Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Little Mixer That No Longer Can

The other day CK was going through some photos on his camera. "I found a picture of your mixer," he told me over the phone. It made me want to cry all over again.

The mixer, a gorgeous Kitchen Aid was an early Christmas gift from Quantum in 2009, the year before we moved to Colorado. He has a habit of knowing exactly what kind of gift I want more than anything. It's simple really. Give me tools. Especially kitchen tools or tools that support my art habit.

The year Quantum bought me a sewing machine, my sister in law mocked my birthday present. "A sewing machine? Not diamonds? So you can...what? Mend his clothes?" Truth is, I'd rather have the sewing machine. And the mixer. The other, most wonderful gift was a professional grade Casio keyboard. Another hat tip to my art habit and my desire to re-learn the piano after a long absence from that. (Dad had decided that burning our family piano was preferable to paying a few hundred dollars to re-tune it. Or letting us just keep it till we could afford to have it tuned. Don't ask me how he worked that out in his mixed up brain. I came home from school, and it was already chopped in small pieces. Yes I cried.)

So the mixer was AMAZING. I got it grinding mill attachments, and ice cream maker and sausage stuffing attachments. I really wanted the pasta maker but there was no way we could afford that. Heck, there was no way we could even afford the mixer. That was my first complaint when Quantum brought it home in October, a year before it would melt in the fire. "We can't afford this, honey." "But you need it. You know you want it."

Gods did I ever want it. It was sleek and beautiful and as I adored baking bread, it made that so much easier. Kneading bread takes a heck of a lot of time and physical energy. Suddenly that fabulous machine made kneading the dough so easy that I was making my own homemade bread 3 or 4 times a week instead of perhaps once a month.

Diamonds? Seriously? Why, when I could have the "diamond" of kitchen tools? And seriously the tool that said , "I understand your foodie soul."

Really if I could rewrte the traditional aniversary gifts, every one of them would be some amazing tool for the kitchen. Of course I'm just weird like thet.

My first experiment with the ice cream attachment was Chicken Liver Ice Cream made for our puppy Zen's first birthday. Okay it wasn't much of a success with the humans. I could still tweak that recipe and maybe make it workable, but the dogs, including Zen and his best dog-buddy Crab absolutely loved it.

Other than my writing (which can't be replaced) the one item I've really been heartbroken over since the fire has been my mixer. Right now I'm just trying to figure out how to pay our mortgage back in CO. Buying a new mixer is right now out of the question, So when CK sent me pics of my beloved mixer...oh damn it hurts. Not because of the money, not because I'll have to wait to get a new one, but because of how wonderful it was to have fresh bread and sausage and ice cream on the table. And because of the absolute love and understanding that helped Quantum find the most perfect gift for me.

When CK sent me the pic, I couldn't even recognize the parts from the clip of our burned down home. He had to point them out to me. (Which is funny since I spent the last few years walking past those burned parts and mourning over them. The base. Some toothy ring gear and some mushroom-like gear.

With the mortgage need ing paying and trying to help Quantum's Alzheimer's mom, it may be years before I replace my beautiful mixer. Eventually I will.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Florida at Last

The rest of the drive was thankfully uneventful. We couldn't wait for it to be over, as we made our way through Orlando, taking notice of the new stores that had sprung up since we were gone.

Our condo (which had been renovated slightly since we'd moved) was gorgeous, but disconcerting in it's differences. Our new roommate, J is super nice. The dogs are a bit confused (especially whenever people walk nearby) but the cats are thrilled to be out of the truck.

Though I hadn't planned on moving back to FL, and really didn't want to, I feel pretty positive about the situation. It's wondrous to have running water. And I can even shower once a day if I want!

Since we have no furniture yet, it's a bit challenging to find a place to sit, and I keep pacing, trying to find a comfortable spot. But all together, I'm planning on this being a good move. Though I can't wait till we can regroup, deal with the Mom situation and go home again.

More 280 Hell

We reached Columbia around 2:30 or 3 and couldn't find a place to pull over and park for the rest of the night. It took us until freaking 4:30 in the morning before we found somewhere safe to stop. Meanwhile we'd considered the possibility that since things tended to happen in 3's, did 3 deer in total count as 3's, or did 3 INCIDENTS of deer count as 3's?

Turns out it was the later, and another two deer ended up jumping in front of us. Fortunately, we missed hitting those. 

From Columbia and past it, the area was rural and buildings and businesses nearly nonexistant. We finally found a lone gas station with one other truck pulled over there. 

The gas station was closed and didn't seem to have bathrooms anyway, so I had to get out to pee behind our truck. Whereupon we discovered that the passenger door would no longer open. A particular bummer, since the driver's side door handle is broken and it's a pain in the butt to open that door.

Another crappy night's sleep, but at least it wasn't too cold this time.

Suicidal Deer

We kept ourselves awake by imagining blogging about our journey and then sending an email to the Shelby County fathers. "We realize that the two adjacent roads with the same numbers probably didn't occur during your administration. However not correcting the situation is highly negligent. Are you incompetent? Uncaring? Or just clueless?"

The full moon had gone behind the clouds and the road was dim in our headlights, but well maintained and unlike much of the roads we'd traveled, there were plenty of reflectors to mark the road's edge. Bubba's thrift obviously didn't apply to the guy in charge of the Reflector Committee. The stop lights had also dwindled to several miles apart and the speed limit was up to 55. Quantum commented on those items, then said, "But what is it with this county if even the deer are willing to commit suicide to get away from Rt. 280?"

Moments later we saw movement on the road ahead. Two more deer darted across the road in front of us. Quantum swerved and tried to slow. 
The first deer made it across. His buddy slammed into the side of our truck. 

There was nothing we could do but mourn. There wasn't even a nearby turn-around. And if the poor creature was alive but wounded, we didn't even have a way of putting it out of its misery.

I said a blessing on the deer's soul and we both processed the situation.
We were unhurt, if shaken. We could have rolled the truck. A vehicle behind us could have gotten involved if the road hadn't been so quiet. The dogs were okay. The cats, in their cage in the back of the pickup, would be okay, though no doubt terrified. (And already pissed off from the past few days of being stuck in the cage.)

We felt horribly guilty about the deer, though. "Gods, we were just talking about deer comitting suicide," I said.

Quantum mentioned a deer accident he and some friends had been in many years ago. "And when we went back to see what happened, the deer had gotten up and gone. And that time we were going a lot faster, so maybe this deer could have survived?"

I didn't say anything. I remembered seeing broken bits and parts scatter and fly at the impact. Though I didn't see any blood on the car in the rear-view. I'd later learn that the pieces and parts were the headlight housing smashing into oblivion, Though the headlights did still work.

The Rt. 280 Doppleganger

"Okay this is more like what I expected Birmingham to look like," Quantum said, as the city hove in sight, a mass of twisting highways, ramps, bridges and huge, ugly high-rises. Rt. 280 portended ill from the beginning. Although a well-tended 4 laner, it was studded with stop lights every quarter mile or so, for miles and miles.

"If this is going to be like that for the whole trip, maybe we should go back to 65." I studied the map. "It's the long way around, but it might be faster in the end, and prevent the radiator from overheating."

Just then, Quantum spotted a sign. "Wait, it said 280 that way!" He hung a quick right, following the sign. Within a few yards we suspected something was wrong. A few yards later, as the road narrowed and twisted ever more, with no signs for 280 in sight, we nade a u-turn and went back the way we'd come. A few minutes later Quantum said, "There it is! 280 East." We took a fast left. This time it took a bit longer to be obvious that we were on the wrong road. It narrowed to barely two lanes and the speed reduced to 45 then 30.

"This is crazy!" I said, "this can't be right. We've got about 140 miles to Colombus. At this rate we'll never get there." I turned on my flashlight and consulted the map again. "We've got to make a right here somwhere. I have no clue. Read me a road sign so I can figure out where we are."

Just then a deer darted from the woods. Quantum slammed the brakes and avoided it.

"It says Shelby Country," Quantum gave me the next few route intersections. All were too small to show up on the state map.

"Just make the next right damnit."

"If I make the next right, it'll be into someone's driveway. WTF? 20 mph?"

"Just make the next right onto a road," I growled. "That'll take us towards 65 somewhere."

We made a right, then came to a wider road and Quantum took a right onto it. No road signs told us what road it was, but it should take us back towards Birmingham and maybe even to a business where we could ask directions. But all the shops - even a gas station - were closed.

"I'm beginning to understand why Bubba hates Birmingham. Can you pull over and let me look at the map?"

"Why can't you look at the map while I'm driving?"

"Because. My glasses suck and the print's tiny and I can't read the map. And every time we hit a bump I lose my place. Will you just pull over?"

"If I do, the truck might overheat," Quantum said.

"How am I supposed to - oh crap!" The flashlight grayed and began to die. A cop sped by, lights flashing. "Maybe we should ask him," I said. "Well, if we take a left it should bring us towards 65."

Quantum made the next left onto a not nearly as wide road. "Rt. 55," he announced. 

"Argh! I can't read the map!" I shook the flashlight. Glancing in the passenger side mirror I noticed a sign that identified the road we'd just come off. "Turn around!"

We made a U-turn and looked at the sign. Rt. 280. The two of us gaped at it.

"It's weird," Quantum said. "There's two kinds of signs for the road. Some of them are white, like that one. And some of them are blue."

"Well just stay on this road. I think this is it."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Maybe. No. But it's wider than the other route 280." We passed a blue sign. "Wait! Blue signs like that?"


"Shelby County," I read. "Holy shit. THIS is State 280. That disaster back there was COUNTY Rt. 280."

"No! What idiot would name a county road the same as a state road that went right by it?"

"Yeah, cause nobody would ever get confused." I caught the next intersection number and shook the flashlight. It was 11:30 at night. We'd only made it about 20 miles from Birmingham.

Bubba's Campaign and the Missing Road Signs

Somewhere near 40 miles to Birmingham, we crossed over the border into Alabama. While we were still informed on an imperative and frequent basis that this was the future home of the I-22 corridor, signs letting us know how far it was to Birmingham (which we'd been informed of regularly back in Mississippi) seemed to go missing.

On this trip (as on our original journey to CO) we noted that Alabama had the only phonetic road sign that we'd ever heard of or seen. Apparently the residents and visitors to Guin will be unable to find the place unless a second sign spells "Gu-win".

It was about 20 miles until ANY sign notified us of the distance to ANY town. We soon "discovered" that this was the work of Bubba, the director of signage for Rt. 78 (and perhaps all of Alabama).

Bubba, it seemed, had a vendetta against the folk of Birmingham. (Which he labels "burning hamsters" or "bumming hummers" depending on his mood.) It therefore became his personal campaign to confuse and dis-enlighten travelers, especially anyone traveling from Mississippi (whom Bubba disparagingly references as "missississies" whether or not they are Mississippi natives). Bubba incidentally, was a native of Gu-win, thus the imperative for correct pronunciation.

*foreshadowing* We weren't certain what Bubba had against Birmingham, but we were soon to find out. *cue sinister laughter* "Bwahaha!" */foreshadowing*

To convince the higher-ups on the public works/roads & bridges committees to fall for his villainous plot, Bubba explained that not wasting signs on telling travelers the distance to upcoming cities would save the state money. (We in fact noticed only about 5 or 6 such signs in the entire distance between the Mississippi state line and Birmingham.)

"We don't need to know that sort of stuff," Bubba lectured. "We already know that stuff and those darn missississies will have to deal. Besides, I ain't never left Gu-win and who cares how far it is to Birmingham? It's only the state capitol, after all. Besides if we put Birmingham on the signs, that's a lot of extra letters and the signs will have to be made longer."

It wasn't until mile marker 48 (exactly half way from the border) that a sign finally announced "Birmingham 48." We assume this meant 48 miles, since the thrifty Bubba didn't spare extra lettering for the word "miles" either. This unsettled us a bit, since by our calculations Birmingham should have been at least 10 or 15 miles further. But needing gas and a rest break, our hearts were gladdened at the idea of a shorter drive.

Two more signs announced Birmingham at 28 and 21 miles to, and then a surprising "Birmingham exit 1 mile". Following this was the announcement that all traffic on Rt. 78 (presumably ALL traffic, since Rt. 78 was the only route on that highway) must exit.

And now we have documented proof that the folks at Rand McNally maps were (perhaps unwittingly) in collusion with Bubba.

On the map, Rt. 78 is shown as dead ending at Rt. 77 with eventual construction to bring it to meet Rt. 65. The exit we were forced to get off at did not jive with the map. As we left the ramp we were greeted with a tiny sign (Birmingham and an arrow to the right - no mileage, thanks to Bubba again.) on a narrow and ill-lit road. Some time later we found another tiny sign, "Birmingham 12".

"Ah ha!" I said. "There's our missing 10 or so miles." Meanwhile I scanned both the road and map trying to determine where we were. None of the roads bore any resemblance to the map, and Bubba hadn't allowed any street name signs or route markers.

Not wanting to miss our next route change, Quantum stopped at a Walmart to ask directions. As usually happens at such times, as soon as Quantum got out of eyesight, I decovered where we were. There, way off in a corner of the map (about 15 miles from where I thought we'd been let off) a tiny portion of Rt. 78 was shown. Obviously it had been nearly obscured at the prompting of Bubba.

The kind gentleman at Walmart gave Quantum excellent directions and we were now on our way to Rt. 280. We got to Birmingham around 9:30 at night and hoped to make Columbus, GA by about 11:30 or midnight. Silly us!

The Horror That Is Construction Zones

The journey to just before the border of Arkansas was long but relatively ok with the exception of tired eyes and butts that were sore from sitting on the same part of the seat for hours. We pulled into the parking lot of a gas station/truck stop/casino. Q checked the fluids and noticed that there seemed to be a major leak between where you add radiator fluid and the radiator itself.

We spent a cold and uncomfortable second night cramped in the front seat of the pickup.

Next morning we had a simple but amazing breakfast at a little diner. $5 each got us endless (and excellent) coffee, perfectly cooked eggs, oniony hash browns, toast, biscuits and southern gravy.

We spent the morning admiring western AR, possibly one of the most beautiful areas in the country. If it weren't for the rednecks and the politics...

About a half hour out of Little Rock we reached a giant clusterfuck. Some major moron in charge of roadworks had decided to allow construction to route a 4 lane highway into two narrow lanes (one each way) with concrete barriers on either side and no emergency exits. Quantum watched the engine temp climb as we drove at near standstill and wondered what we'd do if the truck overheated.

As we finally passed through we saw that the opposite side traffic was backed up about 10 miles and also near standstill. One trucker was even out of his truck, walking along the road. No doubt every trucker there (at least several hundred) was cursung the amount of gas he was using and worrying over his schedule. 

Think about that when you complain about the high prices at the grocery. Just about everything in your store is shipped on a truck.