For the first week here it was like living inside a really bad carwash. Now, all of a sudden it feels like a day at the beach might be in order.
For the first week here it was like living inside a really bad carwash. Now, all of a sudden it feels like a day at the beach might be in order.
Example: While we were down in Texas, visiting family and avoiding nasty northern weather there was a great story on the TV about two Congressional Representatives from The Lone Star State who felt the need to get back to Washington and actually do their jobs. The problem for them achieving this end was that the entire northeast, including D.C. was getting blasted by a late winter snowstorm and airports in the area were closed down.
UP WITH THE CHICKENS AND THE NEIGHBOR’S INSOMNIAC DOG THIS MORNING. I’ll be taking the Toyota (Barcelona Red) into the dealer for an oil change, tire rotation, and its 30k mile checkup. That sounds a lot like what happens when I go to see my human doctor, except maybe for the tire rotation bit. I do that myself: Shoes in good weather and my boots when it gets cold or rainy.
I don’t suppose that there was any good reason for me to agree to bring the car in at 7:45 AM. That really disrupts my morning routine.
The cab was festooned with bobble-head dolls of Elvis, The Beatles, and Ricky Martin. The Virgin Mary held the place of honor in the center of the dashboard. Red and gold dingleballs circled every window and lying on the rear window deck was a three-foot-long crucifix.
The cab driver, dressed in a crisp yellow shirt, was doing his standard sales pitch to yet another pair of Yanqui tourists.
“Buenas dias. Let Tomás be your guide for the day. Only two hundred dollars—well worth the price. Tomás knows all the best restaurants and shops. And I can get you the best seats for the bullfights. My cousin is a matador. Deal, okay? Best price in Tijuana.” His accent made him sound like a parody of Cheech and Chong.
Davis looked at Laura, who was still holding the brochure outlining the benefits of membership in the San Diego Skyscrapers. She shook her head. This was a business trip.
“No, not today,” said Laura. “Just drop us up on the main drag. Maybe next time we’ll get the tour. Okay?”
“Okay, you the boss, but, I can show you where to get genuine Armani suits for three hundred dollars, with free alterations. Best price in Tijuana.”
“Another time, my friend,” said Davis.
Laura pulled a piece of paper from her pocket.
“Say, do you know any good photographers?” asked Laura.
The only dark cloud on the horizon seems to be that it is getting to be time to take the Toyota in for its 30K mile checkup and an oil change.
“Open your hood, stick out your air filter and say ‘Ahhh’.” The mechanic grabs the fan belt and says to hit the turn signals and cough. Rotate those tires.
I don’t expect there to be any major problems. It seems to be running just fine. It goes forward when I step on the gas and it stops when I hit the brakes. Beyond that I don’t ask for much. It’s a car – not a financial advisor or a podiatrist.
Vivian was near tears. Davis was numb. Laura was torn between comforting Vivian, trying to keep Davis from going into shock, and keeping watch on her own boiling pot of anger and fear.
“Vivian, I don’t blame you,” she said. “It was just bad luck. We’re all safe.”
But she did blame Vivian in a way. She blamed herself as well, for accepting Vivian’s dangerous invitation in the first place. She thought that, maybe, they weren’t all that safe, not any longer.
There are full-time jobs, part-time jobs, and jobs that are one-time things – like bank jobs. Not jobs for a bank, but in a bank – with a note, concealed weapon, and a getaway car.
Some jobs are better than others. That’s true whether you are just starting out or nearing retirement.
I take that back – I see ice in my coffee, but there is no ice on the roads or on my windshield. I’m not complaining mind you. In fact, I am doing my Happy Dance – big time.
For the last week the Weather Bunny on Channel Two has been predicting that Terre Haute (That’s French for “What’s that floating in the Wabash?”) was going to be hit with several days worth of ice storms, Sleet, Freezing Rain and NCAA Athletes. I don’t mind the athletes, but the ice, sleet and freezing rain I can do without.
Fiction Saturday – Chapter 24
“Davis, wake up. I want you to take over. I’m exhausted and I think we’ll be safer with night coming on. We’ll switch again when we stop for gas.”
“You look drained. Laura, we are going to make it, right?”
“We’ll make it, Davis. Things will be fine. Once we get to the border, we’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, beautiful, carefree, Mexico.”
They were both whistling past the graveyard and they knew it.
They had changed their path south to California Route One, the coast road. Just north of Ventura, on the outskirts of LA, Laura pulled the car into a Shell station.
The orange floodlights washed over the concrete and the islands with the self-serve gas pumps. Inside the station a young man with stringy hair and acne sat behind the counter reading a motorcycle magazine.
“I’ll fill it up,” said Davis.
Laura opened her door and got out. She stretched her arms and yawned. She looked around the brightly-lit station.
“I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.”
She walked into the mini-mart and reemerged seconds later holding a large brass key attached to a miniature baseball bat. She disappeared into the darkness around the side of the building.
Davis used his debit card to fill the tank of his three-year-old, white, four-door Ford Taurus. He made a mental note that it was due for a scheduled maintenance checkup. He topped off the tank and put the nozzle back into the pump. It was then that he realized he was finally hungry.
He really hadn’t eaten anything since he had picked at his lunch back at the Target store in Santa Maria. Now he wished that he had, at least, eaten his churro. Laura had inhaled her food as if lunch was going out of style.
“Maybe she’s more used to this than me,” he thought to himself.
After replacing the gas cap and pocketing his receipt, Davis walked up to the cashier’s counter inside the station.
“Hey, good evening, Mister. Can I help you?” The young clerk put his magazine down on the counter.
“We got a pretty good selection of munchies and the cold sodas and stuff are over there in the cooler. We don’t sell beer or anything hard any more.”
“Thanks. Soft drinks will do.”
Davis walked over to the rack. He studied the collection of foil and paper-wrapped sweet and salty junk foods. He picked up a small bag of chips and headed over toward the beverages.
“Hey, Mister,” the kid called out to him.
“Yes, what?” Davis turned away from his search.
“I think you got some company outside,” said the young man, his head tilted toward the door and the gas pumps beyond.
Throwback Thursday from January 2015
I SAW THE FOLLOWING news item yesterday and I thought that it might have repercussions beyond just traffic problems.
“ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Authorities closed all southbound lanes of Interstate 95 north of Rocky Mount early Wednesday after a tractor-trailer carrying ramen noodles wrecked near N.C. Highway 4.
No other information about the wreck has been released, but boxes of noodles were spilled over a larger portion of the highway.
The state Department of Transportation said the closure could last all morning. Lanes are expected to reopen by 3:30 p.m.”
I thought that when the word of this crash got out all hell would break loose.
My brain created its own little movie of college students all over the South dropping their textbooks and i-phones and rushing to the accident scene.
The first reel, even under the opening credits, would show speeding traffic along Interstate 95, and then the Semi in question loosing traction and slamming into a bridge abutment. Next comes a slo-mo following shot of thousands of those little cellophane packets of the Ramen Noodles spreading out across all lanes like little flavored migratory butterflies.
Music comes up: Paul McCartney and Wings – reunited to sing: “Food on the run.” I can almost smell an Oscar nomination coming for the soundtrack.
The next shot cuts to hordes of skinny underclassmen and women sensing the possibility of free meals, scattering across the landscape, heading toward the Interstate. It is meals just ripe for the picking. An overturned truckload of gold bullion (not bouillon cubes) would not draw such a response.
Those Ramen Noodles don’t grow on trees, y’know. One must strike while the saucepan is hot.
In my collegiate days (Pre-Ramen) we were limited to making grilled cheese sandwiches with a steam iron or instant soups that tasted like flavored sea water. If an accident like this had happened back in the late 1960s I would have been moving with all imprudent speed to scoop up as many free and easy meals as I could stuff into my backpack.
Most days I can look at news stories and just yawn. Things don’t vary all that much from Six O’clock News to Six O’clock News. If you want to get my attention you’ve got to do something original, or at least really dumb. Spreading several tons of Ramen Noodles across an Interstate highway gets my attention. It also makes me hungry.
Talk amongst yourselves for a while. I’m going out to get some lunch.
When I arrived at St. Arbucks at about 7:30 AM several of the Usual Suspects were already there, sick fools that they are. Didn’t they know it was freezing out there?
Even in the middle of an Arctic Blast Cold Front I order iced coffee. I just can’t take my meds with hot coffee. Its Science meets Coffee.
This particular morning it was Coffee meets Exotic Cars.
Fiction Saturday – Continued
“See, I told you I’d come in handy.” Davis looked out of the passenger side window at the passing California landscape. “I wish you’d let me drive for a while, though.”
“Later tonight maybe. I’m a better driver than you are and it helps me to relax.” Relax was something that Laura had not been able to do for a second, ever since she saw her own face staring out from page four of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Besides, I think better while driving. Maybe I can figure a way out of this mess for us.”
“Well, I’m a very good driver—no accidents ever, and you could use a break.” Davis knew there was no changing her mind once it was made up, even though Laura looked like she hadn’t slept in days and her jaw was clenched tight.
Appreciating his effort to care for her, Laura smiled and gazed at him as he huddled up against the car door. He looked lost, she thought.
“Well, dearest,” she said, “at sixteen I was picking up extra pocket money as a wheel man. Just for kicks really. My father never knew. It was stupid and dangerous, but I was good at it.”
“Don’t tell me any more right now.” He was a stranger in a strange land if ever there was one. “I haven’t digested everything you’ve laid on me so far.”
“Okay, I understand.”
“I do have one question though,” he said. “Why did we stop at a travel agent before we left? A ticket for one from Miami to Detroit?”
“A little deception. Detroit is a border town, a ten-minute walk out of the country across the river. I bought it in my own name, of course. It won’t fool anybody for long, especially Dominic. But the Feds will have to check it out. It’ll tie up a couple of their guys for a few hours and give us a little extra edge. It’ll help our odds, maybe.” She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe not. I don’t know.”
“What are our odds?” He was immediately sorry that he had asked.
“We’re two snowballs and we’re driving south.”
Not long ago I and my wife, the lovely and non-clumsy, Dawn, were driving along Route 40 in Illinois and we noticed something sitting by the side of the road – a very nice and expensive office chair.
Seeing that chair, lost and abandoned out there, was a bit of a surprise. Most of the stuff by the side of the road is little more than trash, or Fiats.
On Thursday afternoon we had some time off to relax and let our brains blow away the sweat. It was listed as free time so we decided to morph into tourists for a few hours. After stops at the local St. Arbucks for coffee and a mini-mart for a Dr. Pepper we headed into downtown Holland.
WHEN I SAY “RETREAT” I’m not saying it as if the attack has failed and we are advancing to the rear. No. This is “Retreat” meaning withdrawing from our usual surroundings to participate in a time for reflection and resuscitation on a more spiritual plane. It’s a good thing to do every so often.
Our retreat is at a facility on the shore of Lake Michigan near the town of Holland, Michigan.
For five days we will be thinking about our past and allowing our future to present itself. Prayer, contemplation, and sharpening our perspective on life are a large part of the retreat.
I’M FEELING IN A MAGNANIMOUS MOOD TODAY.
I feel like reaching
out to my fellow bipeds and seeing if I can be of help. So, I have declared that today is officially:
FREE BAD ADVICE DAY!
For today – and today only – I will be dispensing free bad advice on a wide range of topics.
Let the games begin!
From October 2015
IT IS THE LATTER PART OF OCTOBER IN INDIANA. The trees are at their peak of Autumnal color. The leaves I saw this morning were red, yellow, gold, and blue. Blue? That turned out to be a plastic bag stuck on a branch.
People come from all over to look at the trees and go “Ooh” and “Ahhh.” After that they eat lunch and drive away. They never stay to help clean up the leaves as they fall to earth.
IT IS PART OF HUMAN NATURE to want to excel, to be the best, at whatever one attempts. That is why we keep records of achievement. Sports keep records of just about every facet of a game, important or not. This mania for record keeping is why there is such a thing as the Guinness Book of World Records.
Starting in 1955, the Guinness Book of World Records now keeps track of more than 6,000 records with 50,000 attempts annually to break into The Book.
The dateline on the news item, and I use the word “News” very loosely, was Yekaterinburg, Kazakhstan. We’re talking Central Asia here, a place where I might think that isolation from – everywhere else – can play practical jokes with your brain. The gist of this story was something that the AAA magazine would never have printed I am sure.
The other day I had the opportunity or the need, depending on your point of view, to be a passenger in a Customer Service Van. The driver was the kind of fellow you don’t soon forget.
My guess is that he was a native son of some place in the hills south of the old Mason-Dixon Line, or as we used to call that part of the South, “Pennsyltucky.” His accent was thick enough that you would need a chainsaw to cut it through. His language was filled with the ultra colorful language of the hills. Imagine the reality of what the old TV show “Hee-Haw” tried and failed to recreate.