Sunday, January 30, 2011

On retirement

Last week an upstairs neighbor knocked on the door and introduced himself as a North Carolinian. He and his wife came down for coffee, and we had our first conversation with another retired couple. They have been retired for four years. They identified us as being in the "slug stage" - an apt description. Retirement may be something that we learn and create as we go along - an exciting opportunity as long as we enjoy good health and financial security. Also, other retirees seem open to sharing their experience at this new stage in life.

As slugs we read start most days by reading the Times, have breakfast, go to the Y. Then it is almost time for lunch. We fill in the rest of the day by (1) exploring the neighborhood, (2) taking care of business as we transition from work life to retirement life and from Raleigh to Indianapolis and Malaysia, and (3) searching for music, plays and miscellaneous activities. Doug has enjoyed having enough time to cook soups and bread - both involved too much time when he was working.

The question "What will you do?' seems more relevant now. Our lives will be vacuous if we stick to our current schedule for a long time. I was unnerved to read the following passage in Alan Bennett's A Life Like Other People's: "Dad would have done them [peeled potatoes] first thing that morning - or even the night before . . . jobs like this would get done earlier and earlier and long before they needed to be, one meal no sooner cleared than the next prepared. I have seen similar premature preparations in the homes of other retired couples . . . so that squalor and slatternliness seem almost cheerful by comparison." A comment that makes the question of what you will do one not to be ignored. While volunteering is promoted as a retirement activity, organizations reasonably ask for a time commitment. Even having 6 months between retirement and moving proved to be too short. I anticipate having more opportunities in Malaysia, since we will spend longer stretches of time there.

Recently, a friend told me a relevant story. An gerontologist friend of theirs asked her husband what goals he had for his retirement. Other then other than reading his way through a pile of books he had none. Years later when the gerontologist friend retired her husband asked him what his goals were. His answer was "I gave up on that idea years ago."

I have my pile of books and I have projects to keep me busy: preparing to lead an accreditation site visit team; designing a policy-oriented workshop to be offered through UNDP; and resuming my research on collaboration among NGOs in Malaysia. A former colleague reminded me that this is the most freedom I have had since kindergarten. Now to figure out how to use it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Exploring Indy's Cultural Life

A move or trip requires us to explore the local theater scene. We started with the Phoenix, which bills itself as "Indy's Off Broadway Theater." The play was staged in a former church basement that had a bar, a few tables and rows of seats. Once outside a NYC theater I heard a cast member say to another "Time to go in and make a story." I recalled the comment as we watched a story unfold in this intimate space. The play, Norway, was premiering in Indianapolis and Boise. The oldest actor wrote in his bio that his wife was glad that he got the part because it got him out of the house. An observation that I full appreciate.

The next night we were back at the Indiana Museum of Art for dinner and a movie. We saw Key Largo with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. Saturday we went to the symphony. The program included Berlioz's Symphonic Fantastique. Last year we heard it while we were in Prague. I loved it and searched out opportunities to hear it agian. It wasn't quite as magical this time. In Prague we were right over the orchestra so we actually felt the music; in Indianapolis we were off to a side. So the fault may not have been entirely the orchastra's.

On Sunday we heard the Indianapolis Orchestra ensemble play a program at the Central Library. They played klezmer music. It was an energetic hour and wiped out the previous night's disappointment. Despite the gray heads in the picture, the audience was more age diverse than it appears.

The theater, symphony hall, and library are no more than a mile away and very walkable. Downtown living is all that we could want.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moving Days

Doug has introduced plan for getting the furniture from the pods into a truck. We had hired Silent Hoosier Movers and lucky for us one of the guys, Johnny, loads trucks for FedEX. He was a genius at packing the truck. When we rent the unit we may store everything in the third bedroom and ask him to figure out the configuration.

I forgot to get a picture so one of Johnny's notes will have to suffice. He is definitely on our "good boy list." At one point Doug saw a condo board member yelling at the movers because the truck was parked in the "wrong" place. I wonder how he would have felt if he noticed that the "silent movers' probably didn't hear a word he was saying!

As we have unpacked boxes we have dealt with collections of spices (52 bottles), cookbooks (3 boxes), and CDs (uncounted). We filled two "Indian spice" boxes - one has salt and peppers and the other had most of our frequently used spices. We had to choose between chili and cayenne pepper and turmeric and curry. Otherwise we would constantly be thrusting our nose into the containers. Books were divided into three groups: in the condo, in the 3rd bedroom (for when we return), and to Malaysia.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Date Night in Indy

After a day of packing we discovered the best bargain in town - dinner and a movie at the Indiana Museum of Art. To take full advantage we joined the museum (a single $45 membership allows one to bring a guest to everything). The evening's film was Criss Cross, a 1949 film with Burt Lancaster ($5/ticket). It was preceded by a Pepe Le Pew Cartoon, Scent-Imental Romeo - not meant for children to watch on Saturday morning.

We started with dinner at the museum's Nourish Cafe. Doug had beef brisket over rice for $4.5. I had a chick pea and sausage soup with 1/2 salad for $8. The salad had amazing ingredients - including figs, artichokes, and feta cheese. Doug was starving so he also ordered a pepperoni pizza ($.450) and a brownie. Both came home with us. I mentioned the prices because we were amazed and pleased when we saw the size of our soup bowl and the quality of the salad.

I had assumed that the audience would consist of people of a certain age. But instead we noticed that people of all ages have found their way to an inexpensive night on the town.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moving In - Preparing Part One

Today is Wednesday and we have gotten notice that our furniture has made it to the U-box center in Indianapolis, Indiana. When we arrived I began planning for the arrival of our furniture. I check with U-box in Indianapolis to check in and give them our phone number, I called the condominium management company to check on the arrangements for move in, I wandered the streets surrounding the condo building to find the best spot to place the pods, and I arranged for some strong, silent men to assist in the move.

U-box has been good in notifying me when the pods actually arrived. However it would be nice if they had a method similar to FEDEX to track the location of the boxes. Maybe it is there, but I didn't find it. Liz was worried since we were coming the the end of our clean underwear, and we had underestimated the need for blankets on our bed. It turns out that what was sufficient in Raleigh is not sufficient in Indianapolis.

The condo management group has been helpful in letting me know about what I needed to do to prepare for the move in: notifying them 24 hours in advance of the date so they could protect the walls of the elevator. In addition I have purchase sticky plastic film to protect the hallway carpet from damage as we track through the snow into the building.

I wandered the streets: the block of E. Ohio Street immediately in front of the building with parking meters, the block of N. Cleveland Street (which we overlook and provides the most direct entry into the building) lined with large no parking signs on both sides of the street and has 5'wide sidewalks, Miami Street immediately behind the building with the building dumpster (in reality an alley), and East Street closing the rectangle with parking not in a traffic lane, unmetered and rarely empty. The parking lot is immediately below the building but has low clearances typical of such structures. Given these conditions, I began to think that I needed to contact the city about "permits".

Finally I logged into the U-haul movers site and found a list of available moving assistance companies. I chose the one at the top of the list SILENT HOOSIER MOVERS. Not taking a clue from their name, after booking them I attempted to call them and was connected to a hearing impared interpreter. My fault, the arrangements appear to be moving ahead smoothly.

So, last Thursday I talked to U-haul, and the condo management team about the potential permit that might been needed. They knew nothing. I called the Mayor's help line and a young woman said she would call me back. I heard nothing through yesterday afternoon when I called back at 4:48PM on a snowy day (more about that later). She was able to give me an answer which lead me to visit the Department of Code Enforcement today at noon (because of budgetary restrictions, they are open to the public on Wednesday from noon to five). I got there promptly at noon, explained my situation to the person at the information desk. He informed me that yes I would need a permit and needed to visit the Right Of Way enforcement officer. Again the lady was most helpful, pointing out which form I needed to fill out, providing me with a pen, and assisting me with filling it out. She even called the enforcement officer and got additional information from him. I could not use Cleveland Street sidewalks....something about the weight of the pods and it was suggested that I use the metered space on E. Ohio Street. I was given instructions to find the metered spaces I needed (a minimum of four), record the meter number EO-####, arrange for lighted traffic barrels, and return with the completed form, and $$$ (they do accept credit cards). And I would need to do this quickly since Indianapolis Police or Parking Enforcement would need to hood the meters in advance. I asked where to get lighted parking barrels (I had images of the sculptures from Hillsbrough Street, and Cameron Village) they said they could not make a recommendation but handed me a yellow pages and told me the index to look up (Traffic Control). Oh and this was especially expensive since we live in the Regional Center (downtown business district).

I then had the bright idea to call the U-box lady in Indianapolis to see if they had lighted barrels I could rent. They did not, but came up with an alternative. I rent a 26' U-haul truck, load it from the U-boxes, drive to E. Ohio Street, park in two of the metered spaces (send Liz to the bank to get rolls of quarters to feed the meters), and unload the truck. The rental of the truck is offset by not having to deliver the pods. I think the problem is solved and will report back tomorrow.

More about the weather. We have had snow for the past several days...not heavy but 4-5 inches with some light wind....and cold!!! 22 is the predicted high tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Starting out in Indy

On Wednesday night we arrived in Indy and an empty condo with a chirping unreachable smoke detector. We called Brendan who on his way to a memorial service. He gave us the key to his garage so we could get a ladder. Doug removed two - the chirping continued. With no other immediate option we slept lulled by intermittent chirping. In the morning we called the management company. We learned that we had to have a smoke detector but obtaining and maintaining it was our responsibility. Translation - it is your problem and we don't know how you can solve it. The local hardware store was more helpful, the staff conferred and decided had overlooked a detector or similar device. We returned home, found two more detectors. They were in different rooms, but inches from each other making it hard to pinpoint the source of the chirping. We bought batteries, reinstalled the detectors, and savored the silence.

Movers to a new city boost the local economy. So far we have bought two computer desks, a dining table, shower and refrigerator filters, food, and cleaning supplies. Most of our purchases were preceded by comparison shopping. After four days of looking at computer tables we sighted a Meiers and remembered from our days in Michigan that "Meiers has everything." And it did. We bought a dining table and computer desk there.

Food shopping involved visiting unfamiliar stores and deciding where we would buy spices, produce, wine, and bread. We found different stores for spices, produce, and bread! Fortunately the grocery that is two blocks away has the best bread (and it is open until 2:00 a.m.).

As an alternative to shopping - we joined the Y (5 blocks away) and the Indiana Museum of Art, and made plans to go to a play, a 1949 movie, and a symphony concert this week.

If only our furniture would arrive!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Leaving Raleigh

Tuesday, January 3, was moving day. My sister Joan came over to say good-bye, retrieve her house key, and pick up ours. She was deputized to help move our mattress out to the street. (Sleeping on the mattress has been a challenge, but we didn't want to buy a new one and have to move it.) We packed the car, went to Car Max to sell the Smart, deposited the check, and left town.

The best decision we made was to accept an invitation to stop en route and stay with friends in Roanoke, Virginia. We had a totally relaxing visit and left the next morning free of the stresses of moving. We met Mike and Becky in Arizona in 1976; they are among our oldest friends. Over 20 years ago Mike accepted a job at Roanoke College. Since then we have visited each other at least annually. Our visit reminded us that long good-byes are often less long than expected.

This year Becky retired from her library position at Roanoke College to care of her grandson Ethan during the day. The photo was taken in the morning - apparently Ethan did not find our breakfast conversation stimulating. By age Michael's retirement is years away and by disposition he may teach until they take him out feet first. As an English professor he can develop a course theme, select books around the theme, and then read and discuss them with a class. Seems less painful that going through the details of how a civil service does or should operate. Of course, he still has to read student papers.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Count Down

On Friday (New Year's Eve) Doug and Cedrick moved boxes and furniture into U-Boxes. Here they are after four hours and a lunch break. They look remarkable - largely due to Cedrick's strength and energy. On Sunday they will finish the job and U-Haul will pick up the pods on Monday.

Here's the back story on Cedrick: For weeks I conducted an unsuccessful search for a crew or person raking lawns. The man who handles nearby lawns was hopelessly behind, so I took to roaming streets in our neighborhood. An oak that provides ample shade in the summer is a nightmare in the fall. In three days it can cover a yard with leaves - not the best "curb appeal" for a house on the market, Cedrick knocked on the door looking for work; he was a god send. He solves our immediate problem and yard never looked better. A house with a large yard, even one that gets minimal attention, needs a "yard man," we found one a bit late in life. Plus we learned what our neighbors already know - a "yard man" is a reliable source of help with many odd jobs.

On Monday I am going to Duke's Tailor, Good Will, and the landfill. Rather than throwing out hangers I take them to the tailor. On Monday I will take the last of the hangers and pick up clothes that needed repairs. Through a web search for sweater reweaving I located Duke's. Since then they have repaired sweaters, hemmed trousers, sewed on buttons, and even shorten a shoulder bag strap. Between Duke's and the Parcel Place, which packed our art work, we will miss the contact with these local business owners. Good Will will get our last load of "too good to throw away" items. The landfill is like a recycling/discard mall - a "station" for holiday cards and gift wrap, a station for phone books, a station for electronics, and the hazardous waste site.

Tuesday Doug goes to the doctor to confirm his full recovery, then to Car Max, and finally we will head west. We have had no calls about the car, but lots of calls from "companies" offering to sell the car for us. I wonder if car owners who try to sell their cars are as successful as home owners who try to sell their houses, i.e., not very successful. Car Max offered us an acceptable price (less than we were asking). Not a local business, but we liked the straight forward, hassle free approach.