Thursday, August 23, 2012

Driving With Ms/Mr Crazy

Alpine Fog
Holy St. Christopher*! I'm coming down with a heavy case of Road Rage.

I have been a licensed driver for nearly 50 years, in three different states. In that time, I've received exactly two moving violations: a wrong turn in Queens NY shortly after getting my license, and a speeding ticket in Maryland in the mid-eightites. I've driven on four continents, in the Alps in fog and in the Sierras in snow, and in several hurricanes. I learned to drive in New York City, where you need to know how to parallel-park in a jiffy, treat taxis as if they were enemy tanks, and avoid a gazillion Chinese take-out delivery guys on bicycles made from spare woks.

Despite more than occasional comments from certain family members, I'm a damn good driver, and always have been. Period.

I've maneuvered down Lombard Street, along a crowded Champs Elysees, the old Roman coast road from Barcelona to Tarragona, Route 66 in Arizona, 600 miles of Pacific Coast Highway , driven the length of the Mississippi from Hannibal MO to New Orleans LA, and the long flat stretch from Montivideo to Punta. I've driven dump trucks, pick ups, a blue VW that only started by coasting downhill, a '59 MGA, a '67 Porsche 912, a sweet little Mercedes convertible, vans with column-mounted shifts, 3-4 and 5-speeds, an MGC with an optional clutch, a Chevy Malibu with a busted U-joint, a mighty Dodge Charger and a meek Chevette tin can with a push-button dash-mounted transmission!
Push Button Trans

I love to drive while listening to a Yankee game, Neil Young wailing, or Lucinda Williams nailing it. I even like to drive with the music turned off just so I can listen to my little red truck's engine hum a tune pretty much like the one its Willys' ancestors hummed on the roads of Normandy. I drive while wearing baseball caps, or a beat-up old straw, and lately I've taken to wearing a SF Giants batting helmet on US95, when I have the top down, which is pretty much all the time for five months of the year.

But, why am I telling you all of this? Because I have seriously begun to think about not driving anymore.

Shocking, I know. But, driving today just about anywhere, but most particularly in the crowded northeastern states, the country's biggest global cultural melting pot, is about the most hazardous thing you can do to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

I know people who will not touch a piece of red meat, get in a small plane, or buy any grocery not marked ORGANIC whatever that really means. But, the same people will risk life, limb, sanity and fenders on the road, in close proximity to the worst collective set of drivers since Ford went to the garage to brew his first T. These Thelmas, Lukes & Louises are driving with total disdain for any semblance of road courtesy or safety.

On a ramp entering US 95 South in Greenwich CT? There's an impatient  lady behind me, about five feet behind me, and she jumps into the thrid lane before I can, and now there's little room left of the ramp as she whizzes by, while I pull-up on the right.

Coming home and stopped on the infamous US95 North ramp off of Midland Avenue, Rye NY? Stopped I say, since there is an octagonal sign proclaiming STOP there. It does not matter, five times a week, some yahoo behind me will start honking or, even worse for his/her/my health, not bother stopping themselves and enter right behind me, then go around on the left, only to find that they've ignored vehicles exiting 287 East bearing down on them at 70 mph.

Then, we have the ones who enter the turnpike from the right doing about 45mph, without even bothering to look at what's on their left. Not to mention the guy in front of you swerving all over. Drunk? No, he's texting or trying to read the tiny GPS map on his phone. GPS. Guys who are Plenty Stupid! Young male drivers? Get out of their way, fast. People of a certain gender from a certain continent way to the west of California, who never learned to drive in their home country? Run for the hills when you see them! Holy Yakisoba!

Or, how about just driving around town, where it's common for drivers not to know or care that they cannot legally make a left-hand turn in front of you before you make a right or go straight. And, what about using turn signals? As if!  It's been well-reported here that just about NOBODY except me bothers to use turn signals anymore. Not for safety, nor for courtesy, and certainly not because it's actually the law!

Out To Pasture Soon?
I've stopped gesturing after some driver nearly runs me off the road, like throwing my hands up in frustration. That's just going to get me in a road rage incident soon. I have a sign on my steering wheel now, GABI, Grin And Bare It.

It feels a lot like surrender to an incompetent discourteous enemy. Like being outsmarted by the North Koreans. When you've resorted to surrender, no matter how sensible it really is, you might as well just surrender your license. As a police reporter I know that many of the people causing the most danger on the roads, don't even bother to get a license, or insurance, or registration anymore. Driving school? Hah!

This is a problem. I tried taking a taxi, but, have you ridden in a local taxi lately? OMG, those drivers make the ones I want to run away from look like Drivers' Ed instructors!

Maybe it's not too late to stop this insanity. I'll try to hold on. Meanwhile, anyone got a spare St. Christopher's medal?

Ed Note: A keen-sighted reader reminded us that Chris was demoted from sainthood on a technicality a while back by the powers that be-atify. But, old habits die hard, as the nuns used to tell us in parochial school. So, we 'll take some poetic license here. He is still recognized as the patron of travelers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Way Back When...

Way back then, way back when...

Cane Seats
... NYC subway seats had caned seats, and made trousers and dresses look like seersucker when you got up at your station to leave.

...Gucci had only one small shop just off the lobby of the old St. Regis hotel.

...the USTA was the USL(awn)TA,  tennis was played on grass courts, and the white balls became grass-stained after a few games.

...the Sunday Trib and Times listed every player's batting average, and you memorized them while stuck in traffic on the way to the beach. shared music from a jukebox, ate 15-cent slices, drank real Cokes in bottles and lived to tell about it. played every kind of ball you knew or could dream up on every empty lot in town and nobody could stop you. would read on a rainy day just because you could and not because anyone made you do it.
Sea Bright Tennis Club bought your own tickets (seldom), snuck past the guard (often) or got tickets from people, not companies.

...friends and family still left for trips on ships from piers on the Hudson River and many, if not most of your friends had never been on an airplane.

...grandparents looked and dressed and spoke and ate and drove like it.

..."luncheon meat" was not a disease and having bologna (baloney), liverwurst, or olive loaf was not a culinary sin.

...cereal didn't kill you, mayors didn't make menus and had a salary like every one else, you drank three Mission fruit sodas a day for years and never gained a pound, and fried egg sandwiches were better than caviar, whatever that was.

...a phone was a phone, a camera was a camera, a book a book, and a TV was a piece of furniture.

Slocum Crescent "Field" was AM, the Red Sox really didn't matter, and great sportscasters never used the word "incredible," even when something really might have been.

...your new mitt was an erogenous zone, goal posts were in the front of the end zone, your parents inhabited the Twilight Zone, and there really was a Strike Zone.

...the Hardy Boys didn't mean a bar in the West Village.

...on the rare occasion when a grown-up asked a child what they thought they wanted to do they grew up not a single one said they wanted to work in a bank.

...several of your friends' fathers were doctors in town; they came to your house when you were sick and always seemed to prescribe "sulpha" tablets, whatever they were. For some reason doctors had really big families, as if they had learned something at medical school that not many other people had learned.

K, PS 101 your (the author's anyway) K-8 school days* there was a team from New York in every World Series except one, 1959, when the turncoat Dodgers did make it, playing their first WS from their new home in LA. Yuck.

Ed Note: The author attended kindergarten and elementary school from Sept 1953 to June 1962, when the NY representatives were: '54 Giants, '53/55/56 Dodgers&Yankees, '57/58/60/61 Yankees, '62 Yankees&SF(ugh!)Giants. For the record the LA Dodgers' opponents in '59 were the Sherm Lollar, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio Chicago White Sox. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

RareBurghers Defined, Again

      ©2012twmcdermott                    RareBurghers...

TOMS, if only
...would wear espadrilles, if only they could.

...think it's time to face facts and simply forget about those wool suits in any weave in July & August in the city (we mean Manhattan), no matter what your business.

...trace the point at which it all started to come apart to the acceptance of Casual Fridays.

...think life is just fine with an active tuxedo in the closet and even better with two.

...get a little depressed when they realize they're the only ones wearing a tie at the party. But only for an instant.

...wonder, if things are really as bad as they say, why all the ones who think they're in charge are still taking vacations?

...aren't embarrassed to borrow their wives', daughters', or their girlfriends' Vogue, and actually know enough to wonder how long it will be before Sally Singer replaces Anna.

Aston Martin db
...Actually still use their turn signals as a courtesy to the driver behind them.

...say "you're welcome" and never "no problem," when someone thanks them for doing something.

...Weren't afraid to fail Political Correctness 101.

...wonder why all the fuss about a campaign between someone who takes himself entirely too seriously and another who hasn't taken himself seriously enough.

...prefer to hear "Have you finished?" to "Are you done?" while dining, even though, grammatically, both are correct. Don't even mention "Are you through?" to them.

...have no use for Ferraris or Maserati's. The Aston Martin db18: that's another matter. to drive around with the music turned off just to listen to the engine's tune.

...thinks it's just sensible to wear a wool sweater in the grocery store in midsummer, where it's as cold as the mountaintop at Stowe in winter.

...when asked if he could vote for a Mormon replies that he could vote for a Martian with a lisp if she/he/it could lead and inspire rather than merely manage and report.

...have noticed that, when we stopped dressing up for parties and began serving thick California Cabs at dinner, we began a slow decline of civilization and  talking too much about our children, their schools, their jobs, the "Fed,"  and taxes. Nothing a coat & tie and an '03 Bordeaux couldn't cure.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cheez-Whiz, Pass The Spice Girls

Cheese Whiz. HGB/RIP. I mean Helen Gurley Brown, the original Cosmo girl, of course. This self-confessed "mouse-burger," had risen to become an absolute Media Saint. Saint Helen of Me, Myself, and I. Did someone say mouse? Nobody ever hid her cheese. And yet, judging by the unanimous reaction to her passing, she was beloved by every editor, writer and producer in journalism and TV. Margalit Fox's Times obit described St. Helen in an unprecedented way, "...She was 90, though parts of her were considerably younger." St. Peter, prepare thyself, and tighten the cinch on your robe.

Standard? Chartered? Spineless? Amazing how so many companies are willing to part with millions in penalties to government entities, even though they "did not admit to any wrongdoing." Standard Chartered Bank is the latest one to pony up hundreds of millions to New York State even though it did not do anything wrong. Their CEO and other London banking nabobs were incensed that anyone would recklessly and needlessly cast aspersion on London banking and bankers. Talk about spineless appeasement. Maybe they should change their name to Chamberlain Munich Bank.

Aren't we getting a little tired of our state and federal agencies accepting these "I'll pay the easy dough, but I didn't really do anything wrong" arrangements? Forget fines. If they aided Iranian terrorists, put their execs in jail; if they didn't, then shut-up.

Besides, the idea of a place like Albany, NY getting a $340 million reputation-ransom is high comedy indeed. Talk about the pot calling a kettle black. That dough will last about fifteen minutes before becoming seed-y money for some legislator's uncle's wind-farm and fracking outfit based in Elmira.

Closing, Closing, Gone. The Spice Girls? Queen? Were the London organizers of the wonderful 2012 Olympic Games trying to make sure the world knew that their culture is really just as cheesy as America's? Were they desperately trying to get us to forget their banking foibles, as if London were not the world's financial hub, along with New York? And, who was that guy singing that inane song near the end anyway?

Still, the campiness of it all was a reminder that London is a center for design, advertising, food (of all things) and creativity of every sort and taste-level, in addition to being a center for banking calamities.

Strange moment: when John Lennon's image appeared on the big screen and Imagine played, talking about "no countries" and "no religion too," to hundreds of athletes who had just about spent themselves preforming for their countries and for whom religion plays a great part in their lives every day. I guess the organizers had never listened to the words, only the melody. Duh.

Not seen: Eric Clapton. Mick Jagger and/or Stones. Radiohead. Adelle. Twiggy! And The Who, who actually did perform in the geriatric band category, except that NBC cut them off here in favor of an abrupt end so that we could see the all important local snewzzzzz. Goodie.

Still, it was wonderful stuff all around. But, as soon as the Games ended, the campaign began to get serious. You thought that was a coincidence? Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous...

Speaking of which. Apparently, after months of rope-a-dope, we have finally found the main campaign theme and it is...Accounting! So exciting.

We will now be able to spend the next 12 weeks talking about nothing except the numbers, folks. In this corner, we have the Elysium Field Theory of Perpetual Borrowing. And, in that corner the Pay The Piper Picked the Pickled Pepper Pop Your Grandma Algorithm.

Come to think of it, The Spice Girls looked pretty damn good after all, didn't they?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August, Etc.

August is the cruelest month. T.S. Eliot did not say that, but I don't care.

August is when people take vacations. Entire cities shut down. Small towns near water, any kind of water, become crowded with families so eager to vacation together they are willing to spend three, four, even nine hours in a vehicle with the doors locked!

No, it's true. But, don't worry too much, they don't actually need to speak to one another, since they are using various digital devices in order to avoid real-life conversation. Even the driver is texting. You don't believe me? Then, look in your rearview mirror at the driver behind you; your both reading and texting!

We want to fix the economy, the schools, Wall Street, healthcare, taxes, and rid New York City from its most insidious pest, the 16+ ounce soda pop.

But, we can't even drive our vehicles around the block without checking our emails, texting our moms, selling that Facebook stock. We can't even wait for the red light.

August. It began life as Sextilis*. Maybe we should re-re-name it Textilis.

Are you looking for a job, clients, investors? Hah! All gone. Nobody home. Do not disturb. Why aren't you on vacation? If you are not on vacation, you do not have anything to be on vacation from. Even twenty million interns take vacation days. 

August. Past 100 games now. The Mets have returned to earth. The Yankees just want to sit in their rocking chairs. The SF Giants couldn't score the Runs of August for all the Gilroy Garlic Fries** in the world.

Yankees-Red Sox rivalry? Where Have All The Red Sox Gone. The Kingston Trio didn't sing that, but I don't care. How can you have a rivalry, when all the rivals get traded away?

The only Fenway occupant who could get under anyone's skin is Bobby V, the new manager. Boston fans think he is from New York. How insulting. He is from Stamford CT. There is no there there. Gertrude Stein didn't say that***. I don't care.


Caesar Augustus named it for himself, trumping Julius, who had added the 30th and 31st. Augustus would have felt right at home in our age. Veni, Vidi, Vici? Forget that. Ego, Mihi, Mehus! I, me, mine!

Now they're saying stocks are dead; they must have looked in my account. Bonds are the thing. Finally, there's a great idea. Just last night we were watching Bond in Goldfinger, who was trying to steal $15Billion from Fort Knox. He thought that was a lot of Money-Penny! What a comedian.

August 2012. And we're "Shaken, not stirred." Someone really did say that.

Ed Notes:
* Since it was the sixth month in the old Roman calendar, which began with March.
** Served at AT&T Park, home of the Giants. The stand is directly behind home plate, where the batter, catcher and umpire can smell those fries for the entire game, without being able to order any.
*** GS was talking about Oakland, but she had probably never been to Stamford, except on a passing train, in which case she would have realized that Oakland, by comparison, had there to spare.