Monday, February 28, 2005

10 Things...

Everyone seems to be doing the "10 things you've done no one else has" thing, so I'll try too. I'm sure others have done these things, but they're relatively unique experiences that make me feel a little better about my hum drum life.

(in no particular order)

1. Pushed George Lucas out of the way because I was late to class and he was blocking my path.

2. Rode my bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles - twice.

3. Explained what an intern was to Robert Downey Jr. over cheese dip at a Bel Air party hosted by Robert Altman.

4. Pretended to be deaf for a day by plugging my ears.

5. Sat in the audience at the last public taping of "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, the one where Bette Midler sat on his desk and sang.

6. Played basketball on the court of Northwestern University... and won a silver medal.

7. Purchased teen magazines, ripped out the pin-ups of Duran Duran, and sold them individually to my elementary school classmates.

8. Survived the Northridge earthquake - in Northridge.

9. Went to a sex-type club dressed as a doctor in scrubs with a friend dressed in a ski outfit with poles, because we thought we were going to "Cinematic", not "Sin-a-Matic," for Halloween.

10. Listened into the phone as Justin Timberlake sang "Cry Me a River" on the other end.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

West Meets East

When you move someplace new, I guess there are some differences to be expected. Here are some I've noted:

1. Birds make different sounds in the morning here. Perhaps it's because they have different kinds of birds, or are they just complaining that they're cold, too?

2. Menus here have warnings about undercooked meat. I thought perhaps they were trying to tell me something about the quality of the food, since they don't rate the restaurants here. But apparently it's state law to include the following warning on the bottom of all menus:

"Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness. More information about the safety of consuming raw food is available upon request."

I have yet to ask for more information.

3. I haven't found one bank here as good as Washington Mutual, which offers totally free checking. I've listened to many spiels about how I can't do this or that at my new bank choice because anything I may choose to do may incur additional fees. WaMu... please hurry out here!

4. There are many places here without street signs. It's not as though the city isn't confusing enough since it isn't a grid. On top of that, there are actually MANY, MANY streets without signs. Major streets, minor streets, you name it. I was wondering why everyone was giving us directions using landmarks!

5. Comcast Cable has a monopoly over the area I'm living in. The only kind of internet service I can get is through Comcast, which has terrible customer service. We tried cable from competitors, as well as DSL... Heck, we live close enough to a telephone pole... there's one ON OUR FRONT LAWN! Finally, someone spilled the beans. Comcast bought the contract to have an exclusive right to serve our immediate area. We don't have a choice. And I thought monopolies were illegal.

6. Politics are all the rage here. Everyone from our waiters to our table mates at a Benihana-style restaurant have engaged us in political conversation. Mostly, they've just been venting about how much they hate Bush and the war. They usually also throw in a random comment about how they have gay friends and don't like his policies on values, either. Fortunately, if we're going to be thrust into political conversation, at least they're on our side.

7. I FINALLY got one job interview. OK, that's not unusual on the east compared to the west... but the interviewer said maybe I should wait a day or two before coming in, to avoid the snow. I've never had an interview postponed for snow.


...I'm sure there will be more to come.

I Hate Refrigerators

My wife and I bought a fridge a few years back. It was our first major appliance purchase, so it meant a lot to us. Soon after purchase, however, circumstance forced us to put the fridge into storage. In the course of a year and a half of storage rent, we could have purchased a perfectly good new fridge, but my wife would have none of it. Apparently, we owned the best fridge and we were going to keep it until we died.

Flash forward to "the move." Perhaps this would be the time to get rid of the fridge, since now it is obvious that the movers charge by weight and perhaps we didn't even need movers if we didn't have the stupid fridge. At this point, the fridge is now "stupid," but my wife is still very attached. So we move the fridge.

Flash forward to arriving at the new home. The sellers have left a perfectly nice, relatively new fridge in the kitchen. But my wife would have none of it. We will unplug it, she says, and sell it or banish it to the basement. Of course, there is a lock nut on the copper wires attaching it to the water supply, and we cannot detach the fridge from the wall. We have decided that when the movers come, they will put OUR fridge in the middle of the kitchen, and we will have 2 fridges until we can sell the 1st fridge to someone who can come remove it themselves.

Flash forward to the day the movers arrive at our new home. The fridge sits outside the front door, waiting anxiously to enter it's new residence. 1 mover stands at the back, 1 at the front, I'm on the side. Mover #1 moves away from the fridge to go inside the house and see how much clearance there is. Mover #2 is adjusting the positioning of the fridge. I'm watching in slow motion. Mover #2 starts to lean the fridge, I think to get a better angle. And then I realize that Mover #2 thinks Mover #1 is on the other side. I quickly say "He's not there!" but wisely stay out of the way as Mover #2 pushes the fridge over into nothingness. Yes, they dropped the fridge. Big dent on the corner, big gash on side, totally not fixable. We finally unhook the 1st fridge, carry it down to the basement ourselves with the help of some friends, scratching some of the wood flooring along the way, and we now again have only one (dented) fridge in the kitchen. I hate refrigerators!

The (Very) Long Road, Part 6 - the last part

Driving Day #4

It is on this driving day #4 that I realize we are in fact on travel day #6, and I'm really glad I decided to leave the cat behind. We woke up a bit later today, since we were already in Virginia. Even still, we were both very tired and therefore thankful that the not-so-great hotel at least had wonderful water pressure and a shower that was almost as good as a wake-up call. We continued with our television trivia game and it was on this day that I made my discovery: "Lost" is probably a take-off of the long forgotten classic "Land of the Lost". Small, but important epiphany. You heard it here first! As we were driving through Virginia, we hit a small snow flurry. Then what seemed to be a whole bunch of little white bugs hit the windshield, and a little tornado-like dust storm swooped up on the ground in front of the cars on the highway. When I asked what all that stuff was, Travis nearly busted a gut. He answered simply: "That's snow." It was then that we both realized how much trouble this native Californian was in for. Meanwhile, we headed to lunch at yet another Waffle House. Note to self: once is very good, twice is less good. After exiting the Waffle House, I noticed a "Hardee's" next door. Hardee's is the east coast equivalent to Carl's Jr. Why the name Carl's Jr. is more appealing in the west and Hardee's is more appealing in the east seems like one of life's mysteries I'll never have answered. For more new discoveries of mine, check out my next post... I've noticed several differences since arriving in the east. As we got back on the road again, I felt fear creeping in... We were getting close to Maryland. On the way, however, I marveled at the beauty of Virginia, despite its politics. The scenery was amazing, even with the dead grass and leaveless trees. I could only imagine how overwhelming a place it would be in the spring or fall.

In the afternoon, we arrived at my new home... mine! There is much to do, not the least of which is finding a job to pay for it. But for now I'm just trying to settle in and figure things out here. I'm not in (Ar)Kansas anymore...

The (Very) Long Road, Part 5

Driving Day #3

It was another early morning start out of Russellville. The sky was dark for a while, as the cloud cover was thick. We timed our drive just perfectly to hit rush hour in both Little Rock in the morning, and Nashville later that evening. But it was still a productive day. We earlier had decided to push our way across the country because we were trying to get Travis to his flight on time. But now we had all the time in the world and decided to make one touristy stop. We decided on Graceland. Graceland is located off a busy street in a populated area of Memphis. It turns out that when Elvis lived there, it was just a 2 lane highway in the middle of the woods, but apparently the city built up around the house once it opened up to the public. There were many surprising things about Graceland, but none in the way I was expecting. The house wasn't very big. Don't get me wrong... it would be very big for ME to own, but we're talking Elvis. By today's superstar standards, it was quite modest. And not just on the outside. With a few small exceptions like the fur-covered seats in the Jungle Room and the 3 television sets in the mirrored room, the house was surprisingly "normal." It wasn't gaudy like I expected. Of course, carpeted walls and ceilings aren't too common today, but they weren't that unusual for the 70's. Even the kitchen had a typical 70's avocado green fridge. The pool wasn't guitar-shaped like I had imagined, and I don't even remember there being a hot tub or jacuzzi. The little cemetary in the back put to rest any rumors that "Elvis lives," and the only really unusual thing was the firing range set up in a converted brick (yes, brick!) garage that was only about 10-15 feet long. I can't even imagine the ricochet! All in all it was still quite interesting, even in its modesty. After the self-guided tour, we headed to the gift shop, where Travis thankfully reminded me that I didn't need any more stuff. Thank you, Travis! We got back in the car and continued on our way. Conversation focused on the tsunami disaster and other relief efforts, as well as a comparison of the Holocaust to situations today in Rwanda and Sudan. We also talked about being scared to move... me, not Travis. Travis has moved happily many times. We rounded out the car trip with a television trivia game, and were amazed at all of the television shows we could name alphabetically. Even more amazing, however, was how many we forgot! We stopped at the Waffle House for dinner. Apparently, there are almost 1,500 Waffle Houses nationwide, and the waffles were wonderful. After that, we stopped at a little hotel just inside the Virginia border. Again, there was no internet, and so we quickly went to sleep.

The (Very) Long Road, Part 4

Stuck Day #2

The only exceptionally terrific thing about being stuck on Day 2 was being able to sleep late. Very, very late. After driving for about 12 hours a day and losing an additional hour every day as we crossed time zones, and waking up at 5:30 every morning, it was rest we both needed. We got up, did some more internet stuff, and found out that switching Travis' plane ticket would cost the difference from what I originally paid to what it would cost today. They estimated a difference of about $500, but tried to console me with the fact that I had gotten a really good deal the first time. Gee, thanks. Fortunately, Travis was able to secure a buddy pass from a pilot relative, and that alleviated a tiny bit of the stress. We then took a walk. We passed a large farm only a few blocks away, and in a matter of minutes a dozen cows were gathered around the fence to check us out. Then we walked past Arkansas Tech. University, which seemed unusually empty for a school day. It was then we noticed that for a college town, there was really very little to do here, including drink. No bars, no liquor stores. We wondered if it was a "dry" town. We walked to a restaurant, the name of which excapes me now, but which had a train theme, and we could even blow a real train whistle. While there, the dealer called and said they found the actual problem, which turned out to be a broken spring in one of the valves, a problem so rare that they had to have the tool to fix it driven in from Little Rock. But the car was ready to go, for slightly less than the original estimate, and a day "early." Donna picked us up at the restaurant and brought us back to the car. Travis really wanted to check out the restaurant, so we went back. It was at this time he decided to question the young woman at the counter about fun things to do, since we decided to stay the night and get an early start the next day. The young woman looked at us, rolled her eyes and laughed. There is nothing to do in Russellville. Travis noted the college, but no bars. She said the Baptists had purchased all the liquor licenses and it was the driest of dry towns. However, you could drink at a private club if you were a member. She said you pay $5, and you become a member. Aren't loopholes fun? We decided against that. In any case, we wanted to get back to the Dixie Cafe in time for dinner. We later found out we were only a few blocks from the beginning of Route 7, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful highways in this country, nicknamed "Scenic 7." Guess we'll have to save that for our next visit to Russellville.

The (Very) Long Road, Part 3

Stuck Day #1

On this day, we got another early morning wake up call from "Yankee" Bryan, telling us he was coming by to tow us to Valley Motors Jeep Dealer. Watching them hoist my car onto a flatbed trailer only halfway through our cross-country trek nearly brought me to tears for the first of many times this day. The thoughts of the cost of the car, the extra hotel nights, and changing Travis' plane ticket all weighed heavily on my unemployed shoulders. At the dealer, they told us we could wait in the waiting area, or back at the hotel, which was the first sign that this wasn't going to be a quick fix. It took them a long time to trouble-shoot the problem, and they eventually determined that it might be a timing chain issue. To fix this, they would have to order a timing kit from a place in Memphis, and we were unlikely to leave the area for at least 2 days. Throughout the terrible ordeal, however, Donna at the Jeep dealer was always polite and friendly, giving me a first-hand experience of the term "Southern hospitality." One of the mechanics then gave us a ride back to the hotel. The mechanic told us how he used to live in California, but that the teachers at his son's school didn't speak English properly, so he sent his son back to Arkansas for a better education, and eventually moved back to be closer to him. I'm familiar with the bilingual educational problems in California, but to send a kid to school in ARKANSAS for a better education?!?!?! Wow, that was an enlightening conversation for me. After getting back to the hotel, we re-checked in to a room that actually had internet access. We ate lunch at a restaurant called the Dixie Diner, where I tried the catfish. I've never had catfish, but all the highway signs kept advertising catfish as we approached the area, so we figured it must be a specialty around here... We were right. The Arkansas River nearby provided an abundant supply, and it was delicious. And again with the Southern hospitality. The wait staff was extraordinarily friendly in a way I've not been accustomed to, and they gave us free dessert because it was our first visit. They also gave us a $5 coupon for our next visit. Since the car was broken down, we figured it might come in handy. After lunch, we walked to the local video store... no Blockbuster here. The video store was so small that they didn't even have "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring." Their one copy was out, not that I was disappointed. We wound up renting "Garden State" instead. Back at the hotel, Travis encouraged me to import the few CDs I had in the car into the itunes on my computer, and then I wrote my "Stuck" blog. We ate dinner at the local Subway, I swapped an American dollar for a Canadian dollar (which is apparently rare and no longer used in the paper form), watched "Garden State" on my computer, and called it a night.

The (Very) Long Road, Part 2

Driving Day #2

Day 2 became a very long day. It started with an early morning wakeup and a sleepy continental breakfast. In the morning, Travis tried to waken himself with a "Monster" drink he had purchased before the trip, as a potential energy booster. He said it tasted like shampoo. I took his word for it. The day consisted of driving into and through the northern tip of Texas (there is NOTHING in that part of Texas), missing the "Welcome to Arkansas" sign, and having to drive at least 5 miles out of the way to go back and snap a picture of it. The day was broken up with a little bit of rain, a stop at the DQ, the taillight going out (and then coming back on), and a few interesting truck bumper stickers. One bumper sticker said, "I'm not speeding, I'm qualifying." Another bumper sticker said "We have good drivers - call 1-800-XXX-XXXX." It wasn't actually X'd out like that, and it wasn't intended to be a funny bumper sticker. But someone had scratched out the phone numbers... I guess he wasn't such a good driver and didn't want anyone to call him on it! Today's conversation consisted of talking about my new home, and home ownership in general. Some of the conversation had to do with priorities, as I was expressing some grief over now being officially broke, and the compromise between now owning a home, but no longer having the luxury to travel, which is something I'm craving more and more these days. We also talked about the meaning of an "important career" and what that means, as well as having money vs. quality of life... and how they're not always the same thing. We missed the Texas BBQ because we drove through so quickly, so we stopped in Arkansas at Rick's BBQ, where the fried pickles were so good that our great waiter said they were "addictive, like cigarettes." The BBQ was delicious, the evening was great, the Superbowl was on the TV, and everything was going fine. Then, I stepped out of the booth and hurt my knee again, the Eagles lost the Super Bowl, and this was a sign of very bad things to come. We started driving again and decided to stay in a town called Russellville for the night. While pulling off the highway, the car sputtered, made some hideous grinding noises, and died. Travis was able to get it started and make it run just enough to get it across the street into the hotel parking lot, and this was the beginning of our 2+ day residency in Russellville, Arkansas. The tow truck driver, Bryan, was in a happy place because he was from New England (as his nickname "Yankee" suggested) and his team had just won the Super Bowl. We were going to get him to tow us to Little Rock for the night, about 70 or 80 miles away, but he told us there was a Jeep dealer in town, and he recommended we stay here the night because, as he said, "I wouldn't leave my dead cat in Little Rock. It's nasty!" So we checked into the hotel where there was no internet access, even though the sign on the marquee clearly stated there was free high speed internet. And we called it a night.

The (Very) Long Road, Part 1 of 6

Well, I finally arrived in Maryland... I've actually been here almost 2 weeks now. Without our stuff and trying to get settled in a new place, it has taken a while to catch up and put the trip down into words. I guess, like the move itself, writing about it has been a slow process, and maybe even a bit painful. Venturing outward is not always easy... and can often be scary.

The day before I left, I picked up my friend Travis from the airport. He was kind enough to fly in to accompany me on the drive. We spent the afternoon eating at "The Hat", running a few errands, and packing up the car. In the evening, we went to see Patti Rayne perform and a couple of friends joined us there. Patti's performance always makes me feel good, and this night was no exception. She was in peak performance mode, filled with funny anecdotes and comments, and a few hours worth of brilliant covers. And she even performed "Tiny Room" one last time before I would hit the road not knowing when I would return. It was a nostalgic end to a lifetime of memories in L.A.

Driving Day #1
Travis and I woke very early in the morning, on the suggestion that driving during daylight makes for an easier ride. I had a tearful goodbye with my family... even my cat seemed to know this was goodbye. (I will be going back for my cat in a couple of months, but thought she might handle a flight with me better than 4 days in a car). As we drove out of Los Angeles, we were greeted with perhaps the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. Granted, I'm not often up early enough to watch the sun rise, but this was truly spectacular. It felt almost as if the sun was saluting the trip... or saying "Hey, stupid! Look what you're driving away from!!!" I wondered if it was an omen and, if so, what kind. As we drove away, the contrast of the snow in the mountains behind us and the dryness of the desert ahead of us was amazing! Travis was snapping away digital pictures and reminding me to do the same. (Note: check back on the site later... I hope to add pictures or a link in the not TOO distant future). Travis' camera has all the bells and whistles, a much more significant depth of field, and just takes BEAUTIFUL pictures. Mine is OK, relatively new, but less professional and sophisticated. I snapped away what I could on mine, and we saved the really important pictures (like "Welcome to [fill in state here]" for Travis' camera. The conversation was a bit slow in coming. I filled the early part of the day by munching on the brownies my mom had packed for us, and chewing on some grape bubble gum. Most of my CD's were in a box on a truck somwhere between CA and MD, and the reception on the radio was intermittent at best. We eventually wound up conversing on topics such as Canadian vs. U.S. healthcare and why I won't see the doctor about my headaches or bum knee because my insurance rates go up and I'm at risk to be canceled. We agreed Canada was better. We also talked about the effect people have on us, and how someone can make a large impact on your life without even knowing it, and how important some people are... even if we don't say it enough. That's one of those topics I've been thinking about a lot lately, especially since I'm leaving so many important people behind. We arrived in Albuquerque late on Day #1. My first time in New Mexico... but many more "firsts" to come...

Monday, February 07, 2005

Stuck

On the way to D.C.... Stuck... Car broke down... in Arkansas... never thought I'd ever be in AK for more than a few hours... Plusses: Southern hospitality and cooking... Minuses: Behind schedule, extra costs, dead car.

More to come when I'm not too upset to write about it...

Apparently Travis, my driving buddy, was not too upset to write, so if you want to know more about the adventures, check out his blog: http://www.hopstudios.com/nep/column/stuck_in_russellville.html

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Moving

Well, I'm officially not "waiting" anymore... The majority of the stuff is on a moving truck and on it's way back east (with several hundred minor stops throughout the country along the way). It will be a while before I get my stuff on the other end, but the stress of packing it is finally over.

Packing IS stressful. Especially when you don't leave yourself enough time to go through and throw out stuff you really don't need. We have WAY too much stuff. I now officially HATE stuff. Stuff sucks. And nothing sucks more than packing the stuff you hate into a truck when homeless people keep walking by while pushing carts filled with all of the belongings they have in this world. Except, maybe that IN ADDITION to the truck driver saying he has no need for whatever is in the 2 boxes a previous client decided they didn't want because his truck is his home and he has no need for stuff. Sigh.

So, for friends reading this blog, I have a request. Remind me that I don't need stuff. Remind me that I am never allowed to move again. And please, oh please, for birthdays, holidays, or just in good spirits, please don't buy me any stuff. If you feel you must in the future, I would love a phone call, a card, a dinner out, some time and thoughts and pictures and memories of me and you, special friends. That's it. Please no more stuff.

In the meantime, both scared and looking forward to the move ahead. REALLY scared about finding work. Looking forward to being with my wife and exploring a new area and owning a home. But the stress gets padded with a (very fast) trek across country with one of my best friends. I think and hope it will be a nice bonding experience... we don't have enough of those any more. I'll keep you posted... and of course, once I arrive at the other end, stay tuned for more "Protests of the Week"...