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January 6, 2005

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We were up at the Brown Estate in Edmonds, a 1938 house built on one acre of waterfront property. The lot is triangular, with a great stepped lawn descending to the water where it comes to a point. It would have sweet beach access except for the freight train track hugging the shore. All day as we worked, the rumble of long trains periodically thrummed through the house. (That sound always makes me inexplicably happy--maybe it reminds me of the womb. Or perhaps my childhood home in Blue Point, NY, not far from the LIRR tracks.) After pulling up several hundred square feet of oak flooring, Joel and I set to knocking nails out of the boards with our hammers. (The field crew has a pneumatic denailer, but Ben, Taylor and Marty were using it elsewhere in the house.) As we were banging, it occurred to me that it must have sounded similar in that same room 66 years earlier. Real people had knocked those nails through hard wood and now we were reversing their efforts. I kept looking for clues behind trim and under boards--old unworn coins, a note from the past, a newspaper--but there was nothing but wood and nails. The house is coming down soon. The estate sold for $975,000. But though the house is solid, it's the lot itself that's so valuable. I don't know what the plans are for it.