Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.

The governor of Ohio is John Kasich.

I just found that out today.

More true confessions:
--I love accomplishing things ... even if it's just the "Steer Clear" safe driving course from State Farm. "Write three goals about improving my driving skills? That's my favorite!"

--I'm afraid of horses.

--Until today, I was afraid of my neighbors.

This post is about neighbors.

I was in a mood of benevolence and self-improvement all day. Did you know that 95 percent of the world's most successful leaders kept a journal? I heard that some where, so I started a professional development journal today. Did you know that 73 percent of statistics are made up on the spot?

Anyway, caught up in that mood, I organized my desk, figured out where you can watch the Perseids meteor shower in Dayton without getting in trouble (there's an all-night campout on the beach at Caesar Creek Aug. 11), followed almost 100 new accounts on my work account, and decided tonight I was going to meet my neighbors.

I drove home and changed and then made my way to Krogetto. While pulling into the parking lot I passed the man who had waited on my table at lunch yesterday at The Spaghetti Warehouse downtown -- weird, small little town that I live in. He was walking on the sidewalk with a cane because he has a terrible hunch.

I got stuff to make blueberry muffins to take along to meet my neighbors, and came home and threw them together -- but not without another trip to Krogetto for baking powder. 

After tasting one melt-in-your-mouth blueberry cream-filled muffin, I set the others on a plate and walked across the street. My heart pounded as I rang the doorbell. I'd seen my neighbor on her front porch some afternoons, so I was fairly certain she was not a drug dealer, but you never know in Belmont. 

I waited. 

I rang again, but no one came to the door, so I decided to try the house next to ours up the street. 

A beautiful lady with white hair and a soft voice with a hint of an accent I really couldn't identify opened the door and smiled when she saw the muffins. I introduced myself nervously and offered her the whole plate. Her name was Judy. 

"Oh well can I just take one? I don't think I could quite eat all that many plus it's all the calories."
She took one and then I looked awkwardly at the plate of four remaining muffins. I hadn't prepared for that one. 

"Well I'm just trying to go around and meet the neighbors," I said. 

"Well to be completely honest I'm actually letting my house go into foreclosure," she said. "I'm moving to Chicago." 

That's disappointing.

"But this is really sweet of you! Have you met your neighbor across the street? Her name is Lois."

I told Judy I had tried Lois's door, but she hadn't answered.

"Well let me walk down with you and introduce you. Maybe she'll answer if she sees my face."

So Judy and I walked down, and sure enough, Lois --also older, but really sweet-- opened up. She offered us a seat on her front porch, and seemed touched by the muffin-gesture. We then talked for about 20 minutes. Although she was a little hard to understand, I got an education about safety in Belmont, and where to buy all the drugs I could ever need.

"You know that big ol' white house down this street?"
I nodded, even though every other house on this street is big, old and white.
"That's the one. They got HARD drugs. You know, marijuana and cocaine and ... well I don't know, are there any others?"
I gave Lois my phone number in case she ever sees anything going on at the house while we're away.
"Now when you call the cops you don't even have to tell them "*****" or "*****" (our intersection), you just say **** (the number), and they know where to go."
Well that's real comforting. 

I told Lois to let me know if she ever needs anything, and she said to stop by when I see her out on her front porch. Judy and I both had to run, so we said goodbye. As I walked Judy back towards her house, we stopped Kim, the neighbor across the other street. Kim is a little younger and very friendly. And Kim and I have the same Otter Box case for our iPhones. I promised to bring Kim muffins from the next batch since I had to go.

Maybe tomorrow I'll post about horses. And Ferris wheels.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Careful. We don't want to learn from this.

Dayton -- it's for daredevils.

Exhibit A: The great stolen car episode. Don't report anything stolen, because you're as likely to become Public Enemy #1 as to have anything recovered.

Exhibit B: Let's talk about elevators. Man do I ever miss Cherie Berry ... her friendly face smiling up at me in every elevator ride gave me such confidence in my immediate future. In my office, I hold my breath as I push "1" for the lobby, then brace myself on the golden metal rail. I've been told Cedar Point has the most amazing roller coasters in the Midwest ... or even the country, but after riding this elevator multiple times a day I'm not even sure I need to go there. I get way more than my desired dose of stomach-in-mouth-sensation just trying to get home from work. And what's that smell? Yesterday I could've sworn a mother was smearing diaper rash ointment on her child's bare butt in the third elevator for the powerful odor wafting out the door, but the elevator was empty.

Exhibit C: This one's for real ... last week there were two gunpoint robberies at The Greene ... what I previously thought was the safest spot in town. I might have to invest in a can of Mace. Or some self-defense classes.

Exhibit D: The parking garage. Crumbling cement, blind corners, creepy stairwells, a gloomy basement and ... I think the attendants are long lost dwarves looking for Snow White and company.

Exhibit E: The time I thought I was about to get murdered, but instead bought a bookshelf. We've all been warned about Craigslist, and I try to be careful about that stuff. But the lure of a $30 bookshelf and the chance to empty the boxes on my bedroom floor and get moved in was too strong. I called the number on the post and arranged to meet at a storage unit off Keowee downtown. I circled around once before finding the parking lot of a large imposing warehouse. A man and a woman met me by the large bay door.
"The elevator ride is free of charge," Mike -- a said as he raised the chain link gates on either side of the freight elevator and pushed the red button.
I didn't tell anyone where I was going, I realized. The woman could be another victim ... or an accomplice. 
We got off the elevator and walked down a dim hallway with padlocked doors on either side. The man unlocked a heavy steel door and it slowly swung open. I braced myself for an empty room with a single chair or something creepy and foreboding like that, sliding my car key in between my fingers.
Mr. Phipps (my driver's ed teacher) taught us all what to do in these situations, mister. His instructions were graphic. 
Fortunately for all involved, the room beyond was only a cluttered storage unit. Mike picked up the bookshelf with one hand and directed us back to the elevator. The other woman, who later appeared to be Mike's significant other, darted in and grabbed an old quilt and a ratty green Aeropostale hoodie.
"Need anything else?" Mike asked, point around the piles of lamps, rubbermaid containers, coffee tables and who knows what else.
"File cabinet? Ping pong table?" I asked. I have a dream of turning our basement into a 20-something's destination hangout -- bumpin' music, Christmas lights from the ceiling, ping pong table equipped with lots of extra paddles, a mini bar (hey we already have a [utility] sink down there), bean bag chairs, darts, the works. 
"I think I got a file cabinet in my other unit, if you can come over there with me." 
I followed him across the street to another unit feeling like I was on an episode of Storage Wars and soon became the proud owner of my first filing cabinet. Since of the two items it was the only one I could actually fit in my car, I slid it onto the seat and promised to come back later with Abbie's SUV to retrieve the bookshelf. I drove away happy to be alive and proud of my Craigslist success, but vowing next time to call a friend before going into an unknown situation like that.

But in all seriousness, there's a lot to adjust to moving into the city. I can't say I'm making the transition with much grace. I'm not a paranoid person, it's just unnerving not knowing what to expect each day. I don't want to overreact to a string of bad luck, but I don't want to be naive. I guess it's all part of the learning process.

Here's a recap of the week's relatively tame adventures in iPhone pictures (sorry, Oscar --my 6-year-old Canon Rebel XT--is still out of commission until my new battery charger arrives from China):

The Craigslist bookshelf stocked with all my personal effects.

Old Chapel Hill Map/Calendar illustration rehabilitated with scotch tape and poster board.

A much-needed Eloise break: Nanny is my mostly companion. Sometimes I pat her on the botto, which is large. 

A Cheerwine float provided a welcome taste of home and the South. 

Sunset from my front porch, sans Instagram. 

Hands down the funniest moment of the week: meeting a source for breakfast at Bob Evans on Sharts Road. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don't help.

As of today I have been in Dayton for three weeks. And what has happened in those three weeks is so unbelievable I keep thinking half of it had to be a dream. Or a sign -- flashing lights, neon letters saying "GO BACK TO NORTH CAROLINA." Not that it's all been bad, because if it was I wouldn't want to bother anyone with it. It's just been so ... bizarre.

My first night in Dayton I hit up Dewey's Pizza by the University of Dayton with members of the house church I'm attending (house churches are what Apex Community Church calls small groups ... they're a little more empowered than your average church bible study). Then we went to BadFrog, a froyo joint that seems to have no connection to Sweet Frog, and neither does Frog stand for Fully Rely on God. But it was tasty:

Yum dulce de leche

The next morning, after waking up with that where-the-hell-am-I feeling, I walked out to get something out of my car, which was piled to the ceiling with my life, and found the City of Dayton had left me a welcome present -- a whopping $45 parking ticket for "parking less than 5 ft. from driveway." You didn't know that was illegal in Dayton? Neither did any of the other 40 cars parked right next to driveways along that one-way street in Belmont, none of which had a ticket. Apparently in Dayton if the appearance of your car upsets someone, they can make up an offense and write you a $45 ticket. Especially if you have a North Carolina license plate.

I'm thinking Alright Dayton, I know you wish you had any legitimate claim to the Wright Brothers' fame and you're jealous of "First in Flight" on my license plate, but don't go all Napoleon on me, you little insignificant blip on Google maps.

Unfortunately, one of the things that comes along with starting your first 9-to-5 job is realizing that you can't really afford the time off to go fight your B.S.-parking ticket at the courthouse, so you bite the bullet.

My as yet undecorated and uninspiring cubie at the Dayton Business Journal. Just you wait. 

My first week went well, both at work and while staying with Abbie and Lucy in their apartment, minus yet another parking ticket at work (got that one thrown out with the help of the advertising director at work). By Saturday morning we had made enough moving trips to the new house that all that was left was the large furniture, for which we enlisted Lucy's sister and brother-in-law's aid, and a friend from church, and their combined six kids under the age of 9.

Two dozen Bill's Donuts, five McD Sweet Teas, three hours, one U-Haul and one reverse-birthing of a queen-size mattress later, we were moved in. That night I got to know Lucy's niece and nephews, some of the sweetest kids ever.

Bill's Donut Shop in Centerville ... the smell alone could send a diabetic into a coma.
My room with the $10 dresser I found on Craigslist. 


We settled in pretty happily into our new house ... took a trip to Caeser Creek (it's a lake near Waynesville) for our 4th of July... don't really recommend that. Everything was going pretty well until 5:45 Friday morning of my second week in Dayton.

"Hey Olivia, sorry to wake you up, but Lucy's car got stolen and the cops need your info," Abbie said softly, knocking on my door.

If that's not the quickest way short of a bucket of ice water to wake someone up I don't know what is. I had the presence of mind to throw on a bra, my UNC-DM sweatshirt and Dunks and stumble outside.

"Car's gone," Lucy said with a shrug. The cops -- a guy and a girl -- took our names and phone numbers.
"919 area code, where's that from?" the girl cop asked me.
"Durham North Carolina," I said, wishing with everything I was back there.

Lucy had noticed her car was missing after reading a story in the news on her phone about a robbery on ***** Avenue (a half mile from our house, and a frequent spot on my running routes) in which a four-door silver car was used. Spooked, she jumped out of bed and looked out the window. I can only imagine the sinking feeling in her stomach when it wasn't there.

Not knowing what else to do and wanting to help as much as possible, I offered for Lucy to borrow my car and drop me off at work immediately, since she had to be to work by 7, and I had a ride arranged to the airport that night to fly home for one of my former housemates' wedding. So that's about how I ended up watching the sunrise over downtown from the 8th floor of the Barclay building last Friday.


Weddings are awesome -- open bar, dance floor, cameras flashing, happy couple, oh yeah and all your friends asking "How's Ohio?"

I wanted so badly to be able to say "I love it! You have to come visit cuz it's awesome!" But inevitably the first words out of my mouth were "Well uh...my roommate's car got stolen from out front our house yesterday."

Oh yeah, then I caught the bouquet. But I will say it was the most beautiful and joyful wedding I've been to, and I've been to quite a few. Best wishes Victoria and Colin, seeing y'all so happy has definitely been the highlight of my last three weeks. :-)


Having home to look forward to just two weeks after leaving made those two weeks fly, but it meant walking back into RDU Sunday night with no definite plans for when I'll be back so much harder.

And then walking back out two hours later after my flight getting delayed two hours, spending an hour on the phone with United, and getting my flight rescheduled for a mere 24-hours later was like a slap on the other cheek.

Not that I minded another night at home, because I miss my family like whoa, but at the expense of one of my two personal days within the first three weeks of work, that was pretty depressing. I vowed never to fly again. Take that, airline industry! Wait that's why my brother has a job. OK at least not with United. Unless they're gonna save me a lot of money. And not home to RDU either -- I'll take an 8.5 hour drive over getting home 17 hours late any day.

Abbie and Lucy picked up a very grumpy Olivia from DAY around 7 Monday night. Since I was back, Lucy had borrowed another friend's car for the week since she didn't want to deal with the hassle of renting and insurance reimbursements. Only problem, his car was a stick shift, and she wasn't 100 percent comfortable with shifting out of first. So she and Abbie took it for a test run around the block while I decided to go pound the pavement for a while in hopes of beating the bad mood out.

3.7 miles of some very sketchy neighborhoods later, I huffed and puffed up to our front stoop to find Abbie and Lucy sitting out waiting for me ... and the cops.

"We found my car," Lucy said. She told me how they'd passed it parked along the street behind our house one block down, returned to switch cars to make sure it was Lucy's, then called the cops and come home. Ironically I actually ran right past her car on my run, but I was too focused on things like forward momentum, not having an asthma attack and outrunning potential creepers to notice. I kind of like running in the bad parts of town -- fear makes your feet move faster.

We met the cops by her car and they took Lucy's statement, then towed the car and told her they'd get back to her. We hurried back home -- the fate of three wannabe husbands hung in the balance on The Bachelorette that night.

Lucy -- a little shook up from seeing the mess the carjackers had made inside her car -- decided the night called for comfort food:

Inside s'mores step 1: apply peanut butter and chocolate chips to Graham Crackers liberally. 

Step 2: Roast marshmallows (bunnies) over blazing fire (hot eye)

Step 3: devour. 

The rest of my unplanned four-day-work-week went by without too many hiccups. I met some ultimate-frisbee enthusiasts in Yellow Springs, which as one older player with more hair on his chin than on top of his head told me, is a town very much stuck in the 60s. Think Carrboro, without the trust funds. I got treated to beer and pizza at trivia night at the local bar.


Thursday afternoon I answered a call from a blocked number on my cell phone.
"Miss Barrow? This is Detective XXXXX." (Protecting his privacy ya know ... actually I have no idea what his name is.) ..."I'm investigating Miss Dutter's stolen car and the subsequent robbery at the Sunoco station on Wayne Avenue. Do you have time to meet with me today or tomorrow?"


Shocked beyond words, I agreed to meet with him at 8 the next morning at my house. Dazed, I attempted to  finish the rest of the day's interviews without asking myself the burning question: "Am I a suspect?? Is Lucy a suspect?? Do the cops really think my roommate knocked over a gas station for $50? All I could think of was all the cop shows I've watched and how the cops will analyze every detail the suspect says, and then when the suspect says, "Do I need a lawyer?" and the cops are like "Only guilty people say that."

I rolled out of bed at 7:30 the next morning, showered and got ready for work just in time to let the detective in. He politely sat down and started asking me questions all about Lucy.

"Does Lucy have any male friends she runs around with at night?" he asked.
-"I just met her three weeks ago, but I'm pretty sure the only man I've seen here is her brother-in-law, so...no."
"Do you sleep with your door open?"
-"Excuse me?"
"Would you have heard if she left in the middle of the night?"
-"Yes I leave the door cracked. I think I would have heard her. I don't know."
"Does Lucy have any tattoos?"
-"Not that are visible in a swim suit..."
"Tell me exactly how she found her car, and how she told you about it."
-"OK, I was out for a run to clear my head, and she and Abbie were test driving the friend's car --"
"Wait a minute, there's an inconsistency in your stories. Lucy said she was test driving and she came back to get Abbie when she saw the car."
My heart stopped. My fear was coming true -- he was gonna trip one of us up and use it against us, when it was just an honest memory lapse.
-"No, I'm pretty sure they went to test drive it together because they told me to lock the door and take my key on my run."
"Where did you run?"
You really need all these details?
-"I went over to *****, and ended up down on Xenia Avenue --"
"DON'T run on Xenia Avenue. Nothing good will come of a girl running alone on Xenia."
Well that confirms why my legs seemed to move faster in that part of town. 

The detective showed me a picture from the surveillance camera of the woman involved. It was super blurry, but showed a woman of average height and weight in jeans and a black t-shirt and maybe blond, maybe brown hair.
"What do you make of that?"
I looked at it for a full minute
What am I supposed to make of that? It looks as much like me as Lucy. It is literally the most generic person imaginable.
-"I don't think it looks anything like Lucy."
"Let me ask you this. Does Lucy have a habit of wearing sunglasses on her head?"
-"Yeah -- lots of people do. It's like a hairband."
"What do you see on the top of that woman's head?"
Oh now I'm five years old. 
-"I dunno officer, they look like reflective sunglasses to me. Lucy's glasses aren't mirrored."
Is this the evidence Dayton's finest relies on to lock up dangerous criminals like my 27-year-old nanny roommate who barely makes it through an episode of The Bachelorette before falling asleep? 
By this point I was pretty worked up.
"Is there anything else you want to tell me? Because you can tell me, if there's something you need to tell me in confidence."
-"Oh I understand that, sir. No there's nothing like that. I just want to say ... Lucy works for really rich people in a really fancy house and they trust her with their infant and toddler. She had no reason to hold up a gas station for $50."
"Thanks for your time. Have a good day."

Well after that I just wanted to throw up. So I went to work instead. With a plate full of cookies baked the night before for a coworker's birthday. Unfortunately (for her), she was in Chicago partying, so we ate the cookies in her honor. And by we I mean everyone who hadn't started their mornings off being interrogated by the cops.

Most of the rest of the day sucked so bad I don't want to write about it. I got hopelessly lost on the way to an appointment, cried in front of two vice presidents of a company, slid a sandwich over the massive lump in my throat while keeping up conversation with a bank president, and interviewed a corporate litigation lawyer with the burning question on my brain -- does Lucy need a lawyer?

Mom came to the rescue with a text that afternoon.

"It's cow appreciation day. Maybe you girls just need to dress up."

And then a minute later:

"They have starter costumes on their website."

I passed the info on to Lucy, and then I convinced my coworker Laura, with whom I already had plans to get dinner and see the new Spiderman movie after work, to dress up like cows and get some free CHIKIN at Chic-Fil-A.

The ears were ingenious. 

My bad day/week/month? was finally coming to a close, and on my way home I caught a glimpse of one those scenes that makes me wish my eyes worked like a Polaroid so I could save it for you. But I'll have to try to describe it.

ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) seems to have an obsession with using the most concrete possible to build its on and off ramps for the highways. Consequently in order to get onto I-675 or 75, instead of turning left after the bridge and simply merging from the right, for no reason at all you often cross the interstate twice, do a couple G-force-inducing loops above and under a giant cement jungle gym of bridges, and finally dump out on one side of the other of what you have to take on faith is the direction you wanted to go.

I turned into one of these massive on-ramps and got an elevated view over the expanse of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, with its giant hangers and cargo jets sitting on the ramp bathed in twilight as the sun's sinking glow gave the clouds a bright red trim like colored frosting on the edge of a cake.

Welp, that was my best attempt at simile. Sorry 'bout it. Anyway it was really pretty and I wanted to pull off and snap a picture with my iPhone and then instantly transform it into a timeless work of art with Instagram and share it with the world, but I was already riding on two wheels as I cut around the curve, so I decided against it.

When I talked to Lucy later that night, she said the detective had apologized to her and released her car, so unless her picture in a lineup sparks some interest with the gas station clerk next week, she's off the hook. So much for stressing out all day, but that was a relief to hear.

My deepest apologies for the length of this post. I truly believe things have got to get better from here, and I appreciate your prayers that our troubles with the car-jackers will be behind us for good. Either way you can be sure to look forward to more adventures in Ohio.


Friday, July 6, 2012

What state do you live in? -Denial.

This blog is inspired by Calvin & Hobbes and is my attempt to describe my life in ways that make everyone desperately jealous and want to move to Dayton, OH, just to experience them with me.

In my two weeks in Dayton, I've been told countless times that no one knows how they ended up in Dayton, but once here, they never wanted to leave. My mind immediately flashes back to Cookout, Cheerwine, Bojangles, the Outer Banks, blueberry wheat beers at Top of the Hill, the blue ridge parkway, tire swings and rope swings and all the other staples of my former life in the south that I miss so much. I wonder if I'll stay long enough in Ohio to find its little wonders.

In the spirit of being positive, I've been making a list of the things I like so far:
  • the friendly welcome I get everywhere I go
  • looking at the twinkling antenna towers as you drive south on I-75 into Dayton at night
  • watching fireworks over the river
  • watching thunderstorms roll in from my front porch
  • corn fields
  • the abundance of froyo
  • Bill's Donuts on a Saturday morning (this could become a tradition)
  • climbing the tree in my front yard
  • getting lost on my morning run and finding my way back
  • Dairy Queen in the freezer at work
  • the 6,000-piece puzzle in the kitchen at work
  • getting sweet and hilarious letters from friends
  • pen-palling with my favorite 8-year-old (well she hasn't written back yet...)
More later!