A Year in the Life, or, Happy Massiversary

Today marks the one year anniversary of my moving to Massachusetts. It’s sort of hard to reconcile in my mind, in some ways it feels like so much has happened, in other ways it feels like it was just a heartbeat ago that my dad dropped me off at the airport, with me desperately winking away the tears that threatened to cascade down my face.
In that year, I’ve moved twice, bought a house, started a new job, been promoted to a different job, made friends, lived a life. Day to day, things aren’t that different. I work hard, I spend time talking to my people (family and friends, you know who you are). I run errands on Saturdays, grocery shop on Sundays. Same as it ever was.
But in other ways, so much has changed. For one thing, weather has never factored so prominently in my life before. In California, it’s basically warm, hot or really hot, 95% of the time. Very rarely, it rains (hence the drought). Even more rarely, the temperature dips, perhaps to 65 degrees and we all don scarves and mittens and drink cocoa and pretend it’s cold.
Massachusetts weather is far more dramatic, and changeable. They say here if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes, and there is some truth to that. I’ve never experienced such significant weather, including of course snow, but also violent rainstorms, stifling humidity, oppressive heat and bone chilling cold. It’s only mid fall but the temperature has already dipped into the 40s and even 30s (nighttime) several times this month. What’s odd to me is how quickly I have acclimated to these lower temps. Whereas I too bundled up if the thermometer read 65 degrees in California, here I’ve been known to go out without a jacket unless it’s below 50.
I have been worrying a lot about winter. Again. I mean I worried a lot about winter last year, before and after I moved East, but last winter was just a tease, an amuse bouche, as it were, of what winter could be. This is not hyperbole on my part, it was actually the mildest winter in decades, a welcome follow up to the winter of 2014, which people are still talking about, the one where more than 100 inches of snow fell through the season. Last year, I think our total was about 14 inches. Early predictions, which of course could totally not come true, are that this winter will be a harsh one. And, frankly, I’m a bit scared.
The big difference for me this year, is that unlike last year where I lived in a townhouse with 24 hour maintenance and a crew that started shoveling and plowing as soon as the snow stopped falling, now I own and am completely responsible for the maintenance of a semi old, semi large, barn of a house with a decent sized front, side and back yard. And while I have hired a service to plow the drive, the rest is up to me, including figuring out how poor Daisy is going to do her business when the snow gets deep, as I suspect it inevitably will.
I’ll figure it out, just like I’ve figured everything else out. I’m lucky to have some good friends who will advise me and who are gracious enough not to laugh in front of my face. That’s been a great gift in this last year and probably one of the greatest challenges too, meeting new people and making new friends. It may surprise some of you to learn that I suffer from social anxiety. I know I come off as a confident and outgoing person, and that’s absolutely true, but the specter of unfamiliar situations fills me with dread and I have to fight hard against retreat and paralysis. I’m ALWAYS fine once I get there, but prior to arrival, the anxiety and angst are actually painful, and come with the bonus of feeling ashamed. So, imagine the battle when almost every experience over the last year has come with that struggle. But I’ll continue to fight against it. I can’t build a new life for myself without leaving my living room, as comfortable as that feels. Yesterday I did my first gig as a volunteer at a sweet little community theater, ushering for the matinee. As usual, I was filled with nerves prior to arrival, but it was fun and felt right and I’ll be back there again, for sure.
My life here is happy. Happier than I expected. In some ways I think everyone should push the restart button at midlife, it’s as invigorating and exciting as anything I can think of. Of course there’s been loneliness and challenges and struggles but those are all part of life and I wouldn’t have traded anything that has happened to me in the last five years for anything else. Really, truly. Last week, I was driving down Boston Post Road, one of the oldest roads in the country, and, especially with the trees still brilliant with color, a beautiful and stunning sight. The song The Long Way Home, by Supertramp, came on the radio, with that gorgeous harmonica introduction, and I just started crying, hot happy tears because in that moment, I felt gloriously at home.
The end, for now

Unhandy

Considering the fact that I recently moved into a 77 year old house, I guess it should be no surprise that it requires constant maintenance and repair. Just yesterday I gave a sharp yank on a door that seemed a bit stuck, only to have the doorknob come off in my bemused hand. And while I had the large, urgent items looked at before I moved in, if I were actually keeping a running list of things that need to be done, the list, she would be long!
In my previous life, I would have had a variety of options to address these things. First, I would call Kerry. The bestie is pretty handy (plus smart and pretty and all those good things). She could probably knock out the first (easiest) level of chores, ably assisted by me in the background as comic relief. Too complicated for Kerry? Time to call Dad. He could take care of almost any problem, whether it be rewiring a light switch or installing a new faucet. Feeling guilty about cajoling an 82 year old man to do my dirty work? Not quite comfortable making him climb a ladder or do anything too intense? I was lucky enough to have a good friend in the neighborhood who also worked as a handyman and could basically cover any remaining project not requiring complex plumbing or electrical work. I even had a plumber on retainer, who came so often he felt bad about charging me full rate. What a sweetheart.
So here I am, without my team, and as I said, the list of things to be fixed grows daily. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to change out all the light switch plates, which were old and yellow and looked even dingier against my newly painted walls. I don’t have the skills to change the actual switches themselves, but my current “house fund” (the one set aside to take care of household repairs) is currently hovering around $26, so I decided to do what I could. It’s not a complicated task, but given that I had 15 plates needing to be replaced, it wasn’t a quick one either. It took a few hours, and included two trips to the hardware store, one bandage (don’t ask), a short temper tantrum (see previous item), and a few hot tears (see previous item(s)). But I got most of them done, except for the one behind the hutch that is too heavy for me to move, and I have to admit, I did feel a sense of pride at my, albeit minor, accomplishment.
Part of my problem is that I genuinely have a hard time reading instructions and applying them. I’m not sure what the issue is, I know I’m not a stupid person but I certainly feel like one every time I try to interpret assembly instructions. People (names might rhyme with Larry and Lad) get very frustrated with me about this, but it’s a real thing. It’s like instruction dyslexia, they may as well be written in a foreign language. Last week I tried to install a simple solar light outside. Seriously, folks, what does this mean?
Fix the wall plug into the wall, insert the screw into the wall plug but leave a gap for hanging the lamp
What wall plug? What screw? Why a gap? Why??? I ended up just taking a hammer and banging the hell out of a nail and wedging the solar light on top of the nail. Done. No screw, no plug, no gap. Will it stay up? Who knows?
And speaking of hanging things, and hammers, if you come to visit, please refrain from commenting that all my pictures are hung too high or too low. I know! But the walls in this house are super thick and hard to hammer. So once I get that nail in the wall, it’s not moving! Because, well, once I tried to remove the nail, but we aren’t going to talk about the big hole on the freshly painted wall, are we? I thought not.
Of course I can hire a handyman to help me, and eventually I will. But even though I am not skilled, or talented, or able to read instructions, there is a certain satisfaction in being able to do things myself. I never thought I would be able to replace a toilet seat, but after watching the online tutorial, and getting a little advice from a kind coworker, both the bathrooms in this big, crumbly old house have nice shiny clean new seats. And whenever I, ahem, sit upon them, I think to myself, well, I guess you’re not as unhandy as you think. Hmmmm, maybe I should try to replace that doorknob!
The end, for now

Being Koi

Note: I wrote this a few years ago, before I began posting to this blog. Stumbled upon it today, it cracked me up, and I decided it was worth a repost. Hope it makes you smile.

So, my Dad and Marge have a little “cee-ment” pond in their backyard. Literally, cement, but since they are in a high rent district, they refer to it as a “water feature.” Fancy! And, they keep fancy fish in it. Mostly fancy, large goldfish, but also some Koi. Are these the same thing? Turns out I am only a fish expert when it comes to sushi and tuna in a can. And trout, caught down by the old mill stream, but that’s another story for another day.
We all love their little pond. At family gatherings we will often spend time admiring it. It has little lily pads, it’s painted blue (like the deep blue sea, see?), and sometimes favored family members are allowed to sprinkle the fish food flakes in.
I do not live in a high rent district. I live in the ‘hood. The mean streets. The asphalt jungle. Okay, I’m full of shit, I live squarely in a nice suburb, but it’s still a little more diverse, and a little less “contained” than the Palisades, home of Bob, Marge, and the pond. And as I was tooling about my neighborhood one morning, I noticed a house that had a sign in front. And the sign said, “Koi for sale”. But wait, there’s more. On the other side of the yard, there was another sign that read, “funnel cakes for sale.”
Let’s take a moment here. Sometimes when I feel sad, and discouraged by life’s knocks, I only need to think of the splendour of the world that allows illicit Koi and funnel cakes to be sold. It really is a magical land of wonder, and we are just living in it!
Fast forward. Dad comes out to the Valley, and we head over to the koi/funnel cake house. There’s a guy sitting in the front yard. A couple of buckets by his side, and an old, scraggly bulldog at his feet. Not to disparage, but the house seems shabbier than the street view had revealed. I’m now a little nervous that I have dragged my sweet, elderly papa into this “fishy” adventure. [editor’s note, Bob Gold is a fine man, but sweet and elderly might be construed as poetic license. More like canny, smart and spry as hell.]
So Dad and Koi man are now chatting it up, and somehow Koi man is asking Dad for advice on how to start running. Did I mention the old man had just come from a race and was still wearing his medal? The Koi conversation starts to hone into transactional state, and Koi guy mentions he has more koi “in the back.”
Now I’m more nervous. In the back? Are we about to be koi-napped, kept alive with funnel cakes? But Dad willingly follows Koi man, and I timidly slink behind them. And walk into what looks like a massive Koi operation. They have literally transformed their in-ground swimming pool into the world’s largest koi bowl. There are pipes running over it, the water is murky green, and it is filled with hundreds, possibly thousands, of beautiful, fancy, beautiful koi.
My Dad asks the price of a single koi and we are told they are over a hundred dollars a fish. Koi man explains that he imports them from Hawaii, and has another koi warehouse somewhere else in L.A. Dad demures that he is not interested in spending anywhere near that on a fish, and the guy beckons us over to a bank of coolers against the wall. He opens one, and we see it is filled with baby koi. $10 a fish. So Dad says for me to pick one out, which I do. Koi man bags our fish, we shake hands, and depart. No funnel cake has exchanged hands, unfortunately. I ask Dad what he is going to name the fish, and when he tells me he doesn’t plan to name it, I suggest “Kathi.” So, Kathi the Koi goes home to the Palisades.
I would love to tell you this is where the story ends, but like most of my stories, there’s a twist. My dad decides he wants another fish and comes out the next weekend. We go back to the house. No Koi man. No funnel cake sign. No old bulldog. The house appears to be abandoned. We peek over into the backyard. Pool has been drained. Did we dream this?
And, within a few weeks, Kathi the Koi had mysteriously “disappeared” from the pond.
The End, for now

Resettled

It’s been just three weeks since I moved into my new/old/big/not huge house, and I’m finally feeling settled. Again. This morning, I got up early, went to the Farmer’s Market, did a Target run, and listened to Wait Wait Don’t tell Me as I unloaded my booty and assembled my new Swiffer Wet Jet. It felt very much like a regular Saturday morning to me. I felt happy and content.
I won’t lie. The first week or so in the new place was hard. It didn’t feel like home, and in a way, it was almost as bad as the way I had felt when I first moved to Massachusetts last fall. After months of stressing about finding a house, the challenges of the sale, packing, moving, all that, my stress didn’t melt away as soon as I got into the house. I felt very overwhelmed and lonely all over again. I wanted my family. I wanted my best friend. I wanted to feel safe and comfortable and I didn’t feel either of those things. The house felt too big, I wondered if I had made the right choice. I had just gotten used to Waltham, had found my routine there, so important to me, and now I had to do it all over again. It wasn’t a good feeling. But fortunately, it passed.
Within about a week, I was starting to find my way. I had worried about the further commute to the office, but it really only added about 10 or 15 minutes to my drive, and it’s a lovely one, through back roads. I pass a lake, and a little “honor” flower stand. There are a ton of private schools, unseen except for the long winding drives, and coworkers have warned me that my ride might become a lot more congested once school starts, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
I’m still getting used to the house. It’s big, at least for me. It wasn’t necessarily my plan to buy such a large place, but in a weird series of events, it became the place that I could afford, and that hit most of the items on my list, i.e. a garage, a fireplace, room for an office. It also has a spooky basement, which is both cool and sort of scary. It’s dank and dark and there’s a fireplace in it! I am so curious about that, the house was built in 1939, so it’s not like the Underground Railroad was passing through the basement in old timey times, although I like to imagine it was. It is, however, second only to my bedroom in coolness, so I don’t mind going down there to do the wash (it’s where the washing machine is). I’ve also come to appreciate that the basement is where all the things you don’t know where to put go to live.
I’m not thrilled about the mouse in the house. I’ve seen it twice now, both times in the living room, coming out from under the heating vents. And please don’t tell me there’s more than one, for my sanity, I’m choosing to believe he’s a solo artist. I’ve laid traps throughout the house, but thus far, nothing has been caught. And I do plan to get a cat but possibly not for a few months. I’ll admit, it grosses me out to have rodents in the house, but I also know it’s part of living in an older house. My neighbor told me all the houses here have them, and it’s just something you live with and try to eradicate as best you can.
I love New England. It’s really beautiful and the history awes and excites me every day. Even this morning, driving to the market, I marveled at the wonderful old Victorian houses as I whizzed by, not museums, but very much alive and filled with families. It’s green here. They talk about drought, and I know there are concerns about the lack of rain, although to me it feels like it rains all the time. It’s raining now, and big thunderstorms are predicted throughout the day. It’s different. It’s lovely.
I wish every person I love could teleport here, for an hour, a day, a week, a lifetime, to experience what I see. It’s quite an adventure to restart your life in your fifties. I still think back on the last three years, from the shock of the sudden and brutal layoff, through the months of uncertainty, interviews and stress, to the decision to make the big move, to here. Today. It’s a good life, and I’m so grateful for it. Now, I just have to get rid of that mouse.
The end, for now

Stormy Weather

I’ve been toodling around for a day or two now on a post titled My New/Old House. You know, all about getting settled in the house, and how maybe it’s haunted, and like, why is there a fireplace in the basement, and have I mentioned that it’s pretty big for one person and I might need to adopt a kitten? And possibly a wolfhound? And how I’ve been exploring the local area and I found a bakery that has been operating in the basement of someone’s house for the last hundred years. Stuff like that.

But we interrupt these posts in progress for a word about the weather. More like 3 words. Like, excuse me, but, What The Fuck? Or, a teeny bit more appropriately, Oh…My…God. If you recall my previous posts, you may remember that before moving East, I experienced considerable anxiety about winter. Driving in it, living through it, cold, snow, ice, boots, puffy coats. All those frightening things. And winter had its challenges (read the aforementioned cold, snow, ice, boots, puffy coats). But it was also fairly gentle and I managed to get through it basically unscathed.

I never gave any thought to the other three seasons, except to muse how lovely spring was, with the beautiful flowers and scampering bunnies and whatnot. And to eagerly anticipate my first New England fall, with the changing leaves and apple picking and whosis. Never gave a second thought to summer. Whatever. Not my favorite season anyway, and if I had pondered on it, it would have been merely to think, oh, won’t it be nice not to live through another summer of heat in the San Fernando Valley, where it’s not unusual for the temperature to top 100 degrees for weeks on end.

Well, folks, turns out there is something far more uncomfortable than 100 degree weather for weeks on end. I never would have believed it until I experienced it, but there’s this thing called humidity. And I know we’ve all heard that old adage “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” but whoever believed it? Not me. How could 90 degree weather ever be worse than 100 degree weather? Well, let me tell you! The day I moved was the hottest day in 3 years, about 95 degrees out. No big, right? Add in 70 percent humidity and you are now approaching the gates of hell. And sure, I may be prone to dramatic license now and then, but trust me, listen to me, believe me! I thought I was going to die. I have quite literally, in the most literal sense, never sweated so much in my entire life. And I’m a person who doesn’t even like to admit I perspire, perhaps a gentle glow now and then, but sweat? Nope. And on that day, sweat ran from my eyes. My shirt was plastered to my back. It sucked the life out of me and made every little chore seem like the hardest task ever accomplished. And it didn’t let up. Not at night, not in the early morning.

My new house is not air conditioned, which means it stays hot. Fortunately I had the sense to put a window unit in my bedroom, which has remained blissfully cool while the rest of the house swelters. We are in a heat wave in the North East, which is what they call it when the temperature remains over 90 degrees for three or more days in a row. It is brutal, and the only blessing is the realization that unlike SoCal, we have seasons here, and this weather won’t persist beyond the next month or so. I can do another month as long as the end is in sight.

In addition to this heat and humidity, twice this week, we have had something called microbursts tear through my neighborhood. A microburst is defined as a sudden, powerful, localized air current, especially a downdraft. It’s sort of like a mini, short lived, backwards tornado. It comes in quickly and violently, with teeming rain, extremely heavy wind, lightning, thunder, and even hail. I’ll confess, the first one scared the pants off of me. Good thing it was so hot I wasn’t wearing pants in the first place. But in the span of about thirty minutes, the sky darkened, rain came pouring down, lightning and thunder crashed above and I stared out the side window watching it all in fear and amazement. A few minutes later, I heard a boom and a crash out front and I ran to that side of the house to see a huge tree limb, which had either been hit by lightning or torn off by the wind, blocking off the street in front of my house.

I had just met my across the street neighbor the night before, and he had kindly said, if you ever need anything. I didn’t quite know what to do, so I ran over to his house and knocked on the door. He came out and told me he would take care of things, that he would drag the tree limb to the roundabout that centers our cul de sac and then it would be the town’s problem. I wasn’t too sure about that solution, but I really don’t like to play the damsel in distress, so I told him I would do it (not really being sure I could physically pull that off but at least I wanted to try), but he told me no, the neighbors wouldn’t mind if he did it, but I was brand new and they might get ticked. It was all a little weird to me, so I confess, I sort of stood out there wringing my hands (shades of damsel, bad Kathi), until he came back around and yelled at me to stop standing under the tree in the storm. The tree limb disappeared the next morning, so I guess his solution was a good one, but it still made me a little nervous.

The storm ended as quickly as it began, but three nights later, we had another microburst. This one was even more violent, knocking out power across towns and uprooting trees, some of which blocked off major thoroughfares. My property held up through that one, but another neighbor on the cul de sac had three old trees in their yard completely uprooted, one of which crashed into their garage and caused some decent damage.

It’s all very different from what I’m accustomed to. Not bad, necessarily, but it will definitely take some getting used to. I’m thankful for all of my earthquake preparedness, I have the flashlights and battery radio and lanterns all in strategic places in the house so I can survive a short power outage reasonably well, although it was pretty steamy in the house the other night without my trusty bedroom AC or even fans to blow the hot air around. But as I mentioned earlier, summer here is a short three month season, as opposed to the year round SoCal heat wave. I’ll learn my microburst protocol and hopefully be a little less freaked when the next one inevitably comes (predictions are for storms tomorrow). And I’ll get ready for fall, and cool weather and sweaters. And maybe lighting that fireplace in the basement, and cozying up with some apples, and a kitten. And perhaps a wolfhound. The adventure continues.

The end, for now

Still

What is the opposite of “moving?” I think it must be “still.” And at this moment, I can’t think of a more beautiful word, a more desired state of being. Under the waterfall, my feet swaddled in puffy clouds, garbed in a simple, ethereal yet slimming raiment, with only the sound of sunshine and lollipops buzzing in my ears. Still.
Remember the time I sold my house in California where I had lived my entire life, and packed all my worldly goods and moved to lovely, but oh so different New England? And I settled in, and I wore boots and learned to shovel wee bits of snow and got promoted and did, like, 3 jobs at once, and felt content and happy and finally, at last, settled, resettled. A backwards Pilgrim, as it were.
I remember! So clearly. I mean, it was only about 7 months ago! And yet, settled as I was, it was always the plan that my initial move here wouldn’t be long term. I had taken a 10 month lease in a well-managed and amenity rich townhouse, always with the knowledge that the end game was home ownership.
But it was a bit trickier than I had foreseen. Timing was problematic. To go beyond my lease left me vulnerable to a very steep rent increase. To break it early required a minimum of 60 days’ notice and a ridiculously steep penalty. The goal was to time it perfectly. Having sold in the L.A. market I expected to enter into this race in a favored position. I had been watching the local real estate for months on Zillow and fully assumed I would come in on favorable level. But the Metro West Boston real estate market was a notoriously tough nut to crack!
I didn’t know that Boston and the surrounding suburbs was the third toughest real estate market in America, behind only New York City and San Francisco. I wasn’t aware that the medium price in the area I was renting in and worked in, Waltham MA, and the even more desirable border towns I had come to love, Lexington and Arlington, were so far priced out of my league that the only house within my range was under 800 square feet and had no closets! And I actually bid on it! Over asking price! And cried when I didn’t get it. Who needs closets, asks the crazy lady with 14 pairs of boots?
So, reality, as well as realty, finally reared its practical little head. And I set my sights out a little further, to Framingham. Initially I had resisted Framingham, because it was farther out than I wanted to be, about 25 miles west of Boston and 13 miles from work. And it was admittedly, on the face of it, less charming than the lovely town of Waltham I had been living in, with its beautiful town common, historic mansions, farm stands and surprisingly, a quite fabulous restaurant row.
Framingham is much more suburban. It reminded me in some ways of the San Fernando Valley, with malls and parking lots and a Loews and Cineplex. And at first, I resisted that idea. I didn’t make this huge life change to eat at PF Changs, if that makes any sense. But then, I found a darling house, in a sweet, extremely charming neighborhood. With two fireplaces, and a possibly haunted basement and a sunporch. And it needs love and it needs money put into it, but wait! There’s a Trader Joe’s! And a Whole Foods! And a historic downtown and a town common and lakes and ponds and farm stands all waiting to be explored. I started to feel much better about living in the ‘ham (as the locals call it).
The story of how I got the house, and the serendipity surrounding that, and the wrangling and negotiating and multi mini dramas swirling around me for the last 60 days is a tale for another time. I closed last week; it felt like we wrestled down to the wire. The work being done to the house has involved intense levels of coordination; the house had been vacant for a year and it needed some TLC. Over the past 8 days I’ve project managed a troop of electricians, a painter, a handyman, pest controller and cleaning crew into a beautifully choreographed dance. We’re at the tail end. There’s two nights left before I leave this townhouse.
If any of this sounds easy, I haven’t done a good job of telling the story. It has been hard, really, really hard. As always, I am incredibly grateful to the wonderful and extraordinary love and support of family and friends. I’m not always graceful or smart or logical, or even cheerful. Thank God for the crew that listens to me doubt and complain, and renders advice even when they know I may not listen to them, and loves me anyway in spite of my flaws.
I am frankly exhausted. I haven’t slept for what feels like weeks, my body hurts from lifting and hauling, and I’m pretty sure my boxes are having box babies and laughing at me behind my back. Daisy has been a brat for days, she doesn’t understand why things are in such disarray and I’ve been so cranky, she knows something is amiss. And I’ve tried to explain to her, yes we are moving again, but this time is going to be the last time for, I hope, a long while. And we’re going to have two fireplaces, and space, and privacy and a yard, and, yep, Trader Joe’s is in the near vicinity. And we’re going to get past the pain of moving, and settle in. Again. And we’re going to be blessedly home at last, and beautifully, wonderfully, still.
The end, for now

The Local Tourist

I’ve had the blessing of a run of visitors lately, which has been fantastic in itself but has also been a great opportunity to explore the local area more. I currently live about 11 miles, as the crow flies, outside of Boston, but it’s not like I’m running into the city every week. In the six months since I have been living in Waltham, Massachusetts, I have been to Boston six times, averaging about once a month. The rest of the time I’ve been doing fascinating things like looking for a house, going to the carwash, cleaning the house, doing laundry and grocery shopping in my spare time. But with family and friends coming in to town, of course there has been a great reason to get out and see the sights of this wonderful place.
Here’s a rundown on where I’ve been and what I’ve seen and my purely subjective opinions about them. A few things to keep in mind. I love American history, especially living history. I also have an extremely limited attention span. I’m not an especially big shopper, or a big hiker. I like good food, and comfort. So, if you’re a big adventure seeker, or someone whose perfect day is meandering through a quaint town looking at shops, you definitely want to buy a guide book, or ask someone with similar tastes.
The Boston public transport system (MBTA) is excellent and easy to use, and is how I have been maneuvering around in Boston except for the couple of times I’ve been driven in to town by a friend. I have not quite worked up the courage to drive myself around Boston, the traffic seems treacherous, the pedestrians fearless, and the parking scarce and pricey.
In Boston:
Faneuil Hall
I’m not sure why, but this is one of the first places I wanted to see in Boston. It has been a central marketplace and meeting place since 1743, and I guess I was expecting to find some super charming history there. Nope. Basically, it’s a huge crowded indoor/outdoor mall. And like most of Boston, it’s crazy expensive. I had a mad craving for ice cream one of the days I visited the hall. A small cone was $6.95!
Boston Duck Tours
There are several versions of Duck Tours, we took the “original” Duck Tour, which was a blast. You ride around Boston in an amphibious vehicle, which holds about 20 passengers, plus a driver. I’ve learned that the success of a tour depends largely on the skills, knowledge and personality of the driver, and we got a good one. The tour, which is narrated, goes around most of the major sights of Boston, and then eventually the jeep thing you are riding in turns into a boat and you drive right in to the Charles River. It was super cool, and a lot of fun. I loved it and would do it again. The only drawback is that there were certain sights I would have liked to explore, rather than just drive by.
Boston Hop on/Hop off Tours
Another narrated tour of Boston, the benefit to this one is you can get on and off at various sites (see above). And included in the price is a tour of the Old State House (see below). Our first driver was pretty lackluster, which definitely detracted from the tour. It also felt to me that the tour kept circling around, passing the same sights over and over from different directions. And, although there were 15 stops, we only chose to hop off at stop 5, which was the Old State House. Getting back on after our stop was tough, because subsequent trolleys were full, so you had to wait for a few to come by to get on, and they come every 15 minutes. I liked the tour but didn’t love it. But I did love the Old State House!
Boston Old State House
The Old State House, which was built in 1713, was the center for all political life in colonial Boston. It was the hub of the city and the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Massachusetts was done from the balcony on July 18, 1776. The tour docents are history students and they are excellent and really know their stuff. The Boston Massacre, which was one of the early touch points of the American Revolution, took place in front of the State House, and there is a separate tour that explains exactly what happened and makes it come alive. I was fascinated by all of this, and look forward to visiting the State House again.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
I don’t know why I was so surprised by the awesomeness of this museum, I should have expected Boston would have a world class museum. But I was surprised and delighted by the depth of its collection. Picasso, Degas, Renoir, and Monet, are all well represented. They had a wonderful collection of early American silver, including works by Paul Revere. When we visited, they had just acquired a Frida Kahlo that was pretty magnificent. There’s probably a lot more that we didn’t see. Given my aforementioned short attention span, we didn’t stay for hours, and again, it’s a little pricey, adult admission is $25. But I can see myself going back soon.
North End
The North End is Boston’s oldest neighborhood, and it is also what we would call in other towns, Little Italy. It is a great place for walking around, the streets are filled with little restaurants and shops, and on a weekend night (or perhaps any night of the week), it is a lively and happening scene. A couple of tips if you want to eat there, check to see if the restaurant accepts credit cards and takes reservations. If not, bring lots of cash, and be prepared for a long wait! And even if they do take reservations, be sure to make them well in advance, the good ones book up quickly. I had dinner at Al Dente, which was delicious and does take reservations. I also recommend a stop at the famous Mike’s Pastries, which is known for its cannoli but also has all kinds of other goodies. Don’t be afraid of the huge crowds, the lines move pretty quickly and it’s a fun place to see and be seen while waiting in line.
Outside of Boston:
Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is a hoot! It is an absolutely charming and picturesque town, up the coast about 45 minutes from where I currently live. Famous of course for the infamous Witch Trials, which took place in 1692, the town economy is certainly centered around all things witchy. We did the Witch Museum tour, which is hokey but interesting and fun. We also walked all around the town, and saw beautiful old houses that were built back when Salem was a major sea port. The port of Salem was at its prime between the end of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. I liked that part of our day better than the witch related stuff, but I would recommend doing the museum at least once. We didn’t get to the famous Peabody and Essex museum, which is supposed to be quite fabulous, but we did have an excellent lunch at a place called Finz that my dentist recommended. The lobster roll was superior to Legal Seafood, and costs about $5 less. It’s all about priorities. And lobster rolls!
Lexington and Concord
Last weekend, when my parents were here, we took the Liberty Ride Trolley tour through Lexington and Concord. The tour takes you through the historic sites where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired, including the path taken by Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride, and the Lexington Battle Green, where the Lexington militia confronted 800 British Regulars as the sun rose on April 19, 1775. It also takes you past the Old Manse, where Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson both stayed, and much to my delight, past the Alcott house. I actually got teary eyed looking up at the window where Louisa May wrote that charming story about her sisters. This was again a narrated tour, and our guide Marcia, a retired schoolteacher dressed in colonial garb, mobcap and all, did an outstanding job of bringing this important lesson to life. I loved this tour!
Before leaving Lexington, we also toured the Hancock-Clark house, where Sam Adams and John Hancock, he of the large signature, were hiding out from the British. This was where Paul Revere and William Dawes (the guy nobody mentions) were headed on that famous night, to give them the warning to skedaddle, because “the British were coming” to destroy the munitions they heard were being stored in Concord by the increasingly angry Patriots. If you’re a history buff like me, especially with a yearning to see how people actually lived during these pivotal times in our nation’s history, add this stop to your list.
And that’s it, that is what I have seen so far. My list of places to go next is long, and it’s going to take a while, I have a busy summer coming up, what with packing and unpacking and moving again(!) and settling in to my new, old house. But I’ve got time on my side, everything here has been in place for a few centuries already, and it will wait for me, while I make my own history.
The end, for now

Feeling the Force, or, The Inner Nerd

So, last night I was watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for the fourth time. Twice in the theaters, and now that it’s on dvd and I have my own copy, twice at home. Furthermore, I feel fairly confident in predicting that I will watch it at least 3 more times before the year is up. But in spite of the repeated viewings, questions remain.
By the way, if you’re in any way surprised by my repeated viewing of TFA, you may not have quite clearly grasped what a hard core nerd lurks within my soul. Game of Thrones? Read every book, haven’t missed an episode. Of course Jon Snow lives. Pffff. True Blood? Every book, every episode. The Twilight Series? Loved it! And don’t even get me started on Harry Potter, of which I could wax rhapsodic at a moment’s notice. I love Harry Potter, and Hermione, and Ron, and Dumbledore, and Hagrid, and Sirius, and Luna, and Lupin, and George and Fred, and sweet Ginny, and my God, we can’t forget Dobby! All of them. I love them more than I can say. And probably, more than I should. And, my favorite movie of all time? Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Favorite all time tv show? Need you ask? Buffy, the most fabulous, Vampire Slayer. The geek is strong with this one!
Most of you know me, right? It’s not like I have a vast, unknown, reading public. Which is something we may all want to explore. But, later. Anyway, it’s not like I’m pretending to be super cool or anything. And I’m reasonably well read and well rounded, there’s a lot of Austen and Alcott and Dickens and Fitzgerald interspersed with Rowling and Meyers. I’m not going to conventions or larping in the park. It’s under control, yo. But ask me what happened to Mr Tumnus or to explain the finer points of Quidditch? I’m all over it!
So, back to The Force Awakens. Like I said, 4th viewing. And still, I don’t understand how Han and Chewie found The Millennium Falcon? I don’t get why Rey could understand BB-8, but Finn couldn’t? But the most baffling of all, every time, is why the hell did Princess Leia (or General Organa if you want to play that way) embrace Rey like they had a long history, when by all accounts, they had never met? I don’t get it!
I did get a little extra info this viewing, because I was watching with the captions on. I like to do this, for one thing my hearing isn’t great and I miss things, especially when people have accents, as many of the characters do. And one of the things I had definitely missed was the fact that when Rey is hearing voices down in Maz Kanata’s basement, or wherever it is she’s been storing that light saber, well, the voice is Obi Wan Kenobi’s! And he’s calling out to her, indicating a relationship. Now we all know she’s “someone’s” daughter, my guess has been Luke’s. And old Ben was dead and gone well before she would have been born, so it’s an interesting little nugget, right?
I’m assuming that for most of you, the answer to that last question may have been, meh. And for those of you I can only hope you got about two sentences into this post and abandoned it, due to lack of interest. It happens. But I do know I am not completely alone in my nerdiness, thank goodness. There’s at least a handful of you out there that are right there with me. You know who you are! I know who you are too, but because I love you, and you are my people, I will not out you! But we might want to meet up one of these days to answer my questions above, discuss the Kenobi question, and just have a nerdy good time. And if you want to larp, well, who am I to judge?
The end, for now

I Get Knocked Down (But I Get Up Again)*

You know that song by the Rolling Stones, the one that goes “you can’t always get what you want”? Well, I was thinking about that song last night, and about the idea of disappointment. You see, I had a big disappointment yesterday. I found a sweet little cottage in my most desired area and I made a bid on it. I went in strong, with an offer above the list price, and the most compelling letter you ever could read, a letter so imploring and beguiling that it would be hard to imagine anyone turning their heart against it. It was a beautiful letter, and if you wish to see it, you can message me, but have a tissue ready.
Okay, I may be being a teeny hyperbolic, for dramatic intent, but it was a damn good letter. The irony of that is that I am not a big believer in the real estate “beg” letter, and in fact had instructed my realtor during my recent house sale that I didn’t want any letters shown to me, that I was in it for the cold hard cash and would not be swayed by sentiment. This is also bullshit, because, c’mon, I am a huge sap, I probably would have just given my house away to someone with a sad story, but I knew better than to be tempted.
Oh, how I digress! Back to disappointment. So, I was talking to my sister, as I do so often, and sharing how sad I was that I didn’t get that perfect little house, and she was consoling me, and probably feeling sad, that I was sad, because that’s the kind of loving sisters we are. And I said, you know, it’s cool, I’m used to disappointment. And I didn’t mean that as a tragically pathetic “poor me” kind of thing. I just meant, if you live long enough, sometimes things don’t work out your way.
Look, for two years, I interviewed for jobs. Some of you have no idea how many interviews I went on, and how many opportunities came down to me, or someone else. And every time, well, except for the happy last time, someone else won. Which meant, I lost. And those were bitter blows, with such huge ramifications. It wasn’t fun.
But I have this creed, I guess you could call it my “golden rule” (pun totally intended). Here it is, get out a pen. My golden rule is…don’t be a dick! And what I mean by that, is don’t use not getting your way as an excuse to act badly. We don’t always get what we want. In my opinion, and that’s the only opinion I can represent, the only thing we can control is our own behavior. Everything else is subject to the Gods or the odds or fates.
And when we don’t get what we want, when we don’t get the job, or the house, or the date, or the last pair of shoes on the flash sale, you know what? It’s probably going to be okay. Things have a way of working out as they should, and as long as you behave yourself and wait for the winds to change, you may end in a wonderful place you never dreamed of.
I never thought I would end up across the country, with a fantastic job, beginning to recreate a very sweet little life for myself. If you had asked me to predict my future, it is the last thing I could have ever imagined. But to have this adventure at this point in my life, what a huge gift! And it took surviving and thriving through all those disappointments to make it here.
So I’ll keep on the house hunt, and end up with something even more perfect and right than that little cottage I so wanted. Because, let’s sing together now, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.”
The end, for now

*Credit to Chumbawamba, Tubthumping

The Search for Community

My first semester in college, I participated in a pilot program called Search for Community. I don’t actually remember too much about this aside from the fact that we attended all of our classes together in an old bungalow, and we read Watership Down. But the gist of the program was a study of how mankind seeks and creates community, that this has been part of our essence since the dawn of humanity, although the ways that various cultures go about forming their communities can vary greatly.
I hadn’t given this much thought since that freshman year long ago, but lately, the phrase “search for community” keeps floating through my mind. Because I feel a bit adrift from my community, that circle that always surrounded me, made up of family and friends, all people who knew me and loved me, who I could count on, and who could count on me. And while I may talk to my best friend and my sister and my dad and my brother and several other members of that core team, just as frequently as I ever did, the truth is, it’s not the same.
Let’s suppose that tomorrow you were going to pack up your belongings, and maybe a little dog, and move across the country, leaving everything and everyone that you knew behind. How long do you think it would take you to build a new life? A new community? To feel like you belonged? Obviously, this isn’t really hypothetical, it’s what I just did. And this week passed the 4 month mark since my move from California to Massachusetts, so it seemed like a good point to take stock and consider what I’ve accomplished thus far (a lot) and what I need to keep working on (a lot more).
Since I moved, I’ve started a new job, survived a few tumultuous months of work related uncertainty, been promoted, and taken on far more challenges and responsibilities than I had ever expected to happen, especially in such a short time period. It has not been easy, at all, and there were times when I had my doubts, but I am very happy with the way things have turned out. My career has certainly had its ups and downs in the past decade. Wonderful bosses. Horrible bosses. A lot of stress and strife. Two layoffs, periods of unemployment followed by periods of under employment. Dozens of interviews. So much insecurity. Through it all, I’ve tried to follow my own personal creed for business: work hard, be easy to work with, don’t let your work be defined by your job description, pitch in and do what you can. Sometimes that has worked magnificently. Sometimes it has resulted in abject failure. I still make mistakes and I still have a lot to learn. But finally, I can take great satisfaction and some pride in the fact that I am back on track. It’s a great relief.
I’m a creature of habit and routine, and I’ve started to cement my routine for this new life. I’ve got my car wash, my grocery store, my route to work. I just started house hunting, which is going to be challenging, this is a tight, expensive market, shockingly so even for someone used to pricey California real estate. My weekends are spent much as they always were, running errands, listening to NPR in the car, a nice dinner on Saturday night, usually followed by a recent DVD. It’s not like I was a social butterfly. But I did love meeting up with this friend for breakfast and pedicures, and seeing this friend for 10 minutes at the dog park to catch up. Hanging with my sister and my bff. Going to our favorite sushi spot, or checking out the latest gastro pub opening on Ventura Blvd. Laughing our asses off at nothing, just because.
That’s what I miss the most, that comfort in having people to hang with. Knowing if I got sick, someone would volunteer to run over soup. An invite, that I may or may not accept, to watch the Academy awards. I have made friends here, and I expect to make many more. But you can’t create those relationships that were forged over decades overnight. It’s going to take time to form a circle who “gets me,” especially since there’s a bit of a disconnect between my casual Valley girl ways and the more reserved New England personalities. It’s a tough nut to crack. But I know it will happen.
In the next few months, I will have several visitors from the place I still consider home. First, the bestie comes, and I am literally counting the days. I think I will probably cry when I see her, and will certainly cry when she leaves. Then my parents come, followed by a brother and sister in law. I’ve already had a quick visit from my oldest brother and my niece; it was so wonderful to see them. I’m lining up tours and activities and things to do, but the best part will be just being with my people, the ones who really, really know me, and love me anyway.
I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished so far. I’ve been braver and more adventurous than I ever expected to be. And I’m happy I made the move. It’s a good life, so far. But the adventure isn’t over yet, perhaps it never ends as long as we are alive. I’ll continue to round out this life, fill in the empty cracks with people and relationships and love and laughter. The search for community continues.
The end, for now