On Stuff

Everything we own might have just burned in a fire. 

It probably didn’t, but hearing that over the phone at the Nordstrom’s cashwrap yesterday was a real humdinger. 

And you know what?  The first thing I thought about was those stupid rugs. A few moments later my mind moved through our old apartment and I thought of Max’s recording studio, our electric piano, my book binding equipment, a beautiful bench made of Moroccan walnut we bought in Casablanca.  But then I felt this sense of….freedom.  It was pretty bizarre.   I felt bad about our Morocco stuff, which would be the hardest to replace and are the fruits of so many wonderful experiences, but we have insurance and all that stuff is just stuff.  And so much of it was collected in the nascent years of our marriage when we thought we needed a 10 piece kitchen pan set (you don’t, you just need two really great ones) and cheap paperback copies of John Grisham  (you don’t, you just need…well, I don’t really know that anyone needs John Grisham in any form) and 6 pairs of exercise pants just for variety (you don’t, you MAYBE need two for when you are feeling lazy bones about laundry).  The idea of starting fresh with more grown up and paired down tastes was kind of intoxicating.   To eliminate waste and overindulgence and clutter by employing excruciating minimalism and discipline as we constructed our new lives.  Boldly facing the future free of stuff that doesn’t work for us and occupies valuable mental, physical, and emotional space that could be used for intangible, real joy bringing endeavors, experiences and relationships. 

And then I went straight into Anne Taylor and bought a blue and white pencil skirt that I don’t really need.

I know, what’s wrong with me?

The past few weeks have been a bit challenging for me.  When you prepare to move overseas you think of all the stuff you need, the stuff you want, the stuff you can’t live without, the stuff that will make your life easier/livable.  When we were students in the Middle East we went without a lot but since becoming diplomats with access to things like an American commissary and Amazon shipping our stuff obtaining options have increased dramatically and we have shifted our “needs/wants/must haves” accordingly. 

And I hate it. 

I don’t hate that these things are available, I hate that I become this comfort lusting monster who can no longer make decisions about what one must have in order to live a happy life.  The irony being that any and all of these things are seldom the key to having a happy life anyway.

Costco is the bad influence best friend to the kind of need creep that I’m trying to explain.  Being in America for a little while has given us the chance to stock up (a phrase I’m coming to loathe) on a few things that will, in theory, make our life overseas a little easier.  But you go to Costco with a list that says “Yeast, Paper Towels, Hot Sauce, Almond Milk” and leave with two flats full of things you just can’t live without.  The line between need and comfort gets so blurry in the enormous emotional wasteland that is bulk purchasing that you’ve blown your entire “stock up” budget on 50 gallon jars of pickles and two years worth of dishwasher liquid that is most certainly available where you are going.  

Let me say here that for many people serving overseas in the Foreign Service where regular things like dish soap are not available flats of stuff from Costco are a no brainer.  It’s hard to know what will and won’t be available in your new home and depending on circumstances related to health, your children or spouse, local realities and financial situation buying like this makes a lot of sense.  This is not my issue.  My issue is how merely trying to plan our future comfort has twisted my brain about in knots and accentuated consumptive vices I’d like to see diminish instead of charging to the top of the hill where they throw my best intentions off a cliff and claim their role as king.

All this is to say that my stuff is probably fine but if and when it arrives in Oman, perhaps I’ll muster the courage to burn a lot of it myself.  Figuratively, of course, I’m pretty sure back yard bonfires are against the rules. 


Rug Envy

Well, after you see these pictures you'll know that I no longer have rug envy.  Because I bought all the rugs in Morocco.  But actually, that's not how envy works and feeding it is kind of a bad thing.


My actual life right now is kind of a mess of costo running, dog walking, list making, dinner cooking, plant tending, friend catching up-ing and semi-freakouts about moving in exactly one month.  SOOOO, we'll take a moment and remember the carpet souk in Khemmiset, Morocco.  Bare in mind that I had already amassed a fairly large rug collection BEFORE stomping through the muddy market streets to the once weekly rug fair.  I'm already feeling embarrassed about opening up my house hold effects in Oman (currently being stored somewhere in Northern Europe) and unpacking more rugs than we will have floor space.  But again, whatever.

 Once you buy a rug, those little ladies chase you around with more and more rugs.  I've never seen such tenacious selling in all my life.  It made the souk of Khan al-khalili in Egypt look like a kick back kind of time.  After I bought a few, the Berber women and I had an understanding.  They would laugh, shove the rug at me, we'd make eye contact, she'd laugh again, shove it closer, and then I'd put my hand over my heart and we'd all walk away friends.  
No, these are not all mine.  Whenever someone in the group bought a rug we piled it into the cart and pushed it around to the next vendor.  Shopping carts are for suckers.  We need rickety two wheelers at the Walmart with some real space.    


Great Plains and Murderers

I don’t know that the Midwest has more murderers than other places, but it certainly felt like perhaps it did.  Statistically that doesn’t bare out, but judging strictly by roadside bathrooms and ooky abandoned farm houses I think there must be a lot of murdering going on in those parts. 

A few months ago, Max and I decided to drive from Salt Lake City to Washington D.C.  instead of flying.   America!  We kept saying to each other when we thought about it.  America!   We spread it over 5 days to visit friends and take in the sites (i.e.  “Foamhenge” in southern Virginia where a true-to-scale-and-shape model of Stonehenge has been built out of Styrofoam) and only almost resorted to reciprocal eye-gouging twice. 

We sailed through Eastern Utah and on to Denver, the mountain air rifling through the back seats of our car, windows down to breath it all in.  But once past Denver things flatten out in Eastern Colorado and continue much the same through Nebraska.  We stopped in Roggen, Colorado for gas and I think Max was thoroughly startled when I emerged from the motel turned gas station with a 2 gallon jug of water under my arm signaling frantically for him to start the engine and get a move on.  Now that I think about it, he probably thought I’d robbed the depressing gas station of not only the oversized water bottle, but the circa 1979 fake oil paintings wrapped in gaudy wooden frames or extra small snowflake sweaters displayed inside.   Though tempting, I did not.  I am not easily spooked, but this place gave me the hibbity jibbities.  The east side of the station might once have served food, but the equipment, outdated by about 20 years, was covered in dust or outright rusted over.  The walls were lined with nic nacks better suited for a salvation army; dusty GI Joes, old jack in the boxes, a collection of holiday sweaters, ancient travel games in bulky boxes, but all had neon yellow price stickers and most came in their original packaging.  Two tuffs from the actual motel next door (the second of two buildings for miles) guarded the door in a peculiar way, as if keeping the Asian couple who owned the place inside against their will. 

“Your Toyota?” 
The man asked me in broken English when I bristled past the tattooed gatekeepers.
“Yeah…” I said wearily, eyeing the place.
“It’s very nice.  How much it cost?” 
“Oh,…I don’t know.”  The one eyed dolly perched on the counter, glowering out from an old but resealed package, convinced me to play things a little close to the vest.  He probably just wanted to get one of his own and drive away from this place of horror and I should have stayed to talk interest rates with him.    

The real purpose of my visit was not the barrel of water I came out with, but to use the bathroom.  I waited outside the locked bathroom door for 10 minutes before convincing the store owner that no one was actually inside, all the while conjuring up scenes in my mind of a drug deal gone wrong and that a dead body would roll out from behind the door and onto my feet when we opened it.  Or maybe someone had gone in there to give birth to a baby they would then abandon like that movie.  We want to adopt, but I don’t know if haunted gas station baby is the way to go.  When we got it opened there was no body or abandoned baby or drug paraphernalia, just sagging pink wall paper, daisy chain printed from floor to ceiling and stripped mostly away, rust rimmed toilet bowls inside stalls with no doors and at least 7 “Water not potable” signs plastering the walls and mirror.   This is where you come to die, I thought.   I locked the door not for fear that someone would intrude and cause a bit of embarrassment, but for fear that someone would intrude and mistake me for the woman they had come to murder and cause a bit of death.

But the “Middle Places” weren’t all one-eyed dolls and haunted old coke machines. In Nebraska we ate divine fried chicken – you fry it in a pressure cooker! – and learned many, but not all of the names of our server’s dogs.  Jasmine, Sassy, Lady, Toby – he’s almost as big as Jasmine if you can believe it – Hammy, MiMi.   We also let the sass of Nashville seep into our pores and bemoaned our lack of cowboy boots and cut off daisy dukes (I’ll let you decide who bemoaned which).   We stood beneath the Arch of St. Louis and ate BBQ from Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City.  BBQ will never be the same.  In fact, I might just never eat it again so as not to torture myself.   And although not on this road trip but on a weekend layover when we first arrived, we had killer hot dogs in Chicago and walked the city with the wee dog ‘til we dropped.

So yes, America!