Cleaning the Apartment, Rug Doctors, Golf, Wedding Showers

I remember when I used to have time to kick back, relax, and spend an afternoon watching TV.

I think I was five.

This weekend past was yet another in a string of busy, hectic times. As June rolls towards a close, many things are coming up that need to be tackled. Two things of particular importance: Turning my apartment back over to the building, and getting ready for Therese and Stuart’s wedding.

The former meant I had to spend a large portion of Saturday in my apartment trying to clean the last of it up. Now, if I was smart, I would have started out first thing in the morning. However, me being the idiot I am, decided that I also needed to make a run to the local Humungous Hardware Store to find something things I needed around the house (pliers, a Dremel, garden hose and nozzle, propane tank, branch cutters (I have some very overgrown bushes), and so on and so forth).

Having wasted a couple of hours doing that, I quickly stopped off at home before heading over to the apartment to clean. First was a run through the bathroom, trying to get a weird stain out of the bathtub (now mostly gone, thanks to CLR) and make everything sparkle. Then it was off to the kitchen to mop floors, etc. so I could move the last of the boxes off the carpets. It was time for the Rug Doctor.

Now, the apartment management doesn’t seem to like Rug Doctors. I have no idea why. But frankly, I don’t give a damn what they think — I needed one for the house anyway, and figured taking a couple of hours to run it through the apartment first couldn’t hurt.

Chris, you’ll be glad to know all those stains we accumulated (thanks to a certain cat) are now gone.

The carpets are now cleaner than when I first moved in. But the managers will probably still complain that I didn’t get a professional in there and demand that I do. I swear, some people are just plain silly with requirements sometimes.

But it wasn’t money wasted — I wanted a Rug Doctor for the house, too. I never got a chance to clean the carpets before moving in, and I knew full well that the previous owner didn’t clean ’em on her way out. Upon arrival at the house, I quickly realized that the stairs would be nigh on impossible for me to clean with just the machine — it was too big for the small spaces. I needed an attachment.

Calgary has a lot of Safeways. I’m not sure why, but there are times when that comes in really handy. For example, I rented the actual Rug Doctor from the Safeway that was nearest to my apartment. My house, however, is only two and a half blocks from a different Safeway. So, wandering over to my “new” grocery store, I negotiated a rental for the upholstery attachment. The clerks were a little confused at first when I told them what I did, but the senior clerk on staff promptly smiled, handed me the bag of hose and cleaning nozzle, and asked that I merely return it before the store closed. No charge.

I love this city.

I swear that the previous owner never cleaned anything. She might as well have been a renter for all she did. The yard’s a mess, the kitchen’s not in the best of shape, the dishwasher is probably beyond repair now, the washer/dryer is so poorly installed that it goes off-balance constantly, the house needs repainting, every bush and tree is overgrown, the garage is literally falling apart, the shingles need replacing, and the carpets were completely, utterly, and totally filthy.

They didn’t look filthy, at first glance, but after running the Doctor over them, I felt a little ill.

Chris and I vaccummed fairly regularly in our apartment (okay, sometimes not, but we tried to be regular). But we had friends over all the time, tracking in dirt (particularly in the winter) from everywhere (we did the same, of course). You’d think with such high traffic, that our carpets would be dirty. They were. But the water I emptied in the apartment didn’t even come close to the sheer sludge I was emptying from the carpets in the house.

Ew.

I finished the day off with a steak dinner (my reward for being utterly exhausted) … the first made in my new barbecue, a housewarming present I got from my realtor. (Did I mention that she is absolutely awesome?) Although I did have to figure out why it wasn’t working properly, so my dinner was delayed until almost 23:30.

The next day, I tried to start off early, so I could get those rogue boxes out of my apartment and over to the house. So much for plans.

I arrived at Stuart and Therese’s house a little later than planned, but not terribly late. Sunday was not only Father’s Day but also their wedding shower. A bittersweet day for me, if there ever was one. Although, I do have to say that some of Dad’s humour managed to find me. When asked by someone who doesn’t really know me: “Have you called your father today?”, I replied (with a big, dopey grin): “Can’t — I’d need to do a seance.” Next year, though, I’ll use someone else’s idea: “Not yet — can you gimme a hand with this ouija board?”

We drove down to Lakeview Golf Course (a city course) to participate in Stuart’s end of the shower. (Therese was holding a pottery session. The problem for me was that I was torn between them both. Luckily, I didn’t have to choose — I was assigned Stuart by someone else.) Right by the biggest water trap in the city (the Glenmore Reservoir), it was a little out of the way (Stuart and I had some trouble initially finding the place), but an otherwise great place to be.

We broke into one group of four, and two groups of three. (The groups of three had extra people thrown in to round out the foursome.) I played in the last group with Stuart and Heather, the roommate of (a different) Geoff, one of Therese’s friends from her psychology classes. (Geoff and Stuart are good friends, too, of course.) Most of the others in the crowd were former (or current) friends from Stuart’s office(s).

I vaguely remembered my last outing in golf, on the Canadian Forces Base Comox golf course when Gerry and I were visiting his uncle in September 1997. I remembered how badly I sucked. I definitely haven’t improved since then.

Although I had a few good hits, they rarely went in the direction I wanted them to. And I was definitely not good on the greens. I’m used to BC greens, which are wet and really slow. Calgary greens are faster than a chuckwagon race. It took me nine holes just to get the hang of ’em.

But I shot a 61 overall, nonetheless. Before you get too impressed with the score, though, please understand that it was only a nine-hole course.

I shot 27 on the first three holes alone.

The tournament over (myself winning with the largest score, though the other Geoff wasn’t far behind), we adjourned to Jack Astor’s out in Westhills for the 19th hole.

We broke up a little before 16:00, Stuart and I having to make a run to Mission to pick up Leah (one of Therese’s classmates), run by Therese and Stuart’s house (to get a video camera and so Stuart could change), and then way up into Tuscany (in the distant northwest corner of Calgary) for the shower.

By now, I know most of people who were there (I’ve been invited to enough soirees that include Therese’s classmates that I’m reasonably familiar to them), so I didn’t feel too out of place. Besides, they’re all really nice people, so it doesn’t take much to get to know them.

After a quick meal, we sat down to watch the present opening. I sat on the stairs and took pictures (which wasn’t easy, with the lighting and angles I had to work with). As I sat there, I had glimpses of the past, going back to high school and early university, when Therese and Stuart were dating. I felt vaguely uncomfortable again, like I was an unwanted outsider.

I have no idea what brought that on. Stuart and Therese are two of my closest, most trusted friends. They’re the sort of people I have no reservations about helping, or asking for help. Sometimes, I swear the human mind is a scary, unforgiving place.

Or it could just be me.

Moving into my New (Old) House

The last thing I really needed was a cat underfoot as people were rapidly moving things out of the apartment. It wouldn’t be good for them, and it really wouldn’t be good for Miao-Yin. This, in my opinion, was the worst part of the entire moving process.

On Saturday afternoon (1 June 2002), I returned to the apartment to gather the cat’s things, and then gather the cat. Gathering her items was easy — a shopping bag, her food dishes, food, combs, brushes, and so forth. Then came the fun part: Getting Miao-Yin in the kitty carrier.

It seems that most cats actually like kitty carriers … at least until they’re locked inside them. Miao-Yin doesn’t even like going inside hers. When Chris first brought her home from the Humane Society, he told me of how much she yowled the whole way — the cardboard box hadn’t really been her thing. After a while, Chris had the joy of taking Miao-Yin to the vet (for checkups, etc.), and had to use the box. Somehow, he managed to get her in.

Eventually, Chris bought a proper kitty carrier. Miao-Yin wouldn’t even go near it at first. Chris hit upon the idea of putting her food dish inside it so she’d have to go in. Brilliant move — and it worked very well. It wasn’t to hard locking her inside, even though she’d always keep her hind feet outside the cage so she could back up if someone tried to close the door (never worked, she’d always end up inside).

With all this training in mind, moving Miao-Yin should have been easy, right?

Rule #1: Cats always know what you’re going to do before you do it.

What should have been a 10 second job turned into a 20 minute epic ordeal. A battle between man and beast for dominance. A realization that trying to put a cat into a carrier is like forcing a water balloon into a Coke bottle.

But I eventually won, but not before one of Miao-Yin’s rear claws slashed the very heel of my left hand. Luckily, it was at an angle, else I might have needed stitches. She yowled the whole way, sounding as miserable as possible. She wanted it abundantly clear that she did not want to be in that carrier.

When I finally released her in the house, it felt like returning a rehabilitated animal to its natural habitat. She slowly put her head out, looked, sniffed, and then bolted downstairs and disappeared. She was still exploring the basement when I brought down the litter box. The first thing she did when she saw it was use it. I’ll assume that’s a good thing. (At least, I haven’t been finding little presents all over the place.)

With Miao-Yin squared away, I finished assembling the barbecue (see [[Annual General Meeting, Taking Possession of my House]]) and put it off to one side. I figured we’d need the kitchen space. I then left Miao-Yin to investigate the house on her own, and returned to finish packing.

I had been packing all week, when I got home from work. It looked pretty straight-forward, and there was nothing that set off alarm bells for me. It was now only just over a day before things started heading out the door. I didn’t have that much left. I didn’t see a problem.

Which is probably why I didn’t think much of it when Stuart and I went out for dinner and to see a movie. (As an side note, the Jack Astor’s restaurant chain has basically hit rock-bottom. From previously having the best staff in the biz, they’ve all become inattentive, distant, and boring. As much as I hate to say it, I won’t likely go back. As it stands Stuart and I didn’t even eat there — we left after they left us waiting in the booth for 20 minutes.)

When I got back, I had to finish packing. And I did. Around 7:00am. (Chris, for the record, we have way more stuff than we thought we did.)

That allowed me some precious sleep time. Not that I got a lot — I was completely wired on Coke and adrenaline, so what sleep I did get was quite fitful. At 8:30, I pulled myself up off the couch (the last time I’ll ever sleep on them, I’m happy to say) and looked outside. The previous day’s forecast had been partly cloudy, with a 40% chance of rain.

The 40% lasted all day. (I felt like I was living in Vancouver again.) At least it didn’t snow…

At 8:50, I went over to feed Miao-Yin, and then up the Northeast to get the moving truck. (One of the last ones in the city on what seems to be the busiest moving days of the year.)

At 10:05am, I arrived at my apartment, having picked up Tamara from her apartment, and met up with both Fritz and Doug, arriving with their McDonald’s breakfast in hand. Tamara promptly bolted off for breakfast, while I started to try and organize. Over the course of the next hour, Teak, Rose, my cousin Darren, Stuart, Darren’s and my Uncle Mike, and Kaz showed up to assist (though Teak had to run off and pick up Kaz).

At first, the move was slow. Because I couldn’t book an elevator for 10am on a Sunday, we had to grab whatever elevator came down. Figuring this was not going to be an easy move without a dedicated elevator, we packed what we could and kept going. Luckily, as I was emptying out the second load into the lobby, I spotted one of the maintenance workers in the building, and begged to lock off #3 elevator so we could move. He was more than helpful, and that got us moving into high gear.

Fritz, Doug, and Tamara moved items from the apartment to the elevator. Darren ran the elevator, and helped unload at the bottom. The rest of us moved items from the lobby to the truck, and reorganized everything inside. The process was far easier than I ever could have imagined. (And a lot easier than moving a certain cat, let me tell you.)

By about 11:20, we’d worked our way down to the really large and bulky stuff: the beds, the TV, and the couches. That’s about when things started going awry…

I had called on Friday to see what bookings I could get for Sunday morning. The person I had talked to said that no bookings were available until 3pm (which was far too late for my liking). I asked if all the morning slots were taken — I was told that you couldn’t book before noon, and had to wing it if you wanted. I said I would, and was told if I found a maintenance worker, I could lock of #3 (and so I dispel the belief that I’m really intelligent when I asked the maintenance worker to lock off #3).

But…

Someone forgot to tell the weekend manager, who promptly freaked all over Fritz, Doug, and Darren (Tamara and her mother were organizing Tamara’s things at her apartment). Threats of taping the door, calling the cops, and going to court started circulating. (Needless to say, I’ve never really been a huge fan of this particular manager.)

When the manager arrived at the lobby, I did a hasty explanation of what happened, and that I’d forgotten to pay my June rent (which was true — I had). She simply told me to go to the office when I was done. For a moment, I felt like I was in grade school again…

The move complete (five minutes ahead of schedule), I explained in detail the manager what had happened. It seemed that she understood, and was more than happy to take my money for June. But the grief was finally over and done with — the apartment mostly emptied, and the two worst couches that I’ve ever had were disposed of.

Then we were off to Tamara’s, where we acquired a mini-freezer, a small couch, bed (mattress, box spring, and frame), dresser, several boxes of dry foodstuffs, more CDs (as if I didn’t have enough for four or five people), and various other things. The truck (a large cube van) was full. We had to resort to putting the couch and my bike into Uncle Mike’s pickup truck (which, thankfully, had a cab over the bed).

Then it was over to the house. Luckily, either the rain, the Sunday, or some fluke of nature freed up parking spots in front of the house. It was a minor thing to park the truck and start unloading. Of course, that’s also when it started to rain harder.

Figures.

But in about 30 minutes, we emptied both trucks, and filled the living room, dining room, and kitchen with a lot of unrecognizable stuff. It’ll probably take Tamara and I about a week or two to sort all that out. A lot of it are Chris’ things that I offered to store while he lives the high life in Japan. The fun part will be figuring out which is his.

The actual move finally over, we celebrated with the most traditional of most post-moving repasts: Beer and pizza.

Surprisingly enough, Miao-Yin weathered the move-in a lot better than I thought she would — I fully expected a lot of cowering in the basement from all the activity. But it didn’t seem to bother her too much. She spent most of her time at the downstairs stairwell, but regularly poked her head out to see what was going on. I already believe the move will be good for her.

There are a couple of side-effects. First, I’m dead tired. (The not sleeping thing on Saturday probably didn’t help.) And my legs are about ready to declare themselves distinct societies and separate from my body. (In shorter terms, they hurt. A lot.)

But I don’t care. I’m in the house. A little tidying, a little cleaning, and it’ll be a completely comfortable, liveable space. And that’s all I really wanted right from the beginning. The road might be long, windy, littered with potholes, but ultimately it goes somewhere. But admittedly, this is one time where the destination is more appreciated than the journey.

Annual General Meeting, Taking Possession of my House

This was, to say the least, one of the busier weekends I’ve had in a long time. It was a very good weekend in many respects, not the least of which was actually (finally) getting my house. But it all kinda started this way…

Saturday morning, 9:30am. After staying up a little late to do more packing (with a lot left still to do), I arose a little tired, but excited to tackle the day. I had three basic things to do: Attend the Rocky Mountain Rail Society’s Annual General Meeting in the south end of Calgary, take possession of my house, and finish packing. Looks fairly simple, right?

But simple can be deceiving…

I arrived about two minutes before the AGM was to start. Not a huge deal — I wasn’t the only straggler, and we didn’t actually get going until about 11:10am that morning anyway. That gave me time to set up the laptop with images of trains and steam locomotives that I’ve been taking for the last year. (I’ve got quite a few of them now.)

I’ve never been to an annual meeting of any kind, and this was pretty much an eye-opener for me. Despite the fact that, amongst ourselves, the RMRS is pretty lax. We don’t have any hierarchy, we all joke/make fun of each other, bend rules to get things done, and avoid formality almost as if it were a disease. Until the AGM on Saturday morning, there was only one case I knew of where things were followed to the letter: Actually running 6060, at which point the half century of railroading rules and regulations take over, and are followed to the punctuation mark. The AGM was the second time.

The first thing I noticed was that certain people (the Treasurer, the Membership Officer, the Secretary, and some of the Directors) wore name plates. The meeting was ordered, directed by the Chairman (who was elected at the end of the meeting to President, our last president having fulfilled his term and stepped down), recorded by the Secretary, and everyone coordinating it by referral of title (e.g. “Mr. Chairman”), even by the founders and most senior members.

The meeting closed at 12:45pm, just in time for a catered lunch. This was great for me — I didn’t have a lot of food in the apartment, and I figured it would be a while before I’d be eating again (I had a lot of packing to do, and didn’t want to get too distracted).

The meeting having more or less wrapped up by 2:00pm, I hopped in my car and drove out to Sunnyside to meet up with Robyn, my realtor. When I arrived at 2:30pm, she was already there. We took quick looks around the house, seeing what was in order, and what wasn’t.

The main floor was in good condition. The floors were a little scratched (but to be expected with hardwood … I need to refinish them in a year or two anyway), and the walls had been repainted (or touched up) where items had removed from the walls. In the kitchen, there were three things slightly amiss.

First, the hot water connection under the sink was still leaking (we identified this during the home inspection, and the previous owner was to have fixed it), there were still dishes in one of the cupboards (not sure if they’re forgotten or discarded), and there was a partially-assembled barbecue in the middle of the floor.

Yes, a barbecue. Robyn had said from relatively early in our home purchasing relationship that she’d do this, because I’d directed a couple of people her way. I’d always kind of resisted this generosity, mostly because I didn’t think I deserved it. But there it was … in it’s partially-assembled glory (Robyn hadn’t finished putting it together yet).

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ve got the best realtor in town.

We quickly toured the basement. A couple of boxes, but otherwise empty and no different than the last time I’d seen it. Nearly whacked my head again on the air ducts. (If I’m in there long enough, one of the things I’m going to do is drop that floor a couple of feet. Darren nearly decapitated himself when taking things down there on Sunday.)

The upstairs had a couple of problems. The first was a series of stains in the north bedroom which I couldn’t remember having seen before, nor did Robyn, and we know it wasn’t mentioned during the home inspection, so we wonder if the inspector saw them. (Mind you, the previous owner did have screens and furniture there, so it’s possible she hid them from sight.)

But the stains weren’t the worst part. As I looked just past the stains to the wall, I noticed a rather odd thing that ran right around the base of the walls. The baseboards. Or more specifically, the lack thereof.

The previous owner had taken them. To paraphrase Tom Arnold in “True Lies”, what kind of sick freak takes the baseboards?!

That one had Robyn and I completely stumped. I had to laugh. I mean, they’re baseboards: Cheap strips of painted wood. I’m actually amazed she managed to get them off without damaging the walls. But now I have to replace them, and I don’t really have the equipment at the moment. And that’s in addition to all the other things I have to do around the house.

We adjourned outside to quickly inspect the exterior. I might need to paint this year, too. I’ll need to double check, but it should hopefully be not too bad. (Luckily, I don’t need to strip — all I need to do is paint over what’s already there.) The roof needs reshingling (but I knew that before) — if not this year, definitely next.

And then there’s the garage. I have a funny feeling the last few tenants haven’t even bothered with going inside it. The door lock is broken, the walls are rotting, the roof sags and leaks, and the concrete pad is pretty much gone. But it’s a single car detached garage. A couple months with proper construction should replace it without too much difficulty. For now, I’ll just keep an eye on it. But sooner or later, I’ll need to do the actual work.

Lastly, there’s the yard. The last owner was quite good at maintaining the interior of the house. The yard, however, was not her forte. Many parts are weeded over, saplings everywhere, and brown spots on some parts of the yard. It’s going to take a bit of work to clean all that up. I’ll leave the interior work until this winter, so I can clean that up now.

But hey, I wanted a bit of a fixer-upper to begin with. So in retrospect, my initial desire still gets fulfilled — by the garage, if nothing else.

A half hour after leaving, I was done. I had keys in hand, and was ready to return home and pack. The actual transfer of ownership, though, seemed lacking in something. Technically, all Robyn had to do was put keys in my hand. There was no fanfare, no celebration. Just “here’s your keys!”. Mind you, Robyn was pretty happy about it. But after five months of waiting, it was anti-climactic. It was almost, I shudder to say, empty.

I returned to the apartment to resume packing and prepare for the move. But there was one thing I wanted to do first: Move Miao-Yin.