November 30, 2004

Robitussin Meanderings.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 5:41 pm

At the moment, I am saddled with a most annoying and uncomfortable cold. I Zicam swapped the inside of my nose, I’m taking way more than usual amounts of Vitamin C (probably just creating vitamin-loaded urine in the process), drinking copious amounts of fluids, and taking Robitussin in order to take a deep breath without having it followed by hacking and coughing.

It is at times like this, when one is capable of doing little more than vegging out and waiting for this to pass, when I find myself thinking of things I would “some day” like to do. Admittedly, many of the things fall into the realm of pure fantasy, but there are some others that are, at least, possible, if not likely.

Although compiling such a list merits a good deal of consideration, I’ve decided to simply jot down a few things that pop into my cruller while I sit here trying not to cough.

Here they are, in no particular order of preference or likelihood of ever happening:

Some day, I’d like to:

1. Take a ride in a B-17

2. Spend six months to a year just traveling around the country, going wherever I please and staying as long in one place as I please.

3. Travel to Australia

4. Get plastered in a real Irish Pub in Ireland with a bunch of folks who like to drink and sing.

5. Own and ride a motorcycle again.

6. See and touch one of the Budweiser Clydesdales.

7. Play drums in whatever band Eric Clapton felt like putting together.

8. Play drums in a big-assed band with lots of brass.

9. Own an oceanfront house.

10. Spend a good deal of time alone with a piano. (It’s a Zen thing.)

11. Wear a cowboy hat without looking like a complete asshole.

12. Sail on a destroyer.

13. Watch flight operations from the deck of an aircraft carrier.

14. Ride in the second seat of a fighter plane.

15. Toss a pie at Michael Moore’s face.

16. Do a radio program.

17. Hang with the President for a couple days.

18. Write a book worth reading.

19. Paint a picture of an apple that actually looks like an apple.

20. Take a ride on an ocean-going racing boat.

That’ll do for now.

I’m going to make myself a cup of tea with honey, lemon, and a generous slug of dark rum. Tastes a helluva lot better than Robitussin.

November 29, 2004

From Yours Truly, A Jersey Driver.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:46 pm

Memo to New York Drivers
Yo! Move over, gottdammit! In this state, we actually have a law that requires that you stay to the right, except when passing. Unlike some laws, this one is grounded in common sense. It’s simple. If you Empire Staters are driving on a multilane road and you notice that people are passing you on the right (and quite possibly are glaring at you, or worse), MOVE OVER TO THE RIGHT. The Garden State Parkway is NOT 42nd Street.

Memo to Pennsylvania Drivers
In this state, when you wish to turn left at an intersection, you proceed to the center of the intersection to wait for a break in the oncoming traffic. I have seen that in your state you sit at the damned traffic light waiting to turn left, and I have heard that you refer to moving to the center of the intersection to wait as “pulling a Jersey.” Very clever, however when you are in this state, learn to do it the right way.

Oh, and, while you’re at it, pull this!

Memo to Ohio Drivers
WTF???? I find myself wondering whether you folks drink the ritual saki before you embark on your “carmikaze” missions. Listen to me. Entering a highway demands that you pay at least a little bit of attention to the traffic that is already driving on the farookin’ road. I’m not talking here about the niceties of who has the right-of-way under state law. No, I’m talking about your apparent desire to self-destruct on our highways and take a few Garden Staters with you.

For a time, I thought that there was something about New Jersey that caused Ohio drivers to be a complete menace on our roads. But then, I had occasion to drive in Ohio. Holy shit! It’s a statewide demolition derby.

We in the Garden State should petition our legislators require that Ohio drivers display a brightly colored flag or similar identification widget on their vehicles so that we can give them wide berth.

Really. If you need to come to Jersey, please consider a bus.

Happy motoring.

November 28, 2004

Cocktails, More Cocktails, The “Stardust Shrink,” “Half-fast Lane,” and “Legs Cornell.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:25 pm

It was another memorable road trip, and like those before it, it was a full frontal assault on one’s liver, digestive system, and ability to laugh often and hard without pissing in one’s pants.

Upon our arrival to Mile Marker “0” on the Parkway and checking in to our digs, we offloaded the luggage and a very large box full of booze and wine, and immediately headed for the Ugly Mug for apple knockers (hot cider, spices, and Laird’s Apple Jack), beer, and chow light fare.

That was followed by a couple hours of cutesy store shopping, once again confirming that there is no shortage of scented candles in the world. As the sunlight began to fade, it was time for to head back to home base (our room again served as “Party Central”) for – you guess it – cocktails.

It was during this extended pre-dinner drinkfest cocktail party, that we had our first of a few very pleasant surprises. It seems that Kathy, the Deckmistress, has a first cousin who owns a vacation home in Cape May, and he happened to be in town for the weekend. She placed a call to invite him to stop by Party Central to join the Usual Suspects for a drink or three. The Deckmistress had described her cousin, the Stardust Shrink, as a fellow who regularly goes for the gusto, but her descriptions did not do him justice.

He breezed into the place clad in bicycling attire (he had been riding earlier), armed with a platter of brie, nuts, chips and dip, complete with little cheese spreaders that had multi-colored fish for handles, a little something he had whipped up. Most impressive, indeed. Of course, he already knew his two cousins, Kathy the Deckmistress and Kathy’s sister, Jeannie (the Good Sister), and Ken, my bodyguard, and the always hilarious Artie, their respective spouses, but he had never met the rest of us, including Bill the Ham, and his wife, Blue-eyed Laura. That didn’t matter at all, because he immediately caught the vibe and fit right in with the group of traveling loonies.

After an hour or so, he had to leave to meet his houseguests who had just arrived. However, before leaving, he invited us all to his home for cocktails (I told you he fit right in) the following evening before dinner at a restaurant of his choosing.

We then took a one-hour alcohol-free break to get ready for dinner at Cucina Rosa. The waiter in this BYOB place was caught a bit flatfooted when he saw the array of wines, including champagne that we placed on the table. After he poured the champagne, he damned near wore out his corkscrew opening the balance of the wine, all of which was consumed. Oh yeah, the dinner was excellent. I recommend the spaghetti carbonara.

After dinner, we staggered walked across the street to our digs for some post-dinner Gentleman Jack on the rocks and cigars. Some time around midnight, when everyone ceased making any damned sense, we called it quits.

Saturday morning, after a walk along the ocean, to clear the cobwebs from my cruller, we went to a local pancake house for some morning grazing, which included a gallon or two of coffee. We were surprised to see that the Stardust Shrink showed up on his bicycle to join us for coffee. Apparently, we had not managed to scare the dogshit out of him the night before. After getting a bit of a kick out of watching us all try to sop up the previous day’s libations with pancakes, he disappeared on his bike to be with his guests and to work on a restaurant selection for that evening.

Saturday was marked by a visit to a local craft fair (lots of stuffed, hand-painted and fairly useless things), more cutesy store shopping and a walk on the beach. Having finally had it with cutesy store shopping three of us went to this place for – ahem – a few cocktails until it was time to return to Party Central for a few cocktails before we had to get ready to go to the Stardust Shrink’s house for – ahem – cocktails.

The house, which the Stardust Shrink had described to us as being “really just a plain house” turned out to be a magnificent, well appointed item with an ocean view to die for. In short order, the cocktails were made and distributed and the dining room table was covered with an array of fresh crab, shrimp, assorted cheeses and other goodies. The guy is amazing.

At that point, we were introduced to the Stardust Shrink’s houseguests. We all silently hoped that they had been suitably warned that this can be a pretty rough crowd. Lane, the fashion photographer (who could be a stand-in for Mick Jagger) and his attractive companion Fran, a research scientist, at first appeared to be a bit apprehensive, probably never having expected that a portion of their quiet weekend in Cape May would be spent with this collection of well-oiled misfits.

Any visible apprehension faded as we began exchanging side-splitting stories, and it was at this time that we learned that the soft-spoken Fran regularly interrogated her daughter’s suitors with the thoroughness of Sgt. Joe Friday, while taking down all the important information (including vehicle type and license plate number) on 3×5 cards. By the end of the evening, in keeping with the Usual Suspects’ tradition, Fran the research scientist, was given a nickname, which she seemed to wear with pride. Henceforth, she will be known as “Legs Cornell,” for reasons which, I trust, are obvious.

We left the Stardust Shrink’s outrageously beautiful oceanfront home plain house for dinner at the Black Duck. It was an extraordinary dining experience, again marked by the waitress asking, “where shall I begin?” when the veritable shitload of wine bottles were placed on the table. The Stardust Shrink, a wizard at restaurant selection, had arranged for us to be seated in a separate little room, which was undoubtedly prompted by his now, first-hand knowledge of the vigor with which the Usual Suspects raise hell engage in interesting repartee.

At the conclusion of the dinner, the task of figuring out the bill was left to Lane (who had been previously been “Fast Lane” by the Stardust Shrink). It was then that we learned that, while “Fast Lane” may be a whiz with a camera, he has trouble counting past ten.

When the calculations weren’t working out, he explained that he took the total amount of the bill (including the gratuity) and divided by 10. Multiple people immediately advised him (with the subtlety of a battery of sledgehammers) that there were 11 people at the table. “Fast Lane” responded by counting heads aloud. He briskly pointed at each person around the table in turn, “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine ten.” There was a pregnant pause while “Fast Lane” stared into his own index finger identifying him as number 11. Following a few minutes of sustained laughter and ridicule, he was given his very own nickname. Forever more, he shall be known as “Half-Fast Lane.”

After dinner, the group of eleven returned to Party Central for – guess what? – more cocktails, laughter and general hell raising until about one in the morning, by which time everyone’s liver enzymes most certainly had entered the red zone.

This morning, everyone looked like warmed-over shit and was visibly trying to take in copious amounts of oxygen, while making valiant efforts to swallow their own spit. There was universal agreement that we would all give up drinking, at least for today.

There was also universal agreement that it was one hell of great road trip, made even better by having the pleasure of hanging with the Stardust Shrink, Half-Fast Lane, and the lovely “Legs Cornell.”

We’ll be back next year.

November 26, 2004

Road Trip!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:56 am

Parkway Sign.jpgEight of the Usual Suspects will be leaving soon for what is becoming an annual road trip. A couple suitcases and a very large box full of drinkables and we’re good to go. I expect much drinking, eating, bullshitting, cigar smoking, salooning, and the requisite amount of shopping in cutesy stores.

If you find yourself in the area, there is a good chance you’ll find us here. We’ll be the noisy bunch in the corner.

A Note With Respect to Comments: Seeing as how I won’t be on guard to battle the never-ending hoard of satanic comment spammers, Craig (The Nicest Guy in the Blogosphere), has kindly offered to render my comments inoperable until our return. I hate to do that, but you all know how it is when you give these vermin a two-day free pass.

See you in a couple.

November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving 2004.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 12:02 pm



November 24, 2004

Speaking of Donald Payne…..

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 11:29 pm

I don’t know how I missed this at the time, but back in September my congressman, Donald Payne, led a congressional delegation on a trip to Iraq “to express solidarity with the troops and to assess the situation on the ground.”

The delegation shared meals with troops from their districts both days they spent in Iraq. “We wanted to let them know that they are in our minds, our hearts, and our prayers,” Payne said.

What a load of hot, steaming horseshit.

As I previously noted, this is the same guy who, in 2003, was among the twenty-two congressmen who voted “Present” on House Congressional Resolution No. 104, Expressing the Support and Appreciation of the Nation for the President and the Members of the Armed Forces Who are Participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom (emphasis mine). (392 representatives voted “yes” and eleven voted “no”).

I should note that Mr. Payne won 97% of the vote in this past election. That makes him almost as successful a candidate as Saddam. Part of that may have to do with the Republicans not even having bothered to run a candidate against him in his gerrymandered district.

I Feel His Pain/Payne.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:36 pm

Sheesh! I thought my congressman was a lemon until I read about the dipshit that Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities is saddled with. See also here.

Via SondraK


Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:45 pm

I’ve always liked to listen to people speak with a British accent (I know. There are several varieties, but I’m talking about the Tony Blair type accent.). That said, it has always struck me that one can be the dumbest bastard in the world and still sound intelligent simply by speaking with a British accent. “Of course, the earth is flat, old boy. Pass me a scone, please.” Go figure.

However, I don’t get some of the British thing. For example, our British friends refer to Buckingham Palace as, “BUCKING-um” Palace, while we colonists prefer to say it as it is spelled, “BUCKING-HAM” Palace.

If a Brit were to go to a deli for lunch would he order a “um and cheese” sandwich?

The foregoing shows what one night of forced internet abstinence will do. I fear that a portion of my brain has turned into Styrofoam.

Cable Mysteries.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 5:35 pm

It appears that I am back online, although I am not exactly sure how it happened.

Here’s the backstory.

When my modem was acting moribund and finally resisted all attempts at resuscitation, I called Comcast. After wading through the half dozen or so prompts, I finally spoke with a very pleasant woman. I explained the problem, including my having followed the recorded Comcast advice about unplugging my modem to let it “reset,” and that, after three days of doing that, it would no longer “reset.”

She sent a signal to my computer and said, “You are right. You’re not connected.” Of course, I already knew that I wasn’t connected. That’s why I was on the farookin’ telephone. However, wanting to avoid, at all costs, any chance of angering this woman and never again seeing the internet, I simply acknowledged that she was correct and that I was not connected.

She asked, “Would you please unplug your modem for me, sir?” Even though I knew that I had done the unplugging thing several times, I followed her directions.

“Would you please re-start your computer, sir?” I did that too.

“Now would you plug the modem in again, sir?” OK, Jimbo. Stay calm. Maybe this is part of the standard drill. I plugged the modem in.

I reported that the lights on the modem were still flashing simultaneously (the sign, I’ve learned of a disconnected or dead modem). After again sending a signal to my computer, she reported, “You are still not connected.” Deep breath. Count to ten, Jimbo. “I will have to arrange for a technician to come to your home.” She arranged an appointment for the following day.

When I arrived home from work last night, I received a message from my next-door neighbor asking me to call him, as he was having internet problems. He is a “computer guy” for a living, and I know that he also has Comcast internet service.

He asked, “Are you having trouble with your internet connection?” I described my problem, and he confirmed that he had been having the exact same problem. His problem started at exactly the same time as mine, and it behaved in exactly the same way. He had Comcast guys over already three times, the second two times after they replaced his modem. I told him that a Comcast guy was coming to my house the following day and that I would report that he was having the identical problem. In fact, we exchanged Comcast reference numbers (the numbers given when one calls for support/service).

Now, I am neither a “computer guy” nor a “cable guy,” but I figure that two separate residences (roughly twenty or thirty feet apart) that both have Comcast internet cable service, and both services come off the same pole, and both computers are having identical problems that began at and occurred repeatedly at exactly the same times, sort of suggests that the problem must be somewhere between our common pole and where Comcast keeps the magic machines that provide the internet service.

OK, so the cable guy (a very nice and polite fellow) shows up, “What seems to be the problem, sir?”

I reported my problem and then added, “This could be a little tricky, you see, because my neighbor in that house next door is having the identical problem, and it began at the same time as mine and occurred each time at the same time as mine.”

The cable guy politely but very firmly said, “I don’t car about any of that. I’m here to deal with your problem,” and with that, he hooked a little box to my incoming line and said, “You shouldn’t be having a problem.” Easy, Jimbo.He went outside and verified that the cable that supplies my internet service is separate from the cable that provides the TV service, so it wasn’t a “splitter” problem.

He then unplugged and re-plugged my modem (I’m thinking that thing may wear out from all this plugging and unplugging), and proudly showed me that the lights were no longer flashing. “You’re good now,” he said. To which I lamely responded, “You did exactly what I have been doing for the last three days, and it worked for a while and then disconnected.”

“Well, it’s good now, he replied.”

I decided to try again. “But my neighbor is having the same problem. I even have his Comcast reference number!” Still polite, but now very firm and visibly annoyed, he said, “I told you I don’t care about that. I don’t know what’s going on over there, and it has nothing to do with you. He may have six televisions hooked up and bogus splitters for all I know.”

He asked me to start up the computer, which I did, and sure enough, I was connected. He explained to me how the lights on the modem are supposed to look, and I didn’t bother telling him that I freakin’ knew that already.

I asked, “What should I do if this thing craps out after you leave?” He left me with his cell number, but it was clear that the offer of the cell number insta-response was good until 5PM and that any future crapouts would have to be reported to Comcast.

After he left, I called my neighbor with the bad news.

As it turns out, my neighbor explained that, after talking with me, he had spent additional time last night on the phone with a supervisor at Comcast and calmly and carefully explained the situation, including the part about my having the identical problem. At the urging of my neighbor the supervisor did some kind of fancy trace and reported, “Hmmmm, interesting. After the seventh hop, it died.” (Don’t ask me what that means, but I believe it indicates that something was awry at Comcast.)

Further, it appears that, after my neighbor’s call, Comcast may well have done something either internally or at the pole about the “Seventh hop and death” thing, because my neighbor’s computer had been connected to the internet since this morning.

My only conclusion is that the problem (somewhere in Comcast) must have already been fixed by the time the Cable Guy arrived here. Perhaps that’s what accounted for his amazing unplug-replug fix.

Either that, or this stuff really is magic, and we are all truly at its mercy.

So far, the lights on the modem are still not flashing the death sign, but I have no idea how long it will last.

November 23, 2004

Outage Notice.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 5:29 pm

The cable modem on my home computer is kaput. It had shown all the usual signs of its imminent demise (i.e. going offline and requiring resetting) over the past three days. It is scheduled to be repaired/replaced tomorrow. So nothing from here tonight.

I’ll have to find something else to do. Oy!!

Maybe I’ll read? Organize my sock drawer? Do a little guitar pickin’? Maybe spend some time with Mr. Recliner and fire up a nice CAO Gold Robusto?

Clearly, the world is my oyster, albeit an oyster without internet access.

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