Monday, June 28, 2010

Off-Brand Car Rentals

We are on one of our regular trips to LA to see los abuelos. My beloved wife has an obsession with off-brand car rentals. In her quest for a good deal, she bypasses the standards – Avis and Hertz – in favor of places like Crazy Khalil’s All Vehicles Rented (we were offered the choice of a crop duster or a PT Cruiser.)

This trip we tried someplace new. LAX is a big place, with vast regions not known the to casual travelers. The courtesy shuttle was to meet us in a “private section” of the airport that – for an area where planes land – was surprisingly poorly lit.

Although the planes were private, they were not swanky corporate jets. They had peeling paint and graffiti – they were the aeronautical equivalent to Chevy Novas. Tattooed Ukranians were striding around carrying large cardboard boxes with multiple grease stains.

As my wife and I kept looking around nervously for the courtesy shuttle, one of these boxes burst unleashing a cascade of cigarette cartons. My daughter, well educated by the values of our time called out, “You shouldn’t smoke.”

It wasn’t in Ukrainian, so it had no impact. She pulled mom’s sleeve, “Mommy, in Spanish, do I say, ‘No se debe fumar?’”

She’s never shown this much interest in her Latino heritage before. We were saved from the consequences of this query when the courtesy shuttle arrived. It was a converted meat truck.

The rental center was apparently also a junkyard (complete with snarling dog). The driver was also the clerk. For a guarantee, he insisted on our library cards and my Pier One membership discount card. After we signed some papers and handed over some cash, the proprietor waved a veiny arm and said, “Pick a car. Any car.”

I saw a convertible and began heading towards it.

“Not that one,” he barked.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked, with visions of the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down buzzing through my head.

“It’s a little hot.”

“I’ll just put the top down…”

Mama Goof gave me a look and pulled me away. The junkyard dog was straining a heavy gauge chain and frothing at the mouth.

The rest of selection looked like the Matchbox car collection of a child who hated all forms of wheeled transportation. An El Camino (one of the most hideous cars ever made), a partially repainted Fedex van, and an Alabama state police cruiser were among the highlights. The proprietor let us know the meat truck was an option (an old school bus with the roof ripped off could apparently substitute on airport runs.)

We ended up leaving with a conventional, albeit aged sedan – which broke down a few days later. When we called, the customer service representative instructed us to walk away from the vehicle and “forget about it.”

We did, happily. But I fear I have lost my Pier One discount card forever.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Very Welcome Mommy Blog

Does the world need another mommy blog - I long felt my friend at Not Ever Still had the genre covered adequately.

But, Alice, an old college friend, just started a blog about being a mom and this one is extra-special:
A Year in the Life of an Army Family
Her husband, also a college friend, is a Major in the U.S. Army and recently started a deployment in sunny Afghanistan.

Sidenote - I went to a funky art school - black ensconced film majors, over expressive drama majors, and manic depressive creative writers. Not a lot of future Army Majors! But he was a great guy and we respected the hell out of him even then.

Alice's blog is cute, a reminder of the sacrifice our servicemen are making on our behalf - but most importantly it has great pictures. Alice studied photography (when we spent a semester in Europe I learned so much just watching her!)

Check it out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Night of the Lepus

Living in verdant suburbia we have a healthy deer population. Completely unafraid of human beings, they wander into our yards, devour our gardens, and cut in line at the post office.

Sometimes, in the early morning I’ll look out the kitchen window and see the majestic Prince of the Forest looking quite regal as he uses our backyard as an outhouse.

We also have bunnies - lots of brawling bunnies. One, for reasons I cannot imagine, stands guard right next to our driveway. Whenever I go out to the car, or pull into the driveway in my car, this rabbit is there, starring out onto the street. Maybe the rabbit is waiting for a UPS package (presumably a delivery of carrots or explosives – most of what I know about rabbits comes from watching Bugs Bunny.)

In the backyard we have a bunny clan at war with the clan in the yard behind ours. The buck (or is it stallion) guards against any incursion. We’ve watched him shimmy under the fence to take on the other clan's buck. He will also take on crows and squirrels. We try to stay out of the yard when he is about. We don’t know if he is related to the Rabbit of Cearbannog (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail - I'll save the you click) and we don’t want to find out.

This evening, a deer was noshing on our neighbor’s shrubbery. A pair of rabbit does, sitting in our yard, looked on with awe. But “buck bunny” would not tolerate the incursion. He raced up the hill in our backyard, shimmied under the fence and attacked. He gave it everything he had, but the deer was unfazed. Buck bunny summoned his does and they retreated into their fortress beneath the deck.

While we watched this, my son noticed the little lights blinking on and off.

“Dad, can we go outside and catch lightning bugs?”

“Sure, buddy – let’s go. But, umm, the front yard is better.”

We went out the door. He had a jar and I took my camera. As I took a position near our driveway to get the best pictures of him a rabbit scampered by. He took up a new sentry position just a few feet away and continued his vigil.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Stinky Explanations

When I picked up the kids from school my son said,

“Dad, you never sing along with the radio you must be in a good mood!”

He’s right – I don’t sing or listen to music. In college I was known as “the guy who hates music.”

I was in a good mood. That afternoon I had treated myself - sitting in the backyard drinking coffee, smoking a cigar and reading about bureaucratic politics. (To each their own – I don’t like music but I do like to read Morton Halperin.)

When my daughter went to wrestle me (that’s how the Goof clan celebrates), she yelled, “Daddy you smell like the La Brea Tar Pits.”

Then she came back for another whiff and declared, “You smell like the inside of a shofar.”

“I smoked a cigar this afternoon,” I explained.

GoofGirl’s eyes got huge (GoofBoy was uninterested, we’d had this discussion before). The hours of anti-smoking propaganda she has absorbed went to work, “Daddy, you are going to die. Only bad people who don’t love their children smoke.”

“Sweetheart,” I explained, “I smoke a cigar every few months. That won’t make me sick. If I did it every day, then there might be a problem – don’t worry.”

“But why Daddy, it stinks.”

“But it is kind of nice when you are smoking them.”

“Like scotch?”

“Well, not exactly – but they go well together.”

Suddenly, the conversation took a very different turn - I saw a flash in her eyes, as the anti-smoking propaganda dissolved like cotton candy in a downpour.

“Daddy, where do you keep your cigars?”

“Nowhere, I smoked the only one I had.”

“But where did you keep it? In your office? In your nightstand?”

“Why are you so interested? Cigars aren’t for children.”

“I just am. You better tell me, or I’ll tell mommy you smoked and she’ll find them and throw them out.”