All That You Can’t Leave Behind

We moved to Cleveland at the beginning of June. Actually, that’s an exaggeration: Grace and almost all the furniture have moved to Cleveland, and I came back to New York for the last few weeks to see through the sale of our apartment before packing what remains into a rental car and joining my wife.

Of all the long-distance moving companies we looked at, Moishe’s was the least expensive. The rule of thumb is probably not to go for the least expensive company, but we used Moishe’s before to move Grace into the apartment last year, and they were fine. The movers came early on the last Friday in May, and completed their pick-up after six hours (we had a late night packing the day before, basically getting all of the books off the bookcases and the stuff in the closets stowed away). The only hitch this time around appears to be endemic to long-distance relocation: the moving company is going to put your stuff into a big 18-wheeler along with other people’s stuff, and can’t really give you a drop-off date until that truck’s itinerary is planned out. It’s a curse of scheduling and logistics. We were going to drive out to Cleveland anyway on Tuesday, but didn’t find out that the drop-off was scheduled for Thursday until the afternoon before we left. It wasn’t the worst thing: we had a full day in Cleveland to look around and make Wal-Mart runs to get whatever we needed. (The only scheduling conflict was with the Adelphia cable guy, who was going to need a TV to set up the cable box. Since we weren’t sure if the movers would get in before the cable guy (and if we could find the TV), we used one of those Wal-Mart runs to pick up a cheap little TV, with the assumption that we could return it for store credit afterwards. This turned out to be a good move: the cable guy got their shortly before the movers did.)

The drive was uneventful. I-80 across Pennsylvania is fundamentally uneventful. Suffice it to say that we left New York at around 8:30AM and got to Cleveland by around 6:30PM, with lunch and snack stops along the way. The main thing to note is that gas is cheaper in PA than in NJ, and that it’s cheaper in OH than PA. Plan to top off the tank appropriately. The Civic had great mileage: one tank filled up in NJ just before the Deleware Water Gap took us deep into Ohio; we could have gotten to Cleveland without refueling, though arguably running on fumes by then.

At the big rest stop in Ohio, we got a phone call from our real estate agent, who had good news: prospective buyers had accepted our counteroffer, and we basically had a handshake agreement for the apartment sale. I was worried about driving out to Cleveland without a contract in hand, but we arrived in Cleveland with the next best thing. All that I had left to do in New York was basically wait for the closing, which is expected in mid- to late-August; the contract was signed in the last week of June, after some minor haggling amongst the lawyers. The final price was a little less than I would have hoped for, but I think I was being greedy, with dollar signs dancing before my eyes, at the beginning of the process. Even with the lower price, the new apartment had something like a 30% appreciation over a span of less than a year.

By now, I’ve spent a total of two weeks in Cleveland, scattered among the intial visit for Grace’s Clinic interview, the apartment hunting after Match, this move and a visit at the beginning of July. It feels that a good fraction of that time was spent at Home Depot or Wal-Mart, stocking up on the little things that we didn’t bring or were lost in the mountain of boxes that our lives were packetized into. We picked up a box cutter, since we had a chicken-in-egg problem of having packed our old box cutters into one of the boxes without thinking about it (opening up the stiff plastic package for the box cutter was another chicken-in-egg problem, which was solved by borrowing scissors from the management company’s office). We picked up cleaning supplies. We picked up the aforementioned TV. We picked up groceries at the local Tops and at West Side Markets. We made a lot of runs to Severance Town Center, because we’d kept realizing we needed just one more thing. Severance may not be the closest shopping center, but it had Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Tops in close proximity, and it’s easy to get to from the Clinic.

The movers did arrive that Thursday, though a little late because of weather and traffic. Unfortunately, they only sent two people, but the building’s maintenance people helped out, and we got all the boxes out in about three hours. When Moishe’s picked up in New York, they put a serially numbered sticker on every piece that went out the door and put down a quick description of the item on their packing sheet. Our labels were light blue, which distinguished our pieces from those of the other destinations in the truck. Moishe’s drop-off movers were obliged to stay until all the boxes were accounted for on the packing slip. This delayed them for close to an hour, because the pick-up movers had put some (labelled) boxes inside other larger boxes. These weren’t major mishaps, and they kept to their estimate. The total cost, including tips for the movers and building maintenance guys was under $4,000, which was less than the next lowest estimate that we collected and a bit over half of the most expensive. We basically moved the equivalent of a small house 500 miles, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.

As far as we could tell, only two things broke: a French press coffee maker that was put too close to the side of the box without padding ($10 at Wal-Mart or Target), and the seven-year-old-but-nice computer monitor that I had (admittedly, I didn’t do much more than a cursory test to see if it was broken, since the words “time for a new LCD monitor!” popped glowing into my head when the old CRT didn’t turn on). The next few days were spent moving the heavy stuff around and opening up boxes. Grace had a week between the move and the start of orientation at the Clinic, so she had time to arrange her books on the bookshelves and familiarize herself with the neighborhood. We did buy the first piece of new furniture: a stereo rack, since I wanted to rearrange all the components, given the new space. We’ll need some more furniture in the future: there’s a twenty-foot gap between the dining table and the couch near the TV, and a gas fireplace begging to have something put in front of it in the middle of that gap.

I flew back to New York that Sunday night last month with just a laptop, a pillow and a deflated air mattress for my luggage. We left about half my clothes in New York and some minor cooking utensils to tide me over for the next two months until closing, when I would no longer be a resident of the city. The remaining time will be spent making sure the apartment sale goes through (still some Department of Buildings paperwork to finalize before closing) and winding down my full-time job at Random Walk (and paying the maintenance and mortgage, just in case the sale doesn’t happen). I think I’ll spend a good part of August as a tourist in the city, riding one of those double-decker tour buses and snapping photos of the sights.

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