Last night Moody and I watched a squirrel wrestle with a twig on our garage roof for 20 minutes. Never in my life have I seen a squirrel act this way. It was love. Between the squirrel and the twig, that is. He’d (we decided the thing was male, and named Darwin, if you wanted to know) hop back about ten feet, crouch down low like a cat, then race at this twig, rolling with it once he’d gotten a good grip, once, twice, and so on, until the thing finally escaped him and he was forced to begin again. Once in a while, he’d catch the tree that presses up against the side of the garage looking at him the wrong way, and give it a good wallop, in the form of a back-flip done against its trunk. We’ve adopted this squirrel as our own, though there’s no telling when he’ll come round again.
Having dutifully staked my claim in the Rochester real estate jungle back in May, I have now been here for almost three months, and have the following to say: Rochester is weird, and so are its squirrels. But so am I, and so is Moody, and though our various breeds of weird don’t entirely sync all of the time, we’re watching crack-smoking squirrels and working at low-paying jobs and surviving post-Vassar life, which is really all you can ask for. There’s also a big, beefy Womp Womp (or groundhog, for those who don’t care for the Poughkeepsie vernacular) that lives in our garage and gets pissed when Moody tries to take out the recycling. I’m gonna go ahead and name her Nancy. Since not everyone takes as much glee as I do in naming wild animals, I will sum up the rest of my wilderness experiences without details: I have a muskrat named Lyle, a roof-cat named Wilson, and 3,000 ants (now dead, or dying) named after the various emotions experienced by Moody and I as we discovered and smooshed them (Sorrow, Dismay, Rage, Hysteria, etc.).
The only ATM within walking distance is human. The big, jolly woman at the Caribbean foods store across the street from us will give you cash back on your debit card, for the smart-shopper’s fee of $2.00, which is cheaper than any ATM, and also friendlier. This woman, I’ve decided, has some kind of superpower, because she seems to work 24 hours a day, in a pint-size, non-air-conditioned market with a mean temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Doesn’t sweat a drop.
While our much-appreciated Caribbean foods cashier might be keeping cool, we are not. The last four weeks have given us 100 degree temperatures and humidity levels which have made even my pin-straight mop frizz out. When Moody and I are watching movies together, a curious Velcro effect happens where an innocently-placed head on his shoulder turns into a bizarre mess whereby my hair sticks to his, quite determinedly. I happen to think dirty blonde suits him, but Moody does not agree.
Last week we finally caved and dragged our double mattress out onto our sun porch, where the air is cooler and we can more effectively spy on our neighbors. There’s Roof Guy (the human population seems to enjoy roof-frolicking as much as the animal population here in Rochester), who has a shiny bald head, never wears shoes, and suns his shiny bald head on our garage roof whenever the sun comes out. There’s also our downstairs neighbor, who Moody has met but whose name Moody cannot remember, which could make for awkward laundry room interactions. He has a Puerto Rican flag in his window, which he takes down on the weekends when our landlady comes around, since “window signs or hangings of any kind” are a violation of the lease agreement.
The dryer in the basement is evil. Normally, it should take four quarters to effectively dry a medium-size load of laundry, but not with this beast. 8, sometimes 12 quarters are needed, and that’s not including what’s needed to make the washer wash. Quarters have become like gold to us, and we never seem to have enough. We’ve taken to fooling the machines with international currency of various origins. The British 10 pence piece works particularly well, roughly resembling the size and heft of the scarce American quarter. How have we gotten to a state of things where British currency is more abundant than American? I do not know. I hope our landlady is extremely puzzled.
So. To sum it up.
Things Which I Have Deemed Notable About Rochester In My Three Months of Residence:
1.) Its machines are smart, but I am smarter.
2.) You can only go about 2/3 of the way back into a Caribbean foods store before you start to see disturbing animal remains. Stick to the front.
3.) The busses don’t actually operate on an organized schedule. They pretty much go wherever they want, whenever they want. Like, if the driver is hungry, that bus is going to Burger King.
4.) Ants are prolific, and do not necessarily need food to survive. They will eat each other. And you.
5.) Rochester is not the tundra. It is not.
6.) Even if you squint, URochester is not as pretty as Vassar.
7.) If you go to the Family Dollar at any time of the day or night, you will be offered drugs. Five minutes later when you exit the store with laundry detergent and Sour Patch Kids, you will be offered drugs again.
(Update: Moody just remembered. Puerto Rican NeighborMan’s name is Ricky)