Friday, September 17, 2010

I Love(d) New York

Hello Friends,

Wow, what a trip! I swooped into New York on a Thursday for six days so I could work with my mother helping her prepare for her big move to her new home at the Atria senior apartments on the Upper West Side. It was also going to be a chance for her and me to spend some actual time together. We hadn't seen each other for six months – not since Lynne and I moved out here to California. During this first visit back to New York, I would also end up squeezing in Sunday lunch with Deborah and Keith in the garden of a lovely Italian restaurant, plus go to a huge, awesome Mark Group at Sexy Spirits, before swooping back home to the Oakland Morehouse on Wednesday.

Even though I was three thousand miles from home, I experienced several Morehouse miracles while helping my mother decide what to keep and what to discard of her belongings. For years, there has been a very large pegboard in her office. Since before I was born, possibly as far back as when my parents first got married in 1949, that pegboard has been collecting tools, mostly of my father's acquisition, that I also had used on countless occasions. To give you an idea of how far back this goes, the collection included a large pipe wrench that had its original price written on it: $3.29. The same wrench today would cost anywhere from $15 to $35.

My mother planned to take none of these items with her to her new home, and the two of us were in despair as to how to dispose of them. I mentioned our dilemma to my sister and she suggested craigslist. I posted an offering of all the tools for $100 and the requirement that the buyer must come pick them up. Within an hour I got a response. A man came over the next day, paid my mother $100 in cash, packed up every last tool (except the hammer, pliers and two screwdrivers he insisted my mother would need during the process of moving), and left. It was like a dream.

Then there were the books. My mother has always been an academic, an intellectual. At age 19, she was graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe. Our challenge was to dispose of the 86 shelving feet of books she had amassed over her lifetime. I knew she would want to take some of them with her, but the vast majority had to be removed from the apartment somehow. 

Again, help came from the extraordinary women in my life. Lynne reminded me that our friend Jill had started a business selling old books on the internet, and that she lived within blocks of my mother. I called Jill, and my triumph at hearing that she'd be happy to unburden my mother of all her books was exceeded only by the pleasure of talking to her on the phone. I would have loved to have spent time with each of our friends individually on this trip, and regretted having had to turn down several invitations to do so. But here was Jill, with a perfect excuse for a brief social visit. She came over and we had a nice hug and a quick chat. She then spent 20 minutes inspecting my mom's collection of books and announced that, if she were to come over for one or two hours a day for the next two weeks, she could remove every volume. Mom was thrilled. At last report, there are now 86 feet of empty bookshelves in her apartment.

These were some of the highlights of the trip. Thanks so much, Suzanne, for the ride from JFK. I apologize for having given you directions that got you lost in your own neighborhood, although it was a great excuse to hang out longer with you. Thanks to Deb and Keith for the seriously fun meal together. Thanks to the Mark Group Leaders for putting on a great Group, and thanks to Margret, Tina, John, Topaz, Armin, Jane and Park for adding your friendship to the proceedings. Thanks also to Tiffany for the late night pickup when I landed back at SFO. Most of all, thanks to Mom for setting the whole thing up.

New York was indeed a nice place to visit. Even better was returning home to my wife, my dog and my wonderful housemates. Our California Adventure continues, as you'll hear about in future posts.

Best Regards,


The only people who deserve happiness are the ones who can have it.

-- Vic Baranco