Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finger Lakes Heating

I have an apartment in an old house. The place was built sometime around the turn of the 19th century and has since (likely within more recent years) been converted into a large apartment for the owners and three smaller ones for people like me. It has great charm: bricked-in fireplace, cracks in the walls and soup-bowl floors. I love it.

I'm the youngest person in the building, which says a lot given that I'm in my early 40's. It means that I'm the one they call when the door sticks or there's a problem carrying something up the spiral stairs in the back. There are perks, too--my landlord gives me all of the home-grown tomatoes I can eat and I never have to worry that wild orgies will keep me up late. They know that I work "up at the college" and like to ask about how it's going, hear that I'm starting to settle in. What they don't know is that I might freeze to death come winter.

The house has radiators.

Not baseboard heat, but honest-to-god water-fed radiators. I've never had radiant heat in my life. I grew up in Texas in the late 60's/early 70's. We had first-generation forced-air heat and were by golly proud of it.

I have radiators and they scare the hell out of me. Do I add water, can I put plants on the decorative covers, what if they spring a leak, will the thermostat on the wall really control the heat or is it just for giggles?

I woke up to a 58-degree apartment, and know that layering won't be enough for much longer. Nights here in the Finger Lakes are getting chilly, and mornings are tough because I don't want to drag myself out from under the warmth of my 3-quilt bed, I'm going to have to tackle this demon. And soon.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Sometimes, I feel like I've forgotten the potato salad.

I had a meeting of chairs and directors today. A two-hour meeting to be exact, and as I sat in the room listening to these talented, mostly articulate people I couldn't help but wonder what it is I'm supposed to be bringing to the party.

And of course, in every room of talented, articulate people there's always one who is so linear and literal that anything outside his or her immediate line of understanding is subject to inspection. This is not unlike Bill Clinton and the question of "is" except that these people really mean it.

I hope I don't grow up to be one of them.

But I digress. In hiring me, my institution has taken on its first-ever compositionist, so I have ideas. Lots of them, some of them even pretty damn good but the challenge of being the new kid on the block is that I have to keep a lot of them to myself for now. Instead, I sniff the air, lick a finger and see which way the wind is blowing. My reluctance to go storming in means that I spend a lot of time just listening. And wondering if I should've added more mayonnaise.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Moving Sideways

I'm married, and I have a 7-year-old. Like too many parents in contemporary America, I work in a different state, an 8-hour drive away from home. Unlike most of those parents, I'm a mom.

My husband and son live in Michigan, a state recently celebrated for having the highest unemployment rate in the nation. I, on the other hand, live in Upstate New York. It's beautiful here, especially as fall begins to creep in.

Michigan is also lovely this time of year, the crispness in the air made even crisper by the simple pleasure of walking to the bus stop, waving goodbye to the boy as he heads off for school. It would be very easy to become maudlin, overly emotional and, well, a complete wreck.

That, however, would be counterproductive. My husband is self-employed, which means that I have moved here not only for money, but also for health and dental care, a TIAA-CREF retirement package and numerous other lovely benefits. We do what we must, and for me this means moving forward rather than wallowing in what I'm currently missing.

You might ask "if your husband is self-employed, why didn't he move the business with you?" And the answers are: we own a house in Michigan, and this job may not be a perfect match. The first is the one we can't control: we own a house in Michigan where, if we are lucky, we would be able to sell it for half of what we owe. The second, well. I have every reason to believe that we'll like each other just fine. But until we're sure of this new relationship, it seems prudent not to take the large loss on the house and uproot the child only to be stuck in a place with no family, no resources.

And so here we are: 8 hours apart.