parking signIf you’ve been following my history with this, well, two things: (1) You really need a life, and (b) You know I have a real issue with parking machines. Yoooge problems.

Can’t help you with #1, except to recommend more alcohol. So let’s move on.

Last week I park in a downtown Ft Lauderdale garage by the county administration building. I note the floor I park on (4), then walk down the urine-stench steps to the sidewalk, cross the street, attend the meeting, and prepare to return home.

There’s a big sign on the first floor of the garage: PAY FOR PARKING HERE. It stands above a menacing parking machine, not 25 yards away from an enclosed (bulletproof) booth for CUSTOMER SERVICE occupied by two morbidly obese bored-looking idle uniformed agents, who presumably are too dull-witted and untrustworthy to handle payments in their own lot.

Miraculously, the machine functions! It tells me how much I owe, takes my three dollars with only minimal delays and returns, and spits back my stamped receipt.

Then I look around for the  stairs to ascend to retrieve my car. Evidently in the two hours I spend at my meeting, it’s been removed because I can’t find it anywhere. David Copperfield couldn’t make a staircase disappear as efficiently. So I approach the corral where the obese pair are lazily grazing, explain my desire to find the fourth floor so I can drive home, and ask where the stairwell is.

Neither wants to talk to me, but the one I make eye contact with holds up three fingers and says, “The 3rd and 4th floor are confusing.”

I kind of just stare at them both. The hell?

“Look,” I say, trying to sound reasonable. “I’m not confused about 3 and 4. I just don’t know what where the stairwell I walked down is because I don’t see it. Just tell me where the stairs are, okay?”

This inspires a quick conference between the two that I don’t quite hear — goddam glass booths with the tiny air-hole speakers — and then they say they can’t help me, go ask Security, in the person of yet another obese uniformed employee occupying the front seat of a open-air vehicle off to the side of the (HA!) Customer Service booth.

“You don’t know where your own stairwell is?” I ask. I love government workers.

Security at least has a personality. He laughs when I tell him I can’t find the stairs. “They outside,” he explains, “and they locked. You can exit, you can’t enter. Take the elevator. What color was your floor?”

Shit. Color? Who can see color in a parking garage where the outside light is blinding, and the inside is dark and dingy as a Republican’s brane? “I dunno,” I say. “But there was a big yellow 4 on the wall. So I figure that’s the 4th floor, right?”

“Yeah,” he says. “But the elevator is color-coded. Four is green.”

I thank him, head for the elevator. It’s NOT color coded. To quote Casey Stengel, Can’t anybody here play this game? I push 4, find my floor, find my car.

I wind my way down to the exit where I confront yet another fucking machine guarding the way. If they pay for 2 stooges sitting in a booth doing nothing all day, why do we have to deal with all these fucked-up machines? This one has caused me a load of grief in other encounters because it says insert receipt first and then credit card. But since I already paid in cash, why does it want my credit card? Well, it doesn’t. But you can’t know that from the instructions. I know that from previous shouting matches with the Customer Service fatties, back when customers could actually walk up the steps as well as down.

So I put my receipt in, press the button to get a paid receipt back, and the gate goes up……but no stamped receipt comes out. So how do I get my proof that I paid for parking? I press it another half-dozen times and nothing happens. “Work, you prick!” I shriek. “You have one goddam fucking function in the entire world and you can’t deliver?”

It takes a special personality to shriek at machines.

A car pulls up behind me. It’s probably not the mayor or the parking authority chief, so there’s no reason to ruin another citizen’s day. The gate remains open. I go through, and never get my receipt. Fuck it.

Can’t wait for the customer satisfaction survey.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 5 Comments


I don’t hear much anymore about the Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff, but he was a big thing for a while, lots of appearances and interviews, people repeating his jokes, etc. I remember when he was asked about growing up in Russia —  did he ever see American teevee programs? He said the Three Stooges were very popular: the kids were told that these were typical Americans, behaving as most American behaved and that was what America was like.

That always got a good laugh from the audience.

Click forward to the present. Thanks to this internetish thing, if Russian audiences want to see American (or any other) teevee, they have plenty of resources. What this suggests is that if Russian authorities want to show impressionable children what typical Americans say, think, do, and look like, they could show President Trumpf in action.

“Look — that’s their leader! President Felthercrotch! Freely elected, just like our own President Putin!”

Scary thought, innit? We were better served by Moe Larry & Curly.

My favorite Smirnoff observation: asked to name something entirely unheard of in the Soviet Union but commonplace in the United States, he said, “Warning shots.”

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 5 Comments

Free Basing

Vera Lu Senz grew up in post-war Chicago, one of three girls and 8 boys in a family of working class Poles where uncles, aunts, cousins, and undifferentiated relatives lived on the streets and in the alleys, beat the crap out of each other, and loved and hated with equal fury. She was cursing from the cradle, smoking at 10, drinking at 12, and, as she put it, “ate before she was seven.” Her mom offered her exactly one social instruction: “Girls don’t spit.

Lu went to work for the Chicago Sun Times — she knew Mike Royko! — and eventually became a sportswriter, specializing in baseball, covering the Cubs. When the Sun-Times went to hell, she didn’t follow the crowd over to the Tribune, but became an independent. Her stuff was great: edgy, insightful, even prescient.

Now retired, she roosts at the Liquor & Rubber Balls Sports Emporium & Custom Footbinding where she smokes, drinks, curses…but never spits. Until now, that is, when I ask her what she thinks about MLB’s latest brain-fart: shortening games by starting extra innings with a runner on second.

2nd-base“The idea is so damn dumb it drools,” she tells me (as I wipe my face). “You’re basically introducing a ‘simulated game’ component. The geniuses who cooked this up couldn’t find a smoked kielbasa in their own asses without a GPS.”

Duck Diamonds, professional gambler (and master goader), as well as another regular at this otherwise lesbian sports bar, shoots her a bemused look. “So you like these 5 hour games where the middle infielder comes in to pitch, is that it, Lu?”

Lu crushes her cigarette into an ashtray. “Tell me, Duck — are you ever sorry your mother didn’t have any children who lived?”

“Lu, the game is losing its audience — younger people just don’t have the patience to sit through 4-hour sleep-a-thons anymore. Nine innings is enough. Anything that shortens it quickly after that is a blessing, especially in these barbaric ballparks where they cut off the alcohol after the 7th. ”

I agree with Duck on that one, anyway. After 9 innings, they should sell nickel drafts. And open the bar to both teams.

“Think this through, Duck,”  says Lu. “Top of the 10th, tie score, a guy trots out to take his free second base. Even before that — who gets to be the runner? Because what you’re now asking for is teams rebuilding their benches to include a speedy little asshat who can’t pitch, hit, or field, just kept around for situations like this. As bad as the DH is, the Designated Runner is worse.

“Anyway, there he is. So what does the batting team do any time there’s a runner on 2nd with no out? They bunt him over so they have a man on 3rd with one out where a long fly or a wild pitch can score him, right?  Or maybe the fielding team’s first move is to intentionally walk the first batter to set up 1st and 2nd for a double play.

“No matter what, you’re asking both teams to play small ball for the rest of the game. Bunts, walks, drawn-in infields, rotation plays. There’s nothing wrong with this when it happens in the course of an entire game. But setting it up with a free runner in scoring position to start the inning is anti-everything baseball is built on. You’re essentially dictating to each team the strategy they gotta use.”

Duck shrugs dismissively. “Like you say, there’s nothing wrong with small ball. Maybe changing benches to include more runners and bunters is a good way to push back against the big boppers who strike out too much.”

“Get real, Duck. Teams can’t afford to carry players with roles that limited unless they want to jeopardize every game that doesn’t go into extras innings. It’s like drilling holes in a sinking boat to let the water out.”

“Really — is that worse than a 15 inning game where managers burn out their bullpens, pitchers play the outfield, and utility players come in to get three outs? You like that shit?”

Lu lights a smoke and smiles. “Yeah, I do. I like watching athletes pushing their boundaries, scratching for an edge. I like seeing managers improvising, maneuvering through tough situations. Not every day, not every game. But these are the sort of juicy, off-beat, bust-the-mold activities that make baseball so interesting. Bend the rules. Play head games.”

“Y’know, Lu, you make everything more difficult and mysterious than it has to be. How about this — if the game is tied after 9 innings, call it a draw and go home. Add a line to the standings –Wins, Losses, Ties. After 162 games you still have records to go by.”

“Well, hell — why not just fucking flip a coin? Or have a one-round cage match between the team’s mascots on the pitcher’s mound? I mean, if you don’t want to finish the actual baseball game by playing actual baseball, don’t do it half-assed. Do it full-assed.”

Duck looks at me. “I think we should go back to your idea of the nickel drafts.”

Works for me. Let’s start now.

Posted in Playing With Balls | 10 Comments

Keep It Wrinkled

In sentencing a 19-year-old who pleaded guilty to statutory rape last week, a judge in Idaho made it clear his punishment would include an extra wrinkle: government-mandated celibacy. — New York Times

Too funny. And it doesn’t help that the learned judge is named Randy Stoker.

Sorry. No photos this time.

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment, NIMBY | 2 Comments

Is That a Lump In Your Throat or Are You Just Angry?

I come across this passage in a long-ish NY Times Magazine essay on the demise of the socialist party in France:

…as for Hollande personally, Sailliot raised his hand in a gesture, not uncommon among Frenchmen, to indicate his testicles’ springing up to his neck in anger. “He’s a traitor.”

balls-in-throatTrying to remember if I’ve ever actually seen this gesture, I think not. And do one’s testicles ever rise in anger, let alone up to the neck? Mine sure don’t, but I check with Guido.

“Why would I grab your nuts when you’re angry?” she asks, sensibly.

Maybe he has it backwards, and is trying to describe Extreme Teabagging?

“Maybe you better find something else to write about,” she advises. “Or at least somebody else to ask. ”

When Guido offers advice about testicles, I listen, which is one reason mine remain attached.

Problem is, I just don’t know any Frenchmen. I have one French friend I can ask, a gay woman, so I text her. She texts back that she’s familiar with the gesture, and uses it herself, so she’s skeptical about the origins. “Women don’t have balls,” she reminds me, “but we do get angry, especially at people who do.” (She finished with a smiling emoji.)

I ring my friend Raddy — Radicchio R. Peggio, Jr. — a worldy fellow who speaks numerous European languages, having grown up in the cockpits of his father’s post-WW II airline business (Air Hellair) and traveling extensively through France, the British Isles, Scandinavia, etc. “Sure, I’ve seen that,” he says, chuckling. “Never knew that about the ‘nads. I thought it had more to do with rising bile, or something. The French seem to have a lot of that.”

Down at the beach, I ask a French Canadian couple I encounter as they grease their massive Speedo0-clad bodies with Dollar Store oil. The man squints and frowns stereotypically as he listens, then translates for his wife, who breaks out laughing and tells me, “How can zis be? Ze French zey have no balls to rise!”

Okay, I’m done. Three strikes and you’re out at the old ball game.

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 8 Comments

Water This

In my little patch of eastern Hollywood, we’re in Year Two of a project that has featured streets and alleys torn to shreds and barely paved over or just left raw, floods from backed-up sewers and broken pipes, traffic detours, ruined sidewalks and lawns, non-stop construction noise, and no end in sight. Allegedly this has something to do with replacing a crumbling water and sewer system, but I suspect it’s more about keeping workers on the payroll. Not that anyone’s seen them do much work.

waterIt’s been a real pain in the package for too long now. What fries my buns is that nothing happens —  they rip a street apart then disappear for literally months while they go do something else somewhere over the rainbow, leaving the residents to deal with detours, floods, and poorly patched streets.

So imagine my delight yesterday when I discover this note on my front step. Note that it doesn’t bother to inform residents when our water will be turned off, or for how long. I promptly call the city and get Squindecia on the phone. (I think I got her name right.)

She hears my concern, then pulls up some records to see what’s going on. “There’s nothing here about turning off water in your neighborhood,” she says.

So, what — this flyer is some kind of prank? It’s not really yours?

More audible pressed keys. “No, sir, that’s our flyer. What it says is the work on the water system is finished, and you might experience a difference in water pressure or coloration.”

I look once more at the flyer. In very large font, boldfaced and underlined beneath the word ATTENTION, it reads “Your water will be off on between and” then goes on to talk about pressure, discolor, etc.  So pardon me for being a native speaker of the language, but either there’s missing information on that top line or somebody doesn’t know not to string disconnected prepositions and conjunctions together without referents.

“The reason there’s nothing on that line is because we’re not turning off the water,” she explains, a little less patiently than before.

Why would you distribute flyers about turning off the water when there was no plan to do so? Is this the only flyer you have available?

“No, sir, we have flyers that warn customers about potentially poisonous chemicals and fecal matter in the drinking water, too. If you prefer, I’ll send you one right after I shit in your pipes.”

Okay, so, the conversation didn’t quite end that exact way, but we weren’t far. Evidently I’m the only citizen in the neighborhood who found this flyer disturbingly vague (see reference above  w/r/t “native speaker of the language”). Although when I show it to Guido when she gets home, she has the same reaction. “What? When? Why doesn’t it tell us when?” she fumes.

Tempers are short around here — two years of living in high Kabul style has frayed nerves. Nobody at the city level seems to care, and now that we have a new mayor and city commissioner,  when we complain they’ll blame the outgoing parties. That’s called “smart politics.” Remember that when you observe what happens next on the national level. (Speaking of shitting in the pipes.)

Posted in News From the Nation's Dicktip | 12 Comments

Die Laughing

It seems I am “personally invited” (by mail) to “a seminar with a complimentary meal.” Who knew complimentary meals conducted seminars, free or otherwise?

Oh, no wait, I see. If I attend this, um, seminar, which back in the days of reality would be called a sales pitch, they’ll feed me. They’re so certain they’ll nab a paying customer out of this that they can buy lunch at the Brio Tuscan Grille at Gulfstream for several dozen freeloaders with too much time on their hands.

And who is the “They” doing the buying? Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens and Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapels. Funeral directors. Merchants of Death. Stewards of the Eternal Dirt Nap. Talk about The Last Supper. Anybody who signs the dotted line before dessert is begging for poison in the coffee.

tap-42I ask Guido, a fellow senior citizen, if she’d like to attend. She declines reluctantly — apparently she’s scheduled to  have a clavichord X-Ray that day. Inspired, I ask my neighbor’s seriously fair-haired daughter, who’s in her 30s and has the sultry looks and distinctive curves that make grown men weep and young men reckless. Alicia thinks it would be a hoot. We devise a plan.

On the appointed day we arrive and take our seats at a table for 10, one of five in a private room dominated by a stage and podium at one end. At 66, and neither drooling nor leaking below-decks,  I am among the youngest (not including my companion). Promptly at noon, a well-coiffed gentleman in a truly impressive dark suit assumes the stage, welcomes his guests (looks like about 40 out here), and goes into his pitch, which he promises will be limited to 9 minutes.

“Don’t matter to me,” some ancient toothless codger calls out. “Ain’t none of us got anything to do!”

This draws laughs, followed by intense coughing and gasping. Captain Sardonicus fires up the slide show and begins, tossing out words like dignity, celebration, security, eternity, and assorted rot. The slides are peaceful, soothing — green lawns, blue skies, quiet ponds — like a golf course except for the marble headstones. Soylent Green on steroids. Death, where is thy sting? Then he asks for questions.

“Can we eat now?” some hag croaks out from a dark corner.

Alicia raises her hand, impressing the entire table, where nobody has been able to raise a limb that high without assistance since President Alzheimer left office.

“I wonder if your company offers any kind of expediting services,” she says.

Captain Sardonicus, puzzled, asks her what she means.

Shooting me a long voodoo look, Alicia explains that while the services offered by the company here seem thorough, there’s the problem of committing to a contract with no clear start and end date, and after all, what she’s interested in, anyway, is, well, termination, and does Forest Hill have anything to offer to, um, expedite termination.

An awkward silence follows, broken by yet another crone who pipes up, “Honey — look at him. You just keep doing what you’re doing and the wait won’t be much longer.”

This inspires a liver-spotted fellow at the same table to cackle loudly, losing first his glasses, then his dentures, and then his balance — he face plants in his water glass, and tumbles to the carpet. (Alicia has this effect even on younger men.)

In the confusion that ensues, attendees make it clear that they don’t give a damn who needs to be shipped out feet-first, they’re not leaving before they get the meal they were promised. The main course arrives about the same time as Emergency Medical Transport, and trust me when I tell you the poor guy’s portions doesn’t go to waste. Alicia and I pick at the entrees, drink some coffee, and get the hell out while our dining companions are still shoveling handfuls of medications into their faces.

“Well, that was special,” says Alicia on the way home, rolling a joint. “Buy your date a drink?”

Hey, it’s the least I can do. And unfortunately, it’s the most, too.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 14 Comments