Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chapter 33 - Papa Eric's Plan

Owen was waiting in the driveway as she pulled up. He looked like he was excited about something and couldn’t wait to tell her.
“Hello Big Man. You look like the cat that ate the canary. What’s up?”
He took her arm and they headed for the door, “My parents, brother Ryan, his wife Stella and their son Eric are coming to visit in May.”
“Well that sounds like fun.”
He opened the door and let her go through and they headed back to the kitchen.
“It will be. I'm glad they are coming to see New Orleans. It will be good for my mom to see me in my home and happy. She needs to be reassured that the decision to come down here was a good one and that I am doing OK. I’m also hoping that once Ryan and Stella see New Orleans for themselves rather than only on the news or what they assume it is like that they will consider letting Eric come down to spend some time with me in the summers. He’s been asking. But they’re not sure. This visit is a good sign that they could be convinced to say yes. And once Eric sees the pool and the basketball court he is not going to shut up about wanting to visit. They’ll be here May 3rd through the 10th.”
“Are they planning on going to Jazzfest?”
“Yep. I got them tickets for Sunday. Stella & Mom will probably shop and my dad is a big Blues fan. And I’m sure Eric and Ryan will find something they like.”
“Sounds they'll have a good time. Since you’ll be busy with company we’ll just skip that Thursday’s lesson.”
“Oh, no. We’re all going out to dinner at Galatoire’s on Thursday. I’ve already made the reservations.”
“What do you mean ‘WE"re are all going out to dinner’?" Shaking her head to indicate that she thought this was a bad idea, "You want me, your pagan priestess teacher, to go to dinner with your family?
“Yeah sure, why not?”
“Well… why?” And she thought eww that didn’t come out right at all.
“Well why not, woman? I spend hours with you every week. I know you better than any other woman in the city. Why not go out to dinner with me and my family? It’s Galatoire’s for crying out loud. Besides you’ll look good on my arm as my girlfriend.”
“Wait I’m sorry…. What… Your girl friend…. Your girlfriend?”
“Sure, We’re naturals. Remember? The people at Banting's thought we were married.”

She looked at him with her eyes wide and shaking her head, "Owen, What in the world makes you think that is a good idea?! Isn't it bad enough your crew thinks I'm your landscape specialist girlfriend?"
And he heard Papa Eric say, "Ace in the hole, son. You charged in. No time to fool around now. Go ahead and use your Ace in the Hole." And he nodded to Tago. "I hear she can be really stubborn."
Owen said, "Papa Eric says it's a good idea."
Now she was even more incredulous, "Papa Eric… Papa Eric..? Papa Eric said this was a good plan?" And she tilted her head and rolled her eyes at him as if to say 'Sure right, good one. I deserved that.’
"Nope. It's HIS plan."
"His plan? Papa Eric's plan....?" and she slowed down as she realized, Oh my gods he's serious.
He heard Papa Eric said, "Ok son the hook is set but only very lightly; let her run with it for a little while before you try to reel her in." Owen just smiled and nodded.
She laughed lightly at him, "Papa Eric's plan. Argh, I must be doing something wrong. How can someone who I know is grounded and practical end up where you are? What have I done to you? This is not where I thought your working with the Lare Shrine would get you. I did not expect to get cockamamie plans from the dead."
"Why not? If I recall properly you were the one who helped me figure out how to talk to the dead."

And she sat down on the barstool because this was just too weird to deal with and stand up at the same time. She decided to try a different tack.
"Ok Owen let's say, just for argument's sake, that I agree to do this."
And Papa Eric said, "Watch it son she is going to run in the opposite direction. Not too fast, reel her in gently."
And he sat down on the barstool and then rolled her barstool so that she had her back to the kitchen counter and then rolled his stool next to hers so that she was between him and the counter. "Ok, just for argument's sake."
She looked up at him and asked, "Why is it a good idea? Why do you need to 'present girlfriend' to your mother? How old are you?" She thought back to his astrological chart and calculated, "44? No 43 right now. Oh my, it's your birthday next month."
"Yep, why don't you do it for me as a birthday present?
She raised her eyebrows and wrinkled her brow and said, "Wha...?" then sighed and said more firmly, "You still haven't told me why it's a good idea."
And he said slowly, "Because it would make my mom happy, because she worries about me here in New Orleans so far away from her, because I will feel better with you sitting there next to me at dinner. My mom and Dad will be sitting there. Ryan and Stella will be sitting there. If mom sees me there in that context without a woman on my arm she will worry and not be happy. I AM Happy. I want her to think I am happy. And I there is no one else I’d rather have with me than you."
And Settrano and Meana nodded to Papa Eric to indicate the hook had set.
And she shook her head and rubbed her temples and said sighed, "I don't know."
And Papa Eric said, "The hook is set now son. Reel her in."
"I know you can do it. We know each other. We've probably spent more time together really getting to know each other than most dating people."
"But Owen it's not true and besides, I'm too old for you."
"Too old for me! That's ridiculous. How old are you any way?"
"47, fixing to be 48."
And he said, "4 years? 4 years is nothing. Besides we are timeless together and you know it."
"Now Owen that's not fair. And it's not the same thing." And she thought but sometimes it's just a little to close... which why this is not a good idea.
"Son, she's going to try and run again."
"What, you've never been with a younger man? And smiling and putting his hands out wide he said confidently, "Other than me of course."
And he saw her think about that and smile as she answered defiantly, "Yes, I have been with a younger man, other than you."
"How many years younger?"
"5." And she sighed knowing full well this was now a point in his favor.
"5 huh? 4 is less than 5. Did you have a good time with this younger man?"
"Yes, actually I had a very good time with this younger man." And she had to allow a small smile.
"Well, there you go."
"She can't get away now. She's tiring, son."
"Owen, why can't I just go as your female friend? Why do I have to go as your girlfriend. It's not true; I'm married."
"Because if I take a married woman as a date, it will only make my mom worry more, not less. You have to go as my girlfriend."
"You can't really think that it's a good idea to introduce me as who I really am, with my real name. You don't even use my real name. That's not who I am to you. What if they google me and somehow discover the truth?"
"Well I was planning on introducing you as Nola. You're right, Nola is who you are to me. I only think of you as Nola."
And Tago said, "Suggest she use her first married name."
And Owen wrinkled his brow and wondered where that came from. It didn't feel like Papa Eric's influence. But he said, "What if you use your first married name?"
"You mean my first husband's name.... Metoyer?"
"Sure, why not: Nola Metoyer. Sounds good."
"Well..." and she sighed as she thought about it out loud, "When I teach I am Nola. So that is not a lie. And Metoyer is, albeit mistakenly, one of the names listed on a single piece of critical official paperwork I'm currently stuck with in my life....So that's not a complete lie either..... I don't know....."
"It's time to get her into the boat son."
"Just be who you are every time that you are here with me and it will be Ok." And he let that sink in before he said, "I won't specifically name you as my girlfriend. I'll just introduce you as Nola, use Metoyer if asked for a last name and we'll just let them assume what they want to assume and leave them happy in their own world. I heard somewhere that this can be a very effective way to deal with delicate issues."
Leaving Nola to roll her eyes and close them remembering that on that first plane ride she had said essentially this to him about how she dealt with being pagan, in the closet but honest about her personal philosophies. Damn the man for being such a good listener.

And he reached around and picked up the glass of Prosecco he had poured just before he heard her pull into the driveway and handed it to her. She took it and still deep in thought took a sip and then put down the glass. There had to be a way out of this. As she looked up Owen did his best to give her a proper girlfriend kiss to seal the deal.

She was still spinning from the idea and didn’t immediately resist. When she tried to swivel the chair around she realized she was pretty well pinned so she tried to stand up while he was still kissing her which only made it easier for him to get his arms around her. Finally he broke the kiss grinning at her as she said, “What are you doing?!”
“It’s Prosecco.”
And she sighed heavily, “You are incorrigible.”
“Yes, but you do like me and it only seems fair to seal the deal with a kiss.” And he moved in to try to give her a proper kiss again.
“Owen stop it. I’m supposed to be your teacher. Or at least that's what I thought I was doing here." And she put he hands to her temple and said, "I feel like… I feel like…. I don’t know what I feel like.”
And Meana and Tago looked at each other as if to say: “Ah, the first real step.” Then Meana said to Nola’s subconscious, “It’s OK. Just go with it. You are safe.”
And Owen said, “You feel like you’re not in control of the situation. You feel scared.”
And she looked at him and realized he was right, “I’m …. Wow. You’re right I'm scared. I haven’t been scared in a really long time.” And she asked herself softly but out loud, “Why am I scared?”
“You’re the one who is usually in control. You don’t mind a little speed or danger but you like to have your hands on the wheel and be in control. You didn’t see my idea coming. You couldn’t find the controls. You got scared.”
And the small puff of a sigh escaped her as she realized again, “You’re right.”
“Yes I am. I know you as well as any boyfriend should. You are going to be ok. And he pulled her gently toward him and said, “Now, close your eyes and let me work my Taurian pleasure senses on you.”
She gave him a light smile.
“Close your eyes.”
And she closed her eyes. And he kissed her softly and slowly, with out any urgency or insistency until he felt her begin to relax. Then he nuzzled her neck and she sighed and leaned into him and relaxed a little bit more. He felt her let go so he kissed gently but deeply and she kissed him back. As Meana whispered again, “It’s OK. Just go with it. You are safe.”
Tago nodded to Meana and shook his head at Settrano.

As Owen pulled away from the kiss Nola put her forehead on his chest as if defeated. He rolled the chair back and stood up and then he leaned over and picked her up. And she stiffened, “Owen…”
“Shhhh, just go with it. You are safe.”
As he carried her into the library she put her arms around his neck and leaned into him. He sat down on the couch still holding her.
Nola said, “You were so right. I was scared. I had one hell of an adrenaline rush. Now I am disoriented. I feel like I just ran for my life. This is really weird.”
“Well now son, the plan was to catch her off guard, set the hook, let her wear herself out and get her into the boat. It probably wasn’t very fun for her.”
Tago nodded to Meana and said, “It was unfortunately the only way she would agree and move into a state open to other possibilities.”

“I’m sorry for surprising you and unsettling you like that. I guess I could have waited to ask you until you at least had sip of wine.”
And then he realized that she really was shocked. “Oh Nola it really is ok.” And he held her close and kissed her softly again. “I’m sorry.”
She talked almost as if she was talking to herself, “I’m still trying to figure out why I was scared. I know you. I even like you. I’ve had sex with you. It’s not like we’re strangers. I trust you. Why do I feel so mentally blocked?”
Bellaria looked to Meana who said, “Because if I let you really feel everything now, you will resist the lessons you need to learn. Right now we are the teachers and Owen is our secret weapon."

And Tago nodded to Meana and Bellaria who said, "Owen, Tell her about your life and your relationships."
He leaned back and held her reassuringly close to him and said, "It will pass."
She sighed.
"You know I've never been particularly good at asking girls out."
And at that she laughed and relaxed a little, "I'm finding that very hard to believe. You are quite an appealing male."
"Well thanks. But I'm not good at doing the asking. I tend to hang back and wait until you girls come on to me... except with you."
And she laughed again, "I have a picture of that. This large, good looking, charming, intelligent male hangs back and let's all the females look him over and then waits until the interest signals are such that she comes to you. I see how that would work for you. It's very primal in its own way."
"Wow, you make me sound like a Human Male Venus Flytrap."
And she thought about that then said, "Yep. That's it exactly."
"Woman, I think you just complimented me" and he listed, "good looking, charming, intelligent. But I can't help feel that there is a dig in there somewhere. I'm beginning to think that you don't know who I really am at all. You think I'm some sort of playboy Casanova."
And she thought about that a minute as she heard just a hint of hurt in his voice. "Well you are a charming man. I'm sure the women do fall over you. There is nothing wrong with that. You obviously are financially able to do pretty much what you want when you want. You don't really need for anything. You enjoy your pleasures and why shouldn't you."
"Yes but that makes me sounds so superficial."
"ooo ouch. I'm sorry. I know that you are a deep thinker. I know you care about people. I know that you have a large heart and that you commit yourself fully when you are doing anything. I know that you are not superficial."
"Ok that's better. Then why do I feel like, while you might know these things, you resist letting yourself interact fully with me."
"Well Owen, I'm your teacher...."
"Yes but I believe that you are also my friend."
"Well I believe that we are friends too,” and she joked, “friends with occasional ritual benefits."
"And we're back to sounding superficial."
"Now Owen... "
"Well perhaps some of that is fair. I had lots of girl friends and lots of fun sex when I was in college. I had a really good time in my 20s. I worked in New Orleans and throughout the south in various architectural, project management and construction jobs. I've literally dated around the country. Right after I turned 30 I went back to Pennsylvania to manage some pretty major upgrades on my family's hotels. I did it because I wasn't fully committed to any one or any other place and because it was what my family always wanted and expected. Back home I'm considered a great local catch. I've never been without female company. But I never really clicked with anyone. Even when I was with the same woman for years, the one my little brother was destined for, I was restless and not in love. I know now, because I now understand the difference you make between love and in love. We were comfortable with each other. We were doing just enough of what our families expected of us without ever really committing, to each other, to each others dreams, even fully to ourselves."
And he sat up as he thought about it. "But I am not like that now. I feel like I am finally in the right place. I am rooted. Look at my business and this house and the pool and landscaping based on something called, of all things, PERMAculture. And he stood up. "You've help me find a path a philosophy that is right for me. Why does it feel like we're friends but you are always ready to step away and out of the picture? Why is there this distance? We're friends but I feel you're always holding me at arms length."
As she listened she heard the yearning in his voice for feeling like he belonged. As if he wanted to be wanted for who he really was and not what someone else expected him to be. Then suddenly he had turned all that sincerity on to her. Asking her why she held people at arms length. Why she held him at arms length.

And she looked at him knowing that after all he had said he deserved an answer. "I.... I....." and she sighed "Give me a minute Owen; I didn't expect you to tack that way. I feel like the boom hit me. You really can be quite intense you know." And she thought, kind of like a charging bull.
And he knew. "I know. People always assume that I'm just happy go lucky Owen."
And she said, "And they don't see the whole you."
And he nodded as he said, "Or know what to do with the whole me." And he turned to pace between the sofa and the fireplace which took not quite 2 steps before he hand to turn around again.
"I understand."
"Really? Really?"
"Yes, I think I really do. What we do together, this path, this process of learning, the walking between the worlds that we do, it opens us up to more than just the great wide universe. It opens us up to ourselves. You and I have spent time talking about and doing things most people don't. You're right. We are connected. We are friends. What we do is different from how we interact with most others. I understand the yearning to have that kind of relationship with more people. I wish we could go back to the days when we lived closer to the earth and when who people are at their core was what really mattered instead of all the other stuff that passes for value these days. I do treasure the time we spend together."
And he smiled very lightly before his brow wrinkled again. "Then why do I feel like you are close and then you move away."
"Ok, see… now…. I thought I was going to get out of answering that question."
And that made him smile again.
"Alright I'll try to answer you but I think the answer to your question has 2 parts. Sit down Owen." And she patted the sofa.
"It is no fun when you are close to people, when you trust them or count on them being there and it doesn't work out, something goes wrong or they let you down or hurt you. As a kid I trusted my family and they let me down on some pretty important stuff.” And she paused and thought about how to get him to understand her reluctance. “My father was my world, the one person on the planet I felt really got me for who I was. I loved him. Just being around him made me happy, and then he got sick and died. I learned to play it safe with my feelings by not really allowing any deep feelings, by retaining some emotional distance, by being an observer, by holding something back for me. Then I fell in love with James only, over a 10 year period, to have him break my heart twice and bend it pretty good a few other times. Since then I think I've figured out how to make being there, fully in each moment, work for me and allow me to really experience life. I am committed to my relationships and to my responsibilities. But you are right I do hold a bit of my heart back. I have to have something to start with again should it get trampled on by life's complexities. I'm only so strong."
And as he listened it came to him, "Nola I know why you were so scared."
"Really? Why?"
"You are scared all the time. I just pulled the curtain back far enough for you to see it."
And she sat there thinking and realizing that there just might be some truth to that before she finally said, "Maybe I should make 'Feel the fear and do it anyway' my new motto." Then she jumped to the next reason and she caught herself thinking that there could be a bit of self defense in this action too.
Meana said again," It's ok. You're safe."
"But there are other more practical reasons. I've worked in what was, when I started, a man's industry for 25 years. I am very often still the only woman in a room full of men. To thrive in this world as a woman, it has helped to be able to be more analytical, to be able to step back. To be able to hold myself as a female and all that means, apart from what I do as a professional. Also as a supervisor in corporate America, you have to maintain some distance with the people you supervise. I like to think of myself as a good supervisor, one who is fair, who explains what needs to be accomplished but doesn’t over supervise, as someone who has her staff's back. But as a supervisor I also have responsibilities to management and the corporation as a whole. This requires that some of me stay separate from the people who work for me, or, because I’ve always been a part of a support organization, from the people my team and I serve. I can't be just their colleague or fully their friend. I have to hold something back to be able to supervise and serve. With you I am your friend but I am you teacher too. There are similarities. I have students start on this path and then change their mind. I had groups, Clans, Boschettos come together only to fall apart. Sometimes a little distance is healthy."

And as he listened he realized that there was wisdom in what she was saying. She was scared and strong and wise. To Nola it looked like she had managed to answer his question and that he seemed satisfied with her answer.

Meana said, "Gently Owen, Gently.
What he said was, "Ok, I think I get it."
And Nola sighed and thought, and said out loud playfully, “Whew.”
Then Owen said as he started to get up, “Ok dinner Thursday May 8th, Galatoire's 7PM. You should meet me here and we'll go together in my truck. My family is staying in the Quarter because I haven't finished the upstairs guest bedrooms and bathroom. I'm going to take some grief for that."
She just sat there speechless until she was finally able to say, "You still want me to come to dinner with your family? As your girlfriend?"
"Sure. It took me until after Papa Eric died, but I've learned not to argue with his suggestions." And he walked of to the kitchen for the wine.

And as he did she said, “Totally exasperating man.”
And he called back from the hall, “Yes, but you like me.”
And she said to the room, “Yes, damn it, I do like you.”
“I heard that.”
She just sat there.
He returned with glasses and the wine. He handed her a full glass and sat down next to her. She said, “OK consider it your birthday present.”
He clinked her glass and said, “Deal.” And they each took a sip and Nola was prepared for him as he sealed it with a kiss.

“I’m assuming that I go as “just” your girlfriend and not your pagan teacher.”
“Check, pagan teacher would not make mom happy.”
And we’ve been seeing each other since we met on the plane to Pennsylvania.”
“Yep, 5 months.”
“And what do we do together? Other than what we actually do together which we can’t really talk about.”
“Nola. Be nice. We can talk about what we do together. We hang out. We watch movies, occasionally Star Trek which will go over well with Eric & Ryan. We discuss books. Dad will love that.” And he waved his hand around the room. “My family knows I’m a book worm. We’ve designed and built the garden. Abby and Stella love to garden. They aren’t crack addicts like you but they like it. It’s a dinner. It’s one night toward the end of their visit. I have enough to keep them busy with Jazzfest and the required Disaster Tour and the French Quarter and the pool and the zoo and the aquarium. Mom will want to shop for furniture for the guest rooms. That will keep her and Stella busy. We’ll break in the basketball court. You know enough about me to pass as my girlfriend.”
“Ok fine. And, if asked, have I been married once or twice or not at all?”
“Well, you’ve been married twice. But you don’t have to mention it unless specifically asked. Isn’t that how your formula for dealing with delicate issues works?”
“Owen…. That is not fair. I never said I intentionally lied. I just…”
“Who said you were lying? You are a girl. You are my friend. You’re a professional for a large corporation and you work for a refinery. You’re a native New Orleanian from the 9th Ward. You’re a PostKatrina neighborhood activist. You shouldn’t be left alone in the kitchen. You landscape as you drive. You paint and sketch. Damn it Nola, you’re one of the most interesting women I’ve ever met. There is a lot to talk about without wading into territory they won’t understand. We’ve spent a lot of time hanging out together since we met on the plane. I like you. What more is there that they need to know? “
She sighed, “Do you know about my daughter?”
“Yes, But you don’t have to mention her…
“unless specifically asked. Ok, I get it.”
“I want them to see 2 people who like each other, who look like they have a relationship and then let them think what they want to think and then go home happy. It will be OK.”
And she sighed and gave up the fight. “Ok…… Ok… Ok.”
“You like me.”
“Yes. I like you.”
And he kissed her again.

And by the time she typically went home she had relaxed into thinking that it would be Ok and it might even be fun and on the drive home she couldn’t even remember what she had originally planed for that evening’s lesson.

And Settrano and Bellaria grinned at Meana and Tago. And Papa Eric was pleased.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Orleans Fringe Festival

When does the edge move to the center? This looks like the year for the New Orleans Fringe Festival as it unveils more than 150 shows from 60 performing groups during its run from Nov. 17 to 21.

The 2010 New Orleans Fringe Festival runs from Nov. 17 to 21 with performances scheduled throughout the city.
One measure of the festival's growing importance is that international artists are traveling here for the first time, including some from as far away as Chile, Switzerland, Italy, Northern Ireland and Norway. The foreign contingent joins artists from across the United States for five days of drama, comedy, musical theater, cabaret, multimedia, dance, circus, sideshow and puppetry. The Fringe even sponsors a parade on St. Claude Avenue, which mixes festival performers and neighborhood folks. The Good Children Fringe Parade starts at St. Claude and Poland Avenues on Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.

Although most of the festival centers on a half-dozen locations in the downtown neighborhoods of Bywater and Marigny, the venues also include such -- dare we say "establishment" -- theaters as Le Chat Noir cabaret and Southern Rep. Other venues are as alternative as the performers. This year, for example, shows will be staged in the Den of Muses, an industrial building in Marigny that house floats for the Krewe du Vieux.

Another first for the festival will be a weekend of free daytime children's activities, such as improv workshops, double-dutch contests and art-making activities. They will take place in the Free-For-All tent -- in Plessy Park at Royal and Press streets, beside the festival's central box office. It's a good place to put up your feet, sip a beer, grab a snack or shop the Fringe Market for crafts.

For tickets and details about all the shows, visit

Southern Rep is currently featuring "Afterlife: A Ghost Story" by Steve Yockey. It's the world premiere of a piece that will go on to theaters in Boston and Los Angeles with support from the National New Play Network. Set in a beach house with a storm approaching, this hair-raiser follows a grieving couple through a plot full of sudden twists and surprises. Southern Rep artistic director Aimee Hayes staged "Afterlife, " with an all-star local cast: Lucy Faust, Michael Aaron Santos, John Neisler, Troi Bechet, Lisa Picone and Andrew Farrier. It runs through Nov. 7. Call 504.522.6545 or go to

Cripple Creek Theatre Company does its part to promote new plays by presenting a trilogy of one-acts in November. Written by the troupe's artistic director, Andrew Vaught, "A Crude Trilogy" is directed by Emilie Whelan. She recently staged a sell-out production of "The Madwoman of Chaillot" for this spunky downtown company. "Crude" opens on Nov. 5 and runs on weekends through Nov. 13. Call 504.891.6815 or go to

Anthony Bean Community Theater continues its run of "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" by Lonnie Elder III. Set in a rundown Harlem barbershop, this 1969 stage classic centers on the struggles of an aging patriarch and his fractured family. For the New Orleans production, which closes on Oct. 31, Anthony Bean directs a cast of seven, including such notable actors as Harold X. Evans and Damany S. Cormier. Call, 504.862.7529 or go to

Saints fans have a chance to celebrate at the theater this month with two notable local shows. "Ain't Dat Super" debuted at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts over the Labor Day weekend. It will return to the big hall in Armstrong Park on Nov. 13. Set in a New Orleans bar, the show features beloved local actors -- Becky Allen and John "Spud" McConnell -- in a comedy loaded with Saints trivia. There is even a chance to "tailgate" before the curtain rises. Call 888.946.4839 or go to

There's also time to catch the final show of "Bless Ya Boys: Who Dat Nation" at Le Chat Noir cabaret on Thursday. It's the fourth year for this popular seasonal review which looks back, with a smile, at 40 years of Saints history. Other shows at the Le Chat include a pair of comedies "Good Night and the Island of Dr. Fitzmorris!" Friday and Saturday and "Love Child" (opens with a benefit show on Nov. 4 and continues on weekends through Nov. 21). Call 504.581.5812 or go to

Le Petit Theatre also focuses on laughs with "Forbidden Broadway, " which runs at the French Quarter venue Nov. 5 through 19. The comedy spoofs familiar stage actors and Broadway shows. It has evolved in the decades since winning a 1981 Tony Award in New York. It now includes send ups of "Hairspray" and other more recent work. Call 504.522.2081 or go to

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chapter 32 – Pool Landscaping

Nola pulled out of the driveway. Her family was sleeping in. Neither of them had any real interest in gardening with the exception of occasional harvesting. And she smiled as she thought about Jamie cutting flowers or picking satsumas or James using herbs from the garden or picking tomatoes. The weather was cooperating. It would be another dry day and it was in the 60s and would climb to the high 70s during the day. Owen had said bring her suit and she had but it was way too cold for her to swim in the pool. If she got in the water it would be in the Jacuzzi.

When she drove up to Owen's he and Joe were in the driveway. She pressed the button to open the gate and hesitated to drive in, unsure about whether her truck would be in the way. But Owen smiled at her and motioned her down the drive to an angled stop next to his truck. Joe took note that Nola could open the driveway gate. Roger said that Owen was seeing Nola but Joe was still holding out hope. As she got out of her truck she greeted Owen with "Hello, boss. I see I'm not the first. Hello Joe."
Joe smiled and said, "Hello Nola."
Owen smiled and hugged her and said, "Hello Woman." And based on the hug Joe was pretty sure that Roger was right. Damn it.
Nola said, "I was hoping to be able to get the trees set out and take a look at placement before everyone else got here. You can't stop me this time, boss."
Then turning to Joe she said, "Joe will you help me get some of the pots placed? Owen wouldn't let me do when I was here on Thursday. He insisted I have help."
Joe said, "Sure. Happy to."
The security gate was open and Nola hooked Joe's arm and they went into through the new, open, iron security gate. Nola teased, "You coming boss or you gonna make us to all the work?"
He chuckled, "Lead on, woman."
When Joe saw the number of trees he whistled. "You sure all of these are going fit?"
Nola smiled and said. "Sure, most of them are small understory trees that don't grow large or fast. The idea is for this back corner area to look like mini-forest. No lawnmowers!"
Joe and Owen smiled at that as Nola continued "I'd like to get the pines along the back fence. Could you all place them about 8 feet from each other starting in the far left corner?"

Joe nodded and he and Owen each took a pine. Nola grabbed the fig and moved that to the corner. Once she placed the fig to her satisfaction she placed the peach a little farther out toward the center of the area to ensure it got enough sun. When Owen placed the last pine he commented to Joe, intentionally loud enough for Nola to hear, "You can't stop her from getting her hands dirty." She just smiled at him as she stood there looking at the pine placement. She adjusted the pines so they were closest to the fenceline but far enough away to make planting easy. She wanted their canopy to straddle the fenceline and create a tall border at the back. She was explaining her reasoning for placement when they heard a "Hey Owen!!!! If you don't let us in we're leaving!!!!!" from the driveway. It seemed the rest of the crew was arriving. Owen left Nola with Joe and went to open the gate.

The guys chatted in the driveway as they hung out waiting for the rest of the crew who was parking on the street to wander in. By the time everyone had arrived and was in the back yard Nola and Joe had set the swamp maples and the redbuds and were working on the sweet olives and Japanese magnolia. Joe was watching how she worked and realizing he really liked this landscaping stuff. They would set the plants and then Nola would stand back and adjust them. She and Joe were standing next to each other talking about angles and view and growth habit of different trees when the rest of the crew came through the gate. Maurice nudged Owen and said, "You better watch Joe with your woman. I think he's got a crush on her." Louis laughed and Owen smiled at them both.

Nola laid her hand on Joe's arm and said, "Before we set the rest, let's go upstairs and take a look from the balcony. I think a different viewpoint will help make sure we've got it right. What do you think?"
Joe looked back at the balcony and noticed the other guys and Owen and smiled and said, "Sure, let's go."

Nola saw Maurice and Larry and smiled and waved at them. "Hello fellows, here to work your magic with cement?"
Maurice smiled. "Yep, You and Owen can think it up but you need me to make it real." Then he took charge of 3 guys who'd be working with him with him to make the form and they went to the back corner to start the lay out of the basket ball court. Maurice asked, "Owen what time is the truck arriving with the cement?"
"Between Noon & 1PM, based on a phone call I made Thursday, but I haven't called to confirm today. I'll do that."

Nola said, "Owen, Joe & I would like to go upstairs and get a look at the backyard from the balcony before we finished setting the trees. Ok?"
"Sure." He said, "I'll join you as soon as I get in touch with the cement company. As he was finishing up his call Roger called from the driveway.
"Hey Man! Come open the gate."
Owen met him at the gate, "Roger, what are you doing here?"
As they walked down the driveway Roger replied, "Oh I thought I'd come and see your woman in action and to see how many of the crew you have working today and to finally get a dip in the pool."

They met the guys who would be helping with the planting but who were lounging on the patio while they waited for the trees to be set. Roger greeted everyone and then nudged Owen. "So where is she?"
Owen pointed up to far corner of the balcony where Nola and Joe were talking and pointing. Nola waved to Roger. Roger leaned into Owen and said quietly, "You better watch Joe with your woman. I think he's got a crush on her."
Owen just shook his head and smiled. "You and Maurice have got to stop gossiping."

Nola and Joe finally made their way down from the balcony. Nola said hello to Roger with a kiss to his cheek and said, "When are we going dancing again?"
Which made Roger smile and say "Soon I hope." She just smiled at him and then headed to the back patio and began placing the last of the Japanese magnolias. They finished placing the trees and she ask Joe, "Would you mind staying down here and letting me go back up on the balcony? I'd like to be able to make any adjustments while I'm up there and since you understand what I'm looking for you could help direct the guys to move any of the pots. Ok?"
Joe nodded understanding complete. "Sure."
Nola kissed his cheek too, "Thanks Joe."

Roger and Owen were still watching all the action from the patio closest to the kitchen door and Roger nudged Owen. "Told you."
Nola made her way to the kitchen door and Owen said. "Where are you going now, woman?"
"To take a look from the balcony again. Joe is going to help me make any adjustments and then we can get started planting."
Owen looked at Roger and said, "Why don't you check on Maurice. I'd like to get a look from the balcony as well." Roger winked at him.
Nola was already on her way up the stairs. Owen called to her and caught up to her before she opened the door to the balcony. He teased her and took her by the waist and said, "Roger gets a kiss. Joe gets a kiss but I don't get a kiss. Now what is wrong with this picture?"
She smiled at him and gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, "Thank you, boss this is a lot of fun. Let's go take a look. Joe is waiting for me to confirm the final placement before we can start planting. I want make sure that you are ok with what we've done."

From the balcony it was easier to see the forested look she was going for and Owen got serious about providing input. They made a few minor adjustments and then Nola signaled an Ok and a thumbs up to Joe. Before they went down she asked, "Do you think that Maurice can leave a small space along the wall in the corner so we can get some vines growing along the side wall? It will help stop the corner from being such a heat sink."
"Sure, I guess he can. I better let him know now though."
"I'll come with you."

"Maurice, Nola's got a slight adjustment to the plan."
"Better speak up. This form is an easy right angle set up and will go in quickly."
"Maurice, I'd like to get a vine, probably jasmine, growing from that corner." and she pointed to the far right corner of the yard. The vine will help stop this corner from being such a heat sink. I only need a space about this big to set the plant" and she made a circle of about 6-8 inches in diameter. "But I want to make sure that we don't make it hard on your form building or create a problem when they're playing on the court by creating hole where they can twist an ankle. What do you think?"
"You're right; it could get mighty hot back here in the summer. I think I can leave you a triangle for setting your plant. You want some string on the wall to like in front?"
"Yes, that would be great. Thank you Maurice." And he got a kiss on the cheek too.
Maurice said, "Sure no problem."
She smiled a group thanks to the basketball court crew and then said, "Ok well, we're going to start the planting now."

"Joe, Steve and Doug didn't work with us on the front yard. I'll show Steve and you can show Doug how dig and get some potting soil in the bottom of the hole and break up the roots before we plant, then we can each take a tree and a shovel and get started. Ok?"
And with 4 of them working it took less than 2 hours to plant all the trees and set the mulch out. Steve and Doug left right after they finished. And it didn't take Maurice much longer to finish up his form.
He and Owen had rigged 2 walkways so they could work the cement from above once it was poured.

A little after 11AM they had all the creeping fig planted as ground cover and with help from the guys who had finished up the form even planted the monkey grass edging. Most of the guys left to have Saturday afternoon with their families. But Joe, Roger, Louis & Maurice stayed around to swim in the pool and because they would help with the cement work after the truck arrived. Nola was working on watering each tree. Owen had ordered pizza and had broken out the beer. He handed a beer to Roger and then went over to Nola and said, "Put your suit on woman and come swim in my pool."
"I've tested the water and it's too cold for me to get in. I'll put on my suit but only if you warm up the Jacuzzi."
"The Jacuzzi is already warm."

When she came back out she had on a black one piece halter with a light weight, long, flowered sarong tied around her waist. She was still working the hose to make sure that every thing was well watered. She moved the hose to another tree and sat on the edge of the pool with her feet on the shelf and chatted with the guys who were showing off in the pool. Except Maurice who was lounging comfortably in an inner tube. She said, "Maurice you look like you belong in a pool."
"It seems I do." And he smiled, "And you look like a Greek goddess in that get up."
"Thank you Maurice."

She finally moved the hose into the far corner and assumed she could leave it in that position for a while and headed to the Jacuzzi. Before she knew it everyone was in the Jacuzzi with her, Owen on one side Joe on the other. Roger said, "I'm hungry. How will you know when the pizza gets here? I told them we were in the back yard and to call my cell when they get to the gate."
And as if on cue Owen's phone rang.

While they were finishing up the pizza Nola checked on the watering was satisfied with it and shut off the hose. Owen had followed her to the far side of the pool. It seemed a good time to leave so Nola said, "I should probably get my truck out of the way before the cement truck shows up."
"Please stay, it won't take us long to finish up."
"I can't. I have to get home. Everything is watered thoroughly but it's been so dry lately that you should put the sprinkler on for an hour every night."
"You’re sure I can't convince you to stay?"
"You all are going to be busy with the cement. I know that takes focus to do well. You all won't miss me."
He hugged her and whispered in her ear. "Yes I will."
Roger, Joe and Louis pretended not to see the hug. Maurice didn't bother, he just smiled. Nola said goodbye and waved to them as she walked to her truck. "I'm going to get out of the way before the cement truck shows up. Maurice I'll be back to appreciate your work on Thursday. Try to keep Owen out of trouble. Joe thanks for all your help today. See you, Louis, Roger."

Owen walked her out and the cement truck showed up not long after Nola backed out of the driveway. Maurice supervised the set up and soon Joe, Louis, Roger and Owen were working for Maurice. It was a bit of a pain to work in such a tight corner and keep the surface smooth. But the walkways over the court allowed all 4 of them to work simultaneously. They finished in the early afternoon and left Owen with a transformed yard and 5 days until Nola would return.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shadowfest Cemetary Visit

Shadowfest 2006 Art Shadowfest 2006 Art 1

Today I took my daughter to the cemetary with me...
She was late for school...
Excuse? Religious Holiday.
All Saints Day and visiting the cemetaries is (well was) a big deal here.
I told her stories of the ancestors.