Sorry for the lack of updates over the past month. Between Lisa moving in, the $1400 in car repairs, the computer problems and all the stuff in my work life, I haven't really had much time to work on the site. But it's back now, with all the posts I would've done had things been working properly when the month started.
Happy Memorial Day. More later.
The drive home was rather cinematic this evening. Blowing rain, blinding sunlight, thrashing trees, and the biggest damn rainbow I've seen in years.
The rainbow didn't turn out that well—I was navigating westbound on the Crosstown, after all—so I thought I'd post the blinding drive down to the Mendota Heights Bridge instead.
~ ~ ~
"You do stupid things to take pictures."
I started laughing.
"You do. It's not funny. I need you to be careful."
"I was being careful. When driving, it's no different from eating or changing channels the radio."
"You do stupid things for photos. Like hang off bridges."
She was referring to a minor incident that got me in some trouble while working at a hack newspaper back in Manitowoc. "I haven't done anything like that in years."
"You need to be more careful."
~ ~ ~
I can't remember if I ever told her the Lake Superior cliff story. I actually destroyed a camera in the process of that one. But, hey, that was, what, 17 years ago?
Movie Log: Star Wars IV: A New Hope
Realizing that living with a Star Wars fan meant that my time as a non-viewer was limited, I finally broke down on Friday and watched Star Wars IV with Lisa. I had low expectations, and, regrettably, they were not exceeded. In all, it was pretty clear this was a movie I needed to have seen as a kid—or, maybe, impressed on me as a kid—to have any interest in it. Flat acting, poor special effects (even for 1977—remember, 2001 was made almost a decade earlier), and huge plot holes despite the fact there was almost no story to dig into in the first place. In all, a fairly substantial bore. 4/10.
Movie Log: Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
Despite my clear disappointment with Star Wars IV—and, as a result, a substantial skepticism of the rest of the series—I actually enjoyed Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. Sure, the movie was as completely devoid of acting as the first (or fourth?) Star Wars, but, unlike in IV, Lucas actually had special effects to cover up that issue this time around. (R2D2 and Yoda were more interesting and had more character development than any of the human characters.) There was more of a plot than in IV, too, although I have to admit III wouldn't have been as good if I hadn't seen IV first. In all, it was a fun show, although not enough to make me into one of those freaks who claps when the Lucasfilm logo appears on the screen. 7/10.
I guess, in some ways, this entry will explain more than most.
~ ~ ~
"Stop," I said as we walked along the southern edge of Lake of the Isles. I grabbed her by the shoulders and slowly turned her so she'd see downtown Minneapolis reflecting off the lake. "Ooooh," I said.
"I love my city. Our city."
"You got that right."
"Well, I was here first."
"Nuh huh. I was here in '91."
"Ah, but you left." We started walking. "Reset, clean slate, I was here first." Pause. "What was I doing back in 1991?"
"I graduated high school," she said, "and started at the U of M."
"Well, at this time of the year I would've just finished my freshman year in high school. I would've been preparing to go down to Madison with my parents to meet a bunch of other high-schoolers at some big vans parked at James Madison Memorial to get ready to head out to Montana for the environmental institute. That would result in another trip the following year out to Maine, where I met a lot of people, including Robin. Those trips would cement my interest in environmental science, which eventually led me to travel with Biker Ben to UW Stevens Point—back when US 10 was still two lanes almost the entire way between Manitowoc and Stevens Point—to see about pursuing an environmental degree there."
"Yeah. I decided to wait though, and went to UW Manitowoc instead. There I decided I didn't want to be measuring the pH levels in bogs for the rest of my life, and switched to English. Then I decided I didn't want to teach, but figured that since I could write I could pursue a degree in journalism—not realizing, of course, that writing and journalism were completely different things. That would lead to me going to school at River Falls, where I'd meet Sarah and Jason, and where I'd spend time editing the online version of the newspaper and finding that HTML was a lot more interesting than writing news stories. That would lead to me getting a job at _______, a company I'd previously vowed to never work for again, where I'd meet another guy named Ben, who'd first come up and introduced himself after he heard I liked DJ Shadow. That would lead to me becoming good friends with Ben, and eventually standing in his wedding and becoming good friends with his wife as well. That would lead to me making a trip with her to London in 2003, which, through a series of incidents too strange to be explained, would eventually lead to me walking along this lake this evening holding her hand."
"Okay, I think I'm going to cry now."
Movie Log: The Interpreter
The Interpreter was a solid film completely torpedoed by a couple of unbelievable plot leaps in its last 20 minutes. The acting was solid by just about everyone in the movie, and the scenes showing the day-to-day operation of the United Nations were sweeping and fascinating. Overall, the first 80% of the movie was very solid, which made it all the more disappointing that the ending was fucking ridiculous. (I'm not going to give away the plot by writing about the incredibly unbelievable thing Nicole Kidman's character manages to do at the end, but, really, why spend the entire freakin' movie showing how on top of everything the UN's security is when her character can seemingly just ignore it?) In all, watch it for the first 100 minutes, and try not to let the ending leave a bad taste in your mouth. 6/10.
Six days and over $1400 later, my car is back home.
In some cases it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when a situation moves to the realm of the ridiculous, but for this latest unplanned automotive adventure I'm pretty sure it came when I exited I-90 in southern Minnesota Monday night to head north on US 52. I was on my way back from La Crosse, where my car had decided to make a short weekend stay at the Saturn dealer there after loosing its clutch. The folks in La Crosse were able to get the clutch working again by draining and refilling the brake fluid—the clutch uses the same system as the brakes on an L Series—but were unable to identify the cause of the problem. The tech involved suspected a leaky master cylinder, and said I should probably get it checked out or replaced the next time I had my car in for scheduled maintenance.
Deciding to take advantage of one of the few nights the dealership would be open past 6:00, I took off of work early and headed down to La Crosse. Traffic on the way down was practically nonexistent and the weather was nice, so, aside from the annoying cause behind the trip, it was actually kind of relaxing. Of course, that went away as soon as I exited to US 52 on the way back. It wasn't an exit that demanded a downshift, but I decided to do so just to see if the clutch was working.
The Saturn was clear in its message: Fifth gear was the only gear it was going to give me, and the next time I stopped it would be tow truck time.
I reviewed my situation. I had just under a quarter of a tank of gas, probably enough to make the Cities, yet a small enough margin to make me nervous. The road between Rochester and the Cities was somewhat spartan; it would be easy to get help if I stopped in Rochester, but I'd have to stay the night and then make another trip down to pick up my car later in the week. There were no slow curves before 494, but two stoplights in one of the small towns along the way. Stall out there and I'd either be stuck with some unknown mechanic or the tow bill from Hell.
Getting to the Twin Cities wouldn't necessarily get me out of the woods, either: To get to my Saturn dealer I'd have to use at least two cloverleafs, both of which were advertised for use at 30mph and under. (Heading to downtown St. Paul was ruled out on the basis of the incredibly sharp ramp from 52 to 94 west.) Even if I could manage to make it southbound on 35W, there would still be a chance of stalling out over the two city blocks to the dealership.
In the end, I decided to make a run for the Cities. The stoplights turned out to a problem in a different way than I expected: I was able to hit both of the lights on green, but the small, slow traffic clump caused by the lights kept me switching lanes for a couple of miles until I was finally able to pass by the lead lollygaggers. (During the miles directly after the lights, there was much in-car screaming of the "move your fucking car" and "get the fuck out of my way" variety.) The trip after that to 494 was rather uneventful, with the loop from 52 to 494 only causing only mild grumbling from the engine. The loop from 494 to 35W was more difficult, and I almost stalled part way through the loop. The streets in Bloomington were mercifully empty, allowing me to speed over to the dealer, stall out in the parking lot and push the car into a parking space. From there, it was a 30 minute wait and a $20 cab ride home.
~ ~ ~
Tuesday morning brought another rental car—this time an absolute boat of a Buick—and another long set of calls with a Saturn dealer. In the end, they confirmed what La Crosse said: The master cylinder had to be replaced. At least they were able to do the repair the car within the day.
I should've just had the damn thing fixed in La Crosse.
~ ~ ~
In all, I've put over 30,000 miles on the car since I purchased it. I guess it was due for some kind of breakdown.
Well, today definitely didn't go as planned, but it could've been worse. Lisa and I are back in Madison, and my car for the time being is a 2005 Ford Taurus. (It's actually not that bad, although from the number of times I've hit the floor with my left foot, I'm definitely someone who should stay with a manual transmission.) If all goes well, my Saturn will be ready on Monday, resulting in an after-work drive down to La Crosse to get it back.
It sounds like it's going to be some work to get my car going again. The clutch is basically inoperable, and all the easy issues (low fluid levels, etc.) have already been investigated and dismissed. I guess I've had the car for the better part of a year, so, considering my track record, I was probably due for an automotive breakdown of some sort.
I really hope this doesn't cost that much. I have some rather large expenses coming up over the next few months (my brother's wedding comes to mind), and I'd rather not find myself carrying a significant amount of debt again.
~ ~ ~
On the bright side, today ended pretty well. Lisa and I drove out to Cambridge for dinner at Serendipity, and, aside from the main entree, it was *very* good. We zucchini blossoms stuffed with ____ cheese and surrounded by a spicy sauce for an appetizer, which both of us liked very much. Lisa had a spinach salad with pine nuts in a sweet dressing, while I had the daily special pistachio soup with grated orange peels. Our deserts were quite tasty as well, with Lisa having a sampling of their apricot and blood orange sorbets, while I had an apple tart.
The entree was the only thing that kept me from really liking the place. While Lisa's dinner, salmon wrapped fillo dough in a saffron sauce with vegetables and glazed walnuts, was pretty good, I almost sent my dinner, a strip steak on a bed of spinach in a olive and blue cheese sauce, back to the kitchen. The meat was completely overtaken by gristle, and, despite asking for and being provided with a steak knife, was very difficult to deal with. In the end, I discarded over a third of the steak as inedible.
Now, granted, I know it probably wasn't the best decision on my part to order a steak at a place like Serendipity, as I had no idea whether they actually took steaks seriously or not. In retrospect, I suspect it may have been one of those places that offers steaks simply because so many people look for them, not because they have any actual interest in presenting something good. But, if that was the case, the server shouldn't have recommended it when I admitted I was waffling between one of the chicken entrees and the steak.
Actually, I'm getting myself pissed off just writing this. I'd still recommend Serendipity, although with the severe caveat that one should probably avoid the steaks.
~ ~ ~
Tomorrow it's back to the Twin Cities. In the Taurus' back seat I'll be carrying four boxes full of Lisa's belongings, representing the first physical step of moving her back north.