“I haven’t gotten to bed at a reasonable hour in at least a week,” my sister, Lori, said, sliding into the driver’s seat of my car.
She pressed the “2” button on the armrest of my car door. After picking her up and explaining the floppiness of my sandals, she offered to drive the rest of the way to dinner where we were meeting a couple of friends.
My certified preowned Acura had proved worth its weight in gold over the past four years. Lori enjoyed the extra leg room her button press provided, using my car’s pre-programable driver’s seat position feature. It only allowed for two pre-programmed seat positions, and, well, I haven’t dated anyone in over two years shut up she was my number two.
Earlier in the week, one of Lori’s two indoor cats had taken off on an impromptu rumspringa, and between that, raising teenage twins, working as a 6th grade teacher, and recently cutting sugar from her diet, things were looking bleak.
“Well…I still don’t have anything to blog about for tomorrow…,” I offered meekly. “I was thinking about doing something about gratitude… Mostly since Grayson [your spoiled, jerk, OMG-I-love-him-so-much cat] is back!”
I’ve been thinking a lot about all that I’m thankful for because many of those things I’m about to leave behind. I haven’t made any splashy announcements, but in two weeks, I leave the only state I’ve ever really called home.
At first, signing a lease on an apartment 3,000 miles away felt amazing. I knew that feeling wouldn’t last. Because I love my life. I love my friends. I love my family. I love stupid New Jersey property taxes and stupid good bagels and the stupid feeling that I’m only ever seconds away from SOMETHING.
Yet at the same time I know -in that way you just DO- that moving cross-country is perfectly, exactly right. Goodbye a-hole adorable cats, goodbye #2 seat, goodbye everything bagels.
It blankets the drab and sometimes unforgiving world in a pristine swath of white, sparkling like a new beginning. You always know it’s going to snow because of the sky and the smell. And the stillness. The wind quiets and the clouds create an alabaster ceiling. If you breathe in deeply, your nostrils tingle with a chill that’s more inviting than foreboding, and you’ll catch the faintest hint of ice, a scent that’s almost impossible to describe.
Every March the clock springs forward giving us more precious hours of sunlight, and at least in New Jersey, a crocus or two pops from the ground, winking and promising that Spring is nearly here.
We make plans, eagerly lugging our bicycles and gardening tools from the basement, and then Mother Nature says, “Psych!”
I suppose it makes sense that the ones who face Mother Nature’s wrath head on have something huge in common: gender.
During last week’s nor’easter, I received text after text from female friends and colleagues. It looked a little like this:
Over the next 24 hours, my gal pals rallied as they faced everything from:
…to driving 40+ miles to work…
…to fixing a broken generator…
Yes, sir ma’am. These ladies put the “win” in “winter.”
I’m hashtag blessed to have so many women in my life who handle Mother Nature’s little curveballs with poise wine, grace vodka, and humor. It doesn’t hurt that they now write blog posts for me, too.
How are ya’ll doing? Everybody good? Have (girl) power?
Earlier this week I told you about THOSE G.D. CHURCH BELLS that go off at ALL HOURS one block from my new apartment.
After four months in this neighborhood, I’m starting to wonder what the ever-loving chipmunks is going on. The church bells are just the beginning. Odder still, this town is a mere two miles from where I grew up, and yet it’s as if I’ve stepped into The Upside Down. Nothing here makes sense, and it’s starting to scare me.
Since everyone else seems to have accepted this lunacy as status quo, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.
Go Jules Go, keeper of peace, server of justice, lover of being alone and eating peanut butter straight from the jar without any interruptions thank you very much, HAS ARRIVED.
First order of business? Handing out citations to the town’s most egregious offenders. Aside from His-Church-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, behold:
A few weeks ago, someone left -I’m not making this up- a red package labeled “TNT” on top of a mailbox on my block. A passerby notified the police, and within moments, the bomb squad arrived. These cartoonish hijinx shut down my street and kept me from enjoying the eight cases of wine I’d just purchased from Trader Joe’s for an entire hour.
Hi. Meet my dessert. She comes from a restaurant around the corner from my apartment, where they also consider Bachelorette tea parties the height of merriment. Don’t they know it’s not dessert unless you hate yourself afterwards?
The town center’s crowning Christmas jewel, and the view from my living room all December long.
And last, but certainly not least…
I found this note in my mailbox on Tuesday, from someone I had only briefly met when I first moved in. “Phoebe” later revealed her question via text: “Hey, would you be interested in swapping apartments [from your studio to my much more expensive 1-bedroom]? My boyfriend and I just broke up :(.”
I’m sure this won’t be the last of the nefarious acts in my new topsy-turvy world. Stay tuned. Stay vigilant. Stay safe. Sheriff Jules, over and out.
Since moving to your neighborhood late last year, your house of worship has turned mine into one of horrors.
Today, a cold, rainy Saturday perfect for staying in bed, your bells rang out at 7:24AM, 8:00AM, 9:37AM, 10:32AM, 11:24AM, 12:00PM, 5:24PM, 6:29PM, 8:01PM and counting, each time lasting no less than one full minute.
Have you a gargoyle in training?
I wish I could say this event was extraordinary, but alas, your belligerent bells remind me daily that sleep is for sinners. Were I to understand the reasoning behind your inventive cadence, perhaps I could rest soundly.
Concerned Heathen Citizen,
Can anyone explain this? Am I missing something (besides sleep)??
Because I thought this is what my therapist meant when she said “get a hobby,” every year I now train for a 100-mile bike ride in September. As part of the training plan this year, I signed up for a series of organized bike rides throughout the summer. These bike rides come with roadside support, fully-stocked rest stops, and an ugly t-shirt to commemorate the ride.
This past Saturday, the training ride was a 63-mile charity event for which I signed up namely because the registration fee was cheap. #foreshadowing.
My first second mistake was in thinking a “Stockton University charity bike ride” would leave from Stockton, New Jersey – about an hour southwest of my house. Nay. Stockton University is in Galloway Township, New Jersey (two things I’d never heard of!), a.k.a. exit 44 on the Garden State Parkway, a.k.a. Might As Well Be Cuba.
But, at least it was going to be a leisurely, social ride on a beautiful day – 75 degrees and sunny. “The best day of the weekend!” forecasters declared.
That morning, my alarm went off at 4:45am and as I headed out the door, a blast of cold air took my breath away. “Geesh!” I thought, “It’s June 3rd! Well, I’m sure it’ll warm up in a bit!” I grabbed my coat, picked up my sister, and we headed for the Parkway.
A few minutes in, raindrops hit the windshield.
“No matter!” I said. I checked my trusty weather app and it looked like it would be just fine by the time we arrived in Cuba Galloway Township.
When we parked at Stockton University (seriously, is this like Trump University? Have you ever heard of this place?), we realized we were going to have to wear our winter cycling gear because it was still 55 degrees.
As the clock rounded 8:00am, the official start time, an overly cheerful man got on the microphone by the registration tent.
“We just have a few announcements to make…”
My sister shot me a look. We hopped from foot to foot trying to keep warm, and forty-seven announcements later, we finally took off with a huge pack of men going 21 MPH. In the rain. We got sand in our teeth and dirty water splashed in our faces as we pedaled at full race speed.
By mile 30, we were starving, soaking wet, and one meltdown in (mine. I am not proud). That’s when our friend, Jen, got a flat tire. Despite being experienced tire-changers, we managed to use up all of our supplies without actually fixing the tire, and were forced to call the roadside support number given to us during registration.
A girl answered and said, “What? You’re where? Your bike has a flat tire? Hang on, let me see if I can find someone. …No, you have to call a different number. Do you have a pen and paper?”
“At least the fully loaded rest stop is only two miles away!” we said a half an hour later when we were back on the road. “Mmm, what do you think they’ll have? Bagels? Peanut butter & jelly?? Cookies???”
By then, our mouths were watering more than the skies overhead. We pulled up to the rest stop and looked around. There were three port-a-potties and one square folding table holding water, four gel packs, and half a dozen green bananas.
We shared the fig bar I had stuffed into my saddle bag and readied ourselves for another cocktail of gravel and tears (did I mention it was an out and back, all flat ride, meaning you never stopped pedaling, mostly into headwind?). Before we made it two blocks from the rest stop, we heard a hiss coming from my sister’s front tire.
As I turned to head back to her, I started tipping to the left. My left foot was clipped into my bike pedal, meaning there was only one thing that could happen next.
Splayed on the road and hovering close to the double yellow line, I unclipped my foot, leaving my shoe dangling from the pedal.
“It’s not that I’m not helping you!” Jen shouted from a few feet away. “I’m just stopping traffic!”
I hobbled over to the curb, avoiding eye contact with the line of cars inching past us.
It was just another Wednesday, albeit an unseasonably warm one in northern New Jersey, as I walked my dog through the neighborhood.
The autumn leaves were a Crayola box of gold, crimson, and green, and I snapped a photo when I reached my destination: a half-mile, gravel-lined walking trail near a local park.
I tried not to think of my mounting to do list and the fact that I was sweating profusely in mid-October as I walked briskly beneath the canopy. After thirty minutes, I reached my highest level of Zen (that is to say, an almost manageable degree of panic) and headed home.
Stepping back onto paved roads, I heard a strange shuffle to my right.
I looked up, and…
There is a dog on a roof, said my Zen mind.
There is a DOG on a ROOF, said my anxiety.
There is a BLOG POST in your POCKET, said my inner chipmunk.
Now that I’ve had time to consider this sight more deeply, I’ve come up with a few possible explanations:
He’s a watch dog for a new K-9 super breed who can fly, bend steel with their minds, and resist the smell of crotches.
He’s trying to catch a glimpse of Canada, so he knows what to expect after the next presidential inauguration.
Anything is better than hearing his owner complain about work. I mean seriously, how hard is it to neglect pets for a living?
He is a she, and she’s waiting for the right stud for whom to let down her tail of gold.
The other day, one of my Masters program professors reminded me of an old adage: Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.
Corny, sure, but it suddenly seemed like a fun challenge. In light of my landlord’s recent display of kindness (of which I am still highly suspicious), I thought maybe I, too, should adjust my attitude with this platitude.
I played out a scenario in my head first:
INT. GROCERY STORE – EVENING
“Hi!” I smile while the teenaged clerk checks the price of my almond butter. Forty-seven dollars, I want to tell her. That is the going rate for dry roasted almond pulp.
“Hello,” she grimaces.
“It’s so nice to see you, Kim!” I say, eyeing her name tag and assuming my role as transient bagger. “Let me do this. You’ve had another long day.”
She keeps her eyes on the task at hand.
“How’s your mother doing?” I ask.
“Um, fine,” she replies, glancing up briefly.
“And your dad?”
Kim stops, mid-scan, and stares at me.
“Do I…do we…I’m sorry. Do I know you?”
“You do now! Did you see Sully yet?”
“I love Tom Hanks. Aren’t he and Rita Wilson so inspiring? You should really try to find a guy like that. Enough with the bad boys.”
“Just a friend we haven’t met yet!”
Then, armed with the confidence only new confidants can bring, I’d go into situations like the one I was in on Wednesday night -seeing Amy Schumer live- with guns blazing. (Not actual guns. Amy and I don’t like those.)
“Amy! Amy!!! Hi!” I shout from 17 rows back. “It’s me! Jules!”
When Amy fails to acknowledge this attempt, I stand up in my chair.
“It’s JULES! Remember the time we never met?!”
I step down from the chair and flag a security guard.
“Can you please tell Amy I’m here?”
The security guard warns me that I’ll be removed from the theater if I stand on my chair again. I nod, wait two minutes, and then sneak down the aisle towards stage left.
“Amy!!!” I whisper loudly, taking the first step onto the stage. I wave a fluorescent pink band. “I brought you a slap bracelet!”
No matter how many times I run through this in my head, I wind up in jail.
How about you? What stranger would you like to turn into a friend? (And do you think you could do it without getting arrested?)
This week has been filled with a delightful series of diversions. It’s amazing this post even ma–
Is that my backyard?
I got home yesterday and someone had planted flowers. Lovely purple, orange and yellow, ah, daisiesgeraniums I-don’t-know-’ems, just to the side of my door.
I assumed it was the landlord, but even still, like any New Jersey native, my first instinct was suspicion.
I immediately texted a photo to Babs (my mom).
“Check the house. Is anything missing?” she replied in two seconds flat.
“Maybe he’s just trying to be nice?” My words sounded weak, even in writing.
“Did he use the flowers from your flower box?” she asked.
“No…” I answered.
“I hope they’re not flowers FOR YOUR GRAVE.”
“I hope I don’t come home tomorrow and they spell, ‘YOU’RE EVICTED.'”
It’s not that my landlord is a bad guy. No, no, no. He just, well, he seems to be of the more frugal variety, and in almost two years of renting, I haven’t seen any other display of Mother Nature’s bounty.
I’ll keep you posted. Random acts of kindness must not be trusted.
Have you had any surprises lately?
P.S. – Seriously, guys. What the hell kind of flowers are those?
In angsting over pondering what to write about this week, it occurred to me that I needn’t labor so hard. After all, it’s Labor Day weekend for us Americans, and the only work we should be doing is squeezing every last, sweaty drop out of summer before she packs her bags and says sayonara for another year.
So, from the bottom of my Jersey girl heart fringe top, I wish you a safe, healthy and happy holiday. And to my fellow chipmunks across the globe sharing in the season’s end: Yes, yes you have every right to judge us.
Recently, my quiet and respectful human and living neighbors, with whom I share a very, very (did I say very?) thin wall, moved out. I recall overhearing something about “carpenter bees” and “allergies,” but I was too busy Googling Yankee candle scents to appease undead livestock to fully appreciate their rationale.
Strange families were suddenly perusing the now-vacant apartment next door. This past weekend, I stepped outside and nearly collided with an older gentleman.
“You’ve probably surmised that I’m looking at the apartment,” he said in an I’m-just-a-guy-who-likes-hugs-and-hey-I-wonder-how-many-human-heads-will-fit-in-that-freezer tone.
“Ah,” I replied, avoiding eye contact and wondering why his tour included my half of the yard.
Uncle Jesse, my dog, barked loudly from inside.
Since this run-in, I haven’t been able to shake the nightmares of what who might move in next door.
Please, help prepare me: What’s your worst neighbor story?