Monday, August 30, 2010

I Have Been Officially Welcomed To Louisville!

I will keep this one short.

Today I posted on The Huffington Post about how Louisville stacks up versus New York. (Longtime blog readers will have read this piece here first. Okay, I am re-purposing my own writing, but if I can't who can?)

I had one small quip in there about how the food in NYC is better than in Louisville. And I don't think that is a hard argument to make. Still, one fairly prominent Louisville blog made a point of officially welcoming me to Louisville, and then explaining to me that there are many, many fine dining establishments in this fair city that I should know about and consider. It's not all Chik-Fil-A! (Which I almost certainly just misspelled.)

Now I know. But, my gosh, for reals? Who gets welcomed to a city this way?

And it's funny, because in the original HuffPo piece I wrote about how here people are almost too friendly. I guess I was onto something. But I will take it any day!

Oh, and here is the welcoming blog entry.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Trip: Post-Script, or Chapter 12.

I'll keep this one short. (Although for Chapter 1 you should click on here. For all you latecomers!)

Mike and I hit the road the next day at 8:30 a.m. and, believe it or not, it went pretty much as planned. Yes, there were some hairy moments, so to speak, when I feared my cats would bake to death in the back seat of the Honda. (The solution was to put up the window shade and blast the AC. Honestly, once that was done it was nicer in there than in the truck. And it used very little gas, fwiw.)

At the end of the first day of driving we even each felt confident behind the wheel of the beast. The highway is so much easier than the tri-state area, especially once you venture into the heartland. There isn't much traffic and it's easy to get to where you need to go. The rest areas also got progressively less and less crowded as the trip progressed.

Yes, there were some interesting moments all the same. Mike and I had many fantastic and fun coversations, including one where we vowed to remember all the teams that played in the World Series going back to 1990. I think we got them all too.

Another wonderful moment happened as we drove down the freeway shortly after dusk, in Ohio. All of a sudden I looked onto the shoulder of the road and saw what must have been hundreds of lightening bugs flickering on all at once, as if to say welcome to the real America. It was as fantastically beautiful as the world's tiniest meteor shower.

That night we stayed in an Ohio hotel relatively near the Kentucky border. We snuck the cats in, too, and let them run around. Talisker was a wet, matted mess, Cromwell looked none the worse for wear. It brought some real joy to my heart to see them stretch their legs and roam around our room. They seemed intent on exploring every nook and crevice of that room too.

Later that night I heard a rhythmic banging against the wall of the room. I immediately assumed it was Cromwell, as he does that sort of thing. But as I listened more I realized, no, that's no cat. Nope, it was, in fact, a couple next door having happy fun times. And lots of them too, to judge by the frequency with which their fun times persisted. It had actually woken me up, a first. Later that morning they woke me up once more. Mike, for his part, slept through most of it.

The next morning we walked across the street to a Waffle House. The coffee was superb, the actual waffles could make you vomit. I was shocked, up to this point I had thought waffles were one thing that were impossible to get wrong. How naive I was.

As we left a middle-American waitress gave me the once over and asked, "what would you say if I told you you weren't allowed to leave?"

It took a moment for this attempt at seduction to process in my brain. Wait, I had just been hit at, at a Waffle House? I had just found the one thing that made the actual food there seem appetizing by comparison.

"Thank you," I answered. "I am very flattered." Lame, I know. Then we hightailed it out there, before they closed the doors on us, locked us in, and had their waffle-serving way with us both.

The rest of the morning was pleasant and easy. We arrived at my new home in Kentucky by 11:00 a.m. The movers weren't there yet, which I understood. I had been in contact with their dispatcher since the first day of the drive, because I had been so late. The actual move in, in other words, was scheduled to happen a day after we had originally planned. In true Southern fashion the dispatcher, a young woman, was kind and nice about the whole thing.

Soon Randi and her family showed up, the whole coxie army as they say. They brought fried chicken with them too, which was really nice. We opened up the apartment and had some lunch on paper plates on the floor. Then the movers called on the phone, they were here.

I went down our new stairs to see three guys in a fire red Mustang pull up, and all of them were smoking. Yup, we're in Kentucky, I thought. Nonetheless they were professional, friendly and did the entire move in job in two hours, as originally discussed. The job came in at $180.00 as per our original estimate, and when I tipped them $60 they seemed to genuinely appreciate it.

As the move in took place Randi took Stella and our niece Bethany and nephew Daniel to the pool. Oh yeah, we have a pool too. They splashed and played all day until everything was in place, or at least in place for now.

Soon Mike retired to a private room we had rented for a short nap and I headed down to the pool too. I saw my brother in law Kerry and started to describe the entire crazy tip to him, or at least as much as I could in five minutes.

He laughed and laughed. "Dave," he said, "you've got to write about this."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 11

Oh man, I was going in the wrong direction, it kept getting later, you can guess how this made my nerves feel. I was already exhausted and not sure how much longer I could keep going. On the other hand I wasn't all that far from Mike's if I could just get this ridiculous rig turned around.

I was on the lookout for U-turns, as noted, but there weren't any that I could see. I let one exit pass and then another pass. Soon I was miles and miles in the wrong direction from the Edison Memorial Rest Area and I just wanted to get this thing on the right track.

I picked an exit roughly ten miles away from the Edison Rest Area and got off. At this point I had to pay my toll for being on the Turnpike, which seemed ridiculous because I wasn't even where I needed to be. Nonetheless I paid it, and looked for a convenient place to turnaround.

Somehow I made a wrong turn, and then another wrong turn. I had to get off, I had no choice. The exit that looked most promising was New Brunswick because, if for no other reason, Rutgers University is there. College town, how bad can it be?

The streets of New Brunswick were deserted, and if there was a college there I sure didn't see it. Instead I drove down and down the road, past endless strip malls. Nothing was opened, not one restaurant, not even a gas stations. It was lights out in Mallville, USA.

This was supposed to be a relatively brief little jaunt off the Turnpike but after ten minutes I realized I had seen absolutely nothing that alerted me as to how to get back on the highway. Was I going the wrong way, again? I didn't know, but it was a safe guess by this point that I was.

I drove past yet another empty fast food restaurant, yet another empty carpet place, yet another empty big box retailer. It was like a ghost town, if all the ghosts were K-Mart shoppers. I decided to turn around, and take my chances going the other way.

I made a right, off the four lane road I was on, onto a two lane road, into what was the last opened gas station in the entire area. I needed something to eat, my terrible Nathan's hotdog had been hours ago by this point, and I was thirsty as well. I also thought I would ask directions, since, you know, I was totally crap at actually getting to where I needed to be.

As I got closer to the gas station I saw it was not exactly a friendly place. Indeed it was one of those ones that have the clerks behind bullet-proof plexi glass. Okay, okay. I decided to play it safe and slowly walked back to the truck. Once in I put it in drive, inched a turnaround, and got back on the road, going, I hoped, the right way.

They say the course of true love never did run smooth, and as you can guess by now, neither did the course of one overwhelmed schmo in a rented truck with two cats. I somehow took the wrong direction at a fork in the road, and then got off at the wrong place in a traffic circle, it was, in short, kind of like "European Vacation" except it was neither a vacation nor in Europe. Soon I was driving through the inner city of New Brunswick, or at least a town near New Brunswick. This area, of course, was not empty at this time of night. I nodded grimly as I tried to keep from getting ever more lost.

After about five minutes of this I saw a sign for the Turnpike. Relieved I got back on the right path, I hoped, and was hopefully on my way once more. Of course I still missed more turns, and the like, but I think you can get the picture by now. Altogether this little extra side trip tacked on another half hour to my voyage.

I got back on the Turnpike, and took yet another ticket. It was now 11:30 p.m.

I spoke to Mike and went over the directions for what to do when I got off at his exit. I would make a right, get onto a fairly busy local road, drive past various intersections and then make a right when I saw a Staples mega-store. Got it.

Soon I passed the Edison Rest Area once more, happy to see it get small in my rear view. Then I finally saw Mike's exit. I pulled off, and followed his instructions to the letter.

Except for one part, of course. I missed the turn at the Staples, because it was dark and came up suddenly. Quick turns in this rig were not going to happen. Instead I made the next right past the Staples and decided that I would then turn around and take another shot at it. Yet there was no outlet that lead directly back to the road I had just gotten off.

Somehow I now ended up in an empty stretch of residential suburbia, where the roads curled around with no reason at all, and the road I needed could not be seen. I ended up in a cul-de-sac, naturally, and was now trapped. Uh-oh, I would have to back up, and risk snapping the trailer hitch. You better believe the words of the bitter U-Haul service mechanic (see the last chapter) echoed through my exhausted brain as I incrementally backed up the entire rig. The trailer hitch groaned a little, and the entire procedure was hugely awkward and time-consuming, but eventually I was able to turn around and nose my way out of the one way suburban street. I dearly hoped I would never have to risk it like that again.

After that I drove around the 'burbs in desperate search for the main road that I needed. Somehow I made a wrong turn and ended up going the right way back onto it. Whew!

Can I tell you there was not a soul to be seen anywhere? It was ominously quiet, there was barely any traffic. Just some strip malls, roads without sidewalks, traffic lights, that was it.

I made a left back onto the main road, and tried to then pull a left into the Staples parking lot, as told by Mike. No go, there was no outlet into the parking lot. Of course. I would have to go all the way around, one more time, in order to make it happen.

So I did. I drove another half mile down the deserted road, and turned right at an intersection, and turned around in an empty, and quite large, parking lot. Then I got back on my main road, and once more drove up the the lot at Staples. This time I approached it with an almost crab-like slowness, and made the turn!


From there I called Mike to let him know I was actually close by this time, and I meant it. It was now 12;30 a.m. My god, what a day. This had been, easily, the worst day of travel in my entire life.

I drove out through the back of the parking lot onto a small residential road, then I made a few relatively quick turns, and within five minutes was in front of Mike's house. And there was Mike, waiting for me.

I parked the truck on the street, and got out. The vastness of Freehold, N.J. seemed to swallow all sound. It was quiet, dark and virtually dead, or so it seemed. But it was good to see Mike. He smiled at my exhausted face and welcomed me inside.

Mike helped me unload the cats, offered me something to drink and set me up for the night on an extremely comfortable couch on his living room. Together we chatted for a while while we watched the last 20 minutes of "Johnny Dangerously" on HBO. (That Mary Lou Henner, va-va-voom!)The room was intensely air conditioned, so much so that it was almost cold. What a contrast to my apartment in Brooklyn, with its window mounted AC units that were either pointed directly at the floor or at the nearest wall.

The cats were placed in a small bathroom, which wasn't wonderful, but was sure better than being in a kennel all night. They meowed, as you can expect.

I finally turned in at 1:00 a.m. It had been way too long a day. It was virtually impossible to believe that it had only been that morning that I dropped off my beloved wife and child at the airport.

I couldn't think of it all now. I couldn't think at all, period. As the movie came to its predictable end I charged up my phone, and got under the covers on the couch. Then Mike went upstairs and I slept the sleep of the dead.

Now, at last, the trip could really begin.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 10

So we made it through the tunnel without incident and finally were on our way, rolling down the Turnpike, driving, not having to navigate terrible traffic. There was traffic of course because this is New Jersey, but compared to Canal Street it seemed like Kansas by comparison. I exhaled a little, even as I tried to not inhale as the cabin reeked ever more of used cat litter.

Still, it was almost scenic. Northern Jersey, especially near the Turnpike, still shows some signs of its long-past former wildness. In other words I was in The Meadowlands. Really the Meadowlands is one large swamp and watershed, with innumerable streams that criss-cross through the tall grass and cat tails. When you look at it the right way, in the right light, it is easy to imagine what the first travelers here could have seen.

As I drove down the road, over the Meadowlands, I looked up to the sky and saw something that made me catch my breath. It was a fish, flying in mid-air. Then I looked closer: no, that fish was not flying. It was caught in the talons of a great raptor bird, either a hawk or an eagle. I couldn't tell which because I could only see its silhouette as it flew toward me. I watched it for as long as felt safe, maybe five seconds, but tiny sensations of awe rippled through me as I continued to ride through perhaps the most suburban of all states.

I fiddled with the radio and adjusted the AC. Ah, movement at last. As long as this kept up I would be at Mike's before not too much longer, maybe another hour or so.

After about forty minutes on the road I realized that relatively soon I would have to get some gas. Despite the fact that I had barely gone anywhere, as the crow flies, I was still down past half a tankful. I wanted to be super cautious about this, as I really didn't know how far this fully loaded truck could go.

I passed one rest area, then another. I realized, though, that I would have to go into the next one that comes up because otherwise I might not be able to get gas for far too long. The Thomas Edison Memorial Rest Area would be my ticket.

It had started to get dark. On either side of the road I rode past streams and less and less urban density. It was beautiful in its own New Jersey way. In fact, despite its terrible reputation, only part of New Jersey is choked with refineries and wall to wall homes or ghettos. Most of it is far more bucolic.

As darkness began to ascend I pulled into the rest area. I had two competing impulses. I needed gas and I needed to go to the men's room. I decided to do the men's room first, as the thought of pouring copious amounts of liquid into a vehicle while I needed to expunge copious amounts of liquid didn't seem all that appealing.

I wasn't sure where to park the truck. It seemed too big for the car parking lot, but too small for the tractor trailer lot. I decided to go with the latter anyway, just to be safe. It was entirely full. Man, the tri-state area, always so many damn people.

Though I couldn't get a spot I could park alongside the curb at the rest area. I felt a little ridiculous with my little U-Haul amongst all these giants, but oh well.

I wasn't close enough to the curb, really, but I could readjust it after I got back from the bathroom. I put the truck into park and turned it off. Then I rolled down the windows a bit, and told the cats I would be back soon. Cromwell meowed in annoyance.

The bathroom was crowded and not too messy. Then I got a bite to eat at Nathan's. The hot dog was sub par and they didn't even have french fries, only potato chips, which was ridiculous. I then took my drink and walked back to the truck.

Once inside I buckled up and turned the key in the ignition.

Once again ... nothing! It was deader than disco.

Oh damn.

The farkin' battery had died once again! Dammit, dammit, dammit! What to do? What to do?

I remembered the U-Haul emergency number, yes! This would have to work. I called it, was put on hold once again -- due to "unusually high caller volume," as before -- and was finally put through to a young woman spoke with a heavy urban accent who sounded completely uninterested in my dilemma. Nonetheless I still got her name and wrote it down. She in turn gave me still another number to call. I called it, and was put through to a very friendly woman named Patty. Patty asked me where I was. I told her I was at the Thomas Edison Memorial Rest Area on the Jersey Turnpike.

"No, where are you? What town is it in?"

How would I know? No one ever knows this stuff.

"Call me back when you find out," she said. And I got her number as well.

How to find out? Did they have a mail box? A post office? I would have to figure it out. I walked into a convenience store attached to the larger rest area and asked them which town we were in. The Mid-Eastern woman behind the counter was very helpful, and told me that we were in Old Bridge (it was either that or Woodbridge, please forgive me for not being exact with my "bridge" memory right now). She then gave me a receipt which had the address on it, and I thanked her.

Once back at the truck I called Patty once more and told her my exact location. She then explained they would send out a local mechanic to replace my battery. At this point I also gave her the claim number for my prior dead battery, which she took and noted. She also gave me the mechanic's name and number.

How long would it take? Anywhere from an hour to two hours she said. It was a busy night.

Oh man. Two hours? At this point I called Mike and told him that I guess I would be late, or at least later, and that I would let him know when I would be back on the road. He said okay, and that I should keep him updated. I also called my mom, who was sympathetic, and Randi who was doubly sympathetic.

Since I was stuck here I decided to try and take in the scenery. Believe it or not The Thomas Edison Memorial Rest Area was kind of pretty. I looked over a stream that ran along the rest area, saw birds fly by as the sunset became increasingly more and more impressive.

There still might be a chance we could hit the road tonight, I realized. So I might as well use this time to move the cats back into the car.

I walked back to the trailer and tried to open the back door to the Honda. Nope, it only opened a few inches because the movable fender had been put in the "up" position and was now stuck. I had no idea how to get it down. Crap! Not this too!

How to fix this? I had no idea. Antoine hadn't told me back in Brooklyn. Now I was stuck in a rest area, waiting for some mechanic, in the boiling summer heat, and couldn't even move the cats back into the car. How would Mike even be able to take the trip with me now if I couldn't find a place to put the cats? This was just not my day.

I called Patty back at U-Haul and told her my problem. She told me to look on the trailer and see the instructions written there. I saw a lot of things that told me to not mess with the trailer in any way, but nothing that told me how to lower the bumper. Maybe it could and should only be done by a certified U-Haul employee? Maybe if I did it wrong I would screw up the trailer and the whole thing would fall apart as we cruised on down the road? I didn't know!

Patty said she would have to look it up and call me back. Much to my amazement she did. Then she walked me through how to do it. I needed to go the movable fender and find two rubber plugs. I saw them. Now, she said, unplug them from their mounts. I did so and soon the fender revolved downward, so I could open and close the car doors. Oh phew! At least one minor disaster had been averted.

I decided to move the cats later, for now I needed their company. It was dark, and together we sat in the cab of the truck. All around me 18-wheelers were in their slots, all of them with the motors running despite there being no one that I could see inside. I guess that's how truckers do it. I talked to the cats and told them, again, I was sorry it had worked out like this. Cromwell didn't understand, of course, but he rubbed himself up to the kennel's bars so I could pet him. I did, and we both felt a little better.

In this manner an hour past, then an hour and a half, then almost two hours. Where was the mechanic? I called him, and got a voice mail. Then I called U-Haul and told them this guy was late. They told me he was in the area and would be there within half an hour.

Finally at 10:30 p.m. a huge, beautiful red truck pulled up. This was my guy. I got out to say hi, and he didn't even acknowledge me. I popped the hood and asked if there was anything else I could do, and the mechanic, a middle aged white guy with a mustache, said "I should be home by now!"

Okay, sorry about your job.

Without any additional chit-chat he changed the battery and turned the truck on. It started and I said thanks. Then I started to pull out. It was awkward, though, because I was so close to the truck ahead of me, I would need to back up a little for some clearance. The mechanic stopped me.

"You can't back up in these things. You'll snap the metal of the trailer and then you're done!"

Okay, I said, chastened. After he pulled out and left me I slowly inched forward, free at last. I would still need gas though.

I pulled up to the truck gas area, and the attendant waved at me and said many things in a language that I simply could not understand.

I got out. "What?"

"No, other one. This is for diesel!"

He pointed to where all the cars were getting gassed up about twenty yards away. Great, I would have to find a way to drive all the way around in order to get gas, since I couldn't back up. Everything with this trailer was more than twice as hard as with a typical car.

It took some time, but I eventually got there, and filled the tank, $60. Ouch! I had barely even gone anywhere. This could end up a very pricey trip.

Now I would have to get back onto the Turnpike. Somehow I missed the first ramp onto the 'Pike, and had to drive around yet again. Soon I ended up in a desolate part of the rest area, and made a right turn here, a left turn there, in order to get back to the road. Soon I saw a ramp back to the road, my ticket out of there. I slowly got on and started to ride up.

It was too late by the time I realized I was on the wrong ramp, the one that lead to the northbound side of the Turnpike, not the south. I was headed in the goddamn wrong direction.

How to explain such an obvious and bush league mistake? There are a few culprits, it was late, I was in a vehicle that was virtually impossible to drive, I couldn't go in reverse to correct mistakes. But I think the most likely one is simply fatigue. I had been going nonstop, in highly stressful situations, since 6:30 a.m. It was now some 16 hours later, and I hadn't yet had a real break. Worse still, I still had more to do, though I couldn't know how much more. I was a wreck. There was traffic all around, the cats were constantly on my case, and if I made one false move as I drove down the street it would be a big, big disaster. These were not optimum conditions. Well, at least it hadn't rained.

I would have to find a U-turn for my U-Haul. Yet there were no U-turn signs. I could risk simply getting off at an exit and hoping I could turn around but this could be quite the gamble. New Jersey is an almost infinitely complicated set of roads, jug-handles, arteries, side streets, one way roads. In short it has more pathways than the average brain. If I made a wrong step I could end up very much where I did not want to be. And for a long, long time.

I had no choice, I would have to play it safe and drive back to an exit that I knew would let me turn around without too much fuss. That would be at least ten miles north. This trip just kept getting longer.

Next Time: I finally get to Mike's

Friday, August 20, 2010

CEO Cover Stories Made Simple!

Do you have what it takes to write a cover story about a CEO? Take my quiz on The Huffington Post and find out!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 9

(Chipping away at the stone ...)

My blood pressure began to rise, as a cat defecated again, and the sun beat down on the cabin. I had no choice I would have to go back to the office and get Antoine.

I rolled down the windows enough but not too much, and climbed out. It was boiling hot, and Cromwell panted. I know this because I had faced the opening of the kennel toward me. The kennel was enormous, by the way, and took up most of our shared bench. This gave me excellent access to their non-stop complaints, and frequent bathroom breaks.

Still, I felt terrible. Our other cat, Talisker, just laid in the back, in a small puddle of water that used to be in his dish. They didn't look sick, but they didn't look too happy either. In fact Tali mostly looked resigned and depressed. Given that he is such a chipper cat normally this in turn depressed me.

Resolved: I had to get this truck to start as soon as possible.

Back on the hot sidewalk I walked, once more, up the block to U-Haul's office. At the gate I was greeted, yet again, by the loitering day laborers who now knew to not ask me if I needed help. I sure did, but not of the variety they could provide.

I didn't see Antoine, of course. I asked for help at the desk, and was told that I would need to talk to Antoine. I told them that I didn't see him. I was then told that he was "around."

With a few moments to kill I bought two bottles of cold water. One for me, one for the cats.

After a few minutes I saw Antoine outside and flagged him down. He looked stunned. "Really, are you sure the lights aren't on?" I said I didn't think so. He then asked me if I turned the key hard enough. I said probably. We went through a few other obvious options until I convinced him that yes, indeed, the truck was probably as dead as I claimed.

Antoine looked dubious, but started to walk down the block to see what was what. I followed again, and said what I hoped was my final goodbye both to the U-Haul office and the loitering day laborers.

Once at the truck Antoine climbed back into the cabin, moved the seat back, and tried to turn it on. It made a wracking sound and died. He waited a few moments and tried again. This time it made a smaller wracking sound before it died. Come to think of it the truck kind of sounded like Harvey.

Hmm, Antoine said. Hmm. "Your battery's dead." I figured. As far as problems go, this was not too bad of one. They have about a million trucks here, and probably at least one extra battery, right?

He got out of the truck and asked me if I had called the U-Haul emergency number written on my receipt. I had not, because I was actually at a U-Haul station. He told me I should anyway. I then climbed back into the truck, adjusted the seat and dialed the number. Of course I was put on hold for some time -- because they were experiencing "unusually high call volumes" -- before I finally got to speak to a friendly Southern guy named Harold. Harold told me he would register my complaint and send someone out. They might be there in 45 minutes to an hour. Yes, an hour.

I asked Antoine if there was anything he could do, after all the truck had worked not long before. He said he could try to jump it. I said that would be fine and he took off.

Once he was gone I rolled up the windows, and opened the kennel. (The windows were rolled up so the cats couldn't make a break for it.) I poured some cold water into the cats' dish, and told them I was sorry. I know this sounds sappy, but if you've ever owned a pet maybe you understand. I really was sorry, none of this was their fault, and yet they had to suffer.

Cromwell immediately drank up the new water, and Talisker continued to lie in the back, his fur wet, listless.

I closed the kennel door, and rolled the windows back down, consumed with guilt.

Five minutes later Antoine rolled up with another truck, popped the hood, had me pop my hood and hooked up some jumper cables. After two minutes we tried to turn the engine. It gagged and did nothing. Five minutes later it gagged with a little more vigor and then died once more. Finally over 10 minutes later it turned. I knew it was not a good sign that it took this long to start, but put that thought to the back of my mind. I had to go!

Antoine told me to let it run for another 10 minutes before starting the trip, so that the battery fully charged. Tick-tock. I thanked him, and he drove off.

It was now almost 4:00 p.m. According to my original plans I was supposed to nearly be at Mike's by now. I was supposed to get there by 4:30 and start the drive, then we would keep at it well into the night. Well, that wouldn't happen.

As the truck idled I first called U-Haul to cancel the help that was on the way. They gave me a confirmation number for the help I never received, which I wrote down anyway. Then I called Randi to see how she was and how their trip was. She told me everything went great and the trip had no delays, which is almost, in its way, as unusual a story as mine. I told her about what had transpired so far. She expressed sympathy for me and concern for the cats. She then told me I should take it as easy as I could, and to not push myself too hard. I was grateful to have such a loving and supportive woman in my life. She also told me Stella was fine, and having lots of fun as she played with her cousins. I was glad to hear it.

After our call ended I went over my travel direction. I had planned to take the Brooklyn Bridge to the Lincoln Tunnel and then from there take the Jersey Turnpike to Mike's. Under typical circumstances this drive should take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. I decided to call my Dad to see if he had any suggestions for cutting down time, as he drives in the area frequently and, well, he is my Dad. He knows this stuff.

He strongly suggested I take the Holland Tunnel, downtown, instead of the Lincoln as it bleeds right into the Turnpike. Okay, done.

Finally ten minutes passed. I nervously put the truck in drive, and inched my way into the narrow street. Whoa! This wouldn't be easy. Though the truck drove well enough before now, with the trailer, it was astonishingly cumbersome and took wiiiiiiiiiiiide turns. I wasn't used to this, not at all. And I would have to learn how to drive it through some of the toughest conditions that could ever be: New York City rush hour!

I cut the wheel as much as possible as I turned right. I missed hitting a car parked right at the mouth of the parking lot entry by inches. Then I slowly, slowly continued on down the street, ready to make yet another right turn.

My god, this thing was a nightmare to drive. It was astonishingly slow, needed a turning radius as wide as two tennis courts, and also needed extra, extra room between it and any other cars for braking. Frickety frak!

I was nothing but nerves, Cromwell cried nonstop a foot from my right ear, every pothole jostled our valuables, and I had to watch for hyper-aggressive New York drivers at all times.

I drove down Third Avenue. Typically what I did was turn left from Third onto Flatbush Avenue, and take that to Tillary Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. This might mean nothing to you, but that's what I usually did. Now I slowly ambled down Third to Flatbush. When I got to the intersection I had a rude awakening. There was no left turn on Flatbush from Third! I am ashamed to admit it, but with the car it usually didn't matter, because I could make the turn anyway. But with this beast? No way. I had to play it safe. I drove across Flatbush, as cars honked and tried to get around me. Then I ended up near the Atlantic Center shopping plaza. I had to go right and then right again to get back on Flatbush, but there were only one way streets ... all going the wrong way! Crap. I still didn't really know how to drive this rig, and the traffic was starting to get to me.

Finally I found a two way street and started to turn. Then I realized I probably wouldn't have enough room to clear it. I got out, and checked how far into the intersection I would have to go to not hit the pole on the corner. Pretty damn far. I got back in, made a wide circular turn, slowly, as a car facing me backed up. I now realized the one advantage of driving a big rig: no one screws with you.

At the next intersection I turned right again, and was on Flatbush, at long last. I moved along at a snail-like pace, and signaled any turns for at least a few minutes before taking them. Then when I did turn into another lane I did it slowly, by degrees, so EVERYONE would know not to cut in.

I made the left at Tillary (which runs parallel to the East River) and then a right to get onto the bridge. Right before I got on the bridge a cop waved me down. No, no trucks on this bridge. What, how would I get to Manhattan? The Manhattan Bridge, he said. Oh, good grief.

I managed to pull into a side rode without hitting anything or anyone (seriously people are everywhere, and they jaywalk!), then I made a right in order get back to Flatbush Avenue, which fed directly into the Manhattan Bridge.

Okay, now you are probably asking, didn't this schmo take into account that he would need to factor in the truck before making his driving plans? The answer is, I did and I didn't. I knew the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels both allowed trucks, but I hadn't done the extra work to find out about the Brooklyn Bridge. Blame me, or blame my frantic, harried, stressed-out life. I had done so much right, but not this.

I soon learned I wasn't on a road that fed directly into Flatbush so I would have to take the long way around. Before not too long I was in the projects, hoo-ray. I must admit, I locked my doors. Fortunately I was at least somewhat familiar with these projects as they were fairly close to the Brooklyn Navy Yards, where they had brought my car, when they towed it, twice.

I knew that the roads around the projects lead, in fact, to other roads. As do most roads, I guess. I wasn't sure which ones would lead back to Flatbush, but I needed to go right, so at the first road that looked at least somewhat pothole free I made a right turn and hoped for the best. Soon the projects got small in my rear view mirror and Flatbush came into view. Yes, victory!

It was somewhat nerve-wracking to drive over the bridge. For some reason I realized that, whoa, that sure is a lot of water down there, better be careful. It's likely I thought this because I still had relatively little control over my truck and trailer. But I couldn't let myself think about this too much.

Though I drove extra slow I still made it across, and then made my way onto probably the single most traffic-clogged street in New York, and by extension the nation, Canal Street. I had no choice, as this street lead directly to the Holland Tunnel. I typically avoided Canal under the best of circumstances, which these were not, but I had to grit my teeth and deal with it.

There were cars everywhere, and drivers cut in and out at an alarming rate, though none of us went more than eight miles an hour. My strategy was to inch along and trust that no one wanted to mess with a big truck. This mostly worked.

Inside the cab the blasting AC had finally cooled it down, and Cromwell had at least stopped panting, though the meows kept up at a steady clip. I could deal with this, I said, I can deal with it.

As I got closer to the tunnel I saw a sign that said TRUCKS and had an arrow that pointed left, away from the tunnel. What? Did I qualify, or did they mean 18 wheelers? I didn't know, but I didn't feel I could risk it. I bailed out as I was about to enter the tunnel, and looked for the alternate route. Of course as soon as it was too late I saw another truck as big as mine ready to enter the tunnel right where I had bailed. As for the alternate route, there was none.

Sweet, now I would have to go around the long way, during rush hour, to get back to the most crowded street in America, in the most illogical, poorly designed, part of New York, Tribeca. Here the quaint cobble stoned streets veer off at weird angles, sometimes abruptly, and often don't lead anywhere you think they should. But they are quite picturesque.

I had no choice, I would have to bite the bullet. I started to do the drive around, Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians, making enormous, awkward turns, as the late afternoon sun beat down right into my eyes. I got on streets that lead away from where I needed to go, I got lost, but finally I saw a long street that lead into the mouth of the tunnel. It was choked with traffic, but at least it went where I needed to go. Screw it, I would wait in line.

I nosed in, and realized it would be a long, long wait. Possibly at least a half hour to go 100 yards. I turned on the radio--thanks for the instructions U-Haul!--and settled in. We crept along, which was fine by me. After the harrowing experiences of before this would do.

After we had closed half the gap I saw a bus on my right side, the kind that ferries tourists around not kids. The drive waved at me, one big vehicle to another, and he smiled. Then he proceeded to cut me off, and not only that he clipped my right side view mirror as he did so. It didn't snap, but it did get whacked totally out of alignment, making me blind on that side. I had no passengers so they couldn't readjust it, unless I put the cats to work.

I cursed him out three ways from Tuesday but mostly stewed, impotent, in my rage.

The traffic crept on, tick-tock. It was now 5:30 p.m. Where had the day gone? If I was lucky maybe I could get to Mike's by 6:45, and then we could go; a late start, yes, but not too late. God, did I really drop Randi and Stella off this morning?

Finally it was my turn to enter the tunnel. Suddenly a lady cop materialized out of thin air, and waved me to the side. Good god, what now?

She told me that while trucks were allowed they did not allow trucks with trailers. I would have to go uptown forty blocks to the Lincoln Tunnel. Of course I would!

Okay, okay, I can deal with this, I thought. I pulled over onto a little side road near the tunnel and got out. At least I could adjust my mirror back into place. I tried and tried, but no matter what I did it wasn't quite right. This was another time where having a passenger would have been an immense help. Instead of having them do it now I had to run, change it, and then go back to the seat to see if it was right. If it wasn't, and it never was, then I would try again. Eventually I got it kind of right, but only kind of.

Then I slowly crept back onto another small street, and then onto another small street, that finally lead onto the West Side Highway, which would take me past the Meatpacking District and Chelsea and to the Lincoln Tunnel.

This part was relatively event free. I was completely exhausted from nervous tension, but the drive into the Lincoln Tunnel was thankfully without event. Before not too long I was in blessed New Jersey, and finally on my way!

Of course several hours had been burned, on a day that was already tortuously long. I tried to follow Randi's advice and take it as easy as I could, while still remaining vigilant and ready for disaster. Fortunately no disaster came, for a little while.

Next Up: The Thomas Edison Memorial Service Area!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New York vs. Louisville

(I interrupt my moving story for something short and fun, I hope!)

New York vs. Louisville

As a newcomer to Louisville I can’t help but compare it to my old stomping ground, New York City. Why did I move here? Should you care? Those, my friends, are questions that have no answer. Today I am just going to shoot from the hip and see how the River City stacks up against the Big Apple. Get out your scorecards!

1. New York has the finest drinking water in the U.S.
2. Apparently in Louisville you shouldn’t drink the water without a prescription as it’s loaded with drugs. Hmm, maybe that’s why I’ve been in such a good mood lately?
Advantage: Louisville.

Access To Stuff:
1. New York is a city of neighborhoods, and every block has tons of stuff within walking distance. Barring that, take the subway. Barring that? Buddy, you’re screwed.
2. Here nothing is walking distance even though nothing is far. But from what I’ve seen the public transportation system doesn’t really work, coordinating busses that don’t really show up. Perhaps we should take shorter trips via horse?
Advantage: New York.

1. New York features cramped, bedbug-ridden hovels with noisy neighbors, lead paint and no laundry or dishwasher. On the bright side at least they’re really, really expensive.
2. Here we live in a lovely apartment complex where I’ve never even met my neighbors.
Advantage: Louisville

1. New York has the best deli, bagels, pizza, Chinese food, Thai food, Indian food, Pakistani food passed off as Indian food, Italian food apart from pizza, and whatever it is they actually sell out of those pushcarts. Lamb? Rat?
2. Louisville has hot browns, good barbecue, Derby Pie and Chick-fil-A. I love Chick-fil-A, and New York has like one. Crazy, right? Crazy.
Advantage: New York.

1. In New York politeness is understood to be a privilege not a right.
2. Here folks are almost too friendly. For instance, three different people thanked me for one small purchase at Office Depot. It was almost like I had given them money or something.
Advantage: Louisville.

1. You may not believe it but New York drivers are the safest in the world. You would be safe too, by the way, if you could never go more than five miles an hour.
2. Here I get tailgated all the time. Maybe they’re just too friendly?
Advantage: New York.

1. New York has the Yankees, the Mets, the Knicks, the Nets, the Giants, the Jets, the Rangers, the Islanders, the Devils, and the Liberty. Now let’s look closer at that list. Half the teams blow, A-Rod is featured in the other half and our best basketball players wear sports bras. (And I’m not talking about you, Eddie Curry.) But, once again, at least the tickets are really, really expensive.
2. Folks here are really into college sports, right? Aren’t those the guys who aren’t actually pros?

Advantage: Tie.

Okay, so let’s call it a draw … for now. I look forward to getting to know my new hometown more so I can stack the deck one way or the other in the future. So be nice to me Louisville! Now onto less contentious matters: Wildcats or Cardinals?

Updates From The Heartland: The Move Pt. 8

(Now it's more like "War & Peace" and "Crime And Punishment", lengthwise I mean.)

It was now 3:00 p.m. Packing up the truck had taken longer than planned, and now I had to drive back to U-Haul, and get them to hitch the trailer, load the car onto the then-hitched trailer and start the actual drive. Now that the truck was full it drove a bit less agilely than it had on the way to the apartment, and needed more distance between me and the drivers ahead of me when I had to hit the brakes.

I pulled into U-Haul fifteen minutes later with no further incident, drove up to the main office and stepped out of the cabin. It had been blisteringly hot all day, and this had not changed though it was getting into the late afternoon. The weather had been nice and balmy all summer and spring, but we were currently in the middle of the summer's first real heat wave. This made everything more complicated, especially as I was to travel with live animals, which was constantly on my mind. (No matter what I did, or how careful I was I couldn't get the stories of poodles basically baking to death in locked cars out of my mind. I wouldn't be that guy!)

I locked the truck (even though, realistically what could actually happen in U-Haul's parking lot?), but cracked the windows as much as I could so the cats could get some fresh air. Then I hit the ground, and walked to the office.

Once again the loitering day laborers all flocked to me to ask if I needed any additional help? I had to tell them no thanks once again. They looked at me with disappointment and, I believe, some anger.

Once inside I waited in line once more. It moved along with Soviet-style alacrity, better befitting a bread line or the Motor Vehicles Department. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Eventually it was my turn, though, and I thrust my reservation, once more, at the woman behind the counter. As before she showed no surprise, or interest, as she took my papers.

After a few moments she told me that I would need to grab someone named Antoine (not his real name) and he would take over from there. "He's out front," she said as she handed me back my various receipts.

I went out front and in a rare turn of events Antoine was actually where she said he would be. He was a clean cut Latino guy in his mid-20s, and was both professional and friendly. I told him about how I would need help loading the car onto the dolly once it was hooked up. Apparently it was against company policy to help customers actually load the dolly ("for insurance reasons," he said) but he saw the desperate look in my eyes and said he would try.

"Where's your car?" he asked. Right near the U-Haul offices I said. Okay, he told me, get it, drive it into the lot out back and then back the truck into the lot. I thought the latter might be hard to do, but said okay.

After I pulled the car into the lot it was time to get the truck in. I walked back to the main lot in front of U-Haul's offices, suffering the stares, once more, of the loitering day laborers and started up the truck. The cats meowed non-stop, of course, and this did not exactly help my already frayed nerves as I pulled the truck out of the front parking lot's side entrance, and drove down the narrow side street to the lot out back. When I say narrow I mean it, it was perhaps 20 feet wide. Backing in the truck would be quite the challenge.

A challenge, it turns out, I was not up to. I tried, but it was impossible to get the clearance necessary to drive out past the narrow parking lot entryway, cut the wheel and back in. For starters cars lined both sides of the street and made it even narrower still. In fact right in front of the entryway on the other side of the street was a parked limousine. How he managed to get that spot is an eternal mystery. If he hadn't been there I might have been able to do it, but it was a no go as is.

I had no choice, I would have to drive around the block again. This took longer than you might think it would because it was Brooklyn, and traffic was everywhere. Once around the block I once again stopped the truck -- risking the ire of the drivers behind me -- in front of the entryway and told Antoine that I just couldn't do it.

"That's okay," he said, "I just thought it would make it easier." To my relief he got into the cabin and drove the truck in nose wise, and then did an 80-point turn so that it was finally turned around and the front of the truck faced the street.

Then Antoine got out, and I climbed back in. Once in I had to move the seat up, of course. This guy looked my height, I don't get it. Anyway, then he grabbed a large car trailer and wheeled it around and around until its front was at the back of the truck. From there he commenced to hook it up. It's a more complicated operation than you might think, one that I am grateful U-Haul does for its customers. It took about 15 minutes, tick-tock.

From there we moved onto the part of the job that he shouldn't have helped me with but did, the loading of the car. I started up the Honda (the insides of which were already like 120 degrees) and slowly nosed it up to the extended trailer rails. The track was not wide, and there was no room for error. It was also rather steeply inclined so I would have to step on the gas a bit to get it up.

Antoine guided me up, similarly to how the oil change guys do it, telling me to go a little left, a little right, I'm sure you can imagine it. Soon the car was mounted up top, much to my relief. Then I put on the parking break and tried to get down. But I couldn't because I couldn't open the door. You see the trailer had a movable fender that could be raised or lowered, and for now it was raised, meaning that when I tried to open the door it would only open about three inches. Antoine waved at me, and released something that allowed him to lower it so I could open the door and get out. From there he put various straps and chains over the car's front tires (seriously I was supposed to do all this myself?) and soon enough the car was secure.

I was so grateful I didn't know what else to do so I tipped him $7. It wasn't much, I realize, and he had done me quite the solid. Then he said goodbye and walked back up the block to the main office.

Now the trip could FINALLY begin. I climbed back in the cab, adjusted my mirrors, readjusted the seat, and turned the keys in the ignition.


The engine made a gagging sound as it barely started to turn. Then it died again. What? This had to be some kind of weird hallucination, this couldn't be real. I had just driven around the block. I took a moment, gathered my wits and tried again. Again, nothing, the truck just would not start. Oh double shit.

I admit, at this point I started to freak out a bit. What to do, what to do? Thankfully I was actually at the U-Haul headquarters, so I guess this was the best play for this to happen? I guess?

Next Time: Was this the best place for this to happen?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 7

(Wow, this is turning in the War & Peace of moving stories.)

I met the movers outside. I had hired four and, as noted, two had arrived. Where were the other two? The two guys with me didn't know, and neither did the guy who runs the service, Sal. Sal, by the way, sounded pissed.

One of the movers was Ray, a fairly wiry Latino guy in his mid-20s, and the other one was a good deal older, a very good deal heavier, white and sounded like a tres-butch Harvey Fierstein. It didn't exactly fill me with confidence that the first thing Harvey (not his real name) did was light up a cigarette.

Harvey was peeved that the other two weren't here yet, but felt confident that this move would be a piece of cake. After all, they were simply to move the boxes into the truck, not unpack them on the other end. How tough could it be?

We examined the the interior of the truck. The first thing I noticed, after how large and empty it looked (maybe I should have gotten the 14 footer after all?), was that the blankets I had rented from U-Haul weren't there. God dammit! Now everything would get scratched.

I didn't know what to do! My car was parked at U-Haul, so I would have to drive the mother f-in TRUCK the entire way there, and back, just to get the blankets. In the meantime the other two guys could show up and then they would be getting paid to wait. I talked to Harvey about it.

"How much you got?" he wheezed, in between puffs. I explained that though we had many boxes and bags we only had three or four real pieces of actual, meaningful furniture. Two old walnut dressers and a night table that I had inherited from my grandmother, by way of my sister, our dining room table and that was it.

"Okay, okay," he rasped, "no problem. That's nothing! You don't even NEED the blankets for that little. We'll make sure of it."

I was confident if he was, almost, and decided to let the move commence sans blankets.

Harvey and Ray moved a few boxes, a few bags, but nothing heavy for the next 20 minutes. Harvey explained that they really couldn't do too much because they lacked the heavy straps that are required for fastening heavy boxes to your back. He almost said it accusingly, as if I was supposed to have the straps. "Don't you have anything like that?" he growled, shaking his head as I answered that I did not.

Finally my phone rang again and it was the other two guys. They were somewhere in the vicinity, I was told, and would be there soonish.

Finally about 10 minutes later the other two guys showed up, with a backpack that contained the much-desired straps. These two guys also had all the paperwork for me to sign, and the rest. On every move there is one guy who is basically foreman, and runs the show. This guy was Phil, a very professional black man in his mid-40s, who went over everything with me thoroughly. Very professional, that is, for a guy who was almost an hour late, but I digress.

Soon all four were sweating and moving large boxes down our stairs. Almost immediately Harvey began to caterwaul and explained to Phil that his back was still recovering (from something), so he'd have to sit this one out. Phil didn't seem bothered by this in the least. So Harvey, rather agilely, climbed up into the truck and started to sort out where all the boxes should go for maximum efficiency. In this way moving is sort of like Tetris, or Jenga.

After about another 20 minutes I asked the guys if I could go to the local deli to get anything for them. Ray, without missing a beat, told me that it would be really cool if I bought him a sandwich. Okay, I answered, I meant something more along the lines of Gatorade. He was disappointed, but somehow dealt with it.

So I went a couple of blocks over and got a multi-hued variety of sports beverages for the guys. (Each and every color somehow looked like you could use it for radiator fluid.) When I returned they gratefully grabbed for them, and downed them. Even Ray.

Phil walked up to me not long after the real moving had commenced, with a quizzical look.

"Had I moved you before?" he asked. I couldn't remember. We had now used these guys three times over the span of two years. I did remember a few of the movers--including the superman who somehow moved one of my heavy, heavy dressers all by himself--but I was not sure about him.

Then he started to carry a box of our books.

"Okay, now I remember you," he said. "Dave has the books." What he meant by this is not that we have so many books, we don't. But that I always make the mistake of packing way too many books per box, and they always rip the box as these guys try to carry them. I felt really bad about this, and vowed next time I would buy the special boxes that are used to transport books. They're small, basically. I think I also made that same pledge the last time we moved.

What can be said about the next few hours? As anyone who has ever been moved can attest it's a stressful situation, even if you're not carrying the actual boxes. For starters the place always looks like total shit. Once everything gets moved dust bunnies the size of hedgehogs become rapidly apparent. And you find everything you had forgotten you had dropped on the floor. Sometimes, by the way, it's better that some of this stuff stay lost. Change, change and more change is also to be found, making your floor resemble the bottom of a fountain. In addition huge swaths of dust will surely be wherever there had been a rug, even if you had just cleaned under there last week. If you own pets, as we do, tumbleweeds of pet hair will roll down your hallway, now freed from their place under the chair or couch. In short it's gross.

I went around sweeping where I could, while also doing my best to stay out of their way, as their time was my money.

In truth I felt bad, having these guys do my work for me. The screwed up part is that I feel it is, all this time later, still my work. Why should I feel bad, I paid these guys to carry this stuff? But I did, I just did. Moving sucks, that's for sure, but it sucks much worse for them.

About three hours after the move was supposed to begin the apartment was mostly empty and the truck was mostly full. (Glad I got the big one after all!) There was just one thing left, the cats! They had sat in their extra large kennel for the entire move, complaining for every minute of it. Now it was time to load them into the cabin of the truck. I asked Ray if he could help me with it, as the crate was simply too large for me to do by myself. He was kind of surprised but said sure, and together we carried the meowing plastic box down two flights of stairs, down part of the street and into the front seat of the moving truck. The food spilled, their litter spilled and their water spilled too, but we did the best we could. They too would have to deal.

Now there was just one last detail, Harvey said.

"Do you have any rope, or anything like it?" Rope, huh? No one told me we'd need it. No, you need it, he croaked, because that's how he's going to secure all our belongings in the truck so they don't slide around during the long drive to Kentucky. Without it all our things will shift around and get crushed.

Oh shit, rope? Where in the frak do you get rope on last minute's notice? I had an idea, a hope really, but not much more than that. Maybe the local five and dime store? You know, the one that has off-brands of everything, sends faxes, has copies for five cents and is somehow also a pharmacy and notary? That one?

I had no other options so I ran the four blocks to see if our local everything store indeed had everything. It killed me to pay these guys to literally sit around as I did this, but there was no other choice.

The trip there took about eight minutes. I ran in, breathless: "Do you have rope?"

Amazingly, they did! It was in the back of the store near cookware, a rack of discount sponges and the copy machine. I picked up two bags of it, yes the rope came in bags, and ran back.

As I returned I listened to Harvey conclude a lecture to Ray about how screwed up it is to be a mover. "There's no future in it," he said, "and all you end up with is a messed up back. No future."

I didn't want to interrupt but since I did have the rope I thought I should. Harvey shrugged and walked me back to the truck. Once there he asked if I had a knife. (Somehow I thought one of these guys would.)

Aha, I did! In fact in the tool chest--thankfully packed near the tailgate of the truck--was my old trusty lock blade, purchased in Thailand in 1999.

Sounded good to him. He took the knife opened the blade, locked it of course, and then tried to cut a length of rope. Tried is the operative word here, because my knife couldn't actually cut jack shit. I mean it couldn't even have cut butter. It was so dull and crappy, why did I hang onto it for 11 years? These are the sort of questions moving makes you ask yourself, over and over.

Suddenly Harvey had an inspiration, a smoker's inspiration. He grabbed his lighter, lit it, and placed the flame under the synthetic rope. In a few moments the braids became twisty, melty and then ultimately were snapped. Voila! In turned out he only needed about ten feet of rope. Now, though, I was the proud owner of about forty feet. I guess I would save the rest, for god knows what.

As Harvey tied everything down Phil went over the cost of the move with me. At $115 an hour I would have to pay them $350, factoring in their time to get here (only movers get paid before they start a job) and all the rest. I thought this was pretty high, considering that two of these guys, including him, were an hour late. I said I needed to call Sal. This was greeted with dismay by all of them, especially Harvey, who had just returned from the truck.

"You can cal Sal, but it won't do anything," he said. "Hey, look, we don't even do jobs that are under three hours, it's not worth our time!"

Really? This was news to me, considering that I had originally hired them for two hours, terms agreed upon by Sal.

Despite Harvey's derision I called Sal anyway. Once on the phone I explained how I felt I was being overcharged, because the guys were late. Now when you factor in the hourly rate, versus how much time they were not there, I figure it comes to ...

Sal cut me off. "I don't do the numbers! What you say, $50 bucks?"

Okay, $50 bucks. Did I still get ripped off? Probably, but the clock was ticking once again and I needed to get to what's next.

The move now was officially done, and I signed all the papers Phil wanted me to sign. Then I tipped them $80, which I thought was fair. Harvey took the money, but looked at me like I had just put his cigarette out in his beer. The other guys also took it without much emotion one way or the other. Ah well. Soon enough they all departed, back onto the subway and another job moving other people's stuff.

It was time for one last look through the apartment. After this was done I would have to go. I wouldn't see this apartment again for a long time, if ever, maybe. We had found subletters, so maybe we could return down the line, but it truly did feel like goodbye. We'd had some hard times here, for sure, but some very good ones too; wonderful parties with friends new and old, festive holiday meals, bright winter mornings where we looked out our window to see snow. It was a life.

Now the apartment was truly empty. The closets were bereft, Stella's room was depressingly barren, our bedroom looked like no one had lived there, ever.

I went downstairs, into the living room, empty, our big closet, empty. The kitchen. I checked every cabinet and they were all empty ... except for two. And these had all our pots and pans in them, crap!

Luckily I had a few garbage bags left. I loaded the forgotten cookware into them, and carried them downstairs and into the back of the truck, as they clanked and rattled. Then I spun through the combination on my 27 year old MasterLock (still works!) and opened the cargo hold. It was just about jam-packed, but there was still a small amount of room for one or two more filled garbage bags.

Then I locked up the back, refastened my lock and climbed into the cabin. Cromwell and Talisker took this occasion to give voice to their thorough disapproval regarding this entire arrangement. And one of them had already pooped in the litter-box. So, with a heart half-full of regret, out roughly $400 and smelling not exactly like a rose I started up the truck.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My New Huffington Post Post!

Please click on it! My new post at HP!

I will get back to the moving story I swear.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 6

Fortunately there wasn't much traffic back to our place from La Guardia, and I made it to the apartment in good time. The movers were scheduled to show up at 11:30 a.m. When I originally booked them I had thought this was perhaps too late, but now I was glad. I still needed to do a bunch of things in the apartment before they got there. For now, though, I had to get the truck.

U-Haul is on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, an extremely busy road, six lanes wide. The plan was to get the truck, leave the car, load the truck, come back, get the dolly hooked up, somehow, and then load the car into it. Then drive to New Jersey to Mike's place, pick him up, and then, at last, finally, start driving to Kentucky with all our stuff. Easy right?

U-Haul was as unfriendly as ever. It was one of those businesses that no matter what you did, no matter when you came in, no matter what you needed, the people behind the counter always acted like you were putting them out. And there was always a line.

I got in the line without thinking about it, almost by reflex. There were two dudes in front of me who were just talking a lot, and they looked in no hurry. Great, I had about two hours, and needed to get things going.

"Oh you can go," one of them said. Huh? They didn't work there, that was for sure, so why were they just hanging around chatting? No idea. Whatever.

At the desk I took out my reservation, and when the woman finally got back from her break, which naturally took a few minutes, I handed it to her. She looked it over semi-skeptically and then had me go through a long, long sign in process via a keypad in front of me. I put it all on my credit card, signed the various waivers that needed to be signed, paid for the insurance, the whole deal. This took about ten minutes. From there I was given a blue receipt in a paper sleeve, and told to go to dispatch. I thanked her, and walked outside.

I wasn't exactly sure where dispatch was, and didn't see anyone around. Still, I was in a hurry and needed to get my truck right away. So I walked to the first employee I saw, and asked if I was in the right place for dispatch.

The employee was a youngish guy in his mid-20s. He gave me one of those looks like "don't piss me off" and told me that he was dispatch and he would get to me when he could get to me. Go wait by the sign. This was the stuff that I could never just explain away to Randi. Why was is that in New York people were often rude for no real reason? I never had an answer other than it's just part of the deal. Politeness is great, but not mandatory in the city, and it's just another one of the costs of doing business. I guess you could say in New York we see friendliness as a privilege, not a right?

Randi, despite living in the New York area for over a decade, never could understand this, and never wanted to. I couldn't blame her, and I could never explain it to her satisfaction. Because, honestly, it's not that we're always in a rush.

I waited by the sign (the one that said "dispatch" on it, of course) for about five minutes while a truly enormous truck drove out of the parking lot. The driver behind the wheel was a really goofy, yet confident, looking white guy with a backwards baseball cap. The dispatcher looked highly dubious as he went over the various instructions this guy would need in order to not cause a major disaster. The size of the truck scared me. Would I have to command such a beast?

Finally it was my turn. I contritely explained that I had my receipt and needed my vehicle. I was told, once again, to wait as a large truck -- thankfully not quite as large as the one I just saw -- was wheeled in front of me. After a brief visual inspection by the dispatcher I climbed into the elevated cabin feeling either like BJ or The Bear, I remain unsure which.

The first thing I did behind the wheel is pull the seat up. This is a constant in my life. Whenever someone else drives my car they push the seat back, it doesn't matter the situation. It can be a team of dwarf Mexican wrestlers (and, yes, this happens all the time) they always lean the seat way back. I have brought my car to garages where the guys were no taller than me, I just knew it. But apparently I am the short one, because whenever I get back in the driver's seat it looks like somebody just got laid in there. I have to pull it way forward, and tilt the back of the chair way up. I must have really short legs and enjoy sitting at an acute angle as I drive.

With the dispatcher now on the running board he proceeded to give me the once through about how to operate the truck.

"These are your lights," he said, as he pulled out a knob. "This is your AC," he said as he blasted the air conditioner, at least that worked, " and "this is your radio." Honest to Jesus, I have rented trucks multiple times in my life, they always make sure to tell me how to work the radio.

"Now this is a big boy so you're going to want to leave a lot of room when you break and when you turn," he said. Got it. I was suitably nervous about the whole enterprise, I didn't think speeding and tailgating were going to be my problems. Then he handed me the keys and I slowly crept out of the U-Haul parking lot onto the street. As I did so I drove by the small army of Latino day laborers who loitered right next to the "no loitering" sign, as they all wondered whether I needed some help moving? I waved, meaning I don't know what, and drove carefully on.

I drove slowly, very slowly as I got used to the size of the truck. Actually, it didn't handle too badly, and the breaks worked well, thank god. Still, it was bare bones. It had the radio, the AC, a couple of drink holders, some kind of massive plastic pit in the center console and that was it. I put the blue receipt in the pit as I watched for traffic.

I made it back to our apartment without too much other ado, and even found a spot on our side of the street close to our door, a lucky break.

Then I locked up the truck and went back inside to the apartment. The movers were to come relatively soon now, and I wanted to double check and make sure everything was set up. There never is enough time, it seems, to lock everything down before they get there. Unless you're really, really organized.

The first order of business? The cats, of course. I filled a Tupperware container with litter and duct taped it down in the back of the travel kennel. Then I did the same with their food bowl saving their water for later. (Here's a nifty trick I learned from David: freeze the water the night before so it doesn't slosh around so much.)

Then I walked through the apartment, trying to put everything I had heretofore forgotten into yet another in an endless series of black plastic bags. Our apartment was practically lined with them. I also took apart our long, black kitchen table and carefully placed all the bolts and various other small metal parts in ziploc bags and put those in our tool chest. I may not be the most organized person in the world but I know how to compensate for this. I wrapped the legs of the table in bubble wrap. I then put some of our paintings in black plastic garbage bags too, which may not be ideal, but it's how we've moved with them now two other times, and they always seem to do okay.

Being so busy kept me from ruminating over the larger issues that would otherwise occupy my mind: that I would miss it here, that I would miss my old life, my friends, my family, the city in summer, the city in autumn, the free summer concerts (Public Enemy's playing a free show on August 15 in Central Park!), the things I never got to do, the beach. I knew that if I lingered too long over these feelings I would feel saddened for all the ways that New York remained the only place I could ever have a chance of doing some of the things, professionally, that I had long aspired to. I still dreamed that somehow, someday, I might find a way to get a package to someone at a comedy show, have them actually read it, and like it. Then I could write for them, this had been the long-time, hardcore, serious dream. It had never happened, and I had sent out various packages, and bothered what few contacts I had in that world on many different occasions. But the hope never dies, and that is sometimes the problem.

Still, thankfully, I didn't have time for such reminiscences just then. It was time for action, not self-defeating, and depressing, reflection. Thank the lord.

Soon it was 11:00 a.m., time to herd up the cats, literally. They always know when something's up, so I looked upon this with some annoyance. I grabbed our black cat Cromwell first. He was fairly passive until we got within two feet of the carrier and then he started to fight me. Still, it was nice having such a large door to shove him through, and that is exactly what I did.

Now our other cat, a black and white guy named Talisker, would know what's up. They always alert one another somehow. He was, as suspected, under our bed, a relatively easy find, given the hundreds of places he could have hid, especially with the apartment in such disarray. He fought a little more, which is slightly ironic, as he's usually such a purr machine. All the same, I shoved him too into the carrier. Then I somehow managed to put in their water dish and tape it down without their escaping. Right away they started to meow like a jukebox that does nothing except play meowing songs, and they stayed that way for the next two days.

Soon it was tie for the actual movers to show up. And, at noon two of them did, already a half hour late. The other two? Not so much.

Tomorrow: Moving, and driving. I swear!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 5

Okay, so let's talk about the actual move.

The logistics were daunting. We had to move a man, a woman, a child, two cats, a car, and all our belongings from Brooklyn to Kentucky, about 800 miles. How to make it all happen? As mentioned in the first post in this series I became fixated on the cats. How to move them?

David, The Pet Chauffeur, said that if we were going to put them on an airplane we would have to go to the vet's office and get them to give us various release forms, and all this had to be done within the next few days. I didn't know if this would work. Since Randi and Stella were going to fly into Kentucky a few days earlier than I would be there we discussed whether she could schlep Stella through the airport, carry their luggage and handle two cats. Then when they got to Kentucky what to do with the cats? I asked if she could let them run around her mom's house for a few days until I got there, but Randi was very dubious about this. Her mom now has four dogs. One is her actual dog, two were her son's, and one is a stray that she kind of adopted. Maybe she could just put the cats in the basement for a few days? Again, Randi was highly skeptical.

I could press the point, but I thought that maybe it would all be the same if I found a way to travel with them. I, as previously mentioned, was going to drive a U-Haul filled with all our stuff and tow a car. The trip would probably take two days in total. I asked David what might be the best way to travel with the cats given this situation.

He recommended a size 300 dog carrier, which apparently was much larger than your standard cat carrier. I could put both cats inside it at the same time, in addition to the cat food, the water and a shoe box filled with litter, so they could poop and pee. He also mentioned that he happened to have about a million of these carriers at his business, so I could come on down and he would give me a deal.

But how to do the actual drive with the cats? David asked what I'm doing with the car. I said I'm towing it. Okay, he said, if you're towing it get one of the flat bed car dollies, not the ones where the car rolls along on two wheels, so it's flat for the cats. Then put the carrier, containing the cats, inside.

Another problem: it's probably going to be about 95 degrees as we drive to Kentucky, how to keep the cats from dying in the heat? David said that maybe I could crack the windows on the car. He also said that I could turn on the AC on the car, but he did not recommend this as it is illegal to keep a running car on a transport unit. I said thanks, I will have to think about it.

A couple of days later I drove to David's business. Even though it was only about 15 miles away it took about an hour and a half with traffic. As is my usual custom I made a Google Map to get there, and forget to make one for the return trip.

His business was in a mid-sized home in an industrial part of Long Island City. Inside I saw the article I had written, framed, on the wall. Wow, I hadn't even framed it.

David, unfortunately, wasn't there that day as his mother had not been feeling well. So some of the other folks there helped me. Everyone was very nice, and gentle as those who tend to work with animal usually are. I saw a 300 sized kennel -- basically a large plastic box with a door in the front -- and wondered if it would be large enough. I asked to see the 400 sized kennel, which was then way too large. Well, this would have to do. All through the back of the home there were various dogs barking, though inside the home there were some smaller dogs who were able to walk around,including a very friendly dachshund.

The cost of the kennel was $40, which is good because that was all I had. Once it was cleaned and made ready I tried to fit in the back seat of my Honda and it just barely made it. Phew.

I drove home, and for one reason or another it took about another hour and a half. All together the trip, to go perhaps 30 miles round trip, took four hours. That's one thing about NYC, what isn't walking distance is often way too far.

So the cats were taken care of for now. I would worry more about them later. Now I had to actually get on with plotting out this move.

I went onto U-Haul's website to try and figure out the best setup for the trip. Should I get a 14 foot truck or 17 foot? I went larger. I opted, as mentioned, for the more expensive flat bed car dolly, not the two-wheeled job. I rented 10 blankets to protect our gear. Then came the eternal question: should I get insurance on the truck and dolly? I am never sure in situations like these (which include renting a car) whether I would be truly covered in an accident via whatever protections are offered from my credit card. I paid the extra money for the insurance, though I kind of didn't want to.

I made the reservations about two weeks in advance of the planned move day. The truck and dolly was to be mine for four days in total.

I was a bit nervous about it all. This was going to be a big rig. The truck would be easily the largest I have ever driven, for the longest period of time. Add in that it would also have a car towed behind it, and the 17 foot truck -- I opted for the big boy -- would soon swell to, what, 30 feet? Longer? I shivered at the idea of trying to get that thing through the city, but realized I just would have to deal with it.

Fortunately around this time my friend Mike volunteered to take the trip with me, and share the drive. He lives in Denver, but had spent most of his summer break -- he is also a teacher -- in his hometown in New Jersey and was damn tired of it. A little trip, he said, would be just the thing he needed.

I was grateful for the help and took him up on the offer. To make the trip worth his while I paid for his airline ticket back home, as he was doing me a big favor. Even with this added cost, I figured, it is still so much cheaper than the figure Flat Rate had quoted.

Now I had to plan out how to load and unload all our stuff. U-Haul has a feature on their website where you can find movers, price them, and read their various customer reviews. If you like what you see you can also reserve their services for when you need them. Since I was driving myself I realized that we would only need movers to load and unload the truck. I reserved Pack Mule movers on the Kentucky end, at $85 an hour for two hours, with three guys. And on the New York end I emailed a company called Personalized Movers, who had helped us move twice before. Their cost was $115 an hour for four guys, and two hours. Of course being nervous about this whole deal I checked both confirmations about a dozen times before the actual moving day.

The big day finally arrived, July 8. That morning I helped load Randi and Stella, and their things, into our Honda and drove them to La Guardia. Their flight was at 8:30 a.m., so we left the apartment by 6:30. Fortunately there was little traffic and we made it to the airport in about 25 minutes. (Again the city, being the city, meant that this trip could have taken either 25 minutes or two hours.)

When we got to the US Air curbside dropoff at the airport Randi got out and checked the bags. My job was to load Stella onto her new carrier. You see we had purchased a transport device for Stella so that Randi's side of the trip would be made relatively easy. It was a set of wheels with a handle on the top that you could fasten a child safety car seat onto. This way instead of dealing with a stroller you could just roll your kid through the airport in their own seat. It cost about $80, yet another of the innumerable expenses that factored into the move.

There was only one problem, in our haste we had forgotten to actually assemble the damn thing. It was still in the box, still in the plastic and now I had to figure out how to put it together, from scratch, on the curb in front of the airport, while the police, taxis, livery drivers, various other passengers, and random airport employees kept trying to get us to hustle on out.

I tore open the box. I would need a Phillips head screwdriver. Wonderful. I looked into the trunk to see what goodies my mom had left in a large brown cardboard box she always kept back there. (We had gotten the car from my mom, as you now know.) This box had mainly been the bane of my existence, as it took up a lot of room and I never did anything with it. But it held jumper cables, some maps, and god knows what else. Fortunately it also held ... a Phillips head screwdriver! Yahtzee!

Now, feeling a bit more like McGuyver, it was time for me to assemble this thing on the curb, while my child was inside the car, looking nervously around, and my wife checked the bags. I saw instructions, I saw various plastic parts, I saw wheels, but I saw no screws. Oh man. Not good.

In a frenzy I looked harder and eventually found the four screws I needed, but it took a few precious minutes. God dammit, I thought, why didn't we think of any of this before today? No matter how well you try to plan something there is always something forgotten. This was it. I was frantic.

I put the wheels on the axle and snapped them into place, then threaded them into the groove where they were supposed to fit and didn't. I would have to deal with that later. I put the handle into the frame, backwards I eventually realized. I reversed it a few minutes later, as the sky cap guys looked on, confused. Time was ticking. I screwed in screws, as fast as I could. Then Randi helped me snap in the axle right. We were tense, I felt kind of like I was doing surgery on the side of the road. After about ten minutes (an eternity when you are curbside at the airport) it looked sturdy enough. Now would come the test. I unfastened Stella from her seat, and put her on the curb, holding Randi's hand. Then I fastened the car seat into the holder, wrong of course. I tried it again, and this time it seemed to work.

Then I took Stella and put her on her seat in the bracket. It was a little shaky, but seemed to roll and do what it was supposed to do.

Randi and I kissed, it was now around 7:10 a.m.

"I will call when I land," Randi said. (She is superstitious about flying, and always calls when the trip has ended.)

"Okay," I said. "Have a great trip and I love you."

She said she loved me too.

"And I love you Stella," I said, as I bent down to kiss her cheek. At this point Stella probably flinched and moved her head, as is custom, but I can't quite remember.

Then Randi started to walk inside, towing Stella behind on her new roller. They both looked like they were actually having some fun with their new toy, especially Stella as she rolled along. She smiled. That was the image I burned into my brain as I waved goodbye to the both of them, and Stella even waved back.

After they went inside I immediately snapped to. No time for long goodbyes, my day had just began. I knew it was to be a long day, although just then I had no idea quite how long.

Next time: getting the van, packing and driving.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 4

So, out of the blue, about two and a half months ago I get this call from one of the few remaining financial big magazines. I had met with the editor there before he was editor there, and we had hit it off way back when. Now, much to my surprise, I got a call about whether I wanted to come in and interview for a staff writer position.

Knock me over with a feather, dig?

I said yes, of course, even though I knew it would cause a certain amount of sturm und drang over here, not to mention agita, and a few other words in foreign languages. We had agreed to move, but the "good job" caveat was coming into play, and I was just as surprised as anyone.

I got out a nice suit, and dressed up for the interview, but didn't really have too much invested emotionally. By now I have been on so many interviews that I knew relatively few ever go anywhere. Still, I figured I would put my best foot forward, and do what I could.

The magazine, let's call it "Personal Riches", was ensconced in a large, perhaps massive is a better word, midtown office tower. This, I thought, is a real place to work. It had security, expensive art in the lobby, a reflecting pool out front. I cleared security and went upstairs to meet my interviewer, Richard. (Not his real name, etc.)

In Richard's office was his number two, a pleasant woman named Gloria. We started to chat, and since I had nothing to lose I felt unusually free and confident. Suddenly I noticed everything they said they wanted in a writer seemed to track with my experience, it was kind of spooky. The topper came when they asked me if I could handle being a mere staff writer after being an editor? I answered that this was more than good for me, and, don't worry, I could always mentor the various younger reporters who know nothing.

We all had a good laugh, and, what do you know, soon an hour had passed! Always a good sign. Then I met some other editors, and we all hit it off famously too. Soon I started to feel kind of warm, and not from my blue suit. We were clicking. Really clicking. I was shocked, but ready to see where this went.

Soon after this it was time to talk turkey, and here's where it got real interesting. I didn't bring up salary, they did. This is always good. You know when the money talk starts that things are going well.

Richard asked me what I would want. I had to think quick. You're always supposed to say what you made at your old job plus, I don't know, 15-20%, or so. But I didn't want to do that, because I had been underpaid at my old gig, and didn't want to lose money courtesy of the penury of my former employer. So I pulled out the oldest trick in the book, I asked THEM for a salary range.

Here's where it gets fun. Richard kind of apologized at this point and told me that while I wouldn't be making "Forbes money" (this is how he phrased it) they could still pay a decent wage. I nodded serenely. Then he quoted me a figure that was just about twice what I made at my old job. I nodded again, perhaps a touch less serenely. That they were willing to indulge my almost transparent gamesmanship made me feel confident, much to my shock.

"I realize things are tough these days," Richard added, almost sheepishly. "But as things improve we'll see more from corporate." Oh my. So this is the kind of money real people make! It was strange to finally feel like I might get to join the adult world.

I took a moment, let the dollar figures sink in and then answered: "Well, I guess I will have to put the yacht in dry-dock."

We all smiled, ha-ha.

Soon the interview drew to a close. As a formality, more or less, I was asked to cobble together a few story ideas and send them their way in the next week or so. If it takes a little longer don't stress it, Richard said.

Fine, I had a few ideas.

Once downstairs, downing a late afternoon pushcart lunch by the reflecting pool, I took a moment to parse what had just happened. A job basically finds me from out of the blue, I kill during the interview, it's what I would like to do, AND it would pay actual money. What had I done wrong for things to all of a sudden go so right? This just wasn't my typical style of career luck, i.e. bad.

But I didn't look forward to the call to Randi. I knew this change of plans would upset her, as she was ready to leave New York post-haste. What would we do? If we stayed she couldn't get her old job back, we had missed the deadline. Could we swing a deal where I worked in NYC part time and lived in Kentucky part time? I didn't know, couldn't know. I decided I wouldn't try to put it all together now.

On the phone Randi was upset, as I expected. But it was what it was. I didn't like to see her upset, but this opportunity was just too good to pass up. For all of us, not just me. With more money we could send Stella to summer camp when she got older, maybe get a place in Kentucky and here, finally get to enjoy New York like a civilized couple, not always two steps from a tenement existence, only with Thai takeout. Which we can't even order all that often.

The next few days were tense, and Randi and I discussed this new development, sometimes heatedly. I stuck to my guns, I had to go for it. Initially she was not pleased. I didn't want to make her unhappy or hurt our marriage, but I thought this was something I needed to do.

About a four days after the initial interview Randi came around, which made me really grateful and appreciative. "Look, there's no way we can turn down that money," she finally conceded. I agreed. I am not a big one for making your whole career about the money, but ... this time I thought I could make an exception.

I told my mom, who almost cried with joy over the phone. She, of course, didn't want us to move. She didn't want us to go, didn't want Stella to go, and thought that my career options were better in NYC. But mainly she was so proud that someone, somewhere finally offered me what I was worth. She said she always knew I deserved something like this, and always believed in me. I was swelled with gratitude. The kicker was that she said she was thrilled for me, even if I didn't get the job.

I told her to please keep it between us, as there was no offer yet. The next day, of course, I get calls from my brother and sister congratulating me on my new job.

Still, I was confident an offer was likely.

I decided to run with their suggestion of a "few" story suggestions. I would blow their socks off. I sent them five story ideas that I thought were dynamite. They were immediately returned and unanimously rejected.

Whoa, must've been a misunderstanding!

Then I decided to go another route. Over the next week I wrote two five page mini cover stories, basically, that took research, writing, phone calls to sources in the financial world, the whole deal. I killed myself to make these great and knew they were the best I could do. I sent them in on a Friday, full of piss and vinegar. Just try to not hire me now suckas!

Early Monday I received a call from Richard. Excited but confident I picked up the phone, awaiting my offer.

Instead I received a quick and conclusive rejection. When I picked up my jaw from the table I sputtered out something like, "how?"

My packages were too much, basically, he said. It was like I was trying to show off all I know, rather than write something that readers would really need.

How can you answer that? (Too much knowledge? Huh?) You can't. I didn't. I said thanks for reading, and with a ghost of our former collegiality, he wished me luck as we ended our call.

A day later I emailed Gloria to see if she would be kind enough to send me a brief email to explain where I went wrong. I still couldn't see where. Her note back was very kind and gracious and she said she would get back to me in the next few days.

The next few days never happened.

I walked around in a fog for about two days, shocked and dismayed as my new life melted back into my old one. I am ashamed to admit today that I had even gone so far as planning a new car purchase. After a year on the job of course, I didn't want to be rash. But still, I had allowed myself to dream that much, even as I realized I was being premature. (It was a Lexus, by the way, not the expensive one, the middle of the line one. Black.)

At 38 I now had to face the reality: I would have to start over, even if I didn't feel ready. My last hope for really making it in the city had fallen through; the latest and greatest in a string of lost opportunities and mistakes. The straw could not be grasped, the hail Mary pass would not be received. I would now become a New York Jew in Kentucky. Not quite Mark Twain, is it?

I realize I promised to tell you about the move itself in the first entry. I will get to it in the next one. No lie.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 3

The reason why was because Randi had to alert her school, PS 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn as to whether or not she would return. Even though the school year was to start in September they would need to know by March. A few weeks in advance of this we went back and forth still more, and started to see a marriage counselor to help us deal with the stress this had put on us as individuals and as a married couple.

I personally felt the strain. No matter how I tried to slice it I couldn't come up with one answer that would satisfy everyone. If we stayed Randi wouldn't be happy, and would feel that we had ignored something very important to her, which was that she desperately wanted to try and help poor rural children get better educations. This was, and is, a noble goal that I supported. Or at least I supported it in theory before it meant that I would have to move to Kentucky.

If we moved I might be able to find a decent life in Kentucky, but I wasn't confident. As mentioned my entire world had become centered around New York, and I had a wonderful group of friends, and a great family, whom I loved. It would be especially hard trying to replicate the network of friends, family and close contacts that had made up a fairly complex web for me. On any given night, if I decided to go out, I could go downtown and see people I know perform, meet a good, good friend for a drink, or even catch a movie with a chum. I knew I would desperately miss these people.

The problem, of course, is that we, as a couple, could rarely indulge in these sorts of fun activities because it cost so much. We lucked out, and found a babysitter that would watch Stella for $15 an hour, but since I was jobless and Randi only worked part time at the school (she had decided to go back to work last school year, but too late to get full time work) even at this discounted rate our little nights out, which we used to take for granted, became back-breakingly expensive. If we merely went to see a movie we would have to add up the cost of the movie, $23 or so, and the cost of the babysitter, at least $45. Heaven forbid we should want to get dinner or buy popcorn at the theater, then our night could easily top $100. Just to get dinner and see a movie.

Sometimes we could get babysitting help through a collective Randi was in, but this could not be counted on on a regular basis.

So basically our lives had become very small, with us in most nights, praying for the return of shows like "Mad Men" to make yet another night inside seem worth it.

As mentioned, the clocked ticked away while we tried to find, somewhere, the wisdom of Solomon. How to balance the happiness of one versus the other? Not to mention that if Randi was unhappy it would have a big impact on my happiness.

Also there was the Stella factor. What would be best for her? In Brooklyn we lived right next door to a library with excellent programs for kids and down the block from a great playground with a tots section. Better still we had become part of a large, lively and close-knit group of parents in our area, as Brooklyn has become such a Mecca for young couples. We all knew one another's kids, and Stella had started to develop friendships with some of the local kids her age.

Yet, again, though, the question loomed: could she be happy if her parents were constantly stressed? If we stayed would we be able to settle into a routine that would mitigate the isolation we frequently felt? Would having more family nearby help us, and by extension help her? I tried to figure all this out, as did Randi.

What about me? My career had seemingly hit a wall. I enjoyed writing investigative pieces into Wall Street, which I already had done at prior jobs, but even when I was hired at Forbes I was told that they didn't need me for that. I could do it in my spare time, of course, and see if a job opened up. But for now they wanted me to continue to crank out the financial advice, and do whatever else it was they wanted me to do at.

Not to say that I didn't work hard, I did. And I was grateful for the chance. But my job was a full-time job, and I took it seriously. Unfortunately at the end of the day there was little time for me to get cranking on the next great Wall Street expose. That is also a full time job. The problem is that being a dad and a husband is also yet another full time job, and one I also took seriously. So something had to give and what gave was my ability to do extracurricular reporting. This is how journalism is a young person's game. If you are single, and childless, you can spend the extra hours on the phone, going to conferences, calling people earlier in the day or late at night. You can write things up over the weekends. You can have, in essence, two jobs. The one they pay you for, which you may not love, and the one you want to grow into.

I know, boo-hoo. I realize that it was my decision to not burn the extra midnight oil. I made a choice, and have accepted it. But I was sad to see this horrific financial meltdown take place right before my eyes, and only be able to delve into it peripherally.

Then there was the apartment situation. If we left, but decided we would want to come back how could we? We would lose our apartment, and as anyone who has ever moved to New York can attest, finding a nice, affordable apartment can be a process akin to finding hen's teeth. Especially when you don't already have a place. How would it work? Would I ask my parents if we could stay with them while Randi took the bus into work, I looked for apartments, and Stella ... just what would Stella do anyway?

Some of these questions have no answers, of course. After months of banging our heads against various walls we decided, with the deadline landing on our backs, to simply roll the dice and go for it. I realized something important: I would never be able to divine the future, so I would have to stop trying. No matter how much I figured, reasoned and played out various scenarios I could not account for them all, especially with things that are as unpredictable as happiness and satisfaction.

It was decided that we would move, try Louisville, and see if anyone would want to sublet our apartment while we were away.

Could the sublet work? Would our landlord agree to it? We didn't know, but we would ask.

Anyway, if you can imagine it, these were only some of the questions we tried to answer before the move. (Others: What about my sister Barbara? She has Down's Syndrome and I am her legal guardian. She's in New Jersey, could I see her? What about moving from a place with tons of Jews, New York, to a place where there aren't very many at all? How would I handle that? Would Stella assimilate into a culture I wouldn't want her to assimilate into?)

So, as mentioned, all this put an enormous strain on us personally and together. The back-and-forthing of it all, the idea that we would have to change lives ... it was all too much. Sometimes I was on board, and sometimes I would draw way back, terrified and angry that I would have to go. Randi wanted to go, yes, but then she would pull back too. We would have a great day, a day that could only be had in New York, and she would start to question whether we should move as well. We might be at a public pool, amidst dozens of kids from every race and background, all playing together. Only in New York, I would think, and the thought made me happy.

Then something would happen that would make me very unhappy, and it would also only be in New York. I would have to move my car twice a week, every week. Heaven forbid I should forget, then I would be slapped with crazy expensive tickets, and the threat of having my car towed. Laundry was blocks away, which can be a big burden when your laundry bags weigh 50 pounds. To get food we have to carry groceries up three flights of narrow stairs. And everything costs way more than it should. These are the compromises of city life.

So there were so many unanswerable issues at play. Yet at the same time I also knew that no matter where we went we would still, ultimately, bring ourselves along. Could a move even make us happier if we weren't happy now? Maybe, but maybe not. Again, these are questions that have no answers, almost like Zen Koans, but far less philosophical and fun.

To complicate matters still more we also understood that if some crazy great job opening came my way we would have to reconsider moving. I for one was not worried that this would happen. It hadn't happened yet, and I'd been on the lookout for months.

Yet this unlikely scenario is exactly what happened.