20 May, 2009

I need a bike

I finally gave in and decided to buy a bike. This decision is something I had been struggling with for a while. When I first moved into this apartment in September I wanted to ship one of my bikes from home up here. Shipping a bike isn’t cheap though, and I had just blown the majority of my post-Europe savings on cheap Swedish furniture with names like ‘krĂ«fshael,’ which then took several days to assemble. Maybe the bed would have been put together correctly the first time if Dan and I hadn’t been drinking Wild Turkey, but it was a really mind-numbing process and we wanted to make it more exciting.

I thought about buying a bike when I got back to Boston after Christmas but my bank account was at an all time low. Once I started getting regular paychecks from my part-time job again I looked into getting a bike. I didn’t find any great deals and the prospect of riding in the snow and ice wasn’t very appealing. After my California trip I made up my mind; I was getting a fucking bike. I contacted a few people on craigslist before finally finding a bike at a price I wanted. After agreeing on the price I replied back asking when and where I could meet him. He promptly stopped responding. Disheartened, I once again gave up on the bike idea.

Until yesterday. It was in the mid-60s and sunny and I was pouring more money into the T to get to work. It made no sense. I wanted to be outside in the nice weather and I wanted to not give the MBTA any more of my money. I had also just lost gym access since Jeremy’s ID finally expired. Even though I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d stay in Boston, I decided that I had to have a bike. It would save me $10-15 per week and it would be my final ace in the long-running feud with the T. Never again would I have to deal with money being stolen by the ticket machines, long waits for trains and gates closing on my hand. I would finally win.

I started searching craigslist and the third ad I clicked on was for a guy selling over 20 bikes. I contacted him and Chuck told me that he used to buy bikes, fix them up and then re-sell them as a hobby. He had just injured his arm and decided to retire and was selling off his inventory. I could get a recently repaired road bike for $60! He was in a small town south of Framingham, but no problem, I had a Zip Car membership. I called Chuck after work and said I could be there in an hour.

I’m still not sure if my decision to drag Dan along with me was the best or worst thing I could have done. Google said it was a 45 minute drive and I figured he’d make good company and could act as a navigator. Both Google Maps and Chuck had advised to use country roads instead of I-90. Mapquest disagreed, but who was I to argue? Sure, Google Maps might have steered me wrong a few times in the past. There was that time I tried to go to South Padre Island and ended up in Mexico. And that time I tried to go to a concert in Austin and Google advised me to take a highway that didn’t exist on the opposite side of the city. But Chuck seemed like a good guy and obviously he knew the best way to get to his own house.

We made it to Wellesley before we took the first wrong turn. That one was my fault, but it was quickly realized and we doubled back and got on the right road. Dan wasn’t making it easy for me though. I like to know what the next several directions are so I can try and figure the route out in my head. He would only read them one at a time. If I insisted on reading further directions he’d begin to make things up.

“Ok, what do I do after I turn onto Route 16?”
“Don’t worry about that yet, just turn right onto 16.”
“Yeah, but what’s the next direction after that?”
“Hm. After that we take a left on Westland.”
“And then?”
“Then a right onto Hemenway.”
“Westland and then Hemenway. The streets right by our apartment.”
“Yes.”
“I hate you.”

This led to a decent amount of confusion and several more wrong turns. We were driving through a forest, and while there were quite a few houses out there we didn’t encounter any towns. Dan called this “the suburbs.” I called it “the fucking middle of nowhere.” Still, I was excited to finally be getting a road bike and at an awesome price. I kept thinking about how awesome Craigslist is. Second try at buying a bike and I found a great deal. Sure, there was that BU student who was murdering girls he met on Craigslist a few weeks back, but they caught him and all was well. I was already thinking about going for a ride in the morning and then riding to work in the afternoon.

We made it to Chuck’s house in about 70 minutes, just as it was getting dark. Dan and I walked up and rang the doorbell. Chuck had warned me that he doesn’t always hear it and to call his phone if he didn’t answer. The doorbell was pretty loud but nobody came to the door so I tried his phone. We could hear the phone ringing inside, even louder than the doorbell. It rang and rang and then went to his answering machine. I heard his muffled voice on the machine through the door and on my phone. I tried knocking loudly on the door but there was still no answer.

Dan and I made jokes about how Chuck had lured us out here to kill us while we waited. We noticed another door off to the side and knocked on that door. I called several more times. After more than 20 minutes of waiting, calling and knocking we finally gave up. Fuck Chuck.

The drive back was even more confusing. The previous wrong turns, coupled with the darkness and Dan’s fake directions got me completely turned around. I had absolutely no idea where the hell we were but we somehow made our way back to Wellesley, and from there it was essentially a straight shot back to Huntington Avenue. The drive back went quicker but I still had to call and extend the Zip Car reservation. I returned to Boston bike-less, angry and hungry. Chuck has yet to respond to my email inquiring as to his absence last night. That guy owes me $30 and a bike.

06 May, 2009

California

I've always wished that California was my home. My parents lived in Pasadena before I was born and my dad even got a job offer in Hawaii but somehow they finally ended up in Texas. I grew up imagining life in southern California or on the beaches in Hawaii. Meanwhile I was climbing trees and trying not to fall onto cactus in the Texas hill country. I think it's fair to say that I got gypped. In second grade my teacher put a huge map of the United States on the wall and we all got to put a dot where we were born. I wanted so very badly to put a dot in California and tell the other kids that I spent the first 6 years of my life in paradise. I imagined the other kids admiring me for having lived a life of excitement on the beach and everyone would ask me all about California. I would tell them tales of the Pacific, of Disneyland and Universal, of orange trees and sun and perfect weather. It wouldn't change my miserable existence in central Texas but I would be a star among the Texans. Or so my second grade mind imagined. I doubt the other kids would have given a damn but to me it made all the difference.

In third grade I switched schools and decided to hell with it, I was a new person here, my dot hadn't yet been placed on any map, I could be anyone I wanted. So I became Daniel From California. My lie didn't bring me the happiness I had imagined. Nobody cared that I wasn't from Texas and it didn't alter the distance between me and the nearest beach. When I began to make friends at the school I felt bad for lying to them. I slowly began to do away with my false identity. "California?" I'd say with a slight frown on my face when it was brought up. "No, I have family there and I visit a lot, but I was born in Texas." I dropped back down to the masses and blended in once again.

It took me a long time to realize that it wasn't the weather or the beaches that made California so special to me. The family that I had there and the connections to my dad's history were the reasons why I loved it. My dad's parents in Claremont were always in my life even though they were so far away. Weekly phone calls on Sunday evenings kept us close. And they spoiled me whenever I visited, as grandparents do. California was playing checkers with my grandmother in the dining room. California was taking months' worth of soda and beer cans to be recycled with my grandfather and getting $5 for them. California was playing "roof ball" with my dad. California was seeing my sister for the first time. California was story after story of my dad's youth.

I had only been back once since my dad died, and that was exactly two months afterwards when my grandmother had died. The house had been full of family for the funeral. The two days rushed by without pause for thought and then we were off to Palo Alto, to mourn, rest and recover through Thanksgiving. This was my first time back since then. I slept in my dad's old room, walked past his high school, rode the bike he shipped out to California when my grandmother first became sick. The first three days of this felt odd, as if I was trying to become him or merge into his shadow. I slept in his room because the alternative was an uncomfortable fold-out couch. I walked past his high school because it was around the corner from my grandfather's house. I rode his bike because it was there and I hadn't been on a bike since early January. I missed him more than usual.

The week was spent idly as I finished one book and started another. My grandfather and I watched baseball, basketball and hockey games together. We shared dinners and beers, entire bottles of wine and glasses of tawny, stories and memories. I'd go for a bike ride by the mountains in the early afternoon, even on the days when the temperature came close to 100. I don't know if I was running from the house or relishing in its past. No matter what, I loved every minute of it. We went out twice for Mexican food and each time I wrote a review of the restaurant in my head, giving and subtracting points for the menu, salsa, food and guacamole while I sipped on Pacifico and sat mostly silent with my grandfather. We visited his friend Dr. Seinfeld, the father of my dad's best friend in high school and college. I talked about Boston and Belgium and Niger and Geneva. My friend Ryan from Texas came and skated alongside me as I biked, and we went out for pizza, went out again two nights later for Italian with my grandfather and some family friends.

And when it finally came time for me to leave I said goodbye to my grandfather and to the house, and to my dad. I went back to Boston, where nothing is ever real.

05 May, 2009

Plumbing woes

Yesterday the maintenance guy came by the apartment because a leak in our bathroom was flooding the basement again. He suspected the sink and told us to stop using it for a few days. I expected some half-assed fix from him but after leaving our sink running for 10 minutes it was soon realized that the problem was something else. Our landlord joined the maintenance guy in tearing apart the bathroom to try and find the leak. Turns out it was the toilet, and the next time I walked into the bathroom the toilet was gone. All that remained was a hole in the floor where the toilet once stood and our 70+ year old landlord peering down into it and shouting. Eventually the leak was fixed and our toilet replaced, but the whole situation reminded me of a similar incident back in November. I wrote about it in an email to Kevin and in his reply he demanded that I start a blog to "amuse the masses." So, masses, here is the story that started it all.

Our building, like most in this part of Boston is pretty old. The landlord is a 70-something year old man named Mr. Pizzi who is very hard of hearing but generally really nice. He always says hi to us when we see him and was good about getting things fixed when we first moved in. The shower in our apartment has a window with frosted glass in the wall. When we moved in there were two shower curtains: the normal one preventing water from splashing out into the bathroom and one against the window/wall. I assumed the one against the wall was there so that we could open the window for ventilation and not have the city of Boston watch us shower. How wrong I was.

The shower rod holding the curtain against the wall fell down right before we left for Christmas break. The tension rod broke so we couldn't put it back up. No big deal, it wasn't a huge concern for us. Yesterday morning I took a shower and then went to my room to get dressed. Shortly after closing the door to my room I heard loud knocking on the apartment door. I ignored it because it was 10AM and I couldn't care less who was there. The door opened though and I heard Mr. Pizzi shout, "hello?! Is anyone here?!" I quickly threw on my robe and went out to see what was going on. "Jason! Did you just shower?!" I was standing there in my robe with my hair sopping wet. I think it was pretty clear that I had just showered. Also, I don't know if you know this, but my name isn't Jason. Nobody in my apartment is named Jason. Of the four of us, two are named Daniel. If you say "Dan" or "Daniel" you have a 50% chance of getting the person's name right. He usually just calls all of us Dan which works well enough. "Hi Mr. Pizzi. Yes, I just showered.." I replied. "The damn basement is filled with water! The water just goes straight down there!" he said. We had problems with our shower not draining before thanksgiving so I figured it was a pipe problem or something. I told him that it had drained fine so I didn't know what was going on. "I'll tell you what it is, it's these damn tiles! All the tiles in here are loose and the water gets into the walls and goes straight down there! This is the second time today I've mopped it up. I'll put up a shower curtain tomorrow for ya but stop showering! I'm sick of mopping down there." Obviously the solution here is to put up a shower curtain against the wall rather than retile the bathroom. If I had known that a shower curtain was necessary for the structural integrity of the building then I wouldn't have showered. Ok, that might be a lie. I'm not skipping out on my morning showers. I actually just took one, albeit a very quick one so that I wouldn't flood the damn basement and bring on the wrath of Mr. Pizzi. Shhhh.