Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy eid, happy new year, etc.

Here it is. The end of another year.

That means that I haven't even adjusted to the idea of being 40 yet, and soon I'll be 41.

Time is more important as you age. Every single day I feel that I'm no closer to my goals hurts now. It used to not matter at all. I feel like I'm taking the GRE and nowhere near the end of the math section, and desperately checking my watch. I look around. The other students are relaxed, smiling. They already knew math, didn't have to re-learn it.

I seem to have wasted 2006. I worked a lot. I went into what Ax calls "powersave mode." I woke up, I worked, I slept. I recovered a little from 2005, some days moreso than others. For about ten minutes in April and a week in May, I was alive for real. The rest of the time was working, treading water, avoiding contemplating things that hurt, struggling to make ends meet. Letting auto-pilot sell the condo and send out postcards for Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik. Waiting.

What did I learn this year? Perhaps that you can leave your job, sell your home, go around the world, have your eyes opened to grand new things, accept great personal growth and evolve emotionally, trek around Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Kuwait, and in the end, find yourself back exactly where you started.

I was trading e-mails with Roberta yesterday.

"Are you done with that job yet?" She asked me.

"No. I'm not even halfway through yet. I'm so sick of this. I work all the time. 2007 has GOT to be different."

"Amen," was all she wrote back. Roberta is a freelancer too.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tag, You're It

Cyrus Farivar tagged me. I had no idea what he was talking about until I went and read about it on his blog.

Ah, I see. I'm supposed to list five things that people don't know about me and then tag five others. Well, I'll do the first part.

1) I've never been drunk and I've never taken an illegal drug. Not so many legal ones either, though I'm big on strong coffee. I never developed an interest in drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol because I could have had any of them any time growing up. I grew up in a sketchy area and had a lot of acquaintances that might surprise people. My sister learned to be utterly non-judgmental in this environment. She'd give a total screwball her life savings if he seemed like he was trying to reform. Not that she has a life savings. I watched her make a lot of mistakes and opted out of the substances scene. I was appalled when I got to college and everyone was going crazy getting I'm an artist haircuts, getting drunk, and experimenting with drugs. I thought the other kids were acting like children. Didn't they go through all this already?

2) I didn't fully understand what racism was until I learned about it in college. I realize that sounds ridiculous and naive, but I was surrounded by multiculturalism since I was old enough to comprehend anything. It was just normal that people were of all races and backgrounds. And when I first heard anecdotes about personal encounters with racism, I couldn't believe it. My high school was nothing like that, I argued with another student who was describing the treatment of African-Americans in her school system. (Later, I learned that it's one of the great multicultural schools, to the point where President Clinton would give speeches there sometimes 'cuz it made a good PR setting, and that my childhood was unique. The irony being that race gave the school its defining moment 20 years earlier, immortalized in "Remember the Titans.")

3) When I travel, I always carry my own coffee, Lexan fork/knife/spoon on a keychain, folding scissors, coffee press/mug, and oil-free products. And emergency allergy medications, but I've never had to use them. Oh, and in really remote places such as rural Ethiopia, I also carry peanut butter (no refrigerator required). I like Jif, though ShopRite's house brand is good too.

4) As a teenager, I was really good at first "Space Invaders," then "Pac-Man," then "Ms. Pac-Man," then "Millipede." I stopped playing arcade games when I went to college and there were none in the entire town of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Later, I excelled at the "Elvira" pinball machine, which I would play into the wee hours in the East Village.

5) I worked at "Roy Rogers" on the corner of King and Washington in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia, for more than two years while I was in high school. I was a hostess and sometimes a cashier. In this case, hostess meant maintaining the salad bar and wiping off tables in the dining room. I'd get up at 4 in the morning on weekends to go and slice carrots. I worked almost a full-time schedule, which in retrospect seems like a bad idea since it surely cut into my grades.

And here's a giveaway, a free number 6. As a kid, I collected model horses. We had model horse shows in my 4-H club. I also read a book a day until I was old enough to work. There, that's actually number 7.

Update: Since they don't mind and are doing it anyway, I am tagging Marcus McLaurin and Steve Buccellato. If three others volunteer, I'll tag them too.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Six White Boomers

In Australia, Christmas falls in the middle of the summer. Some people take a basket of seafood to the beach that day.

It's too hot for reindeer in the Australian summer, so conventional wisdom Down Under (originated by Rolf Harris in 1960) is that Santa's sleigh is pulled by six macho white kangaroos (called "Boomers"). There's even a song about it, in which Santa and the boomers help a joey find his Mum.

Six white boomers
Snow white boomers
Racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun
Six white boomers
Snow white boomers
On his Australian run

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Marathon Drive

I don't know what a keystone is, but surely it's something super-long and really annoying.

Apologies to my readers who live in the lovely state of Pennsylvania, but the Keystone State is my frequent adversary. When I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, and went to college in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I used to say that Pennsylvania was between me and everywhere that I wanted to go.

I've hit a deer in Pennsylvania, lost a radiator in Pennsylvania, and broken down there more times than I can remember. One of my old Volvos caught on fire there (not as awful as it sounds as this was sometimes a part of getting it started). I've spent too many hours in the Breezewood Greyhound station the times that I did not have a car.

I blissfully skirted around Pennsylvania for the years when I was holiday-commuting between NYC/JC and Alexandria. That was a great commute. I could hop a Peter Pan (or later Chinatown) bus and be there in four hours for $15 and a Metro fare.

I left Avenue A Friday at 11 a.m. and headed for the PATH train to JC, where I got Henry the Ford out of his house. (Perhaps it says something that I own free and clear title to my car's house but nothing now for myself.) I didn't get out of JC until 1 after I attempted to go to the post office to send a book I'd sold on Amazon. I gave up after 20 minutes of standing in an unmoving line and ran back to my car. Street cleaning started at 1 and I didn't want another boot.

Henry and I drove west on I-78 to the NJ/PA border. We cruised across the toll bridge on my E-Z Pass and shortly after that, the rain started. Traffic slowed. And then slowed more.

For hours, we'd crawl past accidents and slowly made headway against the rain. Only the trucks were going fast, and when they did, they'd throw up a spray as they passed and for 15 seconds or so, all I could see were the tail lights in front of me.

The drive was dreadful. At Chambersburg, I called my mother.

"This isn't safe. Henry and I should not be out in this with all these trucks. I can't see anything. What does the weather look like?"

Mom checked a satellite report online. "There's a break in the clouds in West Virginia. And aren't you the one who once drove home from Ohio in an ice storm?"

"I was younger and stupider then."

"Well, go to a hotel if it's too bad. Take a lot of breaks."

I bought a large coffee and dug out the old reading/driving glasses I hadn't worn in years. Henry the Ford got me safely to Niagara Falls during a snowstorm with an Australian behind the wheel. He is a sturdy, reliable car. We'll be okay.

This and the hope of a break in the rain got me through Maryland to West Virginia. But there was no break. And when I crossed the Virginia state line, it was raining even harder. I turned up my iPod and squinted, trying to ignore the onslaught of trucks tearing down I-81.

I'd traded in my old iPod for a Fifth Generation one a few weeks ago. I now regretted it. I've been adhering to the Star Trek movie iPod model--going in for every odd number--but Captain-Kirk-theory has let me down with the Fifth. I loaded everything on, but it skips over most songs, and from reading message boards, I can tell you that I am not alone and there are some hopping-mad iPod owners out there. Count me among them. It's supposed to plug and play. I'm not supposed to have to troubleshoot the damn thing out of the box.

On this long drive, my Fifth Generation iPod skipped over everything but Rebecka Tornqvist and Jens Lekman. By the time I'd gotten to Maryland, I'd hated all things Swedish, even the man who invented the adjustable wrench. I switched off the iPod near Winchester and tuned in classic rock. Until I saw, through the blurry distorted windshield, a billboard for a Best Western.

Free wi-fi! I'll rest in the parking lot and read the email that's accumulated over the last 8.5 hours.

As I sat, scrolling through my in-box, it occurred to me that the Best Western was good for more than just signal swiping.

"Hotel. Sleep. No more rain. No trucks."

I turned off the iBook and checked in. I'd finish the drive to my mother's in the morning sun.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

My Storage Unit

Here's a look at my storage unit, before and after my move. Maybe I should have gotten a larger unit (everything else is in my garage). Or maybe I should have thrown away more stuff.

Friday, December 22, 2006


"I'm homeless," I whined to Sven, Fabian, and Stuart. We'd met for lunch, and it had taken me an enviable ten minutes to walk from my East Village sublet to the lunch spot on Lafayette Street.

I'd "reverse-commuted" back to Manhattan last night after rearranging the garage. The studio on East 5th Street was cozy, though my stuff was in a big pile on the floor. The studio is directly across the street from my friends Polly and Al, but they were already gone for the holidays. I could live here, I thought. Then a cough stopped me. And a giggle. The walls were paper-thin. Maybe I wouldn't like it so much. Still, it's only for a month.

After lunch, I worried again.

"I don't know if I like being homeless. It's been a long time since I was homeless."

Sven laughed. "Welcome to the club." He had just moved back from Kuwait and was waiting for his work visa to come through. He is going to his mother's in Canada for now and will be back when the paperwork makes it official.

"I have a home," said Fabian. Maybe Sven and I can go stay in Fabian's basement. We'll bring the 11 x 17 scanner and make Kuwaiti comics. His kids can help.

My cell phone rang. It was my lawyer.

"Come over and get your check. We've got $160,000 waiting for you."

Maybe being homeless wouldn't be so bad.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Moments In-Between

My garage door rolled up to expose a monumentally disastrous mess.

"You can't fit your car in there with all that crap!" exclaimed Kraiger.

"Well, I was hoping... maybe if we stacked..." My voice dropped off. It had to fit. What else could I do?

Kraiger noticed my disappointment.

"We'll make it work."

We hurriedly tossed the final load of stuff into the garage, clicked the remote control to shut the door, and drove to the Holland Tunnel. Traffic was slow but moving, and in 20 minutes we were in front of my sublet on East 5th and Avenue A. I pulled up in front of a hydrant and put on Henry the Ford's emergency flashers.

"One of us has to stay with the car at all times."

I dug the unfamiliar set of keys out of my pocket. Hey, that's clever. The woman I'm subletting from had drawn an 'M' on the keys. 'M' for Marie. My set of keys.

The big key didn't work. The small one took a little fidgeting, but opened the door. Kraiger and I uploaded a box, backpack, laundry basket of paperwork, and 11 x 17 scanner into the hallway. He waited with Henry while I carried a load up to the fourth floor.

The key didn't work. I tried the other key. Nothing. Shuffled a bit, eased the key in and out. This was a problem. What would I do? Go to Babcock's and live with Czop, Pond Scum, and Czop's dog for a month? What about the money I'd paid for the sublet? The owner had gone to Argentina.

But she'd given me the neighbor's number for emergencies. I went and knocked on the neighbor's door. She was leaving town for Poland in two hours.

"These aren't the right keys," she said with a glance. "Do you have others?"

"No... wait." If I did, I'd have thrown them into my Manhattan Portage bike messenger bag, the same one I'd had for years. The one that was slashed in Mongolia in 2001, then repaired in Nairobi later that same year.

At the bottom of my bag was a different set. I tried them. They worked.

"But I used this key to get in the front door! Strange."

Then I realized. The keys that had gotten me into the building were the keys Kraiger had kept to my place, for when I was in other countries and there were emergencies. No wonder there was an 'M' on them. My house key had just gotten us into a building on East 5th.

Back downstairs, Kraiger and Henry had scored a much-coveted East Village parking space. He (Kraiger, not Henry) helped me carry the rest up into the tiny studio.

"It's kind of small." Kraiger was skeptical. It's perhaps 280 square feet, the size of a hotel room.

"But it's cozy. It's all I need."

We locked up and went back to Jersey, to get to work on my garage.

It took an hour of rearranging and stacking, but in the end, everything fit alongside Henry. Only my bicycle didn't fit. I dropped Kraiger off in the Heights, parked the car in the garage, carefully squeezed my bike in just behind Henry's driver-side rear wheel, and walked to Grove Street.

There had been a mix-up with the seller's title company and my check for the condo would not be ready today. What's another day of debt when you've had so many? I walked— exhausted —to the PATH train and caught the 33rd Street train home. To Alphabet City.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Not Again!

"Marie, it's Casey!"

My next door neighbor was yelling through my intercom. Today was move-out day. I'd been up since before five, packing and cleaning and panicking. I'd thrown everything left into the basement and smiled through the walk-through. The young couple buying my place LOVE it. They love the character and Turbo's hard work. And Michael Kraiger's hard work, and Al Huckabee's hard work. And my hard work. I hope they don't hate me when the first 100-year-old problem occurs.

I'd then raced up to the Heights in Henry to pick up Kraiger, who was helping me move the last bits out of the basement and into the garage, then going with me to drop my month's supplies in Manhattan. We'd gotten in about 40 minutes ago and now were sweeping and scrubbing the condo. Closing was in 20 minutes, though I wasn't attending. I'd signed over power of attorney to my lawyer. Closings are horribly dull and mostly consist of signing one's name a lot.

Casey buzzed again as I raced to the front door. I opened it to find not just Casey but also Larry from two doors down. Both are 65 years old and retired. Casey is originally from North Carolina and has been in an interracial marriage for 35 years, since it was a lot harder than it is today. Larry lived in my apartment when he was four years old. He said it was really cold then, with only two coal-fired stoves for heat.

They both looked really unhappy. For a second I was honored that they were sad I was leaving. Then it dawned on me.

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news," drawled Casey in his southern accent.


"I got the boot."

They both nodded. Henry the Ford Taurus was clamped and couldn't move.

The parking man zipped by then in his little electric car. Larry ran out into the street and waved him down, and I went and argued for a while.

"I've only been here 40 minutes. I was up in the Heights! I haven't been here two hours."

"It doesn't matter. Your car was here at 9 a.m. That's more than two hours."

"But I left."

I argued and argued until he finally said, "Look, it's too late. I already put it in the computer. There's nothing I can do."

So Kraiger and I loaded everything into Henry. I didn't own the condo anymore. I had to get out.

Casey offered me a lift up to the Parking Bureau in his 1994 Ford Taurus. He even waited while I ran in and paid the $75 fine. (It's $125 for second offenses but fortunately my first didn't seem to be on record).

Henry was un-booted by the time we got back. I hugged Casey good-bye, took one last look at my beautiful home, where the sunlight was hitting the golden heart pine floor through the stained glass, and locked the door. Henry was about to cry, so Kraiger and I rushed off.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


The first few nights that I slept at my JC condo, I slept on my Therm-a-rest, so it's only fitting that I've spent my last few nights on it. A Therm-a-rest is a thin camping mattress. I've had this one since 1996. I shouldn't be surprised that it's lasted this long, since it does come with a lifetime warranty. But I have to help it "self-inflate."

My sleeping mat has been around Central America, the US, New Zealand, and of course, New Jersey. I think Roberta took it canoe camping in Belize. I had a different Therm-a-rest for camping in Africa, one I bought in Berlin and gave away in Ethiopia. (I then paid for it by having to sleep on the steel ferry deck in Wadi Halfa, but that's okay because H.M. had a sleeping mat and I never let him forget that he'd un-gallantly not offered it, though I was covered in truck-accident bruises at the time. He defended himself by saying that he thought: "Well, she's been around the whole world. She can probably manage a night without a sleeping mat.")

Some people--who would think nothing of taking a Therm-a-rest camping--have expressed horror that I don't have a bed at the moment. (Not exactly true--I have a very nice bed that is in storage near Liberty State Park.) It's really not so bad sleeping on my Therm-a-rest indoors. It's kind of like camping, except that instead of hearing crickets and frogs, I hear the dryer downstairs as it goes around and around and around.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Summer at My Place

I got two new windows on Thursday. I did this because I couldn't in good conscience sell a $300k condo with 100-year-old Arctic-flavored windows.

Last time I got new windows, a handyman installed them. He was a friend of a friend who is a carpenter, and he did a lousy job. And because he was charging me by the hour and took forever, he was no bargain.

This time I hired window specialists because I was too busy to deal any other way. And they were recommended by Vinny from the pizza place, who redid a building with Roberta's friend Al, hands-down the top builder in town.

They were fast and great. In an hour-and-a-half, they did what took the handyman four days, and they did it right. They brought a giant machine and set it up on the sidewalk, and it crimped and cut metal flashing to fit exactly outside my windows. They didn't touch the antique moulding and it looks like the windows kind of grew there.

After they left, I marveled at how warm it was in my place. Stifling, actually. And the heat wasn't even on.

Pity I couldn't be bothered to do this years ago, for myself. Too bad I only did it now, five days before I'm leaving.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sea Travel

Every few weeks, I get an email from a stranger inquiring about freighter travel. That's travel by ship.

They are usually excited about sea travel for one of three reasons.

1) They assume it will be inexpensive and/or romantic. Many believe they can work their passage on board a ship. (No, you can't. There are highly trained professionals on ships. Even the most junior toilet-cleaners are trained at maritime academies in disaster drills and safety.)

2) They are afraid of flying or know someone afraid of flying. Or can't fly for a medical reason.

3) They want to lower their personal carbon emissions by not using an airplane.

Unfortunately, cargo ship travel--freighter travel--is no great bargain. Sure, it produces fewer carbon emissions than planes and does not involve going up in the sky in an aluminum tube, but you must pay dearly for these privileges.

When I took freighters across oceans in 2001 for, the US dollar was at an all-time high, convenient as many freighters were priced in Deutsch Marks, which was worth about half the USD. It still was not a bargain, but compared to today's prices in euros, it was a deal.

Want to go from Europe to Cape Town? That'll set you back $3,300, or a little less if you go with "Budget Accommodation" on the Royal Mail service between the UK and South Africa. One-way. And how do you plan on getting home?

Trans-Atlantic voyages aren't cheap either. The best deal I could find was for $1155 from Valencia to New York one-way. That's about three times the cost of a round-trip plane ticket between New York and London, and if you aren't looking to go to Spain, you still have to get up north from there. Heck, you can usually score a single cabin on the QE2/QM2 to Southampton for less than that. And the food is better.
When I tell people this, they are usually flabbergasted, or sometimes outraged.

"Why does it cost so much? How do they expect to get any business?"

They don't necessarily care about your business. Freighter companies transport freight. It is nice to take a few passengers, but they don't seem real fussed if no one signs up. A freighter is
not a passenger ship. It's a working ship. And they feed you three times a day and clean your cabin. So you are not paying just for transport, but for room and board.

Go for the ambiance of leisurely staring at the sea for days on end. Go because you hate flying. Go because you want to reduce your carbon emissions (though I cynically daresay a fair number of people are hopping on this bandwagon while cheerfully ignoring readily available public transport or renewable power available through their energy provider). But don't go for the fare, cuz there's nothing "fair" about it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Camping on Eighth Street

Moving my large furniture into storage was relatively painless, though there's no such thing as a pain-free move.

The driver of the "free truck with move-in" did a lot of the work, and what he didn't do, Kraiger did. Roberta and I mostly stood around feeling awkward and opening doors. "Let me help you with that." "No, I have it." "Uh, okay, I'll, um, just clean up that dust."

Dust is something I have a lot of. I must have one of the world's foremost collections of dust bunnies right now. They infest, hiding behind bookcases. I'll take a photo when I get them all in one place.

I'm now camping out in my own apartment, sleeping on my Thermarest and using an end table as a desk.

It's not so bad. Though there's a bit of an echo in my furniture-free condo.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Yet(i) Another Distraction

One of the pitfalls of writing the text for a 3D children's atlas is distraction. I search for a piece of information, start reading, and before you know it, an hour has passed and I've learned all about something fascinating but irrelevant.

I've been obsessing over polar bears for days now, and started this morning off by trying to determine who'd win in a fair fight, a polar bear or a grizzly bear.

Next thing you know, I was hunting for images of the Himalayan Brown Bear, a/k/a the fearsome yeti.

In 2000, I read an entire book about mountaineer Reinhold Messner's search for the yeti. He saw one, you see, and it kind of freaked him out, and he thought, "That's odd, and I'd like to know if that was a yeti." He reckoned (after further research expeditions) that it was a rare, humongous bear that would stand on its hindlegs and scare the daylights out of people.

Here's an article about a Japanese researcher that agrees with Messner. Yep, it's a Himalayan Brown Bear.

I'm fine with the yeti being a bear. Bears are scary too.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Homesteading on Avenue B

I bought my first condo, on Avenue B in Manhattan's Alphabet City, in the summer of 1993. Or maybe it was late 1992. It took ages to move in, because I had to get it renovated first. The building had been a tenement in 1898, and the bathtub was still in the kitchen when I bought it.

The cost was $56,500 for a small two-bedroom place with low maintenance and taxes. It had been a couple of years since the last real estate crash brought prices in Hoboken and New York down by half in some places. ("Real estate never goes down.")

I didn't move to Avenue B and 13th Street for the ambiance or pleasant atmosphere—I moved there because for $5,650 I was able to get my own place—though it had a certain appeal. There was a hardware store with a beauty salon in the back. There was a store that sold old VCRs across the street, and kids would play video games in the back. I could head ping and zoing in between M9 buses tearing down the avenue every few minutes.

In the top photo, you can see that 13th Street is blocked off. That's because the City had evicted three buildings of squatters in 1995. The squatters knew it was coming and they were up all night banging on cans and holding bonfires in the middle of the street. NYC brought in a tank named "Sunny." The area was cordoned off and I had to show my ID to get in an out the next day.

Now the area is full of restaurants and high rents, and giddy young people drinking lots of beer. I sold my place in January 2001 for $250,000. I thought real estate had gotten too crazy for words and there was no way it would last.

I still believe that, but I'm stunned at how high prices went before they started to go back down. My place on Avenue B—it's the one on the third floor with the small dryer vent—would go for $400,000 now. ("Old rules no longer apply.")

Do I regret moving? No. I wasn't comfortable in the neighborhood after it changed, and if I'd hung onto it, I'd be liable for capital gains tax as you only get a $250,000 profit exemption. And I ended up in a much nicer, homier area in a bigger apartment. I actually come out ahead by having had two places in the last 13 years.

The plan now is to go to Cairo for a while, then see where things take me. Maybe I'll be back in April to buy a new place. Or maybe I'll run off with a camel herder into the desert. I like that I won't have to rush home to deal with my place.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Can I Win a Prize for This?


I've been on deadline and haven't had time to procrastinate... much. I did play this addictive geography game a few times. It really annoyed me, because I couldn't quite click on the right spot on the tiniest countries and then it told me I was wrong. YES, I do know where Bahrain is! But I figured out where it wanted me to click and to my embarrassment, though I could find Equatorial Guinea, Guyana, and Benin, I missed Romania.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Get a Postcard

I still have plenty of Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik postcards, with art by Jessica Wolk-Stanley. Some of you have already received one in the mail.

If you want one, send me an email with the subject line "postcard" and your mailing address. (I won't send junk mail in the future because I'm too cheap to buy stamps.) Marie-at-mariejavins-dot-com.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fun with Furnaces


I am the proud new owner of this lovely "expansion tank." This is good because it means I have heat again—an essential element to life in the northeastern US during the winter.

It is my understanding that this expansion tank is superior to other expansion tanks because it is red.

Maybe I Can Just Go Back to Bed

UPDATE: All right. Enough is enough. The vast majority of the money I was complaining about was owed to me for A WRITING ASSIGNMENT I completed. A travel writing assignment. Not a comic book coloring job.

But since you came all the way over here to this site, you might as well buy my book.

I made the mistake of looking at the bank balance this morning. $1,900 into overdraft. I'm owed $4,100 dollars that simply has shown up yet. Get a job. Don't be a freelancer.

Then Roberta sent me a link to a ridiculous article about how rude kiddies are moving to my neighborhood not for the lovely old-time Italian delis and cheap family-run Cuban restaurants, but in order to transform it into something uniform and common, a playground for young people with the ability to accessorize while they tout their edginess. Must we Gap-ize everything? Is it necessary to standardize even where we live? Will this be a franchise of Generic-Hip-Edgy-City when I return? My only hope is that crashing real estate will stop the transformation again as it did in 1988.

Then one of the neighbors--the head of the Committee to Make My Building Too Expensive for Me to Live in--emailed that the furnace by the back window had a leaking expansion valve.

Oh. That's mine.

The heat is off. At 9 a.m., I'll call the plumber. And I'm late on two deadlines. Very late.

Once it's over, I'll just pretend today never happened.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mystery Revealed!


I've been hinting at where I'm going to live for Feb-March for ages. But I couldn't say until it was settled as well as announced at a staff meeting in Kuwait.

The company that I worked with in Kuwait last year is opening an Egypt office. I answer to two supervisors, and the Kuwaiti one (CEO) is running all over the Gulf and the world pulling all the pieces together, while the Canadian-British-Danish-Irish one (COO) has to come back to the US to open the New York office. I'll (Hobo Editor) be joining him in the New York office in the spring, but for the winter, I'm going to the new Cairo office to help out on both the production and editorial ends.

I don't know where I'll be living in Cairo (concrete suggestions welcomed). And I don't have a plane ticket yet (that one I know how to do on my own). I have to work all that out as soon as I get some big jobs out of my hair. And pack my entire life into boxes. And move to my sublet. And close on my condo. You know, little things.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mentioned in Iceland

Eliza, who recently returned home to Iceland from West Africa, mentioned Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik in a column she writes for the Icelandair in-flight magazine.

Thanks, Eliza!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Back to School

Arabic 102 begins today at Hudson County Community College. I don't think many of us made it through from Arabic 101, but a small group will show. Enough people registered that the class was not canceled.

Last semester we first worked on building vocabulary, then on simple things like greetings and comprehension. We were studying the alphabet when the semester ended.

I don't quite have the alphabet down yet. So I can see that in the top comic here, it says "X-MN." (There's no X in Arabic so that one is borrowed.) The next one says "MARVL." But the last one loses me after "AR."

Friday, December 01, 2006

New Homes

Here they are, the new homes for all my stuff.

I rented a 5x10 storage unit near Liberty State Park because all my things won't fit in my garage along with my car. For myself, I have a sublet for a month and then have nothing much, aside from a vague plan to hang out in Europe for a few weeks and then report to my next job assignment.

I expect to leave my stuff in storage until April. But that could change. Last time I put my stuff in storage, it was for a year. I unpacked 23 months later.