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Home again

Now there's the sight I've been waiting for. Here I am, in the kitchen, laptop on the table, writing a weblog, and next to me curled up on the chair to the right is Gracie, waiting for the occasional pets and ear-scratches. Eyes half-closed, paws kneading when I ask, "Who's my girl?", face pressed against the bars on the back of the chair—the picture of kitty contentment.

Yup. We're home. It only took us about five days. Mind you, the kitchen is still mostly in boxes, the bedroom needs work and the office is barely begun, but the cats have decided this is their home.

Can't argue with that.

Things still aren't back to normal as far as the weblog is concerned. I won't be getting a cable modem for a while yet. And I was just invited to a party at my friend's in Connecticut on—sigh—July 27th. Well, maybe they'll give me a call and keep me awake and jealous during the blogathon.

Man, there are two big-ass spiders in the living room. I thought Gracie had killed one of them, but apparently it was just faking. I always have a tough time killing spiders, as they're so beneficial, but I may make an exception if these get any closer. What if they're a male/female team? I may not mind one spider, but damned if they're going to make a nest out of my home. Think of it. Hundreds of spiders hatching. Ew. And may I add: Ew. Think I'll go sic Tig on the spiders.



I've got to admit, it's getting better

Phew. I have phone service! You have no idea how annoying it is to go three days without a regular phone. Sure, I had my cell, but my minutes for the month were up hours ago, and every minute I was on hold my blood pressure kept rising and rising... well, it's done. And it didn't cost me a dime because, as I suspected, the phone service had never been connected in the first place. It wasn't the jacks inside the house.

I don't have a cable modem yet, but that's okay, because I don't have cable service yet, either. I'll get cable by tomorrow, and the Internet service next week sometime. But I can update via phone line. It may be a little sporadic, but at least it'll be.

You know what's really bizarre? Without cable, the only station that comes in clearly is NBC. And the difference is breathtaking. It comes in as clearly as if they were broadcasting out of my bedroom. I wonder what their secret is?

I spent my first night in the new apartment last night. It was pretty decent. Gracie surprised me by coming downstairs and exploring last night. She's adapted far more quickly than I'd expected, and even slept in bed with Tig and me, though I suspect that was a matter of comfort. Unlike the old apartment, no rugs in this one.

Found the new kosher market that opened up, had to turn down an invitation to dinner tonight (phone guy's coming, sorry!), and am going to Synagogue tonight for that nifty dual purpose of praying and meeting people at the same time. I find both actions comforting. Even better is being sought by both Conservative synagogues as a member. After the week I've had, it feels good.

Checked with a NJ lawyer: If my ex-landlord persists in trying to screw me out of the security deposit, I can take him to small claims court, where I will be awarded double the deposit by the judge after showing proof that I gave the landlord 30 days notice. I thought that's how it worked if I was off lease, but wanted to be sure. So now I'm hoping the ex-landlord does keep my deposit. I like the idea of doubling my money and screwing him instead. Just love how his assistant told me, after I pointed out that I hadn't had a lease renewal sent me since December of 2000, "Well, Mr. Tino considers you to be under the terms of the lease even if you didn't renew it." Uh-huh. But the law of New Jersey considers it something else entirely. In fact, all U.S. law considers that if you don't sign a contract, you are not legally bound by it. The law's funny that way.

They did admit that my arrears notice was a "mistake." The boss was on vacation, you see, and the computer spit out my address as not paying. Uh-huh. Wow, they must think I'm really stupid, or that I won't bother to fight them. They have a substantial amount of my money. They ain't keeping a dime of it.



Is it a given?

See that number in the upper right-hand corner? It moved! Someone made a contribution, the first one in days. (Thank you kindly, anonymous.) I was thinking of a new tack. Because 50 of you have given so far (thank you kindly, all of you), but there are lots more to draw from. So, utilizing the Jewish Mother Guilt Gene, I've got a new reason to donate:

This woman has been through hell the last few days moving herself, her belongings, and her two cats (who are currently deep in hiding in Heidi's garage and must be captured and caged and brought to the new apartment), totaling about 4,500 lbs. (hey, the movers weighed her stuff!), which is two and a quarter tons, most of which was packed by her. And her former landlord is trying to screw her out of her security deposit, so give her something to be cheerful about: Make a pledge to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for the Blogathon 2002. (And don't forget Laurence and Magen David Adom.)

Bashing Coulter and other blog news

The Indepundit took up the Coulter Challenge and wrote a hilarious post sprinkled liberally with comments from the horse's mouth.

The hard part about writing a slam piece on Coulter isn’t finding her saying something dumb; it’s wading through the sea of dumb -

The presumption of innocence only means you don't go right to jail. - Hannity & Colmes 8/24/01

in order to sort out the incredibly stupid -

"I think (women) should be armed but should not vote."- Politically Incorrect, 2/26/01

but let’s not get ahead of ourselves

Funny, funny post. But I wasn't thinking of Scott's McKinney post when I issued my challenge. I had just read something else about Coulter that incensed me.

More Dreaded Chinese Walking Snakehead Fish Invasion stories:

Mac Thomason has more on the Fish That Walks Like A--er, fish.

Susanna Cornett had a better trip than I did

But go read her blog anyway.

And then there's Josh

New, Moveable Type, and comments to boot! Who could find anything to bitch about in that? (Actually, I can think of a few people, but hey, every party needs a loser. That was an intentionally mixed metaphor.)

The number one Mike on Google

Cool. I am not the number one Meryl. My name-twin is, though. I work harder, so she doesn't have to. I'm only number two, but I try harder. Winning isn't everything. (Okay, I'll stop with the stupid clichés. Sometimes I just can't control myself.)




In case you might think that I'm not happy to be here in Virginia, I am. I love my new apartment, even though it's so seventies, right down to the Brady Bunch staircase and the open-beamed ceiling. My comic collection fits entirely in a nook in the closet of the master bedroom, the apartment is not overwhelmed by boxes, which I was afraid of. A few things went wrong, and I just vented to the hundreds of people who tune in here daily.

Ahhh. I feel better now. ;-)

Ohmigod! It's an ASCII grin in a post! Quick! Step on it before it breeds!

By the way, I discovered that I own 4,460 pounds of stuff. That didn't include my luggage or my cats, which pushes it over the 4,500-lb. mark. No cracks about including my weight, either. I'm going back on my diet as soon as the stress level goes down a bit.

A truly moving experience

Yesterday had to be one of the worst days of my life. The movers informed me the day before that they would possibly be moving me out and moving me in on the same day. Failing that, they'd be there at 7 o'clock the following morning, as my things would be the first off the truck. The problem with that? Well, the movers changed my move date from the 12th to the 9th, leaving me three less days, which was the time I had scheduled to drive to Virginia, sign the lease and get the keys to my apartment, clean it up, and drive back home. So now I call the management company and they tell me that if I'm not there by 6 p.m., I'm SOL. They won't stay late. They claim they can't stay late, something to do with the Fair Housing Act (which I strongly disbelieve, but which I have no desire to fact-check). So I beg and plead and get them to promise that someone will be in the office until 6:30 p.m. Then I call my mother and ask if she would supervise the move on the NJ side. She will. I'm going to try to leave by 11 at the latest. Problem is, I didn't finish packing until, well, shortly after the movers arrived. It wasn't a lot of stuff, just odds and ends that wind up being last in the boxes. And I wound up staying up until 2 and then getting up at 5:30 to finish packing and cleaning, so I was doing all this on three and a half hours sleep. Which is probably why it didn't really sink in that I probably could have gotten Heidi to give them a check for me, given her the key, and been able to get in when the movers arrived.

Which I couldn't.

I got to the rental office at 6:23 p.m. They were gone. The night manager had no power to do anything except tell me they were all gone and to say that they'd waited until 6:25. "No they didn't," I said. "It's 6:23 now." And in spite of my convincing arguments ("This really sucks!" "What am I going to do with my cats?" "Can't you get them back here?" "What am I supposed to do now?" "The movers are going to charge me $150 an hour to sit and wait for the office to open up tomorrow morning!"), the powerless night manager could do nothing but say, "I know how you feel," which she absolutely did not, unless she too had driven 350 miles on three and a half hours sleep with two yowling, hissing cats in her car, only to find out that she couldn't get into her apartment because the staff doesn't understand the concept of customer service and keeping the customer happy, and left five minutes before she got there to get the key. But otherwise, sure, she knew how I felt.

I think it is very safe to say that I will not be renewing my lease with this complex. I think it is also safe to say that it's a good thing the movers had my aluminum bat with them. No, wait—it was in my car. Then it's a good thing that I forgot it was there.

Oh. The drive down. Well, I got sedatives from the vet and gave them to my cats about 7:30ish, before the movers arrived. The cats could barely walk, but they insisted on trying until I locked them in the bathroom while the movers did their job. Then, when I finally got on the road, an hour and a half later than I had planned (which is why I couldn't make it by six), I put the cats into their carriers. Tig went in the good hard plastic cage with the metal gate. Gracie went into the ancient hard cardboard carrier with holes in the front that a succession of cats had clawed a bit, but that seemed fine. Well, by the time I got about 50 miles down the NJ Turnpike, Gracie had chewed a hole big enough to squeeze her head into, but too tight to be able to squeeze back. I had to stop at a rest area and tear the cardboard and push her back in. She was out again in half a minute. I realized I could neither leave her in there nor let her wander around, so I put her in the cage with Tig, which is a tight fit, but big enough for the two of them. They used to like huddling together for comfort at the vet's, so I figured it would work.

It didn't.

They were so off-kilter from the pills and the car ride and the whole move, that every so often one of them would bump the other, hisses would ensue, and then an all-out battle. I spent the trip reaching around behind me every half hour or so and batting the top of the carrier to stop a catfight. Oh, and when they were alert enough, they yowled. That horrible "I'm going to die and it's all your fault" yowl. And every so often, I'd see Gracie struggle to her feet, she'd yowl, and then literally fall face-first onto the floor of the carrier and pass out. That's because she's the more timid of the two, and I renewed her pill at the rest stop, thinking it would help keep her calm. In retrospect, I'm thinking that was a huge mistake. I kept worrying I'd killed her even though the dosage said "1-2 pills." I was convinced she was going to die of an overdose of, er, two sleeping pills. Did I mention I was running on three and a half hours sleep?

Actually, all things considered, I'm lucky I didn't crash the car from overtiredness. I definitely wasn't as alert as I could be. And let's not even talk about the rock that got kicked up and caused the second crack in my windshield in the last four weeks, this one a traveling crack which will require me to get it replaced. Nor will we mention my going to bed, exhausted, at 9 p.m. and waking up at 3:45 the next morning from a night of dreaming about packing and moving, only to be unable to get back to sleep from worrying about the movers sitting around for two or three hours at $150 an hour. And the fact that my new phone service isn't on, although it's supposed to be. Or that my old phone service was cut off a day early, so I had no phone at home yesterday.

We absolutely will not talk about how my old landlord is trying to screw me out of my security deposit by saying I didn't pay my rent this month. I sent him half a month's rent, as well as my thirty days' notice on June 14th, indicating that I'd be vacating my apartment on July 15th. Seeing as how I moved in on December 15th, and as he did not send me any notice that there was anything wrong with moving out on the 15th, I assumed we were fine.

All I can say is, thank heaven for cell phones, and the fact that I intended to leave it as an overlap for a couple of weeks. It almost makes up for the fact that they've put my new phone number on a recording on my old one, in spite of the fact that it's an unpublished number and I didn't ask for anything to be forwarded.

Tomorrow is going to be a very long day. I feel sorry for everyone who's going to be on the other end of the phone with me. Especially my former landlord.



If anyone's looking for me today,

I'll be the one running down the street after the moving truck, screaming, "No! No! No! I don't want to pack anymore! I don't want to move! Give me my things back! Give them back!"

When next you hear from me, I will be a resident of the Old Dominion.



My life in boxes

More packing today; tonight, I went through a few of the "go-through" boxes. In particular, I went through boxes of The Montclarion, my college newspaper. I had far too many copies of the issues from the years I was on the staff, as I had my boxes of them, plus my brother's, who also joined the staff when he came to Montclair State. We had a lot of fun in college together, he and I. We both worked night shift, for instance, and I would come home from the Post Office and call and ask him if he wanted me to pick up a corned beef sandwich from Kartzmann's (gone now, alas). We would eat our dinner for breakfast, grossing out the incoming staff members whose eyes weren't quite open until they had their second cup of coffee. "How can you eat that first thing in the morning?" they'd ask. "We're hungry," we'd tell them.

I was into news and editorial, particularly humor columns. Dave preferred sports and originated the Campus Police News beat; it's been a standard in the paper since he started it. Its sheer simplicity was often unintentially funny, as he published the facts he got from the police reports. The campus cops hated it. They tried to prevent Dave from getting the information. He simply went to the State Troopers in Bloomfield instead. It was public, and publicly available. The campus police gave in when they realized Dave wouldn't.

I found my first paid byline, in a supplement to the Jewish News, about a lecture on—anti-Semitism. I got either ten or twenty bucks for it, I've forgotten. So technically, I've been a professional journalist since college. I'd forgotten all about it until I found it in the box.

I found a copy of the Magazine, a supplement to the newspaper, where I reported on a pro-Iran rally back during the days when we had American hostages and Jimmy Carter was President. I am so far to the left in that one that readers of this weblog would not recognize me. But I remember the outrage I felt at the rally, and while writing the article. I wasn't in support of the fools who supported the Iranian revolution. I was incensed that the five of them—yes, only five—were jeered and pushed around and shouted down by an unruly mob of some 300 students and others. I may dig it out and quote it for your amusement at a later date; for now, it stays in the box marked "Montclarions."

I found some of my grammar school and junior high school report cards. I am amazed that my attitude was nearly all D's in English, Social Studies, and Math. I don't recall giving attitude to the teachers, but 7th and 8th grade were the years I discovered the black-leather jacket crowd, and (sigh) the years when I would stare at any girl on the bus who dared sit where I wanted to be sitting, pause, and remark, "You're sitting in my seat." The girl would invariably get up and move. (Please remember that I was 13 years old, had recently moved for the third time in eight years, and was finally getting to be top dog instead of The New Kid, and forgive me if you were one of the girls I made move. Gawd. We were all so young once.) But I really am surprised at that bad attitude mark in English. I always loved English class, and it was generally my best subject. Who knew?

James and Brenda were over helping. James was in awe of my marks in grammar school, particularly when I told him I didn't get a C until 5th grade. He's just graduated from 5th grade. "Do you remember why you got the C?" he asked. "Yeah. I stopped doing my homework." True story. Don't know that it helped any.

I also found my high school and college IDs. Ah, the days of baby fat. James didn't believe it was me.

The most amusing items I found: Copies of old phone and electric company bills. They were from 1984, and each of them had a computer punch card that you were supposed to mail back with your check. Ah, the days of COBOL and punch cards. No, wait—it wouldn't be COBOL. Fortran? I'm afraid I'm not up on my mainframe languages. My paycheck from my first job came with a punch card, too.

My life, in boxes. The past week has been like an archeological dig, going through the layers to see what I was doing in each of the last few decades. Going through the past to change my life in the present, so I can affect my future. I like the synchronicity of it all. But I'm starting to wish I had just a bit more time for the move.



Yes, I know what I just said, but she's back

Medley's back. With a spiffy new blog. And she didn't even tell me, the sweetheart. Waiting for me to get through my moving craze, no doubt. Too shy to ask for a link, perhaps?

Naaaaaaaaaah. No weblogger is too shy for that. But is a very useful page. (And I'll link to Winer when he links to me, and not until.)

Anyway, Medley is back, and her weblog keeps me honest. Whenever I tack too far to the right, I go to Medley to get back my center.

Temporary linking policy

Help me out, fellow webloggers. I don't have a lot of time to surf the net this week, what with moving to a new state in—ohmigod—two days. So if you have a long post, I can't spare the time. If you have something short and sweet related to something that I've posted about, or something that I like, I can take a fast look at it. Rick Heller sent me one such link to a post adding some thoughts about the Egyptian terrorist who murdered two Jews at the El Al counter at LAX.

Oh, that's right—the FBI still says he's not a terrorist. Pardon me, the Egyptian murderer who sought out Jewish targets at the El Al counter at LAX. Is that better?

The linking policy will return to normal by sometime next week. What is the linking policy? Well, if I like it, I link to it. Sorry, I can't get any more specific than that. And if I don't link to something you've sent me in email, it doesn't necessarily mean I don't like it. Sometimes, it's not right for my weblog, or it's old news, or it creeps me out, or I just plain forgot. I'm only human. Those stories about my alien origin are all lies. Ten fingers, ten toes. I can prove it.

More Hulk than you can shake a Euro at

Mac Thomason, having gotten a previous link for his excellent and funny Space Ghost parody starring the Hulk, Captain Euro, Aquaman, and Blossom of the Powerpuff Girls, and then having Blogger crap out on him, has written another Space Ghost post. This time, the stars are Dr. Bruce Banner, Captain Euro, a bucket of water, and, uh—I forgot. Zorak? Zoltan? Zatanna? Zod? What-ever.

It's just as laugh-out-loud funny as the last one. Check it out.

Moving times

Sitting on the porch watching the cats yesterday evening, I realized that in four days, my life will take a completely different turn. It's not like I'm moving to Richmond in the instance of my family relocating. Been there, done that, enough times to make me hate moving to a new town so much that I stayed in a tiny, ancient attic apartment in Bloomfield for about five years longer than I should. When I did move, it was only a few miles away, to the town I fell in love with in college and stayed in or near my entire post-college life. Everything was familiar, more or less—the only things that needed changing were my routes to my favorite places. And a little brushing up on the local streets on this side of town was necessary, but that came easily. "I wonder where this street goes to?" is a great game to play when you have the time.

Next week, I will move to a place in which I really know only three people: Heidi, her husband, and her daughter. I know their neighbors from having visited all these years, but those are their neighbors, and I will be twenty miles north. My nearest relatives will be some 350 miles away. In moving to Richmond, I have changed the entire social structure of my life, leaving only one familiar, albeit very important, spoke in the wheel. I'm sure it's going to take a while to find out exactly how much has changed. I know I won't be able to call my brothers to ask for help changing the hard top on my Jeep. Or put up a heavy picture for me. Or ask Eric if he wants to come over for dinner. Or call Dave to ask if I can come up and hang by the pool on a hundred-degree day. Or meet him at the kosher butcher shop if he's going on a meat run. Or go to my nephew's baseball games. Family gatherings are going to be a bit more difficult to plan, to say the least.

I changed my social structure a lot in the last few years, voluntarily and involuntarily. I found myself having less and less in common with the people I was with, and saw less and less of them as the days wore on. Things happen; friendships change; relationships end. And yet that makes it less difficult to move to a strange city.

Meeting Susanna Cornett and Diane E. in the past few months reminded me how easy it is to make new friends, and how pleasant that can be. I've already received several email invitations from Richmond-area residents; the people who read my weblog are a friendly bunch. I look forward to meeting them. And I look forward to meeting the people I'll come across at the local synagogues and JCC, in my apartment complex, and in the supermarkets and bookstores and banks and everywhere else you run into people and start a conversation. That conversation is a bit easier to have in Richmond. People are less hurried, less crowded, more friendly and open. That's because there's more space and fewer people there. Room to swing a cat, I believe is the expression. More elbow room, my father would say.

I'm feeling both excited and frightened. The excitement is winning, of course. It makes me feel like my old self again. There's nothing I used to like better than doing something new and challenging. I got off track and wandered rather aimlessly for a few years, but I'm heading in the right direction again, I think. It seems I still like doing something new and different because, knowing only one family in the area, I'm moving myself and all of my belongings south. Without a spouse, without a job waiting for me, and without a safety net.

Yeah, I'm feeling pretty confident again. The old Meryl is back. Hot damn, this is going to be an exciting summer.

Last week's blogs are archived. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.