“Hell is other people.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
With the deepest respect to Mr. Sartre, he is clearly mistaken. For the reality is – to misquote Euripides – that those whom the gods would destroy, they first make…move house. Sartre must have stayed in the same home all his life, for otherwise, his definition of hell would have involved Rubberware tubs, moving vans and an eternity spent trying to squeeze a quart into a pint-pot. Yes: for the first time since 2000, I’ve moved. I’d forgotten quite how awful an experience that is. And even though this one involved about a hundredth of the distance in the London-Phoenix one, I can see why it’s regarded as third most stressful life experience, behind the death of a spouse and… Oh, I dunno, maybe marginally behind abduction by a particularly-peeved Al Qaeda splinter faction.
It’s not until you try and move it all, that you realize just how much crap you have. I use that word after careful consideration, though perhaps the term ‘cruft‘ might be more appropriate, since we’re largely talking about things that you don’t necessarily want to keep – they just accumulate over the course of time. In my case, that’s approaching nine years; for Chris, it was fifteen or so. It was necessary to be brutal: take a look and say, “What are the odds of me using this in future?” In the case of things like, say, multiple boxes of PAL videotapes, the answer could only be “Er… Well… Oh, look! Wedding pictures!” Sadly, such diversionary tactics were not enormously successful, and there is a significant chunk of Phoenix landfill that is now 50 Hz.
It was amazing the stuff which surfaced, providing a history in objects and ephemera of my life. For example, my membership card for the Scala Cinema (below), and a poster for the Chow Yun-Fat festival that was the last event held there. [The card expired sometime in 1994, some time after the venue got sued by Stanley Kubrick and went under. I am probably not the only Scala fan, whose response on hearing of Stan’s death was, “Serve the fucker right.”] The original masters for most of the early issues of TC. An copy of Deep Red magazine, autographed by Dario Argento. Man, I had some cool stuff. It took most of an afternoon just to go through the movie posters: memo to self, next house must have more walls.
All told, however, I was ruthless. Ok, mostly I was ruthless with Chris’s stuff – it would probably have made sense for her to go through my possessions, and vice-versa. Still, we ended up throwing out a massive amount of stuff: almost the entire length of the drive-way was filled with garbage bags and unwanted items, from monitors to swing-sets. It wasn’t enough. We originally ordered a 16-foot pod, in the expectation it would be large enough for almost everything. But we needed to add another, similarly-sized truck, and even after that, there were still several van-loads which needed to be moved down to the new house. For days, it seemed it was an apparently endless job; no matter how much we packed, another cupboard would be discovered, and the amount remaining seemed no less.
We were basically cut off from the outside world for the last couple of days: we’d unplugged the ‘puters and TVs and moved them down there, for a scheduled install of cable and Internet there on the Monday. However, Cox unilaterally shifted that to the previous day, and were surprised when there was no-one there. This was not unexpected, since they had also disconnected things at the old house at 8pm on a previous Saturday night, the fact that we hadn’t quite left there yet having escaped them. Despite being called within ten minutes, it took them 48 hours to reconnect us, and if Chris hadn’t threatened a fatwa, it would have been three times as long. Really, if we didn’t have about forty hours of stuff on the Tivo, we’d have probably told them exactly where they could stick their cable. And they might have had difficulty picking up a signal thereafter.
Finally, the great day dawned, with the truck packed up and the contents delivered to the new location. Now, all we had to do was find somewhere to put it all. For part of the problem is that we moved to a smaller house. This made logical sense, in that one child had already flown the coop [albeit at her third attempt – however, does look like this one has stuck], so her bedroom was providing the dogs with accommodation. However, I think the key difference was forgetting that we had an entire two-car garage, basically stuffed to the gunnels with beads…and no garage in the new place. As a result, the only way it was all going to fit, was if the new house was also capable of travelling through time and space, and came with a companion and a sonic screwdriver.
We have adopted a pragmatic approach to this point, working on the principle that we should only unpack stuff likely to be used. Laserdiscs, for example, will remain in their current boxes, pending a move to a permanent location in a couple of years [once it’s just me and Chris, we can find a place from where we will be the ones being carried out in boxes…] However, there is just no way the number of books, for example, can be fitted on to the available shelfspace, or the clothes in the closets. Especially when both will likely been co-opted for beads by the time we’re done, since the corridor outside the room where I’m typing is currently reduced to half its width, due to bead cabinets. It doesn’t help that the dogs like to sleep there too, meaning that a trip to the bathroom is fraught with furry anti-personnel devices, ones which get up off the floor just as you step over them, just in case of the unlikely event that you might, at three in the morning, be going to the kitchen to feed them.
So it’s still very much a work in progress: at this moment, Chris is putting up blinds in the bedroom, to prevent a 5am wake-up call from Mr. Arizona Sun. However, it does feel like home, with the living-room, office and bedroom now in a state of acceptable habitability: it may still be quite some time before there be enough room for a house-warming party, never mind the inclination!