Jodi on January 5th, 2010

Grandpa Carl

Yesterday we bid a final farewell to Chris’ grandpa, Carl. The youngest member of a family of seven, Carl was 96-years-old when he passed away last Monday. His body may have finally gave way, but his mind never did. I only knew Carl in his later years, but he continually amazed me with his depth of knowledge. He could easily recall Cambodia’s troubled political past just as well as the latest Seahawk game. During our visits, he’d get me caught up on the Mariner’s and Seahawks standings. He’d fill me in on the latest news events. Heck, I think he may have well been the first person to know Trader Joe’s was coming to Ballard. Some people get their news from Brian Williams or Katie Couric, but I liked getting mine from Carl. He will be missed.

Jodi on December 14th, 2009

35. 3-5, supposedly lucky numbers for a Sagittarius mark my age this year. A week ago, I predicted a midlife crisis of sorts might hit today. How did I get this old, I pondered. And, when will I ever grow up?

Ten years ago, I started down a path that led me to where I am today. I began working at a international public health organization. And, ten years ago today they hired me. At the time, I was lost and disillusioned. I left marine biology behind in search of some place where I could make a difference. But, here’s the problem. That was ten years ago, and I don’t feel like I have it any more together than I did then.

Sure, sure … much of this can be chalked up to being back in school surrounded by 22-year-old dreamers but it begs the question—when do you grow up? My sister recently said that one grows up when they can afford furniture that doesn’t come with Swedish directions. Hmmm … at the rate I’m going that might never happen.

Chris on December 5th, 2009

We started out this Thanksgiving by remembering exactly where we were last year. It seems like forever ago but I do recall our time spent in Bariloche, Argentina. We had grandiose plans to search the internet and find ex pats celebrating Thanksgiving. Although the streets of Bariloche offered up plenty of chocolate, our search for a Thanksgiving feast ended in a complete dead end. Still in the mood for a special holiday dinner, we asked around and ended up at one of the “fanciest” restaurants in town. This turned out to be a very interesting place indeed, picture Frodo Baggins’ house from the Lord of the Rings. There was a large round wooden front door, numerous plants, rustic furniture and plenty of living trees inside that grew up through the roof. Known for its steaks, big slabs of meat adorned the grill. Unfortunately, we hadn’t crossed into meat eating territory yet (that didn’t come until Buenos Aires, and oh—it was good). Anyway, we enjoyed a nice dinner just the same and chatted up another American sitting nearby. It was a very memorable dinner but we are both happy to be back in the states for this American holiday.

Since Jodi could only spare a few days off, it made more sense for me to come out to Baltimore for Thanksgiving. My dad and his wife, Alice, live on a farm in nearby Virginia so we spent Thanksgiving with them. My dad’s main crop are llamas. There are several llamas, but without a doubt Christopher Columbus and Jodi Ann are our favorites, go figure. But there are also cats, ducks, and a dog. Visiting the animals and hanging out in front of the cozy fireplace is one of our favorite things about being home. Thanksgiving dinner went off without a hitch. Friends and family came over, and we had an amazing meal and conversation.

But life on the farm is not all fireplaces and sleeping in, there are always chores that need to be done. Jodi was tasked with finishing up a few take home mid-terms while I did some manual labor outside. Task one was to help set up a portable garage which consisted of a aluminum frame covered with a thick plastic canvas. What should have taken two hours, according to the directions, took us about six. Overall the setup went pretty smooth, so I’m not sure why we were so off on the time line. Task two was to attempt the removal and replacement of a valve for an oil sensor on my dad’s latest car project. His latest purchase of a 1963 Studebaker Avanti R2 is his current renovation project. While trying to unscrew a brass oil pressure fitting it snapped in half. We tried to pull out the half of the fitting that chose to stay in the engine block and screw in a new fitting. We toiled for hours unscrewing, drilling and prying out tiny pieces of brass all without success. In the end, it was figured out that we had the wrong tap (a tool that creates new threads for the new fitting). While defeated it was a good effort and we didn’t do any damage, so I will have to leave this task in the hands of my dad. He should be able to finish it without my further “help”. You can keep track of his progress from his forum on the restoration.

Chris on November 19th, 2009

Now that I am unemployed my days are pretty simple. I spend them taking Lucy for walks and hunting for jobs. So they seem a bit uneventful, which becomes more than evident in my daily talks with Jodi. Our conversations usually start out something like this:

Jodi: How are you?
Chris: Fine, how are you?
Jodi: Stressed. I’m studying for 5 finals and writing a 12 page paper that’s due tomorrow. What did you do today?
Chris: Um, I took Lucy for a walk.
Jodi: (Silence……)

The other day I had a little news to report though. There was construction for a long overdue crosswalk going on near our house. While watching the guys work, a drunk driver drove through the Fred Meyer parking lot hitting nine cars along the way. So to change up my day, I wandered out and took a look at the smashed up cars. Along the way, I chatted with the construction crew about the crosswalk and upon reaching the parking lot I surveyed the damage. As I arrived, the cops were just putting the obviously intoxicated driver of the van into the back of their squad car. I brought my camera so I snapped a couple photos of the scene. One of the owners of a smashed car saw me and asked me to take photos of his damaged car as well. A few others gave me their emails and the investigating police officer wanted a copy of the photos for her report as well.

I thought this was pretty exciting stuff but Jodi seemed less than impressed. After going through my events of the day she exclaimed that it must be nice to be a retired old man. At first I was offended, but I guess I can see where that came from. Being unemployed does seem a lot like what retirement might be like. I walk around the neighborhood and see what everyone is up to. To fill you in on the news, our next door neighbors (the ones with chickens) just moved out and the house is for rent. I talk to random people, like construction workers, about what is happening. And I investigate un-normal occurrences like the carnage in the parking lot. Now that this realization has hit me, I can tell you that it will be nice when I have gainful employment again. I’m not sure how the retirees do it.

Jodi on November 7th, 2009

I tell myself lies. This is what I’ve learned from my few months in Baltimore. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not big lies, just little white lies. The kind that help your psyche manage until it can handle the truth.

Two summers ago, I spent a few weeks in Baltimore taking classes for my degree. Baltimore is not what you would call a “safe” city. It’s got its issues with violent crime. I remember my roommates at the time giving me detailed instructions on which streets I could walk up and which I could not. Basically, I could walk a straight line to a main drag and then turn to catch the bus. So, that’s the route I walked for five weeks. The same route; I never deviated from it.

On my walk to school in the morning, I usually navigated around smashed bugs on the pavement. Those poor beetles I thought. They seemed to live quite a perilous life on the street. Toward dusk when I’d walk home, the little beetles would be out scurrying across the sidewalk and hovering in the cracks. Man that’s a lot of beetles, I thought. Where do they all come from? But, I didn’t give the beetles too much thought. They went about their business and I about mine. My last night, however, when I was starting to feel more comfortable with the neighborhood I went out with my roommates. We were out late and while walking back to the house, droves of beetles scampered around. With the flip-flop of my sandals lulling me into the security of a warm summer night, I heard my roommates talking about cockroaches. Cockroaches? Why are they talking about cockroaches? And, that’s when it hit.

My beetles were not beetles at all. They were cockroaches. Nasty, disgusting cockroaches.

Fast forward to present day: I’m living in Baltimore again. This time I’ve got a room in a residential neighborhood in a fairly safe area. I stick to the same route every day though, which includes cutting across a big open field. When I first moved in, I heard birds at night. That’s strange, I thought. I didn’t know of any bird species active at night. But boy, did they make a racket. I need to look up the birds native to Maryland, I thought. They’ve got an unusual species that only comes out at night. This is what I’ve been telling myself for nearly three months now. A few nights ago, however, they were making a ton of racket. While crossing the big open field and pondering those night birds, it clicked.

My birds were not birds at all. They were bats. Holy cow, they ARE bats. And, they are everywhere.

I’m not sure what this says about me, except that maybe I’m deranged. But, I find it comforting that my psyche is looking out for me in strange and bizarre ways even if it does change cockroaches into beetles and bats into birds.

So, what about you? Have you ever told a white lie to yourself?