Welcome Back To The City

(Today's photo is brought to you by the Indignant Urbanites of Seattle, the same folks who brought you the "These Cookies Are As Hard As Dog Biscuits" rant.)

The note states:

"Whoever put this bag of animal feces in my trash can, you need to be a RESPONSIBLE dog owner and take it home with you. Thanks."

My favorite part? Oh, I don't know. There are too many things to love, really. There's the fact that "responsible" is spelled out in all caps. There's the little lesson at the end about how to be that responsible dog owner (take your poop home, dude). There's the fact that the word "Thanks" is underlined. There's the fact that this person DUG THE POOP out of their trash, WROTE A NOTE ABOUT THE POOP, and then STAPLED THE POOP TO A LIGHT POLE outside their house. It takes a special kind of indignant person to handle poop that many times.

I was going to create a post about the joys of walking to work, of how good it feels to not drive everywhere, of how CLOSE we are to everything.... but then (while on a walk) I saw this and I thought: Who wants to read about walking to work on the Internet when you read about my neighbors' unholy rage about poop in their trash can?

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The New Face of Terrorism: Citrus Transporters

Among my more redeeming compulsions is my inability to throw away perfectly good food. Sure, I've tossed out my share of soggy bags of rotten lettuce... but I've done so with a heavy heart (and the memory of an elephant) such that when I got the chance to redeem myself later on down the road, no matter how much it made me that weird woman in the restaurant who just wrapped her uneaten tortillas in a napkin and shoved them in her purse, I've done it. CLH usually wants to slink under the table and disappear at times like these, but, to him I say: Look here, financial partner of mine! I have just saved us three perfectly good tortillas! That's at least THIRTY whole cents of food we won't have to buy this week!

Never mind that my fair city's restaurants compost a good deal of their food waste and that anything I don't eat gets turned into luscious, rich soil suitable for growing more food. No, even the most valiant efforts of our nation's most forward thinking city planners cannot stop my Depression Era tendencies.

Which brings us to the lemons.

So, we went on a trip to Canada this weekend. The trip was sponsored by a generous client of mine; he hosted nearly thirty people for dinner, which was prepared from scratch by one of our mutual friends. Mutual friend bought enough to feed a small army. And there were leftovers enough to feed another small army the next day. The sight of these leftovers, filling up an entire dining room table top, lit up the non-food wasting/money saving part of my brain, which, conveniently, is located right next to the part of my brain that makes my arms want to take home uneaten tortillas. Now, we didn't have a way to take home these particular leftovers... though, when we opened the 'fridge to take out our snacks for the ride home, we did discover leftovers we COULD take home. Sitting inside the fridge were pounds and pounds of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. They didn't get used in the salad the night before and they were there for the taking. I couldn't help myself. Tomatoes might be my favorite food on earth. I love to grow them, eat them, cook with them, and juice them, and I especially like them pulverized and poured over vodka with Tabasco sauce and cocktail onions, extra olives, please.

And what was there in the vegetable drawer right next to the tomatoes? Why, the lemons. And on the floor, still in its grocery bag? A watermelon. A veritable feast for god's sake, all for free. We packed it in the car and headed home, my skin all a-tingle with the frugality of it all.

But guess what you can't take over the Canadian/US border, Internets? Guess what the guys in the scary SWAT team uniforms will search your car for? Guess why I, the non-driver, all sweaty and bloaty with menstrual cramps, had to get out of the car ? And guess why I had to redeem my passport at a building off to the side of the road full of other sweaty, bloaty people?

It was the lemons.

CLH and I had a five second conversation about the fruit in the car as we pulled up to the border crossing. We've been to Canada dozens of times, and we know the routine with food. You're not supposed to do it. If you're going to do it, be discreet, don't carry metric tons of it, and for god's sake, DON'T TELL THE BORDER POLICE YOU HAVE CITRUS FRUIT IN THE CAR.

But, the wait was two hours long, and we decided, just to be transparent and not get hauled off for lying about it and then interrogated by angry men in itchy, hot jumpsuits, we'd better declare the stupid lemons. So we did. And the stern but friendly man in the booth slapped a giant sized orange Post-It onto the windshield and told us to pull off and go to some building to the left, where we would need to surrender our contraband TWO LEMONS and pick up our passports. At this point, I was nearly unconscious with the heat of sitting in a non-air conditioned car for two hours. (Did I mention we were nearly out of gas and didn't have enough to be able to idle/run the A/C for two hours?) The heat, plus the ibuprofen I'd popped to relieve the cramps, makes this next part a little fuzzy. Apparently, we were given bad instructions to get to the nebulous "building to the left", so CLH parked and walked into the building he thought was the leftmost one, the building marked "AGRICULTURE". (Silly, silly man.) When he got inside, the officials were startled and suspicious and asked him how he'd gotten in the building. He explained he was just looking to hand over two lemons in exchange for our passports and had simply walked through the door. They got all edgy and explained that he needed to go to THAT leftmost building over there, the one NOT marked "Agriculture". So, he headed off to the OTHER leftmost building. Once at the desk, the border police told CLH they needed ME to come in the building, along with the keys to the car. Perfectly logical. About as logical as walking into a building marked "agriculture" to hand in some lemons.

I staggered in to the building, my skin flushed and hot, my lower half full of retained water, my face a consummate grimace of hate for all things inefficient, and practically hissed and spat at the overweight lady behind the counter. At this point, I finally caught a glance of the two offending lemons. There were lying on a counter behind the desk, on top of the giant orange Post-It. They looked absolutely ridiculous back there, these two tiny pieces of bright yellow fruit on top of an imposing black counter top where guns and drugs had probably lain hours before. And here we were, stuck at the border, having brought in lemons. That we bought in Canada. That had probably been GROWN IN THE US. And SHIPPED TO CANADA. We told the officer that there were also a bunch of tomatoes and one whole watermelon in the car as well- just in case she was feeling snackish and wanted to speed up the process.

When the border control officer returned, she looked down her nose at us and said, "You know you have tomatoes in there, too, right?" And here is where I had to dig my fingernails into my palms to resist shouting: Ummm..... YES, LADY. REMEMBER HOW WE DECLARED THAT FIVE MINUTES AGO TO YOU? AND TEN MINUTES AGO TO THE OFFICER IN THE BOOTH?

Finally, she scribbled a big "S" on the back of the Post-It, and sent us on our way. And that was it. Our departure from Canada sponsored by the letter "S".

So, the lesson here (and you knew there was lesson in this, didn't you?) is this: You can mosey on in, unannounced and unassisted, to a border control building. You can tell two different Homeland Security Officers what's in the car, but they won't write it down or tell each other (or remember what you've said is in there, either). You can bring in a watermelon, which is large enough to house several pounds of whatever contraband you fancy. Tomatoes are cool, too. But don't even THINK about, don't even CONSIDER, taking TWO LOUSY LEMONS into the country. Lemons are the fruit of the enemy. If the lemons get in, the terrorists win.

I feel more secure already.

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The Unpacking Begins

Well, we're here, people. I have been trying to think of a more dramatic way to announce we've FINALLY moved, but there's just no drama 'round these parts right now. We're just back in the old 'hood. All things are perfectly normal. It's like we never left. All things are falling neatly into place.

Even though the mirror from the bedroom is leaning up against the couch in the living room, the crab leg crackers and the broken French press are co-mingling on the top of the fridge, and I'm using a metal box for an ottoman right now, I am perfectly calm. See me NOT freaking out about neatness? Isn't it GREAT!?

Oh, and listen:


The move itself went very smoothly... though it did take us one trip in a fully packed seventeen foot moving van and FOUR, count 'em, FOUR, separate trips in a borrowed pickup truck to get all our CRAP from the old place to the new place. That's a LOT of crap, people. A LOT. As in, that's WAY more stuff than I remember moving with. As in, I didn't have time to be tired from moving it all because I was too busy being embarrassed at owning so much STUFF. Can you even imagine? A seventeen foot van was not enough room for two people, TWO PEOPLE, to move all their stuff out of their house. Granted, one of those pickup trucks was very full of potted tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers, but, still. Seventeen linear feet. That's nearly 1800 cubic feet. And it was still not enough room to pack in all our thousands of pounds of stuff.

So, I am on a mission. The mission is simple: get rid of HALF of everything I own. HALF. Every time I open and unpack a box, I put half of its contents into one of several bins I've got stashed around the house. The contents of these bins will eventually all be sold at our enormous, enormous garage sale, date to be determined. There are people out there, young people just starting out, or older people starting over, who need my stuff. And I'm going to be selling it at rock bottom prices in about a month. It's not about the money I can get for it all. It's about dispensing it out in the world and letting someone else use it for a while. Seriously. Half of everything I own.

This move has made me very, very aware of how much stuff I have accumulated and carried around with me- some things in boxes that haven't been sorted through in years- from living arrangement to living arrangement, for purely emotional reasons. Tonight I unearthed a blue glass candleholder that I bought with money I earned from the second job I ever had. My second job. Ever. That was more than 15 years ago. And, no, the candleholder isn't plated in gold, or signed by the Pope. It's just plain blue glass. And it was probably a dollar back in 1996 or whenever I bought it. And, no, I haven't used it in YEARS. But I haven't been able to let go of it, either. Why? Well, it's probably one part minor hoarding compulsion, and one part nostalgia. It's a symbol, more than anything. A symbol of emancipation from my parents' financial woes, a symbol of my entering the "real world" workforce, and a symbol of my ability to build and decorate my own home, complete with blue glass candleholders, bean bag chairs, and posters of The Paperboys.

This is no small thing for me to let go of some of this stuff. I mean, I have literally been carting some of it around since before I moved to Seattle. The number on my lips these days is "10". Some things I have been holding onto for ten years. But this move, this period in my life... it's making me rethink all this carting around and holding on. I'm going to be doing some major sorting and thinning in the coming weeks. My goal is lightness. My mantra is consolidation. I don't know what opportunities lie ahead of me, just that I will need to be treading lightly on this earth to take advantage of them.

So, the unpacking continues. The bedroom is done. The kitchen is a work in progress. For now, the spider plant sits in the middle of the living room. Still, I am calm and every day, I feel a little bit better about being here. I know that this is the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

Also, I know that I don't miss the airplanes overhead. Not. One. Bit.

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Re-Lease With Peace

Internets, there is just so much going on around here, I can barely decide on what to write about. I actually have enough petty grievances saved up to tell you about that I won't need to leave the house for three days. And it's only Wednesday.

I should be sleeping, but the drilling and VERY LOUD pillow fluffing going on in the next room is keeping me up. That's right. Someone is using power tools and fluffing pillows in my former office. My "former" office because a renter is moving into it. A RENTER! Internets, do you know what that means? It means I am *this*much closer to moving out. And you know what else that means? For the next seven days, I get to share my bathroom with a stranger! A bathroom that I pay for! A bathroom that my good credit is helping to secure! A bathroom that I will have to learn to close the door to because when you OWN a bathroom, YOU CAN DO THINGS LIKE LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN WHEN YOU PEE. But you know what that ALSO means? It means I am moving out! In seven days. CLH and I are ending this experiment with co-living and we are moving into our our own place on July 15th: The two year anniversary of our move in date to this house.

After much searching, gnashing of teeth, and tearing of hair, we found a nice little unit in a triplex deep in the heart of one of our favorite neighborhoods back up in the city. It's not the rental house we were hoping for, and it doesn't have hardwoods, and it doesn't have a yard or a garden, but it's going to be ours. All ours. Every night for the past two weeks, I have gone to sleep dreaming about the three things I will want to do immediately upon moving in: walk around in my underwear, drink my morning coffee in front of my computer in peace, and watch obscene amounts of the Discovery Channel while painting my toenails. I'm currently trying to come up with a way to do all three simultaneously.

To be quite honest, though, I'm a little bummed that the apartment only met only 90% of our criteria. I'm excited to actually make the move and get this limbo thing over with, but there's a little nagging voice in my head that thinks that maybe I pulled the trigger a little too soon. I keep telling myself that we're only committing to a year there, that maybe we can go live in Europe or something afterwards. And, after looking at dump after dump, this place was the obvious choice for us, and, um, hello? NINETY percent is a pretty high number. On the advice of friends (thanks, Dave and Sarah!) CLH and I sat down at breakfast one morning during our search and wrote down all the things we wanted in a house. It was a great exercise because a) it gave me an excuse to make a list and lists are like the paper version of Valium to me, and b) it was a great way to expedite the decision making process when we saw a place that we were on the fence about. Some of the things on my list: wanting to hear birds (and NOT airplanes, for the love of god) first thing in the morning, bikeability to most clients' offices, and washer and dryer in the unit. Some of CLH's criteria: place for the missus to write, access to bus lines, and washer and dryer in unit. So, after confirming with each other that we would absolutely, under no circumstances, never, ever, ever travel more than ten feet from our clothes hamper to the washing machine, we took our list to the streets. And the place we chose met most of our demands. We've figured out some work-arounds to the whole non-yard thing (the biggest hangup for me); I'm going to set up a container garden next the garage. And CLH has promised me that he won't cringe too hard when I lay out the bolt of Astroturf on the driveway, roll the grill over it, and call the friends over for a barbecue in our "yard" .

Just to torture myself, I did another craigslist search for houses in our price range tonight. Thankfully, there weren't too many new listings. I say "thankfully" because I think I am still hung up on this not being an ideal new place, and wanted some confirmation that the place we've picked is the best thing out there. Having thought moving in to this house two years ago was a good choice for us, I am feeling like my ability to make a housing decision has become somewhat impaired. I think that I may have done some permanent damage to that lighter, more whimsical person I used to be when I agreed to move in to a fixer upper in the suburbs. Now I'm considering massive flowcharts and bar graphs designed to show, for instance, the inverse relationship between sleeping and planes flying overhead, before making ANY decisions. I know my wish list is a little unrealistic, especially in a rental situation, but, I sort of wanted this next place to be this beautiful, commodious, centrally located dreamhouse of a house. I think I need to realize that what we have chosen is going to be just what we need. Also, it sort of feels like it's SUPPOSED to be ours. I don't want to make too much of it, but I'm pretty sure the universe was trying to dropkick us in the head with this one. At the exact SECOND we finished clearing everything out of my office to make it ready for a renter, the landlady called to give us the place for $50 less than what she was originally asking. Did we need a bigger hint to take the damn place already?

We're just about ready to go, too. CLH and I spent last weekend stacking nearly everything we own into a very sexy 10' by 5' by 7' pile in our garage. We're at the dreaded place now where there are just random things lying around needing to be packed. Stuff that didn't get caught in the dragnet of my organization the first time around... things like the lone fork that's been in and out of the dishwasher a few times, the decorative glass jar that was hiding behind the sequined penguin ornament, a spool of thread, and the battery hatch cover to SOMETHING we own. That kid of stuff. I'm so OVER the whole packing thing, I'm starting to pack very unlike myself. I'm just throwing (inhaling slowly to calm myself) unrelated junk into a box. And the list-making, regularly-scheduled-sock drawer-organizing side of me is breaking out in hives over it. It's a slippery slope, that kind of packing. Classic gateway behavior. Sure, it's just a little toaster in with the tennis rackets now. But, soon enough, we'll be wearing stained sweatpants and "I'm With Stupid" t-shirts, parking our cars on the front lawn, and tying pieces of steak to fireworks. Just you wait.

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The Bombs Bursting In Air

Happy, Birthday, 'Murica! Do you still have all your fingers and toes? 'Cause you put on one hell of a show last night. You kept my backyard lit up till nearly 2 am. If I had to judge from the detritus in my front yard, I'd say you're going to come up short with the rent next month, 'cause we both know that a four hour firework show is not cheap. But who cares, right? For one night you got to recreate a war zone with shit you could buy from a tent on the side of the road, and, by golly, did you do it up. Oh, and that piece of charred STEAK on the roof of CLH's car this morning? Nice work. Nothin' says "freedom" like setting a choice cut of meat atop an M80 and letting 'er rip! You sure as hell know how to party, 'Murica.

Honestly, steak cleanup aside, it was a pretty darned good weekend. We got to spend July 4th with our friends Lacy and Roberto (who are moving to Canada in a week and who we will miss having so close to us.) What I love about these two is that they don't let lack of resources ruin a good engineering idea. The weather was extremely warm on Saturday, and, after a couple glasses of a wild mint/rum concoction made in haste, we were nearly unconscious with dehydration and exhaustion. So, naturally, Lacy and Roberto built a Slip N Slide. And when I say "built", I mean that they grabbed all the tarps we owned and the hose, and, within minutes, had us hurling our bodies face first down a 20 foot run of blue plastic into a "splash pool" that Lacy constructed with her bare hands. It was astounding. Oh, and did I mention that this was AFTER Lacy had built us a cabana out of two ladders, a couple pieces of timber, and a blanket? We had shade for hours. Seriously, people. If you're not using household junk to keep yourself cool on a hot day, you're doing it all wrong. And I'm pretty sure Lacy's for hire.

Today CLH and I washed our cars and then ate hot dogs for lunch (and then sang the national anthem 'cause it just seemed like the right thing to do). We both vacuumed the insides of our cars, and then CLH changed my burned-out headlight and topped off my windshield wiper fluid. And then, THEN! because it was empty, we got to (drum roll please) THROW AWAY the windshield wiper fluid bottle. It was thrilling! Because you know what that means? That means we don't have to move with it! Oh! And we blew through a dusty bottle of tequila AND a bottle of peach schnapps on Saturday. So you know what that means? WE DON'T HAVE TO MOVE WITH THOSE EITHER! Do you see where I'm going with this??? I could very possibly violate my own personal limits on exclamation point usage on this one if I let myself go, that's how excited I am! We actually are GETTING RID of stuff!

I am on this trajectory right now to get rid of HALF of what we own. Somehow, I have managed to cart around with us for the past ten years pounds and pounds of stuff that has just no meaning or use to us anymore. I can't explain why I have become so incredibly lazy at keeping inventory of my own life, but I have. We still have stuff in boxes from when we moved into this house two years ago. Unpacked. And the stuff we accumulated while living here? I understand now why everyone warned us about the curse of a big house: you simply fill up the space with stuff. Now that I have to pack so much of it into boxes for the move, I am realizing that I no longer feel the attachment to my stuff in the way I used to. I don't mean to imply that I've mastered the Zen art of non-attachement overnight... just that most of my stuff has this timestamp on it, and I don't feel connected with that time anymore. I want to create new memories. It feels good to let go. It feels like it has needed to happen for a long time now. Happy Independence Day to me, 'Murica.

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