Monday, October 7, 2013

The Weekend Spelled Out in Dollar Signs

A little backstory to how we became so tragically poor over the weekend...

We own a 2009 Prius, which we adore and would name, if we could ever decide on an appropriate name for such an efficient beast. She is not particularly fast, but she is a ninja...or a SEAL. We have, many times, accidentally sneaked up on cyclists, runners, and the occasional golf cart. She has been good to us and we've been been appreciative to her in the form of regular oil changes at reputable places (like dealerships...until recently, when we switched over to places where a guy in a hole in the floor appears out of the darkness to change oil and filters in 13.7 minutes flat) and detailed car washes. One time she got a flat tire, through no fault of her own and once she lit up the entire dash with every single caution light installed...and when you're talking about a hybrid, it can start to look like the Vegas strip. But, as it turned out, that was a recall issue and we were back on the road to a loving relationship in less than a day.

Fast forward to about 3 weeks ago when, on the way to the public library's book sale, the check engine light came on. Mistaking it for the check oil light, I pulled into our local guy-in-the-pit place to have them take a look. They changed the oil, realized it was the check engine, ran the electrical for "codes", found nothing and cleared the check engine light. I paid my bill, thanked them for...whatever...and called the dealership in Louisville, who informed me that a light always means something but since it had been cleared, all of the information associated with the light had been erased and I would just have to wait for it to come back on.

Fast forward to last Thursday during my mad dash to make it to my hair stylist on time (which, admittedly, is my only real appointment of the month so I feel extra pressure to arrive in a timely fashion). The light came back on. Schnitzel. Seriously?? Of all the nights and all the weeks, when I had to be in Louisville with Blue the next day and then another trip to Louisville on Saturday. Really?? So after my cut, color, style, and obligatory post-salon selfie, I met Neal and Blue at the local dealership to drop off our pretty little Prius. Related: it had to be a dealership because, apparently, Toyota has been tight-fisted with the how-to-work-on-a-hybrid side of things, leaving non-Toyota mechanics in the dark about how to do anything but a routine service or oil change. Awesome. Did you know that Toyota won't accept our Firestone (6 months, no interest) credit card for payment at their dealership? And then we waited for the call.

Hello? This is Bob at Toyota. We figured out what's wrong with your car. The auxiliary battery is dying. That's about $50 in parts but we have to take out your entire trunk to get to it, so that adds some. Also, your catalytic converter is going out. That's going to be pricey. All said, it will be $2404.

Sorry, Blue. You can't go to college. We had to fix the exhaust system on our french fry oil burner. How ironic.

But, figuring the longer we waited to fix it, the more it would destroy in the meantime, we handed over the AmEx and silently calculated how many free nights in a Doubletree Suites that would score us...when we can eventually go on vacation again in 2017. Our pretty little Prius now gets 49.5 miles to the gallon...up 6 mpg from last week. I'm not sure how long it will take us to recoup $2400 in gas but I'm thinking we'll be even before the next Presidential election.

On a related note, as I was calling around to get quotes from other mechanics we know (and also my mom because, while she is not a mechanic nor does she play one on TV, she also has a Prius and sometimes knows the answer before I even ask the question), one guy said, "oh that's the part they've been cutting out and selling online." Ummm...OK.

So, YES...this is apparently a thing. In my hometown, they've had a rash of catalytic converter thefts, mainly from SUVs (because they sit up higher, making it easier to get under and get out without being noticed) and mainly in large parking lots where people tend to stay for awhile (hospitals, Walmart) since the part has to cool before it can be cut and stolen all thug-like. The catalytic converters have platinum in them, obviously making them valuable. Even my wedding bands don't have platinum (which is fortunate, lest someone see some value in them and cut off my finger while I'm napping in my car in a Walmart parking lot). So, a word to the wise: a catalytic converter is necessary and expensive. If you see someone worming their way out from under your bumper, chase them like a dog and scream like Publisher's Clearinghouse is standing on your porch. Unless you have a Prius, which they can't get under anyway. Even Blue has trouble. And then you'll just have to wait until it goes out on its own.

Update: In an ironic twist of fate, we had a CD come due on Saturday morning so we are not as poor as we originally thought. But if the Pathfinder pulls any funny business, we'll have to put Blue on a paper route. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The New Definition of Fun

September 22 was our 7 year wedding anniversary. Honestly, I've never done anything for 7 years, so this was kind of a big deal for me. Last year to celebrate our 6th, Shana graciously agreed to watch Blue for a couple of hours while we went out for sushi. But Blue was less than a month old and all I could think and talk about was...well...Blue. (I'm now going to refrain from referencing an episode of Dinosaur Train because a) I still remember a time when I referenced 30 Rock and b) I don't want to come across as a mom who co-parents with PBS...although it does happen on occasion.) So, sushi was great, but it was now time for something a bit more...something that involved a hotel room and room service and hours of uninterrupted HGTV.

21C is a museum hotel located on Main Street in downtown Louisville. It easy to spot...just keep one eye open for a giant golden statue of David and then look down. Sitting at the bar inside 21C gives you a lovely view of brilliant bronzed buttcrack. Here...let me give you a visual...
OK, now that we are all on the same leaf...and 21C has a whimsical, eye-catching limo parked right outside the door.
If you are saying to yourself, "Self...that looks an awful lot like a car covered in those floral beads my grandmother would put in a vase with an array of fake flowers," you would be spot-on. The entire car has been bedazzled. It's a little bit bewildering and befuddling, but mostly just beautiful...I mean, if conspicuous is how you roll. The night we were there, the bling machine was making its rounds with one very lucky bride.

The weekend Shana visited for Blue's first birthday, we stopped in for a quick browse of 21C's art collection, which is free to the public and open 24 hours a day. Apparently, it also rotates with art among the other 2 21C hotels, located in Cincinnati and Bentonville, Arkansas. Yes, I said Bentonville. Are you paying attention, Tami? Traci? Belinda? And most importantly...husbands? Blue had just learned to walk so Neal had his hands full while Shana and I perused the gallery. I briefly mentioned wanting to spend a night there and off we went, to dinner or the Slugger Museum or whatever was next on the agenda.

One week later, I got an email saying that we had one night with the Got Art? package at 21C. Happy Anniversary! Indeed. We made arrangements with Big Mama and Nana Anna to watch Blue for the night (which, for the record, was going to be a first and I think the only person not nervous about the evening was Blue) and booked the glassblowing session included in the package.

Last Saturday, after a dizzying 2 hours at the family-run pumpkin patch, we dropped off Blue, threw Big Mama a couple of deuces, and hit the road. And we waited for the call begging us to come back. It never came. This is a testament not only to Blue's resiliency, but also Big Mama's and Nana Anna's resolve. I give them a lot of credit for saying, "OK, we got this. You kids go have fun." But as Neal put it so succinctly later in the evening (and after a flight of bourbon), we were not coming back. Under any circumstances. They would learn what it was to be grandmothers. Fortunately, we had already met our quota of ER visits earlier in the month so it had to go smoothly.

A quick check-in to our 2nd floor loft-like room (with 2 windows that looked directly out onto Main Street, where we later saw a horse-drawn carriage lit to look like Cinderella's ride and a traveling bar that was propelled by the participants pedaling while they drank...WHAT? Shana, we are so doing that next time)...

(yes, that a freakishly large cup of iced coffee from Wendy's. Small = 3 liters at Wendy's. No one should drink that much iced coffee. Ever.)

And it was time to stroll around the corner to our glassblowing session at Flame Run Gallery on Market Street. This was such a treat that I'm going to dedicate a separate post to reviewing the adventure, but this is how we blow...

Those are Christmas ornaments that I'll be picking up this week. Squee!

Glassblowing ended around 5:30 and our dinner reservations weren't until 8:30. What to do for 3 hours?? Oh wait. Drink. Yeah, that sounds right. So back to 21C we headed...straight to the bar inside Proof on Main, the restaurant at 21C (which is a great foodie spot in its own right, even if you pass on the glass and the room service and the unlimited HGTV).

First order of business, the drink menu.
Now, Neal will tell you that finding a bar that serves brands of bourbon beyond Maker's, Jim Beam, and Woodford is rare. Finding a bar that serves brands Neal has never heard of is practically...well, unheard of. In the 8 years we've been together, it has never happened. 21C boasts an impressive selection of 50 bourbons, some of which are included in their bourbon flights. Neal chose a flight, added a shot of Buffalo Trace "White Dog" (uncut bourbon, straight off the still) for $3 and called it done. I, unable to sip any kind of bourbon without a heavy pour of soda soaking through it, ordered a glass of malbec (which is really me just trying to figure out which malbec we had at this jazz club last month. It was amazing and I can't find it again.)
Bottoms up, Mr. Miller. Your bride is waiting. There is a post-White Dog shot that is pretty priceless, but we're going to wait until after he retires to post that one. So, after a flight of bourbon, a glass of wine, another glass of bourbon, and a glass of Prosecco, we headed down to the art gallery to peruse at our leisure (pronounced "le-shure" because that's approximately how intoxicated we were).

And now for some 21C art. Not suitable for viewing with 5th grade boys or any men with whom you may share a cubicle wall.

Huh...I was thinking I had photographed more of the full-frontal nudity but maybe I didn't want to have to explain to Blue later why that was on Mama's computer. Anyway, there is a fair amount of nudity/bondage/woodland creatures in this particular exhibit. But there is also this enormous funnel cloud suspended from the ceiling, created using all of the household items that get swept up into a tornado when it passes through. From the floor, it looks like a bunch of metal soldered together, but a closer look reveals that it's a toaster and a frying pan and a hair dryer and a photo album, etc, etc. This alone is worth the trip. There are a couple of pieces commenting on our involvement in the Middle East and a video of a man, who lost his hands during a drug ring bust in Mexico, washing his face. It's exactly the way I like my art...symbolic and ironic with a dose of bizarre.

There are also giant penguins. The bright red water fowel are a staple at 21C and they tend to migrate throughout the day. (Understandably so...they are astonishingly lightweight.) It is said that the staff moves them about, from one floor to another and sometimes into guests' rooms. We found this guy chilling in the gallery.
He looked bored. He looked like he needed a change of scenery. So, balancing an empty champagne glass in one hand and a giant red penguin in the other, I rose to Neal's triple dog dare and carried him off.

Well, to the other side of the wall. Because 2 glasses of wine will loosen my inhibitions, but not make me forget that the next morning I had to wake up, outside of a jail cell, and be a responsible adult and parent. I'm glad I had my 20's. I don't remember them, but I'm glad I had them. Because this is now the extent of my lawlessness.

All of this and we still had 90 minutes to waste before dinner. Neal has started geocaching through an app on his phone. He usually remembers to stop and look for caches whenever we are out and about. As it turned out, there was a cache in the hotel. In the men's restroom, to be exact. The urinal is a giant waterfall with a 1-way mirror looking out into the hallway of the hotel. Women will catch a glimpse of the mirror, stop to adjust hair and makeup and be none the wiser that a man is just on the other side with flesh in hand, and would be peeing on her shoes were it not for the glass.
I said, "act like you're peeing" and this is what I get. All class, all the time. 
The exact words were, "this is the first time I've ever wished I had a penis. How fun is this?"
I seeeeeee youuuuuuuu, random woman in the hallway! I'm shaking my imaginary penis at you. But just once or twice...because three times and you're playing with it. (See? I could be a guy. Can I get an honorary card?)

Now it was time to go change for dinner, do the hair, the makeup, the exchange of gifts, and be on our way. Do we know how to kill 3 hours or what? Dinner was at Vincenzo's, which I will review later. On the way back, we saw 2 bats nested on the Humana building columns and several horse-drawn carriages, but nothing could draw us away from the promise of cable and a comfortable bed with just the 2 of us in it. We fell asleep to the hum and lights of HGTV and yet another episode of House Hunters.

Our Got Art? package included a voucher for breakfast the next morning at Proof on Main. One bagel and lox and an eggs benedict later, we were ready to face the day... was this guy, who looks a little like he's been lured into Hotel California.
Y'know what they say, little can check in, but...
The view of David from the bar at Proof. Never far from a huge chunk of...abs.
Since we were not the main characters of an Eagles song, all good things must come to an end. Neal checked out as I cruised the gift shop. Part of our package was a $30 voucher to spend in the store. All I needed was a tween-sized blue meerkat to help me make the decision. Oh...wait...
We opted to bring a little bit of the art and whimsy home with us. Better than Elf on the Shelf, all I have to do is place this little guy in unexpected places to get a chuckle out of Neal. It's the best running gag ever. Now we just have to pray the movers don't break it.

If you are in the Louisville, Cincy or Bentonville area (and they are adding a 4th location in Lexington, KY soon), I all-caps, underscore four times RECOMMEND 21C for a night or 2 or 5. The staff is helpful and friendly, the beds are soft, the decor is unexpected, and there is an espresso maker in the rooms. There are ways to incorporate art and fun into everyday life and 21C has mastered them.