Monday, December 11, 2017

Car Disasters of 2017 or Bad Fortune Cookies




                  



            I was driving sixty miles an hour on Southbound 101 when the car abruptly died.  It was my nightmare fantasy come true.  My heretofore trusty '98 Jeep just  stopped.  The radio went off, all the gauges slid to zero and I realized that I was coasting to a halt in a busy freeway lane.  I tried to restart the car.  I had no lights, no nothing.  I couldn't even put on the emergency blinkers. 
            I was terrified.  Vehicles were hurtling towards me at seventy miles per hour and they had no clue that I was dead in the right lane.  All it would take would be one dreamy driver to plow into me and I would be both cause and outcome of a multi-car  possibly fatal accident.  Should I get out and run for it?  Should I wait here?  I didn't know.  It seemed more honorable to stay with the car, to go down with the ship.
            A Highway Patrol car materialized behind me, its lights flashing.  I was pleased, for the first time in my life, to see Law Enforcement flashing its lights at me. The officer walked briskly to my front window.  He gestured to me to roll down the window. 
            Problem is, I can't roll down the window.  Nothing works. 
            "Put it in Neutral, sir.  I'm going to push you to the shoulder."
            Thank god thank god the gear shift works.  The CHP officer squares off behind me and bumps my fender with his big front pusher bar.  The car moves!  Oh! 
            There's another CHP car about two hundred yards upstream from us, slowing traffic by weaving across the freeway.  I get to the shoulder and the officer appears again.  He shouts at the closed widow.  He thinks I'm a moron. "Have you got Triple A, sir?"
            "I do.  I do. I do." I feel like I'm getting married.  "I do I do", I stutter, my nerves shattered, my forehead bathed in perspiration. 
            "Call 'em right now.  What's wrong with your vehicle, sir?"
            "I don't know, it's been running fine and then, suddenly, whammo! Dead.  D-
A-I-D...dead!"
            "If this vehicle is still here in two hours it will be impounded.  Do NOT exit the vehicle unless supervised by your tow driver.  Stay in your vehicle!  You're lucky I don't write you a ticket for reckless driving.  I'm feeling benevolent today. Today's my lecture day.  If this was tomorrow I'd write you up for twenty different violations."  I'm listening to this through the open crack of my driver's side door and the opened rear window, and all the other open windows except the one next to me that doesn't open any more.  I'm praying the policeman doesn't notice the passenger side front mirror, because it's taped on with duct tape and is not glass but a piece of reflective plastic whose images are distorted  beyond recognition.
            I call Triple A and wait for the tow truck.  I get texts every few minutes relaying the progress of my rescuer.  "Recovery Vehicle has departed current location at.etc. etc......ETA 45 min."  When the tow truck arrives it conveys me to Bowens Automotive Repair, a garage that I picked at random off the internet.  The mechanic does his tests and I absorb the diagnosis: My alternator is shot.  The car needs a new alternator.  Price tag: Five Hundred Dollars.
            I have no choice.  I call my partner to pick me up and drive me home in the other car.
            The Other Car.  The '96 White Chevy Blazer.  It was once a luxury car.  Leather seats.  Key fob operated remote lock/unlock.  We haven't driven it in four years because it doesn't start.  I would presume its got a dead battery but I swapped another battery into the car and it still didn't start.  So, maybe a blown starter motor?  Bad solenoid, frayed ground wire, failure to make contact somewhere within the fiendish complexities of its electrical jungle.
            The Jeep has always been our go-to car.  I haven't had the money to repair the Blazer. But now I must buy a new battery.  If there's something else wrong with the Blazer  I'm wasting my money but I follow this handy rule:  If the car doesn't start, and the battery doesn't charge, replace the battery.  Maybe the swapped battery was dead, too. 
            The moment of battery replacement is fraught with tension.  Will it, won't it...start?  I connect the new battery, turn the key in the ignition and....hallelujah!  It starts right away.  Oh, what a relief.
            I drive the Blazer to work the next day.  We've been using the Blazer as a storage bin.  Its rear is filled with linens, dishes, books, tools, all kinds of stuff  loaded up to the line of sight in the rear view mirror.  If we put any more stuff in there, I won't be able to see what's behind me.
            I drive to work.  I work.  I prepare to drive home.
            The driver's side tire is flat.
            Shit!  Where's the spare?  Is it underneath all that storage?
            No.  It's under the chassis, riding beneath the rear wheels.  The problem is that the tools for jacking and removing lug nuts is underneath the dishes, the linens, the books.
            And there's a trick to getting the spare to come free, a trick that I don't know. I've been using a sledge hammer to whack at the wing nut that constrains the spare.  I whack it and the nut turns but it's not un-threading.  It's not coming free.
            I begin to unload the stored goods in the cargo compartment.  Maybe there's a special tool, something to help me understand the spare tire conundrum.
            A motorist rolls up beside me in the parking lot.  He's driving a Blazer.
            "Are you stumped by the spare tire riddle?" he asks.
            "Totally stumped." I admit, raising my shoulders.  The back of my t-shirt and pants are black with asphalt and tar.  I don't know this, yet.  I can't see it.
            The Good Samaritan emerges, opens his rear hatch and pulls a variety of jack stuff from a compartment.
            "If you take this to a pro tire shop they won't know what to do either.  It's the great Blazer Spare Tire Riddle."  It turns out there's a hidden slot next to the license plate.  When my new friend inserts a blade-style tool into the magic slot it turns a cog and the spare tire DESCENDS on a cable until it hits the ground and I slip it off the wing nut.  There is no thread.  There is just this clever but now-obscure arrangement.
            Flat tire off; spare tire on.  Drive to the tire place.  Spend $120 to replace the spare.  Okay, the car runs.  As I drive, I see the one thing THAT I MOST DO NOT WANT TO SEE.   The dreaded SERVICE ENGINE SOON light comes on.
            I hate those lights!  Hate em!  They utterly destroy my peace of mind.  They are the manifestation of worry on the Material Plane.  As we all know, The Material Plane is dominated by concerns for automotive hygiene.  If you don't got transpo,  you don't got shit.
            I try driving the Jeep.  I'm too scared by the friggin' SERVICE ENGINE SOON light on the Blazer.
            The Jeep takes me to work the following day.  I detour through Novato and prepare to drive to Petaluma.  I'm going "the back way" because north-bound 101 is a parking lot.  It's always a parking lot from 3 to 7 P.M. five days a week.  What is this insane life we live?  Why do we spend four hours a day sitting in automobiles?
I'm heading for South Novato Boulevard when a giant cloud of steam erupts from under the hood.  GIANT CLOUD OF STEAM!  NOT GOOD.  NOT GOOD.






            I pull into the parking lot of the last shopping center before I embark on twenty miles of rural winding roads.  I buy a jug of coolant and I fill the Jeep's reservoir with the gooey green stuff.  I wait twenty minutes and I attempt the drive home.  The Jeep runs, somewhat jerkily, and I spend the next forty minutes of back-road driving in a state of profound alarm. 
            I make it.  I'm home. 
            I know a little bit about cars.  That kind of volcanic eruption of steam can indicate a water pump has gone bad, or the thermostat has failed, or the radiator is toast.  Or all of the above.
            My neighbor, Mike, knows about cars.  "I'll change your thermostat," he says cheerfully.  Mike is attending AA meetings and has just got his thirty day chip.  That's not an issue for me.  It just adds to the air of tension: Mike struggling to stay away from drink.  His wife has quit smoking and is on Day 27.  My neighbors are deeper in poverty than we are.  No wonder Mike eagerly volunteers to change my thermostat.  Mike is all over the place helping people. 
            I purchase a thermostat.  Mike replaces the old one in about ninety minutes.  He doesn't want to charge me.  I give him fifty dollars.  The new thermostat works, the Jeep stays cool.
            I didn't want to mention this before but it just happens that the Blazer's registration is due in a week and I know, for a fact, that SERVICE ENGINE SOON means that it will not pass the smog check.
            Fuck.
            Nonetheless, I feel safer driving the Blazer and I take it to work the next day.
As I'm coming home on North Petaluma Boulevard I hear a sound like a very large and joltingly loud motorcycle cruising up on my driver's side.  Wow!  That's loud!  I look to my left and I see no motorcycle.  There's no traffic at all.  But the Blazer is crunching and flubbling.  It sounds like a propellor blade being demolished by a potato masher.  The Blazer is behaving as if it has the hiccups.  No question: another tire is flat.
            I get over on the shoulder to inspect the damage.  Holy Shit!  The tire is literally shredded, it's nothing but four inch strips of rubber hanging from a punctured black matrix of nameless stuff.
            Call Triple A.  Second time in three days.  An hour later the big yellow truck pulls up.   A toothless rail-thin old guy gets out, grinning happily, and tells me that my tires are sun-damaged.  They've been sitting for too long and the heat has soaked the oils out of the rubber. They're all about to blow at any second. I need to instruct the tow truck man how to get the tricky spare out from under the Blazer.  Once the tire is changed I drive straight to the tire place and get four more new tires.  That is, after I've cued the guys at American Tire Co. about the Great Blazer Spare Tire Riddle.
            There are days when nothing goes right.  When to touch a machine is to wreck it.  Or when one makes an error due to a lapse of attention that causes a ten foot fall off someone's deck into a bed of blackberry bushes.  I'm having one of those days.  I put on the coffee.  It's a stove-top espresso maker.  I wait for the boil, wait and wait.  I smell something burning.  Uh oh!  I take a pot holder and lift the coffee maker.  Oh man!  Oh man oh man! I forgot to put water in the bottom part of the Vigano stove top coffee maker.  Now the rubber gasket has melted and scorched the threads and the coffee maker is a casualty of Morning Mind Mush.  In spite of the damage, my partner is greatly reassured.  My error is comforting to her.  She thinks she's "losing it".  Now she knows she's not the only one who's "losing it".
            I must locate a smog shop, a Star Certified Service Center, one of those in cahoots with the smog-fighting money-sucking bureaucracy of the DMV.  I pay for the smog test.  The Blazer fails.  How much, I ask, will it cost to fix it so that it passes the rigorous standards of our state's air-quality guardians?
            The Blazer needs a tune-up, a forward oxygen sensor, a rearward oxygen sensor and a catalytic converter."That would be about nine hundred and fifty dollars," answers the mechanic, whose name, Kelvin, is stitched onto his dark blue jump suit.  Kelvin's wife/receptionist is named Tran.  They're Vietnamese.  
            How many times have I said "shit" or "fuck" in the last three days?
            "Kelvin," I ask, "is there some kind of discount for the poor and the elderly?"  I have been poor my whole life.  The 'elderly' part occurred while I wasn't watching, about three years ago, when my left hip began to feel as if a strong man was applying pressure to it with a vice grip.
            There is, in fact, a program for the poor and the elderly to pay $500 towards smog repair.  I get the papers downloaded and send in the application.  A week later the grant arrives.  Five hundred of that nine hundred fifty dollars will be paid for.  Hell yeah!
            The smog repair takes two days.  I wait eagerly for Kelvin's call.  At last the phone rings.  "You passed your smog test," says Kelvin.  I'm so happy!  I'm thrilled.
I had needed a victory, any victory, a small victory, whatever, I'll take it.
            "But there is a problem, I'm afraid," says Kelvin, and my heart takes up residence at the ends of my toes.  I can feel my pulse down there, bumpity bump, pulsing up through my toenails.
            "A...uh...problem?"  Fuck!  Shit!
            "I think your water pump is about gone."
            "You think, you THINK.  Is it gone or isn't it?"
            "I don't know.  There was a pool of coolant under your car when I came in this morning."
            How much does he want to repair the water pump?  Well, you see, one should also replace the thermostat when one replaces the water pump.
            HOW MUCH?
            Four hundred seventy eight dollars.
            Stop everything!  HOLD THE PRESSES!
            I'm not stupid.  I check online and a water pump plus a thermostat costs about sixty bucks.  My neighbor, my pal my buddy Mike will do any automotive task for fifty dollars, gladly.  The work boosts his self esteem and it keeps him out of his RV and away from his jonesing wife.
            The Material World is a challenging place.  Our current model, this 21st century science fiction hip-hop deodorant-peddling appearance-worshiping stage set is peculiarly complex, is like a cross-word puzzle without a solution.  No one wins in the Material World.  All endings are bad endings.  If I'm lucky I will die quickly and without indignity.  If I'm lucky.  Meanwhile, as I wait for the denouement of my life, I must endure and meet the challenges thrust into my face by the invisible spirits of Destiny.
            Is the cup half full, partially full, partially empty, or totally empty?  The Highway Patrol Cop did not write me up.  The guy in the Blazer showed up as if dropped from Heaven.  I got a five hundred dollar grant from the DMV. The battery in the Blazer started the car.  The Jeep still runs.
            The cup is the cup.  Whatever's in it is what I've got.  I may as well accept that fact.  It's all those things, partially full, partially empty.  Life is blessed and sublime and life can be unspeakably vile.
            While I'm at it, I should check my credit rating.  I might want to purchase a recent model used car.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Lost: One Male Libido



LOST: ONE MALE LIBIDO

This libido (center figure) was last seen on December 31, 2016.  It is approximately ten feet tall, six feet wide and four feet deep.  It has between twelve and twenty horns of various descriptions.  It's covered in long brown fur and has eyes all the way around its cylindrical body.  The number of fingers, tentacles and hands it may possess are unknown as it can sprout extra limbs at moments of high stress.  It is not very intelligent but possesses a wild cunning that can catch pursuers off guard.  If you see this libido DO NOT APPROACH IT.  DO NOT ATTEMPT A DIALOGUE.  IT IS NOT AMENABLE TO REASON.  Call the local sheriff's department, dial 911 or email me at artsdigiphoto@gmail.com.





 There are commonly available and well known techniques that calm this libido but I discourage their use except in extremely dangerous situations.  Under proper conditions this is a highly trained and valuable libido.  I am reluctant to cause it damage or harm. You might call it by one of its names: Thor, Zeus or Johnny.  This tactic may backfire, however, for if it is Johnny and is called Thor or Zeus it gets very upset.  Likewise if it is Thor and is called Johnny, etc.  The best approach is simply to say, "Hey big guy.  How's it hangin'."  It has been trained to recognize this as a non-threatening mnemonic.  It may trigger my libido's desire to return to its so-called master.




I repeat: DO NOT APPROACH THIS LIBIDO. CALL THE AUTHORITIES OR NOTIFY ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE at artsdigiphoto@gmail.com.

REWARD OFFERED: I will give you, free of charge,  my guaranteed technique for healing all stress, depression and emotional trauma.



SPECIAL CAUTION: Do not mistake this libido for the so-called Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti or Skunk Ape. It is not a primate and is immune to veterinary drugs. Rather than seek out police or Forest Rangers it may be more useful to find an old shaman from the Chumash or Miwok tribes. A qualified shaman will likely be more useful in the safe return of this treasured libido.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Emloyment History Of A Jew or Happy Thanksgiving






I had a job
prying gold teeth from corpses
I had a job
digging graves for thousands
I had a job cleaning shit from train cars
then one day they shot me
in the back of the head.
At least I had a job
until I was dead.
Now I'm with the living
don't know how it happened
these jobs vague memories
stuck in my DNA.
I have a job cleaning bathrooms
that aren't even dirty
I deliver flowers to lovers
I must have been promoted.
If death is fleeting
and so is life,
The soul must carry vast memory
images and odors
of many lives and deaths
the soul remembers and teases: how is it
that my fingers recall  piano keys, cymbals and flying drum sticks?
One more time I'll live again then move on to the next one
I have a job.  If I'm righteous, keep being promoted,
some day my job will be to care for memories
that connect up, that I can read
like the Book Of Judgement 
about which the Rabbis sing.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Magical Dancers


With this poem I enter a realm wherein I admit that I have gone completely mad.  Don't try to figure this out.  I can't.  I'm getting old.  I expect my future poetry to be very strange indeed.



Between my pillow and the back of my head
Magical Dancers
in the space where the stubble of my balding scalp
meets the soft fabric of my cotton dream ship
Magical Dancers.
Shall I wake and know this to be a dream?
Dancers dressed in furs and leather
wearing antlers and tusks
tracing circles and hopping
from one leg to the other
drums and rattles, sticks with bells shaking
Magical Dancers in a dream
but my eyes are open, my mind lucid.
This is no longer a dream.. Are these dancers merely
the fleas left behind by the cat as he warmed my pillow?
Surely not! Surely not!  But if they are, then I salute you,
fleas, for taking on strange identities
in a world where nothing is quite real
where fleas are shamans, magical dancers.
If I turn on my side, what will I see? Fleas vanishing into the cat's fur
or shamans celebrating the oncoming rush of another Big Bang?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Poem I Can't Write Version 2




This is the poem I can't write.
This is the tuning fork, the bells cast of Himalayan metal
the one good note sounding on a broken piano.
Where is it?  Why can't I write it?
It's just too beautiful. 
Who would trust someone like me
to utter the dreadful exquisite,
sing the endless glory of the universe?
Who would confer such a gift upon me?
Writing this poem would be like receiving  a robe
of the finest silk,
a garment grave and sweet
as the speech at my father's funeral
when a thousand pipes
wail across the valley where trees dip in the wind.
This is the poem I will write, whether or not I am worthy.
Only I can stop me and I will not stop me, can not let go of the current,
trapped by the grip of my own electricity, charging and burning my hands
and I don't care.  I am simply too small. 
I am the poetic mouse who survives beneath the floorboards
while a world clatters above me. 
I am the poem I have written.





























Sunday, October 1, 2017

Scammed Like An Idiot By Hackers


"This is completely crazy!"  I shouted at my smartphone.  I was on the verge of a panic attack. The man at the other end, in his classic Mumbai accent, replied, "No no sir, it is not crazy.  Your computer is badly infected.  Do you see all these people who are using your private information?" 
            He pronounced Private with a "W".  Priwot.
            My mouse pointer moved while my hands rested in my lap. The Command Window opened and showed an ominous list of white notations scrolling down the black background.  Mumbai Man had control of my computer. I could see repeated iterations of the word "Trojan"
            "See there," he said.  "See, see?  See how many!".  I had been fighting him for at least an hour and he was losing his composure.  I was stubbornly refusing to capitulate.  Is this what's called Ransomware? So it seems.  I couldn't get rid of the guy. I couldn't regain control of my computer until I paid five hundred dollars.  Needless to say, I was upset.  And I brought it upon myself by doing a stupid thing.

            I had already been softened up.  A week ago when I was online a demanding white pop-up window informed me that my computer had contracted a virus.  In order to fix it I must call Microsoft at an 800 phone number. Riiight! And there are elephants on the moon. The pop up wouldn't go away.  No restart, no Task Manager, nothing. I shut down my computer by pulling the plug.  When I rebooted I got on a treadmill of Windows fix-it bubbles that went nowhere. 
            After a couple hours of futzing with various remedies, including a  non-functioning backup program, I realized that I had to reformat my computer. That was three days of work. 
            Everything was fine after the reformat, my computer worked for a week.  Then that same white pop up window appeared and I knew I was in trouble. I didn't want to reformat again! Like an idiot I called the phone number.  Thus an ordeal began that went on for hours.  Mumbai Man insisted that he represented Microsoft.  He gave me an I.D. number.  He gave me a phone number for...uh..Microsoft.  I got another phone and punched that number.  At the first ring a man with a Mumbai accent answered.  "Microsoft Customer Service" he cheerfully announced.
            The voice of Mumbai Man #1 created a bizarre feedback loop because as he spoke to me on MY phone, his voice sounded one desk removed on the phone that I had used to call...er...Microsoft..  I went through the motions, juggling two cell phones. I was assured by Mumbai Man #2 that Mumbai Man #1 was a legitimate Microsoft employee. His name was...uh... Sam Taylor. I wasn't buying it but I was losing my grip on reality.  These guys were slick!  They had an answer for everything. They talked and talked and their reasoning was insane. Slowly they dragged me into the upside-down world of internet thieves.  They could demonstrate to me how badly messed up was my computer.  They told me that even if I bought a new computer the same thing would happen because hackers lurked in my network.  They told me that every computer I ever bought from this day forward would be infected if I didn't pay five hundred dollars.
            "Sir, why are you having a broblem with this?" asked..uh.. Sam Taylor, as if this were a perfectly reasonable situation.
            "A broblem?" I shrieked.  "A broblem?  Five hundred dollars and my computer held hostage is a broblem!.  I can buy a new computer for five hundred dollars!"
            "Oh, but sir, the new computer will also have the same broblem if you do not take care of this right away."
            Listen, I love the accent of Indians, be they from Mumbai, Kalikot or Kerala.  I love the way they sound like they have three marbles just inside their lower lip.  I have adored Indian culture my entire life.  However these fellows conformed to a stereotype, this was happening in the real world and in the real world most Americans expect their tech support to speak with that lilting accent.  Weirdly, it added a gloss of credibility to what was blatantly incredible.
            "I'm sixty two years old," I told the thief.  "Does your mother know what you do for a living?  That you rob old people on Social Security?"
            "Oh, sir, you are a senior citizen?  Let me talk to my supervisor and see what I can do about getting a discount."
            Hmmm hmmm count to five.  "Oh yes sir, my supervisor tells me that we can make the rebairs for three hundred forty nine dollars and ninety five cents."
            I gave in.  I let them install their shit on my computer.  Their spyware, malware, ransomware buggy shit on my computer. I gave them my credit card number.  I still don't believe I did that.  Sam Taylor had turned me over to Steve Smith who worked in Billing, and Steve Smith had then given control of my computer to Richie Logan. I watched my screen as program after program was installed, operated, then uninstalled.  It was spooky!  I was afraid to pull the plug on the modem and shut them out.  By this time I didn't know what to believe and I had the futile hope that these guys were actually fixing my computer.
            My lovely spouse had a terrible virus experience once and contacted a reputable repair company who charged her a hundred dollars to remotely fix her computer.  I phoned them while my computer chattered away, rolling files across the monitor screen.
            "Unplug your modem right now!" This was the order from Jeffrey Everard in Austin, Texas.  He works for OneSupport.  They handle situations such as the mess I found myself in. I trust them.  I think.
            Jeffrey worked for an hour on my computer and charged me a hundred bucks.
Barclay Bank shut down my credit card and promised to mail me a new one with a new account number.  Mumbai Men had yet to run the charge and they were not going to get my money.  I called all my credit card vendors.  I called the bank.
            This was a horrible experience.  Be careful.  These crooks are skillful and incredibly persistent. They are glib, slick and ruthless. They are from India, Ukraine, Thailand, Poland, Belorus and the USA. They find your knowledge level with regard to computers and they know how to convince you that they're not lying.  They twisted my head so badly that I couldn't locate reality after spending a couple of hours in their company.  Did a little alarm go off at Microsoft Headquarters notifying them that my computer was infected? I posed this vision sarcastically and they said Yes that's exactly what happened!
            I am now afraid to do any browsing on my computer.  I'm afraid that any program I purchase to fight malware might be the vehicle bringing malware to my computer.
            I made a mistake, a dumb mistake and it could have cost me much more.  It will be a while before I can relax and use my computer normally.  If ever.
            My hands are still shaking.
             

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Message Of The Dogs Video

I've been putting a lot of effort into making videos of my poems and stories.  I try to make them interesting, adding sounds and images, creating little vignettes of poetry and prose.  I hope you enjoy them.  Learning video editing is a new challenge, but I'm enjoying the process. 

The Message Of The Dogs