In March we bought a house and thought it logical to also live there. So we moved, leaving behind a stellar rental townhouse that I’d lived in for nearly five years, longer than I’d lived in any one domicile since the house I’d grown up in. It was a great place that I was sad to leave behind, but it was a rental and we’d simply outgrown it.

The thing I miss the most? The bathrooms.

Here was a truly glorious set of bathrooms. First off, there were three. Three! For a 1300-square-foot townhouse. We were awash in excess. (And, washing in excess.) Yet quantity was only one of the great aspects. Each was uniquely terrific in its own way.

I’ll start with the ground floor half-bathroom.

I loved this bathroom.  The house was built in the late 1970s I think, and while the rest of the world grew up, this bathroom stayed exactly the same.  The olive green fixtures served as an ode to a bolder time.  The wallpaper wasn’t just dizzyingly patterned, it was fuzzy!  I affixed a note on the mirror encouraging guests to touch the wallpaper.  I left the note behind when we moved.

Next was the hallway bathroom at the top of the stairs.

As you can see, this bathroom was very, very red.  It reminds me of the bathroom from The Shining.  Also, harder to tell in the pictures, it was huge!  I’m pretty sure this bathroom is bigger than my freshman dorm room.

The only real negative of any of these bathrooms was to be found in the tub/shower here.  There is actually a sliding door behind the curtain.  So why did I need the curtain?  Because the caulk on the door was the most stubbornly useless water repellent ever encountered by mankind.  It proved utterly beyond modern human technology to prevent it from leaking.  In fact, I believe that I could initiate a flood simply by applying this caulk to the outside of a major dam.  Water would somehow seek out the caulk, through the dam, in order to leak through it.  After a while we gave up trying to use the door and just put a curtain over the thing.

Finally, the truly excellent master bathroom.

Like its counterparts, it is a very distinct color.  In this case, purple.  It also has a jacuzzi bathtub! I can tell you these are no fun to clean because they’re huge and gunk gets in all the jets.  But the trade off is worth it.

The new house also has three bathrooms (or, to be accurate, both houses really have 2.5).  But these three are sorely lacking what was left behind.  We’re planning some remodels once we’re feeling like spending the money and putting up with the hassle.  But even when we do, it’ll be hard to match what we had.

So I have to admit: my lifetime peak access to great bathrooms is now sadly in the past.

So I was mowing my lawn, sweating profusely in the humid, 90-degree south that I for some reason decided to buy a house and mow a lawn in, when I realized I was surrounded by swarming, angry insects.

Two weeks previous, I had endured a moderately painful horsefly bite whilst performing the same chore and was therefore alerted to the possibility of having it happen again.  I assumed the insects at hand were indeed horseflies and I futilely attempted swatting them away.  Then I noticed there were lots of them and they had found my exposed calf flesh and were attacking.  With zeal.  Two got me on the legs at the same time and I probably either cursed in a very manly bear-like way or squealed like a sad kitten, not certain in the haze of combat, but I retreated into the safety of the house.

Underground wasp nest

This is where wasps emerge to sting me when provoked by the lawnmower.

But safe it was not!  I heard them buzzing around me still and I managed to swat one down with my hat.  Examining the corpse I realized I was not battling horseflies, but wasps!  Wait, was I getting stung instead of bitten?  Youch! Another right in the gut.  I got my shirt off and found another ambling around my chest, ostensibly patrolling for tender nexuses of nerves in which to inflict more damage.  I got this one off and found another in my hat before the furious swatting and cursing and stinging battle was ended.   Three casualties on the wasp side, three stings for me.  All throbbing and making me not happy.

What happened?  What had I done to deserve this attack?  After a spell of whining to the sympathetic K, I headed back to the scene of my ambush, coated with insect repellent and armed with a can of wasp killer.  I could find no hives or nests.  Were these just rogue yellowjackets looking for some thrills?  I finished mowing the lawn in fear and anger, keeping the wasp poison in one ready hand.

Eventually I noticed a small hole in the ground buzzing with more wasps.  I had been wondering about these.  I’d seen a few of them in the yard before.  They look like some innocuous hole in the yard. I’d gone right over it with the mower.  No wonder they were angry.  Although I don’t see why I should have been blamed instead of the actual mower.  I guess wasps know to ignore machines in favor of their insidious masters.

Anyway, into this hole I emptied most of a bottle of chemical wasp death.

Before this incident I had been stung by bees, wasps, or hornets I think twice ever.  Now I had three just in this one shot.  Thank you, nature!

Hey, look what I found in my basement!

Snake skin pieces, next to a padlock for scale

Snake skin pieces, next to a padlock for scale

Gosh, that’s right, it’s a snake skin! In my house! Which is just where I want snakes to be!

I haven’t seen its owner. I think Artie has. He’s been acting weird for days and sitting downstairs near where I found the skin as if waiting for its return. This is in the room where we keep the litter boxes. I wonder if he sauntered in there aiming to hit the box and AHHHH!!!!!1!

Seems unlikely that it’s still around. I have no idea what snakes that small would eat. If it’s bugs, the basement will keep him alive indefinitely, but it could also just leave the house for more balanced diet than the trickle of tiny centipedes that have been appearing inside lately. There’s a small (but large enough for a little snake) gap under the door it could have gone out as easily as it presumably came in.

So, moving is pretty durn awful.  There’s no way around it.  We were actually excited to do so anyway, because this move was an upgrade: owning instead of renting, bigger space, better space.  This was an in-town move, an upgrade from renting a townhouse to buying a small house with yard.  And overall it went about as good as one could imagine it going.  We took the whole week off to do the work and settle in, and this is an approach I would strongly recommend.  Let’s recap.

Up through Monday March 29: Packing and prepping.  One has to play this sort of mental game of chicken with packing.  Procrastinating a huge packing job and retaining even moderate mental health are incompatible.  But if you start too early, you sit around for days/weeks with a bunch of boxes, living in utter disarray.  And needing to get things back out of the boxes.  Because this is why you keep things around, to use them.  You WANT to need these things.  Because you need to justify the fact that you’re going to the trouble of packing them up and lugging them to the next place you live.  To anything that you can pack up for a month beforehand without a though, you must ask, “Do I really need this plastic lightsaber?  Couldn’t I live without this cracking, yellowed kitchen device of dubious purpose?”

I think the major takeaways of this edition of packing are: I have too much stuff and can never weed enough of it, even the most organized move results in completely losing track of several important items, and I better really be serious about finding a use for all these old computers I’m keeping around.

Monday, March 29: Moving Day.  Crew of three movers showed up about 8:30, and my first action was to try to herd the cat into the kitchen to keep him out of the way.  Like all cats, his response is to very badly want to do the exact opposite of the thing you really need him to do.  Which resulted in his freaking out in my arms and his claws missing some of my vital throat blood vessels by an uncomfortably small margin.  I’m glad we only had one pet for this move.  The logistics of moving a pet are the domain of some operations management dissertation or a Werner Herzog film.

The movers themselves were machines.  Two of the guys were already lugging boxes out to the truck by the time we’d even gone over the paperwork with the boss.  I can’t say enough about the decision to pay people to do this labor for you.  These are experienced movers, and they can lift a lot of stuff, and bring it up and down stairs.  They can also, as I learned, stand still and hold many pieces of furniture in the air while I fumble with attaching soft padding to the underside.  This does not faze them.  By contrast, I am a librarian.  Librarians, as you may know, don’t even push carts and shelve books.  We pay students to do that.  The point is, I can conceivably lift nearly all the furniture I own with 1-3 other people.  This would probably still take days and likely result in the dramatic shortening of my lifespan.  The movers had our place cleaned out within a couple of hours, and the whole lifting and moving stuff portion of the job done by 1:30.  Amazing.  We got the cat moved, unpacked a bit, had some frozen pizza and beer and went to bed freakishly early.

Tuesday/Wednesday: Laborious unpacking.  K spent a whole day in the kitchen.  I spent a whole day in the basement.  K cleaned up a bunch.  I mowed the lawn.  All was brutal but necessary.  I would describe my mood during this period as “crabbily content”.

Thursday-Sunday: Mostly done but still a lot of running around on errands and feeling like you’re just about done until you remember that you’re nowhere close.  Also you discover  bunch of little quirks in your house that you never noticed before, but you will have to eventually pay to fix.  Associated chores can be fun or infuriating.  I thoroughly enjoyed a trip to the hardware store then we got totally lost trying to find the new nearest bank.

Anyway, we’re here.  This is the place.  Disgustingly cute, right?

My house

I already took down the American flag, is all.  It was (a) a bit more demonstrably patriotic than exactly suits me and (b) it was really big and blows in your face whenever you go to the door.  Still, I took it down in the night when no one could see me because I felt like I was doing something wrong.  I am trying to find a good replacement flag, but I think the flag marketplace is pretty poor.  There are cheesy dog/flower/nature flags (uh, no).  There are flags for places (either not applicable to both of us or simply not interesting). There are nerd flags–I’m sure I could get a Klingon Empire flag, for example, but that’s something you better be sure about before you put it on your house.  We’ll probably end up with a windsock.

A consequence of buying a house is that my sense of what constitutes “expensive” is totally out of whack.

Context: we talked about getting a gas oven.  We don’t need this per se, but would like it, and figure it’s a good investment to get something really good that will be used daily.  The stove that comes with the house is electric, and has the coils.  I’ve had a glasstop stove for a while, so it’s a downgrade.  No one has ever endorsed the coils as the premier surface for cooking and easy cleanup.

Anyway, normally a $1200 purchase (plus or minus) would be a significant expense and I’d do a lot of research first and probably put it off for a while just to let the sticker shock settle in.  But when you’re already committed to a house like ours, $1200 is like a 0.5% extra expense.  It feels like practically nothing.  It’s NOT, of course.  It’s $1200.  It’s more than a week’s work.  But then again, the house itself will cost me 30 YEARS of work. Will I be mad, when I’m 63, that I can’t retire on Friday because I bought that stove in 2010, so I have to wait until next Friday instead? Gosh, I hope not.

The number two thing you have to do new you get a house is sign a whole lot of stuff you only mostly understand.  (The number one thing you have to do is be willing to get into staggering debt.)  And you sign knowing that every word in every paragraph was written to protect someone other than you for an event that possibly no one can control.

For example, our homeowner’s insurance policy makes a point to define “three volcanic eruptions taking place in a 24-hour period as a single volcanic eruption event.”  I take this to mean that if my house is damaged by three volcanic eruptions in a single day, I can only file one claim.  Lest I take unfair advantage of the system.  Let me emphasize that the insurance company has gone out of their way to include this information in their policy. So, if my house is melted by lava, I need to hope that the next eruption takes at least a day to hit.  Am I to understand that they’ve been burned in the past by clients hitting them up for damages from three separate volcanic eruptions?  And this happened so often they needed to include the clause in all future policies?  Suddenly I am more frightened that I ought to be of both my insurance company and the Earth’s volatile magma chambers.

I’m sure there are some other wonderful things in this policy.  I’ll post more later.

Now I’m looking at the waiver I need to sign for the flooring contractors before they can work on refinishing the floors.  I have to initial a statement that “Wood is a product of nature and therefore may have some natural imperfections.”  Luckily for them I am willing to stipulate natural phenomena.