Starting the New Year Fresh

I did it.

I not only deactivated my Facebook account, but I also requested permanent deletion since apparently you can’t actually delete your own account. Fuck you, Facebook.

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

I’ve been moving in this direction for some time, deactivating my account periodically for over a year for longer and longer periods. Most recently, it was several weeks. I logged back in a few days ago out of curiosity and discovered it was just as full of stupid as it was when I left.

After one of my friends (who feels the need to comment on everything) left yet another innane comment about something I’d posted on my wall, I said that was enough. It was to kill the account completely.

 

Recommended

To be filed under One of Those Things I Never Thought I’d Want or Need Until I Had One:

I bought one of these for Ben for Christmas, and liked the sound so much I went out yesterday and bought one for myself. Until now I’d been (quietly—open cubes, don’cha know) listening to streaming audio at work through my Air’s speakers to try and drown out some of the inane chatter that comes from the pre-cert nurses on the other side of the cube walls. The sound from the Air was okay and did what it needed to, but once I heard this little beast I knew what I’d been missing.  I don’t know what manner of black magic is being invoked to achieve it, but even at the low volumes I’m forced to listen to at work, this speaker puts out a good amount of bass that makes music sound so much better.

“Professional” reviews can be found here and here.

$70 at your local Targhey…

Am I Weird?

People have been raving about it, so I went to see The Hobbit yesterday. It wasn’t something that Ben had any desire to see, so I knew it was a film I’d have to go to on my own. Since he was in Phoenix, I took the opportunity and walked down to the train station and jumped on light rail for a ride to the theater.

I never read The Hobbit (Yeah, yeah, I know. How can a teenager of the 70s have not read The Hobbit?), but I loved The Lord of the Rings as well as the Harry Potter films without ever having read their source material either, so I expected to once again be greatly entertained by this journey to Middle Earth.

Sadly, I was not amused. I can’t honestly say I gave a flying fuck about any of the characters, and it seemed to be little more than one pointless CGI creature battle after another. After the mountains finished fighting, I quietly gathered up my belongings and left.

Maybe I missed something in that last half that would’ve awed me and changed my opinion. But the theater was freezing (I had my heavy coat on), I had an hour’s trip home and still needed to get my turkey breast in the oven; all of which seemed more interesting than what I’d seen on the screen thus far.

A Series of Unfortunate Decisions

Spending a total of about 13 hours on the road Wednesday and Thursday driving back to Denver gave me plenty of time to think about the nightmare that was my trip to Phoenix. While I remain an atheist, I can’t help but wonder if there is still some underlying clockwork in the way the universe works, because I clearly see how Point A led to Point B which led to Point C and so on. (Or maybe it’s only that hindsight is just 20/20.)

About a year ago, when the first bit of freezing weather hit Denver, I noticed that my car had started leaking fluid. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, so I took it into the MINI dealer to have it checked out.

Turns out there were two leaks, as well as a cracked strut mount. Thankfully my Geico mechanical breakdown insurance was willing to cover all three items, but with a separate $250 deductible for each. I didn’t have an extra $750 laying around, so I opted for the strut mount (a safety issue) and the power steering leak—especially after they told me the coolant leak around the thermostat wasn’t that bad, and I’d be fine for a while as long as I kept the reservoir topped off.

Well, the weather warmed up and the coolant leak stopped. I had the car in for service for another matter last summer, and they noted the leak, but also said it didn’t appear to be active—but that it should still be repaired.

First bad decision: choosing to ignore the recommendation when I actually had the money to get that leak fixed.

Of course, once the first freeze hit this year, the leak returned. It wasn’t any worse than it had been previously, so I just kept topping off the reservoir as I had last winter.

Second bad decision: Insisting on driving to Phoenix instead of flying. Ben kept telling me I should fly and just rent a car when I got down there. But I kept thinking that if we were really going to end up moving dad into a group home, that meant going through his house and pulling whatever I wanted to bring back with me and it would be so much easier to just drive it back rather than attempt to ship it.

Third bad decision: only bringing enough of my meds to cover the expected trip duration of five days, and in the flurry of rushed activity that started this whole ordeal, forgetting to pick up a refill of one of the more important ones (going off with only two days worth) before I left.

But other things also seemed to be working behind the scenes in my favor. Even though Geico refused to cover the starter replacement because they said the unrepaired coolant leak contributed to the failure in Phoenix, a week earlier I’d finally gotten around to opening new checking and savings accounts at a local credit union (I’d been using my Phoenix accounts all this time), where I was given a $1000 overdraft line of credit that doesn’t have to be repaid immediately. The final bill for replacing the starter and thermostat came to $950.

And as my very wise friend Cindy said after it seemed storm after storm was rolling through my expected route home, “Maybe this breakdown happened when it did to keep you in Phoenix a few extra days so you don’t end up skidding off an icy mountain road to your death.”

That really got me thinking, and I was finally able to accept the situation. Yeah, I still wasn’t happy about it, and I was losing almost a full week of work (I did have a bit of PTO remaining for the year), but the most important thing in my mind now was to stop bitching about what life had thrown me and simply do whatever was necessary to ensure that I got back to my Ben safely.

On my last day in Phoenix, I was supposed to tour a few facilities with the adult care coordinator my sister was working with, but thankfully he called that morning and had to cancel because of a sick child (“Everyone I know has been down with this horrible stomach bug that keeps you in bed for days.”)

Bullet dodged. The last thing I needed after everything else that had happened was to come down sick.

My sister met up with him the next day.

They located a suitable facility, and Dad is now placed and settled—if not happy—in a group home and is out of the toxic environment he had been living in.


Yes, I had to wear a surgical mask and rubber gloves (not shown) when cleaning out the mobile home. It was that bad.

 

And continuing to keep my personal safety in mind, I decided to take the longer—but sure to be drier—southerly route back to Denver, driving through Tucson and into New Mexico on I-10 to meet up with I-25 in Las Cruces.

Other than running into a dust storm that lasted from outside Deming to north of Las Cruces…

…the entire route (including Raton Pass, which had been a major worry for ice and snow) was uneventful, and for the most part, completely dry.  In fact, by the time I reached Colorado Springs you couldn’t even tell that the snowpocalypse that the fear-mongering Weather Channel had dubbed Draco, had even passed through.

(As an aside, I still say New Mexico needs to change its state motto from Land of Enchantment to Land of Neverending Road Construction.)

And of course, now that I’m home, Ben is about to get on the plane that was supposed to take us to both to Phoenix for Christmas.

But you know what the worst part about all this was? Nothing I did while I was down there could not have waited until next week. Simply put, my sister panicked. I ran two errands to request Dad’s medical records, and I tossed out a huge amount of crap from his mobile home, a job that will fully take weeks—if not months—to complete.

I was greeted with a hero’s welcome—and a BSOD on one of the reception PCs—upon my return to work yesterday, and I can honestly say I never felt so glad to be back.

I can’t say that I am yet ready to fully embrace being Coloradan, but this trip has shown in stark terms that I am no longer an Arizonan. Much like when I was living in San Francisco and returned from visits to Phoenix, the moment I crossed that state line I felt a sense of elation that told me even though many hours remained until I crossed my doorstep, I was finally back home.

Clusterfucked, Part Two

This trip just keeps getting better and better.

After grabbing breakfast yesterday, I headed back over to Dad’s to continue the process of clearing out the years of trash and garbage that had accumulated in his mobile home.

Several hours later, after using up an entire box of yard-size garbage bags, and getting a very clear idea of whom my father had become, I had to take a break.

Grabbed lunch and stopped at a grocery store on the way pack to pick up a small laundry basket.

When I came out, the car wouldn’t start.

Annoyed because I’d just replaced the battery less than 48 hours earlier, but not worried, I pulled out my portable battery pack, hooked it up to the terminals and attempted to start the car.

Nothing.

I called Geico Roadside Assistance. About twenty minutes later a couple guys showed up and attempted to jump start the car.

Still nothing.

“It’s probably your starter,” they matter-of-factly announced.

After arranging for an actual tow (they hadn’t arrived in a tow truck), I called the Geico Mechanical Breakdown Insurance line to get a claim started. (Being out of warranty by several years, it’s the best $15 a month I spend.) I then called North Scottsdale MINI to tell them I’d be arriving within the hour on a tow truck. I explained I was from out of state and really needed to be back on the road home on Sunday. “We should be able to get you up and running by then,” they said.

Well, that’s not happening.

I got a call from Geico this morning and the rep told me that he’d spoken to the service advisor at MINI and was told that it was the starter motor that had gone and that they didn’t have one in stock; furthermore, it would be Tuesday before they (Geico) could get out to inspect the car.

Inspect?

Well apparently because I’d chosen to ignore a leaking thermostat by simply topping off the coolant when needed, they need to inspect the car and see if the two are related.

This has pushed my departure date to Wednesday, not putting me back home until Thursday afternoon, losing almost two complete weeks of work; in other word, an entire pay check because I don’t have much PTO accumulated.

I immediately called my boss to inform him of the change of plans and verify that I would still have a job upon my return. “It’s family stuff. I understand and will work with HR to get you covered for as many days pay as I can.”

I’m not expecting miracles.

I called Ben and broke the news. “Don’t worry, we’ll get by. The most important thing is for you to get home safely.” He suggested I get the hell out of the mobile home and go somewhere to relax for the rest of the day. It’s not like I’m now not going to have any more time to work on Hoarders Central.

Ben suggested Copper Star, our once-favorite local coffee house in Phoenix:

And this brings me to the next point. Even if it weren’t for all the familial and automotive drama, Phoenix is no longer home. I get the same feeling here that I used to get when I visited after moving to California. The only way to describe it is “Ick. I don’t want to be here. This reeks of the past, and I’ve moved on.” I can’t fully say I am yet a Coloradan, but I can definitely say I’m no longer an Arizonan.

For the longest time after I first moved to California years ago, whenever I came back to Phoenix I had a totally irrational fear of being trapped here. Then I realized that was crazy. My life, my job, and everything I owned in the world was in San Francisco. That was where I called home, and nothing would prevent me from going back.

That’s why the events of the past couple days have been so frustrating and psychologically unnerving. This is the first time I’ve been back to Phoenix since we moved to Denver, and on the drive down I was experiencing a lot of those same emotions. I had to remind myself that my life—my love—was in Denver now.

And NOTHING would prevent us from reuniting.

NOTHING.

(To be continued, I’m sure. After all, I’m here for several more days…)

 

 

Clusterfucked, Part One

So far, this trip to Phoenix has been one clusterfuck after another and shows absolutely no signs of abating.

Before I even left Denver, my heart sank when I woke up and looked outside. After reading repeated weather forecasts for clear and sunny for the next ten days, it had snowed overnight.

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know I love the cold weather, but I absolutely hate driving in snow, and will refuse to do it if at all possible.

I didn’t have that option this time.

I got online and checked the traffic cams down I-25, and I was not reassured by what I saw. Some parts were clear, but many were snowy or covered in slush.  As the sun came up, things started to look better, and by the time I finally left town at 10 am, the roads were virtually clear, and remained so all the way to my arrival in Albuquerque at 4:30 pm.

The car itself had me a little concerned. Yeah, it had just gotten new brakes, an oil change, and a thorough going-over by the friendly staff at MINI, but it wasn’t starting immediately like it used to. I wrote it off to the extremely cold temps, but when I attempted to move it nearby my room after checking in at the motel, it almost didn’t start.

Not wanting to be stuck in Bumfuck Arizona because I had to take a bathroom break on the next leg of my journey, I tracked down a replacement battery (thanks to help from Ben) at a local Walmart.

Little did I know this was going to be one of the the worst customer service experiences I’ve ever had. When I pulled the car around to the service bay, the tech told me it would be about 20 minutes. I went back inside and saw that the new battery had been pulled from stock and was sitting on the check-out counter. At that point, with only one guy on the register (the one who was supposedly taking the battery out to the shop after I’d pulled in), a steady stream of customers apparently decided that going to the front of the store to check out was too much trouble, and decided to take the “no waiting” approach in Automotive—including one woman with a full cart of groceries.

Then there were the three separate people who needed keys made. And the couple who wanted to audition car stereos. And about four other yahoos who simply brought their shit there to pay for.

All the while the battery sat on the counter.

Finally another tech came in from the service bay and walked over to the battery shelf and started scrolling through the electronic battery finder.

“Are you looking for the MINI Cooper?” I asked. Twice. “It’s on the counter.” Twice.

“I wanted to make sure it was the right one.”

Did I mention the not one, but two sets of parents who decided it was an excellent idea to drop off their kids in the Automotive waiting room (because they were showing Rango) while they went shopping?

So, what was supposed to have taken 20 minutes ended up taking about 90. Finally, the battery was replaced, and I was once again on my way, confident that this was going to be the last of it.

The motel in Albuquerque wasn’t bad. It was a Motel 6 right near the freeway and had been recently “updated.” It was quiet and reasonably comfortable, but the bedspread had several obvious fluid stains of unknown origin. I’m sure that if I’d brought my blacklight flashlight with me they would’ve lit up the room.

The car started right up the next day despite the frigid temperatures (I stopped to wash the dry snow-slush off the car from the previous day because I couldn’t see out the rear window) and the water froze onto the car before I had a chance to dry it off.

It warmed up as I continued the journey and I arrived in Phoenix at a balmy 60℉. The Motel 6 I was staying at in Phoenix (for a total of four nights) was not as nice as Albuquerque—not by a long shot.  For starters, there was a prominent sign displayed at the check-in desk that stated there were to be no unregistered overnight guests, and if discovered, all parties concerned will be thrown out WITH NO REFUNDS.

Reminds me of a prison block in some twisted Sci-fi flick…

Because of the attitude I’d gotten from my sister, I didn’t call when I arrived; I simply texted her after I got settled. “I’m here. You have me until dinner time on Saturday. What’s the plan?”

She wanted to know where I was, and then to meet her at Dad’s place.

I asked for an hour or so to unwind before heading over, thinking that we’d meet there, go grab a bite to eat, and then head over to the care center to see Dad.  An hour later she called and said she had finished eating and was leaving to head over to his mobile home.

Great. Now I had to find dinner before going over.

I grew up on this side of town, and I haven’t been gone from Phoenix that long, so I had a good idea of what my choices were for something easy and quick. Panda Express was the obvious choice since I was already growing weary of fast food.

It took four tries to get my debit card to scan.

Seriously.

I still managed to get to Dad’s place before my sister arrived, and I was appalled. I knew he hadn’t dusted since I’d briefly lived with him in 2002 upon my return from California, but I was unprepared for the episode of Hoarders I was walking into.

Okay, maybe that’s a little unfair. There was a clear path through all the rooms.

It turns out that only existed because my sister and brother in law had been in a week earlier and cleared it.

If I had any doubts about the need to get him out of that environment prior to coming back to Phoenix, they immediately vanished. It was no wonder he’s been suffering years of allergies and other sinus/nasal problems.  I lasted all of a half hour before I started sneezing. Thankfully during that time my sister had arrived and we were soon on our way to the care center.

It was a bit of a shock to see him there. On the one hand, because of his surgery and subsequent diet of liquid and semi-liquid food, he’d lost about 30 pounds and looked good. On the other hand, I’d never seen the man looking so frail, and he didn’t immediately realize that I’d walked in with my sister.

But once he did, he was very happy to see me.

Since he’s basically in a rehab nursing home at the moment, the plan is to get him resettled in a permanent managed care facility. My sister needed me here mostly as another set of legs to get the necessary paperwork together to get him set up for ALTCS (Arizona Long Term Care System) like we’d done with Mom.  After we finished our visit with Dad, we went back to his mobile home, where she gave me a to-do list of what she’d like me to help her with over the next couple days. It was nothing earth-shattering, but I felt kind of annoyed that this was all she wanted me to drive 700+ miles for.

The next morning, after getting dressed, I headed over to Starbucks to grab breakfast, and since I was in the neighborhood, decided to pop in and see some of my old team at my previous job. Only my boss was actually there, but it was great to catch up with him.

My next stop was my dad’s doctor’s office to sign all the paperwork to get a copy of his medical records sent to my sister. (We both have Medical POA.) From there it was to the VA to do the same thing. It was there I ran into the worst customer service ever. It’s a government agency. Should I expect anything less? The guy at the window was downright surly, but I got the request put in.

I headed to lunch at Honey Bear’s BBQ and then back over to the mobile home to begin cleaning and tossing stuff out.

(To be continued.)

 

 

 

Unexpected Journeys

I’m en route to Phoenix.

Several weeks ago my dad checked himself into the ER complaining of heartburn and vomiting.

Turns out he had a huge hiatal hernia and the majority of his stomach was sitting on top of his diaphragm. And oh yeah, his surgeon described his esophagus as “looking like raw hamburger.”

So they got him put back together and he spent about another week in the hospital convalescing.

Because my dad lives alone and would be unable to care for himself immediately following this surgery, his doctor placed him in a short term managed care facility with scheduled physical therapy because apparently he couldn’t sit up in bed without assistance.

That’s where he’s been for the past few weeks, and it turns out he’s not cooperating with the staff, refusing therapy and generally making life a living hell for everyone.  In fact, it’s come down to him either doing his PT as prescribed, or they’re going to discharge him on Saturday.

My sister called last night and said, “I need you here NOW.”

For a variety of reasons, it’s been agreed that it’s time for Dad go to into long-term managed care. Several months ago I was discussing my dad’s health issues and his living conditions with a nurse friend of mine and I asked her how we were going to get this to happen. “It’s going to take an incident,” she said, “that will unequivocally show everyone involved that he can no longer live on his own.” Said incident has occurred, and to quote my sister, “He’s not interested in going home. He wants someone to feed him and change his diaper, and that’s about it.”

Did I also mention the onset of dementia? “They’re waking me up at 4 am to do physical therapy and everyone here is out to get me!”

So yeah. Christmas has been cancelled so I can go to Phoenix two weeks early and help my sister get him placed and attempt to go through the hoarder’s paradise that is his mobile home. I’m there until Sunday. Whatever doesn’t get done will either have to wait for another time or she’ll have to hire someone to do it.

I’m not upset at having to go down there; I’m upset at her attitude about it.

Thankfully, it will be easier this time since we had to go through a lot of this with Mom five years ago.