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Sweet Baby Jesus, I’ve been saved. Finally, after more than a week of searching, I finally found my socks. And my takeaway from my predicament is this: never underestimate the importance of socks. And underwear. But mostly socks.
I should probably explain, and I’ll start with an apology.
To all those I didn’t have a chance to reach out to personally, I apologize that I didn’t let you know I was hightailing it out of Redding. I didn’t really know it was happening until it was happening, and then when it happened, I spent three furious weeks packing and purging. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been back in my hometown of Ashland for two weeks now, and it wasn’t until I bumped into a classmate from high school at the Dollar Tree last night that I realized I hadn’t told anybody up here except my family and co-workers that I had relocated to Oregon.
If you follow my columns, you already know that the last two years have been rough on my family. Mom was hit by a car (she survived). Dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and kidney failure, and has been on home hospice care for quite some time. Both are in their late 80’s, and need a lot of help to do the most basic things (like bathing, going to the grocery store, making dinner and picking themselves back up off the floor when they fall down).
Finally, in late September, I realized that it was time to finally inform my supervisors that I was going to be using some of the sick leave I have accrued and work a reduced schedule, from Ashland, so that I can be here in person every day to support my family for the time being, instead of driving back and forth every two weeks and living out of a suitcase. That suitcase, which has been packed and on standby since the Carr Fire, with a few changes of clothing, a swimsuit, and two pairs of socks and panties. Thank the lawd for that suitcase, or else things would be much worse right now.
Anyway, back to my story.
When I went in to discuss how this whole FMLA thing works with HR, the nice lady had already pulled up my file and informed me that I had accrued 1474 hours of sick leave, and on top of that was maxed out on vacation, another 260 hours. She told me I was a workaholic. I started to tell her that I wasn’t really a workaholic. I began to tell her that because my position as a classical music public radio host is difficult to replace and that my vacations aren’t approved by my supervisor unless I have found a volunteer to fill-in for me, if it’s convenient for him. On top of that, since I work all alone in Redding while all my colleagues are on the university campus in Ashland, when I’m sick I usually still end up dragging my ass into the studio to host my radio show, occasionally in pajamas and disheveled hair. To the HR person I started to say that the last time I truly took a sick day for myself was that one time I had food poisoning and threw up in a trashcan and crapped my pants at the same time in the on-air studio back in 2010, but I stopped myself. From talking, I mean. There’s no way one can stop the mass exodus that accompanies food poisoning.
“Numbers don’t lie,” is what I ended up saying.
And so we formed a plan to use some of that sick time (and some of my vacation time) to help care for my parents, but still host my radio show, but from Ashland instead of Redding. It’s what I needed to do to save myself. So I started packing, moving just the essential stuff I needed for the next who knows how many months, and rented a U-Haul.
I was fortunate that my parents own two homes next door to each other, and even more fortunate that the house was standing empty after the last tenant had left in June. The idea was to sell the house to pay for the care my mother and father need. When we did a walk through after the tenant left, it became quickly apparent that selling the house in its current condition was not going to bode well. The tenant had been there twelve years. He’d raised three teenagers and a Jack Russell Terrier in the house, and it showed.
The carpet was a mess. There were giant, head and fist sized holes in every single interior door, plus one in the wall of the master bedroom. Some of the kitchen cupboard doors had been ripped off completely, another had a giant crack running right up the middle. There was grime everywhere. EVERYWHERE. The tenant, who was (in my opinion) 45 going on 19, was treating this super sweet mid-century ranch home with a pool like it was a frat house.
In the weeks before he left, my mother asked what happened to the appliances she had furnished the home with years before, like the washer and dryer. The tenant said they had quit working at some point, and instead of contacting the property management company, he just replaced them. Because of that, the tenant felt like he had the right to take them with him when he left. However, he didn’t actually take them; he just sold them. I know this because when the tenant moved out of the house, he told us he was going to be living out of his van, which to my knowledge didn’t have w/d hookups.
Although it took him two whole months to leave, moving out shouldn’t have been a really big deal for the man, because there was almost no real furniture in the house. Instead of a dining room table, he had converted a full sized pool table into an incredible Lego workshop (to his credit, he was a Lego Robotics instructor, so I’m told). The rest of the home – even the master bedroom – was furnished with gigantic bean bags for sitting and sleeping. When landscapers came to try to make some sense out of the overgrown backyard, they dug about 20 dollars worth of beer bottles out of the bushes. The tenant had cancelled his garbage collection service years before and had been burning everything he didn’t toss into the bushes in one of the fireplaces. Apparently that’s how he was heating the house as well.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Socks. They’re like a big warm hug for your feet. IF you can find them.
So it was decided that since I was going to be relocating to Ashland for the next I-don’t-really-know-how-long, that I would move into the house next door to my parents. It was a good plan. I would be right next door, available at any time day or night. I could even by summoned from my parent’s deck. It has been determined that I should probably refrain from watching porn from my living room (or doing anything else on the naughtiness scale), because if my parents were to come out onto the deck and look down upon the house below… well, you know.
But my parents couldn’t afford to just let me live in the home rent-free, so the plan was that I would take over the mortgage payments and try to start managing needed improvements to the home and at the same time try to find someone to rent my home in Redding temporarily so that I could come close to breaking even (but that fell apart when the renter bailed the night before I left town. So if you know of anybody who could use a very lightly furnished temporary rental….)
The carpet was replaced. The walls were painted. The cupboards and doors were repaired and replaced. I gotta say, the house looked pretty good when I arrived two weeks ago, except for a couple of things that hadn’t been tended to.
The first was that the house still lacked a washer/dryer. I suppose I could’ve just dragged my hamper next door to my folk’s house to do my laundry, but I knew that the appliances had already been ordered. I didn’t think it’d be a big deal to wait a week or so to wash my clothes. I mean, I certainly have enough, and I brought them all with me. If only I could actually find the box with my socks and underwear. I was really good about precisely detailing (almost) every box I’d packed with its contents, but couldn’t find any box that professed to have the contents of the top two drawers of my dresser. I mentally crossed my fingers every time I cut the tape on another box, hoping I’d find my socks and underwear there, simply left off the packing list.
And that’s why two weeks after moving into the house, I still had no socks or underwear except the two pairs of each from my suitcase, which led me to desperately digging into the bottom of the laundry hamper 5 days after moving in to retrieve a pair of dirty socks to put on, since I still didn’t have a washer/dryer yet.
Why didn’t I just wash them by hand, you ask? Because I also didn’t have any hot water. That was the second problem I encountered after moving in. Eventually a man from the gas company showed up and turned the gas on to the hot water heater and the gas stove in the kitchen, but by the time he did I had been without a shower for so many days that I just don’t even want to talk about it, and I had resigned myself to just going commando until the washing machine arrived.
But the socks. Oh, the socks. My kingdom for some socks! Why the big deal over socks? Because my feet were freezing! My feet never really needed socks in Redding, where I built up the necessary callouses between my toes to wear flip flops at home and even at work because in Redding its always sandal weather. But it gets cold at night in Ashland.
Turn up the heat, you say? Oh yeah. That’s the third thing. There’s no heat. Notice I didn’t say there “was” no heat. There still is, as of this writing, no heat. As it turns out, the departing tenant never bothered to inform my parents that the gas furnace quit working. Most likely years ago. It was discovered when my mother turned up the thermostat (in a house filled with single-pane panorama windows) to get the house as cozy as possible the day before I arrived.
Contractors were brought in, bids were given, and while I’m still waiting to be told when the $12,000 new furnace will be installed, I’ve been told that it should happen right around Thanksgiving. Until then, count me as one of the few people in these parts who’s kinda thankful for global warming and the 70 degree days it’s providing Southern Oregon in November. It’s made the transition into the 44 degree evenings almost bearable.
I’m also thankful that yesterday morning, I found a duffel bag that I’d thrown into the bedroom closet the day I arrived. You know what’s in there.
And so, in conclusion, never underestimate the importance of socks. Or family, no matter how dysfunctional. You’ll see me in Redding every now and then…whether its on stage at the Cascade Theatre, or out and about on the streets. Plus, you can still hear me on the radio, most days, from noon to 4 at 96.9 FM or streaming at ijpr.org. And I’m right here, every couple of weeks, at A News Cafe. But if you find yourself in Ashland, don’t be a stranger. Come check out my (hopefully warm) home. But you might want to bring an extra pair of socks, just in case.
Speaking of home, heat and socks, that’s the theme of this week’s streaming Spotify playlist, Socks. Hope you enjoy it, and as always, you’re invited to add to the list!