It wouldn't be true to say there's no movement on the condo situation, but I'm probably going to have to be quiet about that for a month or so.
~ ~ ~
My moderately dim view of humanity was reinforced this afternoon while picking up some Halloween cupcakes for coworkers. Unable to scan the bar code on the side of the pastry box with the built-in scanner, the cashier elected not to use the hand-held scanner but instead to turn the box sideways. The results were predictable: One cupcake was decapitated, and another three were severely damaged. She let the box drop onto the conveyer with an audible thunk and then looked at me. "Swipe your card there."
"Uh, can I get a new box of those now?"
Her expression was both perplexed and annoyed. "Why?"
"You just trashed a bunch of the cupcakes."
She didn't even bother to look down at the box. "Where'd you get them?"
"They were up front."
She shrugged. "Sure."
While I get occasionally not giving a shit, actively not giving a shit is something I doubt I'll ever understand.
Movie Log: Good Night, And Good Luck
Having gone in with high expectations, I was a bit disappointed that Good Night, And Good Luck didn't quite measure up to great news films like All the President's Men and The Insider, but that's not to say it was a bad film. The acting, cinematography and soundtrack were all great. Unfortunately, despite the interesting subject matter, the story had a tendency to drag. Indeed, many of the most involving scenes in the movie came not from actors but from real senators and citizens in archival footage. Still, it's worth seeing, especially if you're a journalism or political history nerd. 7/10.
~ ~ ~
Lisa's opinion of the movie was a bit different: She fell asleep.
Movie Log (Abbreviated): In Her Shoes
The individual presence of Cameron Diaz or Shirley MacLaine would usually be enough to void a movie for me, but, to be fair, it could've been much worse. Complete fluff, but bearable fluff at that. 6/10.
It was a busy weekend. Lisa's friends Michele and Dwight were up from Madison on Saturday, and the four of us went and saw Intimate Apparel at the Guthrie. (I wasn't expecting much, but ended up being pleasantly surprised.) It turned out to be somewhat of a late night—after the play we had dinner at Figlio and desert at the Uptown Zeno Cafe—and we didn't get settled in at home until 2:30 in the morning.
Turning in late wouldn't have been a big deal if not for our plans to head to River Falls today to watch the Packers/Vikings game with Jason, Sarah and Heather. I haven't seen any of them in months, so it was good to catch up. Regarding the game itself, well, I don't want to talk about it.
Friday evening was good, too. We caught a movie down in Edina, and finally got around to trying the Edina Grill. The food and service was quite good, and I was a bit surprised the place wasn't packed on a Friday evening. (Maybe that had something to do with the rest of 50th and France closing up so early.) Lisa almost came unhinged over her dinner of cinnamon swirl french toast, so we may have to visit again, maybe before they bulldoze the current building for another new condo development.
~ ~ ~
This weekend was a bit of reminder that Lisa and I need to get out in our own community more often. We do well when traveling, but haven't really been taking full advantage of the thoroughly spiffy cities just beyond our doors.
Regular tickets to the Guthrie may be a good start.
~ ~ ~
Still no news on the condo. We're pretty much moved in now—the place is dangerously closed to being clean and organized—but we still can't tackle any of the projects we'd been planning to hit. The yellow walls in the living and dining rooms are starting to get to me, and it's only a matter of time before Lisa injures herself in our poorly designed bathroom. (The towel rack near the bathroom sink seems to have been designed to attack arms and shoulders.) From a practical standpoint, the bathroom will probably be the first room to be redone, but, really, I'm completely ready to trash and redo the entire place.
- New York Times Editorial: The National Parks Under Siege - "Here... is what this proposed policy revision would remove from the very heart of the park system's mission statement: 'Congress, recognizing that the enjoyment by future generations of the national parks can be ensured only if the superb quality of park resources and values is left unimpaired, has provided that when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant.'"
Nothing has been confirmed yet, but a new word has entered our vocabulary regarding the closing of the condo: January.
The generally poor reviews given to Lord of War almost kept Lisa and I from taking a break from unpacking two weeks ago, but it turned out to be a really good film. Or, as Lisa said, "I kept waiting for it to start to suck, but it never did." Nicholas Cage puts in a strong, matter-of-fact performance as Yuri Orlov, a globe-trotting gun salesman who sells to anyone who has the money.
The script is solid, and it gives us a movie that's ethically agnostic: We know we shouldn't like Cage's character, and should be rooting the pursuing ATF agent played by Ethan Hawke, but the movie never encourages a viewer to do so. Actually, it doesn't really encourage a viewer to do much of anything than simply watch and be rewarded. (Minor spoilers ahead.) The trick about the film is Orlov doesn't think what he's doing is right or wrong; instead, he feels he's just fulfilling a basic human need. It's not a role he even likes. If he doesn't do it, someone else will, and he's good at it, so he does it. The movie kind of feels like it was made by the same kind of people. It's not inspiring, exciting or even that challenging. It's just uniformly competent, professional and consistent, and keeps you planted squarely in your seat for its full two hours. 8/10.
We still haven't closed on the condo yet. There's a lot of stuff flying around right now that Lisa and I have no direct role in, but basically what everything comes down to is the seller has to close the entire building at once, not just one unit at a time. As an indication of how things are going, he had an open house for one of the units yesterday, but his Realtor got sick and he ended having to show the unit himself.
We're dangerously close to being settled in, but won't be able to do anything to the unit itself until we actually own it. It's frustrating to have to wait, but there's not much else we can do at this point.
~ ~ ~
Other than the lack of change in the condo situation, it was a good weekend. We headed down to Treasure Island Casino near Red Wing Saturday evening for Liz's wedding reception, and earlier in the day got the small gift of a Badgers win over the Gophers at the Metrodome. Beyond that, we used our relatively relaxed weekend to clean and organize.
~ ~ ~
That Badger game, well, holy crap. Lisa managed to get her hands on some free luxury suite tickets, and, after five different ushers told us that no, we didn't have suite tickets, we found our suite and settled in. Much to our dismay, we then proceeded to watch the Badgers get kicked around the field for the better part of three straight quarters. With three minutes left in the game and the Badgers trailing 24-34, Lisa and I resigned ourselves to mocking Minnesota's "walking" band and lame-ass cheerleaders (who, incidentally, had use cue cards when leading cheers).
And then Minnesota basically handed themselves their own asses. It was such a turn of events that Lisa and I almost felt sorry for all the stunned Minnesota fans.
As if the unexpected win wasn't enough, Wisconsin's band stuck around for their traditional Fifth Quarter. I'd seen it a number of times at Camp Randall, but had no idea they did it when on the road. Five minutes after the game, the seas of gold in the stands had mostly disappeared, leaving only a few thousand red-shirted Badger fans, plus a few Gopher fans with perplexed looks on their faces. The show went on for another 15 minutes or so, and for a brief period the Metrodome seemed more like a haven for Wisconsinites than a home to our competitors.
Say what you will about excessive drinking, but only a culture that places a high value on beer can come up with something as cool as that.
It was a generally annoying day today. I got my security deposit back from the old apartment just in time for it to disappear to cover car repairs. Meanwhile, there's still no news on when we'll be able to close on the condo.
~ ~ ~
If the problem with the car wasn't bad enough, the unprofessional, half-assed, and generally incomplete repair attempt by Parent's Auto & Tire Center has made the situation even more frustrating. Basically what happened was this: My car was initially rendered inoperable Monday morning by a ignition that refused to turn. While I could have had the car towed to my Saturn dealer in Bloomington, I'd read good reviews about Parent's, which is just a block from the condo, and thought I'd try supporting one of our local businesses. I walked over that morning to discuss my situation, and that afternoon they called me back identifying the problem as a worn ignition lock cylinder. They gave me an estimate of $380 for towing, parts and labor, and I agreed and asked them to move forward with the work. They told me they'd get back to me Tuesday.
Things went downhill from there.
Having not heard from Parent's by late in the afternoon on Tuesday, I gave them a call to get a status update. The person I talked to told me while he knew the car had been worked on, the mechanic had left for the day and he didn't know what, if anything, still needed to be done. He then cheerfully recommended that I call back after 7:30 in the morning to see if the car was ready. In most cases I'd be able to do that, but on this Wednesday, due to an early meeting, I'd already be halfway to work by that time. I called the car rental agency and extended my lease by a day (adding another $35 to what was already a $70+ bill), with the plan of getting a hold of Parent's in the middle of the day and hopefully picking up the car that evening.
Well, I was finally able to call into them over my lunch break, and they told me the car was ready, come on in. And, oh, it took longer than expected, so the bill is actually going to be $540. While that pissed me off, it was nothing compared to what I felt after I picked up my car. The car now runs, and I have to admit that's an improvement. However, it how has a number of problems it didn't have before I dropped it off: For one, the chime for the key being left in the ignition when the driver's door is opened now goes off regardless of whether the key is in or not. They replaced the steering wheel housing, something they specifically told me would not have to be done, and the result looks plastic and cheap compared to the old housing. (From reviewing my bill, they charged me $93 for that insult.) Finally, they ripped out the fabric surrounding the windshield-wiper control, meaning one now can peer into the steering wheel column and see its shiny, metallic mechanicals.
So, tomorrow, it's back to Parent's to get them to fix their fuck-ups. The next time something comes up, I'll just go to a dealer.
It's Monday morning and I'm at home, waiting for the tow truck. I don't want to talk about it, so I'm going to hit the weekend instead.
With Fall's arrival, Lisa has been on a full-out tear to get some pumpkins for work and the condo. It quickly became evident that just getting any pumpkin from Lund's or some garden center wasn't going to cut it, however. No, Lisa needed to be able to find a pumpkin patch and pick her own pumpkin. Aside from Christmas, which I probably wouldn't celebrate if not for the twinkly lights and ornamented trees, seasonal decorations have never been my thing, but I went along with the pumpkin patch idea after she got some recommendations from her coworkers. "Sure, we can go and pick a pumpkin," I said. "It can be all romantic and shit."
Unfortunately, it turned out to be more "and shit" than "romantic."
We ended up at Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake, and, well, I really should've known better. In short, it was a place for suburban parents to take their kids to pretend they were going to the country, or, alternately, a place for old women with teddy bears embroidered on their sweaters to come and watch kids run around. The pumpkin patch wasn't even a real pumpkin patch—it was a barren corn field scattered with previously-picked pumpkins, just like those mentioned in last weekend's New York Times "agritainment" story.
Oh, and the prices? The pumpkins were going for over $10 each.
Having grown up in an area where one had easy access to a number of legitimate pick-your-own establishments, I left somewhat offended. Lisa was more in the ticked category. Tonight we may be off to Lund's for pumpkins, or maybe to Cub Foods, where large, round pumpkins are going for the accessible price of $3.99 a piece.
12:28 a.m. Thursday morning. Still no word on when we'll be able to close on this place. The Unowned Occupation continues.
~ ~ ~
When we first looked at the condo, and when we had the inspection, we saw mostly good things. Now that we're living here, I see mostly problems: The bathroom needs a larger sink and possibly a new tub. The shower tiling is offensively ugly and needs to be put out of its misery. The kitchen needs to be redone, and we need to add a dishwasher. To add the dishwasher, our 1950s-era electrical panel needs to be replaced.
In the basement, asbestos is starting to leak from some of the wrapped heating pipes, and needs to be dealt with in a prompt fashion. The storage rooms should be painted. The laundry room is grossly inefficient and needs to be reorganized. Old light bulbs in the basement and hallway should be phased out and replaced with energy-saving models. The stairwell and front porch lights are on a shared switch, often resulting in wasted electricity during the day and a dangerously dark stairwell at night, and should be put on a timer. Old windows throughout the building should be torn out and replaced. Analog thermostats should be replaced with digital ones. The walls should be insulated.
I could go on, but you get the idea. If many of those items seem energy-related, there's a good reason for that: I don't like paying for power. Seriously, this is the 21st century. Where the hell is my Mr. Fusion, anyway?
A few items are on that list for usability or asthetic reasons, of course, such as that small sink. As for our 1980's international-style kitchen, why in the world would anyone design a lazy susan who's door is less than a foot wide? Talk about useless. Then there are the freakin' monkeys in the tub. Don't even get me started on those.
I fucking hate those monkeys. Lisa loves them, but who knows what gross fungi is growing in them.
12:37 a.m. Wednesday morning. Today is the day we hope to have some closure on the condo situation. All of the papers aside from a few critical ones were signed almost two weeks ago, and since then we've been in a holding pattern while the seller has tried to iron out a few things with his lender. Basically what the situation comes down to is that Minnesota law requires a lender to split a mortgage on a multi-unit property if that property is converted and sold off as individual units, but the seller's out-of-state lender is refusing to do so until they talk to their lawyer. That lawyer has been on vacation, and so we've had to wait.
One would think this kind of stuff would be cleared up before a building is placed on the market, but unfortunately it's turned out to be more par for the course for this sale. With the help of our Realtor, Lisa and I made an offer, in writing, to stay put for at least 120 days if the closing continued to be delayed. We also offered to pay for utilities for our unit, as well as make a monthly contribution to the condo association. In return, we wouldn't pay rent, and the seller would pay to have our rate extended. The seller agreed, but when I spoke to him this past weekend about paying into the association, he told me we couldn't do so yet as he hadn't set up the checking account for it. I also asked for information on the utilities serving the building, and I haven't gotten that yet, either. I don't want to just jump ahead on that kind of stuff on my own when we don't actually own the property, but I may do so later this week if nothing happens.
The guy selling the property seems to be a pretty nice fellow, but to my knowledge this is the first conversion he's done (after owning this place as a rental property for over a decade), and he seems a bit overwhelmed by some of the details. I'm not blaming him, as I'm not sure I'd do any better, but it is frustrating.
From a financial standpoint, this mostly seems to be good for Lisa and I: We've been living rent and mortgage free for almost a week now, and our sale price and loan rate are safe for the time being. That said, it's annoying not to have this resolved and be actual owners rather than owners-in-waiting. Also, the fact the seller and his Realtor seemed overtly happy that we asked for a 120 day rate extension—we could have easily asked for only 30—suggests there may be other issues with the loan or building we don't know about.
But maybe, hopefully, we'll know how things are later today, and have everything closed this week. Until then, I expect to be continuously distracted.
~ ~ ~
Quite some weather we've been having today. 35W and the Crosstown had significant patches of flooding during the evening commute, and the surface streets didn't seem to be doing much better: Waiting at a stoplight near our condo, I noticed steam rising from beneath my car, so I opened the door to see what kind of puddle I was in. I could see the curb, so I wasn't expecting too much, but instead the water was just half an inch shy of the bottom of the door. Later, on Nicollet, the sewers were flowing in the wrong direction.
For now, silence. We'll see how long it is until the thunder starts up again.