WELCOME - Let's Look At Life and Rant About It!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Today At McCarren International Airport ...

Actually, I was at McCarren yesterday ... and for those of you who are going "huh?," that means Las Vegas ... Sin City, baby!!

It was my sixth trip out and probably one of the best ... good weather, great friends, and a world of confidence from the do's and don't's under my belt from previous trips. I'm a slow learner, but I think I have the Vegas thing down and we're hoping for a return trek in early November.

It started
four or five years ago when three buddies from my college days contacted me about a gambling excursion. Trevor, a good buddy who has been on five of the six trips, looked into flights and accommodations and got us a "deal" on three days and four nights. I like to refer to this first trip as my own personal "learning curve."

Up until that point in my life I had never flown, so I was nervous. I also got a head cold about three days before our departure in early September, so I was stuffed up and miserable and concerned about when in the flight we would be crashing into the Rockies. Although we suffered a fair amount of turbulence, the flight was uneventful ... that is, until our decent into Vegas. It seems one beverage cart was not properly stowed away so that when our jet reached a steep enough angle, it toppled over with a loud crash. I made my peace with my God. I made my peace with Greek and Roman deities I was fascinated with as a young child. I peed a little in my cargo shorts.

We didn't die, but I should have recognized the "bad trip" omen for what it was worth. See, Trevor had been to Vegas a few times previously, and he was a firm believer that a hotel room was just a place to crash for a few hours between gambling, gorging, and engaging in other forms of debauchery. Vegas Travel Rule No. 1: A hotel room is more than just a place to crash for a few hours between activities.

We stayed at Harrah's in the cheapest rooms they had ... one room with two queen beds. Everything looked okay, but it just felt off. Cramped ... compact ... uncomfortable. And during four days and three nights, we all wanted a place to grab a nice nap, watch a dirty movie, or enjoy the pleasures of food poisoning from a cheap off-the-Strip buffet. Unfortunately, we often wanted those things at the same time and out room became a prison with ugly bedspreads and overflowing suitcases. But we all stayed friends and had lots of good pictures and stories to share with family and friends. It took three times the recommended dosage of OTC cold meds to get me back on the plane.

The next trip came the following April and consisted of me, Trevor, Sal (Trevor's co-worker), and our mutual friend Calvin. Sal got a great deal on everything and we stayed in two doubles at the Luxor, the pyramid, Egyptian-themed casino. It was wonderful ... nice rooms, really cool bathrooms, great room service (Sal has money, not "The Hangover" money, but he likes to show off and I was glad to be along for the ride.), and an outstanding cleaning staff. Vegas Travel Rule No. 2: You can tell a great deal about the quality of a hotel or resort by the quality of their cleaning crew.

Sal was the "Julie McCoy" of our trip and, boy, did he make some great decisions. Unlike the first trip where the group either gambled, drank, or lounged around, Sal made us take the time to do touristy things. I had my first breakfast at a Rain Forest Cafe at Planet Hollywood. I ate dinner at the New Orleans Fish House, one of Emeril Lagasse's flagship restaurants, in the MGM Grande. We got tickets to see Gladys Knight ... yes, you read correctly ... and she was wonderful. We toured the four-story M&M World, and thank goodness we did ... it was connected to the World of Coca-Cola, which featured an automat-style soda shop where you could taste Coke products featured around the world. I spent nearly 50 minutes in carbonation heaven. That Coke exhibit has since closed (there's still a merchandise shop), and Sal gave me and my bladder the opportunity to experience it ... Thanks, man!!

negative point, though. April must be the high season for trade shows and conventions because about 70 percent of the people we saw had big name tags and attaches and sun visors with all manner of corporate logos. Vegas is always a mecca for people watching, but this got to be a bit bothersome ... sometimes you had to wait to play the slots. Vegas Travel Tip No. 3: April seems to be convention month ... if crowds wig you out select another month to visit.

I didn't get to the Strip again until the following late February. Someone in our group just whispered about going west and soon six of us were packing our bags. This trip was unusual in many ways. First off, Vegas in February gets cold at night ... but no one warned our little group. We shivered our way down streets and along walkways like the first settlers facing the Yukon winters. Vegas Travel Rule No. 4: If you like consistently warmer temperatures, avoid Vegas late November through early March.

Another first was, that on this trip, Trevor was absent and two of the guys brought their wives. We were all good friends, but the wives definitely kept their husbands in check. We had decided to try New York, New York for our accommodations. It was okay, but the weird things was that almost everything we wanted to do had nothing to do with where we were staying ... we really did pretty much just sleep at New York, New York. On this trip, we hung out at more "exotic" spots like Caesar's, Bellagio, Paris, and the Venetian. We did get tickets to see Dana Carvey (the SNL alumni) and he was amazing ... I don't usually care for impressions, but really mixed them into a well-crafted act. And Beth, one of the wives, wanted to see "Stomp" and I was the only other one in our group who wanted to go. If you ever get the chance (I guess it's still around), see it. They pulled out all the stops. And with the way the venue seated, we were at a fairly small table ... about 16 people, but there were at least six different languages being spoken. That's Vegas for you.

I'm not sure exactly when the next trip occurred, but it was me, Trevor, Ed (Trevor's friend from clear back to grade school who was also on the first trip), and Steve, a co-worker of mine.

This trip had some ups and downs (I'll get to them), but it was, by far, the best vacation of my life. We stayed at The Golden Nugget along Fremont Street, the older part of downtown Vegas. The entire street is a big pedestrian plaza with a wire canopy overhead containing 12 million LED lighting modules and a state-of-the-art sound system ... at night they project this giant laser-like show called the Fremont Street Experience. It's so camp it's cool! All the bars and casinos along Fremont Street are a bit dated, but they have so much more soul than many of the newer places along Las Vegas Blvd. Vegas Travel Tip No. 5: DO NOT miss Fremont Street.

Our stay was for five days and four nights (longer than usual), and we made the most of them. I can't really remember sleeping ... we just did fun stuff constantly. Our best move ... actually, Trevor made the decision ... was that we rented a car. About half the trip, we hung out and worked the slots and blackjack tables at Binion's and Fitzgeralds and the Four Queens. I had my first celebrity sighting ... I was rammed and shoved out of the way by a very drunk Billy Bob Thornton. I also swear I saw Tom Hanks getting in an elevator and Sarah Chalke having dinner, but my friends refused to validate my star sightings.

During the other times, we explored Vegas and all the places we'd marked in our tour book. We drove to Rio on West Flamingo for the Carnival World Buffet, supposedly the biggest buffet in all of Las Vegas. We stopped at the Orleans and bowled (with copious amounts of liquor) at 3 a.m. in the morning in a 24-hour, 70-lane facility that was as much a nightclub as it was a bowling palace. We spent one afternoon at the Main Street Brewery and Casino taking a one-hour professional craps lesson, only to return at 2 a.m. to befriend a middle-aged croupier named Martin who really showed us and six other tourists how to play roulette ... the "little wheel." Forget craps and its "hard sixes" and "easy fours" ... I liked the outside "dozens" bets and six line inside bets because the odds were low (you might make a little, you might lose a little) and the action wasn't so fast and furious that you needed an advanced degree to follow the action. Ed's mom was a fan of roulette, too. She had instructed him to place a $20 bet on 8 black ... 35-to-1 odds ... Ed's mom made $700 less the $40 he (his mom, actually) tipped middle-aged Martin. I also badgered my friends to visit the Las Vegas Hilton and allow me to out my inner sci-fi geek at the Star Trek Experience (which has also closed since), a multimillion dollar installation of models, space-themed casino games, an outrageous gift shop, a bar modeled after "Quark's" complete with Andorian blue beer, foaming Romulan ale, and alien servers and patrons (including an angry Klingon who picked a fight with me ... Trevor kissed him on the lips to shut him up!), and a 4-D adventure ride/excursion that puts you in the middle of a realistic Star Trek mission ... the effect of being "transported" was super cool! One night, we got tickets to see the Naked Ladies of Magic ... each act had at least one stupendous pair of "magic orbs," and often more. Well worth the price of admission. Another night, on the insistence of Ed on info from an old buddy, we drove all the way out past Nellis Air Force Base to some 24-hour taco place for "the world's meatiest tacos" ... they were out-of-this-world good. And finally, on our last evening (our flight left the next morning), we stopped at the Tropicana to lose a little ... our gambling mantra for this particular trip. I played the slots, putting a crisp-ish $100 bill in and just jamming through maximum bets. First pull ... nothing. Second pull ... nothing. Third pull ... got a hit and some tokens back. Five ... six ... seven ... eight ... zip. Pull nine began and then I was suddenly assaulted by these clanging bells and a noise that sounded like a little girl screaming. Later, my friends explained that the bells were to announce that I had just won close to $8,000, and the little screaming girl sound was me!! I bought steak and lobster for everyone ... the $5.99 after midnight special at some seedy little place on Fremont. I still have the casino check in a frame.

After reading about all these things, you might be thinking, damn, Las Vegas is non-stop fun. But remember I mentioned ups AND downs. One of the big "downs" was Steve. Steve liked a neat and tidy vacation, so he tried to schedule our daily activities instead of just letting things happen. He became very annoying. So did Annie, his fiancee back home. She kept tabs on Steve the entire trip and expected him to check in each night at midnight. And even though he had a cell phone, Steve thought it was better to call her from the hotel room where it was quieter. Steve missed bowling ... and roulette ... and the taco run. Steve missed a bunch. Steve will probably (definitely) not be invited again. Vegas Travel Tip No. 6: Don't Take Steve.

Several months later, Trevor called about another Vegas run. At first I said no, but I got tired of hearing him talk about planning the trip ... and then someone backed out and he really needed a "fourth" to keep things balanced. I agreed and we whisked off for another five days and four nights, this time lodging at the Monte Carlo, right next door to New York, New York. The trip sucked. We had fun, but it wasn't non-stop. We tried to "redo" a few things from the last trip, but it just felt forced and hollow. And Ed wasn't on this trip and, frankly, he was way more fun than the other two friends combined.

her things, too, added to the lackluster experience. For the first time, our flights were not non-stop. Going west, we stopped in Chicago ... coming east, we sat in Phoenix for three hours. Also, we had booked two adjoining rooms, but ended up with two rooms several floors apart. Trevor and I got the room on the lower floor just off the elevators ... very convenient. Seth (Trevor's neighbor) and R.J. (a friend of the good friend who canceled) got a much nicer room ... I was kind of jealous. We got a few vouchers for our troubles, but there were some times when the adjoining rooms would have been so much more convenient.

ne evening after I aborted my attempt to ride the bungee thing on top of the Stratosphere ... I honestly almost puked when I got to the front of the line ... we were having drinks and we realized we had about 30 hours of Vegas left and we were all ready to go home. I was $600 down and in the best financial shape of the quartet. We found some filler activities, but we were actually at the airport about four hours early just because it seemed closer to being home.

o, now trip six is complete. It was three days and two nights at the Luxor again ... enough time to have fun but leave you wanting more. I played roulette at several casinos and only lost a little. I bought M&M stuff for some friends at work, and we bowled in the middle of the night again creating a scoring system that involved tequila shots. We drank vodka at a cool bar at Mandalay Bay and watched the talking "gods" show at Caesar's. We even grabbed a cab and watched the Fremont Street Experience in all its glory ... one of the guys on this trip had never seen it and I'm always up for classic Vegas. One afternoon, we spent two hours in a bingo parlor ... it was a blast! We had prime rib TWICE and even ventured into a seedy strip club with very sticky floors.

I think November may be too soon for a "rematch" ... but attending a real boxing match in Vegas
would be fun!

OF RANT: Vacationing is great, but so is coming home ... you get to gloat about how much fun you had!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Today At The Hair Salon ...

I needed a haircut. No, really, just a trim, so I checked out one of my usual salon options ... a nationally-recognized chain. Might be named after a day of the week ... really couldn't say. I often bounced between three different haircare businesses, but the parking lot of the establishment in question was pretty open, so my decision was quickly made. I parked, signed in, and took a seat.
After maybe five minutes, a sassy little redhead with an elaborate nose piercing called my name and led my to her station. I gave her a somewhat-detailed description of what kind of cut I needed and even showed her a picture of a celebrity sporting a similar 'do. She acknowledged my goals and set to work.

Just shy of seven minutes later ... 7 MINUTES ... I was at the counter where my stylist rung up the damage with a smile. $24.99. I opened my wallet and handed her the cash, adding in a close to 15 percent tip because I am a worldly sort. She thanked me, made a half-hearted inquiry about my need for any product, and grabbed the sign-in clipboard to announce her next conquest.

Once in my car, I performed a cursory inspection of my hair in the rearview mirror. It looked good but I thought, "damn, that's good money for very little work."

Now don't get me wrong. I think hairdressers and stylists work hard, but I also think that maybe simple styles or shorter hair should warrant lower prices. Like any service, the fee should reflect the time involved and the skills needed to complete said service. I've seen stylists put in carefully-layered extensions. And I've seen color treatments and other processes that seem to employ special chemicals and careful timing. Those services deserve top dollar when top results are achieved. But my recent romp in the cutting chair consisted of no shampooing (that costs extra now), less than a minute with clippers and a No. 2 blade to crop the back and sides, close to two minutes of scissor work for good blending on the top, and then some fancy scissors/comb/clipper combo maneuver that made a strange vibrating sound but apparently put a cool edge on my haircut.

And, I must admit, the customer service aspect of the actual salon experience doesn't seem to equal the pricetag anymore. The salon personnel are always pleasant, but usually the stylists talk to each other about their kids and their work schedule ... they maybe have one or two comments for me like "how is your day going?" or "where do you work?" At some point, I usually try to offer a personal tidbit about myself or try to join the stylist-to-stylist banter because I feel like I'm being too quiet. And when they wet my hair, they often overspray leaving me sopping. I think it usually happens because my stylist is too engrossed in conversation with a heighboring cutter ... or maybe she thinks hydraulic salon chairs get my emotions going and me "crying" is a normal reaction.

Once again, at a stoplight, I admire my haircut. I also vow to shop around and see if a more reasonably-priced trim can be found. But my search will be within reason ... I don't want to go back to trying my own hand at electric trimmers in the shower (not very good results) or repeat the experience where my college roommate cut my hair while we were downing a "Silver Bullet" 12-pack (never a good idea). Maybe I'd just budget things so my hair wasn't an issue.

POINT OF RANT: In many things in life, you simply get what you pay for.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Today On YouTube ...

Ever had a really crappy day ... one where everything goes wrong or stresses you out to the point where you want to tear the face off the next person that even look at you funny? Consider this video, entitled "Surprised Kitty," your personal bomb squad.

POINT OF RANT: Cut the green wire!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Today In The Mirror

During my daily morning "getting ready" routine, I pay close attention to my face/head/moneymaker area. Shaving is a complex ritual for me since I have very sensitive skin. New blades often, special shave cream, etc. My teeth, likewise, require extra care because of cranky gums. I also always check for new wrinkles and gray hair (damn them), and apply a cream that supposedly keeps the shadows around my eyes from making me look like I never sleep.

Then there's my eyebrows. My heritage is primarily Welsh and German, so I'm not an overly hair-ridden individual based on genetics. But I must admit, I have a thing about eyebrows ... meaning everyone has two so it should like they have two.

If I were the type of individual who waged hate campaigns, I think I could take up a pithy picket sign against the unibrow, or scary eyebrows in general.

Men would be my number-one target. It doesn't take Six-Million-Dollar-Man bionic vision to see when the two lumps of hair over your eyes begin to merge. Unibrows instantly convey the idea of lower intelligence, poor manners, and iffy bathing habits. Tweezers don't require a license to operate. Or if tong-like items aren't to your liking, then a quick swipe with your disposable razor once a week can keep the "good fences make good neighbors" adage alive on your handsome mug.

I'm not talking about time-consuming brow shaping involving complex measurements and intricate trig calculations. Just basic manscaping to fit in with the average 21st century human being. I remember an episode of "Will & Grace" (yes, I was a fan ... and Karen made that show) where Nadine (Kristen Davis) says to Will, "And you're too groomed. If your eyebrows were tweezed any more, you'd be Nicole Kidman!" I don't want to see that walking around.

The secondary targets of my "Control Your Eyebrows" campaign would be all the people with "carnival ride" brow styles. They need to be dealt with severely, or at least moved to a remote island where they can fight for dominance and resources. This means you, at least one girl on every season/cycle of "America's Next Top Model." And you, Grandpas of America with graying eyebrambles larger than most garden shrubbery. And you, teller at the bank with the seemingly shaky hands who has simply cut out the middleman by drawing on her eyebrows each day in a slightly different and chilling style.

POINT OF RANT: Pluck it up and take pride in your appearance!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Today In A Restaurant ...

I have a small family ... two siblings, some in-laws, a niece and a nephew. And we all have busy lives. So when we can coordinate work and sports and dish installation and such, dining out together can be a magical experience. It can also be a trip through the zebra dung, thanks to little unsupervised children.

Before your colons burn and you transfer the discomfort to your typing fingers, I love kids. They're cute, inspirational, genuine, and see the world in a way most of us have forgot. But when I choose to eat in public, I expect others who have made the choice to NOT bring their brood along and then opt to pretend to not know them.

Case in point, the salad bar. I'm restocking my plate with bland-at-best macaroni salad and a tasty little square of less-than-homemade cheesecake when I hear a small "splat" and realize that my left shoe is now decorated with a sturdy glob of mashed potatoes. Hovering there, looking not in the least bit sorry or responsible, is a probably seven-year-old girl. She's alternately eyeing me while dragging a younger boy through a spill of cookies and soft-serve ice cream dripping from a bowl in his guilty little hands. After a stern second or two, they look at each other and just walk on past, spying something else edible to destroy.

I casually deposit the spud lump under the edge of the salad bar. I know what you're thinking ... I should have picked up the mess or alerted a restaurant employee, but I was literally frothing to return to my family's table (there's seven of us) to recount my misshap. Now I get seated, take a breath to begin my tale, when a "mom and dad" or "couple without a condom" seated beside us start giving a boy of about four his marching orders to "go get your own food, and bring back some more napkins."

I'm shocked, stunned even, until I look around and notice a fair amount of young people roaming about on their own, getting plates of desserts, dropping utensils on the floor or into serving trays, and just plain getting in other people's way.

When I was young, which wasn't all that long ago, my parents did this crazy thing called "hiring a babysitter" when they wanted to go out to dinner and spend some quality time together. They also did it to spare us kids from places and events that were too adult or too boring, and, honestly, to just get away from us from time to time. And when we did go out as a family, if one of us "acted up" ... WHISK! ... we were sitting in the car with Mom or Dad relearning the basics of manners and etiquette.

Occasionally, during the current with my family, I heard a parent or two make the same threat about "one more time and we're leaving" or "do you wanna go to the car?" But apparently, one more time never came or the kid in question didn't want to visit the family sedan or minivan at this time. More likely, it was to much bother to be an effective parent.

POINT OF RANT: You don't have to leave your kids at home all the time. But as parents and supposed adults, you should know your children, their behavioral norms, and their attention spans. Don't make them any more uncomfortable than you are the rest of us! Think before you dine out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Today At My Office Keyboard ...

Each morning, after my requisite "Central Perk" sized coffee, I check my e-mail. Many a times e-mail has saved me from missing a meeting or overlooking a deadline. And frequently, to my about-to-blow cranium, it has alerted me to the things my co-workers' kids are selling.

In my top left desk drawer is my company's "Guide to Electronic Media Usage." It's about 60 pages of rules and regulations ... really, it's mostly about the phone system and instructions on how to forward your phone and change the message on your answering machine function. But on a few pages, there are words and phrases about what "to do" and what "not to do" with the company e-mail.

I know, for example, it states that I'm supposed to avoid personal use of the system ... it's an e-mail for business use. Consequently, I've had to inform my friends not to send me the off-color jokes and extremely-steamy-to-downright-smutty videos that make their rounds from time to time (okay, a few get through but we're all only human, right?). It also says not to accept large attachments that may affect the overall system. It also reminds me to guard my password. Nowhere in my manual does it say, however, that the company e-mail system is too be used as an open marketplace for every fundraiser in every elementary school/middle school/high school in a six-county area.

There's fruit for sale ... there's cheese ... there's discount sports passes to help both my budget and the local athletic boosters ... there's pizza kits to help pay for new band uniforms ... there's magazine subscriptions to help fund prom ... there's pails of cookie dough to help upgrade playground equipment ... there's gift wrap and holiday cards to offset a trip to Space Camp ... there's a never-ending roster of moms and dads, sometimes with and sometimes without their cute little kids with pleading eyes, pimping all sorts of cards and tickets and raffles for all sorts of causes. It's madness, I say ... MADNESS!!

Now, when I was seven, I remember our babysitter, Renee, stopped by in October with her "Christmas Kit." It was a big fundraiser in the high school to generate money for a number or projects. We all loved Renee, so Mom and two of us kids sat in our den and watched Renee open this magic case that must somehow bend the laws of physics, because there was literally a ton of gadgets and gizmos inside. Swiss army knives (or a clever facsimile), vegetable peelers, candles, hair barrettes, fancy calligraphy pen sets, travel games and puzzles, change sorters, jewelry, books and CDs, picture frames, kites, corncob holders that looked like alligators, diaries and journals, magic kits, cologne, mag lights, sea monkeys, light-up yo-yos, lip gloss, collapsible frisbees ... everything one needed to live the good life. Renee was like Viggo Mortensen in "A Walk On The Moon" (good movie ... rent it) where the guy comes to a Jewish summer camp once a week with a wagon that just has everything you can imagine. Renee had freckles and buck-teeth (unlike Viggo), which is odd because her father was a dentist.

When I was seven, finishing your Christmas shopping in October in your den for $25 was cool. Being cyber-stalked in my office like three times a week now isn't cool.

There's a lady named Jocelyn that works in payroll and she has a great philosophy. When her kids bring home information about a fundraiser, she first considers the worthiness of the project. If it's a "sale" to offset the cost of one of her three children doing something with their class or attending something special, she sends a note to the teacher saying that A) my kid's not interested so "pass" on the fundraiser or B) my kid's excited and we think it's an educational thing so we'll pay the cost and "pass" on the fundraiser. If it's something unique, Jocelyn will call the teacher and ask for a "typical" amount raised by hawking whatever item is in season and send an appropriate check. And she's always leery when a teacher can't come up with a figure ... they've perpetrated this type of marketing for years. I like Jocelyn.

There are other parents I know that really think carefully about the issue and only approach friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who might be interested in their children's wares.

But still the e-mails come. And I read them. And I am angered.

POINT OF RANT: Do I, as I claim, actually like children?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Today On The Freeway ...

I've been following a silver Corolla for about eight miles which, in this traffic, has been about 20 minutes. It's really busy. I knew, with the time of day, that traffic would be heavy, but it's not the congestion that's bothering me ... it's the left blinker on the damn Corolla that's taunting me, keeping me on edge wondering if the sleek vehicle is going to jump into the passing lane or not. And the blinking has been going on the entire eight miles.

Blinkers are funny that way. People seem to somehow leave them on to confuse us other drivers, or they choose not to use them at all ... feast or famine.

But blinkers are also a serious think. According to accident statistics, there were 6.5 million automobile accidents in 2009, resulting in 3.5 million injuries and nearly 40,000 deaths. And one of the top for causes cited was "failure to signal when turning and/or changing lanes."

Again, I'm an old-school dude, and when I took Drivers' Education we were force-fed a concept called defensive driving. The objective of driving, according to our rules of war, was survival and you fought the battles by looking at all other drivers as potential foes. Driving meant following the rules but watching your "enemies" for erratic behavior and clues to their intent. One big clue was turn signals.

I live in a state that for some reason has a warren of interconnecting one-way streets at the heart of every urban downtown area ... I've heard the "lady" the gives me my turn-by-turn GPS directions give up and start swearing. Add this to the growing complexity of the highway systems and the bob-and-weave drivers who feel the need to add 25 or 30 mph to any posted speed limit, and you see the danger of people not employing the most basic, most helpful of driving aids ... again, the turn signal.

POINT OF RANT: The light blinks on your dashboard and makes a sound ... turn the damn thing OFF!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Today On The Calendar ...

Today marks the anniversary of the tragic death of one of country music's rising stars, Patsy Cline.

Known for such sultry showstoppers as "Crazy," "I Fall To Pieces," and "Walkin' After Midnight," Cline has credited for influencing today's music royalty from Reba McIntyre and Faith Hill to Sheryl Crow and Jewell to Christina Aguilera and Carrie Underwood.

Patsy Cline raised the bar for female singers ... reinventing herself by changing the typical female country singer "cowgirl" image to one of sex and style with cocktail dresses and stunning beaded gowns. She didn't just sing songs ... she wooed audiences with the depth of her feelings and smooth vocals.

My Mom was a huge Patsy Cline fan, so we grew up with her tunes floating through our home. Her death from a Tennessee airplane crash in 1963 was a great loss for her friends and family, but also to music lovers across the globe.

But Ms. Cline was not forgotten. Through film recordings, interviews, books, TV movies, and even dozens of fan Web sites, Patsy is remembered from generation to generation. In 1973, she was inducted as the first ever female solo artist into the Country Music Hall of Fame. And in 1992, the United States Postal Service honored Patsy Cline with a postage stamp.

POINT OF RANT: You were truly wonderful, Patsy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Today At My Storage Unit ...

Recently I was forced to move. "Forced" sounds so negative but the situation was really simple ... my landlord was selling my small rental property to someone who was going to tear down the house and build a annex facility for his business. No hard feelings, really. I just had to find someplace to live ... and quickly.
I made several inquiries and squared away another abode. Then it fell through. So I jumped on my second choice ... and it was gone. So then I turned to my back-up plan. Actually, I had none and my world began to implode.

Luckily, I had a kind older relative (and his wife) who took pity on my situation and offered me the use of a partially-finished guestroom in a partially-finished basement with a partially-finished half bath. For keeping quiet and helping with things around the house, I have privacy and a roughly 10 foot-by-20 foot space that is my home-away-from-what-used-to-be-but-will-never-again-be-my-home. One wall is cinder block, the other three rough wood. There are no wall decorations ... no paint ... but the biohazard-yellow "Radon Flow" pipe that transverses the room does brighten the space. Above me are the water pipes for everything in the house ... toilets, showers, sinks, washer. If liquid moves, I know it. And just overhead where my bed is located is the screen door to my relatives back deck. It is an "older" door, riddled with the architectural equivalent of arthritis and deteriorating joints. The sound produced by opening and closing this entrance makes my knees and shoulder hurt, and my relatives use their deck A LOT!!

If I sound ungrateful, believe me, I'm not. I was in an unbelievably scary jam and my family came to my rescue. I was on my way to becoming "modernly homeless," and these kind souls bailed me out. It's a debt I'm not sure can ever be adequately repaid.

So here I am ... me and my 10X20 filled with my queen-sized bed; a small dresser; a desk for my laptop and "officey" things; a floor lamp; a bedside cabinet to house another lamp, alarm clock, and space for my Ipod and phone to charge; two book shelves crammed with clothes, printer stuff, toiletries, and my favorite small non-stick skillet; an old recliner; and three stacked-up totes full of "might-need" items.

Ironically, this experience led to my need for a temporary storage space for the remainder of my acquisitions. I say "ironically" because, although there were dozens of facilities from which to chose, I made my decision based on proximity and cost and ended up with the last unit available ... good ol' No. 23 ... a 10X20 just like my new digs.

Now the battle began. Either in my head or from advice from my friends and siblings, the questions flew ... Where did all this stuff come from? How do you fit the contents of a roughly 1,335 square foot house into a space 85 percent smaller? What will I need to keep close for the next few weeks or months? Are there things I could sell? After 10 years in this house as a typical aggressive American consumer, are there things I'm just hoarding or keeping for no reason? Who can I sucker into helping me with all this packing and moving?

I didn't really have a choice, so I called in all my favors and basically promised to do anything in return for moving assistance. It is so true about weeding out good friends from acquaintances by asking for either a) help in moving or b) a ride to the airport. To be honest, it was my family yet again who rose to the occasion and worked like mules to make it all happen in the time I had remaining. It was also their constant nagging and harping ... comments such as "Why're you keeping that thing?" and "Nobody wears those kinda jeans anymore!" and "Throw that lamp away, you're not moving into a whorehouse." ... that allowed my to make tough choices and rid myself of a bunch of baggage. So after five full days of sorting, marking, folding, boxing, trashing, shredding, dumping, lifting, conveying, maneuvering, and stacking, my decade of trappings were stored away into a 10 foot by 20 foot metal box, surprisingly, with room to spare.

After nearly two months (and I am zeroing in on a sweet new apartment), I find I kind of like the spartan, day-to-day living-without-a-lot-of-extras routine. It's freeing. It has also reminded me what a crazy bunch of hoarders we Americans are, and emboldened me to make a few suggestions to anyone reading this post.

No, I'm not gonna ask you to go rent a storage space or build a shed in your backyard, but do consider all the items in your life that you regularly make excuses about ... like the stacks of magazines you're "gonna catch up on" or the boxes of clothes you're "going to fit into one way or another." Simplify and help others. Donate those clothes to a needy charity ... there are plenty of them out there. And ask your doctor or dentist if they have any interest in some fresh magazines for their waiting room (and if you're a bit on the pervy side, be sensible). And household items ... I had two toasters, three blenders, an electric carving knife that had never been out of its box, a punch bowl I mistakenly took from an old job, and enough silverware, plates, bowls, coffee mugs, and stuff to feed about 30 people. And Tupperware ... when was I going to storing food for the next American Idol fan luncheon. Every duplicate item, things I couldn't imagine using in at least one year, and everything but service for eight, went to a church bazaar. I also took a few hours to go through my books, CDs, DVDs, and other items like cookbooks and college texts that were just taking up space. If I didn't absolutely love it or needs it, it went to the library. I'm proud to say my local community library received 400 paperbacks, 58 CDs, 75 DVDS and VHS tapes, 28 text books, and 13 graphic novels from yours truly.

And all those things that needed fixing ... fans, clocks, vacuums, paint sprayers, hibachi grills, lawn chairs ... trashed!!

My hope is that when I secure a new place, I can make it spacious whether it has a lot of square footage or not. And I'm going to try my damnedest to not become bewitched by media messages and pretty store displays, thus falling back into my consumerist ways. Well, maybe a new workstation so I can spread out a little more when I work from home ... or maybe a nice flat screen TV to save some space ... or maybe just one or two ...

POINT OF RANT: Simple is often best.