October 2010

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at the drive-in

at the drive-in

Fall clichés are my favorite kind. Every year, sometime in October, I have to get out of the city for a couple of days and smell the air and hear the crunch of leaves under my feet and get my first shiver and all of that. Lately, on top of the usual seasonal clichés, there’s the feeling of falling in love with the Hudson Valley—finding more and more things I want to do in the area I grew up in and once thought was indefensibly boring and claustrophobic, and now seems lovely and novel and somehow wide open. I think about telling my 16-year-old self that one day I’d be thrilled to come back, boyfriend in tow, for a weekend of driving around and going for walks and sitting up late with my parents drinking wine…and for all the predictability of this, it gives me a neat little shiver. (For as much as I think about this kind of thing, I also wonder when I’ll finally get over it.)

I’ve been hearing about a lot of people lately (well, “a lot” is relative…) discovering the area and deciding—after having put in their time as broke, sleepless urbanites—that cheap(ish) upstate(ish) real estate and quiet and views of mountains and a (sort of) manageable train ride to the city is exactly what they want, and so they buy cars and move into cute cottages with backyards and gloat about their suddenly simpler and more focused lives. And I get it. I do. Eventually making a similar move doesn’t seem impossible, or at least it doesn’t feel any less impossible than any number of other prospects that are theoretically on the table, places I could maybe kinda sorta think of one day living, places that tempt me on brief vacations or where friends have decamped to and live happily. Because at this point it’s mostly academic, a distanced admiration for little towns with cute coffee shops and inexpensive apartments and that elusive thing we call “character.” It all feels equally abstract, when right now extricating myself from this apartment—where over more than six years I’ve accumulated more books and papers and books and discounted Anthropologie sweaters and books and records and random interesting things that should be hung on walls on which there’s no longer much space—sounds like a nice theory, a plan to enact in some hazy future where I have a salaried job and some kind of clarity, but for now is just fodder for recurring dinner conversations with various friends and relatives following the news of the latest thing that has broken and we don’t know how to fix and which the landlady couldn’t care less about. (Lately, it’s the already wonky bathroom door, which no longer closes at all due to some ancient floorboards that warped irreparably in the summer heat.)

This weekend all I knew was that seeing an empty drive-in theater a little ways up the hill from a strip mall and an apple orchard (yes, both) was an irresistible thing, and that the way the late afternoon light was hitting the blank white screens in front of trees and fields and clouds could have kept me there, taking the same picture over and over again, trying in vain to get it right with the dinky digital camera that’s become a poor if awfully convenient stand-in for the heavy Nikon I used to lug everywhere, until it got dark and people in cars showed up to watch Wall Street 2.