Monday, November 30, 2009


I swore to myself I'd wait until my car hit 200,000 miles before I bought another one. I lied. Finally, last Thursday, I succumbed to my "new car fever" by buying a 2007 Toyota Avalon to replace the Bastard, a 1997 Toyota Avalon that had only hit 192,000 miles.

At least I fought my desire for "new." I could have spent $40,000 on a a new Avalon Limited, but I chose a 3 year old car that only looks new. It's white, a color that I never wanted, and the interior "wood" trim is very light blonde, an abomination unto god...but it's OK. I spent half the money I would have spent had I bought a new one, so I'm pleased about that.

Unfortunately, it needs new tires right away, so there's going to be that very big expense, but that's life. And it does not have an MP3 player or connector (that became standard in the 2008 model), but I'll live without it.

At the moment, the car is back with the dealer, who agreed to do some touch-up paint on the rear bumper and on the hood. It really does look new, inside out, but I know it's a used car. But I'm delighted with that; I finally got smart and let someone else take the immediate $3,500 depreciation on the car.

But what will I complain about, now? And what will I name her? A distant acquaintance suggested "Pearl." I'm leaning that direction.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Who makes money off of Thanksgiving? I want to know. Could the turkey-farmer lobby be this strong? Could they actually shape our consciences and mold our emotions? Or is it the goddamn pumpkin farmers who clean up thanks to...Thanksgiving? Maybe the condiment contingent is responsible for this most obscene holiday.

It's no coincidence that Thanksgiving and Christmas both fall near the end of the year, just in time for our wallets to be sucked dry by people looking for contributions just before the end of the tax year. Key-riced! It's the whole damn not-for-profit sector that staged this little opportunity for eyes to moisten and tears to fall!

The fact that so many people take a look inward and contemplate changing their selfish ways this time of year is just happenstance. It's all about the money. Don't let the tears of thanks from the homeless who've just been fed fool you. Don't let the smiles on the faces of kids who've just had their first full meal in a month trick you into believing it all matters.

What do you think we are, stupid?

In the Dark of the Night

It's odd to think that so much of what makes our lives easy goes on unnoticed by most of us while we sleep. Yesterday, I heard a piece on NPR that was not necessarily intended to make me think of these things, but that was the result.

The NPR piece was about a vegetable market in the northeast, a place through which virtually all the vegetables that end up on the tables in restaurants, in grocery stores, and otherwise make their ways to the stomachs of people throughout New England flow. The narrators guided the listener through the night in the market, explaining how the economics of power changed between sellers and buyers as supply and demand ebbed and flowed. The best of the best vegetables were gone by midnight or 1 am, taken by the buyers for the most expensive restaurants and upscale groceries, leaving the vegetables of lesser quality to haggling between sellers and less affluent buyers later on. Before sunrise, most of the participants completed their night's work and headed home to sleep while the rest of us live the more traditional lives of day workers.

I'm not a night person, but I suspect I could adjust if I were thrown into the arena of night-workers whose lives play out under artificial light against a dark sky. I have my reasons to think I could adjust and even begin to like that adjustment. For one, there are fewer people who live that life than live mine, giving some appeal to the dark life. And I suspect their world views may be different than those of us whose lives are more traditional.

On those rare occasions in which I am out and about in the middle of the night, I experience an odd sort of excitement as I see delivery trucks on the streets and wonder what they are carrying and where they are going and why their routes must be conducted under the cover of night. It's strangely intriguing to wonder about the lives of the waitresses and busboys who are hard at work at 3:00 a.m. Do they like this (to me) unusual schedule, or is this the best thing they could find? Is there a camaraderie among night workers that doesn't exist among those of us who arise in the morning and trudge obediently to work under the wash of the light of the sun? What about the hundreds of other people I see on the streets of Dallas as I take my rare glimpses of the life of the night?

I suppose these thoughts are natural, since it's just after 3:15 a.m. and I am awake and alone in my study, with only the glow of the computer screen and a halogen desk lamp lighting the night.

The piece I heard on NPR yesterday ended with a vegetable vendor making his way home before daylight, raking the leaves in his yard before sunrise, and going to bed just as his neighbors were beginning to get up to go to work. I'm not going to rake my leaves, but I may go back to bed before my neighbors begin to get up to work on their Thanksgiving Day meals.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Consorting with the Livestock

We spent a good part of the day test driving cars: 2007 Toyota Avalon, 2007 Toyota Highlander, 2006 Honda CRV, 2007 Toyota RAV4, 2010 Honda Pilot, 2010 Honda CRV. All had their ups and downs. And the 2007 Lexus LS 430, which we didn't drive, was almost awe-inspiring in its luxury. I had good reason to buy most of the cars. But I didn't.


Because cars are not worth what they want you to pay. They cost too much. Especially considering the fact that dealing with the people who are selling them makes me feel unclean. I'd be willing to buy a car, even if it cost too much, if I felt like I was not getting secretly screwed in the process. It's nasty, dealing with these people. A fellow blogger once wrote something that describes perfectly the feeling I have when dealing with these people; I'll paraphrase, since I don't have his original post. When I deal with car salesmen, I feel like I'm getting some embarrassing disease: "It feels vaguely disreputable, like something you'd contract by consorting with the livestock."

I thought fixed-price, no-negotiating protocols would improve the process. Dealing with the used-car salesmen was an improvement over dealing with new car salesmen in the past, but not by much. I don't trust these snakes as far as I can throw them.

I know I cannot keep the Blue Bastard forever. This weekend, it started making horrible crunching noises somewhere between the engine and the front left tire, tire, you know, the nether regions like the area between one's thighs and belly-button. But I just cannot stomach dealing with car salespeople. I get sick to my stomach and almost gag. I'm sure there are good, honest ones out in the world; they just don't happen to work in the Dallas area. They wouldn't last here.

I've almost come to the conclusion that, if I want a nice new or nearly-new car that is equipped with specifically the bells & whistles I want, I'm going to have to find it and then arrange to steal it or have it stolen. Risking prison isn't so bad, at least not compared to interacting with snakes who sell cars.

There, it's finished. My daily surly rant is done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Highway Wages

I'm about to leave for the office. Trying my best to be in an upbeat mood about that. Finding it difficult. I'd rather be hitting the highway. But the highway doesn't pay. Shit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Being in a Bar

We went to a bar tonight, a place filled with 20-somethings and fewer 30-somethings. We were the oldest people in the place, I'm fairly sure, but we didn't feel out of place. The people we met there comprised a motley crew of 30-somethings who were all friends of my friend, who called the group there to witness his wife's humiliation.

See, these people are rabid football fans of Texas and Oklahoma and Texas won over Oklahoma in some major rivalry match, so he (the Texas-ex) took joy in his wife conceding defeat by wearing UT clothes, etc. I didn't say we enoyed that part.

But we enjoyed the company and the youthful conversations. I still believe I am 25 years old. I behaved like a 25-year-old. My wife has not left me, though, so she apparently does not believe the behavior will be long-lasting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

National Geographic Video: Incredible!

This is one of the most amazing short videos I've ever seen. Watch it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

$12 Makeover

Long-sleeved, bright-red t-shirts belong on the bodies of young, well-chiseled young men. They do not belong on the bodies of geezers who ignore...nay, shun...the benefits of exercise and eating sensibly. That notwithstanding, I am wearing a very nice, soft, comfortable t-shirt, deep cranberry red, and it looks and feels, to me, like it was made for me.

The shirt's arms are a bit long, since they were designed for someone considerably taller than I, someone with dramatically longer arms. But that doesn't matter. I like this shirt. But I was prepared not to like it. You see, I intended to buy a short-sleeve shirt. I thought I had done so. But by the time I had torn all the tags off of it and thrown it into the washer, it was too late to turn back. That, and the fact that it cost something like $12, made it seem silly to drive all the way back to the place I bought it. So I didn't. And here I am, liking it.

This shirt may well change my image of myself. From the upper arms and shoulder up (at least up to my lowest chin), I look good. That's worth the $12 I spent!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


There, over in that corner, are some unopened boxes that, if opened, would create more clutter. So they remain unopened. There is nothing time-sensitive in them, so there's no need to open them now. But they're still there, unopened, after literally months of taking up space. And there's no evidence that anyone in the house has any immediate plans to open them. Or to remove them from sight. So they just sit there, blocking my view of whatever is behind them. And causing me to wonder why opening them would create more clutter. Then I think, "yes, there would be even more clutter if they were opened," and I become less agitated that they have been sitting there, unopened, for months.

These feelings are like the tide; they ebb and flow. The tide will come rushing back again in a few...days, weeks, months? The tide will come in again if the boxes are still there. And they will be. I just know it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Veterans's Day Reflection

Today, Veterans' Day, is a very conflicted day of recognition and appreciation, in my view. On the one hand, I truly appreciate the men and women who serve in our military and the sacrifices they make on behalf of our country, I am bitter. I am bitter about the fact that most of the wars and conflicts to which they have been sent are based on political positions that I judge to be fundamentally wrong.

If we, as a nation, ask our young men and women to risk their lives, we had better be pretty goddamn sure we're asking them to take that risk for something that's worth it. Looking back on the wars we've fought in the not-too-distant past (and even further back), I don't find many that justified asking our young men and women in the military to risk their lives.

Surely not Iraq...we should never have gone into Iraq. The lies that justified our attack on that country will be a national disgrace until the end of time.

I seriously question Afghanistan; we should have either gone in full force and ended it quickly, or simply stayed out.

Not Viet Nam. That was a personal war that should have been waged by the families who had the most to gain.

Not Korea. It was based on political posturing, not on compelling need.

I don't fault the people who have fought those wars, though I wish they would not go so willingly and so unquestioningly. I wish soldiers did not need to equate their value with the value of the decisions that sent them in harm's way.

I appreciate and honor our soldiers. I can't say the same about their leaders. Not not, not for a long while.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Obituary of the Man I Intended to Be

The man I intended to be would remembered as a renaissance man of sorts, someone who knew at least a little about a lot and who could quickly know a lot about anything if the need arose.

The man I intended to be would be remembered as a gentle soul who cared deeply for all people, but who could be utterly unforgiving of people who did not share that trait.

The man I intended to be would be remembered as having a few very close friends and very few acquaintances.

How did I become the man someone else was intended to be?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

World Wide Wisdom

There is wisdom tucked into the billions of comments one finds on the Internet; it just takes fortunate circumstance to stumble across it. Take, for example, this sentence that I find very powerful: "I'm not religious in any way, but I think some respect for the singularity of a creature should be paid." The statement was made by a woman in a Facebook post related to her reaction to hearing a hunter say he planned to kill a rare albino pheasant that "everyone at the hunt club is after."

The statement is so gentle, yet so powerful. The respect to which she refers would manifest itself in a very tangible way: not killing a rare, or singular, creature.

I suspect the hunter with the desire to be the one to find and kill the rare bird would find little logic in the woman's statement. But I wish he would.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Out of Afghanistan

Bill Moyers knows how to speak truth to power. Would that the rest of us would learn from him and follow suit.