riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Catskills: First Impressions

After a 3-week, 4500 mile road trip across the U.S.A. with my dog, I’m finally in the Catskills of upstate New York. Yay!

And OH MY G-D.

Ever since arriving last Tuesday, I’ve been in a pleasant but no less real state of culture shock. Not surprising for someone who just traveled from a city of roughly 9 million people to a town with less than 5,000. I had fantasized what it would be like to be here countless times. Now I’m here and it’s… sort of everything I imagined it would be, and a few things I didn’t.

It’s only been a few days but these are some initial impressions (and images):

It’s quiet. So quiet I can literally hear the buzzing in my ears. This is great for concentration (why I came here), and also great for sleeping. Oddly, I’ve been sleeping like a rock and waking in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Unable to fall back asleep, I get on my computer to write (tonight at 2:30 a.m.) then go back to bed a few hours later. During the day, I’m full of energy.

It’s loud. Yes, it’s both quiet and loud… with the sound of insects, birds, wind, rustling leaves and the occasional passing car, truck or motorcycle.

It’s remote. The other day I had to drive 45 minutes (one way) and pay $2.00 in tolls to get to my bank. So much is done online these days, it might not be that much of an issue, but it’s definitely an adjustment. I’m thinking I’ll have to coordinate trips into the larger towns to coincide with other errands.

It’s beautiful. I’ll post some proper pictures later, but let’s just say I’ve had to stop the car a few times to take in some of the scenery. This is only a small hint of what’s to come.

Durham - nature 2

It’s green, so very green. I’m grateful to have arrived in early fall so I can witness the leaves turning. Right now, I’m really enjoying all the lush green.

Durham - lush green

It’s alive. Farm animals, wildlife, critters… even the dead skunk on the side of the road was interesting.

Durham - ruby looking at sheepDurham - deer in roadDurham - deer

It’s clean. I haven’t seen one piece of litter or trash — which is not to say I haven’t seen junk in people’s yards, but that’s different.

Durham - free stuff

It smells good. The air is pure and fresh. On rainy, chilly days like today the air was filled with the scent of burning firewood and wet grass. The other day I walked by someone’s house and smelled the sweet buttery scent of an apple pie baking. I actually paused in front of the window and when the lady inside looked at me, I waved. “Smells delicious!”

It’s motorcycle friendly. There are bikers everywhere. In fact, this weekend there was a motorcycle festival in town, complete with live music, spaghetti wrestling and other activities. I didn’t go. But my bike just arrived yesterday, and I can’t wait to ride!

motorcycle in durham

It’s really dark at night. The other night I drove home after dark and needed my high beams the whole time. I try not to think of slasher movies when walking at night. Actually, I try not to walk at night.

It’s friendly. Some people are quicker to talk to me than others, but those who have were extremely friendly. People have given me their phone numbers, invited me to events and introduced me to other folks within minutes of meeting.

It’s intellectual and creative. I’ve received more bookstore and library recommendations in the past five days than I have in 19 years living in Los Angeles, and heard there are many other writers and artists up here.

It’s cheap. Not only are the prices of necessities and services lower, but there are fewer opportunities to spend money. I’m not eating out, going to the movies, walking by stores or cafes. I literally haven’t reached for my wallet to buy anything in three days.

I’m excited to learn more about my new home, meet more people, and get a ton of work done.

Here’s to settling in. 🙂

 

 


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A Big Decision – Not Forever, But For Now

I don’t know how to say this in a non-shocking way, so I’m just going to say it. I’ve given notice at my job. Those of you who’ve been following the blog for a while, or know me in ‘real’ life, shouldn’t be completely surprised. I have wanted to do this – been talking and writing about doing this – for years. It was only a question of when. Now, that question is answered. My last day at work will be July 3. (Yes, I timed it to coincide with Independence Day.)

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Remember when I wrote about my rural fantasy? Well, I’m finally doing it. After I leave the job, I’ll spend a few weeks preparing to leave Los Angeles, then driving across country with Ruby to upstate New York (Northern Catskills). I plan to arrive in late August.

Catskills

Catskills

This move is not forever, but for now. There’s a good chance I could wind up back in California. I just don’t know right now. In fact, there are a lot of unknowns.

For one, I’ve never actually been to the Catskills. I’ve heard it described and seen pictures of the area and apartment I’m going to be renting. I know it’s rural, beautiful and conservative. I could go and check it out first, but I don’t want to spend the money, time and energy. I’d rather just go.

I also don’t know anyone in the Catskills except for the woman who’s renting me the apartment (she’s a friend of the family). When I moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t know anyone and had never been here before either. I drove out here from Philadelphia alone with a 10-day old license because I had just learned how to drive. Granted, I was heading to film school, but I didn’t know a single person or street when I arrived exactly 19 years ago.

 Can you imagine trying to navigate all of this without GPS?

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

One of the bigger unknowns is how I’m going to make money. I can’t rely on finding work locally, so will have to  work from home, or in nearby cities like Albany or Hudson. I do have some savings and a rough plan for work, but nothing set in stone yet (more about this in another post).

Lastly, the closest I’ve come to the kind of rural environment and brutal winters they have in the Catskills is the month I spent in Vermont last year. I suspect that where I’m going to be is even more rural and more brutally cold, so this is another obstacle to overcome. The good news is I’ll have wi-fi, my car and my dog. Also, if/when I get completely stir crazy, NYC is three hours away.

Catskills

Catskills

I know that a few people are scared for me, and I understand. It IS scary, and I’m not going to say I have all the answers right now because I don’t. All I can say is that I’m following an instinct I’ve had for a long time. My heart has been yearning for a change and, for better or worse, I’ve decided to give my heart what it wants. I’m doing it now because life is short, and there is no perfect time. I also don’t want to move in the winter, nor do I want to wait another year.

A friend recently told me, “Being compulsive is one of your best and worst traits.” Yes, and once I put my mind to something, come Hell or high water, I get it done. Of course, now I have a million and one things to get done. But I’m ready. To coin one of my favorite phrases, it’s “balls to the wall” time. 🙂

I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Pelicans in flight (photo by Niva)

Pelicans in flight (photo by Niva)