Moving Right Along.

Earlier this week I helped some coworkers move to new offices. I volunteered, although generally I seem to be the guy that friends call on when they need help moving, even though I don’t own a pickup truck or other vehicle with a lot of storage space and have the upper body strength of a salamander. My main qualification seems to be that when someone asks me, “Could you help me move?” I’m an agreeable guy and say “yes” and it’s usually not until I’m halfway down the stairs with a box of dishes that I think to stop and ask, “Hey, do I know you?” Whenever I help someone else move it always makes me think about how I’ve heard that wherever you are when you’re fifty is where you’re going to die. This may be one of those exaggerated claims that people pass around without any factual basis, like the claim that your hair and toenails grow after you die. They don’t—your body loses moisture after death causing your skin to shrink which makes your hair and nails appear to grow. And there’s also the claim that a lot of people were buried alive in the days before modern embalming techniques because claw marks have been found on the insides of coffins, but in fact almost anyone sealed into a coffin and buried would expire from a buildup of carbon dioxide before they could regain consciousness. There’s a comforting thought: even if your mortal coil did just get shoved in a box and covered with dirt without all your recyclables being removed first you’d be very unlikely to wake up. The claw marks on the insides of coffins are caused by the surprising amount of moving that corpses could do, even the ones that are well past fifty. Consider Jim Morrison, for instance, who’s been buried in Paris’s Pere Lachaise cemetery since 1971, and who still parties so hard the other corpses complain about it. Oscar Wilde’s corpse has even been heard to remark that the only thing worse than not being invited to Jim Morrison’s grave is being invited to Jim Morrison’s grave.

Aside from dwelling on happy thoughts about the lurking specter of the eternal footman holding my coat and snickering whenever I help someone move it makes me think about how little I’ve moved in my life. When I was four my parents moved from one part of Nashville to another part of Nashville, and luckily they thought to take me with them. Even though I went to college in another state and then, briefly, in another country, that wasn’t technically moving because I wasn’t taking up permanent residence there although my senior year I did rent a professor’s house and lived there with, depending on which time of the year it was, three, four, and approximately two-hundred and twenty-five other people. The professor had gone overseas to turn fifty but he was planning to come back just to beat the statistics. And then I came back to Nashville and moved in with my wife and got married and most days I go to work in an office that’s spitting distance from the hospital where I was born, which I can prove by the number of times they’ve asked me to stop spitting on the place, but that’s another story.

Anyway I haven’t turned fifty yet, although I am slowly moving in that direction in spite of some efforts to put the brakes on or even throw things into reverse, but the way things are going, and they’re actually going pretty well, it looks like I’ll be lucky enough to still be where I am now when I finally reach that milestone. And while that wasn’t planned it is convenient that I’m an organ donor and hope to pass on every part of me that can be used to someone else, and to make that as easy as possible the odds are when I finally go I’ll be within spitting distance of a hospital.

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  1. Ann Koplow

    Chris, unless I die in the next few months, I’m not going to die in the place I’m living when I’m 64. By the way, could you help us move?

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      If I could make it to Boston I’d be more than happy to help you move to your new home with a view of the water.

  2. Arionis

    I never knew that about the hair and nails. I learn something every time I come here. I hope you at least negotiated the universally agreed upon price for helping someone move. Pizza and beer. As the one requesting moving services once I made the mistake of giving out the beer BEFORE the job was done. Not a mistake I’ll be repeating.

    BTW, I love John Prine! Here is one of my favorites he did with Iris DeMent.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Pizza and beer are all I ever ask in exchange for helping someone move, and always after the job is done. Not that I’d ditch them if they gave me pizza and beer first but I wouldn’t want to try and carry dishes after drinking.
      Anyway I’m so thrilled you like John Prine and here’s a funny story: I used to work with a woman whose husband is a professional drummer. She mentioned to me one day that he played snooker, and I asked, “Where in Nashville did he find a snooker table?” She casually said, “John Prine’s house.” Lucky him.

  3. mydangblog

    Aside from the fact that this is a fantastic AND informative post, I am indebted to you for the allusions to my three favourite writers: Wilde, Shakespeare, and Eliot, and the way you wove them in so brilliantly. I was in Toronto when I turned 50 but I sure as hell hope I don’t die here. Also, I hope when I DO die, I have the wherewithal to say, with my last breath, “Either those curtains go or I do.”

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Somehow intimiations of mortality always bring out the English major in me, or at least the English major I was in college. Anyway it’s probably better to have to worry about the curtains than some of the more interesting sights of Toronto. Hey, maybe those curtains could be used to clothe some of the city’s more demonstrative denizens.


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