Pamela Harris

Posts in the Other Category

Coming and Going December 22, 2018

Photograph by Christopher Payne

On Monday I took the dog for an early walk and babbled to myself like a lunatic the whole time. It was five am and we were out for over an hour. Construction workers are plentiful at that time, but they’re yelling with each other or half asleep in their cars waiting to get a legal parking spot.

I wasn’t yelling or screaming, just quietly blasting profanity onto the sidewalk. I don’t even know what I was falling apart about: the non-stop noise from one construction site that pours concrete at three am and another that grinds garbage at two, that my go to restaurant for meetings closed, the way it feels like the whole world is at the edge of no return.

The day before I had finished writing Joyville. It’s the project I took to The Writers Lab last September. Since then I’ve written and rewritten it, put it down to work on something else then picked it up to try again. It had so many moving parts I wasn’t sure I could get them all facing the same direction.

The story is set in the near future and is about a scientist and her ass of a neighbor who she develops a strange, psychic connection to. This leads her to discover an even more spectacular connection to a trio of wildlife that live in the woods nearby. There’s an ecological and moral collapse occurring the whole while, and the script fundamentally questions whether humans are worth saving.

As I wrote my way through drafts I got closer and closer to the finish, but something was missing. As a woman from the Lab put it, the script wasn’t fully cooked. I did another draft, another woman from the Lab read it and she described it as a beautiful tragedy. That’s what I was going for, but there was still something missing. She casually asked how it was personal, and I surprisingly burst into tears. In that second I knew I was writing about grief.

In the past I’ve felt rage, loss, emptiness, resentment, but all of it was a cover for something deeper. I’d glimpse the grief of finality, I’d have a passing bone-deep sadness, but I never had hopelessness.

It started creeping in a few weeks ago. A hopelessness for not just my future but the squandered potential of humanity. Are we worth saving?

I went back to the Joyville rewrite and knew I had to answer that vs leave it hanging. I let myself really feel the hopelessness, the absolute tragedy of it all. A few days later I came out the other side in a simmering babbling fury. I finally had a fully cooked draft.

Earlier this week I had a breakfast with a good friend and told him about my dog walk rant, how I can’t fully shake this rage. He had an interesting take on it, since he’s been here in the past. He equated it to a fighter in the ring waiting on the bell. It’s exactly how I feel.

This is the year the fight woke in me. I’m bringing it into the new year with me.

With work, I’m done waiting. I’ve always been proactive, but the urgency I have about getting Joyville made is new. Instead of picking off contacts, I’m going wide.

We’re buying a place out of the city this year. We haven’t found a house yet, we have no plans to go see any particular house yet, but I’m making that declaration. I need to feel grass under my feet. No sleep has been brutal, and it’s now within our means to change this.

I want to meditate more this year, develop a practice. When I meditate regularly I’m more grateful, and when I’m more grateful I’m not a lunatic ranting on dog walks. Looked at another way, I’m hopeful.

This last year I’ve rewritten a ton of projects, wrote a new pilot, was invited to Stowe Labs in May with a pilot, and had my short film play all over the festival circuit. It was a great year in terms of expanding my network and making work. I got quite a few gigs consulting and coaching on pilots and a feature being created by really good writers. This year I want to keep the momentum going and write a musical. But I also want to focus more on life. I want to take a class, maybe ceramics or dance. Get back to going to galleries regularly. Try a less rushed rhythm, live a little less hurried.

Joe got a great job this year. Ginger is still the king of her domain, but she’s sleeping less at night. Which means we are, too. Please let this change.

What I’m bringing with me front and center is my community, which includes all of you. I was on Instagram a lot more this year because it’s faster.

Lastly, faith not fear. Bringing the former in, leaving the latter behind.

Thank you all for reading this year. The happiest New Year and holiday to you.

Grand Jury Duty April 24, 2018

In February I got a notice in the mail that I was being called up for jury duty. I’ve lived in NYC a long time and have opened mail with that familiar logo, but this time the notice was different. There was no real option on it for deferral, and it cited that failure to show would result in a subpoena, or something like that.

I went down to the court the date I was supposed to show up, early to avoid the security snarl. There was something more urgent, even somber about the courtroom we were led into. The jury wardens weren’t dicking around with their phones, and clerks were questioning people heavily if they needed to step out of the room.

An hour and a half later it was packed, and that’s when we found out we were called for grand jury duty. It’d be for Manhattan, which meant all of us lived in this borough, and the cases we’d be hearing were for crimes committed here. Our service would last a month and only a doctors note or proof you were a sole caretaker for someone would get you out of it. For any other reason, you’d be allowed to defer once. After that, no matter what you’d serve.

There’d be a morning session and an afternoon session. Almost everyone wanted morning, but it’d all depend when your name was called. I got one of the last morning seats left.

For the rest of that day and the next, we were told what a grand jury is. There’d be 23 of us, 16 needed to be present to hear a case, and 12 needed to vote the same way for a majority. There would be no trials or judge present. It wasn’t about whether someone was guilty or not. We would hear evidence, and then vote on whether there enough presented to suggest a crime was committed. If so, we’d vote to indict. If not, we’d vote not to.

We filed into a small courtroom and each took a seat. We were assigned a number based on where we sat, and that number became our identifier. (We got to know each other’s names and such, but if we’d be late one day or had to miss a day the wardens ID’d us by our number.) Fifteen minutes later, we heard our first case.

The way it worked was, an Assistant DA would present evidence for a new case. Sometimes we’d hear from a witness, either a victim, a cop, a detective, a loss prevention specialist, etc. We’d hear lab results if needed. We might watch video surveillance from a store, a corner, a hallway. I got the sense that we were hearing just enough to make a decision. Some cases would be continued, but they’d always come back before our month was up.

When we voted, everyone left the room except the jury. Most cases were pretty straight forward, but if any jury member wanted or needed to, we’d discuss what we heard. We could call the ADA back in to clarify something, but the only thing they can clarify is the law, not what we heard. For one instance where we couldn’t agree on what we heard, the court stenographer read exactly what was said from the transcript.

At times it was tedious, but it was almost always fascinating. The cases gave me a window into what a month of crime looks like in NYC. (There are quite a few grand juries going on at once, so we only saw a percentage of cases.) What stood out is how much Facebook is used as an investigative tool. A forensic specialist managed to link people in crime through FB pictures despite defendants using fake names, fake numbers, fake everything. I was also surprised at how cameras truly are everywhere. We saw video footage of a suspect exit a store, cross a major intersection, walk up a street, etc. It was all from different cameras, carefully pieced together.

The hardest cases for me were those that dealt with sexual assault. Or violence. A rape case had many of us break down after we indicted. The drug cases - there were a lot - were almost all there because of a dumb mistake on a dealer’s part. And there were two instances where we all burst out laughing at the brashness of a thief. Some days we heard case after case. Other days dragged.

We heard from only one defendant. For this their lawyer was present, as well as other court clerks. My takeaway from it is it isn’t a good move for the defendant to appear.

Our jury was as interesting as the process. The 23 of us were a mix of age, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomics and politics. Lines got drawn, blended, reversed, and altered as the month went on. I walked away from it relieved to feel this part of the process works.

Bringing and Leaving December 31, 2017

I want to post this before the end of the year, which is in a few hours. Right now I’m a little overwhelmed, distracted, because I’m wrapping up a project my head has been deep in for the last few weeks. There’s been very little socializing, lots of pastry and cake and coffee, and in the last few days I’ve realized that I still haven’t figured out how to work and live at the same time. It means the first thing I want to leave behind in 2017 is this urgent obsession I bring to work, since if anything it makes what I’m doing harder, not easier.

I’m writing this without editing. Warts and all are going on the page. That’s what I hope to bring in with me, acceptance of warts in all.

What a year it’s been. The election and the shitshow that followed feels like a culmination of sorts, yet the march and everything Weinstein cracked wide open feels like a new beginning. There’s a sense in all of it of ‘no going back,’ and I want to believe it’s good. I want to think of the current POTUS as the end of something that’s been building for decades. That gives me hope, which I’m definitely bringing into next year. Next year can’t be tougher than this one, right?

Last year I wanted to bring risk in with me. Not the reckless kind, but the capacity to be embarrassed kind. The be who I really am kind. That’s who I was at the Writers Lab. The Lab was a high point for many reasons, but that's a big one.

Last year I wanted to direct something. This year I did. Even when I didn’t know what I was doing, I loved doing it. We got into festivals and keep doing so, and seeing it play on a big screen in a theatre with an audience made me want to make a feature. That’s a future goal.

Between the Lab and making that short, I learned that I have a community around me. As a writer of specs - scripts that are written before they’re sold - I’m always reaching out, reaching far past my community. A major shift is happening where I don’t want to do that anymore. From now on I want to only write what I can make or produce. I have a nice body of work that’s ready to sell, but, just for today, writing on spec has zero appeal.

Money. This year I want to make more. Yeah, that may seem obvious, but I’m looking at money differently after this year. It's not that it hasn’t mattered to me in the past, because that’s not true. But money has always been this thing that exists out over there. This year I’ve been looking at how I see money. When I’ve tried to do this in the past white noise takes over. This year I swept my brain clean of that. I want to make more.

We’re still house hunting for a little country place with a tree. This year we put a few offers in, but for one reason or another the sale didn’t happen. May we find a house this year.

Ginger had a pretty good year. She’d like more of Joe’s meatballs and I bet he’ll oblige her. That right there, that’s what I’m definitely bringing in with me. Family and friends are what matter the most, no matter how obsessed I get with work. Some of my happiest nights are simply being on the couch, Ginger curled around Joe’s feet, watching GLOW (the Netflix series).

I say it every year, but the emails and comments I get here mean a lot. As do you. Thank you for all of it.

Change is coming in 2018. Everywhere. Brace yourself, Effie.

Where To Begin October 25, 2017

I've been mulling over a post about the new retail paradigm, how it's all changing.

Then I wanted to write about my experience at the Writers Lab, which was amazing. For real. Life changing in how I see my own work.

But right now I'm stunned, awed, hopeful and anxious over, as Lynda Obst perfectly put it, "a volcanic outrage that has erupted over the charred ground of the (Hollywood/Weinstein) business this week ... A long-suppressed fury has spread throughout the land."

From women joining the conversation with an effective 'Me, too" post on FB or Twitter, to the onslaught of words about it, it's exhilarating to see that fury.

And the unity. That's what the Writers Lab showed me, the power of unity.

Even if the outrage doesn't last - the headlines will be replaced in time - sexual assault and harassment has come out of the dark in a way that it can never go back in. May the effects of now crack foundations everywhere.

The Lawsuit May 22, 2017

(I apologize for the resend. I got the lawsuits backward.)

I think when it began it was friendly. Friendly in the way new neighbors might be toward each other, before they get to know each other.

Back in 2007, a church near us, Our Lady of Vilnius, was shuttered. The supposedly dwindling population who went to that church tried to fight the closing, and lost. Around 2013 the church sold to developers, who then bought the brownstone next to it. The developers flipped both lots to a new owner and in 2015 the church got torn down. The lot sat empty for a year. In the photo above, the building that’s starting to rise is on these two lots.

The empty lot in front of that construction was a parking garage. This parcel sold, and it too may have been flipped, but at this point I can’t keep up. Half our block has sold, including our building. The buying frenzy has been relentless.

The parking lot was going to be a twenty-seven-story residential tower. The church lot was going to be a seventeen-story residential tower. We heard the church group bought air rights from the building next to their lot, which allowed them to build higher. They got a permit from the city to go to twenty-five stories. This meant the higher floors in the parking lot's new building, touted as having 365 degree views, would no longer have those views. So the parking lot group sued the church group, stating a di Blasio lobbyist helped sway the Dept. of Buildings in issuing that permit, air rights or no air rights. Or something like that, since suits are flying and I can't keep up.

These buildings are being sold as high luxury and they need the views to combat the reality that they overlook the Holland Tunnel. You can’t see it in the image above, but the trees in the left of the photo line a side street that is actually blocked off near the white van parked (left) near the middle of the picture. It means whomever buys here can only walk one way when they exit their building. They'll hit a major city street and will have to cross it to get anywhere. Traffic here is bumper to bumper as cars fight to get to the entrance to the tunnel. Drivers won't stop for traffic lights or pedestrians or a local trying to wrangle sweet Ginger to Ginger's favorite poop spot at the height of rush hour. When I have to cross this traffic mess I can out-swear Teamsters.

On another side of our building, the quiet side, the Renzo Piano residential tower is going to be thirty stories. The photo below is where it currently stands, roughly six stories. This tower is luxury squared and supposedly it’s almost sold out. Rumor says most of the buyers are those who want a place to stay in New York City when they visit. Our neighborhood has become so expensive the only people who can afford to live in it are those who won’t.

Between all the sites there is constant chaos, so much so the birds are discombobulated. I hear them singing at 3:30 in the morning. We’ve had a large exodus from our building, the most vacant apartments since September 11th. The new owners are doing major renovations to the empty apartments and are trying to rent them at much higher prices. Our building is decidedly non-luxury, and though the new owners have dropped hints at wanting to make improvements, the only way to make this building nicer is to tear it down and start over.

We don’t know what the new owners plan to do with our building. Chances are they’re waiting to see what happens when all these towers are complete. We’re now looking for a weekend place, since we’ve decided to keep our home here. It means our budget for a house has been slashed. Bring on all fixer-uppers. Kitchen hasn't been touched since 1910? No problem! Rotted joists? To the lumberyard we go!

Hope January 31, 2017

In December I like to think about what I want to bring into the new year and what I want to leave behind. This year I found myself thinking about risk.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with risk. As a kid I took all kinds of bad risk, including using drugs and getting myself into awful situations with no plan for getting out. I went to art school versus studying something practical (I highly recommend doing this), and I move to NYC with $174 dollars in my pocket. When I came here I had no practical skills and barely knew anyone. While apartment hunting I got chased by a machete-wielding crack head when I fearlessly went into a rough neighborhood. All of it I took as part of being independent.

For the last twenty plus years I’ve mostly depended on art and writing to make my living. Financial vulnerability is a reality for me, and though I now accept it, it doesn’t mean I like it. Once in a great while I’ll still have a moment of panic, but mostly I get on with it. It’s taken me almost twenty years of living this way to get used to it.

The risk I’m looking at now isn’t external. I’m looking at the kind of risk I haven’t taken, risk that pushes me past what’s comfortable and into a place that scares the shit out of me. For instance, I really want to direct and produce a short film and just thinking about it, I quake. Why, I don’t know. Especially since I feel very confident and ready when it comes to directing a feature.

Whatever it is, it’s a symptom of something bigger that’s starting to play out in me. For a long while I’ve proceeded with caution when it came to certain parts of my personality. There’s been a quiet soundtrack telling me to not get too full of myself, and nobody needs to see my rough edges, and don’t be too unpleasant, and don’t do anything that seems needy, and keep my fury in check. Really, try not to offend people.

It’s all a lot of fear. Over the last decade I’ve been taking baby steps toward trying to move past these thoughts and the steps have added up to change. Now, I’m discovering a new layer in that soundtrack. Something is shifting and I’m putting more of me into the world than I ever have before. The fear is only now starting to lessen.

This political climate helps. A good friend, Cynthia, chartered a bus to DC and a bunch of us went to march. What stood out was the feeling of community, a sense of purpose that united a gigantic sea of humanity. It was hopeful, and hope was something I’d been struggling with.

Since the inauguration and the tsunami of tsoris that’s come with it, I keep seeing glimpses of hope in the global protests that have erupted and in the pushback. The size of the protest no longer matters. I keep remembering Rosa Parks was one woman who sat on a bus and didn’t budge.

The point of all this is, the number one thing I need to take into the new year is hope. With it, no matter what I see or how scared or grief-filled I might get, hope gives me purpose. Hope lets me take action.

I don’t write shorts and on the whole they don’t interest me, but directing something does. I want to try to write one, or write a web series, or find something to direct. The last few months I've been filming a lot of art and construction and maybe a story will arise from this.

Our sweet and spicy Ginger is still up in the middle of the night, and Joe is still up and out with her. Moving is on hold right now, so I’m looking to find a way to bring more sleep into this year. It may mean looking for ways out of the city now and then. Maybe we’ll rent a weekend place.

I’m keeping all my friends and the people I know because I feel very lucky and grateful for the people in my life. I want to bring risk in with me. These posts, starting with this one, I no longer want to edit and edit and edit some more. That’s a step toward taking risk.

It's time to leave as much fear as I can behind. Leave behind doubt. Franz Kline said, "The real thing about creating is to have the capacity to be embarrassed."

Every time I get a comment or email about this blog, a surge of gratitude goes through me. Every single one of you who reads this blog, you’re coming with me for sure. Maybe we can all be embarrassed together.

Christmas Eve December 24, 2016

Happy holidays to you! Thank you for continuing your support here with your comments and emails. I appreciate all of it. May you get a soft elephant this year.


The Funk October 18, 2016

Roger Ailes. Bill Cosby. The student from Stamford. A host of others. Almost every woman I know has dealt with assault or abuse, myself included. I don't know how or why, but Trump boasting about groping women has broken through what has regularly been there. And with it has come revolt.

"He doesn't mean anything by it," no longer cuts it. That's what I heard about Trump when he started his campaign and railed against Mexicans, Muslims, etc. Friends that dealt professionally with him, broker to broker, would say he doesn't mean half of what comes out of his mouth.

My friends don't say that any more.

This summer was rough. I was in a funk. For the first time in a very, very long time, I had moments where I felt hopeless.

Some of it was work related. When the rejections pile up they start to feel like a lack of connection. A lack of community. I always work at getting my work out there, and though I do get things it's been a while since I've worked this hard and met this much silence.That's really what it is: the silence, not the rejection.

I've been writing a new sci-fi feature. Which is another thing that had me down, since the script is about the beginning of the end of the world. The end end. It looks an awful lot like where we're at today.

Having that house fall through didn't help. We're ready to move and nothing is coming on the market.

Living in New York is a great opportunity to see incredible humanity on the street. But what I see is also rife with the opposite. And the news cycle has been running amok with the opposite. I kept reading versus stepping away. And no matter what Trump said, no matter how ugly or cruel, his fans didn't mind. They were a sizable amount of people, so there was no way to view it as an exceptional viewpoint. Sadly, they is us.

I started snapping out of it last week as stories appeared about Trump groping women. Republicans began distancing themselves from him, citing things like, 'As a husband and father ... As a father to three daughters ...' I felt fury reading that, though couldn't put into words why. Then Frank Bruni called them out for using their wives and daughters as props and bam! I felt connected. He had the words. The funk lifted.

The New York Times wrote an article about two women accosted by Trump. Trump's lawyers demanded a retraction and threatened to sue. The Times' lawyer responded with a great letter. This cheered me, as did Michelle Obama's speech.

In addition, I discovered #MuslimsReportStuff. Not much out there shows Muslims and irony together.

Who knows what's coming next. Whatever it is, this pause of sanity has let sunlight break through.

House Hunting 2 August 25, 2016

We went house hunting again last week. The plan was to take a quick look at four houses across the Hudson, near Woodstock. Then we'd take a second, longer look at the artists house I fell in love with.

A major rain storm started the day and we slogged our way up the Taconic and over the Rhinecliff Bridge. Woodstock is more expensive, more populated and has higher taxes than the east side of the Hudson, but it has great infrastructure and internet. The four houses were near each other and though each had something we liked, two got offers before we even walked up the driveway, and a third house got an offer right after we saw it. The fourth we didn't like enough to pursue.

It was still raining when we came back across the Hudson, but we were early so we went to a little lunch spot and sat in the car with Ginger to eat. Then the sun came out, and we went back to the artists house for a second look.

We had gotten a great lead for a contractor, and he was waiting when we pulled in. We were all early, as was the sellers broker. The driveway was muddy from the rains and while waiting for our broker to arrive the sellers broker and I began strolling the property. We walked past the garage, then walked out around the studio.

A quick layout of the house, left to right: studio, a double garage, an entry door to a mud room, then the main house. Inside the garage a half wall divides the space, with room for a car on the right and a small lawnmower storage area on the left. Here, two steps lead up to the studio. Once you enter through a door you come out onto a platform (I learned the family used it to put on plays) that's maybe a ten or twelve foot square, then across the platform, down a few steps, you're in the first of two main rooms of the studio. I don't know the history of the house except it was built in the 60s, but the architect and Waldorf School founder Rudolph Steiner had to be a major influence in the construction of the studio. It's very organic in how one room flows into the next, and many elements in it, such as window shape and even room shape, are all designed to integrate the structure seamlessly into nature.

In this first main room of the studio, there's a back door off to the right and big sliders to the left. It's very bright with lots of windows, maybe twelve by fourteen in size, maybe bigger. It takes a few minutes to realize the space isn't square, that the back door is somehow on its own wall. Imagine four and a third walls, the third wall being home to the door. This room then jogs a little to the left and connects to the larger room of the studio, which is maybe fifteen by eighteen. It could be bigger, it's hard to tell. Nothing is square once you cross into this room with its five walls and odd-shaped windows. The double front doors are large, heavy, handmade, and look like something that Fred and Wilma Flintstone might put on their house. The whole studio looks like something out of the stone age, but with a clapboard exterior and a concrete floor. It's funky and kind of amazing when you're standing in the middle of it. All you see is nature.

Outside, everything was wildly overgrown. The sellers broker and I started walking the property and the first thing I see is a giant black and yellow spider. It was drying on a web that was strung up between two large bushy flowers near the studio. I get the strongest pang when I see it - I haven't seen this kind of spider since I was six. Back then I watched a spider just like it guard an egg sack it had sewn onto a chain link fence. Floating up out of the sack were hundreds of tiny baby spiders, each attached to a single strand of silk. They drifted into the air and seemed to hover there, no rush to leave. Remembering them I can smell cattails and the stream that used to be there. For a second I'm home again, really home.

We walk two more feet and a garter snake whips past us and disappears into the garden the spider has also taken for home. I get another pang, this one as strong as the spider. The second house I grew up was surrounded by woods and when things got crazy in the house I'd run through the trees looking for garter snakes.

At this point I'm near tears, in love with this crazy artists house.

Our broker pulled in and we all entered the mud room and then the house. Straight ahead were basement stairs, but a quick left up two steps took us into the kitchen.

The kitchen was open to the living dining, there were three bedrooms and a bath, and a staircase that led upstairs (it was an attic that had been finished, sort of). Joe began walking the house with the contractor and I roamed room to room, getting a feel for the place. Then I went into the studio and stood there. It took four minutes to realize I wanted this house.

I went back inside and our broker was sitting at the kitchen table talking with the seller's broker. "Those specimens!" our broker kept saying. It was true; if you could untangle the landscape there were roses and lilies and big pink things and every other kind of flower. "You could put an island here," she said, gesturing the length of the kitchen. Though the kitchen is nice size, it feels small for an island.

As a workspace the kitchen is basically L-shaped. You enter the kitchen at the elbow of the L and there's a counter immediately to your left. Because of the entrance you're locked in to counter depth here, which houses the sink and dishwasher. A stove or refrigerator will be too deep and will block the entrance. These appliances are on a wall in the center of the house, which is kind of lousy. The other wall is floor to ceiling windows, so anything here means reconstruction. It's a tough space but I know I could make it work.

Joe had finished walking the house with the contractor and the three of us went into the studio. The contractor pointed out an interior wall that was damp to the touch and said the best way to fix it was to excavate the exterior garden and put down a moisture barrier. The roof of the studio had been slathered in tar many times, and it needed to be fixed for real. There were a few code violations in the house, and though most were straightforward fixes one called the wiring into question. The basement was wet, not just from the rain, the water heater needed to be replaced, the furnace was old and rusted, and twenty-six windows needed to be replaced. The contractor figured it'd be about $50,000-$65,000 to do a basic kitchen and make the house livable.

In this walk through you could see all the ways this house had been loved, but not maintained. A deep look into the corners showed that the major systems were nearing their end. We hadn't even gotten to the biggest concern, which was a cracked bathroom floor. It was a kind of crack that suggested the foundation was moving, or something worse. Plus, it looked like beadboard had been put up on the bathroom walls recently, as if to cover something. This unknown hadn't yet factored into the reno budget.

We came home and crunched numbers. There were things we could wait and do over time, like reno the upstairs, add a second bath, get rid of the woodstove in the living room and open the fireplace for an insert, etc. When you start to look at a reno, though, there are certain things not worth putting off. If we need to fix the plumbing in the kitchen we might as well put in plumbing for the upstairs bath since we'll already have the ceiling open. The house had oil and propane and was a mishmash of steam and propane heat, so if we wanted to get rid of the steam radiators and put in radiant heat or something energy efficient, we 'd want to do it now if walls and floors are opened. We'd get rid of the propane completely, but it meant the studio would need a new heating system. But wait - the heating system in the studio was shot, so we need to figure out how to heat it.

Will we run into asbestos? Lead paint? Probably. We need a contingency in our budget since this takes special tradespeople to remove. Going into an older house means dealing with older house problems. The more work we do, the more issues we'll find.

We did comps for the area, which were suprisingly low. Shockingly low. Not much has been selling, high or low. We worked out our numbers again, made an offer, they countered, we countered. We were still too far apart on the price.

I had a nagging feeling that the $10,000 fix for the wet studio wall and new studio roof was really a band-aid, since the whole structure's handmade quality was showing its age. I gave it a decade at most before it needed to be taken down to the studs and rebuilt. Given everything about it is custom, it would cost the equivalent of what it would cost to build a studio from scratch. A dream studio.

Joe had real concerns, too. We did one more round of offers and they met our price with a big contingency: the house would be sold as is, regardless of what a house and septic inspection might reveal. It meant no further negotiations, no matter what. This felt too risky, so we walked away given the condition of the house.

The artists house will now be someone else's house. It hurts, but onward we go.

House Hunting August 7, 2016

We've finally gotten serious with house hunting. It's not that we weren't serious when we started two years ago. I've been holding us up. I have my creative community and work is busy and will I be able to find a greenmarket -- it's the country and there are farms everywhere -- and oh my God it's a big change and my cell service is spotty and I'll have to drive versus walk everywhere and blah blah blah and oh uh er.

But it's also been that nothing has compared to the very first property we saw. The very, very first house we saw wasn't a house but a 10,000 square foot barn on five acres. We don't have a big budget, but we do have big romantic notions of what 'home' might be. Or, I do. (Joe would live in a yurt with a composting toilet and a gray water system.) This barn had a well and a septic already in and we were thinking, as we watched a woodchuck scurry into it, if we got it for $50,000 ... We didn't.

The next home that I got a twang from was an old brick firehouse that was surprisingly affordable. It was near the Hudson River, which you could see from the upstairs bedroom if you craned your neck. The main room had a gorgeous wooden ceiling and you could drive your car right into the living room. It also had a couple of inches of water in the basement, and would always have a couple of inches of water in the basement.

Mold was the issue with the next house I really liked. This house was built in the early 1900's and had high ceilings, wide plank floors, good sized rooms, and was in a beautiful part of Columbia County. It backed up to a small river, which you could see and hear from the deck. Upstairs, original William Morris wallpaper still lined the hallway, yet much of it had gracefully peeled back and hung limply, exposing swaths of dense black dots. Getting rid of mold is a big deal - it's toxic and you need to call in special crews to do this. This house was filled with it, and I didn't want to take it on.

There was a church I fell in love with, but its septic was shot. It was in the Berkshires and a shot septic rarely means taking the old one out and putting a new one in. Because of the land, this one could be complicated and we had already passed on a house because of septic issues.

We kept looking. Some houses looked nothing like the listing pictures. Some had real structural issues - I got nauseous in the upstairs of one house because the floors were so tilted. One house I loved it and Joe didn't. One house he loved and I didn't.

During all this I'd have quiet moments of panic. I've lived in New York forever and it's home. The creative community I have here is tight, especially my bi-weekly studies with Wynn Handman and actors. Work has been really good and I'm in a solid flow with writing. I have drawings in a show opening out of town next month and though I could get the work there from anywhere, living here, the dealer comes in and takes the work. I wave as she drives off.

In New York I walk everywhere, I food shop daily, if there's anything I need it's here. Friends and I get together spur of the moment - in fifteen minutes we can be having coffee. We network, hear of opportunities, share opportunities, make things together. Plus, these friendships are deep.

But. But, but, but. I've written about the noise and the crowds and all the ways the city has changed, and the reality is the city is always changing. I think it's me who's changed. Living in New York City is great when you're young or old, but not somewhere in the middle. I'm tired. The hustle is nonstop.

I knew something was shifting when I got excited about house hunting three weeks ago. A farmhouse on 4 acres with a barn and a pool had been ticking down in price, and though the price was still high I finally saw those magic words: Owners no longer use. All offers considered.

We went and walked the property, stood around the pool, stood in the house. The whole time we could hear farm equipment from the huge farm behind it. Despite how sweet the house was, it was loud. Plus, the barn wouldn't work as a studio.

Two more houses didn't work for us, and then we went to see the fourth house. It was a ranch built in 1960, a bomb shelter of a shape, dropped down at the edge of its ten acre parcel. It had a pristine full basement with a washer and dryer, but to access it you had to go outside. The whole house was recently redone, stripped of any detail, and there was only one bathroom with no room for a second. More importantly, there was no place to work so we'd have to build a studio. But the minute we drove up the steep, winter-challenged driveway I was in love. The setting - I've never seen anything like it. It was right out of a Hudson River Painting, with a wide, long meadow that reached back to perfect woods. Lone birch trees added glimpses of sharp white against all that green and most of the ten acres abutted conservation land. The house was ugly, but the shape was great. Over time we could change it.

I stood outside the house and imagined walking up that meadow and into the woods every morning. A quarter mile away was an Olympic-sized pool, which means I could start swimming. The house was close enough to a train, close enough to the Taconic, and when I had to come back to the city it'd be effortless. That setting! I was hooked.

There was one more house to look at, one Joe really wanted to see and I didn't. It looked like an extended cape, but it was so hidden behind wild overgrowth it was tough to see in the pictures. It had a funky studio attached to it that looked hand built, odd-shaped. The house came with an acre and a half and at the edge of the property was a small outbuilding that looked like it was falling down. All of it photographed poorly and looked like a wreck.

We pulled in to see it and I stayed outside with Ginger while Joe went in. There were a few sculptures in the grass near the trees. The driveway was busted up and had grass growing through it. A huge tree had two swings hanging from a limb, and the side of the house had a big hairy stretch of knee-high grass that extended past the outbuilding. The white paint on the house was cracked and chipped and the windows looked thin and shaky.

Joe was in the house longer than usual and when he came out I could tell he was excited. I was ready to move to the bomb shelter, but I walked the property, then went in. And for the first time ever, with all the houses we've seen, I stood in a dump of a living room and felt like I was home.

I can't say what it was about this house. It had an artist's hand everywhere. The kitchen was raw, but there was an odd functionality to it, a mish mash where you could see every stroke this artist made creating it. One of the bedrooms had very old grasscloth on the walls - I love grasscloth - and though it would most likely have to come down because of its condition, you could see it was put up with love. What I thought would be my least favorite thing about this house - the studio - became my favorite, despite its misshapen walls and what I thought were haphazardly placed windows. The studio is really three rooms, well integrated into the house and perfectly balanced in terms of work areas. And I realized that the way those windows were placed probably let in maximum light and decreased shadows, perfect for making sculpture.

The kitchen needs a reno, probably to the studs. The upstairs is one big open room and hasn't been touched since the 60's. The house is oddly turned around, i.e the front of the house is in the back, another artistic surprise. There's only one bathroom and it's rough, and all the windows need to be replaced. The ten acre ranch we could go in at asking and be done with, and this house is near the high of our budget. Despite this, I was confused when we drove away.

We made a plan to go see both houses again. Two days before we were to do this I came home and Joe was standing in the kitchen, waiting for me. "I have bad news," he said. "The artist's house got an offer," I said, fearing that was it. That was the moment I knew I wanted that house over the ranch. He shook his head. "No," he said, "There's no internet."

And that was it. We need a certain speed to be able to work from home. The bomb shelter had zero internet, and the artists house had a little faster than dial-up. Data caps with satellite won't work for us, even if we do a blend of satellite and DSL. Here, in the most modern of worlds, we were foiled by something I didn't see coming.

It took me a week to delete the photos of both houses from my phone. A few days ago I was looking at the MLS and saw the ten acres got an offer. I felt a pang, but also felt relief that the artist's house was still sitting there. I told myself that this is going to go the way it's supposed to go, and our house is out there somewhere. What really mattered was just for today, I was finally ready to move.

Two days ago I went down the rabbit hole reading a local upstate blog. I caught a headline about Cuomo pledging broadband for all by the year 2018. Maybe even by next summer. Suddenly, the artists house became a possibility again. We'd have to suffer for a year.

We had already made plans to go see new houses in another county that has great internet, but we're going to look at that house again this week. I've already packed a tape measure and a drawing pad. We're looking into every internet option that might get us through until the new lines are in, and we're checking the details of broadband coming. Moving out of the city, I'll have to learn patience. Waiting for internet might be a good place to start.

What made you buy your house? Have you ever fixed up a wreck? BTW, did you use a kitchen designer, or do it yourself?