Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Welcome to the Friendly City!

I couldn't go to yoga tonight since my bedframe was finally being delivered and assembled (much as I enjoyed sleeping on a futon, on the floor, like the hippie I am, it's nice to have a real bed again), so I figured now might be a good time to compose a quick update to y'all on my life and times in small town Virginia!

So here I am, at the delightful little Earth and Tea Cafe, a stones throw from my new apartment, drinking a $5 large pot of gingersnap rooibos tea, and missing my Pittsburgh crew so very much.  But moving here was one of the better decisions I've made, for sure...

Best part of this photo?  Tom's sad-face.

I can't start this post without posting a photo of the pun-errific (and seasonal!) cake that Sunshine brought to my last class on Friday October 26th at 6pm...

After many hugs and a few tears (did I get a little choked up while teaching my 'final' final spine twist?  no one is THAT cheesy...), I hurried home, because my mom and little sister were arriving Saturday at 8am to pack up my car.

I should have known better than to teach right up until the end because of course that meant pulling a packing all-nighter, complete with endless cups of tea and carrying of many heavy things.  Luckily when Mom and Allison showed up, I was bleary-eyed and twitchy but fully packed.  We crammed everything into two cars (and I mean EVERYTHING), and off we went!

Upstairs at Rick's Cantina, one of THREE bars in my building.

(Quick sidenote: my mom and sister actually came to my yoga class!  After both of them, in different contexts, had vowed never again.  My mom walked up to the desk and stated firmly "I've decided that I will stay for half an hour," but she actually made it through the whole class, and finished with a smile on her face)

After some GPS-related setbacks (I'm rapidly realizing that I really ought to invest in a map, because sometimes my blind trust in Lee my GPS guy is sorely abused), we arrived in Harrisonburg.

We found the bars that I knew I lived above, but not the door.  My landlord wasn't responding to my texts or calls, and neither was the one roommate I had already spoken to.  So while my mom and sister went to check in at their (disappointing) hotel, I had my first of many, many helpful encounters with a Harrisonburgian. 

I tell you what, their motto "the Friendly City" is an apt one.  One of the bartenders took the time to get in touch with my landlord, figure out how to get me into my apartment, and took me up the long and windy staircase to my new abode.  Where I met my first and, for 24 hours, seemingly ONLY roommate...

...who also loves all human food.  Hummus?  Banana smoothie?  Raw goat cheese?  Sign her up!

So everything here is new to me (one of my new friends has said, delighted, "you're like a blank slate! You don't know ANYTHING!") and here are a few first impressions of the newness: 

Harrisonburg and Staunton are SO FRICKING ADORABLE YOU GUYS.

This is the sort of place where a total stranger will tell you in detail every business you HAVE to check out, leading you to the perfect little breakfast place that is ALSO cooperatively owned where our cheerful waiter is ALSO a yoga teacher. 

...and where I took my first & much-beloved Pittsburgh visitor, Anne Marie!

The sort of place where the mattress store is closed on Sundays "for Family and Faith," but the next day the owner tells you as you're on your way out "and give me a call if you need any advice since you're new in town - you know, places to get your car fixed, that sort of thing."

The sort of place where you can go to farmers markets every week year-round, markets with incredible seasonal produce.  At the Harrisonburg Farmers Market, the "ATM" is a little table where you buy these $5 tokens to redeem at any of the stands (which include anything organic or free-range your little heart desires.  It's so healthy a ladybug crawled out of my bag of baby kale.)


There are no Starbucks in downtown Staunton, but there are several independently owned coffee shops.  There are no Subways or Panera Breads, but there are little sandwich shops that list the local farms from which they source their produce on the menu or on big chalkboards.

I bought a "garden wrap" on impulse at a sandwich shop in Staunton and expected some lettuce and pre-chopped carrots wrapped in a cold tortilla, but instead I watched a sweet little college student warm the tortilla, carefully chop carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh green lettuce, sprinkle it with sunflower seeds and cranberries, drizzle the whole thing with olive oil and vinegar, wrap it up next to a little pile of potato chips and a single, individually wrapped pickle, and hand it over.

The foodie culture extends throughout the valley, sometimes in surprising ways.  Recently I happened upon a bizarre place called FoodMaxx.  It was Indian, Hispanic, Chinese, Korean, Mexican, name-that-nationality foodstuffs all smushed together into one enormous warehouse.  Check it out...

Tortilla Makers!

Frozen Dim Sum!

 Mystery fruits from Jamaica!

 Sixty different kinds of dried seaweed!

I've even had a few fun nights out (favorite-place-so-far Artful Dodger on Tuesdays has $2 drinks and live jazz and young folks aplenty) although something tells me when I missed a call from my dad and he said "you were probably out all night club hopping in Staunton," he was proooobably being sarcastic...and he had a point!

But of course I don't spend most of my days wandering around farmers markets and international food warehouses.  Instead every morning I walk up a wide carpeted wooden staircase (accented with an antique, thankfully no longer operational, elevator) to my own little office on the fourth floor of the Smith Center, where the ASC offices are located.

I lucked out big time.  It's a great fit to my skill set, everyone is so warm and welcoming.  My boss is awesome and supportive and shares gluten-free baking tips.  

 My first Playhouse tour...with a crew of middle school kids

And the first week, while I was sitting in this gorgeous space watching Romeo and Juliet and thrilling to words I hadn't heard onstage in so long, I realized something awfully obvious - I get to see great theatre all the time now.  FOR FREE!  I forgot how much I loved that feeling...to watch something so lovingly and skillfully presented and enthralling and think "Yup, I help make that happen."

I mean, obviously there are a few jarring moments to small town life.  I consciously choose quieter shoes for when I know I'll be walking through downtown Staunton because my heels echo through the streets.  

The first time I went to the Post Office was a little disappointing, since I had loudly clomped across downtown (admittedly, maybe five blocks) only to learn that when the postman is at lunch, the whole office is shut down.  For an hour.  A lot of stores don't even have registers, so when I buy a book or a Happy Birthday balloon I am handed a handwritten receipt. 

I think my favorite small town moment was when I went to get my parking permit for the lot across the street from my office - which costs me a mere $25/month (remember the days in SF when I would pay almost $200/month in parking tickets, which was STILL cheaper than paying for a parking space?)  In order to secure a parking permit, I had to visit City Hall in person - and they accepted only cash or check.

Me: So I can't set up an auto debit?
Friendly City Hall Lady: blank stare.

Harrisonburg is a little more young and hip (of course, relatively speaking) compared with Staunton, and one sign of the times is Bikram Yoga Harrisonburg, which I love.

Unfortunately, I have become the Heather Costello of Harrisonburg (love you, Heather!).  I am ALWAYS LATE.  The last class of the day is at 6pm, I'm usually working until 5:15pm, and it takes me around 40 minutes door to door.   OR I can wake up for 6am, which, HAH.

Just the other day I ran into the lobby, slammed into the locked studio door, cried "Oh no!" and luckily, Kendall heard me and opened the door.

Unwilling to lose the backbend I spent all that time on, I've started taking a few vinyasa classes to supplement my bikram, and that's actually been an eye opening experience - to be a relative beginner, forced to listen closely to the teacher so they don't say "Yes you, I'm talking to you" (um...not that that happened...)  I've said it before and I'll say it again...Bikram yoga will always be first and foremost in my heart, but cheating on him once in a while only strengthens our relationship.

This doesn't actually have to do with anything...I just found it looking for a good "cheating" gif and loved it too much.

Fun sidenote...Zeb called me on the "mm-hmm"-ing that started to pepper my class a little excessively, and my thus-far favorite vinyasa teacher does the SAME THING and it IS distracting!

I am also still teaching!  Every Sunday at 2pm you can find me there, telling jokes no one's heard before (whee!) and confusing students with some of my odd-to-them idiosyncrasies.  Good times.

Oh, and to round out the newness I got a new phone number.  My little brother made a good point when he said "most people change their number to the 412 area code when they move INTO Pittsburgh...?"  but there's a reason!

My beloved PIC Lori donated her iPhone to me before I left (and of course in exchange, now I text her all the damn time) and I switched networks because Verizon is the bane of my existence.  I got a temporary number which they said I would only have for a few days, but when a few days had passed and I followed up, it turned out Verizon had given me a "don't let the door hit you on the way out" sendoff by disconnecting instead of suspending my phone number.

No problem.  I'll just keep that temporary number as my new, permanent number.

But YOU GUYS.  This temporary number is hilarious.  Sample voicemails:

Hey Martin, this is Joe Sharkey.  Uh...we were just wonderin' if, by any chance, you might have my dad's circular saw...

This is Pastor Stephanie with an invitation for you for a SPECIAL meeting with SPECIAL healing teams to SOAK you in God's power and God's PRESENCE (that one went on for a good three minutes).

And then there's the text messages at 3AM in a language that google translate itself cannot even detect:

a chimwene anga, munganditumizire $100 kuti ndiyirandire dzuwa lisanalowe mmawa surtaday please penapake zandithina koopsa.  lkufunika 50 pin koma ka pamw ambako ndikhonza kuthamanga kombuno.  Ine PIERCE (NW).

I started answering calls from unfamiliar PA numbers saying "MARTIN DOESN'T HAVE THIS NUMBER ANYMORE.  SPREAD THE WORD." but it wasn't working.  I've finally figured out that he ran some sort of unofficial car service so a lot of people have his number.  It's slowing down but if you call my new number and I don't answer...don't be offended!

Okay, I think that's enough for tonight and I'm ready to sleep off the floor for the first time in three weeks.  Keep in touch...and Happy Thanksgiving! 


  1. Love that life in Staunton is treating you well - can't wait to visit! xoxo

  2. Hey Danielle - great to get a little snapshot into your life these days. Still think of happy times doing dance and Jane Eyre!!!! Take care xxx

  3. God I miss you! So happy for this blog. Even more grateful for the texts. Speaking of which, how are those wall walks PIC?
    Love u so darn much...