Inhuman Swill : Moving

Packing Kevin's painting
"What the hell are you doing?" the old man yelled into my window. "You can't park here! What's wrong with you?"

I had just backed very carefully into a space barely wide enough for the car. My friend Kevin was riding shotgun, my dog Ella in a nest in the back seat. Funny, I thought as the man angrily waved me back into the alley, we only missed our target by about twelve feet.

That was exactly one year ago this evening—Wednesday, June 26, 2013. It was the tail end of a 24-hour odyssey that already felt like a dream.

In reality, though, the odyssey went back much farther. For months, Laura and I had been planning a move from Chicago back to New York City. The company she worked for had offered her a job in its New York office, and in fact she was already spending much of her time there, transitioning into her new role. It fell to me to make all the arrangements for moving, to get everything packed, and to find us a new place to live.

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My town, kinda, Chicago is

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Laura and I were in San Diego a coupla three weeks ago for the World Fantasy Convention. (Yes, it was awesome to see you there too!) When we arrived, she was immediately captivated by the natural beauty of the area, and by the weather. "Ooooh, do you think they have a good business community here?" she asked. "Maybe we can move here."

You have to understand that neither of us is entirely sold on Chicago, still, though it's hard to pin down a precise source of dissatisfaction. We moved here four years ago from New York City. Laura got a great job right off the bat, and recently she started an even better one. We have a great apartment. And, I host a monthly reading series at a nearby bar, which means I meet a lot of local writers.

True, we've been slow to make close friends here, and our close-friend roster is still weighted heavily with New Yorkers, but that's starting to come along. For a while it was the case that we would make a very close friend here and then they would move out of Chicago, very far away, but that trend seems to be reversing. Now people we know are moving to Chicago, which is an encouraging development. And Worldcon is here next year!

Nevertheless, there's some undefinable thing that still nags at us, so I said to Laura, "You should talk to [info]gregvaneekhout this weekend and see what he thinks of living in San Diego."

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The heavy lifting

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A poem that made me smile most broadly today is "Moving Day" by Ron Koertge. Read it—it won't take you very long.

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My loose screw

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Changing Spaces
It's been almost three weeks since we moved into our new apartment, but I remember it like it was ... well, twenty days ago.

Things were going great. Three strong men had made short work of our boxes, which were now stacked neatly in the truck. Laura and her mother were ready to follow the truck to the new place in her mother's car and oversee the start of the unloading. The dog and I were going to stick around for a bit to tie up some loose ends, then join up with everyone else at the new place.

Good thing I slipped behind the wheel of our car to take the prime parking space my mother-in-law was about vacate. When I turned the key, nothing happened. Not a click.

I should have known this was coming. For a week or so, the car had been taking longer and longer to turn over, the starter motor hacking like a heavy smoker. This time the battery was obviously completely dead. My mother-in-law had no jumper cables, and neither did the movers. But at least I hadn't discovered this with Ella on my hands after everyone else had left.

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Too much light and all that

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One of the surprises of our new neighborhood is that we're a rather short walk from the legendary Neo-Futurarium. We rolled the die and came up winners.

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We are trying to break your heart


Moving ... again
The movers are here. The contents of the apartment are draining into the truck with disconcerting rapidity. There's not much about this neighborhood that we will miss, but one of our great regrets just walked past us up the sidewalk. Our neighbor John Stirratt, bassist for Wilco and before that for Uncle Tupelo, just ambled past pushing a stroller on his morning walk. He glanced at the open front door of our apartment, and at the hustling movers, as he passed by me and my armful of odds and ends, and it was probably just my imagination that he looked a little disappointed. We've said hello to him but never felt comfortable "bothering" him to try to strike up a conversation. We've struck up conversations with plenty of other people in the neighborhood, though none of those conversations ever led to making actual friends. But even given that dismal batting average, why did we shy away from even talking to the most obviously interesting* person on our side of the street? I feel very sad about this failure, and like a giant asshole. Maybe he and his family are lonely here too.

* I don't mean to imply that no one else on the street could possibly be interesting to talk to, just that Stirratt represents a subject I know already that I'm interested in.
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The end of summer

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Obsessing about politics is not all I've been up to lately. First and foremost, if you hadn't divined it from cryptic postings or from status messages on Facebook and Twitter, Laura and I are moving again this month. Not a huge move, just up to the northern end of Chicago, but we're hoping it will make all the difference for our Chicago-living experience. Humboldt Park turns out to be not the neighborhood we had hoped for, or thrive much in. (Even the fact that Wilco's John Stirratt lives a block down from us can't save it for us.) We're betting that the Andersonville/Ravenswood sorta area will be much better for us. We'll make the move just as the season changes.

We've also seen an uncommonly good deal of John and Shai Klima over the past week. On Saturday we drove to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and met up with them at the home of John's awesome parents. From there the four of us continued to Spring Green, where we saw a delightful outdoor afternoon American Players Theatre production of "The Belle's Strategem" by Hannah Cowley. We had dinner at a tapas joint called The Icon in Madison. Good times.

Then last night John and Shai braved oil-tanker accidents on I-88 to make the drive to Chicago. The four of us had an abundant Indian feast, after which we repaired to the House of Blues to see The Fratellis. Other than the slight hiccup of being barred from entering the House of Blues with a shoulder bag (what? no bag check inside?), we had a marvelous evening. I'm assuming that the Klimas made it back to Iowa in one piece after the show. (Didja?)

Meanwhile, I've been so wrapped up in packing the apartment that it didn't even register that two fellow Chicagoans are moving (in one case back) to New York! Congratulations (and no small amount of envy) to Deborah and [info]scottjanssens! We hate you. (But only a little.)

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Shelves finally up and filled
As we unpacked all the books and shelved them, I also LibraryThung them all. (That's the past participle of the verb to LibraryThing.) That is how I know we have nearly 1,200 books in our collection. Not a huge number by some standards, but significantly smaller than the number of books we had two moves ago. Between giveaway parties, library donations, and Strand sales, we've unloaded at least half of our books in the past two years.

Oh, part of the process of shelving the books was installing the shelves themselves. We picked up three big new bookcases for the main rooms from Ikea, but in my home office I hung the custom shelves that have moved with us, again, twice:

Hey, if you're on LibraryThing too, let's be friends.

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It's amazing what a difference it makes when a city agrees to stash its garbage out back in the alleys instead of out front on the sidewalk.

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It was an interesting conversation in a staff meeting at work the next-to-last week of June. "So," said my boss, "you'll be in the office on Thursday the 28th, I hope? Please say yes."

Laura and I were moving from New York City to Chicago on Saturday the 30th—our sixth anniversary—and I thought I had already been pretty clear that I had to take both that Thursday and Friday off. I was keeping my job, and once we were in Chicago I would resume work as usual, except I would be working from home. I was using vacation time for the move.

I considered what to say. People are used to me being kind of an asshole at the office; I rarely hold back from saying what I think, or so my coworkers seem to think, and I believe they find it amusing, annoying, and scary in about equal measure. "The movers come Friday morning," I said. "My wife has been doing the lion's share of the packing, but if I don't pitch in in a big way on Thursday, she'll kill me."

"What if we'll kill you if you don't work that day?" said another of my coworkers. We did have a lot of tough deadlines coming up.

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