Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones |

Claudine Jones

Designed for Junk

A saw is buzzing out in the back. Despite years of passive/aggressive indoctrination, I've actually hired someone other than my brothers to do some construction for me. 

I met him when he was out trimming my next door neighbor's yard—mostly trees, but also a giant line of privacy hedge that periodically needs reining in, thus requiring access down my driveway through the rolling gate. Out on the sidewalk one day, we chatted about the feijoa (pineapple guava) between the houses on the edge of the driveway. I had noticed the fruit dropping around my car in the cold of November; one taste & I was hooked—for years I've made all kind of product with those babies—so I wanted to make sure that tree stayed healthy.  My neighbor had apparently chosen it for reasons other than the edible & didn't give a hoot if I did a winter harvest.

Chap has a verifiable love for his work; likes to talk about the various ways of optimizing growth, areas for best results on the NSEW perimeters of local domiciles, clucking disapproval over bad choices like the row of 20 pomegranates that are the bane of everyone's parking experience on our narrow street. They scratch & grab the cars & trucks, but behind her block-long wrought-iron fence that lady still thinks she's 'beautifying' the planet.

I read today of a fellow who survived the boats. Got here very young from Vietnam & made himself a wealthy man, with wife & kids, but as a fresh homeowner ran afoul of his neighbors when he began tinkering with his property; as a newly-minted member of the community, he wanted acceptance—invited folks in for food & drink & hospitality.

That cordiality froze as months went by & his landscape began a transformation to accommodate his dreams: larger & better & tricked-out interiors which perforce reduced the green space on his roomy lot & impinged on views other people used to enjoy; smooth pavements in place of lawn (for his extended family) which horrified neighbors described as 'parking lots'.  After losing their lawsuit, his new community shuns him. He remains seemingly unfazed & confident of his legal standing.

Since I lost half our free-ranging chickens to varmints, there was nothing for it but to whisk the survivors away to safe territory (with other hens) & set to getting them outfitted with locked-up, limited, yet joyful new digs.  This would be advantageous to everyone including the hens: Chap is happy to oblige; he makes 'found' items feel like treasure & the leftover lumber from previous work that has languished abandoned on the driveway could be pressed into service—why not? Nobody wants a fire in the fireplace anymore; too much particulate, & the trees that gave up their lives surely don't care. A coop is an honorable & useful karmic landing spot.

It goes further: the timber includes enormous rough-sawn remnants of  structures long gone, from the southeast of Missouri, near the Arkansas border, where my grandfather's people settled. He not only had taken part in constructing many an outbuilding or other at the turn of the last century, but also learned craft at his older men-folks' side, eventually to build his own homes; by the time these last sticks came to my brother,  they were to serve as payment for painting my uncle's  house.  Hauled back on a truck, they lay in his shed for decades until I had my garage torn down & suddenly there seemed a purpose again.

At the convergence of inspiration & family there has always been struggle—between my parents, the cultural divide; my brothers, the reality of ten years apart in age & outlook;  myself, & my brothers as a unit, issues of gender—& sadly, one thing has nourished consistent outrage. Money.

My dad invested in (that I know of) Texas oil wells, fiberglass boats, a photography enterprise, a rubber tire concern going out-of-business. He lost every cent & both his houses.

My older brother is a ticket-magnet—if there's a place in Heaven where the meter maids can't find you, he'll get lost on the way & park on the wrong side. He doesn't understand the concept of money market funds & is deeply suspicious of banks to the extent that at age 69, he has no credit rating. At all.

My younger brother has borrowed against the house I helped him buy 25 years ago so many times that he's never going to pay it off; meanwhile, he's bought so many old cars—Porsche, Mercedes, Miata—& seen them rot for lack of maintenance that he may as well have driven them off a cliff. Yet, he bids a 20ft repair of my fence at $3K & loses it to my neighbor's Mexican guys who do it for $300. We all agree that this is not fair to them, in fact I privately gave them an extra hundred; but he'll go to his grave feeling an under-appreciated & under-paid artist.

In the '30s & '40s my mother's mother saved string & stored fresh petticoats in an armoire for her young daughters until the ones they were wearing fell apart & the new ones were too small.  She used a saucepan with a hole in the bottom, stuffed with a bit of rag to keep the leaking staunched, & died of an untended cancer lurking in her goiter because she was afraid of doctors even after being married to one.

Who would have thought that in 2015 my mother would get a national commercial from Chevy? They found her at the local Farmer's Market one Sunday & paid her handsomely for the use of her face & voice, as well as the shoot in her tiny apartment. She cashed the check & stashed the proceeds at her insistence in a compartment between two drawers where she says nobody would look. We all think it’s kind of ill-advised.  We could say it's because we care about our mother but really it's ageism; she wouldn't be the first person who found comfort at having a few thousand bucks hidden. It makes it seem like it will stay there & grow in the dark.

I should talk: my son slaps down a couple of Franklins every month for the basement space downstairs where , in the present market for rentals it seems he will be stuck forever.  I started storing that money in my old Japanese jewelry chest—which actually has a really cool slide-out drawer underneath for secrets—way before my mother got her check from Chevy, so... 

It seems that raiding my particular piggy-bank does not coincide with the general trend; being inextricably bound up with the death of a spouse as the source of my present monetary status as retired homeowner with no debts makes me a bit of an odd-ball.

It's been a month of back & forth, but there is ¾ of a coop back there; driveway is mostly clear. I have been called in many times for feedback & consultation; no arguments or disparagement as is brothers' wont. Chats about Care of Hens & so forth; this fellow has a load of experience & at some point in fact OD'd on chickens, so he envisions the time when I might possibly want to re-purpose this creation of hardware & history.

He thinks perhaps cannabis might just thrive out there.


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Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.
She writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2016 Claudine Jones
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine




August 2016

Volume 17, Issue 3

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