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Name: Justine
Location: Annapolis, Maryland, United States

Justine, is a little bit more than you'd expect. This is where you are supposed to put your "elevator speech". What you'd say if you were in the elevator with somebody you wanted to connect with. I don't have an "elevator speech". If I ran smack-dab into one of my "heroes" I'd just have to smile and be polite and keep my yipper shut and that's probably for the best anyway!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tap, tap, tap.

"Is this web page on?"

I need to take a break and write some things I can't post here. For the time being we're going "off the air".

In the meantime here are some much more interesting web sites for you to peruse.

"Steve Allen" - No not "that" Steve Allen. This is a web site that has posted some "rejected" James May columns. You can see what his writing looks like before it gets "chopped and channeled". It's umm umm good.

The New Adventures of Mr. Stephen Fry - Stephen Fry's Blog-Website. This link takes your straight to his blog on the use of words. It's juicy, succulent, seductive, and nourishing. No, do not ask me how all those things fit together. Go read the page. While you are reading you may have the need of Mirriam-Webster. Go ahead, look up the words you've forgotten for a moment. Nobody's looking.

Cakewrecks - Is my "goto" spot for humor. They have photos of the most botched, bizarre, and beastly professionally decorated cakes to slither out of the kitchen.

Moonlight - Because sometimes "suck" is a really good thing. A sexy vampire detective in a vintage drop top Mercedes. Sci-Fi is giving the series a second chance on Friday nights. Watch it! Check out the Moonlight blogspot for juicy clips and info.

Get Yourself A Good Book - It wouldn't be a "Justine" list without a reference to the Victorian Literary Tradition.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
28 Thousand Dollars
I dreamed that I went into a Hallmark store and found 28 thousand dollars in an envelope tucked in amongst the cards. It had a note attached saying "Thanks for taking this off my hands. I wanted to share it."

In the dream I pocketed the cash and took it home. When I returned to the store to buy a card the next day there was another 28 thousand in another envelope. I pocketed that too.

Some part of me chimed in that I should tell somebody about the windfall.

But, a happy little voice inside me whispered. "It's yours take it and keep on walking." That same gleeful child decided that I could pay off my debts and keep mom for most of a six months on the money. It even planned on how to work the cash into the stream.

56 thousand dollars would do a lot of good in my little corner of strangeness.

Today has been a dipsy with fighting and negotiating. It's all way too boring.

I've loaded up the MP3 player with a refreshed Pete Townshend playlist. I've even got Pete Townshend wallpaper on the computer at work.

"W" looks like a young Pete Townshend. Odd that I'd never noticed it before.

I'm going back to reading now. There is nothing I can say. Too much is pounding through my head to make it into words.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Excuse me while my head falls off. . .
I woke up this morning with a rested and steady spirit. I came to the day ready to rebuild and move forward.

Then I checked my phone messages.

Mom has taken another turn for the worse. There is a ballyhoo going on about the other lady who shares a bath with her clogging up the toilet. She has been forced to use the trash can. Now they've removed the trash can from her room and are insisting I provide adult diapers for her. I've already had a screaming fit today insisting they move a toilet available. For 150$ bucks a day she deserves a place to cop a squat!

Over the weekend my health took a turn for the worse and I am not able to handle things for mom at the level I have been able too. I have made arrangements this afternoon to hire someone who will take care of checking on mom, dealing with the assisted living, and handle the mountain of paperwork.

Even if I have to work and extra day a month to pay for it, it's worth it. They key point now is for me to stay up and working.

Saturday and Sunday my local friends had a little sit down with me and made it clear that I have to bring in some help.

Is there anyone out there that reads this crazy thing who has dealt with a parent with Alzheimer's? Words of encouragement would be appreciated.

Today I would say that even when he was shoveling the Toyota out of the Artic snow, James May was having more fun than I am.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Save me Mr. Clarkson! Please?!?!?!
Pooh The Dark Knight? Jeremy Clarkson has a point in this week's column.

He cringes at the fate of the Batman, Spiderman, James Bond and possilby Winne The Pooh being represented as psychiatric case studies instead of characters in a story.

Batman has always had a bee in his cowl over the death of his parents, but in the past he got on with things. James Bond was hurt by the death of his wife, but he dropped the murderer down a factory smokestack and went on about his life. Pooh has always been motivated by honey and getting wedged in doorways but he has always bravely motored onwards without his pants.

Pooh and I have similar issues except I wear slacks instead of brandishing my bare rump at the world. However if I start thinking and commenting on the gazillion syllable syndrome and existing damage to my wumbly self, I will cease to be in any way a charming companion and join the order of damaged nutjobs.

Reading back over my blog I find that I am more of an Eyeore than a Pooh. This distresses me. I want to be everyone's cheerful fuzzy little cubby all stuffed with fluff. It seems I am not. My apologies.

I have fallen into the trap of the modern need to bash readers in the head with "why" a character is they way they are. If things are writen properly, anyone with a grain of understanding and empathy will know why characters are the way they are. Wuthering Heights does not need an appendix with Heathcliff's psych notes in it. We can all tell why he's a miserable bastard.

The same is true for your humble Justine. I'm a single woman patching together a relationship with someone I met and dated 25 years ago. I'm nursing my mother through her death by Alzheimer's. I work and live near the nation's capital in a time when employment is in doubt, the real estate market is in taters, and my nation is at war. It's pretty obvious why I'm scared and miserable.

This blog has been a place where I've been able to lift the hem of my dress and show my knees knocking together in fear. Sometimes it's necessary to throw a 'wobbler' to get myself righted and get my courage back together.

Thank you for your kind indulgence.

Now I will keep calm and carry on.
At the top of the mountain.
"At the top of the mountain we are all Snow Leopards." - Hunter Thompson

A snow leopard resting in snowy greenery is today's wallpaper on the computer at work.

Since I've had guys sitting with me working on DB2 installs, I've removed my usual Top Gear Wallpaper. Neither one of these guys are gearheads and it's hard enough to explain the calendar with "The Stig" on it.

Today I am at the "Top of the Mountain" but I'm not feeling very leopard like.

It's Friday. This morning I wound up in the middle of a funeral procession on the beltway. The line of cars was so long and slow moving that they were blocking everyone from getting to the exits. Somebody in the procession saw my turn signal and backed up enough to let me in the line. I motored along respectfully ten cars behind the hearse for a mile or so to the next exit.

I still wound up 1/2 hour late for work. So much for this week. I started out being here one and a half hours early on Monday and ended up a half hour late on Friday. I've had three med changes this week. I'm ready for some rest.

On the bright side, the DVR has been earning its keep this week. With new episodes of "Burn Notice", "The Mentalist", "Leverage", and "The Beast", I will have plenty of good things to watch as I hold down the sofa this weekend.

Despite biblical instruction, I'm having a difficult time even taking 1/2 day of rest. Between work, home, and family it seems as if I stop working away I'll fall behind and never catch up.

The mail and paperwork for mom's care pile up daily. It's enough to short out every synapse I have left.

Oh well, as I've said before, hearing about my health going to bits and my family dying off is about as exciting a read as an out of date parts catalogue.

At the top of the mountain we are all Snow Leopards. Be warm, be well fed, be out of sight of the hunters.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Open up them engines let 'um roar.
"There she sits buddy just a gleamin' in the sun,
There to great a workin' man when his day is done.
I'm gonna pack my pa and I'm gonna pack my aunt and
I'm gonna take them down to the Cadillac Ranch.
Eldorado fins, maybe white walls, and skirts,
Rides just like a little bit of heaven here on earth.
Buddy when I die throw my body in the back,
Drive me to the junk yard in my Cadillac.
. . .
Cadillac Cadillac
Long dark shiny and black
Open up them engines let 'um roar
Tearing up the highway like a big old dinosaur."

Cadillac Ranch - by Bruce Springsteen

Top Gear's UK web site is touting that the Cadillac CTS V is going to the UK. They have a pic of the 2009 version with the chicken wire grille.

I'm just going to have to make due with my CTS standard. 255 BHP is ok. Compared to the 550+ the CTS V wails out, it seems slight. Considering I drive in bumper to bumper traffic and have yet to find any tracks short of drag strips open to the public in my area, this might be a good thing. I've noticed that "Oliver" the Cadillac easily jets along in the usually rush hour crush.

I'd also have to say that with the standard seats 500 BHP would throw the driver out of the seat on the turns. The seat belts are anchored into the seat bodies and it's easy to submarine. The slick leather surface doesn't help you stay in place when you're wearing your winter coat either.

The reviews are also true about the interior. I know it's been upgraded since Oliver was built, but it is Spartan. I'm used to having places to put my sunglasses and driving gloves. Not in this car. The glove box is too small for gloves. It holds the traction control "off" button. Odd damn place to put the traction control knob, but that's where it wound up.

I know this is where I am supposed to insert some comment about James May, Top Gear, or something pithy. I'm exhausted. The meds have kicked me to the curb. Some donkey published the identity of The Stig. Next thing somebody will tell me that there's no heaven either. It's a down day in my little corner of the world.

Perhaps tomorrow will be better. Perhaps not.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Heavily Medicated
Pete Townshend is singing "Give Blood" in my ear. It's 18 degrees outside. I'm propped up at my desk at work with a rescue inhaler on the edge of the keyboard.

After a hit of inhaled adrenaline, I'm rousing round.

The continued bitter cold is wreaking havoc on my respiratory system. My docs have given me some meds to keep me braced up and working. I'm on my feet. I'm present at work. I'm earning. (As they say in the Sopranos.)

Mom's more intensive care level is going to run a shade over an additional 1000$ a month.

That thought alone is enough to make me keel over from stress.

But I'm up. I'm up and going! :)

Is the room moving?

I'm heavily medicated but I'm truckin'. I've done 8 hours of OT in the last two weeks. My next check with have a nice extra chunk in it. The weather is scheduled to break tomorrow.

If I can stay on my feet and pull an extra day of OT work a month, I should be able to keep us all afloat for a while longer.

The MP3 player has moved along to Brian Setzer singing "Hoodoo Voodoo Doll". Perhaps he's winging a subtle tribute to Ms. FuFu. She's still in evidence. When we both come out from under the influence of the vasodiolators and rescue inhalers, we'll get this ship back in trim.

Until then we will wish you fair skies and following winds from our little patch on the Sea of Confusion.

P.S. As for my James May reference. I've joined the James May Message board. I'm making lots of new online friends who have the Top Gear addiction too. :)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Oh hell yes, James May has more fun than I do!
It’s Tuesday but it feels like a Monday.

Thirty miles from here the media is whipping hundreds of thousands of people into a frenzy over the inauguration. Since I try not to argue religion, finances, or politics . . . all I will say is “A politician is a politician.”.

The media outlets have been having a field day about the “impending economic crash” and touting Circuit City’s store closings. But honestly, have you ever been in a Circuit City? Could you get any one of the twelve year olds working there to ring you up? How can a store with no customer service expect to survive? ‘CC’ is famous for its commissioned sales people either ignoring you entirely or concentrating on selling you overpriced cables and extended warranties after you picked out a product without their help.

Circuit City killed Circuit City. When Circuit City disgusted its customers, they went elsewhere. Best Buy, Sam’s Club, Costco, WalMart, and Target ate "CC"s lunch.

If I know what I want, I go to Sam’s Club. If I really want help with electronics purchases I go to Crutchfield on the web or on the phone. Their customer service is so good it outweighs the hassle of paying for shipping.

My favorite place for car audio was Bryn Mar and they became Tweeters. Tweeters went under last summer. But I can understand why. My last several cars have come with decent audio and I haven’t had to have new audio fitted. Most high end audio purchasers who would go to “Tweeters” are buying cars with Bose audio systems already installed. For the non-lux car buyers Best Buy is familiar, quick, cheaper, and a known quantity and they get that sector of the market. Tweeters was squeezed out of the market on price and consumer awareness.

There isn’t some sudden rash of businesses going out, the economy has been morphing all along. Staples & Office Depot put the small office supply companies out of business.

I was saddened when Park Lane Hosiery went out of business years ago. The end of the dance wear era and the advent of cheap pantyhose put an end to the need for specialty hosiery stores. There weren’t enough of us stocking aficionados to keep Park Lane going. I sure miss being able to go into Park Lane and getting the exact shade, texture, and opacity of stocking that made my legs look a perfect ten miles long. I have to mail order stockings now and the size varies from company to company. It’s not fun. However I also haven’t worn a pair of stockings out of the house since 1999.

In a view much closer to home, I’m wondering if my current field of expertise will survive until I’m ready to retire from it. When I look at the market share for the product I can tell it will remain in full swing for at least another 15 years. It will morph. I’ve positioned myself in a job where I can stay on the leading edge of some portion of that morph. On the other hand, each new release is substantially different from the last. The result is I have a head cluttered up with six releases at present. It gets tough to remember what is new and what no longer applies.

Yes, I’ve noticed that this post is rambling, off kilter, and way off any recognizable point.

The point is, I can’t write about last weekend. I had house guests, that part was fun.

Saturday I received a call from the assisted living and had to go and have an immediate meeting with the care manager. Mom has very much taken a turn for the worse. She’s not in the locked door section yet, but it’s coming. With the exception of trips for fast food in the car, I think all out outings are over with as well. Mom’s started some new behaviors that have rattled everyone.

We had the discussion about “do not resuscitate” orders and living wills. I have “no life support” paperwork to fill out now. Mom prepared an advanced directive and living will years ago, now I have to find it. I’m afraid I’m going to have to use it.

I spent yesterday going through boxes of papers so I could fill out aid requests. If it weren’t for my stalwart house guests I would have disintegrated into a crying heap.

Whoever said life is “cruel, brutish, and short” wasn’t lying.
Friday, January 16, 2009
That'll Be Enough of That
I'm changing this situation right now.

Ms. FuFu is in the house working her straight thinking, organizing, and enlightening ways. She unhooked the phone on Tuesday night and didn't plug the thing back in until this morning. She is taking a good swing at everybody who is draining me dry. After Christmas she feels like if she doesn't step in and get everybody off my back, I'll shrivel up and die.

We have now initiated a "no fly friends in for the holidays" policy. No matter what the circumstances are, we are no longer going to be played.

Anybody who keeps jumping in the poop bucket and then phoning me for help, gets cut off.

After a car has been in an accident, it will be repaired and traded in immediately.

Any car that requires more than 3 pricey repairs in 1 year is gone. (Tires, brakes, hoses included.)

When mom decides to toss food around in public, she goes straight back to the assisted living. She stays there and they can handle her. I handle the paperwork and make sure the bills are paid to she's safe, warm, and fed. I do not have to volunteer for more abuse. She was abusive before she got sick. She's abusive now. I do not have to take it anymore.

Before I switched jobs I had two personal projects going full tilt. I felt good about my life, at least I felt hopefull.

Now I feel like I'm trapped in a level of hell. I'm off the rails. My last art project is sitting on the stuido table with a coating of dust on it. I had to go back and relearn my vocal exercises again for singing lessons. They were gone out of my memory. I haven't been on the training bike in a month. My wardrobe looks like somebody's rag bag. (No I am not trying to rock the James May look either!) I even forgot my hair dresser's appointment! How can I forget my appointment to get my head rubbed and my hair brushed?!

Ms.FuFu has given me a strict order to to "GDGL" "GD" stands for "get drunk". Ahem. . . now back to our regularly scheduled rant.

FuFu has informed me that she is "in tha house" until I make major changes in the way things are run. I think she's going to be a lunch packin', wardrobe changing, dance lesson enforcing, voice practice insistin', phone disconnectin', budget plannin', and "NO" sayin' little hurricane.

I'm glad she's here. It's time.
I've got sense enough to know when to run!
A few months ago, the grapevine brought me tales of an unexpected retirement of a former friend.

I had my suspicions that perhaps this was not the happy early retirement of dreams. My "intuition" told me that this person had gone full tilt round the bend and somebody finally threw a net over them.

This morning my suspicions were confirmed. The grapevine that knows all things dropped a few words in my shell like ear.

My "FF" had changed work groups and taken up a new set of skills. The work reviews came out and they didn't get a "walks on water". In a performance worthy of Alan Rickman, this "FF" came into work early, brought a rope, tossed it over a beam in the office ceiling, and attempted to hang himself. His neck didn't snap, he dangled choking instead. Before he perished a co-worker arrived on the scene and got him down. (He has enough skill to have tied a neckbreaking noose.)

Please don't think me cold hearted or uncaring. I have been on the receiving end of three a.m. phone calls from this man where he rattled the barrell of a revolver in his teeth. I have propped him up and yelled for help when he's taken overdoses of pills. I've heard tales of his jumping in front of cars both on foot and on a bicycle. I've cried, pleaded, begged, and tried to get him help.

His solution to everything is to scream that God is going to send him to hell and then pour a case of Coors Light down his neck as quickly as possible. His drama is his place in the world. He manipulates, raves, rants, screams, weedles, and controls everyone around him. Without drama he can't stand to breathe. When you look at him, he literally has a pitch black shadow around him.

He is broken, crumbled, and vicious to a fault. I'm sure he doesn't want things to change because it's all he knows. I'm fairly sure he doesn't have the gumption to do the work to change his life. I know he doesn't want to do the work.

I feel sorry for his wife, she bought into his game of madness and now she's in it neck deep. Say what you will about "love". There is a difference between loving someone and letting them kill you.

It makes me sick just to write about this. But it serves to remind me that I do know when to run. I severed ties with this person almost ten years ago and it was the right thing to do.

For whatever faults I may have, my survival instinct works very well.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Jeremy Clarkson has led me to sin . . . .
and it's never felt better.

Yummy. Sumptuous. Don't want to give it up. Not gonna give it up. Don't care what my mama says, gonna keep right on.

Ummmmm hmmmmmm. Oh yessssss. It's the pedal on the right and it feels so goooood.

Last night in the darkness I succumbed to the seduction of the left hand lane on I695.

In the old Mercury the night time rush hour speeds would make the car feel like it was going to fly apart. When the "rush" would ramp up, I would toddle over to the slow lane. Last night, when the "rush" ramped up, I didn't notice. Oliver upped speed and held steadily and calmly to the lane. There was no shimmy, no road roar, no rabbit hopping in the ruts, and no feeling of being centimeters from a super nova.

Oliver rolled calmly up and snuggled into the traffic. The XM radio played chillout music. The heater subtly warmed my feet. The tach needle lolled with a long way to go before it was stessed.

When I glanced down to check the gauges I realized I was hurtling along at 82 mph. I was between a Ford F150 and a BMW whatsit. Not since my late lamented Thunderbird have I had the combination of quick and comfy.

As "W" reminded me there isn't much comparison between my old car and Oliver. Oliver is the first fourty five thousand dollar car I've ever driven. Even though Oliver came to my house after a few years on the road with someone else, he's still engineerred to a whole other level from the old Sable. Im keeping my fingers crossed that his quality control is better as well.

I'm looking into local autocross and track days as an outlet for my love for Oliver.

I know James May thinks track days are for "yobs". But, I don't have a piano and I've got to do something for kicks.
FuFu Makes Her Triumphant Return
She's back! Ms. FuFu my champion, defender, and protector. I'm the one who thinks James May has more fun than I do. Ms. FuFu is convinced she could show James May what fun really is.

FuFu arrived last night and took the phone off the hook. She poured me a nice comforting beverage, put on some of my fave tunes, and sat me down for a few hours of reading, jigsaw puzzling, and arftsy fartsy endeavors.

She has explained to me that "D" has been winding me up and dragging me into her circus-o-headgames. She's also reminded me that mom, no matter how scrambled, plays full contact head games as a matter of course. There was nothing more natural for her to do than throw her plate of food in the floor at the diner when she didn't get her way.

If I'm going to walk the tightrope of caregiver and daughter, I'm going to need my nomex suit and helmet. 'Cause mom plays rough and she's not above running me straight into a wall strictly for her own amusement.

You remember Ms. FuFu made her last appearance a few months ago when it was time for me to screw up my courage and change jobs again. She shows up when the stress is high and I need make changes. She's back to remind me why I started blogging in the first place. It was to get daily writing back into my life.

There was also a darker motive, to become an exhibitionist. What safer place than strutting around emotionally naked than on the web? There's so much going on, nobody sees another nut nattering on. After years of having to hide, hold my tongue, be quiet, and fade into the scenery now I have my very own web domain. For somebody whose voice has almost been crushed out, now I'm screaming on the electronic universe.

Time for changes again. I've got the new job, new car, and the house is finished. I'm taking voice lessons. Now it's time to rock the next step into focus. Now it's time to be selfish and live my own life for a change. Ms. FuFu is here to make sure I get to it.

Ms. FuFu's most recent incarnation:
Ms. Monroe graciously portraying Ms. FuFu

image courtesy of Google/Life archive
Monday, January 12, 2009
Slit Skirts, Jigsaw Puzzles, Answering Machines
"When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and loose my cool.
. . . .
And if I swallow anything evil,
Put your fingers down my throat.
And if I shiver
Won't you give me a blanket?
Keep me warm
Let me wear your coat"
-- Behind Blue Eyes

Pete Townshend is still taking up the prime real estate on my MP3 player this week. I've added a few more songs and taken off some others.

As the holidays race backwards in the rearview mirror I'm becoming myself again. It's like coming out of a some type of old-time illness. The crisis has past and the fever has broken. Saturday morning I woke up alone in the house, feeling wobbly, and disoriented.

When I went to sort out the paperwork for mother's subsidy from the assisted living, the mountain of paperwork collapsed. I cried for fifteen minutes. Then I realized that I couldn't do it anymore.

I put on my coat and went out to the office supply store. I bought a set of document storage boxes and a new pocket date minder. I even stopped on the way home for a roast beef sandwich.

I shoved all of the 2008 documents in a box and put them in the storage room. The nursing facility can look at the copies of the 2006 and 2007 tax returns I sent them six months ago. The state of Mayland taxation office can just bloody well except the copy of the 2007 tax return without the copy of the 1099G or they can take a crazy 83 old woman to court over a total income of 1677$. Fuck them all.

This morning I transferred my phone numbers and appointments to my new date book. In Nov & Dec of 2008 I was so busy taking care of everybody else that I forgot I needed a date book. I've missed hair appointments and doctors appointments because I haven't had my trusty black book.

"D" is back in Denver and back to explaining to me how it was all her fault that her kids abused her before Christmas. I've had it with her. Had it to the top. Being supportive is one thing but this woman has lost her mind. She won't go get counseling but she will crawl over broken glass to find another way to blame the whole situation on herself. Now she's back to begging her kids to pay attention to her. She's also back to saying she wants to move east but refusing to do anything about it.

I paid for her plane ticket to come east so she wouldn't be alone for the holidays. I can't say that I regret showing kindness. But I can say that I won't sit and listen to more of her crying about how she gets abused. She just keeps diving back into the shit bucket and expecting it to be fine wine.

I've just about decided to turn mom over to the state as well. After two solid weeks of chest pains I've had all the stress I can take. Yesterday afternoon I took mom to our regular diner for lunch out. She turned on the spite and started acting up. I came close to dragging her out of there by her ear. Luckily for me the people at the table next to us realized mom has dementia and they were patient until I could get her out.

She is markedly worse than she was two months ago. I don't know how fast it goes once they hit the "locked door ward" stage. But she's really already gone.

She wasn't here with me when she was healthy. Now all that's left is a stranger that looks like my mom.

The old saying goes that it's never too late to have a happy childhood. I'd say my chances are gone. Dad is dead. Mom is the walking dead. I'm sort of too dinged up and patched to claim I'm factory fresh.

My chance of a happy adulthood is looking slim too.

Won't some 40 something year old man, who's been through the mill too, come and be my playmate? We deserve a little happiness before we take our turn in the locked door ward.

The lesson I've learned for the new year is to let go. Now is just for me. Me and my playmate.

Shall we start with the National Gallery? Or shall we go to the Aquarium for feeding time? How about a jigsaw puzzle? (I've got one started on the table.) I like other games too.

We'll bolt the door. We'll turn off the phone. Now is ours.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
It's been lovely. . .
Really it has. . . . . .

All this pitty patting around on the keyboard. All the giggling about James, Jezza, and Richard. Reacquainting myself with the thrill of a shapely auto. It's all been a party.

I've needed a bit of a party. Like many other women I've been taking a "working nervous breakdown".

Of course, notes from the darkside have not necessarily been the best of reading. I thank you for your patience.

Today I am exhausted. I'm at work and we are having a disaster recovery drill and it's being plagued with equipment failure. It's also the days I have VA appointments for mom and doctor appointments for myself. It's the way it always roll. I've cancelled all my appointments and I'm waiting on equipment repair.

Today I'm too tired to deal with it. I really need to go home and sleep but the job demands I sit here and wait.

God help me.

I need a new career.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Oliver is coming home tonight.

Oliver has suffered a bad wheel bearing. He had a transplant and is expected to be able to roll home tonight.

After driving home last night in a Hyundai Sonata in the sleet and rain, I can surely say Oliver was missed in his absence. It had been a long time since I'd had to take a small car through road ruts full of ice and wet. The experience was as bad as I remember it. Luckily I remembered my old time skills and was able to run one wheel on the hump in the middle of the lane and the other on the hump towards the outside edge of the lane. That kept me out of the worst puddle kickback.

I've been musing about this blog lately. The decision at hand is to continue it or delete it. The concept of having a "blog" seems to be a badge of shame these days. The thought put forth is that bloggers are boring little nitwits, with no life, who write unread pages about nothing interesting. I'm not a nitwit, most of the time. My life is not boring, it's mostly overflowing with frenetic occurences of Murphy's Law.

Writing coaches have harranged me that this is not "essay" style. It's too informal. Too humor based. Too whatever.

Well? This is a blog. It's more of a diary/journal. I started it to get some writing practice in no matter where I was. I could go back to leaving the web page private but that's too much trouble. The only people that I know read this little flight of fancy are my Cousin Tuesday and a few close friends. It's the best form of passive aggressive communication going.

I enjoy writing this wacky thing. Sometimes I tell it like it is. Sometimes I take a little trip to the big house on the river and write about Rogn and my dream garage full of cars.

It's a blend of being totally exposed to the world and completely invisible. It's like stripping off to stand in the kitchen and was the dog in the sink. Nobody will know. At least nobody would have known when I did it, except that I left the blinds up over the sink. The dog started barking and I looked up to see my neighbor standing in his yard staring at me. I smiled, waved, and finished rinsing the pup.

My "bloggy" musings about things automotive and "Top Gear" may register as juvenile but I'm harmless. I'm not stalking Richard Hammond or speculating on Jeremy Clarkson's footwear or sending odd things to James May through the mail. I watch the program. I dream about owning a pack of lovely cars. I confess to being envious of James May's driving, traveling, and writing lifestyle. Mea Culpa. For all I know he spends his weekends dressed as Mozart and teaching grade school children to read music. (That I would not envy.) But, when he's behind the wheel of a Veyron hurtling down the highway or around the track, I wish I could do the same.

If I couldn't believe that somwhere someone was having a better time of it, I'd loose all hope in life. If James May can get a joyous shuffle of luck then there might be one coming down the line for me.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Oliver is down.
It is with great sadness and regret that I report that "Oliver" the Caddy has been returned to the dealership. He may not be rejoining the family.

Oliver showed signs of illness Saturday night which intensified on Monday. He is suffering from a rotational vibration in the front end. Currently he is with car care professionals undergoing diagnostic tests.

If this turns out to be something mild such as a tire issue, caliper rub issue, or warped rotors, he will return to the family tomorrow. If he should be suffering from bearing, tie rod, or suspension problems he will humanely be given back to the dealership for placement in a home that will be able to care for his special needs.

The dealership offers a 5 day return it, no questions asked, warranty.

Tomorrow afternoon I may be driving a rental car. But that's better than driving another maintenance nightmare.
Monday, January 05, 2009
I'll call him Oliver.
I named him Oliver for good luck.

Yes, he was named after the cream yellow 1963 Opel Kadett driven across Botswana by Richard Hammond.

My Oliver is a “Stealth Gray” Cadillac CTS with a two tone interior. He has the “sport” transmission package coupled with the 3.6 V6 engine. He flies. The handling is quiet, confident, smooth and taut. There’s road feel but not the wrist wearying jiggle of my former automotive nemesis, the front wheel drive Sable.

Oliver addresses me by name each time I start him up. He remembers what position the seat was in, what radio station was on, what the heater setting was, and where to put the side mirrors. When I put the transmission in reverse, he helpfully tilts the passenger side mirror downwards so I can see the curb. When I put the car back in drive, he returns the mirror to its previous position. Instead of an array of dust catching buttons, his control panel features few knobs and switches. However they control an array of features I’ve yet to fathom.

One of my favorite features isn’t the heated seats but the built in XM Radio. After four years of riding around in the cup holder, my XM SkyFi took the final fall last week and bit the dust. I transferred the service contract to Oliver’s built in radio.

Oliver doesn’t seem to have the optional Bose stereo system. There are so many adjustments that I’m not even sure I have all the equalizer channels on.

I have no clue how Jeremy Clarkson ever got into a CTS. I have the seat all the way back and I feel like I’m on top of the dash. But that’s the hard part isn’t it? Getting a new car adjusted so it all the little angles and doobobs fit like a glove. It’s like slipping into bed or your favorite armchair, there’s a feel to the driver’s seat of the daily driver that enables you to face the traffic in a confident manner.

I will say that the last time I bought a car we had a blizzard. It snowed and drifted on my 2003 Sable until not even the radio antenna was visible. The whole car was buried. It took me two days to dig down the stairs and out to the car.

Tonight we are scheduled to have sleet and hail. I will be tucking Oliver under the awning on the side porch tonight. I hope his ground treatment will mount the bump up without a problem.

This will be my first winter back in a rear wheel drive car in six years. I know it drives better and there is no pesky torque steer. I wonder if I’ll have to put bags of potting soil or cat litter in the back. I hope not. Oliver is a healthy boy, with some size and heft. He has traction control and ABS. He is not my tailspin prone Thunderbird.

The T-Bird was a car you could “drift” around corners with ease. But that was back when it was called “sliding” or “spinning” and not “drifting”. I don’t think Oliver is going to need the ‘back end goose out’ to navigate turns.

It will take a few more days to get over the apoplexy of having to buy a car out of the blue. I’m certainly hungry for that tax return this year. Peter, Paul, and several other saints were mugged to navigate this month’s bills.

I’ve just checked and the OnStar emergency services monitoring is going to run 200$ for a year and 379$ for two years. Since AAA is running over 80 bucks a year, it’s not a big difference. What happens if you are in a crash and your rearview mirror falls off, I’m not sure. I guess OnStar gets the signal from the airbags and sends help anyway. I think I’m going to give it a try after I get the tax refund.

Yesterday I started putting in the maps, flashlights, jumper cables, and comfort items in the car. I also removed all dealer traces. I’m not making payments to advertise for a dealership.

“D” went back home on Saturday morning, I drove straight over to check out Oliver and I took him home Saturday evening. After the holiday season, car breakdowns, and taking care of a sick house guest, I was exhausted. I slept the sleep of the “seriously relieved that’s over”. I had nightmares about car salesmen and then switched to having dreams about staying at a little inn in a far away picturesque city. I remember the room was decked out with antiques, the works of Oscar Wilde were on the nightstand, there was afternoon sunlight and a six panel oak door with a skeleton key. Sunday was bagels and tea and puttering about the house. I remember roaming the streets of the city, noshing, and soaking up sun. I also remember it was so peaceful I stayed an extra day. I had to count pennies to make sure I had the room rate for an extra night. Then, even in my dream, I slept.

Last night I dreamt that I opened a closet and found my 1983 Toyota Carolla stuck away in a back corner. I pulled it out and put it back on the road. I spent the night tearing around town in my old four cylinder companion. In my dreams, shifting a manual came back to me as easy and fun. My last thoughts before the alarm were, I’m glad I kept this. I knew I’d need it again some day.

Today I wanted to take my pretty new seven diamond ring to the jewelers for resizing. However, I can’t find it. I’ve gone through boxes, drawers, jewelry holders, and nooks and crannies. It didn’t fit and I remember taking it off and stashing it away “someplace safe”. Now I can’t find it. I guess the good luck fairy gave me good luck with Oliver and hid my ring as payment. Who knows? The ring will turn up shortly and it will be resized.

They key point is I now have a car that will get me to the jewelry store and home without the aid of a tow truck.
Friday, January 02, 2009
She's Yar Isn't She?
In the Philadelphia Story the leads keep coming back to the boat they spent their honeymoon on. The comment "She was yar" or "She's yar" or "It will be yar" keep reoccuring.

What the Philadelphia Story has to do with Top Gear, I'm not sure but my mind made the connection. Perhaps it's because I can envision Jeremy Clarkson pushing a woman down by the face the way Cary Grant's character bowls over Katherine Hepburn's.

Perhaps it's because I can't seem to use the phrase, "beautiful car" anymore. Beautiful cars have broken my heart. They've blown timing belts, shorted out their electrical systems, blown out their oil pressure switches, and just plain old fell apart when I couldn't afford to have them fixed.

Handsome men have turned out to work the same way. My father was a gorgeous creature, tall and fair, and as duplicitous as a xerox machine in overdrive. He had the charm, the looks, and the shit-eating-grin. He was the perpetual "used car salesman" and my mother is still broken hearted whether she admits it or not.

This has all led me to be ancient, single, and driving a car that is shorting out a centimeter at at time. Not a good state of affairs.

I've spent the last week shopping, getting letters of finance, getting insurance quotes, checking out warranty companies, reading car owner forums, and narrowing down to a selection.

This time around the car showroom, I've had the voices of Jeremy Clarkson and James May in the back of my mind. On Jeremy's reccomendation I test drove the Cadillac CTS. I discovered there is a suspension and transmission package for the large V6 that turns the car into a taut handling rocket. It is silent, pleasant, and sneaky as it caroms up to 100 mph. When I first drove it, I put my foot down on the pedal to merge into traffic like I normally do. When I sped into the lane and looked back at the speedometer I was going just shy of 100 mph. The car was still happily digging into the acceleration. It was as quiet, stable, and well behaved as my leather chair at home.

I drove an Audi A4, Nissan's herd of sporties, Suburu's rally model, and quite a few others.

For my cash strapped price range, my comfort loving commuter side, and my secret speed demon, the Cadillac CTS is my choice. Right now I'm having one sent in to the local dealership in my choice of year, color, and options. It's in my price range and it has only 20K miles on it. It's a 2005 that was used as a fleet car.

It is scheduled to arrive on Monday. I'll drive it then. If it's all sweet and fluffy fresh, I'll take it home.

As I've wandered around used car lots I've thought of James May's advice to buy a nice used car and have a beauty you wouldn't otherwise afford. He has a point, I can't afford a new Cadillac. Unlike James, I can't work on my own car. I'm thinking extended warranty. It adds a chunk to the car price but it also adds practicality for me.

Wish me luck. Hope that I find a car that's yar.