Monday, March 31, 2008

Post Titled: I write about one short story every year. This one (a more-or-less true story) is called:

“Noah's _____.”

In 1975 Noah quit deep sea botany and marine study altogether for the more lucrative life of real estate. Financially, this was a brilliant move on his part- after all, who could've predicted the housing market of his mid-sized American city would undergo seven booms and only four small busts in the next thirty years? In those thirty years Noah acquired not one, not two, but 15 charming older mansions which he then converted into apartment buildings immediately after purchase.

Noah, having been a hippie-turned-scientist-turned-capitalist-turned-eccentric-old-
hippie-capitalist during that timespan was nevertheless still a hard worker. When he finally had all the buildings he wanted and all the gears set in-motion he then chose a particularly choice vacant apartment just below ours to live in with his gray-haired hippie-capitalist-partner-wife (of an indeterminate number of years). They lived happily while raking-in the dough from the rent on all the buildings and worked persistently on many a varied project. The actual purpose of these projects, however, as well the actual quality of the intended outcome was completely in the eye of the beholder. If you weren't expecting much then you could say they did an excellent job. Personally, what I saw of his renovations seemed to me like he had cut a few corners and sacrificed quality workmanship for “looks good enough for now” aesthetics.

Because of his early years of heavy drug use Noah had become somewhat of a moody eccentric in his older age. I never could tell exactly, but I assumed he was nearing age 60 when I moved in. Upon first glance he appeared to have popped right off the pages of a children's fairytale book, (Rumpelstiltskin perhaps) with his small skinny body, sharp facial features, little round glasses and long stringy shoulder-length gray hair. This look was enhanced by the 6-inch (now white) fu-manchu he sported and the oddly colored vests and short pants he often wore, mostly splattered with paint and in desperate need a wash.
Other than home repairs it was difficult to say what actually went on in Noah's life. His elementary-aged grandchildren came to visit often enough, but I also recall him mentioning offhand that he was not on speaking terms with his son...
When Noah ran out of projects to do (and this began happening as soon as he'd hired enough competent live-in managers for each of his apartment buildings) he began smoking pot again vigorously in the tiny but traditional Henkai house he'd spent tens-of-thousands of dollars to import Bali specifically for “meditation.” Hardly a day went by when we wouldn't look down into the steep wooded backyard while waiting for morning coffee to percolate and see him puffing away calmly on his un-discrete waterpipe, dew still on the ground and bright sun squinting his eyes.
In this time Noah also took up painting, and his works of “art” as he called them were also of highly questionable quality or relevance (mostly due to the fact that he hadn't picked up a brush since the 8th grade and was always using leftover pastel tones of house paint in his violently sloppy work) which he'd admitted, had mostly been created when he was “stoned out-of-his-gourd.”

After three months of this I had pretty-much arrived at the conclusion that Noah was losing it. One sunny Sunday afternoon in late July I bumped into him while collecting my laundry in the labyrinthine basement and was coerced into going into his new “painting studio” (which was actually just a gutted basement-level apartment.) After it had been vacated recently he decided that it would serve his needs better if he just spent late nights sloshing syrupy old pastel wallpaint around than take the time to, once again renovate it for new tenants who would be forking-over $1,700 a month towards his further delinquency. All along the walls lining the inside of the studio were “new age” theory books intermingled with large seashells, pine-cones from every national park in the country, and mason jars full of very dead paintbrushes. Most of the books, he admitted, had been purchased based on the interviews he'd heard with their authors at 3am on the Art Bell radio program, a show known for its conspiracy-theorist guests and their unshakable faith in their own apocalyptic and catastrophic ideas. It was from one of these books by a Professor A. Fischbein that Noah got the idea to build another ark.
“The floods will come again,” said Fischbein “mark my words! The status quo for weather regularity will not hold!” was one of the quotes I came across while doing a bit of research on him myself.
Noah never actually told any of the buildings tenants that he was building an ark, but the following Saturday when he began rota-tilling the wilderness of the backyard we became suspicious.
“Just gonna build a deck here” I overheard him say on a break, sweating while the nice gay couple downstairs handed him a freshly made Mimosa “Oh wonderful!” said the Strawberry-blonde drink-maker, who was often seen shamelessly sunbathing in a very tiny pair of men's bikini-style underwear down out front of the tiny porch of the Balinese house in a suped-up lawnchair. A deck would definitely do him some good, maybe even clear out some of those pesky old-growth branches blocking the sun from above...

TO READ FURTHER CLICK HERE. (originally had the whole story posted but it was just to damn long.)


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