Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Stardate 073119.1

Traveler's Log Stardate 073119.1  Our destination is Manaus, Brazil,  where we will rendezvous with the Tartarugas de Amazonas, a river going vessel. Manaus, population 2.1 million souls, is located at the east center of the state of Amazonas.  It is situated near the confluence of the Negro and Solimoes rivers, settled in 1669, as the Fort Sao Jose do Rio Negro. The atmospheric conditions are reported to be 92 F, 33 C, with little chance of precipitation.

We have learned that the vast area of the Amazon river basin is under threat of total deforestation due to the political agenda of the country's president, Jair Bolsonara, and his denial of the total ruin of this natural wonder of planet Earth.

We are proceeding at 533 mph, well below warp speed. A stop in Miami, in the state of Florida, is planned where we will transfer to another airship before embarking for the southern continent. Expected arrival in the state of Amazonas 0105. 

But first, in the immortal words of Captain Kirk, "Everyone, remember where we parked."

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Off to Brazil

2 days and counting until I'm off to Brazil. I am prepared for as many diseases as possible. A few things I hope to avoid (other than becoming very ill) are Pariah, Cannibals, Anacondas, to name a few. 

Short of having WiFi, cell coverage, and a gourmet chef we will be 'off the grid'. 9 days 'cruising' the Amazon, then several days in Rio, and Iguassu Falls. Travel includes :7 flights legs, 1 boat, 1 helicopter, a tram, and various other vehicles. And, yes, most likely Uber (who knew?).  Besides the boat, we will be staying in accommodations ranging from an airport hotel to a 5 Star resort. 

But I digress. You may or may not hear from me for a week or too. Fear not, Lord willing, I will be back. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Fanny Pack

I can appreciate fashion at its best, however there have been colossal fashion failures. Poodle skirts and patchwork quilt skirts for ladies come to mind. Worse yet, jumpsuits and leisure suits for the men. But I digress.

One of the all time, worse ever fashion accessory was the "Fanny Pack". Please in the name of God, tell me who looks good with a fanny pack. I'm sure there were good intentions behind it. Personally in this instance, even though form follows function, the sight of a fanny pack (to me) is a stigma. It shouts - "I'm a tourist on vacation from Elyria, Ohio."  "My husband and I brought the family down here to see the world's largest ball of string." "Can't wait to get home and show the Bernsteins [the neighbors] our travel photos." 

To make things worse, I was shocked to see in Vogue that this was the 'Year of the Fanny Pack'. Now these new fanny packs are not like the ones Aunt Mildred wore on vacation. These are posh, smart looking, accessories designed by such as Gucci, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbano. Perhaps a bad practical joke on those with more money than sense. But, as they say, you can't put lipstick on a pig, even if you are Versace.

All this came to mind when I realized that I will need some secure place for my passport, cash, and other valuables. When in Rio . . . one needs to keep one's valuables in a safe place very close. The city is rife with crime. Travel blogs all suggest a fanny pack to fit the bill. I would rather die first than be caught alive wearing one.

So what is the alternative? Oh, there are many small money belts, under garment small bags, etc. that one can wear. LL Bean, Orvis, Travel Smith, and others have many examples of such. So I am tasked with finding a practical, secure, comfortable way to carry my ID's and money, without looking like Helen Higgenbothom from Elyria, Ohio. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Is it Real?

Going through my check list for my trip to Brazil, No. 36 was "Get Brazilian Reals from bank."  The currency, the "real", is pronounced "hey-al" and the plural, "reais", is pronounced "hey-ice". The exchange rate as of this writing was .27 to the US Dollar, ie 1 US Dollar will purchase 3.73 Reais. 

And, then there is Brazil's native tongue - Portuguese. In my case, there will definitely be a failure to communicate. In college, I spent the better part of a summer in Europe. I could barely make out Spanish and French. (They speak so fast, but then as a southerner, I have been told I speak too slowly.) I thought German was difficult until I arrived in Amsterdam, where I encountered Dutch, which was truly Greek to me.

Translations - English to Portuguese: "How are You?" is "Como você está?", "Thank you" is "Obrigado", and "How much is that?" is "Quanto custa isso?" As I said earlier, "Δεν καταλαβαίνω" (I don't understand.)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Safety, Security, and Southern Life

When I worked for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, security was always an issue. Over the years, Federal Judges have been the targets of violence and, tragically, assassination in a few cases. While, thankfully, Judge Williams never had such a situation. There were a few instances  we had to deal with. 

Due to the Judge's high profile, the local police were always vigilant of their additional responsibility. Given the chambers were one block from the Fire Department, we had an alarm system, and there was secure  access to the chambers, we always felt very safe.

There was also the attitude of the citizens of our fair town who thought highly of her - as a fine southern lady.  Few understood what she did and the status of her position. Once, when a local hairdresser learned that her client was one of the Judge's attorneys, she commented, "Oh my, we just love her. She has such beautiful skin." Another time, one of the Judge's high school teachers lamented, "We always thought she would do more with her life, like be a secretary." 

It was lost on most folks that she was nominated and appointed by the President of the United States, then confirmed by the US Senate for a position as a US Constitutional Article III Judge - just one level below the US Supreme Court. (Keeping in mind Article I pertains to the US Congress and Article II to the Presidency.) They would often comment, "She is just lovely, I think she is a judge, , she doesn't have a courtroom, she goes to Richmond a lot, but she can't fix a parking ticket." We were in Richmond, VA, the seat of the 4th Circuit, 1 week a month for court which only added to the mystique.

There were several "panic" buttons in the office. Mashing one of these would activate a silent alarm that would alert the police, and they would immediately come to chambers. More often than most, if the alarm was set off, it was due to the Judge inadvertently hitting the button under her desk. The police would show up, I would meet them at the door, and explain that is was, once again, a false alarm. Only once did an officer go further than this. 

When I explained to this young policeman that it was a false alarm, he smiled and said, "Mam, I'm sure it is, but can I see the Judge, just to make sure she is OK." I laughed and led him down the hall to the Judge's office. I commented as we made our way. "You know you are the first police officer to actually ask to see her."

He smiled, "Yes mam, just doing my job." 

I guess, if any of the other situations were a case of breach of the perimeter and direct harm to the Judge, the police would have taken my word for her safety, thank me, and leave. 

There was the occasion when a homeless man was admitted to our chambers. As he sat in the reception area mumbling to himself, he said some threatening things about the Judge. Realizing this situation was more than I wished to handle, I excused myself, telling the man I would get the Judge for him. Instead, I activated a panic button and quickly found one of the attorneys to assist me. In a matter of minutes the police were there and handled the situation. We learned later the man was a little "off his rocker" and, although a bit concerning, was harmless.

On that fateful Wednesday morning of 9/11, shortly after the country realized we were under attack, the US Marshals immediately checked on the safety of each Article III judge in the state. Apparently, we were not that high on the "totem pole" given that the Marshals did not get around to checking on the Judge until that Friday, 2 days after the attack. 

The Marshals were very apologetic for this oversight. Visiting the chambers, they expected the wrath of the Judge. Characteristically, she just smiled and said, "Well, it's good to know you finally got here. Do you want to go with us to get BBQ for lunch?" Later, just among us, the Judge laughed, "You don't think they waited until now to check on us? After all you can't get BBQ on Wednesday."

All this gets to my new position in the legal office of DSS in Pickens, SC, a small town in upper part of the state, population 3,164 (total county population of 123,479). Being far away from the chambers of an Article III judge and the US Courts, I never thought of security. That was until my college roommate sent me the link to a news story about pipe bombs being placed in the Pickens County Courthouse and the county DSS offices. 

It was determined that the source of the devices was a local man unhappy with the amount of child support he was required to pay. Given the bombs were placed on a Sunday, I was comforted that the ATF were there Monday morning, shortly after the devices were discovered. After all the BBQ restaurants don't open until Thursday. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pieces Inside

'Wayfair, we've got just what you want.' Well, in my case, not so much.

Online I found a headboard for my bed at Wayfair (on sale of course). When it arrived I was most excited and could not wait to get it on the bed.

The box, as you can imagine was quite large and unwieldy, but I was determined. I was on a mission. I dragged the cardboard package up the stairs. Just trying to get it opened was quiet the task. Finally, out of the box came the headboard. Surveying it after unwrapping, it looked just as it did online. I always fear I will be taken as a friend of mine in college was, when she ordered a solid wood bookcase (from a catalog). She was surprised to find it was simply 8 pieces of cardboard, 3 of which had a design printed on them that replicated wood grain. But, I digress.

In my case, there was no hardware with my headboard, no legs to attach to it. I went back to the box. After pulling all the remaining cardboard and packaging, using a flashlight, I looked inside the box. No instructions, no extra pieces, no hardware. 

By this time I was frustrated. Looking over the headboard, there were definitely pieces missing.  I did not see any way to attach the headboard to the bed frame as it was. "Wayfair, this is NOT ALL that I want. Instructions and missing pieces would be appreciated. And, while you're at it, send a handyman."

Daunted, I leaned the headboard up against dresser. It was then that I saw dangling from the back, a white tag. In large red writing,  it read 'Pieces Inside'.

"Inside what?" I asked myself. As I looked over the black material that covered the back of the piece, I saw it. There was a large rectangle. When I pulled on the red and white tag I heard the sound of velcro. Sure enough, a panel of the material was velcroed on. Eureka! Opening it up I found 2 legs that fit  perfectly in the space, as well as a small bag of hardware, and most importantly - Instructions.

I pulled the pieces and the hardware out. Looking at the instructions, I started reading. 'Holding 1 leg (d) take 3 bolts (a), 3 washers (b) and 3 locking washers (c), insert . . ."

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Yes, There's an App for that

They were prompt at the travel medical clinic so I did not have to wait. I sat down with the nurse and handed her my immunization record I had gotten from DHEC. She compared it to the rest of information I had submitted online. Certainly this was going to be quick and simple, I thought, after all we had to go through getting ready for Ecuador.  She looked up. "OK, you have had your Hep-A and Hep-B, so you only need the second doses of those."

"Second doses?" I asked.

"Yes, they are 2 part immunizations." She looked down again. "But, your Tetanus, Tdap, and MMR are up-to-date. This doesn't show polio? Have you have your polio immunization?"

I laughed, "Yep, when I was 4 or 5 on a sugar cube."

"Well, you need a booster - a Polio shot."

"OK," I said wondering what had happened to the sugar cube.

"And, Typhoid, I don't see that on your record."

I was clueless. I could not tell you whether I had had Typhoid or Bungee Bungee or Jungle Fever. It was all Greek to me. "If it's not on that record," I said, "My guess is that I haven't had it."

She laughed and continued down the list, "Yellow Fever? It says you have had it. Does your yellow card show that?"

"What yellow card?"

She looked a bit perplexed. "The yellow card that stays with your resume. You know, the official record of all your immunizations."

I briefly remembered a yellow card but several weeks ago when I last used my passport, I knew it wasn't with it. Dear God, there had been at least 3 moves since I had last seen that piece of paper. Optimistically, I said, "I'm sure I have it somewhere."

"Well yellow fever is different from most vaccinations, the vaccination has to be verified by the provider before it can 'officially' be added to your yellow card." She smiled, "Well, just staple your old yellow card to the new one I will give you today."

"I know I have had that shot because we had an issue finding the vaccine and finally ended up in Columbia before we did."

"Perhaps we should make an appointment for next week. If you cannot find your initial yellow card, then you can get the vaccine then."

"That sounds good." Finding the yellow card or not, I had no intention of getting that shot again. I knew I had already had it, yellow card or not. But to humor the nurse, I made an appointment for the following week.

She printed off a sheet of paper and handed it to me. "I just want to review what vaccines you are going to get today and have you sign this before we proceed."

I looked at the list which was longer than I thought. In addition to the vaccinations we had discussed, she had added a Malaria Rx and a round of Typhoid medication. But it was the bottom line that caught my attention. "Good grief, this is going to cost me as much  one leg of my airfare for this trip."

"I'm not surprised. Oh, and, that total does not include the cost of your Malaria prescription."

I signed the paper, the nurse pulled out the vials of medications and needles, and we proceeded. When that was finished, she handed me a small plastic bag.

"This is your Typhoid medication. It is very important that you carefully follow the dosing instructions. You need to take 1 capsule every other night for 8 days. You need to take it exactly 1 hour after you have eaten and at the exact same time each night." She handed me a chart. "This will help you keep up with your dosing. Or, there is an app for your phone that will remind you when you need to stop eating and when to take your medication."

"Okay," I said.

"It comes with a cold pack since it is a live virus. Don't let it get above 47 degrees."

Then she carefully filled out a yellow card, listing each immunization on a separate line, which she then signed her name beside each and gave it an official stamp. "I'm going to list that you have had the yellow fever vaccine, but because we didn't administer it, I cannot sign or stamp it to make it official."

So I left their office with a bag containing a travel booklet on Brazil, the temperamental Typhoid medication, and a new precious yellow card.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

I Heard the Whistle Blowing

Back to the Instant Pot. I followed the directions exactly as written in both the 'Official' Cook Book and the 'Instruction' Book. Making sure everything was as it was supposed to be, I proceeded.  Now, I am not known to follow directions for a recipe, but in this case I was faithful to the text. Memories of an exploding pressure cooker from my youth are still permanently etched in my mind. Even now, I can hear that whistle now as the pressure built up. The stains of the green beans on the ceiling were still there until a fresh coat of paint was applied years later. But, I digress. 

In my case, this pot was supposed to be much better and much safer than the old pressure cookers of my youth. I was doubtful, but soldiered on. The moment of commitment came when it was time to go to the actual 'pressure' cooking. After I had placed the chicken in the pot - just as the recipe said, I sealed the lid, turned the vent to 'Seal' and programmed the pot to cook under pressure for 12 minutes.

When the pot beeped 3 times, I took a deep breath. Nothing had exploded - yet. Carefully, I walked into the kitchen. The pot was still intact, as far as I could tell. The instructions said to turn the vent knob from 'Seal' to 'Vent'.  With great trepidation, I did just that.

As I did, the steam started escaping rapidly. Memories of flying green beans flashed in my mind and I backed off quickly. No doubt it was getting ready to blow. After 3 or 4 minutes, the steam stopped. As instructed, I carefully removed the lid. 

There was my dish. Though not quite looking like the picture in the cook book, it was close enough. With no food on the ceiling and the pot still in working order, I felt a victory lap was on order. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

To Infinity and Back in an Instant

I'm confused, but that is not unusual. I have a new Instant Pot. This 'Instant' notion is new to me, so I understood my learning curve would be a bit steep. What I was not aware of, was the time warp of the concept. An example of this was a recipe for  'Ligurian Lemon Chicken'. 'Ligurian' refers to the Italian Riviera. But I digress.

The recipe said: 'Serves 4-6, Prep Time: 15 Minutes, Pressure Cook Time: 12 Minutes'. Pretty straight forward, I would say.

I gathered my ingredients and went to work, following the directions:
  • juice 3 lemons
  • finely chop garlic, rosemary, and sage
  • add lemon juice and olive oil to chopped herbs and marinate the chicken for 2-4 hours
  • then saute the chicken in the inner pot for 15 minutes
  • remove chicken, add wine to inner pot and de-glaze - 3 minutes
  • return chicken to inner pot and cover with marinade
  • cook for 12 minutes
  • remove and serve

Now at my age, I realize this is new math and I have an old math mind. But still, aren't there 60 minutes in an hour. 2 to 4 hours equals 120 - 240 minutes - best I can calculate. But, before that there was the time preparing the marinade. Even with my fairly good cooking skills, it takes me a minute or two to juice 3 lemons. Then maybe a minute or so more to 'finely' chop the herbs.

According to my calculations (using the shorter marinading time)  1 minute juicing lemon + 1 minute chopping herbs + 120 minutes marinating chicken + 15 minutes to saute the chicken + 3 minutes de-glazing the pan + finally 12 minutes cooking = 152 minutes (aka 2 hours, 32 minutes). This is where the time warp comes in. My only guess is that the pressure of the Instant Pot compresses the prep time from 137 down to a mere 15 minutes. So does that mean that this mystery pot shrinks the prep time so that when all is done, you are back to the future?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

What Happened to David?

By now I was beginning to fear that the appliance store may well have been a Sci Fri adventure after all. And, both David and my washer/dryer had disappeared into the ethos. I had left several messages with no response.

But, oh ye of little faith. There was a God. Around 4 that afternoon, a young man from the appliance store called. 

"I know we were scheduled to deliver your unit today between noon and 4, but we are running late. If it still suits, we can be there sometime between 4:30 and 5."

If it suits? Are you kidding? My belief in humanity was restored. "I'll be right here."

At 4:30 a young man knocked on the door and introduced himself as Rob. He and his co-worker, Mike, had my washer/dryer. "Can you show me where it goes?"

I took him to the kitchen and showed them the hookups. In a moment Mike was at the door with the unit. As they were coming through the living room, I asked, "Did you get my messages? I called several times and only got voice mail."

Rob responded, as he carefully maneuvered the washer/dryer through my living room, "No, we didn't get any messages."

"Well, I was calling to cancel today's appointment because a conflict came up." I laughed, "But this worked out well." I paused, then added, "I was just surprised David never returned my calls."

While working on the installation, Rob offered, "David is no longer with us. The owner is trying to get everything straight."

"Oh? But no one got my messages?"

"Well, the phone number on David's card was his personal cell phone. So even though it sounded like it was the company phone, it wasn't." He paused, "So we haven't gotten anyone's messages. The manager is trying to figure out which customer had bought what and when they were expecting delivery."

I thought, 'David's 'Post-It' system may be a game saver after all.'

Friday, July 19, 2019

Oh My, We Need to See You

In all the commotion, chaos, and calamity of the move, I almost forgot that I needed to get my vaccinations for an upcoming trip to South America. Years ago, my husband and I had traveled to Ecuador for several weeks, so I already had gotten many of the necessary immunizations. However, I knew there were additional ones as well boosters I would need. All my travel out of the country since then had been to locations where one needed not be so concerned about vaccinations.

Amid all the hub-bub, I had gotten DHEC (Dept of Health and Human Services) to send me my complete vaccination record. However, looking over it I needed help deciphering it. I had already had my Hep-A and Hep-B vaccines. Did I need boosters? I had Tetanus, DTAP, and a MMR, but were they current? What else did I need?

DHEC referred me to this great service that did nothing but handle overseas vaccination needs. I called them to make an appointment. "Where are you traveling?"


"And the dates of your trip?" When I told her it was only several weeks off, her reaction was, "Oh my, we need to get you in here quickly. Let me look at our schedule." She paused as (I assume) she looked over the schedule to see when they could see me. "We can work you in next Tuesday at noon. Does that suit?"

Knowing I was lucky to get an appointment that quickly, I told her it would work. She asked several more questions,and referred me to a their web site. "If you complete your paperwork online,  you will not be charged for the visit itself, just whatever vaccinations or other medication you will need." I thanked her and rang off.

Tuesday? What did I have planned on Tuesday? Oh, my washer/ dryer was scheduled to be delivered Tuesday afternoon. I found the number for the appliance store and dialed it. Hopefully, I could reschedule my installation appointment with them for Thursday.

When I rang the number, there was no answer. I rang again. This time I waited long enough to get the voice mail. It was David the salesman I had initially dealt with. I left him a detailed message about my needing to cancel my Tuesday appointment and that I was hoping to reschedule the delivery for Thursday. I asked him to please return my call to confirm that he had received the message. I left my name and number.

Monday came and I still had not heard from David. I called once more, got the voice mail, and once again left the message as I had several days earlier.

Tuesday morning came and I still had not heard from David. I called one more time and left another message. If they showed up that afternoon and I was not home, I had done my due diligence. At 11:30, I left the townhouse for my noon appointment. Disappointed that the washer/dryer was not going to be delivered that day, I made a note to call David once more when I got back home.

As it turned out, my appointment took less than an hour, so I was back home by 1:30.  Once again, I tried to call David. All I got was his voice mail.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Frugal to a Fault

I do not believe in spending any more money than I need to. Perhaps the term 'false economy' applies to my consumption philosophy. I learned years ago that we pay way too much for the sparkle of something new - like that new car smell or the shiny item in the front window. Well, maybe not the new car smell, but I digress.

I try to meet the happy medium between the top price and cheap. Over the years, in furnishing my abodes, there are many examples of this. Now, I am not judging here. I wish I had the disposable income that allowed me to purchase anything I wanted at any price. But there is the game of 'The Bargain'. I find great joy in the estate sale, the thrift store, the yard sale, etc.

Some jewels I have found over the years include a heavy well made large solid wood book shelf for $20, a marble topped washstand for $25, and several very unique table lamps for no more $7 each. Why pay $20+ dollars for an ironing board when a perfectly good one can be procured for $5.50. Looking for an apartment size kitchen table, I was thrilled to find a solid wood hi-top table with 4 matching chairs (in excellent condition) for $35. I was the lucky beneficiary of the unfortunate closing of a local bar and grill.

Then often some things just work out. For example, several days ago, I decided to 'splurge' for a small rug to fit under my coffee table (the solid wood one I purchased for $19 from a local thrift store).  $35 for a new 3x5 rug was ridiculous, but I put it in my buggy anyway. When I was checking out, the cashier could not get the sku to scan. After trying several times, she looked all over the rug for a price tag. Being honest I offered, "The sign said '$35'."

"Well if I cannot scan the sku, I cannot just ring up $35." Once again she tried to scan the sku. Then she asked, "Does $9 seem reasonable?"

"Well, certainly," I replied, trying not to seem too pleased.

With that she scanned the last item she had rang up and smiled. "We'll just use this sku and go with it. They really need to make sure the sku's are registered."

I thanked her, paid my bill, loaded my buggy, and walked out of the store. Perhaps this was not honest. Should I have demanded she charge me the $35 the sign indicated? Nope, I justified to myself. She offered the price of $9, and who am I to refuse such an offer.

As a note, I have learned over the years that there are some items one never tries to save money on. It is well worth the extra expense to buy the strongest aluminum foil, highest quality bed sheets, thickest bath towels, and most excellent gin.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Cable Man Cometh

The 'Window of Service' scheduled for the cable technician to arrive was between 4 and 6 PM on Friday. At 2 o'clock, I received an automated call from Spectrum, reminding me  'Your technician is scheduled to arrive between 4 and 6 PM'.  A little after 3 PM, a polite young man called, identifying himself as 'my' Cable Technician. He had finished his last appointment and was ahead of schedule. Would it suit for him to come early? Obviously, this was not an issue with me.

As if big brother was listening, my phone immediately rang once more. It was Spectrum informing me that my Technician was on his way.

Sure enough, ten minutes later, he was knocking on the front door. I let him in. He asked a few questions and then walked through the downstairs area of the townhouse. After a minute or so, he asked, "I think here in the kitchen," he pointed to the corner, "would be the best place. Is that OK with you?"

As if I had a better idea. This was 1940's construction of brick and plaster. I doubted there were many choices. In less than 15 minutes, my internet was installed, up, and running. Maybe my ugly words about the cable company were unfounded.

The young man showed me the equipment he had installed. He handed me some materials and pointed to the bottom of the front page of one of the pamphlets. "Here is your password." 

Expecting some insane combination of letters, numbers, and characters, I was surprised to see "sparklychest123". I laughed, "This is my password? Seriously?"

He laughed. Yes mam, the original one assigned to me at home was "mushyking123".  We both laughed.

"Let me ask you a question. Yesterday I received a call from Spectrum offering me some super service that would allow me to run faster and jump higher on the internet. What is the difference between the tier of service I requested and that one?"

"About $35 a month."

"So I don't really need it?"

"No mam. You have all the speed and bandwidth you need." He paused, "Unless you are a professional gamer. No offense, I doubt if that applies here."

I thanked him and he left. The good news - I was back on the grid, the bad news - I was back on the grid.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Super Duper Service

According to Forbes, Cable Providers are the most hated industry in the country. Just ahead of Internet Providers, Cell Phone Companies, Health Insurance, and the Airlines. That said it is a necessary evil. But I could only stay off the grid for so long. 

Not able to postpone the inevitable any longer, I used my phone to access the local provider's web site. I was able to set-up service online and make an appointment for the cable guy to come on Friday. Trying to save money, I had decided to only get Internet service and then stream whatever I wanted to watch on my smart TV. As if dealing with No. 2 on the list was any less painful than No. 1.

The following day, while in the grocery store, my phone rang. The screen said it was the cable company. Fearing there was some issue, I answered it.

"This is Madge from Spectrum cable, how are you this morning?"

"Fine, and you?"

"First I wanted to thank you for your business and confirm the time scheduled of our technician's visit."

She confirmed the date and time of the installation. Then she started in on her spiel - because I was a new customer, they had this very 'special' offer to make. Spectrum would be happy to give me service, 30 days for free, to a super duper Internet tier that would allow me to stream anything I wanted at any time. (Funny I had researched their site to make sure the service I was getting allowed me to 'stream anything I wanted at any time'.)

I rudely (so much so, I could see my dear departed Aunt Kat scolding me for such behavior) interrupted her. "I am not interested in anything 'free' that is going to be automatically added to my bill later."

"But, I see that you are not taking advantage of our excellent cable TV service. This will allow you to stream anything you want on up to 5 different devices. And, it will give you 'optimal speed'."

"It was my understanding that the service I have signed up for offers me high speed streaming on up to 3 devices. Is this a faster service? "

She didn't pause at all, "We find that most households have . . ."

I interrupted her once more (now I envisioned dear Aunt Kat rolling over in her grave), "Mam, I do not want any additional service that will be added to my bill later on."

"Of course, but ..."

With this I rang off.

Come to think of it, in my mind 'Cable Provider' and 'Internet Provider' are usually the same entity. Therefore Spectrum is the  No. 1 squared most hated service. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Illusive Appliance

One thing my new abode did not have was a clothes washer and dryer. There were hook ups for such in the kitchen - but no appliances. Looking at the space, I did not want to take up a great deal of valuable real estate in the kitchen. The alternative was a 'stacked' washer/dryer.

When I started looking for such a thing, it was evident I had not been in the appliance market for a while. This was clear when I asked a nice young salesperson in an appliance store if they had stacked washers and dryers. He said they did and led me down an aisle pass the refrigerators, took a right at the ranges, we made our way through the dishwashers, and finally to the washer/dryer section. Proudly, he showed me what they had. 

This was not what I had in mind. No one told me that these days they 'stack' full size washers and dryers. Who knew? Politely I told him I was looking for the space savers, the ones folks in apartments use. He looked at me, "Oh, those?"

"Do you have any?"

"Sure let me show you what we have." He led the way. He stopped and indicated a stacked unit - what I had in mind. However, the price was not - they wanted almost $2,000 for it. 

Taking a deep breathe, I asked, "Are there any less expensive ones or, maybe, used ones?"

"No, mam. Well, let me rephrase that. I have seen new units for as little as $1,200."

My budget did not equate 'as little as' with '$1,200', unless it referred to the price of a new car or trip around the world on the Queen Mary. I thanked him and made my way out of the store. 

Back in my car, I pulled out my phone and searched for 'used space saving washer dryer units' in the area. This revealed several potential stores. The first one I called said they did not have any and did not expect to have any. The man who answered the phone at the second location I called, told me that they had 3 in stock the day before, but they were already sold. "Hard to find those things," he said. I thanked him and rang off.

For the next few days, I scoured Craig's list (there was one listed, but they did not deliver). One constant point of frustration was finding dealers with a web site but at the bottom, in very small print, was written "Due to the size of our business, we do not have a current inventory list on our site. Please come in and see the selection we have." I interpreted this as either 'We don't know what in the Hell we have.' or 'Don's nephew's real good on the internets and such. He put our web site together and we don't have a clue how to edit it.'

Whatever the situation, these units were harder to find than I first thought. Finally, I found a store on the edge of town that said they had 4 used units in stock. Quickly I made my way down there, hoping to procure one of these long sought after units. 

When I walked in the store, I started to pull out my sun glasses. The combination of the white floor, white walls, white ceiling and dozens of white appliances was blinding. I wasn't sure if I had stepped onto some Sci Fi movie set or the domain of Progressive's Flo. The lone sole I could find was a gentleman (David) sitting behind a desk on the phone. He waved and indicated he would be right with me.

While waiting I saw in the corner, a site as rare as a herd of unicorns, 4 space saving washer/dryer stacked units. I noticed 2 had yellow Post-It notes with names and dates written on them. Finally the salesman was off the phone and walking toward me. "Looking for one of those?"

"Yes, is 1 still available?"

"Well 2 are but I have another person coming in this afternoon to look at them."

I looked at the line of units again. They were all the same make and model. The price was extremely reasonable.

As if reading my mind, David offered, "These are all refurbished, come with a 30 day warranty, and a discount on service, should you need one after that."

"Do you deliver?"

"Yes, the price includes delivery."

I looked at the 2 still available and selected one. I followed David back to the desk to complete the paperwork for the sale. Watching him work was painful. It seemed to take him forever to complete a form and make a copy. Finally, he took my debit card. Even then he was flustered that his card reader wasn't working. Well it wasn't until he pulled the card out and inserted it the correct way.

Since they only delivered on Tuesday and Thursday, I made an appointment for the following Tuesday to take delivery. When I finally was able to walk out of the store, I read over my paperwork. I wanted to make sure it in fact said I had purchased a washer/dryer (and not a trash compactor or such), the amount I had paid, and the delivery date.

I could relax, and check this off my list. Finally I had found what I needed at a decent price with a warranty and a delivery date. Now, where could I find some baskets for the shelf in my room?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Just a Bit Short

Making my way through the canyons of cardboard, I went upstairs. Looking into the master bedroom, I saw the bed had been set up with the frame and box springs. Next, I walked into the second bedroom. There was the bed - as in just the 4 poster bed - no mattress, no box spring. Thinking about what we loaded, it dawned on me that I was so concerned about getting the correct box spring for my bed, sofa for the living room, and matching kitchen chairs, that I totally forgot I needed a mattress and box spring for the other bed. And, to think I had been so proud of both my preparation and my execution of the move.

Later that afternoon, the Fed Ex man showed up with a 50 pound box containing my memory foam mattress. I saw him drop it on the door step. He turned to go back to his truck. Wanting to catch him, I ran to the door and asked, "Can you please bring that into the house?"

He turned around, "No mam, we're not allowed to bring anything into someones home."

Obviously, he could tell that was not the answer I expected. He walked back toward the door and smiled," But, if you open the door, I will put it inside."

I thanked him and opened the door wide. He picked up the box, and without putting a foot over the threshold, placed it just inside the door. I thanked him. Now getting it up the stairs and onto the bed was going to be another story.

One of my favorite pieces of furniture is a large buffet which I have always had in my living room. Unfortunately, 2 of the legs had been broken during a previous move. Until they get repaired,  the buffet had to be set on the floor in my living room, upside down. If nothing else, it makes for a conversation piece. Especially with my television sitting on top of it (or on the bottom of it) together with my crystal decanters.

I'm not sure who built the building in the 1940's but I am convinced he (or she) had to be at least 6' 8" tall. Working in the kitchen, I found I could barely reach the kitchen cabinets, much less anything inside. Even at 5' 2", I had never had that problem before. Note to self - I need a step stool.

In the master bedroom there was a nice size closet. However, when trying to hang up some of my clothes, I could not reach one of the hanging bars. Once again, I made a note - I need a stool. 

I spent the next few hours unpacking and putting things in their proper places. There was great satisfaction with each box I emptied. But, the number of boxes never seemed to decrease. This was worse than the Tribbles on Star Trek.

On the edge of exhaustion, I grabbed a glass of tea, moved a few items from the sofa, and took a seat. It was all coming together. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel or rather the living room floor. There was a noise outside which sounded like the mail being delivered. Sure enough, opening the door, I saw the mailman making his way down the walk way. I opened the door and reached to my left where the mailbox was mounted on the wall. Standing on my toes, I could barely open the box, much less reach inside for any mail that may be there. Note to self - I really need a stool.

Friday, July 12, 2019

My "Stuff" has"Stuff"

Fast forward - I loved the place. I called the landlord and told him I would take it. Check that off my list. Now all I had to do was arrange for 2 sets of 'loaders' (one to load the truck and another to unload it.) 

The going rate for such was $40-$50 per hour per man with a 2 hour minimum.  But, not having to worry with the move, it was well worth it. The logistics were handled. I had it all lined up - the truck, the movers etc. 

Now a little back history here - when I started packing my worldly goods, I found that not only did I have 'stuff', but my 'stuff' had 'stuff'. The number of boxes I was moving was ridiculously down right embarrassing. I brought a good car load down on one of my initial trips. (My college roommate, bless her heart, let me unload my prized possessions and store them in her yard house until I could move.)

My good friends from Richmond brought the remainder of my boxes down - which took up 90% of the room in a good size RV. The site of this was something akin to a photo spread in National Lampoon. Since I could not move in yet, I had rented a climate controlled storage space - a fairly large one. I also had furniture and other goods in 2 more locations.

The loaders we had to load the truck were jam up. They were fast, professional, and happy to help with anything.  Loading the furniture on the truck, I was concerned that the right sofa was loaded, that the chairs loaded were the correct ones for the kitchen table, and other details. I made sure the correct box spring for my bed was loaded. (I was going to have to purchase a new mattress.) Also, I carefully looked over the many table lamps and chose those I thought would suit me best.

Very soon, "Operation Load It Up" was done. Now on to Greenville for Part 2 - "Operation unload." 

Miracles do happen. We arrived at the town house early. Thankfully the unloading crew were waiting for us. They were efficient, but not as impressive as our loaders that morning. That said, it only took them a little over an hour to unload the truck and get all the furniture into the town house. When they finished, I said, "Now we need to bring the boxes from my storage unit. It's only a mile or 2 away."

I could tell the head loader was not pleased. "But, we are finished and you hired us to unload the truck."

I had to remind him that I was paying him for a minimum of 2 hours of work.

"I understand, but we got the job done."

There was a little discussion about timing and the contract. Finally he grumpily said, "Fine, but we need to hurry." He looked at his watch. "We only have 40 minutes. Any minute after that, I will have to charge you for." It was agreed that all they needed to do was load the truck. We would unload it.

We made our way to the storage unit (which was 2 minutes away). When I opened the door to the unit, I heard the loader say, under his breath, "Good God." But, in 15 minutes, the truck was loaded. The unit was empty. Given there were still 15 minutes "on the clock", I started to suggest they could help us unload for that amount of time, but I thought better of it.

Finally the "move" was over. I walked back into the townhouse. Actually, it was hard to walk due to the number of boxes everywhere. Someone asked, "Where is all this going to go?"

Standing there, trying not to show my feeling of total inundation, I just said, "Oh, there's a place for everything." In my mind I was thinking, 'If you believe, it will happen.' Oh, where was the Good Witch Glenda when you needed her?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

For Rent

That afternoon, my friend wanted to show me some neighborhoods in town, an area I had originally written off due to the rental prices. Riding down a tree lined street, there was a sign in the window of an attractive townhouse - "For Rent" with a phone number. I jotted down the number. Probably too expensive, I thought, being in a really nice neighborhood in town. Also, it was not a renter's market these days. Unless one had $1500 a month for a studio apartment (complete with a microwave, mini fridge and Murphy bed) in one of the several fancy brand new buildings downtown, you were on the street with everyone else looking for that 'doable" place for an affordable price.

I called the number and left a message. It wasn't long before the landlord returned my call. Yes, the property was available. I was shocked at the reasonable price. Then the big question - what about dogs? Not an issue. Was it available? When was it available?"

The landlord paused. Great, I thought, this is where the bad news comes. Maybe it will not be available until the end of the summer. Did he have to evict someone first? Were there toxic fumes coming from the walls?

He continued, "The unit has had the same tenant for 4 years. This is the first time I have been able to do some updating, you know - painting, new counters and back splash. Things like that."

This was good I thought - an updated place.

He continued, "I'm afraid it will not be available until sometime in the first week in July at the earliest. We found some issues with the plaster."

This was bad. I needed to move by the first of the month at the latest. "When can you show it ?" I asked?

"Well, I have had a lot of interest in the place. I live out of town, but I will be in town this weekend (this was a Tuesday). I can show it to you then."

Once again, I was crestfallen. I wasn't the first interested, motivated, or potential tenant. This property would not be on the market long. Before I could say anything, he said, "But,  just talking with you, I like you and have a good feeling about you. If you want to see it today, the key is in the mailbox. But, just remember the mess. I promise the ladders and drop clothes will be removed....."

I spoke up and interrupted him,"Trust me I understand."

"Well some people cannot see through that. They want it turn key perfect, especially the Millennials. Even when it is first shown to them. These are townhouses built in the 1940's. They don't have all 'sparkle, bells, and whistles' the newer places have."

I laughed, "Trust me, I am way past any Millennial years."

We both chuckled. Then he said, "Well, let me know what you think. And, if the contractor is in there just tell him I said it was OK for you to look through it."

I thanked him, told him I would be in touch, then we rang off.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


The domicile hunt continued. I found a small former mill house that was being renovated into a precious little bungalow. It was located within walking distance of a cute area of "hip" bars and restaurants. Charles, a young man from the rental agency met us. (We were there on time - he was 10 minutes late.) 

Charles was obviously recuperating from a large time the night before. He was cute but clueless. Walking through the house, I noticed an issue with the kitchen. "Is this going to be fixed?", I asked.

You would have thought my question required a degree in calculus with a minor in physics. After a moment or 2 with a blank look on his face, he responded, "I don't know."

The wooden tongue and groove ceiling was flaking badly. "Is that going to be sanded and repainted?"

"Not sure."

"And, when will the deck (that was missing half of the railing and steps) be finished?"

"I'll have to ask."

"When did you say it will be available?"

He looked in the notebook he carried, "It is available now."

"As in today?"


"But what about the work that still needs to be done?" I said referring to the issues I had pointed out earlier, together with the drop cloths on the floor, ladder in the middle of the room, boards stacked on the deck, and problems in the kitchen.

Another blank stare from Einstein as he contemplated my query. "Not sure about that but I can check."

As we walked outside, I thanked him for showing us the property. He got in his car, but not before he said," Just go online to our website, complete the form, and pay $40."

"$40 dollars, for what?" I asked.

"That will start the process."


"Yeah, you know, it will give you the application to complete. You know, to see if you are qualified." He paused, "You know, like a background and credit check."

"And, if I'm not qualified, I get my $40 back?"

"No, but then you do not have to pay us another $40 when you find another property of ours you are interested in."

"If you deem me unqualified initially, why would I attempt to rent another property from you?"

Blank stare again, "Not sure, I'll have to ask."

Obviously Charles was the son, grandson, or nephew of the owner. - clueless, completely clueless. No point asking any more questions. But, upon reflection, I realized the location, although in a great area, was 30 minutes from my work in one direction and Greenville in the other. Next!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

On the Move

A short break from Gallagher. I am in the process of moving.

Ah, the move. How I love to move. Boxing up all my worldly belongings, finding some strong young men to assist me, and transporting all this to a new location. What fun, especially in July in the South. Who moves in the middle of the summer in the South? Only fools, idiots,. . . and me. I think every move I have made, with one exception, was in the summer. But I digress.

One would think finding an apartment, condo, townhouse, or small home in a thriving metropolitan area such as Greenville would be easy. One would think. Well, it isn't. I don't require much - a safe location, something not God awful tacky, within my budget, with room for my 2 pups.

Google says 68% of American households include at least one dog. However only 30% of available abodes allow dogs. You do the math. Right off the bat, my market has shrunk. 

One place said they were "dog friendly". I was enthused. The young lady showed us the available unit. She was quick to point out it faced a lovely green space. However, I noticed something was missing.  "Where would I park?", I asked.

"Oh, in the large safe parking area located behind the building."

"So I would have to walk all the way around the building, carrying whatever I may have to get from my car to the apartment?"

"Yes," then she smiled, "But this unit is on the first floor, so there are no stairs."

The kitchen was nothing special but updated and clean,. The young lady pointed out the nice bar around the kitchen. "This is great for entertaining," she said waving her arm about like Vanna White.

A good idea, I thought. However, I'm 5'2" and could just barely see over the great bar for entertaining, much less eat from it.

All that aside, we returned to the rental office. The young lady handed me some papers. "Here is our lease agreement. Read through it and let me know if you have any questions." (Mind you I never indicated I was interested in the property.)

In reviewing the agreement, I noticed on p. 2 the "Pet Policy" stated that a (Non-refundable) fee of $500 together with a (Refundable) deposit of $600, then an additional $25 per month were required to take advantage of their "Pet Friendly" policy. Otherwise, not so much.

Move along nothing to see here.