Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Dental Dystopia

The people that usually get to hear my bitching and moaning are out of the PST zone this week so you my lovely social media friends get to slog through it with me.
I have decided that this writing style is called data dump.  A kind of DIY. You get to mix and match the paragraphs yourself to maximize the entertainment value.
I'll try to interject some of my trademark dry wit, but with the recent rains even that got damp.

Really feeling the po'folk vibe this week. This part of the saga started over a year ago. I had gone to Oildale Dental for years. They took MediCal and DentiCal. When another tooth needed root canal and crown they stalled me. They put me and my missing tooth off for months. DentiCal had just expanded what they cover which should have made it easier. It didn't so they never bothered to submit my tooth repair to Sacramento. I complained until the staff gave me a list of other providers that they recommend and circled the one they recommend the most.  That is where it all started to go wrong me thinks.

I won't give the name of the place right now while I'm still going there. Have to see how it all works out. I may feel the need to warn others and will update this accordingly.

The first procedure was a couple weeks after my first visit on March 9 of 2018. It took 6 weeks to get that one. The young Dr whose name is no where in the office started to drill out the roots of #10 & #11. Front tooth top [my left] and the one left of that. #11 the lefter of the two didn't want to be drilled so he put some kind of dental 'liquid Wrench' down in it with a syringe. A week later he said it was unrootcanalable. I know from my many previous dental misadventures that a periodontist could have done the root canal but a cheap office like that one doesn't send work out. Not to mention the 4 to 8 weeks DentiCal approval takes and the yearly cap on those benefits. I said "Go ahead, pull it".

The upper dental plate I had been using for 4 years was now 1 tooth short leaving a 2 tooth gap in my smile. This was about the time tooth #6 the upper right canine broke off. I blame diabetes or maybe the other medications I take to save my life. Don't know if it's factually true but it's a working theory. At any rate the upper plate now moves around so much I have to use dental super glue to keep it in place. After the new crowns are approved and installed they will add a tooth to the upper. They lied and said the plate was not covered and I'd have $200 out of pocket for the upgrade.
Last time I posted about this on facebook a guy I know complained about what it costs him for his competently done in a timely manner and where they don't cheap out by using budget Novocain dental work. Really dude? I paid into Social Security for 40 years so I'd get looked after if I ever got disabled. Hundreds a month under the poverty level to live on is not looking after me. Other programs like Medicaid (medi/denti/cal) are all I can afford. $200 for a fixed dental plate literally means nothing but rice and beans for another month. Oh my, you can only afford 8 weekend holidays out of town this year. Cry me a river.

Months pass and I don't hear from them. I call and the office manager assured me that she'd submit my x-rays for approval again. In September I get the call to come in for that front crown. Yay. It takes 1 visit plus one for the install. Feels kind of big in my mouth but I'm not trusting this guy to file it down enough without breaking it. The new upper plate will stop that slight touch where lower tooth hits it. "Yeah, feels good doc". He admonished me to always wear the dental plate when eating so it doesn't get stressed.

Come January 2019 approval for root canal of #6 is in. Young doctor and his even younger assistant are doing what young guys do. Showing off. The assistant did the x-rays holding the little photosensitive panel in his hand during the flash of x-rays. At least a dozen x-rays. I asked him if this wasn't risky for him. "Not at all" he told me and pointed to a Gov't flyer that said 604 exposures a year were just fine. I did some math in my head but kept my tongue. A co worker of his over heard the exchange and gasped. That should ripple through the office.

That was on a Thursday. The next day #6 hurt even more than it did after the budget Novocain first wore off. Upper dental plate no longer fits due to swelling. Saturday was pretty much lost to pain. My little KitchenAid mini chopper did chewing for me as it did a couple of years ago.

I went back early on Monday. The assistant talked to me first. Not much English is spoken in that office so he does a little pre-interview. Then tells the doctor what I said so when he comes in we are kind of on the same page. The doctor speaks English, just not often enough that he is overly confident. He gives me the jazz about how this might happen. You have to let doctors, even dentists, feel like they figure things out for you. This time I just said "It's infected, just, just, give me some antibiotics". He asked about pain and I said ibuprofen was taking the edge off. Something stronger might have had more entertainment value or let-me-sleep value but I let him decide. Throw him a bone cuz I still need him to finish this project.

• I had been limping because the arthritis in my left hip has gone rogue and attacks me on the regular.
• Valentine's day was the next week, I hadn't asked a woman out in forever so I kind of did. That rarely went well when I had some practice so of course; no go. Later at home things went a little sideways. Was the universe rebelling because I was trying to expand my part of it. I'm not all that dialed in on magical thinking, but maybe I should be*.  It might have been one of the other comedians earlier that night, who while telling a story back stage about Nazis yelled an incantation, "Hit 'em in the ACL, Hit 'em in the ACL!". Later as I sat down to a late dinner my right knee kind of snapped. Such a shock of pain. WTF? Felt like a blow to my Anterior Cruciate Ligament. Hopping around looking for my cane.
• 2nd Saturday in a row all about pain.
• 2nd Monday in a row with a doctor. This time it's an urgent care doctor telling me it's just a sprain. He said my old neoprene knee brace will just do fine. He gave me some smelly topical analgesic because he doesn't believe in ibuprofen. (Sigh) doctors.
• Between the knee brace, walking with a cane, and shock of pain every time I stand up the left hip is attacking me even more and the right one is not happy.
The following Saturday was relatively pain free. I am used to a certain amount of pain but extra pain that sharp stabs every so often is exhausting. You can't help but to get all pissy and grouchy on days like that, people stop talking to you like you have control over what feeling like shit does to you.
I went to a store in my part of town that was having a sale. They were giving out free hamburgers. As I got home and was finishing my free burger the front tooth crown #10 fell off.
• 3rd Monday in a row with a doctor.

I called the dentist's office again. They said to come in at 1:30 so I could be first after they got back from lunch.

My gal pal, let's call her Gina, is in Paris with friends staying in a historic apartment like you see in the movies. We are texting each other through WhatsApp while I am waiting in the waiting room. She, of course, has a more horrendous story of dental misadventure that happened just days before. WhatsApp's speech to text is the best but kept wanting her to be speaking in British english. Here is the gist of what she WhatsApp-ed to me:

Everybody is so civil here and not like anything we can relate to [back in the states].

One of my molars shattered. So I go see this guy a few doors down operating out of a similar flat to the one where I'm staying. He's turned one of the rooms into a waiting room. Another room has a dental chair and an assistant. Office/flat is very common in Paris. It's sort of under the table but in a very fancy way. No paperwork. The guy knew my name only because I told him.

He is an older man, mature, seems very professional. He throws me in this chair.

He works ferociously fast then tells me he thinks he can probably save the tooth but it will need a root canal. His English is very broken. I tell him if it can't be saved I don't want to pay to have him just work on it. He's rushing like crazy. Tells me "got to do the root canal" then he'll put in some temporary cement in. Next week I can come back for permanent cement, that way I can go to the States and get a crown. So I say "ok great what's the cost" and he says "well, €150 cash today for the root canal and the temporary cement.

[This is where it gets interesting]
I say ok. Then he said open your mouth and he starts doing the friggin root canal.

No warning. No numbing whatsoever. No topical numbing. No injection. He just told me to not talk and keep my mouth open. It made me wonder; perhaps it doesn't really hurt to get a root canal because I don't think he would neglect to give me anesthesia. So I thought to myself; ok go for it. He is working so fast and then says "if you feel some extreme pain just raise your hand". He's going down four different routes because this molar has four roots. Of course there were couple times when he hit the nerves. They each hurt to different degrees but overall no big deal.

So he does a frigging four root root canal without any anesthesia whatsoever.

He slaps the cement in and then "You're done". He didn't suction out or clean out my mouth or give me anything to rinse my mouth out so I've got pieces of cement in my mouth. I had to take a sip of water and spit it out on the street.

First a young woman took me to the just for x-rays room and took a shot of where #10 was not. She even ducked behind the door way to snap so she wouldn't get a dose of X-rays. Again I talked to the assistant first then my young dentist doctor. He tried to tell me that he said to always cut my food with a knife. WTF? I have had 6 or 8 crowns in the past. If the doctor knows what he/she is doing they work like natural teeth. I told him what he did say. "Always wear the dental plate when eating and no crunchy food". He didn't seem to know what crunchy is. Skating over the fact that with #10 missing from the plate and me not being able to wear the thing for several days meant that crown #11 went unsupported. I didn't get a chance the mention my mini chopper doing the grunt work of chewing by making everything into slaw.

I said "How is a burger so tough that it broke the crown off?" He shrugged then showed me the x-ray where the broken off post is placed deep into the root of #10. Then we look at the crown, where it broke off. A single thin wire to handle the stress of thousands of bites. A more durable post to anchor the crown to, takes more time and materials I have to assume.  "What can be done to fix this doctor?"

A few moments later a roundish 30s-ish Latina with hypnotic green eyes comes in to give me the scoop. She informs me that adding 2 teeth to my upper dental plate is a covered benefit (Hmm it didn't used to be). She is speaking haltingly in a thick accent and only giving me flashes of eye contact. Could be a cultural thing but I'm doubtful. Then she says the plan is for me to come in the next day early so they can make impressions of my mouth. I tell her: "Okay but I thought we had been waiting (a year) for the crown on #6 so the plate will be snug the right way." She doesn't really respond to that just tells me that when the updated plate come it they will extract the root of #10. That way the plate will some how help it heal faster?
I think I should be expecting the bum's rush after they do that.

The following Friday 10 minutes before they closed for the weekend I get a call that the altered dental plate is ready. I get 10 to 15 calls a week and maybe 1 is actually a call I need to take. My phone's ringer is never on. At 5:14 pm I see that I had a call. I left a message that I got their call and would like to schedule the install/extraction "please call me at . . .".
Monday comes and I tend to other things in the morning assuming they would call me. At 11 I call them. The phone answering person thought it was weird that I would have an extraction the same day. Appointment set for Tuesday at noon.
At first it took 6 weeks to get an appointment. At least 4 weeks to get an appointment after DentiCal approved each procedure. The the last 4 appointments were next day or same day. I wonder if the doctor whose name is on the door even works there any more.

Tuesday arrives. I didn't get much sleep and learn why I don't do arm's length selfies. No jowls, more than double chins.  Yikes, what's with those whiskers? Am I even human?

I did wash the blood off my teeth when I got home.

I am led to the dentist's chair by a new assistant. I make a point of looking at young Doctor's name tag.  Carlos (something I can't spell) DDS. He puts the modified upper plate in; it is a bit tight but has promise. This time he uses novocaine that lasts longer that 15 minutes.  There is nothing above the gum line. I figure that he will have to do the thing where he drills a hole then screws into it so he can leverage the root out.  So of course he tries 5 different approaches first.  Drill-in-pull doesn't get all of it so then he chips away at it with needle nose pliers for a while.
Finally the plate goes in and fits really well. He grinds on it here and there a little. Tells me I'm done.
I am told to keep the plate in to stop the bleeding and so it will heal faster.

A decent outcome despite too much pain and having to wait and come back and back.

For the first procedures DentiCal sent me duplicates of the approvals. I have not gotten anything since before the crown on #10. Will the crown for #6 ever be approved? What about fillings for front teeth #9, #8, & #7?  It would be nice if they all were the same length. I had asked them about it when the crown went in. They acted like they had never heard of such a thing. I'll give approval of #6 a month then back to Oildale Dental I guess, I know they do fillings.

* One thing I haven't mentioned has to do with if I should feel superstition about the dentist's office itself. Does the place have bad juju? My mother took me to that same office when I was 9. At that time it was inhabited by a diet doctor. He molested me during an anal exam. WFT? Why would a diet doctor need to probe around in my juvenile butthole with the lights off?
After this last set of experiences; I don't know what to think.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Brine Time

Something new at Open Mic tonight.
After the first year of doing the 5 minuters, getting consistent laughs, but never being asked to make people laugh at a real show, I said 'fuck it. I'd still write new material along the way but whatever topics or style struck me as amusing at the moment is what I did week to week. I didn't have any ambitions of fame or fortune, I just like making people laugh. They laughed at most if the twice a week mics I showed up to, so that was good enough.

I also went for the mental challenge of getting on stage and a bit of socialization. By 2014 atypical neurological (ADHD and whatever else) comorbidities had me in a perpetual brain fog. Most of the years since 2003 really. It worked. The stimulation kept me going as I fit pieces into other parts the comorbid puzzle. It's slow work. I was very close to dead when the pulmonologists finally got the BiPAP sleep apnea figured out at the end of 2014. More REM and less oxygen depravation changed my world. Even so, new rounds of sick and dizzy filled most weeks. Stop some medication, feel better, then start a different one and feel like crap. Same with supplement. Same with diet.

The last year or so there have been more good days than bad. As mental functions return I am better able to study/research/sus out what is just so damned different about how my brain works. A big step was letting go of memorized bits on stage. "Sugar" as a vehicle keeps the premises on track since short term memory is spotty at best. He is about the loving and caring which provides stable surface to bounce extreme juxtapositions off of. Makes it more like handball. Comic routines; more vaudeville than stand-up-ville.

That last 6 months have brought the most dramatic changes. I've discovered long term gut problems and what I hope are solutions. Turns out that a network of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters is in your gut. That mass of neural tissue doesn't do any thinking, per se, but is a major support system for the bigger neural mass in your skull.

This is good and bad. Days are still good and bad. Some cognitive abilities are near the scary levels like when I was young. ADHD is more active than it's been in years. Which means that sensory input is like a cacophony that I used to be able to parse better. I see many sides of whatever peaks my hyper focus. Reasoning happens in about 2 tablespoons worth of that neural tissue in your head. The rest is autonomic functions and intuition, the part that kept humans alive for a million years before language and reasoning was a thing. Before the turn of the century and the years of brain fog, I relied on intuition much more than reason. Getting back to it is wonderful.

As happens some times, yesterday I was struck with a bolt of inspiration. Where "Sugar" is all sweetness and harmony, a reflection of my own base personality and personal philosophy, "Brine" is the salty overstimulated stream-of-consciousness that sees too many sides of everything most of my waking hours.

Tonight "Brine" did my 5 minutes. Loud and intense. His first premise was the lack of nuance in the hard political and social topics that inhabit social media. Lately I've been looking at comedians like Doug Stanhope and Lenny Bruce. Thinking about the philosophy of absurdism. The hour before going on, Sam Kinison's scream and catch phrases kept replaying in my head. A dozen different things Brine could say have been racing through my head the last 24 hours, so of course the most outrageous ones are what came out. Poorly executed, but you know, one of the other comedians got it and some of the audience had a bit of a stunned grin like when you realize absurd is what makes up reality. Might as well enjoy the ride.
In the big barn of a place with 30 foot ceilings where we do the Wednesday mics it is hard to warm the audience up a lot of the time. After I got off the skillful host bounced a relevant story off the outrageous things I said, I mean Brine said, and the audience was very warmed up for 30 - 45 or more  minutes.

In the interest of "fuck it" I'm doing what amuses me, I think Brine will get more of my stage time. The challenge will be to tune the loud and intense part and go for softer topics to explode binary thinking with nuance. The gray shades of everything that make life absurd and compelling. Laughs are the whole point of the exercise, so more of those.
The return of brain fog notwithstanding.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

That 4th of July at Pirate's Cove in the 80s

So there was this time one summer 25 or 30 years ago when it seemed like the whole state was on fire.  Big plume of smoke in the western sky that you could see from Taft to Gilroy.  This makes me feel old; the official state page about big fires only goes back to 1999.  I think it was the 4th of July of one of those years.  1987-92.

We were young, fire and smoke was just one point of interest in our day on the road.  Michelle was younger than me 23-24 and had one of those egg shaped Honda cars that got 30 mpg or better.  She was more game for adventure than her twin sister Kimberly who I also had some interesting times with.  The whole family were characters.  Miss them.  Out past Blackwell's Corner and Cholame and on to 101.  Paso then back down to SLO with the smoke cloud in sight the whole time.  There it was; Pirate's Cove the nude beach just down the road from Aviva.
More pictures of Pirate's Cove here

I was/am a hippy. We got naked a lot in the 70s. Delonegha Hot Springs in the canyon was a favorite place to shinny dip.  Before the Sheriff blew them up.

Once we got to Pirate's Cove I tried to repress my anticipation. If you know what I mean. Uninteresting tidbit about me: I am the worst at seducing women, always have been. Lots of reasons we don't need to go into here.  To say that Michelle and Kimberly were hot; curly dark hair and eyes, would be an understatement.  I still can't say which was sexier to be with, personality wise.  "Make a good dog break his chain" is a saying that comes to mind.  A shared adventure with naked time, things should become things was my plan.

Steep climb down a cliff face to reach the beach. Stories I've heard about Michelle after that time are legend. At that time however, she was a modest young woman.  Just removed her top. I, of course, went full monty.  I was 30ish at the time and seemed to be the youngest person there except for Michelle.  This was a few years into being massage therapist. I had seen hundreds of naked people. A prude about my client's modesty I had only seen one foot, back or body part at a time though.  This was full on naked middle aged and older people frolicking in the waves.

Even though she was not used to being topless around strangers Michelle proceed to meet and interview the people around us.  That thing some pretty women do since they have never experienced rejection.  Go up to people anywhere with an easy eye contact and start talking.  I'm a little better at it now but in those days I had to put so much attention on non threatening gaze that I would forget what I was going to say.  With clients I present a whole person non threatening person vibe.  No energy output; me just being me. Different from strangers in the street.  I digress.

At one point we heard some guys above us on the cliff face.  Young men come to gawk. At that time you could tell the Mexicans from Mexico because of the colorful polyester shirts they wore.  Different from the styles of the day everyone else wore.  Kind of lame thing for them to gawk but understandable.  Otherwise macho dudes giggling and pointing was kind of endearing.  I still had to do the protective male thing of standing shoulders back glaring at them for a minute.  They weren't looking at me so it didn't have much effect. After a while they moved on.

Emboldened by our time at the beach we didn't bother dressing before ascending back up to her car.  She was so tickled by getting away with 'doing something wicked' that we drove back sans-clothing.  This means that we didn't stop at the monument a mile or so from where James Dean bit the dust. About the time we got to Blackwell's Corner the 'has never seen the sun before' skin on her breasts was a bright red. We pulled off the road away from the store. There is nothing else around for miles. She just covered up saying something about her German skin recovering quickly from sunburn.  I had to step out of the car to re-pant myself.

By the time we got back to my house hours and hours of being turned on was wearing on my nerves. Geez, I liked her so much.  This was the first time all day that we weren't in a public place.  One more thing to try.  I was a big fan of Leo Buscaglia. The love doctor.  It was probably a misuse of his work but I talked about his take on love. I played bit of one of his tapes. Similar to the video.

I could tell she was coming around. I moved in close to massage her feet.  Talking about love as a state of being not just about a person you focus on.  Or similar psychobabble. She was enthusiastic and agreeing and adding to the conversation.

"Oh I have to get back. My mom and everybody and MY BOYFRIEND are having fireworks and  . . . ." She starts to get up; gather her things.

In my head; "MOTHER FUCK! THE GODDAMNED MY BOYFRIEND THING! Since when does she have a boyfriend? A few years from now there will be a thing called the friend zone to describe this. MOTHER FUCK!"

What I did say was "Well hey just ah yeah can't leave mom waiting" disappointment and confusion in my eyes.
Then she says: "You wouldn't have some of that sun burn cream you could put on me?"

End scene. Fade to black.

Haven't gotten any response back from this post.  Maybe some explanation.

One thing I didn't know about myself at the time or this foray was that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - predominantly Inattentive Type.  This means my brain functions differently especially in executive function and working memory.  When it comes to certain social situations I have no way to react or be proactive. The mental mechanisms just aren't there.  This video covers some of it.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Passage to the virtual stacks

One day about 30 years ago my sister Stacey and I had an adventure.
It’s been a long time and I don’t remember many details. I think it was late spring or early summer. We were traveling from Bakersfield to Los Angeles in my 1966 Volvo 122 Amazon Estate Wagon. Looked kind of like the VW squareback but a foot longer; engine in front.

“Historians speak of the area around Gorman, California (just south of the crest of the Tejon Pass), as "one of the oldest continuously used roadside rest stops in California." This is because pre-Columbian indigenous Californians would have stopped there when it was the Tataviam village of Kulshra'jek, a trading crossroads for hundreds [possibly thousands] of years.”

We were on Interstate 5, the section just south of the Tejon Pass and Magic Mountain. For as long as I can remember it has been 8 lanes of cars and big trucks moving fast 24/7 (fire and ice notwithstanding). 
The car started to overheat. It threw a belt.
That bigger gear is made
of pressed wood
The thing about the pre-solid state Volvos was that they were made to be worked on and made to withstand wannabe mechanics like myself. 
One example; in the workings of a car engine is what is called the crankshaft. The thing the pistons push on that make things go round and round. At one end it turns the transmission which turns the drive shaft which turns the wheels. At the front end on my Volvo's crankshaft was a big gear maybe 6” across. It turned a smaller gear that was essential to making the engine run (camshaft). It all has to be in perfect sync. One day I heard this loud knocking from under the hood. Turned out that the big gear was made out of pressed wood with a metal center. It had completely stripped out and the car still drove. The valves didn't shatter as far as I know. 
This time it was more simple. Except that while we did make it as far as the Lyons Ave - Newhall exit, at the time the only place to get the replacement belt was miles east of the freeway. A couple of gas stations near the freeway still had repair bays but no belts that would fit. The Volvo wasn’t going to make it any farther. So with some vague directions we walked east toward the parts store, getting lost, and meeting a few local characters. Mostly it was the heat that oppressed us. We walked past where the sidewalk ends to a highway of sorts with a few old storefronts. They had the belt and we made it back to the Volvo. Installing it was quick but the sun took it out of us. Whatever our original mission was I think we let it go and just went back home. 

For a decade I worked standing a massage table. Two more decades were spent sitting at a computer screen then behind the wheel 8 or 10 hours a day. That must be what busted my ass.
Now as a disabled, I mean retired, person my days are filled with dreams of hiring a housekeeper “When I win the Lottery” and a list of other things. I have projects to fill my time. Besides stand up comedy and writing blog posts I listen to audio books. Paper books don’t do it for me and the selection of audiobooks at the Kern county library is quite limited.

A few months ago I saw an article about the Los Angeles Library’s vast online library that includes quite a few audiobooks and many other resources. As a resident of California I can get an LA library card and access to all of their online goodness. The catch is that you have to apply for the card in person. At least a 2 hour car trip each way. sigh
Among my array of medical conditions. The one that limits me the most has defied a definition from doctors. If I sit longer than an hour or two during the same day a pain develops right on those bones you sit on. For a while they called it Ischial Bursitis. The latest doctor says arthritis. Same treatment for both: ineffective.  But what the hell it's only pain, right?

Fast forward to February 5th 2018. Stacey and I try to have an outing or adventure of some kind couple of times a year. She lives about 100 miles north, outside Fresno. The last one involving travel was in June of 2015? I got a gig doing my comedy Hypnosis show for a high school’s lock-in graduation party. The school was in the countryside near where she lives so she got enlisted as my assistant. What with me feeling better lately it was time to test the limits of my sitting. She suggested we take a day trip down south to get an LA library card. 
Kinda like this

As it turns out there are LA city and LA county library systems. The northernmost LA County library is right off I5 at Castaic squirrelled away behind a shopping center. Just a few miles south, not too far off the 210, in Sylmar is the northernmost LA city library. We set out before noon to hit both in her brother-in-law’s late model muscle car a Dodge Charger. 

We talked up a storm all day as we tend to do. I had printed out the library card application forms before we left town so when we got to the county library it was simple enough to hand the librarian the forms and our IDs. The city library was in a more urban-like setting the librarian, an old hippy gal, also made the process easy and painless. The one in Sylmar has interesting architecture. 

Business out of the way it was time for lunch. If you know me well at all you know I detest chain restaurants. Few survive having more than 2 locations before the food loses its soul. By the time they are extended beyond their home city the taste of the food is, at best, a weak imitation, at worst, concocted in a lab and manufactured off site, untouched by human hands. The people working in such establishments have never met or worked a shift with the owner. They can try but they can never genuinely care that specifically you showed up for a meal. Not to mention that profits leave the community. 

Cecily Willis’ watercolor tribute
Just so happens that we were in the vicinity of the oldest cafe in the state. The Saugus Cafe opened in 1886. It is supposedly in the same location which appears to have been updated as late at the 1950s. 
This local access video is so charming in a kitchy way. 

I had the Saugus Burger special and Stacey ordered the steak sandwich with au jus on the side. That was some good eat’in. 

Then a little surprise. Stacey and her husband Mike have business in the southland fairly often and have their own favorite non-chain restaurant in Newhall. Vincenzo’s Pizza Newhall started to become a chain but sold off the satellites years ago. This is the real deal pizza. As we got back into the Charger Stacey got out her phone and ordered a 20” to be picked up. Power of suggestion I suppose; as the call connected I could smell fresh handmade pizza. We found the place in a stripmall on Lyons Ave. not far from the I5 on ramp that would take us home. The big restaurant was empty midday on a Monday. The owner Steve was there and is clearly one of those ‘a force of nature’ people. He was just boiling over with genuine enthusiasm for his pizza. Before we said a word he was telling us that he likes the pizza even better a few hours later when the chewiness of the crust is at its best. We told him that it won’t be eaten till Fresno, 3 hours away. He thought that was awesome. The enormous pizza box was able to sit flat on the floor of the trunk. That pizza was for Mike so I will have to wait for another outing to see if the crust is "all that". Stacey assured me that it was. 

Summary: Mission accomplished on the library cards. I logged into the LA city library and have a Kevin Hearne book checked out. I suppose it’s technically illegal but I have software that catches audio just before it gets to the speakers and lets you save it as an mp3. That way I’m not rushed and can listen through whatever device. I don’t plan on sharing the files so the intent of the copyright is maintained, mostly. 

No more undeveloped (past the end of the sidewalk) land in the Newhall, Saugus, Valencia part of the world. 

It ended up being around 5 hours of sitting. I use a special seat cushion that lets most of my weight rest on the muscles around, not on, the troublesome spots. That is how I’ve gotten it up to 3 hours on some days. It all might have worked better if I would have brought the special cushion into the Saugus Cafe. That got painful. The the last hour of the ride home was a pain in the ass. I spent most of the next day on my side while the whole area of my posterior kind of throbbed. I'm posting this 5 days later and the area is still tender, fuck! But I didn’t die. 

Getting through that hurdle I am planning the next challenge. Not quite as far away though. For a couple of years the guys I do comedy with have talked about how much fun they have at a place called Barmageddon. One Yelp review starts with "This place is dope". How can I resist that kind of magniloquent rodomontade? It’s only 65 miles away and hopefully I can stand while I'm there for the Open Mic and other activities. If I have to spend most of the next day laying on my side, so what? 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What to name the new old car . . truck really?

The deed was done.
The California Bureau of Automotive Repair's (BAR) Consumer Assistance Program (CAP)- Vehicle Retirement (AKA Cash for Clunkers) sent me a voucher good for $1500 when I take the dear old Banana Boat to the scrap yard. They didn't make it easy. It was supposed to be easy but it wasn't.
I went to the official website. I am not sure why, but there are unofficial ones for some reason.
I filled out the online application form. It was supposed to take 4 weeks to process.

While I waited Social Security sent me just a taste of my disability back pay so I was able go to the DMV and pay the past due registration. 2 years worth $359, yikes! Then I went for a smog check. It had been using oil, I thought. I had to add oil every 1000 miles or so and none was on the driveway so I just assumed it was burning oil and wouldn't pass smog. But it did pass. The smog check guy said my new tags would be in the mail in a couple of days. Weeks went by and the new tags and registration never came in the mail. I sent an email to the DMV. They emailed me back telling me that because I paid the registration before getting the smog certificate it would take 3 more weeks from the date of the email to process instead of 3 days. Huh, I thought.

Meanwhile the BAR sent me a letter telling me that I was good to go but I needed to send proof of low income to qualify for $1500 rather than the $1000 already rich folks get. The letter also said to hurry before funding runs out. My disability (SSD) each month plus what's called SSI ($30/mo in lue of food stamps) still adds up to an amount way below the poverty line. I sent my docs in.

Two weeks later the BAR sent me a letter telling me that I was good to go but I needed to send proof of insurance for the 2 years before I sent in the application. This was because it was not registered when they checked, because I paid registration before smog (yes I called with my explanation, no help there). You can still be approved if your car is not registered as long as you have paid for insurance and it passes smog. So I am out $359 for registration I didn't have to pay, great. I did use the roads and such so guess I owed it. The letter also said to hurry before funding runs out. It took a little persistence, I made some calls and managed to come up with documentation in the format BAR required. I sent it in, waited.
The tags and my new registration came the next week.
Almost 2 months after I applied, the CAP voucher came in the mail. Yay!

The search for a replacement vehicle was on. In the post before this one I went over some of my goto's like eBay and Craigslist. I have purchased cars with each of those in the past and was sure it would work again. Also in the last post I included links to candidate vehicles. I haven't checked but those links might be dead. Craigslist deletes after so many days. Anyway there were many possibilities in my price range that looked to be really nice cars. The week before the voucher came I found 3 or 4 nice ones. As you might has guessed, as soon as the search turned serious those great deals were sparse. sigh. My search parameters did change. The amount I was able to spend including any fees and taxes was $300 less than anticipated. Also part of the reason I am on SSD is that sitting gets painful after and hour or two a day. Even putting up with a bit of agony my travel range is 60 or 70 miles each way.  That narrowed my search. Pickups and bigger SUV have the best long term reviews. Besides I don't drive that much anymore. No reason to drive all scrunched in a low headroom sedan or coupe?

To make things worse once I started making inquiries I turns out most of the ads are bogus. You send a text or an email asking to see the car, if they reply at all, they reply asking you to email their sister (or someone) who is really selling the car. I quickly learned to spot the fake ones. Weird phrasing in the ad or a private party ad with just one photo that was professionally shot. Real people use a cell phones to shoot the pictures.

Finally got a hold of a real person. An old guy up in Lake Isabella selling a 1990 Mercedes Benz.  Those have some head room. Older than I'd like, the photos it looked okay. He couldn't tell me much about it. He was one of those guys that go to the big car auctions in LA. The thing is too old to go all the way to Isabella in the Lincoln to see it (at least $20 in gas) then if it was good impose on who for a ride up there to get it?
I have bought cars 2 different times sight unseen through eBay.  Both times I took the train pick them up and it worked out fine. Different time in history I guess.

Only a few people in my area sell their own cars it seemed. The newspaper was useless as was eBay this time. The free Camera ads tabloid that you find at convenience stores didn't have anything for me. The BAR said to hurry before funding ran out but in my experience opportunities will present themselves if you take your time, keep your eyes open and don't get desperate. This works with ladies too, opportunities for romance. That kind of opportunity comes up, unfortunately I am better at picking up on the clues and following through in other areas. Like buying cars. But I digress. I convinced myself that if I missed the funding window I could reapply in the next quarter. No heater this winter, suspension, or windows that work in the Lincoln were things I have had to deal with and could continue work around for a few more months if need be. Craigslist became more about grazing than searching. I found a lead that responded within an hour with a phone call. I called the seller back (more about cell phone weirdness in a minute). He turned out to be in my neighborhood less than a mile away. Arranged to meet him the next morning.

Let's call him Rudy, met me and handed me the keys "let's go for a test drive".  He had just rinsed it off so it was clean. The 1999 Infiniti QX4 was 18 years old had not been garaged. It looks shiny in the picture but the clear coat has mostly worn off. The interior is clean, it sounded good and drove well. As soon as we were on the street he says "It's not a salvage title we spun it out on the freeway down south a couple of years ago, insurance replaced some of the body panels. Mechanically it's all good". That was a weird thing to lead with. Like he's worried about it. I asked why he was selling it "I just finished restoring my Mini Cooper". "My roommate works out in the oilfields in Lost Hills and wants something better on gas". Roommate is code for boyfriend or husband. This guy was close to my age. In his 50s I guessed. Younger gay people tend to say 'partner' when they feel the need to be vague. Whatever. As they say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”. When we got back to Rudy's house I asked to look under the hood. I'm not a great mechanic but have done many repairs and can spot obvious problems. Sometimes. It all looked good except for a thick coating of what appeared to be axle grease on the top of the radiator. 3 or 4 tiny beads of green antifreeze sweating through it. "Oh my mechanic found those little leaks and put that stuff one there, said it would seal it".  He immediately said he would have the radiator replaced.  He was asking $1900 I offered $1800 if he had the repairs done. He agreed to have it done and hold it for me. Parts of the deal seemed fishy the radiator thing, 'not a salvage title' thing and something else he wasn't saying, but $1800 won't buy you much car these days and this seemed more or less doable. And the heater works, And the windows go up and down. 2 summers (18 months) of pulling up or pushing down windows by hand was enough.

This was on the 17th of December, so a week before Christmas.  I called him a couple of times to check the progress. Each time the phone would stop and an automated voice would say something about searching for subscriber. They the ring and the call went through. I assumed it had something to the other guy working in lost hills. Different area code or something. I wasn't ready yet but that he went ahead and had it smogged for me. Something I'd have to do to transfer title anyway.

I called the salvage/recycle place (scrapyard) at the special number provided to find out the hours of operation and other details. They have several locations in the state and so one recorded message to answer all questions. The first thing the recording said was that the program had unlimited funds. They must get many people like me stress over the time crunch. I'm sure it's a lie but saying it saves everyone worry over matters that are out of anyone's control.

On Thursday Rudy called to say it was done and that it cost him more than anticipated and could I go the full $1900. So now things are starting to feel scammy. I had looked up the cost of the radiator and surprisingly they go for $55-$60. They aren't hard to install but that doesn't mean that a mechanic wouldn't charge a couple of hundred to do it. I had looked him up on the internet and he sells insurance at AAA. Just the kind of guy that would have a line on cheap repair work and smog certificates. Quid pro quo or like that. Hmm.

Okay fine I said. $1900. Logistics came next; taking the Lincoln to the scrapyard then the resulting check to the bank then meeting up with him. I have 3 guys I know to ask for a ride. One doesn't have a car right now. One works in an office 8 to 5. The third guy is also disabled but and has the time but whines like a little bitch whenever he drives me places. It happens once a year or less; it's not my fault that he never asks anything of me. So that's me whining about other people whining. There's always Uber or Lyft. I looked it up and $8 from scrapyard to my bank. Cool. Rudy said he would drive the QX4 to work with him and could pick me up at my bank on his lunch hour. That was nice of him. Also that if I had AAA they are also an official DMV outpost. We could do the deal right there and I could get the paperwork out of the way all at once. I was planning on getting AAA again for the towing. Must have if you drive an old car.

Friday was a slow day for me. What with it being the last work day before Christmas places were closing early. Scrapyard closes at 3:30 normally and I missed it. That's my story anyway so I put it off till the Tuesday the 26th.  Rudy didn't like it but I assured him I wasn't flaking out so it was fine.

I have owned a number of cars over the years. I get kind of attached to them but they always depart in the anticipation of a new one. Each is it's own adventure. This was the second Lincoln TownCar. The first one I got was my dad's. I got it when he died (ironically at his 80 birthday party). This one belonged to Dan an older friend of mine that wasn't like a father to me so much as a . . .well like an eccentric uncle. His family an extended family of mine. I had gone to high school with 2 of his kids and we are still thick as thieves when we get together. I've gone on vacations with them, the whole thing. Dan and I had our own relationship as well. I produced a cable access TV show that he hosted for 18 months or so and we had other adventures. I was quite fond of the old coot. If you think this post is long I'll have to write that adventure one one of these times. Anyway when he died a couple of years ago at 84 I got the Lincoln. So I am a little more sentimental about Town Cars than I might otherwise be.

I rarely have any place that I have to be in the mornings, or any other time for that matter. I do try to get up or at least be awake by 8 am everyday. They say routine helps keep you sane. Not sure it's working but one has to try. Being in a hurry and having details to attend to is the thing I am really out of practice with. I'm up, full of coffee and prescription medications before 9:30 so plenty of time to turn in my voucher and get to my bank by noon. I started to call Rudy over the internet with Google Hangouts. It's like what they call a VoIP phone. It's free and I have a regular type handset, the kind you can really hold onto, that plugs into my computer. But the internet was going off and back on all morning. I got through once but got cut off. Weird.

I have heard plenty and even looked at the app but it's finally time to try Uber for myself. Drivers I know prefer Lyft but Uber was $1 cheaper that day so Uber it is. I find the android app and start to load it on my phone. My phone is too old for the app. I change a few setting; it want's to load but not enough memory. Fuck. I thought you could request a ride from a browser but I'm not a morning person and the website only wants to sign up new drivers that day it seemed like. My iPad is old but it had the app before and so I downloaded it again. Great it still had my info and payment settings. I tap in the locations. I'm looking for where you put in when you need it. Before it lets me confirm, it wants a different form of payment. PayPal not good enough anymore? I tap to go to the next screen but nothing happens. Damn the internet is out again and made the iPad freeze. Restart the iPad. Unplug and replug the modem to get it going again. I launch the Uber app again and there's a little map showing me that he is almost there. WTF? Now! is the only time you can hail a ride? Gee Zus.

I emptied the car of all my stuff the day before and had all the paperwork ready. Hoping I have enough gas in the tank off I go on the Banana Boat's last journey. I get to the place, lots of signage but nothing says "Office Here" or any of that. I park and walk into an office trailer that is a lunch room. I am directed to the building next to the truck scales. That makes sense. I go in and it's one of those 'don't rob me' setups like in a bank or ghetto liquor store. The counter lady behind the thick glass tells me to drive onto the scales. Scales? The voucher is a flat $1500 but whatever. After 3 days off there is a line that goes down the street of semi trucks and other trucks loaded with scrap iron. I wait in line in the middle of the road's two way left turn lane.

No sign of the Uber car. The line is so slow that I put it in park and walk around the parking lot looking for, I think the app said, a corolla. I am no fan of physical exercise. I don't have anything against walking. These days however with the damaged spine some days I can walk a mile or more but more often lately after 30 minutes on my feet I am bent over in the shape of a question mark. It took me 2 days to recover from the last art walk. I didn't even have my cane with me. Shit. It's 11:30 and I am still on the street in the line of trucks. I better call Rudy and tell him I have been delayed. My phone started to do that thing where it has to look for the subscriber but this time it says it's roaming and says I have to enter a calling card number or make a collect call. What? I try again, same thing. It's a free phone with not a lot of minutes but I rarely use it so. I remember getting a text telling me that it was good to go for another month. I thought.

Finally it is my turn on the scale. I was was really putting out the a stranger in a strange land/kindly/old hippy vibe that day. That is what I was feeling in one way. In another way, kind of intuitively, I was working my audience. I handed the clerk my paperwork through a little window in the side of the building. She asked me if it was tan or white. I said buttercream, it looks light yellow to me. That's why I call it the banana boat, because it looks like a banana cream pie. She scoffed. Websites that claim to know about such things call it Ivory Metallic or Pearlescent Ivory Parchment. Okay, whatever.
Here is the wikipedia description of the Town Car.

I pulled it forward where a man in a hardhat looked it over with a checklist. He helped me remove the handicapped plates. That was it. In the office they had me sign and fill out a number of papers, then handed me a check.

I asked the clerk to use their phone. The instructions I got in mail said more than once that a ride home was my problem. She said the phone wouldn't fit under the glass so called Rudy for me. She said he said he'd be there in a few. Nice, and on his lunch hour. I waited outside. As he drove up I though it was a different SUV. It looked smaller. He drove us to his office where he signed me up for AAA. $49 is not bad if you need the towing. He took plastic for that sale and a check from me that I had printed for the car. The DMV counter there only took cash so I had to I had to find a branch of my bank. The registration was complete when I turned in the plates that had been on that car . . SUV and attached my handicap plates. Rudy had been helpful through the whole thing. Didn't make sense that he'd pull a scam at his workplace. Still, he kept giving me the feeling of the cat that ate the canary. Especially after our business was complete. Idly scanning the big open office as I waited in line he was staring at me intensely from the other side for way too long. Who knows? People are goofy.

1999 Infiniti QX4 vs 1997 Lincoln Town Car - Cartier

Specifications QX4 Town Car
Turning Diameter - Curb to Curb 37.4' 44.1'
Wheelbase 106.3" 117"
Overall Length 183.9" 219"
Width including mirrors 72.4" 76.7
Overall Height 70.7" 56.9"
Curb Weight 4275 lbs. 3997 lbs.
Maximum Towing 5000 lbs. 2000 lbs.
Head Room: Front 39.5" 39.1"
Leg Room: Front 41.7" 42.6"
Leg Room: Rear 31.8" 41.1"
Trunk/Cargo 82 cu.ft. 22.3 cu.ft.
Trunk/Cargo hidden from view none 4.3 corpses

These numbers were gathered from a few different sources. I wasn't going to do the measuring myself. I'm 73, or by some accounts, 72 inches tall and can easily see across the top of the QX. It is a foot taller in round numbers. A yard shorter. Wow. A chunk of that was lost in rear seat leg room. I never sat in the rear seat of the old one so am not likely to in this one. Shorter turning radius is a good thing.

Early assessment: It is a truck and rides like one mostly. Still a softer ride than the TC after the shocks were shot.  Nice to have a working heater and window regulators. Seats are leather, worn but comfortable. I am out of the habit of terrestrial radio and it's too old to have bluetooth. Reused the cassette adaptor and bluetooth receiver I used in the TC. Routine of audiobooks and NPR on accastion reestablished.

Downsides, scary things:

  • At first I thought the interior lights didn't work. It has 2 dome lights. Both were switched to the neutral position. I had noticed the little dash light showing that not all the doors are closed. Recloseing or slamming them closed doesn't help. This must have something to do with the wreck Rudy mentioned. This means that the interior lights are always on or always off. At some point in time I will investigate with tools. Till then stick on led lights are cheap. 
  • There are more dents on the outside than I noticed at first. Rear spoiler fin is missing. 
  • It has not been garaged so the clear coat is gone from the hood and other places. Flat not glossy is okay. Makes it less conspicuous. Less likely to be stolen or broken into. 
  • Just one key. I am a clutz at times and like to have a spare. It's the kind with a chip in it. The dealer wants over $200 for a spare. Floyd's will make a duplicate for 'only' $69. Blanks are under $10 on eBay but the cheapest a local locksmith will charge is $75 to cut and program it. YouTube has a couple of different work arounds. 
  • The key fob door opener thing doesn't work. I pointed this out to Rudy and he suggested a new battery. I put in a new battery and nothing. Then I accidentally pressed the red panic button on it. That works. Maybe just get a replacement.  
  • The ignition switch is not consistent as to what works with it off or on. This and the door thing may be related to a bigger electrical problem in the making.  Hope not though. Those kinds of repairs can be expensive or impossible. Let's hope not. 

Now the big question: What to name it?
Something will occur to me or I'll get a good suggestion that isn't a snark.

Addendum: I think addendum is what you put instead of P.S. when it's not a letter.
The cell phone thing. As a duly authorized poor person I qualify for what was called an Obama phone. Society runs on information and communications. Where would underpaid workers come from if you couldn't call them up? How are debt collectors supposed to find people? It's not like there are still pay phones everywhere. If someone makes enough to live on you have to pay them more. Underpaid workers are the backbone of capitalism.

Anyway, what you get is the cheapest recycled pay as you go type phone available and something like 100 minutes and text messages per month. I found a company called Budget Mobile that offered 100 megs of data too. Yay. I lucked out and the one they sent me also would connect to wifi.
After I got home I tried using the cell phone again. Still roaming, no calling out. Budget Mobile hadn't sent me an email since I got the thing a year and a half ago. I found and old email and clicked on their address. No website. I checked the newsfeeds. No news about them. Hmm. Then I did find an old press release from 6 months ago saying that they getting out of the lifeline phone business. But if not this month I do remember getting the 'you're good to go for another month' text message from them. Then it made the chime telling me that I had gotten a new test message. Slowly I realized that it was on wifi at the house. That was text messages going to my google voice number. Google voice is app and web browser based not cellular if you are on wifi. It is cellular if you have cell service and aren't on wifi. I must have been using it wifi only for, who knows how long. I did call the lifeline program; they found that I was already approved and in the system for this year but could not find my number. Told the Indian phone bank guy that it was on Budget Mobile and he said they had been out of the system for a while.

Here in California the Lifeline program (CLP) is better than other places. The phones themselves are not special but I found Virgin Mobile offers unlimited voice and texts plus 2 gigs of data per month. Obviously I didn't use the lower amount but I guess it will be good to use the gps map thing sometimes. I signed up with them so CLP will send me a new application to restart the approval process again. I will send them poverty docs like I send to BAR and wait for a phone to arrive in the mail. Till then fingers are crossed that the QX lives and doesn't leave me stranded far from the non-existing pay phones of legend.

Addendum Addendum: I may be able to rig the old phone or iPad to function over wifi as a phone in the meantime. So if I do get stranded but am near a McDonald's or Starbucks or place with free wifi I won't be totally SOL.