Monday, January 17, 2011

The Desk

I am currently sitting at the most glorious of all desks.  How it arrived here is just as glorious.

I had no idea until we moved how much Jon disdained the desk we had in the guest room of our condo.  Considering my mom and I had picked it up from the front lawn of a neighbor's house (there was a "free" sign), several years prior, I wasn't too upset about his feelings of dislike.  I just didn't know about them.  At any rate, it was not long after moving into our apartment that Jon expressed his desire to get a new desk.

Due to the size and set-up of the guest room, we quickly realized that the desk was not going to fit.  We had space in the living room, but that meant that the desk--and all of the junk on top of it--were going to be completely exposed.  So, we were in the market for a new desk, specifically one that would hide all of the aforementioned junk.

Jon searched on-line for what he was looking for, but to no avail.  We tried a local furniture store which specializes in Murphy beds, and while they didn't have exactly what we wanted, the proprietor told us she would design something for us.  We anxiously awaited her e-mail, and when it arrived, we were excited to see that she had designed precisely the desk we had in mind.  That excitement quickly dissipated when we saw the price she had quoted us.

Clearly out of our price range, we abandoned our dream of a custom-made desk.  We went back to the store a couple of weeks later to see if any changes might affect the price, and while the adjustments we made did lower the cost, it was still hard to justify spending that much money.  We hemmed and hawed about it for a little while, until Jon found The Desk.

Dinking around on the internet, he decided to check our old stand-by IKEA.  Searching their on-line catalog, Jon found precisely the desk we were looking for; in exactly the same wood finish as our table, chairs, hutch, and buffet; and for a much lower price.  Jon was just about to push the button for "purchase" when he noticed that the cost of shipping was as much as the desk itself.  Why, oh why, didn't we realize that we needed a new desk when we lived so close to IKEA and had access to a moving van (and professional movers)?!?  The irony of it all!

We went through several possible scenarios, including taking a roadtrip to Chicago or Atlanta.  There is even a company in Nashville whose job is to pick up IKEA orders in Atlanta for a fraction of the shipping cost.  But that would still be three hours away.  On a whim, I inquired via Facebook if anyone was planning a trip to an IKEA in the near future.  I didn't think I'd get any serious replies until a friend from Kansas City who currently lives in the Cincinnati area informed me that a new store had opened there, and since she would be back in KC for the holidays, she'd see what she could do.  I still didn't believe it until several weeks later when this friend asked for the product information and said she'd see if it fit in her van.  Miracle of all miracles, it did.  The journey of the desk began.

Jon and I spent our entire Christmas break traveling from Washington to Nebraska to Missouri, and unfortunately just missed our friend while she was in town.  But ever reliable, the desk was waiting for us at her parents' house.  I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to publicly thank this friend for helping us out.  Thank you!

In order to get the desk back to Memphis, we had to rent a mini-van.  Not really our style, but totally worth it.  Jon was so excited that he stayed up until after 1:00 am putting it together.  Isn't it beautiful?


"Y'all Aren't From Around Here, Are You?"

It was with some surprise that we realized in early November that it had been nearly six weeks since we had gone out of town.  Still getting used to Memphis and new jobs (plus Jon's epic studying for the Professional Engineer exam...which he passed, thank you very much), we had holed ourselves up in town for quite some time.  I recognize that six weeks really isn't that much time, but after the amount of traveling we had done in the previous six weeks, we were in the middle of quite a drought.

Jon wisely recognized that we needed to get away from the stress of work and tests, so he took the lead in finding a quaint bed and breakfast in rural Arkansas.  As soon as we could, we took off on Friday afternoon and drove the approximately three hours to Heber Springs.  Our goal for this trip was to relax, and seeing as how we were sort of in the boondocks, that was not difficult.

We arrived at the bed and breakfast in just enough time to hop back in the car to race to the only restaurant in town which would be closing shortly.  At 9:00 pm.  On a Friday.  It was technically a private club, labeled as such in order to skirt around the laws of a dry county.  Thankfully the head waitress let us sign in as members so we could have a drink with dinner.  The food was good, and we were re-introduced the Midwest phenomenon known as the salad bar (I had never really noticed that there weren't many salad bars in the Northwest).

We were both pretty exhausted at the end of a long week, so after taking baths in the whirlpool bathtub, we fell right asleep.  We awoke just in time for breakfast prepared by the chef.  Seriously.  He has his own cable access show.  At breakfast we started to get a hint of the special quirks surrounding these particular accomodations.  The chef, who pretty much runs the place, lives there with his parents...and a French guest who had been staying there for three months.  Evidently this was not the first time he had stayed with this family, even though he doesn't speak English.  Surely there's a story there; I just wasn't able to figure it all out.

This would not be the last indication that we were in unfamiliar territory.  After another bath in the whirlpool (all in the name of relaxing, right?), I joined Jon--who had been waiting patiently, of course--for our tour of Heber Springs and the surrounding area.  Our first stop was a gas station to pick up a map and some bottled water.  Perhaps it was our lack of accents, Washington and Nebraska shirts, or the fact that we weren't driving a pick-up truck (and have all our teeth...I couldn't resist), but our presence prompted the clerk to ask in an extremely thick drawl, "Y'all aren't from around here, are you?"  No, most certainly not.

We spent our day just enjoying the outdoors.  Absolutely beautiful.  We walked along the Little Red River and checked out the Greers Ferry dam, a Corps of Engineers project (one guess who was more interested in that).
Little Red River (a girl having senior photos taken was just off to the left)

We had been encouraged to hike up Sugarloaf "Mountain" (more of a hill, really), which provided some incredible views. The sense of relaxation seemed to just wash over us.
Sugarloaf Mountain (with a branch of Arkansas State in the foreground)

My version of senior photos, from atop Sugarloaf Mountain

We headed back to the bed and breakfast late in the afternoon and ended up sitting out on the back patio with our respective books until sunset.  We heard more fascinating tales from the chef, whose past life included a stint in the military.  By this time, nothing he said surprised me.  If my life were only that interesting, I would have my first memoir already penned.  But since it was nearing dinnertime, he had to glaze some turnips for the Frenchman.  We ventured into a neighboring town for dinner (salad bar #2 of the trip) and called it a night.

Sunday was another beautiful day, which allowed us to enjoy the scenery we had missed in Friday night's darkness all the way back to Memphis.  While our weekend was not the most exciting, I cannot reiterate enough how nice it was to relax and get away.


No, this post is not about food--although it could be.  For the record, Memphis dry rub barbeque is the real deal, and Jon and I are enjoying sampling and re-sampling in order to determine our favorite.  I'll be forever loyal to KC, of course, currently possessing a bottle each of Gates and Arthur Bryant's sauce in the pantry, but Memphis knows what it's doing.  I can smell the spices now...  But I digress.

No, this post is all about what our new city has to offer, and is brought to you by the letter "M."  It's been over three months since we arrived in Tennessee, and we've been working on a balance between taking advantage of all that urban living has to offer and taking a break.  Our last months in the Northwest were a whirlwind, so we were definitely ready to slow down a bit.

Not that we haven't been busy.  Work demands most of our time and energy (a topic I'll happily stay away from), so much of the area is yet undiscovered.  Our list of travel destinations continues to grow, and we're anxious for visitors to take to all of the traditional tourist locations.  But we have had some fun experiences so far...and coincidentally, many of them start with the letter "M."

Music in Memphis is a given.  While we haven't really sought out any blues clubs or juke joints yet, we've stumbled upon some pretty incredible music right outside our door.  We were fortunate enough to catch the final couple of weeks of the Alley Jams concert series, free concerts located at various alleys all along the street we happen to live on.  In fact, the final concert was right next to our building; we could see the band setting up from our window.

Our building is the one directly behind the band, Party Planet (led by the former lead singer of Kool and the Gang)

Mud in Memphis was slightly unexpected.  By chance, we saw an advertisement in one of the local papers for a mud run, something I'd never realized I always wanted to do.  In addition to a giant mud pit at the end of the five-kilometer race, there were various obstacles throughout the course, such as a climbing wall, inflatable slide, and haybale hazards.  The fact that the race occurred on a 90-degree day immediately following a beer fest only added to the authenticity.  There was an incredible turn-out, and it was all for a good cause.

Musicals in Memphis are staged just down the street at the beautiful Orpheum Theater.  The 2010-2011 Broadway season opened in October with Wicked.  Since I'd never seen this show and had heard such wonderful things about it, we went on opening week.  Being able to walk to the theater on a weeknight was really nice, and even though we were definitely in the nosebleed section, we were treated to an incredible production.  I just noticed last week that Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance is coming to town in February.  While not a musical, it's definitely a show that I cannot wait to see.

The Orpheum is designated by the red sign and can be seen from the roof of our building

Marathons in Memphis are apparently very difficult to participate in.  This summer, out of curiosity, I discovered that the St. Jude Memphis Marathon--and Half-Marathon, which is what I was interested in--takes place in early December.  But by the time we got to Memphis and decided that yes, we did want to run, the race was sold out.  (It was actually for the better, as what would have been our training period was quite stressful.)  So, instead, on the morning of the race, we rolled out of bed just in time to make it to the starting line.  We got to see the elite runners take off and were treated to an Elvis impersonator along Beale Street.  After breakfast, we headed back out for the finish at the minor league baseball stadium.  There's nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment after running 26.2 or 13.1 miles...but wearing sweatpants and drinking coffee spiked with Bailey's while watching other people do so isn't too shabby.

Memphis Tigers basketball in Memphis is a bit of an alliterative stretch, but I feel I have to include our recent trip to a game on this list.  "Santa" gave Jon tickets to last Saturday's game.  Like all University of Memphis home games, this one was located in the Fed Ex Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team.  Even though we had no allegiance to either team, it was still a lot of fun.  The game turned into a bit of a nailbiter at the end (although I don't think it was supposed to be that close), which made it exciting.  Plus, it was extremely affordable (not to give away all of Santa's secrets), so I hope we get to go again.

We know that there is much more to Memphis yet to explore, and we're excited to do just that.  We recognize that we're not Southerners (or Mid-Southerners) and never will be, so we're treating this experience as a two-year vacation being funded by full-time jobs.  We'd love for you to join us on an upcoming adventure...