All Porters Apply Here!

I tend to over-pack.  Even an over-night trip to the beach means more baggage than my partner Sara or any traveler in their right mind would want to deal with.

Wanna lend a hand?

“Aren’t you mostly going to wear swim suits?” she insists—her question, a disguised assertion that I have once again crowned myself the queen of too much stuff.

As I’ve said before, this tendency to over-pack is more than any ordinary sickness—a cough and cold, so to speak.  It’s a disease, the plague.  It’s a life-altering illness, chronic, terminal, a death sentence especially to any traveling companion with an empty hand.

However, as it is with bags, so it also is with boxes.  Sara insists I’m a pack-rat—a hoarder even—an ugly accusation in my mind.

Yes, I may give new meaning to the notion of belongings.  And moving may not always be easy.  I have a lot of books and art supplies.  But I’m a creative person, who needs the tools of her trade—a bin of empty cat food cans here, a tower of potential art there.

I was already this way—overly belonginged—boxed, bagged, or otherwise—when, in 2001, only days after moving, I still stood among mountains of stuff—attempting to unpack my ordinary life within the spatial constraints of government-subsidized housing—so much stuff—so little space.

It was early morning on the East coast. I was whittling away at the unpacking task—the Today Show on in the background—a newsy noise making what I feared might be isolation in this new housing option, less so—making me feel more connected to the larger world apart from poverty and the economic effort to get by. 

Then, elbow deep in a box of bedding and hand towels, I heard the announcement.  A commercial plane had hit the World Trade Center—exploded.  Tower One was burning, and life as we knew in America had ended.  It was obvious.  We had been attacked—and on our own soil, no less.

So standing among my boxes—my living room a cliché of American excess even in the context of poverty—I was suddenly afraid.  What was I doing here?  We had been attacked, and I was attempting to settle in what seemed an outback of subsidized housing.

I was asking myself this, when a neighbor knocked on my door.  Kathleen—all white hair and walker with wheels—my first visitor at Briarwood—a welcome distraction.

Kathleen in 2005, just before I left Briarwood

We bonded watching the disaster of 9/11 unfold from my well-boxed living room—a life contained in cardboard towering in the corner near the window.  I’d found my first bit of community in this strange place on this ugly day.

 Still, I wondered if Section 8 housing had narrowed my neighbor’s options to mere medical bills and Meals on Wheels—a rubble of life’s last gasp.

 Was this place ground zero on my way to personal defeat—no New York Times, no Shakespeare in the park—a tower of culture crumbling at my feet?

But, is it crazy to catastrophize in the context of national disaster?  To fear the worst when the world all around you is burning?

What would the future hold for me, my neighbor, my country?  Where did we all stand on this continuum of cultural madness?

Only time could tell. 

Only time could define our place on this bell curve of cultural crazy—

And only a whole lot of old-lady-love could transform this one-time over-packer into home-owner in a matter of 5 short years . . .

Now–about those bags . . .

Please note that on June 30th,  blog friend Mark at the Idiot Speaketh will be doing a fund-raising bike ride to support flood relief efforts in Minot, North Dakota.  To read about Mark’s marathon and how you can donate to the American Red Cross, click here.  I hope you will join me in sponsoring Mark’s ride!

22 thoughts on “All Porters Apply Here!

  1. I imagine it would be terrifying to be without your treasures in the event of a creativity thunderbolt, as it would be for a writer to be without a pen. You need to keep that stuff near and dear.


    • So true! Though I may have gone a bit overboard with wanting to save things. But I seemed to see potential art in everything around me–like there was so much to create and I was almost there but not quite–like I was always on the verge–if that makes any sense. Thanks for reading, Deanna! Hope you’re enjoying Italy!


  2. 9/11 was a catalyst for change in so many ways. You ask “But, is it crazy to catastrophize in the context of national disaster? To fear the worst when the world all around you is burning?” and I don’t think so. In the wake of national tragedy, we were all brought a glimpse of the reality that life hangs on a thread and there are no guarantees–not event the supposed strength and protective arms of our country. While it was a catastrophe that changed everything, the reality was truly individual. My response was different from many people’s but it didn’t make me crazy or wrong, it just made me me.


    • So true, Lisa! That’s exactly what 9/11 taught us–that we ought not take anything for granted–that the world can change in an istant. And frankly, that scared the living sh*t out of me, as I thougt that maybe this housing would bring me some sense of security, when indeed I learned a few days after moving there that there really is no such thing. I forced to redefine that concept in tihs new context. Unsettling–for sure!


  3. Layers upon layers of instability! It sounds like a dizzying day, indeed.

    On another note, do you and Sara have any idea where you will end up next yet?


    • Yes–“dizzying” is probably the best word to describe how it felt–weird, weird layers of insecurity!

      About what’s next–the short answer is–we don’t know. The longer version of that answer will likely come in a post later this week.


    • It is interesting. In fact, that would be a good prompt for almost any writer–what were you doing on 9/11 when you learned about the terrorists attacks? What were you doing? The answer might make for an interesting poem—————-


  4. It is interesting how our memories of the days surrounding certain events are so clear and detailed. While 9/11 had a profound impact on so many lives, why is it that we so easily remember the mundane details of what we were doing just at that moment. It is almost as if the global impact of the event actually forced us all to open our eyes and truly appreciate where we were. The only other even that I can think of in my life that had a similar impact was the explosion of the space shuttle….


    • I’m told–I don’t know this on my own–but I’ve heard some experts suggest that the details surrounding extraordinary events and expereinces have a powerful ability to imprint themselves on the brain. And this seems to be very true! Great observation, Steve!


  5. It’s so interesting that we are on opposite ends of the “belongings” spectrum. While you over pack and save everything, I use one carpet bag for all travel occasions and regularly purge or give all my stuff away. Methinks it’s all part of the same paradigm.


    • Yes–it is, indeed, part of the same paradigm! The funny thing about my belongings both then and now is that they were worth next to nothing. I would come up with an art project that would use some items others would throw away and then I would become obsessed with saving/collecting them. So weird–especially that we would nearly bracket that spectrum! And congratulations on your wonderful morning, Sandy!


  6. I was working in DC, five blocks from the White House, when 9/11 happened. It was the first time I ever truly feared for my life and I remember wondering how the world could even go on. A scary day to be starting a new life in a new place, for sure!


  7. See I love things packed in bags – all neat and tidy and ready to go!!! And I’m a ‘boxer’ too! But, I have shed so much over the last while physically and metaphorically and it is very freeing but totally understand the need to ‘pack’ for every eventuality. The bit about the 9/11 and what we remember etc I think is totally fascinating and some great insights already said here – could be a whole thread of posts – Lisa should be Woman Wielding Wise Words!


    • Lisa is wise, exceedingly wise–both Lisas are!

      Actually, a book of “what I was doing on 9/11” stories would be interesting! However, I think I’m a lot bettr in relation to “stuff” than I used to be. Sara might disagree, but I think I am!


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