August 31, 2011

MassExodus August Update: The good, the bad and the ugly…

…except there is no good to report right now. Most of the stuff is bad, ugly and disheartening. But here goes.

Readers know from the recent updates that we had an underground storage tank for our oil and that our realtor recommended having that removed. We had a new one installed in the basement and were getting the old tank removed when the problems started. Well yesterday, the problems took a decided turn toward the really bad and have left Mrsfabp and I shaken and depressed. Yesterday the crew returned to drill a well to determine if the oil had reached the groundwater. This is needed information for both the DEP and our insurance carrier. Well they hit what they think is groundwater but might have been rainwater from Hurricane Irene and so they took samples and began the process of trying to site a second drilling place to do another water sample. In doing the preliminary work, they found oil in the soil, a distance from where the tank was. This indicates to them that the oil leak was significantly greater than once thought. They have now informed us they need to drill in our basement to determine if the oil has seeped under the foundation. If so, they will have to cut a hole to remove soil in an attempt to determine the physical size of the area that is contaminated. They told us that with the testing involved and the necessity of drilling lots of holes in out front yard, it will take weeks or months to get a handle on the scope of the spill and then determine a course of treatment. This too can take weeks. All the while, the heavy machinery has made our front yard look like a war zone and all the planned holes will make it look like a golf course. Just the type of scene that we would love to show prospective buyers of our toxic landfill, er…home. This is the point that things went from bad to worse.

We were just told on Sunday that there was significant interest in our house from a buyer who had returned to look at the house a second time. They had to get there finances in order and would be making an offer on our house. And they wanted to move quickly. Mrsfabp and I had visions of being in Las Cruces by Columbus Day, and we had made some tentative plans to detail what we would need to accomplish in the next eight weeks. Needless to say, this hope was dashed by the oil spill news as there will be no moving quickly, no quick sale. As a matter of fact, our realtor has determined that our best course of action would be to take the house off the market until this whole issue is resolved. For how long? There is no way to tell but even a conservative estimate starts at the word MONTHS. To say we are devastated does not begin to get to our core feelings. What started as a nice easy way to help improve our house has turned into a nightmare of epic proportions. How epic? Well I talked over the situation with the independent insurance investigator and when the discussion moved to costs, he replied “well you have $300,000 in liability insurance. I am hoping that will be enough to cover it” ENOUGH TO COVER IT?! $300K!? At this point for the first time since we started to pursue the dream of retiring to New Mexico, I have had doubts that this dream can be realized. I cannot describe the emotions, the feelings (or lack of them) and the devastation we are feeling. We still are in a bit of shock and scrambling to make sense of the whole thing.

I called a good friend, who is a lawyer on the west coast, after getting the news, in order to figure out what our next steps would be. He was great on the phone, letting me emotionally decompress and offering his help and advice. He is right now reviewing our insurance policy and recommended we hire a lawyer who specializes in environmental and property law, to best protect our interests. We are going to make some calls. I did not ask him then but will, the next time we talk about the thought of what to do if we are responsible for the costs of this endeavor after thre insurance pays their part. It could be tens of thousands, or even 6 figures. What could we do then? Either declaring bankruptcy or defaulting on our mortgage to get out from under this mountain of problem. Is this a solution? Destroyed credit, feelings of failure, slipping away in the middle of the night, is not the way I envisioned this going back in April when we put the house on the market or a couple of years ago when we hatched this crazy idea of retiring to New Mexico. Will it happen? YES if I have anything to say about it but what was once a simple dream has taken on life altering status. No prediction of a timeline, no bravado about just doing it, just tears and depression and a feeling of being overwhelmed. I am sure that in time, we will get back to battling every day to keep this dream alive but right now, this seems to be a future we cannot see anymore.

What a mess…..

August 24, 2011

The Beginning of the Long Goodbye

An interesting thing happened to me last week at work. I had to go to a building for a meeting that I used to go to a lot in the past but had not visited in a long time. To get there I had to travel up a road and into an area at the top of the hill that the facility sits on. When my office was up there, I was on this road several times a day. Now, it has been at least 2 months since I traveled up it.

As I drove, I was initially surprised by the state of the landscaping. One of the things that this facility prides itself on is the maintenance of the grounds and the grounds crew, though reduced in size, continues to do a great job. But up there on the hill, the grass was taller, the sidewalks un-swept, the bushes un-trimmed. It had the look of abandonment.

The other thing I saw was the closed buildings. There are 5 building on the hill and 4 are closed and the fifth, with only a dozen people living in it, is scheduled to close by the end of September. In the past when buildings were closed they basically just stood there, looking proud but tired and simply fading into the past. But there was a spate of vandalism up there, most probably from outsiders, getting into buildings and eventually taking some things. The facility responded by boarding up the first floor windows and doors of all these buildings as well as several others just off the hill. The plywood is painted an institutional maroon, the same color as the handrails and doors through out the place. It was hard not to feel a twinge of remorse, sadness and depression. This is where I had spent about 20 years of my working life and now it was gone.
As part of the facility phase down, we have a document company coming in quarterly to shred the documents of the past. I have a file cabinet and shelf stuffed with them. I had some time last week when my computer was on the fritz, so I started to go through stuff and packed it into boxes to take to the shredding center to await the next visit of the shredders. For now, three boxes sit in my office, a daily reminder of what is happening here. Again, it is difficult not to feel “shredded” by this whole experience.

When I started to work here, some 28 years ago, there was always talk of the day the facility would close but nothing that happened or was experienced then, prepared me for the feelings right now. There is sadness. This is low morale. There are people constantly leaving. There is fear of an unknown future for many of the workers. I get to miss the last part because I am planning to retire when we are done here or when our house sells. But all the rest is there...

“The times, they are a-changin’”
Bob Dylan

“The times, they are a-changin’”
Bob Dylan

August 11, 2011

MASS Exodus Update August 2011 or “Our property, toxic waste dump… “

So in the ever changing world of toxic spill removal and clean up, the dirt has been flying out of the giant pit we had in our front yard. Let me help you catch up with all the goings on.
In my post about the original discovery of the toxic dump and plan HERE, I said this: “Tank came out without problem, supply line, the same but then the vent line was found ruptured and discovered to have spilled oil into the soil. ALL WORK STOPPED and a LSP was called in to test. The results were twice what is allowed by government EPA standards and so the EPA was notified of a toxic spill. I got the call from the Worcester office telling us what needs to be done and since then we have been doing the insurance company dance to see how this will be paid for. “ And thus we begin.

The emails have been flying between us, the LSP (Licensed Site professional, remember?) and our insurance investigator. The investigator felt he needed to get into the hole to determine if the oil had reached ground water and thus became a liability issue, meaning our insurance would kick in. He felt the insurance company would pay for this investigative process. Then there was a flurry of PDF’s and faxes, permissions, proposals and consents. Last Thursday the original company came and along with the LSP, and insurance investigator. There goal was to determine if ground water was affected. Our water table right now is about 9.5 feet (last October when our well failed it was about 20 feet which is why the well failed but that was a different story…). One back hoe and two dump trucks later, they were down 11.5 feet with no water in sight. The oil concentration was lessening but they hit bedrock at this point, which I assume keeps the water table below it. They took their samples, refilled the hole with clean fill and left. In a telephone conversation later, the LSP told us the next plan is to drill to see if they can hit the water table to test for the oil

Yesterday we got the drill proposal, which tipped the scale at over $7000. And thus a dilemma is born. If they hit water and the water tests positive for oil, liability kicks in and it’s covered by insurance. So we are in a position to root for toxic mayhem to the water table. If no oil is found, the insurance coverage is up in the air. They will cover the investigative part but nothing more. If we have to pay for this, along with our septic and roof issues, we will be put into the position of the repairs costing more than the house is worth after sale. This raises a second, more important and wide ranging issue – is default a necessity. Our house value is dropping by the minute. Is that the only way to get from under this whole thing? And secondarily, we will never be able to get a mortgage in Las Cruces. We are looking for a lawyer to advise us.

What a mess…

August 10, 2011

Why sometimes vacations can suck…

Generally vacations are a wonderful thing. Laying back, enjoying the weather, relaxing, maybe having a beverage or two, not a care in the world. This is like almost all the vacations I have gone on have been. Cruises, California, Florida, Maine, Outer Banks all had these things in common. But every once in a great while I get a grain of regret, a sliver of doubt, about a vacation.
I am a creature of habit. I have worked in the same place for almost 30 years, lived in the same house for almost as much of the time. I get up generally around the same time every day, take my pills in one gulp and head off to my job at the same time. So, when these routines, these rhythms of my life are some how upset, it bothers me.

First off there is the bed. I like my bed and pillows. I do not like other beds or pillows, so only rarely do I sleep well on vacations. But the biggest issue I have, the thing that consistently bothers me while on vacation is being out of touch with the world news and sports.

Now some of you are wondering – why doesn’t he watch the news at night or follow ESPN for all the scores? I try to, I really do but this is where the routines and habits get in the way. I don’t like to watch local news in other places or read local newspapers (although Mrsfabp LOVES local newspapers…). I like to get my news and sports information through the daily blogs I read. I know I am on vacation when I can sit for a while reading The Atlantic magazine, or read The Bronx Bombers Blog through my RSS feeds. I also follow a number of blogs by people who have become friends – Maqz, JHop, Shane, Clarez, Peggy, to name a few. During vacations, their blogs always seem to fall between the cracks from “I’ll read them all later” to “OMG I can’t catch up with all of these posts”. On vacations, I miss my friends.

Unfortunately it is not always possible to keep up with these things and I end up feeling detached, out of touch, out of sorts. For example, on our trip to New Mexico, we had an iPad but no wireless internet in our room for the first week. This meant that both Mrsfabp and I were fighting over control of the iPad when ever we found a good wireless signal, whether at the McDonalds or the local coffee shop. This made it difficult to stay up with the things I do routinely. I normally get a total of about 75 updates a day to my Google reader. Not all are articles or blogs, lots of the updates come from sites called aggregators that collect interesting items for me – sports, politics, science, news. Many of these thing are short, simple and take a moment to look at, Upon our return to Massachusetts I had over a thousand unread items. It took me two weeks to catch up.

So in a nutshell this is why vacations sometimes can suck. But I will let you in on a little secret. They only suck a teeny tiny bit and everything else about them is fantastic. Despite being out of sorts, I am looking forward to our next trip to Las Cruces. Hopefully though, it will be our last and will be accompanied by a moving van.

August 9, 2011

The Wonders of Modern Medicine or How I came to spend 11 hours in the ER in Las Cruces

This is the post I have been rather reticent to make, because of the personal nature of it but I figure this is part of me and so here goes.

To begin, over my own life, I have not taken as good care of myself as I should and as I have gotten older, the medical problems have become more a part of my life then I would have wished. To paraphrase Mickey Mantle, if I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself. A quick summary of medical conditions – diabetes, renal issues due to it, atrial fibrilllation, CHF (congestive heart failure), below knee amputation, Charcot Syndrome (deformities of the foot related to arch and circulation issues of diabetes)and obesity. I take enough pills and medication to keep CVS viable. I use a wheelchair much of the time to take pressure off my good foot as the Charcot has left me susceptible to foot ulcers which if infected can cause significant problems (see my other leg, BK amputation). So I have 3 doctors I see regularly – podiatrist/foot specialist, GP and cardiologist along with a prosthetist. Again, enough to keep a small hospital viable. Any consideration of moving to NM included discussions of checking out the medical services available there. Little did I suspect I would be checking them out first hand.

Just after Father’s Day I missed a day of work with flu like symptoms and although I went to work the rest of the week never felt much better. My blood sugars were a bit elevated but not terribly so and it was not until that Saturday following that I felt terrible enough to start to get worried. When I awoke Sunday morning my blood sugars were very, very high and Mrsfabp encouraged, no insisted, I go to the local ER to get checked out. I was there for several hours, they did plenty of blood test and determined I had a mild infection of unknown origin and was very dehydrated. My GP told me to allow a week to rehydrate and redo the blood work which was back to baseline. Two days later we flew to Las Cruces for our vacation.

But, I never really felt much better, still had occasional fevers and was getting more and more tired as the week progressed rather than feeling revitalized by the vacation. By that Saturday, I was feeling worse, had a rash starting on my chest, developed a cough and was feeling terrible. When I spent most of that evening with a fever we decided to again go to the ER, this time in Las Cruces to see if we could get someone to figure out what was going on. There I was again subjected to lots of blood work which revealed that I was again dehydrated, had a mild infection of unknown origin and was in renal failure. One doctor told me I was going to need immediate dialysis. Later the hospitalist clarified things, stating the kidney issues were probably related to the dehydration, and admitting me. I was treated with fluids, 3 different antibiotics because they could not find the infection source. When I was discharged, I was feeling better but it took about a week to feel like I was back to my old self.

But I am not back to my old self. I have issues that I need to address, more specifically obesity. When I have lost weight in the past, I have felt better and I know that the strain on my health is tremendous. Mrsfabp and I had a big sit down about this, complete with yelling and denial and tears and we continue to try to work it through. I have committed to eating healthier in the past but my weight gain has been paved with good intentions. This recent situation scared me however, how a simple thing, dehydration or a flu or a mild infection caused a domino effect that ended with me in the hospital. This is just not acceptable any more. The motivation is here. The support of a loving wife and family is here. Reinforcement is here. It is time for me to be here and get along with my life. Hopefully by writing about it, by seeing it in black and white, I will continue to find motivation and strength in this long over due process. Since my hospitalization I have lost 32 pounds but there is a long, long way to go. I am just starting to realize that this journey is necessary and beneficial.

August 3, 2011

Chronicles of Las Cruces: The Summer 2011 Visit: A Roadrunner Sighting

Catching sight of one of these elusive birds is one of the great joys of our trips to Las Cruces, although the process is somewhat different to the processes that I have experienced in previous bird watching adventures. I have trooped into swamps to see great blue herons, walked around ponds looking for red wing black birds and other waterfowl, I have stood guard near hummingbird feeders hoping to catch a glimpse of the faux insects, but the process for spotting a roadrunner seems to be something along the lines of “just do your own thing and suddenly, out of no where you will spot one.

On our first trip to Las Cruces, it happened on our next to last full day of the visit. We had been looking, searching for one without success the whole time we were there. We were driving on a cross road, near some main roads outside of Alamogordo (great town name, lousy town…) when two of them burst out from one side of the road, across the street in front of us and into a parking lot on the other side. We stopped, backed up and found them hiding in some brush and got to see them sprint across the parking lot into the nearby desert. They were everything we had hoped for, got a couple of poor pictures and then continued on our way. A rather chance encounter to say the least.

This trip we got the sighting over early, on day two of our adventure but did not get to see another one the entire trip. We got into the habit of going to a local café for coffee in the morning because they had WIFI and we could hook up the iPad while we woke up and got ready to explore. Acoss from the café was a McDonalds. As we arrived that day, there was a small group of people – mostly either teens or young adults, in the parking lot and they were obviously searching for something. That something, a roadrunner, was hiding in a clump of vegetation along the parking lot edge. When they got too close, he sprinted across the lot, thru the drive thru lane and into the brush along the divider of the two areas. He was quick but I got a good glimpse of him. He seems like a youngster, smaller that the others I had seen. But then he was gone. Another chance encounter.

I tweeted about it once we were inside the café with our coffee, making a remark about how he must have been looking to try the new McDonald’s frozen lemonade but I was just glad I got a chance to see him. I’m note sure I could say a trip to Las Cruces was a success without a roadrunner sighting!

August 1, 2011

Going to “The Stadium” for the first time…

This Sunday, July 31st, I made my first trip to the new Yankee Stadium. It has been a while since I have gone to a game in the Bronx and over the past winter we hatched a scheme to get a bunch of people together to go to a game. Originally we were going to try to do a baseball weekend, seeing a couple of minor league games leading up to the Yankee game but that didn’t work out and it was just the Yankees vs. the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. Before I go any further, let me thank Manhattan Man and CollegeBoy for originally thinking up the idea, PO Jen for her kick start on the effort about 8 weeks ago and the people over at Disability Services at Yankee Stadium who did a nice job of getting us in relative proximity for the game, on short notice.

I was looking forward to seeing the game with CollegeBoy and MillieJupiter and MissNicole (who is a more recent Yankee convert, much to the chagrin of her Red Sox lovin’ family!). I got to see some family and friends which is always fun. So I thought I would take a minute or two and make some personal observations about the game and the trip in general.

-Special thanks to MillieJupiter who did the driving! She was great and can now boast that she has driven in Bronx traffic and survived…

-The parking and the traffic situation at the new Yankee Stadium is vastly improved over the situation with the old place. We made the 3 hour trek from Massachusetts and within 5 minutes of getting off the Major Deegan Expressway, were parked within 500 feet of the main stadium gate. When leaving, the line out was quick and the traffic patrol had us back on the highway within 5 minutes. I have sat for 60 minutes trying to get to or from the old stadium, this was wonderful yesterday…

-the NY Yankees must provide employment for about a billion people. There was security and Yankee staff for help all around the place. You couldn’t swing Derek Jeter’s jockstrap without hitting on of the myriad of employees. They were courteous, friendly, helpful and helped make this an excellent experience. Special props to the guard who got me into the ticket window early and without having to wait on the line.

(the view from our seats)

-One of the best things that happened (besides the Yankee victory) was that I also got to meet an internet friend JHop, whose blog “Chicks Dig the Fastball” always interests me and is one of my daily internet reads. We got to spend some time with talking baseball and fantasy baseball (where she is a rookie wizard and is positioning my herself to be the first rookie to win the whole a championship in a rookie season in the 28 years I have been running a league!), and fantasy football and Derek Jeter and blogs and podcasts and oh my! It was great to finally meet her and everyone should click on THIS LINK and give her blog a read. You will enjoy it.

-CollegeBoy said it best when he tweeted: “There is nothing greater in the world than being with family and friends at a New York Yankee game. Greatest feeling in the world.” I concur 100%; it was nice to see everybody, catch up a bit and enjoy the game!

-Speaking of the game, it was just a perfect experience. The Yankees won, we got to see Mariano Rivera, the best relief pitcher ever, throw a perfect 9th inning for the save, we saw Brett Gardner triple into the right field corner, the most exciting play in baseball and CollegeBoy and MissNicole collected enough Yankee souvenir cups to last us until the next game we go to. Perfect…

(Mariano enters the game and the Baltimore Orioles shudder...)

-You know, you can never predict baseball… I talked with CollegeBoy about the fact that he had never seen any thing memorable at the stadium in all the games he has gone to and almost before the words were out of his mouth, we had a weird situation crop up. Derek Jeter was hit on the hand with a pitch and the Yankees back up infielder was already in the game as Robbie Cano was the DH. This lead to lots of speculation about what they were going to do as it was early in the game and no one likes to give up their DH. We were among the surprised when Francisco Cervelli, the back up catcher came out to play second base for a few innings, a position he had never played in the major leagues before. “Well, Suzyn, you know, you just can’t predict baseball!”– John Sterling

(This post was cross posted in the Borg Baseball Blog...)