In Which We House Hunt With the Not-Dead Ghost of Emma Bull

2 September 2003

I read Emma Bull's War for the Oaks in the middle of the house-hunting, and it was perfect for that. Absolutely perfect....

"That is the Unseelie Court. If we fall, every park, every boulevard tree, every grassy lawn would be their dwelling place."
Eddi sighed. "It's not just for you, it's for the entire seven-county metro area. Couldn't we just let them have St. Paul?"

One of the hardest things about house-hunting for us was that we'll be working from home, so we have no hard and fast parameters on where we have to live. We could have chosen to live in a different city entirely. (Ha. Right.) So we had to make up our own parameters. We wanted to live in a safe area; we wanted to have a house we can possibly use both now and later, if everything works out well. (Everything working out well would mean a change in house usage patterns, including additional beings living in the house eventually. But not right away.) Also, like many Twin Cities people, we have a firm preference for one side of the river: westbank. We would, in fact, lean towards letting the Unseelie Court have St. Paul if that was a workable option.

I'm joking, sort of, in the way that you would offer your little brother to the monster under the bed. Maybe.

We're ending up on the wrong side of a different river, though: not the Mississippi, but the Minnesota. We looked at houses in the Nokomis area of the city itself, and also up in Bloomington and even Maple Grove and Plymouth, but in the end, the house we wanted most was in Eagan. It's not very far across the river, not very far from a lot of stuff -- no more than 15 minutes from many of our friends, 10 from the airport. There's a part of me that's a bit disappointed: I really wanted to live close in, with the little cafés and all. But 15 minutes from them is not too shabby, either, especially compared to what we've been used to, and this really is a nice house. Also, the neighborhood...well, let's say it was more our style, without going into too much political detail, because I don't really feel like doing that rant right now.

"I have it on good authority that anything that can be got at all can be got at Byerly's."

So we went to Byerly's for batteries and ice cream one night, and incidentally there's a Byerly's just around the corner from the new place, too. (The Rainbow Foods is two minutes from us, but what the woman who lives there now said was, "Oh, we're five minutes from Byerly's." Rainbow is not what you brag about when you're trying to sell your house.) Byerly's means, among other things, Byerly's deli, which is pretty similar to Lund's deli, since they're owned by the same people.

We got other Minneapolis treats, too, Fat Lorenzo's and Frankie's, bagels and wild rice soup, wild mushroom lasagna and chocolate mousse cake with caramelized bananas, ice cream, sandwiches, fresh stuff from Bobbie's garden. We discovered that the little Mediterranean place Timprov found down by Nokomis has half-price wine night on Tuesdays, and I could handle having a semi-regular hangout for interesting food and half-price wine. And just the very fact of being in Minneapolis, even with all the stuff we were trying to handle, was a treat itself. Not a vacation, not a break. But a lovely thing in and of itself, peering at the scenery and thinking of how it can be when we live there for real.

"You're worrying."
"Of course I am. It's my job. Keeps everyone else from having to do it."

I think I took that one a bit too much to heart, but I don't blame Emma Bull for it. And the mortgage dude didn't help at all at all at all. I had hoped that by Friday evening, I could spend my time in Minneapolis just enjoying. Instead, muchly worrying. Sorted out now. It'll be fine. The things I didn't know, though! Did you know that some loans require you to have up to four credit cards? We have amazing good credit. But only one credit card. For some loans, this is a problem, because we needed four lines of credit to draw on, and alternate forms would not do. Luckily, not all loans require multiple credit cards, and Pam the Mortgage Being is firmly, reassuringly confident in us and our bright future, our good credit, our supportive families. Our house. Ours. She says it will be, and we can fax her the documentation to get other people to say it too. We have things neatly filed, the files neatly labeled. We can do this.

I still worry. I wish that meant nobody else had to. I think I could be good enough at it for everybody.

I think I'm making too much of this; I think I'm making it seem too different in my head. But I can't figure this out, what it'll be like living in a real grown-up person's house and owning it. I said to the folks that it'll be just like here: I'll give someone a lot of money every month, and when something is broken, no one will come fix it. But it won't be the same. It'll be ours.

This is very strange.

"You've never been to Minnehaha Falls?" the phouka asked, clearly startled.
"How long have you lived here?"
With an effort, she kept her voice cheerful. "Not long enough, I guess."

After Saturday's emotional (and nearly logistical) roller coaster, I was ready to just relax. So on Sunday we met up with Ceej and his folks and went to the new Cuban place on Excelsior. Mojito's. It was good, although we had none of the title drink, it being noon. Guava-almond cream stuffed French toast. Yum. And then we went to the Falls. I forgot the camera -- sorry! But it was good. We walked down the Creek on one side, all the way to the River, and then back the other side. The River is low this summer, lower than we'd seen it. But we had a great time, followed by good Bridgeman's ice cream, and we're always glad to be around our C.J., and his folks are pretty relaxing people.

And I pictured battling Sidhe on every side, and smiled, because hey, what's a bit of mortgage being now and then?

It would have been maudlin to choose a route that passed some of her favorite places. So she was practical and drove straight down La Salle onto Blaisdell, only to find that everything suddenly seemed precious. The red stone castle at Groveland and the brooding brick churches at Twenty-sixth Street became architectural marvels. Even the stucco duplexes, common as field mice, looked gracious and welcoming with their living room windows aglow. By the light of the street lamps she could see gardens planted under apartment house windows, and swollen flower buds on the lilac bushes. She wished furiously that it was November.

Oh yes. Oh my, yes.

No massive battle of good and evil to fight (I hope). Just the battle of the packing, the battle of the documentation, that sort of thing. But still -- she just nailed it. I know where she means. And I wish I could drive there tonight. But it'll be soon. I kept telling myself that on the drive to the airport. We said we don't live in California any more; we're just here on a working trip. Everybody keeps asking if I can vote in the California gubernatorial election, and I keep saying, "I could, but I don't live here any more." I'm just on an extended visit.

"Everybody has spring," he said, like a religious man chiding her for saying there was no God.
"The joke goes that we have two seasons: road repair and snow removal. Or is that snow repair and road removal?" To her surprise, he looked a little shocked. "Well," she amended quickly, "it's not always true. Sometimes they run out of money for snow removal."

I think they say that kind of thing everywhere. I know Emma Bull was right with that -- that is how the joke goes. But it's wrong, really; fall and spring in Minnesota are fragile, beautiful things, and I get to arrive in early October. I get to arrive just in time for the best of the year.

And then there were passages about the Nicollet Mall (which is not a shopping center, though it is a center for shopping) and the Como Park Conservatory and all of those things, and that's what's yet to come, what we still get to do. It was good to read it just now. It was a good book for the trip.

I also found that Madeleine L'Engle is a good person for me to read in the moving process. Somebody remind me of that if we have to move again, all right? Madeleine L'Engle. Very soothing. Grand battles of good and evil, giant brains and all. Relaxing.

I have a favor to ask of the world in general, including you people in specific but not limited to you. And that is, will you please just stop telling me to be prepared to be disappointed when I move home? First, that doesn't make any sense. Disappointment is when you expect something better than what you get. If you expect it to be worse, you can't be disappointed. There is no way to expect to be disappointed. You can expect to be sad, lonely, angry, upset...but not disappointed, because by the time you're really prepared for that, you've lowered your standards, and it isn't disappointment any more. Or else it is, and you weren't prepared.

The other thing is, what on earth will it help if I'm less excited about moving? Moving is absolutely no fun at all. Moving cross-country really, truly sucks. Why on earth should I not look forward to getting there? What will it help if I Eeyore around saying, "Oh, well, probably no one will want to talk to me in Minneapolis anyway, and I'll catch pneumonia in the snow"? In fact, what's so bad about disappointment anyway? It's much better than never expecting anything good.

(Crud. I just ran out of printer paper, and Mark has the car today, and I used the clever strategy of printing stories first in one batch, cover letters second in another, so I can only send out two of the five stories I'd intended. Ah well; life goes on, and so does the list.)

I'm midway through Gregory Benford's Timescape, because I wanted to reread it for some of the encyclopedia entries I'm writing, and it was what I could reach from my backpack on the train back from the airport. Probably not mood optimal, but it'll do. I've also been picking at the periodicals. Too many things on the list; too many things I want to mention here, and I know I'm neglecting most of them. I can get to them tomorrow, or the next day. I feel like I'm struggling to keep my head above water here. I need to get more organized. I need more time. I need more paper.

It's good to know these things, I suppose.

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