Friday, August 29, 2008

Don't Stop Thinkin' 'Bout Tomorrow

How about the Democratic Convention, huh? What great speeches by both Clintons, Biden and especially Barack. His plans sound great. I only hope he can pull it off.

And regarding the fight to give him that chance, well, I think McCain made that a little bit easier with his announcement of Alaska Governor Palin as his running mate. I read a couple of conservative blogs and they’re all like, “…oh she’s a great choice!”, but I swear I can read between the lines and have a feeling they were pissing their pants when they wrote that. C’mon folks, you can’t believe she’s a great choice. For Obama, maybe.

I love it. He couldn’t have picked a better target for the Democrats. She’ll be ripped apart alive. She’s called “barracuda” and to me she just looks the part. I look at her smug face and want to smack it. Hard. Reminds me of some bitch you’d have to suddenly brake for on the highway as she cuts you off in her Hummer for having the audacity to be on the same road as her.

I read on Wikipedia that she has already gotten involved in some scandals, has only 2 years experience as governor and held minor offices prior to that, wants to rape the natural beauty of her own state for oil and derides environmentalists, is an avid hunter and life-long member of the NRA, and is against gay marriage and same-sex benefits. In one photo of her, she’s wearing a fur stole...maybe it was a baby seal?

You don’t even have to be anywhere near as liberal as I am to be disgusted by her idiotic and misguided uber-conservatism. Oh, did I mention she wants to have creationism taught in public schools.

That’s right, she’s one of those kooks!

Even hardcore Republicans that aren’t themselves desperate to win just for the sake of winning have to admit that this country cannot, in no uncertain terms, afford to have her as the person destined to take the helm in the event of a septuagenarian President McCain’s death in office. So just on that one truth alone, we can’t elect McCain.

As I see it, the race is over. Surely America will realize that Barack Obama is the only choice.

And going by the show he put on for us this week, let me tell you, I think we could do a lot worse.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Watson, Come Here! I Need You!

How ol' Alexander Graham Bell would look upon our telephone addicted world today?...I have no idea. But the fact is, in today's world, we are entirely dependent on the technological descendants of his monumental invention. And, that addiction has turned most everyday people into a stark-raving cult of mobile phone junkies.

Personally, I lean towards being a somewhat "anti-hipster" when it comes to trends. I like to stick to the fringe and scorn the masses as they flock to their new "it" thing, whether it be the latest clothing fashions, the hottest cars, the newest music genres or the evangelical praise of $5.00 a cup burned coffee pushed by people titled fancifully-enough "baristas".

But I broke down this month and in the course of just 2 weeks, I ordered and now own 3 different cell phones.

Yes, me, a person who even keeps his home land-line phone set with the ringer off to avoid the egregious interruption of a phone call. A veteran of almost a total combination of two decades of call center work. Work demanding the non-stop shackles to an evil phone system. The very idea of a ring became a 4-letter word in my book.

I had a cell phone in the past, of course, before Koyaanisqatsi. When I was an assistant manager at DM, it was pretty much expected to be available at a moments notice. Through the company's discount plan I hooked up with AT&T wireless in 1998 and got this little gem:

Let me tell you, this phone had flawless reception, simple user-interface and unbelievable durability. You could have run over this thing with your car and it would still run fine.

Each of the three phones I now have could take a lesson from this baby.

Here's why I have 3 though:

It started with a desire to at least have something for emergencies and convenience. After the recent car accident, I thought it would be prudent to have a phone in the least for just such a situation. During the aftermath of the accident, there was some time wasted and awkward begging to be done on my part in order to contact someone who could assist me with a ride home from the towing company's lot. Turned out the tow truck driver was nice enough to get me home but it would have been immensely more helpful had I had a cell phone.

I don't want a 2 year commitment so I researched the various Pre-Pay providers. Boost Mobile looked like it would be the best so I went to Best Buy and bought this phone for $30 along with $20 in airtime:

It's an okay phone but the screen resolution is somewhat poor, the sound quality is just okay and I felt I could afford better. (The picture of it looks a lot better than it really is.)

At work, we all received a $100 bonus each for the quarter (just for filling out a survey), but it had to be awarded in a gift card (figures). I chose to have an gift card. I used it to get a much better cell phone that I could use with my Boost Mobile account, a slick-looking Motorola KRZR K1:

Problem was, it's a GSM phone, and even though my Boost phone came with a SIM card which led me to believe it was GSM compatible, it's not. Boost Mobile operates on Nextel's IDEN network. Oopsie!

So now to use my new phone which not only chewed up my $100 gift card but cost an additional $45.99 from my debit card, I had to hook up with either AT&T or T-Mobile which use the GSM network. (It's an unlocked phone so I could go either way)

Well, with the Go Phone Pay As You Go plan, I get unlimited Mobile-to-Mobile, and Ric is on AT&T, so it works out great. You may think-Great, if you only talk to Ric, then it's totally free cell service? Well, no. With this plan it's a dollar a day each time I use the phone. But, when analyzing how I would potentially use the phone, it works out to my advantage overall.

Now to get the Go Phone service you have to buy a phone. And the cheapest was this, available for just $9.99:

I haven't used it to make a call yet but for the price it doesn't seem to be that bad.

Nothing like my Cosmic Blue baby though...

Of course, I'm gonna keep the KRZR and use the others as mere backups. The i425 though will likely be the one to go since I am not going to "re-boost" and thus, in a month or so, my plan will cease to exist. That's how the pre-paid world rolls.

Would I have not wanted to buy an iPhone? Well, of course. It would be the bomb, let me tell you. Several folks at work have it and it is all that and more!

But it doesn't seem to (yet) be available, legally, as an unlocked option...which means you would not only pay the admittedly worth-it price of $200 for the phone itself, you'd have to commit to a 2 year plan at a minimum (for the 3G iPhone) of $80 per month. (Not including taxes). So, can I afford $2120 for a cell phone? Um, I could buy 2 really good computers for that!

Well, here's a video featuring what I might have gone with since, like everyone else, I might want the most diverse options and overall utilitarian features from my cell phone. One day they will all be designed to do everything we could ever dream of them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh What A Tangled Web...

So this whole Casey Anthony case gets even more sensational tonight: The trunk of Casey's car has been shown to have definitely held a decomposing dead body.

Well, we all knew it, c'mon.

I read so many posts on YouTube and various forums by people living in a dream world thinking that the kid was still alive.

I mean this case stinks worse than the stench of that car trunk, folks.

Now the Orange County Sherrifs Office is offering limited immunity because they, like so many others, think she may confess that it was an accidental death that she panicked and tried to cover up.

Call me a total cynic, but I actually don't think it was accidental. I think either she (Casey) or someone she knows killed the kid with premeditation. I mean she hooks up with this new beau, who is a sleazy nightclub promoter (ie: probably a drug dealer) in June, her child is "missing" and she's seen every weekend at Club Fusion (a dance club with a shady reputation here in Orlando) partying and acting like a silly slut without a care in the world.

At first the story is that Casey dropped off her 2 year old daughter with a "nanny" she hardly knew and now no one can find (ie. it's a made up person). Then it develops that supposedly Casey knows where Caylee is and that she's safe, but can't disclose details for fear that what is said would put Caylee in more harms way.

Huh? How fucked up is that?

Listen to this recorded phone call when Casey was in 33rd last month.

What a bitch. Her family is obviously trying to get information out of her but all she wants is to talk to a boy she's known for less than 2 months. And the way she talks to her family members...

But I don't absolve the family of some collusion in some way either. They seem like total fakes about their unitary desire to just "find Caylee", but they don't want to divulge too much information either?

What a mess.

I'm against the death penalty, but it would be tempting to root for it in this case. In any event, I really hope Casey is at least locked up for life with no chance of parole.

We, as a society, really have to start getting the message to solidify in the dense minds of these young, irresponsible whores who don't have any sense to wise up. They party-hearty, get knocked up, and end up being a reluctant and bitter unwed mother that figures the only way they can get back to their carefree, bar-hopping lifestyle is to kill the kid and claim it was a kidnapping. Well, think again, bitch, they need to learn: you do that and your gonna have a date with Old Sparky!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Awww! How Cute...

Ok, everyone that knows me well...and that's actually very few people, knows I'm not super keen on the "kid" thing.

Kids have three big strikes against them in the whole scope of things in my book even before I meet them.

1. They are usually too noisy and squirrelly, always demanding attention and wanting to run amok and shit. Makes me nervous.

2. You really can't hold a conversation with them. They know nothing of art and culture, are unrefined in even the simplest graces and can't relate to the fundamental concepts of evolutionary consciousness, philosophy, existentialism, nihilism and human sexual orientational dimorphism.

3. They kinda, well, smell. Either of fresh dirt, baby powder, sour sweat, candy-residue sugar, or a little piss and shit. Or all together in one big odor-ama!

I am the quintessential W.C. Fields of our day. I don't hate kids, it's just that I don't get all the hype that most people bestow upon them. They are just as destined as any of us adults were to turn out to be absolute assholes, and, in today's society I'd say they have pretty good odds at becoming just that when they get older. If not sooner.

But I was scoping out YouTube today and I saw this little gem.

Well, let me tell you, this little bugger melted my heart.

Eh, maybe, despite massive overpopulation and rapidly dwindling resources, the world might be able to just barely squeeze one of these babies in. He's just too adorable...

Monday, August 25, 2008

FLASHBACK: September 1990

I had planned this trip for quite a few days now. I didn't have a lot of funds but I figured I could easily do a few days in Canada for under $300. I hadn't been to Canada since a trip I had taken when I was 13 with my aunt and uncle to my uncle's parents' farm. Now, having more cosmopolitan tastes, I wanted to visit Montreal and experience what Canadian city life had to offer.

I brought my car in to Jiffy Lube the day before departure to get an oil change and to have them check my fluids and all. I didn't have insurance or roadside care so I wanted to make sure my car was fit enough for what would essentially be international travel. I figured the trip would factor in at around 600 miles round trip and roughly 3.5 tankfuls of gas. It didn't help my budget that gas prices had been rising all summer and were at a whopping $1.20/gallon! (LOL from a 2008 perspective, huh?)

I got together several of my favorite cassettes for the drive, not knowing what kind of stuff would be on the airwaves of unfamiliar radio stations. I had just bought Prince's "Batman" soundtrack album and it was my current favorite.

At work, we had just returned back to our usual pattern after taking the residents of the group home on a week-long vacation to Buzzard's Bay a beach resort community on Cape Cod. The trip turned out to be a disaster. One guy got sick and we had to take care of him more than usual, another guy couldn't stop having incidents of SIB (self-injurious behavior) and needed the programmed treatments for such (usually full-body restraints) and the most aggressive of the bunch decided to live up to his reputation throughout the week. I had advocated for a return to the group home but my supervisor recommended we stick it out since the trip was being enjoyed by the other three guys and it would be unfair to punish them for the other guys' behvior.

This agency was all about "community integration" or "mainstreaming" for their clients: adults with autism complicated by either MR, physical handicaps or mental illness...and sometimes all four disabilities in one. This "empowerment" philosophy looked great on paper but it sucked for the community-at-large that had to witness all sorts of embarrassing situations occurring "in public", but it mostly sucked for us staff who were entrusted with the responsibility to provide protection and redirection for the clients, oft-times exposing us to the brunt of their wrath.

Although I was the manager of the group home, it was a hands-on role...and boy, you can't get much more "hands-on" then having to lay prostrate on top of a 250 lb. 30-year-old man, pinning him to an exercise mat so he doesn't bite you or smack your head off (they seemed to never know how to make a fist and punch, thankfully!)

So I was much in need of a relaxing, non-stress vacation for myself and arranged for a few days off once we were back.

I celebrated the first evening of my vacation by doing two things I love: cooking (and eating the results, of course) and drinking beer. I made linguine with white wine clam sauce and added liberal chunks of cooked linguica sausage, green peppers, onions and cayenne pepper. It was delicious. I washed it down with my beer of choice in them days, Heineken.

The alarm went off as planned very early in the morning, before dawn, so I could get an early start on my road trip. Unfortunately I was hungover for the rest of the morning, but I didn't let it deter me from my trip.

I set out before dawn as planned and headed north through Rhode Island, Central and Western Mass and Albany, New York. I had planned that if I saw points of interest along the way that I'd stop there and enjoy whatever it had to offer. I had brought along a tablet of blank paper to use as a travel log, and I made notes along the way. Most of the trip was just woods, or boring cities Springfield, Mass. and Albany, NY, but north of Albany, I saw a sign for Fort Ticonderoga.

I had remembered the historic significance of the fort from high school history classes and was anxious to see it. I got off the main highway and proceeded towards the steep decent into the Hudson River valley. The fort had a small museum and to my thrill, they had a small honor guard in 18th century uniforms and powdered wigs doing drills. The highlight was when they "fired" (with blanks) the cannon!

As I headed north meandering along the riverside towards a road that would eventually rejoin the main highway, I stumbled along another historic fort that I had never heard of before. Crown Point, just a few miles north of Ticonderoga, was another 18th century fort and, even better than it's attraction to the south, I had by chance arrived in the midst of a anachronistic society's annual faire.

There were booths featuring 18th century arts & crafts, demonstrations of handiworks, daily activities of the common folk of the era and a re-enactment battle in full period costume. How cool it was seeing grown men dressed in knickers firing muskets at each other and falling down "dead" pretending it was all real. Some of the "players" really got into their roles too. If you asked them a question, they talked to you in olde-tyme English with all those "thees" and "thys". I couldn't shake the feeling, though, that some of these guys absolutely lived for this chance to roleplay each year. They daydreamt of it fondly as they flipped burgers for a living and went home each night to their lonely bedroom in their mother's basement.

Inside the fort proper, they had hourly concerts by various period musicians. The hour I arrived, the show featured one of my favorite instruments, the harpsichord. The artist chose a selection of lovely Baroque pieces and played them beautifully. After the recital, I made my way along the exhibits in the small museum and I learned that one of the commanders of the fort (when it lay in French hands) was a General Chausse-gras. Interestingly similar last name.

After a fun afternoon in the 18th century, I returned to the 20th and made my way north through the Adirondacks. I marveled at the stunning beauty of this area. The warm late summer sun high the baby blue sky shone down on the babbling crystal-clear rivers and lakes, lush green trees and grasses, rolling hills and softened yet still-majestic mountains. The birds chirped happily as I let the pristine country air flow through the open windows of the car as I rolled along on the gently sloping road. I thought: "If I believed in an Almighty, I would proclaim that I was in the midst of the spot on Earth that God had kissed after he created the Universe."

I breezed through customs. The officers were quick and very polite and I genuinely believed they were earnest when they bid me a welcome to Canada. Their counterparts on the US side during my return though, were total pricks, practically body cavity searching me before letting me back into my own country!

Approaching Montreal I decided I would first find lodging and chose a small motel in the southern suburbs. The rates were good and the room was neat and clean.

I went into downtown and parked. I tried to get a feel for the town by doing a walking tour. I found a tourist information kiosk that gave me all sorts of brochures and pamphlets of things to do. I walked over to the art museum and then later I drove to Mount Royale Park to view the city from on high.

Rather than purchase dinner from a restaurant, I chose to buy items from a small grocery store near my motel. I bought a box of Triscuits, Philadelphia whipped cream cheese with chives and a 6-pack of Molsen Dry.

The next day I checked out more museums and went on an amphibious bus/boat tour. Very cool.

Funny how memory can be quite arbitrary at times. Though I remember the trip's first day as detailed above, even to such minutia as what I ate, I can't seem to recall much else. I know I had fun though. Oh, and I do remember I got 2 parking tickets for some atrocious amount like $CDN50 each or something, which I never paid. I probably have a warrant out for my arrest in Canada, who knows?

After I checked out of my motel I headed home by way of Vermont.

And that was my summer vacation.

The end.

Friday, August 22, 2008

That's It Fay, Just Go West

Still raining here and there throughout and no major damages here in Lake Mary other than a few power outages (including my house for about 3 hours last night). There's some big puddles around and Ric and I saw one neighborhood gas station (Kangaroo Citgo) flooded...looks like a nearby retention pond sandwiched between them and Chili's dumped it's overflow onto the gas stations property.

But the winds today are just little bursts along with the on and off rain, remnants of the southeastern edges of Fay as she heads west towards Gainsville and beyond. On the map above her center is right about over Gainsville.

Ric and I went to the Greek Village restaurant for lunch. The gyros there are the bomb, and he had that but I wasn't very hungry so I only had hummus with warm pita wedges.

Well, after yesterday's scariness at work they decided to not chance it and we had today off. What a week, only 2 work days. I feel bad for the temps, they don't get benefits like PTO even for emergency pay status like we do. But they may make an exception. They did 2 years ago when I was a temp.

I'll be happy not having to post about this storm anymore. She stayed way past her welcome.

So I shed not a tear at all for you my dear Fay. Adieu.

Enjoy this video in honor of the windbag's departure!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

For REAL Change

Step away from old-style politics and embrace true change, America!

It's time we finally made good on the promise of a kinder, gentler America!

Elect the really progressive ticket!

Not only will we get the razor sharp mind and political savvy of Barack Obama, but the new V.P. Ross Mathews will thrill us all with new national standards like:

*Talky Blogs with The Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Neighbor.

*The Department of Interior "Park Report" (for all your nationwide voyeuristic needs).

*"What's Up, Hosted By Nikki Boyer", a weekly update from the new Secretary of the Department of Fun!

*A permanent and free health care plan for all Americans suffering from Insta-Poo.

*The Emblem of the United States will now be an adorable portrait of Louise grasping an olive branch in her little paw.

So remember, this November, elect Obama-Mathews!

For a brighter tomorrow!

Oh, Go Away, Fay!

Alright, enough of this already!

It's much more like a tropical storm today. Fierce rain, pouring down in huge sheets, nearly horizontal at times. Huge gusts (probably around 60-70 mph) and persistent winds making the trees sway drastically to and fro. Darkness and grey fuzzy visibility making mid-day seem like night.

Good thing we have the day off from work, right?

Nope. Not today. I'm at work looking at the wrath of mother nature from my desk.

I don't think they planned on the storm being this slow moving.

In the last 48 hours it has slowed to a crawl, at some points literally stopped in place, and has pretty much circled our county's outskirts from at a distance of about 20 or 30 miles away from south to east and now to the north in a counter-clockwise movement. All the while dumping inch after inch of rainfall on us.

It's actually the worst it's been so far right about now. I'm looking out the window from the second floor of this large and sturdy office building, but I wonder what the flash flood conditions are like at my house on the lake 3 miles from here. The road going by the window looks fairly okay and there are some cars driving down it slowly, but we are in a very affluent part of town - well-designed, impeccably manicured and adequately-drained. My house is in a nice area still, but an older part of town, and being on a lake...well, who controls a lake?

I think they are assessing whether to close the office or not, but right now, it's probably a better idea to stay put than be out on the road. Here, all the trees are very well maintained and since they are all planted within the last 10 years when they created this office park area, they are springy and young...thus no sign of flying debris from them. But elsewhere, I wonder about some of those hundred-year-old live oaks and aging southern pines. The branches on them (and sometimes the trees themselves) snap easily.

Wow! I'm looking out the window and I see some cars whizzing by at speeds too high for even a nice day. Idiots! If we are heading home soon, they better not try to come up behind me at high speeds, they'll find I won't be going much faster than 25 mph.


Did I mock this storm a few days ago as it was approaching?

I think she heard me...

And now she's pissed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another Day...Yet More Fay

Like a house guest that just doesn't know when to leave, Tropical Storm Fay is still here. And apparently will continue to linger around for at least 2 more days! Puh-leese!

Yet another day out of work though (paid, of course), and with the post office up an running, I have lots of time to view my latest Netflix selections.

Other than being cloudy and drizzly here in Lake Mary, nothing else different from an ordinary day. Maybe a little breezy...not much though. I think most people went to work today and will probably do so tomorrow as well despite the storm lurking about 30 miles to the east.

I took advantage of the free time, did some house cleaning, went shopping, went to the post office, went out for lunch with Ric to the Olive Garden. (I sound like a 70-year old retiree, LOL!)

Other than the talking heads on the non-stop TV news reports, everything here is quite normal. Of course the reason the news is all amped-up is because Brevard County to our southeast isn't faring so well. They got beach erosion and lots of flooding. Even a tornado apparently. Yikes. Brevard County is the area around Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Cape Canaveral etc. (where I vacationed 3 weeks ago).

Well at least the TV news is giving us a little tiny bit of a break in their non-stop, incessant coverage of Casey Anthony, the suspicious mother of the now-infamously missing little 3-year old Caylee. For countless weeks now, the news coverage of this local-turned-national story has been endless.

It's so reminiscent of the other missing baby saga of a couple years ago, also with a suspicious mom, also from Florida, Trent Duckett. That's the one where the mom suddenly killed herself after a brutally critical TV interview with Nancy Grace.

In both cases, people refuse to accept what is obviously the same fact: the fucked up mothers who had no ability to adequately care for a house plant let alone a little baby killed their kids. Why is that so hard to believe? 'Cause there's no body? How freakin' hard would it be to make a small 3-year old child disappear forever? Oh but it'd be considered cold-hearted to voice this opinion. Or, in our world of "if you can think it, then you could do it" mentality, one might be looked at as a possible suspect themselves. Argh, get a grip people!

Anyway, I greatly digress. It must be the low air pressure of this "storm" that, unlike a murdered baby, just won't go away...

*************UPDATE: 8:12 pm**************

1. Okay, I can see some swayin' o' the trees now as the night envelops us. The rain has decided to come down in great sheets now, too. Hmm. But, I got the call from Jill an hour or so ago...we are going in to work tomorrow. So get it out of your system tonite, Fay...especially since the accident I really don't like driving in the rain anymore. (Not that I ever especially did, of course...duh!)

But, uh oh, look at her movement! Nothing! Have you ever heard of that!? Dead Stopped!

2. I was channel-surfing just a couple minutes ago, and I happened to flip past Court TV (or whatever name they're going by now). And who was on devoting her show to her vehement disapproval of the fact Casey Anthony is getting bailed out of jail?...Nancy Grace!

She won't be satisfied 'till this one commits suicide too. Lady, let the court system do it's job. We are not a mob rule society.

Well, not yet!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Here She Comes

Well Tropical Storm Fay is not following convention.

1. She picked up wind speed after she made landfall.
2. She slowed her forward movement.
3. She turned eastward from the earlier projections.

She's gunnin' fer me! Arrrgh!

Here's a quote from a local news website:

Maximum sustained winds were near 65 mph, with higher gusts. Some fluctuations in strength are likely as Fay moves inland over the state.

"We had a wind gust of 78 mph at Moore Haven, which is above hurricane-force, so here comes Fay onshore, you think it's going to weaken, the pressure dropped right before landfall, and just after landfall, so now we're seeing that momentum coming down to the surface, with those winds really picking up in those heavy squalls south of our area," WESH 2 Weather Plus meteorologist Jason Brewer said.

Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles from the center.

The lights just flickered a few minutes ago and the fluctuation knocked out an 850MB download. Grrrr!

Here's what it looks like here right now:

No storm-like conditions yet, just some scattered rain.

The big problem will be as she rips up the center of the state south of us, she's gonna down a bunch of trees and those trees will bring down power lines, and the power grid will be affected.

We may see an outage after all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fay Day! Fay Day!

Though this storm heading our way is not very strong, folks in these parts are still Charley-shell-shocked and the path looks very similar to that of Hurricane Charley of '04.

We know it'll be a lot of nothing though, since, well, I'm here. Storms have a way of threatening me but ending up chickening out at the last minute. Or, get to my former location too late to affect me. Witness the Florida storms of 2004 and my absence since I was in New Orleans, and then, Katrina hits New Orleans in 2005, but I'd already left to come back here to Florida. But they keep trying for me.

Now it's Fay. Oh she thinks she's all that 'cause she already killed a bunch of people in the Caribbean. But I say she's nothin' more than a puny windbag that will just dump a bit of rain on us. Whoopie!

My employer takes preparedness to ultra-nerdy contingency levels though. What else would you expect for the leading maker of security and protection software? They have a "Plan B" for everything! So, we'll be emailed today at 3:30 letting us know whether we will come in to work or not tomorrow. Being that the latest projections seem to put the path of Fay slightly to the west but slowly churning as it goes by may mean that we'd get a lot of rain, so they may have us take the day off. Woo Hoo!

Last year we had a TS projected to come near us and not even as close and we shut down for the day. Us cubical holders near the windows had to put all our desktop stuff in our desks and cover the computers and stuff with plastic. What a pain! We'll probably have to do the same this time.

Well it's no biggie to me, we will get paid for the day(s) off so, bring it on. I just hope Nugget doesn't get damaged, of course. My house is right on a lake, so I guess it'd kinda suck if it got flooded too. Oh, but the worst would be if the power were out for any significant amount of time. (Like more than a couple of hours!) No cooking, no refrigeration, no TV, no air conditioning! And no Internet!

I may well go insane, revert to a stone-age culture and be forced to consider cannibalism!

Me, Thok! You, dinner! Arrrgh!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm Definitely NOT Tiger Woods!

Here's a video I had Ric take of my swing last Sunday at Debary Golf Club.

Now in my defence I have to say:

1. It was hotter than hell. Ric likes to play golf in the middle of the afternoon when the heat and humidity is oppressive. Well, on this day, even he was sweating, and that's rare.

2. This was like the 12th hole and I get pooped on the back 9. I wasn't dealing with any blisters on my hands this time, but my right foot was giving me a little precursor gout pain.

3. Speaking of pain, as you know from previous posts, I'd been dealing with the shoulder pain in my right shoulder for several months now. Well, this month it started feeling better and it has pretty much followed the example of it's left side counterpart in fading away, leaving just a stiff frozen shoulder syndrome in it's place. So I am gun-shy about stressing the shoulder too much, thus the sad upswing.

4. There were a couple of good ol' boys waiting behind us. They apparently play better than us since they were constantly waiting on us to finish. I get intimidated when I feel rushed, and, on this hole, they were even sitting in their cart right behind our carts watching. Very nerve racking.

Well, at least I think this clip captured what might be my biggest flaw. Notice at the point just before impact on my downswing, I suddenly jerk my head and shoulders forward about a foot? This ain't good, folks. Charles Barkley has that "hitch" everyone mocks him for, but it seems to aid him in correcting his off-line swing. My "jerking motion" does the opposite, I think. The trajectory may have been in the right arc at first, but this motion puts the apogee right where I witness it striking so frequently...just ahead of the ball and directly into the ground. This gouges a big divot, pretty much disseminates the club head speed and angle and usually ends up where the ball stays sitting there, untouched.

All totaled I played crappy throughout. The mulligan you see me take here is just one of many my playing partners (Ric and his friend from AIG, Chris) allowed me. They also overlooked a lot of my missed shots on approach, but still I ended up well above 120 for the round. They shot around 100-105 each, pretty close to one another. (I think Chris won by a stroke or two)

Well, in any event, I don't take the game too seriously so I still had fun. And, you gotta admit, watching me is a bit of a comedy show.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

SCRAPBOOK: Who Can Make the Sun Shine?

Back when I was a kid I enjoyed a lot of candy. My mouth is half-filled with metal filings and crowns as a testament to that fact.

These were a few of my favorites:

Bit-O-Honey was not too terribly sweet and had an unobtrusive and mellow flavor that lent well to clearing the palate for a more potent candy after it.

These babies were the quintessential penny candy. Nutty and flavored with molasses, even in "my day", the 70's, they were considered old-fashioned classics.

Like their powdered cousins Pixie Straws, these super sour tablets were pure sugar! A handful of these babies and you were bouncing off the furniture! Zing!

We bought Wacky Packages not so much for the stale bubble gum, but for the collectible stickers inside. Mad Magazine-styled parodies of all sorts of familiar consumer products. We thought they were wicked cool!

The popularity of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" inspired a real chocolate factory to create these Wonka branded confections.

And these were absolutely Scrumdidilyumptious! No golden tickets though...shucks!

These crunchy wafers of mostly sucrose are blended with some kind of modifier so they aren't as sickningly sweet as say, Sun Tarts. The fun was in trying to guess what flavor the wafer would have before you tasted it.

A dentist's favorite to be sure, both Mike & Ike and Hot Tamales were sure to keep your tongue squirming around the nooks and crannies of your teeth trying to extract the stubborn sticky globs of pure sugar that'd be stuck in there. But they were yummy while you were chompin' on them!

Poor Pop Rocks got a bad rap following the urban legend about Mikey, the kid from the LIFE cereal commercials mixing Pop Rocks with Coke and having them blow up in his stomach, killing him. Um, not true, but I remember being warned in school that we should not eat Pop Rocks because they were hazardous to your health. Screw that, we ate them with abandon. What other candy jumps around in your mouth?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where There's A Will...

Will I ever not suck at golf?

I got a lot-a-work ahead of me to get anywhere near “ok”. My stance is poor, my backswing looks like I’m hefting an axe in order to chop down a tree, and I tilt my head and upper body in about a foot or so during the downstroke…no wonder I get the results I get. Ball sits on tee…Michael hacks at it…Michael hits ground about a foot ahead of it and makes a pretty ugly divot and usually misses the ball entirely.

Will it ever stop raining every afternoon?

Sunday was pretty rain-free, but for about 2 weeks, every day before and since has been stormy by 4:00. Makes running around doing chores more difficult. Summer in Central Florida, gotta love it! Ugh!

Will Ric and I ever be able to play multiplayer Civ III again?

Ric went and bought a new computer Saturday, effectively shelving the ailing system I’d given him last year. She was an old Athlon 1800+ anyway, pretty obsolete. Now Ric’s system rivals Mildred! It came with a high-def LCD monitor and Vista Home Premium. It looks super but it seems Civ III running on Vista won’t allow you to select any options in multiplayer, only single player. Bummer.

Will this big bruise ever heal?

I noticed a couple bruises that I didn’t know I had last week. Remnants of the crash, of course. I really can’t remember hitting anything hard during it, but I guess I did. No pain whatsoever…it’s really weird. The biggest and most ugly bruise is on the inside of my left knee. Since I wear shorts all the time, it’s easily seen by anyone. It’s kinda gross looking, but, like I said, I don’t feel anything so I guess there was no permanent damage to anything. It’s just a daily visual reminder to thank my lucky stars that the accident wasn’t as bad as it easily could have been.

Will I be able to ever halt my now steadily growing weight?

Yup. It’s coming baaaack! Noooo! I can’t let it. Oh but I have been so hungry lately. Must get back on track. Other than golf last Sunday, I can’t workout because it’s around 83 degrees in my house when I get home. Ex-cu-ses!

Will Ross play Chris on “Days” as a regular cast member?

I watch Ross Mathews’ Talky Blogs almost every day and he recently talked about his small occasional role on “Days of Our Lives”. I don’t watch soaps, but since I was setting up this post like it was the overly-dramatic voiceover at the end of the "As The Stomach Turns" fake soap opera skit on the "Carol Burnett Show" from the 70's, I thought of Ross. He’d “get it”.

Will I need to give Nugget back?

I talked to the rep at the auto finance company and he told me the finance manager at the Saturn dealership needed to have me come in to sign a new contract. He said there was something “wrong with the numbers”. Let me tell you, I know of this scam too well. We in the “credit-challenged” category get taken like this all the time. They say that you're approved for financing, then, suddenly, outta the blue, there’s a problem, and it requires more money. But it’s all part of their scheme. Well I swear I will not sign anything that would increase the costs by one penny. I have obligated to too high a price already for this car. So, I may need to give them back the car if they don’t acquiesce to my terms. We’ll see.

Will “Holla At Cha Boy!” be the new “Project Runway” catchphrase?

Blayne, the surfer-boi contestant on the show has been using this phrase. I think he’s trying a bit too hard to be the next swishy drama queen with a razor sharp wit like Christian was in Season 4. I guess he thinks it makes him “Fierce”.

Will I give it up already?


Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

The recent events in Georgia over South Ossetia have got me resurrecting an old idea I had for a conspiracy thriller...

The drama queen in me loves to daydream about juicy, Tom Clancy-like scenarios that make for good storytelling. A tool frequently used by him and many other thriller/suspense authors is to imagine a plot in which a huge international event affecting billions of people worldwide starts off as a tiny, easily-overlooked side note in world events, exacerbated slowly into an escalating incident through a series of complex cause/effect precursors and, often times, unbelievably bad luck.

It's oft-times a cheap trick, ultimately, since the interlocking triggers are sometimes so unlikely that it can be hard to suspend disbelief. But, in the hands of a skilled writer, the pay off can be something memorable. Sure is a great way to build tension, and to impart the idea that, at any given moment, you never know what shit is about to hit the fan. That much is very believable, don't you think? We've all seen enough shit hit the fan in recent decades to prove that theorem.

Back in the early 90's I had a tinge of an idea for a fictional Clancy-like thriller...

I thought, back then, watching events in the crumbling Soviet Union that this was all happening too quickly and effectively to fully believe. I mean, I grew up in the midst of the Cold War. It was assumed that the "Red Menace" would not be something that would easily just "go away". Certainly not in my lifetime, let alone before the end of the century.

And then, when it did actually "go down", it was not over the course of decades, but within just a couple of years. I mean, there had been Gorbachev and the glasnost and perestroika bullshit but I thought those were just Kremlin spin tactics to put on a new face of communism in preparation for the new millennium. It's when the wall came down, the Germanys reunited, the Baltic nations seceded successfully, and then the rapid cascade within Russia proper from the failed coup, the eventual resignation of Gorbachev, the rise of Yeltsin and the dissolution of the USSR. I may have these events a tad jumbled but that would be because they happened so close together in time, it was hard to keep up.

It was a sad time for the hardliner hawks.

For both sides.

So I thought, what if the military apparatchiks that organized the "failed August coup" in 1991, actually did succeed. No, not in some other parallel universe, but in our own. What if the reassertion of the government by Gorbachev, as it appeared, was all an elaborate illusion.

How could that be?

Well, as corny as it sounds at first, if you were good at detailing it's potential plausibility in some way, the easiest solution would be a perfect double of Gorbachev.

Yes, that's right, it's a tired plot point but, what the hell, it still works!

So this doppelganger, of course just a tool of the KGB and military, would have "taken back" the Kremlin, and then in dramatic overtures, as part of the intricately-complicated plan of deception, dismantled the Soviet Union, as the world then knew it. All the while, of course, the true Soviet Union would live on, in secret, conducting it's never-ending plans for world domination behind securely-closed doors.

Meanwhile, in the US, a highly-confidential faction within the Pentagon, who, being fellow hawks like their counterparts in Russia, collaborate with the KGB and put the same plan into effect in our country. They secretly kidnap the President of the United States and replace him with an exact look-alike who is under their control. This virtual clone (or maybe they are real clones?) of George Bush (the elder). The puppeteers then secretly give the go ahead to Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, all along knowing they would betray the deal with him and open the door for the US, under their puppet Bush, to repel the Iraqis, win an almost "Wag the Dog" war in a few hours and elevate the popularity of the president so he could easily be reelected.

Unfortunately, Bush's popularity took a nose dive for other reasons, and he lost the election to Clinton who was not a part of the Hidden Cabal.

Around the same time in Russia, their new man Yeltsin drank too much vodka one night and wiped out all his "Manchurian Candidate" brainwashing and he was suddenly a loose cannon. He figured out what was going on and was about to reveal the Russian Cabal Network to the world when the "Civil War" broke out. During the height of the chaotic days of this showdown, Yeltsin was captured and drugged. They couldn't re-brainwash him so they just made sure to wipe his memory of their existence and let him lead the nation without their direct manipulation.

So it was a rough bunch of years through the mid to late 90's for the Cabal New World Order, but, being very Illuminati-like, they would wait patiently for their time to come again.

Eventually, they were able to reinstall their control over the two nations by the early 2000's, placing both Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush in their respective offices. It was easy, really. They secretly poisoned Yeltsin with an untraceable substance which made him appear as if his alcohol abuse was worsening until it killed him. In America, it was just a matter of getting one of their best female agents, Monica Lewinski, to open up a cigar box full of mistrust towards Clinton and the Democrats in general in order for their man Bush to win.

So now with free reign, the Cabal wasted no time in laying the foundation for world domination. They made a secret pact between the Russian and US factions of their Alliance to split the world between them. But, to literally fuel their respective marches of conquest, they would need the oil-rich Middle East. So they drew a twisted line through the region, partitioning it like Prussia, Austria and Russia had done to Poland over 200 years before.

Like a game of RISK, each side staked their claim.

For the US, they had already asserted a presence with the Cabal's secret connections to the Arab kingdoms and emirates of the Persian Gulf, it was just a matter of grabbing Iraq from Saddam, who had, so conveniently, been left in power.

For Russia though, they had just two choices to assure a securely connected empire. Bomb the vast territories of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan into submission in order to conquer Iran, or, gobble up the much smaller countries of the Caucasus to reach Iran via that route. The latter was the more logical path.

And it all would start with Georgia...

Friday, August 08, 2008

FLASHBACK: June 1987

"Don't drop the baton. Whatever you do, don't drop the baton."

That thought flashed foremost in my mind. I kept repeating it to myself as I stretched my calf muscles in preparation for the race. I was the second leg of a 4 x 400m, 4-man relay.

It was the Coaches Relay, one of the final races of the Summer Games of the Rhode Island Special Olympics. The athletes and their families really got a kick out of this purely exhibition event. It may have been non-competitive in the sense that no medals were given for this race, but we were split into 4 teams representing our respective areas of the state and each team was encouraged to give it their all.

The races were split into heats comprised of similarly-fit head coaches from each team. I think I was in the moderately-fit heat. Certainly not the sinewy jocks, but not the fatties either! I was average build and only 23 years old.

My heart was beating a mile-a-minute in nervous anticipation. I tried not to look at the stadium bleachers filled with hundreds of spectators. Parents and family of the athletes, volunteers both from the respective teams and from the university and, of course, the athletes themselves...all watching this popular last athletic event before the closing ceremonies scheduled for later that evening.

It had been a fun but exhausting three days since we arrived and set up camp in our dorms here at the Kingston Campus of the University of Rhode Island. My athletes had been training months for this, the most prestigious of the Special Olympics events in any calendar year. Only the National Games, held every four years is considered more of a pinnacle. But those can be difficult for most athletes to attend.

Special Olympics is a non-profit organization and it does a great job of using it's donations that it receives to put on some great athletics, including the Regional, State and National (now World) Games. But, just like the "real" Olympics, teams are expected to fund the rest of the athletes expenses.

From uniforms and equipment to transportation and adequate staffing, each team had to raise the money to provide for itself. Some teams, in more affluent communities could depend on either large donations from a few booster families or each family of each athlete could be expected to assist with costs. But my guys were all pretty much from Pawtucket and Central Falls exclusively, two of the poorest cities in the state. So we had to do all sorts of fund raisers throughout the year to earn our money.

We had enough to do the Regional and State competitions each year, but usually those few athletes whose families could afford the costs of the less-frequently-held Nationals went solo. That was allowed in Special Olympics...once they traveled to that event, wherever in the country it was held, they'd be grouped with other Rhode Island families and teams to represent the state as one. But this being the State games, it was a maximum 45-minute drive (thank goodness for the small size of our state!) for any team, no matter where you were from in the state. The housing was free, of course, as we were put up in the seasonally empty dorm rooms.

I was responsible for about 30 athletes...we had to drive down in 2 vans...and each athlete was scheduled to compete in an average of 3 to 4 events. And often, because diversity in athletic activity was encouraged, they would be 3 or 4 different sports.

For instance, I had one guy, Paul, who was competing in swimming, track, basketball and bowling...and several heats for each...all in different buildings or fields scattered around the campus! Yes, I had about 5 of my own volunteers but I was the coordinator. I was the one responsible for insuring that they all got to where they were needing to be over the course of the 3 days. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

Add to the mix the usual needs of meds disbursement, equipment management, and behavioral issues moderator and I was being pulled from all ends. Luckily there weren't many behavioral issues but when you've got 30 folks crammed into tight quarters and being run around and having their nerves tested, all with varying degrees of developmental disabilities, you're bound to have a tizzy break out here and there.

Bang! The starter's gun fired and the crowd began to cheer. It was to be a blind handoff so I waited nervously in starting position with my hand stretched out palm up behind me.

When I heard the runner on my team come up from behind, I got ready to run. The baton was slapped firmly in my palm and I was off. As I brought my hand forward though, the baton brushed my thigh and my heart, already racing, skipped a beat or two. I almost dropped the baton! Luckily I kept my grip and booked as fast as I could towards my teammate down the track. All I kept thinking was "Don't be the weak link in the chain. Don't let the team down."

And of course, "Don't drop the baton!"

It all happened so fast and before you knew it, it was over. I handed off the baton with a snap and slowed to first a jog, then a trot. Just a 100 meters, but I was out of breath. My legs were already starting to feel the cramping pain of lactic acid build up.

But it felt great!

I didn't drop the baton!

Our team didn't win, but we didn't come in last either. I asked later if I did well and everyone said I won my leg! But the next runner and the last, the anchor, let the lead slip away. Oh well, at least it wasn't my fault.

I think that's when I realized that the feelings I had about this race were a metaphor for my outlook on life...

It didn't really matter to me if I won, just so long as I wasn't the worst loser.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

To 'Stache or Not to 'Stache?

A certain Mr. Phelps, about to yet again become the focus of billions of eyes over the next few weeks has decided to obviously emulate his also-infamous fore bearer in the sport, a certain Mr. Spitz.

But thems were different times, Michael. Having a 'stache in the early '70s was almost de rigueur for young men. It was considered studly and macho. But today, a moustache is usually, IMHO, sported by either Stud Farmers from West Virginia or Macho Leathermen from the Castro District of San Francisco.

And what's with the shaggy mullet, too?

Eh, to each his own, I say, but really Michael, you are a hottie who needs no redneck accoutrements to justify his manhood. You're all man in my book. Growwwwl.

When I was younger, the Olympics would get me inspired to start to take fitness more seriously. Oh, make no mistake about it, I was never fit enough to be anywhere near Olympic competitor quality, but, with effort, the younger version of me could get a muscle to grow and harden here and there.

Oh stop! Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean muscles like arms and legs and even my abs. Yes, once a long, long time ago I had abs.

So I think this year I'll try and let The Games inspire me to once again put greater effort into getting fit.

Who knows...maybe I'll even grow some facial hair in homage to my honey Mr. Phelps?

Groovy baby, yeah!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

SPACE: The Final Frontier

Once upon a time, before Nugget, before the accident, before the end of the Ric-Michael Cold War (ie: just two weekends ago), I decided to go on a "trip" to the coast. It's just 40 miles away, I don't know why I don't visit more often. But, as it turns out, I hadn't stayed overnight by the Florida seaside since a trip I took with my brother back in 1988, when I still lived in Rhode Island.

I headed out to Cape Canaveral from home early Saturday morning. Less than an hour later I was at Kennedy Space Center. This was one of the places we visited during our '88 trip. I hadn't been there since.

Here's the big logo at the entrance to the Visitor Center. I like the slightly retro feel of the reinstated logo as opposed to the now rarely-seen "old" logo which seemed to try too hard to look "futuristic". Instead its "forward-vision" design is indelibly stylised as 1980's EPCOT-esque "space glam" that went out with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

The Rocket Garden was there in '88, and I think a small walk-thru museum. But everything else, like the IMAX movies, the bus tours and the the Shuttle Launch Experience are new. (Well, maybe they had bus tours then too, but we didn't take one.)

Here I am getting on the bus shortly after attending both IMAX films. Yes, they have 2 IMAX theaters. One show is narrated by Tom Cruise and it's all about the International Space Station. It's cool but the better one, in my opinion is the one the Moon Landings, narrated by Tom Hanks. Both are 3-D cool! Some of the scenes in the moon landings film are from actual video taken by the astronauts during their missions, but, since it's IMAX and 3-D, much of it is filmed more recently using actors in spacesuits, moon sets and lots of CGI. Looks so real though, you might think the landings were all faked. I just think it's funny to watch a movie full of fake moon walks at the place responsible for putting the real moon walkers up there in the first place. LOL!

This model was at the Viewing Gantry, a 3 story outdoor platform used to view the launch pads. The model is used by an automated system lighting up points of interest during a recorded explanation of the step-by-step pre-launch procedure.

At the Saturn V Center you get to see an immense Saturn V rocket and all it's stages hanging from the ceiling, view a cool launch simulation from a control center mock-up and a short video/animatronics-ish show depicting the first moon landing.

I spent the whole day from about 10:30 am to almost 5:30 pm there...much longer than I would stay nowadays at a theme park like Universal (since, lets face it, I've seen it all by now there).

As promised, here's a video of my trip there. The theme music is Vangelis - Creation Du Monde.

Monday, August 04, 2008

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...


Well, after 3 months I finally decided to apologize to Ric and hold out my hand in friendship. He is still hurt by the tirade I let loose on him (actually on his voice mail) but he accepted my apology and I took him out to Red Lobster Saturday evening.

It felt a little bit awkward and though we talked, we didn't get into anything too deep. We both drank only two beers each, he because he had gone out to the Parliament House the night before and I because I was driving my new car. (Not to mean I would booze it up if it wasn't a new car, of course!)

After dinner I took him home, he didn't want to go out to Uno's though I suggested it. He said he was tired and needed to get up early the next morning to go play golf with some of his work buddies.

I think our friendship will go on but it's a bit frail right now. I guess that's to be expected.


Nugget is still running fine. She better be, I've only had her 2 days. She has 6,000 more miles to go before the expiration of her bumper-to-bumper warranty. With my luck, she'll wait to give me trouble until the day after she hits 36,000 miles. If I remember correctly, I think that's what happened to both Gumby Honey (the Metro) and Millie (the Focus) when they reached their warranty expiry dates.

I'm a tad concerned about her gas consumption though. I've only driven around town (if you consider Casselberry, Longwood and Sanford to also be "in town") but she's already on E. Well, she only had about a quarter tank when I got her, but even the Buick took more than two days to go through a quarter tank. Smaller tank I guess.


In this case, "eleven" will be sometime soon, maybe tomorrow, I'll post what I had planned to post last and recaps of my visit to Kennedy Space Center and Sun Cruz Casino. And I do also have "film". Woo hoo!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Chevette of the New Millennium?

Oh don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be in something new. And it does look cute and I like the handling. But boy, I can't help thinking in the back of my mind that this car looks and feels somewhat like an updated Chevy Chevette.

In case you don't remember, the Chevy Chevette came out as a result of the demand for small, more fuel efficient cars after the energy crisis of the 1970's. People were buying smaller cars in droves, shucking their land yachts like Olds Delta 88s and Lincoln Continentals for Toyota Corollas, Ford Escorts and, yes, the Chevy Chevettes.

I remember when I first got in one I thought it was so cute and what I considered futuristic. When I was looking for a newer car in the mid eighties after coming into my trust fund inheritance (no I wasn't a rich kid, far from it, the trust fund amounted to just over $8,000...not a fortune by any means) I looked for an affordable used Chevette to purchase but found a cute, sporty-looking Escort instead. (You read about what happened to that in the previous post.)

But the Chevette was much-maligned if I recall. One of the smallest of the new trend in sub-compact cars, it was ridiculed by big car lovers as being nothing more than an annoying gnat on the road. Even small car enthusiasts were disappointed though, as the reviews of the day corroborate; it was cheap-looking, poorly-constructed and designed, unreliable and unsafe.

But this is a new era for small cars and for the "Big 3", especially GM, they can't afford to continue their bad reputation for poor quality, so we see cars like my new one being more than just an afterthought for the cheap car market.

It's a 2007 Chevy Cobalt and, according to several reviews, garners good to above average ratings for performance, fuel economy and styling for the class. The price was right too.

This one has 30,000 miles so that lowered the price compared to a brand-new one and it has a no-frills feature package. No power windows, locks and keyless entry like the Buick. Good bye luxury amenities! And, needless to say, it's much, much smaller.

But despite my large frame, I fit in it fine and I love the handling of a small car. Always have. What a pleasure to shift lanes and park in this compared to the Buick, or especially, the Chrysler 300!

How do I feel about carrying a car bill again? Eh, it's a better alternative to getting a beater with the $5000 I had to spend and getting stuck with a costly and frustrating lemon. C'mon, read the previous post for my experiences with crap cars and you'll see why I cow-towed to the Finance Man. My interest rate stinks, but, that's my poor credit rating. At least I got a 36 month loan as opposed to a 4 or 5 year one which would escalate the overall interest payments even further.

Still under a generous bumper-to-bumper warranty, and with my driving habits will continue to be under that protection for at least another year. The drivetrain is covered for 2 more years beyond that. Peace of mind is a good thing!

Well, it's lunch time and I think I'll take 'er for a little spin. I named her "Nugget", like golden nugget.

Hopefully, she won't turn out to be "fool's gold" like its progenitor the Chevette.

Friday, August 01, 2008

FLASHBACK: Summer 1989

Within the span of just 10 months, I was being told that I needed another rebuilt engine. Now, in a car I didn't even own. Estimated cost this time: $5,000.

This past year had been more than a tragedy to my transportation budget, it had been an all out disaster.

My little '81 Ford Escort, always a mechanical mess since the day I bought it 4 years earlier, had really started to burn oil at an alarming rate during the previous summer. I brought it in to a mechanic and was told I needed a new engine. Cost: $3,000. Though I could have got another car for that I agreed to it and put it on my last remaining credit card, an American Express card. But even after the "new" engine (which looked amazingly like the old one) the car never worked right and would frequently stall. By December, it was virtually undrivable. Again.

After securing full-time employment at Amego in January, I needed a better car since it meant a commute to Plainville, Mass. everyday, about 15 miles each way from my East Providence home.

Being low on cash and not expecting to be able to obtain credit since my credit card crash n' burn fiesta the previous year (including the death of the AMEX card since I didn't payoff that $3,000 charge), I was forced to look into the lowest-of-the-low price market for a car. Amazingly, I found a private owner deal in the classifieds of the Providence Journal selling a car in my rock-bottom price range. I checked out the car and, though it looked like shit, it ran fine. It was a 1979 Mercury Monarch with bald tires, a small crack in the windshield, no radio and the light blue paint job had faded to a splotchy mess from sun and salt damage. The engine started every time though, and that's what I needed. He was asking $550 but I got him to drop it to $500.

So now, for the first time ever, I owned two cars simultaneously. Woo hoo. Unfortunately, they were both pretty much pieces of crap on wheels!

The Monarch was ugly, but she served me well. During the early spring of this year I was able to commute to both my jobs (yes, I was actually working 2 full-time jobs for a while...yes me, Mr. Slacker! Go figure!) and it never stalled or burned a quart of oil a day like the Escort.

My financial standing improved as the months went on, so I decided I could make do with just one job since I had gotten promoted at Amego. I dropped the day program aide position in Cranston. I decided that I might want to get a better car, this time, one that looked decent, was safer and, gee, maybe had a radio!

I went to a local Mitsubishi dealership since I liked the styling and the price of the Mitsubishi Colt. But, the financing fell through, despite the fact I was willing to throw down a sizable down-payment.

That's when I saw an ad in one of those free car buying guides. It was for a "Lease By The Week" place in North Attleboro. They accepted anyone. No Credit. Bad Credit. Repossessions. Didn't matter. If you had a pay stub and verified home address, you drove! I went down there and they really seemed eager to put me into this red 1985 Chevy Cavalier. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but the look and ride of it was great so I thought, "Sure, why not!".

So now I had 2 cars I owned and one I was leasing. Luckily in Rhode Island (at the time) it was not mandatory to carry auto insurance so I wasn't paying insurance premiums on the Escort or the Monarch. The Cavalier had insurance included in the astronomical weekly payment of $88.

Now as summer came, the whole transportation scheme I had in place began to rapidly crumble. First, I noticed one day while getting in the Cavalier to go to work that the Monarch, parked a few parking spaces over, had a flat tire. Shit. That was my backup car in case I needed it. But since it wasn't a high priority I neglected changing the tire. A week later, the car was gone. Apparently someone else in the neighborhood noticed it was virtually abandoned so they decided, I guess, to take it. Probably drove it away on its flat, after hot wiring it. I reported it stolen but I never heard anything more about it from the police. There went $500.

Then, unbelievably, the Cavalier started to give me problems. I brought it in to the same repair shop I had brought the Escort to last summer. Their diagnosis...Surprise!...I needed a new engine. Again!

It was a lease though so I called the dealer. Their response: I was responsible for maintenance, including repairs. No warranty. And no relief from the weekly payment obligation and the 2-year lease duration minimum. What's more, these "goodfellas" gave me the impression that they were "connected" and that I might find myself with a couple broken legs if I didn't keep my end of the "deal".

So I coughed it up. This time though, having no credit cards left, I had to pay cash. So they "fixed" my car (and this time the engine did actually look a little newer) and I wrote them a check for $5,000. And, a rarity for the times, it didn't bounce. But now, I was dirt broke. Again.

Why I trusted this repair shop is to this day beyond me. They were a sweet-talkin', down-to-earth styled husband and wife operation, and, I stupidly believed them.

Eventually, after I lost the Amego job a year later I couldn't afford to keep paying a high weekly lease on a now aged car and brought the car back to the dealer, effectively breaking the lease. (I timed it so I'd drop off the car after hours so I wouldn't face them. Also, I had just moved into a new apartment so they couldn't hunt me down.)

I still had my Escort though. That is until I drove it home one bitterly cold winter night and seized the engine, killing it, finally, with a dramatic shudder and billow of burnt oil smoke.