Life in the ‘Burbs 4 Year Update!

Can’t believe it’s been four years already! Wow! So many changes!

We’ve acclimated to life surrounded by old white T***p supporters and hillbillies. They keep to themselves for the most part. After much bitching and passive aggressive note leaving, the assholes behind us have ceased having their goddam lawn service come at 7am on Sundays and the next door neighbors don’t let their yappy dogs out at the crack of dawn. Victory!

The drive to Decatur and other civilised parts of Dekalb has become normal. We actually do a lot of our main shopping and entertainment in Duluth. Costco, Jusgo Chinese market, Big Lots, Studio Movie Grill and Ollie’s are all clustered on Venture Drive, so we go there for gas, movies and shopping. Even though it’s more of a drive, everything is together so it’s convenient to make one trip rather than several to Decatur.

I had the VSG surgery in 2016. Life changer, that. SO GLAD I did it!

We lost Rhonda Honda last year at Heroes (2017) and got Romeo one year ago almost to the day. I still miss Rhonda occasionally, but Romeo is very fun to drive and I love him.

Nick’s job ended December 2017. While traumatic, we’ve done OK. My brief stint at Krobar helped with expenses and paired with the $4300 unemployment, got us through six months without touching savings. The fact that $4300 is the TOTAL of unemployment you get after paying in for 20+ years is disgusting. Truly disgusting.

Player One Arcade Services is over three years old and we are pursuing Player One Arcade Pub. It’s a frustrating battle to find a location, but all our money is in place, we just gotta FIND A LOCATION. Between flakey landlords and flakier real estate people, it’s slow going. But now, in July, we are running up the credit cards and starting to get into our savings. We really need to get started! We can’t pull any money from the account until the business is going and we can’t even pay ourselves until it is OPEN. Clock is ticking. We are stressed out.

I guess that covers the highlights of the last four years here in Tucker. 2018 has been the year of the pub and it has been our consuming goal. There was a girl at the Krobar that said she felt the pub wouldn’t get started until fall…Looks like she was right after all. Sigh. 2018 is an 11 year, so I’m hoping my lucky number will pull through for us. If we don’t get started soon, we’ll have to find jobs again. Which will suck. Kroger sucked balls. UGH. Pray to your gods for us. We really need to get the pub going, y’all. And: thanks for all your support! WE SEE YOU. <3

Epiphanies While Reading Others’ Words

I read a good bit – not as much as I should, but more than most people. I’ve read twenty seven books this year! (list here) I picked up the latest Amy Tan book Where the Past Begins at Costco a couple of months ago and just started reading it. It is another of her memoirs, but this one is very free form.

Amy Tan Where the Past Begins

So, I’m reading this book about Amy’s life and her relationship with music in particular. She tells of when she was a child and her mother forced her (and her brother) to take piano lessons. I, too, took piano lessons and was terrible at it because I hate to practice and never would. She writes about the 15 years of piano she took and her hatred of the whole process. (I concur.) She writes of a recital she had when she was just beginning piano lessons. She was to play a Bach piece (Minuet in G Minor) and she failed to play the whole piece – her fingers got mixed up and she just couldn’t play the piece. In reality, this incident was not such a big deal; kids screw up recitals all the time. But it turned into a HUGE deal for her. It ruined her desire to play piano and it affected her for 50 years into the future.

While she was writing this memoir, she was digging through her family’s piles of history: notes, letters, photos, belongings. The detritus of family history that ends up in boxes. She found the sheet music of her “nemesis”, the Bach Minuet in G Minor in a box and recalled that dreadful recital. So she went to her piano and tried to play it. First, she was astonished that a young child was expected to play such an advanced piece. Then, as she played it, she found herself stuck, again, in the exact same spot as she’d been stuck decades ago at that recital. Her fingering was wrong and the piece simply cannot be played unless the fingering is correct. She hammered on that piece until 2am, until she finally got it right.

During the hours she was killing herself over this piece of music that had haunted her for decades, she realised that THIS INCIDENT had echoed throughout her life. She says:

“They [the notes she was stuck on] contained so many emotions; the reason I had hated public performance for many years; the reason I hate being forced into any kind of competition; the reason that I play the piano only when I am alone. The reason why I hate to this day any kind of expectation placed on me, including those having to do with books I am writing. My stomach lurches at the thought of public scrutiny whether expectations were met.” -Amy Tan from Where the Past Begins

Oh, man, does this hit close to home for me. I immediately remembered times in my youth where I publicly failed and it has stayed with me, too. In the exact same way. It also made me a perfectionist and it made me an information junkie: I like to know the truth, not just what someone says about it.

When I took piano lessons, of course there was a recital and I did poorly. I didn’t take lessons for long, but I quit soon after that recital. Another time, around 2nd or 3rd grade, I entered a spelling bee. It seemed like a no brainer since I was a walking dictionary! I was so nervous that I missed the first (very easy) word: ammonia. I knew good and well how to spell it, yet when I spoke, I said a-m-o-n-i-a. No idea why I did that. But this set the stage for my fear of failure. Oddly, I’ve never been shy in front of groups – hell, public speaking class was my favourite in college!! I’ve been known to jump onstage and sing with bands! I adore karaoke!

BUT, you put me in a situation where expectations are put on me and I could be held to public scrutiny and I balk every time, audience or no audience. I also detest competition of any sort. I am ambitious, but not competitive. I will crush you like sparrow egg, but not in a direct way.

Anyway, this is a little glimpse into what makes me the person I am today. I’d never really thought much about the piano recital or the spelling bee, but when I read Amy Tan’s words, it was a VERY bright light going off in my brain. I’ve often wondered why I’m so averse to competition…now I have insight into that.

I also know where my family gets the belief that I never finish anything. They saw these failures and rather than set me up to get past them, they reinforced them over the years. When I wanted to go off to college, my family was against it. They thought it was “stupid” and a “waste of time”. They didn’t want to help me with the costs – but they did help some, while complaining. I found out that my father had started a pool to see how long I’d stay in school – since I never finished anything in his mind. Finding that out HURT. But this is how my family works: once an opinion is formed, that’s it. It’s done. Everything is set in stone with them, which is why they are miserable, unhappy people who literally do the same things every single day/week/month/year/decade and can’t figure out why nothing changes. Due to their lack of encouragement and downright cockblocking my desire to get an education, I’ve carried lots of baggage about what I can achieve.

So, you parents out there, HEAR THIS:

Let your kids fail, but then teach them to get back up and try again. There is NO SHAME in failure. It is just something that happens sometimes. If you never try, you’ll never fail and if you never fail, you’ll never move forward.

My brother was never allowed to fail. He has been propped up by the family his whole life. He let go of his dream of being a trauma nurse long ago, because June and Rick demanded that he get into the family business. So he did, without question. He has never had a relationship, or a job outside the family, or lived outside the family. He has never failed. And his life is a depressing mess.

I have ZERO regrets. I don’t regret leaving the family or anything that has led me to where I am now. Every failure has brought me to this point. I’ve lived a life that has underutilized my abilities at times, but I still feel accomplished in many ways. I got an education. I left the backwater of E TN. I’ve learned so much about so many things, it’s astonishing. I am a fully realised person because of every failure and every set back. I’ve seen people who glide through life without any challenges and they always seem…I dunno…incomplete, somehow. Like they don’t really get it. And they don’t. It’s the struggles that make you stronger. It’s the challenges that bring out your grit. And that’s the stuff of success: GRIT.

So, thank you Amy Tan, for hitting that neuron this morning. It has given me new insights into myself and I feel energized by the realisations. Now, all y’all GO FORTH and CONQUER your fears! Live life without regrets! LIVE!

Obituary for my Dad

I dunno what they are doing in Knoxville, but I thought I’d make my own obit with some photos to stand as a permanent post for my father, Richard Andrew Pratt.

Since there will be no services for him, I felt I should make sure that there was something coherent written about him that google would find if someone searched.

The obituary and a small slide show of photos is permanently located on his page here.

Meet Romeo!

It’s been an interesting month here at the Weasel Lair. Losing Rhonda was shocking and sucked, but as with most things, where there is suck, there will soon be celebration. I believe the Universe strives for balance.

After losing Rhonda, we came back here and I started poking around to see what few stick shift vehicles I could find. The dude in Charlotte was on vacay the week after we got back, so I casually looked around the intertubes while I waited for his return.

I found a few cars; some Honda SIs, some Mazda SPEED 3s. I’d lined up a Mazda and a Honda to go look at over the weekend, but I was still counting on the Hendrick Buyer in CLT to find me the perfect ride.

I had the Mazda lined up first because it was closer, then had the urge to see the Honda instead. So I rescheduled the Mazda and we drove down to Bellamy Strickland Chevy in McDonough (about 45 mins to an hour away) on Saturday July 1. I was looking at a blue 2012 Civic SI with 62k miles on it for $12999 (asking price). Exactly my criteria.

The pretty sales woman takes us to the SI on their lot and I start it up. The noise about knocked me out of the seat! I looked at the sales woman and asked “Why didn’t you tell me this car was modded??!!” She had no idea. I asked her if she’d ever BEEN in a Honda before?? My heart sank, since where there is one mod, there are usually several more. Nonetheless, we took the car out for a spin and it was FUN FUN FUN. Very fast, very loud and very Honda in the overall feel of the car. I am VERY partial to Honda clutches and transmissions, I’ll tell you. Say what you want about Honda being an average ride, but I’d be happy to blow the doors off your compact car any day. ;)

We got back to the dealership and tell them that the deal goes no further until I have my mechanic check out the car for other modifications and such. They said, OK, here are the keys!! I was puzzled and said “What?” They said, “Go ahead! You can take it home and have your mechanic look it over on Monday, or if they are not there (July 4 holiday), you can keep it until Wednesday, no problem!” I could NOT believe it. I signed ONE SHEET of paper and drove off with the car. !!

The drive back to Tucker took about an hour, so I got to be up close and personal with the car in traffic. The lack of muffler was DEAFENING. But I will admit, being in Ricer Mode was growing on me! The car was a pleasure to drive despite the racket. I thought that there was a modded intake since it had SO MUCH power and I noticed the suspension was tight – we’d seen the red springs, so we knew something was up.

I parked the car, but I already knew his name: Romeo. He was working hard to convince me that HE was the one! LOL

Meet Romeo!

Monday rolled around and the mechanic was open, so I took Romeo down. He had no muffler and the suspension had been replaced by Skunk2 springs, but the intake was stock. I was surprised that the car was that zippy STOCK. It does have a 2.4L engine, but DANG. It will blow your hair back! To put him back to stock would cost me about $3500 (muffler and suspension), plus he needs his 60k maintenance which is another $400. The suspension doesn’t harm the car (other than kill the shocks, which are already dead), but it rides like a log wagon. You can’t really see the lowering visually, but you can FEEL it. I got all the paperwork and we prepared to go negotiate on Wednesday. The repairs were my bargaining chip with the dealership.

Wednesday came and we headed South to Bellamy Strickland. I’d still not heard anything back from the dude in CLT, so I was prepared to make an offer on this car. It’s a goddam unicorn and I’d be damned if I was going to miss this opportunity. We sit down with the used car manager and I present him with the cost of putting the car back to stock and therefore raising its value back to what it should be. By my research, the mods take it from being a $13-14k car to a $10-12k car. At first, the manager was like NOPE, I’ll just wholesale it. But I said “OR you can sell it to me!” He went and priced out the car (to get what he had in it) and when he brought me those numbers, I saw that he’d put brand new tires on the car, as well as done full brake job and turned the front rotors. THESE things made the deal for me. He said he’d need about $11,700 to break even and I said DONE. Even with the repairs needed for the car, I’ll be right in the range of its actual value ($14k). I wrote a check for $3115.50 to cover the $1700 down payment and the taxes. We got a loan for $10k at 2.89%, which is stellar for a used car. Our payment is only ~$176/mo and we can pay off at any time w/out penalty.

Hello, handsome!

I am VERY happy with the deal I got on Romeo. The car is clean as a pin and the mechanic said that it has been cared for – despite the Ricer mods. I got the muffler put back on immediately and I’ll do the suspension in a few months, once we’ve recovered financially from draining the savings account. I just have to be VERY careful driving him over rough bumps and avoid speed bumps until then. Don’t want to mess up the shiny new $500 muffler!! Romeo has SIX gears, so it’s been fun learning to drive him. I don’t have the muscle memory yet, so I’m often wondering which gear I’m in! I’ve not hit 4th rather than 6th any more, tho, which is good. I’ll also share something with you: I kinda LIKED the Ricer sound. It was annoying at certain RPMs, but it was fun to have a loud ass car. I can see why the kids do it. :)

I sent an email to the CLT dude, explaining that I’d called him several times Monday and Wednesday and I had to make a decision, so I did. He has not responded, so I assume he’s butthurt that I’d buy locally rather than drive back to CLT. I would have totally driven to CLT had he been able to get me a deal like this one. The stuff he’d had for me had been a Scion and a Mazda 3. No Hondas. And they’d been $14k+. I don’t feel bad about taking the GIFT that the Universe handed me, but I am disappointed that the guy didn’t even bother to respond. Meh. He DID finally respond and was lovely about the whole thing. :)

I love my new ride, Romeo, and I think we’ll have a long time together. We’ve established that I keep cars FOREVER. Which is why I get attached. Long live Romeo! Welcome to the family!

RIP Rhonda Honda 1994-2017

I met my little red Honda in 1995. A bubble headed blonde girl in Knoxville was selling her because her husband had two cars and hers was an extra and had the largest payment. The Honda had about 20k miles on her, if I recall. I paid about $11k for her, which was below loan value. The girl was mad that she had to sell the car, so she sold it for literally what was left of her loan. It was a good deal. I got 22 years of service out of that car, so yeah, it was a VERY good deal.

That was back in the olden days before cameras in phones, so I don’t have any baby pix of Rhonda. The only ones I could dig up were these shots, taken right after her repairs and paint job about 10 years ago:

She was a beauty!

The last few years had been fraught with repairs. Last year I sunk about $2k into her with new parts and a new tranny/clutch. It seemed like a good idea at the time… I knew I should’ve sold her right after I got her repaired, but I let my laziness and attachment get the best of me. That, and I was distracted with the VSG surgery.

So, last week, we attended Heroes Con in Charlotte NC and took the Honda. I knew I should’ve taken her in for a once over and oil change, but decided to take her without that. Bad move.

After the con, we were checking out of the hotel and she was acting strangely. She’d start, then die. I called AAA and had her taken to the nearest Honda store: Hendrick Honda.

We sat there all day while they worked on her. They found some issues that I assume were left over from the big service I had done last year and fixed them. They replaced the master circuit and said she was good to go. It was 4:30pm, drive time, but we got in the car and took off for home. Less than 10 minutes later, in 70mph traffic, the car just turns off, which is what it had been doing originally. Fortunately, there was a hole in traffic and I got her to the end of the merge lane against the guard rail. Apparently, people in CLT drive in this lane.

A couple of minutes later, an Estes truck sideswipes my drivers side mirror. The wheels were literally about four inches from my face and the whole car was rocking. I’ve never been so scared! I’m screaming and freaking out and the truck just keeps going. Fucker. I try the car again and it starts, so I move up and over to the shoulder. Apparently people in CLT drive on the shoulder, too, as I was almost sideswiped again. The car was still running, so I pulled up and over into the grass. The Hendrick tow truck guy was busy, so I again called AAA. But this time they were total DICKS to me and I had to pay $45 for the goddam tow. We had to wait about an hour and a half for the truck to get to us, but the car was idling fine, so we had A/C at least.

We drop the car back at Hendrick and head back to the Hampton Inn. Shout out to our AAA driver who shlepped us over to Hampton – ssshhh, it’s a secret! Shout out to Andrew at Hampton Inn for handling the room booking and cashing in my points to pay for it. He took care of everything and that helped us out immensely. And another shout out to whomever at Hampton comped our dinner that night. We just now (3 wks later) saw that the receipt was comped. THAT, my friends, is SERVICE. They did not have to do that, but they did and didn’t even say anything about it. WE LOVE YOU HAMPTON INN CLT UPTOWN!!!

Next day (Tuesday) we get the Hendrick shuttle to come get us and we sit in the dealership all day. They tried several parts and worked heroically to save Rhonda. They could not. We thought we had it for a minute, but I knew that we couldn’t trust the car to get us back, so I had a rental lined up. We entertained the idea of shipping her back since it was only $250 for a running car, but then she refused to start up. Now the shipping was $450. I talked to my mechanics here and we went over some things it could be, and it boiled down to this: it would cost me about a grand to find out what’s wrong… IF the things we tried worked.

So. No. I had to let her go. It was just like a movie: pouring rain, me crying my eyes out, my poor little Honda sitting there w/out her stickers and tag. Tragic.

Last look. Sob.

The people at Hendrick Honda in CLT are the most amazing bunch I’ve ever seen. They worked for TWO DAYS on my car and would not let me pay for labour. They reimbursed me for the $45 tow. They even took all the parts back. My tab was something like $150. Since the car was 22 years old, the top dollar they could pay for the car was $500. But since she wouldn’t start, the actual offer was $250. BUT the used car buyer (Dorian!) gave me the $500 anyway. They didn’t have to do any of this stuff. But they did. THAT is what I call customer service. The used car buyer is also shopping the auctions for me, since what I want (a stick shift) is very VERY hard to find. He did not have to do that, either. I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying my car in CLT. Unless he just cannot find a thing, I plan to drive up there and buy from that store. They have earned a customer. [I found my unicorn here in ATL. I apologized to Dorian in CLT, but he was a prince about it. <3 ] I hope my Rhonda gets bought by someone who will get her fixed and maybe make her a little street racer. She did start right up for me when I went to remove her stickers, which infuriated me and broke my heart at the same time. She'd not started up for anyone all day. I'm not sure if that was her flipping me off, or if it was her telling me that it was OK and she'd find a new home. I'm ok with either. So for the first time since I'm 15 years old, I do not have a car. It's strange. I do not look forward to being $12-14k in debt, but that's what it's going to take. Cars are too fucking pricey now. I am grateful for all the help I'm getting looking for a car and for Rob letting me borrow his Subaru while I'm carless. It'll all work out. But it's been a very stressful and heartbreaking week. I hope my car fu will work for ME and I'll find a good deal on an SI or Mazda 3. But right this minute, I'm exhausted and spent. I don't even feel like car shopping, which I normally enjoy. The experience was just like losing a pet. I felt like I'd been sitting in hospital for two days while they tried to save her. Horrible. But it will all work out. The Universe is telling me to get the fuck over it and MOVE ON. So I am. Sigh.