Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Post #400, and Why Aren't We in Barcelona?

First off, it's my four hundredth post. A lot has happened since I started this blog; four hundred posts ago, I was living in Brooklyn, unmarried, and unpregnant, with a more or less sparsely stamped passport and no idea where, oh, a place like Girona was, let alone that I'd ever visit or get engaged there. How far--distance-wise; not sure about the rest yet--we've come!

Barcelona was on my mind a lot today, because this afternoon was the Champions League final, and FC Barcelona was facing Manchester United. They dominated the game, and won; and as the final seconds ticked by, bright pink flares began glowing in the packed stadium as the Catalans went crazy. If only we were in Barcelona tonight! In 2006, FCB also won the championship, and Andrew and I were right there, watching the game in a packed bar and herding with everyone else to La Rambla afterward. I missed Barcelona while I was watching. I felt like we should be there, like we're still a part of things somehow. We'll go back, of course--we have to introduce our baby early on to the city we love!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

20 Weeks in Tahoe

I wish we were spending 20 weeks in Tahoe! Alas, I was simply 20 weeks pregnant, spending a weekend in Tahoe for Memorial Day. Andrew and I drove up Saturday morning and headed straight for King’s Beach, where we unloaded towels and blankets and sunscreen and hats and proceeded to spend several hours reading by the lake. We’d brought lunch from home, thanks to our large, brand-new cooler (we live in suburbia now—a cooler was the inevitable next step) and had cold lemonade and salads and sandwiches.

Eventually we checked into our hotel, the Ferrari’s Crown Hotel. We stayed there last year when my parents visited, and though the rooms are basic bordering on shabby, we love this place because it is a lakefront hotel—the rooms are literally yards from the lake, and the views simply can’t be beat. Plus, it’s clean, reasonably priced, with a nice breakfast in the morning, and a pool and hot tub. Perfect for a weekend getaway.

We spent almost two full days simply lying in the sun, reading, watching geese swim by, and idly wondering if we should go in the water. However, the water was ice cold. In the not-so-far distance, the Sierras are still capped in snow. Andrew went in the pool a couple of time and nearly froze to death.

Saturday night, we went to a beachfront restaurant called Jason’s for burgers, then headed to our other favorite place in Tahoe—the Cal Neva Resort—for a little casino fun. We are the worst casino patrons ever, counting every bill we spend and relentlessly calculating our “profit” so we wind up primarily playing with the “house money.” This is all very small-scale: we put nine dollars into the nickel slots, wound up with a little “profit,” and then played for a while on a quarter-slot machine, on a game called “Lucky Duck.” We won a few quarters, lost a few quarters, and generally amused ourselves with silly chants, lucky belly-rubbing, and painstaking separation of our “profits.”

At one point, a guy on the machine near us looked over and said, “You two honeymooners?” We laughed. We wound up with $20.

Sunday morning, we got up at dawn to see the sun rise over the lake. Though the mountains blocked the sun for longer than we were willing to stay outside, it was a beautiful time nonetheless.

Sunday night, we had Mexican food for dinner then decided to test our luck at the Cal Neva again, playing solely with our $20 from Saturday. We wound up with $8. But we had fun.

After we left Tahoe this afternoon, we drove to Truckee, a cute mountain town with a main street lined with nice cafes and boutiques. We had lunch, strolled around, and then headed home. It was a perfect way to spend the holiday.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Helloooo Out There!

Friday was our ultrasound, and it was incredible. The first part wasn’t so great—16 oz. of water consumed an hour before the appointment, with a no-bathroom policy until the procedure was halfway through, while being firmly prodded with the ultrasound wand thing—but it was all worthwhile when the technician finally turned the monitor towards us and gave us our first peek at our baby girl.

A girl! Of course it’s not 100% certain, but the evidence, such as it was, was there. We were both shocked; we were convinced it was a boy—not for any scientific or intuitive reason; it’s just what we thought. As we watched her on the monitor, she opened her mouth, moved her arms around, and even touched her face with a tiny hand. In the picture, it looks like she’s waving at us—giving us a little hello from my uterus. (It also looks like she was slyly thisclose to giving us a peace sign—perhaps a little joke, wisely reconsidered, to remind us that we were having a California baby after all.)

Let the naming challenge begin…

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday Life

Last night Andrew and I took our weekly walk to Roseville Tuesday Nights, the street fair we’ve been to twice before now, pursuing our quest to enjoy the city’s small-town charms. After walking the length of the fair and buying some tomatoes at the farmer’s market, we sat and watched the band for a while, people-watching. On this particular night a group of very little kids were maniacally dancing and running in circles around a tree; a man wearing a “TEAM CHURCH” t-shirt stood off to the side, doing a jerky, robotic dance of his own; and a man sitting near us embarked on what we suspected would be a successful effort to eat an entire large pizza straight from the box.

Near 9pm—closing time—a man got up to announce the band’s name and make a few other statements. He concluded by requesting that the band not play a particular song. “I’m going through a divorce,” he announced to the crowd, “and I’m not sure I could handle it!” He said this with a bright smile and a laugh that suggested he was trying to “see the humor” in it all. Andrew and I glanced at each other out of the corners of our eyes.

It was actually cool out last night—I wore a light sweater—as if Sunday’s sizzling hell never happened.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

19 Weeks

I look surprisingly pregnant in this picture. Note the skirt--a $1 Gabe's find that I found in my closet. It's been years since I've worn it, if I ever wore it, and it's getting a second life now as a quasi-maternity skirt.

Below is a picture of my standard pregnancy lunch fare. It looked so farmer's market-fresh that I had to take a picture. This salad contains at least 3-4 servings of veggies: the lettuce, 1 tomato, 1 avocado, and 1/4 cucumber. Add this to my breakfast and afternoon snacks--cereal with milk, calcium-fortified OJ, yogurt with fruit and granola, and an orange or banana--and this baby is going to be a robust, glowing California child.

Monday, May 18, 2009

And...It's Back

It’s back. The sizzling—the skin-roasting—the knock-your-lungs-flat gusts—the Devil’s breath. It’s all back. It was well over 100 degrees this weekend, and any rosy feelings I might have been feeling about NorCal shriveled, browned, and turned brutal and crisp, just like the grass lining the sizzling highways. It is awful here, and I am flummoxed once again that anyone would make this place their home by choice. (One could argue that we, too, have a choice. But I’m talking about people who choose to make this their permanent home.) I invite anyone who can’t understand why we don’t like living here to come visit us on a day like yesterday.

Saturday was in the 90s, a bit more manageable. We got up early and headed to one of our favorite places in Roseville Denio’s Farmer’s Market & Auction, a sprawling flea market and farmer’s market. Our mission was to buy a rug and some produce. We were successful on all counts, finding a nice rug in one of the many carpet stalls (Denio’s, with its multiple booths of themed merchandise—rugs, hardware, electronics, etc.—has the feel of a Moroccan souk) as well as nice tomatoes, avocados, papayas, mangos, strawberries, and corn. We even tasted a cactus fruit.

But by 10am, the flea market was roasting—all the stalls are arranged on a mammoth asphalt parking lot, and once the sun rises it’s pretty much unbearable. I had a momentary swoon in one of the carpet stalls, which required me to sit on one of the carpet pallets and make small talk with the sellers (“I’m pregnant,” I said apologetically, though it’s obvious by now) while a nervous Andrew went to find me something cold to drink.

Sunday was ridiculous, in the 100s, and though this time we set off to do some errands, we won’t make that mistake again. When it’s that hot, the only thing to do is stay home in the AC. Being out in the world just makes us miserable and desperate, as evidenced by my near-meltdown when I put coins in a soda vending machine at a grocery store only to realize that the selection I wanted—the only caffeine-free option—was sold out, and my money would not be returned. Grrrr.

And so it all begins again—summer. Unbelievably, NorCalians are at it again, going on and on about how grateful they are for the “Delta breeze.” Andrew challenged the existence of this “cooling” breeze with some of his co-workers, who became defensive and angry. So I will state it here, in the “privacy” of my blog: THE DELTA BREEZE DOES NOT EXIST. WHAT WIND THERE IS IS THE DEVIL’S BREATH.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

17 Weeks

If you look closely, you can see why I'm sticking to elastic waists these days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When You're Due, Not Where You're From

Yesterday evening, I went to my first prenatal yoga class, in the conference room of a hotel behind the back parking lot for a shopping complex that includes Best Buy, Michael’s, and Toys R Us. Not exactly an environment that seems conducive to a) yoga or b) thoughts about birth. But the instructor was nice, very California-y; and the room wasn’t too awful. As we went through a series of modified yoga poses, she explained which ones could be beneficial in a labor situation. And while I can’t imagine myself dropping to all fours for some cat-and-cow while I’m writhing from painful contractions, I can’t actually imagine labor at all quite yet, so who knows.

During the final relaxation, the instructor put on a recording of Pachelbel’s Canon overlaid with digital birdsong. I found it a bit distracting, though one pregnant woman began mildly snoring, so perhaps it was just me.

At the very beginning of class, we all had to introduce ourselves—name, due date, sex of the baby (if known), and planned hospital for the birth. I’m still working on identifying myself this way. It took everything I had not to add “And I’m from the East Coast!”—a detail that even I have to admit is irrelevant in a discussion of back labor, epidurals, and the timing of contractions. But somehow that detail still feels more real to me than the fact that in 5 months I’ll be perhaps draped over a birthing ball, trying desperately to breathe.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NorCal in a Nutshell

This weekend, as Andrew and I drove through the bad part of Roseville (by “bad” I mean the suburban sprawly part), we saw something that seems to capture Roseville—indeed, much of NorCal—in a nutshell:

We saw a bright red Ferrari going through the drive-through of a Carl’s Jr.

For readers not from California, Carl’s Jr. is a grammatically suspect fast-food chain here that Andrew and I revile for its hideous commercials that usually feature people eating Carl’s Jr. hamburgers in a sloppy, disturbing, disgusting fashion. I also revile it for that grating, perhaps misplaced apostrophe. Shouldn’t it be Carl Jr.’s? I could refer to my Chicago Manual of Style, but I think instead I’ll just continue to be annoyed by it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Small-Town Life

It was our first non-moving weekend in Roseville, and we’ve come to a resolution: we will embrace the small-town charm inherent in our section of this suburb. And there is a lot of it.

Saturday, after finally unpacking (and alphabetizing) our books, we went to the Roseville Strawberry Festival. It had a county-fair atmosphere that sent us straight into Fayette County, with a country & western band, a selection of old cars on display, several Boy Scout troops selling strawberry-themed foods (we purchased some strawberry shortcake from a sullen-looking young Scout), and a few low-intensity carnival rides. There were some craft booths, what appeared to be a tattoo artist operating out of the back of a van, and the same food booths we’d seen at the street fair last Tuesday. It was all very small-town.

Next we headed to Roseville’s biggest flea and farmer’s market, which encompasses two enormous complexes of produce stalls, plus what must be several acres of parking lot strewn with sellers of both old and new items. We went quite late—around 3pm—so many sellers had shuttered for the day; but we bought far too many fruits and vegetables nonetheless. How could we not, at prices like these—a big basket of strawberries for $1; 4 pounds of Roma tomatoes for $2; a pineapple for $2; four avocados for $2; a big basket of 8 or so zucchini for $2; and much more. We went to this market once before—just weeks after moving to California—and we really like it. The reigning language is Spanish, so it’s not really Fayette County-like, but it has that same bustling small-town spirit as the Comet Flea Market used to have in the 1980s.

Sunday, our landlords were doing some work in the yard, and I engaged the wife about where I might put a garden. Our lengthy conversation eventually resulted in her going back to her house and bringing me the flatware basket to her own dishwasher because I mentioned ours was missing. “I might need it back for Thanksgiving,” she said. Hard to get more small-town than this.

Also, I found out from her that they purchased the house years ago from a drug addict; when our landlord’s wife went to dig up a strawberry patch, she unearthed countless belts and handbags—things the addict had been trying unsuccessfully to sell for drug money. Failing to sell these items, he’d buried them in the backyard.

I also found out that we have a fig tree. I could not be more excited—come June, we’ll be able to overindulge in platters of cheese and fresh figs from our very own harvest.

Last night, Andrew and I made the first gazpacho of the season and grilled burgers in the backyard. As the sun set, we ate in the shadow of the redwood tree. It’s a small-town life.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Farewell, P Street!

It’s always sad to leave an apartment, even if you’re moving on to bigger and better things. This afternoon I met the landlord at our midtown apartment for a final walk-through, then turned in our keys. Several New York Times were piled by the front door—apparently the Sacramento delivery people haven’t gotten or heeded our change of address notification; I wonder if the paper will continue to be delivered, entertaining ghosts of us on the premises.

We’re officially Rosevillians now. And no, I’m not sure if that’s the correct word, but I like it, with its taunting, dangerous closeness to “rose villains.”

Farewell, P Street apartment!

Note: Don't scrutinize this picture for a belly--it's a picture from March 2008.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

First Days of Life in Roseville

We’re still not unpacked, but we’ve had the first taste of life in Roseville. I did laundry in my own home for the first time since living in Spain, now that our new washer and dryer have been delivered. Last night, we went to a street fair, a weekly event here up until August, when it gets too hot. There were food stalls, a small farmer’s market, live music, and a variety of booths from local businesses. We had dinner there and enjoyed being outside while it’s still cool enough to actually enjoy it.

And today, Andrew came home for lunch so we could watch an FC Barcelona soccer match. It was quite strange to see Andrew in the middle of the day, and quite nice. Barcelona won with an amazing eleventh-hour goal.

The rooms of our house are literally echoing—two of the rooms have no furniture, and probably won’t for the foreseeable future; the dining room has a few odds-and-ends but no table yet. We are rattling around in all this space.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Southwestern PA, By Way of CA

Saturday afternoon, once the movers were gone but before we’d really begun unpacking, Andrew convinced me that we had to go to a local bar to watch a basketball game that, he said, was the kind of game that people would one day ask, “Where were you when you saw the such-and-such game?” I pointed out that I’d put a lot of money on the claim that no one will ever ask me that question. However, I acquiesced, since Andrew’s been the one doing all the lifting during this move while I sit queenlike and tell him what to do.

We went to a local bar called Bunz and Company, which, despite its name, is not a strip club. It’s actually a cute bar/restaurant inside an old home. We sat at a table with a view of a TV; we ordered beer and water based on who is and is not pregnant. After a while, we ordered dinner. And as we sat there, eating, it occurred to both of us that we really felt like we were in Southwestern PA—at a place like Bud Murphy’s or the Boston Beanery or Lynn’s. There was just something about the atmosphere, the people, the menu selections. It all just seemed…familiar.

Our neighborhood, too—“Old Roseville”—seems very Southwestern PA-like, with modest little homes, many rundown, the odd character here and there wandering the streets, groups of teenagers walking around together in the evenings with nothing to do. And it’s quiet in a way that reminds me of sitting on the front porch in Connellsville on summer evenings.

What doesn’t fit with this comparison is the following: five minutes away, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Tiffany, and Nordstrom either are in or are being built in the mall. There’s no Louis Vuitton in Fayette County, that’s for sure. There’s a very odd disjunct in Roseville between this strange and not unpleasant small-town feeling and the hideousness of the rest of Roseville’s sprawling, shopping plaza-filled, McMansion’ed, SUV malaise. Of course, when I walk to the local donut shop (which I did on Sunday, and, unwisely, subsequently consumed three donuts in one sitting, a brutal shock to my normally health-food-filled body), I can see shining green signs for the traffic-choked highway; so the bad parts are not that far off.

But from where I’m sitting now, I can see squirrels chasing each other up and down the enormous redwood in the backyard; we’ve spotted blue jays and mourning doves. Our window-lined sleeping loft makes us feel like we’re sleeping in a tree house. I think we’ve managed to find the good there is in Roseville. We’ve been saying all along that we like big cities and small towns, not the in-between; maybe our small homestead here will help us get through our time in suburbia.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Moving Weekend

In the city that never rains, it rained the entire weekend, soaking our moving festivities in a pretty much nonstop downpour. We like rain—except when we have to make a million trips out to the car. Except when our movers put half our stuff in the back of their open-bed pickup. Except when our shoes squeak endlessly on our hardwood floors as we shift boxes and furniture around.

Moving day, Saturday, began with the movers showing up an hour and a half late. A couple of phone calls later, they did actually show up, two young guys who managed to break only one $5 lamp. Even when someone else is doing all the heavy lifting, moving is exhausting.

But we’re here now, in our charming house, semi-unpacked. We have no refrigerator, but that will arrive between three and five this afternoon. Our TV and internet are set up. All the stuff (except the refrigerated food) is out of our former apartment. The dishes and glasses, at least, are in the cupboards; the books will be unpacked once we get a new bookshelf. (Will there ever be a move that doesn’t involve buying a new bookshelf? I haven’t had one that I can remember.) I always feel a bit melancholy when things are in boxes--transitory, unmoored, with no places yet for things.

Now the settling in begins—and the deflecting of the constant stream of scorn that seems to be coming our way for moving here. When the Comcast guy was installing our cable yesterday and found out where we’d moved from, his eyes grew wide in disgust and incredulity. “You moved from midtown to Roseville?!” he said, not bothering to hide his horror. “It’s not forever,” we said. “We’re from the East Coast. We’ll be going back.” Turns out he’s from New Jersey, but married a third-generation Rosevillian. “I used to say that too,” he said, “but I think I’m here for good.” “Not us,” we said firmly. “Not us.”

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Knife in the Chandelier

We’re almost finished packing, and our things—excluding our furniture—are mostly at the new house already. But there’s one thing we won’t be packing: the knife in the chandelier.

We’ve been puzzled by the knife since the day we moved in. Secured within the chandelier’s wiring, the knife does not seem to be placed haphazardly—it’s enmeshed in the wiring in a way that makes it seem somehow critical. As though removing the knife would have consequences beyond our liking. For a year and a half now, the knife has taunted us, dared us, practically begged us to remove it. What, really, could happen? What role, really, could a butter knife play in the day-to-day safety and operation of a chandelier?

This will not be our mystery to solve. We’ll leave the knife in place. The unresolved questions will be all we take away.