Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Apartment

Bob got to DC about 11.45 PM.  He’s spending the summer with me while doing an internship at a local medical center.  Somehow, over the last two days I managed to get enough stuff out of my “crafts room” that I was able to set up an air mattress and make enough space for him in the closet.  Much of the junk that had cluttered up the main sitting area and the crafts room is now teetering in large piles in my own bedroom, making it look like a true hoarder’s den.  Jewelry components, lamp parts and stacks and stacks of fabric make the passage from the door to the bed and the clothespress an adventure.  And that’s not even considering the paper, scads of it, mostly notes from grad school and Russian translations, which occupies a good ten boxes, which are supporting the piles!  I hope that the sheer horror of being crushed by all this stuff will force me to deal with it at last, and throw out most.  I made a donation run to the library and to the Goodwill this afternoon, and then packed my car to the roof with newly-wired lamps and recently-watched DVDs, plus other assorted smalls for estate sale consignment, items which have been lurking in my living room for months, so that cleared out a bit more space for the two of us to share. 

I have new, noisy neighbors in the apartment above mine, and I got a letter the day before yesterday from the complex management company reminding me that because I signed a two-year lease last June, my rent is only going up by $40 per month beginning this June 1!  Oh, frabjoyce day.  And I have a federal income estimated tax payment of $1000 due mid-month.  It’s going to take a miracle to break even anytime in the near future—I’m deeply grateful for my bank’s free overdraft protection, because I’m drawing on it pretty heavily these days.  But I’d really like to make it through just this one little year without having to ask for outside (family) help!  My book-inventorying job doesn’t resume until mid-June, which means I won’t get paid until the first of July.  However, if my estate sale consignments sell this weekend, I will be doing a lot better—that’s certainly occasion for prayer.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Susan and her husband and I just watched Fireproof (2008), which we all really enjoyed.  I'd earlier been less than enthusiastic about watching an unequivocally Christian movie, afraid that it would be well-meaning but silly, or poorly acted, awkwardly scripted, or lack the high production values that I expect of anything created for the big screen, but I found it good, avoiding all the pitfalls I'd feared, and better than that, it was encouraging, with demonstrable character growth, and an excellent balance of pathos and humor, predictability and unexpected twists.  And even more, as it was specifically Christian, it addressed a specific, widespread problem, and provided a non-illusory solution (in Christ alone--the 40-day program to woo one's spouse was merely a means by which one's own need for the Lord was illuminated), rather than the vapid "find who's perfect for YOU" lesson that's repetitively cranked out of our popular information sources in print and onscreen.  If I, a lifelong single, and two young(ish) marrieds share such an appreciation for this film, I hope that my handful of readers will seek it out, too [we saw it via Netflix, but it's probably also available on Amazon].  And it was filmed in and around Albany, Georgia, so it's a taste of home...

Spreaking (as my sister would say) of Georgia, I'm heading down there for a short visit come Sunday--doctor's appointments Monday and Tuesday and a visit with Grandmommy on Wednesday, then back to DC Thursday.  Tonight, I'm staying over at Susan and Sam's new condo, just because.  I'm actually working on an estate in an apartment only a mile from here in Falls Church, so it's too handy not to hang out!  According to the Florida ID card we found the other day, the old lady whose stuff it was lived to the age of 105, and she had acquired an impressive amount of belongings over that period.  Much of it is nice, and, moreover, clean, so it's a thankful task, though a considerable one.  We're having to tag, code and then pack everything we think is saleable (that is almost everything except the paperbacks, a couple of old analog TVs and a closetful of neat but too-old-to-be-fashionable-and-too-new-to-be-vintage clothes) and move it into a storage facility in Maryland because the high-rise doesn't allow advertising on site, and there is NO parking to be had, the death knell for an estate sale.  Twice this week I've had to presume upon my friend privileges and park in Susan's condo complex lot, a full mile distant, and walk to work.  The weather has been superb, so this hasn't been a burden, but not something you'd presume potential customers would be willing to undertake.  We have to move the stuff to Maryland because we're going to interpolate it into upcoming sales, and guess where all those are?

My fifteenth year college reunion last weekend went well.  Or the two events I attended did--the picnic midday Friday and the breakfast on Saturday.  I was otherwise occupied most of the weekend by napping or hanging out with my regular crew of the dear college friends who also converged from DC and NC on the tiny town in the Shenandoah Valley.  We sat around outside on the porch of the mountain house that Leah and Aaron had rented for us to share and drank wine and watched four of my honorary nephews play in the creek and talked about real estate listings and how we'd love to have a jointly-owned house there so we could do this more often.  I did get to campus to see my old Russian History professor, and he sweetly swore to read my manuscript of Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands.  I noticed the Bonhoeffer biography on his bookshelf, and a couple of other good reads.  I'm looking forward to hearing his response to my work, as his own book is soon coming out from an Ivy League press.

Had a bizarre dream last night about a house of my mother's (one my father designed) being infested with termites, so I'm not very rested.  Swarming, gnawing insects attacking walls and floorboards just isn't calming.  I hope to sleep without such upsetting imaginings tonight.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Cumberbatch & Nudity; Koreans & Wonder Woman

What is it about the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch that the writers and directors surrounding him feel compelled to have the odd actress appear opposite his character in the buff?  While spending the night over at friends’ in Rockville last night, I watched the first episode of the second season of Sherlock, and the lady playing The Woman, Irene Adler, presents herself to our hero wearing nothing but bright red lipstick (her naughty bits are cleverly concealed by artful camera angles and pieces of scenery, much like neighbor Wilson’s face in the old Home Improvement series).  In 2011, I saw The Last Enemy, also staring Cumberbatch, wherein the Big Brotherish technology proponent (a British government official and former girlfriend of Cumberbatch’s character), disrobes in front of him to prove that the bug-detecting device he has is faulty (it turns out the bug’s implanted subcutaneously, so even nude she’s still wired).  Throughout both these lavish displays of female pulchritude, Cumberbatch maintains an exquisite level of detachment, wherein the only stiff portion of his anatomy is his upper lip.  Apparently the actor himself has noted that his upper-class education (the legendary British “public school” system and universities) has led him to be type-cast in toff roles, but I notice that in our day and age the fabled British restraint has unraveled to such a degree in public and private, and being aloof is such a misunderstood notion, in order to show onscreen that someone is outside and above the madding crowd one must put him in a situation of potential sensuality and have him display his uniquely cerebral prowess.  Which Cumberbatch does admirably, his eyes slightly hooded in his angular aristocratic face.

Speaking of cultural tendencies as represented on television, are all South Koreans obsessed with Wonder Woman, or is she simply the only comic book character to which the television producers over there could acquire usage rights?  There must be something of the latter calculus involved, because I have now watched three complete serials (Boys Before Flowers, Twelve Signs of Love, and Prosecutor Princess) and every single one of them references Wonder Woman at least once, as if there is a contractual quota to be fulfilled.  The other explanation is that the whole country has a Wonder Woman fetish, which might be explicable vis a vis the popularity of anime in the area and the seeming emphasis on feminine beauty combined with strength of character—after all, the first Twilight book was transformed into a pair of graphic novels by an artist based in Seoul—but I just don’t know.  Any Korean specialists out there who might be able to explain this phenomenon?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Post-Sale Dinner

Our estate sale team, or even a portion thereof, hasn't dined out together since the great Georgetown sale of last July, when three of us shared a margarita pitcher on the patio of a Mexican restaurant near the National Cathedral, and then wobbled home full of calories, alcohol, and good cheer.  Tonight, five of us girls, plus two spouses (or "spice", as I like to call them) and one mom, met at a Greek place in Rockville to share a meal and stories after what was a thoroughly pleasant, shockingly normal, sale in Chevy Chase.

Two of our colleagues shared their refugee, Sahar, worked for the US State Dept in Iran and was evacuated with her husband along with the last batch of Americans during the 1979 revolution.  Thinking that the upheaval would be short-lived, they departed Tehran with only two suitcases, and made do with what they had upon resettling in DC.  They were far better off in terms of being able to acclimate financially and psychologically than my other coworker, Mila, who left the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia when she was 14, after her naval officer father was accused of crimes against the state (a Muslim sailor had taken his uniform home, and when the roll was next called, both he and his whites were missing, and her father, his commanding officer, was held responsible).  Mila spent two years in Italy in a concentration/displaced persons camp, a former WWII prison with thirty-foot walls.  Her family survived on the food that she brought them from the local restaurant where she was allowed to work 12 hour shifts (she spoke Italian because she'd worked as a bartender from age 13 in a resort in Yugoslavia).  She never told her parents about the eight rape attempts, some violent, she survived at the hands of the restaurant owner--they needed the food.  She was interrogated three times by CIA officers who tried to bribe her with Hershey's chocolate bars to get her to say that her father was a communist.  Eventually, in the mid-1960s, the family was sponsored to move to the US by a Catholic charity, and the six of them arrived at JFK one freezing day only to have their arrival go awry.  In forty-eight hours, they endured a train ride from NYC to Cleveland, OH, in a crowded compartment without food, and when they got to Cleveland in the middle of the night the charity workers had mistaken their arrival dates, and the situation was "sorted" by them being ferried to a motel with paper-thin walls that rented rooms by the hour, where they were deposited for two days until more suitable, but still modest, accommodations could be found. 

My boss shared her discovery of her father's WWII pictures in an attic trunk when she was a teenager--shots he had taken when he was part of the medical corps that went in to liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp.  There were a couple of dozen--of bodies stacked like firewood, of vacant-eyed living skeletons--because, he later told her, he said he didn't believe anyone would believe him if he'd just told them about it. 

There were a lot of fun, funny stories, too--the array of new bruises on my biceps were duly noted, as this morning my boss and I had together moved the world's largest and most complex doll-house out of the basement of the place where we just finished this last estate sale.  A woman had put in a bid of $400 on the $900 4' (wide) x 3' (high) x 2.5' (deep) dwelling and it was accepted, and at noon today she came to get it.  She was a little fluttery sixtyish retiree and not much good in the lifting department.  The bloody two-storey house weighed only about 50 pounds, but with its dimensions it was a bear to shift, and there was only one exit from the basement.  I was on the bottom as my boss and I hefted it up the narrow stairs, above the banisters.  When she was able to put her end down on the ground floor we discovered that due to the front gable the house was too wide to go through the frame without taking the basement door off its hinges, and I, the designated remover and installer of doors, was stuck in the basement, half-under the dollhouse, trying to keep it from traveling rapidly and uncontrollably back down the stairs.  My boss, her dog, and her kindly but somewhat hard of hearing and not exceptionally technically-minded octogenarian husband were all upstairs.  The two humans started fiddling with the hinges, with mixed success, she wielding a hammer and screwdriver on the pins, and he attempting to steady the door (actually rocking to various acute angles, which caused the dollhouse to shift unnervingly).

Meanwhile, Bernie, the art dealer I work for most Mondays, had come over to get the few remaining pieces he had consigned with us for the sale, and seeing the difficulties, offered to help me by steadying the doll house from above.  My bosses dog--a mild animal affectionate toward most bipeds, who for some reason hates Bernie with unfathomable loathing (Bernie is one of the sweetest guys on the planet, and has done nothing to deserve this irrational doggy distrust, but there you are)--began growling deep and low at him just inches from his pant leg.  I had a vivid flash of a headline: Dog Bites Man: Woman Crushed to Death By Dollhouse.  But at last the bottom hinge yielded its pin and we were able to slide the house out into the ground floor hall.  It took all four of us--my boss, her husband, Bernie and me--to get the damn thing into its new owner's SUV, but we managed it at last.  I look like I am in a relationship with an abusive extraterrestrial or a mad musician composing a trumpet fanfare--there are half a dozen circular bruises stepped along my right upper arm.

I managed to make it to church Sunday morning before work.  We read the whole of Romans 8, and the sermon was on the question of How Can a Just God Allow Suffering.  I've been hugely weepy lately, though the usual menstrual hormones aren't to blame.  I did want to have children, and although there are many times that I am grateful that I don't have to deal with the pain, sleeplessness and irritation the little creatures inevitably cause, so often the last couple of weeks, while rejoicing in the safe arrival and welcome growth of several small honorary relatives, the fact that I can't be a Mommy is a circumstance with which it is hard to deal.  It's not as if I were a missionary or a brilliant scientist or even a writer whose contributions to humanity in a spiritual, material or intellectual sense offset my lack of offspring. Besides, I have such a crabbed and twisted little soul, so easily moved to almost murderous anger by insults to my cherished integrity and precarious financial state, as I've been reminded over this month.  It's amazing how quickly I am to curse people (at least internally) when they slander or threaten me, how slow I am to forgive.  Not Godly at all.  If I had been through only a tenth of what my (non-Christian) colleagues have endured, would I have the wherewithal to stand it?  Definitely a prayer request.