Putting the Pain in Painting

My girlfriend and I moved into our duplex in Minneapolis over the weekend. More than anything, we were happy to reach an end point. My car put on 2,812 miles in the past week. Enough was enough.

I spent several posts criticizing my previous residence in Portland, and early on, it looks like our duplex will generate plenty of inspiration, as well.

Upon arrival, we noticed the place, despite its rich wood floors, looked like it had previously been a bumper-car track. There were scuffs and chips on nearly every wall, several areas stained and spotted from previous lessees. Perhaps they’d made the place into a freestyle racquetball court.

My first response: “Let’s clean it.”

My girlfriend’s first response: “Let’s paint it.”

In divorce cases filed because of irreconcilable differences, 54% of the time, it started with painting. There’s the choosing of colors, the purchasing of supplies and the execution of said paint job. None of it, however, is easy. There are several complex decisions to be made.

I want to start by blaming the assholes at Crayola who wouldn’t stop at the eight-crayon box. Our weekend would’ve gone much smoother had we no more than a few primary colors to choose from. In two rooms, we used a shade called tea & honey. Is the paint supposed to be the color of both tea and honey individually or their color once combined?

I became inexplicably passionate about what colors of paint we would choose. I wanted deep, dark browns, greens and reds. My girlfriend wanted something else, colors I can’t even recall because I was so stubborn as she was naming them. When we came to a compromise on a few basic colors, we then began intense debate over particular shades. You would think we were arguing Brown v. Board of Education.

Painting makes you care deeply about the most intricate details no one will ever notice once all is said and done. No one will ever go into our bathroom and think, “This candy apple is fine, but I’m going to have a hard time urinating if they don’t repaint it briquette.”

So, we spent our first 48 hours taping trim and base, laying plastic and drop clothes, making countless trips to Home Depot and sweating. At one point, the fumes were so overwhelming, it set off our fire detectors. I’m reporting to my new internship today with paint under my fingernails and no clue how to perform long division.

All in all, it was a pretty solid first weekend. And, most importantly, my girlfriend and I are still together.

A Moving Experience: Off-Week Highlights

I picked up the iPhone 4 last week and it’s proven to be the perfect device. I used to bring my Flip with me a lot, but thanks to the iPhone 4’s HD video camera, I get it all in one dev-…Wait. Sorry. You know about the iPhone 4 already. You could care less.

Rather than write today, I thought I’d post a few videos taken during the past week. No rhyme or reason. This is just a glimpse of what I’ve been up to with very little context. Enjoy:

Note: My girlfriend and I move to NE Minneapolis tomorrow and I start my internship on Monday. My hope is a little day-to-day consistency will get me back in the daily blog grind. Thanks for putting up with me the past week or two!

Midwest is the Bestest

Loyal TMT readers, I’ve done you wrong. It’s been like five days since I’ve blogged. Not for lack of effort or desire, I swear, but lack of Internet access and time. My girlfriend and I made it home on Saturday after 1,700 miles and 26 hours on the road. We’ll spend the next few days visiting family and friends before moving to Minneapolis on Friday.

Over the past six months, I spent a lot of time bemoaning my life in Portland. That provided ample material for my blog, and I seem to be at my best as a writer when I’m miserable. The past few days have been filled with so many awesome moments, getting the iPhone 4 is lucky to crack the Top 10. The highlights are these, in order of awesomeness:

  1. Seeing my famly for the first time since Christmas.
  2. Moving away from Portland.
  3. Getting a proper farewell from Portland friends and co-workers.
  4. Driving by Crazy Woman Creek in Wyoming.
  5. Surviving two near-death experiences involving airborne fireworks.
  6. Savoring the new Subway chicken salad sandwich.
  7. Getting freaked out by the big prairie sky and then getting used to it again.
  8. Not getting into a major accident and losing all of our possessions and/or our lives.
  9. Peeling off last weekend’s sunburn, little by litt.e
  10. Getting the iPhone 4 at the only Wal-Mart in Portland, where even the most provincial early adopters refuse to shop.

A week from today, I start my internship at Fast Horse Inc. in Minneapolis. In the meantime, I intend on eating good food, playing bad golf, seeing old friends and getting used to a new place. Home used to be defined as the house at 6808 Hathaway Lane, Sioux Falls, S.D. Now, it’s a whole damn region. You’re looking good, Midwest. I swear I’ll never leave you again.

So, forgive me, loyal TMT reader, for my lameassness and irregular updates. I should be able to start posting on the daily again starting next Monday. Until then, I’ve got to find some new material. I’ve got to find some new things to whine about, and it’s hard when you’re so happy.

On My Last Day Living in Portland

This is an arbitrary picture of Minneapolis. Because I'm moving to Minneapolis.

Today’s my last day living in Portland. My girlfriend and I push off tomorrow around 6 a.m.

A friend recently asked, “When you leave Portland, will you wave goodbye or give it the middle finger?”

Good thing I’ve got two hands.

Around spring last year, I began to romanticize Portland as place where I might be inspired. It seemed like a good thing to say about moving to a new place. We all want inspiration, I suppose. My mistake was assuming it came from a place.

I left home.

“Home” was a rather vague notion until around January, when my girlfriend and I returned to Portland after spending the holidays with friends and family. I remember feeling this intense emptiness when we made it back to our apartment. It was pretty obvious at that point we needed to leave Portland.

I’ve never lived in Minneapolis. I’ve been there several dozen times. I remember being a kid and going to Twins games with my family. I would spend the night before fighting off sleep by thinking about the tall buildings, the chance of seeing a Twin or Viking on the street, the rush of a big city. Since then, I’ve been to nearly every major city in the country, even took the time to live in one, and when that emptiness hit in January, it seemed Minneapolis was the most logical place for us to go. A place we could make our home.

Minneapolis puts us within a four-hour drive of the homes Beth and I grew up in. It puts us within a hour-and-a-half of our college town, where we first met and started dating. Most of our friends live in South Dakota and Minnesota. As places go, that’s all we could ask for.

I don’t expect Minneapolis to inspire me. In the past 11 months, I learned places can’t inspire me like people do.

I know myself well enough to know I won’t be emotional today during my last day of work or tomorrow, when we hit I-84 East. I don’t respond to these things emotionally. A little while back, my company gave us a personality test. I learned I was a “green” – someone who’s analytical above all else. I imagine I’ll spend more time the next few days thinking about what the past 11 months meant. Do they deserve a middle finger or a wave goodbye?

We’re moving to a great place nearby great friends in a great city and I’ve got a great internship waiting for me on the other hand. Minneapolis couldn’t be more inviting. Portland was accomodating, but I never took my shoes off and allowed myself to get comfortable. That’s my fault. But you know what? It’s the best mistake I’ve ever made.

At least now I know what home is.

The 23-Hour Relationship Test

This photo was taken July 20, 2009 in Sioux Falls, S.D., before we set off for Portland. This was one of the last times we smiled the whole trip.

A little slow on the uptake this morning. Had to make my way to work by 7 a.m. to kick off the first of four 10-hour shifts so my girlfriend and I can hit the road Friday, hopefully avoiding Fourth of July traffic.

Fat chance.

Before we moved, I heard it time and time again: “This is going to test your relationship.” I understood the idea, considering we’d be 1,700 miles from home and didn’t really know anyone in the Pacific Northwest. However, the past 11 months have, if anything, brought us closer.

The real test was the 23-hour drive from home to here, which we’ll duplicate in reverse starting Friday. My girlfriend and I disagree on a few key issues, each of which will likely arise during our upcoming trip. In no particular order:

1. Musicals vs. Gangster Rap When I drive, I like to listen to really aggressive gangster rap. My girlfriend, on the other hand, likes showtunes that she can belt at the top of her tiny lungs. This turns into Mamma Mia! versus Big Poppa. Though musicals and gangster rap are equally absurd and theatrical, there’s something about the glossy sheen from showtunes that makes me physically ill. Creeps me in the same way competition cheerleaders wear that hysterical smile while flipping and tumbling. Compromise: I love Glee. She loves Atmosphere and Brother Ali. Here, we have some common ground. Crisis averted.

2. MPG vs. MPH My Ford Fusion, like most modern cars, keeps track of fuel economy. When I’m driving alone, I get 31 miles per gallon on the highway, 24 in town. I can live with that. My girlfriend tends to drive a little faster. When our car is weighed down with all of our possessions, the fuel economy takes a major hit. I offset the weight by doing little things, like slowing down to climb hills and coasting back down. My girlfriend will instead race up the hills and speed down. When we made our initial trip to Portland, I averaged 29 while she averaged 22. Compromise: Yeah, there won’t be much compromise here. She’ll drive how she drives and I’ll drive how I drive. I think we can agree to a “zero sigh” policy.

3. “Hey, look at that rock formation!” vs. “I can’t, or we’ll karom off the road and die.” The drive from Portland to Eastern South Dakota is a scenic one — if you leave out the South Dakota-part — so it’s hard not to stop and awe at the sights. My girlfriend is notorious for saying, “Andrew, check out that waterfall!” while I harshly respond, “Jesus H., Beth! We’ve got our lives in this car and I can’t risk going over the guardrails to see a Goddamn creek!” This leads to 50 miles or so of silence before I concede I was an ass and allow her to listen to Celine Dion. Compromise: I’ll not be an ass.

As the saying goes, “If you love someone, spend 23 hours in a car with them and see if you don’t spend half the trip strategizing a clean breakup.” I love my girlfriend, though, so I’m actually looking forward to the ride back to our new home. If this 11-month stay in Portland was a test, I’d say we passed it. There were no blowouts, no weeks of silence, no nothing fights. Any blows to the face were purely accidental. (My girlfriend tosses and turns a lot while she sleeps.)

Don’t Forget to Wear Sunscreen

With my girlfriend’s parents in town from South Dakota, it was only right we made one last trip to the Oregon Coast. The forecast called for 68 degrees and sun at Cannon Beach, which was just about the same forecast the first time we went to Cannon Beach last August for Beth’s birthday.

Things really came full circle when, just like last time, I left the beach with extensive sunburn. Vitamin D overdose. UV overexposure. Whatever you want to call it. Have a looksy:

(This is my back. You can tell because there's no belly button. Otherwise, I can see how it might be difficult to distinguish.)

This sunburn  — not my first, not my worst, surely not my last — says a few things about me:

  • My skin, when it hasn’t been exposed to excessive sunlight for 10 months, tends to be a bit on the fair side. This only took three hours.
  • I pride myself on making healthy decisions. I take a multivitamin and fish oil everyday. I work out several times per week. However, when it comes to applying sunscreen on a really sunny day, I’m a complete ignoramus.
  • I assume, time and time again, there’s a direct correlation between temperature and UV index. It was only 68 degrees yesterday, but the UV index had to be 34. Stupid.

So, today, a perfectly gorgeous Sunday which happens to be our last in Portland, I’m stuck in bed, marinating in aloe vera, taking refuge in the low light. (Although, the glow of my laptop screen may warrant sunscreen here soon.)

My girlfriend’s parents ship out tomorrow, and they’re taking some of our stuff with them. We’ll back my Ford Fusion to the brim Friday morning and start the 1,700-mile haul to our new home.

Here’s hoping Portland’s farewell is a little less painful than Cannon Beach’s.

A Few Things I’ll Miss About Portland

I’ve used this blog to rather bluntly portray my sordid relationship with the City of Portland, but the past week or so has really softened me up to its redeeming qualities. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, right?

When we put PDX in our rearview next Friday, I imagine these are the things I will miss most:

The Coffee

Seattle gets all the attention — founding Starbucks will do that — but Portland is no schlub in the category of quality java. Stumptown is king once you get past the hipster baristas and painfully simple menu. (Think you hate all the options at Starbucks? Trust me — you’d feel confined ordering off Stumptown’s menu.) I became a big fan of City Coffee, which offered free refills on drip. In Portland, you’re never forced to go more than a block or two to get a good cup of joe.

Powell’s City of Books

I don’t mean to turn my nose up at Barnes & Noble — where I’m still a member — but this particular bookstore eight blocks from our apartment boasts over one million books, making it the world’s largest independent bookstore. I don’t remember once going there and not finding the title I was looking for. Plus, it’s a haven for collectors. There’s regular author appearances, and afterward, the store sells signed copies of books without additional mark-up. (I was able to score Joshua Ferris’ The Unnamed recently for just $22. Boom!)

TriMet

True, I can’t wait to get back to driving to work. However, Portland maintains one of the smartest public transportation systems in the country and you can get just about anywhere in town on the cheap. I could’ve gotten by without my car here. Damn you, three-year lease.

Fat Kid Weather

That’s what my good friend Joel calls mild weather. (He’s a 305-pound strength athlete.) I look forward to sunshine and blazing hot summer days, don’t get me wrong. But I sweat. A lot. And here, I’ve been able to wear corduroys and button-ups while biking to work without looking like Evander Holyfield after eight rounds. I’m sure I’ll lament Portland winters when it’s (-23) in Minneapolis and the whole city has frozen through.

Varying Topography

A native of flat-ass South Dakota, I’ve appreciated the Cascade Mountains on the horizon. Just yesterday, Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens were all visible from my eighth-story office window. We never took the time to go skiing or snowboarding, but in Portland, you always feel like you live just off the border of a Bob Ross painting. (So many friendly little trees.)

____

Yeah, the list could go on, but it’s not next Friday yet. And Portland is still so Portland.

A Moving Experience: Surviving Craigslist

The Net instilled in me a healthy sense of paranoia when it comes to meeting and selling to strangers on the Internet. Also, this flick should've gotten Sandra an Oscar.

My girlfriend and I sold our first items on Craigslist yesterday. For $70, a woman named Fayth and her partner purchased our pub table and two high back stools. That’s not even the good news, though.

Beth was conveniently at work, so I was left alone to carry out the transaction. The good news is I wasn’t brutally murdered.

After all the luck I had last week, I was about due for something to go terribly wrong. Through a series of e-mails Monday morning, it was decided this Fayth — her name, ironic, considering my lack thereof  — would purchase our table and stools and not leave me bloodied on the floor of my apartment. (The latter detail wasn’t actually discussed.)

I spent most of the day anxious, planning every detail of our transaction so I wouldn’t be left vulnerable. (Thanks, The Wire.) I would hide my computer, my iPod, my Flip Ultra HD, wallet, iPhone and so forth. I would not allow anyone in our apartment left unattended. I would get the cash first, check for signs of counterfeiting and insist the transaction take place in the middle of our high-traffic neighborhood. I would wear my running shoes and bring a whistle, in case Fayth and her cronie(s) somehow made off with my furniture without paying.

None of this planning was necessary, of course. Everything went fine. They never even entered our apartment building. They offered the cash right away. They were downright pleasant, and not homicidal maniacs in need of a table set.

You’ve heard stories. Hell, you’ve been on Craigslist. You know how people can be given the cloak of anonymity. Craigslist takes us back to the paranoid mid-1990s, the early days of the Internet’s everyday usage , where in movies like The Net, we learned any fragment of personal information can put you in grave danger where your only defense is Dennis Miller and his needlessly obscure jokes:

The table and stools were small pot. We’re upping the ante today by selling a white sofa. This bad boy, priced to move at $225, has received several shady inquiries involving international money orders, personal checks that “may not clear until next Monday,” as one potential customer put it, and a few other off-the-wall requests requiring unnecessary personal information. Here’s my favorite inquiry yet:

We politely declined his offer. (Lovely name, by the way. Apparently his parents were typos.)

At 7 p.m. tonight, we’ve got someone serious about viewing the couch. Although yesterday went fine, I’m waiting for Beth to get home before carrying out this transaction. I’ll insist she have 911 up on her phone so all she has to do is hit send. In this economy, you never know what people will do for an uncomfortable IKEA loveseat.

A Moving Experience: Ship Out of Luck

We've got nothing but by Ford Fusion to get us from Portland to Minneapolis. So no, this isn't an option.

Now that I’ve secured my dream internship at Fast Horse Inc. in Minneapolis, my girlfriend and I are set to move across the country in just 11 short day. We’re lucky our property managers are being extremely flexible considering such short notices of vacating and moving in, but not everything can be so easy.

For instance, moving our queen-sized mattress.

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I attended a play called Once Upon a Mattress. That was a comedy. The past few days, we’ve been trying to figure the fate of our mattress. This has been a horror story. Do you know how much it costs to ship a single queen-sized mattress 1,700 miles? The invoice ends up looking like Lindsay Lohan’s bar tab. We’re talking $400 to $500, easy.

So, how did we get our mattress here in the first place? The story bears repeating:

Mere days before moving from Mankato, Minn. to Portland, a friend of ours who lived across the street from our apartment had come to town with a Uhaul. A construction manager, he’d recently moved to The Dalles, Ore — 75 miles east of Portland. He was back to help his roommates clear our their house he’d previously helped rent.

That night, my girlfriend wandered over to say her goodbyes. Our friend, nothing short of a saint, asked if we had anything we needed shipped this way. It turned out he drove our mattress to Portland and we didn’t owe a penny. (Although he’s requested any return payment come in the form of cocktails. So it has.)

Because everything has worked out so smoothly otherwise, because it might appear we’re playing life with the cheat codes, it’s only fair we be stumped by this mattress conundrum. Throw out the obvious proposal — ditching this mattress to buy a new one — because this bad boy will be with us in Minneapolis. This little, we know.

We also know shipping is a racket. Services we’ve looked at have quoted arbitrary prices like $431 to move a $780 mattress. This price sucks for three very distinctive reasons:

  1. It’s roughly half the cost of buying a new mattress, making it cost effective.
  2. All you get is a mattress. The same mattress you had to start with. It’s just in a different place now.
  3. It’s roughly the cost of a Minnesota Twins 20-game package at Target Field.

If our mattress could hold up a thumb, I’d bring it to the interstate and wish it the best. Instead, we’ll end up forking over $400 or more, unless one of you brilliant loyal TMT readers has a suggestion that doesn’t involve quantum physics or organized crime.

Help a blogger out!

A Moving Experience: When to Resign

When the decision was made my girlfriend and I would be moving back to Minnesota, our first priority was deciding when. For the past several years, apartment leases were dictated by the start of the school year. This time around, we really had free reign to move whenever — May, June, July, August.

I have a career. My girlfriend has a job. We’ve each taken different approaches to informing our employer we’ll be taking off in late July. Namely, I’ve told my employer and my girlfriend hasn’t. Here’s a little reasoning:

Why I Gave My Employer a Three-Month Notice

Though I work the 8-to-5 at my company, the work cycle is broken into fifths every year. In other words, they need the same group of employees to be on-board for each two-and-a-half month period. I brought our impending move to the attention of my manager back in April. Understandably, he asked if I would be leaving before or after the next cycle — leaving in the middle wasn’t an option.

I respect my employer. This has been, after all, my first big boy job. This is a job I want to refer to on my resume and in future job interviews. The skill building, the professional development, the autonomy — what a great first job to have after college.

Given the options, I decided I would ride out the next cycle, which we are now in. Essentially, I gave a three-month notice. This hasn’t caused any awkward tension at the office. From what I’ve seen from other co-workers who’ve resigned, I know I’ll be treated fairly until the day I leave.

Why My Girlfriend Will Wait to Give Notice

The first and most legitimate an hourly employee might have after giving long-term notice of resignation is a cut in hours, followed by a work environment turned hostile or dismissive. My girlfriend will wait and give a two-week notice so she can continue to save up for the move free of stress over scheduling. It makes perfect sense.

Oregon — from what I’m old — has hire-and-fire laws that gives employees the right to resign one day before their next scheduled shift. On the other hand, employees can be fired without reason. If that’s true — and again, my source is a lifelong Oregonian, not a lawyer — then it’s incumbent upon my girlfriend to protect her interests as her employer will protect theirs.

Verdict: Observe the departures of fellow co-workers before you give notice. If you don’t have that opportunity, know that it’s always best to leave a company on good terms. Make your exit with as little disruption as possible. If that means your employer needs time to find, hire and train your replacement, give them good warning. If you can be replaced on a moment’s notice, two weeks should do.