Thursday, August 28, 2008


(as in, Hazel Nootsmaak - my alter ego and name of this here bloggie blog)

Random notes since arriving:

An woman came up to me at the Esso station and asked me to pump her gas - said she didn't know how.

She started walking back to her car and I said, "Hold on there, don't go anywhere - what is it you need help with?"

She said she didn't know how the machine worked. You know, the credit/ATM card thingie that's been on gas pumps for hundreds of decades - that thing billions of people use every day - sorry, that thing billions of COMMONERS use every day - my mistake.

I showed her how you put the card into the slot exactly as the picture shows how, then choose the type of gas you want, push the button and GO. She nodded along and then said she's from the U.S. and doesn't know how to do it.

I leaned over and pointed to the license plate on my car and said "So am I - see that? I'm from California." Then she said she wanted to pay cash. I told her to go inside. Moments later she came out with one of the employees - she was trying to get him to pump her gas, but he wouldn't do it.

Moments later she drove off. Her car had British Columbia plates on it.

The traffic radio station plays ads for a 1-800-Got-Junk competitor - Rubbish Removal. According to the voice over, two guys in blue come to your house to get your crap. They're "happy to take your crap all day," and their tag line is "Taking your crap all day!"

Home Depot doesn't carry fireplace screens. Says no one really does up here. Go ahead & build a big ol' fire and set it ablaze - don't worry 'bout those giant sparks flying out onto your clothes - just roll around a bit - you'll be fine.

Wondering if I should worry that every day the lines to get into the U.S. are two-hours long, while the lines coming into Canada average only 15 minutes.

Upon arriving I was given a Visitor's Permit, even though they had David's Work Permit and immigration paperwork stating I should receive a Work Permit.

To fix this error, I cannot just return to the Customs office where I cleared our trailer (with my Visitor's Permit) and have them issue the proper Work Permit. I must cross back into the U.S. then return to Canada and get the right paperwork. Let that wash over you for a few minutes.

The trash pickup schedule is complicated enough to warrant a calendar poster with color- and icon-coded dates showing trash days, green waste or recycling days (which change every month and sometimes by week), and all the different zones and holidays. I had to put it down after a while - none of it was making sense. I'm just going to look out the window every day & see which bins the neighbors put out.

Related to an earlier post about the driving/traffic here - yesterday someone drove into the Frasier River, requiring a "hover craft" and other rescue vehicles to save the driver/sailor.

Today several cars were reported to be flipped over onto their roofs. That's astounding given the terrible traffic and how slowly those drivers must have been going when they lost control, yet they still managed to tumble over like stranded turtles.

There are few (if any) local coffee shops in the suburbs. There are quite a few in downtown Vancouver, but out here, you gotcher Tim Hortons, some Waves, a Blenz or two, and more Starbucks than you can shake an unprotected fire at, and that's it.

Riveting, no?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So Much for Trophy Wifing

So, here I am in Canada, trying to be a trophy wife and fuck if I'm not still *working* on this move. I'm supposed to be hanging out at Tim Hortons and shopping for lingerie, but NOOOO. Instead, I'm driving all over town running my ass ragged and listening to an all-traffic radio station.

I'm not sure what's wrong with Canadian drivers or if it's that few people have full time jobs here, but there's a SHITLOAD of cars on the roads at ALL TIMES of the day and there are ACCIDENTS or MAJOR CONSTRUCTION going on all over the place, resulting in fucked up traffic all the time.

If you move to an area that has a radio station devoted to constant traffic updates, that's a sign. Sure, Canadian drivers are very polite, but maybe that's how these accidents happen - maybe it's a result of too many people saying "No, you go," and then no one knows who should go and they all go and BLAM - four-car pile-up that blocks an entire intersection.

And then there's the border crossings. You'd expect them to be backed up at rush hour, but at 11am? Seriously? A 90-minute backup at 11am? WHY?

This morning I had to go back to the border to clear our moving trailer through customs - something I thought ABF did for you, but apparently not.

You have to go down to the ABF office at the border, get their copies of your customs forms you gave to the driver when he picked up your trailer, then walk them across the street to Canadian customs, get them cleared, then walk them back to ABF so your shit can be delivered.

Now, on these forms, there's not much instruction about how to fill them out, but it looks like they want you to itemize every last thing you own. One Oral-B electric toothbrush: $75; 47 pairs of underwear: $218, etc. No one has that kind of time or patience, but being that they're official forms, I tried to be as detailed as I could without losing my mind.

I listed stuff by room, e.g. Living room items: two couches, one coffee table, one television, etc., and after all the stuff I gave a combined value. Nowhere on the form is a "Total" line and there's no way to know how they might want to verify what you have or its worth in Canadian play money.

So, with my forms I head into the customs office and just like Sunday night, I speak only when spoken to, give clear answers and do not fidget. I do not look nervous nor do I look too relaxed. I do not look too interested in what's going on in the quiet office where most agents are having a laugh with each other or watching the U.S. Open on the TV in the lobby.

A soft-spoken agent reviews my paperwork and my passport with the Visitor's Permit stapled inside. He asks me how I can be a "settler" if I only have a visitor permit. I tell him my husband has the work permit and he doesn't bat an eye. He doesn't ask to see this work permit or my husband, who may or may not exist.

Continuing with my paperwork he asks me if I have the title for my car. I tell him I don't have it and he quietly asks "Where is it?" Does it matter where it is right now? What difference does it make where it is - it's not HERE, is it? Because I don't have the title with me, I cannot "import" my car at this time. OK, thanks very much.

While leafing through my forms he finds a log book in a drawer and opens it up. In it are hand-written records - it looks like a restaurant reservation book. I'm wondering what this book is for - it can't be part of the official importation/customs process.

As he looks over my paperwork, he asks me if I totaled up all the values. No, I tell him, as I think, How would I know to do that? How would I know you want a total value when there's no TOTAL line on the form?

We add it up together and agree on a number. He writes that number in that log book as I tell him I came to that number without including the declared value of the car. He gives me a look, like Dammit, now I have to do it again and he grabs some WHITE OUT from the desk.

HE WHITES OUT the number he just wrote down in the log book. There is no computer data entry, no triplicate forms with carbon paper - just a hand-written book listing a total dollar value of goods imported, per importer.

No one asked where the trailer is to maybe have a look at the stuff I've said is inside of it, no one wanted to see the car I said I'm driving. At this time, only I know what's in that trailer and what I've said it's worth.

With a few official stamps on my paperwork, I was on my way back across the street to ABF and headed back to PoCo to continue a marathon of errands with the traffic station helping to avoid delays all through town.

The traffic station is incredibly useful for not only avoiding accidents, but for knowing where the radar speed traps are set up. They play the Dragnet theme song and tell you exactly where they're trying to catch speeders. THAT I like.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Driving to Canada Hurts

Holy jesus am I tired. Getting to Canada has been a marathon on top of a triathlon on top of a decathlon while wearing ice skates and a lead suit.

We did the drive in two days, stopping in Oregon for a couple of nights to let the kids (and me) enjoy a crate-free day. It'd have been better to spend a week between legs of the trip - the second one almost killed me.

We left Bend at 9:15am and didn't get to Port Coquitlam until almost 11pm. The entire goddamn state of Washington had endless, bumper-to-bumper traffic, without any reason. No accidents, no fifty-car pileups, just a bunch of slow Sunday-driving turds flushed onto the roadways all at the same time.

Then we got to the border. For over an hour we crawled slowly toward the checkpoint where we expected the car to be thoroughly inspected and all our paperwork closely examined. Not so much.

At the first checkpoint we were waived through without a glance from the burly dude in black kevlar. At the second checkpoint, a lovely recent high school graduate politely asked us if we had any firearms, gifts for Canadians or more than $10K in cash with us. She never looked past our passports or asked about pets, booze, drugs or plants/vegetables.

Once past her checkpoint, we had to go inside so I could get a visa/work permit/visitor permit - I'm not sure which one I'm supposed to have and they don't seem to know either, but after a relaxing 20-minute wait, I got a pretty piece of official paper stapled into my passport and we were on our way.

We tried to sleep that night, but the cats were wigged out, meowling through the house as if to ask Where the hell is our shit? Where the hell are we? Why the hell did you hold us captive in that car for over 13 hours?

Overall, it was a day I'd never ever like to repeat. Not until they build a bridge over the state of Washington so I never have to sit through that bullshit again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Horsey Pill Monday

Neeeeeeeeeeeyyy! [paws ground with her hoof]

While I love me some homeopathy, I'm glad I didn't try to fight this nastiness with 11 herbs and spices. The horror forum was right - cats are the Komodo dragons of our living rooms.

Within just a few hours of the bite, the swelling spread from the wound point across the back of my hand and pinky finger and sweet chocolate christmas, it hurt like a bastard. My left hand has become a throbbing Smithfield ham.

If I weren't on these horsey pills, that damn cat would be waiting for me to drag my diseased body into a corner where he could start gnawing my flesh.

The pharmacist was right about taking them with food. They're a little rough on an empty stomach, resulting in wooziness and stomach cramps. Tonight I followed the dosing directions and wrapped my big pill in an entire pizza. That should do the trick.

Just nine more days of this and I'm cured!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Werekitty Kitty Kitty

Just when you think you've gotten through a rough patch, something else happens and you're dealing with another problem. It's always something.

Yesterday I was under the weather all day dealing with either mild food poisoning or a lower GI bug - either way, it wasn't a fun day. I like a good purge as much as the next girl, but a full day of cramping and weakness was a killer, especially with so much left to do for the move.

I went to bed a little early and got a good night's sleep. Until the big, retarded cat started making noise as only he can at 6:30am. As he woke me up, I realized I felt a lot better and would be able to catch up on the stuff I couldn't do the day before.

El Gato Retardo found his way into an old, empty moving box - a weird one that folds over on top and tucks into handles on the sides. It was up on its side, propped open, so the cats couldn't get trapped inside it, as had just happened the day before (two got inside then the third curled up on top, holding the others captive - an impressive trick, when you think about it).

He was sitting inside the box, pulling old tape off the cardboard with his teeth. I really wanted to go back to sleep, so I got up to remove him from the box.

As he typically does, he becomes three times heavier and sinks down into the bottom of the box, refusing to vacate. So I did what I always do, I tried to upend the box to help him find his way out.

Unfortunately, the dumbshit stuck his foot through the hole in the side and FLIPPED OUT because the WORLD WAS ENDING WITH HIS FOOT IN THE HOLE. Meowling like he was being branded with a hot poker, I tried to free his leg, and that's when he chomped down on my hand like it was a tuna steak.

As I screamed bloody murder, he got free and tore out of the bedroom and I ran to the bathroom sink. The cold water felt like kerosene in my pretty puncture wounds. I bled and bled, then washed the wounds with soap and poured four gallons of hydrogen peroxide in them.

When the foaming subsided, I found a band aid and went online to refresh my memory on treating puncture wounds. That's when I found the website with user posts about the WORLD ENDING BECAUSE OF A GANGRENE HAND AS A RESULT OF A CAT BITE.

Totally freaked out, reading about super strong IV antibiotics, tetanus shots, days in the hospital and hand surgery, I called the 24/7 nurse line. A kind, sleepy RN recommended I skeedaddle right down to my local clinic for some of those antibiotic horsey pills.

But wouldn't my oregano oil and probiotic capsules knock it out? Maybe, in time, but since I'm about to drive to Canada in a matter of days, I thought it smarter to get the big guns and nip it in the bud. I'll slam the pills any day if that means I don't have to get that effed up tetanus shot.

Now I'm on the horse pills - Augmentin - staggering that with probiotics in hopes of avoiding the yeast infection side affect. If things continue in this manner, I suppose I can look forward to starting my period with a yeast infection as I drive to Canada with a throbbing hand the size of a football.

Huge thanks to Cameron for letting me drag him to the Walgreens after lunch to pick up my Rx, and for his help choosing the right Monistat - there's the One Day, the Day & Night, the Three Day, Five Day, Twelve Day All Day, Gentle Applicator Day, Topical Anti-Itch Day and the Six Nights and Three Days varieties - they all look like so much fun, I wanted to get them all.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trolls Secretly Love Trees

As I've mentioned before on The Nootsmaak, we have a troll that lives next door to us and she's only happy when she's bitching at me about our beautiful oak tree.

If she could, she'd chop it down with a serrated butter knife, but she strikes me as terribly lazy, so maybe that's why she sticks to verbal attacks that don't take much physical energy.

I ignore her now and rarely speak to her, but every time I see her I know she loathes me and our tree, which is why she's going to end up in a heavily forested region of hell.

This afternoon while working in the front room I heard a guy next door speaking in a loud, enthusiastic voice and I thought Who the hell is this jackass and what is he going on about in the front yard?

I looked out the window and saw a guy with two big cameras around his neck taking pictures of a guy in a tux. The tuxed-up dude was casually leaning against our tree just like a JCPenney's model.

I thought that was funny - not just the JCPenney pose, but that the folks next door were using our lovely tree for a photo back drop.

After that shot, the photographer grabbed another suit and maneuvered him in front of our house for a red-shingled backdrop. It was too much to resist.

I skipped out onto the front porch and in my very best Cheerful Happy Neighbor voice said, "Wow, this looks like a very important day!" [translation: If you keep shooting your wedding photos in front of my house, I'll need your billing address for invoicing.]

The photographer looked a little startled and replied, "Uh, yes! Someone's getting married today!" I told him I thought that was FANTASTIC NEWS and CONGRATULATIONS!

To that he said he was using our tree as a backdrop. I told him I thought that was WONDERFUL! and my grandmother would be SO PLEASED!

He went on to say he had a tree just like it at his house and how he hires a guy to clear out its deadwood. Riveting, no?

I cheerfully responded that we just had that big, gorgeous tree pruned and ISN'T IT BEAUTIFUL?! He said it was and that it was a wonderful complement to the house. I thanked him heartily and repeated my congratulations and well wishes for the happy couple. I was so incredibly sweet, everyone had an instant cavity.

As I talked to the photographer, I noticed the groomsmen, who had been scattered about the driveway/outer area of the neighbor's lot had all drifted back to the patio, behind the fence. The photographer followed and they didn't come out from behind that fence again until it was time to go.

Won't it be wonderful when they see the pictures of the happiest day of their lives, our tree will be right there with them every time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cat Lady Goes to the Vet

And what does she wear? A white t-shirt. Because I'm the crazy cat lady and I don't care how much black cat fur ends up all over me. I don't mind walking around with a sort-of black angora shirt with tufts of hair drifting off of me into the breeze.

It was just a simple trip to get their vaccines updated and the requisite paperwork to import them into Canada, but after what Ninja did, I think we might leave him here with a bag of food and a deck of cards.

He's 60 years old in cat years and it shows. What a ferocious, cranky asshole he's become. Couldn't weigh him, couldn't check his temperature (in the dignified way every cat loves) and almost couldn't get the shot in his leg.

As he lay there on the table, scruffed to the limit with a towel over his head, he suddenly grew four extra paws with straight razors at the tips and his teeth were ginormous. He almost chomped me twice and I had to apologize profusely for my big, angry retarded cat ass.

The vet and the vet tech backed away like, "he seems fine, bye!" Meanwhile Neo, the street-tough thug, was all sweetness and love, meowing calmly as he explored the exam room and all its surfaces. He didn't flinch when he got his shot and later rubbed against the vet's legs.

The best part of the visit was the small bottle of kitty tranquilizers they gave me - some for them, some for me - for the drive north. We very well may drug the cats, mainly to see how they behave all doped up, but it might make their trip a little less stressful. I'll want to put a gun in my mouth if I have to hear 16 hours of nonstop meowling.

Neo & Nikita, inspecting the equipment

Neo, thinkin' about dinner

Stack O Cats

p.s. I would like to add that it's all David's fault for collecting cats like souvenir mugs. I happened to find a stray one day, but the other two were intentional "go out and adopt another cat" acquisitions. But who do people point and laugh at? Me.

Everyone seemed fine yesterday, then this morning, little Nikita didn't get up for breakfast. She stayed on our bed all morning and into the afternoon before finally getting up around 2pm to slowly amble into the kitchen for a nibble.

She looked like she hurt all over and ate only a few bites before heading right back to the bedroom to where she spent most of the day.

I followed her and massaged her a little, checking the back leg where they injected the vaccine. She mewed loudly at that - she wasn't a happy kitten.

I called the vet to find out if hers was a normal reaction to the rabies vaccine - she's not reacted like this before and with only a few days before we move, she'd better be OK.

They called back and said she was having a "borderline normal" reaction, but for next year's vaccine, it might be a good idea to give her some Benadryl before she gets the shot.

Really? So, she's already having trouble with the vaccine, which is administered "one shot per cat," not adjusted for weight differences, and you're telling me I should put additional substances into her tiny body before you shoot her up with too much of the thing she's allergic to? Really?

This is why I don't like taking healthy cats to the vet. Sure, sometimes it's necessary, but like human doctors who are happy to hand out Rx meds like candy, most vets don't seem to care much about how they're treating different animals - just slam the shot in there and if that doesn't work, throw another chemical down there to even it all out.

No wonder Ninja wanted to rip her hand off - maybe he's not retarded after all but some sort of idiot savant with the ability to sense quackery from a mile away.

At this point, I'm happy to report she's doing much better. Stupid shitty vaccines, and for cats that are exclusively indoor cats and well cared for, they definitely do not need annual shots, no matter what the vet says - even mainstream Prevention magazine agrees.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Persistent PMS

That's what I have. Acute, persistent PMS. It's not coming from my lady parts - it's a byproduct of this move. I totally underestimated the stress factor. Jebus, it's a pickle.

All the emotions are simmering just below the surface of my typical "everything's great!" face, while I stand in the cereal aisle at Trader Joe's getting teary-eyed about missing the cereal aisle at my favorite store.

And why am I loitering in the cereal aisle? Yup - carbs. The soothing, warm blanket of natural serotonin - I'll have a large bowl, please. I bought cereal and dark chocolate caramels. The only thing missing was the giant slab of frosted cinnamon rolls, but I have *some* self-control.

The Olympic synchronized diving is making me angry. What a boring boring boringly stupid sport. I don't caaaaaaaaaare if they're not spinning and twisting the exact same way.

But man, that men's swimming relay sure was fun. I stayed up too late to watch it, but I'm glad I did. And watching Aaron Piersol seems to help elevate my mood.

It's down to the wire and I have just five more days to pack - I have to work a couple of days next week, which is going to be interesting. Speed shooting, is what that will be, then rushing home for another bowl of cereal.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Snarktacular Wednesday

I had to go up to Sonoma this evening for a "dusk shoot," which I never enjoy, because when "dusk" arrives, I should be at home in my sweats watching the news or enjoying post-news reruns whilst eating my dinner.

But because I have to go, I went, at the peak of rush hour. I anticipated bad traffic and left early. Early enough to stop and get a sandwich at Whole Foods - the easiest thing to eat while driving (and texting, changing CDs and painting my nails).

Why is making a sandwich so difficult? How is it that only one sandwich in ten is made according to the order? I either get the wrong bread, the wrong meat, the wrong toppings - something - something is always wrong.

Tonight it was the bread. Instead of sliced sourdough, they used a baguette. Maybe it's just my wussy mouth, but I can't eat a sandwich on a hard roll without tearing up the roof of my mouth. So irritating.

Also irritating? Peppered roast beef. Who came up with this stupid idea? All I could taste was pepper. Are these ideas hatched in a food lab staffed with heavy smokers?

At the shoot, the agent followed me around from room to room the entire time. Like a nervous puppy, he hovered behind me during every shot. I wanted to smack his nose with a lead pipe rolled up newspaper.

Not any better was the hovering stager who kept asking if I wanted to move anything. If I want to move it, I'll move it. See these things hanging off the ends of my arms? They allow me to pick shit up and move it somewhere else - it's fucking brilliant - watch me do it.

In one room she asked me if I'd heard of a guy - a photographer she's worked with before - you know, because at night they round up all the photographers all over the county and put us all in one big room where we can't get into any trouble.

I told her I hadn't, but what I *should* have said was, "Oh John, the guy who takes all the great photos of naked children? I love that guy's work!" She continued and said, "I've worked with him in the past - he's pretty good."

That's great. What am I supposed to do with this information? I left my random chitchat diary at home and I've nowhere to record this exchange. Have you heard of not loitering in the room where I'm working? It would be super awesome if you could move your ass the hell out of the way so I can finish up this job and get the eff home.

But hey, if you want to pay double for an evening shoot that won't make your generic house look any different than it would at 11am and follow me around like an anxious chihuahua, to each his own. Good luck to ya.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Nervous Crapper

A nice salesman from United Van Lines came by last week to give me a quote for the move. That morning I made a point of not only scooping out the cat boxes, but also cleaning them to ensure the house would not smell like a cat-crapping emporium, not even a whiff. With three cats, it's a daily battle.

Right after kitty breakfast time, as I walked through the house with my coffee to turn on the laptop & check email, BLAM! Smacked in the face by one of the worst cat shit stink bombs ever set off in a domestic kitty litter box.

They know something's up and they're not happy about it. The anxiety has a less-than-desirable effect on kitty's digestive system.

I re-scooped and re-cleaned the offending box, opened the windows, turned on the fans and then found the super-powerful deodorizing air spray. It took a while for the toxic off-gassing to dissipate. Thank god the salesman wasn't coming for a few hours.

After he arrived, we went through the house room by room so he could build an exhaustive list of all our stuff. As we moved into the bar, a terrible smell crept up on us. He'd done it again! Neo jumped out of the box and ran through the bar like his butt was on fire, which apparently it was.

Not only is our little kitty bear cub a nervous eater, now he's also a nervous crapper. I can't wait for the 16-hour drive to Vancouver with him in the back of the car.

But that little, stinky cat growler was an omen. When the salesguy was all done with the estimate, he printed it & showed me the bottom line. He'd documented all our stuff accurately, and the estimated cost to move a 3-bedroom house, a greatly pared-down 3-bedroom house - really more like a 2-bedroom with a tiny office house, was $8,500.

$8,500. I couldn't believe it. I was expecting $3K, maybe $3,500 - that seemed likely - but almost $9K??? I thanked him for his time and showed him the door. I wanted to curl up on the couch and stay there in a catatonic state.

Instead, I went to the bank, then I went to the store and bought some groceries in a daze. I got home and ate a potato and some chocolate. Then I did some laundry. Then I googled for more information that might help get us moved for under $5K.

Lo and behold, there's this little company called ABF/U-Pack Moving. They drop off a commercial trailer at your house, you load it, then they drive it wherever you want it to go. Their estimate to move a 3-bedroom house? $2,500.

They couldn't have been any nicer on the phone and they have great reviews on epinions and Yelp. I'm very encouraged and no longer feel like I need to shield my rectum from large moving companies.

And if we don't use as much space as estimated, the cost goes down. One of my many talents is being able to pack a car (or a dishwasher) so tightly and effectively, every square inch of space is used. This might actually be a little bit fun.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cathartic Cleaning

Moving is usually just a pain in the ass, no more, no less. That's still true in this case, but this time it's different. It's been a cathartic purging of crap - actual crap and emotional baggage.

Yesterday I sorted through all the stuff I'd squirreled away in a cedar chest - things I thought I would always keep with me, like a paper trail of my existence or a time capsule for others to find after I leave this world. Old SAT scores and report cards, travel souvenirs, journals, stacks of newspaper clippings of momentous events and a few letters to/from friends.

What a surprise - most of that crap wasn't worth keeping. The program from the skating show at the Coliseum when I was 12! I MUST have it! It was fun to look through it and remember what I used to be so attached to, but a relief to throw it out and be free of the clutter.

Amid the papers, playbills and cards I found a few letters from a friend I lost touch with years ago. We had our ups and downs as any friendship does. Unfortunately I'd saved some letters written during the downs.

But reading those letters now, for the first time it became clear that the friendship I thought we had was mostly what I'd imagined it to be. I thought it had been much more than it actually was.

It's hard to lose a friend and even harder when it's not clear why it happened, but seeing the situation with the clarity of hindsight and time makes it easier to let it go. It was never what I thought it was, so I didn't really lose what I thought I did, if that makes any sense.

I still miss her and the connection we had, but it feels good to finally see things clearly and move past it in a new way. I kept only one letter, a funny one that made me laugh. I put the others through the shredder.