Sunday, November 15, 2015

Off the Top of My Head

Why didn’t Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) just move that ottoman so he wouldn’t trip over it every time he came in the door?

Is it just me, or are you seeing an upswing in the amount of SPAM mail you are getting these days?  Medium Ron is all over me for seeing my future.  JDate wants to fix me up, but so does Christian Mingle, so I predict a brutal competition over my single status ahead.  On the same day I can receive messages regarding life insurance and burials, a sobering glimpse of reality.  Yet, if I get the ace toenail fungus remover offered, maybe my health will improve, unless that nasty prostate problem fares up that someone keeps bringing to my attention.  If so, maybe Medium Ron or Clairvoyant Chris can give me some insight into whether my health will improve. 

I think I’d like to get into Taylor Swift’s squad.  She hangs around with young models and singers and celebrities and they go to cool places and seem like they are having a blast.  And, according to her song, she has a blank space, so I think she should write my name.

I’d love to get one of those cool hover boards, but I’d probably have to ride it down the hallways of the hospital, because that’s where I’d end up, trying to ride a hover board in the first place. 

How to feel like an idiot:  Taking your shopping cart down the wrong aisle in the parking lot and having to drag it over the median so you can get to the right row.  Or parking your car in the same lot as usual at the mall and coming out of the wrong door and getting frantic because you can’t find it and you are convinced it has been stolen.  Right.  The only thing actually missing is my brain.

I think I just pulled a muscle watching “So You Think You Can Dance.”  And, by the way, I don’t think I can dance.  In fact, I’m certain about that.

I don’t want to say I have idiosyncrasies (I’ll let my BFF attest to that), but I can’t put the thermostat on an odd number.  It can be on 68, but never 67.  I can live with 70, but 71 is unacceptable. 

Last month I confessed to not being able to identify which Olsen twin is which.  Now I will own up to not remembering the difference between Jason Segal, Will Farrell, Zach Galafal… and Vince Vaughn. I think I can identify Vince the best.  But the others?  I remain confused, and I don’t really care.

I watch so much HGTV that unless news that the world ended is on “House Hunters” or “Property Brothers,” I probably won’t know.

On the (long) list of “Things That Annoy Me” is when someone leaves an “Out of Office” message on their voice or e-mail that you hear or see days/weeks after they were supposed to return.  The Tax office in town has a message on its machine saying that tax bills are payable August 1.  Hello, it is November.

Another of my pet peeves is finding other people’s garbage in (the only available) shopping cart.  Please, people, don’t leave your drink cup, your dirty tissues and your shopping list behind.  There are garbage cans all over: Use them!

I am now the owner of a smart TV.  The non-smart ones were already surpassing my technological capabilities, but this one may truly exceed my reach.  It can do everything, so if I really want to see Facebook in a 60” format, I can.  But do I?  And, in doing research on what TV to buy, I learned one important thing:  Last year’s top-of-line-line models are perfectly fine for this year.  You do not need to be on the leading edge to get a really great TV.  And it is cheaper NOT to go with the latest bells and whistles when last year’s model will suffice.

What’s more unsettling than hearing the repair man or installer start to sigh, swear and breathe heavily, showing frustration or being perplexed by the issue at hand?  Then you know this problem is going to be yours, and it won’t be cheap to resolve.

What exactly is an “occasional table?”  Are there times when it becomes something other than a table?  Or is it for use only for special occasions?

Is every day a special day?  I fully support the salutes to Breast Cancer Awareness and to honoring our veterans.  But National Handbag Day?  National Ice Cream Day?  Who decides these things?  Who gets petitioned for the declaration?  Or do Hallmark and the purveyors of these goods and services simply capitalize on our gullibility?  And why is there no Tina Gordon Day?  On the other hand, I could be persuaded to celebrate National Chocolate Day, which takes place on my birthday (October 28).  I just think it should be renamed.

Why are yawns contagious?  If you yawn, chances are that I will, too.  And if I sneeze once, I will most likely sneeze again.

I’ll take the category of Most Futile Jobs in America for $200.  The answer is the poor guy who valiantly drives the Zamboni-like street sweeper around my Canal Walk neighborhood.  This place is a war zone – I mean, construction site – so trying to eradicate the dirt and mud is impossible.  Hey, they are paying the guy whether the streets end up clean or not, so drive on, brother.

Why do we pronounce the word VINE with a long “I” but add YARD and it becomes VIN?

I’m watching my umpteenth season of TV’s “Survivor” and it occurs to me that I don’t like many of the people, appreciate but don’t like the strategy and backstabbing and I would not last one minute as a competitor on that show.  One glimpse of bats or being asking to eat a pig snout would drive me right off that island, and so would having to be on camera for 39 days wearing a bathing suit.  Thankfully, no one is recruiting me to be on the show.

I’m in the midst of a “Gilmore Girls” marathon, thanks to my young alumnae friends who thrive on the series (seven seasons, 154 episodes, and I’m only on episode 11 of season 2) and encouraged me (insisted, really) to watch it.  The premise is the relationship between quirky mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory, who are best friends and who share quips and obscure references.  Lorelai just noted that her estranged mother might be responsible for Lily Tomlin’s making “that movie with John Travolta,” which I immediately identified as the truly awful “Moment By Moment.”  (Travolta plays a young drifter, Tomlin is an older woman and they look like brother and sister, so the sex scenes are not only hard to fathom but disturbing, to say the least.)  So now Lorelai is my new hero (or, more accurately, the writers are) for knowing “that movie.”  And Gilmore Girls is ascending the list of TV shows I love.

The letters on my keyboard are too close together, which means that when I type the letter “a,” I also (accidentally, because of the proximity) hit the CAPS LOCK, and, before I realize it, I’m typing in all CAPS, WHICH IS THE EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING.  DAMN IT. 

Among the many things I like about my new house is that my master bath is so much closer to the water heater than in my old house that I get hot water in the sink almost instantaneously.  In the previous abode, I could turn on the water and let it run while I brushed my teeth and it would just start getting warm when I was done.  This situation is so much better and I don’t feel guilty for wasting water.

Moment of sheer panic:  Bed, Bath & Beyond has announced it will scale back its distribution of those ubiquitous blue coupons – you know, the coupons as large as a hand towel in some cases.  They have been around forever and never expire, so some of us have stockpiled them.  I can easily use seven at a time, and, with a new house, I have done that on several occasions.  It’s a good thing I still have a stash!

Whenever I see an e-mail about an on-line sale or coupon at Kohl’s or Shutterfly that I have to hurry up and use before it expires:  “Hurry – Last day!” – I have to tell myself to chill, because another sale or coupon will be available within two days. I’m not sure it is possible to buy anything at so-called full price at Kohl’s.  And why would I?

Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you can hear one big crumb rattling around in the toaster but no amount of shaking the toaster can coax it out?  Or is that just me?

I was in New York the other day and the weather was colder than I expected, so I got off the train, walked into Macy’s and bought a new coat.  The funny thing is that this is not the first time I have done this.  But both times the coats were on sale, I had a coupon, and I found something that fit me perfectly.  It was meant to be.  Then there was that time I was getting out of the car at Macy’s and a button popped off my coat.  I went inside and bought a new one.  I never could sew.

Seriously, what is better than Amazon (and not just because my nephew manages the night shift at one of their distribution centers in Chicago)?  If you need or want practically anything, you can find it and buy it on Amazon via computer, phone or tablet.  And if you have Amazon Prime (for an annual fee), they will ship it to you free and you will get it in two days.  This week I needed printer ink.  I found an old order, replicated it and they promised to donate money to the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College to thank me through the program.  Two days later – as promised – it arrived.  And though there was no mail today (Veterans Day), I got a message that the package had been delivered.  I can walk from my home office to the door in a few steps.  Unless I happen to be at Staples anyway and happen to remember that I might need ink, there is no way buying some could be easier.  Thanks, Amazon.  You make me smile.

Finally, I have had a very busy few months, devoting considerable time to the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College and to my move to my new home.  But now trying to see me just got even tougher, as the new season of Rutgers Women’s Basketball tipped off on Friday the 13th (with a win).  See you in April.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tina's October 2015 Movies

Sorry to disappoint, but October was another skimpy movie month, mainly due to the many chores associated with my move to my new home. At least every movie I saw this month was new to me.  I hope to increase the number in November.  As always, movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the top rating.  Movies marked with an asterisk are ones not seen previously, and numbering picks up from the previous months.

116.  The Wrecking Crew* (2008) – This documentary is Denny Tedesco’s tribute to his father, a guitarist who, along with a talented group of session musicians in Southern California, provided the beat and the rhythms of most of the popular music of the 1960s and 70s.  Their respective genius enabled them to understand almost immediately the complexities of a Brian Wilson song and to largely supplant the rest of the band members.  But they didn’t just play the music as written, they contributed their own special chops and some riffs that define the songs themselves.  Session musicians don’t travel; these guys would go to multiple recording sessions in a day, while the actual band members learned the music well enough to fool the public into thinking they were the force behind the sound.  From the Mamas and Papas and the Beach Boys (whose members did play on actual records but were supplemented by the Wrecking Crew) to the Monkees, who understood their limitations, to Sonny and Cher to the legendary Phil Spector, these musicians appeared on nearly every major record of the time.  Spector used them to create his iconic “Wall of Sound,” and most of the producers and artists would only record if the Crew could be part of the session.   If you liked “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” or “20 Feet from Stardom,” this is the kind of movie that will appeal to you.  I loved it.  4 cans.
117.  And the Oscar Goes to…* (2014) – How could I pass up a documentary on the history of the Oscars, filled with interviews from famous winners and losers and capturing those magic moments when the Oscar is awarded?  Douglass Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were responsible for Hollywood’s annual awards, which, oddly enough, have bypassed such exceptional performers as Kirk Douglas, Charles Chaplin and others (who later were awarded honorary statues to make up for the glaring omissions).  Jane Fonda picks up her father’s Oscar, Ron Howard says his mother predicted he would win (which, he reveals, she did with each movie he made) and Sacheen Littlefeather gets greeted with a barrage of boos when accepting Marlon Brando’s award for “The Godfather.”  In between, we learn about sound effects, editing, screenwriting and the blacklisting of writers, directors, actors and others who were called out by the House Un-American Committee (Joseph McCarthy) and banned from receiving awards.  Hosts from Hope to Carson to Crystal are highlighted in this fun (if somewhat disjointed) look at everything Oscar.  And the Oscar goes to:  3½ cans.
118.  The Armstrong Lie* (2014) – Filmmaker Alex Gibney started out making a documentary on the extraordinary comeback of renowned cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, who, having won seven times in the Tour de France, decided to give it one more go in 2009.  The ending of the movie was not what Gibney expected, however, as Armstrong, long accused of using performance enhancing drugs to improve his incredible results on the road, finally finds himself forced to own up to the truth.  He reveals to Oprah that he used all kinds of substances to improve his performance, that he repeatedly lied about it when confronted with rumors or facts, and that his adamant defense injured not only his reputation but those of his accusers, a number of whom he took to court and won.  If you say something enough times and make the statement vehemently enough, maybe you start to believe it yourself.  Gibney, caught in the midst of trying to finish the documentary, insists that Armstrong answer his questions directly, taking the final film in an entirely different direction than he expected.  Armstrong’s fall from grace was shattering.  His cancer foundation was devastated, his sponsors abandoned him and he was banned from competing in any sport governed by the US Anti-Doping Agency.  His friends and foes are on hand as Gibney traces the story through Armstrong’s early success through his battle with life-threatening testicular cancer that had spread to his brain.  He covers Armstrong’s remarkable comeback in cycling and the rumors that dogged him until his final admission.  I had been trying to find this movie since it was first released and found it to be a compelling look at a man whose athletic prowess and hubris are on par with each other.  4 cans.
119.  The Intern* (2015) – Let’s step away from the documentaries for a moment to enjoy this Robert DeNiro comedy about a widower who gets a position as a “senior intern” for a rising on-line clothing company.  Anne Hathaway is Jules, the driven head of About the Fit, a company she conceived and runs, and although she doesn’t feel she needs help, her partner does.  So, enter DeNiro as Ben Whittaker, long-retired with a successful business background but also with the gentility to not force his opinions and will on the young executive.  He graciously stands in the background and assists as needed.  Before long, Jules and her family become dependent on him.  Ben is old school, wearing a suit to work every day, carrying a classic briefcase, and mentoring the young people in the office – including Jules.  The movie has its amusing moments and overall is quite charming, but I question its look at Jules as dependent on other people for success when she is a highly capable woman (as Ben points out to her).  Her vulnerability becomes a bone of contention with me because it depicts women not as decisive, successful people, but as being influenced by culture and emotional fragility.  Hathaway goes from steely resolve and scary smart to leaning on Ben in too many ways.  3½ cans.
120.  The Walk* (2015) – Before the iconic Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were even open to the public in 1974, French wire walker Philippe Petit pulled of one of the most athletic, artistic and audacious stunts ever conceived and executed when he and a team of cohorts strung a wire between the buildings that Petit crossed – several times.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a masterful job playing the daredevil Petit, masterminding a complex “coup” to figure out not just the walk itself, but how to get the wire strung between the two buildings without the interference of authorities.  Very detailed planning was required to provide him the thrill of a lifetime – which, as we now know, can never be duplicated.  When Petit lies down on the wire between the two towers, I was glad I wasn’t watching this movie in 3D, or I might have freaked out.  Gordon-Levitt is competent as a Frenchman and as a wire walker, encouraged by mentor Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley as a veteran high wire artist).  I had already seen the documentary “Man on a Wire” about this feat.  Now I’d like to see a documentary on the making of “The Walk.”  Seriously, how did director Robert Zemekis do that?  3½ cans.
121.   Freeheld* (2015) – Laurel Hester is a tough-as-nails, dedicated police officer in Ocean County, NJ.  She plays by the book, and she keeps her private life private because she is sure that being a lesbian will hold her back in a male-dominated environment.  Laurel (Juliane Moore) doesn’t even share that part of her life with her trusted partner Dale (Michael Shannon).  But when she finds out she has terminal cancer, all she wants to do is leave her pension benefits to her domestic partner, Stacie (Ellen Page), so she can stay in the house they lovingly renovated and shared.  The Ocean County Freeholders don’t want to defy the state ban on gay marriage, even though they could easily choose to vote in her favor.  Spurred by the head of Garden State Equality (played by Steve Carell) and supported by Dale, fellow officers and friends rally to force the politicians to grant Laurel her dying wish.  Moore, coming off an Oscar win for “Still Alice,” plays the role with an understated dignity, refusing to become the poster child for gay marriage.  Page looks pained throughout most of the movie, but Shannon, who is typically intense, and Carell, who brings levity, are superb.  True story, and thanks a bunch, New Jersey, for making it difficult for people to live their lives.  3½ cans.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Loud House

Those of you who have followed my exploits in excruciating detail know that I spent the last year purging, packing, donating, disposing and otherwise trying to get rid of everything not deemed essential or nostalgic in anticipation of my move to an “active adult” community.  That meant living room furniture and a bed went out the door.  My collection of autographed baseballs went to my BFF’s grandsons (minus Mickey Mantle, signed before he died – we assume – which stays with me until I’m gone) along with a baseball glove I hadn’t used in years.  Books, clothes, household stuff were all given away.  There was a garage sale that cleared a modest profit.  Several churches benefited from my cleaning out, and I was happy to see it go.

What remained was packed ever so carefully, with each box labeled in the top, side and end so I would be able to see what was in it.  The movers told me I did such a good job I could work for them.  No, thanks.  They worked like dogs and displayed incredible strength and endurance, yet they found a way to stack boxes in the wrong rooms and in a way that I couldn’t read the contents on the box.  Still, I have managed to locate everything I packed.  I was so careful in packing my artwork that you would have thought I was shipping original Renoirs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The only thing that broke was a framed picture that needed to be reframed anyway.

The huge basement in the new house is now the resting place for old tables and lamps that don’t fit in, for patio furniture that has to wait until there is a real patio next year, and for a collection of broken down boxes that I didn’t need but had to remove from the old house.  Somewhere in this material I may eventually find the missing tape dispenser, which, on its own, seemed to have jumped ship sometime during the packing process.  Of course, that was the best one of the several I had on hand.

So I was prepared, and the plans I made helped smooth the process.  One thing I didn’t count on was the noise.  Not from the move – from the house.

Some of you may remember the original reality series on PBS about the aptly named Loud family.  I think I have moved into their house.  Not that I have their drama, which was ample, but it is just so LOUD here.

I moved into my beautiful new home in late September.  Of course, in the beginning in any new space you notice every sound, and think, “What’s that?”  Some sounds are more subtle than others.  I can hear trains going by at night, which is not disturbing, just faintly audible.  But turn on the air conditioning and it sounds like the test lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  When the weather turned cold, I tried out the heat.  That lasted about three minutes, because the loud sound was accompanied by the siren of the smoke/carbon monoxide alarm.  The new smell, burning stuff off, I assume, caused it, because I’m still here to tell the tale.  I can hear the water heater operating and the occasional random running of the toilet in my master bathroom, which failed to correct itself even after my handyman installed a new flapper in a perfectly new toilet.

Then there was the washing machine.  Located in a laundry room off the garage, where the room has a louvered door (which would hardly be soundproof), the machine generated a sound that potentially could violate local noise ordinances.  I was afraid to do laundry for fear of waking the neighbors – or the dead.  When the GE repairman was here to look at the defective control panel on my brand new stove, I threw in a load so he could “see” the problem first hand.  He literally ran from the kitchen to the laundry room when he heard what sounded like a fire hose battering the insides of the washer.  His explanation was that the installers bent the base of the machine, so the wash tub was rubbing against it, causing that ungodly sound, as if I were washing a load of rocks.  All he needed was a metal bar to bend the base back and away from the tub.  Now my loads are blissfully quiet.

The new TV in the family room has the requisite sound bar, because listening to the TV speakers just wouldn’t be enough for me, the sales folks at P.C. Richards explained.  So now, every time I hear a rumble from the bass, I wonder “What’s that?”  The installation is not yet complete, because, like everything in this house – and much like the movie “The Money Pit” – everything can be done, but it takes two weeks.  The TV, the alarm system (I haven’t heard the sound from that yet but I’m sure once it is hooked up it will scare the crap out of me), the window treatments, new cabinet doors to replace the damaged ones and even reframing a picture – all take two weeks.  My non-functioning control panel on the stove is the exception to the two-week rule.  The part is on back order, so that will be at least three weeks.

And speaking of window treatments, because there aren’t any (except for the paper shades I installed myself before I moved in to protect my privacy), this house, with its very high ceilings, hardwood floors and minimal carpeting, is like an echo chamber.  When I talk on the phone it sounds like I fell down a mine shaft.  I don’t know how much fabric and other additions it will take to eliminate that hollow sound.

And, for the foreseeable future, nothing will eliminate the sound of the construction vehicles and workers building out the rest of this end of the development.  The houses on either side of me are still under construction, so every day there are workers on bulldozers digging up the front yards for the installation of sprinkler system and lawns, or laying the driveway, digging a foundation across the street, hammering the shingles on a roof, delivering equipment or installing electrical.  When they get down to painting, the noise should subside.  Until then, the soundtrack of my day is saws sawing, hammers hammering, drills drilling.

Every now and then the noise is amplified by the sound of the street sweeper truck, which makes a futile attempt at keeping the roads clean, an impossible task.  A 3-year old boy would have a field day here, watching trucks of every kind go by, with their back-up sirens beeping incessantly.  There are bobcats and tomcats and bulldozers galore, each with their own sound and destined to accompany my stay here for a year or more, by my personal estimate.  Then I will only have to contend with the lawn mowing army who descend on the neighborhood early in the day (Saturday morning by 8 AM they were on hand) to make us look good.

In addition to the sounds, I can look out on the port-a-potties and watch my personal HGTV show as the framers frame and the roofers roof and the planters plant.

And yet, despite the dirt, dust and din, I find it peaceful here.  I sit in my beautiful – if loud – office and watch the activity outside, knowing that one day, this will truly be a beautiful neighborhood where I will find my own peace and quiet.

But until then – man, it is LOUD here!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tina's September 2015 Movies

With my move to a new house in September, lack of internet and TV service for a few days and all the unpacking, there was only time to see five movies in September, making the month hardly blog-worthy.  However, I cannot disappoint my loyal readers, so here goes, with numbering continued from last month.  Movies are rated on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, and movies not seen previously are marked with an asterisk.

111.  Revenge* (1990) – The young and handsome version of Kevin Costner stars here as again a Navy man, Jay, this time as a pilot who has finished his work and goes to Mexico to visit his friend Tiberon Menoza (Anthony Quinn) a powerful and wealthy man with a posse of protectors and a young, attractive wife (Madeleine Stowe; it took me half the movie to recall that she also starred in the TV show, Revenge).  When the inevitable spark between the attractive Jay and the beautiful Miryea leads to an affair, Tibby is tipped off and chases them down to get his revenge.  Costner knows his way around women, and Stowe is alluring and more than willing to stray.  What will happen to the ill-fated lovers?  Any additional info would ruin the story, but it is worth watching despite the brutality.  3½ cans.
112.   Ghostbusters (1984) – On paper at least, it would be safe to assume I would hate this movie about paranormal activity and ghostly invasions of the city.  It is full of slime and demands that I suspend my sense of reality, which I typically am loathe to do.  However, the trio of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis is pretty irresistible, even for someone who hates moves with special effects.  Aykroyd and Ramis co-wrote the film, which Ivan Reitman directed, around the time that these clever and crazy guys began ruling Hollywood with a string of likeable comedies (“Stripes,” “Animal House” and, later, “Caddyshack.”)  And who can forget that song?  Who ya gonna call?  Ghostbusters!  3½ cans.
113.  Million Dollar Arm* (2014) – Don Draper takes on major league baseball, as Jon Hamm is Jason Bernstein, a sports agent with virtually no clients, barely making a living and watching his world slip away.  But one day he sees a cricket match on TV and, with nothing of substance going on in his US business, he decides to promote a contest in India to find athletes who can be trained in America to play baseball.  I recall reading this true story in Sports Illustrated, as two men who won the contest came to the US and trained to become major league pitchers.  Eventually, both signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but those signings barely made any inroads in American baseball.  Hamm is good at conveying a sense of desperation, and that’s surely the character’s MO.  Will these guys get the training they need to make the big time?  Can Bernstein ride their coattails?  Much of the humor is cultural in nature, as the vastly different Indian culture is not exactly comparable to the crazy California life to which these young men have to adjust.  Lake Bell plays Brenda, a neighbor who befriends the erstwhile pitchers and serves as the movie’s conscience.  While the movie didn’t strike out completely, it was more like a pop-up than a home run.  2½ cans. 
114.  Grandma* (2015) – This is Lily Tomlin’s movie from the moment you see her aging character break up with her much younger girlfriend until you see her walking down the street alone at the end.  She is Elle, a feisty feminist academic/poet who is fiercely independent and still recovering from the loss of her long-time partner the previous year.  On the very day she unceremoniously dumps Olivia, her young girlfriend, her granddaughter Sage (Julie Garner) shows up looking for money to pay for an abortion.  Broke and having cut up her credit cards so she can’t go into debt again, Elle sets out in her old, classic car with the young woman to find the funding, leading to encounters with people from her past and the memories – good and bad – that they conjure up.  Elle is not your prototypical grandma.  This one smokes weed, gets tattoos, wears a denim jacket and is like the post-modern Sophia Petrillo (from “Golden Girls”) but without the zingers.  Her past is revealed with subtle humor and poignant memories as the two women struggle to come up with the money and avoid revealing Sage’s predicament to her judgmental mother (Marcia Gay Harden), the daughter with whom Elle has a prickly relationship.  This movie is a different kind of buddy movie/road trip, and Lily Tomlin triumphs, displaying arrogance and vulnerability at different times.  3½ cans.
115.  The Remains of the Day (1993) – If you are looking for an action packed movie full of special effects or a torrid affair between consulting adults, skip this perfect gem of a movie that features none of those attributes.  But if you like Downton Abby and have not as yet seen this glorious movie about the unspoken love between a diligent butler, Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), and the head housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) at the English estate he manages, then please rent it, find it, stream it, buy it – whatever you need to do to relish the story.  The era is pre-World War II and Stevens has been in service there seemingly forever, running the home and the lives of the people who reside there with perfection and dedication.  When the young Miss Kenton arrives, she is a bit of an upstart compared to the starched and formal Stevens, but the relationship between them grows even though Stevens resists having a personal life.  The plot is secondary to the characters and the cast, including the handsome and virile Christopher Reeve as well as Hugh Grant, is superb.  If not for Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson could well be considered the best actress of her generation (Helen Mirren might have a different view).  5 cans for a perfect movie that I rarely can resist watching yet again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Anatomy of a Move

Anatomy of a Move

Let me start by saying that my next move will be to the old folks’ home or six feet under. In either case, I won’t be sorting and packing, just backing up the dumpster to get rid of everything. Someone else will be charged with this task.

The process began on August 30, 2014, when I signed a contract to build a new, single family home in the active adult community Canal Walk in Somerset.  I already knew a bunch of people there, looked longingly at the many amenities and activities offered to residents, and relished the chance to select exactly what I wanted for the new home.  I wouldn't have to worry about having the lawn cut, the driveway plowed or putting chlorine in the pool.  I was excited!

Until I had to make the selections for every aspect of the house, that is.  In one session, I had to make the initial selections on everything from the color of the roof and siding to the faucets on the bathtub.  Kitchen cabinets (color, style, etc.) and their configuration (doors? drawers?), granite for the kitchen counters, fireplace surround, floors, carpet, tile – you name it, I had to choose it.  At the end of the session, I thought my head would explode.  And that doesn’t include lighting fixtures and extra electrical, both done separately (and at additional cost; oh, you want an outlet on that wall?  Kaching!), and the trip to the lighting store to select fixtures.  In a house of more than 2,500 square feet (I’m not exactly downsizing, though there won’t be a pool and spa to maintain), the developer gives you exactly six – count ‘em, six – recessed lights.  By the time I got through, there were 35.  You could do surgery in my new kitchen. 

When you are building or remodeling, there is always the “You might as well” factor.  This process adds beaucoup bucks to the bottom line, but, hey, it’s your last house and you might as well.  So you have to specify the location of every outlet that you want that isn’t already provided, and move the ones that are smack behind the bed that you will never reach.

Then there was the cable, TV, alarm system and internet guy.  Where will the TVs go?  Wall mounted?  High or low?  I even had him run lines to the kitchen and the master bath – just in case.  (I think we all now know how much TV I watch.)  And in the office, where should I locate the hookup for the computer?  And how was I supposed to figure that out nine months in advance?

With the selections made, I turned my attention to my current house.  For months, my motto was, “Every time the garbage goes out, something must be in it.”  Old photographs from the weddings of people who aren’t married to each other anymore, photo enlargements that had faded in their frames, gifts that people gave me that I was holding onto for sentimental reasons only – all got trashed.  At least three different charities picked up bags of clothes and household items, and two local churches benefited from my purge.  The garage sale in the spring sprung a few more items out of the house and netted enough income to barely pay for lunch.  Then I gave away my stereo, my records and a bed, sold the living room furniture I didn’t need, and even parted with my beloved convertible.

I went through every file in the drawers, realizing that holding on to 15-year old tax returns and receipts from my last house seemed stupid (and I wondered how some of this stuff survived the last move, in 2007).  There was a picture of the couches I bought for my first apartment, my entire collection of old TV Guide magazines and playbills from virtually every show I have ever scene – all sorted, recycled or retained. 

Two old TVs in the basement that sat in the same spot since the movers placed them in 2007 (I couldn’t lift them) there were placed in my car by the power washing guy and taken to the recycling place, along with old cameras, house phones that didn’t work (was I thinking they would come back to life?), VCRs, chargers for things I didn’t own anymore, my old desktop computer and anything else that plugged in that I couldn’t use or sell (I sold a $200 video camera for a dollar and a Nikon camera for $75 on eBay).  I sorted through Yankee candles and sold $25 jars for $1 just to lighten the load.  I tested every pen in the house, threw out the bad ones and donated pens, pads and other office supplies to the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College.  After a meeting, I smiled as I saw people walking out with my unwanted wrapping paper and gift bags, as well as a supply of huge napkins. 

The purging continued uninterrupted for a year.  Meanwhile, the house went on the market, which meant it couldn’t look like anyone actually lived here.  Every day I faithfully hid my toothbrush and hairdryer, emptied the garbage, removed everything possible from the kitchen counters, and kept the place spotless.  Not only did this exercise help market the place, but it showed me that I probably don’t need 20 knives in the kitchen drawer; in reality, just a few will do.  Only Staples has more office supplies than I do, and who else has four – count ‘em, four –  boxes labeled “HBA” (health and beauty aids)?  My sister, whose help in this process was invaluable, found BAND-AID Brand Adhesive Bandages (I used to be responsible for defending the trademark, hence the formal name) that were so old they still had the string packing.  We found antiseptic wipes from 1996.  OK, those we didn’t keep or donate.  They joined the ever present mountain of trash I left for the garbage guys every Sunday and Wednesday night.

I attacked the food situation with relish, eating what I had in the freezer not by choice but by expiration date.  The pantry items began to dwindle and the ones that expired last year were responsibly recycled.  I tossed out old spices and rethought whether I actually need the ones that had expired unopened.  I stopped buying food, again learning that I don’t really need twelve cans of chicken broth in the pantry.  It’s not like I live in Buffalo and a snowmaggedon will trap me inside for months.

No description of this process would be complete without considering my packing process.  I feel like I am making a sequel to the movie “Still Alice” called “Still Packing,” and I will be doing just that until the last item is loaded on the moving truck next Monday.

If ever I thought I might be a little OCD, this packing experience proved the point.  I was in search of the perfect box for everything, determined to group like things together (that’s why there is one box that contains knee braces, ankle supports, Ace bandages, wrist splints and a fold-up cane).  I even had kept cartons from my last move, so it was possible to place my framed Lucy poster in its original, safely transported box.  Things are carefully arranged in each inch of every box, wrapped in wrapping paper, bubble wrap or the newspapers I have not recycled in more than 6 months and buffered by throw pillows and blankets which I hope I can find again.  My artwork looked like it was being wrapped for shipping to a museum.  My precious collection of framed photos was wrapped in plain paper with each piece labeled.  Every box is marked on the top, sides and end, so no matter how it is stacked, the contents are clearly visible.  Instead of keeping a master list of what is in what box, I marked each with meaningful commentary, such as “Mom’s plate” or “Dad’s shoehorn.”  And, recognizing but refusing to dispose of everything, I grouped things I thought of as extras in boxes that I can simply toss in six months if they haven’t been opened, like the kitchen gadgets I packed in the beginning and haven’t missed since they entered their cardboard casket.  All I know if that every sentence I speak post-move will contain the words “I wonder where…” even though I’ll be talking to myself.

So pity the movers, and wish them well on the 21st, as they haul all of this stuff (in two trucks since the new street isn’t big enough for an 18-wheeler) to my new house.  And then wish me luck as I spend the next six months looking for all of the things I can’t live without and can’t find.

Although I have moved before (this is my 5th move in 40 years and 4th house, two of which were brand new), this process revealed lot to me about myself and was, by far, my worst move ever – and it hasn’t actually taken place yet.  Will I remember what I did with the chargers for the phone and laptop?  Do I really have a use for five clock radios?  Where is the TV remote?  (Seriously, the brand new TV remote that didn’t work is missing in action.)  And don't even get me started on the mortgage process.  I would write a separate blog entry for that, but no one would want to read it.

So take my experience and project it on YOUR future: Do you really need that baby grand piano?  The stroller you used for your now 40-year old son?  Your report card from 3rd grade?  START NOW by reviewing, reliving the moments and getting rid of everything you don’t absolutely need, use or love.  I even trashed photo albums of vacations I took!  Sell, donate and discard anything you can long before you are forced to pack it and move it.  Take it from me – nobody needs this much stuff.  I think I will confirm that when I begin to Unpack.  Stay tuned.