Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Houses Once Again [More Memory Exercise] [Edited and Edited Again] Now With Notes and Errata!

[Note: this one will get more updates and editing as more memories return...]

[Update 9/11/2016: This post appears to be done though it could use some editing, and if I get around to it, I have an idea for drawing some of the interiors and the second floor floor plan. Eventually. I didn't think so much would come back. But there you are. Memories are like that, I guess...]

[Note in Addition: There's a good deal more material in this post now than there was when I started it over a week ago. Updates, corrections, additions, etc. One of the things I've noticed is that I appear to be focusing on a particular time period in these "Houses" posts -- 1960-1963 or thereabouts. As I do the memory exercises, so much comes back -- sensations: the sounds and smells, the feel of fine fabrics, silks and velvets, the quiet in the tall living room in the house below, the sound of the piano when I played it vs when my brother-in-law did -- I was not good, he was very good;  the overarching canopy of trees, big yellow leaves and spiky liquidambar seeds in the streets, the shimmering heat in the summer time, the perpetual fogs of the winter. I could go on and on describing the cascades of memory. This post would never end. The point that came to me, however, was that this place and a number of others during the period represented "stability" in the midst of what was really chaos, in my life certainly (there were all kinds of things going on in the background, some of them very unpleasant) but for many others as well. Thanksgiving period of 1963 of course represents a watershed-transformational epoch for the whole country, indeed, for the world. Nothing would ever be the same again. Perhaps in the end what I am focusing on in these posts without really trying to is the whole "stability" vs "chaos" vs "transformation" theme, which may in turn be a chief factor/theme in my life. Hmm. Will have to ponder it...]

This is where my sister lived during most of her first marriage. She married her first husband in 1956, and I think the house was sold in 1962 or 63. She divorced and remarried in 1965 and moved out to the country. [Memory trigger: my sister and her new [ie: second] husband lived in the house she bought with her first husband after the house above was sold. I'm not sure how long she and her second husband lived there, but it was probably a year or two before they sold that house and bought a property in the country. There may or may not have been a few stops in between. I remember several houses that were bought on spec to flip (back before house flipping became a thing) and they lived in them for a while, but I'm not sure of the sequence or when they were pit stops compared to the place in the country.... it may have been before or after. What I don't recall at all is if my sister got the 1962/3 house in the divorce settlement with her first husband. Maybe I never knew... Some things were not said...]

I don't have any interior photos of this house, unfortunately, but a few years ago one just like it was on the market in Greenwich, CT, and I snagged some pictures from that listing. As is my way, though, I've misplaced them, and so I will have to go by whatever memories I can recover without reference to contemporary or historic photographs.

The house in Greenwich was apparently the model on which this house was based. This house was built in 1924. Another house identical to the one above was featured in House and  Garden Magazine, March, 1922. It was built in Scarsdale, NY. If I do a diligent search, I can probably find that article online (I have seen it) but I'm being lazy at the moment, so I won't do the search now. I'll just say that I was told about the article probably the first time I saw this house, which would have been in 1957 when I first visited Northern California (the house is in Sacramento.) I'm not entirely sure, but I think I was told that plans for this house were offered through the magazine at one point and that's how a number of them came to be built around the country.

[I've done quite a bit of probing since I wrote that paragraph. Apparently, the architect for this house was A. J. Thomas who became an advocate of high-quality, low cost multi-family housing and was very well known for his work during and after WWI. As far as I can tell, the original model of this house was built in Scarsdale, NY in 1922, not in Greenwich, CT, as I previously believed. If I recall what I was told correctly (and who knows about that), the plans for the house in Sacramento came through an offering in House and Garden magazine (which would have been in 1923 or 1924) but I haven't found that yet. I'm surprised at what I have found, though. [I found records that say this house was built in 1923, but I distinctly recall being told it was built in 1924. I wouldn't be surprised if it was started in 1923 and completed in 1924. On the other hand, it seemed like it had been there forever.]

This is a close up of the front entrance of the house in Scarsdale that was published in House and Garden in March, 1922:

And this is a distant view of the same house published in American Architect magazine in February 1922:

Sorry I was unable to rotate it.]

The Greenwich house was considered "Norman" in style, while the Sacramento one is pretty much a hybrid Norman-Spanish Revival. They were identical houses, though, with the exception that the Greenwich house (and the Scarsdale house) had a slate roof and the Sacramento one had a tile roof. Over the years, both these houses were expanded, the Greenwich house quite a bit more than the Sacramento one, so that the Greenwich house is now much larger than that one -- probably close to twice the size. [Research indicates the Sacramento house has not been expanded, although there was an addition of a swimming pool and pool house. Parts of the interior have been significantly remodeled, but otherwise the footprint and residential square footage of the house is the same now as it was when it was built.]

Rough plan of the first floor of the Sacramento house:

While quite fancy, this house is not really all that large. It had/has three bedrooms and two and a half baths in the main quarters, plus a maid's room and bath in the service area. There is a spacious, tile-floored foyer leading to a center stair hall, which was a step up from the foyer. The stair hall and all of the rest of the first and second floors (except the kitchen, butler's pantry and bathrooms) had oak wood floors. To the left from the stair hall was an arched wood-paneled opening to the double height living room which had a huge bay window at the far end.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Getting Doctored

I'm still in the early stages of evaluation by a host of specialists trying to get a handle on my condition(s). This will probably go on for at least another 6 months or so, possibly indefinitely, because there is no cure for what ails me, and keeping watch is the best they can do.

I've been getting lots of xrays and blood and urine tests to keep tabs on what is going on. A new test or follow up essentially every week for the time being. Certain markers show up regularly that indicate this or that condition, but nothing is severe enough to warrant alarm. Yesterday, the oncologist, for example, declared me non-cancerous for now, based on those tests which show the presence of a condition to be monitored (MGUS) but nothing else.

Major problem is rheumatoid arthritis and its effects which seem to be spreading and are only marginally under control. This is proving to be a challenge to say the least. I take prednisone which usually controls the pain and inflammation, but sometimes doesn't. I also take leflunomide, which doesn't seem to do anything. Previously, I was taking sulfozine, which also didn't seem to do anything. The rheumatologist is trying various medications, starting with the least expensive, to see what works. We haven't quite hit on anything except prednisone, which supposedly is dangerous over the long term even at the low dose I've been taking (10-15mg daily).

In addition to joint inflammation and pain, I experience extraordinary levels of fatigue regularly. RA is also suspected to be causing or worsening lung inflammation which contributes to fatigue in a vicious cycle, round and round.

Then there's COPD which is diagnosed independently of RA for which I need to see a pulmonologist. Next time for that is October when more tests are scheduled to see just how bad it is.

I was looking through some notes I kept as this journey continues, and it seems that I was doing better in May than I am now. I'd say there's been a slow-but-steady deterioration since then. The pain is mostly controlled, my range of motion is relatively good, but my overall ability is declining. Day-long activity is simply not possible any more. 20 minutes at a time is about the most I can manage and then I must rest for at least as long.  Naps are essential. I limp from sciatica from years ago but it's been getting worse. I get out of breath with almost any activity of more than a few minutes. Though I've tried not to, I've been gaining weight again -- a side effect of prednisone they say. That just makes things more difficult.

And so it goes. At one point I asked one of the doctors, don't remember which one, "What's going on? Why is this happening?" The answer: "You're getting old, and what's happening is more the consequence of old age and genetics than anything else. Compared to a lot of people, though, you're doing well. Just keep that in mind."

I do. Of course I have friends who say if I hadn't had such a wild youth, more'n likely I wouldn't be having all these issues in my dotage. It all comes from my bad living when time was. Then there are the others who are convinced it's all karma, results of things I did or didn't do in previous lives together with my own actions in this one...

Genetics (a form of karmic debt I suppose) enter into it, especially with regard to RA, because my sister had lupus, which is a related auto-immune condition. I assume the propensity came from our mother, though as far as I know, she didn't suffer from auto-immune conditions herself. She had thyroid issues and mental health issues, however, which may or may not have been related. She died of emphysema after a lifetime of smoking. She never quit.

I quit smoking 20 years ago, but I've been diagnosed with "mild" emphysema along with COPD, so I haven't escaped that consequence of smoking tobacco.

Both my sister and brother died of pulmonary embolism, both at a relatively young age: my brother at 32, my sister at 59. I'm not sure of exactly the cause of my brother's embolism, but the indications I got from his care givers and his death certificate are that he lapsed into a coma an was taken to the hospital where he died a few days later. The clot was probably due to his inactivity/paralysis.

On the other hand, my sister's embolism followed knee surgery that in turn followed injury in a prison/mental hospital where she worked. She died as a consequence of the injury and surgery. No doubt about it.

As for cancer... my father developed melanoma which he refused to have treated, and he died within a year, age 67. My mother's mother died of what I was told was stomach cancer, age 52. Her mother died at age 76 from uterine cancer. I've recently learned that from her death certificate. Previously, I didn't know what had happened to her, and from accounts by my sister, who claimed to have met her great grandmother when she was about 7 or 8 years old, I had always thought that Ida (my mother's grandmother) had died after 1940. Turned out, though, she died in 1935, and so my sister could not have met her as my sister was born in 1933 and wouldn't have remembered her if she did meet Ida -- which I strongly doubt. I wonder who she met who she thought was Ida...

My mother's father died in a railroad incident when he was 38; he didn't have time to develop killer diseases and conditions, I guess. As his mother died in 1918, I suspect it was from the Spanish flu. His father died in 1921, and it may have been from the same cause, though I don't know.

So those are some of the histories I'm dealing with. As I've noted before, a lot of my relatives died at a relatively young age, and right now, I'm older than most of them when they died -- wild youth or no.

This actually gives me pause. If I have lived longer, perhaps there is a reason.

On the other hand, I never thought I'd live past 30. So every year since then has been kind of a bonus, no?

Quien sabe...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Houses [Edited -- Again and Again]

[I realize this post has nothing at all to do with politics, and that's the way it goes these days. I was yakking with  some friends at a get together yesterday, and while they were eager to see Trump and his Trumpistas go down in flames, they were by no means enthused by Mrs Clinton's re-arrival to the Oval Office. It's just a dismal choice this year. Not the first time, nor will it be the last, but it is what it is. Of course what We, the Rabble think about all this hoo-hah is essentially irrelevant.

This post is about memories. In part, it's a memory exercise for me. As I get older, I feel as if my short-term memory is vanishing, and my mid- and long-term memories are turning to mush. It hasn't become a major problem yet, but unless I do something, it could be. So this post is an effort at clearing up some of my own confusions about a place and a time long ago and far away, yet formative to who/what I am now.

The real estate listing photos I've included have actually helped a great deal. I wonder how I might have proceeded without them....]

[Noting further: for the most part, I did the memory exercises to recall various aspects of this house and living here before I found pictures to illustrate these memories. The pictures helped trigger some additional memories, and then I would search for other pictures to illustrate those. In addition, sometimes the pictures (like that of the brown house below) would startle me with how closely they resembled my memory.]

From the Google Street View c. winter 2015

This house is where I lived during my adolescence and early adulthood.

It was built in 1957 and my mother bought it in 1962. As I recall, the price was $17,000.  She paid $500 cash down and financed the rest with a VA loan* at 4% [possibly 5%].  Payments were about $120 a month. Houses in this area currently sell for about $250,000 +/- $30,000. By no means high-end in this part of California. Closer to low-end.

[* Now that I think about it, it may not have been a VA loan, because she bought a house in suburban Los Angeles in 1954 on a VA loan -- and essentially walked away from it in 1959 on the advice of her real estate broker who said he couldn't sell it for what was still owed -- well under $10,000 at the time. I seem to recall that she couldn't qualify for a VA loan again after that, and she may have bought this house in 1962 on an FHA loan. But my memories of the transaction details were always spotty and incomplete, so this may have to be an unrecovered memory for the foreseeable future as it's something I was never all that clear about.]

I lived there until 1968 and returned to live there when my mother moved to another city to work in 1972. When she returned in 1974, I moved elsewhere. During the time I lived there in the '70s, I did some substantial repairs and renovations. My mother sold this house in 1984 and moved to a mobile home near my sister's place in Susanville. Her health was failing, and ultimately one of her granddaughters became her caregiver, staying with my mother until her death in 1987.

As far as I know, the same family has lived in this house since they bought it more than 30 years ago. Its appearance hasn't changed since they moved in. They painted it white, in contrast to the dark brown original paint job it had when my mother bought it and the (avocado) green I painted it later.

Below is a picture of another house in the neighborhood that has the same floor plan only reversed. I reversed the picture to match the layout of the house I lived in. Of interest to me is that this house is the same dark brown as our house was when my mother bought it. The owners of this house have painted the garage door white, but it is the original garage door. You can just make out the rectangular trim on the door. Similar trim is found between the windows on the front of the house.
A different house but the same floor plan -- reversed. The image has been reversed to match the layout of the house I lived in
In fact, I was quite startled when I reversed the photo, because the picture is now the spitting image of the house I lived in when we first moved in -- with the exception of the huge tree in front, the wider driveway, the white garage door,* and the modified window of the hall bathroom visible to the left of the front door.

[*Now that I think about it, it could be that our garage door was painted white (off-white) as well. The difference might have been that the trim on our garage door was painted brown. At any rate, when I look at the picture of the brown house, memory triggers are very strong. That is (almost) what our house looked like until I painted it green...]

The people who bought my mother's house made a few visible changes to the exterior besides painting it white. They put on a new garage door and replaced the windows and roof. I think they installed a different front door.  It appears from an overhead view that they remodeled part of the house by extending the living room into the back yard, much as I once thought of remodeling the house myself.

It's not a large house, only 1250 square feet. There are three bedrooms and two baths. There is a large living room with room for dining at one end. The living-dining room features a wall of glass anchored by a floor to ceiling used brick fireplace with a raised brick hearth. The ceilings in the entry hall and bedroom hall are dropped about a foot in order to allow space to run HVAC ductwork. This dropped ceiling effect is used as a feature at one end of the living room by the fireplace where there is what could be a lighting cove. In our house, there were no lighting fixtures in the cove, but in others of the same model there are. [Also in our house, the end wall of the living room by the fireplace wasn't paneled as it is in the picture below.]

Another house with the same floor plan

Showing the wall of glass and the dining area at one end of the room

Furniture in our house was arranged similarly -- at least at various periods. Change was fairly frequent during my residence.

This room is about 13x24.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Trump Is An Example of His Class; Hillary Is An Example of Those Who Serve His Class

To the extent I've been paying attention to the hot mess that is the current state of the presidential campaign, I guess I've been witnessing through the class war lens of some kind of unreconstructed Marxist.

It's so obvious to me that the top of the ticket of both major parties is occupied by class warriors intent on preserving and expanding the pre-eminence, wealth and power of the now iconic 1% at the expense of everyone else.

Trump is the embodiment of the 1%; Hillary embodies those who serve them and ensure their success.

Kaine and Pence also serve in their own way and would be quite capable of continuing the elite class war on the masses should anything untoward happen to one or the other of the principals.

It is so obvious to me, and yet it seems to be completely out of the realm of consciousness or possibility to partisans on either side. They simply don't -- and possibly can't -- get it.

To place a loudmouthed bully like Trump in the White House would be an interesting experiment from a technical, sociological and scientific point of view. The last example of a member of his class in the White House was FDR.

FDR was Old Money, of course, and represented long, long years of government service by the time he was elected to the presidency. His initial opponent, Herbert Hoover, was as rich if not richer, but he was New Money with a very different kind of service background. For  example, he'd coordinated relief efforts in Europe during and after WWI. He'd done it as a volunteer, and at the time, his efforts were considered remarkably successful.

FDR ran to the right of Hoover in 1932, and there was very little or no inkling of the soon-to-be implemented New Deal in his campaign. Whether it was already in the works, I don't know. On the other hand, Hoover was no slouch when it came to innovative ways to deal with the dislocation and distress of the early years of the Depression.  He instituted any number of programs at the Federal level to relieve suffering and expand the economy, but he was hamstrung by his Republican Party orthodoxy and his belief in the limitations of federal power.

FDR initially shared many of Hoover's beliefs about government authorities and the necessities of balanced budgets, etc. In fact, he campaigned as if Hoover was just too radical.

When he got into office, of course, he practically did a 180 and became much more radical in addressing the Depression -- which caused Hoover to condemn him and the New Deal for the rest of his life.

According to the Hooverite belief system, what Roosevelt did prolonged the Depression and may well have contributed to the outbreak of WWII.

We hear plenty of echoes of that belief system today, although it is actually in service to a different ideology.

Both Hillary and Trump are campaigning well to the right of Hoover, and neither has any interest in reviving the solutions to economic and social problems that FDR eventually undertook. Hillary offers a modest economic stimulus package, but apparently only because Bernie "forced" her to.

Trump offers nothing, insisting that tax cuts, trickle down, and immigration control are the only things that "work" to elevate the masses.

Literally neither has any interest in the ultimate well being of the masses. They are both fully focused on the well being of the 1% at the expense of the masses.

Trump would do it by bulling his way, steamrolling opposition and demanding obedience through the force of his personality. Hillary would do it by the usual means of government -- bribery, persuasion, quids-pro-quo, etc. But those means primarily apply to the High and Mighty -- ie: Trump's class, not to the rest of us. We are to be exploited and disposed of.

Her campaign, after all, initially got going with the motto: "No you can't!" and her outlook really hasn't changed a whole lot since then. Trump's campaign is little more that "I am the One!" repeated over and over again -- with a dollop of "I will set you free!" to sweeten the pot for his white-male constituency.

Neither offers anything but more of the same little bit or less to the rest of us, and it's because we really don't count in their equation of what's important and what's necessary.

I can't be bothered with either of these candidates. On the other hand, Bernie wasn't much of an option either, and as many suspected, he was sheepdogging for Herself and will probably continue to do so as his so-called "political revolution" is institutionalized.

Trump, though, as an example of the crudity and meanness of his class seems to be perpetually able to get away with almost anything because of his entertainment value. The idea that the way he is is the way most of those of his class are is barely recognized. Somehow his behavior and beliefs are considered aberrant,  but they aren't. They're typical. Trump has rougher edges than most of his class, but that's about the only difference.

Hillary's interest in serving his class is also not widely recognized.

I'm at a loss to how to break this cycle.