Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How much did that free parking spot cost me anyway? UPDATED.

I am really not a fan of going to Uptown, first of all. This is just one of the things that makes me Old, but the going to Uptown time of my life has passed and I don't miss it. Still, I can be coaxed there for good reasons, like some essential movie that is ONLY playing at the Lagoon, for example. Or for bar trivia supporting a worthy cause, in this specific instance. The trivia and the friends playing it were the only reasons I went to that stupid bar in the first place.

My car, you need to know, has been kind of a pain in the ass this winter. It starts right up, it's fun to drive, I still love it and feel perfectly comfortable in it, etc, but it is not good in deep snow. What I used to accomplish with the brute force of a large sedan, I can no longer accomplish without pushes from kindly strangers. I'm a good driver in snow and know how to use momentum and steering and such to avoid getting stuck, but sometimes you just get screwed. And at this point in the winter, I am probably not going to buy the snow tires, let's face it, even though I keep talking about it--not unless I come across a really good deal. I should have bought them on Black Friday like all the savvy tire shoppers.

Anyway, so there I was, cruising around Uptown last Wednesday evening looking for a place to park. It was about 37 degrees that day, which I admit I kind of resented. I don't want to be pulled out of my winter groove with tantalizing warmups unless the thaw is well and truly here, and the thaw is still at least 6 weeks away. I'd rather it just stayed reasonably cold until spring. I spotted a parking spot on a free street, which is a coup in Uptown, and I rolled into it. As soon as I parked, I knew I'd made a mistake. Thanks to the warmup, the snow was deep, mushy, and slippery, and I was going to be stuck in it. But I figured I'd deal with it after trivia, when I had friends to help push the car if necessary.

Trivia, which we lost by one point thanks to some illogical scoring rules, morphed into drinks at a new Russian bar that is stupidly clandestine (in the sense that there isn't clear signage outside) but fun. So it was 1 AM when I tried to rock my car out of that spot, with Laura pushing, to no avail. The temperature was dropping and I was digging myself a hole. So I abandoned my vehicle, like a young partying whippersnapper, and got a ride home.

On Thursday, the last thing I wanted to do was go back to goddamn Uptown. But there was a blizzard coming. I rode my bike to Emily's (why?), where I borrowed a shovel, ate some banana bread, postponed the inevitable, and finally called a cab. By the time the cab arrived, the blizzard was happening for real, and the cab could only crawl along with its rear-wheel drive (WHY?). But the cabbie was very kind and spacey and he just turned off the meter, since there was so much RWD-related rerouting. We were having a hard time getting up hills and turning corners. "Let's call it $10," he said. He dropped me off at my car, all concerned for my fate. I paid him $13 (total so far: $13) and commenced to digging.

After about 15 minutes the cab circled back around the block, where I was still resolutely not moving. "I wanted to make sure you got out," he said. He tried to push my car; my car dug itself deeper into a nice little ice rut. Another dude stopped to help push and we got absolutely nowhere. I thanked them and sent them away, determined to use the roadside assistance that came with my car warranty. Well, guess what? The roadside assistance only covers towing for warranty-covered mechanical breakdowns. Otherwise you can roadside-assist your own ass, or pay $85 to get winched out. The person on the phone was very apologetic, and I told her I better explore my options. The snow fell. The minutes ticked by. I was paralyzed by indecision, and immobilized by snow, so once I determined that I wasn't parked in a place where I'd be towed, I decided to go home and deal with it the following day. I bought some gatorade and dill pickle chips to help me retain water ($3) and took the bus home ($2.25). Running total for the free parking: $18.25.

When I got home, I added roadside assistance to my insurance policy--about $5 for the remainder of my policy period. The only reason I declined it in the first place was because of the stupid Mazda roadside assistance. Stupid! Running total for the free parking: $23.25.

On Friday, it was cold as hayull. I bundled up and got on the bus again ($1.75, off-peak, booya!). I got to the car, cleared it off, and ordered roadside assistance with the insurance company app. After a half hour I got a call apologetically informing me that because the roads were such a nightmare in my area (thanks to the thaw-blizzard-freeze trifecta), all tow trucks had basically been commandeered by the police for emergencies and they wouldn't be able to send anyone to me. Roadside assist your own ass, part deux! This is when I finally cried a little bit and started posting sad things on social media about my plight and considered just letting my car be towed to the impound lot, fuck it. Then I googled hardware stores in the area and walked over to the nearest one to buy a shovel with ice-smashing capabilities ($13). I took my new shovel to a coffee shop to soothe myself with treats ($4.50). And then! Friends texted to say they were coming to rescue me! I hustled back to the car and started manically chopping the ice, snow, and slush that had engulfed my front tires. I was manually lifting 20 pound icewads out from under the car and chucking them in the snowbank. Functional fitness!

The rescue operation that ensued involved two friends, a prophylactic call to AAA on their card (estimated time: 2-4 hours), two strangers, some cardboard (useless), my floor mats (equally useless), two shovels (one useless), a costume change (I was way overheated), and pushing out the van in front of me before we all united to push my car out. Grand total: $42.50, plus a ton of goodwill and tire rubber.

Another sign you're Old: you don't drive around trying to score free parking. Next time I'm paying to park in a fucking ramp.

ETA: Oh my god, I can't believe I forgot to add one of the most offensive/sad costs. Thursday night I was supposed to go see Lucius, a show I'd had tickets for for AGES. Guess who couldn't face going back out immediately after getting home on that exhausting/demoralizing Thursday? Add $20 to my tally for the ticket no one could use.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Future ruins.

When we last checked in with our heroine, she was failing at NaBloPoMo. Since then, there has been one lone earnest request for an update. And I truly aim to please, so a month or more later, I am writing in my blahg. It's a snowy day, one of those where the earth and sky are the same color and the monotony is broken up by sloppy asphalt and bare trees. And one lone red icehouse on the lake that briefly disappeared into the flurries this morning and is now a bright spot again, like a cardinal.

It's been cold as hell this winter, you know. It's always pretty cold up here, but this year there have been unprecedented school cancellations because of windchill (and also plenty of snow). There was a lot of bellyaching about that on the social media among parent-friends I know, and I get it, but those were mostly folks who had to arrange childcare and take personal days to deal with the kids being at home--inconveniences, in other words, but they were all able to take care of it one way or another. There are plenty of parents who HAVE to go to work in order to get money and don't have any personal days or sick days or whatever, and plenty of kids who won't get fed if they don't go to school, and plenty of immigrant kids whose parents have no context for this type of cold and no appropriate clothes for standing at a bus stop or walking to school when it's below zero. So I did a lot of scrolling past all of that even though I truly feel for the stir-crazies, I do.

Hooo, I didn't mean to get into that rant! What I was going to say is that without the enforced exercise/winter recreation of biking to a stupid office most days, my way of dealing with winter this year has been to snowshoe or ski almost every day. And if I don't put some weird equipment on my feet to get recreational, I just go for a walk. And it's been really good, even on the days when we were enveloped by the rage of the polar vortex. It makes you feel tuffff. Walking on a lake makes you feel powerful and small at the same time. And I have discovered the joys of being out in the dark in the snow, which was something I avoided when biking was my main winter jam. When it's overcast, there is so much light trapped between the snow and the cloud cover that you can walk at 10 PM on the golf course and see your way and feel safe, no problem. And when the sky is clear, there is a thin bluish light reflecting off the snow that is equally easy to see by. And when the moon is full, you cast a distinct, dark shadow, and almost feel conspicuous out there.

In about a month all of these things are going to feel like very small consolations but as of mid-February, I have not yet had it with winter, which I feel is pretty good.

Another update is that I started volunteering with an organization that supplies meals to people living with HIV/AIDs, MS, and breast cancer (and their families), no strings, no income requirement. Just people making and delivering food to other people. I had been wanting to do something with food justice and this way I get to be in a big commercial kitchen and meet a lot of interesting people while I slop food into trays or, you know, chop onions for two hours (truth). As a bonus, they keep a fridge just for the volunteers and it is always full of frozen meals and cookies they've made in-house. I'm looking forward to working a bakery shift one of these days, but maybe that won't happen unless I take a really early shift (so I guess that means it probably won't happen).

I also randomly got a very part-timey job that is quite amorphous at the moment, but basically involves working as an assistant to some very lovely people on their donor activism (meaning they do a combination of both big-ticket giving and working on the ground stuffing envelopes and door-knocking etc) for radical, progressive social change. It's going to be very collaborative and fun, I think.

And the voice students do trickle in, though it is a very slow trickle and I often wonder what on earth I am doing with myself and why. Then I have a good day of teaching, and I think "yes I do love this," and it's all better for awhile. I wish I knew what it was like to have clarity of vision and purpose because this is not something I have really ever experienced personally. Or, like, vocational passion. I don't seem to have much of that either. I truly think that what I like best is hanging out, either alone or with my peoples. My most contented-to-transcendent moments in the last several months have quite honestly occurred on snowshoes.

I think 2014 is likely to be mostly about vocation, though--not that other years haven't also been, but this year it's probably going to be much more specific than in years past. It feels more important than it has in years past. And it's the central thing in my life right now, because I've recuperated from my marriage/divorce, and have made a number of personal changes that seem significant--living alone, getting a furry companion, buying a new car that feels like me, quitting a job that didn't feel like me at all--and my preoccupation has to be how I am spending my mortal life. And how I inhabit myself completely, whether that is as an artist or a teacher or a compassionate human being or a reliable and wonderful friend/family member, etc. And also how I inhabit my physical body, frankly. These are the things I think about whilst snowshoeing.

I also think of stupid things while on snowshoes, like I finally came up with my roller derby name after observing many gnawed and felled trees creekside: Beaver Damage. Or maybe it's Beaver Damn. I don't know.

There are big family changes happening in 2014 too. My sister Emily is getting married in April, which is very soon and I have things to do for her. I'm making her bouquet and I need help from the Thrift Army: find me some more non-shitty vintage enamel flower brooches in pinks, reds, and pale oranges for under $5 apiece. Sighhhhhh I do like a thrifting challenge but this one is slow going. I don't think I even have half of what I need yet. The problem with these pinteresty crafts is that they drive up the price and drive down the availability of the raw materials. We're also planning the shower and bachelorette stuff right now, too, which drives home how quickly this is all coming up. And most important of all: what on earth am I going to wear, and which color should my hair be?

Once that's all over, we'll be manically awaiting the arrival of my brother and sister-in-law's BABY this summer. It will be so good to have another baby in the family. These kids here are getting too old. Henry is going to be TWELVE in April.

This whole thing is turning into like one of those coffee dates you have with someone to catch up on the last 10-15-20 years (I had one of those recently too, with my high school English teacher). Disjunct, bonkers, overly newsy. Maybe I should just write more often.