Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Day in the Life

The walk down to the Circle-K gas station each morning takes about 10 minutes. Sometimes I drive to the Dunkin Donuts for coffee, but even though the coffee is better lately it's just been easier to walk. Somewhere amongst the dozens of boxes in this house is my French press, but I haven't been able to find it. Starbucks? Several miles away. So, I've been letting Maggie out in the morning, feeding her, and then throwing on my coat and hat and making my way down the hill towards the Circle-K.

This 10-minute walk each morning has been my re-introduction to Akron, where virtually every morning has been overcast, gray, cold, and sometimes snowy. My Akron is not the Akron of the Merriman Valley. The Akron that greets me is in the form of Clark Auto and Towing, with its multitude of cars dismantled or up on blocks. My Akron is Darrow Road, just north of I-76, where its just as easy to find a check-cashing store as it is to find a Circle-K...or a vacant building in a strip-plaza for lease or for rent. My Akron sometimes even has billboards with nothing on them.

I pull the hood of my jacket against my ears and trudge through the snow, making my way past the Scoreboard Lounge and Club Energy, where several cars with ice-caked windows have been parked all night. I side-step a couple of the empty Monster Energy Drink cans that dot the parking lot and shuffle over to the Circle-K. It's busy, especially since it's the week between Christmas and New Year's. A portly man with a Cleveland Browns ski cap pulled tightly over his head is struggling to open the hood of his car so that he can empty the contents of a black plastic quart-of-oil bottle. He doesn't look happy. It is only 14 degrees and he isn't wearing gloves. I reach for the handle of the door but a young girl with purple medical scrubs on underneath her tattered white winter coat exits first and holds the door open for me. I thank her, but she doesn't speak. So far, that simple act of kindness hasn't happened a great deal since I've been walking down to the Circle-K. My Akron has a bit of a rough exterior, and the softer side, I suppose, has to take a while to reveal itself.

Starbucks this is not. Oh, well. I see that they have both "Kona" and "100% Columbian" as selections this morning. I've tried both in the past 2 weeks and they taste unremarkably similar. I grab a 16-ounce cup and fill it with the Columbian. I unpeel several of those thimble-sized containers of cream and look around. Radio station WONE-FM is on, playing a George Thorogood song...the same George Thorogood song that I played countless numbers of times when I was a disc-jockey at WONE back in 1993. 4 or 5 people wait in line, staring straight ahead with that vacant I-wish-I-had-the-week-off-between-Christmas-and-New-Year's-look on their faces. Some buy coffee and others buy huge 32-ounce cups full of soda. Some buy lottery tickets and others buy cigarettes. $5.00 for a pack of cigarettes. I'm certainly glad I don't smoke anymore.

This is my lucky day. For some reason, Donna gave me a Circle-K Coffee Club card, where each time you buy a cup they punch a hole in the card. Well, as I approached the cash register, I discovered that all of my holes had been punched, so my authentic 100% Columbian coffee for the day is free. I feel a bit warmer as I prepare to plunge back into that 14-degree weather.

I bundle up, rip the plastic tab off the cup so that I can sip and walk, and try to follow the same footprints that I made in the snow on the way down. I walk around the gigantic Budweiser truck that is unloading product and make my way slowly down Darrow Road. The salt trucks have been out most of the night and the traffic has made the roadway more wet now than snowy. I also begin to think about my day, most likely filled with emptying boxes or trying to solve some of the studio-sound issues that I've been experiencing. I turn east down Newton towards home. Someone is already at Dodd Brothers Optical shoveling snow off the sidewalk. I nod and say "hello" as I pass, careful not to step on the newly-shoveled space. He says nothing and continues to shovel. That's ok. Like I said, my Akron puts on a slightly tougher outer shell, especially in the winter. I can't imagine anybody being too terribly friendly in 14 degree weather.

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* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

Monday, December 21, 2009

Boxes Next to the Tree

Nothing is even close to being finished. The flooring that workers promised to have installed by the time we arrived is not complete. It looks like we'll be doing a majority of the painting ourselves. The new kitchen cabinets sit there without counter-tops, and the kitchen-sink remains in its box. Piles of tools and debris dot the living room, while the other space in this much-smaller house is covered by stacks of boxes marked "Wheaton Moving". Yep, it's Christmas on the far-east side of Akron, Ohio.

We survived the move. The Big Guy even gave us some brilliant sunshine and dry roads last Friday as we made our way north towards the Buckeye state. But when we arrived, the view was startling. Virtually none of the work had been completed. Donna had spent all that time here in November trying to coordinate all the logistics of a good portion of the main construction that was to greet us when we arrived on the 11th. However, absolutely none of it was complete.

Did I mention that all of our belongings could not fit on one moving truck? Those were some interesting looks of disbelief on the faces of the movers when they pulled that 70-foot rig up in front of this house. "We gonna get 13,000 pounds in this house?", they asked. It's a good thing we have a full, unfinished basement.

We're both exhausted. We have a good deal of work to do. Trying to manipulate around piles of debris and stacks of boxes is a formidable task anyway; making progress several days before Christmas makes it even more challenging. But amongst it all, sitting on the buffet in the living room, is a lone poinsettia, a symbol of Christmas, 2009. Under a cold, gray December sky in Akron, Ohio sits a small, unassuming house filled with boxes, dirt....and a little bit of Christmas spirit.

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* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So Long to the 'Lou

I'm sitting here staring at a box. It's a box that still has the green moving sticker on it from when we carted it from Ohio to Annapolis. It also made the journey from Annapolis to Pittsburgh. Interestingly enough, it also accompanied us on our move from Pittsburgh to St. Louis. And it certainly seems like it's going to go with us again as we make our way back to Ohio. I really have no idea what's inside of it. I or Donna never bothered to mark on the box exactly what its contents are. And we've never bothered to open it. It just seemed like one less box that had to be packed because, well, it's already packed. So, what the heck....we'll just take it.

Indelibly etched on to the souls of many is the mantra "moving sucks". And it does. There's nothing pleasant about it. Once you've made the decision to move, a whole cavalcade of decisions lies ahead. The whole process is rendered even more grotesque if you have to do as we're doing: selling a house, buying a house, and coping with all the logistics therein. Our biggest decision was to decide whether or not WE were actually going to do the move ourselves. When we left Pittsburgh for St. Louis, we decided to save money by doing just that. After renting a 26-foot Ryder truck, we severely miscalculated the sheer amount of "stuff" we had. So after making the 13-hour drive (this truck wouldn't go above 55 m.p.h.) I had to fly back to Pittsburgh the following weekend, rent another truck, and drive it back to St. Louis, too. (luckily, I could maintain normal highway speed in this one.) After grimacing at the thought of that ordeal, we both decided that we would bite the bullet and pay someone to move us.

Donna has been in Ohio for what seems like 3 months. She's been physically pounding on drywall, ripping out cabinets, and organizing workers to try to make our new home habitable. While she's taking care of the Ohio house, I've been here trying to move forward the sale of this one. It hasn't been easy. Our radon test came back with high levels and supposedly there's evidence of past termite existence. So, those things have to be taken care of. And then there's the whole issue of the studio and the business. My mind has had its logic-boundaries stretched to capacity by trying to grapple with a smooth transition between tearing down the studio here and re-starting it there, with as little down-time as possible.

Then, there are the really crucial issues that moving presents. For instance, if I cancel my cable with Charter Communications, how will I record The Office if the DVR is not hooked up in the new house? And what about beer? I know exactly how long it takes to get to the beverage store from where we currently live. Are there quality outlets near the new place? And will I have ample refrigeration, especially for a multitude of 22-0unce "bombers"?

What will I miss about St. Louis? Not much. It was nice being around Donna's son and his family. I loved our neighbors. And this was clearly the nicest house we've ever owned, and I'll miss it. I have to say that I did develop a small affection for the Cards (it's hard not to do that here, unless you're already a Cubs fan). And Square One Brewery makes a kick-butt IPA. But aside from that, I don't think I'll wake up yearning for Imo's Pizza, and I never did totally understand the fixation with toasted ravioli. I won't miss the August summers or the freakish thunderstorms. And as an asthma sufferer, the fact that the state of Illinois lets people burn leaves is criminal.

So as we try to mitigate radon, figure out how we're going to pay Wheaton Van Lines, disconnect microphones and cables, and cancel trash service, I continue to stare at this box, and others like it. I'm not sure what's inside of it, but it's Ohio-bound, and so are we. In another week, it's one final trip along the I-70 corridor.

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* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com