Saturday, April 25, 2009

Musings about a Moving Experience by the Maumee

I’m noticing a certain symmetry to my travel rhythms. Today—just like three days ago, when I started this road trip—I boarded Amtrak at dawn, and am composing a blog entry as I rumble toward Chicago’s Union Station and my first latté of the day…

• • •
I spent the last two days visiting my daughter Jo and her sweetheart Peter in Toledo, located at the west end of Lake Erie, at the mouth of the Maumee River. In addition to my daughter, Toledo is home for the Mud Hens, Toledo’s uniquely nicknamed AAA baseball affiliate (do they specialize in hitting fowl balls?), who play at cozy, downtown 5/3rd Field, named after a regional bank (how do you name a bank after an improper fraction?).

Like her father, Jo is a moving target. Unlike her father (who travels a lot but has kept the same bedroom for decades), Jo changes homes about as frequently as a white pelican. After moving to Amherst MA in early ’07, she migrated south that summer and resettled in Asheville NC. After almost living out a year’s lease on the east side of town, last summer she moved to Weaverville on the north side. While there, in the fall, she started dating Peter and they connected fabulously right from the get-go. After a few months replete with new couple romance, both of them got laid off as well, and it was time to change zip codes again.

Peter got work with a TV station in Toledo and they headed north together, peregrinating in the dead of winter. Now nesting together, they weren’t three months into their one-year lease on a rented house before the landlord asked if they’d consider moving so that he could live there himself. Although Jo claimed she'd rather have root canal than face another move, their old landlord sweetened the deal by paying for a moving company to handle the heavy stuff and chipped in the first month's rent on the new place.

Plus, Toledo in April is a whole other ballgame than Toledo in January. Just ask the Mud Hens. Luckily, Peter & Jo never let their his-and-hers storage boxes get too far out of sight (and think of all the time they save not having to dust them, cleverly putting them to use so regularly).

Thus it was that I showed up for a two-day visit that exactly straddled moving day (which is kind of like being in New York and accidentally catching Macy’s White Sale). Not that I minded. I enjoy being helpful on visits, and this was a clear opportunity, especially given that Peter was working that day. (Actually, we were all working Thursday; Peter was just the only one getting paid for it).

The weather cooperated wonderfully and Thursday was mostly about filling boxes, moving them in and out of vehicles, and then unpacking them on the other end (the new house was only three miles removed from the old one). Jo directed traffic and I just kept schlepping. The highlight for me was successfully navigating a DIY shelving unit capable of holding five storage boxes worth of DVDs—most of Peter’s collection. Having it assembled and ready to receive its bounty of electronic entertainment before bedtime put an appreciable dent in the mountain of living room stuff awaiting attention Friday. There were places where you could even see the floor.

Yesterday we started fine tuning the house. While Jo organized the kitchen, I swapped out the dryer receptacle (right wiring; wrong plug configuration), and helped her manifest a shelf to extend the utility of the pass-through between the kitchen and living room. What we staretd with was a simple opening (about 42”x48”) finished in drywall. As the opening was only as wide as the wall, that meant a 4-inch ledge. Jo figured she could do better and I got to dust off my skills as an impromptu carpenter—where you’re expected to do a nice job with minimal tools.

We bought a 4-foot length of 1x10 finished red oak at Home Depot and had them cut it to length (Jo & Peter don’t have a handsaw or circular saw). Knowing they’d want a rounded edge—it’s no fun catching body parts on the square corners of protruding shelves—I had Jo buy a chisel (Jo & Peter don’t have a coping saw). Out in the back yard I rested the board on top of the air conditioning exhaust (Jo & Peter don’t have saw horses) and chiseled the corners round, finishing them with the sandpaper we bought.

Next I had to figure out how to mount the store-bought wooden brackets. They had a slotted grove into which metal hardware had been factory installed. The buyer was also given a pair of pan head screws, the heads of which exactly fitted into a grove in the hardware, locking the unit to wherever the screw was attached.

Because the brackets had to drop down onto the protruding screws to lock into place, there was nuance in figuring out exactly where to place the screws so that the top of the brackets would be flush with the bottom of the pass-through. As Jo & Peter don’t have a level (are you beginning to see the pattern?), I used the side of an incense box as a straight edge so that I could line up the outer edge of each bracket with the sides of the pass-through—where I knew there’d be trimmers I could screw into.

Luckily, Jo & Peter do have a tape measure, and it was a relatively simple matter to make a template for where to place the screws. I had Jo buy a drill index (to go with the cordless drill she already had) and was thus able to pre-drill for the bracket mounting screws, and then for the brass screws I bought to lock down the finished shelving piece through the front edge of the bracket into the underside of the red oak. Ta-da! Jo now had a handsome red oak pass-through shelf that was 10 inches wide, instead of a drywall ledge that was 4 inches narrow. Better.

I even had time to do a little email and stretch before we went out to eat.

Jo says that she and Peter plan to be in Toledo for at least two years. I guess it could happen. And maybe the white pelicans will stay in Saskatchewan this winter.

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