Way back in March, I announced to friends and colleagues that I would be leaving my excellent job in the rarefied air of the Hewlett Foundation. Our daughter (and only child) would be heading off to college in the fall and the prospect of the empty nest was too much to bear so we conspired to find a way to burn the nest and feast on the ashes. My wife and I made a plan to sell our house and embark on a walkabout that would take us somewhere into spring or summer of 2015.
Hoo boy does it take a lot of work to do nothing.
Since that day in March, we have accomplished the following:
We sold our house. Selling a house is Palo Alto wasn’t too tough, but selling any house anywhere is a great big pain in the patookey. This time was no exception. It was a great house, but it was time to move on. I was dismayed, however, to learn that the buyers tore out the fabulous slate flooring we put in and replaced it with very run of the mill hardwood floors. Then they tore out the fabulous slate mantle and put in red brick. Red brick! I’m sure shag carpeting is next.
We bought an apartment in San Francisco. I did not originally think that I wanted to buy something just yet. I was kind of excited by the prospect of being that free, but we soon realized that nobody would lend us a red cent once we returned, given that I would not be employed as such, so getting back into the market was going to be tricky. Besides, Janine wanted a place to come home to, and I guess I don’t blame her. So we took the plunge and managed to navigate the hideous real estate market in San Francisco. If it’s easy to sell a house in Palo Alto these days, buying one in San Francisco is not for the faint of heart, or liver. On our fourth try, we managed to find something – a flat in a 1904 Edwardian building in the hipster-filled Mission District. I now have a stick-on soul patch which I apply before I leave the apartment each day to keep from being discriminated against when I go for a hand-poured coffee whose beans were washed thrice with nun’s tears and ground by hand with a mortar and pestle by a boy with ear gauges the size of hubcaps and tattoos on his eyelids. Best coffee ever.
We sold two of our three cars. Yes, I know, having three cars is bad, but we had three drivers in the house and we lived in the suburbs, so we had three cars. I have always had a certain fondness for our planet, but by dint of my suburban existence I have found myself doing bad things to it. I suppose all the air travel I’m about to do isn’t helping either. But I feel a least a little happy that we sold two of our three cars.
We leased our third car to Janine’s former employer. Can you believe it? Someone is going to drive our car while we’re gone and they’re going to give us money for it. Who knew?
We moved into our apartment in San Francisco. This produced a certain amount of existential confusion. We occupied our flat in hipster heaven on June 30 and lived there exactly forty six days before leaving again. During that time we nested as well as we could, hanging pictures and buying condiments (we both have a condiment problem) and finding clever ways to arrange our stuff before emptying the closets once again and moving it all down to the basement to prepare the place for our new tenants.
Yep, we found a nice, quiet, responsible couple to rent our place. Through sheer luck, a very eminent colleague and his wife will live in our place while we’re gone. Back in March I mentioned my plans to him, and as it turns out he’ll be working in San Francisco during just the time we’ll be traveling. What a coup! And our tenant, who I won’t embarrass by his association with me, is truly a pillar of rectitude in a world gone mad. We couldn’t do better if Mother Teresa was moving in.
We found someone to watch our cat, Tish. This is hard. Nobody wants to watch your cat. If you’re a cat person you already have a cat but you don’t want another one. If you’re not a cat person you really don’t want a cat, and especially not our cat, who doesn’t snuggle and doesn’t really purr. Basically, it’s like having a box turtle that sheds and scratches your furniture. I yearn for her affection and am always rejected. Like a pathetic lovelorn, I will miss her anyway. Oh, Tish, why don’t you love me??
We found someone to watch our two dogs. My sister in law and her husband bravely signed up for this task. We have a little twelve year old terrier named Trixy (yes, that’s the spelling) who looks like something Dr. Seuss would have drawn after knocking back his fifth scotch. She’s got the head of a Chihuahua, the body of a Dachshund, and the coloring of a Dalmatian. People point and laugh. First at her, then at me. Then there’s Chloe, our semi-standard poodle who is the exception to the rule that poodles are smart. She will run straight into oncoming traffic if you let her. She’s loveable though, and pretty cute, so there’s that. My sister in law’s family is considering someday getting a dog. Let’s see what they think in May. In any event, I am eternally grateful to them for their sacrifice. I wish all the parties well.
We’ve done more than just this, but those are the highlights. We have just arrived in New York, which is the first leg in our journey. All the pre-departure planning, arranging, groveling, explaining, quitting, buying, and selling are done.
As you can see, it’s possible. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Almost six months after making our big announcement, we are airborne.
Next: Q: How many pairs of underpants to do you pack for a nine month trip? A: Three