Jun 11, 2011

i'm in the wrong house, aren't i?

i recently got my husband a gps for his birthday. he had been casually suggesting one for years. he'd drop hints like: we need a gps. and i'm getting a gps.

but i'd always be all no way. i have an excellent sense of direction.

but he'd say he wanted something that didn't fall asleep two hours into a trip somewhere and i would say i can't help it, sometimes being on a long drive is like a tranquilizer. he would bring up all the times we got lost and i would bring up all the times that if he had just listened to me, we wouldn't get lost, or be needing to make a twenty-six point turn in a thirty-four foot rv.

i prided myself on my sense of direction. heck, i could fly a small plane and vector a course between three points. but that was a long time ago. never mind about that time i followed the wrong river and was looking straight at some mountain ranges which was what prompted the need to vector a course in the first place. i found an airport. i landed. it was all good.

truth be told - lately, my sense of direction isn't as sharp as it once was. i don't know if it's being on the other side of forty or if i need new glasses. but i've been to the eye doctor and he said i don't need new glasses. so there it is.

i really think there's a bunch of stuff that isn't as sharp as it once was but i still maintain it's the glasses.

recently, we lifted our unintentional self imposed ban on going out and having an actual social life, and we went out. the bourbon slushies were all packed up, and i looked pretty good for the other side of forty.

i said i knew how to get there, and what with that new exit on the highway, we could even take the back way. after i totally pretended to know exactly where we were and we unknowingly passed the street three times and then backtracked to just take the long way and then made a phone call to a friend at the party, and circled back around again; an hour later we pulled into the tasty meadows neighborhood and parked right smack in front of the house.

we had argued the entire time and he said we are getting a gps.

and i said, no. look. we're here and can you believe we got a spot right in front of the house? look at all these cars!

we got out of the car, i slung the big bag of double batch bourbon slushies over my shoulder and walked up the sidewalk and into the house. i figured they all must be out back, on the count of it being so weirdly quiet for a fiftieth birthday party. i was also thinking we gotta get out more often and work harder at maintaining friendships, cause it had been a really long time since we had been to this friends house and i just don't remember it looking quite like this. and when i got to the kitchen and saw the kid in his boxers doing dishes, and his mom get up out of her lazy boy to see who was standing in her kitchen, it all became very clear and i just said, hi. i'm in the wrong house, aren't i?

she pointed to the house across the street and said that's where you wanna be. i promised i'd come back with a bourbon slushy and once we were out on the sidewalk steven said we are getting a gps. i secretly agreed, but wondered if a gps could tell the houses apart in tasty meadows any better than i could.

so i got him a gps and he named it suzanne. she's british. i said i wouldn't use it - i didn't need it cause of my excellent sense of direction. but i've totally used it. i had to get from downtown all the way out to east jesus one day and it required getting on a particular highway here that gets me all discombobulated. so i plugged the address into suzanne and off we went. i spent a good chunk of time yelling at suzanne, convinced she didn't know what the hell she was talking about in that insipid accent of hers. i questioned every turn she told me to take thinking surely, there was a better, faster way. i was pretty sure she thought we wanted to go to canada and that she had us on a direct route there via cincinnati.

my son was with me and in a real hurry to get to east jesus and all of my yelling at suzanne was making him worried we'd never get there and so he just begged me to please trust suzanne and do what she says.

so i did.

and we actually got to the right house in record time and i reluctantly had to admit, suzanne is a genius.

Jan 28, 2011

the winnebago, the butter dish and the george washington bridge

once upon a time, in a quest to prove that purchasing an rv was just the thing our family of five needed - embrace the open road! travel more easily from kentucky back to the mother land of new england! no stopping for the bathroom or gas station food! save money on hotels! room to stretch out and sleep all while still rolling in the snazzy comfort of a recreational vehicle! - my husband suggested renting an rv.

you know - no commitments. let's just rent one and see how it goes.

i had already worked through the whole if-my-husband-thinks-i-am-going-to-consent-to-buying-an-rv-he-married-the-wrong-woman thing and finally just said


so. we rent one and pack it up with everything but the kitchen sink cause we didn't even need to bring the kitchen sink seeing as there already was a sink. in the kitchen, on the rv that just so happened to be, i swear to god nicer and better appointed than my own home if you could overlook the excessive use of velour for decor.

as i walked out to the rv with armload after armload of clothes and other household paraphernalia, i sensed a slight vibe of doireallyneedtobringallthatshit annoyance coming from my husband.

but it was a trade-off sort of thing. if we are renting this thing, and it has closets and a kitchen and drawers and shit; then hell yes i am bringing everything i think i might possibly need or want, and even if i don’t need or want it, i wanted the option to need or want it.

and yes honey, that actually includes this very cool antique butter dish from england that was a gift to us. cause look - there’s a spot for it right here, in this roll up alcovy sort of thing in this snazzy kitchen that’s nicer than ours. you know how i like soft butter.

and so, we’re off.

our little family of five. i think our oldest (now almost 15), henry, was probably 7, our middle child annabel around 3, and lulu was 2.

driving halfway across the country in an rv with three small children was surprisingly dreamy. i daresay my husband was onto something. it was fantastic. when the kids were hungry, i got up from my seat and went back to the kitchen to get them some snacks. when they had to go to the bathroom, or i had to change a diaper, it was done. all while rolling down the highway.

what’s that honey? you’re hungry? hang on while i make you a tuna fish sandwich. wanna watch a movie, kids? lie down on the couch? ok. go ahead.

it was truly dreamy.

we were rolling down the highway with all the comforts of home.

and the butter too.

one of the most exciting things on any of our road trips back east was crossing the george washington bridge and looking across to the city - we always hoped it was clear enough to see "papa’s building”.

because once upon a time, my father ran the empire state building. the kids always called it (and still do) “papa’s building”. so, we’d cross the bridge and look across the hudson to see if you could see the building.

and on this particular trip, the kids were doing just that.

so, we’re crossing the gw and i announce, ok kids! come on over here & let’s all look for the building! and they all clamor off the couch and sit in the little kitchenette. cause we’re a rolling house and there’s a kitchenette to sit in.

and we’re all so happy.

i briefly remember glancing at the toll charges and wondering how the hell many axles we had on our rolling house and trying to recall how much cash i had in my wallet.

but mostly. we were happy.

and as my husband recalls this very story, he tells about his concern over the very, very large sideview mirrors on our very wide rented recreational vehicle -- but mostly, he was weirdly focused on only the driver’s side mirror as we passed through the narrow toll. and so, after he pays the toll, and at the very nano-second that he gives a sigh of relief upon clearing it, a huge crack reverberates through our snazzy rented, not so mini winnie.

and this huge cracking, breaking, expensive sound is due to the fact that the passenger-side ginormous mirror has now been sheared off the vehicle and is literally hanging on by a thread. or, electrical cords if you feel like getting real technical.

and so it begins.

and i heard a lot of yelling, but i'm sure what he meant to say was hey honey - i think i sheared off a portion of this vehicle that does not belong to us, how 'bout you come on up here & open the window and get that sideview mirror, will ya?

only the cords aren’t long enough to bring it inside. so i have to hang out the window and hold the mirror just so. and while i'm hanging out the window, i have time to wonder how much this is gonna cost us. and i wonder this out loud in a yelling sort of voice.

now. we’re on i 95 in westchester county and this particular corridor of 95 will make you wonder what the hell your toll money just paid for, cause it sure as shit isn’t the roadway. it’s pothole after pothole. and our rolling house isn’t rolling with the punches as much as i’d like.

stuff is starting to fall out of its fancy constraints.

the kids are crying that they didn’t really get to see papa’s building. i am hanging out the window hanging onto the mirror that i am convinced must cost a first year of college. i mean, my god, this rolling house is pretty sweet as far as rv's and velour decor are concerned. surely this mirror hanging from the cords costs a mint.

with. each. hole. we. hit. more. shit. is. falling.

my husband is trying to figure out the next plan of action and is likely running through the list of napa auto parts locations that i will bet anything he's got committed to memory.

and with each pothole, i look back to check on my unbuckled tiny kids that i cannot help cause we could lose the mirror if i get out of my seat and god only knows what that would cost and i also happen to notice that the rolly door of the fancy little alcovy thing in the kitchen is slowly sliding up.

my husband wants to get off the highway so he can asses the situation. i tell him that if he were to get off any of the nearest exits the only assessing that is going to be done on the situation is how to rip us off - cause i am from here. we've returned to the mother land and i know what i am talking about.

he must not have heard me when i yelled at him something along the lines of: under no circumstances should you get off that next exit in larchmont, cause it's one of those exits that has no re-entry. i promise you. if you get off this exit, we will not get back on the highway.

either he was smoking crack, or he thought i was - cause he got off the exit. and a mere nano-second before he makes this fateful choice, we hit that one last pothole in which the butter dish fell out of the fancyass alcove.

and then, like ralphie's father - for whom i have a special affinity cause of how he worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oil or clay; i wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as i know is still hanging in space over westchester county.

and my three small children are barefoot, just sitting on the couch - gobsmacked at all that has occurred since we were all so happy and looking for papa's building.

there is butter and broken glass all over the floor, i have been hanging out the front window holding onto the mirror for about an hour, and i'm wondering how i could marry a man who took the very exit i told him not to take. and have i mentioned there is butter and ceramic shards all over the floor.

but. here we are. driving down main street, larchmont. with no way to get back on 95 and i'm willing to bet a college education he's not gonna find a napa auto parts anywhere near this little slice of camelot.

the fiasco is really nowhere near over - there's still the bit about the low railroad bridge and the "no vehicles over eight feet" signs and the low hanging wires in the really chic residential real housewives of larchmont sort of neighborhoods. and then of course, there was the litany of "i told you so's" while we tried to maneuver our way through the backroads of westchester county via phone calls (this was in the olden days, before gps) to finally make it back onto i-95; all the while, i was hanging out the window, hanging onto the mirror.

there's no tidy way to wrap up this story, other than to say we made it to our destination. the mirror was finally fixed with a tube of $2.65 jb weld. we're still married. we actually bought an rv. sometimes we think of selling it to pay for college. or therapy for our kids.

in other rv adventures of the websters, there was also - the time we were hoboes.

Sep 27, 2010

who's on first?

i used to know a lot of things.

things like which of the umpteen piles of clothes in the basement was clean and which was dirty. i used to know when my kids assignments were due, when we had to send things in for the bake sales, what forms i needed to sign and checks i needed to write for field trips. the pile of dishes in the sink? the dust bunnies on the stairs? the semi-folded laundry covering the dining room table? i had it all under control. i knew exactly when i might or might not get around to it. i used to know when we were out of milk and coffee, when we needed to get more wine and when it was probably time to pick up all the poop in the backyard.

ok. i still know when we need to get more wine. that's a knowledge you never really lose.

but all the other stuff has gone to shit. especially the shit in the backyard.

ever since my husband casually said hey, why don't you put that degree of yours back to work and i went down to the basement to research myself to put together a kick ass resume, everything's been all cattywompus around here.

cause i got the job.

which is good; but it took my husband and i about four months to figure out who was gonna do what around the house. we've been married 17 years and had really settled into the roles we carved out for ourselves and our family. it worked for us. he went to an office and brought home the bacon and i stayed home monitoring the growing laundry piles, working on the dust bunny relocation program, making sure we were stocked with wine at all times and signing the kids' school forms. i was on top of it.

now, i go to work and he works from home. and mostly i think that because he's home, he should just take over all the stuff i used to do; but he insists that even though he's been in his boxers all day & it might look like he's just been hanging around, he's actually working.

and so this is why the breakfast dishes are still in the sink when i come home.

and this dishes still in the sink thing resulted in a bit of a rough patch where neither of us really did anything cause we didn't know who was gonna do it; nor could we really figure out when we'd actually be able to squeeze it in what with all the putting on races, ballet class and rehearsal transporting, picking kids up from school, bourbon slushie making and hosting folks who were putting on races that we had going on. so naturally, neither of us did a damn thing and everything was supremely messy.

our girls would come home from school crying over the missing homework stamp they got cause their deadbeat mom who went back to work was no longer on top of it all and kept forgetting to sign everything. kids would yell from the shower cause there was no conditioner. i'd be stuck in the basement bathroom with no toilet paper. we'd wake up in the morning and be out of butter or milk or clean towels or god forbid - coffee. no one had any clean clothes and those damn dust bunnies kept multiplying.

it was hard for me to let go of so much of what i had been doing for the last twelve years and delegate it to someone else cause i didn't really like the way the someone else folded the towels or the jeans. so i kept trying to do it all, but then my head almost popped off.

so, four months later, we've sorta sussed it all out and have settled into something resembling a routine. he makes the coffee & puts the thermos in my bike basket for my commute to work. i shop for food and pack the lunches. he sorta does the laundry. i still don't know when the kids' assignments are due cause that's not my job anymore. the dishes eventually get done, the 14 year old cleans the dust bunnies off the stairs, the laundry is in its' rightful place on the dining room table, the backyard is still covered in shit and i still make sure the wine never runs out.

it all seems to be working. which is good. plus, i remembered i had this blog and snuck in some time to write again.

Jun 13, 2010

here’s the thing of it

i pinned a number on and raced last weekend. and then i did it again this weekend.

i still do that occasionally.  pin a number on and race my bike. ‘race’, as always, being a strong word, cause sometimes i like to think of it as just riding my bike around in circles in which i happen to be with other people.

i just don’t do it as often as last year, which was just about every. single. weekend. we cut back on the racing this year. cause it’s a lot - to race every weekend, pack up the airstream and bribe the kids with donuts.

plus, all that racing requires a lot of training, hard work and dedication.

i couldn’t muster it up anymore. the dedication. something had to give. so, we’ve been busy with other things:

like trying to show some pride in home ownership, cause all that racing and being gone every weekend on those long base mile rides and stuff and your house will start to take on an abandoned, near-condemned sorta look, and the backyard will turn into jurassic park. at least in kentucky it will. i’ve lived a lot of places, but i’ve never seen anything like what one weekend of rain’ll do to a backyard here. neglect it, and it will take over your life. and it takes a long time to reclaim it.

so we’ve been painting, and sprucing things up. we even put a new roof on the house. we got tired of putting out that bucket on the floor of our third floor bedroom while the backyard grew into a rainforest every time it rained while we slept. we’re digging trenches for better drainage, and we’re finally clearing out the garbage tower of doom in the basement and putting it in our front yard - much to our neighbors’ [and i quote: “in fifty years’ this neighborhood has never looked so trashy”] dismay - for junk pickup. which, as you can clearly see by the entire neighborhood, nay, the entire city, mrs. barnsworth, that it is junk pick up day in louisville. perhaps you should have scheduled your “fancy executive” meeting for another week  - plus, that should give you plenty of time to hang some more doilies in your front window.

i’m sorry. what was i saying?

oh yes – pride in home ownership. as soon as a clean spot is made, all the other stuff that hasn’t been spruced up yet really starts to stand out and look, um, bad. and the list gets longer.

the long list, among other things, put racing and training on the back burner.

this wasn’t that hard to do cause cause sometimes i just didn’t want to do hill stomps or intervals and i didn’t want to feel bad for not wanting to do them. what made me feel bad was that 3 next to my name – the one that put me in the same racing category as the 1’s and 2’s.  so i downgraded cause i just really wanted to be a happy cat 4 and go back to the place where riding and racing was fun and happy. and i didn’t have to work so hard.

so in addition to painting nearly every damn room in my house and rearranging just about everything, to clear the room for more, um – painting - i’ve just been “riding my bike” as opposed to “training”. imagine that- when i’m done painting, or pissing off my neighbors, i just go out and ride my bike for the heck of it. sometimes i ride with people. sometimes i ride alone. sometimes i drag (and it’s the very definition  of “kicking and screaming”) my ornery, reluctant fourteen year old out on rides & you’d think by his protestations that i had just announced i was gonna pull his fingernails out one by one instead of “hey lets go for a ride”. and we ride and it doesn’t take long before there is a smile on his face and he says “yeah, this doesn’t suck”. 

score one for mom.

and then, when he just sits on his bike in the dining room where we currently store it cause i’ve rearranged us out of a place to put it what with all my pride in home ownership and rearranging and such; and he says, “hey, i wanna go for a ride” - it’s all good.

i ride hard & fast when i feel good and super slow when i’m feeling not so good. sometimes i pin a number on and race and feel good and sometimes not  so much. sometimes i don’t ride at all and instead i stay home to be a mom. or paint. or clean. or sit back and just drink a beer.

this is my training plan.

plus, racing less just give us more time for – you know, a little pride in home ownership.


Apr 14, 2010

rose avenue

i always get to thinking about stuff on april 15th. usually, it’s two things: i’m wondering what we’ll spend our tax return money on and i’m remembering the anniversary of moving to louisville.

except for last year. last year i was thinking i was knocked up and the tax man hosed us. i wasn’t knocked up, but the tax man did hose us. maybe it wasn’t the tax man, but it was someone. last april 15th was the start of one of the worst years i think we’ve ever had in our lives together cause of all that shit hitting the fan at my husbands company. tomorrow marks our twelfth anniversary in louisville and brings with it the slightest sliver of a shimmery silver lining. i’d take a deep breath if i wasn’t worried i might put the whammy on things. but it all got me to thinking about the place where we started our life together.

we’ve lived a lot of places, and as much as we fantasize after every episode of international house hunters about selling everything and moving to bora bora i really think this louisville gig is just gonna stick.

springtime in louisville is one of my most favorite times of the year. i’ve never lived anywhere that had a real, honest to goodness springtime. we lived in maine for a while, but it just goes from winter right into mud season and when we lived in southern california, there were no seasons. it was just 70 and sunny all the time. which made me a little nutty. i gotta have seasons.

the kids always ask us to tell them “about the time you lived in california”. whenever they see scenes of the venice boardwalk in movies and we say we used to live there, they’re wide eyed in disbelief. i think they thought that a dreadlocked, roller skating, guitar playing dude was just made-for-the-movies material. they were gobsmacked when we said we saw him all the time on out morning walks to our favorite breakfast place. “you mean he’s real?” 

yeah, he’s real. or somethin’.

we lived on rose avenue. just a half block from the boardwalk. i always knew once i graduated college that i’d go somewhere. cool. i think nyc is the coolest place ever, but i spent plenty of time in new york city growing up, so new york was out. so during my spring break senior year, i flew to san francisco for a few days and then to los angeles. i stayed with friends and marched into every private elementary school i could find looking for a teaching job. the school in santa monica was the one that called me back and offered me a job. i love it when others make my decisions easy. santa monica it was.

i graduated that june. and spent the summer cocktail waitressing, bartending, and taking flying lessons (and this would be the summer that began the rest of my life). in august, my mom and i packed up my graduation gift; the 1979 280 sel mercedes (it must be said: british racing green with proper tan leather interior and the original becker am/fm cassette radio) that she and dad had driven for years and drove it across the country. we arrived in santa monica and went on an apartment hunt that i think slightly horrified my mother. mostly because the apartment hunt was not taking place in lovely santa monica, but in the more quirky, affordable venice beach where the digs were too small and slightly dirty. and i’d hear the occasional, is this a safe neighborhood?

i think the only thing that saved me was the thing that i actually thought would get me nearly disowned, or at the very least – in a really big fight with my parents. i was fully planning on living in sin. and told her so.

in fact, i had five thousand dollars in cash from my partner in crime from the sale of his racing bike and every.single.thing.he.owned. yes. he sold his racing bike. and we had only just met. sorta.

i met him about four months before moving across the country – this was part of that summer that would begin the rest of my life - and invited him to come with me. i knew if i didn’t invite him, he’d show up on my doorstoop one day anyway. my mother was relieved that i wouldn’t be living alone. i’d just be a sinner. she promised she wouldn’t tell my dad.

i made good on the whole thing seeing as i married him. but my dad knew all along anyway. it’s stuck for nearly seventeen years, so i think we’re good. anyhow. i digress.

we lived on rose avenue. in a pink building that looked like the one in the karate kid only minus the pool. we’d walk the boardwalk and see the dreadlocked, roller skating dude. and i never knew that muscle beach was a real thing until i walked by it that first time. we had our favorite breakfast place on the boardwalk and i still make the frittatas that i fell in love with there. i almost got a tattoo – several times, but am glad i waited until i was 36 and 40 to make that leap. we used to go to rose cafe up the street and the firehouse restaurant around the corner. our regular coffee shop haunt was the novel cafe and i remember shopping at what i am pretty sure was one of the first whole foods a few blocks away.

we’d go north to zuma beach when we wanted to swim or walk along a shore that didn’t have garbage rolling in with every wave. we’d hike in the santa monica mountains, and go for day long motorcycle rides on the pacific coast highway and in topanga canyon.

steven worked two jobs at van nuys airport. one involving emptying the honeybucket. not cool. and another involving refurbishing gulfstream jets for the rich and famous. very cool.

i was an assistant kindergarten teacher and would watch as some kids got dropped off in the carpool line in limousines and others were brought into to school by their very famous parents and i could chat for a moment with them or hold their new babies and talk about connecticut.

we shopped at lucky market with a calculator and put things back when the number got too high. we ate a lot of rice with sautéed zucchini. i’d go to gelsons now and then to just ogle the gorgeous perfect pyramids of fruit.

we’d go to the third street promenade in santa monica to catch a movie, but not before standing outside the wells fargo atm machine on fourth street to get money for said movie and changing our withdrawal amount down to an amount we actually had in the bank.

we were there for the 1992 los angeles riots. i walked home from work that day as shopkeepers on fourth street were boarding up their stores. the skies were black from the smoke and our landlord told us to have our bags packed by the front door in case we needed to evacuate. we went out to walk the boardwalk the next evening only to find it lined with armed national guards telling us to go home.

we thought a few days after the riots broke out would be a good time to drive the mercedes into south central to volunteer to bag and hand out groceries. i’ve never seen anything like it. everything was burned to he ground and buildings were still smoking. i still think of it when my kids get crazy and i say things like can’t we all just get along.

we think about our stint in california every now and then. we wonder what it would be like if we had stayed. and we think it would be fun to go back and visit all our old haunts.

we’ll probably go back someday when we go visit our kids. cause our son will be working for, or running pixar someday and our youngest daughter, lulu – who wants to be a roller skating waitress at sonic when she grows up - will likely be a surfer girl living in a vw van that my husband refurbished for her.