Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joining the Bourgeois Class

So, I bought a house yesterday. Strange feeling. On the one hand, I feel really good about it, because it seems like a very grown up thing to do and I also never thought I would own a place in Philadelphia. On the other hand, it scares the hell out of me because I don't know a thing about water heaters or winterizing your home or putting sealant of the roof or caulking, for God's sake. But I'm sure I'll figure it out. I couldn't ask for a smoother, easier process and the previous owners were so totally cool and giving--left behind these great decorations and many other things that will make the move much easier. I'm not taking my crappy sofa or my crappy chairs. I'd love to also get rid of the coffee table and the TV stand and the kitchen table, but I'll wait a little bit more on that.

Okay, so here are some pictures from our trip to Chinoteague/Assateague Island last week. Prepare for ponies. For instance, there is a pony in here somewhere. Can you find him?

And now find the kitty...This cat was at the bed and breakfast. He is shy. He is called Fraidy Cat.

The woman who wrote the children's book, Misty of Chinoteague, wrote it at the b&b we stayed at. I believe this is a statue of Misty or one of the other horses.

Part II.

No frills on vacation, no make-up, no hair mousse and yet we are still beautiful.

We took a walk to the marshes the first day, and were duly warned by the Pony Chairman not to touch or pet or feed apples or even look for too long at the wild ponies.

Bird in flight.

Little sandpipers who sometime stand on one leg and freak you out, worrying that the bird is lame.

First horse spotting.

And closer up.
And closer still. This one would definitely upset the Pony Chairman.

You can pet this black cat from the b&b. He is called one-eye for reasons that will become more obvious.

See. She has one gimpy eye. She was nice though, but had a weird way of laying her ears back when you pet her.

The seagulls in Virginia are huge.

Manny on the beach liking to be bare foot.

On the boat. It was freezing.

The lighthouse. These pictures may be out of order.

A bird.

Ponies ahead.
They all sort of look the same.

You can buy them when they are foals.

Pony drinking sewage salt water.

We almost made it to sunset.

Note picturesque birds in the water.

Our captain, Spider Kelly.

You can't really see this, but here's the high school in Chinoteague, where the mascot is...Ponies.

And a grave stone with ponies on it.

And a vanity plate.
And ducks. Very loud ducks.

The ones who stayed inland were not in danger of being shot during duck hunting season, which I believe was going on while we were there?

Cotton. Manny picked a bunch of it and then stuck it in his ears when the ducks got too raucous.

View of the scaredy cat from the porch above.

I was too frightened to get on, imagined us both hurtling off the side.

Manny was not.
Scottie dog.

And his friends, the terriers.

Dogs make it hard to simplify.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled photographs. Mary, Jesus, and a Jack-o-Lantern.

Spooky window.

With cat detail.
Witch door? Who's on first?

Stacked Jacks.
That's it for now. Will be moving in two days. Don't feel sad about it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things I May or May Not Miss

Okay, so I have about a little less than two weeks before I move into the new house and so I'm contemplating the things that I might miss about this place. Hmm...The first thing I think about missing is also the thing I can't wait to get away from, namely, the stray cats I've been feeding and looking out for over the last two years. The little orange mommy cat who I captured twice before succeeding in getting her fixed. She appears almost every morning, and now lets me pet her. Usually, her tom cat buddy follows, this formidable cat who is often bleeding somewhere--either from his ear, or his nose, or his back. He frequently shows up with burrs in his tail too, which I can pick out sometimes. He lets me pet him fully and has only lashed out maybe once when Ernesto agitated him. I don't know what will happen to them after I leave. Will anyone feed them? Will they wonder where I've gone and feel betrayed? Probably not, but I worry about how they will survive the winter. I guess I will also miss the neighbor girls, these Mexican children who always want to pet my cats and yell, "Let us see your cats!" if they see me returning from work.

Won't miss:

*Tons of garbage on the streets
*Smell of cat pee emanating from the back patio
*Yelling from the back yard neighbors and their torturing of the cats they seldom feed
*Drop ceilings on the second floor
*Tiny bathroom with cruise ship sized sink
*Having no closet space
*Lack of washer/dryer
*Going to the bank at the first of every month to get a money order for rent.

I think I'm learning that I'm glad to be moving. There's not anything I will really miss. That seems a little sad to me. That I would live in a house for almost three years that has more things wrong with it than things I will miss. Still, this house has been good for me in lots of ways. It's really cheap rent, has a full basement to accommodate the 17 litter boxes I need for the numerous cats. The street has never been a problem; no loud partiers or incessantly barking dogs. The worst of the noise is the occasional spilling of loud Mexican music from a car dropping off neighbors.

The universe has answered one of my biggest and most specific requests. On Friday, when I was leaving for work, I noticed that someone at the end of my street had left out this elaborate, three story cat scratching post/kitty jungle gym. It's torn up, but not too bad, and it's exactly what I was asking Lisa Marie and John to make for me as a house-warming gift. I dragged it down the street, trying not to worry about what the neighbors might think, and somehow managed to wrangle it up the steps. It weighs about 100 pounds. The cats immediately took to it, especially Ernesto who behaved like a very good cat and started scratching it immediately. Since I'm leaving my icky sofa behind and planning to buy a nice leather one that doesn't accumulate tons of cat hair, I will need some cat-scratching alternative. LM has agreed to recover it as a gift. It's still going to look hideous in the living room, but maybe we can try to make it look cool. No, it will never look cool.

Spoke on a panel at the Philadelphia Stories sponsored "Push to Publish" conference held at Rosemont College this weekend and learned a few things from the fellow panelists--things I need to remember to tell my writing students on Monday:

1. In the first draft of you story, your initial beginning is probably not the real beginning. It's the beginning you needed to find your way into the story. Oftentimes, the real start occurs near the end of the story, sometimes even in the last line.

2. Don't write about the day that nothing happened. Write about the day that something really changed.

3. Not all real life stories translate well into fiction. In fact, they often don't. You might say, "But that's how it really happened," as a defense to the piece and even if this is so, it still doesn't mean it's a good fiction piece. We don't go to newspapers to get our stories--don't dictate exactly what happened on page 5 of the local news and expect it to work.

4. Before you can go off and write a meta-narrative or a story that flaunts convention in some radical way, you have to first understand the form and structure of what makes a good short story. Even avaunt garde artists and abstract artists first learn how to draw a human figure. You need to know how it's done well before you veer off into uncharted territory.

And then there was an NPR story on Fresh Air the other day, an interview with Michael Chabon where he says that he knows he's writing something of significance if it makes him uncomfortable. So, rule #5, Write what makes you squirm. It probably means you're getting somewhere close to the truth of something important.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My view at Work + more Halloween windows

This photo may at first look like the squirrel has cannibalized one of its own, but it's actually eating a piece of pepperoni pizza that it must have found on the Green, or else it attacked a first-year student who wasn't paying close attention. You have to be vigilant with these squirrels; they're afraid of nothing and will approach you at any moment for food or spare change.

I thought squirrels were vegetarians? I never did see this one eat the pepperoni though, so maybe they just eat around it.

Two windows below from the same house.

The front door of the house opened while I was taking the second picture and I gestured like, I love your windows and then beat it.

I probably took a picture of this last year too. I just think it's cute.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Days Until I Say Goodbye to Orange Kitties

Am counting down the days until I no longer have to walk the 6 blocks to and from the subway to get home; a walk that's not devastating, but it's hard to face on the nights when I have classes and don't get off the subway until 8:30 PM or later. In my new house, the subway stop is only three blocks away. V. exciting. The current owners are being extremely generous and leaving me the following items:

# Three (3) Area Rugs

* - one (1) in Living Room
* - one (1) in Bedroom
* - one (1) in Office

# IKEA Kitchen Cart in Dining Room
# Curtains / Blinds in Living Room
# Blinds in Master Bedroom and Second Bedroom
# Three (3) Nesting Tables in Living Room
# IKEA Wardrobe in Master Bedroom (Previously agreed upon)
# Magnetic Knife Holder in Kitchen
# Hanging Rail in Kitchen
# Black Hanging Rack and Three (3) Silverware holders above sink in Kitchen
# Overhead Pot & Pan holder in Kitchen
# Outdoor Wooden Table and Chairs in Backyard
# Corner Garden Stand in Backyard
# Wooden Garden Stand in Backyard
# Grill in Backyard
# Interior and Exterior House paint in Basement
# All Shelving in Basement
# String lights in the Garden
# Small IKEA Wine Rack in Dining Room
# Plant Hangers and Plants in Living Room
# Bar Stools in Kitchen

CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? (Please note that I hardly ever use caps because it's like shouting, but I am so excited). The grill is amazing. I've never used a grill in my life. You just ad light fluid, right? And I needed the outdoor furniture too, since all I have is like a pink plastic watering can. These people are the best. Knock on wood, but this house-buying thing has been a really easy and pleasant experience.

Here are some spooky windows for you.

I believe these strings are meant to be cobwebs.

I like the stacked pumpkins in the lower left corner.

Hard to see.

This is the Seven Dwarves house. Find the pumpkin.

Nice mixture of pretty flowers and death.

Close up.