Thursday, March 17, 2011

why beer makes packing better & moving worse

Days Remaining to Next Beer: 363

I’ve never fancied myself a big fan of relocation. I never particularly enjoyed the musty, dusty smell of corrugated cardboard or the pungent scent of packaging tape.

I’ve never thought I desperately needed a fulfilling day of wrapping glassware up into page after page of free press newsprint, cheap ink turning my palms black like an alter boy’s on ash Wednesday, and stuffing the bundles into freshly folded and taped up boxes.

I’ve never thrilled to the hunt for free boxes from neighborhood grocery stores, Korean markets, government liquor stores, from behind Kinko’s or Costco or Shoppers Drug Mart.

I’ve never wanted to borrow boxes from acquaintances or strangers, especially after learning how bed bugs migrate. I’m even reluctant to use loaner boxes from family or friends, you just can’t trust anybody these days.

Stacking, though. I like stacking.

Maybe somewhere in my primal being stacking packed boxes appeases my much neglected animalistic need for exercise, to work out. Stacking lighter ones ideally on top though there is challenge to see how high you can go before the bottom, Yertle box collapses under the stack.

Perhaps Stacking satisfies the same sensibilities that drew me into architecture school and level design. Perhaps I should make more mazes with my packed goods, add more festivity to the occasions of moving.

Maybe stacking boxes is simply giving me a job that’s compellable for being so inherently finite, something local and quantifiable despite however daunting. Might seem like rolling boulders up mountains at times, but the challenges are something clear and present, take this stack of boxes and move it over there. When all of the boxes are over there, this task is done and the next task starts, whatever that is.

Recently Doublefine published a game called Stacking on Microsoft Xbox 360’s Live Arcade. The game is laden with small tasks, some more apparent that others, that all stack (see what I did there) together to make an overall experience. Sure, all games are like that to some degree, this game just stands out a little more to me for having a structure that echoes the name and also the core mechanic of the game play. Maybe that’s why a like stacking and moving packed boxes during moves, or even when putting things in storage, it’s all the little tasks that offer a sense of satisfaction when they’re completed that combined create a holistic sense of satisfaction very much like completing a game overall, story and ancillary aspects alike.

What beer lacks for coordination it makes up for boosting willpower. While relocating oodles of heavy boxes is a sober man’s work, packing those boxes, especially the potentially agonizing process of sifting through all your worldly possessions giving verdict on keep or cast away, can become far more engaging and enjoyable when intertwined with the exploration of a few tasty brews, particularly well crafted ones that can serve as rewards for the effort and equally enticements towards more efforts still.

Case in point, to prepare our house for the open and artificially inflated Vancouver market, my wife and I have been going through all our belongings and packing up what is worth keeping to move out to the garage for storage. A part of this process also meant going through all the boxes and plastic containers down in the crawlspace.

Our house is a strip-to-studs renovation that the builder had intended to add a suite beneath so prospective owners could rent out the suite as a mortgage helper, and so the builder could tack on another 50k to the price tag when he went to sell. Fair enough, and he’d gotten as far as adding the 4th finished bathroom & shower in the basement when the City of Vancouver said nope, sorry, too much occupancy for the property. Deciding not to risk getting burned for installing an illegal suite, the builder filled up half the basement to 4 feet with sand, covered it with a concrete apron, and partitioned the filled half behind a wall with a small Being John Malkovich door four feet up it. The crawlspace, which runs the width of the house beneath the kitchen, is huge, and rows of boxes and containers and comic book boxes fill it like a miniature version of the warehouse where the government lost the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

So after a quick trip to our favorite beer and wine shop, Brewery Creek up on Main Street, I disappeared into the intimidating crawlspace with two 650ml bottles of Driftwood Brewery’s finest craftsman beer, one of Farmhand and one of White Oak. And a 120 gigabyte iPod with a fresh new playlist comprised of swing like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy & Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Speaking of them, I used to eat breakfast at Brails in Eugene, and would celebrity spot the singer from Cherry Poppin’ Daddies reading the paper and having a hotcake up at the counter. Also in the playlist were rowdy thumpers like Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and Bob Log. You can fit a lot of rowdy music onto a 120 gig iPod, sort of like the epic crawlspace of mp3 back pocket storage.

As I exhumed toys and clothes and books from one set of boxes and bins, I’d sort the keepers from the needs a new home stuff. And then have a sip of fine Driftwood beer. After I packed the keeper content safe and snug, singing along to “Clap Your Hands” or whatever as I worked, I’d have another sip. Also should mention I had a bottle of water. Crawlspace isn’t exactly hot as hell, but you can sense something’s cooking nearby.

Several hours later I emerged from the crawlspace victorious, with keeper boxes repacked, everything to go readied for donation, or for travel to our street’s Free-cycle table. We live on a bike lane and our neighbors thoughtfully started this tradition on our street when they put out a table with a paper sign on it that read simply, “Leave what you don’t need, take what you like. Except this table, please.” I’ve left a lot of things on that table, or when it’s too full, on the street corner. It’s neat to see what disappears first, or fastest, or doesn’t disappear at all. An post for another day.

And that is why I have formed the hypothesis that beer can be a helpful tool for moving. Like any tool, just has to be applied at the right parts of the process. Can’t change a tire with a giraffe, right?


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