Was I Really at Fry's or in Some Alternate Reality?

frys_logoI’m a list person. Shopping at Fry’s during their 25th Anniversary celebration was not on my list on Saturday, but I guess I missed the huge ad campaign they supposedly ran promoting this event.

If I tell my kids that I have errands to run, and then ask them if they’d like to join me, their normal reaction is to just pretend they didn’t hear me, which is exactly what happened on Saturday.

“Okay then. I’ll just see you guys when I get back from Fry’s,” I said casually as I grabbed for my purse and started heading for the door, knowing full well what their reaction would be.

You would have thought I yelled “Fire!”

“Fry’s?! Wait! Hold on! Just let me finish this level. I want to go,” said both of my previously deaf children.

We drove down to Wilsonville and pulled into the crowded Fry’s parking lot to find…red white and blue streamers and…a petting zoo. WTF?

“Is that a llama in the parking lot?” my daughter exclaimed.

“No, I believe that’s a miniature donkey,” I said, wondering what the connection was between the petting zoo and the anniversary.

We skipped the petting zoo, and walked through the front door to be greeted by a Fry’s employee who handed me a raffle ticket to win some huge TV, and pointed me in the direction of the live music and free popcorn.

I had my list. I was on a mission. How dare they try to distract me with live music, free popcorn and mutant animals in the parking lot. I put on my blinders and headed straight to the cell phone kiosk with my daughter, while my son headed straight to the game aisle. We all had our priorities.

My daughter’s phone contract had expired with AT&T, and I had been pretty stealth about making sure the mailers that showed up in my mailbox weekly made it to the recycle bin before she had a chance to see them.  I was enjoying the fact that the contract was expired and I wasn’t beholden to AT&T at the moment. But, one day she went to the mailbox before I got home, and there it was: the AT&T mailer showing the latest touch screen phone that could be hers if I just signed a new 2-year contract.

So, here we were at the AT&T kiosk, two weeks before her birthday, Mom caving in. She walked right up to the AT&T display and said, “I want that one.”

We were quickly approached by a Fry’s employee who’s name rhymes with Bill.

“Listen,” I said. “Is this phone really free or do I have to sign up for some data package or messaging package to get it? Because when I went into the AT&T store they said this required a data package if I wanted it for free.”

Bill informed me that the AT&T stores operate under different rules than resellers like Fry’s, and that Fry’s did not require a data package, and by the way this particular phone was part of the 25th anniversary special and was indeed free.

Score.

“Great,” I said. “We’ll take it. And do you have a replacement battery for this Blackberry Bold? I know it’s considered ancient by your standards since it’s an older model.”

Bill walked us to the battery aisle, found a replacement battery and walked us back to the phone kiosk so we could complete our phone upgrade.

“I need this phone battery, because I’m leaving for Italy on Tuesday and I don’t want my phone to die every two hours,” I said.

“I’m going to Finland in a week,” he answered, and then explained that his brother had been signed to play on a professional football team in Finland, and he was going to visit him in some city that started with a “J”  and was a couple of hours north of Helsinki. “Oh, Jyväskylä?” I said, because it was the first city I thought of that started with a J. He said he thought that was the place, but I think he may have been thinking of the word “jalkopallon” which means football in Finnish.

Back to business. He started trying to upgrade my phone, and noticed the AT&T plan I had. “Wow. I’ve never seen this plan before.” He called his colleagues over to take a look at it, and they were all scratching their heads.

You see, I have a plan that AT&T doesn’t have listed on their website, doesn’t advertise, and would probably deny its existence if you called and ask for it. It’s $19.99 a month. I got it because I called AT&T to try to reduce my daughter’s monthly phone bill somehow, and I just kept pushing and pushing until I had whittled down the phone plan to the bare minimum. My daughter wants to text her friends. They all live in the 503 area code. That’s it. She can call and text anyone she wants in the 503 area code for $19.99 a month. Excellent.

Because this plan doesn’t actually exist in their upgrade screen it required some manual intervention, which gave Bill and I some time to chat. Turns out Bill is going to law school, and judging from the way he finagled that free phone upgrade I’d say he’ll make a fine lawyer.

We swapped out the battery in my Bold, moved the SIM chip from my daughter’s old phone to the new phone, said our goodbyes and went on our merry way.

Next stop, laptop accessories. I needed a power adapter for the airplane. No, not because I want to work the whole way. I have Rosetta Stone on my laptop, and I want to practice my Italian.

Need an extra storage card for my camera. Check.

Time to head to the check out counter, which as you know requires you to walk the gauntlet of temptation. Fry’s knows geeks and their children well. You came to buy a wireless router, but they know you have a weakness for peanut M&Ms while you install that router. They know you’re going to take that new XBox 360 game home and play it for hours, and you will need sustinence. And they make you wait in that aisle for the next available register, giving your will power ample time to crumble.

I quickly walked through the candy gauntlet, kids behind me saying, “Mom, can I get something,” to which I replied, “No, no and no.”

By the time we got out of Fry’s it was nearly 5pm and the petting zoo was gone, which begs the question, was it really every even there in the first place? Was there really a 25th Anniversary celebration or was that just my alternate reality that day? Was Bill really an adorable law student working at Fry’s for fun while he lived off student loans and got his law degree? Does professional American football really exist in Finland?

If I win that giant TV I got a raffle ticket for I’ll believe it was all real. Until then I’ll believe I was in the Twilight Zone for a few hours that day.

My History of Blogging

My History of Blogging

1976 Snail Mail

My friend Kevin moved away and we wrote funny letters to each other constantly. This was my first attempt at “blogging.” Readership: 1.

1978-1978 Letters from Finland

In August of 1978 I left home to spend a year in Finland. There was no email or Internet back then, so again, I relied on my snail mail connection to my friends back home, and my new found exchange student friends all over Finland. I received over 500 letters during my stay, and I probably wrote 600. Readership: 25 family and friends

1986 to 1994 The Desktop Publishing Years

In 1986 I went to work for a company called Frame Technology. Their main product was a desktop publishing tool called FrameMaker. It was the first WYSIWYG desktop publishing tool I had ever used. It could do column layout, rotated headings (if you knew PostScript), and could import graphics! I was in heaven. I immediately started using the product to create my own newsletter and send it out to family and friends. Readership: 45 family and friends.

1994 I See the Light

In 1994 my friend Chuck sent me a link to a website called “Alex the Girl.” I clicked on the link and found a very simple website where a woman named Alex would post her photographs and her musings about life.

“Chuck,” I said. “This is what I’ve been looking for! This is what I want. How do I make a website like this?”

At the time there were no websites like Blogger, MySpace, or anything of the sort. If you wanted to blog you had to create your own website from scratch. I didn’t have the expertise to create my own “Kelly the Girl” website, so I continued to send my family and friends quarterly newsletters through the snail mail.

2003 Blogging Goes Mainstream

In 2003 a friend of mine sent me a Beta invitation to one of the first blogging websites called Yahoo! 360°. It was kind of crude, and didn’t have many users, but I started posting anyway. My first blogs were posted from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Readership: Probably 15 people

2005 Kelly Discovers MySpace

In 2005 my friend Brandon told me about this cool new website called MySpace. He was using it to promote his films and music, and said I should create a page so I could network too. I created my first blog on MySpace on August 1, 2005. It was entitled “Sunday filming.” Readership: 0. My second blog was called “Asses and Crotches,” and was posted on August 2, 2005. Readership: 1 (a guy named JL).

My readership did not really take off until six months later when Margie Boulé, a columnist for the Oregonian, published a story about my blog.

MySpace was the perfect platform for me. There were about 20 million users when I started, and has now flattened out at about 125 million users. That’s a lot of bloggers and blog readers! But with growth come growing pains, and MySpace has certainly had them.

Stay tuned for my “Dear MySpace” letter…

Eight Flights, Eight Seatmates. Adventures in the Air

Originally published on MySpace on June 24, 2009

As most of you know I went to Finland a few weeks back, and then I went to the Bay Area for a week of SQL Server bootcamp. In those two and a half weeks I flew eight flights and had eight seatmates. Some were interesting, some just slept. Here’s the rundown…

Portland to Washington DC

I usually use the first leg of any long trip to catch up on the sleep I haven’t been getting for the past five years. My seatmate had the same plan. I can’t tell you his name, because he slept the whole time. Me? I slept a bit and then watched “He’s Just Not That Into You” in Spanish, because I wanted to bone up on my Spanish since I was on my way to Finland. Oh wait, wrong country. I was bored okay!?

Washington DC to Copenhagen (that’s in Denmark people)
This was an SAS flight, and it was going to be awesome. Yeah, that’s what he said. I had an aisle seat in the middle of the plane, which is a strategic place for food and beverage consumption. We left the gate on time, got in line for takeoff, and then the dreaded announcement over the PA.

“We’re going to be on the tarmac for a while here. There’s weather over the Northeast portion of the United States and Canada, and all flights heading North have been grounded. We’ll be shutting the engines down for a while.”

This stuff always happens right after a big air diaster, and the Air France flight that broke apart in rough weather was most certainly the reason for this extreme caution. Because you know most airlines will fly you through a snowstorm with thumder and golfball size hail.

So we sat, and sat, and sat. An hour into it they finally rolled out the drink cart and the chocolate! And we started having happy hour in my area of the plane.

Next to me, Stuart, a cardiologist from Virginia, on his way to Stockholm. He went to med school in Belgium and had lots of stories.

Across the aisle from me, Hanna, from Finland, who was flying to the same little city (Turku) in Finland that I was. She was drinking whiskey because she had a sore throat. And when she found out I was on my way to Laitila she told me about a famous Laitila dialect poet named Heli Laaksonen.

In the row in front of me, Carrie Ann, the head chef of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. She was on her way to Turku as well, which happens to be a huge cruise ship building city, to check out the kitchens on the newest (world’s largest) cruise ship. She was going for ONE day! She also used to be the chef at one of my favorite restaurants in Saratoga, CA, called the Plumed Horse.

Next to Carrie Ann was Eduardo, who looked like a rock and roll guy, and was in fact traveling with his band to tour in Sweden. He taught us all how to swear in Portuguese.

We sat on the tarmac for three hours, and had multiple drinks in our makeshift happy hour in the aisle of that Airbus. The three of us who were going to Turku discussed how we would get there from Copenhagen if we missed our connection (we did miss our connection).

Copenhagen to Stockholm
SAS’s solution to our missed connection from Copenhagen to Turku was to fly us to Stokholm. An extra leg, and extra five hours. Bonus! My seatmate on that flight slept, so I can’t tell you who he was.

We arrived in Stockholm and had some time to kill so Hanna and I had a snack and did some duty free shopping. She was bringing home a bottle of whiskey for her husband.

Stockholm to Turku (Finland)

It was one of those puddle jumper prop jobs where you wonder if they’re powered by a hamster wheel.

I arrived in Turku, and my bag went to Barcelona. Lucky bag!

Turku to Copenhagen
Boring. No fancy seatmate.

Copenhagen to Chicago

My seatmate, Adam, was an unemployed 25-year old marriage and family counselor in L.A. who had been in Copenhagen visiting his brother who decided to live abroad for a year. My first question to Adam was, “So Adam, why do people get divorced?” This 25-year old with little life experience gave me a surprising answer, “Because everyone wants instant gratification. No one has the patience for marriage anymore.”

We spent the first hour debating marriage and relationships, and then we both slept the rest of the way.

Chicago to Portland
I honestly don’t remember this flight. I do believe I passed out with my mouth open, and a bit of drool hanging on. I was tired.

Portland to San Jose (CA)
My seatmate was a healer who lived and worked in Monterey and Santa Cruz, two very healer-friendly cities. He was on his way back from a healing conference in Vancouver, BC. He told me my frozen shoulder was caused by emotional trauma, which is probably true considering what I went through in the past year.

San Jose to Portland
My seatmate asked one question, “What kind of dog is in there?” and that was it. I had Lili the Wonder Pug stuffed into a carrier under the seat.

Sometimes you hit the jackpot, and sometimes you get stuck. Ever had an interesting seatmate? A really smelly one? One who wouldn’t shut up for the 32-hour trip to Hyderabad? do tell!

Cheers and Jeers for June 11, 2009

Originally published on MySpace on June 11, 2009

Jeers: to the weather system over the Northeast United States that kept all Northbound air traffic grounded for hours on June 3.

Cheers: to SAS for handing out chocolate and free drinks while we were grounded on the tarmac for three hours.
Cheers: to my luggage for taking a detour to Barcelona (lucky luggage).

Jeers: to SAS for not knowing where the heck my luggage was when it didn’t show up in Turku, Finland with me.

Jeers: to SAS for telling me I had to be at the Turku airport an hour and a half before my flight time, when the ticket counter didn’t even open until an hour before the flight.

Cheers: to my friend Nina in Finland who owns a bakery/cafe called Bakels, and
let me bake cakes, decorate cakes and cookies, and taste everything
when I was there.
Cheers: to my son Ashton for graduating from high school this week. Off to college in September.

Jeers: to this Portland “summer.” Gray skies and drizzle. Good times.

Jeers: to Pine Street Mexican Restaurant for the bait and switch. They do
indeed have $1 tacos as the sign in the window says, however, they are
on tortillas half the size of a yamika. And if you want rice and beans
it will cost you an extra $8. The tacos were tiny but good.

Cheers: to my employer that provides me with a cool career and a
paycheck. I love my job, and I’m grateful to have a job right now.

Jeers: to Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen for having no real food in the
international terminal I was stuck in on my layover. Their idea of a
restaurant was a 7 Eleven food mart.

Cheers: to Chicago O’Hare, which has every kind of food imaginable.

Jeers: to this jet lag!

Stories and photos coming…

One Place, One Memory

Originally published on MySpace on April 21, 2009

This is a list of some of the places I’ve been that evoke strong memories. Some places are more exotic that others!

The rule: one memory, one place.
There are some places that I have hundreds of vivid memories of, but I’ve limited myself to one memory.
More pictures coming.

Ephesus, Turkey: My guide Rosa who was so passionate about the ruins that she made me feel as if I was walking down the marble streets with Cleopatra herself.

Arco, Idaho: The little country store that
made you feel like you were in an episode of Twin Peaks and the
Twilight Zone all at one time.

Mumbai, India: Mrs. Shah’s afternoon chai.

Srinagar, India: The Sheikh Palace houseboat on Lake Dal, and the family who ran it. I went back three times.

Palitana, India: 5000 steps (3.5 km) up to the Jain temple. No Stairmaster necessary.

Giza, Egypt: Riding a camel with Ibrahim around the pyramids at sunrise. We were the only ones there.

Barnet, England: Geezer Paul.

Balboa Park, San Diego: Meeting Prince Andrew.

Madrid, Spain: Running into some art students at the Museo del Prado and getting an amazing tour of the museum from them.

Arctic Circle, Finland: Cross country skiing at 2am and seeing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

Waikiki, Hawaii: Scattering my mom’s ashes off the back of a sailboat.
Rome, Italy: Having a lunch of spaghetti, bread and wine in the back room with the baggage handlers at the train station.
Civitavecchia, Italy: The pizza place that cut pizza with large scissors and sold the pizza by weight.
Munich, Germany: Oktoberfest with my work colleagues, 2002.


Seward, Alaska: Waking up to see a bald eagle perched on a post outside my window.

Sunnyvale, CA: The weird neighbor who was rumored to shoot rock salt at kids with an air rifle to keep them off his property.

Saratoga, CA: The Harleigh House that I shared with three friends.

Aschaffenburg , Germany: Andreas the Lear Jet Pilot.

Burbank, CA: PSA (airline) always stopped there on the way to San Diego from San Jose every time I went to visit my dad when I was a kid.

Del Mar, CA: Meeting Desi Arnaz at the race track.

Carslbad, CA: Being in a really horrible place emotionally but running a great marathon.

NY, NY: Election night in Times Square, 2009.

Durham, NH: UNH dorm, getting written up on my very first day!

San Francisco, CA: My dear dear friend Michael Deeb, and all of the meals we had together at his restaurants. May he rest in peace.

There will be more entries, and I will add pictures.

If you could pick one memory per place, what would some of them be? It’s difficult to pick just one!

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