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I’m Baa-aak

May 16, 2021

Finally, like the wandering Israelites, I’m back after nearly forty years away. I am exhausted mentally, physically, and financially after this big relocation, and could live happily never moving again. I’m almost afraid to unpack, just in case I get the urge.

At some point I’ll share my mover horror story but suffice it to say that when you choose a mover, don’t choose a company that facilitates a move for you, then hires questionable subcontractors to move you, who then charge you thousands more dollars than you were quoted.  Hire an actual moving company that is invested from beginning to end. It was a hard, expensive lesson for me.

Thank goodness the best part was the drive across the country. My sweet son, Anderson, kept me entertained with alien videos, podcasts and his Italo disco collection. Italo Disco is something I can handle for a song or two, then the boom-ch-boom-ch-boom makes me go completely mad. I had to threaten violence at least twice before he finally resigned himself to playing some of the CD’s I’d packed for the trip.

Lyle Lovett’s Pontiac brought us together, but I think my favorite moment was when we bonded over “Let’s Get Excited” by the Pointer Sisters. I was impressed and only somewhat concerned that Andy knew all the words, but we really belted it out.

We drove an average of eight hours a day. We pulled out of Glendale at 4:30 p.m. fueled by Deluxe Quarter Pounders with Cheese and special sauce (ask for the sauce – it’s totally worth it!). Thank you Annie Z. for the gift card, it was most appreciated!

As we drove we watched the almost full moon play hide and seek behind the clouds. Our first stop was just outside Phoenix, Arizona after an hour of driving through construction at five miles an hour, then pouring rain. The area was prettier than I remembered and thankfully, gave us the only rain we hit on the entire trip.

Anderson looking pensive.

Next we headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico through gorgeous red and purple rocky vistas. We stopped at the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert in Arizona, which were both remarkable in their own way. It left me wanting to see more of Arizona and New Mexico. Sadly, we missed Winslow Arizona, where I wanted to stand on a corner, but c’est la vie.

The next night was in Oklahoma City. My apologies to you Oklahomans and Texans, but Oklahoma was a state we pretty much yawned through because the flat vista of I-40 never seemed to change. We saw a bit of Texas, which was also flat and seemed to stretch forever. Thank God, my friend Mandy bought me a ton of See’s Candy before we left. It took four pecan turtles to get me through this part of the drive.

Next, we made our way to St. Louis and stayed in an area called Wildwood. It was pretty and had a newly constructed town with cute movie theaters and restaurants, but there were so few people out, except for a plethora of very loud, obnoxious 13-year-old girls, we thought we were on a vacant movie set from hell. But my son met nice people in our hotel lobby and made friends, as he often does.

St. Louis was saved by my cousins’ newlywed cousin, Colleen and her husband, Matt, who bought us breakfast, and kept us entertained through the whole meal, fortifying us for our drive to Chicago. There are some people you meet and automatically love — Colleen is one of them. I look forward to seeing her again and getting to know Matt better!

Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Ilinois.

Then we headed to Illinois and stopped in Springfield to see the home where President Lincoln spent most of his adult years. It was a nicely restored part of town and worth a stop.

We landed in Chicago on Derby Day and got to spend two whole days with Brandon, Ingrid, and Ingrid’s folks – who got me so excited about the Kentucky Derby! Ingrid’s dad placed bets for everyone, so there was a reason to cheer. One of the kids’ cousins, who was not with us ended up winning. Of course the highlight of the trip was those two utterly adorable kids who call me Franma.

Brandon and Ingrid’s kitchen.

Their new home is unbelievably hip, with cool lighting everywhere! We were blown away by how beautifully it’s coming together. They are a dynamic duo of home refurbishing.

We got in Uncle Andy and Franma bedtime stories with the kids, and whatever weird character voices we could conjure up. We watched movies, played serious hide and seek at the playground, let the kids practice bike riding, and had great one on one time.

We even got to see Brandon play in a hockey game! Plus, since neither of us had really ever seen Chicago, we found ourselves so impressed.  We went to the lake and it was magnificent.  We never expected Chicago to be so gorgeous and so clean. There was so little litter, I was thrilled. Brandon attributes it to a good Midwest upbringing.  This visit was more reinforcement that we made the right choice driving instead of flying. I can’t wait to go back and maybe catch a game at Wrigley Field.

And speaking of not flying, may I say that my 2006 Honda Pilot was a true road warrior. God, I love that car! Not one problem, even with 186,000 miles on her. Investing my stimulus check in my car’s upkeep was definitely a good idea. We felt truly blessed!

And Topper, who just turned 15-years-old, made it across the country like a champion, sleeping on the back seat floor. That’s pretty impressive for a dog of 105.

Aunt Donna and Andy.

Next stop was Canfield Ohio to stay with my sister-in-law, Donna for a night. Bernie was off golfing, but his wife took great care of us. Donna made us a mommy meal of slow cooked chuck roast, mashed potatoes and veggies with a German Chocolate type cake for dessert.  It was all delish. We stayed up late talking and finally crashed.

Uncle Richard looking great!

Next, we HAD to stop and visit Uncle Richard, who at 91, is even more amazing. He is slightly bothered that he doesn’t have the supersonic energy he used to have, but I haven’t noticed much difference in his speed.

Finally, our last stop was Pittsburgh where we stayed with my sister-in-law Patty. My brother Bob, was also off golfing in a tournament, but it was a wonderful visit. We had no idea we were hungry until we skeletonized the prosciutto and mortadella appetizer plate Patty put in front of us. Then we got take out, which was delicious. We rehashed our trip, talked a bit, then crashed hard. I kept nodding off on the poor girl.

A gaggle of geese!

Andy flew out the next morning, and is looking forward to coming back to visit both Pittsburgh and Chicago. Patty and I got in a beautiful walk on the trail by their home and it was as good as May can get. That night I think I slept more soundly than I’ve slept in ages because the trip was behind me and I could finally relax. Plus here, I never have to worry about waking up to an earthquake.

Patty with the Burgh behind her.

I stayed with Patty another night, then headed to Harmony, the incredibly cute town I’ll be in until I figure out where I want to be permanently.

Harmony has a population of less than one thousand and is so adorable I can hardly stand it. Add in the fact that it’s May, my second favorite month back east (next to October) and you’ll understand my giddiness at being back.

I saw my sister after my first night in Harmony. We did some errands and she helped me wolf down a Wendy’s burger, then round it out with a salad. We ARE our mother’s childen!

I’m still kind of blown away that after 40 years, I can drive to see my siblings and their kids! I am quite certain they’ll all be chipping in to buy me a one-way ticket back to California soon, but for right now, it’s pretty great.

When I got to the apartment I’m staying in temporarily, Carolyn, my trusty friend of 41 years, her mom, sister, and brother made sure it felt like home since my stuff hadn’t arrived yet. They had lovely plants and chairs on the front porch, a table and chairs inside, red tulips in a vase, and a bed ready to sleep in! It was everything I could possibly need for my first few nights. It was so sweet, my tear ducts went into overload.

I currently live next door to a log cabin — a bona-fide log cabin that’s probably at least 200 years old! Someone was giving directions to my apartment and said it was right next to the log cabin. Problem is, there are about six log cabins in this town, so it took me a while.

It’s lovely here with flowers in bloom and weather making up its mind between cold and warm. I’m in a temporary apartment because the place I’m moving into isn’t quite ready. It’s going to be small, but nice and half the rent I was paying! I’ve already met the neighbor and she loves to walk, so I have a walking partner! And it’s only a half hour from Pittsburgh.

After my first night here I bought a local favorite, chipped ham. It’s pressed ham, sliced really finely that I’ve been addicted to since childhood. Staying healthy here will be a serious challenge.

The Weaver!

There’s a bakery, a weaver (in a log cabin – of course) an antique shop with at least seven things I simply must buy, a hippie store where almost everything is tie-dyed, lush green parks with bunnies hopping around, and a place that sells pierogie Christmas ornaments! (I know, I know, it’s always about the food!)

But humor me: Pierogies are eastern European filled dumplings that look like ravioli and are a delicious belly bomb. They’re filled with mashed potatoes, potato and cheese, sauerkraut, or prunes. They’re cooked in butter and onions, and are very western Pennsylvanian. At Pirate games, there are people who dress in Pierogie outfits and race across the field. Some things, you just have to see to believe. Here’s a link to the Pirate Pierogie page.

Fran in front of The Harmony Inn attempting a curtsy.

There’s even a church bell that chimes on the hour, a railroad nearby that allows me to hear that lovely, slightly mournful sound of a train passing through in the night. Plus, Harmony has a great restaurant called the Harmony Inn. Good beer, soft, warm pretzels, German food and, thank God, salads!

I’m sleeping better here than I slept in California. I chalk it up to finally being where I’m supposed to be.

  • Reply
    Nichole Bushéy
    May 21, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    How I miss you! You write so wonderfully, it left me wanting the story to go on. Enjoy every moment! Sending you a big hug. xoxo

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 23, 2021 at 7:31 pm

      Nichole!!!!! It’s so great to hear from you! Thank you for the wonderful message. Every time I wear those insoles in my sneakers (every day) I am thankful for you. I love them and wrote them a great review online. I hope it helped. I also hope you are doing well. I’m guessing you’re still working. I hope so! I am looking for work. It would be so great to just get hired back, but I’m not holding my breath! Pennsylvania is so gorgeous this time of year! I’m enjoying it and being so close to family is wonderful!

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    May 19, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    Glad you made your cross-country journal safely. Sounds like a fun trip! Once you get settled, let’s plan to get together somewhere half way between. It’s been a long time. Nancy and I would love to catch up.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 19, 2021 at 12:39 pm

      That sounds wonderful Chas! I would love that. I’ll look at the map and see what’s midway. Thanks for always reading and taking the time to respond. You rock! xoxo

  • Reply
    May 18, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    From a native California/west coast girl who has now crossed the Continental Divide, welcome home! I can’t wait until we can see each other. I’m glad you had such a wonderful trip with Andy. Harmony sounds lovely. As someone who lived “between” places for much too long last year, I commiserate with you—and of course, the mover horror story. It does not sound as if your siege on their office had a happy ending. Call when you catch your breath. <3

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 19, 2021 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Linda, I am still dealing with them and dreading every minute of it. But I am glad to be back. Just had breakfast with my cousin and Uncle Richard this morning, something I couldn’t do for years, so it’s been wonderful reconnecting. I have lots more friends and family to reconnect with — including you! But it’s a start. I can’t wait to take some roadtrips, particularly one to West Virginia! Hope to see you soon.xoxo

  • Reply
    The Seething Brain
    May 17, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Hey Fran, so glad to hear all is well and you are enjoying your new digs. What an adventure! Sending our best from L.A.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 18, 2021 at 7:34 am

      Camilla! Thank you so much. As I was packing, I found the marketing notes I started going through years ago for you (then never finished) and was overwhelmed with guilt. I am so sorry I fell down on the job on that. I mean it when I say I would happily go over anything with you, anytime you want, but you seem to be doing fine without any input from me 🙂 I am sending. a virtual hug to you and PJ.

  • Reply
    May 17, 2021 at 10:33 am

    So glad you had a great trip. Your presence is truly missed. However, it sounds like things are truly going to be great for you. Your beginning a new adventure and good things are ahead..

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 18, 2021 at 7:30 am

      Awww Burse! I am overdue for a phone chat, but have been crazed just trying to get settled in and looking for work, making connectiions, etc. But a chat is in our future. Thanks for the kind words. I hope our street is hanging in there. I didn’t get a chance to pick up the trash before I left and still feel guilty!

  • Reply
    May 16, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    Hey Fran! Glad to have you back on the other side of the Continental Divide and the same time zone.
    I know we will now be seeing more of you as time passes. Welcome mat out in Wimauma ( your probably like where the “F” is that !! )
    I can commiserate with your move as we moved 10 times ( not including a six month stint in Japan)during Duke’s 26 service years.
    Welcome home cousin! Love you, Jane & Duke

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 16, 2021 at 5:07 pm

      I like the sound of Wimauma. And I looked it up so now I don’t have to ask where the F it is! I would love to visit! Yeah, moving is rather hellish. I’m not sure how you did it and remained cheerful/married! I look forward to seeing you guys!

  • Reply
    Keith Sorem
    May 16, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Fran, Pam and would to FaceTime with you and catch up. Keith

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 16, 2021 at 5:04 pm

      Of course Keith! I would be delighted to do that. My last two months were a whirlwind of insanity, packing every day for hours. So, let’s plan it. Email me. I check my email all the time and it’s still the same one. We’ll figure out a good time and do it!

  • Reply
    Petrea Burchard
    May 16, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Your trip with Andy sounds like a great adventure, and I love adventure! You make me crave a road trip. I’m happy you fetched up in a place that makes you happy, and I hope the adjustment is easy as delicious pie.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 16, 2021 at 5:01 pm

      Oh Petrea, just do it! Everyone told me not to, said it was dangerous and expensive, but it was really fun. Just make sure you have the right traveling partner and go for it. You won’t regret it. So far, so good!

  • Reply
    David Isaac
    May 16, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Dear Frannie, We all want and know you’ll be back…..once your here it just takes a part of you that never goes back.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 16, 2021 at 5:00 pm

      Hey Dave, I hear ya. There is something about the total acceptance art gets in Los Angeles that just stays with you. But I”m happy to report that, in Pittsburgh, and even here in Harmony there are people pursuing their art and I love seeing that! I will be back, I have a son there and too many friends to not visit again.

  • Reply
    Nicol Z
    May 16, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    My Frannie, I’m so sorry about your experience with the movers (apparently that is the one piece of info I didn’t share with you because we had the very same problem), but I am DELIGHTED to hear about the amazing trip and how good it feels to be where you belong. So much love to you and can’t wait to follow along the rest of the journey with you. xo

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      May 16, 2021 at 4:57 pm

      Sweet Nicol, yeah, it was a bummer. But live and learn. So happy to be back and to know I am within a drive of you! Can’t wait to make the excursion!

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