Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Shared ride services

Over the weekend, we were in New York for my 50th anniversary high school graduation reunion. My aunt graciously offered us a place to stay, and we then had to decide how we would travel between her house in Flushing, Queens, and the reunion events, which were in Manhattan. The house is not near a subway. Our options were to get to the Long Island Railroad somehow and then take the subway from Penn Station, or take a taxi, or take one of the shared ride services. We had never done that before, except in, of all places, Croatia, but in New York everything has its own set of challenges.
I downloaded the iPhone apps for Uber and Lyft. They work similarly. You provide your credit card information to the app, which verifies everything. Then you provide your departure location and your destination. You have to allow the app to be able to use Location Services while active. When you do that, even before you request a vehicle, you will see how long it will take for the car to come, and you can get a forecast of the cost, which is in a range of dollars, between 40 and 60 for our first trip. You can see all the little cars crawling around on the map on your screen. To go to the reunion cocktail party for my class, at a place called India House, nothing to do with Indian food but with old India traders, we chose Uber.

The car was driven by Ahmed, and was a Camry. We left my aunt’s house at 4:49 PM, having requested the car about five minutes earlier. We arrived at India House at 5:29 PM, a distance of 16 miles through miserable Friday night rush hour traffic on the Long Island Expressway (LIE) and the horrendous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). He took us over the Brooklyn Bridge, which has no toll, and dropped us right at the door. Ahmed is from Pakistan, speaks excellent English, and has lived in the US for one year. He lives pretty close to my aunt, staying with his uncle in Bayside. Nice guy, and a cautious, careful driver. The fare was $44.50, and I gave him $5 cash. I think you can tip through Uber but wondered how much he would get. Uber sends you an email summarizing the trip, actually quite detailed, which is where I got these statistics.

After the reunion party, which was a huge success, we summoned another Uber car. This time it was a Lincoln Town Car, driven by Syed. The car appeared almost immediately, but he didn’t stop in front of India House but parked up the street and called me. I said ‘we are here’ and waved at him. Uber cars have a little lighted symbol to aid in identification. He pulled right up. Syed was an extremely aggressive driver. He was also from Pakistan, but I could not understand his response when I asked how long he has been in the US. He needed a little help with navigation getting to my aunt’s house. Traffic on Friday night on the BQE and LIE was miserable. I was glad I wasn’t driving, especially after three or four Coronas (no Shiner Bock in New York), and I was also glad to be sitting in the back seat with my wife and not able to see much out the front window. He was really aggressive. We left India House at 9:03 PM and arrived at my aunt’s house at 9:39 PM. The fare was $42.60, and I gave him $5 as well. The distance was reported as 15.73 miles, probably because he knew his way around lower Manhattan a little better than Ahmed did.

The next day we went to the reunion itself at the school, located at 30 West 16th Street, which is between Fifth and Sixth avenues. I decided to try Lyft after reading an article in the New York Times about how the drivers preferred it over Uber. When you sign up for Lyft, they give you a credit for five free rides, which actually means up to $10 off for each of your first five rides. Our car this time was another Camry, and the driver was Mathieu. He got to my aunt’s house six or seven minutes after we requested pickup. Mathieu was a careful driver, perhaps a little too careful, because he would hang out in the left lane and drive the speed limit, and cars flew by on the right. He is from Haiti. When I learned where he was from, I started speaking to him in French. He just smiled widely and enjoyed it, but like every other French speaker in the world seems to do, he corrected me when I made a mistake, which was often. Mathieu picked us up at 2:56 PM and we arrived at Xavier High School at 3:32 PM. The distance was 13.61 miles. The fare was $45.02, including the Queens Midtown Tunnel toll, but the $10 credit reduced our cost to $35.02. I gave Mathieu $5 and he smiled widely and thanked us for speaking French. The LIE was not too bad on Saturday afternoon, although traffic like that in Dallas would have brought out the road rage for sure.

For our return we also chose Lyft. The estimated time was one minute, but the car got there before we even got to the sidewalk, and I saw the little light on the windshield and waved at him. Our driver was Tayeb and the car was some kind of a Lexus. Tayeb is from Bangladesh, and has been here four or five years. He has a business exporting construction equipment and, I presume, drives on the side. Traffic on Saturday night was unbelievably bad, and there was an accident on the LIE which brought it to a standstill, but Tayeb figured a way around it. He was a good driver, not too cautious and not too aggressive. He picked us up at 9:07 PM and we got to my aunt’s house at 9:53 PM. He did not need any help finding the house. The fare was $49.16, including the toll, but the credit brought it down to $39.16. 

My impression of both shared ride services was very favorable. I would definitely use them again, especially in New York. The cars were clean, late model, well maintained, and the drivers were good, and interesting to talk to. The hardest part is identifying your car, if you are in a crowded location with a lot of vehicles. Had we rented a car, the cost would have been $250 or so, and we would have had to pay a significant amount for parking, and I would have been drinking water instead of Coronas. So it all worked out for the best.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Driving through the war zone

Looking for a Retirement Place – Episode 3

We had been thinking about scouting out another place while our French class was on hiatus for a couple of weeks.  The thought was to drive to a town called Nacogdoches, Texas, a couple of hours away, which was listed in our 100 Best Places book, and check it out. But the days we thought about doing that were affected by some of the rotten weather we have been having this spring. I would rather not have grapefruit sized hail hit my car out in the middle of East Texas and then have to figure out what to do next.  So the window of opportunity closed.

There are ads in the paper all the time for a place called Robson Ranch, located near Denton, Texas.  Denton is (or was) an hour or so away from here, to the north and west. Robson Ranch is another one of these age-restricted places where there are lots of activities to keep the residents busy.  The company has only one community in Texas, but has half a dozen more in Arizona, so we thought we could learn something that might be applicable to both places.  I contacted the company on-line and got a call back from some guy in Arizona.  He set up an appointment for us to have a day visit to the place in Denton.  They can do up to three days at a time, where you pay something for the privilege, but that is more for people from out of town.

So on a Friday in April, we drove to Robson Ranch.  The ranch is close to I-35W.  I-35 is split between Dallas and Fort Worth, so there is an I-35E and an I-35W.  It does not indicate direction but relative location. It also helps to confuse newcomers beyond belief – imagine it’s your first time in a city and there’s a sign that says I-35E North.  Where the hell does it go?  I-35 is the NAFTA highway, and it was built way too small to handle the volume it has now. So the I-35E part, the part that goes through Dallas, is being widened.  The result is that the driving conditions between the Bush Turnpike, where we got on I-35E, and Denton, where we looped over to I-35W, are slightly worse than in Kabul, Afghanistan, and maybe a little bit better than Aleppo, Syria.  I’m just glad it wasn’t raining.

We arrived at Robson Ranch and went to the sales center.  A very tall man came out and introduced himself as Tall Bill.  He is 6’9”. I said I was short Jim, and introduced even shorter Jody.  We chatted for a while in his office, and he explained some things we didn’t know.  Unlike Sun City, the age restriction for Robson is 40 years rather than 55.  This means about a third of the residents are still working, and the place is livelier than a typical retirement community where people are sitting around waiting to die. The minimum age for a son or daughter living there is nineteen.  Bill took us through four models, of different sizes.  The construction quality is excellent, much better than our current house. They have very good energy efficiency, high ceilings, vinyl clad double pane windows, mostly three car garages, although some are set up for a golf cart instead of a car. The place looks well thought out – 36 different options are available for the various models.

Some of the models were quite a bit smaller than our current house, but the layouts are so well designed you don’t notice.  Even the larger ones have a bar-style eating area in the kitchen and a dining room. 

The community has all manner of activities, an indoor heated pool, a very nice outdoor pool, a golf course, softball field, community garden, lots of clubs for various interests. 

BUT – it’s in Texas, where 100 degrees in July and August will take it out of you.  And I wonder about whether being a little more north and a little higher elevation will cause more of the s word.

They gave us a coupon for a free lunch for two, which we used at the golf course clubhouse. The regular restaurant is being renovated.  The golf course restaurant had a pretty limited menu but what we had was good.  The golf course itself looked pretty wide open, but I think the main hazard is back yards.

After lunch, a bit leg-weary, we went through the models we hadn't seen, and reviewed the ones we had, and ranked the ones we liked best.  Later, after we got home, we looked at the prices.  These homes are not cheap - as Bill said, it's all top of the line.

Driving home we took a different, longer, but less interesting route. More like pre-war Baghdad.

I think I like Robson Ranch better than Sun City Texas.  But we will look some more.

As an aside - Tall Bill drives a Smart Car.  Can you believe it?  I know the Smart has more leg room than most, since it has no back.  Also, he worked for a time in Japan, and a colleague of his was 7' tall. He said they stopped traffic, and caused a couple of wrecks.  If you ever go to Robson Ranch in Denton, ask for Tall Bill.  Everyone knows him.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Southern Exposure

Looking for a retirement place – Episode 2

Not long after returning from Port Townsend, after a quick visit to New York for a sad family occasion, we took a short trip to Georgetown, Texas.  Our goal was a place called Sun City, Texas, which sounds hokey, but, when you get there, it isn’t. 

For this trip, we elected to drive. The alternative would have been to fly to Austin, then rent a car and drive to Georgetown, but with all the hassles of air travel these days, it was an absolutely easy decision to drive.  The drive was interesting, though, because we had to drive through Dallas and get to I-35 heading south.  I-35 is a strange beast, because both Dallas and Fort Worth wanted the interstate, so it splits into I-35E and I-35W.  Both of these run north and south.  So you see signs for I-35E N, I-35E S.  It takes some getting used to.  I-35 is the NAFTA highway, the primary route for freight and the like from Mexico into the US.  It was built many years ago as a four lane divided highway, but after NAFTA it was overwhelmed with traffic.  The road is eight lanes through most of Dallas, and shrinks down to four.  Then at Hillsboro, Texas, I-35E and I-35W (the one for Fort Worth) combine, and we get six lanes.  Eventually, six becomes four, because the expansion is not yet complete.

When you are in the area that is being worked on, you have what I call the no-sneeze zones.  There are concrete barriers alongside the main lanes, on both sides, and the shoulders are not worthy of the name. It made for an interesting drive.

We found Sun City with no difficulty.  We had arranged to rent a small house for a night, which (they said) came with a full refrigerator.  First we went to the main office, and they said we could walk through the Model Park, a street with examples of each floor plan they offer.  The houses are very variable, so some of the models were over the top, with a second story, etc.  But it was interesting to look at them.  Click here to see some sample floor plans. Everything is of course immaculate in model homes.  We were really impressed with the open floor plans and especially the huge, modern kitchens.  

One problem we had is that we were trying to envision our setup in these houses.  Our house in Richardson is a four-bedroom, but we use one bedroom as an office and one bedroom as a den, which is where we watch TV.  The only houses that offered similar setups had more square feet than our current house.  I was hoping to downsize, not upsize!

Our one bedroom house at Sun City was actually pretty nice, well furnished, but the refrigerator was empty.  We found our way over to a convenience store to get some snacks.  We had imported some wine from home.  The office gave us our choice of a bottle of red or a bottle of white Texas wine.  We chose red, took one sip, and threw it in the trash.  I wouldn’t even pour it down the sink for fear it might melt the plumbingit was so harsh.  The house had wi-fi.  It looked like a model they don’t sell any more, having two full bathrooms and one bedroom.  It had a second living area which could have been a guest bedroom.  They also provided a golf cart which we could use to poke around, but the weather was a little cool for that.  

We had dinner at one of the golf course restaurants, and it was clean and bright, and the food was pretty good, but the service was clueless. But it was a Monday. 

The next day we had a tour provided by a resident, a volunteer, who took us around to see the various amenities.  Sun City has three golf courses, and a couple of activity centers with indoor and outdoor pools.  There are also lots of facilities for hobbyists, wood work, stitchery of any kind, stained glass, art work, libraries, etc.  There are clubs for languages, clubs for people from wherever you came from, dozens of other clubs.  The community is for people 55 and up, and we seemed to be in the age range of most of the people there.  I have to say I was really surprised at how much they have going on.  Here is a link to their activities.

We are considering Sun City Texas as a possible retirement location.  It is far enough south to avoid the snow and ice issues that sometimes cause problems for us here in Richardson (but not this year).  But there are two other problems that affect living in Sun City that also affect us here:  one is July, and the other is August. But this one is still in the mix.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Northern Exposure - not for us

We’re trying to figure out where we want to live, in retirement.  Where we are now, Richardson, Texas, is pretty good.  Everything is convenient, we know where to go for whatever we need, and we have friends in the area.  There are just two problems:  July and August.  It gets incredibly hot here during those two months, and June and September can be pretty bad as well.  So we are looking at alternatives.

The first thing we did was to look at a book called America’s 100 Best Places to Retire, by Mary Lu Abbott.  Each of us devised a list of places we were interesting in checking out.  Typically, the lists were not the same, except for one place: Port Townsend, Washington. 

Port Townsend is at the tip of a peninsula sticking into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates Washington from British Columbia.  The town is described in the book as in the rain shadow of the Olympic range, and receives less rainfall than other parts of Washington.  The rain clouds have to dump their contents to clear the mountains, leaving Port Townsend with minimal annual rainfall.  But it doesn’t get hot there, which is something we are looking for.  We decided to check it out.  And we decided to do something smart – check it out during the worst time of year rather than the best, figuring that if we liked Port Townsend in January, we would like it any time.

Our itinerary included spending a couple of days north of Seattle, for a tour reunion put on by Rick Steves’ Europe (https://www.ricksteves.com) for people who took a tour with them during 2015.  There is also a day-long event called ‘Test Drive a Tour Guide’, which was really just them selling their tours.  We did meet the young woman who led our “Best of the Adriatic” tour and a couple who were on our tour, and that was nice.  We stayed in Lynnwood, near Edmonds, for three nights.  (My review of the hotel in Lynnwood is here). Then we caught the Edmonds to Kingston ferry and started on our way to Port Townsend.

The ferry was not rough, but the day was very, very dark.  This was at noon.

After arriving in Port Townsend, we had to wait a while for our room to be ready at Manresa Castle (review found here) and we wandered around the downtown area for a while.  Port Townsend has a lot of Victorian buildings, very well kept, and lots of nice eateries and shopping.  It may be in danger of becoming one of those tourist towns with nothing but t-shirt shops and art galleries, but it isn’t there yet.

We found a place to eat lunch called Jordini’s on the Water, part of kind of a shopping arcade on Water Street (the main street).  No customers were there except us, and in fact the whole town seemed pretty deserted.  I think everyone was watching the Seattle Seahawks playing the Carolina Panthers in the NFL playoffs.  When I had last checked the score, it was 31-0 in favor of the Panthers, but when we got to Jordini’s the game was on their giant flat-screen TV and the Seahawks had clawed their way back into the game.  The menu looked very good, and I chose a half portion of the Italian Stallion sub sandwich.  The half portion was six inches long and almost equally thick, and was excellent.  Unfortunately, that seemed to set the pattern – every meal we had in Port Townsend (not counting breakfast at the Castle) was very good, and portions were probably too generous.  While we ate, the game ended with the Seahawks trailing. 

Half a sandwich at Jordini’s

While waiting for our room to be ready, we stopped off at the Tourist Information office and spoke for a while with a gentleman who had retired to Port Townsend from Texas, specifically Austin.  We asked about how people get to Seattle and to the airport, where to shop, etc.  He made a point of saying how not hot it is there, since we were interested in less hot summers.  He also said it often rains on the fourth of July.

Our room at Manresa was ready at 4 PM, and they gave us a $25 coupon for something off dinner at a restaurant in town, since their restaurant was not open on Sunday (or any other day we were there). We took advantage of the coupon and ate at The Belmont, on Water Street, which would be considered ‘fine dining’ I suppose.  The crab stuffed halibut was pretty good.

The next day (Monday) I contacted a realtor who I had been emailing back and forth with about looking for a house in Port Townsend.  Her name is Anne McLaughlin, and she was perfect for us.  She showed us neighborhoods, explained about the lifestyle in Port Townsend, and showed us a couple of homes for sale that were not occupied.  The deal in Port Townsend is whether or not you have a view.  If you have a nice view, add $100,000 to the price.  We found the homes were smaller than in Texas, and a lot of them have septic tanks and heat with propane.  The peninsula (meaning the Olympic Peninsula, not just the Quimper Peninsula where Port Townsend is located) does not have a natural gas pipeline, so everyone heats with electric or propane or probably even wood stoves.  We saw a lot of the Cape George area, which is popular with retirees.  We would prefer a one-level house, and there are not a lot of them, but there are some.  I would guess that the price per square foot is 50% higher than in Richardson, TX, but the lifestyle is simpler and people aren’t so overboard with large houses. 

While meeting with Anne, we overheard her making a lunch date with someone at a place called Silverwater Café, so based on that recommendation, we went there for lunch.  It was the only place in Port Townsend that we went to twice, so that’s also a recommendation.  The food there was very, very good although the service was a little spaced out.  Marijuana is legal in Washington, which probably had nothing to do with it.

That evening we decided to try a place near Silverwater, called Alchemy Bistro.  I think this restaurant may have two sections, one less expensive and once fancier, but I am not sure. We ate in what was certainly fine dining, and we even had live music, a competent piano player.  I had a cod dish that was just okay.  Service was excellent.  Towards the end of our stay, an old man went up to the piano player and dropped some money in the tip jar, and spoke with him a moment.  The man looked familiar, and after a moment I realized he was one of the actors on a TV show from the 90’s called “Northern Exposure”.  The actor is named John Cullum, and he was playing an old man then.  He’s older now, but moving well.  “Northern Exposure” opened with a moose walking down the street, and the whole attitude of the show seemed to be replicated in Port Townsend.  We didn’t see any moose, but I saw more deer in one afternoon than I had seen before in my whole life.  And one big one was strolling along Lawrence Street, the main drag of Uptown Port Townsend, just minding his own business.

On Tuesday we decided to drive over to a town called Sequim, pronounced ‘skwim’, which is supposed to have what they call the ‘blue hole’, a hole in the cloud cover produced by peaks in the Olympic range.  Sequim is a bigger deal than Port Townsend, having the only Costco around, a Home Depot, lots of shopping.  It is home to a lot of retirees from California, seeking the sun but a cooler climate.  Anne, our real estate lady, seemed a little contemptuous of Sequim, saying they built houses there that resembled the houses they left behind in Southern California.  We saw some exceptionally tacky houses near the main road, but used our Zillow app to find some farther afield, and ended up in a large development called Sunland, where some nice new houses can be found.  We got a realtor to show us one, and it was very impressive, although attached on one side.  It was not a ‘duplex’ per se but pretty upscale.  Sunland is close to being built out, and seemed very nice, but the properties do not have much in the way of a view.  A golf course winds through the development.  Lots of deer hanging around.

We had a good lunch in Sequim in a place called Hiway 101 Diner, which was straight out of the Fifties.  Nice food.

That evening, back in Port Townsend, we had dinner at a Northern-Exposure type place called Owl Sprit Café (note – not Owl Spirit).  This was a pretty laid-back, inexpensive place that had an extensive lunch menu and a less extensive dinner menu, but the lunch menu went until 8 PM.  So I went with some sliders (below) from the lunch menu (I love sliders) while my wife chose some vegetable linguini (vegetarian).  We were both happy with our choices.


Our final day in Port Townsend we spent looking back at some of the properties we had seen with Anne, and in walking around Fort Worden State Park, looking at some of the old officer’s quarters that you can actually rent out, although probably not in January.  While there, we saw a bald eagle, but could not get a decent photo. The day was incredibly cold and dreary, and in fact I don’t think the thermometer reached 50F the whole time we were there.  We ate lunch again at Silverwater, and for dinner chose a place called Fountain Café, where I had something called Scotch Fettucine, meaning with smoked salmon.  So-so. Jody had a risotto dish large enough to feed a squad of vegetarian Marines, if any could be found.

When Thursday came around and it was time to go home, we were ready.  But we had a hundred mile drive to Sea-Tac, and endured a couple of hours of really heavy rain during the drive.  At times it was nearly impossible to see.  The speed limit was just a dream. I think during the drive it finalized our determination that we could not live in a place like this, no matter how nice it is in the summer time.  The difficulty of getting around was too much, and it was too remote and too much of a culture shock.  So our search for a place to live in retirement will continue.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jim Wins at Golf

Warning:  this story has almost nothing to do with golf.

My wife and I exchange gifts on our anniversary.   After three decades, it is sometimes difficult to come up with something original, so I appreciate a suggestion.   This year’s suggestion was surprising, a household item, the Vitamix 5200 Blender Super Package.  Okay then, ordered it from Costco On-Line. 

The package arrived late on a Friday night.  I picked it up (it was quite heavy) and stuck it in the closet in our office.  I shut the door and promptly forgot about it.  I had also ordered something from my wife’s Amazon wish list, and today I decided to ‘hide’ it where I hide stuff, which is in the closet in our office.  It’s not a good hiding place, but it’s not like this is a surprise anyway.

When I went to open the door, which opens inward, I couldn’t.  There is one of those plastic gadgets you can use to child-proof a closet (in our case the child is a 22 pound Maine Coon) and I depressed that.  Still couldn’t open the door.  I removed the device entirely.  Still couldn’t open the door.

Somehow, the box for the blender package was blocking the door, and I could not move it by pushing on the door.  I must have, in my haste, put it too close to the door, or placed it somewhere precarious, and something shifted.  We’ve been having earthquakes in Texas, but they are not the kind that move objects.  This was a problem.  The closet contains, among other things, our security system control panel, all of my photography equipment, all the software that we have in permanent physical form (as opposed to downloads), a useless manual typewriter, and some irreplaceable old documents, and everyday work items such as secure envelopes, printer cartridges, paper for the printer, etc. And a whole bunch of cat toys, which is why the Maine Coon wants in there.  There was no way to open that door other than cutting through the wall, or cutting through from the ceiling, or getting my friend Andy, who used to play offensive line for the Cowboys, and later the Bears, come over and smash it.

So, I tried to think, could I somehow move that thing.  I wasn’t really sure what was blocking the door (later found it was the blender package) and I really couldn’t budge it at all.  I first tried (talk about stupid) using my iPad.  This worked in that it fit under the door, and I moved the box slightly, and could open the door just a tiny amount, maybe a sixteenth of an inch.  But using an iPad as a sledgehammer is not really all that great an idea.  I tried a letter opener, a sturdy metal one, and at least by stabbing the box with it I released some of my frustration.  I tried lying on my back and pushing against the door with my feet, figuring my legs are the biggest muscles in my body.  I could have broken the door doing that, but not open it.

My next idea was one of the things my father always used to find things or sometimes to fix things.  He would use a golf club.  If something falls behind a refrigerator, for example, there’s nothing better than a blade putter to drag it out.  Can’t use one of those bloated boxy things you see some of the pros use.  I went out to the garage to get a putter, and found two of them in my bag.  The last time I played golf was in Hawaii, on Maui, for my 55th birthday, and I brought a few extra things so my Dad could play without having to bring his clubs, and among them was an extra putter.  Both were blade style putters.

I was able to get the putter under the door, and pushing as hard as I could, I could move the box maybe another sixteenth of an inch.  I had sweat pouring down so badly I had to towel off constantly.  We keep our house at 78F during the day, which is okay for sedentary tasks, but for this involuntary full-body workout it was too damned hot.

I kept thinking I needed some leverage, some way to shove the box from left to right to get it away from the door’s edge.  I tried both putters.  I bent a clothes hanger and tried to use it to catch the end of the box, but the space available was so small it was impossible.  Plus, the package was 20 pounds, although I didn't really know what was blocking the door. 

My wife came home from running errands and she was impressed with the predicament I was in.  She ran out to the garage and came back with a large crowbar, with which I definitely could have destroyed the door, even without Andy, but would not fit under it.  Then I thought, what about my old sabers from Xavier High School.  Do we even have them?  Well, we do, but I don’t think we will for long.  They have not done well since I last used them in 1966.  I could do nothing with them.

At this point I could push the door open a bit at the top, and got a flashlight to see what the hell was going on.  I saw the box, and behind it another box containing some old electronics, and behind that the blasted old manual typewriter.  After seeing this, I felt like it was hopeless, and decided to do something else for a while.  So we ran some errands (notably we were running out of Scotch, which I could see being a problem soon) and I took a nap.

I came back to it to try a couple of additional things.  I thought I might be able to drag the box over to the right using our hedge trimmer.  Not plugged in.  It’s fairly heavy, it has lots of teeth to grab on to things, and it would fit under the door.  Well, no luck.  I tried a couple of different loppers (branch cutters) thinking they might grab on to the box.  No luck. 

Then I started thinking, I might try to reach past the box and move what was behind it.  I could feel, using the putter, where the back end of the box was, and then push against what was there.  After doing that a few times as hard as I could, it moved a tiny amount.  But the putter was too short.  I needed one of those long putters like Adam Scott uses, the ones that are about to be banned by the USGA and R&A.  Instead I went back to the garage and got a three iron. 

The three iron would just barely fit under the door, and could reach whatever was back there, and I could shove it around, but I couldn’t open the door.

In desperation, to avoid using explosives on my closet, which would be a violation in Richardson TX, I decided to try pushing on the other side of the box.  I had been pushing on the left side (as I looked at it) and now fumbled around with the putter and pushed on the right side.  I felt like it was not resisting as much.  I pushed again, as hard as I could (which wasn’t hard because I was by now pretty damn tired) and it seemed to be moving.  I got to my feet and tried the door one more time, with a mighty shove.

It opened.

I let go of a pretty loud scream.  My wife asked if I had hurt myself.  I replied that the door was open.  Brute force always wins.

I gave her the present early.  I’ll let her deal with where to store it.

It was my best golf day in years.