Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Last Train to Clarksburg

Even after four years of marriage, I still find that I can only go for about a week of my wife's absence before I start going into the I Miss My Sweety DT's.

I'm completely fine for the whole week and even kind of enjoy the semi-slobby bachelor lifestyle (as opposed to my usual semi-slobby married lifestyle). When the weeks clock ticks out, though, and she still isn't there the DTs hit hard.

Such separations used to happen pretty infrequently, but over the past year there have been more occasions for this as, being a third year med-student, she's been out of town on clinical rotations quite a bit. Usually these out-of-towners have only lasted for a month at a stretch and were near enough that she was able to come home on the weekends. Occasionally, though, they go longer.

This month, and actually for the next three months, the wife is rotating at a hospital in Clarksburg, WV. At nearly a 3 hour drive away, it's just far enough to make for an irritatingly long and questionably worthwhile journey back and forth--particularly for a gal who's supposed to be studying for her next round of board exams and needs to be using her time wisely. So mostly she'll be staying up there, only coming home every other weekend or so. Maybe less.

Last Friday afternoon, she phoned to say she wasn't coming home as planned. She'd had a late day at the hospital, hadn't packed and just couldn't summon the energy for the soul-sucking trek back here. In a pitiful voice, she asked if I would be too disappointed that she couldn't make it home. I must have sounded pitiful too when told her I would be. (The DT's had hit me a couple days early.)

"Well, you could come see me," she said hopefully.

Seemed a simple enough solution. I had plenty of energy, having spent most of the day sitting around the house doing ebay stuff. So shortly before 7 p.m., I hit the road.

The reason she is spending three months in Clarksburg is because we're shopping for a place for her to do her internship and residency next year. She has her eye on Clarksburg and wants to get the lay of the land. We'd originally planned to try and remain here in the Tri-Metro area on the grounds that we're sick to death of moving. In the past 12 years, neither of us has lived in one location for more than three years, usually less than two, and we're just tired to our very bones of hauling our shit around. Every time we do it, we swear we're never buying another stick of furniture nor any more abject heavy crap. Then, as soon as we're settled, it's off to the comic shop and junk furniture store we go. We've only been in our current house for a year and don't relish having to leave just yet. Moreover, we don't relish having to deal with moving our big ugly Army green gravity couch and have threatened that the next time it's moved at all will be to the front lawn whereupon it will be set ablaze.

Even with that weariness in mind, she has heard fantastic things about the residency program at Clarksburg's hospital. They concentrate on her specialty of family medicine and are apparently offer wonderful teaching environment. We figure if it will make her a better doctor more quickly to do a residency there, we can maybe stomach another move. It's far from a done deal, though.

Choosing a residency is a pretty complicated business. The wife has to pick her first choice of where to go and hope that the hospital she picks also chooses her as its first choice. Beyond that it gets really tricky and if you put down hospitals you really don't want to go to you can find yourself contractually obligated to go there anyway. At the moment our main choices are Clarksburg and TRI-METRO, though we're still not sure which order to rank them. She figures that a three month stint there will let her get to know everyone so that all parties involved can make an informed decision when the time comes to chose. From what I saw of the place this weekend it's still a definite possibility. I can't say I don't have reservations, though.

For instance, when I arrived in Clarksburg, I followed the wife''s directions on how to get to the student house. The house is located just off of downtown Clarksburg in an enormous neighborhood of Victorian-style townhouses that stretches up the side of a foothill. As I'm meandering through the narrowish streets of downtown, I'm noticing at least as many empty storefronts as there are active businesses. This is never a good sign in a local economy. Furthermore, many of the townhouses in her neighborhood are in less than admirable shape.

"I sure hope it's not that house with the smashed out upper windows," I thought. Then I saw the very next house and thought, "I sure hope it's not that house that's boarded up."

Turned out she didn't live in a townhouse at all. The student housing is in a California Ranch-style house built in the late 1960s. It's like walking into an episode of the Brady Bunch, particularly since there are like 14 students living in it at the moment. It has the whole angled wood beam lined ceilings, funky Buddha wall-paper, a wide angular orange worn velour covered sofa plus all the modern conveniences the late 60's had to offer (such as sliding recessed doors, pull out recessed towel rods, food built-in countertop food processor stations, etc). And while the place is actually in fantastic structural shape, there's also that distant yet distinct smell of mildew that began its life in the Johnson administration. In a word, it's Shagadellic.

Mrs. A grew up near Clarksburg and she explained the town's ongoing slow demise to me. The area used to be thriving community with a large number of glass factories that employed much of the population. You can tell from the architecture and design sense downtown that it was once a quite the bustling and vivacious city. However, the factories shut down some time back and the town has been slowly growing weeds ever since. According to Mrs. A, the little unincorporated community she grew up in nearby has been reduced to a gas station and a grocery store, when once it was nearly a town to itself.

It reminds me a lot of Memphis, for some reason. There are parts of it that are nice, sure, but a lot of it is kind of dirty and run down. (Actually, in that regard it's a lot like Town-C where I live now.)

It's a much larger city than I currently live in, even counting all three Tri-Metro towns. There are some great restaurants there with just about any kind of cuisine you'd care to have (except Indian, dammit). It has a comic shop, albeit a fairly sad one that's only open on Saturdays and is pretty much a pickup stop for subscription customers. (There's a better one in Morgantown.) And there are actual live radio stations in the area too, with local DJs. That's what I used to do before moving to a town without such stations and I still get the Jones to return to it on occasion. (And believe me, should I ever do so, I could just pick up where this blog leaves off for all the strange characters I'd meet.)

And in case I want to stay in the "liberry" field, there are a couple of those too. We even stopped by one to scope it out. It was much larger than the one I work in and very nice, (though I noted they're still using the devil program VTLS).

Such a move is still 10 months off, if it occurs at all. Who knows, though--perhaps it won't mean the end of my "liberry" blogging career after all.

All in all, though, I had a great weekend and some quality Sweety time.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.