More Packing

Packing has been slow going. When I was younger I could stay up late doing repetitive tasks like packing but now I haven’t the enthusiasm for it. I kept waiting for it to happen, that burst of get-it-done energy, but it never came. I planned for mornings when I could sleep in an hour or two, but no, it’s been the same slow pace all along: a few boxes a day, for weeks.

There was an almost-running–out-of-tape emergency, but I handled it with the plodding efficiency of the middle-aged, taking the opportunity to count how many more boxes I’d need, and taking the opportunity to get more packing paper.  I returned, repacked a few boxes in the basement, and got showered with mouse droppings when I pulled down the topmost box from a tall stack, but the reward was an old dish-pack full of paper. We won’t be running out of paper.
Over the summer and early fall, the dog Cherry has gotten old. It used to be that she’d stay close and always come when called, and then there were a few days where she seemed not to hear me unless I was pretty loud and making eye contact, but now she’s not hearing anything said by anyone. You can walk into a room where she is napping and offer dinner or treats or a walk and she doesn’t even wake up. You can open the door of her kennel and she may not come out. You can call her name from fifteen feet away, or five feet away and she doesn’t turn to you. She no longer seems to hear anything at all.


It must be strangely isolating to wake up in a silent world, and she seems hungrier and more shivery and worried than before, but also, she putters on our walks and is kind of disobedient. She eats weird stuff (I think it’s all poo of one kind and another) and takes her time about catching up with Captain and me, and takes shortcuts back to the house to sit and wait for us, rather than go the long way around.
It’s sad, because she now seems old and dried up and suddenly thin, and at 13 she is almost as old as any Vizsla we’ve had. She now barks more often with her gruffest, angriest loud bark, the one she used to save for very important things like strange kids playing in our front yard or an especially impudent squirrel.
Moving may be hard on her, and it will certainly be tough on the cat; he will have to be confined to a small bathroom while the movers are here loading. I have put yellow sticky notes on the empty cabinets (so I stop checking inside) and anything that belongs to the landlord.


I’ve had to go through the house and mark everything that belongs to the landlord with a pale yellow sticky notes that say “STAY” or “STAYS” depending on the grammar of my imagination as I scribble it. Sticky notes do not want to stick to dusty basement boxes. I will have to supervise the movers down there.
I got three estimates from local movers, the first and last came out similar in price and logistical considerations; both felt it needs to be a two-day affair. One offered one truck over two days, making two trips. The other suggested two trucks, loaded the first day and delivered the second.
The mover with the most expensive estimate showed up late and had more trouble rebooting his tablet (all three had Windows tablet problems of various kinds). He didn’t seem to count the boxes as carefully as the first or last one did, and he told me, “I’m not trying to sell you anything!” when he tried to sell me an insurance policy. He also commented on how many books we have; sure, we have a lot of books. I also have a lot of boots, but women are supposed to have a lot of boots, so he didn’t comment about the boots.


So I’m trying to figure out how to pack a musical saw and a fragile model of a human skull fashioned from flexible wire and the residents of TheFaraway Planet and about 40 bottles of cleaning liquids that the car nuts want to keep while the movers all insisted, “We don’t take liquids.”

We are all mostly water, movers. We are all mostly water.

Friendly Goodbye

Checking the mail in North Dreadful
Yesterday, I visited the North Dreadful post office for the last time to close our post office box. This transaction involved standing in line, filling out a form, and receiving $6.00 in cash in exchange for the keys. There was another customer there buying stamps for a big stack of invitations, which he had not counted in advance. Probably not more than 30 years old, the other customer had on long plaid shorts, large old school glasses and an interesting hat. For the first time since I moved here a year ago, this stranger in the post office seemed genuinely interested in talking to me, and I had to tell him that I was moving out.
The housekeeper is sad to see us go. Her opinion of the Landlordsis that they are “crazy.” She is incredulous that they can rent out the house and “make money on it” while the furniture is “all garbage.” There are slipcovers on the upholstered furniture, so until you take those off to wash them you do not notice that underneath it is indeed garbage.
The listing agent’s attitude about our leaving is a mystery to me. About 30 hours before the last big, bad storm here, she sent me an email:
I spoke to [Landlord] and he mentioned he might consider a reduced rent  month to month if you want to keep it for a while or until we rent it. Fall is so beautiful up there. 
Between the power outages and the loss of internet access, I was not especially keen to answer her. Furthermore, the lease on our new city apartment had started already, and I was busy dealing with problems there. I did not want to make a nasty reply, thinking it would not do anyone any good, so I thought I would wait until I could say something pleasant.
Almost exactly ten days later, I heard from her again:
Hi, I may have a showing for tomorrow  Tuesday morning around 10:30. I am waiting to confirm but will that work?
Our lease stipulated that we would get 24 hour notice of showings. This email had been sent exactly 26 hours in advance. I replied immediately after reading her message, saying that I was going to be in the city all day that day and the next,dealing with issues at our new apartment. I explained that my children were in charge at the Red Barn, that the dogs would bethere (in their kennels), and thathousekeeper comes on Tuesdays in the early afternoon. I summed up saying that it was not the “day to show it at its best,” and that, “Any other day this week or next would be preferred.
I had two replies. The first:
Hi, It is not my client and it is the only day she has her so I had better go with what we have if that is ok.
You have a new apartment eh. I guess you don’t want to take [Landlord] up on his offer to keep the house on a month to month if it does not get rented.
And the second:
Hi , They definitely want to see it tomorrow morning at 10:30.. I know you said it is not the best day but It is too difficult to get the other agent and her client at a convenient time for us so we have to go with the flow. Please confirm received.
At this point, I had Leveled Up to “Had Enough.” My reply:
I don’t know if you are trying to be funny here.
Your query coincided with our fourth or fifth prolonged power outage. I was hoping to reply when I could say something polite and positive, rather than be blunt.
 The neighborly North Salem you presented to us in the aftermath of Irene is not the one we have experienced this year. When the power goes out, the Red Barn is the only one on Mills without a generator, so while our milk spoils and we flush toilets with buckets of pool water, we hear our neighbors going about their normal days, generators humming away.
I am leaving North Salem with no local friends at all. The immediate neighbors see us coming and going but I rarely even get a wave back. The school made no effort to incorporate [child]into the class, and the PTA did not call to invite me to join. 
As far as [Landlord]‘s month-to-month offer goes, I spent the whole year feeling gouged on the price of rent here. Remember, you all teamed up to raise the rent once we said we needed to stay on after we were moved in. Had the rent stayed at the original rate for the full year, we probably would have signed on for another six months, at least. 
I have spoken to my kids about tidying up and being ready for the 10:30 am appointment tomorrow. 
I realized that I was not going to accomplish anything productive. I also realized that I had not been pleasant. Sometimes, though, telling the truth is irresistible. Her reply: 
Wow, I am shocked I never heard a peep about any problems. When I met you on the road walking the dogs you said all was great. I have lived here since I was a kid and we have never had power outages like recent times. People are just starting to get generators. Not all have them. As far as a “friendly” town all I hear and do are good things. I wish I had heard of your feeling isolated as I would have done something. Apparently a lack of communication could have been the problem. As to gouged on the rent?? We had been getting [more] in the past but dropped to go along with the market. As I said I don’t think your disatisfaction should have gotten this far.
I will be there tomorrow.
I have not truncated her message, omitting the “I’m so sorry you had this experience in my town.” My takeaways: I was supposed to somehow know that this year was unusual for power outages; she is “friendly” and so is her town; had I told her I was feeling isolated, she would have done something about it.

Packing

It has been too long since my last post. 
The movers came last Wednesday morning to start packing, a process which was scheduled to take two days, culminating in the loading of the moving van on Friday. My suitcases were essentially packed before they started, requiring only the final zip, but turned out to be poorly organized for the trip and too numerous for the temporary housing. 

“Crating specialists” were assigned to the task of packing the marble table-tops and one large piece of art. The pair of them showed up hours later than promised, leaving only minutes before we were expected at a good-bye party.  While I did not see it, one was observed injuring himself with a nail gun, and somehow they left without actually nailing together one side of the crate you see pictured.  These little errors add up to a lot of nagging anxiety for me, not because I was worried about the guy or even care about any one specific tired arm-chair showing up in just-as-it-was condition when we see the furniture again, but more because I really do not want to deal with a bunch of broken things and insurance claims.   

We did manage to get rid of an impressive amount of the old and no-longer-needed. The kids happily parted with  dress-up trunks and Lego and blocks and puppets. We donated another ten crates of books to the Friends of the Seattle Public Library, which brings us to a total around 25. They have big book sales up at Magnuson Park, and raise money for the library.   
Living for 17 years in a giant house with a full basement did nothing to instill any sense of discipline in terms of keeping things. So it has meant a number of dump runs and stops at Goodwill, multiple trips to Treehouse to donate beloved old toys, a trip with bunk beds to an organization that transitions homeless families back inside, and a visit to an agency that serves homeless teens (they got a pile of old, lightly used sleeping bags). It was certainly more work to find the right places for things, and in every single case we were glad we did it.
Of course, all this do-gooderism was only possible because we had a truck, and because we had accumulated too much stuff.  Here in New York in our temporary apartment, I do not have room for the clothes I brought, and pitched a temper tantrum about it when I tried to unpack.  I have a chance to make a new start here, and I am trying to formulate a new rule that something new comes in only if something old goes out.  But here, we cannot even separate our recycling from the trash–so I wonder how such a plan could be enacted. 
The bulk of our possessions is now in a storage facility in Connecticut, where it will remain until we have a new place of our own. I know for sure that there are boxes filled with books I do not need or clothes I will never wear.  I am going to have the chance to go through the same culling process here. 
Long ago, when we were still in college, my then-boyfriend and I took a big trash bag full of old clothes to the Goodwill or Salvation Army in Burlington, Vermont.  As we drove away, a belligerent and weather-worn woman near the donation station shouted pointedly at us, “We don’t need your fucking shit!” 
I think about her still.

Garage Sale

The last time I moved, it was 1994. We moved into the house we are now leaving, and did it with the help of a couple of friends.  This time, relocation specialists will be in charge, but we still have plenty to do.

Staying in one place for 17 years meant that we never had to be judicious in what we kept and what we got rid of.  We have a large basement that easily swallowed the dioramas, paper mâché birds, model boats, fishing poles, and old skis.  Our kitchen cupboards are home to our every-day dishes, two different sets of fancy china, some random old dishes, and a complete set of 12 place settings of orange stoneware.  When my mother died I ended up with those orange dishes and her collection of plastic Halloween pumpkin buckets, which I hung from the basement ceiling and pretty much ignored. 
Because we are running out of time, this was the only weekend we could hold a garage sale. I contacted some neighbors, and corralled some of them into holding yard sales on the same day, so I could advertise the event as “multi-family.” The forecast predicted the chance of rain for the day to be 80%.  In retrospect, I think it rained for about 80% of the day.
Given that the advertising had already run, and that we had no other day to choose from, we held our sale under a large tent in the front yard and up on our front porch.   My husband persistently grumbled, “This wasn’t my idea,” and had it not been for the arrival of a friend with lattes, it might have gotten even uglier.  
We priced everything as cheaply as we could: 25¢ for a whole basket of toys, free books, a free chair, etc.  While some things went fast and early, we didn’t sell anything after noon. The fishing poles went for a song.  A guy with no car walked off with the free chair on his head.  Our oldest son did manage to sell the piano, which made him extremely happy but made me kind of sad and tired.  All of the things I had really hoped to be able to unload (the treadmill, which is top of the line and huge; the orange dishes; two large plastic light-up snowmen), I would have parted with at any price, and each of these things is still here. Given the weather, there was no way to sell bed frames or sofas at all.
In the parallel universe where I have patience for activities like participating in Craig’s List or eBay, I might have found homes for a number of the items at a fair price.  In that parallel universe, I have a lot more time to take pictures of plastic Halloween decorations, my IBM Selectric typewriter sits on the desk of a ransom-note writer still fond of mid-1980s office equipment, and even the orange dishes go to the highest bidder.
In this universe, we drove the household stuff to Goodwill, and the kid-stuff will go to Treehouse.

No York

We have been let down by Delta Airlines in the past, so we treat them with deep suspicion. I can report that if you are on Twitter and make complaints about them there, @DeltaAssist will respond politely and promptly, and almost always more quickly than the grinchy incompetents they employ to answer their phones.  In fact, the only reason we flew Delta on this trip was because arrangements had been made on our behalf.  On our return to Seattle, we checked in at JFK Airport and the agent told us we had no reservation (she checked the wrong flight) and then told us we had only two tickets (all three of us were ticketed separately). I can say that over this long weekend, this tart check-in agent was a fitting spokeswoman for the attitude I have named “No York.”
To be fair, everyone we dealt with was friendly and upbeat and kind. We saw dropped toys retrieved by passers-by, we witnessed a group of friends applying a band-aid to the toe of their friend on the sidewalk, and we saw multiple people rushing to help a fallen cyclist on the streets of Manhattan.  Wading through a crushingly huge crowd of festive Puerto Ricans celebrating Puerto Rico day, we even got to ask a New York City police officer for directions. 
I discovered I was inexplicably able to hail a cab successfully on the first three tries, but can barely walk a straight line down a New York sidewalk. Also, I have blisters on every surface of my feet (probably because I can’t walk straight). At home I often walk three miles a day. I guess Manhattan’s sidewalks are harder.
We are working with a relocation company, and a set of professionals have been charged with the task of finding us a place to live temporarily, moving our stuff, storing our stuff, finding a place to live permanently, and helping us enroll our 13-year-old in a new school. So far, we have a temporary place to live. It’s a start.

Another Day

Two weeks ago, news of my husband’s resignation from Microsoft came from Brier Dudley’s article in the Seattle Times, and included correct and incomplete information about what he is doing next. Yes, he has accepted a new job. No, it is not in Seattle. No, it is not at a start-up. No, it is not in California.  The job is in New York City.

Some of my friends are disappointed we are not moving to California. Before we lived here we lived in California, and we loved it. What’s not to love? A thousand miles of beaches? Nicer produce in an average Safeway than is available anywhere in Missouri? Yeah, yeah, earthquakes blah blah blah, mudslides blah blah, wildfires blah blah. I have reasons to admire San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Los Angeles.  I think the people who have that mentality that “Northern California is great but Southern California isn’t” need to go find someone to argue about Klingon grammar with and stay the hell away from me. Oh, yes and they have traffic but you can’t name a real city that doesn’t have traffic.  
Given what Otto has done in his career, we were right in assuming we’d be moving back to California.  It just happens that we’re not. 

Despite an endless, damp, gray 50F degree winter in Seattle this year, I have few complaints.  We raised three kids here. We learned to ride horses here. We enjoyed a ridiculous amount of great music here. We lived on the very best street in the whole entire city, walking distance to four great restaurants.  We made some incredible friends here.

Of all the many places I thought I might live someday, New York was not one of them.  Nineteen years ago, I would have said the same thing about Seattle. Twenty-seven years ago I would have said the same thing about Salt Lake City.