Thursday, April 21, 2011

Deja Vu on the number four bus

The number four bus in Charlottesville serves Fry's Spring, Fifeville, UVA, downtown, and a bit of Belmont.  It's the one bus that can get me to work on time, and while I prefer to walk or bike, I take the number 4 in bad weather.  In the early morning the bus is full and virtually everyone works at UVA.  There's a quiet atmosphere of people preparing to start their work day. Late mornings,  the bus is practically deserted.

I picked it up on Avon St. and we immediately turned down Elliot Ave and then left on Ridge, and right on Bailey Ave into Fifeville.  Here the houses are modest duplexes, well maintained with neat lawns, flowers and picket fences.  We turned onto Prospect Ave, toward the Blue Ridge Commons housing project and the duplexes got progressively shabbier, with weedy yards, cheap resin patio furniture, plastic children's toys and fences that look more like pens.  The snowy winter of 2009-10, I rode this bus a lot and was fascinated with this strip of houses, which got shabbier and shabbier, until the stop in front of Blue Ridge Commons, where there is the saddest house of all with a bare dirt yard and a few battered toys.

Turning the corner toward the nicely renovated Forest Hills Park, where a man in surgical scrubs pushed his young child in a swing, the houses start to look better.  We wind through this neighborhood, come out on Cherry Ave from Rockcreek Dr. and turn toward the hospital.  There's a quick loop around UVA and then it's back down Cherry Ave although this time the bus goes all the way to Fry's Spring in the southwest corner of Charlottesville.  Fry's Spring has a different feel from other Charlottesville neighborhoods.  The architecture is different, with cozy 1920's and 30's bungalows.  It looks like what I imagine older neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon look like, although since I've never been to Portland I could be way off base.  There are more trees, and even though it has hills, it feels low and sort of cuddled into the ground, whereas Belmont feels bare and wind-swept in comparison.

I can't remember precisely what streets we traveled.  I know the number four used to go north on JPA but not any longer.  After ending up on Cherry Ave (again) we turned down Shamrock Rd into Johnson Village.  I remember when we were first looking for a house in Charlottesville, my sister-in-law cautioned me that I would hate Johnson Village, and it's true that 1960's and 70's suburban architecture doesn't appeal to me, but while this neighborhood may have once looked raw, it has had forty years to develop mature trees and shrubs, and with the dogwoods and azaleas blooming, it is very pretty. It's also a good neighborhood for gawking at Christmas lights.

Surprise, surprise, we were back on Cherry Ave and looped through UVA once again.  In the newly opened Emily Couric Cancer Center, I spotted the same woman reading a magazine in the waiting room who had been there the first time we passed.  This time, instead of turning onto Cherry, we went straight down 9th St. SW and back into Fifeville, covering much of the same ground we had earlier in the route.  We passed Forest Hills Park again, and the same man in surgical scrubs was still pushing his child in the same swing.

And here we were on--wait for it--Cherry Ave--where we continued straight toward Ridge St. where it changes its name to Elliot Ave, and turned onto Avon St. to head downtown.  I got off here, and missed the last loop up Avon, to Market to Water to the transit center because I have covered that ground so many times on the other buses.

I appreciate that the number four stops in front of UVA at 06:45, but I stand by my rant that the number 3/6 should also do so.  ANY bus that stops at UVA should get people there before the start of their shifts.  I'm lucky that I can walk easily to a stop on the number 4 route, but not everyone in Belmont can.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Joyriding on the number three bus

The number three is my favorite of all Charlottesville's bus routes so I was looking forward to having another bus adventure. It becomes the number six after it leaves the transit center so you're going to get the 411 on two of C'ville's bus routes today.  The number three has had many changes made to its route.  It's good that the route departs from W. Main St., which is already covered by at least two other buses.  It's bad that it no longer can get me to work on time.  UVA hospital is one of the biggest employers in Charlottesville.  Shifts start at 07:00 and it makes me CRAZY that the new number 3/6 route stops in front of UVA at just after 07:00.  SO CLOSE, but not good enough.  Maybe office workers can stroll into work one or two minutes late, but I can't so the number three bus is useless as a means of getting to work.

I got on the bus at Belmont Park and after a two minute ride up Avon St. we pulled into the downtown transit center and became the number six.  The only street theater was a man in a studded leather belt gesturing furiously to the back end of the trolley as it drove away without him.  After a brief pause, we headed down Water St. and turned left onto Ridge St. and left again onto Monticello Ave and then pulled into the tiny circular driveway in front of the Crescent Hall apartments, where a woman with a wheeled basket that appeared to be loaded with white laundry got off.  I noticed an agreeable old-fashioned cemetery up the hill in the distance and wondered what it could be.  Charlottesville is so convoluted, with its hills and dead-ends and curvy streets that you can be less than a half a mile from the house where you've lived for over ten years, as I was at that moment, and still see something unfamiliar.   I was delighted when the bus, instead of returning to Monticello Ave, as it used to do, proceeded toward the old-fashioned cemetery.

I realized we were on First St. and the old-fashioned cemetery gave way to the larger one that you can see from Cherry Ave.  We scuttled across Cherry and into a housing project and at one of the stops I watched what appeared to be a drug deal from the safety of the bus window.  We turned down Lankford Ave, an odd little street with a fabulously dilapidated and apparently abandoned Victorian mansion sitting lonely among a row of sad little cracker box houses.

We considered buying a house on Lankford--another spacious historic house--that was on the market for $77,000 in 1999.  Daunted by the amount of work it needed and the sketchy neighborhood, we passed, but whoever did buy it fixed it up nicely and it's larger than my own house, so I always look at it with a little regret.

We turned left on the old Ridge St. which isn't wide enough for buses and we had to pull to the side every time a car approached from the opposite direction.  It's called Ridge St. for a reason and the houses cling to a precipice so steep that the rooflines are level with the street and instead of driveways they have concrete parking decks with steps down to the houses.  It must be hell to bring in the groceries.

The last time I rode the number six, we got to a certain point down Ridge St. and made a massive U-turn and returned to town.  Now, the bus turns left and the frankly low-class houses give way to the hoity-toity suburban structures of the Brookwood subdivision.  I was disappointed as I was quite looking forward to the u-turn which is such a crazy thing for a bus to do and so representative of the pootling nature of C'ville's public transportation system.  After a brief loop through Brookwood, we returned to Ridge St., where we stopped to let an elderly lady off directly in front of her house so she wouldn't have to walk far.  Charlottesville bus drivers are nice like that.  If they see you running for the bus, they'll wait for you, and they seem to know many of their riders personally.

Pulling up to UVA hospital, a loud roaring sound engulfed us and I looked out the window to see the sharply etched shadow of a helicopter and then the actual helicopter landed on the helipad, a few feet away.  I noticed Jon-- my very own husband!-- dapper and oblivious to the helicopter, walking down the sidewalk, apparently leaving work early since it was only 3:00pm.  A quick loop around the hospital and back toward Cherry Ave, and surprise, surprise, there was Jon again, on his motorcycle, directly in front of the bus.

Jon was headed home but we went downtown and I watched a woman driving a minivan with a Village School bumpersticker absentmindedly eat cheezits from a box next to her. Back at the transit center, we became the number 3.  A small group of gentle crazy people got on the bus and sat quietly dozing and we trundled down Water St. again and made the same left turns onto Ridge St. and Monticello Ave as we did when we were the number six.  I realized this was the third time we'd traveled the short length of Monticello between Ridge and Second St.  This time, we turned left onto 2nd and right onto Garrett St and then to Avon St and into Belmont.

I noticed a new vintage shop at the corner of Avon and Levy, in the building that used to be the Belmont barbershop.  One thing that Belmont needs--that Belmont has been practically crying out for--is a vintage shop, and now, like magic, here it is!  I can't quite remember the name of the shop--something Druthers--but I intend to check it out soon and you should too, if you live here.

We turned left into downtown Belmont--the only neighborhood in Charlottesville that has its own "downtown," in this case a block-long stretch of restaurants (all very high quality) and some small businesses.  I was too busy daydreaming about the north end of Avon St. becoming a fun business area with vintage and antique shops and maybe a boutique or two to notice my surroundings until we crossed Carleton Road and entered the Hogwaller section of Belmont.

The Sunrise Trailer Court may be shabby, but it has nice mountain views.

My out-of-town family had an adventure there several years ago.  They were visiting for Grace's first communion and wanted to hike the Rivanna Trail and started at the rugged section behind Belmont.  The incompetently executed trail map, did not include a reference to the CSX tracks that cut across the trail and as a result, my relatives got disoriented and lost and somehow emerged from the trail at the Sunrise Trailer Court where they wandered about the Hogwaller, confused, eventually stumbling on an Asian grocery store from where my sister called me and said, "I don't know where we are and nobody speaks English."  I realized that she must be in the shops near Cville Market and went to rescue them.  My family had been walking for a long time and assumed they were far from home, so they were a little surprised when I pulled up in the car about ten seconds later.

The bus wound up and down the steep hills of the "hogwaller" so-called, I think, because of the stockyards, from which animals do escape into the surrounding neighborhoods.  Belmont Park was once invaded by cows.

There are worse things to do on a sunny April Friday than to take a tour of Belmont on a bus.

After  descending to the bottom of the hill on Monticello Rd, we climbed it again on Druid Ave to Monticello Ave, and then turned left and descended the same hill via the nearly vertical grade on Altavista Ave.  And so to Belmont Park where I got off with one of the gentle eccentrics--a man wearing black shoes and white socks with pants ending several inches above his ankles.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Poxy Lady

Before Christmas I made a lot of noise about exposing Seamus to chicken pox and getting no results.  Today, he says to me, "Mom, look at my weird rash."  What do I see?  Pox.  Pox all over both arms. Pox on his back.  Pox on his left foot and he's complaining of an itchy head.  He insists that he feels perfectly well and he doesn't have a fever.  Indeed, he wanted to go downtown and hang out with his friends and when I told him he couldn't because he's contagious, he went up to his room and threw things around and slammed his door and said he hated me.  Which I took as happy evidence that he is not seriously ill.

I  updated my facebook to announce the presence of the pox in our house, and Seamus, outraged that I mentioned his affliction on facebook, got his revenge by hacking into my site and changing my status update to:

so heres the new 411  i just got new pants :)  lol wat a great day

And then I got revenge by blogging about it.  Merrily we roll along.  But the thing is, I did get new pants.  Fabulous new anthro pants.

New pants and now all of my children are immune to chicken pox.  Wat a great day.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Call me Alice

The other day one of my patients persistently called me "Alice" and I didn't correct her because I thought Alice was a nicer name than my own.  It was almost like becoming a new person.  I felt like Alice the nurse was free of all the unhappy nursing baggage that Aileen (my real first name) carries.  I could be calm and cheerful and efficient as "Alice" and not get overwhelmed and cry in the bathroom like Aileen does.  Alice would never accidentally knock her patients' cell phones to the floor or spill full cups of ginger ale or get her legs tangled in her patients' iv lines or crack her head against the overhead traction bars or drop the Percocets on the floor where they roll under the bed where she can't reach them or forget that she left her portable computer cart plugged in and walk away with it and pull the electric faceplate right out of the wall, to the great amusement of several bystanders.

I did an image search for "Alice the nurse" and this is what I got.

Cute, no?  I dig the cape.

I've never liked my name, which people always mispronounce (it's pronounced like "Eileen" and NOT "Ay-leen") only it's so wearisome to correct  people  that I don't bother.   On my unit, when we switched to computerized charting every nurse got a little laminated yellow star with her name on it, to put on our portable computer workstations and mine is spelled AILENE.  Whatever.  My mother had planned to name me Hannah, and at the very last minute--I believe I had already emerged into the world--changed her mind and went with Aileen.

Actually, I can live with "AY-leen" but I can't deal with "Irene," another common way of mispronouncing my name, and I am practically apoplectic over "Arlene."  Do I LOOK like I'm 68 years old and watch The Price is Right in a polyester housecoat?  PLEASE don't call me Arlene.

I've thought about going by my middle name, Elizabeth.  I feel like as "Elizabeth" I would be instantly chic, smarter, and ten pounds thinner.  But talk about getting sick of correcting people!  I'd have to move to another state.  My sister succeeded at dropping a name she didn't like.  Her name is Margaret, but we always called her Peggy, which, once she reached adulthood, she decided wasn't sophisticated enough.  She began to introduce herself as Margaret and now the only people who still call her Peggy are immediate family.

You'd think I would know better, but  I went and gave three of my four children difficult names.  "Ian"seems fairly straighforward, but there are people who think it's pronounced with a long I.  Or who hear "Ann."  When my father told my uncle that I had named my new baby "Ian" my uncle said, "I thought it was a boy."  "Brigid" also seems simple but no one can spell it--she's Bridget and Brigette on most invitations and birthday cards, and Beehive persists in calling her "Brittany."  "Seamus" is problematic.  It's the Irish version of James and it's pronounced "SHAY-mus."  If I hear you calling him "SEE-mus" I may have to hurt you.  Grace is the only one of my children without name issues.

Anyway, it was fun to be Alice for a day.  Do you think if someone randomly assigned you a different name, you would become a different person?