Monday, December 23, 2013

Life near the bone (with a van called Vader)

            The longest night of the year was also the iciest this December. Taylor and Joe arrived as sleet fell on their big black vehicle. I’d call it a van, but Joe had the body fitted onto a heavy duty 4WD chassis. It’s a monster truck he calls “Vader,” and it’s a good thing he had it on Saturday night.
            Joe is a burly guy who generates excitement by thinking outside the box. He’s frugal as well as resourceful and tells us that during college he saved money by sleeping in his car—a sedan—reclining the driver’s seat for comfort. After college he dodged paying rent by buying the van and tricking it out with a double bed, counter and storage space.
            Then he met Taylor.
            She was paying outrageous rent for an apartment in Burlington, and Joe invited her to give up her conventional accommo and move into Vader with him.
            She thought he was nuts, but she couldn’t resist his handsome quirkiness. She can be frugal, too, and took him up on his offer. Besides, her job at Burton Boards takes her on trips around the world, and the trips come with a real bed and hot running water.
When Joe asked Taylor to marry him, she agreed on the condition that he provide a more commodious home for her.
            So he bought an RV.
            He also bought 22 acres of land in Brookfield, Vermont, home of the floating bridge and the annual ice harvest on Sunset Lake. Joe is a man with big ideas, and Taylor is along for the ride.
            The plan is to live in the 200SF RV, which is parked in a campground for the winter, and in the spring pull the RV onto the Brookfield property. Joe will build an addition on the front and put in a wood stove, which should serve them comfortably until he gets a cozy cabin underway.
            Taylor booked the Treehouse as a gift for Joe’s birthday. They’re used to small spaces but one without wheels must have seemed like a treat. After dinner they soaked in the hot tub and the next morning they hung out with us by the wood stove. Then Joe went out, started up Vader, and tacked the inch of ice encasing the behemoth.
            After we waved them goodbye (the icy driveway was no problem for Vader), I looked around our house on a hill and felt a little envious of this young couple with big dreams and no strings. Thoreau said, “It is life near the bone where it is the sweetest,” and I have no doubt that Joe and Taylor have sunk their teeth deeply into life’s sweetness.

Friday, December 20, 2013

There's drama and then there's drama

Filmmakers like a lot of drama, and that’s what Java and Tighe got on the stormiest night Fern Forest has seen in a while.
“You’d better let them know about the storm before they come,” I told my husband.
“I’m sure they’ve checked the weather forecast,” he answered.
They had left Brooklyn on Friday, stopping for a night at Lake George. Even if they had cell phone reception, which is always sketchy once one leaves civilization, they may not have thought about the weather. It was Tighe’s birthday weekend, and Java wanted him to have a good time.
The two met in film school in New York City. Tighe didn’t travel far from his home in northern Jersey, but Java came all the way from Paris. When I first met her, I thought we’d gotten it wrong about her being French—she didn’t have an accent at all.
“I want to speak like an American,” she said, “but I use the French accent to flirt.” It might have been a combination of accent and her dark beauty that attracted Tighe, a movie-star-handsome guy who’s also as nice as pie.
We didn’t have much time to get to know them on Saturday because Java wanted to take Tighe out for a nice birthday eve dinner at Mary’s Restaurant, a country elegant place in a farmhouse with roaring fireplaces and gourmet localvore. H and I were watching a movie upstairs when they returned, and we all settled down—for a bit.
Sometime around midnight I awoke to the thunk of an Adirondack chair tumbling across the deck—the wind was that strong. Our house is pinned to rock ledge, but still the structure creaked and snapped. I don’t usually mind the wind whistling, but this wind sounded like an F-15 fighter jet. At first I wondered if the Green Mountain Boys were having midnight maneuvers. Then with a particularly violent blow, I felt the bed quiver.
The weatherman predicted 25 m.p.h. gusts, which is par for the course when one lives on the side of a mountain, but I swear these gusts were twice that. To complicate matters, the thermometer registered a bit below zero.
I got up and looked out the window. A couple years ago after the power went out and stranded treehouse visitors in the dark cold, H lined the front of the treehouse with colored lights so we could look out and tell if there was power and if not, he’d start the generator. On this night the lights were twinkling brightly. No problem there.
During a storm, I always expect to find the treehouse hanging by a nail, but I shouldn’t underestimate my husband’s building skills. H used enormous bolts to secure the house to four sturdy maples, and in the past seven years the little dwelling has withstood hurricanes. But the maple that grows up through the center of the treehouse is free to sway as much as the holes in the floor and ceiling will allow, and sway it did the night Java and Tighe visited.
We always offer guests the option of sleeping in the main house guest room, and on rare occasions someone will take us up on that offer. Once a daughter retreated to the guest room because her mother’s snoring was keeping her awake in the treehouse. Another time a pregnant woman wanted to be closer to the bathroom, but she hung out in the treehouse during the day. Usually, though, guests will tough it out even in the worst weather.
This was the worst weather.
At four a.m. I heard Java and Tighe come softly into the house and tuck themselves into the double bed below us. When I knew they were safe, I was able to doze a little before time to make the coffee.
It was late morning when they finally peeled themselves out of bed. The wind, calm now, had left slanted snowdrifts along the driveway. H had a fire going in the wood stove and the house was cozy.
Java was first up, and over a cup of steaming tea she told us about her film school project, a short movie titled “Take a Deep Breath.” She's submitting it to film festivals but gave us permission to view this adorable vignette about a young couple in love but too shy to make a move. After a surgeon removes their hearts, they are able to fall passionately into each other's arms. 
“I like humor,” Java said. “I want to make funny movies.”  Take a Deep Breath" is shot in France with English subtitles but she admits, “It’s funnier in French than in English.”
When Tighe got up, Java put a pointy birthday hat on him. He didn’t seem to mind—he’s that cool.  

After they had breakfast, H and I convinced Tighe to show us the music video he's in the process of editing. The song is "New Years" by a New York band called Diane Coffee. Tighe wrote, directed and starred in the video with his brother.
The storyline is about two men who attempt to rob a gas station, the old fashioned kind where an attendant pumps gas for patrons. While the robbers threaten the station guys with pistols, a car pulls in. Tighe’s brother goes out and pumps the gas, takes the money and shoves it into his pocket. When another car pulls in, Tighe goes out and pumps the gas. Eventually there’s a line of cars waiting for gas, and instead of holding up the station, the robbers settle for armloads of junk food. In the last scene, their truck runs out of gas and blue police lights flash on the robbers’ faces.
Filmmaking, it seems to me, is a perfect blending of art and technology, and these two emerging artists are talented and savvy, not to mention intrepid. I doubt Java and Tighe will forget Tighe’s 25th birthday for a long time. Java’s birthday is in July, and maybe they’ll give the Treehouse a chance to redeem itself next summer.