Thursday, April 26, 2007

San Diego

I just got back last night from spending 4 days in San Diego at a special education law conference. The conference was fine and somewhat informative, but mostly I went to hang out with Kathleen and see Charlie (my boss). I bunked up with Kathleen in her room and we attended lectures (and whispered to each other about what stupid advice the lecturers were giving), sat out by the pool, read books, went for walks, visited with clients, watched awesomely bad TV while eating yummy Thai takeout, and had a great time catching up. San Diego is pretty but it was chilly and breezy -- a high of only 70 during the day, which felt cold to my already thinned blood.

The only downer to the trip was that I had a horrible time sleeping. The beds in the hotel were too soft and too warm, plus every night trains ran through downtown at 3 in the morning and woke me up. So now I'm home and I'm completely exhausted, plus feeling a bit lonely being away from the mainland.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The saga of the van, entering Week 3...

The idea of the used-car salesman as a slick scumbag lower than just about every other life form is not a new one, but up until now, I hadn't really had any experience with it. I've bought all of my cars used, but I got them from CarMax, where the price is fixed and the cars have all gone through a mandatory inspection/service system, plus you can get a warranty. So there's no haggling over the price, and there's a certain assurance that the car will be in proper working order. The sales all went like this: I looked for a car I wanted, found one online, called CarMax to let them know I was coming in to see it, checked out the car and took it for a test-drive, and bought it. Easy as pie.
Then Jason and I went and bought a crappy van from a used commercial van and truck dealer here. We knew we were getting a beater, but were willing to put some money into the thing to get it in good shape, because it was so inexpensive to begin with. I also got the dealer to throw in a free tune-up. This was on a Saturday. The salesguy (named Les -- his license plate says "GO LES" -- oy) assured us that it would be done in a couple of days, by Wednesday at the latest.
Well, he was wrong. After two weeks of "oh your van will be ready on Thursday nope whoops it'll be ready on Monday no sorry it'll be ready on Wednesday blah blah bloo blee" I called them and said, basically, "what the fuck?" The guy assured me he was doing his best, lied to me that he had offered Jason a loaner (he absolutely didn't), and told me that they were busy. I said, "That doesn't really help me. You've had the car for two weeks. It's a tune-up, not major repairs. I don't understand how a tune-up takes so long. You change the oil and the filter, check the spark plugs, check the belts and hoses, cap the fluids, and you're done." He said, in a tone like I was a complete moron, "fine, if that's the way you feel, it'll be ready this afternoon." "Fine." "Fine." Asshole.
So we went and picked up the van. It ran rough, and ate way too much gas, but we knew this and were prepared to spend some money getting it fixed up. Jason was happy -- he could toss his surfboard in the back, take the dog to the beach without worrying about getting sand all over my car's leather upholstery, drag his tools around.
Then the next day, Les called. "You need to bring the van back."
"Because we forgot to do the safety inspection and update the state safety sticker."
"*sigh* Ok, we'll bring it this afternoon."
So we took the van in, and Les and the mechanic drove it down the road to the shop. We were assured that it's a simple process that will take no more than 15 minutes.
Forty-five minutes later, Les and Brian, the lot manager, came back without the van.
"We have a problem."
"We can't get the van started."
"Why not?"
"We think there's a problem with the alarm system, and that we tripped it and now the engine is shut down and we can't get it going. We're going to jump the battery."
I've listened to enough Car Talk to know that this sounded like a stupid plan.
"Why? You just said that you think it's an alarm problem, not a battery problem. Why don't you just deactivate the alarm?"
"Oh, that's very difficult and complicated."
"We didn't have any problems with the alarm. We turned it on, we turned it off, the van ran fine. So what are we supposed to do?"
"We're trying to get it started now."
"OK. That's strange. It was running fine when we brought it here."
That started a prolonged argument that ended up with Jason and me in Brian's office, Jason sitting quietly looking peeved, and me and Brian arguing. Brian's point seemed to be that we had bought a cheap van as-is, and it wasn't his problem. According to him, he just happened to be the unlucky one who had possession of the van when it stopped working. I pointed out that when I bought the van, it was running, when I took it home, it was running, when I brought it back, it was running, when he took it down to the mechanic, it was running, and only after the mechanic did something to it did it stop running. He reiterated again that it was a cheap van. I told him to stop lecturing me about buying a cheap van, and that "as-is" meant that I assumed the risk of the condition of the van as of the time I bought it, not that he got to fuck it up more after I bought it and then dump the problem in my lap.
The argument was going nowhere, so I said so and said that I wanted to see the van and what the mechanics were doing to it. Turns out, it was the alarm, which the mechanic suddenly remembered how to deactivate (it wasn't so complicated after all). But in the meantime, they had flooded the engine trying to start it and sprayed some kind of high-octane shit all over the engine and the fuel injectors. We waited for the engine to de-flood, finally started it, and began the trip home. About 10 miles into the 17 mile trip, the engine started to lose power and acceleration. First Jason couldn't get it over 60, then 55, then 50, until by the time we were a mile or so from the house, we couldn't get it about 15 mph and we were waving people to pass us. But we managed to get home, found a mechanic not too far away, and arranged to take it in the next morning.
The next morning, we couldn't get it started at all. So we got a tow-truck to take it to the service place. That was on Saturday (April 15). The service place worked on it for 5 days, managed to get it started and fixed the alarm system, but the car still won't run -- as soon as you put it in drive, it stalls out. They can't figure out what's wrong. So now we have to pay to have it towed to the Ford dealer so that maybe they can figure out what's wrong. And in particular, whether what the dealer did caused the van to go from a rough-running -- but nonetheless running -- vehicle into a completely broken down piece of shit. I have confidence that the answer is yes, and when I have enough evidence to satisfy the relatively low "more likely than not" civil court standard, I'm going to take Brian to small-claims court and hand him his ass on a platter.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Jason gets a job

He aced his test on Monday, and today he's got a new gig.  He's out at the company right now filling out paperwork and taking care of administrative bidness.  Nice! 

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lovely day

It's only 11:40 in the morning, and already the day has been a cracker (to use one of Jason's favorite bits of Aussie slang). To begin with, we're still basking in the glow of our first date with Janet and Sean, the couple we met at the seder a couple of weeks ago. We met them in town last night for a really yummy Thai dinner, and just had a fabulous time hanging out with them. They are so funny and cool and easy going, and the four of us had a great time. Jason and I were so funny before hand - it really was like having a first date with a new prospect. We were all nervous about what to wear and whether they would like us. Even when we first met, we weren't sure if we should wait a few days to call -- a la Jon Favreau's character in Swingers -- or risk looking like desperate losers. But all went well, and we're very excited to have some actual friends here in Hawaii.

Today was also the day I went in for genetic screening, including the mack daddy 3D ultrasound. I'm in my 13th week, and the baby is about 2 1/2 inches long -- exactly the right size. The heartbeat is perfect, everything looks good, and the little monkey was hopping around like a jumping bean. The doctor was trying get some very specific shots at specific angles to take some measurements, and the kid wouldn't sit still. It was very funny and cute and exciting.

Also, Jason took his journeyman's exam to get into the Hawaii electrician's union today, and he totally killed it. The union guys were so impressed with him that the president of the union called him into his office to talk to him. It looks like he'll be starting work really soon, possibly this week, and should be paid at a pretty high rate on the scale because of his skill level. I'm so proud of him.

In other news, we had an absolutely outstanding visit with David and Michele -- saw lots of beautiful beaches, went on a helicopter ride around the North Shore and Windward side, relaxed, worked on our tans. It was so nice to hang out with good friends, and taking them around gave me a newfound appreciation of what a beautiful place I live in. Also, our stuff came, so we're in the process of putting the house together, hanging pictures, arranging rugs and furniture. We went to Macy's and used some of our wedding gift certificates to stock the kitchen and get nice new sheets. Jason bought a crappy old van for $1000, and it's in the shop getting fixed up, so now he's got a vehicle to cart his tools and surfboard around in. Everything is coming together nicely.
Waimanolo Beach on the Windward side:

Our helicopter and pilot:

Aerial shot of the North Shore. The waves were firing -- 10 to 18 feet:

A tiny little secluded cove on the North Shore -- we were the only ones there:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Shalom and Aloha

Last night we went to the community Passover seder hosted by Temple Emanuel, the local Honolulu synagogue. It was incredibly fun and I'm so glad we went. It started out sort of questionably -- as the rabbi was introducing himself and getting the evening started, the door at the back of the room burst open and a bunch of people yelling and carrying signs marched in. "Holy crap, anti-Israel protesters!" was the first thing I thought, but then I realized it was a planned "comedy" bit. The signs said things like, "Down with Pharaoh" "Freedom Now!" and "Egyptians use non-union labor," and then the protesters had this conversation with the rabbi in which he explained that the Jews had been freed from the Egyptians by God and that's what we were all here celebrating. I guess it was kind of funny, but I was dubious. Then we all had to stand up and hold hands with everyone at our table sing a song to the tune of "We Shall Overcome," except that this version was entitled "We Shall Overeat."* Jesus Christ. And, oy. My heart kind of sank, because I don't like my Judaism flavored with hippie-dippy, joke-y type bullshit. I like my Jewish rituals to be a little more formal and reverent.

But then everything settled down and we got down to the business of the seder, which ended up being lovely. We were seated at a table of other young couples who were all very nice and interesting, and I think I made a friend -- a woman whose husband is in the military (he's really cool, too), and she works from home as a management consultant. We exchanged numbers and are working on a plan to get together soon. The service was very multicultural and warm -- the Four Questions were read in a number of different languages (French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Yiddish, etc) to symbolize the fact that the Passover seder is observed by people all over the world. Each table had a special question about Passover that they were supposed to come up with an answer to, and then at some point in the service the rabbi would ask them the question and talk about the answer. There was lots of discussion and in*terpretation about the various points in the service. And the congregation was all shapes and colors -- Asian, Polynesian, caucasian, people that lived in Hawaii, people that were visiting from out of town. Everybody was incredibly welcoming and friendly, and in addition to having a good time, I really felt the spirit of the holiday. Happy Passover, everyone. May we have a year in which we work towards peace and freedom for all.

*Here's one of the five verses we had to sing:

We shall overeat
We shall overeat
We shall overeat this day
Oh, this is our wish
Please pass the gefilte fish
For we shall overeat this day

Monday, April 02, 2007

David and Michele: 5 Gulfstream Vs

This is another tribute to the awesomeness of my friends. This one honors David and Michele, using a rating system of Gulfstream V luxury aircrafts, as a nod to Dave & Michele's tendency to undertake lengthy and expensive travel to come to my side.

First, a little background. Michele was a sorority sister of mine at the University of Virginia. At UVa, we were friends and I thought she was smart and cool, but I can't say that I knew her as well or hung out with her as much as some of my other friends from college (probably because she was a year ahead of me in school). After graduation, I didn't see her for 10 years. Then one night in 1999 (I think, may have been early 2000), I was hanging out with a friend of mine in a pub in Atlanta, and this woman who looked familiar walked up to me and said, "Did you go to UVa?"

Me: Yes.
Her: Were you a Zeta?
Me (becoming more intrigued): Yeeess..
Her: You're Wendy!
Me: Yes!
Her: I'm Michele!
Me: Holy shit!

And we reconnected and became close friends again. I introduced her to a bunch of my buddies and she introduced me to a bunch of her buddies (most notably, Carrie, who came with me on the surfing trip to Costa Rica when I met Jason). She became part of the core "girls' night" crew, and she's been an integral part of my life ever since. She married David in 2003, and he's a total mensch -- smart, funny, interesting, and an all-around swell guy.
In the past few years, David and Michele have played an integral role in the major events in my life, and I feel compelled to chronicle their outstanding deeds:
  • When my dog, Floyd, died in 2003, Michele hosted an Irish wake in Floyd's behalf, in which we toasted to Floyd's memory and told funny stories about him. Michele set up a picture of Floyd on the counter with a little shot glass of whiskey set in front of it, so he could have some libations to take him up to heaven. (5 G-Vs)
  • When Jason and I got married in Australia in 2005, David and Michele flew over even though they could only stay for a week (which is murderous turn-around time for such a long trip and huge time difference), and even though Michele was 5 1/2 months pregnant with her second child. Michele's rationalization was, "hey, you have to have a posse for your wedding." Other than my parents, only 3 people came over from the States -- Dave and Michele, and my friend Malinda. Michele calmed me down when I was freaking out on my wedding day, did my hair, and generally kept me sane. She and David were also huppah-holders. (5 G-Vs)
  • At our second wedding in Atlanta in 2006, Michele was one of my bridesmaids and she and David helped us set up for the rehearsal dinner the night before. I was, of course, freaking out that day, and Michele kept me sane. (5 G-Vs)
  • At our New Years' Eve party this year, Michele showed up straight from the hospital after working insane hours delivering babies. She hit the moon bounce in her scrubs. (5 G-Vs)
  • On the Sunday we were leaving Atlanta to start our cross-country trip, Michele opened her office to give me an ultrasound and thereby helped reassure me that my pregnancy was progressing well.
  • This weekend, Michele and David are, once again, making a long trip for a short amount of time to come and visit us. They will be our first visitors since moving to Hawaii, and will ease some of the lonesomeness I feel at being so far from my friends and family. (5 G-Vs)
So, there it is. Once again, I am overwhelmed by the lengths to which my friends will go to see me, help me, and generally make my life complete. Dave and Michele, I love you and can't wait to see you on Friday. We'll have leis and cocktails ready for you when you get off the plane.