Friday, August 24, 2007

Last day of calm

Today was my last day having a student-free office for approximately four months. It's been a beautiful summer, and I've managed to get a lot of work done, finished projects I'd been planning for a long time and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Over the weekend, the town's population will increase by something like 20,000 people and that peace and quiet will become a distant memory. Today on my drive home from work I saw four guys walking along the street. One had his shirt off, two were carrying guitars in cases on their backs and two were carrying cases of Labatts Blue on their shoulders. And I thought, oh, here we go. Brace yourselves, folks. School is back in session.

I've loved the summer, but really, it's fun to have students around. They bring a lot of energy to the office, and I love being connected with what's going on around campus. Plus, I like that I occasionally have pearls of wisdom to share with them that I've gained in the ten years since I was in their shoes. Also, they show me funny You Tube videos.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The New Apartment Saga, Parts One, Two and Three

So I moved to a new apartment two weeks ago, because, well, that's what I do. I realized that since I graduated from college, the longest I've lived at a single address is 24 months. But really, my old apartment was very nice inside--extremely well-maintained, new appliances, structurally perfect, etc. But it faced north, so I never got any direct sunlight; it faced a parking lot and the entrance to the building so I rarely opened my shades; and it was in a location that felt a little isolated from town and campus. And it was expensive because it was in kind of a prestigious neighborhood. I don't need prestige. So I moved. And thus began the drama.

Part One: I had to give four months' notice on my old place (I know! Crazy.) So I gave my notice before I found a new place. After more than two months I hadn't found anything, and with the housing market here being TOTALLY INSANE I started to worry. But then one day I saw a sign next to a neighborhood of townhouses, saying For Rent. This, I had been advised, was the best way to find a place. Rent right from the owner, no rental company middleman to boost up the rent. I visited one apartment, another was supposedly also available, but I waited too long to respond, and while I visited other locations those places were taken. But in all the back-and-forth I got to know the landlady a little, and she liked me, so when another place became available she called me, I visited one (not the actual one, but, she assured me, exactly the same) and the deal was done. Success! A place 2 miles from downtown and campus, right on a park and a bike trail leading to town, with two bedrooms, a backyard and all the amenities I had at my old place for more than $50 less per month. Yippee!

Part Two: My old contract ended on July 31. Unfortunately, so did the contract on the old tenant in my new place, and the apartment was due for a carpet cleaning and a paint job. And that happened to be the week of my family vacation. While I planned to rent a truck and leave all my stuff in it for a week, the landlady worked some kind of magic and in the end the tenant moved out early, so I was able to move in on time to go to Williamsburg. The move posed other problems. I have some friends here, as I've said, but it's been slow going, and I wasn't sure I had reached the Seinfeld-approved level of friendship required to ask them to help me move. But I worried in vain and in the end had plenty of volunteers.

Part Three: The Drama Begins. As you might have guessed from my clever use of foreshadowing in Part One, my new apartment is not "exactly the same" as the one I visited. Yes, the layout is the same. Yes, it has all the same appliances. However, the general state of this apartment is of notably lower quality than the others. The first thing I noticed is that the carpets are a dark brown, as opposed to the light tan in the other places. The carpet is also old, discolored in some places, with scuffed holes on the stairs. I don't like to walk on it and can't really even imagine sitting on it, and I don't want to invite people over because it's ugly. Then there is the dishwasher which won't close, the kitchen drawers which seem to have no tracks to slide on so that some of them actually don't pull out at all, the windows that won't open, the refrigerator door that doesn't shut until you push it hard, and a list of about 7 or 8 other problems. And did I mention the carpet?? So today began what I fear may become a sequence of confrontations with my landlady. After a frustrating argument, I think I might have made some headway, and have at least arranged for the maintenance company to come by and fix all of the fixable problems. It's a tough situation, because while I know I'm in the right, she holds the upper hand, since I've already moved in and it would be a gigantic hassle to move again very soon.

So that's the update on the things that are keeping me busy these days. Overall, I'm still excited to be here. I ride my bike to work, which takes 15 minutes and leaves me a ball of sweat in this 100% humidity because of a big hill, but which I feel really good about, and I'm looking forward to exploring my new neighborhood!

Well, if you've read this far, you deserve a reward, so here's a photo I took when I stopped for gas on the way home the other day. Rural PA can sometimes be a little scary. On a long stretch of route 15, the landscape was peppered with dilapidated houses, taxidermists, adult video shops (I counted four, plus two possibly sketchy "massage parlors") and a church announcing a "Chicken and Waffle Dinner". This gas station, owned by a very cheerful guy straight from India (why did he choose that particular location, of all the places he could have chosen to immigrate to?) barely seemed to have a name other than "GAS DIESEL" and this was the truck in front of me at the pump:
The Chicks Digit

Monday, August 06, 2007

Family Reunion

On Friday I returned from a fantastic family reunion in Williamsburg, VA. I'd only been to Williamsburg one time: in high school, my dad and I drove down to visit William & Mary. But car trouble on the way there meant we arrived on the first day of spring break, and a dog show in Washington left all the hotels in VA and MD booked solid, so we gave up and drove all the way home, arriving at 5 AM. Anyway, this trip was far more successful. A total of 21 members or associated members of the Marvin clan (my mom's family) came together from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, and Alaska. Six of those members were under 8 years old, and in our matching t-shirts and energetic brand of family chaos, we took over the timeshare complex--including pool and mini-golf course--and got our money's worth at Busch Gardens (riding some awesome roller coasters) and Water Country USA. We also spent some time lounging by the pool, visiting a sandy beach along a river in Yorktown, soaking up a little history at Colonial Williamsburg, and enjoying delicious meals and of course, the family standard, evening happy hour(s).

Before we left, I had the idea, inspired by some of the family photo sessions my friend Dave does on the Vineyard (see some beautiful examples here and here). Unfortunately, the aforementioned family chaos made it impossible to organize everyone to spend more than five minutes being photographed, so I had to try to grab some shots while I could. With such adorable kids, it wasn't hard to get a few good ones. Here are the best; click through to see the rest.

My cousin Pascha's daughter Mairead:

My cousin Amber, whom I haven't seen in almost 8 years, with her adorable daughter Rowen and my brother Dan:
Amber and Dan

Mairead again, with my cousin Chanda's daughter Calla, making her robot face:
Through the bars

Amber with our uncle Jackson, and a hamburger on a stick:
Rowen, Amber and Jackson

The boys: Liam, 6; Brendan, 5; and Tiarnan, 7
Liam, Brendan and Tiarnan

Tiarnan (one of those teeth had just fallen out that morning) looking fierce:

Mom and me looking miserable in the stocks (an obligatory photo at Colonial Williamsburg):
In the Stocks