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September 24, 2009

International Moving Violations

International Moving Violations

by Nancy                           Go to fullsize image

Over the weekend, my daughter Sarah moved into her first house.  My small contribution to the effort was packing all the dishes and driving the truck. I also paid for the truck, come to think of it. Economic contributions sometimes being more valuable than a strong back.

Long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I had to move from one apartment (with drug dealers upstairs and their customers hanging around the parking lot day and night) to another (it was supposed to be a safer neighborhood, but almost immediate somebody broke into my car to steal the 8-track player) I did what everybody in their twenties used to do.  I hired a U-Haul and invited boyfriends past to help do the heavy lifting. The boyfriends were always cheerful. (If you invite more than one, moving becomes a manly sort of contest like flaunting tailfeathers or ramming each other senseless with their antlers. Win-win for me.) They were cheerful, that is, until it came time to move the one big item---my sofabed.  Getting that monster up three flights of the servant's staircase in the stately mansion that had been cut up into crummy apartments was a true measure of . . . well, probably the quality of the product sold upstairs.

Certainly, moving that sofabed was not worth the requisite pizza that movers were paid in back then. (Do people still ask friends to move them and offer pizza in return?) 

Anyway, it's a good thing Sarah moved last weekend.

Because this week is also the international G-20 Conference, which is being held here in Pittsburgh for reasons that escape all the domestic press and actually made the White House press secretary break out laughing when he announced it. But since Pittsburgh has been the butt of jokes for so long, we don't bother getting offended anymore.  We're mystified, though.

This is the first international economic conference of its kind not held in a nation's capital, and I can tell you why.  Nobody---and I mean nobody except small, formerly bankrupt rustbelt cities that hemmoraged their populations decades ago--would allow this kind of disruption take place. The National Guard is here. Our schools are closed. The entire bus  system has been re-routed. Trucks have been stopped, which means we can't get food hauled to restaurants.  (Ye gods, I may have to cook!) Yesterday, I was over in the neighborhood where all the universites and hospitals are, and there's plywood over all the windows. I mean ALL THE WINDOWS.  It looks like we're expecting a hurricane.  Or riots.


Of course, we've had presidents visit before.  George Washington slept here long before he was president--when there wasn't much of anything to see except Native Americans and trees.  JFK, Clinton, Bush I and II. Even Teddy Roosevelt stayed in Pittsburgh.  But never have we entertained over two dozen heads of state AT THE SAME TIME.  

The visiting dignitaries and foreign press are staying in hotels all over town, including some far-flung suburbs that are--I have to say it---nearly unreachable even on a good traffic day.  (I understand Mr. Gadhafi's instinct to pitch a tent in New York's backyard. It would be easier than finding our airport Marriott.) We're a city that grew haphazardly around the 3 rivers that George Washington so astutely observed are squished between mountains.  Which makes road-building nearly impossible. We have lots of tunnels and bridges. The names of roads change when you cross certain intersections. (Why?  Because they do!)   And let's not get into the subject of the miles of highway currently under repair! We know our roads are weird and the detours are complicated. Hell, we all get lost now and then, but if you speak only Arabic?  Trust me, you're going to have some trouble getting back to the Holiday Inn after dark.

The Secret Service arrived about 2 months ago, and they've been advising us to leave ever since. They told everybody who works downtown not to go to work today and tomorrow.  I'm not kidding.  It's a ghost town down there. See, the visiting heads of state are going to rub elbows in surprisingly close proximity various groups that in the same breath tout world peace and anarchy. (So far, the protests have been peaceful.  Yesterday Greenpeace sent some people rappelling off a bridge with a big banner, but that incident ended--uh---peacefully.) The Secret Service doesn't want the locals around to make things worse.  (Have you seen a Steeler game?  When Cleveland comes to play, we definitely know how to make guests feel unwelcome.) My husband's bank put a special clear plastic film on all their windows in case of flying bricks, but then they decided to close the bank entirely because they couldn't figure out how to get their employees--let alone customers--past the Secret Service barricades. So my husband is working in a suburban bank branch today.  (Take a day off? Are you kidding??) Bankers and lawyers who do remain in the convention vicinity have been advised to wear their jeans and t-shirts to work (not suits and ties!) so they don't get targeted by protesters. 

To tell the truth, we haven't seen many protesters.  A few, of course, but nothing like the predicted 30,000. I think they're all at home studying their maps and saying, "But how do we get to Pittsburgh from here?" Anyway, the police have been on the alert for protesters, stopping suspicious vehicles before they get into the city. Maybe turning them away at the Ohio border, for all I know.

Tomorrow the president of Japan (is he a president? Or a prime minister?  I'll look it up and get back to you) is scheduled to throw out the first pitch of the Pirates vs. Dodgers game at our lovely baseball park.  I think he'd going to be perfectly safe, because nobody who lives here is going to try to drive to the stadium during all these traffic restrictions. (No wise cracks about the Pirates, please.  We're in mourning.) 

It's reported that we have 4000 police officers on duty. (Normally, the city has a grand total of 900.) That's not counting the private security world leaders don't travel without. The rent-a-cops (actually state troopers and imported police from other cities like--er--Cleveland) are trying to keep the peace, and we residents truly hope they succeed. 

The hotels are completely full (of dignitaries, press, support staff and something like 40 police sniffer dogs.)  The restaurants would be full of patrons, except there's no way to get employees into the city to cook or serve, so we're wondering if, for instance, the Saudi delegation packed their lunch.  Did President Sarkozy bring along Brie and champagne for his wife? And who's feeding all those sniffer dogs??

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It's all fascinating, of course, and I'm enjoying learning more about international economics. (There's more to it than bribing old friends with pizza, but not a lot, if you ask me.)  But to tell the truth, all I can really think of is how glad I am we helped Sarah move into her new house last weekend.  Because if we were trying to do it now, we'd probably be stuck along the highway in that rented truck, stopped by the Secret Service and being sniffed by police dogs.

I think we should give the Saudis some pizza just to be friendly. And those nice cops from Cleveland, too.


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If you do happen to offer pizza to a sheikh, Nancy, it will have to be a cheese special or Marguerita. Halal law is just like kashrud; you can't mix meat and dairy.

Which leads me to wonder, with those complicated formal table settings, which is the pizza fork?

My son wanted to go there to protest--he's an Anarchist--but, fortunately, he was too much of an Anarchist, or Disorganist, to be able to put the trip together. I even had a place for him to stay out in Moon Township. I think he told me yesterday that he wanted to be arrested to get a police record (there's a boy with goals!), but I let it go by.

I am thankful that he is in his dorm room, far from Pittsburgh. I think.

The G8 Summit was in Savannah a few years ago (actually on Tybee, but close enough for government work). My late husband and I rolled in for our anniversary trip the morning after it all ended and had the town to ourselves for about 24 hours. Not even a line at Paula Deen's. It was great.

And I'm with you on the Pirates. They spring train in my hometown and they're my sentimental home team.

Josh, I suspect your observation about the organizational skills of anarchists may be on the money. The lack of protesters (so far) is diappointing to some. (Mostly those who paid over $16 million, we hear, for those hired police officers.)

Tom, we do all kinds of pizza here. Whaddaya think, we're stoopid, or sumthin?

Josh, my son is an anarchist too! So he says, but now he owns a house and votes.
And Nancy, my daughter just put out a call on Facebook for people to help her move next month -- offering pizza and beer.
I live in a pretty small town now, so I don't think I'll have to worry about the kind of disruptions you are facing. But then again, wasn't there some kind of big conference in Glassboro, NJ back in the day?

Very nicely said, Nancy! I laughed, but mostly just to keep from cringing at what's being done to our fair city, and what might happen today and tomorrow.

I love our city. It's beautiful, small, and friendly. But really, why would, say, President Sarkozy want to come here on a normal day? And do we really want them to see Pittsburgh like it is now? Barricaded, boarded up, empty of Pittsburghers, but crowded with angry protesters, and armed to the teeth? No! This can't project a positive image to these leaders or the world watching on tv.

I heard 2 other cities passed up this honor, I think we should have done the same.

I'm staying out of Dodge, pulling the covers over my head, and hoping for the best...

Michelle Obama and the other G20 spouses will be touring my daughter's school tomorrow...and my daughter was invited to come in and read her poetry to them! There's also a special performance by Yo Yo Ma and Tricia Yearwood and someone else I can't remember. The school district is picking up the participating students at remote locations all around the city, and busing them in complete with Secret Service and police escorts. In fact, my daughter says the Secret Service has been pretty much living in their school building for the past 2 weeks (their school is located next door to the convention center where the dignitaries are gathering). So she's very excited at the prospect of meeting Michelle. The rest of the family is just hunkered down until Saturday morning when life should return to something like normal.

On Yahoo.news this morning is this headline:

Pittsburgh steels itself for G20 protesters.


Good luck, all you Pittsburghers (and thank you for this new-to-me term), and Nancy I wish your daughter the very best in her new home.

This sounds like a potential learning experience for children, on a number of levels. If nothing else, they'll learn that the Secret Service are very serious dudes.

Example: A few months ago, another Delaware writer and I were planning a public reading, as part of a state fellowship we'd both received. Since it was funded by the state, we decided--as a courtesy--to invite Jill Biden. And I, trying to get our little postcard out of her slush pile of invitations, decided to call the White House and ask for her HOME address.

Don't ever do that. Trust me.

Ramona, she lives on Massachusetts Avenue in the Vice-President's house. I think the invite would probably have reached her with just that address. LOL

Nancy, I hear pizza and beer are still the going rate for friends that help you move. At least that was the currency used to pay us when our daughter moved to her new home. I hope your daughter enjoys her new house as much as mine does hers. It's definitely a rite of passage.

Okay, I'm back from an errand, and it's hilariously empty out there. No traffic, no protesters, no nothing. Except police. Even the parking lots are being guarded by multiple police officers who seem to be a little bored.

Ramona, only you would expect to make a polite call to the White House and get the Biden's home address. But tell us.--Did Jill come to the reading?

SMR, that's really cool about your daughter and Michelle Obama. What a thing to experience.

So, they painted everything that couldn't get out of their way, then boarded up all the windows? Pretty. Are the windows boarded up against protesters? Or did they not have time to wash them?

Now you have me worried about the dogs.

My White House phone call was one of those moments when, as soon as the words leave your mouth, you realize you're an idiot for saying them.

No, she did not come to the event, but I did receive a very nice response from her on official Office of the Veep stationery. I think I'm going to put it in the vault (aka safety deposit box), alongside my son's letter from JK Rowling.

This post is so making me dread the 2-3 weeks of the Olympics here in February.
The powers that be are talking about forcing the homeless people into shelters for the duration of the Olympics for their own safety because of the 'cold'. Because Vancouver generally has the mildest winter weather in Canada, we do have a large homeless population. And we also have a large amount of people who love to protest things. Lose a big hockey game, have a riot. Cancel a Guns & Roses concert, have a riot . . .
Moving would be cheaper and probably more entertaining than trying to get to an Olympic event. Some event tickets cost more than $1,000.
I hire movers the last few times I moved, yeah it cost over $600 but I didn't lift a thing. They even set up the bed, helped arrange the furniture. I did feed them homemade cookies and lemonade. Hey they were driving - wasn't going to feed them beer.

Nansee, No, I duz noht tink yinz r toopid. N i knos yinz haz pizzzuh all kinz. Kewestyun wuz, yinz haz pizzzahforx?

Bumpersticker of the day:

"Yes, this is my pickup truck.
"No, I will not help you move."
Saw it in one of the elegant shade-treed neighborhood here a few years ago.

And this is why we don't want Chicago hosting the next Olympics....the trickle down effect to my neck of the woods. Hang in there...it will pass.Hopefully with no nastiness.
We did the U-Haul thing when Cath and Kip moved to their first Chicago apartment...three floor walk-up (great building, huge rooms and the beach 1/2 block away, but NO elevators). In January...in the cold. WE (and I mean Cath, Kip and me) moved a sectional up three flights of stairs in the back of the building. Thank god there were railings or one of us could have broken a bone or something. So I know about the couch thing. They sold it before they left Chicago and the buyers had to do the reverse move. I think they recruited local jocks.

My office in downtown Pittsburgh is inside the security perimeter, so the powers that be decided to close down today and tomorrow. We even closed early yesterday although, as far as I could see, police outnumbered protesters about a dozen to one. My question is this - what happens to all that plywood once the businesses uncover their windows?

If Ramona had been there with you last weekend, I bet she would've talked the Secret Service into helping with the move.

Hey Gina
maybe they will donate the plywood to a ReStore for Habitat for Humanity.

My apartment is a 3 story walk-up, so glad I paid the movers to sweat my crap, er, belongings up those stairs when I moved in.

Nancy - there have already been protests for the Olympics so I am pretty sure there will be protests while they are on. I think the cost of security for the Olympics is hitting the Billion mark, really B for Billion. No wonder taxes are so high in BC.

Gaylin, you're looking at the wrong of this Olympics thing, my dear. Do leave town for the duration, but look into renting your place out--you can get as much as $1,000 a DAY, if you play your cards right.

Now, don't you feel much better? Begin making plans now.

Hey Karen
I already checked into that. As a renter it is illegal to rent the place out for the Olympics. If I was a more mercenary person I would rent it out anyways but it does sound like they are going to police this very thoroughly.
Some houses are being rented out to Olympic officials for up to $60,000 for the duration (that is 2 weeks before, during and one week after).
I would love to get out of town for the duration but February is tax month and one of my busiest months of the year at work.

Gaylin, I bet we could find some lovely TLC regular who'd like to visit you in Vancouver and accidentally leave you a few hundred dollars on your dining room table when they leave.

Nancy - I would love to have that happen but first the nice TLC regular would want to check into the cost and availability of the events. Gag! I won't be going to any of them, way out of my affordability zone.
I would even clean and stock the place for said TLC'ers.

I moved to L.A. right on the heels of the '84 Olympics, and was stunned and somewhat anxious when I drove into town with my U-Haul (um, 'town' being a rather vague word for the vast metropolis of L.A.) towing my little Mazda, to find the whole city looking like a prison yard: massive chain-link fences around venues like USC, the coliseum, etc., etc., etc., and the sort of exhausted, washed-out look that happens when a few million people have traipsed in, tramped around, eaten, drank, spilled things, dropped things, littered liberally, and left. On the plus side, angelenos said traffic had seldom been better in recent memory because of the extreme efforts of the authorities to present a pretty picture to visitors, and thus, air quality was also (briefly) much better than usual. A few weeks later, all was reassuringly back to 1984 standards: gridlock, chewable air, etc.
Pizza and beer was what I offered friends in my many and various moves . . . until I moved into my current apartment, and the guys were, um, grumpy, about only receiving pizza and beer (and apparently not enough of the latter) after struggling up poorly-built and narrow steps with couch, refrigerator, bedsprings/mattress and six-foot bookshelves . . . . Next time, maybe, professional movers and a tip if they don't scratch things.

P.S. Nancy, congrats on the move timing, and I hope Sarah will be happy, happy in new place. Good luck, P-Burgh; gently-used plywood has many uses . . . .

This all brings back haunting memories of the RNC that was held in St Paul -- capitol city of Minnesota -- last September. Fortunately I did not have to go there during that time frame, but heard plenty about it due to one of my companies buildings being within the *perimeter*.

It was very interesting afterwards to hear about some of the extra precautions that were made, plus just how many things the media didn't (or couldn't) report on.

Glad we don't have any real mountains, so no worries about the Olympics being here (ever I hope)

Debra, there's always the Summer Olympics.

Just saying.

I am watching the protest live on CNN, riot police breaking up the anarchists. Yikes! I hope it doesn't deteriorate. I'm really glad Josh's son was too disorganized to make it there.

The CNN reporter got tear-gassed. I'm sorry, but the bull-horn guy did tell EVERYONE to leave, no matter their purpose.

I'm glad you got your daughter moved 'before the mess hit town'!
Hopefully, no riots!

Okay, watching the "riot" here. It looks a lot worse on national TV. It's actually more like Halloween hooligans trying to break a few windows. Why break the windows at Boston Market, for pete's sake??

Nancy - I just watched the coverage on CNN online - it looks like all the hooligans were crowded into one area for better filming!

I'm laughing my head off..at Nancy's post and all y'all comments.

Josh - am worried about your son. he WANTS a police record. Sigh. Our youth...

I was part of the Clinton Library opening (worked in the VIP section...very cool), but the cops, the traffic, YIKES. I'll be glad to never be near a G-20 conference.

I wonder if the lawyers who went downtown and were told to wear jeans and t-shirts had trouble finding something to wear today and tomorrow. Maybe they all packed suits in their briefcases so they could dress at the office.

Great blog, Nancy (per usual)

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