Category Archives: Places I’ve Been

I get around

Working Man

I must start out here by admitting that, by any objective measurement, when it comes to being a productive member of society, I haven’t been “giving it my all.” First off, I’m not exactly sure how to calculate “my all.” I don’t want to run the risk of giving too much and not having any for later. But on the other hand I don’t want to be stingy and only contribute half of what I am capable of producing. And now that I think of it, who exactly do I give “it” to once it’s ready? Can I do it on the web? Despite all of these legitimate questions, I actually got up, put on “going outside” clothes, and found myself a job.

Everyone who follows my web site knows that I have spent a considerable amount of time writing about various aspects of my life. Most of these aspects revolve– either directly or indirectly– around my continual unemployment. With the exception of doing some web design consulting work, I have been unemployed for a period of almost two years. While I like to recognize the effort I put into writing as “making the world a better place,” the general goodwill I generate can not be converted into more tangible concepts such as “rent” or “biweekly excursions to Taco Bell.” Perhaps if my marketing skills were as finely honed as my ability to surf the Internet I would be able to make a living through my writing.

Not that I’m giving up on my dreams (especially the one about building a time machine to travel back to the 1960’s so I can replace Larry Hagman in the “I Dream of Jeanie” situation comedy), but I have come to realize that having a job is a great way of keeping myself busy until my writing career skyrockets. While being a world-famous writer first would have been a lot easier for me on several levels, I recently started working part-time at UPS.

On September 25, 2002, I started working at the UPS sorting facility in Loveland, Colorado. Each morning I wake up at 3:30, get dressed, and drive to work. Yes, that is 3:30 A.M. Once I get there, I help load delivery trucks with packages. Not exactly rocket science, but there are a lot of challenges.

I had some difficulty adjusting to the physical nature of my job. Before working at UPS, I generally slept in my bed from 3:30 to nine in the morning. The most intense function my body was responsible for was to breathe in and out and produce a constant supply of drool for my pillow. I would hardly ever lift heavy boxes during this time. Now that I am working five days a week I move somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 boxes of various sizes and weights from a moving conveyor belt into two different delivery trucks. When I first started, it was a lot of work. It still is, but after a few weeks I don’t feel as though I will die of exhaustion at the end of each four-hour shift.

The other aspect of my job is to make sure that only certain boxes get loaded into the delivery trucks. While my job would be considerably easier if I could just take random packages from the belt and load them haphazardly, it turns out this would create much more work for the drivers. So not only do I have to get very specific packages into the trucks, I have to load them in very specific spots. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also rules about how to load packages in general. If there is a box marked “Glass– FRAGILE” I have to be very careful about what NOT to place on top– like an anvil, for example.

Yes, I said anvil. No, I’m not kidding. UPS will ship just about anything that weighs less than 150 pounds and isn’t very radioactive. In addition to the aforementioned metalworking equipment, I have loaded a variety of large and cumbersome objects. Tractor tires, large pieces of metal, and countless spools of various wires get shipped every day. One day I saw an anvil in a cardboard box. (Note to all anvil distributors out there: There is no need to use protection when shipping your anvils through UPS. In case you weren’t aware, these devices are designed to endure countless impacts of scalding hot metal on a daily basis. This will cause a lot more damage than will occur during the typical shipping process.)

The novelty of loading large heavy objects wore off after a few days on the job. The more interesting packages are generally of more average size. For example, a few weeks ago I loaded a box that said “live crickets” on the side. Upon closer examination, I noticed another sticker on the top that said “Caution– Live Animals.” Below the text was an outlined image of a dog, cat, and turtle. While I didn’t actually open the box, I really hope that there wasn’t a puppy dog inside. And while I haven’t personally witnessed this, I have been told that large shipments of live bees are shipped towards the end of the summer.

So while it may not be my dream job (especially since it lacks Barbara Eden in her prime walking around in a Jenie costume addressing me as, “Master”) I am pretty happy working at UPS. I get a good workout, a steady paycheck, and I get to wear a cute brown outfit to work each day. Just kidding– only the drivers get to wear the company uniforms. I just wear shorts and a T-shirt on most days. Which is just another benefit for me. So until further notice, I am no longer unemployed.

Dog Park

After watching Kristin’s dog for a week, I have come to the conclusion that two dogs are better than one. Many great comedy legends have come in pairs such as Cheech and Chong, Penn and Teller, and Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman (as seen in the 1987 full-length motion picture “Ishtar”). These groups’ total value is greater than the sum of their parts. For example, when Penn leaves the room all that is left is a curly haired mute fellow wearing a suit quietly preparing for the moment when he will extract his revenge on his cruel comedy partner. I put Henry and Murphy in the same category– despite the fact they haven’t quite achieved the same level of commercial success.

Being a dog isn’t such a bad gig. The more I watch Henry and Murphy, the more I realize how pretty much everything that happens to them is a source of joy and entertainment. When someone comes into the house they can hardly contain themselves. When the phone rings their tails start wagging despite the fact that neither dog is capable of adequately operating a telephone. I highly suspect that if both dogs weren’t fixed as puppies these experiences would be literally orgasmic.

Even when sleeping (which, by my estimates, takes up an average of twenty-two hours of any given day) they take time to enjoy themselves. Both dogs seem to have an active dream cycle. I’m not a licensed pet psychologist, but they seem quite happy in their dreams. They generally dream about playing with their dog toys or making the humans beg to be let outside to go to the bathroom. Either way their tags wag and their feet twitch– something which I will always find amusing.

Maybe I’m developing self-esteem issues here– sometimes I really wonder why these two dogs are so excited by my presence. Its not like I make a habit of keeping large chunks of cooked meat in my pockets. Then I realize why they love me so much– all I have to do is say the words “DOG PARK.” They stop whatever they were doing (the odds favor sleeping) and run around frantically between myself and the front door.

The first step in going to the dog park is to get both dogs inside the car. While I am generally happy with the performance of my two-door Saturn Coupe, I have to admit this is not the most efficient vehicle for transporting large mammals. Getting Henry and Murphy into the back seat is always a challenge. Neither of them like to spend time in such a confined space, but they do understand they will be running around with a bunch of other dogs once the car reaches its destination.

On the way Henry always finds time to shake his body violently enough to ensure that every hair on his body that was even considering shedding itself is now floating about in the interior of my car. The experience is similar to being stuck inside a novelty snow bubble that has just been moved around. Well, maybe without so much water.

For anyone who has never been to a dog park, I would like to point out that the actual experience bears little resemblance to the movie “Dog Park.” No matter how many times I go, I never see Luke Wilson or Janeane Garofalo with their favorite pets. For the most part people walk around and make small talk about their pets. Gossip about scandalous dating triangles among people at the park is a rare occurrence. The last time I went the most interesting person was an older man who sat on a rock and spent twenty minutes intensely drawing a sketch of a minivan in his notebook.

Once we enter the fenced in area of the dog park, the dogs immediately start running around sniffing everything they can get their noses into. I have read that some dogs noses are many times more sensitive than humans. This explains why most people don’t spend more time sniffing their work and living environments. For the next hour or so Henry and Murphy get to run around, socialize with other animals (canine and human), and anything else they can manage to do from within the confines of the area. Eventually, they come over to me, sit down, and look at me as if to say “OK, this ‘dog park’ thing is a blast, but we really have to go home and get back to sleep.”

Hair Daze

The other day I woke up, looked at myself in the mirror, and said to myself, “Is this going to be yet another bad hair day?” On a more typical day I would have simply gotten my hair wet and wrestled it into something resembling a hair style. I’m not sure why, [EDITOR’S NOTE: Maybe because your girlfriend– who would have done everything in her power to stop you– was out of town at the time.], but I decided on the slightly different approach of completely shaving my head.

Before I go on, I need to explain the nature of my hair. For reasons I don’t completely understand, my hair doesn’t succumb to the traditional forces of gravity. If I don’t get my hair cut once a month it gradually transforms into a big, fluffy, brown afro. While this style looks good on some people, I also have to deal with my genetic disposition for a receding hair line and male pattern baldness. So while things could be a lot worse, I just have to accept the fact that, just like Richard Simmons, the world is not going to love me for my hair.

While my mother has above average eyesight, she has recurring visions of me with wonderful curly hair. One explanation involves her confusing me with some famous “nice hair” actor such as Hugh Grant or Fabio. The only other reasonable cause for this behavior involves my mom receiving information from a parallel universe– exactly like ours, but with extensive advancements in the area of hair genetics. When I visit her, she always says I should “grow out my curls.” This usually leads to me bringing out my senior picture as a visual aid for my rebuttal. In addition to the obligatory suit and tie, the image shows me with fairly long frizzy hair– not a curl in sight. When presented with this evidence, my mom politely looks away and goes back to her fantasy world.

Once I made the decision to shave my head, I gathered together all the tools needed to complete the procedure. Much like a skilled surgeon, I didn’t want to have to drive to the grocery store in the middle of the operation. I placed everything I needed on the bathroom counter: a pair of office scissors, hair clippers, shaving cream, and a new razor. To provide motivation, I taped images of Telly Savalas and Charlie Brown to the mirror.

I picked up the scissors and started cutting large clumps of hair from my head. I watched as they fell into the wastebasket I placed in the sink. Things were going well until I started looking in the mirror to decide where to cut next. That was when the concept of “mirror image” started to sink in. I would move the scissors in exactly the opposite direction since left and right are switched around. Soon questions started to pop into my head along the lines of, “Why is left and right switched, but not up and down?”, “Are mirrors like this in the southern hemisphere?”, and “Should I rent ‘The Dirty Dozen’ after I’m done shaving?” I considered sitting down at my laptop, pointing my web camera at my head, and looking at the image on the screen to improve my aim with the scissors. In the end I decided A) I didn’t want hair getting stuck in my keyboard, and B) I don’t have a web camera.

When most of my hair was gone, I put the scissors down and picked up the hair clippers. In the past I had only used them to trim my beard. I wasn’t sure if they would be powerful enough to shave my head, but I was already well past the point of no return. In retrospect, this was the easiest step in the whole shaving process. Being careful not to shave off my eyebrows, I quickly finished phase two.

The last step was for me to get in the shower and get a nice close shave. I don’t know the “best” way to shave, but I prefer the shower to standing in front of the bathroom mirror. In the twelve or so years I’ve been shaving, I’ve never been able to develop the technique I see on razor commercials where the model takes a single swipe from his ear to his chin in exactly 0.3 seconds– revealing perfectly smooth skin. If I shaved anything like that I would puncture my skin and expose a large portion of my jaw bone. Since this was the first time shaving my head, I stuck with short and deliberate strokes of the razor. This ensured that my scalp remained on my head and not on the floor of the shower.

After I finished in the shower I stepped in front of the bathroom mirror and thought to myself “Wow– I can’t see anything with all this condensation on the mirror.” So I went into my bedroom and looked at a mirror that wasn’t all fogged over. Despite a bit of razor burn, I was pretty happy with the outcome. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and asking everyone’s opinion. In the end I realized its just hair, and I’m pretty sure its going to grow back.

Being bald isn’t really as different as having hair. This is mostly due to the fact that I never really spent much time thinking about the stuff on top of my head. The biggest difference is that everything seems a lot cooler. [NOTE TO SELF: Solution to global warming?] I also save a total of thirty seconds each day since I don’t have to shampoo or comb my hair. Of course I lose about ten minutes each time I shave my head, so I guess I’m not really saving any time.

What does Kristin think of me now? When I would talk about shaving my head, she would always have five or six reasons why I shouldn’t do it. She even suggested I buy this “Cosmo” CD-ROM that would let me see what I would look like with different hair styles. Needless to say, that idea never got off the drawing board. She was in Florida when I did the deed, and not too happy when I told her over the phone. Despite all her protests, concerns, and delaying tactics, she likes it. A lot. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Grrrr!]

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to keep my head shaved or let it grow back. Once the weather cools down I might feel the need for more hair. But at the moment it’s still quite warm and I live in a house without air conditioning. But until then, think of me as a modern day Cujo. Or maybe I’m thinking of Kojack. Whichever one has less hair.

The Dog Days of Summer

Every now and then I wonder what my life would be life would be like if I got married and had a couple of kids. The only thing I know for sure is my television viewing habits would not change too much. If any of my future children want to spend countless hours in front of the television set I’m going to make sure at least two-thirds of their programming options revolve around World War Two documentaries on the History Channel. Since my days of matrimony and reproduction are not in my near future, I have recently experienced the next best thing: Spending a week with two dogs in the house.

I currently live in a house which, on average, contains one dog. This dog, named Henry, belongs to my roommate, named Scott. One of Henry’s most unique physical characteristics is the fact that he has two different colored eyes. Scott, on the other hand, has two eyes that are, for the most part, the same color. Total strangers often times come up and ask about Henry’s eyes. Rarely do they ask about Scott’s eyes.

But enough about my roommate’s chromatically symmetrical eyes– this is a story about the dogs. Henry has long beige hair that is in a constant state of renewal. While I haven’t submitted the following theory to the rigorous process of the scientific method, I strongly suspect that on an average day, Henry’s body sheds more hair than the local Great Clips. When Henry and I are alone in the house he generally sleeps in the basement all day long. Every now and then, just for a change of pace, he walks up the stairs, looks at me blankly, and then proceeds to lay down next to the kitchen table before falling back asleep. His overall interest in Scott and I only peaks when he needs to go out side, be fed, or be taken on a walk. Henry and I get along quite well this way– we don’t expect a whole lot from each other.

This brings me to the second dog– Murphy. Belonging to my girlfriend Kristin, this dog is half Greyhound and half Black Lab. While her shedding habits occur on a much smaller scale than Henry’s, she does have her own list of peculiar habits. Most notably, she is very skittish. It is quite natural for animals to be scared of things like sudden noises, unfamiliar places, and the actor known as “Carrot Top.” Murphy, however, is pretty much scared of everything that isn’t Murphy. For example, I took Murphy out one night and she ran as far away as she could on the leash from the slight rustling noise produced by a series of plastic flags on the “for sale” sign on the house next door. On another outing she was overcome with fear because a tumbleweed was a few feet away from the sidewalk. I suppose I would have had more sympathy for the dog if the shrubbery in question was actually moving in any way.

Another quirk about Murphy is that she doesn’t want to be more than three feet away from Kristin or myself at all times. This makes walking with Kristin and the dog quite a chore. While Kristin generally refrains from spastically running around me in tight circles, the same cannot be said for the dog. Murphy always wants to be at the exact midpoint between Kristin and I while at the same time running around in circles. The interaction between the three of us is analogous to Luke Skywalker’s two-sunned home planet of Tatooine (but on a much smaller scale.) That would, of course, explain why Luke’s mother and stepfather had such difficult time harvesting crops.

Each of these dogs, by themselves, is generally calm and well behaved. So I figured that bringing Murphy over to my place in Loveland while Kristin was out of town for a week wouldn’t drastically alter my lifestyle. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into effect how the two dogs would interact with each other. The most immediate effect I noticed when I brought Murphy home was what I call “The Canine Cold War Mentality.” It usually starts out with both dogs sleeping peacefully on the floor in the main living area. This is known as Defcon 5 (or mauve, if you are using the new Homeland Security color coding system). If the dogs were the United States and the Soviet Union, this situation would be analogous to the first few months after World War Two or the eight years Bill Clinton was in the White House. This state of peace and quiet is inevitably shattered by a strange noise outside, one of the dogs sneezing, or the random motion of air molecules in the room.

Once this happens, one of the dogs will look up, causing the other dog to look up. (Defcon 3) Not to be outdone, the first dog stands up. (Defcon 2) This escalation procedure continues until both dogs are frantically running around the house barking at the top of their lungs. (Irreversible Intercontinental Thermonuclear War) After a few minutes
they calm down and eventually go back to sleep. (Analogy breaks down here.) While most people would consider this to be a minor inconvenience, I find it quite difficult to lay down on my couch and concentrate on the afternoon episode of “Trading Spaces” with such a racket going on in the background.

Another issue I’ve discovered with Murphy is how she goes to the bathroom. Like human females at nice restaurants, Murphy cannot go do her business alone. Being a smart dog, she knows where the backyard is. Being a smart person, I usually leave the back door open so both dogs can go outside whenever they feel the need. It seems like a simple enough solution, but whenever Murphy’s bladder fills up, she will run through the house until she finds me. Then she sits down and starts whining frantically until I walk with her outside and watch her pee. Which is exactly what I want to do at two in the morning. At least I’m not asleep yet.

Despite these minor issues, we all got through the week without any major problems. Eventually Henry and Murphy
both realized they were going to be living in the same house together. My threats to send them to Tatooine for the summer must have done the trick.

Divide and Conquer

I was planning on writing about the town of Divide, Colorado on my recent trip to eat dinner with Kristin and her mother, but that was before I discovered the size of the town. Located a bit west of Colorado Springs, Divide basically consists of a gas station, a stop light, and a two story mini-mall. Curious about why a town of this magnitude needs a stop light, I researched the matter at the Teller county library. It turns out the traffic control device was installed in the spring of 1921 as a way of getting people to stop and wander through the inevitably small selection at the local video store.

Most of the residents of Divide drive to the neighboring town of Woodland Park for their consumer needs. A few miles down the road from Divide, this town has its own unique character. The first thing I noticed driving through Woodland Park is the abundance of Conoco / Loaf ‘n Jug convenience stores. I counted a total of four on my way through town. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed except for the fact I drove by two of them that were separated by a small unrelated building. In addition to the many, many occupations I’ve claimed to have no knowledge of in the past, I now must add to the list by saying that I’m not a top level executive at Conoco (or Loaf ‘n Jug for that matter). I just can’t see the logic of placing two of the exact same stores twenty-four feet apart in a small mountain town. I can only theorize this strategy was implemented to cater to the following situation:

A man driving a late model minivan approaches the first Conoco. His wife and two kids are quietly taking in the mountain scenery.

Husband: Well, we have plenty of gas. Honey, do you want to stop for anything at this safe and hygienic Conoco / Loaf ‘n Jug establishment?

Wife: No thanks dear, I think we should just continue on our journey.

Husband: Bobby, Sally, are you two doing okay back there?

Kids: (In unison) Yes dad.

Husband: Great– I’m glad we can spend this quality time together.

And then, 0.0003 seconds later:

Bobby: Dad! Sally threw up on me.

Sally: Dad! I threw up on Bobby. And I have to pee. And I want some candy and soda.

Wife: Your kids need tending to, Jack. And why did you have to drive through that plague of locust? The windshield is a mess! And I need a cigarette. Make that a few.

Husband: Will everyone just SHUT UP for a second? I’m trying to think what to do here. We could turn around and go back to that last Conoco / Loaf ‘n Jug. (Looks at the dashboard) OH CRAP! We are dangerously low on fuel—- we don’t have enough gasoline for a U-turn. We are all going to die!

Wife: (Looks up the road) It is a miracle Jack! There is ANOTHER Conoco / Loaf ‘n Jug just past this building. We are saved!

Husband: Phew! When we get back home I’m going to find the Conoco executive who arranged these convenience stores and give him a big hug.

In addition to the convenience store curiosities, Woodland Park has it’s own unique history. For example, Kristin and I ate lunch at Quiznos. After we ordered our food and sat down to eat, she explained to me how this store front used to be occupied by the Christian Science Reading Room. Kristin just rolled her eyes at my suggestion to combine the two and name it “Sandwiches Good Enough For Jehovah.”

Despite being a quiet mountain town, Woodland Park has an impressive police presence. The ratio of law enforcement officers to civilians is similar to that of a Siberian prison colony. On our way back to Divide, we had the honor of receiving a police escort through town. Things got even more interesting when Kristin threw a cigarette butt out the window. We got pulled over and the officer started off the conversation by saying, “I’m pulling you over because you tossed a lit object from your car. Did you know that is illegal?” He then went on to explain the forest fire danger in the area. While I wanted to discuss the long term dangers of artificial fire suppression, I had a feeling this would not be the optimal time for such a debate.

Kristin, who has no love for the police, didn’t seem to enjoy the conversation very much. To help remember that night, Kristin was given an authentic document from the Teller county police department which gave her two options. She can either pay the thirty-eight dollar fine or be hunted down by attack dogs and officers wearing full riot gear in an ATF training exercise.

After all that, we managed to get back just in time for dinner– which I must say was quite lovely.

The New Kid In Town

Now that I’ve lived in Loveland for a month, I feel a much stronger connection with the town. To be honest, when I first moved in, I knew little more than the two main streets in the area. Depending on my starting point, finding my way back home was at times quite a challenge. Thanks to my technique of randomly driving around town for little or no specific reason I have identified many, if not all, of the points of interest Loveland, Colorado has to offer.

One of the first things I did after moving in was to locate the nearest Walmart. Fortunately for me, it was only a few blocks away from the house. I drove over and stocked up on soda and other random items that seem to find their way into my shopping basket whenever I enter the store. Unfortunately for me, I drove to the exact same location a week later only to find it was gone. Well, the building didn’t go anywhere, but the essence of the company was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes of playing Columbo, I discovered a large note on the door, explaining that a new store had opened up on the other side of town.

But this wasn’t just any Walmart—- the new building housed a “Super” Walmart. Which means it is basically a traditional Walmart with a complete grocery store stuck on the side. And it stays open all the time. Given my well-documented erratic sleeping habits, this schedule was quite a welcomed change. To test things out, I drove over at midnight to examine the new structure. It literally has tons of stuff. I can’t say offhand exactly how many tons, but everywhere I looked I just saw more stuff. Having just moved all my stuff from Boulder, I was not really in the mood to acquire more stuff. But I did feel the need to buy something, just to be courteous to the Walmart establishment.

In order to make everyone happy, I bought a ninety-seven cent bottle of hair gel. While I’m still not sure if my hair needs the “ultra hold” or “maximum goo” style, the bottle I purchased does seem to be functioning within the expected parameters. And now I have one more item to add to my “ways to entertain myself at two in the morning” list. (Going to Walmart that is, not contemplating my hair gel needs.)

Now that Scott and I have cleared out all the unwanted vegetation from the yard, I have taken on the responsibility of mowing the lawn. For one thing, I haven’t had a lawn to mow since I was in high school. Secondly, the area covered by the lawn is so small it is not a big deal to fire up the lawn mower once a week. The lawn mower is one that mulches the grass instead of collecting it in a bag. In addition to being environmentally better for the planet, it keeps me in a much better mood since I don’t have to spend time hauling bags of dead grass all over the place.

One of my favorite aspects of living in Colorado are the two seasons. Winter and summer both make their presence felt throughout the year—- but not in any particular order. Sure, in December it is more likely to be winter and in June, odds favor the summer. I was mowing the lawn a few days ago when the sun was shining and all the other meteorological signs pointed to summer. By the time I had finished, the situation had completely reversed and it was quite clear that winter was stopping by for a visit. A few hours later it started snowing. If I had postponed mowing the lawn I might have had to shovel snow off it first. Fortunately, winter didn’t want to stay very long and things were back to summer status the next day.

After holding a brief funeral service to honor the premature demise of the raspberry bushes, Scott and I planted some new seeds in the garden. It turns out that world of genetic engineering hasn’t advanced to the point of being able to produce “seven-layer burrito” seeds. Given that limitation, I went back to the Super Walmart (which hadn’t been moved since my last visit to buy the hair gel) and bought various packages of seeds. According to the instructions, if planted correctly, the seeds will grow into various forms of vegetables. My specialty seems to be more in the area of killing vegetation, so I’m sure an attempt to grow a useful garden will be quite an adventure. (NOTE TO SELF: don’t run over the garden with the lawn mower.) But at least now I know where I can buy gardening equipment in the middle of the night.

Getting Dumped

After moving all my belongings to Loveland, I started the whole process of getting settled into my new surroundings. It was at this point in time I really became jealous of Scott’s dog. When Henry moves somewhere his entire settling process consists of figuring out where to go to relieve himself, sniffing everything in the area two or three times, and then falling asleep in the middle of the floor for the rest of the day. Henry doesn’t worry about hooking up stereo speakers or rifling through boxes trying to find a clean pair of underwear.

Over the years Scott has put a fair amount of effort into landscaping around the house. While it is not quite ready to be featured in “Better Homes and Gardens,” the yard is completely free of unmarked sinkholes and nonfunctioning automobiles. The one area I thought needed the most work was the garden on the side of the house. The area has been overtaken by trash, weeds, and, on occasion, a small band of street hardened juvenile delinquents. One night I told Scott I was going to attack the garden and clean it up a bit.

Before I go any further here, I have to ask the rhetorical question “How was I supposed to know the difference between weeds and a series of dormant but healthy raspberry bushes?” Needless to say, Scott overestimated my abilities to identify “good” versus “bad” plant life and we are not going to have any fresh raspberry pie in August. But on a positive note, the efforts produced a large pile of dead plants that had to be thrown away and we now had a good reason to go visit the city dump. We attached the wooden side rails on Scott’s pickup truck and started piling trash in the bed.

The next piece of vegetation that got loaded into the truck was a sickly looking tree that was living in the back yard. I’m not really sure what Scott did to it, because the tree looked quite healthy and vibrant propped up in the living room when I stopped by for his Christmas party. I honestly suspect Scott didn’t talk to the tree enough. In an attempt to revive the tree, I dug a small hole in the back yard and stood the tree up. My theory was the tree stump would sense the connection with Mother Earth and grow a complete new set of roots in a few days. Everything was going fine until these small gusts of wind kept tipping the tree over. Of course by then the self esteem of the tree was too depleted and we were forced to give up and throw it in the back of the truck.

The next item on the list was an old beat up desk that Scott’s previous roommate conveniently left in the room that was going to become my office. At first glance it appeared to be a simple wooden desk that could be easily carried down the stairs and given to Goodwill. Upon closer inspection, however, the desk was a monster. The entire structure was built from solid inch thick particle board and held together with generous quantities of screws, wood glue, and some sort of futuristic “Star Trek” force field. After a solid hour of attacking the beast, we carried its dismembered corpse outside and prepared it for final burial.

Once all the trash was loaded up, we tied a tarp over everything as best we could and headed out to the dump. While everything seemed to be securely tied down before we left, I suspect the air flow dynamics of traveling fifty miles an hour altered the stress forces in the back of the truck. About half way through our journey, the wooden side railings decided to spontaneously shatter into several pieces. The down side to this event was that half the junk we were hauling flew out on the road. The up side was… well, I don’t think there really was one.

The really funny thing (and by “funny” I really mean “pain in the ass”) was that with the side rails broken there was no way we could fit everything back into the truck. After some deliberation, we left some of the junk on the side of the road and took what we could to the dump. Once the first trip was completed, we went back and got the rest of the stuff off the side of the road. It really helped prolong the “going to the dump” experience into an entire afternoon ordeal.

Despite the setback, our goal was eventually achieved. We made it home in one piece and without any of the garbage we left with. Just to make us feel a little bit better about the whole situation, we checked the mail when we got back and found a coupon that would have saved us the twenty dollar fee at the dump.

And, of course, the dog was still sleeping on the floor when we got home.