I first heard of the Chinatown bus years ago I was intrigued, but had no idea how to find out more about it. The name conjured images of people traveling with caged chickens and goats. I knew that wasn’t true, but the price– under $100– was certainly attractive.
In December I saw this poster in the window of a Chinese restaurant on Buford Highway in Atlanta. It lists the website and phone numbers and the price– just $60 from New York to Atlanta or from Atlanta to New York– and the name, I now realize, is not Chinatown bus, but W&G Bus.Read More
When I was a child, my mother took the family for a drive on the mountain roads near our then home in Asheville, North Carolina. When we passed a ramshackle inn perched on the edge of an escarpment, I instantly fell in love with it.
I’ve always wanted to stay there, but never managed, even though I’ve been in the vicinity hundreds of times. I think the reason was mostly because I didn’t remember the inn’s name, but perhaps also I wanted to wait and savor the moment when I finally visited.
Last week I cruised the length of the 450-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway, which passes through Little Switzerland. In this age of the internet it was easy to find an image of the inn I remembered and determine its name.
I timed my trip to put me in Little Switzerland at about 4:30 pm, and arrived as planned. Traffic was light on the Parkway (it will be bumper-to-bumper a month from now, when the leaves have changed color), so I expected there to be a room available. I wasn’t disappointed. I got a room– musty-smelling, but clean– for only $60.Read More
I’ve left the photos I took in (very) large format. You can examine the image above and some others
in great detail by clicking on them. A new tab will open, so you won’t lose your place here.
This was to be our weekend of leisure: sleeping late, french toast for breakfast, lying in bed watching movies, naps, reading, more of same. So naturally, as soon as Heather awoke this morning, she was after me to pull on my shoes on so we could leave for the Catskills.
A couple of weeks ago we visited Woodstock. We told one another we would be returning one day; we just didn’t realize it would be so soon.Read More
Through all of Charlie Daniels accomplishments, [he] may be best known for organizing the genre-bending musical extravaganzas known as the Volunteer Jams, 16 music events over the course of three decades.
— Pat Adams
In the early 1980s, when I was living in Nashville, I attended three of Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jams.
Why was it called the Volunteer Jam? Because Tennessee is the Volunteer State.
In those days the Jams were held in January, downtown at the Municipal Auditorium. The show kicked off at 6 or 7 pm on Saturday night and ran until just before dawn on Sunday. Over the ten or so hours of the concert as many as twenty acts would take the stage for two-song sets.
My Vicarious New Car Buyer’s Experience: III: Enjoying Heather’s Car— Or, By the Time We Got to Woodstock…
On Saturday, Heather dropped the dime. Frustrated by game-playing by car dealers, anxious about getting in over her head, and experiencing hybrid anxiety every time she thought of going cheaper and getting a gas-powered car, she came to her decision and left with a 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid with a lustrous pearl white finish.
The Accord is beautiful, has plenty of torque, and is more complicated than an F-15 Strike Eagle. It’s at least as much mobile computer as automobile. The owner’s manual is hundreds of pages long and it’ll be months before we figure everything out.
We’re getting used to the keyless entry and push-button start. We’re getting hooked on the right lane view and backup cameras. We’re enjoying playing music and audiobooks and making hands-free phone calls over Bluetooth. And best of all, we’re enjoying the high gas mileage.
We slept late on Sunday (because we were wiped out from a week of car shopping) and drove up the freeway to Woodstock, New York. Were there hippies there still, we wondered?
When we hit the town center, our questions were answered. Forty or more mostly older men sat in a circle, banging on drums.
There were dancing groupies:
There was even a bicycle dude.
“Score!” Heather said.
Woodstock is a picturesque little village in the Catskills, about 100 miles from New York City. Today it looks like this:Read More
Heather had in mind a mid-sized sedan. She sometimes has to drive clients about, and her Honda Civic was just too small. On her list were these cars: Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Ford Focus, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Chrysler, 200, and the Volkswagen Passat.
When she was okayed for car rental by her insurance company, Heather asked for a Fusion, but Enterprise didn’t have one handy and put her in a Focus. Before she got home she knew it wasn’t the car for her. The dash was v-shaped with about forty buttons on it; there was no convenient place for her cell phone; the only powered USB port couldn’t be used when a cup of coffee or bottle of soda was placed in the rear cup holder; and perhaps worst of all, the window ledges were semi-circular, making it impossible for us to rest our arms on them. I thought the car looked cheap, and that was verified when we needed to move one of the front seats forward. The mounting mechanism looked and felt flimsy.
The Camry Hybrid got good mileage and was a competent car, but it just wasn’t exciting. Something can be said for that, but it fell by the wayside nonetheless.
Heather refused to even consider the 50 mpg Prius. She didn’t like the dash, and most of all, she hated not having a clear view through the back window. The window is split horizontally by a tray that sits behind the rear sets, and three headrest block much of the lower half.
Heather thought the Sonata was beautiful but drove like a gas cart. Takeoffs started out powered by only the electric engine and felt underpowered—until the gasoline engine chimed, making it suddenly surge forward. It was pretty, though.
Neither of us felt particularly comfortable in the Fusion. As with the Camry, Heather declined the salesman’s offer of a test drive.
Our number two choice was the VW Passat. Its 1.8L turbocharged engine was powerful, and we both liked the uncluttered interior.
Our number one choice was the Honda Accord Hybrid Sedan. It was perfect, but for two things—a small trunk (because of the hybrid batteries) and no spare. That’s right, not even a donut. Otherwise, though, the Honda was perfect, and it’s the car Heather eventually went with.
After the fold: some photos of the cars in question.Read More
Thumbnail Photo: California car salesman Cal Worthington and his dog Spot.
Hidee hi, there, friends and neighbors! This is your old pal, El Monte Slim, tellin’ ya’ll ta come on down here to Widetrack County in Wilmington. God damn, we got some outasight bargains here for ya in cars— and be sure to bring the kiddies, too, cause we got free pony rides and lollipops for all the little folks. Talk about suckers, look at this sucker over here! Yessirree Bob, that’s a ’58 Dodge pickup, white, of course. Gotchyer radio, gotchyer heater, gotcher overdrive, and it’s gotchyer Easy Rider rifle rack, yes sir, with room for not one, but thureee of your favorite rifles! Yes, sir! And be sure to ask for it by license plate number KKKU2, and for the first hundred of you mothers to c’mon down, we got a free America Love it or Leave It bumper sticker. So c’mon down and ask for El Monte Slim. And now back to our movie, The Jackson Five Story starring The Osmond Brothers.
—Cheech & Chong, 1991
In my time on this planet I have owned 34 cars and one pickup. Not one of them was purchased new.
That’s right. I’m nearing my 65th birthday, yet have never owned a new car. Moreover, only two of the 35 were purchased on a car lot; a third was leased. I found that experience so horrifying I drove the car back to the dealer and returned the keys.
For all practical purposes I’m a car salesperson virgin. I was, anyway, until this week.
I suppose technically I still am, so let me say this: for the past week I have been having a new car buyer’s experience by proxy.
I’ve been tagging along with my girlfriend Heather as she has searched for a replacement for her totaled Civic sedan. We’ve visited five showrooms and I’ve ridden in the back seat as she has test-driven three candidate cars. I’ve experienced her conversations with a half-dozen new car salesmen and one used car saleswoman, and even participated by asking questions like, “How much torque does it generate?” and “What colors are available?”
Heather hasn’t yet made a decision, but I have enough new-car-buyer’s-experience-by-proxy involvement to say this: what everyone says about car salespeople is true.
Before I go further, let me say we’ve experienced a representative sample of salespeople—an older gentleman from India or vicinity; another older man from China or thereabouts; a recent immigrant from Southeast London (all three with English which was difficult to understand, especially the Londoner, who had a thick Cockney accent); a nervous young Toyota salesman from New Jersey; a talkative Middle-Aged gentleman who kept putting his arm through the steering wheel during the test drive; and a young woman who sells former fleet cars for Enterprise. So male, female, young, old, experienced and new to the profession, and native English speakers and those for whom English was a second language. We would up buying from a young man from Kingston, Jamaica who was the best of the lot.
Every one of them liked to us and attempted to manipulate, obfuscate, and misdirect. Some were better at it than others, but no one fooled us.Read More
On Thursday, while stopped with my left turn blinker on to turn into a business complex in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, a young man of 23 hit my girlfriend’s 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid from behind at full speed. It’s impossible to estimate how fast he was going, but I would guess just a little under 40 miles per hour. Since I was clearly visible and he didn’t slow, I suspect a cell phone was involved.
The blow was terrific. I felt it most in the small of my back.
The seat mechanism broke and I found myself flat on my back, out of reach of the steering wheel and brake pedal as the car idled slowly forward. I had turned the front wheels slightly to the left in anticipation of the turn, and the Honda moved into opposing traffic, which was slowing because of the accident.Read More
Until now, ethanol has not played a significant role in my life. I understand and appreciate what a huge problem it is for many people and the problems it poses for society, but otherwise it has been barely on my radar.
My father would drink a beer now and again, but with one exception, I never saw him tipsy. When I was seven he had a few brews while out with his friends. When my mother picked him up at the bowling alley and saw he’d had a few too many, she lit into him, and I couldn’t figure out why. My father seemed a happy man.
No one else in my family drank, or at least not much. A quart bottle of blackberry brandy sat in a cabinet in my parents’ kitchen for more than twenty years. The last time I saw it it was still half full.
When I was in my late teens younger friends asked me to be their designed driver. Why? Because I wasn’t interested in imbibing. They would pick up a couple of six packs or a bottle of wine or cheap liquor and drink too much too fast, and I would obligingly stop the car so they could get out and puke. After the throwing up they were subdued and ready for me to take them home so they could go to bed. If that was what alcohol did, I didn’t see the point.Read More
From my girlfriend Heather’s house in Rockland County, NY I can travel to Manhattan quickly and easily. Seniors pay half price. I, who Heather has called a hippie with a pension, quality for that rate. For less than ten dollars I can ride either train or a nicely-appointed Greyhound-style bus to, respectively, Penn Station or the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
I’ve been to the city at least a dozen times in recent years, sometimes alone, sometimes with Heather, and sometimes with my friend Jan Brown. I’ve seen two Broadway shows (revivals of Hair (five stars) and West Side Story (two stars), and two off-Broadway plays (Cole Porter’s Mexican Hayride; four stars) and, today, Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser’s Under My Skin. I’ve spent a day each in four museums (The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, The American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art), hung out at Zucotti Park in the Financial District with the Occupy Wall Street folks, taken a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park under a big warm blanket with Heather, visited the Apple Store and the F.A.O. Scharz toy store on the Upper West Side, viewed an exhibition at The International Center of Photography, heard a presentation at the LGBT Community Center of New York, and attended a reception for authors of the forthcoming book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves. I’ve walked through Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, Central Park, Greenwich Village, Times Square, the meat packing district, the theater district, and the financial district. I’ve eaten $1.50 slices at hole-in-the-wall pizzarias and fine food at a half-dozen restaurants. I’ve learned a lot about the city and how to get around (often the hard way). It has all been fun.
I suppose I really am a hippie with a pension.Read More
I was in a warehouse-sized liquor store when it hit me. There was just too much product from which to choose.
Consider just one type of liquor: vodka. Now consider the various infusions and flavors of vodka that are being marketed: vanilla, sorbet light lemon, mango, passion fruit, pomegranate, cinnamon-sugar, wild honey, marshmallow, iced cake, caramel, whipped cream, amaretto, root beer, blueberry, cherry, citrus, coconut, cranberry, expresso, grape, green apple, orange, peach, pear, pineapple, raspberry, vanilla—oh, wait, I already said vanilla—cherry lime, watermelon, strawberry acai, tropical fruit, peach bellini—and that’s just the Smirnoff varieties! There were at least fifty other brands, many with their own selection of flavors—and then there are vodkas made with grain, vodkas made with potatoes, vodkas that are triple distilled, vodkas with hops, double strength vodkas. A body is lucky to get out of the store with a bottle plain old vodka.
The infusion fad, which began with vodka, has now reached brown liquors. There are flavored rums, whiskeys, and scotches, each in many varieties as well as flavors. Peppermint-flavored rye whiskey or single-malt Orkney scotch? It’s just a matter of time.
It’s not quite as bad at the grocery store, but still at least twice I’ve come home with peanut butter with some sort of horrid honey mixed in.
Now, I don’t mind much if I wind up with crunchy when I wanted smooth, but the honey concoction is vile—and there are other potential traps as well—”natural,” low salt, low fat… I consider myself lucky when I wind up with plain old creamy peanut butter.
Now choice is well and good, but I think some concession should be made to help shoppers find the original product. If that were to happen we wouldn’t go home with whole wheat Triscuits, veggie-flavored Triscuits, sea salt Triscuits, Bloody Mary Triscuits. Sometimes we just want a plain old Triscuit.Read More
It took a while because I’ve been working on other portions of this website, but I finally got busy and designed the blog section. It will without doubt get tweaked a bit, but I’m happy with it pretty much as it is.
On the right, just below the search window, are links to the other portions of my website. The home page includes introductory information and provides links to my bio, CV, calendar, and photos. Body of Work contains hundreds of posts with content from the books, booklets, book chapters, articles, columns, novels, short stories, plays, poems, and songs I’ve written. The Chrysalis link will take you to the online ‘zine Chrysalis Quarterly.
I maintain several other blogs which address some of my interests. You can read about them here.
This is my general purpose, anything goes blog. I’ll write here about gender, automobiles and motorcycles, popular culture, history, art, and who knows what else.
The back end is operational. Now it’s time to write.Read More
I have been a fan of online shopping for years—but this article in Mother Jones magazine is making me do a reassessment. It’s a horrific tale of exploited workers—a harrowing read, but an eye-opening one.Read More
In August 2011 a young Irishman named Sean Dillon shipped his 25-year-old 75-lb. Honda C90 Super Cub motorcycle from Dublin to Anchorage, Alaska. His goal: to ride his tiny 90cc bike from the Arctic Circle to the southernmost tip of South America.Read More
When I was six years old, my family moved to France, where we lived for four years. It was a time of political turmoil, years during which the Algerian FLN (National Liberation Front) assassinated French officials and gendarmes in the capitol, Algiers. and eventually began detonating bombs in Algeria and France.As many as 5000 people were killed in France in what came to be known as the Café Wars.
At the time. I had a vague notion of the danger, since military personnel had been briefed and advised to keep a low public profile and my parents frequently cautioned me to remain close to home when I was outside playing.
Yesterday I went into an Auto Zone car parts store and selected a socket fixture for a single element tail light bulb. I took it to the counter and told the parts man, “I’m going to make a test light out of this socket. Can you find me a six-volt single element bulb to fit?”I followed him up the aisle to the display of bulbs, whereupon he asked me, “Front or back?”Front or back? For a test light?I knew then I was dealing with an idiot. I explained that I wasn’t going to put it in a vehicle; instead, I would be attaching leads to it and using it to test electrical continuity on my six-volt antique Honda motorcycle. And so I needed a six-volt bulb.
And what did he hand me?
Right. A twelve-volt bulb. He didn’t know what a six-volt bulb even was!
Over the past twenty or so years I’ve been experiencing variations on this experience at fast food restaurants, discount stores, and other retail places. Until now I’ve considered it a problem uniquely attached to postmodern America, but obviously it isn’t. When I told my story on a Yahoo group for motorcycle enthusiasts, this came back from Pete A in the UK:Read More
Lamar Alexander Wasn’t So Bad Back in the Days of the Red Plaid Shirt
Since I will be posting from time to time about politics, I’ll start by declaring my political affiliations.
I have none.Read More