Thursday, March 31, 2011

Granddaughter pays a visit

Citizen Grouch and family were graced with our granddaughter over several days recently.  She stayed with us overnight and then returned a couple days later to go to young son's school band pop concert.

(click on the pics for a larger view) First she and the Grouch had a picnic in the back yard.

Then there was swimming in the heated spa.  Ahhh!

Later when young son came home early from school the three of us went used car shopping.  She got to climb in and out of all the cars on the lot and sit in the VW Golf that we ultimately bought (the next day).  That next day when the Grouch was picking up the car she went to a quilt show with Nana (aka the Missus).

Several days later granddaughter joined the Grouch and the Missus(aka Nana) to see young son perform at the pop concert.

She got to try being one of the flag girls and she loved it!

Isn't she beautiful and who is that handsome man?

Young son after the concert with his biggest fan!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Golden Gate Bridge

A quick post to show a fantastic picture taken by young Son last weekend on his high school road trip for the school band.  They visited Sacramento and San Francisco and he took this along the way. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The four levels of used car shopping

I've been out shopping for a used car for young son for the past week or so.  Used car prices were already high and the availability low and with the earthquake in Japan used car prices started climbing again.  In my efforts to find an affordable car with a reasonable chance of being serviceable I found myself, like Dante in his journey through Hell, descending ever deeper through the levels of used car dealerships.

Level One:  New car dealerships    This level is the pleasing to be in.  The facilities are clean and bright.  The sales people are cheerful and positive, attentive to your every possible need.  They ask about your day and your family.  They offer refreshments and a cool place to sit in a soft chair while you discuss your needs and desires for a used car.  The only problem is that these establishments are not really for mortals shopping for an affordable car.  Their cars are not much less in price than the new cars they sell.  This level is not for those who need an affordable car.  In fact the sales staff will soon instinctively sense that that you do not belong here and will turn away from you and leave you alone as if in a wilderness of parked vehicles.  There is nothing here in this level for the seeker of affordable used cars.   It is time to move on to the next level.

Level Two:  Nationwide used car dealerships  This level is deceptive.  It seems that a descending another level into used car hades would bring the buyer a more affordable car while giving up some of the ambiance of the new car dealership.  Ah, but not so, grasshopper.  The prices are just about the same!  The stay here was even shorter than at the first level.  We must continue to descend in the journey to find a ride for young son.

Level Three:  The local U-sell it lot and private party sellers  This level should be where the damned come together to succor each other.  The seller must dispose of his vehicle for a variety of compelling reasons.  He is motivated and in a bind because he is way behind and is willing to make a deal...oh wait, that was the Devil with the fiddle made of gold in that song.  But still the seller usually wants to sell.  The buyer wants to buy and it is the perfect representation of capitalism.   One would think in these hard economic times cars would be priced low for fast selling, but no.  Actually cars are priced high and the seller is not willing to deal for a fiddle made of gold or anything else.  I think it is because of bad times that this is happening.  The sellers need as much money as they can get due to being out of work or whatever.  In the good times folks will flip a car to go buy something more fun or bigger or flashier and not worry too much about what they are losing in the sale because they've got more money coming in.  But not now, not here, and not for me.  So we move on.

Level Four:  The corner used car lot  This level is where the cars go that level one and two couldn't or wouldn't sell.  This is where buyers go who have no cash and can't get financed by the big stores.  These are the places that have financing close to the rates that Tony the shark charges.   This is the place that the desperate go to.   These are the places with too many sad cars crowded into too small of a lot, with tattered furniture in the office with water stains on the ceiling and burned out lights in the marquee.  This is where I found myself.    I visited three of these establishments, sent forth by Yahoo cars which I searched diligently each day for possibilities.  One car seemed promising and I took an hour off of work to zoom over to the store.  I found a packed lot full to dirty cars and swarthy men in black leather coats and shaved heads passing cash back and forth.  The manager was a young woman  in tight jeans and stiletto heels who showed me the car.  It was filthy, had a major engine oil leak and the steering wheel was cocked to the right.  She assured me that all was fixable and when did I want to pay for it?  I left.   I called another place but when I wouldn't promise to buy the car on the spot without inspecting or driving it the seller told me that the car was sold and hung up on me.   In desperation I took young son to a tiny establishment to look at a 2005 VW Golf with 45k miles.  The place was owned by two middle aged Iranian brothers.  We looked at the car.  We drove the car.  We asked each other what the catch was?  It was priced fairly and seemed to be ok.  I agreed to buy the car and tried to give them a deposit.  They told me to come back the next day and do the deal.   So I did and found them in the process of showing the car to someone else!  The seemed surprised to see me but chased off the young couple and proceeded to do the sale.  The car has had a fender replaced at one time, the rear tires will need to be replaced soon, and the arm rest is missing a latch.  It was a repo and the worry is the former owner abused it knowing it was going away but it made the drive home without breaking down so maybe it is ok.

The question is this:  have I finished my journey through the levels of used car hades or have I merely stepped from the down escalator to the express elevator to the bottom with this used car?   Time will tell.......

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The last of the Aztek

Young son and I went to the body shop today to finish emptying out the valiant Aztek that saved me from injury in the assault by the brutal double bottom gravel carrier.   It goes off to the auction yard next week and probably will be rendered into parts after that.   The initial impact by the trailer tire was in the back where the metal is pushed in.  Then he passed along the side of the car and did the rest of the damage.  I can remember picking the car up on a February morning 6 years ago.  Who would have thought that it would end this way?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Aztek update and more sad news

There is much to recommend USAA insurance!   Within 3 hours of the accident the Aztek was moved from the tow yard 20 miles to a local body shop.  The owner called me and I went over to talk to him about  the car.  He thinks it may be repairable but only with mostly used parts.  He feels that USAA won't agree to new stuff since a new fender by itself is $688 and it is going to need all the sheet metal, the mirror and some steering components replaced.  We will see.  He is impressed with the sturdy construction of the Aztek and felt that other cars would not have stood up nearly as well to the multiple impacts.  In the meantime wer're faced with how to get young son to and from school for a month which is how long the repair will take once it is authorized.

Yesterday was a a crazy sad day.  To recap, I was picked up by the Missus at the tow yard and took her back to her work and drove her car home.  I was cringing all the way home expecting another vehicle to hit me. I felt shaky and sleepy at the same time.  Shock?   So I figured that Wendy's would fix me up. I was still in uniform and the manager gave me my lunch for free.  That was nice.  But, I got a call from someone at my former company to tell me that Carlos, my helper in Texas was dying and had only hours to live.  This same person's son was murdered in his front yard in sight of his mother and children several years ago.  I went to his funeral in Dallas and did my best to comfort Carlos and his wife Pam.  Now Carlos is dying.  I called Pam and she called me back last night.  She said Carlos had said recently that he missed me and wished he could hear from me again.

She put me on the phone with Carlos.  What do you say to a guy who is dying?  Get better soon?   Sorry I hadn't called earlier when you were still feeling ok?   Pam told me when we were done talking that I put a smile on Carlos' face and brightened him up.   How can one  family have so much tragedy?

My mother had a book of poetry that I read when I was growing up.  I don't care for poetry but one poem made a big impact on my as a kid.  I still think of it and found it on the internet without any trouble. 

Around The Corner

By Charles Hanson Towne

Around the corner I have a friend,

In this great city that has no end,

Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,

And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friend's face,

For life is a swift and terrible race,

He knows I like him just as well,

As in the days when I rang his bell.

And he rang mine but we were younger then,

And now we are busy, tired men.

Tired of playing a foolish game,

Tired of trying to make a name.

"Tomorrow" I say! "I will call on Jim

Just to show that I'm thinking of him."

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,

And distance between us grows and grows.

Around the corner, yet miles away,

"Here's a telegram sir,"…. "Jim died today."

And that's what we get, and deserve in the end:

Around the corner, a vanished friend.

The Entabulator

This guy is my hero! 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Double bottom Gravel hauler 1 - Aztek 0

So, today is my every other Friday off day from work.  It is also a special day, that being my 33rd  anniversary of our wedding on a cold snowy day in March as I was in transit between Aberdeen Proving Grounds MD and duty with the mighty 66th Maintenance company, 87th Maintenance battalion, 2nd Support command, 7th Army, USAREUR.  How's that for impressive?   Today my plan was to take young son to school in the Aztek, bring said car home, change in ACUs, buy gas for the Aztek, scoot down the I-5 to Los Alamitos JFTB, obtain my CAC (common Access Card) at the base, scoot by old office and say hello to my former co-workers, swing by the Missus' school, give her an anniversary present and take her to lunch, go back home and pass by the trophy shop to pick up the $160 trophy I am donating to the unit (I thought it would be $60 but oh well) go to the high school and pick up young son, take him to his 2nd job interview at Magic Mountain and then back home for dinner out with the Missus.

Well, I got as far as scoot down the I-5.   As I approached the 118 cross over a double bottom semi gravel truck decided he liked my lane better than his.  When I saw him start over I braked, blew the horn and moved to the left but got hit by one of his duals.  BANG!  Then BANG-BANG-BANG as the Aztek got dragged along by the trailers.  I tried to turn away but the car seemed to be caught by the trailer.  There was much screeching from the poor Aztek.  The semi drove on and I thought he was going to flee so I blew the pitiful single-note horn on the Aztek and followed after him.  The car tires were making a loud screeching sound like the longest skid imaginable.  He pulled over about a 1/4 mile down the road and I pulled over behind him.  The whole right side of the Aztek was pushed in and the front tires were pointed in different directions.  Poor Aztek!   It managed to stay upright and more or less under control.  I guess the rally package paid off.

When I got to the semi and spoke to the driver he told me he spoke no english.  His driver's license was from Mexico and his insurance from Bargain Insurance Agency.  Great!   A VW bug had also pulled over and the driver told me she had seen the whole thing and saw the truck hit me and thought the Aztek was going to roll over during the accident.  I was pretty hazy on what transpired.   When the CHP officer was taking my statement I couldn't even say for sure what lane I was in or what time it happened.  I thought I would react more steadily than that!   The tow driver later told me when he saw the damage that every car v. semi accident he's seen on the freeway resulted in the car rolling and being demolished.  He was amazed that the car stayed upright.  He also had never seen an Aztek before!

I have a bad feeling that the Aztek is history.  I hope not but considering its age and the damage it will probably be totaled which means that we're out a perfectly good car.  Oh, and I had just spent $50 on gas!  I wonder if I can syphon it out?

Thanks Aztek, you probably saved my life.  If I had been in the Jeep it surely would have rolled many times.