28 September 2007

Gloat-In-A-Hurry™

The wonders of technology -- all them there wires (pron. "wars") makin' up the internet, to be more spiceffic pacific exact -- never cease to amaze me.

The ability to browse a car dealer's real-time inventory online is a tremendous sales asset.

That same asset, however, can also be used to see how long certain cars remain on the lot.

Case in point: the 2007 Corolla we looked at nearly two weeks ago in Bluffton, S.C. Guess what? She's still on the lot.

Y'wanna know something I found out recently? Most all car dealers FINANCE their current inventory. Meaning, the longer a piece of iron stays parked outside, the more interest $$$$ the dealer is paying. (Too bad I didn't know this info when Toyota was playing their "good cop/bad cop" games)

At this rate, it'll be costing Stokes-Brown more in the long run than it would had they only offered a little more "give" in our direction in order to get that car sold.

I have a snot-filled kleenex for them to cry into.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Zoom-Zoom!" Gleck

21 September 2007

Poor Louis.....

News item which just appeared on the Montgomery NBC affiliate's 6PM cast:

www.wsfa.com/Global/story.asp?S=7112315&nav=0RdERsKq

Video can be seen from a link on the main site.

All because the suspect was said to have been angry over not being allowed to use the family car.

I've said it before and I'm saying it again: We, as humans, are unworthy of the pure, unconditional love that dogs give us.

It makes me want to give extra lovin' to every dog I see, just in case any of 'em are losing faith in their human providers, most of who know it's hardly a coincidence that "dog" is God spelled backwards.

Dogs are better than humans, period.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Sick" Gleck

From dreary to Drury

Greetings and howdy and such from the sixth floor of the Drury Inn of Montgomery, Alabama. From my window I have a wonderful panoramic view of Friday's developing rush hour at the intersection of I-85 and the Eastern Bypass. Yee to the haw.

I like Drury Inn. It's a growing chain of hotels across the Midwest and the Southeast which pride themselves on service. And from what I remember from my days in Cape Girardeau, this family's Southeast Missouri values have never left, even amidst this kudzu-like expansion.

The Drurys started out in the 1960s with a Holiday Inn franchise in Cape. From there they parlayed the family finances into a motel in nearby Sikeston in 1973. The first Drury Inn was born. Room rate was $10.88 a night. Very affordable, as the average Holiday Inn was going for $15-20 a night in those days.

In addition to hotels, the Drurys also own some various franchises in the lower Midwest (a/k/a "The Heartland"). One for Burger King comes to mind. They own all the BK restaurants in swampeast Missouri, some in southern Illinois and western Kentucky, as well as in Jonesboro, Ark. Everything was done right in those restaurants. You never had futked-up orders. No attitudes. When I was in high school, I got spoiled in Burger King. And then got re-spoiled when I went to college at Arkansas State. I know it's just fast food, but it's possible to put a genuine emphasis on service, even with quick-service restaurants. Even in 2006, during our last trip to Cape, Burger King was still at the top of their game, where elsewhere it seems to have hit the skids. Even my son noticed the difference in how fresh and good everything was.

With that in my mind, it was so good to know that the familiar burgundy color of the Drury Inn signs began appearing in places like Birmingham and Montgomery.

It's considered a 'mid-level' chain, certainly not as "upscale" as, say, Courtyard Marriott. I stayed in a Courtyard last night in Ratlanta. Which did I prefer?

Just take a wild guess, genius.

Where do I start? Local calls at the Marriott were 75 friggin' cents. Thank gawd for cellphones! Drury? Free. Now, many budget-line chains offer free local calls, however Drury Inns also have one hour of free long distance per night. How about them Whoppers?

The internet connection at Marriott was a third-party thing where they actually charge for it ... only the first night's free.

Free drinks -- including soft drinks -- at Drury. Courtyard only had alcohol at their little mini-bar in the lobby ... for a charge (I don't drink, so I didn't even ask for prices). They have a little "Market" where they sell soft drinks. A 20-oz. Pepsi (in the shadow of the golldurned COCA-COLA building, no less!!) sold for $2.00!

No, thanks.

Oh, and did I mention the hot water RAN OUT ON ME at the "upscale" Marriott this morning? At least it ran cold as I was finishing up. WTF????????

The only reason I stayed here? It was walking distance from my venue on Friday, and it was covered by my employer. Otherwise, I would've stayed at the Hampton Inn (my second-favorite hotel chain) -- one was about a mile away. Ah, but that would've meant dealing with Atlanta traffic. I hate Atlanta traffic. And I damn near loathe the city, too. I don't like small, stuck-up towns, but a city like Atlanta is too big for me. I could not handle living there. Give me Savannah -- even with her many quirks -- or Birmingham any ol' day.

Back to Drury. One important distinction about it: ALL (!!) of their hotel properties are COMPANY OWNED. All physical assets are owned and controlled by the Drury family. And, as my late friend Steve F. would tell me time and time again, company-owned hotels were always better than franchised because of more attention to quality-control. He should've known; he lived on the road for his job and knew every hotel in the Southeast.

"My name is Drury Inn and I'm a control freak." That's what it says on their website.

My favorite remark, though, is something along the lines of "That's our family name out there on the sign."

In a world where many corporate entities are saying "Screw you" to consumers, taking their business and wallets for granted, I love knowing that some REAL family values are in practice in some nooks and crannies of the business world.

Don't tell me it doesn't work; the Drury family surely isn't running this chain as a charity .... they're out to make a profit. That's why people engage in business. And make profits, they do.

And no, I'm not getting a free room for writing this. :-)

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "I could use a free beverage right about now" Gleck

20 September 2007

KATRINA'S COMING! KATRINA'S COMING!

Above is the Tampa, Fla. radar on The Weather Channel as it appears now. 908 PM is the timestamp, and it's now 9:14. It looks like a bunch of thunderstorms clustered around Orlando (big surprise - one thing I remembered from Disney World during our honeymoon were all the lightning rods on every friggin' building), and a bunch of activity offshore. It's centered around a low pressure just off the Florida 'west coast.'

In other words, it looks little different from the radarscope as one might see it on any given night during the Summer months.

On Weather Underground's tropical site, this area is named "Invest 93." As they term it, "This area of disturbed weather has the potential for tropical development." Okay, fine. People ought to watch it just in case it develops into something ugly.

SO WHY IN THE NAME OF WILLARD SCOTT IS THE WEATHER CHANNEL TREATING THIS THING AS IF THE PANHANDLE IS ABOUT TO GET A DIRECT HIT BY A CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE??!!

I'm in an Atlanta hotel room with the typically limited TV options. I punched over to TWC because in spite of their having developed into The Weather Reality Show Channel, it's still better than the bat phlegm which passes for network television today. If I had my speakers with me, I would've turned the TV off and plugged in my trusty Tal-Pod MP3 player.

They have Jim Cantore in Pensacola, and I'm sure they have all their other Dan Rather wannabes en route to other Gulf coast destinations.

I'm getting really sick of this "on the scene" hurricane reporting. Really, really sick of it.

One of these days somebody is gonna regret their bravado. Anything can happen when one stands in a 70-MPH tropical storm. Hurricane Dennis comes to mind. TWC had one of their "On-Camera Meteorologists" standing somewhere in Pensacola, hugging a telephone pole so that he wouldn't be blown clear up to Montgomery. Behind him was a stop sign, and it was wobbing back and forth ... looking as if the wind was gonna uproot it any minute.

What if that stop sign -- or another piece of debris -- had done something really unpleasant? Like a decapitation on live TV.

I hate to say it, and I'm sure I'll be held accountable at the pearly gates for saying this, but I sometimes catch myself hoping for this to happen. I'm afraid that's what it'll take to return some sanity to weather reporting.

Hurricanes are serious business, and these TWC thrill-seekers do no public good. Tonight, just watching Grand Wizard Gunga Jim Cantore, I can see it written all over his face: I'm bored. This has been a boring year. C'mon, let's cook this thing into a hurricane ... please? We need ratings. Katrina, part deux? Anyone? Anyone?

Meanwhile, back in the studio Alexandra Steele just reiterated that this low pressure is NOT tropical in nature.

So why doesn't Mr. Cantore just go home?

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Category ZERO" Gleck

18 September 2007

Here in my blog, I feel safest of all

Picking up where we left off, we're now at September 2000. I'm looking to trade in the '97 Nissan Altima for a new ride. Seeing as how I'm making at least one monthly trip to Alabama, I wanted a vehicle that was within warranty. (The Corsica experience has cast some long shadows; today I don't like driving a car outside of any covered breakdowns)

After moving to Savannah, I had a pretty decent change of salary. No longer was I making ramen noodle pay at Troy "State" University; now I was flying high on a Kraft Mac & Cheese budget! Yeah, boy!!

I had my eyes set on a Toyota Camry -- I liked how it looked, it was a bit larger than the Altima, and it was a solid, dependable and reliable auto. I looked first at Savannah Toyota, just around the corner from the apartment where we were living. And I got my first dose of The Toyota Games. They wore me down, but I didn't give 'em the pleasure of pulling my credit report. I'm sure F&I would've had the same reaction as I did when I first laid eyes on Seraphim nine years ago. 20% subprime interest, and it's all mine. All. Mine. Swoon.

I walked. And went straight to the other Toyota dealership, at the time a small and unassuming place called Harbortown Toyota in Garden City. There weren't many games here, I have to say. But I could see the writing on the wall. When I was there buying the car, they were holding training sessions for about two dozen new salespeople. They were building a new building at the intersection of Chatham Parkway and I-16. In 2001, Harbortown would move and become Chatham Parkway Toyota/Lexus. Pretension doesn't even begin to cover it. And, you guessed it, the building is a humongous monument to mind games. They've since become worse than Savannah Toyota. And probably gaining on Stokes-Brown.

Anyway, that is now. This was then. The salesperson at Harbortown was nice and down-to-earth. I told him about the situation with my credit, and hoped they could work something out which wouldn't leave me completely raped -- just .... partially so.

Southeast Toyota Finance gave the green light. But I had to list my Dad as a co-signer (which he graciously did). Even then, my interest rate was a whopping 14.9%. "Cost of rebuilding credit," I told myself. So, on September 19, 2000, I said goodbye to Goldie and hello to my next car:

2000 Toyota Camry LE.
Color: Mississippi Imperial Wizard White.
Nicknames: White Bird; It's NOT An "Old Persons' Car", Seraphim!; Deer Slayer

Owned: September 2000 - September 2004.

The Camry served as our 'getaway car' after the wedding reception in January of 2001. As you can see, no shoe polish was harmed in the defacing of the car; everybody instead covered the vehicle with sticky-notes. "Warranty's over, you can't return her" is one message I remember (Not that I'd even want to think about it).

It also marked a return to having a CD player. The Altima had a basic AM/FM/cassette stock receiver. I would've put in the Panasonic CD deck I'd taken out of the Corsica before they took it away, ha-haaaa, but replacing the radio would've involved a great deal of taking-apart of the dash (a/k/a "off-the-chart expensive labor"). So I bought a cassette adapter and Discman unit and was digitally serenaded as such. The Camry had both CD and cassette, so I was well-set. That is, until the cassette deck's pinch rollers started deforming. And the CD player would start skipping when the heater was going and the dash began getting hot. Toyota radios, I soon learned, were crap. Oh well, at least the car was reliable.

It took me through a number of years and miles. The ride was almost as 'floaty' as my old '89 Celebrity. It did very well on the interstate. The worst thing to happen to her was early one morning in April 2003. It was about 5:30, I was on the way to work and I encountered three (3) deer in the road. I tried moving to the left in order to scare 'em off the pavement. Wasn't working. There was no stopping, so I had to brace myself and hit one of 'em. And I chose bachelor number 1. Bam!

It could've been worse. The airbag didn't deploy, and I still had both headlights. Mostly; the right high-beam wasn't working. I could hear the bumper scraping the road as I continued. Shaken, and stirred. As I reached the driveway toward my workplace, the bumper finally came off. Damage: bumper was toast. Hood was slightly buckled. Grille was gone. Right high-beam needed replacing. That was about it. Fortunately, the car was still driveable, so I kept it until there was an opening at the body shop.

And Bambi died for her sins. Serves her right. (Sorry, but I am very much in favor of eliminating all limits for deer hunters. They should be allowed to jacklight to their hearts' content. Deer should be mass-killed; they're a clear and present danger to the roads. End of hyper-conservative rant.)

*********
Now, we're to a different dynamic. It was time to retire Seraphim's ride, the one she brought into our marriage. Her name was "Henryetta" and it was a '95 Hyundai Accent. Forest green. As 2002 began, it was time to car-shop again. Credit was improved, but I wasn't there yet. At least I had about 18 months' worth of prompt and timely payments to Toyota on my side.

To the tune of 11.9% APR, we financed Henryetta's successor:

2003 Toyota Corolla S
Color: Silver, dammit! SILVER, SILVER, SILVER!!!!!!!
(Toyota called it "Lunar Mist")

Nicknames: Luna the Moon Buggy, then shortened to just "Luna.
"
Owned: March 2003 - August 2005.
We bought Luna on St. Patrick's Day. If you're familiar with Savannah life, you know full well why we wanted to be as far away from that place as we could. Our destination was .... Stokes-Brown Toyota in Beaufort, S.C. Again, a smaller and less-pretentious dealership (today, they're in a cathedral along US-278! Wi-fi hot spot. Coffee bar. Wow. Somebody's got to pay for all those extras. Lowball trades, anyone?)

The Corolla was a new version of an old favorite -- it was a sported-up "S" model, and the 2003 redesign had barely been out a week before we bought it. It drove beautifully for a small car, the gas mileage was superb (36-37 on the highway), and the radio/CD combo was a piece of schitt. Yup, typical Toyota.

Seriously, we loved ol' Luna. And at the beginning, it turned heads. People commented on how the new Corollas looked, and they were all impressed.

So, for the next 2-1/2 years, the Glecks were an all-Toyota family.

As the Summer of 2004 drew to a close, we were looking to trade the '00 Camry. What we both were seeking was a small SUV, so Seraphim could more easily tote around cakes she was now baking on the side. We had two models in mind: the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V.

Stop #1: We test-drove the 2004 Toyota RAV4 at Chatham Parkway Toyota. The salesman who'd sold me the Camry four years earlier was still there, and once we got into his 'man cave', I could see that he'd been drinking the Cathedral Kool-Aid. My guard was down. And faster than you can say "What's it gonna take?", I'd been roped into the four-square sheet trick. And they gave me a lowball trade-in value for the Camry.

Hah! You think I'm gonna take that for a trade, especially after I had a maintenance paper-trail to prove how good it was?? He then implied that if we walked out that door, the Camry was gonna break down any day. I said, "You have faith in your Toyotas, don't you pal?" And I then continued, "You all have turned into Savannah Toyota!"

The look on the man's face was friggin' priceless. I think I hurt his feelings. He replied, "That's low." Sorry, but that's the truth. We walked.

There's nothing like Toyota dealers to remind me of how much of a wimp I can be sometimes.

Up the road we went to Grainger Honda, where we looked at the CR-V. They had a few 2004 models left, and everything about it had our name on it. That is, until we got in to test drive. Holy crap on a swiszle stick, it was tighter up front than the Corolla!!

Scratch the CR-V. But the salesperson at Grainger asked if we'd looked at the other SUV they had in the same price range. No, we hadn't. He took us to one of two 2004s they had left. One was a hideous shade of phlegm green, and the other was blue. Color aside, I said my first impression out loud to him, "That's the most butt-ugly thing I've ever seen in my life!" (and that's coming from a guy who started out driving life behind the wheel of a golldurned AMC Pacer!) He asked us to test-drive it. So we did. We both liked how it felt, and how it drove. The turning radius was awesome. Seriously. That thing could turn around in our driveway without leaving the concrete.

Everything about that SUV was good, except for the look. I just wasn't cottonin' to it. But I'll never forget the salesman's remark: "C'mon, Elements need love too." Okay, I had to say my ear's heart was beginning to go 'hubba!' over the sound system. 270 watts. And AN AUXILIARY JACK. It's becoming very common today, but that was the first I'd heard of 'em in 2004. "Hmmmm, I've thought about taking the MP3 player plunge one of these days," I said to myself. Maybe I could look past this Neo-AMC hideous thing and concentrate on all her amenities. Seraphim, on the other hand, seemed to be less repulsed.

With my Chapter 7 even further behind me, and more of a history of Johnny-on-the-spot car payments, Honda Finance approved us for the promotional rate they were running for the '04 Elements. 2.9%! That, and they were very, very generous in trade-in for the Camry.

2.9 percent??!! Shit, where's that pen??? We took it. Even though I remain convinced to this day that Honda employed the old R&D team from American Motors to design the Element, I was elated that I could again be approved for a 'real' car note, and not one from a subprime bottom-feeder. The date was September 11, 2004. And we had our first SUV:

2004 Honda Element
Color: Blue/Gray ("Border State Brother Against Brother")
Nicknames:
The Psychedelic Milk Truck; The P.M.T.; AMC's Design Department Refuses To Die
Owned: September 2004 - August 2007.
On the CAR TALK website, they made a reference to the Element resembling something they termed a "Psychedelic Milk Truck." And that's what we took to calling it. It would become "The PMT."

People at gas pumps asked me about it. Admittedly, I was a bit self-conscious about the Element at first. That's what driving a Pacer will do to a person. I eventually got used to it, but as my manager later said, "You never became one with that Element, did you?"

I'm afraid I didn't. Hate to say. It drove wonderfully (except for the road noise), and the audio system was awesome. We took it to Arkansas in 2006 and to West Virginia early in 2007, and it proved a hardy and loyal companion.

*********
A year later, I began wondering out loud about hybrid cars, thinking it might be just what the doctor ordered for a couple of people who were making daily trips from Rincon into Savannah. 45 MPG on Abercorn Street was music to my ears, that's for damn sure. So we started looking at 'em. Besides, it was time to retire Luna .... and another thing was driving my desire: I felt that my credit had built up enough that I could now qualify for something better than subprime. That said, I wanted desperately out of that double-digit car note on the Corolla. It's all psychology, friends. That's all it is.

We had two options: 1) The Toyota Prius, and 2) The Honda Civic Hybrid. The Prius was out. Not just because of the Toyota dealer games®, but because the Priuses were on back order -- it was tough finding 'em in 2005, and those that did pop up were selling for thousands above sticker. Oh, and there was the small matter of the Prius looking, shall we say, hideous. The last damn thing I wanted was another ugly car in our driveway.

So the Honda Civic Hybrid it was. We made a beeline to Grainger, where the same salesperson made the deal happen. We tested out the one model they had, a navy-blue 2005 model, and after the appraisal on Luna (again, good and well above what we owed on it), the Honda Finance Gods approved us for 5.5 percent on:

2005 Honda Civic Hybrid
Color: Dark blue.
Nicknames:
"The Hybrid"; Our Blue "Green" Car; Gas Stations? We Don't Need No Steenkin' Gas Stations; Looking For Mr. Aamco.
Owned: August 2005 - September 2007.
We closed the deal literally days before Katrina tore into Mississippi and New Orleans, and gas prices spiked well past $3.00 a gallon. Talk about good timing!

Overall, the mileage was 40 in town, and about 38 or so on the road. And we got a decent little tax deduction off of our 2005 taxes. Not too bad, considering. It was a reliable ride, until hints of transmission failure began lapping at our feet.

Which takes us to the present day. In the course of less than one month (!!), we went from being an all-Honda family to - in a technical sense - being all-Ford. Who'd a thunk?

Today, it's a 2008 Escape and a 2007 Mazda3. Kitt and Rupert. They formally met for the first time tonight, and I think I'd better check up on 'em, to make sure there aren't any untold stains in the driveway from automotive passion.

Yeah, I know that was a sick and gross way to close this post, but just deal with it.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "I don't want to go near a car showroom for a long time!" Gleck


17 September 2007

'I can lock all my doors / It's the only way to live'

All this thinking about vehicles has started me on a nostalgic tangent.

[The Peanut Gallery can just shut up now; I know a bunch of wise-asses when I hear 'em. Perish the very thought of Talmadge getting all nostalgic on everyone. Never happens. Uh uh.]

I've had quite a few cars to call my own over the 26-1/2 years I've held a drivers' license. I didn't get my first car, however, until after I turned 18. But I did get something for my 16th birthday, lucky lucky me:

1976 AMC Pacer.
Color: Whatta Maroon.
Nicknames: Pisser; Bubble Machine; Butt-Ugly Laughingstock.

Owned: February 1981 - March 1983.
The person who designed this piece of skunk vomit should've been strapped to the gas tank of a Ford Pinto ahead of a car with malfunctioning brakes. My maternal grandparents gave me this thing for my birthday, and I had to endure a buttload of grief from other kids. You've seen what a Pacer looks like. It's so over-the-top, even for 1970s sensibilities. And I was driving a Pacer nearly 10 years before Wayne and Garth 'legitimized' it ... not to mention Goofy.

It was a source of some family tension. My Dad, years later, tipped his hand as to exactly how often he had to bite his tongue. It was his wife's parents, after all, who chose it.

Fortunately, the Pisser began falling apart well into my senior year, and Dad picked out something else for me:

1982 Mercury Capri.
Color: Silver & black.
Nicknames: Silver Bullet; Love Stains? No, That's Just Horsey Sauce; My First Car.

Owned: March 1983 - September 1987.
The Capri - not to be confused with the '90s reincarnation - was Mercury's twin to the Ford Mustang. It looked good. And, despite a few problems of its own, was a great car. The backseat folded down, implying opportunities aplenty for moral turpitude. And I bought a wonderful stereo to go in it -- a Pioneer SuperTuner III cassette deck, complete with Clarion speakers.

"The Silver Bullet" took me from 18,000 miles in March of 1982 all the way to 97,000 miles as I began my last semester in college. In September 1987, I was given a choice of cars as a semi-present for college graduation. A 1988 Mustang, but that one was at a Ford dealership a little farther away ... and for some retarded reason I wanted a trunk instead of a hatchback, which I had with the Capri and the Pisser before that.

So I went with the car closer at hand. I drove my Capri -- which by then was beginning to shake worse than our dog when we take her to the vet -- from Pine Bluff, Ark. to Arkadelphia to take the wheel of my next car:

1987 Mercury Topaz.
Color: Kyle Edwards Powder Blue.
Nicknames: The Tope; The Grand Mal Seizure; Proto-Corsica Piece of Raccoon Feces.
Owned: September 1987 - March 1991.
Well, it had a trunk. It also had an aftermarket Sony stereo installed in there. Sorry, but it was a cheapest model and the Ford people who wired the speakers were total Dee d'DEEs. Left and Right are supposed to be on each side of the car, using the fader to control "front L/R" and "back L/R." Not in this car ... both left channels were on both front speakers while the right channel was in the rear deck.

I remember getting my beloved Pioneer SuperTuner III out of the Capri, and had it installed in the Topaz. It was at a small car stereo garage off Bridge Street in Jonesboro. Bolivar followed me there, and while they went to work correcting the inbred stereo miswiring, we went to Burger King for supper. I remember we were listening to the new Yes album, Big Generator.

The Topaz is the only car in which I've had a real accident. My fault. I changed lanes on a one-way street in Pine Bluff, not noticing the '72 Ford Maverick that was coming up the left lane. I sideswiped it ... and tore off the entire front end and banged up the left-front fender too. And the damage to the '72 Sherman Tank--um, I mean Maverick? It mangled some of the decorative chrome trim, but that's about it. The body had next to no damage!!!

It earned its sub-nickname Grand Mal Seizure because the fuel injector crapped out on it, and every time I was at an intersection it would begin vibrating something fierce. Gas mileage plummeted to something like 15 on the highway. Eventually that was fixed.

Then the alternator went. And, finally, the A/C. By then, I was in Troy, Alabama, and was beginning to drink the Kool-Aid. My grandparents mercifully offered to take that clunker off my hands, and trade it in for their next car. In return, they'd give me their current car which they bought, not realizing it was a step down from their usual Buicks. In March 1991, with a mere 74,000 miles on it, I retired the Topaz and began driving my grandparents' car, which at the time had logged just 17,000 miles:

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity.
Color: Navy Blue.
Nicknames: Mr. Midnight; The Un-Pacer.
Owned: March 1991 - November 1993.
I was more than a little leery about taking on a GM car. My Dad has had nothing but trouble with the few he'd ever owned. Every one of 'em had oil leak problems .... the first thing out of Dad's mouth when he sees a GM car: "Where's the drip?"

The engine had more oomph than the plastic four-banger in The Tope. It also drove as if the highway was a continuous cloud. But I wasn't that fond of the bench seat up front, though.

Except for a radiator fan going south at 27,000 miles and the alternator no longer alternating at 81k, it was a pretty reliable car -- as far as GMs go. But after the alternator, I started having visions of this car disintegrating before my eyes (my Dad's experiences with GM were vividly clear ... my family had a '74 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon, our own "Wagonqueen Family Truckster").

So I went car shopping. The back of my mind was yelling out "Honda! ... Toyota! ... Japanese! ... Japanese!" But I ignored it. And the first car I bought on my own would prove to be a doozy.

1993 Chevrolet Corsica.
Color: Silver & Black.
Nicknames: Son of Silver Bullet; Son of a Bitch; The Car That Personifies Most Which is Evil About Detroit; Country Time.
Owned: November 1993 - November 17, 1997!
It was comfortable. Honestly, it was. The seat felt right. The (V6) engine had pickup. The whole layout seemed to be calling my name. And the color scheme ... identical to that of my old Capri. It was a combination guaranteed to make Talmadge Gleck sign on the dotted line. It was a "program car" - an Avis rental - and it had 16,500 miles when we took delivery.

And the people who drove that car when it was under Avis' ownership must've driven it hard. Either that, or else the Mexicans who built it were .25 BAC full of tequila.

It was a lemon and I could write an entire post about how often this car left me stranded. The cooling system had to be rebuilt twice. It went through two A/C replacements. Something like two radiators. Two alternators. A starter. A fuel pump. A couple of water pumps.

My son has indelible memories of this car, as we were both on the side of the road one day north of Montgomery. "Dad, why is green stuff coming out of our car?"

From 1993 through 1997, I drove a lemon while my then-"wife" drove her 1992 Geo Metro, which had very little trouble about it. Those little Briggs & Stratton three-lung engines do quite well ... until about 75,000 miles. By then, it was the Spring of 1997, and it began sprouting lemons worse than the Corshitca ... only this time, the engine died while Josiebelle was in Pensacola one weekend.

We salvaged the Metro, managed to get enough for it to buy a supersized combo for Tiger, and in May 1997 -- vowing never again to go near Detroit -- we bought our first "Japanese" car:

1997 1/2 Nissan Altima.
Color: Gold.
Nicknames: The Solid Gold Wagon; Goldie; My Friend And Companion Through The Biggest Transitions Of My Life.
Owned: May 1997 - September 2000.
Bought it brand new and it was a solid puppy. I loved it from mile one.

Less than six months later, its two owners would divorce. The decision as to who got which car turned out to be such a no-brainer. Okay, Josie, do you want a car (Corsica) with only nine more payments of $245 .... or one (Altima) with 57 more payments of $331?

I reminded her how often she bitched and moaned about having to drive an automatic because I was "too stubborn" and "too afraid" to drive a stick. I never learned how, and frankly at this point I see no need to. As Lewis Grizzard once said, "I'm secure enough to have my gears shifted for me." I said she could trade in the Corsica for a car of her own choosing ... one with a stick! The woman loved driving a standard. Every car she'd had up to the Metro had manual transmissions.

Yes, she took the Corsica. Amusingly enough, the car she got soon after (a '93 Ford Escort) and what she drives today (a '99 Escort) are both AUTOMATICS.

*********
Back to the Altima ... it was a great car. It got me to and from Columbus, Georgia hundreds (if not thousands) of times during my courtship with Seraphim. And when we both moved to Savannah in the Summer of 2000, it was the Altima which got me there.

But by then Goldie had 81,000 miles on her, and I set out to take a chance on seeing whether I could get a new car financed with a Chapter 7 just 2.5 years in my past.

To be continued....

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "When the image breaks down, will you visit me please?" Gleck

We wonder what the neighbors must be thinking...

Early this evening we went back up to the Mazda dealer to take "Kitt" in to remedy several "fit 'n' finish" issues common to new cars, and also for a cleaning/detailing which couldn't be done Saturday night. In Kitt's case, it was a slightly frayed and half unraveled seam on the steering wheel cover, as well as some loose trim inside the right front wheel well.

The salesperson asked if they could keep it overnight, and they'd give us a loaner car in the meantime. Which is funny because moments earlier I told Seraphim that I was going to ask the very same thing ... they just beat me to it.

So right now we have two cars in our driveway that don't belong to us! We were put in a dark red '07 Mazda6 for the night, complete with bright yellow South Carolina dealer tag. And beside it is the Mazda3 we've had on loan from the Ford dealership for what is pushing a week (hopefully - fingers crossed - they'll be ready with "Rupert" tomorrow. A new piece of trim and a replacement blower fan had yet to arrive as of this morning).

As we arrived home, my wife and bestest friend remarked that we've now had SIX (!) cars over the course of a month.

We started out with our two Hondas -- an '04 Element and '05 Civic Hybrid. That's two.

On August 25, we then traded in the "Psychedelic Milk Truck" Element and bought the 2008 Ford Escape (a/k/a "Rupert") .... making three.

Last week I took in Rupert and they proffered us a loaner, the aforementioned Mazda3. Four.

Saturday we traded "The Hybrid" and got a Mazda3 of our own, to love and to squeeze and to pet and to cuddle and to name it George. Except that we named her Kitt. That makes five.

And Mazda6 tonight - strangely enough - is number six.

The people on our street are gonna start wondering if we're trafficking in iron.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "It Hertz to even think about it" Gleck

16 September 2007

War Damn Eagle?

What you see here is our new Mazda3's instrument panel. 42 glorious miles on 'er and a full tank of gas. I took this picture with my cellphone as we were at a traffic light. This was somewhere in Bluffton along 278, on our way back from IHOP ... our maiden trip with Kitt.

[Oh, did I mention we re-upped with Alltel earlier this week and now have a couple of Samsung Hue phones? They have 1.3 MP cameras on 'em]

This part of the dash appears more orange than red, and you can see the blue backlighting here.

Oooooooh, my family (who bleed crimson and white) is sure gonna love this one.

It's fun being a black sheep.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "But is the paneling trim made of Yella-Wood?" Gleck

15 September 2007

Zoom-ZOOM!

(or: "Good gravy, we're a Ford family now!")

Today, the Glecks went car-buying.

And currently sitting in our driveway are twinkie vehicles .... a pair of 2007 Mazda3 sedans. One is the aforementioned rental car, and the other is now the new Gleckmobile #2.

Yeah, the bright red backlit dash is gonna take some getting used to. Suddenly I feel like I should be David Hasselhoff.

In the spirit of a tradition of naming cars, we have officially named her "Kitt."

Oh, and for what it's worth, tonight we christened our '08 Ford Escape SUV "Rupert."

Rupert ... you know, as in Holmes. As in "Escape." Get it?

Laugh, dammit, or else I'll trap you in a coal mine and eat you raw. Then wash it all down with a pina colada.

I like it. No, love it. This is why automakers practically give away fleets to rental-car companies, y'know. It's a forced test drive, since one mostly doesn't have a say in what make/model -- just the class of vehicle. And for the last several days of driving an '07 Mazda3 while J.C. Lewis gets the bugs out of Rupert, I've grown to like it. Seraphim liked it, too.

We closed on it early this evening at Key Mazda in Hardeeville. It was a very good experience, and was probably the most relaxed I've ever felt in an F&I office. We liked the guy in there. And their sales manager is also from Rincon.

So, how does this make us a Ford family? Easy. Mazda, originally a Japanese make, is now a unit of Ford Motor Company. Which means, technically, we're now driving two "American" cars. I'm gonna have such fun beating my Dad over the head with that fact. (Ultimately proving my point that the wall between "American" and "Japanese" has become as thick and impenetrable as Les Nessman's "office")

* * * * * * * * *
Key Mazda was the second place we went. We started at Stokes-Brown, the Toyota dealership out of Beaufort which expanded to a second cathedr--er, location along 278 between Hardeeville and Bluffton. (I was erroneous in lumping them in with "New River Auto Mall" -- it's not a gimmick for a bunch of separate dealerships closely located; NRAM is an umbrella name for a small gaggle of different makes -- Mazda, Nissan, Hyundai, Jeep, Porsche, etc. -- all owned by a single group of individuals, including Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken "The Kid" Griffey, Jr.)

NRAM's website claims to give "over-the-top customer service." Honestly, I can't dispute. It was a very pleasant experience, much like the Ford dealership in Savannah last month.

ANYway .... "over-the-top" can also describe our experience with the Toyota dealership. Like I said, we started with the Corolla, as it was our first choice. The '07 Corolla we saw in their online inventory was still there, and we drove it. Apart from the massive smoke I noticed coming from the right rear tire after we drove a short distance, it was a good ride. We had smoke because the parking brake was partially (!) engaged. Not fully. I can safely say we've all accidentally driven with the parking brake on. Have you ever had a burning smell and a plume of smoke afterward? Not us. Until then, anyway.

Several times in this space I've referred to Toyota and what I've called their "games." Seems they have a "new" way of doing things. The moment we got out of The Hybrid (that's what we ended up calling that car), a nice lady came up to us, like Jim Fowler honing in on the prey.

And she explained to us how Toyota was a "different" kind of car dealer experience. Yup, the Sales Manager would be doing all the dealmaking, and SHE was the "Product Advisor." Or some gussied-up term like that. She said she was "salaried", "made no commission" and .... I love this one ... "On your side." Just like our NBC affiliate. Boy, I felt such warm fuzzies -- I almost expected Lyndy Brannen or Tina Tyus-Shaw to come out.

It appears this is a new strategy of Toyota. Textbook "Bad cop/good cop." To her credit, the lady was nice. But the guy who introduced himself as a "trainer" who would be "working with" us" was one of those types who set off my "smarm alarm." I got on guard. I'll call him "Mr. Smarm."

I explained our trade-in situation and what we needed in order to make this happen. I'd run the "trade-in value" models for our year, make, model and mileage. I even did 'em conservatively (in other words, I didn't overstate conditions -- what good would that do anyway?). The low end of the scale -- for a Honda '05 Civic Hybrid in FAIR condition (defined as substantial body and/or mechanical blemishes) -- was right at $10,000. But our car was good, condition-wise. Well-taken care of. Not abused. Was not in an accident. The spread was $11,000 to $13,800. Now, I was not so drugged up that I would expect a dealer to throw forth the upper end of that range. But I figured I'd be appraised enough so as to stretch using rebates (we had no ready cash to put down) to get to our payoff.

Before they began, they asked for our Socials. Uh-uh. Not yet, baby. You ain't pulling our bureaus until AFTER we know what you're gonna offer in trade. After they first implied an appraisal could not happen without that information, Mr. Smarm retreated.

Highest roll goes first, the games have begun.

They came back with their number. It was $9,000. I said that was not enough, and joked that the guy might not have had his glasses on and instead of seeing the HONDA badging, that he thought it might've read HYUNDAI. I said, simply and firmly, "That's not going to work."

He went back to "the other guy" -- this was a classic psychological set-up going -- to try and get him to "raise that number." While he was away, the "Product Advisor" said I was doing good, "standing (your) ground", and - I like this one - "Not going with their first number."

Toyota gave me .... an advocate. Bless their hearts.

Mr. Smarm came back. They went up, all right. Now it was $9,700.

*sigh*

We got up, and proceeded to leave. Mr. Smarm said "Look, we can do this. We need just a few more minutes." Uh huh, stalling tactic. They know we're looking at other cars, and want to run down the clock for the day. That, and to wear down our resistance to where we'd just take anything to make all this hassle go away.

I told him, firmly, what our price range was, what we needed in order to close the deal. That if it was not going to be able to happen, I didn't want to waste any more of my time, or his, or Miz "Advocate." I used a favorite old Toyota line back at 'em: "This is what it's gonna take."

He came back with another figure. Stretching to $10,500. And they didn't even come off the sticker, either. What an insult.

I balked at this lowballing. He came back, "This car has high mileage. It also has a number of dings in it." Reality check: There are three (3) total little dings. Caused by hailstones I believe. And the trade-in spread I researched TOOK THE MILEAGE INTO CONSIDERATION. I mean, odometers don't lie. Or, do they?

So, he's saying those little dings are worthy of docking thousands off the trade-in value???

He went back into "the other room." Then the appraiser came back. This guy was different. He spoke almost with a sneer. No smarm here. Just bald-faced Toyota Mind Games™. He continued the line about the dings and the high mileage.

I'd had it, and I snapped. "I told you people what we needed, and if you cannot meet that need, then stop wasting our time."

He retorted, sarcasm barely concealed, "I'll get your keys."

He didn't need to. They were already in the ignition.

As we walked out, Miz "Advocate" followed us, and desperately tried to keep us from leaving on such a sour note. Too late.

Mr. Smarm wasn't far behind. After we got into the car, he made a last-ditch attempt. "Look, let me see my manager and find out what we can do. Can you want another few minutes." Miz "Advocate" turned around to say something to Mr. Sneer, who'd followed them outside and was trying to backpedal to us. While their attention was diverted, I started the car (thank gawd for silent starters on hybrids!) and we left.

I felt drained. I felt like a fool. I let my temper get the best of me.

By then, even if they would've been able to meet what we needed, the soup was tainted. We would've driven off that lot feeling like Ned Beatty and those three were the mountain hillbillies.

Yup. Toyota's games have gotten worse. This must be Toyota Sales Gimmick v2.0. Last month we encountered the same thing with Savannah Toyota -- the lady was nice as could be, but the guy she introduced to had the same characteristics. The experience there would've been the same.

Toyota is now officially off my list. It's a good thing their cars are so reliable, because after the dealer experience you don't want to go anywhere near there for a long damned time.

Oh, and I found out something very ugly. This outfit also owns the Honda dealership in nearby Beaufort. These figures, Mr. Sneer finally disclosed, came from their Honda appraiser.

Uh huh.

It was now 430 in the afternoon. 90 minutes left until NRAM 'closed' for the night (closing time being relative in car dealerships). We went straight to Key Mazda. And by 7:30, the deal was done and we left there in a new 2007 Mazda3.

Alas, we had to eat some negative equity. THIS Sales Manager -- who happened to be a fan of Hondas, by the way -- laid it out plain as day. The Civic Hybrids are losing value fast, it seems. Key offered us $12,000. But at least we got the good financing deal. 5.9%, which ain't half bad given the prime car rates are now in the 7-8% range.

And they were nice as could be. We ended up with a longer car note than we wanted, but the payment is about the same. They didn't act all ugly and haughty, they used straight talk. And I respect that.

So now we're out of the Hybrid, away from Honda's transmission issues, and now driving a solid-feeling Mazda. It's a great ride. It's roomier than the Civic. And we love it.

We were too late to get over to Golden Corral in Bluffton, but we were both thinking the same thing. A little side trip onto Hilton Head for IHOP. This time the hash browns were middling, but at least the bacon wasn't burnt black like last time.

When we got near the Toyota place, I resisted the temptation to drive in with our new wheels and say "You see what happens when you show respect for the customer?"

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Glad it's over with" Gleck

13 September 2007

Here we go again!

It looks as if we're going to go back to the car lots.

No ... no ... NO! The Escape - so far - is doing very nicely. Although it's currently "in the shop" getting some of the U2s beat out of it (you know ... rattle and hum .... a few squeaks ... the basic fit 'n' finish discrepancies common to brand-new cars.).

Today we were on one (1) rental car, a 2007 Mazda3 (zoom-ZOOM!). Not too shabby a ride. It's good, because we had our '05 Honda Civic Hybrid up the street at our wonderful indie mechanic's shop, investigating a little rumble 'n' shudder it's taken to doing when it accelerates from a dead stop.

"Mr. Randy" did a flushing of the transmission, and that took care of the problem. For now. I'd been Google'ing this situation, and I didn't like what I saw. It's an ugly little matter of the "CVT" transmissions Honda has in their Civic hybrids, and its - ohhhhhh - short life span. These things are crapping out on people as early as 50,000 miles (did GM build 'em, or something??). And, after barely two years of driving ours, we've racked up nearly 66,000 miles on this buggy.

The tranny enema did the trick. However, Mr. Randy told me this might be the beginning of the end for our little 'green' car's transmission.

Well, now that we have our car back - without rumble-rumble-rumble (mutiny-mutiny-mutiny) - we're not going to take any chances. Mr. Randy said he was aware of Honda having begun a 'phantom warranty', replacing these CVTs free-of-charge, but I don't want to chance it. For all the wonderful overall reliability (with some exceptions, of course) of Japanese makes, their dealership and service people tend to be, how do I phrase this, ummmmm, hardasses.

In other words, it's a good thing most of their models are trouble-free because you don't want to deal with their service departments. I had to when a fan relay gave out back in May. And I didn't like how they tried to charge me $200 just for a diagnostic fee! (I can understand this if I used their time, and took it to Mr. Randy who could've replaced it for half what they were asking).

Right now, the car is running normally. And I do NOT want to be put in a position of having to grovel to Honda for a 'comp' transmission for a car which is now nearly 30,000 miles out of warranty.

So we're going to get rid of it while the going's good. The problem is, like a golldurned fool I was so blinded by the siren call of the hybrid -- 40+ MPG IN TOWN!! (*swoon*) -- that I didn't think about the dark side of going "green." $50.00 oil changes (hybrids only take Mobil-1 0w-30 synthetic, and it ain't cheap buster). Different and unproven transmission technology.

What it all amounts to is, we've been driving a science experiment on wheels.

We did something I loathe doing. We financed it with a 66-month note. We currently owe $13,500 on the car. And KBB and Edmunds return trade-in ranges between $13,800 and $11,500 (!). Depending on the dealership's mood, we might be a little upside down. Egad.

I did the math, too. Highway mileage for a hybrid versus a regular small car (i.e. Civic, Corolla) is almost identical. And in-town only differs by 10 MPG or so. I came to realize an ugly truth: over a three-year span, the extra $ for gasoline wouldn't come near exceeding the premium cost of a hybrid model.

Again, egad.

So. The cars we're thinking about:
  • 2007 Toyota Corolla. $1,000 rebate on the remaining '07s. It means dealing with Toyota's games, but I'll make sure I'm psyched up for it. The 1k rebate will make for some wiggle room in regard to any lowballing on trade-in value. The Toyota dealership in the "New River Auto Mall" across the river in S.C. has one on their lot right now. Maybe it'll still be there Saturday. Seraphim, I think, has a hankering to go back to a Corolla (we traded an '03 Corolla S back in '05 for the hybrid).

  • Honda Civic. Standard internal-combustion engine, thank you. I don't know, though. I have a feeling Honda dealers won't be feeling generous with trade-ins on Civic Hybrids.

  • Mazda3. The rental car outside is an '07. And I like it. Very solid and reliable small sedan. The only thing I don't like is the bright-red backlight on the dashboard. Gives a Knight Rider feeling when driving after dark. I almost expected it to start talking to me.

  • Hyundai Elantra. Lots of bang for the buck. And reliability is improving by leaps and bounds. Depreciation, however, is a big problem. Two blocks off the lot and the car is already worth a negative amount. You'll have to pay THEM to take it off your hands when you trade in for something else. I liked the Sonata we rented last Fall to drive to Pittsburgh, though. Very smooth ride.

  • Mitsubishi Lancer. Reliable sedan from that other Japanese make. I'm curious about it, and I think there are some '07s left. Don't know much about it otherwise, but that's what kicking the tires and taking test drives are for.
And there's one more we're thinking about. Better get out those smelling salts again:
  • 2007 Ford Focus. We could again milk Seraphim's employee benefit (invoice +2%), and they've been very good to us in the service department, making a thorough attempt at getting the new-car bugs out of our new Escape SUV. I like the lady in service we've dealt with. At the risk of making too quick a judgment, this dealership is nothing like the ones we've experienced buying Toyotas and Hondas (again, the biggest PITA of the whole process). The '08 Focuses (or would that be Foci?) have yet to arrive, and they're piling on lots of rebates ($2,500, anyone?) to get rid of the '07s.
The Focus is listed as a "recommended" car in Consumer Reports, although it has "average" reliability. That's the only thing which gives me pause. Nearly every review I've read, from CR to Edmunds, to lots of various and sundry 'reader comments', all say the same thing: "fun to drive."

We haven't test-driven any "Foci" as of yet, so I'm withholding any further thought until after we both have a turn at the wheel. Feature-wise, it looks very good.

Tomorrow we'll be looking at the Honda lot in Garden City, and if nothing looks promising there we'll be going north of the river to Hardeeville. Maybe we'll hit paydirt somewhere.

And if that doesn't pan out, we'll make a beeline for the Ford place in Savannah and possibly have another strike at the gong.

Another Ford? Taking such a risk, I'm afraid, might trump possibly being on the hook for a $3,500 transmission were Honda to get all arse-wholey on us in the event of a tranny failure. Not to mention whatever else might go wrong.

The bottom line is, with our driving habits and routines, I do not like driving a car that's out of warranty. There's a security to be had in knowing that if something craps out, it'll be covered. I don't like surprises, not with big-ticket things like automobiles.

Therefore, I want to get the hell rid of this hybrid, stat.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "New Car Fever, Again" Gleck

11 September 2007

The program with a heart of solid rock

TEN YEARS AGO ... 11 September 1997.

Back when September 11th was just another day on the calendar. Back when gasoline was only flirting with three digits (in parts of Georgia it was still in the low 90s).

Back when ol' "Tally-Poo" had a lot on his mind (impending divorce), a wonderful thing happened this evening, one decade's time ago.

This "wonderful thing" was prefaced about two months earlier, when a friend of mine was doing one of the evening shifts at the local commercial station in Troy, Alabama. The show was called Night Flight -- it long predated the '80s all-nighter weekend show on USA by that name. It dated back to the early '70s, when WTBF began 'hipping up' its nighttime 6-10 p.m. rock music show ('TBF was always country and/or adult middle-of-the-road by day, but switched to basic top-40 at night). There was a cool ID sweeper, too. It was voiced circa 1973 by a young Rick Dees, over the theme to A Clockwork Orange. Very cool stuff.

It lasted well into the 1980s. And after a period of hiatus, Night Flight returned in the mid '90s, with a different 'format' each week. 'Old school R&B' on Mondays, '70s hits on Tuesdays, current-day CHR on Wednesday, Friday -- when not preempted by high school sports -- was freeform ("Free Fall Friday"), and Sunday was called "Sunday Night Power", a well-put-together program of 'contemporary Christian' music.

Then there was Thursday. Classic rock filled the AM airwaves (yes, AM), and the program was given the name Thursday on the Rocks. And one hot July night I 'guest hosted' an hour of the program, bringing in some cool, esoteric tracks -- forgotten stuff by well-known names in the rock genre.

The calls didn't exactly come pouring in, but it did attract the attention of one person. And he was important enough to matter: the station's Program Director! Doc asked me if I'd be willing to moonlight once a week at 'TBF doing the classic rock show. Well, being that I was now facing life as a single person, financial uncertainties, and all that went with it, I promptly said yes.

Of course I did. He didn't exactly have to twist my arm!

What Doc later told me was he'd been frustrated by a couple of the TSU students who worked TOTR over the last two years (my friend Dennis was doing it that Summer only, and was unable to host it that Fall). I have an aircheck of one of 'em, and among the "classic rock" she plays is the hard-rocking 1984 hit by that metal maven herself, Cyndi Lauper. Yup, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" (a/k/a FUH-un) I'll never forget what Doc said to me that day: "I wanted someone who knew what classic rock was."

The program ran from 6:05 p.m. (after Mutual news) until 11:00. Nearly five (5) hours of empty airtime that I was able to fill with whatever I wanted to play. Well, within the parameters of that night's 'format' ... and within the parameters of reason. Had I played Steppenwolf's "The Pusher", I'd have been pushed into the middle of Three Notch Street to meet the treads of a Wiley Sanders semi.

Whatever I wanted. Damn.

It was a risky proposition to give college students. On the other hand, I was 32 years old. And someone into their adult years is often a better steward of loosely-restricted airtime than someone barely 19, and working Thursday night when they'd much rather be at "The Front Porch" with their fake ID putting away dozens of Old Milwaukee's Best longnecks.

And my first night was September 11th of '97. At 6:05 I read the weather forecast and gave the weather radar report ('TBF had an in-studio color radar sponsored by a local bank -- we always called it "SouthTrust Color Weather Radar"). And then played my first record. Chosen very carefully, and served as a very appropriate song for what my life was like at that moment: David Bowie's rock workhorse "Changes" [add stutter beforehand].

I had a blast with it, my friends. My "programmer" ego kept the id in check, and I structured the show very nicely -- The first two hours were largely what I called "Rock-40" .... done in a top-40 frame (in loving homage to the original Night Flight I remembered from visits with Gran Lera), basically the hits run through a strainer, trapping all the pop, bubblegum and R&B, keeping just the rock. I pulled out some of the old 'TBF jingles to add that element of campy cheese. Jingles on a classic rock show? You betcha.

By 8:00 I was toward a regular classic rock presentation ... mostly '60s standards, '70s and '80s stuff, a lot of them stuff you don't hear very much on CR stations today (if you're familiar with Sirius, my playlist was a lot like Channel 16, "The Vault"). And the final hour, 10:05-11:00, was always 'underground' flavored. As a paean to one of the best radio programs in the world, Arkansas' Beaker Street, I used its music bed under my breaks during that hour.

Each hour kicked off with a 'three-fer', and I began using the fanfare from Rocky Horror Picture Show as the program's theme. "Embryonic Journey" by Jefferson Airplane was the closing music bed I'd use for goodbyes, final weather and sign-off legal station ID.

Few people in Pike County listened. Hell, few could even freakin' HEAR the bloody thing -- 500 nighttime watts with a crazy directional pattern (on one break I said "broadcasting with 500 watts instead of the usual 5,000 -- because 500 is all the management will trust me with!")

But, damn, it was the most fun I've ever had on radio.

My last song that first show 10 years ago was The Moody Blues' "Watching and Waiting" - an aching song of longing. "Watching ... and waiting ... for someone to understand me ... I hope it won't be ... very long ...." I sat back as that line played, the clock getting close to 11:00, and I felt rays of sun hitting me. It was then I remembered that I have something really cool to look forward to doing now. And, after all the stormy waters are over, I'll have peace. And will finally be able to seek that "someone." I think Seraphim's soul was speaking to me that night. I just know it was.

My last TOTR program was July 13, 2000. The very last song I played? Semisonic's "Closing Time." It fit. "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." Ain't that the truth.

More than seven years later, I miss doing that show. I miss it terribly. However, I wouldn't return to my old life in Troy just to get it back.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "From the little radio station around the corner and on the square" Gleck

09 September 2007

...but it wasn't a HAMPTON bed!

Good morning and aloha from the Hampton Inn of Cordele, Georgia (pron: core-DEAL JAW-jah).

We stayed here after spending a day full of fun and surprises in Albany, Georgia (pron: all-BENNY JAW-jah). Here's the lowdown, from Action Central News Cruiser Number 3:

Seraphim's parents are marking 40 years of marriage. And my wife wanted to surprise them with a gathering of all their friends and family. We planned a Saturday night get-together at Putney United Methodist Church [I'll spare you the 'trademark' gag -- besides, one can't do that on a laptop without the numberpad attachment]. The barbecue 'n' fixins came from White's, an Albany institution. The cake was from Seraphim's Loving Bakery (don't act so surprised).

Okay. My in-laws THOUGHT their oldest daughter and quirky SIL were comin' to take them out to dinner for their anniversary. We worked with Sera's sister and aunt ... who all did their share of the covert preparations. We came into town about 2:00 yesterday, and went first to White's to pay for the spread. Then from there it was to the church, to set up the cake, put up the streamers, arrange the tables, chairs, etc. And while we got the 'rents, Sera's aunt would go to White's and get the food.

The in-laws were expecting us about 5:00. We arrived, and the FIL and I were admiring each others' new rides (he just bought a pickup ... something he hasn't had in a few years). We told them the 'restaurant' venue was going to be a surprise. So we put them in our backseat, then Seraphim put blindfolds on them. ("John Charles Daly, my blindfold doesn't fit properly. And why is Kirk Douglas disguising his voice like Ethel Merman?" "Shut UP, Dorothy Kilgallen, or else I'll have to spike your nightcap.")

We were going to drive them around the neighborhood, aimlessly, in an attempt to disorient them. Then make a beeline for the church, where everyone would be outside waiting to do the whole "surprise!" bit.

Small problem -- and I knew this going in -- it was going to be difficult to get my father-in-law all turned around. He knows his area like the proverbial back of his hand. My MIL will be much easier to trick. Although they were a bit suspicious at the onset -- this isn't going to be another surprise thing where we go to the church and have h'ors d'ouvres (as we did for MIL's birthday in 2006). "We ARE going out to eat, right?" I assured her that, indeed, we WILL be eating out.

Well, we DID. Just not in a restaurant setting. Hah!

The railroad crossings on the other side of highway 19 didn't help. One time, my FIL said out loud just what road we were on. Well, shit.

We finally pulled into the church. Then MIL said, "I think we're at the church." The crowd was quiet. Seraphim got out and escorted MIL from the vehicle while I did same with FIL. We guided them to a center spot -- again, while everyone is quiet as can be -- and then removed their blindfolds. * SURPRISE!!!!! *

Well, they were both surprised and happy. We had something like 40 people in the fellowship hall .... and everyone ate well.

It went off beautifully. But it'll be the last time we'll ever be able to do anything like this. They're on to our games, I'm afraid. Next time it'll have to really be Outback.

Several thoughts:
  • White's barbecue is good, I must say ... for that tomato-based stuff. Damn South Carolina totally warped my BBQ sensibilities. I was doing fine until I discovered MUSTARD! Anyway...

  • My nephew just started 6th grade, and is now playing the violin. He performed an impromptu recital as we were taking down and cleaning up. Not bad at all for only having played for two weeks. Honest. But I couldn't get out of my mind the sound of Mel Blanc as "Professor LeBlanc", Jack Benny's tortured violin teacher.

  • We booked a room in Cordele at Hampton Inn. After all that activity, I wanted my wife's head to rest on the "Hampton Bed." And, being Cordele, we'd be nearly 1/4 of the way home. It's just three short hours back to Effingham County.

  • This wasn't a Hampton bed. But it was still comfy.

  • I just finished my motel breakfast. I've previously commented about my feelings re 'freebie breakfasts' at motels. Hampton's are typically a cut above other chains' offerings. This one was middling. The OJ was weak. The biscuit tasted like it'd been zapped in the microwave about 30 minutes ago. The cereal came from a dispenser, but I took my chances, telling myself "It hasn't been there too long ... certainly it wasn't kept out all the previous day!" I helped myself to some Frosted Flakes -- "THEY'RE GRRRRRRRROSS!!!" -- no, not really. I ate 'em, but they were on the verge of going stale.

  • The banana looks good. I'll be eating it in a minute.

  • The bathroom told the story. This Hampton Inn is a renovated and refurbished older property. But the bathroom retained much of its original fixtures. The light globe (big, round, almost coin-like) gave it all away: this puppy started out life as a Holiday Inn. I'll have to check my old '60s & '70s HI directories to verify dates.

  • As Hampton Inns go, it's a little disappointing. Overall, it was a good room. Certainly better than the old HI rooms we had in Bainbridge, Ga. earlier this Summer, or the still Holiday Inn in Troy last Christmas.

  • But we now have over 7,500 Hilton Honors points. Enough for a free room at the Hampton Inn of Selma, Ala. I'll be sure to borrow a few of Dad's guns before we redeem.

  • Or else we'll stay at a few more and keep racking up points.

  • Seraphim just finished her breakfast. As she said "I just warmed my bagel on the world's slowest toaster." It's time to pack it in and head out. Check-out time is 11:00. It's now 10:17.

  • Buh-bye, and ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "ROAD TRIP!" Gleck

08 September 2007

Shhhhhhh.....

Don't tell anybody, but we're making a covert trip to southwest Georgia today.

I trust all of you won't spill the beans.

Right? I mean, if you can't your friends and casual readers of this blog, then you're pretty much screwed.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "This promises to be fun" Gleck