Friday, October 30, 2009

Running as a Metaphor

It finally happened. I had that day. The day all twenty somethings (and I guess maybe a few thirty somethings) have where they realize their bodies are not what they used to be. You find yourself thinking things like, "Remember that one time in Germany when Ashley and I totally took out that whole bottle of Jager in one night and it may as well have been water?" or "Gee, there was that one time in college I finished a whole pint of Oreo fluff in like 2 minutes, after lunch, and I was still hungry." But now you find yourself looking at a single shot of Jager and thinking, "man, I will probably regret this in the morning" or you finish off that Oreo fluff and not only are you stuffed but you also know the Oreo fluff will add to that mysterious fluff that has been sneaking over the waistline of the designer jeans you bought about a year ago. This is all clearly hypothetical of course. Yes my friends, those days are gone. Those beautiful days when all your calories were eaten away by the mere fact that you were young, busy, and going off an average of 5 hours of sleep a night, maybe. Which brings me to the heart of this post.

As a person that has always believed in prevention and nipping things in the bud I thought, well, I have two options. I could start dieting and counting things like carbs or calories or fat grams or whatever but my sincere love of food and my lack of basic math skills ruled that out immediately. That left option two. I need to become one of those people that work out and like,
really work out. As in not the way I have been working out for the past, oh, ever. Traditionally, I have been about as good at working out as a cat is at opening a screw top jar. I'll bat it around with my paw and knock it over. I may even bite the jar a few times, but the end result is always the same. I get bored, find a blanket, and take the world's most awesome nap.

So Nick and I have started running. Why running? I really don't know if I can answer that. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it is free, or because it is solitary activity that prevents me from having to elliptical race the guy next to me in the gym, or because its the cool thing to do (all the celebs are running marathons now), or maybe it is because I have this uncanny knack to choose the hardest possible option and then beat myself up when I don't kick ass the first day as I have always hated running (the term every fiber of my being comes to mind) and I have always sucked at it.

(Ok this is a total non sequitur but it needs to be mentioned immediately. For the past two weeks my darling husband has been playing some really awful "Star Wars" game for PS3 obsessively. Just now he hit pause, sighs deeply and throws his head in his hands. I asked him what was wrong. He throws his fist down on the coffee table and says, "There is no way they could have that many storm troopers in reserve. It's just not realistic." There. It needed to be shared with the internet.)

So, running. In true Type A form the first thing I do is go online and find running nutrition information and a whole program for beginners to build a running base. "It's great to learn, cause knowledge is power!" So we started on week 3 of the program, which puts me at about the same skill level that I was when I was in 5th grade. And it should be noted that I was a really slow 5th grader. (I was the kid that stomped everyone in the flexibility portion of the presidential fitness test but virtually failed at everything else.) Thus far we have completed two runs successfully. I say successfully because with the first run we tried to start on week 4 of the program which was, evidently, more than I could handle. It was bad. There were tears. It was one of those really great moments where the running simply becomes symbolic for everything that could be wrong in your life at that very moment. It quickly spiraled from "I can't even run a full mile" to "I don't have a job" to "I have no direction" to "We are back in Charleston and not Italy or Japan or Hawaii" and I can't be sure but I think "I never got a pony for Christmas" probably ended up in there too. Nick, in his totally unconscious quest for sainthood, talked me back from the metaphorical edge and reminded me that all the embarrassment and the feeling of failure just comes with the territory of doing something new. Then he made me dinner.

So what have we learned? This move still blows and I am still dealing with that in my own repressed sort of way. And being all motivated about the move was great when I wasn't in the trenches. But all that motivation is pretty hard to find when you are "in the shit" so to speak. But like running, I think the key is getting over that first hump where you are convinced all the neighbors coming home from work are watching you run and thinking about how pathetic you look. After that, it is all downhill and I may not get my college metabolism back but I'll probably end up a better person for it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do you have to be a jerk about it?

This post has been a long time in coming. And I have a feeling that there will eventually be more posts just like this one. You can file this under, "Hey, you don't need to be a jerk about it!"

As an individual recovering from 7 years of working in the retail industry I have become a little particular about customer service and exceedingly empathetic towards employee abuse. The latter being far worse than the former. Let's face it, if you get awful service somewhere you at least get to speak with someone in charge, get a company phone number to call, or at least know you can take your business elsewhere. However, if you are the employee being verbally abused all you can do is take it. If you get lucky you can call over your boss to take the heat. If you are unlucky you are the boss and the person who is angry doesn't understand the structure in corporate America and wonders why they can't speak directly to the owner of the business. Then they get really upset when they learn the only way to speak to corporate is through a 1-800 number with a teleprompt menu. All the while they are still yelling at you over something that you either can't fix, you can fix but would get you into trouble, or was simply a miscommunication and an honest mistake. There really is no quicker way to ruin a perfectly good day and squash your basic human dignity by knowing all you can do is lay back and take it like the proverbial whipping boy.

Yesterday Nick and I went grocery shopping. As we were checking out I happened to overhear.....well no there was no happen to overhear about it........cause it was that obnoxious level of loud you use when you are just on the verge of yelling but you don't want to cause a scene, so you pull it back a little but your voice is still loud and forceful enough that everyone around you hears anyway... So as we were checking out I hear the woman behind me talking about Baby belle Cheese. I love cheese so my interest was piqued. Sadly, the frumpy crow and equally squawky husband behind me were not touting the deliciousness of the snack-sized cheese wrapped in wax. Instead, they were berating the poor cashier for how expensive they were. They claimed to have found the same cheese at a competing grocery store for $3 less.

Now I appreciate frugality just as much, if not more than, the average 20 something with an armload of debt. But would it really have been so hard to simply say,"Oh I am sorry, we don't need the cheese. Could you please take that off?" and then wait til you were on your way to the car to say to your husband, "Hey, this was clearly more expensive than the other store. We should just shop there from now on." I mean really. How hard would that be? Instead this woman kept going on and on about the damn cheese. And violently rummaging through her purse. Then hurumpth "this place is so expensive it is just ridiculous." Then more rummaging. "It's how much? Well, I don't need that cheese. Take it off. I am never coming here again." Then her yappy purse dog of a husband pipes in with, "Did you get the Capri Sun at the bottom of the cart? I told you about that as soon as we got up here." Well off course the cashier forgot the Capri Sun you asshat! You and your wife have made this poor little 16 year old with the minimum wage, mind-numbing job so uncomfortable that if this same scenario played out in her bedroom this morning she probably would have forgotten to wear pants. I understand that your groceries were more expensive than you wanted. Ours were too. We too plan on doing our shopping somewhere else. But really, do you have to be a jerk about it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


WE MADE IT! We are here. We have an apartment. We have stuff. We have cable, Internet, a new TV console, wine, beer, a limited amount of food in the kitchen and a new sleeper sofa being delivered tomorrow. And for those of you reading this blog I am rewarding your patience for this newest entry with these photos:
Now, I realize that these are far and
away not the highest quality photos I have ever taken. The battery on my Canon is going dead and it is on the list of important random things we have yet to find in boxes. (Also on that list is the turntable for the microwave. All our kitchen boxes have been opened....can't wait to see where that thing ended up.) But seriously, how awesomely pissed is that cat?

So lets talk Charleston, shall we? Nick and I get into town late on the 14th. We have a room reserved at a Sheraton in the northern part of town. Now, while the northern part of Charleston is not generally regarded as a "garden spot," the hotel we are staying at is near the fairly new outlet mall and the airport. So it is one of the nicer pet friendly hotels we have stayed at. We check in, find the closest entrance, park the car and start to unload the overnight items and the pets. As I am scurrying to the
door with our dog, Bennet, I am approached by this guy that looks like Jeff Daniels circa "Dumb and Dumber.
"Jeff Daniels": "What kinda dawg is that?"
Me: "It's a Welsh Corgi."
"Jeff Daniels": "Ah've neever seen a dawg laihk that beefore.
Wee've got our dawg heere too. Hee's a peet buul. Man, hee's only seven months old and hee's aready fiftee pounds."
Me: "Wow, umm, have a good night!"
As I hustle through the door I realize he is following me to the elevator. I walk faster hoping against all odds that I could make it to the elevator fast enough that I can call the car and hop in before he can join me. No such luck. As he slips in with me his kids, a pudgy blond boy with glasses and a frizzy haired girl wearing a belly baring tye-dyed tee, join us. They are holding take-out bags. Bennet is sitting at attention in his non judgemental dog-like way hoping someone will notice him and give him a scrap.
"Jeff Daniels": "Hee's smellin' yer dienner. Eef that were our dawg wee'd just hafta let 'em go tuh town"
I suddenly have images of snots the dog from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" having my little dog for a snack. Thankfully, I got off on the 4th floor and they stayed in the elevator for a longer ride. My first thought was, "Well, shit. We're back."

I will admit, despite a good showing by the local color on the first day, I was still happy to finally be here and get in our apartment. In fact, after we finished with our apartment paperwork and got our keys one of the leasing agents said, "Welcome Home," which is a tactic I am sure is in every playbook for leasing agents everywhere, but I still caug
ht a very small lump in my throat. Under normal circumstances that lump would have been a little bit of vomit, but this time I had been without a place of my own for 3 1/2 months. So I feel the Oprah moment was deserved. And, in case you are wondering, our new place is a 2 bedroomed, lots of cabinets and counter space, tons of closets, kick-ass screened in patio, thing of glory! Of course that also means we have to readjust to living in suburban Charleston. For example, our home in Seattle was two blocks off the main drag in West Seattle. Shopping, coffee shops, bars......well here: See that picture? That is Nick cleaning off mystery spots on our couch. We had no idea they were there until we got our couch back from storage. What are they? I don't know, but I have a few ideas. We will just say some stuff went down in that wonderful little 1 bedroom in Seattle. (And Crystal, in case you are reading, you should know it all went down on our furniture, rugs, and easily cleaned linoleum.) That stuff went down because we were the people with the city apartment and therefore frequently had had overnight guests after we stumbled home. Those days are gone. Nick and I did a timed coffee run yesterday. HALF AN HOUR!!!!!!! It took us half an hour to reach the nearest Starbucks, not even get out of the car but do the drive though, and get home.

To also be filed under readjustment is learning how to get anywhere. Yesterday we went out an bought a Charleston Road map so we could study it. I realize this seems silly but you wouldn't think so if it was you who spent the last 3 days making a turn on a road you thought was the correct state highway but wasn't. To add to this confusion Charleston apparently likes to honor their dead by naming streets after them but then ran out of streets so they just started renaming portions of streets. This has lead to us shaking our fists screaming "WTF, Charleston?" on more than one occasion. For example, hwy 61 is also Ashely Rivers Rd. Off that is Paul Cantrell Blvd which turns into Glen McConnell Pkwy. Intersecting with Paul Cantrell is Tobias Gadson Rd which turns into Orleans St......I think. This is all from memory. And the best part? These streets are all in our part of town, which is fairly underdeveloped, which leads me to believe all these names happened after the rest of the country discovered the ease of use of the grid and numbers system. Thanks, Chucktown!

While on the mention of underdeveloped. There is also a startling lack of highway lights in our neck of the woods resulting in the mini cooper doing a little off-roading last night. A good portion of suburban Charleston commerce is built off a system state highways and frontage roads. So the ability to make a good u-turn in this town is a must. Last night we were trying to hit a grocery store and Nick takes a wrong turn. The speed limit is like 55 mph so all the locals are going like 70 mph. So the combination of the speed and zero lights on the road means we miss the first two turn around points and turn too late for the third putting us squarely in the grass. Which, I guess is still a step up from the first time we got lost in Seattle and Nick ended up driving over a corner of sidewalk.

All those annoyances aside I am really optimistic. We found a great locally o
wned coffee shop (dirty chai is my new favorite drink), a lounge that looks like it fell out of downtown Seattle (it serves truffled tater tots), and a liquor store with a GREAT selection of imported and micro brews near by.....well a 15 minute drive, but that is our new "nearby." Now all we need to do is find a good bakery (I have high hopes for this place we have been passing called "Rococo") and we will be in business!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Visit Home and Have a Dramatic Coffee Trip

Still making it across the country. We have been staying with my parents for the past few days which has been really nice. My parents have never been the type to make a huge ordeal out of us coming home. A few days before hand my mom calls and asks us what kinda of deli meat we want and, "Oh yeah, Nick likes pumpkin pie, right?" My mom and I make at least one obligatory trip to the mall five minutes from our house and discuss what shops are new and what went out of business. Every time we go I always can't help but feel like she is a little disappointed when I don't buy anything, despite all the discussion on being thrifty and saving money. Should I purchase something, the flood gates open and she repeatedly goads me, "You could always buy that throw pillow, it would look perfect with the painting you just got." But, in all fairness I do the same thing to her too. I believe in most "anonymous" programs this is called "enabling."

Nick and I were also able to meet up with old high school friends and their respective spouses, who I consider high school friends as well; not only for the ease of categorizing the people I know, but also because they are that damn cool. Few things in the world are better than having drinks with people you have known since before you were old enough to drink, legally or otherwise. It is one of those things that makes you realize that getting older may not be so bad because there are a few things that don't change, they merely become variations of the past events. And yes, this becomes particularly clarified when you all gather and have a drink while watching "Dawson's Creek." A show you remember watching with your best friend and turning to each other afterward and comparing each plot twist with your own life(although devoid of the copious sexual escapades...we were good kids). No, I am not above admitting that. There is one of these shows for each generation, at least ours had
overly advanced vocabulary and syntax. So there.

Lastly, something awesome happened this morning. Nick and I had an imaginary standoff with a slim Asian family. Let me explain. My husband is one of the most offensive drivers in the history of things with wheels. Had he been around during the days of horse drawn carriages he would have taken the blinders off the horses and trained them to attack oncoming buggies. This morning we went to Barnes and Noble to procure some coffee and an audio book for the last half of our trip. We found a woman getting into here car to leave at the end of the first row of the whole lot. Nick approaches but is a little late in turning on his blinker so a tan Volvo approaches at the same time. Nick starts strategizing out loud the best angle to swoop in and snag the spot before the Volvo can even hit the gas. Because Nick would probably have the skills to drive an SUV through the narrowest alley in Europe while breaking the sound barrier and come out without so much as a scratch; he snags the primo spot with ease. As we reach for the door handles the Volvo stops and idles behind our car for a few moments. Shit. We pissed off the wrong people. We sat still hoping there wouldn't be some over-caffeinated, over-empowered, and over-stressed guy in business apparel rapping on our window to scream at us for 5 minutes. The the Volvo moved on, to park, in the loading zone adjacent to the Double shit. At this point we are both convinced that some overweight guy in a trucker cap and sweat stained t-shirt is going to hop out, grab the baseball bat from his trunk and start huffing and puffing his way towards us. We sat. We debated whether we would have time to make it to safety inside the populated book store. We sat for probably about 5 minutes. Finally, two skinny Asian kids with glasses and laptop bags hopped out of the back seat and walked past our row of cars and hopped into the car they were meeting two rows behind us.

Tune in next time when the Roas run scared from leaves blowing in the wind.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Of Truckstops and Knick-Knacks

Nick and I have officially started our trip out east. Today ends day 3 of travel. Really, this is our favorite part of the whole process. Something about just being in the car and on the road just works for us. There really is a romance of simplicity to it. You have one goal, few ways to procrastinate, the necessity to cooperate with your travel partners, and an endless number of unforeseen obstacles that could find their way into your itinerary. And really, let's be honest, it is inevitably those obstacles and surprises that make our trips memorable.

Currently, we are in Dallas ending the pioneering portion of our trip. Starting
tomorrow our trip the rest of the way east will revolve around visiting various family and friends. However the past three days we have been on our own rockin' it out from San Diego across the desert of the southwest. Probably one of my favorite regions in the country. Just beautiful. And while I was fully aware that I was in "desert" region I did not realize that there are parts of this country that have full out desert dunes. Yeah, like no joke I just fell into the Sahara, giant velvety foam looking dunes. Amazing! I made us pull over at the nearest rest stop to take pictures. It was here at this truly primitive rest stop with no picnic tables or running water that I also stumbled across this little gem: Yes. That is a sign reminding your that car theft is wrong and includes a hot line. I am sorry. I could have sworn there was already a hot line for reporting car theft. I learned it when I was 3. The phone number is 9-1-1. "Hi, police. I need to report a car getting jacked." Having a separate hot line just seems excessive and confusing, doesn't it?

We cont
inued passing through Arizona and started coming across these billboards for "The Thing". Now I am a huge sucker for roadside attractions. You heard right. If there is a huge jack-a-lope, or a potato chip that looks like the Madonna (or one that looks like just Madonna for that matter), or the world's largest collection of garden gnomes within 10 miles of the highway I will beg to go. AND it is a well known fact that the farther out the billboards start the more awesomely bad the attraction will be. So after an hour of: "The Thing: see the desert mystery", "The Thing: and get a Dairy Queen Blizzard", "The Thing: and Handmade Pottery" and finally "The Thing: and Southwest Jewelry" I was dead set on exiting at #322. Admission was a $1 for my husband and I; it was worth every penny we paid to the two old cashiers with 10 teeth between them. Spoiler alert: The thing about "The Thing" is there is no thing but instead, several things. Three long, open, aluminum shacks encompassing the trailers behind the truck stop where, I'm assuming, the employees lived. These shacks were filled with an extensive collection of stuff that defies description of genre or value. A few favorites of mine included: an antique Roles Royce that Hitler may (or may not) have ridden, a collection of torture themed sculptures, and a mummy with no description of how old it was, where it was found, or even if it was real.

However, the climax of our trip thus far happened late last night. At about 10PM we were working our way through western Texas. We had gone through one last border inspection station about 30 minutes earlier and Nick decided that he needed a caffeine fix so we pulled of the next exit to a truck stop near Van Horn and "The Plateau." Now I have procured gas and taken a leak at various truck stops all over this great country of ours. And while cleaner than some this stop took the cake by being the SKETCHIEST TRUCK STOP EVER! As we walked in we were greeted by a $54 three foot figurine of a cougar across from a relief in reverse of Jesus. I got nicely ogled by a big, burly, guy with a sweet 'stache, trucker cap, and a ponytail that was longer than I have ever been able to grow my hair. He was playing a virtual slot machine as he watched me walk into the bathroom and I thought, "Great, tonight is the night I get Jodie Fostered." However, upon entering the ladies room I was distracted by the sign above the sink noting that there was no potable water...charming. Then as I entered the stall I spotted a nice little scribble: "For a good time call your mom so that she can slap some since into you." JACKPOT! I couldn't wait to tell Nick about my little find. As soon as we are in the safety of our little car and turn to him:
"Guess what I saw in the bathroom!"

"A guy shitting out little balls of cocaine? Cause that's what I saw in mine."

"How do you know?"

"Some guy was in the can with an empty grocery sack set out at his feet. I don't know what else he could be doing."
Checkmate. Nick wins. There isn't a possible bathroom wall typo that could compete with that.