This is our second day living in Birmingham. I am writing this while sitting atop a mountain of cardboard boxes. And I can’t believe this town is officially home.
How bizarre. I keep having to retrain my brain to refer to Florida as “the place I used to live.” Which just sounds so weird. But it’s even weirder calling Birmingham “home.”
Currently, our house is filled with shipping crates. All I see are cartons in each direction. From wall to wall. It looks like I’m drowning in an Atlantic of corrugated cardboard.
Earlier, for example, an Amazon deliveryperson rang the doorbell, but I wasn’t able to answer the door, inasmuch as I was wading through shoulder-high mounds of boxes in my living room.
So I simply shouted, “Just leave it on the porch!” And the sound of my voice caused a massive cardboard avalanche. I was trapped beneath boxes for three hours without food or beer.
The thing about moving is, until recently, I did not realize how much crapola we owned. Judging by the amount of boxes within this house, I would estimate that we personally own approximately half the earth’s gravitational mass.
The worst part about unpacking all our wares is that I cannot decipher my own handwritten labels on many of the boxes. I have no idea what we were thinking when we tagged these crates with our runaway Sharpies. We must have been inhaling some major paint fumes because the labels are written in complete gibberish.
I am thinking here of one box in particular, which is marked: JAMIE’S PODE STOPES—NEW.
It is unclear what this label means. However, if we use our abilities as trained English majors, we can tell by the word sequence that this box contains a great many “stopes,” or more specifically, “pode stopes,” which evidently, according to the text, belong to “Jamie,” and are “new,” as opposed to outdated pode stopes which, everyone knows, simply don’t pode very well.
But anyway, Birmingham is a swell city. Today I ran some errands and met a few locals when I was out.
At Walmart I met an old man in the checkout line who looked like Methusala’s great uncle. He was leaning on a cane that was shaped like a University of Alabama elephant trunk. He was buying a box of absorbent underwear.
“They’re for my wife,” he said, patting the box.
I didn’t know how to respond to this remark, so I just asked how long they had been married.
“Sixty-nine years,” he said. “She’s on hospice care.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Hey,” he said with a shrug, “I wish I were half as brave as my wife is.”
When the cashier rang up the man, he tipped his cap to her in that old-world way men used to do. Then he shook my hand. I watched him hobble out to his car and I wondered if that man knew how equally brave he is.
Next, I went to the supermarket. When I was in the meat department, I saw three Latino young men standing before the meat cooler. The butcher placed a few whole chickens onto the counter and told the young men to take them, no charge.
At first they refused.
The butcher insisted. “I’m just gonna have to get rid of them,” he said. “The expiration date is tomorrow, but they’re still perfectly good.”
The young men were so grateful they God-blessed him profusely with thick accents. The butcher took his praise with a smile and said, “It’s just chicken, y’all.”
After my shopping, I got home and did some more unpacking. I was knee deep in cardboard when there was a knock at my door. It was one of our neighbors who had stopped by to introduce himself. In his hand was a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon.
“Brought you a gift,” he said, handing me the booze. “Welcome to Birmingham.”
Then he introduced me to his birddog, an American Labrador named Elizabeth who was incapable of sitting still for point-three nanoseconds.
So far, I’m happy to report that Birmingham is a great place, and full of nice people. Yes, I realize this city has its naysayers, and I’m not savvy enough to contradict them since I’ve only been living here for a grand total of 48 hours. But I like this town.
Although I guess I can’t call it a “town” anymore. I suppose, at some point, I will eventually have to get used to calling it home.
Especially since all our pode stopes are here.