The Lancaster Journey

Every couple years, the town inspector in charge of rented buildings comes around to make sure the building doesn’t have any health or safety issues.  The inspector tests the smoke alarms, makes sure that there is easy access to fire exits, and looks to see that the apartment isn’t a health hazard.

I’ve been here 8 years, so I’ve been through a few of these routine inspections.  They usually are over in 5-10 minutes.  This was no exception.  The results were strange, though.  After the inspection, the tenant upstairs and myself both got text messages from the landlord, that we were going to be evicted.

He then put eviction notices that he had typed up himself in our mailboxes.  I asked to speak with him.  He told me that the inspector said that unless he got rid of the tenants, he was going to condemn the building.  We had 30 days to vacate the premises.  What was that supposed to mean?  Is the building being condemned for something specific, or for just having tenants?  To me, that’s like saying, “This racetrack would smell much better if they got rid of the horses.”

Was there any real health or safety hazard, that we should know about?  The landlord didn’t know, or, at least, he wasn’t telling.  He said he just acted on the advice of the inspector, that he hadn’t seen any written report.

I smelled a rat.  Not literally, as that would be a health violation.  The rat I smelled was my landlord.  I didn’t trust my landlord.  So, I told him I was getting a lawyer and fighting it.

Since then, I decided to move out anyway.  I’ll still fight the eviction, but just to give me more time to pack and move whatever I decide to pack and move.  So that’s what I’m deciding now.  Where do I draw the line?  What stuff do I take with me?  What gets left behind?

The Legendary guitarist Chuck Berry was known to travel to a show with just his guitar and a toothbrush.  I have both of those items.  I could just do a Chuck Berry and walk away with just my electric guitar and a toothbrush.  But I can’t.  I’d have to take my e-saxophone, too.  At least I know how to play that instrument.

In the movie, The Jerk, with Steve Martin, there is a scene where he says that he is leaving and he’s not taking anything with him, “except for this ashtray,” and he begins to grab more and more of the contents of the room as he is sadly leaving.

Brother X hasn’t really weighed in on the issue, but I’m pretty sure that he’s rooting for the landlord to evict me.  I know that his biggest fear in life is that I will die before him, and that he will have to be the one to go through all my stuff, and I have a lot of stuff.  He says that he will rent a dumpster and put a chute in my window and just dump all my stuff down the chute without even looking at it, and I believe him.

That’s no way to treat a legend.

So, I better pack what I want to keep carefully, and choose wisely.

The key to the problem is first to know where you are going.

Back in the 1980’s, I used to teach a computer class at the Albert Merrill School in Manhattan.  I taught the first two weeks of school.  Basically, it was an orientation and a preview class for people thinking about taking a computer course.  If they decided to drop out in the first two weeks, their money would be completely refunded.  I had the highest retention rate, so I taught the first two weeks and reeled in all the fish, that the other teachers would teach.

I would go to soup kitchens and food pantries and pick up stuff to serve as refreshments.  On the first day of school, I would always write a quotation from the Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that read, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

What do I want to take with me to begin my next journey?  What’s my first step?

In addition to the musical instrument, I have a few computers, that I’d want to take wherever I go.  Throw in my DVD player/boom box, books, and some clothes.  I know I would have to get rid of a lot of my outdated clothes.  I have a few hundred t-shirts.  Can I get that number down to just my 20 favorite t-shirts?  Maybe.

What about Knick-Knacks?  I don’t think I need to pack the wooden duck decoys I take to the ballpark when the Stormers are playing the Long Island Ducks.  But there are memories attached to all the knick knacks I have.  Solution:  Capture the memories with a picture and kick them to the curb.

Well, not really kick.  More like gently nudge to the curb.  I’m thinking of putting a table in front of the building and having a free yard sale.  Maybe I can also have people sign a petition.  Maybe it could be a petition to Mayor Sorace for better treatment of 73-year old Navy veterans who are being evicted by heartless landlords.  I could put up signs.  Street theatre.  That could be fun.  Sign the petition get a free knick knack (or t-shirt).

I think I’ve got a handle on the Zen way to move.  Try to give everything away so you don’t have to move it.  Giving stuff away is so much better than just throwing it in a landfill.

Lao Tzu also said, “Beautiful new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

I should have put that quote on the blackboard at Albert Merrill on the last day of the 2week introduction course.

I’ve got all the motivation I need to whittle my pile of stuff down to a manageable level, but I am also reminded that the ancient recipe for Rabbit Stew advises, “First.  Catch a Rabbit.”

I need to “catch a rabbit.”  I need a place to move to.  Something inexpensive, with few stairs.  So far, I got one offer.  Crazy Debbie, my first girlfriend in Lancaster, and most likely the reason why I stopped dating completely, came by to make me an offer.  She has a two-family house with her Mother, but her mother was admitted to a nursing home over a year ago and will not be coming home.  I could have her Mom’s apartment, which is the top half of a house built on a hill, so that the 2nd floor apartment entrance is actually on street level.

I went to look at it today.  It was spacious with lots of closets.  Norman Bates would have loved the closets full of old lady clothes.  There were religious objects all over the place, including two huge angels, which must have been made to be lawn ornaments in the cemetery.  Perfect, for an atheist like me.

There were 3 bedrooms, but Debbie said that she’ll retain one of those rooms for storage of her mother’s belongings.  I hope that includes the two angels.  Even losing that room, there were still more bedrooms than I needed but a guest room would be nice for when I have out of town guests.  There was also a living room and an office.  The bathroom had a shower and a bathtub.  I could finally soak my hip in an Epson salt bath.

The house has a huge backyard where I could relocate the Butterfly Ballroom.

If I was making up a list of Pro’s and Con’s, there were a lot of positives.  On the negative side, it’s 10-miles out of town.  The bus to town only runs every two hours, and the landlady (Debbie) is certifiably insane.  So, there would be a lot to consider, if I was trying to narrow down my choices.  Truth is, though, there were only two choices, either move into Debbie’s place or go back to where my Lancaster adventure began, a monthly residency at the Knights Inn on Route 30.  So, I said yes to Debbie’s offer.

I don’t know if this is going to be the beautiful new beginning or the painful ending that Lao Tsu wrote about, but it’s certainly going to be an exciting adventure.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,