Crazy Hopeful

I like it here.

Knoxville is a city on the rise. Businesses, shops and restaurants are opening, and the downtown is being revitalized. Things I value are held in esteem here — music, movies, art, theatre, and libraries with actual collections of books in them. There are also farmer’s markets and natural food stores, and I have heard there are some damn good restaurants to be enjoyed. The mountains are a short drive away, as are several big tourist destinations.

Sunsphere

In the past seven years, I have moved a staggering eight times. Knoxville was never a part of any idea of the future I ever envisioned. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was completely off my radar. Living here for two months now, I still feel a little awkward. I’m not so much a fish out of water as one swimming in a completely different school than I have before.  Although my midwestern heart beats strong, as a traveler, I’ve always had a great appreciation of the South. This may be a new beginning, but I have a lifetime of experience packed in my bags I can’t wait to unpack.

Are there downsides? Yes. There is a hella homeless problem. A tent city lives beneath a viaduct near downtown. Poverty, drugs, and crime exist in this and every city, but there are groups trying to help here more than I’ve seen in the other areas I have lived.

The most important news is Daughter #1 finally landed a job with the potential of enormous growth. It is the total change of direction she has been looking for since putting retail management in her rearview mirror. She’s working in human resources and will pursue her degree in accounting in the evenings. This is the first solid step toward building her dream.

Next up, I would like to find some part-time work, do some volunteering (hear that, Tennessee Theatre? I am aiming straight at you), and then, we’ll need a place to call home. We have been staying with dear friends to whom we are eternally grateful. The best way to repay their generosity is to give them their home back … with visitation rights to the cats.

Sometimes, Life Hands You Lemons; Other Times, Life Chucks Them at You or… Life Makes a Hard Left Turn

“Dave wants the house back,” our landlord’s mother told me. In those five words, my life changed.

Only an hour before, I lived in blissful ignorance, planning the coming months as I sought to rebuild my fortunes after a hard six months of helping family members (specifically Daughter #2 and her partner). Joy and sadness have been previously documented in Why Do Terrible Things Always Come in Threes? They would be moving in three weeks, and then, I would step on the gas and start to pull ahead. My illusions shattered.

Scrambling for a place to live in thirty days is tough enough at the best of times, but right now, was the worst. A place was found in Knoxville, Tennessee. Never spent much time there, except to pass through, but I had friends in the area so it was good enough. I took the car – lovingly named The Purple Plum – into our local mechanic to make sure it could pull a trailer over the Smoky Mountains, and he found the front brakes were in a dangerous state. We could have been killed. It was an unexpected expense, but safety first and all that. The packing began in earnest, the trailer was rented, and all seemed like it was falling into place. Woohoo!

Going up Shits Creek

In case we go up Shit’s Creek, we have a paddle!

The trailer was packed.  Then, it was unpacked, when I realized not everything would fit. Decisions were made about what was valuable and what could be sacrificed. As Daughter #1 was loading, she injured her arm.  That night, her arm swelled to triple its size and resembled a pale sausage, while her hand turned purple. Worrying. Still, we had no choice; we had to keep going. To make things more fun, it took two more unloads before the contents were properly balanced. I was doing most of the lifting, but D #1 was better at Tetris-ing the boxes into the small space so she kept working with the injured arm. In the end, we were forced to leave a great deal behind.

The cats (Milo and Rory) were on edge for weeks. Milo, who is fourteen, has been through many moves over the past seven years. He’s gone from Wisconsin to California (including two smaller moves within that state) to Delaware, then to Kent Island in Maryland where we had been for three years. Milo knew the signs. However, our poor, seven month old kitten had no idea, but he knew he didn’t like it.

The Purple Plum pulls the trailer.

A couple of days before we were set to pull out, Knoxville fell through. There was no way we could make it work. A friend had been offering us a place to stay until we could get settled, but she was in Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas. Could we impose upon her? It seemed too much, but there weren’t any other choices. We asked ourselves, “Could the car travel that far pulling the trailer? What about over the mountains?” There are two ranges between us and her: the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains. Since we had to leave the house in only a couple of days, we had no choice. We (D #1 and I) would drive south around the first set of mountains and come up through the Rockies at their lowest point just south of Las Vegas. The cats were packed in the car, hugs where made and tears were shed, saying goodbye to D #2, and off we went into the biggest storm of the year. We played our road mix of songs and sang our way through much of the night. If Milo began to cry, we sang ‘You are My Sunshine,’ and soon he would stop.

A Nor’easter – as they call the most furious of Atlantic storms – came chugging in, with winds of seventy miles-per-hour pummeling the side of the car the entire way to Florida. Add to that the cars trying to illegally draft off the trailer to save them gas and pull hard on our engine. The Plum was strong.  She kept going, and I kept shaking each of the offending vehicles off our tail. Because of the wind’s strain on the car, we had to stop often, and although we tried to drive until eleven or later at night, we weren’t making good progress. The terrible wind followed us across the south as we headed west.

The cost of gas was murdering the budget, and hotels Rory explores the hotel room in Wichita Falls, TXwere getting more and more expensive as we went along. Many didn’t accept pets so it became ‘beggars can’t be choosers,’ driving the cost higher. We still had plenty to put down a modest first month’s rent plus deposit and a bit left over so we were okay. Then, we hit the roads in Louisiana that pounded our poor Plum’s suspension near to its limit. The cats’ nerves began to fray as the car rode the waves of the road. Up and down, up and down we went. The meowing turned to mild screaming and not even ‘You are My Sunshine’ stopped it, but at least we were still moving.

What stopped us dead was an exit ramp of a La Quinta hotel in Wichita Falls, Texas. Something popped, and there was a horrifying whomping sound as we drove. We pulled into a mall parking lot to make a call to U-Haul to ask what kind of choices we had just over mid-way on our journey. Luckily, there was a U-Haul hub just a mile away. We made it there, and the manager worked with us to give a good price, but even with this savings over normal cost, our finances were devastated. He did save us about $700 total, but he only had a 20-foot truck to give us. All our belongings didn’t even cover the bottom of the space. We’d make it to our destination, but we wouldn’t have much when we got there. Gas for the behemoth truck – in the wind – was outrageous.Unpacking the trailer into the Uhaul truck.

On, we went. Two women (5’ 3” and 5’ even) in this big truck, pulling The Plum on full-car trailer with two quite unhappy cats in their crates along for the ride. Neither snuggles, nor choruses of ‘You are My Sunshine,’ moved Milo to stop shouting or Rory from echoing his big brother’s angry frustration. They did not like the rumble of the truck.

We journeyed on through New Mexico, Arizona and finally up into Nevada through the mountains and over theThe Purple Plum behind the 20 foot Uhaul truck. Hoover Dam. After a full week on the road, we arrived into our generous friend’s arms late Thursday afternoon, on March 8th, we nearly collapsed from exhaustion. Where our journey will take us from here, we are unsure, but for now, we are safe. We need to remake the money we lost during this rough journey quickly so we can find our new home.

 

Why Do Bad Things Always Come in Threes?

There is a strange horrible beauty to life, and death, sometimes. In the hours after a waterspout over The Chesapeake Bay turned into a tornado and ravaged our town in the earliest hours of Monday, July 24th — by the flickering light of candles — my younger daughter miscarried her child. Her sister curled up next to her on the bathroom floor holding her tight as we cried, then laughed, and cried again. We didn’t know what had happened a couple of miles away yet, only that the electricity was out. It wasn’t until my daughter’s partner had to drive from their apartment in Dover, DE through the gauntlet of emergency vehicles that we had any inkling. He barely made it thru as police has barricaded traffic, checked ids, a police officer only allowing him in because he explained what was happening in our house.

In the days and weeks preceding this awful night we had lost a new kitten to illness, nearly lost our beloved older cat to the same, had a car accident, and fought hard to hang onto this pregnancy. Terrible things do come in threes.

Weeping AngelThere is a strange horrible beauty to life, and death, sometimes. In the hours after a waterspout over The Chesapeake Bay turned into a tornado and ravaged our town in the earliest hours of Monday, July 24th — by the flickering light of candles — my younger daughter miscarried her child. Her sister curled up next to her on the bathroom floor holding her tight as we cried, then laughed, and cried again. We didn’t know what had happened a couple of miles away yet, only that the electricity was out. It wasn’t until my daughter’s partner had to drive from their apartment in Dover, DE through the gauntlet of emergency vehicles that we had any inkling. He barely made it thru as police has barricaded traffic, checked ids, a police officer only allowing him in because he explained what was happening in our house.

In the days and weeks preceding this awful night we had lost a new kitten to illness, nearly lost our beloved older cat to the same, had a car accident, and fought hard to hang onto this pregnancy. Terrible things do come in threes.

While she was staying with us younger daughter was on bed-rest and a high iron diet. Of course, we had just filled the refrigerator with wonderful, nutritious foods and they spoiled on their shelves. It was a financial blow we could not afford. Older daughter was told by her boss, even after only an hour of sleep that terrible night, she had to go to work or lose her job. Not a word of thanks was said when she went in to a day of only a trickle of customers. The store’s generator could run only a single register with the heat in the store nearly unbearable. It was a cruelty no one expects.

The electric company workers told us it would be 3-5 days for power to be restored. We didn’t know how we would survive in the hot-house. As soon as the police partially opened the road to allow people out, her partner took younger daughter, still suffering, back to their place in Dover.

 Amidst all this horror we found ourselves surrounded by unexpected kindness. Two friends, only known through Facebook, found a way to help by sending some non-perishable food, which carried us through the next few days. Their kind and hopeful messages kept me sane. I couldn’t be more grateful to them. Later in the evening after older daughter got off work, having not been able to get off the island for food, we were able to get over to the Chick-Fil-A. The line was wrapped around and through the parking lot. Once I ordered in my normal fashion we crawled toward the drive thru window watching each customer in front of us pay and receive their bags of food. When we pulled up, I reached my handed out the car window to pass the young women my card, which they waved away. “Your meal is on the restaurant today because you were so lovely when you ordered,” the young woman said holding the bag of fried bits of chicken and potato. Both older daughter and I burst into tears. I said it had been a horrible night and then day. They asked what had happened so I told these two strangers in a drive thru about the miscarriage and the candles while we all held hands through our respective windows, tears streaming down all our faces.

 Miracle of miracles, the power was restored sooner than expected. Many people lost a great deal that night. Some lost a portion of their houses, a few lost their entire home. Luckily, only one man was injured, eighty-one years old, crawled out from beneath his house – pissed off as hell, I hear — with a shard of wood implanted in his chest. He’s still angry, but fine. Time for all of us to rebuild.

When a Facebook Friend Dies

When a Facebook friend dies there is no protocol to follow. Sometimes the person sets up a list of a few friends to notify and spread the word. Other times, you just hear through a long grapevine and, occasionally, you never know why someone stopped posting. Those latter friends hang out in a strange limbo of not knowing. Were they incapacitated or did they just leave everyone behind one day in an exodus away from social media and its time sucking traps? What we don’t take into account is we have contact with these people often every day of our lives. How many “in real life” friends or even family can you say that about? Just over a year ago, I had lost a precious friend after a stunning and quick illness, but we shared a large group of people together. We grieved, and still grieve, together for the enormous loss she left behind.

On Friday, I learned of Bruce’s passing from a mutual friend. Bruce often disappeared for a week at a time due to limitations on his data streaming. When two weeks passed, I still didn’t notice. It seems like he liked and commented on some of the things I posted last week, but I guess that was three weeks ago and I’ve lost track of time. Caught up in my own problems and grief, which I didn’t share publicly, I didn’t notice him not being there. Had I posted about the death of my beloved uncle, or the struggles my mother is going through, he would have been one of the first ones there with a kind word. Even though he was on the other side of the world, in Australia, he always seemed to be around.

Trouble 4

Trouble, Bruce’s beloved “Boof-head” dog.

Bruce, also known as Unusual Ape, was a big man. Sometimes he got in trouble for hitting people, but almost always it was a man who abused a woman. I can’t imagine what would happen if he came upon someone abusing an animal, because of all the things Bruce loved in his life, it was his dogs… especially that “boofhead” Trouble. He would often record them lying in bed with Bruce’s big hairy arm across them, scratching their head and laughing in his deep rolling laugh. The thing about Bruce? He didn’t much care for people… not in person anyway, but his virtual friends were another matter entirely. He’d send messages, little videos, voice recordings, he posted the coolest stuff and wrote poetry. He had an enormous love and pride of family . His sister put up an obituary for him, “Ohana” it said, because, you see, Ohana means family. That’s from the Disney film Lilo and Stitch. No one believed in that more than Bruce.

A few years back, he bought a piece of land out in the Middle of Nowhere, South Wales, Australia. He documented his days long trip there in video. His dream was to build a Hobbit-like house, though he was going to start simple. He drew out a rough plan and started building a fence around the property. He may have been lonely sometimes, yet he had a joy out there which is difficult to describe. He’d arise at dawn to the sound of birds and watch the sun come up. Often he’d share these moments with a post.

I’ll miss the bastard. Facebook without Unusual Ape? Unthinkable. He was rough around the edges, but had a heart as giant as the moon. How could an asthma attack take his life? I can’t fathom it.