Like Home Again
Almost there. And vodka tonics make lifting easier.
At some point during the course of the day, John Atkinson comes into my office to remind me that women only want one thing: “Women only want one thing,” he says. “You know what that is?”
I wait for it.
“They want to move your furniture.”
All this time I thought he was joking around, but it appears he’s been telling the hard truth. Check this out: I had mentioned my problem to Eloise. Eloise is a student at the New York School of Interior Design. She’s also a music lover. She’s also incredibly cool.
“Eloise,” I said, “I’m having trouble with my apartment, and I wonder if you can help. Everything was fine until I bought a couple of bookcases from Ikea. I thought they would make room for all of my new vinyl LPs, and they did, but they’ve also created complete havoc. I’ve attached pictures to show how my apartment was and how it is now. Got any ideas? Should I swap the LPs and the books? Should I move the equipment rack back into the living room and put one of the bookcases in the bedroom?”
Eloise wrote back immediately: “You’ve come to the right person. There are few activities I love more than rearranging furniture. I am inviting myself over!”
You see? JA was right!
We made plans to meet on Sunday. I had almost convinced myself that one of the Ikea bookcases would move into my bedroom. It would fit in place of my old small bookcase, which would in turn go to the Salvation Army. The equipment rack would be placed in its original position in the living room. Eloise had other ideas, however.
“Why don’t we stack the Ikea bookcases horizontally?”
“Stack them horizontally?”
“You mean like this?” Unconvinced, I made an awkward gesture.
“I don’t know. Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I think it’ll work.”
“Alright. Let’s try it.”
Girls, I tell you. They have a way of making me do things. Things I wouldn’t normally do.
Stacking the two bookcases horizontally involved a few preliminary steps: First, we carefully removed all of the books from the front-wall bookcase. Then, we carefully disconnected all of the cables from the system and set the components, which had been placed atop the right-wall bookcase, on top of my orange couch. We moved the speakers to a safe corner of the room. All of this stuff, though fairly simple and mundane, was enough to discourage me from making the attempt on my own. You see, I can be stubborn and lazy and close-minded. If Eloise hadn’t been there, I would have never even begun to move the books, let alone disconnect the system. I may have considered it, but I wouldn’t have actually done anything about it.
Once we had made all the preparations, we lifted the front-wall bookcase and slowly positioned it atop the right-wall bookcase. This was a snap. We set it down slowly. Eloise is stronger than she looks!
And, you know what? Stacking the two bookcases horizontally neither overwhelmed the room nor did the stacked array succumb to the dip in my floor. The bookcases sat flush and looked great. Contrary to my fears, everything was fine. Perfect, even. Eloise looked at me and smiled.
“Huh,” I said, “I think it looks good.”
“It does!” she agreed.
I looked down at the several piles of books we had left on the floor.
“Do you think the books will be better in the top bookcase or in the bottom bookcase?”
“Probably the bottom,” Eloise said. “That way, you can reach your records easily, and the books won’t be so much of a visual distraction.”
I knew this to be true, but I was hoping she’d say the top. The bottom bookcase was already occupied by LPs. I thought about it.
“I don’t know. I think either way will look distracting.”
“You mean that the books won’t look good with the LPs?”
“You’re probably right,” she said.
I looked at my Gothic Cabinet LP rack, stuffed with LPs.
“You think we should move all of those records into the top bookcase?”
“That’s what I’m thinking,” I admitted.
I got down on the floor near the Gothic Cabinet shelf and began handing LPs to Eloise. She placed the LPs in the top Ikea bookcase. Little by little, our project took on the appearance of something special and real. When the top bookcase was completely filled with LPs, we took a step back and looked at our work. It looked very good.
“It looks great!”
But now the Gothic Cabinet shelf was empty, and the books were still on the floor.
“Should we put the books in there now? I don’t know…”
“Well,” Eloise said, “you’ve got that other bookcase in the bedroom. We can empty it out, and move it into the living room. We’ll put the books in it. Then we can put this LP shelf in your bedroom and fill it with the remaining booksjust for now,” she assured me. “Then,” she continued, “we can reassemble the equipment rack and hook up the system.”
And that’s what we did. But first we had a couple of drinks.
Once the system was hooked up and the apartment was straightened out a bit, we sat down and listened to a couple of tracks from The Flaming Lips’ Clouds Taste Metallic. I told Eloise how much I enjoy this album and pointed out how certain sounds appear from the right and left channels, while others are planted firmly between the speakers. She seemed to enjoy it. The system was sounding good, but not great. Like an especially agile audiophile, I got up and toed-in the right speaker just a bit. I sat down for less than a second and got back up and toed-in the left speaker just a bit. I sat down for less than a second and got back up and toed-in the left speaker a little bit more. I sat down for less than a second and got back up and moved the right speaker back an inch.
Then everything was great. Better than ever, in fact. The system, the room, and everything looked and sounded like home.
I’ve been playing a lot of guitar lately. I get into these grooves where I come up with bunches of catchy little riffs. They almost come accidentally. My fingers trip over melodies and my brain catches up later, taking a series of inconsequential notes and turning them into the foundations for song. But playing alone can only go so far. I need my friends to build upon those foundations and help me create something more beautiful, something special and real. My friends help me look at things in different ways, give me the courage to take chances and try new things. At my coldest, most desperate times, I can almost convince myself that I’m better off living a life of solitude, separated from commitments and obligations and others. But, time and time again, I’m reminded that the best and happiest moments in life are achieved through collaborations, partnerships, friendships. Like with songwriting, I can only take a riff so far before reaching a dead end; and, while riffs can be wonderful, I need my friends to help me write a song.
So it was with this reorganization project. I had many friends offering their help and advice and encouragement, and, while this project was truly "a little thing," it was only with friends that I was able to get my apartment feeling like home again. I made a joke earlier about girls’ ability to break my stubborn ways. It’s true: I’m a sucker for women. But the fact is that colleagues, friends, family, and loved ones make for happiness, comfort, and growth. Unless we want to get stuck in our own little ruts, relationships of all kinds are essential.
The obvious next step here is to invite my friends over for a listening party.