From There to Here
On the Move Once Again,
Summer Hiatus It Wasn't
By Edward Shanahan
So downstreet.net has been on hiatus this summer, and what does that mean exactly?
Has downstreet.net, like John Edwards, been busy having an affair? Not likely. Vacationing? Nope. Silenced by the lack of local controversies these days? Hardly.
Downstreet.net has been engaged in the daunting task of moving, from the comforts of Florence to the far reaches of Leeds, where a rooster takes it as his personal assignment to alert us daily that morning is about to dawn (in an hour or more). Last time I had a crowing rooster for a neighbor was while I was occupying a rented house in Cuernavaca, Mexico, while studying Spanish, and later traveling in rural sections of Nicaragua.
Moving is not a new experience. By rough count, we have moved 17 or 18 times, including six moves to, away or within Northampton since 1971. Yet, moving does not get any easier with accumulating experience, largely because it is outweighed by accumulating possessions.
Virtual daily visits to Liquors 44 for several weeks preceding the move were required to haul away empty cartons — Tuesdays and Fridays are prime days for harvesting same. This was something I learned prior to moving some 30,000 books from my used book store on Main Street across the center to Maple Street nearly 10 years ago.
And what would all these scores of cartons be for? Books, books, and more books? As chief packer, I'm not unused to dealing with volumes ofbooks. What surprised me this time around was what came to be labeled as the "kitchen stuff" unearthed from shelves, in cabinets, drawers, bureaus, closets, hutches, and in nooks and crannies of space that I did not even realize existed. Pottery, lots and lots of beautiful pottery, most of it fashioned and bought from local potters, pots and pans, more pans and more pots, then some more, also glassware, brass, copper, china, amazingly conceived utensils, gadgets really, for solving crucial kitchen needs that have rarely arisen. Oh, the discussions we had, about what to keep (Ty Cobb's autograph), what to dispose of (the lawn mower, newspaper clippings about the death of Reggie Lewis), what to compromise on (the venerable horsehair mattresses), what to agree not to discuss (my grandfather's veterinary surgical instruments, Ann's father's baby photos, my books and her pottery).
Of all those nearly 100-plus cartons, some were headed directly to Leeds, while many were earmarked for storage off-site. Other items were designated for auction, which has yet to take place, and a tag sale on the side lawn of the Florence Civic Center, a choice piece of real estate for such an event. I highly recommend it. Just talk to Mike Flynn at the barbershop about details.
And now for an unpaid commercial: Ideal Movers of Hadley. They are the best, the most efficient, the most careful, the most cheerful movers we've ever had, and, when all is done, you feel as if moving was no big deal at all. They are definitely winners.
An aside: Whenever I think of moving companies, I am reminded of conversations I had years ago with James Kitchen, former co-publisher, with his brother, of Kitchen Sink comic books, and now a hugely talented sculptor in Chesterfield; see his works currently on display on the lawn of the Meekins Library in Williamsburg. In an earlier life, Kitchen founded a company called Hernia Movers, which he described as "the potentate of totin' freight." Ideal merits a potentate rating as well.
If there were winners in the move, there are likely losers too. Two candidates come to mind, Comcast, which confirmed its growing reputation among consumers as one of the most reviled companies among the nation's 200 largest firms by having the cable guy show up with a $150 cable box for expanded service even though all we wanted—or requested—was the transfer of our existing service from one address to another. If we hadn't been paying attention amid the confusion of moving we would have been mugged by Comcast.
And what about the $50 the Northampton Fire Department charges to send two men, one a captain, no less, to make sure our smoke alarms work and that we have installed three rather costly carbon monoxide detectors.
Don't get my favorite libertarian Tim Shea of Florence going on Fire Department fees. Observes Shea, taxpayers pay the salaries of the firefighters, as well as overtime when required, train them, house them, buy their equipment, provide them with a clothing allowance, finance their health care, now and in retirement, provide a pension when they retire. Pretty much cradle to grave financial support, even though, because of their unique schedules, many firefighters have full-time jobs when they are off duty.
But when it comes to fire safety issues, the department finds it needs to charge another $50 to inspect the work I did installing the detection devices. Fire safety, it would seem, should be a core service of the department, not an add-on. After all, not many members of the department spend 40 hours a week fighting fires. There should be a little down time left for fire safety work.
For $50 on top of my tax contribution to the $3.4 million fiscal 2009 Fire Department budget, I expected the chief himself to show up.
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