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Ornamental Vagrants May 25, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
6 comments

The last time I went to Portland, I took an afternoon off to wander all over town. I wandered so far all over town that two hotel employees later mentioned having seen me, as well as exactly where and when, in two very different spots. At one point—it’s true—I had been pushing a baby carriage.

While wandering an area I frequent less often, I happened upon a shop I’d never been in before. It, like the man at the register, was rather flamboyant—it boasted drippy Victorian household items and some risqué mancentric novelty gifts. I had a lovely conversation with the guy, who was born and raised in Vermont, and I was quietly invited back to a private-ish party the next evening, which would feature Cosmos and shirtless waiters. I know you will be disappointed to hear that I did not go.

I did, however, buy a pink flamingo Christmas ornament. It’s your standard glass-with-feathers. I love animal ornaments, and I didn’t yet have a pink flamingo. And after an extensive conversation about pink flamingoes with my new friend, I certainly had to have this one.

For someone who doesn’t put up a Christmas tree all that often, I sure do have a thing for ornaments. I’ve cut back on the impulse buying in recent years, but I occasionally stumble.

I have plenty of ornaments. It’s not yet what I’d call excessive, but it’s plenty. This year, as I trimmed the tree, I found several that I felt done with. A couple were gifts. At least one I had bought myself, and in retrospect, I’m surprised it made the cut. I thought about giving these ornaments away. But I didn’t think anyone else would actually want them. I didn’t want to risk rejection.

So, when no one was looking, I stuck them on other people’s Christmas trees.

No one has mentioned the discovery of a rogue ornament. But if any of the recipients ever read this, I may be the victim of retaliatory action.

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The (non)Reading Life May 16, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
17 comments

I should not subscribe to periodicals. I know this. With a reading job during the day and no subway commute, I know that magazines will just pile up, unread. I read for 10–15 minutes before I go to bed. I’ve got about a dozen books sitting there, waiting. I’m lucky to keep up with reading blogs.

But when my niece was doing a fund-raiser last fall, I caved. What magazines do I compulsively read at others’ homes? I asked myself. The New Yorker, of course, but I know damn well I can’t keep up with that. So I settled on Rolling Stone, issued less often.

There are four on my nightstand now.

***

I used to be such a good book-group member. When we started in 2001, I barely missed a monthly meeting. I always read the book. I always finished it before we met.

Our book group works this way: The host picks the book and cooks dinner for everyone. So hosting is a big deal. But there are so many people in the group that one has to host only, say, once every 18 months if everyone steps up.

Having dinner makes it more of a supper club. Sometimes it’s tough to get people to talk about the book at all. In some ways, that’s fine—I really go to socialize anyway. Lately, it seems people are doing a better job of actually talking about the book.

I say “lately,” but the truth is that “lately” I haven’t been going much. In fact, over the past couple of years, my participation has been spotty at best.

Sometimes I simply can’t get there—I’m in Portland, maybe. (This just happened last month at the worst time—the author was a guest at the book group! I would have loved to have been there.) Sometimes I see the title of the book and I think, I can’t read that right now. (One book-group friend has complained that she just can’t read another triumph-of-the-human-spirit-set-in-another-country book—my words, not hers, but I’m claiming to know what she means. Can’t women read other things?) Sometimes I just want to get through the books I already have. I want to read what I want to read.

As I’ve become more of a slacker, I now sometimes go without having finished the book or having read it at all. I just eat, drink, visit, socialize. That’s this week’s plan. I haven’t been since January, after all.

***

Over the last month, I’ve dropped all other reading for two Route 153–relevant books. The first was the essayist Steve Almond’s latest, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life. I had been a big fan of one of his previous books, Candyfreak. This latest offering includes a chapter featuring a singer/songwriter who has a place just down the road. I discovered her music (I’m embarrassed to admit) only after meeting her at a couple of parties. She’s much better known in Europe. Now I can’t stop listening to her CDs.

So, the inquiring-minds-want-to-know Indigo especially enjoyed reading the chapter about her, even though Almond seems to have gotten a detail wrong. He comes up for a visit, and they take a walk “through the local farmland” where she “pointed out a barn where monks made artisanal cheese.” I don’t think that’s monks. I think that’s Angela. Angela has the goat farm just down the road and makes award-winning artisanal cheeses (goat and cow). On the weekends, I go to her little café, order one of the best toasted-cheese sandwiches on earth, and visit the baby goats. I can’t blame Almond for getting it wrong—this venture seems like something monks would do. Or maybe I’m wrong and there are monks down the road whom I’ve not yet discovered.

But it is in fact Angela’s memoir, Hay Fever, that is the second book I recently devoured. It tells the tale of her New York–literary-agent-plus-Vermont-cheesemaker existence. Again, the read was fascinating in part because she’s a mile or so down the road and I know quite a few of the characters who appear in the book.

With so many read-local temptations, how could I possibly turn my attention to the book-group book?

***

When I finished Angela’s book last week, I realized I had a brief window during which I might be able to read this month’s book-group selection. I didn’t really want to buy the book—I have been hemorrhaging money lately between a new computer and some house-maintenance projects. So I e-mailed the group to see if anyone had finished it and would loan me a copy. I heard back from only one person, who said she wasn’t anywhere near finished, but she had just seen the book at the library over at Parts.

Ah, libraries. I’m embarrassed to say I hardly use them anymore. I don’t even have a Parts library card. I can’t finish a book in library-loan time, so I just don’t bother. It’s sad, I know.

But I gave it a shot. I arrived just as the library was opening on Tuesday. Apparently, this library is “between systems” (that is, not fully computerized)—at least according to Glen, who could find no record of the book. We looked all over for it, but it was no-logical-where. The library was open to the public only a few hours between the time my friend allegedly saw a copy and my arrival, but maybe someone snapped it up in that time. Glen offered to try to get a copy for me, but I knew by the time it arrived, it would be too late; I therefore discouraged such behavior.

So I’m reading Rolling Stone. I hope to be only a couple of issues behind by the end of the weekend—maybe only one issue behind by book group on Thursday night. But my big pile o’ voluptuous fiction may tempt me away from even the yumminess of cover boys Robert Downey Jr. and Mick Jagger.

And today’s bright sun and blue sky may trump reading altogether.

Gym Followup May 14, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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It has been 16 days since my beloved gym closed its doors. I was incredibly impressed by how quickly Lali took matters into her own hands and bought an exercise bike within about a week. I immediately got back on my NordicTrack elliptical cross-trainer, which is beginning to show some signs of wear. I hope it lives, because it would not be a good time for me to have to replace it.

I got the news on a Friday (because I was away, wearing crazy shoes). The next Tuesday, when I went into town (i.e., a town a half-hour away, home to my largest client and where I attend staff meetings), I toured the new gym there. It’s quite nice. I can’t buy a membership, because I refuse to be in the car an hour to work out an hour. That’s just crazy. But I get to that town once or twice a week, so I checked out their drop-in fees and deals. Their day rate is $15 (plus tax), but if I buy twenty, I can get the day rate down to $10 ($200 plus tax). (Why this plus-tax? I didn’t have to deal with that at my gym.)

Then I worked out at home every day.

Until Monday, when I at long last attended a yoga class in Parts (not to be confused with Parts West), about 12 minutes away. It’s one I’d meaning to get to for more than a year, but between my gym membership and the timing of the classes and not wanting to spend even more money, I hadn’t made it. As I suspected, the class seemed just the right level for me, so I bought six classes and will likely go on Mondays.

The next day, Tuesday, I went to the half-hour-away gym and paid the day rate, which with plus-tax is $16.05, which seems like a very high price to pay to work out, but I wanted to be sure I liked the place before committing any further. They have good cardio machines. They have individual TVs. They have a good weight room, and I was alone in it almost the entire time I was there, which gave me opportunity to figure out the equipment without too many people laughing at my bewilderment. They have classes, but I haven’t taken one yet. They have a couple of nice showers, which I had to check out too, because after all, I was heading to the office after, AND I had just paid $16.05, so I had to experience everything I possibly could.

It’s lovely, but it has a completely different feel to it. It feels much snootier than my gym, but it’s in a much snootier town. I’m sure I can grow to really really like it, because really, what’s not to like? But it doesn’t feel like home.

Once I plunk down my $214, I have a year to make the twenty visits, which should be absolutely no problem for moi, even at once a week or less. I still have a “free class” coupon that maybe I should try to use before plunking.

L., with whom I’d been PNF stretching, had called while I was in New York to say I could still have stretching sessions, just at his house instead. I’d been in such mourning I hadn’t called him back—instead, I called a friend who is learning reflexology and signed up for three sessions with him (again, something I’d been meaning to do but was too busy with the gym and the PNF stretching). L. called again Monday, and I called him back and told him he could reach me Wednesday, and he called me Thursday. Now, here’s another story about how nice these people are: He told me that they had figured out how much of a monetary credit I had til my membership would have run out, and they will apply that to my stretching sessions. They are really trying to make things right with people (but how can they afford to do that?).

So I’ll call L. back next week after I figure out things with the reflexologist-in-training. (He needs to work on thirty people three times each as part of his training, and the rate is good—any other takers?) And maybe I’ll figure out a time to take a free class at the gym. And then maybe I’ll buy twenty day passes. And I’ll do yoga on Mondays. And the ice rink will open up again this summer (in the same town as the gym). And maybe, sometimes, I’ll get to go outside and walk and hike. And eventually it will all be fine.

But I’m still sad. I really miss my gym.

The Buntings Are Back May 13, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
7 comments

Yesterday I saw an indigo bunting at my feeder. The day before, a friend posted a photo of indigo buntings at his feeder. I have blatantly stolen it off his Facebook page to share it with you. That other character is an RBGB (red-breasted grosbeak), his RB not too visible here.

Moment May 9, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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The wind topples a tree directly onto a truck, in which sits a man who is instantly killed, a man you have never met but who is a pillar of the community, a man whose wife and younger daughter you have been introduced to ever so briefly, so briefly you are sure they would not remember, a man who drove by your house on the very day he died and waved to Ron (who is building your new porch floor), and everyone is in shock, it was such a freak accident, the chances of it not happening so much greater than those of it happening, and you feel deep deep pain and sorrow for his family, and you are jarred back into the awareness of the brevity of life and the randomness of almost everything, and you go to an afternoon birthday party featuring hail and a rainbow and friends and neighbors and are glad to be surrounded by them all, and the next morning you have strong coffee and French toast and conversation with friends you don’t see nearly enough, and you are glad that every morning as your husband leaves the house you tell him you love him, sometimes running down the stairs to tell him again, often adding be careful, knowing that being and caring is all that any of us can do and what will be will be.

273 May 2, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
9 comments

Last Wednesday night, I went for my sixth in a series of six prepaid PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching sessions with one of the owners of my gym. I’ve been having back pain, etc., and had heard a lot of good about these stretching sessions. They are, in fact, amazing, as someone else positioning me and then throwing his weight into it can put me in stretches I could never attain on my own.

He had a client after me, so (I assumed) we decided to figure out the scheduling of my next set of sessions next week, after I returned from New York.

I left the gym just after 6 p.m. Apparently, two hours later, it closed. For good. Forever.

The owners—a family of four—hadn’t gotten the loan they needed to remain open. Even the staff didn’t know in advance.

Tim (wisely) sheltered me from this news until I returned home Friday night. As I’d been offline, I hadn’t seen any of the Facebook gossip.

For a disciplined workout fiend like me, that gym opening up in the middle of nowhere, less than a 10-minute drive away, was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Its closing is one of the worst. I know that sounds dramatic. I know that it is not tragedy on a major scale. I know I will survive. But it’s like a death, and I’m heartbroken.

It was a stunning, overly clean facility (one of the owners was clearly OCD, and the place was cleaned 24/7). It had a swimming pool, which ultimately may have been their demise—they didn’t get enough pool memberships, and the maintenance in this economy killed them.

And I suspect this was part of the problem: This family business had bent over backward to make gym membership affordable for people in this depressed community. It had the most reasonable membership structure I had ever seen. They divided the space into a men’s side and women’s side (although either sex could use either side). They did everything they could to remove barriers and excuses. (You don’t have to work out in front of the guys. It won’t cost you $100 a month. You can afford to take of yourself.).

So the gym was filled with people across socioeconomic and weight/fitness lines. I’d never seen anything quite like it.

But, it turns out, something this nice can’t in fact exist in a socioeconomically challenged community. They could have raised their rates. Many of us could have paid more. But many could not have paid more, and I’m sure the owners knew this. They would have lost memberships, especially among those they were most immediately trying to serve.

I am first and foremost devastated for me, because I am a human and selfish. But I am devastated for this family, who no doubt put everything they had into a business they believed in, and it has just failed. What will happen to them? This is their life.

I am devastated for the suddenly unemployed staff.

I am devastated for all those people who were finally taking steps to take care of themselves and were forming a community that supported those healthy choices.

I am devastated for me. (Oh, did I mention that already?)

Only 27 more workouts, I thought on Wednesday night, before my name goes on the 300+ workouts list. I probably can’t get it done in May, I thought, but I can definitely do it by June.