The last two years have been just…really…something. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of a particularly gnarly moment in what has been a period of almost exclusively gnarly moments, and it made me realize that only a few people have had any idea about what’s been going on since our move from DC in the summer of 2021. Buckle up, friends. Here goes.
We knew we wanted to get out of the DC area, even though it meant leaving behind nearly every essential rhythm of our life: playing hockey with friends, teaching and gigging, going to Caps games (which had become harder and harder for me with chronic pain casting an ever-longer shadow on my days), and the endless diversions of living in a center of world politics, dining, and finance. There was too much to gain by leaving: we would never be able to afford buying a house, let alone a property for Tamarack Arts, within 100 miles of DC. The pandemic had revealed the appeal of a more internally oriented life. In 2018, one of my most cherished friendships ended abruptly, which broke my heart and made my social group much smaller. That was the beginning of the end of life in DC. I did fall in love with living in Old Town Alexandria. I miss the skinny Spite House on Queen St. The tiny pan-Asian restaurant run by a couple who went out of their way to veganize any dish on the menu for me. The small crew of women I used to do neighborhood clean ups with on Friday mornings. I especially miss the walks on the Potomac and seeing Marine One buzzing around on its way to and from the White House.
I had my heart set on moving to Ithaca: the Finger Lakes were a favorite since I was a kid, and the combination of crunchy people, wine culture, and plentiful academics seemed an ideal place to plant our new life. After a very pandemic visit to the area complete with latex gloves, double masking, and outdoor only dining, I thought we’d found our next hometown. When it was time to start contacting rental houses, P finally admitted that he was not at all interested in living in upstate NY. I was crushed. I had been living there in my mind for months, making contacts and seeding the ground for a productive arrival. I cried for an entire day and couldn’t look at him for a long while.
A few days later, I was back on my feet and ready to draw up another game plan. One of the benefits of feeling everything a lot is that the process of mending can be as swift as the onset of the pain, in the right circumstances. We refined our search and boiled it down to essential criteria:
- Cold winters
- Hockey Culture
- Within 90 minutes of a major metropolis
- Arts philanthropy
- Big Nature
- Affordable enough to live in
January of 2019, I’d visited Oregon with these characteristics in mind and been sorely disappointed. Sure, Portland is amazing and the coast is breathtaking, but the areas we could afford were rife with white supremacist militias, a dearth of support for the arts, and perilous mountain roads the municipalities don’t maintain in the winter. I spent 90 minutes on the side of the road one day: I was supposed to visit a friend in Bend and became stranded on an icy highway. No plows were coming to rescue the group of hopeful Subarus and Jeeps collecting around me. Chains or go home, suckers!
I went home. There was no small amount of grief that I would not be moving back west. I miss the angle of the light, the smell of dusty mountain pine needles, Mexican food, and the 101. Still do.
Like any rebound, I had placed too much importance on Ithaca after the disappointment of Oregon. I would not make the same mistake with this next effort. I went ahead with these new relocation plans with a sense of detachment. The interval between June’s failed NY trip and the impending first ever Tamarack Arts summer program in mid August was our last shot to get it right before our landlord wanted us to sign a new 2 year lease in the tiny, tilted, expensive rowhouse on Powhatan St. Month to month was not an option, so we had a hard Sept 1 move out date. Tick, tock.
We cast our eyes north and decided to look at the Hudson River Valley, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The trip was a real mixed bag (Essex and Concord were wow! Providence was a disaster) and we ended up coming home early because it all seemed futile and we missed the cats so much. On a lark, we drove through Ridgefield, CT and the area surrounding Katonah, NY. Tingles of delight. The boxes were ticked once we were clear of the truly affluent areas. When we got home, we started narrowing the Zillow rental searches.
And it was there that we came upon one of the only affordable rental houses in the region, in a place called Roxbury, CT. I hadn’t heard of it, but a cursory internet dive yielded promising results. Famously the former home of Arthur Miller (and Marilyn Monroe, for a time) and a number of other celebs, the fact that Debbie Harry called it home made me say, “If it’s good enough for Blondie, it’s good enough for us to rent a place for a year.”
We signed the lease having never set foot inside of the house. Tamarack Arts ended on the 15th. Our moving day would be the 21st. I would be in the moving truck and P would take my car with the vociferously protesting cats for the 5 hour drive. We were in luck: the sky started becoming overcast, a welcome reprieve from the intense summer sun.