I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain.

December 2, 2009 at 11:31 pm (By Amba)

We’ve “moved in” to the new apartment in one sense but not the other.  We and all our stuff are in.  On the other hand, very little has found its permanent place, and it may be months before it all does.  About forty boxes, mostly full of books, are stacked up against the dining alcove wall.  Most of them are white boxes with the green triangle logo of Cary Reconstruction, the disaster specialists who moved us.  A night or two ago J cast a jaundiced eye on the stack and said, “What’s all that beer doing here?”  I cracked up, because that’s how it does look, even to me, who never owned a bar.

I needn’t have worried about feeling eerily as if I was back in the old apartment.  Despite having the same layout, this one feels very different.  I’m somehow very aware of the different compass orientation, not only because of the sunlight that pours in on clear afternoons, but geomagnetically, or something — I can feel it.  And the place has different problems.  It’s pouring out today, and we’re lower.  Rising streams and puddles turning to small ponds outside the window and porch threaten to creep into the foundations and over the threshold, reminding me that I just signed an obligatory renter’s insurance policy that specifically excludes flood.

The cheapness of the construction and maintenance here is both comical and disheartening.  The “hardwood” floor is actually a thin, plastic-treated hardwood veneer that goes “pat, pat” like linoleum when you walk on it.  It’s fine with me — very easy to clean, and far preferable to the puked-up-oatmeal-beige carpeting — but the maintenance guys installed it themselves with endearing amateurism, leaving a few scraps or screws under it that make large boils in the “wood” that aren’t fun to step on barefoot.  There’s a big gap in the weather stripping of the front door through which, on cold nights, cold air pours directly into our heating bill.  One of the maintenance guys patched it with sticky-backed weather stripping that came off the second time the door was opened.

Oddly, too, we seem to have moved into the tenements of our prefabricated “neighborhood.”  Crying newborns, rowdy kids, and vicious marital quarrels in the breezeway are all part of the new soundscape, making our former milieu at the top of the hill seem downright genteel.

It’s still an improvement (hey, when we come back from a walk I don’t have to push the wheelchair up that hill!), and a chance to start fresh in a more orderly way.  Kitty litter and cat hair show up on the shiny floor as they did not on the oatmealy carpet, prompting good new habits of near-daily sweeping.  The absence of the hideous carpet, and the slow seeping-in of acceptance that, Toto, we’re not in Manhattan any more, make me more disposed to try to make this place into a home I kind of like.

But life goes on, and there isn’t time (or bookcase space, yet) to devote to an orgy of “moving in” in the second sense.  As much as I would like to have a cozy home in time for the holidays, I’m going to have to content myself with doing it — as Bookaholics Anonymous would say — one box at a time.


  1. Icepick said,

    We’ve actually got a box of books that we haven’t unpacked from our last move – six and a half years ago! And now I need to start bolting all the damned bookcases to the walls. What were we thinking?!

  2. amba12 said,

    LOL. Cover the electric sockets while you’re at it!!

  3. Donna B. said,

    Cheap construction irritates me. AND, because the easiest way to “update” our 1960s built home is “cheap”.

    Imagine a 20 year stalemate on replacing the 30 year old linoleum in the kitchen… I want all layers removed and tile installed, my husband wants to install tile over all the existing layers.

    I want the ceiling repaired more than I want new flooring — husband won’t even discuss it. This house will never be updated!

    We just got our property tax bills and I’m laughing at the valuation. If ONLY we could sell this house for anywhere near what it’s valued at for tax purposes.

    I sort of wish we were renters. We could move. :-)

    One thing our house is — is airtight. This is not necessarily a good thing. Yes, heating and cooling is easier, but nothing ever gets “aired out” and this is a bad thing.

    Enjoy the fresh air that seeps in :-)

  4. amba12 said,

    Do you fling the doors and windows open on nice days?

  5. Donna B. said,

    Yes, we do. On both of them.

  6. Ron said,

    First off, let me tell you again if I haven’t lately, you are simply a wonderful writer, Amba. Really, just take a grocery list and write that up on this blog, just to shame half the blogosphere.

    Second, get a “door duck”; a cotton tube filled with dried peas or beans that fits at the base of the door just to cut the draft. Cheaper than losing the energy.

    Instead of “reading a book” you can say you’re “cracking open a beer”…

  7. Ruth Anne said,

    When my husband was a single First Lieutenant, living in a house full of single First Lieutenants, they had a food refrigerator and a beer refrigerator. It was on the beer porch. And, floor-to-ceiling, they had stacks of beer cases which had to be taken to the Class VI store quarterly so they could walk into the room.

    Also, being situated in Georgia, they had gigantic cockroaches which they so Southernly called ‘Palmetto bugs’, thumbtacked to the bulletin board in neat rows. They called that ‘psy-ops’.

    I don’t really know why I’m telling you this.

  8. amba12 said,

    Psy-ops!! That will stay with me till my dying day.

    In NYC I never minded the “palmetto bugs” (we call them that in Florida, too; I don’t know what they’re properly called in NYC, where there’s no palmetto). They were big and solitary and few, as if they had a months-long gestation period and a single offspring. Of course, they can fly, which is a little freaky. But they don’t multiply like — like cockroaches — and get into your scarf drawer and stink up your stuff so bad it overpowers sentimental value. The word “cockroach” is an epithet to be reserved for the German variety, IMO.

  9. Rod said,

    You may have seen fire and rain, but unless you live in the desert Southwest, you probably haven’t seen sunny days that you thought would never end.

  10. amba12 said,

    Lonely times when I could not find a friend, however, are not dependent on geography.

  11. Donna B. said,

    Ruth Anne, whatever the reason I’m glad you told us. That made me laugh!

  12. PatHMV said,

    Was he living in that environment when you started dating him, Ruth Anne? Did you spot him and say to yourself: “Now here’s a man in serious need of rescuing with a woman’s touch”? ;-)

  13. Rod said,

    Amba: I suspect you haven’t had many of those lately.

  14. amba said,

    True dat. These holidays are better than the last ones, for some reason.

  15. Rod said,

    Pat’s smiling question, “Did you spot him and say to yourself: “Now here’s a man in serious need of rescuing with a woman’s touch”?” brought to mind the gentle mockery of manners contained in the first lines of Pride and Prejudice:

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in
    possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

    However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

  16. Ruth Anne said,

    He was ‘caretaking’ that house for his friend [our Best Man] who was in Korea at the time. Rent was free. And that’s about what it was worth. At that time, the house was in ‘the historic district’ and it was looking like history had forgotten it. They decorated it in early Goodwill and blue monkey fur. I itched just going into that house. I’m told that UPS once refused to deliver a parcel there because they thought it was abandoned. [the weeds out front –not a lawn!–were hip-high at the time]. I was a little tipsy on our first date when he took us all there. There was a great pool table in the dining room [think Beverly Hillbillies].

    When I grew tired of visiting, I just claimed home-team advantage. I was paying rent for a ‘deluxe one-bedroom’…new apartment that had a wet bar, a fireplace, a screened in patio, two full bathrooms, one with a garden tub, two walk-in closets, and a skylight. OMG! I LOVED that apartment!

    But I loved Dave more and we worked it out.

    He abandoned the place for good when the mice ate his briefcase and dress shoes.

  17. amba12 said,

    LOL! Unbeatable memories!

  18. Melinda said,

    Amba, hearing about your (wonderfully described) floor is making me appreciate my hardwood floor, warped and damaged and in need of some re-beaming but oak nonetheless.

    Also, in NY those giant roaches are called waterbugs. I had one in the living room a couple of months ago. The cats sat and looked at it while I whacked it with a shoe. Don’t know what I pay them for.

  19. amba12 said,

    My cats used to chase those — they were within mouse size range — but ignore the far more abundant little German bastards.

  20. PatHMV said,

    Wonderful story, Ruth Anne… thanks for sharing! Sounds like you guys were made for each other.

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