Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in America

I have been back in America for a year now, longer than I "lived" overseas. I once worked with a woman that said everyone should live in another country if they have the chance, because it will make them appreciate America that much more. That might be true of anyone leaving their home country. I don't know. It was certainly true for me. Seven short months living in a foreign land a year back home, and I still appreciate things like the first amendment more than ever. I hope I always keep the same appreciation I had while living in a place that did not have a free press (at least not a totally free one), or freedom from censorship.
And there are other, more selfish and every day things that I appreciate. I like going to the grocery store and finding a wide selection of inexpensive diet soda.
Yesterday I was walking through the grocery store, doing some pre Christmas shopping, and enjoying the wide selection of the foods that I grew up with and I made an unpleasnat discovery. I was looking through the frozen vegetable section for some chopped brocolli, and could not find any. I found a lot of frozen creamed spinach, and some frozen steam in bag whole leaf spinach, but no frozen chopped spinach. The discovery I made though, was that there are 7 cases of frozen vegetables in this particular semi upscale grocery store, and 20... TWENTY cases of ice cream products.
I love America, and I love freedom, and I love cheap diet sodas, but I think something has gone slightly wrong. Is ice cream really three times more important to us than frozen vegetables?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Richmond at its best

As I have said before, Easter is my favorite holiday, and this year proved no exception. For years, the family has done the very same thing: we have brunch, and we go to the Easter Parade on Monument Avenue. The weather this year was great, the dogs were well behaved, and the crowd, as always, was great. The Easter Parade is what Richmond does better than anything else. Last weekend I took a walking tour of Monument Avenue with the Valentine Richmond History Center, and we passed the home of the woman who really started the Easter Parade. To that local hero, I say Thank You.
One funny moment from the parade today: as we were walking back to the car, we were near a middle aged couple as we passed the Branch House. The woman says to the man, "is that a church?" and he quickly replies "yes." Funny because it looks nothing like a church, but rather a castle, and second, it is not, and has never been a church, as far as I know. Rubes. Luckily rubes are generally in the minority at the Easter Parade.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More rambling about music

I love music. I love to listen, and think about it. I love to talk and write about it, and as I have used this forum, I love to make lists of the best of this or that. And I love it all. The other night I was out with some friends, and a friend of a friend made some comment about the inherent sappiness of Elton John's music, and I was personally insulted. That music is how I frame my feelings in my own head. Not like I did when I was a teenager, when some artists music expressed exactly how I felt. I am not that chump anymore. But I hear a song, and it is a memory, or it expresses something like I felt one time, or it takes me out of a feeling that I don't want to have, or it gets me pumped up to run, or it just makes me think.
And the love and appreciation keep growing. Just this year I grew to "get" punk music. I mean, I always liked punk, and I don't like it any more now than I did before, but I get the anger, the class struggle, the rage, the fight. That wasn't my life when I was fifteen. The awareness of those things came later.
I wrote a post about how I reluctantly and secretly still love the song stylings of Jimmy Buffett, though I flatly reject the "parrot head" culture... Dismiss it as silly. For me it is the memory of solitary hours as a teenager wanting to be part of something, a party, to be somewhere else, a beach, I didn't give a shit. Anywhere but where I was. Now I listen and it makes me happy and sad, nostalgic for those sad days, and grateful for them, and grateful for the life I have now. Right now I think Paul Simon and CCR are the greatest things to happen to music since someone first banged one thing against another in tempo. Fifteen years from now I might look back and cringe, but still love the stuff, and all of sudden be into opera or jazz, or blues. 15 years ago I heard ska for the first time and it changed my life. 10 years ago I purchased music by people like George Strait (and I even still listen to some of it). 5 years ago i saw Nine Inch Nails in concert, and a guy named Saul Williams opened the show, and my mind was blown once again. Anything is possible. I hope that never changes.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Does the title still work

Am I still "the ugly American" now that I am no longer in a strange land. I say yes. And uglier than ever. Back in the states, I realize just how much I love it here. I have thought a lot about something my old boss Suzanne told me once about living abroad. She loved it, and said that it made her appreciate America that much more. How true I find that. I can' and won't rule out moving elsewhere again but this is my home. And I have been compiling a running list of things about America that I love, and here is just a taste: pork barbecue, the best cable television in the world, Apple, Creedence Clearwater Revival, National Public Radio, Richmond, VA... I could go on all day. And. I think that answers my question. Even though I am no longer the ugly American abroad, I am happy to be just that on my own shores.

Friday, April 1, 2011

It is official

Actually it is not official, but one step closer. We have put a contract on a house, and the contract was accepted. So we will be homeowners again, and I will no longer be homeless. I once heard someone say thatbif you are thirty years old and live with your parent(s), then you are homeless.
Now the excitement really begins. We have the inspections, the further negotiating and wrangling, the anticipation, the paperwork, the delays in closing... all of this and more to look forward to in the next four weeks. But it is only four weeks. And then the bigger excitement begins: the moving, the painting, the twice daily trips to Target and Lowes. And all of this before Erin even gets back.
Some people might think its strange that we picked out this house, and she has not even seen it in person. Maybe it's strange, but I offer to things as evidence to the contrary. When buying our first home, I did not want a house at all. I was perfectly happy witn apartment living. Something breaks, and I call someone to fix it. We heard through a friend of a friend about this house, and decided totale a look. Erin was not impressed, but I loved it. I think she was so happy that I was willing to entertain the idea of home ownership, that she thought she should strike while the iron was hot. And it turned out great.
Exhibit B is the light of my life, Benson. Erin had no interest in a dog, but said that if I thou grit was a good idea, that I should go ahead and get a dog. Apparently she actually meant that she did not want me to get a dog at all. I did not realize this until after I had already gotten Benson when Erin was out of the country. And now she adores him.
In reading over the above lines, two things are clear... Erin and I disagree, and sometimes do not compromise, but it usuallynworks out fine.
Anyway, super stoked about the new house.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It has been a while...

And as my friends know, I am back in the states, working and trying to contribute to society again. I succeed sometimes. I work, I run, I do my thing. I have been looking for a new home for my lovely wife and I to call our own when she returns to the states. This has been harder than it sounds. Apparently the people selling homes in the areas in which we are interested have not heard that it is a buyer's market. They seem to think their houses are worth the same as they were when they purchased them at the height of the bubble in 2006 and 2007. I have probably looked at least 30 houses (and I mean been inside that many), and two of them have been possibilities. And this is what is available in our price range. But I have faith that the right house will go on the market any day now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fierce Creatures

We have learned that not everyone here loves animals. Some people have religious reasons. That I appreciate, though I do not understand. Others are simply unreasonably, pants shittingly terrified. Here are a few examples from the last couple of hours:
The condo that we live in is being sold. This is not a big deal in general. There is a clause in our lease that states that we will continue to live hear at the same rental price for the duration of our lease, regardless of who the owner is. A while back we had a number of people come and see the place. Today, an appraiser from the bank came to look around. She rang the door bell, and I picked up Benson, anticipating that afraid or not, she might not want a strange dog jumping on her. So I open the door, Benson in my arms, and she comes in, looking a little nervous. Then she saw PJ laying on the floor, and attempted to climb the nearest wall to get away. To be clear, PJ was doing what she always is doing if she is not begging for food... lying around on the floor. In order for her to come in the house, I had to put the cats in the two separate bathrooms, and assure the appraiser that the cats could not open the doors. Then she needed to see that bathrooms, and she had to go back outside, while I moved the two cats to the guest room, which she had already surveyed.
Later this evening, after dinner, Erin took Benson to the second floor walking area for a little walk and bathroom time. From our apartment on the fourth floor, I could hear a child scream at the sight of Benson. As anyone who has met our pets knows, they are not exactly frightening creatures.