Biography, Movies

What Happened Earlier in the Month

So, early in the month of August was Grandma’s seventy-fifth birthday. Not my Grandma Howard in da Yoo Pee of Michigan who died in May, who had previously turned ninety herself, but my Mom’s Mom in Chicago, who is pretty healthy and quite spunky. Anyways, since August is a big month for birthdays in our family, we had a big party at Grandma’s house in Chicago.

I also had to move out of the apartment that I was subletting from Dan. Moving myself out of an apartment is easy, because all my stuff packs neatly into a dozen or so boxes that fit into my station wagon with ease. The trick is, that I was also obliged by the terms of the sublease to clear all of the junk that had accumulated over the years in the apartment and store it with Dan’s Uncle Marty, who lives three blocks away. So, it wasn’t enough for me to just pack my stuff in my car, drive up to Chicago to attend Grandma’s birthday party, then continue a little farther North to start a new life at Mom’s house, but I’d have to come back to Urbana and clean out Dan’s apartment. By Tuesday. So I drove up Friday evening with the intention to return Sunday. But I’ll get to that later.

Friday, August 8

Now, being as I don’t drive much and my car is old and I value the occasional Confucian ethic of ritual, I keep a mileage log in my car of every time I fill up for gas. As I drove North toward Chicago with all my belongings and stopped for gas I noted with pride that I had not stopped for gas since May. The car has a fourteen gallon tank and gets a little over twenty miles per gallon on the highway, so you can see that I’ve been putting a lot less carbon dioxide into the air we breathe than your average meat-eating red-blooded American is obliged to. And that made me feel quite good about myself. All the same, since I was low on cash, I paid for the gas with my Busey Bank Visa debit card.

Saturday, August 9

The party was wonderful. We had old ladies, and neighbors, and family, and friends of the family, and plenty other people I don’t really know who they are show up. I invited a few friends myself though none were able to attend. There was lots of food and my sister Jessica brought lots of fancy pastries she home-made herself, and I brought some booze I’d found in the apartment that Dan doesn’t drink, and Aunt Linda brought a lot more booze, to add to Grandma’s booze collection, which was augmented by other gifts of booze, not to mention beer. And I was sent out to purchase ice with the neighbor lady who suddenly decided that we needed eight 22 pound bags of ice instead of 8 pound bags, which struck me as a bit excessive at the time, but what with all the beer and soda pop, there were many many coolers hanging around the place yearning for ice. And well anyway Aunt Linda, twenty-first century Renaissance woman that she is, is studying bar-tending, and was thus mixing drinks in Grandma’s basement. I don’t have to tell you all that we had a good time.

Anyway, I just tried to relax because the apartment was going to be tough, but I pitched in with getting the place cleaned up whenever I was asked. Uncle John and Mom did me the favor of driving my stuff up North in Mom’s mini-van. We pulled our tailgates together and shifted my boxes from my blue Ford station wagon to her blue Ford mini-van. And I proceeded to drive back South on Sunday, and carted several carfulls of Dan’s stuff to his Uncle Marty’s house.

Sunday, August 10

Now, Uncle Marty’s a good guy with an extremely beautiful house, and a good heart, near as I can tell. He asked was there any help we needed and I said maybe you have some boxes, and he said yes, he had some at work, which was in some agricultural research building on campus not far from Allen Hall, which is where I lived many years, so we drove over that way, and I noticed the University Police behind me, and then they were flashing their lights, so I pulled over across the street from Campus Visitor Center, where incidentally a friend of mine recently started working.

Now this here is where the story starts to get a little upsetting. I’ll share with you what I wrote to MikeyA about it:

You know when they pull you over, you have to go to court? They don’t just send you a fine in the mail and stuff. Well, I don’t even remember getting pulled over in Palo Alto, but the other day I was pulled over in Illinois on account of the license plate on the back of my car had no tags, because it was the license plate from the front of the car, because the license plate from the back of the car had been stolen while I was travelling in foreign lands.

Well they ran the plates and found my registration was expired. I’ve been putting off worrying about that because I’ve been kinda broke and not sure do I wanna change the registration to Illinois or renew in California or what. Anyhow, they pulled me over and asked for my license and insurance card. I have insurance but I don’t drive so often so I hadn’t gotten around to putting the new insurance card in the glove compartment yet and the one that was in there was two months expired.

Well, they ran my license through the computer and you know it was suspended!? I did not know that it was suspended. Well, so anyway, they asked if I knew why and I recalled them pulling me over in the Mission District one night when I was driving around, missing my back plate, looking for parking, and they had two cop cars then and they asked me to keep my hands on the dashboard because they didn’t know if I was really there to snuff anyone out, and they seemed nonplussed to find out that I merely had a missing license plate. I’d drove around the peninsula for two months or more and nobody ever wondered about my license plate, and the only reason the cops got excited in the Mission was because they thought I might have been up to something else.

I’ll interject here to explain that the Mission District is one of the less yuppified parts of San Francisco, where I was staying with some friends my last few days in California back in April before I went and drove through the blizzards back to Illinois. The cop told me that the license plates were a fix-it offense, and I’d receive a thing in the mail that I could send back to them after I showed my license plate to an Illinois cop and he signed off on it. For some reason, these past few months, this has not been foremost among the things that I’ve been worried about.

“They do it differently,” the Illinois cop told me. I had the front plate on the back of the car because in Illinois one day I was pulled over twice because I had no license plate and the second cop said put the front plate on the back for cryin’ out loud.

There was much more discussion about my shady story as to whether I live in Urbana or do I live in Chicago and the last time the University Police pulled me over in 1999 I said I was a student just about to leave town so it seems awfully suspicious to them that I had the same story in 2003, except that this time I wasn’t a student. Anyway, they said that since I must have lost my license because I had Failed To Appear that they couldn’t trust that I’d appear there. So they arrested me. The back seat of the cop car was split in half and I had my own little plastic bubble to myself.

Another aside here, but the cop who frisked me wanted to know if I had any Bad Things on me. I forgot about my tiny pocket knife, and he never found it. He examined my cell phone and castigated me that if I had enough to purchase a cell phone, but not to keep my car registered, that my priorities must be awfully screwed up. I couldn’t think of anything to say to that at the time, because I was more preoccupied with getting arrested. In my defense I’ll point out that the cell phone cost me $50, and was purchased when the car didn’t even have a working transmission, which was another piece of really foul fortune that I ran up against early this year, and that anyway, I do use the cell phone a lot more than I use my car, and have a greater need for it, as it facilitates job hunting.

At the Champaign County Jail a guy with a moustache and tattoos who looked like he had experience in such matters smiled and waved at me in the back of the cop car as we waited to go into the secret garage. Then another guy who had been working too long and was slap-happy took all my stuff, and my shoelaces, but then let me keep my credit card so I could bail myself out. I never went in a cell, but got my mug shot taken and fingerprints scanned and then my hands covered with ink so they could have an old-fashioned paper record of my prints.

When it finally came around time to bail myself out, they had me call this service that processes credit cards for people who are getting bailed out, and as soon as I was off the phone a fax came through verifying the payment. But they were confused because it was already signed. Huh? Dan’s Uncle Marty, who had been in the car with me, had bailed me out on his credit card. So we called the service up again and asked that Uncle Marty get refunded and I signed my own piece of paper and I was released.

Now, to get back to the story here, and the task at hand, which is that Uncle Marty had come with Milly, my subletting-from-Dan roommate for the summer, and I thanked Uncle Marty for being such a noble character here, and we drove all together in his Volkswagen Golf and picked up boxes from his office. I had a dinner date to catch up on that evening because Yayoi had baked an Apple Pie that she had wanted to share with me, but she’d been pretty confused when I didn’t show up, why didn’t I call? Because I got arrested. But then, why didn’t you call? Because they don’t let you do that, when you get arrested. And she said oh, because my friend Yayoi is from Japan, and maybe they do things differently over there when you get arrested. I don’t know. But I finally got to her place and we made curry rice together and it was delicious.

Monday, August 11

The next day I dropped by the bank to clear out my account. They had the $220 charge from Sunday recorded as deducted, and I hadn’t wrote any checks lately, so I took the remaining $400 or so in cash. I felt somewhat glad that even though I had had to post $200 in bail, I was leaving Urbana with a little more money than I had when I left Oakland.

Milly’s Dad and Little Sister came down in their own mini-van to help with the moving. Together, we loaded up the rest of Dan’s stuff and made a few more trips and completely filled Uncle Marty’s living room with stuff. Mom and Uncle John were nice enough to register my car in Illinois on short notice when I explained that the title was in a box of my stuff in Mom’s van in Chicago and I was down in Champaign without a license, but the Police Officer wasn’t satisfied to hear that the car was registered, he bitched about “plates on the car” that he never was going to look at anyway so I hopped the Greyhound to Chicago. I told Milly that I’d say that I felt bad about leaving the remainder of the apartment cleaning to her, but that I’d be lying, because I really wasn’t eager to scrub the apartment’s naughty bits, and anyway, I’d already hauled a dozen heavy bags to the trash in removing, among other things, cans of soup from the mid-nineties, and numerous other mysterious things, and all of Dan’s stuff, and I felt somewhat done.

I have my proof of insurance, which was actually in a box that I’d kept in the car when I was originally pulled over, but I hadn’t thought of that at the time, but I can’t get my driver’s license so quick. I called California DMV about twenty times and finally I got through and the lady said two FTAs, here are the docket numbers and telephone numbers in San Francisco and Palo Alto to call. Of course, the San Francisco number went to an automated system that only worked if I had my Courtesy Warning Notice with me, and the Palo Alto number played some new-age space music and said please leave a message. So I looked on the Internet and found an e-mail address for San Francisco that told me that they wanted $250 over the missing license plate, and an accurate phone number for Palo Alto informed me that they wanted $300 for a “traffic-related fine” and a $7 fee for a copy of the abstract that I could send to DMV to get my license un-suspended.

Tuesday, August 12

Anyway I rode back to Champaign the next day, though the surly Greyhound bus driver threatened to not let us on the bus because we must have been deliberately ignoring him when he said Champaign people move to the front of the line to get first crack at the local bus but because we hate his guts we deliberately stood at the very end of the line ignoring him, but he eventually swallowed his resentment, because we never met the guy and hadn’t had anything against him and had never even heard his voice before even when he told us to get at the front of the line, so he moved some people from the local bus to the bus that would get them wherever it was that they were going faster anyway, and drove us down to Champaign.

I needed proof of registration and two licensed drivers so we could all go over together in one car and return with two, but I wasn’t a licensed driver. I got Raad, who is another great guy with a white heart, and Yayoi, who has a great attitude about life, to join me at the Public Safety Building, where I showed them the sticker and my two friends driver’s licenses, and then Raad drove us over to Tatman’s and I got my car out of the towing lot. It had been $75 to tow and $15 / day to store. And since it was two days to get everything together, he wanted $105, but he didn’t have any change, and none of anybody else was around had any change, but the boss was around and said make it an even $100.

We dropped the car off at Yayoi’s and then Raad took us to his place for dinner. We ate a delicious, hand-made, vegetarian pizza, because Raad’s a vegetarian, and drank beer and wine, and Raad shared with us what he believes is the greatest movie ever, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” which I admit was pretty good, but Raad was probably uniquely able to relate to it most vividly because he grew up in Iraq and I don’t think Yayoi got much out of it, but it was a nice way to punctuate everything else that is going on, and I got to see Raad’s paintings and his cats. Yayoi likes cats. And I got to see a picture of his girlfriend in Malaysia, and he was flying to Texas to see his son next week. It was all extremely homey in that comingled diaspora kind of way that makes me smile. Such distances we all have to go to live and to love!

And then as I had further written to MikeyA:

So, I got my car back but I couldn’t legally drive it. My Japanese friend, Yayoi, drove it back to her place, where I stayed for a couple of days, coaching her driving skills. You see, Yayoi grew up in the enchanted land of public transportation infrastructure. And she was kind of scared of the Interstate, but she wanted a ride to Chicago, on the next Friday, so we got along well enough.

Eventually the big day came and we drove up North. We got started kinda late though, and when it got dark I took the wheel, brazenly driving without a license, on the story that it is better I drive than Yayoi deal with my unreliable headlights while driving into Chicago for the first time at night. No troubles … no troubles.


So, you can see, I’ve been kinda slow in getting around to updating my web site. :)


Post Script

I returned to Urbana for court the other day, and I was the first called. I was charged with insurance, and I showed them my proof-of-insurance card. I was charged with driving without a valid license, and I showed them my driver’s license. The charges were dropped. I’m waiting for the $200 to show up in the mail.

Why did that go so easily? Because driving on a suspended license implies that you were busted for a DUI. It’s a really big deal that I think you actually do go to actual jail for, so unless the cop thinks that you deserve a Really Bad Day, they just charge you with the technically incorrect, but inconvenient offense of driving without a valid license. Apparently my license is valid if you show it to a prosecutor in a court room, but suspended if you have it run by a traffic cop. All the same, I have the CTA at my disposal, so I’m not driving until some unemployment comes through.

Two weeks after I filed for unemployment in Ilinois I was told that I had to re-open my existing claim in California, which had previously been determined invalid, but was subsequently validated when I showed them my earnings from the Coffee Shop. Since I was terminated, I had to do a phone interview, and the lady was able to just pull my account of the story right off of the Internet via a private URL. She was very pleased to have this, because it turns out the Owner lied to her about what had happened, but the burden of proof is on him to show gross misconduct. She has ten days to make a determination in the case, and that was a week ago, so I’ve been anxiously watching the mail for word, and likely cash from the State of California so I can pay off the State of California and drive around Illinois.

Anyways, Busey Bank later called me because they received the charge from the gas station for $19.24 on Wednesday. And they wanted that and $25 fee for overdrawing the account I no longer had. Gah! Anyways, I had put off paying them until I have a bank account, but the other day they called and said, really, the $19.24 would make them happy, so Yayoi said she’d take care of that on my behalf and I get to pay her back. After that call I returned a call from a recruiter who thought I was in California but wanted to present me to a very prestigious University in Chicago. The job sounds good and we’re working to tune my resume, so … things are looking up for a change.

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Categories: Biography, Movies