Ben was up in the Twin Cities this weekend for another wedding. We spent some of Saturday afternoon hanging out, having lunch at the New Uptown Diner and discussing life in general. As was partially expected considering recent events with my car, he returned to his hypothesis that my Saab is actually a bad girlfriend and suggested I change my approach. "You need to get a reliable car and an unreliable girlfriend." This was ignoring the fact that I don't have a girlfriend, of course, much less a reliable one, but I got his point. That said, I'm not really big on car payments and still hope to get the Saab through the winter.
Meanwhile, Ben is driving a '99 Camry with flame decals on the side.
Turns out they didn't finish the work on the boiler yesterday. I was able to take a shower this morning, albeit a very, very cold one. I suppose that's progress.
) ) )
The Saab is up and running again. As suspected, it was a case of a bad alternator.
) ) )
Went on a golf scramble for work today. For someone who hasn't swung a club in over five years, I think I did okay. My team used two of my shots, which doesn't sound like much, but it was still two more than I expected. We placed second out of nine teams at one under par.
My team's name? The Price is Wrong, Bitch Bob.
Today sucked. I woke up early to the sounds of crashing metal and rattling pipes, a less than glorious symphony brought to the building's residents by the folks replacing the ancient boiler in the basement. Now, to replace the boiler they apparently had to shut off all the water to the building, so I couldn't take a shower, even a cold one. As a result, for the first time I can remember, I headed off to work with a hat on my head. Things continued downhill early in my commute. The Saab, which just crossed into 200,000-mile territory a couple of days ago, decided it didn't feel like making it all the way to work. Worse, it made that decision at the intersection of Lake and Lyndale. There are busier intersections in the neighborhood the car could've died at, but not many. (At least it didn't start on fire this time.) For now I'm driving a rental, a flimsy Saturn SL. The mechanics hope to look at the Saab tomorrow.
The day at work was long, tiresome, and, unlike yesterday, not very productive.
Back at home, I was surprised to find Putter trapped on the couch, his front claws tangled in the woven throw I have covering it. Who knows how long he was stuck there. It took a good three minutes to free him, during which time I decided I really had to cut his nails, previous failures be damned. I waited until he seemed to have calmed down from the couch incident and then spent the better part of an hour wrapped up in a drama worthy of Shakespeare. He finally decided to relent, and within a couple of minutes his front nails went from sharp and jagged to trim and blunt. Better yet, neither of us drew blood. On the downside, that was about three hours ago, and I think he's still pissed at me.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring. I'll have about three hours to work before going on a department golf outing. (That's right. Golf.)
But for now I need some sleep. More later.
I tried working from home today, and, overall, it went pretty well. There was no annoying commute to deal with, lunch from the fridge was better than what I usually get from the cafeteria, and whenever I got a mental block I just went and played with the cat for a while. (On a related note, Putter has taken to sitting on the desk when I'm at the computer.) More than anything else, though, the absence of coworkers allowed me plenty of time to actually get stuff done. All my days at work seem to be busy, but few are this productive.
Of course, there is a downside to this. I'll probably have to spend four or five hours tomorrow catching up on everything I missed today.
"You know what would be cool?"
"No, Mark, what would be cool?"
"If human blood had a minty-fresh taste to it."
"That way if you were at the dentist and they accidentally cut the inside of your mouth, it wouldn't have the taste of blood in it."
"Actually, it would have the taste of blood in it."
"True, but at least it would be minty-fresh."
) ) )
So I'm at the dentist today having a cavity2 taken care of, and the dentist and his assistant are having various conversations about sports and the weather when they briefly break into something work related:
"The last few doctors I worked with didn't use burnishers."
"Not at all."
I have no clue what they were talking about, but still found it reassuring for some reason.
It's been a fairly busy weekend. It was good to visit with my folks. There were some arguments about a few things, but that's too be expected with my family.
Due to poor health and a string of bad doctors, my dad isn't the most mobile person in the world, so the visiting with him was pretty much limited to the hotel, a trip to my apartment, a drive to a Hallmark store in New Hope (my parents sell Hallmark ornaments over eBay) and a couple of dinners. Still, it was good to see him. I worry about his health a lot, though. A yard-work injury he suffered a few years back prevents him from walking much, which in turn makes his battle with diabetes and his weight significantly more difficult. He's had numerous problems with his doctors and now is having trouble finding anyone to work with. (His strong personality probably doesn't help any, but I'm not going to fault him for that considering what he's been through.) I hope he finds some good specialists soon, though, as I'm not sure how much longer he can continue under the conditions he has in the past. I understand such things can become commonplace as people grow older, but I still think my dad is too young for me to be wondering each time we part ways if that'll be the last time I see him.
As is usual when my parents visit, we ate out a lot. Well, technically we ate in the first night, as we ordered Pizza Luce from the hotel room. (The leftovers are in my fridge.) On Saturday, while my Dad took a nap, my mom and I had a very, very good lunch at Aquavit (I had salmon, she had veggie lasagna), and later in the evening the three of us headed to St. Paul for a good dinner at Cafe Latte. Those who know my parents and I may find it odd that I took them there, but we all enjoyed it. The only downside was my dad's well-intentioned but ill-advised attempt to set me up with a married woman eating at the table next to us.
I think my folks want grandchildren. Especially my dad. I think it would placate them some if they thought I was actively looking for someone, but I'm not and they know it. If I meet someone I meet someone, but for whatever reason I just don't find the search for a significant other all that important right now. But I digress.
Aside from the food, I gave my mom a walking tour of downtown Minneapolis and the riverfront on Saturday as Dad rested back at the hotel, but that was pretty much it. The next time I'll see them will probably be over Thanksgiving, and then in December the entire family will be getting together for Christmas. That hasn't happened for years, so it should be good to get the four of us back together.
) ) )
The day is almost over now and my second favorite season of the year has officially begun. Fall started in a comfortably appropriate fashion here in Minneapolis, with temperatures staying below 60 and a cool wind pushing by throughout the day. Tonight the apartment's windows find themselves closed for the first time since I moved in, although that probably has less to do with the weather and more to do with Putter pushing through a screen and wandering out on a third-story ledge earlier this afternoon.
You know, I leave the room for two minutes and the damn cat almost gives me a heart attack. It took me over a minute to remove the rest of the screen, but by the time I was done Putter was more than ready to get back into the apartment. Not only has he stayed off the front window sills this evening, he completely avoided the sunroom for about three hours after the ledge incident. That's fairly notable as he pretty much lives out there.
But here I am talking about the cat again. Anyway...
This site has a definite tendency to make a liar out of me. I've been busy and my folks will be in town to visit this weekend, so I probably won't get to the Ohio trip until Sunday or early next week.
) ) )
From a work perspective, it's turning out to be a shorter week than I expected. I'm at about 37 hours right now, so I'll probably be putting in only 44 or 45 hours for the week.
) ) )
Note to self: The cat does not like the vacuum cleaner.
I'm usually really picky about such things, so in retrospect it's sort of surprising that I didn't rinse out the cereal bowl after taking care of my nightly Cheerios fix. I set the bowl in the sink, walked into the bedroom to take care of some laundry, returned and found Putter in the sink finishing off the milk in the bottom of the bowl. You know, some cats can handle dairy products. Unfortunately, it seems Putter is not one of them.
One nice thing about my cat being relatively verbal in nature is that he gives off a very distinctive call just before tossing his lunch. This five to ten second warning is usually enough for me to grab him and move him off the carpet or direct him in a less deadly direction. Anyway, my hope is he expelled enough out the front end this evening that he won't be expelling it out the other end tomorrow.
) ) )
The apartment. Where to begin?
About three weeks ago I put in a request for some maintenance to be performed on my apartment. The hot water pressure in the kitchen was low enough to be unusable, so I asked them to see if they could fix that. I also requested they remount a cupboard that had been removed from its original spot when they put the new refrigerator in a few months ago. (The cupboard has been sitting on the dining-area floor since it was taken down, patiently waiting to be remounted above the stove.) In the bathroom, the hot water on the sink no longer turned off completely. This was probably a minor issue, maybe a worn-out rubber washer or O-ring, something that could be fixed for $2 in parts plus five minutes of labor. I could've taken care of it myself, but figured I'd already dumped $500 into fixing up the apartment, making it their turn. Finally, I requested they put in a cabinet above the bathroom sink, something that was promised to me when I moved in.
Taking my requests literally, one could argue that the maintenance people took care of my them when they showed up unannounced and lumbered through my apartment while I was away at work yesterday. That said, there have probably been robbers and thieves who've been more courteous to households they've looted than these incompetent fucks were to my home. It was very clear that they simply did not give a shit about their work.
Let's start with the kitchen. They put a cupboard up above the stove. There were four basic problems with that: One, it was the wrong cupboard. The cupboard they were supposed to use was still sitting on the floor in the middle of the dining area. Two, the cupboard they used was a piece of crap. Dented and sloppily painted, it was partitioned in such a way that it had less usable space than the narrow cupboard they had to remove to mount it. I've seen nicer cupboards sitting out by dumpsters. Three, it was way too big for the space they placed it in. Not only did they have to push the refrigerator a couple of inches into a nearby doorway, the cupboard was big enough to prevent the swinging window over the sink from opening all the way. Four, they made an absolute mess out of my kitchen. There were shards of wood all over the stove, the dishes in the nearby drying rack were covered in plaster dust, and the floor and counters were littered with empty nail and screw bags. (Granted, they were courteous enough to dispose of a few of those bags. Unfortunately, they chose to do so by throwing them, and a bunch of plaster, in the recycling.) When I finally got around to cleaning up their mess later that evening, I realized they'd used up all but two sheets of paper toweling from what had started as a practically new roll.
The hot water pressure water in the kitchen? It's still unusable.
As screwed up as the kitchen was, the bathroom was much, much worse. First, some background information on the sink: It was a beautiful old wall-mounted cast-iron sink, coated in porcelain with two nickel-plated faucets, a wide basin, two soap reservoirs and a grill-like overflow drain. It was easily the signature piece of the bathroom, the single fixture that made the room interesting. It stood out enough that it was a selling point for the apartment; when viewing the place for the first time back in April, the caretaker singled out the sink as an example of their efforts to preserve the "classic" elements of the building. I still would've rented the place had there been some other sink there, of course, but I loved that sink. I even spent four or five hours cleaning it up the month I moved in here.
But, as said earlier, the sink had a problem. The hot water wouldn't turn off. It should've been a simple fix, probably no more than the replacement of a couple of washers or O-rings. The maintenance people's response? Rip out the sink and replace it with some cheap, wobbly cabinet unit with a narrow basin and absolutely no character whatsoever. As with the kitchen, they made a terrible mess of the plaster in the bathroom, and, once again, clean-up efforts appeared to be practically non-existent.
Then there was the medicine cabinet they "installed." Not only was it a good three-inches off center from the sink, and not only was it clearly nowhere close to being level, but instead of using the mounting brackets supplied with the cabinet they simply put some screws through the back of it. Those screws were long enough to go completely through the wall and emerge in the bedroom. As I said, they simply did not give a shit.
Livid at what had happened to my apartment, I went downstairs to talk to the caretaker. It turned out he had no idea what had happened to my place, as the owner of the building was now the one taking care of the relationship with the maintenance people. He apologized, gave me the phone number for the owner, and I went upstairs and picked up the phone. The owner and I ended up talking for a good 15 minutes. He was able to talk me down on a number of issues, voiced concern about the mess left in my apartment ("If it's happened to your's it's happened to others") and promised that the cupboard situation would be resolved today, which it was. That said, he seemed downright perplexed when I asked if I could get the old sink back. "I don't understand," he said, sounding genuinely surprised. "Why would you want that sink? It has two faucets, you can't even regulate the temperature with it. Going back to your old sink would be like leaving indoor plumbing for an outhouse." I found his statement so earnest yet stupid that I was unable to formulate a response to it. We might as well have had the following conversation:
"What did you do with my '58 Impala?"
"Oh, I replaced it with 2002 Ford Taurus."
"But I was fine with the Impala..."
"We're upgrading your vehicle for you. The Taurus is newer."
"But why? I didn't ask for an upgrade. If I'd known bringing my car in for an oil change would've resulted in you taking it from me I would've done it myself. Could I please get my Impala back?
"You want your old car back?"
"But why would you want the Impala back? It had a manual transmission, with the stick on the column, even! With the Taurus you don't have to shift gears."
"But I like shifting..."
"You like shifting? I don't understand. I don't think I've ever heard someone say that before."
So, for the time being, it looks like I'm stuck with the Menard's-reject sitting in the bathroom. At work today, a coworker pointed out another reason the owner may not want to reinstall the sink: It's probably worth more to him as something he can sell than it is as a value-addition to one of his apartments. Or maybe he was being honest when I talked to him and the sink is now in some landfill somewhere. He seems like a nice guy, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one. (That said, writing this put the idea in my head that I should check the dumpsters outside the building. I just did, and the sink isn't there.)
So, what's the moral to this story? I don't know, but I can say I spent over an hour online last night looking at homes for sale in south Minneapolis.
) ) )
It's almost midnight and I have a big day tomorrow, so I'll have to get to Ohio some other time.
No updates on Ohio this evening. Instead, I'll be online studying Minnesota rental law. As things stand, I'm way too fucking angry to talk about it.
Well, I'm back from Ohio. And Michigan. And, uh, Kentucky. It was a good trip, although in many ways an incomplete one. I'll try to have a complete rundown on the trip here by tomorrow evening. (I'd write about it now, but I've gone 36 hours without a shower, so my priorities presently lie elsewhere.)
) ) )
Result of Putter coming across the desk and stepping on the keyboard: =-]]]]=------------------------------------------------------- ,. m,..........
Well, I'm off to Cincinnati. Flying on Friday the 13th, yay. Assuming my plane doesn't crash, I should be back late Sunday.
Photos from a year ago today.
) ) )
I had no idea there was a moment of silence being held when I arrived at work a couple minutes late this morning. Angry that I was missing a meeting, I barreled into the parking lot and sprinted to the front door, but came to an abrupt stop when I noticed I was the only one moving. Everyone else was standing frozen and silent, like actors preparing for Truman's big entrance. And there I was, the silly extra who'd missed his cue, almost blowing it for everyone.
) ) )
There's a lot going on, a lot to write about, but I just don't have time.
Ok, I know I said I wasn't going to write about the cat, but I didn't get much sleep last night. I knew Putter was fairly verbal (and actually considered that to be one of the cooler things about this particular kitty), but I wasn't expecting continuous singing at 3:00 in the morning. In the end, I probably got about two hours of sleep before the alarm clock went off and the cat pounced for breakfast. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a rather long day at work.
Back at home this evening, I spent some time looking around the bedroom, bathroom and back hallway, the areas where Putter seemed to do most of his talking, in an effort to figure out if there was anything in particular he felt the need to make noise about. I was about to give up when the answer became completely obvious.
Back wall: "Meow."
Of the 13 apartments in my building, only three don't have cats. The unit directly behind mine has two felines in residence. Putter, it seems, has been talking to the neighbors. While this does strike me as a bit cute, it could turn out to be very annoying if there are too many repeats of last night. We'll see.
I have a new roommate. His name is Putter, and he meows enough that some neighbors checked in a few hours ago to make sure he was okay. Honestly, I'm not completely sure he is. He's lived with the same owner for a good six years, so this new home and person are probably quite a switch to him. He's spent a discouraging amount of time this evening laying on his back, clawing at the gap at the bottom of the front door.
I guess this could be termed a "transition period."
) ) )
Saw One Hour Photo with Heather and Rich Friday evening. A creepy, wonderful film, it's easily one of the best movies of the year. Not only did Robin Williams put in a great performance, it was a visually stunning work as well. I especially loved the use of colors in the store and Sy's apartment. (Color babble: The store had a Wal-Martish kind of color scheme, but it was much more like an inverse Target, if that makes any sense. Sy's spartan apartment was wrapped in cool tones as well. With his surroundings at work and home as cold and sterile as they were, the photos coming out of Sy's lab were probably the liveliest things in his life. Maybe that's why he got so ticked off about the +3 blue shift on his developing machine.) Aside from that, I can't remember the last movie I saw where the soundtrack played such an integral role to the film. Parts of the movie would have just about died without it. That said, the ending was cliche enough to be questionable, but it was still an excellent film.
It's one of those movies that lingers with you, too. I spent some time in Target yesterday and found it difficult to approach all the earnest, helpful employees without some degree of suspicion.
) ) )
I'm not sure what brand it was, but Ecstasy seems to be going for around $10 a tablet in Minneapolis these days. In other news, my walks downtown continue to be more interesting than the ones around my neighborhood. Lisa gave me some grief about wandering around the same area that a Gophers football player was killed last week, and others regularly ask me why I'll have anything to do with downtown, but really, it's actually quite nice.
) ) )
It's later in the evening, and the cat seems calmer now. And just so no one gets too worried, I hereby promise not to talk about him too much.
) ) )
Up next weekend: Baseball, camping and roller coasters in Ohio. Up the weekend after that: Parents visit. Two weekends after that: Turkey Party 2002.
As if this weekend wasn't going to be long and busy enough...
"Hi, we're delivering for Mattress Warehouse... We're calling to confirm your delivery for tomorrow morning."
"We'll be there between 7:00 and 9:00."
"Uh, could we possibly schedule a different time?"
"Well, let's see... We could do 6:30."
"In the evening?"
"In the morning."
I can't believe they just assume it's OK to deliver stuff before 9:00 on a Saturday. What, do they think the residents of Minneapolis are a bunch of farmers? Take a memo: There are no cows here.
"Have you seen The Rookie?"
"No, but I've heard good things about it."
"It's pretty good."
"How does it compare to The Natural?"
"It's not very difficult to be better than The Natural."
"Oh, you did not just say that."
"Robert Redford couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag."
More than anything else, today was marked by one long, continuous headache. It's receeding now, probably in part because of my rather excessive caffeine intake over the past two hours. Sleep may be a problem tonight, though.
) ) )
This evening has sort of turned into an archaeological dig into my past. While moving clothes and other items from my old dresser to my new one, it dawned on me that I probably never completely emptied out the top drawer of my old dresser before. I've had it since I was in my single digits, so there's been plenty of time for stuff to accumulate. Buried under a number of sweaters I found three old pairs of glasses; 15 years worth of check registers; a small, metal cross given to me by my folks when I was three or four; a gris-gris bag given as a gift almost a decade ago; a crappy, borderline-useless hearing aid; a half-empty box of condoms (regrettably dusty); a massive, brick-like NEC cell phone; one partially-used Helmac-brand lint-remover; a threadbare pair of hiking shorts (with service history stretching from Montana to New England); sexually-orientated gaming dice (a gift from Biker Ben?); a set of contact-lens holders; a Mark Chmura-branded Green Bay Packers watch (gift from my folks, never opened); two Pier One tea candles; a hand-decorated T-shirt resulting from an ill-advised team-building exercise at work (the back of the shirt proclaims "HEY [corporate parent], I GOT YOUR ROBUST INFRASTRUCTURES RIGHT HERE POKEY."); a Timex watch case, sans watch (it couldn't take a licking); and an incense holder that once belonged to my grandmother on my mom's side. It was sort of weird for me, as most of the items had been long forgotten. (Well, I hadn't forgotten about the condoms. Occassionally they'd chirp at me late at night: "Loser... Looooooossssseeerrrr..."1) I'm not making a big deal out this evening's discoveries, though, as most of the stuff will soon be boxed up and thrown in deep storage, where it all can be forgotten again.
) ) )
Random thought for the day, arrived at while walking home from Cheapo a few minutes ago: You know what would be funny? A Metro Transit bus hopped up on hydraulics bouncing down Hennepin Avenue. That would be funny.
It's a beautiful evening, cool, quiet, almost fall-like. Some people live for spring and summer, but the half of the year I love is just beginning.
) ) )
The past few days have been hectic. Other than a few hours spent in River Falls with friends this evening, the extended weekend was spent working on the apartment and trying to find space for all the stuff I really don't have space for. I'm freakin' sick of boxes, but, as of this writing, they still seem to have the upper hand. The living room is clear, but the rest of the rooms lie in varying degrees of chaos. Not helping is the fact I had my new bedroom set delivered earlier today, so I now have two bed frames, two dressers and three nightstands scattered about the apartment. I've also lost most of the usable space under my bed due to centrally-located support posts on the new frame. (I missed that minor detail when shopping.) I'd been planning on keeping my old mattress for when friends or family stay over, but I now have no idea where to keep it. Dammit. As for the new bed itself, it gets delivered on Saturday, so for the rest of the week my old twin bed will be resting on a queen-sized frame. That's not the greatest setup, but it should work fine just as long I don't absent-mindedly stumble off the wrong side of the bed some morning.
) ) )
From an enjoyment perspective I rank mattress shopping somewhere between dental work and standing in line at the license bureau. It can be awkward, too, especially if you're single:
"Is that one comfortable for you?"
"It's pretty good..."
"Is your wife going to try it out?"
The salesman's face contorted slightly. "Oh, I'm sorry." He motioned towards a woman who'd walked in the same time I had. "I thought you were together."
She looked at us from a few beds over. "Oh, so that's why you've been ignoring me."
In retrospect, I should've told him she was my sister.
) ) )
Finally, don't get me started on those fuckers at Mattress Giant. One salesman there actually asked me what he had to do to convince me to "take this mattress home today." High-pressure sales-pitches at a store selling items to be used for rest. Brilliant.