Sunday, July 27, 2008

Boy, we got rain last week! Lightening and thunder and buckets from the sky... it was wonderful to see by someone from the desert. Days now are in the 70's with some sun and clouds and a breeze to keep the sailboats tacking out in Casco Bay. How could it be any nicer?
Gas is $3.97 at its cheapest and $4.17 at the most expensive. Luckily I haven't had to drive much, since I have the luxury of time to walk to town when necessary just a mile away. Michael has been very good to me. Yesterday we went to the art museum to see the showing of Georgia O'keefe paintings and photography. What a fine museum with world-class art by masters. One room had nothing but Andrew Wyeth. Michael has given me a ticket to the "Portland Duck Tour", which is an amphibious vehicle that gives a guided historical land tour and then splashes into the bay for a waterfront tour. I'll fit that in soon. Today I walked to town to see "Up the Yangtse" sp? at the "art house" movies. It was the story of the 3 Gorges dam and displacement of 2,000 people from their homes. It followed a young girl's life from a subsistence farm family to working on a tour boat. I found it interesting and would like to take a boat t
Kris, my former next door neighbor reports that the Visalia house has rented, hurrah! She says it is a couple in, perhaps, their 50's with a chihuahua and she (the wife) is some kind of nurse. Sounds good to me.
No job offers yet and it's already been 2 weeks! I apply to someplace new every couple days. Today I've applied for 3 jobs at the University of Southern Maine, but they won't even begin to look at applications until Aug. 6. I hate the waiting, the dependence on Michael, the uncertainty of life, but I am getting to know this town more intimately.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tourist in Maine

Before I forget to report, the bird I saw shortly after arriving here was a cardinal. I got a closer look while on a walk yesterday and it was unmistakable, and remarkably beautiful.
I am really enjoying the afternoon lightening storms with real rain! There is plenty of time to walk or bicycle downtown, check out the port for cruise ships, have a snack, and generally goof around before the dark clouds roll over. It humid, but that's ok when temps are in the 70's. When its sunny and 80's, AND humid (which it isn't always), it is sticky. I'll still take this over the heat at (my former) home.
It still feels like I'm on vacation since I am at loose ends and generally acting like a tourist. Michael and I went to West Maine last week for some really good folk music and my dinner was a fantastic lobster and corn "chowdah". Yesterday went to a nearby town for their annual clam festival. I had fried scallops and a "lime ricky". There are tons of artists and craftpeople here. I've never seen so many booths for both. I assume people do these activities during the cold winter months to keep active. I wonder what my winter activity will be once I'm settled and in the swing of things? Went to the mall today to buy a special tool at Sears to fix Michael's cupboard hinges. Could have been any mall across America.... young, better dressed types. Not so many tattooed young men as I see on the streets. I've never seen so many tattoos as here. I'd call them punks in California, but I think it is just the normal kid
No job yet, but not destitute yet either. Hope my house rents soon so I'll have a little income in case this dry stretch lasts longer than the money.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

First Impressions of Portland

First days in Portland, Maine July 11, 2008

It rained last evening! And a good amount at that. It’s so nice to actually have some weather changes. It’s been mid 80’s and pretty humid… feels like 90. Michael reminds me this only lasts a couple weeks each year. Just a few days later the temps are in the 70’s with no humidity, exactly what I signed up for!

Everything is different here including the tree, bird and plant species. It will take some time to familiarize myself with the hardwoods and cold-tolerant garden plants. There are some ubiquitous blue birds that act and sound suspiciously like blue jays, but look significantly different. I saw a bright orange bird today, but didn’t get a close enough look to try to identify it. Michael’s bird book indicates it might be a Tanager. Of course there are seagulls and an array of shore birds. It’s a mild culture-shock for me here.

People are a little different too. Most are very friendly and speak to one another more often than in the SJ Valley, or anywhere in California. They engage each other wherever and whenever circumstances bring them together as casual conversation. There seems to be a New England comradery among people. Even though I am “from away”, I am spoken to in waiting lines and at checkout stands. I haven’t identified the accent yet, but it’s different. I detect some Minnesota/Swedish thing (reminds me of the movie “Fargo”) and another Bostonian drawl where the “a’s” replace the “r’s”.

I’ve been turned down from 3 applications already and I thought I was well qualified for each of those jobs. Perhaps I applied after the interview process was completed. Anyway, there are several more apps to wait on. I went to Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital today to see if there was anything more I could do to increase my chances and all they could say was “it’s a waiting game”; thanks a lot. The cafeteria at MMC was having a run on macaroni & cheese for lunch although they had several stations for deli, hot sandwiches, prepared hot food, salads, & specials of the day. Quite an array of choice, but it is, of course, twice as large as Kaweah Delta. We have a Whole foods store and people seem to be into health conscious foods for the most part. We have several bakeries making specialty breads and lots of young people who are into new age eating habits. The farmers market in mid July has a lot of vegetables, but no fruit and gobs of plants, both ornamental and herbatious. Offerings included unpasturized goats milk & cheese, farmstead home made sausage, and blueberry honey. Michael bought a big bunch of sunflowers to dress up the condo. There are several colleges in town, so it seems like a young town.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Staying fit, bicycled to farmers market this AM, then around the back cove for 4-5 miles and past the huge cruise ship in port. There seems to be a new one in every other day or so. It is cool and breezy and perfect for outings, walks, bike rides.
Chris & John; I'm saving your Caiola's gift certificate for the special occasion of getting a job... I hope it is soon. Michael has been wanting to try it because he's heard it has wonderful food and never felt comfortable going alone. I pass it often on walks (it's only a couple blocks away from Michael's) and it smells absolutely fantastic.
Thanks again for your thoughtful and heartfelt send-off. I miss you all.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Background of Move

Attached is the last posting of the travel journal. Having arrived in Portland, there are a few of you who know nothing about what's been happening to my life the past few weeks. The rest, please indulge me while I fill in the newcomers.
My job at Kaweah Delta was eliminated, well, eliminated but reinstated with a second job in addition. The district imposed a hiring freeze 3 months ago and lost lots of employees due to attrition. With Medicare and MediCal payer cutbacks, they needed to get rid of more of the workforce and laid off 54 more employees (my job was one). So.... I gave my termination notice of 2 weeks and in that short time, packed up house and storage in a "POD" which is stored in Fresno until I call for it. I've put the house up for rent and thrown the cat in the car and swept cross county to Portland, Maine where I plan to make my new home. I am staying with my good friend Michael until I can get a job.
I am sorry not to have contacted more of you, but as you can imagine, my hands (and head) were full of the details of making my break in a short 2 weeks. I've been contemplating leaving Visalia for some time and it just seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Okay, so here I am spending hours and hours on the internet applying for jobs and now sitting by the phone hoping to get called. In the meantime Michael is showing me around, eating lobster, getting tickets to concerts and enjoying the cooler weather. Everything social and outdoors happens in the 3 months of summer, so one must get cracking and enjoy life before it turns cold.

Monday, July 7, 2008

On The Road

Well folks, time has passed and I haven't kept up with the journal. Just don't feel like writing after a long days drive. The gas prices in the first installment was, indeed a typo. gas was low $4, not the $1 as reported.
I am actually in Portland now, but reflecting on previous days on the road. Attached is TWD #2.
Dados did wonderfully, even without the tranquilizers and is happy to be in one place. She learned to put front paws up on the back armrest and press the down button on the window. She loved the wind in her face. I had to read the car manual to activate the child lockout on the windows.
BTW, Thanks to Shirley for the US road atlas. It was very valuable and more detailed than the big US map. Also to the group who supplied me with Arco gift cards. Arco only has stations in CA, NV, AZ, WA, OR. I never saw an Arco station the whole trip!! I'll return the cards to Irene as soon as I locate stamps, envelope and maybe a postcard.
Already had lobster today for lunch and am walking downtown to meet Michael at the wine bar for a pre-dinner sip.
All the best to everyone and another "thanks" for all your encouragement and travel gifts.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Day 4, Denver to Des Moines

Now that I have arrived in Portland, it is difficult to remember past days. Gas in the Midwest was $3.99 at its lowest and as high as $4.17. I quickly abandoned my resolve to travel under the speed limit because 1) Everybody else was going fast and 2) with gas prices lower than expected, I rationalized I could afford the extra cost. I have to say that America is not driving slower to save gas. Neither are truckers traveling slower. I would guess that 50% of the trucks on the road were traveling faster than the car speed limit. Diesel remained a steady $4.50 across the nation. I cannot sympathize with complainers about gas prices. If you can’t stand paying for your driving, just stay home. Europe has been paying these prices for decades. Eventually America will adjust and we’ll settle in with the “new normal”.

Day 5; Des Moines to Chicago

I made a reservation at a pet-friendly hotel in Chicago for two nights. It will be another welcome break after another couple days on the road. The hotel was really nice and “in the Loop”, which means downtown. Dados has decided she likes the $150 hotels much better than the $38 motels. I suppose they smell better and the bedspreads are not plastic.
I loved Chicago. I got into a crush of humanity at the “Taste of Chicago” where there were a reported 1.2 million people the day before the 4th. I had to attach myself to an aggressive black woman who eventually led me to freedom. I gave her my food tickets in appreciation.
On the 4th I took a nap in order to stay awake for the fireworks. In the afternoon I took the open-top double decker bus tour of the city, then a boat tour of the river and Lake Michigan waterfront. Nice town that Chicago. I had dinner at the famous and co-worker recommended Chicago Chop House, then walked close enough to Navy Pier to view the fireworks, yet not be in the middle of another crowd.

Day 6; Chicago to Syracuse
Can’t remember, my brain is mush.

Day 7; Syracuse to Portland

After a car ferry across Lake Champlain, I enjoyed the rolling, verdant hills of Vermont. The reason Vermont is so wonderful I’ve figured out is that there are large breaks in the tree cover and you can see vast expanses of countryside of green rolling hills and large farms. Once you get into New Hampshire, the trees close in and there are no vistas to see from the road. After taking back roads through bucolic villages of Vermont looking out for Martha Stewart’s estate, I got back on the interstate and jammed on into Portland.

Both cat and man are very thankful to be finished with the trip. No flat tires, engine problems, broken windshield or other eventful trials. Now that I’ve finished the travel log, Michael and I are going out for a lobster lunch in celebration.

Tomorrow I’ll take stock of my finances and figure how quickly I must return to the working force of America.