Thursday, June 26, 2008

justice is served

So yesterday, I got a call from the Justice Department. I had a moment of sheer panic before I remembered, I contacted them first. For over a year, I’ve been getting harassed by a collections agency. A dim-witted collections agency that thinks that I am someone else. Yup, they had the wro-o-o-ong number. A fact that I had repeatedly explained to the half-wit who called me the most frequently: “Dude. The only Nellie Oleson I’ve ever heard of was on the Little House on the Prairie.”

Clearly, there was some kind of mix-up. Someone was playing a joke on the debt collections agency. But no matter how many times I explained myself over the phone, they refused to believe me. Highlights from the phone calls I received include the collections agency (later revealed to be Northland Group) calling me a liar, calling me very late at night and oh yes, refusing to identify the name of their company. For a year, I was unable to report them because they had a blocked number. But they started calling me again this month and voila! Their number suddenly appeared on my Caller ID.

Since my phone number is on the do not call list, is an unlisted cell phone number and as I’d told them over and over that it was a wrong number anyway, I filed an online complaint report with the Oregon Attorney General. They followed up tout suite, calling Northland Group and telling them to take me off their list. Immediately. Ding!

I’m going to double-dip and post this on some of my business blogs too, as a cautionary tale. Companies that hire collections agencies have to be very, very careful of whom they entrust with their business. From a customer retention perspective, you don’t want to hire someone who is rude or unpleasant to a current or future customer. Companies like Northland Group give the collection agency industry a bad name. There are collections agencies out there who work hard, remain pleasant on the phone and who won't do anything to embarrass a client or to offend customers during a phone call.

There are rules that collections agencies have to follow and Northland Group ignored all of them: refusing to self-identify, calling a cell phone number, calling a number from the do not call registry and continuing to call back after being told it was a wrong number are just a few of the things they did wrong. From a marketing perspective, using a collections agency like Northland Group won’t help your bottom line.

There’s an easy way to prevent abuse by a collections agency that you hire for debt collections. It’s called “seeding,” and it means including your name and a few key staff members on the list of customers to call. That way, you can find out first hand if the debt collections agency is following your instructions, and representing you in the way that aligns with your company’s marketing and PR initiatives.

If you're being harassed over the phone by a company that you did not authorize to call you, your local Attorney General's office can help. The AG is the original consumer's advocate, going to bat for citizens under siege. You can file a complaint online with the Oregon Attorney General and make the harassment stop.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Well I Never (said with my Kentucky drawl: Ahhh Neh-verrrr)

So Friday we hung out at Cheryl’s and I did three stupid things:

Said sure, I’ll drink margaritas instead of beer
Something else I can’t tell you about here
Suggested that we play that time-honored drinking game, I Never.

No one else had ever played, amazing, so it was great fun. I love introducing unsuspecting people to worn-out drinking games. One of the women was pretty racy (no, it wasn’t me) which always makes for an especially good game. We went through the usual rounds that showed off our dissolute pasts and then moved on to confessions, an inevitable part of the game.

I mean, it’s pretty difficult to drink on some of the "I Never" statements without offering some sort of explanation: I was under the influence. I was in love. I was under the influence and I was in love. That’s basically what the responses, however they were couched, came down to. Mostly, it was love that motivated us to be wild. Be bad. Be stupidly stupid.

And that’s so often the reason why I’ve made bad decisions. I even said that at one point, after another double shot found me looking up from the bottom of the glass to a ring of raised eyebrows: I can’t help it. I fall in love a lot.

Three hours later, I woke up to love’s hangover.

Next time I think I’ll just show them how to play euchre.

Monday, June 23, 2008

rotten neighbors

The rotten neighbor website gives people an opportunity to publicly kvetch about their beer-chugging, drug-selling, skanked out neighbors. A quick search on Portland, Oregon’s rotten neighbors unearthed these gems:

A “religious cult” operating out of a residence on NW Kearney terrifies nearby neighbors.

A guy who gets “very angry at anyone who does yard work” on NW Lovejoy. This may be the same guy who is also called a “terrible, loud alcoholic” on the same street.

The most fantastic news man to ever broadcast news works at one lucky neighbor’s location on SW Naito. “Just make sure not to acknowledge, greet or touch him if you pass him on the sidewalk around here. Most of us are not worthy of his gaze.”

In addition to posting complaints, rotten neighbor also encourages comments from site members. A complaint about a homeless man who hangs out at Pioneer Square Park, eyeballing someone with a “JuJu eyeball” while they try to enjoy their morning Starbucks latte netted these comments from helpful site visitors:

JuJu eyeball? Is he a freaking warlock or something?

Have coffee somewhere else...or be nice, give him a new set of clothes and a hot cup of coffee. Try being nice, not some stuck up ho.

My guess is where the little green house is. I don't know which homeless guy he is referring to because that max stop is usually swarming with them.

The rotten neighbor website helpfully integrates information about sex offenders in the area, too.

For more info about skank alerts, rude parkers and awesome peeps in your town, check out rotten neighbor.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

she blah-blahed over the important part

Excerpt from an actual conversation I had with one of my friends before moving to Portland. We were debating going to a new bar in Northern Kentucky:

Me: “Susan’s band is playing at the “Blah Blah.” Do you want to go?”

Friend: “No. The Blah Blah is owned by a stripper.”

Me: “Do we not like strippers now? What’s wrong with that?”

Friend: “The stripper shot my cousin.”

I’m not kidding. Of course, after we talked I was dying to go. New bars open right and left in Northern Kentucky, but how many of them are owned by gun-toting strippers?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

you are here

Defining your place in the world is never easy. And I should know. For a long time now, I’ve been wondering where my place is supposed to be. That will come as a shock to regular readers. Ha. Prone to self reflection doesn’t begin to cover it. I spent years trying to figure out where I might go wrong. Protecting myself from potential mishaps and missteps. So much so that I may have actually missed out. On a few things. But no regrets, right?

A woman I met recently was telling me a story about a relationship gone wrong. She ended the story with a warning, and some well-meaning advice: “Never date your best friend’s brother.” I know where she’s coming from.

But I spent so much time in the past not doing things because they seemed like a bad idea (never date someone you work with, never go out with a neighbor, blah, blah, blah), and I don’t know that those were always the best decisions for me.

And if you’re reading this and you think that you moved here (wherever here is for you) to be with family, or for a job, or a spouse or whatever, well, that may be true. I did one of those things. But it may also be true that you had to move here for something really good to happen with a business that you didn’t know you would ever own. Or maybe you’re supposed to meet the love of your life here. Man, I don’t know. But rather than reflecting on what you did that was right… what you’ve done that was wrong… Maybe you should take care not to miss what’s right under your nose.

You know?

Sometimes I think, why didn’t I move to Portland five years ago… ten years ago… why I ever left Oregon to begin with. I remember feeling down some months ago, when I’d made the decision to move but felt too saddled with medical bills to ever make it happen and annie said, “you feel this way because you’re meant to be somewhere else. You’re in the wrong place.”

But then I think, maybe I wasn’t meant to be here until now. Maybe there’s some reason why I didn’t show up before.

Instead of running wildly all over the state this month (like I have ever since arriving) I’m contemplating spending some more time in Portland. Have some quiet weekends to catch up on work. Amble over to the farmer’s market on a Saturday. And just relax and enjoy the city.

I told someone recently, it’s 50/50 whenever I leave the house… sometimes I can find just what I’m looking for and sometimes I get lost. Not too bad after a couple of months. Portland is a lot smaller than where I lived before but it’s chopped up. Uneven. Streets sometimes just stop, for no apparent reason. I’m figuring it out. These days, when I drive over the Ross Island bridge it’s because I want to, not because I have to. Finding my way around town always reminds me about being open to finding my karmatic path too.

And at this point, I feel open to anything… Regardless of whether or not it’s a good idea.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

is that all there is?

Sitting outside with Jul at Cusina downtown a couple of weeks ago, I had, well, a moment.

The starlight parade was starting in a couple of hours and already, families lined the sidewalks, in anticipation of the nighttime celebration. Mothers cuddled small children and fathers hoisted sons to their shoulders. And meanwhile, the usual suspects wandered the city streets, providing plenty of fodder for people-watching. The sun was still coasting overhead and the white tablecloths gleamed as I raised my microbeer to toast Jul’s water. And suddenly I realized:

It’s perfect.

I’m exactly where I want to be. Doing exactly what I want to do.

I tried to explain it all to Jul and I think she got it, we hadn’t seen each other for a while but she knows how I am, recognizing moments, feeling fanciful and just generally being a died in the wool romantic. She smiled at me in indulgence but I caught an eye gleam that told me she understood something of what I was feeling. It was just perfect, I explained. Sitting at an outdoor restaurant in Portland toasting my dear old friend and just, you know, being.

And it’s taken a long time to get me to this place.

So many people search for that moment, that feeling of pure happiness and when-will-it-start that I think they miss out on what’s happening all around them. I’ve been called a risk taker by some, who know my history of quitting my really good job to freelance, and, I suppose, of upping and shifting my gear cross-country.

But I don’t think you have to wait for momentous things to happen to have a momentous life.

Those people on the sidewalk. Those families. They were all having their own moments, and making their own memories.

I wonder if they knew.

At what point in your life do you say, this is my life. This is what I’m going to be doing from now on. And, I’m happy. Recently I was having a conversation with a friend and he told me that when he woke up that day he had the feeling that he liked his life. That’s a good place to be, I told him.

And sometimes I think, what if I would have gotten married, the times that presented itself? Sometimes I think, then I would live in a big house on a golf course and not “have to do” anything at all. But then I think. What do you do in a big empty house? Stare out the windows. Think about how once, a long time ago, people said my writing showed promise.

Then I feel fine again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Picture of the Day: Corvallis

Shot on the streets of Corvallis with my crackberry. My sister, a Corvallis resident for more than 20 years, breezed by it without a backward glance. But I had to go back and snap this shot.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Destination: Lisa.

So I’ve been practicing my tour guide skills on out of town guests and trust me, my smile is stretched so tight my teeth are bared. But I went to a lot of fun places, some old favorites and some all-new, in just a few days’ time.

I had friends in from Cincinnati this weekend, also a friend in from Washington for a day or two and then another round of guests starts this weekend. Next month a friend has said he might visit and countless other friends, one who is expecting, all promised to visit over the next few months. And everyone else is just trying to jockey for my time.

Ah, the life you live when you reside in a destination city.

Places to go when you’re visiting Portland, Oregon include:

The Portland Rose Garden features yup, acres of roses in all colors and sizes, one of Portland’s classic fountains and many lovely walking paths, all set against a backdrop that has breathtaking views of the city.

The Portland Saturday Market, open until 5 on Saturdays and until 4:30 on Sundays, is a worthwhile stop. Especially around lunchtime. I grew up going to the Saturday Market in Eugene. My next door neighbor’s dad had a booth at the open air market and he’d scoop us up and take us with him before the market opened. We got a behind the scenes peek at how things work at the Saturday Market and then ran wild all day, drinking lemonade and noshing on the amazing food. The Portland Saturday Market is just as good.

Powell’s bookstore, as everyone knows, set the stage for all of the other chain bookstores to steal their ideas and to create homogenized versions of the Portland bookstore. My friends, upon seeing Powell’s for the first time, liked the bookstore’s vintage “library or schoolhouse” feel.

Rogue, or any of the many breweries around town, offer great food and oh yeah, they also have beer. I always go for Dead Guy Ale but one friend tried a sampler and the rich, dark brews seemed to go down pretty easily.

Good eats that are very, very convenient when you visit in or near downtown Portland include:

Greek Cusina- We sat outside and dined here on Saturday and it was quite good. I’m waiting until Ann visits to try to the Lebanese restaurant. If I can wait that long.

Mamma Mia’s had the biggest antipasti plate ever and a jovial staff. We arrived very, very early so had no problem getting seated but the Italian restaurant filled up quickly.

Huber’s, the oldest bar and restaurant in Portland, is a classy joint with a friendly staff. Hopefully someone will order the over the shoulder/behind the back-prepared Spanish coffee when you visit.

I’ll keep updating the rose city journal with ideas of places to go in Portland as new visitors- with varying ideas of a good time- arrive in town. There are so many fun neighborhoods and so many things to do in Portland that it’s hard to decide where to take people. Thankfully, Google Maps makes finding everything easy. And alcohol makes playing hostess a lot easier.

Monday, June 2, 2008

my love, my stalker

Dating someone who was essentially, well, your stalker is kind of a strange experience.

Before you start lecturing, understand that when this has happened to me, I didn’t know the person (maybe persons, but that’s another blog) in question was stalking me. I just thought that he had a crush.

I really had no idea. Not until we went out and he started talking in great detail about my life, things that I had done, people I had known, whatever, he just knew far too much about me and my daily patterns. Clue #1.

In addition, he quickly started in about “our” future plans. You know. Talking in April about a trip to Hawaii at Christmas. Clue #2. I am all about the instant connection. Don’t get me wrong. But talking about plans that are months and months into the future that may or may not happen early on in the relationship always makes me a little… skittish.

Clue #3. He is far, far too willing to accept all of my quirks. I know I can be a pain in the ass. So being around someone who just accepts it all as part of me, and never, ever gets ruffled at my sometimes outlandish behavior, seems a little phony. I can be annoying. Just like you can be annoying. I’m not going to stomp out of the room because you say I’m getting on your nerves. Or at least, I would probably come back. Eventually.

Clue #4: He is always available, whenever I need him to be around. I’m sorry. But this is an obvious clue that either you have no friends or that you’re completely willing to throw them over when a new “potential” enters your life. Either way. I don’t like it.

Clue #5. He talks too much about my blog. It’s a darn good blog. But truth be told, it isn’t necessarily representative of my life right now. Sometimes it is, vis a vis my writing about the move to Portland. But sometimes, I had a moment, and then I never got around to writing about that moment until a year later. So it really no longer applies and talking about it ad infinitum is kinda pointless. It doesn’t help to hear months after the fact how I should have handled the situation.

Persistence is a really good way to get a woman to go out with you.