July 31, 2008

The Trials of Attempting Property Ownership

Yeah... I know, I haven't gotten back to the Moore wedding. I'm really not sure how to write significant pieces of it in order to keep it meaningful and accurate while at the same time refraining from over-editorializing and potentially writing things that I might not want to have published to the open Internet. Bear with me.

So Anna and I are buying a house. And part of buying a house is having a home inspection. So I went on my home inspection with the local Crazy Jamaican Home Inspector. I definitely recommend the guy so long as you don't mind that he's not really big on punctuality. He's very thorough, but very stereotypically Jamaican with respect to punctuality and attention to things like dates and times.

Anyways, we found a couple of issues with the house... nothing deal-breaking, but it turns out that the owner before the current owners was something of an aspiring home handy-man. Except that he sucked at installing toilets, electrical outlets and REALLY sucked at installing dishwashers and soldering copper piping.

The Toilet - When you grab it and try to swing it back and forth, there's about an inch that it comes up off of the ground and probably 45 degrees of motion from one extreme to the other. Oh... and it leaks to the basement. Fortunately, it leaks onto replaceable drop ceiling tiles... but it's still a problem.

The Electrical Outlets - He failed to ground any of the outlets that he installed in the garage.

Copper Piping - So when soldering the copper piping above the hot water heater, he failed. There are probably half a dozen pinhole leaks that have led to a bed of copper oxide roughly half an inch high on top of the hot water heater.

The Dishwasher - The capstone of the whole experience. So when he installed the dishwasher, he apparently noted a lack of electrical service under the counter. No matter, there are outlets on top of the counter. So what did he do? He drilled a tiny hole, cut off the end of the plug, fished the cable through, spliced the end back on and attached it to the wall. Except, apparently he also sucks as splicing, because the plug has since melted to the point where there is significant copper exposure. Seriously, I'm surprised nothing's caught fire yet.

All in all, I'm very grateful for the home inspector, because while there's a lot of things that I caught on my own, there's a much longer list of little things and significant but subtle things that I would have never noticed. And if anyone's buying in Cedar Rapids, talk to me... The Crazy Jamaican is sure to drive your Realtor nuts, but he's damned good at what he does.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at 10:17 PM | TrackBack

July 16, 2008

The Moore Wedding: Part One

Really, this ought to be one contiguous story. And perhaps it will be, in time. But for now, it's being told episodically... because there was simply too much that happened this last weekend for it to be one blog post. In fact, the story of the trip leading up to the wedding and the night before the events described here are a story in and unto themselves. And honestly, if you want that story told, talk to Anna. But anyways, as I was saying.

There have been few times in my life where my instinct towards laziness would have served me better than this last weekend. I say "would have," because I utterly failed to heed its balking wisdom when, a month or so ago, David Moore asked me to emcee his wedding reception. Really, I should have panicked when he offered me room and board for the weekend simply in exchange for my talking into a microphone in front of a willing crowd, but we'll get to all of that in good time.

Instead, allow me to start with the third ill omen, wherein I called the groom on the morning before the wedding to get directions and was informed that he was only just now getting the marriage certificate. In due time, I would have occasion to take pause and contemplate these warnings, but at that time, I was far too preoccupied with attempting to navigate "Chicago-land" without a freaking map.

To his credit, the groom gave me excellent directions to the bride's house, where I was greeted by the recently-returned groom, the eager bride and Ziggy, The Best Man. Well, really, Moore was fluttering about like a chicken with his head cut off, Sharon was busily preparing flowers and Ziggy was printing programmes. We all sat around a while and chatted and got caught up while I looked over the directions to the audio rental store. Since it was getting on to be 11:30 and there looked to be roughly a 45 minute drive, Anna and I headed out to get the audio equipment early so that we could test it in advance.

A confusing, haphazard and poorly-mapped out hour of driving through Chicagoland later found us at the "audio rental store." It is at this point where I should digress and note that as I was perusing the Google map that David had kindly supplied, I noted that "store" looked like it was in a subdivision. Laughing this off, I supposed that this was simply owing to the bizarre and ridiculous road layout situation of the greater Chicago area. Our arrival in a subdivision gave credence to my initial misgivings. All of this said, I was in the computer business long enough to find valid and viable home-based businesses, so we found the house in question, drove up and got out.

Approaching the two men standing outside of the garage, I boldly announced my intentions, "Ummm... I'm here for some stereo equipment."

The men looked up at me and confusedly at each other. One spoke up in a Germanic accent as the other politely pantomimed, "Stereo? Go to front door. Yes?"

Shrugging, I waved politely, smiled and walked up to the front door. After knocking produced no result, I rang the bell. Barking ensued from inside and after a short wait, a tiny little old lady came to the door in what appeared to be a bathrobe and sneakers with some kind of small, furry dog under one arm. This woman looked like she'd had a hard life and, in all actuality, seemed as though she might have already died and was simply unaware of it other than the fact that her bottom lip had already bloated to disgusting proportion.

"HELLO?!"

"Yes, we're here to pick up the audio equipment."

"WHAT'S THAT?!"

"THE STEREO EQUIPMENT! WE'RE HERE TO PICK IT UP!"

"HERE ABOUT A STEREO?! That's nice... step inside."

And in we stepped, into the garbage storehouse. Well, to be fair, besides the actual wallpaper and paint, nothing in the house looked like it was actual trash. Instead, there was a 30'x40' room filled three to five feet high throughout with what could only be described as assorted... stuff. And rising high above the room was an overlooking hallway connected to the stairway that dumped out in front of the door through which we'd just come, and that hallway also appeared to be loaded with stuff. It was almost as though the occupants had been acquiring the unsold surplus from every estate sale in town for the last several years, to the point that the only way through was a narrow path along the wall below the stairs.

As we wandered inside, the little old lady toddled off towards the stairs, dog under one arm. Traversing the 5 feet with all of the grace of a small child learning to ride a bicycle and half of the speed, she began to shout.

"BRYAN!"

"BRYAN!!"

"BRYAN!!!! YOU HAVE VISITORS!!!!"

With this she paused and gazed back apologetically and then set off toddling down the aforementioned narrow path that had been cleared to one side of the debris field. After some time, she arrived at a door, which she opened and resumed her shouting.

"JASON!"

"JASON!!"

"JASON!!! THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE FOR YOUR FATHER!!!"

Noting that she wasn't being responded to, the little old lady shuffled back to the foot of the stairs and, step after tortuous step, began to ascend them. After seemingly an eternity, the would-be zombie reached the top of the stairs and began screaming again.

"WHERE'S JASON?!"

Almost incongruously, she was finally answered by a perhaps shriller female voice, "HE'S PROBABLY ON THE PHONE!!"

With a shrug, she turned to make her ascent, dog still under one arm, toddling precariously as she climbed slowly downward. "You'll have to excuse me... I can't afford to fall." Gazing pointedly at the dog that apparently needed the chariot ride more than grandma needed the balance, I omitted my response as she ambled slowly downward.

After this strenuous journey, the woman paused for breath and then made her way back through the minefield and over to the door that she had visited earlier.

"JASON!!"

"JASON!! THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE!!"

And, finally another response, "I'M ON THE PHONE!!"

"GET UP HERE!!"

We were met by an interlude full of angsty stomping followed by a young teenager emerging from the basement. Taking a parting blow, he turned on grandma, "I WAS ON THE PHONE!!" and then breezed past her and up to us, replacing bravado with teenaged awkwardness even as he shuffled through the wreckage.

"What's up?"

I figured repetition was the key here... say the same thing to enough people and maybe one of them would be able to help, "I'm here for some stereo equipment."

"Oh... that'd be my dad." Jason turned and pushed some piles of stuff aside to reveal a mountain of previously-unseen stereo equipment. "Hold on a sec."

And with that, Jason was all business again, whipping out a cell phone. Some mumbling later, he snapped the phone shut.

"He says come back in an hour."

So here I am, it now being 1 PM, 45 minutes from Joliet, without sound equipment, being instructed to come back in an hour. "Sure... whatever."

As we headed out the door, first I called Moore and gave him an ear-full. Not as much as he deserved, but as much as I could pile on the groom in good conscience. After fighting a losing battle to calm my rage, Moore picked a rapid retreat in the form of "Got to try on this tux... bye!"

In between his sad wailings about all of this business of finding shady-ass sound equipment dealers not being his fault, Moore had noted that the number for this monument to ineptitude was located on one of my sheets of paper. As Anna and I departed to find food, I called our "equipment supplier" and was assured that he would be there between 2 and 2:30 PM.

During our drive, Toad finally called. "Wait... so if all of the guys are out getting fitted for tuxes, where the hell are you?" Sensing a chance to add to my motley posse of errand-runners, I gave Toad some crude directions while I stopped off at Target to get a real map. After a series of quick redirects and a lunch at a shady gas-station subway, we were now under way with Anna in the lead and Toad and I following in his crappy Korean rental car with its busted-ass transmission and screwed-up remote locking system.4

We arrived a short while later (in spite of Anna's frequent attempts to lose us at stoplights) and this time bypassed the Europeans completely as we headed for the door. True to form, our ringing of the bell was greeted by the walking dead and she invited us in again with the comment, "Oh look, you brought a friend!" I think she may have also mentioned something about the woman being in charge, but really, I was too busy trying not to stare at the dead maggot that she had stapled to her lower lip.

And then we were off to the races as grandma bypassed screaming up the stairs to scream down into the basement after Jason. And then, after a couple of failed attempts, she ascended beneath. And just as we were starting to wonder if the dog had finally tripped her up for good this time, she re-emerged, sadly shaking her head. "There's nobody down there." Then, without so much as an attempt to shout up the stairs, she began her ascent anew... every bit as frightening as the previous one. She did finally reach the precipice, commenced with some shouting and some muttering with the woman in the next room and then proceeded to tempt fate yet again by coming back down the same stairs.

"She called Bryan and he and Jason are on their way. Would you folks like to sit down?"

Almost in a panic, I stammered out an excuse, "We need to make a phone call.... outside.... on our cell phones.... long distance...." And not waiting for a response (fearful, really, of getting one), I charged out the door into the sunlight. Sensing the need for haste, Toad and Anna followed close behind, leaving the zombie standing bewildered on the now-empty landing.

As the zombie finally closed the door, Toad looked back and forth between Anna and I and shook his head. "Wow...."

After some puzzled glances back and forth, Anna pointed out that we should probably figure out the situation with the train riders. A quick phone call confirmed that they would be in soon enough that it would make more sense for us to go pick them up before we went back to the bride's house, which, of course, raised the question of how long we would be remaining at this improvised electronics shack. Just as Toad began mapping out a way to the train station on his phone via Google Maps, a van burst into view and it appeared that our erstwhile sound equipment had finally been stolen for our use... err... showed up.

Bryan and Jason hopped out of the busted-ass van and Bryan greeted me apologetically, "It's been a rough day... let's get your equipment." And with that, Jason vanished into the house and I followed Bryan into the garage, where he proceeded to open two additional vans and began lobbing equipment out of them and into a pile, shuffling through the piles as he went.

And then, the cops showed up.

No, I'm serious, a cop pulled up and began asking Anna and Toad questions about the box truck that was parked on the street while Bryan continued obliviously lobbing electronics.

"Is this your truck?"

(In concert) "No."

"Do you know whose it is?"

(Again, a concert of "No.") Toad followed up with, "We don't live here and we're not even from around here."

At this, the officer shrugged, inquired of the Germans, and then proceeded to begin writing the truck a ticket.

As all of this went on, Bryan continued to lob electronics until one of the Germans wandered up. "Bryan.... is your truck?" he asked, pointing at the box truck.

"Yeah..."

"Is police!"

At this, Bryan practically sprinted over to the truck as Toad and I loaded the stuff that he had already set aside into the car.

"You know, Toad.... we could just leave now and nobody could find us."

"Yeah... but then we'd be stuck with stolen goods."

"We're already going to be stuck with stolen goods... at least this way we won't have to pay to rent them."

And before we could wander further down this speculative path to dubious morality, Bryan returned.

And without too much more haggling, we were on our way to get Jared, Rachel and Wilson and rid of the shady sound rental guy... for now...

Really, I can't say enough about Ziggy and his level of preparedness and organization. I'm pretty sure that everyone agrees that without Ziggy, there would have been no wedding.

Having done this sort of thing a couple of times, I'd like to note that you really want to get the audio equipment as far in advance as possible. Rental audio equipment tends to be in lousy shape owing to all of the amateur "sound experts" who use it and all of the teenaged morons who tend to repair it and you really want to check out your system and find the kinks well in advance of the ceremony. In our case, I really wanted to get far enough out ahead of it that we could even go back in and get replacements if we ended up with duds.

I also noted that this stupid map had gotten me lost more than once and that it would appear that I would need an actual "Chicagoland" map of my own rather than relying upon the fragmentary maps in Moore's Google Maps printouts. Really, I should have just bought an iPhone at this point... but that's neither here nor there.

4 Really, I ought to let Toad expound upon the strangeness of this rental car, but suffice it to say that whenever you used the keyless entry to unlock the thing, it popped the damned trunk. Oh... and the 5-gear pretend manual transmission was designed by giving a group of mental patients access to a CAD program.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at 10:43 PM | TrackBack

July 13, 2008

The Wedding

Grats David and Sharon Moore! I have many more thoughts on this event including a rather detailed retelling which will have to wait.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at 11:49 PM | TrackBack

July 05, 2008

5th of July

Really didn't do much for the 4th. Well, that's not strictly true... we went on a "nature hike" (read: 5 mile hike on a nature trail near my apartment wherein we stopped frequently to allow Anna to take copious pictures), saw Hancock (which really isn't as bad as the reviewers are calling it... it's just really not all that good), and went and "watched" some fireworks (I say "watched" because we only saw the top 40% or so of the detonation field from our distant vantage point, and because it was a very short show.)

Anyways, pursuant to the 4th, we were invited to come out to the middle of jack nowhere:


View Larger Map

to spend the 5th of July with the Hoyt Crew, along with two of the members who we brought out from Cedar Rapids in our car.

First off, let me say that the Hoyts were excellent hosts who fed us well and kept us very entertained. I'd like to say that I wasn't a terrible guest... but considering that I kept egging on various children, encouraging civil disobedience, undermining various quality morals and just generally telling stories of my personal unsavory past, I really can't claim to have been anything but. Even so, adults laughed politely while Ma furiously scribbled down an extensive list of heresies, falsehoods and bits of foolishness that she would have to unteach over the next week. For her part, Anna made sure I didn't misbehave too badly while Ardith looked on bemusedly.

We did have a great time, and I learned a great deal about a variety of subjects including horses, engineering, electrocution, ingenuity the wrongness of animal cruelty, the technical difficulties of housing giant squid, the difficulties attendant to painting garage ceilings, the dangers of having children and a variety of other subjects. Really, in my opinion, that last point bears expounding upon in light of all of my friends who are having children.

To paraphrase Pa Hoyt (and I wish I'd taken better notes): children become destroyers of property round about age 2 and it takes them roughly ten years to grow to the point where they reverse this trend, during which time, you spend a lot of time re-fixing things that they break. While it should be noted that others felt this to be a tad on the excessive side, he does have the experience that only fathering 10 children can provide. And really, one only has to look around at the Hoyt homestead to realize that the Loren is a seasoned veteran of and a veritable expert on home improvement and repair... I'd take his word on it if I were you, prospective parents.

In the end, I hope that I didn't break too many minds or cause Ma too much extra work. That said, the kids seem mentally resilient and very well-grounded: I'm confident that they'll figure me out for the menace to society that I am and ignore my radical teachings. And if not... well... I'm sorry Ma: I'll send chocolate.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at 10:50 PM | TrackBack

July 04, 2008

Best Coloring Book Ever

Really, words fail to do this justice:

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at 11:53 AM | TrackBack