Today is our fifth day back in Philadelphia. Tomorrow I head back to work at the Writers House, Thursday will be the first day of the Literary Representations of the Holocaust class I'm assisting in this semester and on Monday, my Creating Characters in Literary Journalism and Memoir class (or whatever I'm calling it) will meet for the first time. In other words: the bike trip -- and summer -- are over. Aaron has been back at work since Friday, having put in hours each day of the long weekend, as he's got a big trial starting this week. I keep trying to help him write his opening argument with suggestions like, "Start with: 'Ladies and gentlemen, let's be real. Real real.'" and, "'Ladies and gentlemen, let me ask you a question. We've all, at one time in our lives, been accused of [insert staggering details about the alleged crimes]. Am I right?'" He doesn't seem to find this helpful.
I've spent the last few days getting our house organized and washing every article of clothing I own twice - first in white vinegar, then in detergent. Our basement encountered some mold issues due to all that rain and my clothes were stored there since we had subletters. As I type, I can hear my maroon Converse (purchased in Paris back in '03) and my purple Pumas (purchased in '05 or '06, since discontinued) banging around in the dryer. Some of you will chuckle at the idea of taking such care of 5 to 8 year-old sneakers. Others empathize.
It hasn't been all laundry and vinegar though. We had a welcome home gathering at our place on Friday night which was well-attended, especially given the short notice and holiday weekend. It was great to see so many pals. We hung up Alex's banner and wore Jocelyn's medals. When my friend Arielle said, "Congratulations again!" as she was leaving and I tried to humbly brush her off, I paused and said, "Well, I am wearing a medal in my own home. I guess that's asking for congratulations, isn't it?" Inspired by the Writers House Fellows class I've been involved with each spring since 2004, in which our students present each visiting writer with a snack made up of foods from his/her body of literary work, I served food and drinks from our trip: Keebler peanut butter cracker sandwiches (cheese and peanut butter - Aaron's preference and toasty and peanut butter - mine), trail mix (an actual leftover from the trip itself), mini grilled chicken sandwiches, mini fish sandwiches, Reese's cups, Skittles, Whoppers, Chex Mix (regular and Sweet n'Salty), Lagunitas beer (Lil Sumpin' Wild Ale and Hairy Eyeball Ale), and, of course, Gatorade, infused with tequila for the occasion. "Infused" is too mild a term. Many were here well past midnight. A group of us held strong on our back patio til about four.
In addition to reuniting with people at the party, I've gotten to spend some time with pals over the weekend as well. Beers with Mingo and Cheryl, time with Janine who's in town from London, plus Jocelyn and her boyfriend Alex stayed over following the party. Jocelyn, of course, was also in San Francisco last weekend and emphatically asked, "So, where are we going next weekend?!" before heading off to the Jersey shore on Saturday morning. Despite all the work, Aaron also got some extra time with his buddies at Steve's bachelor party last night. And we had a nice brunch yesterday with Aaron's mom yesterday morning at Mi-Lah, a vegetarian - wait: vegan! - restaurant whose cuisine in no way resembles the greasy diner food we've been eating, thank goodness. I've wandered the city a bit: two trips to La Colombe, one to Betty's Speakeasy (both favorite coffee shops), a visit to DiBruno Brothers', where I couldn't help but purchase olives, cheese, and a baguette, some time reading in Rittenhouse Square, and various window shopping around the neighborhood. Philly-cliche, yes. Lovely too.
Have I been back on a bike yet? Heck no. Our bikes from the trip, those dear Surly Long-Haul Truckers, should be arriving at Aaron's mom's house out in the suburbs tomorrow, but we won't have the chance to pick them up for a few days at least. My helmet is with the bikes, as is Aaron's lock. He has since been riding another of his bikes, is borrowing my lock and is using an extra helmet. I don't mind waiting. Not at all.
And, of course, there's the cats. It wasn't exactly an ecstatic reunion, but what cat encounters are, really? When we came in on Thursday morning, Alfie was in his usual spot on the couch. I sat next to him, crouched over him and, not surprisingly, cried. Aaron picked Bones up for awhile. After the long trip home, being back in the house cuddling the kitties was a moment of overwhelmed relief. And disbelief: we made it. Since then, Alfie has been his aloof self, which I love, and Bones has made sure we're as close as possible each night, plopping himself right against one of us, or sharing my pillow with me (even when I used my tiny camping pillow the night Janine, Jocelyn and Alex stayed over), or licking my arm repeatedly as I was about to fall asleep. He greets us in the morning with his loud purring (so loud the vet has had a hard time hearing his heartbeat) and gentle pokes to the nose and forehead with his paw, his way of saying, "Wake up! Let's cuddle!" It's hard to even pretend to be annoyed though.
Before this turns into a cat-cooing blog, if it hasn't already, I will make it a meta-blog, at least for a second. I've heard lovely remarks from a number of people about their experience checking in on us here for the last two months. Some of y'all were hooked! The link was passed around to friends of friends, friends of family, students, and even some people who missed reading along with us in real time have started reading from back to front. A few of you have told me you're a little sad we're home: "What will I read every morning now?!" I'm humbled and thrilled - and also smart enough to know that to continue to blog my day to day life would be a huge disappointment, with the exception of the Best and Worst of Mootis, which is always hilarious. (This, however, I've been forbidden to do.) In many ways, our friends and families, whether here in Philly or elsewhere, knew more about what was going on with us because of this blog than they would have if we'd been home the whole time. People don't generally take the time to narrate, understandably. But I know I'll miss it. There's no doubt that this blog was essential for my enjoyment, my sanity, and my writerly tendencies during our trip. I won't say, "I couldn't have done it without you, readers," because I suppose I could have. And I probably would have. But it was great knowing you were there as I listened to the gears turn each day, considering what to report and how to report it, then as I sat up late each night, crouched over a picnic table or curled up in my sleeping bag, tapping away on the screen of my phone.