well, i’m here

2 Mashiyyat 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Polyphonic Spree “We Crawl”

Yes, I’m still alive.  Not lame, just busy.  

I moved to my new co-op house three weeks ago.  No move is ever easy, but this one was easier than most.  Packing and unpacking took forever, as they often will, but moving day itself wasn’t too bad—four of us guys, one fourteen-foot rental truck, three hours.  Not including the pick-up and drop-off of the truck, but still, pretty good.  There’s a lot to be said for a simpler lifestyle, and there’s one big piece of evidence right there.  

We inherited a mess.  The house was gross.  Dirty dishes covered all the kitchen counters and a sticky or greasy film covered many surfaces. The kitchen smelled so bad that it wafted up to my bedroom, located at the top of the stairs above the kitchen, and I had to keep my door closed the first couple of days.  The attic is big, spacious, and has a lot of potential as a useful space, but looking at all the stuff left up there, one would swear that there were eight people here who never left.  Lots of junk was located on the porches, and we’ve still barely tackled the back porch.  Some floors and banisters were a bit sticky in the humid air.  Cigarette butts were left in coffee mugs and left on the porches, and I woke up the second morning with the smell of cigarettes on my pillow despite not having been in a bar or some other smoky place.  The basement looked kind of scary, and not just because of the Iron Maiden poster that somebody had put up.  

The three of us who were the first ones here went to work on the house the day after our move-in.  Two of us tag-teamed on the kitchen, and the other person attacked the front porch.  Some neighbors introduced themselves and they commented on the difference they noticed.  A doorbell that had been broken was fixed surprisingly quickly.  Over the next few days, floors were scrubbed, fridges were cleaned, and cabinets were sorted through.  We still have a ways to go.  

But the house is beautiful. Restored woodwork on the trim and stairwell are stained a dark cherry color and are in excellent condition.  The hardwood floors are stained a similar color and are also in very good shape.  The front porch needs to be painted but offers a nice view of the neighborhood—and a nice opportunity to interact with neighbors and passersby.   

I finally got my room in order today.  I’d been able to pick up the in-house Internet on my laptop, and I finally succeeded in getting it on my desktop computer.  It’s funny—I was reluctant to leave my huge, spacious room in the old co-op.  This room is smaller, but all of my stuff fits.  Perfectly, actually—as if it were made for my stuff.  The room is beautiful—a very nice paint job and, unlike my last room, it has a view of the backyard and other yards in the neighborhood.  

Perhaps the biggest noticeable difference is when I turn off the light at night to go to bed.  First of all, it’s dark. Surprisingly dark.  Residential streets in Chicago are lit much more brightly.  Downtown Madison was also lit brightly. I moved to Madison in part to get away from the big city, but downtown Madison was probably one of the most urban neighborhoods I ever lived in.  But here I find myself fumbling in the dark a bit more, but I’m not complaining.  I kind of like it, though as a friend was driving me home yesterday, I found myself saying, “Okay, I think it’s this house.  No, not that one, um, that other one. Yes. Actually, no, you need to go down a little further.”  

In addition to what I see and don’t see, there’s also what I hear and don’t hear when I turn off the lights.  I don’t hear drunk people next door or in the street. I don’t hear honking horns.  I don’t hear car alarms. Instead, I hear crickets and cicadas.  I can’t think of the last time I heard crickets and cicadas as I lay in bed—I think it was the last time I went camping.  I certainly don’t remember it in any neighborhood I lived in while in Chicago.  Oh, they were probably there, but just drowned out by other things.  Here, the crickets and cicadas rule the night.  

So much to think about when helping start a new co-op house.  There’s financial matters, getting check signers.  Most of the furniture was gone when we moved in, so we’ve been figuring out how to acquire some. A couple housemates and I decided today to get a pretty nice dining room table for $25 from St. Vinny’s. Which is good—until now we’ve been having dinners on the porch.  A couple other co-op houses are donating extra couches. Our first decision item of our first house meeting was on how to make decisions—we reached consensus on using consensus until at least our house retreat, which we later scheduled for the end of October.  

But like I said, we’re having house dinners now—several times per week.  We made decisions on food ordering and assigned temporary workjobs.  Initially, I was serving as the house’s maintenance coordinator, membership coordinator, finance person and MCC board representative.  I’ve delegated most of it now. We’re assessing kitchen equipment, though we’ve discovered a lot already there—two juicers, two mixers, an electric can opener, a couple of popcorn poppers.  And yes, even a salad shooter.  For tomorrow night’s house meeting agenda I’ve added discussions about establishing regular kitchen and bathroom cleaning routines.

So yeah, this has kept me crazy-busy, but I’m not complaining.  I like it here.  It’s a different vibe here, and one that is very welcome.

music to pack by

16 Asma’ 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Polyphonic Spree, “We Crawl”

Tomorrow is the big moving day.

Up until today, I’ve been laser-beam focused in my preparation for this move. I got a lot done quickly, and I think I’m more organized with this move than ever before.  But today is harder.  I took off from work today to make final preparations and I must admit that it’s a bit harder now than it has been to stay focused.

I get tired of limbo really easily.

I cooked my last meal for my old co-op house on Monday, I cleaned up the kitchen for the last time Wednesday night, and a little bit over an hour from now is my last dinner at the house.  I feel happy-sad and bittersweet.  I have spent more years in this co-op house than in any other place I’ve lived in as an adult–only in one of my childhood homes did I live longer.

There is a wall in the basement that has a lot of writing on it. If there was such a thing as Quaker graffiti, this is what it would look like.  People have been writing on this wall for decades. The earliest date I see written on it is November 1980. But even that one was commenting that this wall “was like archaeology,” so I’m sure the writing goes back much further.  I felt moved to add my piece to the wall. This is what I wrote:

It blows me away sometimes…
I lived here for 5 1/2 years.
No one who was living here when I moved in
is still here now
I look at this wall
I see 30-plus years of intelligent graffiti
And it’s as if this house has never changed
As if all the writers over this 30-plus year span
live together in the same house right now.
It blows me away sometimes…

I am really getting excited about the new co-op house that is coming into being. We’ve interviewed a bunch of people this week. As the picture of what the new co-op seems to be looking like comes into focus, the more excited I get.  It almost seems as if arrangements from God are suddenly falling into place out of nowhere and bringing together a remarkable group of people.  Maybe that’s exactly what’s happening. Who knows?