Vomit, not a fan

For a person who has written extensively about vomit in the past, it may be surprising that I’m not a big fan. I’ve been down with a flu or maybe some food poisoning for the last few days, and it hasn’t been pleasant. I won’t go into any specifics, but I think the worst part about this particular downtime has been that I didn’t have any TV, so I couldn’t sit in bed and flip through channels. Okay, the constant nausea was far worse, but if I had a good distraction, maybe that would have helped. Anyway, the fever and stomach stuff is done, but now I haven’t eaten in days, and I can’t just go to Little Caesar’s and get a bunch of crazy bread and $5 pizzas. I’m trying to get past the applesauce level, maybe to something with protein. As we speak, I am eating one of those frozen microwave pretzels, since it’s pretty much all bread, and that’s working okay.

I’m starting to get a little ancy about the land. One of the magazines I read ten times yesterday was a Popular Science, and all of the tiny ads in the back half is all of the stuff I wish I could teleport down there: plows, tillers, steel buildings, log cabin kits, well drilling machines, the magic “make your lawn look like a golf course” grass plugs. I don’t know how many trees or bags of gravel will fit in the back of the Subaru, or if I can get one of those Farm and Fleet 8×10 metal sheds in there, but I want to try. It’s also good to have a Denver address, because if I ordered some plants or whatever, I could have them shipped here, and then drive them down. You can’t do that in your carryon on a NY->CO flight. (My land does not have a street address, and even if UPS or RHL or whatever would drive near there, I would get a bunch of baby trees dropped off and not find out about it for months.)

As an aside, Popular Science is the biggest piece of shit this side of Fader magazine. It’s filled with stuff that doesn’t exist, but makes it sound like by the time you get to your car and drive to the store, it will be waiting for you. But of course, it never will. They have this ha-ha funny thing on the last page that shows covers and articles of the magazine from years ago, so you can get a laugh out of the mag saying in 1967 how everyone will have a jetpack and a robot butler by 1974. Well you don’t have to do much math to determine that the 200 mph hybrid hydrogen car on the cover of this issue is going to look like a huge joke five years from now, let alone 25. I also hate their “how-to” section, which on the cover says something like “Make your car controlled by a computer! Instructions on p.78!” So I’m expecting actual step-by-step instructions on how to do this. And when you turn to page 78, and step one is “go online and buy this computer kit for $2700.”

So why do I subscribe? I bought a bunch of subscriptions for my nephew’s school PTA. It was either Popular Science or Elle. Sarah was smarter: she bought a bunch of food and told my nephew to keep it. Another tip: if you ever do subscribe to Popular Science, give them a fake email address. Or give them president@whitehouse.gov. Because you will never, ever get off of their spam list.

I thought today would be the perfect day to go to a baseball game, but the Rockies are coming back from Shea, so no game today, and Friday and Saturday are night games. I’m really itching for a good day game so I can go get $4 bleacher seats and work on a nice sunburn. We have tickets for the Yankees game on 6/19, and it’s funny how heavily they push those three games. I don’t expect much of a game there, but it is commemorative desk item night, as if my desk doesn’t already have enough shit on it.

Ted Nugent’s house times ten

First things first – I have a story in an upcoming anthology by Luca Pierro and Black Arrow Press. The book is called Santi: Lives of Modern Saints and will be out around the end of the year. Luca has made a trailer for the book on YouTube, and it’s pretty damn good. It’s here. It also has John Sheppard and Tim Gager in it, along with a few dozen writers I don’t know. So stay tuned for more details.

On Friday, I picked up Sarah from the airport (always a disconcerting drive, since you get to the airport exit on I-70 with only seconds to spare because of gridlock – a long forgotten concept to me – and then you realize that there’s this 87-mile long airport service road, and even though you’re on airport drive, you’re closer to the St. Louis Arch than you are the terminal.) Anyway we stopped in Stapleton on the way back to go to Target (how did I live for eight years with no Target and no car?) and we stopped at this place, I don’t remember the name, but it’s called Outdoor World or something. We always saw it from the highway, and I was curious what it was like inside.

Outdoor World (or whatever) was basically like Ted Nugent’s house times ten, minus the guitars. It was a giant aircraft hanger with a Noah’s Ark full of dead stuffed animals, heads on walls, and a fish tank bigger than our apartment with giant fish inside that must have weighed 50 pounds each. The general decor inside was in the “I voted for George Bush twice, and I’ve got more guns than you”. And there was every conceivable outdoor accessory you could imagine inside.

Now, I’m not trying to take a piss on people who hunt or fish; it’s just that after so much time in a giant metropolis, it’s very different to see an entire display case full of kits to make beef jerky from moose entrails. And while some people might be put off by this sort of thing, it absolutely fascinates me. I had to make a complete lap of the place (which took like an hour and a half) and look at all of the gadgets and toys and gizmos for hikers, climbers, hunters, campers, and fishers. And it was difficult only in that I saw about 16 million dollars of stuff I immediately wanted to buy, throw in the back of the Subaru, and drive down to my land. I’m not much of a camper, but after about $20,000 in purchases, I’d damn well try.

One thing that interested both of us was all of the various hiking and backpacking stuff. Colorado is like backpacking central, and we’re within an hour of at least a hundred good hikes, ranging from absolutely simple to Mount Rainier impossible. I absolutely hate the gym, even though I have one that’s free just three floors below me. The only exercise I’ve ever liked is utilitarian. When I lived at Colonial Crest and had to walk everywhere, I was in the best shape ever. Running on a treadmill does nothing for me, no matter how many songs I have on my iPod. So the thought of getting out on a Saturday and walking around a lake or a mountain or something interests me a lot more than staring at the LED hill on a treadmill. We did not make any huge purchases in this area other than a pair of Gatorback water backpack things, because they were on sale and cheap, and looked cool.

(The not buying anything was important, because if you read any hiking or backpacking book or guide, they tell you that you basically have to buy $7,000 of shit before you leave the house. I.e. you shouldn’t wear jeans; your tennis shoes are wrong; your coat won’t work; no cotton t-shirts, and so on. I didn’t want to buy anything until I could determine that I would ever go hiking more than twice in my life. So blue jeans and tennis shoes, for now.)

After a bit of homework on the web, we packed up on Saturday morning and headed for Lake Dillon, which is about an hour fifteen west of Denver, and according to some web site, has a pretty basic hiking trail. The weather was perfect, and it was a pretty decent drive. As we got west, we really hit the Rocky Mountains, and our altitude doubled in a half-hour or so. Everything became switchback roads and those truck runoff ramps full of sand. It was absolutely striking how much the terrain changed in a matter of a few minutes outside of town.

We got to Lake Dillon, which is a reservoir made when the river was dammed a few years back. Now it’s a ski town and has a bunch of outlet stores, but it’s still a very small little dot on the map. We drove around a bit, and realized… we had no idea where the trailhead was. The instructions I found on the web basically said “drive down this street, you’ll see it” and we didn’t. Eventually we found a paved path that went around the lake, so we parked there and started walking.

And here’s the stupid part. We walked maybe 100 feet before realizing it would be absolutely impossible. It was paved, it was a nice view, but it was about 20 out, and we were dressed for weather in the 50s and 60s. Also, there was this 40-mph wind whipping in over the lake that made it feel more like zero. And this wasn’t a trail – it was a sidewalk. (After more research when we got home, I think we totally missed the actual trails.) We got back in the car, and spent some time looking at all of the weird little vacation homes built into the sides of hills. We then headed back, but stopped in Idaho Springs for lunch, at this pretty incredible pizza place (and I can’t remember the name). The city there looked like Northern Exposure’s town; it used to be a gold rush town a hundred fifty some years ago. Now it’s a strip of strange little shops, and the high school team is called The Golddiggers. Odd.

Anyway, we went to Tattered Cover, Denver’s cool bookstore (Think Elliot Bay in Seattle, Powell’s in Portland, the former Morgenstern’s in B’ton) and bought a bunch of books about places to hike and crap to see around here. So plenty to do next weekend, provided it isn’t like the weather today, which is pitch black and pouring rain.

Nostalgic grapes

I’ve said it a million times before, but smell has to be my most sensitive sense; some things always bring back the strangest memories. This morning, I was eating a bunch of red grapes while typing away at the computer, and I noticed after a while that they had a very slight sulfurous smell to them. Maybe it’s something with this region’s grapes, maybe I should wash my fruit. But the smell immediately brought me back to Treasure Island, Florida. The water there, especially the water they used for sprinkler systems, had the same sort of sulfery smell to it. It wasn’t overpowering, like driving through Gary, Indiana in the 70s, but it was just enough to remind you that you weren’t showering in Evian. So that smell, the grapes, brought me immediately back to my first trip in 2001, and my return in 2004, as if I boarded a magic DeLorean and hit the gas pedal to 88 miles an hour.

Denver’s got a pretty high allergy situation. I had no problems with allergies (other than aspirin) since junior high, after a childhood of tests and shots and pills. New York would give me about four days a year of allergy problems, but that was largely exacerbated by the fact that New York has the shittiest air quality in the country. I didn’t expect much here, but got completely slammed with allergies this week. It’s pretty dry, which ups the pollen count, and the fact that the air is thinner from the altitude makes respiratory-based allergies even more a pain in the ass. I have no Proventil, and haven’t been to an allergist in ages, so I went on a hunt for Primatene Mist today. Aside from the fact that the tree-huggers are trying to ban the stuff, there’s currently a nationwide shortage. I lucked out and found a store brand at a Walgreen’s in Stapleton. (And yes Larry, that town’s name does always remind me of a certain cheerleader that had a sex tape scandal an eon ago.) Anyway, I got the inhaler, gave it a couple of blasts, and the smell and taste and weird feeling of inhaling cold, dense adrenaline in an alcohol suspension reminded me of when I was ten, and every time since then I had an allergic reaction to crabgrass or tumbleweed or lawn clippings and had to hit the pipe.

In another fit of nostalgia, I bought the aforementioned grapes at a King Sooper, which is a regional grocery chain. We got a gift card to them from our apartment broker for some reason (imagine that, New Yorkers – we didn’t have to pay 17 months of rent in advance in cash to a broker, on top of deposits – we paid zero and got $50 of free food) and so we went for the first time the other night. I immediately found out that King Soopers is really Kroger. As we wandered the aisles, we found all of the Kroger and Big K store brands, some unchanged since 20 or 30 years before. I practically grew up in Kroger, and my parents only bought store brand, so this was pretty much like going back to the kitchen of my childhood home. I was very happy to find I could once again shop at Safeway, but now I’m going to have to trade off between the two or something.

The great book I pledged to finish this summer still hasn’t had word one added to it since the move. I have been busy, writing a short story for the zine, and then writing another story for someone else’s anthology. There’s also the matter of learning Ruby on Rails and how to write stuff using Google Maps, for another project for someone else. I still can’t believe how my days vanish so much faster than when I was at the helm of a desk with a salary job.

That said, I’ve got two short stories in first draft mode, and want to get them done eventually.

Fallen rice

Some announcements about the zine that you have probably heard elsewhere: it is now located at ParagraphLine.com. That just points to the same dir on rumored, but looks nicer and simpler. Second, I redesigned the site. Hopefully it looks more modern or whatever. And third is that I’m starting to take submissions for #12. The theme is “weird, paranoid, insane”. I’m looking for 2000-6000 word stories that fit the theme and the rest of the general guidelines. Deadline: July 1.

(If you submit a story shorter than 2000 words, even though I’ve mentioned at least six times, your story will be reprinted in our sister publication _I Am a Stupid Fucking Idiot Who Can’t Follow Directions_.)

It’s too nice out to be writing in here. I think I’m going to try taking my bike out for a few laps of the parking lot across the street. (Related: yesterday, I saw some idiot on a rice-rocket with another friend, and he was whipping around the lot real fast and making sudden turns, and he was headed right for a busy street and started to turn hard, and WHAM, right on his ass, and his plastic motorcycle slid into the road. I am absolutely amazed that a) he wasn’t scraped up; b) his bike wasn’t completely fucked, and c) that a car on said busy street didn’t run over either him or the bike.)

And so it goes

Well, Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. I’d make the “so it goes” joke, but everyone else already has.

When I started writing, there were a couple of writers that I worshipped, that got me rolling for a dead stop and toward thinking about writing fiction. One was Henry Miller, and the other was Vonnegut. I read Slaughterhouse 5 back in high school, when a teacher told me I should, but it didn’t really click. In 93 or so, I got back to Breakfast of Champions, then immediately found myself making trips to Morgenstern’s books to buy two or three of the paperbacks at a time.

Everyone called Vonnegut a science fiction writer, which I never understood. I guess there were some aliens and other weird things here and there, but I mostly identified with the fact that there was a guy from Indiana writing hilarious stories, but also creating these characters anyone could identify with, and very clearly laying out their wants or desires. He broke out of the typical structure of a story by becoming a lot more informal, a Mark Twain of the 20th century who became more of a conversationalist in the story, talking about the author more than the character, yet wrapping it all up into a neat little novel, a paperback I could easily digest and take with me on the way to school.

I never tried to write like Vonnegut, and I moved on to other writers that challenged me in ways more relevant to the writing I was doing. I always came back to his books and re-read them when I was bored. They’re the Chinese food of literature – you can plow through them fast, and then an hour later, want to read them again. I ended up buying all of his books within a year, and he’s one of the authors that takes up a good chunk of a shelf in my collection. (I think only Bukowski takes up more room.)

I saw Vonnegut in ’95, and for whatever reason, that pretty much ended up obsession. He talked at the IU Auditorium, and he seemed like an old man on the verge of death. I seriously didn’t think he’d make it to the parking lot, let alone another 12 years. Vonnegut himself was pretty coarse and random during the talk, but it made me realize he was done as a writer. He came out with the book Timequake two years later, but it was just as scattered as his talk. I guess back then, I categorized him as ended, and didn’t think much when he published his short stories, or last year’s book (which was largely just his lecture, cribbed into print with a bunch of fuck-bush screed added for sales effect.) Anyway.

—–

It’s really cold today. I went to the Air Force Academy yesterday. Colorado Springs is deceptively far from Denver – it looks like a thumb’s width on the map, but the actual drive is like an hour. Maybe it’s not that long, but I forgot my iPod, and Denver is not a radio town, so I spent the whole time flipping through AM radio, trying to find some talk radio that wasn’t right-wing bitching about why Imus shouldn’t be fired, or NPR. (And I don’t know why people bitch about the horror of Fox News, because NPR is basically apocalypse radio; if you listen to it for ten minutes, they will give you 19 reasons why the world is totally fucking ending tomorrow.) Anyway, I went to the Air Force Academy, because there are some planes there I wanted to see. But about two minutes after I cleared the gate, it started pouring snow sideways, and got to total white-out conditions. So I only got to see their B-52 and do one quick lap of the visitor center. Pictures: here.

(Aside: I think I am ditching Flickr soon. At the least, I am letting my Pro account lapse. I still don’t know the value of using it. And it makes me have to do everything twice now. Actually, I do it three times, because I do it in iPhoto. That’s another huge project for another day.)

The visitor’s center was strictly propaganda related to the academic mission of the academy, and nothing about the Air Force per se. To me, this was very depressing, because these images of well-rounded people pushing themselves and doing all of this shit in a high-caliber institution make me want a mulligan on the last twenty years so I could do something of value. I wished someone would have pulled me aside at age 15 and told me to cut the shit and run five miles a day and learn Latin and memorize every calculus book I could find. At the very least, I wish they would have told me the horrors of technical writing. There are times now I wish I could go to medical school or law school or plumbing school or something, but now that I have the time and money to do that, I don’t have the drive. I keep thinking about applying to school and doing something, but I have pretty much fucked up my academic career up to this point to prevent any kind of graduate program, and most schools won’t let you re-bachelor, because they’d rather have the grad tuition in their pocket. And anyway, what would I study? Creative writing? Computer science? Home ec? I don’t know.

In slightly related news, I did get into cooking school. They called me last night and asked if I wanted to get into the next round of classes, after the ones I tried to get into. So in May, I take the knife class, and in June, the basic skills class. This is not a professional training course like going to CIA or whatever; it’s just the bored housewives class. They are hands-on though, so maybe I’ll learn something. Or maybe this will reinforce my current belief that I should stick to Easy Mac and sandwiches.

Still working on my story for AITPL #12. It is mostly done, except it needs a way to tie the middle to the end, and that has me stumped. I mean, it’s also a piece of shit and in very rough shape, but I will finish this pass, then let it ferment a bit and get back to it. I still haven’t started the damn book I planned to write on this sabbatical, which is getting me more and more irritated. I will get there. I just hope I don’t freeze first.

Reign over me

We went to see the movie Reign Over Me on Saturday, mostly as an exercise to see if we could find a theater and get used to the idea of driving and parking, as opposed to taking a train and fighting the crowds. Anyway, the film was one of those “Adam Sandler, but serious” things, and he did an okay job, except that him either yelling or crying reminds you too much of Happy Gilmore, and his mumbly, disconnected role reminds you too much of Bob Dylan. The rest of the cast was good (except Jada Pinkett Smith; for some reason I would like to see her head on a stick) and Don Cheadle was excellent. The film had some inprobability, but it wasn’t bad.

The thing that was weird is this was the first film that intimately featured New York as its setting that I’ve seen since I’ve left, and that was weird. It was by no means the dose of Bloomington I get from Breaking Away or even the Seattle reverie of Singles (great setting, horrible movie, but you can see my old apartment in it.) But the film was really a mini-test of “do I miss New York at all?” and I guess it was a bullshit test, because even though this movie dealt with death and despair, it was a pretty glossy version of the city. His apartment, depicted as this total shithole, was probably twice as big as my old one and would have cost at least $3500 a month to rent. When you want to go eat Chinese, you don’t go to eat in my old neighborhood on Grand Street, as depicted, unless you’re a pathologist looking to sample some new unheard-of strain of a bird flu for a study. It was very much the Friends syndrome, and I guess that didn’t have me pining for my previous digs.

It was still weird, though, watching the film not as much for the story, but to see if any places I used to go or eat or shop would flash by in the background. Aside from the Chinese place, I think the dentist’s office was close to my old shrink’s office. And oddly enough, the Liv Tyler character vaguely reminded me of a psychiatrist I had once. Other than that, it was a bizarro New York, the Law and Order of the city that’s selectively gritty, and otherwise could be shot in Newark or Vancouver.

I switched email clients, which is sort of a big deal. I’ve been using the emacs editor to read my mail since 1991, for a year with rmail, and the rest of the time with VM. It’s a complicated way to do things, and nobody ever understood what the fuck I was talking about, except every once in a while, I would find one person per company I worked at that also used it or at least knew what it was. It was powerful in that I could read my mail with the same interface at home or anywhere remotely, as long as I could connect to my machine with ssh. All of my mail was in flat mbox format, as opposed to some proprietary bullshit formula. If I wanted to search, a simple grep could do it. And all of the keystrokes I used to move around a file were the same in email.

VM had huge problems as time went on. Attachments were a bitch. There was nothing to control, mark, or train for spam. (My ISP does server-side spamassassin, but that doesn’t work great.) I used bbdb for years, but that became yet another address book to mismanage in my life. And I found I could almost never get an ssh connection from a toyified internet kiosk while on vacation, and ended up reading new mail on my ISP’s webmail page (and not reading anything at home).

Last week I finally gave up, and started using OS X’s Mail.app. I thought at first this would be a horrible toy, like Outlook Express, but I’m actually liking it a lot. Like most Mac stuff, it Just Works, and doesn’t involve a lot of screwing around. Attachments work. Links work. Integration with the Mac address book – perfect. Spam control – I’m still training the filter, but the controls are nice and easy to use. It imported all of my old mail, no problems. If and when I need to bug out and export everything to flat mbox format, there’s a Save As that works. So it’s been good sofar. But still, after using a program for 16 years, it’s hard to not feel nostalgic or whatever.

Last week I also took a field trip to Wings Over the Rockies museum. It’s built on the last little bit of Lowry AFB, which is mostly condos and strip malls since the base got cut in the late 90s. (John Sheppard went to art school there 20 years ago, when he was “a PFC in Uncle Sugar’s Campin’ and Shootin’ Club.”) Anyway, many photos are here. They don’t have a ton of planes, but they had three I was really interested in: an old B-52, a B-1A, and an F-111. There were also lots of static Hydrogen bombs and Eisenhower memorabilia for the whole family. My favorite part was seeing that huge B-52 out front; from one direction, you saw these 1930′s hangers with a monster bomber in front, and from the other direction, you saw the 1950s strategic nuclear bomber with a backdrop of brand new loft apartment style condo townhouses next to a strip mall with an Albertson’s and QDoba, everything shotcreted and painted pink and yellow to look like fake southwest adobe.

I enrolled in a cooking school yesterday, but a few hours later, I got an email saying they were full, and the waitlist was full. I am not sure why I want to go to cooking school. Part of it is reading too much Anthony Bourdain; part of it is wanting to go back to school and meet new people, but not wanting to try and get an MFA and have my writing ripped to shreds by housewifes. And part of it is I like to eat.

Nothing else. I’m working on a short story for AITPL #12. I need to get my story done before I can really gear up the zine, otherwise I will be too busy beating people up to send in writing, and won’t be motivated to write. So, there. I have two short stories owed out, then I can start working on the book again. You would think not working would make me have tons of time, but it seems like now I am way more conscious of every minute I spend during the day, and it feels like I never get anything done. I think that’s the cue for me to stop working on this and start writing writing.

Parking prices as a predictor of game demand

My new “office” (i.e. our second bedroom, where my computers, stereo, and PlayStations live) has a wall-to-ceiling window facing north-northeast, and I’ve chosen to put my computer desk in front of it, so now I’m looking off to the horizon as I work. There’s a huge row of townhouse/lofts being built to my left, and as the sun creeps up, they turn different colors of orange and red. There’s a parking lot directly in front of me, and it’s almost always empty, except for the occasional heavy equipment being used as the lofts are being built. It’s also completely held hostage and repriced at insane rates for baseball games, as is all parking in this area. Monday was opening day, and spots were $40; yesterday was game two of the series against Arizona, and it was only $10. It’s fun to watch people tailgate and fight over parking from my safe little enclosure. It’s far more interesting than looking at an off-white wall, anyway.

If you’re interested, here is where I am. See that half block of nothing that’s northwest of the pointer? That’s where my building is now. My window is on Park, between Market and Larimer. Our apartment is on the northeast corner, which means the other window in my corner office looks out to the parking lot at Park and Larimer. It looks like, from the satellite photo, that they completely tore down the old tire factory before they built this, which makes sense. They did keep a sign from it to put in the lobby downstairs, to add that shopping mall historical marker touch.

I drove around yesterday, trying to find a Long John Silver’s, because I keep seeing commercials and it’s been like five years since I’ve been to one. It’s weird how my default location in any city is always where I first saw it. When I moved to Seattle, I stayed with Bill in Mountlake Terrace for a few weeks. After I moved to Pil l Hill, I always found myself driving back north to the mall at Lynwood, or the movie theaters back near where Bill used to live. In New York, I worked in Times Square for a while, and always ended up going back there to go to movies or to eat. And now, we stayed in Stapleton for our first week here, and I keep heading out there to eat lunch or wash the car or whatever. I think part of it is ease of parking and familiar chain restaurants or something, I don’t know. But it’s an odd migratory pattern.

Since I’m always on the same computer, I decided to switch mail clients. I have been using the same mail reader for 15 years now: the emacs editor plus the VM package, which lets you read email in the editor. It’s a pretty geek way to do things, but I always liked it because it stored my mail in a very non-proprietary way, and it let me read my mail from work or home easily, including my old saved mail. But it didn’t do some things, like it didn’t handle attachments well, or let me send attachments, and links were not hot in email messages. Also, spam processing has become a nightmare. So I switched to Apple’s Mail.app, which is pretty cool sofar. It’s very integrated into the other Mac stuff, especially the address book, which I like a lot. The spam control stuff is also good, and you can train it to pick up on what is and is not junk. Importing my old mail was not a huge pain in the ass, although I really need to do some housekeeping. Another nice feature is that it integrates spotlight, so searching is really great. Anyway, ask me again in a week if I still love the thing or not.

I just saw Rumored to Exist listed on eBay in the nonfiction books section, with a buy it now price the same as a new copy on Amazon. I’m guessing it’s either robots or really stupid people in third-world countries that are doing shit like this.

Million dollar ideas

Before I even get started, please go to http://my-million-dollar-ideas.blogspot.com/ for my new blog/project, in which I document all of my million dollar ideas. Please leave comments and if you like it, link it. Thank you!

So yes, I’m alive and in Denver. The trip was full of crackerjack goodness, and I often wondered if I would make it here alive with at least 50% of my crap, but here I am, in an apartment half-full of boxes, in a computer room so strewn with wires, it looks like I’m trying to recreate an early prototype of the ENIAC computer. But I’m here.

Highlights of the trip: a week ago Friday, the movers came and packed up everything. They used approximately 500,000 mile-long rolls of tape and enough shrink-wrapping to seal up the Empire State Building to the point where you could throw it in the Hudson river without anything inside getting wet. And when we got down to the bare walls and suitcases we were taking (plus an Aerobed, for our two days of sleeping in the empty place), we realized that the movers had packed a bunch of clothes I’d set aside for the week or so before the truck got to Colorado, and I had nothing but the clothes on my back and about a week of dirty laundry, plus maybe a week of clean clothes I left in our car, which was sitting at the airport in Colorado. A quick trip to K-Mart got me some socks and underwear and one t-shirt. And yes, the Astor Place K-Mart brings back many memories. The snack bar used to be my small oasis in the big city, and the only public restroom in all of lower Manhattan. They tore it out, and now it holds housewares or something.

Anyway, Saturday we had a cleaning crew to come over and scour the place top to bottom, before we flew out Sunday morning. While I was in the shower, Sarah turned on the self-clean mechanism on the oven, thinking that it would somehow clean the oven by itself, as the name would lead you to believe. Instead, this started a fire in the oven, billowing out smoke. When I got out of the shower, the top four feet or so of the apartment was filled with smoke, and Sarah was wondering aloud if we should call the fire department.

I have an unnatural paranoia of firemen. Being on the receiving end of a two-alarm fire before with an old car that exploded into flames, I somehow built up an unnatural phobia. And my worst fear was that these fuckers would charge into the apartment, break down the unlocked front door ($2,000), fill the stove with water ($4,000), smash out the surrounding cabinets ($10,000), flood the apartment and the two below with water ($200,000) and trigger off a series of lawsuits from the nosy neighbors in every direction because they somehow concluded that our tiny smoke fire caused them undue hardship and trauma and caused their kids to have asthma or food allergies in the future. ($6,000,000 x 8-12). So I said “DO NOT CALL 911!!!” but they showed up anyway, because people on the lower floors were complaining.

So here come a dozen guys in full-on fire suits, and by then, the stove had pretty much gone out. The maintenance guys were there bitching and moaning that our stove was defective and they needed to shut off our gas and power. These are the people, by the way, that told us we had to pay a $500 move-out deposit, even though our lease said our $500 move-in deposit carried over, and we never signed a single thing saying we had to pay the move-out deposit, and the stupid bitch at the co-op office said “well, you didn’t sign anything, but that’s our policy”, to which my reply was “well, nobody at the co-op signed anything, but I have a policy that when I move out of an apartment, the co-op board pays me $10,000 cash, and that’s as legally binding as your stupid bullshit policy.”

We finally got all of the assholes out of the apartment, but then realized that everything we owned was smoked like a cheap pack of 7-Eleven beef jerky. The first immediate thought was to go downstairs to the laundry room, but the movers packed the card-key you use on the machines, so no laundry. At that point I deduced that we needed to get the fuck out of there and go to a hotel, so we packed everything up and got in a car service and headed to LaGuardia and stopped at some business hotel (Raddison? I forget) that was like a block from the airport. This was partially because we had an early flight and it would solve any potential fuckups with getting to the airport, and partially so we would have a TV and a real bed for a night. They didn’t have any laundry, so I put on dirty clothes that were in a plastic bag, which were comparatively much cleaner than my smoky ones.

We got to the hotel with four bags each: two large suitcases, a large carry-on, and a small carry-on. Everything else in the apartment went to the garbage or we left for the cleaning ladies to steal. The hotel room was this ultra-micro thing, very nice, but you could lay in the bed and touch both walls with your hands. We ate at the tiny restaurant in the lobby, then went for a walk in the cold and drizzle to find a bodega and pick up a few bottles of water. The irony was not lost on me that my very last night in New York was spent in Queens, about three miles due east of my old hellhole digs.

The trip out was pretty flawless. We upgraded to first class with some miles, so the people didn’t give a shit that all of our luggage was over 50 pounds each. (In coach, that would have been like $320 of fees, I think.) Getting everything to the parking shuttle was a bitch, but a few hours, we were in our car, filled to the brim with luggage (it also had stuff we left behind in it). We got to the apartment, signed a million papers and wrote a big check, and had they keys to our brand new loft apartment.

I should mention that the whole loft apartment thing is a somewhat bullshit term. Back in the old days, in France or New York or San Francisco, a loft was a huge, unheatable, unlivable space that was rented or sold at rock-bottom prices to starving artists needing a lot of room. At some point, probably in the 80s, some enterprising individuals realized you could make a lot of money chopping these up and refurbing them into apartments with high ceilings. Now, pretty much everywhere that didn’t have lofts in the first place either restructuring existing industrial buildings or building from scratch, and incorporating the “loft look”. This place was a giant tire factory at some point, but only the shell still exists, and that was pressure-washed and sandblasted so it looks like it was built from raw brick and mortar in 2004. As for the interiors, there are 9.5′ concrete ceilings, exposed ductwork, but otherwise the place resembles a new hotel more than an ancient apartment building. And I’m 100% fine with that – I would rather have six power outlets per room and windows that actually close and insulate during the winter than “old construction charm”, whatever the fuck that means. BTW in my neighborhood, they are building loft apartments pretty much everywhere you look. I’m just hoping this influx of people and money will also mean a boom of cool businesses and restaurants to go with it.

Anyway, in our first week (last week), we had no furniture. We went on some mega Target runs, but I didn’t have anything to sit on except the Aerobed (which doesn’t work well), or the toilet. Sarah had to go to work a week early because of a big project that was on fire, and I got to spend two days sitting around (correction: laying or standing around) because Qwest hooked up our phone to the wrong apartment. I also had no internet, I didn’t have my main computer, no phone, and I had three books with me, and managed to finish the third one by about 10 AM on Monday. The rest of the week was a lot of appointments and errands. I also managed to go to the gym three times last week, which is more than I’ve gone in the last ten years. I learned three things: my cardio is completely shot, even moreso with the altitude; my knee and ankle joints are in bad shape, and I’m not sure if more walking or weights will make that better or worse; and I did a lot better lifting weights than I possibly imagined. I think I can lift as much now as when I was lifting weights every day back in Seattle. I expected those numbers to be about 50%, max.

Our moving truck showed up at 9 AM Sunday, and they shoehorned box after box into the apartment. This place is technically a bit bigger than the old place, but the closets and storage space aren’t as well set up. And when everything’s in boxes, it takes up four times as much room, so we had crap everywhere. I worked twelve hours straight on Sunday unpacking, slept 11 hours, and woke up feeling like I slept three. I also worked all day yesterday, and we’re maybe 5/8ths done. I have my computer, my stereo, and I hooked up the PS3 to make sure it worked. There are maybe a dozen boxes in the offices, and everything’s entirely inefficiently set up. The living room and dining room are still pretty filled up; the bedroom’s not bad, and the bathrooms are okay, but the kitchen is totaled. It will take a few days to dig out of here.

The reality of not working yet has not hit me, because the days have been filled with too many things to do. When I get to the point where I can start a routine of going to the gym, doing some writing, reading a bit, doing the errands, etc, maybe I will think about it more. But now, I’m mostly thinking “where the hell is that Ethernet cable?” or whatever.

And I feel the same way about Denver. I haven’t seen a whole lot of the city except for the parking lot across the street from my office. I have wandered around a bit, and I do like the city a lot. I think it offers the same general vibe as Seattle, which I like. It has its own identity though, and that’s good. I find myself sometimes in a store or driving and I think for a split-second that I’m in Redmond or something, and that’s really weird, but also sort of reassuring in a way.

Anyway, I hope to keep more writing coming, now that I have my computer back. I have a lot of other changes in general I want to make to rumored.com, too. But first, I need to open some boxes, and see what’s inside.