It has taken eons, but I like to think my husband and I have finally become mature, semi-serious people.
For example, for 10 months, during the academic year of 2009-10, he and I lived in an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We’d had great dreams for our apartment until we saw it. But what could you expect from an illegal sublet? I asked myself, after I’d recovered from a quick case of the vapors.
Sure, the place was kind of a dump and the next-door neighbors screamed at their dog and their kid, in that order. And, a few weeks later, there was a triple homicide a couple of blocks away, and the landlady, who called herself an actress, was one of the cheapest human beings in the history of sublet-dom. Oh, but what the hell. We were in New York, having a New York experience.
My husband was writing a book that year and I was blogging. When we weren’t working, we were eagerly exploring the city. The 10 months passed, we worked, we played, we had one of the best years of our lives.
And, for the most part, we behaved ourselves pretty well, living in an illegal, slummish multi-family unit. We didn’t revert to the bad habits of our wayward youth. We took good care of The Actress’s apartment, where we were surrounded by many more mirrors than books. Oh, and let’s not forget The Actress’s affirmations! Everywhere we looked, The Actress had hung little feel-good, empower-yourself, go-for-your-dreams inspirational sayings. Oh, sure, my husband and I joked about replacing these framed inspirations with Demotivators from Austin’s own Despair, Inc. But did we do that? No, certainly not. We were too mature for that.
When we came back to Austin, I realized it was time to sell the wonderful house we’d been living in for the past several years. The kids were grown, we weren’t yard people, and we seemed to employ half the city in keeping up the house. Why not move to a downtown condo?
So, we moved downtown almost two years ago. We now live in a really great building, where we have continued to behave ourselves pretty well and conduct ourselves like proper grownups.
Except for one thing, which makes me feel I have an immature streak that I will never quite outgrow. That is, when the people who work downstairs call to tell us we have a guest, I often can’t contain myself. It’s like an itch I have to scratch.
“Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So are here,” the concierge will say.
“Do they look respectable?” I’ll usually ask doubtfully.
“OK, send them up!”
The evening a friend from Napa or one of those other valleys came calling, I asked the concierge desk whether our guest was the world-famous wine expert. I listened to the question get repeated to our guest, falling all over myself with a ridiculous fit of laughter. (Would he deny being a famous wine expert? Confirm it?)
Similarly, when another friend from London dropped by last week, the devil grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
“Does he talk in kind of a phony British accent?” I asked the concierge. The concierge said yes, he did.
“He likes to put on that accent,” I said. “But he’s really from West Texas.”
It was then that I realized you can take my husband and me out of West Texas, you could send us to New York and then to a luxurious Austin high-rise — but nothing could ever make us into completely serious people. If it hasn’t happened at this late point in our lives, there really is no hope for us. We will always itch, we will always scratch.
(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)