Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Why I Live Where I Live

I live in California in a pink stucco bungalow. I have lived here for thirteen years, since our first child was seven months old. It is the longest I have lived anywhere as an adult. It is home. As I write this I can smell the fragrant jasmine blooming in my back yard. It is a small yard, but it contains three fruit trees – a plum, an apple and a lemon. This might seem unremarkable to some - particularly other Californians - but to me it is miraculous. To me, a New York City girl who grew up in a fourth floor walk-up, these are gifts I notice daily. The view out of my childhood bedroom window was of a small tar papered balcony with no plants, the fire escape on the building next door, the gray stone and brown brick buildings across the street, and beyond them, bigger buildings, many topped by the old cylindrical wooden water towers that are ubiquitous in downtown Manhattan. It wasn’t bad. It had its own brand of charm. I didn’t look out on a dark brick airshaft. I could see the sky. But now I look out on my morning glories and passionflower vines, a flaming coral rosebush, and even the neighbor’s palm tree. After twenty years on the West coast, non-native palm trees still seem highly exotic to me. That, and the fact that I don’t have to scrape ice off my windshield in the winter.

Inside our bungalow, it feels snug and safe - unpainted wood wainscoting, a working fireplace, a couple of squishy comfy chairs (often occupied by our two cats) and other various and sundry thrift shop furniture. There are piles of books and magazines, a castoff sweatshirt or two. It is rarely tidy or pristine. Photographs and paintings fill the walls, many created by friends and family members. Our two boys share a suitably messy catastrophe of a room, complete with bunk beds plastered with stickers, desks and bookshelves piled high with their “stuff,” and a very active tortoise slamming around in his tank. It is a small cozy house, old enough (by California standards) that my husband is always fixing something in it, on it or around it. As I write this, he is painting the door he just replaced on our vintage original 1916 garage (suitably sized for a Model A). The beach is within walking distance, and to get to it we pass under canopies of large trees through a neighborhood of even older, bigger homes - Victorians. The kids can ride their bikes to school. I guess you could call it picturesque. That is the reason it is not unusual to occasionally see a film crew up from L.A. doing a location shoot here. It has a deceptively All-American small town feel, though it is right outside of San Francisco. So now you are thinking, ”Ah! There’s the catch…she lives in earthquake country!” Indeed we do, and it is worth every glorious, high-risk moment.

Most importantly, it is where my children are growing up - much too fast.

And besides, there is something about living in a little pink house that appeals to this Big City Girl...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Happy Birthday Nancy!

I have known Nancy longer than any other friend. Here we are 1. In New York last summer and 2. in Nursery School. I will not be so rude as to reveal to the Big Wide World what year that picture was taken. Lets just say it was back when school pictures were still shot in black and white! Without getting overly sentimental, I must thank this fabulous chick for years of friendship, for “getting” me even at my most insane, and for being such an ingrained part of my history that nothing ever needs explaining between us. Add to this that she is an amazingly talented painter and all-around artist and a damn good cook.

This barely scratches the surface of my shared history with the gal, but here goes:

Walking to elementary school together when we both lived on Perry St. in NYC
Dancing to the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” ‘til we dropped
Playing baroque games in my dollhouse that featured many melodramatic and/or dying characters (complete with funerals)
Drawing for hours while listening to Top 40 songs on WABC (“Cousin Brucie!”)
Wondering aloud why all the songs were about love
Watching “Dark Shadows” after school and being fascinated/scared by Barnabas Collins
Watching “Lost in Space”(favorite character: The Robot) and “Star Trek” (favorite character: Spock)
Deciding who was our favorite Beatle/Rolling Stone/Monkee (too fickle to list)
Our parents’ respective divorces
Nancy’s move to Mexico City in fourth grade
Lots of letter writing on cute mod stationery
Hanging out in hot, humid New York when Nancy would come back for the summers
Blue cream soda from the deli
Walking for blocks and blocks in the city
The funny Irish doormen in Nancy’s dad’s building (“The doorman sees it all”)
Shopping for clothes and records in air-conditioned stores
Long talks about books, art, movies, music, and boys
More long talks (and lots of angst) about boys
Going to clubs when underage (no problem in 1970’s NYC)
Bad Sangria
Good White Russians
Lots of dancing
New Years Eve parties - some good, some bad…
Summers in Vermont and Massachusetts during college
A haunted mill we lived in one summer
Oddball roommates: “Vaseline dog”
Ball lightning coming through our window
Landlords who made stained-glass windows
A landlord who just got out of the State Penitentiary
My move to California (and living with Nancy’s sister, Claire!)
Nancy’s move back to New York
Our weddings, three years apart (we both lucked out on this one, after years of angst)
Both of us losing our Dads
Yearly visits
Hours of phone calls
Good Cosmos
Better lasagna (thanks to Nancy)
More long talks about politics, kids, art, books, movies, music and boys
E-mail, e-mail, e-mail…..

Happy Birthday and Lots of Love! xoxo