caught in a trap… I can’t get out

I write today from my parents’ house — again. Mrs. Geek and I were supposed to depart for home last evening, but were thwarted by a perfect storm of circumstances (thunderstorms, a “work stoppage” by airline pilots, and a major weekend sporting event) that caused the cancellation of our plane flight. Those circumstances continue to haunt us as my parents must now drive us to an airport three hours away to try to get on a flight that will connect us to the plane that will get us home. Between the two trips to the airport 90 minutes away yesterday (one to drop us off, one to pick us up four hours later), and the six hour round trip today, I don’t deserve my parents. Or if I do, I’m going to be doing this for my own grown children someday.

lets run again … and I will follow you

Mrs. Geek and I are still getting to know our nephew, J. My sister’s son, he’s about three years old and a little shy around strangers. He hears our names often enough from my sister and my parents here in the Land Of My Birth, but I don’t think he really connects those names with people too much. The last time he saw us was over 18 months ago, and that’s nearly half of his life.

I finally got to engage in some serious play with J. earlier this week. We visited some relatives in the area who have back yard that is a grass covered hill at about 20 percent grade. J. liked running around back there, but wanted someone to chase. I volunteered. He really had a lot of fun chasing after me. Eventually, my goddaughter K. also got into the act. I ran myself ragged letting them chase me. Not having the metabolism of a three year old, I occasionally had to sit down and rest.

Whenever I did rest, J. would come to me and say “lets run again … and I will follow you” in his very measured three year old English. Those words have been echoing in my head for days.

gossip central

I’m back in The Land Of My Birth this week to attend my 20th high school class reunion tonight and tomorrow night. It’s been a tiring trip in at least one respect — the gossip. My soon-to-be ex-brother-in-law is no longer living under my parents roof, but he and his relationship with my sister are the constant undercurrent of discussion, if not with my parents, then with the extended family. It’s as if the elephant is not quite in the room anymore, but he’s left a big outline in the corner of the room where he used to sit, and that still remains. From what I’m hearing, it is uncertain how far the actual legal dissolution of my sister’s relationship with her husband has progressed. Some worry that the elephant could come back into the room someday.

In any case, I’m pretty tired of all the talk. It’s wearing me out. It’s involved a lot of “Psych 101” analysis (mostly of my sister’s marriage, but some of my own). Some tough questions have been asked, and the answers were a little difficult to hear. The intensity of it all tends to chafe a little bit after a while.

Of course, the thing that really kind of gets me is that all the talk can’t do one blessed thing to help resolve the situation. It’s all gossip. No one is really talking to my sister or her husband about all this. Every step he takes lately seems to be the wrong one, and she’s not taking many steps to move the dissolution of their marriage forward. It’s the train wreck that keeps on giving, and taking the rest of us along for the ride.

All that aside, the reunion itself has me feeling a little out of sorts. I feel much more the stranger here now than at the last reunion, ten years ago. Relationships with many of the people still here in town have grown more distant. The ten year reunion felt a lot like an extended gathering of the tribe. This seems lot more like a gathering of relative strangers than old friends for some reason.

Part of it has to do with where I am in my life right now. A number of changes (buying housing, change of job, having children) are under discussion, if not in the works. Who am I right now? I don’t know.

Still, it will be very good to see who is back for this shindig. I’m sure whatever butterflies I’m having will dissipate when I finally see everyone.

24 houses later

I know it’s been a while. I’ve been busy. Mrs. Geek and I have started house hunting. This is something we’ve been putting off for a long time in the hope that I would be able to find a job where housing is cheaper. That doesn’t seem like it will come to pass, so we’re now moving on to Plan B: Buying A House Where It Is Incredibly Expensive To Do So.

The process has not been without its share of marital strain. I felt like we were in some kind of impasse last week as far as housing choices are concerned. Mrs. Geek was enthusiastic about buying a real fixer-upper because of the view. I just saw that every room in the place needed some kind of work… and since I’m the handy one in our relationship, I objected. That made me very tense… but we were able to talk things out and it’s been better this week. We finally found a place we both like yesterday… but were both very sad to discover that it is $50K more than we can afford.

*sigh* Well, we’ve seen one. There’s got to be another out there somewhere.

The unfortunate part of the process is that we can’t really afford a “move in ready” house in a good neighborhood. We need to rely on fixer-uppers, houses in marginal neighborhoods, “short sales” (houses being sold in a hurry to avoid foreclosure by the bank on a variable interest rate mortgage reset), and foreclosures owned directly by the bank. These last two cases are especially sad… and it seems odd to be profiting by them in some way. Then again, I didn’t make people believe that interest only, 100% financed mortgages are the way to safely buy a house.

Through all of this, Mrs. Geek is going rather “Rain Man” on me. She has a marvelous memory for places and times. So, when I suggest that “you know, we should have taken pictures to keep track of all these houses”, she just says “Oh no, we’ve seen 24 houses… 10 this week, 8 last week, and 6 the week before. I liked numbers 4 and 24 so far… you know the one we saw yesterday and the second one we saw two weeks ago Tuesday.”

I’ve never experience this side of her before. It probably bodes ill for me in the long term — I going to be hopeless at remembering what we did on every one of our wedding anniversaries or some such thing.

yoga pain

Act IV, Scene 1: A Room In Polonius’ House

In which our hero, having attended yoga class ruminates on getting his butt kicked.

Mrs. Geek and I have said “You know, we should take a yoga class together…” for a couple years now. Mrs. Geek has never taken yoga, though she has tried a few DVDs like Yoga Booty Ballet over the years. I haven’t taken a class in a few years, and haven’t seriously done yoga for about 10 years. When I discovered that the karate dojo down the hill was also offering Iyengar yoga classes, I knew it was probably time. When Mrs. Geek and I both stepped onto a scale recently, that “probably” turned into “definitely”.

Oh, I was woefully out of practice… and heavy. The gut I’ve put on my middle and really, really need to loose made certain of the standing poses a much more interesting exercise in physics. My hamstrings are also really, really, REALLY tight… though to be honest, they haven’t been anything like loose since I was about 5 years old. I was pigeon-toed as a child, and an orthopedic surgeon ruled that it was because the muscle attachments to my hips were a little off. Yeah… that’s probably why some of those leg stretches are so hard… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I made it through that first class, and now I’m waiting for the fallout. Stretching all those muscles was hard, but felt like such a release. Part of the reason I do like yoga is that it is such an interesting way to dig into muscle-memory. I’m sure there’s some kind of physical release of chemicals from the muscles… but it is also a way to stretch and move secondary muscles that just fall into “habits” of various kinds.

In any case, I’m waiting for the aching to set in. I said to Mrs. Geek before class that it was going to result in some soreness after. She said “well, just try not to over do it”. What she didn’t realize is that these are isometric exercises. There isn’t really any “in between” for a lot of poses. It’s just you, moving your body weight from position A into position B. That’s work you have no choice to do, if you are going to attempt the pose at all. So, yoga usually ends up kicking my ass for a while… then after some period the incremental improvement takes hold.

Other than that, we’re just trying to figure out what to think about the staff at the dojo. At first, they keep telling us “you should try the Saturday introductory class”. Me, I think I remember enough that I don’t need to start from square zero. By the end of the first class on Thursday, the receptionist kept asking “Are you free in the morning? Are you free in the morning? There’s this intermediate class that’s really great.” No, I’m not ready for that thanks… I’ll let the beginner class keep kicking my ass for a while.

Maybe they just want us to take as many classes as possible to get our money. Yeah. It’s not very yoga, but it does pay the rent… and that’s cool.

rejection!

Well, it seems that our sofa is not even good enough for the likes of the Salvation Army. Mrs. Geek called several organizations that operate thrift stores last week in an effort to locate one who would cart away our sofa. Some didn’t pick up in our area. Some didn’t pick up at all. As already mentioned, one didn’t pick up a sofa as long as ours. The Salvation Army does pick up in our area however, and made an appointment to get our sofa and coffee table this morning.

That was the plan, at least. When the driver and his helper arrived this morning, they took one look at the sofa and the accompanying coffee table we hoped to donate and said “Sorry. We’ll pass. There are stains.” What?!?!? Look, neither of these items would pass for new, but the problems are only wear and tear. There are a few rings from wet glasses on the surface of the table. Yes, the cushions on the sofa are a little flat, but there are no holes, tears, or punctures. There are no large food, drink, or pets stains or cigarette burns. In short, minus a little flat pillow stuffing and maybe a scratch or two, they are in more or less the same shape as when we got them used. When did the Salvation Army get so picky?

Mrs. Geek has a pretty good theory about that. The driver got picky as soon as he realized that he and his helper would have to move our 84 inch sofa down three flights of stairs (we have an elevator, but the sofa won’t fit in it). We’ve had this problem before — most notably with appliance delivery people.

The problem was easily solved in the end. After getting over the momentary indignation of having our sofa rejected by the thrift store industry, I called the local municipal garbage company. They were willing to haul it away tomorrow. Mrs. Geek and I managed to get the sofa down the stairs without too many problems; it’s easy to move a sofa if you have gravity on your side and don’t care too much what it looks like when the move is over.

black is the new white

After reading the news about Lewis I. “Scooter” Libby earlier this week, I feel more than ever that some people count more than others in the United States these days. Paris Hilton thought (or still thinks) that she counts more than everyone else, drives around on a suspended driver’s license, and gets sentenced to some time in jail. She appeals to the Governor of California to commute her sentence. Arnold Schwartzenegger is shrewd enough to know where he shouldn’t interfere, and Paris went to jail. Scooter Libby, one of the true neo-con faithful, knows that he counts more than everyone else. He shields his superiors from further inquiries about why he “outed” Valerie Plame, and is convicted of multiple felonies. He doesn’t serve a minute in jail, because our President violates established Federal procedure regarding clemency by commuting (but not overturning) his sentence because “it is not fair”. In this country today, Paris’s only real crime is that she’s just not quite connected enough, despite her media celebrity.

Of course, things have gotten so bad in this country that we can’t even agree on basic facts anymore. One need only look at the New York Times op-ed page on Tuesday to see how true this is. On one side, the Times editorial staff is condemning the decision to commute Libby’s sentence because he was convicted by a Republican-appointed judge, based on a case put forth by a Republican-appointed Federal prosecutor, stemming from a request by a Republican-controlled Central Intelligence Agency to determine why one of their operatives was politically “outed”. Yet, if you look across the page at David Brooks op-ed piece on the subject, one finds a completely parallel universe. This was a liberal/Democrat witch hunt, he says. Scooter Libby really didn’t do anything wrong. This was really an attempt to politically engineer the downfall of Karl Rove, Vice President Cheney, and other key operatives in the administration, who were only heeding the call of a “higher truth” anyway. Scooter didn’t rat anyone out, so he’s really a hero (why is it that so many political heroes these days are also felons? are we really living in the Louisiana of Huey Long?) and deserve to have this farce end before he even set foot in a jail.

I’m not even going to go into what it means to be an economic insider these days. Mrs. Geek and I have been out looking at houses, condos, and townhouses. The prices are astronomical (over $500K for less than 900 square feet of space). That is due, in part, to a bunch of greedy insiders who figured out that there was a lot of money to be made by offering easy mortgage money to people who couldn’t really afford to pay the loans if the housing market ever stopped going up, up, and up. Now the interest rates in those mortgages are about to reset, and people are defaulting. That, of course, is of little consequence… because the “real” losers are the folks invested in the Bear Stearns hedge funds that bought the bonds based on those mortgages. They want a bailout. What about me and Mrs. Geek? We are advised against buying a place in a lot of transitional neighborhoods because they may soon be full of empty homes created by sub-prime mortgage defaults. Do we get a bailout too?