Tag: college village
That advice may not be applicable to every situation, but it’s what Ace and I did over the weekend when we departed from what turned out to be the final stop on our year-long trip around the country — the apartment of my birth.
In September of 2010, 50 years to the day after John Steinbeck and his poodle started the journey that would become “Travels with Charley,” Ace and I left the author’s former driveway in Sag Harbor to duplicate, more or less, his route.
We circled the country, stopping at places of dog significance, Steinbeck significance, or no significance at all, traveling more than 20,000 miles before we returned to Baltimore.
There, having moved out of our home before the trip, we squatted and mooched off friends for a little while, and then rode a little more.
We backtracked to North Carolina, where, planning to linger a few months, we lived in the basement of a mansion in Winston-Salem. After little more than a month, Ace developed back issues and, on our vet’s advice, we started seeking a place to stay that didn’t have stairs.
I was on an outing with my mother when I asked her to show me my birthplace — the tiny apartment she, my father, and sister shared in what’s known as College Village.
Just about the time I was wrapping that up — except for the pesky getting-it-published part — the landlord who owned my unit told me he was selling it, and that I was required to leave my birthplace.
It was a little sad — in part because of the sentimental value of the place; in part because of leaving the friends, dog and human (and one cat) we’d made; in part because it would mean lifting numerous heavy objects.
With little spring in our steps, Ace and I went looking at apartment complexes, only to be turned off by their cookie-cutter sameness, and their silly pet rules — from arbitrary weight limits and breed restrictions to ridiculously high, non-refundable pet fees.
Even when they had swimming pools, we couldn’t manage to get very excited about any of them.
It had a green tin roof, a working fireplace, a shed out back and a front porch that seemed to be crying out for two rocking chairs.
It’s outside of town, but also inside of town, which we’ll explain tomorrow. In any event, we moved in over the weekend.
Friends in College Village held a goodbye party before we left — not a surprise party, but pretty surprising. That four women in their 20s would hold a get-together for a man all-too-rapidly approaching 60 says a lot about them, and possibly even more, I think, about that man’s dog.
Ace got a giant bone, an azalea bush that, once planted, he will be allowed to pee on, and a bandana that says “I’m smarter than your honor student.” Everyone at the party agreed that, in addition to being funny, it is probably also true.
Even before I started packing, Ace realized something was up and got stressed. Ace loves to hit the road, but he also loves having a familiar routine. He became extra needy, extra clingy and followed me around the house, except when I was making too much noise. Then he’d seek refuge in the bed, or ask to go outside.
There, he seemed even more eager to see the friends he was always excited to see, run to and lean on.
Perhaps, too, he was sensing the nostalgia swelling up in me. Even though I’d only lived in the apartment for my first year of life, and had no clear memories of it, it was where I was conceived, where my parents lived when I was born and the subject of much of my mother’s reminiscing.
The only thing that came close to seeming familiar to me was the door ringer — a hand cranked brass bell that, whenever it rang, gave Ace a thrill (because it meant company) and me a vague sense of déjà vu. Either I remembered it from infancy or it reminded me of a school bell.
When I left, I asked the new owner if I could take it, and he said okay, so I unscrewed it from the door and threw it in a box.
In a way, we’re not closing any doors, just opening — and perhaps modifying – some new ones.
I’d like to install the old bell on my new front door. It would be a way of bringing some of the sentimental value of the old place into the new one. It would make my mother’s eyes light up when she saw it.
And every time it rang, it would startle Ace, make him bark once, and lead him to stand at the door, tail wagging in anticipation over who — old friend or new one — might be on the other side.
(Tomorrow: The new place, disclosing our undisclosed location)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 4th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, blog, book, college village, dogs, door, door bell, friends, john steinbeck, moving, north carolina, ohmidog!, packing, pets, ringer, stress, travel, travels with ace, travels with charley, website, winston-salem
Ace and the cat next door have become steadfast friends, hanging out together most days in the backyard. But their relationship has clearly evolved, as I guess most do.
Ace still seems thrilled every time he sees Tom. They still play chase. They still engage in their form of wrestling — Ace poking Tom with his nose, Tom swatting Ace in the head with his paws.
But Ace no longer is totally obsessed with the cat, no longer smothering him with attention, no longer constantly in Tom’s face. Ace used to follow Tom wherever he went. But as Tom has become less elusive, Ace has become less fascinated. As the months have gone by, it’s Tom who’s now more likely to follow Ace, and instigate the play. Tom still seems to send a message that says “chase me,” but Ace doesn’t always play along, sometimes preferring to just watch, or scratch himself, or look for something he might deem edible.
On Sunday Ace was minding own business in the shared yard behind my apartment, chewing on a bully stick. Thomas slowly approached and circled him, nuzzled him a few times and swung his tail into his face.
Ace looked up, but kept chewing. Seeming to sense Ace’s disinterest, Tom went his own way, disappearing for a time.
Ace, focused on his treat, seemed to forget about him — until, 10 minutes later, he spotted him in the distance, under my parked car. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek November 7th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, behavior, cat, cats, cats and dogs, college village, dogs, friends, north carolina, out of reach, pets, relationships, stale, taken for granted, thomas, tom, travels with ace, winston-salem
Once again, I’m watching too many of those HGTV and DIY network home improvement shows — mostly, of late, the ones in which a homeowner’s backyard is “crashed” and transformed from a barren expanse into a Spa-Like Retreat, or a Tropical Paradise, or Awesome Party Area so they can invite over the numerous photogenic friends they always have.
It’s one way I pass the time when it’s too hot to go outside. I stay inside and watch shows about people who are getting makeovers for their yards, which are probably also too hot to invite friends over, unless, of course, a swimming pool is being added.
Watching those programs inspired me enough to go outside and attempt my own poor man’s version of a makeover – of a neighbor’s backyard, or at least the grassy area behind her apartment that I’m not sure who actually owns, probably the homeowner’s association.
I’ve told you before about where Ace and I ended our travels and where I’m staying for now — renting the very unit my parents lived when I was born, at a former apartment complex called College Village, since turned condo. It’s a modest development of one and two-story brick buildings that serve as an oasis of affordability in a neighborhood that otherwise consists of fine and expensive homes, with big trees and country clubs in every direction. College Village is mostly, as the name might imply, college students, along with people just starting their careers, and people on fixed incomes, or, as in my case, broken incomes. (There should be a TV show where personable, good-looking and enthusiastic experts come to your house and fix your income.)
I’ve also told you before about my neighbor dachschunds, short and chunky Frank and long and slim Bogey. Most days, Ace and I walk around the block with them. (Frank’s trying to shed a few pounds.)
Several times on those walks, their owner, Faren, has mentioned how she’d like to get a kiddie pool for the dogs to cool off in during the summer. It was taking her far too long to get this accomplished, though.
So I decided to “crash” her yard and transform that simple patch of grass from drab to fab, from bland to grand, from blah to something that rhymes with blah — oh yeah, “ahhhhh” — to, as they say in the parlance of these shows, “trick it out.”
While Faren was at work Friday, I made my move. I had but a few hours to complete the surprise transformation (all these shows have a beat-the-clock element to make them more exciting).
I decided to set a budget of $50. (That — staying within budget — is another dramatic element designed to make these shows more suspenseful than hammering and painting would otherwise be.)
First, I headed to K Mart, where I purchased a blue kiddie pool for $15. On an aisle nearby, I picked up some accessories — vital in any makeover. I couldn’t find any pink flamingos, but I bought two tiki torches for $5, and a bottle of bug repelling oil to fuel them, for $8.
Then I bought myself some sandals, because there was a half price sale on them, for $12.
That brought me in, even counting the sandals, at $10 under budget.
I gave myself a high five and, back home, assembled the team members — me and Ace. I found a flat place for the pool, borrowed a neighbor’s hose and filled it up. I stuck the two torches into the ground, but just barely because the ground was really hard and dry.
I proclaimed Ace lifeguard and myself facilities manager, as well as a charter member of the country club’s membership selection committee. I am also thinking about being editor of the country club newsletter.
Then I put on my new sandals and waited for the reveal, which I figured would take place when Faren got home. In the interim, I watched more home improvement shows and lots of advertisements for Glidden paint.
Faren and her boyfriend, Richard, pulled up without me seeing. So I can only imagine that, before I got there, they both said “ohmigod!” and “this is AWEsome!” numerous times.
When I saw they were home, I went over and walked Faren through the tropical paradise I had created, pointing out its many features, including her white plastic chair, which I had moved closer to the pool area. It took about four seconds.
Ace traipsed through the pool a few times, deciding, while it was perfect for getting a drink, it wasn’t big enough for him to lie down in.
Nevertheless, I foresee countless hours of enjoyment ahead as Faren, Frank and Bogey, and probably lots of mosquitos, make the most of their brand new, totally tricked out, awesome tropical paradise.
As for the lifeguard and facilities manager, they’ll probably be staying in the air conditioning.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 9th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, back yard, bogey, college village, crashers, dachshund, diy, dogs, frank, heat, hgtv, home improvement, kiddie pool, make over, neighbors, north carolina, pets, pool, summer, swimming, transformation, winston-salem, yard crashers
Sixty years ago, my sister used to sit on the front steps at 804 Avalon Road in Winston-Salem, N.C., and wait for the mailman, in hopes he would be carrying a letter from my father in Korea.
To pass the time, she recalls, she would converse with the pansies planted around the stairs of the apartment.
They looked like they had faces, she explained, so she talked to them. I can only assume, knowing my sister, that they spoke back.
She told me this story for the first time (or perhaps for the first time that I was listening) just this past weekend, when she and her husband came from Wisconsin for a visit with my mother.
In addition to spending some time with my mother, sister Kathryn was looking forward to seeing where I’ve been living for the past few months — the same apartment our parents lived in when we were born.
In case you missed the explanation of how that came to pass, here’s the short version: Ace and I, after nearly a year of traveling across the country, were dwelling temporarily in the cellar of a mansion. He got back problems. We were looking for a place without lots of stairs when, on an outing with my mom, I asked her to show me where she lived when I was born. It had a for rent sign in the window. I, 57 years after my family moved out, rented it. (If you need a longer version, it’s here.)
After hearing my sister’s talking-to-pansies story — odd as I found it — I decided to surprise her when she and her husband came over for an official homecoming dinner on Saturday.
I bought a six pack of purple and white pansies, and two little pots, did my gardening, placed them on the front steps and stepped back to admire my work. “How does that look?” I said to myself (or was it to the pansies?)
My sister spotted them as soon as she pulled up, and later she would step outside to bond with them.
She remembered far more than I do about the little apartment. The family moved out of it when I was one, and she was five.
Like me, the old turn-the-crank doorbell sounded familiar to her. But she remembered sitting in the dining room, and what furniture was where and, of course, the talking pansies.
In the photo to the left, I’m guessing Ace is telling her that flowers can’t talk.
The stoop has changed a bit since 1950, which is when the black and white photo at the top of this post was taken. Originally all concrete, it’s partly brick now. But other than that, College Village, as the community is called — it was built in anticipation of Wake Forest University coming to town — remains much the same as it was then.
My sister was an only child for about four years. Nine months after my father returned from the Korean War, I was born. Five years later, my brother came along. (Though he never lived here, he’ll be visiting the ancestral homeplace next month.)
She talked a bit about what she remembered of the family home, but I think that for her, as with me, what returning here triggers is more a swirl of hard-to-pin-down emotions — the kind that don’t lend themselves to words.
She seemed to spend a lot of time quietly reflecting, which has always been my favorite way for her to reflect.
I’d have to acknowledge — and maybe this is true of many brothers and sisters — that, since childhood, I have sometimes tuned her out, or only halfway listened, as if she were a college professor lecturing far too long on a subject in which I had no interest.
It makes me wonder how much I might have missed, especially when you throw in all others I may have, on occasion, paid less than full attention to — grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, wives and people who talk too much.
After four days in town, Kathryn and John moved on to visit other relatives, leaving me to sit on the front stoop of the ancestral homeplace and ponder all that, and to make a vow to listen better and listen always.
Listen to the dog, listen to the relatives, listen to the house.
Listen, even, to the pansies.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 12th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, birthplace, college village, dogs, family, flowers, home, homecoming, homestead, listen, listening, north carolina, pansies, pets, return, sister, talking, travels with ace, winston-salem
I think my paper towels — flowery as they are — say it best.
We’re moved — not settled, but moved – into the apartment in Winston-Salem, N.C., in which my parents lived when I was born.
After 40 different residences in 10 states over 57 years, and nearly a year on the road with Ace, circling the country twice, I’m back where I started.
Life, that is.
Here in the apartment in which I spent my first year — none of which I remember — we’ve still got a few weeks of unpacking/organizing/decorating ahead, but we’re getting comfortable (always dangerous). We’re back on the grid (always expensive). And we’ve got enough tiny bars of Motel 6 soap to last until 2015.
Returning to the ancestral homeplace was purely accidental. It was about the time Ace was diagnosed with a herniated disc. I started looking for a place that, unlike our mansion basement, didn’t require going up a lot of stairs. On an outing with my mother, who lives in Winston-Salem, I — seeking a better connection with my white boy roots — asked her to show me the apartment where she and my father lived when I was born.
When I saw a “for rent” sign in its window, it seemed to be fate – even though moving in, since it was unfurnished, would require reclaiming all the possessions I placed in storage 11 months ago, when Ace and I departed on our journey, and hauling them down south.
Moving day was also a homecoming for this desk (left), which my parents purchased on a trip to the mountains nearly 60 years ago, and which, when my mother moved into a retirement community, I took home to Baltimore.
It’s fragile, in need of repair, and I thought one more move would surely kill it, but it survived and now holds a prominent position in the living room in which it resided long ago.
That’s in College Village, an apartment complex when it was built in the late 1940s – in anticipation of Wake Forest University’s move to town.
It was built in a neighborhood – or what there was of one then – of far ritzier homes. And several longtime residents have told me there were objections to its construction at the time. All that affordable housing would lower property values, it was feared. My mother recalls a friend, back then, telling her, “You’re looking at the slums of tomorrow.”
It’s quiet, very quiet, and pleasant, most pleasant, with lots of grassy expanses. Birds are constantly chirping, and chipmunks are everywhere. There’s also an opossum who’s not shy at all.
The housing units themselves are small and unassuming, but sturdy — made when things were built solidly, with plaster walls. I haven’t heard the slightest peep from neighbors — a pleasant respite from my nights in Motels 6’s, where, more than once, groans and slamming headboards kept me awake.
Still watching the old budget, I’m trying to settle in without spending too much money — buying bookshelves from Wal Mart, my sheets from K-Mart, and hitting Target for my high end needs. It’s amazing how it’s impossible, even at so-called discount stores, to walk out having spent less than $100.
Unpacking, at first, was a little like Christmas, for I’d forgotten about many of my possessions during their time in storage. After a week, it has gotten old, and I’m down to mementoes and junk. and it’s all I can do to get through a box a day.
I wonder if, when I do get everything unpacked and put away in another week, that will be the time the urge to hit the road hits me again. If so, this time, I plan to ignore it — well, mostly.
Ace, who doesn’t like the noise involved with unpacking, likes to sit outside while I rip through boxes, amid the big oak trees, probably about my age, that line the street.
He seems to enjoy watching the squirrels feast on the dropped acorns, which pile up in mounds. He doesn’t chase the squirrels — unless they start to do that running around the tree trunk in circles making squeaky noises thing, in which case he’ll rush over like some overzealous lifeguard to get them to knock it off. He’s content, otherwise, to just watch them sit on their hind legs and nibble away. After a few days watching, he tried an acorn himself. It wasn’t to his liking.
Although there have been one or two more painful yelps since Ace finished up a second round of the medicine for his herniated disc, he seems this time to be getting better.
I’m not sure if he’s up for any more long trips, and I guess, as I try to read his mind, that he’d prefer hanging around and meeting the dogs and humans in the neighborhood. He’s still up for short trips though, eager to get in the back of the Jeep, which he’s no longer permitted to do by jumping. The handicapped ramp is part of his new routine.
Conveniently, there’s a bar and restaurant half block away, where my mother says there used to be a grocery store. Next door to it, there’s a gym I have no intention of joining, and in the basement, according to a sign on the window, ballroom dancing is offered. ( I checked with Ace and he’s not interested.)
The restaurant’s a little pricey, so when I visited I just ordered an appetizer — one whose selection may reflect the fact that, though you can take the boy out of the south, and the boy out of Baltimore, you can’t entirely take the south, or the Baltimore, out of the boy:
I will tell you this much, hon. They was some goo-ood eatin’.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, ancestral, animals, birthplace, college village, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, furniture, herniated disc, home, home sweet home, homeplace, moving, north carolina, packing, pets, relocating, road trip, settling, squirrels, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, unpacking, wildlife, winston-salem
Get back to where you once belonged
– The Beatles
You can’t go home again
— Thomas Wolfe
The Beatles had more memorable lyrics – ”Ob-la-di, ob-la-da” notwithstanding — but Thomas Wolfe (and here we mean the ”Look Homeward Angel” one, not the modern-day, white-suited “Right Stuff” one) is probably best remembered for that one phrase, which also served as the title of one of his fine books.
“You can’t go home again” — meaning, of course, not that you can’t physically return, but that, if and when you do, what was there then isn’t likely to be there now, or how you remembered it isn’t how it is now, or maybe even how it was then, or that time has a way of erasing your past, just as it will one day lay claim to your future.
Whether one can go home again has been a recurring theme of Travels With Ace. In our journey, we’ve revisited the places of my youth — in Houston, in Tucson, in New York, and in Raleigh. (I had a lot of homes, both in my youth and since — 28 in 16 different towns.) Sometimes the reconnection has been strong; sometimes it has been faint. But you can go home again.
And I am.
A week from now I’ll be settling into the modest little apartment unit in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in which my parents lived when I entered the world — not with with a bang (though obviously that occured at some point) but with a whimper.
Now, in the denouement of, if not life, at least this blog, it’s back to John: Chapter One, Verse One.
(Note: At 57, I’ve found I prefer my metaphors mixed. So I run them through the blender, on puree, sometimes with an added pinch of Metamucil, ridding them of the hard to digest lumpy bits. They are both tastier and easier to swallow that way.)
In the beginning was the word — and I was born of two wordsmiths. I followed their footsteps into the newspaper industry, put in 35 years or so, then — as newspapers became glimmers of their former selves — jumped ship to write a book, and write these blogs, and find a new identity to replace my old one.
Now, I’ll be stringing them — words, I mean — together in the same room where I once rattled the rails of my crib, documenting the denouement, or the final resolution of the intricacies of my plot, if indeed I have either plot or intricacies.
It will be — at least for a while — the somewhat circular ending of my year on the road with my dog Ace, who has helped me reach the decision.
We came here to spend a couple of months close by my mother, and to reconnect with my own roots, much like I sought out Ace’s several years ago.
It was on the way home from one such reconnection, a family reunion, that my mother showed me the house she and my father lived in when I was born. In the window was a “for rent” sign. There was only one step up to enter.
I signed a lease — as is my style, and given my lack of a plot — on a month-to-month basis.
So next week, given my birthplace is unfurnished, it’s back to Baltimore to reclaim my stuff, now nested in a storage unit on Patapsco Avenue.
Then we’ll lug it all back to College Village, a spanking new apartment complex when my mother and father moved in 60 years ago. Now, it’s far less upscale than its surrounding neighborhood, a collection of mostly squat brick units that look like something you’d see on an Army base.
I, having only lived there one year, and it having been my first, have no real memories of it, but it was interesting to see, when I brought her over for a visit, how it triggered some for my mother.
Ace, too, seemed to like it better than the basement. When we dropped by to sign the lease, his tail was up and wagging. He visited the tiny kitchen, then sniffed out the two bedrooms, paying far more attention to the front one. Did my baby smells still linger after 57 years? Only then did he walk up to meet the landlord and his daughter.
As the landlord ripped the “for rent” sign off the front window, I think my dog and I came to the same conclusion — that one intricacy at least, at last, had been resolved, and that we were home, for now.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, birthplace, childhood, college village, dog inc., dogs, heritage, home, homes, homeward, journey, memories, mixed metaphors, north carolina, pets, reconnecting, return, reunion, road trip, roots, the beatles, thomas wolfe, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, winston-salem, wordsmith, writer, writing, you can go home again, you can't go home again, youth