The tunnel at the end of the light

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‘I’ve changed my mind about Swedish Death Cleaning’

The Peterson half of me is very put out with the Henry half — blaming those French forbears for allowing drawers to fill, shelves to overpopulate and closets to clutter up.

Why, it must have been the Henry side of my brain that foolishly ignored the call of Swedish Death Cleaning back in 2018 when this book came out:

Premise: Get rid of your stuff now so your kids don’t have to deal with it after you’re dead. Suffice it to say that it is not a comic memoir

I even wrote a piece pooh-poohing this phenomenon, called “Out with the Old Year, but not out with the Old Stuff. Yet.”

Oh, silly silly me.

Those of you who read my stuff regularly — bless you — know that we’re downsizing, and that I’ve had two sweeps of movers come to remove things from the Old Apartment. The first time was when all my most beloved belongings got purged by the Stagers. (See “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for heart-breaking details.)

This was pretty much the only piece of furniture that made it into the new apartment. It used to be a bridge table. Now it is the only table

The second time was a couple of weeks ago when my posse of wiry Big John’s guys carted all the Big Stuff — buffet, dining table, china cabinet, designer anvils, and so on and so forth — out to the Amagansett House (which could use a little Death Cleaning itself, I’m thinking).

A really big (and seriously heavy) piece was this 9-foot dining table, seen strewn with lamps and shades. You can almost hear the moving men panting

But the Big Stuff was just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the stuff — the contents of all those drawers and shelves and closets I mentioned, and the cubbies and pantries and medicine cabinets I didn’t — would sink the Titanic faster than you can say “Jack Dawson.”

The (partial!) contents of One. Single. Cabinet

I found this (my Ad Biz sample reel) in a drawer, took a picture of it, then (gulp) threw it out

Dude Man and I have been packing and unpacking and repacking boxes of 27-years-in-residence detritus and toting it thither and fro for weeks now. (Note: those “banker’s boxes” you can get online? Worth every darned penny. We’ve used and reused ours till we’re blue in the face — but they’re still holding up.)

Banker’s boxes. Use ’em once, use ’em again and again. And one more time after that   

I almost forgot — in case you are wondering why I switched things around instead of saying “the light at the end of the tunnel,” here’s the story. Besides the fact that it seems like no end is in sight re: our move — Dude, yesterday: “Let’s finish packing tonight; we’re about done, after all.” Me: “Are you kidding? We haven’t touched the cleaning supplies. Or the pantry. Or the closet in the hall with the sheets and towels and laundry stuff.” His Dudeness: “Oh.”

Some fancy clutter finds a new home. Yes, yes, I’m going to prune this collection. Somewhat

Besides that fact, it reminds me of the first time I switched the phrase around. Which was back in the Before Times when Dude Man and I were on a birding tour of the Brazilian Amazon Basin. It is wildly gorgeous there, but, in all seriousness, the hottest place I have ever been. Even hotter than Borneo, and that’s saying something. We were mostly in the shade, it being the rainforest and all, but at the end of a particularly sweltering morning, we had to cross a field that had been cleared for growing something-or-other. (Manioc?)

As we staggered, Bataan Death-March-style across the sun-blasted field, I said, pointing to the shady trail on the other side, “Oh look! There’s a tunnel at the end of the light!”

Yup. A tunnel at the end of the light

New York City. September 2020

As my Favorite Sister says, “The only way I’m leaving this place is toes up!”

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‘Only she doesn’t say “toes”‘

I’m really sorry I didn’t do a post yesterday. (This apology is for those of you who count on and eagerly await my Tuesday missives. Bless you.) But I have a good excuse.

Where I am resting in the photo at the top of this post: our new “Eames Chair.” It’s a reproduction; so sue me. Have you priced the real ones?

Yesterday the guys from Big John’s Moving came to move our old-apartment stuff that’s too big to fit into the Ken and Barbie House. (Which is pretty much everything we own that hadn’t already been “disposed of” by the stagers — see ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ for tales of staging woe.)

Ready for you, Mover Guys! The tip of the iceberg, box wise

Three intrepid (but, oddly, not really very big) guys showed up promptly at nine. Then packed, trundled, dollied, and hoisted unwieldy furniture and sundry boxes all morning then drove the load out to Amagansett.

Where they did this all over again, only backwards and up two flights of stairs (sometimes three if the stuff was destined for the attic.) The rest of the house was already pretty darned stuffed from having been lived in for 25 years.

So most of it went to the attic. The heaviest stuff for sure, like around a zillion shelving units involving metal poles and thick wood planks. 

Said shelving units being taken down a few months ago. They then went into the basement storage room — and now they are in the attic in Amagansett. Why? “We might need them.”

Me: “Can’t we get rid of all those extra poles and shelves?” Dude Man: “We might need them.” 

Important Note. When you are sorting belongings for a move, divide things thusly: 1. Things you need. 2. Things to give away. 3. Things to trash. Trust me; you really don’t want a Number 4. Things you might need. 

Guess which category this chair fell into? (And I do mean “fell”) It was literally the only place to park while the movers toted, wrapped and trundled

But if you’re married to a Dude Man Type, you’re going to have skinny wiry moving guys straining up three flights to an airless attic bearing seemingly countless loads of iron and wood like little ants bearing loads of leaves. (They didn’t complain; I tipped them generously.)

And, when all was said and done, they got done. And sooner than I thought they would — though it was around 6 PM. I’d had nothing to eat all day but a pricey Starbucks banana (no wonder it’s called Star “bucks”), scarfed mid-morning while “supervising” the movers — and a granola bar I gnawed during the three-hour drive, left over from our trip to Borneo in March. (Who knew those things got so stale? I almost broke a tooth.)

I was starving, but I made myself unpack a few boxes before I showered and ate. (I thought about combining these activities, I was so tired. But I did not relish eating soggy food, no matter how hungry I was.)

Instead, I poured myself a bourbon, put my feet up, and thought cheerful thoughts about the Ken and Barbie House and about how I am never ever moving again. Cheers! And I promise to be on time with a new story next Tuesday.

Amagansett, New York. September 2020

Bean me up, Scotty

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‘At the end of my rope. Er, supply chain’

So The Dude went by the new apartment — the very tiny one we bought late last year and were in the midst of spiffing up when we got locked down — well, he just popped his head in for a peek and, lo and behold, something peeked right back.

It was a rat. A really big rat. Now, our soon-to-be living room is small — very small. As in 11 by 13 (feet!) So even a run-of-the-mill rat would look pretty large. But, huge as he was, Mr. Rat took one look at Mr. Dude and took off. He ran right into the bathroom and disappeared down the waste pipe where the old toilet used to be and where the new toilet is supposed to, er, go.

What will eventually block Mr. Rat’s private entrance into our apartment

Well. I figured that even Andrew Cuomo would agree that getting somebody to block off Mr. Rat’s personal subway entrance into our apartment would count as “essential,” so I got our contractor on the case.

As much as I hate vermin, I must admit it made a nice change of pace to worry about something besides what to make for my 59th dinner in a row. (In case you think I am superficial or callous, of course I worry about the sick and the dying. The unemployed and desperate too. But this is a humor blog, for heavens sakes. And, trust me, I am distracting myself as much as trying to distract you.)

I am totally nostalgic for the Olden Days when choosing the right shade of grout kept me up at night

Even in the Olden Days I turned to cooking for solace in times of stress. (Turn back time by taking a look at “And Then There Were None, ” a piece from what feels like a hundred years ago.)

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No, a “shower body” is not what you think it is.

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‘And, yes, it’s easier to find a unicorn than black and white tile’

I was almost a day late and a dollar short with this post. See, this little “coat-of-paint-and-new-appliances” project spiffing up the Ken and Barbie House is turning into a giant all-consuming time-sucking nightmare. Well, actually, it’s not technically a “nightmare” because I don’t sleep. If you don’t sleep, you can’t have a nightmare, now can you?

Also, I am technically a “dollar short,” actually many dollars, since everything costs more than you think it will. What do The Dude and I do when told an amazingly gobsmacking number for, say, ripping out the awful substandard ancient wood that was under the awful substandard ancient cork tiles so we can lay down a nice new floor?

An excellent example of a “cabinet” with “plumbing”. (See below.) I don’t dare ask how much it costs

We shrug and say “okay.” Our reasoning? This is our Last Apartment — at least the Last Apartment We Will Choose For Ourselves — so we might as well “do it right.” Even if we empty our bank account while doing it.

Today I woke before five thinking about how on earth to find a carpenter. I interviewed one last night who got very sniffy when I admitted that I did not have a “design” or a “plan.” He also smelled mightily of a strong men’s cologne. Deal-breaker, even if he hadn’t kept me waiting 45 minutes.

The night (er, morning) before it was this thing with the “shower bodies.” After a bout of googling, I found out more than I ever wanted to know about valves and diverters.

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A Merry Minimalist Christmas

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‘And a Happy New Decade’

Yes, yes. I’ve told you enough already about the Downsizing. (For those of you out of the loop, blogwise, The Dude and I are soon to move from a normal-sized New York apartment to what I call The Ken and Barbie House. Which is itty-bitty, to say the least. And I do mean the least.)

Floorplan of K & B House. Yes, that’s a 6×6 kitchen

But have I told you about the Staging? In order to move into the teensy apartment, we have to sell our normally-sized apartment. And, in order to sell it, our arms were twisted to Stage it. “Staging” means you, basically, get rid of anything in your home that gives any clues to your personality: photos, artwork, memorabilia. This also (at least in our case) meant getting rid of anything that provides comfort and coziness: carpets, pillows, lamps.

Stripping the living room. Only things left are the piano and the cat bed

“Our” living room, after the Stagers had their way. Sigh

Living in a staged apartment is rather like living in a hotel room. The stuff isn’t yours (those are rented couches; the coffee table isn’t ours either) and god forbid you spill anything. It’s also rather echo-y and noisy, what with the carpets and curtains gone. And don’t get me started about where on earth to put a cocktail — all my end tables were banished.

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Splendor in the Grass

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‘When family photos were snapped “en plein air”‘

Part of the pleasurable pain of downsizing is sorting through zillions, even gazillions, of family photos. Deciding which to keep, which to “gift”, which to strip from their soon-to-be-donated frames and consigned to the manilla envelopes and file folders of history.

One of the things I’ve noticed while sifting is a years-ago trend to pose hapless members of one’s family (mostly helpless babies) smack-dab in the middle of a patch of grass. I’m not sure exactly why this isn’t done so much anymore, though I’m betting that chiggers and deer ticks might have something to do with it.

Me, smack-dab in the middle of a patch of grass. Before the invention of ticks and chiggers, I’m hoping

Another photo fashion I’ve encountered repeatedly while scanning and sipping a big ole cocktail (scanning being rendered much less tedious when accompanied by bourbon) is a propensity to pose subjects with cars in the background. (Even that last photo had a car in the background, albeit a toy one.)

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I’m gonna miss Van. Shaun Cassidy, not so much

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‘I hadn’t thought about record albums in years; now they’re stuck in my mind like a Monkees tune’

Once, when The Child was, oh, eleven or twelve, she happened to be standing in front of the bookshelf — probably looking for the chess pieces, bless her smarty-pants heart — when she pulled out one of the large square objects pictured below and asked, “What is this?”

When I told her it was a “record album” she looked totally and completely blank. So I said, “You use them to play music. With a turntable.” Seeing her still-baffled countenance, I added, “kind of like an earlier version of a CD.” “Aaaah,” she remarked. “I get it. And look: there’s much more room for liner notes!”

I’ve had record albums on my mind lately because, as you probably know by now (and maybe are tired of hearing about), The Dude and I are in mid-life downsizing mode. Going from a respectably-sized New York apartment to, basically, a Barbie-and-Ken playhouse. We’re talking telescoping down from 1600 sq. ft. to, oh, 350. Give or take a square foot — or toe.

Barbie’s playhouse kitchen. Yup, that’s a two-burner stovetop

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My Main Squeeze

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‘He’s about to get squeezed a whole lot tighter.’

When folks from my former homeland, The Great American Midwest, visit me here in New York, they are apt to be amazed by how little space we New Yorkers inhabit.

“Where is the rest of it?” questioned one dearly-beloved sister-in-law, when visiting our apartment for the first time. “This is your kitchen?” exclaimed another equally-beloved SIL. (No, I am not being ironic; I do in fact love these two sis-in-laws, in spite of the fact that their homes are vastly more vast than mine.)

The Dude and I share a meal in the dining-room-living-room-office-music-room of our first apartment

I find this interesting because, on a New Yorker scale, this apartment — where I am sitting right now at my sunlit desk cum china cabinet — is considered rather comfortably large. It’s what they call, in Real-Estate-Agent-ese, a “classic six”. That means it has six rooms: living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a “maid’s room”. Honest. These pre-war (that’s WWII, and yet another example of colorful NYC real estate lingo) apartment buildings were built when no home was complete without its maid.

That’s my desk in the background, ready for writing. That’s the table in the foreground, ready for Christmas. This is in, ahem, the big apartment we live in right now

Well, maid shmaid. What I really want to talk about today is the, well, going-backwards-ness of our personal space. As it pertains to living arrangements, that is.

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Sitting Pretty

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‘I have a seriously addictive Thing about chairs’

Right now, there are twenty-one chairs sitting (if it’s not too silly to think of a chair as “sitting”) in my apartment. Which, speaking of sitting, means a lot of places to rest one’s weary bones. The extremely cute bird-themed perch in the photo at the top of this post — the one with the extremely cute kitty enthroned thereupon — isn’t one of them, since it isn’t a chair, but a hassock.

Another shot of Wombat with that hassock. This was when Wom was a baby and the hassock had tassles. Three guesses why I removed the tassles

No, a chair has a back, and legs, and sometimes even sides — and it seats one person (or one pet). I also have a couple of benches in this apartment. Which don’t count either, since two people can (in theory, anyway) sit on a bench.

Nope. Not a chair. This is a bench with a lion sitting on it. Well, a lion on a pillow. That’s a chair in the left background

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And then there were none

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‘How to make the world’s best brownies, bar none.’

I’m seriously distracted today. The Wayner and I are considering “downsizing” from our Manhattan home of nigh-on twenty-five years to a place that just became available in a highly-desirable building nearby. It’s adorable, filled with light; all the clever original casement windows face a gorgeous private garden. And so on and so forth.

The issue? It’s so small (the kitchen is six feet by six; but at least it has a kitchen) that moving there would take a major attitude adjustment, not to mention a pruning of possessions so majorific it would make Marie Kondo‘s head explode.

Eeensy-weensy isn’t the half of it

So, what to do?

Let’s make a batch of brownies, by gum! Nothing is easier — or more soothing. I have a foolproof method (it’s so simple, I hesitate to call it a “recipe”) that I’ve used even longer than The Dude and I have lived in this (sniff) apartment. It’s sort of adapted from an old Maida Heatter cookbook I have lying around somewhere (and will soon be donating to some library or other).

Here’s the recipe written down for somebody-or-other. Don’t worry; I will “translate”

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