Thursday, June 13, 2013

Life in a small town

Really, I should just rename this blog, to something like The Small Quirky Town Route to Kona or Happiness or Whatever. Because I’ve been here less than a day, and am already racking up the charming little experiences that make life great.

But I get ahead of myself.

So, I’ve been in the process of moving into The Manor over the last couple of weeks. Having all my crap trucked here from Chicago, then my crap from Portland. The official closing was May 21st, and on May 23rd I was out here trying to figure out what to do about the (overgrown weedy) garden, and showing the fence guys where to put up Kona’s fence. One problem – the water had already been turned off. Damn, these people are fast!

So I went over to the neighbors in back of me to see if the fence guys could use their water spigot to mix the concrete. Lo and behold, I met the Most Excellent Debbie and Karl (MEDAK), who not only let us use their water, but Karl also drove me over to City Hall to see about getting the water turned back on.

As you would expect, dealing with City Hall was a long cumbersome process, being shuffled from one office to another, no one knowing who was in charge, being told the water shut-on would take weeks and I’d need to pay extra because it had been turned off, etc.

Wait. That’s big city life. It actually took less than 5 minutes, and they promised to send someone over in the afternoon to turn the water back on.

Anyway, during all this back and forth, not only did I meet MEDAK, but also the next door neighbors, Laura and her husband Dan. Where I learned about this quirkiness in marking property lines, that’s called “let’s put a penny in the concrete and call it a day.”

Yes, it’s true. When I asked my realtor Michael (who lives across the street from me, of course) about the property lines, his response was “oh yeah, the listing agent told me that there’s a penny in this concrete marking the lines.” Say what? Yet somehow this came as no surprise to anyone around here, who would just nod sagely when told about the penny. Okay then.

It turns out that the penny shows that neighbors Laura & Dan have a shrubbery and part of their garden bed on my property – so of course, in typical Chicago fashion, I plan to put up a 7-foot privacy fence bisecting their garden and so that I never have to see any of my neighbors.

Okay, that’s a lie – I really don’t care about the property line, especially since the penny cracks me up so much. Plus I like Laura’s husband, who said he’d take care of the problem by putting in a new penny. Now THAT is how a Chicagoan would do it.

I also love the fact that all my new neighbors saw my letter in the local paper, which I wrote after being enthralled by the actual parking meters all over the city. Faithful readers will know about my hatred of the parking meter sell-off in Chicago by corrupt and useless former Mayor Daley, and hence my delight at seeing actual parking meters here in downtown Silverton.

This is all well and good, but is all background bringing us to yesterday, a day from hell when I had poky movers taking all day to move my stuff in from Portland, a day ending with me driving around town to recharge my phone since I had forgotten my charger in Portland, and spying – what else – but a Russian and Argentinian food truck. Of course. I pull over, and find out that the food truck came here to coincide with my own arrival, probably just for that purpose. It’s been here 5 days to my half. There’s a woman working there, and 3 guys sitting at a nearby table.

I chat with the woman in Russian, and then her husband pipes up from the table.

Husband: So how long have you been in Silverton?
Me: A day. I just moved in today.
H: Oh! Welcome to town. If you need a plumber, talk to this guy here, and here’s my card, I do painting and contract work.
Me: Cool, I’ll probably need all of the above – I just bought an old Victorian on Pine street.
Plumber: Oh, you wrote that letter in the paper! That was really nice.

Well. My fame precedes me.

Plumber:…..and you should know the secret, that the locals don’t have to pay the meters.

I’m skeptical. Is this some Silverton initiation rite, where they feed new people this stuff to see if they’ll buy in?

Me: I’m skeptical.
Husband: It’s true, the locals don’t pay. 
Me: Wait, how….
Plumber: See, they don’t enforce them – with budget cuts there’s no one to give tickets, and only the locals know that. So the out-of-towners are the only ones paying the meters.
Me: Aha! Well, I’d still pay since it goes to the murals, but that’s nice to know if you’re just dashing out for a few minutes or don’t have change.
Plumber: Yeah, they still pick up the money – Dan collects it once a week – but no one gives out tickets.

Well. So there you have it. Not only does writing a letter to the paper mean everyone knows who you are (which actually reminds me of Wharton, where I wrote so much for the Wharton Journal that people would regularly greet me with “Oh, you’re the one who writes everything for the paper!” Hmm.), but they know the meter-change-collector by name, and you make instant friends.

Oh, and in a rare form of kismet or karma or what have you, I also seem to have been magically transported to one of the last cities in the country – if not THE last at this point – that still has penny meters

I’m going to like it here.

(Note: As I’ve been checking out places in downtown Silverton, I’ve been putting quarters in the meters….just because I can. Take that Chicago.)