Monday, April 25, 2011

Little Blessings

I'm pecking away on the fiancee's laptop as I write this because there's not enough space in this house to wheel in my clunky desktop. So right away, I'm sacrificing some things in order to fit into her lifestyle. Besides, the computer desk which held my desktop just fine for five years decided to disintegrate en route to the moving truck. I mean screws started falling out, keyboard shelf took a leap...the damn thing committed Hari Kari or whatever right in front of my eyes. So I moved it all the way down here and then threw it out.

And oh, that moving experience. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but wow. This was a whole new experience. I've moved several times before, of course, but never to another state. The pressures of packing up everything I own in two weeks were massive. There was stuff I'd had for years that I had to contemplate trashing, stuff that I never wanted to trash, stuff that I knew I should trash but had to take anyway (like those hundreds of cassette tapes)...the whole project was as daunting as anything I've ever done. What I honestly should have done is take the whole last week of work off because I had enough sick days to do so, and just sat at home and packed. But I would have felt guilty skipping out on everyone at Chase like that. So as a result, my last blog post had me staring down a shitload of work the Saturday before I had to move, and most of it didn't wind up being finished until Monday when "Jacob" arrived. Most of the problem was my general laziness. But part of it was inviting "Drew" to the crib to hang out one last Saturday night, a night that didn't conclude until about 4:30A. That gave me about 3 hours of sleep going into Sunday. I accomplished a lot on Sunday, including giving a bunch of stuff to my play cousin that otherwise would have gone out to the already stuffed garbage can. The crash came when my cousin and I stopped to chat and say our goodbyes for about an hour and a half. Once she left, I decided that since I hadn't eaten since breakfast, I should make some dinner. I put those forks full of macaroni and chili into my mouth and sat upon my couch at about 7:30P. Next thing I knew, my eyes had closed and I had taken a siesta sitting straight up. Not lying down on the job, just sitting on the couch. When I opened my eyes, it was 10, and my body had become stiff and sore, and packing was no longer going to take place on this day. So I could only go to bed and vow to pick it up again when I woke up the next morning.

And that's what I did, at about 4:15A or so. My packing was briefly interrupted by meeting my aunt to take some cash she had for me to purchase my couch and tables, and by calling the utilities to get my name taken off of the bills. Jacob and his mom showed up around 8. We picked up the moving truck and came back home, then his mom ran my cable equipment back to the cable company for me. While we waited for her to return and act as the truck lookout, Jacob and I surveyed the scene. I remember vowing last time I moved from my Lakeview apartment to The Dungeon that next move, I was hiring professionals. I did that this time inadvertently. Jacob had so much experience packing trucks for Best Buy and moving himself cross-country a couple of times that he knew the best way to get this house packed and going. He and his mother kept remarking that my house wasn't that big to move, something that didn't make me feel much better considering the task ahead of us. But they knew how to pack it up the right way. My hands lost their muscle power early on attempting to handle the unwieldy mattress, so Jacob had to pick up the slack and move most of the stuff. I was ashamed of being so out of shape that I got tired early and couldn't help like I wanted. But in my defense, I had been packing up the whole house by myself for the past week. I had a right to be tired. It took several hours, but we packed the truck at about 1:30P and took off. I have to give mad props to my play cousin, who swept up all of the rooms as we emptied them and provided extra boxes and garbage bags, and even washed my dishes even though I didn't take them with me. She also arranged my tapes and CDs in crates and boxes so that I didn't have to sit and fuck with those items, which I thought was going to take me forever. The last thing I took with me was a chocolate cake that my play aunt--her mother--made for me. The couple of items that I forgot that were a little more important than cake: my pencil-drawn sketch of my mother, done by a friend, and my associate's degree, which is legit and not a sketch. My play cousin is holding on to those things until which time I can return to Chicago, whenever that may be.

The trip to Tennessee was both a very fun ride and stressful. Jacob and I had a ball yakking in the truck while his mom drove behind us. We stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel, a place I should get used to living in the Dirty South. In the truck, we hooked up a cord and alternated playing songs from our respective iPods, a throwback to the days in which we would have MusicFests over the phone, playing our favorite songs on our respective cassette players. We shot the shit and had some real good male-bonding time. The stress came when it was time for Jacob to decide how to get into the Memphis suburb where my fiancee lives. He took a very roundabout path because he was adamant about not wanting to drive the truck into Memphis city traffic. So at midnight, when we hit the Tennessee state line, which is five minutes from Memphis on my bus trips and therefore 25 or 30 minutes from my fiancee's suburb, I texted my fiancee that we should be very close. But Jacob was on a totally different journey, and as a result, we didn't arrive at my fiancee's house until 1:30A!

From there, we took most of the stuff out of the truck in an effort to free up the bed from the front of the truck. Then Jacob and I took my fiancee's bed apart and rebuilt my bed in our bedroom. This was a concession on her part to my desire to have my harder mattress set instead of her slightly softer one. (She's already rueing the decision because my set rises higher than hers, making her reach for her alarm clock in the mornings more of an Olympic competition.) It was an unusual evening in this normally very quiet town. Piercing the still night was a Penske moving van with two big, loud guys throwing furniture and boxes around. My fiancee and Jacob's mother kept each other company chatting on the front porch while we moved shit into the house as quickly and quietly as possible. By the time we finished, it was closing in on 4A. I thanked Jacob and bid him and his mom adieu as they drove to the hotel room that my fiancee reserved for them. Jacob had to drive in his car back home to middle Wisconsin the very next morning, plus there was a winter storm coming to his residence. So he couldn't stick around to take my other stuff to storage.

That had to wait until my fiancee's roommate, "Jody," was able to give me a hand. Jody lost her job a while back and has been living here ever since, but she is preparing to leave for several weeks to take a truck-driving class in Texas. But before she does, she gleefully drove my moving truck around town, gaining some experience with a larger vehicle even though the truck was a gnat compared to the behemoth big rigs she'll be steering. She helped me move my cassettes and computer and other assorted garbage into storage, then the next day she drove my truck to its drop-off point. I couldn't have completed my move without her because I'm not nearly confident enough in my driving skillz to attempt to take a moving truck anywhere, although I did slowly back the truck up one morning in an attempt to clear it as an obstruction away from the mailbox. I won't get into how much it costs to rent a truck and drive it 700 miles, but suffice it to say that if I had not received my tax return check, I couldn't have afforded it.

Our first day together as one big happy family had a dark and stormy ending. No, we didn't argue. I mean literally dark and stormy. A thunderstorm whipped through the area Tuesday night with such ferocity that tornado sirens were sounding and the power got knocked the fuck out. 35 hours of electricity-free livin' followed, not a fun thing for the fiancee to be sure but even worse for us unemployed folks. (Well, I was unemployed all last week. I start with Symcor tomorrow.) The fiancee had to throw out a big refrigerator full of food because here in Memphis, no power doesn't mean holding still in April at a chilly temperature, possibly salvaging some grub. It means the storm clearing out and 80-degree weather turning the fridge contents into inedible slop. If left to my own devices, I would've tried to eat the ribs. That's a lot of good ribs that went to waste. Oh, and speaking of fridge contents, let me rant on the racket that is milk sales here in Graceland. I insisted to the fiancee that we didn't have to pay $3.79 at Wal-Mart for a gallon of milk. We should be able to go to CVS or Walgreens and find it for much cheaper. There are many different brands for sale in Chicago across those various stores, and as a result, you can find one of those brands on sale any given week for about $2. Not here in Memphis. There appears to be only one motherfucking brand of milk available here, called Turner's, and I can't find it anywhere lower than $3.69 per gallon, which is what it cost at Walgreens. On the part of the sale paper where it has a picture of a gallon of milk and it usually has a sale price of $1.99 in Chicago, here it just says, "Everyday low price." Low?!? My fat ass! My fiancee says it's because Turner's has a plant here and that's why they can gouge like that. Whatever the reason, it really sucks.

Besides that, it's been a fun first week. We raced me over to SunTrust Bank on Friday and I opened a new account. (I would have driven there and to the truck drop-off if my back wasn't acting up--it wouldn't let me get behind the wheel of the fiancee's Toyota Corolla.) We ate at Steak & Shake on Thursday, Genghis Grill on Sunday, and grilled burgers on Good Friday, so already I'm eating much better. We've struggled trying to find the right time to get intimate since there's a third person in the house to avoid, but we'll figure it out over time. We've watched a lot of basketball, and the Grizzlies are putting on a show, hanging with the Spurs in the 1st round. And having me available Friday evening and Sunday worked out for my fiancee's church activities. I got to watch her play handbells at church both days. And the Easter service was wonderful. I was touched by the church members greeting me Friday and Sunday, telling me how glad they were to hear that I'm in town permanently now. I appreciated the warmth. And as always, I appreciated the sermon by the pastor. No matter what the occasion, her sermons always have a message of appreciating the big and little blessings in your life. Today was a very good example. The fiancee and I had a rough night because she wanted me to leave the bedroom and watch the game in the living room, but I didn't feel like it and she didn't tell me why she wanted me to leave, so I stayed in bed, and we went to sleep a little tense and upset. This morning, she explained that she was tense because she didn't know how to tell me that I was upsetting her usual routine of meditation and quiet time, and that's why she wanted me to leave. She also had been expressing dismay at my messy lifestyle and how she felt like she had to pick up behind me. So after she went to work, I was left alone to ponder how I was seemingly under her skin already after only one week. But she decided to text me without prompting, "I'm so glad you're here." Guess she decided to let me know before I could overthink things that it's still all good and she's still happy that I made the move. Well, she's happy for now, that is. Wait until the next time I pass gas in the bedroom! Muhahahaha!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

End Of The Chase Era (A.K.A. My Last Post As A Chicagoan)

I'm sure the time will come in the next few weeks where everything calms down and a routine develops and I start to really enjoy this new stage of my life living as a Memphian with my fiancee. But right now, I feel like there's a deep, dark unknown dead ahead, and I'm headed for it whether I'm ready or not. I can't be dishonest about it because it really seems bad if I'm asked by my fiancee or anyone else how I'm feeling about everything, and I respond, "Great! Can't wait! Very excited!" My face and voice and demeanor would betray that immediately. I'm not worrying about the relationship with the fiancee. I'm worrying about my entire life being uprooted, all of my routines being changed, everything with which I'm comfortable and familiar becoming unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I spent this last week savoring many things about Chicago and my surroundings that I will miss, and as a result, I now have the next two days to pack my entire house and prepare to move first thing Monday morning. But hey, I do everything last minute. I may not publish this post until tonight because I'll be typing and packing intermittently. But I will eventually publish the details about my last week as a proud resident of Chicago.

Just found out that I misplaced the box of garbage bags that I bought a few days ago. Now I gotta go back. Fuck.

Ok, back. Still immature, still irresponsible, spending money on a product that I already bought but managed to lose. At least it was the dollar store garbage bags.

So anyway, I've been doing the endless list of things one must do preparing to change jobs and cities, so I won't bore you with all that. The new job, Symcor, has been wishy-washy on my start date. Julie, the H.R. person I've been dealing with who's based here in Chicago, told me that originally, they were going to let me chill until maybe May while they get new management people in place at my site in Memphis. Then a few days ago, she said they wanted me to start ASAP. The last days she mentioned to me as possibilities were this coming Wednesday or Thursday, which would give me a full day or two to recover from the move and wash some clothes. I haven't heard back from her, but I figure if she had not called me by Monday, I can spend a few minutes of that 10-hour drive to Memphis calling her.

I had a voucher to have my house cleaned for an hour by an outfit called Sassy Sweeper, and I scheduled a cleaning for April 2, but they never showed up. I called their "customer service" four or five times complaining about this, and each time they said that someone would call back if I left my name and number. Finally, a woman calling herself Audrey, who I guess runs this outfit, got back to me and told me that I should have gotten an e-mail telling me that my previous appointment was canceled because I requested a downtown cleaning crew even though I live near the western suburbs. The stupid website never indicated that I couldn't choose the crew I wanted, so that's what I did, and I never got any fucking cancellation e-mail. Audrey made good on the voucher by scheduling for this past Wednesday at 9A. I was already planning to call in sick just to enjoy the nice weather, so I decided to make it an eventful day by buying a ticket to a White Sox game, scheduled for 1P. Well, it was a day of things not going as planned. The Sassy Sweeper crew didn't arrive until about 9:40, throwing my whole schedule into disarray. I wanted to leave as soon as they were finished because I had to stop downtown at the public library to print the tickets since my printer is out of ink. By Sassy Sweeper not being done until 10:45 (and doing a shitty cleaning job), I couldn't leave the house until 11:15, and I didn't get to the library until 12:10 or so. Then I had to hustle to the renewal desk because my library card was just a little bit expired, like, 4 years or so. Then I finally printed the tickets, paid the pocket change for the printing, and got to the ballpark just in time to miss most of the 1st inning. Not only that, but I bought a "premium club" ticket in the same LG Skyline-sponsored section that my fiancee and I attended a couple of years ago when I won those tickets thanks to the ESPN Zone Sports Spelling Bee. That section provided a free buffet-style meal, unlimited food and drinks, and it was just the best damn time I ever had at a ball game. That section, I was sad to find out, no longer offers free food. They have an usher peeking her head around the corner every couple of innings asking us if we wanted to order anything, but we'd have to pay for whatever we ordered. I got the $5.50 hot dog and chips. We Sox fans as a whole didn't get what we wanted from the game because the Pale Hose managed to take a 3-run lead into the 9th inning, give up 3 runs to tie it, then give up 3 more in the 10th to lose. I got to see my team for one last time, but it was an up-close look at the fact that their bullpen currently sucks a fat dick. Even the postgame meal didn't live up to my hopes--I decided to go to Potbelly, a Chicago sandwich shop, and try their Uptown salad, which had chicken, cheese, lettuce, dried cranberries, apples, and grapes. That combo of cheese and chicken and fruit didn't do it for me. But at least I tried it.

Friday was my last day at Chase, and I had been feeling weird about leaving ever since I gave notice two weeks ago. This was my first job leaving voluntarily, and I was torn between taking it easy since I didn't have to worry about my performance here anymore and still helping everyone out. I kinda split the difference because I busted my ass as always the days that I was there, but I took a sick day this week and last week. But it was still weird because we're just as busy as always and I still cared about my job and the people with whom I work. I felt like I was leaving some unfinished business. Plus, I didn't know if they were going to give me a sendoff or not. But they did, and it was so sweet. The new supervisor, who's only been over me for the past month and a half, stopped work just before 10A to have everyone gather near my desk and share some doughnuts and coffee and tell me goodbye. She gave me a paperweight of the Chicago skyline and a pen. She asked me for a speech, and I got up and just told everyone that my shyness and introverted style was turned out by their kindness and social skills over the years, and I was thankful for that. Then Linda, one of my team leads, presented me with a couple of signed cards, and she was very anxious for me to open one of them. When I finally got around to checking it out, it was filled with many dollar bills, which totally stunned me. I wasn't expecting financial help at all. Like I said, I didn't know if they were going to do anything for me. I'm not the warmest guy at work. I'm very business-minded and cold-blooded, and probably seen as an asshole. Plus, if anyone had been paying attention over the years when cards went around for other people, I never, ever contributed money. I could never see it in my heart to donate to anyone else's cause, justifying it by how poor I am. Well, these folks ain't rich either, and they cobbled together $176 cash just because I was leaving the company. I could never thank them enough. As a final send-off, I couldn't leave the floor all day for break or lunch because we were so busy. Guess that's why everyone was approaching me all week not saying how sad they were to see me go, but congratulating me for leaving, as if I were being released from prison.

I'm watching the Bulls choking against the Pacers while I pack as well. Hopefully that changes before the game ends.

So I took the long way home yesterday, still a little disbelieving that I was taking my last ride as a Chicago commuter after all these years riding buses and trains everywhere. But the symmetry of what happened this morning brought it all home. My aunt took me back to the driving facility so that, once again, I could attempt to get my first driver's license. The insurance card was printed on an 8x11 sheet of paper this time, making it much harder for me to lose. My aunt had to get used to the concept of riding in a car with me driving, and hey, I can't blame her. All these years, I've been the fat ass waiting for people to caddy me around, and now I'm going to do the driving. I guess she thought I was a complete amateur, but eventually she relaxed. The lines and the waiting were much lighter today because it was raining this morning. Not too hard, but really, if you can help it, not the kind of conditions where an inexperienced driver would choose to take his or her first road test. But I had no choice. It was do it now or wait until Tennessee, and who knows when my fiancee and I would have time to coordinate our schedules to get it done. The person administering the test was a young brotha who remained calm throughout, which helped my nerves a lot. After all the varying answers from various folks to the question "What are they gonna have me do on the road test?," all he had me do was drive in a two-block square, turning left with a couple of rights thrown in, then he had me turn down a side street about three inches before stopping and backing out while turning right so that I could turn around and drive back on the previous street. I did it very slowly. The rain probably helped me do everything very slowly, including staying under the speed limit the whole time. At one point, he told me to get all the way to the right in order to prepare for a right turn, and I obeyed a little too well, not checking for other cars or signaling. He immediately scribbled something down on his clipboard. Fuck, I thought, I just failed this damn test! But I kept my cool and did everything else he asked, finishing by pulling headfirst into a designated parking space at the end of the test. He calmly told me, "Now wait until I get out, then park the car in the regular lot and come in and get your driver's license." I almost didn't believe what I heard. I really did think that I fucked up the test, and given my history of fuck-ups, I honestly expected him to tell me that I had failed. But it wasn't a joke. I went in, got my pic taken, and in minutes, I walked out with my very first driver's license in my hand. I immediately took a picture of it with my cell phone and sent it to my fiancee, who wrote back, "YOU TOTALLY ROCK!!!!!!" Yep, I go 35 years, 3 months, and 25 days as a Chicago commuter, relying on public transportation to earn a living and the generosity of friends, family and lovers to socialize. And the day after I stop being a commuter, I become a licensed driver. I guess it was just meant to happen that way.

Bulls win! Derrick Rose is the fucking truth.

So I continue putting my life into boxes and deciding what's coming in the house with me and the fiancee and what's going in a storage unit. She's already decided that my sports and wrestling tapes have no space in her home. They will go to a climate-controlled storage unit along with my music cassettes and vocal diary cassettes and childhood memorabilia. I really should let go of those relics of my past, but that's what happens when you're an only child--you develop relationships with things that represent who you were, who you are, who you wanted to be someday. I mean, I'm sure that happens to some people who weren't only children as well, but I imagine it's a lot easier for those who had to rely on themselves from day one. It's all still so strange, the concept of sharing my life with someone else. I keep telling my fiancee that no matter how much we prepare, the amount of frustration we're both going to experience while getting adjusted to each other's constant presence is unimaginable. And she's expressed concern over my demeanor, since every time she tries to tell me how excited she is that we're finally about to make a family together, I sound like I'm about to be audited or something. But as I said earlier, I'd be lying if I didn't say how worried I am about the move and the job change and the bad times we will have, as every couple has. The good times, I have to learn how to enjoy them, because it's not in my nature.

My friend "Jacob" has learned a lesson on not opening his mouth and offering assistance when someone is in a tough spot. He said weeks ago that when I found a job, if I needed help moving, he could drive down from his current residence in central Wisconsin and git 'er done. Well, I found a job sooner than I expected, and way sooner than he expected, and he is going to undergo an ironman-style endurance test. He's driving to the Chicago area Sunday evening with his mom. They will stay at a hotel, then come pick me up early Monday morning for some grub. Then, while she takes my Comcast cable equipment back to Comcast since they won't come pick it up, he will come here and help me load up the truck. We will embark on the 8 or 9-hour journey to Memphis with his mom driving his car behind the moving truck and drop off the stuff that I'm allowed to take into the house. The fiancee will have a large rib dinner waiting for us whenever we finally make it. Then we will take her bed and load it into the truck to take to goodwill, since she has decided to use my bed for our sleeping needs because I'm more comfortable on my harder mattress. Then we will finally drop off my stuff in the storage unit, which is a 24-hour unit. Then Jacob will take the truck to its final drop-off place. The fiancee is putting Jacob and his mom up in a hotel so they don't have to drive back home until the next day. I'm so lucky that Jacob is going to take on this task because I don't know how I would have moved if he hadn't volunteered. And I will be repaying him by spending an ungodly amount to make it up to Wausau for his wedding in a month. I have to take a 1-stop flight there and back because there's no such thing as a nonstop from Memphis to Wausau. It ain't cheap, and it's not counting the tux rental or their gift. Sigh. The duties of a best man. At least he's not into strippers so whatever bachelor party I can throw together, it won't be expensive, nor will it threaten the sanctity of either of our pending nuptials.

So this is it. Chicago will be in my rear view mirror literally in a matter of hours. I'm still stunned at how fast this is all happening. I am so Chicago. My tastes, my sports allegiances, my attitude, everything I like has a bit of Chicago about it. No matter how long I'm away from Chicago, a part of me will always be Chicago. And never say never about a return someday. Maybe I will grow a set and pursue a broadcasting career and find my way back to the place I know best. But until that happens, here is the official proclamation: The new home town of this blog from this point forward will be Memphis, TN, and its surrounding suburbs, and my fiancee and I will reside in one of those suburbs. Any blog posts written outside of Memphis or a suburb will have that city as a date line, but the new default location will be Memphis and its suburbs. I will be a full-fledged Memphian as of Monday, April 18. Let our new life together begin!

Friday, April 01, 2011

No Foolin'

It's not an April Fool's joke--I got the job!! I will give two weeks notice at Chase when I get there on Monday, and I've already hired "Jacob" to help me move in a couple of weeks. I was thrilled earlier when I heard the voice mail telling me that I got the position, especially since it ended a long week from traveling for the interview to coming back and hurting my back to working the last couple of days with the hurt back hoping and wishing that I'd get hired. But when I called my fiancee and informed her, her excited inhale and high-pitched "Really?" kinda broke me emotionally. It's been a long, long journey from our first few dates to this point. We knew that one of us was going to have to uproot his or her life and make a big move in order for our relationship to work. But I have no doubt, as I sit here now, that I'm making the right move for the right person.