Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Too pooped to think of a clever title

We're here. It took a day and a half longer than it was supposed to, due to packing madness and U-Haul screwups, but we're all here now and so is all our stuff.

RW and MG drove up by themselves yesterday (that would be Sunday) so they could register MG for school today.

Today I:
  • Woke up at 6:30 to do some more packing.
  • Supervised 3 guys who came to load the truck, and then called RW's dad and had him help suvervise when my supervising didn't seem to be going so well.
  • Finished packing and supervising the 3 guys' help with packing and cleaning
  • Drove the 26-foot truck here (yes, 26-foot. They were out of 24-footers)--50 MPH all the way with no caravan to shelter me! Woo-hoo!
  • Survived (although I did not entirely prevail in) an encounter with Customs and Immigration, during which I discovered that I do not have (or cannot find, which amounts to the same thing right now) a Very Important Document that I need to present in order to become landed, and will have to call Buffalo tomorrow to have them send a copy. But they let me in anyway as a visitor, and let RW (who had come back down to the border to vouch for me) import all our stuff as a returning citizen. So the only serious implication right now is that I can't work, and can't get on the waiting list for BC health, until I have it. It should be all straightened out soon. [though it kind of kills me to know with near-certainty that that document is SOMEWHERE in our boxes. There's no way we'd find it in time, though, short of a complete miracle.]
  • Supervised and helped the two very nice guys RW found to unload the truck and carry our 200-odd boxes up the driveway and a flight of stairs.
  • I also had some excellent sushi, which I ate while sitting on the cooler in the new kitchen, and shared a late-night cider with RW. And had the satisfaction of realizing that I have worked a 16+ hour day today and seen all our stuff more-or-less successfully from one house to the other. [we'll find out how successfully when we unpack and see what broke.]
Tomorrow is the Mermaid Girl's 7th birthday. We are going to the Big Amusement Park. I plan to sit on many benches, drinking cold drinks while MG rides the rides. I think I've had enough excitement for a while.

And soon I will be a Landed Immigrant!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cover Me, I'm Going In

Thanks for all the commiseration and encouragement, O Invisible Friends. Your comments popping up every few hours helped me to get through this extremely long day.

We have two more very long days ahead of us, and then we leave by the dawn's early light on Sunday, with hopes of pulling in to the New Apartment in Nearby Suburb by mid-afternoon. We now have 2-way radios for the drive (well, they're somewhere in the house-- I think at the moment they might be under a pile of laundry). We enjoyed trying them out at the zoo the other day. I seem to be compelled to shout "Breaker, Breaker" into mine at the beginning of every conversation and "Over and out" when I sign off; RW kindly ignores these tics.

I have mapped out a route that involves the 24-foot truck in a minimum of left turns. (As I might have mentioned, it is very hard to make left turns in Vancouver.)

The cable modem people are coming tomorrow morning to take away the cable modem, so this is it for now-- I'll be back online when we're north of the border.

Over and out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Notes from the Malevolent Heart of Packing

You may think you already know why moving is such a miserable experience for just about everyone: it's a buttload of work, you have to stuff all your belongings into boxes and then drag them into a truck and then drag them out again, and then you don't know where anything is. And all this is true! BUT these are not the only reasons. Many other life experiences are extremely labor-intensive, nay, even painful (labor itself comes to mind, for one example) and yet they're not remembered with the utter horror that creeps into the visage and tone of anyone who's talking about Moves They Have Moved.

Last week I was sorting through my old New Yorkers and found, serendipitously, a terrific essay about...sorting and packing all one's belongings in preparation for a move. Of course I settled down amidst all the boxes and chaos and read it. My favorite sentence:

"By the fourth day, we have begun to enter the dark and malevolent space that lies at the true heart of packing." (Oxenhandler, Nicole. "Object Lesson." The New Yorker, August 7, 1995, p. 40.) Doesn't that just sum it all up, right there?

Oxenhandler's theory is that packing is so awful because inanimate objects resist being constrained and controlled. Also because we invest our lives and memories into our objects, and then we have to sort through them all and throw some away, and it's like throwing away parts of ourselves.

And all that is true, too. But, speaking from within that dark and malevolent space, I think there are some less poetic, more pragmatic reasons that moving--specifically, packing--is essentially impossible.

Here they are:


Packing consists mostly of taking all your belongings and putting them in boxes, thereby rendering them inaccessible for a period of time. Like, if the first thing you pack up is your stereo, and your packing takes two weeks, then you can't use your stereo for two weeks. Which is fine unless you NEED your stereo to, say, play CDs. So then you either end up a) unpacking your stereo again, which kind of defeats the purpose of packing, or b) creating some kind of work-around which makes your life more difficult, or c) living without your stereo, which is sad and annoying.

No problem! You might say. If you're organized, you can pack the things you don't need first, and then save the ones you need for the last minute! To which I say: HAHAHAHAHA. HA. Fine. We packed up our books first. And then some knincknacks and things. But most of the things we have, we have because we use and need them. If we packed all the things we really need at the last minute, that last minute would have to last for about a week and a half.

Also it turns out that as soon as you pack something, even if you haven't used it for months, you will need it. It's like a Murphy's Law of packing.


We got rid of the couch. We got rid of the bed. We got rid of the piano. We got rid of the rolling dishwasher. And even so, the filled and unfilled boxes are creeping into the bare minimum of space that we need to function: to get our clothes in the morning, put them away at night, prepare the little food left in the fridge, crawl into the beds we have left and sleep the sleep of the exhausted. This makes no sense, because presumably all the things we are packing and stacking in boxes had to come from somewhere, and so they should be leaving open spaces where they came from and not taking up any more room overall than they did originally. But somehow it doesn't work that way.

If we had another place to live, and just came over here during the day to pack, it wouldn't be so bad. And we do in fact have another place to live. The only problem is that it's in Canada, and we have to pack up our stuff to move there.


Much of packing consists of putting items into categories-- into actual boxes, like a literal incarnation of the ones teenagers like to rant about not being put into--and closing those categories. No mushy "it's really more than one thing, it's a floor wax AND a dessert topping" here; no multiple tags. If it's a memento, it goes in the Mementoes box. If it's a kitchen item, it goes in the Kitchen Items box. That egg cup I made RW at the Paint-Your-Own-Pottery place back when we first got together? Memento or kitchen item, baby; it can't be both, or you risk descending into utter chaos and never finding anything when you get to where you're going.

Of course, items don't fit neatly into categories any more than people do. So, you do what good catalogers do (and both of us have done our share of cataloging): you approximate, you improvise, and you label as well and specficially as possible.

But all cataloging is iterative: sometimes you don't know what the category is until you've gone through the complete data set. Is there enough stuff to make a box of Kitchen-Related Mementoes? Maybe. But you won't know until you've gone through and packed all the kitchen stuff. And all the mementoes. And then--hah! Too late! Unless you want to start all over again.

If that sounds too effete (who really cares what it is as long as it's wrapped in enough bubble wrap?) consider the fate of the lone CD found after all the CDs have been packed. Where to put it so it won't get lost? Maybe in a box marked "Miscellaneous," thus rendering all its contents impossible to identify? Hmm, yes. maybe so.

Of course those last-minute things are also generally the most loved, the most special, the ones you use the most (see Point #1). And they're the most likely to get lost from their categories and never found again.


Vision is distorted when you're in the depths of packing. You find things you haven't laid eyes on for months, and think "Oh, I forgot I had that! It's the perfect thing for [x activity]!" Then you pack the heretofore forgotten and probably useless item away, confident that this thing will be an essential part of your new life, while tossing the stuff you're really going to need in some poorly-labeled box of Miscellaneous (see Point #3) or discarding it altogether.

Case in point: a year or two ago, my dad kindly mailed me a box. Back in 1990, when I first moved to Seattle, I had apparently carefully packed, numbered, and labeled this box, but had somehow neglected to bring it with me.

I opened it eagerly, excited to see what treasures I'd felt worthy to accompany me into my new life but had been somehow unaccountably surviving without for the past fifteen years.

Here is what was in the box: My beloved childhood sewing kit (Nice to see you, old sewing kit, old pal! I've acquired other needles and spools of thread in the meantime, but nice to see you anyway! Though I notice you still have that big grease stain from when I insisted on taking you with us to the restaurant that time when I was 9. Hmm. Perhaps I am no longer as charmed by you as I once was).

Also in the box: an extension cord, a 5" floppy disk, a power cord for an unidentified appliance, some small boxes of tissues, and an unremarkable piece of driftwood which, if it ever held any memories, no longer does.

It was like a message in a bottle from my 23-year-old self. And the message was: "HELP! PACKING IS DRIVING ME INTO MADNESS!"

And, what do you know? Seventeen years later, here I am again.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This one's for Crunchy Granola

Around the house I often refer to blog friends as "my invisible friends in the computer," and every once in a while an invisible friendship does seem to throw out invisible and inexplicable connections, as if our brains are typing away directly to each other without benefit of keyboard. Viz. to wit: A few days ago, Susan of Crunchy Granola very kindly offered me some moving help from the dream world.

Now, this dream was astonishing on a number of counts:

1) MG has been nudging us to have a garage sale, but we're just not going to have time to before we move. (That part is probably not so surprising.)

2) I would be more than happy to have Curious Girl take a bunch of MG's stuff off our hands, if MG would ever permit it. (Also not a big stretch, particularly for anyone who's been following our saga.)

3) The Renaissance Woman does, in fact, have a big stack of sheet music that she has yet to go through. (Somewhat less common, but perhaps not hard to guess.)

But the kicker is,

4) RW has actually written a song about studying the arts! It's performing arts, not liberal arts. And it's less about how wonderful their study is than about how unrenumerative it is. But, still, when I read that part of Susan's dream I felt somewhat...spooked. In a good way.

In any case, here's the song. It's a round. We might even find the sheet music for it in the next week, in which case we could possibly scan and send it to interested parties, if you like:

Four Years of College for This
c. 1990 by [Renaissance Woman's Real Name]

Four years of college for this, tra la
To sing this silly round, tra la
Our music teachers frowned, tra la
These rounds are not profound, tra la

And yet they do abound, tra la
We quickly write them down, tra la
Four years of college for this, tra la
Our clocks, they have not wound, tra la

So jobs we have not found, tra la
We make a frivolous sound, tra la
Our wit it will astound, tra la
Four years of college for this, Tra la.

[Podcast to come, if I can ever figure out how to do one. Because nothing makes Moving Week more exciting like a chance to learn and implement new technological skills!]

Saturday, August 18, 2007

You See What I'm Up Against

Scene: The Booland house. The Renaissance Woman and Mermaid Girl have returned from Vancouver and then from a birthday party. RW is asleep and MG is playing with innumerable plastic Polly Pocket accessories in her nearly-empty room while elswhere putters around with boxes and tape.

Mermaid Girl: I had to go dumpster-diving. I just had to!...I had to go dumpster diving!

elswhere [thinking that, as so often happens, she is overhearing part of a game]: Are you talking to me?

MG: Yes! I had to go dumpster-diving!

elswhere: Um, why?

MG: Because somebody put beads in my garbage, that's why!

elswhere: Oh. Well, yeah, while I was packing up your room I found a few beads on your floor, and in the corners of your shelves, and things, and I knew you already had boxes and boxes of beads, so I figured...

MG: You can use beads if they're on the floor. You can't use beads if they're IN THE GARBAGE.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Own Private Thursday Whining Session: Packing Edition

Anti-whine: I have packed 15 boxes full of Mermaid Girl's stuff (not counting books), which, along with everything else, makes a grand total so far of 53 boxes.

Whine: MG has much, much, more than 15 boxes worth of stuff. And because she was so anxious about me packing it all up while she was in Vancouver this week, I made the foolish promise that I would not throw any of it away. I am a chump.

Anti-whine: I have brought things somewhat under control by sweeping everything on the floor (and in cracks and corners of bins and shelves and etc.) into a big garbage bag and labeling it "Random Crap Stuff Found on MG's Floor that She Insisted Not Be Thrown Out."

Whine: There is still all of my office to do. And the kitchen. And bathroom. And most of the living room. And MG's desk, of which I shudder to think.

Anti-whine: I have composed a song to keep myself going, as follows:

Box by Box

[To the tone of "Step by Step, The Longest March"]

Box by box, the messiest house
Can be packed, can be packed.
All those boxes in a truck
Will be stacked, will be stacked.

When we move with them in tow
We'll be happy, even though
We are not like H. Thoreau.
That's a fact. That's a fact.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Google fails me once again

Have any of you ever driven a 24-foot truck? And if so, what was it like? Any tips?

Thank you in advance,


Sunday, August 12, 2007

estimate moving boxes books books moving needed gah!

The Renaissance Woman and the Mermaid Girl are off to Vancouver for Little Girl of the 1920's Camp, and I'm back here packing. Really, truly packing this time around. And, intermittently, posing queries to the Oracle of Google along the lines of "books how many boxes moving" and "boxes estimate move 3 bedroom". Just to get an idea of how often I should be hitting the local greasy spoon dumpster for more empty hash-brown boxes.

So far the answers have been totally unsatisfactory. U-haul's basic box kit for a 3-4 bedroom house, for example, which should more than take care of the shoebox in which we dwell, includes only 30 small boxes. 30! I mean, I've only packed my books and MG's so far and already we're at box #34. Yes, I appear to own 26 boxes of books, and we've allowed our not-quite-seven-year-old to accumulate 8 boxes. And that's not counting the books we kept out for her to look at in the next couple of weeks, or the ones I've got squirrelled in my night table. Or the cookbooks. Or the reference books from the living room. Or any of RW's books, which based on my quick visual estimate number fewer than mine but more than MG's. I figure we'll have 50 or 60 boxes of books by the time we get done with it.

And that's after some serious weeding on RW's and my part in the past year or two.

Clearly, the movers' estimates are not meant for Book People. In fact, I've found little Internet guidance out there for Book People who in the course of human events have to schlep all their stuff from one house to another. What I have found has been reassuring--clearly, I'm not the only lunatic out there. But it still doesn't help me figure out what size truck to order.

How about you? How many books do you have? And if you've moved in the last, oh, five or ten years, how many boxes did it take?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Me, on phone to friend this morning: Yeah, I should be packing, of course, but you know what I did yesterday? I went out and bought six bras!

Friend: Well, you need all the support you can get at a time like this.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Between the Sheets

We're back in Seattle, packing. And by "packing," I of course mean "doing laundry, running errands, reading blogs, and obsessing about all the things we have to do in the next three weeks."

Today I came back from the car wash, where I'd been getting the cat-pee shampooed out of White Car, and our bed was gone. The Renaissance Woman put it on Craigslist this morning and had something like fifty calls by the time I came home.

I shouldn't have been surprised, because RW mentioned freecycling the bed last night. But then again she also mentioned about seventeen thousand other things she's worried about and/or planning on getting done, so the bed thing didn't stick in my head particularly. I think she said something about having room to stack the boxes in there once the bed was gone. And this is indeed the case; there is lots of room to stack the boxes. I keep thinking "Oh, I'm so sleepy, maybe I'll lie down for a few minutes." But when I walk into the bedroom all there is is an empty floor and a computer bag. It's spooky.

It was a pretty small bed, and not the most comfortable lately. Our bedroom here is about the size of a wallet, so a double bed was all we could shoehorn in, and even so, one person had to sleep next to the wall.

Still, I was sad to see it go. I'm not as sentimental as the Mermaid Girl, who weeps whenever we sell a car and who had a full-blown tantrum the other day when RW freecycled the saggy old couch, but that bed has been the Main Bed of RW's and my relationship, and I was fond of it.

RW had the bed already when we first got together. One morning a few weeks later we were just lying there--"not doing anything!" I protested repeatedly (and truthfully), later, to her roommate and to anyone who would listen--when, WHOMP! we were on the floor. The bed base had fallen right out of the frame. It was an IKEA bed and I guess had never been put together properly. RW's kind and handy roommate nailed it back together the next day, and it never dumped us on the floor again.

Tonight I'll be sleeping in the attic, like a V.C. Andrews heroine. We already have a queen-size mattress up at the new place; I hauled it there myself last week. When we get settled we will buy a queen sized bed to put it in. And if it falls apart on us I will just laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I've Learned My Lesson

So, O Vancouver people:

Where should we get our phone and DSL connection from? We tried Rogers but they are nothing but trouble and have wasted two days of our lives. ("Bear with me," the guy on the phone kept saying, when he wasn't telling me that there was really nothing he could do. I bore with him for as long as I could stand it and then I snapped and became very un-Canadian. Then RW tried to call them and cancel our service, but they gleefully told her that she could not, because! It was after 6 PM! So she can't cancel until Monday, nanny nanny poo poo.)

Anyway. All suggestions welcome, as are anecdotes about the helpfulness or lack thereof of the customer service or tech support people at wherever you get your phone or Internet or both from.

In other news, our fridge is not yet working. The ice cubes I put in the freezer are just sitting there all watery. The landlady is flummoxed and will try to do something about it.

However, I do have a better backpack now. Zellers! Zellers is the place to go for all my everything needs! And it's not far away, at the Brentwood Mall, which also has sushi (then again, even the gas stations and ballparks have sushi here.) And it also had shower curtains and sink plugs and pillows and dozens of other things that I could have bought but did not.

So. That's one problem solved.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

For Want of a Backpack

I'm afraid this blog is about to degenerate into a series of lists of What I Did To Get Us Moved. Pretty mundane. Except, not so much for me. Because! I haven't moved ANYWHERE for ten years. Ten years in the same house, that is; seventeen in the same city.

I am full all the time of excitement and exhilaration. But also that third "ex-" word, exhaustion. I'd forgotten how bewildering it is to live in a city that you don't have a mental map of. There are a few places I know about and know how to get to, and I have a pretty good grasp by now of neighborhoods and streets and no longer need to religiously consult my Sacred Map to get anywhere, but there are huge blank areas in the Where To Find Stuff sections of my brain and I'm constantly tripping up against them.

Let's just say, to take a random example, that I needed a new backpack. In Seattle, the process would go like this:

1. This backpack is falling apart. I need a new backpack!

2. *Drive to Fred Meyers, which I have visited hundreds of times*

3. *Walk to the Backpack section, which is capacious and which I have browsed many times*

4. *Pick a backpack that I like.*

5. *Go to the checkout lane that has the nice checkout person who I like. Pay.*

6. *Drive home, happy to have a new backpack.*

In Vancouver, it's more like this:

1. This backpack is falling apart. I need a new backpack!

2. Where can I find a new backpack? In Seattle I'd go to Fred Meyers, but where should I go here??

3. *Stumble around in mental blank areas for a while.*

4. I know! Canadian Tire! The Renaissance Woman told me that Canadian Tire doesn't just have tires, they have EVERYTHING! Surely they have backpacks.

5. I wonder where Canadian Tire is?

6. *More stumbling in mental blank areas as I try to remember where Canadian Tire is. I have a vague memory of seeing it somewhere on my many drives around the city in search of housing, but no address or intersection can be retrieved now.*

7. I know! The Internet! I'll just Google "Canadian Tire Vancouver" and the Internet will tell me where to go! Thank the Goddess for the Internet! How did people ever survive without it?

8. *Google Google Google*

9. Aha! There's a Canadian Tire on the way to the New Apartment, where I'm going this afternoon anyway. I'll just pop in on my way over. All I have to do is make sure I take the Lougheed Highway route. It will be a snap!

10. *Drive drive drive*

11. Huh. There is a lot of traffic on the Lougheed Highway. I wonder which side of the street Canadian Tire will be on? I hope it's not on the left. It's very hard to make left turns in Vancouver.

12. There it is! On the right! Oh, boy! Now all I have to do is move over to the right lane!

13. Hey! Let me over! I'm gonna miss my turnoff to Canadian Tire! Hey!

14. You know, Canadians are not necessarily as polite as people say.

15. God, it's hot.

16. Huh. This kind of looks like...a tire store. Only, without tires. I definitely would not say that this store has EVERYTHING. For example, I don't see any backpacks.

17. On the other hand, it does have TV trays. We need one of those for the new apartment, where I'm going right after this. I'll just drag this wooden TV tray around with me as I peruse the aisles.

18. These aisles are kind of narrow.

19. Excuse me? Ma'am? Do you have any backpacks here?

20. Oh, what do you know? Right in front of me! Thanks!

21. Huh. There isn't really a great selection of backpacks here. In fact, there's only one kind.

22. Excuse me? Sir? Are there any other backpacks?

23. Down that aisle? I looked in that aisle and I didn't see any...oh, right there. Right. Thanks!

24. Huh. These aren't any better than the other ones. I'll take one of the other ones, I guess.

25. These really are kind of too big. I wish I could find a slightly smaller backpack. But the prospect of even trying to figure out where to look makes me want to lie down on the floor and weep. Better to just get this one, I guess.

26. Hmm. Bright green...bright red...gray. I think I'll take gray. Really, I would like a deep green. Just like the backpack I have now. But whatever.

27. And I should probably get some dishwashing soap.

28. And some rubber gloves. For when we wash dishes in the new apartment.

29. Huh. What size rubber gloves? Small, or large? Medium, I think.

30. Oh. They're out of medium. Okay; one small, one large. Just in case.

31. Excuse me? Ma'am?.....Um, Ma'am? Can I pay for these here?

32. *Stagger disconsolately out of Canadian Tire with too-large backpack, TV tray, dish soap, and two pairs of rubber gloves.*

So when I say that today I got an ATM card, ordered checks, bought a backpack, and went to IKEA for mattresses and some other assorted housewares, this means that I had a very full day indeed.

And so, to bed.