Eventful, Good Times of Late

Didn’t make any posts this weekend – not even Daily Stuff.  This has been, overall, a busy, eventful, unexpected, and altogether excellent weekend.

Last week, I pretty much decided that with my upcoming paycheck on the 6th, along with my income tax return, with what I had in checking/savings, it was finally time (Again – the near $1200 of car repairs delayed me by a bit more than a month on my plans) to move on the whole Apartment/Getting-my-own-place-again goal.  Having already done a lot of the initial work of investigating, evaluating, eliminating apartment complexes here in Midland in January, this time it was a briefer process, starting with a short list of candidates.  Four complexes that were any real serious consideration, and another I called just to check on it as an option, and because it’s literally throwing distance from our office.  They were the most expensive, so that was pretty much an easy elimination.  

Of the other 4, I went and looked at all of them – 1 of the 4 I’d seen a 1BR Townhome before, which I liked a lot.  Really liked.  I just know Baby, my cat, would love the stairs there, and I liked the layout, but it was a little bit beyond what I would be comfortable with based on my projective budgeting.  Rent in Midland is stupidly costly right now – prices are still high from rapid rising over a few years of oilfield prosperity.  The oilfield prosperity is starting to show some real, true (worrisome to oilfield/oil company employees) signs of decline, but any drop in the inflated rent prices will take several more months, if not a year, before they start to happen.  In Huntsville, I had a 2BR, 1.5Bath 1100 square foot townhome for less than I’m (going to be) paying for a 710 square foot 1BR/1BA flat here in Midland.

So, anyway, after checking out all of the other 3 options, with some drama and surprises involved there, I decided on going for what’s supposedly the nicest/best rated of the complexes, Windscape.  Current schedule is to move in on the 13th.  Friday the 13th . . . I can’t help but feel that with everything that happened last week and weekend, it’s something that’s meant to be, and any luck I experience on that day will be Good.  It’s just going to be a tight week for me financially until my payday+ this Friday.

Friday night was looking to be pretty uneventful – I tried to get hold of a couple of people to see about doing something interesting:  seeing a movie with a friend, or going out for whatever workable (she’d mentioned wanting to go to a karaoke bar) with another, female, friend – but it seemed that stuff just wasn’t going to be happening that night.  So, without someone to make going out (and thus spending money) a worthwhile excuse, stay home and . . . apparently watch Seabiscuit with my dad.  During which I find out about some bad medical news about a friend of mine.  Not horrible stuff, but still unfortunate and unpleasant, kind of a bummer, which had (and still has) me worried for her.

Then at 10:15 that night, I get a text from Ms. Fire, commanding me to head down to the hotel lounge she’s in and ask her to dance.  I hop up, change shirts, brush my teeth, and head off to the lounge.  She seemed surprised I “actually came.”  To my surprise (though only a little bit) it was Tejano Night at this club.  I haven’t danced in like 9 years, and I haven’t danced to something other than techno/trance in a good dozen.  I wasn’t very good, but it didn’t seem to matter – the intent and effort, and quite possibly the fact she was a bit inebriated, seemed to matter more.

I’ll not go into further details on the rest of that night . . . but it was wonderful, and surprising.  

Saturday, despite lack of sleep, I got out to see that movie (The Street Fighter Chun-Li one) with my friend Ivy.  It wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t great either, but it was entertaining (even though I think Kristen Kreuk is just wrong for the role).  It had some very nice cinematography of Bangkok in it too.  

Sunday, I had a date to try to see Les Miserables at  MCT.  I type “try” because when I attempted to buy tickets Monday of last week, they were nearly entirely sold out – they only had 3 seats left, none of them anywhere near each other.  The nice old lady at the box office suggested I show up an hour before the show to try to get no-show seat tickets.  After discussing this concept with J, my supposed date, she said we should go ahead and try for it, and plans were made for her to meet me at the theater, see Les Mis, and then who knows?

I dress up as I thought reasonably appropriate for going to the Theater (to discover there later that several folks just went in whatever – but I still felt good about my clothing choice, I think dressing decently for the Theater is still respectful), and show up there a couple of minutes before 1:00.  I’m 4th on the list for no-show seats, with the box office manager informing me that she has no doubt I’ll get tickets.  I wait, seeing tons of people stream in, mingling, talking to friends . . . and then run into a good friend of my Mammaw.  People take their normal, had their tickets in advance, seats, being ushered and hurried into the theater by staff, and at 2:00, the box office manager starts calling out names for the no-show seat tickets.  J still hasn’t shown up (I’d been looking for her, for the entire hour).  I let the box office manager know my date didn’t show, someone else should get the other ticket, and she snatches back the pair she handed me, hunts around frantically, and then gives me a single ticket.  It was a decent seat.

Les Mis was excellent.  One of the best Community Theater productions I’ve ever seen (and most of my comparisons are from MCT shows, so that’s good comparisons, as MCT has been one of the best Community Theaters in the nation for a long time).  Not only was David Odom, who was a friend of mine in High School, on the debate team with me, in the play (as I knew beforehand and expected), but Robert Reed, another High School friend was in the cast as well.  I graduated with both of those guys.   There were other people who I knew from when I was involved in the theater back in the 90s.  I’m considering volunteering for a few shows, maybe auditioning for a part or two.  If not, I’ll at least get a membership, and make MCT a regular part of my entertainment options.

I’ve been trying to get in touch with J the last two 2 days, with no luck thus far.  I don’t know what the deal is, what happened – if there’s a good reason she wasn’t there, a bad reason, if I was just stood up, or what.  If I was stood up, oh well, her loss.  My weekend overall was so good, it doesn’t really upset me.

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There’s This Nifty Thing, it’s Called a Turn Signal

I hadn’t planned on going anywhere for lunch today.  However, due to my not reading the cooking directions Tuesday when I bought the pre-cooked, frozen, nuke’n’heat lemon-pepper chicken breasts, I lacked freaking plastic wrap.  Ok, so I’ll take the back road, run to Walmart real fast (hah!) and grab some plastic wrap . . . and maybe some pepperoni for home . . . oh, and a bigger tub of whipped cream for home . . . 

Anyway . . . leaving the megalith of wage-slavery, I was behind this guy in a big black truck.  I signal and start changing over to the leftmost lane (we both turned out into the center lane) of our side of the 7-lane road.  Big Black Truck Twerp also begins to change lanes – no turn signal – and sees me, swerves crazily (covering about 2 lanes of total width taken from all 3 lanes) and straightens out, slows down, and then changes lanes behind me, this time using his turn signal.  For the first lane change, anyway – not for the change into the turn lane, or his left turn into the Town and Country.  Oy, frigging idiots.

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Midland Drivers are Idiots

The title of this post is something I’ve said all too many times.  I’ve said it (or paraphrased it, anyway) in other cities I’ve lived in, mostly as a comparison, “Yeah, ok, but they’re not as bad as Midland drivers.”  I thought that Fort Wayne drivers were bad; I thought that Huntsville drivers were bad.  Returning to Midland, however, and driving here after driving in several other cities and states, has reinforced for me, just how terrible and stupid Midland drivers can be.

I don’t know, maybe Midland drivers have gotten worse over the last several years.  Maybe there are just MORE bad drivers in Midland.  Maybe I’ve just gotten spoiled by a better class of idiot drivers from other cities.  But it’s definitely worse here than I remember before.  I continually see more and more amazing displays of vehicular stupidity the longer I’m here.  The day and a half of icy roads a couple of weeks ago, I thought, were going to be some of the worst displays I could expect.  Alas, I was so wrong.  Give Midland a little dust storm – a weather phenomenon anyone who’s lived here more than 6 months should be familiar with – and people amaze me even more with how fucking stupid they can be.

I came up with an idea several years back, which I’m even more in favor of now: All Midland drivers should be forced to spend like 3 months or so driving a regular work commute schedule in a big car-oriented city, like DFW, Phoenix, Indianapolis, or so forth.  Someplace that HAS more than lip service to public transportation, but where individually owned cars are still the primary mode of getting where you need to be.  Then, maybe, the ones who don’t get themselves killed might come back to Midland as slightly less of a fucking idiot behind the wheel.

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Car Woes

So, last year, I purchased a used 2003 Saab 9-5 Linear sedan.  I bought it out-right, with money I got from my mom’s life insurance, for $8200 (that was with splitting the cost of a brand-spanking-new Bosch OEM alternator with the Macedonian man who owned the European Import-specialist used car lot).  I thought that was a pretty good buy, and I’d tried to do as much homework on it as I could (my car-buying process was a several week long affair, with a LOT of time spent online reading and researching, and a few days dedicated to going to dealerships and driving representative sample cars of all of the makes I was considering).  The maintenance records looked excellent, CarFax report was good, and I even tried to have a professional inspection done on it (with less than satisfactory results, but that’s another story of woe and frustration altogether).

I like my car.  It’s pretty, it’s comfortable, it’s reasonably quick, and it gets pretty decent gas mileage (22-24ish city, 33-34 highway).  It’s definitely the nicest vehicle I’ve ever owned, and I like some of the Swedish Saab quirks it has.  It’s no Mercedes-Benz, but still a nice car.

Less than two weeks after buying it, I had it in the shop at the Saab (/Cadillac/Hummer) dealership in Fort Wayne.  Two trips in there to fix various issues – expensive labor for rewiring work in the rear to get all the lights back there working properly, a new Direct Ignition Cassette, new battery, new spark plugs, a couple of other minor things I don’t remember now.  $1100 more sunk into the car.  Irritating, but I still had money left from the insurance.  It was supposed to be in “great shape” other than those issues I had fixed.

Everyone who’s looked at the car in any professional mechanical capacity has said the same things about it, more or less: “It’s in great shape.”

A few weeks before I allowed my life to fully implode in Huntsville, my car developed an irritating and inconvenient problem: the battery wouldn’t hold a charge.  I thought something was draining it that shouldn’t be when it was turned off.  The battery was less than a year old, it COULDN’T be the problem.  After getting jump-starts twice (once from a friend who drove from the other side of town, once from my next door neighbor with whom I’d never even spoken before), I paid what was, at the time, very precious money for a low-end “jump box” from Wal-mart.  It got entirely too much usage.

A little more than halfway back on the drive from Huntsville to Midland, a new concern popped up: the Engine Malfunction light switched on, and stayed on.  Then over the next couple of weeks, it’d go on and off relatively randomly.  Great.  So, I needed to find somewhere I could get my Saab worked on.  I thought it should be no problem, my dad has a friend (for whom he does bookkeeping and tax preparation) who is a mechanic who specializes in Imports.  His shop is even named “World Class Automotive.”  As it turned out, he does pretty much just Japanese imports, and domestic makes.  No European stuff, and definitely not Swedish.  No Saab dealer anywhere in West Texas, short of El Paso.  DFW or maybe Austin are the closest Saab dealers.  Bloody Wonderful.

It turns out, it’s pretty damn hard to find someone to work on a Saab in West Texas.  When I bought the car, never for a second was, “I wonder how hard it will to get it worked on in Midland, Texas,” an item of thought or consideration.  After some calling around and chasing down referrals, we found one company that said they could scan the Saab’s computer and who worked on Saabs: Littlefield Automotive.  We took the car in, they took entirely too long to figure out what the deal with it was (bad thermostat and temperature sensor) and then informed us they’d have to order the parts, and that it would take “a couple of days” to get them in.  I got my car back (paid for by my Dad, who, I am certain, is keeping a penny-accurate tally somewhere), and we were going to come back in after they got the parts in – presumably the next week.

A week and a half later, we finally get a call informing us the parts are in.  This is the week before Christmas week. Well, trying to get it worked on with the shortened week before the Thursday Christmas just seemed impractical.  The next week, with a similar situation with New Year’s Eve/Day, also seemed impractical.  Now, I’d started to notice a concerning sort of grinding noise coming from the front wheels when braking, or at low speeds even when not braking sometimes shortly before Christmas.  I didn’t think too much of it, but wanted to have them see what was wrong when I took it in.  The next week after New Year’s week?  Nope, my dad had a trip to Corpus Christi that week, which he left for on Thursday, so I needed the car that weekend too.  Finally, Wednesday the next week after that, I get the car in to Littlefield’s.  Like, 3 1/2 weeks or so, closeish to a month, after the parts finally arrived.

That concerning grinding noise?  Oh, that was my front brakes being almost entirely gone.  Know what it costs to replace the parts of a Saab’s front disc brakes?  I had no idea.  I know now with a painful clarity.  $134 for a break pad set.  $119 each, x2, for Discs (aka rotors). $144 each, x2, for front calipers.  $12 for brake fluid.  $672 in parts alone.  Tack on $391 for labor (including labor for putting on the parts from before that were on order that we’d already paid for), EPA fees, and tax . . . and there’s an $1131 front brake job.  3 weeks pay for me, with what I’m currently making.  That effectively delays me a month or thereabouts on any hopes of getting my own apartment.  That’s pushing me into March (possibly late March) to move with a reasonable buffer established, maybe longer if more expenses mount up to surprise me. *le sigh*

In addition, I know that my rear brakes (which were essentially working overtime with my front brakes gone) will need attention fairly soon.  I’m hoping I can put off having to buy new tires (and possibly new wheels with them – 2 of my alloy wheels have bends in them which I don’t know if they’re reparable with any cost-effectiveness vs. replacing them) until next year, or at least late this year.

Next time, I’m buying Japanese.

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