Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dog Piss and Horse Shit

So the housewarming/seafood fest was a success. All our friends who didn't already have a written excuse from their parents were in attendence....there were large amounts of scrumptious food, we have cases upon cases of empty beer bottles and half the liquor we did when the evening began, the firepit didn't burn down the house.....oh yeah, and you people got my dogs so worked up that one of them decided to piss in the house that night. As it was a beautiful warm day we took 'em to the park the next day and we still had a repeat performance the next evening. Dumb animals.

With Noland down in Cali again this week, it was my turn to take up the baton fighting Cingular. We had everyone at the house Sat. check the status of their cellphones and determined that yes indeed, everyone with Cingular/AT&T has little to no coverage. Sprint was ok, Verizon was pretty good - but I think T-Mobile was the winner.

So the next day when Noland has to call his dad back 8 times - on fathers day - to finish a 30 minute phone call we decided it was definitely time to cancel the Cingular service and pick up with T-Mobile. Problem of course is that we're in a contract - we signed this new contract after Noland's phone got stolen at Ash Street one night the 'fats were playing (and I didn't keep a close enough eye on our coats.) This occured slightly before we moved into the new house. Working on the floors and painting and such before we moved in we realized we had an issue with coverage here, but waited till we actually moved in to call them.

Of course our 30-day grace period ended on the Sat after we moved in and we didn't call until Monday - having to wait to call from a location other then our house so that the call would go through and all - so when Noland called they basically told him to bad, they don't guarantee service everywhere. We tried other options that they gave us - spent a load of cash upgrading the phones, returning them and exchanging them - we gave it a fair shake. So I call this week and get a pretty firm 'No' from three levels of "can I talk to your supervisor then."

I am now waiting for a call from 'Herbert' an 'executive manager' who will retun my call within 72 hours. I went back and tracked all of the dropped calls. The past two months it's an average of 35 per month. If their no exceptions policy on getting out of the contract without paying the $300 is indeed no exceptions - they're going to give us free text messaging since that works more consistently and they going take 1% off my bill for every call that dropped the month prior. That should at least cover the cost of having to get a land line installed.

And that's my no exceptions policy.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Midwest - Part Zwei

A nice brunch the next morning with my mom & dad, younger brother, wife and kids – who were by weird coincidence visiting the MN based family the week prior and on their way home to Kansas – then we headed even farther north to the Land of Sky Blue Waters... Bemidji… First City on the Mississippi…. that’s where my mom grew up and my parents met when she was in high school and dad was a sophomore at Bemidji State – so my grandpa lives there as well as both sets of aunts and uncles on mom’s side of the family and three of five cousins.

I don’t think I’d been to Bemidji since I was 15 or 16. Since dad’s side all live in small towns near Minneapolis I’ve seen them more often during the years I was in DSM – it was easy to pop in and visit on my way to or from a weekend in MSPLS – but Bemidji isn’t on the way to anywhere!

Since I’d never been to Portland before I decided to move here, I flew out for a weekend to check it out about a month before I actually made the move. I was by myself in a rented Yugo and a cheap hotel (later I learned I hooker hotel) on Sandy Blvd. and after a day exploring the city I drove to the coast. I was 27 years old at the time and had never seen the ocean from US shores before. As I drove out the Sunset Highway though, it was a little reassuring that while this was the new and different place that I wanted it to be - it wasn’t completely unfamiliar either, as the Evergreens lining the highway, making the sunny afternoon a bit darker and chillier then it should be, reminded me of driving to my grandpa’s cabin on Turtle River Lake in northern Minnesota.

Every summer of my childhood, for as long as I can remember, we went to Minnesota on a family vacation. We’d first stop at the Newman side of the family just south of Minneapolis. We’d stay at grandma and grandpas a few days and all the cousins would come over. The youngest of the nine cousins was the same age as my older brother and the oldest ones I don’t remember really being around much – already in college or working. But then came the really fun part - then we’d keep going north – into the land where my brothers and I commented once - that if aliens landed they’d think that the planet was uninhabited.

We would drive and drive and never see another car let alone a city or even a farm. The roads were narrow and lined with pines and birch crowding up on either side, Once there had been a forest fire, so the trees were scarred and blackened making everything look even more desolate. But once you got far enough, you’d start to see signs of life. Small towns with roadside signs promoting local festivals and homegrown vegetables. And then you’d reach Bemidji – as we drove into town you’d see Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Grandpa’s in town home and office weren’t far away and there was a small amusement park right across the street – but the best part of Bemidji was going to the lake.

Grandma and Grandpa had a huge log cabin right on the lake – a big picture window overlooking it all, enough bedrooms plus a guest cabin that’d we’d all go out and stay – all the cousins and aunts and uncles. Once a bat swooped down out of the rafters and landed on my mom’s head during breakfast – grandpa just grabbed the tennis racket he kept handy for such occasions and chased it down. There was a garage filled with tools and three little motorbikes that the older kids got to ride – and grandpa or an uncle would give rides to the little cousins. An orchard full of crab apples that we’d eat ourselves sick at, throw to the dogs (there were always lots of dogs) and then go down to the lake. Grandpa had a red and white motor boat that he’d always take us out in, but also a couple of canoes and other little paddle boats that we could take out ourselves – always in our lifejackets – and turn over in the middle of the lake as we then laughed and splashed out way back to shore underneath an overturned canoe.

So it was fun to take Noland there and share stories with him about those kid trips. The drive from Minneapolis wasn’t quite as barren as I remembered – with the expanding tourism of resorts and fishing weekends there were signs of civilization all along the way – we even jumped out of the car at a rest stop near Brainard, pulled out the laptop hooked into the wi-fi connection and took care of a few items that needed to be taken care of. And then there were the scary signs – alongside the resorts and farmers markets were the “Jesus hates it when you kill babies” signs. They were really prolific through one stretch of the drive. We wondered if there was a higher percentage of abortions there, or if they were just kooks….

Up in Bemidji we did the family visit – it was good and I’m glad that Noland got to meet grandpa and vice versa since sadly I’m guessing that this was the last time we’ll get to see him. Had a lot of nice long chats with my aunts and uncles and brief ones with my cousins (they all had wee ones to chase after so they never go to sit down and talk.) And I took Noland to Itasca State Park – headwaters of the Mississippi and we waded across the river – where I confessed to being rather bratty about having to hike the last time I visited the place (at about age 9) causing my uncle to thank the Lord that he had two boys - and then I serenaded Noland with bits of an Indigo Girl’s tune

Well the Mississippi’s mighty, it starts in Minnesota, at a place that you could walk across with five steps down. And I guess that’s how you started, like a pin prick to my heart and at this point you rush right through me and I start to drown...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Iowa recap for posterity

So I got to take Noland on the grand tour of Iowa AND Minnesota – and I don’t care what he says – he had a good time! We kicked things off going to a Mongolian grill in a strip mall in the West DSM suburbs with Susan and a bunch of her friends to celebrate her birthday - which we timed our arrival with fabulously I might say. Then we headed a bit further in towards town to hang out on the patio of one of our old haunts and have some drinks – however about 10 minutes after we arrived the skies opened up and we were forced inside. But with $2.75 Long Islands as the nightly special – that was alright with us – and the evening was a great festivity of chatting with Susan, my friend Debbie and others…especially when I get to tell Susan’s new “only know her as the proper Principal middle-manager type” friends about her sordid past…heh heh heh……the best was after we relayed some (quite hilarious I’m sure) story to them, each of us bouncing back and forth with the lines filling in details – that this young girl turns and looks at us both and says we have the same sense of humor, with a bit awe that there could be some one else with as weird of a sense of humor as Susan – I was flattered.

The next day it was the grand tour of Des Moines, from the Drake Diner to the campus itself
and then of course the tour of all of my old apartments – the one nestled cozily in between a McDonalds, a Pizza Hut and a KFC, the house where our creepy landlord who lived in the house next door had his own “wink wink nudge nudge” special greenhouse in the back, the apartment where the bum slept in the hallway until he was found dead in a lawn chair by the swimming pool, the “Melrose Place” apartments as my friend Dan used to like to call them and of course the Yocum – where Susan was across the hall, Myriam was my roommate – and probably the best few years in Des Moines were spent….sans chasing bats out of Susan’s place and crazy Carl the handyman who stole our booze. And who says nothing exciting happens in Dead Moines?

Downtown Des Moines, including feeling up the statue that’s anatomically correct under his armor,

the insurance building that looks like an Absolut ad, and all the rest followed…finally ending up at a new dive in town called High Life that lives next door to the old Hairy Mary’s – which has relocated and gone way downhill from what I hear, but in it’s day was a great punk rock club - Noland enjoyed such fine creative drinks as a Tangermeister – yes that would be Tang and Jaeger, while Susan and I stuck to PBR while we chatted with my old friend and nemesis Bob ‘the Moron’ Moural. The journey continued through several more old favorites from when I lived in Des Moines. I think Noland was most impressed with the Des Moines Yacht Club - oh yes, even DSM has a Yacht Club. But don't start worrying that we went all fancy on ya...the fine establishment has not a blue blazer or spec of water anywhere in sight... And we got to see more old friends, become I believe among the first to learn that Chad and Laurie and expecting, and have an all around good time out.

Then it was north-bound to the far out Minneapolis suburbs for the wedding – or reception actually – of Dan and Nicole. It was great to be able to be there for them – Dan has always been a good friend and has always been there for me – and to get to see Bob again after his retreat from Seattle back to the Midwest – he seems to be doing really well and glad he made the move. We hung out for quite a while, but after a dozen or so pints of bad beer and politely biting our tongues (REALLY HARD) at comments made by Dan’s friends at our table such as “it’s not really fair to ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes…. they do so much already” and “ It’s obvious that Fox is the only channel where they aren’t attacking the white Christian family all the time, NBC, ABC, and even CNN and NPR are so obviously biased.” We had to call it night and head back to our lovely Jacuzzi suite......