Homeward Bound?

Dateline: Wytheville, Va.  Halfway between home (old) and home (new).

Yesterday we relaxed.  With 15 inches of snow on the ground, it was good to wake up in a hotel bed and hear the sound of plows clearing the parking lot.  Over omelets cooked by someone else, we chortled at not having to dig out the cars or shovel the sidewalk in front of the house.  Ha!  Talk about timing.

After spending three nights in a hotel room with cats, I can confirm that they are, indeed, nocturnal creatures.  At 2:30 I arose to get some water and found them darting about like eels on the ocean floor.

Having skipped housekeeping on Thursday, we decided to allow it on Friday while we enjoyed our omelets-cooked-by-somebody-else.  We scooted the cats into their cage and asked the maid to freshen the room.  We came back to an overturned litter box, upset water dish, and two very distraught cats.  We unlatched the cage to mop up and the two cats dashed under the bed for the next six hours.

Lifelongnewyorker seriously wanted to take advantage of the hotel’s spa and went as far as to grab a menu of services.  But there was some work to do, the papers to be read, and a final visit to Mr. NYer’s Dad, who is still in the nursing home but has improved markedly.

Mr. NYer’s retirement party turned into a moveable feast.  Morning news was that the restaurant at which it was scheduled was closed by snow and the party canceled.  By late afternoon, word was out for the fearless to join us at the restaurant at the hotel.  Unbeknownst to Mr. NYer, I conspired with the Abandoned One to get him there as a surprise.

So a scaled-back retirement dinner went on despite the snowstorm, with the surprise appearance by the Abandoned One, and the added boon of not having to drive.  Lifelongnewyorker got a last taste of the Staten Island-small-world-phenomena by running into several former newspaper colleagues.

The first was Ms. Realestatebeat, whose only daughter was about three years old when Lifelongnewyorker worked in the newsroom.  Ms. Realestatebeat, whose little girl is now 15 and who has added a 15-month old caboose baby to her family, took the latest buyout — a wise choice to anyone young enough to consider a career other than print journalism.   At the tender age of 40, she told me she worried about reestablishing herself in a new career.  It was good to be able to tell her that I didn’t start my “new” — i.e. non-teaching career — until I was 45 years old.  Having changed jobs three times since then, I was able to reassure her that life is full of possibilities.

After chatting for awhile, I headed to the ladies room via the bar, and ran into The Editor, my former boss at the paper.  “You’re supposed to be in Alabama,” he bellowed.

I sat and described the last five days in four-part harmony, with 8-by-10 glossies with a paragraph on the back of each one … well, I told the tale.  And we talked about the move, the new job, why his daughter decided not to look at my house (the stairs scared her), the state of print journalism, people we both knew, and, of course, we shared some stories from the past.  I was glad to run into him — he’s mercurial, to say the least — but he gave me the job that allowed me to discover what I was capable of, and I am grateful for that.  Plus I got to work in a newsroom, which is a great experience.

This morning we again herded the cats into the cage in preparation for a long day’s driving.  The vet prescribed a sedative for the Lunatic, suggesting we try a half a pill and see if he needs more.  We’re up to a full pill for him and find that it has a minimal effect:  it turns him into a normal cat.  The Mush has been more vocal, in a plaintive and heart-rending way, whenever we cage him, so we decided to pill him as well.  Given that he’s nearly twice the weight of the Lunatic, we gave him a full pill, too.

Every time we stopped for gas, a bottle of water or a bathroom break, we lifted the rear gate to check on the cats.  They blinked warily and huddled.  After nine hours on the road, we stopped here in southern Virginia, took them into the room, and un-crated them.  The Mush staggered about, over-sedated, and stumbled on several attempts to jump atop low furniture.

The Lunatic operated at about half warp-speed, so the pills still worked for him, too.

Another long haul tomorrow, and home to Alabama.  And that seems very strange.

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Too Much Drama

Over dinner and a bottle of wine at the lovely restaurant attached to the Staten Island Hilton Garden Inn, Mr. NYer and I reminisced about the last 26 years and 11 months we spent in one house.  We smiled, laughed and got teary remembering the ghastly decor when we moved in, the collection of neighbors, the contractors, the happy occasions and, mostly, the memories of raising our son in this house.

It was a good ending to an exhausting and unnecessarily dramatic week.

Let’s go back to late last Friday afternoon, around 4 pm, when Mr. NYer hears from our old friend and attorney, Mr. J, that the buyer wants to close on February 25 — six days hence.  The alternative is to wait until Mr. J gets back from his St. Croix vacation, and close on March 9.  Oh, and by the way, the buyer wants a credit for “thousands of dollars” for the attic, which they fear is not legal.

A side note on our attic:  It’s about 300 square feet of floor space, has full-size windows on three sides, and a conventional stairway leading to it.  It’s got high ceilings with some dormers.  We refinished the attic over ten years ago, replacing hideous cheap paneling with sheet rock.  When we pulled the paneling down, we could see the lath marks on the studs for the plaster walls that had preceded the paneling.  In other words, this attic had been a finished living space since dinosaurs walked the earth.

A Staten Island attorney would not have given the finished attic a second thought, but our buyers turned to an attorney who practices in Nassau County and is young enough to be Lifelongnewyorker’s daughter.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  This attorney, a sorority sister of the female half of the buyers, is used to dealing with tiny Long Island towns, and couldn’t understand why there was no C of O (our house was built in 1919, and houses in NYC  built back then don’t have them); she worried that the attic was “illegal.”

On Friday, Mr. J told us that the buyers wanted a substantial credit to make the attic legal, and also wanted to close as early as possible, so they could move in this weekend.  Figuring that the demand for a credit was leverage for the early closing date, and tired of being apart, Mr. NYer and I decided to try to accommodate the date.

What this entailed:  moving heaven and earth to get the mover lined up to pack on Tuesday and load on Wednesday; finding and arranging for storage of all our earthly goods in Montgomery; booking air travel from Atlanta, where Lifelongnewyork was on business, home to NY within 24 hours; hustling from a session that ended at 5 pm in Atlanta to get to the airport in time for a 6:40 flight.  And instructing Mr. J to accept the early closing date but refuse to negotiate the contracted price.

Two hours after getting the call, all that had been arranged.

Home on Staten Island, Mr. NYer and I worked for two days to empty the house, sort the belongings, and get ready for the movers.  Lifelongnewyorker kept the computer connected and the Blackberry attached so she could also attend to business.  At the end of each night, we fell into bed exhausted.  Exhausted in a way that people in their 50s should just not have to feel.

Tuesday the packers show up and the house is tossed into orderly chaos.  Lifelongnewyorker is the ultimate authority on what stays, what goes, and is consulted at every turn–for some reason, Mr. NYer seems to dread making a decision without her.  Meanwhile, she has at least one conference call scheduled, which she takes in the empty attic, accompanied only by the cats who have been sent there in exile.  Only one item is broken during the packing.

Towards the end of the day Tuesday our attorney calls with the news that the buyers’ attorney wants to postpone the closing, pending inspection of the space by an architect.  We will not dwell here on the theories put forth by the various parties, but we briefly despaired.  Our attorney suggested they bring the architect along for the walk-through, scheduled for Wednesday evening.  We breathed a tentative sigh of relief.

Wednesday the movers come again, this time to load the truck.  Oh, did I mention the truck and the parking dilemma.  Few homes on our block have off-street parking. Many residents take their cars to work, but the spaces are filled almost immediately by the teachers who work at the middle school down the block.  So, on Monday, Lifelongnewyorker printed neighborly notes on neon-colored paper asking folks to refrain from parking on about 110 feet of prime street real estate on both Tuesday and Wednesday.  She carefully tucked these under wipers and into mailboxes.  Mr. NYer, believing more direct means were necessary, conspired with our neighbors to park three cars in such a way as to use up five spaces,  placed garbage cans strategically, and stood watch during the half hour before school started.

The movers load the truck.  Lifelongnewyorker takes another conference call while huddled in the attic.  By 3 pm, when the movers leave, we are again exhausted, but we have more work to do.  Sweep and vacuum.  Because we are who we are, we also clean the bathroom and the kitchen.  Lifelongnewyorker gets on her hands and knees and cleans the hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms because the movers have been tracking wet feet in and out for two days.  We fill up move garbage bags.  And then we have to sedate the cats, capture them, and put them into their accommodations for the next four days, a lovely cage.  Eventually we do get the cats.  We carry them, cage and all, down to the car.

Barely able to focus, we drive to the aforementioned lovely Hilton Garden Inn and check in.  Lifelongnewyorker takes a much-needed hot shower.  While Mr. NYer is in the shower, the phone rings.  It’s Mr. J with the news that the buyer’s attorney has cancelled the next day’s closing.  Yes, cancelled.  Told the bank’s attorneys to forget about it.  After all, she tells Mr. J, it will take several days for the architect to file his report.

Frankly it feels like extortion to us, and Mr. NYer and I are competing to see who is angrier.  It’s 5 pm, and we have the walk-through in about an hour.  Our legal counsel advises us to be nice, which is going to be really hard.

But then we remember that we are actors.  We rehearse our lines and come up with our strategy.

We arrive early at the house and rush in to grab the 20 pounds of cat food we left, and remove the bottle of prosecco we left in the refrigerator.  We deliberately leave the bottle of champagne.  We turn on all the lights and make sure the house is cozy.  We run our lines.

First onstage is our realtor, who is also fit to be tied and enters under a dark cloud, convinced the closing will never happen.  Next are the buyers with a young man who alleges to be an architect.  I ask for his card and, well, he has one.  Before going upstairs we set the scene:  “We’re confused,” I explain.  “We moved heaven and earth to make this closing happen and you cancel it–we just don’t understand.”

These guys are first-time homebuyers and they’re terrified by the word “illegal,” which has been thrown around in reference to the attic a lot, first by their attorney and secondly by — get this — the house inspector.  This is the personage, loyal readers might remember, who brazenly poked at my sills, extolled the house, and never bothered to measure a single thing.  Turns out when questioned, he reported that the attic did not have the height or space to “ever be made legal.”  Even though it was large enough to hold his hot air for a good half hour one evening.

The heart-to-heart out of the way, we head upstairs to the attic, so the architect can have a look-see.  He looks.  He sees that this is a very large and airy attic.  He explains that the minimum floor space for a bedroom is 85 square feet — the attic has nearly three times that.  He observes that the ceiling is over 8 feet tall, and that two of the windows alone meet the air and light requirement.  He ends by saying, “This attic is fine — there’s no problem with it.”

At which point, Mr. NYer and I act out our the dual strategy.  I proceed to show the buyers all the wonderful things they’ve bought, talking about their new closets, their air conditioning and, in the kitchen, the bottle of champagne we hope they will be enjoying as new homeowners tomorrow night.  Mr. NYer tells them, “Our lawyer is ready to close tomorrow.  So are we.  If yours is willing, let’s do it.”  It’s late, but phone calls are made.  We’re all willing, but the big question remains:  Is the bank?  They’ve been told to cancel — can that be undone?

We return to the hotel feeling that, at least, the deal will close sometime, if not tomorrow.  It hasn’t fallen through.  The cats — remember them? — are freaked out, but haven’t clawed their way out of the cage or chewed off their own feet.  We go to bed, awakening every 15 minutes or so wondering what the next day will bring.

More drama.  It’s snowing.  Hard.  And the forecast is for anywhere from 8 to 16 inches.  And remember, the sorority sister attorney has to drive in from Nassau County.

We eat breakfast and return to the room just in time to hear from Mr. J — the closing is on at high noon.  Mr. NYer, who has a soft side for the cats and a charming belief in illusions, erects a barricade of pillows around the bottom of the bed and allows the cats out of their cage.  The Lunatic takes about 5 minutes to dash beneath the king bed and park himself in the middle of the floor under the mattress.

We spend the next 40 minutes or so enticing him with yarn, with catnip, with toys and with food.  None of this works.  We move the bed; he moves with it.  We plead.  I find birdsong on the Web and play cardinals, bluejays and finches.  None of these entice him.  Finally, I flop on top of the bed, he rushes out, and we capture him.

We are the first to arrive at the office, but eventually the other parties arrive.  And, lo and behold, after Way Too Much Drama, we close the deal.

We’ve  been far too busy the last four days to dwell on sentiment, but while the buyers were signing their documents (many more than ours) images of my son growing up in the house played in my mind: playing ball in the backyard, climbing the stairs before he could walk, blowing out birthday candles at the kitchen table.  I teared up, briefly.

Tonight at dinner, I asked Mr. NYer: “Shall we talk about our memories in the house, or about the future?”

“The house,” he said.

And we did, laughing mostly.  It was good.

Untethering

Where is my tether?

I’m referring, of course, to the cord that attaches my Blackberry to my computer and allows me to have Internet access anywhere.  Once we turn in the cable boxes, we’ll need it.  I can’t find it.

This is probably the 10th or 15th item I couldn’t find today.  On the phone, our lawyer asks for the account number of our mortgage and a copy of our latest water bill.  No problem — I put both of these in a package of materials not to be packed.  All of the things not to be packed are on the bed.  Alas, the legal-size manilla envelopes with these papers never made it to the bed.  Mr. NYer remembered that they’d been left on the shelves in the computer room, which were … already packed.

But the moving guys obliged.  One remembered the envelope and gamely proved the rule that it’s always in the last box.

Slowly but surely, other needed items have disappeared. The sugar bowl, the boxes of tea, the lamps.  The movers believe in minimalism, and we will live that way tonight.  They plan to leave us with one lamp, a floor lamp that we can carry around like a candlestick on steroids.

How did I get here?

On a plane, on Saturday night, of course.  The cab driver, in a first for New York City’s fleetest, carried my bag up the twenty-three steps to my front door.  It almost made me sad to be leaving.  I rang the bell to let Mr. NYer know I was home, then opened the door only to have him grab me and, basically, not let go.  “Thank God you’re home,” he said aloud.

To himself, I think he added, “There’s a lot of work to do.”

And work we did.  Sunday and Monday we made arrangements, wrote lists, and cleared out the rest of the stuff that wasn’t coming with us.  You know how the things you least want to do are the ones you put off until the end?  Well, the end has arrived.

Case in point:  Thirty five years ago, I did a college art history project on the architectural history of Staten Island.  My professor encouraged me to try to get a grant to continue the work, and recommended I work with another student who was a photographer.  That student, who subsequently became a boyfriend, borrowed a valuable book on the small houses of Ernest Flagg, a Staten Island architect, from the secretary of the Art Department.  Fast forward a couple of years, and ex-boyfriend, following the lead of his hero John Denver, decides he needs to live in the Rocky Mountains, buys a used VW bus, puts a camera mount on the roof (I hate to think about what that did to his camera lens), and dropped the book off with me to return to its rightful owner.  I think I made one attempt, but she wasn’t at the college when I stopped by.  And then, life happened.  The book has traveled with me out of my parents house and into two apartments and a house.  I had a child.  The woman died and I read her obit in the Advance.

You might think I should just add the book to my own collection, but I couldn’t.  I stored it in the basement (I know), rather than risk thinking of it as mine.  As many of you know, Staten Island is a small world, so I was not entirely surprised when one of the elementary school classmates of the Abandoned One turned out to be the grandson of the woman who owned the book.  I intended to return the book to them, but it was hardly top of mind, nor was it within handy reach.

Until Sunday, when the Men with Truck came to clean out the basement, and I wound up with the book in my hands.  Did I have the heirs’ phone number?  Of course not; nor were they listed.  But Mr. NYer remembered that Mrs. Heir was on Facebook, and I sent a message.  Monday night she called and, like a repentant sinner, I told her the story of the book that had once belonged to her mother-in-law.  This morning I wrapped it in shrink wrap and Mr. NYer left it at their house.

One item off the list.

Originally, we hoped to have another two or three weeks before the closing, and had carefully gauged our consumption of cleaning liquids, wine and other spirits accordingly.  By Monday, though, we needed to deal with the bottles of ammonia, nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, soy sauce, white, cider and rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and enough seltzer to start a soda shop.  We counted up nine bottles of champagne or prosecco.  And not bad stuff.  Then there were the odd bottles of hard liquor that we rarely drank but that had somehow accumulated over the years:  vermouth, flavored vodka, rum, Harvey’s Bristol Cream …

None of this can go in the car.  We need room for the cat cage, Mr. NYer’s clothes, and other necessities. These are all contraband items for interstate moves.  We’d already filled dozens of contractors or recycling bags, and were trying hard to lighten the load.  The trusty plumbing system beckoned.  And so I began pouring.   Shortly after the first elixirs from the medicine cabinet went down the tube, I looked out the window to see a large DEP truck stopping on the street.  Seems the sewer was backing up into the houses across the street.  Great.  Imagine not only finding that you’re getting a sewer backing up, but wondering why it smells like ammonia.

In about an hour the DEP let us know that the system was running fine, and we could resume use.  Little did they know …

Two days of final cleaning down.  Day One of the move itself down: the house is 90% packed.  Only one item — a globe from a small Ikea lamp–broken.  Tomorrow is Move Day Two: the Loading of the Truck, then the furious cleaning, and tomorrow night the walk-through.  Thursday the closing.  Friday Mr. NYers retirement party.  And then Saturday, we’re on the road.  Just us and the two cats.

Did we remember to keep the cat sedative unpacked?

Getting a Move On …

Yikes — Lifelongnewyorker and Mr. NYer are moving this week!

We’ve been trying to nail down a closing date all week and late yesterday–a Friday–we got the word that it’s either this Thursday or in three weeks.  For various reasons we decided that sooner is better than later.

But.  Lifelongnewyorker is in Atlanta on business.  Mr. NYer just had his last day at work on Friday, and still has to get the Guy With Truck to clean out the basement.  The Abandoned One has moved into his digs in Brooklyn, but has yet to clear out his childhood stuff.  Oh, and how about getting long distance movers lined up on a Friday afternoon when you need them to show up to pack on Tuesday?

Over the phone last night we went into rapid decision mode.  Rather than return to Montgomery, Lifelongnewyorker would book a flight directly out of Atlanta.  Did she have enough clothes?  Yes.  Were appropriate shoes waiting for her in Staten Island?  Check.   Booked the flight for immediately after the final conference session she has to attend today.  This morning realized she only has enough of a prescription to last until tomorrow and will either be without for a week or will need to get a temporary supply.  Called doctor’s office and left incoherent message.

Calls back and forth between Lifelongnewyorker and the relocation folks at work; between them and mover; and between mover and Mr. NYer.  Resolution: mover will be there to pack on Tuesday, load on Wednesday.

Question: What about change of address?  New house doesn’t have a C of O yet, let alone a mailbox.  Call to realtor in Montgomery who advises calling Post Office.  Lifelongnewyorker considers leaving set of prepaid priority mailers with new owners.

Mr. NYer and cats will be returning with her to apartment in Montgomery next week.  Management will need to be advised of pets.

Also, Lifelongnewyorker is remembering that there’s a chicken carcass wrapped up in foil in the trash back at the apartment and really wishes she had brought said trash to the compactor before she left.  Big difference between three-day old chicken carcass and 10-day old chicken carcass.

Then there’s work.  Lifelongnewyorker has phone meetings and projects to work on next week.  Luckily, she has not one but two laptops with her and a blackberry to which either can be tethered.  She also has an air card, but that needs to get back to her office on Monday.  Must remember to send with colleague.

Two laptops?  That should be fun at airport security.

Oh, no — those blackberries?  (Two of them as well).  They were fully charged on Thursday, so Lifelongnewyorker didn’t take the chargers.  Looks like there will be a trip to both AT&T and Verizon on the to-do lists.  Put post-it note on drivers’ license to be reminded at security and look for these at airport.

Set to arrive at LGA about 9:40 tonight.  That gives us two days, one of which is a Sunday, to eliminate everything from the house that isn’t coming with us, pick up all the dry cleaning, prescriptions and whatnot, start at least making lists for change of address, go to the post office, turn off utilities, return cable boxes, clean out the refrigerator, decide what to do with the gas grill (anyone need one?), and finish off any wine or liquor in the house.

Friends may be needed to help with the last item.  Consider Sunday and Monday open house days and stop by!

We Choose a House

The last time Lifelongnewyorker and Mr. NYer bought a house, the decision process wasn’t all that complicated.  We looked at a bunch of houses, no more than eight.  We found one we liked that was really really close to where I worked, and up the block from Mr. NYer’s oldest friend.  We were looking in January, 1983, when the average mortgage rate was hovering around 14 percent.  This house came with an assumable VA mortgage at 9 percent.

And that pretty much sums up the calculus that went into the decision to buy our house.  We saw it, we made an offer, they countered and we accepted.  Three months later we moved in and discovered, among other surprises, that the removal of pipes during a kitchen expansion resulted in the bathroom having no heat, and that the oven worked only if you draped an extension cord over the sink and plugged it into an outlet on the other side of the kitchen.

This time, put in charge of the search, I marshalled my considerable analytic and Internet skills to thoroughly vet the choices.  No way I was taking the heat for a bad choice, so Mr. NYer, despite being one thousand miles away, was going to get involved whether he enjoyed it or not.

Much of my spare time in December and January was spent reviewing the MLS listings on our realtor’s website.  I particularly liked the map feature that showed not merely location but also street-level and birds’ eye views.  After about 40 days of house-surfing, I sent a list of about a twenty candidates to the realtor.

We logged in a full 8-hour day one Sunday visiting those houses, with me taking pictures and scribbling notes.  That night, I whittled the list down to about five or six contenders and spent hours developing a spreadsheet to help Mr. NYer compare them.

Column A listed the categories I thought would help us both weigh the choices, from structure to yard/garden to good for entertainment.  I used paired cells to rate each on a scale of P (poor) to EX (excellent) and to enter short descriptions and pithy analyses like these:

  • Cosmetics: “Needs paint, removal of lots of wallpaper.”
  • Kitchen: “Redone tastefully; up-to-date; granite.”
  • Dining Room: “Would our furniture work?”
  • Bathrooms: “One fab, two good.”
  • Bedrooms: “Three.  One is upholstered; one is outside.”
  • Parking: “In back; porte cochere on side.”
  • Windows: “Painted shut.”

Off the excel went to Mr. NYer, along with MLS numbers so he could see the pictures.  In a series of phone calls over two or three days, we went through the six homes.  When we were done, I asked, “So, what do you think?”

“I don’t know what to think.”

Right, then.  This led  to the second round of house visits, more photos and worksheet number two for four  houses.  This time I added numbers — asking price, likely selling price, days on market, price per square foot, estimated monthly mortgage, insurance, utilities and taxes.  I included a section listing possible future improvements and the likely cost.  For the analyses/comments, I created about 65 categories and divided them into eight large groupings, from Exterior to Master Suite, to Cats.

From this we got down to three houses.  I revisited again, and produced worksheet number three.  Another round and I added color-coding and numerical ratings for worksheet  number four.

By this time, Mr. NYer was numbed by my considerable analytic skills and begged me to just pick a house.  Well, not quite, but we narrowed it down to three and then eliminated one.  Unfortunately we eliminated a different one each time we talked.

All in all, the process  lasted nearly three weeks, about 21 times  as much time and effort as went into our decision to buy our house on Staten Island.  But we finally agreed and last Wednesday I called the realtor and made an offer.

So, dear readers, we have chosen our new home in Montgomery.

It’s not the 1925 with lots of charm–proximity to a busy road, high utilities, and upholstered bedroom from which we’d have to banish the cats overcame our attraction to the piazza and the lovely french doors.

Nor is it the 1945 with the fabulous addition of open kitchen, great room, master suite and tranquil back deck.  The meth house next door, coupled with the perpetually soggy yard and the owner’s records of substantial foundation work scared us.  Montgomery is known for something called “gumbo soil.”  My engineer niece consulted  with a geo-guy in her firm and he said it’s nasty stuff.

Patio and Living Room Door/windows

Inside living room

The winner is the new construction, with drilled-pier foundation, two-car garage, huge kitchen, jacuzzi bath in the master, two guest bedrooms, each with its own bath, and–the coup de grace–an elevator.  I’d rather have closets instead, but what are you gonna do?

Lifelongnewyorker is feeling a bit rattled, knowing how fast/slow and final the next few weeks will be.  We’ve got a  lot to do:  choose fixtures and appliances; set a date with the movers; fly north (me); close on the Staten Island house; load the car and cage the cats; drive a thousand miles and hope the mid-Atlantic doesn’t get another colossal snow storm; close on the house in Montgomery; wait for the movers; settle in.  Uncage the cats.

And I ask myself just this one question:  How did we make decisions before spreadsheets?

A lot faster.

New house entrance

The entrance to the new house is on the right.

The Long Weekend

Last week I wondered just how I would fill up the three days of this holiday weekend.  When Friday turned into a snow day, I wasn’t exactly dancing for joy.  Four days to fill.  Great.

Normally, of course, I’m like any red-blooded American.  I revere the Presidents whom we celebrate on this weekend, even if they’re no longer important enough to have their own separate days.  I know, too, that it’s a long haul to the next holiday.  But crimey, I just don’t need this many days off when I: a) have so few of my belongings about me; b) am trying to avoid shopping until I’m settled; c) can clean the apartment in less than an hour; d) don’t want to get too far ahead of Mr. NYer in terms of exploring the area; and e) miss my cats, my husband and my friends.

Frankly, the extended business trip feeling is getting old. 

I worked on Friday.  Cleaned the house, too.  Saturday I worked all day on a writing project that needed finishing.  In the evening I went, alone, to a restaurant for dinner.  My new friend, Ms. Atlantic City, works there on weekends, and suggested I come and eat at the bar.  This was an excellent idea. 

It was my second visit to Michael’s Table, so I’d already met the chef and owner; Ms. Atlantic City introduced me to the bartender as well.  I chatted with the couple sitting next to me; she swooned over New York City and asked if I had a dentist yet.  Then she recommended one.  Next, a colleague and her husband, with whom I’d had dinner on Thursday night at Jubilee Seafood, stopped by the bar on their way out, having had an early dinner.  When I set to work on my duck breast (fabulous, by the way), a newcomer sat down.  This was Frank, a friend of friends, who had already heard about me.  And that, folks, is Montgomery.  I expect to know everyone very soon. 

Today I figured out why you shouldn’t put onions in the disposal — it’s okay, it was an orange peel that made me realize this.  For awhile I curled up with a book — the Story of Edgar Sawtelle — that is well-written, but the jury’s still out on whether I’d recommend it.  A long afternoon nap threatened.  Normally I would give in, but the thought of the consequent sleepless night made me fight it off.  Instead, I drove to the Eastbrook Antique Mall and Flea Market for my first, and most likely my last,  visit. 

My stop at Publix reminded me all too well that it’s Valentine’s Day.  I particularly liked the presentation, in the meat department, of a matched pair of steaks in a heart-shaped plastic tray.  Passing the flowers, I flirted with the idea of buying a bunch and calling Mr. NYer with instructions to go out and do the same.  Decided to ignore the holiday instead. 

But my thoughts were with Mr. NYer all day.  The Abandoned One rented a U-Haul yesterday and planned to move today into the new digs in Brooklyn.  He’s excited, of course.  Mr. NYer helped and will most likely sack out pretty quickly this evening, but I imagine the house will feel rather empty this week. 

Tomorrow I plan to start exercising to counterbalance the poor eating I’m doing.  In the afternoon, I’m going with Ms. Atlantic City to the movies and then out for a bite.  And then, at last, having survived four long days, I return to work on Tuesday. Yes!

Except that there’s more snow in the forecast …

“Major Winter Snow Storm”–Redefined

As the afternoon drew on yesterday, the office chatter drifted to the weather.  The forecast called for snow, up to three inches.  After enduring several weeks of record-breaking below-freezing temperatures earlier in the season, Montgomerians didn’t seem happy about this latest wrinkle. 

My iGoogle home page features two weather gadgets, one set to Staten Island and one to Montgomery.  I had grown used to seeing temps in the 30s and snow on the 5-day forecast for New York, and did a double-take when I saw the flakes  floating atop the “Friday” icon for zip code 36104.   But three inches, on roads and ground that had basked in the sun only the day before, didn’t concern me.

It goes almost without saying that the prospect of snow freaked people out, especially as the predictions crept up to seven inches.  I’m really trying to avoid being the typical northerner come south, so I resisted pooh-poohing the reaction, and kept my thoughts to myself.  After all, I well remember being a new driver tackling snow for the first few times, and even after driving for  almost 40 years, I’ve still had some white-knuckle snow experiences in the  last few years.  I don’t blame people for being nervous in a place that doesn’t have plows. 

Twelve hours before the first flake fell the announcements of school closings began.  Our COO emailed with the news that he would make a decision by 5:30 a.m., and to check before heading in.  Home, I turned on the local  news, where I learned that it was a “major, serious storm.”  State offices, as well as those for the city and county, were closed.  People were urged to stay at home and off  the roads.   

I found odd comfort in the familiar news tropes.  There  were the scenes at the supermarkets, and the interviews with folks  stocking up on milk.  Another crew visited the home improvement stores to report that the inventory of salt and shovels had long since been exhausted.  Finally I saw the signature snow news piece — the poor reporter bundled in her warmest winter gear, marooned at the side of a usually busy road, waiting for the snow to fall and reporting on the lack of traffic.

The snow was supposed to begin shortly after midnight.  I woke several times and peeked through the blinds — nothing.  But the last time I woke it was 5:40 — the snow had begun and the email on my Blackberry had the news that the offices were closed. 

The snow fell  for a good 12 hours, sometimes heavily.  I’d say the total accumulation — on the grass — was about 3/4 of an inch, maybe a whole inch.  It simply didn’t stick on roads and sidewalks. 

Kids here in the apartment complex were truly excited and ran about trying to build a snowman with about 1/2 inch of snow on the ground.  It was kind of sad.  They didn’t seem  to know about snow angels or snowballs; two of them were riding their bikes.  They had no sleds.  But they seemed to have fun.