(Because we’re “moving on up.” Not because we are black.)
It’s not often that one blog spans three home moves, unless your online diary happens to be called lookhowoftenimove.blogspot.com, in which case I stand totally corrected.
But lo, there I was for the third time in two years: packing up my belongings, throwing away a year’s worth of junk, rationalizing why I need that collection of cologne samples, and spending a solid three weeks being generally constipated with the stress of uprooting yet again.
It all started back in March of ‘08, approximately two weeks after Brooke and I moved into our first Miami apartment. Totally overestimating our affection for each other, we decided that we could both comfortably work from home together in a one-bedroom apartment.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that the reason Jack and Rose’s love was so pure was because he drowned before they ever got the chance to spend eight hours a day working a mere ten feet from each other. It was then that we decided we would go one year (the relationship equivalent of David Blaine living in the stomach of a whale for 14 days, or whatever it is he does) and then move into a two-bedroom apartment, like God and our couples therapist intended.
For both of us, the prospect of moving isn’t anything new. For me, this will be my tenth apartment in ten years. For Brooke, I think it’s twelve. Clearly somewhere down the line we got it in our heads that home isn’t where the heart is, it’s where the cheaper rent is, or where your ex isn’t, or basically anywhere different. Maybe we’re holding out for the day where we’ll walk into a new apartment, and there will literally be a heart dangling in the doorway by a string, at which point we’ll turn to each other and say “This is the place!”, but that has yet to happen.
THE SELECTION PROCESS
This move, though, was different for several reasons. For one thing, this will be our second apartment in Florida, which makes me laugh a little bit because holy shit I live in Florida. It didn’t hit me until JUST NOW. I guess when I moved down here, I thought of Miami as an extended vacation, and the next time I packed it would be to ship my belongings back to New York in boxes marked “BEACH TOWELS” and “WAY TOO MANY SHORTS.” Suddenly, here we are making long-term plans, ones with rational decision-making factors like the up-and-comingness of a neighborhood and our ability to utilize patio furniture.
But most of all, due to a general downturn in the economy (have you heard about this?) and living in a city so overbuilt that there are quite literally more apartments available than residents willing to inhabit them, this will be the first time I can actually afford a grown-up apartment. I don’t know about Brooke – apparently at one point she lived in a house (?) in L.A – but so far the grown-upest apartment I’ve ever had was our place in Park Slope, which had two closets, one bathroom, no dishwasher, and a mouse problem. The fact that it had two bedrooms was besides the point when you take into consideration that we stored extra toilet paper in an antique armoire out in the entryway and ate every meal hunched over the coffee table.
So in January when we started looking at apartments, the shock value was considerable. We were like victims of abusive relationships registering at eHarmony. “The balcony comes with the apartment? Both bathrooms have showers? THERE’S AN ICE MAKER?!” Some real estate agents even gave you puppies to walk around with, which would have been enough to convince Brooke to rent a room in the local penitentiary.
In no time at all, we were transformed from humble renters who were happy with good water pressure and a fresh paint job to a couple who might say things like, “I can’t believe the pool isn’t heated” or “I like the 15-foot ceilings, but the northern exposure is a deal breaker.” In time, I grew to hate myself with the correct degree of intensity (enough to compromise on flooring, not enough to give up water views) and after a long, intense search (as opposed to how it works in New York, where you basically have to run in and urinate on the wall to mark a $1,500 studio as yours) Brooke and I found our new home.
Adding to the aforementioned David Blaineness of the whole thing, we decided that with all our combined experience, we were ready to take moving TO THE NEXT LEVEL. So in between the time when we found our apartment (January 12) and when we moved (February 3), we planned a week-long trip to New York.
It wasn’t all that voluntary (it was a work trip), but it wasn’t rape at knifepoint either. We’d broken our current lease a month early to move ASAP, fearing we’d end up a Dateline special entitled “Murder in a One-Bedroom” should we stay any longer. But that decision, combined with official responsibilities, gave us approximately ten days to find movers and pack up everything we own before flying to New York, flying back, living off takeout and inside-out underwear for two days, then moving our lives to the other side of the Biscayne Bay.
Oh, and maybe you haven’t heard, but packing sucks. It’s one of those endeavors that is so simple in concept (pick up item; put in box; repeat), but in practice bores away at your soul like Andy Dufresne’s rock hammer in The Shawshank Redemption. Pots become “those fucking things that don’t fit anywhere,” anything glass becomes a fragile timebomb waiting to explode, and after packing ten boxes of books and realizing you have an entire bookshelf left, literacy just doesn’t seem worth the trouble.
When it came to interviewing movers, we took the buckshot approach, and made fifteen appointments for burly men to come survey our home and give us a price, which ranged from ‘kind of acceptable’ to $1,500, to which I nearly responded “Oh, I didn’t realize you could transport an ottoman while blowing me,” save for the aforementioned burliness.
In the end, we went with the cheapest guy, who may have had a lazy eye, but it was a kind lazy eye – one that ensured us that even if he tried to run off with our belongings, he wouldn’t get far.
THE FIRST 48 HOURS
There’s a lot I’d like to say about the new apartment: how I like the slight grittiness of the neighborhood (there’s a pawn shop down the block, which is just like eBay except with an added element of danger); how yesterday I looked off my balcony and down below there was a topless woman at the pool (thanks, Europe); how there’s a concierge who phones up to me when the food delivery guy is here and asks “Would you like me to send him up?” and I have the option of saying “No” if I’ve changed my mind about dinner. But I think what I liked most of all was the feeling I got when I heard that my friend John and his girlfriend Kristen were coming down from New York to visit – a mere two weeks after we moved in.
Of course, my initial emotion was happiness. Then fear, then anger, then hunger (I’m an angry eater), then anxiety, but finally excitement. Sure, we had all of ten days to unpack and set up the entire apartment, but that was nothing when compared with the fact that we had a second bedroom in which friends could stay and poop (the bathroom, not the bed) in private. It all felt so . . . adult. It was enough to make me consider deleting my porn collection.
Unpacking and setting up an apartment that is bigger than three of my Manhattan apartments combined posed some unique difficulties. (And to those of you who are like, “I just got fired and have hepatitis C, don’t talk to me about your white middle class problems,” I say – well, actually that would shut me up pretty good. Hep C is intense. But good luck with the job hunt.)
Not knowing where to start, Brooke and I went with the familiar and engaged in a few days of intense arguing about where things should go, which naturally blossomed into conversations about my inability to communicate emotionally, Brooke’s insistence on “taking a tone” with me, and the role of women’s rights in modern America’s shifting socio-political landscape, all of which culminated in me storming out of the apartment and taking a drive to a nearby CVS where I stood on line with a bottle of water for ten minutes behind two mid-20’s black gentlemen who somehow made it a four man job to buy eight gallons of grapefruit juice, for which I have to imagine there was a good and specific purpose but to this day cannot figure out what it is.
After that, were ready to unpack.
THE SETTLING IN
The next three days unfolded like Extreme Makeover, except instead of a huge team of good hearted volunteers, there was me, Brooke, and Puppy, who was largely useless.
Couches nearly tumbled off balconies, new curse words were coined (“mother cocksuck!”), but no project was more daunting than the building of the closets. I had actually been excited at the prospect, considering myself above-average handy and a romantic when it comes to working with my hands (that’s what she said). I envisioned myself out on the large balcony, shirt off, sanding large planks of maple in the sun – classic man vs. nature, or at least man vs. Home Depot.
It just so happened, though, that our move coincided with Florida’s worst cold streak in years, and my dreams of glistening with sweat like a lumberjack in a lurid but well-written romance novel turned into realities of whining about the cold and saying things like “This would never happen at West Elm!”, rendering me as unmanly as I was when my Christmas tree fell over in apartment #5, or when I lived with a pigeon who flew in my kitchen window for two days in apartment #2.
As of the flattening of the final unpacked box, though, no major injuries had been suffered, no drinking problems became “concerning,” only one small fire was started, and no one went all Chris Brown on anyone. (You know you’ve been gone a long time when even your domestic violence jokes are a week old.) And the apartment? Well let’s just say that while I understand that being a mature adult is more than just the space you are in (say, having a career you are passionate about, or not making a conscious and pointed decision to use the word “poop” a few paragraphs up), I still get the distinct feeling that this is what it feels like to grow up.
(Click to enlarge to dream-like proportions)
Puppy remains unimpressed.