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New Year, New Life

January 1 - 11 (more or less)
written January 3 and after

Dear Friends and Families,

After a month of entering things almost every day into these diaries, I notice I have gone a week with nothing.  I guess that means we are semi-settled here in Fresno. However, I still want a record of our transition, so I have to get busy again.

New Years Eve:  The plan was for snacks and bingo games with Marianne's family (Mamo, Babi, Reuben, and their little grandson Zaiden).  Good idea, but the five-month old had other ideas and requested the evening to end early.  He won.  Cute kid, nonetheless.

Most of the rest of our time seems to be spent buying or scouting for future buying.  We have started replacing all our "plug things" as part of the shift to the American electrical system: washer, dryer, toaster, printer, iron, vacuums, so far.  Furniture purchases have started too, since much of that will be mail order. ("mail" = on-line, of course.  Wells Fargo no longer delivers here in Fresno.)

d140103_04_ArtHop.jpgd140103_06_ArtHop2.jpg Marianne is starting to get connected with her art scene.  We have met Valerie Greene at "Brush and Easel" and Marianne is already planning classes.  Yesterday (2nd) we went to our first "Fresno ArtHop", a monthly series of open studios.  We only managed one visit, at 1821 Gallery and Studios, a converted auto repair garage with  a half-dozen artists in residence.  Pretty darn good stuff too.  I actually look forward to next month.

d140103_02_Shipment.jpg Our furniture and car are in transit.  The MOL Endurance, our furniture ship, is just leaving Panama and the APL Melbourne should deliver our car to New York tomorrow (4th).  Meanwhile, the money from sale of our German house has found its way to our US checking account.  That was a four-day process that was a bit unnerving, as there were periods when half our life's savings were neither in Germany nor America.  Next week we will use it to buy the house on Cambridge.

More as it happens (Jan. 3, morning, at Starbuck's).

Weekend update (although retirees really don't have weekends.)

Saturday's big goal was a house examination, my first.  We prepared by having a hearty breakfast at a small cafe in the Tower District, our new neighborhood.  The food was good and the ambiance typical of Tower, a bit shabby, but not TOO bad.  We are developing a sense that Fresno's Tower District is a museum, a museum of life in the 1950's.  The cafe's are "mid-century" classics, and some of the street folks seem left over from the era as well.  We will adapt to both.

d140104_02_inHouse.jpgd140104_02_measureDetail.jpgAt 10, we met Angie at our new house.  The plan included measuring details so we could efficiently direct our movers where to put things - some day.  Measured sizes versus prior impressions were a mixed bag.  Some places measured smaller than we thought, but others will be roomy enough for our German things.

d140104_04_back.jpgd140104_08_work.jpgMore significantly, I developed my own impression of our new purchase: another project.  I had hoped for less work staring us in the face, but that seems not to be.  The place needs electrical update, painting here and there, probably plumbing update, kitchen and pantry update, and a ton of yard renewal.  And, of course, there is furnishing: all new plug-things, two bedrooms, major dinning and living room pieces, and untold details.  I just hope the whole effort doesn't become the center of our lives - again.

d140104_10_Car.jpgd140104_12_furniture.jpgMeanwhile, our ships are making progress.  The car container has landed in Bayonne, New Jersey.  Better it than me.  The furniture ship is off Puerto Vallarta, making 22 knots toward Los Angeles.  Knock-on-wood, things seem to be progressing well.  The hope is that, in about two weeks, we will have both furniture and our little station wagon to carry our project purchases.

d140105_02_John.jpgToday (Sunday, 5th), after our Starbuck's breakfast and morning chores, Marianne has an art class.  I'll tell her to take pictures.  I will stay home and watch American football.  It is time for the professional playoffs and I need to reacquaint myself with the whole deal.  After that, it will be a BBQ at Marianne's sister's house.  Reuben will probably test me on my football knowledge by then, so I have my work cut out.

More later.

"Later" turned out to take a week.  I know it was a busy week, but what did we do?  It's all a bit of a blur.  There were a few trips to Kaiser hospital/clinic as we re-establish our medical care here in Fresno.  No problems, just lots of tests and doctor visits to establish a proper baseline.  So far, we'd give our new medical care-giver high marks, even if it is a bit more expensive than care in Germany.

d140109_04_runAround.jpg We also continue to run around buying "necessities" for our new American life.  The big purchase of the week were two iPhones and an iPad to replace our Germany devices.  On Gabby's advice, we chose Verizon as a provider and they pleasantly took our money.  I have to say that interaction with commercial folks here in America has been uniformly sweet, downright saccharin sweet.  Everyone is friendly, chit-chatty, and efficient.  Back in Old Europe, "efficient" was common, but the other aspects were not expected.  I will blame it on language capability.

(My one exception to "efficient" was the interaction with AT&T to get our home TV-internet-phone service.  It took close to two hours to NOT close the deal.  The "friendly" and "chatty" aspects did hold for most of that time, but the problem turned out to be Marianne's credit rating.  For 15 years, all our US credit history has been in my name, not hers.  Consequently, I have a good credit rating and she has none.  For a contract in her name, AT&T required a substantial non-refundable deposit.  Lesson learned and we will work on Marianne's credit score.)

Speaking of buying, we closed on the house yesterday (Friday the 10th).  We are home owners again and the bank account is much closer to normal.  We will get keys and possession on Sunday and I will report then.

d140109_02_container.jpg Meanwhile, our shipments are proceeding.  The furniture made it through the Golden Gate bridge to the Oakland docks.  No ETA for the truck trip to Fresno.  The car container was off-loaded in New Jersey, but unfortunately selected for examination by US Customs.  More delay and costs.  The difference between the efficiency of the furniture shipment and the uncertainty of the car continues.

Otherwise, I think we are settling in.  Our Saturday fun was to attend a rose pruning class at a garden near our new house.  Mamo came with us and even won one of the rose-bush door prizes.  It was a fun outing and we learned a lot from Linda and Bill, but how much will we remember and use?  Enough I hope.

After class, we went to the Tower District to an old diner, "The Chicken Pot Pie".  The restaurant is an authentic holdover from the mid-century (aka, the 1950's):  Original counter, original booths, original menu, and, unfortunately, original dirt. Cleaning may have been a once-per-decade task. Not good enough to warrant a return visit.

Wednesday morning (January 15th)
Since the Saturday post, we have moved forward.  On Sunday, we met the seller and got the house keys.  I think we didn't get pictures because we were so nervous. No matter, it's ours now and there will be plenty of pictures.  Were we excited? Yeah, I guess so, but mostly I have this foreboding over the whole process of making this 80-year-old house our own and making Fresno a real home town.

We continue the buying and spending: TVs, washer, dryer, cable service, phone service, internet service, security service, water, sewer, trash, electricity, gas, etc., etc. So far, nothing really surprising or unexpected (knock on wood), but the volume of our commercial activity is wearing -- and it's just beginning I think.

The big news is that the furniture will arrive tomorrow, Thursday, from Germany.  Talk about intimidated, I can't imagine how we will squeeze in everything from our 40-foot, "high-cube" container into our "old" house.  We have tried to organize and plan the furniture placement like we were preparing for a hostile invasion, lists and maps galore.  We will see how it turns out.

I don't promise timely diary entries, but we will record things sooner or later, and I promise to make pictures.

John and Marianne


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