Miss Fons Goes To Washington.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Travel 3
Yo, Mary Fons!
Hello, Beautiful.

My apartment is on Capitol Hill.

It has a fireplace, bookshelves, a stove, tall leaded windows, and, from what I can see from the pictures, a fluffy bed ready to be outfitted with a quilt. I have done the math. I have signed the lease. I won’t break even living in Washington, D.C. for the next few months, but it’s not going to be too bad; being a freelancer all these years has taught me something about saving. I have moved things mentally, financially, and physically and I am ready.

Austin was a good guess; Portland, too. I liked my friend Lance’s suggestion of Philly and I considered Pittsburgh after being pleasantly surprised by it while there for Spring Quilt Market. But early on in the troubles, I knew I’d go to our nation’s capital, a city I have long had great feeling for. In 2010, I spent a month performing with the Neos at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in D.C. I remember walking home from the theater so many frosty nights, stars twinkling, the light on the Washington Monument slicing the black glass sky. Being with friends was the best part of the trip; living in the seat of our democracy came a close second. What can I say? I’m a patriot.

In April, I have a Quilty shoot in Chicago and leave immediately after to film TV in Iowa. May brings my sister’s wedding up at the lake house. Depending on just how much I love or dislike D.C., I’ll be there for sure four months, possibly six. I doubt I would want to be away from my beloved Chicago any longer than I have to, but as I have come to learn, un-learn, and re-learn lately, anything’s possible.

The breakup has been awful. Awful because our emotions go through the spin cycle on a daily basis. I love you, it’s over, it’s not over, you’re selfish, you’re selfish, this is crazy, this hurts, we’re making a mistake, I’m leaving, leave, fine, fine, fine. No breakup is fun, but I have experienced only a couple of real gullywashers and this would be one of the two. (I do take a certain pride in the fact that an actual dish was broken during all this, and I assure you it was not because someone dropped it on the floor.)

Someone I told about my move was surprised. She said, “What?! Like Washington D.C. is less crowded or cheap than New York??” I was surprised right back. The National Mall is wide and clear as Lincoln’s Reflecting Pool and the apartment I found is far prettier and roomier than anything here for the price. It will be cold there, but I’m from Iowa. I can take it. D.C. exceeds all my criteria; I can bundle up for that.

Washington will be a pause. I plan to watch snow.

Relocation Options: Option Three, “Variety Pack”

posted in: Day In The Life, Travel 0
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

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

posted in: Day In The Life, Travel 2
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.




Relocation Options: Option One, Iowa

posted in: Tips, Travel 4
You can see Robert James Waller’s face in the side of this covered bridge if the light’s just right.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people who care about each other to terminate the living situation which has connected them with another and to assume among the powers of real estate, the separate and hopefully equal apartments to which the Leases and Landlords and/or Management Companies grant them, a decent respect to the considerations of mankind suggests that they should declare the options before them as to where exactly in Sam Hill they plan to go.”

Of course, I can only speak for myself. Here are 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.

Fact One on its own is manageable enough: find separate apartments. Unfortunately, Fact Three renders this possibility D.O.A. I don’t want to find another apartment in New York, especially one that I would be able to afford on my own. Sharing a one-bedroom is great in this city (or any other) because two can afford something together that one couldn’t possibly swing. I did the research. The furnished apartments I found that were within my budget made me extremely depressed. Did I look in every nook and cranny of the city? Did I look in Queens? No, I didn’t, because I don’t want to live in Queens. No offense to Queens, I just don’t want to live there.

All right, then just go back to Chicago. A fine idea, but for Fact Two. Sure, I could tempt my adorable med students with a free month’s rent and some cash to vacate early — everyone has their price and second-year med students are probably happy to let you know what that number might be — but I don’t like this plan. It’s disruptive to them and it would be painful for me. My relationship has failed and my move to New York has failed. Returning to Chicago before the one-year-gone anniversary would be too painful. I picture myself with a little hobo stick, riding into town on a broken-down palomino.

I could get a little apartment in Chicago and wait out my tenants till June, but that would maybe be more depressing. “I can see my house from here!” I’d cry, holding my hobo stick.

So no New York, no Chicago till June. Six months. Six months to go. Over these painful weeks, I have been weighing options and crunching numbers and going over and back over what my best course of action is, here. And now:

Option No. 1: Mom’s House — Winterset, Iowa
Winterset is my hometown. I was born there. My sisters were born there. I know all the bank tellers and the bank tellers’ kids. Lots of people move back home. A large number of people never leave in the first place.

There are many upsides to Option No. 1., including but not limited to; cost of living (essentially nil), being able to hang out with Mom and Mark a lot, a big kitchen, access to cars, Des Moines is a short 35 minutes away and Des Moines is alright, I would get to be with Scrabble (Mom’s dog who I love), I could say hi to the bank tellers, their kids, etc.

Downsides? Numerous. There is no public transportation system to use, so I have to drive everywhere and I don’t particularly like driving in Iowa on account of all the deer. Add to that that I love my mom and stepdad so much but six months is a heckuva long time. I’m more worried they’d get annoyed with me than the other way around. Besides, all those bank tellers remember watching my car die in the Homecoming parade. Turns out you can go home again, but do you want to?

The main problem with Winterset is that I need to save it. See, if I’m going to be at Mom’s house for six whole months, I want to be suffering from a bonafide nervous breakdown. I want to save the “I’m Going Home For Awhile” card for full-on crazy. I want people to ask my mom, “Did I see Mary at the grocery store the other day?” so Mom can go, “Oh, yes. Mary’s… Mary’s home for a little while.” Then the person will say, “Oh, is she okay?” and Mom will say something like, “I think Mary just needs a little…rest.” And I’ll be at home on the couch watching 19 Kids and Counting in the fetal position, combing my hair with a fork. It sounds amazing. I don’t want to blow that opportunity now, when I feel sad but otherwise totally functional.

So Iowa is out. Tomorrow, the next sensible option explored.