Rockin’ & Shockin’: The HomeBlessing, Housewarming, Halloween Edition
Rockin’: I finally get to write about our new house
Shockin’: Rather than do so as an essay, I choose to do so in simplistic Rockin’ & Shockin’ fashion
Rockin’: The house is complete, and we’ve been living here since Labor Day Weekend
Shockin’: It cost us more than we ever expected, and not just financially
Rockin’: While at Burning Man, I witnessed not only the more positive aspects of the human spirit, but the importance of ritual, the value of rebirth and the cleansing power of fire
Shockin’: Upon returning to the Catskills with Campbell, I realized the need to apply these ideals to the new house, lest we live amidst continued negativity as consumed too much of the process of building
Rockin’: We decided to have a Home-blessing ceremony
Shockin’: And being our own over-extending selves, it quickly turned into a house-warming and Halloween party too: a Triple H Party.
Rockin’: We found someone local who could help conduct a ceremony
Shockin’: We invited 100 people to witness it
Rockin’: The whole idea of the ceremony was to move forward, to put all that negativity behind us – literally, to burn the bad memories (a little like we did our bank balance, ha! Ha!) and move forward together, in peace and harmony in our new home
Shockin’: The fact that not only would I agree to put the past behind me, but that I would instigate the idea. (Alluding to it here does not count!)
Rockin’: The house is, truly, rocking. While my wife Posie designed most of the house and dealt with most of the contractors, I did one thing I am so truly proud of as a lifelong music head, and it was relatively easy and inexpensive given the wireless age we live in. I put in four sets of PSB speakers in the ceilings of the open plan living room/dining room, gave them each their own volume controls via a central device made by SSC, and hooked them up via Air Ports to both Posie’s office and mine. This way, I can put a CD in my computer in my office and, using iTunes and the AirPorts, hear it play not only through my own desktop speakers but also through the PSB speakers downstairs. Posie can do likewise with her computer. Alternately, we can drop one of our iPods into the dock we keep next to the amp in the living room that feeds the ceiling speakers. And the PSB speakers sound so f***ing good you would not believe it.
Shockin’: The music system in the living room has only an amp, the SSC 4-way volume control and an iPod dock. No turntable, no cassette deck, no radio, not even a CD deck. And yet we’re playing music all over the house. This is the modern world that I heard about.
Rockin’: After thirty years storing them in anything cheap I could find, I finally got cabinets built for my records, CDs, and books…
Shockin’: …At the very moment everything goes digital and people stop making records and CDs. Hopefully, books will survive. (My income depends on it!)
Rockin’: Trying to use as many eco-friendly materials as possible in the house as possible (e.g. bamboo floors, concrete countertops).
Shockin’: Every eco-friendly choice is more expensive than the non eco-friendly choice.
Rockin’: Positioning the house at the perfect angle for passive solar gain, ensuring that we get plenty of sunlight in winter and plenty of shade in summer, minimizing heating and electricity bills.
Shockin’: Wanting to install solar panels to produce our own electricity, and then realizing it doesn’t quite work like that. Instead, you make a massive investment to produce electricity which you actually sell back to the power companies, in effect so that they can sell it on to people who run their air conditioners all day long.
Rockin’: Designing the house to cope without air conditioning.
Shockin’: Putting too many windows in my south and west-facing office, which is the only room occupied all day long and the only one that needs air conditioning in summer. (At least I have eight months now to figure out a solution.)
Rockin’: Working with local artisans and builders wherever possible.
Shockin’: Trying to maintain both personal and professional relationships with all these local people when not everything is done to everyone’s satisfaction.
Rockin’: Putting together the program for our home-blessing.
Shockin’: Realizing how few relevant songs there are for a home-blessing ceremony – despite my vast catalogue of music.
Rockin’: Coming across the Tom Waits song “Come On Up To The House” on my iPod and realizing how perfectly it sums up the physical and spiritual pressures of life and the roofs we put over our heads. You can read the whole lyrics here.
Shockin’: That no one else ever wrote the lines “Come down off the cross, we can use the wood.”
Rockin’: Figuring on the Who song “Welcome” and asking my friend Robert Warren to play it on guitar so we can edit out the irrelevant verses
Shockin’: Laughing at the lines “We need more room, build an extension, a colorful palace, spare no expense now.”
Rockin’: Wondering how I’ll find a relevant poem for the ceremony. Then hearing “Habitation” by Margaret Atwood on WAMC (our local NPR station) and realizing that I couldn’t find a more perfect stanza if I spent the rest of my life studying poetry compilations. It’s beautiful:
Shockin’: That I just happened to be tuned into the radio, on that station, in the car, at the very moment some one read Habitation. Serendipity?
Rockin’: Choosing “Come On-a My House” by Rosemary Clooney as the closing song
Shockin’: That more people don’t use it as a Halloween anthem. (“I’m gonna give you candy.”)
Rockin’: Deciding to serve primarily local food and drink for the party.
Shockin’: That more people don’t do so more of the time.
Rockin’: Getting a case of wine direct from Windham Vineyard. The Chardonnay has been consistently excellent.
Shockin’: That English proprietor James Bateman and I still haven’t sat down to crack open a few bottles of something special. Too damn busy.
Rockin’: The keg of Hurricane Kitty IPA I pick up direct from Keegan Ales in Kingston was only kegged three days before the party. That it’s inexpensive, I get to talk direct to the brewers, I get to walk amongst the tanks in the brewing area to collect it – and that the beer is great to begin with.
Shockin’: That some people would sooner drink Coors.
Rockin’: My friend Josh supplies a CO2 connection so that, if we don’t empty it at the party, the keg will still be drinking fresh at Christmas.
Shockin’: The idea that our wine-drinking middle-aged friends would spend their time in the basement pouring themselves beer. Looks like I will still be drinking that keg at Christmas.
Rockin’: Picking up Tuthilltown’s Spirit of Hudson apple vodka and 100% Corn Whisky and Bourbon, made in the town of Gardiner in our own Ulster County. I’ve heard nothing but good stuff about Tuthilltown’s spirits – and I love that they’ve found other uses for these abundant local fruits and vegetables.
Shockin’: The price of the stuff. $36 for a 750ml bottle of bourbon! Even more so, the fact that it sells out everywhere despite that price. I had to visit two stores to buy just one individual bottle of each of the four drinks.
Rockin’: Everyone loves the vodka and bourbon.
Shockin’: I give up my own ban on spirits and dip into the bourbon. Oh man it’s good stuff. Looks like I might be off the wagon on that score.
Rockin’: Posie orders sandwiches from Brio’s in Phoenicia, which also makes some of the best pizza in America.
Shockin’: Posie still makes pasta and buys dozens of cheeses, never learning from the last time that people just don’t eat that much at partyies.
Rockin’: I stock up on last minute cheapo red wines from the Finger Lakes. That’s still local, isn’t it?
Shockin’: I don’t buy enough. Despite it being my own signature drink, the red wine is the only drink we run out of. Of course whoever knocked over a bottle in our brand new house (fortunately a tablecloth soaked it before it hit the brand new floors) has something to do with that!
Rockin’: Campbell and I map out a haunted walk through our woods for the kids. I spend two weeks digging a fire pit and getting a fire ring custom-made.
Shockin’: It pours for 24 hours solid prior to the party. All outdoor events are off.
Rockin’: That makes life a little easier. The prospect of people walking on new wooden floors in muddy boots had been scaring us ever since we decided to invite them.
Shockin’: Here we are living in the country and the whole event takes place indoors. I’m not sure I even see anyone step outside to smoke.
Double-shockin’: No-one smokes anymore.
Rockin’: Many of our friends show up at 5pm for the home-blessing ceremony
Shockin’: But some of them are late enough and yet important enough to our ceremony that that we can’t start it until about 6:30
Rockin’: We have a bar all set up for people to help themselves while they’re waiting.
Shockin’: We learn why you rarely get the chance for a drink before a wedding. Sober guests make quiet guests. Imbibing guests do not.
Rockin’: We have a beautiful ceremony, complete with sage-brushing, the kids chasing the energy around the house, a mock wedding between our family and the house, and a burning ceremony, in which Posie and I take our private memories of all that went wrong in the process (and between us), and burn them, so that may forever be in the past.
Shockin’: We have to keep re-arranging the service on the fly, not so much because the kids get bored as adults keep wondering off to the bar!
Rockin’: We ask people to bring nothing but a one-word wish written on anything they choose.
Shockin’: That out of maybe 50 wishes, not a single word is repeated. Here are some of the more interesting choices: today joy gratitude calm haven harmony kindness birds synergy beauty peace serenity tranquility drainage grace simplicity ease done lagniappe shanti sylvanjourneys
Rockin’: The elderly gentleman who fixed the Hammond B3 so beautifully (cutting me a much-needed break in the process) attends the ceremony to play it for us…
Shockin’: …In clown costume. Well, it is Halloween.
Rockin’: We have a drum kit set up to accompany the Hammond. And we invite other people to bring their amps and guitars. With a bunch of semi-professional musicians in the room we have ourselves a pretty good band.
Shockin’: The acoustics in the living room are superb. I honestly hadn’t expected that or built for that.
Rockin’: Our friends’ elementary-age daughter Lucia gets up and sings Chuck Berry’s “School Days” note-perfect. (Well, her parents are musicians.)
Shockin’: Most of the other kids miss it because they’re in the TV room. (Another thing we got right in the house: put the TV in its own room, so as not to mess with activities in the “living” room.)
Rockin’: iJamming! Pubber Mark Lerner brings his whole family forward to play and sing their own composition “Rock Dog,” with Mark’s son Lucas on the drums.
Shockin’: That I can’t get my own son to play the drums.
Rockin’: I break out the Rickenbacker and start playing Who songs.
Shockin’: And then plain forget the chords for the middle eight of “Pinball Wizard.”
Rockin’: The “band” returns to more simple songs.
Shockin’: Including 12-bar blues. I eventually have to kick my friends off “stage” to return to programmed iPod music.
Rockin’: A brief dance set in socks on the wooden floor.
Shockin’: It doesn’t last long enough. People are leaving already.
Rockin’: We were sensible enough to start the party early
Shockin’: Our last guests leave at 10:30pm. I guess that’s life in the country when all your friends have kids and it’s the local Halloween parade the next day.
Rockin’: There are no breakages and only that one (very big) red wine spill
Shockin’: It still takes us a week to clear up.
Rockin’: That’s because we’re getting on with living here, rather than worrying about the place.
Shockin’: The entranceway is still all exposed sheetrock, we’re living with primer paint in almost every room, we haven’t furnished half the house – and we don’t care.
Rockin’: The weather has been gorgeous through most of the fall and the view out front of the house – ideally situated for passive solar gain – has been stunning almost every single morning, noon and night.
Shockin’: That it almost tore us apart to get this far.
Rockin’: Looking forward.
Shockin’: That I will never write that article about the pros and cons building a house. It’s all behind us.