Archive for September, 2006

Odyssey 2006 Day 5

Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario: We left Lodi and wove our way north parallel to another of the Finger Lakes. We had to pull over twice, once to have a panicked car-check and then a quiet moment of mourning when we realized that we’d left the almond cake “to go” at our friends’ house, then again when we failed to intersect with the interstate. As we were hovering on the shoulder of a rural highway, map spread out over our knees, a local pulled up next to us in the road, rolled down her window, and asked if, by chance, we were looking for the missing I90. She smiled knowingly and redirected us, but even better than finding out where we were and how to get where we were going, was her demonstration of spontaneous kindness.

Niagara Falls was strangely breathtaking and banal at the same time; banal because I was seeing it for the first time without the swell of music and the drama that Hollywood films usually set behind and in front of the Falls, but breathtaking because they are awesome in the philosophical sense – there was both pleasure and pain in realizing my insignificance in the face of such enormous geological and temporal power.

After the Falls we loitered outside The Hard Rock Café where outdoor TV’s broadcast a hilarious montage of 80’s glam rock videos. Sam did his “I’m in a boy band” impression which never fails to make me scream with laughter, while lip synching to Mr. Big’s “To Be with You.” Imagine Justin Timberlake’s moves circa *NSYNC on the sidewalk, classic 80’s long hair and perms on the screen, me singing all the words because I still, frighteningly, remember them, and Sam singing “I understand nothing that he says…” in French. The wait staff came out to check on us after a while, and we ran away still giggling.

Add comment September 9th, 2006

Odyssey 2006 Days 2 - 4

Lodi, New York: Our harrowing departure behind us, we hit the road for real this time, and drove to the Finger Lakes Region in upstate New York to visit friends who shared their family, and their converted train station home with us for the weekend. The soundtrack was Jose Gonzales, the Swedish guitar player – new to me, but I am now aware of the large Jose Gonzales-shaped gap in my music collection – whose mellow and melancholy sound wove a perfect ambiance as we drove through the mist and state forests to visit local wineries, an epic herb garden, a lake with a (possible) secret passage to the Atlantic and a (possible) monster hiding in the deeps, and the best farmer’s market east of Olympia Washington (which I have not had the pleasure of shopping but I understand that it’s magnificent).

In between drives we observed and occasionally participated in sessions of extreme storybook reading with our friends’ two-year-old (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!) and feasted on gourmet macaroni and cheese, chicken mole, omelets, stews, crepes with blueberries spiked with cloves, homemade peach ice cream with brownies and almond cake. Conversations ran the gamut, from parenting and renovating, to what it means to be a writer, thinker, artist and scientist. It felt good, having so recently deconstructed our own home, to be totally welcomed into another – like maybe our “home” could be a lateral phenomenon for the time being, defined by warmth and welcome rather than by geographic stability.

Add comment September 9th, 2006

Odyssey 2006 Day 1

Sam and I are moving away from New Haven Connecticut, taking only (mostly) what we can fit in our car, and driving across the US, visiting friends and family along the way, with California as a general destination. Following the epic and poetic suggestion of Sam’s father, I’ve decided to entitle “Muse” submissions that recount this adventure “The Odyssey.”

August 31st – today was the day we moved out of our house, and away from New Haven. We planned to leave at noon, but ended up taking the whole day to finish deconstructing our home and packing our car. It was really, really, hard for me; though quite liberating for Sam. After facing and surmounting the inevitable “it’s never all going to fit in our car” moment, after giving away a few precious objects that we wanted to keep but just couldn’t fit in the trunk, after a last-minute delivery of odds and ends to Goodwill, after sweeping out the garage and writing a goodbye note and thank you card to our landlord, we turned out the lights for the last time.

As I stood at the base of the stairs looking up towards our living room, I felt so sad. Not because I wanted to stay… not because I regretted leaving… not because I thought our apartment was my dream house… but because this assortment of walls and windows sheltered a year’s worth of intense emotional upheaval, transition, panic, mortal dread, and joy. There were times when I imagine the sheer intensity of emotion expended in these rooms must have been visible and palpable – like the way heat makes the air wavy above a grill.

There was the time, for example, that I almost missed the dissertation-submission deadline because I underestimated the amount of time it would take to print; all I could do was wait, pace, gnash my teeth and howl, and exude so much panic that I’m quite certain I poisoned myself.

There were times that I came home from school and found Sam in the kitchen, singing and chopping up vegetables, an aperitif ready and waiting for me on the coffee table in the living room.

There was the time that time stood still, and I completely reformatted every sentence in a 400 page manuscript between the hours of midnight and dawn.

There was my graduation party, with my family from Montana and Alaska, and Sam’s family from France, all together, laughing, miraculously communicating, sharing champagne and buffalo burgers and celebrating our engagement.

There was my post-dissertation emotional crisis that started at 5:05 PM on March 15th, as I huddled, exhausted, in my bed, totally unable to comprehend the enormity of being done.

There were the first tentative conversations about marriage and babies, held in the kitchen in the midst of singing, dancing, and chopping of vegetables.

What made me cry, I think, as I leaned against the wall and looked up those stairs for the last time, was the awareness that the house had sheltered me and us through it all – and all with no judgment, no complaint. How do you thank a structure for unconditional acceptance? How do you make sure that the next people who come along will do just as much to keep the carpet clean, the walls bright, the windows open and filled with life? How do you apologize for having wished, sometimes, to be somewhere else?

We finally drove away at 11:00 PM, and made it as far that night as a Motel 6 in Branford. Which is about 10 miles away. A rather modest beginning for an Odyssey! We could have spent one more night in our apartment but I couldn’t stand to see the sad little bits and pieces of our beautiful life still scattered around – a shiny nearly new broom and dustpan leaning against the dumpster in the back, an overnight bag and decorative pillow huddled on the street corner next to a lamp post waiting for new owners. Did they feel abandoned? Did I do them justice? Did I treat them as well as they served me?

I asked Sam to call my parents and tell them we were on our way because, while I can cry and drive at the same time, I can’t cry, drive, and talk on the phone at the same time. Sam called, and I heard the last bit of his voice mail message, which was “Wo-hoo!!!” As we drove north on I-95 Sam sang one of his favorite reggae songs… “why must we stay… where we don’t belong?”

Add comment September 3rd, 2006

Next Posts