Friday, August 28, 2015

I Finally Tried AirBnB & Now I'm Madly in Love

I'm the kind of person who loves the idea of something like AirBnB but is, in reality, more than a little bit wary of putting it into practice. Staying at someone else's house sounds so great! So adventurous! And such a likely scenario for being murdered or ripped off or just having a generally terrible experience!

Needless to say, I hadn't tried AirBnB yet. I'd browsed it a few times - I've had an account since 2013, when I considered listing my New Jersey apartment - but I'd never taken the plunge. I'll sleep in hotel beds & on friends' couches, thanks.

But when Mike & I booked tickets to California for a wedding in Redondo Beach, we didn't love the idea of staying in the wedding hotel all four nights of our stay. It seemed like the perfect time to get on board with the Internet's favorite rental site, if not absolutely late to the party. We found a private cottage two blocks from the Redondo Beach Pier, which played nicely into our plans not to rent a car.

When the time came to check out of our hotel - a very lovely Doubletree in Torrance, CA, within walking distance of an In-N-Out - I was skeptical about leaving it for any place that didn't have turn-down service. Our hotel bed was so damn comfortable, & the pool had waterfalls, for crying out loud! Whyyyy hadn't we just planned to stay put?

But as soon as we arrived at our AirBnB, a small, detached cottage in the backyard of a main home, all my worries disappeared. Our little studio cottage was essentially a freestanding hotel room, bathed in sunlight, outfitted with a fluffy king bed, & sporting sliding glass doors that led to a massive courtyard lined with lime trees. It was, in a word, perfect. These photos, taken on Mike's, uh, less-than-stellar phone, hardly convey its greatness.

 

The courtyard was huge & sunny, the perfect place for drinking beers & reading a good book. Mike actually started writing a book during the course of our vacation, & he got a bit of brainstorming time in out here while I napped in our cozy little cottage.


We had zero plans for the second half of our trip, which was pretty incredible & incredibly uncommon. We woke up every morning asking, "What should we do today?" & the answer was always, "Whatever the hell we want." Because we were located so close to the pier, we spent nearly all of our time there - reading on the beach, wandering the boardwalk, enjoying the sounds of the ocean, eating chilaquiles & drinking beer on a balcony, trying out stand-up paddle-boarding, consuming copious amounts of iced coffee & boardwalk churros, & just generally taking in the scenery & relaxing for a couple of days.


We couldn't have had the vacation we did if we'd decided to stay in a hotel the whole time, namely because there are no hotels near the Redondo Beach Pier - & there was no beach near our hotel in Torrance. Instead, choosing to hole up in an AirBnB allowed us to have a slightly more authentic experience, not beholden to all the standard touristy places (or their prices). We got to stay in a quiet cottage in a quiet neighborhood within walking distance of enough interesting places to keep us busy, but not so many that we felt we had to do something all the time.

We were only gone for five days, but they were five of the most glorious days I've had in a long, long time. I came home refreshed & relaxed & rejuvenated, exactly the way vacation is supposed to work. I also came home a believe in AirBnB, & I can't wait to try it again. Which city shall I visit next?!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hello, Helo! Meet the Cat that Reddit Gave Me

One of the many difficult aspects of my breakup in early 2014 was leaving my cat behind. It didn't make sense for me to take President Thomas J. Whitmore with me to D.C., knowing that I'd be living in the apartment equivalent of a shoebox, when he had so much space to roam at our place in New Jersey.

So Whitmore stayed in the Garden State, & I went to the capital, but I confess that I miss him even still, almost two years later. I've even been known to tear up when I think back on my time with him, much to the amusement/confusion/disgust of some of my anti-cat friends. I know Whitmore is happy & healthy in New Jersey, being taken care of by people who love him as much as I did, & certainly he has forgotten about me by now. Yet for some reason, I'd been struggling to do the same.

Obviously, a new cat sounded like just the ticket for moving forward.

My new apartment is just blocks away from the Cleveland Animal Protective League, & I had originally planned to go there to decide which of their dozens of orphaned cats was my perfect match. But then my friend Lindsey found a post on Reddit by a girl in my neighborhood - just three blocks away! - who recently found a stray cat on the highway, so malnourished they'd originally thought he was a kitten. Now that he was healthy again, she was looking for a forever-home for him.

Uhhh, sold.

Just like when I found my apartment online, I looked at the pictures of this cat & knew I wanted him. One night earlier this month, I went over to the Redditor's house for a quick visit, which only solidified my decision: This cat was comin' home with me. His foster owner agreed to keep him for another week while I was on vacation, & the day I got home, I went to get him.

She'd been calling him Chase, because she'd had to chase him down to rescue him. Chase is a cute name & all, but I'm big on naming my cats after TV & movie characters, & I wanted this little guy to follow in that storied personal tradition. I first thought I wanted to name him Omar, after Omar Little of The Wire & Omar Vizquel of the 1990s Cleveland Indians, but when I finally got him home, he just didn't feel like an Omar.

I brainstormed for all of 36 hours before deciding on a name: Helo, after a sleeper favorite from Battlestar Galactica. There are other BSG characters I like more, but somehow, Helo seemed liked the perfect name - & so Helo he is.

Things are going well so far, most of the time, except at 6a.m., when Helo is basically a tiny furry terrorist who meow-screams for food & hates when I close the bathroom door because it means he can't lay underneath my claw-foot tub. The rest of the time, he's adorable & cuddly & soft & perfect, following me around the apartment & headbutting me for forced petting & just generally being insufferably cute.

In other words? He is exactly what I needed to make my apartment feel like home.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three Weird Interactions with My New Neighbors Thus Far

I live in a small building, just four units plus a commercial office of indiscernible mixed use right below me. My landlord owns both my building & the building next door, & when I came to look at the place, she briefed me on all the neighbors - older lady who's lived here forever over there, young professional couple back there, etc.

I figured I'd see them a bit but that that would be it. In the last three places I lived - D.C., New Hampshire, & New Jersey - I knew almost none of my neighbors. In New Hampshire, there was Chet, the shoeless, guitar-playing Libertarian across the hall; in New Jersey, there was Barbara, the crotchety note-leaver downstairs; & in D.C., I only ever met one neighbor, one half of the middle-aged Indian couple next door whose cooking produced such fantastic scents that they regularly sent me into bouts of sadness about my own lack of culinary ability.

Less than five hours after moving into my new place in Cleveland, though, I was already meeting the neighbors. So far, my interactions have gone as follows:
  1. The Girl I Already Know: As my friends & family exited my place after helping me move in, a voice came from over my neighbors' balcony: "Hey, is that Joey?!" Indeed, the young couple who lives there recognized the voice of on of my - our - dear friends who helped me with the move... because we all went to high school together.

    Jackie & I used to work together at the local swimming pool, where I was the manager of the concession stand for a few summers in college. Now, she & her husband live right behind me; our apartments share a common landing area, & our doors are just steps apart. We haven't talked for years, but what are the odds that we now live a couple feet apart from one another in a relatively large city away from home?

  2. The Guy Who Terrified Me in the Middle of the Night: Pat was smoking a cigarette on the devil strip (alert: Akron terminology!) outside my building while I tried to unload my car one evening, lugging my foldable bed frame (remember that one?) with one hand while I balanced boxes in the other. "Hey, you're the new neighbor," he said, chatting me up while I fumbled & eventually offering his help. He was incredibly friendly, the kind of neighbor you're immediately glad to have nearby.

    This was confirmed last night at 2am, when I heard a rap on my door & groggily opened it, kitchen knife behind my back, to find Pat, possibly drunk but fully awake: "There's a light on in your car," he told me. "I just wanted to let you know so you don't wake up to a dead battery." Indeed, I stumbled outside, boyfriend in tow, to turn off my dome light, & today, my car was blessedly not dead. Thanks, Pat!

  3. The Woman Who Thinks I Can't Shake Hands: As I got out of my car this afternoon, I saw a little old woman puttering about in the common driveway between my building & the one next door. "Welcome to the neighborhood!" she greeted me as I made my way to the front door. I was balancing an armload of stray things I'd retrieved from my mom's house, but I stuck my hand out, anyway. "Oh, it's OK," she told me, "My hands are dirty."

    Indeed, she'd just been taking out the trash, so when she stuck a gloved hand out toward me, I wasn't sure I was supposed to shake it. Instead, I just sort of... fist-bumped her & patted her on the top of the hand, like an utter weirdo. She was very kind, & we made small talk about the events in the park down the street, but I left our interaction feeling like she must surely think I've never shaken a stranger's hand before.
So that's where I am so far: three very weird interactions with three very lovely individuals, all of whom I feel fortunate, so far, to call my neighbors. It's a nice neighborhood, but still sometimes an unsafe one, so it's reassuring to be surrounded by good people. And I'll practice my handshake for the next one.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Confession: I Am 31 Years Old, & I Have a TON of Grey Hair


My mom stopped coloring her hair after my grandma died in 2011. My grandma didn't like it when my mom let her hair go, thought it made her look old when the grey started to show through. But my mom's hair is short & thick & grows like a weed, so the greyer her hair became, the more difficult it was for her to keep up with the process of coloring it. It was annoying, it was expensive, & her roots would start showing again after a week, anyway.

When my grandma passed away, my mom decided to just let her grey do its thing. Some people - my uncle & my dad's best friend included - gave her grief for it. But I thought it made her look beautiful, vibrant, natural. I loved it then, & I love it now, & I think our family has come around on it, too. Strangers certainly have.My mom gets so many compliments on her grey hair, in part because, like I said, it looks amazing. Also because my mom is 61 years old, & at her age, grey is A-OK.

But me? I'm just two days into 31, & I still think that's a little young for a full head of greys.

It started a few years ago. At first, it was just a small patch near my right temple, a few white hairs sneaking in amongst the browns. I imagined that if I stopped coloring that spot, it would grow into a chic, Stacy London-esque streak.

OK, maybe not. I tweezed those first few greys right out of my head, tossed them into the toilet & colored my hair as usual, the way I'd been doing for years. I didn't think twice about them or my brief dreams of resembling Rogue from X-Men.

Until recently.

I haven't colored my hair in, oh, seven months? It's been awhile, in part because I'm a little lazy & in part because I'm a little broke frugal. I'd certainly like to look a little bit more put-together - for a long time, I prided myself on having good hair, & my mom has recently reminded more than once that my hair it's starting to look pretty ratty. These days, though, there are other indulgences more deserving of my money, like my upcoming trip to Los Angeles, or my November trip to Denver. My hair? Whatever.

The greys are taking over, though. I don't have to look closely anymore, don't have to dig through my brown hairs to find them, because there they are. They shine bright white & stand out, glinting in the sunlight & calling out that I've gotten older, that I've "let myself go," that I'm no spring chicken anymore. That I turned 31 next week.

In my early 20s, I teased my friend Ben about his many greys, jokingly tried to pluck them out of his curly, would-be Jewfro when he wasn't looking. "They bring me wisdom," he insisted, but on special occasions, he'd like me pull one out, just for fun (thanks for indulging my weirdness, friend).

I think of Ben now when I look in the mirror, wondering what wisdom my greys have brought me (he's notably wiser than I am). I wonder, too, when & if I will ever feel confident enough to stop coloring my hair, to stop insisting on ombre & fielding questions about my natural color.

Because these days, my natural color is, well, mostly grey. I know now that if I let it grow out, the effect would be decidedly more Storm than Rogue, but I'm still not grey enough to look good doing it. If I thought my natural hair would look as good as Storm's - or my mom's! - I might even go for it now, just let myself turn full-on grey.

As it stands, though, I'm just looking, well... kind of ratty. I know, Mom. I know.

Still, part of me doesn't want to cover them up. I'm officially into my 30s now, & I don't know what wisdom these years have brought me, but I know there's some in there somewhere. I know that I am finally not scared or ashamed to grow older. In fact, I'm even a little proud of it.

And that? Well, I think that's a sign of aging with grace, greys & all.
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