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.