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.


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 ]


I'm so pretty.

I’m so pretty.

Move In Day

We’re moving into the new house today.

It’ll be memories returned and reframed, all right. Boxes and sweat and standing on the outside looking in.

Mom and I both smelled smoke for the first time in months yesterday. We smelled it for ages after the fire – some strange psychological combination of it searing our nostrils and our minds just supplying it in moments of stress – and yesterday, we both smelled it again standing in the doorway of the new house wondering if this one would last.

I’ve been collecting snapshots from July 18 to remember what happened. It seems important, somehow.

  • The initial news report that I reread over and over again at 2am in Florida waiting for my flight home, trying to make sense of what had happened. My mother was irritated at being called “his wife”, since technically she’s a homeowner as well.
  • Video One of the damage.
  • Video Two of the damage.
  • Video Three of the damage.

I watch those videos even now and I barely remember filming them. I’d been going on 50 hours without sleep and my house was a warzone.  Even then there was a need to document every last sensation, to honor it. I suppose the impulse remains even now when I chose to start a blog.

I’m very excited for the new house.  But I want to remember the old one, too. Even when it trembled and fell in front of me.

The Naming of Things: The House, Our House, Home

Well, we’re moving in on Monday, April 22, although we’ve been bringing over the lightweight stuff in waves for the past few nights. The house burned to the ground on July 18, 2012, so it’s been a little over nine months, and the house will be born. Reborn? I don’t know about the “reborn”, because this feels like an entirely new place. It doesn’t feel like ours, not yet. I went into it last night and I realized I was walking like I was over at a neighbor’s home. I didn’t turn on lights – I’m not used to it having electricity; for the last few months when I’ve visited I’ve navigated using the glow of a lantern. I had to ask where things were (“Where do I put the spoons?” “Where do the pillows go?” “I can’t figure out how to unlock this door.”) And when I left my belongings, I tucked them neatly in a corner to wait for me until we get our furniture. You know how much of a warzone my old room used to be in high school? Tornados would be intimidated by the mess. But it didn’t feel like my home to live in.

I’m sure that will change, although I’m not sure when. I’m moving into my own apartment mid-May, so I’ll only have a few weeks in the new house. And see – I’ve got to figure out what to call it. “The new house”. That can’t last forever. At what point does it stop being new? “The rebuilt house”. This phrase is accurate, but it takes a while to say and it trips the tongue. “Home” is ideal – but I’ll have another home in the valley in a few weeks.

Only three more nights and I’ll sleep in– no, I’ll write it. I’ll be home. I’ll be able to shower for longer than 10 minutes. I’ll have my own bathroom that I won’t have to share with three other people. I won’t sleep a few feet from my brother and be woken up every night. I’ll be able to watch television without disturbing the entire world. I’ll (eventually) unpack. I’ll have drawers! I won’t have to carry around my shower stuff like I’m in a college dorm.

It doesn’t seem like it’s finally happening.

On another note – while the house is nearly done, a few unfinished eccentricities remain: we have no mirrors. I have no idea how I’m going to do my makeup in the weeks to come before they’re hung up.

Is That You, Bed?: Looking for a New Bed and Why It Sends Me into Palpitations

Last July, all my “real” furniture burned in a house fire which claimed the entirety of my parents’ home.  They lost everything.  I lost scraps.  On the whole, I wince over everything of mine that was destroyed and move on… with the exception of my antique bed.

Oh, losing that bed hurt. It was at least one-hundred years old, and had been in the family that long.  Constructed of sturdy, massive oak, it was a canopy bed that matched a wardrobe like the one the children disappeared into in The Chronicles of Narnia. I had inherited it in my room when my mother decided she wanted to lighten up the furniture in her bedroom.  I didn’t want that bed in Florida – getting it up three flights of stairs would have been hilarious – but I had plans for that bed that were all shot to hell in the end because the bed was kindling for the fire which vaporized the house.

So while I have always designed my future apartment home in my head around that bed, now I have to start over. Woe is me, right?  It’s such a silly thing to fixate on but I can’t help it. Beds are important. You spend 8 hours of your life in them every day (sometimes…).  And I can’t decide what I want.  So here are the beds I’m considering:

  • The Laredo: “Hi.  Although I’m a sensible iron bed that you can lug up your stairs without inducing heart failure, I have a soft steampunk flair!  I’m not frou-frou and have a unisex industrial vibe, but I don’t really understand why you’re looking at me, because weren’t you into French Country just a few years ago?  Nevertheless, you are drawn to my sleek lines.  Forget the French, baby.  Sleep with me.”
  • Ashby Sleigh Bed: “They say I’m a rustic pine sleigh bed, but you know the truth, don’t you?  You’ve slept in a patch of poison ivy before. That shit is rustic.  Me?  I’m smooth to the touch and I won’t alienate Robert Downey Jr. when you finally succeed in breaking up his marriage. I can go either way, Whitney.  I know I’m crazy-expensive, but don’t you deserve something classic like me?”
  • Forest Canopy Bed: “I’M IN A FUCKING FOREST!!!! 8D 8D 8D”
  • Churchill Wing Bed: “I’m not going to waste your time. You can’t afford me.  You can’t even afford one-third of me.  Get your trailer park aspirations down to Belk’s, kid, because you’re smelling up the wrong side of town.  I may look like Kathleen Hepburn should lounge on me, but even she’s too low for my swaying cradle of exquisiteness.  Oh, I know, I’m neutral and a statement-piece. I’d eat your boyfriend, if you had one. Which you don’t, by the way, because you’re going to die alone.  But wouldn’t you like to die on me?  Wouldn’t I be an amazing death bed?  …did I mention you can’t afford me?”
  • Rangeley Bed: “I’m boring, but safe. If I were in a movie, James Marsden would play me, which is a shame, because in nearly every movie, you’d always choose James Marsden over the other guy, right?  Chicks, man. I don’t get it.  But anyway, you’ll probably buy me in a fit of panic because you can’t make up your mind and I’m inexpensive, but it’s cool – I’ll break in an inopportune moment. Revenge: it’s served cold.”

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