Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ninety-five percent half naked

I have worn a St. Christopher medal most every day since I was fourteen. This is not something most people know about me. That's well into five figures of days, placing the chain around my neck when I dress in the morning, laying it down carefully before I climb into bed at night. I have long since grown accustomed to the feel of it, and in most cases I could not tell you without checking whether I was wearing it or not.

The current medal is actually my third, each a gift from a (different) woman who meant a great deal to me. The first barely outlasted the relationship that started it all, lost after only a couple of years. The second survived much longer, through my days on the road and other youthful misadventures. Unfortunately, the ex never really liked the fact that it was a gift from someone else, and it disappeared during the turmoil of our divorce.

The second medal was similar to this one. I always liked the Be my guide
inscription over than the more common Protect us. It seems less needy, somehow.

She needn't have been concerned. While the medals were important symbolic gifts, they were never strong reminders of the givers. They were my secret indulgence in superstition,  egotism,  ... different things at different times. But this little piece of jewelry (I really think of them as one object) has always felt like mine -- perhaps more than anything else I own -- and I associate it with my personal journey much more strongly than its own origins. I have worn the current version for over twenty years now.

It never mattered to me that St. Christopher was removed from the official roster of saints when I was a child. Actually, since I am not Catholic, it was a bit of a bonus. What was important was that we shared a name, and that he was the patron saint of travelers. As a fledging disciple of an eclectic mix of Eastern philosophies, I initially found the symbolism quite compelling. I no longer read the Tao regularly or consult the I Ching, but I still see life more as journey than destination, so the feeling of kinship with St. Kitt remains strong.

Yesterday morning I reached for the silver chain in its pewter tray, exactly as I have done thousands of times before, and came up empty. The medal and its chain have vanished, and a light search of probable locations has come up empty. I can't definitively remember the last time I noticed having it. You may as well ask when I last remember having my left pinky. All I know for sure is that I don't have it now, and I am beginning to feel its absence.

There may be feline involvement. I felt confident that the cats would not be interested in it, but I began to rethink my position when I saw one carrying a pill organizer down the hall this morning. If so, then it may turn up again, though both cats love to watch things disappear, and there are some suitable crevices and drain holes in our house.

While often proud of his possessions, Boy Cat was trying to sneak away with this undetected. Don't worry.
He doesn't have a drug problem. We use these to portion out fish food for vacation pet minders. The cats love fish food.

More likely the clasp gave way and it slipped from my neck in some random location on campus or in the yard. It has happened before, and while up until now I have always felt it fall, I assumed the day would come when I would not be so lucky. If this is the case, and I have seen the last of this iteration, I hope it has fallen where someone will find it. Like the two before this one, I like to think of St. Christopher helping someone else navigate life's strong currents.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Joys of Moving

As a footloose young man, I never met a move I didn't like. I graduated from high school living in the house where I was born,* and relocation possessed for me the romantic appeal that only comes from inexperience. Between my eighteenth and twenty-first birthdays I lived at eight different addresses in five cities in three states.

Of course in those days everything I owned fit in my car.** And half of it never got unpacked. Moving took about four hours plus driving time and however long I spent broken down on the side of the road. I probably would have done it more often, if not for utility deposits.

That all changed when I acquired my first live-in girlfriend, destined to become my ex-wife some dozen years later. Before I knew it I owned a pit sectional, component stereo, and my own refrigerator. A refrigerator, for Gods-sake. Suddenly, moves required U-Hauls and planning, and pizza and beer for friends. Soon I was hiring moving companies and putting things in storage.

This could be a post about the evils of acquiring things, but it's not. I really just want to make the point that moving sucks if you can't fit everything in one carload. And sometimes even then, depending on circumstances.

Why bring this up now? I'm glad you asked. The research center where I work has occupied various temporary homes since its inception, waiting for the fabled "new building" to be designed, funded, and constructed. That day has finally arrived. Or at least, it was supposed to arrive last September, then December, February, April, and latest of all, this week. Of course this requires packing our offices and labs into boxes, and sorting it out on the other end.

Everyone keeps telling us that this is our new work home. At this point, I will believe it when I show up and my stuff is there.

For most people -- or at least for me -- this is a chance to be rid of some old things that are obsolete, worn out, or otherwise no longer useful. In this case we have the added motivation of moving into a smaller space with glass walls. Unfortunately, my colleague and part time boss is a ... umm, let's go with "collector," so we've managed to throw away only a fraction of what we should have. As an example, we have a box labeled "paper scraps." I am not making this up.

Undiscouraged, we packed and sorted and taped and labeled and stacked. By last Thursday we were down to things we actually use every day, and the boxes for those things were assembled and waiting. There is not really any room to work, but we only have to endure for a couple of days, right?  The IT people were taking down whiteboards and preparing to move our servers. Then, around 4:30 in the afternoon, came the "Move Delayed!" e-mail with the high priority status icon. The main difference in this edition of the all-too-familiar-by-now message was that there was no "until" included. It seems there are some issues with the building, and all we know is that the move will happen some time in the future. The most persistent rumor I have heard is nine weeks.

Oh, happy day.

* Not literally. I was born in a hospital. I'm not that old.

** Except for my albums. The were held for safekeeping by my friend Winston. There were only two people on Earth in whom I would place this sacred trust, and the other was already married.