That is not a question.
I love being on the radio. Love love love. Kudos to the anonymous high school career counselor who long ago recommended I take it up as a profession (probably because I was a loudmouthed ass whom people already hated anyway). After foolishly disregarding his advice and becoming first a chef, then an experimental psychologist, I woke up and saw the light. Or rather, the mic.
About the only downside to my career choice, aside from the hordes of clamoring groupies, is that I don’t feel like interacting with any other living being on the planet when I’m off the air. I spill my guts professionally 47 minutes an hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. So when I’m not on the air I just want to SHUT THE FUCK UP already. If you see me on the street, please, I beg you, don’t engage me in conversation. I’m tapped out. Seriously, unless you want sex, don’t even look at me (and if you look at me, you won’t want sex).
I’m also not on Facebook, Twitter, or any other self-aggrandizing online masturbation aid. Other than this here little exercise in blowing-off-steam storytelling, I keep it to myself.
My revulsion at the thought of interacting with people (when I’m not being paid to) extends to my choice of communications devices as well. I don’t have a smart phone. I don’t have a tablet. I don’t even have a Speak ‘n Spell (welllll…ok….I do *sob*).
Seriously, I’m like a younger, stunningly handsome version of the old guy in this German comedy skit (you don’t need to understand German, just know the girl is asking how he likes his Christmas present):
Yeah, that would be me. Except I’m a better cook. (Oh, and that 5 seconds of the next skit at the end? Remind me to send another Thank You card to Dr. Vasectomy.)
I do, however, own a little flip phone. It’s about the size of a Pez dispenser, and only makes phone calls. Barely. I wouldn’t even have that, but NewWifey(tm) insists I have some way of calling a tow truck if I skid off the road in the middle of the night on my way to work, so she doesn’t have to come get me herself. It’s one of those pre-paid thingies; you pay $25, and every call you make takes a buck or so from the pile. Whatever is left at the end of 3 months is lost, and you have to refill. I can’t tell you how many times NewWifey(tm) has purple faced me when she sees the balance is still 25 dollars the day we have to refill. “Will you please just call someone once in a while? Call random people and give them recipes. Call a bookie and start gambling. Call a hooker. Call a BUNCH of hookers. NAMBLA. Anyone. I don’t even care at this point – just stop throwing our money away!”
But I don’t call. Every three months for the last 7 or 8 years we’ve shelled out $25 – or close – like clockwork. And that’s fine with me.
Then last November I got a letter from AT&T. “Dear valued customer” it read, “as of December 31 2016 we will no longer be supporting your crappy 2G phone. You and the three people in Frazgurklestan who still have them will either have to upgrade or go fuck yourself. We’re sending this notice snail mail because we know you don’t have text. Thank you for letting us serve you, and we look forward to your entering the 21st Century some day in the hopefully near future. Asshole.”
‘Whew’ I thought. ‘Now I don’t have to worry about carrying around that stupid phone any more.’ I threw the letter away.
The next morning NewWifey(tm) shook the letter in front of my nose. “Were you not going to tell me your phone is about to be turned into a brick??”
“What the…did you really pull that out of the trash?”
She snorted. “You didn’t even crumple it up. It was lying face up when I lifted the lid. I read the whole thing just standing there. So again: were you going to tell me about this?”
“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?! You go to work at 3am! Most of the time hung over! We live at the top of Mount Krumpet, where it turns into freakin’ planet Hoth every winter! Your car is a deer magnet! God hates you! One of these days one of those things is going to make your Subaru go sledding a mile into the woods where no one will find your dead and picked-over carcass until the thaw in June BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE A PHONE TO CALL FOR HELP! And by the way, just to let you know: I’ll be long re-married by then. All because you don’t have a phone!”
“At least I won’t need a phone any more if I die.”
She wadded up the letter and threw it at me.
Pffff. She’ll see. I don’t need a phone.
Of course you know what happens next, right?
Last Tuesday was an unseasonably warm one up here so I was driving home with all the windows down and blasting my “Pink Lady and Jeff Greatest Hits” cd full throttle. Before I reached home though I had a couple of stops to make.
First up: Gary’s Wine and Liquor, for NewWifey(tm)’s weekly liter of Everclear and a bottle of Dr. McGillicuddy’s Butterscotch Schnapps for me (60 proof – perfect for breakfast). I pulled in to Gary’s parking lot, shopped, got back in the car, and continued up Rt.23 to the next port of call.
Which was WalMart, there to peruse their fine selection of flavored pork rinds. Deciding on two BBQ and one Salt-n-Vinegar, I paid up, got back in the car, and drove to the next establishment
Which was the Speedway Gas ‘n Go, just up the road. I parked in front of Pump 3 (my favorite), turned the car off, and told the guy in the turban to fill it with regular (still – STILL – can’t jockey your own gas in NJ). I opened a bag of rinds while it pumped, then handed over my credit card and turned the key.
I turned the key again. And again. And again.
Nothing. Silence, every time. Not even a ‘click‘.
For godsake, what NOW? What the fuck happened to my car in the last 3 minutes to make it stop working?
I couldn’t sit there too long pondering that mystery however, as the line of cars waiting for Pump 3 was growing behind me. I could see the drivers were all wondering why I wasn’t pulling out now that the nozzle was back in its cradle. And by “wondering”, I mean “loading”. This is New Jersey. No quarter asked or given.
Nothing for it, then. I got out and pushed. Fortunately straight ahead of the pumps were the parking spaces for the station’s convenience store. I gave one good shove and the Subie slowly glided into an open slot 20 feet ahead.
I got out and popped the hood.
And…I had no idea what the fuck I was looking at. Seriously, modern motors are just a series of boxes filled with computers and, for all I know, unicorn spoof. Gone are the days when a guy could just start tearing into things until the source of the problem was identified, then quickly repair it with an adjustable wrench and a roll of duct tape. Now you practically need an aeronautics degree and a Cray workstation to figure out if your tires are low.
But I kept looking anyway. Maybe something, anything, would pop out at me. And after a minute, something actually did. It hit me that the car didn’t even make a “click” when I turned the key, but the interior light came on when I slammed open the door to push the fucker away from the pump. That could only (I think) mean one thing: the starter. If it was the battery, the light wouldn’t have sprung on, and I probably would have also heard that telltale “click” of a starter motor trying to crank.
I knew what to do for a bad starter.
I got out the hammer I keep in the spare tire well for just such an emergency and started swinging. One of the few things you can still do on modern engines is hit them with a hammer. That not only feels good, but in some cases – like when the starter has frozen up – it might actually fix something.
Wham! Wham! Wham! Right on the body of the housing. There’s enough space around the Subaru’s flat-4 engine configuration that I could get a pretty good bead on the sucker, so I really went for it. Five or six solid shots, then back in the car to turn the key.
I went through that process a few more times, not least because I really, really just wanted to beat the thing up at this point. But again, nothing. Every time.
Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit. I guess I was gonna have to bite the bullet and call NewWifey(tm) to come get –
I needed a phone! NewWifey(tm) was right!
Wait – I still had my 2-G brick in my work bag! Maybe….
In an act of sheerest optimism I flipped it open and dialed my house (I still don’t know how to use pre-sets).
After two rings there was a beep, then a computer voice. “This is AT&T” it said. “Goodbye.”
Subsequent attempts didn’t even get a dial tone.
I was fucked.
I scanned the gas bays to see if anyone in any of the cars looked like they might be the type who would let a fat and shaking with rage stranger borrow their 400 dollar phone for a minute.
But as I was looking around I happened to notice that the building adjacent to Speedway was a Goodyear Tire and Service Center. On the side of the building I could just make out a couple of service bays.
It was worth a shot. I hoofed it over and went in the door. The first thing I saw was a big sign behind the counter that said “Electrical: batteries and starters”. That was a good sign.
“Can I help you?” said the guy at the register.
“Yeah” I said, “my starter went bad and I need a new one. I’m right next door at the Speedway. Can you pop your tow truck over there and drag me up here?”
“We can do the starter, sure” the guy said. “But tow truck? No can do. We don’t have one. You gotta get it here yourself.”
Goddammit, I was practically within spitting distance of the place! Was I really gonna have to call an independent tow truck to come load me up and deposit me 100 feet up the road? For probably 200 bucks??
Fuck that. For one thing, any spare 200 bucks I had were long ago spent on Christmas presents. And for another, I still didn’t have a phone to call one if I wanted to!
I sighed. Time to be a man. Dammit.
I walked back to the Subie, took my coat off, turned the key, and released the hand brake.
Then, 30 pounds overweight, shagged out from working all night, in dress shoes, dress pants, and shirt and tie, and still recovering from reconstructive surgery on both elbows, yours truly pushed a 2006 Subaru Forester across the parking lot of the Speedway gas station, and onto the shoulder of the northbound lanes of Rt.23 in Butler, New Jersey. One hand on the steering wheel, the other holding the door open, shoulder jammed into the A-Pillar, and pushing for all I was worth.
Once I made it onto Rt. 23 though I almost met with real disaster. The last 20 feet or so of the parking lot was a gentle upslope, and I was really huffing as I strained against gravity to get that one and a half ton wheeled brick up it. But I managed, just. However, once on the shoulder of the highway the slope got steeper. Not much, but enough. I started to flag, and even though the entrance to the Goodyear lot was only 30 or so feet away, I knew I wasn’t gonna make it. What then?
But just then I heard a “Hey buddy!” behind me. I braced myself against the Subie to keep it from rolling backwards and looked over my shoulder. Some guy carrying a sack of groceries was hustling up the shoulder of the road to give me a hand. When he got within a yard or so he slung his bag onto the roof of the Forester and started pushing with both hands. That made the difference. It was slow, but at the Goodyear entrance I managed to crank the dead weight of the powerless steering wheel to the right and get it rolling down the ramp. I jumped in the drivers seat so I could hit the brake at the bottom. The guy who helped me grabbed his bag before I picked up speed. I yelled a “Thanks!” out the window, but I don’t think he heard me over the traffic. He didn’t even look back, just kept going as if helping strangers push 3200 pounds of dead Subaru uphill was his regular routine. Almost restores your faith in humanity when you meet people like that. Almost.
I glided to a stop at the side of the building and went in. I had to just stand there for a few minutes though until I could speak again. I’d only exerted myself for 10, maybe 12 minutes tops. But I felt like I’d just run a marathon while carrying a small child on my back. My breath came in ragged gasps for the better part of 5 minutes before I could ask the clerk about servicing my dead Subaru.
I gotta hand it to the Goodyear folks. What they lack in tow trucks they make up for in starter installations. My car’s unit wasn’t in stock so they called out to a supplier who hand delivered one within an hour. During that hour they took the old one out so that it was only a few minutes – and 300 dollars – after the new one arrived that I was able to get back onto Rt. 23. Driving this time.
Of course, once home I had to face the music and tell NewWifey(tm) what happened. She was gonna see the bill at the end of the month anyway. I tried to glibly gloss over the whole “couldn’t call anyone to help me because I don’t have a phone” aspect, but it didn’t work. She pounced. Or tried to, anyway.
“So let’s see. You got stranded somewhere where a phone would have saved you, but because you’re living in the 18th Centu –”
“Stop right there” I said. “I don’t want to hear it. You win, ok? Just shut up and smirk at me, and let me go lick my wounds.”
She smirked at me and I retreated to the kitchen for a pitcher of wine.
The next day I drove to the AT&T store. The kid working there looked at my phone and, no kidding, actually laughed. “Is this a…phone?”
“Yes. It’s a phone” I said. “Or at least it was a phone up until two weeks ago. Now it’s the world’s smallest codpiece.”
He turned it over in his hands. “Where in the world did you get it?”
“Right here. In 2008, I think.”
He kept staring at the phone. “I was 10….”
I sighed and handed him the letter from AT&T. “It says here you’ll exchange it with an updated flip phone for free.”
He looked up. “With a flip phone? Do we even carry them?” He sounded genuinely startled. Then he snapped his fingers and said, “Hey wait a minute….” and hustled off to the back of the store. A minute later he came walking back blowing dust off a cracked and stained blue box.
“We’ve had this back there ever since I started working here. I thought it was just a gag piece, a decoration to set out on Halloween or something, y’know? But maybe.…” and he opened the box.
Inside was a Pez dispenser looking device just like mine, but a bit larger and sleeker. The kid flipped through the paperwork. “Well waddaya know. It IS a phone! 4-G, too.” He handed it to me. “There ya go.”
“What kind of features does it have?”
“Damned if I know” he said. “Frankly I’m surprised it even makes calls. But read through the manual, maybe you’ll find it can tell time or something. Are you sure you don’t want to upgrade to …” and he started sweeping his hand along a display of $400+ Candy Crush app devices.
I cut him off immediately. “No. Thank you. This is fine. But I’ll tell you what, if I change my mind I’ll text you.”
“Your phone doesn’t text.”
“Perfect” I said, and walked out the door.
In Foodz Newz, since this entry wasn’t long enough already:
My theory about bread production remains intact. (To reiterate, in case this is your first episode: it is my contention that any foodstuff which doesn’t actively kill yeast can be made into bread.)
The latest example:
Behold roasted baby potato bread!
I made a Daube de Boeuf Provencal (basically French pot roast, but better) on Saturday, and added a bunch of baby potatoes to the pot as it roasted because Irish wife. (I’m pretty much obligated to add potatoes to anything I hand her. Spaghetti and meatballs, corn flakes, baklava, Little Elvis, even other potatoes. It doesn’t matter. If it’s going in her mouth, there better be potatoes. Way to fight stereotypes, babe.)
So anyway, yesterday I took some of the leftover spuds (or rather, spuds I hid so I could use them later), mashed them up with some sour cream, dumped in some flour, yeast, sugar, and enough water to make a dough, then did the usual bread thing and baked it off.
Waddaya think? Looks pretty damn toothsome, huh? I tell ya, this boy knows how to loaf, yo. The crust was nice, the texture was very soft and a bit open, and the flavor was savory and exceptional. One of the best breads I’ve baked to date, and that’s saying a helluva lot.
And before you ask: no. There are no leftovers. NewWifey(tm) saw to that by breakfast. With more potatoes.
Call if you want the full recipe, btw. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’ve got a phone now!