Old Neighborhoods and New

view from my rooftop

This is the last time I’ll keep boring you with news of my move. Moving is like jumping into cold water. You do get used to it.

A very good piece about the trials of moving is here. Writer Paul Cantor focuses on the things you acquire over time, how important they are to you, how you decide what to get rid of:

Ultimately, the hardest part about moving is sifting through those things, the things you acquire unconsciously, the things you don’t even know you have until you are confronted with the sad reality of maybe not having them, and trying to rationalize what stays, what goes, and what little pieces of yourself, pieces you may not so readily recall in the future, you’re willing to let go of.

I have a large green plastic box I brought with me from the states some twelve years ago. It contains many old family photos, some of my 19th century forebears, lots of pictures of my kids growing up, my high school yearbook, my college and graduate degrees, a grade-school report card, my first Social Security card. There is even some artwork my ad agency produced for clients.

What is the value of such stuff—not only to me but to my kids who will have to sort through it all when I pass? I’ve been stymied with this problem for years and couldn’t face the huge number of decisions it would take to come to terms with all this junk from the past. So I moved with the whole box, and the decisions are still on hold.

What I had to adapt to right away was a new neighborhood, almost like a new culture in this city of Oaxaca. The old town, or Centro as it’s called, is the heart of the colonial city with its many shops, markets, and tourist hangouts. I’m on the edge of that in a little alleyway called Flavio Perez Gasga. It’s an unusually quiet part of town.

My old hood was in Colonia Reforma, just north of here and a more “modern” area where formerly the wealthy had moved to escape the clamor and indigence of the city. Reforma’s atmosphere is more like Mexico City’s, and even the food there is somewhat different. Here in Centro the cuisine is more traditional Oaxacan. There are more door-to-door services, different markets, different kinds of restaurants, a different spirit.

It’s only a mile away from where I used to live but, I’m tempted to say, a world away in ambience and character. I think I’ll like it—and God knows I’m too old to consider moving again.

Thoughts on Moving

Mercado Sanchez Pascuas

I moved to a new house a little over a week ago. Which prompted me to review all the many times I’ve moved since, for instance, leaving graduate school and getting married. It turns out that I’ve changed domiciles some 16 times in those 61 years. Reasons for this instability range from job change to partner change, from responsibility to choice.

For movers I’ve used everything from U-Haul to FedEx. My latest move, about a mile across town, went very smoothly and made me grateful for all the good help I had. But it also brought on a lot of anxiety, fatigue, and irritation. Clearly, my age is showing.

Moving, as we know, brings out the best and worst in people. Stress-wise I would compare it to:

    • taking on a lot of questionable debt
    • a poker game—being sometimes in control, often not
    • the trials of a migrant trying to cross into a new country
    • being grateful for a former tenant who left behind a lot of booze and a big bottle of Tums.

I had great friends offering to help box the 3,000-plus vinyl LPs and CDs I’ve collected over the years. Finally, my new roommate and I did it ourselves, and she provided sort of an organizational roadmap for the move and the services (internet, utilities, etc.) and people we had to contract with.

We had to paint and make a few repairs to the new place. Our new landlady was accommodating and paid for much of this. The local moving crew was friendly and competent. The physical packing and moving was completed in a very few days.

So why did I experience so much fatigue and anxiety? Moving gives you no excuse for harboring old papers, files, and stuff you will never want or need again. Housecleaning means cutting loose from the past, which can be liberating or disturbing. I felt it both ways.

And then there’s the pressure of trying to find new places for all the stuff you brought with you—the clothes, cookware, houseware, underwear, hardware that need to find a new home. This takes time and involves making lots of petty but necessary decisions.

Being here just over a week I find the experience still a little unsettling. And yet I’m right next door to a large farmers market, and other small shops selling everything abound in the neighborhood. People have been friendly and helpful. What’s not to like? Moving at its best seems always to cut both ways.