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Moving On

Thoughts on that least favorite of tasks

By Richard von Busack

THE AWFUL AWFULNESS of moving. The familiar use of the word "moving" meaning an emotionally transformative experience has eclipsed the more useful meaning: putting everything you care about into cardboard boxes, subjecting all to the mercy of perhaps hostile strangers who have been damned to bench-press couches for a living.

Moving during winter adds a more, ah, moving, dimension to the experience. The winter rain, wind and freezes are proof that nature hates mankind and wants us dead. Such was the weather as we spent every spare moment for weeks putting everything we owned into easily crushable containers, all the indispensable litter and relics a two-bedroom house could hold.

As we got to the turning point--half our stuff here, half our stuff there--I could feel the first stirrings of It. How can I describe this cold, probably biologically engineered in Langley, Va.? "It," it is named. "Oh you got It, too." So says the frau, before removing herself to a 20-foot distance, as if by court restraining order. "Patricia at work got It, and It lasted three weeks."

The first sign was instant senility, forgetting keys, wallets, credit cards when shopping; having to do "The Idiot's March" from one shop to another to retrace my steps. The next sign was the snotstorm. First, a TB-like cough that preferred 4am as its favorite time to unfold itself. At least, it was a "productive" cough; no one has time for a lazy, unproductive cough in this tight economic picture.

My respiratory system went productive. It started producing cystic fibrosis-like quantities of disgusting neon-yellow slime. My sinuses suddenly grew to the capacity of the Grand Canyon, and they had to drain a Colorado River of phlegm through two tiny nasal orifices the size of No. 3 washers. There was some pressure. My voice turned first to a baritone squeak, then to a nasal, drawling slur that I associate with the most repulsive of all cartoon characters: an obese diapered gosling named Baby Huey. "Duhhhhhh, put de sofa ovah heah," I'd try to tell the movers, while honking into a disgusting bandana. Symptoms include an immediate loss of interest in food and sex for 10 days, and what's left--religion? Yeah, sure. Even if I had an idea who gave this malady to me--some germball urchin, no doubt--I was too weak to revenge myself.

Meanwhile, head swimming, I stuffed the tiny subcompact car with as much stuff as it could hold, to do the 6-mile round trip to the new place. Black widow-ridden boxes of 78 rpm records, teen magazines of the 1960s, ceramic booze decanters and my prized possession: an ultrarealistic, square-pupiled cardboard billy goat toasting the world with a brown goblet of Horlacher's Genuine Bock, both goat and beer now long extinct. These were objects too precious to be trusted with the movers.

Getting rid of the leftover furniture required more stealth than muscle. I started placing ads on Craigslist, madly overpraising the scarred furniture and particle-board shelves I wanted out of my life. I went for the lofty effect: "O, Brave New World That Has Such Bookshelves In It!" or, paraphrasing Emerson, "When Duty Whispers Low, 'Thou Must,' This Table Answers Back, 'I Can!'" The enthusiastic response was another frightening reminder of the power of advertising.

The new place is half-settled now. The neighborhood is grittier, but the house is prettier. I see on TV that they've progressed from giving people "extreme makeovers" to giving them to houses. When they start turning their attention to cities, I hope my new one is first on the list. For the meantime, the bay of the neighbor lady's pit bulls and the sonic boom of car stereos remind me I haven't gone completely suburban.

"Where are we," asks the frau, now no longer afraid of my diseased self. "Is this a suburb, or a city? What would you call this?" I'd call it home. The Mexican kids playing soccer in the corner park, the tinkle of bells on the deliciosas de Michoacan pushcart and the six-dinner neighborhood cat that comes mewing for handouts are, day by day, eclipsing the memory of the old place. I'm moved.


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From the March 10-17, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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