Aventures In Oil Changes

Tuesday night, I took my car in to a place I’ll call “Spiffy Lube” for a long-overdue oil change.  $66 with an air filter.  Lesson learned.  When going to Spiffy Lube, you will need lube.

The next day, Nita called during her lunch hour and said Spiffy Lube was backed up and, oh, they wanted $77 for their “special SUV blend.”

“Um…  No,” I said.  “You drive a V6.  Let me make some calls.”

There were a number of tire places I’ve gone to that usually give me reasonable rates on oil changes.  All of them were booked.  Granted, we should have changed Nita’s oil well before the holidays, but that didn’t work out.  So here I was, calling around.

I finally got a 5:30 appointment with a place I will call “Pup Boyz.”  So off I went to Kenwood to pick up the Nitamobile.  I got to the Boyz promptly at 5:30.  “We’re backed up,” the manager informed.  No problem.  I understood this was a holiday weekend, and they were getting a lot of last minute business.  The manager took my keys and placed them on the work order with the words, “WITH APPOINTMENT.”

IN BIG RED LETTERS.

So at 5:45, I was still waiting.  Understandable.

At 6 PM, I was still waiting.  Understandable.

At 6:30, I was still waiting.  Um…

At 6:45, I’m still waiting.  Nita calls.  “So where are you?”

“Waiting for them to change your oil.”

“Are they almost finished?”

“The car is still out front.”

“What?”

“They haven’t moved it.”

“Have you said something?”

“I’m standing in line behind the other pissed off customers.”

Meanwhile, a mechanic called this fourteenth phone number trying to locate the owner of a van in one of the bays.  Apparently, they forgot to ask the owner’s phone number.

Nita hangs up.  She calls back.  I’m still waiting for my turn to say, “It’s 6:45.  Do you know what an ‘appointment’ means?”

“Leave now.  I called Tire Cheapsellers.  Tell them you’re the guy whose wife just called.”

I am firing up the Nitamobile before she even hangs up.  At 6:50, I’m in Tire Cheapsellers’ parking lot, across the street from the Boyz.  The Nitamobile is in the bay and up on a rack by the time I finish the paperwork.  I run next door to Burger King to get a drink.  The ice isn’t even melted when the mechanic pulls the Nitamobile around front.  Time?

7 PM.  Fifteen minutes from the moment Nita said, “Grab the keys.”

Yes, we lucked out and got the one last-minute (literally) oil change slot in all of Cincinnati on the day before Thanksgiving, but still, it’s fifteen minutes from the moment I snatched the keys off the Boyz’ counter.

7:05, I’m halfway home.  Nita calls.  The Boyz’ manager is frantically trying to call me about my long wait, and, oh, by the way, could I please not call corporate?

Bwahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!  Nita Googled the Boyz’ corporate number after she hung up with the manager.

Tire Cheapsellers’ manager gets a nice hunk of cheese Friday as thanks.  (She loves cheese.)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Tips for Thanksgiving:

  • When deep-frying a turkey, try not to fry it on something flammable.  Like a wooden deck.
  • My late father pointed out that the reason you buy turkeys in the store (or shoot them in the wild) has a lot to do with the bird’s temperament.  While stupid and scared of their own shadows, turkeys are also slightly less vicious than a pit bull, assuming the pit bull was kicked in the balls.
  • Fans of the Detroit Lions today may want their wild turkey from a bottle instead of  Kroger.
  • Tomorrow is Black Friday.  I buy all my stuff ahead of time or between Black Friday and Christmas Eve.
  • I get at least one turkey leg.  Deal with it.
  • I am thankful that the last eight years will soon be over.  That’s assuming we’re not invaded by Gelnarg from Remulac, who might conquer the world for the sole purpose of impregnating Paris Hilton.  (That would be so not hot.)

Jefferson’s Contradictions

AMERICAN SPHINX by Joseph Ellis

{Originally posted to Goodreads.com]

Joseph Ellis wrote an unflinching look at the Father of Our Country, George Washington, but before that, he wrote his own personal hero, Thomas Jefferson.

While this is an excellent look at the author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, what keeps me from giving this book five stars is Ellis’s very reason for writing this book.  In his introduction and conclusion, he is almost apologetic, making like Rush Limbaugh to “put it all in perspective for you.”  In short, Ellis is a Jefferson fan boy.

Ellis gives us enough facts about Jefferson to form an honest picture of him.  We see his struggle with slavery, an institution he could not live without yet found morally repugnant (much like Washington).  He is a fiscally responsible public servant whose own finances were a mess, a problem exacerbated by his love of antiques, furniture, lavish building projects, and, of course, fine wine.  We also see the prototypical modern Republican – that is the party of small government, localized authority, and little federal spending – become an even more energetic president than either of his predecessors.  In short, Jefferson was a walking contradiction.

Where Ellis falls down in this effort is his need to explain Jefferson’s thinking, as though without such commentary, a reader might rush to judgment and see the man as something less than iconic.  None of it is necessary.  If all Jefferson ever accomplished in his life was write the Declaration of Independence or acted as one third of the greatest diplomatic team in history – the rest of it being Benjamin Franklin and John Adams – his place in history would be assured.

As it is, Thomas Jefferson the revolutionary I am most certainly an admirer.  Thomas Jefferson the elder statesman, whose correspondence with Adams in both men’s twilight years remains the greatest bipartisan dialogue in US history, is undoubtedly someone to whom we should stop and listen.  But Jefferson the politician and president?

Jefferson may have been the original libertarian and proponent of small government.  However, like too many of that philosophy, he was an ardent hardliner, at least until relaxing his stance suited him.  Granted, it gave us the Louisiana Purchase and removed France and Spain from the North American continent.  But as a politician?

Not a fan.

But that’s quite all right.  It would do most Americans good to see that their Founding Fathers were not this monolithic group of men who thought and acted as a unit.  They were a disagreeable and contentious lot full of idealists (Jefferson), pragmatists (Adams and Washington), and even a few schemers (Alexander Hamilton).  To say the Founding Fathers intended anything as a means to win an argument shows a lack of understanding of this crucial phase of history. The Founding Fathers intended vastly different things, and that the Constitution even exists is a miracle.

That a man who opposed much of its content would become our third president is no mean feat, either.

Queen City Mondays: Ich bein ein Zinzinnatian

Back in 1989, I met a girl who convinced me to abandon the rustic surroundings my family had chosen for themselves in exchange for living in the bright lights of the Queen City, Cincinnati.  Since, by the time we were engaged, I was driving 50 miles one-way from Holmes County, Ohio to suburban Cleveland everyday, it was kind of a no-brainer.  Better jobs?  Cable TV?  An actual night life?  These things existed in Cleveland as well, but somehow, I could never get myself closer to the city, only farther.  Add to that a fiancee in the mix, and bam!  I loaded up the aging Postal Jeep and headed south.

I, er, sorta looked like the Beverly Hillbillies with all my possessions packed into and strapped onto an old mail Jeep.  But I made it.

Fast forward to 2007.  Our marriage was, um, headed for a successful conclusion not involving death.  As I contemplated life as a single man, I also contemplated life somewhere else.  Cleveland was no longer an option as Ford dropped an atomic bomb on the city by closing the Brook Park engine plant.  Columbus?  Maybe.  BigHugeCo is one of several insurance companies in Cincinnati, and there is no shortage of those in Columbus.  Chicago, despite frigid winters, looked inviting.  I even contemplated how to make a move to San Francisco work.

And then I met Nita shortly after Diane and I told the world we had, um, concluded the marital portion of our relationship. It started out as nothing more than getting together for drinks.  Nita wasn’t looking.  I wasn’t looking.  And yet…

Guess what.  Not leaving Cincinnati after all.

In fact, I’ve been here almost two decades.  When I came here, Boomer and Anthony Munoz and David Fulcher still played for the Bengals, ESPN meant New Orleans when they said “Xavier,” no one had heard of Bill Clinton, Jerry Springer was still “that anchorman who used to be mayor,” and the Reds’ last World Series win was months before.

I came here on the heels of Mapplethorpe, endured the WKRP jokes, walked into my first (and to date, only) gay bar just off Fountain Square, watched the Bengals threaten the Detroit Lions for worst sports franchise crowd, watched baseball games in two stadiums on the Ohio River, took comedy lessons from one of the hosts of Family Feud, hunkered down for the riots of 2001, and even lived through a hurricane.

Yeah.  A hurricane.

I eat Skyline chili and have eaten goetta.  I am proud to say I never drank Burger Beer, though I once had a Hudy Delight.  (Burger is like Stroh’s, only nasty.  Hudy was like…  water.)  I’ve been to a taping of Jerry Springer before it became the freak show that it is now.  I’ve even dated a former Q102 DJ.  (Guess which one.  No, it’s not Brian Douglas.)

In other words, I’ve become a Cincinnatian.

Yes, it’s still culture shock after 17 years here.  The town is a bit more conservative than I like, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.  Sometimes.  Besides, I’d never have met Nita had I not even ventured south of Columbus.  What other city has done that for me?

So here every Monday, I’ll be talking about what’s slowly become my hometown over the past two decades.  I grew up a proud Clevelander.

I became a proud Cincinnatian.

Who never had to drink Burger. (Blech!)

Where Do The Bailouts End? I Have A Few Ideas.

People fear Congress will reward Detroit’s piss poor business acumen will trigger an avalanche of other industries looking for a handout. Rightly so. I don’t support any bailouts lightly. As I said yesterday, I’d love it if the nation could afford to tell General Motors to shut up and take its medicine, but it can’t.

However, the question remains: Where will it end?

I think Detroit is a good place to end it. The centerpiece of our industrial base is in trouble, and $25 billion is a small price to pay now that they’vefinally (if several years too late) figured out how to make a profit.  But…

As I said the other day, there should be some strings attached.  We as a nation have an agenda, and if you’re going to take the market mentality to its logical conclusion, floating the auto industry a taxpayer-funded loan should entitle the nation to demand a few things from the Big Three.

And then…

  • Break up GM.  Sure, I’ll consider a Chevy in the future.  But who says it has to have “General Motors” stamped on the frame or has to come from the same factory as a Buick.  What the hell’s a Buick anyway?  Spin off Cadillac and let it become the Mercedes Benz of American cars once again.  (Just don’t let those buffoons at Daimler actually make them into Mercedes, not until the remember how to build a car again.)
  • The airlines already have their hands out.  Unlike Ford, GM, and Chrysler, the big airlines have to look over their shoulders at Southwest, Air Tran, and Jet Blue.  So when the airline industry comes crying to Congress and President Obama, I believe the response should be, “Go to hell.”  The airlines had it all and lost it through even worse mismanagement and customer abuse than the Big 3 might accomplish a shadow of on a good day.  If we lose the big airlines, there are a lot of smaller ones who’d love to charge you less to take up the slack.
  • It’s time to demand payback from American International Group.  AIG keeps coming back for more and more and more money.  Time for the government to seize this tottering giant and dismember it once and for all.  Take control and sell off all the assets and put some money back into the treasury.
  • If the Treasury Department is taking a stake in American banks to bail them out, then it’s time to force them to stop hoarding all the cash.  In fact, the new Treasury Secretary needs to figure out what the $700 billion bailout is for, then stay on message.  Currently, Henry Paulson shows the attention span of a gnat drowning in a mug of Starbucks espresso blend.  One day, it’s to buy out bad mortgages.  The next day, credit card debt.  Then the auto industry.  Hank, what is it?  You pitch this as an FDR move and then get all Herbert Hoover on us.  Bad move, especially for a Republican.  Herb gave us a top tax rate of 73%.  (Yanno, the rate that made Ronald Reagan say, “Um…  Let’s borrow money from Japan and find something a little more sane to charge people.”)
  • No bank, manufacturer, or retailer should ever be allowed a position in the market that could threaten the economy if it collapses.  Ever.  Socialism?  Kids, Teddy Roosevelt saw this, and Teddy was a man who loved capitalism.  He just knew the game had to have rules.  And like Teddy, we seem to be going back to JP Morgan for help.  And as grateful as I am to JP Morgan for being as smart as their namesake/founder, I’m not sure I want them acting as a second Federal Reserve.  Clean up the banking industry, by all means.  But then make sure no one gets too big.

Because I don’t think my grandchildren will be able to afford JP Morgan coming to Congress with their hat in hand.

And while we’re on the subject, since the taxpayer is on the hook for all these stupid business practices, shouldn’t a lot of these executives be facing the prospect of a few years at Club Fed, maybe a federal pound-me-in-the-ass facility?  Or even losing their assets?

Just say no to golden parachutes.

Brrr…

This week, the weatherman on Fox 19, WLW, and even The Weather Channel have been referring to Cincinnati’s weather as being “refreshingly brisk.”

Call it what you want.  It’s still cold.

And until mid-February, dark.