Friday, December 24, 2010

I said it.

More on this later and all apologies to Phebe, but...

fuck you, Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Update: Maybe It's Me

So... it's not just me! That's the big news. But the one person who I've found who has also experienced the general crappiness of Middletown people is now leaving. So very sad. Moving to New Hampshire. Colder, yes, but presumably more friendly people.

I've become friends with this mom of four who also walks her children to school. Have I told you guys that, even in 60 degree weather, we were the only family on our street (out of about 5 families) to walk? Have I told you that we live two blocks from school? For real. It's kind of ridiculous. I completely don't understand. At all. And even worse, for the pick up, the driving line is really long so these same parents don't drive to school, but instead drive to a parking lot one block away and wait for their children to walk to them, then load their children into the car and drive them one block home.

They have done this since October. The first few weeks, there was a minimal effort. These are ladies who I know (know) go to pilates and/or go running for exercise. WTF, you know? What are they teaching their kids?

I understand this more now that it's frickin freezing out. Freezing. But when it's above 40 degrees, I completely don't understand. Unless they don't leave themselves enough time to walk. You save roughly five minutes by driving. I also understand doing this occasionally. But every day?

Anyway. I'm done with the rant. So, the people who walk their kids, really walk their kids, to school are pretty cool. Mostly. And I met this really nice mom of four, like I said, and we got to talking and now we see each other every week for a playdate with our little guys at home (her son is 3 and mine is 2) and it's great. It would give me hope for this place. Only, they're leaving. For better, friendlier pastures, presumably. She and I have discussed the general suckiness of people here in great depths. She even had a similar experience to me regarding "ballet" or dance class for her daughter. You have no idea how good it felt to know that it wasn't just me.

*sigh* It's going to be a hard winter, but I'm committed to doing more playdates with my daughter's classmates. I'm committed to trying to set up a playdate with a few of my son's classmates. I'm committed to trying. I'm also committed to this blog and this research subject, but honestly, that doesn't help my kids at all except to make me more bearable to be around.

Oh, God, I just realized that my relationship to Middletown is exactly like a horrible marriage that I'm suffering through for the sake of the children. And I plan to leave it as soon as my son graduates from high school. And I plan to never look back. Except maybe to Phebe.

Do I buy her and her children grave covers for Christmas? How weird would that be? Weird even for me?

Must run. Until next time...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nausea and Me - A...Ummm...Story?

So in the last post, I said "I was going to tell the whole saga in big detail, even going back in time to all the problems I've had with motion sickness and general stomach sickness my whole life. Since I was a child. And I was going to call it "Nausea and Me: A... Umm... Story?" But I will spare you that and you're welcome."

Well, eff you guys, I'm doing it. And I'm sorry.

I'm doing it because I remembered very vividly a story from my childhood that is critical to this whole thing. And it's very dramatic. I guess you could call it a near-death experience. And I'm doing it because I feel particularly dizzy today. The motion sickness is reminiscent of the motion sickness I felt during the near-death experience. Teaser? Yes.

Also, when I tell stories like these, while they seem normal to me, because, well, I lived them, to others they're like "*crickets* Ummmm, well. Huh." Which shocks me each time because I totally forget, each time, that most people didn't have a childhood like mine. I guess. In my life, I've been truly afraid for my life at least three times. Wait, four. I don't know. And these aren't roller coaster stories or even driving off the road or being a few cars behind an almost accident. That's sort of normal. No, mine are... well, you'll see.

Holy crap, what a build-up.

Oh and always there's some detail that I've forgotten until I actually say it, that sounds effed up even to me. And that's shocking too. Because I'm like, huh, wow, I get how that would be a weird way to act now that I'm a parent myself. Moms don't normally do that, do they? I mean, they shouldn't do that, right? Right.

As far as parenting goes, this video kind of represents what I do really really well. I follow people around who seem to know what they're doing and then do it (frequently going overboard at the time). Cause I know (know) that what I grew up with is not the way to go. It's from the movie Point of No Return (which, I know, I know, is a lame version of a French movie, blah blah blah), but the scene starting at 3:20 has always stuck with me. A true aha moment for me.

Oh, this in no way relates to Phebe. And for that I am sorry too. I'm going to go try to get the history for my plot of land to see if it could've been her property at one point. That would be cool and like, cosmic, or something. I'm pretty sure this whole project is cosmic regardless. It's just my living on her land would push it over the edge.

Without further ado, Nausea and Me:

When I was very young (starting at around 4 or 5) until my teenage years, I used to get violently ill a couple of times a year. Usually Easter and Christmas. I would spend hours and hours puking. Eventually, of course, dry heaving. Until I passed out from exhaustion. I just couldn't stop. Specifically, it would last about 4 hours. Usually it was catalyzed by too much chocolate, but not always. That was what it was blamed on. I recently discovered that this phenomenon has a name. Who knew, you know? Cyclic vomiting syndrome. Like the whole Asperger's thing, just knowing the name for this and knowing that maybe other people have experienced it helps. And as GI Joe says, "Knowing is half the battle." Or something. I never watched that show.

Like I said, it continued into high school but by college, as far as I can remember, it pretty much went away. Either that or I confused the consequences of my stupid binge drinking in college with the CVS. Possible. Anyway, I stopped drinking at 23 and haven't experienced any CVS days since then either. Until I got pregnant, of course. Holy God, did I get sick. Not hospitalized-level sick, though, and for that I was extremely thankful.

The good thing (the only good thing) about morning sickness was that there was always going to be an end to it. One way or another. What I have now is this vague, yet nearly constant motion sickness. And the accompanying tightness in the stomach. Nearly constant. And there's no end in sight. It may possibly be related to colds and/or congestion and, since my daughter just started Kindergarden and my son is two, if there is an end in sight for this uninterrupted sequence of colds we're all experiencing, it's years away. Makes morning sickness seem like a walk in the goddamned park. Oh, and there's fatigue. Heavy fatigue.

I hope my fancy NYC doctor finds something (while at the same time I'm terrified he'll find something). I just want relief.

I still haven't told you about the near-death thing. Maybe it's not that big a deal. Anyway, we used to be wealthy, I guess. My dad was a successful surgeon/proctologist in Florida during the decade when Katie Couric's husband died of colon cancer so everyone started getting colonoscopies. Are you done giggling over the proctologist thing? Can we move on?

Where this money is now a days is a mystery to me, but, it is true that we thought we were wealthy. And my dad liked to sail. And he's kind of got delusions of grandeur about a lot of things. Well, now he's just insane due to the drink, but he always was, let's just say, overextending himself. So he thought he could captain a sailboat by himself, with minimal experience, in the Bahamas during hurricane season (because then, boat rentals are like super cheap!).

We did this for years. And mostly without incident. We would rent a sailboat for a week, island hop, and come back home tan and with tons of contraband shells as souvenirs. It was mostly a lot of fun. Until one year when it wasn't.

One year, we experienced a sort of a perfect storm type of scenario. Kind of all of a sudden, the engine died. And while my dad is pretty good at motoring a boat and also sailing in open waters with good wind, he is not good at sailing exclusively to move around. So we were out in the open when we started seeing ominous clouds. And when he radioed the rental place to get them to come out to get us, they told us there was a tropical storm moving through and they couldn't get to us until the next day.

He managed to get us into a very very shallow cove (uninhabited, of course) and we spent hours trying to anchor. That's difficult to do without a motor. As I'm typing this, of course, I'm wondering why we didn't take our dinghy (which did have a little motor) and take us kids and one of the moms (we went with another woman and her son) onto shore. I guess because it was uninhabited? And maybe we thought it would be ok, that once the anchor stuck it would be fine? In any case, we did think the anchor stuck and then we prepared to wait it out. With life vests.

Only, the anchor, of course, wasn't stuck. And, only, another sailboat thought that our little cove would be a good place to wait out the storm too. And while they may have been actually anchored, we were not, and of course we made straight for them when the worst of the storm was upon us. It's kind of a goddamned miracle that the boats didn't crash and capsize.

What was I doing while all this was going on, you ask? Why, I was down in the cabin puking my effing guts up. Over and over and over, for hours. And hours. I was dangerously dehydrated by the end of it. To be fair, it wasn't just me down there, it was me and my brother who is one year younger than me. I'm guessing I was about 10. Everyone else was on deck helping out/screaming with fear/sobbing/singing spirituals (true, that). My mom came down to help my brother and me periodically, but mostly we were on our own.

So eventually that day ended and the sun came out the next day and the water was still. And the rental company came to tow us back to the main island. And we checked into a hotel (which I believe my dad was against for some reason- money, I guess?) and I finally ate and slept and regained my strength. I remember the relief of checking into that hotel like it was yesterday. Safety. Land. Nourishment.

So that's my story. Oh, here's the questionable parenting part. And for once, I think, it originates with my dad (although, my mom went along). We went back the next year and the next year after that. I don't believe I wanted to, but, we did.

I'm sorry for the build-up and for the potential let-down on your part. And for the digression away from the main point of this blog. I find these kinds of posts cathartic, though. I've never been very vocal and this is a great way for me to get a lot of these things out.

Sorry. Until later...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day Trip to NYC - Part 1 (?)

Hi! Last week I took a day trip to NYC (all by myself! I know!) and I thought I'd write it up. With visual aids! Well, only a few. I don't have an iphone or anything, just a simple cell phone I can't upload the pictures from, and so instead, I'm going to only show you the interesting museum things I saw by using someone else's pictures and then I'm going to describe all the other stuff. Ahhh, it's better that way. What's that? I should be able to do a better blog? I should be able to upload pictures, ya dork you? Oh yea? Well, that's just mean. Leave me alone. How much do those internet phones cost, anyway? And do I really need to google things wherever I am? No. I don't. See? I survived the day in New York, and you know why? Cause I brought a map. So there.

Alright. What? What was I talking about? Oh, yea! Yay me!

I wrote all this down on the train ride home. It's pretty disjointed and I'll do my best. So here it is. A few thoughts.

1. Dude, wtf was those Sex and the City sluts' problem? Or, conversely, what is my celibate (as far as I know. Jeesh, now I don't want to think about it) sister who lives in Brooklyn's problem? Or Liz Lemmon's? There are tons of handsome men walking around Manhattan. Tons. Do I have low standards? Possibly. I just don't understand how Miranda ended up with Schteve (who I like btw) with all the hotties walking around. Are they all gay? Like one out of every ten men - doable. Oh, no, I think I just answered my own question there. Here's the thing, though. I don't find gay men doable. And I have pretty good gaydar. I think. Anyway, I stand by my one in ten men. Shut it.

Why so many doable men? It could be that I'm a slut. Well, in my imagination only. I have not officially been a slut in 15 years. Oh, the other thing is it may be that I have not been around many people, as a stay at home mom, for the last five years. And those men that I have been around tend to be dressed like douchebags. Go Jersey. Oh, and at one of the museums? A bus of West Point cadets. Duuuuuude. Don't get me started. Uniforms.

Have I creeped everyone out yet? Yea? OK, great! Let's move on.

2. Taking a 180 degree turn, I shall now make you concerned for me. Well. What do you have to say now? Alright, no more talking to an imaginary audience. Jeesh.

Anyway, I was in the city for a doctor's appointment. Not just any doctor, but a fancy super Manhattan specialist doctor. To see about this dizziness and weakness I've been experiencing for the last nine months or so. I do not have Meniere's disease, as it turns out. (On a sad note, no more diuretic! So back up a pant size in about a week, is my guess.) But I may have something more serious wrong with me. Or not. Too early to say. I just scheduled an MRI for three weeks from now. Oh, and they're testing me for Lyme's disease. The doctor was great, though. I'm so glad I went. Even if it did take about two and a half hours to get there. Upper East side, of course! Only the best for me. Well, this time anyway.

Oh, I was going to tell the whole saga in big detail, even going back in time to all the problems I've had with motion sickness and general stomach sickness my whole life. Since I was a child. And I was going to call it "Nausea and Me: A... Umm... Story?" But I will spare you that and you're welcome.

3. Museums and How This Relates in Any Way to Phebe - Before I Veer Off on a Tangent Again.

I wrote in an earlier post how people in earlier times have done without power, etc etc for ages, sometimes with great sophistication. Or some such. Anyway, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Neue Gallery and I now want to junk punch the me that wrote that. Or slap me. Slap me sounds classier.

On this trip I tried to focus on Phebe's time period, which generally spans the 18th century. At the Met I saw this painting by John Singleton Copley and just love it. It was painted in 1782, nine years before Phebe died.

At the Met in the American Wing they have period rooms. How I never knew this before is beyond me, really. But I didn't. So I found the rooms from her time period and a few were much fancier, grander estates than Phebe's little world. One, though, reminds me a great deal of Marlpit Hall here in Middletown. Same woodwork, roughly. And I'm glad to have that nearby, as a whole house too. Something about period rooms is sad to me. I know it's good that they're saved, but they were designed to be part of a whole. Here's a picture and here's the link to more pictures of the room.

I know it's not her time period, at all, but I saw a John Singer Sargent painting from 1882 that I also fell in love with. Just in love. I've been a big big fan of his for a long time, but I'd never seen this or maybe it had never stood out to me. I think I love every single thing about this painting. So glad to have stumbled across it in the open storage section of the American Wing.

Moving out of the Met but staying in Phebe's time period, I then went to the Neue Galerie and saw the Messerschmidt exhibit. Good God. If you can, you should go. It'll be there until January and then it moves to the Louvre. If you're lucky enough to see it in the Louvre, then eff you, I hate you. Anyway. I have never seen a more alive inanimate object in my life. These were sculpted in the 1770's. He made a series of 69 busts during a period of quasi-madness at that time, after having had a very successful career as a court sculptor. They're self-portraits with his face set in various extreme expressions. Only about 40 busts still exist, and they're other-worldly. So modern and yet at the same time, so basically human and universal. Hard to explain. So I'll stop. Phebe's time period, too. That's important.

And below is a detail of a lithograph that I found by Matthias Rudolph Toma in 1839 showing some busts from the series.

Insane, right? God, human beings can be so goddamned fascinating sometimes.

4. Saw a Celebrity and tons of Celebrity Look-a-Likes
As I was walking around after lunch, I realized to myself that I had not seen any celebrities on this trip. Which was weird. Now, for most people? Probably not weird. But for me? Well, you see, I have a very very broad definition of the term "celebrity." For instance, once in South Carolina this past summer (we were on a family vacation), I saw this guy in Starbucks, and nearly freaked the fuck out. I like got all nervous, made sure not to look at him directly, you know, the celebrity thing. Only, I'll ask, do you know who he is? Yea? Neither did I. But I knew I had seen him on TV. That was it. Like I said, my definition of celebrity is anyone I recognize from the television or from the movies, whether, even, I know their name or not. (His name, btw is Mitch Rouse and he appeared on a Reno 911 episode I had seen once and it turns out he used to write for Strangers with Candy (squeeee!).)

Sure, this picture is huge.

Anyway, I was thinking that my trip to NYC wasn't going to be the perfect trip, when I saw her. Upper East Side and for just a second, I swear to effin gah, I saw her. Her being Kathryn Erbe. Of Law & Order: Criminal Intent fame. See? Just then, I had researched who she was a few days ago and then immediately I forgot her name and just now had to imdb her. Again. That's how famous she is. But you know what? Mission fucking accomplished. Take that, Dubya.

Again with the huge picture

Before I leave the celebrity topic, I should mention that I also saw tons of celebrity look-alikes. The list of look-alikes includes, but is not limited to, the following: Sarah Jessica Parker, Olivia Newton-John (Is it Olivia Newton now?), Stephenie Meyer, Cindy Sherman and Kal Penn. It might possibly be because I go to this website too much. Oh, and shut it, I totally saw Kathryn Erbe. Which I remembered this time and did not even have to scroll back up to remember how to spell, thank you very much.

5. Dean and Deluca and People Watching in General in Manhattan
I ate lunch at the Dean and Deluca near the Met, which was great. First of all, the whole area is great for people watching. Tons of craziness. And tons of money. So, you know, tons of plastic surgery, big sunglasses, impossible high heels and lots of fur coats. I also saw two women in flip-flops, though. It was like 55 degrees that day. WTF?

Oh and I also saw a few chic women with all natural gray hair, like myself. Only, as I said, they were chic. Which my dandruff and size 10 mom jeans will ensure I will never be, but still, it was nice to see it. I can probably fit into a size 8 mom jean right now on account of the diuretics. But still.

One of the things I've always noticed, when I've gone to New York, is that New Yorkers like to talk loudly about personal things. Like that slut Samantha on SATC. I kid. Anyway, I heard this fantastic thing as I was sitting in Dean and Deluca and it really stuck with me. Let me describe the situation a little, first. The guy talking was a black guy in dreadlocks (long) and like a cool scarf and cool sunglasses (inside, natch). He was speaking to his girlfriend (?), an older-ish woman with dyed, big blonde hair, and high nasaly voice and big sunglasses. Oh and lots of plastic surgery. They were the weirdest couple. I sat next to them for roughly 20 minutes. At one point the guy says, (are you ready?) "Personally, I'm happy with just cereal for breakfast."


6. Train Ride Home
You know in the first section, how I was talking about all the doable dudes in NYC? Know when that changed? At Penn Station, in the NJ Transit section, that's when. Two things from the train ride home. First, there was a loud-talker in my train car and at one point he said, to the person on the other end of the cell phone, "And Jesus said, 'You shall know them by the fruit that they bear.'" And I thought, OMG, is he talking to my brother? Or my mom?

The second thing from the train ride home is, Jeezbus Christie, do I have to take my kids to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas extravaganza? The way it's presented around here in NJ is that it's mandatory. It seems really lame. I'm not doing it. Eff you, NJ.

OK, that's it. A lot, right? It's no Bloggess at Blogher 2010, but it was still great. I heart NY, it seems. Even if this trip involves being warned that I could possibly have a tumor, albeit benign, in my head. To be fair, it was one among a list of possibilities. I heart NY and good, however frightening, health care.

Also, I don't care what my husband says, my daughter is going to college in NYC in 13 years, if only I can come visit all the time and be all skeevy about the men in Manhattan. And on that note... laters.

Friday, November 19, 2010

To Cleanse the Palate

So I'm working on a massive post about my trip to Manhattan (Upper East Side! Holla!) yesterday, but it's going to take a while. And while I was writing it, this happened:

Peter Genovese wrote about highways again in the Star Ledger and I am confused. First of all, what does the title mean? No idea. And then, why does one need to write about a highway at all? I mean, I get writing about construction updates, or funding scandals, or accidents, or what have you, but a lifestyle piece about a highway? Don't understand. But then, I'm finding, I don't understand about 95% of things having to do with my life here in NJ.

Had to get that off my chest. And a few sarcastic italics there for which I am sorry.

Also? RE my trip to the famous #6 on his previous list of awesome things in NJ? I did finally go there last week and it was as depressing as I thought it would be. No pictures though. None needed, really, as this photo does complete justice to the "historic marker". See what I did there? I went all out sarcastic quotations. Yay me.

I don't like ranting. Sorry. But sometimes I can't control myself. On account of the lameness.

Until next time and my NYC post will be rant free. 95%. Promise.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Things Pretty Unrelated to Phebe, But If You Squint a Bit, Maybe It Can Somehow Relate

1. Phebe's grave is still ok
They're doing construction on the street that Phebe's graveyard is off of and they've blockaded the street. It makes me nervous if I can't go by at least once a week to check on her. But they took a day off on Tuesday and I went and checked and she's fine. As fine as a 300 year old dead woman can be. I'm going to stop, as I'm raising a point that is a very good counter-argument to my stance that her grave must not be disturbed. Good job, me.

2. Worst mother ever (least Phebe related thing here, except for maybe 4)

My daughter said to me, while she was in the bath (and while she was feverish, mind you) "Nobody likes me!" Then she started crying. I couldn't hug her so well as she was in the bath, but I did my best to comfort her and get to what was going on. But that has to be, hands down, the worst thing I've ever heard. Ever. Until...

I'd just given my 2 year old son eye drops outside the pharmacy, while he was in the car seat. Turns out (and I didn't know this) they burn like hell. So he's crying and crying and crying as we drive home. I lose my patience a bit and kind of yell "No more crying! You have to stop crying, honey, we're almost home!" It may not seem like it, but I'm usually good at comforting. But his eye illness came on the heels of his sister's week long fever and I was on edge. Anyway, we got home, I did end up comforting him and he was ok. Not ok, though, was the next time we got into the car, he made his hands into fists and kind of shook them and said, "No crying! No crying!" to kind of talk himself out of crying or something. I don't know. But then that immediately became the worst thing I've ever heard.

Did Phebe ever deal with this? And there it is.

3. How I'm preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse

Last March, we lost power for five days. We had hot water, but that was it. It was still pretty cold outside (mid 50's) and while, to someone like Phebe (there it is), that's mild, for us it was cold inside. We used our fireplace constantly and slept under lots of blankets. We shared beds, too. My husband and daughter snuggled up in her room and, because I was still nursing my son, he slept with me. So that placated one worry of mine - that of them being cold in the night.

We also had to monitor our sump pump, as it was raining constantly (the reason for the power outage in the first place) and, with no electricity, our sump pump was running on a back-up battery that we kept charging at a friend's house or that my husband charged at work. No phone, either. Well, except cell phones, that we generally charged in the car. So I guess we had phones. Duh.

The whole thing was kind of fun in retrospect. And Jeezbus Christie, this is starting to sound like a mommy blog, which I hate. Almost as much as I hate Oprah. Stop telling me what to do, Oprah. It's patronizing and annoying. Anyway, not my intention. Number 2 was all mommy blog too and for that I apologize.

Here's my intention: we could do it. In an emergency, we could do it. I worried a lot about them, but we cobbled through. And that leads me to the Zombie Apocalypse. For instance, in the movie Zombieland (full disclosure: I have a crush on Jesse Eisenberg, seriously, about this photo, wasn't this scene awesome?), I kept wondering, "Who's running the electric companies?" "Who's refilling the gas tanks at the gas stations?" "Why are there lights on?" etc etc. All of that would eventually stop, right? I mean, unless, magically the survivors always include the exact engineer responsible for running each utility.

So there's another dimension for the Zombie Apocalypse for you. Not only do you have to fend off the brain-eaters, but you have to just worry about survival. This is not something I've thought about alone. That new AMC miniseries, "The Walking Dead," also focuses on this issue.

I don't know, but it helps me to remember that until very very recently, human beings survived pretty well (with periods of great sophistication too) with no electricity. Without TV, without computers, without forced heat or electric ovens or telephones. Good to remember. As a reassuring thought during the Zombie Apocalypse. While you're fending off the person who wants to rip your head off. Well, not just a person, but an undead person. OK.

2. Why I love Sherlock Holmes (almost any incarnation)

So they just began playing the new Masterpiece Theater (which is public television for British production) version of Sherlock Holmes and it was wonderful. I'm a big fan, should just get that out there. This time, the setting was contemporary London and the actors were: blah blah (I should look that up), otherwise known as the rapist in Atonement, as Sherlock Holmes; also blah blah (again) from the original British the Office, who is adorbs, btw; and Rupert Graves, whose name I know very well from twenty-five years ago when he played Freddy in A Room with a View and effin stole my little teenage heart and hoo-haa, as Lestrade. I will learn those other two's names. The whole show was perfect and wonderful and I wish my son had been asleep so I could've heard everything. I may even give pbs $80 to get the DVD set. Or just go on Amazon and pay $30 or whatever. Undecided.

Anyway, it got me thinking about why I love Sherlock so much. And not just any Sherlock interpretation, but canon Sherlock, which this recent production was (I didn't even bother with the recent Guy Ritchie one, while I like Robert Downey Jr. a lot, because it seemed too far off). Here goes. Reasons are two-fold: 1. I want to be Sherlock. 2. I want to be noticed by Sherlock.

Reason 1: I want to be Sherlock. I want to be that smart, first of all. But more importantly, I think, is that I want to not care. I want to be so consumed by what I'm doing that it really doesn't matter to me how other people see me. I want to have the self-confidence to dismiss people. Wouldn't that be great? I know the character has a flip side, a morose side (which I got down, thank you very much) and I guess that's just part of that package, but overall, I want to be him.

Reason 2: I want to be noticed by Sherlock. And this has been true since I first read the stories. Mostly because I was largely an invisible child, even in my family. Left at the gas station accidentally, for instance. I wanted someone to look at me and know all my secrets. To be interested in my secrets. Maybe I just liked the idea that I had secrets. That there was something interesting about me, something to study. That I was worthy of attention.

OK. That is now the worst thing I've ever heard. Maybe not worse than the other two, on second thought, but third for sure.

And I cannot for the life of me think of how Phebe relates. Ummmmm. No.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I found this website and am in love. The first post by this former professor/blogger that I'll link has wonderful little biographical details about the painter John Wollaston. He travelled between New York, Philadelphia and Maryland, so he would've passed through New Jersey, presumably. Wouldn't it be something if he'd have stopped in Middletown along the way?

Unfortunately his portraits don't strike me as particularly pretty, but that's probably just me and my more modern perspective. A more recent post by the same blogger, though, has these wonderful, gorgeous portraits of Colonial women in blue silk gowns by John Singleton Copley. Oh, those dresses. I particularly like the portrait of Mary Turner (Mrs. Daniel Sargent), shown above. This is how Phebe looks in my imagination, or close to it.

Until later...

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Did Not Actually See It for Myself, As It Turns Out


I missed it. But the good news is that I went on PC Richard's website and found their store locator and now have an exact location. So I'll drive past it next Monday or Wednesday.

I should take this time, too, to apologize for ranting. I don't like doing that. Plus rants are kind of boring to read, I think. Plus, things are razed down all the time, for roads or new developments or whatever. How things go. I just don't like how they went about marking where they razed and what used to be there. If you're going to do that, then just move on.

In any case, historical markers make little to no sense to me. But, you know what else? Almost everything makes very little sense to me. What the hell do I know, is kind of my mantra now. Mantras are maybe supposed to be affirming, but, for me, this mantra reminds me that it's important, when you don't understand something, to just be quiet because it could possibly be that it's you that's being the dumb-ass. Happens a lot.

So I'm kind of constantly befuddled. Alright. Off to shower and grade and then enjoy this blustery fall day. I've already been on a field trip with my daughter's class and had an apple donut and told some kids to stop touching each other and met a nice mom and was told by another mom, who I saw almost every day last year when I brought Mary to preschool, but who never seemed to recognize me, "Oh, I didn't even know your daughter went to our school. I never saw her." Oh yea? Huh.

What the hell do I know.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Have to See It for Myself

Just a quick post to let you know that I'm totally going to the Somerset Traffic Circle tonight (see previous rant-y, NJ-sucks post). It turns out I drive that way twice a week to teach my night course. Every Monday and Wednesday I've been so very close to history and didn't even know it. Well, actually kind of like how I lived down the street from Phebe's former house, Marlpit Hall, for eight months and didn't know even know that that was a historic house. I thought it was a meeting hall or something.

Huh. Maybe I suck.

I still say that this is horrible. I stand by that. Even if I do suck.

So I get to cross off number 6 from the list. Next up? The Pulaski Skyway. Or maybe "Rutger's Food Vendor Vans" or something. That was in there. Also, Port Newark. I don't know if anyone's ever noticed, as you go to Newark Airport, Port Newark, but, yea, it's a modern port.

I'll let you know how it goes! Can you stand the excitement? I didn't think so! Maybe take some deep breaths or something. Maybe later have a glass of wine or beer to wind down. Seriously, you're freaking me out. I'm worried. I can't enjoy the pile of stones and plaque next to PC Richards if I'm worried, you know. OK then.

Until later...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Exactly Like in "Same Time, Next Year"

Hey there.

So.... because I'm a nice person and I really don't want to hate where I live (and sometimes, it's way more general than even a state and it includes in general how Americans are complete dumb-asses about history), I thought I'd give a counter-point to the last post.

Monmouth County is awesome. They have a great historical society here (societies, I guess I should say). They are aggressive in fighting overdevelopment and in preserving not just historic sites, but open spaces. All this farmland. Case in point - an article in the Independent News about the County trying to get a grant to keep the 183.5 acre Freneau Farm as an open space. This county, is, in fact, extraordinary in that this is regular policy. I love it. It's my favorite part of living in Middletown - all this open space and all these beautiful parks.

You know what? Somerset County sucks.

You know what else? I'm becoming like my mother in this. That's a down-side. But, that's because I'm extremely childish. My mom is big into historic house preservation. Big.

So anyway, as I was thinking about all this, I realized that what I've just done is exactly like what Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn did in "Same Time, Next Year" which came out in 1978 and I know it's lame I know about this movie, because I was six at the time and the fact that I know this movie so well means that I've watched sooo much tv that not only have I seen this movie before, but I've seen it multiple times. Whew. Anyway, they were both married to other people, and they came together for one weekend every year to basically "bone". Or "get it on". Your choice.

(Side note: Phebe, I'm sorry for the crassness, but, well, I can't help it. I love you, though. Forgive.)

So anyway, the movie spans decades. What I mean is that each scene takes place during one weekend of their tryst, so that the whole movie is just these two in a room, every five years or ten years or so. So it's also a commentary on American history as seen through their clothing and the things they talk about and blah blah.

And before I tell you how this movie relates at all to New Jersey's sucky appreciation of history, I'll tell you my one big problem with the movie. Well, I have a few, but I'll stick with my biggest problem. One decade, Ellen Burstyn is this fierce, cougar-y, Gloria Steinam feminist-y career woman who just started her own catering business after decades of being a stay at home mom. (That was in the earlier scenes.) So she's in her forties, I guess. Then THE VERY NEXT SCENE, she's a grandma! Quiet and tired with a church lady hairdo. Gone is the fierceness. Now she's just accepting. Of what, I don't know. Death? It's the last scene and I won't reveal anything, but by that time, she's completely sexless, so it's always amazed me that Alan Alda would want to bone her at all at that point. He's still pretty sexy. (Don't get me started.)

Alright. So their characters, in every scene (meaning every decade or so - seriously, for the life of me I can't remember if it's every five years or every ten - needs another viewing), do this thing where they offer up something they hate about their spouse and then have to say something they love about their spouse. Excuse me for saying this, writer of "Same Time, Next Year," but if they were regularly fucking another person, isn't this kind of weird? I mean, if they really loved their spouse, wouldn't they STOP doing something that would be so hurtful if it was found out?

So, I've just done that with New Jersey - I hate you because you tear down an estate for a PC Richards and then have the balls to leave a pile of stones and a plaque; I like you (I can't even write the word love there) because you, in some places, aggressively work to preserve your history and beautiful countryside. But I'd still leave you in a fucking heartbeat if I could. To shag Alan Alda full time. WTF, you know?

Until later...

Update: I was trying to make this blog more interesting by adding a photo and this is all I found:
How effin lame is that? Why do I remember this movie so well? Because clearly, no one else does. A copy of the dvd cover. (This shows the hair of the fierce cougar-y career woman Ellen Burstyn, btw.) The only other picture was of an old folded up movie poster. Sad.

BTW also? I totally feel like a blogger now. Yeee-hawww!

OK. Update of update: I may be insane and I apologize for that and for this post in general. But I went a little further into Google Images and found some dude's write up of Ellen's performance in this movie. And there are screen-caps! So I get to show you the grandma hair! Yay! And look! She's wearing a beige cardigan! I'll stop now.

Really, New Jersey?

So in the Today section of the Star Ledger today (redundant, yes?), the big article was by Peter Genovese. Nothing against this guy, for real, but... really?

He starts off generically enough. "This is the opening installment of a series we're calling Jersey State of Mind. The stories will take you all over Jersey, celebrating the state in all its variety and diversity, illuminating corners you never visited, or knew existed. The real Jersey, not the cliched, stereotypical or rose-tinted one."


Then number 2 is The Pulaski Skyway. Kid you not. A highway.

And then! Then! Number 6 is The Somerville Traffic Circle. Kid you not again. But this one's even better, because there's a plaque. And a PC Richards (which is kind of like Circuit City).

"Not because I hold the world's record for most consecutive trips around the circle (55), but because World War I ended here. Really. On July 2, 1921, at what was then the country estate of former Sen. Joseph Frelinghuysen, President Warren Harding signed a joint congressional resolution declaring an end to the war against Germany and Austria. There's a plaque marking the occasion in front of the P.C. Richards & Son store in Raritan."

Turns out it's between the PC Richards and a Burger King. I kind of couldn't believe it and just googled it and found this: .

OK. I'm going to steal from the Bloggess and say, New Jersey, you're being an asshole.

There are twenty-five things, and those two I picked are the lamest, but, actually the other twenty-three aren't that great either. Cannot wait for the rest of the series.

I'm seriously depressed now and... end of rant. Sorry. Had to do it, though.

PS I just looked at that flickr photo even more carefully and it's gotten me even more depressed than before. That's some goddamned plaque. And those horrible evergreen shrubs. Why bother, really? What kind of horrible negotiator was working for the historical society right before it was demolished - one who accepted, who said, "Yea, I guess a plaque and one pile of stones would be just fine." OK, I think I need to go to Marlpit Hall or the Holmes Hendricks house again soon. Purge my system.

PPS OK, I can't stop. Now I'm fucking furious. Cursing, sorry. World War I was apocalyptic to the people of Europe. Apocalyptic. A whole generation of men wiped out. The carnage is unimaginable today. And then this stupid plaque. I know it's not a direct connection, but in my head it is. I'm weird that way, though. Just disrespectful, you know? Don't fucking bother. Take that shit down. For real. Let's just let it be strip-mall central. There are other, more appropriate ways to show our appreciation of our history.

New Jersey? This is beneath even you.

The end. I'm going outside.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hendricks Grave Desecration

So this happened... Descendents file complaint over site "desecration"

Now I'm worried about Phebe's gravestone. Fantastic. Fortunately, I think her graveyard is on property owned by the town. So... unless they need that land, we're good. Until one day we're not.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My New Favorite Historian

I checked out a book from the library a while ago and am just now getting to read it. Or to start to. Books like this take forever for me to get through. So dense, and frankly, a teeny tiny bit boring. But, since it's a subject I'm very interested in, I'm going to keep trying. I'm going to bring it to my son's speech therapy session today, so that I can read it instead of Elle magazine from one year ago. (For real, that's the best they've got.) So I'm trying!

Anyway, there's a great chapter to this book specifically about the plight of women during the Revolution. I know John Taylor, Esq. was here in Middletown in 1777, because the Baptist Church had big discussions about him and decided to kick him out. He was, in fact, put under arrest at that time, I believe, for his role as the Royal Sheriff of Monmouth County. I need more first hand accounts of that, but I'm going with it.

At the time, Phebe would've been about 70, according to the age at her death that's been reported. It's possible she's younger, but no real confirmation on that. I'd thought that she would've been out of everything because she was 70. But I'm rethinking that because of John's prominence. She would've been most likely very affected by the events of the time because of her husband's official role as a kind of representative of Britain.

The chapter of this book that's about women's lives at that time is written by a former Drew University historian, Delight W. Dodyk. I love her name, first of all. She would be a great resource, if I could somehow talk to her. She's retired from the University, though. And I have no time. And (see my last post) I'm not really great at introducing myself to strangers. Plus I'd need to be better prepared. But that's a new goal of mine. To somehow meet her and pick her brain about the time period. And just to talk to her about Phebe. I'd love to hear her thoughts.

Off to the speech therapist and to delve into some military history. Deathly boring to me, but I really need to be able to understand what was happening at that time. I need to grow up, frankly, just in general. This will be another aspect of that.

Here's the link to the book, and although she's in the contents page, her chapter isn't on Google Books. But the link to the book is, any case.

Maybe it's me. It's probably me.

Hey there! Well, I've been on an emotional roller coaster lately. So, when I'm feeling down, really especially down, I don't like writing. I'm negative enough as it is, and I really don't need to put down the oh-my-god-this-is-so-so-horrible negativity that sometimes courses through me. I probably need meds to level this out, but I hate medicine and I always somehow come through it. Plus I've had some bad med experiences. Wow, this paragraph is an emotional roller coaster!

Almost back to normal, just wanted to check in. We were invited to a few barbecues this past weekend. A family friend's party on Saturday and a church picnic on Sunday. Always at these kinds of things, I feel a bit like a sociologist or anthropologist studying the human beings of this particular region interacting with each other. Hence my title. It's probably me, the reason I don't fit in.

But I did try on Saturday. And I met a fair amount of transplants to the area and immediately started regaling them with the story of my daughter's horrible, scarring "ballet" recital and my horrible neighbors. Again, hence my title. It's me. Even possible friendly, normal people, I somehow try to find a way to alienate. Even my husband is getting clued in on this and is trying to "help" me by putting pressure on me to make friends. Which is what my mom used to do and doesn't really help at all. I know they both, though, just want me to be happy. Roller coaster.

Then the church picnic on Sunday. Well. I didn't even try there. When the hostess to the party has no real interest in welcoming anyone (because they're all good friends and know each other so well, that's not really normally appropriate? Fuck if I know.), well, that's just it. Fuck if I know what to think. It was classic provincial New Jersey. I don't understand anything really. Hence the sociologist thing. Hence the title. Eventually, though, some nice older church ladies started talking to me. And a teenage girl, who probably felt as out of place as I did. Oh, crap, she's me. I'm her. Ahhhh, making some sense.

I should be braver in these situations and just say, "Hi! I'm Penelope! I don't believe we've met." But that's not my personality and even when I have done that, I feel like it's accusatory or something. Like I'm calling them out for not introducing themselves. It's aggressive and hells bells, what if I have met them before? Sometimes I have. My gd memory. Also, I don't get the flow. The politeness and gentleness isn't there and I don't understand. I don't understand how it normally happens. How it's supposed to happen. Christ, I sound like I have Aspberger's. Maybe I do. Sometimes, though, I do fine. Roller coaster again.

Alright. I shouldn't be writing this, I just wanted to say, somewhere, at some time, that probably all my social problems, here and elsewhere, are due to my own crazy self. Just so you know and don't think, "My God, that Middletown place sounds fucking horrible." It's probably not. It's probably me.

Until later...

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Hey there. Yesterday or so, I wrote a whole long post detailing how I feel specifically about how, specifically, it sucks here. And then I deleted it, because I was depressing even myself with that one. It was good to get it off my chest, but once I did, I realized that this wasn't the place. I need Phebe more than ever and I want to stay true to the spirit of the blog, which is, or should be, about researching her life.

I'll just summarize where I'm at right now by saying that things are hard. On a few different fronts. I visited Phebe's gravesite yesterday and weirdly that helped some. I think I'll spend some time reading about the history of the Baptist church in the colonies.

Then I'll work on my about section, because that needs to be written in order for the blog to make any sense whatsoever.

I'm working outside right now and I believe that my neighbor is trying to annoy me to death with his riding lawn mower. But it's beautiful out - it really can be so beautiful here - and I miss my husband - who had to drive quite a bit away for a wedding today - and I'm trying to enjoy this weather before it changes.

It's hard, but I am trying to remember how lucky I am. How lucky I am to have my wonderful husband and kids here with me.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's been forever!

Well, hello there, sweet blog. I've missed you. Not just no time, but also the fact that I've been feeling horrible lately has been keeping me from here. And I still have the whole Twi-thing and how it relates to NJ thing to go over! Are you dying from the suspense? No? Yea, that's what I thought.

I won't get into that today, though. I really do feel awful. I finally figured it out yesterday. You know how hard going to county fairs/festivals is? What I mean by that is how hard it is to walk around, eat greasy food, be hot, be in close contact with tons of people, when all you want to do is lie down in a bed somewhere and regain your equilibrium after that last ride. Cause the last ride was a doozy - I'm thinking the spinning tea-cups - and you still can't quite walk straight and you have to catch yourself from falling every once in a while, and your stomach still isn't settled and you kind of feel like throwing up, but realize you probably won't. That's how I feel. Constantly. Like every minute of the day. And have so for a few weeks.

I was able to rest a lot this past weekend (and read The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons - fucking hot, is all I have to say), much to the dismay of my husband. His parents were here and I excused myself to our bedroom and was horizontal for almost two days. It was heavenly. But I'm not fixed. I'm not as weak as I was when I started, but not fixed. And that scares the crap out of me. I've got a lot of stuff going on right now - getting my daughter ready for Kindergarden, getting myself ready to teach this night class, going to the grocery store, getting the car fixed, driving my son to speech therapy, getting my daughter's outfits and equipment for dance and soccer. I do all this with very little energy and with a whole lot of dizziness.

I have an appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor on Friday but am not optimistic. Big sigh. Also, I desperately want to finish this romance short story I'm writing to submit it in the end of September to a one-shot fan fiction contest. I'd love to do that. But, well, there's no time. And I feel absolutely horrible.

Good news is that I think I'll get a massage tomorrow and that my sister comes this weekend, so maybe I'll have some time. Maybe the doctor will tell me something good on Friday. What to do, besides taking Sudafed, which doesn't help and just makes my heart race.

Alrighty then. Just wanted to say hi. And I miss you. And Phebe. A lot. If it helps, I think about her all the time. All the time.

I should write a post about my in-laws some time and how they drive me absolutely insane, but won't. Instead, I'll do them like they do us and just forget about them. Ignore it and move on. Normally, with family members, I wouldn't do that, but quid pro quo, you know? My house is really really clean now, though. So that's something.

Until later...

Monday, August 16, 2010

RL Is Stranger Than Fiction, Part One

Pastor Mott's diary entries (see the last post) have gotten me thinking. I've had all kinds of ideas about Phebe's life swirling around in my head these last few months. Mostly they resemble romance novel scenarios. Set in Colonial times. So, you know, not really very realistic. And accidentally stumbling on the Baptist Church records (on-line, no less), finding her name and not only that, but something pretty major concerning her life and the life of her family, is kind of stunning to me. It's not something I could've come up with, really. And this made me realize, that, really, I have no imagination about this kind of thing. I'm better at researching and reading and facts. Left-brained things. I would never have guessed her to be so strong, so dramatic. But it happened.

Then I got to thinking about how this whole lack of imagination thing extends not just to how I imagine historical figures, but how I have very little imagination when trying to predict the behavior of people around me right now. My husband, yes, but he's very predictable. My kids, too. My mom and sister, too. Wow, that's quite a few, you might say, but really, that's it.

And even then, they surprise me fairly regularly. Particularly some of the things my husband says. He's very funny sometimes. Great one-liners. Some friends were talking about the glamour birthday party that their 4 year old daughter was invited to. She's a shy girl, and these kinds of parties involve, usually, dressing up, getting hair and makeup done, nails done, etc. The most cringe-worthy part (the whole thing is pretty cringe-worthy to me, but what the hell do I know) is at the end of the party, when the girls have to walk on the runway or the red carpet and show off their beauty (I guess?). So the shy girls have trouble at this point, usually. And that's what I don't like. Anyway, my husband's response to this was, and I quote verbatim, "Well, the best part must've been at the very end when they went off to do a few lines and then throw up." See? Funny. Out of nowhere.

OK, but his behavior and the behavior of the other members of my close family is very predictable. Well, this is interesting, because I'm kind of splitting hairs. They may be predictable, but the exact way they do things is always surprising. That's what I can't ever imagine. For instance, I predicted that my mother and I would have difficulty working together to decorate my daughter's room. This was right after we moved down to Middletown. So, we went to Kohl's with the kids, which is never fun, and walked around looking at comforters. She said, "What about this one?" And I replied, "Well, I'm not too big on that graphic print. It's primary colors and I don't know about that. Kind of bold." To which she replied, "Well, that's rich, coming from someone who dresses their daughter in polyester Princess nightgowns." See? Out of nowhere. I had no response. I don't know, maybe I deserved it. I did call her casual suggestion for a comforter gaudy. Well, not really, but she interpreted bold as gaudy.

This is why I don't think I could write fiction. Or why I'm in awe of anyone who does. True life, or real life as it's commonly called on the interwebs, is always way more weird and unexpected than anything I could ever come up with in my imagination. Oh, and I have tons of examples. So this'll be a two-parter.

My brother and father, also for example. Let's start with my brother. Every single time, lately, that I hear anything about him, it's that he's going on another vacation to some sunny, beautiful place. They already live in a beach town in Florida, and have tons of boats, and basically do things on the weekends that are very vacation like, but again, what the hell do I know. They also have financial problems. Well, that's a whole big thing which I will probably never write about due to potential legal actions in the future (you really don't want to know). Anyway, they complain about financial problems constantly. Well, then, you'd think, and rightly so, maybe cut down on the vacations? But I said that to him once and he basically freaked out, went on a bender which precipitated his wife "leaving" him, but that was only for a day or so and then, basically, after a few more days, things went back to normal. So that didn't work. And then still, when I talk to my mom and get the update on them, I find out, nearly every single time, that they are planning, yet again, to go to the Keys, or the British Virgin Isles, or some other fantastic place. And every single time, I'm surprised and then angry. Maybe I should start predicting that he'll go on vacation every month. Then I won't be surprised and maybe not so angry.

Now that I realize it, I predicted that Phebe and her husband probably did not have a great marriage. They're not buried together, and he was, by all accounts a bastard. But the exact way it played out is not something I could've imagined. And I still don't know what happened in the last forty years of their life together. I'm dying to know, actually.

Let's get back to my family. Last example today, I think. So my father came out to visit us, for the first time in my new house, a few months ago. I could've predicted that he wouldn't bring anything for his grandkids, even though it was right after his grandson's second birthday, which he in no way acknowledged. So I expected nothing. And what happened? Something even more awesome than nothing. Oh, before I tell you what he brought, I should tell you that he's seventy-two and completely demented at this point due to alcoholism. It's actually pretty amazing that he came to visit me alone at all. How he got around New York City at all is pretty amazing. But then, they have taxi drivers and Penn Station has policemen and information booths to help. So he managed to get here, via NJ Transit, from Penn Station after spending a few days in the city. He stayed exactly 19 hours. For twelve of those hours, he was asleep. So about 3 hours Friday evening and then 4 hours Saturday morning he actually spent with us, before he went back to the city. As expected.

What he brought was unexpected. I'm in the kitchen, doing something, and he's in the living room/playroom with the kids. He has his bag with him and makes a big production about having a gift for them. "Mary, your Granddaddy brought you something! Now, come on over here. Are you ready?" Oh, and he's from Mississippi and lately has really really lapsed into the exaggerated accent ALL the time. Part of the reason people help him, I guess. So, what does he give her? An apple. The free apple he got from the breakfast bar at his hotel in New York. And, God bless her, she goes, "Oh, wow, I love apples!" and she walks into the kitchen to show me. No sarcasm yet for her. She doesn't know what that means. But me? Well, I'm not sarcastic either to him about it, because at that point, I was pretty speechless. And then for my two year old? An orange! Also from the free breakfast bar! He thought it was a ball. Which made him happy too.

So, you see? I couldn't have come up with that had I tried. Alright, more tomorrow. All about my adventures in on-line Twilight-land. You're scared, aren't you? It's fine. It'll be fine. And funny. And weird. And completely unpredictable. For that I hadn't had years and years of observation to be able to comfortably predict anything. It's all new to me, how the interwebs work. Late to the party there.

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Phebe Taylor Kicks Some Baptist Pastor A in 1751 and I Flove It.

Turns out Phebe wasn't invisible. In fact, she may have been crazy and was most certainly angry and, the best part, the reason I know this after all, she fell out with the church!!!

OK, I'll quote. These are from the diary of the pastor of the Baptist Church here in Middletown. I thought they'd be Anglicans, but I was wrong, thankfully. Cause this pastor was effin wordy! This passage I'll quote is preceded by a bit about Phebe's husband John feuding with his brother Edward. Apparently, Edward called Phebe a name - crossed out due to it being an indecent term (for reals) and it was really Edward being mad about some decision of their father's in favor of John. But she totally is, though, Edward said. He could prove it. Whatever it was. I'm dying to know this indecent term.

Anyway, here's the bit about Phebe specifically, (in the same year as that feud between John and Edward). PS I love that it's Edward all over the place here (Twilight is everywhere). Apparently, Edward ended up being a good guy (and by that I mean Patriot) and John was the Loyalist "shylock" according to the descendent that wrote their family history up. Different book, though.

Alright, quoting about Phebe: "June 1751 a Groundles Report Being Spred that John taylor Was Grate With Sarah thorne By Which Phebe taylor Was Stured Up to a Sperit of Jelosey: And did Much Abufe her hufband: for which he Came and Made Complant to Me of her: I Went to See her and told her the Sin She Was Gilty of But She Would Not hear I Used Indiuers (?) With her Several times But to No Purpofe. John thorn allfo Complained Unto Me: that Phebe Strove to Mak difrance Betwen: he and his Wife By Infifting her hufband and his Wife Ware Actually Guilty of the Charge Which Complaint I Laid Before Phebe With the Several Agrivating Sins She Was Gilty of In So doing: She Stil Continued obStinate and Juftified her Selfe In all She had done: Upon Which I told her She Should Not Be admited to her Place: With out Publick Acknolidgment: Which She Refented Very Much and told me I Ufed her Very ill And Watched Over her from Evel and Not for Good."

Then in August, when she wasn't there, they suspended her until she could have a hearing.

Then in October 1751: "At a Church Meeting at Middletown Phebe Taylor Gave her Attendance Defiering to Be admitted to her Place Agane in the Church. I being Sik Could Not atend. The Church Redily admited her to her Place again In the Church. With out Examining the Complant laid Againf her By Me in Auguft."

Sounds like he was pissed at that last part. No more about them until the Revolution (1777) when her husband John was dismissed from the church for going against the Free States or something like it. Also, in 1751 she gave birth to her seventh child (fourth child who survived childhood). So my thinking was she was fed up. I don't know. It was terribly exciting.

I love that she stood up to the pastor. He used to love to call people out for public drunkenness and fornication. Lots of those charges in his diary. Mostly drunkenness. It's really a fascinating document.

I may have mentioned in an earlier post that a John Taylor, as recorded in the Second Book of Middletown, in 1736 (Phebe's husband would've been 21, if it's the same person, which I think it was) was threatened by the town with a lawsuit if he didn't take care of the Bastard Child that he had with Mary Robarts.

Drama. I love it. I can't believe there's so much about her even in the few things I've found. Yay! On-line, even. Now, if only I could figure out what that indecent term was. Hmmm, drunkard? Fornicator? Harlot? What else could it be? Witch? That's not really indecent. May never know. It's ok. I should see if it's in the original document, if that's still around.

She stood up to the Pastor, then went around him to get back into the church. And it worked. That wouldn't have happened had she had no support.

Must run. I'm trying to come up with a timeline of known facts (with references). Still lots of gaps. Especially towards the end of her life. One of my main questions concerns how she ended up in that cemetery but her husband didn't. The family plot. I also have no idea where she lived when he was run out of town during the Revolution. Maybe she stayed here. Or maybe she went to New York with John and just wanted to be buried here in Middletown.

I know more today than I did yesterday, thanks to Stillwell's Historical and genealogical miscellany (which contained the records of the Baptist Church of Middletown, linked above). Yay!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Spreading the Word

So my mom knows about this blog. I told her. To get her off my back about where my life was going. And now she's going to tell people I have a blog. Scheisse. I hate that idea. "Oh, Penelope's doing great! Her children are beautiful, and, you know, she's started a blog! I know! It's about some colonial woman or something. I'm just so excited. She's using her education again. Well. What's going on with your alcoholic daughter?" That last bit I threw in as a fantasy of mine. She wouldn't have said alcoholic. But that girl totally is.

Why is this so upsetting? I don't know. That whole thing above may not translate, but it's horrible. To me. But then again so are most kinds of social functions, so what the hell do I know?

I have news about John Taylor, Esquire, I think, that I'll write up soon. He was almost sued for child support! For a "Bastard Child"! Which is exciting. But before I write it up, I need to get a time-line going. I need to have an idea of when he was married before I go accusing him of cheating on Phebe. By most accounts, though, he himself was a bastard. Oh, the irony. And the tragedy for Phebe. Maybe she was equal parts bastard to counteract his bastard behavior, but I hope not.

And, you all will think me even more crazy - well, since I'm writing to myself - I never told my mom the name of this blog, just that it exists - well, who cares then. I'll just say it. Around the time they lived in Middletown, there also lived in Middletown a Robert Paterson. This makes me happy. Fanfic! Just joking. I want to put him in the timeline too. Adds an extra element to my daydreaming about Phebe. Yay!

Oh, you know, I really do want this to be serious research about her. I just have no time to really do it. We don't have the money to justify serious childcare for my 2 year old and, well, he's just tough! And I'm going to be teaching a night course next year two nights a week. And all the grading and prep work involved in that. But I am keeping my eye on the prize. In three years he'll be going to full day kindergarden, so, at that point everything will be different. Three years, though. In the meantime, lots of daydreams.

OK, rambling post. Missed writing here. Oh, and btw, my 5 year old daughter's birthday party went well. She was happy, a bunch of kids came, and she had her grandmother and aunt here. And she and my son got to ride in a wagon at the party while everyone sang Happy Birthday. Anxiety over nothing, it turns out. Well, there are details I won't go into, but, you know. Focussing on the positive. Rambling!

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Facebook Correspondence with a Friend about My Daughter's "Ballet" Recital Here in New Jersey

I have a friend from college who's originally from Long Island and lives in Wyoming now. We recently found each other on facebook after being out of touch for 15 years or so and are corresponding almost daily. I know, facebook actually served a real purpose! Weird! Hi C! So here's a letter I wrote her maybe a day or two after what turned out to be a traumatic event for me. I should also say that immediately after I came home from this event, as my sister recently reminded me (oddly I never made the connection), I went outside in my nice-ish clothes and proceeded to sand-blast the back patio. I didn't talk to anyone, just went straight out there and did that for about two hours.

Although I normally don't want to use this blog as a space to rant, I think I need to get this out. Alright. Oh, and also, I curse a bit.

Without further ado, the letter:

OMFG, I have to tell you about the ballet recital. Hi, btw. How are you? Recovering from your overnights? Did you make pancakes? Did that help? Does it help to know you're almost done with the overnights? Hope so. Are you getting excited about NYC? Me too!

OK, you would've died. Really. I kept thinking about our college's Women's Studies. And crying. Really. I cried and it had nothing to do with being all choked up about how beautiful and sweet Mary was (although I did do that too when she came out).

I cried because I live in New Jersey. I cried because the only time the crowd really went wild was when the 5 year olds shook their asses or did rapper video moves. You know, the times when I was cringing. The inappropriate times. I cried because 3 year olds did a dance (well, for brevity's sake, let's call it a dance) to All the Single Ladies by Beyonce. I cried because for the teenagers, I wasn't sure if they were training to be on Broadway or to be strippers. Could've gone either way.

I had no idea. I assumed it would be a ballet recital, because Mary's class's dance was a ballet type number with a ballet costume. Thank god her midriff wasn't showing (that was the made-up 7 year olds). To a song called "Freedom" about, you guessed it, loving America. I'm despairing. And I'm exhausted. Weeping for a half hour does that to you!

Good things? Mary was beautiful and sweet. Her number was "classy". Mary's friend from school was in a similar number and her mom and I talked and if (IF!) Mary stays at this dance school, they'll be together next year.

Yea, so I have to stop calling it ballet. And I have to do some soul searching. These are not my people. Not at all. Am I projecting on Mary though? She really doesn't care one way or another. I don't think I could handle another recital at this place. Yea, I have to sign her up for proper ballet if she's going to dance. This shit is ridiculous. Capital R, actually.

One last thing. *sigh* Hold onto your hat. For reals. There was one number with a single dancer. A maybe 14 or 15 year old girl. Overweight (but not so very bad, but still, on stage... you know?) and her teacher was on stage with her and she did a kind of a tap number while watching her teacher the whole time. It was extremely bizarre. Because there were tons of other teenagers doing stuff that was memorized. Kind of wonderful horrible, actually - the lone dancer, I mean. I had all kinds of flash backs to junior high and high school talent contests and that one girl who made you want to crawl under your chair.

And the finishing touch for you? At the end, when I went to go get Mary and everyone was walking around looking for their people, I saw the girl again. And you know what she was carrying? A fucking Twilight New Moon tote bag. Yea. Couldn't make this shit up. That's why I wouldn't dream of writing fiction.

Alright. Hopefully you're doing ok. I did get caught up in SATC madness at one point, but you're right. Totally empty crap. Like cotton candy or something. Looks kind of good, maybe tastes good initially, but makes you want to vomit after a little bit.

Did you read that article? Did you want to punch Megan Brown in the face too? Or at least bitch-slap her? Just me? OK then. TTYL - Penelope

PS Oh and omg my mom would've had a fucking stroke. Seriously, she would've stroked out. I'm actually afraid for her health in my imagination.

So that's the letter. In the last paragraph, I'm referring to this article I came across in the local paper. I wanted to kill someone. See if you can guess who and why.

Since this time, I've told the recital story to another friend and she reminded me that it's not solely a New Jersey phenomenon. It's national. She's right, of course. I've just had so many eye-opening experiences here (many of them extremely painful - and I'm including the births of my two children, lovely as they are) that it's hard to distinguish what's painful due to NJ and what's just generally painful and would be so anywhere. Quite a sentence there.

Until later...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Marlpit Hall and Garage Man Continued

So the big news is that on Tuesday I hired a babysitter for my two-year old and went to the library. Of course this was only after I had spent almost an hour at Toys R Us picking out the numerous birthday gifts for kids. God, that place is horrible. Anyway, I perused the New Jersey and specifically Monmouth County history sections for loan and in the reference section for the remaining hour of my babysitter time. I only discovered the small special access New Jersey history section right before I left. It's a room with special older texts that you have to give your ID to get into. Ten minutes before I left!

The best thing in that room, which I could spend hours and hours reading, and may yet, is the First Town Book in Middletown. It is an itemization of all the official town events - anything that came up in town meetings - from about 1667 to 1695. I found a copy of it online- transcribed as a chapter of John Stillwell's second volume of Historical and Genealogical Miscellany. I need to go back and read the Second Book. I saw it in the reading room and just about had a heart attack. So, many many hours need to be spent on this, obviously. The Second Book covers the 18th century - 1699 to 1800. Her whole lifetime plus a few years. I'm curious as to when they moved.

After all my reading and re-reading the other day, I thought I had a handle on the fact that John Esquire and Phebe built Marlpit Hall in 1756. Or most of it. It was not finished (which is supported by recent dating of the house) completely by them, but was sold as some sort of debt release. The house was referred to as the "Grandfather Homestead" next to the bigger house built in the 1800s which is now the Taylor-Butler House. It was bought by Barnabus Rider of Long Island who finished it, with an inferior carpenter, and who lived in it until 1771. At that time it was bought by John's brother Edward and then it was kept in the family for generations. So I read that a few different places and came to believe it was true. This is from Asher Taylor's comprehensive family history.

What's interesting about his family history is that, as it's published by H.A. Deats in the Jerseyman, it's in non-sequential chapters that overlap. So a history of a person is told sometimes two or three times. And, oddly, each version is slightly different, it seems.

And I don't have a printer. Or one that works correctly. I'm working on it. And gdamn if that isn't frustrating. I only have an hour or two to myself here and there and I have very little paper in the house and yet I have to mess around (cleaning up the language a bit, as I was just talking about Asher, who most definitely would not approve) with a cheap printer and trying to get it to function even minimally. So I need more time.

To top it off, a fifth volume of Stillwell's Historical and Genealogical Miscellany is also online and also transcribes Asher's work and throws yet another wrench into things. I'll quote from his passage on John Taylor, Esquire: "He owned a farm of some two hundred acres, which he sold before the Revolutionary War, reserving about a dozen acres, upon which, in 1752, he erected a large, handsome house, at the head of Main Street in Middletown, at the commencement of the Deep Cut, which was denominated by his neighbors as "Taylor's Folly."
In 1782, this house was bought by George Crawford, Esq., from whom it passed to the Beekmans, and recently, December 1891, was destroyed by fire."

So there's that confusing thing. Also confusing is that at another point, Asher says that John flees to New York, as a Loyalist during the War and I know two of his sons ended up there. As did his daughter, Mary too. I believe that he was arrested in 1777 for his role as Sheriff in Monmouth County. Confusing. All from one person's work, too. But a different version has the whole Taylor's Folly thing. Confusing!

I need a gd printer and I need to highlight and record what Asher says in which version to try to cobble together at least a consistent picture from his point of view. I'm old fashioned. I can't just skip around web pages doing it. I need a hard copy.

I also need to focus on primary sources as much as I can. This is why I want to spend days and days with the Second Book. I believe that they built Marlpit Hall, though. Maybe I just want to believe. They being John Esquire and Phebe.

The other news is that I just found "Garage Man" again and ended up finishing it. And the thing is that it's only about 1500 words. And it's a character sketch, more or less, not much happens. Or anything that happens isn't really developed because it's so short. Once I got past the coke whore thing it wasn't too bad, just really really incomplete. A brief sketch. To me not even worth submitting in a creative writing class, but what do I know.

Must run, more on that later. Made me want to finish my romance novel, though. To spend more time on it and actually make it something. I would not have guessed that that would be what I took away from Garage Man, but so it was. I think my dad went for the initial shock. Draw the reader in, kind of a thing. Just words, after all.

And maybe he should've written more of them. If he'd have put his mind to it, it could've become something. That's sort of it with him. He was good with us, but up to a point. If we argued with him or challenged him in any way, it was done. That happened to me twice, and yes, it was done. Painfully so. He wasn't too good with criticism and with working on things. One of his many character flaws, I suppose.

I don't want to be like him, in that sense, but I suppose I already conquered that demon by going to chemistry grad school and having to write and rewrite papers forty times with my very frustrating professor. I also don't want to be like him in that I didn't finish something clearly important to me. So I've decided to be sure to finish my little romance short story. I want to keep doing it. Plus I'm going to keep up with this project and with this blog. I'm having a great time.

More later. I'm still a bit in shock about how not a big deal Garage Man turned out to be. Weird. And I'm still a bit angry with Asher. Confusing!