Thursday, February 25, 2010

the car buying continues....

I'm shopping for cars tomorrow. A small endeavor compared to most problems in the world, but for me, I've been biting my nails for weeks. So I'm progressing prepared.

I've already made lists: these cars, with these miles, at these dealerships for these prices. And then I scribbled NADA's trade-in and suggested retail values.

I called my bank, inquiring about a loan, asking for which interest rates I qualified. My credit score is "excellent" and based on my debt and income, the lender said I can only borrow a certain amount (actually a little more than I even wanted) and I had to keep my payments within a certain dollar figure... the same dollar figure I'd allowed myself. Perfect.

(Sorry, but I'm not getting into specifics here, ya nosy. I don't mind telling you about the times I face-planted in snow or farted next to my boyfriend, but my face would blush redder if you saw my financial figures than if Mother Theresa walked in on me in the shower.)

No matter what I pay though, cars will always cost too much money and I will never be rich enough. Philosophers questioned speaking in absolutes. Well, until I win the Powerball (a $1 ticket I NEVER purchase) I will never be rich enough. That is always true.

But so far, I've surmised that this car-buying process may go smoother than I expected. I still know nothing about cars, but I've learned a little about buying one.

Wish me luck :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

ND: small-town sweethearts or freaking a-holes?

Readers have commented on these stories, saying how one or the other is more representative of small towns in North Dakota. Some people say some small towns are more accommodating than others, some say North Dakotans are nice to everyone, but one thing's for sure, North Dakotans are proud of themselves and take critique and small-town stereotypes VERY seriously.
Sure, North Dakota can stare the recession in the face and say, jigga who? We, North Dakotans, have a billion dollar budget surplus and the state increased its share of public school funding, so we had a property tax cut. But at the same time, they have county roads more dangerous than a rollar coaster without a seatbelt and that's when you get to them. The other six months, they're covered in snow because crews take weeks to remove it. 
North Dakota, like every other state in the nation, has its good sides and its bad. I, too, am a newcomer to the state. I'm wowed by the people willing to jump Vinny and push him to softer ground. Nowhere else do people go so out of their way to help neighbors, friends and coworkers struggling with medical emergencies, natural disasters and other disabling events. But even with the outpouring, I'm outraged at close-mindedness to different cultures and lifestyles and the lack of curiosity and compassion for people unlike them. Plus, if I hear one more farmer receiving CRP/ other farm subsidies complain about welfare or one more Medicare recipient complain of government intervention in healthcare, I may just strap on my pointy-toes and kick like frightened cattle. 
North Dakota is great, but it isn't perfect. Children in small towns have the opportunity to play every sport and join every club here, but school budgets are too small for art class. Children grow up knowing their neighbors better family, but at 18 years old, have never met a person with skin of charcoal or eyes of almond shapes. Here, binge drinking is the highest in the nation.
North Dakota has its good and its bad. I think everyone can agree on that. I'm not sure which story is the epitome of this, but my guess is it's exactly in the middle. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

thanks be to MoNA <--- enjoy it while it lasts

Melted snow turned the streets a darker shade of concrete today in a heat wave worth celebrating only in North Dakota.

"It's 22 degrees," one co-worker said today.

"Beautiful!"replied another.

And it was.

Today I walked outside wearing only one pair of pants and didn't feel the chill suffocate my skin and dry my epidermis. Twenty-two degrees feels like 60 when you're used to double digits below zero. If the streets weren't so covered in ice, I'd have taken a walk and worked on my tan. But even though I didn't, I smiled and strolled without fury anyway. As in, instead of wearing multiple pairs of gloves and socks and amplifying my amble from outside to inside, I could enjoy the fresh air... breath it in without coughing it out. It's nice not to have to rush from car door to door. In fact, Vinny's temperature gauge raised from 6 to 3 o'clock faster than Canada's Abel LeBlanc raised his middle finger to the legislature up North.

Perhaps it's too early to say this, but Vinny only got stuck once this year, and it wasn't entirely his fault. I was delivering home-building goods to Cowboy on a day in which driving should have been banned like racial slurs from freedom of speech. Luckily, my car was mere feet from two handsome men in Carhart overalls, so a push and pedal to the medal later, Vinny was free and the world was saved from tyranny, depression and dolls with exposed midriffs. Pretty much.

I was scared for winter this year. Scared it could somehow be worst than the last, scared of getting stuck, stranded and frozen so far in the middle of nowhere, no one would find me 'til the snow melted. And I'm pretty sure my mascara would run by then. Hideous.

I'm glad to see that while she put up a fight, MoNa didn't win this year. I did. Not that she isn't a sneaky little sucker, (she dusted Jamestown with 27 inches last March, so she could hit again) but I think she took some sedatives this year. Or maybe some Midol. Or then again, maybe she's just so tired from crudding on the rest of the country, that North Dakota got a little break this year. A torture chamber, sure, but a swift kick beats kneecapping any day.

Dear MoNa,

Thanks for winter. It reminds us to take advantage of the nice days and squeeze in each ray of sunshine. The cold days remind us how futile we humans are, and how, despite our best efforts, we are not resilient. We need the help of warm weather, heated vehicles and most importantly, each other. Lesson learned.

Springing for spring,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day shooting spree

I don't like traditional Valentine's Days.

One of the reasons is because the day is named after Saint Valentine, the patron of love, lovers and friendship. Some say Feb. 14 is the anniversary of his beheading in 270 A.D. And today, we celebrate that death with cupids, arrows and chocolate-covered strawberries. I don't know about you, but 1700 years after I die, ya'll better still be in mourning, ok?

I don't like Valentine's Day because the last truly awesome one I had included a couple's skate to the sweet melodies of Celine Dion's "Because you loved me." I wore a turquoise Alaska sweatshirt (thanks Aunt Michelle) and as we held hands, my soon-to-be sixth grade boyfriend perspired the Pacific Ocean through his fingertips. (Giddy up, Danny J).

Last year, however, was almost as good.

After a recent break up with a guy I probably should've never dated anyway, I took Carrie Underwood's "Get Outta this Town" literally and headed south, south to the Big-O where fellow Creightonian editor Kelli Mutch agreed to be my date. If we we're going to be single, we could at least be lesbians about it.

So we joined forces with a few fellow Creighton alums and at Alpine Inn, ate fried chicken with our fingers and skipped the beer and drank the grease instead. Could we get some extra napkins? we asked. Sure the waitress said, handing us a roll of paper towels. Romantic.

There, the North Omaha view consisted of raccoons and feral cats eating chicken bone residue and posing for photographs in the moonlight.

From there, Kelli and I traveled to mid-town where a man had tatooed his head with an Irish flag the size of a deck of cards. He told us he was a rugby player from Council Bluffs, set to move to Colorado. He bought me drinks and I accepted. He asked to hang out sometime, and I declined. Happy, happy Valentine's Day, indeed.

So this year, I told Cowboy to knock it off with the jewelry and the candy. I'd prefer a heart-shaped pepperoni pizza from Papa Murphy's, please. Shocked but not offended, he obliged until his friends invited us over Saturday night for ribs, potatoes and Rock Band, the game where boys become superstars and girls laugh at the color-coded guitar strings and male octave ranges rivaling those of  Mariah Carey herself.

Those ribs kicked the crust off my pepperoni pizza, and frankly I prefer the company of friends for Valentine's Day. Friends kick the candle out of dinner for two in a crowded restaurant so dark you can't read the menu.

But even though I don't believe in Hallmark-y weddings and holidays, I do believe in gifts.

For Valentine's Day, Cowboy gave me these:

Because nothing says "I love you" like terminally diagnosed long-stem gerber daisies.

As for me, for Valentine's Day, my gift to Cowboy was this:

Because nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day" like blasting the brains of "big game" animals.

Sunday we ordered stuffed crust pizza and rented movies like "Knocked Up" and a Blockbuster exclusive called "I love hate Valentine's Day." I never watched the latter because I fell asleep during the former. The next morning, Cowboy washed the dishes. Now that my friends, is true romance, and proof Saint Valentine did not parish in vain.

Friday, February 12, 2010

a little perspective

Spoken like someone with 4-wheel drive and a two-car garage, a fellow Jamestownian once told me, "If weather's your only complaint, you have nothing to complain about."


True. The only shootings in town are bb guns at car windows, or more frequently, some former country bumpkin, violating city code, guns a raccoon in his tomato garden. I check the call log at police everyday. The most frequent offense: Runaway Rover.

Last year I wrote about the 90 inches of snow we received and then the floods which occurred after and how I refused to wear boots of any kind besides my pointy-toed ones. Well, the goal was to continue that trend this year, but instead, I fell flat on my face and not literally, thankyouverymuch.

Hi, my name is Katie and I wear cloddy snow boots, even on days it doesn't snow. Now, when the Great Spirit takes me to the big beach in the sky, he's going to ask me how I've suffered. Did I not feed you, he'll ask? Clothe you? Shelter you?

Yes, yes. But frankly father, I could have done without all the clothes. Give me some warm weather and I'd be happy to donate my double-wide green parka to the children suffering in Africa, even if they don't suffer from cold.

See, the weather's been so cold here for so long, ice covers every street. And atop the ice is a fresh frosting of newly fallen snow which looks celestial until the world wakes up, walks in it and turns to shades of gray. Or yellow. Or brown.

So instead of trying to tempt fate, I've instead worn faux-fur lined black boots to work, and even at work. And at least in North Dakota, those aren't against the dress code.

Until then, I'll continue to complain. Already, experts are forecasting floods, not as high as last year's 500 -year flood, but as high as the 100-year flood 12 years its senior. If flooding this bad is expected every 100 years, why has it occurred three times since 1997?

But even if the snow should stop and water remain within the banks of its respective river, I'll still find reason to whine. Indeed, I'll always have the boys who tuck their hoodies in their jeans.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

cheap dinner

Yesterday I waited 53 minutes for a $2.75 cent hamburger. Upon consumption, it tasted like a $2.75 hamburger. Its beef was of frozen preservation and bun of the same variety. And although the restaurant offered pickles and raw onion, I put pictures of lettuce, tomato, bacon, mayonnaise and all that make a burger sinful on milk cartons. I couldn't find the missing children anywhere.

So that night as I snored, I dreamed about $2.75 hamburgers and making my own... with steamed buns to soak up burger grease, broiled cheese and sauteed onion stacked in just the right order with lettuce below burger below tomato. I'd own a restaurant with satisfied guests, full bellies and no mind for fat grams and caloric intake. I'd be great. My stomach would never grumble and my pocketbook n'er would empty. Diners at my restaurant would polish off their burgers de heaven with a chocolate milkshake and never gain a pound.

A person can believe anything during a REM cycle.

So in my dream, I offered a trial version my masterpiece to Kyle J., who removed the bun of perfect texture, sliced the beef with a plastic fork and refused to eat it further. Not good enough, she said. And I don't like carbs.

And then I woke up, disappointed.

My nocturnal dreams of winning the gold medal in the Iron Chef contest are now crushed. My commercial kitchen aspirations over. 

But at least Kyle J. revealed my stronger soul and some spare cash. Maybe today I'll upgrade to the dollar-menu.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hauling snow out my window

I've watched five trucks drive by hauling semis worth of snow. I don't know where they're going, but oh how I wish winter removal itself were so easy. Between the trucks and my window however, is the falling debris of more flakes, more ice and more below zero temperatures. 

Punxsutawney Phil may perform his annual duty tomorrow, but a rodent need not inform me what I already know: six more weeks of winter, if not more. 

The days and nights around here grow depressing by the month. It's February. A month for hoodies and hipsters, sure, but not coats that rival in size with wooly mammoths. 

I shouldn't complain. Even Oklahoma got snow days this year. At least North Dakota can hold hands in solidarity with its southern neighbors. Maybe then we could produce enough heat to make global warming come true.

Sometimes winter days can be put to good use: an afternoon stroll to see the birds and the snow-covered trees can relax the mind and even contort it to believe winter is celestial. But not here. It's nice to get fresh air, until you inhale a little too hard and hack a frozen lung. And even with proper snow boots, scarves and ear-muff protection, no North Face can conquer our ice-laden streets. One wrong step and you'll sled yourself to the Emergency Room. 

Cowboy and I walked laps in the local mall yesterday, before it even opened, with the old people in sweatpants and terry cloth headbands. It feels good to get out, stretch, burn calories and begin the afternoon with Burger King for lunch. Winter is no time for vanity, we need those calories to keep warm.

National Weather Service promises highs in the 20s by Thursday, just like it promised a winter with above average temperatures. Based on the El Nino weather pattern, meteorologists said North Dakota would see a milder winter this year, with January temperatures averaging above the area's 17 degree normal. Bogus. Yesterday's high was 4.

I could use a couple days in the 40s, enough warmth to melt some snow and thaw our minds. That, or a vacation in Hawaii. Whichever comes first.  

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