Traveling Again…

It’s been years since I took a flight…as I sit in the airport here in Portland – I remember suddenly how droll travel really is. And it’s worse than ever while having improved at the same time. The check-ins, the lines, the airport waiting rooms, the airport food – but – at least in Portland, that is something that appears to have gotten much better. I’ve just ordered breakfast at the Rogue Ales Public House and much to my amazement – a full breakfast is the same price or less than I’m used to paying at Denny’s or any roadside diner and the food is actually of better quality. Because I was thinking of international flights and lines of the past – I checked in way too early….three hours is too much – but the airport is a comfortable place to be. Free wi-fi, restaurants, comfy chairs, plenty of plugs for all my electronic devices….but the waiter has left my breakfast sitting in the window for at least five minutes…but here it comes now…maybe…he seems to be just ignoring it.

The flight itself was alright. But flying Hawaiian Airlines and every other airline has changed in the past ten years. Seats were so cramped that I couldn’t use the armrests on either side without hitting the guys to either side of me and when the lady in front of me put her seat back, I had no choice but to put mine back and I was unable to reach my carry-on bag under her seat for the rest of the flight without using my feet to grab it. There are no longer free in flight movies on this 5-6 hour flight – instead you can buy movies or games on the in seat entertainment console for $7.99 each or watch the Hawaiian Airlines show – which was pretty good but which probably doesn’t change for frequent fliers. Hawaiian is the last American airline that gives a complimentary meal with your expensive ticket – and what a feast…3 grapes and four squares of fruit, a tiny cookie, and an egg and cheese biscuit not unlike those from McDonalds which cost around a dollar. Plus coffee and water and a complimentary cup of juice at the end (the juice that costs $1.50 per 6 pack in Hawaiian grocery stores.

The car rental company did their damnedest to get me to buy extra insurance and the hotel I thought I got a deal on hit me with a $45 per night resort fee (just like Vegas, thanks Vegas) and of course, parking the rental is an extra $25 per day…which in this case isn’t a big deal. Milk and gas seem to no longer be obscenely expensive on Oahu, but all the local favorites that used to be cheap now cost big bucks….strangely bananas are cheaper on the Oregon Coast than in Hawai’i which probably makes sense because there are no banana plantations thriving here…

Cutting the Laptop Cord – Reviewing my iPad Pro 12.7

For the past two weeks, I’ve been pretty happily existing without a desktop or laptop computer. Maybe it’s been longer than that but I had to use the laptop for a few things that I haven’t learned to do yet on my tablet – so let’s just call it two weeks. Not too long ago, I made the decision to do it and I purchased a 12.7 inch iPad Pro with a keyboard and Apple Pencil. It does nearly everything that the laptop did and far more than the last desktop I owned which was long long ago in the dark ages of the internet. I’ve managed to make printing, document creation, anything internet related, and more even easier than they were with my laptop. The tablet is big by tablet standards but perfect by every standard except not fitting in my pocket and I’m fine with it. I needed to use my old laptop to download files and upload files via FTP when I was transferring a site to a new host – I’m sure there was a way to do it with the tablet, but rather than learn the new trick of this, I just pulled my old laptop out of a box and fired it up. Easy peasy eggs and cheesy. One complaint – no USB access to my external hard drive with all of my photos and other documents, videos, and files on it. I thought I’d found a way around this with a camera adaptor, but it didn’t work – it seems getting a Bluetooth external hard drive is the only way to do this. I probably will do that at some point, but don’t particularly want to transfer all of my files right now. And that’s it. Other than that, everything else has been an improvement or a seamless, not noticeable transition, or and improvement. We cut the cable tv cord quite a long time ago and have found Amazon Prime to be a great substitute. I’ve experimented with apps through Prime like CBS but only found PBS Kids to be really worth it and glitch free and the big problem was that it eliminated the need for a passcode so my daughter figured out quickly she could just watch as much as she wanted by going to PBS kids…And of course, the home telephone cord was cut even longer ago. We have smartphones with us all the time, a home phone is only good if you don’t want to have access to phone calls sometimes and in that case you can always leave your phone at home. Interestingly, my iPad is a cellular model, so I could conceivably use it as a phone and ditch the cellphone if I really wanted to – and at some point I may. I don’t think I would go the other way because I like the big screen on it. Apple has just announced a 10 inch model which is probably a nice compromise, but I haven’t regretted getting the 12.7 inch model even a single time since getting it. It’s literally like having a spiral notebook in terms of size and weight and that is a size I can deal with. Battery time is great. Upgrading to the thicker cord and higher rate charger made charging time very reasonable. The Apple keyboard and Apple Pencil are simply marvelous. I love both and already cannot conceive of not having either of them. For a printer, I use a compact Canon all in one with AirPrint and Google Print installed so I don’t need a printer cable and can print from my phone or tablet. Back in October of last year, I funded a kickstarter for something called the Superbook – it was supposed to ship in December but now will supposedly reach me by the end of this month (June) six months late. It uses an android phone as the processor and hard drive so that you essentially upgrade the Superbook when you upgrade your phone. It was supposed to be my next computer – but instead, it was very late and finally I ordered this iPad. I don’t think I will ever regret it, but if the Superbook ever does arrive, I’ll give it a fair try. I don’t think it’s really possible for it to be anywhere as enjoyable or good as my iPad Pro – but maybe we’ll get to give it a try. For what I do on the computer, the iPad Pro is a laptop killer.

Busy Busy Busy Busy and Busy

I have a lot of stuff. It all needs to go away from where we live by the end of the month. My wife has a lot of stuff. Our daughter has a lot of stuffed animals. All of this is keeping me pretty busy. Packing, sorting, pricing (for a total estate liquidation) and more. I’m thankful that I bought a quality trailer, but not so thankful that it started leaking in one of Oregon’s wettest and gravest winters since they started keeping records. And the rain just keeps on coming…that complicates things…but my options are limited so I pack it in the trailer in tubs the best that I can. What else can I do? I am working very hard to figure out exactly where that trailer is going to go and how it is going to get there…moving us is easy, moving the stuff is more problematic. My Vanagon isn’t made to pull anything larger than a utility trailer – so it won’t do. I sold my Jeep Cherokee which is good because it wasn’t really up to the job either. I’m working on selling the Vanagon to raise money for our transition – but much to my surprise – the market for Vanagons seems to have cooled a bit from where it was a few months ago. This particular market seems to have peaked and then gone a bit higher before dropping down and leveling at a still very reasonable price range which is several thousand dollars below the peak. I’ve noticed a huge increase in inventory availability on craigslist in the past month – which means that for the moment – everyone who wants one and can pay for it probably has one. It probably also means that now is a great time to buy a Vanagon or VW but not the best time to sell one. So, Misefrou may come with us when we figure out exactly where we are going. That wouldn’t be a bad thing – but the money would be useful at the moment. Still, I’m doing everything I can and trusting in the universal to bring about the right circumstances. This last week was busy – my daughter had her kindergarten graduation – I was proud as punch as all the kids walked on stage and said what they wanted to be when they grow up “army, jet pilot, mother, vet, basketball player” and then comes my little girl – the smallest girl in the school and she walks up and they have to pull the mic down for her and she says in a clear and confident voice “When I grow up I want to be a paleontologist.” There were audible gasps – I’m guessing that a large number of the adults in the room didn’t know what the word meant, but she did. So proud of my little genius and the math we do every morning, the reading we’ve been working on together for years now, all the fun study we do together and the smart conversations – this was payment in full with interest. Wow. Yesterday I looked at my annual list of goals for this year and was able to put check marks next to many of them or to update with positive progress…things are happening. I am so thankful. So very very thankful. Things are happening. Good things are happening. I’ve become cautious though about counting my chickens before they hatch. There is lots and lots of work to be done still. I’d better get to it.

Homeownerlessness

Thus far, in my life, I have never owned my own home except when I’ve lived in VW vans. It’s my own fault – mortgages were easy to come by several times in my life and I chose not to invest. This will sound funny, but the prices always seemed too high. In the early-1990s – a Staff Seargent in my Marine Corps unit suggested that a bunch of enlisted guys pool our money and start buying real estate. It was a good suggestion and none of us took it. In the mid to late 1990s, I was struggling to find my calling – if, while I had worked in radio, I had applied for a mortgage using my VA Loan – I could have bought a modest house in what is now the booming real estate market of Bellingham, Washington. In the early 2000s – I had the opportunity to purchase a small studio apartment in Honolulu for $100,000 – the price seemed pretty extreme to me and I passed. And then, the housing boom came and I was sure that the economy was heading over a cliff but mortgages were incredibly easy to come by – I chose not to seek a home loan. That was it for me – those were my opportunities. We all know what happened in 2007 with the economy and housing – as a result of that – the requirements for getting a home loan became much more stringent – in fact – in 2016 when I talked to several banks about getting a loan – they told me that my VA Guarantee was no longer worth much and that as a self-employed business owner that my reported income was too low to qualify for a home loan – both bankers suggested that I ‘find a way’ to report a higher income. Yes, I could have lied on my taxes this year. I could have taken less deductions. I could have paid more tax…but the truth is that this year with the long grey winter and the bizarre politics of 2016 – my business wasn’t sufficient to do that. We needed those deductions.

Now, the housing market is again red hot. Things like AirBnB have made housing prices soar in desirable locations. I am in the midst of closing or with any luck selling my business (I do not own the building that houses it). For the present time, my VA Home Loan Guarantee sits in a folder – worthless and unusable. I console myself by imagining that the housing market will again have a massive crash and perhaps I will be able to buy something afterwards – but I don’t really believe it. I tell myself that the banks own most of the houses that people live in – and the mortgages are simply another form of rent and home ownership is by and large an illusion anyway. We have been served an eviction notice in the house we’ve rented for the past four years because the owner wants to sell it. I am thankful that we had already been making plans to move before we got the notice, but can’t help asking myself “What if we had not?”

We currently exist in a 60 day limbo in which lies a form of homelessness that terrifies me. The landlord was apologetic and felt bad about serving the eviction because we have been great tenants – but right now is the time to sell. I don’t blame her a bit. I would have done the same thing in her position. We are 60 days away from involuntary family homelessness.

Yes, we have been making plans. Yes, I am sure we will find something. I’d be foolish, however, not to be concerned. AirBnB and the red hot housing market have driven rents sky high.

I am a person – actually, we are a family, that if you want to send a birthday card to my 5-year-old daughter, a letter to my wife, or even a bill to me – more than 60 days from now to us – we have no forwarding address.

So, once again, here I am. This time, I was ready to seize opportunity – and this time it was denied me. I am rooting for the collapse of the economy. I am rooting for the collapse of the housing bubble. I am rooting for the collapse of AirBnB and more. I would rather be cheering for the economy and housing – but this Gen-x USMC veteran has been left behind by it. I have been left out of it. I accept my responsibility in this process – but no matter how hard I try – it just doesn’t make sense that this is all my fault. And so – here we are. Here I am. Here we go.