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Cool things to check out in, or things inspired by, The Big Apple.

A New Chapter

Brooklyn Bridge

Game on mother fucker.

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’93 Buick Century: The Car That Never says “Die”

After over two months, $320, and countless failures, stalls, bummed rides, and weekends spent at home, my car is finally fixed. I salute you Buick Century, you glorious bastard, this is the second major breakdown you’ve survived. Let the record show I never gave up on you, even though all logic pointed in that direction.

It all started April 15th. Not being able to find a ride to the airport I decided to leave my car in long term parking. It was going to cost me about $15 bucks. Call a cab? Don’t even talk about cabs. $22 from the airport to my door. Gas doesn’t cost that much, assholes. I get back and it’s pouring rain. No big deal, there’s a shuttle out to the lot. I get in the car, slightly damp and ready to go to work (it was Monday morning). Turn the key. Nothing.

Two days later I get my car back from the garage where it had been towed. Thank god for AAA. The battery van guy actually brought me to an ATM to get cash to cover the fee when he got back with the truck (it was in metered parking). Then he brought me home and was nice enough to tell me his entire life story, show me cell phone pics of his new tool box, and explain how he started his own DJ business: the lusty leopard or screaming seagull or giggling cheetah or something then charge me $80 to tell me he didn’t find anything. In fact, as soon as he had it towed in, it started up fine. Even so, he felt the need to spend five minutes turning it on and off every twenty minutes for an hour. Assholes.

Then it was April 21st and time to go to Toronto for Flash in the Can. Why did I offer to drive? Go ask the owl. It drove up fine, and even drove home well enough. Then the problems started. Randomly not starting, randomly stalling at a light or when idling, transmission problems, the outlook was bleak. I took it to the wonderfully whimsical Dial-A-Tire who surmised they could find nothing wrong and maybe it was the transmission. Wade (the owner) became my instant mechanic-for-life when he didn’t charge me for the labor since they couldn’t find anything.

For those of you who haven’t owned a car more than ten years old, believe you me that the words “it’s the transmission” is pretty much a death sentence. It’s hard to pay for a repair that costs more than the car’s worth (that’s called ‘totaled’ kids). Much like Napoleon at the height of power, my strategy was to wait and see.

Through an evolution Darwin would’ve been proud of, the problems got more varied, idiosyncratic, strange, inconsistent, and mind-boggling. By getting to know my co-workers better through begged rides to and from work (thanks again Emily, Jill, and Pete), I made it through a few weeks. Oh, speaking of Pete, he gave me the only small victory in this battle by changing all my plugs and wires while I was away one weekend. Not like “surprise, new plugs”, I dropped it off at his house before I left. That seemed to solve problem #9 - randomly not starting. ‘Randomly’ isn’t the right word, it was sort of predictable. As the importance of my arriving on time at my destination went up, the chances the car would start went down - a direct inverse proportion.

I adapted to a schedule that allowed me to drive to work, and drive home, with no stops along the way and no going out once I was back for the night. I couldn’t drive anywhere else (in case it didn’t start) or drive anywhere that would require me to sit idling (since it would stall). That included days in which traffic was heavy on the way to work. Those days included Friday, June 15th when my car stalled in the middle of a two lane road and had to be pushed, in reverse, over an incline into a bank parking lot. That’s even less fun than it sounds.

This was getting ridiculous. Summer means road trips and I needed a car that wouldn’t leave me stranded on Rt. 17. For those of you who don’t live upstate, as you drive down Rt. 17, you have to turn up your stereo to drown out the banjo music rolling forth from the porches peppered along this rustic almost-highway. Horseheads NY? Assholes.

One more chance. the Hail Mary pass, I decided to give Dial-A-Tire another shot. The problems had gotten consistent enough to diagnose. I dropped it off yesterday morning. Wade called me that afternoon. It lives!

Turns out the internal computer had gone all wonky. Who knew ‘93 Buicks even had a computer? I always assumed my car ran on wishes and magic. Apparently I wasn’t far off since the computer was controlling the engine as if I was teleporting back and forth between the south pole and the equator. Do you know what happens when the engine suddenly thinks it’s -40 degrees? It floods with gas and everything stalls. Oh, and the idle goes nuts.

What’s the best thing about big, common American cars? Every garage has the necessary parts laying around and a new computer only costs $240. The radiator fan wasn’t working but rather than charge me for anymore parts or labor, good old Wade just whacked it with a wrench and it started up again. Reminds me of my mechanic back home who would stick a jack-knife into battery connections to check for live voltage.

I can’t express how good it feels to have a car again. I don’t have to hold my breath at every stoplight. I can go out at night for dinner, or groceries, or the gym, all without begging my neighbor. I can eat lunch at work, even if no one else is going out. If I forget my sunglasses at the cigar bar I don’t have to wait for two weeks until I’m in the neighborhood on my way to the liquor store with Rex. I honestly didn’t realize how stressed out I was about not having it. I guess you don’t know what you got till it’s gone it comes back.

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Sauerbraten

This post has been moved to Sacre Bleu, my new food blog that demystifies cooking for the curious home chef.

View this post at Sacre Bleu.

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Mike Doughty, Pomegranate Wheat and Wagner

Today was the kind of day that will become one of those memories about how good ‘it used to be’. I seem to have a lot of those, maybe I should start identifying them as they happen.

While at work I felt like I was productive but looking back I’m not so sure. There were a lot of coffee runs, your-mom jokes, lunch trips and beer drinking - even more than a usual Friday. Also, for the record, what does a guy have to do to live down an old, accidental mention of maybe being a Teddy Geiger fan? Bring up the lilac festival and it always ends in my own ridicule. Damnnnnnn!

I came home and envied luddites everywhere since any and all technology was failing for me and I was tempted to throw my computer out the window. This PC is harshing my mellow. It’s time for a Mac. Even the wordpress admin looks crappy on a PC. After having decided to wrestle with the PC rather than meeting R and J for drinks, I met up with them on the way to the Lilac Festival.

‘Busting up a Starbucks’ has a whole new meaning for me now because seriously, dude looks like he’s worked in one. When I got there and he was just starting to do mic check I was wondering “Who’s this barrista looking mother fucker?”. True story. What a great show though. It seemed short, but that might just be because I’m familiar with all his songs. It was pretty surprising to hear him perform ‘Circles’ though. Haven’t heard that song in ages. My major complaint was that he didn’t play ‘I Hear the Bells’ which is like going to Dino BBQ and not ordering ribs, or waiting till your married to have sex - it’s still awesome, but with an un-shakable feeling of disappointment.

After a car ride that I was sure would end in my death, it was time to go to the party. I don’t consider myself someone who networks a lot (I have friends that do that for me) but apparently Rochester is a smaller world since I knew just about everyone at the party by no more than two degrees. I got to chat food for a long time with some people who really know what they’re talking about. The party was a goodbye send-off, dude’s going to New Zealand to do awesome mo-graph work. The party dispersed after one of the most eloquent speeches I’ve heard and I left wishing I’d known all these people longer.

I wanted to Facebook everyone before I started forgetting who I’d met and luckily for me my unreliable whore of a PC decided to work this time. I think I’ll listen to ‘Bells’ before I go to bed. It’s Public Market time tomorrow.

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Guy’s Night

It was a Friday night. What are three guys like us to do? We could go out anywhere, as long as it was to a place none of us had ever been. We set out for the first window full of neon lights we saw.

As soon as we crossed the threshold we learned what the kids mean when they talk about the “townie bars”. Lots of older dudes lavishing attention on the (much) younger women. They seemed to have a good assortment of bottles behind the bar so we saddled up. That’s when things got odd, which is what we were looking for.

The bartendess—we’ll call her Carla—strolls up and asks for IDs. This was ironic since I’m pretty sure the table of girls being hit on by the middle aged construction workers was actually celebrating the S.A.T.s (four digit scores this time! break out the reserve Midori.) Two thirds of our IDs were out of state which also meant the photos were no less than four years old. Carla gave us grief. More grief then I ever had years ago when I used to be from Maine. At some point I realized the concern was no longer professional and she was flirting. Somewhere across space and time in Bizzarro Rochester the three of us must have been drinking green tea and trading bedroom eyes with perfect ten models.

It is at this point I must pause to remind us all that “flirting” does not always gaurantee success and finesse. Carla procedded to quiz us on the music we listened to back in ’82 (Baby Beethoven of course, so I could learn my shapes quicker and eventually graduate from an acredited institution) along with various other one-sided banter that went from cute to old faster than the female to male ratio at the bar. If that wasn’t enough, Carla was clawing at Kris’s wallet like the bears at the zoo when you give them a peanut butter jar.

Two older (and drunker) men seated on the corner of the what I can only assume to be mahogony bar joined in the fray. Having no doubt earned their epic alcohol tolerance through many nights of sitting alone watching NYPD Blue, they made an offer to ‘lean on us’ if we were giving Carla a hard time. While I tried to decide if it was more likely that either man was Carla’s father or just her ‘daddy’ the one guy put me in a headlock and playfully punched me in the head a few times. I learned something that I will now share with you: three punches are funny, five punches are weird, seven punches have earned a response. Luckily he realized this too. As the smell of Preferred Stock started to mellow we finally got our drinks. We decided that regardless of how long Carla or the men had looked at our liceneses, no one here knew our name and no one—including us—were glad we came.

We got a booth and after the third time Carla came over with an achingly awkward attempt at conversation Kris realized that the standard dollar bill tip was not usefull here and sent her away with a clue instead. She asked “What are you guys doing here?” “Here” was assumed to reference the bar, probably because that was the question we were all asking ourselves. She was, however, referring to Rochester in general. We told her we lived here, had gone to school here. This seemed to vex her terribly (no Baby Beethoven for Carla I guess). “What school?” she asked. “Middle School” said Kris affectively closing our social tab for the evening.

Seeing the bar as a backdrop for what we definitely didn’t want made it easier to discuss what we all did. Mostly to make a name for ourselves and a lot of money while we’re at it. Before we’re tagged as Generation Y primadonnas let me emphasize that most of our conversation centered on how our graduating class seem to be the last to have a sense of the hard work and maturity needed to succeed.

Then a hot girl came in and we got back on track. What? We’re in a townie bar. You dont go to a Korn concert and listen to Edith Piaf on your iPod. Now, for those of you not from Rochester or a similar area, a hot girl entering a sausage laiden bar is visually akin to setting down a bowl of food for a half dozen hungry dogs. You see it for a moment, then it’s gone, and all you hear is growling.

The girl was hot– little white tank top over tanning-bed-crisp skin with just a hint of the lower back tatoo peering out from above her l.e.i. jeans. Inexplicably, none of us were that impressed. I wouldn’t have talked to her. Neither, it seemed, would Kris or Drew. We were surprised. Why was this? Then Kris made it clear. “Girls like that, they don’t appreciate the things guys like us have to offer which is fine because we wouldn’t appreciate the things she’s got to offer us.” Wow. Nailed it! I used to think people like this girl were ignorant, naive, lazy or worse–mediocre. I see now they’re specialists and they orbit in circles that don’t intersect with my own. I’m sure many of them see me as pretentious (maybe), effeminent (huh?) and geeky (guilty). As obvious as this is now, when he said it a light clicked on. Not just for girls either. I see now that I’ve become part of a larger group, a demographic, and there are lines where I see the other side and the grass is not greener.

The chat then turned to how we find people that might want what we have or have something we might want. Guess what? All of us would like to own and operate a bar. Specifically one that offered some desserts, tapas, live jazz and blues, a bar that was about as similar to the one we were in as a state fair is to a farmer’s market.

For the first time in years, I had that feeling of possibility. That feeling I’d get when I was young and thought about girls, or college, or summer vacation, or anything I hadn’t done yet that was sure to be great. It’s that sense of imagination and gleeful ignorance; of risk and delight.

Now, what are three guys like us to do now? We decided we need to try and do something. We all can go anywhere, as long as it is a place none of us have ever been. So now we’re driving, looking for the first neon lights that catch our eye.

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