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October 31, 2005

six weeks

Yesterday my cousin came out from the city and we all climbed into the minivan, heading to Hacklebarney Farm in Morris County where we walked the corn maze, drank fresh apple cider, ate cider dogs with cider kraut (unexpectedly delicious), and picked pumpkins from one of three fields. I thought back to last October, the West LA parking lot that had been turned into a pumpkin patch complete with pony ride and stacked hay bales. Rolling country hills versus sprawling city. West coast versus east.

It's not that one is intrinsically better; last year was fun in its way and we signed up on the vendor's email list to get notified about this year's celebration. I'm not here to tell you that life is richer in every way now that we're here. Except, well, it kind of is. I don't know that it's the locale as much as it's us. I feel motivated here. I want to figure out what we can do on a weekend instead of falling into the same old rut. We have no predetermined rut, that helps. And I want to find opportunities to see my friends here instead of passively continuing inside the three-of-us cocoon we'd built ourselves there.

Did I know people in Los Angeles? Did I have friends? Some, yes. Could we have reached out and made ourselves a richer social world there? I'm not sure. I know I tried. At various times and in various ways. And it always felt like I was swimming against the current, my own personal swirl of water pushing me downstream, toward the ocean. Alone.

I don't know what might have been possible there if I'd tried harder or in different ways. All I know is that it's easier here. This past Saturday we had lunch at Dan's parents' house and spent the afternoon lazing and talking with them. Yesterday, another comfortable social connection with a beloved relative along with an apple-infused meal on grass dappled by sunlight and shade and then the crunch and rustle of dried corn stalks, followed by a hike in the woods nearby. Tonight we'll go out trick-or-treating with friends. This coming weekend we have a hiking date with different friends and tentative plans with still other friends. All people I really like, people I've known for a long time, people I'm glad to have back in the weave of daily – or at least monthly – life. And I'm getting to know some parents in Damian's class and liking them. Budding friendships? Maybe one or two. Too soon to tell. And I'm in no rush, though I would like to plan local play dates for Damian, and soon.

Life is not perfect here, I don’t mean to sound like a Polyanna version of myself. I have worries about how this will all fit together, whether and how we'll buy a house again, how we'll make money, how Dan's commute will turn out once he has work, how I'll thread the disparate strands of work and my fiction and parenting into a whole once he's away in the city and I'm semi-single-mom again. And this is a fairly wealthy town and that carries with it its own oddness, because we're not as well off as many families in Damian's class -- nor as poorly off as others, I should add, which leaves us in a strange in-between state once again. So it's not like we stepped through a looking glass and now our lives work fully and completely. But we've only been here six weeks (as of today, in fact) and it already feels like more of a life than we had there. And that's remarkable to me.


new design

Here it is, the result of my weekend project. I'm pretty sure I didn't break anything important, and it does look different! I plan to change color scheme and background picture on the title banner come spring. I will probably continue to tweak now too, maybe changing the font size (seems small on my monitor...) and such. But, leaving aside those (small) caveats, here's the new look. Comments welcome!

October 30, 2005


Looks weird, doesn't it? I'm in mid-redesign and did something to the wrong template and kafooey (or is that kabloey?). I'll replace it all tomorrow with something brand new, I hope. In the meantime, shield your eyes because yuck!

October 29, 2005

October air

The car thermometer said 40 degrees Fahrenheit tonight. Walking to the car after dinner we saw our breath, ephemeral wisps of fog. Once we were inside, I touched Damian's cheeks, his skin still cool, air-burnished. The weather is supposed to warm up to the high 60's for trick-or-treating on Monday, which is good, but right now it's autumn in the northeastern US, with a chill that wakes you up and makes you feel alive. I missed this so much all those years in Los Angeles. Every October I'd feel desperately homesick. Every single year. Now we're here and I'm soaking it in, drinking fresh apple cider every day, trying to go for hikes every weekend, walking for miles through the city when I can. Reveling in the crispness of the air, the colors of the leaves, the quality of the light, the faint smell of smoke and pine needles in the air. I know it'll get much colder, I know I'll be cursing the wind in February, but right now it feels delicious.

October 26, 2005

why move?

Today at the DMV -- excuse me, the MVC (Motor Vehicle Commission) – Dan and I were filling out license transfer forms when a MVC worker came by to make sure we had everything we needed. Okay, first of all? This would never happen in Los Angeles. Is it a city versus suburb thing or a California vs. New Jersey thing? I'm guessing the former.

We told her we'd just moved from Los Angeles and needed to transfer driver's licenses and car registrations. She checked to make sure we had the right forms and then asked, "Why are you making the move? Why New Jersey?" A legitimate question. People here sometimes do seem surprised. Leave the Golden State for this homey place? Why would anyone do that? But we talked for a while and she told us that she likes to ask people coming in from out of state what motivated their move. She's curious. She said she's recently seen a lot of people migrating from California and from the South. Particularly Louisiana and Florida, for obvious reasons. But I asked her what reasons people give for leaving California. She said they say they're sick of earthquakes, sick of flooding and fires. But a lot of times they simply wanted to come home.

Like us. We wanted to come home. So simple, really, when you put it like that.

October 25, 2005

country and city

On Sunday we went for a hike in the woods of Bergen County, about half an hour's drive from here. The leaves are finally beginning to change:




Yesterday, Monday, I went into Manhattan on my own. Naturally, I brought my camera:





I like this more than I'd have guessed, living in this betwixt and between town. Country and city both within easy reach.

October 22, 2005

in residence

A car drove up to our door this morning. You have to understand, this is not a driveway you happen upon, especially since you have to drive past the main house to get to ours. So. A station wagon drove up, parked. A older man got out. Someone here to check the meter? But on a Saturday? In sweatpants and a Yankees baseball cap?

Turns out he came around to make sure we actually live here. At this house. It's a school check, to flush out people lying about their addresses to get their kids into the Montclair school system. He said he catches 40 to 50 kids every year. Mostly from Newark, also Irvington and another town I can't remember. I don't blame them, and I can't say I'm surprised. You do what you need to do when it comes to your kid. I was just kind of tickled that we now live in a place that has schools worth lying to attend. And yes, the property values reflect that and yes, it's going to make it somewhat trickier to buy a house here. But our house in LA was worth as least as much as a decent house around here, and the schools? Not so great.

It's all relative.

job done

The last month has been dominated by research and writing, not settling in. My freelance job had reasonable, even comfortable deadlines, but I squished two months of work into one due to the move. Which felt a bit the way it does when you leave a term paper till the last minute. It was interesting work, but it's a little tough focusing that intently when what you really want to do is settle into your brand new life. On the other hand, if I hadn't had the job, I might have panicked about moving to this brand new life with no money coming in and the nest egg dwindling.

The nest egg will still dwindle, though less so. My freelance writing career is little more than a nestling, unable to fly far enough to forage for more than the smaller tastes and tests of a livelihood. But it's enough to satisfy me that this can � will -- happen. A friend who reads this blog just gave me a writing assignment, this one meaty in a completely different way. Another friend who sometimes reads this blog got me in touch with a friend of hers who will probably hire me for more freelance work. And the outfit I just worked with may well have more work down the pipeline. It's all good. Interesting work, too.

Now, though, now I have a breather. I finished that freelance gig today. I hope to pay a little more attention to this site now: to upgrade to a current version of Movable Type, to finally do a proper design for this site, and most of all, to begin describing this new life properly.

For now, a picture from a couple of weeks ago, taken on a hike that's just two minutes' drive away from our new home:


The kind of woodland I missed living among scrub and brush and dry canyons.

October 17, 2005

some unexpected visitors

Even though we're just 12 miles west of midtown Manhattan, even though we're in a very progressive, cosmopolitan town, this is not the city.

This morning, a reminder of that.

Dan was downstairs. "Come quick! Come see!"

I went. Damian followed. This is what we saw:


A closer view:


To make things more interesting, a neighbor cat came waltzing along. Stopped, ears pricked. Started up the hill, stalking the big birds:


I don't know what he was thinking, that cat. He got his comeuppance fast:


Pretty funny.

Wild turkeys. In our front yard. Sure beats irritable Russian babushkas.

life is

My tooth seems to have gotten infected. Then Damian got an ear infection. Plus: we now have some of the doctors we needed to line up here. Minus: well, yeah. Difficult week. Had to postpone a trip to the Berkshires. Had to take pain meds. Had to soothe child-in-pain. No fun.

I'm still working on my freelance gig. Getting close to the end. It's been rewarding, interesting, and tiring too.

I found a quote from Mother Teresa today. I'm no Catholic, not close. And I'm not sure she and I would have seen eye to eye. But I admire her nevertheless. And I love this quote:

"Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is a beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is life, fight for it."

October 13, 2005

small adjustment

No, it's not a real design, not yet. I merely ported over the styles from Postscript. Couldn't stand looking at that too-plain format anymore, felt like I was anonymous, wearing an any-random-blogger mask. Think of this as an intermediate step...

October 12, 2005

new Hidden Laughter entry

It's called new school, new paradigm, which should give you a fair idea of what it's about.

oww wow

Waking up at 4 am in incredible pain: not fun.

Remaining in incredible pain at 6:30 am even after 3 advil: less fun.

Sitting down in the endodontist's office at 2:30 pm for an emergency root canal: relief.

(He kept explaining the procedure and explaining the procedure. I finally figured out he was responding to my expression, so I said, "I'm not worried, I'm in pain." He gave me novocaine. The pain went away.)

Going to look at a Craigslist-listed bedroom set at 7:30 pm, the novocaine wearing off: not fun.

(But we bought it anyway. Our bed frame doesn't fit up our stairs. Mattress on the floor: college redux.)

Back at home, in possession of some heavy duty narcotics: relief.

That was my day yesterday. How was yours?

October 11, 2005


First, a slightly (one hour) belated happy Thanksgiving to my friends and family in the country to the north. Funny to think that might've been us, and this "getting used to a new city" deal would have been magnified by it actually being a new city.

Today, in said city:

Walking down St. Mark's Place near 1st Ave, we passed a cafe (or store?) with colorful plastic chairs and a plastic side table out front. On the table, a white paper bag with handles, the kind you get in upscale stores to bring your upscale clothing home. On the bag, written in marker: "SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE."

Driving on 9th Avenue heading toward the Lincoln Tunnel (I've noted this one before but this time I remembered to record it), a sign on a fence. An official sign, this, a metal rectangle with white letters on a green background, the kind you see everywhere. But this one said: "Don't even THINK of parking here."

What can I say? I like New York attitude.

October 09, 2005

stage two

Stage one of moving to New Jersey:

Bemusement. We're here? We're really here? We did it? This is so strange. And yet it's not. It's so normal. How strange that it's normal. Are you sure we're here and not imagining it? It doesn't feel as different, as extraordinary as I expected. I walk around New York and don't feel that intense longing I'm used to feeling. Is this a bad idea, then? Is it different enough? Am I overthinking it? It just feels like, well, life. How can it feel so normal?

Are we really here?

Stage two of moving to New Jersey:

We drive up the Garden State Parkway to Dan's parents. We see trees tipped with yellow, a hint of autumn. We see trees, just a few, striped with brilliant red like someone spilled a can of paint on a swath of leaves on the still-green tree.

We kiss Damian goodbye, he trots off to enjoy his grandparents, we slip outside. This is why we came, one of the many reasons. That we can do this. That we have family.

We drive into Manhattan. Down the Henry Hudson (formerly known as the West Side Highway), memories of driving home to the Upper West Side after a summer in the Berkshires, gazing at the Hudson River, at the Palisades hills of New Jersey, at the backs of the stately apartment buildings along Riverside Drive, at basketball courts. We've done this drive as visitors. Are we still visitors, then?

We park in Chelsea, walk down along a row of restaurants, choose one. Dark inside, British-pub-feel, but also so New York. Pressed tin ceiling, Tiffany lamps, wood paneling. Quiet. A sense of history. A sense of place. This I missed, this feeling that the outside and the inside matched, that you can walk from an active, alive street scene into a restaurant that felt like part of the community, a continuity, rather than driving in a sea of traffic to a mini mall standing like an island isolated and alone, which in retrospect describes most of Los Angeles to me. You swim from island to island. In New York you walk on pathways through woods, a complete environment.

We go to a friend's party, a crush of people in a loud room filled with leather (leatherette?) benches against brick walls. I watch the animated faces. It's a film party but very few of the people here are too pretty. Very few are too blond for their skin color. Very few are done up. Most of the women are as ethnic looking as I am. Some of the men look at me, notice me. It's been a long time. I began to get used to being invisible in Los Angeles. I looked different, outside the definition of the feminine. Here I fit. Female, human, part of the group, part of this world. I watch the faces. They look right to me. Incredibly varied, this is not about one ethnicity or another. This is about something else. About being home. That must be it.

We leave the party, walk into the warm night, head back to the car and back to our child, sleeping peacefully in the room his aunt slept in as a teen.

The next morning, Friday, we get in the car, drive down the Parkway to get Damian to school. As we enter Montclair, our new town, I look around with the beginning tingle of this is home.

Stage two of moving to New Jersey: happiness. I'm finally beginning to accept the fact of the change. And it feels so very right.

October 05, 2005

caterpillars and snow

TC asked how we're doing. I usually don't do update type of posts, but hey, this is different, isn't it? This site is now a blend of writerly thoughts and friends-and-family updates. Hmm.

So. I'll give it a try.

Damian's school is excellent, really good. More on that soon, it deserves its own space.

Cocoa hopped out of the carrier as soon as we brought him home and started exploring right away, as is his wont, but took a few days to truly acclimate. Now he purrs and sprawls and suns himself and acts like this is home. He seemed very happy when he found the ottoman, one of his favorite beds. I imagine it feels much like it does for us: our stuff, our home, and yet, well, not. Not quite yet.

A funny moment from a few days ago: we have big picture windows on one side of the big downstairs room. Cocoa spotted a wooly caterpillar on the outside of a window. He stood up on his hind legs, reached waaaay up to swat at it, slid across the glass to the left edge. Reached up again, swatted at it with his other paw, slid across the glass to the right edge. Did this a few times. Looked like a strange sort of dance. Never caught the caterpillar, of course.

It's not yet fall here. If I look past the fence into the neighbor's yard, I see one tree with delicate yellow leaves. The rest are green, but sometimes as we drive or walk through the trees, they seem sun-bleached, faded. As if they're rusting before our eyes. I'm both impatient for fall and glad to put it off a little longer. Right now the temperature is no shock. This could be Los Angeles, though perhaps LA in December rather than October. I find myself picturing snow and slush and reddened noses with a shiver of fear, but maybe that's just because when I told people in LA we were moving, they almost all said, "What, and go back to weather?" I shrugged and said I looked forward to seasons. And I do. And yet. What will it be like? I worry, just a little.

I found out a few days ago that Damian thought winter = snow. He thought that come December, we'll live in a white world. I explained that snow is like rain that way. But now I find myself thinking about that too. How will he react? He's done wonderfully so far with this move in so many ways, but how will he handle winter? Then again, snowmen and snowballs and snow angels� maybe he'll fall in love with it all.

Work� well, it's early days yet. I'm still working on my little freelance gig and not yet looking ahead. Dan's got an agent who is sending his resume out and about. We're feeling our way step by step.

It's hard to say how this move is. Because it isn't, not quite yet. It's still a beginning, and a tentative one, at that. But the signs are good so far.

October 04, 2005

to begin again

So what is it like to be here after all? To be in New Jersey, near New York, after so many years in Los Angeles? Does it feel like home? Is it good? Great? Scary? Freaky? How does it feel?

I'm not sure I can answer. I thought I could. When you look forward in time, when you imagine yourself in a place, in a time, doing an activity, the future you has a very specific emotion, knows how that feels. But when it's here and now and real, it's far more complex. In a way, it feels right and real and normal to be in this living room, to be surrounded by trees, to have friends nearby. To hear people speak with New York accents. To be here. In a way, we slip into this new life as if it were our only existence. In the way that life is an eternal now and this is us. Here. Now.

In another way, though, it feels like an extension of our two week trip across country. Another pretty town, another city with so many activities awaiting us. Another hotel, this one a cabin among the trees. And yes, this one has more of our stuff, not just a few suitcases this time but an entire truck-full of furniture. But still. It's new enough that I fumble for light switches in the dark on the wrong side of the doorway and I marvel one morning when I get up and look outside and the trees are shrouded in fog. It's all so new, even my vision. Like when you travel and you notice more than you might at home, that's what this is.

And yet I do know. And sometimes, like last Thursday, sitting on the commuter train heading into Manhattan or a bit later, sitting on the subway watching the bored faces, the New York faces, listening to the clack-and-roar that rushes through my bloodstream and is now surrounding me, sometimes I do know with a shock of surprise that we're home again, only in this new configuration. And I feel again how strange that is.

I know the feeling will fade, this bemusement with moments of renewed shock. But right now this is my reality, inside and out. Newness and oldness combined. Family, friends, comfort. Searching for fish markets and home furnishing stores and where was that damned post office again? The general is familiar, the specific town so new. Much to explore. Much to do.


new blog

Pardon the dust, the mess, the plain vanilla look. It no longer felt right to post on a site called Postcards from LA because, hey, I look around. Not LA. Not close. I'm in the midst of hustling toward a work deadline so no proper design till after that, but I did want to start writing again.

I chose to house this new blog on my old berkeleyplace.com site as a way of coming full circle in my writing as well as my life. It seemed apt. We lived on Berkeley Place in Park Slope before we moved to Los Angeles. It's always symbolized home. New York as home, that is.

So here we are. Welcome.