Friday, August 24, 2007

On [Having Left Boston] - part 2

Jack is adjusting to the move better than either of us. He loves my mom’s big house and big yard and the extra attention from nana and papa. Ed and I are doing our best to get our classes planned and deal with all those boring details that come with moving across the country- like opening new bank accounts and finding a place to live. Done and Done. Now we just have to wait until the 6th of September for Door-to-Door storage to put our pods in front of our apartment building. Better the 6th than the 16th. And better Door-to-Door than A&G Vanlines, better known as fuck-you-up-so-much-you can’t breathe-because you have to choose between buying something to sit on or eat- movers.

One of the ways we know that Jack is adjusting so well is that his imagination is alive and well. He is constantly having conversations with any object – from the more obvious fisher price toys to the less obvious cell phone holders that have hands and feet (yes, they look like you imagine). He also loves playing with our cell phones, like any preschooler must these days. Jack’s favorite cell phone discussion mimics one he’s heard again and again.

“Hewo. Yah. I’m lost.”

Or, he plays the person on the other end.

(Hands pretending to type on a computer) “Okay, you turn right, then right then go stwait.”

You see, he’s acting out the majority of the phone conversations between Ed & me in Boston, which involved me, calling Ed from left-of-what-feels like-nowhere outside of Quincy, ready to personally embalm the lazy craps who decided that cow paths ARE a good way to plan city streets. When the phone rings, and Ed knows I’m somewhere new in the Boston area, he sits down at the computer, gets google maps up and ready, and answers, bracing for my Medusa tone. Jack has witnessed both ends of these conversations many, many times. Plus the ones where we are ALL in the car, when suddenly the tone shifts from chatty to silent and “what street was that?” mumblings. If the car ever gets too quietly tense, Jack immediately asks, “are we lost?”

I blame Boston. I’ve blamed Boston for the lost feeling ever since the day we moved. Driving in Boston and the greater Boston area is the most frustrating experience I’ve ever had. I cannot think of anything else that causes my blood pressure to rise faster – I lose all patience and turn into my evil twin. I wish I could show you what its like to drive there (though not with me), but the best way to explain it is to wake up early tomorrow morning, walk outside and look for a spider web. No, not the new, clean crisp one spun between your front porch post and roof, basking in the suns rays which reflect the glistening dew on the perfectly straight web lines. Turn your head to the one hanging off the side of the bush, half broken, hidden from the sun, where very few of the strands are touching and one or two three-day old flies are pulling on the few stands holding the web to the dark bush. Now, imagine that web on a map, that it’s the roads to a major U.S. city. That’s Boston.

It took me 18 of the 24 months that we lived in the Hub to realize why it’s called the Hub. All the roads circle around the center of the city. It’s why you can be driving on highway 95 and you will see two signs telling you which way you are headed: 95 South AND 93 North. (WHAT?!) Because 95/93 circles around the city, if you are headed north, eventually, you will also be heading south.

Before we moved back, all I could think about was how wonderful it would be to get on a road and know which way I was heading. Straight north or south. And, the ocean West, mountains East.

But, about two months ago, I realized that I was a big fat wuss. If I had just a bit more patience, I would have seen that the road system in Boston was, in fact, interesting. This came me after talking with a colleague about how writing is like walking through a labyrinth- where you walk a long distance in order to get to the center, but unlike a maze, the center is only part of the journey – you can be far away from your destination, or next to it, but all aspects of the labyrinth walk are just as crucial as the destination. All this time I’d treated driving in Boston like a maze, as if the roads were working to keep me from my destination. When, in fact, they were beckoning me to understand something more complex.

When I flew back for my second interview and was driving along I5 North, I realized that the difference between driving in Seattle and Boston is the difference between reading Dr. Seuss and Samuel Beckett. One is simple, easy to memorize, comfortable and, somewhat repetitive. The other is complex, hard to follow, and, for quite a while, frustrating, yet compelling. And, Beckett, like Boston roads, when you only start to think you might just get where you’re going with it, you get an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and feel, well, smart. I could extend the reading metaphor into how all the roads that don’t connect are like stilted prose that is woven throughout a deceptively focused play, but then I would sound like a reading and writing teacher, and I’m not paid to do that until September 17.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tacoma Transistions

I'm sitting at my mom's computer in Tacoma while Jack's reaching into the candy bowl tellng me he's too full for lunch (at 9:05 AM) - which makes sense only because I just told him we'll share my dark chocolate candy bar after lunch. To be clear, "full" means healthy food "full." His chocolate stomach, much like my day today, is wide open.

Jack & I landed in SeaTac last Tuesday night after a perfect flight. The last week has been mostly about trying to finish up my online class - which consisted of choosing between work and sleep. Sleep usually won out. But, now, my class is over and I feel fully planted in the Pacific Northwest.

Last week was also about looking for places to live in West Seattle. It boils down to paying a bit less for a smaller apartment or quite a bit more for a decent home in a decent neighborhood. I'm waiting for Ed to help make the decisions.

Ed gets in town tonight- he's been driving across the country with his brother and 11 year old nephew. The last two days he's talked, his voice had the slightest hint of tension- kind of like we were talking right before the Titanic went under. I can't imagine spending the entire day in the car, let alone three days in a row (the second and third days they stopped early to visit friends and family).

So far the move back has been the complete opposite of the move to Boston. No major surprises (like crazy devil movers). Things seem a little smaller here, even West Seattle. Maybe that's the comfortability factor.

Jack found a cookie. Probably should deal with that....

Nah. It's Nana's house.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On Leaving Boston - Part 1

I don’t recommend moving across the country. I don’t recommend doing it twice. And I definitely don’t recommend doing it twice in two years.

It’s hard to be reflective when faced with the overwhelming moving task list. But, I’d like to get something down about Boston before we leave Boston. I’m sure I’ll get back to Seattle and have all sorts of romantic feelings about the Hub, but it’s hard to channel those when I’m sitting literally in the middle of a two stacks of boxes- packed and unpacked. And, let me tell you, the unpacked boxes have a menacing look about them.

Ed’s better at lists, so I’ll let him brainstorm all the good things about living in Boston. For me, there are three distinct reasons I will have a hard time leaving. The first is Halloween, the second is (surprisingly) the roads, and the third is harder to explain, but it is intimately connected with some ancestor who braved the trek out of the familiar. I’ll try and explain Halloween; bear with me.

Meet Me in St. Louis is one of those comfort movies that I could watch and know I’ll feel better. It’s a musical with Judy Garland, so Ed –despite his best efforts—can’t quite get into it, so I haven’t seen it in a few years. It takes place at the turn of the century and captures the nostalgic romance of rich white folk in a way that only MGM could produce. The houses are huge, all classes of folk seem to intermingle well enough, and the food is always homemade, setting the background to lovely unselfconscious family gatherings. While I’m smart enough to know that such an atmosphere is contrived, I was impressionable enough when I watched it for the first time that the mood of the film somehow found its way into my “home” ideals- you know those semi-conscious images and moods we associate with “home.”

Halloween is part of the film’s atmosphere. It’s the best kind of Halloween; everyone dresses up and the children—those under 10—are out about on their own AT NIGHT (because it’s safe and because they don’t have the burden of being raise in today’s world where every moment must be either supervised or planned) making bonfires and figuring out ways to really get scared. Like knocking on the door of some dark house owned by the neighborhood curmudgeon. And the weather is clearly Autumn. The kind of Autumn we know it should be. Crisp without being cold, and colorful.

Boston Halloweens feel like the Meet Me in St. Louis Halloween. For the last two years, we’ve dressed Jack up and walked all of the three blocks around our neighborhood to trick or treat. This takes nearly two hours. Nearly every house is decorated to the nines with jack-o-lanterns, skulls, tombstones, etc. And, all the kids come out. It was not unusual for Jack and me to wait for 10 other kids before getting to the door. Many of the homeowners have been in the neighborhood as long as our landlord—who was born and raised in the same house he owns today (where we live on the first floor). So, there’s this familiarity about the neighborhood, even if it’s your first walk for treats. We’d run into kids and parents we hadn’t seen since the last hot, humid day in August when everyone is outside looking to cool off and talk about how nice the weather is-how crazy it is that it is still 70 degrees so late in the year. Did I mention the colors? Before the sun goes down, 95% of the trees are still holding onto their rich ruby, terra cotta, and yellow leaves, giving the entire city a deep glow of warmth which follows every toddler home to sort out their candy.

Like the family in Meet Me in St. Louis, Boston is unselfconscious yet proud. Most homes decorate every holiday. Lights are up at Christmas, jack-o-lanterns are lit at Halloween, and flags come out on the 4th of July, no matter what your political point of view. I don’t know if it’s because the neighborhoods distinct with class or race or culture are right around the corner from another that causes a general comfort for anyone (despite a subtle if present racism), or if it’s the fact that tradition has had a lot longer to establish itself, but I wonder if future Halloweens can ever live up to the ideal realized here in Boston.

Monday, August 06, 2007

When it rains, it pours

One thing I will not miss about the East Coast is getting caught outside in a downpour - which happened eariler today. Yes, yes, my fault, should've paid more attention to those weather forecasts that said it would rain later in the day. But the rain is different here - Boston gets more inches of rain per year than Seattle (I know, I wouldn't have guessed it either). But the rain is compressed into fewer days, so when it pours. (We have a blog-entry-title!)

Still, isn't running-in-the-rain one of those things you see on those "things-I-want-to-do-before-I-die" kind of things....yes?

Maybe not. I'm soaked.

Had my end the term meeting with Dr. T. this morning to discuss my students grades and participation in ED 500. Dr. T. is a true southerner (he's from North Carolina) and likes to tell stories more than discuss if Emily W. deserves an A for participation in the course. He's a geniunely nice person and all, but there were times this morning I honestly thought, as Dr. T. continued on about another story, "wait a minute, how'd we get on this?" Still, most TA's put up with his stories because he's very good at what he does (teaches undergraduates and grad students how to be teachers). I wish I had taken his class back in my teacher-training days at Western.

Our meeting wrapped up and he asked for my key to the TA office - hard to believe I was just starting this Teaching Fellowship and now it's over.

So our biggest dilemma at the moment is - how do we transport the cats? And in the Grand Scheme of Things, "transporting the cats" is fairly small. I drove out the airport to try and buy a cat carrier from JetBlue. This airline had some pretty specific criteria for its cat carriers, their website said you can buy them at a Jetblue ticket counter, so off I went to Logan. I got to the counter and asked "Dave" if he had cat carriers. I think he misunderstood me because he gave me a look like I had asked, "do you have a banana sandwich?" He said he'd go check in the back and disappeared in the back (where does that go to by the way?) He came back - nothing. I asked if there was someone he could call, I mean, I mentioned politely, are there no cat carriers in the entire airport? Dave mentioned he'd go check by the gates and off he went. I waited. Of course, ten minutes later, he reappeared - still nothing.

"Sorry. We don't have any." said Dave, in a matter-of-fact, that-was-it-sort-of-a-way.

"Ok." I said. "You're website said I could purchase these Today. My wife and 3-year old are flying out Tuesday....with the cat. Any chance we can get a carrier here?"

Dave said he could talk to a manager and order a carrier - hopefully to arrive sometime later in the week. Now we're brainstorming! - I thought.

So I'll be driving back to Logan later in the week. Hopefully Dave will have ordered a carrier.

Alaska Airlines has an "Animal Express" that I just looked up and found. I'll call on that tomorrow. If both cats could fly on that - well, that would be just too perfect, now, wouldn't it?

Friday, August 03, 2007

First Synonym

Last night, over dinner, Jack casually asked:

"Will that man be pissed?"

He was referring to the guy that I called back to let know that we had already sold our air contidtioners to someone else.

Ed & I looked at each other and weren't sure if we'd heard correctly.

"What did you say?" I asked as if I didn't hear.

"Will that man be pissed?"

"Sorry, Jack, what did you say?"

Jack rolled his eyes and asked, "Will that man be MAD?" as if I was an idiot for not knowing what "pissed" meant.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

And Baby Makes Crazy

This morning I had a blog topic all ready to go, AND I even figured out a way to seemlessly transition into the fact that Jack can carry around an extra four pounds of urine in his diaper every morning without caring, thus leading me to the conclusion that there just might be the chance that he'll be the first kindergartener ever who isn't potty trained.

But, after dealing with cat carriers approved for the flight, city hall phone trees to find out about permits for our moving containers, not to mention the ongoing flaky folks emailing about how they actually aren't going to come by this morning to pick up that piece of furniture we're selling despite the fact that I neglected my weighted-down-with-urine preschooler to clean our kitchen, I have *surprisingly* forgotten what was no doubt a BRILLIANT post.

Last night Ed mentioned that we should have a second kid. To be clear, the mere suggestion of getting pregnant for me is akin to a heroine addict being told there's a secret stash of dope in the back room. Don't tell me unless you mean it. My darwinian forces are stronger than logic. Maybe it's habit; seems we can't just do ONE stressful thing in our lives; we always need to mix it up a bit. New job? Bah- been doing that for the last four years. New home in a new city? PA-Lease. Ed will be writing his dissertation this next year, so that's new. But, just for fun, why NOT get pregnant? And Ed was thinking all this despite the fact that he'd just talked with our friends last night who admited to being a bit "jaded" with the two-kid parent life.

My sister is also feeling the urge to produce another offspring. And while both her an my mom would no doubt pray for my very soul at the thought that the urges are anyway related to the biological need to evolve the species forward, something is in the air. I need to remember the 6-month long nausea, the exhaustion (that didn't go away), and the fact that we're rocking Jack's world quite enough as it is.

It will be interesting to see what we decide. In the meantime, thinking about bringing another life into the world is a relatively less stressful way to pass the time than all the ENDLESS stuff associated with moving across the country.