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Moving day: the crushing burden of ownership

Don’t get the idea that I’m no longer a materialist, consumerist, capitalist dog; I am. Very much so. The events of yesterday, however, threw into sharp relief the old adage “the things you own own you,” and as much as I enjoy being swaddled in the trappings of our modern life, I now fear my jumbled possessions as well. Each one bears a tiny shackle which is strapped firmly around my ankle, or if you’re a sadist, my genitalia. They need attention, and I am their slave: services such as cleaning, organizing, cataloging, and the most dreaded of all – moving.

Moving just sucks, and everyone knows it. You spend all day transporting piles of things, some of which are very heavy, from one location to another, getting all sweaty and tired. You blame the things themselves for the inevitable stress this causes, as if it’s the heavy dresser’s fault you’re carrying it down a flight of stairs, as if it conspired with the toaster to make sure they both wouldn’t quite fit in the back of the van. Really, it’s not the toaster’s lease that ran out; it’s your own, and the toaster is an unwitting hostage to your mad scramble for tenancy.

I spent all day yesterday helping Laurel and Marta move into their new apartment, the basement floor of another enormous house on 20th Street. As a result, I’ve decided that I’m living in my current apartment for the rest of my life. I’ll spare you the details of the process, but at least a few things are worth noting, bulleted for your painless ingestion.

  • I learned that exactly one person in the moving team should be of the take-charge persuasion, and that person alone should sound the call to move the credenza a few inches to the left. Marta and I both tried to be that person; either one of us would have been great, but together we made each other froth at the mouth. Both of us are so used to giving orders and being in charge of things that we both shuddered to think of relinquishing control. I did so finally, given that it was her stuff we were schlepping around Seattle.
  • Laurel had her brother’s truck, which doesn’t have an emergency brake. We left it in first gear and parked it on the driveway’s steep slope, thinking that the engine would be enough to hold it in place. It wasn’t, but luckily Laurel was able to jump into the car in time to stop it from destroying anything valuable.
  • The girls have a lot of things: three pick-up beds and four minivans full of things, to be precise. They assured me that everything would fit in their small new apartment “somehow,” and I reminded them that while they were no doubt expert organizers, they were still constrained by the laws of physics.
  • The apartment itself is a mixed bag. It’s cute, certainly, and no one will argue with charges of coziness, but with those charms come some barbs. For one, the entire apartment is about 5 degrees off level. That may not seem like much, but it’s enough to give you a sense of vertigo when sitting on the couch, looking at the bookshelf cant 5 degrees to the left, and enough that the fridge door, once opened past the half-way mark, continues accelerating of its own accord until it claps forcefully against the side. When this happened for the first time last night, a dish of butter flew from its alcove and landed face-down on the linoleum. It was funny then, but I’m not sure how funny it will be in three months. For another, Marta’s room smells like feet, thanks to a fungal infection in the carpet. They’ve already ripped the old stuff out and are putting in new, but in the meantime all her belongings are crammed elsewhere in an apartment that cannot accommodate them. She’s using the common storage area as an overspill zone, which seems to be working for now. I just hope one of the upstairs residents doesn’t come down to do some laundry, see her dresser, and mistake it for public-domain furniture. Despite the flaws above, they’ll do great things with their small space, see if they don’t.
  • Carrying boxes and furniture makes a man mighty hungry. A box of donuts labeled “EAT ME!” sat in Marta’s living room, so I followed its instructions on most every return trip (there were a lot). Donuts are great for quick energy, but an hour or so later when my blood sugar drops I need something else, and fast. Luckily we returned to her house, and the donuts, on roughly that interval, allowing me to fulfill my obligations to both my pancreas and the cardboard lid. Marta bought us pizza and beer to finish the move, and we were grateful.
  • That’s how I spent Labor Day: actually laboring, in a much more real sense than the activity I refer to as “work,” from which I ironically had the day off.

    Also, Marta finally met my family, or at least the subset attending the Mariners game, on Saturday. Nathan’s family was in town for the weekend as well, and the resulting chaos (thirteen chattering humans in one room) overwhelmed her a bit. Things quieted down over dinner at Beso del Sol, a fantastic Mexican restaurant in Greenwood. My mom, Marta, and I all had two drinks (Pacifico, strawberry margaritas, and Dos Equis, respectively), and we got along famously. I think they like her, and Marta’s response afterwards was about the best I had any right to hope for, given what I know about my family: “That wasn’t so bad.” After dinner we watched the sunset in a little park on Sunnyside and 50th, which I recommend without reservation. They have a playground toy there with as much capacity for personal injury as any big toy I’ve encountered, and I’ve always considered danger an essential element of playground fun. Call me crazy, but if there’s not a decent chance they could break a limb, I don’t want my kids playing on it.

    One last thing: the weather in Seattle is, to use meteorological terminology, fucking hot. I’m sitting in my basement apartment in just shorts and underwear and I’m still roasting. I’d give anything for a fudgecicle right about now.

    Posted in Musings.


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