According to the Employee Relocation Council, moving is the third most stressful life event, following death and divorce. I’ve neither died nor been divorced, but really, you only die once and as for divorce, well, I need to get married first. Technically speaking, including an upcoming one in the new year, my move count is fifteen. Fifteen times I’ve packed up all my earthly belongings, hired strange-looking misfits for access to a moving truck, bribed friends with food and alcohol. Grunted, groaned and scratched walls wondering under what circumstances this armoire originally fit inside this doorway. Further confounded by why I felt this particular leopard-spotted armoire was important enough and needed enough to fill the space of whatever place I happened to live at the time.
My general rule is that I do not move something twice. If I have not used the spatula or worn a sweater sitting in my closet or watched a particular DVD more than once since Ibought it, I give it away. However, books are exempt from this rule, which really makes the least sense since they are the heaviest items. But I might one day re-read The Idiot by Dostoyevsky or need one of the ten books I bought about the history of the circus before I learned how to use the library. Books are the bane of my moving existence.
On first glance, my apartment looks tidy. Almost too orderly. Everything is in its right place. However, my closets are a mess. My mantra being: ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. On random inspection, I found three old cell phones (only a few years old but as ancient as a rotary phone), super 8 film reels (my first film, kept even though I have no super 8 projector and the format is pretty much obsolete) and The Head (a statue of a life-sized head acquired from my parent’s house and which I originally thought helped ‘tie the room together’ but now frightens me whenever I open the closet door and it’s staring right into my soul). Out of mind, yes, but only out of sight if the closet doors remain closed.
But The Head might really tie the room together in my new place. Or perhaps I will finally transfer that super 8 film and embarrass myself on viewing that film from so long ago. Although some items, such as now useless CDs (imagine, having to actually place a disk into a CD player in order to hear music?) take no second thought for me to throw away. The rest of it – yes, all those damn books – gets packed.
The first move of ‘adult’ life was into residence to attend university. I planned to get out of residence as quickly as possible and that summer sublet the third room in an apartment building near Jane and Finch – not nearly as bad as its reputation. The people that lived in the other two rooms bailed on me and after a lonely and boring summer, I decided residence life wasn’t so bad. This would set off a string of moves for the next three years: Residence for the winter and random apartments during the summers.
For the last summer of my university career, I lived in an apartment overlooking Bloor Street a few doors down from Christie Pits Park. Jane and Finch gets a bad rap. At least once a week, my roommate and I pulled our chairs up to the windows and watched the entertainment at street level. One night, a crash sent the building vibrating. We rushed to our front windows to see someone lying on the sidewalk covered in glass. They were thrown through the glass window of the bar below us. We wondered, “Should we call the police?” A spectator from the bar beat us to it and said, “Cops are coming!” The person who we assumed did the throwing started fighting with the individual on the street. We thought about going down to help but than thought better of it.
I moved further downtown to a quiet residential street and life was good. After a few years, the hushness created a restlessness and I needed some noise. My friend and I started looking for a two bedroom. After more than a few disappointed viewings and a deep seeded worry that we would not find a place, we struck gold. Out near the Junction – before it was trendy – we walked into Xanadu: First floor of a giant house, 15 foot ceilings, a common living area bigger than both of our current apartments combined. The first warning should have been the cheap price. Our second warning should have been the odd old fellow with the lazy eye that showed us around. He wasn’t odd because of the lazy eye, although I found it disconcerting. He kept looking behind me and to the side like he was watching the door waiting for the police raid. Maybe it was the bare mattress with the stain on it in the bedroom in the back. Whatever the warnings, we clearly ignored them.
Xanadu, we found out later, was more of a rooming house. The upstairs tenants came and went, different people almost every week. The washer and dryer were about 30 years old. There was a stick used to jiggle the inside of the washer and you had to manually roll the dryer around and around before it kicked in. My bedroom (sans stained mattress) in the back was an addition to the house and not properly insulated. Come wintertime, I might as well been sleeping outside, probably would’ve been warmer.
But we had some great times in that house. From the guy growing marijuana upstairs in his closet to the two crazy old men living in the basement apartments, the entertainment moved from street level to right inside my living space. We finally left when the apartment was broken into, my computer stolen. They stole the safe but not The Head. I bought a safe to use as a prop in a film, but forgot the combination and couldn’t open it. We used it as a side table. The robbers must have thought there was something valuable in it. I hoped they sweated and sweared with tremendous effort and experienced frustrations trying to open it.
We were moving on up. Nicer place in a nicer neighbourhood. For this move, we hired professionals. Two huge men arrived – one was a talker and the other completely silent. We helped the silent mover bring everything out of the house while the talker stayed in the back of the truck. My roommate and I grumbled about the talker hanging out in the truck. But the talker ended up being worth his weight in gold. He was moving, shifting, piling, stacking all of our belongings in the most organized way possible so everything would fit. It was art. Our belongings came right to the back door and wouldn’t have fit unless, like a painter and his canvas, the talker hadn’t performed his art. On arrival to the new apartment, the front door was too small. The silent mover went back to the truck, grabbed a tool and in less than a minute, removed the door. Without those extra inches, furniture wouldn’t have fit. We couldn’t have done it without them.
We learned from previous apartments that we needed to create our own entertainment and capped it off with a New Year’s Eve party that extended into a week long festivity ending on my birthday. The police were called and good times were had by all. It was time to part ways, to ‘breakup’. My roommate and I of a few years found our own one-bedroom apartments.
I made a deal with myself when I moved into this place: I wouldn’t move out until I purchased something. Years went by and this deal looked like it would be broken. I sweated through my no air conditioner summers, froze through my poorly insulated winters, enjoyed my huge deck and grew restless once again. The deal has been reached, papers have been signed, notices have been given. It’s time to move for the fifteenth time.
So, after lucky #15, hopefully I will die or get divorced before the next time I have to move. This might sound a little morbid or self-defeating, but it would be less stressful.