Of all the reports written by newcomers to the Hudson Valley – I’m referring to metropolitans whose enchantment with life upstate induces them to give up their weekends and big chunks of money to invest in charming old fixer-uppers on romantic pieces of land – this one offers the reader a first-year account that could rival a sitcom. Bruce Littlefield’s Moving In: Tales of an Unlicensed Marriage documents the impulse buy of one such place here in Ulster County, made by him and his partner Scott at a time when neither of them was actually in the market for a second home.
Visiting friends at Mohonk who were thinking about buying a place in the area, Littlefield suddenly got the urge to shop: something that he seems to do as readily as walking down the street. When this guy sees something he likes, his mind goes into an “I want, I want, I want” mode that only quits as he’s dragging it in the door. This time, he talked his partner into buying the door and all that was attached to it. What ensues is a series of adventures in homemaking – and repairing and renovating, and everything else that such a purchase entails.
The fact that the couple made it through the year way back in 1999, dealing with lawnmowers for the first time and unreliable gas appliances and wild animals and even a fugitive, lends credibility to the soundness of their relationship. Marriages disintegrate over less.
Bruce and Scott were aided by friendly locals Immy and Jim, who helped them wrangle their garden into shape and also kept an eye on the place during the weekdays. They watched out for bargains and sales to alert Littlefield, who furnished the house with garage-sale finds. And they commiserated when things didn’t go swimmingly for the neophytes – such as having to deal with shady contractors who didn’t honor a contract or discovering an invasion of mice in the kitchen.
Littlefield spares no one of his sharp witticisms, including himself. While he borders on casual effrontery, dubbing people with funny names to match their caricatures as he perceives them, he also exposes his own over-the-top, sometimes-silly exuberance. Moving In is a full-on confessional of his own naïveté, his beginner’s ignorance of country-house management embellished in delightful, self-deprecating humor. What could have been a complete folly turned into the successful creation of a new way of life for the couple, as they settled in and became residents.
“I’m originally from South Carolina. And I didn’t grow up in farm country, but in a very small town. I love the energy of New York; but both Scott and I, our careers are so high-pressure – we felt we needed a place where we could dig in the soil and stretch our arms a little bit,” he says, describing their decision to live here. “It’s crazy. I have trouble deciding which color toothbrush to buy at the store. And then we looked at our very first house – it was the only one we looked at – we bought it.”
Meanwhile, he has developed a career and reputation as a “lifestyle authority” – shorthand, he says, for “know-it-all housewife.” With appearances on the Today Show, The View and the Early Show, Littlefield expounds on a broad variety of topics. He has written books about the joys of garage sales and Airstream mobile-home living, and his Bedtime Book for Dogs, illustrated by Paul Heath, hints at his passion for doggies and a dedication to animal rescue operations.
Moving In is Littlefield’s first attempt at self-publishing. With an already vigorous platform and a natural ability to market, he is expanding his options with this book. “This was my most personal story, and I decided I wanted to control things from start to finish. When you’re with a publisher, you don’t really get the choice of cover design, and they end up deciding the title. Where publishers do well is, like, with Barnes & Noble shelf placement. I decided to go the other route. I have an extensive list of local bookstores where I’ve done signings and readings; it’s an experiment, and it’s working out well.”
He says that writing a book is not the hardest part; rather, it’s how to get it into people’s hands. “I’m doing a lot of radio: a piece of cake. This morning I was talking in my pajamas – and I’ve been asked to do readings in Atlanta and Palm Springs.” Locally, Littlefield is lined up to host an upcoming event at the Rosendale Theatre on Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m., for the 32nd Asbury Short Film Concert. Featured selections of award-winning short films, including Oscar-winners, Best of Show winners from various US film festivals and international honorees, will be screened. This Saturday, May 11, he’ll be at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock at 4 p.m. to sign books and schmooze with fans. Contact [email protected] for more information, and visit www.brucelittlefield.com.
Bruce Littlefield, Saturday, May 11, 4 p.m., Golden Notebook, 29 Tinker Street, Woodstock; [email protected]