What the Heck’s Going on at Lowe’s? or, “The Saga of How I Got This Big-ass Grill”

The Grill That I Never Asked For

I had never owned my own barbeque grill, having lived in apartments most of my adult life.  Even though it’s against the law to use grills on balconies or within a certain distance on the ground floor of apartments, a lot of people do it.  And, it’s not unusual for fires to start for that very reason.

Silly as may seem, I have on occasion run an electric cord outside and attached a toaster oven in order to cook a burger or two outside.  I really don’t know how safe that is either.

The alternative is broiling hamburgers or steaks in the oven.  The problem is  because of the high heat and burning grease, there’s a lot of smoke, and the smell remains for at least another day.  I don’t know if that’s because of poor venting, but I always had that happen in the apartments I lived in, and now I’ve found the same thing occurs here in my house.

Thus, I decided to get an outdoor grill.

I wanted something that wouldn’t take a lot of effort to use or clean up.  I saw an electric one that I thought might fit the bill (maybe I was reminiscing for my old toaster oven days).  It was small, and, I thought, would just be the right grill for me on a regular basis, or for a few guests from time to time.  Then I remembered Hurricane Ike.  The majority of the people in the Houston area were without electricity after the hurricane, some for just a day or so, but many for a week or even weeks.  However, those that had gas water heaters and gas stoves could at least have a nice shower and something warm to eat.

My house has a gas water heater, but the cooktop and oven are electric, so in the end, I gave up on my initial choice and decided to look for a gas grill.  Getting charcoal started and going just takes too much time, so that wasn’t an option for me.

After looking around–both online and in various stores–I found one at Lowe’s that I liked.  A 2-burner, in the Char-broil Quantum line, it seemed to be better made than others of similar size that I had looked at.  I read several positive reviews online.  Some recommended having Lowe’s assemble the grill, which they do for free.  I measured the hatchback opening of my car (How many times had I done that before in moving or now that I’m in my house, buying larger items?) and decided I could transport the assembled grill home without problems.

But last Wednesday, I never anticipated the problems I would have getting that grill after I went over to Lowe’s, made the purchase, and happily was told that they would assemble the grill and it would be ready in two days–on Friday afternoon.

Until I bought my house, I was a very infrequent customer of the mega hardware stores.   My previous idea was that Lowe’s was more expensive than Home Depot, and perhaps the merchandise more of the high end type.  Now that I have the two just down the road next to each other, it’s really good to shop and compare both quality and price because Home Depot is not necessarily less expensive, nor are Lowe’s products that much different.  In fact, sometimes, I find exactly what I want, by turning the corner and driving a mile further to Sears Hardware.  However, most of the time, I head for Lowe’s because it’s the quickest to get to.

One thing I’ve noticed though is that my neighborhood Lowe’s seems very loosely managed.  The staff are nice enough, but they also seem to be having a good time amongst themselves, rather than being focused on their jobs.  This is just a generalization, and not something that I see from all of the employees, nor all of the time.  There are also quite a few people who are called managers, but from my viewpoint as a customer, how managers are different from the rest of the employees is unclear.

All this “lack of a system” came into play when I went back Friday evening to pick up my grill.  When I went with my receipt in hand, the customer service person made a call to the outdoor department and then, looking a bit perplexed, told me to wait.  After some time, she got a call back from the department, and then told me one guy couldn’t find it, but another one had.

After more waiting, a “manager” came and told me that my grill hadn’t been assembled, gave me no explanation why it hadn’t been, took some time entering information into a computer behind the Customer Service Desk, and then assured me that the grill would be ready if I came back the next afternoon (Saturday).  I told him that I wasn’t in a hurry to get the grill, but that I just wanted to know when to come back to pick it up.  Putting his hand on my shoulder (as a gesture of honesty?), he said again that it would be ready the next day.

On Saturday, I decided to call before I went back.  After playing “forward you to that department” for a bit, the guy who answered in the outdoor department told me, “Oh, I looked for that grill yesterday” and said he would check.  When he came back on the line, he said, “I can’t see it.  Let me check with the manager, and I’ll call you back in 2 minutes.”  Two minutes ran into 2 and a half hours, so I decided to get in the car for the 3-minute jaunt to Lowe’s.

When I returned this time to Customer Service, the representative looked at my receipt and saw that I was supposed to have gotten the grill on Friday.  Right behind her was the “manager” who had told me to come back on Saturday.

(Oh, god, this narrative is getting too long.  I think I’m even boring myself.)

Anyway, they told me to come back on Monday, and they would discount the price.  I went back on Monday, and it still wasn’t ready, but they wanted to upgrade the grill and went and got a floor model.  I didn’t mind that, but the upgraded model was too big for my car, so they said they would deliver it for free, which they did at a little before 9 AM today.

First Steak on the Grill

It’s a nice grill–a big ass grill, at least for me–with 3 burners on the grill and a side burner to boot (in the same Char-Broil Quantum line).

I read all the instructions, got the gas tank hooked up, did all the first-time tasks, including seasoning the grill, and finally this evening slapped on a very nice steak that I had bought just for the initiation.

I have to say it was a delicious–very delicious really–steak, all seared on the outside and juicy inside, just like the promotional information says.

I guess I’ll never know why Lowe’s was unable to get the original grill assembled, and this grill makes a bigger statement on my patio than I was planning.  But, hey, now I can cook hamburgers and steaks without smoking up the house, and I’m definitely ready to cook if a big storm knocks out the electricity.

View from the Suburbs: Bottle Brush Trees–Unexpected Dazzle

Today marks exactly five months since I began living in my house, though I had actually closed on it about two weeks prior.  I’m finally feeling that I’m at home; the strange feeling of being in the wrong place (no matter how happy I was to have bought the house) no longer is there.  Though there are still some remaining pictures and other decoration to be put up, I have the rooms set up as I will probably keep them for some time, and with all that, I have a warm, comfortable place in which to live.  I feel at home.

Last week, I had my first house guests, as a matter of two in one week.  A friend from Japan came and stayed overnight, and then my sister came and spent most of the weekend.  Having people in the house was fun.  I didn’t feel “squeezed” as when people had stayed with me in my apartment.  The fresh guest bedroom and bath worked well, and all the better for not having to share mine.  I’m looking forward now to having others come stay in the future.

Despite the five months’ time, there are still surprises, like the small drawers right in front of the kitchen sink to hold sponges and stoppers that I discovered for the first time last week.

Closer view of the "brushes"

A bigger surprise is the brilliance of the bottlebrush trees at the front corners of my house.  The glistening red-orange “brushes” began opening about ten days ago.  They are both loaded with buds, and I’m told, will last all through the summer into the fall.  I had only seen small bottlebrush bushes before, and none had the dazzling show that these trees are making.  Knowing nothing about them, I looked them up, finding out that they are a type of evergreen that comes from Australia.  (My guess is that’s the first time I mentioned Australia here without starting with something about Olympian diver Mathew Mitcham.)

My somewhat primitive garden is also doing well so far despite the bad, sandy soil.  I now have onions, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and even sunflowers.  So far, they are doing better than I had ever expected.  I’m hoping that this beautiful spring weather that we’ve been having–bright, mild days and cool night–will continue longer.

February Blues–Not on the Agenda for 2010

Annie posing, the schefflera plant I've raised from a $1 store twig, the old Singer that I rescued and have dragged around for years--all at my front door.

Over the years I’ve experienced what I called (and I see that others call it the same)–the February Blues, a kind of down time after the holidays before spring comes out in full force.  (It’s also known as S.A. D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder).  I have to admit that living here in Texas it never has overcome me nearly as much or even for as long as it did when I lived in Kansas.  I’m sure the warmer, brighter winter days have a lot to do with that.  Warmth, for sure, might be the real reason because I remember some years in Kansas when it seemed like my feet froze in November and didn’t thaw out until mid April.  I really just do not cold weather all that much.

For me, the February Blues never have been something really depressive, because overall, I’m generally a pretty easy-going guy.  I usually felt a kind of cloudy, blah feeling, sometimes triggered by something that had happened, like getting an unexpected bill or having a squabble with someone.  And even though I say “February Blues”, the onset usually came sometime in January.

That’s why I doubt any late winter gloominess will overtake me this year.  I’m still “up” from moving into my house.  There are so many new experiences, and even when the bills do arrive, they aren’t so unexpected that I can’t deal with them.  I can’t walk into my living room with all it’s light and red accents and not feel good.

Anyone who reads here might notice that I haven’t been on a rant lately either.  I do have some thoughts about a few recent events, but not enough on any to let my thoughts and typing fingers get too involved.  Here are a few, though, just to show that I’m not brain-dead:

John Edwards: he was my candidate almost up to the primaries.  It seems like most of these big time politicians have to keep proving how great they are.  I just don’t understand, though, why these politicians that get into all this trouble with women other than their wives don’t have more sense.  Look at Ensign of Nevada and Sanford of South Carolina, even Clinton when he was in the White House.  We’re not talking about guys in their teens or twenties who can only think with their hormones.  I guess even Eisenhower had his mistress when he was the head honcho during World War II.

Ted Haggard: It seems he no longer has homosexual compulsions.  “Homosexual compulsions”–now what is that exactly?   I’m trying to imagine it the other way.  Craving meth and hookers has never been one of my urges.  But now he’s cured.  Right.  How old is he anyway?  Fifty-three going on fifty-four.   People are pretty much who they are by that time.  And don’t tell me his thing with Mike Jones was a rarity.

Whether it’s Haggard getting it on with male prostitutes or politicians having affairs, they didn’t just start cheating on their wives when they were in their 40s or 50s.  Guys just aren’t like that.  Guys are creatures of habit.  Guys like the routine.  If they weren’t cheating in their 20s or 30s, they probably won’t be cheating later, no matter if they are straight or gay.

Frankly, I don’t care what happens to any of them, but I do have more compassion for someone like Edwards than people like Haggard, Ensign, and Sanford, who have made such an issue about morality and preached, or in the cases of Ensign and Sanford, voted against gay people.

But even these guys won’t bring me into any February funk, because I just found out that the expected freeze isn’t going to happen here, and I won’t have to drag my potted plants back into the garage from the patio for a third time this winter.

And here are some cool suggestions for getting rid of the February Blues, besides getting a new house, that is.

Sunday Morning Musings: Great Day (Annise To Be Houston’s Next Mayor), Foggy Day (Wet, “English” Weather), Happy Day (House Getting Semblance of Order)

Fresh "calm" paint on the walls. How do you like the dark accent wall? And there's Annie resting on the bed.

During all the house-hunting, house-buying, moving, and now, finally, settling in, I’ve missed writing here and playing with photos because, even though I have added a few posts, I haven’t put a lot of time into them.

I haven’t really had the motivation to write much about politics.  One thing, being involved in something as wonderful, and, almost, all-consuming, as buying and moving into the first house I’ve ever owned, the emotional ride hasn’t left much room to get angry about the political defeats in Maine and New York or to worry about whether the healthcare system is going to be better or worse after the dust clears in Washington.

However, on the local scene, I’m pretty tickled that Annise Parker has been elected the new mayor of Houston.  (I’m not going to re-hash this topic.  Click onto my homepage to read more about the election.)

Looking from the bedroom into my bathroom. The copper wall decorations I brought back from Greece almost 35 years ago look just as great as they did when I bought them. Probably couldn't afford them now. Yep, and there's Annie posing.

Mostly everything that I’ve been doing has been “house, house, house”.  In a couple of days, I will have been actually living in the house for a month.  People have asked for pictures, and I will add more as time goes by (just to keep up the interest–heh, heh.)  I’d say the house from the front has a Georgian-style look to it.  Hence, the appropriateness of the weather we’ve been having lately.  This morning and the past couple of mornings, the area has had quite a bit of fog; then spells of rain come.  The ground is soggy, quite a difference from spring and most of the summer, when there was a scarcity of precipitation, and there were cracks in the ground.  It’s a great to be in my own house, somehow feeling all protected and cozy, when it’s raining outside.  I suppose that will wear off, but it’s something I never experienced living in an apartment.

Yes, writing here has had to be put a little on the back burner, because with the house come a lot of other “hobbies”.  Mind you, I was aware and looking forward to them.  Even with just the moving in, there have been other projects.  Physically, the house is in pretty good condition, so I haven’t had to do much.  Though I plan to paint all of the rooms sometime, I can stand most of the colors for awhile.  I couldn’t take the “pumpkin” color (some would call it terra cotta) in my bedroom, so even though I had started painting it something more cool and calm, I didn’t get it completely finished until last weekend.  Now it’s done, and I’ve even got the blinds put back up.

(There are so many new things to learn when you get a house, like valance clips.  Not only had I never thought about valance clips before, I would never have imagined that there are so many different kinds of them, and, that when you need to find replacements, that even though the blinds themselves are sold in the fourth largest city in the U.S., it is impossible to find the clips for those blinds locally!)

Foggy morning from my back yard (if you can see the fog). Yep, I have a fountain. And a dead tree that needs to come down.

I need tools.  It’s a good thing that Home Depot and Lowe’s are both less than a mile away, conveniently next to each other, and located before what I would call the slowest and busiest intersection in Harris County–the corner of 529 and Highway 6.  Yes, I live in the county now–definitely “the burbs”.  I had some tools–the typical ones, hammer, screwdrivers, and wrenches.  Now, though, I need yard tools.  So far, I got a saw.  I needed to cut back some of the limbs from the bottle brush trees (yeah, they’re trees not bushes) that were rubbing against the front of the house.)  And hedge clippers.  I don’t have a hedge but there was a huge clump of decorative grass that was spewing way over onto the driveway intertwined with the most devilish rose bush.  After a lot of whacking, the grass appears to have gotten a marine haircut and the rose bush, for want of a better word, has been circumcised.

Oh, yeah, I need some heavy gloves too.

After boxing up and moving so much stuff, especially stuff I’ve collected, I shouldn’t need or want more, but there are things I do need to help me furnish my house–that I didn’t have or need in an apartment.  I guess partly because of my taste and also the style of the house itself, I’ve started looking for pieces at antique stores.  Quite a few years back, antiqueing was one of my hobbies, but when the space ran out, perusing through antique malls and country festivals came to an end.  However, after looking at all the badly-made, somewhat pricey items which come from countries I’d rather not support if I don’t have to, I once again started looking at antique and second-hand stores.  It’s fun, and it’s possible to find something nice and well-made.  And, hey, every bit of the money that I spend at the antique store stays in the U.S.  Yes, so?  What if I’m a liberal and an isolationist?  We need to learn to use what we have and not send our money out of the country when we don’t have to.

"Stilllife--Hopalong Cassidy Cup and Other Kitchen Items". And I like the glass cooktop better than sliced bread!

OK, there my diatribe.  Anyway, yesterday I went to one of the antique malls here in Houston.  (There’s a nice new one in my new area.  Check them out if your anywhere near the northwest part of the beltway–Antiques on 8.)  I really was looking for a side table or some kind of chair to put in my bedroom, but what did I find?  A Hopalong Cassidy cup–just like the one we had when I was a kid.  I had been on the lookout for one of those for a long time.  I’ve even written about that cup before on here. (Check out “Coffee Milk and Hopalong Cassidy”.)  But there it was.  I probably paid a little too much for it, but, really, when it comes something like that, I guess I’m paying for the sentiment and memories as much as anything.

Dang!  I’d better stop musing and get some lunch made.  It looks like the morning’s over!

Monday Musings: Black Friday and Moving

As of yesterday, I finally finished moving my “stuff”.  Weeding out and tossing away wasn’t as easy or probably as successful as I had hoped it would be, although I did take one good carload of donations to the Salvation Army on Saturday morning.

Even though I thought that the movers had taken a lot of my smaller items along with the furniture and other big pieces almost two weeks ago, the quantity of “the rest” was–though not more than I had anticipated–time-consuming to gather, box, carry, load, and haul.  Even with the items given away and thrown away, a lot of what I have–when it comes to moving it–is just “stuff”.

Good enough reason–that while I was finishing up lugging all this personal “stuff” over these last few days–not to be in the least bit attracted by Black Friday and other holiday sales.  It’s a little like over-indulging in Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings, and then not wanting to have anything to do leftovers the next day.  There’s no temptation for me to go out and buy anything–sale or no sale–just to add to the stuff that I already have.

Of course, I have many unpacked boxes.  I was asked to take some pictures of my house, and post some on here, but, alas, I have no idea where the USB cord for my camera is.

So here I am at work, taking a break.  It’s actually a chilly fall day here in Houston.  I love the view of downtown Houston from my office (even though because a lot of the buildings near the bayou are older,  it may not be a shot the Houston Chamber of Commerce would use for marketing).  And, yes, though not as long, nor as dramatic as many other parts of the country, a change in seasons, when some of the trees show their vibrant colors, does come to the Bayou City.

Monday Morning Musings: Still Moving and– Adam Lambert . . . Still Moving

Yesterday I had no energy for musings; hence, no “Sunday Morning Musings”.  The move to my new house is ongoing, although I definitely am living there.  Last week at this time, I couldn’t say where I lived;  I was just too tired from lifting and toting and pushing.  Then too, I was sleeping on the sofa in the new place.  It all felt like camping or the numb feeling after Hurricane Ike.

Now I feel like I’m living again even though much of the house is in total disarray (todo un desmadre).  I still have several loads of possessions to collect at my old apartment, which I have to be out of by a week from today. 

Satellite was hooked up on Saturday; this means that now all of the communication devices are working.  So with a shiny, new TV, I was set for Sunday football, but most of the day, I spent on the necessary weekend chores, plus settling in some more, making one more trip to the apartment, and even painting a bit.

So by 8:30 PM, exhausted as I was, the Bears vs. the Eagles held even less interest for me than the Bears vs. the Eagles normally would.  I switched over to the American Music Awards, then went into the kitchen to do some more sorting and putting away, only to hear Janet Jackson singing Michael Jackson, sounding like Michael Jackson:  maybe they really were/are they same person.

After the ho-hum of more unpacking was interrupted by a phone call, I decided to give up the ghost for the night at just before 10 o’clock. I checked out  the NFL game, then started flipping through the channels.  At the moment I got to the local ABC station, up popped the AMA once again, announcing Adam Lambert.

Truly, I don’t know much about Adam Lambert, only that he was the runner-up on American Idol, that he’s got this 80s glam look goin’ on, and that he hasn’t been shy about his being gay.  Actually, I admire him for having that “I’m gay, take-it-or-leave-it” attitude so early in his career.  I admire that same attitude in a lot of young people these days, that they just can be who they are without stodgy conservatism trying to make them hide themselves.

That’s why while watching Lambert’s performance, I was amazed to see him dancing and prancing on stage in front of a national audience, the likes of which I don’t remember having seen since the days of David Bowie.  Oh, we’ve seen similar dancing and hip-thrusting, but with female stars like Madonna and Janet Jackson.  Then when he pulled one of the male dancer’s head to his crotch and soon after kissed a keyboard player, I said to myself, “You go, Adam.”

To be honest, I didn’t care for the song at all, and I’m not really sure whether he’s got a voice or not, but when it comes to chutzpah (and I definitely mean the good chutzpah), Adam Lambert has it going on.  Lambert will find someone to write some decent music and he’ll get some voice training, but his gutsy performance last night on the American Music Awards is going to go along way for him . . . and for other gay people.

You see, Adam Lambert is not afraid to be himself . . . like a lot of gay people are.  Unless gay people act like themselves in public, straight people are forever going to keep their blinders on and deny that we exist.  They can’t deny that mixed-race couples exist when they see them or they see their children.  But they still can deny gay people exist when they see two guys together or two women together even when they know they are together.  They can deny it because gay people help them deny it by not holding hands or hugging or giving a smooch in public, the same physical acknowledgement that straight couples give to each other.   How do we ever expect straight deniers from seeing that we really are just like them, unless we show them that we are?

Yeah, there have been those screaming their negative comments about Lambert’s performance today in response to articles about the AMA, but these are the same people that would have been screaming if it had been Madonna or Lady Gaga.  Let them scream; artists that want to make it big take it to the edge, and this is just what Adam Lambert was doing.  However, in doing so, he’s saying, “Hey, I’m gay and this is who I am.”

You go, Adam.

Sunday Morning Musings: Hurricane Ida and the Moving Transition

IdaThere’s a hurricane–or “would-be” hurricane out in the gulf.  Her name is Ida, and she has come into the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan coast.  Check out the latest information on Ida at weather.com.  This is the first named storm to come into the gulf this year, but, of course, we all remember the horrible “I” storm from last season–Hurricane Ike.

Hurricanes and other rough weather take on a new perspective now that I have my own house.  Even so, I’m looking forward to being inside the house for a good rain–something cozy and protective about that.

Actually, I’m in the midst of painting.  I got the utility room done, and the washer and dryer arrived yesterday.  I’m going to test them out today for the first time.  I’ll take Annie, a car-load of “stuff”, and a basketful of clothes.

The move is a slow one, and that’s just what I want.  I’m not going to kill myself by trying to do it all at once.  I haven’t called the movers yet to do the big furniture, but I expect to do that this week.

It’s a bittersweet time.  I’ve lived here for ten years, and my apartment is comfortable, and I like the feeling of having people near.  On the other hand, aside from the driving commute, I got the house I wanted, and the more time I spend there, I realize just what a nice house it is.

OK, now I gotta get hoppin’.