Me and My RV

I hesitated to bother with Yet Another Motorhome Memoir, but as it happens, I’m brokedown in 98 degree heat with no A/C at the moment, so… the timing is right. I’m gonna update, elaborate and otherwise embellish my all too familiar tale of Winnebago woes as I go, so check back periodically, if you’ve additional time to waste.

It all started when I was twelve and got fired from piano lessons. I’m gonna fast forward here a bit, with a blog montage: scenes of self-determination, sibling rivalry, sad pointless pursuits… til we arrive at early retirement and bucket lists. Having failed to land any piano playing gigs closer to Anaheim, I found myself back in Idyllwild, in late March (2014), once again playing at the Mile High Cafe on Sundays. Other than the fact it’s 82 miles from my house, it’s a perfect gig for me. I can play what I want within reason, the expectations are in line with my (admittedly limited) abilities, they have a grand piano, I get paid(!) and, the tips are usually decent, sometimes very decent.

Guy stops in one morning and starts asking me lots of questions. How long have I been doing it. Do I get paid. Do I take requests. How man songs do I know? Is the bench comfortable? I ask him where his line of questioning is leading. “I’m going to be playing here Fridays.”

Hmmm. Not sure How I feel about that. What if he’s way better than me? He could soon be playing Fridays and Sundays. Even if he doesn’t take over my spot, I’ll still have to deal with – “The Friday guy plays Piano Man. How come you don’t play Piano Man.” And other trifling annoyances like that. I have a tendency to very quickly envision “worst case” scenarios and tend to believe they are actually “quite likely to happen” scenarios.

As it happened, there was some scuttlebutt among the wait staff about the Friday guy, and, when I checked the following Sunday, they had not, in fact, hired him. A smarter, more secure man would have left well enough alone at that point, but, well, this is me we’re talking about.

“You know, I could maybe play Friday…”
“You? You gonna drive up here Friday, go home and drive back Sunday?”
“I could give it a try. See how it goes…”
“I would love it if you played Friday!”

So, for two weeks, I drove up Friday AND Sunday. The second week, the owner says, “You know, if you have RV, you park out back and play Friday, Saturday AND Sunday for whole summer.”

I did not have RV. But a three day a week gig for the whole summer would go along way to me crossing “lounge pianist” off my List. By the following weekend, I had RV.

When you’re making $350 in a good weekend, you’re not shopping for a straight-from-the-factory 40 foot diesel pusher. About the cheapest thing you can buy from a dealer is a 10 year old trailer for about $7500. (And then you have to buy a truck capable of towing it.) I found an ’89 Class C advertised for $3900 on Craig’s that looked very suitable in the photo.

Got a hold of the owner’s grandson who met me out at a desolate RV storage lot in Perris. Given that the RV was not connected to water or electricity, the house battery was dead, and there was not enough gas in the fuel tank to run the generator, it was a challenging assessment. Plus, I know next to nothing about RV’s. I asked the guy if everything worked and of course, he said “Yes!” There was one of those Jesus fish glued next to the door, so, the guy was risking eternal damnation if he was shining me on. My problem was, I needed an RV if I wanted the three day gig and there just weren’t many options out there in my $4Kish price range.

“Let’s see if makes it over to the bank. If we get to the Bank of America parking lot and nothing falls off, catches on fire or explodes, we’ll talk.”

Sitting in the captain’s chair is akin to a time machine. Eighties dashboard, crank windows, triangular “vents”, automatic gear shift on the steering wheel. It starts right up and we’re underway. I crank the A/C. It’s about 105 in Perris. I can’t tell if the A/C is working or not, it’s hot in the cabin regardless. Seems to drive okay, brakes work, suspension not too bad considering it’s a quarter century old, radio even works. I’m feeling optimistic.

(To be continued…)

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Garden State Driving Tips

By now everyone knows to avoid driving through New Jersey after a gubernatorial election. In particular you want to avoid cities with a Democratic mayor that did not endorse the Republican winner. But that’s all water under the George Washington Bridge, so to speak. If you are going to visit the land where I was born, there’s a lot more you need to learn.

I recently had the pleasure of renting a Chrysler from the Alamo affiliate at JFK (nice folks BTW) to drive down to my folks in Barnegat, NJ. Although I grew up in this much maligned state, I moved away before I ever did much motoring there. Still, like most middle-aged males, I fancy myself as Steve McQueen with a little less hair, ready and willing to take on all challenges of the interstate highway system while flouting any rules of the road that cramp my style. Normally I eat up pavement like nacho flavored ice cream, yielding to no man, merging with mania and passing with care and panache. However, my first few forays into this bastion of Liberty and Prosperity caused me to question my car qualifications to the point where I would’ve hesitated to even drive Ms. Daisy. If you find yourself heading to the Jersey shore or are just making a Philly cheese steak run from the Big Apple, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) In general people drive more slowly in New Jersey. This is probably due to the ubiquitous-ness of the New Jersey State Trooper. Finely attired in Aryan blue uniforms, these robolike cops are everywhere and anywhere and happy to pull you over for five miles over the limit. My nonscientific study estimates that speeders in NJ average about 69 so be prepared to be popped if you plan on doing the usual California 85.

2) They don’t like left turns. Strictly prohibited on many thoroughfares, they prefer you drive straight through the intersection, then loop around to the right to go left. Sounds crazy, but it works. After a few days of looping through jug handles, you’ll wonder why every state doesn’t ban left turns. Have to make a U-Turn? Well, you might need to make two, three or four jug handles. Just keep hitting them until you’re going in the right (I mean, left) direction.

3) I could spend days on the Garden State Parkway (and, if you’re commuting into the city, you probably will!) It’s a toll road, except for the section between exits 127 and 141. You can pay electronically (with an EZ-Pass token) or by throwing coins in a basket. If you’ve got no coins and no EZ-Pass, you are screwed! There are entrance tolls, exit tolls, one-way tolls, and two way tolls. Some toll lanes are strictly EZ-Pass, some are strictly exact change, some are both and some are neither. Make sure you get in the right one cause you can’t back up if you chose poorly. GSP has express lanes and local lanes in some sections and not nearly enough lanes in other sections. It has little U Turn thingies every few miles. U-Turns, however are strictly prohibited. The U-Turn lanes are really just places for State Troopers to wait for their next victims. There are always enough State Troopers.

4) Exits on the Garden State Parkway are numbered to match the mile markers (exit 127 is at or near mile 127.) Exits on the New Jersey Turnpike are numbered sequentially with no regard for the mile marker. It should be noted that both roads are administered by the same Turnpike Authority. Tolls on the Turnpike are paid only upon exiting – you get a ticket when you enter, and then you pay when you get off. (Coincidentally, the Vince Lombardi Rest Area ‘lot lizards’ employ much the same system.) Some Turnpike exits are given an extra “directional” designation, such as 6N or 6S, presumably to indicate the direction you’ll be headed after you exit. Still others are given an extra letter “A” or “B” or even “C”. This is to indicate that the Turnpike Authority did not consider the possibility that additional exits might be built, so they had to squeeze them into the existing useless numbering system. Exit 15, in addition to an “E” and “W” option, also has an “X” exit. Drivers opting for this designation vanish immediately after exiting.

5) If you are traveling southbound on the Garden State Parkway and exit the Parkway, perhaps to find gas, food or lodging, you may be surprised to find you cannot re-enter the Parkway. Sorry! You may have to drive overland for five or ten miles and re-join the party down the road. If you’ve exited, at say exit 88 southbound, to reach your hotel, you may find that there is no corresponding exit 88 when heading northbound. You may have to drive many miles past where you are staying and then work your way back through the countryside to where you would have preferred to get off. Too bad you can’t use those U-Turn thingies!

6) There are at least two bridges and two tunnels that connect New Jersey to New York City. No matter which one you pick on any given day, it will always be the worst choice, everyone but you will know this, and you will be ridiculed for your poor decision making for the remainder of that day. Few of these people, however, will point out the insanity of making this choice every morning instead of, say, just moving to the city.

7) The New York Giants play in New Jersey, as do the New York Jets. Why don’t they call them the Jersey Giants? Because New Jersey is not cool and New Yorkers don’t want to root for a team from New Jersey. If they want to do that, they’ll root for the New Jersey Devils. What does this have to do with driving? Nothing, unless you are trying to get to a Giants game.

8) There are many cities in New Jersey: Trenton, Newark, Atlantic City, etc. But when people in NJ refer to “The City” they mean New York City. New Jerseyans have conceded that it’s all about New York, has always been about New York, and will always be about New York. So if you are in the country in New Jersey and ask for directions on how to get to “the city” in New Jersey, you will get directions to New York. Pay extra attention to the tunnel or bridge recommended. It will likely be the worst one and everyone else but you will know it.

9) Gas is dirt cheap in New Jersey. This is especially surprising given that they are only one of two states that do not trust you to put it in your car by yourself. If you pull into a Shell station and hop out of your car to fill up, you’ll be greeted by a professional gas dispenser (I had this very job in New York back in the seventies. It’s pretty much the fast track to the Executive Suite.) You may be thinking, “I am gonna pay through the nose for ‘Full Service'” but, you will be wrong. Full Service in New Jersey is about $1 less per gallon than no service in California. Things like this will make you wonder what else you are getting screwed on in California.

10) There are places in New Jersey that can not be gotten to, if you happen to already be in certain other places. A phenomena originally limited to locations in Maine, this problem has migrated down the coast and has now established itself more or less permanently in the tenth colony. The solution to this is to first go to a designated third place, in which you may not have any immediate interest, and then from there, proceed to the place you actually intended to go. It is generally best to not even ask for directions directly from the original place to the original desired (but hitherto unattainable) destination as you may cause some sort of quantum navigational vortex and kill Schrodinger’s cat.

11) The State Bird is The Giant Pothole.

Shameless Begging: If you liked this and you have a Facebook account I’d love a “share” on your timeline!
-Alan

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Dead and Disappointed

Recent advances by the experts in paranormal science at the NSA have enabled eavesdropping on the dead. The new capabilities give the agency access to channels previously accessible only to mediums and psychics, paving the way for posthumous monitoring of passed-on perps.

It’s too early to add late Aunt Jane to your Departed Friends and Family Plan but messages from beyond have been captured and transcribed. As is often the case with bleeding edge science, the news is not all good.

The dead, it seems, are damn disappointed in the living.

“My grandson promised me he’d finish college and take care of his three little sisters,” fumed one exasperated apparition, “Instead he blew the money on hookers and blow. I might as well have left it to the dog.”

“I’m still waiting for a Olympic medal,” whined another wraith, “J.D’s kid got one for him, and that Franklin gal dedicated hers to those poor people at the Colorado theater. Sorry, son, but 17th place at trials is no consolation for me being dead.”

“My son never looks up when he gets the final out…”
“My daughter didn’t mention me in her BAFTA acceptance speech…”
“My sister took my kidney and corneas but had my cat euthanized…”

“We really had no idea of the level of resentment in the ghost community,” says Ted Belle, Director of Netherworld Ops (NOINTEL). “We hoped to develop some suicide bomber assets or maybe find out what really happened in Benghazi. So far it’s mostly been a bit of a pity party.”

Pre-bereavement experts recommend survivors dial back expectations when assuaging the dying. “Promise to feed the dog, or find their ‘Vette a good home. Stay away from sports and acting achievements. Don’t commit to anything that may require world class ability or talent. If you do place first in the Super G at Sochi, by all means, knock yourself out on the podium. Just don’t be on the hook for a Nobel or Grammy for Grandma to rest in peace.”

Sources say that the dismay of the dead shows no sign of letting up for the foreseeable future. While a select few have been honored with dedications of books, songs, marathons, and so on, most of the spirit world roams the earth empty handed. “At this point, I’d settle for a poem or even a closing credit on a YouTube,” lamented one lost soul, “My Johnny’s a good kid, but he ain’t getting any younger.” Even with lowered expectations, statistics show that the dedication gap is likely to not only persist, but widen, as more Boomers die and their hipster heirs fail to create any works worthy of assigning honor.

“The best most of today’s generation can hope for is to be part of a group that receives a blanket honorific, such as veterans of a particular conflict… or maybe crime victims,” said Belle. “The idea that your kid is going to mention you at his inauguration or Hall of Fame induction is sweet, but, realistically speaking, you’re more likely to be acknowledged at a 5K walk. Perhaps a fundraiser for the disease that killed you.”

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Of Michael Sam, Richie Incognito and locker rooms…

Last week the sports and social media were all aflutter with the news of Michael Sam’s pre-NFL draft announcement that he’s gay. A few outlets reported that his draft value would be diminished by this revelation, some citing teams wanting to avoid “the distraction” and others more bluntly worried about the impact of a gay player “in the locker room.”

Last year the same outlets were in an uproar over allegations that Richie Incognito, a white Miami Dolphin, mercilessly bullied black offensive lineman, Jonathan Martin, to the point where his locker room antics drove Martin to quit the team.

Both of these issues have been thoroughly aired by a multitude of perspectives and I have nothing to add, except that I am against bullying of any kind, having endured my share of it as a 70 pound weakling for much of my early years.

What I would like to ask is: Why, in this day and age of multimillionaire players and multi-billion dollar stadiums, do we still have LOCKER ROOMS at all?

I used to work in a crappy little tilt-up building on La Palma. For reasons unknown to me, my office (about 8×15) had a shower and bathroom attached. I can assure you I was not making Kobe money and our rent was about $2500 a month for two floors. If I wanted to take a shower, change my clothes, or just read the latest Sports Illustrated, all I had to do was walk across the room and close the door.

I didn’t have to undress in front of a room full of naked men. I didn’t have to get into a shower with a room full of naked men. I did not have to parade around in the altogether, being careful not to let my eye contact drift below the neck. Why don’t elite athletes have the same option?

Is there something about seeing your teammates without their clothes on that makes you a better unit? Is smelling the after game stench of your fellow linemen an important character building exercise? What purpose exactly, is served by forcing these gifted (and, for the most part, wealthy) men to change their clothes, pee and shower in a communal setting? Even most college dormitories have upgraded to private bathrooms.

I am sure that some will make the argument that this naked togetherness is essential for establishing team chemistry. If that were the case, why don’t businesses and political parties follow suit? Would Palin and McCain (or Ryan/Romney) have prevailed had they been smart enough to shower together? Perhaps if they sat around on hard wooden benches surrounded by rusty metal boxes, they would have done a better job getting the message out. Maybe Mitt could have invited all of his potential running mates to join him in the visitor’s so he could “size them up” on a level not before possible.

The reality is, this only seems to happen in the team sports world.

My personal experiences in locker rooms (7th through 9th grade) were awkward and dreaded. I was never comfortable disrobing, walking around naked in front of strangers and pretending like it was all just pretty normal stuff. Of course, everyone else was acting like it was pretty normal stuff, so I went along to get along, but it just seemed a little on the weird side. I went to Cornell in the 70’s. Supposedly we all had to take a swim test, naked(!), as a graduation requirement (I’m not making this up.) I don’t recall ever actually doing this, and I did graduate, so either it’s not really true, or, as with many uncomfortable things in life, I figured out a way around it.

I don’t doubt that for many people that hanging out naked in a spartan facility with other naked men is an experience they don’t think twice about. And I’m sure that there are those that actually enjoy it. I would hate to think that I am alone in thinking its only appeal is as a cost saving measure. I mean, they don’t have communal bathrooms in luxury hotels, cruise lines (well maybe they do, never been on one) or high end eateries. I generally don’t like hanging out with a bunch of dudes even when they are not sweaty and have their clothes on, never mind ones dripping buckets of perspiration, fresh off the basketball court.

Anyway, it’s a mystery to me why this tradition persists, and what’s more, no one seems to question it. All I can say is, that if I’m Kobe Bryant or Payton Manning or even Richie Incognito – I’m not not taking a dump in some cramped metal enclosure where I can see Tannehill’s jock strap around his ankles in the next stall and “experience” what Mike Wallace ate for lunch the previous day… as it lingers in the air around me. Give me a private sound-proofed room, with a nice bathroom, a bed and a TV where I can chill in solitude before and after games.

You know, like you can get at any Motel Six for $50 a night.

Shameless Begging: If you liked this and you have a Facebook account I’d love a “share” on your timeline!
-Alan

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The Creature of Habit Meets the Flitter

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared as “Column One” in the 2013 (final) edition of the Fake LA Times I sent East at Christmas for twenty years…

ANAHEIM HILLS –
Despite my annual efforts to package my existence as a non-stop whirlwind of adventure and discovery, the reality is I’m not exactly Mr. Excitement. I spend the majority of my time reading the newspaper, perusing the internet, and trying to knock out the “diabolical” Sudoku… with a pen. Yes, ladies, if you are looking for a badass, he’s sipping coffee at the breakfast nook, elbow-deep in the comic section.
I think I’ve always been a pretty boring individual. In fact, I think most of the “interesting” things I’ve done were mostly futile attempts to escape the label of Most Likely To Induce Narcolepsy. I’ve lived in the same house for the last seventeen years and essentially the same place for the last thirty. Had two jobs working with the same guy in the same industry since 1983. Drive a ’98 Camry. Had a ’95, ’92, and ’88 (all Camries) prior. 30 year subscriber to the LATimes. Eat canned tuna 4-5 times a week (yes, I know about the mercury) and can’t really function without coffee. I’m putting myself to sleep, just thinking about me.
Routine is comforting to me, and I’m all about comfort. Most of the risks I’ve taken in life were gambles whose payoff would be an even greater level of comfort than I’d be able to achieve otherwise. When people advocate “get out of your comfort zone” my immediate reaction is “Why?” Are there people that like to be uncomfortable? Is there a market for pills that cause headaches? How about uncomfortable chairs and couches? I could go on, but you get my drift.
There was a time, though, before I settled into my drone like existence, when apparently, I felt the need to Try New Things. It’s not clear to me, even now with the benefit of hindsight and a lifetime of underachievement, whether I was actually interested in trying new things, or simply looking for an escape from the things I’d already gotten sucked into. My early employers included everyone from McDonald’s to IBM, selling cars, cashing checks, driving cabs. I went to two different high schools, nearly flunked out of college, switched majors and eventually several colleges before finally graduating. I was going to be an engineer, then a writer, eventually arriving at the reality of person that sells pianos and organs at the mall. My mother referred to this lack of stick-to-itiveness as “flitting” as in “flitting from one thing to another.” It’s true – before I was Johnny Dullsville, I was… The Flitter.
On close analysis, there’s not a lot of difference between a flitter and a quitter. Mostly it depends on whether you’ve learned your lesson or you foolishly launch yourself into another doomed enterprise after failing at the one at hand. Drop piano lessons and swear off musical instruments forever and you’re a quitter. Give up sucking on keys for, say, sucking at drums, or an electric guitar and you’re more of a flitter, and probably a few decibels more annoying to boot.
Yes, flitting is nothing more than serial quitting, and I did my fair share of it. Eventually, though, the weight of all that failure takes it’s toll and you are less and less inclined to embark on fresh undertakings, knowing full well your odds are daunting.
For much of life I resisted accepting my ingrained vapidity. I fought against the tedium that is me with ski trips and motorcycle adventures, marathons and musicals. But hurtling down that icy XX slope or that winding Lost Highway, you realize there is no velocity that will allow you to escape your fundamental dreariness.
Mercifully, as the years pass, the need to disguise one’s abject insipidness ebbs. You get married, settle down, don’t go out much and there’s less need to be exciting or even appear to be exciting. Some of your peers achieve lasting fame or financial success, leaving you behind with the majority that haven’t. Sibling rivalry (if it was ever present) stabilizes, further reducing the need to be “all that you can be.”
Life flattens out into a level monotony. The desire to travel to exotic locales (and post about it on Facebook), is tempered by visions of the TSA and the ravages that Escherichia coli inflicted on your intestines the last time you ventured off the continent. Three Days of Peace and Music morph into Three Miles of Lines and Mud. You do the math and realize that your home has better amenities than nearly any hotel you could afford – and you don’t have to go through a single security line to enjoy them.
Which brings us (literally) to the issue at hand. The whole point of these things is to expound on all the grand adventures one has checked off in the previous twelve months. The awards bestowed, the milestones passed, the summits… summitted.
When your main activity is napping with the occasional power walk, it hardly seems worth the time and expense to put pen to paper, (digitally speaking.)
When the first of these came out in 1993, the kids were still babies, the first internet browsers were being invented, and Facebook wouldn’t even be at Harvard for eleven more years. The technology for keeping up with the Joneses has advanced rapidly in the ensuing two decades. Social media, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. have replaced what was once an annual rite of braggadocio with effectively continuous on-line windbaggery.
In short, the faux holiday newspaper, not unlike the real thing, has become yet another victim of advances in technology.
The Creature of Habit (I’ve been sending these out for twenty years) shall once again cede to The Flitter. Barring any outcry from the remaining seven or eight readers, this will be the last issue of the fake Los Angeles Times. Ironic that the actual LA Times outlasted it, but I suspect that its days are numbered as well.
If you need to know what cool activities and enviable achievements I’ve accomplished, you can still check my status, follow my tweets or subscribe to my blog.
For the time being anyway.
Given the general dearth of newsworthy activity you may find it more rewarding to tackle the diabolical Sudoku.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Thanksgivikkuh, Black Friday, Grey Thursday, Chinese, Jewish and regular New Year.

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Our Divided Nation

You don’t need to be a pundit or connoisseur of the blogosphere to know our nation has become more polarized than ever. Nirvana for one is anathema to another. Whether discussing the budget, proposed controls, alleged leaks, environmental issues – there’s no common ground anymore. Each side is deeply entrenched in one extreme or the opposite. Finding a path forward has never been more challenging.

I’m talking, of course, about dishwashers.

Recently, to celebrate our thirtieth, the wife and I decided to splurge and replace the inert steel and plastic box occupying the prime real estate next to the sink in our kitchen. A Maytag of unknown pedigree, it had recently coughed up an ominous black rubber belt of some sort. Door gasket? Circulation pump drive? Who knows. The machine itself had actually been given up for dead for a full two years (the touch panel refused to respond to our touches.) Brushed up against it about a year ago and it partially returned to life – allowing us to run only the “light” cycle for another twelve months before this recent debacle. Given its unimpressive history of (un) reliability and that the control panel alone was likely a several hundred dollar part, we assumed a replacement would ultimately prove to be less costly than repair.

I checked Consumer Reports and the four top rated machines were Bosch. (Bosches?) A quick call to Sears – they’ve got one of the models in stock – and off goes T to the Orange Mall to do the deed. (We generally don’t mess around once we’ve decided to replace something that hasn’t worked properly for three or four years.)

An hour and a half later, the front door opens. “Did you get it?” “No.” “What?” “This guy, ‘Ray’, said Bosches are bad and to get a Kitchen Aid.” “They didn’t have any Bosches?” “Had ‘em, said they’re no good, told me they don’t clean well, have small racks, no water heater, no disposal, I’d hate it. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I left.” I assumed Ray actually worked at Sears, but supposed we ought to consider his opinion regardless. He did seem to know something about Bosches.

Back to Consumer Reports I go. In addition to the CR ratings, they have feedback from actual buyers. Surely Bosch owners are some of the most satisfied folk in Appliance County given that their brand occupies the top four spots.

14 CR subscribers posted reviews for the Bosch Ascenta – the top rated model. I expected the consensus to be somewhere between 4 and 5 stars, given its exalted position on the charts (#1 out of about 400!)

2.8 stars. For the Best Damn Dishwasher in Consumerland. The very first review starts, “It doesn’t clean well and nothing comes out dry.” One near the top is headlined, “The Worst Dishwasher Ever!!!” Well, tell us how you really feel, ‘CatesOpinions’.

“Still Looking for a Good Dishwasher”, “Returning It” and, perhaps the most apropos: “Don’t Buy This Dishwasher.” Seems that ole Ray was not just whistling Dixie when he dissed this dish machine.

Had all of the reviews been uniformly negative it would have at least confirmed that CR was not to be believed, apparently having a Better Than Average chance of having their collective heads up their collective asses. But, strangely, this was not the case. Sprinkled among the haters were numerous bright spots, if not out-and-out raves: “Almost Perfect”, “Very Pleased”, as well as the hopeful, “So Far, So Good.”

Drilling into the details, there is just enough agreement that you cannot discount the sanity of reviewers as a whole. Apparently the Bosch drawers are smaller (everything in Europe is smaller?), you have to run the water in the sink to get it hot first, there’s no dryer, you have to clean the filter yourself. These are probably features that made it quieter, cheaper and more energy efficient – thus leading to the higher CR rating. Well, screw that! I want clean spotless dishes and if that means the destruction of our entire planet, than so be it!

I picked out a high ranking Kitchen Aid model to see if the reviewerazzi were happier with less efficient, more expensive fare. Fewer reviews on this one, but once again, no consensus. Two of the three review headlines begin “Beware…”, garnering 1 and 2 stars, and the final (4 star) says simply, “This is a very good dishwasher.” (Should be, it was eleven hundred bucks!) So, that settles it. Clearly, everyone either hates or loves their dishwasher. You can buy any one you want and you will probably love it or hate it, too!

I perused a few more common models and manufacturers, encountering much of the same Babel of opinions, before switching gears and heading over to Amazon and epinions.com to see if there was any greater degree of agreement over there. Practically every machine averaged out in the mid two stars with about half the rankers slamming them with one or two and the rest praising with a four or occasional five. In short, the whole exercise in basing my decision on the unqualified assessments of complete (and possibly fraudulent) strangers was proving to be a pretty dubious strategy.

I decided I’d have to actually go and look at the things myself. I had no illusions about my dishwasher assessment skill level. Other than retrieving the occasional cup or spoon, I’ve never loaded or unloaded the ones we’ve owned. My reliability measure is based almost entirely on the You Get What You Pay For principle. Still, I figured I could judge the drawer quality and size, and maybe how long it would be before the soap dispenser breaks. (The over/under is about ten seconds.) See if the thing closes with a solid “Thunk.” Scientific stuff like that.

Off to the Home Depot (closest place that sells dishwashers) we went.

After some prodding, poking, general chitchat with the sales gal and more checking of reviews on the Home Depot website, I found one that didn’t seem to suck, was priced a bit above the entry level, but not batshit crazy (you can spend three grand on one) and actually had an average rating on the Home Depot site of 3.5 Stars. Of course, the first two read, “Leaks…” and “Poorly Designed Machine, Don’t Buy.” But, just as with our president, ever so slightly more people loved this model than hated it, and I took a small measure of comfort in that thin margin, as weak a mandate it might be.

As it happens, we had settled on another Maytag, the very same make that currently sat silently at home, waiting to go to dishwasher heaven. Perhaps we’ll try a Kitchen Aid next time. Anything but a Bosch.

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Top Ten Pundit Talking Points Targetted For Termination

If you watch Stewart or Colbert, you are familiar with the phenomenom of a catchphrase being coined and then spreading like a virus to every talking head on the tube (LEDs, plasmas, what-have-you.) It’s bad enough that they’re all bleating the same song but what makes it worse is they always pretend like they just came up with it themselves. I don’t expect this to change anytime soon, but I’d like to submit the following candidates for expunging.

10. Blood and treasure. This one is often used in conjunction with the cost of war. For some reason, it’s always invoked with know-it-all faux gravitas as if the invoker is the only one aware that wars are actually bad. There’s also a pretense of literary eloquence, which may have been legitimate the first nine thousand times it’s been uttered. Leave the treasure to the pirates. War is bad. People are maimed and killed. It’s expensive. We get it.
9. Perfect Storm. Saw the movie. Sad. But the idea was Perfect Storms are rare events. There seems to be a “Perfect Storm” of something darn near every day. Perfect Storms for re-election, Perfect Storm for recessions, Perfect Storms for retail sales. The Jets defensive coordinator cited his squad’s “Perfect Storm” in both their win over the Cardinals and their loss to the Patriots. Enough already. Let’s reserve this one for weather.
8. Super Storm. This one came along as a mid season replacement for Perfect Storm. It started with Sandy, which was legit, but soon found its way into sports, politics and entertainment.
7. Mother(s) of All. Saddam got this one started and it really had its heyday back in the early 90’s. But it’s back. Mother of All Bailouts. Mother of All Oil Spills. Even Mother of All Battles – except this time it’s Syria instead of Iraq. What exactly does one’s mother have to do with anything anyway? If Mike Tyson can kick your ass, should you assume that Mike Tyson’s mother can really kick your ass? (Well, in my case: yes.)
6. Founding Fathers. Whenever there is some cockamamie right wing conservative/reactionary idea afloat, you can be sure that some wingnut is going to weigh in on behalf of the Founding Fathers. I’m not going to throw mud at the FF’s, I think they did an exemplary job getting things started. But time marches on: science, society, culture and politics advance. The Founding Fathers would be completely out of their depth if they were to appear in today’s society.
5. The New Normal. “Is this the New Normal?” No, it isn’t. Things happen that you don’t expect. After they happen, you expect them. Then something else happens you didn’t expect. The things you expect are normal. The ones you don’t are not. The New Normal is just another way of saying, “Well, I didn’t expect that, but I guess I do now…”
4. We The People. This is generally used as a smarmy substitute for just “the people” or “the citizens” or “the voters” or “the taxpayers” primarily to give the impression that the speaker is not only a patriotic conservative, but is also familiar with the Constitution. I’m all for “We The People” as in anti-authoritarianism or anti-monarchy or even anti-government. However, it is often invoked when “We the People” vote down gay marriage, medical marijuana or universal health care. More like, “We The Majority” which is admittedly fair, but not really what the Framers meant by “We The People.”
3. Tea Party Candidate. This is actually a perfectly legitimate phrase. It’s just after Bachmann, Akin, Palin, O’Donnell (Christine, not Rosie) they seem to have a low bar for intellect. I suppose that could be said for all parties, but for some reason these folks scare me the most. I don’t expect them to go away in 2013, but hopefully they’ll be a little pickier in the primaries.
2. Job Creators. Do business owners, inventors, entrepreneurs create jobs? Yes – but not by themselves. I used to be an employer. I never created a job I didn’t have to. Opportunity creates jobs. Innovation creates jobs. Wars, fires, crime, pollution, hunger, sickness and death ALSO create jobs. I applaud the risk takers, the small business owners, the entrepreneurs, the innovators. But, please, spare me the benevolent ruling class, without whom the rest of us could not exist. They create jobs when it’s in their best interest. And they destroy them when it’s in their best interest too.
1. Fiscal Cliff. If we don’t do anything taxes will go back to what they were under Bill Clinton. Which we can trim at any time. We’re all going to die! Get real. Let them go up “automatically.” Then trim them back some. Everybody wins.

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Ten Reasons Thanksgiving is Better than Christmas

10. No gifts to buy. Or wrap. Or return.
9. Always on a Thursday. Always a four day weekend. Unless you work for Walmart.
8. No Thanksgiving songs.
7. No Tree.
6. No lights. No ladders. No extension cords. No timers.
5. No costumes.
Wait, that’s Halloween. Still…
5. No cards. No addresses. No postage.
4. No “newsletters.”
3. Three football games. In a row.
2. You’re supposed to overeat to show you’re thankful. Genius.
1. No religion. Unless Tebow starts for the Jets.

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Top Ten Gifts I Got From Obama

Mitt Romney recently unveiled the shocking secret of why I voted for Barack Obama instead of him. It was the gifts of course! You’d think a guy with his kind of dough would have ponied up something, but, it was the same old, “I’m not really into the generosity thing.” And all I got from Ryan was a doctored marathon photo.

Ennyhoo, now that the cat is out of the bag, I figure I might as well come clean on what it took to get my vote. Here’s the top ten “gifts” I got from Jolly Old St. Barack:

10. Staved off Financial Armegeddon. Really liked this one as I have no job at the moment.

9. Stock Market doubled since ’09. BO said he didn’t really give me this one, but I think he kind of did.

8. Don’t have to have my rapist’s baby. This was more of a coupon, and I probably won’t use it myself, but I might know someone that would appreciate it.

7. Lowered my payroll taxes. You’d think Romney would have gotten me this one, but, he’s more of an Applebee’s gift certificate guy. Was great when I was working.

6. Gay Marriage. What can I say… misery loves company.

5. Health Insurance. Not really sure if I got what I wanted here. The specs on these things are so complicated, everything is so expensive and you never feel like it’s a good deal. But at least someone has to cover me now, even if I’m self employed and might get sick.

4. Hilary Clinton. Normally, any old Secretary of State is fine with me. But after Condoleeza Rice, this is like replacing your Camry with a Lamborghini. Vrooom!

3. Joe Biden. Yeah, he seems like an idiot about half the time, but when your idiot, makes their idiot look stupid, well, life’s a little sweeter, innit?

2. Non-Neanderthal Supremes. Scalia, Alito, Thomas – these guys claim to be strict constitutional interpreters – as they systematically gut the Bill of Rights. If we can’t smoke weed we should at least not be subject to warrant free search and surveillance. (Yeah, I know Barack himself’s on the wrong side of that one. He’s not quite as liberal as people think!) Let’s hope he gets to appoint a few more, hopefully to replace some of the aforementioned.

1. Didn’t get me a new war in the Middle East. Which is good, cause I still have the other two I got from Bush.

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You Might Be a Target of A Government Sting Operation If…

… your co-conspirator’s e-mail ends in .gov.
… sleeper cell carpool is three Crown Vic’s and your Scion.
… your new non-drinking buddy offered you a nuke for the exact balance of your savings account.
… the radio station in your contact’s car is tuned to Q102 Country.
… Cell leader always pays for Starbucks with crisp 100’s.
… your Al-Qaeda contact has a “Bomb Stuff Now, Ask Me How!” bumper sticker.
… books spotted at the secret hideout include “Arabic for Dummies” and “Your First Dirty Bomb.”
… Driver Aboud always gets off with a warning – and a wink.
… Contact refers to you as “you-know-who” when explaining to caller that he “can’t talk now.”
… Brother Khalid ordered Wendy’s Triple Baconator – then quickly asked them to hold bacon.
… your rendez-vous instructions arrive in an envelope marked “Postage and Fees Paid – M. C.”
… ringtone on prepaid cellphone is theme from Disney’s Aladdin.

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