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Tiny Life is a radical departure from conventional comics.  There are no super-heroes, there is no manga.  There are no post-apocalyptic vampire-cyborgs who terrorize the zombie populace while simultaneously falling in love with the one shy yet very attractive girl who’s just coming into her own.  It is the completely original story of Jed, a stick-figure in a world of flesh, who must eventually learn – like we all do – the truth about himself, about relationships, about God, and about reality.  Tiny Life is about the world behind things.

Taking place almost a decade before the events of the last book, “left” contains the reasons why Jed doesn’t trust his dad or the seemingly-saintly status he attained in “l(a”.  As far as he knows, his dad abandons him for no apparent reason.  As far as he knows, all of his friends just happen to be leaving as well.  As far as he knows, the red dot that chases him has no purpose.  And as far as he knows, the failed political speechwriter who understands his life’s purpose is not out to kill him.

But then again, he’s only eleven; he has time.

Before and After

I never realized how much I’ve done on the house until it was time to leave.

I was just standing under the archway I built, looking at the walls I put up, feeling the cool breeze of the air conditioner I had put in, and I started to remember little flashes of memories from all over the house.

  • My dad came down and help me build the shed; we only thought it’d take one day but it took almost three.
  • The Wife and I built the partition between the basement and the utility room – but we forgot to make an opening for the conduit in the ceiling.
  • My brother helped install the fake wood floor in the now-playroom after Jill spilled wine all over the wine-colored carpet.
  • I added wainscoting and chairrails in the once-nursery-now-office so that it could be turned into anything after Lemon moved into her bedroom.
  • We found a headboard we liked, but it was more than $300 so I made one myself for about $120.
  • I spent more time with The Wife’s dad than I ever would have otherwise because of everything he knows about drywall and plumbing.
  • I added shelving and an access wall in the laundry room while The Wife was at work.  It was the best anniversary gift I ever gave her.

I did a lot.

Here’s what it looked like when we moved in:

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Here’s what it looked like when we left:

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Like leaving a job I love for one that pays me handsomely, I know this is for the best.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss it.

Box

Everything I own fits in this box.

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Everything I own fits into 1024 cubic feet.

My Kids Will Have a Better Life

As I’m packing things up to move to our new house, I noticed something terrific:

No matter how much shit my kids accumulate over their lifetime, they will never have more than I have.

boxes

This is a picture of every piece of media I own.  Every book, CD, movie, video game, and picture that I own is contained in these boxes.  It’s (almost literally) a ton of boxes.  My kids will never own movies.  They’ll never have music, books, or video games in a physical form.  They probably won’t even have posters on their wall.  

It makes me sad that they won’t experience the same things I did: waiting for months to finally play Super Mario Bros. 3 or combing through isles of albums because, even though it’s old, The Wall is somehow always sold out.

But it makes me happy that they won’t get hernias.  

Insurance Runaround (or, Why I Hate Lawyers Part 2)

This is no exaggeration.

I’ve been talking to those in the know about my paperwork situation.  Many said that the piece of paper I need in order to sell the house that I already own may be covered by the title insurance I bought ten years ago.

It came with a handle so you could easily carry it, four controllers, the games, the yellow video RCA cord, the red & white RCA cords, and the power transformer to Jaden's house and play Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

It came with a handle so you could easily carry it, four controllers, the games, the yellow video RCA cord, the red & white RCA cords, and the power transformer to Jaden’s house and play Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

Like many things I purchased ten years ago – a boombox, a GameCube, Dude, Where’s My Car, and copy of NSync for The Wife (although back then she was “Lady Who Lets Me See her Naked”) – I can’t find it.  So I had to call the company who created the title insurance form in order to get a new copy.  This is exactly what happened:

I went to their website and wasn’t able to find a “contact us” button.  However, on their Facebook page, I found a costumer complaint with a phone number reply.

I called 800-399-3003.  I explained my situation to the operator who sent me to the correct department.

I explained my situation again to the correct department.  They told me to call 810-522-0010.  This was the phone number of one specific person.  She was on vacation.

I again called 800-399-3003.  I again explained my situation to the operator who again sent me to the correct department.

I explained my situation again to the correct department.  They told me to call 810-229-2700 and ask for “post-closing”.

I called and asked if I could get a copy of my title insurance.  She said that since it was ten years old, I’d have to email mipcc@firstam.com.

I emailed and explained the situation and asked what information was needed for them to send me the title insurance paperwork I had purchased when Mel Gibson wasn’t considered anti-Semitic for Passion of the Christ.

I immediately received an email that said they would happily respond within 10 business days.  Since I was hoping to have the paperwork in my hands within ten days, I again called 810-229-2700 and asked for “post-closing”.

Luckily it was the same lady and I asked her what I needed to send via email in order to get the copy of my title insurance.

I sent the information she told me to mipcc@firstam.com.  About two hours later I got a response that said “We didn’t handle this account.  It was underwritten by us, but you’ll have to contact the originators via their website.”

I went to this new company’s website and found a contact page.  There was no phone number provided, so I had to email about who to call.

A phone number was given within an hour.  I called 248-502-3100.  I asked for “post-closing.”

I was sent directly to a voicemail.  I explained the situation and asked for my phone call to be returned.

Three hours later a woman got back to me. She asked what my address was and what email she should send the copy to.  I received a copy within seconds.

This literally took all day.  I started at 8:30 and stopped at 5:00.  This amount of runaround is why the insurance industry is chocking the economy.   It’s also why they have the biggest buildings around, despite creating nothing.

This is Phoenix Mutual Life. They make nothing. Despite the thousands of people who work here, you will ironically talk to no one if you call them.

Civilization in the Middle of Nowhere

Here is a picture of my phone’s homescreen.  I know, there’s an embarrassing app or two (see why I have Solitaire on my homescreen), but I use these apps pretty much everyday.  Today I noticed a change.  Can you see it? image
image2 No?  Ok, I circled it.  See it now?
How ‘bout now?  I HAVE 4GLTE IN MY HOUSE!  Now I can do all the things I’ve always wanted to.  Send an email with an attachment, download a ringtone, check the radar, figure out what NSFW means…

It’s a big day.

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Selling My House (or, Why I Hate Lawyers)

I’ve never been a fan of lawyers.

calvin-hobbes-loopholeI take that back.  I’ve never been a fan of people who adhere to the “letter of the law” vs. the “intent of the law”.  For instance, smoking isn’t allowed at my workplace.  A friend of mine – who was on the cusp of being fired – brought in an e-cigarette and started puffing away; “What?!  This isn’t illegal!  They never said anything about electronic smokes!”  He’d make an excellent lawyer.

I bring this up because we’re in the process of selling our house.  One would think this would be a pretty straightforward thing.  I have to prove to the buyer’s bank that I own it and he has to prove that he has the money to buy it from me.  That should be about it.

I feel like the most straightforward way is the best way:

  • I put my house up for sale through a realtor; he finds someone to buy it and negotiates a price (I’m not a salesman, as evidenced by Tiny Life shipments).
  • The buyer talks to his bank to get financing.
  • His bank calls my bank to see if I do indeed own the property.
  • His bank sends out someone to see if the house is worth what they’re lending the buyer.
  • Once everything is OKed, we get together and sign a contract that essentially says, “We are trading this property and everything on it for this amount of money.”
  • End of list.
Before the advent of Taco Bell, children would chew on drywall.  Click to enlarge

Before the advent of Taco Bell, children would chew on drywall. Click to enlarge

Instead there are mounds of paperwork and subcontractors involved.  Someone had to dig up my sewage system to see if my poop leaves the house after I flush.  Someone else had to chlorinate my water supply to make sure no bacteria live there that might kill someone other than me (my eyes sting when I take a shower now; on the other hand, all noodles smell really clean).  Someone else had to come out to check and see if the nailing schedule was correctly followed on all drywall projects I’ve done.  Someone else had to come out and see if we have lead-based paint anywhere (lead-based paint has been illegal since the 70s).  Someone else had to come out and check to see if my property had grown in the last ten years.  Someone else has to see if all the legal paperwork is in order.  This is where we’re stuck.

After about $1000 in various fees ($400 for the poop guy, $200 for the chlorine guy, etc.), we’re stuck in some sort of limbo.  Here’s why:

The lawyers say that in order to sell the house, the information on one unneeded document (“needed” only because another lawyer says so) must match the information on another unneeded document (“needed” only because another lawyer says so).  If they don’t match, they’re both useless.  Because the second document transferred hands so many times, it’s been lost.

Originally, the first document costs about $100.  Originally, the second costs about the same.  How much does it cost now, after they’ve already been created and since one doesn’t match the other?

Up to 3% of double the value of the home.  For those of you who suck at math (AKA people who speak American), if I have a house worth $100,000, that means I might have to pay $6,000 for this one sheet of paper.

Marriage Dissolution Announcement

This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.  I do not take this matter lightly.  This decision affects everyone in my household and – depending on how carefully it’s crafted – might affect my family for a generation or more.

After 19 years of intense monogamy, it is with a heavy heart that I announce the dissolution of my relationship with 7-Eleven.

I’ll never forget how we met.  Picture this: 1995.  Cell phones weren’t around yet and the internet was nothing to speak of (I fondly remember those nights waiting thirty minutes for a fake nude of Xena, Warrior Princess to download); I was part of the last generation to eagerly anticipate the arrival of my driver’s license.  When I got it, it was time for a drive.  On Wednesdays my friends and I would go to the comic book store to check out the latest from Todd McFarlane; on Fridays we’d go to Burger King after the game.  Sometimes we’d go to Flint to play a little game of “Don’t Get Stabbed!” and sometimes we’d go to Swartz Creek to see a friend who thought Beavis and Butthead was gospel.  On the way there, we stopped at 7-Eleven.

Maybe I'm looking at her through rose-colored glasses but: she's perfect.

Maybe I’m looking at her through rose-colored glasses but: she’s perfect.

In concept, a Frozen Coke from K-Mart and a Slurpee from 7-Eleven are the same thing – they’re both fountain soda that’s filled with ice and constantly stirred until a handsome young buck such as myself decides to take a chance and ask for a date – but the Slurpee was something different entirely.  It had a divine consistency – it didn’t melt right away nor was it filled with air bubbles – we had an instant connection.  It also had a terrific countenance – the syrup never filled up the bottom of the cup while leaving the top just a glorified snow cone – we could easily sit for an hour or more without overstaying our welcome.  Even the dressing was good: the cup wasn’t too heavy (this Slurpee didn’t think it was highfalutin) and the straw wasn’t too big (I could take my time; we didn’t have to do everything at once).  A Slurpee was flawless.

Trying not to ruin it, I wanted this relationship to be casual.  I would go on periodic “Slurpee Runs” throughout high school.  It was a good half-hour drive to the nearest 7-Eleven, but every week or two I would get a itch that nothing else could scratch and would find myself back in the arms of my Slurpee.  Things started to get serious when I went to college.

Any drink that is a color not found in nature is automatically worth trying.

Any drink that is a color not found in nature is automatically worth trying.

By accident I lived a jogging trail away from a 7-Eleven.  It was around this time that I met The Wife (who was eventually open to my relationship with Slurpee and sometimes even participated).  It was also around this time that 7-Eleven offered the large Slurpee for the same price as a medium.  I was hooked.

I started to get a Slurpee practically every day.  A large Slurpee.  With an even better cup and an even better spoonstraw.  With even better flavors (Surge! was my favorite, followed closely by half orange / half Coke).  I felt like we were complete.  The Slurpee was perfected.

Then little things started happening.  Little signs of aging appeared.

The cup design started changing a little (highfalutin).  There was suddenly a huge variety of spoonstraw colors (trying to capture a younger demographic).  The price went to two dollars (all the competitor pricing is half that).  Surge! was discontinued.  The orange flavor was hard to come by… As any man will tell you, it’s difficult to move backward when a relationship once satisfied you so completely.  But I kept if going.  I’m nothing if not faithful.

I moved way out here in 2004.  The nearest 7-Eleven is, and this is no exaggeration, 33 miles away.  I kept this relationship going despite the distance and despite reciprocation I once felt from my Slurpee.  Then, in 2006, I was betrayed.

Above the green line is the correct method: Side-Pulls.  Below the green line is an abomination: Pull-Downs.

Above the green line is the correct method: Side-Pulls. Below the green line is an abomination: Pull-Downs.

7-Eleven went almost exclusively to Pull-Downs on their Slurpee machines in late 2006.  This method is what’s used at the Frozen Coke machine in K-Mart.  Slurpees no longer came in my favorite cup using my favorite straw, nor were they offered in my favorite flavor; now the consistency was ruined along with the countenance.  I felt like it was over.

Eventually, after about six months or so, 7-Eleven went back to Side-Pulls.  Swearing off Pull-Downs for good, they promised they wouldn’t change.  But it was too late.  The damage was done.  I noticed the imperfections now.  A Slurpee was no longer the angel I thought it to be.

Since then I’ve done my best to keep the spark alive.  I’ll get a New Intense Flavor Mountain Dew Slurpee (which tastes a lot like a Surge! and not much like a Dew) if I’m in the neighborhood.  Sometimes I’ll even go on Slurpee Runs with the kids just to pass the time.  But that’s all it’s really been since 2006: just passing time.

Notice the build-up of "juice" at the bottom.  To me, this is like looking at a dead kitten.

Notice the build-up of “juice” at the bottom. To me, this is like looking at a dead kitten.

In June, all of the 7-Eleven stores got new Slurpee machines.  Although they are still Side-Pulls, they have the consistency of Pull-Downs.  They’re full of air, they melt too quickly, syrup congeals at the bottom while leaving nothing but ice on the top…  These new Slurpees remind me of Frozen Cokes, and Frozen Cokes are just great memories.  I can’t keep a relationship alive based on how things used to be; I can’t keep it going based on a memory.

So that’s it.  We’ve grown apart.  Sometimes these things just happen.  I can get a slushy at any gas station in America for half the price of these new Slurpees and it will contain the same awful consistency and demeanor.

I can only hope that these traits will make someone else as happy as I used to be.

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