Archive for May, 2004

Bloody USCIS

May 26, 2004

I should be happy, but.

Today Bill and I went down to the Atlanta District Office and got the interim Employment Authorisation Document that I’m entitled to because the Service Centre hasn’t processed my initial application within the specified timescale of 90 days.

We got up early and must have arrived at the office at about 7:45am (erm, small timewarp between the alarm going off and our arrival?!) expecting long queues. Instead we were pleasantly surprised to find that, unlike our experience around New Year’s, we could walk straight in and join the moderate queue inside the building. At reception I proffered my receipt notice and the man knew what I was there for before I even had to say anything. He gave me a form (the exact same form I filed with them in December) and told us to go to a waiting room and return when I’d filled it in. Cunningly however I already had a fresh copy that I’d completed in Acrobat and printed out yesterday so was able to return it to him immediately. We were then waved off and told to wait in room 111.

On entering room 111 we were greeted by rows of other customers waiting for service. Most of them had numbers and were waiting to be called to the booths at the front of the room. I was initially concerned that I hadn’t been given one until I noticed the sign saying that EAD applicants are instead called by name.

Thus followed over three hours of interminable waiting in a hell of muzak blasting down from numerous speakers in the ceiling. I wanted to shoot those cursed things. Wasn’t able to concentrate on reading my book, instead had to numbly stare at pictures of the Statue of Liberty and worse, irritatingly could barely hear the staff when they intermittently appeared at the door with a list of names.

Eventually “Kay Allen” was called and I had to go to another room with a batch of other interim EAD applicants. Here, my Notice of Action was handed back to me and I was told they could only issue the EAD in my maiden name. The explanation was something along the lines of, that my name was already in the system as Downes and that as many people don’t stick around they don’t bother to change such things until Adjustment Of Status. Am now highly frustrated and pissed off.

I had to provide passport ID, sign my (maiden) name and provide an index finger print (proper ink variety) onto a small record card, and then have an ADIT (3/4 side view) photo taken before returning to my seat and a short wait for the card to be issued.

I was already pretty fecked off that I was at the offices in the first place, afterall, we’ve paid for the service and already attended the biometrics appointment in March, and if the Atlanta office are able to provide a card on the spot why couldn’t the real card have been issued in the correct time? (I’ve also read reports that some other District Offices can do so.) Now, I’m aggravated and frustrated about this name issue. I’m worried that although I now have the EAD I needed to go to the Social Security Office and get my file updated to my married name, I have a sinking feeling that I won’t be allowed to do so because my EAD is not in my married name. This I fear will then be compounded when I attempt my driving test and I won’t be able to get my license in the correct name either and thus will have no ID in the name of Allen. Aaargh. The marriage license I signed asked me to state what name I will be legally using after marriage and I put Allen, so why the hell do I have to be stuck in a stupid sort of limbo now? I especially don’t understand the issue with the USCIS today when the Notice of Actions I received from them are quite clearly in my married name. Good grief, it’s not like women taking on their husband’s surnames is a new conception!

So to sum it up I have made a little progress today (actually I suppose it is a leap, just too fed up to be excited) and can now legally charge for my services *cough* but I feel like shit and want to cry because the USCIS have once again proved their ineptitude and inefficiency, and created yet more shit to make life over here far more troublesome than it should be.

Oh, and because we were at the immigration offices sat around twiddling our thumbs for most of the morning we are currently sat at Bill’s office while he races to finish his workload for tomorrow’s deadline. Joy.

Saturday Night (not) at the StarBar

May 24, 2004

Bill and I had planned to go to the StarBar on Saturday night to see (or more likely..to hide at the back and cower at) Jim and Joel performing in the one-time only, male burly-esque review, The Dong Squad. However, due to an unforeseen incident at a curry house we spent the time circling Emory Hospital and hoping I wasn’t about to expire. Great.

We made the trip over to Mary and Hank’s that morning as they are moving house in a fortnight and possibly had some stuff they were discarding we might be interested in giving a new home. Bill snagged a pair of black rubber diver’s flippers, a create your own casino night gaming box set, and I scored a few plant pots and some shelves. We also dug up some more of Mary’s garden and took it back with us, thanks Mary.

Lunch was eaten with Mary and Hank at a Gyro bar (for some unknown reason American’s insist on pronouncing “gyro” as “euro”, very odd) and then Bill and I rounded up a very happy Quincy, who didn’t want to leave his cousins and kept running back into the house grinning, for the journey home.

The afternoon was spent at the local rec. centre playing ping pong. I still suck. Moji was lovely as ever and played with me, as did a guy called Moon, while Bill got to play a few of the other guys too. We pinged up a pong in the hot gym and exhausted stopped off for ice cream on the way home.

So, it’s now evening and we’re watching the Cops, Bad Girls Specials on the telly. I fancy a curry and although Bill is scared by the potential new perspectives we’d gain on Jim and Joel, one’s he’d really leave under wraps, we agree that a curry in Little Five Points followed by a night at the StarBar would be fun.

Calcutta Indian Cuisine was quiet when we arrived, only two other tables were occupied and we were soon perusing the menu. Bill opted for Chicken Karahi and I went for the Butter Chicken. On ordering I realised I’d forgotten to check that the meal was nut-free so called the waiter back over to ask. Thus followed the usual strange conversation I seem to get with waiters where upon asking if there are any nuts in my selection I immediately feel like I’ve stopped speaking English and am merely uttering nonsensical strings of syllables.

I had to repeat that I was allergic to nuts and couldn’t eat them a few times before the waiter rattled off a list of the ingredients, stressing that it was butter, tomatoes and some onion. .o0(No, onion is fine..it’s nuts I’m concerned about!) Actually, to be precise the first time I asked about the nuts he had said “yes there were nuts in my meal” and had caused me to begin wanting to reorder, but when I had double checked explaining that I was allergic and couldn’t eat it if it had nuts in it, he assured me that Butter Chicken was nut-free. Anyway, he made no mention of nuts then so I relaxed and thought all was fine and dandy.

Wrong wrong wrong.

Dinner was served and after taking only a few small bites I could feel myself beginning to react. My throat went all scratchy and my lips began to swell up. This was confusing as I’d been told I wouldn’t be eating any nuts so I had no idea what the cause was. Thought I was maybe being paranoid so ate a little more before really beginning to worry.

Soon though even Bill could see that something was wrong. Luckily I had some antihistimine tablets with me, took a couple and started downing water by the jugful. Was really not feeling too good.

When the waiter came over to clear up and ask if everything was okay Bill asked him again about my dish and the guy then clearly said that it was Peanut Butter Chicken. FFS!! He did NOT say that before. If I hadn’t been out of it by this point I’d have been a lot more angry than I was when he apologised and said “sorry, misunderstanding!”

He took the charge for the Butter Chicken off the bill and when I paid I still can’t believe I actually tipped the place. Oh and to make the whole dining experience just perfect, while we were sat in the restaurant a guy hauled the rubbish bin through the dining area and out of the front door. Food hygiene regulations?

We left with me getting woozy and clutching a bottle of water to keep guzzling and Bill decided to just drive on over to the hospital neighbourhood and make sure the anti-histamines were working before going home. We did a couple of loops around the block there before I felt that the tablets were having an effect and the Emergency Room wouldn’t be necessary and then he took me home where I collapsed into bed.

Fabulous night out, simply awesome, must do it again.

May 21, 2004

Bill was restless at 6 this morning and although he fell back to sleep again I couldn’t and ended up fretting for a while before deciding to just get up and take Quince for a walk. The dog was more than happy to oblige so he and I took a wander around the neighbourhood. It was quite pleasant out as although warm it hadn’t got too hot yet and wasn’t unbearable to go out in. Quince got to have a good sniff around and lay some pee mail. We also bumped into a dog from down the road being walked by his owner. This dog could be Quincy’s twin, except that when we walk past his house he’s not quite as good natured as Quince, seems downright nasty in fact. Thankfully away from his territory doppleganger dog was friendly and just wanted to say “hi” and not tear Quince’s heart from his chest.

One of our neighbours has got a huge tree full of black berries. Beneath the boughs the road is stained purple and all the birds in the neighbourhood are currently producing vivid violet crap. When Bill and I took a walk the other day he told me it was a mulberry tree and we scrumped a few berries before the neighbour came out to say hello. I really want a tree of my own now. Another time we walked past I tried to take a cutting and used the hormone rooting powder in the hope that it would take, but no. I now have a shrivelled twig in a pot. I think next time the tree’s owner is out and about I’m going to ask if it would be okay to nab a sapling if I can find one. Mmmm mulberries.

Back at the house Bill was still snoozing so I transplanted some of my marigold seedlings into one of the flower beds and watered my plants. The plant that Mum and Dad bought us is doing really well and is looking very pretty. It’s at least doubled in size and the area by the side of the mailbox is a festival of delicate pink flowers that look just like a clustering swarm of butterflies. The day lilies are also blooming at the moment and provide the garden with a burst of yellow. They are called day lilies because each flower only blooms for a single day. However each plant will apparently keep producing flower heads all summer long so the display should last a bit longer than that.

I’ve also planted some cacti seeds up by the mailbox and am watching the soil there with interest. There is some sign of life. In the last few days I’ve noticed a couple of tender soft purple shoots begin to break through the surface.

I’ve not seen the woodpeckers for a while now and miss seeing their heads emerging from the trunk. We’re also not sure whether the fledgings in the See Rock City birdhouse are still there or whether they have grown and spread their wings. Neither of us want to investigate too closely for fear of upsetting a still warm nest.

Bill’s just phoned the immigration helpline as I still haven’t received my employment authorisation. Looks like we’re going to have to go down to the office in Atlanta early one morning next week and queue up to get an interim card because they are taking so long to issue the proper one. It just makes me so mad that we filed at the beginning of January, paid our fee, did the fingerprints and biometrics at the beginning of March, (for which Bill had to take the morning off work) and that now because the government agency is so crazily inefficient and slow we have to spend another interminable morning waiting in line using up more of Bill’s hours only to get my fingerprints and photo taken AGAIN. It’s just ridiculous that apparently Atlanta will then issue a card on the spot. So why couldn’t they just process the damn thing when I got the fingerprints and crap taken originally? FFS

New Model Army

May 7, 2004

A week ago I dragged Bill to the StarBar to see New Model Army play. He’d never heard of them and had no idea what to expect. At the beginning of the evening he looked like this:

A touch skeptical?

Actually, I wasn’t sure what we were letting ourselves in for either. I’d never actually seen them live before and was hoping that after so many years it wasn’t going to be ropey and that Bill wasn’t going to torture me for years to come for taking him to a dreadful gig.

The support band didn’t help my nervousness…they were dire. We had to go hide downstairs until they had finished!

When NMA finally appeared what we actually got was three of them, Justin on guitar & vocals, Dean Whites on keyboards, electric guitar & vocals and Michael Dean on percussion, doing a semi acoustic set and it rocked. Still can’t believe that they played the StarBar of all places! It was nicely intimate.

Loads of people turned out to hear them too which was great to see. The place was packed full of New Model Army fanatics. A lot were quite scary in that they turned up wearing NMA tourshirts from the 80s and early 90s. Bill was amused and couldn’t believe what a undercurrent of hardcore NMA fans Georgia has. No hint of any tie-dye or Conker boots there though, wasn’t a single proper crusty in sight at the StarBar.

Justin started off alone on stage kicking off with Better Than Them, then over the first three songs one by one the others came on and joined him on the deck.

It was really good to go to a show and actually recognise and know the band and their songs. Usually I’m totally clueless. Even when we go to karoake on Monday nights the portfolio of songs that are sung leave me baffled, and when Bill has the radio on it seems that the majority of tracks played are unknown to me. Maybe that’s just me though? Good to have something to get tarted up for too. 😀

So, fuelled by several Shiner Bocks, I bounced lots and as I had my camera on me I took a load of dodgy band photos…hoorah!

They must have played for a full two hours because they came out around midnight and when they had finished after two encores it was gone two. Most memorable were a couple of tracks they pulled out during the encores…Vagabonds an audience request which amused Justin Sullivan as Ed Alleyne-Johnson wasn’t there to play the violin part, but the crowd rose to the occasion and hummed that bit for the guys instead, and 51st State.

While I was taking photos I was approached by an English bloke who asked if I could send him any pics I had afterwards. Strange that of all the people in the bar who could have spoken to me it was a Brit that did. Was good to hear his broad Yorkshire dialect, though surprisingly he didn’t seem to twig I was also a Brit until I enquired whereabouts up North he was from.

Happily I think Bill was quite impressed by NMA and said that it was cool to hear a totally different kind of sound at the StarBar.

Had a great night.

Stone Mountain

May 5, 2004

“The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
To see what he could see

To see what he could see,
To see what he could see

The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
Was all that he could see

Was all that he could see,
Was all that he could see,
The other side of the mountain,
Was all that he could see!”

So last Friday Bill and I decided to go to Stone Mountain and climb the summit trail. We had originally planned to do this on March Forth Day but had got sidetracked by rescuing Genghis. Today we were determined.

First off we dropped by the Australian Bakery Cafe to pick up a couple of their veggie pasties then made our way to Stone Mountain Park. Now, Stone Mountain is a great big hunk of granite that climbs 1,683 feet above sea level and rises 825 feet above the surrounding area. Most of the area is actually a huge embarrassment to Bill as on one of its sides there is a large carving depicting three American Civil War Confederate heroes: President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and the park is also littered with many tacky tourist attractions. We closed our eyes to all that though, we were here to climb the mountain.

Thankfully it was a fairly dull day and therefore perfect for climbing up the trail. Any warmer and we would have melted. Unfortunately the downside of this was that any view we’d have had at the top was enshrouded in a blanket of grey. We could just see the School Bus car park at the foot of the mountain, the rows of yellow vehicles disembarking hoardes of rowdy children visible through the mist.

We found a quiet spot away from the chattering juvenile crowds and munched our pasties. Sat in a damp mist on the granite face munching a pasty it felt just like home!

There is a cable car that goes up the side of the mountain (which accounted for the sight of several women wandering around the summit in high heels or flip flops). Each car was packed to the brim with school kids and Bill and I agreed that there was no way you would get either of us in one of those contraptions.

The trail up the mountain is pure rock all the way, and particularly straining on the knees. I have no idea what drove several people who passed us running full pelt up the side to do that. One guy ran up and down the mountain several times as we strolled along on our walk. Either side of the trail there are trees and a little vegetation struggling to survive and put their roots out in the thin layer of soil that covers the stone. Over the last century or so many people have left their mark by carving names and messages into the rock trail. I think the earliest one we saw claimed to be from 1830 something.

En route there are also a few wooden telegraph poles which Bill took great delight in. From a distance they looked really pretty and decorative, but up close you could see that they were just covered in chewing gum. We also had to pass through an avenue between huge boulders that had been covered in gum too. Gross.

On the way back down I had a couple of frights. Once when I peered into a hole at the side of a flag pole which held the Confederate Battle Flag. I’d noticed that something had made a nest in the space and was curious. It looked like a birds nest as it was constructed out of woven twigs, but as I looked this great big bug wasp thing startled the crap out of me when it emerged looking very fierce. No idea what that was, I ran.

The second time was when I investigated a hollow in a tree that looked like it had grown legs and was trying to run off. Bill called it the Ent tree. As I peered inside this hole a flash of blue made me jump and a big lizzard scuttled for cover. Bill told me it was probably a Skink. I’d seen one before at Lookout Mountain, but that one had been small. This one was large. Eeek.

That’ll teach me to get too curious around holes.

Bill tried to buy me an ice-cream at the Summit Cafe but failed. They don’t sell ice-cream!! That’s just wrong!

A weekend of sushi, ping pong and Genghis.

May 3, 2004

Dragged out of bed by a frantic Ginger Dog needing to lay some dog eggs I’m now bleary and dishevelled and doing my best not to simply just crawl back under the duvet again. Mmmm snuggly duvet.

I’m at home this morning looking after the dogs and hopefully Bill will be back for lunch and to whisk me away to the office with him this afternoon.

We got Genghis back from the vets on Saturday morning and he’s doing okay. He was a lot more disorientated, confused and groggy when we picked him up this time. Two days later he’s a bit more focussed but still an anxious dog. He isn’t being as huggy as before and prefers to sit to attention instead of making himself comfortable. His appetite is still voracious though so that’s a good sign. Poor Genghis. He’s back to having to spend most of his time alone in the bedroom and is pretty miserable. I wish he could understand.

Yesterday Bill and I went over to the rec centre and played some ping pong. George was there and no sooner had we walked in through the door he had his eye on me, thrusting me towards me the robo pong he had me in training. Had quite a frustrating time because I could never get myself to do what George was telling me to do. I could visualise what I should be doing, but felt like a complete lemon when time and time again my body refused to get it right. Felt even more like an alien. Got more upset than I should have because it just feels that I’m not good for anything at the moment. Bleargh.

Bill had gone to play ping pong Saturday afternoon too. They have league play then and he came home fairly happy having beaten two out of three opponents. He wasn’t so happy when he checked the league table on the net though. The organiser had him down as only winning one and losing two. Cue an email to the guy to get that amended!

While Bill was out getting sweaty I was out in the front yard with our new hoe, attacking the weeds and transplanting my sunflower seedlings to their new home. Drat that was a bad move. We had terrific thunder storms that night and when I came out to play in the morning my little sunflowers were gone. All that was left were a few battered stalks. Gah!

After ping pong I annoyed myself by finding my new packets of seeds on the porch ledge. I know I’d picked them up and was going to stow them in my bag on Saturday, I must have got distracted and put them down. This is a pain because when the heavens opened this weekend my nice seed packets were drenched. Grrrr.

Read The Face from cover to cover in the bookstore when Bill and I went to browse magazines last night. Then I came home and got seriously into making some veggie sushi. Hoorah! Bill fell asleep on the couch and when he awoke I had a whole mound of pretty little mouthfuls waiting for him. We gobbled a lot of it up last night but have plenty more for our lunch today. I used cucumber (european variety), peppers, mixed sprouts (alfalfa, radish etc), carrot and even whipped up an omelette for the fillings. Curses to myself afterwards though when I remembered that I’d bought a packet of baked terriyaki tofu especially to use in the sushi. Rats.

Oh, and speaking of delicious food, Bill took me to the Farmer’s Market again on Saturday evening. We stopped and ate tea there in the canteen and then did our shopping. I found a tin of Ambrosia Devon Custard which I couldn’t resist, had to go with my tummy on this one and ignore the price tag. *gulp*

We also discovered where to get cheese ends from. When we had bumped into Jim there the other day he had had a basket full of bags containing the offcuts from the cheese deli. This time I could quell my curiosity no more and Bill sourced me a big bag of Muenster offcuts (the type of cheese inside the bags is pretty random). Hoorah! Decent cheeses at an affordable price! I also bought a packet of British style crackers and when we got home gorged on cheese, crackers and Branston Pickle. Eeek. I’m almost out of that already!

Other things to report include our hike up Stone Mountain and seeing New Model Army play at the StarBar (brilliant) but for that I will need my camera and USB cable which are unfortunately sat about a quarter of an hour away from each other at the moment. Later.