All this happened, more or less...

My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shifting, Still

So MJ moved to LA.

I knew this was going to happen eventually. He hates *small town*... Actually, to be fair, I'm sure he hates all small towns. There just isn't enough action here. But he told me like it was supposed to be a surprise, like he was dropping a real bomb. I think he even started with your classic "We have to talk" or "I have to tell you something" or some other line like that.

"I'm moving to LA."

"O yeah? When?"

"In two weeks."

"That'll be awesome. Good change for you. Cool."

I think I hurt his feelings. He said something about how all his "other girlfriends" were mad at him because he was leaving them behind.

I'm sorry, MJ -- I didn't mean that I wouldn't miss you. I certainly prefer you to any other guy I've dated, and in this tiny town where good friends are few and far between, you are one of my absolute favorites. But you are truly miserable here. You need to go somewhere more exciting. Half of our friendship is spent on the telephone anyway, and you can still call me for free, so no worries.

mazda concept, naias 2007

Mazda Concept at the 2007 NAIAS, where MJ taught me everything I know about cars (still next to nothing, but it was a valiant effort).

In other news, Bizarro is moving to Iowa. This is a blow. A deep one. And I did tell her not to go because I would miss her too much. There were tears. This may mean I am a better girlfriend to Bizarro than I was to MJ. Oops. :(

Anyway, for our last big blow-out weekend, Bizarro and I went to my alma mater and saw a play starring my former biology lab partner, who remains the only musical theater major I've ever known who has actually been acting consistently in the four years since graduation. Of course, the best part of the evening for me was regaling our whole party over dinner with tales of our scientific endeavors, especially the time that we went on opposite diets -- me, vegetarian; him, all meat -- then came to the lab after two weeks and compared our piss. I won't bore you with the details, but inquiring minds can email me if you really want to know.

I cross-bred fruit flies with this guy and now he's soakin' up the limelight. I'm so proud.

But Bizarro is leaving Sunday and I'm kind of glad that I'll already be gone on vacation and won't be here for a big dramatic good-bye. I'll be in Sacramento at S's, thinking happy thoughts about reunion and not about more transience, more uncertainty, more people shifting in and out of my kaleidoscope life.

And I'll be there with KC, the Batmanesque hero who rescued me when I was stranded at Bill's auto shop. So that can't be all bad.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Uterus Tax, ps

remember how bill had initially told me that all four o2 sensors on my engine needed to be repaired at $130 each? then when i was pissed off, he changed his story and said only two were bad?

well, out of curiosity, i gave paul a call today and just innocently inquired how many o2 sensors there were in a 1995 v6 mystique.

funny -- there are only two.

go to hell, bill.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Uterus Tax

one of the things i miss most about japan is the trains. you just can't beat 4db6scd
the ease and reliability of japanese public transport. and honestly, who doesn't want a commute to work that involves zoning out with your ipod, texting novellas to your friends, putting on your make-up, and drinking your coffee or beer (coffee on the way in; beer on the way out) in total safety and serenity. it's an extra twenty minutes of responsibility-free lounging before you arrive at the office and hop back on the hamster wheel. not to mention the infinite joys of train games such as train surfing, shown here. incidently, this is the same day that marley, the indian/trinidadian/canadian wonder on the right, got shoved off the train. poor marley.

(see the addendum to The Anti-Climax for an explanation of why american trains don't cut the mustard.)

well, dorothy, we're not in japan anymore. here in the u.s. of a, if you have places to go, you need a car to get there. americans love cars. almost as much as we love guns. nothing gets us off more than having a gun in the back seat of our car. it's the american way.

enter my car. she's a mercury mystique -- notice how we love cars so much, they get to be called "she" instead of "it" -- a 1995, which is far from new, but her only previous owner was a little old lady who drove her to the grocery store and to church and nowhere else. when i got her, she had a staggering 30,000 miles on her. unbelievable. and o so beautiful. an added bonus: mystiques normally come with a little four-banger engine, but mine has a v6. this means that i will kick your ass in a drag race any day of the week. try me.

however, at the end of the day, a twelve year-old car is still a twelve year-old car, so we obviously have a few maintenance issues. right before i left for new york (literally the day before), one of these issues chose to rear its ugly head. it happened like this...

because i'm a delinquent cat parent, i often drop him off at my mother's when i decide to skip town in search of adventure or when i'm running from my creditors and crack dealers. on this particular occasion, i just get him settled in for another stay at "grandma's" and am about to pull out when the coolant light on the dash comes on. ok, no biggie. i stop the car, pop the hood, and sure enough, my coolant's a little low. i bee-bop into the garage and grab a bottle, top it off, and think i'm set to go. o no, no, no. as i start her back up, my mother comes running down the driveway after me.

"wait! i know why your coolant was low!"

"other than because there wasn't enough coolant in the tank?"

"don't get smart with me. it's leaking. it's dripping all over the driveway."

"well, i'm supposed to be in *insert name of other, slightly cooler town* in half an hour for dinner with *insert name of hot guy*, so... i don't care."

"well... you could take some coolant with you and top it off again later, but if the hose goes... especially since you're driving all the way to *other town*... you should really have somebody look at it before you take it on the highway, honey."

somehow by adding "honey" to the end of things, she always sounds so reasonable. so since she's my mom, i do what she says and i head over to an auto shop. the two auto shops we use are actually kitty-corner from each other on the same intersection. i randomly chose one. for our purposes, we shall call it "bill's".

bill checks out the car while i wait. a good twenty minutes later, he returns with bad news -- it's not a leaky hose; it's the water pump, which circulates the coolant through the engine. this is a biggie. if i had gotten on the highway, i would have basically toasted my engine and had to thumb my way home. thanks, mom.

but the news gets worse. a mystique is a smallish car and it turns out that the location of the water pump is somewhat problematic. bill tells me they'll actually have to take the engine out of the car in order to reach the pump, a job which will take four to five hours. i'm already late for dinner. did i mention it was dinner with a guy? and that he's hot?

bill insists that the car's in really bad shape and i shouldn't even drive it home. well, so much for dinner. i call my mom to get a ride home. one ringie dingie... two ringie dingies... no answer. hmm, i muse... how curious. i try her cell. same story. then i remember she had said something about mowing the lawn... dammit! it'll be at least an hour before she gets a message. so i'm going to be at bill's reading last january's "better homes and gardens" for a while. i call my dinner date to cancel and explain the situation, hoping he believes me and doesn't think i just bailed.

"*long explanation of my current conundrum*... so i guess i'm not going to make it up for dinner. i'm really sorry."

"where are you now?"

"at the auto shop."

"is someone coming to get you."

"no, not yet. i left a message for my mom, but i think she's mowing the lawn."

"what's she doing mowing the lawn? that's a man's job!"

"*laughter* i know! tell that to my dad!"

"well, stay put. i'm on my way."

the tone with which he says this conjures vague childhood memories of batman on the red phone with the commissioner and inside i swoon a little bit. on the outside, i protest -- it's too far and he really shouldn't go to all the trouble... but he's already walking out the door and before he hangs up i can hear his car starting.


so dinner was saved, but i had to abandon my car at bill's while i was in the adirondacks. when i picked it up a week and a half later, his $500 estimate had lept to $650. yikes methinks as i write a check. that's gonna leave a mark. just to make my day a little better, he stops me on my way out and explains that they also found a problem with the o2 sensors. (o2 means oxygen, he explains, as if i didn't pass fifth grade science.) there are four of them -- three are completely shot and the fourth is going, so they all need to be replaced. he estimates $90 per part and $120 in labour, which will be another $500 by the time you add tax and such. brilliant. i sigh and set up an appointment to bring it back in.

i take the receipt home to file it with other work we've had done on the car and i am astounded to find another receipt from the auto shop across the street -- paul's -- for the exact same job early last fall. my parents have had this car for a while now, and less than a year ago, they replaced that same water pump. this raises a wide variety of disturbing epiphanies. first and foremost, the water pump paul installed was under warranty, and thus if i had taken it back to him, he would have replaced it for free. $650 thrown to the wind. but it gets better.

the overall job at paul's cost only $400, a whopping 40% less than bill's version of the same repair. confuseb and a bit irritated, i start looking at the fine print. $110 for paul's water pump; $160 for bill's. $15 for a belt at paul's; $30 at bill's. $15 for fresh coolant at paul's; $25 at bill's. 2.8 hours of labour at paul's vs 4.5 at bill's. for the same bloody job! that's $180 for paul's labour and $280 for bill's. then my favourite -- as i'm looking at the charges on bill's bill, i notice something kind of funny: less than $250 in parts plus less than $300 in labour plus $15 in taxes magically equals more than $650 total. you don't have to take non-euclidian geometries to figure out that that's bullshit, and i f*cking aced non-euclidian geometries.

i'm flying into an apoplectic rage about now. i leap back into my g-mobile and all six cylinders buzz me over to bill's to read him the riot act. i try to be polite to the receptionist 'cuz none of this is her fault, but she can probably see the plumes of donald duckesque red smoke billowing from my ears.

bill is, of course, shocked and appalled at the mathematical "error" and slyly attempts to blame it on the receptionist who has conveniently left the room. almost instantly, he pulls the difference of $100 out of his wallet in cold, hard cash and thrusts it at me, all the while blubbering about how his accountant would have caught that mistake. she surely would have called me in a day or two.

then let me ask you this, bill: shouldn't you give me my refund in the form of a check so that you have some written record to show your accountant when she comes asking?

"o no," he's floundering big time now, "not necessary. i just prefer cash 'cuz it's faster."

yeah, that's the same thing my crack dealer says.

next i set my two receipts on the counter side-by-side and demand an explanation of the pricing difference. why is your water pump worth $160 when paul charged me $110 for the same part? and the belt? the coolant? the labour??

blah blah blah, bill tries valiantly to explain something about the quality of the parts and warranties and such.

this is hard to swallow since i was just on the phone with paul who assured me the pump and belt both have lifetime warranties. the pump, in fact, is the newest model they can get their hands on, absolutely 100% satisfaction guarenteed. through the whole ordeal, paul's a total star and even though i took my problem to the guy across the street, he's willing to refund me the cost of the defective part. he is in no way obligated to do this. he's just nice.

bill's voice is starting to remind me of charlie brown's mom and i know that the 100 bucks in my pocket is the only useful thing i'm going to get out of him, so i start to collect my papers and walk out. in the last death throes of our customer service relationship, he changes strategies and offers me some "good" news -- it turns out he was wrong about those o2 sensors. only one of them is really bad and a second one going, so i'll just have to have two of them replaced instead of all four.

i almost laugh aloud because he has got to be a cokehead if he thinks he's ever touching my car again.

i've heard other women complain about the uterus tax that you pay when you take your car to a shop yourself, instead of having your husband/boyfriend/father take it in for you. i always thought it was sort of an urban legend. well, somebody call "myth busters." of course, some of the additional fees on bill's water pump job were probably related to the fact that i was going out of town and not just the fact that i don't have a penis, but in total they amounted to $250 worth of bullshit charges, not including the upcoming $500+ o2 sensor replacement.

unfortunately for bill, i'm ballsy enough that i pulled right out of his parking lot and into paul's where i had him run a scope on my car. you'll be relieved to know, dear reader, that my o2 sensors are just fine.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007


this made my day. thought i'd share...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Great American Pastime

I don't care how popular it gets in Japan -- there is still nothing more American than a game of baseball.


I remember the strike. If you're American, you remember it too. 1994 -- dispute between the players and the owners over a salary cap; players went on strike; no major league baseball. That year everybody watched football and basketball and hockey instead, and ever since, Major League Baseball's been just a little bit... mrah :-/ And it doesn't help that now that they're back in the game, they're passing the 'roids around and every good player's suspect.

So here's what I say:

Screw Major League Baseball.

That's right. I said it.

Real baseball doesn't happen in huge stadiums under florescent lights with $8 (cold) hot dogs. Real baseball doesn't happen where you're so far up in the nosebleed section that you have to watch the game on a TV anyway, even though you came to the game. Real baseball doesn't happen where the ref can make a call and you can't scream about how blind he is because you couldn't see it either. Real baseball doesn't happen where the advertisements on the wall are four thousand times the size of the damn ball.

But have no fear, gentle reader. This is not the death of America's Favorite Pastime. ©

Real baseball still happens all the time.


In fact, as you read this blog, in a sunny local park somewhere in America, real baseball is in full swing. You won't find many 90 mph curve balls. The players won't be sluggers like Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds (with the exception of a few guys like the one shown above, whose current batting average this season is somewhere around .850 -- meow!). There are sometimes cheap uniforms, sometimes not, sometimes good old-fashioned shirts & skins. When it gets dark, they won't turn on the lights; the best they can do is grab a yellow night ball and finish out the inning. Expect multi-tasking -- in addition to the throwing, batting, catching, and running involved, they'll also be drinking beer (cheap American beer) and eating a wide variety of grill-able meats. And you can't buy a cold hot dog for $8, but you can probably bum a hot one for free.

None of these factors should be used to judge their passion for the game.

Instead, consider this: the entire 1994 postseason (including the World Series) was scrapped because of a dispute over money. Owners wanted to keep more of it; players wanted to get more of it. So they argued. They all got pissed off. They all took their balls and their bats and went home. This, as you well know, is the quintessential metaphor for a retreat in the face of opposition, reserved only for the most bull-headed and infantile of men who pound their fists in rage at the very thought of negotiation, cooperation, or (God forbid!) compromise.

On the other hand, somewhere in a little corner of the Midwest, there is the Beerball League©. These guys show up faithfully every week (including on holidays, on rainy days, and yes, even on Mother's Day). They are deterred neither by the cold nor the heat, scorching sun nor the falling darkness. At the end of any given inning, at least one of them will walk off the field bleeding from that perfect slide/tag/collision/pile-up. They keep painfully intricate stats on every aspect of play. A bad call by the ump will result in the dropping of jaws, the throwing of gloves, and profuse streams of profanity, but never ever in going home. They come for nine innings and they play nine innings come hell or high water. And as the name suggests, the major difference between the Beerball League© and a standard league is that in Beerball©, every fielder is required to have a beer with him at all times.

And like amateurs all over the country, the Beerballers keep playing week after week, year after year, for one reason and one reason alone:

They frickin' love this game.

first base