Thursday, August 4, 2011

Behind the Hobbit Door

Well, you're here now, so you might as well come in. I don't often let people into my apartment, so...

(Watch your head - door's pretty short, remember?)

Yeah, I know that look on your face. Like you, most people would consider this place a mess. I say, with the exception of a few bits and pieces, everything is exactly where I want it to be. This place goes through cycles of "chaos", "less chaotic" and "wow, this place is clean". Currently, it's in a state of "less chaotic," so things could be worse.

Watch your step. We're replacing the stairs in September, I think. (Hooray, more construction...yay...)

And here we are, in the kitchen. Hm? No, I never use the kitchen table to eat at. It holds up the toaster, the coffee maker, the fruit snacks and granola bars. Otherwise, I wouldn't have a table in here at all.

Watch your feet as you go into the bathroom there. Under the table is where the vacuum cleaner and the hair dryer are, and if you've got big feet, you'll trip on something. What? No, I don't know why I put them there. Does it matter? I always know where to find them.

Yeah, I know the bathroom's small. I really should fix the shower head, too. You can stand right in the middle of the shower and stay completely dry. You can only get wet if you disco.

And in the winter, it rains. Yeah, I mean it really rains! The ceiling's cold, the shower's hot - spray collects on the ceiling in here and next thing I know...freezing rain. That'll wake you up in the morning, let me tell ya.

Oh - and if you have to use the toilet, just beware: when it's hot outside, the toilet honks. I don't know why, it just does. There's some kind of mechanism in the toilet tank that vibrates when the water hits a certain level. Sounds like someone's playing a B-flat on a trumpet for a count of sixteen. You can hear it three doors down. But it only happens in summer. No idea why. It's a real pain in the neck when you get up in the middle of the night. It's like fanfare. Like, "Tada! I have tinkled!"

All right - hang on, before you leave the bathroom I have to leave first. What can I say, when they built this place, they really meant "closet" when they said "water closet."

So yes, kitchen. Painted it myself - you like it? Butter yellow, with accents the colour of port wine, and olive green doors. There are more coffee tins than there is food, but that's normal too. And watch your step. I don't mean to keep these bankers boxes out here for long. It's sheet music from the church, until we get it all online.

And next on our ten cent tour: the Everything-Room - office, living room, rec room, music recording studio, parlour, spare bedroom, dance hall, whatever. I still intend on painting the other two walls, but I kinda like it the way it is. On two walls, ocean blue with yellow accents; white on the other two walls. You wouldn't think the colours go together, but they do.

Yeah, I know my calendar is still open to June. I should fix that. I swear, I'm the only person who has to pin a calendar to the wall with a 1-inch screw.

There...that's better?

Yeah, I like the retro theme too. Early 20th century advertisements for chocolate here, Art Deco posters for ocean and rail travel everywhere else. Picked them up from a poster shop that was going out of business. Wish I had put them in frames instead of letting them warp in the humidity.

Over here, my electric drumset, TV, XBox and Rockband kit. One more drum set and I can play in 360-degrees.

Over there, shelving units full of I-can't-remember-what, plus two djembes - what? No, those African drum-things right there. No, I don't play them very often. More decoration than anything - same with the bodhran over there, that big round Irish drum in the corner. I wish I could play the bodhran, and I mean to learn it...

Yeah, there's always another distraction between me and what I want to learn next. Most of my distractions are right over here, by the big window. I get direct sunlight through this window exactly twice a year: one week in March, one week in October. But I've got a great view of the driveway, don't I?

Yep, four monitors, two computers. Sometimes three computers! I work from home most of the time, so I need my tunes and my screens, you know? Funny, I don't actually write a lot here. I'm usually at a coffee shop for that. Harder for Facebook to distract me that way. Besides, I love having life swirl about me when I write. If I'm stuck for a character, all I have to do is look up and listen.

No, I know I don't keep the futon very clean. When I know guests are on the way over, the futon's spotless, vacuumed and inviting. Great place to sleep, too. In the meantime, it holds up all the stuff I need close at hand: headset for the phone, two cameras, a dictaphone and my blackberry, some paper, my sunflower seeds, and some sheet music. You should see it when I'm editing. It's like a scribbled sea all frothy with whitecaps and snowballs.

Now, in through the big white door and...

Oof. Yeah, this is the bedroom / spare office / library / storage area. This is Chaos Central. It was clean for a while, when I put up those shelves there. If you look carefully, you'll even see that the books are actually sorted! Well, by genre, at least, with surplus new books on the floor at your feet there, so watch your step.

And here, you can see why I don't like to buy luggage. Between trips, I have nowhere to put it. This room always looks like I'm in a state of transition, neither arriving nor departing, but always somewhere in between.

A metaphor for my life, I guess.

What? Well, no, I don't "just throw my dirty clothes on the floor." They're not entirely dirty, that's why. They haven't attained that perfection of stink yet. If they are good and dirty, then they go into the basket. But yeah, that's why I'm not giving you any pictures as keepsakes. There are some things a lady can keep to herself, thank you very much.

And over here, a little placard my mother gave me: it says "Welcome to my loose interpretation of clean." Always makes me smile.

What's that?

"Don't I hate living like a slob?"

What do you mean "a slob?"

Listen, none of this stuff is in my way. It's in your way. It's exactly where I can find it. Put something in an unusual place, and you'll always know where to find it.

Aye see, this is why I never invite people over.

Look. I don't live like you do. This is my place. My sanctuary. I don't invite a lot of people over because, as you can see, even when the place is clean, it's standing room only.

Besides that, I don't need to bring people over to impress them. If they're here, there's always something better on our minds than whether my clothes are in the stinky-pile or wear-again pile.

"Why don't I clean more often?" Yeah, I know I don't have kids or a husband to distract me, so what! I know my laundry loads are smaller, and I have only four dishes to wash after every meal, so what!

Listen, there's a lot I don't do that "normal" people do. I watch less than four hours of TV every week, because I'd rather spend my time reading, writing, biking or walking. I play the drums and I sing. I write, I edit and go for long urban photo-safaris. I play tennis, and swim when I can, and I go to artistic events in town, or to LaRonde with friends, or to picnics. At home, if it's in my way, I put it where it belongs; if it stinks, I'll flush it, I'll wash it or I'll throw it out, whichever it needs. Otherwise, the only person who's bothered by it is you, and you don't live here.

And yeah, I don't clean as often or as thoroughly as you do, but aside from three dirty coffee mugs and one well-used saucer, there are no dirty dishes. The garbage goes out on time, the floors, the toilet, the shower and the sinks are cleaned regularly. I mop, sweep and vacuum when the mood is upon me; but I don't lick the floor, so I don't see the point of keeping it pristine 24/7. There are no food containers on the floor, there's no moldy bread on the counter, no expired fruits or vegetables anywhere to be seen. I even put out the recycling once a week.

And I'll have you know something else, smarty pants. On average, the garbage I produce fills one grocery shopping bag every two weeks. Can you say the same?

And for that matter, I drive less than 50 km a week these days, because I hate adding to the pollution and traffic. If I can, I walk, bike or take mass transit, even though there's a perfectly good car right there. Heck, even when I do grocery shopping, I don't think twice about walking ten blocks with four bags of food.

When I go to someone's house for a meal, I wash their dishes - or at the very least, help with the service or clean-up. When I stay at a hotel, I make the bed and leave the place as clean as when I arrived (or cleaner, depending on the hotel). If I stay at a family member's place, I usually prep the sheets for washing and otherwise try to leave everything the way I found it. When I go to a coffee shop, I clean up after myself, I throw trash in the trash can and take my mug back to the counter. Why? Because it's common space. Common space stays clean, for courtesy's sake.

But this is my space. If you lived here, the place would be spotless. You don't live here, and I'm fine with the place just the way it is.

And you know what else? You've got kids, a spouse? Roommates? Animals? A life? Then things are going to move from their assigned places, no matter how much you yell. As long as the place is sanitary, safe and I have a place to sit down, I'm not going to stress about your house any more than I do about mine. I'm just going to be happy to see you and your family. (But I'll always give you lots of notice before I arrive!)

Well, anyhow, I'm sorry about sounding off like that. I get upset as soon as I hear the words "Why don't you...". They're usually followed by "...clean more often," or "...find a good man and settle down" or "...have kids, because I think you'd be a great mom," or " less and relax more."

But it doesn't matter how people end a "Why don't you..." question. They always mean the same thing: "Why don't more like me."

Simply stated: I don't wanna. And in my rebellion against "a normal life", I've learned a lot about what I actually need, versus what other people think I need.

Anyhow, such as it is, this is my home - and my lifestyle, I guess. It is what it is. If I wanted something different, I would go out and get it. And regardless, you're always welcome here.

Ooh, look at the time. Oh hey - you want a coffee to go? I may be a lousy cook, but I make a decent cup of coffee. I'll even give you a clean travel mug. can keep it. Call it a souvenir from Behind the Hobbit Door.

And don't forget: watch your head on the way out.


  1. Excellent post, P. And spot-on. Everyone, I think, has been guilty of that "Why don't you be more like me" habit. God knows I have. Too often. To the point where I've told my kids to inform me when I'm doing it. Great post.

  2. Thanks Tobin. It was surprisingly difficult to write, but I'm glad you liked it.