Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On the Run

Andrew and I spent yesterday in San Francisco—Andrew had a conference to go to, and I got to spend a day in a big city. Win-win! When it was finally time to leave last night, however, and Andrew said in resignation, “Well, we should probably get back,” I gave my usual response. “Alright,” I said with a sigh. “I’ll go—if you can find me!

In my mind, the scene that plays out from there is me suddenly sprinting away, disappearing into the folds of the city at full speed; with a shout, Andrew runs to the car and veers onto the streets in a desperate quest to find his wayward, running wife. The scene varied a bit in New Hampshire. “I’ll go—if you can find me!” I announced—imagining running deep into the woods, never to be seen again. (In Sacramento, that is.)

It’s become a running joke between us, though Andrew finds it only mildly amusing. Alarm is probably a more accurate reaction. He always does hold my hand a bit more tightly as we make our exit from wherever it is we are; admittedly; the tone in my voice as I deliver my sing-songy taunt generally has a slight edge of genuine threat. Ah well. This time, at least, I followed him to the car without struggle.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Last night at Zelda’s, where Andrew and I took refuge from our oven of an apartment, we overheard a woman in the booth behind us say the following in a loud voice:

“I have a theory,” (she told her companions). “You know how everyone always thinks their city is the center of the world? Well, I think Sacramento is the center of the world. No matter where you go, you always find someone who’s from Sacramento or knows someone who is.”

As someone who’d never heard of Sacramento other than linked with references to Schwarzenegger before arriving, and who regularly fields questions like “Are you near the beach?” or “Is that near L.A.?” when I mention Sacramento in former stomping grounds, I have to disagree. However, as we drank our beer and ate our pizza, Andrew and I decided that this woman is literally correct.

If Sacramento is the center of the universe, and the center of the universe (our universe, anyway) is the sun, then Sacramento is the sun. And that feels 100% on-target. With temperatures over 100 F every day—the smoke that’s dense enough to actually make it hard to breathe—the constant smell of burning—why yes, it does indeed feel like we’re on the sun.

My husband, who is—I swear—not normally this geeky, remarked this week that it feels like we’re living on the planet Tatooine, from Star Wars. Tatooine, according to the Star Wars website, “has a seemingly endless desert environment cooked by the intense energy of twin yellow suns.” I don’t know about twin suns, but if you noticed the sun a couple of days ago—blazing bright red, a huge, clearly defined, fiery disk, no doubt emblazoned with eerie color due to the smoky atmosphere—perhaps you’ll agree that Sacramento could fairly be classified as otherworldly right now. Death Valley was one location George Lucas selected as a Tatooine stand-in for filming, so the California comparison is not all that far-fetched. 

Tatooine doesn’t make for easy living these days, and really—this is awful. Ninety degrees at night? Air quality so bad you’re supposed to stay inside? Temperatures that push the thermometer I’m eyeing right now up to 115 at noon? Mosquitoes loaded with West Nile virus—but the temperature and smoke preventing their swift eradication? We’ve heard from a few bona-fide Sacramentans (including the postal worker who remarked today, “I’ve never seen Sacramento this smoky”) that conditions this horrible are not the norm, and I’ll take their word for that. In the meantime…we’re planning lots of weekend trips to break up our summer here in Tatooine. I kind of wish a weekend trip was starting right this second.

Note: The fact that this post features a Star Wars analogy suggests that the heat has finally gone to this blogger’s head. Someone get this girl a glass of ice water and some central AC.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Ghostly Interference

So, I’m back from a more or less unplugged week. I say “more or less” because, unfortunately, Andrew’s BlackBerry worked in New Hampshire, which means I was able to give in to my email addiction. However, I checked only two times in seven days, which I consider pretty good. Bizarrely, we wound up using the BlackBerry to look up Scrabble words, which seems somehow ludicrous, almost blasphemous; but we couldn’t find a dictionary. Also, there was a degree of comfort in knowing we could make a call if we needed to, if an intruder were to somehow find us out there in the woods.

Ah yes, the nerves that come with being secluded. Andrew and I had only one night alone at the house before the rest of his family arrived, and having so many people around seemed like it would be excellent insurance against a galloping imagination. This was not the case.

Early in the week, we all spent some time rearranging the living room, replacing some furniture that had been moved and rehanging some pictures on the wall. A large, gilt-framed portrait of a stern, ancestral female relative (likely Andrew’s great-great-grandmother) went on top of a long bookshelf; she was flanked by two other, smaller portraits, both in oval frames. One afternoon, Andrew went inside the house and found his grandmother standing in the living room, holding one of the portraits; there was glass on the floor. “What happened?” Andrew asked. Nana said she’d simply walked past the portrait, and it’d fallen to the ground.

Much later that night, as Andrew, his mother, and I played Scrabble, Andrew speculated that Nana had actually been trying to move the portrait, and had dropped it. At that point, I rose from the couch and went to get a drink from the kitchen. As I walked past the bookshelf, the other oval frame suddenly fell over with a crash. It seemed to almost leap towards me before it fell. I screamed. Andrew found it hilarious, but he, too, seemed a bit freaked out.

I had a few theories. The portrait that fell was of a man who had been a Civil War Colonel. Andrew and I had been looking at some very old pictures that day, including some of the Colonel, and I speculated that we had somehow stirred his ghost. Another possibility is that GrandMama (how everyone referred to that larger portrait) didn’t like sharing the shelf with two other portraits, and took matters into her own ghostly hands.

When a house dates back to the 1700s, anything is possible.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Year of California Life

One year. As of July 3, Andrew and I have been in California for one year. It seems hard to believe that just twelve months ago we arrived at SMF with bags in hand and holed up at the Hyatt for a week while we tried to figure out where to live. Our first Sacramento dinner? P.F. Changs, the only place we could find that was open when we arrived that night. We sat in the nearly-empty dining room (it was well after 9pm) and wondered just what we’d gotten ourselves into. We wondered it even more once we signed on to a short-term rental in Citrus Heights and found ourselves surrounded by more strip malls and fewer sidewalks than we’d ever seen in our lives.

It took a move to Midtown to make life seem normal again; and it took a Relo-Cube of our belongings a few months later to solidify that fact that we were no longer nomads. 

One year later, and we have plenty of California to show for it. The list of our weekend trips stretches to an impressive length: San Francisco, L.A., Monterey, Sonoma, Napa, Anderson Valley, Glen Ellen, Point Reyes, Tahoe, Reno, Ukiah, Philo, and many, many more, most more than once. Traveling around California has been an adventure, and much remains to be seen here and hereabouts. There are still countless places we want to explore while we’re West Coast-based. We haven’t yet made it to Hawaii. But we’ve booked our tickets to Japan for the fall.

We’ve criss-crossed wine country; seen the Giants and the A’s; seen the Sacramento Opera; watched movies at the Tower; and made determined inroads into Sacramento’s restaurant selection. Oh, and got married and went on a honeymoon and flew back and forth across the U.S. an alarming number of times. (My current count, give or take a couple of trips, is 9). We’ve single-handedly supported air-conditioning and window-fan manufacturers. We’ve committed ourselves to avoiding Safeway and buying only farmer’s market and Co-op food (with occasional forays to Trader Joe’s). We drink a lot of wine. We actually know what vegetables and fruits are in season. In small but meaningful ways, we’ve settled into California life.

Have we embraced it 100%? Not yet, but give us time. Not long after we moved here, while on a trip to a winery in Philo, a woman we’d struck up a conversation with—another East Coast transplant—told us it had taken her five years to settle in. To the pace, the culture, the different way of doing things. But this is relevant to anyplace, I think. It takes time to put down roots, to plant them deep enough to actually start feeling nourished from the new soil. Wish us luck as Year Two begins.