Friday, October 30, 2015

Charnac the Magnificent



Chandler is amazing. He sees all, smells all, knows all. You cannot fool that dog. I have tried to sneak a treat to Bette while he sleeps three rooms away, and before I have the bag of treats off the table he's there. When I'm walking him, he can drag me fifty feet over to a microscopic bit of hot dog that somebody's tossed. It's eerie when I'm sitting watching television or laying around the house and his ears perk up. Within seconds he's up and alert with Bette yapping next to him even though she has no idea why. It's Mark in the car. He has turned the  corner a block away and Chandler knows it. That's a good thing because it allows me ample time to put away the snacks, liquor, and whatever else it is I don't want Mark to know that I'm doing. The most chilling thing about Chandler is late at night, in the dark, when I'm walking him around the block. We'll be going along and all of a sudden Chandler stops and looks around behind us. There is nothing there, but he is persistent. We must stand there and look down the street for a couple of minutes. Sure enough, from around the corner comes his buddy Dandee or Gatsby and Gianni the Italian Greyhounds. Most of the time I never feel like we're in danger when I'm out walking with him at night. No matter how late or dark, Chandler will protect me. But I have to say, it truly creeps me out when he stops under a tree along the darkened street, and looks straight up. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alan's Unsolicited Advice for Young People



As time races by and I hurtle towards my sixty sixth birthday, I think that it would be a good idea for me to impart some wisdom that I have acquired over the years. I do this for the benefit of the young people so that they won't make the same mistakes that I've seen people make over the years.

Sex; Have sex, and have sex even if the other person doesn't quite fit your taste or idea of the perfect sex partner. Forty years from now that might be the hottest sex you ever had, you just don't realize it right now. What you might not understand is that this is the cutest you will ever look in your life. From around twenty five on, things start to sag, turn to flab, and go limp. So don't sit around waiting for that perfect person to come along. It may never happen, so do it now.

Drugs; Be careful with drugs, and by drugs I'm only talking about those things that are addictive, like heroin, Oxycodone, crack cocaine, cigarettes, bacon, M&M Peanuts. If you read in the newspaper that a certain drug will make you run down the street naked and try to eat somebody's face off, don't do that drug. Pot is okay, but you will find you will have less interest in it as you get older. Dementia will fill that marijuana void.

Alcohol; A really severe hangover will usually instill a sense of caution when drinking. So go ahead and overdo it. Drink twelve beers, or too many shots of disgusting liqueur. Get stinking drunk. Eventually you will have the hangover of hangovers. Your stomach will be coming out of your mouth and it will taste like cat poop. Your head will pound like a kid beating on a plastic drum outside Wrigley Field. That day will come where death seems to be a viable option over the pain and nausea of the hangover you have. That is the hangover you  will remember for the rest of your life and it will make you think twice the next time somebody puts a shot of J├Ągermeister or Jeppson's Malort in front of you. To this day I can still vividly remember projectile vomiting while lying in a bed, in somebody's basement, while my brain tried to hide in a corner of my skull. It went on for hours and hours until the hostess asked me to leave. I was twenty two years old, and I've never been that drunk again in my life. Well almost never. There was that time I confused the linen closet with the toilet.

Money; Always have your own. Never borrow from relatives. Don't steal money from other people. And Don't rely on Social Security to fund your retirement. If you do, be ready to live on a diet of ramen noodles and fruit flavored drinks that come in gallon plastic containers. Just like when you were in college.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jungle Fervor



The painting of the house is coming along. Slowly, very slowly because I'm doing almost all the work by myself. This is the first time I've ever painted this building. No, it's not the first time I've had it painted, it's the first time I did it myself. Twenty two years ago it was painted when I hired the old woman next door and her son to do the job. I did feel bad seeing that old lady out there in the heat, rolling on the paint, but better her than me. I say 'old woman' with this qualification, she was younger than I am right now. I had the place painted again about nine years later by Mark and a buddy of his. Yes, Mark. I know, hard to believe. Anyway, now it's my turn to do the work, mostly because I have no extra money to throw around.
So for the last three weeks I've been out there taking my time, slowly making my way around the house painting the fascia and eaves. I haven't even started on the walls yet. Part of the reason it's taking so long is because of all the foliage that has grown up around the place in the last two decades. On the west side of the house I literally had to whack my way in there with saws, hatchets, and branch cutters. It was like one of those old Saturday Morning Tarzan movies where the Europeans hire a bunch of natives to hack their way into the jungle. Except in this movie, I'm the native and Mark is whitey. I have gashes on my legs, cuts on my arms, and my right ankle is hurting like something might be broken in there. I keep stepping off the ladder, mistakenly from the wrong rung, and falling into the weeds. The worst part about it is the uneven ground around the place. It's very hard to paint while the ladder is wobbling around under you. Yesterday I finished the fascia and eaves and just as soon as I go buy the paint, I will be starting on the walls. And believe it or not, Mark has said he'll help me. Yes, I know. It sounds like a bad joke.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monkey Wrench



Late last Thursday afternoon I got into the car to go get Mark a jar of spaghetti sauce. Simple task, get in the car, drive up to the supermarket and buy a jar of sauce. I turned the key. The radio came on, the air conditioning blower came on, all the lights on the dashboard came on. The engine didn't come on. It didn't crank at all. Our PT Cruiser was sick. No problem, I'd call Sam'sAutomotive in the morning and they'd send a tow truck to come get it. On Friday morning I called and was informed that even if I had it towed in that morning, they wouldn't even be able to look at it until next week. Now that is the sign of a good mechanic, swamped with so much business that they are backed up a week. So I had the car towed up to Pep Boys Auto, because they said that they could work on it that day. Now that is the sign of a person with mental problems, unwilling to wait for the good mechanic so he sends the car to the place that has plenty of time to work on it. It's just the way I am and always have been. I hate to wait.

A monkey with a wrench could have done as good of a job fixing the car as Pep Boys Auto. First they tell me it is the starter, that they can't get the part until Saturday morning, and it will be $350. Okay, fix it. Saturday afternoon I call and they tell me it isn't the starter, it's the ignition cylinder that needs to be replaced and that it will cost $550 because the chip in the key will have to be reprogrammed. There is no chip in the key. I have a 2003, low tech PT Cruiser that is based on a twenty three year old design, and I inform them that they are wrong. The man on the phone at Pep Boys informs me that I am wrong. So I hang up and Google the problem. "PT Cruiser ignition switch." Google comes back and lights up with article after article about the PT Cruiser ignition switch actuator pin not functioning, that costs less than fifty dollars and does not need to be 'reprogrammed'. So I call Pep Boys back and tell them this information. Two hours later they call me back and tell me that it was exactly what Google said it was and that the car was ready. Oh, and it will cost $210. I am now happy. That happiness lasts for nearly thirty minutes, which is the time it took me and Mark to travel up to Pep Boys, pay for the work, and drive away. As we cruise down the street I reach for the radio to turn it on.
"Where are the dashboard lights? I can't tell if the radio is on or not."
"There are no lights anywhere on the dashboard." Mark informs me. "Oh wait, there is one light. It's the little picture of the battery. That light is lit."
"Turn it around, turn the goddamned car around and go back."
Back at Pep Boys I am informed by the manager that they have no responsibility at all for the problem. It has nothing to do with the work they did.
"But all that stuff worked when I gave you the car. You are the only people who touched the car."
"We touched the ignition and the starter." Says the manager as he walks away. "Not our problem."


 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Must be the Season of the Witch



I love the change of seasons. Just like up north, when the leaves change colors and there is a nip in the air, we have autumn here in Florida too. There is no dramatic change like there is in Chicago, but there are little tell tale signs that summer has finally ended. First of all, the temperature drops down into the mid eighties. Yesterday it was eighty five degrees and I didn't sweat nearly as much while outside painting the house. Even the air conditioning system shuts off once in awhile now. Also I've noticed another sign of autumn. While walking Chandler around the block, the blue jays have started dive bombing him. Every year they show up to start nesting and if Chandler gets within ten feet of their nests, they attack. They really seem to hate him personally, because they don't attack Bette. Finally, there is the one autumn spectacle that I enjoy the most. It leaves me in awe every year, and causes Chandler to go nuts. It's the return of the vultures. Yesterday I saw three turkey vultures circling in the sky above us, the first of the season. From below you would never know how god awful ugly they are. They soar across the sky and form swirling clouds, rising with the thermals. With wings spread wide they swoop down across our path as Chandler jumps in the air, somehow thinking he can actually catch one of them. Yes, beautiful birds. Until you see them on the ground with their ugly bald heads ripping the flesh off of road kill. Ah, autumn.