Seven Year Itch

It’ll be a month shy of seven years when we depart at the end of this week. And even though this is only a thousand squarefoot house, we sure did find ways to stuff it with stuff. So a lot of my time has been dedicated to emptying it. There’s a few places where you can redistribute the stuff though: there’s the regular weekly trash pickup, there’s dropping things off at Goodwill, there’s selling items on Facebook Marketplace, and there’s services that pickup your junk with a truck and take it to the dump. And of course you can bring some of it with you, and for that, we’re going to fill a small storage container that’ll be shipped to our new location.

I was most excited to get rid of the lawnmower. Yesterday was my last day of mowing and someone bought the mower a few hours later. I could write an essay about how much I disliked mowing every week for half-the-year for every year we lived here — but I won’t — as that would be a poor use of my focus and attention. Instead, I’ll just quietly reflect on my newfound freedom from the tyranny of landscaping. Deep breath. In…. Out….

To be honest, I never wanted to live in this house, it was my wife’s idea. I’ve been waiting to leave since we moved in. I wouldn’t mind returning to the general area though, I like it. I really should have appreciated this house more while I lived in it though — that’s my bad. Because really, my wish in life is for a myriad of delightful surprises, so I don’t actually want a say in where I live — surprise me! But my problem is that I criticize everything I’m given instead of appreciating what’s good about it. That’s a dumb strategy by the way.

So I guess the test begins again when I leave. I’ve had seven years to reflect on life and its meaning — but life isn’t all theory is it, there’s a practical exam too. Speaking of which, you know what would make this story more interesting? Some chaos and calamity! And that’s true isn’t it? So don’t wonder why turmoil exists, it’s what provides the most captivating content. If this story was all about near-misses and redemption and a love gone wrong, you’d be glued to your seats just lickin’ up the drama. Lucky for me I like boring stuff.

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One Two Three

I mean, how else can you explain my life in a positive way? I’m a loser because I love the feeling of vulnerability, of being beaten to near defeat… then all of a sudden… WHAT?! Ladies and gentlemen! This is unbelievable! He’s up! This can’t be happening!! When all hope was lost, he’s on his feet! And it’s a BODY-SLAM!!! ONE! TWO! THREE!! Ding! Ding! Ding! It’s all over!!! He’s done it!

I loved professional wrestling as a kid. The days when Hulk Hogan was out cold, his hand limp, then… then on the third attempt when the ref tested the champs hand by raising it up — it stayed in the air. It vibrated with the power and intensity of a thousand Hulkamanics surging through his twenty-four-inch pythons. He came to life and BOOM! Leg-dropped his opponent into a deep sleep — retaining the World Wrestling Federation championship belt.

That’s the premise of the Rocky movies for instance — guy gets beaten to a pulp, eventually recovers and triumphs. That’s most fighting movies in fact — even The Karate Kid. It’s such a common narrative in life. Perhaps that’s my story too. Guy is a complete loser, comes from a loser family, lives a loser life, then when you finally accept his loser-status… BOOM!!! He’s suddenly a success-story. He’s admired, his opinion matters, he’s no longer ignored, people from all over the world are interested in his thoughts.

I just can’t believe I’m a loser. I don’t see it. I’ll sit here writing my thoughts down until through sheer force-of-will everyone accepts me as a world-class thinker. Luckily I have no choice in the matter, my persistence doesn’t allow me to deviate from this belief. I’ve tried to stop writing this blog for instance, I’ve been so far unsuccessful in those attempts. Despite the fact that people show little-to-no-interest in what I have to say — I don’t care, I just keep going. One day that switch will flip.

Golden Age of Chat

Yeah I remember those times. For me it started around Christmas of 96 (or was it 95?). Ant’ny was over with his family and I was showing him my new Compaq Presario. Probably had 16 meg of ram and a 1 gig hard-drive on that baby, a minitower attached to a 14 inch monitor that was deeper than it was wide and weighed 40 pounds. But anyway, we fired up one of those promotional cd-roms that came with the computer. It was for an internet/chat service. Back then there was Prodigy, Compuserve, and America Online.

The dialup-modem made it’s strange haunting sounds and we were connected! Rip-roarin’ at 28.8! We selected a chat name, something like NRA911, we were just makin’ up something crazy, for laughs. Back then ya see, you’d enter into a chatroom with about 20 other people all “chatting” at once, just typing away. Sure it was sometimes hard to follow, but back then most people weren’t fast typers — plus a lot of folks just sat there watching the conversations scroll by.

Not me though. I was active, pickin’ out my prey and teasin’ the heck outta them. In a good-natured way of course. I’d break the ice and get the room all whipped up, boy you shoulda seen me go! Nothin’ like my quiet, reserved everyday self. Eventually the room would settle and I’d select someone to talk with privately. I loved those deep one-on-one conversations. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Long-story short is that me an Ant’ny had a great time that night and I was hooked.

You had to pay for so many minutes of usage back then, it wasn’t until a bit later that they offered unlimited hours. I went through free-trial-disk after free-trial-disk. I’d be on all night chattin’ up a storm. Imagine it, I rarely had anyone to talk to in meat-space, always just watched TV or sat quietly in class. But now, there was a constant flow of people all itchin’ to chat. Sure there’d be quiet nights with minimal fishies to catch, but eventually someone interesting would show up.

Heck, it was even in a chatroom where I met my best friend twenty years ago. I was busy tearin’ it up in a Lobby on AOL and something about her style caught my attention — she was different. I singled her out and sent her an instant-message. I think I was vexed in some way, perhaps it was a bit of that hard-to-get stuff. Well I added her to my buddy-list and hoped to see her whenever she was signed-on again.

Soon after that we started exchanging emails. Deep thoughtful letters. Again, somewhat different than what I was used to. From then on we’d skip the public chats and just chat with each other. That went on for awhile. These were the olden days we’re talking about, not many people had digitized photos of themselves — you had to literally mail stuff or know someone with a scanner. But the only picture she ever mailed me was one of her 6-year-old self holding a tin of cookies at Christmas time.

We eventually moved over to phone calls, which were “long distance” and kind of expensive. We’d talk for hours and eventually she got in trouble with her mom for racking up big bills. My mom was happy I found a friend — heh. That’s how I laughed in chat by the way: heh. None of that “lol” stuff for me. Maybe a “haha” if it was really funny though. But anyway, it was 9 months until we finally met in person and I saw her for the first time. She non-coincidentally applied to a nearby college.

It was in the summer and she was taking some placement tests. I had a general idea of what she looked like and I knew what building to be in. Everyone didn’t have mobile-phones back then. The last time we talked was before she left her house the previous night. But lo and behold I spotted someone matching her description talking to her parents. She eventually made a solo trip to the restroom and I was in pursuit. “Michelle?!”, she turned around and it was her. Long black hair and racing-stripes on her jeans.

What a time. It was only a few minutes before her dad showed up wondering why she was taking so long. I left but I was on cloud 9. In a few weeks she’d be moving to be near me — oh and to go to college of course. But anyway, that was pretty much the end of chat for me. Oh sure, I went back a few times after that but never for too long. And eventually, high-traffic public chatrooms stopped being a thing. But at the exact time I needed them, they were there for me. Thanks chatrooms.

Overcoming Inertia

While we were leaving Florida after living there for five years, we considered buying a camping-trailer and a tow-vehicle. We even went to some RV dealers and browsed around. In the end, we decided against it and just stayed in some Home-Away houses when we got to the Northeast. But funny enough, when we started to look for a more permanent place to stay, we found a nice little mobile-home situated in a nice little trailer-park not far from the beach. It seemed the most affordable option too.

The funny part is that it’s just like we’ve been camping these past seven years. So not only did I get my wish of living in a trailer, but life knew me too well, so well in fact that it put me in a deluxe-super-upgraded version of a trailer. This place is easily at least three-times the size of a conventional travel-trailer, has 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms, a full-kitchen, living room, ample closet space, and a decently-sized yard. Not to mention that it’s located near attractions and amenities.

Hm, why am I moving again? I suppose in one sense we’ve been a bit stagnant. Although, being still is a way of life for me. But my friend came up with the idea to move — she doesn’t like stillness for too long. I think that’s fine, I mean how long can you reasonably camp in the same site — it’s been 7 years, time to move on. How moving back to the location we left in Florida is “moving on”, I don’t know — seems more like back-tracking to me.

I watch those International House Hunter shows on HGTV and I’m usually intrigued by the possibility of living in a completely different place. But I don’t have a job with international ties, I’m not a student, I’m not married to a European, I’m not independently wealthy, and my budget is a bit too small to get the locations I’d want. There I go with my lack-minded thinking again! I’m in the middle of sorting through stuff for the upcoming move by the way, which is why I’m rambling. What’s better than procrastination, I wouldn’t know.

Perhaps this is one of those situations where you’ve been home all along and only recognize it when you’re about to leave? Sniffle…. It’s like when you flip a coin — you only realize what you truly want when the coin is in the air and your fate is about to be decided. Really though, we’ve put down zero roots here, so it’s hard to imagine this as home. This place is familiar yes, but there’s nothing keeping us here but inertia. Well, back to sorting….

For Sale

Last year at this exact time, I was in Walt Disney World. My friend had the absolute need to go there and so we went. She actually wanted to up-and-move to the Disney area but I convinced her that perhaps a several-week vacation would suffice. We stayed with my mother (who lives nearby) for a couple weeks while there. We were probably gone for over three weeks because of the drawn-out travel-time (by car). I thought that would be the end of it.

This year she wanted to return for a vacation. We had used our savings to fund last-year’s travel, and since it hasn’t been replenished, I told her it’s not feasible. Well, now she wants to move there again. We actually used to live there about ten years ago, so that’s not as crazy as it sounds. Personally, I didn’t prefer the unrelenting heat and I kinda like being back in snow-country. But at the start of this year, due to my poor stewardship, I relinquished control over the family, allowing my friend to make the major decisions.

Partly because of wanting to support my friend’s wishes, and partly because I must be more willing to accept life’s narrative, and partly because I don’t prefer living in this particular house, I’m okay with moving. Therefore, we’ll be putting the mobile-home up for sale soon. The most uncomfortable aspect to me is having to empty the house, just the logistical aspect mainly — there’s not much worth bringing and we only have a small car for the stuff we do want.

So in my mind, there’s a 100% chance that we’ll be outta here by the end of the summer or earlier (that’s about 7 years we’ve been here). My wish though, is to travel in a larger, more comfortable vehicle (I was a bit dissatisfied with the car-portion of the trip last year). Plus, I would prefer to have plenty of money to spend along the way and when we arrive. Yes it’s true that selling this small house will provide some savings, but I would prefer significantly more.

At our wedding reception, my wife said, “I used to pray to God that I wanted to marry rich, and when I met my husband he told me he was Rich — and I said, ‘Thank you God!'” Well if “nominative determinism” is real, I think I’m due for a windfall. Funny enough, my actual last name is a synonym for “abrasive” — which does kinda fit me. So after twenty years of being together, I think my friend is due her windfall as well — she’s been the greatest aspect of my life and she’s put up with my abrasiveness all these years.

Ready and Waiting

I’m ready to move. I’ve been researching this and that, towns, houses, town-houses, trucks, trailers, schools, furniture, I’m champing at the bit. Even the local news is trying to tell me to go, with some time-to-get-out-of-here type stories, nasty stuff.

Let’s do this already. It feels like I should be there, not here. I’m just waiting for the finances to kick in. I don’t know how that process works exactly, but I expect any day now my bank account will have sufficient funds.

I think they call it magic. The secret to my success will be wishes and magic. Since I’ll be moving, no one will wonder why I was an overnight success. They’ll simply assume it was years of hard-work mixed with talent. When asked for evidence of my endeavors, I’ll just say I’m a writer, writing under a pseudonym for privacy.

I think I can pass off the well-educated writer vibe. I wear glasses and have a little beard, and for whatever reason I dress more formally nowadays — button-down shirts and such. After achieving success, I’ll recognize all that came before as worth it, remembering the tough times fondly.

Sometimes I think about Lennie asking George to tell him about the rabbits, and how my wishful thinking won’t get me anywhere. But I have faith in life. For instance, when life looked bleak and lonely, my friend arrived. And the time we moved from my parents’ house, our new place appeared like an oasis in the desert. And when it looked as though a little-one would never come, he did. When we needed a nest to bring him into the world, a small one materialized.

So I have no reason to doubt life is providing me both the idea and the means to implement it. I’ve noticed life likes to build up the anticipation and suspense, as if what I want is never going to happen, but in the end, all of a sudden, boom, there it is.

Of course I’ve tried to work for things, over many years I tried various means to achieve my ends, but in a sense, I was attempting to force an outcome, and those endeavors always fell flat. Only when I stopped pushing, only when I relaxed and let things happen, did the things I want manifest. You can’t force a flower to open, the result won’t be pretty.

I don’t know how life works for everyone else, but for me, things have to come at their own pace, falling into my lap. Impatiently striving has only ever been a recipe for frustration. I can’t take what I want from life, it has to be given, and the receipt of such gifts brings forth my appreciation. And so with that in mind, I’m anxiously anticipating, awaiting my Christmas miracle.

Two Tiny Wings

When I was a boy my parents took us to Florida every year to spend two weeks in Disney World. We’d go in February when it was bitterly cold in the Northeast. We’d drive in our motorhome for about 28 hours, making a stop or two along the way, oftentimes staying at South of the Border, an odd Mexican themed rest-stop between North and South Carolina.

At Disney, we’d stay at their Fort Wilderness campground. I loved it because I could ride my bike anywhere I wanted, it was freedom. Sometimes I’d even go on my own for breakfast at the Trail’s End restaurant, my favorite was the french toast, three triangle slices encrusted with sweet cinnamon-y goodness, covered in warm syrup. One year I met another little boy and we’d meet for breakfast like two adults discussing whatever it was.

Another year, me and a family-friend took stacks of newspapers out of the dispenser and delivered them to people’s campsites, just for fun. When I was a little older, we’d ride the transportation (boats, buses, and monorails) to the other resorts to play in their arcade or eat in their quick-service restaurants. All of Disney was open to us for exploration, again it was freedom.

Eventually when my parents retired we moved down to Florida. When the opportunity presented itself, I moved right next to Disney World in a quaint little place called Celebration, a community designed by Disney. I used to walk to the Market Street Cafe, sit at the counter and order an Open-Faced Meatloaf Sandwich and a Coconut Cream Pie or I’d go to the Celebration Town Tavern and get Lobster Chowder and a Blackened Prime Rib sandwich, finishing with a Boston Cream Pie. We’d often walk the streets of Celebration, sometimes going as far as Aquila Reserve or Artisan Park.

When we lived in Celebration, I liked going to Downtown Disney — after eating a Full Montagu at The Earl of Sandwich in the Marketplace side, we’d head over to the West Side for a Haagen Dazs Mint Chip Dazzler, walking past the Lego store and Pleasure Island (as it used to be called). We’d also drive to all the resorts just to look around and walk, or we’d go to Epcot to walk around the World Showcase, often listening to Spelmanns Gledje at the Norway pavilion or the Voices of Liberty in the American pavilion and ending with a Napoleon at the Boulangerie Patisserie in the France pavilion.

My sister used to work at Disney, she’s very short and used to dress up as Mickey Mouse and take photos with people. My mother has worked at Disney since moving down, showing people to their table in a restaurant. My wife used to work at Disney, floating between a bunch of different jobs, from resorts to theme parks to call centers, and even in the animation building that they no longer use for actual animating. You could say I bled Mickey red. For a time I wanted my ashes sprinkled about in the backwoods of Fort Wilderness, because to me, Disney represented fun and freedom, something I lacked back home growing up.

Having immersed myself so much in Disney by living there, I kinda got it out of my system. Plus, they did get rid of some of my favorite childhood memories, such as in Epcot’s Future World they dumped Horizons and changed the Imagination ride — and in the Magic Kingdom they dumped 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Mister Toad’s Wild Ride. And the last time I stayed at Fort Wilderness, there was no French Toast, we had to bike over to the Wilderness Lodge and get some at the Whispering Canyon Cafe.

After I left Florida they built a neighborhood of luxury houses literally right beside Fort Wilderness. For a time it was a dream of mine to live within Disney itself. Yet even if I won the lottery, I don’t think I’d consider moving there though, I mean it might cross my mind, but I think I’ve moved on. It was my childhood home of sorts, the place I remember most fondly — but when you fuck with my french toast, that’s unforgivable.