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Friday, January 02, 2009

The Way Things Go...

Aw poop.

I just found out that the server people I host all my sites through quit recognizing PHP form mails. Now I gotta learn something called PEAR, go through all 20+ sites I've designed over the years, figure out which ones use PHP and redo them...

I wish I understood this stuff better. I just wanna make pretty pictures for people -- this whole "coding" thing makes my head hurt. I'm so dopey I thought PEAR was a version of PHP anyway...


In the Spirit

This all happened last week, but after having my beak realigned I haven't had time to get my thoughts together. I use the word "thoughts" very loosely.

"Uh oh," said Dagmar, looking at the TV. "Dis isn't good."

"What isn't good?" I gurgled from the couch, staring at the ceiling. Earlier that day I'd had my deviated septum fixed. I'd been laying flat on my back on the couch ever since, counting the small cracks in the ceiling, trusting my beloved Viennese bride to take care of me. Every time I turned my head my nose started to bleed. I'd had a sneeze in the back of my head for an hour, but I was afraid to let it go...

"Dey say on the news that if you don't move your car out of the street they'll tow it avay," she said in that nifty accent of hers. "They vant to get the snowplows out tomorrow."

Wonderful. Our little white car has been stuck in a snowdrift on the street all winter. I'd managed to clear the snow away from it once a few weeks earlier and took the car around town to make sure the battery hadn't lost its charge, but as soon as I parked it the snowplows came and blocked it back in again... The car has been a headache for us lately -- someone had hit it, denting the door just bad enough that the door wouldn't open, and the front tire went flat. We could take the car downtown, but it often stalled on us. And now we gotta scoop the car out AGAIN, hope it starts, find a place to park it...

Dagmar looked at me. "Ve have to move the car or the City will tow it," she repeated. "This is bad news."

"Hunny, I'm not sure I can scoop the car out," I said. "The doctor told me not to lift anything or to walk much today."

"You're not doink anyting!" Dagmar said. "You can't sit up without bleeding all over yourself." She grabbed her boots. "I'm going to go look at it."

Two minutes later she was back in the house. "I think ve should just let the snowplow push the car away," she said. "There's no vay we can dig through dat much snow to get the car out, and the snow is way too icy for our neighbor's little snowblower." She sat down, pulling her gloves off. "How much do you think the towing charge would be?"

"Do you remember the last time we had a car towed," I said, holding a Kleenex brand facial tissue under my schnozz. "It was nearly three hundred dollars."

Dagmar turned teary eyes towards me. "Vhy does the city hate us? What are we going to do? We can't move the car, und we don't have any money to have it towed."

"Call Larry," I said. "He always seems to have the answers to these sorts of problems.

Our friend Larry is one of those people who, without fail, will cheerfully drop whatever he's doing to come and help anyone who needs help. He always has the right tool for the job, and he always has a smile and a funny story.

Ten minutes later, "Oh good! Larry says not to worry, he'll be over with his snowblower in de mornink!"

I looked up from the couch, grabbed another Kleenex brand facial tissue to hold under my nose, and gurgled, "But that snow's so icy and packed down from when the snowplows went around the car that I don't think a snowblower will work! I don't want him to break his snowblower!" Our neighbor lady has a little snowblower that we borrow occasionally. There's no way that snowblower would even make a dent in this pile.

"He says not to vorry," said Dagmar. And, well, when Larry tells you not to worry, he's usually right.

The next morning I was laying on the couch, a Kleenex brand facial tissue jammed in one nostril, when I heard a "bump," then a "thump" from outside, followed by what sounded like chains being drug across cement... I peeked gingerly out the window. There was Larry with the biggest dang snowblower I've ever seen.

My neighbor's snowblower has two wheels on the front. You kinda lift the back a little and push the machine through the snow. Larry's snowblower had tracks like a tank, an engine that looked like it belonged on something with the words "Mack" and "Truck" and "Diesel" on it. His snowblower could have run over my neighbor's snowblower, chewed it up and spit it out without pause. Larry had the machine in gear and was following along as it chewed its way through the ice and snow. His brother Gene was there, too, with another giant snowblower, working on the other end of the pile.

Within half an hour they were done -- the little white car was free of the snow! Dagmar hopped in and started it up. She put it in our garage and parked the good car behind it -- a smart move indeed; if she put the good car in the garage and parked the white car behind it there's a chance that the white car wouldn't start, thus blocking our only mode of transport in the garage... We thanked Larry and Gene, they told us a joke, waved goodbye, loaded their snowblowers and off they went.

"Phew!" said Dagmar as she pulled off her boots. "How fantastic vas that? I can't believe we have such good friends!"

"Yeah, we sure owe them!"

"But vhat are we going to do with the car? Do ve want to try to fix it?"

"Well, the last time it was in the shop, the mechanic asked me if I really wanted to put a sixty-dollar battery in a two-hundred dollar car. I'm not sure the car's worth fixing, and I don't have the tools, time, temperament or training to fix it myself." I paused to grab another Kleenex brand facial tissue.

"Should ve give it away?"

"That sounds good. Do we know anyone who needs a beat-up old car?"

"Call the guy who runs the Siouxland Sleep Out," Dagmar said. "Maybe one of the homeless shelters can use the car for something...?" I picked up the phone and made the call.

"No," I said, "He doesn't think they can use a car. How about calling the VA and seeing if there's a veteran who might need a car like this?" Dagmar picked up the phone and made a call.

Within five minutes our phone rang. Dagmar talked for a few minutes, then hung up and turned to me. "Dis is fantastic! That vas a guy who was a mechanic in the Army. Their family is struggling, und dey need a car!"

"Hey, if he was a mechanic, it's a perfect fit," I said. "The car is fundamentally sound, it just needs someone to work on it a little..."

The next day Dagmar went to the courthouse where she met the man who wanted the car. She paid for the license, registration and title transfer, then they came to get the car. A few minutes later and our little white car was backing out of the driveway, a happy family waving at us through the windows.

"I hope the car verks for them," Dagmar said. "I hope they aren't disappointed."

"What else can we do?" I asked. "We told him all the problems with the car, and we paid for all the transfer fees... If he can't get the car to run, he can always sell it for parts." I grabbed another Kleenex brand facial tissue to hold under my nose.

"I know. I just hope it works for them. I vant them to be happy."

That was about ten days ago. We periodically wonder how they're doing with the car and mentally wish the family well. We also periodically wonder just when the City is gonna come and plow our street -- it's untouched! We could have left our car parked under it's snowdrift this whole time... But it all worked out well. (Thanks to Larry and Gene!)


Things that make me grumpy

Sioux City has a law that you have to have your sidewalk shoveled 12 hours after the snow stops falling. If you don't, they'll come to your house and give you a ticket for a hundred bucks or so. This is okay (though I wish they'd extend the 12 hour law to 24 hours, we have a lot of elderly and disabled people in our neighborhood who have trouble finding someone to shovel their walks so quickly) -- I understand the wisdom behind the law, and I agree with it.

But I do have a problem.

Why does the city only enforce this rule on private citizens? The city doesn't shovel it's own sidewalks, nor do many businesses in our neighborhood, and they don't get in any trouble...

It's really a pain in the tuckus. Our neighborhood is old, and many abandoned houses have been condemned and torn down by the city -- on some streets this has happened to every third house. In fact I know one block where there's only one house left standing. I'm under the impression that if the city takes the responsibility to condemn and destroy the houses, they also take the responsibility to maintain the property until they can sell it. Yet they don't mow in the summer, nor do they shovel in the winter. This makes it nearly impossible to walk in our neighborhood -- and we have (again) many elderly and handicapped folk, and it's a poor neighborhood, which means that you have grandmothers trying to climb over unplowed snowdrifts to get to the local gas station to buy a loaf of bread...

Even if the city isn't responsible for maintaining these properties, isn't it responsible for shoveling the sidewalks in the parks? Or HAVING sidewalks in the parks? When I bought my house I was told that I had to replace my front sidewalk, and that it was city code that all properties must have a "functional" sidewalk. Except, evidently, for the parkland the city owns across the street over there, and the other park up the road -- not a sidewalk in sight. You have to trudge through the snow and mud, or walk in the street.

Grrrrr...

Maybe some of the "Public Works" funding President Obama is proposing could go towards maintaining this sort of thing. Give the city some money to buy a small fleet of snowblowers, hire teenagers or whomever could use a couple bucks to go out and take care of this... It helps the neighborhood, gives a little income to people who want to work -- a win/win situation. The broken window theory comes into play here, too.




Here's the "sidewalk" on one of the abandoned lots in my neighborhood.



This is the sidewalk in front of one of the strip malls on Hamilton Boulevard.



The sidewalk in a park in Sioux City.

5 Comments:

Blogger SkylersDad said...

Glad your friend got you dug out, and hope you are feeling better!

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Poobomber said...

That sidewalk law (common in a lot of place up here in Canada) is idiotic. It baffles me how cities can shift ownership like that.

As a private homeowner, I can't block off a sidewalk and have my own private party on it if I want, nor can I paint it a different color to match my fuscia lawn or whatever. So it's definitely not MY sidewalk.

But come winter, I'm all of sudden responsible for it's state?

How about if it's cracked and broken and someone trips and falls on it, am I still responsible? No. So the cities need to own what they own and eff right off.

8:31 PM  
Blogger pistols at dawn said...

I dislike the law, but then again, I avoid places with snow, so it doesn't come up much.

Also, my brother forwarded me a huge article on Sioux City's new Olive Garden, and it was the saddest thing I've read in quite awhile, filled with people who couldn't wait for it to open and had even circled the date on their calendar.

It was then I realized I can never live anywhere with less than 500,000 people.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Oh man, the Olive Garden! I was in a leadership class about a year ago where we met with the economic development lady hereabouts. I can't remember her exact title... Anyway, I thought she was gonna have an orgasm talking about how Sioux City is "finally" going to get an Olive Garden, and what a coup it was for the city...

Problem is, we lost one fantastic, LOCALLY OWNED authentic Italian restaurant when Olive Garden came to town. People used to drive in from Omaha and Sioux Falls to go to this place, but when Olive Garden came in they lost all their local business for two months and went under.

So... Sioux City now has transferred one unique Italian restaurant that kept all the money local and converted it into a chain restaurant that ships most of the money to their corporate headquarters in Olive Garden Land.

I think the city lost in the long run. How many people are gonna drive from out of town to go to an Olive Garden? Not many...

Dagmar and I went there once. It was, well, it was an Olive Garden. Overpriced mass-produced pseudo-European food. It was okay, but...

6:52 PM  
Blogger soul pumpkin said...

what a kind gesture, gifting your old wheels to a family in need...kind souls, you are...

ahhh, winter...a not-so-fond memory...

...and speaking of great old family-run Italian restaurants, you bring back some fond gastronomic memories of such places in my childhood...
...Olive Garden?...Feh!!

1:29 AM  

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