traffic.

We got a tape of new Mommyheads music, and a phone call the very same day from Adam.

“I sent you a tape,” he said.  “I think we should stick to an EP.”

By that time I had learned enough about the Mommyheads and how popular they were, to know that I should be thrilled to put out whatever they gave me.  

“The songs on the tape are the ones I’m thinking of for the EP.  But it seems a little light for my tastes – so I might want to change it up a little bit, get something heavier on there.”

“Okay,” I said.  “I’ll listen to it this weekend and let you know what I think.”

What I think was, in this case, going to be irrelevant.  Adam could have sent me five songs of accordion and banjo music, and I would have put it on a CD if I could call it a Mommyheads record.

Sandy and I made a date to listen to it the following morning, which was a Saturday.  She really liked the Mommyheads, and in this case she didn’t want me listening to it without her.

When I woke up the following morning, I decided to run out for some donuts and coffee.  I pulled the car down to the end of Terhune Ave in Lodi, looking to turn left onto Main Street, to go to the 7-11 in Wallington.

And I waited.  And waited.

The volume of traffic on Main Street, at 8 or 9AM on a Saturday morning, was absolutely choking.  Eventually I gave up on making a left onto Main, and made a right at the first opening.  I scooted through the center of Lodi at a whopping 20 MPH, stopping and going the whole way, until I crossed under Route 46 and got to the Dunkin’ Donuts.  The parking lot was full, and there was nowhere for me to put my car.

I had negative vibes coarsing through my veins at this point – I was dying to go home and listen to the new Mommyheads tape, and I couldn’t even get to the stores, each of which were less than a mile from my house, without sitting in traffic.  

I got frustrated and drove home.

“I can’t fucking stand living here anymore,” I said to Sandy.  “I want to move to the country.”

“I know,” she said.  “It’s stifling.”

Sandy and I always had this idea that someday we would move to the country and buy an old, colonial home that needed renovation.  We had no idea what the hell we were doing – I couldn’t even install a closet organizer without filling my closet with giant holes – but somehow I thought I could renovate an old house.

We bitched for a while longer about the traffic, and one of us said “Let’s move.  Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

We talked it through for all of five minutes.  We decided that we could each handle a commute of 45 minutes, but that anything longer than 45 minutes was just too far for us to drive every day.  Since Sandy was working in Fair Lawn and I was working in Clifton, we were reasonably close to one another, and figured that anything 40 minutes west on Route 80 would probably be a good place for us.

So we grabbed the Mommyheads tape and got on Route 80 west, and listened.

The tape was filled with perfect pop songs.  One after another, clean-guitar, crisp electric piano, dueling, Beatlesque vocal harmonies.  The bass and drum work was also spectacular.  Each song was arranged cleverly, so complex – both lyrically and musically – and yet so simple and sing-song.

My only problem was that it was too short.  Maybe 20 minutes in total.  Just too short.  The band had wanted to call it an EP, but I had planned to ignore that idea and just call it a CD, provided I had 8 songs.  The old, long-playing record albums were 30-40 minutes long, with four songs on each side.  I could justify anything of that length.

We got almost all the way through the second listen, when Sandy looked at her watch and said “It’s been 40 minutes.  Get off at the next exit.”

The next exit was for Route 287.  So I got on 287 and drove North.

“I could take Route 287 to my office,” Sandy said.  I had never heard of Route 287.  But after a mile or so on the highway, I saw a sign for Boonton.

I knew Boonton, NJ, slightly.  The summer before college, I worked with my father’s company, and Boonton was one of the schools where we had sold janitorial supplies.  So I vaguely remembered driving to Boonton.

When we got there, we saw what looked like an active Main Street – a country Main Street, with old-style architecture, hand-painted signs, and lots of different types of stores, all meandering up a steep hill, from the top of which you could see the New York skyline off in the far distance.

The street was lined with antique shops, delicatessens, pizza joints, a couple of bars.  There was an old-style movie theater, an old Woolworth’s, a hardware store and a homemeade ice cream store.  At the top of the steep hill was a tattoo parlor and a used record store that had antique record players in the window.  A little further up the hill and there was a grocery store.  There was a beautiful, colonial-looking library, and one of the bars looked like it had a restaurant inside, with a decent menu.

At the bottom of the hill there was a main road that ran perpendicular to Main Street.  We hopped on that road and found a nice development of quaint little Cape Cods and mini-Colonials, with two schools smack dab in the middle of the houses.

“What a neat little town,” Sandy said.

“I want to live here,” I said.

We found a Cumberland Farms, and Sandy ran in and found the local newspaper, the Daily Record.  She hopped back in the car and, right in the parking lot, we began going through rental properties in the classified section.  And on that day, there was a decent-sounding apartment available.  From right in the car, Sandy called the number and made an appointment for us to meet up with the landlord and go see the apartment.

We grabbed a sandwich at one of the delis.  It was delicious.

And then we met up with the landlord.

The apartment was part of a five-family house, which was situated right next door to two huge colonials.  We pulled into the driveway, and the landlord – whose name was Al – was waiting in the driveway for us.

He showed us how the driveway worked, and that we would have our own parking space in the driveway, immediately in front of our door.  The second parking space would be just 20 feet away from the door.

Where we lived in Lodi, we had to fight for a parking space, driving around the block five or six times until a spot opened up.  This was paydirt.

Immediately inside the front door of the apartment was the kitchen.  It was a smallish kitchen, but we had a full-sized range (we had a half-sized range at our Lodi apartment), with decent appliances and about twice as much counter space as we had in Lodi.  So we could pull a carload of groceries right up to our front door, bring them inside the house and deposit them right on the kitchen table, without having to move far at all.

Off the kitchen was a living room that was easily as big as our Lodi living room (which was big).  Off the living room was a door that exited into a fenced-in courtyard that we would share with the apartment next door.  We imagined getting a little bistro table, and sitting out in the courtyard with Buca, drinking coffee and listening to jazz through the open window.

The apartment had an upstairs – two bedrooms (our Lodi apartment only had one), and a full bathroom that was about the same size.

“Two bedrooms,” Sandy said.  “We could get the Dromedary shit out of the kitchen, and we could make the second bedroom your office.  We could build shelves in there so you could have access to all your CDs.  And when the time comes, it could become a bedroom for a baby.”

I refused to even let that sink in.  I just said “That’ll be the office for Dromedary.”

There was closet space.  There was storage space, including a whole crawl space beneath the stairs.  It was perfect.  We took it.

In literally half a day, we had made the decision that we could no longer stand living in a congested area, figured out how long a commute we could handle, drove to the first town that was exactly the distance away that we could tolerate, bought a newspaper, looked at an apartment, and rented it.

Oh yeah.  And we listened to the new Mommyheads tape, four times – twice on the way there, twice on the way back – and loved it.  It was going to be called Flying Suit.

I have no idea why.

~ by Al on April 29, 2009.

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