Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Getting My Shit Together

Oh, Goddess, I'm exhausted! I am in the midst of my annual January Pull-My-Shit-Together Rampage, where I try to force some sort of order and organization into my life, when I take preemptive or resonating actions, clean everything, and buy storage accessories. Hopefully I can get it all together before I enter my biannual Depression, which is scheduled to get started in early February, at which time the whole thing will fall apart.

Saturday I planned to get the living room cleared of all Christmas impedimenta, and schlep the boxes up into the attic; once done with that, and on into Sunday, I intended to clean my room and get my laundry washed. I would take everything that didn't fit in my room and put it in the basement, and then dust everything so that when allergy season comes around I will have a safe refuge from the world of pollens.

Of course, it was not to be... or at least it was not to be as I had planned. My sister Suzie stopped by Saturday morning to look at my car and see if she could determine (and hopefully stop) whatever it was that was making the flappety-flappety noise and the grinding noise and the occasional burning smell; since I can't tell where the sounds and smells are coming from, and since my knowledge of the internal combustion engine begins with "where to put the oil and the antifreeze," and ends with "it's dirty in there," I assumed my assistance would not be needed (except to go to the auto-parts store and buy any necessary gizmos or fluids), and that I could continue with my housecleaning plan. But as often happens with my sister, my plan and her plan weren't exactly the same... in order to find where the sounds were coming from, and what exact sounds were being made, she asked me to take her on a couple of errands so she could hear the car running.

The errands involved going down to a fitness store and picking up the exercise bicycle that had been ordered by John, a disabled man for whom my sister sometimes works. All the while my sister is consulting the crappy Chilton repair manual trying to figure out where the power-steering fluid reservoir opens. We pick up the exercycle, which is one of those vast and incredibly heavy computerized space-age models that counts your heartbeats and gauges your sweat and tells you how few paltry calories you just burned while torturing yourself on the uphill path. Fortunately, my trunk is big enough to carry a BMX bike in it, so the front half of the exercycle fit right in there, and the back seat (which is approximately the size of a twin bed) was quite large enough for the rear end of the cycle.

When we got to John's, I valiantly carried the exercycle into his house and up the goddamned narrow stairs into the front bedroom, and put it together. During this time my sister was installing a new phone and a goose-necked lamp (apparently John had been on a bit of a shopping spree). At various points I had to try and communicate with John, which always makes me terribly uncomfortable — he would be very handsome if he didn't have multiple sclerosis, but he does... and as a result he is unable to talk in much more than grunts, and his mouth and eyes are always wide open and swerving uncontrollably all over the place, and he looks exactly like a screaming horse. I find this very unsettling, aside from the awkwardness of understanding what he says... and then I get mad at myself for feeling so ill-at-ease with a disabled person, which does nothing to make me any less ill at ease.

So once we finished at John's (which took about two hours all together), we headed over to my sister's house in El Cerrito... why, I don't know. I guess it had something to do with tools and Suzie's boyfriend who knows more about cars than she does, and doing some thing or an other. I really don't remember. But anyway, we get terribly lost on the way to her place, as she just recently moved there and we tried taking a back route, and missed an important turn and ended up driving all over Hell and half of Kensington before discovering ourselves quite surprisedly at the end of her street.

Once there, Suzie argues with this and that person of her household, where there is a lot of noise going on — her new boyfriend Ralph is in the kitchen with my niece Ariel and Ozzy Osborne (on the stereo, at full blast) and my nephew Matthew is playing a video-game in the living room (also at full blast, trying to compete with Ozzy and Ralph and Ariel). Suzie is still trying to figure out where the power-steering fluid goes in... and I should point out that there is nothing wrong with the power steering, the problems with the car are obviously in the drive train or the transmission (which may or may not be the same thing, I don't know), but having once wondered where the power steering fluid goes and not having been able to find it, my sister has become obsessed with the question.

So we leave the house for a minute to go to Pep Boys for something or other, and on the way out Ralph asks us to pick up some chives for the potatoes. Suzie forces Matthew to come with us, ostensibly so he can run in and out of the store with the chives, but really because she considers it her solemn duty to make his sixteen-year-old life a misery and a burden to him, in the tradition of our mother and her mother and every mother going back to the caveman days. Buying chives in El Cerrito is apparently more of a challenge than one would think, and I of course have to go into the stores myself because Matthew has never seen a chive and wouldn't know one if it bit him in the ass. The first store we go to is just around the corner, one of those hippie organic places, which doesn't have any chives. They have dandelions, they have stinkweed, they have fucking wild anise root grown in the shadow of a Voodoo queen's tomb and picked at the full moon... but no chives.

We found the chives at the gigantic chain Safeway a mile away, as I knew we would, and get back into the car to find that Suzie has wandered off to the video-store across the way, which was going out of business and liquidating its stock. She didn't buy anything, of course, and complained bitterly that $9.99 is not a clearance price by anybody's stretch of the imagination. We eventually managed to get back to her house, where we started hunting through the Chilton book looking for the answer to the rattling sound (merely so Suzie could return to the Mystery of the Power Steering Reservoir with a clear conscience). It turns out that the rattling problem is a "torque converter"... during a break in roasting a pork loin and stuffing peppers, Ralph explained the function and mechanism of a torque converter to me (I'm always fascinated by that sort of thing... a torque converter converts the energy of the turning engine into an energy source for the automatic transmission, and the rattling is because the converter isn't engaging right away like it's supposed to... and if I don't get it replaced fairly soon, it will not engage at all and the transmission will die).

Well, you can't do anything about a torque converter on a Saturday evening, so Suzie returned to the insoluble power-steering problem (turns out that a previous owner jerry-rigged the power-steering reservoir so that it takes fluid from the engine block, either the transmission fluid or the oil, and there is no place to put power steering fluid in). Next it is discovered that Matthew has to be at work in Alameda; not usually a problem, except that Suzie drove Matthew's car over to my house and left it there. He could take Suzie's car, except that Suzie was supposed to change the oil in her car and still hadn't done so. So I volunteered to take Matthew back to his car, and my house, even though it meant I would miss the lovely dinner that Ralph was cooking for my Daddy and my stepsister Heidi who were coming for a visit that evening.

Need I mention that once we got back to my house, through nasty horrible time-wasting traffic, Matthew didn't have the keys to his own car, because Suzie didn't give them back to him? So I drove all the way over to Alameda to drop him off at work. When I got home, I met Caroline and then I turned right around and went out again to pick up Chinese food for dinner. Then we ate and had a good time and played on the internet, and Caroline and I spent the rest of the evening laughing at personal ads. Then I went and picked up Matthew and brought him back here, because Suzie was too tired to pick him up and/or bring him his car-keys, so he spent the night in our guest room (after he and I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, my personal favorite of the Indiana Jones series).

Though I did rather enjoy visiting with everybody, I did not clean anything all day long, and nothing at all was done to my car. It was a terrible terrible waste of time.

Sunday I got up and got started immediately on my laundry. Well, to be perfectly frank, I started immediately on drinking enough coffee to get out of a chair and then thought about my laundry. Then Caroline came over again, and brought her more advanced work-ethic to the project: I told her she could keep any money she found smaller than a five-dollar bill, and she dove through my laundry with a vengeance (and netted about twelve dollars in singles and change from my pockets). We had every piece of clothing out of the room and sorted in a matter of half an hour. Of course, then one has to actually wash the clothes, but that's not as hard as I usually believe. Then we went back through the room in a more detailed manner, picking everything up off the floor... putting the boxes and chairs and the clothes that didn't need washing on the bed or in the closet, and stacking the magazines and books in the middle of the room, all the while gathering up the really shameful amount of waste-paper that always infests my room... receipts, those little cards out of magazines, clothing tags, shopping bags, movie tickets, junk mail, et cetera ad infinitum (and Caroline made another ten or so dollars in loose change from the floor). Eventually we got it to the point where it was picked up, but still dirty.

It was at this point that I ran out of steam. I could see that much of the mess was due to the fact that I have more things than places to put them, and that I would have to get some storage-boxes and a shoe-rack and a couple of other whatnots before I could go any further. So we went out to the living room and de-Christmased it (or, as I joked later, we gave it a Nöelectomy), and got the boxes put up in the attic. It's still messy, but at least it is a dreary workaday mess instead of a festive Christmas mess (which for some reason is more shameful, especially as January progresses). After Caroline went home (she works much earlier than I do), I went back and got some more cleaning done, specifically moving some things around so I could get all my jewelry and jewel-related books and boxes into one spot, instead of scattered all over the room.

So there went my weekend. I went to work today, but there wasn't an awful lot going on. I had some errands to run, some phone calls to return, but mostly I am just holding down the fort until I get some clear direction from the executive body at the meeting Thursday. So instead of pre-printing envelopes as I had planned to do (and still will do eventually), I tweaked this page here so it will hopefully load a little faster, and also added some new blogs and a new eye-candy site to the links column. I also changed my picture in the Cast column... those of you who know what I look like in person are encouraged to give me feedback on the suitability of this photograph. Hell, those of you who don't know what I really look like in person are encouraged to comment. I love feedback!

After work I stopped at Bed Bath & Beyond, Cost Plus, and Kmart to get storage stuff for my room. I didn't buy anything at the first two stores... the closet stuff at BB&B seemed sort of run-of-the-mill and a trifle overpriced (though I later found out they were cheaper than Kmart), and I couldn't make up my mind about which basket at Cost Plus would look best in my room, so I didn't buy anything at either place. But at Kmart, I got a bunch of boxes and crates and shelves and what-have-you, which were luckily all on sale!

When I got home, I had dinner, read the latest issue of Architectural Digest, and set about putting together the chest-of-drawers that I'd just bought. I often enjoy putting together these cheap pre-fab pressboard bits and pieces, it makes me feel ever-so-manly without actually requiring me to be good at mechanical things or even really get dirty. But this dresser was rather more difficult than I had expected, and on top of that I had to put it together in the living room (which is the only room with sufficient floor-space to lay out all the parts), where Grandmother was already watching television... first Joe Millionaire, then Pyramid with Donny Osmond, followed by a syndicated rerun of JAG, with various news shows in between (it took me more than two hours to assemble the thing). All were unrelentingly irritating. I mean, the lead guy on JAG is awfully cute, and I have watched that show with the sound off before, and the Joe Millionaire show is kind of amusing... but with my eyes on the multiple screws and pins and dowels of my dresser, all I got of these shows was the sound, and all of these people spend all of their time saying the stupidest things.

Well, anyhow, I finished the dresser, then put together the Martha Stewart At Home expanding shoe-rack (and put the famous Bass red shoes I was wearing on it, so Grandmother could see how it worked, whatever that means), and that was all I could manage before coming in here to tell you all about it!

It is my intention to fill this dresser with long-sleeved t-shirts, sweatshirts, light sweaters, jeans, and shorts, and place it just inside my door, where a small bookshelf currently stands; the bookshelf will go next to the dressing-table, where the CD tower currently stands; the CD tower will simply be shifted to the left and sit behind the door; the indexed magazines that currently occupy a good deal of shelf-space in my room will be put in the plastic bins and carted downstairs, leaving more shelf-space for the staggering number of large coffee-table books I've bought in the last year, as well as the usual piles of novels that I go through, many of which are currently sitting in cardboard boxes all around my room; the shoe rack will go in the closet, as will the plastic crates.

I feel very much on top of my life when I accomplish things like this. And when, some months or years from now, I read this lengthy paean to the joys of domestic organization, I will gag and puke. See, I'm only like this in January. It's a January thing. But I'm very glad I have a digicam now, so I can show you my progress and post a picture of the finished clean room. It will only stay that way for about a month, so we must cherish it when it's here!

Maybe it would stay longer if I got a houseboy? But then, if I had a houseboy like this, I wouldn't care what my room looked like... the messier the better! Bend! Lift! Get a little sweaty!

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