I Should Say Something

I’ve been running like a chicken with my head cut off.  On August 5, Dan and I decided to move back to Portland.  But we had to do it quickly because we have a little baby due on September 10.  We booked a moving van and began frantically packing.  We packed the entire apartment in six days!  The moving van arrived last Thursday, we loaded it up, cleaned up the apartment, and flew off on Friday.  We have spent every day since we arrived looking for a place to live so that when the moving van arrives it has a place besides Dan’s mom’s house to leave our belongings.  We have also been interviewing midwives and looking for cars. I have a job interview later this morning.  Dan got his old job back and has gigs lined up.  Overall, it’s been quite the whirlwind couple of weeks.  We have several applications in and one has been accepted, but we are waiting with bated breath to see if the application on our favorite place is accepted.  We are supposed to find out today.  I will keep my fingers crossed, then get ready to unpack. We have to nest before our little girl arrives!

Settling In To Our New Home

I live in an apartment where the previous occupants must never have cleaned.  It is easy to draw this conclusion based on the grime covering nearly everything, the sort of grime that requires years to accumulate.  Now, I completely accept that I am tidier than a lot of people.  I have higher standards than others when it comes to dust and whatnot.  I do not say this with any sense of superiority, but only to point out that I know I am pickier than a lot of people.  But seriously, the filth in this apartment takes the cake.  Even Boyfriend, who probably dusts twice a year, has been appalled at just how disgustingly filthy this place is.

Getting the apartment clean, and getting us unpacked and settled has been slow going.  As we have moved in, we have had to clean each place before putting anything away.  We left the rugs for each room for last.  The floors were so grimy the mop would catch on the goo in the first couple of runs over it.  Vacuum, then mop, rinse, mop, rinse, mop, rinse, sometimes six or seven times before we would get to clean wood.  Needless to say it has been slow going.

The windows easily qualify as the most dirty part of the apartment.  The outsides were so unclean, it was difficult to see through them near the edges.  The sills inside were so black with grime and filth that rags used to wipe them would be completely black.  I don’t mean a bit of dirt, but actually black as if they had been wiped through soot.

The other day I set out to try and clean these windows.  We had wiped down the inside in an effort to allow some natural light, but the outsides were so disgustingly filthy, with streaks of black grime, that every day appeared to be cloudy, even in bright sun.

We live on the fourth floor.  The windows in our bedroom are next to a fire escape, so I figured I could climb out there, although the prospect was not exactly appealing.  The living room windows, however, were another matter.  There is nothing between them and the cement below except air.  I decided I would reach outside with a mop and keep at it.  I did this, bringing the mop in every few seconds to rinse the soot-like blackness from the mop’s edge.  Then I reached out and up as far as I could in an effort to remove some of the streakiness.  The result was far from perfect, but a vast improvement.

In the meantime, Boyfriend had gone down to the basement to dump some recycling, then to the mailbox to pick up our mail.  He was gone a bit longer than I would have expected, but I was busy and did not really pay much attention.  A few minutes later, he came into the apartment, walked into the living room, and popped the bottom window down, exposing the outer face.  He then clicked some buttons on the top pane and lowered it.  Voilà!  Access to the outside of the windows!

It turns out he met a neighbor while checking the mail, a nice man who had welcomed us to the building the day we were moving in.  He saw Boyfriend and asked him how we were settling in.  Boyfriend mentioned the windows and wondered aloud whether the management company ever cleaned the outside, and the neighbor showed him how we could do it ourselves.

We are finally settlling in for real.  The windows in the living room and our bedroom are so clean, you can’t tell there is glass there.  Milla’s room and the kitchen are on slate for this week.  Curtains are up in the living room and our bedroom as well.  The rugs are on the floor.  There are only three boxes left, two of which are full of donation items we’re trying to figure out how to get rid of.  Overall, it seems our little home is coming together.

AAAAAACCCCCCKKKKKK!!!!!

Okay.  So I am going to spend a few minutes bitching and complaining even though I know that I am the person responsible for everything I am bitching and complaining about.  I get it.  This does not undermine my desire to bitch and complain, however.  I took it upon myself to pack all my shit in a moving truck and hike 3500 miles across the country with my boyfriend.  I get it.  I knew such an undertaking would result in chaos and disorder for a period of my life.  I get that too.  I underestimated how difficult it would be to reorganize having packed nearly all of my belongings over six months ago.  I also underestimated how long it would take to get things organized and situated within the tiny apartment in order to unpack.  I guess I really had no idea until I actually did these things.  I do know myself.  I do know that disorder and chaos for extended periods of time drive me batty.  I have been doing breathing exercises and working to relax through this transition.  As the chaos gradually turns to order, I have been moderately successful in these exercises.

Yet in the one area where disorder drives me the most insane is paperwork.  I cannot stand out of order paperwork.  I cannot stand not knowing how much I owe exactly, how much I have exactly, where proper tax documents are, etc.  I have taken to keeping all tax documents online in an effort to streamline this process and have been successful.  But this year is a mess.  All my stuff is spread between four boxes.  There isn’t anywhere to put anything.  I don’t know what I need, and I need to apply for scholarships and financial aid to two extremely expensive institutions.  On top of everything, both of these institutions require applications completed ONLINE.  Small problem.  No ONLINE.  No INTERNETS until next Friday.  One school’s papers are due that Saturday.  One’s are already overdue.  I cannot wait until Friday to work on these applications.  This necessitates running down to Starbucks to use the internets.  However the paperwork required for these give us all your information including the date of last intercourse applications is back at the apartment.  I get through a step.  I figure out what I need.  I go back to the apartment.  I look for the shit.  I find the shit.  I come back to Starbucks.  I discover another step not previously accessible.  I discover new paperwork requirements.  I have to go back home.  I’m losing my mind with this.

Today I discovered two MORE essays I have to write for the scholarship application to Columbia.  I have already written four admission essays and one scholarship essay.  The scholarship essays nearly mirror the application essays in some regard, at least two of them do.  For Christ’s sake, can’t they all read the same ones?  Apparently not.

So apartment chaos, financial applications, and lack of internets are all making me crazy as a nutjob.  I’m having batty stress dreams.  I also need to find a job and try to get the publisher I have been editing for to send me more work.  It’s enough to make me jump off a bridge.  If the water weren’t so frigid, that might be an appealing option.

Photo Diary: January 8 and 9, 2009

We left our house in Portland at about 6:00 p.m. on January 7. We headed south on I-5 because I-84 east was closed in places. We decided we would check out the weather in Wyoming once we hit Reno, and if things looked dicey, we would go south through Albuquerque, New Mexico. The first night we drove to Grants Pass and spent the night there before heading south the morning of January 8.

Get Us Home Safely Please

This trip has turned into a horror show. Driving this truck is like driving a giant death mobile. We are both so fearful of the nightmarish wobble and fishtailing, we are total nervous wrecks.

For the record, so far Colorado handily beats every other state for the most poorly maintained roads, at least Interstate 25 from Wyoming to Denver. Denver was also a beast, although eastern Colorado was somewhat of an improvement.

We are currently driving toward Salina, Kansas. The road in Kansas has been lovely, although the fact we stopped, purchased, and took vitamin B for stress may have provided some assistance toward that view.

January 8, 2009 Driving to New York

Day three of the trip.  I have not been able to post much of anything because, as I explained in my mini-iPhone post this morning, we have not had internets in our motel rooms, in spite of promises by Expedia to the contrary.

My last long piece was written before we reached Susanville, California at about 4 in the afternoon.  Heading into Susanville tested my driving mettle.  Leaving the mountains we headed down a 6.5% downgrade curving into the town.  The final curve is 20 mph 180 degree turn at a ridiculously steep downgrade.

The road leaving California and heading into Nevada is mostly flat, long and low across the desert.  We decided we would stop for the night in Elko, Nevada, nearly across the state.

When I was twelve, my dad worked in Alaska for part of the year.  He and my mom decided to have her drive up in a truck with a camper on the back, taking my brother and step-brother.  For years after the trip my mom would tell the story of the drive on the narrow freeway, trucks passing and causing the camper and truck to rock back and forth, back and forth.  She was terrified, but my brother was little and my step-brother had only a learner’s permit–the job was hers.

I fully and completely sympathize.  I had been driving comfortably on the long, flat straight highway.  For the most part the road was smooth.  Bridges were a different story.  There were seams at the beginning and end of each bridge, some dipping a good four inches below the surface of the road.  Driving along at 60 mph, I hit a dip and the truck began to rock side to side, back and forth, the up wheels completely off the road.  Boyfriend had experienced a similar rocking on I-5 in Oregon, but not nearly to the extent of this.

Fear of that magnitude is a physical experience.  As the truck rocked side to side, I felt my body blanch, sweat pouring from every gland.  My heart raced.  I thought I was going to wet myself.  Seconds later as I managed to straighten the truck and slow significantly.  My heart was pounding.  My only thought was that I wanted to get to Milla.  Minutes later, I began to weep.  Weird, this fear response.  I continued for my portion of the drive, then Boyfriend took over.  He kept braking, terrified of a repeat.  He had experienced the same terror as I did.  When we finally arrived in Elko after midnight, all we wanted was a bath and sleep.

This morning we headed across Nevada towards Salt Lake.  Our intention was to get to Boulder in one day.  The roads were clear, the sky was bright with sun, and we were optimistic.

The desert there is quite lovely.  There are snow-capped mountains in the near distance.  Sagebrush dots the landscape contrasting beautifully with spots of snow.  Its expansiveness filled us both with awe.  Ours is such a beautiful planet.

I fell asleep two hours outside Elko.  A half an hour later, I woke and sat up sleepily.  As I stared catatonically into the distance (I have had only 4-6 hours of sleep each night in the last week.  My insomnia has returned with a vengeance.), I felt the truck jerk and bump, then it began its furious side to side weaving.  Boyfriend attempted to drive over the anti-sleep ruts on the shoulder.  This did not work and the truck veered madly toward the edge of the road, tilting and rocking.  That fear hit me again.  Boyfriend managed to straighten it out and slowed to nearly 35 mph.  He had not been going faster than 55, but the combination of a monster tractor-trailer and massive dips after a bridge created the turbulence.  I could smell the sweat on him after, fear palpable between the two of us.

A short time later we made our driver switch.  Driving into and through Salt Lake, I was a wreck.  There were tons of tractor-trailers.  They buzzed by proving just how piddly our truck and trailer were to them.  The roads were terrible.  There were repair seams everywhere crossing all lanes.  Construction projects forced cars into narrow, cement-sided passageways.  I spent the entire trip taking deep breaths, constantly wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans.  As we headed into the mountains east of the city, I was not sure I would be able to manage.  I was so afraid and I could not talk myself out of it.
I am not normally a very fearful person.  I will often push through situations when fear seems to want to take over.  But too many nights without enough sleep, a lot of pretty crappy road food, and the stress of driving the monster weaving truck had me completely out of sorts.  I felt on the verge of tears at every turn.  Finally as we headed towards a sharp 45 mph curve on a 6.5% downgrade slope, I lost it and started bawling.

Boyfriend had called my dad who has driven trucks across the country before.  My dad described the physics of what was happening to us.  He said that rather than braking or stopping acceleration, when the truck began to rock we should actually accelerate.  Once the truck straightened, we could then brake.  He said the worst thing to do was brake.  This made sense and we wondered that we hadn’t figured it out ourselves, but our automatic response was to try to slow down not speed up.

As we headed towards the severe downgrade curve, Boyfriend told me to brake.  So afraid of rocking back and forth, I had stopped wanting to brake altogether, taking the advice to avoid it to the extreme.  It’s okay to brake, we aren’t rocking, he told me calmly.  I managed to slow from 50 to 35 and we made it through the curves without incident.

We continued on through Park City, Utah.  I had managed to accelerate through a few minor rockings and discovered that it did indeed work.  Then we saw a sign indicating that Cheyenne was 427 miles from our location.  I quickly calculated in my head and realized we would not reach Boulder and Milla at a reasonable hour.  Boyfriend was on the phone with a friend and at that moment, after describing how slowly we were going to avoid tipping and rocking, said We aren’t in any hurry.

I realized he was right.  Why were we breaking our necks to get to Boulder tonight?  I wanted to spend time with Milla.  We had forgotten to change the clocks so our calculations put us in Boulder even later.  When Boyfriend got off the phone, I told him I wanted to stop somewhere right inside Wyoming, get a good meal, a solid night’s rest, and relax.  He said, I think that is the best idea we have had in a while. What a man.

Our trip from that point on was much more relaxed. I drove to Edmonton, Wyoming.  We stopped at the corporate addiction palace to get some caffeine and to log onto the internets to make motel reservations in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  When we left, Boyfriend took the wheel.  We are almost there.  I am looking forward to some time to relax an enjoy ourselves.  It is 5:45.  We’ll be there in under a half an hour.  Boyfriend has been driving like a pro.  Now that we have figured out a way around the horrible careening truck swings, and since we know we’ll have a night to relax, we’re both much happier.

January 7, 2009 Driving to New York

We just entered California on the second day of our great moving adventure.  We are both happy to be on the road and headed to our new home.  I have lived in a lot of places, moved around the country on several occasions, but this time feels surreal and exciting at the same time.  It is the first time I have decided to permanently settle somewhere besides Oregon, with no intention of returning, and the first time I have done so with another person.  We are both thrilled and a little scared.

The last few days have been exhausting.  We picked up our rental truck on Monday morning, drove to my friend Kathleen’s house to pick up my boxes that were stored there, drove to my friend Mark’s house to get the last of my boxes, then drove home to pack the truck with the piano.  Our timing was perfect; we drove up just as the piano movers did.

A word about piano movers–they are brilliant at their job.  They loaded up a baby grand and got her on the truck in under a half an hour.  I was mightily impressed.  We had a set of stairs at our Oregon house.  They led from the yard down to the street.  The piano movers backed up their truck and placed a bridge across.  They then just wheeled the piano across the bridge, backed their truck up to ours, set the bridge into our truck, and rolled the piano onto our truck.  Viola, piano loaded!

After the piano movers left, we loaded some gross furniture on the truck to take to the dump.  That was an experience.  We went to an environmental dump where they parcel everything out into different piles depending on what it is.  There was a giant wood pile, a giant couch dismantling station with piles of upholstery, foam, and wood, and a giant plastic pile.  The plastic was tossed onto a conveyor belt where it was dumped into a compactor that turned it into hideous, plastic lumps.  I am constantly refusing to buy certain items for Milla because they are landfill disasters.  I took a photo of the landfill disaster and sent it to her to see where all the ugly plastic goes when it breaks or someone doesn’t want it anymore.  Too bad we can’t put the dump next to Walmart or Target so people can see where the shit goes six months after they buy it.

After the dump at nearly 4 in the afternoon, we headed home to load up.  Boyfriend wanted to leave early Tuesday morning.  I thought he was being overly optimistic, but hey, who am I to rain on his parade?  Unfortunately, Boyfriend’s belongings were not quite packed yet.  We started packing boxes and loading the truck at the same time.  A friend came to help, but things were slow.  Another friend of Boyfriend called and offered to help.  It was dark but things were moving.  Boyfriend’s mom came and helped to pack the kitchen (thank goodness–she was a lifesaver).  Her fiance’ packed Boyfriend’s bike (thank goodness again).

One of our best helpers was Robert, an old, alcoholic singer with grey hair.  Long in the face and long in tooth, he is simply awesome.  He took charge and ordered Boyfriend and helpers diplomatically.  When rope needed cutting, he pulled out his trusty “Old Timer” pocketknife.  Such an old character, so cool, and he adores Boyfriend.  He was indispensable.

It became apparent after the mattresses went into the truck that all the stuff would not fit.  We packed the truck completely, but realized at about 10 p.m. we were going to have to get a trailer.  The rental places were closed at that hour so we amended our plan to leave until later on Tuesday.  Finally, at about midnight, we were ready to stop work and get food.  It had begun raining about 11, so we were grateful everything was in out of the weather and that we could finally eat.  After eggs at an all night Denny’s we headed home to get a tiny bit of sleep.  We had packed the bed so we curled up on an old twin mattress on the floor.

Our dog was confused by all the changes. She had spent the day wandering around watching all her stuff leave the house, her black, triangle-shaped head cocked to one side.  She lay on her bed next to us, blinking sleepily.  I can only imagine her doggy thoughts.  Probably not much more than some vague notion that life was not right, and hopeful her people wouldn’t leave.  Before dawn the next morning Boyfriend moved to his roommate’s futon because he kept falling off the twin mattress, so the dog came and curled up next to me.  It wasn’t until the alarm went off that I realized it was the dog I was snuggling and not my warm man.  She was a worthy substitute.

The next morning I immediately called the Uhaul up the street.  They had trailers we could look at.   As we drove the truck to get the trailer, it became patently obvious that the truck had not been packed evenly.  It listed precariously to the right, all the weight dragging it over.  A baby grand piano, 300 pound armoire, and thousands of records were all on one side, mattresses were on the other.  Damn it if we weren’t going to have to repack half the truck.

Boyfriend immediately jumped on the phone and called everyone he could think of who might help us.  An hour later we had three friends to help, the rain had stopped, and we began to furiously unload to beat the weather and lost time.  We managed to reload and load the trailer in only a couple of hours.  We both feel much better about the reload; the armoire and records are now on the opposite side of the truck from the piano.  We also repacked a bit more securely.  It must have worked; so far at every check, nothing has shifted and fallen.

We were finally able to leave the house at about 6 p.m. Tuesday night.  We had to stop and give a friend the key to Boyfriend’s car because he is selling it for us.  We also had to stop and buy a lock for the trailer.  It was rainy and late, and traffic was terrible because of the hour, but we were both so excited to be on our way, we didn’t care.

Boyfriend climbed a steep learning curve last night on how to drive a big truck with a trailer.  I have driven many trucks and trailers because I have hauled horses all my adult life.  I am used to the stopping distance and turning radius required.  I have learning how important it is not to overcorrect, how a little move of the steering wheel results in a big move with a heavy vehicle.  Boyfriend figured it out last night driving in the dark and rain.  Needless to say, his shoulders were a bit tense.

Today, however, is a different story.  He is driving like a pro.  At one point he went to pass a slow car in the right lane.  The truck began rocking side to side.  He held the wheel and the rocking gradually ceased.  Later, he was making strong man arms as he climbed the mountains at 45 mph.

Our iPhones have been a fantastic road trip addition.  Once we were finally on the road, we figured we would make it to Grants Pass, Oregon for the night.  I jumped on the internets and booked a room on Expedia for $40 a night.  Not bad for a twin bed, clean room, and warm bath!  Tanya the dog approved of the room, and she protected us this morning from an 80-year-old Navy veteran.  Good dog, Tanya!

Luckily for us but not so for the planet, it has been sunny and warm today.  It was too warm for hats and scarves, that’s for sure.  Anyone who thinks climate change is a myth is deluded.  We spent the last two hours driving over the Siskiyou Pass.  At 4600 feet there was barely any snow on the tops of the mountains off in the distance.  Everywhere else it looks like late August.  I can’t quite express my dismay and fear at the sight.  Things really are changing; arguing over it is a tragic waste of time.

Right now we are driving through Shasta national forest.  It is breathtakingly lovely.  Here there actually is snow on the ground, but the road is completely clear and dry and the sun is shining.  We could not ask for better conditions for driving the first week of January.  Our original plan was to head south through Albuquerque, but forecasts and friends assure us we can go through Denver without any problems.  We will decide here in few hours because we have to decide by Reno whether to continue to Elko or head south.  Right now it is looking like it will be Boulder.  We’ll get to stay with friends and see Milla besides.  Sounds good to me.