I have a friend I haven’t seen much of lately, because he is busy cleaning out his apartment. He has accumulated so many books over the years that he readily admits his place has become a fire hazard. His landlord agrees with him. So he is sorting through hundreds of books, articles, manuscripts, notes, and old mail in order to get rid of everything that is unnecessary and ridiculous, which, I suspect, is most of it. I may not see him for a while.
I take no pleasure in reporting this or even thinking about it. I bring it up now only because I have begun the same process myself although for a different reason. Next month I will move from New York City to California. This is a return trip, one that started with my moving out of California in 2008 for Washington, DC and then from there to New York City in 2010.
I won’t bore you with the details except to say that I have made this move many times before. The first was in 1980 when I moved from New York to California by way of some twenty five states and four European countries. It took a year. Along the way I lost a friend but gained a family. I don’t think I am divulging any secrets by saying that I am not the easiest person to travel with. I can get on my own nerves.
I like to travel but hate to move, which is a problem since I have done a lot of both. I have been to dozens of countries, most often for work as in the time I tried to give a three-day workshop in Brazil in Portuguese and a business seminar in the Ivory Coast in French. It might have worked out better had I given the Brazil talk in French and the Ivory Coast seminar in Portuguese, but that’s another story (see Je Suis Américain). International relations are très compliquées, you know.
The problem with moving is that each move takes its pound of flesh and ounce of spirit out of me. I have done moves involving New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, DC, and California. Within California, I have moved nearly a dozen times. And I’m not even in the military.
For this move, which I am determined to make my last (other than the one to meet my maker), I decided to use a moving company rather than do it myself. I already have enough Penske/U-Haul stories to form a support group. I don’t need any more. The most outlandish one involves a family from Nigeria in Wyoming (see Nine Lives).
So now I am sorting through books, articles, letters, files, greeting cards, emails, notes, manuscripts, report cards, artwork, photos, diaries, and appointment calendars. The diaries date back to 1972, the calendars to 1980. I can tell you where I was and what I did during the entire Iran hostage crisis. Some might say that’s a bit excessive.
Here’s the pernt. Going through all this material is like flying around with the Ghost of Christmas Past. I enter into the past, reliving it, but am unable to do anything about it. I am an outside observer, an unobserved observer. Maybe that’s good protocol for anthropologists, but do I look like Margaret Mead? Reading things like “coupon books” from my kids or a Valentine’s Day card with the imprint of a kiss in red lipstick forces me to reevaluate my role in the past.
When was I virtuous, selfish, stupid? Sifting through these memories–discernment (note the Jesuit training)–is exhausting. Most of the time I came up short, which is why, after doing it for a few hours and even with the aid of chilled Ketal One vodka, I made a beeline for the confessionals at my parish. It just so happened they were open for business at that time.
If I can’t apologize for the sins of my youth, at least I ought to confess them. And then, of course, there are those I committed this morning. It’s hard, this moving on.
Image credits: feature by Handiwork NYC; boxes by Mohammed Salem; “Next in Line” by Shalone Cason. Happy birthday to Louise Barnes Davidson. We’ll always have Wismer. This post is dedicated to Paul Zarowny. For more, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”
Hi, Mary Ann, and thanks for the well wishes. About the blog, yes, I’m like the mailman…neither snow nor rain nor heat…and, yes, at another university. Keep in touch.
Good Luck Robert – I wish you well in your move–hope you’ll still be doing your blog– did you get another teaching position at a college there?
Wow! “Indelible paint of moving is just too wet to touch safely. It’s sacred and terrible at the same time.”
These words touched me deeply…sacred and terrible…so very, very painful…as our paths can be. I have not had the joy of meeting either of you in person, but thank you for allowing me to be with you.
This post is too real for me, I feel personally attacked.
I jest, but having been there for parts of this story and my own upcoming move makes this all the more poignant, I think, desperately poignant for me. I feel like the indelible paint of moving is just too wet to touch safely. It’s sacred and terrible at the same time.
But yes, I was a witness to this and the process is still forcing me to learn something. When thinking about this, I’d have to quote an older passage:
“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
Now you’ve done it. You got me depressed all over again. Just tell me you know the quote is from Evangelii Nuntiandi by Paul VI and I’ll stay away from the vodka. I don’t even like vodka.
Robert, all the best on your move and future. Great post as always: personal, funny and reflective. Please remember to bring any paper-bound copies of Blackboard training manuals from the IT Dept – you may need them (to prop up the couch).
Thanks for the note, Kraig. I appreciate the support. How did you know I’m moving a couch…?
Classmate Classmate Classmate..
Ok…outtamine! WTF? Ugotz
Go fer the obvious sir? I deem you jest about being your last…. Un salad de boop… You will have an unnatural adverse reaction to be compelled to stay….
Snuff a pipe or a butt….some special vintage top shelf indigo… Or choiced wine coming frpm the North… West.. Too many quakes out theyre for my blood.
Try Try Try.. Not to flea…instead stay put..+ smell the roses..
In the words of a famous classmarlte of mine named Norman… Dont shred on me!
Sorry, Bernie. It’s true. I have to go back. Pray for me.
Wishing you the best of luck on your move and the new life you are creating. Please remember your New York friends often, and with joy.
Of course I will. And you haven’t seen the last of me. I’ll be back once in a while for a project I’m working on. Got space…?
Fordham will miss you, I’m sure! Where in CA will you be hanging your hat? Is this a new teaching assignment? Retirement? Am I missing any impertinent questions??:-)
When I received my confirmation email for this blog I received this message:
Sorry, but the provided signature isn’t valid.
Going back to San Jose to work. I’ll explain in a later post once I land out there. As for the confirmation email, you can try it again and see what happens. I don’t know what that message means. But you also signed up via WordPress, so you’re fine. That’s good, because eventually I will end Facebook. Have a great one!
“Wow!” Robert, all I can say is that I wish I lived closer, to be available to lend my hands and feet! My prayer is that friends will lend theirs:). What I can say is that we will be with you in spirit, our thoughts, and our prayers. New York’s loss is certainly our gain, Robert.
Please, do let us know of any way we can be of assistance to you and your family. We say this because we mean it. Anything we can do would be a privilege.
With hug and blessing, Susan and Laura
That’s very kind of you. Thank you. I think I’ll be all right, though. Whatever I can’t sell I am giving or throwing away. The Sisters get the bread maker. My intention is to move a couch, file cabinet, two card catalogues, and a bike. If I were moving myself I’d stop and visit you, but that will have to wait. I can’t say next time, since there won’t be one! Hello to Laura.
PS–I have your cell # but took the liberty of deleting it from the public comments section.