Saturday, January 3, 2009

Of meteors and mattresses...

The morning of the meteor shower finally arrived. After enjoying clear skies all week long, it decided to cloud up precisely during the hours of peak activity. At first I was distraught and frustrated.

In retrospect however, it didn't matter one whit. I and the person I was with enjoyed a couple of hours of each others company, lying in the middle of an open field, covered with blankets, and gazing up at a clouds describing a fast moving sky accented with a handful of intermittent stars. Every now and then we'd actually see a brief streak of light as a speck of space dust blazed across our small portion of unobscured sky. At one point, a low cloud bank brightened suddenly, as if it were being lit from within.

"Did you see that?"
"I think it was a really bright one, obscured by the clouds."
"Yeah. It would have really been spectacular if we could have seen it."

It was spectacular anyway.

Time passed as it is wont to do, so eventually we had to gather up the blankets and pillows and get back to real life. I spent the entire day at work in a decidedly odd mood, which was good. Or rather, in a decidedly good mood, which was odd - for being at work, that is. Time flew by and I didn't mind work at all.

Before I knew it, I was walking home. I decided to take Bryan street on a whim, and discovered something which almost ruined my day.

About 3/4 or the way up Bryan street, before it runs into Scripture, there was a large dumpster which serviced an apartment complex. Around this dumpster were piled several large, overflowing trash bags. Lying among these bags was an assortment of abandoned dirty clothing, reams of carelessly scattered notes from some obsolete and already forgotten college class, cardboard boxes filled with plastic food wrappers, empty 7-Eleven coffee cups, a discarded Christmas wreath, and scores of cigarette butts. Underneath a goodly portion of all this was a queen sized mattress.

As I stood there regarding that scene, I was surprised to find that the sight of so much blatant refuse was pissing me off. I started to gather up some of the more readily accessible and less revolting bits of trash and stuffed them into the open garbage bags. Eventually I had to deal with the revolting stuff. After I had several bags crammed full and closed tightly, I tossed them into the dumpster. Then I went to work on the classroom notes. There had to have been at least 5 pounds of typed and hand written papers there, which would have been blown away if not for the fact that there had been so much trash covering them. They had started to blow away after a lot of the dead weight was removed, so I spent some time recovering scores of windblown sheets of paper and stuffing them into a cardboard box (the contents of which I had already emptied into the dumpster). Finally, I was left with just the old dirty clothes, which consisted mainly of socks, t-shirts, and some raggedy, torn up shoes. These too went into the dumpster. Finally, I threw away the Christmas wreath, which I had been saving for last in case I decided it could be salvaged. It couldn't, so into the dumpster it went. The only thing left was about a hundred cigarette butts. I gathered these up by the handful and tossed them, winding up with stinky, charcoal stained fingers.

Finally, after about 10 minutes of constant activity, the area around the dumpster was clear. The only thing left was that queen sized mattress. I inspected it closely. It actually didn't look that bad, and after testing it in a few places, it felt soft. I imagined that with a good cleaning, it would be a dramatic improvement over my current twin mattress, which is just a piece of shit, now that I think about it. If I weren't so used to it, it would be impossible to sleep on it, as the springs have no padding to separate them from the actual material which comprises the surface of the mattress. Every night, I lie down to the constant poking and pressing of those damn uncomfortable springs. No more.

I walked home and called my brother in law, who drives a pickup truck. I asked for his assistance in transporting the mattress to my house, and he agreed. Later we loaded it into the back of his truck, and at this moment it is leaning up against the wall in the hallway, waiting for me to clear a spot for it in the disaster area which is my room. I might even get to it tonight, although I don't think I have any queen sized sheets. It probably needs at least a cursory spiffing before I lay me down to sleep on it, so I think I'll wait until tomorrow to make it safe for human habitation.

Even if this queen sized mattress turns out to be a bust, I'm not going back to that mattress from hell that I've been enduring for 9 years, ever since my water bed sprung a leak.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A dream - sunset holocaust

Matt and Chey and I are all piled into a car together, with Cheyenne driving and I in the back seat. We pull into the driveway of a familiar house. We all get out of the car and I am slightly anxious because we forgot to bring something with us. It is twilight, and the eastern sky beyond the house is made darker by the presence of forbidding cumulonimbus clouds, the textured, corrugated bottoms of which provide a low, ominous ceiling. Although they are ubiquitous to a certain extent, they start to thin and break up as my gaze follows them across the sky towards the west. About 2/3 of the way to the horizon they disintegrate completely, leaving a clear, calm sunset. The sun, having just disappeared below the western horizon, leaves a bright yellow sky which fades slowly into the dark blue of near twilight before it is obscured by the blanket of clouds from the east. I turn my vision back towards the dark cloud cover and am amazed to see in the distance an immense UFO flying below the cloud deck. It is quite far away, but I can definitely discern a massive hull festooned with bright, multicolored flashing lights. Matt is just getting out of the car so I yell at him, "Reach back into the car and grab the binoculars, quickly, hurry up!" I point at the sky and exclaim to him, "It's a UFO! Give me the binoculars!" Matt digs around in the back seat and emerges with the binoculars in hand. He sweeps the sky futilely with them, which exasperates me, and I frantically urge him to hand them over. He does, and I proceed to scan the eastern sky. Almost immediately, I spot it. It is an amazing sight, made even more incredible by the sudden ignition of two engines mounted at the rear of the main body, which begin to glow a dull orange. I exclaim to Matt, "The engines are lighting! It'll be gone soon so hurry up and look!" I hold the binoculars slightly away from my eyes with one hand and with the other hand I point as directly and accurately as I can at the UFO, while at the same time passing the binoculars to Matt so that he will know exactly in what direction to look. He sees the UFO but doesn't seem nearly as thrilled as me, and he and Chey proceed into the house.

An old man and woman live in the house, and at this point I realize that we are visiting a kind of analogue for our grandparents. I don't recognize them but they still seem familiar as I greet them in the living room. However, I am still filled with excitement at what I had just witnessed, so I quietly steal back outside. Heavy clouds had begun to form in the western sky, and as I looked towards the sunset, I could barely make out the diminished shape of the UFO against the form of a thunderhead as it reflected the last of the sun's dying rays. Suddenly, I realized with dread and unwelcome comprehension that it was engaged in battle with an enemy vessel, and they were exchanging a volley of nuclear weapons. I hid my eyes as one of them detonated, and when I looked again, there was a towering mushroom cloud rising from the western horizon. I quickly hurried inside and warned everyone. "There has been a nuclear detonation and the shock wave will be here quickly. We have to seek shelter!" Matt, Chey and I, along with the old couple, quickly proceeded outside and towards a separate garage. I watched the mushroom cloud as I hurried across the yard towards the garage, and I could feel the air pressure building as the front of the shock wave quickly raced towards us. With all of us inside the garage, we hunkered down on our knees, clasped our hands behind our heads, and tried to roll ourselves into little balls. Then the shock wave hit and the garage shook violently around us, shattering the glass in the windows and shaking the door off of the frame. As I crouched there, hunkered, I tried to catch a glimpse of Matt and Chey to see if they were all right. With the door gone, I could see the grass and trees outside through the open doorway scorching in the intense heat. I expected the garage to come completely apart around us at any second, exposing us to the searing winds.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Evil Blood Sucking Car Repair Shops

Oh boy. Today as I was driving to the store to grab some smokes, I started to hear a distinctive rattle up front in the motor area. Not good, thought I. I drove home and let it idle for a while, listening to the rattle and clank. I finally shut off the motor, definitely not happy about this new development. Later, my brother took the car to the post office to mail off his laptop which he just sold on eBay. I heard the car pull up when he got back, and then I heard the sound of the motor increase in volume somewhat as my brother opened the hood. After a few seconds, I heard a SNAP POP. Uh oh. Seconds later, my brother came in and informed me that the serpentine belt had just snapped. Shit. He said that he was afraid to kill the engine because he wasn't sure if it would start again. I told him that he'd better kill it now, as it was running purely on battery power as long as the serpentine belt wasn't turning the alternator and charging the battery. Apparently he hadn't realized this immediately, so he went outside and killed it.

We debated on what to do for a few minutes, and then he suggested that we take it to a repair shop to get an estimate. I thought for a few minutes... a serpentine belt should only cost about 30 bucks, and it should take maybe an hour to effect repairs... at about 50 dollars an hour, it should cost less than a hundred bucks to fix it. So, I agreed, and he drove the car to Firestone using just the battery power.

About 30 minutes later, he arrived home after walking back from Firestone. He told me that the mechanic there had said that it might be something more serious than just the serpentine belt, that the rattling could be due to a loose pulley. Immediately my hackles went up. I've been fucked over by mechanics several times, and hearing this instantly put my on my guard. I warned my brother about this, that mechanics were devious bastards and that I'd been screwed over several times in the past, but he just kind of blew it off. I stressed again the importance of what I was saying, and that we should definitely be wary if they tried to quote us an estimate based on more than just the cost to replace the belt. He started to take offense to this, thinking that I was questioning his ability to handle the situation, and began raising his voice. I asked him why he was getting so pissed and defensive, and he said that he'd never been screwed over by a garage. I told him that just because he hasn't been screwed over doesn't negate the importance or the worthiness of my advice. He grew more and more angry, and finally he told me that he wanted to use the money I had in reserve for rent to pay for any repairs that might be needed. I told him no. I have 200 dollars specifically for rent that I had borrowed from my sister just the day before, and that plus about 500 dollars that I'll be getting on Thursday, is going to be JUST ENOUGH to pay my student loan payment plus my share of the rent. Well, he didn't take too kindly to my refusal to give him that money, and he asked me if I was afraid that the rent wouldn't get paid if I gave him that money. I told him yeah, that's what I was afraid of, and he said that he would make damn sure that the rent got paid, even if I didn't.

Well, that really pissed me off, since I was the one who paid the rent for December, with no help at all from him. I told him that if it weren't for me, the rent wouldn't have gotten paid this month, and that he should think about that before casting stones. Well, about 5 minutes later, he called me on 32 dollars that we still owed out of 650, that never got paid because I just happened to be a little bit short, what with having to pay the entire thing this month. I had told him that I would pay it when I got my next check, but I had forgotten. He called me a liar for saying that I would pay that 32 dollars, since I had forgotten and it was never paid. Well, this set me off like a hydrogen bomb. I grabbed an envelope and a pen and the address for the landlord and got on the computer and looked up directions to his house with MapQuest, which happened to be two miles there and two miles back. I wrote those down, and as I was going out the door, I said "You suck Matt, you really suck. I'm not a liar and I'm moving out. Just as soon as I can. We'll see how you manage when I'm not here to bail your ass out when you're broke." Then he said to me, "You're moving out, huh? That's probably a damn lie too." I got even madder, which I didn't think was possible. I said, "I hate you!" and stormed out the door. I then turned back around and said "Give me my phone!". I sure as hell didn't want him answering when Firestone called back with an estimate. He gave me my phone and I left.

On the way I stopped off at a convenience store and got a money order for 32 dollars and put this in the envelope, and wrote on the front: "Sorry so late, Matt and Ash" and wrote down our address. I continued walking until I got to his house, then I put the envelope in his mailbox and walked back. On my way back, I received a call from Firestone. They said they had an estimate, and that it would be 350 bucks to fix it. I said, 350 for a serpentine belt? They said no, not just the belt, the tensioner needs to be replaced too (the tensioner is another pulley which you can adjust to increase or decrease the tension on the belt, something I didn't know at the time). I asked the guy if he could just put on the belt and forget about the tensioner. He said no. So, I told him that I'd come pick up the car then. He was silent for a few seconds, then said something that I don't remember and I said thanks, bye, and hung up. After that, I called John, my sisters husband, who is pretty good with cars. I asked him if he could help me replace the serpentine belt, and he said sure, that it should be fairly simple and easy.

When I got home, Matt had already gone back to Firestone and picked up the car. I didn't say anything to him. He told me that it would cost 270 dollars to repair it. Well, I was still pretty pissed and didn't want to talk to him, but I had to laugh and tell him that they had quoted 350 to me. Then I started to research serpentine belts and tensioners online for my car. I came across a lot of useful info, such as a diagram showing how to install the belt (it's pretty convoluted) and reports from various people describing their own experiences. I quickly found out that tensioners can be adjusted with a 13 mm socket, and that they can get pretty loose. I went back out to the car and found the tensioner, and sure enough, it was loose and it rattled when I moved it. Well, I sure as hell wasn't going to trust what Firestone said. That tensioner just might need to be tightened, it might not need to be replaced at all. However, it looked to be a pretty big job, as it was a very tight squeeze to access the area where the belt goes onto the pulley's. I had just read about several frustrated people who had spent hours trying to install a serpentine belt to no avail, and I started to realize it might not be possible for me to pull it off, even with Johns help.

So I called John and explained the situation to him, telling him that I thought it might be too big of a job for us to do after all, and that I would just have to wait until I had enough money to pay the fucking Firestone guys to fix it. He said to hold off, that he would be over to check it out. I had plans to visit a friend tonight already, so while I was over at her place, John was at the house, checking out the car.

When I got back home, Matt said that they had looked at the car and researched it some more. What we need is a serpentine kit that costs about 80 bucks, and comes with a belt and the tools we'll need to be able to fix the tensioner and install the new belt. This sounded a lot more reasonable than the 350 they quoted me or the 270 they quoted my brother, once they realized I wasn't going to let them give it to me in the backside. So with 80 dollars for parts and 50 dollars an hour... lets be generous and say it takes two hours to fix it... Firestone should charge me 200 dollars MAXIMUM for parts, labor, and tax to fix that thing. So I was right, they were trying to screw us over, just like ALL mechanics and garages will do in the blink of an eye without thinking twice. I've just had too damn many experiences, several times getting ripped off, and several times ALMOST getting ripped off - like today - NOT to be wary of those fuckers. Repair shops are worse than the IRS. At least the IRS doesn't lie to you.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Ah, now I just love this. Sleeping until I feel like waking up, then sitting up in bed, grabbing the laptop or a book, and just reading or listening to music or yakking here on MySpace or the game forums or finding crazy shit on teh interwub. And I don't have to work. And it's still morning with most of the day ahead. And, since I'm sick, I might call off work tomorrow and get to do this again.

I won't lie, I could probably go to work and tough it out, but whatever I have is most likely contagious, otherwise how would I have gotten it? It would probably be wise to stay home. We'll see how I feel tomorrow.

Christmas was cool, I got:

A book titled "Jonathon Strange"
A bunch of candy
A bunch of socks (this is my favorite gift)
A shirt with a weird skull on it
Some black t-shirts
A 50 dollar Target gift card
A 30 dollar Visa gift card
A 20 dollar Papa Johns card
A Sarah Brightman cd (oook, thanks mom :p )
The title to my car, finally transferred over to me (I bought it from my mom, finished paying for it in '06)
Some sausage and cheese
Some smoked salmon from Alaska
Some Krispy Kreme Krullers