This week, "all" we do is move.
And, frankly, we think we'd rather have burning hot torches shoved under our eyeballs
while being forced to listen to Barry Manilow songs over and over and over. It'd be
more relaxing, at any rate. ("At the Copa! Copacabana!")
It occurred to us that we never actually explained how "Bitter Lake" got its name.
According to the historical data assembled at the Bitter Lake Community Center (and
if they're not experts on Bitter Lake, who is?), "the lake got its name when settler's
horses drank the water and found it bitter."
Which leads us to the question: How do you tell if a horse finds water bitter? Does
it act differently than if it finds the water brackish or dirty or stinky?
And why didn't any of the settlers try the water themselves to see if it was bitter?
(Or maybe they did and the man-eating plants grabbed them and pulled them under.)
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Oh boy, a nice hot day (it sets a record in Seattle of 97 degrees). Hmmm, what to
do on a hot day? Say, let's pack stuff up!
So, that's what we do. Also, we sweat a lot.
In the afternoon, we head out to Aunt Mary's farm which features a "swimming hole"
and a party for Laura's Dad's 80th birthday (and about 10 other birthdays and milestone
events—that side of the family doesn't get together too often).
It's still blazing hot, but the pond helps keep us cool (along with the beers) and
not having to pack makes it even more fun!
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Another hot and roasty day (although not quite a record, it only gets up to 95
degrees). And more packing!
The office is being packed up and it's time to power down Robert's Macintosh. Geek
that he is, he finds the Roy Rogers version of Happy Trails and plays it
over the Mac speakers at full volume, singing along.
"Happy Trails, to you! 'Til we meet again."
Today's break is to head for Zoo Tunes (not to be confused with Zoo Doo) with
tonight's guest, Leo Kottke. (It was supposed to be a double bill with Leon
Redbone but for some unspecified reason, he couldn't make it, so Leo filled in for
Leon by playing a longer set.)
Zoo Tunes is pretty neat—there's a stage with a big grassy area in front of it and
everybody lays out blankets or chairs and brings (or buys) dinner and sits around
and listens to music and sometimes you can hear monkeys chattering in the distance.
Leo Kottke plays twelve-string jazzy-folk guitar.
The most delightful aspect of the entire evening is that we don't have to pack. We
can just lie down and not move. It's wonderful.
Monday, July 24, 2006
The Big Moving Day and another blistering one it promises to be, too. Yippee. All
we need now is for a volcano to erupt.
The Capturing of the Cats
This turns out to be lots easier that it could have been. We back Indy into a corner
and she hunkers down, which makes her very easy to grab. Mooch makes a half-hearted
effort at hiding, but when Robert approaches with a broom, he waddles off under his
own power to his imprisonment in the bathroom.
The Changing of the Showerheads
Back in 1980, Robert rented a place that had the most wonderful showerhead in the
world. It's all metal and the business end consists of quarter-inch ball bearings
placed in hexagonal holes (one source told him that this is the kind of showerhead
used at beach showers in California). The resulting shower is nice and powerful and
the showerhead is nearly indestructable (a significant consideration when dealing
Every time he's moved since then, he's taken the showerhead from the new place he
rented and swapped it with the amazing showerhead. After we got married, Laura agreed
that this was a pretty damn fine showerhead, so we continued the practice.
This time, however, we forgot to grab the showerhead from the apartment in Salem,
so we actually had to go spend $5 to get a new showerhead for the Seattle apartment
so we could take the real showerhead with us.
Robert figures that $5 spread out over 26 years works out to about 19 cents a year,
so it's a good bargain.
Robert heads over to get the rented moving truck. We decided to get a 24-foot
truck, because although it is theoretically possible for all our stuff to fit into
a 16-foot truck, we didn't want to run out of room (because the backup plan would
be "leave it at the curb").
As it happens, a 24 foot truck is not just a longer version of a 16-foot truck. It's
a giant truck that's just one step down from a semi-truck and it runs on diesel and
the cab is about 80 feet up in the air. Gulp.
Robert manages to run over only three or four curbs on the way home (much bigger turning
radius than expected). But he doesn't run into any houses.
The gorillas arrive!
It's the typical setup of muscle guy (a guy from Kazakhstan) and scrawny guy (same
scrawny guy as last time).
As they begin lugging stuff out to the truck, we're still packing up stuff for them
to haul out.
You're probably thinking, "Gosh, Robert & Laura, even with the heat, I'll bet you
two are models of cooperation! Why, you're probably helpful and loving and
everything, even though moving is hard and stressful."
Argument #17 of the morning is about cleaning. Laura's saintly sisters and our blessed
friend Elizabeth are coming later this week to clean up the apartment, thus saving
us several hours of labor and our cleaning deposit (thanks guys!), which would have
added another day to the move (or would have us driving to Salem around midnight,
which is probably not a Good Idea).
Robert: Why are you cleaning? It's already like a damn clean room in here—you
could assemble microchips on the table and perform surgery on the floor! You want
to give your sisters something to do on Saturday!
Laura: Are you kidding?!? It looks like an oil worker did the mambo in here! There's
dust bunnies the size of elephants roaming the bedroom! I don't want my sisters to
spend their entire weekend in here with a fire hose and a blowtorch trying to get
the place clean!
Moving is just the most damn fun since the Spanish Inquisition.
The truck is loaded, everything's out of the apartment ("Wait! There's still a
mop!") and Robert fires up the SS King Kong Truck, weighs anchor, and sets
sail for Salem. Full diesel steam ahead!
We get the best and worst of Seattle on the way out of town. The truck gets stuck
in traffic on I-5 (for no reason other than there're a lot of cars). And The
Mountain (Rainier, which is, geologically speaking, an active volcano) is out and
gorgeous and looming over the city.
Nice view. Lousy location.
Robert discovers that the truck is rigged so that it won't go faster than 70 mph.
"What?!?" says the Voice of Reason, "The speed limit is 60 mph!"
"It says '70' on the highway signs," says the Maniac.
"That's for cars! It's 60 for trucks!"
"Darn thing won't go faster than 70, anyway," Robert mumbles.
The cats are in the carrier traveling in the car with Laura. They do pretty well,
except for every so often Mooch moans (for lack of food, we figure).
"Goddamn car drivers," spits Robert, "Always pulling in front of the honest
truck-driving man and cutting him off! Lousy pinheaded scum-sucking lazy
good-for-nothing four wheelers! Ought to be able to shoot 'em!"
It's fair to say that Robert has adapted to truck driving and is bonding with his
And it really is amazing the stupid things that people in cars do (they're easier
to see from way up high). One car almost ran into Robert's truck at a yield sign (they
were supposed to yield) because they didn't see the King Kong Truck (!) until Robert
leaned on the horn.
We've been traveling with a bunch of carnival trucks for the last couple of hours.
They go about the same speed we do (some a little slower) and they like to stop at
all the rest stops, too, so we're starting to recognize the trucks.
But, what's this? OhMyGod! The Bears are down! The Bears are down!
Alongside the road are four 10-foot-tall fiberglass cartoon bears that belong to a
ride. They are sitting on the side of the road, facing each other in pairs, next to
the broken down truck that was hauling them. We feel sorry for the bears.
We finally pull into Salem and park the SS King Kong Truck on a side street
(which we scoped out on the last trip—it's in front of a Roman Catholic High
School, so we figure any graffiti added to the truck will be in Latin).
Within minutes, we're sitting with drinks on the balcony overlooking the creek, panting
(it's about 100 degrees in Salem). Whew!
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
You know, you never hear anybody say, "Let's get the cats and go camping!" and
we've discovered why.
Because movers will be here tomorrow, we want to keep the cats in a closed-in area
with limited hiding places. The best place for that is the bedroom where we're camping
until we unpack and assemble the bed. Plus, we figured they would find it more comforting
to be with the big pink things that give them food.
Well, Mooch dozed in fine fashion all night, but Indiana started crying about 10:30
pm, so Robert had to get up and find her and pet her until she stopped and then just
about the time he'd fall asleep, she'd start meowing again. She finally quit crying
about 2:00 am (or Robert got so tired that she couldn't wake him up).
Still, it does make it simpler to catch the cats and stuff them into their carrier
again. This time, we lug the carrier out to the balcony, so they can get a nice
breeze and look out at birds and squirrels they can't catch.
Apparently, our regularly scheduled college lad has forgotten about today (like many
college lads—certainly if we were still college lads, we would have "forgotten," what
with the expected 90-degree temperatures).
So, we are now in the market for two day laborers. Laura heads down to the local Union
Gospel Mission ("Nice facility!" says Laura) where you can hire help for a reasonable
rate (you negotiate it with each worker). The going rate in Salem is about $10 per
hour, but because we were paying $30 in Seattle, and it's hard work heavy lifting
in the heat, we offer $15 per hour.
This gets us Will and William ("Where there's two Will's there's a better way!" quips
Robert). Little Will is a wiry little guy while Big Will dwarfs Robert in height and
Because it's 80 degrees outside and climbing, and Big Will is also climbing stairs,
we begin to worry about him—within half an hour he's breathing heavily and we wonder
if he's going to make it.
Little Will is still going strong, but Big Will seems to have reached the end of
the line. We can tell because he's sacked out on the couch in the truck. He's game
to keep going, but after we suggest he might want to go hang out at the
air-conditioned Gospel Mission, he allows as how he'd find that a lot more
So, we trade in Big Will for Ulysses (really! what a cool name!) who's a wiry little
guy and he and Will start moving and sweating and sweating and moving and shifting
boxes and moving things around and we get tired just watching them.
Laura has carefully worked out where she wants everything to go, and she spends
most of the day directing traffic, while Robert stays out of the way. Slowly our
wonderfully spacious apartment is getting more and more crowded as the temperature
Fortunately, it's cooler today (not the 100 degrees of yesterday), and our apartment
doesn't get direct sunlight so it's not too sweltering in here.
We assemble the bed and arrange all the bedroom furniture, lamps, clocks—our basic
comforts for day's end—and call it quits. Robert sets up the air conditioner in
the TV room, where we loll on the couch and read.
Earlier in the day, Robert had to find the local bank (next time, we're going to
move to a city where we already know where everything is). On the way he found
Rocco's, which, according to the ad on its van, "has the best food for the
lowest prices in Salem."
Because vans are legally required to carry only truthful advertising (The Truth in
Automobiles Act), we decide to have dinner there.
And, boy howdy is this some dandy chow! The salads are huge and contain all kinds
of neat stuff, like little green peas and cheese and tomatoes and stuff. Laura gets
the 8-ounce sirloin and pronounces it divine (Robert saw it only briefly before it
vanished from her plate).
Now, if you visit their web site (http://www.roccosbarandgrill.com/)
you'll encounter phrases like "oak furnishings for an upscale and comfortable atmosphere."
Don't let this fool you. It's a dive. Robert was the best dressed one there (and the
only one with no tattoos). It's a neighborhood joint that serves good food for cheap
(and has a happy hour that runs from 10 am to 6 pm to give you plenty of time to get
happy). We have a lively debate about whether or not the waitress has all her front
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
So, once again we're surrounded by everything we own stuffed into boxes. At least
this time there's enough room for all the boxes and still space for us to move.
Because Laura is due to leave today, we figure we better find enough kitchen stuff
so that Robert doesn't have to eat on top of packing boxes using his fingers (which
doesn't bother him half so much as it bothers Laura).
Laura tells Robert that wherever he decides to put things in the kitchen is fine and
immediately moves the silverware from the perfect place he put it to this other cruddy
drawer just because "it doesn't all fit" (!).
A few hours of this and we're ready for a break, so Laura takes off for the Oregon
Coast where the high temperatures have been in the upper 60's (take note, California,
Nevada and the other 45 states suffering through heat waves—head for the Oregon coast!).
There's an autoharp festival there and she's been key (haha) in putting it together,
so she sorta needs to be there.
Robert sorta needs to fall into bed and sleep for a mere 12 hours...
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Mooch has been sprawling at various locations around the apartment, trying to find
the perfect places where he can sprawl and be in the way without getting stepped
on. It usually takes him a couple of weeks to figure these places out.
Indy is still cowering under the couch, slinking out at night to eat, in case someone
decides to abduct her again.
Robert spends the morning getting the computer equipment set up and powered on and
making sure that when the 30 lb Macintosh fell on the LCD monitor, nothing expensive
got broken (Nope! "Clean living and wearing Aloha shirts!" says Robert). Naturally, he has
the Mac play a jazz version of the "Hallelujah" chorus to celebrate everything's survival.
In the afternoon, the local BomBast cable guy shows up (early!) and is technically
competent (!!!). Before you know it, we've registered the Mac addresses and logged
the cable modem on to the system and assigned an IP address to the router and:
We have high-speed Internet! Yay!
Now we can check for goofy movies on the Internet! (http://www.filecabi.net/video/bassbattle.html)
Friday, July 28, 2006
Mooch has figured out that when the nearby church bells chime, it's time for
lunch, so sure enough, as they chime noon (the only time they ring) he hunts down
Robert and reminds him it's time to be fed. (If the Nobel prize came with a can of
cat food, Mooch would have a closet full of them.)
After a morning of getting the office more set up, hooking up the printer, and finding
the nearest post office (not an easy thing to do if you're new in town), Robert decides
to check out the "Bite of Salem," which the newspaper has been going on about for
the last week.
We've been to the Bite of Seattle and to the grand daddy of them all, the Taste of
Chicago on the I-State Tour (http://www.wiztext.com/iStates/Day01.htm)
featuring over 300 different restaurants, so Robert is ready to chow down!
Turns out it's more the "Bit of Salem," as there are a grand total of twelve (12)
food booths (and one of those is Pizza Hut). There's maybe 200 people there counting
the volunteers (at one point, staff and volunteers outnumber those attending).
Still, it's not crowded, there's no lines, and everything is very clean.
And there's a carnival and—
OhMyGod! The Bears! The Bears are okay! They're here and unscratched and whew! All
four of them are cheerfully whizzing past each other as they amuse (very) small children.
On the walk back home, Robert finds a bakery (Great Harvest Bread Co) and a place
to buy coffee beans (The Beanery) and a used bookstore (the used bookstore on Court
street). All our books are still packed, so he has to buy a book to read (he's finished
all his other ones). "But I can sell it back to them when I'm done!" he points out.
Here's our official new Salem address (which is the only address where you should
mail stuff to us, because it's our "permanent" address):
530 13th St NE Apt 17
Salem, OR 97301
Robert & Laura
Mid-Life Crisis Trip