Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Prodigal Car Returns Home

Hi again.

Ok, so as you may have guessed from the title, we got the Camry back.

My insurance guy called Wednesday morning and said "Good news! They found your car! It turns out that it was just towed after all and you can pick it up at the Navy Yard."

Now, I'm not exactly sure what part of this was supposed to be the good news.

Finding the car? Well, ok, I'll give him that one. But, to be honest, hubby and I were already online picking which car we were going to get as a replacement. I had my eye on a cute little Mazda Millenia for 3,000 clams. Oh well.

They towed it? Is that the good news? Because the last I heard, the towing of a car rarely turns out to be any kind of good news for the owner. As a matter of fact, from my understanding, the towing of one's car is exactly the opposite of good news.

Pick it up in at the Navy Yard? Um, in New York? Is that the good news? Well, after having gone there I can emphatically state that no, it is definitely not good news to hear you are going on a littly tripsy to the Navy Yard to try to recover your car. No siree.

Anyway, I figured I would first call my cousin and let him know the car turned up. It's a good thing I did because he gave me the best advice for dealing with the fiasco that was about to ensue. He told me that New York is basically like a very large Pennsylvania Department of Transportation office and "if it doesn't say it on the paper, you can't do it". As it turns out, that is exactly true. And the funny thing is, to get your car, that is supposedly stolen, you have to coordinate the police department with the Navy Yard with the insurance guy and they all have different pieces of paper and none of them say the same thing. In fact, they all say something different.

I called the Navy Yard first and asked what I needed to do to get my car. The womam I spoke to said to bring $225 and my registration. Then I asked where it was towed from. She told me that it was towed from some location far, far away from where I parked it. Ha! Stolen! I told her my registration was in the car which was stolen. To which she replied "Dat's okay, you can jus come here an' git it outta yo car." I tried to explain that I didn't know if it was in my car because it was stolen. My car. Was stolen, you see. So I don't know if I even have a glove compartment any more let alone the contents that are supposed to be therein. To which she replied "Hmmmmm......" After a while of back and forth with her, she told me to call the police department and get a copy of the report. Ok. I can do that.

Or not.

Because, as it turns out, the policeman, Officer Oats - McCarthey, NEVER FILED THE REPORT!!!!! That's right. No report. Because he apparently didn't get my message with my license number. Or, maybe he did but he just didn't get around to doing the paperwork. So, now I had a real problem. The piece of paper that the gal at the Yard had said I needed to have one of two other pieces of paper, neither of which I had. And since you cannot reason with a piece of paper at the Navy Yard, you are shit out of luck if you want your car.

In the mean time, I figured I better call my insurance guy and see what I do if I can't drive the car. You know, if they took the engine along with the glove compartment. So I call him and ask and he says since it was towed, they don't cover anything.


Um, what?

He explains again that, since my car was just towed and not actually stolen, they don't really cover anyting.

Um, no.

I explain to him that oh yes indeedy my car was so stolen and what do you think I am? Some nincompoop who doesn't know the difference between having a car stolen and having a car towed? What do I look like? Or sound like since you can't see me? Anyway? He wasn't having any of it. He was all Mister No Tow.

I called the Navy Yard. Again. And the woman was "Oh, you're the one with the Camry." And I said "Not really but I'm still working on it" and she thought I was all kinds of funny. Anyway, I asked her to verify where it was towed from and she told me it was picked up in a land far, far away on a street called Eastern Parkway. And I know - even if I don't know my way around Brooklyn - I know it wasn't parked on Eastern Parkway. So I asked her if there was something she could print out because my insurance guy was getting a little bit of an attitude with me. She was very understanding and told me to have him call and talk to her. Directly. Because she is the woman with the paper. Ha!

So, I call the insurance guy and he was all "Sure, I checked and it was towed from a different spot so you just go and look at it and here's my number and you call me if we need to get you a tow truck." That's right, insurance guy! You will tow my car if it doesn' have an engine, glove compartment and registration card.

Crap! I still didn't have the card. And then I remembered that the renewal form was sitting in front of me. Ho, ho! Things were falling into place now. Now all I had to do was get to Pottsville and pay an exorbitant amount of money to get an on-the-spot renewal, drive to New York and get my car! Cake!

However, on the way to the renewal place, the pressure started getting to me. And my hubby. By the time we got to Pottsville I was ready to just take a bus "and take care of everything myself! Harumph!" Fortunately, cooler heads eventually prevailed and we decided to take our aggression out on some snack food instead.

The next part of the story is really boring because it involves driving to Brooklyn. Which takes about 59 hours. And isn't very exciting. Especially when you did it two days before. Then it is anything but exciting. More like excruciating.

Fortunately, my dear cousin set me up with spot-on directions to the Navy Yard and we made it there without incident. They only let one person back to get the car because, I guess, "two people" is not an option on the paper. Since the car is in my hubby's name, he had to go do the claiming. I got to sit on the sidewalk and watch as unfortunate car after unfortunate car was brought in riding the hook of an NYPD tow truck. I gave my hubby strict orders to call me on my cell phone when he got to the car. I anxiously awaited the news.

Tick, tick, tick...

Tick, tick, tick...


Me: What? What is it? Is it a wreck?
Him: No. I'm not there yet. I'm still in line.
Me: Oh, ok. How long do you think it will take?
Him: It's a slow process.
Me: Oh. Got ya. Ok, call me when you get there.
Him: Ok

Tick, tick, tick...

Tick, tick, tick...


Me: Well? How is it?
Him: I'm not there yet.
Me: Oh, well where are you?
Him: Waiting for the shuttle to take me to the car.
Me: Shuttle?
Him: Apparently there's a lot of cars.
Me: Oh.
Him: Where are you?
Me: Still sitting on the front side walk.
Him: Stand up and turn around
I stand up and turn around.
Him: Do you see me?
Me: Oh, there you are.
Him: Ok, here's the shuttle.
Me: Ok, well have fun. Good luck.

Tick, tick, tick...

Tick, tick, tick...

Tick, tick, tick...


Me: What? What's the story?
My son: What?
Me: What?
My son: What are you doing?
Me: I'm waiting for daddy to get to the car.
My son: Is it wrecked?
Me: I don't know yet.
My son: Ok, well call me when you know.
Me: Ok, bye.
My son: Ok.

Tick, tick, tick...

Tick, tick, tick...


Me: Well?
My son: Well?
Me: What?
My son: Did he see it yet?
Me: No! I'll call you. Don't call me. I'll call you.
My son: So you don't know anyting?
Me: I will call you. Ok? I promise.
My son: Ok

Tick, tick, tick...

Tick, tick, ti...


Me: Who is this?
Hubby: It's me. What do you mean?
Me: Nevermind. What's the story?
Hubby: Flat tire. Dead battery. Looks like they went through the glove compartment.
Me: That's it?
Hubby: Hold on. Let me check. (Opens trunk.) Hmmm...it looks like they ransacked the trunk. Everything is all over the place.
Me: Um...
Hubby: What?
Me: Um...they probably didn't ransack it. That's how I keep it.
Hubby: mumble, mumble, mumble
Me: Anything else?
Hubby: Doesn't look like it. Let me change the tire and get the shuttle people to jump the car and I'll be out.

After a little while, he came out with our little rolling stone and we looked it over again. As it turns out, there was a little dent on the front driver's side, the blown out tire and a very loose ignition. As far as personal belongings, they took the owners manual (what?), the registration and insurance, the change out of the ashtray and a case of water out of the trunk. Apparently none of my other belongings hold much value in the city. Well.

So, folks, there it is. The conclusion to my very exciting tale of Grand Theft Auto. No large loss or damage, hubby got to see the Navy Yard and our little Camry is hopefully over its case of wanderlust. I love a happy ending.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Just A Quick Post

Hey everyone.

Thank you all for the kinds words and encouragement on the whole grand theft auto thing.

I am going away for a few days - nothing to do with the recent episode, although it is going to be a welcome respite from reality right now.

When I come back, I will fill you all in on the Tale Of The Prodigal Camry. My cousin kind of knows where things stand but it is just too involved for me to write at this moment as I am supposed to be on the road in a matter of hours to a music festival in upstate New York. But, I promise that when I get back I will fill you in all the excruciating details.

Take care everyone and have a nice few days!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Apparently, I Have A Reputation

Hi everyone. This is a super crazy long post but it's so kooky I just have to tell the whole story.

Well, as some of you know, my dear little daughter was just off, traipsing about Europe with a bunch of high-school band people, playing concerts and living the high life. She's been gone since July 3rd (well, technically since June 30th to the University but they didn't really fly out until the 3rd) and arrived home today.

You would think that nothing could even compete with the fact that one's daughter is arriving home from Europe let alone eclipse the event. You would think.

But no.

You see, the problem is, that nothing - NOTHING - can ever happen normally for this family. Nothing.

Did I mention nothing?

Here's the story...

Ok, so there's the whole beginning of the going to Europe thing...getting ready, passport, shopping, everything, everything, everything...and our last item in the actual parent part of this was going to the farewell concert and dinner at Millersville University. We drove down, had dinner, saw the concert (which was very, very good) and then went back to my daughter's dorm room for our final goodbyes. After that, we went out to the parking lot, got in the car and...nothing. The battery was dead. Sigh. And since I was silly enough to be lured by low milage rather than a standard transmission when buying the car in the first place, I now had to go find someone with jumper cables. The first guy I ask says "Jumper cables? Oh, no. I don't carry them. Actually, I don't ever anticipate being in the position to need tham." Then he got into his ass-mobile and drove off to Ass-land.

Then I spied the parents of two boys that were kind of from our area that we got to meet before. I asked them and being the good coal region sorts they are, of course they have them and of course they don't make us feel like idiots for needing them. That part was understood. Off we go.

Now, other than phone calls, faxes, emails or adding money to the cash card account, our role was pretty much done until the end of the trip. The tour offered a shuttle bus from the airport, making various stops across the state for those parents who did not want to drive out to JFK to pick up their child. I figured that a kid who just got off a 7 hour flight from a trip where they just did a huge amount of travel on a bus is not going to want to ride yet another bus but, rather, ride in the comfort of her own family car, enjoying the company of no one but her mother. I mean, wouldn't you?

I happen to have a cousin and cousin-in-law who live in Brooklyn. Since my daughter was flying into JFK, I figured I could take this opportunity to drive out a day early, pay a visit, enjoy some fun with the relatives and then be at the airport in plenty of time the next morning to pick up my travel-weary daughter. That's what I figured.

So, I get directions, drive out and meet up with my cousin and his wife. We have a very nice evening, eating some awesome Thai food and then seeing the sights of Brooklyn - at least what you can see at night. And in the haze. Because it was super hazy. And hot. And hazy. Did I mention hazy? How about muggy? Humid? All of those. But despite that, I had a great time.

The plan for the next morning was that my cousin would head out to work, I would hang with his wife until she had to leave (around 10ish) and then I would leave as well and go to a beautiful little beach until it was time to pick up my daughter. We spent the end of the night going over all of the routes from the apartment to the beach, the beach to the airport, the airport to home. And alternate routes just in case. I was so prepared.


The next morning - why this very morning it was - my cousin left for work. The plan was set in motion. I had coffee with his wife and we got ourselves ready. I skipped taking a shower because I was going right for the beach, no sense in that. We walked downstairs and said our goodbyes and she headed in one direction and I in the other. I crossed the street and walked a half block. And then I became kind of...confused. Here's a little replay of my thoughts...

"Hmm, hmm, hmm....whew it sure is hot. Can't wait to get to the...
Look left. That looks like the fence I parked next to.
Look right. That is definitely not my car.
Look left. That sure looks like the fence.
Look right. That isn't a Toyota Camry.
Look back. Ok, cousnin's wife is watching. Maybe I parked in the next block. But I'm sure I was parked in front of their car.
Look back at cars. That sure looks like their car. That definitely isn't my car in front of it.

So I decided I better check with my cousin's wife to make sure I was not, in fact lost in one block. Fortunately she saw me standing there bumfuzzled (slipped that on right in, didn't I?) and was headed back my way. I met her back in front of their apartment building and explained that I must be confused as to where I parked the car. She walked back with me and said "It's right up here in front of... Oh my God! WHERE'S YOUR CAR?!!!!"

My thoughts exactly.

So then we both kind of stood there bumfuzzled.

"Um..." I said, "I think...it...might be stolen."

Cousin's wife: "OH MY GOD! YOUR CAR! WHERE IS IT?"


So then we figured there might have been some small chance that it was towed because it wasn't parked illegally and none of the other cars there were towed and really it didn't seem like it was towed as opposed to robbed but do we really want to even admit that yet. We headed back to the apartment to call the loacl police to see if it was towed and if not, well, it was stolen and could you please find it because I have to pick up my daughter very shortly at the airport.

While she was on the phone trying to convince the police guy that they towed a '91 Camry didn't you please, please, please, I was on the phone to home because, wouldn't you know, I don't even know my licens plate number and what are police going to think of that? I could tell them that it was the '91 Toyota Camry with Pennsylvania plates. Oh yeah, and the bumper sticker that said "Support Your Local Farmer". Oh yeah, and the big sign that said "Steal me please because I belong to an out-of-towner-back-woods-hick who has nothing better to do than pick huckleberries and milk goats." That sign. Ok, it's not an actual sign but you can see it just the same if you're looking through the eyes of a crafty city car thief.

So I call home and get my son. I start walking him through the whole treasure hunt of where to find the insurance policy information, hoping, hoping, hoping that somewhere on it there will be my license plate number. I knew it would eventually happen... and then he asked it.
Son: "What do you need it for?"
Me: "Um...the car? Well... Um. It was um...kind of ... well, it seems to have been stolen."
Son: "What?!"
Me: "The car. Um. Stolen."
Son: "Did you leave the keys in it?"

Alright. I may not be the brightest bulb in the shed but, for cryin' out loud, I know better than that. I mean, really. And I told him so.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that it wasn't on the insurance information. Anywhere. My son asked if he should wake up my husband (who jsut finished working 3rd shift) and I told him to just let him sleep and we'll check in later.

My next attempt was with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Or, more appropriately the Pennsylvania Department of We Can't Help You With Anything But We Won't Tell You That Until After We've Kept You On Hold For Four Minutes And Then Run You Through A Crazy Goose Chase Of Menu Options Only To Tell You That You Have To Go To A Local Office And Fill Out A Report And Pay Five Dollars And Then We'll Tell You Because We Are Pretty Much Going To Hold Your License Number Hostage Because We All Suffer From Power Issues. That's what they should call it. So when the very nice Officer McCarthey - who looked a little bit like John Oats acting in a police prime time drama - came to fill out the report, he couldn't really do anything. He tried to be hopeful though, when I said "Um, I'm pretty much never going to see my car again, am I?" He assured me that it is very possible it was towed and the paperwork on it didn't reach the central office yet. Then I put it to him this way: The cars in front and in back weren't towed and it wasn't parked illegally in the first place. Then he said "A '91 Camrey, right?" "Yep" says I. And he just hung his head in a moment of silence. For he knew, as well as I, that my car was no longer even a car. It was a mass of parts already making their way around the city. At any rate, he gave me his number and asked me out to dinner. No, not really. He told me to call when I got my license number so he could finish the report. Will do, Officer Oats. I mean, McCarthey.

By the way, this whole trying to track down the license plate number took an obscenely crazy amount of time and involved at least 10 phone calls to my son trying to instruct him to check various parts of the house because maybe, just maybe... In the end, it was all to no avail.

Well, my cousin's wife had a big meeting so she had to head into work. She waited until my cousin came home because now, he had to drive me to the airport - not even the beach - and then we would come back to the apartment and figure out what to do next.

So we get to the airport just as the plane lands but, since my daughter was coming back into the country, we had a good 40 minute wait anyway because of customs and whatnot. We sit down to wait and guess who I see? Go ahead. You'll never. It's the folks who had to jump start our car the night of the dinner. I clued my cousin in on this previous history and he agrees to keep the whole grand theft of my auto on the QT so as to not have me appear as a total freak. The first thing they ask is whether or not we made it home alright the night of the dinner. "Sure" I say, "no problem at all." In all fairness, they didn't ask if I had any problems today. We chat with them a bit until the kids start to come from baggage claim.

I must say, it was wonderful to see my daughter. She was literally beaming. It was so obvious that she had a great time. I couldn't wait to hear all about it. Unfortunately, there were a few...details...to deal with first. She said her goodbyes to her friends - the friends that were riding the shuttle bus home - and we headed out to the parking lot. I told her we were going back to my cousin's apartment and them we were going to figure out how to get home.

Daughter: "What do you mean figure out how to get home?"
Me: "Um...figure out. That what we have to do."
Daughter: "I thought you drove out."
Me: "I did."
Daughter: "So why aren't we driving home?"
Me: "Well...see...it would appear as though...the car? Well, it seems to have been stolen."
Daughter: "WHAT????!!!! Our car??!! STOLEN???!!!
Me: "Um...yep."
Daughter: "Did you leave the keys in it?"

This is not fair. Or necessary. It certainly isn't constructive.

We got back to the apartment and, after some discussion and much soul searching, decided it would be best to take the subway to Port Authority and catch a bus to Somewhereclosetohome. My cousin gave my daughter some duffle bags to transfer her belongings for ease of public transportation navigation and walked us to the subway station. He gave me one last set of directions and we were on our way.

Now, I have to pause here a moment and thank my cousin and his wife - who, by the way, could not apologize enough for the poor behavior of the New York City car thieves - for, first of all, their wonderful hospitality and, second, their patience and help with my dilemma. You two were EXTREMELY helpful and wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. They did everything possible to assure safe passage back to Pennsylvania for me and my daughter. A MILLION BAZILLION thanks!

We made it to Port Authority, had a slice of pizza, bought tickets and were on a bus by 4:30, merrily making our way home. Because, you know, I knew the last thing my daughter would want to do after a 7 hour flight from a trip where they just did a huge amount of travel on a bus, would be to ride another bus home. So, there you go.

But wait. It's not over yet.

I knew my husband had to go into work for 6pm and I still didn't hear from him. I called my son again and told him to go make sure his dad was up for work and maybe tell him to give me a call too. As it turns out, my husband, who rarely sleeps more than 6 hours, picked today to have a sleep-a-thon. Well, good for him because he was in for a bit of a rude awakening.

He finally called me at about 5:35.

Him: "Hey, you wanted me to call. Is something wrong?"
Me: "Um...kind of."
Him: "What is it?"
Me: "We need someone to pick us up at the bus station in Allentown around 7 o'clock."
Him: "Why, what happened? Did the car break down?"
Me: "Not that I know of..."
Him: "Well what is it...I have to get ready to leave for work soon."
Me: "The car? The one we used to have?"
Him: (impatiently)"Yes..."
Me: "It's stolen."
Him: (more calmly)"Stolen?"
Me: "Yes."
Him: laughs
Him: "I'm sorry. I don't mean to laugh but...stolen? Our car? Why would anyone even want it?"
Me: "For parts, I'm guessing."
Him: "Ok, I'll call into work and come get you."
Me: "Ok, bring son. He has the directions to the bus station." (From one of additional 20 phone conversations.)

My hero. What a guy. And so, we would all get to bring my daughter home from Europe after all. They picked us up at the bus station, after a long, hot day - one, I might add, that I did not begin with a shower. They pulled into the bus station and there was joyfull reunion all around. We loaded all the bags in the back, climbed in, and we were on our way - finally - home.

I think it was within the first mile from the bus station when my husband asked, "Did you leave the keys in the car?"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I'm An Oh, So Merry, Chuckleberry, Huckleberry Hound!

First a little caveat to my kin and other children of the coal region: This post contains graphic descriptions of events that you most likely have safely buried deep within your psyche. It is recommended that you have a Xanax at the ready and an appoitment with your therapist within the next two days. Crack a Yuengling and read at your own risk.

It is my fond belief that we, as human beings, all suffer from some level of mental illness. It manifests itself in many different ways - some of us sing Karaoke, some vote Republican, some eat meat with jiggly things still on it - but we all have it to some degree. Mine seems to display itself in a vast array of oddities, one of which is the feature of this post. I bring you...


The isn't just some general madness. No, this is a madness very particular to folks living in the coal regions of PA. It is a seasonal display and it revolves around a tiny little thing know as the huckleberry. For those of you not in the know, a huckleberry is very similar to a blueberry except where a blueberry might be like this "O" a huckleberry, in size comparison, is like this ".". And where blueberries are cultivated on bushes this high "-", huckleberries grow on bushes this high "_". They grow wild all over the mountains in this area and have long been a part of the local diet. Many moons ago, when there were still active miners in these parts, they would drag their little children up to the mountain tops and force them to pick, pick, pick for hours and hours and then take the huckleberries to town and sell them for enough money for pop to buy a brewskie on his way home from work the next night.

It's a lovely little tradition that has been slowly dying out with each generation and the more available knowledge of child labor and abuse laws but still, it lingers. I remember going huckleberry picking as a child. Since the berries really come ripe in July, it was usually sweltering hot. And my mom would dress us in the double-knit polyester outfits that were all the rage for the discriminating 70's child. Wicking action? Forget it. We would all hoof it "up da pole line" because the pole line was the easiest way to get "up da mountain".

Sometimes, as a special treat, my grandmother would come along. She ran a bar and was a real pistol. I remember how she used to call us "Goddam sons-of-bitches". Golly, those were the days.

Anyway, when we found the right spot, everyone was put to work picking berries. We would pick and pick and pick for hours in the sweltering heat on the mountaintop. If you were lucky, after about 3 hours of picking, you had enough huckleberries to cover the bottom of a plastic yogurt cup. It's not that you weren't working hard. It's just that it's so freaking hot, and you're just a kid, and your other friends don't have to pick huckleberries because they have a pool, and you didn't mean to spill them but you just set the cup down for a minute to scratch you leg and you accidentally knocked it over, and you only ate a couple, and you don't even like pie anyway! So when the grown-ups were done picking and they called all the children in from the bushes, and it was time to settle accounts with the Lord, and you produced your yogurt cup with about 37 huckleberries which isn't even enough to put on your cereal everyone knows that, you knew you were going to hear it from Grandmother. "What the hell were you doing the whole time? Scratchin' yer ass?" And you hung your head in shame and lagged at the end of the line back "down da mountain".

And every person you talk to in this area can tell you that exact same story.

So this is THE MADNESS and, unfortunately, I had a flare up today. Because, you know, I have nothing better to do with my time. So I grabbed a 2 quart pitcher and a 2 quart Coleman cooler - hey, I was feeling lucky - and headed "up da pole line".

There are several symptoms you can look for to determine if a body is suffering from THE MADNESS as opposed to a less bizarre malady. I will explain some of them forthwith.

The Glow
The Glow is a symptom displayed by that picker that thinks to herself "I could use a little color to my skin. Maybe I'll go pick some huckleberries and get a little sun." The picker, clad in shorts and a tanktop, then spends the better part of a day that would kill a camel, on a sunny montain top. Closer to the sun. Out of the shade. With little or no sunscreen. And while fuschia is not the color she intended to don, it is, in fact, the color she got.

Picker's Leg
This is the dead legs sensation that the picker will have after squatting for hours on end. First, you loose circulation, and feeling, below the knee. Next, it's below the hip. Before you know it, you've got two dead legs that you can't feel or walk on. All you can do is wait it out until that old familiar pain begins, signaling the return of the blood to your long forgotten limbs. If you're lucky, there's no permanent damage.

The Picker's Two Step
Also know as Ants in the Pants. Inevitably, all pickers will succumb to this unfortunate fate sooner or later. It is the nature of the beast. Or beasts. Beasties, more appropraitely. The picker is in a really good patch of berries which, coincidentally, would also happen to be a really good patch of red ants if that's what one was picking. The problem is, because the picker is suffering from Picker's Leg (see above) s/he does not notice the red ants until they are, in fact, in the pants. It's a drag to have happen to you but really funny to watch happen to someone else. One caution here, no matter how much they bite you, no matter how bad it itches, don't take your mace - which you brought along to ward off any curious bears or curious men - and spray your hiney. It might seem like a good idea when you are in the throes of Ants in the Pants but you do not want to do this. I once had the opportunity to be on the outskirts of a mace cloud and, trust me, if yo spray your hiney with that, it will have you crying for your mother.

Pickin' on Negro Spritiuals
This symptom mainly shows up in folks who are picking solo and actually comes in two forms, the first simply being talking to one's self. The other, more dangerous form , is making up songs - specifically negro spirituals. Now, I don't want to offend anybody so I hope I'm not being politically incorrect by calling them "negro spirituals". I only refer to them this way because that's what they call some of the songs in our church hymnal and, really, the church wouldn't say it if it was offensive, right? Anyway, when a body is out in the wilderness alone, picking little berries for an extended period of time, the mind often wanders south and begins to draw similarites with the pickers of cotton. So, you see, it's not that far of a leap to then break into spontaneous song about the ordeal. It really is a strange little occurance but, to be sure, the source of some real gems. As a matter of fact, during the course of my picking today, I made up such hits as "Huckleberry Pickin' For The Lord", "Swing Low, Sweet Coleman Cooler", "Hallelujia, Ah Gost A Quart!" and "I Found The Lord At The Psycho Ward." On that last one I was moving a little more to the blues genre. Still, my favorite had to be "Send Down Your Angels With A Big Fat Mortgage Payoff". It staggers the mind just to think of all the good songs lost up in those hills. Maybe someone could get a grant to go record them on site like that project they did in Appalachia.

Picker's Walk
The huckleberry picker that has spent hours on the mountain will have a distinct...gait. Part of this comes from Picker's Leg - some people will just not wait for circulation to start up again. The other part of this particular phenomenon is due to the fact that the person just spent several hours alternating between a very, very deep squat and then bending over at the waist while the legs are straight. Neither position, by the way, is recommended for anyone, ever. The very, very deep squat resultes in very, very overstretched Achillies tendons which lets the feet kind of flop about at whim. The other more unfortunate part of the very, very deep squat it that the pickers internal organs have all slowly seeped out the butt and are now in the seat of the picker's pants, causing the picker to walk in the manner of a toddler with a very full diaper.

Picker's Grin
Not to be confused with Pickin' And A-Grinnin' which is a different disorder entirely. Picker's Grin is the look on the picker's face after having come down from "da mountain". It's a goofy, weary smile and the eyes are glossed over with a far away look in them. It is often accompanied with the repeated phrase 'I got enough for a pie. I got enough for a pie."

Well, I have to say that I am showing all of these symptoms in varying degrees (I think all the ants may finally be gone) after my little foary into the berry patch today. The circulation had finally returned to my extremeties however, I think my back isn't going to be the same for days, years even. I'm still working my internal organs back through...um, nevermind.

At least I have a happy little 2 quart Coleman cooler full to the frim with fresh huckleberries. Enough for two pies!

If only I liked pie.

Monday, July 11, 2005

A Very Hot Tip

So anyway, I'm guessing with all my posts about farm life and whatnot you are all kind of thinking to yourselves "Man, how do I get me a little piece of Eden like that?" Well, I'm here to tell you, Wonder No More! For I, being both farm owner and real estate person, will impart upon you the ultimate secret for purchasing you pastoral paradise!

Listen closely, people.

First, you must find the farm you want to buy. Don't limit yourself to farms that are actively marketed for sale because, really, everything is for sale. You just have to bide your time and strike when the soft underbelly is exposed - which I will explain momentarily. Now, whilst you are out looking for your farm, pay particular attention to whether or not there is currently any livestock because, the more livestock, the better. It doesn't matter that you don't want livestock on your farm because that has nothing to do with it. Trust me, the more livestock, the better.

Once you've found the farm of your dreams, your next step is to befriend the current owner(s). I don't care how you start - maybe plan a flat tire in front of their house or something - but you need to get to know your sellers. I mean really get to know your sellers. After that initial meeting, you must make reasons to stop by frequently and visit, talk and socialize.

Now the very important thing to remember at this stage is DON'T TELL THEM YOU ARE PLANNING TO BUY THEIR FARM!!! No, no, my little prospectors. This is a secret. What you msut do instead, is compliment the owner(s) on the property, including things like "You really have a nice place here. I would love to have something like this someday. Blah, blah, blah, blabbity blah..." What you are doing is making the owners proud of their property (don't worry, this will not affect you adversely) but also giving them something to talk about around the dinner table. For instance, your sellers' dinner conversation will go something like, "Yeah, Elvis was by today. I get a kick out of how he says he'd like to own a farm. Do you remember how he couldn't even change his tire that one time? And he wants to own a farm. Yeah, right..." And so on. See, this also gives your sellers a feeling of superiority. Again, not to worry, this will not work against you. Just remember, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. This especially applies to heads.

Ok, so now you picked your farm and you've befriended the owners. What next? Get closer. No, no, not physically. Emotionally. You need to really get to know your sellers now. The main things you want to learn about are 1.) likes and dislikes, 2.) their social schedule and 3.) what kind and the amount of live stock. Let's look at these items one by one.

Like and Dislikes. This is the Getting to Know You stage. Here you want to really get to know your sellers' personalities. What would they enjoy doing if they had free time (which, by the way, they have very little of). Do they like NASCAR races? Do they like bluegrass festivals? Chances are it's one or the other. Why do you want to know this? Well, you are going to start breaking the foundation of their resolve with this information. You are going to start saying things like "My brother called yesterday and asked if I want to go to the Pocono race this weekend. I can't wait. We even have infield tickets. We'll probably go up a few days early to get a good spot and party a bit." While you are saying this, the farmer is examining his/her own schedule and thinking "Man, I'll never get to a race with all this work..." You can see where this is going to go. The farmer starts to look at his/her own life and question all the things they are giving up in order to have the farm. Cruel? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. Similarly, if you find certain things that they don't like, use it to your advantage in a similar manner. For example, your farmer doesn't like the fact that their house is hot in the summer. Work things into your conversation such as "Man, my boss keeps the air in the office so cold I can barely concentrate on work..."

Social Schedule. Now, again, farmers don't have much of a social schedule because they always have a bunch of stuff to do. But even farmers have things like weddings, class reunions, etc., that they will try to make an exception for. What you need to learn is when these things are going on because you are going to use one of these events to plan your attack. You need to know what day the event is on, where it will be held, and, approximately when the farmers expect to return home. On this last item, the later the hour of return, the better for you.

Livestock. This last item is crucial. Remember, it doesn't matter whether you plan to keep livestock. For purposes of buying a farm, you shouldn't even think of animals as livestock. You must now change your perception and begin to think of animals as BLU's, or Bargaining Leverage Units. It is a little known phenomenon in the whole farm sale scheme but I am here to impart this wisdom to you. Here's how it works: Each dependent mouth is worth 3 BLU's. Now, when I say dependent mouth, do not think children. Children are not dependent mouths on a farm. (They are cheap labor. They are terribly resourceful in fending for themselves. As a matter of fact, if I was on a plane full of people that went down in the wilderness, and the Airborne Ranger wanted to go east, and the 6 year old farm child wanted to go west, I'd be heading west, thank you very much.) Anyway, now you must take a closer look at the animals. Some people don't consider dogs and cats livestock but, for our purposes, you can. If it is an inside cat, you can count the full 3 BLUs. If they are outside cats, deduct 2 BLU's per cat because outside cats can pretty much fend for themselves. Now look at the large animals. If they are regular livstock, fine - 3 BLU's. However, if they are dairy animals, add 2 BLU's per each milking animal. Got that? Good. Basically, the Bargaining Leverage Units are an indication of the amount of work and responsibility tying your sellers to the farm.

Now, how does it all work? Well, I'm going to run you through a little scenario.

Suppose you find a farm in, um..., let's say the Pennsylvania coal region. You befriend the owners and get to know them a little bit. During the course of getting to know them, you find out that their house is very, very ice cold during the winter. You can say things like "Hoo boy, we turned up the heat today and now my house is roasting!" Or similarly, "Our heating bill was high this month. Well, I guess that's what we get if we're going to keep it at 75 degrees..."

Now, you also happen to notice that these folks have, say, 3 inside cats, 6 outside cats, two dogs and a goat that is milking. This calculates out to 9 BLU's for the indisde cats, 6 BLU's for the oustide cats, 6 BLU's for the dogs and 5 BLU's for the milking goat for a whopping total of 26 Bargaining Leverage Units.

Finally, you keep track of their social schedule. You find out that the owners are going to attend...let's see...how about a picnic with lots of bluegrass music, food and drink hosted by friends they hardly ever get to see. You talk to the sellers a bit about the picnic, not trying to score an invitation mind you, but to find out their plan. Of course, they can't stay over night like everyone else because they have to come home and milk the goat. But, you also know that they will try to stay as late as they possibly can because they want to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of this little shindig. They figure they won't get home before 11pm or so.

Good. Now you put you plan in motion.

The morning after the picnic, stop by your future farm as early as is acceptable in your little corner of the world. Make sure you got a good night's rest the night before and be sure to be freshly showered with at least one good cup of coffee under you belt. Better yet, bring a large travel mug of coffee with you. Stop by to visit your sellers while they are dragging their tired, hungover, sorry asses about the property and remark on what a lovely day it is and your thinking of going for a swim or something. Then ask about the picnic. At this point, the sellers will tell you how they had such a nice time and it was great to see everyone but, unfortunatly, they had to leave right when everything was really getting going to come home to milk the damn goat. Just stand there and say something like, "Man, that sucks" and let them continue rambling. Just agree with them on whatever they say until they talk themselves into a subdued silence.

Now is the time to strike!

Say to your sellers, "Did you ever think of selling and enjoying life a little bit?" At which point they will shamefully admit that sometimes, sometimes when no one else is around, they dream of selling everything and living out of a Honda Civic parked in a grocery store lot.

Then you say, "Well, I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing or if I'm ready for this but...I'd be willing to buy your place for eighty two dollars, lock stock and milking goat." It helps if you have the eighty two dollars on you at this point because they will be on that little wad of cash like a senior citizen on the Atlantic City bus on check day, thanks a lot and so long sucker!

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a farm. Good luck and God be with you.