Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Feelings About My New Home

It’s so hot here. All I can do is accept that the extreme heat is going to turn my accustomed lifestyle upside down. I mean, it’s REALLY hot, even for this region. The average high temperature this time of year is 90 but we’re closer to the 100 degree mark and the humidity makes it feel way hotter. Stepping outside just long enough to get to the car and cool off its insides absolutely knocks me out. If I do that a few times in the middle of the day, I need an hour nap to regain my energy. I don’t have a job yet, so I’m free to follow that schedule but it’s a strange thing. Mandatory naps have never been a part of my adult habit.

Yet this seems fitting for my current phase of existence. In the spirit of a chosen new life, I’m trying to do everything a little differently. This change in attitude began with the move itself. Having once possessed very little (including a sense of patience with myself) I used to approach moves in a very hurried and disorganized fashion. But since Dan and I together have accumulated about 10 times more possessions than I ever owned by myself, and seeing as I had no other occupation, I decided that for this move I would indulge my obsessively organized inner librarian. I packed dishes, CDs, LPs and books in the precise order in which I wanted to unload them. I designated boxes we never need to open (you know, the sentimental stuff you can’t bear to throw away but hardly ever view). My last unpacking task will be creating a screened hiding spot in the corner of our loft-like space where all those boxes can live as long as we are living here.

This organized planning has made the unpacking process actually enjoyable. I can spend more time thinking how I will fit this stuff into our unusual living space. Our apartment is half of a refurbished auto shop. The front wall is a 12 paneled glass and steel garage door. The outside walls are painted cinder blocks. The space is divided into two giant rooms. The front room features an industrial kitchen – it’s my new favorite toy, with its ample counter space and enormous sink (cooking soup stock will no longer be a logistical nightmare!) I also love the poured concrete floors throughout. It doesn’t matter if you splash outside of the shower or spill a cup of water, it all just soaks into the floor. This apartment is a funky space, but it’s also well built, surprisingly practical and (thankfully!) centrally cooled. It’s a pretty fun place to while away a long, sultry afternoon.

It’s a good thing that I like home so much because the midday heat and a sense of social awkwardness keep me there often. I know that I must fight the urge to remain a hermit, but again I am trying to be patient with myself and take on this new life at a comfortable pace. The thing is, I really do stick out in Chattanooga. It isn’t just my accent or my untanned northern white flesh. Cotton clad, short-haired women who don’t wear makeup are pretty uncommon in these parts. I don’t feel compelled to transform myself, but not since high school have I felt so different from everyone around me. And for someone like me, who is apt to gladly melt into social invisibility, this sense of difference is a little startling. My goal is to have fun with it. My social experiences so far have shown me that most people here are outwardly friendly and polite, which makes it easier, though I have caught a couple people staring at me. I just smile back at them.

Nevertheless, I do admit that I love having so much alone time at the house because I get to enjoy the vast media library that I so dutifully packed, hauled and unpacked. We own six milk crates of vinyl that we neglected when we had cable TV in the spring and early summer. Since we have no need for cable now (our digital antenna gets excellent reception) and we won’t get internet hooked up for almost three weeks, I have a new interest in our fantastic album collection. We have a vintage record store display rack that we use to hold our current favorites, and in the spirit of a new life, I have made myself refile the old favorites and bring out some new ones. It’s been fun. I’ve been listening to a lot of 80s British stuff like Aztec Camera and Style Council, as well as singer-songwriter-y fare from the mid 70s, like Paul Simon and Todd Rundgren. Now that I think of it, it’s the stuff that Dan probably doesn’t want to hear. Yeah, being alone in our new home is not yet boring.

Oh, and that digital antenna has reintroduced me to the wonder of RTV, the Retro Television Network. Before we got cable, I found many hours of solace on a harsh winter’s night watching reruns of “Simon and Simon” and (cringe) “Matlock” on channel 007-02. I know that RTV is included with some cable packages, but we didn’t get it with AT&T U-verse and somehow it seems way more appropriate as an antenna-only network. The RTV lineup includes shows I totally forgot – like “Simon and Simon”, “I Spy” and “Kate and Allie” – along with some genuinely good shows – like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” – and adds to it a lot of weird ass shit that I never knew – like the short-lived 1960s comic western “Laredo”, which I LOVE. Interestingly, RTV is based in Chattanooga and of course I have fantasies about being their chief programmer (first order of business – acquire Martin Mull’s 1970’s mock talk show “Fernwood 2Night”), but in the meantime, I’m having fun enjoying their bizarre lineup. Again, it’s something different.

This introduction to my new home is not what I imagined. I thought of myself wandering the neighborhood, checking out the local businesses, but that’s tricky in this dangerous heat. At least I can take advantage of the short distance between our place and Niedlov’s bakery, with it’s speedy wireless internet. Perhaps today I will wander a bit further down the road to Market Street and look at some of the boutiques. It may be worth an afternoon nap to see what else my new town has to offer, and today I am in the mood to do something (there's that word again) different.


  1. Yeah, moving down south causes plenty of climate shock and culture shock. I feel you on the heat issue. OK has been brutal this year, too. The culture shock is perhaps even more difficult. What you describe about feeling different from everyone around you and sticking out is also really familiar for us in our new home.

  2. Wendell:

    I'd tell you not to sweat it, but that sounds physically impossible, especially with my mom regularly posting news of 110 heat indexes from Baton Rouge on a now daily basis (not that they're *necessarily* related, but she still fervently disbelieves in climate change). Just remember that you're in a relatively cool part of the South (in social and climatic terms) and quite often the friendliness of the locals can be genuine. You'll do fine! :)

  3. Sounds like you've got just the right attitude in terms of pacing your adjustment. A little bit of exploration in a new clime can go a long way. Can't wait to bring the twins down that way (well, I'll have to wait, since it'll likely be at least a year, but I am looking forward to it)

    Re: 80s British stuff -- Have you heard much Heaven 17? I love them. Some samples:



  4. Thanks for the understanding and encouraging words, y'all (see Wendell, I'm picking it up already!). Every day so far is a little weird and a little awesome. And now that I've been here all of one solid week, I notice some patterns, like

    - Tennessee (or at least this part of it) is not into recycling or everyday environmental sustainability. Even the interstate rest stops continue to use paper towels instead of hand dryers - weird

    - For some reason, stuffed baked potatoes are a Chattanooga standard - awesome

  5. It sounds like you have some time to really ebb and flow with the transition... and if the heat makes you a temporary hermit, so be it! I know you'll be exploring soon enough. I've only recently begun to let myself rediscover the joys of being the only one at home with records and a turntable, so I can identify with that feeling!

    I hung out with a friend tonight who I only now recalled has family in Chattanooga. If I had remembered earlier, I wouldn't introduced y'all when you were still in Ypsi! But, I'll be sure to ask for her potato (and other) advice about the city the next time we hang.

    I like the image you paint of your place. It sounds cozy yet totally different from the standard apartment. Funny enough, the set up sounds strikingly similar to the place some of my best pals moved into in Seattle this spring. They also have 2 big rooms, one being a large open space with a garage door that is good for music, art projects, etc.

    I am sending you guys good thoughts, and am suddenly really wanting a stuffed baked tater!

  6. Mariah, I think you would totally love our place! One of the things I enjoy about moving into a new apartment is reconfiguring the arrangement of stuff to fit the space. I always start off thinking, "Oh, man, I need to replace this and that storage thing that I used to have in my old place." For instance, this home has a lot of kitchen shelf space but no drawers. But then I start getting creative about using what I already have and realize that I don't need to buy a bunch of new things. My proudest achievement is my milk crate shelves, disguised with some old sarongs (former curtains from our old place), which I use to store DVDs and board games. The top of the shelf is the perfect showcase for our Yelp lunch box : ) It sits across from one of Doug C's abandoned building photos. I love having all these little reminders of our friends in our new home.

    Whenever you're down in Tennessee, you're always welcome at our place. Not that you're apt to have a lot of breaks in the near future (does your grad program start two days after your wedding?!), but please know that our door is always open : )

  7. Hey Tara,
    Sorry that you are getting such a beastly introduction to the South. I guess it would be akin to moving to Michigan during a blizzard.

    Glad that you are finding ways to keep yourself amused. Rocking out with the vinyl selections sounds like a fine fine pastime!

    As far as getting stares from people, it might be that Chattanooga is small enough that people notice new peeps in town.

    When my friend Alexis moved to Pittsburgh she felt like she was getting the fish eye from folks, but then she came to realize that most people there grew up there, had huge families there, and stayed there their whole lives, meaning that a "stranger in town" was a novelty, even in a relatively large city!

    Your new place sounds amazing! And your decorating finesse is impressive!

    RTV sounds very fun. I'm a huge fan of "Kate and Allie."

    Enjoy, take care, and stay cool!