Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Front Porches

When I was a kid on the South Side of Chicago, we had a screened porch on our old 1890s duplex. That meant in that climate and with the screens of the day, every spring Dad put up the screens, and every fall he tooks them down and put up storm windows. But in the summer, we lived on the porch--ate three meals a day there, and Mom and I often slept there. She had rigged a waist-high canvas curtain on the street side so that no one could see us, and the South Side being what it was, she cautioned me to be very quiet whenever anyone walked by. Chicago could be muggy in the '50s, and the outdoors was a lot better than the house which as yet had no a/c. I loved those nights.

Now I live in a house with a nice wide porch across the front, with about 2/3 of it roofed. I tell people it's why I bought the house. I have large and small dinner parties out there, and the neighbors often gather for wine or food or just to visit. Jacob loves to stand there and watch the traffic go by on our fairly busy street--"Truck! Truck! Truck!" Tonight I was sitting out there alone with a glass of wine and thinking how wonderful it is. It's hot but windy, so the porch is pleasant, and the huge old elm sways in the breeze. I always worry about that tree, because it periodically loses huge branches--and since it's on city property, I'm afraid the city will tear it down. The house would not be the same without it. On the property line to the west of the house there's an oak--a small tree when I moved here 15 years ago, but now it's grown to a graceful, good-sized tree. And all up and down, the street is lined with trees, so you can sit on the porch and almost forget you're in the city. It's like a boer of green. I'm not a great gardener, but I have pots of herbs on the porch--and I use them often.

Yesterday was a mixed bag of a day--in the morning I went to a new dentist who told me I need every filling in my mouth replaced. Megan said I need a second opinion but unfortunately that was the second opinion. The dentist was a pleasant, likeable man, and I think I trust him--but one wonders about such a sweeping diagnosis. He did do a much more thorough dental exam than I've ever had before, including a tiny camera with which I swear he took 50 pictures of the inside of my mouth--fairly scary. First step is a thorough "scaling" of my gums--enough to give one the willies.

But then in the afternoon I heard from a NY editor I'd written to for advice. He's an old friend from my westerns days. I asked for advice on marketing a "cozy," and he said he just happened to be editing a cozy series (he said wrly, "How the mighty have fallen," so I guess he considers it sort of a comedown) and why didn't I forget an agent for the time being and send it to him. He wanted an outline and three chapters, so I spent the evening constructing an after-the-fact outline and tonight I got it all off to him, with a note saying that I thought the outline in bare bones read like a soap opera, so I also included a synopsis, which sounded much better. Then later last night an agent I had queried asked for three chapters. I'm afraid to get excited about any of this, but it's good to even get responses.

Today I had lunch with my lawyer who is also a good friend. I need advice on the legal aspect of the second mystery which I've just started, and she explained a couple of things but said she's not a criminal lawyer but can ask some colleagues.

I cancelled my plans to go to Austin this weekend with regret--it just didn't seem to be working out, and the trauma of getting there and back began to outweigh the pleasure of being there. The train from Austin runs three hours late (normally a four-and-a-half-hour trip). Jeannie pointed out that it's pretty scary that you can fly to London quicker than you can take the train 180 miles from Austin to Fort Worth. But Colin and I are moving ahead with plans to go to Scotland in the fall, and I'm getting excited all over again.

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