1997-01-27 Woozle writes to Rebekah
I don't know if I actually sent this; it ends without a closing...
This morning as we were driving to work, Livia told me that Mubbie had asked her yet again some question about moving everyone out of the woods, and I got upset at her because (for the third time) she was forwarding the question to me instead of telling Mubbie to call me to ask.
After thinking about it, I realized that I really shouldn’t be getting upset at her, and rather should use my energy to try to communicate about the whole thing with Mubbie and you. Unfortunately, if I typed a letter to Mubbie I would probably have to set it in 24-point type so she could read it (I’m hoping 14-point will be adequate for you <smileyface>), and then she would think I was angry -- shouting at her, or like a ransom note -- and yes, Livia has told me about Mubbie’s dreams where I try to murder her with an axe. I take this to mean that she’s afraid I’m deeply enraged at her for some reason.
But no, I’m not angry at Mubbie. I may get angry at her briefly over things that Livia says she says (which Mubbie never tells me directly, of course), but any of Mubbie’s actions that I might disagree with seem to boil down to two things: (1) justifiable caution based on past experience, and (2) inflexibility and inattention, due probably to old age (as in age-worn habit, not senility). The first I can obviously sympathize with (and learn from); for the second, I can only try to make myself understood and break through her habits of listening and action. If I fail, then I feel pity -- not anger.
Some time ago, I said I wanted your support in our endeavors here. I think you misunderstood me to mean financial support, which is not what I was talking about; what I meant was that I felt like you were fighting me, disagreeing with every action I took and unhappy with every action I didn’t take, and I wanted to know how we could be working together instead of being at odds.
When we moved down here to Mubbie’s 100 acres, there were a number of pieces of information I understood to be applicable. Perhaps I invented some of them by misunderstanding what Livia said you told her (again that game of telephone). I bring this up because I think we need to establish how much truth there is in the premises under which we moved and continue to live here.
First, I understood that we were on a rescue mission. Aside from the obvious temporary rescue work of helping Mubbie recover from her stroke, we were rescuing you from having to move down here to take care of Mubbie; we were rescuing Mubbie from her pound-foolishness in continually underpaying (drastically!) for repair work done on the place; we were rescuing the place from the shoddy repair work that got done at 1930s wages, and from having to be sold due to a lack of people to actively take care of it (e.g. to patrol the woods looking for trespassing or other problems; to do physical tasks like mowing grass, removing privet hedge, digging drainage ditches or moving fallen trees; to take care of minor repair emergencies, like leaking washer hoses; etc.).
Second, we were to receive five acres of land. It has since emerged that there were unspoken conditions on this, mainly that we needed to both have jobs (or for one of us to be making enough money to make payments on the house we were supposed to build on this five acres). This condition was never mentioned to me when we were making the decision to move here, but every time I have asked Livia what ever happened to our five-acres-and-a-mule, she says that Mubbie wouldn’t want us to have the land now because we might use it to get a loan (o how terrible). Did she ever ask us if we intended to use the land this way? Did she ask us not to, and we refused? Was this ever mentioned during the time we were making our decision to move here? No.
Third: given that I really had no desire to live anywhere but Durham/Chapel Hill, and that I had plenty of contacts there for finding a job (and none in Athens), Livia and I made a deal between ourselves. In exchange for my moving down here to satisfy what was primarily her agenda, I would not need to find work for the first year we were here, and instead would pursue some projects of my own (unfinished neural network business, computer ideas, music, writing, whatever). This deal was totally ignored by you and Mubbie -- on your part by your constant criticisms of me during the first year for not having a job, and on Mubbie’s part by her constant interruptions of my work for her yardwork and other tasks.
I’ll admit, I’m partly culpable -- I didn’t stand up for myself strongly enough; I tried to be amenable, flexible, and cooperative. So I’ve learned a valuable lesson in defending my work time, but I would much rather I didn’t have to learn to defend it against my own family.
Fourth. Given that Mubbie will not be here forever, and that you have no desire to live here (and indeed have expressed great trepidation at the thought, on many different occasions), we both assumed that we would be learning to manage the property and I assumed we would gradually be given more and more autonomy in doing so.
This is a key point. If this is not to be the case (e.g. if you intend to sell the land or donate it to the University upon receipt, or to run it yourself regardless of the effect this will have on your life and irrespective of the fact that we are willing to do it and that we and eventually Anna would be in the natural line of succession to inherit it), then we need to know this.
If our stewardship of the property is to be contingent on your approval of our use of it, then we need to know that as well, including the exact terms and time frame under which these restrictions are to apply, who is to adjudicate them in your absence, etc. We can then make a relatively informed decision about whether or not we can work within that framework.
In the meantime, in between struggling with our debt and trying to find non-existent employment, I came up with several non-destructive ideas for using the property to generate revenue. I did my best to clear each one with Mubbie while implementing it. Unfortunately, I have not yet had time to put together a business plan for these ideas, as I and the others involved have been extremely busy the last two months, but we hope to have something together by the end of February. I worry that your lawyer will show you every tiny flaw and crack in it, and you will overlook or find irrelevant the fact of whether or not it is worth doing.
In any case, surely it must be obvious that if we are not allowed to proceed here then we must find somewhere else to proceed, which will cost us much time and money (both in short supply) -- so I really hope we don’t have to.
As far as the immediate questions I keep hearing from Livia (I forget which are from Mubbie and which are from you, but I’m sure you can sort it out):
- Q. Has everybody been told to leave?
- A. Yes, but I need the Grievers to stay a while longer until we can sort out whether or not we can continue with our plans here or we need to move them somewhere else.
- Q. Is everybody going to be out by Feb. 1?
- A. No. I had a conversation with Mubbie about a week ago in which I explained to her that incidents of people trespassing through the woods on their way to the pool hall at Norwood (and elsewhere) were increasing, and that I was almost certain that reports of "50 gypsies living in the woods" were from somebody wanting to remove the obstacle to further trespassing (as a shortcut or possibly for deer hunting or who knows what). She agreed with me, and we decided that she should probably be given another tour of the place so she can see what it’s like before we take any further action. I think she has completely forgotten this conversation.
Also, it turns out that it’s going to be really difficult for people to move their stuff out while it’s still cold/wet (or unpredictably warm/dry at best). Aside from the Grievers, the only remaining inhabitants as of December (namely Frank Owens and Mark Secrist) are no longer staying here at night. Given all that, I have not insisted that everything be gone by Feb. 1. I told Livia that if pressed she could tell you or Mubbie that everyone and everything (aside from myself, the contents of the Red House, the stage, and possibly some storage sheds) will be gone by May 1, assuming we don’t reach a better understanding before then.
- Q. Is Chris’s camper gone?
- A. No. That needs to stay until the Grievers don't need it. I'll admit I fumbled a little bit on that one -- it had been my intention when I allowed Chris to leave it here that he would let them use it for free in exchange for storing it here, but somehow they ended up paying him $50/month for the use of it.
And now I have a few questions:
- Q. Why doesn’t Mubbie ever ask me these questions directly, instead of going through Livia? Why don’t you?
- Q. Why didn’t Mubbie ever do anything about the trees Ulysses cut down? We could have proved whose property they were on by matching an aerial photo against the platte (sp?), but she apparently had no interest.
- Q. Does Mubbie remember that Livia told her we had the fire marshall (the guy whose responsibility it is to ensure that residential codes are enforced) out in back of Red House (the former Tipi Village), and he found no problems? Did Mubbie tell you? Are you aware that, although she is basically mentally sound, she often does not appear to remember important things we have told her, and therefore generally has an inaccurate picture of what is going on?
- Q. Do either of you have any idea how much trash those “trash” helped me haul out of the woods and off to the dump (for no pay)? Do you have any idea how much more there is left to haul, and how long it would take me or you to haul it off without Mark’s pickup truck or Frank Whitehill’s van, or hiring a dumpster and several laborers at $7.50+/hour? Does it even matter that through them we were able to get hold of tons of free mulch, of which Mubbie may partake at will? (We delivered one load to her garden in October, I think, and will bring over more when that runs out.)
- Q. Does it even matter that 2 years ago Livia and I repaired part of the goat shed for only the cost of materials? Or that we replaced rotten 4x4s in the garage where it was falling down (same)? Does it make any difference that we’ve taken the privet-choked back yard of our house and turned it back into a lawn? That we’ve made the goat shed accessible and usable for storage? That we were able to locate what was left of the old barn so it can be salvaged for lumber (and other things)? That we researched the property and got recent copies of the platte, plus names and addresses of owners of adjacent property, land-usage maps, etc.? That we got the lawn mowed and trimmed all summer long for the last 2 years (at least) using a rapidly-expiring lawnmower? If we weren’t doing this as part of our ownership duties, then what was the underlying assumption? Trade for our rent? At what rate of pay? How many hours did we spend? Are we behind, even, or ahead? Are we members of your/Mubbie’s family, or just uppity no-count guests?