Monday, March 31, 2014

More Bed-Building

That really didn't go too poorly.

All the pieces of the bed came in three heavy packages, which since I live on the 4th floor, meant several trips up and down to get each piece into my spare room. I'd been a bit compulsive about finding the cheapest bed that wasn't particle board and laminate, so I'd actually gotten one made of wood. I found the one I wanted on Amazon, tracked it back to the manufacturer, then found the discounted frames on the manufacturer's eBay store. The frame is unfinished, so I have a day of shellacking ahead of me once the weather is warm enough to keep the windows open. And I'll have to decide how much effort to put into this frame. I'm thinking of reinforcing the joints. It may be that having taken that woodworking class a few years ago has all kinds of unexpected benefits.

All the parts showed up and I put the frame together. I need to get a separate post for the center rail. That's unlikely to survive over the years without a bit of sagging, and while I don't plan to keep this forever, I'd rather my hand wasn't forced in a few years.

But then...problem. I also bought two under-bed storage drawers. One slid together easily and I've put all the sheets in to it and put is under the bed. But the other one had two holes drilled at the wrong place, so the bottom board doesn't slip into the grooves on all four sides, just on three.

I'm tempted to send it back, but that's a hassle. so I've just filled the holes with wood putty and I'll drill new holes in a few days.

I'm unreasonably excited by having an actual bed. It's been a while and I've missed the storage space. And it looks so civilized after my college-dorm look of the mattress on the floor for so long.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Building a Bed

My bed frame arrived. I carried it up the stairs in pieces.

Now I have to do something with it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Work Here is Done

Today I have achieved success in life.

How do I know this? The WSJ mentioned Bundt Day in Jersey City.

I'm a little embarrassed to have said "totally," but given my track record on saying things I shouldn't to major media outlets, this came out pretty well.

Read the whole article about writer Larry Hama—who used to help me with the NY Times crossword puzzle back in 1988 when I was an Epic Comics internet—here. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bed Head

I just bought a bed on eBay after weeks—no, years—of dawdling.

It's harder than it look, you know. At least it is when you're renting and not entirely sure you should be renting and keep trying to buy property and being thwarted by oil tanks or misleading short sales or being terrified of not being quite sure where you'll be in a year or two. 

Though I always come home after my forays into the world. We know that already.

I had a really nice Gothic Cabinet Craft storage bed when I lived on Avenue B. But there was no way I was getting it out of the room it was in without figuring out how to dismantle it (they'd brought it in in pieces) and I wasn't nearly as handy back then as I am now. So I left it for the guy who bought my place off me in 2001. 

I didn't need a bed for a while as I roamed around for MariesWorldTour 2001 and 2002, and then when I bought and sublet my Jersey City place in late 2002, I needed a bed. I got the cheapest IKEA bed in the Elizabeth IKEA and my friend Polly helped me put it together. Problem solved. 

But later after a few moves and time in storage, that bed was a bit saggy in the middle post. And during my last round-the-world trip, the newlyweds who sublet from me managed to break a leg off the bed. I shouldn't blame them. The bed frame was cheap and almost ten years old. But the fact that a floorboard under the leg also broke seems significant. Perhaps it is. I try not to give it too much thought, but I threw away the cheap particle-board bed frame when I got back from MariesWorldTour 2011. I could have made cutting boards from the slats, but this was before I'd bought wood glue and clamps and learned about IKEA hacking. 

I just put the mattress on the floor at that point, which was fine. And there it's been since January of 2012. Every morning I'd think for a second "Maybe I should get a bed." But then I'd wonder if I was going to stay renting where I am, where two sides of the bed are exposed, or if I'd buy a place and the bed would have to stay against a wall. I'd look at the Gothic Cabinet Craft beds and wonder if I should get drawers on two sides or one, and I'd go to IKEA and look at all the particle-board beds and add up the costs of the bed plus the slats and then get annoyed that the cheap beds really weren't all that cheap once you got into the minutiae of price-to-value. 

Finally, I looked on Amazon, eBay, and Economy Foam. The conclusion: You can get a simple wooden frame and drawers to go under it. 

Then I waffled over which one to get. There's the one everyone on Amazon likes, but you have to buy plywood too.

That seemed reasonable. But once I started digging, I found other similar ones, and there was even one on eBay that looked like it was made by a guy, and if I could have found a little proof that it was just some carpenter making beds, I'd have bought it, but I couldn't find out anything about the guy after a bit of digging, so I just went with the cheapest one with lots of feedback instead. 

I will probably build a few legs along the center post, just because it seems prudent. And I might shellac the bed, or maybe just put linseed oil on it. I might even add plywood to the mix. 

Next I get to think about the mattress. The one I have now seems fine to me, but given that I bought it in 1992, maybe I should try out new ones.

That might take a few more years. 

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Cross-Country Writer

I'm watching everyone go feral over the Amtrak writers residencies, and yes, it sounds so great. The clang clang clang as you slowly pull through town. The lights fading away. The Doppler Effect. Sharing an interesting meal with strangers.

There are 24 slots available and about 700,024 people applying from the way social media lit up today. I like the concept very much, thank you, but in reality, it only takes 3.5 days to get across country. I don't get all that much done in 3.5 days, if I'm honest. And I've been paid to write by Amtrak in the past, so I'm not sure I'm even eligible.

Plus, the rules are clear. You apply and you give up rights to your application. I'm not totally comfortable with that, and anyway, I learned a long time ago that free trips aren't free. You become a PR agent. Yay?

But I don't have any right to talk of such things. The first days of started out in New York's Penn Station, and I got an amazing discount on my sleeper car across country.

I got a little work done, but I got a lot more done on the endless freighter voyages.

I'll paste in my 2001 first two days here.
January 4, 2001
How Marie Got Her Groove Back 

  “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Lakeshore Limited, Amtrak #49 bound for Union Station, Chicago,” came the voice over the loudspeaker. “This train is a zero-tolerance train. The next stop can be yours.”

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Adventures in the Other Side

I went up to the county welfare office on Tuesday. It's a long story, but in short, I was getting free Hudson County-administered Medicaid* which I wasn't entitled to AS WELL AS my regular Marketplace insurance, and had been unable to get a human on the phone for weeks. When I got a machine from my assigned insurance calling saying things like "Press 1 if you feel generally healthy, or press 2 for this question in Spanish," I realized I needed to sort this out.

The welfare office is not something I am intimately familiar with, so I had to find it first using Google Maps. I walked up—it wasn't far away from home—and it was on the side of a county building. I went through a metal detector and past some armed guards into a yellow-y fluorescent-lit room where phone signals don't work. I waited in a long line with old people, people with strollers, and people leaning on canes. You know how sometimes you're at the post office and a worker comes by and asks what you need? An older guy with a white ponytail asked what I was there for.

"I'm getting Medicaid I'm not entitled to and I want it to stop," I explained.


"Wha--? ACA...uh, yes."**

"Go back there to the left and wait. I'll see if the Obamacare guy is available."

I went back to the room where people go to get their food stamps. This was pretty depressing. One guy politely lined up to ask if his baby-mother could get into his welfare debit card, and the white-ponytail guy patiently explained that the guy should memorize the PIN if he doesn't want her to be able to use it. An older woman balanced with a cane lined up at a window to loudly berate an agent for the records she kept getting which indicate she received welfare for 48 months, which she said she did not. Other people waited for their numbers to be called. I guess people were picking up their food stamps. It was dehumanizing and the staff is obviously overworked and there were a fair number of people irate about their individual problems.

Eventually, the "Obamacare" guy, whose name is Pedro, came out to find me. He had to run the gamut of people wanting to waylay him, but I just waited patiently, and finally he came over. I explained quickly. "I qualified for a Marketplace plan and I'm getting phone calls from Medicaid robots and I thought I better find a way to get off Medicaid before it bites me in the ass later as a crime or something, since I don't qualify to receive it."

He nodded, got it quickly. He went to get me a withdrawal form, waited while I filled it out, got the supervisor to sign it, and gave me a copy with his direct phone number in case I keep getting Medicaid-robo-hassled about my health.

The whole thing took about an hour, which honestly I did not need, but Pedro and white-ponytail guy were great and totally efficient, and I appreciated the look into a world right up the hill, and I am really really glad I don't have to count on this world to support me.

*think income when one is overseas most of the year, and how that is no reflection on what my income will be in 2014.

**The official name of the Affordable Care Act is not Obamacare. That was a kind of nickname, mostly used to denigrate healthcare reform, and I was surprised to hear it used in an official capacity.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Lifestyle Rework

Remember when I quit eating sugar back in August, when I was in Mexico?

My ears are still ringing, and I still don't know why. Back before my insurance became weird and erratic (can no one really figure out how to send a bill?), I tried going to my regular doctor, an ear doctor, an infectious disease doctor, and an allergist. What I learned is my hearing is great. I still have interesting world-traveling parasites, and US doctors are all over the place about if that means anything. And my family has all kinds of food intolerances, so it could be that too, but I'm definitely not allergic according to skin tests.

Anyway, I quit eating sugar because one school of thought is that sugar contributes to candida overbalance. That in and of itself isn't a sickness. It's a symptom, like the ear-ringing. Who knows? Obviously not me.

But this I do know. Not eating sugar is definitely good for me. And you. Everyone. I feel less tired and more energetic, and I lost ten pounds too and it hasn't come back.

I'm getting tired of eating the same things over and over though, and once slow-cooker season is over, I'm not sure what I'll eat. I've eaten lots of meat, beans, corn tortillas, sweet potatos, spinach, hummus, and steel-cut oats over the last months. I need new ideas though. No pasta or bread or pre-packaged anything. I'm open to ideas, if anyone wants to send them over in the comments.