Summer of Hassles

How to account for these blogless ten weeks? As I see them, in retrospect, they can be divided into five major phases:

  • MOVING OUT OF PRINCETON, June 12–June 30. The immediate reason I stopped working so productively was that I moved out of my wonderful office in Dickinson Hall in mid-June. I also began the process of packing all my belongings–including, of course, an insane number of books–into a portable storage container parked outside our Butler apartment. This while our kids were out of school and requiring all-day attention; a stressful interlude.
  • VISITING NEW ORLEANS, June 31–July 16. Sending Millie (8 year old daughter) to upstate New York with her grandparents, Lisa and I flew to New Orleans with Little Lo (2 year old son) where we were house-sitters for our friends Erin and Vasy. Erin Greenwald is a friend of one of my Princeton grad student colleagues and works at the Historic New Orleans Collection; she is ABD at Ohio State and was off to France for a few weeks’ research, leaving us with the wonderful opportunity of staying in their fabulous Broadmoor house. Our main mission on this trip was to rent a place to live, and that proved to be just as stressful and hassle-filled as you might expect: traveling around with a cranky 2-year old in 100 degree heat looking at one shitty apartment after another, until we finally found the house we are in now–the only close-to-decent place that was on the market, and we had to fend off other hungry would-be renters to get it, at a price much higher than we’d planned to spend. We did have some fun on this trip–I’ll always remember a lovely night of 4th of July fireworks in Metairie, and I read Gwen Hall’s classic Africans in Colonial Louisiana in the evenings–and couldn’t have had a better place to stay. But we were very ready to return home to the cool Northeast and our daughter, and very relieved to have found a place to live.
  • CAMPING OUT IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, July 17–August 4. My mom and stepfather moved up to Cambridge, New York shortly after my daughter was born, in 2001, to be close to their granddaughter; alas, we eventually moved to Princeton and now New Orleans, while they remain in idyllic, pastoral Washington County. Millie for two years now has participated in the Children’s Theater program at Hubbard Hall, the same theater where I once produced my musical Henry’s House; last summer they did Peter Pan, and this summer it was The Wizard of Oz, in which she was brilliant as Auntie Em (plus a Munchkin, an Emerald City denizen, and so on). So for these 2.5 weeks we stayed at my parents’ house, Millie went to rehearsals, Lisa mostly babysat the little Guy, and I … moved things around Washington County. Oh yes, my moving trials were not done yet, not by a long shot. A whole series of moves had left us with belongings in two different upstate storage lockers and two different attics, and it was my unenviable task to consolidate all this into one locker; this meant a daily venture into the world of dusty bins, disintegrating boxes, and crates that felt as though filled with rocks. Eventually our stuff was somewhat more consolidated than before, and a good deal of it thrown out, as well, at the county dump. Meanwhile I got in a few hours transcribing Livingston notes, watched a few Mets games (not a terribly enjoyable experience, I’m afraid) and enjoyed the evenings with my parents and my kids.
  • DRIVING TO LOUISIANA, August 4–August 10. Now, this was an enjoyable time. We needed a car in New Orleans, so what better to do than plan a driving trip across the South with the kids? We had a great time, with stops that appealed to everyone: Monticello; Spelman College, Lisa’s alma mater; and for crazy kid fun, the Great Wolf Lodge, a waterpark/hotel in the midst of a box store mall in North Carolina. In the car we watched movies, sang songs, and were remarkably well behaved. The weather was beautiful, the traffic minimal, and the upcountry South (“piedmont”) always interesting.
  • SETTLING IN, August 11th–today. The word “Settling” implies a relaxed, comfortable feeling, which is certainly the wrong way to describe this frenetic process. Getting a million boxes into the house, reassembling cheap Ikea furniture with missing Allen bolts, trying to get utilities turned on (we only had electricity in half the house for the first week) — all with two restless, bored kids careening about. We ended up leaving both our queen-sized mattress and our futon behind, for reasons of space in the move, and found ourselves in hot New Orleans with nothing to sleep on except a bare box-spring; meanwhile, we also found ourselves just about broke after car repairs, moving expenses (not one penny funded by the History Department, thank you) and hotel rooms across the South. Finally, after two weeks, it is starting to feel like we live here, though plenty remains to be done, and money is still tight.

All in all, a summer filled with hassles–but some good memories too: strolling in the French Quarter with Lolo; Millie in Wizard of Oz; summer evenings in Cambridge playing Crazy 8’s; hotel room antics in the South. I have a great wife and two wonderful kids to share these experiences with, and now we have a great house (if we can afford it) in a great city. And I am unbelievably ready to get some work done.


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