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The apartment building that Gentleman Scholar and I live in is for sale. We knew this when we signed the lease, but as the landlady is asking quite a bit for it, and prices for multi-family homes are way way down, we figured it was safe to move in. If it does sell, the buyer has to honor the terms already agreed upon, so we don’t really lose, and it’s a great apartment.
When we signed the lease, the landlady told us that there would be a realtor coming through every now and then. We were prepared for her, but I don’t think she was prepared for us. The first time she showed up, we had just moved in. Things were still in boxes, we looked frazzled and exhausted. The next time she called to tell me that she was coming by, she made a point to tell me, “Don’t worry about cleaning up and making everything perfect. It doesn’t have to be spotless.”
“Ok,” I told her, “I won’t.”
When I conveyed this conversation to Jewish Friend trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to take from that, she determined, “The realtor was passive-aggressively telling you to clean your house. Forget her, man, you just moved in.”
What realtor was probably not anticipating is that both Gentleman Scholar and I are going through a summer of underemployment–I’m looking for work, and he’s sorting out PhD research stuff. We are home all the time, usually in pjs, seemingly just hanging out.
We always forget when the realtor is coming, so probably look that much more disheveled and confused, then she tries to banter with us as if we are friends, which quickly becomes awkward. She left a message a while ago saying that she’d be stopping by on Thursday at 10am, “If you ‘re not home, I’ll let myself in and watch out so the kitty doesn’t run away.” Her tone seemed incredibly hopeful that we would maybe, finally be out of the house, but when she knocked, I let her in like always, and watched her smile become that much more strained.
The most awkward encounter to date, was when I completely forgot she was coming, and was on the treadmill in the basement. Normally, she hustles people through my apartment saying “this is the exact same layout as the (vacant) apartment downstairs.” In the basement, there are laundry machines, breaker boxes, and water heaters to explain. So I ran on the treadmill watching Gilmore Girls, trying to sweat inconspicuously while she and four other smartly dressed people examined the nuts and bolts of the building.
I could make a point to leave the house when she comes by, but since I’m working from home (even if it just looks like I’m hanging out), I don’t want to bother packing up everything I need for a 30-minute jaunt down to the coffee shop. Also, because I’m working from home and rarely go out, time has no meaning. I barely know what day it is anymore, and unless I jot down what day and time she’s expected in my google calendar, I’ll never remember it.
Now that we’ve finally gotten around to hanging thing on the wall, we look a bit less useless. The apartment has gone from boxes and piles of crap, to an actual home with deliberate placement of items. Of course no amount of decorating will take away from the fact that we are always just there, hanging out.
I’ve been working over the summer (and maybe for the rest of my life), for a company called kgb. I answer text message queries ranging from: “What time is The Hangover playing in Concord, MA?” to “Why won’t he call me if he says he will?” People can ask us anything, because they pay $.99 for each answer that we send them.
The advice questions are obviously my favorite, and the best times are when you actually get to have a bit of a conversation with a person. The questions pop into the queue randomly, so there’s never a guarantee that you’re going to get two questions in a row from the same person. When you do, it’s magical.
Case in point I got a question about things to do in Raleigh, NC. I did a little searching and sent back a short list asking if the person would like more options in addition to those. He texted back that he was 14, his girlfriend was coming into town for the day, and he didn’t have a car. I suggested hiking, swimming, and something else. He responded with “No thanks, I’m trying to get laid, so I don’t think hiking will make that happen.” I told him to please be safe.
There are a lot of inane questions, a lot of really good ones, and some that are quite fun. All in all, it’s a pretty interesting gig, which occasionally gets hilarious. There is a girl who is obsessed with Ashton Kutcher. We call her Ashton Kutcher Girl, obviously, and she has asked over 1000 questions (presumably all about him) to date. These aren’t simple questions like “How old is he? Where does he live?” They are usually something like “If Ashton Kutcher was my brother, and I had broken up with my boyfriend, what would he say?” “If Ashton Kutcher was my brother and I was having a baby, would he be supportive in the delivery room?” Some people are nice when they get these questions and say that “of course Ashton would be sympathetic and let you cry on his shoulder”, others simply don’t care and say things like “Ashton is not your brother, he doesn’t care.” It’s all very Good Cop/Bad Cop–either way, she is undeterred.
I’m just so amazed that anyone still cares about Ashton Kutcher (especially enough to spend a lot of money asking speculative questions about him). A dear friend of mine absolutely loathes him (which I also find odd because he doesn’t seem like someone who would inspire strong feelings in anyone), and only because of her complaining do I know that he is still in the public eye as something other than Demi Moore’s much-younger husband. I guess I saw him trying to sell me a camera a while ago, but that just confused me too.
Is this some kind of conspiracy that I was unaware of? Does he just have the best agent in the world? I don’t understand what kind of void Ashton Kutcher fills in peoples’ lives. He’s good-looking, but not that good-looking, he’s mildly talented, he’s funny but mostly just arrogant and annoying like most celebrities but his attitude seems less earned–how is he special? I heard a while ago about him trying to get more twitter followers than CNN, but again, I don’t care about twitter or Ashton Kutcher, and only mildly about CNN.
This is similar to the feelings I had when I first visited Spain and found out that the Spice Girls were still relevant–although that made me very happy, and this does not. Maybe that’s just it, though, maybe everyone is as confused by it as I am, and that’s helping Ashton stay at the front of people’s minds. Maybe that’s all he has; his talent is sticktoitiveness; you see him and you’re like “oh, that guy. He’s still around?” Maybe we’ll never know.
Every spring when it finally starts warming up outside I get a thrill in my stomach. I start eagerly planning for all the things I’m going to do over the summer– the adventures, the things I’m going to finally get done etc. Then I accomplish next to nothing, and re-read a lot of teen lit.
There’s nothing left to conclude except that I am bad at summer. The hot weather makes me cranky, the inevitable sunburn makes me dread going outside, and even my beloved sundresses lose their luster because no matter how cute they are, I will still inevitable start sweating at some point, and I really, really hate sweating.
Every summer, I manage to spend as much time as possible at work. Other people are always giving up hours, and I bask in the climate control until I’m finally forced to go home to my hot apartment hoping that being in air conditioning all day will cool my core temperature so much that I will be like a cool battery, impervious to the heat. This is not true, I am no scientist, but sometimes I (almost) manage to convince myself.
Summers like this one, where I haven’t had three jobs, I read. I sit in my chair and re-read trashy teen lit and non-trashy teen lit. I like it when I can plow through five books in a day, then I make my trip to the library remembering when I was younger and did the same thing, and referred to the library (in my head) as my office.
Yesterday morning, it was actually rather cool and tolerable until about noontime, so I finally hung up pictures that have been sitting in piles around my office since the move in. Today, it’s currently 62, and I will re-adjust those pictures because I got impatient while hanging them, and now realize that they look stupid. Culture Friend was complaining to me on a recent overcast day that it was so gloomy out she had no ambition. That day was the first since moving in to my new apartment where I actually woke up full of purpose and plowed through my to-do list, then started some new projects.
I simply cannot handle the heat. I can’t do it. I’ve laid low long enough, I’ve made excuses, I’ve lied to myself and others, but no more. I am bad at summer, and I long for fall. That’s just me.
I decided a while ago that I would like to describe myself as an enthusiast of some kind. I like the sound of “I’m a _________ enthusiast,” even though that phrase kind of reminds me of this very tense woman I used to work with at corporate bookstore who described herself as a “birder”, and assured all of us that she could take any customer looking for the best bird guide for their specific needs. I ignored this offer for help, and sent those customers straight to the shelf with the advice “Sibley’s is the best.”
I’m enthusiastic about many things, to be sure, but it seems like to label yourself as an enthusiast of something, that something must be somewhat unique, perhaps unexpected–you can’t just match it up with every hobby or it loses its zing.
I’ve now found the thing that I am an enthusiast of. It is rather unique, totally unexpected by me, and I think has a nice ring to it–kayaking. I am a kayaking enthusiast. The fact that kayak is a palindrome is just a delightful bonus.
This past weekend, Joe Roch hosted a lovely shindig at the lake where we drank entirely too much, played parlor games, made s’mores, grilled, drank, swam, and I unearthed my affinity for water sports. What a time of discovery.
I’ve always been somewhat intimidated/put off by water sports, for a number of reasons:
- My family has never had a lake cabin, or been particularly close with anyone who does (except my Aunt and Uncle in Wisconsin, but we only saw them once a year at best). Therefore, there was no opportunity to practice anything I might be good at.
- Since we never had our own lake domicile, we also didn’t have any kind of watersports equipment. Again, we were at the mercy of my Aunt and Uncle who had a torpedo, speed boat, and water skis–no kayak.
- When I was at summer camp, a few of us took out a canoe for part of the afternoon. I had ridden in a canoe before, never paddled, but since I had technically BEEN IN A CANOE, I was considered an expert by my bossy friend. I had to be the steerer, which only works if the other paddler is competent as well. The other paddler (bossy friend) assumed that I was solely in charge of where the canoe went, didn’t really think about how she should be paddling and working with me, and kept yelling at me for misrepresenting my skills (which I had not done), as we gracefully and majestically went plowing through the roped-off swimming area sending dozens of campers diving for cover.
- The above experience was not fun, and not something I want to repeat, so for years I insisted that long narrow boats are simply not for me.
I have overcome that trauma, and had several pleasant canoe excursions since that time, but never have a felt so enthusiastic canoeing as I did in that lovely kayak.
A while ago, a friend of mine did a radio piece about crappy jobs. I helped out and told her some stories about my more colorful experiences. Once it was all edited, a group of people met in the basement of a restaurant to listen it the finished product. It was interesting, hilarious at times, but I found myself annoyed on more than one occasion with the attitude of the some people interviewed.
At least two people described hateful work experiences, and then said “it was then that I decided to work for myself.” The tone used to say that was a sort of smug “I can’t be penned in by others’ expectations and rules,” and it just grated on me. It sounded spoiled, obnoxious, and immature. Isn’t working for yourself the dream of many people that they never quite get to realize, or have to work very hard for years to achieve? Somehow these 20-something hipsters have one lousy experience and then decide to shrug off the yoke of oppression, and answer to no one. Of course these are all assumptions about the people who said that–I don’t know who they are, but I picture someone who still receives a healthy allowance from his or her parents, and earns little-to-no-money making eco-friendly shoes or being an urban farmer.
Around the time I heard this radio piece, I read a short article about entrepreneurs who have manage to successfully work for themselves because they simply did not have the temperament to work for other people. One example was Penelope Trunk, whose blog I actually read because despite her rampant narcissism, she makes some good points. She recounted how she was fired from an ice cream shop for refusing to scoop flavors she disliked (something like that, anyway). To that I say: what the hell is wrong with you? Did you not expect that that would become an issue before even applying for the position?
This may be my Midwestern work ethic is showing, but I’ve always had the attitude– do your job. The article was praising people who refuse to fall in line, or who are too creative to work for “the man.” I’m pretty creative, but I also live in the real world, and know I need to get paid. I’ve had terrible jobs, jobs that I hated more than I even believed I was capable of; jobs that sent me into a depression and made me question everything in addition to being low-paying and soulless— but I had to do them, because I had pay rent and eat.
Maybe I don’t understand all of this because I’ve never had a full-time job. There’s a chance that going to a hateful 9-5 would make something snap in my brain that drives me to create a career where I work for myself, but more than likely I would starve and be homeless before getting that career going. In my first interview for a library job, they asked me why I wasn’t pursuing writing. I said that I was, but I’m also realistic enough to know that while I’ll always be a writer, I may never make a liveable wage doing it.
I’ve been working for myself (in a way) all summer, and I’ve never been so bored. The reason I’m bored, is that I’m learning very little and I never leave the house. Everything I need to accomplish can be done from my laptop, and so I sit in my chair all day. I love being able to roll out of bed, work in my pjs drinking my coffee, and still accomplish things; but making my home into a workspace makes me feel like I’m always working or should be working, and also gives me license to take many, many breaks.
I need interaction to feel creative; I need pressure from outside sources; I need to actually make enough money so I can play a little bit as well as work. Everyone (or maybe just Oprah) says follow your passion, and I’m fine with that, but what I’m passionate about (and I suspect that I’m not alone in this) is not a real job. Librarianship is something I care about very much, and I’m passionate about certain aspects of it, but when you ask someone “what’s your passion?” it makes the ordeal of figuring out what you want to do with your life that much more difficult. My cat gets to follow his passion, because he will be taken care of no matter what, but that’s not how people should live. In return for his care, I expect him to pay attention to me when I want him to, and wait to be fed until I feel like getting up–he has no control. You should have to deal with something unpleasant to get to the good–otherwise how do you do tell the difference?
Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs said something similar, a lot more articulately at a TED conference recently–you should watch the video, he’s pretty dreamy and has a great voice.
So I went camping. I camped. I have been a camper. I now understand the mysterious world of camping–sort of. Jewish Friend and I took to the woods with a moderate amount of success, and strangely, I would do it again.
We arrived in New Paltz, NY around 9pm. It was darkish–enough to necessitate the headlamps we brought. Seriously, for this rather low-key affair, I purchased what seems like an exorbitant amount of “gear,” but justified these purchases by telling myself that now I can camp at will. Think of all the money I’ll save in the long run!
The campsites we were staying at were of the no-frills/free variety. No toilets, no showers, no well-marked trail, just a small triangle sign and a patch of cleared space. The idea is, come, pitch a tent, clean up after yourself, which is exactly what we planned to do. The three campsites are big enough for four tents, and people are supposed to share. Jewish Friend told me that typically this campsite is full of rock climbers, who go to bed early, get up early, and make little to no noise.
After climbing the steepest hill in the world, we arrived at the campsite. There were some kids spread out next to the fire pit, and a couple in their mid-twenties a little ways away from them. “Do you mind if we put our tent back there?” Jewish Friend asked indicating a spot just behind the couple’s tent.
The guy glanced at the spot, and said, “yeah, we kind of do mind.”
Strike one for camper courtesy, but these people were clearly planning on trysting romantically, and with all of the outdoor sex acts I’ve seen this summer, I’m happy to walk away from the chance for more.
So we walked over to the kids, and asked if we could put up our tent near them. There were about eight of them, they were playing a guitar and having a quiet conversation–seemed pretty chill. They told us of course we could put our tent there, and then marveled to each other about how awesome our headlamps were.
My heart started warming toward these teenagers, but dimmed a bit after they started playing not one, but three Third-Eye blind songs. Who the hell knows more than one? How are they even different?
We set up our tent and went into town for late dinner and a beer, getting back to the campsite around 11pm. By this point, the teenagers were still just sitting around, their fire was dying, and (I thought) they were getting ready for bed. Jewish Friend and I put on our jammies, played some cards, and decided to call it an early night in preparation for the full day ahead of us.
“Do you think they’re going to be up late?” Jewish Friend asked me. “If they are, I won’t be able to sleep, I can’t sleep if there’s noise. Do you think we should move the tent?”
“There’s nowhere to move the tent, and besides, how late can they possibly stay up? It will be fine.” This was the first of so many things I was wrong about that night.
Not only were these kids staying up, but at 3am, they called for reinforcements. Two boys showed up with a cooler full of beer and a cord of firewood, and got the party going again. By this point, Jewish Friend and I had our ears stuffed full of cotton balls, I was thinking about draping my clothes over my ears, and she was considering going and sleeping in the car.
One of the new boys noticed our tent and asked, “Holy shit, are there people in there? Should we be quiet?”
Maggie, the loudest girl ever born, reassured him, “Yeah, it’s two girls, but we asked if we were too loud and they said it was fine.”
This is a lie.
“Actually,” Jewish Friend spoke up, “We would really appreciate it if you could keep your voices down.”
And they did–all of them by Maggie. Her other friends had climbed into their tents by this point, though I can’t imagine they were sleeping. She then spent the next three hours talking about herself in the loudest voice possible, and desperately trying to get one or both of the boys to have sex with her.
“My mother says I was born beautiful, she tells me that all the time…If I want to get a tattoo, that’s like my body, that’s my business. I mean she can tell me not to drink or do drugs, but like a tattoo, that’s my body… I’m not drunk, I’m completely sober, I haven’t done any drugs, I don’t do drugs…The people that camp around here are all rock climbers who go to bed early, so we can totally stay up and party, they’re all sleeping…At the Indian restaurant. Have you been there? They have this bread, it’s called naan…There’s no room in the tent, so we can just fucking dogpile, whatever….I’m going to go to college, and I’m going to like, live my life…The lobster roll sandwich at Panera Bread is like, fucking 16 dollars of, like, processed, gross, lobster, fucking processed, fucking cheese. I mean for like 3 more dollars I could go to a real restaurant, I mean, why the hell would anyone want…
Finally, at 6am, Jewish Friend (after hours of shushing Maggie and asking her to keep her voice down) said, “I’m sure the Lobster Roll sandwich at Panera Bread is grossly overpriced, however, it is now 6am. I would like to get at least one hour of sleep tonight.”
Then, we heard the most glorious sound ever coming from the other tent, “Yeah, shut the fuck up, Maggie! She’s asked you like 10 times and you’ve been talking all night.”
Maggie disregarded this in the way that bossy girls who are never wrong do, but her friends quickly rebounded with, “Seriously, Maggie, shut the fuck up. What is wrong with you?”
We managed to grab about two hours sleep after the mutiny shut Maggie up for good. As we were taking down the tent, the four girls were rather sheepishly cleaning up their space. After listening to Maggie talk about how beautiful she was all night long, I expected to see a homecoming queen-type rolling up the tent. Apparently, Maggie is quite plain and rather chubby, which may be why she gets so many compliments only from her mother.
We spent the following night in a hotel.
A few months ago, I applied for a librarian position with Semester at Sea. Considering I’ve spent my entire life so far trying to figure out how to get paid to travel, this seemed like an incredibly obvious route to try. The job description was pretty standard librarian fare, there were some other lines in there specific to working on a ship i.e. close quarters, being on call 24-hours a day etc. Then there was a big section about working with Generation Y.
There was a link to a full-page document about Gen Y, how they think and process information, how to deal with them, what they care about etc. I read through it thinking that it sounded exactly like me when I was an undergrad studying abroad–“They drink! They seem to not really care about anything! They’re all over the place!”, I figured I’d certainly be able to handle these damned kids with their wacky devices and short attention spans. Of course, since I had just read all about how erratic this group of people are, I didn’t feel it was wise to align myself with them too much in my cover letter. Instead I opted for the hug the world/I work well with EVERYONE approach.
Sassy Redhead spent her day recently at a library conference where the covered how to work with Gen Y. “They will be twittering, and using facebook at work! They are bursting with energy and need a constant flow of projects!” Like me, Sassy shrugged and wondered why such a big deal needed to be made about all this.
I actually went to a similar library conference years ago that dealt with Gens X, Y, and Millennials (who I guess are Gen Y, but just a better name, or maybe the slightly younger Gen Yers– who knows, gotta have a label for everything), basically making each group sound radically different from one another and creating the illusion that there is no way these people can possibly all get along. Clearly, this, not the Rise of the Machines, will be our undoing.
At the end of this conference, the resident Poeish librarian asked the question that we were all kind of wondering but were worried about sounding stupid asking–“Aren’t generations supposed to be longer than this?” It seems like every decade, there’s a new named generation, but an actual generation is significantly longer than ten years, isn’t it? Free Online Dictionary says a generation is: A group of generally contemporaneous individuals regarded as having common cultural or social characteristics and attitudes. Ok, I guess that makes sense. So is it now that things culturally and technologically are moving along at such a clip that people ten years apart have nothing to say to one another?
I remember when there was a huge fuss made over Generation X–the slacker, lazy generation that ended up doing quite well for themselves. At the time, I thought I was a Gen Xer, since I was born in 1979, then I was a Gen Yer possibly a Millennialer, but just like my horoscope is on the cusp, so is my generational standing. Can I use the fact that I am of the Y generation (according to some charts) as a tool to get jobs? Technically these crazy, uncontrollable, mysterious people are MY people. I should be able to harness their energy and use it for the common good.
I appreciate that the older generations try to embrace (or are made to try to embrace) the new crop of workers that will eventually take over (provided Baby Boomers ever actually retire), but I feel like the dissection and examination of each new wave of people must do more harm than good. Everyone thought Gen X were the loser generation–turns out that they just thought outside of the box and all that worrying that the sky was falling was a waste of time; now everything thinks Gen Y are overstimulated and impossible to focus. Is someone going to be able to get away with unreliable and erratic behavior on the job if they simply blame it on their generation? “I’m Gen Y, this is how I process, can’t help it.”
Maybe I just don’t get it because I am it. I can’t analyze my circumstances and the way I grew up from within. Thirty years from now, I’ll probably be lecturing to my peers about how to work with Generation Z, and their penchant for walking on stilts eating honey from a jar while we try to come up with ways to get them to just check email once in a while.
I signed up with a couple of secret shopping agencies a few months ago, but haven’t really pursued it at all. It’s funny, when I was working in retail, I was always the victim of the secret shop and came to loathe these people–now, I have become what I hate (little melodramatic). Most of the shops that came into my inbox were very unappealing–going to a motorcycle shop in Warwick (hate Warwick), going to a cell phone kiosk in Cranston (hate cell phone kiosks); plus the pay seemed really low for the time and travel they would take.
Then one of the companies that is a subsidiary of another one I signed up with started calling me. Turns out all it takes is being a bit courted to make me jump at the chance to help out. For a decent amount of money, I agreed to go to a local bank and inquire about a home loan. This is all rather hilarious to me because it seems like anyone who would be doing secret shopping, would probably not be earning enough money to afford any kind of mortgage, but I guess I don’t know for sure.
Certainly I’m not earning enough money to take on that, or any, financial responsibility, and I half expected the banker to laugh me out of the building when I told him “I freelance.” I’ve been freelancing for about two months, have lived in my current residence since July 1, and kind of shrugged when he asked where I get my money, I thought that he’d tell me to get back to him when things had picked up. My credit score is stellar, but on paper I look like a total flake.
“We’ll just use last year’s tax return.” he told me.
I can’t help but feel like it’s this kind of thinking that created our current state of economic crisis.
As the daughter of a woman who handles big money real estate loans, I may know a little more than the average bear about this kind of thing. The reason the banks occasionally do take risks on somewhat unattractive loan candidates is that if the person defaults, the bank gets a house that they can resell, plus any money that was paid back toward the principal of the loan. The bank doesn’t really lose, because it retains a way to make its money back–that’s how it used to be.
Now, as everyone knows, the market is flooded with cheap property and the system is tilted heavily in favor of the buyer. The bank could take your house away, but they probably couldn’t resell it quickly or without loss–so why do they want to take a chance on me?
I’m baffled, and a little afraid, but I will discuss my options with the mortage broker and see what else he has to tell me. Hopefully, they won’t find a way to offer me an obscene amount of money, so I can rest easily knowing that they won’t be doing the same to someone else who is inquiring legitimately.
One of my favorite authors of all time is Judy Blume, and one of my most-beloved books by her is Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great. I have no idea how many times I’ve read and loved this book, and I plan to re-read it again just as soon as the copy I requested arrives at my local library branch. In this book, Sheila Tubman (nemesis of Peter Hatcher of Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing and Superfudge fame), and her family leave NYC for the summer and go to Tarrytown, NY. She meets a girl who lives in Washington Irving’s old house. The house is full of secret passages, low doorways, and rambling hallways that fascinated me when I was younger.
I had heard of Washington Irving, read some of his stories, and seen the Disney cartoon of Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but the fact that someone lived in his house just blew my mind. When I moved to Providence, I saw a flyer for Halloween festivities in the Historic Hudson Valley, which included Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s estate. Since the Hudson Valley is beautiful in the fall, and there’s that Sleepy Hollow connection, this makes sense. My long-dormant fascination re awoke, and I began scheming ways to get me to Washington Irving’s house.
Jewish Friend loves a superfunliterary adventure AND she went to college in the Historic Hudson Valley, so we packed up the car and took to the highway. Of course, Sheila Tubman’s friend doesn’t really live at Sunnyside–it’s a tourist attraction purchased and restored by John D. Rockefeller in 1945 and opened to the public in 1947, but I’m not mad at Judy Blume for leading me astray. I could never be mad at her .*
Upon arriving at Sunnyside, I saw a Halloween-colored cat wandering in the parking lot. It had tags, looked completely at home, and when I indicated it should let me pet it, it graciously wandered over and spent equal time with me and Jewish Friend. After a few more cars arrived, it scuttled under the fence and wandered in the garden.
We followed a long downhill path to the house and found another cat hanging out on the low stone wall. As we were petting this one, two ladies came down the hill and one exclaimed “Oh! There’s Eloise!” Apparently, these two cats live at the house and wander around greeting guests and hanging out with the groundskeepers–nice life.
Sunnyside is a guided tour, and they only allow ten people at one time because the hallways and stairways are so narrow. There were two other people on our tour, which was actually perfect because we they seemed to be (almost) equally enthusiastic about literary tourism, and had had a really good tour when they went to The House of the Seven Gables (which means Jewish Friend and I should probably try again). Bethany, the tour guide, wore a hoop skirt and told us that she had been working there for thirteen years. This girl knew her stuff, which was awesome, and she encouraged us to ask lots of questions even saying at one point, “This is your tour, so please, ask me anything you like.” I don’t know why, but just hearing her say that, made me really happy. She seemed to really enjoy her work, and our asking questions, which made the whole experience that much more fun.
Washington Irving never married, but he loved being around people. Sunnyside, was originally 28 acres (now 10), and Irving along with a few friends designed it to be a romantic, flawless destination where a person could commune with nature. He encouraged the people of the town to stop by to visit, or just walk the grounds. He constructed a road that came up practically to his front door and fans would stop by and ask for autographs.
The house itself, was designed by Irving, and was originally a groundskeepers cottage which he expanded. Since the original structure was so small, and he had so many visitors, there are six tiny rooms sort of jammed in, narrow hallways, and small passages. He lived in the house with his brother, and five nieces, but always had friends come to stay, and served formal dinners from 3-8pm daily. It’s rather amazing he found time to write anything.
It’s hard to pick favorites among sites of literary significance, but Sunnyside is very high on the list. I would go back there tomorrow, and possibly again the following day. I would also pack a picnic lunch as guests are encouraged to picnic, wander the grounds, and enjoy the garden–sigh.
*Upon re-reading OKASTG, it turns out that her friend didn’t live in WI’s old house, just in one where he slept. Judy Blume did not lead me astray–I remembered it wrong! All is right with the world.
I have never had good luck with cars, or anything motorized, for that matter. The first incident occurred when I was three, and I fell out of a golf cart and smacking my head on the ground. It was a drought year, so the Midwestern clay was particularly hard, and all I really remember is being in the hospital for hours, throwing up on my favorite blanket, then demanding that the nurse wash it over and over because it still smelled like puke. I sometimes wonder if she actually did re-wash it, because it seemed to come back awfully quickly, and never smelled any cleaner.
After that, there were series of minor accidents with golf carts culminating with me somehow driving onto a small evergreen tree and getting stuck bouncing up and down and not knowing how to make the cart go backward. I think my parents had to pay for the tree, and my friend’s dad hated me after that.
I borrowed a friend’s moped for a quick ride around the park, hit a patch of wet grass, and flopped over at 10 m.p.h.
Even though I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 18, I totalled two cars by age 24, and had a series of ridiculous mechanical malfunctions that resulted in me being on a first-name basis with the head mechanic at Luther Family Ford.
In Winnipeg, MB, someone broke into my car and stole my stereo, purse, and friend’s jacket. My purse had my passport and social security card in it–plus it was awfully cute. Thankfully, I had my driver’s license in my pocket, so I was still able to get back into America. When I told my mother that I had been the victim of a crime, she yelled at me for leaving the country. When I told the police, they just shrugged.
One of the reasons that I picked Providence to move to, is that the internet told me it’s a very walkable city. Unfortunately, I’ve never actually had a job in Providence, so I’ve been commuting since I got here. I’ve also had two car accidents in this state, in less than two years. I’m starting to lose count of how many car accidents I’ve had, and I’m increasingly anxious on the road.
Last Thursday, Gentleman Caller (who shall soon get a new nickname, but I haven’t thought of one yet) and I went to Trader Joe’s. After the shop, we put the bags in the trunk of the car, but I decided that we should take out the peanut-butter filled, chocolate covered pretzels for the ride home. He didn’t realize I was going back in, and slammed the trunk door on my head.
Since I don’t have health insurance, there was nothing to do except take a lot of ibuprofen and feel sorry for myself. I’m fine, didn’t die, probably wasn’t even concussed, but it hurt like a bastard. I spent the next few days convalescing, and we came to the decision that I will be in charge of closing the trunk forevermore.
Late last night, Gentleman Caller was getting a beer out of the fridge when he glanced out the window and saw someone rifling through my car. We ran downstairs, but he was already gone along with my GPS, some cash, and my CDs. The car was unlocked, so he didn’t break a window (thankfully), but I’m left with a lot of questions: Would he have broken my window if the car hadn’t been unlocked, or was this guy just walking around the neighborhood trying door handles until he found one open? What drew him to my boring, unappealing Chevy Malibu in the first place? Why would he take almost all my CDs, but leave Madonna, and my Yakoff Smirnoff book? Who in the world takes CDs anymore? Why in the world do I still have that Yakoff Smirnoff book?
Now my car looks different to me. Even though he didn’t really take anything that mattered too much, he left me with an uneasiness that I really don’t care for. I keep looking out the window at my car expecting to see him in there looting, I expect it to smell different, and I expect to find something else missing that I really did want. We tried to arrange a sting operation by finding someone on Craigslist selling the same brand GPS that was stolen, but the person didn’t write back.
I’m taking to the woods this weekend with Jewish Friend to soak up the nature, smell of hippies, and knowledge of Washington Irving. Let’s hope I don’t get mauled by a bear.