Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I've got some kind of nasty strep throat thing going on these past few days that makes it extremely painful to swallow. This morning, after a fruitless trip to the local Urgent Care center ("The quick culture came back negative for strep, but we should have a complete result on the long culture in 48 hours." 48 hours?? Do they have any idea how much it hurts to even breathe right now??), I sent Jeremy to the store to buy me some SlimFast meal shakes to get me through the day. I figured the shakes would go down easy and still give me good nutrition.

Well, he came home with a six-pack of something called "Fortify," Kroger (store) brand, strawberry-flavored. At first, I thought it was just the ghetto version of SlimFast, but then I read this on the package: "To help gain or maintain healthy weight. 350 calories per serving." In other words, almost the exact opposite of what I wanted. The last thing I need is to beef up on protein shakes during my convalescence.

I have to wonder if he's getting back at me for experience we had in Moscow comes to mind.

We had been in the country a whole three weeks, and married for a whole two months, when Jeremy was seized with a terrible episode of food poisoning in the middle of the night. Somehow, I managed to get us a taxi in the freezing January night, persuade the taxi driver not to smoke since Jeremy was already in danger of puking without the help of nasty cigarette fumes, and get him to the local urgent care center. They put him on an IV and discharged him the next day with a few prescriptions (the prescription for a suppository said to take "one per rectum." Seriously!) and some special instructions. These instructions stipulated that Jeremy was only to drink bottled water, strictly the non-carbonated kind (Russia is one of those countries where they like to drink carbonated water).

As soon as we got home, I had Jeremy write down "carbonated," in Russian, on a small piece of paper. Armed with this vital piece of information, I went to our local grocery store to buy the gentlest, most non-carbonated bottle of water I could find.

The word for "carbonated" in Russian is "газированная." I scoured the shelves of bottled water and finally found one that said "сильногазированная." I didn't quite know what "сильно" meant, but I assumed it meant that the water was not carbonated.

I bought a huge jug of the water and brought it home. As soon as Jeremy took a look at it, he started laughing. "Сильно," it turns out, means "strongly." I had just bought a big jug of heavily carbonated water for my sick husband. He's never let me live that one down, not in the almost five years that have passed since.

But at least we're even now. Right, Jeremy?

Like a good neighbor: part the second

Mr. Green (our neighbor and the subject - victim? - of the last post) and his mother showed up at our doorstep this morning. The mom did most of the talking and wanted to hear the whole story of what happened, from start to finish. She had been in Mexico over Thanksgiving weekend, along with Mr. Green's older, more responsible brother, and thus was not involved in what had happened at the house on Saturday.

Jeremy told her the story and when he was done, she thanked us for doing what we did. So I was glad she saw the situation the same way we did.

If I had been the one telling the story, with Mr. Green standing right there, I would have left out one part. I also left this part out of the last blog post. The cops had some reason to believe that drugs were somehow involved. Jeremy mentioned this in his retelling of the situation to Mr. Green's mom, but did it in an unsure and tentative manner rather than stating it as a fact. I had hoped that Mr. Green would tell his mom about that part on his own, rather than making his neighbors do it. But I guess she will find out as much from the police later. At least, the way Jeremy passed on the information, Mr. Green will have to do the majority of the explaining himself.

I don't know whether to be relieved that the break-in was not a random event that could have happened to our house just as easily, or to be concerned that, although not random, the break-in was somehow related to drugs. Really, is one better than the other?? I'm not sure what to think of it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Like a good neighbor

Getting the mail can be a dangerous undertaking in this, the 18th-most-dangerous city in America. Early this afternoon, I stepped out the door with Miriam to get the mail and say hello to the horses and cows. I didn't get very far, though - sitting on our neighbor's doorstep (our doors face each other) was a surly-looking stranger. I wasn't about to leave the house alone with that guy hanging out right outside, even if Jeremy was just inside (sleeping - it was an early morning with a sick Miriam). So I turned right around, went back in the house, and locked the door.

About an hour later, the guy was still sitting outside. I had seen him walk around the back of our neighbor's house and I was getting suspicious. I sent Jeremy out to see what was going on. He spoke to Mr. Surly and found out that his name was actually Professor Plum (it wasn't, but that's what I'll call him here). He was there to visit our neighbor Mr. Green (he volunteered the name himself) but he wasn't answering the door. Plum claimed that Green must be sleeping and couldn't hear him knocking. We gave him Green's brother's cell phone number and left him to his business. I was relieved that he seemed legitimate, after all.

Another hour or two later, we left to go to a church function. Plum was still sitting outside, waiting for Green to wake up, or whatever. I was a teensy bit nervous about leaving the house so obviously in front of him, but I knew all the doors were locked and also that we'd be back very soon.

Indeed, we were back within 30 minutes. Plum was no longer sitting on Green's doorstep, but his car was still there. We went inside and I started to fix a snack for Miriam. Jeremy worked on putting away some things in our carport storage closet.

I heard a few loud bangs that seemed to shake the very foundation of our house. At first I thought it was just Jeremy slamming the storage closet door, because sometimes it sticks. But a few minutes later, when Jeremy was inside, we heard the banging again. Jeremy stepped out our back patio door and we both immediately heard shouting, grunting, and more extremely heavy bangs coming from Green's back patio door. To me, it sounded like someone was beating somebody else up. To Jeremy, it sounded like someone was trying to break into Pablo's house. I looked at him and said, "I think we should call the police."

So we did. While Jeremy was on the phone with them, I looked out our window to get Plum's license plate number. While I was doing this, Plum himself reappeared from the back and got in his car to drive away. Obviously, he was involved in the ruckus we had just heard in the backyard.

Jeremy ran out to see which way the car turned out of our street. He didn't make it in time to see, but a few moments later, the police arrived.

I was worried that poor Mr. Green was hurt in his house. But the police did their work and said they thought it was as Jeremy said, that Plum was just trying to break in the house. There was damage to both the front and back entry areas. After they were done asking us questions, we went inside and unfortunately, I don't know the resolution to the situation. The cops stayed around for a couple of hours investigating things and then they left.

Now that several hours have passed, I find myself second-guessing the situation and wondering if maybe we just caused problems for our neighbors and a friend of theirs. But we did what seemed right at the time - I really thought someone was getting beat up in our neighbor's backyard, and calling the police was the wisest option available. And besides, if it wasn't what it appeared to be, our neighbors need to tell their friends not to lurk on their doorstep all day and then break into their house.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ungrammatical germs

We were at Costco last night. Ostensibly, we went there to buy some new luggage and frozen stir fry, but we came out with no luggage and lots more than just stir fry. Costco has a tendency to do that to you. But when they're handing out coupons for $20 off absurdly overpriced printer toner cartridges, who am I to say no?

While we were waiting in line, I was looking at their cold remedy aisle. They were selling that product called Airborne in bulk packages. The packaging had a picture of the developer of Airborne next to a quote that said this:

"I created Airborne because, as a teacher dealing with young children I was sick of catching colds in the classroom."

Now, call me nitpicky, but shouldn't there be a comma after "children"? Yes, there should. I'm not one to point out strangers' random grammatical errors (well, maybe a little...), but when a person mass-markets a product and charges lots of money for it, and furthermore chooses to advertise the fact that they are a teacher (it was stamped all over the packaging), I think they should be really careful about making mistakes in their product slogan. Anyone should be careful, but especially someone who chooses to identify herself as a teacher of our little ones.

Needless to say, I won't be buying any Airborne soon. It's amazing the advertising damage a comma - or the lack of one - can do.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

One man's treasure...

Jeremy and I each just spent ten minutes digging through the trash. Not the tidy little wastebasket next to the computer desk, or even the slightly soggier kitchen trash underneath the sink. Nope - we were digging through the disgusting big green barrel that acts as a dumping ground for all of the trash of the house, and that we roll to the curb once a week for collection. Yuck.

We were looking for a DVD case. A DVD we had checked out from the library is due today, and although the DVD was sitting on top of the DVD player, I couldn't find its case anywhere. It's times like these that I wish Miriam could talk so she could tell me what she did with it!

I looked everywhere in the house she could reach, and a few places she couldn't. I tried to think like her, and even got down on my knees to see if I spotted any places worthy to hide a DVD case in. No success.

Finally, I had an epiphany and realized that she must have put it in the trash. The office trash can is the only one she really has access to, and I remembered emptying it carelessly earlier this week without even a cursory glance at its contents.

So that's why we were digging through the trash barrel. Of course, this would be the week we chose to finally clean up our backyard of some various debris that collected during our absence this summer. So not only was the trash barrel full of regular household waste, there were also rusty nails and prickly, dry, dead bush fragments with sharp thorns.

I was unsuccessful in pulling out the bag with the office trash in it. Fortunately, Jeremy persevered (but with lots of muttering under his breath) and managed to extract the trash bag in question. And lo and behold, we looked inside and there was the DVD case.

The sad thing is that this particular DVD case (and the disc that goes inside of it) would probably have been better off remaining in the trash. I remember liking "Clueless" back when it came out, but maybe that's because I was a 14-year-old girl and didn't really understand the movie. I thought watching it again would be a pleasant trip down memory lane, but instead it was a series of "are they really talking about what I think they're talking about?" and "I don't remember them cussing so much!" moments that culminated in me turning off the movie.

But back to the library it will go, despite Miriam's best efforts to prevent it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Never mind

I was at Fry's the other day and noticed that the checker scanning my groceries had a nametag that said "Nazib." I thought maybe the name was Arabic, but you never know around here - there are some pretty crazy Spanish names, too. So I asked him.

"Where did you get your name?"

He kind of cringed and said, "Well, it's a long story. It's my dad's name."

"Oh really? Where is it from?"


"Wow, I used to live in Damascus!"

But before I could say anything else, he said:

"That's in Jordan, right?"

And with that, he answered all the questions I was just about to ask.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Then again...

Perhaps all this business with Powell's has put me in a good mood. In any case, I want to focus on the reverse side of the
no sidewalks problem. Tucson has a fantastic bike path system. Specifically, the Rillito Park pathway and Mountain Avenue are two examples of bike path genius.

We have a bike trailer now and several times this week we've taken it out for a spin on the Rillito. This is a paved, multi-lane bike path that runs along a dry river bed for miles and miles and miles. It is uninterrupted by city streets because, first of all, it is bordered by the river bed, and second of all, the path runs under any intersecting roads.

Another great thing about this path is that it is not closed off from the businesses that back up to it on the north side. There are small access paths that lead to the post office, the mall, apartment complexes, parks, or whatever else is nearby. This is a nice break from the clueless building design I see sometimes where a shopping complex appears to be conveniently located to your residence but in fact is rendered almost inaccessible by a circumference of cinderblock wall or the lack of crosswalks or sidewalks. With the Rillito Park pathway, however, I can actually do errands on foot or on a bike.

This evening, we rode our bikes to campus. We rode all the way on Mountain Avenue, which has spacious bike lanes for both directions of traffic. It even has sternly worded signs along the way warning cars not to trespass in the bike lanes.

So it appears that if Tucson does not treasure its pedestrians, at least it treasures its cyclists. For now, I'll have to be satisfied with that.
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Powell's Books comes through

In a shockingly short amount of time, I had a response to my Powell's nastygram. At first, they offered to just give us free shipping on our next book order. I was prepared to be satisfied - it would be strictly fair of them to give us that. But then's customer service manager, a woman named Beth, took the time to write a letter explaining the situation - why things happened the way they did. She improved their offer to not only free shipping on a future book order, but a free copy of a guitar book similar to the one we wanted and enough credit to bump the $22 gift certificate to a no-longer-awkward $30.

This is the Powell's I remember. And I think it's safe to say that we can all be friends again. Thank you, Beth!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Powell's Nastygram

The Powell's Books store in downtown Portland is really an amazing place. I even remember going there when I was little and being amused that there were different colors for each section and floor. I also remember that the area of town Powell's was in smelled vaguely like wine - there must be a reason for that but my childhood mind didn't bother filing it away.

Anyway, my parents gave Jeremy a gift certificate for his birthday in the amount of $50, which, if you know my family, is a really big deal (Hi, Mom!). Unfortunately, we had a mildly aggravating experience with it and I ended up writing the nastygram you see below. In the interest of fairness, I promise I'll recant it if they make it up to me somehow. In the meantime, boo to them.


My husband recently ordered three books from using a $50.00 gift certificate given to him for his 30th birthday. I know $50 might not seem like a big deal to you, but for us, it was a rare treat to have $50 to spend at a bookstore. He thought carefully about his selections and made sure to order items that, together, would use up the $50 and also qualify for free shipping.

After he placed his order, he received notice that two of the three items were not available after all, and would not even be placed on backorder. He was given no warning that this would happen, and no chance to cancel his order and retain his $50 gift certificate in its entirety.

Although the one available item was shipped, graciously, free of charge, the gift certificate was essentially wasted. He is now left with an awkward $22 gift certificate that will not qualify him for free shipping on a future order.

We are very dissatisfied with our experience and in the future will patronize as we have never had a negative experience with them. This makes me sad because I am a native of Portland and have always been proud of Powell's. I hope this kind of shoddy customer service is limited to your website and not your store.

Bridget Palmer

ps - In case you're wondering, the book they did have was a set of The Chronicles of Narnia. The ones they didn't were Sergeant Nibley, PhD, and a book of classical songs for guitar.


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