Apr 29, 2007

Bikram, Blood Pressure and the ER

I went to a Bikram yoga class today. Bikram is 26 yoga poses in a room heated to 105 degrees, for 90 minutes. I’ve done Bikram a lot … I recently went five times in a week, one of those “All you can sweat out of your pores for week for only 20 bucks!”

I went today because I had been up at a cabin for a week, working on my book enjoying the silence and high desert beauty in between writing sessions. Larry came up on Friday and we drove back this afternoon. It was great. But I was ready to come home.

Nothing gets back into to your old routine, like doing your old routine. Like sweating your hiney off for 90 minutes.

A lot of the poses are designed to cut off circulation to a certain area, then when you release, the blood flows in, muscles and ligaments are envigorated, they release the toxins stored in the muscle mass and they relax. My friend Tom had terrible arthritis, to the point he could not make a fist. He’s been doing Bikram for a couple years and his arthritis symptoms are gone. Some students get dizzy, especially the first few classes. the teachers say, “that’s common, it’s your body detoxifying. Just take it easy.”

Well I've been doing yoga for a while, doing Bikram most recently and I never got dizzy. Until today. About 25 minutes into the class , after one particular pretzel maneuver, I stood up and felt weird. I took it easy alright. I laid down and curled into child's pose on my mat while they went on with a few moves.

I sat up, an I felt okay. Stood up, did not feel okay. I laid down again. What should I do? Just sit here until they get to the floor poses and I don't look like an idiot? No. So I sat up, felt ... okay. Stood up. No did not feel OK. The room looked blotchy. I get light headed all the time, my blood pressure is low. but I knew this was not going to resolve. The class had moved on to a second or third pose, so I figured I needed to leave. the bathroom door was closer than the front door. And it was normal temperature in there.

So I shuffled over to the bathroom, but the bathroom door was locked. How could it be locked? No one had gone in there during class. This made no sense. What I didn't realize was that I was trying to open the supply closet. The bathroom was to the left. I had lost my peripheral vision and didn't even know there was a door.

You know when you have a dream, there could be a rapid succession of images or impulses, but then one image is clear and still. Well, I had a dream with one clear image. The yoga teacher staring up at me when I regained consciousness.

Yeah, fainted. Fainted clear away. The teacher called the paramedics, and so came the fire department, paramedics and a police car. They ran my vitals, probably dehydrated.

Ma'am, do you have a history of fainting or low blood pressure?"
"yeah, both. I fainted in Times Square once. And yes, I've got a naturally low blood pressure and pulse."
What I didn't tell him was that the ambulance sent me to some crappy midtown hospital where I lay in a hospital bed for 12 hours. The staff never pinpointed anything except that, "you fainted."
"Yes, I am aware of that. Any uh, suggestions?"
"Go home and drink some Gatorade."

I did NOT want to go to no ER today.
Sir, my blood pressure is always low.

"Ma'am, your blood pressure is 82 over 52. We're taking you to the hospital.
Can’t I just sit here for a while and drink some electrolytes?

We got an IV for that. Come on girl, you getting in the van.

Once in the van and away from the studio, they started in on me. Asking bout yoga, what kind I did, what studios I liked the best. And how insane it was that the room was 105 degrees
One guy laughed, Girl moved away from New York to get away from that weather. What you doing paying for it?"

My fiancé does Bikram, she tried to get me to take it. I’m calling her right now telling her about you.

Actually they made me laugh and I felt okay. Until we got to the ER. The paramedics had already started me on an IV and my vitals were almost normal. I didn't want a 12 hour redux of that crappy Hells Kitchen hospital off times Square.

I left my wallet and my phone in the car's glove box. The yoga studio said they’d call my husband. Hoped they did. Because I didn’t want to be tied to a stretcher and dumped somewhere in downtown LA when we were done.

It must have been a slow night, because I was fortunately only there for about an hour and a half. The other patients I saw were mostly middle aged obese men. One guy had to have the paddles. When they say ashen, that’s really what they mean. His skin was the color of gray ash, or dirty mop water. It was sobering. The other patients consisted of a few frail old ladies and some transients. One of my paramedic buddies saw a transient in the aisle and said, “hey Randy, Remember me? I picked you up off Figueroa on Tuesday. You back again?”

I was put into a semi private room. In that there were only two beds instead of eight. I didn’t see the patient when they wheeled me in, just the person sitting by the bedside. A young Asian guy. Maybe the patient was his mother? But when the patient spoke, the voice was gravelly and low. The more it spoke, the more pained and whiney and cantankerous and melodramatic the voice became.

Judging by the conversation, the patient and friend went to the same church. Tell everyone to pray for me. I mean, I don’t have any secrets you know that. But I don’t like to talk about my pancreatitis. I’ve had it before. Last night I just felt like I had really bad gas. Yeah, that really horrible bad gas where you feel like your intestines are going to explode. AAAH, there it comes!

Finally my valiant husband showed up. By then he knew I was OK, but it still had rattled him. He sat and waited with me, and almost immediately he too was curious about the voice. We decided it had to be a man. But the more he talked, the more he sounded like an overweight young man with some gender confusion issues.

The friend had been sent away to collect items from the invalid’s apartment: things for his stay at the hospital: several pairs of clean underwear and a bible. Then a pastor arrived, a young buffed out Asian guy who, judging by the look on his face as he went in, it had been a long day at church today, or he’d had a long history of dealing with Pancreas Boy.

The paramedic came back to give me some paperwork to sign. He said something to cheer me up, and we laughed. Pancreatitis Boy screamed “SSSSHHHHHHHHH!” and went back to retelling his story to the pastor, from previous bouts to the recent feeling of intestine wrenching gas, to today and his upcoming venture into in-patient living.

Nurse, Nurse! He yelld toward the nurse assigned to me. I need something for the pain! When am I going to be admitted? When are they coing to move me? My nurse went to try to answer his questions, the nurse didn’t know or have any control over it. Nurse made the mistake of trying to explain: it had to do with how many beds there were, it might take time to clean them up, etc etc. This only made Pancreas boy more agitated. The nurse returned with morphine to make the patient feel more comfortable. And maybe to get him to shut the FFFF up.

I was as I suspected, fine. Low blood pressure and loss of fluids make for fainting. Go home, he said. What, I gotta unhook myself?
Yeah, we’re a self serve operation.

When we got home I got a little scared about the whole thing. just had to hug Larry. I mean, every time he walked by me or I walked by him. I just had to stop and hug the guy.

Well one, he's so huggable and yummy. And two, I can no longer do my life without him. When I was still single, I'd have those morbid thoughts, "If we break up, I'll survive. I survived all these years with out him, I've gone through bad breakups before. I'll get through it."

Well no. Not any more. Larry is too much a part of my life. I depend on him, not in any needy codependent way. But in the way that where I used to have to do everything on my own, like grow spiritually or try to write a book or get home from the ER. I used to do all that myself. I had great moments and horrible ones, alone. It was just me, doing all of it alone.

Well now I have the best possible person ever as my husband: my champion and friend and lover and inspiration and confidence. My safety. Home. Larry feels like home. So when I walked by his desk, or he brushed by me, I just had to grab and hold him. Thank you God, that I am OK, that Larry is OK. That we are OK. Thank you thank you.

Larry pointed out that twice today, I had near misses in the car. Driving home from the cabin, an old geezer in an LTD sedan came around a bend right at me in my lane. I honked and braked, he braked and swerved. I looked in the mirror to make sure Larry wasn't freaking out. The LTD went back to using the whole road.

Then on the way back from the hospital, A guy ran a stop sign and could have hit me. He corrected himself and I was fine. but it was just kind of weird. Two near misses with drivers, and a trip to the hospital. Hmmm.

Lord, thank you for protecting me from whatever's going on.
Keep both Larry and me SAFE.

Apr 20, 2007

Our "Community" House

When our home owners Ted and Lori read my last blog: the details about cleaning, scouring, de-gunking the washing machine, digging bug carcasses out of the windows, it definitely sent them the wrong message. Did we think the house was a dump?

Not at all, we love this place, it's gorgeous! My intention in the blog was to skewer myself for my anal reaction to moving. But I failed to mention all that Ted and Lori had done to get this place ready for us. Giving us the use of their desks, file cabinets, the master bedroom complete with Tempurpedic bed. Ted spent hours installing an automatic watering system. And countless other things, which I failed to mention in the blog. Granted, I'd fired off the blog at midnight and didn't go back to edit.

But there’s a reason I avoided talking about Ted and Lori. You see, we’re sharing this house with them, and that invites all sorts of questions. They live out of state most of the time, but Ted comes to LA occasionally for work, and Lori sometimes comes with him. Ted said he might be here a few days a month, or only a single day in six months. It would be like living with absentee roommates. Were we OK with that?

Larry had been commuting from Culver City to Glendale five days a week. We’d been actively looking for a place to live for over three months, scouring Westside Rentals and craigslist. Printing out possibilities and then driving by, only to discover one real estate bait and switch after another. “Old world charm” meant pre-war plumbing and no closets. Mediterranean Oasis meant a dilapidated Spanish duplex behind a strip mall. Items from my “this I Will Never Do” list moved to the Contender list. Condos with molting stucco, prefab Orwellian beehives, a house with a chicken coop and a second floor door with no landing. After one last exhausting day coming up with nothing, we slumped off to a wedding of a couple who just closed escrow on a house. We felt like the biggest losers. “Please God,’ we prayed. "Open our eyes to see what we're failing to see so far.”

The next morning, Ted emailed me about his place. Yes, Ted and Lori still had furniture here, and occasionally lived here. Were we OK with it?

We decided that yes, we were OK with it. But lots of our friends were not. Wait, you have roommates? And they’re a couple? They still have their stuff there? They better let you move in your dishes, you’re paying them rent! Do you have any privacy? Is that healthy to share a house, in your first year of marriage?” One friend said, I could never live like that. I need clear boundaries. Apparently she needs no clear boundaries on her mouth.

I realize our friends just wanted the best for us, but their but their comments put me on the defensive.

At first I wanted to get on my high horse about how other people talk about community, but Larry and I were going to live it. Yet, Larry and I here, not because we chose it. We're here out out of necessity. We can’t afford to buy our own home. We can’t even afford to rent a house like this on our own. So while friends are closing escrow and asking how we could share space with other people, I feel embarrassed. Ashamed actually, because I'm not more successful.

And why does the idea of us living in community freak my friends out? It's not THAT weird. My friend Bonnie has lived in Berkeley for the past 15 years. Up until last fall, she lived in a four-story Victorian community house. Five years ago she became a foster parent to one of her teenage students. So her foster-daughter moved into the house with her: a house with couples, families with young kids, single guys with tattoos and Harleys. People who looked out for Bonnie and her daughter. People who wanted to live in community. Not a big deal. Not in Berkeley.

Even in LA, you’ll find packs of 20something women living together. The entire time I lived in New York, I shared a three-bedroom house with a revolving door of single women. Living with others made it easier when I got married.

Even in LA, you'll find multi-generational families and multiple families living together. That is if you're a recent immigrant, or Latino or Asian or Armenian. But if you're living the middle class yuppie dream (like Larry and I should be by now), having to share space is a come-down.

Or is it?

Larry and I prayed for a place we could create community. Little did we know that would mean, we’d now be living it out. Maybe Larry and I, by necessity, are going to get a gift we never would have sought out by choice.

Yeah, sharing space is not going to be convenient in any kind of middle class yuppie way. But is the middle class yuppie way of doing things the best thing?

As Lori herself commented: “I got so sick of hearing the phrase "doing life together" and "authentic community" in the weird L.A. Christian culture," where few seemed to really understand what that means. Community is HARD. It takes more honesty than most people are able to handle. And it takes selflessness and preferring others and putting the needs of other people higher than your own, all those things Jesus talked about.”

Now it’s just Larry and me alone in the house, but I still remember that first week when we were all here. I’d never gotten to know Lori when they lived in LA. I discovered her to be an intelligent, funny creative soul. It made me sad I hadn’t known her before she moved, but grateful she would be my part-time roommate in the future. It was also nice to sit down to a table with four people instead of two. After Lori went back to Portland, there were several days when Ted was outside working in the back yard until after dark. Larry and I were putting dinner on the table and we invited him to join us. I didn’t know if he was the kind of guy who liked to be left alone, but he chimed in, “What can I add to the meal?” The three of us sat in the fading light and ate. And it was good.

Another night while I was painting the downstairs room, Ted and Larry wandered in, and we ended up talking about our experiences in church. Which churches had been the best experiences? When had we grown the most? It was never about the best teaching or music, even though most churches emphasize that. The things we remembered were the people, the tribe, the band of brothers. “This,” Ted said, pointing a triangle between us, “sometimes this is what the best church is.”

That’s community.

I’m so sick of “The Secret,” that odious best-selling book about “how to manifest more money, better health, and relationships. In short, happiness.” Or in our culture, that means things. Yet for all our acquisitions, we seem to be the loneliest people on the planet.

There’s nothing wrong with good things. Larry and I have prayed for good things. And we prayed for a cool, funky house, maybe even a fireplace. A home where we could build community. Well, I guess we manifested that, because that’s exactly what we got.

In “The Great Divorce,” CS Lewis described hell as a shadowy place where everyone kept building individual homes, further and further away from each other. I wonder what heaven is then? One big house? Better get ready.

Apr 18, 2007

Nesting Instinct, or Anal Renention?

Larry and I have been settling in to our new home, a real home where we can offer hospitality and build community. That was our prayer for months: a cool, funky place with character and a place to build community. We didn't pray for a house on a flat surface, so we got a place on a hill. But while the climb up to the house presents challenges when you used to buy water by the gallons, the view is worth the hike. And so is the place. two stories, spiral staircase. It's light and bright and airy, a fireplace we never thought we'd get. And the views. This is a place we finally feel proud to bring people over and hang out. We are thrilled and thankful.

In the process of settling in, Larry discovered my anal-retentive side in full sphincter clinch. Or as we ladies call it, "the nesting instinct." Can we help it? Guys may think women are into things, but it's not so much that as a need to make a place feel like it's ours. As our therapist said when we were doing pre-marital counseling, "Guys can live in a cardboard box. Women cannot."

Speaking of cardboard boxes, Larry had lots of them, including a file folder box with a map of the world, which he kept since high school. I appreciate the nostalgia of it. In fact he was finally ready to abandon it our old place, but I rescued it and brought it to our new home. So it was filled with cleaning supplies ... I saved it didn't I?

For the first week, while Larry went to work, I went to work on the nest. I unpacked, sorted, winnowed, cleaned, vacuumed, and dusted. I scrubbed the washing machine of soap residue. I brushed bugs out of the window frames. I didn't need to go to the gym. I was getting an 8-hour aerobic work out five days in a row.

And not that the house was a huge mess. It's a beautiful place, and our owners have taken great care of it. But they moved to Portland a year ago, and for past 12 months the house has been inhabited by renters who didn't really "live" here. They didn't appreciate the big kitchen and the gorgeous views and the deck. The last renter was a clueless 24-year-old guy who never turned on the stove or picked up a broom.

When life feels in control, I don't notice my environment. But when life gets chaotic (as it always does in a move), I take a toothbrush to the tiles. I get out the Scrubbing Bubbles. I organize my sock drawer, my desk drawer. I Q-Tip the dust on the windowsill. For God's sake, who really cleans out a washing machine? I do.

When I was young, our house was chaotic, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I remember our pantry was always mess. There were always three half-opened boxes of every cereal, Weevil moths flying around. I used to come home and clean the pantry, organizing the cans by vegetable, dumping out boxes of Dad's stale raisin bran, mumbling under my breath how haphazard the food was. That was just my way of dealing with the rest of the chaos and neglect in my family. Then I discovered anorexia. And yes, years of therapy showed me the ironic connection between the messy pantry and family neglect and my need to control food. I've gotten through most of it.

And, I've just had to accept the fact that on the Myers Briggs Personality Test, I'm a "J" and I'll never be a "P." (Judging - Perceiving defines how a person implements the information she has processed. Judging means she organizes all her life events and acts strictly according to her plans. Perceiving means that she is inclined to improvise and seek alternatives.) Larry's definitely a P. And I was never more "J" than when we moved.

Our home owners Ted and Lori were there for a few weeks before we moved in: cleaning, prepping, making space for us. And when we did move in, they let us take over, rearranging furniture, moving in our dishes and moving theirs out. Ted spent long hours setting up automatic sprinklers so we wouldn’t have to water. Larry’s not a yard work guy.

Larry’s also an introvert. He deals with change by retreating. So in the midst of the move, he needed a corner of his own. Our bedroom had an alcove that would be perfect for him to work at, with a built-in bookshelf opposite. And Larry saw this as his logistical refuge.

Lori offered Larry the use of her desk downstairs. So while I was in the midst of cleaning (something pertaining to the good of all) Larry asked me to help him move the desk up to the alcove (something pertaining to the good of himself). Larry works 40 hours a week at an office for the good of both of us. So I should gladly do the house work. Nevertheless, I dropped what I was doing to help him, grumbling to myself that he didn’t ask if it were a convenient time for me. So much for the Proverbs 31 wife.

As we got the desk to the bedroom door I stopped him and explained that, while I supported him having a desk in our bedroom, I needed the room to feel peaceful. Ladies can I get a witness? As Elle Décor and Oprah magazines will tell you, the bedroom should be a place of rest and peace. For many of us, that does not include a home office. And for me, visual clutter is a distraction. Sure, a nice row of books, a few well-placed picture frames, maybe a candle ... those are visually peaceful. But a desk with a stack of mismatched papers and a bookcase filled with guy stuff is not.

So, with our homeowners still there, and with Larry craving solitude and me craving order, we were stuck with a desk in the doorway.

"Well I’ll try to keep things clean," Larry replied, "But if it’s not going to work…"

"I want you to have a place, Larry. Let's move the desk in and we can adjust as we go."

"Just do me a favor, Susan. Don't move my things. I want to know where they are. If you don't like something, tell me and I’ll take care of it."

"Of course," I assured him.

I knew what that was about: in our teeny old apartment, Larry’s desk was in the living room. Stacks of papers and receipts accumulated on his desk, the stereo cabinet, the speakers, on any flat surface in proximity to his desk. I brought up a filing cabinet, so he could put the papers inside. But more piles would accumulate. Every once and a while … okay when life felt chaotic … I’d put his papers into the cabinet. And he’d have to guess where they went. So he had a point.

So while Larry got his desk into the alcove, and I went back to rearranging coffee mugs or office electronics, or whatever else I was doing. I think I stayed up until 2am. I recently read an interview with Kristen Chenoweth. When they asked what she did for relaxation, she replied, “I clean my house.” Amen, sister. I may have been putting in a lot of aerobic exercise, but frankly it calmed me. So with Larry fast asleep at 2am, I snuck in and slept soundly.

The next morning I woke up and in the light of day, got a look at how he'd arranged things in his alcove. The desk looked nice. Computer, speakers, cell phone. A wad of electrical cords out in the open, but we could fix that. And then I saw what he'd put in the bookcase. A stack of blank cassette tapes and a recorder, several cardboard boxes in varying stages of decay, a stack of vinyl legal pad holders, three ties he had vowed to burn, a lamp with no shade, and some Austin Powers fake teeth. Items had hitherto been stuffed in a drawer in our garage.

I gritted my teeth and breathed. Maybe he just took them out of the old drawer to make room for his socks, and he’s going to fix this up later. But later came and went. Two days passed. Now the cassette tapes and ties had been joined by a 2005 Dilbert desk calendar and a bicycle pump. This would not make the cover of Architectural Digest. So I asked him about the bookcase.

“What I’ve got set up here works for me,” Larry replied.

“Well it doesn’t work for me,” I countered, and reiterated my dissertation on visual clutter, and offered a solution. "How about I go to IKEA and look for some boxes?"

The next day I headed out to IKEA and got a few sets of brown leatherette boxes from their NOSTALGIK line, and brought them home.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"Um, it's hard to tell," Larry replied. They were still in the packaging, unassembled.

So that evening Larry played music through his iPod, assembled the NOSTALGIK boxes, and placed Larry’s ties and legal pads and Austin powers teeth into tasteful storage.

All except one of Larry’s decaying cardboard boxes, which housed an assortment of Larry's childhood memorabilia.

"Why don’t we switch that out?" I suggested.

"But it fits so nicely in this box," Larry said.

"This IKEA box is the same shape. And look, it has an oval window so you can see what’s inside."

Larry relented. So the old decaying cardboard box, addressed to Dave Andrews at World Vision, went into the garbage.

Two days later, Larry received his new supply of fish oil. In a cardboard box. The box sat on the bookcase for 48 hours. I couldn’t handle it. I placed the cardboard box into the empty IKEA box. Without asking.

"Have you seen my box of fish oil?" Larry asked a few days later.

"I put it in the IKEA box."

Larry didn't complain or remind me that I'd promised to tell him. He just went up and found his fish oil. I'm a Jerk. Maybe the J in the Myers Briggs test stands for "Jerk." Or maybe I can't help it, I'm a nester, in full sphincter clinch.

Meanwhile I organized all of our boxes in the downstairs bedroom. I spent Friday night repainting it from a dark maroon to a pale pale “Peacetime Blue,” and set up my office. It’ll eventually have a day bed, where my mom can stay when she comes to visit. But for now it’s a clean well lighted place for me to write.

And Larry’s nowhere to be seen or heard.

At our teeny old apartment, Larry was set up the living room and I in the bedroom, but we were only 20 feet from each other, with no door between us. Now I was downstairs and Larry upstairs. It felt like we were living and working apart. It was lonely.

When our house owners left and the place was finally our own, Larry checked out the office across the hall from m Peacetime Blue room.

“This desk is big,” he commented.
“And close to me,” I added.

Now Larry is set up in the dark green downstairs office, just a feet away from me. We do have doors to close when I'm on the phone or Larry's listening the Dodger game. But we can blog and write and do whatever, and we’re close.

As for Larry’s alcove space upstairs ... On the desk sit a set of detached computer speakers and a wrist pad. The bookshelves boast a row of tasteful IKEA boxes, but not much else. I think it needs a little visual interest to break up the monotony of brown leatherette. Maybe a picture frame or a candle. But not a bike pump.

Apr 10, 2007

105 Steps to Home

This is the thing about stuff. Stuff multiplies. No matter how much stuff you sell, give away or pitch, you end up with more stuff. Take two adults, and your stuff multiplies exponentially.

Fortunately I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff. I moved a lot from January 2003 to January 2005, going back and forth between LA and New York. Nevertheless I had useless stuff hanging around. In all these months we’ve been looking for a new place, I could have been sifting, sorting, winnowing and packing. But no. Did not do this.

We had from Wednesday night to Saturday morning to get ready to move. My Thrusday was already booked, though. I was babystting during the day, and I had a reading to perform at Thursday night. Then a friend called, needing help with a film treatment. So I babysat, helped with her treatment, and performed. I got home at 10pm. I know had about 36 hours to pack.

I must have been going from 8:30 am Friday morning to 1am Saturday morning. We had to get our truck at 7am. While I was packing upstairs, Larry went down to pack up the garage. Late in the evening I went down to see what things looked like. My heart sank. There was so, so much stuff. And me, I want everything in a neat box. You know, if people are going to come help us, all the boxes should be the same size. Or at least, everything is in a box. But it wasn’t like that. A speaker here, a space heater there.

Don’t look at it, Larry cautioned me. I know how you get. Just relax, it’s going to be OK.

I don’t know how marathon runners deal with a race, but I must have felt that same dread and anticipation, because I just wanted it to be OVER.

We got the truck without a hitch. But when backing it into the driveway, we miscalculated the house awning and backed into our landlord’s roof gutter. CRUNCH. Just what we needed. Thankfully it was just a small section. Hope we clicked the box for insurance.

Our friends came to help us. No, not freinds; amazing superhero friends. Mike Maguinez, Doug Perkins, Eric Waterhouse, and Michael Corwin.

“Wow,” Doug remarked when looking at our apartment. “You’re really packed up!” He expected the apartment to have odds and ends. But it was empty.

So our heroes packed up the truck. I was dreading the sound of another crunch or a yelp or a “call 911.” But they packed up without another hitch.

Larry and Mike drove the truck. They’d make a quick pit stop at the Salvation Army just eight houses away, leave off the things we were getting rid of, then meet us at the house.

After an hour, Larry and Mike had not arrived at the new place. I called Larry. Apparently Salvation Army wouldn’t take our stuff. They drove to another Salvation Army in Santa Monica, and the foreman didn’t even want our stuff before they opened the truck. So by the time the truck did arrive, it was nearly 2pm. And the back end of the truck was still filled with our giveaways.

The worst part was still to come. The unload. The new house is 75 stair steps up from the street. 105 steps if you count the flat walkway sections the architect designed to avert heart attacks.

We tried to do a relay setup, but after only 45 minutes with full staff, we had barely got the truck unpacked with the crap no one wanted. And w were about to lose three guys to previous commitments.

Go hire some day laborers, we decided. So Larry and Doug went to Home Depot to grab somr more men.

After some time I realized Larry had come back, only I didn't see much movement on the stairs. Larry had returned, without laborers. They'd come, taken one look at the stairs and wanted 80 bucks a piece. We didn't have the cash to give them, even if we wanted. Which we didn't.

"I’LL DO it for 80 bucks," Larry had said.

I was ready to despair. Last time I’d been down to street level, we must still have half of the stuff to haul up. I felt like Sisyphus. I went to my relay station and there were two boxes for every one I’d seen before.

So it was down to Larry, Eric and me. But we did it, Larry, Eric and I. Eric was our new hero. Not only did he keep going, he kept up his spirits, he even had the energy to crack jokes.

Finally at about 8pm, we had everything up off the street.

Larry celebrating by ordering pizza. He never eats carbs, not in the form of a pizza. While Eric and Larry were gone getting pizza I took a hot shower (never felt better) and then went upstairs to change. From our room I could see the lights of Eagle Rock, the San Gabriel mountains looming off to the northeast. Wow. This view was worth the effort. Almost.

I don’t remember when Eric left, but I know that we owed him every hour of sleep we slept that night. Without him, we would have been still hauling boxes after midnight.

When Larry and I fell into bed at around 11pm, I realized I’d been moving since Friday morning. I don’t know how my body found the energy to do it. But I realized how much of it I’d used by the next day. I couldn’t move.
But we had to return the truck at 7:30 Am. Not only that, we’d left two additional crappy couches at the old apartment. So we had to go get them, put them in the truck, and stealth-dump them. Which we did. I’m not saying where.

Want to get breakfast? Larry asked.
I mumbled something that sounded like ‘yes,’ because we ended up at a diner eating eggs. They were good but all I could think about was rest. We went back to our new house and slept.

Late that afternoon, Larry’s friend Dave and his wife Heather came to visit. They live in Colorado but were in town for a wedding. Dave was Larry’s best man in our wedding. And if we had anything like ‘soul mates’ in a couple, it would be Dave and Heather. I’ve only known them since I’ve known Larry, but they are such great people. Larry and Dave are very much alike, as are Heather and me. The four of us hung out on the deck, ate stinky cheese and admired the view. They were the perfect people to help us christen our new place. That’s what great houses are for: a place to bring friends to hang out. This is the first place Larry’s lived in that he felt proud to bring people over. I’ve had nice apartments and entertained, but this was our first place together. And it sure felt good

Apr 9, 2007

Move It!

Three weeks ago, Larry and I thought we were going to rent a small house in Altadena. Then the owner informed us she was going to show it to someone else. Not that we didn’t get it, but that we might not; we’d have to compete for it. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it was strange, since she gave us the impression before we were the only ones. The owner has never rented out her place before and only recently moved in with her boyfriend/fiancé. She seemed green in the ways of landlording. And it seemed things could get stranger. So, we gracefully bowed out of the race and said we’d keep looking.

And keep looking, we did. We re-upped on Westside Rentals for the third round, scoured Craigs List, and went back to trolling the streets near Larry’s work. That had been our first idea: find a place within walking distance of Larry’s job. Larry works in downtown Glendale. As much as I loved the urban, community life in New York, the urban community in downtown Glendale doesn’t have the same community feel. Especially if you’re not Armenian. So we looked in outer Glendale, Atwater, Pasadena, South Pasadena Altadena.

You know you’re desperate when you reconsider items on your “This I Will Not Do” list. 1980s buildings. Converted motel look. Items that list “subterranean parking” as an asset. Stucco. Burbank.

There was one joint that had been on Westside Rentals for months. The photo showed a minimalist French affair, like they took New Orleans and stripped off the wrought iron and shutters. Imagine our dismay when we drove by only to discover that the picture of faux French was in itself a faux. A decoy. The real place a megaplex 1980s place, painted one muted brown; with stucco, endless wheelchair ramps, and no shrubbery of any kind.

Roaming the rows and rows of apartments and condos, I realized the truth about downtown Glendale. It’s just Palms. And Palms always makes me think of “the Crying of Lot 49.” To live in Downtown Glendale would be like living in a Thomas Pynchon novel.

So we finished crossing off each place on our list, and headed to my friend’s wedding. As we sat a moment in the parking lot, I asked Larry if we could pray. Many of my prayers in the past have been littered with “Come ON, God. What am I, chopped liver? What further humiliation do I have to go through before you throw me a bone?” But I resisted. Instead I said, “okay God I know that you are good, I know that you are good to us. I know you don’t make magic happen a lot, but I know that you are good and generous and fair. And you know we need a place. So we’re at the end of our rope now. If you are going to help us, help us change our perspective, help us in whatever way we need to change, to see what’s out there. Help us keep our sanity and our hope.”

A month previous, I read in a church newsletter that my friend Ted was looking to rent his house in Eagle Rock. He and his wife Lori had moved to Portland, but kept the house here. Ted comes down occasionally for acting work, and they wanted to find someone to rent the house knowing they’d have an absentee roommate who showed up now and then. When I first saw it a month ago, I emailed Ted, but we thought we were getting the Altadena cottage.

The morning after our SOS prayer at the wedding, Ted emailed us. Circumstances had changed for Ted and Lori, and suddenly Ted and Lori’s house was a possibility. So on Wednesday, Larry took his lunch hour and I drove over to Ted and Lori’s.

The house is on a hill. 75 stair steps up from the street. 105 steps if you count the flat “breathing” space. My sister Nancy’s family takes care of my mom all year round. Our idea was to get a place where Mom could stay with Larry and me a few weeks out of the year to give the Ericksons a break. But my mom is old and a bit frail. So every step up to the house put it a step further away from the possibility of us renting it. By the time we reached the door I turned to Larry and said, ‘this won’t work.”

We told Ted and Lori as much. We admired their place – the space, the big kitchen, the deck with the views of the mountains to the north – with that a sad longing of the thing that could never be. We had a nice visit with Ted and Lori, anyway. I’d only met Lori once before, and briefly. As we sat and chatted, I thought, “I wish I’d gotten to know Lori before they moved to Portland. She’s good people.” And further, “these guys are the best occasional roommates one could hope for. DANG.”

I went home to lament to my sister.
She asked, “are the stairs steep?”
No. They’re easy steps.
Is there room to breathe in between steps?
Oh Suze, take it! Mom can do that. It might even be good exercise for her.

So we called Ted and Lori and said we’d take the place.
When are you thinking of moving in? Ted wondered.
April First was that coming Sunday.

Larry and I looked at our schedules. The only weekend we were free for the next three weeks was that coming Saturday.
Two days away.
We were going to move in two days.