Where is my tether?

I’m referring, of course, to the cord that attaches my Blackberry to my computer and allows me to have Internet access anywhere.  Once we turn in the cable boxes, we’ll need it.  I can’t find it.

This is probably the 10th or 15th item I couldn’t find today.  On the phone, our lawyer asks for the account number of our mortgage and a copy of our latest water bill.  No problem — I put both of these in a package of materials not to be packed.  All of the things not to be packed are on the bed.  Alas, the legal-size manilla envelopes with these papers never made it to the bed.  Mr. NYer remembered that they’d been left on the shelves in the computer room, which were … already packed.

But the moving guys obliged.  One remembered the envelope and gamely proved the rule that it’s always in the last box.

Slowly but surely, other needed items have disappeared. The sugar bowl, the boxes of tea, the lamps.  The movers believe in minimalism, and we will live that way tonight.  They plan to leave us with one lamp, a floor lamp that we can carry around like a candlestick on steroids.

How did I get here?

On a plane, on Saturday night, of course.  The cab driver, in a first for New York City’s fleetest, carried my bag up the twenty-three steps to my front door.  It almost made me sad to be leaving.  I rang the bell to let Mr. NYer know I was home, then opened the door only to have him grab me and, basically, not let go.  “Thank God you’re home,” he said aloud.

To himself, I think he added, “There’s a lot of work to do.”

And work we did.  Sunday and Monday we made arrangements, wrote lists, and cleared out the rest of the stuff that wasn’t coming with us.  You know how the things you least want to do are the ones you put off until the end?  Well, the end has arrived.

Case in point:  Thirty five years ago, I did a college art history project on the architectural history of Staten Island.  My professor encouraged me to try to get a grant to continue the work, and recommended I work with another student who was a photographer.  That student, who subsequently became a boyfriend, borrowed a valuable book on the small houses of Ernest Flagg, a Staten Island architect, from the secretary of the Art Department.  Fast forward a couple of years, and ex-boyfriend, following the lead of his hero John Denver, decides he needs to live in the Rocky Mountains, buys a used VW bus, puts a camera mount on the roof (I hate to think about what that did to his camera lens), and dropped the book off with me to return to its rightful owner.  I think I made one attempt, but she wasn’t at the college when I stopped by.  And then, life happened.  The book has traveled with me out of my parents house and into two apartments and a house.  I had a child.  The woman died and I read her obit in the Advance.

You might think I should just add the book to my own collection, but I couldn’t.  I stored it in the basement (I know), rather than risk thinking of it as mine.  As many of you know, Staten Island is a small world, so I was not entirely surprised when one of the elementary school classmates of the Abandoned One turned out to be the grandson of the woman who owned the book.  I intended to return the book to them, but it was hardly top of mind, nor was it within handy reach.

Until Sunday, when the Men with Truck came to clean out the basement, and I wound up with the book in my hands.  Did I have the heirs’ phone number?  Of course not; nor were they listed.  But Mr. NYer remembered that Mrs. Heir was on Facebook, and I sent a message.  Monday night she called and, like a repentant sinner, I told her the story of the book that had once belonged to her mother-in-law.  This morning I wrapped it in shrink wrap and Mr. NYer left it at their house.

One item off the list.

Originally, we hoped to have another two or three weeks before the closing, and had carefully gauged our consumption of cleaning liquids, wine and other spirits accordingly.  By Monday, though, we needed to deal with the bottles of ammonia, nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, soy sauce, white, cider and rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and enough seltzer to start a soda shop.  We counted up nine bottles of champagne or prosecco.  And not bad stuff.  Then there were the odd bottles of hard liquor that we rarely drank but that had somehow accumulated over the years:  vermouth, flavored vodka, rum, Harvey’s Bristol Cream …

None of this can go in the car.  We need room for the cat cage, Mr. NYer’s clothes, and other necessities. These are all contraband items for interstate moves.  We’d already filled dozens of contractors or recycling bags, and were trying hard to lighten the load.  The trusty plumbing system beckoned.  And so I began pouring.   Shortly after the first elixirs from the medicine cabinet went down the tube, I looked out the window to see a large DEP truck stopping on the street.  Seems the sewer was backing up into the houses across the street.  Great.  Imagine not only finding that you’re getting a sewer backing up, but wondering why it smells like ammonia.

In about an hour the DEP let us know that the system was running fine, and we could resume use.  Little did they know …

Two days of final cleaning down.  Day One of the move itself down: the house is 90% packed.  Only one item — a globe from a small Ikea lamp–broken.  Tomorrow is Move Day Two: the Loading of the Truck, then the furious cleaning, and tomorrow night the walk-through.  Thursday the closing.  Friday Mr. NYers retirement party.  And then Saturday, we’re on the road.  Just us and the two cats.

Did we remember to keep the cat sedative unpacked?


Getting a Move On …

Yikes — Lifelongnewyorker and Mr. NYer are moving this week!

We’ve been trying to nail down a closing date all week and late yesterday–a Friday–we got the word that it’s either this Thursday or in three weeks.  For various reasons we decided that sooner is better than later.

But.  Lifelongnewyorker is in Atlanta on business.  Mr. NYer just had his last day at work on Friday, and still has to get the Guy With Truck to clean out the basement.  The Abandoned One has moved into his digs in Brooklyn, but has yet to clear out his childhood stuff.  Oh, and how about getting long distance movers lined up on a Friday afternoon when you need them to show up to pack on Tuesday?

Over the phone last night we went into rapid decision mode.  Rather than return to Montgomery, Lifelongnewyorker would book a flight directly out of Atlanta.  Did she have enough clothes?  Yes.  Were appropriate shoes waiting for her in Staten Island?  Check.   Booked the flight for immediately after the final conference session she has to attend today.  This morning realized she only has enough of a prescription to last until tomorrow and will either be without for a week or will need to get a temporary supply.  Called doctor’s office and left incoherent message.

Calls back and forth between Lifelongnewyorker and the relocation folks at work; between them and mover; and between mover and Mr. NYer.  Resolution: mover will be there to pack on Tuesday, load on Wednesday.

Question: What about change of address?  New house doesn’t have a C of O yet, let alone a mailbox.  Call to realtor in Montgomery who advises calling Post Office.  Lifelongnewyorker considers leaving set of prepaid priority mailers with new owners.

Mr. NYer and cats will be returning with her to apartment in Montgomery next week.  Management will need to be advised of pets.

Also, Lifelongnewyorker is remembering that there’s a chicken carcass wrapped up in foil in the trash back at the apartment and really wishes she had brought said trash to the compactor before she left.  Big difference between three-day old chicken carcass and 10-day old chicken carcass.

Then there’s work.  Lifelongnewyorker has phone meetings and projects to work on next week.  Luckily, she has not one but two laptops with her and a blackberry to which either can be tethered.  She also has an air card, but that needs to get back to her office on Monday.  Must remember to send with colleague.

Two laptops?  That should be fun at airport security.

Oh, no — those blackberries?  (Two of them as well).  They were fully charged on Thursday, so Lifelongnewyorker didn’t take the chargers.  Looks like there will be a trip to both AT&T and Verizon on the to-do lists.  Put post-it note on drivers’ license to be reminded at security and look for these at airport.

Set to arrive at LGA about 9:40 tonight.  That gives us two days, one of which is a Sunday, to eliminate everything from the house that isn’t coming with us, pick up all the dry cleaning, prescriptions and whatnot, start at least making lists for change of address, go to the post office, turn off utilities, return cable boxes, clean out the refrigerator, decide what to do with the gas grill (anyone need one?), and finish off any wine or liquor in the house.

Friends may be needed to help with the last item.  Consider Sunday and Monday open house days and stop by!

The Dynamo Descends

I am packed and ready to roll tomorrow once we jam all this stuff into the car.

That I’d be ready today wasn’t a sure thing yesterday afternoon.  My plan for the last two days was to go through all my clothes on one day and pack ’em up on the next.

By 2 pm I had succeeded only in sorting through my underwear, socks, stockings and gym wear.  Shoes and three seriously overcrowded closets remained.  Meanwhile, Mr. NYer and I had to dash out to pick up the crate the cats will inhabit for their trip south and also stop at our lawyer’s for our mutual exchange of powers of attorney.   I didn’t plan on being back to resume the wardrobe weeding until 4 or later.

In fact, the wardrobe weeding began about 5 and was done by 7 pm.  How did she do it? you ask.  With the help of The Dynamo.

The Dynamo and I met on the first day of high school, the result of alphabetical happenstance. We wound up sitting next to each other in home room and have pretty much stuck by each other’s sides from then on.

We share several things in common, although I’m not sure that’s because we were temperamentally matched from the get-go or we grew on each other over time and developed along similar paths.  She became a legal secretary when I went off to college, but at some point when I was teaching history, she returned to school and got a degree in … history.  A short time later I helped her get a job teaching at the same school I did, and we became colleagues as well as friends.

But the main thing we have always had in common was taste.  We both have what some friends (of mine, at least) have described as “house beautiful” homes.  That’s really not so, but we like aesthetically pleasing surroundings.  More to the point, we like the same  clothes.

You couldn’t tell this during high school, though, because we wore uniforms.  During the school day we wore grey blazers and skirts.  After school we switched to our casual uniform of bell bottoms and peasant blouses.  Over the years we probably looked like models from the same clothing line, from the summer of flimsy halter tops to the winter of maxi-coats. 

The first serious matching purchase after high school (and there were many) was a gorgeous heathery brown great-coat with a 12-foot long leather belt that emerged through slits  from inside the coat to wrap around the front and back to finally be tied in the front in a knot.  The coat had a deep stand-up collar, long cuffed sleeves, and evoked a Russian winter.  It was elegant.  The Dynamo bought it first but didn’t seem to mind when I went out and bought its twin.  She was taller and, in those days especially, very thin, and could carry off that coat better than I, but we both loved it.   

Since the Dynamo worked in Manhattan AND had a brother who was a fashion designer, she seemed to have the jump on stylish duds.  Plus she shopped more than I.  But she always thought of me while she shopped, especially since, despite our different heights and body shapes, we wore the same size.

She and I often shopped together, buying outfits that, if they didnt’ match exactly, looked good side by side.  Often enough they were the same and we’d agree to coördinate appearances so as not to show up at work in the same clothes.  Once, having gotten a hot tip from her brother about a fabulous sale at a store that was going out of business, she simply picked up two of everything and showed up at my door with two sets of wonderful tweedy linen pants for me with two matching jackets.  She had the same ones, and we agreed to call ahead if we were planning to wear them. 

After The Dynamo began teaching at my school, we were both invited to present workshops at a teachers conference in Baltimore.  We drove down together and checked into the hotel, where we were sharing a room.  After dinner, one of us went into the bathroom to get ready for bed and the other one, also dead tired, took a moment to change into her nightgown in the room.  The bathroom door opens and we find ourselves, face to face wearing the same nightgowns. 

So the Dynamo, who lives in Pennsylvania these days and still teaches, said she’d come on out after school and help sort my clothes.  She arrived around five o’clock, walked in the door and said, “Before we start on the clothes, I need a cup of tea.”

Once fortified we went upstairs and created a whirlwind into which Mr. NYer knew better than to enter.  First the stacks of sweaters and tops from the closet shelves:  The Dynamo, after noting that everything I owned was inside-out, proceeded to turn each item rightside-out and in a seamless motion evaluated its value.  We looked at the heavy sweaters.  “You need one heavy sweater like this for your annual trip to Vermont,” she pronounced.  “You don’t need three.”  I chose one.

Next, she noticed my other predilection:  if I like something I bought it over and over again.  She told me I didn’t need four white button-down shirts, and proceeded to dispatch the ones she thought “too boxy,” and “too old.”

It sounds as if some sort of dictator came to rummage through my closet but that wasn’t the case at all.  Instead we had one of those synergistic moments when we had the same energy, agreed on what worked and what didn’t, and definitely had the same pace.  Warp speed.  Perhaps, more than anything else, we realized it was a rare chance to spend the kind of time together that we used to have more of. 

We laughed our way through the two hours.  We lamented about the styles we endured during our 30s, when even though our figures were the best they’d ever be we kept them under wraps.  Thirty-year olds today get to show off their curves; we hid under architectural shoulder pads, jackets that descended below our hips, and dresses that dropped to just a few inches about our ankles. 

At the end, we’d created huge piles of clothes to give away, a smaller pile of items The Dynamo was taking for herself, and had honed my baggage down considerably.  The evening was not without its humor.  Once we left my main closet for the ones in which I store out-of-season (and often, out-of-decade) clothing, I found myself explaining garments before I withdrew them from the rod.

“I loved this dress,” I apologized in advance, “it’s an April Cornell and the fabric is wonderful, but I really wouldn’t wear it now …”  The dress in question was one of those airy sacks that had its moment.  It had been a lovely summertime dress — when i wore shapeless, loose garments that floated just above the floor.  I’ve seen burkhas that are more daring. 

“I have something just like that,” The Dynamo reported.  “What it’s good for is to throw on over your bathing suit when you have to run to the store for milk.”  OK, then.  I had a reason for keeping it, and I kept it.  Of course I’m going to have a pool in Alabama, and of course I’ll need to run to the store for … milk.

Two closets down; we went upstairs to the attic.   The Dynamo gasped when I pulled out the tweedy linen pants, over twenty-five years old, and not too much the worse for wear.  A lot of wear.  These pants were a  mainstay of my teaching days and then turned into the perfect costume for a number of plays.  I even lent them to a fellow actor who played the lead in 84 Charing Cross Road.  Pleated and baggy, in an Annie Hall kind of way, they perfectly evoked an earlier period. 

We passed the pants back and forth and recalled the day The Dynamo showed up with the bags, telling me, “I’ve bought these for you because they were ridiculously cheap, but if you don’t want them I’ll just keep them and have doubles.”  The Dynamo admitted that she still had one of the jackets.

The very last item I pulled out had us on the floor.  It was a Laura Ashley number I picked up in London in 1983.  Made of a fine cotton print in white, pink and green, it featured a girlish flouncy skirt with delicate lace bands and elastic waist that helped give it fullness. The matching blouse was a fitted number with a Peter Pan collar, also trimmed in the narrow cotton lace.  It was girlish; a garden party sort of outfit.  Peasant meets Pollyanna.  It did not have a 27-year shelf life, but it sure had a lot of sentimental memories.

The Dynamo pointed out that the elastic was shot (she pulled it wide to demonstrate — it stayed that way).  Ever helpful, she said, “You could make a very nice tea cozy out of this.”

“I have one already,” I answered.  I picked up a lot of Laura Ashley that year, including the tea cozy.  Later, Soon-to-be-Abandoned discovered the cozy and loved to wear it on his head.  I still have the tea cozy.

The Dynamo and I both loved Laura Ashley.  When I returned to London in 1985, and the British pound was at an all time low versus the dollar (nearly equal in value), The Dynamo asked me to pick up a blazing red print dress for which she pined.  The dress didn’t really work that well, so she returned it to the Laura Ashley in New York, where they gave her a credit equal to the American price.  In one fell swoop, she doubled her investment — we joked that she arbitraged the dress — and got a comforter instead.

“I still have that comforter,” she said.

Of course.  There are some things you hold on to.

D-day Minus four

No sagas, reveries or wry observations today folks.  Tonight’s post is purely to catch up.

We hosted 45 friends and family at an open house on New Year’s Day.  Last night, we went to dinner and played Beatles Trivial Pursuit (not for the faint-hearted) with six friends whom we hadn’t seen on New  Year’s Day.  I have one or two visits planned over the next day or so, but most of the goodbyes have been said. 

Long-distance movers have visited to survey my belongings, take inventory and provide an estimate.  Looks like just under 12,000 pounds.  But I have been giving them a worst-case moving scenario, including furniture I probably won’t take, so maybe we’ll squeeze in at only five tons.

One mover, very practical, looked at the bumper-to-bumper parking on my up-the-block-from-a-school street favored by the teachers and asked if I would be able to talk to my neighbors and get them not to park.  “Figure,” he said, “we’ll need about ten car lengths.”

I may have to hire a different kind of muscle for that. 

Another mover came in, looked at the strapped up bundles of boxes UPS had left in my entry and living room and laughed, telling me it was “a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ll need.”

After three estimates we’ve decided not to pack ourselves, but to focus on what I’ve talked — and written  — about all along, which is weeding.  Since My Hero has offered to run our moving sale, the weeding has been much easier.   We’ve weeded the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the TV room and the linen closet completely.  The computer room and sun room have gone through the first pass and will get the second tomorrow.  Great progress has been made in the attic’s dark, dark room — and brought the discovery of Soon-to-be-Abandoned’s dinosaur comforter, which we didn’t realize we still owned.  We all hugged it briefly before consigning it to the trash heap.

Even the basement is beginning to empty out.  We’ve identified about 60% of its contents by eventual disposition: moving, moving sale, or dust heap.  There have been some grungy, yucky finds, and oaths have been uttered under Mr. NYer’s breath.  Vows have been made to never let this (the mindless accumulation) happen again.  And there’s a lot of stuff that can’t be moved.  Turns out you can’t move flammable liquids (reasonable), aerosol cans (understandable), or nail polish (huh?) via long-distance movers.   The movers all come with attractive presentation folders with helpful  moving tips.  Consider taking these items yourself rather than sending them on the moving van:  furs, fine jewelry, bonds, coin collections, important papers, gold bullion.  Do not pack frozen food or fresh produce.  Roger that. 

Soon-to-be-Abandoned, who seemed to slump about the same time I did, has emerged from his funk and begun taking charge of his own stuff.  He’s coming around to the “travel light” philosophy, beginning with his hair, which he had shorn for the first time since entering college seven years ago.  After packing one book box and feeling its weight, he told me that he’s reassessing which books he really needs. 

Mr. NYer gave up another bunch of LPs.   I threw out make-up that I bought to cheer  myself up, most likely because there wasn’t a shoe store nearby, and which I will never wear, since I rarely wear makeup anyway.  There’s only so much you need in your case for those occasions when you’re onstage.   The grey wig I bought for character roles lies in a box; it is not Alabama-bound.  I keep passing it thinking it’s one of my cats.

Speaking of cats, Mr. NYer and I successfully got Lunatic Cat to the vets.  We have two cats.  The older is a mush who doesn’t mind being picked up or handed to complete strangers.  As long as he is fed, he is happy.   He doesn’t like travel, but if you want him in the carrier, well … your will be done.  And then we have the Lunatic, an 18-month old who can read minds and believes everyone is out to get him.  He does not like to be picked up and has no intention of being put into that cage.

We adopted the Lunatic when he was a year old.  A woman who already had somewhere betwen five and 23 cats fostered him for a year but felt she couldn’t keep him permanently.  However, she has remained attached, deeply attached, and leaves messages on Mr. NYer’s cell phone every two or three months, weepily asking for news.  She thoughtfully included a three-page hand-written letter with the Lunatic when she put him up for adoption, and she noted that he was a bit skittish.  Later she admitted that it was so difficult for her to trim his nails that she resorted to sitting on him.  No wonder he runs when people approach.

A few months ago the Lunatic needed booster shots, so Mr. NYer scheduled a vet’s appointment.  I called on the way home from work and asked how it went.  “It didn’t,” Mr. NYer told me.  “I never got to the vets.”   Although he managed to catch the Lunatic, Mr. NYer had failed to wear protective gloves.  A few scratches and one major bite later, the Lunatic was deep under the bed and refused  to come out.

We rescheduled on a day that we would both be home, and placed the carrier in the living room a day ahead of the visit.  To limit his escape routes, we closed all the bedroom doors.  Mr. NYer rubbed himself with organic catnip.  The Lunatic knew what was up, I don’t know how, and zipped about the house, caroming off walls, doors and furniture.  Both armed with bath towels, we lunged and captured him, only to see him slide out and zoom off at 90 miles an hour.  Twenty-five minutes later, he ran into a corner where I was able to lean down, grab him by the scruff and life him up in time for Mr. NYer to wrap a towel, like a straight jacket, around his legs.  We then stuffed the entire package, cat and towel, into the carrier and checked for bleeding.

At the vets, of course, the Lunatic was a model of good cat behavior.  He was docile, but clearly terrified, and when the vet concluded the exam, he actually walked back into his carrier. 

We have put off thinking hard about transporting the Mush and the Lunatic, but the vet gave us drugs (for the cat), and we think we’ll live through it.  He warned us NEVER to let them out in the car. 

So that’s where we are.  We know the cats can be caged; one of them will most likely be sedated; and we will endure two or three days of hell with them on the road.   The lucky mover who gets the job will pack up less stuff than we have now.  We’re concentrating not on packing but on lightening the load.  This week, I will gather up the clothes and personal belongings I’ll need for the next couple of months and, in just four more days, we will hit the road for Alabama. 

Oh my.

I Am a Cast-Iron Frying Pan

I am a cast-iron frying pan.  Or maybe a griddle.

Like the pan, I perform really well once I’m heated up.  You know the rule for pancakes, don’t you?  Throw the first batch out — the pan probably wasn’t hot enough.

When I begin a new project, especially one that requires a bit of stretching to wrap my arms around it, I take time to get to the fully effective stage.  The warm-up is marked by false starts, distractions and intermittent bouts of panic.

So it’s been the last few days as I’ve been home contemplating packing.  I try out various strategies — mainly in my mind — and find myself thinking of reasons they won’t work and should be abandoned, or at least postponed.  The UPS guys brought about 100 boxes yesterday.  So far, I’ve filled exactly one-half of one.  Turns out it’s premature to pack, because I haven’t edited my belongings enough.  

Another stab in the dark related to the basement.  We have probably eliminated about 25% of the stuff that was clearly junk and could just go to the curb.  We’ll take about 15% with us, which leaves 50% of the basement contents in limbo.  Since I don’t have the time to sort, clean and try to sell it, I decided I needed to get someone to haul it away.  I collected recommendations on businesses (GotJunk is a franchise!), or guys with trucks, who would render this service.  But I didn’t pull the trigger and call any of them, because a) it drove me crazy to think I’d be paying for something I could accomplish for free by continuing to haul it to the curb, and b) I wondered if this was the most effective use of my limited time?

Various packing strategies played out in my mind:  weed, clear room in the basement, pack and store boxes down there.  No.  Leave the packing to the movers and focus exclusively on weeding.  No, focus only on my personal stuff this week, and leave the rest.  OK, if I focus on my stuff, should I first pack the items that will come later with the movers, and then the stuff I’ll be taking down next week?  Or should I just leave the stuff I won’t be taking with me next week for the movers or Mr. NYer to pack?

You get the idea.  Paralyzed by too many potential paths of action, I am stranded at the inaction interchange.  Not to say I haven’t been busy.  I’ve had movers in for estimates and been occupied doing the kind of stuff that eats up time on the telephone.  I’ve run errands.  I cooked dinner last night. 

And I’ve been engaged in micro-weeding.  Instead of packing all the photos in boxes, I’ve decided that I can whittle the collection down if I sort through each and every one of them and weed them out.  Kicking myself at this folly, I decided to march into my computer room and clean out one desk.  I would pack up what was going, and weed out the rest.  That’s where the half-box came in.  A good amount of stuff found its way to the trash.  But there was that in-between again.  I had a perfectly good telephoto lens for an SLR that I no longer owned.  Throw it out?  Ouch.  What about the six skeins of thread I purchased when I decided I was going to learn how to do filet crochet?  Still in original packaging!  Not to mention the books and records I’ve already mentioned repeatedly.  And the items of furniture.

When casting about for basement clean-out guys, one friend advised me to call another, who “has a pick-up truck” and “loves this.”  I called, and before long, Joe, aka My Hero, came to my rescue by agreeing — enthusiastically — to help us by organizing a moving sale in our house.  My Hero knows exactly what sells and what doesn’t, has a pricing philosophy which I won’t reveal, and said he’d enjoy doing it.   We compared calendars and agreed on a weekend AFTER I’ll be 1,000 miles away in Alabama.  I hesitated for a  nanosecond about committing Mr. NYer to the work, the prep and the weekend, but knew it was a great thing.

Finally, I think the pan is hot.  I went upstairs and rummaged through what I’d already weeded, pulling out article after article that could be included in the moving sale, and excluded from the moving van.  I designated a room for us to collect the items and started to pile things in.  When Mr. NYer came home, I filled him in and, eventually, won him over.  We’re starting a list of furniture to be included.

Of course, I’m still weeding on the level that takes time.  Yesterday I found a dozen of my mother’s hankies.  Do any of you remember when women carried little whiffs of linen around with which to delicately wipe their noses?  Those I found were trimmed in lace or printed with floral patterns.  A few were hand-embroidered, and there was one just for Christmas.  While I remember my mother tucking one of these up her sleeve, I also know that even she had stopped using hankies in favor of tissues, which she came to see as infinitely more hygienic.  But she kept her best hankies for some reason and, since she did, I guess I felt I had to as well.     

I emailed my sisters, reporting the discovery and asking if they wanted any of the hankies.  My sensible sister replied, “Only if they’re in good shape, I’ll take two.  NO MORE.”   Seemed like a good rule, so I culled them and assigned two to each of us; the other six are destined for the house sale.   Next I found both my parents’ wallets, complete with ancient credit cards, IDs, Medicare cards and really worn out school pictures of the grandkids.  Why on earth do I have these things?  Out, except for the one wallet that’s in good shape, which I set aside for the sale.  Next I unearthed a cache of 3-D holy cards depicting various scenes in the life of Jesus.  These, offered at my Grandfather’s wake in 1971, were universally seen as awful even then.  I don’t offer them to my sisters.  

And so it goes.  Tonight, I share the plan for the great, purifying and cathartic moving sale — and the timetable — with Soon-to-be-Abandoned.  Tomorrow, I hit my closets.  The iron is hot.

Countdown: 10 days left

Today was my first day at home.  With the Project done and the holidays over, I can now focus on getting ready to move.  I made a list of things to do that included making some doctors appointments, scheduling the cat for the vets, tying up 2009 paperwork, buying return airline tickets for Mr. NYer to fly back from Montgomery, and arranging for estimates from three movers.

The appointments made, I Googled long-distance movers and realized I hadn’t a clue how to pick one, let alone three.  So I Googled long-distance mover reviews and read about a dozen horror stories, the upshot of which is: don’t move or, if you must, don’t expect to ever see your belongings again.

Finally I found a site (movingscam.com) which not only gave advice on choosing a mover, but also provided a state-by-state and city-by-city forum for people to discuss and rate their movers.  Decided to pass on those that had been awarded little icons with a high voltage warning, and saw several with a thumbs up.  Then I read a few articles, like How to Choose a Mover (lots more due diligence than I feel up to), Ten Things Your Moving Company Won’t Tell You (Item 2: “We’re popular, especially with the FBI”), and, finally “Who Will You Trust to Drive Off with Everything You Own?”

Apparently, the long-distance interstate moving industry is almost completely unregulated.  Did you know that the Interstate Commerce Commission, one of the very first regulatory agencies established by the federal government, was abolished in 1995?   It’s been replaced by the Surface Transportation Board,  a name which does not inspire my confidence.  

Terrified, I decided instead to calculate the number of boxes we would need and decide whether it was better to have the movers pack (because, after all, they’re professionals) or to do it myself (because they don’t care two licks about my stuff).  Many Web sites, whose purpose is to sell boxes (“Sure you can use grocery boxes.  If you don’t mind the risk of infestation”), offer a convenient calculator that answers the question, How Many Boxes Do I Need?

It turns out I need approximately 927 boxes of various shapes, sizes and specialties.  Betcha didn’t know that a) moving companies require that everything be boxed except your furniture and b) some moving companies have a business relationship with box companies.   There are special boxes for, among other things, your golf clubs, your mattress, your floor lamps and your framed pictures. 

Each kind of box comes in a dizzying array of sizes.  We have a lot of framed pictures, so I thought I’d order a few frame boxes.  But should I get them 4, 5 or 6 inches deep?  Two feet wide, three  feet wide, or more?  Adjustable or fixed?   And don’t forget that you still have to bubble wrap the pictures.  Should I get 175 feet of 24″ wide wrap, or 250 feet of 12″ wide wrap?  Probably both, so I have some for the wider stuff.  Next, 3/16″ bubbles or 5/16″?  Perforated for easier tearing?

The fact is you can’t order the boxes, the bubble wrap, the extra strong packing tape (“Don’t trust your precious belongings to regular tape!”) until you conduct an exhaustive inventory of everything you own, measuring and weighing each item.  A team of engineers would be handy.  And you can’t even take that inventory until you really weed, which I haven’t finished yet.  It occurs to me that planning a move, especially if you are trying to do some of the packing yourself, is more complex than planning for the invasion of Normandy.  Eisenhower had a staff. 

Deciding that some boxes are better than none, I ordered a bunch, to be delivered tomorrow.  Mr. NYer and I had picked up eight boxes over the weekend, as a kind of packing appetizer, but what good was eight boxes?  I could fill them up in no time, and then what would I do with my momentum?  Plus, I have realized that boxes will take a lot of room, and we need to empty the basement first. 

So, I decided not to pack until the large order of boxes arrives.  Instead I spent about two or three hours rolling the coins I put into a big jar a couple of weeks ago.  Got about $150 worth.  Meanwhile, Mr. NYer is cutting down the record collection by digitizing albums, which has to be done in real time.  Yup, we’re on top of things.  At this rate, we’ll be ready to move by March.  In 2012.

Lists, Records and Spare Change

Christmas preparations are no longer an excuse.  Neither, as of Wednesday, will work on The Project.  Even Mr. NYer agrees that it’s time to figure  out the moving thing.

Yesterday, with notebook in hand, we walked room to room, making a list of things that needed to be done, most of which included the word “weed.”  Two columns on the page helped Mr. NYer see the urgency:  the first was labeled “before Jan. 14,” which is when Lifelongnewyorker heads south.  The second was “after January 14,” when Mr. NYer is on his own. 

That date in black and white helped.   In each room we decided what to take with us.  This was surprisingly easy when it came to furniture.  Yes, let’s leave that.  And that.  And that.  What to do with these items is yet to be determined.  Soon-to-be-Abandoned hopes to get an apartment — rather  than just renting a room in an apartment gotten by others — and may take a sofa, kitchen table, bed, dresser, desk, etc.  

“How about your toy chest?” I ask.  But Soon-to-be-Abandoned suspects he’s barely going to have room for the things that will  be useful, and doesn’t quite see a role for the toy chest in his as yet imaginary hip Brooklyn digs.  Even with our plan for furnishing Soon-to-be-Abandoned’s place, we will have plenty of furniture left.  Turns out the Salvation Army will send a truck.  Good. 

Another milestone.  Mr. NYer has agreed to part with some LPs.  We sat together on the dining room floor and made the first pass using a simple rule:  get rid of any records that we have either digitized or have in CD format.  That eliminated a cool 25%, and there are now several 16-inch high stacks of records awaiting their fate.  Some have been scooped up by Soon-to-be-Abandoned, who admits he’s not sure what he’ll do with them.  The rest will be offered to several twenty-something phonophiles who have recently discovered records, or to the folks on Craigslist who buy in bulk. 

The records are weight.  Not in any spiritual or psychological sense.  They’re just plain heavy.   The mere memory of hauling milk crates of LPs around when I was younger gives me a backache.  

Another source of weight came in the form of my bank collection.  I love banks, and have since childhood.  My mother always had a bank or two in the house, and I think I learned to count by helping her roll pennies.  She showed me how to stack them in groups and count by five, then slip the wrapper over my thumb, slide the stacks into the roll and finish by neatly folding down the ends.   We had a big Anchor Hocking amber glass piggy bank.  No rubber stopper for that one.  You had to turn it upside down and shake the coins out, or — as my mother demonstrated — slide a knife into the coin slot and ease them out in a stream. 

When my mother began to work in “the city” (Manhattan), she banked at the Seaman’s Bank for Savings, for which she was rewarded with banks.  The first, which I still have, was a cardboard cannister printed with a clipper ship and topped by a removable slotted metal lid.  Better yet, though, were the sailor banks they began dispensing sometime in the mid-60s.  The sailor, clad in creamy whites, strides along in his ample bell bottoms, with jaunty nautical hat and bag slung over his shoulder.  The coin slot sits atop the bundle, and the sailor reminded me of Gene Kelly in On the Town.  Who wouldn’t want to save?

My bank collecting began in earnest around the time my oldest niece  was born.  In the A&S department store, I  found a musical Raggedy Ann and Andy bank and bought it for her  first Christmas.  What I didn’t know was that my mother bought an identical one for me and thus started me as a collector.  On every vacation, I hunted the souvenir shops for banks, and snagged a mini Tower of London, an old Maine fisherman, an upright piano in New Orleans, a cable car in San Francisco.

Banks are practical collections.  Nice to look at, they justify the space they occupy by virtue of the fact that they promote  saving and delayed gratification.  The summer I worked as a carhop at  A&W Root Beer I began the nightly habit of depositing the day’s change in a bank.  Soon I stopped looking for exact change when I purchased something, but deliberately broke a dollar to increase the coins in my purse, and the savings in my banks.  Every few weeks, I pulled out the coin rollers and sat at the kitchen table rolling pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters.  

More than a few years ago, I noticed that it was harder and harder to snag a bank during vacations.  The souvenir shops switched to mugs, shot glasses, key chains and  T-shirts.  Banks,  like thrift itself, disappeared.

So I turned to eBay, where I joined those who favored still banks as opposed to mechanical ones.  I began looking first for the banks that banks gave out, but grew over time to like pigs.  So elemental. But I’m not exclusive.  I’ve got banks that look like buildings, an entire set of Anchor Hocking piggies in various colors, the Liberty Bell, Mr. Peanut, a couple of bears, a pink elephant, a NYC taxi and a London phone booth.  I’ve also got a tiny milk bottle that says “W.I.N.!” for Whip Inflation Now — that was from the 70s.   They are scattered throughout the house, and I fill them regularly, trying to use them equally. For some reason, I especially like to throw Mr. NYer’s loose change into them. 

I’m not usually in need of the spare twenty or thirty dollars these days, nor do I go into brick and mortar banks often and pick up coin wrappers, so I rarely roll those coins. (Do banks still give out coin wrappers?)  But the collection needs to move, and it makes no sense to travel full.  Too heavy, and too likely to break.  By the armful, I carried banks to the dining room table.  Together, Mr. NYer, Soon-to-be-Abandoned and I pried off the stoppers and shook, knifed and otherwise emptied the contents into a plastic jug. 

I’m told there’s a bank where you can just bring in the coins, pour them into a machine, and get your cash.  But that sounds too easy.  I think I’ll spend a few evenings stacking the change and putting it into rolls.