Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a post written by one of the newest residents of the state of Maryland

New residents of Maryland are given sixty days to switch over their car registration, title, license plates, and driver's license. This seems like ample time to me, allowing for the myriad other things folks are doing when they move to a new house in a new state. I wish I would have had that much time to get all those things accomplished, but I didn't. As you may know, I celebrate my birthday pretty much right after the first of the year. So, instead of having sixty days, I had thirty. Frankly, that was barely enough time.

I didn't work on car stuff too much the first couple of weeks we were here, but I kicked it into gear around mid-month. The Maryland MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) has one of the most confusing, difficult-to-navigate websites I have ever tried to use. I'm sorry, but that's just the truth. It reduced me to frustrated tears more than once. But with Ben and Julie helping me along, I began to understand the steps I had to take and in what order I had to take them.

I called two different service stations to schedule an appointment to get the MSI (Maryland State Inspection) done. Neither of them provided that service and they directed me to locations in other cities that I hadn't even heard of at that point. I ended up calling the Toyota dealership about a mile from our house and was able to schedule an appointment there. Everything went like clockwork until the service manager came and sat down by me in the waiting area to tell me that my car had not passed the inspection. I basically needed new brakes, front and back. Well, you can probably imagine the cost, but the dealership, and the service manager in particular, were stellar, and at the end of the next day my car was delivered to me along with the state inspection certificate I needed.

I had to gather documentation to proof that I was indeed who I claimed to be and that I lived where I said I did. Proving my identity was fairly easy - I needed my social security card and my birth certificate. Check. Proving that I do indeed live here in Maryland was a little more difficult. Most of the bills come to this address in Ben's name. I filled out an application for a voter registration card at the library, but learned that takes six weeks to arrive. I didn't have six weeks. Hm-m-m. I had a bill from the Baltimore Sun. Would that work? I had bank statements from two different banks. I could use a cancelled check, I learned, but who gets back cancelled checks anymore? One of my banks provides a printable copy of my cancelled checks, however, and when one finally came back, I printed that up. I felt pretty confident that my papers were in order.

The next step was to find the nearest MVA office. We live in Baltimore County, but the Baltimore County office is in Essex, so that seemed farther than we needed to go. We considered going to the Baltimore City office, but got horribly lost trying to find it. Ben knows his way around Glen Burnie a bit from the three months he lived there this fall, so we were off to Glen Burnie. The office there was easy to find and huge, actually, so I resolved to go there the following week. Unfortunately, the day we chose to go, the office was closed. I don't know why it didn't occur to us that that might be the case. Ben had the day off, so it wasn't unexpected that the employees there would, as well. But, even so, we didn't expect it.

The MVA website had warned that Mondays and Fridays are bad days to go, and that one shouldn't wait until the end of the month either. Well, I was pretty much out of options, so Julie and I drove to Glen Burnie yesterday. And, I have to tell you, it went off without a hitch. We were done in under two hours, and my little Toyota now sports Maryland Chesapeake Bay license plates with a heron on one side and a blue crab on the other. How cool is that? That's right, pretty damn cool.

Friday, December 10, 2010

a good murtle, a good book - life is good

Julie came down to spend some time with me the other day and we went on a murtle. (sp?) The Mancine family lexicon is rich with words that are either re-purposed, mis-used, or just plain made up. "Murtle" is one of the latter, and it means, roughly, to wander about, when used as a verb, or an outing, when used as a noun, as it is here. Anyway. We wanted to drive down to Catonsville proper to find the local yarn shop, Cloverhill. We found it easily enough, and were pleased to find it bustling with customers who were both buying yarn and sitting and knitting.

We were delighted to find that there is a downtown Catonsville with shops and restaurants and off-street parking. Definitely something to explore another day. We were most excited to find the local public library, and, in fact, Julie pulled in the parking lot so we could check it out. We found it to be architecturally reminiscent of the Elyria Public Library on Washington Avenue. A large one-story box of a building with a local history room in the basement, the Catonsville library is actually a branch of the Baltimore Public Library System. This is exciting to me because it means I have that whole system to draw from.

I went to the reference desk to apply for a library card and was delighted to find that with the proper identification (which I had) I could get my card right away instead of having to wait for mail to arrive at my new address. So I got a library card! And I checked out a book! Yes, it's all that exciting to me. And it was not just any book that I checked out - it was a book by my favorite mystery writer, Carol O'Connell, that I had not yet read.

Carol O'Connell is the author of the Mallory books, a hard-boiled detective series set in contemporary New York City. I love everything about that 9-volume series (all of which Ben gave to me one Christmas) except for the fact that the ninth book, Find Me, seems to be pretty clearly the end of the series. O'Connell also wrote Judas Child, a stand-alone book that was so compelling and so incredibly well-written that as soon as I finished reading the last page, I flipped the book over and read it all again. I almost never do that.

This is all prelude to saying that the book I checked out of the library the other day is another stand-alone entitled Bone by Bone. O'Connell's books are not for the faint of heart - not so much because they are violent or gory, which they sometimes are - but because they are so heartbreaking. The author deals with "the damage that humans can do to each other" as the Library Journal says in its review of this book. O'Connell's characters are badly damaged, but, for the most part, manage to function in spite of that, frequently in ways that will break your heart.

In Bone by Bone, a man is summoned back to the small resort town where he grew up - a town he has not seen in the twenty years since his teenage brother disappeared there. His brother is returning home, "bone by bone" and the protagonist must determine why. There are perhaps too many suspects and too many red herrings, but having read all of O'Connell's other books, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. This was a book to be read slowly and carefully, and now that I have finished it, perhaps for a second time. Yes, it's that good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

here we are now

So, first of all, yes, we're here. We're all here. Lucie and Rufus are asleep on my bed as I type this. I am equally glad to have Lucie, Rufus, and the bed here. I don't think I could have "slept" on that air mattress for one more night. There's just something so depressing about an empty room with a blanket-covered mattress on the floor in one corner.

Everything has been going pretty well so far, although when I came in from the backyard with the dogs this morning, Ben announced that smoke was coming out of all the registers, and indeed, it was. He immediately turned the furnace off and started making phone calls. Even though it's not snowing here like it is in Ohio, no heat in December is still an emergency situation. There is a BGE van in front of the house right now, and Ben and I are just hoping the home warranty will cover this service call on a Sunday afternoon. This whole scenario feels remarkably familiar to me, although I can't remember which of our previous houses it happened at. Maybe Tom or Julie could remind me.

I went to the grocery store by myself this morning and found every single thing on my shopping list. Finding some place to put it all in our severely storage-challenged kitchen was not so easy. We did it, although finding it when we need it again will be the next challenge.

We have a two-page (and growing!) list of items we need from Bed, Bath & Beyond some time soon. That big wad of coupons that I kept in the kitchen drawer will come in handy for that. It's a little hard for me to believe that with all the stuff we brought with us, we still need a great deal more. And, of course, there's the stuff already here that we are getting rid of. I already went through the house and took about half the curtains off the windows. I am not a fan of curtains, but my blue and white toile valances look just as lovely here as they did in my room in Kent.

It looks like we won't have time to make a shopping run this afternoon - to B, B & B or to Lowe's or Home Depot or Best Buy - all places we need to visit soon. We have to get everything we want done around the house before 8:00 so we can kick back and watch the game. The Ravens are playing the Steelers tonight, you know.