Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Sorry for the delay in posting but waay to much has been going on. I will attempt to hit the high points.

Last Saturday Craig and I accompanied his Boy Scout troop to the Van Nuys ARNG armory to participate in a Christmas push for Operation Gratitude The 500,000 package was prepared at 1130 on Saturday and we were there for it. The Scouts and adults carried boxes through the assembly line where various goodies were put in. Keys for two customized motor cycles were also placed in two boxes. Those soldiers were going to be very happy!

Sunday we picked up Chee Chee for church in North Hollywood and afterwards she treated us to brunch at a grown up restaurant. It was nice!

All this past week has been a whirlwind of preparation for Christmas. Claire and Laura arrived on Tuesday and will stay until the 29th. Christmas eve mass and present opening today. I assembled the new HP desktop yesterday and got it working with Kurt's very skilled help. This blog is being typed on the new PC. Man it is nice!

I'm taking all next week off something I have not done ever (at least as far as I can remember). Ah, the bliss.

The only other thing to mention is that I almost with an inch to spare, almost ran flat into a little old lady who stepped out between two parked cars. I was on my bike but it still would not have done either of us any good. All I saw was the tiny lady clad in a fur coat step into my path; I shouted "watch out!" and swerved just missing her. That would have ruined both of our holidays!

Tomorrow I will install two great gifts in the Jeep: A GPS so I will no longer be lost and a protective plate over the muffler so it won't be flattened like a taco on one of my off road trips.

Hope anyone reading this had a good Christmas too.

The not-so-Citizen Grouch.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

They don't get it from me!

I was doing my father duty today and pulling a one hour shift with Craig at the U-cut-it Christmas tree lot supervising the Boy Scouts selling mistletoe as a fundraiser for the Boy Scout troop. Craig and his friend Craig were the Scouts on duty flogging the mistletoe to the sometimes reluctant marks-I mean customers- going in and out of the lot. Craig was being pretty funny and his buddy Craig was almost as silly as he was. In fact they were being very funny and I was even laughing. Kurt is another one who can make me laugh out loud with his stories. He is what I guess is called a raconteur and does indeed tell a story skillfully with wit. He reminds me of my grandfather who would tell stories about his life as a young man that would leave me in absolute stitches from laughing so hard. My daughters are pretty funny too, especially in their writing; they are both accomplished essayists and can write a piece that will make even the grouchiest grouch crack a smile and laugh. Even Mrs. Not a Grouch is pretty darn funny so I guess I do know where they get this talent even though it isn't from me!
One of the perks of (A) living in the Los Angeles area; and (B) being in the fleet business is that occasionally interesting things come my way that many people don't have an opportunity to do. For instance some years ago I received a call from the leasing rep that my company did business with who told me that if I could be to a certain spot in one hour I would get a ride on the Goodyear blimp. Needless to say I made it with about 5 minutes to spare and got an experience to remember. Another time I was offered the chance to get 3 laps as a passenger in a Ford GT on a race track at 200 mph. It was an an interesting experience especially as we passed other vehicles on the track like they were standing still or even going backwards.

The other day I got a call from my Ford guy asking me if I had any interest in seeing the car collection of the comedian with the big jaw who is on the network with the peacock as the symbol and whose initials are JL. I didn't have to be asked twice so at a certain time and a certain place we were passed through the gate and into the auto collection complex. Unfortunately we didn't think to ask if pictures were allowed until we were at the very end at which point we were told to take all the pictures we wanted but we were done and at least I had to get back to work. The collection is of cars, motorcycles, engines and artwork from the 'teens to today. Some of the most exotic and mundane vehicles are there and they all run. JL calls daily to order that a particular vehicle be readied for the drive home. As we were walking through one of the rooms I spied something familiar. 'That is a tank engine' I pointed out to the guide. Sure enough it was an AVDS 1790 engine from an M48 tank. Silly me, it is a spare engine for the Tank Car. In this case an open cockpit roadster with a tank engine for power! Mr. JL has a weakness for one-off hand built cars that have unusual power plants such as steam engines, helicopter turbine engines, the before mentioned air cooled tank engine, and others. I was told that AAA enjoys getting calls to rescue Mr L from the roadside when his unusual cars quit running. I was told that he receives 1,000 letters a month offering to sell him stuff for his collection. He reads each one and sometimes even buys whatever was offered.

Here are two pictures of me in the premier car wing:

click on the pictures for full views

It was a grand time and one of the instances when I am glad that we live where we do and I work doing what I am doing!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Citizen Grouch's rant of the day

Here is my rant for Wednesday:

Mrs. Not a Grouch came home the other day and told me that something she has always, always wanted is on sale at her favorite Ladies nick-knack shop. It is a very, very expensive Lladro, marked down to being only very expensive. It is expensive enough that it gave us pause to think about whether obtaining her heart's desire is something that we can afford, especially in these days of uncertainties. But being a good Citizen Grouch I went to the little shop to see what I could see and to perhaps 'negotiate' on the price.

Walking into this store that is filled with delicate girly stuff and smells of various secret perfumy flowery fragrances undoubtedly sets off an alarm that a man has walked into the place. Conversation seemed to pause for a half-minute and then pick up again as the ladies kicked back into high level trinket and bauble shopping. I felt like, well probably like Mrs. Not a Grouch feels when she goes into say a gun shop or off road store. I remember her telling me once that she didn't like going into a particular gun shop somewhere in the past because of the way the men looked at her. She was (and is) major babe material so I can understand the looks but on the other hand I can identify with the discomfort with the looks but in my case the looks from the women were not 'you are hot material' but rather 'you do not belong in here unaccompanied by a woman. So leave.' But I didn't. Anyway I checked out the item, and asked the help that considering the pretty significant price of the item (and knowing that these figurines like jewelry have quite a mark up on them) if there was anything to be done on the price to make the sale. Well. Let me just say that the owner told me a thing or two. She informed me that not only is the price what is posted, but she would leave the item unsold and take it home with her before she would take a single penny less for it. So there stupid man. I wasn't feeling the love on this exchange. If she had been nice or said that she'd give me another $50 off, or $25, or give me a candle...something. But no. And there was no hint of thinking about it and coming back to talk again. Well, it is her store and it is her's to sell or not but I feel that she was sleeping during the Selling 101 class where the lesson on how empathy is established with the customer was taught. I left without buying it.

Mrs. Not a Grouch now thinks that the figurine may not be her heart's desire after all. I guess we will see but I'd rather spend the money at a place where I get the whole experience; where they actually sell the item and help me understand why I should spend amazing amounts of money on something and I leave with a smile on my face and excitement in my heart. Not at that place for sure.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Road Trip part 2

After we left the cafe at Bodfish we set off for the RA memorial trail up into the mountains. We call this the RA memorial trail (which are the initials of one of our group) not because he perished on the trail but because his battery did. The trail is so rough that it shook his battery apart. When he shut off his Jeep and then restarted it, the battery exploded and put a large dent in the hood of his Jeep. It was pretty exciting. This time the snow cushioned the trail so that is was a lot smoother. The switchbacks going up have a sheer drop off for most of the way which if you would be unlucky enough to fall you would have a clear couple hundred foot drop. With the mud and then snow on the trail and the slippery conditions I was a bit white knuckled as we ground our way up to the top. Once at the top of the mountain range (8,000 ft) we were in some pretty nice snow.

(click on the pics for a large view)

The snow wasn't deep but it was pretty!

The trusty steeds that got us there

A man and his Jeep!
We drove on and all too soon we started descending and coming out of the snow down to the mud. I had my satellite radio tuned to NPR and listened to Prairie Home Companion which was a first for me; it was pretty enjoyable actually. We came out through Jawbone, back along highway 14 and eventually back to Santa Clarita. Total miles were in the range of 250. A fun way to spend a Saturday!