Friday, June 17, 2011

What I will NOT miss about Frederick, Maryland

The traffic. Ohmygoodnessthetraffic. Also the drivers, though I’ve pretty much acclimated and will probably seem like a crazy aggressive driver to Oregonians.
My Epic War with Stinkbugs. No matter how many I sucked up and left on display in our vacuum cleaner, they never got the message. Though based on their habit of repeatedly flying into light fixtures (clink-clink-clink over and over and over for hours) I don’t think they’re a very bright species.

The awkward elements of our apartment, most of which come of it being a split up version of a house built in the 1800s (that part is kinda cool): narrow hallways and stairwell, tiny closets, ancient radiators that sound like a high volume and poorly tuned one-man band, and a bathroom configuration that makes me either hit my head or splash my feet whenever I wash my face. I also never want to live on the third floor or higher again. 

The stifling heat and humidity. Oregon summers will be around 20 degrees cooler than Maryland ones, with almost no humidity. Awesome. 

The snow, sort of. While it was really cool that one time that Snowpocalypse shut down the state for a week and people were skiing down the main street, on the whole I’m happy to be moving somewhere with fewer snow storms. I'm just going to have to get used to the rain.

Feeling like I'm courting death every time I ride my bicycle on the local streets (because of the cars, not the bicycle gang.) Bring on bike-friendly Oregon!

I would add hipsters, but (1) I like some of what they create/support, like artsy events and coffee shops and urban biking (2) if I’m trying to avoid hipsters, Oregon is SO not the place to move. 

I still refuse to wear skinny jeans though.

What I will miss about living in Frederick, Maryland

Baker Park: its greenery and running trails, its fountain and bell tower, its meandering stream and rolling frisbee fields, its kite flyers and giggling kids, its free parking that would usually result in a coating of bird poop on my car. Okay, maybe not that last part. I'll also miss where the water reemerges as Carroll Creek Parkway (when they've cleared it of algae for the festivals, anyway).

Living downtown where the history is and where the action happens, from the expected music, art, and theatre events to live ice sculpting and a bathtub race on the lake (that I cannot believe we are missing!) 

The view from the porch of our third floor apartment, where, along with a number of parades, I’ve watched
  • the local bicycle gang taking over the street with their skinny jeans and bizarre accessories
  •  the troupe of perfectly coifed Temple Beauty School students rolling their black suitcases of equipment and carrying creepy fake heads.
  • bicycle taxis, including one driven by a girl too weak to make it up the very slight incline without asking one of the paying passengers to get out and push.
My jobs, believe it or not. Not the underpaid and overworked parts of my jobs, but definitely my awesome coworkers and supervisors, along with some of the students.  

Being able to do well in 5K races. I'm moving to "Track Town USA," so I have a feeling placing in my age group is no longer going to be a possibility. I'll be lucky if I make it over all those steep hills without collapsing. 

Being able to drive to visit almost all of my close friends and family. Clearly this is going to be the big one, but I’m trying not to dwell on it too much because I'm not a fan of depression.   

Some of the many belongings that I’ve donated and sold, mostly my car and almost 70 books.

It was hard to say goodbye to Troggy, my loyal 2000 Toyota Corolla. Luckily the new owners seem like fantastic people who will take good care of him. (Yes, I realize I’m getting rid of a car and not a dog. Shush.)  I also got to experience an absolute miracle: a nearly empty MVA (or DMV or Purgatory or whatever you want to call it) where my number was called in minutes.

It also always hurts my heart to get rid of books, even if I know that I will never read/reread them. I felt bad about selling some never-read Joyce on what I recently learned was Bloomsday (Ulysses takes place on June 16, and fans the world over celebrate with readings and reenactments and, this year, a Twitter feed of the entire book) until I remembered that I never could bring myself to like his work, no matter how hard my modernist friends tried to convert me. Sorry guys.  

Knowing Frederick well and feeling like it's my city, but clearly that will come with any new place in time. Or at least it will if I ever get back to packing and actually make it to Oregon. Stay tuned for a Things I Won't Miss About Frederick entry that will hopefully motivate me to leave this pretty cool place. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yard Sales and Book Sales

This past weekend was not only the Arts Fest; it was also the weekend of our neverending yard sale of doom. (Alternative title: the learning experience that made us minimal money.)

We’re not big yard sale people, but we were excited about the prospect of getting rid of all of that stuff I was complaining about (We WILL fit into that 10x10 moving van! We MUST!) and making a little money in the process. 

Unfortunately the giant indoor community sale we prepared for got postponed until September. So, at the last minute we snagged a $10 space at another community sale half an hour away. I say “snagged” as if it was an exciting accomplishment or a lucky deal, which is how we felt until we lugged three carloads of stuff to the address. 

Turns out we would be selling alongside a mere four other people in a park pavilion in the middle of nowhere. 

The good news: I had time to read an entire book and start on a second, we met some fun and friendly people from a very different world than downtown, and some buyers did find their way through the forest.

The bad news: Though we were probably the most successful sellers there, subtracting the $10 that we had to pay for the sad affair, we only made $16. That may or may not have covered the gas we used. After five hours, we headed home with heavy hearts, heavily weighed down cars, and about a dozen bug bites each.

We then decided to hold our own yard sale that evening and the next day on the front porch. Of course we decided this after we had moved almost everything up to our third floor apartment. Doh! By the end of it we'd made about $60, which we could look at two ways. (1) More than triple our original earnings! (2) Still not even close to minimum wage for the two of us.

At least we met some really interesting people. There was the insistent 6-year-old window shopper (“But daddy, I’m just looking!”), a fascinating former army lieutenant/scientist/conservationist/entrepreneur/CIA consultant/a dozen other things, and a man whose father had been born in our house in 1905 and had great stories about Frederick back in the day.

And I learned some important things from this weekend, like that yard sales in the middle of nowhere are a bad idea, and if your lack of success is going to make you too cheap to buy the overpriced chili dogs and brownies, you should make sure to bring your own food. 

But I also learned some things about myself that actually apply well to publishing. (No, really, they do. This is not just me trying to keep my writing blog from turning into a moving blog...)

(1) I am not a fan of direct self-promotion. I hated hanging up signs on the main streets under the eyes of crowds on the sidewalks. I hated yelling to people as they walked by, trying to lure them up to our porch (usually I settled for a smile and an awkwardly loud “Hello”). I was definitely one of the quieter sellers at the community sale (me and the two senior citizens).

What this means for writing and publishing: I would not be good at self-publishing. At all. While it’s becoming easier to succeed without the traditional publishing house machinery, you usually have to promote yourself incessantly and effectively and I just wouldn't have what it takes. I don’t want to turn my blog into a promotion tool or organize my own book signings or beg new virtual friends to spread the news on Facebook. Plus I’m not even on Twitter yet, which puts me roughly in the Stone Age when it comes to writer self-promotion. 

(Granted, the analogy isn't perfect, since I will hopefully be more enthusiastic about selling a book I wrote than selling old picture frames and vases, but still. I never considered sales as a profession for a reason.)

(2) However, I really enjoyed talking to people when they were already on the porch. I was also comfortable selling the heck out of something after they showed interest in it. I would cheerily explain its origin and features and multiple uses and anything else that could get them to commit. (“Why yes, my grandmother’s Mickey Mouse camera strap could totally become a child’s belt, and that sarong would be ideal fabric for doll clothing; let me look for more!”)

What this means for writing and publishing: My hypothetical future agent and publisher can rest assured that, once they put their stamp of approval on my book and take care of the big awkward stuff, I will do my cheery part to promote it alongside them. I will love interacting with fans and going to book signings and making a snazzy website and chatting about the book with anyone willing to listen. (And I won't even tell them that it would make a great doorstop or dollhouse wall.) Who knows, I might even join Twitter.  

So are you a fearless salesperson? Or are you a more hesitant one who needs some professional support like me?

And does anyone want a small Christmas tree? A box of VHS tapes? Parcheesi?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Farewell to Arts Fest

This weekend was Frederick’s Art Fest, an event that I really will miss when we move across the country to Oregon. It’s the weekend when Carroll Creek is cleared of algae and instead teems with kayakers and paddle-boaters, and all along its banks are tents of amazing art and groups of cavorting actors, dancers, and musicians.  

There was a lot to see and reluctantly stop myself from buying today, but by far the most impressive creation was a full-size metal raptor crafted by Roland Metal Art

  I couldn’t actually get a photo of its entire length because the tent was too crowded with people admiring an equally large Yoda and ET. The artists also make smaller (and more affordable) metal stick figures depicting various hobbies and careers, and I realized I had actually bought a bicycle themed piece from them a few years ago. 

Also in attendance were some members of Twin Oaks, a community loosely based on Skinner’s utopian vision in Walden Two. I wanted to ask them about how closely they followed Skinner’s ideas, but instead I just admired their hammocks and moved on.

All in all, it was a pleasantly warm day full of friendly people and a good memory to add to my final weeks in Frederick. 

At the end of my walk I grabbed lunch from Subway, and I was incredibly excited that they had avocados (or at least a green mush that seemed like avocados) for the first time ever… until I saw that they’d charged me extra for my tiny spoonful. I thought back to my last visit to Oregon and Northern California, where it seemed like every sandwich and salad came with fresh avocados at no extra charge.

See, I knew there was a reason I was leaving Frederick and moving out West after all…