Saturday, July 31, 2010

Burgh Update

Good morning, live from the computer room at the Pittsburgh Airport Holiday Inn.

I got into Pittsburgh more or less uneventfully.  (Your directions were fine, Cassie.)  It was a bit of a jam coming through town... it looked like a parking lot outside the Ft Pitt Tunnel, so I called an audible... I decided to make a break for it and go up Rt 51, "through The Rocks", this time, on purpose!  (That's McKee's Rocks, to non-Pittsburghers).

There was one glitch that's been bothering me... I noticed right before I took off on the trip, that the Check Engine light was on.  Shit!  Just what I need.

Everything seemed to be functioning OK and I checked my manual, which said that it didn't mean everything was automatically screwed... it had to stay of for a couple of trip cycles.  So in other words, I'm gone!  It wouldn't be serious unless it started flashing.  It's probably the gas cap, (which I checked) or from when I changed the air filter.  The Jiffy Lube guy warned me that if I didn't get the lid closed tight, I might get the light.  I checked that this morning, slamming down the cover tight, and lo and behold, the light went off.  Problem solved.

Had our customary family fish sandwich at Segnari's ("table for 13, please") and then walked over to check out the site for tomorrow's Darwinfish Fry at Anthony Jr's.  It looks like a fine place for a gathering of mild-mannered bloggers.  I don't know how the group of us will do, but we'll find out.

Spent the evening at my Aunt's place, sitting on the deck, drinking Iron City Lights, nibbling cheese, pepperoni and crackers, cookies, and watching my brother and brother-in-law break my Aunt's heart by tearing into 3 different boxes of Tasty Kakes.

Also spent about an hour talking with my nephew, Daniel, about the wonders of AC/DC and 80's rock in general.  You Tube is so helpful for such conversations.

Today we're looking to go visit The Strip District.  (Non-Pittsburghers, that's not what you think... it's a big outdoor market lined with all kinds of shops and eateries.)  Afterwards, it's the OTHER big event of the weekend, my parents' 50th Anniversary dinner, or as I've been calling in, "Geezenpalooza."

D-fish Fryers... cant' wait to meet you all tomorrow!

Friday, July 30, 2010

'Burgh Bound

Just a quick note to hold you for the weekend…

My parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary (again!) by having a big dinner in Pittsburgh for the extended family.  Both sides of the family will be represented and that’s a pretty big deal.  My mom’s brother and sister are in California and North Carolina respectively, we don’t all get together very often.

Then on Sunday, it’s the long-awaited Darwinfish Fry, where a bunch of Pittsburgh bloggers and I will meet up, hang out and see if we’re as wonderful in person as we are on line.  Trust me, there will be a full report… probably several.

So I’ll be heading out for The Burgh within the hour… my first extended ride in the new car.  The oil has been changed, everything’s clean, I replaced the air filter, washer fluid is topped off, and I have a whole fistful of directions.  Someday I’ll get that GPS.

I’m always uneasy about driving in Pittsburgh and today’s journey is complicated by road construction all along my usual route, so I have to improvise.  I hate to improvise, especially there, where roads don’t run parallel to each other and you can never “just turn around and go back the way you came… too many one-way streets.

Luckily I got some solid advice from Cassie, of Sisters from Different Misters.  So if I get lost, it’s her fault.

I may be able to throw up a post (so to speak) over the weekend, but I doubt it.  I probably won’t be able to post again until I’m home, Tuesday night.  But we’ll see.  In the meantime, be sure you’ve read the last couple of posts… they’ve been some corkers.  Nothing like the tales of juvenile debauchery to stir the soul.

Until next week, Bluz…. OUT!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cinderella Was Unavailable for Comment

There were great comments on the previous two posts, about my first time getting blind drunk and my first house party. 

Sherry had an interesting point about how we tell our parents about all the sneaky stuff we pulled long after the statute of limitations is up and we can no longer get grounded.  And as it happened, she just happened to have written a post on that particular subject.  You should check it out, here.

I definitely remember having those conversations with my parents, years after I was out of the house.  We’d be sitting around and telling stories over drinks and something would come up and it would be like… “Oh yeah… you guys didn’t know about that…”

Not that I really did all that much that needed covering up…

The thing about my little group of buddies is that we balanced each other out.  Rik and John used to really go out drinking and carousing and tearing up the town.  I had never drunk more that a beer or single glass of wine until near the end of my senior year.  So as we all got together, I probably reined them in some, they loosened me the hell up and we all kind of met in the middle.

Honest to God, the worst I ever did was steal pumpkins at Halloween.

Yeah… a real hellion, I was.  But as usual, there’s a story.

There’s not really a lot to do, out where I grew up.  So Halloween provided quite an opportunity for mischief.  I don’t know who decided that this would be our group activity, but over a couple of nights, several of us drove out into the night, in search of pumpkins to steal.  And yes, we had to drive… we were out in the country… houses were NOT close together.

Most of the heists went uneventfully.  We started small, but the next thing you know, we were prowling for the big ones.  There was one house by the school that had a whole slew of them out on the porch.  This house was set down from the road, about 50 yards away.  There were four of us on this excursion: Rik, my brother Ed, John, who was driving his 2-door Camaro, and me.

Rik and I got out of the car and approached the house.  I stopped and ducked behind a big boulder in the yard and Rik went up to the porch and nabbed a pumpkin about the size of a beachball.  As I saw him running toward me, I could also see the door fly open and the homeowner come charging up the hill behind him with a shotgun. 

I know I just typed “with a shotgun” because that’s how I always remember the story.  But as I look at it now, I’m thinking, “Holy Fuck, the dude had a SHOTGUN!!  He could have killed our asses!”  I don’t know why that didn’t strike me so much at the time… probably that “indestructible” vibe that teenage boys have.

Anyway, I called out to Rik, “Look out, here he comes!”  I think Ed was yelling the same thing from back up at the road.

Fulfilling my role as a good wingman, I waited for Rik to run by me, then turned to follow.  That turned out to be a mistake.

We get up to the car, Mr. Homeowner churning up behind us, and Rik tosses the pumpkin into the back (where Ed was) and then jumps into the front seat and puts the seat back.

Holy shit!  Where the hell am I supposed to go?” I scream to myself.  Somehow, I jam myself between the front seatback and the doorframe and squeeze my ass into the back seat.  John stands on the gas and fishtails all over the road, barely missing Mr. Shotgun Wielding Homeowner as we tear off into the night.

We were damned lucky we didn’t end up with our pants full of buckshot.  And you’d think we’d have learned our lesson.  But sadly, no.

All summer, and every day on the bus to school, we drove by this giant pumpkin growing out in a field.  Thing must have been waist-high.  It really was The Great Pumpkin.  So naturally, we decided we had to grab it.
Not the actual pumpkin, but it was about this size.

The house it belonged to had a long flat driveway.  The Great Pumpkin sat on an inverted garbage can up by the house.  We pulled up in John’s Camaro… I think it was the same 4 of us as the last time, but I’m not sure.  But I stayed with the car and watched John and Rik disappear into the darkness, up the driveway.  I was wondering how the hell they were going to get that thing back to the car.

Then, as if summoned, they appeared heading back to the car, rolling the pumpkin in between them.  It took both of them to get it up into the Camaro’s trunk, and it had even been hollowed out!  It didn’t even fit in the trunk opening so we just left it open and hauled back up the road to our house.  As a parting gift, the guys left a little pumpkin, the size of a softball, up on the trashcan.

We came up with another giant pumpkin that night, I don’t remember how or where, so by the end of the night, we were the proud owners of a couple hundred pounds of pumpkin.  That’s where the lack of forethought came in… what the hell did we really want with all those pumpkins?  And more importantly, where were we supposed to put them?

Well, we put them in the workroom in The Barn, for starters.  But beyond that, we had no other plans. 

It got worse the next day, when I opened the newspaper and learned that one of our neighbors had claimed the top prize in the county for Largest Pumpkin.  They even had a picture.  Yup… it was the one we took. 

Aaaaugh!  Now it’s not just a hot pumpkin we’re storing, it’s a Prize Winning hot pumpkin.  So we did what we do best… nothing.  We just let it sit out there until winter.  Luckily, Dad was not the putter-around-the-workroom kind of dad.  But I knew it was out there, it was rotting, and eventually I’d have to do something about it.

So one winter night, we did the only thing we could… We took the pieces out and threw them in the neighbor’s pond.  I hoped they’d sink, but I didn’t wait around long to see.  I hoped the bluegill liked pumpkin…

Later I heard the neighbors wondering how the hell a pumpkin got in their pond.  I was like, “Wow… that’s weird…” I don’t think they recognized it as the Award-Winning Alpha-Pumpkin of the County though and I never felt any repercussions.

The thing is, I felt really bad about the whole affair… I knew it was a completely stupid thing to do, from the stealing to the dumping.  So I learned my lesson… no more thievery for this boy.

And that worked out, because it left me with so much more time to hang around The Barn and drink beer.  Because beer is so helpful with decision-making…

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ain't Nothin' But a Houseparty

Not long after my bone-headed performance at my buddy Brill’s party, I had the opportunity to throw a party myself.

My parents were going out of town and they took my brother and sister. I don’t remember where they went or why. But because I had a job, I was allowed to stay home. Alone.

Obviously, I was obligated to have a party. It’s just what you do. I believe it’s part of applying for your driver’s license… you have to swear that the first time you get left alone, you’ll have a party.

Now this was right before I graduated high school. We hadn’t even thought of setting up The Barn yet so this was going to be a party in the house… at least partially. I figured we’d be outside most of the time. 

I planned on keeping the “guest list” pretty tight. The last thing I wanted was a big, out-of-control beer blast, full of people I didn’t know and that wouldn’t respect the grounds. There would be me and my main buddies: Brill, Rik, John, and Rob. The kids from the neighborhood were also invited: Margaret, siblings Robin and Scott (aka Big Mo), and Dougie, who was a friend of Scott’s. John also had a couple guys visiting from out of town, so they came too. And there was one more…

Near the end of the school year, Rik, John and I had been playing sandlot tackle football with another group of guys. We thought those guys were assholes, so it was kind of fun beating on them. (I’m sure they thought the same about us.) But there was one guy on their team that wasn’t too bad. He didn’t run his mouth and showed a real deftness in never actually getting hit. I realized it was the quiet kid from my newspaper class. 

We drove him home after a game and got to know him a little bit. He’d only been at our school for his senior year. So we figured, what the hell… we invited him to our little soiree. His name was Bill and he became an integral part of our group from that day forward. (He was a featured player in this post I wrote in April about a great string of pranks that ran from the end of school through the next year.)

So, the big night came and all seemed well. There were probably a dozen people there, all together. We kept the beer iced down in the washtub in our laundry room, which was right off the back door. There were probably 4-5 cases laid in. 

I was mostly concerned about our living room. We just had brand new carpeting installed downstairs, so I was hyper-vigilant about spills. Not that it mattered… Big Mo spilled a beer on the carpet, but immediately got down on his hands and knees to clean it up. It was a funny sight, because Big Mo was 6’6” and a future middle linebacker on the high school football team. But he didn’t want my little 5'9" dad mad at him so he dabbed that beer up quickly. 

Early during the party, I got a phone call from a guy at school… one of the “cool” guys. He heard about the party and asked if he and another guy could come by. It would have been a total coup on my part.  At that time, I’d never mixed socially with my class’s “upper crust.” But being determined to keep things under control, I told him “no.” I hated having to do that because I actually liked those two guys.  But I had to keep the party closed. I wasn’t taking any chances.

I tell you, I felt guilty about that for the next 20 years. Finally, at our 20th high school class reunion, I talked to the guy and apologized profusely, telling him about the burden I’d been carrying.

He said he didn’t even remember the incident. 

Damn. See what a waste of time guilt is?

But for the most part, we kept the party outside. We used to have a big vapor light that would light up the backyard, enough so that we could always play some night hoops. We had the only basketball court with a built-in biological hazard. The basket was up over the garage and just to the left of the garage door, there was a stone wall that was flattened out about 3’ off the ground. Planted on top of the dirt there was a whole crop of cactus. Those little fuckers were wicked. They had big thorns on them, but even worse were the tiny little hair-like pickers that would come off in whatever touched them. We were constantly picking the little pickers off the basketball.

Well, the comic highlight of the evening was when Scott’s friend Dougie (who went about 270 lbs) fell ass-first into the cacti. What a commotion! I remember hearing a huge yell so I came tearing out of the house to find Dougie doing a rain dance in the driveway, with both hands clutching his giant ass. I’d never seen Big Mo laugh so hard in my life. The big fella didn’t laugh at much, but he could barely speak as he tried to tell me what happened. 

It probably took Dougie the rest of the night to pull all those pickers out of his ass. I don’t think he got many offers of help, either.

The other drama came with the appearance of our neighbor Margaret’s father. He came looking for her at the back door. Rik and John went to the back to stall him, while I hustled Margaret out the front door and around the back to her house. She got home OK, but the damage was already done.

Rik and John didn’t really have a chance to diffuse the situation. Neighbor Dad was eyeing all the empty cases of beer stacked along the wall, asking, “You guys having a party?”

The guys were like, “Noooooo.”

Can you send Margaret out?

Um, no, she’s not here. She hasn’t been here all night.”

I don’t think he believed them. At least I got Margaret home before the guys got rid of Daddy.

Anyway, the party went on uneventfully from there. There was no damage, no major drunk scene, and no second-hand mushroom cleanup was necessary. My buddies all stayed the night, I forget where, probably the couches or the floor. I don’t think we had any couches out in The Barn yet.

I do remember John's friend, who was a golfer, whacking golf balls across ours and our neighbor’s yard, trying to hit Margaret’s little brother from 200 yards away.

Also, Billy asked me if he could take a shower. I said "of course" and thought nothing further of it.  Later, someone came downstairs and said, “Did you know Bill’s up in the shower?

I said I did.

Did you know he’s wearing his clothes?

This is when we first realized that Billy was a little bit off.

But we got the place cleaned up and put back in order long before the folks came home later the next day.

The thing is, I had always intended to tell them I had some people over. I was telling them about my time alone and next thing you know, Mom was putting dinner on. Then during dinner, Margaret’s mom showed up at the back door, most eager to tell her all about the big party.

Busted! Yeah, I got in pretty big trouble for that, and mostly because I didn’t tell them about it. I maintain that I was going to but Mrs. Neighbor beat me to it. Oh well, I took my lumps. And Mom and Dad knew about every other party we ever threw there. Hell, they were nose-deep in them.

But it’s funny… the party I got in trouble for was the smallest one we ever had, with the least amount of drama and damage. Well, except to the bathroom.

Mom wanted to know why there were black shoe prints on the walls of the shower. 

She didn’t know Billy yet and that wasn’t the only time he would do the inexplicable.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lesson Learned

I feel like telling a story tonight and since it’s the weekend, why not a party story? Let me tell you about the first time I got stone-cold shitfaced drunk.

I was a senior in high school and only beginning to drink a little. My friends were much more “experienced” at drinking and at that point, I had only been out with them a couple times. We usually stuck to whatever beer that my buddy Rik’s older friends could get us.

On this occasion, my friend Brill was having a party. His parents were out of town (natch) but he had a girl cousin from Canada who was visiting. I thought Canada Cousin was very cute and I loved her accent. I made it my mission to try to get cozy with her.

Everything started well as the group of us went out for dinner at Pizza Hut. It was all very civil. Then we went back to Brill’s house and began the drinking. I don’t know where everything came from but there was a full assortment of alcohol from which to choose.

I started off with two Shoenlings Little Kings, which are heinous little beers that came in 7-oz bottles. 

We used to get those because we heard they were strong. So I was working on my Little Kings and talking charmingly to Canada Cousin. We seemed to be hitting it off.

After the Little Kings, someone broke out the wine… a big bottle of red Lambrusco. 

I had two glasses of that… this was a pint glass and both times it was about 3/4 full. I began to grow more animated and entertaining. Canada Cousin would no doubt be all over me any minute!

After the wine, I had two helpings of Black Velvet… same glass, about half-full. (Cue ominous sound effects and screams from off in the distanceAnd a lightning strike flashing in the window.)

I don’t remember too much after that. All that alcohol began assaulting my system and I was completely unprepared for it. I’d had a nice beer buzz or two in my experiences before that night and they were nothing like this. It was like, I could think, I just couldn’t speak or move properly.

The rest of the night was just a series of moments of hazy lucidity. At one point, I went upstairs to throw up. The way I remembered it, I got my face down there in the bowl and quietly hurled up all the sick.

According to the EPA hazardous spill cleanup documents filed with the government, the bathroom looked like someone stuck a nauseous monkey on a rotisserie and cranked it up to 78-speed. (Note to those of the CD generation:  That means spinning really, really fast, like old vinyl records.) Brill said they found bits of mushroom stuck to the walls, the tub, everywhere. He and Canada Cousin did the cleanup. Who says I don’t know how to impress a girl?

I vaguely remember being out in the backyard, leaning up against the clothesline pole, with someone trying to get me to drink some black coffee. (I hate black coffee but I was too drunk to ask for cream and sugar.)

Here, again, is where my recollection differs from reality:

My point of view: Rik packed me into his car and drove me the two houses down from Brill’s, to my house.

Rik’s point of view: He packed me into his car and drove around the block a couple times, stopped by our buddy John’s house, had a few beers out in the yard with John, and eventually, drove me back home.

Remember, I lived in this old farmhouse. My bedroom was at the top of a very steep staircase and there were 17 stairs. That meant 17 opportunities for disaster. My parent’s room was directly across the hall from mine. They were in bed.

Knowing how unsteady I was and how steep and long our staircase was, Rik followed me up the stairs to make sure I got to my bedroom without rolling ass-over-elbows right back down. Once deposited in my room, Rik got the hell out of Dodge.

My dad, upon hearing two sets of footsteps coming up the stairs, comes out to investigate and finds his drunken son sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to sit up straight.

Dad:  You OK?

Son:  (thinking…) Noooooo.

Dad:  You been drinking?

Son:  (still thinking…) Yeaaaaaaaaah.

Dad gave me a disgusted look and went back to bed, leaving me to lay back on my bed and try to go to sleep, all the while clutching the covers lest it throw me off while it was spinning out of control.

The next morning was tough. I was incredibly hungover but had to get up and go to work at the grocery store.

I made my way unsteadily down the stairs. Mom was fixing breakfast; Dad was at the table. There may have been a bottle of Jack Daniels on the table, for my benefit… or that may have been another time under similar circumstances. Not too clear on that now.

The conversation went like this:

Dad: What the hell were you drinking last night?

Me:  Um, two beers… two big glasses of wine…

Dad: What kind of wine?

Me:  Lambrusco... red. 

Mom: Ooh, there’s nothing like a “wine-drunk.”

Me:  And two glasses of straight Black Velvet.

Mom:  Oh, puppy…

Dad:  Jesus!  What the hell’s the matter with you?  You don’t mix beer, wine and whiskey in one night!  
Me: You never told me that before.

Dad: I never thought you’d be dumb enough that I’d have to.

I was kind of surprised that I didn’t get into any major trouble. But their rationale was that I’d be suffering enough that day and didn’t really need any more grief. I’d learn my lesson. 

That was true enough. Now I had to go off to the grocery store and work 9-5 bagging groceries and taking them out to the customer’s cars.

Once there, I made a huge mistake though. I told the Evil Ann, the Head Cashier, about what I’d done the night before. Did I get any sympathy? Hell no. She spent the rest of the morning smashing grocery carts together behind me, then cackling like a mad woman when I’d whip my head around, then grab at it in pain.

The best part of working on Saturday mornings was the bakery was going full steam. Every time I came from the parking lot back into the store, I could smell the bread baking. I visited the bakery at lunchtime and the ladies there, who were much nicer than the cashier, fixed me up with a loaf of French bread, straight from the oven. I propped it over my shoulder like a rifle, grabbed a bottle of Squeeze-Parkay, and marched back to the break room.

Man, that bread sopped up all that badness and left me feeling almost human again. I ate the entire goddamned loaf.

Man, lesson learned! I very rarely mixed again, and only if I’d only had very little of one of the offenders. And I also learned about the curative powers of fresh-baked bread.

But I wonder why I never heard from Canada Cousin again?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cookie Monster on my Back

Remember last March when I wrote about the world conspiring against me whenever I try to drop a few pounds?  It’s happening again.

One of the bloggers on my blogroll, Goldey, is a friend of mine in real life.  We work at the same company.  Last week, I was able to bail her out of a jam by producing a bit of paperwork from the prior year that she would otherwise have to reproduce from scratch.  For this good deed, she said she would bring me in some cookies.

Now, I’m always into getting baked goods.  I was envisioning a nice little plate of chocolate chippers or maybe some oatmeal cookies.  But Goldey went whole hog.  What I received on Tuesday was a big bag of the most decadent 5-layer pan cookies I’ve ever had… There was coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, pecans… The bag must have weighed 3 pounds.  You can find a clearer description here, in her blog post.

This presented a problem.  As you might have noticed from the sign that’s been up in the corner since April, I’m throwing a Darwinfish2 get-together in Pittsburgh in a couple weeks, and I was hoping to shed a bit of the weight I picked up on vacation in Florida.  (Not to mention my normal bacon-laden diet…)  So this was not the optimum time to splurge on sweets.

However, I sure wouldn’t want to be rude.  So I tucked into the bag o’ cookie bars and oh my fucking God… They were just heavenly… so rich and decadent… I had a couple of 1” square pieces and immediately went into a sugar coma.  No more good for the rest of the day.  I’m not being a complete pig though… I’m trying to give some away around the department.  Unfortunately, everyone else is watching their weight too.  Others don’t like coconut.  So I’m still trying to get rid of these the only way I know how.  Like Homer Simpson would…

If you’re coming to the Darwinfish Fry, you’ll have to excuse me if there’s a little more of me to meet than I originally intended.

Note:  This not an exclusive event… If you’re going to be in Pittsburgh on 8/1 and want to come, you’re welcome, whether you have your own blog or not.  Just let me know so I have an accurate headcount.  Click here for details.

Mercy Mercy Me
A year or so ago, they started working on a new tower for Mercy Hospital, located directly across the street from my building at work.  My boss has a window that overlooks the site.

In a rare flash of forethought, I decided to take some pictures along the course of the construction.  It’s just about done, so now I have a series of about 25 pictures showing the progress from a 20-foot hole in the ground to an 18-story building, which I’ve made into the video you see below.  Have a look; it’s kind of cool.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Odd Bits - The Willfully Ignorant Edition

I read a disturbing article on the web this week, courtesy of the Boston Globe.  It seems there was a recent study about the effect that facts have on preformed opinions.  The results were not pretty:

“In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.”

Opposing, verifiable facts harden people’s beliefs in the opposing point of view.  Well, you know whom I blame for that…

I blame Fox “News” and their brethren on AM talk radio.  When faced with opposing facts, the pundits on these outlets deny, discredit or misconstrue this information, or question the source as biased.  When that doesn’t work, they can always fall back on outlandish conspiracy theories.

The millions of people that consume this media are simply doing what they observe every day.  We are a nation whose motto seems to be “Monkey see, monkey do.”

Behold another quote from the article:

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

That explains the famous Bush answer to the debate question, when he claimed he’s never done anything in office that he would consider a mistake.  And it also explains the fuss this week over Sarah Palin’s inadvertent wordsmithing, when on two separate occasions she used the word “refudiate”.  Obviously she was combining the words “repudiate” and “refute.” 

But when confronted with the error, did she say, “Oops, that was a slip of the tongue.  My bad”?  Or for when she used it on Twitter, did she say, “Sorry, that was a typo.  I fired Bristol as my Social Media Director”?

Hell no.  She claimed the English language was ever-changing and upheld her right to create new words, pointing out that Shakespeare created words all the time.


What the fuck does this pinhead know about Shakespeare?  As far as she’s concerned, “Shakespeare” is something you do to scare off wolfs after your hunting plane crashes and you’re out of ammo.

She was obviously trying to use words that were out of her realm, mixed them up, and got busted for it.  And rather than cop to it, we get that she’s the second coming of Shakespeare.

I’ve got some Shakespeare to lay on Sarah Palin:  “Out damn’d twat!  Out, I say.”

Patriotic Hijacking
This morning I read an intriguing editorial piece decrying how patriotism has been commandeered by the radical right

In what liberal rag did I find this nugget?  NY Times?  Huffington Post?  Salon?

No.  The Christian Science Monitor.  (I’m surprised they even let me in.)

This isn’t really news… it’s been going on since I can remember.  The Republicans have staked a claim on “patriotism” and all things “American” since at least the Reagan years.  Family values...  Religion...  National defense… Flag lapel pins... all of it co-opted by the right, as if they’re the only ones worthy of the ideals.

Of course, it’s only the IDEA of all those things that they actually cling to.  If you read the news, it seems it‘s the most outwardly religious and family-bosom-centric that get caught in the most salacious scandals, sex, financial and otherwise.  So it’s not like these platitudes are really sinking in; that’s just what is getting used to sway a malleable public into voting against their own self-interest.

What else can they use to get Middle America to vote for a party whose primary tenet is slashing taxes on the highest earners?  All they can to is appeal to the sappy emotions of people that don’t know any better.  And if they can’t do that, they can serve up the demons of gay marriages and black murderers and Mexican drug cartels living 20 to a house up the road.  Either way, they drive people to vote for them; people that will never EVER see the financial benefit of their precious vote.

As we’ve seen clearly during this decade, the rich and the company owners whose tax cuts took up 98% of the entire tax cut, did NOT plunge their savings back into jobs, production and construction.  They moved more jobs offshore and pocketed the obscene profits for themselves and their shareholders. 

So Mr. and Mrs. Red-Stater may not be any better off financially, but at least those two dudes down the street can’t get married.  (And pay even MORE taxes than if they remained single.)

Anyway, the editorial piece decried the lack of civility in the political process, back when you could disagree with someone without being labeled as Anti-American Godless scum.  You should check out the link.

Yes, I’m fully aware of the irony of placing that statement at the end of a long demonizing rant.  I’m all for political civility.  And as soon as it seems like an actual possibility, I’m all in.  Until then, I’m sick of Democrats laying down and taking it from these hypocritical prigs.

OK, I’ve released the valve on my built up political pool of gushing venom.  Now it’s time to put the cap back on, re-tighten the valve and get back to the goofy shit for which I am known and tolerated.

Wet Dream
This song came over my MP-3 player this week and made me wonder if there was ever a video made for it.  If there wasn’t, I was going to do one so I could post it.  Luckily, it seems the artist made one himself.  That worked out well for me, because if I had to make one, it would have taken me several hours that I could have spent productively watching TV and drinking beer.

If you’re a 40-something, you may remember this from the early 80’s.  This is a song by comic Kip Addotta, and one I should have written myself.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Odd Bits - The Earth Shaking Edition

As it turned out, getting the Concorde registered was a breeze.  It took me longer to get there (about an hour) than it took me to walk in and out (45 minutes).  Funny thing was, I almost smashed my car on the way.

I was cruising around the Baltimore Beltway and wondering where all the rush hour traffic was.  It was smooth sailing for the first 5 minutes, then as I began to round one of the bends I saw this car kind of dawdling along.  I though, “what the hell is up with this moron?  I better swing around his ass.”

Then right as I came out of the bend I could see a wall of unmoving cars.  Gaaaaaahhh!

As I stood on the brake and checked my mirror to see if it was clear to swerve, I realize I must have looked like a panic-stricken cartoon.

The car has pretty good brakes and I was able to stop in time.  But that didn’t mean my heart didn’t jump to about 100 mph… 

The Maryland MVA is a huge complex and I never know where to go.  There are numerous stations and God forbid you camp out in front of the wrong one.  But they have an information desk that you visit first and get a number.  There, a helpful senior citizen checked my paperwork, told me what to fill out and where to sign, gave me a number and pointed my toward the correct wall of stations.  There, I could follow what numbers were being served and calculate how long it would take me. 

Once I got called up, it took about 5 minutes before I was duly registered and had new plates in hand.

This afternoon, I went to sell the Neon at CarMax.  You could have knocked me over with a feather when they offered me $1000 more than I was expecting (and $800 over Kelly Blue Book trade-in value).  I couldn’t spit out the words “I’ll take it” fast enough.  They were giving me about 75% of what I spent on the Concorde.  Good thing I didn’t smash it up going to the MVA.
Goodbye, dear Neon.  You served me well.  Here’s to hoping your big sister (on the right) can give me another 8 years.

Earth Shaking Revelations
Out here in the mid-Atlantic region, we had an earthquake at 5:05 AM Friday morning, that was about 3.5 on the Richter Scale.  That was the strongest one ever recorded in these parts.

I never noticed it.  The funny thing was that I woke up just before that.  I popped an eye open and saw that it was 5:01, leapt for joy inside and immediately went back to sleep.  I never knew about the quake until the news came on with my alarm at 6:00.

One time before I felt the effects of a quake and that was back in Ohio in the early 80’s.  It was a just a little rumbler like this one was.

I was sitting on the living room floor, playing records on the family stereo before I had to leave for class.  I used to love playing records when no one was home because that was the only time I could really turn it up.  So I was sitting there and I looked over at the glass fireplace cover and saw it was shaking.  Then I looked back over my shoulder and saw my mom’s easy chair rocking a little bit, as if someone had just gotten up from it.

I thought to myself, “I guess it’s a little loud in here,” and turned the stereo down.

I never knew it was an earthquake until I got to school later that day.  Until then, I was giving our speakers way too much credit.

The Mojo Boogie – Prehistoric Edition
This is a great reason to start looking for dinosaur bones; if you find something new, you get to name it.  But unfortunately for me, the coolest name ever has just been taken.  Introducing: The Mojoceratops!
Now that’s some Mojo Risin’.

The Mojoceratops is a relative of the better-known Triceratops, but predates it by about 10 million years. 

"It was just a joke, but then everyone stopped and looked at each other and said, 'Wait — that actually sounds cool,' " says Nicholas Longrich, the Yale University post-doctoral researcher that found the bones and other evidence of the unidentified species among museum collections. "I tried to come up with serious names after that, but Mojoceratops just sort of stuck."

So with that name taken, should I stumble over any unidentified dino-bones, I now have to use my second choice, “Bluzsaurus Wrecks.”
“I’m on a mission from Gaahd.”

Send in the Clowns
In other news, if I were this guy, I’d do the exact same thing.  Dude thought clowns were attacking his mother’s house so he shot the place up, inside and out.

I say, “Here here!  Cut those sneaky sons of bitches down!

The cops say the guy was under the influence of hallucinatory drugs, but I believe him.  That’s how clowns operate… they show up on bunches and scare the shit out of unsuspecting citizens. The whole thing reeks of a cover-up.  I bet the cops found a whole array of red noses and poofy buttons laying all over the lawn when they rolled in, but deep-sixed the evidence.  They probably have clowns on the payroll as rats. 
Pennywise was unavailable for comment.

Department of Redundancy Department
For the last month I’ve been bombarded with radio commercials from a local school, the inexplicably named, University of Maryland University College.

What the FUCK is a "University College"?  Does no one know how to edit over there at the University of Maryland University College?

Why don’t they just go all in and call themselves “University of Maryland University College School Institute of Teaching and Learning”

Me?  I find value in brevity:
Not that you would know that by the length of my posts…

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Evolution of the BluzMobile - Part 2

I drove my little Honda CRX all over the place and it generally gave me very little trouble.  In fact, at our peak, we were a 5-Honda family.  My brother, sister and I all had CRXs (Sister got the one my dad had after he got his little Honda del Sol.)  And when I was married, the Future Ex had a very nice Accord.

But the terrain I was driving was not conducive to long-term body cohesion.  Between Cleveland and Albany, there was tons of snow, slush and salt.  So by the time I got to Baltimore… well, that’s a story.

I’ll have to do a whole post one day on the circumstance involved with my relocation, but suffice to say, it was hectic.  By the time I got spun out of my brother’s place and into an apartment and job of my own, I really didn’t know which end was up.  I just put my head down and went to work.  I didn’t know squat about what I needed to do with my car.  I still had my New York driver’s license and it had another year or so before it expired.  I figured I’d take care of everything then.


Remember that this was before PCs were prevalent… well… they were getting there but I sure didn’t know anything about them.  This was 1997- 98 and I had never even seen the Internet before.

So my plates and registration expired shortly after I moved here.  I was vaguely alarmed that I had expired tags, but I pretty much had my head in the sand.  I just didn’t want to deal with it because I knew it would be a giant hassle.  Hassle is my Achilles heel… I’ll do anything to avoid it, including stone cold denial.

The hassle would come from the fact that I’d moved several times between the time I bought my car and when I’d need to register it in Maryland.  Also, my car loan had been bought and sold by various lending institutions.  So once I made my last car payment, I never received the title.  In fact, I didn’t even realize I was supposed to.  Once I realized I’d need it, I went into full avoidance mode.

I drove around Maryland for almost 2 years before it caught up with me.  I was walking out to my car from the subway platform and noticed a Maryland Transit Authority cop sitting in the parking lot.  I didn’t think much of it because they hung out there a lot anyway.  But as soon as I pulled out, she pulled right in behind me and put on the dreaded lights as I came out of the lot.

I should have stopped right there, but I figured I’d be helpful and circle around back into the parking lot, so to not tie up traffic outside the station.  Big mistake.  Seems they don’t like it when you don’t pull over immediately.

Anyway, I had to bend over and take it… they got me for expired tags, invalid driver’s license and one other administrative thing that I can’t remember… socked me for something like $600. 

I was like, “But I just moved here.”

She asked, “When?

I said, “In January.”

That was completely true.  I did move into my current apartment January, and it was now August.  The part I left out was that I moved in January of the prior year

Anyway, she explained that you have 60 days from establishing your residence, to register with the DMV.  Like I said… “Oops.”

So they had to remove my tags and tow the car.  Luckily, I only lived 3 miles away so I had them tow it home, as opposed to an impound lot.  That still cost $100.  It was funny watching them try to wrench the plates off.  The bolts were completely rusted on there.  By this time, there were 2 other cop cars hovering in addition to the tow truck.  It was quite a spectacle.

So I did what I do best… I just acted dumb and remorseful, and it seemed to work (in that they were nice, didn’t cuff me, or send me to the slam).  I did my best to question them on what the hell I had to do next.  I wasn’t playing there… I had no idea.

So the next day, I called off work and sat down to make some calls and try to find my title.  Eventually I tracked it down at the Department of Records in Columbus OH, and they were able to overnight it to me.  I thought I was home free until I went to the DMV.  It seems I’d have to get the car inspected before I could get it registered.  They gave me a 15-day temporary tag so I could get that done.

Well… that was the theory… Long story short, there were a ton of minor things wrong that would have to be fixed, but the main problem was the undercarriage was rusting through.  The amount of money I’d need to spend (about $2000) on fixing it far outweighed the worth of a 13-year old car, so next thing you know, I’m in the market for another car.

I decided to go to CarMax.  I like their “see the price, pay the price” system.  When negotiating a price, I’m always afraid I’m getting screwed.  (Remember, I’m NOT a “car guy” and the salesmen can smell that a mile away.)  Bluz Sister came with me for moral support and that ended up being a great call.

I decided to buy a 3-year old 1996 Dodge Neon, 5-speed manual transmission, in deep blue… my first blue BluzMobile!  It actually had cruise control and functioning A/C.  (The A/C had quit in the CRX after about 2 years and I never had it fixed.)  The price was good enough and I’d always liked Neons, ever since they came out.

What I didn’t know was that you had to have in-state insurance to take the car off the lot.  This is where having my sister there paid off, because she put me in touch with her insurance guy and he was able to get me fixed up right over the phone.

I loved my BluzMobile but after about 3 years, it started acting squirrelly on me.  I had one big repair done but felt another one coming on.  Just say, my “Spider-Senses” were tingling. 

I went into a dealership that I saw was having a sale in August of 2002 and bought another Neon.  This one was a used 2002 with only 11,000 miles on it, but much more stripped down… no cruise, no power windows or locks, but it was also a 5-speed, and it had a cassette player.  That was actually a plus for me because I’d spent the prior 20 years making professional quality mix tapes expressly for the car.  I wasn’t ready to give that up yet and I had not yet embraced digital music.  (I wouldn’t have a CD burning PC for another 2 years.)
It wasn’t until I got this car that I noticed how many silver cars are on the road.  Seems like 1 out of every 5 cars you see is silver.

So I’ve been driving my silver, stripped-down Neon for 8 years now.  I’ve had to replace the battery a couple of times and have the trunk fixed because it was leaking water that was winding up on the backseat floor.  Oh, and I had to have a new door put on because it got broken into in the subway parking lot.  Fuckers pried the top of the door away from the roof, unlocked the car, and then pulled out the ignition core.  I found it on the floor of the car.  They must have been disturbed in progress because the cops said it didn’t take much more than a screwdriver to start the car, once the ignition core is removed.  Since then, I bought a “Club”, for security purposes.

Anyway, I only drive the thing 6 miles a day… from here to the subway and back, with occasional trips to the store or around town...  maybe a trip to Pittsburgh once a year.  Over 8 years, I only put  just under 4,000 miles a year on it.

But last month, I fell into an opportunity to get a much nicer car, a Chrysler Concorde, the same age but with only 21,000 miles.  Naturally, it's silver too.
My new baby!

The price is good and I should get about half of it back when I sell my Neon.  (At CarMax… I am avoiding the hassle of selling it privately!)  It’s got cruise and power locks/window, and is in general, a much nicer ride.  Finally, a Big Boy car!

It also has automatic transmission.  That will be an adjustment.  I’ve been driving a stick every day since 1979.  There have already been some moments when I find myself waving at a gearshift that isn’t there (the shifter is on the steering column) or pawing with my left foot for that non-existent clutch pedal.  But I’ll get used to it.  It’s already proven much more beneficial in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams.

My big decision will be whether I replace the stereo or not.  Unbelievably, this one has a cassette player too.  I have an adaptor where I can plug in my DiscMan, which I usually only do on longer trips.  I’d like to have one of those CD/MP3 stereos put in, so I can carry my whole catalog around where ever I may roam.  But it would probably get stolen.  And I do have to get my rear end icons transferred:

I just got my papers in the mail, so next stop will be the helpful folks down at the DMV.

I sure hope it’s not a hassle.