to be on Romney’s ass with very few shots at McCain, as if they all want to eliminate Romney right away and then see how things shake out. But I doubt Romney’s going to walk away from the race any time soon.

One interesting point made by the Clinton campaign that doesn’t get a lot of coverage is the actual vote count. In Iowa, that meant that Hillary in third place still got a larger vote count than the first place Huckabee on the Republican side.

New Hampshire runs a kind of “boutique” primary. Like Iowa, the emphasis is on contact that is much more personal between candidates and voters than it can ever be at the later, big-batch, big state primaries. Here, one of the great meeting places is Diners at breakfast time, particularly the legendary Red Arrow Diner in Manchester. For whatever reason, New Hampshire goes out to breakfast a lot (in Raymond we have a fun old breakfast dive, the Long Branch Café, that oozes atmosphere from every picture and tchotchke that crowd its walls). Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry was the site of a candidate appearance this morning covered live by CBS News.

Personally, I’m not going to predict anything. Polls or no polls, anything can happen in New Hampshire--and has--given the huge number of Independents.


Over the New Years weekend, one of our friends sent these pictures that he’d taken in the woods just after that weekend’s snow storm.

The Sweat Lodge

A path in the woods

The rear of the new house from the hillside above it

Friday, January 04, 2008

Has anyone noticed that in Mike Huckabee’s campaign ads where he’s playing guitar he looks about as involved and happy as if he were undergoing waterboarding or some other kind of “non-torture”? I remember that when Bill Clinton played sax in jazz ensembles, he looked like he was having the time of his life. Come to think of it, the country was having the time of its life as well, at least by comparison. Ah, well . . . .

Mitt Romney arrived here in New Hampshire very early this morning trying hard to put the best face possible on his 9% loss to Huckabee in the Iowa Caucuses. He said a few condescending things by way of congratulating Huckabee, and then added ‘but we’re not going to let that happen here in New Hampshire.” The primary is next Tuesday (the 8th) and predictions here are that Romney will be beaten by McCain if not by McCain and Huckabee in that order. McCain is getting very good response here among Republicans. As this state is low on Evangelical Christians compared with Iowa, the Huckabee phenomenon isn’t expected to be so strong, but the virulent anti-Romney reaction from the state’s press (see previous blog entry) just might keep Huckabee out of third place.

The most populous cities in New Hampshire are all in range of Boston and other Massachusetts TV stations, so they’ll have some idea of just what a defeated, lying governor Romney was there. Also, we now have civil unions that were peacefully accepted by the citizens of New Hampshire, so Romney won’t be able to sell his bigotry quite as effectively. IF, and I repeat if, he’s defeated here as well as he was in Iowa, I would expect that his hoped-for triumphal march to the nomination would be severely damaged. Iowa must be especially galling for Romney, since he devoted so much time to the state for so long, and because he outspent Huckabee there 20 to 1.

I was disappointed that Iowa didn’t turn out well for Hillary, and there’s no good way to view third place, even if she and Edwards were only a point apart. He was eight points behind Obama, she nine points; even if you MIGHT consider them tied for second, her picture is still placed below Edwards’ on the TV news in a way that just shouts “3rd!” I think she’ll do better here but it isn’t a done deal and, as McCain is pointing out in ads and interviews, New Hampshire’s actual vote often bears little recognizable relationship to the pre-election polls. In any event, McCain is featuring the two major newspaper anti-endorsements against Romney in his latest TV ads, and a beautiful sight to see they are.

We vote here next Tuesday-—my first vote as a New Hampshire resident. The other primaries are scheduled like this:

15 Jan: Michigan primary
19 Jan: Nevada caucuses; South Carolina primary (Rep)
26 Jan: South Carolina primary (Dem)
29 Jan: Florida primary
5 Feb: some 20 states including California, New York, New Jersey


Whatever happens eventually in the primaries, nomination procedure and general election, at least we only have one year and sixteen days left of this:

I woke up about 5:30 yesterday morning and saw the moon flooding light into the bedroom, setting the snow-covered trees shining in the frigid 3 degree cold (further north in Conway it was -21). Then I dropped back off to sleep and woke up for good just after 7 to see the crescent moon hanging low in the sky and an extremely bright planet framed in branches of the magnolia tree.

The air is so free of moisture here and so apparently free of pollution as well during the current weather pattern, that both planet and moon remained clearly visible far into the dawn. The same spectacle was repeated this morning-—the extreme beauty of a New England winter as reward for the cold and constant digging out. You'll never find me in Florida for the winter!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wisdom from [2] magazine: “When The Authorities tell you that sex is sinful, the lesson to be learned is: don’t have sex with The Authorities.”


The estimate of when the house will be habitable has been pushed forward yet again . Despite my understanding that building a house never follows the projected schedule, I do feel that to some extent I've been strung along just a bit instead of honestly being given a realistic picture of the amount of time each phase of the operation would take.

As of the moment, mid-March seems far more likely, this on a job that the general contractor had said would wrap up with a certificate of occupancy by November 30. It's disappointing, of course, particularly as something like 98% of my stuff is still inaccessible in cartons in two or three separate locations around the property. I begged Fritz today to understand that I wasn't in any way unhappy with or feeling unwanted by him, but that in some very essential ways I sometimes feel like I'm homeless.

This, too, shall pass. Patience is a virtue. Or so I'm told.


"[Gene Robinson] is certainly not alone in being a gay bishop; he's certainly not alone in being a gay-partnered bishop. He is alone in being the only gay-partnered bishop who's open about that status," - Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schorri.

Of course, we all know this about the major percentage, if not actual majority, of gays and lesbians in the clergy of all religions, but I can't imagine too many of the hierarchy of most churches would ever admit the fact publicly. Bless this lady--may many others come off it and share her honesty.


The New Year arrived yesterday with the first day of civil unions for gays and lesbians in New Hampshire (more than two dozen couples were united), and another six inches of snow from the seemingly never-ending parade of snowstorms. We kissed the last of our New Years guests good-bye just after lunch as they hurried to get on the road for home before the snow started.

Looking toward the barn as daylight faded yesterday

This New Years weekend was somewhat more low-key than in the past, albeit with some satisfying outbreaks of debauch. There was a strong mix of planned activities (a Sweat Lodge, tantric massage, a talent show) and time for guys to sit and talk, play card games or try some devilishly difficult new-style puzzles together. The food was outstanding. We also had a porn exchange table to drop off pre-ogled tapes, DVDs, books and magazines and trade for new ones.

The wall-mounted boiler and manifold of tubes to and from the slab

Fritz and I took groups through the new house, which became more comfortable each day as the slab heated up fully for the first time. Combined with the house’s thick, high R-value blown-in insulation, the radiant heat will probably keep us comfortable in the draft-free interior with the thermostats set to five or seven degrees lower than we’re normally used to.

On Saturday we were a group of twelve at the house, so I asked for help to determine if our goal of having a shower that would accommodate at least six men had been achieved. The enclosure was still only framed in without either the preliminary paneling or the tiles, and the guys were all in winter outer clothing. Nevertheless, we got ten men in with no problem, but much hilarity and ribald comment about our intentions--all of it completely justified.

Intensive days of plastering through New Years Eve afternoon left the upstairs fully plastered and ready for the next phase. Plastering the downstairs began this morning. We’re also getting ready for next week. The Aga kitchen stove gets delivered, built and fired up; the soapstone sink and my antique pedestal bathroom sink will be brought up from the barn and readied for installation; and sometime in the middle of the week, the plastering crew will do a big clean-up to ready the interior for the finish carpenter, whose work we're told will take three weeks.

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