Procrastination (But I Digress)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Debt Ceiling

So I am attempting to raise my debt ceiling.  I have excellent credit--I'm a very responsible person. I have lots of equity in my house even though no one wants to buy it for what I consider to be a fair market price.  The house could fall down and the land would still be worth more than I want to borrow on it.

First the bank said that my income was not enough.  That didn't make any sense, because the monthly payment would actually be less (refinancing to a much lower rate and restarting that 30 year clock).  They said that they figure out the very highest payment that I would have to pay after the rate is adjustable and assuming that I have to pay penalties, etc.  Ok, how much am I too low?  Before they can answer that question, they change their mind.  Hmmm.

Next they said that there was a problem with the appraisal.  I thought, ok, my house didn't sell, the appraisal is really low, but no, the appraisal shows that my loan to value ratio is 35-65.  It only needs to be 20-80 and they advertise that they will loan as much as 10-90.  So I'm confused.  What's wrong with the appraisal.  The house needs a new roof and a heater in the living room, they say.  I know, I say--that's why I need a loan.  Well those things have to be fixed.  Well I can't fix them until you loan me money.  Hmmm.

The next day, the bank calls and says, good news, just give us estimates for the work and we'll give you the loan.  Estimates, I say, what's to stop me from just keeping the money?  Hmmm.  We just need to see the estimates.  Ok.  I ask the roofer to give me an estimate.  He gave me one two years ago and told me that my roof still had two more years in it.  He'd be happy to come out next wednesday.  Don't you have anything sooner I ask?  How about tuesday.  Ok. 

The heating guy said that someone from the office would call me to set up a time.

The roofer's secretary is on vacation.  He doesn't know how to send me a fax.  He put it in upside down, so I never got the blank piece of paper he sent. 

The heating guy's secretary never called me so I called her on Wednesday.  They couldn't come until next week sometime.  I'm trying not to care.  The bank said even with the estimates, it's going to take three weeks to close.  This is already three weeks after I put in the application.  I had to wait three weeks to put in the application so that my listing agreement would expire first.    

The bank called me on friday.  My loan is ready to close now as soon as I have the estimates.  I knew they should want to loan me money.  I am like the poster child of good risk--guarenteed return.  I call the roofer and explain how to send a fax.  After a few tries he gets it.  I call a different heating guy and luckily they can come out the same day.  He wouldn't write an estimate on the spot, so I expect it Monday.  It is Wednesday and I don't have it yet.

I listen to the news about America's debt ceiling.  I think that if it doesn't get raised and bad things happen, my mild annoyance at tea party conservatives is going to escalate exponetially.  I wonder if they feel the same way about me.  This is how civil wars get started.  An expert from Harvard advised the President to simply take the matter away from congress like Lincoln did.  I'm not the first person to have this idea.  

When I first saw the price tag from the Iraq and Afganistan wars, I thought--this is not in the budget, we cannot afford this.  When my taxes did not rise to help pay for WAR, I thought, this is not good.  This is not fiscally sound.  If I have a huge expense, I make some new provision to take care of it.   I understood the stimulus program (presented by Bush).  A soft landing and not mass starvation.  What I don't understand is how we can expect to pay out these huge amounts (past tense--the money is already spent) and not expect to pay for it.  Conservatives are opposed to closing tax loopholes?  [Realtors in my City all drive Hummers because they get a very large tax incentive for owning a vehicle with an axil the size of a tractor--it is cheaper for them to buy a Hummer (with its horrible gas mileage), then to buy a more responsible vehicle--that's an example of a tax loop hole.]  The every person is supposed to be opposed to raising income taxes on the super rich?  If I am willing to pay my bills (my country really did spend the money--I owe it and so do you), then why are we being held hostage by an angry few? 

I am all for a balance budget (except for emergencies--I need a new roof and I can afford to pay for it over time--that is the balance for me being a home owner which adds stability to the neighborhood,etc.--otherwise, I can't afford a house and we will all live in Potterville.)  But I am opposed to head in the sand, no compromise politics.  I see people who have lost their jobs and can no longer pay their bills.  It is scary.  I don't want that to be my country.  Is the tea party conservative plan to implode the government?  Because that seems like the plan.

God Bless America and God Bless, President Obama.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ipad Scare

So yesterday my ipad just went blank.  I tried holding down the button, I tried shaking it, I tried plugging it into the charger and then onto the computer.  I tried holding down the button again and again.  I let it sit for an hour and then tried again.  I went on line (first on my iphone, but I couldn't read it because it was so small, so then I booted up my computer at home which I almost never use anymore).  I went to Ask dot com, I went to Apple, I downloaded the 286 page manual from apple and went page by page (why don't they have a search box in their manual--seems really dumb).  I looked at the ipad for a long time trying to figure out if there was something else that I could plug in or press down to make it come on.  Nothing worked.  I went to bed pretty heartsick.  I just started a really good book that I downloaded on my ipad.  I almost went on e-reader to buy the book again on my iphone, but reason and common sense jumped in and talked me off the ledge.

Today (Friday) was going to be a really crazy day and then two appointments cancelled.  So as I drove to work (I work next to the mall that has an apple store in it), I decided that I would go to the apple store first, before I started any part of my day.  But it wasn't 10 a.m. yet and they don't open until 10 a.m.. 

So I started a very small project for my appointment at 11:30.  When I looked up it was 1:00 p.m. and my 11:30 appointment had just showed up.  The small project turned into a large project and just kept getting more and more complicated.  A meeting that I thought would only take 15 minutes took over an hour.  And then I had two emergency things that I had to do immediately.  It felt like a mountain of extriment had fallen on my and I was very mindful of the time slipping away over the next hours.  I missed a self imposed deadline and although I am confident that there will be no direct fall out, I am still shell shocked from having so many things hit all at once so that I couldn't get it done.  [My theory is that I have too much work for a person to complete without a better support staff, but in a recession, you don't say no to any work and you don't hire more support staff, but I digress.]

Meanwhile, I haven't even stopped for lunch.  I did get a call from my doctor--there is a tiny chance I have cancer so she'll need to do this incredibly gruesome test (she described the test in minute detail over the phone as if hearing the word cancer in the sentence wasn't awful enough).  Don't worry--just an abnormality to be checked--my luck--it happens to me a lot.  I think they see attorney and figure I'm good for screwing with, but I digress.

Next I get a call from the bank.  I'm trying to get an equity loan so that I can do some work on my house that no one wants to buy.  It needs a new roof.  I have plenty of equity, so this should be a no brainer.  The bank says that they can't give me a loan until I fix the roof.  But I can't fix the roof without the loan I point out nicely to the bank.  That is a problem, I'm told.

So I've had it with work and phone calls.  My ipad doesn't work, so I'm going to the apple store.  It's a long walk through the mall, but I don't care.  I love my apple store.  They'll fix it.  They have to fix it.  It can't be dead.  I have no money.  What if it really is dead...  My heart is heavier and heavier as I get closer and closer to the store.  I can't have a new one.  There is no budget for replacing a complete luxury item.  I guess I could get a kindle.  It is a lot cheaper.  So's going to the library.  I'm never getting an ice maker (inside joke on me).

I walk into the apple store and it is so crowded that there is not a single blue shirt not engaged with a customer.  I walk all the way back to the genius bar.  No one will make eye contact.  I walk back to the front of the store.  When a service person is finished with a customer, they go back to the front door to help people.  I'll just wait by the front door.  I spot a customer that has two service people helping him and I walk toward them trying to make eye contact.  A line forms.  The extra service person turns to me.  It is like someone turned on the sun, he smiles so brightly and welcomingly.  I tell him my problem and he immediately shares my concern--"oh no," he says in a serious tone.  "I don't know what I'd do if my ipad didn't work."  "I know," I say.  Simpatico--I'm home.

He holds down the sleep button.  I've tried that I tell him.  He holds down the sleep button and the bottem button at the same time.  I think I've tried that but wait--THE APPLE APPEARED ON THE SCREEN.  I was so happy.  This was opening presents on Christmas morning happy.  This was seeing the ocean and being on vacation happy.  This was a new Nora Roberts or John Grisham book happy.   I love Apple.  I love my ipad.  That service guy is my new favorite person on the planet.

Whew.  That was close.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Twelve: Jet Lag)

When you go on a trip, lots of little things can peck, peck, peck at you, but you have to learn to laugh and remind yourself that you are on vacation.  No ice, endless stairs, left and right--it's all just a one eyed bird insulted that you would not pet a kangaroo (on your birthday in Australia), but I digress.

I was finally able to sleep in until 5 a.m., but it was my last day and I was supposed to leave in less than a half hour.  No worries, I was all packed the night before and by 5:25 I was in the lobby with my last can of ice cold diet coke looking for a place to sit and wait for Adam.  There was no place to sit down.  What kind of a hotel has no place in their lobby to sit down.  Oh, I could have walked down the two large stairs to their "waiting area" with big uncomfortable furniture, but I didn't want to do that again to my knees.  They had two chairs next to the desk and I could have tried to sit on those.  But they were antiques and really low.  Not chairs anyone would actually sit on.  Clearly just for show for the brochure (that really should have mentioned that no ice and no wireless thing).  I was just trying to decide if I would chance sitting on my luggage, when Adam pulled up in front.  [He didn't help me with my luggage--that's a bad sign--he's a very helpful guy.]    Did you get any sleep I asked him and he said a little, but clearly his "little" was as deceptive as his "few blocks".  Ok, I thought, just stay awake long enough to drive me to the airport and then you can go back to bed and sleep for days, but I didn't say it out loud. 

I was already thinking ahead.  Twenty minutes to drive to the airport.  Fifteen minutes to return the rental car.  That would get me to the reservation desk for the airport approximately four hours early.  That's my target now.  I have to get a window seat.  I focus on the window seat and try not to think about actually getting on the plane and staying there for 14 hours.  I try to put that out of my mind completely.  I'm focused on the window seat plan.  I'm focused.  Twenty minutes, Fifteen minutes, rental car...and then I looked at the gas tank gauge.  "Didn't you go get gas last night" I yell frantically to Adam.  "No," he says, "it was raining."  It's raining now too. 

Suddenly my twenty minute, fifteen minute, four hour plan is unraveling like cheap yarn at the paws of a frisky kitten.  And don't forget, we are the rain...ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD...on a side street... with stop lights.  How can this be the right way to the airport.  I don't really know that we are twenty minutes from the airport, we could be sixty minutes from the airport!  [That thought kind of made me laugh, because I was still going to be over three hours early.  As an aside, let me tell you a little about myself that most of you know--I'm always late for everything.  Maybe I think I'm too important to be on time, maybe I underestimate how long things take and I'm always trying to do more than I actually have time to do or maybe I really don't like waiting for things and other people.  I hate getting to a movie early--that time before the new movie previews start in a movie is like a slow and painful torture.  So it really did make me laugh at myself when I frantically thought, oh no, I'll only be three hours early.]

Lucky for Adam, we passed a gas station and I yelled (in my no nonsense--don't forget who in charge-- voice) pull in.  He said, we can stop closer to the airport, but I gave him a very cool, don't mess with me stare and he pulled in.  It was a very nice gas station (open all night luckily).  I tried to switch gears to "I'm on vacation--this is the last time I'll be seeing Adam for a while--get back to the fun part" and asked Adam if I could get him anything from the little convenience store.  "Milk," he said sulking.  He's so tired I thought vowing silently to try not to sweat the small stuff.  We're getting gas.  It's taking no time at all.  My plan is not ruined.  Just don't think about the 14 hour ordeal around the corner--that corner is still plenty far away.

Back on the road, we started seeing signs for the airport.  We passed the intersection where I had told Adam to go right, meaning left--good times.  When we got to the airport, there were no signs for Thrifty car rental return, but we were able to go right back to where we picked up the car and we parked it there.  We went into the terminal and back to the car rental counter.  The same little kid was there.  He said did you fill it with gas?  Yes.  Ok, great.  Here's the key, we parked it back in the same spot.  Ok.  And that was it.  The car was returned.  It was 5:55 a.m..  I was there 4 hours and 15 minutes early.  And the airline counter wouldn't open until 7 a.m.  I hate being early. 

I thought about being the first person in line (no one was anywhere near the ticket counter), but I really wanted to sit down too.  I tried to sit on my luggage--not pretty--did not work.  So Adam and I found some seats where we could see the counter and make sure no one else got in line ahead of me.  It was a long wait, but I was no longer anxious about the rental car and Adam was no longer enduring mean old Aunt Kathy yelling at him.  We settled in to pleasant conversation.  I'm going to miss this kid.

At 6:45 we started to see lots of activity at the counter--all the agents were arriving to work.  A couple with small children got in line and well, that's just the sort of thing the universe does to lull you into complacency, so I jumped up and got in line too.  Within seconds, there were six people in line behind me.  Meanwhile, Adam is looking at me puzzled--like did aliens just snatch my body or something--one minute we are sitting nicely and talking and the next minute I've turned into a mad person racing to be in line.  There's hardly nobody here he says--there are more people behind the counter than there are in line.  I try to let him put things into perspective, but my mind is singlely focused on getting a window seat.  It is necessary for my very survival.

As we wait in line I scope out the behind the counter people.  There are all sorts of signs over their stations.  There is a station for first class.  There is a station for business elite.  There is a station for domestic.  None of the signs seem to be for me.  I've seen this movie before.  It looks like there are lots of people to help you, but actually, the airline only has "peggy" (that guy on the phone in siberia--cute comercial) to help me.  I'm flying economy.  I have a bad feeling. 

Finally, a very pleasent, competent looking person calls me to their station.  I hand her my ticket, I put my luggage on the scale (did all those suveniers put me over the weight limit--I worry about the weirdest things--I bought four baby tee shirts, six magnets, some little boxes of butter cookies and some paintings on cloth.  If they weighted six ounces, I'd be surprised, but I'm holding my breath to make sure that my luggage doesn't exceed the weight limit).  Anyway, the gal smiles at me very bright and says, ok, we're all set and I remember (how could I have let this go so long in the exchange) "can I have a window seat" I blurt out.  There I've said it.  Her smile dims noticeably.  The air cools dramatically.  "Let me see," she says.  She types.  And then she types some more.  I'm practically the first person in line--surely no one else has had an opportunity to take all the window seats.  "Ok," she says (kind of meanly), "you have the last window seat.  It's in the last row."  "The last row," I say (whine actually).  "Don't you have anything more toward the middle."  "No," she says.  "That's the last window seat."  Maybe Peggy Sue gets asked for a window seat a lot and there never are any window seats.  Maybe I should be feeling sorry for Peggy Sue, because it is her job to tell lots of people that they have to sit in the center seats.  Why on earth would airlines even make planes with three seats and even five seats across--what were they thinking.  And poor Peggy Sue gets to be the punching bag for all those poor hapless souls who have to sit in the middle.  I should feel sorry for her, but she's just consigned me to siberia--the last row--that's next to the rest room.  Lions and tigers and bears.

I suppose that my single minded obsession with getting in line and getting a window seat has a tiny bit to do with not wanting to say good-bye to Adam.  He's really tired and he still has to take the train home before he can go back to bed.  I give him a nice long hug and he tells me to message him when I get home.  And I go through security and wave goodby as the line snakes around a corner.  My vacation is over and the ordeal of airtravel is about to begin.

Riddle me this.  They will not let you take liquids through the security check points.  But they have lots and lots of shops and restaurants before you get to security.  In LA at least, they have lots of shops and restaurants inside after security, but Brisbane--not so much.  One shop and one restaurant inside.  I looked through the one shop for a long time and couldn't find anything I wanted to buy.  I thought surely there will be something closer to my gate.  And then I walked six miles to my gate.  SIX MILES.  At this point it feels like walking in sand.  At mile four, there was a sidewalk mover--that was pure heaven, but it was over too soon and I still wasn't to my gate yet.  Meanwhile there is nothing--not a single vending machine anywhere on this six mile treck.  I finally get there and off to the side, I can see a vending machine.  I can't believe how incredibly relieved I felt.  There is no way I am walking back.  It was for water, not diet coke.  I sit down.  The seats are too low--it is really going to hurt my knees to get up.  I'm ready to cry.  I take out my book and try to read.  Don't forget, I'm now three hours early.  It's going to be a long day.

After about an hour, I start to get my second wind.  I really want a diet coke and potato chips and chocolate and a magazine and maybe a new book and some more souveniers.  I'll just walk back to that little store and hey, maybe I'll go and have breakfast at that little restaurant.  That would make the walk worthwhile.  I'm certainly not eating on the plane.  This little bit of logic has me walking back the long, long treck.  The moving sidewalk only goes one way and now I am going the opposite way, but there's certainly diet coke and chips at the end of this treck--I can make it.  Even though my carry on doesn't have any diet coke in it, it is still really heavy (got to be the ipad).  I'm trying not to think about how I will be able to make it back to my gate carrying an even heavier carry on filled with diet coke.

The restaurant was really crowded and nothing on the menu sounded palatable, so I pass and move on to the little store.  There were lots of isles and I slowly went up and down each one twice.  They had lots of toys that the kids would like, but I laughed at myself for even letting the thought cross my mind--no way am I carrying that stuff on the plane.  The books are all books I will be just fine ordering on-line for my ipad and let's face it, I don't really want to add an ounce of weight.  None of the magazines were worth their weight.  The chips look suspect, but walking all that way just for a diet coke seems like a waste, so I got three diet cokes and a bag of chips. 

As I stared down that long, long corridor I happened to see an abandoned luggage cart.  No one was anywhere near it.  It did not belong to anyone.  It wouldn't matter if it was abandoned here or at the end of the six mile treck.  I put my carry on on the cart.  It was so easy to push.  It was so easy to walk without that horrible weight of the carry on.  The cart was soo nice.  I couldn't believe my luck and in no time at all I was to the moving sidewalk and in no time at all I was at my gate.  There was an empty table with nice high chairs.  The chips tasted salty, the diet coke was nice and cold, and my book started getting good.  Ah, the life.  I love being on vacation.

A while later, an airline guy said he'd need to clear the area around our gate.  They had to set up another check point for the international flight.  By now the other gates had lots of people and there were only low seats available, but my book was still good at least.  I didn't really pay attention, but when I looked up there was suddenly a very long line to go through the new security check point.  And they were starting to talk about boarding our flight.  How had all that time passed by so quick.  I got in line and when I got to the front they told me I couldn't take the cart.  Boo hoo.  I was really pretty attached to that cart now.  My carry on was heavy.

They singled me out for an additional security check and I was directed to a curtained area.  They were finishing up with a twelve year old boy behind the curtain.  I was next.  Then they directed another guy over and he went in (cutting in front of me).  I was annoyed but no one seemed to care and how annoying are you allowed to be at a secondary airport check point to see if you have a bomb.  I didn't say anything.  Then they sent two more women over.  They saw me.  They wouldn't cut in line.  Then they sent another woman over.  She said--what's going on--are only females being checked?  There was nervous laughter but no one was willing to engage further.  It is not fun to be checked by security at the airport.  When it was my turn, the security person put special gloves on and checked my hands and my luggage for bomb residue.  There wasn't any, whew.

By now I was fed up with my carry on.  I transfered the bare necessities to my purse and on the plane (all the way in the back) I put everything else in the overhead bin.  I gave the airline pillow and blanket to the steward and tried to make my seat belt as loose as possible.  I settled in and opened my book.  The seat all the way in the back was only two across, so I would have just one seat mate.  When she got there she was skinny and didn't seem to speak English.  She went right to sleep--it doesn't get any better than that.

I think my book lasted a good two hours into the flight.  Then I tried to sleep--nope.  I started a new book and that lasted a while.  No I don't want breakfast, but I was not shy and demanded a cup of ice.  So I had my diet coke and the snacks I brought and tried to sleep--nope.  I watched tv and tried to sleep--nope.  Then I did nothing at all.  Just stared off into space.  That's when I got sick.  I thought--oh, no.  Not a heart attack at 10,000 feet.  I'm all the way at the back of the flight, in economy.  They are only going to have doctors in first class.  I was hot and ready to puke and couldn't breath and I started to wonder, ok, what part of my life is going to pass before me as I die on this plane.  Luckily, the ready to puke is an age old trigger for get out of your seat and to the rest room (right next to me) as soon as possible.  I was still dying, but now I was up and moving and dying--it didn't seem so very dire if I was able to stand up.  I didn't throw up and I didn't die and soon I just really, really, really wanted to sit down.  I turned the air blower on me full blast and I survived.  Wow, I thought, an EPISODE at 10,000 feet. 

I tried to sleep--nope.  I looked into space.  It was dark outside, but I couldn't see any stars.  I think we were in clouds because there was a lot of turbulance.  We left a 10 a.m., but we were going back in time because we were going to arrive the same day at 6 a.m..  After a while, I asked a steward for a refill on my ice and handed them back my cup.  I'm happy to recycle--I'm right there at the back near their station.  I was given back the cup with ice and I poured in the last of my water which was now leaking like a waterfall from the cup.  I yelled back to the steward station that had about six people milling around as the water poured over me and my neighbor.  It still took about five minutes for them to hand me another cup and another five minutes to get a couple of napkins to dry up the spills.  Fun times.

Finally, I watched a movie, but I was now racing the clock.  We were almost there and the captian kept interrupting the movie to tell us how close we were.  I was the last person off the plane, but at least I was home in LA.  The shuttle bus took forever (six stops before me), but soon I was in my own bed, under my own covers.  I slept and slept and slept.  Days later I still had jet lag, but not so many days later I was able to relive my whole trip on this blog.  That was pretty awesome.

I hope that you have enjoyed this journey.  I really did have a wonderful trip, but I wouldn't mind a bit if my next vacation was a whole lot closer than a 14 hour plane trip away.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Eleven: Deception Bay)

This was Adam in the surf on our first day at the beach north of Brisbane.  When we got to Day 6 and Adam asked what did I want to do, I said,  I don't know, what do you want to do?  Going back to the beach North of Brisbane should have immediately jumped to mind, but we had to get lost first.  Sure we had lots more experience driving and navagating, but I was still pretty crappy at it.  Let's start at the beginning.

On Day 5, I couldn't stay awake past 8:30 p.m. (again) and so, I was up by 4 a.m. on Day 6 (again).  By now I was very familar with my tv options and I decided to watch some news.  That early in the morning, it was on a loop, but I just kept changing channels (there were four news channels) so I mixed it up some.  And then of course I had to see Jessica kill someone off at 6.  It seems like the killer always catches her alone when she explains the evidence that will convict them--why don't they just shoot her when they have the chance.  But I digress.

Anyway, we had talked about different things to do, but we hadn't made any definite plans.  So first things first, we drove to McDonald's so I could check my e-mail.  I had logging in down to a science and I didn't even have to yell at Adam because it was taking too long (I know, like it is his fault or something just because he moved to Australia and MY hotel doesn't have wireless, but I digress).  There was a botanical gardens downtown that we hadn't been to, so we were going to start our day there.  Except that when I tried to navagate us there from McDonald's it was one of those--you can't get there from here kind of deals.  I mean we went at it from about six different routes and none of them worked until finally we were on something heading north and Adam said, why don't we just go to Deception Bay up at Sunshine Coast--YES, I said, that sounds excellant.

I had read a book about Australia before I went that talked about how long it took explorers to find Australia.  I seemed to remember that Deception Bay may have been one of the first landing spots.  Anyway, the signs to Deception Bay were easy to follow and we didn't really care where we ended up.  So of course we did get lost, but at least we just didn't care very much that we were sort of lost.  We were driving up one very residential street in Nudgee and there in the middle of the block was a little neighborhood market.  It's time for a diet coke.  Then we parked and looked at the ocean for a while and then we continued north to Deception Bay.  There was a nice little park (I wanted a restroom, so I walked and walked and walked toward a building that looked like a public restroom, but when I got to it, it was a wall with nothing behind it.  I walked and walked and walked all the way back to where Adam was waiting and the restroom was a few feet past him in the opposite direction--that was fun).  That little park was ok, but we decided to go a little further north.  The last place we parked was a larger parking lot for the beach and it was a nice looking vacation sort of town (except it is Winter, so there weren't many people--the parking lot was fullish, but it wasn't really crowded or anything).  Anyway, the first thing we saw was a condo on the beach for sale--$1,000,000.  The sign looked really old, like they didn't have too many lookers.

There was a nice, flat walkway along the top of the beach so we walked up it.  There were beautiful vacation homes all along the walkway looking out over the beach.  It was easy to pretend that they were rentals to a new family every week in the summer and what a great time any family or big group of friends would have staying so close to the ocean like that.  Most of the homes looked closed up for the winter, but every once in a while there were signs of residency.  It was so peaceful and happy looking. 

When we were all strolled and sitting out, we drove back to the City.  By now it was late afternoon and I wanted to see the Storybook Bridge lit up at night, so we walked down to the River again.  We were looking for someplace to eat and I said, why not the pizza, that I already know I like and we went to the restaurant we'd gone to the first day.  This time they just had dumb cartoons on the tv (no tennis), but we had a nice view of the river and as it started to get dark, I got to see the Storybook bridge lit up.  We called it a night (and I went back to my room to eat cake--I only had one more day to finish it).

The next morning, Adam had a job interview.  I was expecting him at 10, but he didn't come until closer to 11:30.  He said the interview went well, but I just didn't feel like either of us was in the mood to try anymore driving.  I suggested that we go to the Queen's Mall again and just walk around and we did.  First McDonalds (darn if I didn't forget about the elevator and go up those darn stairs without thinking) and then to the Mall. This time, Adam goes in a door and suddenly we are in front of a hairdressers.  He said, didn't you want to have your hair done?  Yes, how did he remember that.  I went in without an appointment and they took me right away (then I felt kind of bad because someone came in a few minutes later and said, ok, I'm back, can you take me now?  They had told her to come back in 15 minutes and then I beat her in and now they were telling her to come back in a half and hour--my hair takes a really long time to blow dry).  My hairdresser was from New Zealand and she actually used a hair straightener iron or something on my hair.  I told her, my hairdresser never used that and she said, that's because she's more experienced so she knows the right tools.  It was different, but I'm not going to ask for it.  I like my hairdresser's experience slash tools, just fine.  It was pricey and at the last minute I remembered not to add a tip (whew).

Well this time around, I noticed a few suvenier shops and I was worried that I didn't have enough suveniers, so I picked up a few more.  And Adam took me to his favorite pizza place for a slice for lunch (except that there was only seating outside--have I mentioned that it is Winter there?)  Across the street the ice skating rink was open, but Adam declined to go ice skating alone (you didn't think I was going ice skating--haha).  We also went into a very cool looking building that was a public library--Adam really likes going to the library in Brisbane, but he needs two forms of picture id in order to get a library card (or even to volunteer at the library).  He only has one picture id--his passport (his wallet was stolen soon after he got to Australia, so he doesn't have his picture driver's license--he got a temporary license, but there's no picture on it and it will take six to eight weeks to get a new picture id.  It is always something and then it is something else. But I digress.)

It was cold and the air felt like it would start raining at any time.  I suggested that we go back to the hotel and play some cards and Adam agreed.   Except that he doesn't like to play cards, so we ended up playing scrabble on my ipad.  He thought using the hearts to have the computer come up with the best word was cheating, but with that handicap for me, we were pretty well matched and he did start to use it after a while.  Later he showed me that he was also playing a word game on his iphone with someone else at the same time and winning soundly.  It was a very dreary day outside, but it didn't actually rain (or at least I didn't see it rain).  Adam said that it was kind of a record--it rains a lot there and for it to go almost a whole week without raining was very unusual.

We ended the day going to the hotel restaurant for steak.  And chips (or should I say very very yummy french fries--score).  The steak was excellent and the fries were even better.  A big group of very noisy guys came into the restaurant right after we were seated and Adam said oh, no.  But they didn't stay long and soon we shared the restaurant with a couple having a romantic dinner and a group of four women friends having dinner.  At one point, (we were right next to the hotel lobby) a worker was putting out an extra carpet in the lobby (because it looked like rain).  The carpet was red and he was arranging it to roll it out.  One of the ladies at the table of the four women friends having dinner, jumped up from her seat and ran out so that she could follow the unrolling carpet and take her bows on the red carpet.  It was hilarious.  She is definitely my new best friend in Australia.

Well I didn't finish the cake, but I moved it to the baggies so that Adam could take his cake pan home.  I sent him home right after dinner, because I wanted to leave at 5:30 a.m. for the airport (well I wanted to leave at 4, but then I changed to 5 and then 5:30--but I wanted to be there no later than 6--more than 4 hours early--I didn't want to take any chances with my window seat and we still had to return the car).  I asked Adam to go out and get gas, so that we wouldn't have to worry about that in the morning and he very kindly said, sure.  I gave him a hug, just in case I would forget the next day and saw him go off into the night.  What an awesome trip.  I'll never forget a minute of it.

Stay tuned--I got the last window seat--how I seemed to cut it right to the edge I will never know.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Ten: Hidden Mall)

Here's a picture of the Queen's Mall (looks like summer in this picture--not the time that I went--it was much more gloomy and chilly, but even in the winter all the dining was outside.  But let's start where we left

So Day Five--I was looking forward to sleeping in, but I was up early, early again.  I had a really good book to read.  I had ice to chip off my block of ice.  I had snacks I hadn't eaten on the plane.  I had cake--yummy.  I had 14 channels of unwatchable stuff to flip through and don't forget "Murder She Wrote" at 6:00 a.m.--I'm sorry, but if I ever meet Jessica Fletcher in real life, I'm running away--someone is always getting murdered around that broad--she had more nieces and nephews and old friends than anyone on the planet and by golly everytime she went to see them, someone got murdered, but I digress.  So an altogether fine, lazy morning, but by noon when I was expecting Adam, I was watching the bottem of the building across the street, which was mirrored so that I could see him coming into the hotel.

Adam and I were just going to walk around--check out Queen's Mall and the downtown area.  But first, I needed to go to McDonald's to check my e-mail.  The closest one was at the Train station, just a few blocks away.  I was prepared for a long walk, because I know Adam's idea of a few blocks.  Also, I never saw a train or even an entrance for a train station.  I'd seen a ferry stop on the River on our first day, but no trains.  I knew they had them, because I had originally mapped out taking the train from the airport to my hotel. 

Anyway, Adam leads the way and a few blocks later he starts going up this very steep broad set of stairs.  From the street, I can't see the top of the stairs, but there are lots and lots of people going up and down.  I, of course, stop.  When faced with a flight of stairs, my knees require at least an inquiry into an alternate route--an elevator or lift?  An escalator?  Two very large men to carry me?  Surely there is some alternative to very long, steep flight of stairs--don't they have a McDonalds on the next block at street level?  Adam is not amused and says come on.  At the top of the stairs, straight ahead is an elevator--I throw Adam the death stare, but he has his suit of armor on and it doesn't even faze him. 

We then walk into what I can only describe as a cave--it felt like we were underground.  It felt like going into the bart stations in San Francisco.  You go down a really long stairway (escalators) down underground to the trains.  It felt like we were underground, except that I had just climbed a very tall stairway to get here.  Weird.  Anyway, the McDonalds was straight ahead--it was tiny and dark.  I was hoping for pizza for lunch, so I just ordered fries.  Adam once again has to figure out how to get the internet on my phone and I check my e-mail, review, answer, review, answer.  My office really could live without me--oh they missed me, but no one died.  Darn.  But I digress.

After Maccas, Adam and I walked out (I think I made him wait for the elevator, but maybe not because I really don't recall taking the elevator--maybe there was another way out) and over a few streets to the Queen's Mall.  There were a bunch of shops, but nothing that I wanted to see and then Adam said, let's go in here.  It was a very crowded corner of some shops and straight ahead was an escalator.  Suddenly we were in a giant indoor mall with grocery stores, general merchandize stores, lots of clothing stores, little fruit and vege stores, just everything under the sun.  There were eight floors and so many, many people.  This was a Thursday, but it was wall to wall people everywhere.  It was huge.  And bright--very clean and pretty indoors.  I dragged Adam into a store and made him look at folding chairs, but he refused to let me buy one for him.  On one of the floors, the escalator went right into a store that was like a Michaels Craft store (but not).  I wanted to look at cross stitch supplies, but they didn't have any--none.  When I had gone to London, I had gone into Harrod's and their craft and sewing area was really millinary (for making hats)--that's what this store reminded me of.  But we went up another flight (escalator, thank you Queen) and we were still in the same store, but they had lots of cross stitching and knitting supplies.  It was cool, but I didn't really need anything and I wasn't going to have room in my suitcase.  It was just cool to look.

We kept going up on the escalator and at the very top was the movie theater.  Super 8 had just opened and Adam wanted to see it.  Me, not so much.  On the other hand, it was really gloomy outside, it didn't look like I was getting pizza, so popcorn sounded pretty good just then.  And no flights of stairs to walk up to get there.  I was in.  The movie exceeded my expectations and Adam did not succeed in making me remove my hands from my eyes and ears for the scary parts (why did he even try, silly boy).

We walked around the mall a little bit more and then I said how do you get out--I hadn't seen a single entrance or exit out.  Adam said that had puzzled him for a while too--there are only three places to get back out to the street, but he had memorized them and we did find our way out.  There was some construction across the way and Adam said that they were builing an ice rink (because it was winter), but that it wouldn't be completed for a few weeks.  

Well, I was malled out, so we walked to Adam's apartment to pick up the car (I did not walk up all the stairs to his apartment--just to the parking lot).  We drove out to another part of town to the Sizzlers that Adam knew of.  He was telling me about when he and Wayne had been at the train station in this part of town.  A weird, crazy guy had tried to talk to them and seemed like he was following them.  Adam said that he had tried to be nice, but that little bit of not rude, niceness had made the weird guy follow him more.  Adam said that they were careful walking home, because they didn't want that guy to know where they lived.  It really freaked him out.

Anyway, driving there, I tried to close my eyes.  I was not in charge of navigating (thank goodness).  Adam found his way there and although the parking structure was the seventh level of hell (think very skinny circular concrete enclosed driveways, driving on the wrong side of the road), we survived and walked a long distance through a concrete parking structure maze to an out of the way, non-descript door.  It was all very twilight zone and then out of nowhere was the very pleasant sign for Sizzlers.  It was very bright and lovely on the inside--a stark contrast to how gloomy and dark it was outside in the concrete parking structure.  Anyway, we ordered and we were shown to a very nice table.  The place was just starting to get crowded, so I was glad we were having dinner so early.  Adam was back to the table and I got up to get my drink.  When I came back to the table, Adam said, "That was him.  Did you see that guy you just passed?"  "Who," I said.  "The weird guy that followed Wayne and I that I was just telling you about."  Adam was totally freaked out, but the guy didn't see him and left.  How weird was that.

After a while, we relaxed into our dinners.  I could only eat half of my steak, but since it is kind of a buffet, they really don't let you take home left overs--no containers.  Adam said that he would take the other half of my steak home, but as it got closer to the time to leave, he said are we really fold up half your steak in a napkin and take it home, kind of people?  He doesn't even have a dog.  No, we were not. 

On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store and I got another bag of ice.  (This time when I got back to the hotel, I divided the bag of ice into smaller ziploc bags so that it wouldn't melt into a giant block--score).   It had been a nice lazy day (no pizza, but a nice steak dinner and a good movie--it was a very good movie when you close your eyes and ears during the scary part--I can't attest to the movie that Adam saw, since he kept his eyes open, but I digress).  And I had cake for dessert back at the hotel.  All was right with the world.

Stay Tuned--Adam and I saw terrific vacation homes on the coast--they only wanted a million dollars for them.  Such a deal.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Nine: Penguin South)

Look at those big old penguins.  For some reason this was my one and only picture that I took at Sea World--go figure, but I digress.

Let's start at the beginning again.  Although I had been bound and determined to get with the time zone differences, I still couldn't keep my eyes open past 8 p.m..  I woke up at 3:00 a.m. AGAIN, but this time I would not allow myself to get up.  I was determined to try to sleep later, so that I could stay up later.  Finally at 4:30 a.m., I gave up and turned on the tv.  The tv was on one of the rugby channels, but they were showing the Men's Finals from the French Open and they were already in the third set!  If I had turned on the tv at 3 a.m. when I first woke up, I would have seen the whole thing.  Oh well.  My Nadal won.  Yeah!

I was outside at 9:00 a.m. again and this time Adam pulled up on the street right on time--score.  We were going to drive south toward the Gold Coast, first to the Sky Walk (a series of elevated bridges over a rain forest that promised to show us exotic birds and wild life), then to Sea World (since I really, really, really was not going to go snorkling at the Great Barrier Reef) and finally to the Ocean at Gold Coast.  If we ran out of time, we'd just continue and do some stuff the following day--silly me.  We had plenty of time and I should have known by now that the less time we spent driving, the happier we'd be.

So I had the brochure for the Sky Walk place and it was south, but it was much farther inland--not near the coast.  On the map it looked like a nice sized highway to get there.  In reality, not so nice sized and actually pretty mountainie and long--like driving on Topanga Canyon, but much worse.  And we were running out of gas.  After what seemed like a very long drive, we found the rainforest and the Sky Walk.  It was a little pricey, but I'm on vacation.

So we started out on the walk.  They said it would take us 20 minutes out and 20 minutes back.  It took us about 10 minutes, so we started to try to slow down, except that there wasn't anything to see except trees.  Ok, they were nice looking trees, and there was a little brook, but how long can you look at that.  We had seen some pictures of exotic birds, butterflies and really big bugs at the lobby of the place, but outside it was just cold and cloudy.  No birds, no butterflies and no bugs.  I think we saw a spider's web.

Although this place took no time at all, it was really a long drive back to the coast and we drove and drove.  First I made Adam stop at the first gas station we saw--out in the middle of no where.  I couldn't figure out what gas we were supposed to use, so the gas station attendent tried to help me, but he didn't know either.  So we looked in the book for the car and finally figured it out.  So frustrating.  Then we drove and drove and drove with the ipad map going in and out, never knowing if we were on the right road or going in the right direction.  Eventually, we got back to the coast and stopped at a McDonalds for lunch.  And I got to check my e-mail (yeah!). 

Recharged, we plotted our next stop at Sea World.  They were doing some kind of construction near the ocean and Sea World was not coming up on the map, but the place it was shown on a brochure was like on a penisula.  It was very confusing to try to get to it (and my ipad showed an intercection that was actually an overpass situation), but we found it. 

It was awful.  It was mostly a cut rate amusement park with lots of food vendors, suvenier shops, rides, games and kind of tucked out of sight as almost an after thought was a large fish aquarium with some sharks, a dolphin show, one sorry looking polar bear and very fat penguins.  It was really expensive too.  Adam saw the price and realized that our admission would probably pay his rent and he didn't want to go. (But this was before I saw how sorry their aquarium was, so I really wanted to go and I'm on vacation).  We spent a long time at the aquarium, we hung out as long as we could stand at the stinky penguin house, we felt sorry for the polar bear and we were done really quickly.  The dolphin show was going to start in about 45 minutes, so we decided to hang out and wait for it.  We got some sodas (I think they were on sale--2 for $4, so we really could not pass them up) and just sat on a bench until they opened the stands.  It was a lazy, cloudy, but relaxing afternoon.  The dolphin show was enjoyable and on our way out, we hit the suvenir stores and found a bargin on tee shirts for Caitlyn and the babies.  [I got them all the same dolphin tee shirt, but Caitlyn and Madi in pink and Matthew in blue--Caitlyn loves to be twins with Madi.  Adam got Caitlyn a green alligator tee shirt that I meant to tell her looked like Kevin the alligator from 64 zoo lane--my favorite, but I digress.] 

We still had lots of time before we would be ready for dinner and Adam asked me if I was interested in going to Hard Rock Cafe--OF COURSE! How awesome--it hadn't even occurred to me that there would be a Hard Rock Cafe in Australia. It was in Surfer's Paradise at the Gold Coast and we were right there. We left Sea World and were able to find a parking space right on the coast a few blocks from the Hard Rock Cafe. There were lots of vendors and shops--it was like a sea side tourist town--Montery plus Santa Monica times 10. It was really cool. But the best part was the ocean. The beach was absolutely gorgeous.

But it was chilly.  But gorgeous.  As we walked to the Hard Rock Cafe, we saw lots and lots of shops--very upscale--very Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive.  The Hard Rock Cafe was exactly the same as every Hard Rock Cafe I've ever been in (diet coke, not so good, hamberger and fries, fine, but not great).  I got my required Tee Shirt and I was very happy.  I even got a milk shake.  I love being on vacation.  The only bad thing was that the restaurant was up stairs--no lift (elevator).  What is it with Australia, don't they know that fat tourists cannot climb stairs?  Anyway on the way out, I actually fell on the stairs--well on the landing.  A guy was there and he and Adam tried to help me up, but they were pulling me--that wasn't going to work, because my knees were not cooperating.  It was pretty akward, but I finally manuvered around and made my knees do their job (such slackers).  I was fine, but totally fed up with stairs.

On our walk back to the car we stopped at all the cheesy suvenir shops along the way and I found lots of stuff that I wanted.  I tried to be brutal--what ever I buy, I'm going to have to pack because I'm moving next month.  Will I love this thing so much that I'm willing to pack it and pay a mover to move it?  I said yes to that question way too much, but it did fit in my suitcase, sooooo (I'm on vacation).

I think I fell asleep on the ride home--it was really long.  I told Adam that we should start late the next day--sleep in and not meet until noon for lunch.  I wanted to sit on the balcony and read a book, we would just hang out in the City and do nothing.  It sounded like a great plan and I was already looking forward to a lazy day.  I love being on vacation.

Stay tuned:  The Queen's Mall really is fit for a Queen, but the creepy guy showing up at Sizzlers--that was creepy.