Friday, February 12, 2010

Jim #1

I knew a Jim and a Dennis Vincent, once upon a time, but here I will cover Jim. At times I'd confuse the two so I would simply call him "Dincent".

His father owned a hobby store, as a hobby. His mother always wore white nursing clothes. Jim had a really nice VW bus with a big sunroof we could slide back. We were fond of piling into his van and letting him drive around the Virginia backroads at night, as he was usually the most sober.

At times, while driving the narrow backroads on moonless nights, he would go into mini-trances and start mumbling "spontaneous poetry". On occasion I would be in the passenger seat instead of sitting in the back, and as Jim would mumble something like "birthday, car, yellow, because, radish..." he would veer towards the ditch that ran along the narrow road. As I'd be saying to myself, "Get ready to die", he would snap out of it, correct his trajectory, and say, "That was a close one."

Sometimes Jim would want to go home, and so he'd pull into his circular driveway. He'd disappear inside for perhaps an hour, leaving us in his van. Sooner or later he'd reappear and off we'd go again. It was some of the best fun I ever had as a teenager.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happy Humpty

Back in 1974 Zippy and I hitch-hiked to Ohio and stayed at the campground at Lake St. Mary's, in St. Mary's Ohio.

We were tired but hung out with some locals who would pitch a tent on Friday night, bring a case of beer and party. Various girls and guys would visit and drink some brews. However, you could only have 3.2% beer at a State campground, so they would put 6% beer on the bottom of the cooler and the 3.2% on top in case the Sherriff came by.

Zip and I were hungry and wanted a good meal. We asked the locals for a suggestion. They had been talking about transmissions and 2 by 4's and such, but then went into a long discussion on where to eat. Finally, they arrived at two choices, and said one had "hotter" waitresses. Zippy and I opted for that, and before we knew it we were in this guys cherry 1968 orange Chevy Mailbu zooming down the road.

Much to our delight, he dropped us off at the "Happy Humpty". It was like a glorified truck stop, and had a neon sign of an animated smiling egg falling off a wall, but the smile would turn into a frown when he hit bottom.

The "hot" waitresses were 16 year old girls. On top of that the food was very mediocre.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Years ago a well-known professional drummer friend of mine had quit his normal (funk) band, and did a few gigs with a '70s rock band.

They were in some city for a gig and when the limousine pulled up to the hotel to take them to the auditorium for a concert, the chauffeur hopped out and said, "I'm the supervisor. This here limousine is C.O.D.B.E.!"

Turns out the band still owed the limo company from the previous trip, and "C.O.D.B.E." meant "Cash On Delivery Before Entering".

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Captain Beefheart, whose real name is Don Van Vliet, was a school-mate and musical chum of Frank Zappa and made many an album. He was also a favorite of Zippy's (see earlier posts for information regarding Zippy).

Oddly enough my brother lived in the same trailer park as Don while attending Humboldt State and Don was waiting for his home to be built. Don would hang out by the pay phone, and as my brother headed to the showers Don would mumble "I'm famous, I have a band". My brother had no idea who Don was.

My brother and Don would go to town to buy groceries, and one time Don bought a bag of ice, which he later brought home to his wife after it had melted. When she chastised him on this fact he said "Oh no, it was this way when I bought it." Don would try to impress my brother with his harmonica playing, but by this time in his career his had lost some of his chops.

One day Zippy and I drove to Humboldt to visit my brother. On our way home we stopped by Don's house and were promptly turned away by his wife. We sat in the car for a few minutes and determined that we would not so easily be turned down. So, we went around to the back of the house where it just so happened that the Captain was relaxing on his large porch. He was very friendly and we discussed a number of things. He signed an album that Zippy had brought: "Love over gold, Don".

This made the 300 mile journey home much more worthwhile.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Getting Found

There are a number of different ways to find old friends, acquaintences, or family by using the internet. I don't like most of them for one reason or another -- money, ads, whatnot.

Usually you must have the person's name, which I don't always know, or maybe I just know their nickname. I know people who have lost track of family member, or want to find their birth parents.

I recently ran across a great (and free) service, that seems to cover all the bases. If you "walk the earth", this comes highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Falling down

There was a few years where it seemed that I was 'around' when old people fell. One time a man fell in a residential intersection, just as I drove up.

Another time I came out of my front door and a lady at least 80 was sitting on the curb, looking dazed. She had been walking, fell and bumped her head, and was trying to re-orient. I talked with her a few minutes and we figured out that the best thing to do was for me to drive her home, so off we went.

Turned out she lived in an apartment with her husband. I walked her inside and made sure she was OK. Her husband was confined to a wheel chair, and was wearing a very sharp maroon bath robe. He seemed not to notice the situation. I wished them well and left.

When I get that old I either want to live in a cottage in one of my son's back yards (fenced, so I don't wander off), or if that's not available I'll just ride Amtrak non-stop for years and never get off.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cash box

When I was in high school a guy two of us knew said that there was big money to be had in this box in a church that collection plates were dumped into.

So, I parked my car next to a side door to the church, and the other two went in, grabbed the box (it was about 4 feet high, and 1 X 1), made out of wood. They barely got it into my Fiat station wagon and off we went.

Took it into the woods and forced it open, to be rewarded with $1.27. This was very disappointing at the time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Music Dude

SF's subway, BART, has some underground stations in which a variety of characters gather.

One day an Asian gentleman was playing his stringed instrument: it has 2 or 3 strings, looks like someone took a gourd and stuck a stick in it, and it is played with a violin type bow.

Whenever I see one of these guys I am always tempted to give him a couple of bucks and say "buy yourself a few more strings". I mean, how can you play a decent melody with 2 or 3 strings? (But I've heard rumor that one of U2's early mega-hits was done where the guitar player had just that many).

At any rate, as I passed this guy who was playing away I realized that the song he was playing "O Suzanna", and not some ancient tune from the past....

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Back in the '70s I was working at a body shop in Berkeley. Was sent by my boss to his loan shark to pick up some cash, didn't come to a complete stop at a stop sign and was pulled over by one of Berkeley's finest. He determined that I had on old ticket ($107) that I hadn't paid, and therefore needed to go to jail.

After he cuffed me he couldn't get the back door of the cruiser open, so I had to sit up front next to him. At the station he took my shoes and belt, and asked me a bunch of personal questions to which I mostly gave incorrect information.

In the cell there were 3 other guys. One black guy, who told me he was a model and was on a Kool cigartette billboard crosstown (and sure enough, he was), and a couple of white guys. One of the white guys told me he was happy, because after 2 weeks in jail he had finally gotten his head to the place where he "didn't mind it so much". The other white guy was equally out of focus.

When dinner came, which was a little "Swiss" steak, mashed pototoes, and peas TV dinnner, I told them I was getting out in a bit so they could have my dinner. They thankfully split it into thirds.

My boss came down and paid my ticket, and I was free, but my paycheck was $107 less.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Used to have a great dog, a Golden Retriever, named Josh. He loved everyone, but since my wife and I both worked we were not home during the day and he would get out of his yard and wander. He would occassionally get get picked up by Animal Control, and each time they would charge me more to get him out of doggie jail.

This was always hard because there were so many dogs there who wanted me to take them home, but here was my Josh, always running off.

One time we took him to a beach in Marin County, which turned out to be a nude beach at one end. Since Josh liked everyone, he ran over to a couple of lesbians about 80 yards away and much to their chagrin walked on their beach blanket and disturbed their sunbathing.

Since we could never keep him home, we ended up giving him to a good home, which happened to be the parent's of Zippy's first wife. That was the last we ever saw of him, but I know he was happy, as they had a black Lab.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Zippy" #4

After my first quarter at UC Berkeley was over I wanted to blow off a little steam, as that place is whack and I was fed up already.

Me and my homey Zippy got in the car with a bottle of Olallieberry wine, a six pack of beer, and some bottle rockets. We drove to Oakland and went to Flint's BBQ, sated our dinner pangs, and planned our next move.

We decided to cruise past Uptown Liquors, which usually had an assortment of fellows hanging out front. We slowed down to a crawl, put a bottle rocket in a paper towel tube (our aiming mechanism), lit the fuse and fired towards the front door. People scattered pretty well as they saw the flaming projectile come towards them.

We circled the block and tried it again. We had more bottle rockets but decided we shouldn't hang about. We drove to Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley looking for a good target. There was a Miller's Outpost with the usual gaggle of street people sitting about on the sidewalk, so we fired off a bottle rocket or two but I'm not sure they noticed.

Deciding it was time to leave the area, we went home. The next day I realized that fun or not, it was pretty dumb. The folks at the liquor store and on Telegraph Ave. had done nothing to me.

Too bad I didn't know where my math professors lived....

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bus Stop Man

I was waiting at a bus stop in San Francisco near Moscone Center, when a semi-normal looking guy walks up and starts writing furiously on an outside partition of the bus stop structure. I was standing on the inside looking at the bus route map, and he was on the outside, writing away, talking to himself in a funny lisp.

Not wanting to appear too nosy I waited until the bus pulled up before I took a peek at his handiwork. There wasn't much to see since he was using a pencil and the surface he was writing on was gray metal. I hoped he hadn't written down something important like a solution Fermat's Last Theorem or something, because you couldn't read it.

I got on the bus (paying my $1.50) and sat down about half-way back. He then gets on, telling the driver "I need a ride" and does not pay. The driver said nothing, and as the guy walked by me towards the back of the bus he mumbles "market the knowledge-base".

As we pulled away he went to the back, sat up on the back of seat, and at the next stop the driver got out of his chair and told him to sit down properly. I pondered this sequence of events while watching an elderly gentlemen "comb" his sideburns with a toothbrush.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year

This being a time for resolutions, one of mine is to (beginning with next Christmas) use the word "Christmas" rather than "xmas".

Why? Well, I started using "xmas" for December 25 because that date was not the date of Christ's birth. It was in September (the 11th to be more precise). December 25 was basically the result of the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church bringing the pagans of their realm into the fold. So, they took the feast of Saturnalia and labeled it "Christmas".

This was similarly done with Easter, which is nothing more than the word "Ashtoreth", who was the pagan goddess of fertility. Did you ever wonder what bunnies and eggs had to do with anything?

At any rate, a US Navy Chaplain is being fired because he insisted on praying "in Jesus' name". Really, is should be "in the name of Jesus Christ", but I will not digress. The government has been pushing hard to have things changed from "Christmas" to "Happy Holidays" in order to get rid of the word "Christ". However, when Homeland Security Commissar Michael Chertoff lighted a Chanukah Menorah, nobody suggested that it be called a "Holiday Candle."

So, even though December is not the right date, I will start using "Christmas" again instead of "xmas" or "Happy Holiday", because if I don't fight back one thought at a time I will end up using words like "Homeland" and "Commissar", instead of "United States" and "country", and will start believing that what the politicians say rather than the US Constitution says to be the law of the land.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Zippy" #3

Zippy and I were room mates, and were in the process of moving. A high school friend, Craig, was visiting from Virginia. He had come to California to climb various mountains as he was trying to locate his "spot", or something. He had long hair and wore a bandana as a headband.

I drove out to the new place (about 30 miles away) to drop off a load of stuff, and then was going to drive back to pick up Zippy and Craig, and be out of the old place. However, I got tired so I called Zip and told him I'd come get him first thing in the morning.

So, I wasn't at the old place, but this is how the story goes: Zippy and Craig were in bed, meaning they were in their sleeping bags. Except Craig was in his underwear doing his nightly yoga before retiring. The landlady (of the old place) came over with her Hungarian gardener/boyfriend, knocked on the door and demanded to know why people were still there. Zippy tried explaining, several times. Craig just ignored them all and kept on with his yoga, in his underwear. The landlady persisted, and got more vocal. Zippy kept trying to explain, and finally became frustrated.

Pointing to Craig (in who knows what position) Zippy yelled, "The Maharishi must not be disturbed!!". The landlady shut her trap, and she and her gardener/boyfriend promptly left.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


When I was 13 we were in Naples, Italy. Pompeii is close by, which is at the base of Mt. Vesuvius.

As you may not know, Pompeii was wiped out by lots of hot lava when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. After looking at the artwork and what-not still lying about you come away thinking: "Not only were these some degenerate spaghetti-wrastlers, but stupid too". (Why build a town at the base of a volcano?).

Anyways, we took a tram to the top of the volcano and hired a guide to, uh, well, I'm not sure. We were standing on some rock, looking down into the crater.

There was some steam wafting upwards. In his best English our guide points into the crater and says, "Datsa bigga hole!".

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I used to travel to San Antonio to do software business with the Air Force. Since we "worked for" the government we had a per diem for our rent a car charges.

I was traveling with a woman co-worker, and when we got to the San Antonio rent-a-car agency I asked what I could get for my 34.99 a day allotment. The agent said I could get a Pontiac Starbird or some such crate. I saw that they had a big, powder blue Fleetwood Brougham in the lot, and I said, "how much?". The agent replied "39.99". Well, my co-worker and I could pool our per diem, so we grabbed the Caddy and let me tell you: in Texas a big, baby blue Fleetwood gets you respect.

We had heard from an Air Force employee that there was some good BBQ on the edge of town, "Bob's". So that evening I had two women (co-worker and Air Force lady) in my Caddy and off to Bob's we went. They didn't sell beer but you could bring your own, so the Texas lady brought a six-pack of Lone Star.

As I pulled up to Bob's he was leaning against the outside of his diner, drinking iced-tea. When he saw me roll up with two women in a Fleetwood, he just smiled.

We ate great BBQ, drank a couple of beers (which the Texas lady somehow popped off the caps with her teeth...), and talked politics and everything else with Bob. He said he worked 6 and a half days a week and was tired. I suggested he take a few days off and have his brother run the show.

To which he replied, "My brother is a good man, but he's not a bid'nes man."

Monday, November 21, 2005

No Class

One day I was in a Mervyn's at the check out counter. A guy and his girlfriend were trying to return 2 pair of new Levi's -- no receipt, no tags, not even a bag.

The cashier said that they would have to issue a refund via mail. The guy said that this would be unacceptable as he wanted cash, now -- and asked to speak to the supervisor. She said, "I am the supervisor."

He then said to her, "Well, I don't think you have too much class."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cat Love

Animals many times are less complicated than people (and usually have more common sense). I moved into a house once where I "inherited" a cat. The cat showed up one day out of the blue and the previous tenant started feeding him and he never left.

When I moved in I was a bit wary of him, as he had a piece bitten out of one ear, had one eye that looked crooked, and was Siamese -- not my favorite.

But, I kept my word and would feed this guy twice a day. After a bit I would put the food bowl just inside the door and leave him be. He would step inside and eat, then leave. After a while I could bring the food bowl inside about 6 feet. I couldn't close the door and take away his "out", else he would freak out.

After a few weeks of this I could close the door, he would come in and walk around (meowing all the time like he was pissed), and even lay down and sleep, on occasion.

A cat that I was not even going to pet let me pick him up.

I don't think he will ever be a "lap cat", as he has too much emotional baggage, but we became a lot closer than I had thought, and I guess I was glad that I was able to make his life a little nicer.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Basketball #2

There are a couple of "brothers", who are brothers. The go by monikers "Big" and "Chill". I don't know what their real names are.

They're pretty big guys, in their 40s, and are pretty good ball players. But no one likes them because like many "big men" they are rather abusive in their style of play AND they like to call a lot of cheap fouls.

One Winter morning at about 8:30 we were getting ready to play. "Big" was ready, standing there sipping on a 16 oz. can of beer. When I looked at his beverage of choice he said, "I know it's early yet, but damn, I was thirsty!"

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bus Stop Lady

Once in San Francisco I was waiting for the bus, and a lady in her 60s was sitting there, just smoking a cigarette. She told me she wasn't waiting for the bus but did enjoy sitting there relaxing, watching people and cars go by.

As we talked she told me how she would like to travel about more, but couldn't afford to. Sometimes she would go to Oakland, or even Sacramento, just for the day.

She said that when she was younger she was married to a wonderful husband who had a job and bought them a small but nice house. She didn't have to work. But apparently she strayed and took up with some guy for the thrill of it, but it didn't last. Her husband wouldn't take her back and it seemed like her life took a completely different tack -- and here she was, still regretting the decision she made those many years ago.

Should he have given her another chance and forgiven her? Should she have bounced back anyways and not become a lonely woman who drank too much and spent her idle hours sitting at a bus stop?

I think my opinion is that yes, the husband should have forgiven her, and yes, she should have forgiven herself.

Forgiveness seems to be one of those least-selfish qualities, and one that can turn the course of lives.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Zippy" #2

Around 1980 or so Zippy was in the market for a car. His budget was around $400, and he ended up purchasing an old Toyota Corona, faded red with gray primer everywhere, from a Jehovah's Witness. Zip affectionately dubbed his new car the "Millenium Falcon".

Zippy had this habit of driving around and eating fresh vegetables and fruit, and then depositing apple cores, carrots, and who knows what else in the back seat area, which over time filled up. In the early '80s California had the Med-fly "crisis", which then Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown eventually got around to handling by spraying neighborhoods with Malathion from helicopters. I always felt that Zippy's car may have contributed to the Med-fly problem, with the rotting vegetable matter and what-not.

He eventually decided to upgrade his vehicle, and so put the "MF" on the market. His ad included the phrase "must see to believe". The phone rang off the hook and he sold it for $375 with a clutch that slipped.

To top it off, the new owner called a few days later and thanked Zippy for selling the vehicle to him.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

"Zippy" #1

Zippy (not his real name) is an old, old friend. Since Hallow(not)ween is upon us I remembered a party we were at a number of years ago. Zippy had chosen a 1970's Mick Jagger look (rent the movie "Performance"), complete with eye paint up above his eyebrows and some silky pajama type outfit.

He had had a couple of beers and was having a good time. He was talking to a nice young lady who was sitting on the couch -- he was standing -- in other words, her face was about at his pants belt level.

Now, Zippy was not fond of wearing underwear, and on top of that let's just say he would be the envy of many men in the endowment department. While he was talking to this young lady the safety pin that held is silk pants on came undone and they ended up around his ankles.

Not missing a beat in the conversation the young lady reached down, slid them back up, and refastened the pin.

Later that evening he wanted to drive to his girlfiend's, but I vetoed that as he had more beer than was wise. I took his car keys, but I was pretty sure he had another set.

So, unknown to him I liberated the distributor cap from his car. And later that night as he tried to start the car with his spare set he cursed me many times.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A PC Wino

Made a trip to Seattle once for business and was able to take my wife. We had dinner in a basement Italian restaurant. My tortellini was 'ok' -- it had kind of a lamb sauce. I would have sent it back but the chef was hanging around our table shooting the breeze, so I nibbled and got it wrapped to take home.

Before we left a large guy shows up with a violin and plays. He played a couple of tunes by our table so I slipped him a couple of ones in gratitude. He looked at the money and said, "I spit on this money, I play for the love of it", and then tucked the bills away while he went on to the next table.

On the way back to the hotel we found a wine shop, so I parked in the alley in back (lots of alleys in Seattle). A wino kind of homeless looking dude was shuffling along, so I said, "Do you want some tortellini?". He said, "Hey man, I'm vegetarian!".

I always wondered how he knew it wasn't cheese tortellini.

Monday, September 19, 2005


When I worked in Berkeley at a body shop sometimes we need the services of a "detail" man, who could really make a car look good. Just such a place was "Johnny One Stop". Johnny was a soul brother with a white wife and two of the cutest boys, ages 3 and 4. They had dark blonde 'fros and were named Uriah and Boogie.

One time I had to drop off a car at Johnny's. Johnny was sporting a 'do-rag and he asked his wife to run me back to my shop. So, the boys in the back, me riding shotgun.

On the way, the 4 year-old had a piece of rope and was doing knots. He said to the younger, "I be tyin' this rope in knots all the time."

The littlest said (in a high pitched voice) "I heard that!".

Saturday, September 17, 2005

PC is bad

"Political correctness is a term promoted by the National Review and its affiliated college newspapers in the 1980s to refer to the alteration of language to redress perceived injustices and discrimination or to avoid offense."

Whatever. My definition: Mind control.

Used to be we could have opinions and that was OK: I don't like smoking. I dislike alcoholism. I think homosexuality is wrong. I think husbands who stay out late and drink, come home and yell at the wife and kids should have their a**es kicked. I think it's a crime we sell junk food in schools. I don't think we should print motor vehicle publications in any language except English, etc.

If I said some of these at work I could be fired. Why? Where's my freedom of speech? "Avoid offense"? People offend me every day. Who's standing up for this white-boy?

You can be a pedophile, but don't be a smoker because that's a really nasty habit.

To what degree are you part of the Matrix?

Citizens Rise Up #1

Only occasionally I will write a 'political' post, which is odd because I am highly opinionated about politics, government, and sleaze-balls who wield power over me.

You are either slow on the uptake (SOTU) or just uninformed if you did not recognize years ago that China was being made into a slave-labor "camp". Stuff is made and it floods our stores. US corporations like this, as they save money. US jobs are lost and your grandma works at Wal-Mart.

Executed Chinese prisoners' lips are made into cosmetics, much like the Nazi concentration camp dead were used as "fuel" for the Third Reich.

Perhaps only a few care, else we would not do business with China, and we would forbid US corporations to sell products made over there over here.

I'm not against the Chinese people, just governments that control its populace by stomping on people's individual rights. Communism makes it easier, but our government is catching up fast in the name of "it's dangerous out there, so trade in your Bill of Rights and we will take good care of you." Before you know it we will be another England.

If anyone really cared they would replace at least 50% of Congress next election, simply by voting for ONE sane candidate, such as a Boy Scout troop leader or a mother who successfully raised 3 kids on her own. And if they sold out, throw their butts out after a term or two.

And you are slow to grasp reality (STGR) or uninformed if you think that it's Republican vs. Democrat. A good choice may be from one or the other, but the Left vs. Right "debate" is just there to keep you arguing over Chardonnay and Brie.

The real test is do they uphold the Constitution? Do they do things that put America first? If not, out of office they should go.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Basketball #1

On Saturdays I like to play basketball at the local park, and the crowd includes noteworthy professional people such as myself, "gangtas", and all other sorts.

There are a number of the "brothers" who are regulars, and I get along with them very well. One guy, known as "D", brought his iPod, plugged into a boom-box like device, so we could play ball to his tunes. Some of the other "brothers" weren't too keen on his choice of "rap", and were giving him a hard time.

While a "Will Smith" song was playing, "D" was getting razzed. "D" simply said, "Will has something to say, so you better 'recognize'".

There's another brother named "Mario", to whom I said, "I lost track of who the rappers were back in the day of 'Heavy D'." This isn't really true, but I thought it would get a reaction. They all laughed at me and said "That was hip-hop, not rap. Well, maybe way back then it was considered rap."

I told Mario, "Heavy D, for a big man, had some moves." Mario replied, "Those were the orginal Windsor-Pilates."

That statement caught me completely off-guard. All I could do was laugh.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fruit Flies

When I was a sophomore in High School one of my classes was Biology. The teacher was a great guy and it was a fun class.

One morning he started talking about his "pet project", which was developing a substance that could be disolved in water and sprayed on fruit flies, to render them sterile.

He had a little brown vial of stuff that looked like clear jelly. I sat in the front row.

When he went to the back of the room to do something, I sauntered up to his desk, opened the vial and took a good whiff. It had a very strong, rubbing-alcohol type smell, and I started feeling warm. From the back of the room my teacher shouted, "Steve, put that down, it's very toxic."

I replaced the cap, set it down and went back to my desk. Just as I sat down a charge of "electricity" went up my spinal cord to the back of my head, and I passed out for a couple of seconds.

My teacher asked if I was "OK". For many years I wondered if I was sterile, and happily that was not the case!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Body Shop #4

The last body shop I worked at was also in Berkeley, and was considered "top shelf". It too, however, was a den of mischief.

They got all the BMW dealership's work, and the "shop image" was first rate. However, the owner lied 80% of the time. He would loan out a customer's car to another customer, or send me to pick up parts with a customer's car. He would borrow money from a loan shark who looked like a 60 year old Prince Valiant with his black-dyed page-boy haircut, and he told me once he was a lieutenant in the "organization".

He would give me $1000 in hundreds every so often to deposit in the bank, with a pre-filled in deposit slip. One time he miscounted and I brought him back the extra hundred. This honesty on my part freaked him out so badly he went in the office and closed the door for almost an hour.

He paid off insurance adjusters and his shop was always full. He'd put broken parts on cars before the adjuster came in to write the estimate, and then put the unbroken ones back on afterwards.

His head painter, Bernie, was my boss, of sorts. He belonged to a group called the "Disciples of the Devil", which is 180 degrees from what I believe. One day I was praying because things were just too weird, and I said "God, he goes or I go, and I need this job so I should stay."

A little later Bernie decided to put a hex on me, which is something he did periodically -- he put one on his brother in law for some reason. He told me when it was going to happen, and a couple of the details. I told him that since I was a son of God he was out of luck this time (I John 4:4). All that week he was tired, irritable, cranky (a few years later I was talking to a former practicing warlock who explained the why's and wherefore's of this).

Come Saturday night my hex did not arrive (I was watching a W.C. Fields movie). Shortly thereafter Bernie quit (he had been there 4 years). A few months later I quit to go do something else, and Bernie came back. A year later I came by and borrowed a paint polishing machine from him.

Many years later I was talking to my old boss (see "Body Shop #1") and found out that Bernie had been shot in the face and killed in a dispute over a horse he was boarding on his ranch for someone.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Body Shop #3

One body shop I worked at for about a month was called "Baron Von Freier". It as mostly run by the Baron, a short, fuzzy bearded guy who smoked a pipe. The bowl of the pipe was usually resting deep inside his beard and I was always waiting for the day when his face caught fire.

He didn't use body filler (or "bondo") to fix dents. He used lead, like the old days, and I truly enjoyed watching him work as this is a lost art form.

We reworked bath-tub bodied Porches, got a Ferrari or two, Alfa Romeos, a Bentley. However, the Baron was a little off.

There is dust in a body shop. The Baron was bald. The dust had settled on the sweat on his bald head, and in the evening the sweat would dry and the dust would still be there, in a pattern of sorts. This pattern never changed. The dust was never removed. He did not bathe in the month that I was there, and believe me, I checked out his "dust pattern" every day.

His son would come in around 11, read a magazine or two and leave about 3. Did no work. The Baron and I could not get the through put necessary to pay all the bills, so he was taking money out of savings to pay me. This made him angry.

One day he told me to hit the road. But I was set to hitch-hike cross country and was ready.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Body Shop #2

Another body shop I worked at, in Berkeley, was no bargain. The owner and his cousin were from a gang (some said on the run from) in NYC. Turns out their coke-selling business was run from the office. The owner had no regard for anything decent. His two brothers were worse. The cousin would routinely put dish soap in the coffeepot to give people the "runs", when he was angry with the owner.

They would borrow employee's cars, have duplicate keys made, and then later steal their cars. They had 2 dobermans that would guard the shop that were very psycho and had to be avoided.

I was fired once for not taking crap from another painter, but re-hired again for a bit when I was going to college.

Some years later I learned that the two brothers had gotten killed in car accidents or something. Some 20 years later I was doing a software contract in a building across the street, and one day went and stood at the entrance of the old body shop (now an auto glass shop), peered in and pondered life's twists and turns.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Body Shop #1

When I was 19 I worked in an auto body shop in East Oakland. Was working on a car owned by a guy who reminded me of "Youngblood Priest" from the movie "Superfly". He had a reaaaaaal low voice, he was really thin, wore a full length coat and a wide brim hat, and he would stop by and see how progress was going each afternoon.

We were talking one day and he asked me my name. After I told him I asked his. His reply: "Robert, but the bitches call me 'Hollywood'". Well, I couldn't argue with that so I kept on water-sanding the paint (this makes it smooth by removing a very thin layer before applying a clear coat). He said, "What are you doing?". I told him and he told me I should be putting the paint on -- not taking it off.

The day his car was to be picked up he and his partner hung out in our "break" room, and proceeded to polish off a fifth of Tequila and snort some coke. By the time 5pm rolled around they were feeling no pain, but were very loud. My boss' brother (who had been shot in the stomach in the spray paint booth a year earlier -- I forget why -- and now carried a gun), had stopped by.

He took offence at the customers' loudness, an argument ensued, he pulled his gun and threatened to "shoot your black asses." (These brothers were from South Carolina and about 1 step removed from the KKK).

At any rate, no one was shot and the car was delivered. And I started thinking about a career change.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


It was a harsh "reality" to go from Molokai to Lahaina, and even more so returning to the SF Bay Area.

Since I am working on a software contract that allows me to work from home, I haven't ventured out too much in the past week. Trader Joe's, basketball, take the dog for a walk.

A big change, all over of course, is that you take your life in your hands when on the road. People who shouldn't be driving anyway now do so while on a cell phone, and this is madness.

Perhaps it is a plot to kill off America? Give people with marginal driving skills cell phones, Ritalin, Viagra, stress, junk food, and Bud-lite -- and have them pilot 2-ton vehicles with random abandon in close quarters?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Heading Back

The boat trip from Molokai to Lahaina, in the afternoon, is choppy. Had to fight off seasickness and my stomach didn't settle till the next day.
Kaunakaki Harbor, Molokai

It was a bit of a transition to go from Molokai to Maui. I was really enjoying the calm kindness of many of the people on Molokai, and back on Maui the number of people, tourists, less polite service (although these were mainlanders working in the restuarant, not locals) took adjusting to.

Don't think I will visit Maui again in August. Too many tourists that get in the way of a beautiful place. No doubt the locals feel this way too!

Next stop: California.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Molokai #2

I stayed in a condo called Molokai shores -- see for details. No A/C, but that is pretty standard. But lots of fans.

Down the street is Hotel Molokai, which is quaint and has an activity center, a restaurant, a bar, and live entertainment.

Dave's Ice Cream is, just, well fantastic! Stanley's has good food, lattes, and $6 an hour internet access.

Morning in Molokai

Didn't get time to explore the wild and beautiful East-end, so that will have to wait. Did go fishing with John Reich (, and caught some tuna, a barracuda, but lost a lure because something big hit our line. I recommend this guy!

Like all the islands, each has it's own flavor, it's own rhythm, and I was glad I visited!

Molokai #1

Took the ferry from Lahaina to Molokai. Met a guy who was hired to run a drug counseling program -- pot, alcohol, and "ice" (methamphetamine) are prevalent. The island has 7,000 people, 70% of which are on food stamps, welfare, etc.

No Ice!

Molokai does not want to sell it's island land to outsiders, and tourism is rather low. Life is slow and after a couple of days you learn to enjoy little traffic and the low activity level, and of course the lack of annoying tourists who haven't left their mainland attitudes back home.

There are a few hotels, resorts, etc. Kaunakakai is the main town. On Maui, you can pretty much jump in and snorkel. On Molokai you must go to certain places. Winds and currents affect the shorelines more.

Most of the shopping is for locals, and as such, many prices are actually less than on Maui. Kona beer, internet time, phone calling cards, and meals, are cheaper.

I had excellent food on Molokai. The "pizza" place has great food of all kinds; Dave's Ice Cream is phenomenal; the Cookhouse is supposed to be "ono", but I didn't get there. Draft Kona beer at Hotel Molokai is $3.25. The only chain restaurant is a "Subway", which I ate at twice and was very tasty.

No traffic lights, not one, on the island!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Next island please...

Time to leave for Molokai (first visit). Got a lot of excellent snorkeling, long swims around rocky points to the next cove, etc. Beautiful weather.

Entered a sand-castle building contest, and only came in 2nd place with this*. First place had a bit more detail. Maybe next time...

* just kidding

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Golfed at Wailea with my 18 year old, and 2 guys from Texas who were pretty funny. One had a $15,000 astro-turf putting green in his house or yard (they do things big in Texas!). It was a great time and at the end the putting green guy said to us "you were going to get paired up with two Japanese homosexuals, but you got stuck with us."

Afterwards drove to Makena beach which was fantastic as always (big shore break). Haleakala was beautiful to look at while floating out in the water.

Shave Ice

Usually we drive out to the far end of the island to get shave-ice from a lady we've been seeing for many years. This time she was a little "spooky". We were enjoying our treats when she warned us in serious tones about the bad luck that befalls tourists who take sand (or rocks) home from the island. She said her daughter works for the Post Office in Hilo, and they get lots of sand and rocks mailed back saying "please put this back, I've had nothing but bad luck".

Now, I'm not for having a good chunk of the islands moved to knick-knack shelves in Iowa and other parts of the mainland. However, in my most serious voice I asked her "what about the sand that is stuck to my boogie-board and comes home accidentally?" She told me that I would be exempt from bad luck in this situation. Naturally I don't take any of this bad luck talk with grain of sand, I mean salt. When I get home I am tempted to mail pack a single grain of sand from my boogie board and ask her to put it on the beach at Mile Marker 16.


One of the pleasant changes to Hawaii, at least to the cove next to where I stay, has been the increase in the turtle population. These gentle creatures swim the cove early in the morning, and during the day can usually be found resting between some rocks on the bottom. They range from a little over 2 feet to well over 4 feet, front shell tip to back.

A few have "barnacles" growing on them. There is some discussion as to the their cause -- pesticides, other impurities in the water, etc. I've read that in some parts of the world institutions pull the turtle out and surgically remove them. Why do some turtles have them others do not? They're not like humans, who can decide to spend their lives eating junk food and then wonder why they have a cholestoral of 300. Turtles have no bad food choices. Or do they? Is there turtle junk food?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Departure (addendum)

Once inside the terminal one of course waits. As I was patiently sitting, waiting for my turn to board, a flight officer (pilot or co-pilot? he had 4 stripes on his epaulets) was in the hallway talking on his cell.

Apparently he had been scuba diving 5 days in a row, and while driving somewhere afterwards fell asleep at the wheel, hit something and put a hole in his BMW's radiator. I only hoped that if he was my pilot he had not been diving recently.

I discovered later that 4 stripes means "pilot", and as it turned out he was indeed the pilot of my plane.

Monday, August 01, 2005


One of the most challenging hurdles was obtaining a large duffel bag in which to put boogie boards, snorkels, mask, etc. I had a wonderully made one, just the right size, but my son found a greater need for it.

So, after going to Costo, Target, REI, Any Mountain, K-Mart, SportMart, Walmart, and I-don't-know-what-else-Mart, I went to Bonanza, in East Oakland.

Several lifetime's ago I was an auto-painter at 39th Ave./E. 14th (which for some reason is now "International Ave.". Bonanza is this fine surplus store, and the last time I was there was 1973. It is still there, same owner.

Across the street was a small (I think it was his kitchen) Mexican restuarant -- Otaez. Used to sell me food off his stove -- after I looked at what he was cooking. Now it is a major eating establishment, many times larger. Unfortunately I didn't have time to go in and eat, but I will!

Oh yes, Bonanza had the duffel (although not as nice as my old Jansport) that was big enough.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Please let this be over...

Well, the 4 weeks leading up to my vacation was lots of hard work: ASP.NET, socket communications, XML, FTD florist messages, VeriSign, SSL, choosing an eCommerce storefront, modifying storefront source, etc. Learned a lot!