The cheap little businessmen in Sinclair Lewis' novels are anethma to me, with their talk of "onward and upward" at their booster clubs. Yet, once again, I am faced with my old nemesis: moving.
My beloved apartment building on Main Street is "going condo," as they say, and I must move so that the building can be gutted, rehabbed and readied for the YPs, "young professionals" hoping to get a foothold in Over-the-Rhine.
"Just think of the fun of a new apartment," my friends say, but most of them own real estate and have lived where they live for more than 20 years.
Even my dog Sister looks glum about our prospects. She narrows her amber eyes at me as if we're checking into a houseful of cats in Northside. Somehow I've let us both down, and I run around like a hillbilly Woody Allen, trying to make a decision.
When I was a child, we moved so many times that I made a promise to the adult me who lived somewhere in the future.
"Never again," I vowed each time my parents started packing boxes and throwing furniture in U-Haul trucks, Daddy shouting orders at the top of his voice, gleeful at the opportunity to be "on the road again." Indeed, my family was at their best in stressful situations and always emerged laughing when they got to the new place.
"Eat something," Daddy would say to me as the tears ran down my face. "It will cheer you up."
To this day, the sight of dishes wrapped in newspapers can send me to bed for days.
I have kept the promise I made to myself. Despite being part of a transient generation, I have not made many moves as an adult.
My old friend Amy Culbertson moved into my house on Taft Road in 1975 while I was doing a 10-day gig on the Delta Queen with John Hartford and some other Bluegrass pickers. When I got back, her possessions were already in place in the back bedroom, and she had accomplished the whole thing in one afternoon without a door key.
"I just threw my sleeping bag in through the living room window," she explained. "Then I climbed in after it."
Moving was easier in those days. We were just starting out, emerging from blue jeans and poverty and dormitories. "I never want anything I can't pack in the trunk of my car," I was fond of saying.
The next thing I knew, Amy and I had each bought "grown-up" beds with boxsprings, headboards and color-coordinated sheets and had stopped "sleeping on the floor," as our mothers put it.
"You'll get pneumonia if you keep sleeping on the floor," they said.
Later, when I moved once again, to a small apartment on Dayton Street in the West End, my friend Tom Cahall helped me pack and carry. We spent a couple of afternoons trekking up and down stairs laden with lamps and tables and stereo equipment, but it wasn't so bad, really.
Back then I didn't own much. After I'd lived there for a while, though, a friend loaned me a charming white loveseat and various large items. Of course, I had to buy dishes, then a little rug or two and pretty blue towels.
When it came time to move again, into a house on Bishop Street, I thought, "The grand piano will look wonderful in the living room."
Day one of the "Removal to Clifton," as I called it, dawned clear and sunny and 5 degrees below zero. I packed three or four boxes, labeled them carefully and carried them to Bishop Street, where we unpacked them and placed them in the proper rooms.
"This is the only way to move," I said to Tom, who had remained a friend against all odds. "No trauma, no rush, no disorganization."
Tom looked doubtful and urged a faster pace.
"You've got about three times as much stuff as you had when you moved to Dayton Street," he said.
"A steady drip fills the bucket," I said, quoting my Great Aunt Lilly.
By the third day, however, I was beginning to get discouraged. I woke up feeling sick and achy. During the night the water pipes had frozen, and my landlord called to inform me that all the water in the house was off.
I struggled into my jeans and took my temperature. It was 100 and climbing. I went back to bed and called Tom, but he had a gig.
My parents ended up coming through for me once again. When I called my mother, she said, "We'll be there tomorrow, honey."
The next day they arrived in a rented pick-up truck and dismantled my apartment with that same manic energy I remembered from the old days. They threw furniture around, tossed pillows out the window, wrapped dishes in the classified section. They deconstructed my life while I sat on the bed in a bathrobe with a thermometer stuck in my mouth.
"She always did hate being uprooted," my father said to my mother in a confidential tone of voice.
When it was done, my mother made pork chops and mashed potatoes and biscuits. I watched her spare, expert movements while she worked and listened to the slow sweetness of her voice.
"Life goes on," she said, letting me know she was "Imparting Wisdom."
My friend Barbara Sherman helped me move to Main Street 10 years ago, when we were younger and stronger. When she heard about this new move, though, she quickly scheduled a tour of the Amazon rainforest.
"I'm dying to see the Brazilian rosewood trees," she told me, and had her phone number changed.
I foresee that soon Melissa Mosby and I will be doing our Lucy and Ethel act, ineptly boxing up pictures and stories from pre-digital days. The entire Bible study group at Mt. Moriah Methodist Church will be praying for me. I hope David Peters will have time to help; he's soothing to be around and has a van.
This time I want to get it right, so keep your fingers crossed for me. The next sound you hear might be the scraping of a new key in an old lock.
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