From the sublime to the ridiculous; from a consideration of the wider world around us to a reconsideration of my own navel; from “Here’s Why You Should Go See Heavy Metal in Baghdad” to “Good Lord, I Hate This Apartment, Especially Now That We Have to Sort Through All This Shit and Pack What Remains!”, so are the days of our lives chez PTMYB. I’m sorry, dear friends. You are a kind and patient lot, and you really deserve better than this.
In defense of both my lackluster performance and my never-ending dog-eyed apology, I blame both on the Sudafed, on which I’ve been living all week thanks to the fourth headcold I have caught in six months. You would think that since all of my subway riding happens mostly during off-peak riding hours, I would not be so susceptible to the lurgies and virii that float about the city, but it would seem that this is not the case. I choose to blame it on the flu shot I did not get back in November. I know that colds and influenzae do not originate from the same bugs, and one shouldn’t have anything to do with the other, but I’ve noticed that in the years I do get flu shots, I catch cold maybe once a year, twice, tops. There’s a mistake I won’t be making again. That said, if you’re going to catch your death of cold, you might as well have your death of fun in catching it, and that I did. On what might have been the last really nice day for walking around until autumn (the heat and humidity are on their way to NYC, and they’re going to kick us hard, say the weatherweasels), I went to one of my favorite walking-around spots in the city, Flushing Meadows and Corona Park, where I walked over Robert Moses’s face with great relish (and I don’t mean the stuff on my hot dog [rimshot]) and took about eleven zillion pictures of the Unisphere and the Rocket Thrower before heading into Corona proper for the best ice in the city. I’d say it was worth sneezing for a week.
But I do not come here to discuss the hideous workings of my sinuses. I come here because many of you have not yet thrown your hands up in disgust at my slacktacular posting regimen, but rather have asked what our summer looks like. It’s not boring, I’ll grant you that.
Our original plan for summer—and beyond—was that I would pack only what I needed to sustain myself for ten months of student living in a 330-square-foot apartment, while Lloyd would stay in New York through April, when he would be fully vested in his pension. We had planned to rent a Matrix and drive it across the country, staying in cheapish hotels and taking regular driving breaks, documenting neat stuff along the way. It would be our long-awaited Grand Vacation, the kind of road trip we’ve talked about since before we were married, something to give me memories that would bring warmth and solace when I’m ready to drop out of law school and my sweetheart and helpmeet is over 3,000 miles away. Once Lloyd was vested and I was finished with my first year of school, I would start looking for bigger apartments, sign a lease, fly back to New York and spend the summer of 2009 helping Lloyd close up the apartment and move for good.
Three days later, Lloyd announced that there were several job openings at his level at the company’s office in San Jose. He might be able to come with me after all. I spent about a day whooping out of pure euphoria, followed by a day of creeping realization that, should a job come through, we would have less than three months to close up the apartment. Lloyd suggested that we plan as if he would be moving with me, so that we’d be prepared for any eventuality. If it turned out that he wouldn’t be able to transfer, he could still keep our stuff in storage and move to a cheaper apartment share for the duration of his time in New York. He started interviewing, we started packing, and then we waited. And waited. And waited.
It’s been a month since Lloyd’s last interview, and while all signs look good for a transfer, we probably won’t know for sure until the middle of July. Lloyd has decided that regardless of whether or not the transfer comes through, he wants to move with me this summer. No matter how carefully we plan and how frugally we live, there’s just no getting around the fact that the cost of separate housing in two expensive cities will hurt us economically at a time when I’ll already be socked with student loan debt. There’s also the small matter of our wanting to be together. So the die is cast. The moving company picks up our stuff on July 31; it should take them about 10 days to deliver it to us. Lloyd and I fly to San Jose August 4. Until then, I pack, I blow my nose, I try not to worry too much, I tell Lloyd, in soothing tones, not to worry so much.
Say, Jen, you know what might take your mind off everything? Baking, that’s what! It very well might, dear friends, but so far it hasn’t. One of the unhappiest side effects of the whole packing/moving/contemplating the move process is that our kitchen, which was never the easiest space to navigate in the world, has become a cramped, unwieldy carnival of stress in which to work. I never, ever, ever thought that these words would ever cross my lips, but I now find the time spent in the kitchen to be almost unbearable. Baking, once my favorite way to spend a weekend, has now become something to get done as quickly as possible. The thought of roasting a chicken and some potatoes to eat over salad, normally one of my favorite thoughts on a Friday afternoon, now fills me with vague dread. A clever student of the psyche might say that I’m separating from the space where I have been cooking and baking for 14 years, pushing away from it the same way that teenagers push away from their parents as they forge new identities. Or s/he might just say that I’m sick of bumping into things and not having a clear surface on which to put hot pans or cooling racks. There’s truth in both answers. I *am* sick of bumping into shit. I’m also sick of fighting with an oven that won’t maintain a steady temperature to save its life, leaving all of my cakes half overbaked and half underbaked, no matter how carefully I rotate them. On the other hand, that same unwieldy oven sits underneath a four-burner gas stovetop that works like a dream, and has since the day we moved in. The odds are high that the new apartment in which we’ll live when we move west will have an electric stove, which is great for baking but not so much for stovetop cookery. Every time I turn on the stove now, even just to boil water for a cup of tea, I think about how much I’ll miss our homely little stovetop, and the sound of the Amtrak trains bound for Boston roaring over our apartment on their way to the Hell Gate Bridge. Then I ruin another cake, and I ask Lloyd if it’s time to move yet.
Nevertheless, I have managed to do a little baking that didn’t make me want to gnash my teeth in frustration. Behold, the cookiepr0n!
Just when I thought I could finally stop bragging about the greatness of the cashew cookies from King Arthur Flour Whole-Grain Baking, along came these little beauties, chocolate chip cookies made from equal weights of whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat) and barley flour, which I bought from the Union Mills Homestead in Union Mills, Maryland, the weekend that Momerina and I went to Maryland Sheep & Wool. I have made both chocolate chip cookies and a soft, cakey sugar cookie, both from King Arthur Flour Whole-Grain Baking, using this barley flour, and I am not exaggerating when I say that the scent of barley flour-based goodies as they bake is one of the most gorgeous fragrances I’ve ever been privileged to experience. If you’ve ever gone into a bakery, inhaled that sweet heady scent, thought “mmmmm,” and then instantly thought, “gee, I hope that isn’t the smell of Creme Bouquet or one of those other nasty artificial flavor compounds,” I’m happy to tell you that barley flour and sugar, baking together, smell just like Bakery, only without the chemical overtones that would make you suspicious. There’s no other way to describe it: it is simply gorgeous. It makes you feel glad for the day you ever learned to bake cookies.
Maybe I do need to bake another batch. After all, if there is one thing Lloyd and I have been relearning these past few weeks, it’s the lesson that good things rarely come easily, or with peace of mind. We’re not feeling easy, or peaceful, but we are feeling good. I sort through a stack of books. He packs them without an inch of wasted space, the way he did when he was a shipping/receiving manager and I was a buyer at the bookstore where we met. We eat dinner. On bad nights we talk about what we’re going to do if he doesn’t have a job, or if my loans don’t come through, or if they do come through but the bursar’s office takes time getting money to us, or the bank sits on the funds for a month before letting us touch them. On good nights we remember that we are not alone in this venture, that we have friends and family who will not let us fall. One way or another, we’re on our way to something really, really good. “We have afters,” I say to Lloyd, thinking of the cookies in the kitchen. His face lights up.