Saturday, January 06, 2018

Starting to Feel at Home

When you have been vacationing in an area for a quarter century, and then you relocate there, it can be really difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that this time it is not just a sabbatical from which you have to return.  But Marsha and I are getting there.
When we first arrived this May, we rented Airbnbs in South Capitol, then in Upper Canyon Road – two of the prime areas in town for tourists to stay at because of the “easy walk into the Plaza” with all of its museums, restaurants and other activities.  And while we were there we took full advantage of the downtown proximity to enjoy some much-needed R and R.
But we soon discovered when we began house hunting – which was the only non-leisure activity we actually had to do – that, other than our son and daughter-in-law’s neighborhood; we really didn’t know any spots that weren’t sightseer sections of town.  Anything that wasn’t in those spots seemed to be, to our small-town east-coast way of thinking, too far from the “real” Santa Fe.  A belief that we fostered on a daily basis by trekking into town and playing tourist.  But we gradually began to disabuse ourselves of that notion at realtor open houses that brought us to a rural area south of Santa Fe that we had not even known existed – and is now the place that we now call home.
On our more recent visits during the past fifteen years we have stayed either in a home at which we “dog sat” for friends of Monica and Bram – or in a rented small house (casita) to the northwest of the Plaza, and like our Airbnbs within downtown walking distance.   The canine-watching gig was situated in the hills northeast of town with numerous empty acres of desert between large houses that were only reachable via multiple unimproved roads.  It is often said of Santa Fe that the worse the road, the pricier the house– ergo, that was not a viable prospect for our residential pursuits.  As for the casita area, it is ninety-five percent rental properties – a nice place to visit…
But both of these locations did force us to experience some of the parts of everyday life that most vacationers may not need to encounter – such as basic grocery shopping.  Before we moved out here a fellow health club member with no clearly no knowledge of where we were going asked me, “Do they, like, have grocery stores out there?” 
I assured him that they did indeed – as well as roads, although as mentioned previously the more prestigious ones are dry dirt with more ruts than stones.  Shopping at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods at least once a month is mandatory in Santa Fe.  (There actually might be an ordinance.)  Plus there are two grocery chains – Albertson’s and Smith’s – for more ordinary folks.  And another one named Sprouts, which, like Marsha and I, occupies the middle ground between the two retail food extremes.
Another result of our history of temporary living conditions, which also makes it harder to realize that we are no longer just on vacation here, is that we seem to have become quick adapters at making ourselves at home in stranger’s houses. 
As a result we seem to quickly overcome many of the telltale tests that indicate temporary residency, such as: an inability to fetch and put away the dinnerware without thinking which section of the drawer the property owner decided they should be in; and continually hitting your hit your head on the same bedroom ceiling light fixture   (unique to 600 square foot rental casitas with six-and-one-half foot ceilings).
I personally find our rapid adaptability to temporary housing pretty impressive considering that before moving to Santa Fe we lived in the same Wethersfield Connecticut home for forty years and basically only made one change when we remodeled the kitchen about half way through our tenure there.
However one thing we had not done previously out here – or actually any place other than our home base – was to get haircuts.  Needing a quick fix we discovered a chain called “Great Clips”, one of which was located a few blocks from our first Airbnb.  And which also, it turns out, has another shop a short drive from our new adobe abode.  Although in Connecticut we had a series of regular hair stylists (first Patty who retired, then Donna who retired, then Kelly), at Great Clips it is the luck of the draw.  And this less personalized approach (sometimes Maria, sometimes Yolanda) seems to be working just fine – even though each time they say it is “nice to meet you.”  This is not so surprising for me who on their computer data base “clip notes” is listed as a “all over [machine cut with the blade set] at 4.”  Less expectedly for Marsha whose cut requires more nuance and attention, and who has actively worked for years with the aforementioned “CT Three” to get it just right.
It turns out that in order to feel at home somewhere, you actually don’t need to be where everybody knows your name.


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