Saturday, July 26, 2008

A question and an update

Does anyone know what this plant is?

I started growing it from seed in the old apartment. And I could have sworn I labeled the little carton it was in with permanent marker. But when I went to transplant it into the window box, there were no markings, and it wasn't looking at all like a zucchini plant (which had been my guess). The fruit that it suddenly sprouted last week looks like Okra. But I don't own any okra seeds. Bizarre.

So Wednesday was our 3-yr anniversary. We joked that at this point, there's really no turning back. For real. I made him chicken tikka masala, his favorite restaurant meal and I have to say, it was awesome!!! I used a combination of a Cook's Illustrated and Food and Wine recipe. I tried to find something on epicurious and Cooking Light but I struck out.

I also got him a cordless, 18V, lithium-ion battery, Makita power drill/driver. Cuz the 3 year anniversary is either leather, or power tools. ;)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Moving Part V

Sadly folks, this is the final installment in this riveting series.

10. Cleaning the old apartment

We woke up early on Sunday morning to go clean the old apartment and take the last of the small things we had left behind. We were expecting to meet up with our landlord at some point while we were there since she had scheduled an open house for that day at 2. We probably spent about 2 1/2 hours vacuuming, sweeping, wiping, etc. and left around 11:30 or noon. Since she still hadn't arrived, we weren't able to do the final walk-through. Also, who schedules an open house for the SAME day that the previous tenants clean without doing the walk-through or checking that things are in order!?

We booked it back to the new apartment to eat a quick lunch before heading to our friend D's house to help HER move into a new place. Yes, we are crazy. But she only had a small Budget van so it wasn't that bad. And by the time we got there, most of her stuff was already in the van. So our role was to help her unload it at the other end. Her move took her farther than ours did since she was making the leap from city life to suburbia. *tear*

Moving on to Monday, we get an email from the landlord saying she was disappointed with the cleaning job we did. What?! Among her list of things that we still had to take care of if we didn't want to get socked with a cleaning fee was "the kitchen, bathroom and living room floors were not cleaned, the carpets were not vacuumed." She also mentioned that the stove and fridge were dirty - I'll give her that because we totally forgot to clean them. But her other comments were infuriating! It's like the move that wouldn't die. All we wanted to do was just organize and enjoy our new spot and we kept getting pulled away. The most irritating thing about her comments was the mention that the apt. had been professionally cleaned before we moved in - as if renters are supposed to meet those standards when they move out!

So Tuesday evening found us back at the old apt. once again! More cleaning supplies. More mp3 player hooked up to speakers so the silence and toxic chemicals wouldn't make us insane.
Sometime that week, we also managed to sell Erich's computer desk on craigslist - that's hard to do when you're not actually living at the place where the item is residing.
We left the apt. still not sure if our extra 2 hours of sweat were enough to meet her standards, but we had stopped caring. We went home and it felt good.
We were rewarded the next day with a much more positive email from the landlord saying she found the apt. "clean as a whistle."

11. Parking anywhere = illegal

Ok, last story.
Those of you familiar with DC's parking rules know that much of the district is broken up into parking permit zones so that you can get a residential sticker for the zone in which you live which allows you to park on streets that non-residents would only be able to park for 2 hours. Within any zone, some streets are unzoned meaning anyone can park there for as long as they want. But generally, the more dense the neighborhood, the more likely the streets are to be zoned. So in our section of Columbia Heights, nearly all of the surrounding streets are restricted to Zone 1 parking permits.

The Monday after the move, when I was back at work, Erich trekked down to the DMV and found that the wait was likely to be at least 2 hours. But he persevered and changed over his license and registration. However when he tried to get the Zone 1 sticker, he was told that our address is on an unzoned block and that we therefore don't qualify for Zone 1 parking. Argh!!!
Over the next few days, we talked to a few other residents in the building, the leasing office, the DMV, the DOT, and the police dept. It was such a mess! We got different answers from each of the agencies - some said we don't qualify because we're in a large apt. building, others said it was because our block was already listed as unzoned and to change that we'd have to submit a petition where 51% of the block requested Zone 1 parking, and a few even speculated that the situation was the result of a deal between the developer and the city that they would provide a parking garage in exchange for not seeking Zone 1 status. However, the parking garage was not a solution for us because it costs $200/month! Totally unacceptable.

There is another resident in the building who has been very active on this and other issues since we met him. He's like our partner in crime. Upon learning of the parking nightmare, he immediately called our Councilmember's office and got things moving there. Then he drafted a flyer that we planned to distribute to residents on the roof on the 4th of July. It described the parking glitch, mentioned the petition we had started, and the address for our newly formed list-serv (on google groups) that I had set up that week.

Long story shorter - we think things are just about resolved. The Councilmember has gotten a commitment from the DMV that our address will be added to the database for Zone 1 parking and will be sending a certified letter to each of the residents that they can take to the DMV in case they have any more trouble. Up til now, we've been parking on neighboring streets using a 15-day visitor's pass from the police department. We were prepared to just keep renewing that pass every 15 days until August at which point we expected we'd have a good answer from the city or we were going to suck it up and find a private parking space for rent somewhere in the area. I would say I'm cautiously optimistic. Knowing our luck lately, celebrating too soon could be fatal. I'll celebrate once I have that sticker in hand.

To reward you for reading this far, a couple of visual nuggets.

For my birthday, Erich got me (among other things) a garden gnome and cilantro, basil, and rosemary for the deck. I've wanted a gnome forever!!!! He's so cute.

Remember that "before" shot of the living room from a couple of posts ago? This is how it looked about a week later. The couch we ordered will be going where the black computer chair is.

One of my other birthday presents! We somehow managed to lose our old granny cart in the last year, though we're not sure how we could lose something that big. Since our new apt. is a couple blocks from the grocery store, Best Buy, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Marshalls, replacing the granny cart was a priority. This baby makes it almost fun to run errands.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Moving Part IV

6. Dawn's car
When last we spoke, I had finished describing everything up to our arrival at the new apartment.
The fun didn't stop there of course.
One of our friends had afternoon plans so after helping us all morning, she brought a carload of stuff to the new place and then headed home. Or tried to anyway. She called me about 3 min. after I had helped empty her car to say that her car had broken down about a block from where she had parked. This is the same friend who was the most impacted by the Caribbean Festival. I can't help but wonder if the numerous detours she had to take just to make it to our place contributed to her car's meltdown. Anyway, there wasn't much we could help her with so she called a tow truck, canceled her afternoon plans, and I think the car is still in the shop.

7. Sharing the freight elevator and loading dock
Ok, so I finally make it to the loading dock with an armful of stuff from Dawn's car and I see E* in the moving truck just hanging out near the sidewalk. He explains that apparently someone else was scheduled for the loading dock and freight elevator at the same time as us. I should have seen that coming. The building's leasing office had been very clear that we needed to schedule our move-in time to be assured that we could use the only elevator that you're allowed to fill with furniture. So we complied. We scheduled a 3-hr. block on Sat. afternoon. We think another group scheduled a block in the morning and then at some point, a 3rd group was given a block of time right in the middle of the day, partially overlapping with both the morning group and with us. WTF?!?! The poor couple that was ahead of us has been waiting since 11am to use the freight elevator. I started to panic that we had a truck full of stuff, 5 ready and willing friends, and no means to get the stuff up to the 5th floor. We then realized that because of the major hassles with Budget that morning, we were somewhat behind schedule which meant that the couple ahead of us was just about done. Yay!

8. Rain
Because we had to wait around a bit for the elevator to be freed up, I decided to go grab a couple pizzas to help get keep our friends in a docile state (didn't want any uprisings). It was right at that moment when I headed to the pizza place that the skies opened up and in a freak deluge. Luckily, Pete's Apizza was only about 50 ft. from the apartment's lobby, but it was enough to get soaked.

9. The Freight-to-Level G2 Shuffle
The final installment from moving day happened after we had successfully gotten everything up to the 5th floor and into the apartment. Everything except those boxes that were destined for the storage unit we rent in the garage. Everyone was tired, a little fatigued, and probably sick of our pack-rat tendencies and love of books. So I'm a little amazed that they all didn't just walk out on us when we discovered a snafu with the storage unit.
Here's the deal: The freight elevator only goes as far as G1 (the 1st level of the garage). However, our storage unit was on G2 - 1 floor below. In order to get our things to G2, we had to take one of the regular elevators (of which there are 2, but on that day only 1 was working....all day). Wait, it gets better.
So all our things for the storage unit are at the lobby level near the loading dock. The only elevator you can access from that point is the freaking freight elevator - which you can't take to G2! AND you can't hold the regular elevators open for more than a minute and a half or else an alarm goes off and all of the elevators lock up for like, 5 minutes (ask us how we know this!).
And that's how we came up with the Elevator Shuffle. It consists of everyone jumping out of the elevator as soon as the doors open, grabbing whatever boxes they're closest too from the landing, and then squeezing back into the elevator in under a minute. Then you ride down to G2 and do the same thing in reverse. You repeat those steps about 5-6 times until you eventually have the whole pile waiting for you at G2 to make the final trek of 30 feet to the storage unit.

Except, remember how I said that only 1 of the 2 regular elevators were working that day? That meant that we would often get interrupted during our Elevator Shuffle by field trips to other floors to take on other passengers. Often the elevator was just too full of our friends holding our stuff so the side trips were in vain and the other passengers had to wait til we unloaded at G2.

And then Saturday was over. Some of us celebrated on the roof deck later with beers, leftover pizza, and ibuprofen. A picture of the view to be added later.

** Edited to add picture:
The (tiny) Washington Monument is in the center. Check out a school's roof-top playground on the left in the foreground. (Click to embiggen...thanks to YarnHarlot for the word)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Moving Part III

3. The little Budget Truck that Couldn't and
4. Sicky

Last Friday ended with a couple of more carloads to the new apt and last minute packing projects at the old place. We went to bed late and extremely exhausted. My exhaustion was mainly due to the cold I had been suffering since Thursday. E*'s exhaustion was probably due to picking up the slack when I had to rest. This made Friday and Saturday feel much harder than it was.

Speaking of Saturday, we got up around 7, had coffee, packed some more stuff and then at 9, headed down to the address on our Budget rental confirmation sheet: 2205 14th St NW.

Turns out, that address is a boarded up building under construction. After about 30 seconds of disbelief, we both started calling Budget - once we were finally able to talk to a real person, she told us our reservation had been moved to a different location about 15 min. away. Awesome.

So we speed over to the other (equally sketchy) location in NE while I try calling that office's number about 6 times so I could confirm that they indeed had our truck. But of course no one answered the entire time. We pulled up just after 9:30 and there were 10 people ahead of us. The line moved very slowly so I left E* there to finish the job so I could be at the house in case any of our friends showed up in the mean time. He texted me an hour later saying they didn't have our reservation. Shocking, huh? Apparently the national office claimed what we had was a 'quote.' Even though our print-out had a confirmation number for a reservation. Luckily, the guy in the local office stood up for us and forced a reservation through right there. So about 2 hrs. after we started the trunk rental activity, we had a truck. And we later learned that only 2 more people after us in line got a truck before the lot was cleaned out.

Of course this snafu threw our whole morning off. While I was at home waiting to hear about the status of the truck, 2 friends arrived to help. But without a truck, helping is kind of tough. So we resorted to bringing all the boxes from the study and bedroom out onto the deck. This made it easier to get the furniture out once the truck arrived. I guess we made pretty good use of that awkward time.

Another friend arrived just as E* pulled in with the truck and things started to get back on track. Until a 4th friend called saying she was trying to get to our house, but had been turned away by cops at every intersection she had tried. My first thought was that we were under one of those security checkpoint projects that the DCPD has been trying out lately. I freaked out at this thought and immediately tried to confirm the suspicion by going online while trying to talk my friend through an alternate route to our house. However, we had already moved our modem and router to the new apartment so I was resigned to using a 1-bar signal from someone else in the neighborhood. It was just enough to let me browse some of the backlogged emails from the neighborhood list-serv.

5. Caribbean Festival, aka Georgia Avenue Blockade

Photo by Yolmak

And that's when I discovered that we weren't behind a security checkpoint. We were on one side of the annual Caribbean carnival. And our friends were mostly on the other side of that festival. And so was the new apartment. Essentially a 3 mile stretch of a major north-south route in the city was shut down for the parade which started at 11am. How could we have missed the news of the event in the week leading up to the move?! Not only was the major artery closed down, but traffic on many nearby roads was at a stand-still because everyone was forced to detour...creatively. I really don't know how our friend made it to our place given that the alternate directions I tried to give her were pretty useless.

Let's skip a description of how the rest of the truck-loading went. I should add though that the process of getting the truck and our friends to the new apartment was much more complicated than we had anticipated. Because of that lovely Caribbean festival (which is actually quite fun if you're not trying to drive near it) we couldn't take the obvious direct route to the new apt. That probably would have taken about 7 min. on any other day. But last Saturday, we had to drive about 4 1/2 miles out of the way to skirt the parade route. Here you can see the circuitous alternate route we took to the new apt. Points A and B are the parade route. Point C is the old apartment and D is the new apartment. Doesn't that look fun? Oh, and for much of that ride, we were in bumper to bumper traffic.

Now that you've read this far, would you like to see what the new place looked like after we released our friends from servitude?

Taken the following morning before we headed out to clean the old apartment.
Remind me to tell you how that went later.

Moving Part II: Comcast

1. How Comcast kept E* prisoner for 7 hrs.

I took the day off work on Friday and E* was finishing up the 1st week of his vacation. In addition to taking several carloads of boxes to the new apartment, we had planned to have Comcast set up the digital cable and internet on that day. Our appointment was from 11-2. I dropped E* and some boxes off in the morning and then went home to pack more things.
He waited for 3 hrs in the empty apartment mainly by lying on the bedroom floor and reading a magazine by the light of a naked lamp. Finally around 2:30, I rode my bike over to give him a chance to get out of the apt. for a minute.
Our first step was to quickly unload the car in the garage and bring everything upstairs to organize. Well, the force of murphy's law was strong with us that day because just as we arrived back in the apt. about 10 min. later, erich's phone beeped saying he had voicemail. It was of course the comcast guy saying he had come by the building but we didn't answer so he kindly left us a number to call to reschedule. E* immediately called back and learned that the dispatcher has no way of reaching the driver/technician. WHAT!?! They must use the same system as UPS. Our main point of contention was that the technician didn't call us 30 min. before he arrived which is supposed to be one of their policies. Had we gotten that call, he would NOT have gone down to the bunker/garage during the next hour lest he miss the call.

So in addition to have a minor melt down on the phone, E* rescheduled for the following Tuesday. After a few more phone calls to Comcast, he was able to chat with a helpful operator who found a different technician on a job about 2 blocks from us. She said he would visit us right after that job. Which meant E* had to race back to the new apartment and I continued to pack up the old place with just my mp3 player as entertainment.

It's a good thing E* hauled ass to the new place, because it was another 3 hours before the technician finished his other job and made it over to our place. The end of the story is a lot better: technician was nice, hooked everything up, provided some helpful advice, etc.

Things we're most excited about: the music channels for instant playlists by genre, our temporary access to food network HD, and the channel/listings guide so I don't have to keep taping the channel list to the back of the remote.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Moving Part I

As most of you know, E* and I really enjoying moving and as such, decided to kick off the summer with a move to another apartment in the same zip code. Last Saturday was the big day, though we started with just our car on Friday. To cut right to the chase, this move was BRUTAL. We were hit with snafus on all fronts.
Here's a handy summary list to guide you through subsequent posts (see how optimistic I am that I'll get multiple posts out of this? That essentially dooms me to failure as I rarely follow through on specific promises w/r/t posting.)

  1. How Comcast kept E* prisoner for 7 hrs.
  2. Patio Furniture
  3. The little Budget Truck that Couldn't
  4. Sicky
  5. Caribbean Festival, aka Georgia Avenue Blockade
  6. Dawn's car
  7. Sharing the freight elevator and loading dock
  8. Rain
  9. The Freight-to-Level G2 Shuffle
  10. Cleaning the old apartment
  11. Parking anywhere = illegal
So those were all the bad things. And here's a good thing:

Our lovely view from the balcony. Admittedly it gets a little loud when the sliding glass doors are open, but we got to see a minor car accident as it happened the first night we moved in. That's worth something, right?