Sunday, August 31, 2008
The only other time we had traveled on Amtrak was in 1994, and it is not an entirely pleasant memory. Seating in coach was a complete free-for-all. We would start the line an hour or two before departure time, but as soon as they opened the doors people would push around us and run for the train. The challenge, we soon learned, was finding seats that were reasonably close together and fully functional. We did not always meet the challenge.
So I had a bit of anxiety about this when we got to the station; I hate competing for resources and I wasn't looking forward to fighting for seats. This worry was temporarily set aside when I saw the sign claiming that carry-ons were limited to 2 per person and they had to fit within the dimensions shown on the sign. I looked at our pile and felt a chill of fear. I had asked about the availibility of vegan food on the train, but I hadn't asked about baggage policies. But then I looked at the family behind us and their numerous baby-grand-piano-sized bags -- if we were going to be hassled, they were certainly in for it. They assured us they had no problem on their way out to Portland, and they didn't expect any trouble this time either.
So with that off my mind, I went back to worrying about seating. I was delighted when the conductor announced they would be boarding families and parties of 2 or more first, and even more so when we got to the car and it was divided into one side for singles and one side for multiples. For extra measure they had signs up stating certain seats were reserved for parties of 2 or 3. We got the best possible seats -- they were kind of the anti-bulkhead, in front of the stairs/water cooler/emergency supply cabinet, with a big space behind us where we could store lots of our stuff. There was a ton of leg room and our seats all reclined and had working leg rests. Score!
Overall, I was pretty impressed. The train ran on time and the conductors were efficient and professional, keeping track of seating and getting everyone settled as they boarded. Other than the usual all-night struggle to stay warm and find a way to approximate horizontality for sleeping, the trip was flawless. (Helpful hints: Sleeping bag liners make very compact and satisfying blankets for train travel. If you are desperate to lay down flat, you can take your liner or sleeping bag to the lounge car and sleep on the floor; they won't kick you out.)
Next: Are we really the only people on earth who need to get from the West Glacier Amtrak station to Apgar, don't have a car, and have too much crap to carry for 4 miles? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I wanted to go visit my friend Alexey in Moscow. He suggested I come the first week of May, as May 9 is Victory Day, a celebration of victory over the Germans in WWII and a remembrance of the Soviets who died, and this would mean a three-day weekend and a big national holiday. Incidentally, May 7 was Medvedev’s presidential inauguration, but Alexey wasn’t too excited about that, partly because he knew the change of guard was purely ceremonial and Putin would continue to run the country, and partly because Red Square and the inauguration were closed to the public for that day.
Pictures from englishrussia.com
Monday, August 18, 2008
Not until this morning, when the alarm went off and I heard the unfamiliar pitter-patter of rain outside my bedroom window. "Uh oh," I thought. "I'm not rain-ready."
I considered my choices.
Most attractive: Stay in bed. Problem: Can't afford it.
Next: Take a change of clothes and just plan to get wet. Problem: Bleh.
Next: Walk 3 blocks to Hawthorne and take the 14 to within a block of work. Problem: None. We have a winner.
So into the shower, where I am jolted into wakefulness by the violence of the first, totally unexpected crack of thunder, followed by 2 more less dramatic but equally alarming booms.
Next: Call colleague, ask if he would consider driving in to work and picking me up on the way. Problem: I don't have a problem asking for favors when I need them. This is a good plan.
As it turned out, for unrelated reasons I ended up not ready to leave the house until the rain had subsided into a barely perceptible mist, and at the last minute a ride serendipitously came my way.
On the way back home it was dry enough, but then I had to consider my options for getting up to the Hill. It wasn't raining, though it looked like it might at any time. But I know from experience that taking the bus home at night tends to suck -- one night I left work at 11:45 pm and didn't get home until 1:30 am. I figured if I had my bike, I could still take the bus if I absolutely had to, and if I didn't have to I could just ride home.
By the time I got packed up it was too late to ride all the way (this is common for me, but I think having 2 jobs allows me a little slack here), so I rode to the tram. After I was chastised by the driver for riding all the way up to the tram door, I entered the car and found myself next to my tram buddy with his shiny new Trek and platform pedals. I noted that he had not yet converted to clipless pedals although last week I recommended them in the strongest possible terms, and then we got into a discussion of waterproof bags. He said he has a friend who owns a totally boss waterproof messenger bag with a sternum strap to hold it in place and enough room for a half-case of beer plus two six-packs. He said the strap and buckle are like an old-school seat belt. The bag is supposed to be made by a UK company called Centre, and available at the Seven Corners bike shop. A quick google didn't reveal any such thing, but I'll dig a little deeper. I might as well start getting ready now. Bleh.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
It's both challenging and stressful to try to get everything done in three hours. Fortunately, this time I had the safety net of being able to extend my reservation, which I did end up doing (30 minutes). I turned Elman in about 20 minutes early, but according to the website late fees start at $50, so $5 for the extra 10 minutes was worth it.
While I was at the pick-up readying the seat, mirrors, etc. for takeoff, a Zipcar employee pulled up behind me. She said she was just checking to make sure everything was okay; she was returning a car to it's rightful place down the street after the police found it abandoned in a no-loading zone up on 82nd. She said some people just leave the cars wherever. Apparently, those people don't intend to ever use the service again -- what are they thinking? I hope this is all business as usual for Zipcar and not another case of idiots making things difficult for the rest of us.
Anyway . . . while driving back from Costco I became aware that my stress level had been insidiously rising into pre-car-sale territory. The convenience of being able to cover several miles in a short time and effortlessly haul stuff around was overshadowed by the need to make split-second decisions about where to turn and which way to go; when you're moving at 45 to 65 mph, you don't have a lot of time to figure out where the hell you are before it becomes where you were. And the being-boxed-in thing . . . the air conditioning was sweet indeed, as it was 100 degrees outside, but with all the windows up (and the music on) I felt totally alienated from my surroundings. I had to leave a window open in the back just so I wouldn't feel entirely cut off.
This must be what it would feel like to be transported from horse and buggy days to 2008 -- "This dagnabbit contraption goes too durned fast! I tell ya, it just ain't nachural to be hurtlin' through space in this here big tin box with the world flyin' past in a blur! Ya cain't hear nuthin' that's goin' on around ya and ya cain't even tip yur hat to yur neighbor as you pass -- what the tarnation is this world comin' to?!"
With no AC at home we ended up prostrate on the couch with two fans running, trapped by lethargy into watching "Legally Blonde 2," easily one of the worst movies ever made. I won't even get into it. The point is that at 10 o'clock we finally had to haul ourselves up and walk to Fred's for cat food (it's bad enough to see their furry little bodies spread out like dead things across the kitchen floor, trying to maximize their skin-to-linoleum contact, but their pleading eyes and empty bellies are just too much). I still haven't gotten lights for Isabel's bike, so we had to hoof it.
Usually by 10:30 at night Fred's parking lot is a ghost town, but last night it was full. As we walked in the door we simultaneously exhaled a big "aaahhhhhh" of relief and began to melt into the air-conditioned goodness. Along with half the citizenry of Belthorne, I believe. At 11 o'clock there still wasn't a whole lot of action in the moving-toward-the-exit department . . .
But anyway, to finish this damn story -- the walk home was long, hot and exhausting. We were freaking miserable. My head and stomach hurt, Isabel kept stubbing her toe and walking into imaginary spider webs, we were both damp and overheated, and yet . . . I realized I would rather be walking than driving. Besides the fact we get to talk more (difficult in the car, where safety dictates that Isabel sit in the back), see more (all the neighborhood kitties, the full moon, and last week, a whole family of raccoons) and smell more (good and bad . . .), the pace is just more manageable and for me, entirely stress-free.
When I sold the Subaru I really thought I'd be buying another car in the not-too-distant future -- but now I wonder. In another year I may find driving altogether intolerable. Of course, I say that now . . . let's see what happens when the rain hits.
Friday, August 15, 2008
2. I had an appointment this afternoon and wanted to drive, mostly because it's very freaking hot outside. So I figured I'd get a car and run some other errands as well. Last night I reserved a convenient car ("Doris," who lives at 27th and Hawthorne) for today from one to four. There were lots of other cars available but that one was closest to my day job.
My appointment took a little longer than expected and I started thinking of all the other things I could get done if I had the car for another hour. So I called the automated line ("If you'd like to extend your reservation, press 1") -- and it said I couldn't extend my reservation because someone else was waiting for Doris. I knew this was always possible, but it had never happened before. Nobody wanted my car last night. Sometimes spontaneity in other people sucks.
So I got on the Crackberry and looked for another car that would be free when I turned this one in -- but the closest one was at 28th and Burnside! Yes, I could have ridden my bike over there and picked it up, but . . . Instead, I rethought what I could get done vs. what I should get done. In the end, I decided I should hit Trader Joe's and get some things we really needed (eg, vegan chocolate chip cookies), and then I could take the bus later to REI to pick up Isabel's new sleeping bag and liner. We still need some gear for Glacier so I wanted to spend some time looking around REI rather than executing a hair-raising kamikaze drive-by shopping mission, and it just wasn't worth trying to squeeze that trip into the time I had left.
I suppose this isn't necessarily a bad thing. If it had been easy enough, I would have spent another hour or two driving around, but instead I had to stay within my original time budget and then fill in with public transport . . . which is as it should be.
It is certainly true that I have learned to group my errands more efficiently to make the most of my limited car time. Driving used to be such a natural, mindless thing, I almost didn't realize I was even doing it -- one minute I was here, the next I was somewhere else . . . whatever. Now driving is more like a condiment than the continuous TPN (total parenteral nutrition, "the practice of feeding a person intravenously, bypassing the usual process of eating and digestion") it used to be. I am aware every minute that I'm driving, and it's both weird and totally awesome . . .
Me: Oregon Poison Center.
Caller: I know you're not the right person to call, but I hope you can help me -- I don't know what to do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me: Okay . . .
Caller: What do you do if someone's been electrocuted?!
Me: Has someone been electrocuted?
Me: Then you need to call 911.
Caller: But . . . he's still breathing.
Me: Then I'm sorry that didn't work out for you. Try putting a bag over his head.
No. Of course not. We never say such things. Out loud.
Me: Then you need to call 911.
Caller: Oh . . . is that what I should do?
Me: Yes. Call 911 now.
Caller: Oh . . . okay.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
But Target: I ordered a waffle iron. I had a gift certificate and I wanted to save money by making and freezing my own waffles. T-Mobile will leave a spendy phone on the porch, and Qwest will leave a modem -- but Target demands a signature. For a waffle iron. They won't even allow the option of signing the little sticky note and leaving it on the door. I have a job. I can't wait at home all day for my waffle iron to come. And I know where this is leading -- after three unsuccessful delivery attempts, they'll want me to go to UPS to pick it up. This will completely and entirely negate the benefits of ordering online. I've come a long way in conquering the instant gratification demon, but this is sorely testing my patience, especially if I have to go somewhere to get it -- I could've taken the 15 to the store and had my freaking waffle iron last week. Grrrrr.
Update: The waffle iron finally arrived -- and it sucks. Now I have to take the 15 to the store to return it, and then go somewhere else to find a good one. *sigh*
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I don't know why it took me such a long time to have groceries delivered from New Seasons. It's true that once I've used up my three free deliveries it will cost $10 per. And that while New Seasons doesn't out-spendy Whole Paycheck, it's no bargain store. However . . .
They have always had the best produce in town. Sometimes their sales are pretty good. And they carry stuff other stores don't have.
And I realized that although I used to love shopping for food, I don't anymore; it's become something I dread. But now that I've started cooking again, groceries are a must. So although it took me several days -- I'm so out of practice -- I made a menu for the week, extrapolated from it a reasonable shopping list, and got online and ordered. I scheduled my two-hour delivery window and then asked them to call me when my order was on its way so I could leave work and meet the delivery guy. That worked out perfectly; I rode up right behind him. Then he carried all my stuff up to the front door, gave me my receipt, and took off. It was awesome. I was even spared the awkwardness of the tipping ceremony, because they don't allow it.
It's been another great discovery. It isn't just that it is absolutely worth $10 to have someone shop, pack and deliver my stuff; it's also that even though on some items I could get a better price elsewhere, the reality is that I spend much, much less by not popping into Fred's every single day. And not getting take-out every single day. And I'm eating better, which has led to appreciating better food, which has led to cooking even when I'm short on time, because meals from home are healthier and taste better.
And on that topic: I am embarrassed but defiant when I say we used to eat at Taco Bell four or five times a week, easily. It's cheap, it's quick, and even a vegan can fill up there. But since I sold the car: Not once. It's too far away now (the nearest is the one by Lloyd Center) to be convenient, and it certainly isn't worth a special trip. And now that I've been away from it for a couple of weeks, the thought of that "food" just makes me think "yuck." This alone has almost been worth getting rid of the car.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I go to the Gateway transit center -- the 15 goes to the Gateway transit center too!
I go to Target -- the 15 goes there too!
I go to Mt. Tabor -- so does the 15!
I go to Movie Madness -- guess who does too!
I go to REI -- as does the 15 (with a little help from the streetcar)!
I go to Shari's house off Trendy-third -- the 15 even goes there!
It's like it knows me!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Warning: Politically incorrect, has nothing to do with living carlessly, and in the morning I'll wish I hadn't posted it
I can only imagine the firestorm of hurt feelings and hand wringing that would commence if it was published. I would be pilloried for suggesting that for a grown woman who has already been through childbirth three times, a brief moment of genital-rubbing is not exactly a life-changing event. What I want to know is, who’s watching the kids while she’s suffering her “lifetime of hurt?”
A little perspective, please
My heart goes out to the 28-year-old single mother who, after paramedic Lannie Lee Haszard briefly “rubbed her genitals,” is “haunted for hours every day and night by memories of Haszard touching her” (“Ex-medic to prison for groping patients,” August 5, 2008).
Perhaps she would take comfort in the words of these women and children, describing their daily life in
“I was taken away by the attackers, they were all in uniforms. They took dozens of other girls and made us walk for three hours. During the day we were beaten . . . at night we were raped several times. The Arabs guarded us with arms and we were not given food for three days.”
“When we tried to escape they shot more children. They raped women; I saw many cases of Janjaweed raping women and girls. They are happy when they rape.”
“There was also another rape on a young single girl, aged 17. M was raped by six men in front of her house in front of her mother. M's brother, S, was then tied up and thrown into fire.”
“The six men raped my daughter, who is 25 years old, in front of me, my wife and the young children.”
(from “Rape as a Weapon of War,” Amnesty International, 2008)
Yes, touching women’s legs, breasts or genitals in the back of an ambulance is reprehensible and deserving of punishment. But perhaps this creep’s victims could relieve their persistent suffering by looking beyond themselves and performing a simple reality check.
Monday, August 4, 2008
When I had a car in the driveway, I always felt this undercurrent of anxiety because there was so much more I could be accomplishing each day, if only I were smarter, better dressed, more organized and disciplined, etc. etc. But without a car on hand I feel calmer, less anxious, more centered. I can't be three places at once, I can only be right here where I am at this moment. And when I do go somewhere, it's because I have a reason to go there that makes the transit effort worthwhile.
I'm so surprised to find I actually feel I have more time, rather than less. The days pass much more slowly -- in a good way. Everything seems clearer and makes more sense, because I feel comfortable taking the time to see and think. I've even started cooking at home again, something I've barely done in years. And: I enjoy it.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
Aaarrrgghhhh!! I feel your pain!