I try to write this column about fun stuff to do on Fridays, but let’s face it, fun is not always in the cards. One thing no one wants to do on a Friday night is move — or help someone else move.
But if it has got to be a Friday night, what are you gonna do? In the case at hand, I’m packing 1000 books or so (I’m not exaggerating) and the phenomenon of what can be accumulated in a single year: knickknacks, bric-a-brac, various types of kibble, odds and ends. And while I’m not exactly a clothes horse, it is amazing how many T-shirts and pants and jackets (mostly with ripped linings), six pairs of ratty sneakers, two pair of cowboy boots, and a ton of published material and clippings. It goes on.
I have to pack all this stuff on my own — and under the gun of the landlord’s deadline. I’ve had offers to help, but there isn’t room for two people in here.
If I’m not done by the first I wonder what they can do?
I mentioned in a previous column that this is not my idea. I’m being evicted for the first time in my fife and for good reason I hate to admit: staggering drunkenly along the small hallway of this small building. The humiliation of this adds an extra flavor to the usual moving anxiety and depression. Am I whining? Very well then, I’m whining.
Ten hours yesterday at boxing books and some cursory cleaning and by 11 p.m. I look around me and see that the apartment has the appearance that almost nothing has been done to it. It seems I have accomplished nothing.
I have books in the hallway, books stacked to the ceiling. I don’t have time to go through all the tapes I have here: music, interviews, etc. I throw them out. The sense of loss, and not about the tapes, threatens to overwhelm me. I’m trying to avoid self-pity. These are the consequences of my actions and I’m trying to accept them, moment by moment, with as much maturity as I can muster — which isn’t much.
An urgent need for triage is called for. I’ve gotten rid of so much: a bookshelf, a futon, anything that is not absolutely necessary to a dubious future. I have no idea where I am going. A hotel?
Moving in the past has been something of a party with friends and beer, pizza and jokes. I remember one time moving a few blocks from one apartment to another in New York. A friend and I were fumbling with a large mirror down 71st Street. We dropped the mirror and it cracked. Someone on the street guffawed. My friend turned to the amused observer and said, “Don’t laugh. Your apartment might be next.”
This is the first time I have done this alone and there is a distinct lack of festivity about the business. It is dismantling a life. In this case, a life that needs dismantling. I’m not young and it’s hard to let go, but letting go is a major part of the human condition — and, I suppose, a good rehearsal for death.
I try to find the positive aspects to this and can come up with a couple things. First of all, it seems I can do it and second it is a life lesson. No mistake about that.
My father told me repeatedly that I learn everything the hard way. True. Too true. Ultimately, however, I am teachable.
Finding boxes is part of the challenge. Liquor stores are good and banana boxes from Vons are excellent for books. One can buy them, of course, but I am on a budget. Besides, you have to assemble many of these jobs and I am so anxiety-ridden I find it difficult to contrive slot A into tab B. This is disheartening and makes me feel like a moron. At a time when I’m trying hard not to think of myself as a moron and just a flawed human being, these boxes must be avoided.
I could think of this as an adventure and at one time I would. Now things are different. I don’t know that a certain conservatism is inevitable with age, but it is happening to me — to my astonishment and tinged with some amusement. At the moment, not much of the latter.
It is dangerous, I’ve found, to lose your sense of humor. I believe one’s soul then is in trouble. As Bogart said in, I think, The Big Sleep, or maybe it was The Maltese Falcon, “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” And, again, at one time I would have agreed. But when the trouble is one’s own doing and for no good cause, it’s a bit different. I have become like most people: I just want to get through my life with as little trouble as possible. Many kinds of trouble are pretty much avoidable. But it’s hard to get out of the way of yourself.