Settling in?

Mr.  NYer has been in Alabama for almost two weeks now.  We’ve quickly resumed some aspects of familiar life.  Lifelongnewyorker loves coming home to home-cooked meals; on the other hand, it’s amazing how quickly the family routine has diminished the sense of novelty.

But not entirely.

The first day he was here, Mr. NYer examined the stock of food I’d  stowed in the pantry and decided on a simple meal of pasta with clam sauce. After all, I’d bought a box of spaghetti and a can of Progresso.  What I failed to do was check whether I had a pot big enough to cook pasta in.  In short order, Mr. NYer discovered just how insufficiently equipped the kitchen was, a realization that had eluded me in my burnt pizza and frozen dinners time alone.

After four nights in hotels and two solid days in the car, the cats took to the apartment like frogs to a swamp.  They explored the heights atop the refrigerator and the cabinets, spelunked the depths under the beds, and marveled at the miracle of the glass-top dining table.

All three–the two cats plus Mr. NYer–were on their own for four days while I traveled to San Antonio for a weekend conference.  Like the last time, it was an easy drive to the airport, and no line at security.  Which left plenty of leisure for the blue-shirted Homeland Security personnel to notice the Swiss Army knife in my bag.  In NY, it would have been tossed.  Here in Montgomery, they offered suggestions.  Had I checked baggage into which it could be packed?  No, I didn’t.  Well, then, they offered, did I drive here?  There was a good half-hour before the plane left–why not put it in my car.  So I asked my colleague to take charge of my bags and walked out to the car, threw the knife in the trunk, and headed back to security.  Where I realized that my boarding pass was in the bag with my co-worker.  “No problem,” the Homeland Security guy said, “I’ll go get him–what does he look like?”

I described him, and my bags, and waited for what seemed like a long time given the fact that this airport has but six gates, and only two of them are used at any one time.  But eventually Thom arrived with my bag and boarding pass and I passed through.  “Did they have trouble finding you?” I asked.

“No, not really,” he answered.  “They found me in the men’s room at the urinal.”

Try that next time you’re flying out of Newark.

We’ve had time to notice a few other things about life here in the South.  For one thing, it’s spring.  The first tree to bloom, the saucer magnolia, burst forth with glorious purple and white flowers.  The yellow Bermuda grass is greening up, and the temperature today climbed close to 70 degrees.

Thunderstorms follow a different pattern, too.  In the northeast they break out in late afternoon and early evening, typically during hot weather.  Here thunder storms roll in during the night and sit over the city for three or four hours.  It’s kind of nice to sleep to.  Yesterday, though, brought a threat of severe weather, which in this area means tornados.  There’s  about a 210 degree view of the sky from the office window, and yesterday’s black, blue and purple panorama impressed.  Watching TV at home last night I saw little maps pop up in the corner of the screen showing where the tornado threat loomed.  The only problem?  You had to know the shape of the counties, and I haven’t a clue yet. 

And that’s the key to the odd dislocation one feels.  Not knowing the lay of the land, literally.  In New York, I could glance at a map and find where I was and recognize the shapes for fifty or a hundred miles in all directions.  Here, they throw a partial map of Alabama on the screen, and color code the counties by degrees of danger, and I don’t know if I’m in the yellow shapes or the red, in which case I should probably be seeking shelter somewhere.

The landscape is shifting in other ways too.   In recent years we’ve divided our labor so that Mr. NYer has taken on more of the household duties, but now the contrast between what we each do and how we spend our days is quite stark.  I leave for work around 7:30 and return 10 or 11 hours later.  How exactly has he spent his day?  He has errands to be sure, and he’s getting to the gym, but just how many chores and how much exercise can one do?  A seismic shift is happening in our lives, but it’s less about moving a thousand miles away and much more about the new roles that are emerging.


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