Wednesday, August 31, 2005
But no Boston.
My first trip here was when I was a nanny to a New York family at the end of my college days. The family decided on a week-end in Boston. My charge, being totally into her nanny, was excited the entire drive up. We were given our own room at the Ritz-Carleton, overlooking the Public Gardens. Her mom, though, always wanting me to branch out and meet real American kids my own age, suggested that they take their little one to their room and I go visit (and stay with) my charge’s older sister who was living in Sommerville.
My charge sobbed long and hard in deep protest. I was torn – should I please my employer, the mom, or please the little girl? I chose the former. It was the first time that I recall having deliberately disappointed a little child.
My second trip to Boston came when I just graduated from college and my friend, also a recent graduate, moved into her own apartment in the North End. She made me a dinner of chicken and peach halves. I remember nothing else about the visit.
My third and all subsequent trips came when I was already a mother, with children either with me or waiting for me. Most often we’d stay in Cambridge and take the Red Line into town, venturing out on long walks through parks, along twisty streets, trying to understand the heart of the city as best as we could in the few days we would give it during any single visit.
So today I returned to Boston proper. It was a trip that was destined to pull things together for me. Not surprisingly, I started with the North End, the Ritz being just one of those sad memories that’s best forgotten (so I told myself).
To me, New York’s Little Italy loses big time to Boston’s North End. It’s understandable. The exodus hasn’t happened here and you see evidence aplenty of the old community that my college friend said frowned on outsiders as it sought to protect its own.
The streets looked vaguely familiar, though honestly, I was most drawn to the foods and the cafés.
lemon and chocolate cream filled
the best cappuccino this side of the ocean
I could have spent more hours there, but I was on a mission. I wanted that Boston heart to finally come forward and make itself evident. And so I walked – down the hill, through the Public Gardens, taking it all in, as the rain doused the vast green spaces and people took shelter anywhere they could.
ducklings and others
a child with hope, and a bird
I ended up on a commercial street and I walked into a gallery. With paintings. I was interested.
I had done a lot of picture hanging this past week and I have even more ahead of me. Picture hanging is sort of symbolic. It’s the last thing you do when you move into a new place.
So too, this gallery was a kind of ending. Literally – it came at the end of my walk, on this last day of August. And figuratively, as I thought there about the way I had disappointed people, ever since that first trip to Boston and all the way through to now, and how often that happens in spite of our best intentions.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Don’t know anyone in Providence. Do know someone who is currently in dire straights in Boston –moving in and overwhelmed. So easy to hop on a train and do a spin up to where the seafood is legal.
at dinner: all seafood, all legal
I am setting up a company upon my return to Madison: Moving Madness. CEO/CFO/CeverythingO NLC. You yelp, I help.
The thing about paying attention to others and their moving issues is that it takes the mind off of one’s own. So that if I can boss around another with instructions on where to pound nails for the various wall hanging projects, then I do not have to remember that I have INSURMOUNTABLE picture hanging issues awaiting me back in Madison [as in: how do you even begin to mount pictures on a thirty foot wall? In steps? Gradations? Several layers? One layer? How?].
Okay, yesterday I was giving a critical assessment of my little one’s living space. Today was all about the Cambridge acclimatization of another. Tomorrow? Tomorrow I say ah, you’re all doing well in your new places. They are fantastically beautiful. You did a splendid job! My plan is to now head out and do some serious town-browsing. I've missed that.
I worked my tail off yesterday. No, really, we both did. On a hot, steamy (yes steamy, damn it, as in full of steam and humidity) day, we built, carried, purchased, shuffled and generally did everything necessary to bring this move-in project to a completion.
And it’s almost done. So much so, that I am about to retreat and let her finish it on her own. She (my little one) has already basically taken ownership of the project. Independence is a good thing.
On the road to success there are many tripping (if not tipping) points.
I’ll give just one example.
Those beautiful Matisse prints that I had agreed to ship to New Haven, why did they have to come wrapped in one thousand Styrofoam bubbles? Why, when I opened the box, did they all have to spill out on the sidewalk and street, leaving me vulnerable and likely to be arrested for defacing public spaces?
The village green was sprinkled with a fine layer of Styrofoam snow and I was left with a choice of either staying behind and waging a futile war with the dancing debris, or running in the other direction, with the prints carried high over my head like some kind of a sail of a thief who couldn’t quite handle the mast lines.
At some point, the two of us threw up our hands and said let’s Roomba!
You had to be there. Roomba is arguably New Haven’s best eatery (this in a town of dozens of fine eateries). It’s special: sleek, casual (no tablecloths, simple settings) and totally creative Latin cuisine.
Even though Roomba doesn’t require it, people treat going there as a big culinary deal. They take care with their appearance.
My little one and I went from unpacking boxes and building furniture to wiping grease and dirt as best we could so that we could present ourselves in this place of all places without causing a stir.
The food – ahhh the food. I’d never been there before. Somehow I saw it as belonging to the category of places you go to when you have both a birthday, an anniversary and a letter announcing your biggest promotion ever, all coming together on the same day. So it is fitting that we went there on the day when we simply needed a break from building a living space for the year.
talapia with the works
Monday, August 29, 2005
I look up and I see waxed eyebrows (first waxing: March 05) and a toned and moisturized face (first concerted effort to look after it: August 05). Plus a few other interesting changes that I wont mention here.
As of last night, I am caught up with the New Yorkers. (First subscription to the New Yorker: August 74; first time caught up with the New Yorkers: August 05.) True, I have mounting pressures back home – a move, the beginning of a new semester, important personal issues to resolve – yet I could allow myself an evening of reading New Yorkers.
I am wondering why suddenly I am alerted to the pleasure of reading late and moisturizing early. Why it never struck me that this was a possibility, that indeed, many around me wax, moisturize, read New Yorkers, do pedicures and manicures (I have never had either), go for massages, listen to lectures on esoteric topics.
I had a vague idea that I should take care of my skin and I could read endless stories in magazines, but (apart from work and family obligations that everyone, of course, also has to worry about – some to a far greater extent than I) I was so busy chasing down projects and conniving how next to get the family over to Europe, that this other stuff just passed me by.
Small indulgence of self. It still seems sinful somehow, be it of mind or body. I remember being shocked when my man Jason told me five years ago that 87% of women my age color their hair. (He’s a persuasive fellow and so I broke down under his steady gaze). Really?
I had wondered if my inattentiveness here was the result of my being raised in post-war Poland. I don’t think so though. I am sure that every one of my women friends back in Warsaw moisturizes twice as much and as often as my friends here. People in Poland worry about their skin. And they read magazines (of the literary-cultural-political type) obsessively.
It’s me. I’m diffused and dilettantish and focused on a hundred different things in any given hour. If I indulge anything, it’s my inability to sit still. Taking care of skin and catching up on your subscriptions requires one to sit still.
It’s a wonder that I keep a blog – arguably the greatest of self-indulgences. Of course, blog birth: January 04. A recent addition to my daily routines. Right up there with very soft skin. God, does my skin look and feel soft and toned!
Sunday, August 28, 2005
At dusk, a table outside offered still another reminder that New Haven is indeed a cosmopolitan town.
Conversation in cosmetics store:
I only need body lotion… forgot mine at home…
Ah. Grapefruit – go with the grapefruit one. But wait until you see what it does to your skin if you put it on after exfoliating.
I love all those products, but I always forget to use them. They wind up drying out in their dust-covered containers.
Well, at least for your face: exfoliate, tone, seal. Three steps. Surely you take them?
No, not really…
Here, let me show you (pretending the hand is just like a face, she begins to exfoliate, then tone then seal). Where are you from, btw?
Wisconsin. I’m supposed to do this how often?
Three times a week. Daily, you just use your cleanser, right?
I don’t really use a cleanser...
What?? How do you clean your face?
With water. [Guilt and panic set in as imagination conjures up weeks, nay months of accumulated environmental pollutants.]
Oh! You are so cute! With water! That’s so charming!
You think I should use special cleanser, don’t you?
(Two women in store nod heads vigorously.)
You know, one’s skin changes over the years. I prefer being happy with those changes than throwing products at them.
You color your hair, don't you?
My man Jason simply brings it to its natural shade and pristine glow, sort of what it was like at its peak -- at age 6.
(no comment necessary)
Okay, okay, tonight: after I finish lifting a couple more boxes up and down flights of stairs, I'll exfoliate, tone and seal already.
(smiles all around)
At Staples: Three rolls of carpet. We need three rolls. Can we borrow the cart to wheel them to their destination? We do not have a car.
Yes, leave a photo ID.
You know, we could use this cart for the rest of the day to move around other things.
How will it look to push around a Staples cart all over New Haven? It will look like we stole it. (weigh usefulness of cart against dorkiness of using it all day)
Okay, back it goes.
This year’s look: sexiness continues to follow a downward direction as exposed lower torsos still catch the eye.
New haven, CT
Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.
Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.
My hands are killing me. Not my arms, not my bicycled legs. My hands cannot hold another heavy box and clumsily, awkwardly, help lift it up another flight of stairs.
Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.
A quick run to Ikea. Nearby, but not walking distance. Yet another chatty cabbie. I PAY for good cheer. They're rakin' it in from me today.
A lamp, two lamps. [I wonder if they have a shower curtain I could take back home with me to Madison? Seriously, does anyone know where I can get an interesting shower curtain back home? Don’t say Linens ‘n Things. Not interesting. Wait, we're takin' about a different move. Back to this one:]
Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.
We need to stop. Hi, Dean of College. How come this year’s reception is for class of ’09 parents only? Aren’t class of ’07 parent(s) good enough? I could have used those catered snacks. I haven’t eaten since yesterday, having declined an invitation to eat pizza and drink wine at 10:30 am.
Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.
Oh thank you, storage area for closing at 10! Thank you so much.
We are ahead of schedule (when in the last three months have you heard me say that?) We are tired but happy (ditto). We make faces in the mirror across from our table at Cosi, order salads and toast marshmallows and graham crackers over a little burner. Heavy work, light heart.
* you can't be an Ocean reader and not know this: Hearty Polish Peasant Stock
Saturday, August 27, 2005
This is the first time I am flying into New Haven (not there yet!) as it is the first year that Delta decided to branch out and include Connecticut on its East Coast circuit. Yay Delta. All previous trips have been via New York or Hartford.
I cannot emphasize how On The Map it makes me feel, with both Madison (my home) and New Haven (the most frequently visited by me destination) linked in this way.
I am traveling with one of a very small handful of people who are, for me, the easiest to move around with – people who are ready to find pleasure in everything, including a sign that reads “Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky airport,” and who allow me to lean my head on their shoulder when I attempt to take a nap. Maybe these are not your criteria, but they most certainly are mine. Taking the arm in camaraderie and affection is also up there, but it is not as important as the first two items listed herein. Besides, this little one obliges me with the arm as well.
Perhaps I ought to work on my reputation though. At the airport, she coaxes me to take her to Moe’s – a pub where you can pretend that the pizza you’re eating crosses over nicely from breakfast to lunch. I’m reluctant. It’s only 10:30 Madison time. Oh please, she says – look! You can get a glass of wine!
Let it be known here that I never drink wine for breakfast. Never. Okay, fine, champagne brunch, but that’s different.
Just to prove my point, I drank water and ate nothing.
If departures were easy, too many people would leave and there would be no one left at the home base to mind the ship.
My next post will be less nautical in nature. It will, however, be late, very late and from New Haven.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Is it gonna be wild, is it gonna be the best time
Or am I just a-saying so?Am I ready to go?
What do I hear when I say I hear the call of the road?
Why wouldn’t I quote lyrics when they are apt (especially since they happen to be on the only available decent tape to listen to in the car, as we spin, my daughters and I, for one last time through the neighborhood where they grew up)?
Posting is moving into difficult mode.
No no no, I am NOT having a mental crisis here, I am off tomorrow to the East Coast for the better part of the week. My littlest one is starting her next to last year of college and , like each Fall, I get to be the mover-facillitator. Posting will have to be on the sly, done in quick trips to erratically functional cafés, on the pretence that I have to dash down to check out the latest free trade blends.
Am I too old for this? (Not the posting, the moving in of daughters.)
I did it for the first time six years ago, when my oldest was first going off to college (same town, same college; the only thing that’s changed is the emergence of the BLOG!). I was 46 then. I remember going up to the Dean of the college and saying to her something like: “hey, look, miss. I am glad you got a good operation going here. But I am getting too old to be carrying boxes and building furniture for my kid.”
What do I say now, at 52? (Probably: so how come you ran out of the good snacks at this year's reception? You know, we take all the free food we can, giving that your college has sucked out every last penny from us in the past years.)
The residential college dean has never warmed up to me since, even though I have been going back regularly.
Six years later: I am still about to move boxes and furniture, painting walls as needed, pounding nails into walls that are too sensitive for that sort of thing.
But right now, I am in the midst of our last evening as a family in the home that is in every way our family home. You know, the one I pushed to put on the market. You know, the one I signed away today. I’m sure I am popular. Actually, it’s not about me. This night belongs to the daughters. And their childhoods here.
P.S. I feel like such a failure as a parent. They have no idea what Wonderama is.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
It's a chance to reflect on what you're listening to and where you are in life.
My recounts of events of this week-of-high-drama (the title of the next popular reality show!) have irked some wise and some foolish people. When I went back with the tail more or less between my legs and asked still others if indeed I had been so annoying as to be insufferable and vile, they were baffled.
But truth is, it takes one wise person to discover that the earth is round. So I must go with the sage and leave the rest rubbing their chins in puzzlement.
To those who thought I was coming down hard against them: I am sorry. [Caveat: I am not sorry for coming down hard against those who in their lives do not treat their past, present or future loved ones with kindness and compassion.]
To those who thought I was batty at the least and about to jump into an abyss of neuro-psychotic illness (is it a disease? it sounds scary, hence the choice of words): I am sorry.
To those who hated the choice of instrument of torture for the home buyer ( a cannonball) --and there were many of you! --I am sorry.
Most of all, to the buyers who came back with a reasonable counter offer just five minutes ago, leading us to contemplate small sums of money instead of big cataclysmic outcomes: I am so so sorry. I know you love the house. Your letter is eloquent and genuine. May you have as many happy memories in this place as I did.
P.S. Yo, you home buyers: did you or did you not read this blog? fess up!
UPDATE: Coincidentally, today a friend sent me this image of an instrument of torture (had it been in my files earlier, I may have bypassed the cannonball idea):
…I climb up on the top of the stairs And all my cares Just drift right into space
Like hell they do. Type in correction: none of my cares are drifting into space. They are piling on rapidly and my plate was already full before this week even started. Prognosis: no relief in sight.
On the roof is peaceful as can be And there the world below can’t bother me…
Oh it bothers me plenty. Plenty. Thanks a lot world, for sucking it to me again and again. Thanks for last night as well (sorry, friend, for standing you up for drinks last night; I was quite incapacitated).
When I come home feeling tired and beat I go up where the air is fresh and sweet…
Where would that be? The fresh and sweet air I mean? In the crawlspace that the engineer came to inspect this morning? Is that it? Seemed fine up there. This is a forty year old house, damn it! You want a new property – here I’ll show you some houses farther west. Add a couple hundred thou and you can have all the brand new roof tiles you want!
Oh, did I hear that you registered your child for the local elementary school already? Well forget it! Tell junior mommy and daddy were forced out of the house by VERY ANGRY SELLER! I have no patience, no remorse, no oomph, no stamina left! Go pick on someone else, buttheads.
No more mr. nice-guy from me, ever. I tell you, it doesn’t pay! It DOES NOT PAY!
UPDATE: In case the buyers do not understand blogs, I am compelled to remind all that Ocean is a blog that believes in looking at tense moments with humor. I did modify the text a teeny tiny bit so as to not appear totally wacky. Which I am not.
* lyrics: my commenter was right. Peter belts it out, but Carole King wrote it
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
And then, after you've written a check, sit back and reflect on how easy it is to do right by people who are important to your past and present -- even if not necessarily your future. Think how easy it is to wish them well. How simple not to break them. If you are parting with someone who, upon refelction, saved you in small and big ways once upon a time, remember those small and big gestures. Remember how once the person really truly was your best friend.
Don't screw your past best friends, even if they no longer are that. Don't trip them up. Look, look hard at their eyes and note their pleading wistfulness, their great desire to do the right thing even if you don't believe it is the right thing.
On the roof is peaceful as can be And there the world below can’t bother me…
The roofers are going to inspect your house as per buyer request, okay?
Do I have a choice? No I do not.
I’ll come over as well and listen to what is being said about it.
When I come home feeling tired and beat I go up where the air is fresh and sweet…
Hey there, do you know that there are a bunch of people outside, children running around, some men on the roof, some below?
Shouldn’t we do something? Like go out there and talk to them?
No, leave them alone. They’re looking for defects.
Oh. Well I already talked to them. They don’t want to be bothered with a roof replacement when they move in.
And I don’t want to be bothered with a buyer replacement, so just let them be.
On the roof the only place I know Where you just have to wish to make it so
I wish I would not feel like I am near the end of my period of sanity, where I am about to cross over and enter a terrain heretofore unentered, even during most trying past circumstances…
What are you talking about? Stay calm, stay calm.
I cannot. Excuse me, while I take this call…
...I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof And if the world starts getting you down There’s room enough for two up on the roof…
If it has a couple of more good years left, then how is it a defect? Damn it, I did not go to law school for nothing! I know my rights.
There’s time to argue whether this is technically a defect.
I am tired of arguing. I am tired tired tired of everyone arguing! Why does everything, everything have to be resolved through argument? I don’t want it! Purge it from my life already!
You could always give in. In all aspects of your life, just give it up. Let it go. Ignore the injustice of it all! You could always just take what's handed out and shrug your shoulders. Give in, given in.
...And all my cares just drift right into space Up on the Roof...
* On the Roof lyrics by Peter Cincotti
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
I am not like that. In all matters relating to my personal life, I plunged. Friends became intensely close, boyfriends were instantly candidates for soulmate status. I reeled in a world of dizzying love for people, for events, for activities that I discovered afresh each year.
My little one and I were talking earlier today. She remarked how I never just connected to a person, I super charged the connection and with excitement and found all the nuance and beauty that made a person completely stellar. Best of breed, so to speak. Best of the best.
At 52, as I now proceed to distance myself from a significant chunk of my past, I think, I really think this – I think I was wrong to be so headstrong.
To all you blog readers who are younger than me, take heed. The world does not belong to the bold, it does not reward you for your efforts, it will not smile kindly at your generosities.
Forget the visions of eternal love, of eternal friendship; not even that: forget the belief in a solid strong anything. It’s fleeting – all of it, it’s fleeting and mostly terribly unkind.
I took a stack of old books to a used book place tonight. Books, just books, useless books, books that I had no room for in the new loft. Before handing them over, I flipped through some of them. I came across an inscription, written by someone who, some years back, promised undying friendship and eternal devotion. I pulled the book out of the reject pile, as a reminder of how completely ridiculous the idea was.
I held it together when changes were taking place in my life, changes that would rock even the most solid, stoic of characters.
I held it together when moving everything everywhere wrenched my back, and the holding it together was not tarnished by the fact that I still have a vast amount of moving ahead of me.
I held it together when I found that I needed to buy new furniture for the new apartment -- great fun! great expense!
I held it together when the very same van that I was treating with kid gloves started flashing "low oil" lights today, even though I had just changed the oil last month and had put on perhaps 55 miles since.
I held it together when my robust exercise schedule faltered -- the first major casualty of a hell schedule.
I held it together as I sat on the landing steps of my loft at the wee hours of the morning today, looked outside and noticed a solitary person walking, one prong at a time, on the railroad tracks. He looked lonely and sad.
I held it together through sadnesses and worries of others, which make me sad and worried for them in addition to making it absolutely impossible to look up with pleading eyes and ask for much hand-holding.
I held it together when my daughters were shaken out of bed because, unexpectedly, the realtor with the new buyers and their little children showed up at our doorstep and informed me that they expected to spend the morning here, overseeing the engineering inspection, giving me five minutes, FIVE FREAGIN' MINUTES to get the place in order for their peering eyes (and I don't care if they read my blog, so there!) and leave them to their devices.
I held it together when I came back well into the afternoon, loaded down with groceries and who knows what and they were all still there, discussing why the outside door downstairs was sticking and why the furnace was rattling. I have a furnace that was purchased within our tenure here, damn it, go pick on somebody else's furnace!
I even held it together when the purchasing wife said she would be back this Thursday along with the engineering crew, because they still needed to pry open the crawlspace and had no time to do it today.
But when I got a call saying that they were sending out a roofing contractor who would do an inch-by-inch analysis of the roof and would I mind? -- I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried.
Or, maybe I shouldn't call them mere visitors. My recollections this morning are foggy, but I distinctly remember looking toward the loft windows and seeing two chairs positioned in front. On those two charis were not exactly nine ladies dancing, but definitely at least two. Through the windows, the dome of the Capitol looked on. As did I.
It began as an evening of celebration. A daughter with a job offer was reason enough to go order some rainbow drinks along with the much beloved Ahi tuna, downtown, at the Crave.
Back at the loft, food was not the centerpiece. Or was it? I once said that if I had only a handful of foods available to me and I could pick my handful, it would include bread, cheese and chocolate.
At midnight, someone who does not stop just because it is midnight, proposed more revelry and music. Truth is, no one could keep up with her. I vaguely remember thinking I should stay up and post. I fell asleep thinking I should post.
Monday, August 22, 2005
...if I tell you that I am only now by a computer and I only have five minutes, will you forgive me?
...if I tell you that this morning, I had time, but no interest in writing, because nothing, really nothing happens before noon -- nothing at all worth blogging about, will you understand?
Sunday, August 21, 2005
I ran into the whole lot of them as I was getting the last piece of garbage into the van outside. The place was, of course, immaculate.
Why bother? We have an accepted offer. It’s not as if I am going to go home and there’ll be a ding-a-ling-a-ling and it will be them saying – forget it, slobs*, we do not want your piece of junk!”
Why do we do the things we do? Why do we bother, when it makes no difference, creates not even a small increment of pleasure?
I don’t know.
* incidentally, if they called us slobs, they’d be the first
Serious about my perennials, I planted hundreds upon hundreds of them. I pored over White Flower Farm catalogues in February and was there each April for the first hours of the Flower Factory's opening week-end. Dirt on my hands, strained muscles from digging -- all blissful reminders of my Hearty Polish Peasant Stock.
Then, like an unfaithful lover, a season or two ago, I got tired of it. My attention drifted. Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of garden space (the yard here is huge), by the rabbits that constantly chomped at my dianthus, by the phlox mildew and the spit-bugs and the drought and the weeds, I took one look and walked away.
The forces of nature retaliated. The perennial beds grew with wild abandon. Screw you, they seemed to say, we will multiply and spread and with great promiscuity, we will welcome weeds and everything and anything that wants to take part in this wild fling with nature. We'll show you how hot and alive we are! -- they told me.
But it was like the last wail of a scorned lover. I gave a small "there, there" pat, pulled a weed or two and turned away. The lure of the downtown, of my writing, of my camera, of new faces and new spaces was too great.
So, good-bye garden. Once I loved you to death. Now you are just a sweet memory of a damp soil and fresh new shoots in spring. Tucked away with all other sweet memories of past loves and passionate indulgences.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
The best of the suburban life (of which I have only days remaining) is that which happens at dusk, over wooden embers. With the colors of the late August garden there, to spark and inspire.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Anxious enough that the first offer, representing, as my economist pal figured out, 93% of the asking price, was accepted with a sigh of relief. Fact is, we were about to lower the asking price.
In the last three days, the house had more showings than in the entire preceding 6 weeks. What made the difference? It appears that the words “motivated seller,” plugged in just three days ago, pushed it into the suddenly desirable category.
I do not get people. Most sellers are motivated! If you’re not motivated, you don’t pound a “for sale” sign into your lawn.
How hard is it for all of us, my daughters especially, to let go of this family home? Hard. Trust me, hard.
Is there a bright side? Oh yes, definitely. Many. Too many to list here. But here’s one I kept thinking about today as I stared at the vine climbing along the back wall of the house. It had become infested with some bug or other and I predict that within two weeks the entire two-story wall will be covered by wilted brown leaves instead of the lush green ones that nature intended.
On the other hand, note what’s happening around the back and side walls of the warehouse apartments. THEY are planting perennials. THEY are responsible for their health and well being. THEY will weed, prune, mulch them. Not me. Not me.
Oh, how well I know that storm! It was one of the rare times where I could not seek shelter during a warning. Between the house showing and the need to get down to the loft a.s.a.p., I just could not do it. And so I rode it out, plowing my van through the torrential rains.
Nothing happened here on the west side of Madison. Or, nothing bad happened. In the course of the tornado, a family with two little children purchased our house.
I was sitting in the van, watching the children of the prospective buyers run around the front yard just minutes before the storm struck. I thought -- how perfect! My neighbors had been arguing over the gender of the next kids on the block: there was a strong lobby for more girls. But the boys wanted playmates too. In the end, each will get one.
Me -- I just want to say that selling this house has been one huge nightmare. The sale isn't final yet, but it's a solid offer. The storm chased off a period of high uncertainty. How fitting that it should have cleared the air so violently, so completely.
Quickly, open the windows. Create a breeze. Leave the premises, the showing is about to begin.
The sirens go off. Tornado warning. Radio reports: touch down in Spring Green, just west of here, ten minutes away. Return to close the windows. Have to wait. Showing in progress. Finally, the people leave (did you write out an offer? No? What’s the matter with you – the house is perfect!).
Close the windows, head downtown. I do not care about sirens. So lift me up and swirl me in your funnel clouds! I know all about storms – I am not going to be freaked by this one!
There sure is a lot of water around me. Don’t stall, trusty-but-almost-dead-van, do not stall! SO much water. I wade through puddles, I feel the pouring rain on my bare arms.
And then – screw it all. I go to dine with Katy.
Katy is leaving town and as her last parting gift, she takes her blog partner and me out to l’Etoile.
Oh, l'Etoile, l'Etoile! I knew you when you were just a baby. You too have seen me through a quarter of a century of changes. I ate here through the events that have rocked the world, I cooked here during my most turbulent years. And so it is fitting to sit here now, with these two bloggers, these two friends, and to let go of the storms around me and indulge in the foods and services of this stellar place.
Tory, chef and proprietor, hovers.
We are winding down. I'm still reeeling over the charentais melon carpaccio with prosciutto-wrapped goat cheese and crazy jim's cucumbers, cippolini onions and baby arugula (in a honey-rice wine vinaigrette).
We stare at the dessert menus, but not for long. They are snatched away. We are not allowed to choose. Tory makes us all of them and suddenly, our table is filled with sweetness.
We linger. The evening cannot end.
Oh, but we are downtown! The loft! Of course. It is so easy to finish each evening at the loft. My daughters, elsewhere downtown this night, join us. The night is quiet except for the train that goes by outside the window. No storms now. Have a safe trip south, Katy.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
I'm thinking of resorting to crossword puzzles -- endless numbers of them, as a calming device.
Guilt: I have tremendous amounts of guilt for giving up on eating places where our faces were one time so familiar that waiters would slide us in ahead of long lines.
Last night, four of us went to such a place for a quick burger. Though these days three of us are not ordering burgers for one reason or another. How do you even deal with that? We sit down and study the menu at a burger joint looking for burger alternatives. And the we choose salads. Who wants to photograph a salad? Not me.
Two of us then went to the sweetest bar I've seen in Madison. Very cozy. Just two tables. Brand new. Again, this newness is flying all around me. We sat down to a long and wonderful talk with Ann and Tonya...
green drink, blue foot
red drink, blue jeans
...and then we made our way to the (very close, because, of course, it's downtown!) loft.
Most of the loft furniture arrived this morning and I have been working like a madwoman putting the pieces together. But last night it was still nearly empty. We sat on the floor and did flips and rolled and I did my famous headstand.
Mostly we kept our eyes glues to the walls hoping to see a few centipedes.
I recommend it: taking friends to new places before the places get filled with a new life there.
the Tonya Show
the Althouse author
[Sadly, this little one was out and about and so she could not join us]:
But this morning the wheels started spinning again. Getting the house ready for showings, opening the door to a new couch at the loft, pausing for a Marigold breakfast and then building an island.
No, I was not strong enough to right it after putting it together. It is laying on its side waiting for a burly guy to come and sweep it to its feet. I will keep these wheels locked, I will! There is enough spinning in my life elsewhere.
UPDATE: Burly man found. The island is upright. The wheels are locked.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
How can that overwhelm anyone? Thay're just things and boring things at that. And yet..
They are harmless, harmless! But they move fast. I don't kill them, I capture them in a cup and set them free (a propos house centipedes, occasionally seen scurrying around on the warehouse brick walls)...
...I moved here from California and so I am used to basically subsisting on Tader Joe's. No, I will not shop at Willie Street Co-op. I don't care if it's equidistant (to Whole Foods). I went there this week and everything was wheat free or gluten free. What the hell is wrong with wheat? It's not as if we kill anyone to eat wheat. And I bought eggos. Okay so I like eggos. The bagger was actually frowning at this. I want eggos sans commentary!
I happen to know the private number to some pretty important people at Trader Joe's. I called them and said -- help! I've been in Wisconsin two weeks now and I am running out of things to eat! Can you tell me please when your store is moving here? Last quarter of 2006?? I'll starve!
So Nina, when I heard you're moving in to these lofts, I thought: holy crap, I read her blog. I should mention, I have my own blog. In fact, you link to it. You shouldn't -- I'm sort of quitting writing.
...Sure you can hear the noise of your neighbors! But think of it -- you'll be walking distance to campus. You're downtown.
The brick dust? It's not really dust, it's grit. If you wipe it off the surfaces that abut the walls daily, you should be fine.
They're great lofts, they really are!
Maybe it's like New Yorkers listing faults with the city they love to hate and hate when others talk dismissively of it. Many here are actually from NY or the environs. Maybe after all the flecks of tar, the house centipedes, the brick dust get cleared up with the coming of winter, we'll find ourselves wishing there was something else to wail about. Because really, if you want a quiet ride, you can move to the suburbs. You will not be disappointed. Plenty of quiet there. Yawn.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I bought these dang blasted wire wracks at Home Dept after much contemplation and consideration of various other alternatives. Average shelves – white, laminated – you know the type: like you see in ads for California Closets.
I called Kevin, one of the former cabbies and he came over to the loft this afternoon.
No good, he tells me. Flimsy. And the wall is hollow. What do you expect to put on them anyway?
Well, foods and stuff. Pantry things. Vanilla, chocolate, Arborio rice.
Flimsy. Take them back.
This from a man who owns a junk shop on Willie Street and seems to hoard everything (rather than himself returning things at Home Depot).
Okay, fine. Where did I go wrong and what do I do now?
Go to the restaurant supply store off of Atwood (we’re talkin’ deep east side Madison here) and buy Metro line restaurant units. (He would say that, being himself a former restaurant cook.)
We went together and I was mesmerized by the place. I cannot believe I have never shopped here before! Oh, I cannot believe I have never entered these hallowed halls and lovingly caressed the likes of these:
The Metro shelving units were perfect. We lugged them back to the loft and he set to work showing me how they fit together.
A Madisonian, he was. New Age this and that, with politics to match the neighborhood he inhabits. As he packs up to go, I tell him that I cannot give him a ride back – I am already late in cooking dinner for the family back at the (suburban, unsold, okay, lay it on - headache of a) home.
No, no problem, he tells me. I like to walk. Besides, I have to stop at the Soap Opera.
It’s the only place in town that sells the Sandalwood soap I like. The one from France. I need to inhale its aroma to stay sound.
p.s. He loved the loft. The loft has bred no malcontents thus far. Yay loft.
Was there a rolled-up carpet precariously balanced on the back seat?
What the hell was that? A scrap of the Real Thing maybe?
What were you planning to do with it – put it by the door of your new loft?
…So that people with muddy shoes would know to take off their footwear as they enter and not soil the pristine white(-ish) carpet inside?
And you think this will do the trick?
Monday, August 15, 2005
My daughters are relentless, covering the west and east side of the isthmus in record time. We return home, then set out again in search of innovative food and drink. Late at night, I sit down to write, except I am so tired that I fall asleep at the computer.
To be happy. Where does this ephemeral state of contentment come from? Here’s one trick that always works: think back to the closest people in your life. Pick out the ones you can bounce words with in such a way that not only you, but all those sharing your space start to grin as well. The positive energy overwhelms the hour and suddenly the meal, the walk through a city, the pause over a cappuccino or a latte is filled with such joy that you completely forget about all the smoldering fires in the darker corners of your life.
My daughters belong to this select group of glorious word bouncers. When we set an hour into “play” mode, it is impossible not to succumb to joy. How could it be otherwise?
New York has SoHo, NoHo and TriBeCa. Until this day, I did not know Madison had its own: SoJo (South of Johnson).
Madison walk: it's all in the legs
Madison walk: is he mad? not likely. only a painter in Mad City.
Madison walk: competition for my own wild garden
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Last night, my east-coast residing daughters, home for a visit, were dazzled by the sunset. Though I sharpened the tones a little, I did not tamper with the colors themselves – the photos in the post below are quite authentic.
But it was also the clarity that they found so breathtakingly beautiful. Out east, the everpresent haze means that the sharp brilliance of the blue sky is a rare thing. More often, the sky hovers between a murky gray and a fuzzy slate blue.
Why should it matter? It’s only sky – nothingness filtered through ozone layers. Why be impressed by it? Why demand of it anything other than that it not deliver horrible damaging rain and sleet?
Like oceans and lakes, skies in their vastness have the power to set moods. Night stars, layers of storm clouds, clear days all provide contrasts that cause you to react. You cannot be indifferent to it. You confront it. And here, in Madison, there is much to react to. There’s a huge sky out there, there really is.
Sunday morning bike ride
Saturday, August 13, 2005
You will understand how impossibly packed this day was when I tell you that I was off of the Net from 6:30 am until my brief and inconsequential post in the late afternoon. Completely un-Nina like.
It was ye old Saturday filled with the predictable: the Market, the Goodwill, the furniture delivery and deliberations, etc. Oh, but how wonderful to have the Law School reunion continue right there in the loft! It is a given that people who were mutually supportive in early years would continue to lend a hand now. [Sometimes, in the past, you'd get so lost in the quagmire of home tasks, school tasks, little infant demands and everything in between that you would desperately want someone else to just decide for you on how to proceed. Today, I felt that way about the consequential task of placing a table in a good location.]
Running: chasing down the essentials. Elluding the rain. Wishing it would not come down so hard as to get everything wet in the car that was left with open windows.
But then, in the later afternoon my attention shifted with the arrival of my daughters.
And still, the running theme continues: Home, store, loft, and finally -- screw it all, let's go have our seared Ahi tuna, along with some potent colorful drinks at our favorite State Street drink generating place.
And there is always the poster boy for State Street spray painting to admire. And B & J ice cream to eat...
And driving home, the loud music and the loud voices and the setting sun that makes it that much more spectacular.
so matched to the Dar song playing on an old truck tape
It's just that the energy to create a story out of it all is ... significantly diminished.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Academics have a way of recalling their halcyon days of studenthood by coming together during annual professional meetings and clicking their cell phones like crazy to connect and reconnect, in various configurations and groups of past associates and long-time friends. All you need is your annual convention and a working cell phone and you are set.
Law school doesn’t offer the same opportunities. Oh, sure, there are more meetings than there are flakes of oats in a bowl of granola (I’m having a snack and my mind is wondering to the food in front of me) – ABA, AALS, L&S, various CLE’s – put together any permutation of letters in the alphabet and you’ve got yourself a legal meeting! And most are large, anonymous, with nary a soul from your law school cohort.
And it is a shame, because more likely than not, your law school pals will have formed a tight and enduring set.
My own consisted of 4. We were different from the rest. We had small children (both of my daughters were born when I was a law student; don’t asked me how I did it – call it the greatest endurance trip of all time, made possible by basically no sleep).
All but me left Madison. So I am the one who looks around and says oh this town is the same old same old, and they say (when they are back here) – Jesus, this place has changed (actually, they don’t say Jesus anything, they are as respectful of religion, as I am, except that this word serves like such a good exclamation point before a sentence so that I forget myself)!
Tonight they came back to Madison – some just for one night. It’s not really about catching up. It’s about being able to step back and redescribe yourself in a plausible way, without pity, without bragging.
They are slightly older than me, but they are patient with my jumps and leaps in life. We’ve played together, traveled together with and without our children, we’ve gone through periods of terrible illness and wonderful hope, we’ve all abandoned law firm jobs in favor of doing something different.
And really most importantly, we raised children. Our children were there, getting sick during our finals. They clung to us and we to them. It’s like “mommy, mommy do not leave me for that awful class!” “I have to go, dearest, besides, it’s not awful.” “You said it’s awful, you said! Besides, we are your children…” I wont even admit how many times they got me on that one, leaving me to chuck whatever unfulfilled obligation I had in favor of singing along to Ernie and Bert.
Today alone, a blogger packs up and leaves (amidst dust balls swirling in his now abandoned RV) and four law school friends stage a reunion (the last time we congregated was in the dusty desert of Arizona as described here), while tomorrow, daughters return home for a visit, and the loft takes in some basic indispensable objects-- all this as I wipe more brick dust from freshly painted banisters and shelves. Can’t live in the place without a table and a bed, can you?
I am focusing on loft details now. These are mostly noticable when you freshly inhabit a place. After a few months I wont even be aware of the interweaving of pipes and shafts. You take everything that is familiar and unchanging for granted. But today they make me pause and look up. I like what I see.I found a companion peeking 'round the banister. Must be one of the birds I wrote of in the previous post.
To listeners of people's stories, to those who turn you away from events you should ignore and nudge you toward good things: quaint noises of singing birds that totally lull and distract you -- this one's for you.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
It is not clear why I need to “tidy an apartment” that is brand new (though within a brand old structure). I do know that the giant brick wall let go of brick dust and so going over window frames seemed crucial to my future happiness.
I have never in my life moved to a brand new interior before.
And, it has been more than 30 years since I moved entirely by myself. It allows for a deliberateness and an indulgance too. I carry things slowly, pensively, thinking about what it is that I am bringing in to this new space. No clutter permitted.
A blurr of wiping, installing phones and other mechanical devices, wandering around the place, liking its emptiness.
In that 3-story structure there is an elevator and I was so grateful that the extent of my carrying things was from truck to elevator to door. Shoes off, keep the place neat. I’ll be asking people to take their own garbage out, I just know it. You, sir! You have been drinking diet soda! Take that bottle out of here! It is polluting the garbage can!
People on the top floor of the building (this includes me) have been noticing an occasional black flake on their floors. I thought it looked like flecks of old tar. So long as it is inorganic, you know, like not a corpse of a little bug or something, I hardly care. I live under old beams and high wooden ceilings. You would think old ceilings release a tantalizing clue about their past every now and then.
All surfaces cleaned. Should I attack my office now? No, for God’s sake, let me just lay off of all the cleaning! Between getting the house ready for showings and getting the new place ready for habitation, I feel like I should not lie, that I should boldly state “sanitizing and polishing” as my main extracurricular activity.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Oh lofty place, you are awesome! And you offer another approach to life.
I met a neighbor as I dragged in some boxes today (Tonya: first thing in – the sound system, just to irk you!). Alice (I’m all about pseudonyms), a loft-dweller herself, was on her way out and we went back to her unit to chat. A handful have been living here since the grand opening on August 1st. Her scoop:
Here’s the lowdown: we live in a stratified society and nowhere is it more evident than in this building. Upper level: mostly UW profs, moving to Madison from California, New York, Connecticut. Middle floor: professional grad students. Lower level: struggling grad students.
back entrance to three levels of warehouse living
We get together and we laugh a lot. They’re tracking my progress with a guy from match.com. It’s like a cheering squad. We toured each other’s units and bitched about how others have things that our own units lack. We compared shower curtains. We all really got into the loft idea. We got appliances to match the steel pipes. We want to feel urban.
The younger types [grad students] are straight out of dorms, you can tell. Like, one of them went around last night knocking on our doors. She was going to watch movies and wanted company. So sweet!
Come to a party this coming Tuesday. It’s for the lofters. It’s my birthday.
The place is a mix of construction workers and residents. Things aren’t quite done yet, but no one minds. There is a freshness to the building that goes beyond new construction. I remember when I lived in the suburbs (oh! I used the past tense!), people said that it takes a certain type to move to a cul-de-sac. My apartment wisdom is that it takes a certain type to pick a warehouse loft to live in.
still constructing (does the beard get in the way sometimes?)
I was glad I read up on urban spaces. I feel this loft will require a mindset in addition to pieces of furniture strategically placed in the cavernous spaces.
Yesterday, however, she really pushed me and tried hard to figure out if there maybe could be some small thing that she could note on my chart. I think she feels that it reflects poorly on her detection skills to put “perfect health,” especially since my first several dozen years of life were full of medical drama. How could it be that it all went away?
So she prodded me for more details.
Have you suffered a loss of appetite in the last year?
Nope – love to eat. [Doctors only pretend they want you to stay slim; once you’re at some lower weight level, they needle you about it all the time. The message is always clear: if you’re a normal human being, you should be getting fat! What the hell is wrong with you? You’re against candy bars and the sedentary life style? What kind of a freak are you anyway?]
Do you get tired during the day?
Are you at all depressed? Would you like to see a counselor or are you just relying on friends with life’s issues?
Friends. Besides, I’m hearty Polish peasant stock. We don’t acknowledge depressive states. We go out and till the fields when the going gets tough.
Ah! It says on your chart that you had a bike accident in June. Any aftermath?
Well, the sprain in the thumb never totally healed because I use the hand so much…
Let me take a look…Still swollen! You need hand therapy! I have just the referral for you. Next week I want you to go to the Hand Clinic at UW Hospitals.
The Hand Clinic? There is a Hand Clinic? I have a slightly swollen thumb joint and I have to go to the Hand Clinic for therapy? People have psychiatrists, neurologists, cardiologist and I have a hand doctor? How awkward is that?
I detected a smug little look of satisfaction in my her eye as she scribbled out the referral.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
[The suburban house where I am currently living is not quite sold yet, but one needs to secure new shelter in this town fast if one is fussy about one’s spaces.]
To me, a loft is the epitome of urban living and I am aiming to put urban-ness into the interior of the apartment. On my way to a seminar today, I stopped at the bookstore to leaf through magazines on urban spaces (which are, BTW, outnumbered 10 to 1 by magazines urging you to go country or at least cottagey), just so I wouldn’t make some major errors in the way I created lofty urban-ness. I like the idea of pipes and bricks and beams running every which way in the loft and I want to do right by them.
So engrossing was this project that I never noticed the time and I missed the seminar completely. Sorry, seminar.
It has been a while since I have moved (and officially I will not change residences until September 1st). Decades ago I would make arrangements weeks in advance of a move to get phone service started. Today I am worrying that access to the Internet will be uninterrupted for me. Phones? I don’t even know what people do about getting a number in the new place. Everyone I ask tells me they no longer use “land” service. Land service. How quaint. I need land service! What if my Internet breaks down and I need dial-up?!
And ordering things on line. Does anyone even go to stores these days? Mr. B and I are chasing around town thinking we are one up on everyone. We’re doing it right. We go, I buy, we leave. That’s what’s supposed to happen, correct? No! all I see is store-people bringing up screens on computers, informing me that the floor samples are just fluff and decoration, the real stuff being on line. And no, nothing can be carted home. So, can I have it delivered by this week-end? I ask this with my very best smile, the one reserved for judges and important people.
Stunned silence. I mean, the clerks can't recover from the incredulity and shock of the request. We regret to inform you that it all comes from small islands in the middle of the Pacific and the next boat is expected to dock and pick up the stuff on November 28th. If the weather holds. You can expect delivery in 36 weeks. Next time I'll stay home. At least there are blogs to read in moments of great frustration with the world.
Lofts have great heights, and a wonderful expansiveness. I’m hoping to feel the waves of euphoria and bliss from all sides and corners, sweeping over me soon, very soon. I am hopin'! Along with Internet service. It has been confirmed: I cannot live without NinaNet.
Monday, August 08, 2005
jeffery, jlp, oscar, earthgirl, andrew, kerry, bert and dear dear old brando* and all you food/travel lovin’ readers, this one’s for you!
So where am I and what am I doing?
No kidding: I am right here in Madison. There is a Polish deli in this town, in a yuppified strip mall. It is so wrong for so many reasons but there you have it. Each time I enter (all of two times thus far), it is completely empty. I should buy something, I should! But the selections are too…. Polish.
yum! sour cucumber puree!
they (I cannot align myself with my homeland here) cannot live without this stuff
Alex owns the place and he was there today when I poked in. I want to refer all lonely people in Madison to his store immediately. The man is a talker! So Polish it hurts. It is one long sentence, sort of like this one which you cannot interrupt because it is joined together to form a whole and if you jump in and say something like I really must get going then you appear totally rude and like you’re really not listening to any of it and so what’s the point…
I just want to note that Polish people really are rotten spellers (in foreign to them languages) because we have a basically phonetic approach to words. A spelling bee would be a joke! How do you spell szczypiorek? What, you’re kidding, right? There is only one possible way: szczypiorek (meaning: chives). Try not to make fun, therefore, when you see signs in the store that seem somehow off. We are not trained to find fault with something like this:
Alex, the highlander (the moustache says it all). He hasn’t been back to Poland for a while, but on the counter he keeps a picture of his old highland home. Next to it is a cheap replica of the Statue of Liberty. Behind it? A portrait of the pope. No, not the new one. The real pope. All we need is a fake-autographed photo of George W. Bush and I'd feel like I entered a place straight out of the Chicago Polish community.
"When I lived in New Jersey, I wanted to get a degree at Princeton, but it's all about money here. I settled for menial work. It's okay, it's okay. It's the American way."