Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Are all experiences better shared?

June 17, 2016

I am not the most sociable person, but for a long time, If I wanted to do something, I  often asked a friend to join me.  More and more, I  feel it is better to  just do what I want to do—alone.

My friend Mimi has a personality ‘thing’ where she is annoyed by people making superfluous noise.  Noises like  slurping the end of a drink through a straw, or crinkling a candy wrapper.  Especially in a movie theatre.  She makes more  noise complaining about these people than the people actually make.  It’s irritating. It’s also irritating trying to go anywhere with her because she is compelled to  schmooze with  absolutely any stranger. She thinks  that by ‘networking’ this way  that she will ultimately get more business.  She doesn’t, but this is how she is. so, we can’t get anywhere in a timely fashion, because she is always stopping to talk and joke.

My friend Patty is very interesting, and has a lot of interests, and she can be very funny, but she also has  two annoying habits;  she will  agonize over buying something, buy it, and immediately regret the purchase.  Also, she can’t have a good time without alcohol.  I didn’t realize this until I traveled with her. I bought a bottle of local liqueur as a souvenir, and she drank it without asking.  Oh sure, she promised to replace it, and didn’t. When she drinks, she can be nasty and confrontational.

Then there is Lena.   She is always complaining about my car.  It is a mess. I often have my dogs in the car.   Also, Lena likes to have a window open.  My last car was in an accident, and the windows would not always close, so I didn’t open them. The sun roof was not good enough for her.  She’s like a dog—who wants to stick her face out the window.  Always complaining, but  she doesn’t drive and was getting a free ride. We both like art, but we can’t go to an art fair together, because Lena has to stop and peruse everything—even though she is not going to buy.  This is how her Asperger’s is manifested.

Kate is always late, but insists on  picking me up and driving…then really not knowing how to get where we are going.  Also, even if we discuss the plan before hand, if we go to a movie, she always wants to spend more money…by either going out to eat or shopping  for stuff she really doesn’t need.  I had to stop doing anything with her that wasn’t at my house or her house.

the interesting thing is…..these women, while pet lovers, don’t share my interests in dogs, or in Africana.  Those people who do shave my interests, don’t live close enough by for me to develop a  ‘social intimacy’ with. so, will all our friends in the future be on Facebook or other social media?  I wonder.

 

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Book Review: Charlie Wilson’s War, by George Crile.

June 3, 2016

The movie (created by people I would call the ‘dream team’:   director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts), came out in 2007… about 9 years ago.  This is the Wikipedia link to the review:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Wilson%27s_War

I came across the book (which I didn’t know existed) while traveling.  Crile was an amazing writer.  This is an absurd, almost unbelievable story. It’s actually a story about how ‘democracy’ works.

Do you remember where you were in the late 1980s?  I was in undergraduate school, working part-time grooming dogs,  and modeling for artists.  I had had a roommate who had volunteered with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.  Related to that, I had an FBI file.  That’s another story, which I blogged about previously: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/how-i-got-my-fbi-file/ .

The reason  my roommate volunteered to work for the Sandinistas was because of our ‘covert’ was in Nicaragua.  President Reagan wanted to  help the ‘contras’—a really ragtag group of’ anti-communists’ with no real strategy to govern the country, fight communism.  Unfortunately for them, in spite of  Reagan and the CIA pouring money into training and paying soldiers, they  really weren’t getting support of the Nicaraguans.   They did not exist at all, but were a contrivance.  Apparently, not only were there  several other political parties besides the  Sandinistas, the Nicaraguans did not fear communism or socialism the way we Americans had been led to.

This only matters because the war was not ‘covert’:  the news media knew of it, as did many Americans, who  pressured Congress to cut off funding.  We all knew Reagan was not a deep thinker, and he allowed key players  in the Republican Party to set policy.  What this has to do with the story of Charlie Wilson, and the war in Afghanistan (also covert—and a secret to us), is that, at one point,  Oliver North/the Reagan Administration asked the CIA and the Appropriations committee to hide money for the Contras in funds earmarked for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.  :”Wait!” you  shout.  “The mujahedeen?  Aren’t they the people  waging  jihad against us now?  Haven’t they been since…?”  Yep, You got it.

The movie  was written  as a comedy.  Charlie Wilson was a playboy congressman from Texas, whose constituents didn’t ask much from him.  Having served in the navy, and grown up during the cold war, he was  strongly anti-communist.  On the advice of a vivacious socialite, Joanne Herring, who had met the  president of Pakistan ( Zia ul-Haq…who had his predecessor assassinate…), Charlie, who sat on the Appropriations Committee in  the House of Representatives,  got money  appropriated for arms for people in  Afghanistan fighting Russians/Soviets.  The Russians were in Afghanistan to prop up a  socialist government.  As we believed at the time—and it could have possibly been true—according to the domino theory:  if the USSR got a foothold in  south Asia, they could dominate the world.  The reality was—and is—that Afghanistan —as a country—is a contrivance.  It is a geographic parcel of land within a border.  It will probably never be a country with a viable economy.  It is a failed state without ever really being a state.

Who writes our history?  Is it what we get in primary school history books?  Is it journalists who write news  reports and turn them into books?  No matter. At the time the CIA was  buying and providing arms for the Afghan rebels, I was a student working part time.  What I DO remember is that very suddenly, the Soviet Union fell into chaos, and the Berlin wall came down.  I don’t think many Americans understood why this happened.  All we really knew of the Soviet Union was that it was a dictatorship with no press freedom, and only of consequence to us insofar as their influence on other countries.  Crile  gives us a better understanding  of what really happened.

We have to  understand what we  did in the rest of the world.  While the do-gooders took to the Afghanis, who were not united in any way, and have proven to not be unitable, what the do-gooders did—with out tax money, was ignore their human rights record, ignore how they treated  each other—let alone women, and gave them the power to  terrorize us after they finished with the Russians.  As I write this, in early 2016, we have Syrian refugees fleeing the middle East, and a bunch of right-wing politicians calling them all terrorists…meanwhile ignoring the fact that  they supported the cause of all this.

Worse, the front-runner, Hillary Clinton,  the former Secretary of State, continued to allow the Pakistanis to hold us hostage, along with President Obama, so we could kill off Osama bin Ladin and temporarily slow down jihad leaders.  We are not going to stop how foreign aid is doled out unless we  organize for a radical shift in leadership (which is another reason I support Bernie Sanders). The   countries receiving it hire lobbyists, and the  companies manufacturing weapons also have a huge stake in  continuing the status quo.

The 2nd Blog About Going Back to Africa

February 4, 2016

I’ve been doing research almost every day on transport, say, from Mua mission to Mangochi (in Malawi), and places to stay.  Google ‘Lilongwe to Lusaka by bus.’   You can get Lusaka to lilongwe, but not the reverse. Traveling in inland Africa  is so …difficult. Roads are bad, transport is badly regulated, bus companies go out of business or  radically change their routes.

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock's ethnic map of Africa

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

I paid for the airfare back in June 2015.  I did this after Zambia removed the requirement for a Yellow Fever shot. Having had 3…I would have gone to Hong Kong or  Costa Rica if the requirement was still in place (no word on Zika—now in the news…).

I sent my passport to the Zambian embassy for a visa in October of 2015—before the ‘holiday rush’, and checked the Malawian embassy website—still no visa needed. Apparently the requirements changed  just after I checked the website.  From $0 to $100.  How did I find out? By checking the Peace Corps Malawi Facebook page…someone just happened to post asking if anyone had trouble getting a visa!   This was now the middle of January, 2016.   So, I checked the embassy website again, and sure enough, yes, a visa is now needed. Why?  It’s only fair:  they charge  now for whatever country  charges their ‘nationals’ for a visa, and the USA charges $161.

So, I emailed the embassy.  All the emails bounced back. So I called…and they graciously returned my call, and told me, as the website says, they could get it done in 5 days…and to Fed Ex my passport.  I asked if I could get one at the border, and they said I couldn’t.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I could picture having to get off a bus at the Zambian/Malawi border, and being asked for $100 & to fill out forms, and a bus not waiting,  and being stuck.

So, I got the application, flight info, photos, passport together and Fed Exed it.  This was on Jan.19.  It got to the Embassy on Jan. 20.  On Jan 28, I called to ask how things were going. Not well. Seems that—due to the blizzard that hit Washington, DC earlier in the week, the embassy had been closed, because the roads had not been cleared (let alone the sidewalks).  But, I was assured that  the passport would be sent out  on Friday, Jan.29.  But it wasn’t.  I checked the  Fed Ex tracking number—for the return envelope I had sent, and it was still sitting there!

Now, I’m frantic.  I can’t get on the plane without a passport.  I called my credit card company, Chase Freedom, because they insure  for ‘trip interruption ‘ when you pay on their card (my airfare).  Ah, no…they never heard of anything like this, but this wasn’t weather related as far as they were concerned. So, then I called the travel insurance company, WorldNomads.net, to see if I was covered.  No, If it is not explicitly listed  in their causes, no.  I am not covered.  I call Emirates asking about penalties for rebooking.
They tell me to call the travel agent to see about fees.  What to do?

I decided to call FEdEx and arrange a pickup at the Embassy for Monday morning. I even offered to pay overnight express.  Funny thing—they say the Embassy has already paid it on my tracking  number!  They just have not set it out!

Here’s the thing:  if your envelop is not ready to go, the Fed Ex driver will not wait.  Due to the embassy people being behind on everything, they  did not see that it was not picked up on Friday, then on Monday, they had a question about the address (I had it sent to a local receiver  due to my running around), but it finally got out Monday night.

So I have a few other questions & continue to email contacts in Malawi. What denomination bills should I get, as the exchange rate is Mkw 726.38 to  $1 USD…and do I need to bring my heavy  electric converter to recharge my cell phone.

You Can’t Miss it!

Since roads are often unmarked (but everyone knows what they are…)

Here’s an example of  directions I got for  Chishawasha Children’s Home outside Lusaka:

From Kathe Padilla: You will probably need to take a bus from the main bus station downtown out Great North road.  About 5 K out of Lusaka (going North) there is a
Police Checkpoint, where all the automobiles and trucks are checked.  A bus may or may not get checked, I am not sure.  Three K beyond that check point
on the left hand side is a large sign for the Chishawasha Children’s Home of Zambia.  It is quite a few years old by now, so it is looking old (presuming
it has not been re-painted since I was there in July of 2015).  Take that road (a dirt road named Minestone road, but there is no sign for the road) and walk
about 4 tenths of a kilometer and you will see the gate, which says Chishawasha Children’s Home and the school itself is visible from the road. FYI the school
is pink)  Go to the guard and tell them that Aunt Kathe invited you to come visit and the guard can direct you to the administration building.  You will want to
talk to Mary or Carol.
Another way of arriving at the same place is:  about 7 K from Lusaka (again on Great North Road a few K past the police checkpoint) there will be a large billboard sign on
the right side of the street for “Spinalong”.  When you see that sign look down the road (going North) toward the left side of the road and pick out the
tallest tree on the horizon.  That tree is located just at the road where you will need to stop (you should see the CCHZ sign before the bus stops).  Againwalk 4 tenths of a K and you will see the CCHZ gate.
Good luck.  It really is quite easy to find.
And….
Directions on getting to  Friendly Gecko Rest House, outside Senga Bay, in Malawi:
Public transport is pretty straight forward from Lilongwe to Salima, and you can get minibuses from the main bus station.  From Salima, you will want to take a minibus, truck, or whatever transport you find towards Senga Bay, but make sure to let them know you want to get out at the Lifuwu turn-off (parachute battalion)If you get lucky, you’ll find a truck going directly to Lifuwu.  If not, when you get to the turn-off you can hire either a bicycle taxi or a motorcycle to bring you to the village.  When you arrive, you can ask anyone where the azungu cottage is, or pay your taxi a little extra to get you to our guesthouse.
And here are directions to Malawi Children’s Village:
I asked:
I plan to  come from the north—from Mua Mission.  If you are closer to Monkey Bay, there is no reason for me to go all the way into Mangochi—especially if I  catch a matola. So—-once I get to Mua, should I take  M10 towards Malemba?”  Then, towards Mzima Bay, or south then towards Club Makolola?
Response: We are south of Monkeybay Mangochi road.  From Club Makokola we are almost 3 kilometers going south.  When you catch Matola just tell them you are dropping at MCV.  Everybody knows this place.  We are looking forward to meeting you soon.

The Big Short and Understanding Finance

December 25, 2015
My 2 flat in Rogers Park, Chicago's 49th ward.

My 2 flat in Rogers Park, Chicago’s 49th ward.

It’s Christmas Eve, 2015, and I went  to see “The Big Short.”  Although the movie was not well reviewed (Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune said that  financial markets were too complicated for the average person to understand. Hence, this movie was boring), I found it well scripted, edited, and acted.

Perhaps  it is because I, also, could see how over heated the real estate market was…and I will tell you  how.

In the mid 1980s, seeing that I would never get rich by grooming dogs, no matter how well I  managed my budget, I decided to learn about the mortgage market and selling commercial paper.  That’s right.  I learned that not just banks, but private investors bought mortgages and you really didn’t need years of college education to sell mortgages.  You just had to know the concepts of present value of future cash flow, loan to value—and the formula to  figure out what a cash flow was worth.  That was it.  Simple as that.  Yes, you need a special calculator to  figure this stuff out, but you can easily learn the formula in a few minutes.

I  learned, via audio tapes, that  brokers sliced up payment streams, and sold portions of mortgages.  You didn’t have to buy 240 payments (a 20 year mortgage), but could by payment 12, 18, 32…whatever.  How would you manage to get paid if the mortgage was sold or the mortgagee defaulted?  Ah, there was the rub.

I wondered how this could be legal.  Well, it was legal because it was not ILLEGAL, and frankly, most people who buy bundles don’t look that closely at what they are buying.  I mean, they don’t look at the value of the property the mortgage is on, trusting appraisers.  They don’t look at the credit histories of the borrowers.  The assumption was that someone was  checking out this stuff…but in reality, nobody was. It just seemed to risky for me.  The only way you could  make money was if you were  a lawyer, and even then, it was an iffy investment.

My niece learned the  mortgage business (and was a lawyer), and I called her about a mortgage because I wanted to lower my payments.  She got me a ‘no document’ mortgage, meaning I didn’t have to prove income.  At the time, I was earning under $30,000 a year, but my credit was good, and my  ‘loan to value’ on the house was very good, so it wasn’t a problem.  After a few years, I thought I could do better, and wanted to retire a line of credit which was never very transparent, and I could never get a statement  on how much principle I owed, so I , again, refinanced with a broker who got me  a mortgage based on the LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate—a rather bogus index used in the USA), which was  at 3%, but adjustable. The broker told me  the rate was very stable, and rarely fluctuated more than .25, but that turned out  not to be so, and within  six months the rate climbed from 3% to 5%, and I again refinanced.

I just love HGTV, and I loved the shows about house flipping and people house hunting.  What I was seeing, on those shows, was people were being approved for  mortgages with no or hardly any (2%?) money down, based on their incomes, not expenses, and clearly people were buying much more  home than they could afford.  But it was legal.

I was seeing this with some friends as well. I thought that this could not possibly go on.  People were trusting banks, were carrying too much debt on credit cards, and all that needed to happen was for energy prices to go up or people losing jobs for whatever reason, or becoming over extended (a good one was  investors buying a bunch of property, not keeping the property up, getting rent payments but not paying the mortgages on time because  that’s how  some people manage their finances).

This movie shows that—all of that—really well…and virtually all the practices that led up to this are still legal.   Our Chicago area schools are not really teaching finance, or compound interest, or budgeting…especially not in low-income areas…and we still have people thinking this is  just not an interesting subject.  These are the same people who don’t bother to  check out the political candidates positions online (easy enough to do, but they go for the bloviators), and don’t vote, anyways.  Then, they complain.

I had read excerpts of Michael Lewis’ book, and learned about Michael Burry (excellently portrayed by  Christian Bale).  This movie should be shown  to every highs school student.

Enough Blame to go Around

February 20, 2015

When I was a little kid , I was heavily influenced by  TV.  Especially  Donna Reed, Father Knows Best,  and Leave it to Beaver.  I knew moms stayed home and dads went to work—like my folks did, but I thought the parents on TV were nicer than my parents.   They seemed much less….frazzled.

The fact is, my mother really had too much time on her hands. She went shopping, to the beauty salon, and played mah jongg.  She only spent time with her kids when there was no other alternative.  I didn’t realize this at the time,but I do now.  My father was not engaged at all. He left for work at 4 a.m. to open up the  plant for trucks. He claimed he could not trust anyone else to do it.  I actually think he set a good example for his employees, but we  rarely saw my father when he was awake.

As my mother said, Jewish men don’t fool around, and before I was 12, I  only knew 1 kid with divorced parents. The rest were in traditional  2 parent households.

I have 3 siblings, and we  were never close (even though we are  all only 2 years apart in age—I am just  seven years older than my youngest sister).  My parents were baffled by this, but my mother was actually psychologically abusive. She either didn’t engage with  us,  or was  just  helping us with school work, or  criticizing. That’s what I remember. Rarely did she compliment or encourage.

They were horrified when I decided  not to go to college,  and horrified that I wanted to groom dogs.  I think they were relieved that my  ex-husband took an interest in me, but dismayed he wasn’t Jewish.  I think my mother is rolling in her grave now that our middle sister, Sharyn, has been married  three times (never to a Jew—& in fact, now, to a pseudo Christian with  conspiracy theories about Zionism), and we other  three never had kids—as well as  one cousin marrying Hispanic, & the other, married for over 20 years now, to a Black American.  Plus, another plus a grand cousin married to a Black guy, the irony is…they all raised their kids Jewish. So much for theories.

I wonder how she feels about her son, the excon drug addict with  a terminal degree. As my uncles  joked, my father believed in higher education.  If we all could have only acknowledge mental illness is not a moral failing, but a mystery that is difficult to deal with.

Hey, I admit it. When I was very young— just after I learned to read, I realized I suffered from depression. It was probably stress, but it was only about 10 years ago that I realized (from reading Temple Grandin) and going to Wrong Planet that I have Asperger’s Syndrome.   Yes, friends. That is why I am so wierd.  But I’ve managed to stay off the dole and make a living—not be a burden to society.

I am writing about this now because my niece has announced the date of my grand niece’s Quinceanera.  No ‘Sweet Sixteen’ for  us (we sisters never had this—to my mother’s real disappointment…nor were there Bat or Bar Mitzvahs).  My guy reaction was of bemused irony.  We’re Jewish….but ah, no, Sharyn did not raise Lauren as a Jew.  I think she married Lutheran, and her husband is part Hispanic, and they live in a very mixed Hispanic community.  &  no matter what you say, Lauren, my niece, has learned from all her  mother’s and aunts and uncles bad examples and done ok for herself, more than OK.

So….all us siblings are invited, and Scott & I are not speaking, and Randi and Sharyn are not speaking ans Sharyn and her daughter, Laruen, the  Quinceanera’s mother,are not speaking..  I just assume we can all get along and not make a scene for a party.   This should be interesting…..

####

So here’s how this all  went down:

The Quinciniera was held at a banquet hall, and my niece arranged a lovely affair.  As i explained to my Japanese roommate, ,a coming-of-age ceremony is a big deal in  lots of cultures.  This is  supposed to be a statement that the honoree is now an adult (though of course, she is not. When you start paying your own living expenses, you are an adult), but it is also an opportunity to throw a big party for your friends and family.  This was an ostentatious display of wealth:  the room, the meal, the open bar, the M & M’s custom designed (and cookies as well),  a slide show of <aya’s life to that poijnt tt went on  a bit too long…. photographer, MC… everything.

Lauren had  requested  we dress in black & white, and  although I had gotten a lovely outfit (because I had misinterpreted the  instructions as  black tie formal),  I found a black skirt and a white shirt, and everyone complied. Only Maya, the Quinceanera, was dressed in a lovely turquoise ball style gown.  Her court  was  four boys in  sharp suits, and the girls were in white satin dresses.

I was told my brother never  RSVP’d, but he showed up there anyways.    He didn’t talk to me.  My sisters were cordial to each other and were able to maintain small talk. My father and step mother  flew in from Florida, and  that night a storm started and they could not get back to Florida for  3 days.  We were at a table with my nephew and his girlfriend, who left  even before dinner, ans  Lauren’s cousins on her father'[s side of the family.  This  was why the event was  so large:  Lauren’s father, Bill was 1 of  five brothers, and they all had kids.   Her husband also has quite a few cousins.

The notable absense, I think, was the  stepsister her fathe had ‘sired’ befor he and Lauren got married.  Sh had become part of the family and was suddenly gone.  Whatever.

 

True story: family mishegas

February 15, 2012

My father has always been difficult.   I now realize he had Asperger’s Syndrome, but no matter.  he has alienated friends & family members, & what follows are  2examples of the reasons why.

I had called my sister  on the phone to  tell her I was doing my taxes, and I had gotten a 1099, forwarded to me by my father, for  dividends on a life insurance policy he had taken out for me, on me,   in 1972.  About 3 year ago, I called State Farm,the issuer, to find out what the policy was worth, and they told me it was $13,000 and some change.  Now, because I am looking to pay down my mortgage,  I called again, and they told me the cash value is $8200.  It has fallen in value.  How does that happen?  State Farm is not  transparent about its investments.  My father paid in to the policy until the  dividends paid the premiums, and that started so long ago, he really doesn’t remember what the premiums were. Worse, he claims he paid $7000  cash for the policy  in 1972.  If he had just put $25 a month into some bank account, even with no interest, the  account (with the $7000) would now be worth $19,000. Yet I am the bad one for not adding to the policy (a policy I probably signed, but did not have a copy of), and for wanting to cash it in—& for calling his insurance agent dishonest.

My sister has a better story of aggravation with my father.

Let no good deed go unpunished.  Remember, comedy is tragedy plus time….

As she told me:

My dad and step-mother are in Florida until end of March. They go for 3 months each year.   My step mother insists, and she may even  pay for the trip.
My dad owns a small chemical cleaning company. He sells soaps and cleaners to businesses.  He had me go to his house every other week to take his car out to drive it so it moves while he’s away. I take it to the post office. Go to his lock box and grab his business mail and deposit any checks he gets. All should take about 30 minutes of actual time. From start to finish about an hour from my house.   I do not have a key to the house. I just go into the garage.  The reason for this is….my step-mother does not want her stepchildren going into the house.  No other reason.    This is an important part of this story.
So yesterday was my day to do it. I also needed to go to the grocery store and few other errands. It’s almost 11am.
Now to add to the story, my parents have a neighbor who lives one door down. She has MS. She sold her house  and is waiting for her new apartment to be completed which it should be in an about a month.  She is staying in my father’s townhouse until her place is ready.
Two weeks ago my dad tells me I need to go to his house and go down stairs to his office to send him some business checks. Normally I never go inside the house when I visit. There is a key pad on the garage door so I usually just go in through the garage, take his car, close the garage door and do my thing. However, they have left the inside door to the house unlocked if I ever do need to get in and in this case, I needed to for my dad.
I go in, go downstairs to get the checks and call my dad. I’m on the phone with him and he tells me at that time that Seri, the lady with MS is going to be moving into the house. I then hear someone upstairs and it’s her daughter, Andi,  who is just beginning to bring things to the house. I finish with my dad and speak to this adult daughter, Andi. I introduce myself and let her know what I do regarding my visits. Advising her  I do not have a key to the actual house and normally I do not have to go inside. This was an unusual exception for me having to come inside to get these business checks. She tells me her mom would probably feel better if she could lock the garage door leading into the house and I told her that was fine and for any reason I need to get back inside, I would call Andi and we would arrange a time for me to come to the door for her mom to let me in, if I needed to get back downstairs to my dad’s office. Okay… following me so far?
Also the daughter, Andi,  asked me if I had a spare garage door clicker. I told her I only had the one in my dad’s car and gave it to her for her mom to have her mom’s car’s remote set up so that the clicker in her mom’s car would get set to the house code so her mom, with MS , didn’t have to get out of the car to open the garage door. This makes sense to me. Oh, if it had only been that simple.
I went to my dad’s last week and used the key pad on the outside of the garage door to open it and it did open with my code, but Seri, the lady staying at the house had not returned the garage door clicker to my dad’s car. Okay, a bit annoyed, I pulled Dad’s car out, got out of the car and manually closed the garage door on the key pad. I had also rung the door bell to the house since Seri’s car was in the garage, but I got no answer.
I did my thing, ran the post office and bank errands and returned the car to my dad’s. Again opening and closing the garage with the key pad that is attached to the outside of the garage door.
So, if you’re still with me, I begin my day yesterday. It was sunny and I knew the snow was coming so I decided to do a quick run to my Dad’s to take care of the mail.
I get  to the house and I see 2 days of newspapers on the driveway. I grab them and go to the front door and I see another newspaper. What the hell is going on? These are  Seri’s newspapers and here my parents are not home and now it shows everyone no one is picking up the newspapers. I ring the door bell and get no answer. My day is just beginning.
I go to the outside garage key pad, put in the code and nothing happens.  I try it again. No luck. Great!! I get back into my car, which is not parked in the driveway, but across the street in the visitors parking space. I call my Dad in Florida. He tells me Seri fell, broker her hip earlier in the week and is in the hospital. Great. I tell him I can’t get into the garage. Remember, I do not have a key to the house. He tells me to call the daughter, Andi. He has no idea why the garage door won’t go up. I hear my step-mother in the background asking why am I trying to get into the house. I have NO business going into the house!!! Remember:  she is very aware that Seri is NOT in the house at the moment, but yelling at my father that I am NOT to go into the house. He only briefly yells back at her that I need to get in since the keypad is not working. It’s at this point, I really should refer to her as the wicked queen. Hansel and Gretel have no idea how good they had it.
I call the daughter, Andi and she tells me when they found her mom, they just grabbed her and went to the hospital and she says she believes they left the key to the house in the house. I tell her I will call my step sister, Laurie, to see if she had a key to the house. I don’t have her phone number as she just moved, but is in the  same  town as my parents.
Andi also said if Laurie has a key, I have her permission to go into the house. I would not just walk in without her or her mom’s okay, as they were given the house by my Dad and  Iwould not presume to just walk in, as I had stated earlier when I first met her. I call my Dad.
Here where Ripley’s Believe it or Not begins. I call my Dad. He is standing right next to my step mother. She is on her phone talking to my step-sister, Laurie. I need Laurie’s phone number.  Dad is trying to look it up and can not find it. I tell him I can hear my step-mother in the background talking to Laurie, just ask her for it. My father yells at me he can NOT Interrupt them. WHY NOT??? He says he just can’t.  I tell him, if I can’t get to her, I can’t get to his car and in his car is the bank key to his PO box and the deposit slips to the bank. It’s his business and he needs to do something to get this resolved. He finds a phone number for Laurie, who you and I know is being spoken to by my step-mother right then on the phone. Laurie is at work and I need to leave her a phone message to call me TONIGHT to resolve this. Really?? He messes up the middle 3 digits of the phone number and I try calling a few versions of it. 2 don’t go through and one is a baby talking. Okay, I huff and call my dad again. Dad is getting pissed, my step-mother is still on the phone with Laurie and I’m sitting there thinking, let’s all say it together, WTF! I tell him about the baby voice and he says yes, it’s the right number:   Laurie’s youngest, who is now like 9 or 10 years old, I think, recorded that 9 or 10 years ago. OMG!! So I hang up and leave a message for Laurie to call me. Oh and my father reminded me to leave a nice message and not be mean to her. Really? Why would I be mean to my step-sister? I have no grudge with her. So I leave the message and I am about to pull out of my parking space to leave but I see a car NOW is in my parents drive way!
Are you still with me? I re-park my car, get out and it’s my step sister, Laurie still on the phone with my step-mother Biv.  Really. My step-mother could not tell my father that Laurie just happened to be around the corner from the house and was on her way there right now and for me to wait.  Really?
Okay, taking a breath. I walk over to Laurie who is out of the car and is trying the code. Again, no results. She hangs up with my step-mother and we talk. She thinks she has a key at her house, near by. We get in her van and drive over there. I tell her on the way there about not having a key and Andi saying if Laurie has one we have her ok to go into the house. Laurie then tells me “oh, that is not what my mom told me! She said you wanted to walk in, that is what your Dad told her”.   One: my step-mother never talked to me and TWO they both know I don’t have a key to their house because that is what my step-mother wanted. Crazy!!
We get to her house, she finds a key, we drive back and get in my dad’s  house. We open the garage door by the button inside the garage. We go to the outside key pad and we still can’t get it to work. Laurie walks back in the house to find a screw driver thinking the battery to the key pad is dead. She then calls Andi and begins a long conversation with her and I’m stuck there because Laurie is parked in the middle of the drive way and I can’t get my dad’s car out to run the errands. But wait… it gets better.
She finishes the call, unscrews the key pad,  and promptly looses the mini screw holding the bottom half of the keypad. Pad still on the wall, and thankfully,  the bottom with the battery pops off and can be re-snapped back on. Okay I say, I’ll get a new battery. We’re about to leave and Laurie says she has to use the bathroom. I’m in the garage again because I can’t leave until she does and she then comes out and asks if there is a toilet plunger in the garage!!! LMAO NOW, not then. Are you with me? I’m thinking, Really??
We go back into the house and I use the plunger on the toilet, she flushes and you guessed it, it overflows!!! Of course it does! She grabs towels (my stepmohther’s fancy guest towels. I ask her if she know if there is a paper cup I might be able to take some of the water out of the toilet so I can plunge it again and she goes and gets me a coffee mug!! OMG, I’m thinking, really?
Okay, it’s her mom’s house, not mine. I use the mug to get the water out. It’s a slow task. We flush and it over flows again. It’s not the first time today, I’m beginning to question if someone has it out to get me today. We clean it up again.  All now all is flushing fine. She takes the towels and begins the washing machine. She tells me I can when I get back, put the towels in the dryer. I again remind her I don’t have a key to the house. She says she will come back after work which she had left when her mom called. Okay. I empty the dish washer which was locked and put the mug in it per Laurie’s instructions. Let this be a warning to everyone to avoid coffee mugs at my step-mother’s house.
Okay, she locks up and then it occurs to me, does the garage door clicker that the woman finally re-placed back into my Dad’s car work? And the answer is – – NO!! Of course not.  Hmmm, the key pad doesn’t work and now his clicker doesn’t work. Great. Laurie and I decide, I will put my car in the garage and I’ll run get batteries, to the post office, bank and back. She locks the inside  door leading into the house and the front door and she’ll return later and will re-close the garage door from the inside and use her key to re-lock the door when she leaves. Okay …we have a plan.
Not so fast my friends. I go to Walmart and they don’t have the A23 or the V12 mini batteries. I go to Walgreens and they have the garage door clicker battery, A23. I purchase one. Go back into the car and before I open the new battery, it looks like maybe the clicker should have 2 batteries in it? Did Seri take one? I don’t know, but I walk back into Walgreens. Return the 1 battery and purchase the 2 pack battery pack. Back to the car and no, it does only need one. Okay we have an extra. I don’t care. I run to the post office, no checks to deposit. I go back to Dad’s. I click the garage door click with it’s new battery and guess what? It doesn’t close. Okay so it’s not the battery. It could be the door itself, but I’m thinking  Seri… when she took the clicker to the dealer somehow the code got changed. Not sure how that could possibly happen, but honestly, It’s 2pm and I really just don’t care anymore. I didn’t find a V12 battery, so I put it back inside the outside garage key pad. Click the bottom in place, as you recall Laurie accidentally lost the screw and I call Laurie to let her know Dad’s car is in the garage. I have taken the car key, the bank key, the deposit slips and I won’t be running the car anymore until he gets home at the end of March. I’m done. She said she’ll look to see if she finds a V12 battery.
I then leave the scene of the crime, realizing I must go grocery shoping and it’s 3pm before I get home.
I sigh in relief after my story is done, but the punch line doesn’t come to this story until later that night. My dad calls me and says, are you ready for it?….. He says, “Okay, I need to tell you where the hidden key to the house is.”  Honestly?? Really? OMG! Welcome to my life.

&  it’s stuff like this—-all the time…

How Hard Could it be?

September 11, 2009

I started grooming dogs as a teenager, but in Chicago, it’s always been seasonal.  Everyone is crazy/busy right after the  end of Daylight Savings Time or  Easter.  It stays busy through almost the end of June, and then it slows & stays slow until about Thanksgiving.  Because of the Jewish Holiday of Hanuka, it may stay busy through Christmas, but then it is dead until the time change again.

I have worked at a few upscale shops that have remained somewhat busy, but if it rains or snows,  & the weather stays bad for a few days, we no longer have a waiting list.

So, I started modeling for artists & photographers during the slow times.  I worked mostly for  colleges & universities.  I also worked for ‘workshops’:  that is a bunch of artists getting together in a studio—no teacher—& splitting the cost of the model.

It doesn’t take much.  They usually want ‘gestures’ (10 seconds to 3 minutes) & then go into the ‘long pose’, with breaks every 20 minutes.    I made as much money modeling as I did grooming.  However, there are no benefits.  Most models are students, actors, dancers, or other artists.

I did that for years, but got tired of it.  I continued to groom dogs. Even after I got my master’s degree, most jobs I got were contract jobs, or  with nonprofits that wouldn’t pay a decent wage, but could find a  bunch of ways to lose money.  That was frustrating.

I got a job with a company that offered overnight pet sitting, in addition to dog walking.  It is a very well run business.  It is “All Good Dogs,” in Evanston, Illinois.  The owners, Dave & Ramie Gulyas, have managed  to  work 3 ‘microbusinesses’ together to make a living. They have  All Good Dogs, Mutt Maids (pet waste removal—this is the north shore, after all),  & The Hungry Pup pet boutique, which sells dog & cat food, collars, toys, etc.

Because I have a roommate who will  take care of my dogs, I can stay other places over night.  Usually, it’s a no-brainer if you know how to communicate with animals & FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS.

That’s why I have to give Dave his props.  He has a good instruction sheet that tells you where the  client is, who the pets are, where everything is (collars, leashes, food, pills), and what you have to do.

People who choose to walk dogs for a living are  an odd bunch: self-employed, retired, or…not suited for other kinds of work—& not always reliable.  Still, Dave’s crew is regular.  Sometimes it’s not so easy.  Like, when he give you 3 keys for 1 house…but there are 2 locks, & 1 turns left, the other, right—but you have to try all the combinations of keys.

You work every holiday.  That’s when people need pet sitters & dog walkers the most…like last Christmas when it rained, froze, and then rained on the slick pavement.  Most dogs won’t eliminate in the rain.  Try walking 2 or 3 at a time in those conditions. That’s challenging.

Or…my  very favorite…the houses with alarms.  You  might wonder why anyone would need an alarm if they have a dog, right?  It’s for 2 reasons:  the dog is not a deterrent, & in our areas, everyone’s working—nobo9dy would notice anyone breaking into your house.

So…on the instruction sheet—& Dave will review this with a walker when he gives the walker the client—-there is the alarm code,  and directions on how to get to the alarm IN 30 SECONDS and turn it off.   How hard can it be?

Well, usually, I am able to find the alarm right away, punch in the code, it goes off, & we —the dog(s) & I go for a walk.  But the odds of things not going as planned are very high…& this is an incident I will never forget.

I am instructed to go to the clients’ back door, and I am told the alarm is in the stairwell just off the kitchen.  I get in, manage to find the stairwell, almost tripping over the dog, a little Poodly thing, punch in the code (meanwhile, the alarm is warning me I’d better do it soon), and….it starts beeping rapidly & then goes off!  SCREECHING!!!!!!

Shit. I try punching in the code again…it’s still screeching.    Ear piercing nails on the chalkboard, high decibal…I try calling Dave on his cell. He’s not answering.  It’s Saturday night, & he’s ill, at home.  The dog is plastered against the back door. The alarm is hurting her ears.  I call the client on his cell.  No answer. The client’s wife on her cell. No answer. Then, the phone rings.  We are not supposed to answer a client’s phone, but I have a feeling it is the alarm company.  It is. The  rep tells me to move away from the alarm, asks me who I am, & I tell her I am the dog walker, I tell her the code I have punched in, and she tells me it’s the right code.  She doesn’t know what is wrong (in case you don’t know it, clients get charge for false alarms). She tells me it will go off.  I tell her I still have to walk the dog.  She tells me it will come on again when I come back in.  I tell her I have left messages for the client, but they have not responded to my cell phone.  Oh, well.

I walk the dog, return the dog, the alarm starts SCREECHING!!!! again & I continue on to  my next client…& on the way, my cell phone rings. It’s Mr. AlarmClient…and he tells me, “Yeah, some times that happens if you don’t punch the numbers hard enough. Can you go back & I’ll walk you through it?”

“Uh…I am on my way to my next client.  I’ll have to call you back,” I tell him.

Then, Mrs.Alarm calls me, “You must have done something wrong…”   duh I tell her I have  talked to her husband, but I am on my way to my next client.

At the home of my next client, I call Ramie’s cell phone, & she answers.  I tell her  I punched in the alarm and…  She interrupts me:  “Those people. This isn’t the first time this has happened to a walker!  They need to get a new alarm pad!  Just turn your cell phone off.”

Of course, if they had told me this might happen, I would have asked to trade with another walker…or something.

Lots of my friends want to be dog walkers until they find ‘real jobs’,  I don’t  refer them …even though  the company is usually in need of walkers. Why don’t I refer them?

For one thing, you need a reliable car, and most people I know don’t have reliable cars.  You also have to be reliable yourself. These are peoples pets.  Just like modeling—if YOU don’t show up,  you’ve  sabotaged the business (as well as  leaving a pet in distress).  I know few people as reliable as myself.  How hard could it be?  If you’ve never been accountable, it can be really hard.