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The Eye by Barbara King

Beginning again, with boxes and bedlam

No one ever said moving was fun. But somehow, even after a couple of dozen times, I'd completely forgotten that.

September 04, 2003|Barbara King

There is good luck and there is bad luck. I'm sure it will come to me any minute now what my good luck is, but I can tell you right off the bat what my bad luck is: moving out and moving in. As soon as my plans go from the conceptual to the concrete, everything goes all wonky. My life suddenly looks like some lab experiment gone awry.

I've had my share of experience in moving, and probably your share, too. I've moved a shocking number of times, close to two dozen I would guess, and I am a bruised, battered and bewildered witness to the fact that it never, under any circumstances, gets easier. No matter how I plan it, whom I hire or don't hire, how many friends come with their chilled wine and good intentions, it's slow torture. The details change but never the big, mad picture.

First comes the warm and wonderful notion of a new beginning. My imagination takes glorious flight. I see a room in a magazine, a house in a movie, a garden/gate/door/terrace/window while I'm whipping along the streets of the city. And I want it. How much more right it seems! Or I simply grow weary of the place I'm in. It has run its course, as it were, and serves me no longer. This is the dreamy stage, the one I inevitably wish I had stayed in just as I've passed the point of no return, when the next lease is signed and the work has begun with all its wretched force. Woe is me.

There are no logically ordered second, third, fourth stages in my move. They all become a jumble, pretty much like the contents of the boxes now sitting in my mess of a space. This time, you see, I had the most clever of strategies. This time I was going to change the course of my moving history.

No scandalously expensive movers would come in and gouge my antique dining table again -- and my bed, my desk and most of my chairs. And break my lamps and collection of pottery.

Ach! Even the memory makes my stomach lurch. That move from New Mexico to California, when the driver got drunk, got a DUI, got his license taken away, drove on anyway with a drinking buddy, got to Carmel, didn't check out the tiny, tree-clogged streets, got the van hopelessly stuck, called a giant tow truck as the entire drama-starved neighborhood gathered to watch, tried to charge me, held my belongings as ransom, agreed to give them to me after the police were called, hired a guy off the street to help him and his drinking buddy drag (yes, drag) things across my floor until after midnight, left what they didn't feel like moving inside in the front yard, delivered boxes to someone else ... need I go on and make myself even crazier?

OK, where was I? Oh, right, my clever strategy: Use nonprofessionals, two brothers named Jose (yes, both of them, so already there was a certain economical, simplified air to things) who had done odd jobs for me in my old place and went about figuring things out in a calm, calming way. Perhaps they were calm and calming because they didn't speak my language and I didn't speak theirs, except for the most basic of words. Not understanding where the problems are or who's miffed about what goes a long way toward creating harmony and understanding, and definitely toward activating the very useful device of denial.

Later I asked myself what I expected, when I wasn't there supervising, just letting two sweet, earnest men try to divine my addled needs. I wanted my capable worker bees to pack a little bit each day, take it to the loft, unpack it, get it in place. I, Queen B, would then regally move in. Without breaking a sweat. So I chose not to notice the flaws in the system, and when I did catch a glimpse, chose to pretend I hadn't. The Joses had their own complicated lives, with family problems to be dealt with, other jobs to be attended to, and so there were gaps in the schedule that led to a rush during the last few days that left me with no gouges in my furniture but an entire mountain range of unidentifiable boxes forming a labyrinthine maze in my loft. With pencils wrapped in paper, but jewelry and glasses thrown in the bottom of boxes under toilet brushes and cleaning supplies, a handbag in the clothes hamper.

Night after night for a week or so, I threw myself a pity party, with me as both the hostess and the only guest. One of those nights, after the electricity had been shut off all day, and at an hour too late to do much of anything let alone rearrange furniture, I moved my large and heavy dining table (with all those old gouges! Ach! My lurching stomach!). All on my own (never serve drinks at a pity party). I felt the searing pain before I heard the noise. An entire leg of the table fell off and onto my foot. Across the dust-coated floor I hopped toward the bed with its one sheet -- I'd no idea where the sheets were, but probably with the towels, or maybe with the olive oil -- and lay there trying not to think evil thoughts or scream unprintable words.

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