I’ll be back!

The other night, I couldn’t fall asleep because of sirens and a constantly circling Foxtrot helicopter. In New York, I can’t see or recognize sounds coming from the air but here it’s easy. And it was so close and so relentless that I began to wonder if there was a fugitive hiding out in my house. Naturally, I checked Twitter and saw that the Baltimore Police were reporting a murder about seven blocks from me.

My niece and I were talking about this just last week, how in this city there are no buffer zones and you will have a great street right next to a scary-terrible block. And earlier that very day, my neighbor and I were talking about what am amazing block this is and how many people who grew up here ended up buying homes and moving back with their families. It was a strange juxtaposition.

But in packing up to leave, I’d like to focus on the awesome stuff, which I’ve described so much that I won’t re-hash. Instead, I’ll post this picture of just some of the delights of Baltimore which I will miss. Mmmm.


PS, I swear paint colors are coming soon; I’ve just been enjoying the weather too much!

Winding down

I’m sitting out on the deck, partially because it’s amazingly good weather and partially because something about sitting outside makes me want to write in the same way that sitting on the sofa makes me want to read. And I knew I really should be writing. Sitting a few feet from me is my brand new Off Lantern and I truly hope this is going to work because if I get bitten up once again, I think I will be reverting to my indoor ways. I find, as I imagined, that I spend a lot more time indoors here because I really walk nowhere. I have even given up on my strategy of parking far away from the mammoth stores at which I shop and now get myself as close as possible with my poor parking skills.

This has been the longest stretch of time that I’ve been here and as real life (i.e. the school year) approaches, I find myself in disbelief that I’ll be leaving and only coming back sometimes. And that the house is still mostly undecorated. But that’s OK, because I wanted a relaxing summer and I’ve had one. I’ve seen movies, gone to baseball games, visited with friends and local relatives, and just enjoyed hanging around in the central air-conditioned, light-filled wonderland that is this house.

I do have most of the colors picked out and when I am not so chill (despite the fact that the guy next door has just begun mowing his lawn), I will post the color swatches next to each room. I owe a kind of debt to all the decorating blogs that have included pictures of what paint colors look like on real walls that I am determined to do that myself. But for now, with the house still being builder’s beige, the swatches will have to do.

In the meantime, I have the rhythm of living here down. I get my trash out in time, I park in the right place on my street, I can get basic places without GPS (and find my way when I inevitably get lost), and I have found both the local Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods as well as the independent coffee bar, bakery, and gourmet food store. Oh, and the farmer’s market, which is awesome and on Tuesday evenings so I don’t have to get up early. But, in fact, I do get up early. Every day and naturally. I think it’s because of the light. I have no shades or curtains yet in my room (they were chosen, if you recall, but I figured I’d wait till the paint was up) and while I don’t wake up at sunrise, I am up every day at 8ish, rain or shine. This makes me realize how very cavelike my existence is in New York. In fact, I don’t miss New York at all, but I would if I lived here all the time. So I’m glad I have both and I’m glad I have had this lovely summer, which, despite all the commercials, isn’t quite over yet.

Here’s hoping your summer has been great, too, and that the final weeks will be just as good.

Stunningly beautiful Baltimore, MD

Ah, vacation. Today I saw a matinee at the Charles Theater, an art house in which I haven’t set foot since the first Bush administration. New discovery: you can park across the street for $2! The title of this post is how the Charles describes their location on their website, which I find awesome.

Not much more to report, except a bit more furniture. I can finally see my TV at eye level! Some of the newscasters on local TV are the same ones from twenty years, which amazes me.

You may have heard there is a lot of violence this summer in Baltimore, and there has been. And that it is a dangerous city, which it is. But it’s also a very segregated city both by race and by class. In most of the city, you would not even know that this other Baltimore exists. And maybe vice versa, I don’t know. It’s an odd thing.

I worked hard to find a neighborhood that was integrated and mine is. It is also quiet and friendly and tight-knit. But I still have a good alarm system. I set it off accidentally more than I should, but it is good. And I still think the city is stunningly beautiful.

Baby, it’s hot outside

It’s close to 100 degrees here today and is supposed to be all week. Officially, that’s called a heatwave but is more familiarly known as “Baltimore in the summer.” I haven’t been out today and am majorly enjoying the comfort of central air-conditioning. This was the answer that I gave people who asked me what I was thinking spending summers someplace even hotter and more humid than my regular residence: central air. In my apartment in Manhattan there are two through-the-wall units, one for the bedroom and one in the living room for the rest of the apartment. This means that at night, I either listen to the roar of a jet engine feet from my head or swelter. Daytime is better but still “turn the TV up” loud and spotty as to area. But here, everywhere is cool and fairly quiet. Upstairs is warmer than downstairs but still good at the right thermostat setting, plus I’m mostly up there at night when it’s cooler, anyway.

Another reason I’m home is that my car is in the shop. Yes! Already! I parked it at the train station while on a short trip home and came back to a huge dent in the driver side fender and a door that made crunching sounds when it opened. This car is three weeks old. They gave me a rental but you know what? I want my car. Plus, did I mention? It’s hot out. But this will cost me $250 for… nothing. To make the car look like it did a week ago. And I’m lucky, because Maryland considers a hit and run an “uninsured driver” issue, so my deductible is lower. Otherwise, it might have cost me a thousand dollars for nothing. I know: welcome to car ownership. I also noticed this when I went to fill up this week and the prices had jumped 20 cents a gallon in the past week.

In other news:

My ant problem seems to be totally gone! Hurrah! Instead, I have a leak in the pipe under the basement sink so that there is a small flood when I do laundry. But I am too happy doing laundry without waiting for a machine to care. No, no, I do care. I need to get a plumber in at some point.

Before the heatwave, I had a lovely evening out on the deck which has a built in bench-with-back, surfing the web, which for the first time in a while had a good signal (don’t get me started on the miserable Internet in Baltimore in general and this neighborhood specifically). The mosquitos also had a great time, unfortunately.

Even before that, when the trash pickup was rescheduled due to July 4th, I actually chased the sanitation truck down the street with my can. I guess they came early because they had all that make-up trash to pick up, but I was leaving for New York and could not have my trash sit for two+ weeks. But it had a happy ending and they accepted my trash. Phew. Trash is one of those things, needless to say, which is SO different with houses. With an apartment, you can get it out of your home at any time and never worry about it again. Here, I get one day a week and if I am not around, I am screwed. During the year, when I am generally only here on weekends, I have to take it to Penn Station and dump it there. Luckily, no one seems to blink at big bags of garbage being deposited in a train station.

Furniture update: I have mostly decided what I am doing, it just needs to arrive. Some is from my Dad’s place so that might be a while. I may buy cheap substitutes from Ikea in the meantime, the meantime being until his apartment sells, as some is part of the “staging” for prospective buyers. Some is from Ikea and has to be ordered, as it’s not available at the local store, which is quite small by Ikea standards, I’ve discovered. Some I will tote in my car, mostly because I have a coupon which can’t be used online.

I also have the general colors of each room down, I just need to find the right shades which will be excruciating, but compared to problems you could have, is pretty low on the scale. Thank you for your patience with lack of pictures.

In the last bit of news, my friend Alfa came down to visit this past weekend and I showed her only 50% of what I could have and yet it was still awesome. and delicious. We even saw Hamsterdam. If you would like a similar tour and can put up with a curtainless room and an outdoor “real feel” temperature of 105, come on down! Or up! Or east!

Early summer diary

What I get when I go to Google Maps.

What I get when I go to Google Maps. No need to correct it.

I realized after the last post that it was exactly one year since I made my first trip down here to house hunt. Amazing to think that a year later, here I am in my house. I mean, that was the plan, but it was a much longer journey than I thought it would be. How did I come to remember? I was watching the evening news and they remarked on how temperate it was when a year previously on that date, it had been the first heat wave of the year and reached 100 degrees. And I remember how I came down on a hundred degree day and my agent and I could barely stand to get out of the air-conditioned car. When I checked my records, sure enough, it had been the first day of summer.

Anyway, some notes that I have been keeping in my mental notebook, working backwards…

1. Today, I did the first load of laundry! Clean laundry from my own place! It was actually slightly less wonderful than it sounds. First, the washer and dryer came with two different sets of delivery people. Each one had to take off my door and then the railing to my basement stairs. One actually rolled the old one down the hill with a push. Now that they’re all in, they make weird noises and exist in my basement, which has no super, just me. So it is filled with spiderwebs, insects, and assorted drops of stuff that I don’t know or want to guess what they are. Still, clean clothes without having to run into anyone!

(This was where I was going to post before and after pictures of my scummy washer and dryer with my new shiny ones, but the basement, if anything, somehow looks worse. So imagine shiny new appliances in this space).

2. I have air conditioning! This involved a repairman who almost didn’t show up but when I demanded it, he finally came, two barefoot little girls in tow. I gave them ice cream and chatted with them while he ran around fixing my A/C. He did find time to tell me that a man of his age (45) should not go marrying a young (now 28) woman who wanted children and what had he been thinking? But, cool air!

3. While at K-Mart last week, I had an epiphany. No one in Baltimore walks around in stores wearing headphones the way they do in NY. Why? You drove there and had music in your car. Why would you put them on to walk into a store? In NYC, I rarely shop without headphones. Shopping in silence is weird.

But also, I just have to say again, that life here, compared to there, is so easy! You need stuff, you get right into your car and drive there. You fill up your car. There is no walking from place to place, up and down stairs, with heavy bags. Then you come home and there is actually space to put things without reorganizing an entire cabinet, should you still have one where things will fit. When people would tell me that life in NY is hard, I would scoff. Now I really get it. It is hard.

4. Speaking of driving, I got hooked up with a parking space near Penn Station and went down to park there before my trip home last week. I got there early, just in case there was an issue and… I don’t know what to say. I wish I had a picture. It was on a hill with a sharp angle, such that the left side of your car was way lower than the right side. The entrance was between two telephone poles with little margin for error. The line of cars was about one car length distance from the other. I tried three times to get into this space but could not, and even those tries made me panicked that my car was about to roll over. So, no space at Penn Station. I’ll have to keep looking. Otherwise, it’s $35 in cab fares every time I come down; this the price of choosing the house near the park and not the one near the bus route.

(I ended up parking in the Penn Station lot – $45 for a week, ugh).

5. You know what I haven’t done? Go downtown. I mostly stay up here and shop: groceries, stuff for the house, etc. I need to do that soon. Next week I’ll be back in New York for some medical things, but after that, I’ll be here for most of the rest of the summer.

6. Lastly, I may be changing the color of the bedroom. Stay tuned…

How the main half lives

Oh my, so much to talk about, I don’t know if I’ll get to everything. I’m at the house now, in my living room, procrastinating on cooking dinner. This is the point in Manhattan where I’d call for delivery but that is not how it goes here, so I will eventually have to create a meal of some sort. Later!

I got here this past weekend with EXTREMELY helpful friends who fixed a number of things, some of which I didn’t even know needed fixing, and sorted out some other problems. I also have a to-do list of people I must call, some of whom I have already. An exterminator already came and it would seem that the ants have colonized my whole place. They are running rampant around the perimeter so he is going to power-spray and says that if I see even one ant a week after that happens, I must call him. Which is good, because an ant just walked across the power brick of this computer.

I also called an HVAC person because my A/C is decidedly uncool, and not in the way I was in high school. But he is booked all week and so can’t come till Monday. He also has to perform maintenance on my furnace. Is there anything in this world that just lasts without being maintained? I need to find it.

Not to bore you all too much further but there also needs to be a plumber and an electrician. I think they should all come the same day and we can have a service person party! I will serve cake in the shape of a hot water heater.

Other fun things this week: I discovered that the tub of my washing machine is yellow and the other innards are quite gross looking. So as I suspected, I needed to get a new one, and a dryer, too, for good measure. I bought those today at Lowe’s and I had to speak to several specialists and sign tons of papers. I had no idea it was like this. Weird.

And: I woke up drowsily one morning, went downstairs, opened a window (remember, my A/C is barely functional), and was greeted by a screaming siren. Oops, I forgot to disarm my alarm system. I am so used to doing that with a door and then it just clicks at you until you put in your code (you get 30 seconds). I guess with a window you don’t get that courtesy. That thing is LOUD. I dashed to the panel and could barely make my fingers work to disarm. I had to sit for several minutes after that while my heart slowly stopped thudding.


I saved the best thing for last, though: I HAVE A CAR! For those of you who have driven your entire adult lives, this may not sound that exciting or earth-shattering, but it’s impossible to state how surreal it is for me. I have lived my entire life without one, taking subways and other transport everywhere I go. The idea of bringing more than you can carry, going to any store without thought of a transit map, leaving your destination when you feel like it and not on anyone else’s schedule is just… bizarre. I don’t even know how to articulate how strange it is. It may be the oddest paradigm shift since I changed careers.

The salesguy kept asking me during the test drive “how it feels.” I didn’t know how to answer that question. Not like a bus?

A car-interested friend helped me negotiate the car purchasing landscape, which was great of him and totally necessary. The first dealership I went to was pretty much that whole high pressure/slick/smarmy stereotype I’ve been hearing about forever. The second was WAY better and much more no-nonsense. The hardest part of the actual process at the second place was them trying to pair my phone with the Bluetooth in the car, which just did not want to happen. It took over an hour! Then I drove away and went shopping all day. I still can’t really accept that this is my car, quite frankly. I can see it out my window but I’m not sure when I’ll ever be convinced that it’s mine. Maybe never, because it’s a lease, so technically it isn’t mine, but you get me.

I got a Honda Civic in the end. I wanted all the colors of car they only have in Hybrid. I guess people who are saving the earth deserve better colors. I can see that. It’s across the street right now because the people next door are parked in front of my house, as they have taken advantage of the fact that for the last two years they could park in the spot that should now be mine. They said they would move it when I got a car. Let’s see how long it takes them to figure it out.

There it is! That one. Behind the tree. Across the street. The Sweet-Tea-Mobile.


Last week in New York

Yesterday, I got a text, “Becca, I will be mowing your lawn today.” How awesome is that?

This weekend, I leave for Baltimore “for the summer.” I say that because I am coming home in less than two weeks to work on a grant with some other teachers. And then two weeks after that for some medical things and then two weeks after that for professional development. And then the summer is nearly over. What happened to my summer away?

Nonetheless, I am stressed over packing. What do you pack to be away in your own house? Should I leave things there? If I leave things there, I feel like those will be the things I will want to use later in New York. This is the way I think. Maybe I should just pretend I’m going away for two weeks to someplace with a washing machine (at least, one which kind of works). And a television. I bought one last Black Friday thinking I might one day have a house in which to put it. Now I do, although I gave up finding an attractive corner stand. Do people not put their televisions in the corner anymore?

Also, I am attempting to live without cable, so there will just be an Apple TV and a radio and lots of books. This is how I imagine life in a vacation house.

But back to packing, which I should be doing rather than blogging. I am counting on the fact that it will be 95 degrees every day, like the summers I remember. So, maybe lots of t-shirts and one sweater? And a bag of Zabar’s coffee beans. And books. Done.

More fun than a barrel of ants

Oh my gosh, the things you can get done without doing much done at all. I was under the weather this weekend and so spent the time lollygagging about. But! Here’s what was accomplished:

1. My lawn got mowed! And will continue to get mowed all summer. I met someone right here on the Interwebs who knew someone who came with a friend and several pieces of serious equipment and yadda yadda yadda, my lawn looks great. It was funny to hear the sound of lawnmowers pertaining to my own home. It’s been a good, long time.

2. The sofa is here! It felt kind of like marrying someone just before they ship off for two months and then kind of forgetting what they looked like or why you committed to them. But it looks awesome and super with the chair. I also have a chair from my Dad’s that I hope will work but we’ll see. I lay around on it, just to test the comfiness, and I give it five Andy Capps for comfort.

Oh, and while I am posting pictures, here’s one of the bedroom chair next to the old and new paint. Nice, right?

3. I tried Peapod for the first time for car-free groceries and it went swimmingly. Or rather, cookingly. Yes, I cooked in my own home, which I had never done before. While at my sink, I waved across at my neighbor, which brings me to

4. I met my neighbor. Well, I had met her husband but he is not a big talker and she is, well, more so. They have two daughters who are either teens or young adults but I am not sure because she kind of said both. Maybe one is a teen and one just graduated from college? Hm. But that’s OK because she made the assumption that I was from Baltimore and had just moved to New York temporarily, and I did not correct her. That’s how wacky sitcoms start, I know.

Anyway, she told me lots of interesting things including:

a. Her husband built my kitchen! Good thing I didn’t insult it. I sure hope she doesn’t read this blog.
b. The guy on the other side of her, who I already described as off-kilter, is nuts and should never be allowed in my home.
c. The nutty guy built my deck – but she said it was solid. One hopes.
d. She grew up on the street, her parents are original owners from the 40’s, and then she bought a house there, too.
e. The people before me, who I thought had been kicked out due to foreclosure, actually moved abroad and I guess the foreclosure happened after it went over a year without selling.

All in all, really interesting.

5. I met the UPS guy, who brought me these:

Something I can honestly tell you I have never purchased in my life. Of course, it was 60 degrees this weekend, so I did not need them just yet.

On the bad side, I have an ant problem to the point where I stupidly left a ziploc with some crumbs on it out for an hour and when I came back there was a SWARM of insects. I called the exterminator but they did not answer. It was a holiday, I guess. But this has to be taken care of, because the cooking prep work is seriously hampered by trying to avoid living creatures whilst doing it.

But something I pondered while relaxing this weekend is why a vacation house seems so much more vacation-like than a stay-cation in your regular home, and I think it’s really that whole “getting away” piece, as obvious as it sounds. Being in different scenery, even if it’s your own bed in your own house, just makes you feel so much further away from your regular life. I really hope that never changes.

Things I am most looking forward to: a shortlist

1. Being able to open my window without smelling incense and/or cigarette smoke.

2. Not tripping over piles of stuff there is no room for.

3. Doing laundry in my pajamas and without running into anyone.

Less than a month now!

By the way, there is now a contact form over there on the left, in case you would like to contact me. Despite #3, I do like people!