I Am Not a Crook

Years ago, I created a Google alert. Any time my name is mentioned on the internet, I get an email with a link to the article. I did this so long ago I’d actually forgotten all about it, so I was pretty surprised when I received an alert on Saturday. I clicked on the article and was devastated to learn that I had been charged with one count of burglary after a break-in at a bar and restaurant in Barnsley, England, in which cash and alcohol were stolen.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like cash and alcohol, and I imagine England is a pretty nice country. But I’ve never been there, and in the words of Richard Milhous Nixon, I am not a crook. I was immediately offended. How dare this impostor sully my good name! I’m an honest, law-abiding citizen, just minding my own business. And now some lowly two-bit British wanker is trying to ruin my reputation by ruining his reputation. The nerve.

I hope this other Mark P. at least had the good taste to abscond with a quality whiskey. And I hope the Barnsley Magistrate Court throws the book at him. If the guy goes on a crime spree, I’m going to be getting an awful lot of Google alerts in my In Box, and I’d rather not deal with that!

On a more positive note, the flooring guys finally finished up with the installation. They laid down the baseboard trim and covered up their carpeting snafu with extra bamboo. Both of those look really good. Not so good? The gouges they left in the kitchen floor from dragging the fridge across it, but that’s another story.

Our first official houseguests arrive this Friday – Tara’s dad and his girlfriend. We tried to talk them into visiting any time other than during the Sturgis Rally, but their schedule is pretty full, so it was either now or later next year. Oh, well – they have been warned! We’re pretty excited to show off our new home regardless.

Last night, we had the pleasure of meeting up with a blogging friend. Jess and her husband, Joe, are in Rapid City for a couple of days and wanted to get together. We have been reading each other for something like eight years now, but they live in Wisconsin, so the odds of ever meeting in person were slim. Until we moved to South Dakota, that is!

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We had a really nice time and enjoyed their company immensely. They are down-to-earth Midwesterners through and through, very friendly and easygoing, with a penchant for good beer (they are from Wisconsin, after all) and corny jokes. We met at Thirsty’s for dinner and drinks, taking advantage of a warm summer evening to sit out on the patio, and chatted the hours away. Afterward, we ducked into Press Start, Rapid’s old-school video arcade, for some gaming. We really wanted to stay longer, but alas, it was a school night and work beckoned for me and Tara today. We didn’t want to stay up half the night and end up dragging the next day, but – irony alert! – we ended up staying up half the night when a spectacular line of severe thunderstorms rolled through around 1:30 in the morning. The nonstop lightning, heavy rain, and very strong winds made sleep impossible for a couple of hours.

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Not a great shot at all, but this was the view from our bedroom window at 2 a.m.

As Midwesterners, I’m sure Jess and Joe are used to this type of weather anyway.

Here are some pics from my work-sponsored hiking adventure last Thursday. Told you this was my dream job!

The Buck Stops Here

Oh, Deer

We have learned just how abundant deer are in the neighborhood. I see them every morning when I’m out walking. Sometimes, we don’t even need to leave the house! We were playing cribbage and listening to records in the basement Friday night when Tara went upstairs to grab a beer. She saw this buck in the backyard, so she got her camera and very stealthily opened the back door to take a few pics. Turns out there was no need to be sneaky, because this fella wasn’t the least bit concerned over our presence. I ended up within about 15 feet of him and he barely batted an eye.

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I know we should be chasing them away. Deer and gardens don’t mix. They’ve already eaten out hostas. But the problem is, they’re so damn cute – and it’s a novelty having them. So, we bought deer netting and I secured that over our raspberry bushes. Now that they are ripening and we’ve been able to taste their juicy sweetness, there is no way I’m going to treat the neighborhood wildlife to a free buffet. They’re so good, they almost make me forget all about the amazing PNW berries we can no longer get.

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Kamikaze Flight Path

Speaking of wildlife, we have learned that the picture window in our living room is a magnet for birds. In the short time we have been in the house, four birds have flown into it kamikaze-like. Apparently they see the reflection of sky and trees and assume they have a clear flight path. Next thing you know, there’s a loud “thud” and the birds either fly off in a daze or never fly again. It’s sad and a little disturbing, so I’ve looked into possible solutions. Window decals, wind chimes, or shutters would help, but I’m not sure any of these are options for us. It’s a weird problem to have.

Goodbye, # 12

Slowly but surely, we are settling into our house. We had our final walk-through with the leasing agent for our apartment today, after spending last weekend getting it all cleaned up. It felt weird going back there for the first time in 10 days; it might have still technically been ours, but it sure didn’t feel like home anymore. I noticed for the first time just how tight the living quarters were; it’s amazing how you don’t really feel like you’re living in a cramped space until you actually have some room in which to stretch out. I felt very unmotivated and a little bitter over having to give up part of a weekend cleaning a place that was no longer ours, but midway through wearing my fingers to a nub scrubbing caked-on grease from the stove, I started to focus on the excitement we felt when we first moved in 13 months ago and everything was brand new. That helped. As far as apartment complexes go this one wasn’t too bad, super thin walls notwithstanding. It served its purpose and was a good transient home while we settled into a new city and state, found jobs, and bought a house.

But I sure was happy to hand over the keys this afternoon.

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Impromptu Visit to a National Monument

After all that hard work on Saturday, we chilled on the patio. Grilled up some ribeye steaks and corn on the cob and kicked back with wine and beer. We even let Sydney roam around the backyard for a bit. She’s been strictly an indoor cat for 13 years, so this was a real novelty to her. I was paranoid to let her get more than a few feet away from me, but she was pretty well-behaved and seemed to enjoy the adventure.

The weather was very pleasant that day, so we decided to break in the chiminea, but we didn’t have decent kindling so the fire wasn’t really getting started. Tara turned to me and said, “Hey, wanna go to Mount Rushmore?” We actually hadn’t been to the monument since moving here; our last visit was during our road trip in October, 2017 (plus the hundred-odd times I went as a kid). We’d been wanting to see it illuminated at night, so we hopped in the truck and 25 minutes later found ourselves gazing up in wonder at the Shrine of Democracy. It really is an awe-inspiring sight and gets to me every time. I am so thankful that we can do spur-of-the-moment things like visiting a national memorial, which is less than half an hour from our front door.

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Well, It’s Not All Roses

Not everything is a bed of roses (and even if it were, the deer would probably eat them). We have been going through hell trying to get the contractors to finish installing the hardwood floors, and the latch on the door leading to the garage jammed over the weekend, necessitating a call to a locksmith. It feels like we’ve been unpacking forever, but there is still a seemingly endless pile of boxes and bags taking up half the basement. And we haven’t had a chance to truly relax, with no immediate pressing needs, in months. Hell, since the beginning of 2018, really. But in the overall scheme of things, these are minor inconveniences, a small price to pay for this awesome life we have built for ourselves. Because when I step outside before sunrise for a walk through the neighborhood and am treated to sights like these…

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…I know that I am, finally and truly, home.

 

Guess We’re Not “Those People”

We have been living in our house for three days now and it’s starting to feel like home. If your idea of home involves stepping around boxes and weaving your way through piles of stuff. At least the old toilets are no longer taking up residence in the living room. When Tara asked me what we should do with them, I suggested hauling them into the front yard and turning them into planters. Amazingly, she shot down that idea, saying she didn’t want to be “those people.”

Fine. Our landscaping visions differ.

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Our first night in the new house was pretty wild. We were awakened shortly after 3 a.m. by shrieking winds gusting to 60-mph, thunder/lightning, and torrential rain. One thing we have discovered about the house: because we are located in a draw – a terrain feature that is basically a miniature valley – thunder is really amplified here. It bounces off the hills and the shockwaves sweep down through the neighborhood, echoing so loudly you don’t just hear it, you feel it. Literally, the whole house shakes. It’s pretty cool unless you’re a cat or trying to sleep.

Friday, I spent the day “on assignment” in Spearfish Canyon hiking several different trails for a travelogue series we’re planning next summer. I’m working closely with one of our interns on this project; she’s creating videos to accompany my words. She brought her fiancee along and we ended up doing four separate hikes. None of them were super long, but a couple were steep. It got pretty toasty toward the end of the day, but the canyon is so lush and vibrant due to all the rain we’ve had, it’s absolutely breathtaking at every turn.

Saturday, I had another interesting work-related task. Rapid City has been dubbed the City of Presidents due to the collection of presidential sculptures erected on street corners throughout downtown. Yesterday was the official unveiling ceremony for our newest statue, Barack Obama. The event was held at the Elks Theatre downtown and was so inspirational! I loved every minute of it. It helped being surrounded by an adoring crowd of Democratic faithful who were clearly missing our former President just as much as me. The sculptor, James Van Nuys, is a regular Renaissance man who is also a musician and writer. He played guitar onstage before and during parts of the ceremony, and it was interesting to hear about a couple of other ideas for the statue that ended up getting scrapped. In the end, he explained that he based his work on a photo that he fell in love with because of the look of pure exhilaration on daughter Sasha’s face. I think the statue turned out beautiful and will be a real show-stopper when it’s installed downtown (just a block from where I work) tomorrow.

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We’d been planning on going to Prairie Berry Winery for a customer loyalty picnic today (because, free food and free wine), but we just have too much to do around the house. There is a lot of unpacking and organizing to be done, and we already have visitors lined up, so we’re going to tackle some of that today. The hardwood installers, by the way, still haven’t finished their work. Presumably they are waiting on the extra box of bamboo to come in from Lowe’s, but who knows. We’re pretty irritated with them and have literally caught them in a couple of lies. I can’t wait to leave a scathing Yelp review.

After they finally finish up the work, of course.

 

Nature’s Fireworks FTW

Four more days until we move in!

Really though, we’ve pretty much been living in the house since last Wednesday. We go home to sleep and feed Sydney; otherwise, we are here. As is most of our stuff. The apartment is looking pretty barren these days; there are a few essentials in the fridge and bathroom, enough clothes to get us through the week, and furniture that is too heavy to move (e.g., beds, couch, bookcase). Yesterday our brand new couch was delivered to the house. We’ve got cable and internet there, a fully-stocked refrigerator, and all our booze. Why wouldn’t we want to stay here all the time now?!

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Still haven’t heard back from the hardwood flooring guys, but the contractor is here today – a day early – ripping out the old carpeting in the bedrooms and bathrooms. He’s even agreed to hook up new toilets for us, even though he is not a plumber and won’t be getting paid to do so. Tara was thinking about replacing the old ones and figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask if he’d be willing to connect new ones, since either way, he had to remove and reinstall toilets to get the flooring done. He was a bit hesitant at first but eventually agreed, so we went out and bought new Kohlers Saturday afternoon. Lemme tell ya, toilets are heavy AF. Who knew? It took a lot of muscle to get them from the back of Tara’s truck up the front stairs and into their respective rooms. But these are slick new low-flow models. I tried to talk Tara into buying super fancy toilets with heated seats and built-in bidets, the kind that flush automatically and play music through your wi-fi connection, but sadly she shot down that idea.

Our 4th of July was pretty low-key, other than nearly getting swept away by a flash flood. That would have sucked, after all the blood, sweat, and tears we have poured into this house!

The day started out innocently enough. We had a nice, leisurely morning before heading out to breakfast – but apparently our morning was a bit too leisurely, because by the time we got to the Colonial House, breakfast service had ended. Lunch it was, then! Which was just as well since I was still able to enjoy a couple of Bloody Marys.

After breakfast lunch, we packed up more boxes and took them over to the house, then headed downtown to bar-hop the rest of the day away. Our first stop was the Brass Rail, which probably featured the most interesting patrons. Paddy O’Neill’s had the best food, but Wobbly Bobby Pub was probably my favorite stop because they had board games at every booth. Tara and I faced off in a heated game of Battleship, something neither of us had played in decades. She ended up winning by one move. After that, we hit up Press Start for video games.

We decided to wrap it up at 8:45 because the city’s fireworks display was scheduled for 9:30 and we wanted to find a decent spot. But the minute we stepped outside, we figured it wasn’t going to happen. The sky was ominous, with dark clouds to the west. It was raining lightly and thunder was rumbling in the distance. One glance at the radar showed a line of severe thunderstorms bearing down on us. We figured we’d grab dinner to go at Culver’s instead and head up to Skyline Drive overlooking the city, just in case the fireworks were still a go. By the time we stepped out of Culver’s with our food, there was a torrential downpour with hail and constant lightning. We got drenched just racing to the truck. Then, on the way up Skyline, there was so much water streaming across the road it almost looked like a flash flood. Granted, we were on a hill overlooking the city so there wasn’t any real danger. At least, I don’t think so, but the video I took (and posted to Instagram) shows us motoring through water so deep in places it was splashing over the hood of Tara’s truck.

Yikes.

Up on Skyline Drive, we had a great view of the storm. And wouldn’t you know it, there were still people shooting off fireworks around town (though Rapid City’s event was ultimately postponed until Friday). In fact, at one point another car pulled up next to ours in the parking lot, rolled down their window, and started firing off Roman Candles. That’s either super patriotic or super stupid. I’m not really sure which. We never did get to see an actual fireworks display this year, but the show Mother Nature put on was hard to top.

Eventually the storm subsided, but not before dumping nearly 2″ of rain on Rapid City. We have already reached our average annual precipitation total, and the year is only half over! This makes the second really wet year in a row in South Dakota. It seems like Tara and I brought a little bit of the PNW with us when we moved. Those thunderstorms, by the way, have been a near-daily occurrence. Even though we’ve lived here for over a year now, it still amazes me how fast they can build up. One minute it will be perfectly clear, not a cloud in the sky; an hour later, it can feel like the End of Days, complete with black clouds and intense lightning displays.

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Typical afternoon view from our front porch.

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And I’m loving every minute of it.

Hope your holiday was a blast (but a little less wet than ours).

94.7%

Happy birthday, America!

Tara and I are celebrating Independence Day by, first of all, not working on the house. The truth is, there’s very little left to do at this point: all the painting is finished, the hardwood floors are 94.7 percent installed (due to a contractor snafu, they thought 18 boxes of bamboo would cover the job but ended up falling short, so box #19 is on order),  our storage unit is completely emptied out, and we have cable and internet. We’ve got a couch being delivered on Saturday, new carpeting and vinyl flooring being installed on Monday, and movers coming on Thursday to empty out the apartment. Which means we are exactly one week away from moving in. Whew!

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Incomplete or not, our new floors look great!

It’s been a lot of work for sure, but the place is looking really good. And there’s a definite pride in ownership that comes with transforming a place to make it your own through blood, sweat, and tears. That’s something you don’t experience when your new home is move-in ready. (You also don’t experience late nights and sore muscles and hundreds of dollars worth of Lowe’s receipts for paint, but that’s neither here nor there.) I don’t think I would change a single step of the process.

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Tara came up with an idea to paint a mountain mural in the guest room. By hand. I was skeptical at first…

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…but she nailed it.

Second of all, we’ll be bar-hopping downtown in the afternoon/evening. It’s how we spent the 4th last year, and that turned out to be a great day. The weather does not look promising for fireworks; we have had some strong thunderstorms the past couple of days (and nights) and more are expected for the next few days. If we’re able to catch a good fireworks display tonight, that’s great. If not, maybe nature will deliver.

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We have a literal front porch view of storms that develop over the Black Hills.

Last night, we finally had a chance to call Doris’ daughter, Kristi. She lives in Connecticut and was very happy to hear from us. The feeling was mutual – we talked for 40 minutes and learned so much about the house and Doris’ family! Like the fact that their original home was destroyed in the 1972 Rapid City flood that killed 238 people, so they purposely chose to build a new house as high up as they could get on a hill (hence our stellar views). We learned that both Doris and her husband were teachers in the Rapid City school district and that he was quite the craftsman, having built all the kitchen cabinets by hand. We found out the dwarf irises in the backyard have been in the family for 300 years and are descendants of plants brought over from Norway. There were once 50+ rose bushes and a couple of poplar trees in the backyard, and apple trees in the front. We heard about how the family turned the backyard into an ice-skating rink every winter and all the neighborhood kids would flock there. That Doris would pace around the living room nervously every time there was a thunderstorm, smoking an entire pack of cigarettes as memories of the flood that cost them their home (and almost their lives) haunted her. And how she was so beloved that people drove in from three states away for her funeral five months ago.

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We had no idea these dwarf irises had such a storied past. They have been in Doris’ family for over 300 years.

In fact, she wrote a story about our house that was published in a literary magazine! It’s a fascinating read and she’s a pretty good writer. If you’re interested, check it out here.

Kristi is coming to Rapid City next month to get married, and will be bringing us a piece of her mom’s pottery. In exchange, we’re letting her take some of the family’s dwarf irises, which she lamented leaving behind. She seems like a very nice person and we look forward to meeting her and her siblings. Suffice it to say, she is very touched over how diligent we have been in learning more about her mom and our desire to pay tribute to her. If there is an afterlife, I’m confident that Doris totally approves of us.

Have a great 4th!