The moving van arrives Tuesday morning.
Friday afternoon (yesterday as I write this) we finally drove two packed cars to the storage unit we rented when we relocated my mother-in-law to the Boston area five years ago (the stuff one can accumulate over more than four decades in a three-story Georgetown brownstone is mind-boggling). Our eldest daughter—let’s call her “Jenny”—rode with me, while our youngest daughter—let’s call her “Laura”—rode with my wife Nell.
The trip served multiple purposes. One was to clear space for the rapidly increasing piles of taped-shut cardboard boxes continually rearranging themselves in our apartment in a persistent game of Whack-a-mole. We also wanted to assess the dimensions of multiple sets of well-constructed wooden bookcases.
A third purpose became apparent once we started rummaging through the haphazardly stacked piles of boxes.
When we moved into our soon-to-be-vacated apartment nearly 11 years ago, Nell and I were disinclined to share a bedroom (primarily out of long-ingrained habit). Thus, she occupied the upstairs bedroom, and I the downstairs bedroom. Jenny’s arrival, however, followed less than two years later by Laura, necessitated increased creativity with our space. For a few years, the baby girls slept comfortably in the large walk-in closet downstairs. Once that became untenable, the girls moved into the downstairs bedroom, where they sleep as I type this, and my wife and I began to share a bedroom.
The purchase of a luxurious king-size bed—and my surgery for a deviated septum and other sinus-related irregularities—greatly eased the transition. The walk-in closet became my office. But the accompanying reorganization mandated a significant purge of my ever-increasing library.
In the ensuing seven years, I had forgotten what happened to all of those books. There had been a vague plan to sell them, though the memory sort of ends there. Well, no, it had also gotten mixed up with the massive cleaning I performed some months ago of the shared hallway leading to the door into the backyard, a storage limbo for long-departed tenants. I had placed a number of boxes of abandoned books by the blue recycling bins in the alleyway which runs behind our building; they disappeared within days.
So, imagine my delight when I discovered four boxes of books toward the rear of the storage unit (sadly, there was no time machine). Watching Jenny effortlessly clamber over them reminded me of playing on the pyramid-stacked rolls of used carpeting in my father’s store when I was a boy.
Laura was not there because she wanted to visit her grandmother–and because she was not feeling well. Curiously, as Jenny and I loaded Nell’s car earlier that day, I threw out some stuff and moved a green plastic newspaper sleeve (aka “dookie bag”) onto the seat. While Nell and Laura were driving, Laura became queasy…and there was no way Nell could pull over in time (nor did she have anything to capture the impending outburst). Luckily, the green “dookie bag” was there next to her, and it efficiently served the same purpose as one of these.
Happily, a quiet air-conditioned afternoon sipping a Coke with “grandee” made all the difference. Later, when we were all home again, Jenny asked Nell if Laura had used the green dookie bag that “Daddy had left on the seat.”
Back in the storage unit, meanwhile, I decided to remove the four boxes of books to donate them.
When I had performed a more recent purge of my own accumulated odds and ends (all that paper!), I had filled the equivalent of seven canvas bags with books for disposal. Last Monday, Jenny and I took them to the excellent Brookline Booksmith for sale; their book buyer selected the equivalent of one canvas bag for purchase. Hey, $35 in store credit is better than nothing.
But there still remained the equivalent of six canvas bags of books for disposal. While the internet offered few palatable options, I finally settled upon a small Waltham non-profit called More Than Words, hitherto unknown to me.
I drove there the following day—and they could not have made the donation process any easier. A staff member offered to help unload my car (I politely declined as I have been enjoying the “workout”) then carefully unpacked my bags so I could reuse them. A small iPad was set up for creating a tax-donation receipt (perhaps unwisely, I did not use it). As I was walking out, I spied a pristine copy of the first full-length work of detective fiction I ever read (excluding the episodic adventures of Encyclopedia Brown)—and key part of the “detective fiction” chapter in the book I am (in fits and starts) writing.
At only $4.95 (what More Than Words charges for every hardback book), it was a steal.
Wait, did I say “seven” canvas bags of books?
Sorry, I neglected the five bags of books that have been living in our garage for years. THEY got taken to More Than Words Wednesday; this time Jenny and Laura came with me. They love Mexican food (especially Jenny, who would happily eat burritos every meal), and I promised them we could have supper at a nearby Margarita’s.
After donating our books, the girls and I spent a few minutes browsing their selections. Jenny did not find anything, though Laura found a beautiful book of sea stories. I found a book for myself and a $3 copy of the best high school film (with no disrespect to John Hughes) ever: Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
We then piled back into my car and pulled left onto one-way Felton Street. I quickly turned right, then right again onto Charles Street, intending to loop around to Moody Street and Margarita’s. But we immediately drove by a charming hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Taqueria Mexico. Changing plans on the fly, we parked and went inside the Zagat’s-rated restaurant.
Need I say the food was excellent (particularly given the relatively low cost)?
Back in the storage unit…when I loaded the four boxes of books from the storage unit into my car, I naturally assumed I would visit More Than Words for the third time in four days. On a lark, Jenny and I turned left out of the storage unit parking lot instead of right. This briefly looped us through some lovely residential areas back onto Route 3A, albeit a bit further north.
Literally as I turned onto Route 3A, however, I spotted this large used book store. Pulling into the parking lot, I saw they accepted donations. Most of the contents of four boxes placed carefully into their donation bin later (I opted to keep maybe 10 of them), I had a 15% in-store discount chit. Jenny, meanwhile, had found a couple of gifts for the ailing Laura (including this) plus the Pseudonymous Bosch book (Write This Book) she had been seeking.
All because we turned left instead of right.
We were hungry when we left the used bookstore, so I kept my eyes open for somewhere good to eat. Rejecting a Mexican restaurant (I was not in the mood), I talked Jenny into stopping at a venerable (if vanishing) New England chain: Bickford’s.
The low number of patrons (she has seen Restaurant: Impossible) made her dubious, but she was quickly won over by the presence of clam chowder (New England, of course–though I confess to loving Manhattan as well) on the menu, which proved quite delicious (as was the rest of our meals). After bemoaning the decline of Denny’s in my last post, this was a welcome surprise.
While we sat there, I played the voicemail—from an unfamiliar Cambridge number—on my iPhone. It was a very nice lady from Gentle Giant calling to confirm our movers were scheduled to arrive between 8:00 and 8:30 am, Monday, July 30.
Had I really forgotten the movers were arriving Monday morning instead of Tuesday morning?
Yes…yes I had.
To be honest, Monday morning would be perfectly fine…except I had already obtained the required moving truck parking permits for both ends of the move—with date and day of the week indelibly written on them.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Town of Brookline Transportation Department closes at 12:30 pm on Friday (it was now nearly 3 pm).
But this being that sort of day, when the nice lady from Gentle Giant returned my voicemail she told me that there was no problem switching the date of our move from Monday to Tuesday.
Calling her a “lifesaver,” as I did, does not even come close.
As a reward for what was proving a magical day, I decided to meander over to a terrific bakery in Belmont I had discovered quite by chance five years earlier, snapping this photograph in lieu of a mental note.
Turning left from Trapelo Road, however, we saw nought but an empty storefront; I now know why.
Disappointed, we kept driving. A little further east, I turned right onto Grove Street toward Mt. Auburn Street. Just after crossing Mt. Auburn, a police officer was standing in the road directing traffic out of the Tufts Health Plan parking lot. Rather than go straight, I randomly turned right onto Calvin Road, little more than a back alley.
After almost immediately turning right, and realizing we were literally around the corner from where Laura practices gymnastics, the Danish Pastry House was right in front of us. I do not expect our box of assorted scrumptious baked goods to last 24 hours.
Jenny and I arrived home with our treasures (including more empty boxes, our new currency) a little before 5 pm. I took a quick shower and settled down in my office to catch up on mail and my regular websites. Ironically, the first post I read also dealt with selling books to a used book store.
I also checked to see if my Philadelphia Phillies (who hold a shocking 2.5 game lead in the National League East as I type this—fivethirtyeight.com now gives them a 54% chance to win their division) had made any trades with the July 31 non-waiver deadline looming. No sooner had I read that they were not likely to make a major move, I saw that they had just acquired former All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera for a AA pitcher named Franklyn Kilome.
Is it any wonder that when the Phillies fell behind 5-2 to the Cincinnati Reds, I figured they would rally to win?
Alas, every magic show must come to an end; they lost 6-4.
Until next time…