Tuesday, April 23, 2002


So, I stopped by the offices of my Local Podunk Phone Company (tm) recently to ask them to change over my land line service to my new place, which they will cheerfully do for a totally unjustifiable fee that's not cripplingly high but is still ridiculous and annoying enough to make me want to spend that amount on some really good vodka until I'm nice and liquored up and then call the president of my Local Podunk Phone Company (tm) at his home and tell him to shove that land line up his...

But that's not what I meant to write about in this little note, because this actually relates to something kind of cute, kind of nice, kind of charming – a real "only in Saratoga" thing.

Because the gal who broke the news of the fee to me has known me my entire life, and as she broke the news to me, she stopped me from storming out of her office with a gentle "Oh by the way, Kate, I've been meaning to give you something I found a while ago. It's out in my glove box."

Lo and behold, the phone lady had a photo she'd taken of me when I was a baby. It's sitting now on my desk in my office until such time as I can bring it to my new home without worrying about its loss. In it, I sit with just the first traces of hair on my head, plopped down on a baby blanket with my teething ring and a shot glass (there are apparently no extant photos of me before age three in which I do not have some accoutrement of alcohol close at hand, as my parents' famous pic of me with a bottle of Cracklin' Rosie attests). What a happy looking little baby that is! No clue about the whirlwind of meetings, popcorn pop-offs, rude telemarketers, deadlines, car troubles, mysterious boxes of kitchen items, or really obnoxious service charges to change over her phone service in her future.

Bliss indeed, courtesy of my favorite employee at my LPPC(tm).

“I hear you’re not going to be a troll any longer!”

Oh, it’s a true friend indeed who can get away with opening a conversation this way, but in this case this smart aleck remark is remarkably accurate: I am emerging like we wish Osama would from the cave I have made my home lo these many years, and I can already feel the attendant improvements in my disposition.

It’s something of a drawn-out process, moving from a tiny basement apartment to (amusingly enough) a somewhat tinier house across the river, and it’s not one I’m enjoying one bit as I sort through years and years of stuff and debris trying to pare down the volume to one that will comfortably fit into my new home and still leave room for me and my habit of pacing furiously when writer’s block threatens to overcome me.

Alas, it’s not just my stuff, either, that I’m sorting through. I long ago became some kind of weird focal point for the foisting off of other people’s possessions. It started off with my grandmother’s kitchenwares when she closed up her house and moved to a retirement home and went on from there. Someone would offer me a box full of goodies and at first glance it would all look so devastatingly useful that I would say “Of course I’ll take that!” Only later would I find there were only three or four actually useful items cunningly distributed on the box’s top layer.

Of course, a normal person would have kept the useful items and discreetly pitched the rest, but though I am now unmistakenly oozing into my fourth decade I still haven’t really gotten the hang of this “throwing stuff away” business. I can throw away papers, pens that run out of ink, magazines I’m done reading (unless they contain an article or two I’ve found really good – I’m still too disorganized to maintain a clipping file), stuff like that, but what about a pretty good saucepan that’s just not in as good a condition as the three others I have? There is (thank god) a used clothing store here in town whereat I can get rid of the fourteen pairs of sweatpants that have somehow materialized in my utility room over the three years I’ve lived in my cave (and I don’t even wear sweatpants! Ever! Give me shorts or give me death! Remember, I even wear shorts in December!), but what about a store for used computer components (I have a Dell chassis, a 486 microproccessor, a great PC motherboard and a perfectly good monitor... gathering dust in my linen closet ever since I bought my tangerine iBook. Any takers? Anyone?).

But alongside the anguish there is also awe and awareness. Like so many others of my generation, I have moved more times than I can count on two hands (so you think I’d have gotten rid of some stuff along the way, but no, no. Always before there has been haste and hurry, and usually a moving van with more space than was strictly necessary; much easier to toss it all in and sort it all out when I’m at the new place. The sorting just never came!) and so I am quite familiar with the phenomenon of objects lost many moves past turning up again during the packing or unpacking process.

Interestingly enough, the find thus far consists chiefly of photos and related relics from my very first non-dormitory abode, a seriously funky farmhouse in Orono, Maine I shared with several other entomology students – and in many ways just a bigger, stranger version of the house into which I am moving now. Most arresting and, in a way, poignant are some of the photos of my friends and roommates at the time, international students I will probably never see again (or at least not all in one room, crammed into one car, gazing sentimentally at each other over plates of cheap lobster in restaurants, dancing and drinking powerful Brazilian cocktails at three-day parties) but were the first ones who got me watching soccer seriously, friends whose wives I took on whirlwind shopping tours as we made the local IGA our English language lab... I have to strain now to remember everyone’s name in the photos but I still can. I have no idea where in the world they all are now, not even the crazy German-Spaniard I was in love with at the time, and it’s sad to realize that, but it’s fun to remember them.

Mentally I make plans to make some kind of big photo collage now that soon I will dwell in a place where it’s okay to put things on the walls and there is enough light to see them. Not only enough light to see photographs, but enough light to keep plants alive. I’ll save on electricity because I’ll be able to read by daylight again. I’ll have a view out my windows.

And speaking of views: This little cottage, this crazy cabin (no Unabomber jokes, thank you), this funky little love shack, has a mighty fine one because IT’S RIGHT ON THE RIVER! Yes! I have lovely vistas out two windows where I can watch the ducks, both in the river and IN MY BACKYARD. I might even be able to fish from my backyard, though I don’t know how the catching will be. I’ll have my own lawn (of sorts) on which to sit as I enjoy it all.

Yes, there’s lots to look forward to once I get the old place cleaned out.

Until that happens, though, if you see me walking frazzled down the street, don’t panic. There is neither a town nor a chamber crisis a-brewing. I’m just wondering what to do with that extra coffeemaker.