Pinochle and Staircases

I had a busy weekend and honestly, my legs are still a little sore from construction.  Two important things happened over the weekend: I learned to play pinochle and helped my dad build a flight of stairs in my parents’ house.

The pinochle adventure began with an invitation so spend time with some women living in the neighborhood, a sort of boozeless/tame girl’s night out.  I was somewhat apprehensive about hanging out with this particular group because honestly, I don’t have much at all in common aside from: more-or-less similar age, a uterus, and heterosexual married status.  It’s not that these ladies aren’t nice people, but I often have a hard time finding common ground with people whose entire lens for viewing the world views practically everything I think and believe to be wrong.

Home in my neighborhood, a funky place with Ron Molen designed homes (from Salt Lake Tribune)

I really am torn at times when I’m invited to meet new people from the local ward, because I do want to know and have a good relationship with those who live nearby but my neighborhood’s demographic is such that the only easy socialization is with the married LDS women.  The area I live in is actually decently diverse for Salt Lake’s burbs; it has decent ethnic mix proportional to city demographics, and is split into more ore less three groups.

1.  Older straight couples, widows and widowers around my grandparents’ age who purchased their homes new

2.  LGBT crowd: gay couples my parents’ age or so as well as a couple of nice transgender folks I got to talk to at the neighborhood breakfast.

3.  Young Mormon couples around the age of me and Thrack

My experiences talking with the first group have been far from productive.  Most of the times I’ve talked to them, religious badgering has been a major theme and I really don’t need to be proselytized at.  I have cordial relationships with the closest neighbors who are retirees, but for obvious reasons there aren’t any long-lasting friendships in the works here.

And while I’d love to hang out with the gay people in the neighborhood, the age gap there makes it really difficult to build a meaningful relationship with any of them.  It’s not anyone’s fault, really and I’ve had wonderful times at parties thrown by precisely this age group.  But the difference there is I’ve always had a family connection (whether they were actually related or were adopted family in the way of old family friends).


The annual neighborhood breakfast from the neighborhood website (yes, amazingly, there is an actual website although it's pretty neglected)

Which means my only options for getting to know my neighbors and building some community (like the neighborhood I lived in growing up) is to put myself out there with a group at at least shares life-experience context and history.  But I always find myself feeling like the odd person out because I’m not a member of their religious group and tend to curtail my normal vernacular to avoid ugly situations.  I self-censor my opinion content to make sure that I don’t accidentally cause uproar/outrage over daring to express a feminist, pro-LGBT or skeptic position.  It’s frustrating to feel as if I have to less of myself to build commonality and acceptance.

The obvious alternative is simply to hide in our house and avoid all contact with the neighbors,which really bothers me.  I had a great experience growing up of a neighborhood that had close interactions and I’d like to have some measure of that here as well.  We have a good neighborhood for it; every spring we organize an outdoor breakfast that’s local and secular.  So I suck it up and try to keep as tight a lid on my scary everyone-is-human-and-deserves-dignity-rights-and-respect attitudes as I go over to another house with at least two pictures of white Jesus, six representations of the temple and walls plastered with pictures of the couple’s kids (assuming they’ve reproduced).  Honestly, I think even with this,  I’d be much more comfortable if we weren’t always totally sex-segregated.

So I was apprehensive to say the least, but I picked up some nice cheese, fruit and crackers and headed out with my neighbor across the street.  (Who is certainly very nice, but whose religiously-based deference to her husband makes me really uncomfortable.)  The evening’s activities were hosted by someone I’d not me before and it ended up being just four women (including me).  I was a bit uncomfortable until one of my new acquaintances suggested she and the host teach me and my neighbor to play pinochle.

Since I’m a fan of card games, that sounded awesome.  So we played what we were told was the absolute best card game of all time while munching on cheese and crackers and fruit.  It was very, very fun.  I was able to relax, although I kept a tight lid on personal opinions and I’m pretty sure I didn’t allow anything more offensive than an “Oh my god!” slip out.  And while ultimately, I doubt that any of these women will ever be real friends, I would enjoy forming our own pinochle club.  Unlike my husband who is often a reclusive bear*, I need people and social interaction every so often and I’ll take what I can get.

Sunday was a day that I’m only now recovered from; I thought my legs would ache for a week.  My parents’ house is a charming bungalow built in 1921, and unfortunately, some bad things have been done to it over the years.  It’s taken years to get some of the original architectural details restored, and they are still remodeling the kitchen and basement.  Years and years ago when I was still living at home, we found that there were a few issues with structures in the basement and the back stairs also weren’t as sound as they should be.  We cut out the old stairs and repoured the concrete in the rooms below.  Unfortunately, this also led to a very, very bad accident, one I still carry some guilt for.

My dad and I were removing the landing at the back door, midway between the long flight down from the kitchen and the smaller one down to the basement while my mom was doing yard work in the yard.  As we cut the last supports away, I remember looking at the back door and thinking that we should lock the door to prevent an accident.  Before I could even move, my mom opened the door, stepped in and fell four feet onto concrete.  All my mom’s weight bore down on her knee.  It was not pretty.  (She’s since had multiple surgeries.)

We reconstructed the stairs “temporarily” as my dad intended to tile the stairs.  Unfortunately this temporary build has lasted for years.  Most of the steps were decently wide planks (although a couple were stairs were pairs of 2X4s) but this still required a lot more focus and care than real solid stairs with risers at the back.  My mom is (understandably) worried that her knee could fail on normal stairs and these had been a source of anxiety for as long as they’d been rebuilt.  So this last Sunday we put in new ones and did the job properly: leveling stretchers, scribing in the step base and risers, etc.  And putting in lots and lots of screws because my dad is one of those rare guys among builders that refuses to cut corners and do things the fast way.  So they’re in and solid and awaiting tile.  And my legs hurt for days.

But they’re finally in and my mom can walk on them a little easier now.  Hopefully my puppy too (she’s terrified of stairs but that’s a whole post on its own).

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