thejuliemeister

Musings from an unsuspecting navy wife


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On the road again

My husband, Cameron, and I are halfway through our military PCS move from Rhode Island to Hawaii. Sitting in California, we are literally at the midway point between the two locations.

In April our belongings were packed up and crated away. A week later we began a meandering trip with our dog, Gus, in our 2005 Kia Sportage across the country. We spent time with family in Virginia and Tennessee, meandering through Dollywood at the latter. We visited Cameron’s alma mater, The Citadel, and I fell in love with Charleston, South Carolina (especially the food).  

Me at our “fancy” dinner in Charleston:

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This was my first trans-continental drive, and I honestly was not looking forward to it. I’m not good on long car rides. I tend to whine after 10 minutes. So my husband and I equipped ourselves with snacks, sodas, audiobooks, and a neck pillow to fortify against boredom and discomfort. For the most part, this worked, although my bladder required frequent breaks.

Along the way we spent time in 20 states. Our route had to change more than once due to spring storms, but we made it into CA by our planned arrival date. Most of the states were new to me. I made many observations along the way. The most poignant observations are recounted below:

Drivers in New England will stop to let pedestrians in, but will never change speed to help you merge. Drivers in the South will always let cars into their lane, but never stop for pedestrians. Drivers in New Jersey can go to Hell.

The Northeast tries to trap you in with tolls. You want to leave the airport? Toll. You want to go across a bridge in either direction? Toll. You want to drive anywhere in New Jersey? Tolls everywhere. It cost around $50 just to get from Rhode Island to Virginia, and that was all done in one day.

In New Jersey, Missouri and Colorado, I saw signs in public restrooms warning women not to drink booze while pregnant. My favorite was one that proclaimed: “you never drink alone… when you’re pregnant.” That was at a Chili’s. In Nevada, the public restroom implored users to report human trafficking.

Kansas may very well be the most desolate and boring place on earth. I now understand why Oz was so appealing.

We got snowed in just before Idaho Springs in the Colorado Rockies. It must have been cosmic retribution for happily exclaiming “NO MORE SNOW!” as I skipped into the car on the way out of Rhode Island.

Our hotel patio after a night of snow:

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In Salt Lake City, we stayed at an airport hotel on the outskirts of town. In our room there were two books in the nightstand: The Holy Bible, and The Teachings of The Buddha. The Buddha was on top.

Everything doubles as a casino in Nevada. I bet there are churches with slot machines. We stopped for gas twice and both gas stations had slot machines. I lost a total of 75 cents while waiting for Cameron to pick out what snacks and beverages he wanted.

California really is the prettiest state, and the best part of the drive. After driving through the dark side of the moon (AKA Nevada), the mountains and trees along the California border are heavenly. Everything feels like it’s going to be ok, even at Donner Lake.

I thought after living in California and Rhode Island, I had a pretty good idea of what the country is like. I’d lived in two extremes and I assumed everything else was not just physically, but culturally in the middle. I was wrong. There are similarities, but every location had its own vibe. The culture changes from state to state, and in some cases, so does the language. I heard Gullah spoken for the first time, and learned while in Tennessee and Nevada that there are incomprehensible accents outside of Boston.

Kansas aside, it’s a beautiful and vast land. We’re headed to Hawaii, and I’m sure that will be another cultural adventure. I may have loathed the idea of being on the road for over a week, but I’m glad I got the experience. I wonder what I’ll see next time we make the journey.

 

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Farewell Newport

It’s almost time for me to leave Newport, RI. My husband, Cameron, and I tried to generate a list of things we’ll miss about the town itself. It consisted of:

  • Being able to walk to most places
  • The architecture is nice
  • The neat characters in town, including bongo man, who plays the bongos poorly along to his boom box behind a purple metal grate, and lacrosse man, who wears all black spandex and twirls his lacrosse stick as though he was the town’s drum major

That was it. The first item can generally be found by looking at specific neighborhoods in any town. The second is endemic to the whole of New England. The last item wasn’t specific Newport either. Most small towns have their fair share of oddballs. For years, a man in Santa Cruz, CA walked up and down the main street dressed in all pink and smiling broadly at all passersby.

The list of items we won’t miss about Newport is too long to recount here. Suffice it to say that we’re ready for a bigger house and eternal summer in Hawaii.

There is something we will pine for after we leave though: our friends. Cameron and I have connected with some of the kindest, funniest, most caring and intelligent people here. We will undoubtedly miss them.

When I first got to Rhode Island, I had a little trouble making many friendships. Mary-Jaq was my first friend who I regularly spent time with, then Sally. But I knew with every bond I formed that there would be an eventual expiration date. I didn’t want to put too much energy into something ephemeral. I could only handle a few companions.

Then I met Tricia and Jessica. Jessica is the wife of one of Cameron’s best friends, and Tricia and I should have met years ago. She married my friend, Ben, but prior to that she and I ran in the same circle in Monterey before either of us were in the military family. We all clicked.

Suddenly I felt like I had a group. I felt involved. I felt cared for by people other than my husband in this town. I felt like I wanted to spend as much time with my friends as possible before they went on military moves, instead of feeling like I should keep my distance.

Unfortunately, they all PCS’d within a few months of each other. It looked like I was on the friendship dating market once again.

Spouse functions seemed like a good place to mingle. I went to a few, hoping to meet a few ladies. Every time I met someone who acted cool, I’d whip out my phone and request digits. Moments later I’d take this information and facebook stalk my new best friend to make sure she was really as awesome as I’d assumed. This tactic is now lovingly referred to as “forcing my friendship” by a few of my pals.

After months of forcing friendships, I began setting up lady lunches with new best friends. A lot of the spouses in Newport, RI, are unemployed. RI boasts an extremely high unemployment rate, and many spouses are only here for 6 months. It was the perfect recipe for midday hangouts.

The first big lady lunch made me realize that I liked these gals. We were all around the same age and we’re all in Rhode Island because of the Navy. That was enough to get the conversation started.

The group decided to do weekly lunches, and we’d attend as our schedules permitted. One of the early lunches, maybe the second or third, took place at Pour Judgment Bar and Grille. We still didn’t know each other particularly well, but we enjoyed the company. Every now and then there was a brief lull in conversation before a new topic was introduced.

I have no recollection of how this came up, or in what way it was pertinent to the conversation that day. All I know is that after a brief pause someone said she had a friend with two vaginas. Manners were forgotten as mouths fell open. Nobody quite knew how to respond.

Then one gal piped up: “Did you see it? I mean see them?”

Now we were laughing. The vaginas had not been verified by eye witness. The questions and speculations started pouring in.

“Does she have two uteruses? Is that a word?”

“If so, can she get pregnant once in each for pseudo twins?”

I casually mentioned a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread from a man with two penises.

“Those two are meant to be,” somebody responded. Everyone guffawed.

Somewhere amidst the questions and laughter, I realized that this was my group now. I had friends. I had friends who responded with inquisitiveness instead of disgust when medical anomalies were introduced to conversation. I’d had a few friends still in the area before the group started up, and we’re all still friends, and I still love them.   But the larger group made me feel like I had a safety net. It gave me my first inklings of what the extended military family can really mean.

I have male friends and Navy friends here too.  There are too many to name, and I am so grateful for that fact. They will all be missed. Every time one of my friends has left I’ve felt the void of their absence, and it is now just dawning on me that my departure may do the same for those still here.

My last lady lunch is drawing near. I’m not sure where we’ll go. (Ladies, I’m thinking this looks good:)

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In the last 6 months or so we’ve done high-end and low-end locations, and even had one violin concert potluck. I hope I can make friends in Hawaii who make me feel the same sense of community.

At times I’ve felt like Newport wasn’t worth it. Many people love it here, but in my core I’m not meant for New England.  I despise winter, and I can’t understand a Boston accent. (Excuse me, Baaaaahhhhhstaaahhhn.)  Even with these inconveniences, I’m glad we came.  The people I’ve connected with have made it one of the most memorable and fulfilling experiences of my life so far.