I Am Not Moving To Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Court House. Photo: Wikipedia
Philadelphia Court House. Photo: Wikipedia

I’m in Philadelphia. Just one night to see a good friend.

Sometimes, when I have to make a big decision, I am comforted by going through options that are not on the table. In short order, I must make the decision, once and for all, whether I’m going back to Chicago or staying in Washington. Before I list a few options I can cross out, let’s review why I am in Washington at all. (It’s so interesting: when I tell people I live in D.C., they almost always go, “D.C.?? How in the world did you end up there?” I like to tell them that I’m planning to run for president, but then I say that I’m kidding and I go through the story.)

1. I lived in beautiful Chicago, in my home in the South Loop.
2. I met Yuri, a Russian bitcoin speculator with a heart of gold who can play classical piano. We began to love each other very much.
3. Yuri got a job at an exciting startup in New York City.
4. Working, as I do, for myself, I have the ability to work from anywhere. Having, as I did, fond feelings for New York, Yuri and I said, “Let’s go together! Just for a year, see how we like it.”
5. I rented out my condo for a year, put things in storage, and moved to the East Village with 1/3 of my worldly possessions.
6. I detested living in New York City. It felt like I was at a crowded outdoor music festival all the time. I really, really hate outdoor music festivals. I became depressed.
7. Yuri and I, though we loved each other very much, broke up for reasons that people always break up: irreconcilable differences. We became depressed.
8. Having no love for New York and no workable love in New York, and essentially being in exile from Chicago until my tenants vacated in June, I was in a sticky position.
9. A dear friend said to me, “Why don’t you have an adventure? You can live wherever you want for the next eight months. Where have you always wanted to live?” I answered without hesitation, “Washington, D.C.” I performed with the Neo-Futurists for a whole month at the Woolly Mammoth theater several years ago and loved the city on contact. I wanted to return someday.
10. I packed the 1/3 of my worldly possessions into a U-Haul van and drove to D.C., not knowing anyone but excited. And I have a terrible, beautiful love for the city and don’t want to leave, yet, but Chicago is my best friend.

If you missed the cliffhanger decision-making process when I decided to leave New York, start here.

When I verbally go through the steps, I make it quick, but I can’t skip a single one of them. If I don’t say my condo was rented out, a person understandably says, “Well, why not just go back to Chicago?” If I say I moved to Washington without explaining that I had lived there, however briefly, once before, they don’t understand.

But my lease is up in D.C. on June 15th. My tenants are leaving. The clock ticks. The clock stares at me. The time is now. And a new cliffhanger begins. (Insert wink here.) And now, if you’re still with me, a few options that I can rule out, at least, as I work out what the Sam Hill I’m going to do now that it’s flipping May:

1. I am not moving to Philadelphia, nice as it is.
2. I am not moving to Kathmandu.
3. I am not taking a job with streets and sanitation.
4. I am not planning to eat an entire German chocolate cake in a single sitting.
5. I am not planning to throw myself into the Nile.

See? This is easy.

Point A, Meet Point B.

The kitchen and dining room of my new home.
The kitchen and dining room of my new home.

NEW YORK

“The moving gods giveth, the moving gods taketh away.”
– A cold, wet me @ 6:08am

Several weeks ago, when I moved out of the apartment Yuri and I shared, my sister and I loaded and re-loaded a hand-truck with boxes and hoisted duffel bags over our shoulders. We schlepped my stuff six blocks or so, from the sad and quickly emptying unit at 2nd Ave. and St. Mark’s to Nan’s place at Ave. A and E. 11th. Back and forth, back and forth we went till the job was done, sister pack mules. Every time I move (and I seem to have a knack for doing it all the time lately) I am reminded why some people find a place to settle and commence growing moss. Moving is like… Well, imagine if you had to put all the things in your house into boxes — absolutely everything. Then imagine you had to carry all those (heavy) boxes out of your house, and load them into a vehicle. And then imagine you have to take those (heavy) boxes out of the vehicle, carry them into a new house, and then unpack everything! Ha! It’s like, “No way! That would never happen!” and “That doesn’t even make sense! All your belongings?? In boxes?? Please. How would you know where anything was?”

Moving is kinda like that.

When we moved my things to Nan’s, we had good weather and were grateful for it. But the moving gods are fickle. Around 5:00 this morning, a cold, hard rain began to pelt Manhattan. This was unfortunate, as our plan was to load everything into the kidnapper van at 6:00 sharp. Nan had jury duty today and had a limited window to help me. Moving quickly, pre-dawn, we got the van loaded in about 40 minutes. Just as we were finishing up and I was wondering what to do with the van until it was time to leave several hours later, a parking spot opened up and I successfully parallel parked the beast for the second time in two days.

It rained all the way till the New Jersey Turnpike; a driving, hard rain, washing the roads in water that was clearly trying to be ice. In New York, even the rain is a hustler.

D.C.

When I got to Washington, D.C., I swear, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all day. The rain stopped. I found my street. I got the keys from the lockbox. I stepped inside…and positively squealed with delight. There’s an upstairs and a downstairs! There’s a fireplace! There’s a big, long table in the dining room that has already been converted to my sewing table! Sure, the upstairs is just the bedroom, the fireplace isn’t functional, and my dining room is small now that I have appropriated it as my sewing studio, but I couldn’t possibly be happier.

I unloaded the entire kidnapper van all by myself in about an hour. Pure adrenaline.

There is nothing easy about ruthlessly, relentlessly dedicating yourself to the pursuit of happiness. You will cut your dry fingers on cardboard boxes, you will get mud on your boots and your jeans, you will say goodbye to people at airports and, over time, you will misplace or break everything that is possible to break or misplace.

When you sit down, though — when it’s finally time to sit down and you make a cup of tea with honey — that’s when, just for a minute, it stops being so damned hard.

Relocation Options: Option Three, “Variety Pack”

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I wanted a picture that communicated "variety pack" and all I got was this terrifying picture of donuts emerging from cups of flavored coffee.
I wanted a picture that communicated “variety pack” and all I got was this terrifying picture of donuts emerging like Swamp Things from cups of flavored coffee. Also, nothing in this picture is anything you should accept into your mouth.

After eliminating Iowa and Wisconsin from my list of relocation options, and knowing without question that I cannot stay in New York or return to Chicago before mid-June, I face a selection of further possibilities. For a woman with boundless curiosity, no children, and work she can do wherever there is an Internet connection, this list of options might be overwhelming. But I am not overwhelmed because I have very real limitations to consider:

1. I don’t have a car and really don’t want to get one. This rules out a number of extremely cool places, I realize. I’m sure there are folks who live in these places with no car, but for me, looking at this six-month chunk of time before me, I am desirous of a decent public transportation system. Without a metro pass in my wallet, I feel kinda naked.

2. I am a gimp. Several people have — wildly, imaginatively, fabulously — suggested Paris! Dublin! Rome! and these would be fantastic places to go for six months, but I can’t play fast and loose (or foreign) with my health situation. Trying to explain to a Parisian ER doctor that I don’t have a colon and that I might be dying would be difficult, as I do not speak French. It would also be frowned upon, I think, if I asked to Skype into my upcoming teaching gigs and lectures here in the States. Why aren’t people into that?

3. I do like a city. One offer came through for a cabin in Kansas that was so darling and serene-looking that I nearly wavered from my plan. (You do know that I have known for some time what I’m going to do and that I’m unspooling it day by day to torture you, right? Excellent.) But not only do conditions No. 1 & 2 prevent anything too remote, I need the action of a city, the hum of it. I am a person who writes things and likes the opportunity to occasionally read those things onstage. I like a selection of libraries and natural food stores. I like cracked pavement and a skyline. Yes, I could go full Annie Dillard or Thoreau and tap into the hum of nature (probably louder than any city, I realize) but I need to save Walden for my fifties.

So what do these restrictions cancel out? Places icluding, but not limited to:

Anywhere not in the continental U.S.
Most of California*
Walden Pond
Asheville
Nashville
Butte

Let’s recap. For the next six months, I need a U.S. city with a great public transportation system, good hospitals, a vibrant lit scene (including, for example: live lit events, book things, readings, lectures, libraries, etc.) cool architecture, interesting people to observe, and more space than New York City so that I do not bite anyone.

Can you guess where I’m going next month?

*San Francisco fits the criteria but its cost of living is equal to NYC. It pains me to eliminate it, but that’s out.

Relocation Options: Option Two, Wisconsin

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Me, showing off my quilt from the upper level of the Arnie J. Richter ferry boat, Washington Island, WI. It was about 10 degrees that day.
Me, showing off my quilt from the upper level of the Arnie J. Richter ferry boat, Washington Island, WI. It was about 10 degrees that day.

Picture me in barrister’s robes and one of those funny wigs, pacing back and forth on the wood floor as I offer for your review, ladies and gentlemen, a quick look at the facts:

1. Yuri and I have agreed that living together is not what we should do right now.
2. My condo in Chicago is unavailable, as I have tenants in the unit through mid-June.
3. I do not wish to stay in New York.

If you’d like to consider with me Option One, you’ll need to read the full post here. Now, in your mind, please take this wig off me and get me out of those barrister robes and into something sensible as I proceed with what, as I see it, is my second option:

Option No. 2: Sunrise Cottage — Washington Island, WI
My family has blood ties to an extraordinary place called Washington Island, a 23-square-mile island seven miles off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. My grandparents are buried there. My great-grandparents are buried there. My aunt and six cousins live there. My mother taught quilting at the fiber arts school up there; two summers ago, I taught quilting there, too. As children, my sisters and I would spend weeks of our summer vacation, splashing in the lake waters and lazing around watching VHS videos, trying to get MTV on some old TV set. Even through the divorce and on through all four years of college, every summer we were (and are) playing and relaxing and communing with WiWi. (W.I. = Washington Island, W.I. = Wisconsin, ergo, “WiWi.”)

About six years ago, my family finally made a home up there. We had been cabin renters through the years, but now we have a cottage — a cozy, beautiful, light-filled, perfect cottage on the lake. Because of this happy event, we can now have Thanksgivings, Christmases, and winter escapes up there, too. There’s a fireplace, a boathouse, and lots of board games and if heaven is real, it probably looks a lot like a snowy afternoon on WiWi while a pie bakes in the oven and you’re smack in the middle of an amazing book. Sounds brilliant, right? Why not go there, sink into the comfort and joy of this magical island?

What are you, nuts?!

I can’t be on an island in the middle of winter! I travel for work a good 40% of my time! It’s a good thing I love airports because I’m in them a lot. Getting to and from the airport, to and from a gig, to and from a shoot, etc. is always a bit of a schlep. Adding an icy ferry boat ride, a 2-hour drive to the nearest airport (Green Bay) and Wisconsin weather from October through about May is not my idea of a wise plan.

The other problem with WiWI is that it is a remote place in psychic terms as well as geographical ones. Just 660 people live there year-round. I wrote most of my book up there during a two-week stretch in the winter of ’13 and I got a little squirrelly. The frosty, starry sky is beautiful at night, but the land is plunged into pitch black starting around 5pm until the sun rises around 6am. Staring into a roaring fire is super over a four-day weekend up there; staring into the fire night after night and you start becoming the one-woman sequel to Altered States. Mom and Mark aren’t there year-round for this very reason. Six months on WiWi and I might end up curled up on the couch, listening to the all-Catholic talk radio station, eating jumbo marshmallows out of a wicker basket.

New York out. Chicago out. Iowa out. Wisconsin out. Tomorrow, Option Three.

*Note: I cannot believe all of the gracious offers I have had since yesterday from people offering me to stay in their home or come to their city. Thank you.

 

 

 

I’ll Be Back Next Spring: A Graduate School Limerick

I'll be back.
I’ll be back.

There once was a woman named Fons,
Who longed to stroll green, lushy lawns
And seek brain diversity
At some university
(She was desperate for book liaisons!!)

“To grad school!” she said with a grin,
(For she applied and quickly got in
To a fancy-pants school*
Where brainiacs rule)
“I can’t wait!” cried Fons, “Let’s begin!”

A team of the wildest horses
Couldn’t have dragged her from taking those courses;
Her desire was burning
To slurp up the learning,
…But there were brewing unfortunate forces.

Work travel had always excited
The Fons; she was most delighted
To travel in planes
And meet Dicks and Janes
And see all the things that she sighted,

But suitcases don’t mix with classes,
And soon, our hero in glasses
Was forced to admit,
(Though it gave her a fit!)
Work demanded she leave the school’s grasses.

“I’ll be back and studying soon!”
She said, and whistled a tune;
There was no use in crying —
You know I ain’t lying:
E’vry moment spent learning’s a boon.

*University of Chicago, boo-yah