Monday, August 17, 2009

I think the entire reason for this post is to put this picture up, I love it so much. Stella at 15 1/2 months, in Charlestown, WV. July, 2009

Been a little while since I last blogged, and I'm sorry the image above is a little blurry. I have to get better at that. Although if I haven't yet I probably won't anytime soon.

Like all summers this one has been a whirlwind. We were in Kentucky for two weeks, and drove over there from Brooklyn. It was a nice, quiet, peaceful trip. Stella sat in the back, and for the most part was easy to have on the road. She slept, she talked, sometimes she cried but it was all in what was the range of normal.

Randi loved being out of the city. I can't say I blame her. It's not easy keeping a family in Brooklyn, and for several weeks it was simply nice to not have to worry about, say, parking. Or taking a shopping cart to your car. In Brooklyn you aren't allowed to remove your shopping cart from the super market. In fact in our local Shop-Rite the carts are magnetized so that you can't remove them. Imagine you're going full stride to the door, and your cart stops dead in its tracks, like you'd get whiplash, it's so fast. Like I'd ever want to steal a shopping cart.

You know what really impressed me on this trip? West Virginia. Long shorthand for "most redneck place in America" by me and my pals it's gorgeous, the people are friendly and it's not as unsophisticated as I had believed. It's wild looking, even in the cities. We stayed in Charlestown, the state's capital, there and back on the trip in a lovely old B&B called 28 Bradford Street, run by two fantastic guys named Bob and David. What sold me on staying with them was that when I was calling places to make reservations initially Bob picked up, and without me asking offered me the cheaper rate for one of his rooms. It was just a friendly gesture for him to make for a family on budget, and I booked. It was $91 a night for a lovely suite.

The house had been restored over 20 by Bob and friends, and was immaculate throughout. Even the wraparound porch was dust and dirt free, so we could sit outside in our bare feet, which we did. But first we tucked Stella into bed and took our baby monitor downstairs. It was strange not being in the house with her, but we felt we had to take advantage of the nice night. Lightening bugs flashed lazily through the heavy air, as Bob smoked about a pack of cigarettes and we talked about religion, life, everything. I don't know what it was about these guys, but the second we arrived I just felt at home. This is what B&Bs aspire to, of course, but rarely do I actually feel immediately relaxed. But I did this time.

Charlestown itself is fairly small, 50,000 people or so. Like most of the rest of America it hadn't been hit by the housing bubble or crash, so business moved a long apace. I got the feeling it was somewhat cratering as a city, with a slow emigration out, but I liked it very much all the same. It was a shame we couldn't stay there longer.

We travelled with a book called Road Food, which attempts to connect travellers with all the neat, out of the way restaurants they might otherwise miss, in an America where diversity means your range of oversized sodas. To get off the beaten path we had decided to eat lunch in a highly recommended hot dog place called Ritzy's in Clarksburg, WV. We didn't know much about Ritzy's other than it was alleged to have one of the world's great chili dogs, which sounded good to us. So we drove a few miles off the main highway, and tooled around Clarksburg, which was about 90% deserted it seemed, until we go to Ritzy's. And Ritzy it was. (See picture above.)
The moment we walked in every eye turned toward us, somewhere I imagined, two banjos started to duel. So noticed, by the largely biker-ish clientelle, we shuffled in. Usually people smile at Stella, but not this time. So we grabbed our booth, and the unfriendly cook came over, and asked us what we wanted. The chili dogs of course, with everything. He grunted okay, though he did soften up enoug to bring us their old, rickets high chair. We also got chili cheese fries, because that's how we roll.
The hotdog itself was okay, kind of your standard pork number, though I do have to admit I liked the fries. Altogether our total was $14 or so, though the experience of eating in a biker hot dog stand, and living to tell the tale was priceless. If the bikers don't get you, though, the chili dogs just might.
It was a lovely trip for a lot of reasons, but not the least of which is because I got to spend a lot of time with Randi and with Stella-bella, as we call her sometimes. She's actually walking, a lot. It's crazy. Although it's not quite perfect yet. In fact about a week ago we were sitting in our bedroom and she kind of ran in, clearly out of control, emitting an alarmed cry the whole time. Then she started to form a tight spiral, like an airplane with one wing missing, until she ran right into a wall, and landed softly on her tush. We died laughing. (Trust me, she didn't hit at all hard.) Oh, and she was naked while doing this. Again, priceless.
But she's becoming disconcertingly good at walking all too fast. This has been one of the most amazing parts of being a parent, seeing her figure out this highly complex and vital procedure. First she could do just a few steps, and had to be coached to walk between me and Randi. And I realized that one reason babies have such a hard time walking is because they don't quite know how to work their knees yet, as a result they walk as stiff-legged as Frankenstein's monster, with their hands out, to counterbalance this awkwardness. Now, though, she's able to pick herself up off the floor, or bend down to get something without falling. A lot of adults can't quite say that. So I'm proud, but already a little wistful, which is the paradox of it all, because I was so impatient for her to walk anyway. Now I'm waiting for her to really talk, which I am sure will happen soon. And when it does I know I will miss the adorable little sighs, coos and halfwords she says all day. It's just a great language she's developed, and I know when she outgrows it I'll have a moment's sadness.
Of course, she's not too grown up. At 16 months old she sure isn't potty trained yet, that's for sure. In fact the other day I got a reality check on this. She was crawling around during naked playtime, and went under our kitchen table to harass our cat Cromwell, a favorite passtime. Then I saw her pick something up off the floor. We want her to hand these things to us when she finds them, so she doesn't eat them. So, like a good girl she did. It was wet, and warm and ... poopy!
My daughter had handed me her own poopy.
I grabbed her off the floor and ran with her to the potty, too late! More poopy shot down, and streaked my pant leg and some of my shirt. I wiped her butt and she looked fabulous as always, but I had to change my clothes. No naked playtime for dad, that's for sure. At least not when company is coming over, as it was that night.