The MacGuffin

In due time, though, word circles back, arriving home again to the house on Shady. D. reflects upon the street name. “You know, when you said that,” he confides, “I remembered that L. lived there. Shady Blvd. She rented an apartment there during her first months in town, before she purchased her home.”

“Wow, how weird,” I reply, unable at first to contain my bewilderment. For L. is one of our colleagues. Could she, too, have been privy to the home’s mysteries? Sensing already in this discovery some hint of the unheimlich, I resolve then and there to investigate.

“I’ll have to ask her about it,” I tell him.

And ask I do.

L. and I meet that very evening, in fact, at a brewery. What I learn from her, however, dispels rather abruptly what I’d been led to believe by D.

“No, I never lived in that house. I never lived on Shady,” she replies when I press her about it. “But I suspect I know who does.”

Portals

Because of its stained glass, its gaudy chandeliers, its profusion of mirrors, there was always a liveliness, a vibrancy to the Shady home’s interiors. The home’s mirrors were the equivalent of portals. Black Lodge, the occult-themed bar in town, utilized similar décor—though of course, as the name suggests, with the color removed: the Shady home stripped of its shine, replaced with an abundance of black.

The Wizard’s Tastes, as Expressed Through Interior Design

In design terms, the Wizard’s tastes skewed toward the epic, the ornate — total art! cosmic syncretism! He hung large antique mirrors on walls in three of the home’s rooms; he filled most of the home’s windows with stained glass, including a large window at the front of the house featuring an image of the Eye of Providence — the latter retrieved, I’m told, from either a former church or a former Masonic Temple. From the ceilings of those of the home’s rooms adorned with foxed mirrors, he added dazzling, many-armed, many-bulbed chandeliers — beautiful, gaudy, dusty old things! The home’s several built-in bookcases may have been of his making as well — as were one room’s shelves sized for storage of records. The most characteristic of his contributions, though, was the imp crouched atop the home’s door bell, or the pair of werewolves carved into the corners of a mantle atop one room’s fireplace.

The Move-In

When Sarah and I first moved in, we hired a team of local movers to help us unload. One of the movers took one look at the werewolves, and one look at the Eye of Providence, and said, “Y’all ought to have a preacher come and bless this place.”

The House on Shady Boulevard

“So this home,” begins the Narrator. “It’s the cute little craftsman — the one with the stained glass, correct?”

“Yes — inasmuch as the Ship of Theseus is the Ship of Theseus,” replies the Traveler. “Yet don’t be fooled by its current guise. A subsequent owner repainted the home’s exterior with colors that don’t suit it. To properly understand its appeal, one must picture it now as it appeared then: a charming brown-and-yellow bungalow, two houses in from the corner, cyclopean stained-glass Eye of Providence fitted into the frame of the front window, staring intently at all who pass, on land that used to belong to the city’s waterworks.”

Narrator meets the Traveler’s gaze for a moment, then jots a few words in his journal. “And the musician / record producer Mitch Easter,” murmurs the Narrator, as if reading from a dossier. “Frontman for 80s alt-rock / jangle-pop group Let’s Active: he lived there too, did he not?”

“Yes, Easter grew up there, too. Not in the same house, mind you,” hastens the Traveler. “The Easter home was two doors down. But yeah, that was Drive-In Studio. That’s where Mitch recorded R.E.M.’s first single, ‘Radio Free Europe’ — there in his parents’ garage.”

“And Mitch would go on to produce Brighten the Corners, is that right?” asks the Narrator.

“Yes, precisely—the Pavement album,” says the Traveler, lips pursed.

“On which appears…?” adds the Narrator, as if coaching the Traveler through an as-yet unmemorized script.

“On which appears / a song called ‘Shady Lane.’”

Friday June 18, 2021

I stare up at, gather attention toward a set of newly mounted tape racks. We’ve been busy with various projects around the house: repairing the AC unit, installing a shelf in Frankie’s closet. Frankie resents the distinction between meum and tuum, a distinction learned via conflicts over toys at the pool. But the pool works its magic: sun shines down, conflicts are forgotten, and baby is happy, happy, happy.

Thursday November 19, 2020

The yard around the house changes, of course, with the change of seasons. Neighboring houses enter sight, though still from a great distance, as trees lose their leaves. ‘Tis the season to build beds, I tell myself, so that when spring arrives, we can plant the beginnings of our vegetable, herb, and flower gardens. Because of deer, we’ll also have to raise a fence. The yard around this fenced-in area will remain open: some parts wild woods of trees, other parts mown. The deer are thus welcome still to visit and graze. Students and I arrive, meanwhile, to the tragic, long-awaited “novum-event” at the mid-point or core of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower. A drug-consuming cult of “crazies” or “pyros” attack the narrator-protagonist Lauren Oya Olamina’s walled neighborhood and separate her from her family, forcing her to flee north. Lauren travels on foot as part of a “pack” with two of her neighbors. The three characters — Lauren, Harry Balter, and Zahra Moss — must learn to trust one another to survive.

Sunday November 8, 2020

Evenings are when I write. Sarah DJs, gets us dancing to James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone. Time to set up stereos and drums. Organize the studio, arrange speakers atop the desk. So I tell myself, past self to future self, mind ranging through the rooms of its memory palace assembling a “to-do” list. That’s where my head goes until I make my way out to the porch — where moths cast shadows and streetlights shine in my eyes. A daddy long legs crawls past as pass cars on the road. Crickets sing in the grass. Dogs bark from a distance on occasion. Traffic eases up come night. With the latter come cooler temperatures, however, so before long I’m back indoors, washing dishes and snacking on sesame sticks.