It is a sign of my robust mental health that I have taken in stride the fact that , for the last four or five days, the comments I leave on wordpress blogs never actually show up on those blogs.
If you have a wordpress blog, and you want to know what I said, it’s probably in your spam filter. Fortunately, getting something out of your spam filter is not the same as taking something out of the trash. For that, you need an extra, extra long pair of tongs and a facemask. (Depending on whose trash we’re talking about anyway.)
Getting something out of your spam filter just involves some clicking. Unless you hate me and really did erase my comment. But I can’t believe you’d do that.
Yesterday, I bought three beds. I know. That’s a shitload of beds. Maybe I shouldn’t have had so much coffee and increased my dose of antidepressants. Still, talk about good deals. I bought them all on craigslist, which I think is not capitalized, because it is the invention of 30-something people who don’t capitalize anymore. They also end declarative sentences with question marks. A tentative bunch, don’t you think?
Well, I’m here to tell you that, under the influence of caffeine, antidepressants, and a tax refund, I bought three bed frames and two mattresses for $900. Total. Not tentatively at all. Now, that’s a lot of money, but I will tell you that if I’d been insane enough to buy those beds in the actual stores they come from, I’d have paid $4,000. Also, the people in this family have not slept on real beds and/or beds that fit them for YEARS. It’s time for some changes around here.
As it turns out, there’s a trick to this kind of shopping — and you can scale it down, if you don’t happen to be under the influence of the above-mentioned stimulants and/or all you need is, say, a bike you can ride around town with, a bike for which you have, say a $100 budget, and your eyes on a $500 bike.
I give you this information totally free, although I really should be selling it on the internet.
Get yourself on craigslist. You have to live in a big city to do this, by the way, although if you have friends in big cities, they could act as your agents, although how you’d get your new bed to your small town, I’m not sure. But it would definitely work with a bike. Your friends will, without a doubt, be coming to visit you in your small town, which we all know is mellower and more beautiful than a big city. And they will schlep your purchase to you. In fact, if you live in a charming small town I can reach in a car without a ton of trouble and you would like me as a visitor, I’m happy to be your craigslist agent. For a bike, or a bike-sized piece of furniture (aka ottoman, desk, and/or chair). Maybe not a bed.
Step one: Know what you want. The name, the retail price, or at least the style and type of thing. Know how much you’re willing to spend. Don’t deviate too much because you think you’re getting a great deal. It’s not a great deal if it’s something you don’t need.
Step two: Scope out the sellers. The best sellers are people who (a) have suddenly come into a lot of money (software startup people, recent biz school graduates with no family, college students, whose families have decided — wrongly, in fact — to give their kids a lot of cash to buy stuff to furnish their first apartments and people in jobs that require them to leave the bay area to go to some other metropolitan area to work in a soul sucking, but money producing job), (b) have to leave town fast (because they, just for example, sold their startup to google, are moving to Manhattan to further destroy the world’s economies, got kicked out of school and have to return home), (c) never liked the stuff they bought anyway.
You don’t necessary have to have all of these things, but it helps if you have two. I will also say that I don’t mean to sound cynical or snarky about craigslist sellers. The three people I bought my beds from where (a) a charming and generous Italian software startup guy who’s moving back to Italy; (b) a very patient, business-like, thirty-something guy with great taste who’s moving in with his girlfriend and doesn’t need his BEAUTIFUL bed, and (c) a very hip guy in the Castro who was incredibly sweet and is moving into a less noisy, but smaller apartment. One thing these people have in common is that they are all (a) guys and (b) on the move and (c) without a family.
Step 3. And then you find what you want, waiting until you do, and then you offer immediate cash and immediate removal of the item.
Step 4. Safety. I like to think of this as recycling, in which objects do not have to continue being made just because somebody’s moving to Manhattan. I also like meeting new people. Sure, occasionally I think I am going to be murdered, or someone tells me I am (bargains can be dangerous!) but really, it’s so much fun that I’ll take the risk. (Plus, I google the people first, and/or visit them in public in the daytime or with a bodyguard, aka, the husband.)
Now, here’s the real safety tip: I have one inviolable rule, one that has turned out to work beautifully in my craigslist adventures, which I have obviously lived to speak about. I only buy stuff from people who can write a decent e-mail. They must know how to punctuate and spell. They must write in complete sentences. For some reason, I just don’t think that somebody who knows how to write a good e-mail, one that doesn’t give off a whiff of “I’m nuts,” will kill me when I show up to buy their Room and Board bed. I could be wrong. I’ll have my heirs let you know if that happens.
Yes, I am aware that buying beds raises the dreaded bedbug issue. I’m going with unlikely on that one, but I’ll tell you if it happens. Although, would you want to know?
Finally, in news unrelated to beds, my agent sent me his notes on my book. Great ideas. He’s such a smart guy. And I’m working through them. They seem to require that I change the ending and give characters slightly different motivations and fears. It’s fun. It’s also terrifying. Plus, I gave a couple of characters new names. I enjoyed that — it’s sure not something you can do in real life. I just hope the people I know who happen to have those names don’t get mad at me.
First of all, I’m aware we’re supposed to be in the ashes-on-the-forehead part of the Lenten season, if you’re one of the people who participates in that particular religious season. But I don’t have any ash pictures to festoon this post, and also I believe in festooning, and ashes just don’t do that. Ever. But there is the bowl full of Christmas ribbons and the masks a kid brought home from a trip, so what better festoon-ish thing than THAT, I ask?
Second of all, I’d also like to say that I’m not very fond of the ashes-on-the-forehead anyway. Probably this is because my mother never took us to the Wednesday mass where they rubbed the ashes into your forehead. This wasn’t because Wednesdays were inconvenient either. After all, she took us to everything else, being a woman who totally touched all the bases as she hit the grand slam homer that is the Catholic mother who gets five children to church ever single Sunday of their childhood. Plus, a couple of us were confirmed, even though I’m pretty sure we weren’t really feeling it. My small act of confirmation rebellion was to give myself a boy’s name (I believe I chose Nathan), just so I could bug the bishop who was there to confirm us. My friend, Margaret Daheim was, I believe, Nicholas.
I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t like the ashes because they were a downer. Lent’s enough of a downer, what with all the fish and the giving up of chocolate. This Lent, I figure it’s enough to plunk the bowl of ribbons and the mask right in the middle of the living room, so we can all remember that life’s a silly enough affair, and we should never take anything too seriously, and never so seriously that we smudge burnt up things on our foreheads.
Which brings me to Montaigne (a book! yes! a book! It’s like I’m sneaking ground up carrots into your jello or something.) I recently read Sarah Bakewell’s really terrific biography of Montaigne (Michel, de). And one thing I wrote down, because I liked it so much (and I ended up liking HIM so much) was this thing he said, which is directly applicable to not taking oneself too seriously:
“If others examined themselves attentively, as I do, they would find themselves, as I do, full of inanity and nonsense. Get rid of it, I cannot without getting rid of myself. We are all steeped in it, one as much as another, but those who are aware of it are a little better off — though I don’t know.” -Montaigne
So: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Change your mind every once in a while (“though I don’t know”). And eat some chocolate.
Summer. I keep wanting to photograph it, but my camera disappeared into teen world, where it’s being used to document gravity-defying skateboard tricks. Surely, the looks told me when I asked for it back, a mere peach cannot compete with anti-gravity.
Maybe not. But they are everywhere, these peaches. And even though I know that one day in a month or so from now they’ll be gone, they feel permanent. That’s what the deep middle of summer feels like.
Happy Bastille Day. Bastille Day is not, actually, why I love France and the French. I love France and the French because of our friends P and M, who I met when I was in my twenties. I spent a lot of time in M’s kitchen, drinking un-English tea (it was fruit scented black tea, and I loved it almost as much as I loved her) out of an old silver teapot that had a bee on its lid. I adored that teapot, the way the lid lifted back on a hinge and the bee seemed to be looking around and approving the whole set up. I spent years trying to find one like it, and I never did. I did find the tea, however, on a trip to Paris. You can buy it in the supermarket, as it turns out.
It was a long time ago, but I can still remember how shocked I was to meet someone my age who owned objects with patina. By the time I was twenty-four, this is what I had left from my childhood: my high school yearbooks, a button from a pink robe my grandmother gave me one year for Christmas, the copy of Wuthering Heights the librarian at Hof Army Base in Bavaria gave me when I was in the fourth grade, and a small tin with a silver lid that was engraved with Rembrandt’s Night Watch, which I found on the window sill of the house we rented in Bavaria when my dad was stationed there.
M had, in addition to the aforementioned tea pot, what seemed like hundreds of family pictures, some in very nice frames. She also had marble obelisks on her coffee table along with big wooden balls, whose only function was to be large and interesting, as far as I could see. She had a little bar cart and nice glasses. She was not afraid to have a large purple couch, which was actually more than a little shabby. The pillows on it were made out of something that looked to me a lot like a rug. I imagine these possessions were the tip of the iceberg, given that most of what she owned was back in Paris. She also had a château and a title, both courtesy of her husband, which was news to me because I hadn’t been aware that titles even existed anymore, not after all the heads were chopped off. So, I loved her, because she was One Hundred Percent Not Me. And she was One Hundred Percent Her French Self.
I also loved the way she looked at things. In her dining room, she hung twenty four botanical prints she’d found in a book at a used book store ($1) and framed with frames from the Big Longs Drug Store, where you could buy anything. Those botanical prints looked as good as everything else in her house.
The funny thing is that they loved us too. In their eyes, we had nothing weighing us down. We were “mellow,” we did not worry, we were spontaneous, we weren’t in a hurry. They liked the way we dressed, particularly my husband in his uniform of levi 501s and t-shirts.
But mostly, we loved each other because we had so much in common. M and I were readers. Serious ones. She, of course, had twice as many books available to her for reading purposes than I did because she could read in both English and French. We were also talkers. We liked to discuss why the French see things the way they do and the Americans, well, the Americans don’t see them that way. We talked about taxes, and child rearing and medicine. We talked about our husbands, who were obviously not ever going to talk about us to each other, being so similar themselves. P and my husband were windsurfers, and skiiers and cyclists. Neither of them liked to delve into the emotional. They mostly just liked conquering water, snow, and roads, which they did together for a long time.
Now they live in Belgium, and we see each other sometimes, but not very often. I miss them. I miss seeing myself through their eyes, and I miss that teapot. Happy Bastille Day, P&M.