Friday, November 29, 2019

"Requiem For A Lexus"

Yesterday was not my best day.

I donated the car I don’t drive anymore to charity.

Yesterday morning, they came and hauled it away.

The number 27 comes up twice here. 

I had owned the vehicle they drove off for 27 years.

And  now, for the first time since I was 27,

I do not own a car.

I remember when I bought my ‘92 dark green, two-door Lexus SC400.  I had given my old car to Rachel – who required it for college – so I needed a new one.  I had also signed the most lucrative contract of my career. 

I decided to treat myself to a luxury vehicle.  No Bentley, but “up there.”

I recall my hand shaking as I wrote out the check.  And how upset I was when the salesman pressed me hard to buy snazzier hubcaps.  (I almost called off the deal.  Paying that much for the car and now he wants more?  I mean, there’s extravagant and there’s stupid.  The “standard” hubcaps looked fine.)

For a while, I did not use it that much.  My new deal included a driver.  (Though I suspected his salary had been deducted from my contract, my “Gift Driver” thereby “gifted” to me by me.)

I took great care of my Lexus.  Regular tune-ups.  Fixing the “dings.”  Repainting the scratches.  That car had more layers than a Da Vinci painting.  (Look it up.  He did layers.) 

It was my car.  And I insisted it look perfect.  (Not for me.  It drove better “pristine.”)

When I was crashed into at the dealership parking lot, though the company’s inducements on a “replacement” were generous – because they crashed into my car – I steadfastly said no. 

It spent four months in the “hospital.” 

When it was ready, I was waiting.

Then the DMV said, “Time for a test.” 
And it was downhill from there. 

Let me be clear here.  I have never driven “for pleasure.”  I don’t even know what that means.  (I imagine the driving equivalent of Homer Simpson’s “Ooooh, donuts.”)  But with a car especially that car – I had comfort, I had convenience, and most importantly,

I had freedom. 

I came and went as I wanted.

Now, it’s Lyft.

My rides dependent on cell phones and strangers.

My legs felt anchored to the porch as I watched it it rolled onto a truck that held cars I knew my car was better than.  Maybe all car donors feel that way.  They’re wrong, but God bless ‘em.

I really thought I was ready.  But when they drove it away,

It hurt.

27 years is a long time.

And now it’s no more.

“It’s a car, Earlo – a hunk of metal, with wheels.  Get over it.”

I will.

But not right away.

In lieu of a picture, an accompanying song (with a nod to “Pinocchio”):

“I’ve got no wheels to drive around
To carry me all over town
I once had a lovely car
I got no wheels no mar.”

(Last word sung in a seafarer’s dialect.)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

"Thanksgiving Musings"

The thing I like about Thanksgiving is that I just have to show up.  Everything's so easy.  On Passover, I have to preside over the Seder.  Today, it's "Would you hand me the gravy?"

Even the dessert choices are easy.

"I'll have a little of everything."

And then there's the nap.  Which I practice on a regular basis, so when the time comes, I'll be fully prepared.  I don't really need tryptophan.  But I pretend that I do.

One thing I am truly thankful for is this blog.  Without it, I'd be monitoring my body, wondering,
"What's that?"

I do not say this enough - or perhaps ever - but I want to thank you for being there, and actually coming back more than once.

I'm not sure if I would.

And I know the writer.

As - as in my habit - I don the traditional fake Indian headdress, I acknowledge the American Indians who saved the Pilgrims' by teaching them to grow corn.  Without them, we'd be celebrating Thanksgiving in Europe.

At least we appropriately repaid them.  No wait.  We didn't.

I do not know about the future, except that I'm slated to be old in it.  Today, easy-peasy.  I give thanks, and head straight for the table.   

Sorry, turkeys.  In the "National Bird" contest, you came in second.  Which is lucky.  Not for the turkeys, but for us.

Flip of a coin, and we're eating roast eagle with all the trimmings.  (And thank you, Stan Freberg.)

And that's it.  Short and sweet.

I've got a lot of nothing to do, and I need to get started.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

And to all, a good nap.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

"The Enchanted Chandelier"

This story comes in two parts.  If it only had one, it would be eye-openingly amazing.  But it has two.  Making it… more eye-openingly amazing.

We bought a 1910 “Craftsman Bungalow.”  (Note:  1910 is old in California, where restaurants routinely post signs saying, “A Tradition Since 1997.”)

When we took possession, the house was in extremely bad shape.  It took a year to restore it, at a cost greater than its original purchase price.  (Our architect said instead of fixing it, we could knock it down for a hundred dollars.  There were times when we wondered why we hadn’t.)

Anyway, early on, as workers cleared out extraneous debris, they found, in our garage, something that was once a decorative feature of the house.

It was a two-bulb chandelier, with two-tone colored glass shades, a brass chain screwed to a rectangular plate that, when in place, was affixed to the ceiling.

It was beautiful.  It was stylistically appropriate.  And it was ours.

It turns out it was also reminiscent of a fixture Dr. M recalled from the house she had lived in as a child, growing up in Chicago.  A call to her mother revealed that that chandelier was available to us if we wanted it.  And we did.

When it arrived, we gently removed it from its carefully wrapped packaging, and we looked at it.

It was a five-bulb chandelier, with two-tone colored glass shades, a brass chain…

Let’s stop pussyfooting around. 

It was an exact match to the fixture that was recovered from our garage. 

Can you imagine our reaction?  Twins separated at birth, reunited in our house?  Even now, a stunned “Oooooh” is the best I can venture.

Today, both fixtures look down proudly onto our living room.  You would never know they were “strangers” brightening houses two thousand miles apart, their fortuitous connection sewn by someone familiar with them both, although not – until now – at the same time.


But wait!  That is not where this ends.

Hear the more amazing “Part Two.”

Dr. M is hosting a large dinner party, feting a visiting colleague.  The dining room table is set, the house meticulously prepared.  The place looks beautiful.

Except for one thing.

A bulb in the five-light chandelier stubbornly refuses to light up.

I say “stubbornly” (of an inanimate object) from direct personal experience, being, as I am, our home’s official designated “Bulbs Changer.”  A “professional assessment” revealed it was not, in reality, a “bulbs problem.”  (Placing me effectively off the hook.)

Alternate bulbs had been tried to no illuminating effect.  Educated Conclusion:  It a “wiring problem.”  (Which is not me.  I am strictly a “Bulbs Man.”)

It feels bad, strangers entering your house and the first thing they see is a less than fully functioning chandelier.  The effect is somehow pathetic. 

“Ohhh, they can only afford four bulbs.”

Going from pathetic to grandiose, it was like the Mona Lisa with a chipped tooth.

Being remiss in calling an electrician, we were now relegated to paying the price, the price of being seen as people too lazy to put in a bulb.

Night of the party arrives.  Last-minute preparations.  Fluff up the pillows.  Set out the hors d’oeuvres.  The final tasks methodically proceed, when I look up.  And what do I see?

Instead of four lights, there were

Five lights, burning brightly from the incredible chandelier!

It was like Chanukah!  Without the oil, and the desecration of the temple. 

Five lights!  Where there had previously been four!  How did that happen?  The fixture spoke to the wiring and the wiring said “Fine”?

Probably not.

All I know is, when the guests arrived, they got a glowing reception:

Five lights, blazing gloriously from above.

The following morning…

It went straight back to four.

Hey, it was five when we needed it.

To which I can only say,


Our magical fixture had come through in the clutch.

Leaving me only to wonder,

What the heck will it do next?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

"Ford v Ferrari"

Having published yesterday’s story, which I said was better, first.  A clear case of “Organizational Dysfunction.”

You feel good seeing a movie that reminds you of the kind of movies they used to make, even though you did not see those kinds of movies when they originally made them. 

That’s how much you miss them.  Feeling nostalgia for movies you never saw in the first place.

Despite my muted enthusiasm for “car race” movies, I found Ford v Ferrari charmingly infectious.  From its opening moments, I could sense everyone involved in this blatant “throwback” entertainment going,

“Isn’t this fun?

Shortly into the screening,

I was hooked.

One Sentence Summary of Ford v Ferrari:

1966.  (Saying the year does not count as a sentence.)

“An American producer of mainstream automobiles takes on an Italian competitor that wins all the big races.”

The prevailing sentiment being:

“Let’s kick their asses!”

The competitive impulse felt good, in an “It’s just a car race, we’re not trying to beat them in war” kind of a way.  That’s what sports is essentially about.  It’s combat, but with commercials.

I shall not mine the “specifics.”  Not so I won’t spoil things.  I’m just too lazy to do so.

Assessing the “big picture”…

First-rate casting top to bottom, clear and simple storytelling, heart-pounding music underscoring the excitement – hold onto your popcorn and enjoy the ride!  (I’d add, “Fasten your seat belts” but I don’t think they used seatbelts.)

Yes, it’s “A Film Based on Actual Events”, which makes me grumpily uneasy, wondering which depicted events are the “Actuals” and which events are the “Based ons.”

For example, when the two protagonists get into a fistfight and a combatant’s wife comes out, surveys the action, and then plops herself down on a lawn chair and  opens a magazine – I am pretty sure that was made up.

The thing is – teaching me a much-needed lesson – that filmic fabrication was sparklingly better than “real life.” 

In fact, the only clouds on the proceedings are when “real life” insists, “This has to be in there”, and both times…  you know.  If you lose, you lose and if you die, you die.

It’s like two flies on a fictional birthday cake.

My last point… no, one point before that.

The film’s “Designated Villain” experiences neither comeuppance nor conversion.  Maybe he also didn’t in “real life.”  But if you are throwing stuff in, how ‘bout some retributive payback?

Last point.

Even though a central figure in the movie is English – who likely moved here because his “back home” hostile rebelliousness stuck out – Ford v Ferrari reflects the best in the fiercely determined American persona.

They don’t quit.  They find answers.  They buck authority.

And they ultimately prevail.

Oh, yeah. 

And they do it together.


(Uh-oh.  Here comes the “preachy.”)

“Fiercely determined”?  Sure, if you are going for yourself. 

But what happened to “together”?

Borrowing from Hondo, when someone says of the vanquished Apaches, “It’s the end of a way of life” the John Wayne character replies, “Too bad.  It was a good way.”

I like to remember our “Good way.”

That’s why I liked Ford v Ferrari.

So do they.

Monday, November 25, 2019

"Another Miracle On Ice"

We were driving home after a screening of a fine sports story, Ford v Ferrari which I was going to talk about, when I heard a sports story on National Public Radio and decided to talk about that one instead.

Yes, it’s a hockey story – and hockey’s my hometown – but never mind that.

This is a wonderful story.

And here we go.

John Scott.  Six-foot-eight, two-hundred-and-sixty pounds.  Not smooth.  Not skillful.  His college coach advises, “You want to make it in hockey?  Do what you’re built for.”

What John Scott is built for is being a “Goon.”

Note:  In hockey, a “Goon” is a player whose only duty is to protect his team’s stars by punching whoever’s threatening them in the face.  This is not legal, and the brawler invariably gets penalized.  But that’s what he’s there for – not as a great player, on even a good one, but as a pulverizing “Enforcer.”

Widely indulging his goonish proclivities, John Scott is promoted to the National League, where he can hurt people at the highest level of hockey.

Writer’s Note (as distinguished from plain “Note”):  The intimidating “Goon Factor” was recently phased out of NHL hockey, which is good.  I hated fighting in hockey, finding it embarrassing to my country.

Moving on with the story…

The time comes for the annual NHL All-Star Game.  Marketing “meaningfully involved”, the league lets the fans pick the participants.


As a “goof” or angry protest against the hockey “Establishment” – either or both – an Internet campaign is set up to vote ungifted and brutish John Scott onto the All-Star team.  Lo and longtime buddy behold, likeminded “weirdos” join the crusade, and, in the end, laughable long-shot John Scott winds up receiving more All-Star votes than any player in the league.

(Feel free to see political analogies.  Noting also the line from Fiorello! that says, “People can do what they want to but I got a feeling it ain’t democratic.”)

So there you have it.  “Bad Boy” John Scott will “Captain” the Pacific Division in the NHL’s showcase extravaganza. 

“No-o-o-o-o-o-o!”  (Heard from the League Office through the window, even though it is hermetically sealed.)

Shortly thereafter, Scott gets an “informal” call from an NHL executive, trying to convince him not to show up.  Scott replies,

“I think I’ll go.”

Next thing he knows, John Scott has been traded from Arizona to Montreal, Montreal, promptly demoting him to their minor league affiliate in Newfoundland.  (About as far from Arizona as you can get.  Oh, and John’s wife’s pregnant with twins.)

(Feel free to suspect “backstage shenanigans” in this humiliating arrangement.)  

Having no choice, John Scott accepts his banishment to Newfoundland, where he toils in oblivion, so bitterly angry he says “F –– k the All-Star Game, I won’t go!” until his pregnant wife persuades him he should.

The League Office feverishly pores over the Rule Book.  “Can a player not currently in the league play in an NHL All-Star Game?”  Turns out, there is no rule concerning that matter.

Unable to be kept away, John Scott plays where he was selected to perform. 

Lumbering John Scott, joining the greatest players in the game.

What happens?

John Scott scores two goals.

And the crowd goes wild!

When the contest is over, via texting or “hashtagging”, fans gets to select the game’s “Most Valuable Player.”  Offered three names that do not include John Scott, the fans righteously revolt. 

You guessed it. 

John Scott is chosen “Most Valuable Player” of the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

In celebration, Scott’s teammates hoist John Scott “Rudy”-style onto their shoulders, though not as long ‘cause he weighs two hundred and sixty pounds.  (And Rudy weighed less.)

Early the next morning, John Scott and his wife – who will give birth in four days – board a plane back to Newfoundland.

Shortly thereafter, the hockey “Higher Ups” create “The John Scott Rule”, banning anyone not currently in the league from playing in an NHL All-Star Game.

(Feel free to suspect corporate spite.)

And that’s it.

Hey, no complaints. 

Ford v Ferrari was good.

The story I heard on the radio?