and I quote

july 2012

click for permalink July 30, 2012

Aahhh... The move went great. Our movers were amazing (Starling Movers—highly recommended. Google them), our friends were amazing—cleaning our kitchen and packing our breakables and spillables so as to prevent the occurrence of either (Chris and Char respectively). Our new place is awesome and we actually managed to give or throw away a lot more stuff than I would have predicted (thanks Craigslist, Wildlife Thrift Store, aforementioned friends and, if all else failed, the actual trash)... but I don't want to talk about moving anymore! So let's review the first seven-twelfths of the Best TED Talks of 2012, shall we?

Best TED Talks of 2012 (2nd annual roughly mid-year edition)

  1. Cesar Harada: A novel idea for cleaning up oil spills
  2. Rives: Reinventing the encyclopedia game
  3. Marc Goodman: A vision of crimes in the future
Gary Kovacs: Tracking the trackers4. Gary Kovacs: Tracking the trackers (then download Collusion for Firefox)
  1. Frank Warren: Half a million secrets
  2. Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals (That Golem guy was awesome in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but when the little dude on the left realizes that the dude in the other cage just got a grape for doing the same thing he just did for cucumber, he gets my vote for best performance by a non-human in the role of making us question our humanity. Wait,no—oh that's right... that was last year.)
  3. "Banned" (?) TED talk on inequality by millionaire Nick Hanauer (Yes, it really is that simple.)

I don't have the energy or the hand strength to write any more, but I'll leave you with this... From Cleopatra's carpet-sheath dress to Scarlett O'Hara's velvet valance gown, women will historically wear just about anything you can mold into the shape of a dress. AmEx cards? Check. Bunch of bananas? Check. Five lbs. of raw meat? You know it. But what's for dessert, you may ask?

gummy50,000 gummy bears, according to designers Hissa Igarashi and Sayuri Murakami. This epic garment weighs in at 100 kilograms (just kidding... that's 220.5 lbs) but hey, it's all in the service of an homage to Alexander McQueen, which makes it all worthwhile.

Until she starts to sweat.

If anyone's taking orders, I'd like a halter dress made out of cinnamon hearts.

And that's all I have to say about that.


click for permalink July 15, 2012

Moving day approaches, and the most beautiful Saturday we've seen all summer found us wading through dusty storage lockers sorting piles of scrap wood, old computers and mismatched desk parts. It would have been every bit the unmitigated psychological torture that it sounds if not for the company, as I have somehow been blessed with a friend who actually jumps at the chance to spend the day rifling through disintegrating boxes of someone else's childhood memorabilia (e.g. the two boxes of dolls I repacked today which were lined with a Seattle weekly called The Stranger, which means they were packed in 1996 and the boxes probably came from the Queen Anne Safeway produce aisle).

I don't know which was the more shocking time capsule, the suitcase crammed full of coats dating back to Mr. Pink's and my respective teens, or the fact that I once thought nothing of storing my possessions in a box that was used to transport bananas from an equatorial rainforest.

Our building is gradually emptying out as the end of July draws nearer, and the protective padding on the designated elevator which used to only appear on the first weekend of every month is now a permanent fixture. There's always at least one moving van idling out in front of the building and on weekends the loading bay out back is the most desirable parking space on the block. I think everyone has silently resolved to ignore the once strictly enforced "9-to-5 and only with permission" rule that governed the moving of all furniture in or out of the building.

We sold an armoire last week, and it was after 10 pm by the time we found ourselves trying to wrestle the monster onto the elevator and making a rather ungodly racket. It took both of us both hands to hold the thing and, with no extra hands to hold the "door open" button, it was only a few minutes before the alarm began to sound. It was several minutes later when the night security guard arrived to find Mr. Pink in the hallway hoisting the armoire up at an angle and me inside the elevator trying to guide it clear of the doorframe, while the siren blared and the door attempted to close every 15 seconds, crashing against the side of the armoire and causing me to snarl obscenities every time as I was forced to drop half of my end and yank my arm out of the way (or failed to).

So the security guard takes in the entire scene and then, I kid you not, keys off the elevator for us, helps maneuver the thing in the door, then gets in and rides down with us to the Mezzanine level and down the hall with the low-hanging exposed pipes all the way to the loading dock before telling us to have a good night and don't work too hard. (I don't think it was just so the door would stop trying to take my arm off either.) Six months ago, had we been caught trying to move so much as an end table at that hour, and making that kind of racket, we would've had quite the condescending lecture in store. But no longer.

Despite the general loosening of the rules in such understandable circumstances, there hasn't been the kind of wholesale social entropy you might expect to see in some buildings, or anyway there's been very little. One apartment on the second floor that's been known to play loud music on occasion, hosted a very large, very loud and very late going-away party this past Thursday night. We could hear their conversations and laughter under the thumping beat of [whatever the kids are listening to these days] well into the morning hours.

Maybe it's because I spent my formative years in Baltimore's gay/art school neighborhood of Mount Vernon where these things happened every night, or maybe I just have an over-developed superego, but every hour as this party wore on, I was fully expecting to hear a police bullhorn piercing the wall of house music and signalling the end of the night's festivities. But the beat went on without a hint of repercussion. Luckily, we're not easily bothered by other tenants' casual disregard for the "quiet enjoyment" clause governing neighborly conduct... Sometimes we even find it oddly reassuring, kind of like when someone other than us is late.

One thing that surprised me in the early days after the entire building received its two months' notice was the feeding frenzy of real estate agents in the building (or near the building, or who had heard about the building from a friend of a friend) that canvassed the place generously offering their expertise in our time of need with diplomatic yet expeditious encouragements to "think of this as an opportunity." Some of these letters were slipped under every apartment door while others arrived in the mail sans postage. One even came enclosed with a lottery ticket (I won't bother to analyze the thinking behind this gesture but we did "win" a dollar for opening the envelope) and every single one included their glossy, grinning full-color photo business card, which I suppose is meant to convey the depth of their humanity, integrity and skill with industrial-strength cosmetics.

The new building owners have made themselves visible in small ways, from the occasional contractor spotted in the elevator smiling indulgently but avoiding eye contact with the residents, to the flotilla of bathtubs stacked on P5 to the giant roll of architectural drawings left outside the storage lockers (which I had to slide out of the way in order to enter mine!).

The existence of the latter bedeviled me for days every time I thought about them sitting down there blissfully unattended. What horrors did they have in store for our generously-sized but financially inconvenient apartments? Did those blueprints contain every detail of their diabolical plan to divide 227 units into 400, slashing spacious living rooms and solariums into tiny second and third bedrooms in order to maximize the return on their considerable investment? They paid $79 million for the building, as it turns out, just under $350K per unit, which means they will either have to start at half a million per unit on the second floor and go up by $50K for every floor, or increase the number of units by at least 20%.

At first I thought we would see the message board downstairs flooded with items for sale as people scrambled to offload their possessions before moving, but I think everyone realized pretty quickly that we're all in the same boat and no one wants to leave with more shit than they came with. When you consider the sad dollar-per-square-foot comparison between our soon to be ex-apartments and the average on offer downtown — even after you accept that you'll be dishing out more money, there isn't much on the market that compares to this building's proportions — most of our neighbors will probably be forced to choose between downsizing and moving to the suburbs (or as some like to call it, thinking of this as an opportunity).

Well, we've been taking the opportunity to offload a lot of things we no longer need (and some we arguably never did). With the most convenient pool of potential buyers out of the equation, this has meant taking our relationship with craigslist to a whole new level, and boy has it been enlightening. We sold the armoire within two days of posting the ad to the first person who came to see it, for the advertised price including delivery. Since she only lived a few blocks away and didn't have a car either, the move was facilitated by the almost always amazingly helpful MacLure's Cabs (it's not mentioned on their Services page, but you can request a van cab to move any piece of furniture you can fit in the back for a fee of $10 on top of the fare).

On the receiving end, five of the girl's relatives were gathered around to help and cheerlead while Mr. Pink and various brothers and uncles navigated a labyrinth of tight hallways to her room. The final doorway proved unexpectedly challenging until Mr. Pink suddenly remembered the tiny 1/4-inch plastic feet attached to the underside (to facilitate sliding were it not for the impossible weight of the thing). As soon as he pried those off with a claw foot hammer, the massive armoire cleared the doorway with 1/8 of an inch to spare and the assembled relatives broke into applause. The buyer's mom was so impressed she slipped Mr. Pink an extra $20, which covered the cab's fee and brought the total back to our original price.

Of course, it doesn't always go that smoothly. Several items have languished on craigslist all week without a hint of interest, others have attracted the kind of passive, needy inquiries that give craigslist a bad name. These usually come from people casually browsing the ads on their mobile phone, answering them with monosyllabic queries like "do u still have it" and "when can i look at it?" You can exchange three or four emails with these people, providing more information every time in an attempt to advance the interaction towards "closing the deal," to no avail. They simply will not dial the number you've provided or offer their own, and even when they insist they will show up at a specific time, they won't. Then there are the sport hagglers, who want to bicker back and forth over the price and will take up an astonishing amount of your time if you let them, all for the same result (of course, we would never let them...).

Posting something for free, however, changes the game in ways I never would have imagined. We discovered this amazing phenomenon last night when the prospect of moving a massive, solid wood corner desk and three narrow bookcases we've been using to store tools in our hall closet finally overpowered the desire to turn every loss into a profit. We posted them in the "free" section at 10:30 on Saturday night and by midnight we'd received no fewer than 10 responses. By 2 pm today, three phone calls and ten more emails later, I deleted both ads because everything was gone, along with some random boards and a lamp we had in storage that we hadn't bothered to photograph and post on craigslist.

But the truly remarkable thing wasn't the quantity of responses, it was the quality. Of the 20+ emails we received, nearly all of them were composed in complete sentences, signed off with full names and phone numbers; on top of that, they were all unfailingly polite, congenial (even chatty!) and terribly accommodating — "I have a large truck," "I'm available any time this weekend," "let me know when it's convenient for you," "please give me a call if you're still up," etc. Many offered up completely unnecessary details about themselves in a way I found oddly endearing; "I'm moving this weekend, but call if you still have it on Monday..." "I live in Powell River but will be coming to Vancouver on the ferry tomorrow..." (Not kidding, these are direct quotes.)

These emails colorfully contradict a number of conclusions we've reached about the state of humanity over the years, based in part on our craigslist-mediated interactions. I would love to see a full-blown Freakonomics-style analysis of the psychology at work here, because it's far from rational and would surely reveal some illuminating meta-truths about people's motivations and the temporary relationships we forge during brokered transactions around the stuff we buy, sell, trade and give away.

Less than 12 hours after we posted the ads, two sets of winners in our impromptu office furniture lottery had come and gone, and we couldn't have wished for better representatives of the species. They braved our tornado-chic decor, happily sidestepping half-packed boxes and stacks of bagged clothing to carry away their prizes with smiles on their faces, assisted by family or friends with vehicles waiting wherever they could find a space, without a word of complaint about the inconvenience of parking or the un-disassembled state of the furniture when they arrived.

I think it will take a while to fully realize the lessons of the last 24 hours, but here's one. When it comes to getting rid of stuff that hasn't seen "like new condition" in years, the difference between $20 and free is negligible in terms of profit (had we waited a few days we could've ended up paying another guy off craigslist $50 to haul it all away, and had to endure his bitching about our punctuality, arguing over whether or not it would fit in his truck or if it would scratch the upholstery, not to mention his resistance to actually helping to move it). In the end, what we gained in karma points and peace of mind, seeing something go to "good use" rather than a landfill or e-waste graveyard, and most of all, the restoration of some degree of faith in humanity... Well that, as they say, is priceless.