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
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