Monday, September 30, 2013

Is This the Real Life? Is This Just fantasy?

So, dear readers, I've been living in Boise for about two months.  I'm here to tell you about my experiences thus far.  First, it's really beautiful.  That goes without saying.

You know what else is true?  People here are really nice.  Yeah, yeah, it sounds like a platitude.  It's not, though.  People here are supernaturally nice.  Here are some examples:

  • When I first got here I had to go buy a bunch of house-y type things:  bathmat, broom, dish rack, you get the idea.  While I was in the store buying these things I was welcomed to Boise by no less than 3 different people.  How did they know to do so?  They just started talking to me!  They noticed that my cart was full of move-in things and they actually initiated human contact.  I had to talk myself out of the belief that they weren't planning on following me home and robbing me of my new pile of housewares.  An extension of this item is that every time a stranger learns that I've just moved to Boise they actually say the words "Welcome to Boise!  I think you'll love it here."  It's like the entire Treasure Valley works for the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Somewhere in the move out west, a catch tray on the less-than-a-year old grill disappeared.  Though the grill is still perfectly usable, we decided to see if there were any catch trays in the grill accessories section at Home Depot and Lowe's.  No luck.  The Lowe's employee assigned to that section offered to look up the part in her online database.  It seems that this is not a part that one can order as a lowly consumer.  Typically, I think, this is where  the employees tells us that they're sorry they couldn't help us.  Not this lady.  Lowe's has a super secret ordering system that allows them to get parts for their display models since those get manhandled a lot before they get sold when the newer models arrive.  So rather than just wishing us well, she ordered a catch tray for one of the display grill and will give us a ring when it comes in.  Then she's going to give it to us for free.  Whaaaaat?
  • Lest you think the Boise Lowe's is The Most Helpful Place on Earth, let me tell you about Dmitriy at Home Depot.  One of the screws that holds the surround sound speakers to their stands went missing in the move (see a theme here?).  This is a screw that, when looked at pointy end on, looks like a rectangle instead of a circle.  Two opposing sides are threaded and two are flat.  Also, the head where the screwdriver would normally fit is completely flat.  Not surprisingly, no one sells these weird-ass things.  As we stood dejectedly looking at the massive screw collection at Home Depot, my new best friend Dmitriy came along in his little orange apron and helped us find the regular screws that were the right length and threading (for the record, I'd already figured that part out but I appreciated the confirmation). THEN he spent 15 minutes hunched over with a metal file making a screw that looked like the special Sony screw.  He did this for no apparent gain that I can see.
  • Last week the sale of the house in Massachusetts required that Huppy deposit a decent chunk of money into a local checking account so that it could then be redistributed as closing costs.  She then asked a the teller how long it would take for the funds to be available so that she didn't send it on too soon.  He tapped a few keys and said "Eh, you're good for it.  It's available now."  Ex-squeeze me?  Baking powder?
  • One of the things I had to do before Huppy arrived was make sure I'd found a good place to get haircuts.  After an unpleasant incident before I moved where the guys who work _for_ my former barber refused to cut my hair (he was gone that day) because they don't cut women's hair, I was a little paranoid.  (In their NON-defense, they knew damned well who I was and how long my hair is not)  Anyway, I found one, she's nice (obvs), and Huppy went to get her haircut last week.  Today, the hair dresser called Huppy and said that she had another client in who is also a civil engineer and she told him about her new client who just moved here and it looking for civil work.  He told her to pass his cell phone number and a list of companies on to Huppy.  To be clear, Huppy got a haircut and a headhunter in one swell foop.
I realize these are primarily customer service stories but a) they still count and b) I just got here so my social stories are fewer in number.

Other stray items not related to niceness:

  • If people are home, their garage doors are open.  Like, allllll day.  And from what I can tell, their stuff is still there when they shut the door again at bedtime.  
  • Every parking lot here has a drainage channel in it that I cannot seem to drive slow enough over not to feel like I'm about to bounce out of my car.  The driveways are the same way.  The reason this is noteworthy is that THIS IS A DESERT.  I have yet to figure out why everything is designed to withstand a flood.  Optimism, maybe?
  • A dude kidnapped a young woman after killing her mother and brother in California.  He took her to the wilds of Idaho where he was spotted by four folks on horseback (one of whom works with me!).  On the Today Show when asked why they were suspicious of the pair since the kidnapper was touted as an outdoorsman, one of them replied that he maybe he's California outdoorsy but he's not Idaho outdoorsy.  So, that's a thing.
Enough for now.  All is well here.  My new job is keeping me hopping and eventually I'll be done unpacking all this STUFF that at some point in my life I thought I needed. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Westward Ho, Part 2

This post will cover the rest of the trip to Idaho and the first couple of days settling in.  The drive from Ohio (where I was during Part 1) to Idaho was fairly uneventful.  The cats continued to be pretty mellow about the trip.  They got comfortable enough to want to sleep in different places throughout the day.  Most of those places were on top of my luggage and pillows which gave them  chance to shed on things that I didn't want them to shed on.  Nothing makes a cat happier.  Well, one thing might.  Shortly after we left the hotel in Wyoming,  Hjørdis dropped a deuce in the cat pan I provided.  The agony didn't last long but it was intense.  I basically got dutch-ovenned by my cat.  She seemed smug if you ask me.

So, what else?

  • The house I'm renting was found and leased through the magic of the interwebs.  There were six pictures in the listing.  I was understandably nervous about whether the house would live up to expectation.  Fortunately, it has.  
  • I brought with me a bed, a dresser, two Ikea disassembled Ikea chairs, a TV, clothes, and some kitchen stuff.  The house has three bedrooms and a bonus room in addition to a living room.  Since I brought such a small amount of stuff, I look more like a squatter than a renter.  Two of the three bedrooms and the living room are still completely empty.
  • The cats are not accustomed to hardwood floors.  In the middle of the night, during freakout time, it sounds like Freddy Kruger is trying to claw his way up through the living room floor.  It probably sounds more like cats on a hardwood floor but at 3 a.m. all I can think of is Freddy.
  • Another sound that startles me on the regular is the sprinklers in the lawn.  Boise is a high desert so apparently in order to have grass one must have a sprinkler system.  They're on a schedule to which I am not privy so I've already been ambushed by them once.  
  • There's a store here called Fred Meyer.  It's like a Super Walmart but with more stuff (As impossible as that sounds).  
  • The farmer's market here takes up about 5 blocks downtown.  Serious business!  I think I've eaten more berries in the last week than I have in my entire life prior to this week.  
  • I just got internet at the house today after five days of being here.  The sense of relief and contentment that came over me when it was activated is probably not healthy.
  • The doorbell just rang.  It was a dude holding a cell phone and one of those Magic Eraser things.  Apparently he expected his sister to answer the door and seemed surprised to find that she no longer lived here.
  • I can't seem to stop being in east coast time which means no matter how long I stay awake at night, I keep waking up between 5 and 6.  How much do you want to bet that abruptly stops on Thursday when I start my new job?
  • I think I saw my first person with a permit to carry a firearm that wasn't in law enforcement last night at Walmart.  I mean, he could have been a lawman of some sort, but it wasn't a lock.
  • People here are very nice.  The day I moved in a went to Fred Meyer to get a bunch of stuff and was welcomed to Boise by a lady in the cat food aisle and two different FM employees.
  • The guy who came to repair the garbage disposal today was also very nice and explained to me how people in Idaho are not fans of the federal government.
I know these posts aren't high in entertainment value but I promised a lot of folks that I would let them know how I'm faring.  So far so good!  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Westward Ho, Part 1

I'm halfway done with my trek from Massachusetts to Idaho.  As I've mentioned (ad nauseum, probably), this road trip is bring done with two cats in the car.  Prior to leaving, I was very concerned about this.  Would they freak out?  Should I bring sedation in case the lose their minds?  How often should I give them an opportunity to drink water or eliminate waste?  Would they be happier in a large carrier together or will the stress cause them to fight?  That's the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my concerns.  It turns out, though, that after the first hour of driving on Saturday (long enough to confirm that this was not a trip to the vet I suspect) they fell asleep and could barely be bothered to accept treats from me at rest stops.  I'm not sure why I was surprised - I've spent a lot of time home alone during the day with these cats so I know damned well that all they do is sleep.  There are, however, a few things I wish I had thought about ahead of time:

  • When staying in a hotel room with cats who have been sleeping all day, take their jingle bell equipped collars off before going to bed.  I am positive that they took shifts where one slept on my legs and the other one went to a far corner of the room and did kitty calisthenics.  I really should have seen that one coming.
  • I brought litter, a pan, treats, toys, a spare carrier, fleece remnants for comfort, a water bowl for the car, food, cat shampoo wipes, pan liners, paper towels, and about a million other things.  I did not bring a litter scoop, though.  I realized that during the night as the cats enthusiastically used their pan several times.  Despite what seemed like an hour of scraping and digging, they managed to cover exactly 0 out of 3 poops.  I had really weird, smelly dreams.
Other than these oversights, things are going well.  The car is pulling the trailer handily, the cats are chill, and my playlists are awesome.  Tomorrow I will try to get from my mom's house in eastern Iowa to a motel in Laramie, Wyoming.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It's Like _War_and_Peace_ But With Fences

A couple of months ago, a house down the street from me was put up for sale and subsequently sold.  It's far enough away that I have no idea who lived there before nor would I have any reason to know who lives there now except I have now become obsessed everything related to this home.  Here's the story:

About a month or so ago, as I drove by this house I saw from the corner of my eye that something was different about the front yard.  Specifically, it seemed that someone was building a fence.  This house is a standard raised ranch.  There is absolutely nothing unusual about it.  The first segment of fence was made from two medium-brown 4x4's as posts and some similarly colored 1x5's (1x4's maybe) connecting them horizontally across the top and bottom.   Attached to these horizontal pieces appeared to be pieces of bamboo and the whole fence was about 4 feet tall.  Can you picture it?  I think the reason I noticed it was that the fence looks like it would be quite nice in front of a nice Zen rock garden or maybe a small temple.  In front of a cookie cutter raised range, it's a bit odd.  But, hey, whatever flips your wig, right?

Why am I telling you in tedious detail about this fence?  Partially because it gives me cognitive dissonance every time I look at it but also because the construction of this fence has turned into some kind of epic journey.  This fence, when finished, will probably be about 30 feet long which is not very long in the world of fences.  The homeowners work on this fence all the time and it's still not done.  I drive by and cheer when I see another section has been added.  On several occasions, though, the next time I drive by that section has been dismantled and someone is standing over a pile of bamboo with their hands on their hips.  (Side note:  I now understand that the combination of eastern and western design is a reflection of the couple themselves).

This has been going on for about 6 weeks.  Each weekend and some week days these people are out in their yard building the fence in a two steps forward/one step back fashion.  I'm now heavily invested in their success.  Building a fence (or anything, if I had to guess) is clearly way, way outside their comfort zone but they're out there suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous carpentry like troopers.  

I want to sneak down there in the night and just finish it for them like a giant shoemaker's elf.  I honestly believe I could do it in maybe an hour or two.  Another part of my obsession with this fence is my inability to imagine what could possibly be so difficult.  The bamboo pieces?  None of them are the same length.  Should I leave one of my extra tape measures on their doorstep?  Everyone knows about those, right?  

Today's episode involved the addition of another vertical post so it looks like there's at least one more fence segment coming.  When I drove by this evening I saw that the post is in the ground, the hole filled back in, and it looks nice and vertical.  Huzzah, two more steps forward!

Aaaaand it's about 6 inches taller than the rest of the fence posts.  One step back.

I'm moving in 17 days...I fear this is going to be a cliffhanger.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Westward, Ho! (Shut your mouth!)

Much has happened since I last posted:  On a lark, I decided to submit my resume to a job posting for a school that was looking for a math department chair.  Much to my surprise, it worked!  This job will cause some big changes, the biggest being the need to move from New England to Boise, Idaho.  I get a lot of the same questions about this so I figured I'd make an FAQ.

Q:  Idaho?  Why on earth Idaho?
A:  Well mainly, that's where I got a job.  Also important, though, is the fact that Boise seems to be a healthy city.  It's riddled with bike and walking paths and there's a place to ski/snowboard about 3 minutes away.  Yes, you can ride a bike and ski here in New England as well but it's such a process that I rarely do it.  Plus, Idaho is hella pretty.

Q:  That's where you're from, right?  So you'll be near your family!
A:  Actually I'm from a different I-state, Illinois and my family lives in yet another, Iowa.  It turns out, Iowa is a 20 hour drive from Idaho which is exactly the travel time between Iowa and Massachusetts.  thus I will be no closer or farther from my Iowa family than I am now.  Huppy's brother and his family actually live in Boise so she will go from 40 hours of driving away from that part of her family to about 15 minutes.  She wins.

Q:  Aren't you going to miss Massachusetts?
A:  Of course.  Primarily, I'll miss my friends.  But, it's a very connected world, so my hope is that we will remain in contact.  I have to admit, I'll also miss the luxe level at the local movie theater where you get served food and booze while you watch your movie.  It's the best.  The.  Best.  I'm getting antsy just thinking about seeing movies the old fashioned way.  

Q:  When are you leaving?
A:  The cats and I will probably start driving on or about July 20th.  I have to be in Boise to pick up keys to my rental house on the morning of the 25th.  Huppy will leave once either the house sells or she gets a Boise-based job so that's a bit more nebulous.

Q:  Do you like potatoes?
A:  Duh.

Q:  Are you stressed?
A:  I could projectile vomit at any moment.  A lot of things need to come together the right way for this all to work out in a way that is not financially ruinous but I'm convinced that this is worth it.

Q:  Are you seriously driving from MA to ID with two cats in the car?
A:  I am.  Specifically, in a brand new car that I bought last week.  So, obviously, one of us is going to become incontinent somewhere on the journey.  It'll probably be one of the cats but I should probably cover my own seat in plastic just to be safe.

I hope this helps.  I'm sure I'll have some good, funny stories to tell once I get there. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

It's Not Right, But It's OK

So, I just joined a Facebook group created to help people with languishing blogs.  Each Sunday they will post a topic and the members will (hopefully) write a post on that topic and share it with the group.

This week's topic is "A Game I Love".

Of all the things that might have popped into my brain when I saw that topic, the first game that occurred to me was Peek-A-Boo.  I wish like hell that it was something a little more dignified like football or cribbage or even "The Game of Thrones".  But, no, I land on Peek-A-Boo.

If you don't know me you might just assume that I love babies and therefore love the joy that the game of Peek-A-Book brings to them.  While I'm certainly happy that babies get so much pleasure from simple things like that, it's a remote happy.  I'm on record as not really being a kid person.  I'm not anti-children by any means.  I mean, I know some children and the ones I know well are perfectly fine individuals but as an entire group or segment of the population, I could take e'm or leave 'em.  (Disclaimer:  I am COMPLETELY aware that if you replaced the word "children" with "black people" in those last few sentences I would come off as undeniably racist therefore I might be some kind of ageist but that's a topic for another blog entry).

Back to Peek-A-Boo.  I, a grown-ass 41 year old woman, will laugh hysterically if you play peek-a-boo with me (I'm going to stop capitalizing it now because it's starting to feel like I'm talking about a game by Milton Bradley).  I'm not kidding about this.  This might be completely insane of me OR I'm just the only one who has tried it.  It might be that some of you reading this would have the same reaction if you tried.  Or, the insane thing.  I don't know why I laugh, I fully understand that neither I not the person with whom I'm playing is actually disappearing.  I also am not actually surprised when they reappear.  I don't know.

Now that I've admitted that I might as well go all out.  The other thing that makes me laugh to the point of tears is when I blow my nose and it makes a honk. I know most people probably think it's at least a little funny when they honk like a goose because it is.  But I completely lose it.

To demonstrate what I mean, I made this video.  This is the second video I made after realizing that I had horrible post-snow-shoveling hat head the first time around.

And, yes, it seems that I slapped my knee.  I always thought that was just a euphemism...

I hope at least some of the laughter was infectious.  I wonder what next week's topic will be and if it will prompt me to divulge any more deep dark secrets.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Songbirds and Axe Murderers

I suppose this should have been posted closer to Halloween but, really, Halloween is a year 'round thing for me so I'll let it slide.  And so will you.  Capice?

On that note...

To get to work on time I have to leave the house at about 6:15 to catch a train to Boston.  If I need a little extra prep time in the morning I have to leave by 5:15 to catch the earlier train.  Because of this, it is almost always dark when I get into my car.  There a couple of weeks after we "fall back" where this isn't the case but it doesn't last long.  My point, and I do have one, is that it is dark AND deserted at that hour of the morning.  So, being a person with a relatively active (and often NOT helpful) imagination, I regularly convince myself that there is a murderous stowaway hiding in my back seat as I drive to the train station in the pre-dawn darkness.

Obviously, this is not a welcome thought and it gives me the creeps every time.  I can almost smell the stale sweat and dried blood caked to his clothes.  Perhaps that noise isn't my trailer hitch back there shifting around but is instead the clank of an axe head jostled by a pot hole.

These thoughts don't generally come when I'm getting into the car and can actually perform a visual check.  Nooooo, I wait until I'm ripping down Maple Street to start conjuring up my possible bloody companion.  Obviously, this means I regularly start my day bravely riding the wave of a panic attack.  This may not be for the reasons you think, however.  You see, I'm not worried that the cannibalistic psychopath hitching a ride with me is going to rise up and bludgeon me into a pulp before turning me into a skin bathrobe for his mommy.  My theory is that the killing part would have happened back in my driveway.  Unless this guy is suicidal along with homicidal, he would be foolish to slit my throat from the backseat as I drive.

Nope, what scares me is that this freakshow might have heard me tunelessly bellowing along to the radio.  (shudder)  I would die if that happened.