Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Doggone Move

I have to give a tip of my hat to my dog, Abby, who has survived a coast-to-coast move and is seemingly adjusted to her new life. Poor Abby started out as a neglected and abandoned hunting dog in South Carolina, then moved to Florida where she rocked suburbia, was introduced to the ocean, neighborhood litter and lizards invading her space.

Then, as still a young pup, she was packed into a huge dog crate and flown across the country to the big city. She was introduced to eating dead crabs from the Bay, sniffing the sleeping homeless guys in the park, and peeing on the sidewalk.

And last night she visited a movie set around the corner from our house.
My husband was taking her on the fourth-shift walk when they stumbled on a scene from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. One of the security guys took a shine to Abby and even walked her around a little bit.

The movie comes out in 2014 and stars Kerri Russell and Gary Oldman. It’s about a “group of scientists in San Francisco who are struggling to stay alive in the aftermath of a plague that is wiping out humanity, while Caesar tries to maintain dominance over his community of intelligent apes.” The guy in charge of foliage, who I talked to this morning when I strolled down there with my coffee, told me that most of it was filmed in New Orleans, where they could block off whole neighborhoods willy nilly without city officials getting on their case. But to make it look San Francisco-y, they had to shoot some scenes here.

Abby is jazzed about this and has put the original Planet of the Apes on our Netflix queue so she can get some background.

Living on the same block as the filming of a movie about an animal species that takes over the world is just one of the things that make Abby’s move here worthwhile.

Getting her here was a feat. We had to join an alliance with Pet Relocation, a company that specializes in moving your animals. They did a great job, as far as I know. Like all dog-related services, you can’t rely on your dog to tattle-tale. Who’s going to tell if they just pushed her on the plane without eye contact or a Milk Bone?

We’ve moved other pets - dogs, aquatic frogs who celebrated the move by eating each other, and Lipstick, our goldfish who was immortalized in Home Sweet Homes. But their moves were always by car. Putting a dog on a plane is concerning.

My husband was slightly distressed when we were saying our goodbyes to her in Florida.

“Be a good girl and we’ll see you soon,” he said, giving her a full-body hug.

“We’ll see you on the other side!” I said, cheerfully. “I mean - um - ...”

Tim looked at me with horror. “Don’t say that!” he hissed, covering Abby’s ears. “You may as well have mentioned the rainbow bridge!”

All of his worrying was for naught - we think. Our only clue was that when she got out of the van her tail was wagging, which means it was still attached and her heart was still beating, so I labeled the whole operation a success.

For what it cost us to move her, my husband and I both could have flown first class to China and back. With Go-Go Inflight and cocktails. But it was totally worth it, because we have quite possibly the only Treeing Walker Coonhound South Carolina hunting dog in Nob Hill.


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'm New in Town So Naturally I Wanted to Spend the Day at the DMV

I had such high hopes. My hopes were as high as Coit Tower. My hopes were higher than the hill I have to walk up to take my dog to the park (which is high, just ask her, that panting dog-breath machine). My hopes were as high as the guy who sat next to me on the bus last week, one of the people who didn’t get the memo that the Summer of Love ended more than four decades ago.

I had called ahead to the California DMV to clarify a couple of things before I made the trip out there to get my California title, registration and license plates for my car. I was thrilled to little pieces when I found out that in California, you get an appointment, an actual day and time that is reserved for you at the DMV. I let myself entertain the possibility that instead of gray plastic chair hell, all flavors of BO, and long waits just to be told I didn’t do it right, that I might be escorted to a DMV teller by a smiling man in a jacket and tie, that I might be able to rate my experience on Yelp.

I wanted to make sure I was doing it right, because not doing it right causes fatigue, headache, irritable bowel and sexual side effects. I speak from experience. I had already registered my cars in six states. So I embarked on my seventh state of car ownership by opening up a big can of smug.

When I called, the guy was all laid back California.

“Your website doesn’t address the issue of in-person registration,” I said, reading off of my typed list. “If the car is in my husband’s name, does he have to be physically present to register the car?” I did not mention that I forge his signature better than he does. Or that we’ve been married so long that we are starting to look alike, so a quick trip to Supercuts and I could probably pass as him.

“Nah, you can do it for him,” the guy said. “It’s all good.”

“OK, so about this inspection,” I continued. “Do I get the inspection first and then go to my appointment? Do I need another appointment for the inspection?”

“Nah, you’re good. Just come for your appointment and they’ll take care of ya.”

I love living in California, I said to myself. This is going to be so great. My book, Home Sweet Homes, devotes the bulk of a chapter to my experiences at the DMV. I used to think you could judge a state by their libraries, but truth be told, a state can only be as good as the way they treat their newcomers with cars. I figured if I lived through New Jersey, I could certainly handle California.

Nevertheless, when I got in the car to head off to my appointment, my stomach was in knots. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I was nauseous with fear that the California DMV was going to discover my old speeding tickets, my two DUIs, the fact that I stole the car, the body in the trunk, and that annoying vehicular homicide I have on my record. None of those things exist, but that didn’t keep me from worrying myself sick that I was going to get caught for doing something wrong. For not doing it right.

There’s got to be a hitch, I thought. You can’t just walk into the DMV with an appointment and get your license plates without some complication.

That’s right. You can’t.

First, I saw the long line of people snaking around the building. But I thought we all had appointments.

Second, I saw a line of cars presumably in line for inspections. But I thought we didn’t need an appointment for that and it would all go swimmingly, I thought.

Third, I couldn’t find a parking spot. After 10 minutes of being third in line of a parade-speed line of cars circling the parking lot waiting for someone to come out and move, I left the parking lot and found street parking. The fact that in 10 minutes no one came out of the DMV was concerning. I wanted to say to the people in line, “You might eventually get in there, but you’re never coming out. Run! Run for your lives!”

Fourth, when I got into the building the first thing I saw was a sign that announced that fighting with a DMV employee was a federal offense. Not a good sign, literally.

Fifth, I got yelled at by a guy who wouldn’t answer my question as to which inside line I was supposed to get into. But . . . but I have  . . . but I have an ap . . . but I have an appoi . . But I have an appointment! I said in the non-serial killer voice that I’ve been practicing.

Sixth, after getting called up to the window, I was told to go back outside, get my car and get the inspection. Got in that line just in time for the late-morning break, when all of the DMV inspectors apparently went home for hot lunch and a nap, but eventually got the inspection, and had to park illegally to go back inside.

Seventh, got a new number, and then waited, the whole time worrying that now I actually had done something illegal. The relief of finally getting my California license plates was nothing compared to seeing that my car had not been towed.

My husband is about to go to the DMV to get his California driver’s license.

“Hey, could you check that out for me?” he asked. “Let me know what I have to do and what to take and what's involved.”

“It’s all good,” I told him. “Just go in and they’ll take care of ya.”

What, I should be the only one to suffer?

If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

Friday, July 5, 2013

People to See, Places to Go, Butterflies to Save

I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, and like most people, the more I have to do the less willing I am to actually do even a tiny bit of it. 

So at this point, when I’m dealing with just having moved into a four-story house where nothing is on the proper level, learning the San Francisco transit system, publishing a book, learning Marketing 101, mastering new TV remotes, and trying to figure out what those big bulbous green vegetables are that are selling all over Chinatown, I’ve made it my Number 1 priority to save butterflies.

Not real ones. That would actually be worthwhile. I’m saving colorful, sparkly pretend butterflies on Bejeweled on my iPad.

When I got my iPad, I hesitated to put games on it, because I have a history of video game abuse. I almost lost my middle class lifestyle and a couple of toddlers over Tetris back in the ‘90s. But enough time had passed, I thought I had outgrown some of my obsessive behaviors. I was an idiot. I haven’t changed a whit since I was 10.

I started out playing regular Bejeweled. Zapping colored gemstones was satisfying enough, but then when I was working out a hand cramp, I stumbled across the other modes.

You would think that Zen Mode would be soothing and mentally nourishing. Wrong.  The sounds are waterfalls, trickling stream and other stuff that made me want to go to the bathroom behind a big tree in the woods. At the bottom of your screen flash encouraging spiritual reminders.

I will meet my healthy weight.
I like long walks.
I let fear pass me by.
I am up to any situation.
I love courageously.
I deserve abundance.
The Universe is safe and friendly.

Being a former fan of TM, I have my own mantra. I can’t tell you because it’s a secret and if I told you, I’d have to kill you in the most peaceful Zen Buddhist way possible. Like slowly strangling you with a 100% silk pastel scarf.  But I relied on the soothing reminders of my self worth, since it’s kind of hard to repeat your mantra when you’re zapping colorful jewels. Things catch fire and explode and stuff.

Zen Mode also has a heavy breathing option. I get to choose the speed from the slowest - Darth Vadar breathing that sounds like someone on oxygen who may not make it – to the fastest - my dog mouth-snoring when she’s dreaming of chasing a raccoon.

But enough about Zen. Let’s talk about Butterfly mode, which makes me a super hero.

There’s a big black spider at the top of the screen. If a butterfly gets to the top before you can save her, she is eaten by the spider and the game is over. There are strategies and points and levels and badges, blah, blah, blah. I care about one thing and one thing only when I’m playing Butterfly mode: How many butterflies I can save.

I’ve made up more incentives for me to do a better job saving the butterflies by creating a story in which the Spider cabal is holding millions of these colorful butterflies prisoner in their lair. Every time I play a game, I get a number of them released onto the game board and I have a chance to save a bunch. If a game ends with fewer than 100 butterflies saved, the spiders’ power increases. But if I can save more than 100 butterflies in a game, I start to shore up power and the evil spiders start to weaken. If I save 200 butterflies the spiders’ ability to catch more butterflies starts to wane. Once I topped 300 butterflies saved in one game and I was so excited I almost got myself a tattoo and a tiara. In real life.

I love to torment that rotten spider. As the butterflies get closer to the top, they start to shake. The spider, that asshole, hovers nearest the one that is closest and it fidgets around. You would see its mouth water if it was a real spider. (Although if it was a real spider I would smash it with a big shoe and that would be the end of it and all the peril with these beautiful butterflies.) I love to play my jewels so that a butterfly gets almost within reach and then I make a big play and save it and seven of his friends.

“That’s right! Suffer you stupid vulture!” I mutter in the dentist’s waiting room. The fact that everyone else is on their iPads reading Maya Angelou and The Iliad is beside the point. I’m saving freakin’ butterflies here!

When my movers were moving things into my house, I sat by the doorway and checked numbers off a Bingo sheet. In between, I played Butterfly mode Bejeweled.

The mover I had nicknamed The Professor saw my iPad and said, “Bejeweled?”

“Yep,” I answered.

“My wife is addicted to that game,” he said.

“Well, she sounds like an amazing woman,” I said, matching up a glowing fiery yellow stone and saving five butterflies.

“Yeah, she sits on her iPad all day playing that game. I swear she’d play it in her sleep if she could.”

“Perhaps your wife would like to join forces with me and together we can shut down these nasty ass spiders once and for all,” I said, my voice rising. There was a pause. Then a more awkward pause. And then another mover walked in with a box strapped to his back and said “Yellow 228!” I put down my iPad and picked up my Bingo sheet and colored in the box.

The Professor was suspiciously absent the next day when the crew came back to unpack.


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.