Wednesday, May 07, 2008


This story begins in the late 1800s in northern Sweden. Katarina's great uncle Alfred was one of a family of 13, and local prospects were "not good". So he strapped on his skis and skied across the mountains to Norway. He sold his skis for one crown to use for boat fare to England. He eventually made his way to San Francisco, where he was a tailor. Apparently when the 1906 earthquake hit, he grabbed his two most valuable possessions: his shoes and his violin.

Some years later, when Katarina's dad was a young man and had finished his studies at the Technical University in Stockholm, he came to the U.S. to visit his Uncle Alfred. He loved the Bay Area, and attended UC Berkeley to get his MBA. It was during this time he met and married Katarina's mom. They eventually moved to Sweden (where Katarina was born), and after living in Belgium and then Iran, they eventually returned to the Bay Area.

Somewhere along the line, the dining room table (shown above perched on top of the VW) went from Uncle Al to Katarina's parents. They had it for many years, and when they moved to a smaller place at retirement, some of their furniture was offered to Katarina and her siblings. We had no room for the table at the time, so Katarina's brother and sister-in-law took it. They recently got a new hand-me-down table, and at long last, the table came to us.

It didn't come without a struggle, though. None of my neighbors have a pickup, but the VW and I are no strangers to hauling large, strange loads. Katarina and I decided the logistics of loading the table onto the VW would be simpler than finding a vehicle to borrow. With a couple of 2x4s to support the middle, and some cardboard for padding, we set off for Berkeley to pick it up. With some assistance we got it on the VW. While I tied it on, Katarina and Azar loaded up the chairs and table leaves, and we set off for home.

I'd tied it quite securely, but we took surface streets just in case. Along the way, we were delayed by an odd sight: a double-bottom dump truck attempting to back up several blocks. If you've ever tried backing up with a trailer, you know how challenging that can be; this was times 2 and this guy was no expert. We pulled off to the side and got past it, and eventually made our way home.

Then came the challenge of getting the table from the carport down to the house. Katarina and I tried, but realized our first approach wouldn't work. It was too heavy to easily get around the bend in the steps. I had apheresis at the Red Cross in the afternoon, so we left the table in the carport.

The next day, I had the idea to take the table apart into two halves. Since it came most of the way apart for leaves, it was the fairly simple matter of removing half a dozen screws, et voilà! While I was working on that, one of my neighbors came home. I hadn't seen her in a while, so we chatted for a bit. While we were talking, a pickup drove up, and the guy asked me if I wanted to hire him to trim the monster tree (shown above, behind the VW). It's really supposed to be a bush, and I told him I wanted it hacked back like my neighbors had been, to a more manageable size. He gave me an estimate, I told him sure, and he attacked it with a frenzy.

When Katarina came home from work, she gaped in awe at the trimmed tree, and then we easily moved the table down, squeezed it through the front door, and put it in the living room. Reassembling the halves was a bit more of a challenge, but I eventually got it back together. We still don't really have room for it since the dining room and kitchen aren't done yet, but the timing and price were right. And it's a great table that's been in Katarina's family for quite a few years.

After moving the table down, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to a woman I didn't recognize, but she didn't look like she was selling anything. Turns out she's one of our neighbors up the street that we've never met, and she'd come over to thank us for trimming the bush and ask hopefully if we were going to trim the last bit (Note: I'm still waiting for Ray to return and finish. Hmm...)

And that's the story of how an 1800s ski trip led to our new dining room table, a half-trimmed tree and a 'new' neighbor.

Update: Ray came and finished up this afternoon. It ended up costing more than I thought, in part because there was another tree buried inside the monster bush, and in part because Ray played a little loose with the numbers. But not enough to argue about, and it's done!

1 comment:

Eliz. said...

Nice table! And although the table is clearly heavier and less aerodynamic, the photo reminds me of strapping a sailboard and all the gear on top of Paul's little red Escort to drive from Indiana to North Carolina for a beach vacation. It's amazing what one can do with a reliable little car, a roof rack and a bit of ingenuity. Note to self, perhaps it's time to get a roof rack for the Bug...

Hope all goes well in Biloxi!