June 15, 2016When I talked to my sister Kittie this week, she commented that I hadn't made a blog entry since March. Part of the reason is there wasn't much happening. Part of it was my lack of motivation to write.
I went to the auditions for "Billy Elliot," sang and danced and did not get cast. I wasn't miffed, as acting is not my forte. I tried out in the first place because, in my experience, casting adequate males, especially in a musical, can be difficult. I was offering myself up in case they needed male bodies on stage.
|Natalie and Uncle Pete at|
Cameron Park Farmer's Market
The Dyson is amazing; about the size and weight of a can of coffee but with the suction of a full-sized vacuum and motorized heads for bare floors, carpet and one just for stairs. I actually use the thing quite a lot. The only downside is that it only holds a charge for 15-20 minutes, then it needs at least three hours to fully recharge. But doing the floors, or the stairs, or the upholstery each takes well under 10 minutes, and I have the canister (with the bags) as a backup.
|The family gathers for Natalie's sixth birthday|
I've been trolling the want ads and Craig's List, looking for a part-time job and a table for the kitchen. One job advertised (image prep for a yearbook publisher) was through Manpower, so that meant going down and filling out lots of paperwork, watching a half-hour video on what chemicals you shouldn't drink and how to pick up boxes.
|Me, Steve, Pam at free|
summer concert in the park
Just this week there was an ad on Craig's List for a part-time office assistant in an "arts association." I e-mailed a cover letter and resume Friday of last week, so if I hear anything, it should be in the next week or so. And I'm still looking for that table.
I vowed that I would keep all aspects of the presidential election out of these pages. It's so bizarre that it really deserves its own blog, and there are millions of people on Facebook and Twitter putting in their two cents, and I just can't compete with the information and entertainment value there.
But I just had to share this:
August 30-September 11, 2016I started a post back in June and forgot about it. I just returned from the family reunion in California and I've promised everyone a blog post, so here goes.
To pick things up in July, the weather has been much muggier and hotter than last summer, even the locals have said so.
Back in June things got warm enough that I stopped using the furnace. A day or two before that, I had turned it on and heard a grinding noise. There was a good six weeks before things heated up enough to think about using air conditioning, so I didn't worry about getting the system fixed.
The first weekend when it was going to hit the 90s (and humid), I thought I'd better get someone out here to look at the furnace and let me know if the AC would work on its own. The folks at Bagniefski HVAC sent over the same guy who replaced the dehumidifier pump last summer.
|This year's PRiDE poster|
Also in June, I gave up finding chairs for the living room anywhere locally and went online to find something I liked that was affordable. I did find the chairs I wanted that were the right scale for the room. They arrived, and I had a fun week figuring out how to put them together, since they arrived without instructions.
In early July, I got a reply from the part-time administrative assistant position. The art association turned out to be the Pump House, our regional art center here in La Crosse. I had a phone interview with Toni, the director of the center. I think it went pretty well. She said they were still receiving applications and I would be contacted, whether I was picked for a second interview or not.
|This year's drag poster|
The same day of seeing the doctor, I drove out to Ettrick and Steve, Pam, Emily and I drove up the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi, stopping along the way for some lunch. We got to Red Wing, which used to have a pottery outlet which included a Fiestaware store with all their current products available.
When we got there, the outlet was closed, along with the Fiestaware store. We had to make due with a quick look inside the local theater (beautiful architecture) and heading back home. I'm sure I could just jump online and order the dishes in a couple minutes, but the drive north was a lot more fun.
My birthday is in July (the 29th), and Pam, Steve and family gave me a surprise party by showing up at my house on the Sunday before. Steve and Pam had given me the birthday present of a table and chairs for outside, and this time they showed up with a small gas grille, brats to grill, and a chocolate ice cream cake that was unbelievably rich (there's still some in the freezer).
|Kitchen table closed|
Also on the agenda was putting together posters for La Crosse PRiDE and the annual "So You Think You Can Drag" fundraiser. (Most Pride celebrations happen in June, but for some reason the Center holds theirs in September.)
I did some preliminary designs for the posters and started putting the newsletter together once Alli got the copy and pix to me. All of this had to be out of my hair by mid-August so I would be unencumbered when I left for California and the family reunion, being held in Oceano this time.
|Kitchen table open|
On the week I was leaving for the family reunion, I sent an e-mail to Toni at the Pump House, letting her know that I would be out of town for a while (and hoping to get some kind of update about the job opening there). She e-mailed back, asking if I could come in for an interview that Friday. I said I would be on the road somewhere between San Francisco and Pismo Beach on Friday, but I would be happy to interview anytime after my Aug. 25 return.
|Mechanic inspects plane|
The plane arrived and was in the process of boarding when the airline announced that they had found mechanical problems; they were waiting for a mechanic to show up and check it out. So we waited. And waited. Finally, we were asked to go down to the check-in counter to reschedule our flights, since they had canceled this one. So 42 people (the flight was full) headed down and queued up for the unhappy process of rearranging their flights.
|Sunset from the deck at our vacation house|
As I approached the counter, the woman there had big, flustered eyes. I had been thinking about how to resolve my problem. It became quickly clear to me that I wasn't going to make it out in time to visit in San Francisco, so I was thinking of flying straight into San Luis Obispo airport, but that meant adding a third leg to my flight, and I didn't want to spend any more money. She looked up from her computer terminal, ready for another round of fending off customer outrage. Our eyes met. I smiled.
I leaned in and said, quietly, "I think you're doing a fabulous job," and her face relaxed and she smiled. "OK," I continued, "Here's what I think will work for me," and put forth my plan to fly out of La Crosse on Friday (two days hence) and connect with a flight into San Luis Obispo.
Having someone be pleasant about the situation (after all, it wasn't her fault), she dug down into the reservation system and put together a flight that would work for me, even though it meant getting to the airport at 5:30 a.m. No charge for the extra leg, and she threw in three meal vouchers to boot. She went back and got my bag, smiled and thanked me. I'm hoping I helped make her day a little more tolerable, perhaps providing an example of how to deal with adversity in corporate America.
|Jessie and Mark in Oceano|
Also, Toni had e-mailed, asking for an interview with me the next day. I answered back, saying that, indeed, I would be able to make a 5:30 p.m. interview Thursday. We had a really good interview, she showed me around the facility, and I left feeling pretty good about it. The only thing that threw me was when we were going upstairs to the small theater space and she asked, "Are you OK with stairs?" like maybe I needed a walker. After nearly an hour and a half, I felt like I'd made a good impression.
And so onto my flight out West on Friday. I got into San Luis Obispo around 3:30, picked up my rental car and went to find the house we were sharing in Oceano. Now, Oceano is the only beach in California that allows motorized vehicles, It is a haven for RVs and ATV enthusiasts, and the various vehicles were lined up several blocks long when I arrived, blocking my access to the street our house was on. With a little help from Google maps, I found a back way into the warren of vacation rentals in which our house was situated and found the place.
|Dolphin statue in Morro Bay|
Around 10:30 I headed back to SLO airport to pick up Steve, Pam, Amanda, Emily and Natalie and their bags. Kittie and David met me there, and we all headed back to Oceano. Back in the house, Amanda and Natalie, Emily and I were staying in the "kid's room." Jim and Carla were in the downstairs bedroom, Steve and Pam were in the master bedroom and Chance was staying in the garage.
Saturday was a hang-out-together day, punctuated only by a trip back to the airport so Steve could pick up a rental car (the agencies close at 10 p.m., so they couldn't pick one up when they arrived), coordinating plans on who was doing what the rest of the week. Also, my friend Jessie had come up to visit, and we spent most of the day together, mostly hanging at the house.
Jessie had gone on Air bnb and found a tipi for her accommodations. It took me a while to find the place, but it was a real throwback to the '60s, very much a hippie kind of place. The proprietors lived on several acres with other members of their family, and the owner had built the various accommodations himself. Being an artist (ceramics his specialty), he had created a spiral staircase out of old gears and tools, and the rooms made of found objects and old patchworked building materials. It was all wonderfully creative and quaint.
|Steve at the Meadow Park|
Sunday was, indeed, the family reunion picnic. Jim, Carla and Chance did not attend, but the rest of us headed to San Luis Obispo for the get together. Brother David and his family were meeting us at 1 p.m. at Meadow Park in SLO, and it was sort of pot luck.
|Dave, Jaden and Steve|
Around 2 o'clock, Dave, Alain, their daughter Kittie and youngest Jaden arrived with a load of really good food, most of which was vegetarian, thankfully. Really good pasta salad. Dynamite deviled eggs. The rest of the afternoon was visiting and catching up. I was walking from the barbecue area to the bathrooms and a thought washed over me and I smiled: Mom was very happy we'd all gotten together.
|From left: Pam, Kittie, Thomas & girlfriend (rear),|
Jaden & Kittie McD (front), Alain and David (rear) and Natalie
On Wednesday there were two excursions: the women went to Santa Barbara for the day and I headed up to Monterey to meet up with Kathy, since I hadn't been able to visit her due to the travel plans snafu. I arrived around noon and we met at the aquarium. There was a mix up in that she arrived earlier and bought me a ticket. I bought my own ticket before I knew, so she got a refund.
|Steinbeck statue at Cannery Row|
There were lots of jellies! and there was a circular tank with a current with schooling fish (mackerels) and a million-gallon deep sea tank with huge sharks and tuna swimming to and from, disappearing into the distance.
The final stop was at the otter tank, trying to get some photos of the little guys just before their feeding time. They were romping around in anticipation of their meal, and it was almost impossible to get one in focus and not moving.
I got back to Oceano around 7 that evening. I had to pack and be ready, since I had to get to the SLO airport before dawn to make my flight back. SLO to Phoenix, several hours of layover, Phoenix to O'Hare airport, several hours of layover, Chicago to La Crosse, getting in around 10 p.m.
|Lots of jellies|
|Otters and fish|
Pam knew I was interested in getting a mature kitten in hopes of having a playmate for Patty. In July, I had tried to bring in a full-grown cat but Patty fled from her and she, in turn, cornered and attacked Patty. It was obvious to me that neither one wanted to share the house with the other. That lasted only one day and I returned her to the rescue couple who were trying to find her a permanent home.
|Deep sea tank|
Gracie made herself right at home, and Patty hissed at her the first time they encountered one another. Patty reacted to Gracie's presence as she reacts to most new things: by hiding under the bed upstairs. In the meantime, Gracie found every lost ball and cat toy in the house (most of them under the couch, which she was small enough to crawl under).
|Gracie and Mark|
And Patty became very aloof towards me, keeping to herself and not sitting with me. Every time she entered a room, she would scope it out, searching the nooks and crannies for where Gracie might be hiding. Meanwhile, Gracie had taken to climbing into the compartments of the entertainment center/TV stand, snuggling up to the warm cable box and unplugging various connections. It got a little irritating, having to pull out the whole setup and search every cable until I found what was unplugged and discovering where it should go.
On the Tuesday after Gracie arrived, I got an e-mail from Toni letting me know that they had offered the position to someone else. That was a letdown, to be sure, but after a little grousing, I replied, thanking her for considering me and saying I'd be interested in doing volunteer work, particularly related to the theater. She replied that Ryan had been running the theater space pretty much on his own, and that he would probably be interested in having me share some of the running duties (lights and sound) for the various productions they have come through the theater.
|Riverside Park, the Mississippi at sunet|
Now on to another travail: a few days before I left for California, the dryer decided to stop heating, so I called a guy, recommended, who does appliance repair. He showed up and took a day to find out what was going on. He did tell me that the machine was "amazingly clean," and that I shouldn't need to replace it for a long time.
He came back the next day with someone who "really knew about Maytags" and the two of them figured out the problem was "a part that never breaks" but it did. Phil (of Phil's appliance repair) found a replacement part and finished the repair that afternoon. It's so nice to have it back. It's also good to know, according to Phil, that "you're gonna have these machines forever." Now the water heater's the only appliance left to need replacing anytime soon.
|Final concert of the summer|
I thought about that and came to the realization that Patty didn't want to have a cat friend. She was plenty happy being the only cat in the house, and keeping Gracie around was only alienating her. So last Friday, I popped Gracie back into the carrier and returned her to Ettrick, where she was warmly welcomed by humans and dogs. The two cats already in residence are rather indifferent to her. Most important, Natalie loves playing with Gracie when she visits, and she's in Ettrick far more often than she's here visiting me, so she was happy to see Gracie's return.
When I came home that evening after returning Gracie, Patty had figured out that I had removed the interloper from the house, and she was affectionate and loving, though I had caught her once or twice checking in the corners, just to make sure there's no one there.
The day before Gracie's return, Steve, Pam and I went out to dinner at (ironically) Gracie's, a greek place near UW-L. Pasted in the front door were the two posters that I'd done for PRiDE and So You Think You Can Drag?! I pointed them out and I think Steve and Pam genuinely liked the work.
|Mississippi River (left), Black River (center), La Crosse River (right)|
So that just about catches us up. The warm and humid days are starting to give way to cooler days and much cooler nights. I have caught one or two trees in town starting to turn to autumn colors, so we're counting weeks until things start to change. I'm feeling good that I replaced the furnace and I'm looking forward to seeing some savings on the heating bills this winter.
|Heron statue, Pam and Steve|
And I'm trolling the newspaper, Craig's list and other venues for part-time work again. I want to try and find something meaningful, and not just a job to fill some hours and make a little money. The Pump House gig would have filled the bill, but it obviously was not to be. Perhaps getting involved in running shows for them will create that connection that will find me meaningful employment.
And hopefully, there will be more posts here on a more frequent basis. It certainly would be better than taking several days' work processing all these photos and writing this never-ending narrative in lieu of more punctual posts.