Wednesday, April 28, 2010

25 Boxes

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I could not attend Faith’s class last Thursday because I had to wait around for the service guy from a company called Bill Vandegrift Inc., which was supposed to repair my ice maker, and which could only come that day precisely when I had to be in class. The freezer was intermittently buzzing as well, so I asked the service guy to take a look at that also. After about 15 minutes on the floor, he claimed he had fixed the buzz and told me that I would need a new ice maker as the gears were stripped and I would have to wait for them to order the part. He then presented me with a bill for $121.90. Within an hour of the time he left, the freezer began buzzing again, and when I called, I was told he would fix it in a few days when he returned with the ice maker. When we returned home after our stay in DC this past weekend, there was a phone message that we would need a new compressor to get rid of the buzz and that it would run between $1,200 and $1,500. This was on top of the cost of $129.00 for a new ice maker, and with additional labor costs to be determined (in addition to the original $121.90 for nothing). I had paid them over $350 just six weeks ago to fix a small part on my stove, replace the gasket on my Sub-Zero refrigerator, and touch up some paint on the bottom. I had asked him to check at that time and was told that the freezer seemed to be just fine. We called Sub-Zero to find out if this was the normal cost of repair and were told warily by one of their experts that this seemed a little high. I called Vandegrift, cancelled everything, and booked another company who will replace the compressor tomorrow afternoon, both parts and labor, for $850, sight unseen, and will determine whether the ice-maker can be repaired and if not, replace it for less than Vandegrift quoted. I checked with Sub-Zero about replacing these built-in units with new ones (over $5,000 each) and was told that the new ones are taller, which would necessitate my completely renovating and rebuilding my entire kitchen. I spoke with my cousin, Anne, this afternoon about my frustration, and we traded stories about “planned obsolescence” because she had encountered some frustrations of her own when she had to spend a fortune to replace plumbing pipes because Maytag had decided to widen the hoses on its washing machines ten years ago. She suggested I write a blog post titled “Planned Obsolescence,” and just print everyone’s horror stories so that we could all commiserate. If you have one you would like to share, please feel free to either email it to me, or post it in the comments.

On Friday, we packed our bags for our final weekend in Ari’s condo in DC. I waited, playing games on my iPhone, in Saul’s office at Chestnut Hill College while he attended a lunch meeting. He brought me back some lunch, which I quickly downed in his office, and then we set off for Baltimore at about 2:30 p.m. My pet allergies were really acting up immediately when we reached Jess and Alex’s house, so I spent a pleasant hour, in the beautiful spring weather, ensconced with two of my granddaughters in the hammock on the beautiful deck that Alex built last summer, reading a delightful children’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, to them. What could be better?! After a while, Alex’s sister, Naomi, arrived. We lit the Shabbat candles, and had challah with honey, matzoh ball soup, grilled chicken, salad, and rice. By the time Ari was able to get out of the office, we told him not to bother making the long drive. We packed up some food for him and headed off to DC. That night, I broke a plastic fitting on my CPAP, so I did not sleep very well the rest of the weekend.

We had dim sum twice during the weekend, and I fear that Hollywood East CafĂ©, in its new location inside Westfield Mall, is more visible and is being discovered, or rediscovered, by the masses. We dropped off an entire carload of Ari’s stuff at a huge Goodwill distribution center. Ari was expecting the movers at 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning and everything had to be in boxes and ready to go by that time. By 8:30 p.m. Saturday, we were exhausted, but decided to drag ourselves out for a quick dinner of pho at Pho 14 a Vietnamese restaurant with vegetarian options in nearby Columbia Heights. We were really impressed seeing the renaissance taking place there in the very slick, upscale, urban center that is rapidly developing on 14th Street around the renovated and re-purposed Tivoli Theater. In between organizing and putting things into boxes, we made runs to the corporate apartment where Ari will be staying in the absence of settling on a house. On Sunday, we made plans to stop by an open house on Otis Place so that Ari could further negotiate in person a written offer that he had made earlier that had been rejected. The house is one to which we had looked when trying to decide what could be done with some shells of houses that Ari had bid on and had been rejected on in favor of cash buyers. Originally, he believed he could not afford it. We were very gratified when we discovered that they were anxious to continue negotiations.

As soon as we finished with the open house, we stopped at Ari’s apartment to pick up our car and drove both cars to Jess and Alex’s where Ari had agreed to babysit in a pinch while Jess and Alex attended an honoree dinner at the synagogue. As it turned out, over the weekend Ari had been asked to do a presentation and demo of a software called “Relativity” on Tuesday for a law firm in Philadelphia. That, in turn, allowed me to stay in DC on Monday to help Ari with the actual move and provide moral support. Saul drove home alone from Baltimore because he had to teach a class on Monday morning, stopping for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in King of Prussia Mall. Ari and I had leftovers for dinner with the girls. I had the pleasure of giving Yona a bottle and rocking her to sleep in the same chair I had used to rock Jess and Ari to sleep. On our way back to DC, Ari and I encountered a thunderstorm with such teeming rain as I had never before seen north of the Carolinas. When we finally arrived in DC, we discovered that it had not even rained there.

On Monday morning, we were both up bright and early to strip the beds, finish the last of the laundry, and pack up the last of the boxes for the movers. Ari had contracted with a firm called “Great Scott Moving” and had discussed the contents of his condo. During the course of the conversation about what the move was likely to cost, he was asked to estimate the number of boxes he would need to move. The cost they quoted was based on 25 boxes. We were indeed able to pack all his stuff into 25 boxes, and when we had finished, I was a bit jealous. I told Ari that when I move, I would dearly love to be able to pack all my stuff into 25 boxes. I am from a family of savers, some to a pathological degree, and have spent what I am sure is months of my life accumulating, sorting, packing, cleaning, rearranging, and otherwise caring for an assortment of pure “stuff” belonging to me and many other members of my family that was totally irrelevant and unnecessary for my well-being (or anyone else’s for that matter). I have reached a stage of my life where I desire to live a very zen existence surrounded only by those items that contribute to my well-being. I don’t want to worry about keepsakes accumulating dust, or taking up space in drawers and closets. I don’t want clothes in my closet or drawers that I haven’t worn in years. I only want enough food-related items to prepare and graciously serve beautiful, healthy food to my friends and family. I would like a really comfy mattress with fine linen, nice clothes made of natural materials and a place to stow them, my electronic gear that enables me to read, learn, and make contact with the whole world, my favorite artwork, and a nice, light, airy place with a great sofa or chair to which I can retire. If I really work at it, I think I might be able to fit those items, excluding the furniture, into 25 boxes, or at least less than 50. Ari did it.

The movers called to say that they were going to be delayed because of heavy DC morning traffic. They arrived only about 15 minutes late. They were extremely pleasant and efficient. They completely wrapped all the furniture in plastic sheeting. Ari had leased a 10 by 10 storage unit in a U-Store-It just a block away. They finished loading the truck within two hours as anticipated and spent about an hour unloading at the storage unit, fitting everything together like a puzzle so that it just fit into the space. While they were unloading, a heavy rain began, and we drove a couple of blocks to Yes Organic Market to pick up some sandwiches, drove back to the storage unit, and ate in the car while we watched them finish unloading. Ari paid them the amount agreed upon with a generous tip, hoping that they will be moving him again in the very near future. Everyone left happy, and that is as good as a move can get! We drove to the corporate apartment, Ari dropped me off, and was at work by 1:30 p.m. I made up his bed, tidied up a bit, and spent the afternoon on my laptop.

Ari had been planning to work only until 6:00 p.m., but his boss called him into a meeting for another hour and he was not able to leave work until 7:15 p.m. Arriving at the corporate apartment, he packed a suit and a few things for the Philadelphia trip, and we headed back to his empty condo to do some last-minute sweeping and wiping of surfaces and to set his Roomba to pick up any remaining crumbs before the buyer does her walk-through today. We didn’t leave DC until almost 9 p.m. Driving through a light rain the whole time, we decided to stop for dinner at Exit 80 off of I-95. The Cracker Barrel was closing in three minutes when we arrived a little before 10 p.m., but the Ruby Tuesday across the road was open until 11 p.m. and we had a decent meal there before we hit the road again, finally arriving home about 12:30 p.m. Needless to say, we hit the sack as quickly as we could. Saul had picked up a new CPAP mask for me, the wrong size because of the store’s mistake, but I was happy to have it, anyway.

Ari had received word on our drive home that an agreement had been hammered out by the agents involved in the sale of his dream house and that it would be waiting for his signature as soon as he could get to a computer to print it out. He was up and working from my office at home by 9:00 a.m., signed the agreement first thing, and faxed it back. We spent a little time together excitedly figuring out how he might arrange his furniture. The presentation downtown went well and he coincidentally met his co-worker who arrived by cab via a train from Baltimore just as he reached the front of the building where they were to do their presentation. On his way back to DC, he learned, delightedly, that the agreement on the sale of the house had been ratified by the other party. Now, there is just a matter of FHA approvals, appraisals, and lender agreements which, hopefully, will go smoothly and as planned, leading up to settlement in mid-May.

Last night, Saul and I and Faith were invited to our friends, Terry and Gene’s, home for dinner, along with Gene’s sister, Louise, and her husband, David. They are all weathering a terrible storm in their lives. Last August, while we were in Florida, and just before Mom died, Louise and David’s two sons and a grandson were killed when their private plane and a helicopter carrying Italian tourists collided over the Hudson River. David is one of the strongest men I know. As a very young man, he left a cushy job in the navy to enlist in the Marine Corps on the eve of WWII.
He saw much heavy action, was at Iwo Jima, and was severely injured, almost losing a leg during the war. Gene was a pilot, flying many missions. Yesterday, when I asked him if he kept in touch with his military group, as my father did, all through these years, he told me that he is the only one alive. Initially, I thought that he meant they had all expired over the years, but later he explained how, during the bombing missions, experienced groups would take on newbies so that there would never be a whole combat team of newbies at the same time. Groups were rotated, and the rest of his group was shot down at a time when he happened to be on the ground. Twice during the story-telling, Terry said that she had always felt that God had saved him for her because God knew what beautiful children they would someday have together. They are now the proud great-grandparents of twins. David is a consummate pilot, flew angel flights for many years, and was lamenting the fact that he has not flown his plane in three years due to problems with his health. They are all counting their many blessings, thankful for their other surviving children and grandchildren, and thankful for having each other into old age, but clearly, a terrible cloud has darkened their sunny outlooks. Terry is a devoted and excellent, if self-deprecating, cook, and prepared a lovely meal for us of tossed salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and vinaigrette; cheese manicotti; roasted asparagus; and glazed beets. For dessert, we had rich, chocolate chip, coconut, and nut studded brownie squares with a wonderful fruit compote.

Today, I had been psyched up to work outside on the garden, but when I went out to water the flower boxes, I found the windy weather unbearably chilly. It even snowed in northern New York and parts of New England today, so I postponed my forays into the great outdoors until the weather warms up again, supposedly at the end of the week. The necessary paperwork on Ari’s new house has begun to flow today, and he is trying to hold down his excitement because he has been disappointed so many times this year in his search and in his ability to sell his condo. Settlement on his condo takes place tomorrow, and with luck, by this time next month he will be living with his furniture and his 25 boxes of stuff in his new dream house.

P.S.: This is blog post #200.

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