You are looking at posts that were written in the month of November in the year 2006.
Posted on November 30th, 2006 by george.
When was the last time a band toasted you? When have you ever heard a lead singer end his set with, “There is so much joy in what we do up here; we just want to thank you for being here to share in that joy.” When was the last time you and half of the audience were invited up on stage to dance during the last song? When have you ever seen guitarists hand their instruments over to random audience members to play? When did you last meet a rockstar who signed your album with “Stay positive” instead of his name?
This, my friends, is what it’s like to attend a concert featuring The Hold Steady. All the better when you can meet cool people like Katherine while totally rocking out.
Posted on November 29th, 2006 by george.
ROCK ON, DUDETTES!
Posted on November 29th, 2006 by george.
Before we get started, let’s give credit where credit is due. Who taught me to blog in the first place? Who turned me on to flickr? Who hosted me, free of charge, for nearly two years? Who encouraged me to get my own site and learn WordPress? Who walked me through the process of becoming internet savvy and answered every question along the way?
The answer to these, and many other important questions in my life, is Lacey. My dear sister, I cannot thank you enough.
So. Here we are. Toastforbrekkie.com. It’s been a long time in coming, eh? Funny that Nas was just pondering the future of her blog. Please let me know what you think of the site. I’ve been agonizing over the design for weeks, doing my best to fix all the little details and make things look just so. I increased the font size from the original template in an effort to make it more legible; tell me if you think the aesthetic suffered. Big ups to Nik Iliadis for the template. Also mad props to Patrick Chia for the flickr widget. Oh, and due to the unscrupulous myspace kiddies who would dare leech photos from lay-c.com, Lacey had to block all external linking to the pics she hosts. Thus all the embedded pics in my previous entries will show up here as broken links. If you really want me to go back and fix them (download, upload, relink and republish) then leave a comment on the entry in question. I’ll handle it on an as-requested, a la carte basis.
Speaking of photos, the Mexico set has begun. And speaking of flickr, I’ve changed my screen name from 787b to toastforbrekkie.
It is a time of change. People continue to enter and leave my life. Over the past month I have reconnected with two of my best friends, and I can’t express how happy that makes me.
Here’s to the new adventure!
Posted on November 6th, 2006 by George.
It’s true. The death knell has rung for the venerable Tyrone. He was a good cell phone. Like death in the 1800s, we’ll never know the exact nature of the malady that took him down; just that, like so many before him, he was taken from us unexpectedly, before his time, in the prime of his youth. As my Mom would say, “They don’t put on the gravestone, ‘The peanut killed him.’”
Murphy’s Law of cellphones: Tyrone’s warranty ran out last month. Verizon has a neat little gimmick: they’ll give you a new phone every two years. Sounds great, right? Until you realize that no warranty lasts more than a year, unless you pay for it. This gives them a full year beyond the warranty to wait for your phone to crap out before they have to pony up for a new one. If it dies during the second year, as has now happened to me twice, the customer is culpable. If you want the same model, they’ll sell you a refurb sans battery (you mean I get to keep my old, worn out battery? yay!) for fifty bucks. You want a new model? Fabulous! But you get to pay full price. New customers get a discount. Loyal customers? Ask Samuel L. Jackson.
We live in a uniquely frustrating time. The digital revolution has ushered in innumerable advances that should make our lives easier. Instead, we use the added efficiency to heap more onto our plate, to cram more into our schedules, effectively negating progress and maintaining the same level of busyness. We do the same thing with cars. Engine advances? Huzzah! But rather than use them for better gas mileage, we choose more power.
Beyond that, though, is what happens when you port your life into the information age: random failure of electronic equipment. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard it a thousand times: back up your information. I’ve even had a hard drive crash on me, and I still don’t back up. I read a study on msnbc.com recently that put the backup rate somewhere around an abysmal 2%. Apparently it’s too expensive, time-consuming and difficult to be practical. Or else we’re all too lazy because electronics have made our lives insufferably easy.
You would think with the internet, GPS, bluetooth and the like that information could be easily shared in the 21st century. I mean, it is the information age, right? Instead we swim in a sea of incompatibility. Sure, it’s possible to use the cell network to back up your contact list online. But you don’t expect us to just give that to you, do you? Of course not. With Verizon, as with most cellphone providers who seem to have every customer over a barrel, everything has a price.
Until now. What I refused to pay before, for the low low rate of $1.99 a month, is now free. Thanks for telling me guys. I know what you’re thinking. “George, seriously. You have over 300 contacts. What’s two bucks when you pay $110 a month for your cellphone plan?” My answer? Two bucks is two bucks. It’s the principle of the thing. I shouldn’t have to pay extra to back up my contacts, which are the most important part of my phone. Now, it seems, Verizon finally agrees with me.
But it’s too late for all of that now. When Tyrone gave up the ghost, he really gave it up. Eric, the tech, refused to hazard a guess. “Could be any of a dozen things. It just crapped out.” Thanks, man. That really helps. You should go into grief counseling.
So now I’m fifty bucks poorer and my only recourse is to go through my online phone bills and try to guess which numbers match all the people I know. No names, just raw numbers. As if I’m going to be able to do that.
So I ask you this: if you know me and want to continue to be able to contact me, would you mind giving me a call or emailing me your contact info? For all the people who don’t read Brekkie, I guess I’m just out of luck until they call. I apologize in advance if you don’t hear from me first.
Believe it or not, there is a bright side to all this. It’s called a clean slate. Everything happens for a reason. In this case my contact list will never regain its original dimensions, at least not with the same people. But there’s something refreshing about starting over. Now my phonebook will only include people who really want to talk to me.
It’s interesting how things come in threes. This is not the first clean slate I’ve been handed in the past month; this is not the first loss I’ve dealt with in recent memory. Very soon the third cat will be out of the bag. And it will become evident that change and growth are good things. Watch this space. It may be drastic.
Some of you are probably wondering, as an epilogue, “Why Tyrese?” It’s simple: the replacement is the same model. They look exactly alike. They could be twins. Heck, they are twins. But Tyrone’s name shall be retired along with him. Let’s all give a warm welcome to Tyrese.
Posted on November 5th, 2006 by george.
So Toufan and I took a couple noobs out on the jetskis today: our good friends Farah and Fere. Four people on two jetskis; we took turns driving up and down the shallow, narrow switchbacks and billabongs of the St. Johns headwaters. The girls even learned how to handle a PWC. We had lunch at the Lone Cabbage, a riverside honky tonk and biker bar, complete with live music (yes, they played Skynyrd). Everything was going great. Until the rope swing.
Mind you, I had a good time:
But then, I have experience with rope swings. This one was particularly technical, if you can apply that term to a rope swing, because it required a leap, a good grip, and a tight tuck to clear a steel retaining wall. Especially if you chose to go from up in the tree.
Farah went from the wall itself first, so we all assumed she could go from the tree. Everyone, myself included, was encouraging her to go for it but I had a bad feeling about it from the beginning. After ten minutes of vacillating and several failed countdowns, she went for it and…
hesitated. She leapt, but then tried to pull back. This put her off balance from the beginning, and the poor girl didn’t make it over the wall. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the sound of her hitting that wall, then tumbling into the water. She’s fine now, don’t worry, but let’s just say it was an adventure carrying an injured passenger home through a labyrinthine swamp populated by eight-foot gators (trust me, we saw over fifteen, including a 13-footer). But about two seconds after that picture you see above, she broke her finger. Believe me when I say, however, that it could have been much worse.
We love you Farah! Hope you’re not too afraid to come play with us again. Get well soon!
To everyone else that would like to join us, put some time in on your local jungle gym, and you can look like this:
Posted on November 5th, 2006 by george.
nights like these
with the moon full
and the breeze gentle
I sail the river of time
and disembark decades hence
to shake hands with my future self
he greets me warmly
and shows me my children
introduces me to my wife
we talk about everything
he’s done and will do
he says it’s all
going to be ok
and one day you’ll be
nothing but a memory
I see the scars in his heart
where the cracks are in mine now
and it beats strong and true
but as I float back down the river
I shed my tears into her depths
one for each sliver
and lament their future mending
for though it now is broken
at least it was shattered by you
Posted on November 2nd, 2006 by george.
So I’m picking up some Chicago friends in Orlando tomorrow, which is about an hour away, and driving them back to my neighborhood for Feast and a movie. The ol’ Camry has been idling pretty rough lately, so I called up the auto parts store this afternoon to see if they had me covered. Sure enough, the right parts were in stock, and they were open til nine. Sweet.
I skipped volleyball practice this afternoon to lift weights because I hadn’t been to the gym in almost two weeks, and I could feel myself getting weak. After working out I headed straight to the store. I perused the aisles for some fuel injector cleaner, asked about brake pads and looked longingly at the hydraulic lift and jack stands I’ll be purchasing for that future job, then moseyed over to the counter. The clock read 7:45pm.
“I’d like a set of spark plugs and plug wires for a ‘92 Camry LE 4-cylinder, please.”
Tapping at the keyboard. “Four cylinder?”
“Yep. And by the way, do you guys have deep socket, extender and ratchet I could borrow?”
“Sure. You can even wheel that cart out there for a workspace.”
Excellent. This was going to be a breeze.
I rolled out to the car, its hood already open to let the engine cool. This is the car I remember my Dad getting serviced in Nolensville, Tennessee several years ago. This is the car I drove my Mom and sister Liz from Las Vegas to Nashville in. She’s seen better days, especially before I ran over a stack of wood in the road a few months back, but she still runs.
As I popped off the first plug wire my memory kicked in. I flashed back to that scene in Nolensville, the veteran mechanic swearing as he tried to finish what should be a simple job: changing the spark plugs. One thing you need to know about this Camry is that the plugs reside deep inside the engine, each down its own forbidding shaft through the crank case. The holes are just wide enough to accomodate a socket, and eight inches deep. Uh-oh.
If I remember correctly, that mechanic in Nolensville finally gave up trying to repair cylinder one and just jammed the plug wire back on. Perhaps that’s why the engine has been missing all these years. It was only now that I began to understand why.
The plug wires run from the distributor to the crankcase, but terminate in long plastic sleeves that traverse the distance down the hole through the crankcase and end in rubber grommets that hold them onto the plugs. I pulled the first one out: no grommet on the end. Great.
My friend Maysoon calls. I hold the phone to my ear as I work on cylinder number two, and we chat about recent events and how Chicago could use a man who can fix cars and repair houses. After several minutes of trying to get the wire out, I yank with all my might and POP!
I swear into the phone.
“I’m gonna have to let you go Maysoon. This just went from bad to worse.”
All that’s left on the end of plug number two is a frayed wire. I peer down into the hole to see what remains of the plastic sleeve. Luckily, the store lent me their whole tool box, so I grab the needle-nose pliers and carefully slide them down into the hole. I grab the plastic and SNAP! It breaks off in the jaws of the tool. This is fabulous. But brittle is what you get when you subject plastic to hundreds of high-temperature heat cycles. On to cylinder three.
Praise Jesus, this one came out intact. Thank God for small favors. The plastic sleeve comes out of hole number four, but no rubber grommet. Well, one out of four ain’t bad. I guess. I run back inside to ask if they have a coat hanger. No dice. I ask a girl at the apartment complex next door.
“We only have plastic hangers.”
What, do you live with Magneto? Reluctantly (for his sake) I dial my friend Timmy. Voicemail. I break a few more pieces off the stuck sleeve until he calls me back.
“Could you bring me a coat hanger and the longest, skinniest needle-nose pliers you have?”
“I’m at the auto parts store. Stuck.”
He says he’ll swing by the house and see what he can find. Whew. I wipe the sweat off my brow. Literally.
Shortly Timmy arrives. I check the clock: it’s 8:45. We have fifteen minutes. One of the clerks walks outside.
“Y’all done yet?”
I explain the situation to him, and he takes a look.
“Good luck with that.”
Timmy has come prepared, and I go to work snipping off sections of the coat hanger wire and bending the tips into hooks. Tim holds the flashlight for me as I begin surgery on the first cylinder.
“I can’t wait to read about this on Brekkie.”
Yeah, I think. If I can get home tonight to write it.
After ten minutes of wrangling Tim asks, “Would gum help?”
I explain that, unfortunately, the rubber grommet at the bottom seals into a chamber that’s actually a bit larger than the plug hole itself. So it won’t simply slide out. It has to be pried past a lip with a considerable amount of force. From eight inches away. With a wire.
Suddenly the mechanical fairies smile on us and I get a hook under the grommet. I can only see down the cylinder when the balky flashlight (that Tim is so graciously holding) chooses to shine, and even then only with one eye. But I manage to get it halfway turned, stick another hook through the other side with my left hand, and voila. Out pops the grommet. We both extricate ourselves from underneath the hood, rest our backs and heave a sigh of relief. One down, two to go.
I look at the clock. 9pm. Closing time. The clerk comes back out.
“I got one out!” I exclaim before he can speak.
“Great,” he says with feigned enthusiasm, “We’re closing. A few more minutes, we’re cleaning up.”
I get back to work.
Cylinder two turns out to be a nightmare. Tim’s pliers do a credible job of breaking off most of the remaining sleeve piece by piece. Then it’s only a matter getting past the hard plastic bottom, then the grommet. Easy, right?
After ten minutes I give up and move on to cylinder four. Three’s already done, remember? Less than a minute later I have the grommet out. Awesome! I must be getting good at this. Maybe I’ll try my hand at the stuffed animal crane game at Wal-Mart after this. Maybe not.
“I swear,” Tim says, “If this thing starts after all this, I’ll be amazed. I don’t care if it stops two blocks down the road. All I want is for it to start.”
I’m visualizing that frayed wire in my hand and thinking the same thing. Back to cylinder two. By now the clerk has come back out twice to say his manager is getting pissed. There are plastic bits filling the hole, keeping me from getting to the rubber. Apparently there are no shop vacs within a five-mile radius. I step back and look at the hole, its gaping ring shaped like a mouth, laughing at me. Alright, that’s it.
I grab the pliers, thread them inside, squeeze tight and pull. Out comes the metal lead with frayed wire attached. Woo hoo! A bit more wiggle room to get after that plastic.
The manager comes outside. It’s 9:30.
“I hate to do this to you, but we’re closed, and we have to go.”
We stand there for a few minutes, going back and forth. Somehow Tim convinces him to let us keep the socket wrench, just in case we can get to the plug, and promises to return it himself in the morning. Score two for Timmy.
After this minor victory, we take a break. I look over at Tim.
“Maybe we should try that gum.”
He runs to the closest gas station while I stand and wait, suddenly noticing the cramps in my legs. What the? Oh yeah, I just came from the gym and haven’t had any water or food for three hours. As if he had read my mind, Timmy returns with gatorade and watermelon Bubblicious.
“I figured the more sugar the better.”
You figured right. We each take a piece and chew.
“If this works, I’m retiring,” Tim says. “This is straight up MacGyver. He’s all bent over the engine, and the girl is watching from the other side, all 80’s big hair, chewing away and blowing bubbles. Then the camera zooms in on MacGyver’s face, and in slow motion, you see the idea hit him. Silently, he holds out his hand. She spits in it. No no no! The gum! Now her face lights up as she realizes what he wants. She expectorates the one thing that’s going to get them away from the burst dam/killer bees/bad men with uzis and seconds later we cut scene to them driving off into the sunset.”
After sharing a good laugh, Tim and I duck back under the hood and act out the scene. I’m laughing so hard I can barely catch the gum. I stretch it out a few times and wrap it around the end of the hanger-wire hook. Feed it carefully down into cylinder two, fish it around, and slowly pull it back up to reveal…
…large chunks of broken plastic. Timmy, you are a genius.
Over the next several minutes I go about removing shards of black polyethylene in order to get to the rubber ring at the bottom of the tube. Right as I’m getting ready for surgery on the rubber, the lights go out. No, not the flashlight, but the parking lot lights provided by the auto store.
Tim nearly drops the flashlight laughing. “This is too perfect! It’s like a movie!”
I let out a nervous chuckle in the inky blackness of the engine bay, begrudging the fact that the fitful flashlight is now our only source of light. I duck out from under the hood and look up the clouds passing overhead, newly visible in the dark.
“Well, it could rai-”
“Shut up. Don’t even say it. Get back under that hood and fish out that o-ring,” Tim cuts me off.
Cylinder two doesn’t go down without a fight. It takes nearly fifteen minutes to get that piece of rubber out of there, then fish out even more plastic beneath it just to get the socket around the plug. When the time comes to install the new plug, it doesn’t screw in smoothly like the rest. I say a silent prayer that I don’t strip the threads.
Finally I snap in the plug wires on both ends and wipe my greasy hands on a paper towel. We clean up, I open the door, and insert the key into the ignition.
“Moment of truth.”
I turn the key.
The engine roars to life, then settles into a nice soft purr like a happy kitten.
I thank Tim profusely and give him a big hug.
“Catch ya later, buddy.”
He gets into his car, and I follow in mine out onto the highway. My engine is happy. I’m happy. She purrs.
“Kitty!” I exclaim. This car always needed a name.
I look down at the odometer on the way home, just in time to see it pass 301,000 miles.
Tim, I owe ya, buddy. Maysoon, I’ll call you back.