I've had a series of 10 personal moving experiences in New Orleans in the last 20 years. I'm not talking about dancing steps, psychic breakthroughs, or intestinal functions; I'm talking about the whole relocating "pilot experience" of pick it up here, pile it there. Granted, the moves were from not only my living quarters, but from my brick-and-mortar shops as well. In both cases, in a word, it sucks. Angrily, I threatened with this last move that if there is a next time, in another insultingly short stretch of inhabitational tenure, I'm gonna pack the wife and critters in the car and drive out of town, leaving everything that we own for the termites and the trash men. I am tired of being pushed around by the Fates and Furies. I'll move to Gretna and begin life over again as a virgin.
No matter how good the relationship you have with your landlord is, it's still a tenuous situation, at best. Only one move was made voluntarily; the rest have been a case of my being forced out against my will, either by monetary demands or uninhabitable living conditions. Moving in, moving out, moving in, moving out, moving in—it's enough to drive a person sober.
Money situations, in general, occur when landlords believe they can get more rent than you've contracted with them. The conversation amounts to being told "either pay the increase or move." Generally, these increases are structured to get you out or misuse you financially like a redheaded stepchild (am I allowed to say that?).
The living conditions that may force you out are generally caused by a landlord who is more concerned with taking your money than with reciprocating by conducting logical, necessary maintenance of their property. That can include everything from inadequate protection from the elements (leaking ceilings, faulty plumbing) to a lack of protection from other invasive life forms (roaches, frogs, rodents), all falling under the expansive category of "demolition by neglect." It boggles the mind how landlords can rent out properties and then turn their backs on them; conversely, it's a darn shame that tenants have been conditioned, telling themselves, "If I complain about needing something fixed, they'll either raise my rent or throw me out," which is very warranted. My personal philosophy is to pay the rent on time and contact the landlord as little as possible (like never).
All of these moves come at most inconvenient times, cost money and time, and cause mental and emotional upsets. It's unsettling and psychologically demoralizing to wake up in the middle of the night to take a leak and have to re-acclimate, recalibrate, and remember in which direction the bathroom of reality, and not memory, lay. Yes, we've recently moved again.
What has become tradition in New Orleans for folks relocating within the parish is that you're ousted from what has become home (for 10 years) by forces beyond your control (termite infestation). What you do is find someplace smaller and more expensive. In our case, we found a lovely place with a terrific landlord (who lives in the other half of the double) in the same neighborhood that we've been living in. So, we've lost our house, but not our neighbors. Win-Win?
So we 'downsized' five rooms into four—five bigger rooms with taller ceilings into four smaller, wonderfully well-maintained rooms. Central air and heat. A washer and dryer of our own. A great place. In the first months, the cats went from bewildered stares to feline "stink eye" glares. The dog kept wanting to go back to our old place. The feral cat that we'd been feeding was discombobulated by our departure, as was the possum that used to visit our porch for evening feedings. All of our yard plantings had to be uprooted or abandoned—not to mention the three cats that are buried in the backyard.
We moved two bedrooms, a desk, a piano, an armoire, the entire kitchen and living room, and 125 banana boxes of "stuff." We looked like a mobile garage sale. Our old furniture looks like a herd of mastodons trying to elbow their way through a Salvation Army shop. Even our car looks like it feels out of place. Four months after our vacating the old place, virtually no work has been done on it; we could have stayed and enjoyed Jazz Fest and Fourth of July as we had done for 10 years, but nooooo. Our mail has not come through, our water bill is somewhere in limbo, and somebody stole our recycling container.
I am in fear that I'm going to be moving for the rest of my life. Free tickets to Paris? "Sorry, I have to wait for the cable guy." A cure for what ails me? A dinner for two in a fine bistro? "Can't tonight, I have to get up early to rent my U-Haul." A friend calls and says, "Let's go fishing!" or "I've got tickets for us to see Beyoncé!" "I'd really like to, but I need to catch the produce guy at Rouse's and beg for some banana boxes, so I can pack." Floods, fires, and the destruction of the city have all precipitated moves already. What's next? Plagues? The overthrow of the government?
Yeah, it's gonna go on forever. I'm gonna miss the zombie apocalypse, the alien invasion, winning the lottery, and the epiphany of our elected officials; I'll be at the bank getting a loan for my security deposit. Years from now, it'll be summer by the beach or the second coming that I'll be missing—I'll be hauling boxes and submitting changes of address for the mail that will never reach me. At least I know one thing for now: Come hell or high water, there's nothing that's gonna chase me out of my city. New Orleans, you're stuck with me!