Friday, October 24, 2014

Back in Action

Song of the Day: Asgeir, Going Home

Providence Stuff: Looks like we've moved to a pretty sweet town!


Not updating this blog in three months has made it all the more challenging to return to it. Looking back over the thousands of photographs of moving, visiting, unpacking, etc. has caused both a flood of not-too-distant memories as well as an overwhelming sense of intimidation. I'm not sure I have the requisite skills to wax poetic about everything we've done since July, so I'll try and stick to the highlights. Without further ado, in chronological(ish) order...

**


Kenz left at the end of June to find us a place to live in RI; I stayed behind to pack and tie up all loose ends, one of which was installing Kenz's work at GX Gallery in Camberwell. This would be the first of two exhibitions her work was featured in this summer. I called on Owen and Jerome for help.

It took three of us nearly nine hours to install it on our own [read: newfound respect for Kenz's work last year].

Once all the boxes were taped, the phone line cut off, and the chair installed, there was just enough time to make a few goodbye visits before I boarded the plane myself.





It was bittersweet to say goodbye to London. I think I summarized my feelings about living there in the previous post, so I'll spare you in today's. The long and short of it is that the city had claw marks on it from me holding on as tight as I could as I departed. 

**

Luckily we had a week in Knoxville upon my return, which meant visiting some more friends and family before packing up and shipping out. 

Pregnant Kara...

...Pauline, Charlie, and Roxy...

...Mark and Nathan...

...Jessica, Brian, Maddie, and Craig...


...Kara, Jerry, Mel...

....Kelly and Dad...

...Patti, Michael, Whitney, and Michael (not pictured)...

The week went by much faster than I'd expected and, before I knew it, it was time to throw the dogs in the back seat and drive the sixteen hours up to the smallest state in the Union!




**

Kenz and her mom had done good work finding us a place to live just outside of the city. And by good work I mean exceptional house hunting. Kenz and I are ten minutes' drive from the center of Providence, but live in what feels like a children's book. This little idyllic place is called Pawtuxet Village and you'll miss it if you blink. Walking distance from our house is the center of the village, which has a park, post office, four restaurants, about fifteen businesses, and - most importantly - an ice cream parlor. I'll be updating more on the Village in the future. 

Aside from the Village, our house is quite the change from the London flat. Built in the 20's, this place doesn't have a flat floor in all of the house - everything is leaning one way or another - which, when in the right frame of mind, is endearing. I could go on and on about the place - the front porch, the back yard, the shed - but, really, it's been wild to have so much more space. At first, I thought there'd be no way we could fill it all. And, to be honest, there's no need for this much space - we found that out when in London. Heck, we had more than we needed when it was 800 sq. ft.! We could even host a dinner for eighteen. But, for some reason, after a month in this house, we've already grown accustomed to the amount of room we've got here. Our American sense of space has returned I guess. 

All in all, it's great. In fact, it's worrisome how pleasant it is here - we're still waiting for the other shoe to drop. All of our neighbors are nice - like, really nice. The neighborhood is quiet, save for afternoons filled with kids riding bicycles and playinggames. It's walkable. The water is visible from our porch. The weather has been glorious (except this week, which has seen enough rain for flooding conditions all over town). All I can do is brace myself for what the winter will be like. Funnily enough, almost everyone here says the best part of living in New England is that "you get all four seasons," which makes me wonder what the heck we thought in Knoxville because that's what everyone there says as well...

Just under that flag is the bay. 


The dogs love the back yard. 


Our first day in Pawtuxet Village.

The Pawtuxet River has swans!


Before she started school, Kenz would join the dogs and I on walks.

In that first week of arrival, we took a break to meet someone in Kenz's department for a tour. Kenz has two studios and all the resources one could hope for when designing furniture. I don't know the first thing about this stuff, yet even I was impressed. Kenz was beside herself.


We also took some time to walk around downtown Providence. Being stuck in a house with no air conditioning when it's 90F outside is only tolerable for so many days. Neither of us have a great command of the city yet, so most of our strolling was discovery - much like it was when we first moved to London. Along with that came giggles and grins - the type you get when you're super excited to be somewhere yet you don't want to make a scene.

Providence has a Westminster Street. 

The RISD campus police cars say 'Defenders of the Arts'

There are lots of old churches and buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Our landlord invited us over to a BBQ at the end of the week. It was our first time getting out of the house to meet other people - aside from the RISD tour - and we were desperate for some food, fun, and friendship. We wound up spending nearly five hours at the house. Say what you will about yankees, but these New Englanders are just as hospitable as folks down south. Kenz and I kept mentioning it to each other, bewildered by how nice everyone had been since our arrival. Aren't yankees supposed to be rude? I think there may be a difference between 'yankee' and 'New Englander'.


No wonder our landlord moved - this is the new view, right on the water!

The weekend and rest of the next week was spent shopping for all those things you don't realize you need until you move. That, and school supply shopping.

Kenz does school supply shopping at the Home Depot now - quite a change from the proverbial box of crayons. 

Unpack, eat, sleep, repeat. 

I don't know who's happier about the yard - the dogs or Kenz. 

**

It didn't take long before we had visitors. Some friends of ours from Asheville (Mikey and Liz) were visiting family in Newport. Josh and Courtney came down from Boston and the six of us spent the day touring Newport before winding up back in the Village for our first backyard BBQ. 

I learned what a quahog was at a local clam shack.

Breaking in the back yard. 

Complete with our new Union Jack cornhole set, courtesy of Patti. 



After dinner, we headed into the village for some ice cream.


Sawyer Lane Gray has since been born - Josh and Courtney were in their final few weeks of pregnancy when we saw them.

That Sunday, we got our first taste of what we think it'll be like to live in Providence:

We'd clocked the Rhode Island Seafood Festival that was happening at India Point Park for the duration of the weekend. Both of us were pretty tired from all the travel, packing, unpacking, and visiting, but we knew it'd be a good way to try and relax and get to know Lil Rhody. However, I was a bit reluctant; having lived in London the past three years had conditioned me to be weary of any type of festival - especially food. Events like these had often verged on a chore: the crowds, the transportation, the lines, the crowds, the endless food stalls, the crowds, the heat, the crowds. I wasn't looking forward to trying to find parking in a city that I didn't know well. I'd never been to India Point Park and was sure it'd be some massive plot of land that took fifteen minutes' walk just to get to the festival. I could've listed any number of things that had made me reluctant. But, Kenz wanted to go. It was seafood, after all. 

I hadn't really come to the realization that, in a city of less than 2 million, there's really no danger of it feeling the same as, say, any Southbank food festival in London. Not only did we park in five minutes, walk there in three, but there were only a few hundred folks there, only about ten food trucks, and no more than three people waiting in line for food. We laughed the entire time we were there - mainly at ourselves. We're kind of like the Goldilocks couple: Knoxville was too small, London was too big, but Providence seems juuuust right


Del's Lemonade is a Rhode Island tradition.

India Point Park




After a successful day, it was time to return for more unpacking.



**

By the third weekend it was time to head down to South Carolina to pick up Bruce Bruce, who had been lovingly cared for by our friends, Carol and Bob. The two of them had agreed to foster Weezy and Bruce Bruce for the three years we'd be in London, saying that when we returned we could have them back and that it'd "be like them graduating high school and heading off to college." Ol Weez passed on while we were still in London, but Bruce Bruce was ready to matriculate to the University of Pawtuxet Village. Bob and Carol will forever be in our thoughts for their generosity - the two of them gave our cats a wonderfully loving home while we were gone - theirs was a truly altruistic gift. 

One last cuddle before college. 

He rode sixteen straight hours in the car with me, not a single problem.

Getting used to his new condo. 

It didn't take long for him to remember the Raleigh days of living with those two big, annoying dogs.
His new perch.


As if flying to South Carolina one day and driving all the way back the next day (cat in tow) wasn't enough, Kenz had decided it was a good idea to have sixteen people over for another BBQ the following night (did I mention she loves the back yard?). I was less than pleased that's how I'd be spending my Saturday night, but it turned out to be delightful. Most of the guests were new friends from RISD and their various partners and spouses. It helps when folks bring a side dish...

I was too busy flipping burgers to take a bunch of photographs.

The next day, Kenz tried to vacuum all the fruit flies out of the house. 


**

So, after two full weeks and three weekends, Kenz started school. And, at the same time, Owen and Celia arrived!

After nearly a decade of battling the streets of London, the two had decided to quit their jobs and move out to the English countryside. But, before that would happen, they planned out an extended second honeymoon to the States and Mexico. Their plan was to stay with us from mid-September to mid-October, during the weekdays, while visiting various places (and people) in the northeast on the weekends. Afterward, they'd head to Mexico to explore for about a month, before returning to their dark, cold, and wet country of origin. We couldn't have been more excited for their arrival; it was the perfect way to alleviate the pain of moving so far away from them.

First moments after about twenty hours of travel (with no sleep). 


That first week was pretty low-key. Kenz showed them around her school, we took her out to lunch a few times, and I took them grocery shopping and dog walking. They, like any sane human, immediately fell in love with Pawtuxet Village, Apollo, Willow, and Bruce Bruce (especially Bruce Bruce).


"These are my classmates"

"Look at how awesome my wood studio is!"

Lunch at a farm-to-table restaurant.

Roger Williams Park.

Dinners at the crib.

Scooter Crunches!

Outdoor movies in downtown Providence! 


**

The following weekend, O&C travelled up to Boston and I took the chance to get up to Vermont. One of my two best friends from NCSU, Charlie, is from there and was back visiting his family during a summer break. He's currently with the other bestie at Oregon - both went on to get their PhDs - so I knew this would be about the only time I'd get to see him for the foreseeable future. 

Charlie's beard is longer than mine.

His family made me feel right at home.

I snuck lots of baby pictures of him, for science. 

He took me out to the farm he grew up working at. 

Catching up while walking around a farm is way more fun than just a simple cup of coffee.

Luckily for us, St Albans was celebrating the sesquicentennial anniversary of the St Albans Raid - the northernmost land action of the Civil War. You can read more about it in the link if you're interested, but what it meant for us was that there were a few hundred Civil War reenactors downtown, prepping for the big event. We saw everyone getting set up on Friday evening and were sure to get back on Saturday morning before I left. It was a hoot. You can watch a nine minute video about it here.






Charlie's parents took me through a photo tutorial of how to 'sugar' Maple Syrup - something Chuck does every season.

Visiting the Farringtons - and Vermont - really sealed the reality that we've moved to New England. And that New England is different than where we come from. As I drove up the highway to St Albans, I knew these were the same Appalachian Mountains, but they didn't look the same. Driving along the backroads, I saw miles and miles of farmland, but something about it was...off. Sure, there were the same sorts of agrarian vistas I'd been used to trekking across Tennessee in my youth, but I'm not sure what it was - maybe the colors, maybe the sparseness of the population, maybe the fact that every second car was a Subaru - it was a disconnected familiarity. I can't quite put my finger on it. Allow me one more example:

That Friday night, it was Charlie, his parents, his sister, and I sitting around their living room after dinner. John Prine was playing in the background. After a few minutes of letting our food digest, the conversation turned to women's competitive biathlon - like, the Olympic snow event where women cross country ski, only to be interrupted by having to shoot targets with the guns they've been lugging around for the entire race. The Farringtons went on and on about the most recent Olympics, naming competitors, and recalling which Vermont towns and teams they grew up competing for

I tried to imagine the Knoxvillian equivalent to what I was experiencing and was, simply, at a loss. It was genuinely awesome.

My jaw was slack the entire weekend - from the drive to touring lil St Albans to the sesquicentennial celebration to the evening's fireside chat to the fact that we put Maple Syrup on everything - it was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Hell, I never even looked north of NYC on the map when seeing the national weather on the morning news. And here I was, in it. It was surreal.

And it didn't stop there. On my way back down to Rhody, I stopped by Vermont Academy to visit our friends, Glenn and Julia. Glenn and I go as far back as puberty from the summer camp we both attended. He and Julia lived five minutes from us when we were in Raleigh. Josh and Courtney lived in Chapel Hill. The six of us hung out often and were all quite disappointed to separate three years ago. Well, as luck would have it, Josh and Courtney are in Boston and Glenn and Julia are in Vermont. We may not all be within thirty minutes, but we're definitely within a day's drive of each other.

I spent about three hours touring the boarding school Glenn and Julia teach at, getting to see the dorm they're responsible for, watching Julia coach the JV Soccer team, and ribbing Glenn as he tried to get the Florida game on his computer. Their village has a population of 500 and I had to drive about five miles on a gravel road to get to it. Talk about isolated.

First sighting in three years. 

I could've stayed there for another three days. 

I don't have any sort of coda for how, exactly, it's different up here - just that it is. I will say, however, that Glenn, Julia, Josh, and Courtney are all from southern states (like us), and they seem to love it here with the same intensity that they root for their various ACC or SEC teams. I have a feeling we may not be far behind. 

**

About that second exhibition Kenz's piece was featured in: 

Float Art London was a major exhibition that took place along the Southbank at the end of September. This was, without a doubt, the most prestigious exhibition Kenz had been invited to since attending Camberwell, and she flew back to install the work herself. She spent the entire week back in London, which meant she had to spend the weekends before and after squirreled away in her RISD studio to make up for lost time. 

The trip was a success, earning her yet another invitation (which she had to turn down due to schedule conflicts) and fairly significant networking opportunities. She came home and started name dropping all sorts of folks she had met at the private viewing (like a boss). One of the coolest things this exhibition forced her to do was create a video explaining Apotropaic. For those of you who are still interested, feel free to click this link for the video (many thanks to Celia, who helped edit it so well). 

With a Camberwell tutor, Jerome, and Sam (who were exhibiting as well). 


While Kenz was in London, I headed up to Boston to pick up Owen and Celia. They were visiting their friend Tanya as well as Josh and Courtney for the weekend. We all headed down to Chinatown for some dinner.


Josh and Courtney knew where to go for the Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings).
The rest of the week was filled with Owen & Celia's favorite things: great breakfasts, walking the dogs, exploring Providence, admiring Bruce Bruce, and finishing the day with sweet potatoes the size of our heads.

Huge steaks.

Huge burgers.

Huge malls.

Maple syrup that reflects your face.

Maxing and relaxing.

Scooters!

Bruce Bruce gets whatever bed he wants!

The boss will see you now.

We had our Rhody friend, Jasmine, over for pizza one night.

Twenty-two pounds of contempt.



Kenz's favorite new shirt.
**

One of the main reasons O&C came to the States was to attend Nancy Rucker's wedding. Nancy had come to England for O&C's nuptials; it was time for them to return in kind. Poor Kenz had to spend the weekend in the studio - you know, London and all - so the three of us loaded up in the car for what we thought would be a ten and a half hour drive down to Lewisburg, WV. 

Wanting to give O&C the quintessential American road trip, I thought it'd be a great idea to head south on I-95, taking us down through the Northeastern corridor, passing NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC. Heck, I even thought we'd stop off in DC to visit the Lincoln Monument. We'll have enough time, I thought, and it'll be great to get to show them some of the monuments in my nation's capital. Well, I'm an idiot. Anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that trying to drive that stretch of I-95 with time to spare is absurd. Nearly twelve and a half hours later, with very few stops, we arrived in Lewisburg, just in the knick of time. We did not stop in DC. And we took 81 back on Sunday.  

Road trippin'


It's hard to be brief about Nancy & Patrick's wedding. It's hard to be brief about the Ruckers. And, surprisingly, it's hard to be brief about Lewisburg. The town is adorable, the family gracious, and the couple a blessing to know. Extrapolate that out to five thousand words and you will have touched the tip of the iceberg.

The wedding was on the same farm - in the same spot - that Nancy's parents got married, on a cattle farm that has been in Tina's family since about the dawn of time. We arrived on Thursday evening for a bonfire (the biggest I'd ever seen, employing whole trees as fuel) and burgers.

Will giving the perfect speech, "this weekend has always been about family - everyone here is our family." Ruckers, man.


There's no real sense of proportion other than the fact that those chairs were too hot to sit in (and it was 60F outside).
O, C, and I had Friday to ourselves, so we went into town for some brunch before renting bicycles and riding about fifteen of the seventy Greenbrier River Trail miles.


Lewisburg won "coolest little city" in 2011.






That night was a larger, louder, more populated party inside the horse barn, complete with a band and endless cupcakes. We caught up with old camp friends and danced well into the night.


Celia, David, Barrett, Owen, Jessica, me, and Will (during a brief break from the dance floor).

Tina showed us how to get down (shoeless in a working horse barn).

The bride to be!

Father & Daughter

Sister Anna, the raconteur, entertaining us with stories of life on Ocracoke. 

The Ruckers, ever so nice, were kind enough to celebrate Nancy's wedding on my birthday. Owen and Celia woke me up with the biggest handmade card I've ever received (they have a knack for writing things down that bring a person to tears; I was reminded of that at the end of the night, when I finally opened the card alone in my hotel room).


We spent the first half of the day investigating the opulence of that which is The Greenbrier. I took about fifty photos, but figured you didn't need to see them all. The decor is Timothy Leary meets Martha Stewart.

Every third room had a grand piano.

Nooks and corners like these were everywhere.


But, it wasn't long before it was time to do what we came to do: celebrate the marriage of Nancy and Patrick.


It wasn't warm.


This '57 Oldsmobile is what took them to the hotel after the wedding.

Pinnacle reunion (and I got to wear the Rucker's birthday crown - something I've been dying to do for years). 





It was hard to leave West Virginia. We'd experienced that thing that happens whenever you go somewhere new, specifically for something as romantic as a wedding, wherein you attach nothing but positive vibes to a place...and wind up wanting to move there. Owen and Celia even went so far as to investigate how much houses cost in Lewisburg - a horrible thing for Londoners to do, considering that a one bedroom flat in central London could buy you about three hundred acres in WV. Alas, it was time for us to return to Pawtuxet. 

**

The good part of leaving WV was the arrival: not only was Kenz able to hang with us for the evening, but she'd also made dinner for us! Teriyaki salmon, mac'n'cheese, and salad!


And I made pancakes the next morning! 

Again, it was a traditional week in the Village, complete with more walking the dogs, big dinners, and admiring Bruce Bruce. Celia took to helping Kenz with one of her school assignments as well.

Building a bridge within limited specifications (weight & weight-bearing capability).

"Aren't you a bit old for toys?" - Celia

They love him.

Seriously, they love him.

TV dinner night! 

Admiration/Annoyance, depending on who you are. 

Knowing that Kenz had surprise visitors arriving for the weekend, Owen and Celia took us out to dinner our final night together. They surprised us with yet another one of those tear-inducing cards as well as a menu of options we could decide on as a "thank you" gift. We decided on the season passes to Six Flags New England - we'll be getting there on the regular in 2015!


"Don't take that picture, David! I'm crying, for heavens sake!"
Their time here had seemed as if it would never end (in a good way), and so it didn't quite feel like that was their last full night with us. We proceeded as we have done for the past three years - simply enjoying our time together as if it was any other day - not spending too much time dwelling, staring at the final grains falling through the hourglass, for better or for worse.

The next morning, Kenz went to school and the rest of us went to pick up Pauline and Emily from the airport. Kenz had no idea that her two oldest friends would be arriving for the weekend as a birthday surprise.

Enjoying the sunshine while waiting in the parking lot. 

As soon as they arrived, we took Kenz out to lunch...

...but Kenz had class till 9:30 that night...

...so we prepped the one activity Kenz asked for...

...and got to carving as soon as she came home.



Sadly, all these pumpkins have since rotted and been thrown away (too early!). 

Owen and Celia, weekend warriors, headed off to visit with yet another friend in northern New York. I took Pauline and Emily into downtown Providence to show them our new city. Kenz wound up being unable to stay in the studio all day and surprised us not long after we'd arrived.



That night, the three of them went to Kenz's favorite: The Melting Pot.
When Pauline and Emily were making these surprise plans, no one knew Kenz was making surprise plans of her own. She'd bought tickets to a Celtics vs. Knicks preseason game down at the Mohegan Sun casino - about an hour away from our house - for my birthday. So, naturally, we all went down to the casino for the evening.

Pauline and Emily entertained themselves while we went to the game.

She was stoked; I was sick.

Within three minutes, Kenz had won at the slot machines (the only gambling she did all night).

She got some stunning seats to see two awful teams play a game of "who sucks less".

We didn't care - we had a great time. Both of us were pinching ourselves, staying till the very last second. 

Kenz even caught a shirt!

We said goodbye to Pauline and Emily over brunch at our new favorite weekend breakfast spot...

...and sent them on their way at the airport.

Afterward, we came home to Owen and Celia packing their bags, getting ready for the long flight to Mexico. None of us wanted to say goodbye. It was simply awful. Kenz headed off to the studio for the rest of the day, I dropped O&C off, played with the cats, and walked the dogs. But, it wasn't the same...


Saying goodbye is the hardest part.



We're now a couple of empty nesters, bracing ourselves against the coming of winter. Hopefully our new chapter in this town will offer enough material for me to continue updating the blog each week. Check back next Friday to see how we're getting on. 

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.