Sunday, February 12, 2012

Me Time

Yesterday I redefined shabbos as a break from what I usually do, whether that be the six days of labor or the seventh day of avoiding activities which occupy the other six days.  I took a day off dedicated to myself and my inner spirit.  This included a certain amount of Avot Melacha, and maybe stuff that I could have done today instead but yesterday was the better time for it.  Kohl's opened for pre-Valentines Day at 7AM so they were about the only place open when I started.   They were clearing out their winter duds so I picked up two winter hats, a new pair of leather gloves and a scarf made something that resembled wool but wasn't.  I really do not need any of these, having always lived in a place that has four seasons which enabled these acquisitions over time.  Moreover, I almost never have to go outside, my day beginning with a few meters walk from the front door to the driveway, followed by a parking space in the hospital's covered garage, then the reverse order home.  Even on shabbos, it is not far from the AKSE parking lot to the front door.  But this was a day of indulgence so for less than $16 for all the stuff I could not go wrong.

Next stop the new Panera Bread Company for a Mediterranean Breakfast Egg White sandwich which I ate there while wearing my new gray driving cap with the ear flaps tucked under and a large dark coffee which I nursed in the car's cup holder all the way to my next destination, Historic Cape May off season.  My GPS has  a bias for the Interstates but the official State of New Jersey Transit Map that I picked up a couple of years ago at a state highway rest stop had more inviting routes that I planned out the night before though I still got snookered off course by the GPS.  Since I had no other destination and both routes took me places that I had never traveled before, it did not matter much which road I drove on, keeping the map open next to me in the passenger seat which allowed me to reconstruct my preferred route as I traversed the width of South Jersey.  Like many of my previous day trips, the path there creates more interest than the final destination.  I think of the New Jersey of my youth, populated by cousins who failed to follow the rest of the family east to Long Island, a connection between Rockland County where I lived and Manhattan where I wanted to go.  Even now when I live literally minutes from the bridge that give me access, it is still a barrier to crossing the border at the other end to get where I want to go in New York.  It is rarely a destination for its own merits.  This time, though, as Route 49 took me through Salem, then Bridgeton, then Millville, finally making the rest of the ride along Route 47 which has its eastern terminus in the resort town of Wildwood with little else in-between, there was real farmland, a huge state prison without a lot of citizens nearby to object to its presence and as the shore loomed, some places that people might like to retire to.

Once nearby I again needed the GPS to find my way to the Emlen Physick House at 1048 Washington Street, the town's main attraction.  Cape May runs a year-round tourism project with a guided tour by trolley around town, which has been designated an historic site due to its abundance of Victorian style houses, some in lurid colors.  Over the years I've become familiar with old mansions, paying admission to acquire inspiration for what I would like to do with my house but haven't.  One of the observations that has always intrigued me but seems fairly constant from place to place is that the country squires who own them never really keep pace with the technical advances that develop while they reside there.  Despite the unquestionably prosperous Physick family staying until 1935, there was no telephone service, lighting was still done by gas, and there was no radio.  To maintain the many houses in town would take a lot of artisans but no body quite knows where they or their shops are.   There is a second mansion that I could have toured as well but opted to walk around town on my own.  Most of the places were closed but they have a pedestrian mall where some of the shops stay open on weekends so I bought a bag of Kosher-certified salt water taffy and had it placed in a box that resembled one of the town's Victorian structures.

By early afternoon I was a little hungry.  There was a sandwich shop near the lot where I placed my car, so I purchased by customary tuna hoagie, eating half there then half to be stored on the front seat for later.  Next stop, the Hawk Haven Winery nearby.  Finding it did not go easily as my GPS did not include any of the Cape May County wineries in its directory.  The girl at the Wawa who I expected to know a major regional destination was underage but one of the customer was not, so he pointed me in the right direction but it was still not easy to find, the vines being on one side of the street with the tasting room discretely placed on the other.  They hosted an advertised event of wine and chocolate pairing which made this the most crowded winery I've ever visited since the Bar Mitzvah class took their phony ID's to the Manischewitz plant.  The owner just brought his first newborn home from the hospital the day before so Grandpa and an employee held the fort.  Despite the crowd, it went well, though I think I liked the various types of chocolate squares better than the wine.  Next stop, en route home, the Natali Vineyard which also had a special event, a local vendor selling baked goods and a local artisan displaying and selling valentines candles.  The lady at the tasting room did not use a measuring pourer and had a generous hand.  The final two liquid specimens, intended for dessert included 15.7% alcohol versions of banana wine and port.  Upon departing, I took the second half of lunch from its wrapper and finished it before moving on the Route 47 for the non-stop return home.

Did I achieve my highest level of amusement?  Probably not yet.  I did learn a little more about me than I realized before.  First, I like visiting old mansions.  My house, built in 1967 and occupied by me since 1981 may have done a little better in some ways than the owners of the homes in Hyde Park, Winterthur, or the Emlen Physick house.  My house gets advanced.  A visitor to my place would find things in it that did not exist at construction time in 1967.  We have modern central air conditioning.  The antenna attached to the chimney came down with the last roof revision, to be replaced by cable transmission.  We have appliances that did not exist when we first moved in.  Somebody touring our house would find a flat screen TV of recent vintage, a small TV in the bedroom purchased around the time my daughter was born in 1983 and on my desk a 1960's black and white portable TV.  There are electric typewriters now obsolete.  There is a stereo with turntable and cassette deck.  But my house is not a museum.  As better devices come along, they find their way into how I actually live.

I also appreciate my time a little better.  As one of my six semiannual projects, I designate one day a month for a day trip to a place I have not been before.  Sometimes my time has to be truly mine, not a lot of it, but some.  It does not belong entirely to the patients and housestaff of Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, not to my family, not to the synagogue, or since that time may be allocated on shabbos, not even to HaKodesh Barachu.    Some measure of defined time has to belong to me alone, to be separated from other things that fall into have to do categories.  Yesterday defined one of those necessary dedicated blocs of  me time.

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