Entry 703: No Room for Vroom

My wife Barbara and I were headed somewhere recently, and, as usual, she was driving since we have made the decision as a couple that we’d rather risk a collision because she’s fiddling with her phone than get hopelessly lost because I never have any idea where I’m going.

Sometimes I’ll drive if we know we’ll be parking in a lot at our destination, because Barbara has some sort of deficiency that prevents her from calculating the correct angle for pulling into a space. She’s fine parallel parking, but perpendicularity perplexes her.

But this post isn’t about my wife, although she might opine that it has already been too much about her.

No, this is about what I was thinking during that recent drive, when Barb was behind the wheel and listening to traffic reports on the all-news station which has the absolutely worst commercials you can imagine, mostly for ways to get out of debt (“Let us negotiate with the IRS”); injury lawyers (“Call 1-800-OUCH LAW”); and medical procedures (“Cure your ED without pills”).  There was even one that invited people who were overweight, had diabetes, or were taking pills for depression or anxiety to call for affordable term life insurance. The tagline was–and I swear this is true–“Call Big Lou.  He’s like you.  He’s on meds, too.”

Anyway, while Barb was waiting for a traffic update, out of sheer boredom, I decided to see if I could remember every vehicle I’ve ever owned or leased.

I ticked them off in my head and then wrote them down when we got home. I think I’ve got them all, except one that my father-in-law gave us when we first moved to the suburbs from Manhattan over 30 years ago. I recall that it was old, and beige, and under-powered, and that the rear-view mirror kept falling off, but I can’t think of the make and model.*

Other than that, though, I believe the list would look something like this: AMC Gremlin (remember AMC?), Datsun B-210 (remember Datsun?), Plymouth K-Car (remember Plymouth?), Ford Pinto, Buick Century, Honda Accord. Then there would be a pause while I lived carless in Manhattan for six years. From then on, we’ve always had two vehicles at a time: Mazda 626, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Accord, Nissan Pathfinder (2 of those in a row), BMW-X3, Acura Legend, Acura RDX (2), Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry (used, after giving the Accord to our daughter), Toyota Camry Hybrid (2), Toyota Rav-4, Toyota Rav-4-Hybrid.

You might notice a distinct lack of variety in later years. There are two reasons for that: 1) It’s just easier to keep getting the same thing and, 2) When I don’t like a car, I ban that company for life, and we’re running out of acceptable brands.

The Buick Century, for instance, was a car I owned during the brief period in the 70’s when I lived in San Diego. You could not imagine a less California-y vehicle. There was something wrong with it, too, but the dealer could never figure out what it was. There was also something wrong with the wife I had at the time, and although I was pretty sure I knew what the problem was with her, I couldn’t find a repair person who could deal with that, either.

I got rid of the car and the wife when I moved back to New York. And not only did I ban Buicks for life, I issued a prohibition on all General Motors cars.*

The Pinto was my last Ford. No, it didn’t explode horribly as those cars tended to do, but it was still a shitty car. The Jeep had a chronic electrical problem that occasionally prevented the windows from going up and down so that you had to open the door at a toll booth or drive-up window. I never got another one of those.

The BMW was the only German vehicle we’ve had, and it drove really well, but there was a design flaw: the passenger-side cup holder was placed so that it ground into the knee of the passenger, which was usually me. I know that sounds like a petty reason to ban a car company for life, but it wasn’t your knee.

And I can really hold a grudge.

The Mazda and the Hyundai were okay, but they lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. The Acuras had some je ne sais quoi, but I didn’t think the additional panache was worth the additional cash. Of course, my current wife would say that I couldn’t recognize je ne sais quoi even if it smacked me in my visage.

As you can see, there are no “classics” on my lifetime list of automobiles. There are no convertibles and no sports cars. I didn’t even have anything remotely sporty when I was young and wild. That’s because, while I was once young, I was never wild.

I have never aspired to go zooming down a winding road in a Corvette, the wind blowing through my hair (when I had hair). Those commercials of Land Rovers plowing through mud don’t appeal to me. I don’t understand the appeal of a car with only two doors, or with no back seat. I think the idea of a Jaguar SUV is about as silly as a Lamborghini lawn mower.

What can I say? I’m just not a car guy. To me, “driving excitement” is when a mattress goes flying off the roof of the car in front of us, and I try to avoid those thrills whenever possible.**

So our vehicles will just stay middle-of-the-road. Especially now that we’ve figured out how to turn off the damned lane departure warning in our Toyotas.

See you soon.

*I asked Barbara after I wrote this and she said it was a Chevette. Totally forgettable. It also violated my lifetime ban on GM, but it was free, so I was lenient.

**Believe it or not, this has happened to us three times. It has gotten to the point where, if we see a car with a mattress anywhere near us, we’ll pull off at the next rest stop.

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Entry 702: Russians Fight Off Jets; Claim Victory

In this post I’m going to compare the leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin with the leader of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick.

There may be other NFL coaches similar to Belichick, but living in the New York metro area as I do, I encounter him at least twice a year, so there is plenty of opportunity to hate him.

Especially when rooting for the (usually) hapless New York Jets, I believe that Belichick always has something up his sleeve, that he’ll do anything (even cheat) to win a game, that he is cleverer than our coach, whoever that happens to be.

I feel the same way about Vladimir Putin. Particularly given our current head coach, Donald Trump.

Like Belichick, Putin and Trump are both inherently maleficent, but Putin is much better at it. He is the brilliant, scheming Lex Luthor to Trump’s bumbling Dr. Evil.

Under President Putin, the Russians have stuck their codes into everything, planting fake news on Facebook, hacking into American soldiers’ cell phones, and inciting unrest by selling souvenir “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts. Although it has not been confirmed, I believe Russia has even secretly authored a future episode of the TV show The Americans in which Keri Russell manages to convert the entire FBI to Communism.

In short, Russia’s President Putin has mastered all the devious things you can do with a computer. Meanwhile, America’s President Putz has mastered Twitter.

While Putin always seems to be looking for countries to take over, Trump doesn’t even know which ones he already has (see Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands).

Getting back to football, it’s true that Belichick often has the stronger team, but that’s a function of his shrewd trades and draft choices. In 2000, Belichick drafted future Hall of Famer Tom Brady in the sixth round with the 199th pick overall. In the same draft, the New York Jets chose never Hall of Famer Chad Pennington, 181 picks before Brady.

Trump’s draft choices, like Steve Bannon, Steve Mnuchin, Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos, are, shall we say, much closer to the Chad Pennington end of the spectrum. Admittedly, I don’t know anything about Putin’s team; it’s possible that he not only coaches but plays all the positions.

Anyway, I’m writing this right after yesterday’s Jets-Patriots game, which Belichick won, evidently by surreptitiously interfering with the video feed so that replay officials saw a completely different play on a Jets touchdown and not only overturned it, but gave the ball to the Patriots just for the hell of it. But long before that, even when the Jets were ahead 14-0 in the first half, it somehow felt as though we were losing. Because it’s Belichick, and we know he’s going to pull something out of his hoodie to beat us.

Like Putin, Belichick may not have the arsenal his team once had, but, unlike Trump, he knows how to make the best of what he has.

The bottom line is, does anybody wonder for even a second who would win a battle of wits between Trump and Putin? Or even Trump and Belichick?

Maybe what America needs now is to go to war with the Cleveland Browns.

See you soon.

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Entry 701: A Dolph’s House

Well, Hitler is in the news again, and that’s always fun.

I’m not even talking about the nuts marching around America with their palms up as if they’re on some unusually flat roller coaster going “Wheeeee!”  Or maybe they just want to give everyone a Heil Five.

No, it’s Adolph himself that’s sparking all the fuhrer furor right now.

Actually, it’s not Adolph per se, but rather his underwear. A pair sold at auction recently. For nearly $7,000.

The Bavarian boxers are made of linen and bear the initials A.H. so that Hitler would not wear Goebbels’ underwear by mistake. And although you might not actually want to know the provenance of an item like this, it does come with quite a story.

According to Bill Panagopoulos, the owner of Alexander Historical Auctions, it was somehow left at the Parkhotel Graz in Austria in April 1938. Interestingly, Hitler annexed Austria just about a month later. Imagine how different history might be if Hitler hadn’t wanted to get his underwear back.

Alas, he failed. For over 80 years, the family who owned the hotel kept die unterhosen. Or maybe they didn’t clean the rooms very often and just found the underwear last week. (The hotel, pictured below, still exists*–now with free wi-fi!)

Panagopoulos was honored to bring the hammer down on Adolph’s shorts. “We’ve sold underwear belonging to Eva Braun before,” he said, “but never any belonging to Hitler himself. I think this is the first pair to come to market.” Eva Braun, you’ll recall, was Hitler’s wife, and whatever you think of her now, you may think less of her in about five paragraphs.

“When we got them they were wrapped in tissue paper in a box,” Panagopoulos said of Hitler’s underpants. “They were as clean as if they had just come back from the cleaners.” And perhaps they had. Maybe Hitler sent them out to the hotel’s laundry service in 1938 and they got misplaced for awhile.

We don’t know who paid $7,000 for Hitler’s boxers. Maybe he (if it is a he) thinks owning such a thing will help him pick up women. (“Wanna come up to my place and see Hitler’s underwear?”) Or perhaps he also has the aforementioned Braun lingerie, and is now in the market for some Bormann briefs or Göring garters.

In any case, it’s good to know the shorts were clean. Especially when you consider this other bit of Hitler news:

Adolph liked poop sex.

This, according to the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. Evidently, Hitler didn’t care much for golden showers, but very much enjoyed having women provide chocolate hailstorms, if you get my drift. (I don’t know what, if anything, that particular fetish is really called, so I made something up. I hope you like it.)

To sum up, then: Adolph Hitler was a shitty human being who left his underwear laying around and possibly once left Austria commando style. On the plus side, given that his underwear was monogrammed, at least his name wasn’t something like Bruno von Dietrich.

See you soon.

*The hotel’s website, which it probably didn’t have back in Hitler’s day, is heavily skewed toward business functions.  “The exquisite function rooms do also cater for seminars, conferences and meetings,” it says. “All function rooms dispose of daylight and can be used for events for up to 95 guests.”  I know what they’re trying to say (I think), but doesn’t the phrase “dispose of daylight” sound almost…Hitleresque?

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Entry 700: Entry 700

Yes, that’s right. I’ve written 700 of these things (actually more, because there have been bonus posts).

For over six years I’ve been littering my small corner of the Internet with these rants twice a week which, perhaps coincidentally, is the same schedule on which we get our garbage picked up.

Whenever anybody or anything celebrates longevity, the occasion is usually marked by an inventory of things that have changed over the years. Usually it’s something like “He’s lived through 23 presidents.” That doesn’t really work for me, because all I could say is “In the time I’ve been writing this blog, we’ve had one president and Donald Trump.”

Clearly, I had to look for landmarks in other places. So, here we go, complete with footnotes….

Since I began this blog in June of 2011:

  • We’ve added about two dozen gender identities.1
  • Hundreds of thousands of rapists and drug dealers have crossed the border into the U.S. from Mexico.2
  • 108.29 people were fired from Presidential administrations.3
  • There have been 57 movies featuring characters from Marvel comics.4
  • The average global temperature has increased by 28 degrees.5
  • The number of Kardashians has increased by a factor of three.6
  • Some very nice people have become white supremacists.7
  • Four major hurricanes, Irene, Sandy, Harvey and Maria, have caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage in America.8
  • About 20 million Americans have health insurance who didn’t before I started this blog.9
  • Over 200,000 Americans have been killed by guns.10
  1. According to the ABCDEFGILMNPQT community.
  2. And, I assume, a few good people.
  3. This is based on the average established this year, with 13 people fired over nine months.
  4. Okay, it’s only 23, but it sure seems like more, doesn’t it?
  5. Not really, but there were a couple of days last summer when I was really warm.
  6. This could be an exaggeration, but they’re very hard to keep track of.
  7. Or so I’ve heard.
  8. And also in foreign countries like Puerto Rico, which, evidently, is an island surrounded by water.
  9. I’ll agree not to take credit for this if I also don’t get blamed when all those people lose their insurance.
  10. Sadly and incredibly, this is true, and does not even include recent events in Las Vegas. But it illustrates that one thing which hasn’t changed is the ease with which Americans can acquire firearms.

See you soon.

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Entry 699: “Ouch,” Said Your Salad

You know that holier-than-thou vegan who’s the significant other of a friend of yours, so you always have to invite her to dinner, only to have to worry about “having something Sheila can eat,” so you have to serve a special, completely animal-free meal just for her while barbecuing steaks for everyone else, and you still have to endure her grimaces every time you cut into your meat, as if she feels the cow’s pain, and you really, really want to stick a slice of real Swiss on her quinoa burger instead of that plant-based fake cheese you bought–just for her?

Well, next time she self-righteously dives into a salad, you can say, “You know, Sheila, that lettuce is aware that you’re eating it. And it is not amused.”

When Sheila responds with that annoying fake chuckle that drives you to the brink of vegacide, you can tell her that researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that lettuce can actually hear if someone or something is biting into it. Not only that, but it takes defensive action. And not only that, but it can distinguish between the sound of, say, a caterpillar and that of the wind.

And when Sheila tries to call you on it with her super-haughty “Oh, really?” and then says in her best know-it-all voice, “What kind of defensive action could a head of lettuce possibly take? I suppose it might slap you in the face while you’re using it to make a tofu lettuce wrap…”

you can wait until the half-hearted laughter dies down (because nobody really likes Sheila, not even her S.O.) and say, “It releases mustard oils which caterpillars don’t like.”

Sheila may slump slightly when she hears that, which is your cue to deliver the knockout punch. “In fact, many plants not only defend themselves but scream when they are under attack.”

You don’t have to mention that the “screams,” which German scientists have picked up with super-sensitive microphones, are really just the sounds made by the defensive gas they emit (the plants, not the German scientists).

Now you can enjoy the look on Sheila’s face as she considers whether plants actually have consciousness and, therefore, are not available to her as a food supply, which would essentially leave her with a diet of rocks. It’s time to take the high road and let her off the hook. “Of course,” you could add, “I imagine this only applies when the plants are still, you know, attached to whatever they grow on. Not to what you buy at Whole Foods.”

Your friends smile at you and admire your merciful approach to the end of the conversation, while still reveling in the thought that Sheila has been taken down a few notches.

Sheila looks all confused, her life choices all but nullified, her mind swimming in an ethical and nutritional conundrum.

But you can’t leave it at that, can you? “You can probably still eat mushrooms, Sheila,” you say. “As you know, they are fungi, and so may not have feelings.” And just as she begins a sigh of relief, you add, “But you never know.”

See you soon. Unless you’re Sheila.

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Entry 698: Projected Profits

Today I have big news for fans of the band ABBA: they’re going out on tour!

Starting in 2019, you’ll be able to go to an arena near you and see the iconic Swedish group perform with a live orchestra, and live back-up singers and live 70-year-old fans dancing spasmodically (and perhaps fatally) in the aisles to “Super Trouper.”

In fact, the only thing that won’t be live is…you guessed it.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not some cover band we’re talking about. Nor is it some Broadway jukebox musical. This is really ABBA you’ll be seeing, just as if it’s 1977.

Literally.

That’s because the ABBA you’ll be seeing will be holograms of the group as they appeared 40 years ago.

This is not a new concept. Dead artists such as Michael Jackson and Tupac have performed as holograms. But while the technology has been used previously for performances by deceased musicians, this will be the first time it’s used for lazy ones.

“It’s perfect,” said ABBA’s Benny Andersson. “We can be on stage while I’m home walking the dogs. I don’t have to leave my house. If this really works there’ll be a lot of artists wanting to do the same thing, even artists who are still young and still touring. It’s a very interesting project.”

Those who know me personally will not be surprised to learn that I’m totally in favor of anything that does not require me to leave the house, although ticket sales to see a hologram of me on stage are likely to be dismal.

But if this ABBA tour is a success and the technology is adopted by other groups from the 60s and 70s, it will raise an interesting question, which I ask you now, dear reader, in all seriousness:

If you had your choice, would you rather see, say, the holographic Rolling Stones or the geriatric Rolling Stones?

Which would make you feel older, watching 30-year-old Mick prancing around the stage, sticking his lips out or 74-year-old Mick prancing around the stage, dragging his lips behind him?

Would you prefer the real thing or the real memory?

Streaming music services have drastically reduced the royalties that aging musicians receive on their old recordings, so many have been forced to take to the road again, as I have previously reported in this blog. Would something like this solve their problem? Would they be able to rock without having to roll out in a wheelchair?

I can see a few problems with the idea, though. For instance, when Pete Townshend of the Holographic Who smashes his guitar, won’t it be weird when the pieces don’t go anywhere? When Imaginary Iggy Pop crowd walks, how would the audience hold him up?

And what about the lack of spontaneity? Everything will have to be computerized so that the digital ABBA will always be in perfect sync with the analog orchestra. So how could they tell little stories between songs,  inasmuch as the projection will be 1977 ABBA? “So we were tooling around the states last week in our new $8,000 BMW, and we stopped for petrol and it was up to 65¢ a gallon and Adrienne Barbeau dropped by our show and afterward we hung out and played her Atari…”

And what will happen when, as it inevitably will, there’s some sort of glitch, which could give a whole new meaning to the idea of a band breaking up? Does the live orchestra play on as ABBA suddenly becomes pixelated in the middle of “Dancing Queen” and then disappears as if they’ve been beamed aboard the Enterprise?

Another question: will there be an opening act for the ABBA tour? Holographic Leo Sayer, perhaps?

See you soon.

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Entry 697: Mutiny on the Bounty

You know what? I think our lives are complicated enough without having to make more decisions than are absolutely necessary.

This thought came to me one morning when a paper towel said hello to me.

Not only that, it did so in multiple languages. “Bonjour!” it said. “Hola!” “Hello!”

Plus it greeted me with a bouquet of stylized pastel flowers. And tiny birds were there, too, as if I was a princess in a Disney movie waking up to a bright new day full of hope and joy.

Pissed. Me. Off.

Jeez, I spilled a little coffee. Just do your job, towel, and soak it up without trying to cheer me up.

Plus, our towels are “Select-a-Size” Bounty, which means they have extra perforations that let you tear off half a sheet if you want. I can tell you that, no matter how many billiard balls Bounty can hold when wet, I’m confident that I’m strong enough to tear a paper towel in half if I so desire, even if it doesn’t have the extra perforation. But since it’s “Select-a-Size,” whenever I go to quickly tear off a sheet, it detaches at the nearest perf, so I only get half, and then I have to tear off the other half, but two halves don’t do me any good, so then I carefully unroll the towels past a perf so I can get a full sheet all in one piece, which means I’ve used twice as much as I would have, which was probably exactly what Proctor & Gamble was counting on.

Where was I?

Right–too many choices. So you’re standing in the paper goods aisle at the supermarket, staring at all the paper towels. First you have to decide on a brand. Bounty? The one with the (probably) gay logger guy in the plaid shirt? Viva? Scott? Freakin’ Sparkle? Of course, you have to take into account what’s on sale and what you have coupons for, so this choice alone is one that might even stymie Sophie.

Let’s say you choose Bounty. Now, do you want Bounty Basic, Bounty Basic Select-a-Size, regular Bounty, regular Bounty Select-a-Size, Bounty with Dawn or Bounty DuraTowel? You know when a company calls a product “basic,” it’s somehow inferior to the non-basic version. Perhaps Bounty Basic can’t support as many billiard balls as regular Bounty. And Bounty with Dawn? Is it really necessary to have your paper towels infused with dish washing liquid when you’re wiping up your dog’s vomit?

Now, here’s what I want to know: After all those decisions, who the hell is still standing there in the aisle thinking “Do I want the whale design, the hot air balloon design, or the one with ‘hello’ in different languages?” Does anybody really have the excess brain power to waste on making that choice? Does anybody really care?

I mean, who’s going to notice? Do you believe your neighbor will drop in for tea and admire your taste in paper goods? “Oh, I just love your Bounty! Who’s your decorator?”

Do you bring swatches of your place mats to the store so that the paper towels will match?

Keep in mind that all the designs have the same pastelly color palette, so any pattern is either going to go with your kitchen or not. And the designs look like some of the artwork you probably already have on your refrigerator if you have young children, so it’s not like you’re standing there trying to choose between Picasso paper towels and Van Gogh paper towels. (Although it might be cool to be able to wipe off a saucy, saucy knife with a “Starry, Starry Night.”)

Which brings me to another question: Who designs these things? Is there someone working at Proctor & Gamble whose parents spent $50,000 a year to send them to the Rhode Island School of Design and is now earning a living designing paper towels? Do they at least get to work on Charmin, too? (“Yes, my daughter majored in fine art at RISD. That’s her work you’re wiping your ass with right now!”)

I asked my wife, procurer of the aforementioned multilingual towels, if she actually picks one design over another in the store. “I take the one that’s least ugly,” she replied.

I’m sure that’s exactly what P&G had in mind.

In conclusion, think about this: what if, like the art you have on your walls, the design of your paper towels speaks volumes about your taste and cultivation? Don’t you have enough to worry about without wondering what sort of message your towel is sending out about you while you sop up your spilled Budweiser?

See you soon.

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