Twelve

My dearest Sheri,

Twelve years ago today in Las Vegas, NV in front of around fifty people who represented our respective friends and family, I pledged my life to you, and you pledged yours to me. It’s one of those strange and unique things in life where it feels brand new every day and at the same time feels like it’s been this way forever.

I guess it was meant to be.

Thank you for being there for me when I was less than I should be, and for inspiring me to be more than I thought I could be. It was your outward beauty that first caught my attention, but your inward beauty that kept it. I know I would be a vastly different person today, and probably not in a good way, if I had not met you. Thank you for prodding me in the right direction, even if I didn’t want to be prodded. That’s what love is.

I thank Karma that you fell in love with me as much as I fell in love with you. I guess we both did a lot of things right to find each other. I’m still in awe that it’s been twelve years. Looking back at all the stuff we’ve done, all the adventures happy and sad, all the fun, all the travel, all the learning, all the new things we’ve both experienced, I can easily say I’m glad I did it with you.

As we move to the next twelve years and beyond, I give you you my undying love, my dedication, and my heart, as I know you will give the same to me and more.

Thank you for being you. Please don’t stop that.

Happy 12th Anniversary. I love you.

— Chris

You asked. I answered.

Sheri and I have a Wednesday tradition. We like to go to Whole Foods and have dinner at the hot bar. The food is OK, not great. The company is excellent when Sheri is there, and it’s a nice way to change things up a bit mid-week. We went tonight, grabbed our food and sat down to eat.

The gentleman at the next table turned around and asked, “Pardon me, but do you happen to know what time it is?”

I looked at my watch, saw what time it was, and dutifully replied, “Yes, I do now.”

I smiled and waited for a long second.

And then I said, “It’s 5:00 sharp.”

He laughed and thanked me for being so precise and answering the actual question he asked. He said he was about to correct his original question by asking what time it was when I answered.

I’m glad he got it since I’m not fond of getting punched.

Another good one, but…

…the creeping ick that’s making the round is trying to get in.

I ate 3 cloves of raw garlic, took an immune boosting remedy that Sheri uses, and I’m about to head to bed almost two hours early hoping I can stave it off. Stay away, Sick! I don’t want you. I don’t need you. And I’m too tired to deal with you.

Moving to Vegas: Arrival

Previous installment: Moving to Vegas: Vistas

Williams, Arizona is only about a 3.5-hour drive to Las Vegas. Knowing this, Dad and I were in no hurry to get going on this last day of our journey. We slept in a little late and went to the Denny’s next door to the hotel for breakfast.

The visit to Denny’s was unremarkable as most are.

After breakfast, we got the Crown Vic loaded back on the trailer, and got back on the road. I think Dad and I had both pretty much reached our limits of driving endurance and were ready to get off the road. It’s not an unpleasant drive, but the scenery west of Williams on I-40 isn’t nearly as nice as the scenery east of it.

We did have a decision to make about which route to take into Las Vegas. I had never been to Hoover Dam and wanted to drive over it, but had heard that due to post-9/11 terrorist paranoia, commercial traffic over the dam was forbidden. All trucks were re-routed from US Highway 93, which goes over the dam, to US Highway 95, which cuts a different route through Laughlin, Nevada and then up to Las Vegas.

Not sure if our moving truck was considered commercial or not, we decided to take the safer, if less scenic route. There was no sense getting stuck in security lines at the dam, or worse, being turned back and having to take a 150-mile detour.

With our route set, we drove.

My notes on this leg of the journey are sparse, which I think was caused by the desire to Simply Get There. In the intervening years, I have driven this route a few times, and it’s nothing really exciting anyway. Once you get a few miles west of Laughlin and turn onto US 95, it’s a straight shot north through some Southern Nevada desert.

We would be approaching Las Vegas form the south, coming up US Highway 95 until it met US Highway 93 near Boulder City, NV. The only notable thing on this route is Searchlight, NV (home of the truly awful and evil US Senator Harry Reid). If you’re driving throughSearchlight, slow down to the speed limit. Not one over. Do the speed limit. They also frequently put a mannequin in a patrol car on the edge of town, but sometimes it’s a human. Just watch your speed carefully in Searchlight, endure it for 5 or so minutes and you’ll be fine.

Once past Searchlight, it was more driving on US 95. Eventually we met up with US 93, took a left, and then it was onto I-515 to I-215, getting off at the Stephanie St. exit.  A short drive on surface streets and we’re there.

This last part of the route is amazing the first time you drive it. Once you turn from US 95 onto US 93, there are some signs of civilization. As US 93 turns into I-515, you see more civilization, but nothing too big or jaw-droppingly wonderful. About two miles from the I-215 junction, you pass over a crest and the entire Vegas valley suddenly appears.

It’s large. It’s impressive.

So here we were, about ten minutes away from my new life in Las Vegas and I was already in awe of the place. We arrived safely at our brand-spanking new condo on time. Sheri, her mom, and Grandma were all there waiting for us. I was thrilled to see my wife, and happy to be off the road with have access to home-cooked food.

Unpacking was out of the question that day. Instead, I ate a great lunch in an empty condo. There was an inflatable mattress set up in the master bedroom. After lunch, I went upstairs and took a nap.

I was in Vegas. I was home.

Moving to Vegas: Getting out of Orlando

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: Packing

It was moving day. So far the mover had hit on my wife, left without us really having everything packed and put on the truck, and time was running out to get Sheri and Pepper to the airport for their flight to our new home in Vegas.

And as time ran completely out, we got saved.

A $20 bill handed to a very nice neighbor got the leftover trash and stuff from the house taken care of. We left a key with her and gave some verbal instructions that I can only hope were relatively coherent. I know I wasn’t at my best.

I did have to leave behind a my hot sauce collection, and I’m a bit pissed about that, but you have to make sacrifices. One learns what’s necessary and what’s merely “wants”. Hot sauce can be repurchased.

At the end of the day, we had everything packed that we needed to, and a means to get the condo empty for its new owner. We even managed to leave behind a few goodies for him. This generosity may not necessarily have been planned in advance, but I’m sure he will appreciate the dishes, hot sauce collection, home automation computer, and other artifacts of our life.

It was high time to get the Sheri and Pepper to the airport. Actually, the time to get Sheri and Pepper to the airport time was 6:00pm, and it now a bit past 6:30. But what can you do? I have many powers, but turning back time isn’t one of them.

At least the flight wasn’t until 9:20pm. The extra window was to allow time for taking a cat through security at the Orlando airport. Orlando’s airport is one of the busiest in the world. Sometimes the security line can be a bit long an daunting, despite the TSA’s efforts to keep things running smoothly.

All of our possessions were semi-neatly packed into a 25-foot Penske truck, with my car out back on a trailer. Driving to the airport in a 25-foot Penske truck with a car on a trailer probably wasn’t in the cards, post 9/11 paranoia being strong in August 2005. We were fortunate to have friends who lived fairly close to the airport where we could park the truck while I dropped off Sheri and Pepper. Unfortunately, the friends weren’t able to drive us to the airport, so I had to go through the process of unloading the car, then load the girls into it, and go.

Our vet was give us some Kitty Valium so that Pepper could enjoy a nice relaxing flight. About an hour before we got to the airport, I gave her half of the pill as instructed. As cats do, she resisted, but I know she got it down.

I had requested a gate pass a few weeks ahead of time in order to help the girls through security. Gate passes are apparently the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket of airports. They simply don’t hand them out unless you’re really lucky. The TSA doesn’t issue them, either. Only the airlines can do that, and they’re loathe to do so since it’s not something they do that often. Nothing like a self-fulfilling loathing to keep things easy for travelers with pets and those who might need an assistant.

Further adding to the fun, gate passes are only good on the day issued, and there was no way to get one in advance. The only result of hours traversing the Byzantine gate pass system was a name to use when checking in, this person stating that my pass would be issued. I had no other information and no paperwork.

Armed with only this person’s name, we approached the check-in counter. (Mercifully, there was been no line, so we walked right up.) I must have looked like Death Warmed Over since the gate clerk looked upon me with a combination of pity and disgust. It nearly broke through her thin façade of professionalism. It only lasted a split second, but I saw it.

When I requested a gate pass, the façade disappeared completely and I got the look reserved for children who have pooped themselves and people who clearly don’t know their place. That look continued until I used the name of the person who I was told had approved my gate pass two weeks previously. That was one magical name: I suddenly became “sir” and was told that she had to check with her manager.

After about two minutes, we were checked in and I had my gate pass in hand. I don’t know what the person whose name I used does for Delta Airlines in Orlando, but with Delta Airlines, he’s got clout.

Thank you, sir.

Happily checked in with the airline and proud owner of a newly-minted gate pass, we now had the TSA security line to deal with. I usually feel dread at the prospect of going through these lines. In this case, I had more than two weeks of anticipation built up for taking a cat through it. Dread doesn’t even come close to what I was feeling.

Sure, all the Reasonable Preparations in the Universe had been made. Of course we had our Sherpa Pet Carrier bag (we’re good Yuppies, after all) to safely transport Pepper through the airport. The megadread was sprouting from the knowledge that Pepper would have to be removed from her Sherpa bag and carried through the security gate. By a person. By me. No X-rays for kitty. Apparently glowing pets are not on the TSA’s list of goals.

Fortunately, the terminal and security line were almost entirely bereft of fliers that night, so we got right to the line.

The big moment had arrived.

I had prepared: Non-metallic shoes, no keys, no change, no watch or wedding band. Pepper already had her harness on and I popped her leash on through a small opening in the bag. I asked the TSA agent if there was any possible way that we would not have to take her out of the bag and he said that it was procedure that she had to come out since the bag itself had to be X-rayed.

Of course it’s procedure. How silly of me to expect anything but frickin’ procedure from a government employee, especially the TSA.

Faced with no other option in the face of wonderful bureaucracy, I relented. Out Pepper came.

Did I mention that Pepper is affectionate, but basically hates being held for more than eight nanoseconds?

I was ready for claws, anger, and a cat on a leash with a harness. Cats don’t care for leashes: they turn into vectors. Vectors that try to go in any straight line away form the source of the leash.

But I was ready. Here goes!

Instead of a crazed and angry feline, I got a happy, purring cat who didn’t even put up a fuss. A few steps through the metal detector and we were through. The Sherpa bag was right behind, and Pepper got stuffed in before she had a chance to object.

Aside from a little nervous growling, she was perfectly fine and happy.

I was nearly in tears and close to shock. I suspect I was simply too tired to cry or slip fully into shock. My body and mind were overwhelmed with fatigue at this point. Two weeks of preparation had apparently paid off. Thanks, Pepper. (I made sure she got bacon as a treat – her favorite – as soon as was practical.)

I suspect that this day I had walked more than 5 miles. My feet were shot and my thighs were on fire. I was walking as bow-legged as I could without being too obvious, Pepper in her bag. Sheri and I made it to her gate with time to spare and we kissed good-bye.

Getting back to our friends’ house and loading the car was uneventful, but a bit dirty. At this point, cleanliness wasn’t even an issue. I was too tired to care.

It was now after dark. When I got ready to leave in the Penske truck, I turned on the headlights. Nothing happened.

“OK, maybe there’s a secret headlight switch.”

Look around.

“Nope.”

More looking.

“Oh hey! Lookee this! The high beams work.”

But no low beams. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

“Let me try that again. Nope. Still nothing on the low-beam side. Plenty of high beams, though. Good, strong, bright high beams. High beams it shall be!”

There was no way I was calling for such a small repair item on the truck. I wasn’t about to take the risk of someone at Penske saying “we’ll get you a new truck, but you’ll have to unload and reload.”

If that had happened, only a gun would have been loaded and unloaded.

Since my father had volunteered to drive out to Vegas with me, it was time to go see him. Dad lives about 45 minutes from Orlando, so I had a little drive ahead of me. The plan was to meet Dad at his house, sleep there, and leave first thing in the morning.

As dead tired as I was, my second wind actually had arrived about the same time I dropped off Sheri and Pepper at the airport. I made it to Dad’s without incident, unless you count the 20 minute delay on I-4 because of construction.

Actually, the delay didn’t bother me too much, but the poor guy ahead of me in the Nissan Altima from Georgia didn’t appreciate my high beams. For that, I’m genuinely sorry. There wasn’t much I could do or frankly was willing to do at that point.

Anyway, once settled at Dad’s, I was too wired to sleep, but managed to force myself to get about three hours before we left Wednesday morning.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Drive Begins

Moving to Vegas: Packing

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: Prologue

The day started out fine. Everything was going well until the mover showed up.

He seemed chipper enough until he toured the house and proclaimed that I had lied to him about what had to be moved. Now if you want to get my attention in a hurry, call me a liar. I am many things, but a liar is not one of them. However, since I needed his services desperately, I decided to let that one slide.

I told him that I was very specific about what had to be moved and that I requested that he come out ahead of time and give me a quote, but he had refused. In his words, “I’m a professional”. He had reminded me on the phone that he could determine the amount of work that it would be from our previous brief phone conversation. So be it.

This was Tuesday. Mr. Professional Mover had actually been scheduled to show up on Monday, but showed up a day early – at 8:30 Sunday morning. We sent him away and told him to come back Monday since we weren’t fully packed yet. This was another chance that he didn’t take advantage of to take a look at the job. Of course on Sunday’s visit, we found out that he absolutely couldn’t show up on Monday, so Tuesday was agreed upon. At least he was on time on Tuesday.

The problem on Tuesday was that Mr. Professional Mover was just too upset and it “would kill” him to move all our stuff (despite the fact that another two-man crew had not only packed our stuff, but unloaded it the same day when we moved in). He told me wanted to leave and not do the job since he only had himself and an assistant and absolutely needed three men to do the job.

After going back and forth for a few minutes Sheri came to the rescue and told him that he came highly recommended from friends and that professionals don’t leave jobs. After this plea, Mr. Professional Mover decides he can load our stuff in the truck, but still grumbled that it would take more than six hours.

Boohoo, I say. He’s getting paid hourly!

Despite convincing him to stay, it goes down hill from there.

About half-way through the job, Sheri and I were alone in the bedroom for a minute and she lets me know that Mr. Professional Mover took her aside and told her that she was the only reason that he stayed to do the job, that she has a pretty face (I cannot argue that) and that if things didn’t work out between her and me, that she should call him.

And he was serious.

I’m not a jealous man. I’m secure in with the relationship my wife and I have. Bottom line: Mr. Professional Mover’s advances were no threat to my marriage. First of all, I’m far prettier then he is, and secondly, I wasn’t as sweaty. At least that day.

Despite my lack of jealousy, he sure did step over a line. I advised Sheri to take it as a compliment and not to go near him alone, just in case. Had I not been completely exhausted, I would have done something, likely involving asses and boots, but I was tired.

Worse, when the movers left at noon (he didn’t make it the six hours), there was still a HUGE amount of work to do. I let the whole hitting on my wife thing slide. Mr. Professional Mover is lucky I never ran into him in Vegas. I might have a few words with him. Or something.

Did I mention that although Mr. Professional Mover only had a crew of two, he really needed three? I did? Well he got three! I was number three. Well, not quite three, but at least number two-and-a-half. I wasn’t in the best shape at the time and my back has been injured a few times. (I found out in 2008 I broke it at some point unbeknownst to me, but that’s another story.)

Needless to say, lots of lifting, climbing up the truck ramp, and working in the heat didn’t do me much good.

Mr. Professional Mover, his assistant, and I had put the boxes and heavy stuff on the truck. There were a few minor items left, but I didn’t think there was anything too big left to do.

Unfortunately, about one-third of the kitchen and a fair amount of other stuff still needed packing after the movers left. I was happy to see his lecherous ass go, but sad because I knew all the physical work would be placed upon my already tired back. But this was moving day, and I was going to move no matter what. I packed up what needed to be packed and loaded it as best I could in the truck.

We have a cat named Pepper. Pepper was also moving. We planned it so that the office downstairs at our condo would be empty, get no traffic, and would be Pepper’s temporary holding area while we packed and got the truck loaded. Into the office Pepper went.

Pepper is generally a well-behaved cat, although given to moments of deviousness. We had to withhold food after breakfast in order to prevent problems on the flight. Pepper is Daddy’s girl in the sense that she likes her food. To her credit, she behaved well, especially considering she was hungry.

Had Sheri not been scheduled to fly with Pepper that night, I would have delayed the move by a day. We needed to leave no later than 6:00pm, and time was passing quickly. I was now beyond exhausted and my inner thighs were so chafed they didn’t want to meet again for at least a few days.

When I get really tired, I also tend to get a bit grumpy. It was a very long, tough day for everyone. As flight time got closer and closer, it looked like we were about to run out of time.

Next installment: Moving to Vegas: Getting out of Orlando

 

Moving to Vegas: Prologue

No, we’re not moving back to Las Vegas. Far far from it. Our Las Vegas Adventure is over. It ended in May 2012 when Sheri and I moved to Denver, CO.

I try to no longer judge things as “good” or “bad”, since everything is a learning experience. Without the sum total of what I have done and my life experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am today. That said, my preference is Denver over Las Vegas. Simply: it’s nicer in Denver.

That isn’t to say I suffered in Vegas. I had a lot of fun there, learned a quite a bit, made a little money, and met great people who have become friends.

One of my favorite parts of The Vegas Adventure was actually moving there. My father bravely volunteered to help me drive the moving truck, all of my wife’s and my worldly possessions, as well as my newly-purchased Crown Victoria in tow from Orlando, FL to Las Vegas. Sheri wisely chose to avoid this multi-day male bonding session and flew to Vegas with our cat Pepper to wait for Dad and me as we drove. Her Mom and Grandma who lived in Southern California met her in Vegas and keep her company.

I found my journal of the moving drive, which I posted more than seven years ago on another blog. I have edited it and added a bit from memory. I will be posting the entirety of the story over the next week or so, one installment a day.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: Packing