Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chapter 12 - Down the Rabbit Hole

Owen dreamed and Settrano watched his dreams. When he woke up the next day he felt, invigorated, alive. He went down and to make pot of coffee and there were their glasses and the not quite empty bottle of wine on the counter. He put the glasses in the dishwasher and tossed the bottle, but not without thinking about how Nola could go from fatherless, to 2 steps from the poor house, to wine with Germans and Frenchmen, to Star Trek, to howling like a wolf with her 2 year old…… until he realized he was hungry, famished as a matter of fact. So he made himself some over easy eggs on top of English muffins, to have with his coffee. And he took his breakfast to the back porch. He looked at the swing thinking that if he was going to get her to sit outside in the cool air he’d need to remember to have a blanket for her.

He was starting 2 new jobs this week so he was kept busy meeting with the nervous owners, setting up the team and the schedule and giving them peptalks about what he thought they needed to focus on and watch to keep the owners happy. One of the reasons he was so good at his work was that his intuition on reading his client needs was pretty darn good. He checked on all of his job sites during the week to make sure that work was progressing and that there would be no issues with supplies to keep the jobs running. With the whole damn city rebuilding, you never knew what could end up being in short supply and fouling up the works. And it seemed that China was on a preOlympics building spree and buying up all the metals, steel, copper and prices kept going up so it paid to make sure that you had what you needed. Owen had decided to purchase a storage area. With so much devastation, there were lots of old timers ready to cash in on their ruined property and move on. So there were lots of places available cheap. With this storage area, once he planned a job he could start ordering in advance and try and make sure that the supplies where there when he needed it. Lots of folks were scraping by, buying just what they could afford that month. Owen had realized that he was lucky and that this could actually make more money for him. Word had gotten out that when his company, OA Enterprises, had your job that the problems other contractors where having with getting supplies and workers not showing up just didn’t happen. It was downright miraculous and, in typical New Orleans fashion, word of mouth had made sure that Owen’s business was doing well. He loved what he did and was good at it. He also took care of the people that worked for him. He had seen, as young man watching how the hotel worked, that when you took care of your people they took care of your business. He also had good intuition about his team. While he would try folks out he also didn’t hesitate to make changes if he could see that the team wasn’t working out or if the new guy was a bad influence.

And before he knew it, it was Thursday.

Nola had called Wednesday saying she would be there Thursday around 8PM. She asked if he minded if they watched some DVDs. He said, “One of them is a Deep Space Nine Star Trek, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is, but I doubt you’ll be able to guess what the other one is.”
“You’re right, I haven’t a clue. What it is?”
“What the Bleep $#)%)%????!”
“What the Bleep, that’s the title?”
“Yep.”
“Well what’s it about?”
“Quantum Physics.”
“Quantum Physics? Quantum Physics. Woman you never cease to amaze me. OK, I’ll make pop corn and we’ll watch Star Trek and study Quantum Physics. I’m going to have to tell Eric and Ryan about this one. They’re not going to believe me that there is a woman on the planet who will spend an evening watching Star Trek and Quantum Physics”
“Owen, that’s not fair, you are significantly underestimating the female population. And before he could say anything else she said, “See you at 8PM”.
He said, “See you at 8.” And she hung up leaving him shaking his head thinking, 'No I’m not underestimating, well at least not based on my experiences.'

Nola arrived at 8PM. Owen was actually watching from the window as she drove up. He wanted to make sure that she would use the automatic gate opener. She drove up, started to park, then hesitated reached into the console of the truck and pulled out the gate opener. He watched her shake her head as she put it on the dashboard and drove into the driveway and pressed the button. Before the gate was all the way open, Owen was standing in the driveway smiling. As she got out of the truck he said, “Well now, that wasn’t that hard was it?”
“No, not really. It just feels a little weird to open someone else’s gate like that.”
“You’ll get over it.”
She just looked at him and shook her head. She didn’t understand it but it seemed important to him somehow so she played along.
“Come on inside. I see you have the DVDs.”
“Yep, I thought we’d watch ‘What the Bleep @)%)’ and that I could leave the Star Treks for you as homework.”
He opened the door and let her go through. “Star TrekS?”
“um hmm, Deep Space Nine the first episode, which is in 2 parts and The Next Generation, one of the early episodes “Where no one has gone before”. I think that using fiction to reinforce concepts is a very powerful tool. Star Trek is loaded with the concepts of quantum physics.”
“I see 4 DVDs.”
“Yes, the last one is “The Secret”. I grabbed it when I put the others together. The Secret is like ‘What the Bleep’ in that it is told in a similar documentary fashion. But we’ll save that one until we start talking about Magic. It's a little more out there.”
“I see you have this all worked out.”
“Nope, I’m making it up as I go along.”
He smiled at her and walked to the kitchen saying, “Well come on, if we are going to watch DVDs, I’m going to make popcorn.”
She followed him to the kitchen where everything was waiting for him. He grabbed a beer from the frigde, asking beer or wine or what’s your pleasure? “If I’m going to have popcorn, I’d rather have a beer.”
“I’m not really a beer drinker. Do you have a club soda, water with bubbles?”
“hmmm…” He said as he remembered that was all she drank on their plane rides. He turned and dug around in a large panty and came up dry, “Sorry, no.”
Well then, whatever you have in there is good.”
From the wine fridge he grabbed another bottle of the New Zealand wine they’d had last time, opened it, poured her a glass and started on the popcorn.
She took a sip and he watched her out of the corner of his eye because he’d come to enjoy her enjoying wine.
She realized that he wasn't going to microwave the popcorn but actually cook it in a pan on the stove.
"Interesting."
"The wine?"
"No, you, cooking popcorn in a pan instead of the microwave."
"So you think that a guy can't cook?"
"Oh no, definitely not. I absolutely KNOW that guys can cook. In my family I'm the kitchen novice. Just ask my daughter. Once James was out of town for a week and Jamie and I were left to our own defenses. We didn't starve but when James came home and my 4 year old said, 'Look mom! Cooking!' and all he was doing was boiling water on the stove for pasta. Another time, James left flank steak all marinated and ready to cook on the Jennair grill. I was cooking the meat and doing about 10 other things and managed to catch the grill on fire." Owen's eyebrow shot up at that and she followed quickly with "Oh I managed to get it out, with a wet towel and not even burn the meat but my daughter doesn't let me live it down. Now she watches me if I have to cook. She loves to kid me about it. But not too much or I'll make her cook."
"You are not serious?"
"Oh yes. I am. Oh I'm not hopeless. I can cook when I pay attention to cooking or baking but I freely admit that James is much better at it than I am. I'll bring home the bacon. He can cook it up in the pan."
"Then this" as he swirled the oil in the pan heating it evenly, "shouldn't be a surprise."
"Well... I guess you're right. But I still didn't expect it. Few people bother to cook popcorn on the stove anymore."
"But it tastes better."
"Oh, I know. James insists on cooking it on the stove too." She watched as he expertly added the popcorn to the pan and covered it. Then she started thinking about logistics and realized that she hadn’t seen a TV in Owen’s house.
“Owen, I’m assuming you have a TV/DVD player, but I don’t think I’ve seen one. Where are you hiding it?”
“The library.”
“Oh how wonderful, a Library. Where is this Library?”
“It’s downstairs, essentially a mirror image of the living room, with a small adjacent room that I carved out as an office. I really just finished it in October. I still have boxes of books to get on the shelves. But I've setup the TV for us. The furniture arrived the week before I met you on the plane and it’s set up now too.”
She took a sip of wine and he noticed the dreamy way she looked as she imagined a world of books and he smiled to himself at her capacity for pleasure over what he perceived to be the simplest of things and smiled as he imagined her wandering off with her wine to the library and burning the popcorn on the stove. The popcorn made the appropriate amount of racket to indicate that it was cooking and then it faded off to fewer and fewer pops so he took it off the heat, shut off the stove to let it finish and said, “Come on let’s get the DVD set up.” and he lead her into the Library.
It was a great room, with another interior fireplace just like the living room and a large screen TV on the opposite wall. The walls were covered in shelves that were essentially empty. Even in the large room with the endless bookcases it looked like there might be more books in the boxes than shelves to hold them.
“Wow, if all those boxes are books, you have an impressive amount of books.”
“Seek and you shall find, right? Where are your DVDs?”
She had brought them with her from the kitchen. She handed him ‘What the Bleep' and he loaded it the system and turned on the screen, then said, “I’ll be right back.”

She wandered around the room. There were a few books on the shelves, the complete works of Shakespeare, what looked like a 1990s version of Encyclopedia Britannica, a number of books on architecture and the history of design. But it was the layout that she soaked in. It was easy to see the bones of the room were identical to the living room dining room but the bookshelves had completely transformed the feel of the room. It was warm, like wrapping up in a blanket. Perhaps it was that she loved built-in bookcases and books. But he had managed to carve out a downstairs bathroom and a smaller office without losing the feel of the space. Was it the fact that the French doors were a key feature on both sides? She looked around again and realized that it was it because he had moved, well no he must have added, a window to the room and this is what allowed it to feel balanced, just like the mirror side of the house, despite the fact that this single room was actually smaller than the living/dining combination. She had just figured it out when he walked in, beer and wine bottle in one hand, huge bowl of popcorn in the other. He set things down on the table, sat on the large chaise sectional, grabbed the remote and patted the seat next to him. “Come on woman, sit down. What are you thinking so hard about?”
He patted the seat again so she sat next to him. “You added that window in this room didn’t you?”
His brows shot up. “Yes I did and I must have done a poor job if you can tell so easily.”
“No. No, not at all. I noticed because I really like the way the room feels. It’s balanced even though this side of the room is so much smaller than the dining room on the other side. I love how the windows in your house let you use the natural light. Although bookshelves will win my heart every time.”

Should he tell her that he had added the bathroom and office, then put up all the shelves only to realize after the fact that the room ‘felt’ wrong? It had taken him weeks to realize that the problem was that it he always felt off balance when he came into the room. He had even used those words to describe it once he figured it out. He hadn’t wanted to pull the shelves down and had resisted doing anything about it even after he figured it out. Until one day he realized that what he needed to do was add the window. Roger and the crew thought he was crazy to change it, but they had been between jobs and happy to have the work and had found just the window he wanted. When he visited the shop himself and saw all the wonderful old windows he had gone a little window crazy. He added an old window at the base of the stairs and moved another in the dining room and the office. He had added a window in his bedroom and one in each of the upstairs bathrooms. He had also created wall of windows across the half of the back of the house. He shook his head at himself and said, “Finding those old windows was like finding treasure."
She said, “The Green Project?”
He shook his head again. “Other than cooking, is there anything you don’t know?”
She looked at him puzzled.
“You figure out how I changed the room in a few minutes, when it took me weeks to figure out what to do. Then you tell me where the crew found the window.”
“Oh but The Green Project has been around for a long time, PreKatrina. One of the things I’ve worked on as a PostK neighborhood activist is preserving what we have left. That has meant fighting unnecessary demolitions and understanding the concept of deconstruction as an alternative to demolition so that even if the house has to come down the fabulous and practically indestructible old cypress and hardwoods and all the wonderful old architectural details are saved. It’s really just another form of recycling. After seeing so much of my city on the curb and hauled away in dump trucks, what was a passing interest PreK is practically an evangelical religious calling today. Our PostK experiences have given a lot of people ‘religion’ about a lot of things. The city’s innate tendency to be passionate about its pleasures like food and music has extended itself to fighting the Corps of Engineers, and for wetlands restoration and against demolitions and for setting higher expectations of public education and city hall and NOPD….” And she trailed off saying, “Sorry I’m preaching.”
He was just smiling at her. “You and the folks like you with your innate passions are exactly why I’m here.”

She looked down at her wine feeling a little embarrassed about getting up on her soapbox. He realized that she was a bit embarrassed and thought he might be making her uncomfortable. Perhaps he was going to have to watch how his inside voice came out. Settrano said, “No.” and Owen caught himself smiling and said to himself, ‘No, I think she might just have to get used to it’. But he did grab the huge bowl of popcorn and switched the topic by saying “So what do I need to know before we watch a movie about Quantum Physics?”

He watched as she seamlessly shifted her thoughts to the movie and said, “Well I guess you should know that it is a fictional story woven into a documentary about quantum physics and the possibilities that the quantum concepts bring to us. So don’t be confused when the story switches to the documentary and then the documentary switches back to the story and round and round.” Smiling she said, “kind of like the Wheel of the Year." She took a sip of her wine and continued, “They are going to throw a lot of information at you at once. Try to just go with the flow and not fight it. In many ways the fictional story being interwoven with the documentary is like the quantum concept of all possibilities happening at once.” And she looked him in the eye and smiled at him again and said, “Which is a bit like the lunar thinking I mentioned last week. I’ve always found that fiction helps me absorb things more completely and deeply than just wrestling with the facts. ”
“OK, a 2 in 1 movie” and picking up the remote he said “Shall we?”
She nodded and he pressed play.

He watched and was amazed at the mind bending concepts. He wanted to stop the DVD and ask questions but he didn’t because she had told him to ‘just go with the flow’. She watched even though she had seen it twice before. The concepts were slippery and each time she watched she felt she grasped them more firmly. The end credits were starting to run and he wanted to talk, but she said “Wait, you’ve been listening to these scientists talk for more than an hour. You have to hear their amazing credentials.”
So he waited and listened and she was right. When credits finished, she said “How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?” and he answered without even thinking “All the Way! … But man, I am going to have to watch that again, some of those concepts are simple, some are not and some sound too fantastic to believe.”
She just shook her head in agreement. She knew exactly how he felt. Owen was a sponge. He wanted to talk about the concepts. So they spent the next 3 hours talking about quantum physics and science and magic and possibilities and how it fit with lunar thinking and the Ways. And Settrano smiled as Owen followed his passion and Meana smiled as Nola was able to share her passions with someone else. And Bellaria smiled as she watched their facile minds work practically in tandem. And Tago watched, pleased with their growth.

He seemed to have talked himself out. So she got up and started walking to the kitchen with her glass in her hand.
“Aw you’re not leaving already.”
She smiled at him and shook her head and said, “Owen, it is after 1AM. I’ve been here for more than 5 hours.”
He was still sitting and looking a bit like someone was taking all his toys.
“Next week is the Solstice. I’m assuming that we can do the ritual here at your house.”
He perked up at that, “Absolutely. What do I need to do?”
"hmmm, Do you have a hooded black robe?"
"umm no."
"Well, if we're are going to do ritual together you should probably get one. You can order one online. Try to get natural fabric, a light silk or a cotton. It is too hot here for wool. Avoid the costume sites. The Pointy Hat is a good online shop. It might be hard for shops to ensure that you get a size that will work for you. You're pretty tall. You don't want a mid calf robe. You'd feel silly."
"Ok, so a robe. Pointy Hat. Anything else?"
"A cord to tie at your waist. For now it can be black or white. You can probably order it with the robe."
"Ok. What else."
“Nothing really, Look over the ritual. I’ll bring everything just like I did for your circle casting lesson. Oh, you should always have an offering for ritual.”
“An offering?” and his forehead wrinkled.
“Yes, something that you give to the Gods. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be a simply a flower you buy at the store or something that calls to you from nature, something that you have to pick up for the Gods or it can be giving up wearing a favorite piece of jewelry for some time, or a poem you write or a 10 inch ponytail cut off and given to Locks of Love. I’ve even seen people give a drop or two of their blood on a cloth.” And his eyebrows shot up. “You’ll know what is right. Part of this practice is learning how to listen.”
“OK… An offering.”
And because it was obvious that she wasn’t going to sit down again, he got up with the bowl and the bottles and walked with her to the kitchen.

She picked up her purse and keys and he asked, “What time will you be here for the Solstice Ritual?”
“Same time I guess, 8PM?”
“OK, 8PM.”
“Remember, it’s Friday. Are you sure you’re not busy?”
“Aw, Friday.”
“If we need to work around something we can figure out a way.”
“No, no problem, But Friday is a week and a day away.”
“Owen, your parents must have spoiled you. Technically it is Friday now. So it’s still only a week away. Do your homework, watch 'What the Bleep' again. Watch the Star Trek DVDs.” And at that she hooked her arm through his and said “Come on big man, walk me to my truck before I'm too tired to drive home.”
And as he walked her to his truck, he couldn't help thinking how great it would be if she didn't have to go. And Settrano and Meana looked at each other and smiled again.

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