Mr. Mom and the Desert heat

January 29, 2010

"I had to drive to work today in a freaking blizzard! You couldn't even see if the stoplights were red or green or whatever color they're supposed to be because they were all covered in snow!" -Anonymous source from the Current-Argus newsroom

No, I didn’t wither away in the heat of the desert. And no, I didn’t get eaten by a mountain lion. The reason it has taken me so long to make this post is that I didn’t have internet in ‘my place’ until yesterday.

Speaking of my place, I’ve been thinking it needs a better name. Kukla’s (quite literal) Korner or DK Kountry obviously came to mind rather quickly. But then I outdid even myself in coming up with the new official name for my place: Kukla’s Krib. I wonder how my landlord will feel about a house sign out front.

The krib is coming along quite nicely now. I spent my first week doing some serious homemaking (or I guess that’s kribmaking). Besides making all-too-frequent Walmart runs to buy the various things I kept discovering I needed, I also got down and dirty with some heavy duty cleaning. Yes, you can just go ahead and start calling me Mr. Mom (actually, on second thought, don’t do that).

While the place is now pretty much fully functional, it wasn’t always that way. The first night I spent in here I slept on my newly bought $50 couch without heat. It made for quite the pathetic scene if I do say so myself. Here I was, just me, my couch and an empty apartment with no heat or hot water, much less cable or internet. And for those of you who are finding it hard to feel sympathetic for poor Dan complaining about a lack of heat in the middle of the desert, let me just call your attention to the lovely picture of my car… covered in SNOW!

That’s right, it snows here. Yes here, as in the desert. So yeah, it is cold, especially when your krib is without heat. That night all I could do was bury myself inside my sleeping bag wrapped in the three blankets I own and quote Dr. Evil: “It’s frickin freezing in here Mr. Bigglesworth.” That’s pretty much how the night went for me, except there was no Mr. Bigglesworth so I was talking to myself.

Now this whole anecdote poses one very valid and logical question. Why would I move into my place when I knew I didn’t have heat? What happened to Reid and his place? (Ok so that was two questions). Ah, touche my friend. Well you see, the gas company was supposed to come turn on my heat and hot water earlier that day. This was also the day my bed was supposed to arrive. Notice the key word in both of those last two sentences. “Supposed” to. As in they were scheduled to but didn’t.

The gas man did finally arrive the next morning. It didn’t take him long to discover that my heater and water tank are both boarded up behind a wall. Upon making this discovery he proclaimed, “I’m not allowed to open stuff like that so you’re gonna have to do that part yourself.” Not ok. Not at all. In my head I was basically left with two options: a) start tearing into the wall at the expense of my deposit before I even paid it or b) tell the gas man to come back later, and who knows when that would be. I was literally standing in front of the boarded wall with a hammer in hand when it occurred to me I should call the real estate agency. They sent out their ‘handy man’ right away. Whew.

Opening and closing the wall was still just as much of a project as I thought it would be. On the bright side, I finally met my neighbor living next door in apartment B. Apparently she works a night shift and was just getting to bed when all the hammering started. So yeah, at least that wasn’t awkward.

When the gas man left, the heater still wasn’t on. He insisted the gas was connected and all the handy man needed to do was flip the breaker once to restart it. I can’t tell you how incredibly reassuring that was. Handy man to me: “You stand here and watch for the flames. I’ll go back and look for the breaker box.” Me (nervously): “Uh, ok.” When those flames actually did turn on I about put a hole in the ceiling with my head from jumping so high. Talk about relief.

In all honesty though, I may be over sensationalizing the whole cold thing. While the night without heat was uncomfortably cold, it was just one night. As for the snow, it was more funny than anything else. I coulda had a great picture for you all because when I woke up Thursday morning it looked like a blizzard outside. But when I got out of the shower 10 minutes later, the blizzard was over and the snow was already half melted off my car. I only have the picture I do because we got a slight re dusting Friday morning.

Other than our quick “blizzard” (overhearing conversations about the snow at work was great fun… you woulda thought we were in Canada with all the tall tales I heard) and some rain the night before, the weather here has been quite peachy. I played disc golf Monday and have been in short sleeves more often than not.

When I started this post I planned to provide updates on work life and my rapidly developing social scene. Seeing as my word count is already over 900, however, I will have to save that for next time. Until then (I promise it won’t be as long of a wait, now that I have internet and all) enjoy the bright sunny January weather in St. Louis, Oxford, Illinois or wherever you are. I sure am enjoying it here in the Southwest.

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In with the New (Mexico)

January 19, 2010

507 W Bonbright, Apt A, Carlsbad, NM 88220... that's my address. Now you have it. Just sayin.

It’s certainly no “Depot” and I can’t claim it to be “Worth the Trip” either; but hey, at least it’s bigger than Emerson 227. “It” of course is my new place. Now I realize that “place” isn’t all the descriptive, but I really don’t know what else to call it. If I say apartment that will make you think of an apartment complex, which I not at all where I live. If I say house, well that would be lying too. Duplex probably comes closest, but I’m not totally certain that is accurate either. So place it is.

I found my place with incredible speed and ease. Ironically, this seems to be a recent trend in my life ever since graduating college, which I did neither quickly (took me an extra semester) nor easily (double major in two different schools… who’s idea was that?). Perhaps I’m just making up for lost time. After arriving in Carlsbad at 1:30, I managed to get tours of three ‘places’ that afternoon. The next morning the real estate agency called back to say my application passed and I could come in to sign the lease at 1.

Before rushing over there, however, there was one final place I needed to look at. This provided me a classic welcome to Carlsbad moment. The landlord, a scraggly (she had remnants of a beard so I think its a fair comment) 60ish-year old woman named Rosemary met me outside in the lawn, which just so happened to be covered (may be an exaggeration, but not by much) dog poop. After several failed attempts to open the door, Rosemary declared she had brought the wrong key and needed to go retrieve the right one. As I headed back to my car to wait, one of the neighbors from across the street came out and gave me a short wave. I said hi and waved back then proceeded to enter my car. That’s when I noticed the neighbor was walking over and wanted to speak to me. I opened my door and before I could say anything this old man pointed to the house next to the one I came to see and said “that man who lives over there is a f***ing crook, watch your a**”. I nodded sheepishly, not really knowing what to say or do, and sat there shell shocked as the man turned around and went back into his house. Wow, I thought to myself, that just happened.

Between the creepy neighbor man I just met, the alleged crook next door and the absentminded landlord (not to mention the excessive amounts of feces in the front yard), I just about left right then and there. I only stayed to be polite to Rosemary. My tour lasted all of two minutes. I walked in, acted like I was looking around and told her I just felt better about another place I already looked at. Then, I got the heck outta there as fast as I could.

Even with the lease signed, I still couldn’t start living in my place right away. Utilities wouldn’t be turned on until Tuesday and every room was completely empty. Until then, I could stay at a fellow reporter’s house and sleep on his couch. His name, by the way, is Reid Wright. Yeah, he was pretty much born to be a journalist.

During the days I have kept busy running errands of various sorts… and watching football of course. Yard sale shopping Saturday morning was a fun way for Jesse and I to learn our way around town. Actually, I must say that without Jesse this whole would be a complete lost cause. Seriously, I would be so lost without her. What did people moving to new towns before the days of GPS even do anyway. I’m not totally sure what I would have done but it probably would have involved sitting on a street corner and crying.

The yard sale adventure was a huge success. I came away with a hide-a-bed couch, a kitchen table with chairs and a set of dishes. One of my neighbors, who just so happens to be much friendlier than my alternatives, also gave me a small cushioned chair for the living room. His (the neighbor’s, not the chair’s) name is Dan so I will be able to remember his name. His wife (who’s name is not Dan and thus I am unable to recall it) is also super nice.

Dem Cowboys are the local favorite in Carlsbad... unless they get crushed in the playoffs of course

I dedicated Saturday and Sunday to the NFL playoffs with the justification that it would help me learn the local sports bar scene (side note: Sunday NFL games start at 11 am in this time zone. This is both weird and inconvenient. I will have to find a church with an early or evening service). Well, Saturday and Sunday are over, and I have yet to find said sports bars. Chili’s seems to be the best option this town has to offer. There is also a Mexican restaurant called Lucy’s that will suffice as well. Other than that… nothin. Oh, and for all of you who suddenly hold ambitions of starting a BW’s franchise in Carlsbad you should kill that dream immediately. Even with only two quasi sports bars in town, neither were anywhere closed to being full during game time. This both scares and excites me because it means that high school sports really are more important to these people than any other team. By the way, do you know why New Mexico doesn’t have a professional sports team? Because then Texas would want one too!

While Carlsbad lacks in sports bars it does offer some nice local restaurant options (they just don’t like putting TV’s in every corner of the room, that’s all). So far my best meal by far came at Danny’s Place. No, this is not me making up ridiculous lies about how good my home cooking is. There is actually a really great BBQ restaurant in town called Danny’s Place. It even serves “St. Louis cut pork ribs.” Between Danny’s, my neighbor and the new sports editor, I’m beginning to think that all good things in this town share a common name 😉 No that is not an invitation for you to start calling me Danny (only my sister gets to do that). Yes, I did just insert a winky smiley face into my post.

Besides random errands, aimless driving around and football, I also have already had several fun and/or interesting nights here too. Ellen Rohn (a girl I know from Miami and Navs who also randomly ended up in Carlsbad) has let me tag along with her group of friends from work as a tour guide at the Caverns. Thursday (my first night in town) I joined them for two hours of volleyball at the rec. Friday I trekked it out to her place (housing provided by her employer, about 45 minutes from town) for Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and Poker night. While walking back to my car I discovered that in addition to the sunny short sleeve weather you can also be jealous of me for how great the stars are here (yes, even better than Oxford, Ohio). I seriously almost fell over when I walked out Ellen’s front door. They are that good.

Sunday night was a ‘weekend’ night for Reid and I; we spent it over at one of his friend’s houses where we were joined by a bunch of college and/or (I didn’t really know) high school aged kids who also had a weekend night due to MLK day. The details of this gathering probably should not be posted on the world wide web but the cliff notes version says there was a ‘rave’ (think black lights, glow sticks and techno music) and we will leave it at that. Like I said, fun and/or interesting.

Well, work starts Tuesday (which will probably be ‘today’ when this gets posted). Reid said my desk has been empty for several months and there are probably hundreds of messages on the phone, none of which he expects to be pleasant. I’ve been told this town is quite serious about its high school sports and that’s no joke. Everyone I’ve told about my job as sports editor gave me some comment about how bad the section has been or how they want it to be. The good news, anyway, is that improving the section will not be much of a challenge (so easy a caveman could do it). Improving it enough, however, will.


Off into the sunset

January 17, 2010

The perfect ending…

Why, at the end of every movie, do the main characters feel so compelled to suddenly turn and travel west? And how does this always happen during a sunset? I really wouldn’t care all that much except for the fact that this unexplainable phenomenon now creates big problems for me. You see, riding off into the sunset has become directly linked with storybook endings. Just the other day, however, I jumped into my little Toyota Carolla and quite literally drove off into the sunset (well, at least the sun set 8-9 hours into the ride). But this is not the end! As a wise man named Happy Gilmore once said, we’ve only just begun

My drive west totaled around 16 hours over two days. The drive itself proved largely uneventful outside of two malicious attacks by mother nature. The first of these happened on I-44 not far into the trip at all. As I began to pass a semi truck, huge chunks of ice flew off its top and landed right next to my car. I’m just glad I was in the left lane because at that moment in time it definitely was the right one. The second attack came much later in the drive. While cruising through the not-so-scenic (and all too) plains of West Texas, a tiny little tumble weed bounced harmlessly in front of my path. It was terrifying. I hadn’t seen anything move in hours.

While the drive itself provided less items of interest than a Chicago Cubs trophy case, my stops along the way all came with their own festivities. First up was Miami, OK. That’s right all you Redskin, cough, um, I mean RedHawk fans, it does exist. I knew the Indian tribe my alma mater is named after was located in the (just) OK state, but had no idea I would run into it on I-44. Needless to say, I was all but obligated to stop. After briefly entertaining ambitions of driving around town I settled for a quick gas stop and an extra glance at the Miami billboard. Sadly, no one noticed the Miami sticker on my car during the few moments I spent next to the pump.

West Texas… yup, that’s about it

$10.30 of Oklahoma toll-road dues and several hours later I found myself making stop number two in Elk City. This was my projected stopping point for the night but I had arrived ahead of schedule. Another quick fill up of the tank and stomach and I was on my way. Not long after I left town, however, I was quickly searching for another exit. My mom was on the phone trying to give me phone numbers to a family we knew in Amarillio and I needed to stop to write them down. Luckily I pulled off at an exit  rather quickly. Not-so luckily, this exit lacked both an enterance ramp back on the west-bound interstate and phone service.

So back I went to Elk City where I parked and re-called mom. Then I called the Monahans (the parents of my sister’s friend from school who live in Amarillio) to make sure I had a place to stay for the night… and knew how to get there. This is when Jesse, my new GPS, first proved her worth. While following directions on a screen isn’t quite as fun as squinting for street signs in the dark, it certainly is much easier. Jesse got her name after a phone conversation with the one and only Gregg Kennedy, who kindly called me late in my drive to help me through those West Texas plains. He asked me if I had named my GPS yet and I honestly told him that doing so just never really occurred to me. Well, of course this got me thinking. Lets see, the brand name is Magellan… like a fellon… like Jesse James… yup that works, Jesse it is. What can I say, I like to keep it simple. I will note that Jesse often goes by “Mav” (short for Maverick) since she is my road trip wingman… Top Gun… get it? By the way, why isn’t there a GPS company named “wingman” yet? Is it just me or is that not just ridiculously obvious?

In Amarillo the Monahans greeted me with my own room, a pork chop dinner, NHL hockey and a beer. All of a sudden 11 hours in the car seemed totally worth it. The next morning I woke up to a bowl of cheerios, a toasted english muffin and the local sports page. Just one night and it already felt like home. That’s when I remembered I still had five more hours on the road ahead of me. Not just any five hours. Five hours through land flatter than Kansas and with less barns to look at. I couldn’t believe it… I actually missed I-70.

Jesse went on the fritz in Lubbock when road work sent me on a slight detour; it routed me off the road enough that she knew I wasn’t there any more but kept me close enough to keep her confused as to where I was instead. Really Mav just wanted me to stop and just so happen to find the Jimmy John’s because she already knows me that well (does it weird you out that both of her names come from famous men… well, it shouldn’t).

After my red raid of Lubbock (I hope you’re still awake sports fans) I entertained myself by over reacting to every sign that had anything to do with New Mexico and or Carlsbad. Seriously, I almost got out of my car to take a picture on multiple occasions. When I say “signs,” all I am talking about are those standard green mile makers on the side of the road that say “Carlsbad… 97”. Nothing to hoot and holler about (much less leave your seat for)… unless of course you’ve just driven through Oklahoma, west Texas and anywhere in New Mexico.

Carlsbad has two different “Welcome to Carlsbad” signs, both of which I nearly fell out of my car for. You all (I’m will resist saying “yall” as long as possible) can blame seat belts for this post’s lack of pictures not stolen from google images. Jesse guided me to the Current-Argus newsroom, where I practically jumped out and ran in to find my managing editor. “Hey Martha. I’m here!”

(To be continued)


The Real World: Carlsbad

January 11, 2010

Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down..

To answer your question, no this does not feel weird at all. Why would it? So what if I’m a couple days late? Packing up all my possessions in the middle of January is perfectly normal. At least that’s how it’s gone the last four years of my life anyway. Ok sure, spring semester at Miami starts today and I’m still in St. Louis. The first two days of class are just intro syllabus days though so it’s really no big deal. I’ll be there by the time all the important stuff starts.

I will admit one thing does feel a little bit different this year. Boy do I have a lot of stuff. What’s it all doing here? Why didn’t I just leave it at school? Did I really need to take back everything just for a few weeks at home? Jeeze, and I thought my sister was high maintenance.

In all honesty, the only thing making me feel weird right now is you and all your peculiar questions. This is all perfectly normal. Nothing weird about it. I’m just packing up for Miami like I do after every Christmas break. I’ll save the weird feeling for gradu…

Ooooooohhhh. Right. I did that whole graduation thing already. Well this is awkward. And yes, now I do feel weird, thank you. Um, anyway, if I’m not going back to Ohio, do you mind telling me why I started all this packing in the first place. You know, besides just going through my normal routine.

WHAT!?! NEW MEXICO!?! WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO NEW MEXICO FOR!?!

Ok, wait, calm down. No not you, ME! Me calm down. I can totally deal with this. Sure New Mexico is like a whole day’s drive from… what? you’re joking, right? It’s 18 hours in the car from here? Great. I’ve always wanted to take a two-day drive to see sand with no ocean. Sounds like a blast.

Sure, sure, sure, whatever you say. I mean, I guess those caves do sound kinda cool at least. But do I really need all this stuff just for one trip? Oh wait, I know. Now you’re gonna tell me this isn’t a vacation but I’m actually going to live there. Mmhmm. Yup. Because that makes perfect sense. Well if you’re so smart, why don’t you tell me where exactly I’m living then, huh? Are we talking a condo here? Maybe an apartment? A house? No seriously, tell me. I actually would really like to know. Don’t do this whole surprise thing, man, we’ve already done enough of that already. C’MON MAN, just freaking tell me!

::Five or so minutes of tickle torture in attempt to elicit an answer::

So let me get this straight. You’re telling me that in two days I’m going to get in my car, drive 18 hours across the country to some random po-dunk town in New Mexico for an unknown period of time and I don’t even have a place to live yet? Well doesn’t that just sound like a plan for the ages. My parents will be thrilled when they hear this one. Can’t wait for that conversation. Hey mom, guess what. I’m going to live in the desert for a while. Be back… um… don’t worry, I’ll write. Don’t bother sending anything back though because I don’t exactly have an address. I’m bring a sleeping bag so that whole shelter thing is totally covered. Love ya!

Ooohh, I’m gonna rent an apartment once I get there. Yeah duh, that makes total sense. Why didn’t I think of that in the first place? You know, because that will be easy. No problem for a broke college grad like me. I’m sure I can just find several hundred dollars lying around in the street every month to pay the landlord. They do have streets in New Mexico, right?

A job? Writing for the newspaper? Do those even exist anymore? Of course jobs still exist, I meant newspapers you dummy. Well that’s cool. I’m sure there are tons of things to write about in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Maybe I could do some investigative journalism. “The search for the lost land of Old Mexico” by Dan Kukla. Papers will fly off the newsstands with that one.

WHAT!?! I’M THE SPORTS EDITOR!?! THAT’S TOTALLY AWESOME!!! What am I waiting around here for, I gotta go! Who cares about all that other crap; I get to watch sports and write about it… and someone is gonna pay me to do it! Can you say career jack pot? Sixty-degree weather, here I come!