The Pit of Despair 

The shitshow of in progress packing in my dining room. Find The Beast.

Ooof! This packing game is so very, very, very painful. I am not liking it at all. No. Not at all.

To be sure, I was not expecting to enjoy this part of the “journey.” I am on record as one who totally despises moving. I have infamous antipathy to the picking up all of my stuff and transporting it en masse to a new destination. A little of my stuff? I’m okay. I like to travel. But the whole enchilada? “Hatred” does not do my emotions justice.

So much is my aversion that I have avoided moving for nearing 26 years. Yet, and herein lies the rub, in order to stay here–where I want to be for the rest of my life–I need to physically exit the space so it can be remade.

Oh, the sickening, sickening irony.

This move has unfamiliar complexities. In the past, I’ve just moved. Still hated it, but it was Point A to Point B. This equation has a few more hops. Point A to Point B, Point C and Point D simultaneously with a return to Point A.

First, what to move? While everything needs to move, much will be placed in a temporary deep freeze. So I’m marking boxes with things that we can suffer without for the next few months and with things we will need. This includes crossing seasons. Ugh.

Then there’s a set of things that are in the in-between on my hierarchy of needs. That which needs to be protected. Anything that is susceptible to scourge. So photos, all cloth-based goods, and some Christmas perishables. Then, there’s another category of goods: where things will fit. The spaces available–basement, garage and temp house–are not like a Harry Potter magical tent. They have physical requirements.

Alas, I am just a Muggle.

And, boy, I’m not even an above average one. I completely disgusted myself by attacking the room that was once known as The Office until it degraded into The Locker.

Sure as I was that the meaningless piles were all detritus of The Spouse, I was chastened to find those dust encrusted boxes were actually my own. Untouched for twelve years, forced via the pressures of time and neglect to barnacle underneath the beomouth of my old dining room server and attach to the wall like the lost sailors who became one with Davy Jones’ Pirates ship. Pieces of my own, forgotten past lives.

Letters of offer from before Bear was born, paperwork of praise and raise, and fastidiously folded physician folios from forgotten afflictions were scattered among paper clips, my father’s old stapler and other things unseen by human eyes for a decade and a quarter. Undoubtedly, other, smaller eyes did pass among the ruins. But not ours.

I was ashamed. It was as if I was moving though my parents’ home, discovering the madness of laxity, of ignoring the progress of inaction, of the results of indifference.

I hung my head and imagined being draped in sackcloth, my cheeks rubbed with ashes. I walked into the other room, winding my way around misstacked boxes, tripping on the upturned edge of the rug.

“I’m sorry,” I said to The Spouse. “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Now, to the next pile, to the next box , to taping them shut and marking their destination.

Poster Child

An amazing kitchen with a back wall of windows, white subway tile walls and green cabinets on the bottom and upper open shelves surrounding a stainless steel hood.

Don’t try and lie to me. I know. You stopped at the picture, didn’t you? And you were wondering. Weren’t you?

You were wondering if I found this image on Houzz or Pinterest. Maybe that I posted it to share elements that I’d like in my own kitchen. Could be that you were wondering if you Rip Van Winkled, maybe that you fell asleep for a few months and the project was complete.

But I bet that you weren’t wondering if this was an image from a new rendering tool that was used experimentally on our project. I bet that you weren’t thinking that there is some whack technology that morphs design and products all the better to view with some fancy 3D phone goggles.

It’s like the best CGI–so that it looks real. It’s proportional. It has the fixtures and cabinets and colors that we selected. I’ll get the entire 3D experience when I go to the office and use the goggles. This newfangled technology brings sketches to life.

Right now though, I sit on the subway and open up the image on my phone. I zoom in and pan across. I imagine opening drawers, and I stretch my mind to stack my plates on the open shelves. I think about where I will pour my coffee, on the right counter next to the appliance garage and below the shelves where the coffee and tea will sit.

I fancy the positioning of the dog bowl on the slate floors, underneath the dog food cabinet, of which they’ll be one. I dream about looking out those big back windows at my new trees and watching the morning birds flit between them and the evening fireflies sparking up the grass.

In my reverie I may miss my stop. But I’m in my happy place. That place that gets concocted in my head–where the physical drawings and the computer generated imagery gets animated into a dream sequence that generates warmth like it’s coming to life.

And it’s just a made up picture.  I don’t have apples in a bowl or a pitcher full of milk. It’s pretend. At least for now.

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Dumping Carol

A car load of computer equipment to go to the dump.

On the twelfth day of moving my basement gave to me

  1. Twelve old shirt boxes cycled from pajamas and button downs over Christmases past.
  2. Eleven million spider victim carcasses webbed across pretty much everything.
  3. Ten busted picture frames.
  4. Nine moldy sport bags.
  5. Eight disgusting wooden crab mallets.
  6. Seven printers spanning a history from dot-matrix to ink-jet. (somehow not a one thrown away)
  7. Six kiddie vehicles like scooters and skateboards and skates.
  8. Fiiiiivvvve C. P. U.’s.
  9. Four sets of old bathroom rugs.
  10. Three boxes of Playstation 2 games.
  11. Two screens–a monitor and a portable black and white TV from college.
  12. And a Hafler amp salvaged from an old theatre rack.

The chorus was followed by a trip to the dump and a de-accumulation achievement.

Modern Love

A Honeywell thermostat on an orange dining room wall.

We have an old house. You know that. And we have old things in this old house. Old switches. Old locks. Old tiles and cabinets. Old plumbing and electric. But times have changed. 

I was looking at our selection sheet, and I saw that a price came in for the in floor heating for the bathrooms and kitchen. 

I know, right?

We are mostly keeping the radiator heat in the house. I like how the radiators look, and I especially like the non-arid heat they supply. They do, however, take up space. 

Our new home design isn’t lavish. We are not having workout room sized baths. So gaining some wall and floor space by heating from beneath the tiles is a good solution. And anyway, warm toes coming out of the shower sounds delightful. As does toasting my stockinged feet in the kitchen as I wait to pour my coffee on a January morning. 

So I’m looking at the option and saw that it came in under the allowance. Yay! And then I noticed that it has a wifi option. Turns out that I will be able to get that heat party started via my phone. Not only can I program it to meet our standard heat seeking needs using it’s touchscreen thermostat, but I can also override via an app. 

And did I tell you that our oven is also wifi enabled. I have no idea why, but I’m thinking we won’t be sorry. 

“Alexa, preheat the oven.”

“Okay Google, turn off that floor.”

“Siri, meet George Jetson.”

On Deck

Samples of Trek deck. Four shades, mostly blue gray.

We went window shopping. Literally. I fussed at the wooden window in its wooden frame. I flipped the catch back and forth and then back and forth again–maybe as many as fifteen times. The people behind me were amused.

“Are you trying to break it?” said the members of my team.

I turned my head toward them after another back and forth of the catch, “Yes.”

We looked at other windows and, while terrifically energy efficient and quite nice, they weren’t the ones. I didn’t try to break them. Wasn’t worth the effort since a quick look verified that I wanted the other.

The Spouse turned to the doors. Our window store was also our door store. That’s convenient. Turned out that I had selected a door online. I know this because the architect who had accompanied us to the showroom and was among those who I had amused with my attempt to foil the window told me that I did.

“Nooooooooo!” said I. “I didn’t choosed anything. I thought I selected a type of door and that I would get some options later.” I want a bigger window, and, anyway, the panels didn’t speak to me. I was mollified when my misinterpretation was reinterpreted. A quote on a door with more charm and more glass is forthcoming. Crossing fingers that the option on the extra wide door isn’t a budget buster.

Then there are the things that we are choosing that I never thought that I’d select. Things that I have absolutely no real opinion on. That is, no opinion until I have to make a choice.

Like the front and back porch. I never selected these before. There was a porch and a back deck when we bought the house. When we painted the porch, we stuck to gray.  And the back ambiently weathered to the color of old rope–more brown than gray with a dusty hue.

But new decking can last forever. Without paint. Without splinters. And now I have to choose. Our window and door store turns out to also be our decking store.

Who knew there were like twenty different choices–all of them narrowly grouped into two colors? Brownish and grayish. The browns ranged from sandy brown to a reddish brown. The gray from booger-snot to blue gray. It was easy to disregard the snot. But I still had nineteen to choose from!

To make things simple, I thought I’d just go with what we had, since it was fine. I took some samples home and placed them on the back deck and found one that worked. Then we sat on the front porch, rocking on our old people rockers, sipping cocktails and looking at the non-snot gray choices. I liked the one that was the most finished, that looked like painted wood. My logic was that the front porch shouldn’t look like a tree house.

Wait, so should the back of the house look like a tree house? Or should it be finished, too. I had been thinking that I wanted it more natural in the backyard. More like the trees and the grass. But was that because that was what I knew?

Blast! I was caught in the familiarity heuristic.

When the familiar is favored over novel places, people, things. The familiarity heuristic can be applied to various situations that individuals experience in day to day life. When these situations appear similar to previous situations, especially if the individuals are experiencing a high cognitive load, they may regress back to the state of mind in which they have felt or behaved before.– NLP Notes

The plan was for white deck railings to match the trim on the house, so why did I want to have an unfinished deck? Because that’s what I had. So it must be right. Except rocking with a cocktail shook up that cognitive bias.

And, really, did I spend all this time thinking about the deck? I truly did not know that I cared. Having a choice makes all the difference.

Pebble gray it is.

Permission Slips

The Beast--a substantial hound--overlooks permitting.

As I was gossiping with our project manager at their offices, the designer walked in. She was close to breathless. Her hair was mostly pulled back in a pony tail, except for wisps of hair framing her face. Looking again, it wasn’t just wisps. There were strands and full locks that escaped from her hair tie. Some were almost standing on end, as if she had been electrified.

Looking into her face, electrified seemed to make some sense. Her wide eyes were full of pupil, and she licked her dry lips. Recognizing there was a client in the house, she pulled herself up. But I saw. I could see that she was affected. She had just come back from the front line.

DCRA. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The city building permit office. The place where wait isn’t just another four letter wordThere are other four-letter words used there, too. All to no avail.

Building permits have a legendary status in almost every D.C. resident’s construction journey. I think this is true in other cities, but I can only speak for our own.

There are stories of waiting weeks, stretching into months, for a permit, lengthening construction schedules and forcing the visions of shiny new plumbing fixtures into an indefinite limbo. There isn’t a building professional who can actually watch the entire sloth scene in Zootopia. People who have been at the DMV may laugh and cringe, but for a contractor the super slo-mo stamping and the lethargic slog of unrelated sub-ventures is too real–and too painful.

There are mitigation strategies that are held closely by the successful contractors. Secrets that I have not been cleared to share, but that I have heard tell.  Suffice it to say that there are grovels involved, careful explaining and reexplaining and re-reexplaining of the same issue.

There are questions that are left hanging while someone decides that they need to complete an unrelated task in the middle of your transaction. The staffer disappears behind a wall. You might hear some disagreement, perhaps an upbraiding over who was bringing the cake for the Friday potluck and why wasn’t it being bought at Costco because everyone prefers that cake to the one at the grocery store and so what that the grocery store is more convenient, because this isn’t about you it’s about what everybody in the office likes.

Then there is the moment, the roll of the dice, the spinning of the wheel, the last card turnover to see if you have blackjack or bust. The moment when the person returns. Does she start again from the beginning? She might. Or does she simply stamp and send you on your way? Don’t look exasperated. Don’t seem impatient. Don’t show emotion. Don’t look hopeful, but don’t look bored. You have to show you care, a little.

We signed forms requesting our permits. We signed three different forms for two types of permits, and we authorized a private inspection service to save time that would be lost with the overburdened city inspectors. We don’t have to get the permits. Our designer does.

She had succeeded that day. She was a bit worse for the wear, a touch grimy for no good reason other than the experience causes impurities in one’s skin to surface. She grabbed a bottle of water and went into the design meeting. She was only fifteen minutes late.

The project manager was happy that he didn’t have to go to the design meeting. He was busy talking to a client–me. But I think he was even happier that he wasn’t at the permitting office. Just a guess.

I Fall to Pieces

One of the many boxes of legos.

Bear had done right by me when he cleared out his room. Per instructions, he left the books for me to pick through. And the Legos.

There were four or five plastic containers full of the red and yellow and blue and green and gray blocks. There were some block blocks–squares and rectangles. There were some windows that opened and closed. There were also a few doodads that could turn around like a faucet or maybe could be a flower. There were bodied and disembodied yellow heads to pick through. And an amazing number of little gray connectors that must have been from the many Star Wars and knights kits that were under Christmas trees and gifted for birthdays.

I found Legos to be a wonderful mindless manipulative. It wasn’t mindful for me, as I didn’t focus or concentrate on my creations. I’d sometimes make a color pattern, but, for me, it was always indeterminate.

The Bear and the Big Guy spent many hours assembling and disassembling roads, houses, towns and worlds. It was the journey of a Creator, trying different combinations, making evolution happen and then reshaping a next one.

There were kits that were constructed following the guidance on the box. But only once. After it was made, it was rejoiced and then deconstructed and the spoils added to the pile. There were no Lego trophies that were saved for posterity. Legos made fluid sculptures.

On Saturday, I returned to my boxing duties, back to the Bear’s room. I cleaned out the craziness in the closet. I don’t believe that the back of that closet was cleared out in fifteen years. Frankly, it was scarier in thought than in fact.

For some reason, there was a big pile of coins on the dresser. Next to the pile, there was a box full of even more coins, as well as with a bunch of little rocks. Why don’t people (in my family) recognize that nickels and dimes and quarters and, yes, even pennies, are money to be spent rather than items to pile. There was once a day when I ordered a pizza only to realize that I had no cash (before delivery took credit cards). I paid for the pizza with coin I conjured from pockets, under the pillows on the couch and from the bottom of my bags–even going to the closet to rummage through every bag I owned. The Pizza Hut guy wasn’t particularly jazzed, but at least I found enough silver to include a decent tip.

I picked through the rocks (why rocks in that box, too??)  and tossed them as well as a number of wires and quite a pile of empty wrappers that made me both relieved and a little shocked.

I parsed through the books, fondly putting some in boxes and others in the to-go pile. I soon found myself sitting on the floor picking through those Lego boxes.

I started tossing out the tiny green army men I found in one box. There was some nerf bullets in another and a fuselage of a plastic airplane. The dust in the uncovered bins was charring my fingers and making me sneeze. I started combing through one of the bins to shake out the chaff, the unique Lego plastic-on-plastic sound whistling as I shook through the box.

WHAT THE HELL WAS I DOING?

Seriously. What. The. Hell. Was. I. Doing.

I was spending fifteen, soon to be thirty and likely sixty minutes going through old toys. That had more than a decade of dust on them. I said I wasn’t sentimental and here I was. On the floor. Picking through junk.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Done. Said my sane self.

I took a photo of the boxes of little colorful blocks and posted them under FREE on my neighborhood listserve. I identified them as dusty and recommended running them through the dishwasher. In less than ten minutes I had a a taker. In five more minutes I took the two trips downstairs and to the front porch to await pickup. I had two more pings for them before I took the listing down.

I went for a beer and a sandwich and when I stepped on to the porch I looked down. They were gone.

And I’m good with that.