did you know butter molds?

5 November 2012 § Leave a comment

I’d never seen it before!

It was green and gold – like young grass growing on idyllic Caribbean sand. Condensation rolled over and between the knifed ridges in the cream oil. I spooned the green stuff out, and sniffed it again. The pollution was gone. If only cleaning the sea was so easy.

Mold is a pesky lifeform for humans. Many of us ignore it, or deny that it exists until it’s too late, and suddenly walls are covered with it. Humid climates suffer worst; fishermen had better be immune, and some cupboards in tropical climates are never opened. Whoever thought wooden-hull boats wouldn’t eventually succumb were delusional.

The stories we gather about mold, and the associations we form, are as diverse as the surfaces it decorates. One elderly couple I know are nearly blind to it: vegetables and leftovers are left in the fridge for months; when their grandchildren secretly clean it out and throw the slimy plastic bags of rotten fruit away, the dear woman, upon finding a clean, slightly less empty refrigerator, puts them on trial. “What did you eat? Did you throw anything away?” She’s almost 90, and keeps an inventory of all that she’s acquired in her head. Sharp as a tack, that one. Say the word “mold,” though, and she’s as defensive as a child refusing to accept the shattered window’s damaged. He husband agrees, takes the plastic container of green, fuzzy tofu, and places it gently back on the shelf. “It’s still good, we’ll warm it in the microwave tomorrow. There’s no mold on it.”

Years ago I worked with an insurance repair company. This basically meant two of us were given an address, a hammer, and a crowbar, and were told to “remove” all the mold. Ready the place to be put back together. My coworker and I destroyed apartments, emptied closets of clothing into dumpsters, smashed wall mirrors with two-by-fours, and wreaked whatever havoc we could, usually to the tunes of Iron Maiden. It was the highest-paying – and most fun – day job I’ve ever had.

In my hunt for a place to live in Portland, mold has come up a lot. In basement rooms, the person showing me the spot says, without exception, that there isn’t any mold in the place. Sometimes I can smell it as they say it, like inhaling a fart just as someone says ‘excuse me.’ Except they deny it.

I don’t want to destroy every place that I see. I left that job happily, my stress level far reduced, my pent up anger gone from the physical activity and joy I got from our destruction. Our making way for re-creation.

Before I left the moldy boat that I rented sight-unseen and mold-unsmelled, I cleaned as much out of it as I could, bleached the hard surfaces and painted over the dry spots. The landlord has been so kind as to agree to return my deposit (but not the first months’ rent), arguing that I “occupied” the space for a month before deciding that it was “unlivable.”

“And,” he added on the phone, “apparently it’s not unlivable, because I just rented it out again, and the new tenant is fine with the condition of the boat.” I was paid for my work with an angry, restrained “fuck off, please.”

It’s a lovely evening in Portland. It is five o’ clock in the darkness a few days ago was six. I passed eight thousand words today in the novel, and am likely still behind to finish on time. But at least my toast has butter.

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