Move like that

30 06 2013

I get antsy.

I can go long stretches with a routine or an arrangement, and then. . . I get antsy. I toss things out, put some stuff into storage and pull other stuff out, and I move.

That used to be literal: Between college and the latter years of grad school, I moved on average of more than once a year.

There was that first year in grad school, with the screechy-horrid roommate who accused me of lying to her about. . . something, whereupon I decamped to a horrid, horrid apartment about 2 miles west on Franklin Avenue for a couple months. Then the woman who replaced me and the decent roommate kicked out the screechy-horror after she threw their kittens out of the apartment—they found tracks in the snow, but not the kitties—an invited me back in.

Oh, and there was Albuquerque, and that basement apartment that I had to leave after a week or two, into a room in the house of that nice, soft-spoken woman who turned out to be psycho when she wasn’t being nice and soft-spoken, then the duplex around the corner which my ABQ-cat Jomo broke out of with some regularity.

(Before I left Albuquerque, I found Jomo a home with a Los Alamos post-doc who wanted an indoor-outdoor cat. Figured he’d be happier on a ranch in the mountains than trapped in a Minneapolis apartment building.)

One place in Montreal, one in Somerville, then sublet in Prospect Heights,  room in Clinton Hill, apartment in Bushwick, room in Bed Stuy, and then, finally, my own place, in lovely Prospect- Lefferts Garden.

And this apartment is fine, it really is. I’d like a bigger place, but, for now, with my finances, this joint works out fine.

Still, I get antsy, and since I’m in no position to move, I move. . . my furniture.

It’s tough—small place, remember?—but I can shift around my desk and various wine-box shelves and swap out rugs. Can’t really do much with the bedroom: four bookshelves line the back wall, and while I have moved my bed NSE and W in the same position, it really only works where it is now (headboard south).

Anyway, I’m sitting in my living room watching Eureka (fourth season—new episodes for me) and thinking, Huh, I’d really like to change things up. But how? I’ve tried this and that and the other thing and, really, the way I had it was probably the best way.

Still. Antsy.

So I tried something else, that I hadn’t tried before. I don’t know if it’ll work, but, y’know, it’s the summer and I was antsy and I wanted to move and so I did.

My stuff, I mean.

And maybe, someday, my stuff, my cats, and me, into a larger place where I have many—or at least, some—different ways of how to arrange it all.

Darling what you have is enough

19 09 2011

I am trying to find my way clear.

More prosaically, I am trying to rid my apartment of unnecessary and unwanted things, and consolidating the rest into ever smaller, more tightly packed, containers.

This is a years-long process, one aided by moving (which I am not) and abetted by restlessness (which I am), and constrained by the dimensions of my junior one bedroom in lovely Prospect-Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn.

I didn’t really start getting rid of stuff until I left Minneapolis for Montreal. And, christ, what a vast amount of crap I hauled from Madison to Minneapolis to Albuquerque and back, and through all my apartment moves within Minneapolis. My friends bitched about moving all my boxes of books, but the real waste of their efforts was in moving paper and files I’d never look at again, clothes I’d never wear again, and assorted other nonsense that I kept for. . . no reason whatsoever.

I got rid of a lot of that when I left for Montreal, but, alas, not enough, a fact hidden by my beautifully large and sunny 2 bedroom apartment in that feline city. All that I had couldn’t fill that space, which seduced me into believing that all that I had was not too much.

I shed a bit more on my move down to Somerville and another large apartment—this time with storage space in the basement. Granted, most of what I kept in the basement were storage containers for the things two floors above, but, again, I found clothes to donate and tables to sell and books to give away.

The move to New York was. . . problematic in 18 different ways, among which was not knowing when I’d get my own place and thus, not knowing what I truly needed. Paid storage, the bane which appears a blessing, kept me in excess lamps, extra chairs, and the Buddha knows what else. Once I moved into this junior one bedroom in lovely Prospect-Lefferts Garden, I determined that anything which I couldn’t fit I wouldn’t fit, and as a result, got rid of those excess lamps, extra chairs, and Buddha knows what else.

Still, I tire of my things, want fewer things. The problem, of course, is that my desire to trim down runs into the recognition that I have already shed the easy excess, and that what remains may just be necessary.

Are all these books necessary? To me, for now, yes. I may at some point decide they are more trouble—and they are trouble, seeing as how they appear to multiply out of their shelves—than they’re worth, but now, today, I would be cutting off limbs to cart them away. (Okay, yes, there are some I don’t want and have designated for removal, but those are the few which will make hardly a dent in the many.) And my 800 or so cds? Well, shit, I have them, and while I haven’t bought any new ones in years and may never buy any again, that I haven’t put them all on my hard drive (and have no plans in the immediate future to do so), and that I long ago discarded the jewel cases and reduced them to two-and-a-half boxes, means that any space I’d save would not be worth all that music I’d be giving up.

Pots, pans, dishes—necessary. Clothes, shoes, jackets, hats and mittens—necessary. And while I stopped buying t-shirts, flannel shirts, or any oversized men’s shirts over a decade ago, my disdain for waste and willingness to wear clothes until they fall apart, as well as the fact that I’m pretty much the same size I was half a lifetime ago, means that I still have some clothes from half a lifetime ago. And I won’t get rid of what few business suits I have because, well, I might need to wear those damned suits and I don’t want to have to buy all new stuff.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. Clearing away the detritus of my undergraduate and graduate years was a pain in the ass, involving hours hunched over a shredder and multiple trips to the recycling bin, but akin to raking up thick layers of leaves on the ground. Then came the digging into the dirt, then the hauling up of stones and fill, and now, now I’m at the hard rock, chipping away, chipping away.

I need the rock, of course, can’t keep chiseling my way down to nothing—not yet. Someday I may be comfortable with nothing, but today I’m trying discern how much something is enough without being too much.

The secret to a long life is knowing when it’s time to go

5 09 2010

A friend is moving away.

Not for awhile—not for a year—but she is leaving.

I’ve got to get out of this city, she says, even as she asks, How can I leave?

Already, she’s missing it.

Already, I’m missing her.

I guess I can hope that she’ll change her mind, but her announcement isn’t a surprise, not really, and because it’s not a surprise—because what’s driving her away from the city have been there for almost as long as I’ve known her—I don’t think she’ll change her mind. It’s not a matter of saying These things you think are bad aren’t really that bad at all, not when these things are bad and not when, in the end, the bad things aren’t  the issue.

No, the city no longer works for her; she can’t live her life here. And so she must go.

I understand the impulse: it’s been pulsing in me since I was a teenager, driving me ever onward. I loved Madison, but never considered staying; it was my college town, and, defined as such, a transitional place. Similarly, Minneapolis and grad school. Albuquerque was a hideaway and I knew even as I didn’t know that the moment I landed I would depart. Montreal—so easy to love, and I did—but my postdoc was for two years, so there was no question that I was just passing through.

Somerville? Oh, no.

And New York? New York was always the holdout city, the one dreamt of as a teenager, the place I could never scrub from my mind even as I avoided moving here. Until I did.

This is the last place; where else could I go?

So I wonder about my friend, and how she can leave. I wonder this even as—still—I wonder where else I could go.

Part of this restlessness is plain unhappiness, dissatisfaction with a life to which I am ill-suited. I don’t think I will ever be rid of this dissatisfaction, that I my life will never suit me. It’s not that I nurture this estrangement, but that I distrust comfort; ergo, satisfaction will always decay into unease.

I have to remember this when I think about leaving. I cannot outrun the thermodynamics of my own existence.

But I also have to remember that even if there are no perfect places, there are better and worse places. For my friend, New York may be better than her (many) previous cities, but that a new city may be better than here. She does not have to be trapped by the grandness of this city.

And I wonder about that. I wonder if I could leave without feeling like a failure.

A year before I left Massachusetts, I visited a friend, in Madison, who grew up in the New York area and lived for many years in the city. She was about to leave for a job in the southwest, and when I told her of my plans to move here, she was wary. New York is a tough town, she said. Unhelpfully, I thought.

I now know what she means (even if it wasn’t what she meant), but at the time I took it as a challenge, as in, You don’t have what it takes to live in New York.

It was humiliating. And devastating, in a small way: How could New York City—my city, my last place—how could it not be for me, or me for it?

So I’ve been here four years, and I can handle it. But just because I’m not handled by it, I wonder, is this my last place? Do I stay to prove a point that does not in any way matter?

Could I do what my friend has done and recognize that this city and her life are not the same, and that the life matters more than the city?

I have to see that, whether I stay or go. I am staying, for now, for however long now lasts, but like my friend, I can’t let this place matter more than my life.

Where was I?

3 02 2009

Still happy with the apartment.

Still happy. Who’d a thunk I’d ever use that term to describe myself?


I took time off to move, and while it was good to have those days to sort my shit, it threw me off.

I have a routine. I may not particularly like it, but I do rely upon it. Last semester, it was Job3, Job2/Job1, Job 3, Job 2, Job 1, Job 1, day off. So, to have four days off in a row was a spanner in the works.

(I don’t know what a spanner is. I just like the sound of ‘spanner in the works’.)

Then, with the new semester, the routine changed up even more. I teach a third class, and ended (temporarily) the temp Job3 last week.

So, finally, the new routine is: Off, Job 2/Job1, off, Job2, Job1, Job1, off.

Diggin’ those days off, yet still adjusting to new routine.

Yeah, I know: radical politics, conservative nature.

Now, when to write. . . .


The bummer with the move was that stress so befogged me I was unable to enjoy the inaugeration. C. has a nice take on it at her blog, SoundofRain (link at left), so check it out.

And even though I’m creeping back into crank mode, I am still delighted to hear the term ‘President Obama.’

President. Obama. Fuck yeah!


Spanner: wrench.

And I thought it was some sort of sailing term.


Fuck Farhad Manjoo.

He had a piece awhile ago in Slate in which he insisted there was no reason not to join Facebook.

Apparently, not wanting to join is an insufficient reason.

Now, some of my best friends are on Facebook, so I don’t want to be trashin’ the ‘book. But. I have no desire to join.

‘You can connect with old friends!’ Yeah, well, I want to connect, I can look up their numbers. If I don’t have their phone numbers, there’s probably a reason why.

‘Old classmates can find you!’ And this is a plus?

I’ve managed to skip all of my class reunions thus far, and am not particularly anguished by my absence. No axes to pick or bones to grind: it’s just that mild curiosity is not enough to get my butt on a plane to SmallTown for an event which will feature food I don’t eat (i.e., meat) and music I no longer listen to. Yeah, I’d like to see LW and LdB and thank JK for one of the most excellent gifts a person could have given me, but, hmmm, if I were to see them, I’d want to see them. So, if the next reunion coincides with a visit, I’ll go. But otherwise? Nuh-uh.

Manjoo also states that privacy isn’t really an issue, given that a ‘booker can calibrate her privacy options, but what of the company itself knowing your business? And the guv’mint hasn’t had many problems getting tech companies to turn over records on its users to whatever master spies/doofus office grunts request them.

Besides, if I can configure my privacy options so that if you want, you can let everyone see essentially nothing about you, then why the hell bother with setting  up a profile, anyway?

What’s truly irritating about Manjoo’s piece, however, is the utterly unrecognized coerciveness of his call to Face: The site has crossed a threshold—it is now so widely trafficked that it’s fast becoming a routine aide to social interaction, like e-mail and antiperspirant. In other words, it is precisely because everyone else is using Facebook that you’re expected to do so. It is the inversion of  ‘if all your friends jumped in the lake. . . ‘ moral, in which the correct response is now ‘yes.’

Not going along with the crowd is no longer an option. Sure, you can trade e-mail addresses or phone numbers, but in many circles Facebook is now the expected way to make these connections. By being on Facebook, you’re facilitating such ties; without it, you’re missing them and making life difficult for those who went looking for you there. That’s right: it is now incumbent upon you to make life easier for those around you—and if you don’t, your life will be made much, much harder.

Okay, so not yet. But I think Manjoo is right, in that Facebook (and related technologies) will become as omnipresent—and necessary—as a phone. As I ranted to coworkers at Job1 the other night, such techs are coercive insofar as they demand their adoption to retain a basic social existence. Sure, you can go live in the boonies without a phone or internet connection, but try to apply for a ‘regular’ (i.e., non-day) job without a phone number. If you lack access to or knowledge of certain techs—like e-mail or antiperspirant—you jeopardize your standing in society. Hell, I got a cell phone because I found it difficult to operate in NYC without it—movers, landlords/rental agents, potential roommates, new friends, potential employers tended toward the incredulous when I said I didn’t have a cell. I consider myself lucky my jobs don’t require a Blackberry and that my friends humor my anti-texting stance.

But don’t I love my cell, now that I have it? Not really. The reception is worse than a land line, and even at the most basic PhoneConglomerate rate, I pay considerably more than I did for my old phone service. Sure, it’s convenient when I’m late or unsure of where to meet someone, but given that I managed to deal with these exigencies pre-cell, I’m not at all convinced of the absolute (as opposed to relative) necessity of the walkabout phone.

Will I capitulate on FB? After all, Manjoo argues that my friendships might ‘demand’ that I sign up. I don’t know. I once stated I’d never own a cell phone, given that there is rarely a political theory emergency ( i.e., that it was hardly necessary for someone to be able to reach me at all times), and now I carry the damned thing with me almost everywhere.

I don’t answer it, though. Loooove those caller i.d. and voicemail features. . . .

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’

26 01 2009

Yeah, much to say. Too tired to say it.

Went as well as a suck-ass experience can go. Amazing movers.

Everything now is in its approximate, if not final, place.

A recap:

Thursday, 2:00, then at 4:00, then Saturday afternoon:


It’s now, what, Monday night? Shit got shifted around, and it’s still a mess, but somewhat less so.

It’s not perfect—the bedroom floor is a bit spongy, and the bathtub is a ski slope (no drunk showering), but there’s plenty of heat and hot water, and best of all it’s MINE MINE MINE.

The joys of dictatorship.

Stupid with stress

21 01 2009

So I’m moving tomorrow.

Ready? Nah. Will be, though.

Have to keep telling myself that. I will be ready I will be ready I will be ready.

All the books are packed. The clothes. (When the hell did I get so many clothes? I don’t like shopping for clothes! And yet, there they are.)

Most of my kitchen stuff is still packed from the last move, so not much to do there. Ditto with rugs and towels and all that miscellaneous crap that I forget about until I have to pack or unpack it.

Have to pack the printer. Various bedroom stuff. Various office stuff. Pull the rubbermaid bins out of the creepy basement, the bike from the back yard, oh, the other bike from the creepy basement.

Easy. Really. Plants—got that.

No problem.

Of course, my sternum has been steadily contracting for a week, so that it is now bunched tight in the middle of my chest. And the movers—yeah, yeah, confirmed the movers, they’ll be here, really they will. Syllabi? I can do that Sunday. Filled out the address change at the Post Office, but my New Yorker, the bank, credit card, other jobs, whatelsewhatelsewhatelse.What if someone breaks into the old apartment and hauls all my stuff away? What if there’s a fire before I get home from work tonight? What if there’s a fire at the new place? Storage unit, don’t forget the storage unit. Credit card—do I have it? What about the cash for the movers’ tips? Do I have a number for a car to take me and the critters to my new place? What about the charger for my cell god knows that battery is shit. Where the hell’s my black agenda? JesusMaryandJoseph I had it Monday it was in the green bag didn’t I transfer it to the blue bag did I pack it where the hell is it it has all my access codes I don’t know my passwords to all my accounts what about the yellow index cards with the access codes where the hell is it did someone steal it did I throw it away ohmygodohmygodohmygod.

Yeah. I’m fine.

Movin’ on up

4 01 2009

Let the great apartment hunt of 2009 begin!

Yes, it’s official. I will ONCE AGAIN be moving. Lessee, that’ll be 1, 2, 3, 4, ah, my 5th move in 2 1/2 years. I’m about on the same schedule in NYC as my first years in GradCity.

I’m also almost twice as old and have more than twice as much shit. And I don’t have grad school friends who are willing to move me in exchange for 1) pizza and 2) a willingness to help them move. Which means movers. . . .

Sigh. Actually, I’m going to try something new, this time around. My last couple of attempts at both finding and moving into an apartment have been terrifically stressful—which made no sense to me, given how many (25? 30?) times I’ve moved. There’s nothing new to this: get boxes, pack boxes, find movers, move, unpack boxes. Simple.

But the last search left my stomach muscles bunched and the move itself led to a brain-crushing migraine that let up only slightly over the following few days. I would like to avoid that.

So this time around, I’m going to avoid all mention of the search and the move, treat it as just another set of tasks for the month. Hey, I don’t mention trips to the grocery store, do I? Making the bed? (Okay, so I bitch about grading and laundry and the cat box, but. . . pssshhhhht, let it go, all right? Allow me to pretend that I greet each day with equanimity—please?) Yes, I understand that talking things out can lessen the emotion around those things. I don’t understand how that works, but I know that, sometimes, it does.

But not always. My transition into my current apartment was difficult: however straightforward my roommate and I thought we had been with one another, it was clear that what each heard was not necessarily what each had said. This was upsetting to me, and I mentioned to a few people how unreasonable I thought she was being. Then I reconsidered: well, she probably thinks I’m being unreasonable, too. So I stopped discussing it, saying only that it wasn’t a good fit. The situation was tense enough; why feed it?

And then, at some point, things eased. Yes, behavioral changes on each of our parts were key, but I don’t know that I would have been prepared to accept those changes had I not stopped fulminating against her.

Similarly, in grad school: my adviser and I were not a good fit. Oh, at one point, I took too much pleasure in the thought of leaping over his desk and strangling him with his tie, but once I settled down, I turned my attention from him to the dissertation. He was polite, I was polite, and I got through my defense.

And the lesson is? I don’t have a damned lesson. Sometimes it helps to talk, sometimes it doesn’t. I couldn’t shut up about the last move, and had a miserable time, so this time, I’ll try the opposite.

In a few weeks, I’ll let you know how—if—it worked.