August 2012
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A Very Long Trip

I’m back from my trip east to take over my Mom’s financial affairs. It was a very long trip, though I got a lot done. I was constantly split between the financial affairs and helping Mom with stuff, which made for two weeks of a lot of running around.

It felt like progress was slow, but I did make progress. I applied Power of Attorney to her bank account and it cleared by early in the second week. And I worked on getting access to her investment accounts, which was straightforward for some of them and difficult for others. The variety of processes was a bit surprising to me, I’d have expected more standardization. But I did make progress on all of those. While the procedures are somewhat annoying, I appreciate them because I certainly wouldn’t want someone else to come in and fraudulently take over her accounts (or anyone else’s, such as mine!).

In hindsight I should have started on changes-of-address for her bills sooner, but I was reluctant to get them moved over to coming to me until I had the ability to write checks on her account. Once I knuckled down, though, I got the most important ones moved over. The hardest one to deal with was Comcast, which I had to handle by bringing my POA form to a service center, but I got that done on Saturday morning before I left. Unfortunately many utility companies have pretty pathetic facilities for doing these sorts of things on-line, so I spent a lot of time on the phone. The time I called places while visiting Mom was very productive, since they could talk to her right there to confirm what we were doing.

Going to the house was often hard, knowing that we’re winding things down on the place where I grew up. On the bright side, I did get to meet a couple of sons of a neighbor who’s been in the neighborhood even longer than I have. I remembered the sons from when I was a kid, and it was interesting to meet them as an adult. We probably haven’t seen each other in 25 years, but we all remembered each other pretty well.

I didn’t get many breaks, as I was running around much of every day, and was making phone calls or faxing or mailing things, or organizing Mom’s documents much of the rest of the time. I did have meals with Dad (and sometimes Mom) most days, went out for evening walks in Dad’s neighborhood, and even went down to visit Debbi’s family on Sunday of the middle weekend. But I didn’t get to see my other friends in the area, or do any reading or much else. It was busy and stressful, so much so that I went to bed late because I had trouble making myself go to bed since that meant having to get up to face a new day of stuff I didn’t want to do.

It was fun seeing Mom and Dad and Debbi’s family, but most of the rest of the trip was no fun.

But I think I got the important stuff done, though I’ll work my way through more stuff in the coming weeks. I may have to go back again this year, but hopefully that trip will be less crazy.

I flew back yesterday afternoon, watched The Avengers on the plane (it holds up pretty well, though it’s still no Captain America, nor The Dark Knight Rises), and got most of the way through a novel.

And was very, very happy to get home to Debbi.

The Dark Knight Rises

Critics gushed over The Dark Knight, I think not entirely justifiably. While Heath Ledger’s performance was a revelation, the script was a little weak, full of gimmicks and with a disappointing climax. On reflection, I think it fundamentally suffers because its theme – the one imparted by its antagonist, the Joker – is one of nihilism. While nihilism can be used effectively as a contrast to the protagonist, The Dark Knight left me feeling a bit like the Joker had won. Contrast this with Batman Begins, which is all about the protagonist finding the meaning in his life, and which has an entirely satisfying conclusion.

The Dark Knight Rises concludes the trilogy, but its opening sequences seem to push The Dark Knight even more to the side: Rather than Batman (Christian Bale) continuing to work against crime from outside the system, he’s retired, and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. Harvey Dent’s death and Batman’s sacrifice (taking the rap for Dent’s death) lead to a golden age in Gotham City, as the Dent Act puts criminals away for years, at only the cost of Commissioner Gordon’s soul (Gary Oldman), maintaining the lie. Truly, it seems the Joker beat Batman (because why would the Joker care of a bunch of criminals get put away?).

Eight years after the events of the previous film, cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) breaks into the private wing of Wayne Manor, setting in motion events which turn Gotham upside-down. The mysterious criminal Bane (Tom Hardy) has his sights set on the city, bringing Batman out of retirement for a showdown.

While also a long film, I felt that Rises moves right along with few slow periods (few times that I was willing to go to the bathroom, for instance). It’s got secrets (who is Bane? Why is he gunning for Gotham?), humor (especially in Batman getting back in the saddle), some tense fights, and characters set low and then fighting to their catharsis. It’s properly a sequel to the first film, with the second just being set-up, and the story is, ultimately, better than either of its predecessors. It ought to hold up on re-watching, too.

More after the cut, but here there being spoilers:

Read on, Macduff! »

Passing the First Two Barriers

I’m currently in Massachusetts, staying with my Dad, and taking care of business for my Mom. Literally business: I’m taking over her finances, paying her bills, and eventually getting her taxes done. Mom is still doing well, recovering from knee replacement surgery, but assessments of her indicated that someone else needed to shoulder this responsibility, and it fell to me.

So, here I am back across the country again 3 weeks after I returned from my previous trip here.

In the large, it has been reasonably successful, but it has also been very stressful for me. Monday we went to meet with an attorney to have power of attorney documents signed so I can have access to her financial accounts. Tuesday we went to her bank to apply the POA, and were partially successful: It was applied to her checking and savings accounts, but not to her IRAs, as the POA didn’t specifically call out those sorts of accounts. They might still accept it, but their legal department will review it. Today we went back to the attorney to get some other documents signed, and I got a new POA which calls out those items. (The lawyer said she’d never heard of someone questioning it in that detail before.) So tomorrow I’ll go back to the bank.

Those are the things I’d planned on doing the first half of this week, but as with the last trip, everything has taken longer than planned. So I passed the first barrier (the attorney), and sort-of passed the second barrier (the bank).

Other stuff:

I took the red-eye flight out Friday night. I managed to get a few hours of fitful sleep on the plane. On the bright side, my flight got in half an hour early rather than 2-1/2 hour late like last time. However, this meant I got to my Dad’s house by 6 am, so I grabbed some Dunkin Donuts and a muffin and hung out for 45 minutes.

We drove out to Mom’s house to collect her mail, and found a notice from the city with some other details I’d have to attend to. Plus Dad had tried to get Mom’s car inspected for the Massachusetts inspection requirements and its had failed, so since I wanted to use it while I was there I’d have to get it repaired. (Mom is not driving anymore since her surgery.) So I took it in to get it repaired, and it was a moderately expensive repair. Then I had to drive it for 50-100 miles before I could get it inspected again. I passed 100 miles today, so I’ll get it inspected again this week.

Dad and I did get out Sunday afternoon to see The Dark Knight Rises, for which I need to write a review. Short version: It’s the best of Christopher Nolan’s three Batman films, and if you liked the first one better than the second one (as I did), then you should like this one, as it’s more directly a sequel to the first one – and more thematically rewarding than the second one.

I’ve done a lot of running around with Mom, and have been running errands on her behalf: Picking up things for her cat, and other things I think she’ll need. It’s nice spending time with her, but all of these things add up in the time department, and I feel like I’m constantly running late.

But mostly I need to make phone calls and deal with people on a business basis, all things I really hate doing, and the uncertainty of when I’ll be able to use the POA just drives me crazy. No doubt it will all get worked out, but it seems like there’s a lot at stake and only a limited amount I can do. And still a lot of work to do that amount.

So it’s been an exhausting trip, and I’m only 1/4 of the way through it (assuming I don’t have to extend it).

Fortunately, I got some good news in that the notice that we picked up on Saturday turned out to be something that the city would take care of and just wanted permission to do so. So that was a big relief, as I had no idea how big a project it would be! I can honestly say that that chance encounter with the fellow who left the notice made my afternoon.

More later, assuming my head doesn’t explode from anxiety.

Fifteen Years!

Just realized (two days after the fact) that August 6 marked 15 years for me of on-line journalling/webjournalling/blogging/running at the mouth/whatever-the-kids-are-calling-it-these-days!

My reflections on the experience haven’t changed much in the last few years (since whenever the last time I marked the date was): It’s been fun, I enjoy having this space to scribble in (though Facebook and Twitter have given me outlets for other sorts of scribbling), but it’s hard to keep coming up with new content on a consistent basis. Hard for me, anyway. So my posting gradually gets more sporadic, but I’m still here.

If you care, you can still go back and start reading from the beginning. (And I really gotta move all those old posts over into this site someday. In my copious spare time…)