Tuesday, March 29, 2011

for the love of a van

No, I still haven't written about the fiasco that was to be our first van purchase – the camper that would have taken us across the country with shit for karma. If there is a saint of screwed up vehicle transactions, then his or her image must have been swinging from the rear view on this baby.

But why would I want to tell you about the people who lied, who made my son cry, whom I threatened with various legal actions and a few other thigns before they returned our money, when I can tell you about the van we did buy. The happy van. The one currently getting a facelift, due back in another day, if the mechanic is willing to part with it, that is. He seems kind of attached.

Here's what I hear on a daily basis now: “I'm so jealous!” Even my acupuncturist, a sweet, reserved Danish woman, when I told her we were driving across the U.S. in the van, stared at me for just a beat before her composure broke. “I've always wanted to do that,” she whispered.

Deciding to bring a wee bit of California with us when we charge east, we bought a VW pop-up camper bus. The whole of the west coast is drooling in envy and the whole of the mid-section of the country will hold us in suspicion and most of the east coast will likely just roll their collective eyes, the in-laws in particular should be fully convinced of our insanity, in case we had any chance left at redemption.

When we got married in Monterey almost 10 years ago, we thought it'd be funny if our guests threw granola when we emerged after the ceremony. You know, “crunchy,” “granola,” “California.” My father-in-law, thinking the mapley nuts and oats tied in small silk bags a snack, ate his. Some people just aren't up for a joke.

We hit the road in 42 days.

Monday, March 28, 2011


It's interesting how everyone assumed my first pregnancy was planned and how everyone assumes that this pregnancy was a surprise. The sky is a vast, people. Look up and out of yourself once in a while.

Things change. Ideas and goals change. So here's a little manifesto I wrote a while back about the phenomenon of the only child. I still believe all of it. And it's also true that when I wrote it, I never thought I'd have another kiddo. Yes, the sky is vast.

People often ask if this pregnancy feels different than my first. How could it not? But they're baffled when I elaborate. They want to hear how I'm carrying, what I feel like, but what I tell them is just what I know: that last time, I wanted chocolate pudding and watermelon, lots and lots of watermelon. This pregnancy I want lemonade, tomatoes and those Thai fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce. Last time I was pregnant, I woke up and sneezed three times every morning. This time it's two sneezes.

As my belly grows, we are also beginning to pack boxes, to unseat what we have built around us as a home. I am forced into the rather unnatural state of “un-nesting.”

Six and a half years ago when I was pregnant with Isaac I wouldn't have put much stock in the idea of biological urges to nest, to clean. The morning before I went into labor, I suddenly spotted a giant conch shell Mike had brought back from an island trip that was fated to live out its days in the tideless waters of our bathroom. Even as I grabbed it, scrubbing ruthlessly at the dust embedded in every crevice, dust I had never before cared about or taken notice of in any way, it did not occur to me that something was going on over which I had no control.

It's external forces beyond my control that are jostling me about this time. I've been un-nesting bookshelves, un-nesting closets. The packing has started.

We finally found an affordable house we really wanted, only to be told it had just gone under contract with someone else. One of the first baby names I put in our “like” column startled me when I punched it into Google and received back its meaning: new house. Um. Yeah. Apparently, I kind of want a place to live. Apparently, I want a baby. Go figure.

Monday, March 21, 2011

and dreaming, they say, is also free

My email address that I created almost 14 years ago is "montereybound." I can remember sitting in front of my new desktop computer at the little desk in the little kitchen of the little apartment I shared with someone I found in an ad, but who would become a friend and a kickass roomie (Hi, Dean!) in Arlington, Virginia and choosing this online identity. Dean was there that day, and Mike, too. I was bound for Monterey - headed for the Monterey Institute of International Studies and an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and I was way excited.

When I asked Mike if he wanted to come, I don't know what I expected, but I don't think I expected him to say yes. Which he did. And which promptly freaked me out completely. He left a condo he'd just renovated, a whole cache of friends, and a government job of seven years to drive across the country with someone he'd known about 9 months in a Honda del Sol with a lot of cassettes (yes, cassettes) and a couple of plants. We were on our way. Monterey bound.

Years later, still here and having acquired wedding rings, cats, that degree...the address worked on another level. "Montereybound," I'd recite to people to whom I was giving my email, "As in, tied here."

I have no plans to change my email, as we start the search for boxes, call for quotes on PODS.

During another long night of research and planning on everything in the world, we got on Craig's List to see if anyone had any moving boxes to give away. Typing "box" into the search under the Free category brought some interesting bits. Lots of box springs, for example. And one ad that had Mike and I about ready to bust a gut

"Small Box of Misc. Food."

Clicking on the ad, it began "I have one of those boxes of random food..." You know, one of THOSE boxes. In college once, my roommate woke up one day and said  to me: "You know when you have one of those dreams when all your teeth fall out?" Sure, Patty, sure.

In case you're in the area and interested, here's the list of Misc. Food available (and I quote...):

Jar of Preserved Squashes (not opened)
banana chips
split peas
microwavable brown rice
Mrs Butterworth
Kamut puffs
multigrain crakcers
a couple of mystery spices
ginger candy

After catching our breath on this little experience, we figured it might be only fair to check out what popped up under a search for "box" in the free section of the Western Massachusetts Craig's List. "Massive Box of Free Stuff" one ad boasted followed by helpful suggestions on what one might do with it all, including, "Some stuff could be burned for heat." Then there was the "indoor/outdoor ceiling fan," which had our imaginations going for quite a while. And finally, "Homemade time machine!"

Perhaps that last one could come in handy since our time here is running out much too quickly.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

seeking the tools of the road

Clearly, when we leave this house the spiders will just take over. We're barely holding them off as it is. I am watching one as I type this. An enormous black creature hurrying over the highest line of wall in my bedroom, just below the ceiling. For any of you Harry Potter fans, I'd say definitely belonging to the progeny of Aragog; for those of you unfamiliar with HP, uh, it's a big spider.

Where do these things come in? Is there a spider hatch I don't know about? Do they momentarily stun me when I open the front door and slip in? And why are they never the ones I see in my garden? The tame, sweet eight-leggers trapping flies and feasting on aphids.

Despite the fact that we have no house to end up in on the other end of our impending move, we have been focusing almost exclusively on the road trip that will get us there. It's a bit like obsessing about the wedding day without a clue of what the marriage will require.

We just came from the bookstore where we perused fruitlessly the road atlases and USA travel guides for something useful. The atlas that touted itself as the best and only one you'll ever need seemed to choose its inclusions randomly at best. The chapter on Colorado featured a page on the restaurants of Denver. Nice. And...that was all.

There were “Easy Fold Out!” maps to Washington, D.C., Lima, Peru, Sacramento. There were big fat books of campgrounds across the country and state parks, often so huge you'd also need to pack the coffee table to accommodate them.

Mike found a tempting book called Watch It Made In the USA which took you through any factory tour you might want to go on. So the question here is not whether my son would like to watch how Harley Davidson motorcycles are made, but the problem with books like that is that after you invest $22 and fall in love with the page on blown glass, you find yourself trying to come up with excuses to drive hundreds of miles out of your way into the mountains of West Virginia and when you get there your kid is sick and whiny and no one wants to go. Also, you find things out you'd have been better off not knowing, like the fact that they make teddy bears and jelly beans in California. Remind me why we're leaving again?

It didn't take long before I gave up on the reference publications and zeroed in on the travel literature. There is no shortage. Postcards from Europe, Please Hug Me, I've Been Delayed, Venice is a Fish, Radio Shagri-La, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Journalist in Yemen...Among them was also this title by Doreen Orion: Queen of the Road. The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own. This depresses me on several counts, not the least of which has everything to do with bitter competition. I feel, to some degree, upstaged, outdone, beaten to the punch.

I would like to write about my trip too, since, duh, it's what I do. But here's the thing: I have this crazy notion that I want to get paid for it. I'm hoping to hook up with a publication “on the other side” as I like to call our destination, to take on a series of tales about many fewer states than 47, many thousands of miles fewer than 22,000, about 2 shoes, only 1 cat, no poodle, a husband, a preggo wife, a six-year-old boy and, with any luck, a van that works.

We've also been shopping for used camper vans. If you've ever bought anything so much as a paper clip through Craig's List then you know that experiences with people who post there can range from delightful bargains to psycho scams. Somehow, buying a vehicle that we hope will move our family safely through a month-long 4,000 mile trip feels a bit more risky than scouting out those oak dining chairs we picked up a couple years back. 

There is a story about our first van exchange as I've already hinted at in my previous post, but that will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

where to start?

Maybe with the road collapse that trapped us in Big Sur? Maybe with the 3 1/2 hour detour that got us home, me with an aching back since I'm now nearly 4 months pregnant. Did I say that? Maybe how we're moving across the country in less than 2 months? Or perhaps how we were nearly swindled out of thousands of dollars by a bunch weenie-ass criminals selling a camper van? Oh, so many choices. Will get to them all in time. Tune in soon.

Friday, March 11, 2011

some soundbites from the last few weeks

(looking out the window as we fly to a layover stop in Las Vegas)
“Is that a desert?”


“A REAL LIVE desert??”



“No camels.”


(at the rehearsal dinner for my friend's wedding, with an awful cold and knowledge of desserts ahead)
“Momby? It's weawy hard to breab.”

“We need to leave, Isaac, and put you to bed.”

“Whab aboud da tweats?”

(while getting dressed for the wedding the clip-on tie in one hand, holding up the untied tie in the other)
“This one's broken!”

(explaining his recent clingyness through the music & rhythm instruction he's gotten at school – learning basic four-beat bars, “ti-ti” = eighth notes, “ta” = quarter note)
“You've been wanting a lot of Mommy cuddles lately, huh? Do you know why?

“You know how there's “Ti-Ti Ta Ta Rest? Well, you're the Rest!”

(when his video clip wouldn't play on the computer)
“Click again!”

“Honey, I've clicked a hundred times; it doesn't want to work.”

“Punch the computer then!”

“Believe me, that method's been tried.”

(playing demolition with his blocks)
"Everything was wiped out! There was a WIND STORM! A THUNDERSTORM! A HURRICANE! A TOMATO!"

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