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Anyone who is willing to listen to me talk, and those that don’t get away fast enough, have undoubtedly heard me complain about the lack of furniture in my apartment. “1100 square feet and just a chair! Said he would let me know and didn’t!” are two common refrains. Well, I have furniture now. I have a kick-ass sea-green sectional couch that is no doubt older than I am (galaxy designs), a rickety kitchen table, three chairs to go with that table (which looks a little silly), a child-sized desk I’m using as a bedside table, a broken drinks cart I found on the curb and managed to make sound with a couple bricks I found in a wheel barrow in the backyard, and a bamboo lounger. It’s a motley assortment, but full of character.
I started my new job the same week I got the furniture. My new job is in a beautiful, historic library stuffed to the gills with books, sculpture, paintings, and furniture. Beautiful, dark cherry wood desks with individual reading lamps, chairs from the 1800’s, a giant piano, oh and the bookcases, tall and beautiful with those cool little stairs that you can move around—and I want it all. I go to work and covet. I see a desk sitting empty, and I think “If that was mine, I’d use it.” I’ve never seen anyone play the piano there, but I’d play it—if it was mine. I’ve been contemplating getting a hatchback because it’d be easy to park, but easy fit a lot into. You see where I’m going with this.
There’s a 3 million dollar table in the vault that would be perfect in my sitting room. I mentally place other pieces around my home as I’m supposed to be shelf-shifting. I promised myself that I wouldn’t acquire so much stuff this time around because I don’t know when I’ll move again, but this apartment could be so cool. One promise I will stick to though, I’m not paying for a damn bit of it. If I can furnish my huge apartment for no money (except the cost of a couple lamps and a small shelf from Target)—that’s pretty resourceful, and awesome.
A long time ago I went to stay with a friend in Middle River, Minnesota (mil rir, to natives). I ended up coming the weekend of the Middle River GooseFest, which I was completely unaware of, but the mere mention of sent my friend Amber into a flurry if excitement. The GooseFest was the event of the summer.
I was about 11 years old or so; living in Hallock, MN at the time. The first night there, I arrived kind of late, so we watched a movie with her older sister and ate Combos in a variety of flavors. Amber lived way out in the country in a giant old house, down a dark and winding road. They were one of those families who always had a stash all of the worst kinds of junk food, and a fridge crammed with soda. I was completely amazed that I was allowed to leave my family for a weekend and go to a place so decadent, cool, and remote, with an older sister who could teach me what big kids care about. Amber and her sister shared a huge room covered in New Kids on the Block posters, and we stayed up late looking at magazines, and giving the two of them time to educate me as to who New Kids on the Block were.
The following day, Amber’s mom dropped us off on Main Street, which at the time seemed to me like an infinite stretch of wonders and new places to explore, but in actuality was a two to three block stretch of pavement with a couple stores. The street was barricaded on both ends and teeming with people, food vendors, booths selling tacky crap—everything I loved the most. We went onto one store, the general store which was a cavernous, dark treasure trove with uneven cement floors, and penny candy, and rows and rows of trinkets I convinced myself could not be gotten anywhere else. While I was inwardly exclaiming about all of this new, exciting stuff, Amber grabbed something and held it up.
“Yes they are.”
“Oh my god this is so great, these are perfect, they’re the little ones. My sister is going to be so excited.”
I felt like I was missing something really vital, and actually started feeling a little sorry for her. I had seen tiny safety pins many times before and exclaimed over their smallness, but never gotten this excited. “What do you need the safety pins for?’
“For my jeans, of course.”
Then I felt really bad, clearly Amber’s family was poor because they spent all of their money on Combos and Coca-Cola, so she had to somehow alter her jeans with safety pins. I’d read about this phenomenon in books loads of times, and was fully prepared to be supportive, and let her know that her poverty would not stand in the way of our friendship. “Oh, because they’re hand-me-downs?”
She looked at me like I was an imbecile, “No, for tight-rolling– so they don’t slip.”
The tight-rolling phenomenon had come to Middle River, and I had no clue what that meant. Amber explained to me, and showed me what tight-rolling meant by grabbing the cuff of my jeans and doing some kind of voodoo that made it roll tightly and stay that way. The following year, in school, I had one friend who must have spent her summer vacation in the same eye-opening manner as me, but no one else seemed aware of this at all. I didn’t understand it. Amber and her sister’s teachings about the NKOTB stuck, but not the tight-rolling. So I abstained.
The following year, I moved to Cavalier, ND, and noticed that no one was tight-rolling their jeans. I actually asked someone once if they had head of the practice and whoever it was said, “Yeah, we did that years ago. No one does that anymore.” I went back to Hallock to stay with a friend one weekend and found that the tight-rolling was all the rage, apparently, Hallock was just a little behind the times.
So I completely missed the tight-rolling revolution. I still don’t get it, and I feel a little cheated out of those memories, and the chance to look back at pictures of myself and say “man, how lame was I?” So fashion trends are fascinating, especially in the way they jump around small Midwestern towns. I thought it was just a Middle River thing, but it was really a THING. I had the shirt clips, the banana clips, the slouchy socks, the purple boom box, the slap bracelets—but the tight-rolling passed me by.
A week ago I was leaving my apartment about 5:45pm, just as it was starting to get dark. I walked out the door, and saw two cops hunkered down in my neighbor’s driveway. One was Hispanic, and the other White, both were unexpected by me. The Hispanic one waved gleefully as I stopped short and stared gape-mouthed, wondering if I was in some kind of trouble. The White cop just looked stern.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked, glancing around for an obvious pimp or knife-wielding maniac.
“Thehs been some drug activity in the naybahhood.” White cop told me. “Weah just keeping an eye on things. Do you mind if we stay heah for a couple a owaz?”
I just shrugged, “It’s not my house.”
And I thought that would be the end of it.
Monday nights I have class in downtown Providence that goes from 6:30-9:15pm. It’s only about a mile and a half, and there’s no parking downtown, so I walk. It’s a nice little walk, but it’s solidly dark when I come home, though the streets are well-lit. My neighborhood is low-income (and apparently has a drug problem), but everyone I encounter just ignores me, and I’m not going to assume the worst, or at least I wasn’t going to.
I had brunch with a friend and a friend of that friend and that friend’s friend, Donna. Donna is from Georgia and is apparently convinced that Providence is on par with Detroit or DC in terms of dangerous cities. “I was walking the dog the other day, and this car full of Mexicans stopped and were whistling at me. That’s what they do, you know, they stop you when you’re walking and kidnap you.” She also wanted the friend of a friend to pull up the reported police activity by neighborhood so she could study it, and maybe, I’m assuming, come up with excuses never to leave the house.
So I had stupid Donna’s voice in my head as I made my trek home in the dark. It was as uneventful as ever, actually more so, because the rather shady bar that I walk by wasn’t doing as much business as usual. I passed three teenagers, who ignored me, and no one else. Finally I got to my driveway, got my keys out, and saw a man approach me from our own yard inside our fence. I jumped, and got my hand on my pepper spray as he stepped into the light.
“I’m sorry to scayuh you, my name’s Dan.”
Dan is the stern White cop from the other day, and is once again hiding out in my backyard.
“I wanted ta introduce myself, we’ve been keepin an eye in the house down the street, and the way Providence is laid out, yeh always in someone’s backyaad.”
So Dan proceeded to tell me all about this house that is selling tons of drugs, and how they just can’t catch them, “they keep swallowin it, it’s a tough nut to crack.” I think Dan may have been a little bored because he told me way more information than I think he should have, “theyah usin that payphone over theah… we’ll probably just hafta tackle a guy.”
So I called my landlady, and told her that if she sees someone skulking around the backyard, it’s most likely Officer Dan. I guess it’s good that the only person to bother me when I’m out walking after dark is a police officer, I just wish he wasn’t hiding in my backyard.
I’d been going to school in England for a couple weeks before my friends and I noticed that all of the cheese was white. Here we were, in the land where Cheddar was invented, and all the cheese we encountered was as pasty and pallid as the English people themselves. I know that orange cheddar cheese is dyed (the reason, I don’t know), but I was unsettled by the fact that I kept ordering cheese sandwiches, and they always had only white cheese on them. It tasted different, just slightly. Maybe it’s the whole “you eat with your eyes first” thing that FoodChannel espouses, and my eyes were put off by the unappealing color of my sandwich.
We went to London one afternoon, and ended up at the Hard Rock Café. My brother collects shot glasses from Hard Rocks (I don’t get it, but if I ever say anything about it he tells me to fuck off and quit being an asshole), so I promised to pick one up. We decided that if we had to go to a Hard Rock, we might as well get a shot and shot glass. So we bellied up to the bar, ordered some shots, and saw a server bringing out a plate of nachos for another table.
The nachos were covered, coated, with bright, unnaturally orange cheese, dotted with happy-looking jalepenos, bright red salsa, and black olives. It was the most colorful meal we’d seen in weeks. So we stayed at the Hard Rock, ordered 2 plates of nachos, and got very drunk.
The Hard Rock Café originated in London and was celebrating its 25th anniversary at the time. We met this waitress who had worked there all 25 years, and now travels around signing autographs and posing for pictures. That doesn’t mean that our doing this wasn’t lame, but slightly less than if we had been in any other city. It was cultural; we learned a lot.
I haven’t seen any orange cheddar here in Rhode Island. There are more varieties of cheddar here than I’ve ever seen in my life: Vermont, New York, New York Sharp, New York Extra Sharp, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Sharp, and more that I can’t remember—all white. The only orange cheese I’ve seen is the shredded kind. There is no orange brick cheese at any Stop N Shop I’ve been to.
Also, I’m familiar with New York Sharp Cheddar, but Vermont? What does that mean? How is it different? What is Vermont known for besides Ben and Jerry’s and Howard Dean? I’ve been experimenting, and I have a brick of Vermont in my fridge right now, but I haven’t tried it yet.
Rhode Islanders call shopping carts carriages, drinking fountains “bubblas” (or bubblers, if you pronounce your “r”s, which are optional), and apparently (this I haven’t been able to verify yet), see-saws i.e. teeter-totters are called danglers. Sounds filthy. Then there’s the best one: milkshakes are called cabinets. I’ve only met one person actually from Rhode Island, and I haven’t had the opportunity to interrogate her as to these language differences, I’ve just read them and heard from people who are not from here, but live here.
The other night I was in a car with people from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, etc., and I found out about this whole cabinet thing. No one was 100% sure, though, as to whether Rhode Islanders call cabinets milkshakes, or milkshakes cabinets. Do you order a strawberry cabinet? or put your dishes away in the milkshake? I cannot even begin to understand where this comes from since no milkshake ingredients are kept in cabinets, and it’s specific to Rhode Island. I haven’t been anywhere yet that serves cabinets, but I intend to. Also, I don’t know if I would be mocked for ordering a milkshake when I clearly mean cabinet.
In further New England news, I was in Massachusetts Saturday buying alcohol (no tax), and dropping off bottles ($.05 deposit). I’ve never dropped off bottles before and really had no idea what to do. I found an open door labeled “redemptions” and assumed that that was what I wanted. I went in, and saw what looked kind of like a tiny Laundromat covered with bright yellow signs that read “NO RHODE ISLAND CONTAINERS” There was a little old man in there, not redeeming anything, just standing there. I read the sign further trying to understand what the hell a Rhode Island container was, and if this was some other slang that I didn’t get, and he piped up, “no Rhode Island containers.”
“Yes, what does that mean?”
So he showed me that it had to have the MA $.05 deposit printed on the label in order to be redeemed. I loaded my bottles in the machine as he stood there and watched. I have no idea if he worked there, or if he’s a guy who hangs out hoping someone will just give him bottles, which must be a pretty easy (if boring) way to make a little money. Nice guy though.
I moved out to Providence with only what fit in my car. I found out that it would cost $2000 to rent a truck that I wouldn’t be able to drive, and then Jill and I would have to ride in separate vehicles thereby ruining the whole “roadtrip” aspect of the moving. My stuff was not nice, it was not worth even $500, as I found out when I tried to sell it. So I arrived in New England with some clothes, cookware, and my cat. My landlady was nice enough to lend me a bed and TV for the duration of my tenancy, and she gave me a wingback chair. I figured that I’d just sort out the rest once I got settled.
When I arrived, landlady’s boyfriend said that he has a couch and table and chairs that I can have, but he has no truck so I’d have to figure something out. I said “yes” I will rent something, no problem. Then I never heard anything else about it.
I called and left a message asking if I could still have the stuff; I don’t want to be too pushy since this is a huge favor, but I want to know if I can still have this stuff or if I need to make other arrangements. Then I called again, and found out that he may have a friend with a truck and he’s trying to sort that out. That’s cool.
Meanwhile, my apartment is 1100 square feet, and all I have is a chair and a trunk that is serving as my desk. I’ve got stacks of stuff to put on the walls, but I don’t want to pounding holes if I need to move it after I get furniture. Sometimes, I move the chair from the sitting room to the living room and work at the kitchen counter so I don’t have to have my laptop on my lap. A while ago, when I had one of those irritating hangovers where reading hurt and all I wanted was to watch TV and overeat, I dragged my mattress into the sitting room and laid on that all day, then dragged it back to my bedroom when it was time to sleep.
Then I ran into landlady’s boyfriend on the stairs and he asked, “Do you still want that stuff? I have a couch, a table and chairs, and I think, like a lamp, maybe an end table.”
“Yes, I will take whatever you have. All I have right now is a bed and a chair.”
“Well you got the TV, right?”
“Yes, I have to TV too.”
“You get your cable set up?”
“I don’t need cable.”
There was a long pause as he digested this bit of information, finally, when it got awkward, I threw in, “I have an antenna.” I’ve only remembered to actually watch TV twice because this is the first time in 3 years that I’ve gotten any channels. I don’t even know what’s on besides the news and Heroes, but I didn’t tell him that.
“Well, then you’re set. Maybe we can move the stuff on Friday, I’ll let you know.”
Friday has passed, and I’m still without options as to what to sit on. But I have the TV–so I’m set. I just don’t get that. I can’t sit on the TV, I can’t eat off of it, I can’t keep my clothes in it, it doesn’t provide very much light. I’m glad I have it, I’ve watched lots of DVDs on it, but I’d trade it for a couch. I’m not trying to be one of those “I don’t need a TV assholes,” like Vincent from Pulp Fiction, but it is clearly a luxury item. Isn’t it?
When I told people that I was selling my TV and reluctant to spend money on a new one (I’ve never paid for a TV and I don’t ever want to), they were horrified. More horrified it seems that when I said I wouldn’t have a bed. Then I’m made to feel extravagant because I have 2 Ipods. My best friend LeAnn, just moved into a new apartment and had to leave her bed, but took the TV. She’s sleeping on the floor, but has a TV and DVD player.
I don’t get it, but at least I’m set.