Making space requires a basement excavation

Don't tell the moggy. But rumor has it we're about to get a new roommate. Or two.

A pack rat by nature, I've been busily clearing out space in my wee riverside cottage. Dressers are emptied. Closets, too.

All this stuff-shuffling has required a major basement excavation. Because now that I'm about to share space with a fellow whose baggage includes large power tools and a bicycling habit, it occurs to me that offering The Professor a large area with a cement floor and a built-in workbench might be a very good thing. Otherwise he might start eyeballing my kitchen. And I already don't have near enough counter space.

I was swept off my emotional foundations in the flood of late December 2005. Roiling brown water filled the basement and my art studio within minutes once the Rogue jumped its banks. Boxes were tossed like toy blocks. Water oozed into family treasures, ruining photo albums and ravaging book and record collections of my recently deceased parents. Then the mighty river receded, leaving behind mud deposits in the rafters, and one hell of a soggy mess below.

Most of the flotsam and jetsam of the aftermath ended up in giant Dumpsters. The rest was stuffed back into the basement willy-nilly. My attention returned to the cottage, and reclaiming the art studio. The basement quickly became the catchall for empty computer boxes, questionable yard sale finds and broken furniture.

Since I still have my day job, and The Professor and his feline traveling companion, Pinknose, are still a state away, and because Squiggy isn't at all helpful when it comes to sifting and sorting through formerly flooded boxes of old books, horse tack, stemware and holiday ornaments, I enlisted the help of the intrepid Mighty Mouse to lead this basement archaeology effort. (Don't let her size fool you, she's an indefatigable worker with a jolly temperament and keen eye for organization.)

I gave this diminutive dynamo carte blanche with one caveat: "The goal is to make space. Not rearrange the deck chairs. So if it looks like junk, toss it. And do NOT let me poke around in the piles."

I called The Professor and was lamenting the loss of a vinyl album collection that spanned multiple generations and ranged from classical to jazz to country to rock. He was sympathetic the Beatles collection had bit the dust. Less so over the loss of Mary Martin's Broadway performance of Peter Pan. But he really took notice when I announced a box of muddy 45s had just landed on the junk heap.

"I can't bear to look," I moaned.

Did I mention the man is also a musician?

"What?" he sputtered. "You're not even going to look? Some of them might be salvageable. Gaa!"

Twist my arm, Professor. Bolting out the door, I snatched the silt-covered records from the pile. Mighty Mouse dragged the LP boxes back into the corner of the basement.

Flash forward to lazy Sunday. After consuming a big bowl of soup, I popped the top button on my jeans and wandered down to the studio to grab some art supplies and peruse the jukebox classics. Several were from my aerobics-instructor era. All early '80s. All heart-rate elevating. All except one. "The Stripper." What was I thinking? I swear no poles were involved in any of these classes. Then I remembered the class's birthday prank. Chortling, I grabbed the "take-it-off" classic, stacked it atop the pile of paints and paper I was carrying, and tottered toward the cottage.

My plan was to text a photo of the 45 to The Professor — and watch him sweat. But my zipper decided to have the last laugh. Seeing both my hands were fully occupied, it began inexorably slipping. I tried widening the stance on my waddle in an effort to stem the slide. The zipper laughed. The front steps were my ultimate downfall. Britches hit my ankles just as I hit the porch. Shouldering open the door, I stumbled inside, gasping — and grateful it wasn't laundry day. At least I wasn't rolling commando.

(Be afraid, Sweetie. Be very afraid.)

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.


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