It was the house. Bats flew in. The basement was crawling with snakes. The day I stumbled down there in the dark holding a laundry basket, my heart froze. Conversely, the stove was electric and not very good at maintaining a temperature. I was always burning things. The house caused multiple losses. If I were asked to imagine the attributes of the lot it was built on, I would describe the mound of an old baseball field, sullen with weeds, where the most frequent pitches were change ups thrown at seventy-five miles an hour. It didn’t have leaky faucets or peeling floor tiles. We had a really good landlord. It was in the middle of the block. It was free standing. We didn’t know any of the neighbors, which isn’t atypical for people who don’t own dogs or walk them past neighbors patrolling the grass, at their very most wretched…. More…

As I’d been saying, it’s always something else. Take roofs, for instance. You can go months, even years without thinking much about them. They’re in jokes like, “Just because there’s snow on the roof doesn’t mean there’s no fire in the furnace,” which considering my recent experience with a broken furnace, would be a low blow.

 

Actually, if there’s snow on the roof, it’s a good thing. That means the insulation is working and heat isn’t escaping. Or it could mean that the snow on the roof will leak, stain, peel paint — or worse.

When that starts, the first hope is that it’s just the flashing. I used to listen to a lot of home-repair programs on the radio — amazing, the trivia I store away in the file cabinet of the mind, stuffing it so that I can’t… More…

Flying into Provincetown on an eight-seat prop plane, you see what Norman Mailer meant when he wrote the preface to Are We in Vietnam? — “In Provincetown, geography runs out, and you are surrounded by the sea. So it is a strange place.”

 

In the summer of 2009, I arrived at the end of geography, one of the inaugural Norman Mailer fellows — seven writers who spent a month in Provincetown and attended seminars in Mailer’s house, established as a writer’s colony after his death in 2007.

After settling into a condo a few houses down from Mailer’s, Larry Schiller — filmmaker, writer, and the colony’s enigmatic executive director — gave us the four-digit code that would allow us to enter the Mailer house for exactly 28 days, at which point the code would change and stragglers would have… More…