Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Tickety Tack Trip Home (2 of 3)

Melissa, affectionately called “WE”, and I met up for dinner after the NEACUHO conference. The plan was to surprise her in my dad’s car, since I had been driving it all day, and because we have history driving in that monstrosity of a machine… including a variety of brushes with death gassing up the car and defying the rules of the road and physics.

In an effort to truly embrace the fact that we were together in West Haven for the first time in about a year, we decided to have a West Haven date. This meant walking down the beach a little, as is the main form of entertainment in the place, as well as doing dinner at Jimmy’s, which is the restaurant that says “this is the best we got… we clean and fry our scallops”. The thing about Jimmy’s is that its what my father considers fine dining-- right up there with Outback and the Texas Roadhouse. Fine dining entails, it seems, nothing against wearing a “proud to be american” tee shirt or a "from the fryer" section of the menu. They also serve their Whiskey Sours with an orange wedge, which is my own personal pet peeve. It’s a cherry or it’s a disaster.

Our conversation was interesting and hilarious, as usual. Melissa confirmed my belief that if you come back and stay for too long, you’re going to get stuck. She then told me that, according to a state project on which she’s working, Connecticut has a hard time retaining its population. She blames this on a lack of real cities, a point on which I must oblige her. New Haven is built almost entirely on its relationship with Yale, and Hartford is a stinking pit of rotting flesh and insurance firms. Of course, it is also partially our proximity to Boston and New York that makes it tough to create our own distinct metropolitan experience, which is a shame considering the former history and vitality of New Haven county.

Post dinner, we went to the package store at the beach and bought a cheap bottle of wine. Upon returning to my house, we realized to my slowly creeping horror that my mother apparently got the corkscrew in the divorce as well. However, Melissa and I are bright, college educated people. So what do we do? Turn to Youtube.

Youtube tells me that you can open a bottle of whine with a screw, a screwdriver, and a hammer. You screw the screw into the cork, push it in until there is just a half inch of space left with the screwdriver, and use the hammer to pull the cork and screw up. The internet made it seem so simple. SO SIMPLE. So we head down to the basement, where my father keeps the tools. We get the screw in, get the screwdriver to work, and grab the hammer. Well… it doesn’t work.

…and there is photo documentation.

After half an hour of pulling, hammering, screwing, and whining, I eventually take the screwdriver and push and push on the cork. This is when the cork flies down into the bottle of wine, splashing up all over my shirt and into my eyes. Oh, and then we realize that cork is stuck in the bottom of the bottle’s neck, and the screwdriver is stuck in the cork. So more pushing and pulling, more wine in my hair. The damned thing, though, yielded wine and laughs and everything I needed to that point.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Tickety Tack Trip Home (1 of 3)

It was supposed to be so simple.

I was going to wake up ready and rearing to go on Saturday, drive out to Danbury, attend my conference, get my network on, and then take the train up to Boston with Justine. This sounds simple. Oh, but the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say.

The problems started around 8:30 in the morning on Friday, when I woke up to a text that says “Oh, find me at NEACUHO today!” from a friend with whom I went to college. I roll off my phone, which is lodged between my abdomen and the couch, and realize that the conference is TODAY, not tomorrow. Which means that I should have been checking in about half an hour ago, instead of laying with my ass in the air on the couch. So my first logical move, after cursing a little, is fire up the laptop to get directions to Danbury. Of course, I can’t find the email with my registration information-- apparently it doesn’t contain the words “NEACUHO” or “WCSU” or ANYTHING ELSE that Thunderbird might pick up as relevant to the email. I get directions, then head up to grab some clothes.

Well, having come in from Boston the night before at about 11pm, my clothes were still rolled up in a ball in my book bag. Which is fine, I can just iron them out. So, I run to the linen closet to grab the iron.

Funny story about the iron-- my mother CLEARLY got it in the divorce, because the only thing we had in there was a small travel iron. Working with what I have, I run to plug it in and get started. No sooner do I take the thing out of its box than the handle falls off. FALLS OFF. So now I have a piece of iron that is going to get very hot and a handle that’s going to continue to be very useless. I give ironing without a handle a shot, but it turns out that maybe travel irons don’t get so hot. At all. Or maybe get colder.

So I throw my clothes in the dryer and head up to brush my teeth. Now, I consciously chose not to pack toothpaste when I left for home, since I knew that my father would have some. Hmm. I was correct in this assumption, but I was incorrect in assuming that it would be the kind of toothpaste that a normal , god fearing 60 year old man might use. No no… I find Spongebob Squarepants toothpaste.

Let that sink in for a moment. My assumption is that he has been brushing and singing the theme song.

After a fight with the dryer, my only recourse to unwrinkled my clothes, I run out to start my car, which hasn’t been driven in 3 months. No surprise, I turn the key and nothing happens. At all. Not even a glimmer of a vroom. So my father, in his way, offers me the boat (read: Buick), which has been running a little that morning. He offers to back it out of the driveway, since I haven’t driven in a while. Lets consider for a second that he will be having me drive an hour away in the car, but is distrustful about my ability to back out of the driveway. Logic, where you at?

Oh, did I mention that I had to stop to put gas in the car, and that the front tire might have been significantly under inflated? By 9:30, halfway through the keynote speaker, I’m finally on the road, hitting speeds close to 90 in a car demographically driven by ladies in their 70s, and which has a surprising amount of bass in its stereo system. I guess they can’t hear the radio otherwise, but can feel the vibrations. Its how Beethoven composed his symphonies towards the end, and I assume that the same holds here.

I eventually did get to the conference almost and hour late and had a blast, and had the best damn story in the place about the “tickety tack hot mess” my trip was.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Written on the Bus Home

I’m taking the bus to New Haven, heading home for the first time since July.

Its never just an easy transition when I head back, even for a day. My first emotion is usually guilt. Why am I leaving my residents? What if they need me? They’re so young and inexperienced-- what if something happens, and they have no one to which they feel safe to turn?

I want to stop here and mention that this feeling is absolutely fucking insane. Guilt because I’m leaving my live in job?! What is up with that? Its gotten to the point where I can’t stay just be spontaneous during the day, because they need to see me on the floor. I need to be a good RA. I need to be present. I need a mood stabilizer, it seems. Nowhere does it say that I should get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because, god forbid, something should happen because/while I’m out enjoying myself a few T-stops away. Is this guilt because I should be around, or fear that they’ll fail to see me as anything other than the best RA. I can’t say what really happens there.

Of course, I also feel a lingering sadness going back to West Haven. After so many years of personal indoctrination, of telling myself that no one returns to success, there is a little bit of apprehension about going back. Going back means reestablishing ties. Reestablishing ties means reconnecting with the city. Reconnecting with the city will draw me back. Getting drawn back is the last thing I ever plan on doing. Does this mean that I’ll be 70 some day, living in a split level ranch that I’ve lived in for 40 years and talking about my friends from high school and how they’ve all died? Does this negate the experience that I have had in moving away and in finding an existence created on my own terms, rather than on the backs of those before me? Am I less interesting or less valid or less exciting because I am in a place where nothing special has ever happened and from where nothing exciting has ever developed?

Truly, other areas can seem more exciting, more cosmopolitan, or more fitting for my lifestyle. Some of the suburbs of Boston are FAR more attuned to the way I choose to live, aren't they? Surely, they're suburbs, and to some other 20 something, its got to be a place they don’t want to return. Maybe they see their own family ‘stuck’ there, stagnating, and saying “no, not me”. It’s their West Haven… but it’s not mine. Do I just see locales outside my hometown as inherently more exciting, simply because I have not lived there? Is this a fair assessment of my city, that it’s a social and intellectual sinkhole? By no means-- but its not wholly inaccurate. They don’t get out of that city, consigning themselves to familiarity and a community NOT based on academic prowess and success. It’s the suburban experience. It’s also a me vs. them mentality that does not let me see the brightness of individual experience, and the choices people have made for themselves. In some respect, it must be my own immaturity.

Or am I most scared that I might discover that I can’t truly escape, and that some part of me might even like being back where not a lot happens and the expectations are lower. Where the pressure lets up, and success is merely “satisfactory” and not “best in show”. Where they’re not going to care if I don’t get my doctorate, but golly they sure would be proud. Complacency and security are perhaps my fear here, because its safe and there’s a backup and I don’t have to take risks.

Something about not taking risks, it seems, is terrifying.