SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
August 3, 2014

At Least Those Weirdos in the Basement are Leaving

 

My God how I hate cardboard boxes. Everything about them. I hate the way they smell, I hate the way they fold up, I hate taping them back together again (I’ve always been miserable at those fucking spatial relations puzzles), and on account of some grand and cruel cosmic joke, they are never, ever the right size for what you need.

            It’s not hard to guess then that because of this I’ve never been one for packing. Don’t know anyone who is, except maybe for some sick obsessive types. But when you add to the mix not being able to see exactly what you’re packing, or where exactly you’re packing it, when it comes time to unpack the future only looks that much bleaker. Still, there I was at it, filling cardboard box after cardboard box in ninety degree heat, the sweat gluing my shirt to my body and filling my shoes.

            I forget now how long it’s been since Morgan and I began earnestly looking for a house. Six months, maybe? Six months of weird disappointments, creepy and unwholesome characters, and awful smells. It wasn’t that it was becoming hopeless, the endless Kierkegaardian disappointments too much to bear. No, the realities and mounting expenses of home ownership simply began sinking in, and they seemed really, really annoying. So we said fuck this, and changed our plans.

            When the pod people living on the second floor of the building here announced they were leaving to spread pods down the Eastern seaboard, we briefly considered renting that apartment along with the Bunker. The thinking was it might be nice to spread out a little and avoid having to put anything in storage, but that would’ve been far beyond what we could afford. Then, the night the sinister unmarked moving truck disappeared for the last time and we knew they were gone for good, we crept upstairs to take a look around.

            The door was unlocked, and I remember thinking this was the kind of snooping that should only be done by candlelight. Too bad we didn’t have any candles on hand, but I suppose if we had, I’d only end up immolating myself. So we just flicked on the light switches instead.

            The place was nearly spotless, the floor polished and the walls unmarked. There was still plentiful evidence of pod infestation around (who keeps a candle in the freezer?), and the window screens in the back had been shredded by unseen claws. Still, though, it was mighty big, and by the time we left a few minutes later we’d decided maybe, yeah, it was time to give up the Bunker with its creeping black mold and its persistent floods and move to higher ground. Wouldn’t have to worry about floods on the second floor. Or if we did, we’d have bigger problems to contend with than some ruined paperbacks.

            We bounced the idea off the couple who lived on the first floor, and they seemed to approve. After all, they might be getting new neighbors above them, but at least those weirdos in the basement would be clearing out, and that was worth all our rents combined. After a brief exchange of emails with the landlord (a man I’ve only seen once in person my whole time here) we cut a deal and I started packing.

            The problem was this. All of Morgan’s furniture was still in her apartment in Manhattan, as were her clothes, books, plates, glasses, records, and everything else. We were now faced with the issue of combining the contents of two long-held and well-filled apartments into one. We would each be coming equipped with multiple book, record and movie shelves, assorted pieces of large and unwieldy furniture, and more boxes of crap than we wanted to think about, To make things even more complicated, we agreed that we both preferred a spare, even Spartan atmosphere. Obviously some hard decisions had to be made, and soon, otherwise there was going to be a loud and fiery collision between reality and desire up there on the second floor.

            Well, thank god for floods is all I have to say. Because as I haphazardly packed, I also began filling dozens of garbage bags with things I once held so dear, things whose mere presence once gave me such comfort. Now I wasn’t even pausing to consider what it was I was stuffing into the bags and dragging out to the curb. I lied to myself at first, telling myself that all those things had been lost in one of the floods and so never existed anyway.

            The more I did this, the easier it became to throw everything away. I didn’t even have to lie to myself anymore (which is good because I never really believed myself anyway). It actually started to feel good, this jettisoning of the past. Not that I give much of a hoot in hell about Buddhism, but who knows? Maybe they were onto something with that business about not being tied to objects. It made things seem so much simpler.

            The more I cast to the four winds (or at least the NYC Department of Sanitation) the more I approached the realization I might quite comfortably live in a small, empty, and windowless room. Samuel Beckett, after all, lived the last years of his life in a tiny back room furnished only with a bed, a writing table, and a chair. A friend of mine who’s never spent more than a few months in any one apartment (or city for that matter) can carry everything he owns in a backpack, which makes those unexpected middle-of-the-night moves a breeze. It seemed so tempting.

            I mean, who needs all those punk rock t-shirts, really? Or all that underwear? Or all those forks? I bet I have forks in the drawer I’ve never once used! As the date of the move drew closer, I would also be dumping my park bench, my floor-model radio (someone stole the tubes), the microwave, a chair or two, a record case, and my bed.

            Not that I’m being foolish about this push toward monkishness. I mean I’m hanging on to all my Residents recordings (I don’t care how many duplicates I have, or the fact that Morgan’s collection pretty much matches mine), and no one’s coming near the movies. It’s a law of nature that within a week after tossing a copy of Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, you will need (and I mean NEED) to see it again. And when that happens, what the hell are you gonna do?

            Then there’s that replica of a pirate’s tombstone, and that black mannequin hand another friend passed along after finding it in an abandoned S&M dungeon, my GG Allin cigarette case, my disturbing dancing clown jewelry box, and all my harmonicas. Never learned to play the harmonica, but still. Nope, all those are coming along.

 

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