Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Swept away

Last week a man told me I'd have to line my chimney to the tune of $2400.

Today I paid a man $50 to tell me that my chimney is in perfect working order.

You'd think I'd be happy about that.


I'm up $2350.

But I'm not. I'm irate. I'm mad as hell. I'm vigilante, pipe-swinging, crank-calling, better-business-bureau calling mad.


I'm pissed because the sales pitch of the $2400 man was "Carbon Monoxide will leak into your house and kill your two year old."

Mother fucker.

Don't tell me something is threatening to kill my two year old unless you are SURE.

Do you hear me, everyone else that uses that as a sales ploy?


Or look out.

I WILL have this guy's operation stung by an investigative reporter. I will watch as his truck is repossessed, his license is revoked and his business is dismantled.

Mark my words.

I am on a mission.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A lot like Christmas

Is ANYONE ever home to sign for a package? EVER?
They've misdelivered 3 packages for me in 5 days.

My son only wants one thing for christmas: "fruit snacks."
Because he kicked me in the shins this morning when I asked him to apologise for spitting at me.

My back yard has three layers of snow in it. Miraculously suspended in these geologically stratified layers of ice and snow are over 20 piles of dog poop. It's gonna be one heck of a spring out there.

I pulled 15 strands of christmas lights out of my attic.
Four work.

I was berated for grabbing the bottle of tequila out of the company goody basket.
"It's for the whole department," one whiny bastard whined.
But they only gave us one bottle. What kind of party can an entire department have with one bottle of tequila?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

iPod echo-boomer

Too old to be cool. Too young to take advantage of the AARP discount at the movies.

I bought an iPod.


I know. "Really? It took you this long?" It was going to be either me or the old guy who lives at the Y and dresses in dresses. But he's officially the last person on earth to own an iPod. You know the term early adopter? I'm a "let's see if this thing catches on - okay, it's caught on, let's see if the price comes down - okay the price has come down but I've lasted this long - okay I've lasted this long but my entire purchased music collection from the last 2 years is stranded on my office computer" adopter.

Did I buy the new one? The video one? The impossibly small Nano? No No. I got the dusty 4th generation 20GB iPod classic (the ones they can't give away, but they can sell to the begrudgingly-late adopters.

So thank you, 20th century, for welcoming me with open earbuds. But I will NEVER EVER until they put screws on my fingers pay for satellite radio.

Monday, November 07, 2005

snow what

I have one of the most archaic developments left in automobiles (right behind carburators): snow tires. That's because my 1986 Volvo 240 has rear wheel drive. So every fall/winter, I have to mount a different set of tires on the car so I don't end up plunging into the Susquehanna skidding down the icy hill from my son's daycare.

Seems easy enough.

Except that snow tires - while not made of snow per say - will "melt" if you drive on them in conditions above 50 degrees. And we have had unseasonably warm weather since exactly two days after I put my damn snow tires on (this after two weeks weather in the 40s). So I got that going on.

That and my beautiful slate roof.
But I digress.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Old and Folded

I have entered the "with symphony" stage of my life. My wife and I have tickets to see Ben Folds with the Baltimore Symphony. This is a crossover performance, designed to get people my age comfortable with seeing music in a setting that does not involve $3 Miller Lites or a stealthily-passed hash pipe. I think the Symphony does it to recruit new classical season ticket holders. Is that the correct term? Sounds way too grid-iron for opera seats.

Other bands who've performed with a symphony: Elton John, Roberta Flack, and DJ Spooky.

Why do I consider this band-with-symphony thing a stage and not just a one-concert fling? I went to a concert in a basement bar last week and had two main complaints: the music was too loud and the bar was too smoky. There was a time when neither of these things mattered to me. When I slept in the Boscov's parking lot for tickets. When I could enjoy a band while sitting under a trashbag in the rain. When assigned seats were considered a drag, and being crushed against the barriers in front of the stage meant I had "unbelievable seats". Now I pick seats in the upper tier so I don't get moshed on. Seriously, who is moshing at a Dave Matthews Band concert? Of course, I was never a fan of the big concert - at least not since I saw the Grateful dead at RFK. My last serious colliseum concert was Pink Floyd on their Division Bell tour. Great lightshow. But the 14 year-olds dosing next to me turned me off. No more attending concerts with unsupervised children. I retreated to bars where drunk 21-year olds hippie-jived to Dread Zeppelin and two-stepped to Robert Earl Keen. With the exception of any dance hall Polka Band, REK is still the only good concert to see in a room full of drunk people.

One of my favorite live performances was actually David Sedaris. The guy is funny. He only sang one song: his Billie Holiday impersonation. But there wasn't a fourteen year old on acid to be seen.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Remember when Halloween happened on Halloween? I took my kid trick or treating on Oct. 27. Is no paganistic candyfest sacred?

The city instituted Thursday night trick-or-treat a few years ago to keep children from being run down by drunk drivers on Friday night. But this year, Halloween is on Monday. What is the conflict there? Monday night football? I guess in Central PA the Pittsburg v. Baltimore game is too important to be interrupted by a couple thousand teenagers dressed like Jerome Bettis.

What's so great about a Thursday night trick-or-treat anyway? Is it a plot to sabotage "Will and Grace" ratings? Thursday surely has its share of drunk drivers. I mean, Thursday is the new Friday. I do some of my best drinking on Thursday nights. Partly because Joey is so painful. Partly because I have to brace myself for the Neilsen Phenomenon that is CSI/Without a Trace. What? I have a kid.

Imagine my irritation when I have to modify my Thursday-night TV-viewing habits for the neighborhood association. I mean c'mon - NFL aside (admittedly I'm not a big NFL fan - but still...) Monday is a LOUSY night for TV. CSI Miami? News flash - that red-headed guy shot six scenes (look over shoulder, remove glasses, eye flicks to camera, walks out of frame) four years ago. They just recycle them with new sound. And the OED (Over-Explanatory Dialogue) rates about 9.5 out of a possible 10 (10 is reserved for sex and drug films shown in health classes). Seriously. If you work in a crime lab and the guy next to you works in a crime lab, how many times do you have to repeat the phrase "By comparing these striations, which are as unique as a fingerprint, we can determine if these bullets were fired from the same gun."

What else do we have to lose by trick-or-treating on Monday? A three-episode blight of "Medium" episodes. Wifeswap. King of Queens/How I met your mother/Two and a half men/Out of practice?

There may be a fair number of drunk drivers out there on Monday night after all.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Parental Ranting

I have a soft spot for Chuck Jones. As a kid, I was captivated by a very specific kind of cartoon (dark, edgy - and not a little violent) and, as I found out later in life, that cartoon was almost invariably drawn by the late, great Chuck Jones - who incidentally was voted into the Art Director's Hall of Fame and has become one of my heroes. I'll spare you the plots- most involved anthropomorphic animals eviscerating each other for a wedge of cheese - the interesting thing was that I was powerless to look away from these cartoons. I watch my kid watching Elmo and I see this same level of engagement. Engagement is not the word. Catatonia? I ask him a question and his head turns slightly toward my voice but his eyes remain fixed on the screeching red puppet bounding around his imaginary becrayoned lair. And I think "Jesus! It HAS him!" And I feel that "TV is evil" pang that makes me want to put my tumbler full of bourbon through the TV.

Like every parent, I am torn between giving my kid everything necessary to bask in the coolness that so eluded me as a child (I am permanently resentful of my mother's refusal to purchase me a pair of white Reebok running shoes in sixth grade) and shielding his innocent little soul from all the violence, greed and emptiness that has come to define American culture: video games, movies, advertising, etc. Ouch.

I remember my own catatonia - watching Tom and Jerry blowing each other to kingdom come four hundred times in a half hour. I remember not feeling particularly moved grab a knife and experimenting on the family dog. Which is good.

A stereotypical view of cool says you're not cool unless you've been steeped in sex, violence, commerce and drug use. Of course Columbine taught us that uncool kids are almost more likely to end up amped up on crack with a freshly purchased semiautomatic weapon pointed at a hooker. Not that this is Chuck Jones' fault. Or Elmo's. I'm just saying.

So as a parent who worries, I'm sort of doomed either way. Of course the act of worrying gives me a little bit better shot than the one who doesn't care what their kid does. Hence the "Parents: The anti-drug" campaign. But my kid has to go to school with the kid whose dad lets him drink "as long as he does it safely at home with adult supervision."

Wow. I'm ranting. I'm ranting parentally. I'm ranting with Tipper-Gore-like chasteness. Cripes. I must be over 30.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Browser Archeology

Ever wondered what it's like to be an art director at an advertising agency? This afternoon I pulled up my browser history for last Wednesday, and it's fascinating (for me, anyway) to re-live my day vicariously through the websites I visited:

After hearing that Rocky 6 was in production, I was settling a bet on whether an Academy Award had ever been secured by Tom Cruise. Naturally, this discussion turned to Katie. My faith in the future of an America which fails to bestow due recognition on one of the greatest actors of our era had me researching french language immersion schools for my son.

Then I popped in for a look at Adweek to see what's going on in the industry. Must've been something about Modernista. I was streaming in a feed of WXPN which must have spurred a query about the lyrics to the song Wild Horses.

Keith and I are currently working with a 3-D modeler to create monsters for an upcoming breakfast sandwich promotion, which explains why I was looking for pictures of dinosaurs and cyclops-es.

As I paged through page after page of dinosaur images, Keith and I started talking about books which make great gifts, which made me think of a really cool publisher in Philadelphia.

All of this proves that my dependency on the web has become a seamless piece of every conversation I have while seated at a computer - I can find anything (and am frequently unable to restrain myself from finding everything) on the web.

It also proves that I have the attention span of a gnat (see post 1).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Volvo

Two years ago I got rid of my Saab 9-3 (and a $405 monthly payment). I bought a 1986 Volvo 240DL for $900. The boxy kind. The rusty, brick-red, brick-heavy kind of volvo that earned the company its safety reputation - I know a story about a guy who got rear-ended by a 1/2 ton truck. Volvo: scratched bumper. Truck: replaced bumper. Anyway, a $900 car has its ups and downs. Ups: Minimum coverage, never worrying about locking your doors, cheaper than the Saab in 2.3 months (unless, of course, it goes to shit.) Downs: Worrying about silly things like "Are my wheels going to fly off?" (not yet) and "Will I make it to the dealership?" (so far, so good) and "What is that muffler-dragging-on-the-street sound?" (the muffler, dragging on the street, as it turns out). But dammit, I love that car. I love that I have two Volvos. And that the "new" one (98 V70) has 95K miles on it. The 1986 has about 195K (If I drive it at my current pace of 4 miles a day, I'll hit 200K before I'm fifty).

It's not the handling. Quite honestly, it reminds me of driving a gigantic bell. It short of tips and shimmies and leans. But the pick-up is good for a 4 cylinder car made exclusively out of steel.

It's not the gadgetry - hand crank windows, the original tapedeck/radio, and manual door locks are about the only "gadgets" (the fuse burned out on the seat warmers, the A/C lost its freon years ago and three of the ten defroster lines on the back window don't heat).

I guess I'll have to replace it (a $500 repair would technically total the car - but I'm sure it'll end up keeping the snow off one of my off-street parking spaces long after I cave and buy myself a newish S60 in the Spring.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

So what am I reading?

I have the attention span of a gnat. So I'm usually reading two to five books at a time. Right now it's three books: Creative Company (a book about St. Lukes of London, an advertising agency that shatters the advertising agency paradigm), Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand's longest damn book - one I've been reading in 3-20 page installments for over 8 months) and The Known World (my Pulitzer Prize-winning 'must-read' which alas, I haven't even truly cracked, but it's officially on my "I'm reading it" list because it's made its way to my nightstand, which is farther than a dozen others that are waiting).

I'd love to go back and link the crap out of this post - perhaps I'll find the time, energy and humor to do it (see post one) at the expense of something far more pressing.

Not now though - I have a date with Ayn.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A new way to waste time

Two things consume me: what I'm doing and what I should be doing. For instance, Right now I'm creating this blog - I should be changing the laundry, pouring myself a glass of wine and reading. But everyone in my office is setting up blogs - and dammit, I'm just a bandwagon kinda guy. My partner, (not in a gay way, NTTAWWT) Keith, is creating a running blog. My neighbor/co-worker is campaigning against the Empire State Building. And now my Volvo/wine/book/advertising blog.