Mid-Life Crisis Trip

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Entry 11: Renting a Place—Again

June 24, 2006 Saturday

5:00 am

Five AM?

Good Lord, what are we doing awake at five AM?

Oh, now we remember...we're moving to Salem and we need to rent a place. Despite all this talk about "telecommuting" and the "information superhighway" and "porn on demand," it turns out you still can't rent an apartment over the Internet. You have to physically haul your butt down to where the apartment is located and use your bloodshot eyeballs to look at each place one-by-one. *sigh* We were born 100 years too early...

And we couldn't leave last night, because Laura had to go cheer on the Seattle Storm (the local women's basketball team) as they crushed the Silver Stars (which is, in Robert's opinion a really weenie name for a basketball team, which is probably why they lost by 30 points). When Laura is in the stands, the Storm does better, so she feels an obligation to go.

So, today we're driving down to Salem (the one where they didn't burn witches) so that we can be there bright and early (or early anyway) to line up a nice, cheap place to live ("$400 or less, with a hot tub would be nice," fantasizes Robert).

One nice thing about making this trip shortly after the longest day of the year is that it's already light at 5:00 am, so at least we don't have to stumble around in the dark. We're still stumbling of course, but we know what it is that we stumble into ("That was the nightstand I just tripped over!").

6:00 am

Passing through Olympia, the state capital of Washington. We remember memorizing all 50 state capitals back in school. At the time, this information was imparted with the tone of "This is vital information that every adult citizen knows and you will be a total loser if you don't know this."

Here's a tip to any kids reading this: they totally lied. We know the names of maybe five state capitals and even then we never get a chance to show that knowledge off. Nobody ever comes up to you and says, "Laura, I'll give you a raise if you can tell me the capital of North Dakota!" (Bismarck, by the way).

We think they had you memorize the list so that you didn't spend your time thinking up ways to clog up the toilets in the boy's room (basketballs work nicely).

Last week Saturday, we volunteered to help at the Fremont Solstice Festival. For those of you who don't know that Fremont is the "Center of the Universe," the Solstice Festival is a kind of organized anarchy. It starts with a "parade" in the sense that the participants go down the center of the street. Unlike many traditional parades, many of the participants are naked except for body paint, and riding bicycles (okay, call us old and persnickety, but that sounds mighty uncomfortable to us).

There are some traditional floats, most of which are making political statements (many featuring some variation of the words "blood" and "oil"). There was also the "Billion Belly March" which consisted of many belly dancers (clothed), but not, technically, one billion of them (Robert started counting, but quickly lost track).

At the end of the day we ran into a 72-year old guy who told us he books all the rock groups at Key Arena ("Got my girlfriend in to see Mick Jagger last year! She was sure impressed!"). He had never seen the parade and said "Boy! I sure got an eyefull!" He paused and added, "If I'd known that's what it was like, I'd have gotten here a lot earlier!"

Our job was to wander around and check for overflowing trashcans, traffic blocks, and anything else that might adversely impact a festival-goer's experience. Other than pretty much everybody in Seattle packed into a four-block area, everything ran smoothly, the trash-emptying guys were excited to empty the trash (really, we approached one to point out an overflowing trash can and before we could finish our request he had bounded off in its direction, saying "I'll take care of it!").

AND we got two free meal tickets (and some free Starbuck's cash cards)! So we got to walk around for a few hours, looking at many booths full of handmade cups/ clothes/ earrings/ scarves/ necklaces and we got fed on top of it. Woohoo! We might just get into this whole "volunteering" thing.

8:20 am
South of Portland (Miller's Homestead)

One problem with rolling out of bed and onto the road at the crack of pre-dawn is that even though Robert ate breakfast once, it's been almost four hours and time for a second breakfast (or lunch, but after some discussion, we decided to call it "beta breakfast" to avoid losing track of meals and ending up eating "dinner" at midnight).

We tried to find a Denny's, but instead stumbled across a little place called "Miller's Homestead" which was started by Mr. Miller (he took two weeks off from his trucking job to get the place going, and then worked the night shift and slept in a cot in the basement). His wife ran things when he wasn't there (and when she wasn't busy having kids) and they dragooned the kids into the business, too. (They now have 10 grandkids and 2 greatgrandkids, so the restaurant biz is good for reproduction, if nothing else.)

And they had pretty good chow, too. The waitresses were a tad perky, though. Now that restaurants are all non-smoking, we think you should have a choice of "perky" or "non-perky." We would pick non-perky any time before noon.

So, last Sunday, we met with a new guy (Mike) about a possible job for Robert. He works for an outfit (with an acronym, of course) that works with 57 Indian Tribes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and parts of California and Nevada and who knows all else (a bunch of tribes in a bunch of places).

The deal is that Mike used to run part of an organization that consisted of seven people working in the other section and him running a loan program. Then the whole thing kind of imploded. The seven folks ended up chasing grants, but not doing the work that the grants required. Which meant that they had a lot of potential money, but no actual money (Robert points out that if you took all that money to the top of a roller coaster, you'd have a lot of potential energy in that potential money, but he's fond of physics geek jokes.)

The end result was that they had no money to pay for anybody and all seven people went "poof" (we assume they were just laid off, but we prefer the mental image of them vanishing into some parallel dimension).

So Mike is trying to do his own job, plus pick up the pieces from the implosion (for some reason, the Board of Directors thought it might be a good idea to have an audit, so Mike has to gather together about seven filing cabinets worth of records into something resembling some sense).

Robert's job would be to help rebuild the organization, starting with trying to figure out what the customer (57 Indian Tribes) really needs, rather than what the Federal Government is willing to fund (because the Feds are pretty crazy about what kinds of things they'll fund).

Oh yeah, also their web site's a mess, and there's various computers floating around that need configuring, so there's some things that Robert can handle pretty confortably.

Of course, the other stuff would be a pretty big stretch, since, technically, he's never done it and doesn't know squat about it. But 23 years as a consultant teaches you one thing: somebody somewhere has written a book about how to do it and all you gotta do is find the book and read it. Or, as we say in the trade: RTFM.

Anyway, the upshot is that there's a Board member (Dave) who may end up being hired as the director of the imploded part. He'd be directing Robert, so Mike thinks that it'd probably be a good idea if they met before committing to anything.

9:53 am

We pull into Salem (state capitol of Oregon) and with Robert running the GPS software, we unerringly make our way to Laura's future office. (Although Robert can get lost going around the block, he's the only one on our team who can run the mapping software and steer us to where we're going.)

Turns out Laura's new office is pretty much right in downtown Salem (the state capitol of Arkansas is Little Rock, in case you were wondering).

Oh, and since we're both going to end up working for Federal minimum wage ($5.75 per hour) it's sort of important that whatever place we rent is cheap, cheap, cheap. Like $500 a month or less (which is still going to be about half our take-home pay).

Robert's thinking is that we should grab a paper, circle some ads, make a phone call and rent a place. ("Hey, it worked last time!" he points out.)

Laura's thinking is that we should find out where the cheap part of town is, and drive around looking for "For Rent" signs and knock on the doors.

Robert, being the loving, considerate husband he is, agrees to try his lovely wife's idea.

12:30 pm

"This is the dumbest idea in the whole history of dumb ideas!"

At this point, Robert has talked to eight different apartment managers (and is seriously wishing he knew Spanish, because apparently it's a law in Salem that you have to be Latino to run an apartment building).

We found one place that would work (cheap, 2 bedroom, 2 bath), except we'd have to kill our cats (no pets).

1:00 pm

About the time we're ready to throttle each other, Mike calls and asks if we can come over and meet with Dave (remember him? Robert's potential new boss?).

Stifling the urge to say, "Now would be just the best goddamn time!" we manage to calm down enough to get directions to Mike's house (which Robert promptly ignores, since he's asked the mapping software how to get there).

1:40 pm

Mike lives seriously in the middle of rural Oregon. It's take 40 minutes of driving through lovely green farm land, hay fields and vineyards (and along 2 miles of gravel road) to get here.

Mike and Allison's house is beautiful—clearly a labor of love. There're gardens of flowers and fruit, walking paths through shady woods, a pond of thirty 5-pound trout, a hand-built barn harboring a sailboat-in-progress—these are people who love their home and all that surrounds it.

Robert and Mike and Dave sit down for a second interview for Robert, who is inclined to say that it went well, except that he thought the interview with Felice (remember her? lo, these many weeks ago?) went well, so he's not a good judge of how interviews go. Anyway, we're supposed to hear if it's a job (or not) sometime this next week.

Robert doesn't know how people can stand to do more than two job interviews a year. It's way easier being a consultant ("You can be snottier, for starters," he points out, "and they respect you more, because you must be good if you're snotty about it.")

4:50 pm

We are exhausted and no closer to an apartment than we were when we awoke this morning. So we check in to a cheap motel, the Tiki Lodge (don't ask), and walk to the nearest purveyor of liquor and food (in that order). Tomorrow we plan to throw ourselves on the mercy of the church to see if from thence cometh some help.

And we'll go to Robert's strategy of circling ads and calling people.

Robert & Laura
Mid-Life Crisis Trip Log