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
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
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.
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.
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 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
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
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
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
I’m about to say something that feels a bit dangerous. And perhaps even subversive, but maybe it just needs to be said.
Wait? You thought I was going to say something political? About the current political landscape? About the nasty, distasteful, harrowing, embarrassing election process we are currently in? Nope. Not going to go there. I find myself embracing that old adage that religion and politics are not things discussed in polite society. Or you know, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, which seem to have pretty much replaced the functions of polite society. Except for the polite part. To be clear, I’m not ashamed of my politics, or my religion for that matter. I’m a lifelong Democrat, and certainly a lifelong Jew. If you want to know my specific thoughts on how each of those things shapes my thinking and decisions, and who I’m voting for, call me. Happy to discuss, respectfully, courteously, intelligently. But I’m not going to post anything insulting the opposition, as much as they dismay me. Nor am I going to assume if you disagree with me, that you must be wrong. Not how I roll.
Okay, back to my initial statement. Here goes. I’m kind of disappointed in this whole winter thing. I had built it up in my mind as this big scary drama, and it turned out to be more like a weenie little skit. I mean, I was a Girl Scout! I was an earthquake phobic living in Southern California. Be Prepared was not only my motto, it was stitched in my psyche! You Guys, I had pots of soup in the freezer! Emergency ice cream supplies. A battery operated radio. Batteries. A lot of wine. A lot!
I confess, my visions of what winter would be like might have been based on skewed data. First of all, the last two years, especially last year, have been some of the harshest New England winters on record. Last year, there were 106 record breaking, soul crushing inches of snow. Roofs collapsed, power was lost, people died. It was serious.
My other concept of winter was based on The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House on the Prairie series. But this is no gentle story with Pa and Ma and the girls romping around in the Big Woods. This is the somewhat harrowing tale, based on Wilder’s true life adventures, of the winter (1880-1881) where she and her family almost starved to death, as unending blizzards cut her small town off from all supplies for 8(!) months. Here’s a quote to make you shiver:
“There were no more lessons. There was nothing in the world but cold and dark and work and coarse brown bread and winds blowing.”
So, let’s talk about this winter, my first real winter, ever. Southern California doesn’t have winters, just days that are hot, days that are very hot, days that are warm, and days that are less warm. We get excited if it drops down to the 60s and we can wear those cute sweaters we couldn’t help but buying. I actually bought a warm coat about 20 years ago (I was traveling back East) and it’s still like new, it’s been so infrequently worn.
I’m not saying there hasn’t been cold this winter. There has! For a few days around Valentine’s Day, the temperatures were below zero, during the day. I didn’t think it was possible for humanity to survive in weather that cold, but we all did. And there have been many more days in the 20s, 30s and 40s. There have been some snow storms too, a few really good ones and several more that covered the ground and caused traffic hassles and had me shoveling. We’ve had a few “snow days” where we all stayed home and worked remotely because it wasn’t safe to be on the roads. So winter has come, but it was one of the warmest and mildest in history. And now, according to the news reports I watch so anxiously, it’s almost over. And surprisingly, at least to me, it hasn’t been that bad. I expected to have a much harder time acclimatizing.
It sounds weird, and ungrateful, and even, as I said up top, a little dangerous for me to say this. Far be it for me to taunt and tempt the weather Gods, but it’s a little anticlimactic. I thought it would be more, bigger. I was pretty scared going in, with those Long Winter ideas in my head. I anticipated days at a time, stranded. Having no power and having to huddle in a blanket and read by my handy electric lanterns (repurposed from the earthquake supplies). And while I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to that, there was a certain coziness indicated that seemed compelling. I didn’t want a repeat of last winter, by any means! But I may not have minded a few days of enforced inaction. As long as the food supplies held out. And the wine.
This is all a bit tongue in cheek, of course it’s a very good thing I was eased in to this new climate. I’m sure if we have a harsh winter next year, I will be complaining loudly, and whimpering for warmth. But it kind of reminds me of the fig tree back home. For 2 months every year, it was a nightmare of plummeting figgy fruit. A huge mess and inconvenience that had to be dealt with several times a day. I lamented, I bitched, I moaned, I swore to cut the tree down and be done with it. But then the season would be over, life would return to unsticky normalcy and I would forget all about it.
Like the fig season, winter comes to a gentle end, and spring waits to unfurl. Soon I can put the gloves, shovels and mittens away and enjoy the beauty and warmth that New England has to offer. I can’t wait, but I swear I won’t forget that winter will surely come again, and next time, it could be a doozy of a long one.
The end, for now
I’ve already written how I have made a large investment in boots and coats since moving to Massachusetts. As far as I’m concerned, there are few worse things than being cold or having cold feet. Plus, I remain somewhat terrified that at some point I will “fall and not get up” in the snow and ice, leaving Daisy to pick at my frozen remains until someone offers her a tiny treat or shiny toy and she abandons me without a glance.
Being all about the research, I spent some time reading various critiques on the different brands of boots, plus getting recommendations from my East Coast friends. My first purchase was a pair of Sorels, very highly rated, and equally expensive. These boots have gravitas, as well as weight. They lace up, have wool liners and can withstand -40 degrees. Plus they weigh 2.5 pounds each. They’re serious boots!
The problem is, they’re a bitch to get on! And my current routine involves rolling out of bed, getting dressed and suiting up for the elements as quickly as possible to bring Daisy outside. The sweet girl has been a real trouper about going for up to 10 or 11 hours without a potty break, but I don’t want to push my luck, so it’s always a race against time, at least in my mind, to get us both up and out as fast as I can manage it. I don’t have the time or patience in the early morning, to fight with the wool liners and heavy laces.
Ironically, even though I have purchased several pairs of lovely boots, of varying levels of utility and attractiveness, my go to, every day boots are the cheapest and frankly ugliest boots I own. They’re brown, already salt stained, but damn it, they have zippers and I can get them on in about 2 seconds. I’ve ended up planning outfits around these clodhoppers, perhaps a sign that I’ve really given up. At least until spring.
But Friday, we had a pretty significant storm. When I got up to walk Daisy yesterday morning, I could see that the snow was piled quite high, higher than even my brown boots could plow through. The sun was shining and I had places to go and things to do. I figured it was the day to finally break out the mighty Sorels! And so, with Daisy whimpering softly in impatience, I took the time to fit the wool liners around my feet and shove my way into the colossal boots. And I have to admit, I felt sort of powerful in those massive beasts! Even wading through drifts to shovel out my car, my feet were warm and dry. I took DP on her morning walk and took off to cross those errands off my list.
The boots and I were making great progress. Tax accountant, check. Pet store, check. Drugstore, Wine shop, Supermarket, done, done and done, feet still toasty and dry. I was on the last stop, a quick errand on Moody Street (the Champs Elysees of Waltham, don’t you know) when I felt myself starting to skid through an icy patch on the slick street. I didn’t go all the way down, but I managed to twist the ankle that I’ve been babying all week through a bout of tendonitis. Can I just say, ouch!
The Sorels let me down, man, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever learn to love them again. And I know now, because I have a sore foot, and my nice neighbor told me, that snow boots aren’t necessarily ice boots, and apparently I need to invest in something called “ice stabilicers” which are cleats that you can attach to your boots for extra traction. And goodness knows, I love the excuse to buy yet another accessory, it’s what separates us from the animals, right? But in the meantime, I’ll be watching the ground a bit more carefully, and wearing my “trusty brownies.” At least until spring.
The end, for now
I don’t know if you’ve figured this out yet, but I’m not very smooth. I’m not a “smooth operator.” I’m a thoughtful over thinker. I am awkward and goofy and nervous. I’m never, ever, ever, casual. I can also be oddly, amazingly, coolly confident, and freakishly brash and brave, all depending on the circumstance. But this week, Goofus was definitely the alpha personality, as I continued to navigate through my new life, which continues to be thrilling, fulfilling, scary, lonely, satisfying, challenging, confusing, joyful, frustrating and unexpected. All at once, my peeps. It’s no wonder I’m bit twitchy, this regular routine loving pup.
This week, I had my first visit to a new doctor, a dermatologist. It was an early morning visit, 8:30. So I was a pretty surprised when my cell phone rang, and it was the BFF, calling from CA at 5:30 in the morning. Alarmed I picked up the phone, but she was calling me to tell me she had booked her trip to come visit me. Excited, we chatted for a few minutes, while I waited to be called in for my appointment. When I hung up, the receptionist rather sternly asked me to turn my ringer off and refrain from using the phone. I was the only person in the waiting room, but feeling a bit scolded, I quickly complied. I was then called in to an exam room, where the nurse made a point of telling me to mute my phone. I responded that I had already done so and she left me alone in the room. At that point, I noticed the sign on the back of the door instructing patients to turn off their phones, as “even the buzz of a phone” could startle the doctor while performing “delicate procedures”. That got my mind going and I wondered what tragic amputation had taken place when the scalpel slipped, as Baby Got Back started playing from some willful patient’s purse. And I realized in horror, as the doctor entered the room, that I had merely silenced my phone and I too could be permanently maimed if an errant text should come buzzing in.
Fortunately, my phone remained silent and I left the exam room relatively unscathed. But that same stern receptionist stopped me as I was leaving and told me that I had written my name illegibly on all of my medical forms and needed to redo them. Seriously, it’s GOLD, how illegible could it be? And wouldn’t it have been kinder, after already slapping my wrist about the phone, to simply write those terribly difficult four letters on the forms in her own, what we can only presume was, impeccable penmanship? Abashed but unbowed, I carefully rewrote my name, clearly on each form, and with a grimace pretending to be a grin, backed my way out of that office.
I was recovering nicely from the office visit by the weekend. This is the first weekend in several with pleasant weather, and I had a whole host of chores and errands piled up. At the top of my list was a visit to the carwash, for the first time since I bought my car in November. As someone who used to wash their sweet Cooper every 2 weeks at a minimum, I’ve been feeling a bit shameful about letting Pearl (my name for the Subaru) get so dirty. But although we have had a fantastically mild winter (thank the Gods), there has still been regular rain or light snow, or flurries or drizzle or actual snow or mist, or frogs or toads or pennies from heaven (the latter three might possibly be poetic license) every weekend. I was never clear on what the proper protocol was for car washing in the winter climate. And believe me, I am all about proper protocol, you know I am!
So I yelped Waltham car washes and found my closest location, not too far from home. I headed out and found the place easily. But right off the bat, I was confused (again). The car washes I am used to are the full service kind, the ones where you exit your car and pay for your wash in a keen little waiting room filled with car related tchotchkes for sale, or the self-service type, where you pay your money at a little machine and drive yourself through. This mysterious Waltham car wash appeared to be some sort of strange hybrid. There were several lines, all full of multitudes of cars on this early Saturday morning, but no clear signage indicating what the lines were for. I could see a few bays with cars in them being washed, presumably by their owners, but not what I was looking for. I decided to join the longest line. Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me was on the car radio and I figured if nothing else at least I would be entertained as I inched my way. But to what? The car line looped around a building, away from the wash bays. Eventually, I saw a sign indicating this was an “auto wash” and listing various prices. As I drove closer to the entrance, I observed that there was an attendant at the entrance, but no one seemed to exiting their cars.
I finally got up to the attendant with $11 clutched in my hand for the “middle of the road” wash. Now, here comes Goofus again, because as I drove close, I tried to unroll my driver’s side window. But my car is still a little unfamiliar to me, and I kept rolling down the back window instead, as the young man peered exasperatingly at me, knocking on the window he expected me to open. I fumbled and fumbled, whoops, I honked my horn, pretty much in his startled face. Eventually I got the right window down, and he immediately said “Ultra Wash, $15.” I wasn’t sure if it was an indictment on the condition of my car or a penalty for being such a nerd, but I meekly handed it over. “You want it dried?” he asked. Well of course I did, doesn’t that come with the wash itself? Apparently not, so I forked over an additional buckaroo and he impatiently motioned me to drive into the wash. To my surprise, there were two guys with long brushes in there, and they immediately started yelling at me. I had left the back car window down, and water was pouring into the car. And of course, as I tried to raise the window, I lowered the driver’s window again. At this point I was totally embarrassed, and oh wait, they were still yelling. Car out of park and into neutral and thank goodness I was finally able to slowly drift away into the wash.
I had barely regained my composure as I exited from the wash, and then another mystery, where to get that dollar dry? I’m still confused about that, I’m used to the large blow dryers in the car wash that never really get your car totally dry but at least start the process. This wash had none, you rolled out dripping wet, and I puzzled over the folks who didn’t fork over the extra dollar, did they just drive out with a wet car and let the sun do its thing? Will I ever understand local customs? Eventually I saw the guy with the towel, who gave the car a 60 second wipe down and waved me away. It wasn’t until I reached my next destination that I saw he had barely dried the car, which was now developing spots. Poor Pearl. Poor Kathi, who quickly ran into a store, bought cloths and ran out again to give my sweet girl a proper wipe off.
Car washes shouldn’t be so confusing, right? Dermatology offices shouldn’t be so strict. It’s all about learning, new customs, new places, new moods. I’ll probably feel like a clumsy fish out of water for some time to come, and that’s okay, at least I can laugh about it, and you all can read about it. I’m sure a more graceful, and yes, smooth operator would handle it all with a few less gaffes, but what’s the fun in that? I’ll continue to stumble and bumble my way through this crazy life, enjoying the ride, at least it’s never boring.
The end, for now
It wasn’t like there hadn’t been warning. After all, hadn’t Ned Stark told us, years or even eons ago, Winter is Coming? His whole dour doomed damned family intoned it, repeatedly, Winter is Coming. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, every jolly soul I’ve met before, during and aft my recent relocation has said something along the lines of “boy (snicker, snicker) are you ready for winter?”
And I thought I was. I bought coats, multiple coats. Such a coat collection as you’ve ever seen. Rain coats, puffy coats, polar coats. Just last week, I added a flash new down jacket to the mix, after coveting a friend’s snappy wrapper. Snow boots, rain boots, mud boots, disco boots. I had gloves, scarves galore, ear muffs even. No hats, my head is too large. Okay, a couple of knit hats that I bought with false hope. They fit as well as a yarmulke. So, not at all. And a trapper hat that is also too small but surprisingly fetching.
I also had followed the advice of coworkers. Two snow shovels, one for the patio, one for the car. A small ice scraper for the car. A larger ice scraper with a brush for the car. And the car itself, a Subaru, which my research had told me was the safest and most reliable car for winter driving. I mean, within my price range. I’m sure a Range Rover or Land Cruiser is even safer and more reliable, but not in the budget. I’ve spent too much on coats and hats that don’t fit.
So, I was ready. Ready for winter. And then, it didn’t come. They kept talking about it on the news. Warmest December on record! Effects of El Nino already in play! Rain, but no snow. 69 degrees on Christmas Eve. The Fed Ex guy delivered in shorts. Babies crying. Children sad. No white Christmas. Santa’s sled had to be put on a trailer bed and towed behind a Range Rover (Santa has rich friends!).
I sort of felt responsible. I alone had brought the warmth from my homeland, the land of sunshine and beautiful produce and perpetual tans.
And then, it happened. Slowly, softly, four days after Christmas, the snow came. In the night, so white, so bright. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and peered outside to see a light scattering of powder. I snuggled back in bed excited about what the morning would bring. And in the morning, there was a good several inches covering the grounds of my complex. I took Daisy out for her first morning walk and marveled at the pretty scene. I even shoveled a sweet little path on my patio, from the front door to the gate.
Rookie mistake! Because within about an hour, the soft snow had turned to sleeting, freezing rain. The sweet path had turned into a lane of treachery, a veritable slippery scary ice trail. I felt like Anna. No Elsa! No Anna, when she tried to climb those frozen steps up to Elsa’s ice castle. And can we just digress for a sec? Conceal don’t feel is a TERRIBLE message! I mean, don’t get me wrong, love that movie but if you think about it, it teaches the children an awful lesson. Okay, in the end we all learn that love can solve everything, but still, don’t you sometimes find yourself humming “conceal don’t feel”? You know you do!
Okay, back to me. And the snow. Do you want to build a snowman? Never mind!
Fortunately, I was already scheduled to work remotely yesterday, so aside from having to walk poor Daisy Petals through the sleet, I just stayed in, worked, made soup, stuff like that. I didn’t even bother to check out my car, because 1- Subaru (see above), and 2- wasn’t going anywhere (see directly behind and worry if you have memory loss, it was just a few words ago). This turned out to be Rookie Mistake Number Two, aka Rookie Mistake El Grande! Because, my solid reliable Subaru had turned into a Subarusicle! Frozen, solid ice completely covering the car, like one big car shaped block. And remember all of those scrapers and shovels I had so presciently purchased? In the trunk! Which was frozen shut! Oh dear!
I spent about half an hour this morning trying to chip away at it, with my hands, a stick, the warmth of my tears. No go. I retreated back inside and pondered another day without leaving the house. I emailed my parents. I messaged a friend. I googled trunk frozen shut. I went back outside and glared, hoping perhaps the hot beam of my despair might work. No dice. I went back inside and googled trunk frozen shut again, and this time, actually read the advice. Then armed with a kettle full of very hot water, a spatula and a lot of determination, I set to it. Oh yeah, I also started the car and the defrosters (yay Subaru). It took another half hour, but this time it was successful and I was able to retrieve all of the snow removal equipment from the trunk and dutifully place it in the backseat.
There’s a learning curve, right? Obviously, this was just a very tiny appetizer of what will come. I know now not to keep my shovel and rake in the trunk. Not to shovel the patio path before freezing sleet. My wonderful neighbor came by last night and showed me these magical pellets you can sprinkle on the patio and walks to keep them from freezing. I’ll remember to use the defrosters. I won’t let 24 hours go before trying to clear the car off. I’ll learn, it will get better. After all, winter is coming, and I need to be ready.
The end, for now