Apartment, car, marriage

[xposted from livejournal]

I’ve been back from Denver since Monday, but things have been slightly insane. Tomorrow at 8:30 AM, all of our stuff will be packed up and put on a truck heading west. Sunday morning, we take our remaining two suitcases and two carryons x2 and fly to Denver.

I wanted to post some long thing describing the great time we had last week and all the neat things I saw, but I have a matter of hours before I have to put this Mac in a box and disconnect for a week or so. So here are the key points:

1) We found a loft apartment in the LoDo/ballpark district. 2br/2baths and so many extras and amenities that it makes the four seasons look like a shithole. Pics when I get back up and running. If you need/want the new address and phone, drop a line.

2) We bought a new car. It is a 2007 Subaru Outback. That may not seem too exciting, but I have not had a car in 8 years, and after that amount of time in the urine-drenched world of the New York MTA subways, the new car smell is something else.

3) Sarah and I are getting married in Aprin 2008, in Milwaukee. So yeah, hell has frozen over, and this is most likely the last time you will see me in a tie until they lower me into the ground.

On that note, I now get to haul 20 metric tons of shit to the garbage bins downstairs before lunch. See you when I get my DSL connected on the other side.


A house full of boxes

A dude just showed up with 75 cardboard boxes and tape, so it looks like I have a lot of work ahead of me before we go to Denver tomorrow. We’re getting a full-on moving thing with the dudes packing everything, but they’re willing to shave off a few bucks if I pack my books myself. And I guess I feel like doing that anyway, since I don’t want someone denting all of my Bukowski and Kerouac or whatever.

[Oh, if I didn’t mention it elsewhere, tomorrow I’m just going to Denver until Tuesday. I don’t actually leave leave until the 25th.]

So yeah, going to Denver tomorrow, and I haven’t even thought about it. And I have 75 boxes in the hallway, and I need to write this damn book. So why am I still writing here? Off to work.


Last day of work

I’m done. Friday was my last day of work. After being at a place for almost six years, it was pretty anticlimactic to pack the last things on my desk, say my goodbyes, and escape into the wild again. I always expect these things to be some big, grandiose thing, but it’s usually just a bunch of awkward handshakes and vague promises about keeping in touch. This other guy who works there in marketing who has been there for like ten minutes and is the most insufferable loud-talking prick also left the same day, or at least had his party that day, so I ducked out to avoid all of that shit.

Sarah’s mom was here this weekend, so we had a lot of fun stuff to do. There were three very good dinners with three different groups, all very good. We also went to the Met (museum, not opera house) and saw a couple of new exhibits. There was an exhibit of a bunch of Tiffany stuff, mostly stained glass, which was pretty incredible in the detail. There was also a decent exhibit on Barcelona just before the civil war, with a lot of great Picasso and Dali stuff. It was extremely crowded though – Saturday afternoon is not the best time to go to a museum here. There was also a trip to the Brooklyn art museum, but I was at the dentist for that one, getting another $750 of metal put in my head.

So anyway, now I am home, and listening to Pat Metheny, and eating a bagel, and I have a million things in my head, ideas of things I should be doing now that I’m here and done. And I should be working on this book, but I haven’t touched it in weeks, so it’s hard to get on top of it again. It’s a bit hopeless to start working on anything now, since we will be flying out to look at places on Wednesday, and we have a million things going on for the next few weeks. But I’m hoping for a few quiet hours to sneak in a few thousand words.

Okay, back to work…

[2020 note: the irony of this post is that I went back to this company in 2010 and still work there, over ten years later…]


The facts, in summary

The facts, in summary: Last day of work, Friday 3/9. Sarah’s mom is here 3/9-3/12. Sarah’s last day, 3/13. We fly to Denver on 3/14-3/19 to find an apartment, try to buy a car, and get as much done as possible. 3/23, movers come and take everything but the nails in the walls. 3/25, fly to Denver. 4/2, Sarah starts work.

We were talking about driving across the country, and that would be ideal in that the movers are going to take a week or two to get all of our stuff out there. We have two days in NYC with nothing but suitcases of clothes and vitals, and maybe a week on the other end with just that and what we buy new on the other end. (A large Target run is on the books…) The drive would be very appealing if car rentals were cheaper, gas wasn’t like three bucks a gallon, and the weather was slightly nicer. But as it turns out, two one-way tickets is much cheaper, and getting an aerobed for a week and for later use by guests will not be a bad thing.

The tough thing now are the goodbyes. This happened to me in Bloomington and in Seattle. In your last week, you have a hundred dinners or lunches or drink invitations, from all of these people that want to see you or bid you farewell or whatever. And that’s nice, but there’s a certain weirdness to saying goodbye to people that you might or might not ever see again. And what’s weird is that you’re not sailing the seas to the American territories or whatever; there’s email and phones and planes and cars. People can stay in touch as much or as little as they want. Some people will be friends for life, and some people will never be heard from again, and those won’t correspond to the levels of friendship or affection that you see when you’re in regular proximity to them. And people will get hit by busses, or die of a heart attack, or be in a car wreck, or move to China, or whatever else. So each dinner or drink may be the last time you see the person – for all you know, they will get shot in the head ten minutes after you leave by a random Charlie Whitman wannabe in a clocktower with a sniper rifle. You just don’t know, and that’s always weird to me.

It also sucks having to tell the same story to every single person you see for a month straight. Ever since it was announced at work, people I’ve never exchanged more than five words with are interrogating me for the full story while I’m trying to take a piss in the bathroom or eat my damn lunch. It’s exciting the first 50 times, routine the next 50, and then it gets to the point where I’m thinking of just writing it on an index card and showing it to people when they ask, like those deaf dudes in the airport with the “I’m deaf, give me money” cards. (Maybe they have gone away since 9/11. If so, thank the Baby Jesus for the TSA and God Bless America.)

I forget what else, except I am reading The Risk Pool by Richard Russo. John Sheppard gave it to me, and it’s the best damn book I’ve read in a while. Very thick description, excellent characters, and a good story. Only problem is it makes me want to go back and write another Summer Rain, and I can’t go there.

Speaking of, gotta get some work done before work. Four more days!


Biggest move ever

I’m sick. Not entirely sick, just the start of a cold where I can’t think straight and want to sleep all day. The good news is, this is probably the last cold I will have in New York. Yes, Denver has dry winters and rhinovirus, but I won’t be spending my days in subways packed with mouth-breathers wiping their nose with their hands and then grabbing the handrails. I also hope to avoid the land of the recirculated air office for a bit. I’m sure I will get sick in the future. But I also won’t be doing it on four sick days a year.

I can’t believe we only have about a month left in New York. It’s more like three weeks; I think we are scheduled to have the movers take away everything on the 23rd or so, and then we have a day or two on air matresses with mega-cleaning duty before we hop on a plane to the new place. On the 14th, we head out for a short trip to find a place, look at and maybe buy a car, and do everything else. So on the 25th or whatever, we should hopefully have an empty apartment waiting, and will then get there with nothing but the clothes in our suitcases, and get to wait a week or so for our furniture. There are so many timing issues that I’m nervous about, and I guess when it all comes down to it, we can just throw money at problems on either end. (Get to Denver and the apartment’s not open yet? Live in a hotel until it is.) Lots for me to worry about, and I probably shouldn’t. Or at least I should get some Ativan.

One of the reasons I worry is that this is the biggest move I’ve ever made. It’s where I have the most stuff over the longest miles. Seattle was maybe about as long and on a shorter timetable, but I had no crap to move back then. New York was longer, but over a longer timetable, and I was only moving a carful of stuff. This is also the first joint move I’ve made with someone else. In any other move, if something broke or something didn’t fit or didn’t work, then fuck it – buy a new one, it’s my thing that didn’t work. Now, it’s also someone else’s stuff. I am very excited to get our first place together and to start from scratch and set everything up together, but it’s much easier when you’re a bachelor and you can just throw shit anywhere and worry about it later. It will all be great, but there’s a lot of work ahead in the next few weeks.

I have one more week of work. Well, I have one more week of showing up for work – there isn’t much left for me to do. I’m now spending most of my time scouring my hard drive and looking at sites about Denver. It’s all very odd though – this is the longest I’ve ever worked at the same place, ever. I’m a few months shy of six years at the place, which doesn’t warrant a gold watch or anything, but it’s more than twice as long as my previous record. I guess I worked at UCS for almost four years, but all of that was as an hourly, and it included a summer of being gone, a summer of working only about 20 hours total (see Summer Rain for details) and a lot of part-time, half-time, no-time, bad-time work. I guess it seems like such a difference because back in college and the UCS days, every semester was its own era; things that happened in the fall of 91 were eons apart from the spring of 92. At my current job, 2001 blended into 2002 and melted into 2003 and poured into 2004 and so on. I spent all of the time sitting at the same desk, working on the same product, staring at more or less the same constant faces. The last six years seem like about 18 months to me. And when people ask me why I’m leaving, that’s up there on the list of reasons. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and find out I’m 50 and working on the same shit. Yes, it was nice to save $100,000 in six years in my 401K, but the list pretty much starts and ends there.

Speaking of changing careers, I have been trying to get back on the development horse by learning Ruby on Rails. Yes, it’s a horribly overhyped meme. But I originally thought I should dust off my PHP and MySQL books and maybe write a few web-based apps that are incredibly cliche but would get things rolling in my head: a blog, a wiki, a shopping cart, whatever. Then I started looking into RoR and it’s fairly trivial to implement any of the above in like an afternoon. I really like the setup – it’s a close-to-true MVC structure, where the model (how you represent data in the db, plus any business logic to slap on top of it, like unit conversions or sales tax or whatever), the view (what makes the web page and the controls used to mess with it, like your shopping cart forms) are completely abstracted from the controllers (the go-between that juggles both of those).

In other implementation types, you start with a web page or something that makes the web page (PHP, JSP, ASP) and glue in all of these bits and pieces of db access code and business logic all over the damn place, so when you need to add a PayPal method of payment or change how AMEX handles charges or whatever, you have to scour the entire app looking for the crap you put in four years ago, and will inevitably break the whole damn thing. Or if your web designer needs to add a flaming skull to the top of every page, unless you used a maze of includes and templates and CSS overrides, chances are they are going to have to edit the same damn file that glues together your whole online business, and their outdated copy of DreamWeaver is going to fuck the whole thing. With Rails, you just go to the app directory and change the stuff in the controllers, models, or views directories, and there you are.

Probably the most striking thing about RoR is that a lot of the bullshit work you’d do in PHP+MySQL is done for you. Yes, you can get optional libraries to do that for you in PHP, like Smarty, but I see it as a large weakness that 10,000 opinionated losers living in their mom’s basement release their own incompatible PHP framework and then update it every week so it breaks everything. In Rails, you use their framework or you don’t use one. That’s sort of conformist, but let’s face it – any app you’re writing for the web is probably going to be writing pages, taking input, and swapping it in and out of a db. So 90% of the time, one basic framework structure will do it. Yes, you can add more models if your online store starts selling more junk (books, dvds, whatever) or if each item needs more data categories or types joined to it (reviews, links, whatever). And you can tweak the views to add extra pages, use javascript-heavy presentation, dick around with CSS, or even AJAX.

But the one big strength is that when you start with a blank page, you just tell ruby “okay, make me an app template”, (which is literally “rails clown-makeup” if you’re making a web site about clown makeup.) This blows out all of the directories and starter files for the app, and you’ve saved about the first 10 hours of writing a PHP app. After you create a quick db schema and hit the db with it, another one-line command per data object creates all of the scaffolding for the controllers. So three or four commandlines in, you have a very skeletal app, where you can fire up a web server, hit a URL, and have a bare-bones view of a page to view, list, or modify items in the db. I think the first PHP app I made (an attempt at db-ifying the glossary) took me about a day to get to that point. This takes three lines. Yes, you have to stick with their method of thought. But it buys you a lot in the long run.

Probably the biggest pain in the ass with Rails is setup. You need to set up at minimum a language, a framework, a web server, a DB, and all of the crap that joins them. There are a couple of good drag-and-drop installers that include everything in one zip file. The windows one is actually better as far as I’m concerned. So I installed from source on my Mac and it literally took a day to get and compile everything using macports. Yes, that’s because I was compiling on a Mac Mini, but still. Running an interpreter on a web server without using fastcgi (which does not entirely support) is also going to be a bitch. I can run everything fine on my Mac, but getting it out to the world may be a bitch. The next major version of Ruby (I think a year out) will be supporting a bytecode VM, so who knows.

Okay, I should be dicking around with my hello world app instead of this…


The New York gig is up

So. The gig is up. I’ve told some of you and hinted at it, but now I can talk about it. The big news: we are moving to Denver, Colorado. At the end of the month. Seriously.

I quit my job, and my last day is the 9th. Sarah quit too. She found a new position in Denver, and we’re packing up and heading out. I have not found a job, and I’m in no big hurry. I will most likely take the summer off to finish Book 3, and then try to change paths a bit, and either do some web dev work, or usability, or something else, provided I can 1099 and contract like hell during the winter, and then do other stuff in the summer.

Why Denver? Why not? I’m sick of New York. It’s been a good run, but in the long run, I know I’m not a New Yorker that says “New York is the greatest city in the world, dammit! Our pizza is better than your pizza! Everything’s open all the time!” Yeah, blow it out your ass. Try to find something in my neighborhood open past nine when you need some dinner, and you pretty much end up at McDonald’s. They have those elsewhere, I believe. The cost is getting to me, the rats are getting to me, the August total dehabilitation heatwaves are getting to me, and the fact that our two bedroom one bath apartment (that we sublet, btw) would sell for about $750,000 gets to me. And you already know how I feel about the grocery stores.

Almost six years at my current job has done me in, too. I will have to say that I will miss my closest coworkers, and they do pay me to work there. But you can only stay in one _Office Space_-esque situation for so long. I have cared too much about shit beyond my control for too long, to the point where I really don’t give a shit at all about anything at my job. After 17,000 iterations on the “lets versus let’s” lecture, with no end in sight, I have really stopped caring about anything. That’s a good time to think about an exit plan.

And we have been thinking about it for a while. The original thought was to go to LA (Sarah lived there for a while) or SF (lots of good jobs for me) and we pursued that for a while. I know a lot of people absolutely hate Los Angeles, but I’ve found the same general groupthink that tells people that New York is so great also tells people LA is so bad. But I actually like it there. San Francisco is cool too, but it’s the one place we could move in the lower 48 that would be more expensive than NY.

Denver came out of the blue, and I initially didn’t like the idea, mostly because I was certain I would never find a job again. And maybe I won’t, but the cost of living is cheap as hell. Denver is about the same price as Bloomington. On a New York salary, that means the heat is not really on for me to immediately find another gig. And with the real estate prices, it means a damn nice house is easily within reach. We’ll also be a few hours north of my land, so if I do work seasonally (or anti-seasonally, I guess), I can spend my summers driving down for long weekends of tree-planting and soil-tilling and whatever else.

As for the actual plans, we both finish our jobs, then we fly out for a week of getting shit done, with apartment hunting being at the top of the list. We also have to buy a car. The move will be taken care of by a moving company, who will pack it all and ship it out. (I found out during my 2005 move here that I am officially too old for this shit.) We have a notebook of crap to do, before during and after the move. The list is three or four pages. I think there are five or six things done. We have a lot of busy weeks and weekends in the next month ahead.

I’ve had to tell the above story 50,000 times in the last week, at work and to relatives and in emails. It’s getting very old, and I’ve probably forgotten some important details. If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Well, feel free to ask *most* questions, I should say. The most common question I get from mouthbreathing idiots is “why Denver? WHY Denver? Why DENVER?” The same groupthink that says “it rains every day in Seattle, I saw it in that Tom Hanks movie” when in fact, Seattle gets less rain than New York, is also the same process that makes everyone say “Denver is horrible because of the snow and winters!” Yeah, the current three day forecast in NYC is identical to the one in Denver, except in Denver, I won’t be walking across town; we will have a car with a heater.

In other news, John Sheppard was just here for a few days, and we went to his book reading last night. Always good to see him and Helen, and we had a nice dinner last night and much conversation. See for more details. And buy the damn book already!