3 Aug 2011, 5:52pm
life travel

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Real Estate

My dad and godfather, Mike, at a Spanish Coffee making contest. And yes, that’s me using a garter as a headband.

My parents were both bartenders when I was growing up. I think my mom ended up in the job because all she wanted to do out of college was party, but my Dad was born to be a bartender. He loves people, he’s loud, and he’s not afraid to jump onto the bar top and sing “Happy Birthday” at an embarrassing volume, through a stolen megaphone. When I was younger, he was famous for this, and actually mentioned, mockingly (or perhaps I should say jealously), in the menu of competing restaurants.

So when I was a little kid, and people told me, “You know, your dad is the best bartender in Eugene,” I not only believed them, I took it for granted. (To the right: I bar-backed for my dad at a private party when I was fifteen years old.)

I think I was twelve or so when Dad started studying for his real estate license. To this day, I have no idea why he chose real estate as a second career, but after a year or two, he started working a second job as a realtor during the day, while continuing to bartend at night. He kept working two jobs all through my years in high school, and then through college. He only retired from bartending a handful of years ago, and then he threw all of his considerable energy into real estate, and he seemed as meant for that as he had been for bartending. He probably works more hours of the day then most people who get paid overtime, but he likes houses, and more than that, he likes helping people find homes they love, so it doesn’t seem like he’s working all that hard most of the time, just that he’s busy doing something he enjoys.

So when people told me, “You know, your dad is the best realtor in Eugene,” I kinda thought, well Duh.

I guess he probably wasn’t, (Though, in his day, he obviously really WAS the best bartender, again, Duh.) this is just something people who liked my dad said to be nice. Especially while he was still bartending and they were sitting at the bar after a few drinks.

Well, until a couple weeks ago anyway.

Dad was named Eugene Realtor of the Year for 2011. Apparently this is a pretty big deal, especially in his Remax office, where they’ve been trying to oust the returning champion (from a different company) for several years. Dad’s boss Kevin, knowing Dad was in the running, kept bugging a friend Judy (who had an in with the committee that selected the winner) to find out who won, finally stating: “If I knew Colin (my dad) won, I’d fly his daughter and grandson out as a surprise.”

Judy called his bluff.

So, Ender and I found ourselves hiding in plain sight at the Eugene Hilton, (above: Ender trying to blend in) waiting to show up when Dad got the award.

Dad had called me on the way to the banquet, just to chat, and told me he had to go when he got there. I was nursing in the hotel at the time, and told Dad to call me back later if he felt like it, since I didn’t really have much of anything going on beyond taking care of Ender.

At first, Dad probably had a hunch that he might win this year, but Mom managed to throw him off course, because Dad knew that they always have the spouses at the awards banquet.

Dad asked her if they’d called to invite her, and she said no, so Dad knew he hadn’t won this year.

When he asked if she wanted to go with him anyway, she said no, she thought she’d get sit outside and get some sun instead. So winning was already a surprise.

Ender and I were hiding in the hall, so I didn’t get to hear them making fun of him, or surprising him with the award, but I heard the very end when they asked if he could think of anything that would make the moment any better.

I think they’d hinted that I was here, because he was already both stunned and confused, and didn’t manage to answer before they brought me out.

He was pretty taken aback. He handed Ender back after a minute or two, saying he didn’t want to break him. I think he was pretty shaky, and a little afraid of dropping him.

Dad looked almost too blindsided to look shocked. Shocked was a few notches down on the surprise meter, once he had a chance to process.

In a way, Mom and I were just as surprised since we’d only known about the whole plan for about a week: it was all very last minute, and the excitement was still high, with no time for the secret to get unbearable.

When I first heard what they were planning, I didn’t think I’d be able to take them up on it. For one thing, I’d sworn before Ender was born that I’d never fly with him by myself, especially as a lap ticket.

Faced with the opportunity to eat my words, it almost didn’t occur to me that the trip was even an option. I was exhausted from a previous weekend of travel (Matt and I drove Ender to PA to meet family there) and barely recovering from mastitis, which makes nursing not only painful, but exhausting and more difficult than usual.

Then I reconsidered, realizing that the discomfort would be more than worth it. Flying cross country with an infant was a pain in the ass, but it was amazing to have the chance to introduce Ender to my parents a month early (they’re coming out to visit at the end of August).

Once I decided I was up for it, I had to figure out if it was possible. Even “portable” baby gear isn’t really all that portable, and I’d only have my own hands, which would be filled with baby.

The only real option was to get equipment in Eugene. I looked up baby gear rental companies, but although I found a couple in Portland, and one in Bend, I didn’t see any options for Eugene. Which is weird, because Eugene is definitely bigger than Eugene, but Bend is more of a tourist destination, so maybe rental equipment is more in demand, and therefore more available.

Borrowing would have been a possibility if Mom knew of anyone who had children that had just outgrown the equipment needed, but she didn’t. In the end, Mom ended up buying a carseat and play-yard (with bassinet). I went online and found a convertible carseat that he’ll be able to use when we visit in about a year as well, so it will be a little less useless. I don’t love the carseat, but that’s a different story and it was safe and worked for the time I was there.

I was out from Wednesday to Monday. 5 days seemed just long enough to make it worth it, and I didn’t want to stay longer, because I didn’t want to be away from Matt for any longer. Or to take Ender away from Matt for longer. Though I have to admit, a small part of me hated him just a little, for getting 5 whole nights of uninterrupted sleep.

Ender had already met his other grandparents, but for some reason it was a completely different experience watching him with my parents.

My mom calls him “baby boy!” in exactly the same tone as I do. Dad kept saying how beautiful Ender is, and is having as hard a time calling himself “Gramps” as I am trying to remember to hand Ender over to “G-ma” and “Gramps” instead of “Mom” and “Dad.” Whenever we went somewhere that my parents had friends, they hardly let me hold him they were so busy showing him off.

I talked my parents into waiting until late August to come out and visit, because it’s not likely that they’ll be out more than once a year or so, and I thought they would rather have some time to interact with a three month old (who’s old enough to interact back) than spend the whole time looking at a just born baby. Dad likes babies but my mom always claims to be not very into babies, at least, not newborns. I knew it would be different with her grandchild (as I assume it was different with me as a baby), but I was surprised at how dreamy-in-babyland she was. She was content to hold him, pacing to get him to sleep, for my whole visit.

As with our visit to PA, and the visits by Ender’s Cinci grandma, the thing I’m most struck by is how Ender is surrounded by people who love him. I’m so grateful that I had a chance to bring him to Oregon while he was new, and that my parents will get to see him again in just a few weeks. I wonder if I was ever really aware of how far away my family was before I had a baby.

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  • 9 Apr 2010, 11:15am
    brains travel writing


    Escape from Shmoopocolypse 2010

    Or, “If Shmoocon 2010 was a Zombie Movie.”

    It’s taken some time, and a whole lot of therapy, but I think I’m finally ready to talk about what happened.

    Everyone’s heard of the great “snowpocalypse” in DC a few months back, the snowstorm that covered the east cost this last February. Most people don’t realize that this story is a government hoax; hiding something much darker than snow.

    It did snow that weekend. Matt and I drove carefully into town, eager to attend Shmoocon, DC’s annual hacker convention. We checked into the hotel and brought our bags to the room. We were disappointed with the view, but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for the convention. We scampered downstairs to the convention center, innocent and happy as ripe strawberries. Matt’s Utilikilt flapped merrily, alarming the other guests. How could we have known that our carefree time would soon come to an end? No one could have predicted it.

    We went to see the keynote speaker, not a thought in our heads beyond computer p0wnage and chocolate tastings. Caught a session on cyborgs, with a deeper look into modern brain surgery. I think it was this focus on brains, and all the busy brains at work, that brought them.

    Hanging out in the hotel restaurant during lunch break, one of the hackers started acting strange. More strange than usual for computer geeks I mean. Reader be warned: consuming a few too many Great Lakes Beers may push you to try things that are not wise. Our friend Tom Eston was lucky to escape with his life.

    Matt and I left the bar, only a little uneasy, but we quickly realized things at the convention were spiraling out of control.

    The government run media didn’t make up the snowstorm entirely. When we got to the doors, snow surrounded the building like trigger happy Blackwater mercs. There was no way out. Inside, hotel doors were exploding with groaning, staggering hackers. At first I thought they were drunk, normal enough at ten AM on a convention weekend, but then Larry Pesce took a bite out of poor Paul Asadoorian and I realized it must be more than normal hacker hijinks.

    A crash and a sprinkling of glass made me look up. Fists smashed through the skylights, mindless of the cuts. Snow thundered down along with several battered people. They fell three stories to the atrium below. Then they got back up. That’s when I knew something was very wrong.

    We hid behind a malfunctioning ATM machine for a while. I rocked in place, refusing to acknowledge what was happening. Eventually I had to accept the truth. ZOMBIES. We made a break for it.

    In the first conference room we met friends: Tom Eston– still shaken from his close call, and Chris Clymer– oddly mesmerized by the corpses slumped in the audience seats. Jack Nichelson and his wife Kim. But our entrance awakened new monsters. These were quickly dispatched with typical hacker ingenuity but time was running out.

    We had to find a way out of the hotel, out of DC.

    From one end of the hotel to the other we fled, meeting blocked doors and drooling ex-hackers. The floor was littered with body parts, blood splattered the walls. Each turn brought fresh foes, but finally we had a moment of peace to think.

    Matt remembered our hotel room. Our lousy view.

    Minds on escape, we rushed to the fire stairs. I fumbled with the hotel key, terrified that another zombie would find us exposed.

    Luck was with us. We spilled into the hotel room, sped to the window. It was alright. No zombies had found the roof yet, and though the snow was quickly piling up, there was room to climb out. Just.

    Fortunately, all hotels in DC have helipads, and the helicopter keys were in the ignition. Chris quickly read through the manual we found beneath a seat and Tom took the controls.

    Hanging out the open doors, Kim and I got a great view of the city, but the ride didn’t last as long as we might have hoped. “We’re out of gas!” Matt screamed over the roar of the rotors. I thought we were going to crash, but Tom managed to bring us down safely inside the panda enclosure at the National Zoo.

    A panda sunk its claws into Jack’s leg. Let me tell you, those things aren’t as cuddly as they look. We got him away from the panda, but the injury slowed him down a bit so we had to help him up the wall. Then we had to climb the outer fence as well because the zoo was closed “due to snow.” A likely story. Once we were outside it was obvious the zombies were not just in the hotel. Scenes of masacre lined the streets. Before we could run from the zoo gates, we saw several zombie orangutans gnawing on some poor sap’s severed arm. Seeing the infected animals made me hope the panda that got Jack wasn’t tainted as well, but I didn’t mention my fears.

    We needed transportation. There were a few lost souls wandering the streets, but it was clear they wouldn’t last long. We wouldn’t last long. We kept low, hiding behind any cover we could find.

    Zombie packs roamed the streets, and a few times we were almost seen. The zombies were slow, but we knew their groaning would alert other groups. We saw the national guard through the trees, but we didn’t dare try to signal them, for fear of giving ourselves away to the hoards. Finally, we found hope:
    An abandoned Bobcat with snow treads was idling a few blocks from the zoo. I tried not to think of what might have happened to the previous operator, it was enough that we had found our salvation.

    It was difficult to fit all six of us in that little Bobcat, but we were so glad to see the last of DC (Doomed City) we didn’t care.

    If only it really were the last. Like a bad Jerry Springer, the infernal city kept pulling us back in.

    Every time we hit the highway, we found our Bobcat grinding back into the center of DC. On our third circuit, it was starting to get dark. Kim let the machine slow to a stop. “What are you doing?” I demanded. She ignored me.

    “Tom!” Kim pointed through the Bobcat’s grill. “Isn’t that…” we looked up ahead to see a small figure crouched behind a statue of Nathan Hale. “It’s your wife!”

    Before we could stop him, Tom jumped from the Bobcat and sprinted to the dark shape. We followed cautiously in the rising shadows, but as we got closer, I saw that it was indeed Tom’s wife, Jill. She didn’t move as we approached her, but clutched her arm. It oozed blood through the bandage she’d fashioned from a Smithsonian banner.

    Tom stopped abruptly feet away from her, staring. “Are you bit?” he asked. She started to speak but couldn’t make noise. Tom wrenched forward, grabbing her about the shoulders and shaking her. “ARE YOU BIT?”

    Jill cried out in pain as her arm shook. “No!” she managed. “I got cut climbing out of the basement of some building in Adams Morgan. Thank God I had a chainsaw to get through the glass.”

    “Thank God!” said Tom, and held her tightly. They had a tenderly shmoo-pey scene which I’d prefer not to dwell on. Then Tom gently removed the Smithsonian banner and replaced it with a tourniquet made from his jacket sleeve. “Let’s go,” he said, pulling Jill to her feet.

    I shook my head worriedly. “Just one problem,” I told him. “Bobcat won’t run with seven.”

    “WE’LL MAKE IT RUN!” he said.

    When we turned back to the Bobcat, we realized it didn’t matter how many it could hold. Two zombies, perhaps drawn by the sound of the engine, were stumbling around our faithful machine. Behind them, another zombie tried to claw its way into an abandoned car. At the sound of Tom’s yell, they all looked at us.

    Matt said, “Run!” but Tom shook his head. I looked at Jill and Jack, both still bleeding from fresh wounds and realized he was right. We could never make it. The zombies lurched toward us.

    “Good thing I have this,” said Tom, and he pulled a Molotov Cocktail from his coat pocket. “Who’s got a light?” Matt pulled a metal lighter from his kilt pocket and tossed it to Tom.

    I stared at the Molotov Cocktail. “Where did you-”

    “No time!” said Tom. He lit the rag and threw the bottle, not at the zombies as I expected, but at our trusty Bobcat. It exploded like the forth of July, and after a wave of heat and noise, the streets were blessedly empty.

    For a time.

    It was only a few minutes before the sound of the explosion brought others. We could see black forms walking jerkily in the snow at the end of each street. We stood in the snow, shivering, wondering what to do. Below his kilt, Matt’s knees got goosebumps.

    “There!” said Jack, pointing.

    I don’t know how we missed it before. An undamaged Humvee sitting right in the middle of Constitution Avenue. We ran to the car, looking nervously over our shoulders.

    “I’m so glad I brought my double sided lockpicks,” said Matt, shoving his picks into the doorlocks.

    “Hurry!” I urged him, but he had the door unlocked in seconds. Chris climbed into the driver’s seat and quickly hot-wired the Humvee while the rest of us tumbled in. We ran over four of the zombies with scarcely a bump.

    Otherwise, leaving DC was no easier in the Humvee.

    The roads were chaos. Cars drove in every direction and as before, we found ourselves irresistibly drawn back to the center.

    “We’ll have to leave the main roads,” said Jill as we swerved down Pennsylvania Ave for the fifth time.

    Chris nodded and smashed the Humvee through the cement fence. I winced at the noise, but the car rumbled on, unconcerned.

    Zombies looked in at us stupidly as we ran them over. Their bodies were as slippery as the snow.

    Once we left the main roads, we were alone in the darkness and DC seemed to relinquish its hold. The trouble is, we didn’t know where we were going.

    Matt looked for a way out on his Android, while I tried my iphone, but whatever way we took we seemed to keep hitting dead ends.

    In the back, Jack groaned, and I glanced back at him. He looked a tad grey. I bit my lip, and met Matt’s worried look, but we didn’t say anything. Chris tightened his grip on the wheel and drove.

    Slowly we got further from the city, and we saw fewer and fewer zombies the more we drove. We continued finding bad roads, but we just turned around and continued.

    Around midnight, our road trailed off into a corn field. Chris pulled the car around sharply and we heard a sound like a shot. The car shuddered. My shoulder slammed into the side, painfully. “The tire,” said Kim. “We must have hit a nail.”

    We looked at each other. “We haven’t seen a zombie for hours,” I said.

    “I’ll get it,” said Jack.

    “What about your leg?” asked Kim.

    He shrugged her off. “I’m fine.” I think he knew already, what we all knew. More grey than ever, Jack hopped out of the car (really hopped, that leg wasn’t fine at all) while Kim watched fretfully. The tire came off easily and we all waited in silence while Jack jacked up the Humvee. He was just tightening the final nut when the zombies started out of the corn.

    “Get back in the car!” said Kim. “Jack!” He looked at her and smiled, shrugged.

    He hefted his tire iron. “Come on you bastards!” he yelled. “Let’s see who’s Left 4 Dead tonight!” Jack waded into the melee swinging. They must have finished him in the end, but not before he splattered a bundle of zombies in the snow. We drove off before it was over, knowing there was nothing else we could do.

    We made it home eventually. Since that time, Matt, Tom and Chris have dedicated themselves to zombie research. After two months of hard studying Matt got his PhD and Chris finally earned his MD, while Tom spent his time stockpiling one of every weapon there is.

    Next weekend, at Notacon 7, the three of them will give a presentation on Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. Be there. Because believe me, whatever the government says to the contrary, it’s coming.

    Please take a minute to appreciate the sacrifice off Jack Nichelson who surely lost his life while taking some of these photos, tire iron swinging. Also, a moment of silence is in order for Jess Rudolph of the Confused Greenies, an unwitting test subject.

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  • 9 Sep 2009, 6:03pm
    life travel


    On a Boat


    This last weekend may have been one of the most relaxing I’ve had in ages.

    boat_11Our friends Jack and Kim invited us along on a boat ride Saturday. The 31 foot sailboat belongs to a friend of theirs, so I was a bit nervous about barging (hah!) onto the trip, but he was a super nice guy and seemed happy to share the experience, not to mention his knowledge on boating. He put everyone to work who wanted to work (for myself, I prefered to stay out of the way, clinging to anything that seemed somewhat stable) teaching them boating slang as they went. I guess Jack and Kim join him on sailing races pretty often, so they were more or less already part of the crew.

    boat_10Matt got a chance to haul rope and generally play pirate (no boarding though) which he seemed to enjoy. I love boats but am not so much a fan of, you know, water, so I didn’t help much until the end, when we pulled into a dock which seemed WAY to small for the boat. It was a bit of a scramble, with everyone running to the edges to push away from whatever permanent feature was about to hit the boat. On my side we nearly hit a large metal pole. I thought to myself, someone really ought to take care of that before we hit it. Then I looked around at everyone already frantic with something and realized, aw crap, that’s me. I’m still shocked we managed not to scrape off any paint or people.

    boat_3We sailed from Elyria to Edgewater which gave us some fantastic views entering the city.

    boat_12Other than docking, most of the trip was pretty tame. For the first few hours there was unfortunately not enough wind to sail, so we had to motor our way east. This made things easy, but I liked it better when the sails went up. The weather was beautiful, a gentle breeze that got us up to 7 knots (nots? whatever, and don’t ask me to translate that into mph), with nothing rough enough to make me wonder if I’d end up in the lake. In spite of my dislike (ok, FEAR) of water, when I was a kid, my ideal bed was a padded row boat in a flooded room. For some reason my parents didn’t go for that, but I could easily have fallen asleep for large parts of this trip.

    boat_9The only slightly scary part of the sailing had nothing at all to do with the weather. This was labor day weekend, our destination was to anchor downtown and watch the airshow. Being labor day weekend, it was rather crowded, which was entertaining during the show, but extremely annoying afterward.

    boat_1I guess it’s the same old story of one bad egg ruining the… whatever it ruins. In this case there were several. I’m not a boater, so I may not have the right to get indignant when people ignore ship rules. As a passenger though, I feel pretty entitled to be pissed off when people put me in danger. A good handful of motorboats decided they were getting back to the dock, and screw everyone else. They jetted back at top speed, causing wakes that pushed everyone else in all directions and all angles. I don’t know if we nearly tipped, or how close we came to the other sailboat riding the waves, but I DO know that the captain was looking anxious, and looking sideways and suddenly seeing water is pretty freaky for a landlubber.

    boat_5Mostly though, people were friendly, and except for the few jerks, considerate of each other. Also, fireboat showing off=me acting about four years old with simple happiness.

    boat_7We had a fantastic view of the air show, getting constant close flyovers. This was exciting, and I probably missed some of the show trying to get good photos, but I got some good shots so I think it was worth it. They did all the sort of death defying loop-de-loops you expect from the Blue Angels, but I think the flyovers were my favorite part.

    boat_8There is something alarming about seeing airplanes so close to the cityscape.

    boat_6 The air show lasted several hours, with leisurely breaks in between. People on other boats were swimming and climbing around like the boats were jungle gyms.

    boat_4I don’t expect I’ll have the opportunity to go sailing all that often, and I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much if it got “exciting.” I wouldn’t have missed this weekend though.

    On a totally unrelated note, I’ll be working on the blog design for the next few days (read: weeks) so the layout may be a bit… broken for a while. I know there’s a way to work on wordpress blogs without disturbing the online site, but I haven’t figured out how, so please just forgive me for any annoyances.

    Current layout:


    Eventual layout (I hope):

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