Tag Archives: Washington

Just add water

After we picked up my sister and her girls and successfully motored back to Wallyworld, running on plenty of gasoline, we settled in for a few days’ respite before heading out again to the western part of Washington State. Our plan was to go white water rafting on the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth. Newly familiar with white water rafting since we’d done it exactly one time previously, Susanne and I were confident. My nieces had never done this before, but my sister Kathy is a pro, having rafted in West Virginia many, many times.

All we needed to do was make a 3-hour car trip to the rafting site. We’d meet up with the guides at 1 in the afternoon.

We pulled in to Leavenworth a bit early and instead of hanging out for an hour at the rafting departure site (read, bunch of old school buses by the side of Hwy. 2), we ventured into the town proper. And then we were amazed at what we saw.

It was Bavaria. Better, it was Pretend Bavaria. Everything in the town was Germanic—from the chatel-inspired McDonald’s to the lettering on the gas price signage at the Texaco. They didn’t miss a single building. This was not some half-ass attempt at reinventing the Alps the way they’ve never existed, no sir. This was a complete overhaul of what had been, 40 years ago, a desolate mining town a bit too far from Seattle to be interesting. Well, now it’s interesting, if not extremely strange in its—dare I say fascist—adherence to the Bavarian aesthetic. It was so comprehensive we had trouble finding things we wanted to find, like the pharmacy. Or the Mexican restaurant we were told to try for dinner. Just take a minute to wrap your mind around a Germanic Mexican restaurant. Yeah. Now you know what Vicodin is like.

Squandering our time on a putt-putt golf course, it was even more surreal to see the miniature version of Fake Germany. And here the height of the nieces came into wonderful relief.

Emily and Jamie are giants

Emily and Jamie are giants

Other than the really cute buildings, I am sad to say that this mini golf course is not really worth the cost of admission. But hey, we had time on our hands.

Then it was off to the river, where we put on our lifejackets (always stinky, but they’re kind of a part of the gestalt of it all) and got a quick course in river safety. We’d been informed of safety considerations the last time we’d been rafting, too, but this time, well, there wasn’t much of a need. In August, on the Wenatchee, after a summer of heat and blue skies, we were lucky the water was up to our knees. This was not so much white water rafting as lazy river floating. I’ve seen higher waves getting into my tub. We got stuck a lot, mostly under my fat ass, as it happened. It was a pretty course, though, and stands to be a lot more active if one travels there in say, late spring.

Our guides informed us that in two days they were expecting 75 Microsoft developers, which they would spread out over 15 rafts or so. I could only imagine. Talk about a team-building exercise. They could lose half their staff on some of those thick rocks. It’s one thing to get stuck at a management retreat trying to figure out how to survive on the surface of the moon with 18 inches of twine, 27 bottle caps, and two pounds of Limburger cheese, but it’s another to actually need to paddle together. I kind of wanted to tag along to see how it would go.

But we had other adventures to conquer—taking the ferry to Victoria, the wonderful and colorful Butchart Gardens, and the idiosyncratic fish-throwing mongers of the Seattle market. Low-water rafting was just our gateway vacation event.

Idio(t)syncrasies

A few weeks ago Susanne and I ventured to a large banking institution to open a joint checking and savings account. I mean, we are married, after all, I suppose it’s time we join our moneys — even though, ahem, I have no income to speak of at the moment. I haven’t gotten desperate enough yet to start selling brownies and Shrinky-Dinks in front of the house, even though that pulled in a nice $2.85 for me weekly in the late 70s. I spent a lot of time making those Shrinky-Dinks, thank you very much, mostly traced from SuperMag and Scooby-Doo comics. There were also the little “shell people” I would craft after visits to the Jersey Shore, with googely eyes crazy glued to the tops to give them that little extra something. Those were my seasonal wares and were always gone by late September, so you had to get there quickly before they were snatched up, pipe cleaners and all.

So in the Bank of [insert country name here] we set up our accounts, and then had the banal joy of selecting debit card designs from a wonderful panoply of choices that would really say something about us as individuals. Oh, the variety was stunning — any particular baseball team we wanted, a full spectrum of national not-for-profit causes and organizations, scenic vistas of various regions across the country, the list was just endless, really. I imagine it would be akin to a Soviet-era Russian standing in the middle of Wegmans trying to select just one kind of potato chip. It blew our minds, really.

There were those that we could rule out quickly — nothing anti-choice or overly religious. Nothing with an animated character, lest German businesspeople scoff at us like they do in that American Express commercial (talk about advertising by snobbery!). Nothing falsely or extremely patriotic — because also, I am not one for breaking the Flag Code of the United States. The flag is the flag, and it’s not supposed to be represented except as a flag, for the love of Pete. And if you don’t believe me, here is the text from the U.S. Code:

 

§176. Respect for flag

No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

  • (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
  • (b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
  • (c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
  • (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
  • (e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
  • (f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
  • (g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
  • (h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • (i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
  • (j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
  • The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

 

Who’s patriotic now, huh? Okay, back to the story.
If all of our choices had been equal, I suppose we would have picked some innocuous card face, though we did intend all along to get something different so that we could easily identify the joint account cards from our individual account cards. The bank employee working with us pointed out that the Washington State University cards would give us 15% matching on our “Save the Change” program, and that tipped the balance for us. We ordered the WSU cards, which smartly bear the university’s logo, which is this:
Cougars logo

Cougars logo

Cute, right? I mean, sort of. How logo-y of it to use the letters from the institution to form the cougar, its mascot. Now for those of you unfamiliar with the situation, as I recently counted myself among all of you, there is this big big rivalry between the University of Washington alums and fans and those of the WSU set. University of Washington, or “U-Dub,” as they call themselves, are mostly western Washingtonians, and WSU folks are mostly easterners. If you’ve been following this blog closely (and don’t lie, I see my readership falling off in the last week, so you can’t fool me), you’ll remember that I’ve mentioned an east-side, west-side rift before. Seeing the Cougars logo apparently causes great happiness here in Walla Walla, because every fricking time I’ve pulled out the card over here, the person delivering our service exclaims, “Cougars!” At lunch last week at this little Internet cafe/diner (no really, it’s an Internet cafe and diner), the owner saw the card and clapped me on the shoulder, saying, “Everett, I didn’t know you were a Cougar! I learn something new about you every week!”
Oh buddy, if only you knew. If only. Cougar is the least of my surprises!
I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was just for a 15% match for three months from our craptastic bank. Well, I say craptastic, but at the rate the bank system is going, it will be the last one standing, and then it’ll be like that bad movie that had Sly Stallone in it where all the restaurants were gone except for Taco Bell and the 7-layer burrito and Chilito are the only things anyone eats anymore. It’ll be just like that.
I figured I didn’t want to destroy his happiness at seeing another Cougar in his midst. Besides, he’d walked away to go ring me up. But now it’s like a running joke — my days, rather on the boring side, punctuated by brief moments of exuberant “Cougars!” among my neighbors and people in this side of the state.
During our trip to Seattle last weekend, it was a different story, however, since that’s the west side of the state. I begged forgiveness when using it to pay for things, I pleaded ignorance of their long struggle against the truly inept and ignorant easterners who blithely voted against them in every election. They looked down their noses at me or sighed or said “it’s okay,” in that bored Seattle way that signals that it’s really not okay, take your awful Cougars card and get the hell out of our pretty store that sells Spanish haute cuisine preparation materials. Perhaps I should blame it on the rain — they get so much rain there it’s bound to curb your enthusiasm at some point.
It’s weird to be situated in the east, in the conservative part of the state, and have people be so instantaneously overjoyed by a slim piece of plastic, and attach their newfound happiness to me, just because I’m wielding it. I’m probably more of a Seattle kind of person than I am a Walla Walla person, long rows of vineyard or not, but to them I’m one of their kind because this is where I live now and this is the damn debit card I’m holding, and look how cute it is that I’m assimilating. Very weird. And in its own way, sweet.
Hydrangeas in Seattle

Hydrangeas in Seattle

A winey weekend

Walla Walla is nestled in a valley in southeast Washington State, a largely arid but fertile up-and-down landscape bordered by the Blue Mountains and miles and miles of scrubland. Its sandy soil allows for deep drainage and the mild rainfall lets vinegrowers and farmers control the level of water for their crops via irrigation. So it is that many, many vineyards have popped up here over the years, which have in turn given rise to vineyard-hopping, though I don’t suppose the more uppity wine enthusiasts call it that. 

Susanne’s very good friend and his girlfriend came to visit us this weekend, and we tooled around the area looking for some tasting adventures. Why not, when the alternative is to continue another long day of unpacking and finding new homes for all of the things we saw fit to send across the continent?

 

Road into the grapes

Road into the grapes

We were told, at one of the vineyards, that the locals never make these tours, that it’s only a visitor’s thing. But if that’s the case, it seems strange to me that so many of the restaurants and coffee shops in town are closed today, on a holiday weekend. It’s not, it’s been pointed out to me, like it’s Arbor Day (a genuinely important day in its own right, I’m sure). Perhaps there’s no overlap between people excited by wine and people excited by New York Style pizza, except for me, our friend Jody, and about 12,834 people I’ve met over the years.

 

At the vineyard

At the vineyard

Perhaps Walla Walla is in transition, figuring itself out, moving from some identity it used to have and taking on a new one that meets its needs and new environment better.

Oh, wait. That’s me. Silly boy.

 

Grapes on the vine

Grapes on the vine

The break in the clouds happens at the mountains

Last day in Seattle included a run to the tourist section of Pike Place to get some Dilettante chocolates. Oh, they are so good, even if the service there is a tad worse than spotty. Go ahead and serve them with a frown, I’ll be a truffle-eating monster later. Plus, one Seattle kid being semi-hostile is still nothing like the open disdain and service of frustration one receives in most of DC, so these folks don’t actually impress me at this point. I’m sure I’ll reset my service parameters at some point and then the trips to the big cities out here will leave me shocked and confused. But for now I shrug them off. I shrug you off, mean chocolate lady!

We stopped in at Lush right after, which was amusing for the fact that another staffer at Dilettante was in there complaining to the Lush staff that Chris Rock had come in for a mocha and decried the bad service there and stormed out.

See? It’s not just me. Even CELEBRITIES suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous service there.

Lunch was nice, consisting of a big bowl of brown rice and spiced lamb.

 

Bowl-a-Rama lunch

Bowl-a-Rama lunch

Tasty, and $7.50 to boot. DC could use more little shops like that. So could Walla Walla, for that matter.

We passed by Barneys which had the oddest little window display I’ve ever seen. Feel free to offer opinions and analysis on this:

 

The train is coming at Barneys

The train is coming at Barneys

Okay, what is up with this? Also notice the tormentor — a woman with a villain mustache. So beware the transgender person? Or, we had to mark her as the evil one in this picture because the guy tied to the train tracks with the oncoming engine wasn’t enough to clue us in?

And why is there a pump bottle of soap on her head? 

Barney, Barney, Barney, you’ve gone a bit off the rails yourself, haven’t you? Must be that constant comparison to the annoying purple dinosaur.

We went out for dinner later at Ray’s Boathouse in a completely different corner of the city, and the fish was truly amazing. I ate my weight in mussels for the first course, which were drenched in a spicy tomatoesque bisque, and had a sweet fillet of sablefish atop grilled baby bok choy and delicate rice. Oh, eating quality seafare is so nice, even if it means Susanne has to miss the fun. But I’ll keep it to a minimum, since I do enjoy my dining partner more than what I’m eating.

A quiet evening when we got back, I got up in the morning and chatted with my friend who was hosting me for this trip, and said goodbye to her adorable feline. Found Susanne at what seems quite a patchwork of an airport, and we headed back to Walla Walla. As sure enough, we left the clouds behind as we passed through the Cascades again. Note to Washington State Transportation — your road sure is pretty, but can’t you make it quieter? I’m getting hearing loss making this 290-mile trip!

 

Kiwi the Cat

Kiwi the Cat

World capitol of rain and clouds

Ah, Seattle. When first I spied you in the summer of 2005, you gave me day upon day of warm sunshine, making it seem as though your tendency toward rain was all myth and bunk. It was a wonderful romance we had, and I’ll never forget it.

Sunny Seattle

Sunny Seattle

Yet like so many flings begun without thought for the long-term, we soured, and this time, you’re grouchy, distant, mad about something you won’t communicate. And you rain, rain, rain, barely getting into the high 70s, so that I feel your chill down to my bones. Where did we go wrong, Seattle? How could I have offended you so much that you feel this is your choice, to be so unforgiving? I wanted to live in your confines; your state gave me the other corner instead. I’m doing the best I can, honoring your lakes and your downtown, reveling in your curvy streets and dynamic nightlife. I’ve attempted to support your economy as a faithful visitor, and if you’re a little nicer to me I promise I shall return many times. Unless that’s not what you want.

View from Lake Washington

View from Lake Washington

Don’t push me out, Seattle. Let’s try to start over.

It’s been great, weather notwithstanding, to be back here, visiting an old friend from graduate school, and making little forays into the city. My bad knee is definitely hampering me too much, but I’m doing what I can and I certainly look forward to the day when I can run around a city again, sniffing out the fun offerings and things to see. 

Susanne is out on the other coast at a conference and we’ll rendezvous tomorrow at the airport before heading back to Wallyworld for its annual Fair and Frontier Days. Insert picture of Susanne sneezing at all of the livestock, and heck, maybe we’ll head out of town again and do some exploring at a few of the local apple and pear vineyards. I sure would love to bake a fruit pie and try to make the kitchen feel more like home.

Getting from these separate corners of the state — and there’s a whole lot of nothing in parts of the middle, for sure — is mostly achieved via one mountain pass, which shuts down frequently in winter. It’s not exactly reassuring to see “Chain Tie-On Area” signs and “Grade 5% next 2 miles.” The road in summer seems straightforward enough, though I wouldn’t chance it without brakes you’re sure will work well. And it’s a great view, though I don’t think that’s Mount Rainier we can see off to the west, but some other less tall peak. I need to research that.

I wandered around town yesterday, amused that there’s a neighborhood here called Capitol Hill. They’re very proud of their neighborhood name, and it must have some cache, because you see it everywhere.

 

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's

Later I drove down to the Pike Place Market, looking for some fun window shopping, but primarily looking for a parking spot under $10. It was not to be found in the walking distance I can currently handle. And I’m sad to say that Dilettante Chocolates has closed its Capitol Hill location, but only temporarily as it opens a new shop down the street next month. Still, I need to procure some on this trip, so I’ll venture out to the one downtown later today. 

In the afternoon I met up with my friend and we shared a bit of ethiopian take out at park on Lake Washington. In the east nobody would be out in the water in weather like this — we love our warm Atlantic, even if it does produce awful hurricanes and tropical storms. The Pacific just never seems to heat up over here. But hey, native Seattle-ites will run down the feet-slicing rocky shores, climb up onto a floating dock, and springboard off into the icy water, loving every minute of it. I look on in horror and amazement. And once again feel like I’ve ventured into some foreign country over here. Everyone is so used to needing their black leather jackets and faded jeans they don’t actually change into something else when the temperature is 95F. They just go about their business sweating their asses off, and man, it has got to produce some funky leather smells after a while. So perhaps a dip in the frigid lake works for them after that, who knows. But the water looked pretty, and I really like it when busy cities have their leisurely parts. And Seattle seems to have plenty.

 

Two boys with Pith helmets

Two boys with Pith helmets

East side, west side

Let’s just say the two sides are pretty close. It’s bigger than it lets on, but it’s pretty small nonetheless. I’ve taken barely any photos since I’ve been trying to get the house in order, which is coming along, finally. We may have turned a corner. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Seattle for a few days and I’ll get to spend quality time with an old friend, so I’m really looking forward to that!

Backstage Bistro in Walla2

Backstage Bistro in Walla2

 

 

I’m here at Verve, a “coffee and art house,” which is currently hosting about 5 moms and their kids for a mid-morning get-together. It’s not exactly the hip quiet I was looking for in which to write, but it’s nice that nobody here is frowning on them, either. That’s something to like about this place. I’ve started a list, I suppose, since I just adore lists. So far, on it are the following:

Walla Walla Wheatbrew, a local heffeweisen that is pretty enjoyable with lemon or orange.

The desserts at the Colville St. Patisserie, which nearly makes all of last week’s awfulness bearable.

The slower pace, as referred to earlier, though I’m still on my DC gear so I haven’t noticed it much yet.

Speaking of gears, there is also this:

 

Outside a transmission shop, Walla Walla

Outside a transmission shop, Walla Walla

I’m at a loss for words, I think. But I see a new LJ icon in my future.

It’s a bit rainy today, which is fine because it keeps things cooler around here. It’s not just an abstraction of desert, it was 111F earlier last week. Thank goodness we missed that day. We’re about halfway unpacked, I’d say. Once the pictures all go up we can cover up a bunch of the wall dings, so it’ll look a lot better. It just doesn’t seem like good business practice to me to never inspect one’s investment properties and just wait for shit to break. What’s a $1,000 roof repair today will be a $20,000 roof replacement later, right? But hey, I don’t run the place. I don’t even work here!

So Walla Walla, also called Wallyworld, which I find funny because of Vacation, is kind of cute, kind of hot, kind of small, kind of interesting. I have to hit the pavement for real and get a job. That perhaps deserves its own blog. Kidding.

 

Stone Soup in Walla Walla

Stone Soup in Walla Walla

So Walla Walla is from one of the native American tribes around here, meaning “water water.” It’s right upon the Columbia river and is a big part of the burgeoning wine industry in Washington State. It’s pretty isolated, about 40 miles from the first thing you could call a “big” town, and about two hours south of Spokane. There’s a westerner-easterner of Washington rift here that I’d never thought about but that is reminiscent of the North VA vs rest of the state infighting that folks in the DC area know all too well.

Politics is a little different out here. The WA governer, Chirs Gregoire, came out here last week to give a stump speech on the campaign trail, since she’s up for re-election. About 100 people showed up at this very coffeehouse to hear her speak, and they clapped and had occasional standing ovations. It all ended with chants of “four more years!” Interesting to see their fervor, after I’d gone to Clinton’s concession speech, which looked more like this:

 

Clinton concession speech

Clinton concession speech

I’m not saying one is better or worse than the other, just that there are some different expectations about what government means, how it runs, what politicians can really offer their constituents, and whether political change comes from within or outside the system. I feel very tentative about engaging in any political discussion in a way I didn’t hesitate back in DC, because I knew the grounds for conversation. I have to suss them out here. It’s one more adjustment to make, I suppose.

Okay, on to the researching part of my day. I’ll have lots more photos of Washington soon.

more photos from our trip

Here are some more photos of Lang on my Flickr account:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/evmaroon/sets/72157606911832888/

And here are some shots driving through Montana:

 

Montana mountains

Montana mountains

I’ve only seen things like that in photos on well meaning but irritating motivational posters. Quite another thing to see them in real life, I can attest.

 

Prairie and clouds

Prairie and clouds

Again, even though the prairie got somewhat monotonous, it was still incredible and all that sky!

 

Montana as a storm rolls in

Montana as a storm rolls in

This was the start of a storm that I mentioned in a previous post. We got to see quite a light show up in the Rocky Mountains at real western saloon place named Trixie’s, where Susanne used the one and only outhouse we saw on our trip. I asked how it was and she rolled her eyes at me, because isn’t that OBVIOUS. Well, yes, it is. But as I wasn’t going to use it myself — I think I’d rather die of a bladder explosion — I only had her eyewitness testimony to describe it for me. So I’ll just go on my possibly condescending, limited stereotypes of outhouses to imagine the experience. Thanks a lot, Susanne. ;)

Now then, we left the picturesque West for entry into our new abode, which is best summed up thusly:

 

Our new toilet

Our new toilet

Let’s just say we’re cleaning and unpacking and it’s a bit overwhelming but we’re getting there. Baby steps, people, baby steps. Will post more later about a few things we’ve done since showing up in this town.

Next up: Walla Walla farmer’s market, our first trip to Sonic, and a speech by Chris Gregoire.

Four frat brothers walked into a bar…

Okay, I’m trying to make it sound like a joke because I deal in humor, and jokers are wild, and uh, well, it’s babystepping in terms of progress of our move in. Why babysteps, you wonder? I usually blast through the unpacking stage–turn on some Groove Armada, break out the boxes, a place for everything and everything in its place. Not this time. This time we go to the office to sign the lease and the woman in charge looks at us in wonder. We explain who we are. She looks as blank as one of the 39,867 cows we’ve just passed on our trip. Susanne gives her the address, explains we’re moving in TODAY. Good thing we got here early enough that she’s still in the office, because the back up key pick-up location, the security office, was so not going to be helpful. I say this in hindsight, of course.

“Oh,” she says, “I’m not sure if we’ve cleaned that property yet or not. You can just give Scott a call if you need anything.” She says this like Scott’s generally a helpful fellow. Rest assured, Scott is far, far from being anything close to intrepid, thorough, genuine, or even not completely lazy. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I take Scott’s card, which is worth more as the 1/200th of a penny value of the paper it’s printed on than as a conduit to a resource. We sign the lease, which she is now getting around to printing, pay  the prorated rent plus another grand or so in fees and etc. we didn’t know we’d have to pay, and take possession of the keys.

The house looks so cute on the outside. It’s a little Cape Codder of a building, nestled between some house under renovation and the school’s recycling center. Yes, recycling center. Where people can drop off their cans, bottles, and other sundry renewable items at any time of the day or night. Great. It’s also across from the student health clinic and counseling center, so that in case we have to send any stalker students to counseling, they can conveniently stop by our house on their way to counseling. Also great!

We walk in the back way of the house because that’s where we parked, just outside the garage, where I see about 5 or 6 bees flying into the garage rafters. Oh dear, I think, as one deathly allergic to bees, hopefully we can get the hive, if one is there, destroyed quickly so I don’t have to worry every time I walk into the back yard. We unlock the back door, and walk into the kitchen.

Kitchen! Yay! Kitchen! NO! The floor is streaked with something, there’s schmutz on the stove, and a lot of cobwebs. I suppose the admin assistant was right — this place hasn’t been cleaned yet. Closer inspection — well, not too close — reveals a very dirty toilet in the “quarter  bath” downstairs, which is my new term for it, more dirty floors in the front foyer, and the distinctive and unmistakable odor of cat urine, throughout the house. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. I have taken to calling the house, so cute on the outside, the “Liar House,” because it is so unacceptable in the interior. We walked through the house, finding dinged up walls, many many chips in the trim paint, holes in the wall (Scott later explained he doesn’t care about any hole that is smaller than the size of a human fist — good to know, so I can run around and put a bunch of quarter-sized holes in the wall when we leave), broken fireplace tiles, and on and on. The only house I have ever moved into that was in worse condition than this one was in 1992, when I moved into a place previously inhabited by four fraternity brothers. But other than that, this was disgusting. The mildew in the uncaulked tub alone was enough to call in a professional cleaning service, which I presumed the college has for these FACULTY house rentals.

Nope. We gave the building manager a call, and he explained that he sometimes uses a couple of “girls” he knows through some painters he’s worked with, but that’s it. The only cleaning that is done is done by the exiting tenant. I have never heard such horseshit in my life. I got him to agree to come over to look at the place with us. He was Mr. Excuses — he didn’t know when we were coming, turned into he doesn’t want to inconvenience us with little things like painting, morphed into he knows it needs work and he’ll do it — once we leave next summer. He looked at us like we were a couple of undergrads who don’t know any better. I was pretty furious, but I felt like I couldn’t give him a hard time before Susanne even gets to teaching, and I realize this guy could potentially make my life miserable if I get on his bad side.

Let me make this clear: it’s not like one generally gets good service on things like housing maintenance in DC. Far from it. Everything is a negotiation, a lot of cajoling needs to happen, probably a $20 bill now and again. But you know up front it’s going to be shit, you’re going to deal with BS artists, and you know what to expect. This guy, and as far as I can tell, other folks in this town act like they’re doing you a favor not doing anything for you. He’s telling us we should be grateful we have new windows and an air conditioning unit from 1957. I’ll tell you what inconvenient is, mister jackass. Inconvenient is driving 3,550 miles across the ever-loving country, to come into a disgusting pig sty, needing to turn around, drive another 80 miles round trip to go to a place to load up on cleaning supplies, come back, clean the entire house, and THEN unpack. Inconvenient is not having to step around a painter while he redoes the beat-up trim.

Michael suggested we not rate our Walla Walla experience on the one day. He is right. But I do not see why I should have to put forth a tremendous amount of effort to make things go my way because other people are not doing their jobs. That is not acceptable. And to have this really sweet road trip end in a miserable situation–which could so easily have not had to happen–that is sad. So I am sad. And I will take it one step at a time, and try to find some semblance of home here because I keep hearing Tim Gunn in my head, saying, “Make it work.” Maybe I should email Tim Gunn.

Dear Mr. Gunn, may I call you Tim. Thanks so much for being an inspiration. This town I’ve just moved to seems to really suck, but I know you would tell me to get in there, designers, and make it work. I can really appreciate your positive attitude right now. You’re an inspiration!

Holla at cha boy,

Everett

The loooong state of Montana

Eastern Montana and Western Montana are like old friends who don’t get together so much anymore. As we drove past a 60-mile long Indian reservation (and wow, the US Government really did give them some of the worst, most untenable land in the country), there were a lot of flats and a few rolling hills, the sky reaching down all the way to the horizon. I noticed that a funny thing happens when it does this. It seems to change color, kin of in a hazy way, kind of dusty, kind of purple, kind of Photoshopped. Fascinating to someone who’s only seen sky, buildings, and ground.

Eastern Montana gradually gives way to what can only be described as the Old West, in what eventually comes across as the west’s version of people who still want to live in the old Confederacy. At least they echo each other to me. We saw more mountainous terrain, the CR-V climbing up some 4,000 feet of elevation, and the towns became more frequent and more populated. I also started to see a preponderance of Lounge/Casino/Restaurant establishments, sometimes three or four to a town that had only one general store or grocery. As we made our way west, we started hitting the Rocky Mountains which, shockingly, have a lot of rocks. I’d actually never thought about that! We drove through a mountain pass on our way to Missoula, which was something like you’d see in a spy flick: curvy two-lane mountain road, mountain on one side, balance-beam-wide road (which are 4 inches across, by the way), and cliff. Don’t these people believe in guard rails? Holy shit, we could drive right off into the river below, people! Where is the local chapter of MADD?

(Editor’s note: pictures of all of this are on Susanne’s camera, so when we have a chance we’ll edit this post.)

Missoula was nestled in some of the mountains, down in the valley. Were this California or anywhere on the East Coast, there would be tons of houses up in the hills as well, but the people out west here have a shitload of space, and they’re not anywhere near to using it up yet. And it’s kind of in clumps that are like mercury droplets that haven’t merged together yet — town droplet, space space space, town droplet, etc. We saw as we were driving down, a huge thunderstorm several miles away. The only time I’ve ever seen a storm and not been it it is from the window of a plain, so again, the sky is huge out here. We drove down to our hotel after 10 hours of driving through Montana, only to find that their power had been out for two hours. We gave my friend Anna a call and met up with her for dinner at a local restaurant, and chatted about grad school and crazy people. Ah, it almost felt like home!

The next day we drove through the rest of Montana — how could there be more? — and through Idaho into Washington State. More scrubland, more wheat fields, the start of long lines of wind energy mills, along the tops of the hills. They almost look over you as you go by, far away automatons that could someday descend into town and chop us all into little pieces. So be nice to your neighborhood wind mill, people!

The drive on the last day was only about 6 hours, which for us is a breeze now. The last leg into Walla Walla takes us by a paper mill on the Columbia river which I swear is manufacturing spoiled broccoli, because that’s what it smells like. not spoiled spinach or spoiled anything else green vegetable. Or even spoiled artichoke, which I have personally drunk in the awful form of Cynar, an Italian liquor to avoid AT ALL COSTS. Definitely broccoli.

We rolled into town and showed up at the college to collect the keys to the house and sign the lease. And here is where things went more than a bit downhill. Next post for those details, because I really have to include pictures with that.

But hey, we made it! Final mileage count, 3,550. 27.2 miles per gallon, so we bought 130 gallons of gas, and at an average cost of $4.80 per gallon, that comes out to $625 in gas. We saved a bunch on hotel costs, though, spending three nights for free at various relatives’ homes, and only spent an average of $120 on hotels the other nights. The best shower was at the casino in Niagara Falls, which was a dream. The worst was the little motel in Saskatchewan, but even that was preferable to the disgusting cavern called a shower in our present house. Let’s just say we spent $150 yesterday at Target buying cleaning supplies…

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