I’d Rather Move Bodies

Have you moved recently?

Good, then you’re going to feel me on this one. Settle in.

I’m a freakin’ James Bond when it comes to moving. I’ve moved from one residence to another (both across-the-street and across-the-country) nearly twenty times. I’m good at packing. I’m ruthless when it comes to keeping stuff or dumping it. I’m organized enough to know what I have to do when, experienced enough to anticipate what I’m going to break or what’s going to be broken (who needs an air conditioner in June in Alabama?) and  cynical enough to understand that this isn’t going to be cheap no matter what (I break leases like I break hearts).

And the funny thing is, this has been an incredibly smooth move-in. Nothing horrific has happened. Sure, there’s been minor drama, but nothing that isn’t par for the course when you’re moving 32 boxes, furniture, and clothes up two flights of stairs into a place previously inhabited by four (four!) galloping pitbulls and their owners (my downstairs neighbors just LOVE me and my two cats, let me tell you).  But moving to a new state takes time, money, and stress management skills that unless you’ve done it, you simply don’t understand. For example:

1. You must expect to get ripped off.

Generally, people aren’t even doing it out of malicious intent. They just have 7,342,394,300 fees to charge you because it’s what they’ve always done. Applying to live here?  $50. Running a credit check to live here?  $50.  Have pets?  $200 (and that was a deal! With two cats, I should be paying $400 but the manager was super-sweet and let me do it for $200). Need internet?  That’ll be the monthly fee plus installation plus parts plus labor.  And don’t get me started on Huntsville Utilities charging me $300 just to sign up for an account. I’ll see half that money again in 2 years. I’m not holding my breath.

2. You don’t need all that stuff.

When I was leaving Florida to move back here to Alabama, I had a pretty clear policy: if you want my furniture, you can have it for free.  The caveat to this policy was that I was not going to help you move it. Disassembling and getting the furniture down the three flights of stairs was entirely on the person who wanted the free furniture. You’d be surprised how many people went “oh yes, I want your Mistress of Pain dungeon set!” (hypothetical) only to back out once they realized that they were responsible for lugging it downstairs themselves while I drank gin and tonics on the couch. I gave away a TON of furniture. Most of my furniture, actually. I had a few kind people who asked me “are you sure you want to give this away?” and I said “YES, PLEASE, JUST GET RID OF IT SO I DON’T HAVE TO RENT A BIGGER U-HAUL” and they were worrying about my sentimentality getting the best of me. I assure you, once you start moving, you will realize what you want to keep and what you want to give away because you have to pack that shit in a box and then lug that box across the galaxy. You don’t realize the value of belongings until you’re forced to actively deal with them. I lost so much stuff I feel like a lighter person.  It’s fantastic.

3. Moving is never quick.

I’ve been in my apartment since May 15th. Here are the things that I still don’t have: a bed, cable, internet, towels, a bathroom trashcan, dishcloths, a bedside table, a desk. And all my art is on the floor, unhung. I’ve been working my ass off to get my apartment “done”, and I’m just beginning to remember that when moving into a new place, YOU ARE NEVER DONE. NOT FOR A YEAR.  You have to order stuff. It takes two weeks for them to ship it. You can’t just get cable; they have to come install it. Etc, etc. When I hear about my friends who have plans to move into a new house over a weekend I have myself a nice long laugh, because their definition of “moving” must include “using our boxes as a coffee table for the next six months because Jesus fucking Christ this shit is never through”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I hate smug movers who assure you that their moving experience was done in a weekend. Yes, there are moving hipsters. No, I don’t get it.

4. Hire someone to help you move, or rely on easily guilt-tripped friends. You can’t do it yourself.

Moving from the rental house to Huntsville, I hired two guys who got all the horrible lifting done in an hour-and-half versus all day of me huffing and puffing.  It cost $200 including tip and it was the best investment I’ve made in the last year. Before that, I begged my friends to help me move with promises of Cracker Barrel and beer. That worked out nicely, too, and it costs almost the same amount (a little cheaper, but it made some fantastic memories).  Thank you, easily-guilt-tripped friends!

In short, moving is torture and I’m stress-eating. Don’t do it unless you love your apartment. I do.  But holy crap this mess THIS MESS.

Would you like fries with your vengeful ghost?

While driving to the store today, I saw a family in a graveyard by the Baptist Church.

They were in lawn chairs and grilling.

Now, it’s difficult to shock me, and my list of things I’d consider “gauche” is pretty short.  However, enjoying an Oscar Meyer wiener and playing frisbee amidst the mausoleums is one of them, particularly when there’s a perfectly nice, green park about five miles down the road that isn’t fertilized by the decomposing body of someone’s grandmother.  Isn’t that the perfect setup to a horror movie? Some hapless family has a picnic in a cemetery and the angry spirits of the restless dead rise up to smite them?

I’m trying to think whether or not I’ve ever done anything remotely as insensitive in a graveyard. Surprisingly, no. I’ve done ghost walks, of course, but they were all sanctioned by official historical society people.  I’ve done etchings off a farmer’s 1774 tombstone in a tiny little country cemetery in Tennessee, but I was quiet and respectful and didn’t drop a burger patty on holy ground.  There’s a difference, I think, between visiting a graveyard to tour it, and visiting a graveyard because you can work your Green Egg.  There’s a matter of respect.

I held my breath for the super-historical cemetery I walked past every day in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There’s an old Southern superstition to hold your breath as you pass by a cemetery lest the ghosts jump into you. I’m not sure what would happen if a ghost were to jump into you, but according to the tone of Southern tradition, bad things would follow. It probably wouldn’t be as awesome as anything Whoopi Goldberg could manage, just saying.

So it’s very strange to me to see people just… grilling away. I hope they had a good time and didn’t disrupt too many spirits.  That cemetery is only a mile from my house, and I’ve seen Night of the Living Dead way too many times (“There coming to get you, Whitney!”).

And related to nothing, the tips of my brunette hair are now dyed blonde, and I can cross off one of the things on my list.

Things I’d Rather My Parents Not Know: Part 2 of ?

Someone asked me what I was going to do when I finally move out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment. Now that that day is approaching, I’m formulating my plans. All the following will happen on the first Friday I am there:

  • Have Cheetos and wine for dinner.
  • Have cowboy shots of tequila for dessert.
  • Try to do Wii yoga.
  • Acquire mysterious and unexplainable bruises from the drunken Wii yoga.
  • Put on “Drive” and talk to Ryan Gosling’s ass the entire movie.
  • Start to build Lego Hogwarts.  And then stop after one turret. And leave the Legos out without picking up after myself.
  • Decide to learn Japanese. Look up filthy Japanese phrases and text them to random numbers in my cell.
  • Shower until I use up all the hot water because HAHAHAHA I OWE YOU PEOPLE NOTHING.
  • Wander around naked a while.
  • Talk to my cats in stupid voices.
  • Attempt to change my name on Facebook to “Whitney McCatlady”.
  • Get lost on Facebook for 30 minutes.
  • Pass out.
  • Wake up at 2am wondering why the hell Drive is on.

I think it’s good to have ambitions.

Leash Laws: Into the Wild in Alabama

One of the most obvious differences between life in Orlando and Northern Alabama is the wildlife. It’s not that Orlando was an asphalt wasteland devoid of life that wasn’t in a Mickey costume. I saw lots of wildlife. I saw it dead on the highway all the time, a menagerie of squished armadillos, various cranes that had taken a wrong turn at Tampa, and assorted flattened groundhogs. It was somewhat troubling that I’d never seen any of these creatures alive, but if you’ve ever driven in Florida for any length of time, you know that the odds of survival are against you as soon as you put a toe on the interstate.

My neighborhood in Alabama is brimming with creatures – and few of them are dead! We have the typical kamikaze squirrels, but we also have possums, raccoons, coyotes, deer, rabbits, and foxes. Our house is pressed tight against the woods, and the contents of the wild often spill out onto our property. The tall, green trees look nothing like the stunted palms of Central Florida. When I close my eyes and breathe, I smell sap, honeysuckle, and undergrowth – not the exhaust, dust, and waffle cones of the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

One other note about animals in Alabama? There are no leash laws.

This seems a minor point at first. If you’ve never lived in a place without leash laws, you just assume that everyone keeps their dogs and cats or whatever in a fenced yard. This is optimistic, but it’s not the least bit truthful. Dogs roam in packs over my neighborhood, and while they’re (currently) all friendly, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not expecting to have five other canine joggers with you as you do your evening run. When I was little, a less-kind dog pack roamed, and selling raffle tickets to the neighbors became something of a life-or-death situation as I torpedoed from the safe zone of a front porch to another, hoping to avoid the snap of canine jaws. It’s something to think about before you let Chester the Cat outside. And don’t get me started on the exotic birds.

Exotic birds? you ask. In Alabama? Well, yes. One of my neighbors collected them. Peacocks, emus, and guinea fowl. When he died, they roamed around the neighborhood for years; it wasn’t unusual to look out the window and see a peacock staring back at you, willing you to throw a piece of bread outside. When I learned to drive, emus chased the Volkswagen, pecking at the tires and flapping their useless wings. And guinea fowl? Are the stupidest creatures alive. They run straight into the car every time (I may or may not be lingering under the guilt of having hit a few in my earlier days).

There was also a beautiful parrot who was sometimes allowed to fly around the neighborhood. His owners assured us that he was totally fine and always flew home. He had the uncomfortable habit of looking in and squawking “touchdown!” whenever an actress on television took off her top.

So no, I didn’t have any of that in Orlando. I kind of missed it.

On Accumulating Stuff and My Zen Thoughts of the Day.

This weekend was a dust-covered, sweaty, mash-your-fingers-in-a-door-jam mess. The insurance company delivered about 30 cardboard boxes of cleaned items that had been pulled from our collapsing house last July.  There was a satisfaction in prying open box after box to uncover belongings that survived the fire (or… sort of… survived the fire), but there was also a lot of amused frustration.  “That damn painting,” I said as I pulled a truly crappy oil painting I’d done in high school from the box.  “Why the hell did this piece of shit not catch fire but our photos did?”

Mom had the same reaction to being reunited with her boxes of her fine china. “I was hoping these had broken!” she whined, pulling out a twee-looking teacup from the 1950s.  “We never used them.”

So now we’re planning an Ebay excursion. It’s not that this stuff isn’t treasured, in its own way: it’s that we’ve gone without it for nine months and forgot it existed. That’s how unimportant it is to us in the grand scale. She will mourn her Zuni pottery, and I’ll think fondly of my Playstation (may it rest in peace), but there is so much stuff that we’d collected along the way that we didn’t care about. It’s not really until you lose nearly everything that you realize how irrelevant most of it is.

On the plus side, I’m inheriting some of the extras for my new apartment. Uncaring that the sets don’t all have the same number of settings, I’m receiving a gorgeous set of crystal wine glasses, champagne glasses, and sniffers. That way when I veg out on the couch watching old episodes of House I can drink in semi-alcoholic style.

I guess what I’m saying is that no matter how much or how little you have, it’s easy to part with some fraction. Get rid of old things, and breathe a little larger.

Just don’t get rid of it with a house fire, because that’s ass.

How to Put on Makeup without a Mirror: A Conversation with Myself at 5:30am Today

“Stupid contractors… “HAR HAR WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO MEASURE THINGS LOL”. So here we are, all moved in to the new house, and we don’t have a single goddamn mirror. For how long? Ohhhhhhh I dunno. A month? NO BIG. Okay, this can’t be that hard, right? I put on makeup every day; I don’t need a mirror. I’m like BRUCE WILLIS. Does HE need a mirror to put on his mascara? Hell, no! He can do that shit with his hands tied behind his back and Russians shooting at him. So this ain’t no thang. I can do this.

All right, we’ll start easy and work our way up to the big leagues. Foundation. I’ll just put on a little, I guess, because I don’t want to look all cakey. All right. See, this is easy! I think. I’d better check my progress in the tiny useless mirror on my powder compact… see… all good here… nothing awry, all’s we— JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! What IS that? WHAT IS THAT? Is that a… is that a zit? Aw, crap, I need concealer for this. Ughhhhh undereye circles, WHY. Okay, focus. Concealer. Man, this shit’s thick. I’ll have to blend it to make this work out. Is that blended properly? I can’t tell with this crappy hand mirror.  Sir Zits-A-Lot you’d better sit DOOOWWWWN.  I tired of zits on my motherfuckin’ plane. God, I guess that’s blended.

Blush, now, so I don’t look like a plague victim.  Jeez. I guess I’ll go light pink? If I don’t blend that it won’t be so bad. This brush should be okay.  I’ll just dab a little on— there. That’s okay.

Eyeliner?  Do I dare…?  I DARE.  One-two-three-Cleopatra.  Bam!  I’M THE MAKEUP QUEEN!  BRING IT ON, MASCARA. COME TO ME, LIPSTICK.  Bring me your NARS, bring me your Urban Decay, bring me your huddled Smashbox yearning to be on my face!  NOTHING CAN STOP ME!

Oh man, running late… time to go to work!”

[ Sees self in mirror at work ]

“OH MY GOD.”

I'm so pretty.

I’m so pretty.

Looking through the Window

We had some unexpected excitement last night in the form of a prowler. Oh, how I sound so 1950s when I use that word, but there isn’t another that fits so neatly – he prowled. To be specific, he prowled onto the porch of our rental home’s next door neighbor and stared at their little girl through the window. She later claimed that he was watching her for five minutes, which ordinarily I would discount as the whims of an overactive imagination, but when he was illuminated in the stepfather’s flashlight, he stared right back at him for nearly ten minutes before disappearing back into the woods as soon as the police showed up. He was a Starer. Because it’s not enough to be spied on; it only becomes legit creepy when he doesn’t run off when you catch him doing so, right?. Continue reading