Neighborhood News

Well, my $20 may have been turned into crack, but it also turned back into $20. Neat trick, n’est-ce pas?

The guy who borrowed it finally turned up, paid me back, took his license, and told me he loved me again before leaving. That’s what they all say.

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In other neighborhood news, a guy was murdered three blocks away from my house. It explains all those cop cars and crime scene tape I noticed when coming home from the Safeway the other day. Apparently being a gang informant isn’t the healthiest lifestyle choice.

Today I noticed that there’s a “Neighborhood Crime Watch” sign at that intersection. I guess the neighbors watch the crime being committed; in this case, Oakland’s 55th homicide of the year.

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I felt very frivolous reading Vogue on the train as it passed through the industrial outskirts of Oakland on its way to the civilization of the city this week. Of course I had to get this issue, since it includes an article on the much-anticipated Sex and the City movie, now less than a week away*. Nice to know that they’re keeping up the tradition. The series’ seasons used to start on or near my birthday, and the movie is an early birthday present this year. Can’t wait to open it!

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I caught Jacques P?pin’s show this morning, and it inspired me to recreate his shrimp casserole for dinner. I got all the elements at the farmers’ market, and am about to start marinating the shrimp. I just realized that I’m going to have to peel all that shrimp, which is both gross and time-consuming, two of my least-favorite things. I wish I had Jacques’ minions, or Jacques himself, to do that part. I also wish I could peel and chop garlic as quickly and easily as he does.

One of these days, I’m going to get cooking lessons. Or a chef/maid combo. I’d love to have Staff.

*Guess who has the countdown widget on her Facebook profile?

License to Scam?

I’m pretty sure my $20 has been turned into crack.

It’s been hot’n’heinous lately. In a vain attempt to keep from melting/swooning/dying in my very own living room (if I must make a headline, I don’t want it to be as a cat snack), I had the both the front and back doors open to catch any stray breezes*. Since this is Oakland, I had both doors locked.

One sultry afternoon, I was trying to convince myself that the heat was an anomaly, it’s much worse where people have real weather, etc. when there was a pounding on the front door.

A tall, skinny, older African-American man stood there. Gasping slightly, he told me that he was my neighbor and needed $17.50 for a locksmith. His car keys were locked in his house and he needed to go and pick up his granddaughter. I asked him if he needed some water, but he said no. He offered me his driver’s license, which has an address on my street, and told me I could hold it until he brought the money back.

Caught off guard and slightly unnerved, I gave him $20. He gave me the license and ran down my steps, calling out, “I love you! I love you!”

I looked at the license. It expires in 2012, so it’s current, and the description and photo match the look of the guy. It’s been two or three days now, and I’m still mystified. It costs more than $20 to replace your license. Maybe it’s a scam and he has a bunch of fake ones he uses, or he stole it from someone else. Who knows?

Never a dull moment when you live in Oakland.

*The house appears to be set up for central heating and central air, but the central air doesn’t work. I called the landlord, who said vaguely that she had never used the central air, but if you open the front and back doors, you get “an awesome crossbreeze”. Thanks.

Blues Traveller

After complaining so bitterly about being delayed, I have a helluva nerve leaving you all in suspense for so long. All I can say is the Florida thing and the recent hellish heat wave robbed me of what little energy I had left. It was all I could do to keep up with work and whimper occasionally.

The plane left Tampa nearly three hours late. Once we neared Denver, the plane experienced an identity crisis: am I a plane? Am I a roller coaster? One of those horrifying rides you have to sign a waiver before getting on? The pilot blamed the boisterous bouncing on “microbursts”. I had never heard of them before, but as I considered my mortality, I thought they sounded like a new skin care product or maybe a laundry detergent (“Now with the power of microbursts!” “Cleans your skin with fruit extract microbursts!”).

The Denver airport was deserted, as I suspected. Took a cab to the Marriott, where the receptionist took one look at me and gave me a voucher for a free drink. Before she ran my credit card.

If I hadn’t just spent so much time in the staggering luxury of the Florida resort, this would have seemed like a pretty nice room to spend six hours in. Called Room Service and ordered a bottle of wine before the food. First things first. Tried to flip on TV for a much-needed re-run of something mindless. Didn’t work. Called my friend at the front desk.

Room Service brought the wrong wine. Eventually he returned with the right one and the TV repairman. By the time all this was straightened out and the bottle of wine empty, I had five hours to sleep before taking the shuttle back to the airport.

Looking out the window of the shuttle, I saw no signs of a mile high (or even half a mile high) city, just dead brown fields and dark grey sky. The Denver airport’s roof appeared to be made of a collection of weird white tents. The security line looked like those photos of people waiting for food in Communist Russia, right down to the hopeless expressions.

When I finally got through the metal detectors, it was more than half an hour later. The security guy gave me a hard time for putting my tiny Ziploc bag of toiletries on top of my iBook in the bin. I asked why, and he said it made it harder to scan. I pointed out that my completely opaque jacket was on top of my shoes, and that didn’t seem to be an issue.

This may have led to the ensuing bag search. He victoriously brandished my nearly empty tube of Tom’s of Maine all natural toothpaste and started explaining how many people make the mistake of not including their toothpaste in the Ziploc bag. I zipped up my bag and walked away in mid-speech, saying, “Throw it out. Just throw it out.” You’d have to be pretty creative and/or determined to blow up a plane with a teaspoon of baking soda toothpaste, but that’s just my opinion.

I never thought I’d be so happy to see Oakland.

On Hold

Well, here I am at the Tampa (or as I’m beginning to think of it, Tampon) airport. Like Oakland, they don’t have a Red Carpet Club, but they do have WiFi.

I’ve already learned that my flight is delayed by over two hours, so I’ll miss my connecting flight in Denver, and eaten a vile, overpriced sandwich, so I might as well tell you all about it, what with all that time to kill.

This whole thing has been a fiasco from the get-go, so I don’t know why I’m surprised. I do know why I’m annoyed, though.

I got to the airport in good time for my flight, which should have left at 5:30 pm. The departures board showed the flight was delayed, but not by how long. I called United and learned it was two hours, hence the missing of the connecting flight.

I pointed out to the agent that this kind of thing is why airlines take your email address and cell phone number: presumably to notify you of such minor details. I just checked my email and I remain un-notified. I’ve been using my phone enough to know I don’t have a text or voicemail. And you’d think putting the new and worse departure time on the board would be possible with all this modern technology and everything.

Everything is sold out going to SF, Oakland, or San Jose from Denver tonight. Agent Genius suggested that I ask a United ticketing agent when I get there, at 9:35 tonight (or possibly later) and ask them to find me a hotel. I asked if the ticketing desks would still be open then, and guess what? They won’t. But I can flag any passing United person and ask them!

I decided to call someone who is actually in the US and whose first language is actually English to help me out: our assistant in Detroit. She booked me on a flight that leaves Denver at 8:25 am tomorrow and gets into Oakland at 10:02 am – only 12 hours after the time I was supposed to arrive – and reserved a room at the airport Marriott.

So all I have to do now is wait and hope that 7:30 really means 7:30.

Stay tuned (and wish me luck)!

Postcard from Florida

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The Oakland airport is much smaller and less crowded than SFO. This means you can breeze through security after the usual exotic dance routine. Once you do, though, you soon discover that there is no Red Carpet Club, so you have to sit sadly at the gate, where you are tortured by an endless loop of Muzak. The Muzak is punctuated by security announcements about abandoned luggage, which can be “inspected, searched [what’s the difference?], damaged, or removed”. I also wondered about the “damaged” part, whether that means blowing it up, or, say, kicking it around.

Yes, I had too much time to kill at the gate.

Once aboard, I was delighted to discover that I had an entire row to myself. I was less delighted to discover that the father of a small child sitting in front of me had decided to equip his son with a harmonica for the voyage. I imagine that I was not the only one.

As for the Denver to Tampa flight, I’m not sure which was worse: flying through a thunderstorm with all that lightning, or the screaming kids. Since the FAA is always making new rules to make air travel less comfortable, how about one to make it better? I have three options for the powers that be to choose from:

  1. Build a soundproof room at the back of the plane to accommodate people travelling with children;
  2. Enact a rule that children must be sedated, crated, and placed in cargo, along with the other pets (this could have a snappy title like “Sedate’n’Crate” for marketing purposes – it might really catch on); or
  3. Equip flight attendants with tranquilizer darts like on Wild Kingdom.

Banning harmonicas goes without saying.

Being met by the chauffeur was as fabulous as I thought. After the horrors of the planes, it was heavenly to be ensconced in the cool quiet of the Town Car and sped through the dark, balmy night to the fancy resort.

On checking in, the front desk apologized profusely for the suite, whose balcony faces (gasp!) the lagoon, instead of the beach (as seen above). They are moving me to the beach suite later on today, but all I have to do is leave my bag and they?ll take care of it, so I can ?enjoy my day?. I could get used to this.

Speed & Demons

I went outside this morning to leave offerings for Grey Cat, and was astonished to see a hearse speeding down my street, its tires squealing as it went around the corner. A speeding hearse is a strange sight indeed.

About a week ago, I started leaving food and water under the porch for Grey Cat, a handsome stray who often suns himself on my garage roof. It occurred to me that he might be having a hard time finding water now that the winter rains are over and we might have to start rationing soon. And if I’m leaving water, why not food?

I wasn’t sure if he was the one emptying out the bowls, but this morning, I saw his tail slipping under the porch, and the kittens watched carefully. Eventually, he emerged and had a bath, which made me happy. I hope that eventually I can get close enough to pet him and maybe even get him to the vet for a check-up and spay/neuter. He can be my outside cat. I should think of a better name than Grey Cat, though.

I should also get packing for this Florida thing. I’m hoping to get by with carry-on, since I get to Tampa at 9 pm and then have an hour’s drive to the resort where the conference is being held. Apparently they are going to send a car for me, which is the most exciting part of the trip so far. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who are met at the airport by a chauffeur holding a sign. I can pretend to be a movie star!

Yesterday, I printed out the agenda, and it is disturbingly full of cocktails and assorted social events. As you all know by now, I am by no means cocktail-averse, but I have never liked drinking with coworkers. I don’t know what’s worse: seeing your boss tipsy, or having him/her experience your alcohol (in)tolerance. At my old job, there was a guy who got so tanked at our yearly conference that he peed in the bar manager’s office, mistaking it for the bathroom. More than a decade later, I still remember this event, and I’m not the only one, since it came up every year at annual conference time.

So I think I’ll stick to soda water and avoid disgracing myself any further than I already will by not being an actual grown-up. If anyone asks me about it, I’ll get all tragic and murmur “rehab” and “recovery” and see how embarrassed they get.

Damages

I was drinking coffee this morning, minding my own business and slowly coming to the conclusion that it’s really waking up, not breaking up, that’s hard to do, when I heard a noise. I went to investigate, and both kittens cannoned into me en route. It soon became clear why they were running so fast: they were fleeing the scene of the crime.

They had torn the shade of the floor lamp in the living room in two. The bottom half pooled sadly on the floor, and the top half hung there dejectedly.

While inspecting the damage and wondering if I could get a new shade, or would have to invest in a whole new lamp, I noticed a guy going through my recycling. Not only was he investigating the contents of the recycling cart with the thoroughness of J. Edgar Hoover perusing JFK’s file, he was tossing the rejects on my driveway.

Stealing my recycling is one thing, but making a mess for me to clean up while doing it is something else. You know how I feel about cleaning up my own untidiness; cleaning up someone else’s is unconscionable.

I went outside and yelled at him to leave. He just stared at me. I made a shooing gesture and repeated my order to vacate the premises. He retreated a few feet, then stopped and stared again, inspiring an encore from me. He finally shuffled off to the corner, where he met up with a fellow thief/mess-maker, and pointed at me before they went to see if there were easier pickings somewhere else.

A few hours later, a woman appeared at my door and said she was there to provide elder services. I do have a birthday coming up next month, but I’m not that old. Not yet. I explained to her that I was the oldest person here and she must have the wrong address.

Maybe the recycling guy called her on me, like kids playing a prank on their neighbors by sending them lots of pizza.