Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Fall of the Empire

Isaac Asimov's Foundation books rank as my favorite science fiction series. They also make me wonder about time travel and extra-terrestrial visitation. I am continually amazed at what Asimov wrote in the late 1940's. Incredible.

Anyway, Foundation came to mind today as Sally and I talked about the multiple experiences of ineptitude and carelessness we have witnessed during the course of our move. That conversation was prompted by our standing in the Comcast office waiting to return the extra modem and connectivity kit shipped to us. We then returned home to await the exchange of our trash container, which took more than two weeks to obtain, was initially delivered to the wrong address, and then came in the wrong size. I can't begin to summarize the amazing promises and excuses I have heard from the customer service people at Waste Management.

There have been other instances - too many to recount. People don't listen, don't care, or are out of their depth. The private sector has proven worse than the public. Non-profits have done the best, by far.

The Foundation connection? A theme in the original Foundation story is that the great Galactic Empire is falling. The evidence is in the decline of infrastructure, but even moreso, in the inability or unwillingness of anyone to recognize or address the problem. That's often how I feel about our world. It's broken, and we possess neither the willingness or the ability to change it.

As the sign at the Portland Occupy camp expressed it: Everything is fine... Keep shopping.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


As I wrote yesterday, we were faced with a minor plumbing malfunction on Tuesday evening. The toilet, a very nice European style dual flush, would not refill after flushing. The refill tube flow was reduced to a trickle, and sometimes stopped completely. We were able to use the toilet, but had to refill the tank each time with a kitchen pot. Though this might not be the most daunting plumbing challenge, we have but one bathroom, and the mere thought of an interruption in its availability seemed cataclysmic.

Having some time on my hands while awaiting a Fedex delivery, I researched toilet tank valves. Once my package was signed for I struck off in search of home improvement products. I started at Costco because Home Depot doesn't have gelato. I picked up a hand-held shower attachment along with some cat food. On my way to the check out I also came across an end cap of bamboo drawer organizers. Oooooh! Organizers!

I was in Costco longer than intended (what a surprise!), and so had to hurry toward town to pick up Sally. On the way I stopped at the neighborhood hardware store near our new house. After all my research I wanted to peruse their toilet tank valve section and consider my options. They had one choice. I bought it.

I'll spare you most of the details. However, one important step was verifying that we had good water pressure from the supply line. I closed the valve, disconnected the line from the toilet, aimed it into the aforementioned kitchen pot and slowly opened the valve. We had adequate water pressure. After I towelled off and mopped the floor I continued my repair work.

It is now the morning after. The toilet has been flushed several times, and has refilled quickly and efficiently. The shower head has been changed, and the new, hand-held wand awaits. I know better than to consider myself a plumber - even an amateur one - but I managed this repair remarkably well. Surely nothing else will break or malfunction at this point.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Meaning of Life

I really enjoy deep, philosophical speculation about the meaning of life and the nature of existence. Unfortunately, I am finding that taking the time to engage in such processes is a luxury I cannot afford of late.

Yesterday featured yet another (failed) attempt to acquire recycling, composting and trash containers from Waste Management. I am beginning to suspect that Portland encourages cutting back on waste by refusing to provide containers for its collection.

Sally, Erin and I also made the pilgrimmage to DMV to get driver's licenses yesterday. We had carefully compiled the necessary documentation, studied our manuals, and acquired the requisite cash. Unfortunately, I failed to note that I needed to produce documentation of my social security number. A US passport is simply not adequate identification in Oregon. (Note: the law requiring evidence of a social security number has been changed, and will not be in effect after January 1. Not much solace for me yesterday, however). We all passed our knowledge tests, vision tests, and photo tests, and now have temporary Oregon permits. Huzzah!

We took Juni to the vet at 5 and were relieved of our fears for her life and $169.90. She has a clostridium flare-up which is treatable with antibiotics and fancy food.

Finally, I'm pleased to announce that the toilet malfunctioned last night. Pleased because it didn't happen while all the kids were here, and pleased because of all the plumbing problems within the realm of possibility, the failure of the tank supply valve is among the least serious.

So keep looking for the silver lining, maintain a sense of humor, be nice to strangers and even nicer to those closest to you, get rid of stuff you don't need, stop buying it in the first place, work for justice and peace.

Oh, and use high efficiency laundry detergent in the new washer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End of the Beginning

Monday was the last day of our holiday/moving break. We had a lovely breakfast at Besaw's in NW Portland courtesy of Megan and AJ, and walked by St. Honore French bakery after. The Killgore's packed up and left for the Tri-Cities while Sally, Erin and I prepared for a jaunt in search of new elements for our Jenn-Air range. We found the pricey part we needed and took a long route home, including a short beer at the Horse Brass Pub on Belmont.

Erin fixed pasta dinner for dinner and Sal made a salad. We talked about getting our Oregon driver's licenses Tuesday and turned in early in preparation for Sally's return to work. I have phone duty today, including finding a vet for Juni and following up on our eternal efforts to obtain a garbage container from Waste Mangement.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Oh what fun it is to ride...

Our Christmas Day was pretty low key. We started with a brilliant red sunrise and a family breakfast. Megan and AJ have been spending most of the holiday with AJ's family in Longview (we got most of their time for Thanksgiving) but were here for the morning. We had buttermilk waffles, maple sausage from New Seasons, and eggs. It was the first time for us to really use our stove, which did fine.

As AJ and Megan packed up, Sal, Erin and I put on our riding gear. We decided not to let a bit of rain and the threat of more deter us from a bike ride. We wanted to experience Sally's commute route once. Besides, I wanted to push my odometer past 1,000 for the year, and needed 9 miles to do it. We had a perfectly lovely ride down to the Lloyd Center where Sal's office is located. We rode most of the way along Klickitat, a "Neighborhood Greenway" set up for bike commuting. It is a residential street that has the stop signs turned in its favor. It also has gentle speed bumps to discourage auto traffic. Quite nice. It rained a bit a couple of times, but not very hard. All and all it was a very nice ride, and a bit of a Christmas gift to have the opportunity.

We unpacked a few boxes later in the afternoon, and then cooked our second meal in. Two in one day! We had salmon with a garlic/orange/Riesling/balsamic sauce I conjured, risotto, broccoli, and a sweet potato salad recipe Sally got from her sister, Mary Jo's food blog.

We finished the day with Masterpiece Theater, some Christmas pudding and a nip of Scotch. Merry Christmas indeed!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Redecorating with a Sawzall

Our new washer and dryer were delivered this morning. We didn't know we needed new appliances when we bought the house, but there you go. The biggest question in our minds was getting the appliances into the basement, as two doors en route measured exactly 27 inches, which is exactly what the machines measured.

The delivery guys were concerned about scratching our door frame, but I assured them we were not concerned. Both machines made it through the top door and down the steps into the basement. The dryer made it into the laundry room. The washer wouldn't go. They tried three times. No go.

I told the guys to give me a minute and asked Sally where she had seen the Sawzall. Within five minutes we had completed "remodeling" the laundry room door, and the washer was in. I asked the delivery guy if he'd ever had a customer cut out a door frame in the course of a delivery before. He hadn't.

I did a large load of towels this afternoon. I am excited and relieved to be back in the laundry business. I also will be doing some additional remodeling to make amends for my earlier effort.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Whole Foods

Sometime between midnight and 5 this morning we lost the glass bottles in our recycling bin and gained a grocery cart from Whole Foods. Erin thought the person who left it thought it would get lost in the pile of cardboard and paper we had out by the street. I thought we won an award for making really neat, compact piles.

I called Whole Foods and thanked them for the complimentary grocery cart. I asked if all new residents get one. They were amused. Sal and I tossed the cart into the Subaru and drove it to the store, about 25 blocks from here.

I'm guessing the nice gentleman who left the cart and took our bottles returned the glass at Safeway for the deposit. I'd rather he do that than sit at an intersection with a cardboard sign. Come to think of it though, there may have been cardboard missing from our pile....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Longest Night

We are living in Portland, finally, and are glad to have arrived. Everything has gone OK if the curves thrown our way are disregarded. Some days we are better at disregarding than others.

Last night we observed the Solstice by sitting in our hot tub (one of the appliances that DOES work here) with daughter Erin, sipping a pomegranate ale and then an oatmeal stout. Nice.... All relaxed and drowsy we finally headed upstairs for bed about midnight.

I was awakened by our lab mix at 3:30. She seemed desperate, though never barked. I went downstairs and let her out, noticing that the house did not smell good. I turned on the lights downstairs but saw nothing. As I went back up to bed the odor was worse. I turned on the lights, awakening both Sally and Erin, and discovered that Juni had redecorated our entire upstairs carpet in the colors of accident. Everywhere. It looked like abstract art. I don't know much about art, but...

We were about out of Spot Shot carpet cleaner because the moving company wouldn't transport aerosals. This is presumably so they would have room for the open pint jar of used lawnmower oil that the packed in a box that was subsequently turned upside down so the contents would spread to no fewer than a dozen other boxes.

So at 3:30 I drove down to Safeway, hoping it was open, in order to buy two more cans of carpet treatment. What a treat.

It was a different kind of Solstice. We all came out of it a bit bleary and in fine spirits, if a bit stained and worn. That's kinda the way the move has gone. None the less, we are healthy, happy, and totally swamped by the boxes of stuff that are an indictment of our previous failure to avoid the perils of materialism. We'll do better this time. Promise.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On the verge....

We have reached our last day in the Zip House, and are on the verge of taking possession of the Wee House. We hope to obtain access sometime tomorrow, and expect the moving van on Saturday. Sunday will bring a bed from Standard TV and Appliance Outlet and the opportunity to move things over from Vancouver. It feels monumental.

I have never had the experience of living across town from a house I was going to live in, but with someone else residing there. We've been in it and near it, but it belongs to someone else. I'm interested in the psychic alchemy that will allow us to imagine it as ours. I think a smudge stick and incantations will be involved. And beer. And time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


As of about 11:00 this morning we are the owners of two houses, and are living in a third. Sally called and let me know that the title papers we signed yesterday had been filed, making our ownership of the Wee House official. With that news I flew into action (doing anything other than sitting still seems pretty active to me anymore) and contacted utilities to set up our accounts. Even that detail is significant and represents a change, as Portland only has garbage pick-up every other week, but does have curbside composting. I learned that the previous owner has but a 20 gallon garbage container for two weeks. We thought we were doing well with our 32 gallon once a week in Spokane.

After giving the dogs an outing at the off-leash park I drove to the Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center, bought a day pass for MAX, and rode down to meet Sally at the Lloyd Center. We walked through the mall to Broadway and east to McMenamins on 15th. We had a leisurely beer and light dinner, then walked back to MAX, heading west, on our way to see the Zoolights.

We learned about the Zoolights on Saturday from seeing the traffic backup on highway 26 and getting the scoop from Sal's colleagues at the Holiday gathering. Further investigation yielded information about the 2nd Tuesday discount... Our Zoolight tickets were $4 each, and then discounted a further $1.50 each for taking the MAX. Sweet!

The lines only got unbearably long as we were leaving, the lights were lovely, and MAX got us back to the car by 7:15. It was a fun evening, and a harbinger of our new, hip urbanite lifestyle. By the time we got home the dogs scarcely recognized us.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Given that we have neither television nor internet (other than my cellular iPad), evenings in the Zip House have tended to be quiet and short. Sally leaves for work at 5:45 in the morning, so an early bedtime is welcome. Still, the minutes between sundown and bedtime can drag, and so we have taken to renting movies from Redbox.

All in all we've done pretty well. We enjoyed Thor, Captain America, The Conspirator, and the new True Grit. Each was more than worth the $1.30 we paid for them. Perhaps that explains our overconfidence....

On Wednesday evening we rented Your Highness. I figured that with Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel it couldn't be too bad. I figured wrong. It was an adolescent male or stoner movie that was probably more fun to make than it was to watch. A least I hope so.

Last night's selection was Atlas Shrugged, Part 1. It is really something that there will eventually be a Part 2. The movie was indeed based on Ayn Rand's book, which was both it's curse and saving grace. Ayn Rand was a strange person with views that might roughly coincide with the Koch brothers or Fox network business anchors. As such I had trouble watching it. Still, I retired for the evening thinking about it. If that is what a film is supposed to do, then our $1.30 was well-spent (though don't take that as an endorsement). It was clearly worth $1.29 more than Your Highness.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting a break

We haven't felt as if we have gotten too many breaks in this relocation process (sniff), but got one today. When informed of our change of schedule in getting access to the Wee House the trucking company head offered to deliver our goods on Saturday without weekend surcharge ($4000). The relocation overlords agreed, and so we will get our goods on Saturday. That is preferable to spending the weekend cleaning or painting, as has been suggested, as all of our tools, painting and cleaning supplies are already in the warehouse in Boise. I hate to buy stuff I already own. We'll do some cleaning with the things we kept out, but nothing monumental. Besides, the sellers have been there 37 years without pets, as the gentleman is severely allergic. I'm guessing the house will be cleaner on Friday evening than it will ever be again.

The closing has been moved up to Monday, so by Monday at noon we will own two houses and be leasing a third. This downsizing thing is tricky. I told Sally yesterday that my goal is to feel a bit settled by our anniversary on March 2. I think that is reasonable, if we work at it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

One More Curve

Everytime we think we've got things under control, we get thrown a little curve ball. I called our realtor last night to ask about the scheduling of our closing, and in passing asked about access to the house on the day we take possession. Stacey said the usual possession time is 5pm. Too bad that we have scheduled the movers for that day, and that they don't work weekends. Thus we will have possession of an empty house for the weekend without opportunity to unpack and settle in. A minor inconvenience in the long run, but irritating nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Off Leash

I confess to having made a number of derogatory cracks about our "Zip House" in Vancouver. In truth we are quite comfortable, and the house is very nice. The worst feature of our living here is that we're on our way elsewhere. The Zip House is thus a stop along the way, and viewed somewhat as an obstacle rather than the path to fulfillment.

One of the best features of the house is it's location relative to stores, restaurants and other amenities. We've never been so close to Costco (though we have no inclination to engage in bulk buying at this juncture), and have many grocery stores to choose from, including New Seasons, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Chuck's Produce and Safeway. Aong the other amenities is the Pacific Park off-leash dog area. And therein lies the tail.

Juni and Cayenne are well on the way to becoming regulars at Pacific Park. They join the throngs of dogs wagging and greeting, peeing and playing. The park is lovely, large, and well maintained. There is a wide, cinder path perhaps a quarter mile in length surrounding a large green area for ball playing and the like. There are trees along one side, making it feel like a walk in the woods. Juni and Cayenne have fit right in. There are very few displays of dominance or rough play. It's as if everyone realizes what a privilege and pleasure it is to be off leash.

I wish people from other communities could see this park, and how well it works. I'm impressed. More importantly, Juni and Cayenne are.

Monday, December 5, 2011

December Sunshine

Sally and I enjoyed a lovely Saturday jaunt to the coast. The fog lifted as we drove west, and the temperature was in the high 40's. All in all a perfect day to walk along the beach, watch the breakers, and to soak up some December sunshine.

Everything continues to move forward toward closing and possession of what we lovingly term the Wee House. Today Sally contracted for concrete repair in Spokane, and I formally asked to lower the listing price again. It will be a relief to have it behind us.

The dogs, meanwhile, are really enjoying our move. There is an off leash area just a mile or two from the Zip House, and we have made regular visits. That, in addition to their joining us on our coastal jaunt, have made them tired but happy dogs.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Settling in, temporarily

We had a lovely Thanksgiving with all three kids, Megan's husband AJ and Evan's fiance Angie. Highlights included the Thanksgiving buffet at McMenamins Kennedy School, a coffee excursion to Clive Coffee, two trips to Powell's City of Books, beers at the Green Dragon, a dinner at Toji Korean Grill, the Muddy Rudder Pub in Sellwood, coffee at Motivasi and Ristretto Roasters, pastries from St. Honore. We talked, but usually with our mouths full.

After everyone left Sal and I did some cathartic laundry and settled in to life as usual, at least for the next two weeks. We are scheduled to close on the Wee House on the 13th, with possession on the 16th. A walk-through on Saturday confirmed our recollections and suspicions: It is really small. Once we have our stuff we will continue the process, begun in Spokane, of letting go of many of our accumulated assets. It's just stuff, I know, but the letting go is still difficult.

We are doing well. Sally has begun riding Max to work. I have taken the dogs to a lovely off-leash area a couple times. Even the cat got a chance to briefly explore the great outdoors. I'll write again soon. Until then, may your Advent and Holiday Season be lovely and meaningful.