Here and There and Everywhere

Sundry items of note …
Viva Lost Wages! Last month I spent three nights in Las Vegas for a little trip to celebrate the 35th birthday of Tony’s brother in law. I was comped three nights at Main Street Station and the four of us (Tony, his wife, his B-I-L and I) were occasionally joined by our friend Alasdair, a jolly chap from London. Tony and I also, finally, had the chance to enjoy a lovely aged cigar and microbrews with our friend Ted, a denizen of Sin City. The trip was a lot of fun. I flew Delta via Minneapolis and had better-than-average luck … with the airport shuttles. Gambling was a disappointment; I didn’t lose terribly much, but that’s because we spent more time playing blackjack and craps than video poker. Which, for the record: Not once the entire trip did I hit quads at VP, despite probably a dozen total hours of play and Tony’s wife hitting a royal flush and enough quads to put the Duggars to shame. Balls! But we did enjoy tasty food (Andiamo’s, Le Thai), scrumptious drinks (Laundry Room, Park on Fremont) and enjoyable sights (Mob Museum, Container Park). Most of our gaming was done at Main Street Station (3:2 pitch blackjack) or El Cortez (craps) or The D (video poker), but Tony’s coupon run meant we dropped into pretty much every casino in the vicinity of the Fremont Street Experience, including the just-closed Gold Spike and the newly opened Downtown Grand. That said, as much as downtown Las Vegas has its charms, I’m itching to return to the Strip on my next trek to The Happiest Place on Earth.
Jimmy Swap.  Three weeks ago, I had a bit of rough riding with my 1998 GMC Jimmy. Slight vibration, especially on braking. Then — bam! It suddenly started clunking like a jackhammer. The pinion in the rear differential shattered, and repairs would clock in above $1,600, which was more than I wanted to pay given I just put $900 into it in January for a starter and full inspection. Anyway, last weekend, I bought a 2000 Jimmy — black, 4WD — from a young lady and sold the old Jimmy for $450 to a mechanic. I need to get the new vehicle checked out (there’s what seems like a fuel-sensor problem that needs to be fixed) but otherwise it’s a better-than-fair trade for the net price.
On the Bus! For three days, while Old Jimmy was in the shop being diagnosed, I took the bus to work. It wasn’t a bad trek; I live close enough to the bus line that runs near my office building that I could hoof it a tiny bit and not mess around with transfers. A few co-workers saw me walking the quarter-mile stretch between work and the bus stop and asked me if I walk to work. When I mentioned that I took the bus, they reacted as if I told them I have Ebola and would like to French kiss. Granted, I’m not the kind of guy who lionizes public transportation: It takes four times longer to get anywhere and you’re at the mercy of bus schedules and you must adapt to an ever-unpredictable mix of folks who happen to be on any given coach. But still, the snobbery that disdains the occasional use of public transportation did disappoint. Everyone should know the basics of the local bus or train system within their community, even if you only need to use it once every year or so. The $3 round-trip from home to office each day was a heck of a lot more prudent than a $60 round-trip cab ride (which is what I did in January when the starter got replaced) or the daily expense of a rental car.
Publishing House. My local tribe of fellow writers is exploring whether we want to establish a micropublishing house. We got the idea from a presentation at last month’s writer’s conference. The proposal I drafted goes before the gang this Friday, so we’ll see what happens.
Isle Royale. I’m now questioning whether I’ll do the Memorial Day trip back to the island. The U.P. is still covered in dense blankets of snow and Lake Superior between Houghton and the park is pretty much solid ice; National Weather Service says “wetter and colder than normal for the foreseeable future.” That gives a northern latitude a mere month to warm up enough to make a four-night backpacking trip enjoyable. Magic Eight Ball says: Not Gonna Happen, Wouldn’t Be Prudent. I’ve been invited to Louisville for a birthday casino trip with Tony and his wife. Might do that, instead, and consider an IRNP trip later in June. They promised to take me to Churchill Downs as long as I bring my “man satchel” so Jen can fill it with empty Stella chalices. Hmm.
Easter. The Easter Vigil at St. Robert went well. Fr. Len had the whole thing wrapped up in 1:47. Rob did well — he was nervous, but he had a lot of friends and family cheering him on. I didn’t even let him fall into the baptismal font! Now that Rob’s one of Us, we’ll work on getting his voting patterns into alignment. Fascinating to see the cultural difference between St. Robert and St. Anthony; the former church is very laid back while the latter spends a lot of time on prep and rehearsal.
Cats.  The boy cat, as of last week, decided he wants to sleep on my lap, too, just like his sister. In addition to being a parrot who gets pony rides around the house while balancing on my shoulders. Silly beast.
Illness. Two weeks ago, I had the Death Flu. Not fun. I think it’s the first time I had the flu since the 1990s — thank you, mandatory healthcare-worker vaccination.
Bonaire? On Tuesday I had tasty BBQ with Jen, Dave and Tawnya. It looks like we’ve got a week in October slated for a trek to Bonaire for a diving vacation. Looking forward to it! I think we’re going to rent a condo for a week and split the rooms accordingly.

Smash-N-Grab, And No One Cares

So I was the victim of a property crime last night:









It appears that some local ne’er-do-well decided that smashing my driver’s-side window and stealing my CD player sounded like a great way to spend the early morning hours of a cool, rainy Sunday.

Nothing else appears missing — just the radio.

On the bright side, though, no one cares, so it’s not like the serenity of any else’s Sunday has been ruffled. The Grand Rapids Police just want me to fill out an online form that may or may not be acted on by an officer (because, of course the perpetrator (a) didn’t leave prints, and (b) even if he did, he’s not in the system, so (c) performing a basic crime-scene investigation is a waste of time). My insurance company, Progressive Direct — the same people I’ve paid more than $3,000 in premiums to over the last few years — decided that my policy doesn’t cover vandalism of a stationary vehicle.

Detroit is just the canary in the coal mine: Institutions aren’t what they used to be, regardless of their ZIP code.


New Wheels

A few weeks ago my truck — a 1990 Ford Ranger — died. As I was pulling into the parking ramp at the hospital, I had to gun it to avoid running over a cyclist who played right-of-way games on the sidewalk. That last push of torque snapped something in the transmission, and from that point forward the Ranger was no more.

After the hospital security pushed me into a makeshift parking spot — I blocked one of three entrances to the employee lot at morning rush hour — I had the ol’ girl towed home.

The Ranger has been replaced with a 1998 GMC Jimmy SLS 4×4. This two-door SUV has a full luxury package, including a moonroof and all-electric controls. Everything works like it should and the old owner had just put new brakes and tires on it.

The Jimmy rides like a dream. I got it used from the original owner, who obviously took good care of it.

The Jimmy passed it’s first medium-haul test with flying colors. Yesterday I drove Alaric and me to Kalamazoo for lunch at Saffron and spirits browsing at Tiffany’s. We also popped over to the WMU campus for a nostalgia tour, then returned to G.R. for a beer-tasting event at Brewery Vivant. Yummy. The Belgian sour ales were heavenly.

In any case, now that we’re staring down Old Man Winter, it’ll be good to have a vehicle that (a) goes forward reliably when you depress the accelerator, and (b) stops when you touch the brakes.