Thursday, August 31, 2006

In Case You Haven't Been Flying

The way things keep changing in the nation's airports, it seems that even experienced flyers quiz their friends about flying if they haven't been 'out there' lately.

We made a trip to Portland, OR (PDX) recently from Austin (AUS). We went through Dallas (DFW) on American (AA).

This was our first flight since liquids became evil. It's funny how it works, but they had me thinking of my hair gel and shampoo as sinister. When I fly, I have to take decongestants to keep my ears clear. On the way, we had a short layover in Dallas. I'd had a bottle of water after security in the Austin airport. I was going to have to take a second pill on the long (almost four hours) DFW-PDX leg. But I couldn't carry water on board. We had a short layover. In the departure longue they announced that there would be a $4 snack for sale but there would probably not be enough for everyone. We were welcome to take food on board. We rushed off and got a sandwich and coffee. I managed to swill about half the coffee before I had to discard it. DFW had clever poetic signs. "Avoid Delay; Throw it Away." I had to swallow my pill dry before the service cart reached our row.

I was wondering how a friend of mine would get along, given he'd admitted a chapstick addiction.

The whole flying experience out there went remarkably well, though, in spite of full flights. It was almost as if all that was needed to smooth things out was to ban big gulps and Starbucks.

When we flew back, I noticed a couple of interesting things at PDX. One, they were now allowing lipstick and chapstick. My addicted friend can relax. And...they had an interesting way of talking about stuff you buy after security. They said that 'drinks purchased inside the sterile zone must be discarded before boarding.' I wouldn't take that 'sterile zone' thing too seriously when considered the soap and automatic faucets in the restrooms. Yeah, I'd keep washing.

Coming home went quite smoothly, too. We got upgraded to first class for the PDX-DFW leg. And we had a long layover at DFW which allowed my volcanically hot Starbucks to cool so I could finish it before boarding. I hadn't been in first for a little while. You still get glasses that are glass. (I would worry about them being cracked to make a weapon but they are that indestructible thick glass.) You still get linen napkins but they have shrunk over the years. Of course, they only have to be wrapped around plastic dinnerware now. They still have a buttonhole in them so if you have on a proper shirt you can button them on and protect yourself from marinara sauce. Not that I had any marinara. A croissant sandwich it was.

I appreciate the Austin airport and its cultivation of local businesses. No being subjected to Starbucks there. And I appreciate PDX for having a Powell's (City of Books) outlet. By far the best little bookstore I've ever seen in an airport.

Yeah, things are always changing in the air. When is the last time you thought of a leggy attendant with a beehive as your mother?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Not Good at Posting

I've been really remiss at posting. I've been doing something else. What? Hard to say. Going through piles of books. Looking through pictures and slides. Other cleaning and straigtening tasks that are beginning to feel a lot like moving stuff around, like motion. Reviewing films for Austin Film Festival. Tennis. Water aerobics class with my dad. Then yesterday I had to take my dad to the hospital to visit a twenty-something friend who had a brain aneurysm rupture. Well, not to visit the kid, because he was in surgery and having procedures but to visit with the kid's parents. The dad is the son of a nurse friend of my dad's who is dead now and he has kept up with the family.

My dad has always been a compassionate sort. He called the hospital today and tracked his friends down to see how the son was doing. And he hates telephoning. I'm still finding pictures of him. This one was taken in 1945 or 1946 and I'm guessing he is comforting my sister because he has to go back to some army duty. My dad was lucky to be rejected for service until late in the war when, although he wasn't fit for duty, I think they decided to induct him and make him fit for duty. The war ended before that trajectory could get him in harm's way.

So, yeah, I'm busy in my own usual erratic way. So I'd better get on with it. I'm going on something called a 'gallery crawl' this afternoon. I'm going to hear some music tonight later on. I've already hit the tennis courts and done a few minutes on my favorite aerobic machine (the recumbent bike). I've eaten leftovers, showered leisurely. Life is good. I should appreciate it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I Should be Working on it NOW

Yeah, this cleaning up thing is taking a life of its own. The pile of books shown here represents about half of the ones I'm going to give away. Most are probably useless because they are so obsolete. Some are good, standard references. If I ever need to know any of this again, I'll find the info somehow.

Every time we drive into the garage now, FFP says how its (relatively) cleaned out look gives him pleasure. We plan to spiff it up with paint and sheetrock and some attractive cabinets or shelves. We think a big functional garage is a selling point for a house. But only if it's pretty uncluttered.

Behind our garage is a 'storage room.' We perched FFP's office above this area when we remodeled. We have a laundry room there and shelves, storage cabinets, old file cabinets, a closet under the stairs, a closet we call our 'wine cellar.' FFP is set up there to paint with a drop cloth, easel, etc. although the first and last paintings he completed were done on the floor of the garage when we remodeled the bedroom. There is also an enormous 'rack' of wood and pipe that held oversized file folders for negatives and PMTs and pasted-up art. Back in the day when such were necessary to produce ads. Now we don't produce ads, mostly, and if we do they are just pixels until they are realized in print. We actually offered the filing cabinets on Freecycle and had a pickup set but the people never showed up. FFP and I are discussing what we might use to 'furnish' a storage unit. Should we actually save the enormous beat-up filing cabinets? I think storage units are so expensive that we might reconsider even having one. But I find it hard to see how to do without it. We are definitely going to have the handyman dismantle the giant rack. We've disposed of most of the ancient adverstising stuff.

While I write this, I should be looking through a pile of magazines I just uncovered in my office. I'm feeling better about discarding copies of The New Yorker since they have announced the upgrade of the complete DVD set. I think this is the way of the future, mine anyway. Where you discard the magazines and have the archive available. Ideally it would be on the WEB, but this is certainly more compact. I no longer really want to own movies either. And I'm going through old cassette tapes. One criteria for discarding them is 'do we have the CD?' Another is 'are the tunes available on Rhapsody?' If we could listen on our computers or download the tunes if we wanted them, that would be great. We aren't even talking about the CD collection yet. I'm thinking that when we go to the condo we might have the collection ripped to a hard drive.

What was that tag line for VW back in the sixties? Think small! Yeah, that's it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Moving in the Right Direction, Stuff-Wise

I was thinking today how we acquire stuff and discard stuff. Year in and year out. For the last couple of weeks we've been burning faster than we were filling, you might say. And that's a good thing. It's horrifying to think how many possessions we still have, especially considering how much we have disposed of over the years.

When I moved to Austin, in 1975, I couldn't fill a small one bedroom apartment with the stuff I owned. Sad. I wanted stuff. I even bought some furniture for that place. When I combined my stuff with FFP's in 1976, it was a little crowded in his house which was probably 800 square feet. When we moved a block away in 1977 (twenty-nine years ago this month), we had a larger house. We filled it with a business we were running and all the stuff it needed and things we were eager to own.We bought a building and moved the business there. We remodeled a few times and redecorated, stuff coming and going. Always thinking it was the ultimate stuff. One remodel made room for the business (smaller now) to move back. With the complications that engendered.

It makes me feel better to pare the stuff down. But it's going so slowly. The garage is looking pretty good now. But my office and the spare room are still a sea of things being sorted and dealt with. There are closets and shelves begging for a good cleaning. There are large pieces of furniture that will ultimately need to go. I get depressed about it sometimes, but at least the needle is moving in the right direction at the moment.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Dilettante Collector

I read something the other day about a guy who collected comic books very assiduously for many years. They were stored in very optimum conditions for a long time, too. His family is now ready to sell them for millions although they have found out that some are missing. And because he obsessively made some small cryptic pencil marks on each and every one, his heirs were able to trace them and it was probably some contractors who were 'alone with the collection' who pilfered them. I can't find this story online just now or I would link to it. So what does that have to do me anyway?

Well, that's not the kind of collector I am. I don't stick to collecting anything with that kind of single-minded diligence. Unfortunately I am tempted to save things because they might be (pick one) useful / valuable / interesting later. And I might start collecting something...say cocktail shakers, globes, bendable posable figures, etc. and amass quite a few of them without a clue about what I should be saving or discarding, how to store them, etc. I feel like a lot of times I discard something just before it becomes valuable.

I have decided to seriously get rid of stuff. We've been cleaning out the garage. We've tossed a lot of stuff, given away a lot of stuff. We are trying not to worry if it will ever be valuable, useful, sentimental. A 10x10 climate-controlled storage unit in downtown Austin goes for $377 per month. We want to move downtown one day. I must get rid of stuff. I have too much stuff. If some of it is useful, I can never find it when I need it.

I will admit, however, that it is interesting to find a box in the garage containing my tax returns from before I married and the Christmas cards I got over a decade ago. As I looked through the latter, I choked up at notes written by people who have died. I wondered at a photo of someone that I simply don't recognize. Well, OK, she is vaguely familar. But I can't save all this stuff. It's going to be hard enough to decide what to do with boxes and boxes of bendable, posable figures. Every time I go through the stuff, less and less survives. Oh, I'm going to save some things all right. But I don't think I have to worry about any contractors stealing a million dollars worth of collectibles. And that's a good thing.

I don't think dabblers end up with million-dollar collections. I once wrote a poem about me and my attention span for organizing and doing. You can see it here but I'll also reprint it here in blogger-land where I seem to spend most of my time writing to you.

Dabbler, Babbler, Dilettante
Flitting about
Cannot stop.
Focus Free
Excuse me,
I must hop!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I've Been Busy Since Last We Spoke

It started with that cheap Mexican breakfast I mentioned. My companions and I shared the guacamole pictured here next to some good hot sauce with our migas. We were at Aranda's on Burnet Road.

I got invitations out to my dad's birthday party in September and have even received quite a few RSVPs.

We have been working on the clean up project alluded to here. We hope to move out of our house and into a (smaller) condo in about two years. And we are thinking it may take two years to get things tidied up and sorted. I stood in the garage today with sweat pouring off my face, chopping up cardboard boxes for recyling, filling garbage sacks with things to throw away when there is space in the 'pay as you throw' bin. You can only discard about twelve cubic feet of stuff in our bin per week and if you want to leave garbage bags on the curb as well you have to attach a two dollar sticker. We did leave a few things on the curb with a free sign, gave some things to the handyman and the yard man. FFP made a trip to the thrift store and I have another pile of stuff in my car now to go there. Slowly, we unwind our acquisitions and see most of them for what they are: anchors. There are a few shocks. Like when I found my tax returns from before I married FFP. Yeah, I am thinking shredder.

I think we may be, for this small period, getting rid of stuff faster than we acquire it. Now if we can just keep it up for the next few years.