Evidence of EVOO in Alabama

My new boss sent me proof that you can buy extra-virgin olive oil in Alabama — it’s right up there above the Pam.

Craigslist Sure-Fires

A close friend let Lifelong NYer know that her recent posts are kind of sad.  

Well, not this one.  This one goes into sales mode.  As loyal readers know, LifelongNYer and Mr. NYer have been cleaning out.  We’re not thrilled with the process, but one of us, at least, doesn’t feel at all bad about letting go of stuff. 

Except for the guilt.  The trash beckons for many items, but other stuff is still good.  Someone might yet get good use out of it.  That’s why folks invented eBay, Craigslist and yard sales.  Moving the merchandise means marketing, so here are some stabs at positioning my goods to move.

Ancestral Monkey-Wrenches — pick-up only!

Motivated seller must give up set of family heirloom monkey wrenches.  You may not know the ancestors to whom these belonged, but ownership means you can claim them as your own family legacy!  Make a rustic arrangement on a wall (must be load-bearing), or use as ballast or to replace sash weights.  Goes great with primitive wood plane (available at additional cost).

Vinyl LP’s — too many uses to name!

Nothing beats the warmth of analog recordings, and nothing beats the true-to-life sound of recordings that were stacked on the turntable and played thousands of times even though the needle should have been changed.  Not man enough for sound that real?  Then consider how a short application of heat can turn these records into unique works of art!  The only limit is your imagination.  

Home Security System

Is your fancy schmancy home security system vulnerable to power outages?  Does your alarm go off so often that your neighbors ignore it?  Free yourself from the tyranny of the technologically “superior” security system by adopting the tried and true do-it-yourself home defender:  the baseball bat.  Dozens of bats available (Mr. NYer coached Little League), so you can have one for every room plus a bonus for your car!

Old U.S. History Books for Kids — No Revisionism Here!

With these stirring stories of Davy Crockett, young Abe Lincoln, the Rough Riders and others, your kids will learn that American history was made by white men — clean-shaven, nicely attired, hard-working, church-going white men — who stood on their own two feet.  Plus, they didn’t smoke, spit or swear.

Too Much Cleaning

We got a lot done this weekend, and I’m weary of the work. 

The sign went up outside the house on Wednesday.  No showings so far, but the realtor said we’d have a week or so to really get the house ready.  So that was the main task this weekend. 

By Thanksgiving, we’d already done what was necessary for staging the main rooms, getting baskets, boxes and piles of stuff off floors (doesn’t everyone stack belongings on their floors?)  The closets have been re-organized and decluttered.  Somewhat. 

The basement awaited.  We’d ventured down there last weekend, took a quick look around, felt unequal to the task, and escaped — quickly — after agreeing that a number of items, mainly old lumber, should be put out for the next trash collection.  On Monday, with the dreaded items in mind, I asked Mr. NYer if he needed help getting the recycling together — I’d be happy to tie up newspapers if only he took responsibility for the basement.  I asked twice,  but didn’t really explain my reasoning.  He said no, and I didn’t push.  Only later did I realize that he’d “forgotten” about the basement (which I didn’t mention, so I think we were in mutual denial).  Friday, needing some activity to work off Thanksgiving dinner, I decided the basement could wait no longer. 

Why do we save bits and pieces of old projects?  Why would I ever need the 30-inch piece of maple quarter-round once the toe-molding has been installed?  I know why I  kept the paint — it’s nearly impossible to get rid of it.  New York  City asks residents to dispose of old paint through evaporation, and put only empty cans in the recycling.  Evaporation?  I had over a dozen nearly full gallons of various shades, and it’s November.  Then there was the old vacuum that no longer worked.  An old flue pipe.  Chipped and overpainted old crown molding.  With nails.  I began sorting through it.

Between Friday and Saturday, we hauled and emptied and made piles  that will go out for the garbage collection on Tuesday.  I just hope there isn’t a limit to what you’re allowed to place at the curb.  Maybe we can put some of it in front of our neighbors’ houses.   Worse, once we’d cleared some open space, we saw the true extent of the dust and dirt.  Frankly, we rarely sweep the basement, and certainly hadn’t since replacing the old oil burner several years ago.  First I attempted a broom, but nearly choked.  Then we pulled out the shop vac, and pretty much clogged it up.  But between shop vac and broom, the basement isn’t nearly as scary as it was.   And my cough is getting better.  Thanks.

The once-and-future home of Soon-to-be-Abandoned, the large attic room, had been made presentable last week.  On Friday, though, Soon-to-be-Abandoned borrowed the SUV and began moving out of his apartment and back to the homestead.  He continued moving out of the apartment on Saturday.  Despite a stop at the storage facility to stow redundant furniture and cooking equipment, Soon-to-be-Abandoned brought a lot of stuff back to the now-unpresentable attic room.

Remember the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” in which every action leads inexorably to a consequence?  My house has become the physical embodiment of that, a kind of moving shell game where we’re trying desperately to hide the pea. 

Too many metaphors.  Sorry.

There were only way two ways to free up room for Soon-to-be-Abandoned to store his stuff. First, he had to clean out his old stuff from the dresser and closet to make room for the current clothes.  Next, I had to try to clean out space in the dark, dark room so he had a place to stash what wouldn’t fit in the closet, under the bed, or in the dresser.   The dark, dark room runs the width of the house under the roof with doors at either end that conveniently open into the attic.  Inside the dark, dark room is the central air conditioning equipment and ductwork, which cannot be removed.  Then there’s a trunk with, with … stuff in it.  I haven’t checked it lately and decided not to look at it today.  Assorted luggage is kept near a door too, and of course we’ll be needing those.  On the other side, I discovered an old stereo system, a telescope, several years worth of Guitar magazines, a rod and reel, and a fan — all items belonging to Soon-to-be-Abandoned.  Finally, there was my childhood dresser.   Three drawers held baby blankets and sweaters, many handmade by my mother.  I left those for another day.  Two smaller drawers yielded letters and ephemera dating back to my own and Mr. NYer’s college  days, when stationery, an 8 cent stamp, and perhaps some sealing wax was all that kept you in touch with friends.  I emptied those, brought the stacks downstairs and announced that it was nostalgia time.

We each spent about an hour reading through the old letters before we put them in the recycling.  I saved only a few, including the few letters written by my parents.  Reading those, I understood, perhaps for the first time, the real emotion behind my mother’s simple words “I miss you.”  Her letters were the kind that people  probably used to write a lot, full of the small details of the everyday.  Staten Island’s first Macy’s had just opened, and Richmond Avenue had been widened and paved.  “It’s hard to believe,” she wrote, “That Richmond Avenue could be so smooth.”   In the next letter, she wrote that my Aunt Alice had called one Saturday and suggested they drive out to the new Macy’s.  She had stew on the stove, but in an hour was able to leave and check out the new store.  In that letter, she also mentioned missing me, and how, to combat the blues, she had suggested a Sunday drive to my father.  They went up to West Point, a frequent destination of my childhood, walked around for an hour, stopped for supper at a diner in Ft. Lee, and read the papers when they returned home. 

When my mother died I took some of her furniture and a few other items in the hope that they would keep her alive for me.  I will probably leave the desk behind; I’ve already decided to give away her bright red  LL Bean down parka.  None of those things recall  her the way those two letters — only two!– can.  Those I will keep.

At any rate, the attic/dark, dark room cleaning didn’t accomplish much in the way of removing stuff from the house.  I’m leaving it to Soon-to-be-Abandoned, who is faced with some tough decisions himself about what to keep and what to heave.  Only he knows what memories come with each item, and only he knows if the memories can endure without a thing to attach them to. 

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve spent the better part of three days tossing stuff and getting gritty.  I’ve had enough for now.  It’s too soon to really begin packing, and the house is ready to be shown.  So let the showing begin!

And next week?  My plans are to get together with friends.  Folks — my calendar is open.

Contemplating Packing

The last time we moved, in April 1983, we rented a U-Haul, enlisted about a half-dozen friends, and carried  all of our belongings from our apartment to our new house in the course of the morning on the day after we closed on the house.  That  afternoon, the couple moving into our apartment used the same U-Haul (and a few of the same friends, I think) to move their stuff.  We split the $70 rental fee. 

We had a lot less stuff then.  One kitchen table and four chairs.  A couch, a coffee table and one stuffed chair.  A wooden rocking chair, a dresser, a hope chest, a very small folding dining room table and four folding chairs.  We owned a double mattress and box spring, but no bed.  We had two end tables from an unfinished furniture store, and a trunk.  Oh, and we had bookshelves, books, and records.

I had carefully labeled each box with its contents and the room to which it was to be delivered.  My friend Kate  climbed the steps to the front door, carton in hand, and turned at the top to announce, dramatically and with feeling, that there were twenty-three steps. She added that the box, labeled “attic,” was going no farther than the living room.  Everyone else  followed Kate’s lead and at the end of  the day we  faced a wall of boxes deposited right inside the front door.

Today, we no longer sleep on the floor, having adopted the bourgeois habit of sleeping on a bed.  We’ve also acquired a houseful of sofas, tables, chairs, bureaus, desks, rugs and other furnishings along with a lot of art in frames.  Not to mention that the books and records multiplied.  Finally,  we own a bunch of things that just didn’t exist last time around: CDs, DVDs, computers and gourmet cookware.

Movers will carry the stuff, but there’s still the problem of packing the boxes so that we can locate what we need. Even with the careful labelling the first time around, we found it impossible to find what we wanted when we wanted it.  Several items went missing for years before they appeared.  This time, I announced to Mr. NYer, we would have a system.  The system I had in mind would employ a simple  numbering scheme, perhaps based on the date the box was packed, with a second number indicating its position in the series that day.    Thus, 1/1/10-12 would be the 12th box packed on New Year’s Day.  As we packed, I added, we would fill in a spreadsheet on a laptop, indicating the destination room, the kinds of articles, and whatever other data we thought useful.  “Sounds like a good idea,” Mr. NYer agreed.

Did I mention that one of the things I love about new projects is the opportunity to buy supplies?  I loved the beginning of school because it meant a trip to the stationery store, and I love home improvement projects because of the trip to the hardware store.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as the promise contained in the color-coordinated office supplies I assemble  at the beginning off a new task.  I was immensely pleased, then, when I went online and discovered  a vast array of sites offering exactly what I needed to accomplish an orderly move: bubble wrap, frame boxes, clean newsprint, tape dispensers, plastic shrink wrap, and something called “professional mover’s boxes.”  Should I buy the “moving kit” for only $350? 

Before I had a chance to order supplies, or start packing, or even think about how I should structure the spreadsheet, I went down to the basement looking for recycling bags.  I spotted the box, only to find that it contained not bags, but objects wrapped in newspaper.  Inky, dirty newspaper.  Heavy objects in a flimsy little box whose  cardboard was a bit thinner than the cardboard used for a cereal box.  The marker-less box held no clue to the contents.  I asked Mr. NYer.  “Oh,” he  said, “I wrapped up the glass candleholders from the living room.” 

“But how will you know what’s in the box?”  I asked.  

“I’ll remember,” he replied.

Yikes. 

 I’ll  make a note to mark this box later.  It will be the first item on the spreadsheet.  Me, I have no faith in memory at all, neither his nor mine.  Yesterday Mr. NYer asked me where I put the cookbooks I’d taken down from the kitchen counter. 

I had no idea.

The Food I’ll do Without

I went to a local pizza joint with a friend last night.  We shared a calamari pie with hot peppers and a crispy crust.  It came piping hot out of a brick oven right behind the counter.  

I am guessing I’m not going to be getting pizza like that in Alabama. 

I’ll also miss being able to buy Italian sausage in all its forms:  link, cheese & parsley ring, hot, sweet, with or without fennel.

How many varieties of extra virgin olive oil will the markets have?  Probably Berio and Bertolli only.  At least I won’t be tempted by the array of $30 bottles I see every day at Dean & Deluca, where I currently go for my lunchtime soup.

Bet there won’t be a butcher’s where I can buy pinwheels (rolls of skirt steak stuffed with parsley and romano cheese ready to put on the grill). 

And veggies … will I be able to get artichokes, either fresh or frozen?  Eggplant? 

Cilantro, fresh mozzarella, Italian canned plum tomatoes, Barilla pasta?

Arborio rice, balsamic vinegar, French sea salt, roasted green olives, Italian bread, chestnuts and finnochio, cannolis and sfogliatelle  …

Cheesecake?

(Am I) The Worst Mother in the World?

The summer before my only child, Soon-to-be-Abandoned, went to college, I went into mourning.  Stunned by its depth, I struggled to find ways to hold on to my son.  Mr. NYer and I cagily planned the perfect summer vacation that year, a five-day rafting trip down the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon, guaranteed to provide us with a whole heap of quality time with our son.  

The trip was wonderful, and we enjoyed the time together immensely, but that dollop of quality time did nothing to diminish the huge sense of loss I experienced every day as I contemplated the end of his childhood and the end of my role as mother-of-a-child.   Maybe it even made it worse. 

So, how am I dealing with this latest anticipated separation?  It’s different this time, of course.  Soon-to-be-Abandoned moved out out to live in hip and young Williamsburg last year.  He’s 24-years old, an age when, if I remember correctly, one didn’t really feel the need to have Mom & Dad close by.  Grandchildren are, I believe, more than a few years off.  If they appear, we will pack up and follow him where ever he has wound up.    

Mr. NYer worried, too.  “I feel the need to be his safety-net,” he explained, adding that it was a terrible thing to sell Soon-to-be-Abandoned’s childhood home, the only home he had ever known.  More troubling, most of his earthly goods, the personal artifacts of his childhood, student days — everything — were in our house and he would have to figure out what do with them.  I dreaded seeing the store of “friends” — the two score stuffed animals that he managed every night to pile atop his body before he went to sleep — pulled out of the closet and consigned to the trash heap.

Soon-to-be-Abandoned took the news of a possible move in stride, with a sweet generosity of spirit.  “Well, of course I will miss you, and feel sad about the house being sold,” he explained, “but the fact that the job sounds really interesting and something you would enjoy helps.”  Great, I thought:  He has no idea what this is going to feel like, and it will hit him like a ton of bricks.  

Rational thought could be deployed to stave off emotion: Soon-to-be Abandoned is resourceful and independent; Montgomery is not on the other side of the world; our wallet was the most important safety net he would need. 

The rational mind dominated until The Crisis. 

When we finally made the decision, it turned out that something else was preying on Soon-to-be-Abandoned’s mind.  He had moved into a new place, with four strangers, in August.  This was an arrangement made possible by Craigslist.  By October, however, a crisis had arisen in the apartment, and his hearty independence and self-sufficiency seemed more an illusion than reality.  Two of the roommates were moving out; he was faced with an ethical and practical dilemma that was resolved only when all of the roommates decided to move out, even if it meant losing their security deposits.  He reported that he was having headaches and that his neck and back were sore. Obviously he had meningitis, and how could I rush in to help him if I were a thousand miles away?

The solution to the Crisis (not the meningitis — that was simple tension) is that Soon-to-be-Abandoned is moving back home for a few months.  This is a good thing:  he gets to save some money, can help out with the house-clearing and packing, and we get to spend some quality time with him before he leaves.

I just hope it doesn’t make it all harder.

Alabama Songs

On Facebook, I announced my upcoming move by posting a YouTube clip of Leadbelly singing “Alabama Bound.”  It seemed so apt.  Mr. NYer pushed for Brecht’s “Alabama Song,” but I’ve never actually seen the moon over Alabama yet. It occurs to me, though, that Alabama has inspired a lot of songs.  Not as many, perhaps as California or Texas, but a good number.  Here are one’s I can think of off the top of my head.  

Anyone have more?

Alabama Bound — Leadbelly

Sweet Home Alabama — Lynyrd Skynyrd

Alabama Song — Brecht

Stars Fell on Alabama — Billie Holliday

Alabama — Neil Young

Alabama Getaway — Grateful Dead

And one more question:  Why are the blues associated with Mississippi and not Alabama?