Odds and Ends in my February Life

Narrating this on my big Samsung Galaxy Note 4 ‘phablet’ which is getting a little old in smartphone years. Battery does not want to hold a charge or charge quickly despite things I have done to rectify the situation. And running out of juice is a real dilemma. The Note 8 is supposed to come out in spring and I will want to switch to that. Apparently it will have an even bigger screen than the big Note 4. We’ll see what we do …I did have the Note 7 for about a week, but that was the Android phone /Samsung with the exploding/ catching fire battery problem that they had and I had to return it. After I narrate it, I then send it to self and hammer out/ edit / polish on my laptop in our newly set up office in new apartment in Renton, Washington, just south of Seattle, the Emerald City  (where moss seems to be king).

Today it rained all day and held at about 38 degrees. It was a little annoying because we were in and out of the car quite a bit and carrying things and getting wet, but people here don’t seem to mind too much and we don’t either, given the fact that it reminded us of a late fall day in Erie PA. Actually, the weather has not been a problem here.  I would call it mild and not depressing – I am used to gray days – remember, I am fine with that, even prefer it to sun beating down and blinding, but darkness triggers some of Isabel’s depression – so I try to get us out and about – walking or riding somewhere.  No big dousing by thunderstorms like back east. One thing I’ve noticed is less wind too than what I experienced all those years in Erie and San Francisco. And snow is pretty much a non-issue. We are on the Puget Sound, but we are not on the coast, so I don’t know if that makes a difference about the wind. People in Seattle sometimes have a problem –my daughter, for example– that although it does not get very hot in the summer, the summer sun in the afternoon is very strong, so if you have your house windows facing the west, it can be a problem. And most places do not have central air so people get the interior air conditioners with the vent hose that sticks out a window… that’s what we got for Quilla a few years ago, but she doesn’t have to use it very frequently. Our apt faces the north and only has windows on one side of the living room and the two bedrooms, so I’m not expecting too much of a problem… plus we are on the ground floor and near the woods which will help. If it does get warm I’ll get one of those portable units too.

We continue to get used to living in Renton and finding where things are and how to get back and forth to Seattle. Where we live is more a case of going most places by car, although it is feasible to get to Seattle and other places via public transit. We are going to start trying that soon now that we have more awareness of where things are.  I have acquired our “ORCA” cards and put money on them via internet so that we can automatically scan them for all transit modes, even ferries. Convenient so we never have to be reaching for right amount of cash. I still use the GPS quite a bit to get to the places I’m less than certain about, and it works well except when I lose the signal behind some hills!  And then it’s crazy and I have to pull over and try to figure out what to do… rebooting, or holding the phone up in the air by the windshield to get a stronger ‘beam.’ It’s irritating and especially troublesome here because there are so many last-minute decisions at multiple-option splits in the street or highway …so you almost have to become very familiar with a lot of these intersections to know in advance which lane you want to start getting into. This is because in addition to all of the choices you also have an ever present flow of unforgiving and impatient bumper to bumper traffic, which doesn’t allow swerving in and out of lanes at the last minute.
And what happened with the quaint notion of cars coming onto the highway yielding to the ones that were already on the highway rather than the opposite? I noticed it starting more and more in Erie on 90 and 79…but here it is just a given…if you’re bebopping along the highway, YOU have to slow down to let the cars merge in. The incoming traffic just pulls into your right lane.  And it’s impossible for the right lane cars to move over to the left because of all the traffic. They even have a light that staggers cars entering, but it is a mad dash adventure at every entrance and exit from highway. I’m amazed that there are not more accidents. You really have to have your head on a swivel to make all these maneuvers,  especially on the highway. I don’t think my reflexes have slowed yet but we find ourselves preferring to take a little longer and use the city streets and back roads to get from point A to point B, just because it’s more relaxing and sane.  Today I told Isabel that that’s the way it is for geezers like us.  Although I’m 5 more years an old codger than she is. Although with so much traffic, lots of times you’re only going 35 miles an hour or less in 60 mph zones, if you’re not stopped dead in your tracks.   No annual mechanical inspections of autos here worries me some… how many brakes out here in all this zany racing around are shot?  By the way, if you get on 90 in Erie and don’t get off to the western end… you pull right into the parking lot of Century Link stadium, home of the Seattle Seahawks on the edge of Puget Sound, which is visible out my daughter’s apartment window, next to the baseball stadium, Safeco Field.  I’m amused by that for some reason.  The connection and synchronicity of things in the thoroughly spinning world.

On Sunday we will be venturing into Seattle again about a 25-minute trip to go to north Beacon Hill to our daughter’s place to watch the Super Bowl. I will be pulling for Atlanta Falcons because I hate New England so much. We’ll see who has the right stuff that day. Hope it’s a good game. They are two good teams– I will give them that. two good teams.  And then there are the wild or poignant or funny commercials and Lady Gaga with all her talent and creativity.

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I have shaken the stunned disappointment after the election, I suppose.  Now it has turned to frustration, days of disbelief, and considerable anger …finding myself more and more in tune with what they’re calling “the resistance”.  The rebellious streak is awakening and finding some outlet.  At least we’ve been marching and contacting politicians to try to push change and get what’s righteous to occur.  It harkens back to the French underground or the Viet Cong or peaceniks or beatniks or something from a bygone era, but I have also gotten back to following my Twitter account from which I’d distanced myself after the dark boo hoo of the election. I follow a ton of reporters, political figures, social activists, commentators, etc. to get different takes on what is going on in the country and the world along with also following poets and cultural leaders. I am also using Overdrive app to still connect to Erie Library to get and read my latest mystery books (Jack Reacher, Harry Bosch, Sherlock Holmes, and other series) in digital form. It’s like magic… to be able to see text like that on my various screens whenever and wherever I may be. I brought my collection of Spanish language novels and poetry out to the far northwest which I also read here in paper form.

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Don Quixote and others on their wandering mission through the ages and jungles and deserts and over mountains too. What was most painful was getting rid of boxes and boxes of my college Spanish books on literary criticism and history of Latin America and Spain that had been with me for decades. We have also gotten rid of our Britannica encyclopedias because no one uses them anymore. That hurt a lot in a sentimental way because it was the first credit purchase that we made as a married couple in San Francisco in 1984 ( a year that many say we are really living again right now with the worried, fearful reference to the book of the same name). They were in mint condition and nobody even wants them for free. It’s nuts. I remember the discussions with the school librarians about how we didn’t need to buy encyclopedias anymore for the schools due to everything being at our fingertips with immediate access via computers. So I don’t know what we did without GPS and I don’t know what we did without internet searches for any information you want at any moment on your phone or just asking out loud to Amazon’s Alexa. Right now that all seems like the Dark Ages  in so many ways. We just watched Rosemary’s Baby last night. I had not seen it since the early 70s (it came out in the late 60s and Isabel had never seen it). But there was a scene in which Mia Farrow was desperate and in the NYC streets and she had to go to a phone booth, pull out her big agenda book of phone numbers, put in change, and use a dial rotary system to make a phone call.  In an instant it brought back so many memories. I just remember the phone booths in the cities getting smaller and less available  because they were becoming public urinals and almost unusable.  Certain misguided, angry people used to vandalize them for the change that was inside so more and more they became out of order. Those days are gone for sure and it is a better world for convenience of communication, although the fact that people don’t know how to write clear, complete sentences, (let alone, a whole letter to a loved one) or look each other in the eye and converse coherently, or read much beyond 140 key characters makes me worry about the future.

don_quixoteWe had been having trouble with our 10 yr old dog (who still looks like a puppy) not wanting to be separated from us due to all the time we spent together in the month from when we sold the house to when we finally got into the apartment here. It had been 24/7 in a collection of hotel rooms and the car across the country. That was becoming a real problem here because he would howl and bark if we tried to leave him alone. One time early on we experimentally went out  after moving into the apartment and were called by the landlords saying that people were complaining about the dog noise. So I got one of those electric shock collars with a beeping warning that we put on and it, has completely resolved the problem. There’s not really a problem now if we close the blinds which we do after dark or if we leave him alone at home, which we are able to do now. And I do not believe that he has ever been shocked (so cruelty hasn’t crept into this process)…because he will bark once and it beeps.  There are two times in which it beeps before a shock is given. Because he hates beep sounds… that’s been enough of a deterrent for him to just discipline himself to quietly accept people and dogs passing by the apartment. So gradually he is becoming what I am calling, “nonchalant” and “jaded”.  Anyway we needed that because it has allowed us to be able to go to a restaurant or a movie or some shopping without taking him in the car and leaving him in the car. So that problem has been resolved, thank goodness. It had never been a problem in Erie  because he was used to staying home alone. Funny how these habits form quickly in pets. I guess in humans too.  Obviously he is ecstatic when we get back home.  I also leave lights and radio on.  NPR, of course.  That’s also helping him become a little smarter, I would suppose.  Wookie is also very happy to be able to go out and do his number 1 and 2 in the woods a few steps to the right of our apartment. You’ll be happy to know that I have been responsible in doing my duty of pickin up and disposing of any of his wonderful little deposits. I remember reading a comedy bit about how if aliens were looking down from above and saw us traipsing behind our dogs and picking up after them, they would conclude that the dogs were the masters on this planet and we were the slaves!  Oh well.

As far as TV watching –Isabel has been following her usual real crime documentaries but has also bumped into another channel out here called, Destination America, that has all kinds of shows about the supernatural and hauntings and alien theories etc. True stories about Americans and Europeans who have had to go through all kinds of hell with regard to spirits or demons and so on in their houses. And the investigators who look into them like real life Ghostbusters who are earnest and brave, not as funny as the movie version.  Neither of us form any conclusions about this, but they sure do seem realistic and for the people who have had to go through these experiences, it is far from fun, changes them for life, most often forcing them to leave their homes forever despite their many efforts to chase the ‘ghosts’ away. It’s crazy and I didn’t realize it was such a common experience in so many different parts of the world. I certainly do not know what it means, and I have never had any such experiences, although Isabel has to different degrees. Plus she is more, I guess you would say, clairvoyant than I. She gets these feelings or has dreams and some of the stuff sometimes comes true.   It sounds weird, but you would be a believer if you lived with it, I would bet. I throw no stones at people convinced they’ve had these otherworldly encounters of any kind.

In my case I’ve been binge-watching a few shows … one was Goliath with Billy Bob Thornton; another was Sneaky Pete about a modern con man’s white knuckle adventurs;  and I’m lately in an older show called Deadwood, a gritty Western that is quite realistic and full of the most raunchy language you would ever encounter out among the horses and in the saloons. Lots of great acting and writing though.  I’m still in the first season of three. I was sorry to see Wild Bill Hickok get ambushed at the poker table in the last episode. So there is some history in it, along with a lot of cursing people who have trouble staying clean! But I grew up on westerns from Roy Rogers, Cisco Kid, Zorro, Rin Tin Tin, and all of the western movies… to later shows like Wagon Train,  Bonanza, The Virginian, and Cheyenne… to say nothing of the Lone Ranger and Have Gun Will Travel. So I’m a sucker for westerns. Someone once called them dusty operas and that may not be far off.

I have not worked for pay or volunteered anywhere since I left Fairview High School.  I feel quite the vagrant or hermit at times, but do enjoy the life of leisure.  I spent that year + getting the house ready for the sale, which occupied a lot of time and energy,  and we are now realizing, as we make our new life here, that adapting to all of the changes takes a fair amount of time too.  If we live frugally we might be able to live without my seeking work, although we have some dental work for both of us that will eat up some bigger money, so I may be venturing out to find some part-time gigs in the next few months. No more suits and ties though!   I will keep you posted. I don’t want my skills to get too too rusty before I do that.

goodwill-1Speaking of living frugally, we are very impressed by the number and quality of the Goodwill stores here in the Seattle area. We always preferred Goodwill in Erie to all of the other thrift stores except Isabel’s when she was in that part of her work-life. Goodwill has always been the best we think about understanding its true mission of helping people who do not have much money. The Goodwill stores here are amazing.  A number of them relatively close to us,  staffed by nice people from around the world (productive, peaceful IMMIGRANTS, Mr. President!..many of them muslim), with all kinds of quality merchandise and all kinds of customers from young hipsters to retirees to energetic families from every nation to homemakers or professionals looking for room decorations and books or that special mug or lamp….. we just thoroughly enjoy finding treasures there. Our furniture that we’ve acquired for the house has been a mix of new and used items, as has always been the case (have also had good luck with Craigslist here).

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We are just about done with finding all of the furniture we need. We had gotten rid of most of it before we moved. Having gone through the experience of moving (loading and carrying!!!) and downsizing, we are trying to discipline ourselves about not acquiring more things than we actually need.  It does go a little counter to what we are encouraged to do all the time by advertising. I continue to scan and throw out all papers and photographs. My bills and other materials that used to come in the mail are now available online so I don’t have as much paper stuff to file. DVDs and music are now effectively and efficiently streamed or can be ripped to a digital format… and books, magazines, and newspapers are online so it’s possible to have far fewer items in the household than was the case before. We still are renting a garage for some of our overflow.. more than a half of it is merchandise for Isabel to get back in the eBay swing of things. We would hope at some point to be able to not have to rent the garage because it costs $150 per month, but we’ll see. We could also just look at it as overhead for her business if it gets up and running again.

Night crawled in gracefully and all hushed and shadowy.  I’ll come back to this as time flies by.  Rather than crawling. Unfortunately.  Goodnight and amen.  Blessings wished to all of you.

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