Avoiding Imperial Entanglements Is My Speciality (Revenge of the Bumpus)
Of course I can’t do a simple thing like move in April without zany capers, coincidences that would strain the credulity of a Hollywood plot, and having to clean an inordinate amount of animal feces under pressure. These are, of course, all themes that I encounter when I move; perhaps I disturbed a mummy’s tomb during a particularly fierce bender long ago. In any case, this is what happened this time.
This move was weird from the start; six weeks ago I was having a Sunday morning chat with my mother and I said that I would like to move out to the burbs to be closer to the family and the Clown Factory, and besides, most of my friends live out that way anyway these days. Fifteen minutes after I had hung up my landlord was knocking on the door, looking sheepish, and as he stammered that he needed me to move out by May 1st, he was stunned by my cheerful quick acceptance of the news. He said something about how normally people are upset by this sort of news and that he was sorry that he couldn’t give me more notice but that he and his wife… …and I said that I could see the wind clearly and smiled.
Of course, it’s the busy season at the Clown Factory and we’re understaffed; also, I tend to procrastinate on things that normal people don’t. I just let it be known to folks around me that I needed to find a place to live toot sweet and dug myself into work. My dad has a job in another division (and I actually am the one that hooked him up. For eight years of the Bush Presidency I got mileage out of the line, ‘and that’s how I’m the exact opposite of the President’ every time I said that when someone asked if he got me my job.) and three weeks ago he appeared next to me on the floor and hands me a paper with this address and directions on it. I don’t really look at it but the address grabs me but I’m distracted and it doesn’t really register. There’s a woman on his shift who is president of her condo association and they have a unit in foreclosure that they can’t sell but they can rent out and they would give it to me for ridiculously cheap. At ‘ridiculously cheap’ we mean half the rent I was paying; the kind of rent I paid in college, today! It wouldn’t be for more than 13 months at most but even 6 months at that rate could save me thousands of dollars that I can put towards buying a place.
So I drive over to the place during lunch and after a longer glance at the directions I am almost certain that I am driving to the building where I bought a condo with my ex-wife who asked me for a divorce 28 days after we had moved in. When I pull into the lot I am certain; the lobby induced a temporal vertigo in me that hasn’t quite worn off. The unit itself was spectacularly trashed; the police had kicked in the door the day before and it had been fixed just that morning but the splinters were still on the floor. The former owner had simply walked away and left all their possessions behind; not that they were much. The pathos stained the walls almost as much as the nicotine did. It’s not the first time I’ve cleaned up after an alcoholic.
Packing is horrible. I loathe it. I take a sort of Andy Warhol approach, except instead of putting the identical cardboard boxes of random stuff in an archive, I brought it to my new place where I am now motivated to unpack if I want to, say, find my diabetes medication. So far, I’ve been lucky; I found a box that had a lot of food, some doses of my meds, and the laptop! So, I have life, food, and music, and on cue, ‘Andy Warhol‘ just shuffled up. It’s good times here at Severndroog. I have a tradition of naming my domiciles, no matter how humble. This one is Severndroog. The last one was ‘Fonzie’s Attic’ and before that was ‘Fonzie’s Basement’ and they were also in the same home.
I came to that place years ago thanks to Miss Mayweather. It was an excellent situation renting privately; I enjoy doing business with a nod and a handshake. I render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s but otherwise I avoid Imperial entanglements whenever possible. Sometimes it’s impossible to do so. The first movers I contracted overbooked this weekend and canceled on me; they had a fancypants website that was admittedly very detailed and cool, but it still sucked to get that email last Sunday. So on Monday I called this guy with a cheap ad in the newspaper, real old school style, and I liked his voice and his price and we did the deal. His name was Tom. He called me to confirm and even to let me know early that his crew was running late on another job. I was secretly relieved because of course I was still throwing random shit into boxes and taping them up.
Also, the dog and cat were beginning to panic, which had thoroughly intercoursed me all day starting with that morning when Max sprayed anxiety diarrhea all over the area by the front door. It’s not the sort of thing you can save to take care of when you get home from work so I had to really scamper on that chore, which was a fun way to start the day. I had, of course, been up packing late the night before and was dealing with very little sleep. And that was so very long ago but only yesterday.
Sorry. I’m a little stretched thin right now. There might be some doozy sentences coming up as I am fairly fried on lack of sleep alone, but I’m also feeling that very vibrant vibe, all the ghosts are up and about tonight, and I’m excited like a shaman who knows his mojo is working the way it oughta should; the sense memory of being uprooted is so evocative and familiar, amplified by the unlikely location, that the deja vu is solid around me and my giddiness is palpable.
So, the move got postponed and as 8 o’clock wore on I made a solid command decision and called Tom and asked him if he could fit me in first thing in the morning and he quickly agreed and his weary voice could not contain his relief. Tweaked overtired like a seven year old I bounced around until one am when I fell into weird vivid dreams of Middle Earth, the goblins and elves as strange and terrible as I had imagined them as a child. At 5:50 I was cleaning more terror poo and taking Max on his last walk in the old neighborhood. I really felt a twinge at that. I love the little guy. He’s staying with my parents until I can buy a first floor unit where I can keep him.
The movers got there at 6:30 and got to work. I ran out and got them coffee and donuts. As the morning wore on I got to know M & H, an unlikely but hilarious pair. M is a lanky 28, H is a bent wire 52, and they both smoke like chimneys and joke like mechanicals. H’s mother is an artist and he admired my use of decoupage. M preferred (The Book of Numbers) to The Book of Esther because he’s ‘an ass man’. I liked these guys. Around 9am I was spackling in the kitchen when M called to me from downstairs that someone was there to see me.
I walked into what had been my painting studio for the past eighteen months to find a large police officer. Years of training and practice kicked in and I automatically smiled and extended my hand with my most sincerely friendly greeting while performing several mental calculations, evaluations and estimations. Luckily the whimsically labeled ‘b8ngs and pr8n’ box was under several blankets in my trunk. Still, that wasn’t the only hazard on the field.
He was an officer with the state’s commerce unit and he said that he had been investigating this moving company. He asked about pamphlets and estimates, and seemed unsatisfied by my answers. He asked for my ID and I twitched inwardly but I produced it. It expired in 2003. I hoped he wouldn’t notice and when he did he was handing it to me and I casually said the renewal sticker was on the back and that I would get a new one now that I was moving as I slipped back into my wallet. At that moment Tom called and the subject was changed.
I’ve never been good with paperwork.
I ended up really liking Tom. It’s 1:55 in the morning but I will wrap up the tale of this caper with the highlights; I rigged up some posters with tape for the truck with their ICC number and the name of the company to make them legal and told Tom that I would design him some magnetic signs for his trucks. He’s got a two truck operation that was legitimately bonded and licensed but is operating on a tight margin; a handful of hundred dollar tickets could kill him, especially with gas over four dollars a gallon. I called the cop several times and left messages; he had taken M and H’s ID’s and left, saying he would be back in half an hour. Ninety minutes later we were packed and there was still no sign of him. Somehow I had become Gandalf to this party and I said the cop knew where we were going and he explicitly told me that I was free to continue with the move as the violations were only ticketable-the crew had done nothing that warranted impoundment. They finished with me by noon but ended up having to drive way the hell back to some obscure western suburb to get their licenses back.
Anyway, tomorrow is cleaning and unpacking the mysteries. Good night.
*We theorized that it was the next door neighbors who called the police on the movers. Our longtime nickname for these neighbors is the’Bumpuses’ because of the classic Christmas movie, ‘A Chrismas Story’. They were far more obnoxious neighbors than their namesake.