Moving Days

It was more than disconcerting to return from lunch at Draeger’s, our upscale suburban food emporium, to find some of my finest kitchen pieces scattered about a drought-stricken patch of apartment lawn. Not that it was surprising. This is what’s happening at the 11th hour, pre-move. We are jettisoning possessions, Jane and I. At times this is an orderly process. But as the departure hour nears, there is less order and no process.

On the apartment grass were two glass canisters with cork stoppers, the sort of kitchen container commonly used to store and display pasta, flour and so on…in another era. I bought these in grad school, in Colma, which in the early 1970s boasted an Akron store. No one has ever heard of this retailer today. But I knew of them from my roots in Southern California. Akron had a bit of soul about it, as retail stores go. They produced a flyer full of chatty observations about their goods. Trader Joe’s does much the same today. But Akron had a very moderne look about their graphical layout. The retail shtick was all about being sensibly thrifty, appreciating the then exotic imports on their shelves. Billy Barnes, a Los Angeles impresario, put it this way in one of his revues: ‘At the fabulous Akron…middle-class mortals can pass through its portals…and go on a spree for a buck 93.’

So there I was, on the way home from classes at nearby San Francisco State University, buying cheap kitchen gear. I would guess that the glass containers on the apartment lawn cost less than one dollar each in 1973. It’s only now, time and adulthood and shifting perspectives being what they are, that the rather gross defects in these glass canisters show themselves off. The glass tops are badly tilted. This would make sense if they were handblown. But at $.95 each, they probably weren’t. No, they were probably seconds…defective goods that some store buyer understood to have an askew charm. Oddly, they still have that charm. I hope they find a good home. After 42 years in mine, it’s time.

But why is it time? After all, they are somewhat classic and timeless, these glass cork-stoppered canisters. What is not timeless is me. If I face facts, they don’t work very well anymore. My balance is just bad enough to require something else. They are too tall to hold heavy things that get poured, like rice. And, no, this wasn’t always true. And when it became true I can’t quite say. In fact, I could blame the whole thing on Jane who is redoing the kitchen. Which is slightly true. It’s our kitchen, but predominantly hers. I cook less and less. I have my own office. Much of the kitchen is hers. It’s sensible and fair and necessary.

San Francisco. What sort of life are we approaching…very soon, for we move in two days?

Fate has been telling us not to romanticize the prospect. Let’s take Thursday’s San Francisco Symphony matinee. It was a Rhoda Goldman performance, sponsored by a foundation active in elder issues. Being an elder myself, I shouldn’t be surprised to see an audience full of canes and walkers, not to mention clandestine oxygen, abdominal bags and so on. We were there in force. And although the audience had a few years on me, I have quite a bit of experience on them…in the musculoskeletal limitation department.

Which was why I found it a little jarring to have a man pushing a walking frame explain how I should steer my wheelchair, as together we exited the elevator. I smiled indulgently. With the interval’s end approaching, I waited just as indulgently as the same man somehow jammed his walker’s brake cable into the door of the lift. The house chimes were going off, warning patrons to take their seats, while the man’s wife struggled to get the elevator going again. Concert over, the very same man managed to get his walking frame’s wheel stuck in the very same door of the very same lift.

Which explains why Jane and I were hustling down Van Ness Avenue to get another elevator, this one leading to the city’s tram system. We arrived at Van Ness station to find yellow tape crisscrossing the lift door. Out of service, read the sign, use Civic Center station.

Let me explain parenthetically, and rather critically, that this afternoon was designed as a break from moving. Moving breaks the strongest, let it be said. And my stalwart and robust wife was flagging by the time we got to the Civic Center station. Where, the elevator was also out of action. These mass transit wild goose chases were taking their toll, I could tell. I decided it was time for a bus. It was a short ride to the Caltrain station. Followed by a long wait…but at least we had the option of cappuccino in a fairly quiet spot. At first Jane refused the latter, but by the end she had a few sips. We took an express train home. Which may be, more or less, our last. We may not be doing this at all…or at least not so often, once we have a city address.

My disability debars me from much of the moving activity. Still, I am fairly good at winnowing, the separation of husk from kernel…at the heart of which lies an essential question. The dead, what are we to do with them?

Only this morning, my last Sunday in Menlo Park, I finally hurled an entire photo album into the bin. The pictures recorded the first wedding of Marlou, my late wife. Sadly, no one would miss this, principally Marlou herself. If she had had the time, I don’t doubt that this fact would have gone into her will. As it was, the thing went into the landfill…but with regrets. After all, just look at it. All the effort Marlou went to make this wedding happen. The outfits, the cake, the guests. As for the ex-husband, she barely mentioned him. No one else has, either. While only yesterday morning, I did much the same thing, this time with an entire carton of photos from Tom, my former landlord and benefactor, who died about three years ago. I had waited these years in the hopes that time would provide an answer. Surely someone wanted these photos…. Of course, the answer was, and is, no. They too went into the Palo Alto landfill. We are all headed there…which is the most valuable lesson in moving. As one moves, one has to let go. And, with any luck, one arrives. Stay tuned.

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