Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tired, but in a good way

So this is my car. My wet, wet car.

I know that alot of you (if not MOST of you) have seen it before (although maybe not this wet), but I bring it up for two good reasons. First, I just got new tires.

The right rear tire turned up a staple high in the sidewall a year or so ago. I had that patched, but after a while it developed a slow leak. Which wasn't that big an issue, I just went out and picked up a small electric air compressor and made a practice of topping off the tire now and again. Of course, it did mean that there was an uneven wear pattern on the tire, and it looked for all the world (based on my own investigation and that of a nearby dealer) that Goodyear no longer makes this particular tire, so I figured I would be replacing all four tires at some point.

So yesterday I spent all day indoors, cleaning up and re-organizing the closet off the Juggling Room (the back bedroom we use as a home office), the Wifey walks in and announces that the rear left tire is flat.

I went out and looked: yep. Flat as a pancake.

So I went back over my research and concluded that I wanted a new set of DunlopSP SportA2 plus tires. I found out, in the process, that in wasn't that Goodyear no longer makes my tires, but rather that the tire they put on my car before I bought it at the Porsche dealer are Goodyear's winter rated model, further evidence that the Porsche guys didn't really know what they had ahold of. (My guess is that they just picked the only tire Goodyear still makes in P185/R14.) Which meant, among other things, that I would be moving from a winter tire to a performance tire, which is all to the good.

So I called my local shop and asked after price and availability. The usual guy wasn't in, but the kid filling in said he'd try. This, naturally, isn't good enough. After all, I'm a driver. So I followed Dunlop's links through the model tire I wanted to a dealer a little less than five miles from my house. I called there, left my information, and a short time later their shop cheif returned my call. He had a guy who thought he had the tires, would call back once the guy had his hands on them. I called him back right after noon, and he said that his transport guy should have the tire back to the shop between 2:30 and 3. So I said I'd be in there by 3.

So off I go, sporting 3 snow tires and a donut. It was bit of a dicey ride over.

An hour later I was ready to go, paid in full. In the mean time, it had started raining.

The Miata's only failing, in my estimation, was that it tended to be a bit squidgy in the rain. I took it easy for the first half of the trip home, and after that I didn'nt break any land speed records, but I was able to pull away from stoplights at a regular pace. Which, for me, is apporximately Mach 3. So that is whjy you are looking at a picture of my wet car. Dunlop tires rock!

Monday, August 28, 2006


Blogger is pissed at me again. I have more pictures to post, but the machine has deemed me unworthy. I must go on my melancholy way, head bowed in abject humility.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Boy and His Shoes

So these are my new Puma Romas. Romas are, in my opinion, the best running shoes ever. I bought my first pair some years back, chiefly because they were blue suede. This pair I bought today, because I have been oggling them for several weeks now and I finally just figured what the hell. They were sixty bucks, which really isn't all that bad. It wasn't too long ago running shoes were going for over a hundred bucks a deuce.

In a way they replace the Nikes I bought back last Fall, which I really only bought because they are waffle-soled, and I have been nostalgic for the old Sunset trainers I ran in as a kid, until they were completely worn out. On the up side, the Nikes were only 40 bucks; on the downside, they are bright red. The Wifey calls them my Ruby Slippers, and I had to stop wearing them on weekdays last spring and most of the summer because one of my co-workers was honestly freaked out that I was wearing, in her words, "clown shoes." Besides which, they do stand out, so they aren't doing my Ninja tactical training any favors.

So this brings the number of my shoe collection to five, which isn't really all that much. And they all have their place. The new ones, of course, are my dress sneakers, for going out to dinner and whatnot; the old Romas are my heavy walking or after hiking shoes. Then there are my Addidas Samoas, which are good rain shoes, and as often as not serve as my driving shoes, and the Nikes, which are good for rough-terain and also for hot weather, since they breathe like nobody's business (they are not, consequently, good cold weather shoes), and then there are my Diadora running shoes, which I got because they are white with red stripes and they were on sale for 20 bucks, which are all but completely useless, probably because they are Italian. To paraphrase Ford Prefect, never underestimate the importance of good footgear.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Tat'ums O'Neal?

The cheapie brand potato chips from one of our local stores. It would have made my day if they were produced in O'Neal, Idaho, but alas . . . alas . . .

And of course, I had to steal this from Shari.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

If You Can Read This, You Are Blogging Too Close

I believe things. Some of my beliefs, while shared by others, are clearly insane. Like the belief that Blogger, angry with me for posting all those damned Big Sur pictures, had specifically decided NOT to let me post the picture of the pile of dog hair that was the result of a bi-weekly Swiffering of our house. So I intended to post the picture of me eating koshkalosh (a shishkebab) outside the Financial District in New York last February (because it makes me happy), but then I ran across my favorite picture of our visit to Old Salem (historic 18th Century village) with niece Cayla back in April (same reason).

I believe there is a God. But I also believe that God doesn't want us necessarily to figure out who God is or what He/She is up to. I thusly belive that, when people go around claiming they have it figured out, He/She reaches down asnd gives those folks' heads a stir. Which is why religioso types are so generally screwed up.

I believe faith is something we all have, couldn't live without, and most of us wouldn't recognize if it were plucked from our souls and waved in front of our shocked faces. Anyone (Ann Coulter) who claims that there are people who are without faith is a dumb bitch who thinks it's funny to pick on cripples.

I believe that people who claim they have a greater or stronger faith than others are compensating because they feel deep down that they are stupid and inadequate. This belief comes from the long habit of observing people who claim to have a greater or stronger faith than others, up close and at a distance.

I believe that making other people feel good is the highest calling anyone can have. Which means that all politicians are going to Hell automatically.

(I don't actually believe in hell.)

I don't believe in pre-destination-- I cannot bring myself to believe that anyone was born any one thing, but rather that we all are thrown into this world, and it forms us-- except that we are hard wired to appreciate the weather, which is why some of us get all cheery with blue skies and green trees and puffy clouds, while other people are more comfortable under heavy, gray, overcast skies and intermittent rain. I do not know why I believe that.

I believe in evolution, but I know that archeological sciences are, as science, bullshit.

I believe that we were created by a supreme being, but I don't think that rules out evolution. The people who came up with this whole notion that evolution cancelled out divine creation were fighting to hang on to the notion of divine right, that the people who rule were designated by God. So they were bullshit artists who had a vested interest in making sure that the powers that be remained the powers that be, end of story, next question.

I believe that God wants us to be good scientists; not take things for granted, not go on blind faith, find out how much of what we are being told by our Fellow Man is balderdash. And I know that all of religion and everything in history weighs against the notion, but that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

I believe I'll finish my sandwich now.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Long Live the Record Exchange

SO the last entry garnered a generous response, while my wild re-telling of our jaunt through Big Sur appears to have been generally ignored. Clearly, eggs are more popular than travelogues, which I frankly should have expected. Of course, I have, from time to time, tackled the subject of eggs in the form of a travelogue. But I guess my own weird habits aren't necessarily anyone else's business.

My obsession with a music store, however, is clearly something with which I should burden you. This tale involves my recent dealings with The Record Exchange.

Some 25 years ago I happened into a storefront dive in a strip center not far from my home in Charlotte, NC. The strip backed up to a government-constructed shantytown called Grier Village, then the second poorest neighborhood in Charlotte, and it had been built exclusively for the newest cut-rate grocery chain, 3 Guys, which saved money by, among other things, using packing crates for display rather than installing shelving and displays. It was called The Record Exchange.

If I remember correctly, they moved in shortly before or after the 3 Guys closed (they didn't last long; merchandise moved out the door so fast, the patrons scarcely had time to pay for it). I seem to think that I was told (or overheard someone saying) that this was the second store, the original being somewhere in Virginia, and then later on hearing that the Charlotte location had been demoted to third, second NC location, behind a location in Raleigh. The place was dear to my heart, not least because the prices were terrific. In those days, of course, it was all vinyl; they did some trade in cassettes, and they had a case full of 8-tracks, but this was a roost ruled by album rock. (Again, there was some classical and Jazz and what not, but those were more or less obligatory sections.) You could pick up a disc for as low as a quarter (for a beat-up best-of compilation of crap nobody wants to hear), but most of the albums seemed to go for four to six bucks, some higher, depending on condition, rarity, etc. This is where I got all my Yes albums (and Yes, I had them all), the Billy Joel's Songs in the Attic, the Mahavishnu Orchestra's Birds of Fire, and a double dozen other rarities and weirdities that I could scarcely begin to tell you about. They also specialized in the kind of audiophile obssessives that had gone out of fashion in a bygone age: half-speed masters, numbered pressings, double-grade vinyl pressings, virgin vinyl pressings, and mint-condition discs, all of which were kept behind glass and priced out of my range.

Years later, when I went off to Grad school for an abortive attempt at getting an MA, I gave my entire collection away to a pal who was a genius audiophile and could appreciate most of it. For years after that my music collection consisted of a mutty collection of cassettes bought from discount bins and bootlegged from friends and college libraries. Later, after I had landed a career-kinda job and the Wifey and I had settled in together, I began re-building my collection, this time in the form of CD's. About six years ago, after we had bought our house, we invested (300 bucks) in an Aiawa stero system that included a turntable, and we have kept a small collection of vinyl cobbled from what remained at either of our folks' places.

Then, not too many years ago, I re-discovered The Record Exchange. They had moved into a slot in Park Road Shopping Center, a venerable strip center over in a relatively affluent part of town, and it was staffed by a trio of relatively hip kids who knew their stuff and my stuff. Which is to say they knew the local indie scene, the new label stuff, and had a pretty good knowledge of good old rock 'n' roll. They laughed at my jokes, especially ones like "I'm buying (insert 60's artist), (insert indie ingenue), and Leo Kottke; that shows you what kind of a geek I am." And the prices were higher than they had been, of course, but still cheaper than you could get stuff in a regular store or online. And still, there was that mysterious little joy of looking thought a buncha white elephants before stumbling on a true and decided gem. Hey! Born to Run on vinyl! How cool is that?

So I got Born to Run on vinyl, and a bunch of other oddities, like a showcase of the Warner Bros micro division in Burbank, entitled, enticingly, The Entire Burbank Catalogue, and dics and dics and discs, someof which came here, got one spin, and went back there. It was all great fun.

Then I went by one day, some weeks back, with a handful of discs the Wifey and I had agreed should be exchanged, and they were closed. The note on the door said they hoped to re-open soon under new management, but there was not indicator of when that might be.

Fast forward to this past weekend: we were in the neighborhood, stopping by the Mexican bakery where they make the best cakes in the universe, and trotted up to see if they had opened yet. No, but the sign had been ammended: opening Monday, Aug 14th.

I went by Monday, and the sign had been again amended: Monday scratched out, opening Tuesday, the 15th. So I couldn't go back then, because my sister and her husband and all, and the eggs, which for the record turned out delicious,* and yesterday the Wifey had the day off since it was her birthday, so we spent the day lazing about, buying art for the house, and eventually going out for barbeque. So today I went.

The kids, who I had seen bustling about the place the 2 times we went by before they opened, were not there. The guy who was there seemed okay at first, but was close-mouthed and weird later on. He said they couldn't give store credit as the operation is brand new. (How that works, I know not.) He made it clear that my only option was cash, and then waited for me to weigh the options. (Dude, WTF!? Give the the freakin' cash then!) He didn't laugh at my joke. (He didn't take the Maroon 5 CD. "Why not?" I asked. "It's scratched." "Really?" Beat, beat, beat, beat. "I thought maybe you just didn't like it." Nothin'. I gave up after that.) The amount I got was kind of paltry for the number of CD's (and one DVD) I sold them, and he didn't seem cognizent of, much less interested in, my purchase. (A monster Simon and Garfunkel compilation and a Chet Baker album I had heard good things about.) I got 20 bucks and spent 27.

So they may be dead to me. I haven't decided. Several variables are yet to be dropped into place. (Will the kids be back? When will they start offering store credit? Will that equal 23% greater than cash value (like it used to)? Will I feel good about going there, or will going there start making me feel like a mook.

It's a long road ahead.

*I went a little overboard on the mustard and vinegar, so the filling turned out a little runnier than I would have liked. So they were not as pretty as they might have been, but they were a hit nonetheless. Everyone who had one went back for a second and a third (and sometimes a fourth).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Another Day, Another Blogger

This post was going to be about dog hair, but Blogger has instituted a change of plans. Instead of letting me upload a picture of the huge pile of dog hair that was the result of not having Swiffered the hardwood floors in the front room of our house (which also comprises the hallway, and thus accounts for about 2/3 of the house's square footage) in about a week and a half, which I took specifically for the purposes of posting a blog about how much dog hair I Swifffer up on an average occasion, Blogger, uncharacteristically, is acting like Blogger. Just for the hell of it, lemme try it again. Excuse me, will you?

Nope. Nothin'.

So instead I am going to blog about making deviled eggs.

Now, I know deviled eggs are not a Southern thing, but I was raised to think they were. Whatever the case, I have always been fond of them. But, given that they are the sort of thing that people bring to parties in order to show off, I never thought of myself as the sort of person who would make deviled eggs.

A few years back, while we were having our traditional Friday "brunch" at my seasonal gig, which consists of people bringing anything from crackers to cassaroles (and anything in between) and laying it out on a table, where we readers serially return to nibble, on getting the last deviled egg in a batch, it suddenly occurred to me to feel guilty about every single deviled egg I had ever eaten. (It didn't last long, and it was a hell of an interesting sensation.) After all, I had never made so much as a single deviled egg, never even helped anyone make them. Shame on me!

Some weeks later, and I am thinking it was like two, I was sitting at the desk mid-morning, thinking it was just a little too late to go out for breakfast, when it dawned on me that I had eggs in the fridge. Heck, I could make eggs!

Or I could devil them.

Sure, I thought. Why not, I thought. So I looked up a basic recipe on the internet, cut down the ingredients accordingly, boiled one egg, split it, and started deviling the yolk, which is chiefly a process of adding mayonaisse and mustard and stuff. Midway through the process, it dawned on me that I had dill relish in the fridge. Now, not all deviled eggs do, but I know I have had deviled eggs with relish in them before. And, trust me, unless you have ever had dill relish, it is not what you are thinking of. Almost all other relishes are made of sweet pickles or gherkins (however you spell that). This stuff is really nice, punget and a little salty and redolent of garlic and dill weed. So I added it. And the mustard I used was Grey Poupon, which I swear by. Finally, at the end, I figured what the hell: I garnished the eggs with some chili powder I had just bought the week before.


And so I christened them BEdeviled Eggs. Get it? BE-deviled? I think it's funny.

Anyways, we are on the cusp of a family function, celebrating the proximate birthdays of several of the ladies in our clan, and late last week my Mom called to ask me to bring the bedeviled eggs. (She doesn't call them that. Silently and without regard refuses to. I never asked her to.) So yesterday I ran out and grabbed a carton of 18, on the grounds that it would be pleasanter to boil them early in the day when it was cool (an old Southern cook's trick) and assemble them later in the day so they would be fresh for the 6 o'clock do. So this morning I got up and boiled the eggs, drained and cooled them with cold water, placed them back in their carton, and put them in the fridge.

Not five minute later my Mom called to say that our party for the evening had been reduced from (she had led me to believe) two dozen to about ten. (Although, when she gave me the roster of those not attending, it put the lie to her request that I make, and I quote, "a whole bunch of deviled eggs.)

So I will hvae 36 pieces for ten people. Can't do anything else, once an egg is cooked it's cooked. Besides, I really have to make them. They are bedeviled eggs, and I have 18 eggs, which is 6+6+6. Which I will be turning into 36. Thus: the bedeviling of the beast!

I think it's funny.

Friday, August 04, 2006

And now the thousand words

WE got out of town late, after noon, since Chris and Lauren had to meet with the agent at their new townhouse complex to sign the papers. I didn't mind. I am usually (and very much) a get-out-and-goer, like to get on the road as early as is feasible, but in this case I let it go. The new place was a very good thing. I had been over to see it with them the day before, and it was a definite improvement over their apartment, not least because it has a very gardenable back yard. The drive out of the valley, as always, was low and flat; the drive through the hills, as always, was jaw-droppingly beautiful. The weather was pretty brutal, especially for early June, and the experts were just starting to make serious noises about how rotten the summer was going to be all over the country.

As we pulled off the highway and onto the streets of Salinas, I rolled down my window, and the air that flooded in was slightly cooler than the air-conditioned contents of the car.

I never take pictures in Salinas, although I should, so I might have some photographic evidence to support my contention that eating at Rosita's is the only good reason to stop in Salinas. The first time we stopped in there on the way to Big Sur was because I was curious what kind of place the birthplace of Steinbeck had become. Answer: a very, very silly, dirty little town doing it's damndest to hi-jack Steinbeck's fame and turn it into fodder for a civic booster program.

So we went to Rosita's. Chris and Lauren had tacos; I had a toastada. It's a fairly silly thing to eat, but it was what I wanted.

We got out of Salinas fairly easily, which is a trick in and of itself. The streets of Salinas fold in on each other, Escher-like, so that roads look like they head east and actually go south, left turns look like right turns, ins look like outs. But before long we were sliding out around the side of the Monterey Bay and down the coast towards Big Sur.

It was on the second or third stop that I remembered to dig out the digital camera. I had gotten my leather jacket out of the trunk when we stopped in Salinas, because I knew I was going to need it. The wind that whips off the ocean and buffets against the hillsides is wonderfully unpredictable; it comes at you from different directions at different times, although the main current comes landward and to the North.

No place else I know of smells like Big Sur. Sea-salt, cedar & manzanita, the chill of the sea-wind, the baked warmth of the hillsides . . . There's just nothing like it. This is part of the reason I have always said that pictures don't do the place justice.

But the pictures do, at least for me, bring the place back to mind. I can't say whether or not they do the place justice for others. I see the pictures and I'm there. I mean, it's not like Yosemite. Yosemite is impossible to capture in pictures because of the sheer scope of the place. About the best single-shot description of Yosemite I have ever run across was when we went up to the Higher Els last year, when standing at the edge of the over-look I managed to locate the lodge, some 3000 feet below. I tugged on Chris's arm and pointed at the floor of the valley. "That's the lodge," I said, and he looked and then smiled at me and nodded gleefully.

Big Sur you can caputue. You just have to catch it in profile.

The cloudscape is always different. Once in a while I fancy I see the hand of God in it, changing the way the light and shadows cast on the landscape, but that is a vain and arrogant thing to think, so I whip the thought into exile as soon as I feel it fingering around the edges of my brain. This time there were banks of seasonal fog and cloud that came and went over the ocean and the land, working South to North, so we alternately had soft gray land- and sea-scapes and brilliant blue skies and sun-flooded hills.

Several times along the way we saw what I always thing of as The Cows of Big Sur. There is at least one working ranch left at Big Sur, probably more, and every once in a while you'll pass a herd of cattle put out to graze between the barriers of barbed wire fence to the landward and cliffs and surf seaward. "Now those," I said, "are happy cows."

(The following day, passing a heard grazing admidst some outrageoulsy gorgeous hills in the San Robles, Chris wondered "Maybe we could eat those cows?" It was a reference to Chris and Lauren's newfound practice of buying grass-fed beef over the internet. We agreed, after brief discussion, that those cows would be pretty much guranteed to cost a million dollars a pound, as if they inherited the cost of the landscape they were ingesting.)

Houses at Big Sur always knock me out, especially the cool ones, the ones with cantilevered decks hanging out over the cliffs and window walls overlooking the . . . Well, the whole bit, really. I just imagine waking up in the morning and making coffee and then having to make the decision Which part of Big Sur should I gawk at this morning? People live at Big Sur. Lucky, lucky, extremely rich people.

We stopped at an outpost along the way to use a loo and stock up on water and road food, and then we were off again, down the coast. The rest of the coast below, compared to Big Sur, was rather tame, although gorgeous nonetheless. I wouldn't ever say we rushed Big Sur, because we didn't, but we had a hotel room booked in San Simeon that night, and so we had to move on. The following morning we got up and checked out and got breakfast at the restaurant in front of the hotel. I had the best Eggs Benedict I have ever had in my life; the eggs were light and firm and the size of raquet balls, the Hollandaise was creamy and rich and just precisely right in that unexpressable way a good Hollandaise is. It just made perfect sense.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

That should do it.

This is probably enough for now.

The date was June 9th, 2006. We left Turlock something afternoon, landed in Salinas around 3 and ate at Rositas, got back on the road, and after the first turnout I remembered to get the little digi I had bought for the trip out of my bag. These pictures are chronological. Most were taken from pull-outs on the PCH, some from inside the moving Jetta. Pictures with the ocean on the right are facing South, left, natch, North. I don't really need pictures of Big Sur; it's one of those places that I can close my eyes and conjure in my mind at will. The redhead is Lauren.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Journey Continues

Same day, more pics of our route through Big Sur.