Friday, June 27, 2008

Margo & Andrew, Unplugged

Tonight starts a grand adventure: our first-ever Unplugged Week. We’re heading to New Hampshire for a full seven days—and we’re leaving our computers behind. We’ll officially be off the grid: there will be no internet access, little to no cell reception, no TV, and not even a landline phone. There’s one neighbor in sight, but no more. We’ve packed a stack of books and games, have plans to go canoeing and hiking, will have plenty of cook-outs, and…that’s about it. Bliss.

Andrew and I haven’t been to New Hampshire for a few years now, and I’m excited to go back. For all my agitating to move back to a big city, there’s something almost equally appealing about just heading off to the middle of nowhere, with only the frogs and crickets for company.

One small problem with being in such seclusion is that Andrew and I both have very over-active imaginations that tend to overwork themselves at night in isolated conditions. My very first time at the house, we went for a walk late one night, through an overgrown, pitch-dark stand of trees, barely able to see our own hands in front of our faces. “How do I know you’re not a serial killer?” I quietly mused. “How well does one person really know another?” For some reason, this freaked us both out. It doesn’t sound that scary, but trust me, it was. Andrew and I hadn’t actually been dating very long at that point, and I think he probably wondered just what he’d gotten himself into.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Heat: Some Reflections

Well, it was just another Sunday here in NorCal: spring cleanin’, fixin’ screens, strugglin’ to finagle a “cross-breeze” from our bedroom through to the living room. Andrew, with a desperate zeal, moved one of our screens (we only have them in a few windows) to a window he thought would provide that cross-breeze; and then we stood in the hot room, unsurprised, really, when the air was just as stagnant as before.

It’s so hot here that yesterday we saw a woman walking down the street in what I can only describe as a wall tapestry wrapped around her body like a towel. It was bizarre. She may also have been barefoot, and perhaps a bit insane—we get a lot of crazies wandering past this apartment for some reason. Then again, if this was my real home, with year upon year—a lifetime—of temperatures like this, I’d probably be crazy too, perhaps walking around wearing my own hippie wrap.

It was a startlingly hot weekend, with temperatures in the 100s. We spent Saturday afternoon in Suisun City, at Beth and Nate’s, where Beth and I saw a brush fire right by the side of the road as we drove home from the movies. Everything is brown, dry, and crisp, including some of the plants on my terrace, in particular a daisy plant that had been beautiful, blooming, and verdant just a month or so ago. Now it looks like it could burst into flames at any second—perhaps a little mini brush fire right here at home.

It’s around 1:30pm here right now, still tolerably cool in this apartment. In another two hours or so, the afternoon sun will begin baking the side of our apartment—literally baking it; the walls will be hot—and the living and dining rooms, as well as my work space, will become so hot as to be unfit for human life. Then I will retreat to the bedroom, which tends to stay a bit cooler. And there I will stay until much, much later in the afternoon, when I will drive in our air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned gym. (Walk to the gym, five minutes away? In this heat? You jest.)

The only bright spot in all this heat and sun: Our local farmer's market is ridiculously wonderful. Every week it's full of new things--blackberries, yellow peaches, a few small eggplants, and lots of summer squash filled the tables yesterday. Just amazing. And super-cheap.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Hunt

Before going to bed each night, Andrew and I brace ourselves for The Hunt. With a bottle of Windex-like liquid and a box of Kleenex, we advance into the bedroom and begin a thorough study of the walls and ceiling of our bedroom. “There’s one!” we begin shouting, and The Hunt is on. “There’s one! It’s there! At the ceiling! It just flew towards me!” The tension is thick enough to cut with a knife. I scream, and scream, and Andrew blasts me in the face with Windex. “Did you get it?” There is desperation and pleading in my voice. “It fell,” Andrew says. “But I can’t find its body.”

Spot it, spray it, squash its writing carcass with a tissue. Lovely. This is our nightly ritual. Sometimes it lasts for just a few minutes; sometimes for an hour or more; sometimes it recurs, again and again, throughout the night. Last night, for example, Andrew engaged in The Hunt for about an hour at midnight, then again at 3:00am. What are we hunting, you might wonder—we’re hunting mosquitoes. Mosquitoes that somehow get into our apartment and bedroom, despite the fact that we have screens on all the windows, and, as far as I know, don’t have any squalid pools of stagnant water lying around.

For a while, we thought we had it under control. We bought a big floor fan and have it aimed directly at the bed—this seems to prevent the horrifying, A MOSQUITO IS GOING TO BURROW INTO MY EAR ANY SECOND buzzing that kept us awake night after night a couple of months ago. Now the mosquitoes generally stay away from our ears and concentrate on feasting on any bit of flesh that happens to be exposed.

These blood-suckers are fast, and for some reason furious, and I currently have about five bites on my right knee and calf. Andrew woke a couple of nights ago and flipped a light on, only to see one sucking at my neck like a tiny, flying vampire.

You might think this is simply annoying, but manageable. You’d be wrong. It’s like living inside a nightmare where mosquitoes are dive-bombing and biting you at every turn. It’s awful, and we don’t know how to stop it. The Hunt grows more and more tedious every night.

An aside: the thermometer on Andrew’s desk currently indicates that it’s 106 F outside. This is apparently prime mosquito weather. You’d think we lived in a swampy Southern state, not bone-dry Sacramento.

Monday, June 16, 2008


A week in NYC always makes returning to Sacramento more than a little difficult. One thing I forgot how much I missed about a big, bustling city is the inevitability of eavesdropping as you go about a normal day. At MoMA on Friday, while looking at photographs by Berndt and Hilla Becher, which I like very much, I overheard a woman saying to a man beside her, “These are boring. These are insulting to me as a viewer.” You just don’t hear stuff like that around Sactown.

It reminded me and Andrew of two of our favorite comments we overheard American tourists saying abroad:

In a Madrid shop full of knick knacks: An American man entered, glanced around, then announced loudly to the entire store, “Well, nothing here I can’t live without!” then left.

In a Krakow shop full of handmade wooden crafts: I was selecting a few small wooden birds when I overheard an American man talking to the salesclerk in a slow drawl. “Y’ever see an American dollar coin?” he asked her. I could only pray that he didn’t try to actually give her the coin.

Ah, humanity.

Travel Karma

If you travel a lot, then you know what I mean when I talk about travel karma. I’ve long since given up yelling at airport counter employees—the last “episode” of extreme travel rage for me was in Miami in 2005—but stuff still happens, good and bad, for reasons that remain unclear.

Our trip to New York last week seemed absolutely blessed. We were sitting in the Sacramento airport, having a bite to eat, and Andrew got a free beer from the waiter because he’d delivered the wrong kind. Then, after Andrew struck up a friendly conversation with the gate agent for our flight, she gave us free upgrades to Business Class, just because she thought we (well, probably Andrew, in all his garrulousness) were so nice.

After good travel luck like that, it was somehow not surprising that our return trip was a disaster. We were stuck on the runway for over an hour at JFK, unable to take off because of air traffic control problems. When we arrived in San Francisco, we had, as we’d feared, missed our connection to Sacramento—and were ineligible for a hotel room since it was air-traffic-control-related, not the airline’s fault. We’d missed the flight by five minutes. Exhausted at that point, but unwilling to go to a hotel for a few hours to catch a 7:15am flight the next day, we rented a car and drove home at 2:00am. When Andrew called to cancel our places on the next day’s flight, we were reimbursed $36 and $54 each.

I don't know what we did to deserve such bad travel karma this time around.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

State of the Wardrobe

As Andrew and I prepare for our trip to NYC next week, I find myself facing the alarming realization that if I descend upon NYC wearing pretty much anything I currently have in my closet, I will be marked instantly as a Tourist from Sacramento. Let’s get this straight right off: I am NOT a tourist from Sacramento. I’m a former New Yorker who just happens to be temporarily living in California.

My current wardrobe suggests otherwise. For example, I’m currently wearing a cotton skirt from Target that looked ratty when I bought it (lots of rough-cut, unhemmed layers; strategic pilliness) and that now, two years later, actually IS ratty. I’m wearing it with a tank top that does not fit. Perhaps I could select a tank top I bought at Gabe’s last time I was there, or perhaps not: it’s printed with psychedelic rabbits (oh, the wonders of the clearance rack). I really like a new Anthropologie dress I bought at Gabe’s, but I think it’s a little Earth-Mothery for New York. The new clothes I have are few and far between, and they are—sigh—decidedly different from the nice, sophisticated clothes I used to wear on a daily basis.

So last night I went shopping and bought a few things. I put on a cute black belted dress, slung my purse over my shoulder—and the girl staring back from the mirror was the old me. I could imagine her striding down a crowded street, staring disinterestedly at something in the subway, raising her hand for a taxi. I could imagine her buying overpriced heirloom tomatoes from the Union Square Greenmarket, shopping at the Strand, ascending the stairs into the Met on a Friday evening. She was a girl who actually wears heels on a daily basis.

I bought the dress. And another one. And a skirt and a top. And shoes. Everything in black. I just might even pass for a New Yorker.