|No longer living in the suburbs, our
regular essayist Bruce Bentzman offers the second piece in his new
From the Night Factory
2. A New Beginning
The new bookcases arrived. Three bookcases six feet high provide an extra thirty-five feet of shelving. We have lived in this new apartment for more than two months with a clutter of book-filled cartons. These had been emptied and the shelves overstuffed, but still 150 books were arranged across the floor of my study a few days ago. That did not include the magazines and journals.
I have favored the hardbound volumes with places on the shelves. Only paperbacks were left on the floor. A triage had put the important paperbacks alongside their harder brethren. Of the remainder, those I still wanted were fitted into a single carton, like a 3D jigsaw puzzle, and shoved into the closet. As to the rest, they still wait on the floor until I can find them good homes. There is the local library which has book sales to raise money. I can also trade them for credit at the Classics bookstore in Trenton, hopefully coming away with fewer books than will be delivered. Other books will go to friends.
There are also the magazines and journals that I have receive in lieu of money for my poetry. I had forgotten all those times I managed to have my poetry published. I do not write that stuff anymore. But what to do with all these rags, plenty of them duplicates? Why should I allow them to take up storage space? Do I expect to read them again? In duplicate? Now that I am an apartment dweller, I must reconsider my too many possessions. I do not have the storage space to keep them. Isn't it just vanity to even attempt to pack them somewhere?
We are settled into our new apartment. Ms Keogh, my more significant other, says she needs a night table for her side of the bed and a coffee table for the living room, but she has not found the right ones. Currently her old flat file cabinet filled with artwork serves as our coffee table. For that matter, we still have not hung our art collection, the framed paintings and prints that are tucked leaning against the walls in corners not visible because the furniture hides them. Then there is my new reading chair, a leather wingback that will not be finished and delivered until maybe late April.
All these overflowing shelves of books I have been waiting to read, waiting for retirement, which is now here. Retirement also is a chance to travel. I have not taken a vacation of more than a few days, at most a week, in the twenty-eight years since I spent three spring weeks in Japan back in 1983. Since then I have used the vacation days that AT&T issued me to extend my weekends, making the job more bearable. So wonderful is retirement, every day a vacation. “There is nothing to stop us from driving across country,” I remarked haphazardly to Ms Keogh. Before I could inhale she leaped on the suggestion and said let’s do it now. I could not think of an excuse not to.
“See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet,” Dinah Shore sang on her television show during my impressionable childhood. Fifty-five years later I am determined to set out and do just that, although not in a Chevrolet. We intend to get into our 2006 Honda Accord EX-L sedan, with its 136,000 miles, and drive it across country. It has been a good car, utterly reliable and trusted.
Guidelines have been loosely set down for our upcoming adventure. We are planning no schedule and only the most general route. Our destination is ultimately my sister's apartment in Oakland, California, but even that is not guaranteed. We expect to take a southern route there and a northern route back, the north of the continent having hopefully thawed by then. The only restriction is to not be gone for more than a month. This limit has been placed upon us by the United States Post Office, which will only hold mail thirty days.
Books to read and places to visit, will I not be a wiser person for the experience? We leave soon. I must decide which books to bring along. Not that I plan to forego observations of new landscapes and meeting distant friends by burying my face in books. Maybe I should take some of those nagging books I no longer wish to read, and also those old magazines and journals that hide my poetry, and I can then disperse them en route.
Bentzman will continue to report here regularly about the events and
concerns of his life. If you've any comments or suggestions, he
would be pleased to hear from you.