Last year I didn’t have a ski house. I went up for several one day shots and crashed at a friend’s place in North Lake. It was ok, but the end result was that I didn’t ski much-6 days at Heavenly, 4 at Whistler, 3 at Squaw and one each at Alpine and Homewood. Just not enough skiing for my tastes.
So this season I decided to join a house again. It was going to be expensive, a grand for the season. But it was really a no brainer, the main reason being that driving up in the wee hours of the morning, skiing like a bat out of hell all day and then skiing home is for the birds. It’s exhausting and it takes me too long to recover-Ironically, I’ve already done it twice this season, but let’s not get into that.
So the house started on the 5th. It’s a condo in Nevada and few hundred meters below the stagecoach lift. I didn’t make it the first weekend. I was up skiing at Heavenly (skiing day 2), but I was over on the California side and even though planned to drop over to Nevada, pick up key and leave my gear behind, at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was get in the car and head home.
The next weekend was MLK. I knew the hill was going to be insane. The house which has ten members was going to have 15 people sleeping refugee style and I thought I’d give it a pass. It hadn’t snowed much anyway (still hasn’t). I didn’t think it was a big loss.
So I went up for the first time the following weekend. I headed up late Friday night to avoid traffic, at which I was marginally successful. I followed the instructions from house organizer to pick up the key and promptly got lost. I was halfway to Carson City before I turned around and finally found the little ump called the Pine Cone Resort (the “Pine Cone’ part of the neon was out which was why I missed it and should tell you everything about how appropriate the name “Resort” is. Anyway, I found the place. Parked. Got out. Used the the code to get into the antechamber and retrieved my key. But I wasn’t out the woods.
Google Maps doesn’t do a great job of handling little private roads in small areas, like at the base of a ski resort, so the tool that I and so many people like me have come to rely on, was of little or no use. But I plowed ahead and tried to mash up the written instructions provided by Ezra and the Google Map and promptly got lost. I made wrong turns. I ended up on one way streets. i muddled through and finally found the place, or the at least the vicinity, but I couldn’t find the building.
I parked in one place, looked around and couldn’t find it. I called Ezra but got no answer. I wandered around some more. Keep in mind it’s cold and it’s dark. I’m tired and hungry. I just want to find the fucking place and, grab a bite to eat and crash.
I parked in another place. There was mangy dog growling at me. I had to flee into a snow bank behind a car to escape him. When the owner came out to fetch the mongrel, I asked if he knew where 928 was and he pointed over my shoulder. There it was right behind me. What an idiot. Of course, the adventure wasn’t over yet.
I had located the buildling. That was a good start. I grabbed my gear. The house was on top of a little hill and the driveway was steep and it was covered with this translucent ice. I really needed crampons to navigate, especially since I was carrying skis and ski gear and tons of crap. Somehow I managed to get up the hill without incident, but just barely and only with the most patient efforts at movement.
Then I couldn’t figure out where to go. The outside of the condo offers no clues. Even worse there were negative clues. I opened the door to the place, and this is a very unwelcoming weather beaten outisde door and it opened up into what looked like a construction site. There was mylar on the floor and the carpets had been ripped up. This couldn’t be right? I must be at the wrong entrance.
i went back outside to look for another way in, but there was none. Ok. I went back in. Trudged over the mylar walkway and found the condo.
Nothing was easy, Even using the key was a pain in the ass. But I was in.
Warmth. Camaraderie. Food. Sleep.
I used to be the case that when you traveled abroad, the best way to use your money was with your Visa or American Express. You’d get the best exchange rate. You wo uldn’t have to worry to much if it was lost or stolen. You have good consumer protection. Those things are still true today. The big difference is that credit card companies have started charging transaction fees for currency conversion. And the fee is progressive, meaning the larger the transaction, the larger the fee. This is a joke and is takes no more time and costs no more to post a transaction for 1 Euro as it does for 10,000 Euros.
Even knowing this, I’m stunned when I look at my Visa bill and see over 80 dollars in fees for the skiing vacation (condo and lift tickets) that I booked in Whistler (damn, Canadians still have their own money apparently). 80 bucks. That’s a lot of money. So what should I do?
I wrote my credit card company, which shall remain nameless (US Bank), and explained my position and demanded that the reverse the fees. I threatened to cancel the card even thought I’ve had it for years and have no real desire to do so. I said I have a myriad of choices of in the market place today. Why should I stay with a credit card company that is going to charge me 80 dollars in fees for nothing?
I don’t really want to change. I’ve been using this credit card for years, like I said. It’s attached the Northwest Airlines frequent flier program and I have accrued almost 200,000 miles, mostly on credit charges amazingly enough. Even little transaction ads up. Just as eery little fee adds up, but this is not little fee. I have to change, so be it. We’ll see how they respond.
The year is not even three weeks old, but we’ve had nothing but sunshine, except for one day with a little rain in 2007. I want it rain so it snows in Tahoe, but who can complain about sunshine, right? Except that it’s been hovering in the 30s and 40s during the day and getting well below freezing at night. It snowed in San Francisco. There was ice in my parking lot at work. Routinely there’s frost on my windscreen. So it’s not as if we can enjoy this sunshine. It’s the worst all worlds. If it’s going to be this cold, rain, damn it!
When I left LA on Tuesday morning, Alex was sick and felt like he had to throw up. I actually saw my dad’s wife barfing the downstairs toilet. Not very pleasant. Mateo, my nephew, had been sick the previous week. The theory went that Mateo had some sort of flu and was spreading it around the family. I felt bad for everyone, but especially for Alex who was going to miss the first day of school after the break. Missing school is one of the great joys of growing up, but you never want to miss the first day after vacation. That’s when you catch up with your friends. You can’t miss that.
Anyway, I don’t get sick, so I wasn’t too worried, just felt bad for everyone else. Throwing is no treat. I arrived in Oakland around 8:30 and went straight to work. By the early afternoon, I wasn’t feeling too hot. I just chalked it up to lack of sleep. I was exhausted. I didn’t sleep much on New Year’s Eve and I got even less sleep (about 3 hours) on New Year’s Day since I had to wrestle with my dad’s computer.
I left work around 3 in the afternoon to go home to sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. I just laid there on the couch watching TV feeling worse and worse. By the time the sun went down it was pretty clear that the contents of my stomach were planning on an emergency wrong way exit. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Just hadn’t felt hungry. I started to drink soda water to settle my stomach and that sort of worked, but only temporarily. By about 8 o’clock I was on my knees in the bathroom. After a few false alrams, it happened in quick succession. One dry heave followed by 5 rounds of wretched bilious liquid. Very unpleasant. But then it was down. I gargled some mouth wash, wiped my face clean and promptly went to sleep.
I didn’t have any flu like symptoms so I don’t think I was sick. My theory is that I got food poisoning somewhere. Dinner at Buca di Beppo maybe? I don’t know. My dad’s wife and Alex still think they were sick, but I think, at least it makes sense to me, that they were also poisoned. Why everyone didn’t spew their guts is a mystery.
My days of trying to fix other people’s computers is over. I’m swearing it off. I will never touch anyone’s computer with the aim to fix anything. It just isn’t worth it.
Case in point: I needed to use my dad’s computer to do some research about the MacBook that I wanted to buy, but his PC is just dog ass slow. It’s not just the dial up connection, which is bad enough. The machine is just a total dog. It’s a Pentium III with only 128MB of RAM and he’s trying to run XP. It’s meets the minimum requirements, but just barely. Then his 10GB hard drive has less than 100MB of free space, which means you’ve got no room to breath. There’s no place for a swap file or for temp files and you can’t defrag the damn thing.
So like a dutiful son, I started trying to optimize it. I deleted every temp file I could find. I downloaded a few programs to remove spyware and was in the process of creating some space when the whole system crashed. Blue Screen of Death. I couldn’t get it the PC to restart. The OS was annihilated. Fried. Wiped out. Gone. History. I’d adios’ed the OS.
This was on New Year’s Eve day. So what did I do on New Year’s Day? Did I relax in front of the TV and watch bowl games until I blissed out in an EPSN induced narcoleptic funk? Nope. I went down to Fry’s to get a new hard drive. That was around 1 o’clock. By three o’clock I’d given up trying to get the PC to read the new drive and headed back to Fry’s. Turns out they sold me the wrong drive. It was too large (300GB) for the Pentium III to handle. I’d either need to get a controller board for it or get a smaller drive, which they weren’t sure they had.
I’ve never dealt with a controller and didn’t really want to so I forced them to root around in inventory to find a sufficiently small enough drive for dad’s PC. They found a 20GB drive and only half the price of the 300GB drive. What a bargain.
Back to the house, I hung the drive, reinstalled XP, reinstalled all the applications. Then came the fun part. My dad uses this computer as his business computer. His entire business is run off this machine. Much of it was backed up, liked his Quick Books and other essential documents, but his Outlook files were not.
I had to install his old hard drive as a slave and hope I could recover the data. I had to muck around the jumper settings, which for whatever reason, are never as straightforward as they should be. But finally, I got the old drive hung and migrated all the data over to the new drive. I found the old PST files and backed up his email. I got everything but the last month. I’m sure it’s on there somewhere, but I didn’t have time to find it. For some reason, the OS stopped recognized the floppy drive, and I couldn’t figure out why. I tried half a dozen hardware configurations, tried to install and reinstall the drivers, but I never did figure it out.
I was up til two o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day night after being locked out of the house. Then I was up again at 5 to finish up. My flight left at 7:30am back to Oakland, so I didn’t really have much time. It’s amazing that I got it working at all.
I barely made my flight. I had to beg the skycap to the let in front of the long line at Burbank and was the last person on board after squeaking through security. On the flight home, I swore to myself that I would never touch anyone’s computer. I have enough opportunity to fuck my own computers, thank you very much.
Last night I came home to my dad’s place around 11pm and the front door was locked. The front door is never locked when I’m staying over. I don’t have a key. Locked out. Normally, I’d ring the door bell and wake my dad up. He’d apologize and let me in. It’s happened before. It will probably happen again, though I suspect I might be getting a key the next time I head down to LA. But this time my sister was also in the house and her 2 year old, Mateo, had been sick, had trouble sleeping and I didn’t want to take the chance to wake him up.
So after not getting any response to my light knocking on the front door. i skulked around the house to see if the back door or any windows were open. Nope. I came back around front and knocked some more. Nothing. I called my dad’s cell phone, but I could hear it just on the other side of the door ringing away in the kitchen. No one was going to hear that.
I gave up after about 30 minutes.
Since it was almost midnight, I called my friend John in Sydney to wish him a happy new year and commiserate with and understanding soul. Always good to catch up with old friends. While we were chatting, a coyote ran past me down the road and turned to look back up at me when got about 100 fet beyond where I was leaning against the brick mailbox. He was sizing me to determine if I was edible. Clearly I’d be separated from the heard and was a reasonable target. I decided I needed to get in the house.
My 11 year old brother Alex has a room that faces the street. So I started throwing little clumps of dirt against his window, hoping that he’d open the blinds, see me and come downstairs and let me in. That didn’t work either. It just scared the shit out of him. He thought he was having a nightmare and went running into his parent’s room (I found out later).
After about an hour of being outside, I finally said, screw this and called the house line and right as I did, I could hear someone coming downstairs to open the door. Lots of apologizes, blah blah blah. It was really no big deal. It turns out my sister had to get something for Mateo from the car and when she came back in she just locked the door. Sheer force of habit.
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