Saturday, October 1, 2016

My First Date

A friend asked for a juicy story, so I decided to relate one about my first date.  The event was not nearly as romantic as the one shown.  It was pretty far from being romantic at all, but it is juicy in its own way.  

The year was  1959 and I'm a skinny 15-year-old boy getting ready for a blind date, a double date with a worldly neighbor of 16 who has a drivers license and a '51 Ford. He's been going steady with his girl for six months, which in that Happy Days era qualified them as an Old Married Couple. Me, I'm full of hormones and smelling of too much Old Spice cologne with an underlying scent of Clearasil acne paste I've dabbed on the zit that always blossomed just prior to a crucial time.  My neighbor was not encouraging. "Oh man! Your face is breaking out! That looks terrible! he said. "And hey, I told your date you're 16, so try to act like it, dig?"

How? Suck in the remaining baby fat in my cheeks? Wear a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes rolled up in a t-shirt sleeve? Make awkward physical moves like James Dean and mumble like Marlon Brando? I'll do my best.

His date is a slightly chubby good natured blonde girl with a loud musical laugh. My date is a thin Mexican girl with beehive hair and great big hoop earrings who, upon seeing me, got a very laughless frown on her exotic dark face. She got in the back seat of the Ford with me with all the enthusiasm of a juvenile delinquent on her way to an appointment with a probation officer.

The date was at the El Monte Drive-in just off the San Bernardino Freeway where there was a double bill of B-grade horror films which allowed girls to fake clingy fear and be closely comforted by their boyfriends' hands, lips, and who, if they were an Old Married Couple among their peers, by a comforting index finger slipping under the elastic band of her Capri pants or working the buttons on the back of her blouse. Maybe. 

My scene in the back seat proceeded in the accustomed manner of the time. Arm on the back of the seat over her shoulder. Arm drooping to the shoulder. A little scoot closer to her. No resistance so far. Up front the Old Married Couple are lip locked in what appears to be a desperate attempt at mouth-to-mouth first aid.

As for us in the back, so far so good. Then I reached over to turn her face toward mine for a little of the same first aid on that hot airless night -- and snagged a hoop earring. Needless to say she had pierced ears. Also needless to say her reaction was not one of unbridled delight. "Shit!" she yelled.

The up front couple separated. "Something wrong?" my neighbor's date asked. "This jerk almost tore my ear off!" my date said. 

After several awkward moments while I contemplated life in the French Foreign Legion, my neighbor's date rescued me and -- and my date. "Let's swap!" she cheerfully suggested. My date didn't even get out of the car. She hurled herself over the front seat like a paratrooper out of a burning plane.  The neighbor's date used the door to get in back and snuggle close to me in a sympathetic manner. Oh, we did wind up kissing for little while, but the only juicy part of this story is that she was chewing Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Gum.


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At least you got something, that's a lot more than most guys get on a first date - even if was juicy fruit gummy. - Beaty

A "gum job" does not seem vary appealing. MB
Aha! So that's where you got the name Mike the Mauler. And now we know the REST of the story.  Page 2.  -- Linda

Oh no. Not at all. I was a reformed mauler by that time. I'd gotten beaten up fighting for a girl's honor. She wanted to keep it. And I see you're of an age, like me, to have a Paul Harvey radio moment. MB

My first "date.”I was twelve.  He was eighteen, and worked  for my father.  My older brother orchestrated this event.  "Dad, Sis and I are going to the movies."  Uh huh.  So,  Farm Boy Billy met my brother and I at the local drive-in, and he quickly made his way to the outside seating to meet his friends.  Billy and I were in the back seat of my brother's car.  I knew as much about anything that might happen that night as my grandfather knew about Maybelline eyeliner. 

Billy and I kissed.  What it really was, I remember vividly, was him showing me what kissing was, and I'll swear to this day it was the best kiss I ever had.  And then there were more of them amid a lot of awkward conversation that I can't remember at all.  I was wearing a white button-up, Peter Pan collared blouse, and he found a couple of buttons and touched me under a white lacy Junior High bra, and commented that he liked what he was touching, though in retrospect I figure he hadn't a whole lot to compare it to.  Then we kissed some more.

My brother came back to the car with his buddies.  Billy's hand moved away from my girl parts faster than a rocket, and we drove home, the three of us figuring out what the movie was about since none of us had watched it.  This was tradition, you realize, for teenagers - and those not quite there yet - to go to the movies and never watch them, so we had to make up a story detailed enough to be convincing with room for elaboration if need be under Dad's watchful interrogation.

Oh, youth, Mike.  Those were the days – Zoey

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Caution:  Foul Language And A Dead Fish

University of California President Janet Napolitano appeared on Tavis Smiley's PBS program last night touting UC's efforts to recruit and even seek out minority applicants for admission to both student and professional positions since the passage of the Proposition 209 in 1996, a ballot initiative that established racial diversity in state run schools, agencies and among state government contractors. 

Oh please. Not again. See, what Dr. Napolitano and other well intentioned ninnies mean by diversity mainly refers to black applicants, as were the kids shown in Dr. Napolitano's video clips during the Smiley broadcast.  Hispanics were included as a seeming afterthought.  As for white kids?  Pfft. They were shown as exclusionary frat rats.

Dr. Naplitiano sure as hell wasn't referring to Asian kids, who already comprise about 40% of the undergrads at Berkeley and UCLA, and whose numbers are legion in all of California's universities and colleges. 

Prop 209 was not really intended to foster racial inclusion and “level the playing field” as its disingenuous supporters claimed. It was nothing more than sanctioned prejudice in the name of slavery compensation.  

I was goddamned tired of the misnamed Affirmative Action nonsense long before I was passed over for hiring and promotion because, as I was told by the chief of staff to Jerry Brown during the weird bastard's first gubenatorial incarnation: “You're a white male.” On another occasion I was asked by a middle-aged female personnel officer when I called about my interview results, “You're the older Caucasian man we talked to, right? Well, we'll keep your application on file in case we need you.” Gee, thanks.

Another time I was told by a nervous barely 20-something Asian female: “You're overqualified.” I guessed the poor kid had been sent out to talk to me by her boss who was too cowardly to give me the bad news herself once she saw me through the office window, even though that boss and I spoken on the phone the night before. She'd said she looked forward to meeting in person, but instead sent this Asian kid who had not even seen my resume.  The poor girl looked so uncomfortable that I sympathized with her. “Look, I know someone put you up to this. So let's make the best of it.  You go have a nice cup of chai tea and I'll quietly open a vein in the men's room.” She almost cracked a smile.

Finding a job these days can be discriminatory hell. Just fill out a printed job application anywhere. There's always a tear off section for the applicant to check off his/her ethnic background. I suppose this is intended as evidence an employer can use if challenged by the Affirmative Action ISIS when bidding on a government contract.  If you don't fill it out someone will fill it out for you, or mark you down as an unemployable troublemaker and all around smartass who probably does weird shit in secret, like read books or listen to classical music, and who should be medicated up to his antisocial eyeballs and locked in a padded cell  -- but not hired.  Ever.

Thing is, I have just enough Native American in my familial wood pile to count, but it's not my primary genetic heritage and my advanced age tends to cancel it out.  I know, I know, age discrimination is illegal in hiring, but proving it takes more time and legal hassles than I can afford.  Anyway, going where you're not wanted is not a good career move.

Look, I'm a commie socialist pinko knee jerk liberal and life-long Democrat of Medicare age who wants to tax everyone to the tits so politically enlightened local governments can declare eminent domain over every goddamn golf course in America and replace them with subsidized housing for unwed crack whore mothers, especially those gated communities occupied by annoying old farts who tool around in golf carts and complain a lot.

But goddamnit, Dr. Napolitano, your university affirmative action program is nothing more than bigotry dressed in a graduation gown with a mortarboard hat.

Worse yet, thinking like yours is just the kind of well-meant social justice bullshit that's given rise to the right wing basket of deplorables who believe that a blow-dried serial bankrupt with the family values of Caligula is presidential material. 

Seems that we liberals have awakend the hungover sleeping giants among the loudmouthed yahoos who let an OxyContin addicted gasbag with a radio show and a skinny blonde shrew of a right wing author do what little thinking they do for them. And the bastards actually vote while too many of us smug liberals get complacent and do not vote at all.  Or if we do, we vote against someone we deem toxic instead of voting for someone we deem beneficial.  Even many women who tell pollsters they're voting for Clinton are ambivalent about her, citing the trustworthiness issue.  

So basically we're voting from reaction and not reason.

That reaction is so pervasive it even got to my goldfish.  After seeing last night's Trump-Clinton debate from the privacy of his fishbowl, he made a suicidal leap from his watery balcony during the night.  I found his stiff little body on the floor this morning. There was no note.


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Well, there’s just no way of getting around politics and the commensurate emotions. Some things just can’t be allowed to pass. The NAFTA deal cost millions of jobs and Hillary backed it. She has touted the TPP as the “gold standard” of trade deals which she has now flipped on. She will likely amend it in some inconsequential way and back it again if elected. The TPP, which Obama is pushing with all his might, gives some unelected multinational corporate entity the power to decide our laws on labor, trade and manufacturing. Which brings us to the crux of the matter. Hillary and Obama are globalist lackeys.  What comes next, authority over more of our laws? This is our sovereignty folks. You really need to think about this. -- Wht

Jesus! One email and I've been reading ever since.  All your Times piled one after another.  Great.  -- Thea

I was once told by a high rise law firm's hiring partner, "Oh, yes-- you're the one who fits the profile that we used  to be looking for."  -- Trog

I couldn't stomach listening to the debate last night. I'm not fond of Clinton, but Trump makes me want to throw things.  I read all about the debate in several articles in The Washington Post.

Thing I don't get, Trump wanting to keep bringing up Bill's infidelity and actions he took as President. Has no one told him it's Hillary running for President? She's not the one who had the affairs. She's not the one who signed trade agreements. He can try to rattle her, but he should have asked Ivana for her opinion. She could tell him that, after publicly experiencing the pain and humiliation of something so publicly exposed, bringing up the subject again, bringing those women into the debate room wouldn't rattle Hillary.

If Donny Boy wants to bring up infidelity, well... Marla Maples comes to mind. HE is running for President. -- Brat

My dearly departed goldfish and I didn't watch the entire debate either, and look what happened to him after what we did watch.  MB  

When I apply for a job, I PRAY for paper applications. As it stands now, most places with corporate offices, want you to apply on line. If you can remember your last job, when you started (day/month/hour) how much you were making when you started and how much you were making when you left, you're gold. Well, silver. Then try to back up from there until the blanks run out. If you get through the remembering part, you get to take a half-hour test about how you'd handle this if this happened, of this if that happened, and then they ask it again in a different form to see if you were paying attention. Aaargh! So stupid if you're an elder soul, just looking for a few part time hours to supplement your paltry Social Security. I don't know who to blame for that. Progress, I guess. Thanks for making me angry again! (Seriously, glad to see you venting. Saved me the trouble). – Beaty

Well, maybe getting angry over a blog post is healthier than getting your blood pressure up with a double espresso latte or an 8-ball of speed. MB  

Sigh.....I read this piece with great understanding.  Here I am, and have been for decades, just wishing everyone was treated equally.  You know, equal pay for equal work, don't care what color you are, or where you're from or what your gender is.   It has seemed odd to me that in order to get more diversity into the work force the solution has become to limit how many of this heritage or that gender or whatever other lines are drawn with crayon and we've all gone mad.  Why (yes, I'm still Pollyanna here) is it so hard to just hire somebody who applies for the job and has a bit more savvy than somebody else, and maybe who isn't wearing a foil hat?   Why doesn't everyone just require himself to be colorblind or culture-blind or...oh never mind.  Young black men are getting shot by white officers in the street, middle-eastern men are shooting people by the dozens in malls, Natives drink too much and Asians are...taking up a lot of space in colleges.   And white people....well, maybe I ought to stop writing things like this because someone will think it's easy for me to say anything since I'm white.  Why do so many insist on reporting things that incite and not mention the people from all over the world in all walks of life who live here peacefully and want no harm played out on anyone?  Humans are missing the important stuff, Mike.  Pardon me for humming Kumbaya, but I would just like a better line drawn - one that happens to curve around us in a circle and nobody is left out.  Maybe it's the hippie in me.  -- Zoey

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This man is now a friend of mine, but...

....that was not always the case.  Lieutenant Edward R. Murphy, Jr., was a naval officer and I was an enlisted sailor.  He's since become a figure in Navy history as the former executive officer of the USS Pueblo, the spy ship captured by North Korea in 1968. The other night I happened see a televised interview of him on YouTube:

Citizen Soldier: The Ongoing Story Of USS Pueblo, With Executive Officer Edward R. Murphy, Jr. - YouTube

Six years earlier we had both been stationed at the Subic Bay naval base in the Philippines. I was an 18-year-old high school dropout, he was the base education officer and a tyrant about it.  He did not tolerate diploma-less sailors under his jurisdiction running around loose, so he restricted me to the base until I passed a high school G.E.D. test -- which I did with all deliberate speed.

Fast forward to 1967.  I'm a radio reporter at small station on California's north coast, working two jobs and attending college full time.  Busy boy.  Anyway, I learned that my former education officer was stationed at a nearby naval facility.  Seems that he and another officer were being awarded the Navy - Marine Corps medal for lifesaving.  They'd swum through 100 yards of cold surf with a bad undertow to rescue two stranded fishermen clinging to a rock.  So we had a reunion at an awards ceremony on the county fairgrounds.

We occasionally chatted over the next few months. Then he told me he was being transferred to a small ship in Japan, saying it was about the size of the coastal transports we had in the Philippines. But it was no mere coastal coastal transport.  It was the spy ship Pueblo.

A year had elapsed by the next time I saw him, not long after his release from a North Korean prison.  Although only in his late 30s his formerly black hair had turned completely white, presumably from trauma, and he'd resigned his commission.  When we met he  was being interviewed by a reporter for a series of articles published in the Christian Science Monitor about his Pueblo experience.  He later collaborated on a book in a similar vein:

I now live in San Diego, which is also Mr. Murphy's home town, and yes, we've reconnected.  While we are both civilians now, and well into our Medicare years, the former Lieutenant Edward R. Murphy, Jr.,  USN, will always be Mr. Murphy to me, an exemplary officer who had put the lives of others before his own, but also one quick to yank the liberty card of a recalcitrant sailor whose education needed improving.  

Consider yourself saluted, sir.


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Thinking of people who made a mark on our lives is like a dose of thankfulness.  A lot of life is laid out to make us search for the light at the end of the tunnel, but memories of shared experiences, pieces of stories that make us evaluate our own good luck, that's all a gift.  It's nice, too, to touch base with those people we once knew and couldn't have thought we'd see again.  I'm glad you got that chance again with Edward Murphy.  Be well, Mike.  And keep 'em comin'  -- Zoey


Wonderful! ! As always.  -- Juli

Thank you.  -- MB


Sorry for the delay. I had to locate my magnifier. I can't read 1 point type anymore. But as always, it was worth the fetching. I love that story and that you've reconnected. You have more stories in you then you are writing. Please, keep me in the loop. -- Beaty

Really enjoyed this. It's great that you've reconnected with your former XO. – Shannon

Shannon's dad is a retired Navy cap'n.  – MB


One wonders if the current crop of officers have the same concern for their men to have basic educational necessities. Or want to put that sort of discipline and effort into their jobs. -- Wht

I think so.  Our now all-volunteer military has become so technically complex that a high school dropout would probably not be allowed to enlist.  Even when I joined in 1961, the Navy had the motto "Stay In School" in its recruiting campaign to discourage potential dropouts from running away to sea.  But those were also the days when judges often gave the choice of jail or the military to juvenile offenders of draft age, diploma or not.  -- MB

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Stripper & The Church Lady

Six a.m. I‘m standing by my airport shuttle van in the driveway of a new McMansion near Sacramento waiting for a tardy passenger. The van company is a shared ride service, and this delay will make me late for the next stop. I’m getting antsy. 

"She’ll be out in five minutes,” the passenger’s boyfriend says. He’s standing beside the van in his bathrobe. He looks likes he just awakened from a sleep that began in 1973; Brillo pad red hair, droopy mustache. Disco Van Winkle. I could see him wrapped in a polyester leisure suit with white vinyl boots and a matching belt.

I clear my throat. “I have to pick up one more passenger, and I’m running late now,” I say. “Could you see if she’s ready?” 

He nods but doesn’t make move toward the house. Instead, he fishes a $50 dollar bill from his bathrobe pocket and hands it to me. “Just five more minutes, I swear,” he says. I tell him the tip is included in the prepaid fare, and anyway, $50 is way too much. 

“Take it. It’s for your trouble,” he says. 

I can take a hint. I pocket the fifty, then I hear the front door of the house open closely followed by the rattle of luggage wheels on cement. The passenger is 21 or 22, wearing sprayed on jeans, a nothing halter top, sandals and navel a ring. She’s also slugging down a bottle of Wicked Ale. 

“Hiiiiiiiii, Mr. Van Driver!” she gushes, all boozy cheer. “Here I am!” I take her suitcase, then politely but firmly suggest that she sit in front, where she’s less likely to throw up from motion sickness on the curving hillside roads we'll be taking, and where I can get a Hefty bag to her in a hurry in case she throws up anyway.  

“Guess I better not take this, huh?” she says, finishing the bottle and handing the empty to the boyfriend. “I’ll call you when I get there,” she tells him. “Think he’ll let me smoke in his van?”

They look at me. “I’d like to say yes, but state law and my next passenger say I can’t. And we’re running late. We better go. Now.” 

She throws me a wobbly, mock salute. “Yessir!” she says, and pulls herself into the front passenger seat. She blows a kiss to her squeeze:  “Bye bye. I’ll call when I get there. Will you miss me? Say yes!” 

“Go. You’ll miss your flight,” the boyfriend says. She pouts. I climb in and we’re on our way. 

“You sure I can’t smoke in your van?” she asks.

“I’m sure.” 

“Are we making any stops?” 

“We’re picking up a church lady.” I mentioned the church connection on purpose. I thought it might make my tipsy passenger more circumspect. Silly me. 

“For real? We’re picking up Dana Carvey? That is soooooo cool! Should I ask for his autograph? I love Dana Carvey! 

“We’re not picking up Dana Carvey. We’re picking up a real church lady. A Presbyterian.” 

My dispatcher warned me about her the night before: "Watch your fucking language. The old bitch calls corporate and complains about the drivers swearing and shit." 

The elderly Presbyterian church lady is in tears when we arrive, thinking she's going to be late for her flight.  I assure her that she will be at the airport in plenty of time to have her luggage looted by airline baggage handlers, be humiliated while spread-eagled by an obese TSA minority hire, then jammed into a cement airline seat and nibbling on blanched rodent turds the airlines claims are peanuts. I don't put it that way of course,  but that's how I've come to think about airline travel since federal deregulation too effect in the 80s.

The stripper tries to help. "Hiiiii!," she gushes again, exhaling an invisible cloud of ale breath. The church lady's mouth puckers up like a barnacle.  

"My name is Tawny," the stripper says. "I'm going to Vegas. Are you going to Vegas too?" 

The church lady's barnacle pucker gets even more puckered. "No," she says with a rimless glasses glare. The stripper is too full of ale and God knows what else to take the hint. She presses on in a cheerfully boozy way: "Well, where are you going?" 

"Shhh," the church lady hisses, trying to shut the stripper up. 

Not a chance. Never try to quiet an aggressively happy drunk. It will have the opposite effect.  Tawny proceeded to prove my point.

"Gosh, I'm just trying to get your mind off missing your flight. I mean, wow, you were like crying your butt off a minute ago. But it will be okay. Like, even if you miss your flight, you can come to Vegas with me. Do you have any daughters? Hey, do you mind if I smoke? I'll give you $20 if you let me smoke." 

"Shhh," the church lady hisses. 

The rebuff hurt the stripper's feelings. "Fuck! I'm just trying to be friendly! Just because she's gonna miss her fucking flight, it isn't my fucking fault! Gosh! Shit!" 

Actually, the delay is her fault. But I don't say that. Instead, I say, "No one will miss any flights.” I gesture toward the windshield. We are on US 50 in light traffic, passing through an industrial area.  "Look, there's hardly any traffic and we'll be at the airport in plenty of time." 

"There's my club!" Tawny shouts. She waves an arm in front of my eyes and points to a cinder block building the Presbyterians on the zoning board wanted as far away from a residential area as possible. "Hi Marci! Hi Twila! Hi Amy! I'm going to Vaaaaaaaaaygas! Ha ha!"

"Shhh," the church lady hisses.

I intervene: "Miss, better settle down or Southwest Airlines won't let you on the airplane."

That seems to work. Her posture stiffens in drunken dignity and she clams up. A dense climate of silence settles over the van for the rest of the ride.  We arrive on time and the church lady bolts from the van, snatches her carry-ons with a blue-veined claw and scuttles full throttle to the terminal entrance.

The stripper gets out before I can open her for door for her and takes a deep breath. She appears momentarily sober, her eyes clear despite the alcohol. I unload her luggage from the back. 

"You've been patient with me," she says. She opens her suitcase, extracts a $20, and stuffs the bill in my shirt pocket. I start to say the tip is included in the fare and her friend had already been more than generous. She wouldn't hear it. 

"Hush.  I know what it's like to work for tips," she says, and tamps the twenty down. 

Back on the road, I reflect on which of those two women had the more Christian nature set forth in the Sermon On The Mount; the angry Pharisee or the sweet drunkard who strips for a living? 

My money is on the latter.


Friday, August 26, 2016

The Blue Van Blues

The other day i saw blue Super Shuttle van I-5.  Made me mad all over again.

See, I drove for Super Shuttle between 2002 and 2004 in Sacramento when the company switched its drivers status from employees to independent contractors. This resulted in all expenses, including maintenance, dispatcher services, insurance, lease payments, uniforms, taxes and airport fees, amounting to about $6000 per month, being passed on the to driver, including a requirement that drivers commit to a minimum of 60 hours on the job six days a week for a 10-year period.  In the words of a black cabbie I knew, "Sounds like life on a plantation."

We were not allowed to take the 10-year contract out of the Sacramento office for review by an attorney, even though the Los Angeles office encouraged drivers to seek legal counsel before signing.  A further stipulation required that the independently owned contractors' vans, not those leased from Super Shuttle, be no more than four years old, and that the contractor pay Super Shuttle the cost of the van's paint, livery and decals -- all at inflated prices.  Super Shuttle also had a pipeline to Ford, Chrysler and GM dealers for new vans at a fat markup.

As for maintenance, Super Shuttle mechanics in Sacramento would replace drive wheel tires with recaps, which is illegal for vehicles used for public transport in California, and resulted in one van being totaled on I-5 from tire failure. I picked up the frightened but uninjured passengers.

There in no limit to the greed of Super Shuttle's Phoenix-based owner/owners.  The company's compensation plan is based on the employment laws of the misnamed "right to work" state of Arizona with its union busting statutes.  A class action suit was filed by former drivers for back wages in 2008. The drivers won.  My share was $500, a token amount considering what I'd paid for employment with Super Shuttle -- the worst company I've worked for in my 50 productive years before my blessedly slothful retirement. 
I've noticed that nowadays most of Super Shuttle drivers seem to be recent immigrants with little knowledge of English and even less of labor rights. God help them. God help their passengers, and I thank God I'm an atheist

Maybe things would have worked out better for me if I had been a Blue Man for a Blue Van. 

Naaah.  Super Shuttle owns the rights to its special blue paint.  I would've been charged a monthly user fee.  


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Whoopie!  Another insight into your past. Blue vans, super shuttle, limos, taxis and who knows what else, Sky Taxi?  Good to hear another story and thanks for including me. -- Kent
Thanks for reading it  MB

Sometimes you just have to say something.   Well seriously.   I'm sorry that integrity isn't a mainstay with everyone, and that the bottom line is not the same across the board.  No one should have to be forced to do the right thing, either.  Writing this stuff down should be therapeutic at least, and hoping for poetic justice or something else satisfying is understandable. I've SO been there.  So what do we do now?  I will join forces with you against 'em or bring something fun and inappropriate to take our minds off.   Send instructions. -- Zoey

Just vote with your business, your cash and your credit card.  -- MB

I get up and check my email and what do I see? email from my friend Pomidoro Mike!....Have a great day ok Mike? tomato man you :-) Qbman

If I see these in operation around here, I'll put the word out.  This should never have been allowed to happen in the first place and I am sorry it did to you.  -- Rusty

Well, that Asian driver might be supporting his and his wife's parents plus his own offspring. Super Shuttle's fares are still less than half what a Seattle-Tacoma airport taxi charges for a trip to either city. I used SS even after I left the company.  Got to meet some old buddies and catch up on company gossip. -- MB

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Right to left.  Don Simons, Karen Simons, and a slightly unstable bald guy in a vanity cap wondering where his bifocals are, at the Weatherstone Coffee House in Sacramento, 2014.  

The Simons hijacked the bald guy a year later and moved him, lock, stock and bifocals to San Diego in a U-Haul truck.  Being San Diegans themselves, they considered the move as protective custody, installing Mr. Bifocals in a secure condominium with no sharp edges they just happened to own, in exchange for a very token rent and occasional service as a house and dog sitter when they are out of town.  

They also leaned on him to be a tuxedoed usher for live performances at the university theater and as a guest at the outdoor venue in Balboa Park, occasionally hauling him off to lunch and/or bringing relief supplies from In 'N Out Burgers, which is the finest fast food chain in the known universe and probably beyond.

Okay, the condo is great, the San Diego climate worthy of paradise, my blessedly quiet neighbors have an amazing ability to mind their own business, and anything I might think I need is within 5 miles.  Hell, I don't even have to drive to get it.  If it's small enough it will fit in the basket of an electric scooter the Simons gave me.  

But there is a downside to scooter travel. Being an ex-biker, I'm well aware of the hazards of two wheeled travel in traffic where aged motorists tell the cops, "I dunno, officer.  He just came out of nowhere" as the biker's flattened remains are rolled up and stuffed into a rubber bag.

The only other problems I've had were self-inflicted.  Still are, and ain't that always the way?  I've managed to kill off not one but two tropical fish by not reading the directions that came with the water purifying chemicals for the small aquarium.  That oversight purified the aquarium of fish as well as algae. Twice. So now I have a low maintenance fishless aquarium that looks rather nice, a light illuminating the multi-colored gravel along with the plastic grotto scenery.  I'll suppose I'll get another fish and seek the fish person's counsel about proper care and feeding, but not today. 

The latest crisis occurred yesterday when the ghost of a previous tenant and maybe a troublemaking banshee hid the keys to my condo, my car, my storage locker and what remains of my mental balance.  The bill for the locksmith, the locks and replacement keys has me on a bland diet with headache and constipation supplements.

Well, it could be worse.  I could be fishless in Sacramento where the triple digit August heat makes mere breathing an Olympic event.  So here's to the better weather and good friends in San Diego.


Address comments, critques and snarky suggestions to

If all else fails, let the muck take over the aquarium and raise frogs or salamanders. Say you did it deliberately.  -- Brat

As always, a nice thing to get mail from you.  It seems as though my friend Mike has appropriate thankfulness for a pretty good life.  I really appreciate the thought of you being in nice digs with good people around you, and events of the days making your brain workin' good and your heart laying back warm.  I say that "brain workin' good" stuff in spite of your lost keys portion and for a very good reason.  I, too, have lost my keys and my little packet of ID cards, debit cards, health cards, irretrievably vanished into thin air.  I refuse to chalk that up to any sort of brain fade so I can't accept that for you either . Instead, I prefer to think of these things as a life challenge and character builder, and right off, an exercise to see how many expletives I know.   Keep the words coming, Mike, and be well, keep California Dreamin'.  -- Zoey

Awww love it! -- Julisari

I, too,  am glad you're out there, but still no report on their famed zoo. I also want a review of that "In 'n Outburger place which I've heard so much about. We don't have one here.  Are they as good as their hype?  Take care and keep writing. me.  -- Linda

As far as I know, In 'n Out burgers are geographically limited to California.  And  yes, they're very good.  -- MB

Sounds like you are doing swimmingly and, as for the fish: highly overrated unless they're plated.  Always good to hear from you!  -- Ellen

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Death Of A Salesman -- Almost.

A friend wrote asking if I remember a failed southern Californija real estate development named California City, located smack in the middle of a desert north of Los Angeles.

Oh yes. I remember California City and its ad campaign very well. The developers saturated the L.A. airwaves with commercials in 1959. I was 15 when the development was being promoted, with offers of free info. I thought my parents might like to read about it, so I called the number on the screen for the brochure, giving our address, as I thought the info would be mailed. To my horror and my parents bewilderment, a salesman showed up with a big fat briefcase full of shiny booklets and thick contracts. He wasn't your basic annoying salesman, either, but some young guy obviously struggling on a straight commission existence. Everyone was embarrassed. Well, not my mother. She was not embarrassed. She was royally steamed. That's when I learned that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

A few years ago I was a door-to-door canvasser and telemarketer setting sales appointments for several heating-air-insulation-window companies. We insisted that the homeowner and spouse be present for the presentation. If the man of the house  said "I make all the decisions," we would not schedule an appointment.

That's because the man of the house would suddenly be stricken with psychic castration when the sales guy showed up. “I'll have to talk it over with the missus” he'd say. That would be the last we'd hear from that person. So we always emphasized that both household decision makers had to be present when it was dotted line time with a salesmale.

The same applied if the missus said she made all the financial decisions, only she could not castrate herself if the deal went south. Instead she'd become a shrinking violet who needed permission from her lord and master before spending a dime.

Being a door-to-door canvasser can teach one a lot about human nature. See, we were ordered -- not just told but ordered – to knock on doors with "No Soliciting" signs. "That means the homeowner has no sales resistance," said the sales managers.

Wanna bet? I never knocked on doors marked No Soliciting. We worked between 4-9 p.m. when the someone-who-makes-all-the-decisions was likely to be home -- and it was bad enough when the knock was answered by someone with a chicken drumstick in one hand and a can of Budweiser in the other, or tucking in his shirt and zipping up his fly after coitus interruptus. Not a hot sales prospect, he.  And those were the homes without No Soliciting signs on the door.

There were several communities around Sacramento that had what are called Green River Ordinances, named for Green River, Wyoming, which banned door-to-door soliciting in 1931. The idea spread like a prairie fire to other western states. There's also a band named Green River Ordinance. Probably former canvassers.

The nearby city of Davis had such a ban, so naturally we were ordered to canvass Davis. I think we lasted about 30 minutes before the Davis Police Department escorted us out of town with full military honors. I quit canvassing after several more similar incidents and one dog bite later.

Guess I was paying a karmic debt for my misadventure with California City.


Snarky comments and lavish praise may be sent to

Sorry I was late with my reply. My fall the other night has kept me away from the computer. As always, glad to see you back on the small screen. I love your stories and style of writing. Very readable. (Very important.) – Beaty
Thank you. Please don't take another spill. I need all the readers I can get – MB 
 Gee, brings back memories, remember when EVERYONE came to the door? The ice man, milkman, Jewel Tea guy, Avon Lady, the guys who sharpened knives, vacuum cleaner salesmen, magazine people, Mormons- -but for door to door solicitors it was a tough way to make a living. You've had some interesting jobs  -- Lynda

The Mormons  still make house calls, but usually by appointment. The Jehovah's Witnesses canvass without warning.  I'm unfailingly polite to them.  See, a JW family invited me inside on a cold wet night when I was peddling dual pane windows. They brought me a cup of tea and some cookies, offered me a chair next to the fireplace, and listened to what I had to say, which wasn't much through chattering teeth.  They did not commit to a sales visit, but nor did they proselytize about religion. The subject never came up. They were too busy being Christians to talk about it unasked. I've been especially polite to JW people ever since. – MB 

I read this thinking of the times I've had strangers at my door holding papers. Papers about vacuums, sales, neighborhood parties, church events, and saving of my soul - as if saving my soul could be done by the reading of a pamphlet. I've also come home to stuff hanging on my door knob and stuck in my door frame. I've also picked up papers on my mat, had them taped to my front door, and even had stuff rolled up and thrown up to my balcony. If I wanted this stuff, I'd ask for it. I guess asking for it in present-day is just having an address. It's the nature of business (and  saving souls)  to get things moving in any way you can. I am retiring soon and have a desire to solicit my labors doing artwork or writing or singing a bit more. Hm...I'll bet I could make some flyers -- Zoey

No, Zoey. God, the government and Cisco Corp invented the Internet specifically to keep you from papering your neighborhood with flyers. So show a little gratitude, willya? – MB

Great stuff, thanks for sharing – BSRS

If I had been your mom at that moment, I may have bought a share and shipped you to live there.  Did you at least get grounded? --Tammy

No, but when I joined the Navy my parents seriously considered moving and leaving no forwarding address. – MB

Wonderful, as always – Julisari

Your bribe is in the mail, along with some Oreos. -- MB

Thanks for keeping me on your mailing list. Just read your piece about almost-death of a salesman heheh You are a wordsmith to be sure. Sorry we never connected while you were nearish. Glad you're loving San Diego. My hometown, ya know.
Keep me in the loop! – Kaa

Really? I thought you were an island born wahine. Must've been your surfing background. I know that you don't get much surf in the Napa Valley. but hey, you're in the midst of some swell wineries. – MB