Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Process of Moving

Mike and I currently live in New York City. We have lived in the same apartment near 200th street in Manhattan for the past 4 years. It's neat, because technically we can say we live in Manhattan, but a lot of folks don't even know that our neighborhood exists. We've been quite fortunate in terms of rent, and our apartment building is exceptionally quiet. Either we're very lucky, or there's some horrifying historical secret about our building that no one has told us about.

We moved in to this apartment in August of 2008. Mike had already been living in NYC for several years, and I was moving out here for graduate school. One week after we moved in, Mike went to Tanzania with his boss for a photography job for National Geographic. They lived with a hunter-gatherer tribe called the Hadza for a month.

Meanwhile, I was living alone in a brand new city, with absolutely no concept of the subway system. I had four weeks all by myself, trying to get myself oriented while also attending graduate school and fulfilling my duties as a graduate assistant for my program department. I had but one skill that could possibly help me to orient myself to my new environment: I have the ability to determine cardinal directions (North, East, South, West) by the location of the sun in the sky. I learned this skill by spending a lot of time hiking and camping, and getting my motivation by reading a lot of terrifying books about people getting lost in the woods.

This skill will be very helpful when I am hiking the Appalachian Trail, as I will probably get lost when I sprint off the trail in a random direction while being chased by bears. However, this skill was not particularly helpful when I was learning my way around NYC, as I spent most of the time two stories underground in the dark, hurtling around in the subway. Even when above ground, the late summer sun in New York is quite difficult to locate between all the buildings. I spent a lot of time flailing maniacally between buildings reflecting the sun, confused like a moth around a light bulb.

I found that the best way to learn my way around was to be comfortable with being lost. Determined to not be pegged for a tourist or an outsider, I would pick a random direction upon exiting the subway and walk briskly that way. I knew that as long as I kept up my pace and didn't make any sudden movements, I more or less became invisible, and no one would notice me or my frantically darting eyeballs. I would walk at a healthy clip for several blocks, secretly glancing at street signs, to figure out where the heck I was. But I spent most of the time staring straight ahead, working on developing my quick reflexes at skirting around gaping tourists, leaping over small dogs, and avoiding open man-holes. I refused to carry a map. I did not have a smart phone at the time, so I couldn't figure out directions from my mobile device. The fanciest feature on my cell phone was that it could, in fact, make phone calls.

By the time Mike got back from his trip, I fancied myself rather adept at the whole system. I could accurately predict how long it would take for me to get from one place to another, and I usually could give pretty good directions to people. I only got myself caught in the subway doors a few times, and every time I escaped with all of my limbs intact. A year later I got to develop a very in-depth knowledge of the bus system in the Bronx, due to being a home visit worker.

Subways are one thing. Buses are another. There was one time I was on a bus in the Bronx, about 20 minutes away from my destination and in excruciatingly dire need of a bathroom. In that moment, Ke$ha's "THIS PLACE ABOUT TA BLOW" came up on my iPhone radio. Well played indeed, Ke$ha, I thought to myself. You know me well. One of the greatest things about the trail will be that whenever I need to go to the bathroom, all I need to do is walk 10 feet off the trail and find a bush to hide behind. I'll never feel that sickening feeling of needing to go and having no relief in sight. Relief will be everywhere! It's not glamorous, but it sure is beautiful.

This apartment has definitely been a good home. However, since we'll be leaving in February, we needed to find a place that wouldn't balk at us leaving halfway through the year. Four good friends of ours currently live in Harlem, in a very excellent 4-bedroom apartment. One of them is moving to Boston this summer, and Mike and I will be moving in with three lovely ladies. I can only assume that rollicking sitcom hijinks will ensue.

We're going to be moving at the beginning of July, but since we have had four years to nest and collect THINGS, we have decided to start the process a little early. I was planning on describing The Purge to you in detail, but it turns out I'm relatively traumatized, so, you'll have to make do with a summary:

We got rid of approximately 200 pounds of flotsam in one weekend.

Flotsam being a range of items, from old bottles of god knows what under the bathroom sink, to clothes and books for donation. It took ten hours, and we've only gotten through about a fifth of our possessions. We are not hoarders. We are simply a testament to how humans have an astonishing proclivity toward accumulation.

On the plus side, we found a stencil of a skull-and-cross-bones, that we're going to put on all of our moving boxes, just to make people nervous.