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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Pack My Grandmother's Trunk

Did you ever play this memory game as a kid?  It’s one of those ones where you repeat what the last person said, so if you’re at the end of the line, you end up trying to remember a long list of nonsensical items.  “I packed my Grandmother’s trunk, and in it I put her red stockings, a black petticoat, peanuts, an ironing board, a birdcage, the cat, a giraffe.  It’s sort of how I feel whenever I pack for a trip.

I'm flying off to visit my daughter, and right now I am considering everything that has to fit into my suitcase.  Most importantly, there’s the craft kits I picked up for the children and the lavender mini-little pony for Suzannah that I got with my Happy Meal in Biggs.  Since she’s getting the pony, at the used book store I bought a cardboard book by Sandra Boynton for Alan, What’s Wrong, Little Pookie?  Truthfully, he’s a little old for cardboard books, but I love Sandra Boynton so much, that any excuse is a good excuse. 

Okay, so that’s the kids’ stuff.  Then I will absolutely die if I don’t take my computer.  My Touch sits nicely in my purse so checking the weather or headlines or crossword puzzle words is made easy.  Gotta remember meds and makeup and hair pins.  There’s my toothbrush and toothpaste.

I’ll wear the lighter jacket, but I’d better bring a scarf because it’s the time of year of changeable weather.  Oh, dear, I can’t forget my kit of chargers or bringing all the electronics will be moot.   Speaking of electronics, I need to take the GPS, too, because when Stephanie and Scott are at the conference,  I’ll  take Alan to daycare, and I want to actually get there. 

I used the office computer and printer to check in on my flight (a lovely benefit they offer here which means we don’t have to buy a printer), but that won’t help if I don’t put the boarding passes in my purse.  I’d better do that right now, and because you can starve during air travel these days, I’d best toss in a couple of oat ‘n honey bars as well. 

If I can keep from expanding the suitcase, I’ll save the $25 baggage fee, but I think there’s room for my red flats with the ragged bows in case we go out someplace nice.  Can’t forget my Kindle or life won’t be worth living. 

Got it all.

Oops, I wonder if there’s room for clothes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stonehenge West

In 1918, Samuel Hill, a Quaker from Maryhill, WA, learned (erroneously) that Stonehenge had been used for human sacrifice.  He felt that the best way to express hopes of a non-violent future and to honor the 18 local men that died in WW I, was to build a replica of Stonehenge.  I am not making this up.  All I can say is that if this isn’t where the expression “What in the Sam Hill?” came from, it should be. 

Last week, I waddled into the Valley of Sloth.  Oh, yes, there was Zumba and quilting and dance, but mostly I sat in the living room watching junk TV (Martha Stewart, Gilmore Girls, and even, god help me, an episode of The Waltons).  I appliqu├ęd kitties onto white squares.  Then came Steve’s three-day weekend, and he roused me off my seat with promise of the drive to Stonehenge which has been at the top of my list of Things-To-Do-Near-Richland.
We drove a block down our street and turned onto Leslie.  Another mile or so brought us to the entrance to Route 82 where we immediately entered the Land of No Development.  Forty-five minutes later we turned onto Route 14 where we had dwindled to toys in a model train display.  Occasionally, dots of black cattle populated the hillsides as did small vineyards.  On our left, the Columbia River (NOT an insignificant river; oh, my, goodness!) flowed, three or four football fields wide, little whitecaps bobbing in the current.  Across the river, an endless windmill farm showed tri-tentacled aliens waving to the sky for help in freeing them from the Earth. The set was completed when a train steamed along the ridge above us. 

An hour and a half later, we turned off at the crossroad to Maryhill onto Stonehenge Drive.  If you’re as hungry as we were, you pass the site and head into Maryhill proper.  Oops, Maryhill was that cluster of RV homes. We continued down the lane and crossed the bridge into the little town of Biggs.  Biggs, what a wonderful sight!  It has two (2!) motels, an empty mini mart/deli with a “closed” sign on the door, a Subway shop and -- oh, joy! -- one of those gas station/store/McDonalds combinations. 

If you travel as much as we do, you learn to love McDonalds where there are always clean restrooms and a reliable menu.  A few chicken nuggets (and a mini-Little Pony for the Perfect Granddaughter) later, we drove back to the sign for an open air fruit market which marks the Stonehenge site. 
This time we wandered through the stones which seem smaller than I imagine the real Stonehenge to be, but the information booth swears it is made to size.  While there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, here, a steady trickle of tourists arrives and leaves the site. Through a lintel to the west, Mount Hood rises from the clouds. 

Perhaps at the original Stonehenge, there is a vibe, a magical aura, a shimmer in time.  Here there is just a feeling of what in the Sam Hill?


Thursday, March 15, 2012

From There to Here

I’ve been here two weeks now and am adjusting to Life in the Slow Lane or, more accurately, Life in the Short Lane. 
I had a couple of errands to run the other morning.  I walked out of the apartment at 10:00.  Before getting in the car, I walked to the office and dropped a letter in the mail slot.  Next I went the 15 feet to the car and drove to the credit union where I got some cash.  I drove to Costco and returned a golf shirt Steve thought he might have liked but didn’t.  While I was there, I walked up and down a couple of aisles.  I got back in the car and returned home.  It was 10:27. 

Yes, it took me about as long to do those things as it has taken for me to write about them.  Heck, I’m from Northern Virginia; I’m used to scheduling more time for leaving the neighborhood!

And another thing, sales people here are chatty.  And helpful.  What’s up with that? 

Half an hour to run errands.  That leaves a lot of time left over.  I’ve scheduled an activity four days a week (Monday, Zumba; Tuesday, yoga, Wednesday, quilting; Thursday (evenings, bleh!),  ballet.)  The rest of the time, I’m becoming too well acquainted with daytime TV.  My kitty quilt squares, however, are coming along like a house afire. 

I do have a friend.  Before I left Oakton, even before I met her, I knew she’d be my New Best Friend.  Her husband started work at the same time Steve did.  Yes, I do realize that she’s my friend because she’s desperate, too, but we have a nice time going about together:   lunch, the craft store.  We’ve seen a chocolate shop we want to try next week.  There are other friends out there, right?  I mean, I can’t be destined to a year of Martha and Dr. Oz.  *screaming into the void,* Right?  Because if I am, you, dear reader, are going to die of boredom right along with me.  I’m takin’ ya down with me from there to here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Waxing Philosophical in Richland

The fire burns brightly; it burns with warmth. The flames shimmer, but the fireplace is electric; the fire's not real. That’s kind of how I feel about my life here. It’s not my real life. It’s sort of an along-side life, you know, like living in a parallel universe and all of a sudden looking around, thinking, “Oh, sh**, how’d I get here?”

I can remember feeling that way in Russia, too. I was living this whole other existence. It was so out of the ordinary, so fantastical, that it did not fit in my actual plane of existence. Of course, Russia was more real than here.  Sure, in Russia I couldn’t’ understand what anybody was saying, but I could, you know, find a liquor store. There were large groups of women waiting and wanting to be friends. There were exciting places to find and visit each day and new foods to taste.

I want to get out of this Pohl Anderson life and go back to my other universe where I belong. In that universe, I take three ballet classes a week; in this one, I don’t have all my shoes. :o  Here I wake up at 5:50 AM (enough reason right there for a change) to drive my husband to work. In the mornings there, I sit with my coffee and think deep thoughts.

It’s not that this universe is awful on any level; it’s just that it’s not mine. It’s weird here. (I’m not weird, oh, no.)

I know the blandness of this place will subside as new experiences take hold. I know I’ll meet friends, and I am almost certainly sure I’ll find a liquor store. (I did, yesterday, and we found an AMAZING Greek restaurant.) This philosophical bent of mind will pass, which is a good thing. I may be waxing, but sure as shootin’, nothing’s shining.

Monday, March 5, 2012

In the Pot, Nine Days Old

I’ve been in the pot, er, the tri-cities area for nine days. The cities, so to speak, are are Richland, Kennewick and Pasco. We live in Richland, almost at the West Richland border (West Ricland is not considered a fourth city so it is not the quadri-city area), and we had to drive over to Pasco for church yesterday. It took twelve minutes, and one of those minutes was taken up with us looking for correct street names. The tri-cities is the pot I’ll cook in for the next 10 months, and, I’ll tell you, I’m missing my rut. I’ve chronicled below what I’ve done for nine days since my plane landed. Truthfully it adds up to running around, but if you want all the gory details, they’re chronicled below. Oh, there’re pictures, too.

Nine days ago, I flew across country with my life packed in 2 large suitcases (yes, a small sewing machine was in one of them). Steve picked me up at the airport and took me back to the hotel where we had dinner. Since you know I don’t like to omit reporting a meal, I can tell you that I had fish and chips with fresh Alaskan cod, a light batter, a delicate fillet.

Eight days ago, Steve took me to our apartment.  We brought our large suitcases with us and unpacked a bit and did laundry, a good thing for all. We went to Target, T.J. Maxx and Bed, Bath and Beyond (the staff of all of which are now on a first name basis with me) and bought the equipment of everyday life. (Target carries a very pretty line of Italianate-Mexican plastic-ware.)  We ran up and down the aisles of Albertson’s Supermarket where we dropped another bundle to stock the refrigerator. We were down approximately 1K. Ouch.  I was so exhausted, I was really glad we'd opted to spend another night at the hotel with their buffet breakfast.

One week ago, we moved in. Come six o’clock, I found the oven an enigma, so we tried the wings place down Gage Blvd. My computer crashed causing much moaning and tearing of hair. Steve again excelled at finding an apartment. You come straight in off the street (important when you’re carrying a week’s worth of groceries), but the back becomes the second story over a stretch of wetlands where a mob of magpies reigns. 

Six days ago, after dropping Steve off at work at 7:00 am (yes, freaking 7:00 AM!), I tried the Safeway in Richland proper and picked up a few more things plus some flowers to brighten us up.  I stopped at the apartment office and learned how to use the oven. (Push Start, you dummy; the timer is counting down the minutes until it’s warmed up.] I also found the route to Best Buy and entrusted my Vaio to Justin. On the way home, I visited T.J. Maxx (again), and bought a pale purple vase so we don’t continue staring at white on white on white walls. I mean, the electric fireplace helps alleviate the institutional feel, but still, it’s a lot of white.On the way to pick Steve up, I checked out the Big Lots and got a really good Hamilton-Beach iron for $18. I am feeling very thrifty for someone who’s just spent a ton of money. Taking Steve to work at freaking 6:40 every morning and picking him up at 4:30 is a bit wearing.

Five days ago, I took Steve to work and tried out the WinCo which is a lot like Shoppers Food Warehouse at home but with an enormous bulk food section. It is possible to buy two teaspoons of cilantro which means that stocking up on spices won’t cost us Steve’s entire first paycheck. (It is not, however, possible to buy bulk ground cloves.  One wonders why.)  I, god help me, cleaned. It’s a lot easier and faster when you don’t have anything to pick up and dust under.

Four days ago I discovered a beauty school 1/2 mile from the apartment. Score! I got my hair cut and blown dry for $8.00. The student who cut it did a good, if painstaking, job. They offer $17 facials there, $6.00 manicures and $10 pedicures. I expect to become quite beautiful while I live here. Coming home from work, we found a little thrift shop and were able to get a broiler pan ($3.00) and a soup ladle ($1.50). Feeling quite thrifty.

Three days ago, I left early to so before I retrieved Steve, I could stop at the Richland Ballet Academy. They offer one adult ballet class. It’s a beginners’ class but will offer a good opportunity for me to focus on the basics. Unfortunately it is given from 7:00 to 8:00 at night, but you can’t have everything. We came home from work and I turned around and went back to the class. Sadly, because the class is at night, the people who take it flee as soon as it’s over. Although everyone seems very pleasant, I don’t think I’ll get any friends there.

Two days ago was Steve’s every-other-Friday-off. We took care of a bunch of business stuff. It was David’s birthday. Happy Birthday, David! I retrieved my computer from Best Buy. I almost did an entire post on how dependent I’ve become on my computer, especially in a new and distant land, but the topic was too depressing to contemplate.

Yesterday we drove to the local wine country and tasted at two wineries, drove up to the Yakima Cultural Museum (and restaurant where we ordered Muk-Leek, a native sort of salmon stew over dumplings with fry bread, at the restaurant there. We like it, but it emphasizes the theory that foods from hot countries are spicier than foods from cold ones. On the way home stopped at a really nice quilting store a couple of miles from the apartment where I got fabric for my pussycat quilt. They have a workshop and classes of which I will partake. Friends in sight?

This morning we went to the UU church. The first Sunday of each month, they hold a soup-er Sunday where a lunch of soup is offered after the service. That was really nice because it gave us an opportunity to chat with people. I signed up for the Women’s Lunch the first Tuesday of each month, which is Tuesday.

As I said, it was nine days of running around, really, like a chicken with its head cut off. I do feel, though, like I’m getting my feet under me. You know, my finely pedicured feet.