Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 29, Pt. 2: THIS SUCKS!

The worst part about moving is always the last little bit. By this time you've boxed all the easy stuff and everything is consists of odds and ends and irregular items that just are a huge fucking annoyance.

That's where we are. Movers arrive in exactly 8 hours and 30 minutes. We're not 100 percent ready, but we're far enough along that we'll be able to fake it. Tomorrow morning we'll be pitching shit in trash bags and calling them ready to go.

Then we drive a ton of miles for the next three days.

So. Last big decision of the day is whether or not to shower before bed. I'm thinking yes.

Next stop: Terre Haute. Fayetteville has been great, we've had a good run. We got married in this state, I went back to school and got my degree, and M found the job that led to this big move.

She's earned this, and I'm excited about what lies ahead for me and getting my career a fresh start.

But that's next week. This week is the move. And it sucks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 29: The Crunch

We spent the weekend packing boxes and setting up for the load-in tomorrow, although I get the truck today.

It kind of sucks. Moving just isn't much fun. If I had the money I'd pay someone to do all the real work. Instead there's just us, and something like this can easily cause nerves to fray. I've certainly been less than fun the past few days.

To make things even more spicy, we'll be driving into the teeth of Hurricane Sandy. Our route is northerly so I think the worst thing we'll deal with is rain. And, I'm hopeful that by the time we close in on Boston the winds will have abated substantially.

But it's a wrinkle.

I had hoped that we might have time for a final Friday or Saturday night on Dickson, but it just wasn't to be. We've got ruggedly long days slated for tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday will be a little less of a bite because by then we'll be there and can move at whatever pace we need. But M starts her new job in one week, and right now we're sitting 1,500 miles away with exactly zero loaded.

Which reminds me: I have to pick up a truck in 20 minutes. Gotta go!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 26: Pet Projects

D asks about the logistics of moving with dogs.

Well, we've only moved cross-town with dogs before, so this is obviously different. We're talking about a three-day trek this time.

Moose and Piper are veteran travelers, having made six-hour roadtrips before. The Penguin has never been in a vehicle that long. We're not sure how he will roll. To be on the safe side, we purchased some "natural herbal calming spray" that may or may not keep him chill on the trip. Guess we'll find out.

A friend moved 3,000+ miles and had her cats shipped; it was a nightmare. And we've heard stories about dogs being flown to destinations and become sick or dying.

Of course, there's also Mitt Romney's idea of strapping Seamus to the roof.  Yeah, we're not doing that.

On our smaller trips, we've been able to do a stop about halfway that was easy... the dogs are used to being snoozy for a long stretch so the car hasn't been disagreeable. For this trip, I think four hours at a time is going to be about the max. On day one that should be a good rule... presuming you can get about 225-250 miles in easily in four-hour stretches, that will be ideal. We'll be covering about 530 miles on day one, so it should work.

Day 2 is going to be a bear. We're pushing for 800 miles. That's going to be a 14- or 15-hour day. I'm hoping we are on the road before 6 a.m.

Day 3 will be much simpler; although, once we reach our destination, then we get to unload a truck with all our stuff in it.

We plan to split the dogs; mellow Moose and Penn with M; Piper with me. We'll see how that works out. Moose is generally calm so he's not as much of a worry. We'll also probably reduce their food a little to keep their stomachs less risky.

Because we're driving with a giant moving truck, Interstate rest stops are crucial. There's enough room to pull off the roads safely and give them some stretching time.

Generally, it's a cluster, but, a low-grade cluster theoretically.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 25: Loose Ends

If we had to move tomorrow, we could get it done. We're that close to having everything ready to go. So that's good.

But we still have to tie up some loose ends. One of those, for me, was getting a decent plate of Tex-Mex. Fayetteville's improved in a huge way from what it was years ago; the food here is almost Texas-quality.

I fear that New England is not going to have a lot of quality Mexican choices for me.

I finalized our route last night, adding a little distance on the brutal Day 2 schedule to get a better hotel situation. It will also make the last leg "home" a little easier.

Of course, Hurricane FrankenSandy is now looming. Really don't want to deal with that mess. Hope it blows through before we have to cope with it.

All the utilities are lined up, although in calling yesterday, I almost needed a damn decoder ring to handle the thick accents. Charming, but... help a brother out. Wonder how much of that I will pick up?

I looked at a map of Boston and found the bridge I got lost on that had the amazing view of the city during the recon mission. It's a bridge over Massachusetts Avenue. Can't wait to go back when I can enjoy it a little.

Slowly disconnecting electronics, and making sure to record the correct hookups for when we get up there. I'm hoping to have a peaceful Sunday afternoon of football on Nov. 4. Just some chill-time with the Mrs. and the hounds in our new digs.

I hit the wall earlier today... got a little overwhelmed, and wore out from lugging boxes. We're ahead of schedule so there's no need to push. So I backed off of it and got lunch, and that has helped. Tonight I have my last board meeting at the nonprofit I've worked with the last 18 months; that's been a great experience and I will miss those people, especially A.

After that? Homestretch. Let's do this.

Day 24: Details

Six days til takeoff...

The house is in a state of boxness. Taking a minimalist approach the past few years is paying off; we have a lot less crap that needs to be managed. Most of the memento-type items are already boxed and stored. To date, this has been the easiest move set-up ever. And unfortunately, I've got plenty of moves in my background.

We start loading the truck Monday morning; a day later, we'll aim for Massachusetts.

The natural disarray that comes from something like this can be upsetting. M just hates it; but, she's rolled with this like a champ this go-round. It helps me keep the stress down too. Moving just is a ton of suck, but if you can accept the temporary discomfort, you'll be much better off.

There's a lot of other prep work that comes with this, and we've made a big-time dent in that as well. All utility services here have been informed and final billing information exchanged, and future needs are in place and everything will be ready when we get there one week from tomorrow.

My goal is to make the weekend of Nov. 3-4 a breeze. I think we're on track for that and that provides solace.

I also chatted with the truck people about towing a car. I'm feeling pretty good about that. It's all coming together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 24: Recap, Pt. 5 -- Monday, Oct. 15

Salem landmark, Oct. 15, 2012. History happened here.
So we had a temporary home, but two places in Lowell we wanted to see for future reference. We figured that in time we might want to live not so in-the-middle-of-it-all, and it appeared that Lowell might be an area that was making an interesting comeback.

Lowell's place in history is not unimportant. It was a leading center of the 19th century American Industrial Revolution, a mill town that peaked 100 years ago. After World War I, a lot of its businesses faltered as production migrated south. For most of the 20th century the city fell into disrepair.

But recently those abandoned mills have been bought up and converted into hip loft living spaces, the city has tried to provide an alternative to the congestion of central Boston and the arts scene has taken root. Lowell looks to be a comer. We were interested.

On our last day in Boston, we ventured north. Our first stop was a converted mill called Perkins Park, located near the campus of UMass-Lowell and adjacent to a charming Class A minor league ballfield. The places looked nice, the prices seemed reasonable and their Web site spoke of some dog-friendly events. We'd contacted them well in advance of traveling to Massachusetts and set a date.

We don't really dig "complex" living spaces. Anything run by a giant property management firm tends to be a little too impersonal and stiff. But we'd hoped this place might be different. But one advantage to corporate-controlled housing is that they generally have broad rules that give them appeal to a range of customer needs. In our case, the dogs were a paramount issue. Often big complexes will allow dogs, and with loft floors typically concrete, this seemed a great fallback. We didn't really want to live here, but if we couldn't find a more suitable fit, this could be our safety valve.

In every instance in contacting potential landlords, the dog situation was brought up immediately. It would do us no good to find a great place only to find they didn't accept our hounds.

Perkins Park has a controlled-access parking facility across the street from the buildings. Since we couldn't find street parking we called the leasing office and they sent out a rep to open the gate for us.

I'd done some homework about PP and had learned a major complaint was that because of the proximity to the ballpark, sometimes they sold parking at that facility during games, displacing residents. Strike one.

I'd also learned that residents had experienced some crime problems, mostly car break-ins. While this isn't that unusual in an urban setting, I also learned that many theorized that the location of a METHADONE CLINIC a block away was a contributing factor.

M did not like knowing about that clinic. But again, we'd needed to have a backup plan. Now, since we'd already committed to the other place, it might have seemed silly to go to Lowell, but we wanted to learn more about the area and the drive. Yet what was really interesting to us was the place we'd scheduled to see AFTER visiting PP. More on that shortly.

So we park. We walk into the building. Looks nice. We walk into the leasing office. We sit down and are asked, "What are you looking for?"

We note that with three dogs, we need at least a two-bedroom place, and...

"Oh I'm sorry, we only allow TWO dogs."

"In the first contact we had with you, we told you we had THREE dogs."

"Well, my name is signed to that, but staff actually respond to those e-mails."

"Well, do they not know the rules?"

"I'm so sorry."

Yeah, we were pissed.

So this I do know: If you rent from a company known as Hallkeen Management, you're probably dealing with dipshits. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The impressions I have of them is that they don't pay attention to details and they waste people's time. Next. NEXT.

So we had a little time to kill before our 11 a.m. meeting at the cool place. We drove around Lowell a bit to get a taste, but without really knowing where anything was, I don't think we learned much. We did cross the Merrimack, an impressive river that fueled that mill economy in the first place.

Our next destination was a place called the Western Avenue Lofts. It's an experiment that looks to be a home run in every way. The building is connected to a larger building that houses artists's studios and workshops. The attached lofts are rented at affordable prices to those artists and like-minded souls.

The twist: each living space as you enter has an enclosed bathroom immediately near the door, backed by a line of kitchen appliances. The rest of the space is completely open and a blank canvas. Two long walls, ending in a wall of windows.

The concept totally turned me on. I began to think differently right away. Think about it: everyplace you've ever lived has been predefined. The walls, the layout... YOU must conform to IT. This place was the antithesis of that. You defined your living space. Want to put up walls? You can. Want to tinker with the layout? Have at it.

It was invigorating. Along the building's long, spacious hallways, the occupant artists are encouraged to  use the public spaces as a gallery of their work. The effect is quite simply magical. We saw museum-quality art everywhere we turned. Just spectacular stuff, professional, beautiful.

Like after seeing Rob and Jillian's place, suddenly the plethora of strong options made us unsure of our original decision. We found ourselves feeling like we had to talk ourselves off the ledge.

Our tour guide was another artist, Maxine, whose work also was impressive and on display, not just outside her apartment, but in a first-class gallery in the Western Avenue Studios. Maxine was a hoot; we liked her instantly.

The knock on Lowell was distance. Since we are such maroons about the area, it's just really hard to know the challenges we'll face getting into the city from certain distances, either by car or public transportation. On the trip to Lowell, the incoming traffic was a fright. And the dickish behavior we witnessed of some of the drivers also did not seem promising.

Western is a winner. I'm certain that if we decide that Lowell is viable, the problem we're going to run into is that these places will all be rented. With the ability to truly customize your living space, you're not going to find compelling reasons to go someplace else. It's enormously cool and appealing. I could live there in a heartbeat.

We said our goodbyes to the fabulous Maxine and it was just after noon. Our flight was in seven hours. We had free time. We went back to Salem because we wanted to see the ocean and grab a bite. Near downtown we parked and sat down at an outdoor area and ordered not-so-great food. But then the craziest thing happened...

We overheard the word "Arkansas" spoken a few times in a couple's conversation at the next table. Just too weird! I couldn't resist... I asked why. Turns out the vivacious young woman there was from around here; her mom lives in Eureka. What are the odds?

And, she is in my field. JOB LEAD! I got her card and pitched her a story. I might have some work lined up. As freelance, it won't pay much, but it's a start.

We moved on and drove along the coast to Independence Park, which overlooks the Atlantic. The historic sign noted that the Declaration of Independence was read there.

How freaking cool is that?

It was about 3 by now. We had to hustle back to Boston to return the car and get on a plane. Traffic was picking up.

The airport was mostly uneventful; the flight out was a little late leaving. It was an amazing view to see the Boston city lights as we flew toward Charlotte and our connection.

Unfortunately, the flight left so late that we had to hustle to the gate to get to that connection once in Charlotte. We made it by about 25 minutes before departure. The connection was crammed, and I had the abject pleasure of sitting next to a person who told me he had stomach flu (don't breathe on me, dude), and a guy just across the aisle who was a special snowflake and didn't feel the rules about turning off his electronic devices applied to him.

Do. Not. Like.

Sigh. Finally we got back to XNA. By the time we got home, it was close to 2 a.m. We'd wake up five hours later and reunite with our beloved pups. Now, the real work begins: making the move.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 23: Recap, Pt. 4 -- Sunday, Oct. 14

Finally M was done with her work obligations and could join the housing search.

We had an 11 a.m. appointment in Roslindale with a nice couple we had spoken to on the phone a couple of times. Rob and Jillian seemed like great people, and Rob knew how to stage a place with pictures. The pictures of their apartment were the best I'd seen. It looked spotless, and turned out to be an accurate representation.

There were many pluses to this place: beautiful, modern, and TWO bathrooms, the only one we saw with that feature. Also, the lease was short-term because they were moving, so our entry price would be about as inexpensive as possible.

M had reservations because of a single basement coin-op and the Roslindale location, which seemed from feedback and research to be a little hit-and-miss. I had reservations when I found the streets near the apartment tiny, crowded and short on parking. I'm pretty sure that there are days when you have to park three or four blocks away.

M just wasn't into this place, but when we got there, that changed. It was a bit small, but it was spectacular. In fact, it was far and away the nicest place we saw. It was indeed small, but not so small as to be unworkable. The living room was small, but the kitchen and master were great. The bathrooms were nice, and the second bedroom was at the opposite end of the apartment from the master and ideal for a home office. There was also a nice courtyard that would have been a charmer at some times.

But now we had a dilemma. We liked this and the place I'd seen Friday afternoon. In fact, we'd already decided that we were going to just jump on the Friday place. It was expensive, but it was also roomy, had the best location, and had a favorable laundry, parking and yard situation. So we'd decided to just pull the trigger and had a meeting set up with the broker to seal the deal Sunday afternoon.

Rob and Jillian's place complicated things tremendously. What to do? Now we doubted everything. We had also slated two places to see Monday in Lowell. M had been advised that being that far away from work could be a dicey proposition. In fact, initially it seemed that riding the trains would be perfectly fine, but upon further review it became obvious that there was going to be a mix of public transport and driving. Since we'd quickly learned that driving in Boston was not something newcomers might adapt to quickly, we felt like it was now imperative to stay close to the center. All of this made the decision for us. But we planned to see Lowell for future reference anyway. That turned out to also be problematic as we would wind up seeing an extremely appealing, cool and unique place the next day. In fact, we might end up there some day. But that's for the next installment.

On Oct. 14, we had to make up our minds.

We decided to go with Bill's place. So now we drove to his office, an interesting brick basement office in Allston. For anyone who winds up needing a solid, decent broker in Boston, get in touch with me about Bill. He's a good guy.

We signed the lease, wrote the check, and it was done. Just like that.

The relief was palpable. We went to eat, and found a funky, cool breakfast place called @Union. The food was great, the wait staff friendly, prices reasonable. It should be franchised but apparently it's the only one. We'll be back.

We went back to the hotel, where I could watch the rest of the Cowboys game (and I correctly predicted the precise manner of failure to come). It was over. We now had all the time to enjoy the next 26 hours or so before we headed back. We had an address.

There was a ratty old movie theater nearby; we decided to go see Argo. Not bad at all. But they didn't have any toxic orange popcorn salt. Points off.

We came back to the hotel and packed up. We had appointments at 9:15 and 11 in Lowell the next day. Then we were going to do some brief sightseeing and head back to Logan for the late flight home. Well... our home for another 16 days.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 22: Recap, Pt. 3 -- Saturday, Oct. 13

Salem Harbor, Oct. 13, 2012
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 was about as beautiful a day in New England as could be hoped for anywhere. I had a full schedule of places to visit, all on the North Shore: Salem, Manchester By The Sea, Revere, and then back to Salem.

This would turn out to be a day that was fun, interesting, frustrating and worrisome. Welcome to my life.

We like staying at Best Westerns. I shouldn't say that; now the secret is out. But we've stayed at them in California and now Massachusetts, and it's always been a good experience. For one thing, they offer hot breakfasts. That's money saved right there. Some places pledge a breakfast included and that means a stale Danish. No thanks.

Anyway, this place offered a coffee called "New England Eye-Opener" by the New England Coffee Co. I am not a huge coffee fan but sometimes ya need a jolt, right? This stuff was delicious. I wound up having it four days in a row and will buy some when we move. Really tasty.

With the college activities in full swing, the hotel was crowded and so was breakfast. But I needed fuel, which turned out to be more true than I knew at the time, so I had some.

I dropped M off at Harvard Square for her full day of events, then had a 10 a.m. appointment in Salem. It was sunny, crisp, glorious.

As previously noted, I stupidly forgot my car charger for my phone, and on this day that would prove to be supremely problematic. I was using the Maps feature, which was a challenge because navigating solo means you have to kind of memorize a few steps until you have an opportunity to stop somewhere and verify/update. I was also taking a lot of pictures and shooting video walk-throughs of the apartments. After the Salem stop, I had a little time before my next appointment, so I found a Starbucks near Salem State University and plugged in a while.

The apartment in Salem was perfect. I liked the couple renting it, the place was on a nice residential street, and the apartment was almost perfect. It had lots of light and had been pretty well maintained. Drawbacks were that it was a bit on the small side, had not much yard area, and was a little bit of a hike for M's work.

But it became Numero Uno on the list because of a great combo of quality, looks and price. Also, Salem appeared to be a great little community.

I really thought this would be the winner. But it wasn't. An hour after I left, I got an e-mail from Beth, the owner, who told me that she now had doubts about our having three dogs, and upon further review, we were out.

I was pissed. I'm still pissed. EVERYONE I contacted in setting up these searches, the dog situation was at the top of the list. There was just no point in wasting anyone's time in looking for a place if the dogs weren't allowed. No hard feelings if you're not into that from the start: some people don't like dogs, some people worry about bad dogs trashing their place, yada yada yada. NBD.

UNLESS you say it's OK on the front end, then use that as an excuse on the back end. Beth is a Salem witch.

I think that what happened was she was worried about having enough action for her place, so she said yes to as many potential renters as possible. Then when she got prospects and found some good ones who DIDN'T have dogs, she opted to go for the dogless ones. Which, I guess, I'm OK with in theory. Rent to the people you want to. Just don't later use an excuse that it was about my dogs why you're not cool with me anymore. That's bullshit. I would have preferred she call me and say she is renting to someone else. Hell, it would have been better to not say anything to me at all. But to use the dogs as an excuse is lamesauce. She knew about the dogs coming in.

What a Masshole.

BTW: Apparently, "Masshole" is really a thing up there. Check out this entry from Urban Dictionary.

Now, back to the story...

After the Starbucks stint, I had the best part of the drive, eventually. Apparently, "Witch Tourism" in Salem is a major activity in the month of October/Halloween season. Where better, eh? I'm going to enjoy soaking up the regional history, which, in a lot of ways, is the nation's history. In moving through the city toward a northerly appointment in Manchester-By-The-Sea, I passed through the center of this festival-like setting, seeing people in 17th-century outfits and such. I wondered if the square I passed through might have been the site of a witch-burning? Or maybe that was back on Endicott Street at Beth's house.

Anyway, it was traffic-y. So it took a while to get through that, but then I was on my way. The drive to MBTS was beyond pleasant, with the occasional peek at the Atlantic to my right, or otherwise drives down shady lanes with the fall colors abounding. I eventually came to the rental property, which I saw with two other people.

The tour guide, Michael, noted that the house was converted from a 150-year-old bahn. You know, a BAHN -- where horses live.

I'm going to be amused for a while by those accents.

The house's front door is actually a bahn door. There was another bahn half-door that separated the kitchen from a small hall. The place was cold and dark, but hella charming. If it hadn't been so far away, it might have worked. There was a commuter rail nearby, and the rail station looked like the stereotype of every romantic, classically designed station you could imagine. But it was just too far away.


I practically had to hump it all the way back to Boston for an open house of a six-unit, three-story place in Revere. Pronounced Rev-EE-Ah. Revere is pretty close to Boston itself... pros include that, the fact that this place was a block and a half from the ocean, and what would turn out to be a pretty nice place. Cons are that Revere is apparently a bit hit-and-miss, crime-wise; the on-street parking is insane (most people apparently have no qualms about parking half on the sidewalks); the street was just down the block from a large senior center (sketchy old people, ya know); and so near Logan Airport that it's sometimes in the flight path.

I was just kidding about old people. I love old people.

But, the flight path thing bugged me. I have a thing about being in flight paths. It's not that I worry so much about a plane or parts dropping on me, it's that I read a UCLA study years ago about flight paths and crime. The study indicated that neighborhoods in flight paths have higher crime rates. I've tried to find this study but have not been able to. Maybe I'm wrong, but still, I don't like flight path living. At the very least, they're noisy.

The owner was a charming old English lady who was also very organized and involved. Like... to the Nth degree. As I got to the house, a Revere policeman and his family was concluding a tour.

So I was doomed, right? If I'm a property owner, I WANT a cop living in my place. Built-in security.

The place was very well looked-after. For all this woman's eccentricities, there was no doubt she ran a tight ship. The unit was well-done, with proper construction and improvements. Quality-wise, it was probably the best place I'd seen to date. It also had many charming characteristics, such as glass over the hallway doors, an extremely modern and stylish bathroom, and a nice layout. It also had a good pricepoint.

But then it happened again: she started making comments showing reservations about the dogs.

We never meant to have three dogs, but when Penny came along, he was just too adorable and sweet, and our hearts ached because he had been abandoned. Someone had basically just ditched him, in the dead of winter. He was scrawny and skinny and scared when we began fostering him just a week after he had been found along a country roadside.

And I just grew to love him. And he wasn't going to be going anywhere. We tried to find him a good set of parents but people just didn't warm to him. He's the kind of dog you need to get to know a little bit and no one gave him that chance. So now we have three dogs. And we're not going to be the kind of people who move on and say "Sorry, can't take all these dogs" and dump them at the shelter.


So it seemed like Revere was out. Now it was getting late and I had to get to Salem. But then I got a call from the Salem guy. He seemed like a nice guy. He wanted to reschedule; his mom was sick and he didn't have time to make the appointment. Totally understandable. We let it ride.

This meant the odds were great that I'd never get to see that place. But his situation was clearly way more important. I hope your mom is OK, Larry.

So the good news was, my day was over. The bad news? My phone was down to 6 percent and I had an arduous hike across Boston to get back to the hotel.

I quickly jotted down the instructions. Then the phone died. But no worries... my innate sense of direction will get me back.

Instead, I spent the next 90 minutes wandering. I hope to find some of those paths again. One took me across a long bridge where the view to my east was the Boston skyline fronted by a sailboat-filled body of water. It was scintillating. I think I was on Massachusetts Avenue. I thought that was where I needed to be. I was driving among impressive old buildings, streets crowded with pedestrians. I passed a regal old building near another building that turned out to be the Boston Symphony Hall, where a performance featuring Mendelssohn and Shostakovich was slated for a couple of hours later. That would have been a fun evening; maybe later.

I continued on. Soon I found myself in Dorchester.

Red flags. Dorchester's interesting history includes Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy, MLK (who lived there as a student, according to wiki), the Wahlbergs, Dennis Lehane, Donna Summer and criminals Whitey Bulger and Sheldon Adelson. Today, Dorchester has gotten rougher; almost half of all Boston murders happen there. Not all of it is sketch, but the parts bordering Mattapan and Roxbury are apparently pretty salty. There seems to be a concerted effort to revitalize; when an area gets a reputation, home and rental prices drop, and some will seize that to come in and get a deal and try and clean up the mess.

But we don't know Boston well enough yet to crusade. Maybe later. For now, I want to keep my stuff, and my blood.

So now all I knew was that I had been driving for an hour, and was not where I needed to be. Reverse.

I eventually got close to Harvard, so that's when I knew I was in the ballpark.

Now, you may wonder, "Why didn't you just pull over and ask for directions?" Good idea. However, I did not find anyplace where I could actually pull over. It's just not like that up there. There are no such things as wide open spaces and parking places. I'm not kidding.

I turned on a street I thought was going to get me back where I needed to be. It didn't -- I wound up in Allston. But at last, i found a convenience store, with four parking spots. I whipped in. I walked into the store, were Luis was behind the counter. I spied an electrical outlet.

Hi, can you please help me?
I'm not from here, I'm lost, and my phone is dead. Can I please charge it up for a few minutes until I can reactivate my maps?
Sure, no problem.

Luis then told me there was a restaurant nearby if I wanted to eat, and offered to help. Nice guy. But not so nice that he was a sucker. When a woman came in claiming to know the owner and asked to borrow $20, Luis politely declined. The woman looked like a garden-variety crackhead, so now I was worried about the neighborhood again.


After about 10 minutes, my phone had a 20 percent charge. I called M and told her what was up. Mapped the route, which wasn't that far. Thanked Luis profusely, and headed home.

I was stressed. But not, perhaps, as stressed as crackhead girl. As I went out to my car, she was scrawling something on the back window of what may or may not have been a green SUV. It looked like she was using shoe polish, who knows, and I couldn't see what she was writing. Or to whom. She was playing metal on the vehicle sound system, VERY LOUDLY. I was kind of glad to be moving along.

Less than half an hour later, I was back at the hotel. After a brief decompression, we went to a Legal Sea Foods and gorged. It was delicious. And the day was soon done.

Day 18: Recap, Pt. 2 -- Friday, Oct. 12

Harvard at night, Oct. 12, 2012
After some needed exhaustion sleep, we awoke Friday, Oct. 12, to a cold rainy New England day. M would have a full day of work with her new team; I only had to find a place for us to live.

No pressure.

My first appointment had been moved up from Sunday. It was a house in Bellingham that had many pluses: plenty of space; a location that offered rare elbow room, since it was built on five acres and near the Charles River; and met our goals of having onsite laundry as well as welcoming our dogs.

However, it was in Bellingham, which, I would discover, was way away from the city center. Points off. The drive out was pretty, and via the Mass Pike and I-495 offered a rare chance to kick the Volvo to see what it could do (it shined) and get a glimpse of the Massachusetts countryside, which was scenic and spectacular.

Bellingham itself is suburbia personified, and you could mark your passage going from Boston to there by the dramatic shift in political signs from Liz Warren to Scott Brown. You could also note going from an urban setting to one which featured such cultural icons as Walmart, Best Buy and Chili's.

As for the place itself, it was in a nice setting, but it was on grounds immediately adjacent to the home of the owners. The owners have 12 people in their house... their brood of nine, plus three boarders. The owner runs a car detailing business, so his front yard looks like a used car lot. It also has a parked RV on the grounds. The lovely deck on the rental home overlooks their above-ground pool, trampoline, and the rear of their home just 20 yards away.

Ummm.... no.

The price was also a little high, and I was getting a hard-sell from the wife of the owner. This woman would go on to call me about five more times over the course of the weekend. She had pushed me to see the place earlier, pushed that she had other prospective tenants lined up, and pushed to give them a definitive answer ASAP. It was the first place I saw, so I didn't think it was the right call. M pretty much handed me the reins on this, and I knew the long distance, the generic-ville quality of Bellingham and the excess craptastic nature of the location would not play well.


Back into Boston, I met a broker named Bill who turned out to be one of several really nice folks we wound up meeting over the next few days. Several of the brokers we dealt with were lousy: didn't return calls or e-mails, forwarded listings that were inappropriate, etc. Ex.: It is a complete waste of my time, and yours, to send me a listing for a place that says "cats only." We have dogs. Three dogs. No cats.


Bill showed a place in Roslindale that was OK, but I had some reservations. The biggest room was the kitchen. The bedrooms were so tiny that I imagined they would have been problematic. In fact, I'm sure that I would have had to store my clothes in the other room.

But the kicker came when he wanted to adjust the rent by $150 a month for the dogs.


Bill then drove us cross-town to a place called Belmont. We went through some pretty choice 'hoods... I later found out that Mitt has one of his numerous homes in Belmont. The apartment was nice, the first floor of a three-story house. But pricy. Then again, everything in Boston is pricy.

However, it had a lot of "pros" on the ledger, including onsite laundry (not coin-op), a little yardlet, a private deck, a very favorable location, and off-street parking. Which, I think, will be of immense value when it starts snowing.

So for Day 1, we had one winner, one fallback, and one no-way.

That night we decided to enjoy the trip a little and went out to eat in Harvard Square. We went to a loud, crowded place called the Russell House Tavern. It was Parent's Weekend at Harvard, and Homecoming at Northeastern, so the streets were packed. We traipsed around Harvard Square and caught a cab back to the hotel: $10. A good price, and the same the next night, so we know what the rate is now.

Ahead in Pt. 3: I meet a real witch in Salem, then get banished to hell.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 17: Recap, Pt. 1 -- Thursday, Oct. 11

Wow. Boston was a trip. We were so busy, so on the go. The only time we had a few hours to chill we decided to catch a movie.

Going to try and recap the events day by day as I remember them before the memories are all lost. I just didn't have time to do it as it happened.

I got off work at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning. M was waiting outside; our flight was leaving at 7:20 a.m., connecting through Atlanta.

Little old XNA is a tiny airport, and there's not much going on at 6 a.m. One advantage to a small place, though: our remote parking would end up being only $25. That's going to not happen again when we get to NE.

Sleeping on planes doesn't usually work for me. I once took a redeye from LA to Miami that was WFO, so I was able to stretch across three seats and get a little sleep in. But generally, it doesn't happen. Part of the problem is being 6-4. Last Thursday, by the time I would get to sleep a few hours later, I'd been awake for about 27 hours straight. Loopy.

It also doesn't help when you're on a mini-jet. M grabbed two muffins and some OJ for the flight; the muffins were the world's worst. They broke into crumbs upon human touch. I don't know how they even stayed together long enough to be sold.

In Atlanta we had a relatively brief layover and then it was on to Boston. On the trip up we spent about the last half of the flight along the Atlantic coast. I was on the right side of the jet, M was at the window, so when we flew over NYC I didn't get to see it. Bummer, would have liked it. I saw some of what I figured must have been Long Island, because the housing was dense. A little while later I also passed right over New London, CT. Hi Rick & Eileen!

The flight into Logan Airport came straight in from East to West over the Atlantic and over the bay. And then, we were there.

I would soon learn that Boston is a challenge for drivers, and even moreso for a driver who knows almost nothing about the layout. ("Layout" ... that's a laugh.) We got a sweet Volvo S60 that would be awesome if you could ever really stomp on it. Good luck with all that.

The first driving experience was to enter a series of tunnels and ratholes that lead away from Logan, under the bay and under the city center. God help you if you take a wrong exit. Fortunately we were able to decipher the moderately thick Boston accent of Andrea at Budget enough to get us on our way to the Storrow Drive exit.

I cannot tell you if we ever actually drove on Storrow Drive. Because marking streets in Boston is apparently a random activity of indeterminate importance. Some streets were marked. Some only marked side streets. Some had four names, only one of which were marked.

Total. Nightmare.

My map app was only moderately useful. The little blue dot sometimes seemed to be floating only in the general vicinity of where I actually was. M had a better program, a voiceover GPS app, but even it was sometimes inadequate. Yesterday, we priced GPS devices. We'll probably have to have one.

Although, those won't be worth a damn in the tunnels.

In the first two hours I was there, I pulled completely illegal moves (a prohibited U-turn, a quick jag the wrong way down a one-way street, and a backup before I missed a turn) that qualify me for "Masshole" status. But apparently that's de rigueur there, so I'm already adjusting.

It was a cool, crisp, sunny day. We eventually got to the hotel, and then quickly had to get M to meet her new team face-to-face. It was a relatively easy jaunt there and back. I was struck by the historic buildings... structures older than the nation. Who had previously trod these streets?

I got back to the hotel, showered, and slept, at last. M returned three hours later and we were tired and hungry. We ordered Chinese delivery, which, in a city, you can actually do.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 14: Whirlwinds

There has been so much going on since we landed mid-afternoon Thursday that it's difficult to process. When I have more time I want to recount the experiences and I'm sure to forget some of them.

Some quick impressions:
* Rob and Jillian are amazing people and I hope to know them a long time.
* Traffic here is unlike anything I've ever seen. LA is a walk in the park by comparison.
* It's beautiful and vibrant and living here will be interesting.
* I drove all the way to Salem and may have met my first witch. More on that later.
* I got lost in Southie. And lived. Note: forget your car phone charger at your own peril.
* After being worried about finding a place, several options came available at the 11th hour, including two great ones. 1 and 1a were a coin-flip.
* This has been hella stressful but it will get easier. But there's still a lot of work to do.

So off we go.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 11: Wheels Up

In five hours that's where we'll be, en route to the historic city of Boston via Atlanta.

(Aside: NOT a fan of Hartsfield Airport. In fact it may be first on my list of airports I do not love, just ahead of O'Hare.)

(Another aside: Pandora has been my friend through this long night. I've been amazingly productive and the music has been right. Now playing: Blue Monday by New Order.)

I'm quite excited actually, even though the run-up to this has been kind of a stressful pain in the ass. Trying to coordinate a housing search has been hit-and-miss. M has been on a manic schedule as well and we've had to work extra hard to be calm about everything. Mostly successful but obviously there is a lot riding on the next few days. The most important part is signing a lease. We will sign a lease.

So the main thing is to make a good choice. Learning a major city's ins and outs from a distance of 1,500 miles has to be considered a fool's errand. But I've tried and I have several great prospects lined up over the next few days.

So that, and the fact that I managed to get my interview prep done tonight for my big interview next Tuesday is a big boost to my state of mind.

A major life change is going to be stressful in the best of circumstances. It's even more so when you are uprooting from something familiar and comfortable to something strange and slightly intimidating. But as the great Ani DiFranco says, "Would you prefer the easy way? Well then OK, don't cry."

Yes, elements of this are going to be hard. I will be far away from my immediate family. They've supported me and us in so many ways in the time we have been here. But moving will bring M closer to her family. Moving will be from a small, easy place to navigate to a huge, difficult place to navigate. I've never used public transportation much; that's going to change in a big way. Here, I can get to a store, restaurants, a park, the library, the square, the scene on foot very easily. Further, weather's rarely a factor. All that is likely to change substantially in a few weeks.

At the same time, the job market is infinitely better, and that puts a huge feather in my cap. Ask me again in a few months. My career has stalled here. M also has pretty much made it as far as she can here. We need a bigger circle. We're about to get it.

I feel better. I feel... taller. I am upbeat, I am optimistic. This is some fresh air and it's hit me just in the last 48 hours or so. I was stressing big-time and of course there is still some of that in the air. But it's just not something that will help me in any way. So I had a little talk with myself and advised cutting that loose. So far, so good.

This is a good thing. I've felt for many years that the term "growing pains" was an accurate condition. Growth is sometimes difficult. It is sometimes painful. That doesn't make it bad. It just makes it something you have to cope with. And that's OK. Yes, it hurts to leave a place, probably forever, that has had a major impact on my life. There are friends I may never have a cold beverage or a meal with again. Who knows? I hope that I keep those special places and people, but maybe I won't. That's sad but at the same time, there are people I do not yet know, things I have not experienced, places I have not seen, good times I have not had that await. And I get to have those new experiences with my beloved M.

And that is damned thrilling. Let's get to it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 10: Prep

Sometimes I am a neat freak.

Say you're at work and your desk is totally clutter. Food, half-completed tasks, open drawers, pens scattered about. You know.

There have been times when my desk was like that and I just had to stop everything else I was doing and clean that crap up. I couldn't function amid the disarray.

In reality, I think those times serve alternative purposes.

It was probably just as easy to maintain order as you went along as it was to go to full stop and reset. But the reset is part of the goal, actually. It's a chance to catch your breath. You spend a few minutes or an hour putting order into your world. When you're done, you've controlled your environment, and you've managed to let your mind calm down from the weight of the other projects.

I think we do this to show that we have control over things that seem out of control. When you are done, you've shown you can accomplish something and it helps you move ahead onto more important things.

Or, perhaps you're still screwed, but at least, your desk looks nice and the filing has been done.

I spent some time earlier this evening/morning/vampirism pulling together my notes to firm up an attack plan for the weekend's impending madness. Will it help? Probably, but who knows? But, it feels linear least I have something to cling to instead of searching through the clutter. I'm sure I would have been fine the other way but let's just see if this makes life easier. At the moment, it FEELS like it will help, and that's good enough.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 9: Walls and Bridges

I read the news today that John Lennon would have turned 72 today.

When I think of the amazing work being created still be Lennon contemporaries like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, it breaks my heart to think of everything we missed. And everything HE missed.

One of his solo albums was called Walls and Bridges. The best song off it was #9 Dream; his only No. 1 single (while he was alive and as a solo artist) was the album's pop song "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night."

I have been thinking of walls today. If you say the word most people probably think of China's Great Wall first. Older people may think of the Berlin Wall. But to me those are really fences.

In some ways a wall is a concept. It's a concept of limitation. As those examples above indicate, fences built as walls are partitions. Walls in a house are partitions. They serve a purpose, but in many ways they also are restrictive.

One place we're looking at moving to has only outer walls. You're free to shape your internal space. That has a certain appeal to me.

There's a term in sports, co-opted for other descriptors, called "hitting the wall." It describes that time when an athlete reaches a point of exhaustion that entices him or her to quit running, quit working, whatever. The celebrated athletes are those who overcome that, who get a "second wind" and fight on. They don't even necessarily have to emerge victorious; the mere act of perseverance is considered noble enough.

Today I hit the wall. The deadlines for this move are roaring toward me and it's overwhelming. I've contacted so many places about leasing, and some got back to me, some left me hanging, some started hot and are now cold. I've been applying for jobs. We're doing all the things that have to be done to make this move... yet it seems like we are hopelessly behind. We'll be up there in about 44 hours.

And I just want to throw in the towel. I'm working my last hell schedule of six straight 12-hour overnights. I'm tired, but I can't sleep. My brain won't calm down. I have no appetite. All food repulses me. I have no leisure time. I haven't been able to have quality time with M or the hounds.

Even taking the time to write this makes me feel guilty: isn't there something else I could be doing to make this move easier?

But I can't spend any more time with that, and I can't quit. I have to keep going. So that's where I will be.

By this time next week, I am sure that we will have found a place to live, and the plans will be progressing as they should and things will be much more defined. Because that wall that I imagine towering in front of me is really just a fence. It may not even be there at all. And it can't restrain me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 8: Await

So after a slew of late-night work, now we await to see if the many lines cast into the New England waters are fruitful. In just four days we will be there. If somehow I get a job nibble on one or more of those hooks, there will be much rejoicing.

Everything is moving so fast. I remember three weeks ago when we had six weeks to go knowing that it would be here fast. That three weeks ago thought seems as if it was two days ago.

It's a lot, but the main thing is for us to not let the weight of it seem overwhelming. We don't have time to lament anything.

As Penguin the dog says, when you want to go your just go.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 7: The Squeeze

Every few hours or so yesterday I thought about firing up another post and just couldn't get to it.

I'm in the middle of working six straight overnights and that's always a grind. The good news is that in four days, I'll be done with those. The bad news is that Thursday's going to be one hell of a long day.

Yesterday, between trying to find sleep between getting home at 6 a.m. and being back at work at 5:30 p.m., I tried to prep for the big recon mission. There's just not enough time to do everything I want to do. And I have to be cool with that because you can't invent hours.

So ya just gotta slog on and fight through it.

Today after this quickie I'm going to try and fire off a few notes to line up site visits next weekend. There's a ton of stuff going on.

Perhaps the best testament is that it's Sunday, and that means NFL. And I just don't have time to watch it. People who know me will find this shocking.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 5: Accelerate

Things are moving pretty fast. Unlike Ferris Bueller, I'm not able to slow down.

On that stretch of overnights... 12 hours on, 12 hours off. It's not difficult except for the time commitment. I'm going to try to find a way to multi-task during them.

The housing search has narrowed considerably... there are three great leads, although a new favorite has emerged as a landing place as far as a city is concerned. More on that as it develops.

We both don't like the sense of disorder that we can't overcome right now. M has two of her biggest work projects to complete before we go, and while that's being done, we're making a recon mission and preparing for a huge cross-country move. All in the span of now a little more than three weeks.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 4: What's an artist?

Simplistic answer: a painter, or a musician.

Am I an artist? Is this my art? Is this form of self-expression worthy of being decreed "artistic?"

Hey, if LMFAO are artists, then so am I.

An ex-friend used to beef about what he defined as "low art" and he had a point. Someone out there... hell, a LOT of someones... are buying music by Bieber et al, a book by Snooki, and 98 percent of the crap that you see at Hobby Lobby.

Aside: I cannot believe the crap that you see at Hobby Lobby. Also, Made in China. Think about that the next time you wonder about American job health.

Anyway. Low art sells, and that's a damn shame. I'd rather be Neil Young than Neil Sedaka, but both are rich.

Chris Guillebeau, a hero of mine who writes a shit-ton of amazing stuff at The Art of Non-Conformity, says we are all artists. I love Chris.

So what the hell. I'm an artist.

Now, maybe the artist housing in Lowell will rent to me!

Day 4: Ebb

I'm not feeling as energetic today. As this thing gets closer, there are seemingly more things to do no matter how many things you cross off the checklist.

That's, obviously, a little frustrating.

Tomorrow night starts a six-straight nights string, and those are grinders. When it ends at 5:30 a.m. next Thursday, M will pick me up, we'll go straight to the airport and it's on a plane to Boston.

So that makes today kind of important; no rest for the weary. There's simply no time. In reality I need to make sure plenty of places are lined up to see when we get there.

Might be time for a Starbucks run.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 3: Hope!

A place we had found on Craigslist we figured we'd have no shot at. It was beautiful, allowed dogs, had all the amenities we want, within our budget, and in a safe location.

The drawback: It's a little "outer" so means anything in Boston proper is going to mean a train/public transport or parking trauma.

But otherwise, for what we've been looking for, this was just about the best-looking place we'd seen.

Today, we got a call-back, and we'll be scouting it out in less than two weeks. Dogs welcomed!

This could be it. It also has a little karmic connection to us that I'll talk about if it happens. But M noticed it right away, and I literally got chills at the time. This seems to be the place.

Day 3: Call me, maybe?

Allegedly the Boston housing market is tilted against renters/buyers.

Then can someone please explain to me why about half of the people I've contacted about places just don't even bother to respond? It doesn't take long to type "No thanks" and hit send. See, I'm about to do it myself!

Day 3: To-Do List

Like the song says... Sing it, Neil!

One advantage to being in a place like New England is its robust jobs market.

Sometimes I've been picky about working. For example, there are some places I could never work... some have questionable ethics and that's a deal-breaker for me. If I'm giving part of my life to something, I want it to be something I am not ashamed of.

On the other hand, when times have gotten tough, I've taken low-level jobs that were simply a way to draw a paycheck. Delivering pizza is not a career move, but it does pay. And, pizza.

So I've already sent out a few resumes in hopes of quickly landing something up there. It's been a sort of "chicken vs. egg" dilemma: do I focus on finding a place to live first, or getting a job first? Because of M's gig, the focus has been on the living space. But getting a job in the next 10 days would give us much more flexibility in finding a place to live. As it stands, we have to plan to live on just her salary for the near-term. That cuts our options significantly.

One place I applied to said no. It wasn't a great fit, no hard feelings. Another I applied to yesterday, I got a quick "Thanks, we'll see" response that feels like I'm low on the list (I've learned to read these things effectively). But, it was at least a personal response and you never know how things will work out.

My wrench-in-the-works news from California yesterday proved that.

Alas. Back to the job search.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 2: Your friendly BPD

Moving to someplace you know very little about has inherent risks.

You have no safety net. You don't know the people, the drives/commutes, anything.

You don't know the lay of the land. This can be especially dicey if you're moving to a big city like Boston.

Founded in 1630 -- when all the places I've lived in were all just big fields -- Boston is big-time. And a place that's been around that long is going to have rough spots. But even the rough spots will have some safe areas, right?

Well... maybe. Unfortunately, one of the guys who is looking for places for us sent a couple of places today that looked nice on the outside, but in researching, I found some concerns.

One is proximity to Boston Logan Airport. Years ago, and a Google search was fruitless in finding it (perhaps since this report pre-dated the Google anyway), I read a UCLA study about crime within the flight path of LAX. Maybe the study was full of it, but it tried to make a connection between the areas beneath the LAX flight path and higher crime. Cities in that flight path? Inglewood, Watts, South Central, East LA. Case can be made.

Logan's really in the heart of Boston. This apartment, which looked nice in photos, seemed to be in a possibly dodgy neighborhood, however. Another one had the same issues: Visually OK, realistically maybe not. I looked for crime stats and found a mixed bag. Demographic data gave me a little more of a true snapshot, but still.

So, I figured, why not go right to the source? I found a Boston Police Department precinct near these locations. I told the officer I spoke to what was up, and asked about each street.

"No. No. Ask for a place in The Heights. Otherwise, no."

So, score one for the BPD. I found another place on the list and the cop there hedged a bit, not wanting to give the thumbs down to a place. I understand, a lot of people don't know if they're being set up by some "gotcha" pretend journalism. He did reveal, however, that he lived nearby. So that made me feel less concerned.

At the very least, it made me feel better about the BPD of a city that will soon be home. And it made me McKayla-face about this particular real estate rep. I managed not to blast him in a response e-mail, but his credibility has taken a little hit.

I guess my main point is, don't be afraid to use the resources available. I'm grateful that I was able to call a BPD precinct and get more info. And reliable info at that.

The search continues.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 1: More

Just saw beautiful red-headed woodpecker at the bird feeder. What follows is a true conversation:

Me: I hope they have woodpeckers in New England.
M: They don't have birds in New England.
Me: Yes they do. Larry Bird.

Day 1: Hi

We're moving to Boston. Or at least, Massachusetts. New England!

Hell, all those places kinda blend together. We're not gonna be in Kansas anymore. Or Arkansas. I grew up in Texas, where you can drive for five or six hours and still have plenty of Texas left.

You can't drive in any direction for more than about four hours up there and not cross through at least one other state. You might even go to Canada.

As this thing came together, I thought of music, because I love music, and thought of music I associated with Boston. Of course, there's Boston the group, and there's Aerosmith. And "Please Come to Boston," and "Dirty Water," and probably my favorite, "The Boston Rag" by Steely Dan.

Which, typically, Walter Becker I think said wasn't even about Boston.

Nevertheless. As some of you may know, I have spent a lot of my life involved with a quaint little industry called "newspapers," which to many of us so inflicted are also known as "rags."

You probably see where I'm going here...

I've decided to commit to writing a daily post about our move to a place I know very little about. I've never lived east of Northwest Arkansas. I'm really more of a western kinda guy. This move has totally been a surprise.

But life kind of unfolds, and you have to sometimes, as Hunter S. Thompson said and I love to quote, "Buy the ticket, take the ride."

So we're going to freakin' Boston. Wow.

If anyone knows anything to look for, go ahead. This time in a month, we'll be there, and hopefully completely moved in. It's exciting. Thrilling, even. But a little scary. So be it. Life's great adventures always seem to have a bit of the unknown and unexpected as part of the deal.

Today I've been trying to line up a handful of places to check out when we go up for a scouting mission soon. There are challenges: with three dogs, some landlords won't even consider us. Fascists.

I have so many thoughts about this that I am going to spill here. Why? I dunno, L. Ron Hubbard said if it wasn't written down it wasn't true.

Yeah, I just read a book on Scientology. That's probably the only thing I can write about that without opening a real can.

But I want to document this entire thing. This move is huge for M, and huge for me by extension. She's making a major career move, and she deserves it. She's been a Captain of Industry and I am happy for her.

For me, this is a fresh start that I also need. Any of you JJ readers will know about that.

It's the beginning of something at the very least damned interesting. Thanks for stopping by. And again, if you're interested, I promise to add at least a little update every day.