09 to 12 October: Need Storage!

Yes, as it turns out, houses here have no basements.  None.  So this house has very little to no storage.  And, you may recall, I have a lot of “stuff” that needs to be stored.  Especially in the short term – what, with all the tote bins filled with knick knacks, books, etc.

I purchased a Rubbermaid shed just like the one I purchased in Markham, Ontario, two years ago.  It was delivered on Wednesday, 09 October.  Two big boxes.  Yay.

On Saturday, 12 October, I started to assemble it, and finished it on Sunday.  It took all the tools and much of the stuff from the garage.

Why the rush?   Because I want someplace for the 1957 Cadillac to go, in the garage!

09 October: Adios to “Friendly Manitoba” – Hello to “Grand Canyon State”

Yup, so there it is.  Got my Arizona driver’s licence, and rear plates for the 1957 Cadillac (BCT2613) and 2005 Cadillac (BCT2614).  Sigh.

Getting them was a bit of fun.  I had to do a computer based multiple choice test of the rules of the road (some were difficult, about distance to follow an emergency vehicle etc), get an eye test, explain my right eye being blind.  Then, get the cars titled, show all the import documentation, then had to actually present the car for inspection to see the “safety and emissions decal” which, oops, wasn’t there, after waiting 1/2 hour for someone to look.  They needed the “attestation letter” from GM that I paid $110 for, before leaving.  Sigh.

The first clerk insisted that I had to bring down the 1957 for inspection as well.  Fortunately, the second one dismissed that with a wave of the hand, because for heaven’s sake, it’s from before there were emissions and safety stickers.

Anyway, there it is – the new plates and the driver’s licence.  It’s official now.

Arizona Licence Plates and Arizona Driver’s Licence

It turns out that they do not use a front licence plate on their vehicles here in Arizona.  I don’t have anything to put on there, for now.  Hmm…

04 to 06 October: Men’s Camp, Southwest United Methodist Style

I’ve been attending Mission Bell United Methodist Church since I arrived here.  I identified this church and attended it once while here in March.  I like the church, it’s very welcoming, and I enjoy the music.  The pastor and I hit it off well, right from the first time I attended – there were no seats except right up beside him in the front row – so I marched up and took that seat.

Anyway, in early September, there was a notice in the bulletin about a men’s retreat in early October, up in Prescott, about an hour’s drive to the north and west in the mountains.  I planned to go, but didn’t register until the last minute – didn’t have enough cash left over from the house foibles to float the check!  Oh well.

I went, and wow did it feel familiar.  A lot like our Riding Mountain Conference of Churchmen (Men’s Camp) in Manitoba.  The accommodations were similar, the food was similar.  Even the feeling of the discussions was similar.

It turns out that Prescott gets cold at night, down to freezing at that particular time!  I was watching the temperature back in Winnipeg, and it was about the same, day and night.  The difference is, Prescott might get a bit colder, and even get snow… but Winnipeg is going to go into the deep freeze.

The Camp Grounds

On Saturday afternoon, we had a couple of free hours.  I wandered into town and checked out the main square.  An old western town, kind of modernized.  I say “kind of”… they have Whiskey Row, where there are several old style saloons along the main drag… and a bunch of folks in there drinking and having a good ol’ time.

The centre of the square has the courthouse, with beautiful grounds… very busy on that particular Saturday.

14 to 17 September: Then the Possessions Arrive

So as of Thursday evening, 12 September, I’m in my house… my empty house.  Hmm, I see a lot of cleaning to be done.  The previous owner had a dog, and she made an effort to clean up, but… let’s just say that there was a modicum of dog hair around… and things just plain needed cleaning.

I ordered a cleaning company to do a “move in” cleaning (8 hours) on Tuesday, 17 September.

I had to live in a very empty house… eat out every meal… for two days or so.

On Saturday, the moving company delivered all my stuff.  My stuff was in three large crates on the back of a flat deck.  The two guys put a ramp to the flat deck, dropped the side of the first crate, and started wheeling stuff down into the garage and (optionally) into the house.

3 crates of all my worldly possessions

Selected Junque in the corner of the garage

Entrance from garage into house

Junque in garage is piling up

One down, two to go!

So they distributed most of the stuff into the house.  Great.  I started to unpack, yay!!!

I was still able to park in the garage, but had most of my stuff on the other side, piled up.

Oops, remembered that I had a cleaning! Curses.

On Monday night, I was up until something like 2 AM, basically packing the house back up and moving as much as I could back out into the garage.  I was exhausted!!!

Kinda reminds me of the old “up the hill, down the hill” drill that my dad had me do when I was about 10 to 15 yrs old – moving a pile of lumpy dirty old boards around the back yard, first down the hill near the river so out of sight, then back up when he was going to use them, then back down when he didn’t… and so on.  Ugh.

Oh wow, did they ever do a great job, what a difference!  Now, where I was a little leary to put stuff, it felt completely comfortable.

I had them back once since, in late October, and that was nice, a bit of a maintenance visit.  They were struggling to fill their time though.  I think I can manage from here on.  Hmm though, need to mop those tile floors and vacuum the carpets…

Ha ha, another time, I’m busy writing a blog 🙂

I don’t have much furniture, so yes, it is pretty bare.  I bought some of the furniture of the previous owner, otherwise it would be even more so.  I got the bed from the 2nd bedroom, some end tables, an entertainment stand, dining room table & chairs (hmm, table is uneven, rocks a bit, argh), a small organizer/bookshelf inthe bedroom, and four barstools for the kitchen.  Lastly, a 60 inch LCD flatscreen TV, an older unit with big halogen lamps, gotta love those large TV sets 🙂  More on the TV later (hint: ugh).

Oh yes, also all the outdoor patio furniture and the poolside chaise loungers.  Wanna come sit poolside and soak up the rays?  Heh heh.  I’m too busy to pause much to enjoy the sunshine.  Sigh.

01 to 12 September: House purchase

Wow, it took me a while to get back to it, but, yes, I am now lord of the minor fiefdom called 3017 E Utopia Rd.   There were shenanigans right down to the final signing of all the papers…  but finally the deal was done, and I had the keys as of early evening of Thursday, 12 September.  It was pretty empty, but it was mine!

Is that All Your Own Cash, Boy???
So you may recall that I had quite a time getting together the closing costs for the house.  I cashed in some RRSPs, brought most of it across into the USA, then did multiple cash advances using the Visa option on my Debit card, to get the money into a local Wells Fargo bank.  I also put my first paycheque completely in there too.  Then, oops, had to service debt back in Canada, including some unexpected expenses (more on that later), so had to move money back, forth, sideways.

The mortgage people had to have me account for every dollar, to make sure that I didn’t have organized crime funds or something, I guess.  They raised a few eyebrows at the money flowing back & forth across the border.  They gave me a rough time about the value of my major asset, my remaining RRSPs – would not believe me (or CNN.com or whatever) that the Canadian/US exchange rate was around 0.95 – I had to get a signed paper from a Canadian Bank saying that so-and-so much Canuck bucks in RRSPs would be worth about so much USA bucks, given today’s exchange rate, etc.  Yikes.

Shenanigans?  Par for the Course
I went down to sign all the papers (ugh, about 200 places to sign & initial, they are really tightened down after the craziness of a few years ago), and the sheaf was over an inch thick!  Anyway, finally we had the total that I had to come up with as a cashier’s check (see, I can write “check” and not “cheque” 🙂 ), so I trundled over to the Wells Fargo and got the exact amount.  By the time I arrived back to the office, they had come up with another $110 that I had to pay, so I had to write a personal check to cover the balance.  I did it (not like I had much choice), but I made sure that I let them know that I was not amused.

Funny thing?  A month later they sent me a refund of $80 because they double charged me for something else.  Sheesh.

Well I thought it was bad, but I’m told that this is the way it goes.  My colleague, Carl, tells me that he generally puts an extra $200 on the cashier’s check, and lets them refund his money a month later – they have to account for every penny, so they will – I guess that’s what I should have done, and what I’ll do next time.  If there is a next time!

Parking Indoors… and Splashing Outdoors
Yup, a two car garage and a pool!  Here are the pre-purchase pictures of the place.  It doesn’t look quite as good now – the flowers along the sides of the house had to be removed to treat for TERMITES (turns out there are two kinds of houses here – those that have ’em and those that will have ’em).  Plus of course, now my sparse furniture is in here…  Well, I bought some of what was here, so new pictures might show some familiar scenes.

Well, and it turns out, that this is a desert, after all… and I neglected to lavish enough water on the lawn (not grass mind you) for a few weeks, and it’s kind patchy now too… trying to correct that issue.

Pre-Purchase Pictures

Me, in my Minor Fiefdom!
Someone asked who took these pictures for me.  Tripod, with timer.  There were a few out-takes that didn’t look so good, too 🙂

18 September: Swimming after midnight under a full moon!

I know this is out of sequence, but I just had to write it.  Yes, got the house last Thursday, will write about that later.   Yes, been parking in the garage, yee haw – at least until I had to empty the house into the garage so I could have it cleaned top to bottom on Tuesday (ugh was dirty with dog hair etc).  Tonight I got busy and moved everything back in.  I finished at about 12:30, late, ugh.  I saw light out in the backyard, peeked out the window and saw a beautiful moonlit scene over my pool. 

Now, I had the pool guy here on Saturday, when we discussed the condition of the pool (fine) and maintenance (yes, he will do it, yay).  After he left, I took my first dip in the water – during the day – the sun was hot and dazzled my eyes when going one direction.  That was the last time I had a chance – until tonight when I looked out at the pool, late.

At first, I thought, “I’ll go for a swim as soon as I wake up.”  Then I asked myself, “Why should I wait?”

So, I pulled on my trunks and grabbed my goggles, and headed outside.  I didn’t bother with the backyard lights, didn’t need them – the light of the moon was enough to get me to the back wall and turn on the pool light, mmm.  Then, into the water, did about 20 or 30 laps under the pale, full moon.  Wow! 

I think it will be better when I’m using the pool more often.  There are leaves and flower petals in the pool, had to snag the net and scoop them up.  I’m kind of anxious when there are “floaties” around me while swimming.

In any case, it was grand!  Will have to do that more often.  Very nice relaxation after some hard work.  Now I’m having a teensy glass of wine, and writing this article.  As I said, these past couple of weeks have been quite eventful, but writing them up will have to wait.  Sigh.  Not enough hours in the day?!?

25 to 31 August: Getting a mortgage is like a three ring circus – without the rings!

So finally the mortgage got going this week.  It turns out that it was sent to the wrong department by mistake, and it took a week to recognize the error and correct it.  In the meantime, I was trying to add up the numbers as to how much cash I had to come across with, to close the deal – and could not make the numbers add up.  It was looking like they wanted about US$5,000 more than I had – and I needed clarification.  Over the weekend, however, I sat down and went through every line, and figured it out.  The difference was the “earnest deposit” that I had put in with the offer, and some weird math they do just to make it too complicated for mortals to figure out.

Oh yes, and Monday they came and replaced my car windshield.  Sure enough, came to the office, did it in the parking lot, took just over an hour.  Wow.

There were about 60 pages of documents to sign, and many more that I initialled and crossed out open space on.  Yikes, my wrist was sore after all that.  Then I found out that some of the documents weren’t in my “keep” package, so I had to break up the bundle and duplicate them.  Then, I found out that there were “information” sheets that I needed but weren’t in my “keep” package, so I had to break up the bundle and strip them out.  Yikes.

Then courier’d it all off to the mortgage office.

I contacted the company – apparently I misunderstood – I have to pay the whole closing cost up front and then apply for reimbursement!  Ouch!  Good thing I brought in more than enough…  but, now I don’t have time to do a check, or even a bank to bank transfer, as they take days to clear!

So, I went three days in a row, transferred US1000, US1000, and US$900 from Atlanta RBC Bank to local Wells Fargo.

I had to get proof  that the money was available to me locally.  Wells Fargo did up a statement showing all the inflows and that the money was available.

Then, on Thursday, I finally got to an insurance broker and got a single quote on home owner’s insurance – ouch, about 400 more than expected!  I had to go back a fourth day and transfer US500 more to ensure that I could cover it.  And, get another statement.

The government needs documented evidence of cash flow sources, to ensure that it’s my money that I’m using for down payment.  What, as opposed to somebody else’s?   I wonder what kind of games they were playing down here before 2010!  Anyway, all this money exchange was complicated, so I had to write a story book about the cash transfers and why.  Ugh.

In the end, I hope I satisfied the documentation requirements.  We shall see.

And, after all that, I was able to get a second quote that lowered the cost about $450, back down below the original target, so the last panic wasn’t necessary in the end.  Oh well, I have the cash.  Good.  And, now I have insurance – that’s good too, they won’t go on processing the mortgage without it.  Whew!

On Saturday, I ordered Internet for the house.   It’s starting to become more real.  Let’s hope the mortgage goes through.

Saturday afternoon, I visited that second auto museum in the Metrocenter.  It was great, but not many cars.  Now, apparently they have some 200 more cars in storage, and the shopping centre is preparing a huge display space for them to showcase them all.  It’s going to be impressive when done.

They told me that there is a car show in the parking lot of the Metrocenter once a month.  I missed last Saturday’s, which was the biggest ever, with something like 800 cars and over 4,000 people attending.  Where was I????  At the jazz concert, oh yeah.  Well that was fine too.  A lot fewer people.

So, at the end of the week, I’m looking for dancing bears.  Or tight rope walkers.  Or trapeze artists.  Or something like that.  Kind of feeling like the T-shirt – “I went through the mortgage process, and all I got was… wait a second, I didn’t get anything!!”

18 to 24 August reprise: Cash flow foibles!!!

I got a fun E-mail on Tuesday morning – a bill payment out of my Canadian account was denied because of lack of funds.  Hmm, there should be lots of cash in there!?!  Oh no, what about the rent cheque for CA$900 that was dated last Friday????  Panic!  I called the owner of the condo and advised that if his cheque was returned, I would cover everything immediately!  Then I called ING Direct and asked what was going on.  Well, apparently, the bank-to-bank transfer that I had done the week before, takes up to seven business days to clear, and the bulk of the funds was on hold!!!  This has never happened before.  I scrambled, used the Interac eTransfer to move cash immediately from another account to cover the cheque.   Then, held my breath.

Nothing happened.  But the cheque didn’t clear either.

Then, on Friday, I got a note from the owner – the cheque had been returned, with a back charge fee of course, plus they took the cash out of his wrong account, and it cost him a total of CA$75 because it went under their magic “lower limit”. 

I immediately issued an Interac eTransfer to cover the whole thing, plus a few bucks in case his institution didn’t do eTransfers directly.

ING called me about 1/2 hour later.  Because the transfer was done from Arizona, and because the target E-mail account was a Hotmail account, they were questioning it.  After satisfying their concerns, everything was cool… or so I thought.  I had to call back again for clarification, but everything was good.

An hour after that, I saw that the transaction had been cancelled!  I called ING again (the third time),  oh yes, they cancel the transfer, not just question it.  I wonder when they were going to tell me that?  I re-did the transfer, and all was well. 

Moral of the story:  Keep a close eye on available balance, and if out of the country, make sure they know about it.  I was pretty sure I had advised them, but I guess I didn’t.  Oh well.

18 to 24 August: Plumbing the depths, talking does help, and checkin’ out the junque store!

I went to church on the 18th.  I was feeling down.  Things just weren’t feeling good.  I am so far from home, in a foreign land, by myself…  alone…

After church, I asked Pastor Paul Self-Price if I could come see him some time during the week – he of course agreed, and said Tuesday morning would work.  We chatted about therapy and Emotions Anonymous – which he had never heard of, but asked if it was like Alcoholics Anonymous…  which of course it is very much like.  He has been in AA for over 30 years, so I knew that I was talking to the right person!  I mentioned that I had had trouble with the 5th step and now having trouble with the 9th step, and of course, having been in the program, nobody has to remind you what the 5th step is… or the 9th.  Yes, I will be talking to the right person.

They were having a luncheon get-together after the service, and I was invited to stay.  Of course, everyone was so gracious, and tried so hard to make me feel at home… but somehow, by the time I left, I had to run (not walk) back to the condo, to be alone in my misery.

So Sunday afternoon, I hit the bottom.  I was feeling low, so far from where I want to be, moved so much, lost and given away so much, not even knowing who the Hell I was any more.  I’ve lost my touchstones, relationships.  Given it all up.  Moved.  Moved back.  Then given it up again.  Moved away.  And now I am here.  Is this supposed to be better?  I tried to read, but could not.  I tried to watch a couple of movies – a sci-fi movie, even Casablanca – but could not.  I tried to surf the web, look at news, blah blah…  Nothing worked.  Yikes!  I flopped in bed, looked at the ceiling, and pondered… and cried.

By Sunday evening, the darkness had started to lift.  Thankfully!  I do not want to be there again.  Not that this is any surprise, mind you – but there is no need to revisit this place.

I went to see Pastor Paul on Tuesday morning, on my way to work.  It was very helpful.  He understands much more than I might expect, at least initially.  It generally helped to buoy me up, and I felt much better.

At the Emotions Anonymous meeting on Tuesday evening, there was some crosstalk about my situation.  One of the other members called on it, and I was placed in the uncomfortable position of having to jump in and tell them both that their input was appreciated but unnecessary.  I will move forward in the program when things settle enough that I can find my stuff and move forward in the program.  Not entirely satisfactory for them, but damn it, it’s my program, not theirs!  Yeah, I’m probably over reacting, it wasn’t nearly that dramatic.  I need to get moving, not change direction… again.  I can… and I will.

Skyping with mom and Eric on Wednesday was nice.  Mom is flying out to Alberta on Saturday to see James and his kids for a week.  They are all going camping (yikes 🙂 ), shall see how that works out.
I slithered through the rest of the week without incident.  Well, found out that Autopac will cover my windshield replacement, have to pay my $200 deductible (in US funds, waa waa), so scheduled it for Monday.  They come to me, and do it in about an hour, apparently.  Wow.

On Saturday, I went to Apache Reclamation and Electronics, south of downtown Phoenix.  It’s in a rough part of town, obviously hit hard by the recession of these past few years.

Anyway, the shop was amazing and fun!  It would not be if I wasn’t into electronics, mind you.  Narrow isles full of dusty, dirty electronics of all types – surplus parts, new parts, circuit boards pulled from electronic assemblies, power supplies, test equipment, specialized old equipment, computer equipment, some just plain junk.  If you wanted to make up a sci fi movie set from the 1950s, you could do it here!  I tell you, they have everything!  There’s even a full room of shelving units chock full of many vacuum tubes.  I even held an 807 tube in my hands, the type used in my old No. 19 set… wow.  I almost bought it, just to mount it and put it on display as a memory of my old hobby… perhaps next time.

Yup, the venerable 807 tube
A No. 19 set – I had a much larger setup than this – all the accessories – long, long ago…

Anyway, it was a cool place to visit.  There was an older, retired fellow there who was working on a little project to recondition his car batteries – a line-powered capacitively coupled de-sulphur device.  Sounded dangerous!  I gave him a bit of advice – including to put a high resistance across that big motor run capacitor that he was holding, so it didn’t electrocute him – and to use a big monster bridge.  He asked about putting a fan operated from the output, perhaps using that cool LM7812 regulator to run it – which I dissuaded him from doing.  I’ve burned up a few LM7812s in my time, by not putting proper decoupling… plus it won’t take the extra high voltage for a open (completely failed) battery, or when the battery isn’t there and the thing “accidentally” gets turned on…  I think I gave him good advice, and stern enough warnings to be careful.  Well, hopefully he didn’t electrocute himself or blow anything up. 

11 to 17 August: Delivery of Elizabeth, interesting haircut, a banker’s tale, and let there be Jazz

On Sunday, I went to see The Last Starfighter.  It was good.

Monday, we went back to the house to double-check some of the contents that I’m thinking of buying from the present owner.  For instance, a big television set.  As I suspected, it was an older, internal projection unit – nice, but not worth a whole pile.  It works well though, so I’ll try to acquire it.

Later Monday, I went to Wells Fargo and got my US$900 through the Visa cash advance, right out of my RBC Bank account.  Now, I was ready for the delivery of Elizabeth.

I also found a place to store her, outdoors, at least until I have the house with garage.  It’s only a mile or so from the office, Deer Valley Mini and RV Storage, so she will be close by.

The truck driver had to unload two other vehicles first, then roll her down off the carrier.  He insisted on using her own brakes, whereas I wanted to use the winch; it worked out great because without the winch, the suspension was “up” and the rear cleared the ground better.

I started her up and drove her into the compound.  She sounded terrible!  But she made it to the designated spot, and eased in, for a rest.  I brought a bunch of the stuff out of her interior – all the tote bins – then put the cover on her, and left her there, hopefully just for a couple of weeks… shall see.

On Wednesday, I got to Skype with mom and Eric.  It was good to see them both.  Am I missing Winnipeg?  Oh yeah.

On Thursday, I went to The Men’s Lounge Barbershop.  What an experience!  It was a nice cut, then a straightblade shave (a first for me, eek), then ear and nose hair trimming (another first), and a hot towel at the end.  I was pretty nervous about the straightblade thing, but, like going to India, I just said, “whatever, let it roll”, and it was fine.

So Friday was my first payday, but my direct deposit wasn’t finalized yet, so I got a cheque.  The amount was less than I expected, but then again, I realized that they only paid up to the previous Friday, which is of course the way it is done.

I went down to Wells Fargo, opened an account, and deposited my paycheque (oops there I go again, paycheck) and another US$5600 check drawn on my RBC Bank account, into it.  The idea was that there would be plenty of time for it to clear, and then, “boom!”  I would have the local funds needed to close on the house deal.

The amount I put into the Wells Fargo account was based on the understanding that the relocation package would pay for the actual closing costs that weren’t equity, i.e. the inspection, the legal fees, etc.   I had asked if the company would be paying directly for the fees, saving me the trouble of having to float the amount.  I had been told that they would be paying directly, so I put in more than enough to handle the rest.   [ cue ominous music ]   Oops.

On Saturday, I had to get out and about.  I went to the Martin Auto Museum just off of I-17.  It’s an unassuming building, but has a large sign.  I had seen it back in March when I was here, but it was closed that day, and I forgot about it.  Wow, fantastic!  It has the “Baby Ruth” car that Jeff Gordon drove back when, and apparently Jeff is friends with Mr. Martin who owns the museum, and stops by whenever he is in Phoenix.  The fellow behind the counter was quite knowledgeable, having driven all the cars (except that one, which does not get driven) and worked on some as well.  It was a fun visit.

There’s another auto museum, the Scottsdale International Auto Museum, in the Metrocenter Mall, but it was closing when I got there, so I didn’t go in.  The mall itself is fighting for its life – it is over half empty, by my estimation.  When we were here three years ago, it was having trouble but it was mostly full.  Signs of revitalization are apparent though – and they have signs saying “Metro CentRe” with the accent on the “Re”, then saying, revitalization, rebirth, etc.  I hope they make it – it’s a huge mall with good parking and lots of retail space.

Later on Saturday,  I went to a Jazz concert at the Musician’s Union Hall in downtown Phoenix.  It was Sherry Roberson with the Armand Boatman Trio, and was fantastic!  I bought the two CDs that she had for sale.  There were only maybe 15 of us in attendance, too bad because it was a great performance.  Fortunately, the hall was fairly small, about twice the size of a large living room, so it wasn’t too too empty.  There were rows of chairs up front, but more lounge-y seating in the back, including several sofas.  I stretched out on a sofa at the back, and just chilled.  It turns out that a very nice couple from Mesa were right beside the sofa, and we got to chatting.  I didn’t realize that this was a “bring your own food and drink” event, as was evidenced by a group of six people that came in later, with wine and sandwiches and cheese and crackers… the whole deal.  Wow.  After the show started, my friends beside me cracked open their picnic kit as well, and offered me a glass of wine, which was very nice of them.  I obliged, it made the event that much nicer.  Good folks everywhere.

Sherry Roberson
Armand Boatman – master jazz pianist!