Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another Change of Plans

Well there were no hotels to be had in Little Rock, which is a shame because I was reading a little bit about the area and had my heart set on a soak in a hot spring. We decided to head on to Memphis. My dad really wanted to see Graceland, as did I and really it was our only option. We plan to get on the road for Dallas at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. Well 6am.
So Graceland was pretty cool. There were an insane amount of people there because of the influx of New Orleans evacuees with nothing to do. We had a bit of a wait for the first house tour so we stooped to get some postcards:

Then we went to see Elvis' bikes and cars - very dated, but pretty cool:

Eventually we got to the house. People had warned me it was very small in comparison to our current mega star's houses. This was true. We started with the family room and dining room:

His bar and TV room. Apparently he was very proud that he could watch all THREE network channels at the same time:

The pool room and jungle room 9apparently a terrible interior decor fad of the 70's (note the feature waterfall on the back wall - very tastefully lit)

His father's (Vernon Elvis Presley) office and two of his famous suits:

Finally, Elvis' grave:
I'm a pretty sentimental soul and let me tell you this whole thing was a little bit sad. I think Elvis probably had a very unhappy life, despite of or perhaps because of his wealth and success. I also found it sad looking round all of his prized possessions, particularly as I've been bemoaning the loss of my 'stuff' recently. Like I said, Graceland was flooded with New Orleans evacuees who are more than likely to loose all of their stuff if this hurricane is as bad as predicted. Elvis' stuff is all dated - his prized televisions so antiquated they'd have no value to anyone, his clothes and decor well out of date. Only 31 years after his death his stuff is old and worthless (well other than the fact that it is Elvis' stuff). Then these poor people wandering around Graceland with me are quite possibly going to loose all of their stuff. In sum I decided people's (and my) attachment to thing's is just human but kind of futile. Phew I need a hot bath and some food and then bed early for tomorrow's hellish drive!

New Plans to accomodate Gustav

We'd originally planned just to see Jenn and Bobby but it was great to see Callie and her husband too. Callie is good fun and as luck would have it her husband is a bit of a meteorologist (he has a weather station in his back yard). He also travels between Memphis, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas regularly so was just the expert we needed to consult. On his advice we have decided to head to Little Rock tonight (via Memphis to see Graceland) and then press on to Dallas.


We left Asheville right after a quick bagel in the hotel reception and headed to Knoxville. It was a pretty cool drive through the Smokey Mountains:

This sight might give you a start if you came across it on a winding road -it was a truck pulling another truck cab backwards: We made good time and in about 2 1/2 hours were in Market Square. We had a wander around the square and then had lunch in a very popular diner 'The Tomato Head':We then went on to Nashville. My old work friend Jenn Bennett moved to Nashville last Friday from Florida. Last night we went out for dinner with Jenn and Callie (who I also worked with) and their husbands Bobby and Steve. It was great, as usual to see Jenn and I hope she and Bobby come to stay soon. We ate at a Japanese restaurent and decided to head right home afterwards because we were both tired and new we had a long day the next day. Nashville looked like it had a pretty active night life. By 10.30 the streets were full of young people and music was oozing out of the many neon lit bars. I would like to come back and see some more of the town. Dad liked this sign (his name is Joe):

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Well we're in Nashville just about to go out to dinner with my friend Jenn and her husband Bobby. We had planned to go on to Memphis tomorrow and then on to New Orleans. Currently though a force 4 (almost 5) hurricane is heading towards New Orleans 'Gustav'. Both we and Gustav are scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on Monday. We've been throwing around some alternate plans. Trouble is that really all there is between us and Mexico is currently in the path of Gustav, or at least likely evacuation zones. One possibility is to head over to Dallas and then down through San Antonio. This would be OK in terms of avoiding hurricane conditions but we would likely encounter the mass exodus of people leaving New Orleans. My friend Parker was living in New Orleans when Katrina hit and has said we should stay well clear of evacuation traffic. BUGGAR!!
Of course there is a chance that this storm will dissipate, or track West. HUmn.. what to do. Sinead has been mobilized to check what can be done to delay my Dad's flight in the even we have to stay here for a while. Either way I think we may head on to Memphis tomorrow and see how Gustav moves.
Of course our prayers go out to those who are more seriously affected by Gustav.
Strong waves seen at Saint Domain beaches, Dominican Republic, on 25 August 2008. Dominican Republic issued a Hurricane warning from south-southeast at the country toward the border with Haiti, due to the arrival of tropical storm Gustav, the seventh in the current hurricane season.

Gustav formed off the coast of the Dominican Republic on Monday

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Aug 29, Ashville

We left Baltimore this morning at about 9.15am. There was torrential rain and driving was tiring. We did not make good time at all in the beginning. I was tired, aching and the idea of being in the car for 8 hours was not making me feel good. 2 hours into the journey we'd made it onto 81 and were heading South West. I was lagging and decided to pull over for a snickers bar (purely medicinal) and a diet coke. This made me feel better. When we saw signs for West Virgina I decided to play a bit of John Denver. A good sing along to country roads made me feel much better. We made it to Roanoke for lunch which was just over 1/2 was there. Luckily after lunch i got a new burst of energy. The road was clear and we made good headway. I listened to some Spanish learning tapes (this sent Dad to sleep!). We had a sing along to my Doris Day CD and then by 5ish we started to find ourselves in the middle of the Blue ridge Mountains. Very majestic - and yes kind of Blue. Rolling off into the distance, like big waves. We eventually reached the Ashville area at around 6.30 under the shadow of the Smokey Mountains. Apparently 6000ft tall - pretty impressive. I believe that they are called the Smokey Mountains because the mist raising off the trees looks like smoke. The car labored up some of the inclines and on the declines there were runaway truck stops - which were gravelled off ramps, which looked like ski jumps designed to stop trucks with break failure. My car liked these down hills much better than the climbs. After a grueling drive under the awesome gaze of the Smokey mountains, my Dad said 'now wasn't this worth the extra drive', EXTRA DRIVE - I hadn't known I was partaking in any type of sight seeing detour. Still with the end in sight I conceded that the views were spectacular and decided not to ask what this jaunt had cost us in terms of time. I remember as a child being driven round the English countryside for hours in search of druid standing stones at my dad's behest and made a mental note to take more care to check his proposed route tomorrow. Here are some pictures we took from a scenic view which are nowhere as spectacular as some of the views we saw:

I'm now lying on my bed in the Mountain View Inn in Asheville. It is almost 9pm and I intend to have a hot shower and go to sleep. Asheville's music scene is an experience my life is going to have to do without. My dad has said that the drives after today will be 6 hours tops. This is welcome news and I believe that the drive tomorrow will be around 4-5 hours. Well 300 miles which I can probably do in about 3 1/2.
States Driven Through Today:
West Virginia
North Carolina

Trip to Baltimore Thurs Aug 28

Today was pretty stressful. I woke up early to review my finances. Then started doing some more packing, cleaning and sorting. It has been never ending! Dad and and went out to Panera again for breakfast and then brought the car round and started to load. At first I was pleased that everything seemed to be fitting well but as we got more and more loaded it became clear that it was not all going to fit in. anyone who knows my dad will know that although he is generally pretty positive, he does have a tendency to be very bleak when it comes to finding parking spots, making good time on journeys and packing. Well this time he was very good and I'm not sure I heard one 'you're never going to fit everything in'. This was a very good thing as I was on the verge of tears all day - mostly just because I was so exhausted. We eventually got on the road at around 3pm. The drive was hard in the beginning because I only had a small window through all of my stuff to see cars behind. 3 1/2 hours later, by the time I got to Baltimore, I was becoming better at gauging distances in my side mirrors. We stopped for coffee because my eyes were getting heavy and arrived just after 6.30. Jessica and her husband Mark cooked for us. They cooked Mexican food to prepare our taste buds for what was to come. Jordan, Jessica's brother also came round to visit. Jessica left me a nice card which, again almost made me cry this morning. I hope all three will come to visit. They all dive so I think they may well pop down in the New Year. Today we're heading off at 9am to go to Ashville, North Carolina. We decided to leave a little later because rush hour traffic going into DC is supposedly pretty bad and also I wanted to get a decent nights sleep. I have the type of exhaustion that could really use a weekend of laying in bed (or on the beach) doing nothing. As luck would have it that is exactly what I intend to do for a while in Mexico. I feel like the impact of this move will not hit me until I'm actually there.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Leaving today...

Just woken up and still tired. My dad is still sleeping so I figured I'd take the opportunity to work out my finances. My plan is to pack the car ASAP then park it back in my lot. I'd ideally like to take an hours snooze before leaving - I could send Dad out to hunt down some lunch and crash on the sofa for an hour -I'll think of a complicated mission for him to maximize snooze time:)
Aiming for lift off at 1pm!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Final Count Down. Tuesday

I woke up and cleaned my old bedroom. i then mapped out the space in my car with blue tape on the floor and started a dry run pack. I think it will all fit - because in the actual car with walls and doors I will be able to squeeze things in.
It then took me 2 1/2 hours to drive to a doctor's appointment in Queens. Something was going on in the city and they had traffic police stopping anyone making a left onto an avenue over to the West Side. Problem is I needed to get to the West Side to get to Queens. So after trying 3 different Avenues and driving round in circles for 40 mins I ended up literally begging the first traffic cop I'd seen to let me past. I saw another one at the next intersection and just sped by before she got the chance to wave me over! Let me tell you I will not miss driving in the city. After the doctor I did more packing of the last odds and ends and sorted out my paper work. I then went to the DMV in Bayonne. This was a dream compared to the DMV in Jersey City. For a start there is a parking lot right outside and the whole process of getting the lien cleared off my title document took around 5 mins. The n washed my car and came home to do more tidying before my dad arrived.
Dad arrived at 6.30 ish - good to see him . His journey had run smoothly. We went out for dinner and when we got back Jose and his brother were already in my apartment collecting my washing machine and some other odds and ends. Will my packing ever be done??? I'm really almost nearly there.

Final Count Down. Monday

If I thought I'd had a tiring weekend this topped it all. I got up at 5 to finish packing then went to Dunkin Doughnuts to buy a bagel (not top rate), then picked up Jose and Steph before going to U-Haul. I opted for the larger truck on the basis that it was only $20 more expensive and it would suck not to have enough space (turns out my spacial appreciation is about as good as my directional sense!). My stuff barely filled 1/2 of the truck.
Then I picked up Fernando and Steph and Jose met us at my place. The police had put sleeves on the parking meters, as planned, so there was plenty of space for the truck. We started moving at around 9.30 and were done with everything in the van by 12ish. A lucky coincidence was that Katherine and Fernando were moving to Pennsylvania this same day/ and the next. This meant that we were able to get some of their stuff and stick it in the van before we left. They are going to put stuff in my storage unit also. This is fantastic for me because I can leave the keys with Fernando and he can keep an eye on my stuff and will be able to get stuff out for me if I need it. We were done by 2.30ish and all headed off to PA (me in my Honda, Jose in the truck and Fernando is his little Honda with his bird and dog). I was in the rear because I'd had to drop Steph off on the way and my GPS then decided to take me on the scenic route. We coordinated through out the journey and all met at Fernando's new house at around 4.30ish for unpacking and pizza. The house is in the Poconos and is lovely. Its really peaceful out there with trees and mountains. The house has a log fire and is surrounded by decks. Its amazing what you get for your money out there. You would be lucky to get a studio in Hoboken for the same rent!
Katherine arrived soon after us and we chatted for a little bit and then headed off to the storage unit. I was able to turn over my keys to Jose and have him drive me to Bethlehem. This was a mixed blessing - I'd been falling asleep at the wheel on the way down (an awful feeling - I literally nod off thinking 'I'll just close my eyes for a second it will be fine'). Anyway it became clear that Jose was also suffering from the same problem when we nearly veered off the road. I decided to wake him up by putting on some Billy Joel - we both sang piano man at the top of our lungs which is sure to breath life into any tired person!! Then I regaled him with the full Spanish repertoire from my i-pod - including one of his favorites 'Hey' by Julio Iglesias. I like this too and am in the process of translating it. I feel Julio's pain in this song - just like my break up with TJ! OK I digress. So we got to the storage unit, and unloaded. Here are Jose and Fernando modeling Fernando's refrigerator and all of my worldly possessions:
You can tell that Jose is more of a natural model than Fernando.
We dropped off the U-Haul and Fernando drove us back to NJ. Jose, as usual fell asleep in the back of the car.
These guys have been great. Fernando spending a full day helping me when he should have been packing up his own apartment and Jose taking a day off work to lug all of our stuff around. Excellent friends. Going to miss these guys. One of the trips I definitely want to make from Mexico next year is to go diving in the St Lawrence with J&F.

Final Count Down. Saturday/ Sunday

Saturday was a back breaking packing day. It is amazing the crap you collect over 9 1/2 years. I must have taken down 5 overstuffed bags of trash. I was becoming very upset about saying goodbye to my Denby dinner set. To put this in context, over the 6 months prior to moving in with my first boyfriend when I was 18, I scrimped and saved every week to buy that set, one piece at a time. Its also kind of pretty and very practical. Then I came across a diary that I'd written the first summer I'd spent in America when I was 21 (after breaking up with that boyfriend an dismantling that apartment). I'd written how funny it was that I'd gone through such angst leaving my old apartment (56 Dean Street) and how little all of that 'stuff' meant to me only 6 months later. Heck, I could hardly remember what I'd had. That was it the Denby plates came out of the car pile and hit the storage pile:)
At lunch time I met Willie and Jerry at Precious. Willie had got a cell phone for me in Cozumel so I have a phone for the Mexican leg of the journey which will also be my permanent phone in Cozumel. Saturday evening Jose's girlfriend Steff had invited me for dinner to an all you can eat Sushi place - Jeff came too. It was nice and the food was awesome. Jeff and I had a final beer at Zack's afterwards.
Sunday was much the same except for a break, at lunch time, I went to Katherine and Fernando's son's First Birthday party in a park in Paramus. It was a lovely day. Jose an Steph came along too. The sun was shining but there was no humidity. They'd ordered a clown for the kids. I have to say she was a bit miserable - luckily (and to my surprise) this seemed to go right over the heads of the kids, who loved it. Even Fernando Jr. was mesmirized with the bright colors.Katherine about to cut the cake with Fernando Jr.
Fernando helping the kids with the pinada.
After the picnic I came home and did another few hours of packing.
That night I went to dinner with Carey. Carey always gives the best gifts. She got me a cute book and best of all some small pots of Burt's Bees products, including 3 hand creams which will be great for the journey. I had two glasses of wine which took the sting out of saying goodbye to Carey. She's been a really good friend for all of the time I've been in New York (a definite keeper!). Carey says she's coming to stay soon - possibly over Christmas which would be great.
When I came home I found a man rifling through my trash. I tolf him wait there and ran up and got him my old stereo, lamp and some other odds and ends (save me another trip to the thrift store!

Final Count Down. Friday

Boy what a busy weekend. Friday was awesome. Jose Fernando and I drove down to near AC to do a dive off a boat called the Tuna seizure on a wreck - the "San Jose". During the dive was the first time in ages that I felt relaxed - no lists running through my mind (U-Haul, what will fit in my car, should I bring my dinner plates!). Jose and Fernando, as usual, hunted for lobster. I had a little look but I didn't see what they were getting excited about. Instead I watched the anemones, picked up star fish, watched a mesmerising school of little fish hanging out of the current under the wreck like a mobile. It was out first deco dive and we really hardly needed a deco stop, because we really didn't push it. Charlie was also on the boat as well as Steve Lombardi and Howard. Charlie is coming to Cozumel in October, so I'm going to see if I can arrange to dive with him with Herman, who is a pretty renowned cave diver on the Island. I'd like to meet Hernan and see what the caves in Cozumel are like.
After the dive we went and ate lobster and shrimp, then had to stop at MacDonalds for French fries cos the Lobster and Shrimp did not cut it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Work is Done...

Today was my last day at work. I have to say that I'm still in a bit of a daze about it. Yesterday the office had a wine and snacks celebration for me in the board room. Vince gave a really nice speech - very heart felt and the office gave me a swiss army dive watch which I love:Anna Spurling had come into the city for lunch and we had a nice talk in a bar on Stone Street sitting by the big open windows with a nice cool breeze. Don and Chuck:
Barbara and Diane:

Awesome view of the harbor from the board room:
I actually was almost feeling almost drunk because I was so exhausted and emotionally wrung out. So much so that I didn't even cry - which is very unusual for me! After work we went to Waterstones for a few beers. Don Messick joined us which was nice.
Then today the claims department took me to the Battery Park Cafe which is a really nice restaurant down by the water. We ate Pizza - it was a lovely cool sunny day:After lunch I had my exit interview with Vicki and then the department and other staff who I've been close to over the years gave me more gifts. A cool set of speakers for my i-pod, some scales so that I can monitor my fattiness disappearing in the Mexican sun and a very thoughtful bottle of Imodium.
Those who know me know that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve so the people at SCB have been through the mill with me during many of the traumas and good times of the last 9.5 years. I know that nothing in life is permanent but in a way I think the way some people touch your life is permanent. I know I'll carry a bit of these people with me wherever I go and I hope to keep in touch with many of them.
OK now I'm crying - finally read all of my cards - feel very lucky to have such lovely friends. And a very good decision on my part not to read these cards in the office - I would definitely have been a mess on the PATH train....

Friday, August 15, 2008

SCB Waterfall Cruise

Last week a group of us took a cruise after work. Me, Muge,
Tom Hamilton - underwriting - used to work in claims and had the misfortune of training with me for some of that time! He loved every minute of it and has particularly fond memories of my red penmanship.
Gina Kim - new receptionist who I get along kind of well with. Just starting to become friends so its a shame to be leaving Gina.
Muge, me & Gina

George Tsimis - claims dept manager
Don Moore - or 'Donster' my co claims manager - truly love Don - one of the best people you'll findDon and his son Don Jr.

Parker Harrison - Parker is new to our office but we really hit it off. Something about the folk from New Orleans that reminds me of people from my home town. Very down to earth. Hope Parker will come and visit me.Parker with beer

Margaret Lee has been with the company for quite a while. Margaret is always very reserved but lovely - I also hope she'll visit me. She also hates having her picture taken - sorry Margaret !Margaret with beer

I enjoyed spending some downtime with the people from work. We're so often comrades in arms its nice to kick back with a few beers and let our hair down. We should have done that more often I thought - but then I do like to go to bed early on work nights.
Muge took some nice shots of Manhattan:
Here's one of the waterfalls we all came to see:"Four mammoth waterfalls will spring into existence, freestanding cataracts roaring down into the East River and New York Harbor in a multimillion-dollar engineering feat designed by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson". Honestly I thought they were OK and not worth the millions they cost. Plus they are killing trees in the park under the Brooklyn Bridge - bloody artists:)

Finally me with Lady Liberty:

Muge's House

Last night Muge, a very good friend from work, invited me to her house for dinner. She lives in Port Washington, Long Island. Muge (pronounced Mu-Gay) moved here from Turkey more than 5 years ago and we've known each other for pretty much all of that time. She worked for the Chalos Law firm and then decided to move to the American Club. We took the LI railroad and arrived at around 6.30. Port Washington is nice and the couple Muge rents a room from (Barbara and Michael) are really cool. Both semi retired from the film industry. Just the kind of couple I can hear my mother asking me to introduce to her as pen pals. We talked with Barbara and Michael for an hour or so then Muge took me out for Sushi. I'll miss Muge a lot, she's been a good friend to me in New York. I slept fitfully in a strange bed and woke up early to check my e-mails and add to my to do list. I had to laugh on the way into the city because Muge settled down to read an article about Obama and his wife in the New Yorker magazine, while I set about watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on my i-pod. Obviously Muge still has a long way to go in terms of maturing intellectually:)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Goodbyes:(

Had my last weekend working for Lehigh Valley Dive Shop this past weekend. It was fun, Fernando helped me which always makes it better:) I had 4 students and camped. I was FREEZING camping on Saturday night and had to pull the neck tie on my sleeping bag really tight (this made getting my hand out to grab my water bottle difficult!). It was a struggle to get out of that thing in the morning too. Think I'm bringing my tent to Mexico. I see some camping on the beach in my future.
I'll miss the guys at Lehigh - Stan is AWESOME, Pete, George, Trace, Bob and Jenn. Really warm people who welcomed me into their group this summer.
Then BBQ at Jose's girlfriend's house. Katherine (I just learned its Katherine with a K - sorry Katherine!), Fernando and the baby came. They are moving to a home in PA and will probably store some stuff in my storage unit. This is great because I can leave my keys with Fernando and I know the place will be checked from time to time when he's diving at Dutch.
Last night I went out with my friend Christine Amatucci. We drove to New Brunswick which is midway between where we both live. Christine is awesome and another person I hope will visit me.
Packing is going well and on target. Most of my financial stuff is working out too and I have a good portion of my files reallocated at work.
Last weekend at the beach this weekend. I really should be at home packing but will come back early Sunday morning and spend the day at it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The packing begins

Last night I decided to get a grip and go out and buy boxes. I went to the U-Haul depot and also rented a truck for the actual move. So that I felt was an accomplishment worthy of a treat. I took a quick trip to Marshals and picked up two Bikini's on sale (my new work clothes) and a really nice green cover up dress. Back to work - I went to Target and bought some laundry bags and soft material boxes. I thought these things might be useful storage in my new apartment and actually a much more effective way of packing. I also bought 4 of the Target material shopping bags which I am going to fill with books. I was going to limit myself to 3 bags of books but I'm finding it hard and may take 4. I love reading and some of these books are treasures. Its difficult to weed out books that I wont read again- they have all been such good friends. I also have a lot of books that I've yet to read.
I started packing books this morning - I can hear Hans telling me to knuckle down and get this done and Allie laughing at all of the crap I want to bring!!


Friday, August 1, 2008

Home Stretch....

The big mental obstacles are now over. I've made my decision and am really looking forward to getting to Mexico. This afternoon I looked at my desk diary. Only 3 weeks to pack. Now this may seem like a lot of time - three whole weeks right??? Well not when you consider that the 4 weekends which are included in that will be spent, teaching scuba (2 weekends) and a final weekend at my beach house, with only the weekend before I leave somewhat free. I have a party to go to on the 24th, in the afternoon but the Saturday is essentially free. I also have to spend time planning for the rescue class I'm teaching next weekend and have lots of dinners with friends before I leave. The up shot is not very many free nights at all. I certainly do not have much time to waste being tired. This is a problem, because all of these farewells invariably will include alcohol and these days even two glasses has a tendency to make me groggy the next day.

In a bit of a panic I went to buy boxes tonight. Of course everywhere that sell boxes in Hoboken closes at 6pm. Buggar!! So I looked online and hope to be able to get boxes tomorrow in Bethlehem. I need to get moving. I have tons of clothes which will need to be given away, things to be thrown out. A little bit when I can I guess. Slow but sure - but kind of fast!!! The other thing I need to do is rent a truck from U-hall to move my stuff on August 25. Jose and Fernando have kindly offered to help me which means I will not have to spend the $800 on movers that I almost had to. I also need to find out what I need to do to get the utilities in my apartment cut off.

What I need is a lot of lists...... I have started a notebook full of things to do over the next few weeks.