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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Home Sweet Garage

When I was a kid, my mother took us to South Florida for a beach vacation. We were in a place called Sunny Isles, which back then was a fun place with wall-to-wall mid-century modern oceanfront motels with window unit air conditioners and Magic Fingers on the beds and small swimming pools on the patios. Our motel was particularly luxurious because it had a pinball machine in the lobby.

I don’t know what happened to Sunny Isles, but I suspect Florida politics entered the equation. Usually this involves commissioners who get bankrolled by developers to rape and pillage existing zoning laws. The end result is that middle class people, the former inhabitants of and visitors to places like Sunny Isles, no longer stand a chance there, because the rules have changed. Ergo, all the cute motels have been demolished for ridiculously tall and unattractive high-rise condo buildings that are only affordable to the 1%.

The worst violator of the Atlantic landscape is a developer named Gil Dezer. In addition to their fortune in real estate, the Dezer family owns several antique car museums that you’d think might be of interest to middle class people if only the admission price to look at a bunch of old metal wasn’t exorbitant. Gil Dezer has licensed the Trump name on several of his Sunny Isles and other South Florida holdings, making him possibly the second most repugnant person on planet Earth.

If you drive down Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles after sunrise, the whole city is dark, eclipsed by the dark shadows of Gil’s and other rich developer’s towers, making the name of the city nothing short of ironic.

Gil’s latest abomination is the PorscheDesign building, a 600+ foot high glass oatmeal box that caters to people who really appreciate their expensive cars. Inside the paparazzi-proof building are three robotic car elevators. After a resident drives in, the car and driver are pulled into the elevator and whisked up to the resident’s home in the sky, where they are digitally parked in full view of the owner’s living room. The cheapest condos, the $4 million ones, have two parking places, whereas the $32+million abodes have room for four vehicles. Because no one that rich should be forced to drive the same car two days in a row. And where else but Florida can you fork over $32M to live in a garage? Up until now Porsche Design earned its keep by selling overpriced watches and sunglasses, and maybe they should have stuck to that, because if you look at the picture above, which is a rendering of the inside of the tower, and the picture below, which is the Hot Wheels Rally Wheel carrying case, it is clear that Porsche Design stole its idea from Mattel.

I don’t know, but I don’t think a view of my red 2007 Honda Fit (which is quickly fading to pink due to sun exposure) is something I want to look at from the comfort of my living room. Neither is Other Bill’s 2009 Civic that has been wrecked three times. This is why we plugged up the peephole in our windowless door that connects the garage with the living room. It’s not something we’re proud of. I guess the PorscheDesign residents will have more interesting and less damaged vehicles to swoon over: minivans or something like that.

The PorscheDesign building is already sold out, even though the building isn’t finished yet. And you know the people who are going to live there aren’t the type who will put up with any inefficiency or any error, human or mechanical, that will even slightly inconvenience them.  I just hope these elevators (okay, secretly I do hope these elevators) turn out to be like the debacle at Denver International Airport several years ago where their robotic suitcase placing system didn’t work for over a year, leaving passengers stranded in a sea of luggage to locate their property.  What if the elevator computers are hacked and your car ends up in someone else’s living room? What if the elevator tries to park two cars in one space? What is that wet slurping sound I hear? Sounds like lawyers licking their chops!

I imagine the average Porsche Design homeowner, besides being stinkin’ rich and expecting only the finer things in life, probably owns at least two high-end super luxury vehicles that they want to park under mood lighting and in air conditioned comfort. Probably a lot of them actually work in Miami in power jobs, even though I suspect quite a few live care-free, trust funded existences. So maybe a lot of the people who do work might have to leave their lavish habitues at the same time. The elevators hold only one car at a time. And these entitled people are not used to having to wait a couple of minutes to get down to the street. Has Mr. Dezer or Mr. PorscheDesign taken this into consideration?

What do you do when two people with Trump-like personalities want to leave their homes at the same time? How is that prioritized? Is the person who pushes the elevator button first the one who gets the first ride? Do you have to schedule the elevator in advance, like an appointment with your plastic surgeon? What if there are other luxury vehicles waiting ahead of you? What if there are five? That could be an entire five-minute wait for a ride to the street. And you know these are the same people who run their Maseratis through traffic lights just because they think they shouldn’t have to wait for 30 seconds to meet their personal trainers or delay their Elizabeth Arden appointment. Is it just me, or do others see this as possible high-rise mayhem? What will the Dezer employees, the Dezerettes, do when the complaints start coming in?

I picture condo owner meetings erupting in riots with savagery equal to a Trump campaign rally. People will be shouting their reasons why they should have elevator priority over their neighbors. This will no doubt be resolved by the creation of an Elevator Priority Club, which people can join for say, oh, I don’t know, a paltry $200,000 a year. The elevators will all then be reprogrammed, and the most devious of the residents will pay the programmers an extra fist full of cash under the table so that they will be classified as Super-Secret Priority Members of the Elevator Priority Club. Then the outsmarted, jealous, non-Super-Secret owners, in order to sabotage the elevators, will order their valets or personal assistants to place large boulders between the open elevator doors on a lower floor.

And what will residents do when elevator maintenance and the annual elevator inspections take place? Will the Dezerettes, like some deranged IT department, have to schedule down time? What if you have an emergency during the time your elevator is being inspected, or even worse, broken? Do you expect a personality like that to take the stairs and call Uber?  And will the generators be able to keep the elevators running 24/7 after a hurricane hits and cuts the power lines? The PorscheDesign Tower is, after all Atlantic oceanfront property and is considered, how you say—vulnerable—during inclement weather. These inconveniences are not something entitled rich people will take sitting down in their rich Corinthian leather massage chairs. Lawsuits will be filed. People will be forced to find parking for their precious babies in nearby buildings. Havoc will overtake the Dezers and the Dezerettes. The building will have to be razed. The next PorscheDesign building will have no car elevators, but will instead have parking levels just like there are in the rest of the condo buildings in the barrier islands, many of which, unbelievably, are underground. It’s a good thing people who live there are republicans who don’t believe in global warming.
I know, it’s only a fantasy. I’m sure everything will be fine, and no one will be discommoded. No doubt having the status of a PorscheDesign address will outweigh any inconvenience caused by a delayed elevator. There is plenty to do in your car while you wait for your elevator to arrive. For instance, if your car is almost a year old, you can just go online and read reviews of next year’s Porsche 918 Spider.

Just don’t buy a red one. It’ll fade to pink in the sun, should your car ever see it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Goyim Guy's Guide to Passover

So your significant other invites you to partake in a Seder with his family. You are not Jewish and are wondering: what is this Passover thing, and how do I not look like a complete idiot during this dinner?

First of all, get hold of an advance copy of the Haggadah, which for want of a better definition, is the Seder user manual. Do not ask why it starts with page 44 and ends on page 1. This is not the Curious Book of Benjamin Button, but is instead, read from the back cover to the first page.  Go through this booklet, cover to cover, and write down all the words you can’t pronounce. Google them and learn their pronunciations. Also, practice dry hocking from your throat. This will help you pronounce words with “ch” in them.

To get into the spirit of things, go ahead and wear a yarmulke. There will probably be a selection of them that the host has swiped from past bar mitzvahs. Don’t choose the white satin one, or you will look like the pope. Also, it helps if you’re bald, because the yarmulke will stick to your head from all the nervous sweat you are emitting from your scalp.

Once you sit down to dinner, you will notice maybe that an exterior door is open and there is an extra place setting at the table. This is for the prophet Elijah. He is an invisible being who brings good fortune. He also is present at all circumcisions of Jewish boys, so don’t sit next to him. Those hands have been near millions of penises.

Yes, you will be called upon to read from the Haggadah. Make sure you brought your reading glasses, lest you get stuck with borrowing Aunt Yetta’s cat’s-eye trifocals. You didn’t come here to look like Dame Edna. Or the pope. And don’t mumble. Speak up. And don’t read the English words from right to left, you idiot. That’s for reading Hebrew, which are the hieroglyphics that the well-studied children at the table can read.

Note that this is not the average dinnertime pigfest that you are used to. This is a ritual. It will be a while before you get a crack at that pot roast you are smelling, which, in fact, is not a pot roast, but is called a brisket. You won’t get to eat anything substantial for quite a while, so hopefully you had yourself a little nosh before you got there. There are other foods that you might find scary or are unfamiliar with.

Don’t reach for those gigantic unsalted saltines in the middle of the table until you’re told to do so. That is matzo, and if you were smart, at the same time you got your Haggadah, you also brought home a couple of those copier paper boxes from work and chewed on them until you learned to like the taste. Even after all these years, you didn’t know that paper cases are actually made of matzo, did you? Matzo is a very versatile food. Even that mysterious looking cue ball in your soup is matzo. In many parts of the world, Matzo is used as pavement and is more durable than asphalt.

But the most frightening of foods put in front of you will be the gefilte fish. You are probably only used to fish that is white or pink but never beige. So be warned: gefilte is nothing special to look at. It’s not a perfect square of deep-fried seafood-like product you get at McDonalds, nor does it look like a lovely pink salmon filet you might get at a non-fast-food restaurant that serves edible food. Gefilte is something even the handsome, yellow-slickered Morton’s Fisherman refuses to acknowledge. To be honest, if you’re not lucky enough to be served homemade gefilte fish, it looks like a slimy little turd. It looks as if someone got a wad of filthy Play-Doh, rubbed it between their hands to form a narrow, tapered khaki wad and then blew their nose on it. Homemade gefilte fish looks much more attractive and is in fact actually edible. The stuff that comes packed in slimy gelatin from a jar is not. Nevertheless, so you do not embarrass the partner who dragged you to this affair, you must eat it. All of it. Hopefully you will be offered a bowl of horseradish to put on it. Take as much horseradish as you can get away with and ice that fish-turd like a cake, top to bottom, side to side. Turds are much more attractive when they are bright pink, so take a big bite and get it down your throat as fast as you can. Doing this will also help you prepare to be a contestant on Survivor. After this, you will be able to eat millipedes, larvae, and mammal eyeballs.

There will be songs sung that you don’t know the words to. You need not do a Muppet-style lip-sync, as no one expects you to be that culturally astute. Besides, you did not come here to look like Elmo, Dame Edna or the pope. Just smile and look pretty.

After the soup and main course is served, you’ll be offered a variety of unleavened desserts. Don’t call the mandel bread biscotti, and enjoy the fresh macaroons. You deserve them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Quick Fried to a Crackly Crunch

Well I finally talked Other Bill into going to a free lunch sponsored by the Neptune Society, those guys who have been promoting cheap cremations for the last few decades. All I wanted them to do is tell me how much it ran to toast a dead body, but apparently you can’t be privy to that information unless you set up a visit with a counselor or attend one of these lunch things that are advertised in the paper.

Other Bill never wanted to deal with this. In fact, I had to twist his arm years ago to agree to getting our wills written. He likes to joke about wanting us to die together in a plane crash so no one will find our bodies, or just having wicks inserted in our heads so when one of us stops breathing, all the other has to do is light a match. But reluctantly he went along this time.

I’ve had a long-standing beef with the whole funeral home industry for years which I have previously documented here. Now that funeral homes and cemeteries have gone hi-tech, there is no end to the number of gizmos and gimmicks they will try to get you to sign up for. No one is going to be able to walk up to my final resting place and through the miracle of wifi and global positioning, see my professionally produced (at a huge fee) videography, because my crispy remains will be in some unknown place or at the bottom of some body of water, probably illegally. They won’t be on anyone’s mantle, either.

My feeling on the afterlife is pretty cut and dry; i.e., you’re dead. So why set aside an obscene amount of money for a satin-lined Posturepedic coffin to lie back and rot in? Your spirit, your love, your sense of humor, all the things that people will remember you for are also gone. All that’s left is your decaying vessel, so let’s deal with that as quickly and cleanly as possible and call it a day, shall we?

So we get to this tv-lined sports bar and go to the special event room, where a young Peruvian lesbian greeted us and gave us some paperwork (which didn’t have the cremation price on it). In a few minutes three more men, all older than us, sauntered in. Two of them, who clearly were in their 80’s (and probably not planning on living much longer), started hitting on her. Telling her what a beautiful woman she was. Asking if she was single. She handled it with grace and dignity, because not doing so could easily have cost her a sale. But c’mon, guys. Okay, so it’s not always easy to zero in on a person’s sexual orientation; I’ll give you that. But what did you think your chances were, being a half-century her senior, that after your death discussion that she’d go home, pack a bag and move in with you? 50-50? Not even close. So cut that shit out, for God’s sake. It’s 2016, not the year YOU were born.

One guy in particular was a pain in the ass from the get-go. Besides practically wolf-whistling and making goo-goo eyes at the presenter, he also, instead of sitting at the table set out for him, imposed himself on a kindly French gentleman, who, I suspect, would have rather sat alone.

The guy also gave the waitress a hard time. He wanted a full sandwich and a salad, when the menu option was for just half a sandwich and a salad. The waitress said he could add a salad to his full sandwich for three dollars, but then he played stupid, giving her the “I don’t understand why he gets a sandwich and salad and I have to pay $3 for mine” routine.

Then before the knockout lesbian could barely open the presentation, he started going on and on about how he wasn’t planning on dying, because he was happy just as he was alive.  If there had been a buttered roll on my table, I would have thrown it at him.

So the presentation went along well enough and was moderately interactive, with other Bill and I being the only other two in the room to verbally participate.

The presenter talked about how funeral homes will always try to “upsell you” by preying on your emotional state and talking you into things you don’t need, like a pricier casket or other extras they say your loved one would have wanted. This led to a discussion about pre-planning and making your needs known.

But the thing about the Neptune Society is, there is a base price (and I won’t tell you want it is. Go to your own old man lunch) that requires you to die within a 75 mile radius of your local Neptune Society crematorium. After that, it’s three dollars a mile, just like the $3 side salad that the waitress gave that old fart for free because she was sick of the harassment.

Three dollars a mile. Who knew that dying was like renting a car?

Okay, so we got it. In order for it to be effective, you had to really sign up with the premium account that was $500 more, and then you could die anywhere you wanted to, without incurring any mileage surcharges.

But what really frosted my fine hairs was that both packages came with a “beautiful cherry box” that held a commemorative picture frame and an urn to put your loved one’s ashes in.

If that’s not upselling, I don’t know what is. Before I could ask if it was cheaper to buy it without the made-in-China box and cheesy frame, she said it was all part of the complete package and could not be excluded from the deal.

So then they gave us the price of both versions. The annoying man who wasn’t planning on dying just got up, tossed his napkin on the table, and walked out of the room. His French table partner rolled his eyes, and I gave him a sympathetic look.

The patient presenter chatted with us for a few minutes, and acknowledged that we were a couple even though we didn’t use the secret gay handshake. We said we wanted time to discuss it, even though, for me at least, once she uttered the word, “urn” all bets were off.

One of the hooks to the program was how easy this would make things for your children. At the time of your death all they would have to do is remove your membership card from your wallet, call the toll-free number, and everything would be taken care of. No fuss, no muss. Our presenter said, “What would you rather give them: The card or the phone book so they could start calling funeral homes during their beginning stages of grief?”

I don’t think we’ll need either the card or the phone book. All we’ll need is Google. You can get a non-Neptune direct cremation for around $500. 

We’ll use the savings to pay for a full sandwich and a full salad. And dessert, please.

Photo Via Flickr User Justin Dolske

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dreary Air

I would like to publicly express my gratitude to all of the super-budget, “no class” airlines for still offering free bathroom privileges. I’d also like to thank the FAA for mandating gratis oxygen and life vests, in the case of an emergency situation. (Someone I know actually stole a life vest off of a jet, just so he could watch one inflate when you pulled that cord. It was something to see, and unexpectedly loud.)

Honest to God, these airlines really hate us. Except for the free use of their toilets, they have taken away everything that could possibly make flying a pleasant experience. Being the cheapskate I am, I am now a master at making online reservations with these guys. If you actually speak to a reservations representative or even get a passing glimpse at a gate agent, they charge you.

I’ve flown two of these airlines, and they want you to pay a la carte for everything. After clicking NO for booking a hotel, renting a car, buying travel insurance, paying for a carry-on bag smaller than a deck of cards, or forking over money for airport check-in, you are asked if you want to reserve a seat on the plane. I realize that to the inexperienced skinflint traveler this may be a little off-putting, because most people think that by this time they already have made the reservation, but no. Instead, you are presented with a floor plan of a no-class small jet, and are offered the opportunity to BUY a seat for ten to fifty dollars. The first time I thought about flying on Inferi-Air, I shut down the app at that point and decided to drive, because I didn’t want to tack on an additional $40 to $200 for a trip for two. The secret is to realize you can skip the seat reservation  process, which then puts you at the mercy of Air Unfair, which will assign you and your spouse two center seats at opposite ends of the jet so in case you crash, you don’t get to die together. This is why I always bring walkie-talkies on the airplane. No one ever asks you to turn off your walkie-talkies, so they are perfectly legal.

One airline, Spirit, gives you the chance to pay a dollar to use napkins made of recycled paper on the flight. I am dead serious about this. Look, Spirit, you are dealing with the cheapest of the cheap Americans here. If loved ones are willing to die without the ability to hold hands on the spin-out, do you really think their resentment will be curtailed long enough to give you a buck for asswipe napkins? Give it up. How desperate can you get?

One thing you can’t help but notice on Air Despair are the measures they have taken to make you uncomfortable. The $10 seats, which are also the free seats if you fail to reserve them, no longer have creature comforts like padding or springs in the seats. The chairs, which are sixteen inches wide, are made of molded plastic, like the ones in your music room in elementary school. They are covered with Velcro-attached vinyl covers that can be easily removed in case you vomit on them, because Air Contraire does not offer complimentary barf bags.

Once you get off the ground and you radio your loved one to make sure they haven’t thrown up, you can sit and relax. Notice I didn’t say that you can sit BACK and relax, because the music room seats do not recline. Even the $50 seats are static. Now would be a good time to look in the seat pocket in front of you to see how much you have to pay for a cocktail and a nutsack. Sadly, you can’t, because there is no seat pocket. There is only a bungee cord that holds in the FAA-mandated emergency card. Also there is a little brochure obviously put together by a graphic design intern at Nightmare Air, and when you unfold it you discover that two bottom shelf cocktails and half a corn chip will set you back $24.95. Perhaps you’d like to pull down your tray table so you can prop up your iPad and watch a movie. Sorry, gotta keep that on your lap, because your snack “tray” is the size of an emery board and will not support electronics.

I shouldn’t be so hard on these budget carriers. Seriously, a hundred bucks to fly a total of 1200 round trip miles can’t be beat.  If you are okay with not-even-a-chance frills, you’ll be complacent here.

In 1964 I took my first flight on Continental Airlines.  There were sticks of gum and a pack of four Parliament cigarettes placed on every seat before you boarded the plane. There were removable doilies on the headrests to guarantee you had no hair-generated bugs passed from the previous passengers. The stewardess gave me little pin-on wings and let me go up and look inside the cockpit. There was a choice of two hot meals served on china with stainless utensils. The cushy seats reclined way back, and they offered you pillows and blankets so you could actually sleep. You could check three suitcases for free. The well-put-together stewardesses wore crisp uniforms and nifty pillbox hats.  Before the plane took off, they came down the aisle with an assortment of magazines and newspapers for you to read. And this was coach, not first class

On Air Bedsore, there is none of that, and none of the modern nice-to-haves like internet access, TV channels, or headphones for music are offered. The one perk is that the arms of the chairs do fold up so the stranger next to you can release his bulbous spare tire into eight of the sixteen inches you are allotted.

And the flight attendant is either a bitter woman who can’t get hired anywhere else because she is in her late 50’s, or some grimy grunge boy with over-gelled blue-black dyed hair and outstretched piercings. Gay men wouldn’t touch jobs on Aer Dingus with a ten-foot oxygen hose. On my last flight I listened to one of the attendants spew forth to her co-worker the tale of her husband who left their family last year in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Admittedly, this was better than being able to watch a Lifetime movie on the non-existent screen built into the absent headrest in front of me. Her co-worker was too involved in picking at his acne to respond to her plight.

Just when you think you have endured all the abuse and humiliation that a passenger can take, they make an end-of-flight announcement that physically hurts. You are asked to bring your unreclinable seat back to its upright position. Really. They rub it in. And then the punk/goth/unbackground-screened, dirty-t-shirt-wearing flight attendant comes down the aisle begging you to sign up for the Disrep Air Mastercard, which comes with 40,000 free miles, redeemable for two more round-trip flights from hell.

And because you had to ask, yes, I filled out the application. Other Bill and I have another short flight to take in six weeks, and I want Air Beware to pay for it.

Hopefully I’ll remember to buy fresh batteries for the walkie-talkies. No one likes to die alone.