Outer Limits

For me, the act of marriage has proven, like most of the other disastrous acts of my life, little more than a hedge against any future lack of good material.

-Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

I've been trying to broaden my horizons lately - and by that, I mean I've added people to my social circle who live more than five blocks from my house or office.

There was a time when, if friends relocated from my neighborhood, I bid them a fond farewell, and the only subsequent communication we had was an occasional Christmas card (and soon, even that tapered off).

My friend Greg lived down the street from me for the past five years or so, for example. He's been there for all manner of minor crises (for example, shoveling me out of snow drifts, or bringing me back a cold drink from the grocery down the street) to the really major ones (sitting at the end of my bed, handing me kleenex and playing Lucinda Williams' CDs while I recovered from major breakups; he always insists I was huddled within a shawl in his version of events, and it's possible I was).

Now, he and his intended have bought a house in the suburbs.

I was a bad friend. I wasn't there on moving day (and I rationalized this by at least helping him pack, though I only had to walk about 30 yards to do that).

Still, it took me about three weeks to commit to the trek out.

I love them both. And it's no reflection on my devotion that I had to work my way up to this.

I knew I'd be contending with the Roundabout of Death, for example (a traffic massacre waiting to happen, mark my words).

We have roundabouts in MY neighborhood too - but they aren't two lane freeways.

I've been through it before and the way I handle it is to turn on my headlights, sound my horn, look both ways, and barrel right through the median.

The first time I went through it, I merged left - only to glance over barely in time to see the terror-stricken faces of a van containing a small soccer team whom I'd nearly inadvertently obliterated (they WERE in my blind spot, which is approximately 8 miles long).

That was close.

Given my lack of familiarity with the terrain, I got very specific directions - and even then, I had to constantly ask for clarification.

Like when he told me to "turn left on Dorcester," I had to ask where Dorcester was.

To which, he responded, "well, there's not a sign."

Reluctant to admit my confusion, I'm thinking to myself, "then how will I know it's Dorcester?"

Followed closely by, "how does he even realllllly know it's Dorcester?"

If there's no sign, isn't a name just kind of an arbitrary, zen sort of designation?

To be honest, once I arrived, I had a great time.

Though I can't imagine that ALL guests are treated as royally as I was.

I only had to ring the doorbell, and I was instantly greeted with the enthusiasm one might normally reserve for a world traveler, just in from Prague.

Libations were quickly brought. Snacks were offered. A sporting event on the wide screen tv was dispatched with one click, in favor of a movie channel.

I was given the grand tour and felt as if I'd entered a foreign country.

Whereas I wish my house could qualify as shabby chic, it would actually make a great center spread for a 'zine that goes by something like Urban Decay. Or maybe, When White Trash Settle.

A sofa on the porch has become de rigueur in my neighborhood (at a minimum), and at least one house on the street boasts a toilet on the "veranda."

(Those wily city officials sure outfoxed the likes of me when they railroaded an historic overlay through. Now the absentee slumlords have 1. Taken over, and 2. Stopped all repairs entirely. Exactly as predicted.)

So it was kinda nice to while away an afternoon where everything is new and clean and pristine. I noticed, with some envy, they even have these big ROOMS where they put their CARS. If you can imagine.

Of course, we did our best to ignore the faint-but-relentless tapping - which, we suspected, was a contractor who'd somehow been spackled into the sheetrock (they do build those things pretty fast) - but if you turn up the tv, you hardly even notice it.

The one thing everybody asks is HOW do I survive with a fake husband who lives in the suburbs? Well, first, because any good marriage thrives on distance. Second, he lives in the country, and there is a very distinct difference.

I can't be any more specific about it, because the last time I admitted he lived "past Man 'o War" he accused me of practically drawing everyone a map.

(I pointed out that California is also "past Man O' War.")

Trust me, even if I did, you still couldn't find it. I can't. I consider it sort of a point of pride that he still has to guide me in on the cellphone, sorta like a pilot, on the rare occasions that I actually go there.

And why would I? My house may rot right to the ground, but it is within three blocks of everywhere. It's a much more convenient base of operation than his place. Though, admittedly, I have fewer hair care products.