Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Week 26

Better late than never, they always say. . .  It was a busy 3-day weekend for us, but not a very social one for Independence Day.  Instead of hanging around for fireworks and barbecues, my wife and I decided to embark on a long-overdue wilderness adventure.  We initially planned on backpacking the 30-mile West Rim Trail along the edge of the 'Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,'  but it was going to be hotter in the air-conditioner forsaken states of NY and PA than it was in Texas.  The idea of a 30-mile march through a black fly-infested sauna wasn't very appealing.

It turns out that the outfitters who provided shuttle service to the southern terminus of the trail (allowing hikers to trek back to their cars) also rent bikes for use on a different path.  We decided, instead of hiking along the upper edge of the canyon for three days, to cycle the Pine Creek Rail Trail.  Shady, long and flat, we could move along at a good clip and generate our own breeze along the bottom of the gorge.  We decided on going as far as their shuttles would provide service to return us to our cars (about 30 miles) they told us it should take all day.

We started pedaling around 10:00, stopping a few of times to snack, gawk at a bald eagle, or ogle at deer.  The highlight of the trip might have been our stop in Cedar Run Village, where the company store sells ice cream.  They have very generous scoops.  Grasshopper Pie rules!  It's like mint-chocolate chip/cookies and cream with fudge injected.

We rode on from there, and made it to the gas station where the shuttle was to pick us up.  It was 1:30.  The shuttle wasn't arriving until 4:45.  There's no cell phone service out there.  Luckily the gas station had some cool stuff to browse- it's sort of like a bait & tackle/souvenir shop/deli.  It was a long wait, but probably more comfortable there than it would have been out on the trail during the hottest part of the day- we would have been grilled.

The shuttle finally arrived about 5:00.  Our ride back to our car took almost an hour- the roads aren't nearly as direct as the trail.  On board the 16-passenger van was another picked-up passenger.  A stately upper-middle-aged man with a full head of impeccably groomed gray hair.  He was living in a hotel in PA and working in the oil and gas industry.  I got up the guts to introduce myself and catch his name, Larry, as we de-boarded the van.

I should have caught the name of our super cool driver as well, but he got away.  He was a slender young fellow with a surfer-dude accent.  He sounded sort of like Michaelangelo the Ninja Turtle.

The air was cooling off by the time we got back to the car, so we hunted down the West Rim trailhead and trekked a couple of miles in before finding a suitable campsite.  There we gathered wood, cooked a pasta-side for dinner, and spread our sleeping bags out on the forest floor.

It was time for dessert!  We had packed in the key ingredients for making s'mores.  It turned out that leaving those ingredients in our packs, in a black Honda Civic, on a blazing hot day, had been a bad idea.  The treats had just about made themselves.  The chocolate was molten and the marshmallows had formed one massive ultra-sticky puff- it may have even melded with the zip-lock bag.  We did the best we could, spreading marshmallow goo on grahams with a stick and then buttering them with the chocolate syrup.

After a good night's sleep under the stars,  we had breakfast- hot coffee and fruit bars smeared with peanut butter- then trekked back out of the woods.  The rest of the day was spent finding, then hiking another trail to the blue-ridge rocks, climbing around a bit there, hiking back out, and then searching desperately for a state park in the area where we could swindle a shower in the camping area.

I was determined to enjoy a nice dinner out in downtown Wellsboro before we drove home Sunday night, but we were both in desperate need of a shower.  The nice folks back at the outfitters suggested Twin Creeks Campground south of Wellsboro, so we drove about half an hour to take $3 showers.  Yes, they were worth it.  We had dinner at a nice Italian joint, then crossed the street and got tickets to Knight and Day at a little theater there.

We were exhausted by the time the movie was over, and drove on home, seeing a glittering of fireworks above hills and treelines here and there on our  way.

That's right, I only came away with one name last week.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Week 25

If you haven't heard of Freecycle, you should sign up soon.  The movement began as a conglomeration of Yahoo Groups with firm guidelines regarding membership (you had to be local to the group) and posting (formatting, the nature of your dealings, etc.)  If you have something laying around that you don't want, you list it as an 'offer,' and if someone else in the network wants it, they can arrange to pick it up- no money changes hands.  If there's something you would like to have, you can enter a "wanted" post, and some kind soul might just have an extra on hand they're willing to give you for nothing.  Freecycle is gradually graduating from Yahoo Groups to it's own centralized site at

All that to say, I put in a request for some 1-gallon glass jugs for a project of mine and a nice, older lady named Elizabeth responded.  She was from just south of us, across the border in the backwoods of PA.  We exchanged emails for several days trying to coordinate the logistics (she apparently only checks her inbox once a day.)  She was feeling under the weather, so she postponed delivery, but offered to bring them all the way up to Elmira.

So I stopped at a gas station on the fringe of the city and waited for 20 minutes on my way home from work on Friday.  Elizabeth, true to her word, showed up in her Escape.  She was a petite backwoods granny in a sun-dress with two of the longest sandy-grey pigtails I've ever seen in my life.  She seemed tough as nails and sweet has honey.  I accepted the goods, thanked her kindly, and we parted ways- as is the beauty of freecycle.

Earlier in the week I happened to meet a gentleman I thought I already knew.  A guy from sales, who I'd been dealing with off and on and I assumed to be a sales manager named Joe.  He came into my office and said such-and-such about a particular job I was working on.  I told him that the take-off was all screwed up and that the guy that took it off had emailed me explaining how he planned to fix it.  "I took it off." he said. . . . . It turns out that the guy I thought was Joe the sales manager, was actually Scott the estimator.  I played off that blunder pretty well, but that case of mistaken identity was quite a shocker.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 24

On Sunday after church we did the buffet thing.  Buffets have to be one of the greatest exercises in self-discipline to exist in the modern world.  It's a world of food- countless bins full of everything you can imagine from cold, crispy veggies at the salad bar, to steaming chicken Alfredo nestled right between the taco station and egg rolls.  Some of the bigger ones even boast a Meat Bar now- yes, I said a MEAT BAR manned by a professional flesh chopper ready to hack you off some finely roasted muscle at your bidding.

The establishments tend to charge you so that you'd have to eat 8 pounds of steak to get your money's worth, and I am a big fan of getting my money's worth.  My strategy is to usually start with the salad bar to give myself the illusion of a healthy meal- and to pad my gullet a bit.  By the time I drown all of that baby spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower in ranch dressing and bacon bits, the American Heart Association probably wouldn't approve.

Round two usually consists of meat and pasta, they really have options when it comes to cold pasta and potato salads that make you feel like you swallowed a cinder block.  By the time that plate's cleaned, my eyes are rolling back in my head as I purvey the acre of various cookies, brownies, soft-serve toppings, and more available at the dessert bar.  It takes both hands to get a cube of that heavy bread pudding onto my plate.  I cover it with ice-cream so my wife doesn't see it and get jealous.

With no crafty segue to connect my previous exercise in exaggeration to the two names that legitimize this post, over a hearty meal at the Old Country Buffet I had the privilege of meeting a couple named Bob and Alicia.  Nice folks, indeed!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 23

Okay, last week's extensive description of skull-loving Brian the boat-renter will have to take up the slack for this week's pitiful post.  On Sunday we were treated to lunch by Reverend Jon and at Beijing Garden- a nice place to get your China-food fix, by the way. I formally met their kiddos, which included William and Grace.  (Not named after the TV show Will & Grace). 

We all had fun scorching our wontons and eggrolls in the flame centered on the Pu-Pu platter.  Grace, missing several upper front teeth, said the tooth fairy had been giving her a fair shake.  William didn't say a whole lot, but seemed quite the gentleman.

Later in the week I finally ventured down the hallway of the sales department where I work and met a guy named Jim for the first time, a pretty nice guy- helpful for a salesman.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Week 22

It's been a really nice week.  I'm all about three-day work weeks and believe they should be decreed.  It would be great for our consumer-dependent economy with everyone having extra days to shop.  More jobs would be created since so many retail workers would have swing-shifts. . . . I need to write the president.

When we get one of those heavensent free days like Memorial day, resulting in a much-appreciated three-day weekend, I like to take the following Friday off as well.  Three days off, three on, three off- the perfect work-week.  The potential for overtime pay is blown out of the water by a holiday anyway, so get out of the office while it costs the least, I say!

On Memorial Day weekend we explored the Corning Glass Fest.  I was drooling all over myself at the opportunity to see someone blow a bubble with hot glob of molten sand.  It was just as cool as I expected; I want a furnace for my birthday.  We went shopping that weekend for new-home essentials like a grill and curtains, and hunted down the local disc-golf course for our first round in the Empire State.  I probably met several people, but not a single name stuck.

Three days of dim-lit brain numbing drudgery. . . .

Another three-day WeEkEnD!!!

We thought long and hard about how to spend our free time, options ranging from staying at home and continuing to get our 90%-unpacked items in order, to a 3-night backpacking/canoe trip in the Adirondacks.  We finally decided to put off the safari, and take a local day-trip by canoe down the Chemung River, which literally runs through our backyard.  There's a website called Friends of the Chemung River Watershed, there it recommends adventurers call 'On the River Canoe and Kyak Rentals' if they are in need of a boat.  That I did, on Friday morning and, despite the short notice, the owner was happy to rent us a boat.

We dropped off my truck at the Grove Street boat ramp in Elmira and then took the car to On The River, which is really the riverside house of a very personable redneck named Brian.  Brian was tall, scruffy, and skinny as a bean-pole but muscular.  His gristle was covered with a tanned hide, decorated by flaming devil-head tattoos and skulls, along with a few obscure green smudges.  His yard didn't contain a 20-year-old Cadillac up on blocks, but it had almost every other aspect of stereotypical redneck lore, including a hand-crafted deer stand in an oak tree.  The "business" consisted of one of those trailers that looks like scaffolding on wheels with two canoes, and three kayaks.

I've rarely seen anyone as into skull-candy as Brian.  There was what looked like a real human skull on a pole in the yard with a bandana tied around it's cranium.  The valve stem caps on every wheel of his rusted-out  little pickup were silver skulls with red eyes.  I helped Brian load the canoe onto the frame attached to the back of his truck, then we all three piled into the cab.  My wife taking care to keep her knee clear of the gearshift as we squeaked out of the front yard.

I asked Brian if he could ever hear couples yelling at each other from the river as they approached the end of their float trip.  "Yep," he replied, "That's why we call them divorce boats."

Brian dropped us off at a landing he called 'the turkey farm' because, he said, there used to be one there.  We got out of the truck, unloaded the boat, and signed our rights away- then realized I didn't have cash to pay the man.  Our lunch was the only collateral I could have offered, and a canoe trip with a hungry wife would have been suicidal, so I didn't offer.  'I've got yer car," he said, and told us we could pay after the trip.

Our trip down the river went off without a hitch, other than sore rumps and sunburn knees.  There were only a few places where the water moved fast enough to make the ride exciting, and then it was exciting only because the water was so shallow that rocks would unexpectedly crack our tail-bones.  Most of the trip was like paddling across a pond.  In places, a pond that cattle had been drinking from- riddled with yellow foam.  The Chemung doesn't exactly sparkle.  The highlight of our trip was sighting a bald eagle  perched majestically in a towering fir tree near where the tree-lined slopes met the water.  We even spotted its huge nest in a dead tree not far away.

We only stopped once, for lunch, eating tuna salad with our fingertips since we forgot to bring bread.  But by that time maple leaves would have tasted pretty darn good.  It wasn't much farther before we arrived at Brian's house and our trip ended.  We were greeted at the water's edge by Brian and a more plump version of him with a bushy biker's goatee and a bandanna tied around his head.  He turned out to be Brian's brother John.

Brian was surprised to see us after only three hours, having told us that the trip would likely take about six.  I guess we're better paddlers than he presumed.  I stayed behind and chatted with the good 'ol boys while my wife made a run to the nearest ATM so we could pay up.  I meant to ask Brian what all of the skull-decor signified.  No one would be able to assume his style of they met him in a business suit and talked to him for six hours.  Unfortunately I didn't get that far.  We may go back and rent kayaks from him sometime just to see if we prefer them to canoes, maybe then I'll pop that question.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Week 21

My first new acquaintance of the week was encountered on Thursday.  Fresh meat showed up at rugby practice.  A young, short, barrel-shaped fellow named Chris, who has some experience and is deceptively fast on his feet.

We've finally moved all of our stuff from the little furnished upstairs apartment to the house we'll be renting.  On Saturday I was standing in the front yard, knee-deep in dandelion stems and weeds,  wondering if I should invest in a push-mower or a brush-hog when Daisy, our Border Collie, darted after the neighbors' little smush-faced Boston Terrier (who probably looks a lot like Daisy would if I shaved her.)  I ran over to get her, just as she was christening the strangers' yard with a land mine.  The gracious upper-middle-aged lady of the house had almost as much wet paint on her pants, shirt, and hands as the house did.  She got up and greeted me with a sticky handshake, so I met Susanna.

I met Susanna's husband, Jerry, shortly after, as we were letting the dogs play in the yard.  We struck up a conversation and before long Jerry was introducing me to his Snapper push mower in the shed behind his house.  Hallelujah!  He kindly told me I could borrow it until I get one of my own. 

Today, Sunday, I took him up on the offer.  I don't think I've used a push-mower since I was 13 or 14.  I mowed yards for money all through my high-school years, but was blessed to have access to my dad's Murray riding mower.  Jerry's Snapper isn't one of those mowers that conveniently blasts clippings all over the street, sending rocks through windows, and turning fire-ant mounds into smoke bombs.  No, his mower shoots everything into a small canvas bag that fills up every three feet when you're pushing through the 18"-deep Caesar salad that was my neglected lawn.  Think of a vacuum cleaner crossed with a food processor.

With the mower's deck at the highest setting possible, I ground my way across the top of the vegetation.  The bag would fill up, the mower would choke.  I'd have to go dump it and then reach down a plastic chute to grab handfulls of the hot, damp, stinging cake of crabgrass pulp that clogged the tube.  Don't get me wrong, the mower worked great considering what it was up against.  I hope to keep the turf in check now that we'll be living there. 

Over the last few weeks, since the owner turned over the keys, it seems like we've been doing a lot of things that should have been paid for by the last tenant's deposit- like cleaning the nasty oven and replacing the pans on the stovetop, painting three rooms (probably more to come.)  I would like to re-attach the door to the little screened-in porch in the backyard, insulate the garage so it could be used year-round as a shop, and maybe put some raised beds in the back to grow some back-yard produce. 

The problem is, I haven't even signed a lease yet.  After paying the security deposit and the first month's rent with a money-order, the owner said he'd have the lease ready for us to sign by the end of the week, and gave us the keys.  He was even kind enough to get the utilities turned on in his name.  But it's been three weeks and still no lease.  I called and left a message, no reply yet.  Now we're completely moved in, I'm in the process of getting things like internet set up- 12 month contract sort of things (I'm writing this from a Panera Bread with free wi-fi today.)  I know that the owner has had the property listed to sell, as well as to rent.  I'm not going to invest in a lawn-mower if the house could be sold out from under us within a matter of months.  Hopefully we'll be able to sign something for a little peace of mind soon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Week 20

It was a pretty good week, all things considered, though the ratio of people met to names retained was pretty pitiful.  On Sunday the church we've been visiting here was finishing up what they call their yearly 'Conference.'  It's sort of like a review of the past year combined with a business meeting and a worship service.  A group of Samoans with ties to the church had driven all the way to NY from Tacoma, Washington with their worship/dance troupe.  Before the service on Sunday I had a chance to meet the huge Samoan man that played keyboard for their group.  His name was Fatu (Fatoo? Phattoo? Phat-2? . . . not sure. . .) and he works for a shipping company.

Now the Samoans are a big and beautiful people.  Almost all of them were notably well-rounded.  We had a chance to see why.  On the Friday night before they'd held a Samoan pig roast- two whole pigs stuffed with chickens were cooked in pits over hot rocks.  There were plenty of leftovers and everyone was invited to help finish off the food after the Sunday Service.  I couldn't resist tasting a little Polynesian BBQ.

It was over lunch that we met Jessie and his wife Leann.  Jessie is the worship leader and son of the Bishop (what they call the preacher there).  He is to Fatu as a pencil is to a Coke can.  It's been a long time since I've seen someone overflow with joy like Jessie when he's doing his job.  We are looking forward to getting to know that couple better.

I also met an older guy- tall and thin with frizzy gray hair named Harry.  He's lived in Alaska- you know that makes someone cool automatically.  How many people can say they've actually lived in Alaska?  Not many!  I also met a sweet lady named Marja- I think. . . her name sounding something like a mix between Margie and Marsha and I couldn't quite pin it down.

Fast forward through a horribly busy work week. . . . On Saturday we pack up and leave for Rochester to join the rest of my team at the rugby tournament.  It was there that I met a considerable number of people who's names I could have (and a few that I should have) retained, but nothing is coming back to me now.  That's that for this week!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Week 19

I've struck an oasis of potential last Sunday when we finally found the church we'll likely be attending.  My wife was slightly freaked out about it at first because she thought the name sounded corny- 'The Love Church' but I was pretty determined to give it a chance.  It turned out to be one of the most joy-filled worship services I've attended in years, coupled with a down-to-earth preacher, even though he's called a Bishop- a bit odd for one used to 'pastor' or maybe 'Brother so-and-so'.

We met Bishop Jim and his wife Joan after the service, he'd picked new faces out of the crowd and seemed genuinely interested in knowing more about us.  He even sent an email later in the week that probably took 30 minutes to write and definitely wasn't cut-and-paste.  I found that impressive.  Usually the courtesy calls start coming after a church realizes you are a faithful giver.  I hadn't put a thing in the plate yet.

We met an associate pastor (unsure if that's his official title) who just started an orphanage in Haiti, named John and his wife, Heather.  He said he named the children's home Heather's House because he didn't want to argue with his wife about the name.  He's a good natured fellow, really fun to visit with.

The last name that I retained on our first visit was Bernie.  A middle-age mustached mailman who loves to talk.  I was bombarded with other names and wagging hands, but those were all of the names that managed to stick after the first visit, but we'll be back!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Week 18

I've got to admit, I haven't been as intentional about meeting people over the last few weeks as I was when I began this year-long challenge.  In the beginning my mind was latching onto every new name I came in contact with and committing it to memory, but lately I've found myself back to forgetting names by the end of the handshake.  Yesterday morning I still didn't have anyone to write about for week 18.

I believe I've mentioned before that we're living in a semi-furnished upstairs apartment that lacks a full kitchen, and have been looking for something more long-term.  That prayer was answered out of the blue yesterday when I ran across an interesting posting on Craigslist- a perfectly sized house for rent in a nice area at an affordable price.  I called the number on the listing and the man told me to drive by it and let him know if we wanted to see the inside.  It's probably less than a mile from where we're staying now, so we drove right over.

When we arrived the man was already there, showing a cute little cape-cod with a detached garage and a nice-sized yard, just a short walk from the Chemung river to another group of people.  He told us he'd give us the tour as soon as he was through with them.  I thought we were SOL- he was showing it to a husband and wife with three of the cutest kiddo's on the planet.

When he finally finished up with them, we met Larry and he showed us around- the place suited us to a tee- but we were holding our breath, would he be okay with our border collie?  Turns out he feels better about one dog than three kids and two dogs.  Larry left us there at the house with the door unlocked and told us to give it some thought and let him know if we really wanted to rent the place.  It didn't take much thought.  We called him after giving the place one more once-over, and he directed us to his house.  We drove over and met his wife, Karen, and chatted it up with them for a while.

That afternoon I came back and paid for the deposit and first month, which will be June.  The last tenant was a flower-child and painted some of the rooms in wild colors, so we will be painting a bit next weekend, and then take our time moving our "stuff" from a storage unit to the house, since Larry was gracious enough to turn over the keys three weeks before we actually start paying for the place.  God is good!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Week 17

So this week's acquaintances include Derek and Johnny, two recent additions to the Elmira Rugby Football Club.  Derek is an interesting character- from the waist up he's ripped like Hulk Hogan at his prime.  From the waist down he's more like big-bird.  That center of gravity is a bummer.  It's hard to imagine those halves matching up, but it happened.

As for Johnny, he's a lightening fast soccer player with a British accent.  His speed is mind boggling and may be a nice addition to the team, but soccer players tend to get crushed like grasshoppers when they finally do get caught, or eventually revert back to their first love.  We already had one break a collarbone on his first practice.

As for the downstairs neighbors I mentioned in week 15, I found the radio show they get up so early to DJ, and listen to it at work.  Craig seems quite a bit more bubbly over the airwaves than he has been as a neighbor.  I haven't heard them talking about the noisy people upstairs yet.  Thankfully their dog has finally stopped the incessant yapping and whining in the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Week 16

There are lots of huge houses that are 100+ years old in Elmira, NY-  it's hard to imagine what the architects were thinking- in many cases, they all seem to have an average 1:5 bathroom to bedroom ratio.  I guess they were built before Maybelline and Vanity Fair.  Any-who. . . all of the gi-normous houses end up being split into 4 to 6 apartments and rented out cheaply until they implode on themselves, turned into a business office/residence, or maintained by someone with too much time and money on their hands.  The businesses run out of houses range from churches to retail to shrink parlors.  I've even seen dentist offices, which seems just a little creepy.

My wife and I were on a long walk with Daisy when we passed by one of the many house/businesses- this one was a men's clothing store, sort of like a Joseph A. Bank crammed into a living room.  A middle-aged gentleman was working in the yard and saw us heading toward him down the sidewalk.  He jumped out from between a gap in the hedge and seemed quite excited to see us.  After about 30 seconds, it became clear that Bruce Charmer didn't realize this was the first time he'd met us.  He seemed slightly embarassed when the fact that we didn't know each other finally clicked in his head.  At least next time, if there is one, he won't be wrong.

On Saturday the up and coming Elmira Rugby Football Club joined forces with the Alfred State Alumni and took on the current college team.  The younger, faster team (who've been playing together for some time, mind you) blew past the motley assortment of alumni and rookies, but we all had a great time and no one got parylized from the neck down.  I met a lot of people over the course of the day, including two Dans and Robyn, the lovely wife of a teammate.

Oh. . . and I almost forgot- remember what I said last week about how tough it is to meet a Shawn/Shaun/Schawun and get the name right?  Well he's part of my inner circle on Face book now, turns out he was a SEAN all along- go figure.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 15

Two random people in week 15,  we'll start with Shawn.  Shawns are always hard because I never know if they are really Shauns.  For all I know they could even be Schawuns. . . . anyway, one showed up at rugby practice last week.  He seemed like a nice guy, a tall and somewhat reserved history teacher. We joked with him about how his profession must get harder every year. . . har har.  He seemed eager to learn the rules and get familiar with the rough and tumble sport, hopefully he won't flake out like a lot of hopefuls.

I think I've mentioned the 100+ year old house that we're living in right now.  We have half of the upstairs and that makes for a nice sized one-bedroom with an office and spacious living room.  The only thing that makes it not worth the rent is the fact that we don't have a range or dishwasher in the makeshift kitchen.  We're going gourmet with just an electric skillet and a toaster oven.

Up until last weekend I was free to tip-toe down a very tight spiral staircase that leads from our apartment to the first floor and use the oven in the full-fledged kitchen down there to bake bread.  I can't remember the last time we bought a pre-sliced loaf from the store, but it looks like my rougue baking days are over, we now have a full house. 

The owners of the estate didn't give us notice.  On Wednesday night, while moving back and forth between our apartment and the backyard in preparation for some steak-grilling with our upstairs neighbors, we ran into a lady walking through the back yard  with a leashed pekanese, and assumed she was a next-door neighbor. . . . until she continued all the way up to the house.  We struck up a conversation, and met Sam (the lady) and Gizmo (the mini-chow chow from hell.)

Sam was really nice.  She and her husband, who I still haven't even seen, moved here for work from Indiana, but they also lived in Mt. Pleasant, TX, Garland, TX, and Arkansas.  I initially thought they might be stalking me, but will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the small-world theory.

Our downstairs neighbors leave the house at 3:00 a.m.on weekday mornings- it turns out they work together as DJ's for a morning show on the radio somewhere around here.  Gizmo must have a bad case of separation anxiety, because he loves to vocalize his discontent in yaps, whines, and howls when his humans aren't in the house.  He's already brought an early end to my peaceful dreaming twice.  I can live without an oven, but a good night's sleep is imperative.  I've thought about sneaking down the spiral staircase with a roll of duct tape and giving him a silver muzzle. . . . .*sigh* Don't worry, I won't.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 14

Week 14 consisted of mainly people from a church we visited in Corning.  A really neat one, actually, with a lot of genuinely nice people.  It seemed gospel-centered, yet down-to-earth- always a good combination.  The only thing that made it seem slightly cultish were the number of people who told us that they moved to the city for for the sole purpose of attending that particular church, rather than for work, family, or other things.  That initially made me think- ooooOOO! that church must have something special. . . my precious. . . . then I thought about the fact that God doesn't just live in Corning, NY.  Why didn't people use their spiritual enthusiasm to benefit the community they were already plugged into?  Nothing against them, but I think it's a valid question.

Among the really nice people we met were Chatrice, the greeter at the door.  PJ, a friendly young father who lead worship and played guitar- the gentleman on bass looked like his twin brother, but I didn't get a chance to ask him.

On our way out we were first snagged by a couple- a rolly-polly and super tall guy with a white beard, named Michael, and his lovely other quarter, JoAnn.  They were very welcoming, and told us about how they had moved to the town just because of the church.

A little further down the hall we were intercepted by a friendly guy named Steve- he was one of the most interesting characters, being originally from Texas and having relatives in some of the small towns where I've lived.

The friendly congregation did everything they could to get us plugged in immediately- inviting us to a pic-nic after the service, to a weekly young-couples get together at someone's house, and Steve said he had too many kids to count, but would still like to cram us into his minivan and take us out to lunch sometime to exchange "Texas stories."

I've got to admit, if we lived in Corning our church search would be over.  It was a tough battle, resisting all of the open arms and extended invitations there. . . . Maybe we should just quit our jobs and move to- Wait! No! Stop it!
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If there's not a body of believers we can join for meaningful fellowship and service to the local community that we'll be living in,  within a reasonable commute to my job, which brought us here in the first place, then maybe we are meant to help initiate something of the sort.  Somehow, to me, it seems more Christian to keep ourselves open to serve where we can do it most effectively (locally) and where it is most needed, than to stretch ourselves thin in an effort to make ourselves comfortable within an already established nest of like-minded people thirty plus minutes from where we live.

If I quit my job and moved to a town, solely for the sake of a particular church, I would feel more like a spiritual sojourner or, worse yet, a leech than a champion for the Gospel.  Besides, isn't that the opposite of what missionaries do?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Week 13

Sooooo, I'm a bit behind- not that I haven't been meeting folks!  I've been busy writing other things, doing other things, etc. . . . But here is a rundown of some of the latest news and names for week 13 and previous that didn't make it to a post . . .

So I lived in Arkansas for two years and just moved to New York with just as many teeth as I left Texas with.  Within two weeks of migrating north I've joined a rugby football club- ironic, huh?  It's a great band of brothers that includes Jeff, who you've already met (he actually invited me to a practice,) and then there's Rodney, Bob, EJ, Logan, Kyle, Matt aka Shrek, Brian, Ralph . . . . and I should actually remember more, but don't at the moment.  I'll blame it on my sleep deficit.

That's all for now. . . ZZZZzzzzz

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Week 12

On Tuesday I flew back to Little Rock from Elmira, NY.  With that sentence I probably just skipped over at least 7 potential acquaintances.  It's pitiful, really.  I sat right next to three people I didn't know on three different airplanes on the way back to Arkansas.  I talked to some of them, but didn't formally introduce myself or get a single name.  Can't say I was engrossed in a book or anything, I think I read the same version of Sky Mall three times.  With a lot going on in my head, I just wasn't in the mood to put forth the effort.  But apparently they weren't either, it's a two-way street.

My wife and I spent the next day loading all of the "stuff" in our custody into a 17' U-Haul. That Wednesday night, exhausted and hungry, I was craving something spicy.  NY doesn't seem to know what 'hot' means when it comes to food.  It seems really weird, actually-  down south those red pepper flakes in the shakers at any given pizza joint will light you up fast with just a few tips of the wrist;  here you can shovel enough on one slice to give every bite an audible crunch and be okay without a drink.

Anyway, I wanted something spicy before we left the land of jalapeños and Tabasco, so we went to a new Mexican restaurant in North Little Rock called Casa Mexicana.  My wife pointed out one of the employees scurrying around the dining area and told me that he was a frequenter of Starbucks (therefore he must be the restaurant's manager).  Toward the end of our meal, the man recognized the barista sitting across from me, approached our table, and we all struck up a conversation.  That's how I met the amiable, pudgy fellow named Alex.  He fits the theme of the eatery, ethnically speaking, and is still working on his English.  It feels good to know that a nice waiter like him can afford Starbucks.  Maybe not everything's wrong with the world.

The next morning we hit the road, and drove and drove and drove.  Since this is about new people, and not a soap, I'll spare you the drama.  The next morning, after our night at the Super 8 in Mason, OH just north of Cincinnati, we drove just across the street to a Bob Evans for breakfast.  We certainly weren't expecting to be served by Bob himself!  And we weren't, of course- that man died, no doubt from heart problems caused by his own cheese and sausage, a long time ago.  But our waiter's name was Robert.  Tall, slender, with a salt n' pepper mustache,  probably going on 70.

The waiter had our food out in a flash.  My wife seemed a bit shocked, "That was FAST!"

Bob threw down our plates with flair and gusto as he informed us, "They don't call me Rapid Robert fer nothin' !"

We held it back until he turned, but then nearly rolled out of our booth laughing.  We tipped Rapid Robert generously and were on our way.  After another long day of driving, and this morning's offload into a storage building, we are officially moved from AR to NY!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Week 11

Anyone who's transferred within a corporation is likely to understand that some of the first people you will meet, aside from supervisors, will be the geeks- the IT guys.  That's Brian, Corey, and Scott- I've spent a lot of time with these three since my first day at work in New York (yesterday.)  Corey, a tall, slender, professional looking fellow about my age, has been the go-to guy for network and most software bugs. 

Brian, the programmer, was a more quiet guy, but you could tell by the way his trembling fingers hovered over the keyboard that he's the type of guy who could write a program to simulate what who would would win if an army of Smurfs attacked a fire-breathing Oompa Loompa settlement in Iceland with boomerangs, and he could do it just for the fun of it.  Brian was the guy that fixed Corey's mistakes, but that was only necessary on one program.

The guy who directed Corey and Brian, Scott, didn't seem any older than they, but he had the big office with a nice desk.  He was a nice guy as well, but seemed to be celebrating St. Paddy's day one day too early- sitting at his station with a light green shirt, green mug, and a lava lamp on in front of him sending emerald green globs of goo up and down.

I met all three of the IT guys yesterday, as I was escorted from office to office by Linda, the engineering clerk and self-proclaimed 'mother hen' of the department-  I'm happy to be one of her many hatchlings, as she's ordering me a new chair along with a number of other goodies that the office I'm taking over could really use.  Linda is super-friendly and brimming with energy.  Judging by her perky, free-spirited attitude, and her nose stud, I can picture her fitting in really well at Woodstock in '69.  She has a pretty cool spoon collection hanging on a bulletin board in her office- many in the office have contributed to the display.

along the edge of the common area, at the heart of the building, lies the black oasis.  The elixer of early morning sanity pours forth from insulated tumblers kept full of hot coffee by none other than Sharon, also known as the coffee princess.  Sharon is lean and in her middle years, yet seems perpetually young- full of spunk, confident, and always with hearty laugh at her disposal.  She collects the dollar a week for the coffee fund, brews it masterfully, and keeps a small pot in her office for a special early afternoon brewing using more exotic beans, freshly ground rather than the standard fare for the mid morning communion. 

Remember in the Bible where Jesus turned water into wine and the guests asked why the host saved the best wine for last?  Well I guess people want to taste the good stuff before they get too drunk to enjoy it.  The opposite is true when it comes to coffee.   We might drink muddy water and not know the difference first thing in the morning if it has enough caffeine.  By the afternoon, though, our brains are humming right along and ready to slurp on a more complex and intriguing roast, blend, or variety.

So far, I haven't met a single person I don't like, and the office is probably the most laid-back I've ever worked in.  That can be good and bad- the hours are more flexible, but having people pop into my office and start shooting the breeze at random, on company time, can be a distraction as well- I'm used to a pretty hard-core Get-er'-done, productivity is everything mentality. . . . and we aren't getting paid to visit- I'd rather get a bonus for profitability than have to work overtime because everyone else is slacking.

It seems like one of the most common ways to welcome a newcomer there, is to talk about good places to eat in the area.  In just two days I've heard of a lot of restaurants.  The thing is, I don't eat out that much.  Even with my wife yet to join me in NY, I've been making my own suppers.  I was amazed to see how low prices are for fresh produce here!  I'm taking advantage of the fact and making super salads for dinner- tonight's was composed of the following: two kinds of lettuce, carrots, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, sesame sticks, almonds, avocado, a boiled egg, and greek dressing.  Yum!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Week 10B

My first night in this old house in NY was a little spooky.  It was getting cold in here around midnight when I was ready for some shut-eye.  I hunted down a thermostat and cranked it up to 70.  Every room has pipes coming up out of the floor and entering a wood and wicker box enclosing a radiator.  After I cranked up the heat and turned out the lights, those little guys came to life.  It sounded like giant anacondas were climbing around inside the walls and banging steel pipes together.

I could hear the one in the kitchen hissing and popping so loudly that I began to wonder if I had done something that would end up burning this old mansion to the ground.  Each room's unit seemed to wake up and start making noise until it had warmed up, then another unit would begin to sizzle and knock.  I'm guessing it was the expansion of the heated pipes that caused the wood floors to start snapping and creaking, or else this place is haunted by the ghosts of medieval woodpeckers.  Once everything had warmed up, the noise subsided, and now it's quite cozy in here!

This morning I was met by Kristen, the realtor.  She's an interesting one.  She may be the first realtor I've ever met who you might be able to recognize via the glamour shots they paste all over the internet and their business cards.  I guess that's a good thing.  She's also been quite assertive when it comes to getting us information on the region and researching for potential homes to rent, another plus.  On the downside,  her assuming, can-do, go-gettum, gitter-dunn attitude reminds me more of a tiger shark's than a social worker's.

Rather than ask, she told me she was picking me up at 9:45 this morning to look at a property- and she did.  We went to one apartment complex, less than a mile down the road, and that's where we met Bob- I'm not sure if he's the owner, the maintenance man, or both.  He was an odd character, his gray head sort of rolled in circles as he shook my hand, his eyes rolling the opposite direction and never focusing on my own.  He had two lower rows of teeth in the front, and a massive belly that somehow managed to hold up his trousers rather than flowing over them.  He smelled funny.

Bob showed us three different units and jabbered on about how the rent for one of them was going to depend on whether he decided to install large vanity mirrors or not.  The floor plans were nice and spacious, but I wasn't all that impressed.  Kristen and I hit the road again and did a drive-by of another place that she plans to show me tomorrow when it's empty, then she took me all around town, talking as if she were the only realtor in the world and I had pledged my undying loyalty to her patronization.

She's picking me up at 1:00 tomorrow.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Week 10

Its been a long week already.  On Wednesday morning, after downing two tasty waffles doctored with love by my wonderful wife (my farewell breakfast by special request), I hopped into my loaded pickup and began the long drive north.  Arriving at the Garfield Hotel in Cincinnati for the night, I felt that counting the receptionist as one of my new names for the week would be out of line, I think I should consider name tags to be an instant dis-qualifier.

They did give me free upgrade to a jacuzzi suite- the place was bigger than the apartment in which I live.  It was a lot of hotel room for the money as well, boasting a full kitchen with fridge, dishwasher, & stove; living room,  balcony, large bedroom with a hot-tub and huge flatscreen, and a separate full bath.  I really didn't need all that.  Having all of that extra space to myself, with my wife back home in Arkansas praying that one of the four tornadoes that touched down that evening wouldn't be what saved her from the killer hailstorm that struck the region, felt sort of weird.

The great attitude and eagerness to please displayed by the people that work there are almost enough to make me want to go back.  Almost.  The building is really old, the elevators are super-slow, parking is a pain, and- judging by the smell of it- my gi-normous unit had been smoked in for years despite the sign threatening puff-daddies with a $200 fine.

This morning I hit the road again, finally making it to Elmira, NY around 6:30 this evening (Eastern time).  I wasn't sure what to expect in regard to the "extended stay" booked by my company.  Turns out it's a really nice (and big) old house, the 2nd floor of which has been converted into two 1-bedroom apartments.  The kitchen consists of a sink, microwave and a mini-fridge.  It was on my tour of the house that I met my acquaintance of the week- my neighbor staying in the other upstairs apartment, Jeff.

Jeff was a friendly fellow, an engineer who works for a helicopter company.  After returning from a trip to the local grocery store to attain a few staples for the week, I took Jeff up on his offer, joining him for a brewsky.  Little did I know what a treat that would be- my neighbor brews his own, and I have to say he's pretty darn good at it!

We were sitting on the back porch, talking about work and life in this part of the world, when his wife got back from rugby practice (yes, I said rugby practice.)  That's when I met Kate-  a wonderfully friendly architect, who didn't seem the least bit shocked to see her husband sipping suds out back with a total stranger.  She's working on drawing up this old house's original plans so that the owners can restore it to it's original floorplan.  Originally designed by a renowned architect from this area, that has some historic significance.

Seeing as I'm in a new state now, I may meet more new people this week to write about, it can't hurt to exceed my quota!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Week 9, Fast Start

Having lived in both Dallas and Little Rock, I had yet to visit The Flying Saucer in either town.  Since I'll be moving to upstate New York in a week, my wife and I met my sister and some of her friends at the great draught emporium last night, forming the team "Trivalocity," to compete on trivia night. 

It was there that I met Mark and Molly,  a really fun couple originally from Indiana.  Hats off to Notre Dame- Mark was our Encyclopedia Brittannica when it came to history.  Molly served as our scribe for the night.  She's a sweet and energetic ICU nurse who takes it gracefully when someone's first reaction to her name is "Oh! I had a dog named Molly!"

Our group fared well in the first two rounds of trivia, but bombed the difficult final round.

Moving is stressful- especially when moving a long, long way from friends and family.  All of the farewell get-togethers organized by those we love leading up to our departure are much appreciated, but sad in a way.  They always lead me to wonder why we didn't initiate things like that more often.  When I meet a couple like Mark and Molly, it's painful to think that the first time we see them is likely the last time as well.

When we live in a destination town, we don't tend to be as enthusiastic about the local attractions as those who fly in from all over the world to relish them.  It's so easy to take things for granted when you feel like you have easy access to them.  That doesn't just apply to places, but friends. . . . even our spouses?  Ouch.

As a side-note, I have a recommendation for anyone who's a fan of dark suds- a new favorite I tried last night at the Saucer:  Young's Double Chocolate Stout  chocolatey, not too sweet, and a beautiful finish with no bite. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 8

Week 8 went without a hitch. After taking half of the day off on Friday I butchered my full beard, turning transforming it into mutton chops to fit the part of my alter ego for the night- Elijah Entwhistle the travelling preacher. We then drove all the way to Dallas for a good friend's annual murder mystery dinner extravaganza! Almost every year a few people show up who I haven't met. This time around I was privileged to meet Jack and Sherry (sp?) a soon-to-be-wed couple. Jack was a tall, mellow character- his other half, a bubbly young lady, seemed to compliment him well.

A third person met that night was Jacob. I believe he was the youngest of our cast, and had one of the best costumes of the wild-west-themed night. In jeans, boots, a wide-brimmed hat, and a white apron he looked like he must have fallen off of a passing chuck wagon! There were a couple of other cool cats who's names escaped me but, considering the fact that everyone had two names that night, I think three for the week is good enough!

In case anyone was wondering- the mutton chops were promptly removed following the party!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Week #7

It was a slow week as far meeting folk, and sort of a sad weekend- my last in Arkansas for a while.  I won't be driving to NY until the 10th of March, but the next two weekends will be spent back in Texas visiting family and friends. 

Today we went down to the H&R block and filed for our tax return.  That's where we met Gladys.  She was a considerably well-rounded lady, with a kind smile, and almost a sickeningly sweet demeanor.  If she hadn't been so consistently nice, patient, and genuinely interested, it would have come across as quite staged- but by the time we were done, I was convinced that she is genuinely wonderful.  We need more people like that.

Tonight a friend of mine arranged a "going away" party for us.  It was really nice of him, and we had friends show up from different circles who'd never even met!  We all gathered at a restaurant for Mexican food, and then migrated over to a small pub called Lucky's that I'd never been to before.  It was a pretty clean little place, small, with one pool table.  A live band was playing- and they were talented.  The volume, however, seemed more suited for a place about 8 times the size of that room.

There was a guy in his mid-fifties, wearing a Razorback jacket, playing pool.  He had graying hair, scruffy cheeks, a baggy 2nd chin, and apparently too much to drink.  The only reason I know his name is because it was etched into his western-style leather belt.  I can't count him as an official acquaintance since I never introduced myself- but didn't really care to.  He was behaving in a way that hopefully would embarrass his children, if he has any-  using his pool cue as an anatomical prop for immature antics. 

The older I get, the more clear it becomes that some people never mature.  I think I must have grown up assuming that everyone eventually becomes as mild-mannered, dignified and self controlled as my parents- I just assumed it was a natural process.  Boy, was I wrong.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Week #6- Just in the nick of time

If you ever want to gain some quick and easy friends, just go shopping for a car.  For some time I've been itching to regain my Man-Card by trading in my Mercury Cougar for a pickup.  Now that we're getting ready to move to a cold and icy state, and may buy a house there, a truck seemed like a worthwhile investment.

On my way down Maumelle Boulevard I ducked into a local used car dealership just to see what they had in stock.  Not much in my price range, it turned out, but I did get to meet Al- a stately middle-aged African American car salesman, and his boss, Carl.  Carl seemed a bit more snake-ish than Al, and for some reason he didn't have any molars- usually the front teeth go first here in Arkansas, go figure.

I managed to escape from their seasoned salesmen spells, and continued on to Lander's Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep  in Benton where, according to, there was a nice 4WD Tacoma for sale.  When I got there I was greeted by Russ, a portly, mustached salesman who told me that what I came to see was sold yesterday-  but he was chock full of alternative options.  He must have had a good feel for what I wanted, I mean, I didn't even know I wanted it.  He led me right to the goldish-tan Dodge 1500 Crew Cab that I would later name D-Biscuit (in case that didn't register, it's a Dodge, it's like riding lots and lots of horses at once, it's a play on Seabiscuit, and yes- I've always named my vehicles.)

I took the truck on a test run, and then parked it up next to the office building where we went to wheel and deal.  Russ stepped out of the deliberation nook to pretend he was price haggling with his manager.  While he was out, I saw an interesting stack of papers on the desk in front of me- picking it up, it was a list of their inventory with exactly the amount they'd paid for each vehicle printed next to their asking price.  I scanned the list for the truck I was interested in and struck gold!

Russ re-entered the room with his manager and handed me a piece of paper with their offer-  they did make a generous offer for my trade, about $500 over the estimated Bluebook price, but hadn't backed off the original asking price that I had read on the inventory list.  I countered.  Russ's boss whined at me, "Come on man, won't you help us out a little?"

I turned to him with a smirk, "I already am, I read the sheet you guys left out here on the desk."

Both of the gentlemen flushed bright red.  The boss man said in a defeated tone, "Oh!" and quickly ducked out of the room- I'd offered them a fair price and everyone new it.  They didn't try to haggle any more when they learned I knew their profit margin.

Next I met Jim, the finance man.  All I had to do was sign a few things since I insisted on paying for the vehicle in full.  It's not as much fun driving a car that belongs to a bank.  The problem was, I'd neglected to bring a check connected to the account that I wished to pay from.  They trustingly handed me the keys to the truck and I ran home to get my checkbook.

Back at the house, that checkbook was in a small fireproof lock-box,  and I ransacked the room looking for its key.  The only place I could imagine it being was attached to the key of my Cougar, which Russ had removed from my keychain while I was talking to Jim.  I put the little safe in the truck and drove all the way back to Benton.  They didn't have my key.

Russ went and collected key chains from his co-workers and futilely searched for one that might work.  I asked them to get Jim to prepare the paperwork for financing it- so I could drive the truck home and just pay it off with the first statement.  A couple of places I hadn't looked for the key came to mind and I was finally able to get in contact with my wife via her defunct telephone.  Miracle of miracles!  She found my not-for-daily-use key ring and delivered it to me at the dealership.

It wasn't an ordinary car-buying experience, as it only took an hour to find what I wanted but then nearly three more to get everything else hammered out.  In any case, I have a very *grunting like Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor" manly pickup, and exceeded my newfound acquaintence quota for the week with Al, Carl, Russ, and Jim!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Week #5- A Busy One

It's been a crazy week!  We flew into Elmira, NY on Thursday night, kindly met there by my friend, former lead, and future supervisor George.  He guided us to the Holiday Inn Express in Horseheads.  On Friday I was given a thorough tour of the plant by a nice guy named Greg.  It's a relatively young facility at 9 years.  My interview by a three-person panel was actually a lot of fun and went really well- oddly enough, there were no Yankees in the room.

Jackie, the production manager was from Georgia- never lost his accent.  He reminded me of that tall guy in the wide-brimmed hat in the movie The Secret Window- "You stole my Sto-ry."  George (a fellow Texan) was a member of the panel, and the third person was Skip, the engineering manager- also originally from Texas.  He not only knew about the tiny town of 112 that I grew up in, but owns land not far from it.  It's a small world!

After my big day at the plant, George and his wife Janet, took us out to dinner at Horigan's Tavern- a neat little Irish pub with unbelievably good food.  Their Shepherd's Pie was amazing.  I'm looking forward to Wednesday nights here- corned beef and cabbage is the special. That evening when we got back to the hotel, I began scouting for apartments via Craigslist.  The logo for USARealty kept popping up beneath some interesting postings.

The people here are really nice.  On Saturday morning we were scouting out the area in our rental car and passed a small office with signage matching the USARealty logo that I'd seen the night before.  We stopped there and got out to ask about apartments for rent in the area.  That's where we met Penny- the only person at the office.  She was on her way out the door to meet with someone else, but kindly stayed long enough to print up a list of potential properties- slim pickin's for a couple with a dog, but there were a few.  She could tell by our accents that we didn't know our way around the area, and loaned us her Tom-Tom GPS!  "Oh, just bring it back when you're done and put it through the mail slot if I'm not here."  If not for that gadget, I don't think we would have seen half of the places we managed to swing by today.  I can't thank her enough.

Person #5 was Jan, the Realtor that we meet at 1:00 this afternoon.  She was very helpful and took us on a tour of several properties for sale, one of which we might just make an offer on.  She will be doing it again in Elmira before we fly home tomorrow.

So, for week #5 I'm claiming Greg, Jackie, Jan, Penny, and Skip.  I should probably remember the names of at least 5 more people I met on this trip, but that's never been my strong point.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Snub #1

On Monday evening we were flying home from Virginia and had a layover in Charlotte.  In North Carolina we found a table conveniently located near an outlet and I pulled out the laptop to write a little and get 'er charged up so I could keep working during the flight back to Little Rock. 

I wasn't eagerly searching for friends at that point, but a chubby middle-aged guy with a pink face the texture of a sea sponge sat down about 8 feet away at the only other table in that corner.  He had on a bright orange Longhorns hoodie, so my first impression of him wasn't a negative one, but then he began to talk.  "They got free internet here?" he called to me from his seat.

"I don't think so," I answered, keeping my eyes glued to the screen as I continued to type.

But he kept on going, telling me about his second home, how he's from Michigan and drove all the way to Austin and on to McAllen on a road trip with his family. He talked about his trip to Padre Island, and the Outer Banks.  The school he went to, his first wife- I kept my eyes on the computer screen.

It became clear that he couldn't take a hint if I put it in a pill, so I just continued trying to work, grunting periodically as he continuously de-railed my train of thought. 

We finally started packing up and picking up the bundles of carry-ons that budget travelers are forced to lug around these days, and were about to head to the terminal to board, when I thought I might as well get his name.  After all, he told me everything else about himself and I didn't even have to ask.  I threw the strap of my red duffel over my shoulder and stopped in front of his table with an extended hand and a "nice to meet you," offering him my name.  He gave my hand a squeeze and said, "Cool.  Good luck."  Without so much as looking up.

It was slightly awkward, and I'm still not sure if he had finally caught onto the fact that I wasn't interested in listening to him and was giving me a taste of my own medicine, just didn't think about it, or maybe he's one of America's most wanted and made up everything else he told me.  In any case, it gave me something to write about!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Week #4- [Revised] Ethan!

Yesterday evening, after posting the blurb below that lamented my failure to meet a second person in week #4,  my wife kindly reminded me that this trip was the first time I had actually met my baby nephew Ethan (on Friday!)  Sure, he's family, and he can't talk back- but last week was the first time I've seen him in person, and since I make/bend/stretch/expound/contort/revise the rules for the OFITC challenge- he counts!


I only managed 1 new name in week #4.  I've been with my wife in Virginia Beach, visiting family, and we've been snowed-in for a couple of days now.  Not that I didn't have plenty of chances when navigating the airports on Thursday- I honestly can't really blame the weather for not introducing myself to someone.  We are supposed to fly back to Arkansas tomorrow.  If our flight home doesn't get cancelled, and the rest of the week goes as planned, then I should be able to more than make up for not meeting last week's quota, I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week 4- Rick

I met another person today.  At church.  You might say that's cheating, especially since it's sort of a Sunday morning ritual in America to have the pastor obligate the churchgoers to be friendly for 30 seconds.  The band plays a short tune while half of the congregation awkwardly gazes at the ceiling with hands stuffed in their pockets; the other half jumps over rows of chairs and steps on toes in order to reach the specific necks they are determined to hug.

I typically fall somewhere in the middle- shaking the hand of any inviting individual within arm's reach as long as I don't have to move my feet, making eye contact for a split second, then dropping their sticky palm like a hot potato.  If names are exchanged, it's almost always in one ear and out the other.

Don't worry-  I won't dare count, as one of my 'friends of the week,' an extrovert who pops up in my face, so close I can smell their Nocorette gum, to yell their name in my ear.  But today, during the period of awkward-social-obligation-and-forced-fellowship, I looked into the eyes of a guy like me, a guy who didn't look that eager to talk to anyone he didn't already know.  I grabbed is hand (in manly fashion,) and held on tight.  I told him my name, and asked for his- and he smiled.  That's how I met Rick.

If nothing else, making it a point to document my encounters with people is improving my ability to remember names.  I think my brain used to just ignore or reject them for some reason.  It would only be a matter of seconds before I forgot who that person was.  I might know what they did for a living, their license plate number, their dog's favorite brand of jerky- but their name. . . duhhhhh . . . .

Doesn't anyone else have a story?  Unlike over at, I don't tend to have words for this site every day.  If any of you comment-less ghost readers can write craftily about your experience reaching out intentionally to meet a stranger, then let me know with a comment and I'll get in touch with you in regard to getting it posted here!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Week 3- Kim and Rhonda

This week's new friends were almost too easy.  I'll probably have to do some justifying here, but I've still got Saturday- maybe I can tack on a third.

Yesterday I had a dentist appointment at 3:30,  and you've got to have some level of trust before letting anyone put their hands in your mouth.  I met Kim (the hygienist) and Rhonda (the dental assistant).  They were both really sweet, making small talk back and forth over my face.  I really wanted to join in, but it's a challenge when you have a syringe sized for Frankenstein's tetanus shot being rammed into your gums.

They talked about the first albums they owned, I think Rhonda's was Prince on an 8-track.  I wanted to tell them mine was a Ray Stevens cassette, but of course my mouth was propped open with an awfully expensive chunk of plastic, and there was something akin to an industrial grade Dremel grinding away inside of my oral "cavity."  I think I managed to communicate something once they were done, but my lower lip felt something like a chicken liver taped to my face, so maybe they were just being polite.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Week 2, George

If anyone who sees this has been following me on, where I'm 18 for 18 on the poem-a-day goal, you may be beginning to have doubts about my progress in regard to this project- but week 2 was a success!  This post is only making it to the web today because my wife and I spent the weekend in a mountain cabin in Eureka Springs, only returning this afternoon.  Kudos to Jennifer for managing the logistics for this excursion, she even drove us there!

Almost everything touristy including Quigley's Castle, Pivot Rock, Natural Bridge, and even most restaurants that were recommended to us are closed in January.  That seems to be when tourism is at its low point and everything is either being renovated or the hospitality workforce takes off to Puerto Rico for some much-deserved R&R. 

But we didn't go for the tourist traps, and peace and quiet are abundant there this time of year.  The locals who were present were some of the most friendly and hospitable people we've run across in our travels.  On our second day in the cabin, perched high up on the edge of a mountain overlooking Beaver Lake, we stopped by the office to pick out a couple of movies.  A quiet-natured jolly white-haired man who worked there was bustling around the office and we made small talk.  I gathered the nerve to ask him his name and introduced myself before he did- and that's how I met George.

So, by the end of Week #2 I've met Evan, Julian, Susan, and George-  is anyone inspired?  Reach out and talk to a stranger and tell me your story!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Week 2- Susan

Tonight as my wife ran and I walked with a buddy of mine and our dog around the ice-glazed lake behind our apartment complex, I crossed paths with another frequent-walker.  I've probably talked to this sweet lady in passing at least 20 times- she walks her dog (as do we) regularly in the park.  I've known the dog's name for months. . . it's funny how that works.  So many folks will stop and let their dogs sniff each other's behinds and frolic at the ends of their leashes, each will compliment the other's pet, even ask its name- but we never introduce ourselves, it's as if the human beings at the other ends of those tethers are transparent- just there to answer questions about the dog.

Tonight, when my Daisy rubbed noses with little Moonbeam, I said "I've known your dog for some time now and still don't know your name!" and proceeded to introduce myself.  That's how I met Susan- we talked for a short bit and I mentioned Molly, the australian shepherd who lives across the breezeway from us, Daisy's best friend.  Oh yes, Susan knew Molly- but she didn't know that Molly's owner is named Sue.  It was nice to know I'm not the only person who knows more dogs than humans around here!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Survey and Week 1- Evan and Julian

Okay, so I'm just easing into this.  Since coming up with the idea, I've given it a lot of thought- introverts are pretty good at that.  I think it would be great if eventually I could get to the point where I could comfortably (without freaking out the person) introduce myself and ask the individual if they wouldn't mind answering 3 to 5 questions.  They would be like essay questions, broad in scope, and should do a pretty good job summing up the person.  Something like this:

1) Describe your belief system and it's place in your life.
2) Describe your career path, where you've been, where you are, and where you hope it takes you.
3) What are the most meaningful relationships you've had, past and present, and how have they helped shape who you are today?
4)  Describe your dreams, hopes, and goals for the future.
5) If you could share one story from your life with the world, be it happy, sad, funny, or miraculous, what would it be about and why would that be your choice.

Everyone has a story to tell!  The problem is, when I think about introducing myself to someone who doesn't know me from Adam, asking them these questions, maybe even trying to solicit a photo- all within 10 or so minutes so I can post that information on the internet. . . . I can see that coming across as a little freaky.

I'll just start  learn by learning someone's name- that's enough, and maybe ask them to come and visit OFC to see what it's about.  If they are interested and willing to answer the questions above when they come visit the blog, we can all learn about someone in depth.  If enough people become interested in both sharing and learning about other real folks here at OFC, then I would love to interview my future friends with the most intriguing stories and podcast it!

But there I go, getting carried away- at this point those are pipe dreams.  I had countless opportunities over the weekend while shopping and playing fetch with my dog out by the lake.  A really nice elderly couple stopped to watch Daisy running and catching her Frisbee and we made small talk for a few minutes, but I never asked their names.  I've been kicking myself over that, and several other similar opportunities missed.

Baby steps. . . they may have been trapped behind a desk, but my first two acquaintences were met tonight!  My wife and I went to our usual Monday night gym session at the community center.  A nice young guy and gal (high school seniors maybe) were behind the counter working the front desk.  I got up the guts to introduce myself, and now next time I see Evan or Julian, I can greet them by name. . . . and maybe point them toward OFC!