Tuesday, January 2, 2007

A little blood with your lime, sir?

Definitely not smooth sailing. Morning high seas at Pebble Beach
Crescent City California
December 15th, 2006

It was my intent, when I started this blog project, to write a 1000-word column daily. I would get up, read the papers, and set myself to writing. As a morning person, I felt that writing first thing would probably be best. So far it hasn’t happened on a consistent basis. Oh, I’ve written every day, but as I sit typing this out, it’s 7:45 p.m.—hardly first thing in the morning. On the other hand, writing in the evening gives me a whole day’s activities to reflect upon.

I find myself living close to my dream life. There are no clocks that I have to punch. No bosses demanding that I be in the office on time—or even early. If I want to take a nap at 1:30, I can. Gypsy isn’t going to stop me. Not at all. She’s very happy to join me. If I want to sit in the barcalounger with my current read, I can do just that. It’s practically ideal.

There are, however, a few nasty intrusions that have to be dealt with. I have to pay bills. I have to monitor the bank accounts. I have to eat. Today was a day for all of the above—and a frustrating day it has been. Oh it got off to a good start. I got up, logged into my bullion account and found that Ron had paid me almost $3,000 from his 917 Horsepower program. That was nice, but not unexpected. I spent roughly an hour and a half working my on-line money-making programs. Once I finished with them, I knew I had to bit the bullet, as it were, and pay some bills. That meant that I had to move some money from savings to checking. No problem, I’ll just log into the bank account and take care of that.

Frustration number 1: Banking sites that don’t give clear instructions on how to locate your accounts. Currently I have eight different bank accounts at four different institutions. I don’t say this to brag. There are valid reasons why my finances are spread around. After all, I currently have three different addresses. I’m beginning to feel a bit schizophrenic. All I wanted to do was move money from a savings account to a checking account—both at the same institution. Back in August of ’06, working with my personal banker, I simplified the situation my mother had set up. Prior to the simplification, I got a paper statement monthly from the bank which showed all of the accounts—and there were a lot. I could also access these accounts on line with no difficulty. After the simplification, I started getting two separate statements, mailed at different times, and they didn’t show all the accounts. No problem—the main account that was missing on paper did show up on line. However, two other accounts did not. Neither savings account was now to be found when I logged on. This morning I could have driven into Crescent City and asked for a transfer—a relatively simple and painless transaction that would have taken all of five minutes in the bank, plus the 40 minutes or so driving there and back. No, I said. I’ll do it on line. This turned out to be a bit difficult since, as I have already mentioned repeatedly, the savings accounts were not available on line. I spent a good bit of time clicking here, going there, logging out and back in, and could find absolutely nothing to show how to access my invisible accounts. In a fit of desperation, I called the bank’s customer service number—well, one of their customer service numbers.

Still not smooth sailing. Evening high seas at Sunset Beach
Coos County Oregon
December 19th, 2006

This particular bank has branches in most parts of the country—heck in most parts of the world--but not in Montana. To call customer service, you first have to determine which division will be of most help. No problem—online banking was the obvious choice. Next, you have to determine whether the account is in California or somewhere else. Again, no problem, it’s in California. Dial the number, get a recording, “If you want x say or hit ‘1’ now, if you want ………………….. [silence]. I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your response. If you want x, say or hit ‘1’ now. If you want ………………… [more silence].” Since I didn’t want x, I had no idea what to do at this point. Finally, the third time listening to the menu, I was able to determine that I should probably say or hit “2.” Eventually I got through to a real person who was confused because my question involved “online banking.” Well, yes. That’s why I dialed that particular number in the first place. He transferred me to someone else who was confused because I should have called the California number. Excuse me, but I did. By this point, my frustration level is beginning to soar. Rather than ask me to start all over, the nice woman at non-California customer service transferred me to an equally nice man who could, and did, help me. Now all I have to do is log out, log back in, and everything will be on the screen in front of me. And indeed, once I did just that, it was. Relax. Breathe. Move funds. Good. Life is definitely good, but quite a chunk of the morning is now gone.

There were other frustrations during the morning, but by 1:00 I had the bills paid—well all but Linens N Things who wants you to use MyCheckFree to pay your LnT bill online, but won’t allow you to add LnT to your regular MyCheckFree account. No, you have to have a separate MyCheckFree account just for LnT. Rather than let my frustration level grow any higher, I decided to not pay LnT. Or rather to ignore LnT altogether. I do get a paper bill from them and last bill there was no balance due, so…..

Lunch time was uneventful. Salmon salad using Costco’s Kingsland canned salmon, mayo, dill pickle, celery and Fred Meyer’s pico de gallo. It tasted great and left me in the mood for a nice nap with Gypsy. See, I told you that I can take a nap at 1:30 if I want to. I can also read should I want to, so after a brief nap, I opened Paul Theroux’s My Other Life and continued reading where I had left off. Later, back in my study, trying to catch up with the reviews my photographs have received, and also with the e-mail, I grew tired of sitting in front of the computer. There was one interesting item in the e-mail, however, an Emeril Lagasse recipe for Yucatan Lime Soup. That sounded like a perfect dinner, so into the kitchen to determine what I’d have to pick up at the store. Chicken breast, tomatoes, Serrano peppers, cilantro, limes, avocados. I had all the spices necessary—but one of these days I have to reorganize the spice rack(s). Now is where things really get interesting….

Home from the store, I start cutting the chicken breast into 1 inch cubes. My friend Carl had given me a new Ginsu knife at Christmas, even though I’d been told that you should never accept a knife as a gift. Pay them at least one cent or you’ll be in trouble. I had completely forgotten to pay anything to Carl, and was happily cutting away when I sliced into my left index finger. It wouldn’t stop bleeding, no matter how long I held it under cold water, so I grabbed a paper towel and wrapped it around my finger.

At this point, the olive oil in the pan on the stove decided it had reached its limit, and burst into flame. Figuring that this was a “grease” fire, and therefore not likely to respond well to water, I covered the pan with its lid, and the flames went out. As soon as I lifted the lid, however, the flames shot up again. It’s an electric stove. You can’t just turn off the heat. Removing the lidded soup pot from the hot burner, I almost lost it due to the acrid stench of burnt tortillas and olive oil. Let’s see, spurting blood, flaming oil, how exciting can this recipe get? To curtail an already too long story, the finished soup was excellent. Should you wish to try it yourself, go to www.foodnetwork.com and search for “Yucatan Lime Soup.” I recommend omitting the blood and flaming oil.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tackle “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and/or the Massachusetts Legislature. For now, I think I’ll just ride off into the sunset—or the surf—or … oh you get the picture.

Oh screw it all. Let's just ride off into the surf.
Seven Devils State Park, Coos County Oregon
December 19th, 2006
(I don't know why, but this scene makes me think of France.)

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