Sunday, October 11, 2020

Birmingham, AL: Stuff


My Birmingham living room ensemble. October 2020.
                                        Living room ensemble. October 2020.


Since 2010, I've lived as a tourist-in-residence in seven places:

  1. Caucasus Georgia
  2. Alamogordo, New Mexico
  3. Lafayette, Louisiana
  4. Opelousas, Louisiana
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. Ferguson, Missouri
  7. Tucson, Arizona

Until this year, it was my tradition to haunt the thrift stores for furniture in the first months of a new locale. The furniture typically included: 

  1. Floor lamp + desk lamp
  2. Living room chair
  3. Side table(s)
  4. File drawers

But this year, after a severe edit of stuff when I left Tucson, I had two new goals: 

  • Add as little furniture as possible to my Birmingham nest without feeling deprived in tangible comfort or intangible vibe
  • See how well I can incorporate my Chez Prius 'furnishings' into the apartment so that the stuff I do have serves me in both venues

Now, about two months in, I've had mixed results. 

The good: furniture

  • Cut considerable time and energy visiting thrift stores in the annual hunt for furniture that I'll only keep for a year, and then have to unload when I move on.
  • For every trip I've not taken to a thrift store, I eliminated exposure to COVID-19 risks.
  • My living room chair is a comfortable, collapsible, lightweight backpacking chair that I bought in Tucson, which performs double duty in my apartment and ChezP, and I won't have to unload it when I leave.
  • My bedside table is a sturdy, collapsible, lightweight, camping table that I bought in Tucson. Like the chair, it performs double duty and I won't have to re-home it when I move on. 
  • My bedside lamp is a cute, diminutive, battery-operated camp lantern, with three brightness settings, and for which I use rechargeable batteries. Again: double duty and no need to offload it when I leave Birmingham. It happens that my Birmingham apartment has ceiling lights in all of the rooms, so I haven't had to buy additional, freestanding lighting. But if I did, I'd already planned to buy another battery- or usb-powered light source. Another advantage of my camp lantern is that if I want more subtle lighting, I can easily place my lantern anywhere in my apartment. 
  • There's an Aldi's in Birmingham, and there I found robust cardboard boxes to serve as an ottoman and a shoe shelf. 


The good: other stuff

Before leaving Tucson, I reduced my place settings to two dinner plates, two salad plates, two small bowls, and two soup bowls. I pared my flatware to four dinner forks, two salad forks, four spoons, two soup spoons, and two dinner knives. I don't miss the additional items at all. 

I'd had two and a half sets of twin-size sheets since I lived in Alamogordo: four flats and two fitted. Before leaving Tucson, I released the fitted sheets. What a hassle-saver in folding after laundering and in making a freshly changed bed!

The disappointing: My bed

It's the least comfortable of all the beds I've had so far. I placed my ChezP foam pad atop a cot that I bought at a big box store in Birmingham, my first night in my apartment. I thought the inclusion of the foam pad would offset my past cot experience, and it has, to some extent, but not enough. Oh, how I miss this bed and this bed and the vintage, bed-spring cot + thin mattress that my aunt gave me! 

The air mattress I used in Opelousas and Ferguson as my guest bed, and in Tucson as my primary bed, was very comfortable. Because of its bulk and my ruthless editing of stuff before I left, I gave it to a friend before I left. I do not regret this decision, as I saved precious real estate in ChezP and, just as importantly, learned an important lesson with the cot-purchase mistake. 

I don't know yet if I'll try some more strategies to add comfort to my bed, or if I'll just spend the money on a new air mattress. 


 Overall: stuff evaluation

I feel good. 

Sometimes I smile when I look at my Spartan surroundings. For now, it suits me.


Friday, October 2, 2020

Flashback to 2010: Gezellig

In the beginning of the last decade, gezellig, was the word. It's now been superseded by hygge. But they mean pretty much the same thing.

When I was working on my CELTA in Playa del Carmen in Mexico, a Dutch colleague introduced to me to the mental, spiritual, emotional space called gezellig. Thank you, Chantal!

The original post here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Today was a tough day school-wise. Glad it's over. Glad it wasn't as disastrous as it felt at the time. So moving on from there ...

Chantal, one of my colleagues, introduced us to the Dutch word gezellig. It's pronounced like this, though I like Chantal's pronunciation better. 

There's no translation to English. As I understand it, gezellig perhaps captures a period of time, maybe a few moments or an hour or hours or a day or days, where you're in a house or maybe another place, and its ambiance is just right. And you're with friends or family, maybe some wine or coffee, and you just feel good together in that space and time.

Here is a group of people feeling the gezellig:

Makes me feel gezellig every time I look at it. I like the woman kicking up her heels.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Birmingham, AL: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: Laundry Economics of the South

Laundry tote and shelves. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

Caucasus Georgia has its Khachapuri Index. The Economist has its Big Mac Index.

I've got my Laundry Economics, I guess, considering I write about this regularly.

The Economics of Laundry (2013)

In Tucson (March 2019), embedded in another post, I noted: Now that I'm in my 'permanent' domicile in Tucson, I'm again factoring in the economics of laundry, as my apartment has laundry facilities on site, but one pays. And, indeed, nowadays one does pay via pre-pay laundry card instead of having to negotiate the cumbersome quarters I messed with in the past.

Here in Tucson, it's $1.75 for one wash load and $1.25 for one dryer cycle of about 20 minutes. I still avoid buying white and light-colored clothing so I can throw all of my stuff into one load. Three out of four weeks, I do only one load of laundry per week.

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 17: Laundry Economics Revisited (April 2020)

Now Birmingham, Alabama.

My apartment complex has no laundry facilities, so for the first time in many years, I've got to schlep my goods to a laundromat. Being as we are in COVID Times, this adds an extra dimension to a mundane chore.

Not to mention that the circulation of quarters has stumbled, creating shortages at stores and, yeah, laundromats.

The two laundromats I've visited in Birmingham still eat quarters and not cards, but fortunately, I've not run up against a supply issue at either location.

But here was an unanticipated surprise: There are no one-load machines! The smallest machines are for two loads. Four bucks!!!!

Whoa, mama. That required a new laundry economics rule for me.

Instead of a weekly laundry routine, I now do laundry every two weeks. Which is just as well, I guess, in the COVID Era, as I reduce my COVID exposure risk by half (in the context of laundry excursions).

 I find that the two laundromats I frequent are, overall, pretty good at protecting customers and staff from COVID exposure. There are inconsistencies from week to week with staff or customer mask wearing and with maintaining clean surfaces of counters, machines, and laundry carts. I'll quantify "pretty good" as 3.5 on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being exceptional.

Fortunately, by having a Prius (because of its quiet, mostly-battery-powered climate control), I can hang out in comfort (and non-exposure for me OR infection to others in case I'm afflicted without knowing it) in my car betwixt loads.

Thank goodness I have a plentiful supply of underwear, which supports my bi-weekly laundry regimen.

About my photo. The two-part, hanging shelves-and-laundry tote gives me so much pleasure to look at, despite its prosaic purpose and its institutional gray color. I pull the tote off the hooks when it's time to go the laundromat, then toss it into my car. Because there are only three shelves, I'm hopeful the shelving part will serve a double purpose for easily-accessible organization of camping stuff in my car when I use it as Chez Prius.

About the towel that hangs from the tote. This is an artifact from the Sonoran Desert. Made in Guatemala. Retrieved by one of my fellow water carriers to the desert on a sortie we took together, who graciously allowed me to have it. Maybe a relic from Central American refugees to the United States. I touch this towel every day. I think of a person who undertook a long, long journey for self-rescue. Perhaps alone, perhaps with friends or family, perhaps with people who began as strangers.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Birmingham, AL: Beelzebub in Birmingham

Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies. Source: Wikimedia.

It was the buzzing at first.



What was the source?

Dead flies on sill. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

Ah, a fly, hovering at my bedroom window, indoors, in the space between the glass and the blinds.

Annoying, but it's typical for flies to appear as the air grows colder, and flies enter uninvited, and are sluggish, making them more annoying than if they simply flitted about.

Dead flies on sill. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

A day or two later .... louder buzzing, a chorus, a capella, in my living room, somewhere above my desk or in a corner of the ceiling or in the kitchen. I look up and around and cannot find the source.

The next day.

Holy moly.

There is a family reunion of larger-than-normal flies inside and outside my kitchen and bedroom windows.

Was there a dead animal outside?

No. I looked and I sniffed. Neither sight nor smell of one.

This required a consultation with Monsieur Google. Cluster flies. No easy fix.

Dead flies on sill. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.


Fortunately, it appears the flies have a sort of coming-out schedule in the course of a day and evening, so I am not molested 24/7. This also allows me to concentrate my radical defensive maneuvers during these times, with the following sweep-up operations.

Until I find a more definitive solution, here is my artillery:

Personal fans repurposed as fly swatters. September 2020.

My thanks to a couple of health fair vendors from whom I received personal fans-cum-flyslayers.

But this unexpected fly invasion reminds me of my meltdown in Lalibela, the legendary city in Ethiopia, where the Devil sent one of his fly minions to plague me.

Ethiopia: Meltdown in Lalibela, Part 1 (with appearance by the Devil's fly)
Ethiopia: Meltdown in Lalibela, Part 2

Dead flies on sill. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

Does Alabama have an unusual relationship with flies?

This Alabaman author suggests that the fly is Alabama's unofficial state bird.

I am also reminded of Robert Heinlein's sci-fi classic, Tunnel in the Sky, in which the professor warns the survival-class students: Watch out for the stobor.

When you go to a new place, you know there will be stobor. You just don't know what it will look like .... until you meet it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Flashback to 2019: El Paso 2019: The Tumblewords Project: A Brief Love

This makes me smile. Original post here.

Monday, February 11, 2019

El Paso 2019: The Tumblewords Project: A Brief Love

James Drake, Falling Birds, El Paso Art Museum, Texas. November 2016.

Born in 1995, founded by Donna Snyder, the Tumblewords Project is a writing workshop that occurs every Saturday at the Memorial Park branch of the El Paso Library. Each week, a workshop leader suggests writing prompts to the participants; the prompts usually follow a theme the leader chooses for the session. Everyone is enthusiastically welcomed. If you're just passing through El Paso and happen to be in town on a Saturday afternoon, go! 

My related posts here.

One of my workshop efforts below. Writer and artist, Sandra Torrez, led the day's work, offering Edgar Allen Poe as our inspiration.

A Brief Love

I'll look at you
While you sleep.

I'll touch your sternum, press
Down with the pad of a finger

Like a push of life.

I'll find your pulse, rest
My finger there, and linger,
To absorb your beat.

I'll leave you then.
Push out into
The cold and
Not look back

Because I gotta go.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Word of the Year: Build 9: Health

Crowley Rice Festival, Louisiana. October 2014.
Crowley Rice Festival, Louisiana. October 2014.

In July, I said ....

If I visualize a long trail such as the Appalachian Trail, there are sections, each with different geographic and climate features. I can divvy up my through hike into sections, too:
  1. Money
  2. Health
  3. Relationships
  4. Service and activism
  5. Creative life
  6. Rootless goals I want to achieve

This month is about building health. 

Not just physical health, but emotional and cognitive health, also.

Healthy aging

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health aging as follows (with long version here): 

"... the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. 

Functional ability is about having the capabilities that enable all people to be and do what they have reason to value. This includes a person’s ability to:

  1.     meet their basic needs;
  2.     to learn, grow and make decisions;
  3.     to be mobile;
  4.     to build and maintain relationships; and
  5.     to contribute to society."


To be more concrete, in visualizing my 90 year-old self, I:

  1. Live in a universal-design environment and in a walkable community.
  2. Move myself around my living spaces, unassisted or with the help of a cane, walker, or wheelchair.
  3. Manage my finances responsibly.
  4. Engage in regular physical exercise that promotes muscular and skeletal strength, stamina, flexibility (range of motion), and balance.
  5. Adopt any tools that are accessible to me (e.g. financially) to optimize my sight, hearing, and dexterity.
  6. Carefully consider the risks and benefits of any meds that a doctor wants to prescribe to me, and decide if the RORI (return on the risk investment) is worth potential compromises in my quality of life physically, emotionally, or cognitively. 
  7. Contribute to and receive quality-of-life support from a solid support network of both family and friends. 
  8. Can say to myself when I go to bed: If I die tonight, I will have no regrets, as I have lived the best life I knew how to do. 
  9. Say yes more than I say no.
  10. Am fearless, as I know that, statistically, my demise is relatively imminent.

I've already done some good prep, for which I needed outside help.

  1. Quit smoking with Chantix about 10 years ago. In effect, this drug allowed me to go through nicotine withdrawal while I continued to smoke.
  2. Whittled myself down to a healthy body weight from morbid obesity some years ago (and am sustaining the weight loss) with the aid of the 12-step program, Overeaters Anonymous
  3. Did some growing up with the guidance of Overeaters Anonymous, Al-Anon, and intermittent counseling
  4. Learned (and continue to learn) to dance.
  5. Take risks that require me to stretch physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
  6. Take risks that might result in rejection. Ouch.

But just so's you know, I was like the vast majority of humans in that I didn't take the above life-changing actions until I was over 40.

I subscribe to the axiom that (most of us) don't change until our backs are against the wall and the wall is on fire. There was that for me, and also the prize offered by the 12-step path: To be happy, joyous, and free.

So I've traveled pretty far in my physical and emotional walk, but this path doesn't end til I end, and I've got more stuff to do health-wise if I don't want to leave my well-being entirely to chance as I age.

My biggest challenge: I do not have a discipline of daily physical exercise. Before COVID, I could cover this up with dancing. 

But, while it was good exercise, dancing did not replace a discipline of walking, stretching, and resistance/strength-building.

If I want to increase the likelihood of achieving the lovely vision of my 90 year-old self, I must build the discipline into my daily routine. It needs to be as regular as brushing my teeth.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Birmingham, AL: The 1000 Names of Birmingham

Birmingham view from Vulcan Park on Red Mountain, Birmingham, Alabama. August 2020.

The 1000 names of Birmingham:

I gleaned many of the nicknames above from the book, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, by Diane McWhorter.