adventures in independence: a place for everything and everything in its place.

In all my worries about finding a place to live, packing, and then moving, I never worried about unpacking. That would be the fun part, you know? Finding where each little piece of me lived in this new home and putting it there. Making the place mine.

It's just that I'm not so certain every single thing I have has a place there. Some things were easy; their new home just screamed out at me. Other things were not quite as obvious, but once I wandered around the apartment with the homeless item in my hands for a while, I found their place. But then there are a few boxes of things that I'm just not sure what to do with.

My goal is to break down at least one cardboard box a day. Sometimes that means just emptying out two halves of different boxes and consolidating to make my quota. Sometimes I go above and beyond. But it's getting harder to meet my own unpacking goal. I've already put a few things into a shoe box of odds and ends that I just can't bear to part with, but also can't find a place for.

And where did all these t-shirts come from?

I'm having trouble placing my posters. Some of them, okay, most of them, don't seem to fit in. The Muppets, Charlie Brown, Sesame Street, they all don't seem to go here. This is an adult's apartment. Adults decorate with things that go in frames and don't appear on cereal boxes. I don't even have any frames. Am I an adult now? I hope not.

Of the things that do have a place, I still have problems. I'm also not used to the fact that I do have a whole space just for me. My hair dryer sat in my bedroom for a good few days before I realized that the bathroom was solely mine, and I could put my hair dryer in there if I wanted to. I didn't have to keep light bulbs in my nightstand, and my purse can be casually thrown on the table when I come in. This does pose a new problem, though, in that I now have about five million new places to hide my keys from myself.

I realized at some point that my idea of how a kitchen should be set up comes mostly from my mother's kitchen. (I suppose it would be more politically correct to say "my parents' kitchen," but who are we kidding here?) Silverware goes in this drawer, measuring cups go in this drawer, mixing bowls go under here, and naturally pitchers go up here. If I were more the rebellious type, I would purposefully change all these things to some new way that is my own and in no way my mother's. And maybe I am a bit the rebellious type, but I am more the logical type, and, darnit, my mother's way makes sense.

I really have nothing to complain about. It's all slowly coming together. Last night I was able to clear off my new-to-me couch sufficiently so that I could take a nap on it. (Of course, after about a half hour, I gave up and went and took a nap on my bed, which is much more comfortable.) I set up a very pleasing workstation, and I hung up my many clocks. I'm planning on hanging my posters that aren't grown-up enough for the living room in the extra bedroom once I get some thumbtacks. It's starting to look like home. A little bit like my mother's home, but home nonetheless.


The Harlot.

Easily my favorite "feature" of our old apartment was The Harlot. Not that our apartment came with its very own lady of the night that we could conveniently fold up and keep under the couch. The Harlot was a label, left there by some creative person who took advantage of circumstance.

In the kitchen, there is a series of pipes that provide plumbing service to both us and the apartment above us. We can hear them taking a shower, flushing the toilet, and doing whatever water-related activities they might do. The pipes rattle, they shake, but we got used to it.

One of the pipes ran diagonally right above the sink. Around one end of it was tied a little red bow out of a small piece of ribbon. It was the kind of little red bow you might expect to see on the end of a blonde braid, not on a length of pipe. Although, I'm not really sure what kind of ribbon you would expect to see on a length of pipe.

The ribbon was charming in a bizarre kind of way. But about a foot away from the bow was the real deal, The Harlot.

Apparently, these pipes were made in the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina. Or maybe the company that made them was based there. Or maybe the owner of the company just really liked that book about the spider. Whatever. In any case, the word "CHARLOTTE" was printed on the pipe. All of the pipes had been painted that lovely bland color of antique white that graced the walls and ceiling and anything else that wasn't quite boring enough in the apartment. And so you could read "CHARLOTTE", but only because the letters were raised.

Some time before we moved in, someone happened to notice the amusing possibilities of the word "CHARLOTTE". They took a quarter or a key or their fingernail, and they scratched the paint off along some of the middle letters, leaving the word "HARLOT" standing out in dark gray letters amid a sea of antique white.

Brilliance. Like graffiti for the inventive.

I like to imagine that it was a handyman, maybe the guy that painted the pipe. Like maybe this guy wants to be a writer, he's obviously meant for something more than house painting. This is how he breaks the monotony of his job. I wonder what other words he scratches into apartments.

A few months ago, the pipe above The Harlot started leaking, and our maintenance man came in and worked on them. He had to bring in some paint to get rid of the water stains that were left by the leaks, and he painted over The Harlot. It was a sad day.

This weekend, I said goodbye to my first apartment, that hidden hole. I took the little blue key off my chain and set it down on the counter. I took a final look around the kitchen and I saw "CHARLOTTE", and I hated her.

So I took one of my remaining keys, stood on the tips of my toes and carefully scratched out H-A-R-L-O-T. Because it's funny, it's goofy, and somehow it fits right in to that ridiculous place I lived for two years. The apartment would not be the same without The Harlot with her little red bow. I surveyed my work, which was not quite as tidily done as before, but still good, and then walked out the door for the last time.


adventures in independence: the dishwasher.

There has been a dishwasher in my parents' house for as long as I can remember. However, I don't think I ever knew what it was until my teens, on account of the fact that it was not in working condition for probably a decade or more. It was finally fixed not too long before I graduated high school and left home.

Moral of the story: I don't know how to use a dishwasher.

One of the perks of my new apartment is that it also has one of these marvels of sanitation technology. And, seeing as I am probably paying extra rent for the right to use my dishwasher, I decided I was going to use it. As soon as I learn how.

I asked Casey. He didn't seem interested in educating me, I suspect from his own lack of dishwasher knowledge. So I just decided to figure it out for myself. I'm in college, I'm of reasonable intelligence, right?

I spent a good five minutes in the detergent aisle of my local grocery store, weighing the merits of liquid versus powder. This was a difficult task, since I knew the merits of neither one. I went with powder; it was on sale.

I brought my lemon fresh with power action crystals detergent home and opened up the washer. Luckily, I was practiced in the art of loading the dishwasher, and quickly got to that. Once that was completed, I poured some detergent into the little compartment labeled "MAIN WASH". I decided to ignore the compartment with the "PRE-WASH" sign since I didn't really know what to make of it and it didn't even have a lid anyway.

Looking at the control panel, I began to think that I was making a bigger deal out of this situation than it was, and that I was not after all going to be able to write a long drawn out entry about my domestic incompetance after all. I pushed a couple of buttons that seemed appropriate, and turned the little knob. Silence for a couple of seconds, and then my dishwasher roared to life.

I felt like a real woman.

A couple of hours later, after the loud whirring noises had stopped, I dared to peek at the dishes that were once dirty, but should now be sparkling and lemon-scented. Funny, they still looked pretty dirty. They didn't look any cleaner at all. The experiment had failed.

I felt like a real little girl.

I was in dispair. I imagined myself slaving away over the sink, standing right next to the dishwasher. I imagined a picture much like all those years in my childhood where we washed our dishes by hand and used the dishwasher as only a microwave stand.

Determined, I tried it again, turning the knobs, letting it run a while and then cutting it off to look inside. I found very hot, very dirty dishes. I did the same process again, this time even listening to the side of the machine for sounds of I'm not sure what. Again very hot, very dirty dishes.

I would like the reader to note that I did not say "very hot, very wet, very dirty dishes".

So apparently, you have to hook the dishwasher up to the sink. Also, you have to turn the water on. They should put this kind of information in the leases of dishwasher-endowed apartments.

My dishes came out very hot, very wet, very clean, and I was redeemed. I was once again a real woman, and there was nothing I could not do.

Except get the diswasher attachment off of the faucet.