Better Business Bureau comes through

I ordered an Epson 2200 Stylus inkjet printer from PCNation last June or July, and as I was leaving for New Zealand I still hadn't received it. On a whim I filed a complaint online with the Better Business Bureau just before leaving for Los Angeles. Past readers know the issues I have with PCNation, including false availability promises.
A short while later, while checking my e-mail from New Zealand, I get an urgent e-mail message from a PCNation customer service rep asking if I'll be home to accept a Fed Ex package.
I arrived home and my printer was there, along with two notes. One was an acknowledgment from the Better Business Bureau that they had forwarded my complaint to PCNation. Then, a few days later, another note from the BBB, with a response from PCNation attached. Lo and behold, they had located one unit for me and it would be shipped with an upgrade to overnight delivery. So for seven or eight months I didn't hear word one from PCNation, and then one quick note with the BBB and my printer appears out of nowhere.
Count me as a huge new fan of the Better Business Bureau.

The NZ fraternity

Having visited New Zealand, I joined a small but growing fraternity of American travelers who have sampled Kiwi bliss. I had lunch with two others today, Lauri and Brian, just to swap stories. It has to be near the top of most English speaking travelers' lists this time of year, especially with current political tensions. It's a safe, neutral nation, the people are friendly, the goods and services are extremely affordable, and the landscape is awesome, as showcased in The Lord of the Rings.
Jason and Jamie, and Julie, and Jodie and many have been there. Just about two years ago I couldn't tell you the first thing about New Zealand, didn't even know where it was relative to Australia on a map. Now it's one of my favorite places in the world. As Brian put it, it's one of the few places you'd go back and visit within five years of your first visit.
Lauri and Brian also welcomed me to the non-working fraternity. Lauri just passed the one year mark, and Brian's even further along. Their sage advice? Acknowledge that to take the time out to travel for months on end before you have any restrictions or commitments (read: kids) in life is a blessing. Don't feel guilty--seeing the world and greeting our fellow man is never a waste of time. Don't feel guilty about spending money even though none is coming in--if you're on vacation there's no use being miserable.
I knew some of that already, but gosh it sure helps to hear it from another mouth.

Frasier would be jealous

A lot happened while I was gone. Traveling for a month straight is like hitting the >| button on your DVD remote, skipping to the next chapter. Come home and the changes are visible to the naked eye. They're enough to summarize over one night of beers, but it's one intense and fascinating night.
Toni had her baby. Michelle had her baby. Dan sent out wedding invites. All sorts of changes at the office, of course. Trista chose Ryan, Evan chose Zora. And Jason and Jamie bought a house.
Not just any house. I swung by to visit what will be, in 24 hours, the place they sleep at night. Can I steal two syllables from Paula Abdul?
Phe. Nomenal.
Good God. It's a mansion on Queen Anne hill with the view to die for, of the city and of Lake Union and Puget Sound. I staked out a room already, though Jason doesn't realize it. I've now spent more time in the home than Jamie has. Is she in for a treat or what?
I waver on whether or not to buy a home--it seems much too mature for me. But when I walk through a place like that and imagine what it would be like, I have to stop myself and count to twenty. It must tap some primal instinct, stemming from the days when settlers worked all their lives to stake out a piece of land and to build a home of their own.

Riso Gelato!!!

After my lovely lunch with Brian and Lauri and seeing the wonder that is Jason's new home and seeing Jason's mother (Big Mo!) again, I didn't think the day could get any better.
But then we're at the top of Queen Anne, picking up lunch for Jason and Big Mo, and we swing over to the gelato shops just down from Noah's. Now, anyone who knows me really well knows I've been obsessed with rice gelato every since I tasted it in Florence. They'd know that I've walked into every gelato place I've passed since that visit to Florence, and never once have I found rice gelato.
Rice (riso) gelato, the sign read. As the saying goes, I did a double take, reading it again to make sure I wasn't having a brain cramp.
Are you kidding me? Has some guardian angel been assigned some after school detention time, to watch over me? Just when you least expect it, when you've given up all hope, your epic quest ends in a gelato shop in your own hometown.
Big Mo bought me two scoops from the Project Pregnancy envelope (ask Jason), and while it wasn't quite of Florentian quality, it was symbolically the most important gelato I've ever had in my life. It represents proof that we can and should seek a higher plane of happiness than we imagine possible.
In fact, that's what my whole month off and all my experiences in New Zealand and Australia have taught me. Life can be really really good. 1998 taught me that no matter how bad things can get, they can get worse. But the reverse is always true, and now I won't and can't be content with a life less extraordinary.

Filled my passport!

Every visa page in my passport has been filled. I can't travel anywhere until I get an extension or a new passport. It will have to be a post-Rio project, when I'm planning my next excursions.
Flipping through all those pages, plastered with stamps, filled me with a unique satisfaction.

Poor Kiwis

Can it get any worse for the Kiwis in the America's Cup? One of the writers in the NZ papers called a 5-0 sweep for the Swiss. Give that guy a medal. Most people favored New Zealand slightly and thought they had the faster boat. You couldn't script a more devastating or depressing first four races for the defending champions.
I never in my life imagine I could find sailing enthralling to watch, but a lot of things in New Zealand were more contagious than anticipated.

The cure? Sunshine and life

Another things my travels have cured me of is my desire to watch television or movies. I haven't watched a minute of TV since I've been back, even though my TIVO has hours of all my favorite shows in its belly and even though a gazillion channels beckon from the satellite dish. I don't remember the last time I felt this way, if ever. It's completely strange.
So this is what it feels like. It feels amazingly healthy, much like what I imagine converted vegetarians feel when they finally walk into a restaurant and have no craving for any meat products whatsoever.
Or maybe I'm ill. Can this last? What's wrong with me? I mean, not even ESPN?
It has to end when All the Real Girls comes out in Seattle. I adored George Washington, David Gordon Green's first movie, and maybe I am ill, because I'm actually in the mood for this, his new movie, a romance.