ennui

I drive to work; the train is no longer an option. Later, I drive home.  The round trip is at least 3 hours, often closer to 4.  It gives me time to listen to sports talk and generally the presidential debates. Satellite radio is a wondrous thing.  But my mood has shifted.  I am reverting back to listening to music.  My mind collapses around the sadness that is the 49ers.  The Warriors are a bright spot and the Giants exude yearly hope.

But then there is the election, still 8 months out.  Am I the only one that see’s Trump inciting violence?  I was appalled when he suggested that if he didn’t get the nomination with plurality votes, which he will surely have, the people might riot.  Might?  Isn’t he telling them to?  I took it as a signal.  A blatant call to arms.  And we wonder why he is compared to Fascists.  There are no good choices.  My politics lean liberal and as bad as Trump would be – and he would be—Cruz is worse.  The manipulation of the media for air time, the cultish feel of some candidates.  Wondering if Cruz would really like to start the end of days as his father suggests.  And then I’m reminded the next SCOTUS depends on how the NRA feels.  It all makes me weary.

And Brussels, following Paris.  Some days it is indeed too much.

So I move to music.  And the lift I’m looking for is nowhere to be found.  Sad songs.  Reminders that Bowie and Kantner passed on.  That Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin died too young.  That Duane Allman cut a swath through the south but left it searing and incomplete.  John had me imagining, but even that leads down dark hallways in this year’s context.

Today, there is no joy in Mudville.   I’m sorry I’ve neglected you, my 3 or 4 dedicated readers, but most things haven’t gotten past my filters.

Here’s a little spot of joy. Maybe it will help, at least for a moment.  Who doesn’t like power pop about teachers spiking the punch of wee ones?

 

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(Not So Great) Expectation, or New Uses for Toothpicks

“The San Francisco Airport train on the opposite side of the platform has just been taken out of service,” interrupted my normal morning commute.  Pulling in to the station, it was clear that the platform was full of waylaid passengers, ready to do their best sardine impressions.  My current cozy environment was about to become hot and crowded.  Luckily, I only had a few more stops.  My expectations were set appropriately; I was sitting in the middle of the train and it would be a game of commuter twister to exit.

I was not disappointed; I bumped, grinded and politely asked the woman who shifted 6mm to really move, as her gargantuan backpack still blocked my path.  Keep in mind, she was not a slip of a thing, her backpack was her reverse doppelgänger.  Eventually, I was able to exit the car before the doors closed, thought this was never a certainty.  What I did not expect lay before me.

The platform was overly crowded.  I had not thought about the effects of the mass of displaced humanity on stations down the line.  Nor did I expect the complete loss of common sense that on display like a Melissa Gorga dance single.  Imagine this, a narrow platform, crowded with displaced people, milling about like the children of South Park performing the works of Phillip Glass.  It was neigh on impossible to pass.  I felt like the Black Knight was trying to stop me from going forward.  There was actually plenty of room, but the imbeciles in front of me worked hard to block my egress.  I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking; their actions indicated their desire to force me off the platform into the path of the next train.  Luckily I persevered and made my way towards my morning coffee and ultimately, the office.

I’ve learned to set my expectations accordingly.  For instance, it never fails that at one intersection on my walk to work at least one car will ignore the stop sign and ignore my rights as a pedestrian in a cross walk.  Similarly in Chinatown, people will inevitably decide to veer to their left and force me to my left, because, as you know, “in Chinatown, no one walks one on the right hand side of the side walk.”  I guess I missed that lesson.    Especially today, when the man with the murderous look in his eye walked straight at me as I hugged the curb to my right and forced me to my left.  He must have thought walking in Chinatown was the same as driving in England.  I mistakenly missed that clear connection.  Of course, by now my expectations have been reset.

Upon entering the building lobby a cloud of noxious air assaulted my olfactory glands. In Peanuts Pigpen leaves a cloud of dust in his wake.  Pepe’ Le Pew does similarly with his stink in the cartoons.  Clearly, a woman in my office decided to merge the two characters and use the most offensive scent imaginable.  It was so thick you could almost see it.  I painfully trudged through it, wishing I had a fan to serve as my urban machete in this toxic jungle.  I was sadly aware that this woman had found a fragrance worthy of the name my internal monologue had bestowed it, au de Durian.

I could only imagine what the wearer of this odoriferous assault was thinking.  No one would notice?  Clearly everyone did.  One of my coworkers had noticed another coworker went heavy with her scent each month for a few days.  He asserted that it was her way hiding Aunt Flow from the rest of the staff.  If that was the case today, Aunt Flow came for a month with all of her sisters and half the street urchins from menstrual town.  Clearly her expectation that her condition would go unnoticed were fallacious.  Nothing like attracting attention when you are trying to slide under the radar, right?

Once in the office, my expectations changed.  I sit at my desk, trying to be productive.  I set my goals, realistically as my expectations, which are rarely too far off, are to be ignored, left out and asked to do some minor secretarial duty from time to time.  That’s my typical day.  I’ve become quite adept at laying low, not trying to help where I am not wanted and ignoring the circuitous conversations headed off a cliff when I have the answer they need.  They don’t want my input.  It has been made clear.

One area I look forward to is my (almost) daily trip to the bathroom.  I know you think you know where this is going, but trust me you don’t.  In the late afternoon I visit the left urinal and do my business.  Nope no colorful language, just efficiency.  There, pointing at 2 o’clock is a sturdy wooden toothpick, half under the urinal screen.  Why is this interesting?  Besides the fact it has been there more than 2 weeks, soaking up fluids from a myriad of human sources like some teenage biology experiment from one of Cthulhu’s disciples?  Shouldn’t that be enough?  I mean the bathroom gets cleaned 2-4 times per day.  Perhaps the janitorial staff need special nuclear gloves or tongs? Why are they waiting for the screen to expire at the end of the month?  What makes this so interesting is really a history lesson concerning small minds trapped in conflict with mismanaged expectations.

We moved into a new office almost 2 years ago.  Within a short time, the expectations of the facilities staff were out of whack.  They picked a very beautiful carpet and layout that looked fantastic in several magazines and advertising campaigns.  However, it was both impractical, counter-productive and filled with questionable decisions.  As an example, the carpet.  While stunning to look at in its large sweeping patterns of light colors and (rumor has it) just as stunningly expensive, it is inappropriate for a large office setting.

In an office of over 100 people (seems like a good place to draw the line doesn’t it?) there will be all types of people – considerate, careful, conscientious and altruistic.  Of course with that many people, you will also find some people that are rude, clumsy, unthinking and selfish.  It is just statistics and human nature.  So actions were taken.  Emails are sent out regularly to make sure people don’t fill their cups too full, always use a lid and heaven forbid DON’T SPILL!  If you sit at your desk too much, you must get a mat, to save the carpet.  What is too much?  I think its 2 hours a day. Since conference rooms are in short supply, people sit at their desks.  Yes, there was no expectation that people will react poorly when they are treated like a kindergarten class being unruly at nap time.  The key take away here is that everything was designed for looks, not functionality or actual use.  But don’t say anything; that would be worse.

But, enough about the carpet, back to the bathroom.  One of the first thing I noticed was that urinals were designed for maximum splash back.  This isn’t the master suite at some hotel where you pay $1500 a night, this is an office where functionality, perhaps even minimalism, should rule.  Facilities noticed there were puddles in the men’s room.  The pretty tile floor was not designed to hide the splashes that occur in many such rooms.  So immediately, this became a crisis.  Emails were sent, notes were posted and nothing changed.  The problem is the urinal, not the people.  Somewhere, a woman surely thought that most of the men in the office were doing fire hose impressions to ruin her wonderful bathroom design.  Let me assure you, men have limited control over how much extreme presume they can exert at the urinal.  But since her expectations were that emails and notes would run the people like sheep down the gangway to the slaughter of modified behavior, they were unrealistic.  Unless no one uses the bathroom that won’t be happening.

There were complaints that the modesty panels were being stained.  Too late.  Yes, stainless steel can be stained.  There was the infamous “hit it or sit it” cartoon, where someone drew in yellow puddles.  Then there were the fly stickers so the men had something to aim at, theoretically minimizing splash back.  While these were fun experiments, my favorite was the constant carousel of urinal screens.  One smelled like apple jacks.  One was ginormous.  My all-time favorite looked like square patch of AstroTurf.

Keep in mind, the urinal screens don’t really help if that’s not where the hose is pointed.  It is more to assuage some deranged need to control actions that are in way related to the original flawed design.  After all, Ford didn’t solve its problems with the Pinto through an extensive campaign extolling the virtues of NOT plowing into the rear of the Pinto in front of you.

Remember the AstroTurf?  It became a magnet for any debris that found its way near.  Let me be clearer.  Men shed pubic hair, on occasion.  At the end of the first few days it looked like the shower at the home of a victim on The Strain.  You’d have thought only Bigfoot used the urinal.  Imagine the end of the first week, then the first month, because that was how long the unsanitary removal cycle was.

When I saw the toothpick at the end of end of July, I knew it was going to be around for a while.  That’s why I often go at 2.  I wonder when it will point to 3 O’clock or become extinct, like the Dodo.  My expectations are that it will be my afternoon companion for another 2-3 weeks.  By then there will be more irrational expectations and ridiculous situations to be shared here.  I began to dwell on its ultimate disposal and the discoveries later day Darwins would find and attribute to it, unknowingly

A Piece of Tape Too Far

An Open Letter to the Parking Nazi at 217 (or is it 229, Who can tell?) Harrison in Oakland, CA.

As you and I both know, I park in front of your building when I drive to work.  I park there because there are always spots there.  You have done such an effective job of scaring everyone away, there is always a spot.  You must realize it is your fault that I infuriate you so much.

(For those of you coming late to this party, 217 Harrison has a banked curb leading to 4 loading docks;  3 of these docks have been converted to office walls or doors, making them LEGAL parking spots.  The office puts flyers on cars, trying to intimidate them into leaving.  I love knowing that 95% of the time I have a spot waiting for me.)

I returned to my car recently, finding 2 new notes.  There was they typical “NO! NO! NO!” flyer, which is often found in on the sidewalk around the neighborhood.  There was also a note, loaded with vitriol, about how you’ve told me many times not to park where I park.  There was also paper taped to my driver’s side window saying “Tow this car!”

I think it is time we clear the air.  For the last several days there have been no flyers on the cars parked where I often park.  Are these your cars or have you been ill?  If you have, I hope you feel better.  I’m neither vindictive or evil, contrary to what you believe.   I feel sorry for you.  Your parents must not have taught you the hard lessons about sharing.  Did you scream when other kids touched your toys?  It must have been lonely not having friends as a child.  The public parking spots on Harrison Street are not yours alone, you really need to share them.  I can only surmise sharing is foreign to you.  I would also point out that putting flyers all over car does not make you my friend.  It does, however, make your passive aggressive and inconsiderate.

Let’s not talk bullshit about how the (mythical, magical) truck needs to park parallel and therefore you are saving me from being blocked in.

  1. Trucks back up to loading docks
  2. Trucks block traffic all the time in our neighborhood
  3. I have never, ever, ever seen a truck at your location
  4. Let’s not forget the time you told me, in our only conversation that you needed access to the windows 8 feet off the ground,  which  told you was ridiculous
  5. Go ahead, block me in.  I work till after 5, often after 6.  What truck driver is leaving your business that late?  That’s right. None.

I won’t minimize the fact that you want these spots all to yourself (or possibly your firm.)  Its an admirable, if misguided goal.  The fact remains that these are public spots and the signs you have posted are not legal.  You do not own the street and any implicit easement was eliminated when your firm build walls rendering the loading docks ornamental.  The parking authority won’t write tickets for the spot I park in and tow trucks won’t be towing me based on your note.  The past 18 months of results bear all this out.

Perhaps you had an “incident” and your sense of reality is skewed.  Did you take the brown acid at Woodstock?  seriously, you were warned. Let me help you in ways your parents and coworkers clearly have not.  Your notes and wishes won’t change reality.  The fact that you don’t want people parking there won’t make it illegal.  I want to win the lottery.  Just because I want to, won’t make it so.  Nevertheless, my odds of success are far higher than yours. Rather than tilting at windmills, perhaps you’d be happier accepting reality and getting on with your life.  This isn’t the Twilight Zone and you won’t wake up tomorrow finding that your misguided sense of reality is the new truth.  Grow the fuck up.

How sad must your life be if you spend this much time placing flyers on cars that aren’t yours?  I’ve seen your work on other vehicles and more importantly, all over the neighborhood.  Clearly you realize that we work near the water and the wind kicks up in the afternoon, cascading your inane flyers over several blocks.  I’m guessing the police are looking for you.  With all the green initiatives in the Bay Area, how do you sleep at night knowing you are a major litter contributor, let alone resource waster?  Have you no consideration for the forests you’ve decimated and the trees you’ve condemned to be part of your folly?

I think you would be better off finding a new hobby.  I don’t think it would be out of line to suggest you start fostering cats.  Start with one, and with your obsessive nature you can add more. Clearly, you will agree that being a crazy cat lady is far better than your fixation on my parking habits.  Let’s be honest, you’ll probably have more friends as the Crazy Cat Lady than you will as the Parking Nazi.  Or at least  you’ll have cats.  And Grumpy Cat on the internet.

Of course if you really wanted to have my car towed, you would have called a tow company.  And since the car isn’t yours the liability you and your company would face in the light of an illegal seizure would be monumental.  It appears that the note you put on my car is a feeble attempt at drawing unsuspecting innocents into your fantasy.  I think it is time you gave up on this fantasy, became and adult and embraced reality.

As I have tried to empathetic to your plight, I know your therapy bills are probably much higher than any plan your company provides, I feel I must be honest with you.  You have annoyed me far more than you have a right to.  I’ve stopped finding your notes funny, silly or sad.  That you have gone so far as to use tape on my car, I feel that your behavior encroaches on battery or defacing of property.  My car is my property and it is not your bulletin board.  Any further defacement of my vehicle will result in my filing charges with the police and ultimately lead to a civil suit.  I am actually considering a class action suit.  You have badgered many people and I’m only too happy to find them and develop a much larger action.  Do you really think all the people you’ve pissed off don’t care?

This is a warning.  My attorney is only too happy to proceed on my next phone call.

I hope you are feeling better.  Perhaps your therapist should increase your Xanax.  You might suggest that on your next visit.

Parking Wars: A Descent into Madness

As you might have heard, we had another BART strike in the Bay Area.  This forced every commuter into new modes of transportation.  That meant I had to drive to work.   There were two key impacts here:  traffic was ridiculous and I needed to move my car each day at lunch.  There are plenty of pay lots, but with the abundance of 4 hours spots, and meter maids that only make 1 circuit, it seems silly to pay $7 a day.

You may recall, I have an on-going feud with a business around the corner that harasses people who part outside of their office.  The walls of their office had been cargo bay doors, but now they are walls.  There is one door which might still be a bay, so I don’t park in front of it.

I tend to park other places in the morning, because I can always park in front of their faux driveway in the afternoon.  A few weeks prior I had noticed they had added a new sign on their walls (not the steel doors that protect the walls at night).  They read “Tenant Parking Only  Violators will be towed.”  This is the part of our show where we get to discuss reality and some people’s lack of it.  I have no doubt that the tenants want to park there.  But, as I discussed with a parking enforcement officer, unless there is an official city sign, those signs that were bought on line for $20 hold no weight.  Wow they must be committed to the cause.

(Seriously, check out that link.  Clearly there is a market for people tricking others into not parking in legal spaces.  I bet they make a ton.  Wish I was selling these idiots their signs.  And yes, I know I completely ignore the fourth wall.)

They must have forgotten that the street and sidewalk are public property.  They have no specific rights to stop others from parking there.  While there was a cargo door they had easement rights of access and the right to be unimpeded, but they forfeited those rights when they built walls. The reality is that if they tow someone’s car for parking legally in front of a wall, in a public space, they are liable for the cost and inconvenience. I personally would love for them to tow me so I can sue them and go after punitive damages.  I will.

As delusional as their signs and appeals for drivers to park other places are, they have finally hit a new low.  Last week I got a new harassing flyer.  I put it back in their mail slot, so I’ll have to paraphrase.

[In an angry, yet pleading tone:]

You can’t park here.  We will have you towed.  Really we will.  We haven’t yet because we don’t know how to contact you.  We need these spaces because when we use the cargo door, we need to park the truck at an angle so as not to block the street.  We WILL tow you.

This is so ridiculous that I don’t know where to start.  How about that it’s a very wide street and only a double trailer will block the street?  Or that trucks that are unloading block streets all the time? Perhaps they use the only driver in the US that worries about other cars being able to drive when they are off-loading?  If they park at an angle, how will the cargo be off loaded to the bay, if the truck isn’t flush?  Let that sink in gentle reader.  Reread this list till you realize that it has been proof of sorts.  (I’m sure more than a few of you took geometry in high school.)

Thus, I believe we can safely say that if their goal isn’t to use the bay door as a cargo bay, because the cargo must go the sidewalk before it can be lifted up, then they don’t really need a bay door and the need to not block it is silly.  The truck can park parallel to the parked cars.  I really can’t see how they are making their case.

Therefore, I propose a call to action.  Everyone should find a reason to park in front of 229 Harrison St. in Oakland.  (This is a visual daily double.)   If you look at the picture, you’ll see 4 garage doors:

  1. The first has a stair case in front of it you can park there
  2. I’ve never seen the 2nd open, I wouldn’t park there
  3. The third is an office wall
  4. The fourth is an office wall

This is our cause, take up your keys and park happily.  And when the wicked witch of parking delusions accosts you, tell here Lee sent you.  I don’t suffer fools and neither should you.

This was the start of an exciting several days, don’t miss the next post, you won’t believe my Tuesday.

Trouble Me (with appologies to 10,000 Maniacs)

My regular readers, as opposed to my irregular writing schedule, will know that commuting is a common topic.  And why not?  I do commute 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, more or less.  Today I got into my car and my chariot roared to life.  Soon the radio kicked in and Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” changed my consciousness.  It was 1988 and I was joined by 50,000 of my closest fans watching the Amnesty International Benefit Concert.  Being over the hill, I also like harkening back to my 20s and a simpler time without as many worries.

It was a great show. Sting cancelled so Springsteen and E-Street Band and Peter Gabriel and to play longer sets, which was fantastic, because dreams of blue turtles bored me to tears.  I thought about being 15 and riding my bike to the record store to get Gabriel’s first solo album.  Yeah I was that cool.  So cool I didn’t have a girlfriend, but my music rocked.

As I was enjoying my groove, I came to the 4-way stop where I turn left.  Still, bopping a bit, I watched the car to my left move across the intersection and the SUV to my right turn right.  As the first car  passed me, I pulled out.  (Insert the sound of dishes breaking.)  So much for my groove.  The 2nd car to my left decided the stop sign didn’t apply to her.  She slammed on her breaks and glared at me as I deigned to follow the traffic laws that did not apply to her.

I gathered my wits in time for the SUV’s driver to decide that he was really a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos and the turn was a fake, moving in a pseudo U-turn to cut me off.  Clearly, starting a turn and finishing it is optional today.  I missed that memo.

I moved along my path, keeping in mind I’m only 4 blocks from home.  Ok, maybe 6.  Up ahead is a stop light, with a free right turn.  There are 3 lanes of traffic on the busy artery ahead, but the turn lane is generally pretty empty.  A head sat a car, frozen in terror because all 3 lanes weren’t clear.  You know the driver; he won’t turn right unless they can turn into the fast lane.  What ever happened to merging?  I’m pretty sure this is the same driver that enters the freeway at 30 miles per hour because the people in the slow lane go to fast and they believe NTSB has empowered them to make the world safer.

Before we can turn and I can continue my descent into madness, the song changes to Rainbow’s “Since You’ve Been Gone.”  I turned it up to 11.  Or 12.    The car blocking my progress finally turned and because the artery was open for ½ mile, I had no trouble gunning it and passing them within 50 yards.  The rocking sound track clearly helped push my adrenaline forward and my mood moved from Peter Gabriel inspired Romance to heartbreak’s rage.

Your poison letter, your telegram
Just goes to show you don’t give a damn

My mind often jumps from tangent to tangent.  You know who doesn’t give a damn?  The GOP. My mind is still overwhelmed by this week’s spin that the President decided to shut down the government.  Even after that bastion of integrity John Boehner, decided that previous budget and spending agreements in congress could be left on the side of the road like a hillbilly’s trash, because it was time “to take a stand.”  Seriously?  Politics is all about compromise and agreements.  By showing that previous agreements can easily be reneged on to achieve specious goals, we can only conclude that any future agreements will be as solid as tissue paper.

This entire government shutdown is ridiculous, and seems to be staged by the very conservative right.  Let me restate the facts as I know them.

  1. The GOP does not like the Affordable Care Act (ACA/ObamaCare)
  2. The ACA is the Worst Thing that has ever happened to this country (Noelle Nikpour GOP Strategist)
  3. It is worth defaulting on the national debt to stop the ACA
  4. The GOP agreed to a spending bill/debt ceiling increase then decided to hold the nation hostage
  5. The ACA is a law that was passed. (We all know how bills become laws from School House Rock, right?)
  6. The GOP wants smaller government, isn’t that what they’ve just achieved?
  7. For every action there is an equal, but opposite reaction

My outrage reached a boil as I saw Noelle Nikpour make that statement on TV about the ACA being the worst thing to happen to this country.  Slavery, the great depression, the civil war, the Viet Nam war, Prohibition, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy all pale compared to ObamaCare (they should trademark that name to make sure it is hated by all the people who still think our president is a Kenyan Muslim. Of course he’s neither.)  I am sure there was always an undercurrent of hate and prejudice within politics, but it has become hard to miss.

I’ve put it out there; either you agree with me or you don’t.  I’m not going to change your mind and I respect your right to your opinion, though I believe the conservative movement often wishes we liberals and moderates were not allowed to have opinions.  What I want to do is bring two significant points forward that mean quite a bit to me and probably should to you.

First, when the government defaults and that seems to be the ultimate goal of the Tea Party influenced GOP, you and I will be affected.  When the economy tanks, those of us over a certain age and having attained some success are deemed expendable.  We can be replaced at 70% efficiency at 75% of the cost.  Leadership, influence and helping other achieve more are less important than pure cost savings.  I have been let go too many times not to understand what happens.  Hero on Monday; too expensive on Friday.  We all can be replaced.   I have been.  You might too.  Lifetime employment ended in the 70’s we didn’t see that till the 90s.

Since the GOP has taken the government and legislative process hostage because they do not like a law that was passed, how long before the Democrats do the same thing?  What does this mean for our way of life and democracy as a whole?  This is the political equivalent of a spoiled child taking his ball and going home.  Eventually that child either grows up and learns or has no friends.  I’m not sure we have time for the GOP to lean that lesson.  They have already spent years shouting that they refuse to.

I’m more depressed than I am angry.  And I’m plenty angry.  All that’s left is for the evangelicals to remind us that this is the first stage of the rapture they want and the rest of us are going to hell.  I expect that message in the second half of October.

 

Parking Wars, Carnage on the Oakland Front

There are many disappointments in our lives.  Santa never brought you that candy apple red Schwinn Stingray you had to have when you were 9.  Daddy never bought you a pony.  Your mother made you eat lima beans.  Don’t worry, mine did too.  Heidi Klum didn’t like your dress on “Project Runway” and told you were out.  (But then she kissed you.  Twice.)  And there is never a parking spot when you need one.

About a year ago my office moved to a new location.  It only moved a mile or so, but it moved a way from the BART station.  The City of Oakland does provide a free bus service that goes from BART to a few blocks from the office.  Sadly, the bus is not a time saver over walking.  Thus, my commute has increased by 20 minutes each day.  This necessitates driving to work on occasion, to make sure I am on time for early meetings.

Parking in our neighborhood is unique.  The lot next to the office is $6 for 12 hours.  That’s it, no options.  Across the street, and connected to the building over the train tracks, is a lot that charges $7 if you are in by 10 and out by 6.  Needless to say I generally work well past 6.  And when that lot changes to hourly, it is $2.50 per hour.  Of course I can afford either of these, but it galls me that I must pay for parking after driving and spending $10 or so in gas.  Call me petty.

There is plenty of street parking within 4 blocks of work.  What makes it tricky is that there is a mix of parking meters (too expensive), 2 hour parking (too short) and 4 hour parking (almost just right).  If I get to work before 9 am and move my car by 1 pm or so I can park for free.  A lot of thought has gone into this strategy.  I know the meter maids are focused on the meters.  4 hour spots are probably almost an afterthought.  What are the odds my car is being viewed right when I park? 0.  I figure there is also some grace between checking, so that it is a 5 hour window, if not more.  I drive at least 1 day per week and I’ve not gotten a ticket yet, knock on plastic.

When it comes to parking, people can be very touchy.  Perhaps you’ve seen the TV show “Parking Wars” where drivers and meter maids to at it tooth and nail.  No one ever believes they deserve a parking ticket.  Of course they do 99% of the time when they get one.  I also recall a study that was done years ago that proved that people took longer to leave a parking spot if someone was waiting for it.  It was a form of territoriality, drivers keeping what they perceived as theirs, not wanting another to have it.

That ranks right up there with people not wanting to split the bill at lunch or dinner in a group because someone “ordered something expensive” or “I didn’t have a drink.”  People are petty.  Don’t go out with a group if you can’t handle sometimes paying a bit more or bit less.  It evens out over time.  And don’t park in a spot if your fragile psyche can’t handle knowing someone will park there after you.  It is not your lover; it is a cold, undeveloped piece of ground.

As I started developing my parking strategy near the office, I avoided three loading docks between 217 and 229 Harrison St. in Oakland.  If you click on the link, you’ll see there are 4 loading docks, but there is a stair case in front of one.  It turns out, there are walls behind loading dock doors.  There is not a loading dock behind the doors, there is an office with a small window on each wall.

Of course each loading dock door is painted with the logo “No Parking 7/24/365.”  When they raise the doors, they also have no parking signs, the type you’d buy at the office supply store for $2.99.  These are, on the walls and the remaining loading dock edge.  Since you can’t simply put up a sign to prevent the public from parking in front of your wall (as opposed to a garage or loading dock), I consider this their art project.  I park there all the time.  It is very convenient to work.

IMG_2070 IMG_2071

The third time I parked in front of this office, a note was left on my car.  I was appalled at the audacity of whoever left it.  How dare they say I couldn’t park there?  I guess they believe by putting up those silly signs they believed they were writing new laws.  Delusional and petty were the words that came to mind.  I took the paper and put it my car to throw away later.  Why litter?

IMG_2106

It is hard to imagine what went through the broken mind that wrote this note.  I guess a single “no” was not enough. Bold strokes and underlines were also required it seems.  And, as you have clearly surmised, knowledge of the law is not necessary to create nasty notes.  It is not illegal to park in front of an office wall.  At least to my understanding of traffic laws.

I guess intimidation works.  The spots in front of the loading docks are open fairly often.  From the notes they leave on cars and the effort they’ve put into their “art project” I have concluded that these are not stable people.  I’m not inviting them over for dinner.  Given my druthers, I’d park elsewhere, but these are convenient spots.  Over the last 11 months I’ve collected 8 flyers.  Maybe they will appreciate like baseball cards.  Actually, I wet them, and stick them back on the windows of their office.  It is my way of adding to their public art project.  I assume they wanted participation.

A few weeks ago I was not parked in front of the loading docks, but I noticed that 4 cars had notes on them.  The last one as I walked by had 2 notes.  I had to laugh as I noticed the flyer on the driver’s side was from the car’s owner.  I don’t recall the exact words, but the note called the “parking authority” on the concept of having a legally parked car towed.

Earlier I had come to the conclusion that the building wanted the parking spaces kept empty so they could use them.  What hubris, I thought.

The next day I had this confirmed.  I had parked in front of the stairs, which is a spot that is never harassed.  Behind me they had put out orange cones to keep the spaces empty.  Hubris is not strong enough word.  The cones were stamped “apple bottom” or something equally ridiculous.  Not PG&E, a cable company, a phone company or the government.  My quick thinking lead me to believe these were a public danger, fallen off the back of some turnip truck.  It was my civic responsibility to removed them from the street, to protect other members of the community.  I picked them up and stacked them on the stairs.  Crisis Averted.

Later I came back to my car to go to lunch.   The cones were back and there was a note on them.  I figured someone else could move them this time. I’d move them after lunch.  After lunch, as I surmised, someone else moved them.  I sense a movement starting in the neighborhood.

The other day I was meeting a friend for coffee.  I went downstairs to meet him and ran across him coming out of our parking lot because it full.  Being ever the quick thinker, I jumped in and guided him to these often vacant stops.  After we parked and started to walk away, some sort of sad station wagon pulled up.  A woman of certain age leaned out the window.  She was a sad case.  Her hair was dyed too dark, with an overly trendy and trying too hard platinum stripe ringing her face.  I stifled a laugh as she called out to us.

“You can’t park there.”

“Sure we can.”

“You can’t block our loading dock.”

“It’s not a loading dock. It’s a wall.” I laughed out loud.

“It says no parking.”

“So? It’s not an official sign.   It is an art project.”  I kept laughing

“We need access to the loading dock.”

“It’s a wall.”

“Sometimes we use the window.”

I looked at the window.  The glass didn’t pop out.  The screen was roughly 1.5 feet by 3 feet.  Its bottom edge was over 7 feet off the sidewalk.  I should my head.

“Now you are just being ridiculous.”

We walked away and ignored her as we went for our coffee.  I saw her glaring at me that night when I walked back to my car across the street from her office.

This ends year 1.  I predict year 2 will be an all our war.

Writer’s Note:  I spoke with a traffic enforcement officer the other day.  I asked about the legality of these notes and the threat of tow.  She laughed. She suggested that if they tow me, I should sue.  I am wondering if I should harass them, as they have harassed me.

It is Thursday, I needed to Write Something for You

As you know, I really don’t write enough here.  Part of that is my inspiration, which is limited.  I commute, that’s 2-3 hours every day seeing things that might inspire comment and snark.  I’m sure many of you are tired of my BART observations, but that is what you are getting today.  Much like Courtney Love said, you’ll live through this.

Today I was getting on the escalator when I realized the train I thought I’d missed was loading on the platform above.  It was a train that started at my station, empty and going my way.  What more is there to love?  I had thought I’d missed it, but it had been sitting there just waiting for me like a daytime hooker on a hot day.  As i rushed to move up the escalator, I quickly came upon two people, moving in tandem, there was no passing allowed apparently.  When the announcement was made that the train was boarding, they kicked it up a notch; from standing still to moving like banana slugs.  They must have thought this was Santa Cruz.

I probably should have bowled them over, but my mother taught me manners.  I tried to intimidate them into moving faster but they were oblivious to my need to be on that train.  In the old days, my station was the end of the line.  Every train was empty and I could have my pick of seats only constrained by the people in line ahead of me.  There would be 4-8 people in line and 40 seats beyond the door.  This train was like that.  Normally, I need to go to an end of the train, where the 5 of us in line have our pick of 8 seats.  As delightful as that sounds, when there are only a few seats, they often include the seats for the infirmed and seniors.  While I am AARP eligible, I prefer to not hold the seat when blue hair or pregnant woman gets on.   And they will.  That leaves fewer empty seats.  And inevitably all the empty seats are next to:

  • The gangster spread across both seats
  • The larger person who takes up more than half the seat
  • The woman doing her makeup, spread out across both seats, who will inevitably hit me 3 times doing her lashes or get make up on me
  • The person going to the airport whose bags prevent me from sitting comfortable
  • The idiot on the phone telling her friend what a dog her man is or the man having a 45 minute conversation with a stockbroker about how big his portfolio is.

Riding BART is a shared experience.  You often ride the train with many of the same people, as people arrive the same time each day.  We are all, it seems, creatures of habit.  One of my preferences is to not be touching the people I sit next to.  Odd right?  Other people have the habit of expanding their space.  I’m not sure if they are pushing boundaries or if they are oblivious. Either way I hate sitting next to them.

I recall several times when the rider sitting next to me moved their leg, then their arms.  They might have stretched.  Suddenly, they were growing like tribe of tribbles, eating into my space faster than locusts eating corn in farm country.  Before I knew it was against the window, my face pressing into the glass in some odd caricature of  an octopus looking for a way out.  I may as well have been spread for the police to pat me down for weapons or drugs.

I think you can understand why I prefer the empty trains. I can pick my seat, out of the sun, and use my evil eye superpower to keep the undesirables away.  Sadly, it turns out that I am the undesirable seatmate I’ve noticed lately that the seat next to me is one of the last to fill.  I don’t think it is my rugged good looks keeping people away.  I’m pretty sure it is my non-skinny frame and lecherous leer.  Seriously?  Do you really think I leer on the train?

I wind up waiting for the next train.  I’m first in line in the back of the first car.  The first and last cars have the fewest passengers because people hate walking to the end of the platform to ride the car only to have to walk back to leave the station at their destination.  If everyone rode a lark they wouldn’t go to the end because it takes to long.  There is always a reason.  When the train comes, I look to the left and see there is one seat in the middle of the car.  No Dice.  I don’t want to sit next to the obese woman talking on the phone.   I don’t want the single seat by the door.  Looking left I see an open seat in the last row, next to a tiny woman.  This whole process takes about 1 second.

I make my way there, fully committed to the process and my eye on the prize.  As I move into the seat, I see this woman is roughly 5’3″ and 95lbs soaking wet.  She is also asleep and has her right leg extended so that it takes up roughly 30% of my leg room.  ARGH.    Must be the circle of life.

 

 

 

 

Interlude 47

It was 7:30 AM on a Tuesday; the setting, a commuter train in the suburbs.

The doors opened on the empty train and the passengers, eager for their own private seat, file in orderly and quickly.  Two lines of approximately 12 people filed into the car with 88 seats.  The doors closed on the quarter filled train.  Silence filled the train and I started reading my newest book, VMware  vSphere Design (2nd Edition!)  I could barely contain my excitement at the mysteries I would soon be exposed to.  This is nothing like The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

Then the doors opened on the train again and another throng of people flowed into what I perceived as my space.  There were plenty of seats so I did not fear anyone sitting next to me.  I have broad shoulders and menacing look.  With so many open seats, my personal space was flexing outward, keeping the unwashed masses at bay.  I’m no small, delicate flower.  But I leave room for one to sit next to me.  I really want to keep my personal space a no fly zone.  I hate when it gets invaded.

A large, yet young, man waddles down the aisle.  Telepathically I persuade him to continue past me.  This is not the seat you are looking for.  There are better seats two rows further along.  My telepathy and menace has failed and he takes the seat next to me.  While I am fully on my half of the seat, surely a solid 3/8” away from the median, his wide bottom takes up his side, my 3/8” and then some.

The main thing going through my mind, beyond his buttocks pushing indelicately into mine, is “Jimmy Olson’s Blues.”  Surely you remember the first hit single by the Spin Doctors?  “I’ve got a pocket full of kryptonite.”  It seems appropriate.   This man-child has a bag full of French fries.  The smell is both delicious and overpowering.  I realize I need to endure this smell for the next 32 minutes on my ride to work.

Who the fuck has a bag of hot French fries on the morning train?  Not only that, these fries are from Jack.  Let’s be honest:  between the train station and Jack in the Box is 2-3 miles of roads filled with McDonald’s and BKs.  So why are these fries still hot and smelling like dinner?  The only upside is that he is not wearing an overdose of Hai Karate!

I stop thinking about kryptonite and ponder the meaning of ketchup packets.  Do you think Don Draper would have come up with ketchup packets if SCDP had the opportunity for the ketchup account?  Motherfucker, I wanted his French fries.

It took all my resolve to become a criminal that morning.  Just another day in the big city.  Where is that wayward shaker of salt?

We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen

(Dialogue Part 2, Chicago, Robert Lamm 1972)

Clearly not if people keep bringing French Fries on the train to work.  I predict a riot.

 

 

 

 

And now for something completely different…

Protestations to the contrary, I really never fear for boredom.  On a daily basis I look around me see things that are so silly, ludicrous and stupid I can’t help but laugh.  The other day I was leaving the train station and an older, frail woman seemed oblivious to the rules of the escalator.  You stand on the right and people walk to left.  You’d think being older, frail – indeed small—she’d have no issues keep the left size clear.  Nope.  She had lots of bags and placed them in front of herself.    I could almost hear the station operator saying “Back up on Escalator 2! All Agents to Escalator 2!”

Later in the week, I was again stuck behind a slow, older woman.  And if you realize I’m in my 50s, you recognize this is odd during the morning commute.  I thought she should have been at home at her kitchen table, agonizing over which pills to take why the Sudoku book sat lonely, begging for attention.  She had an odd slow shuffle and traffic pattern of commuters prevented me from passing her.  When finally my opportunity to make a jailbreak came, I down shifted for acceleration and she stepped left in front of me.

Hitting my pedestrian brakes, I was dumbfounded.  Had she traded Sudoku for radar?  I re-shifted, hit the wheel hard the right and made my move.  I took one step and she shuffled back to the right, using the wall the same way a good cornerback uses the sidelines.  At this point I slowed down, gave up and took video to send to the producers of “The Walking Dead” in hopes a finder’s fee for showing them how zombies really should shuffle.

We know that all bad things come in threes; of course there is one more commuting anecdote.  Coming home one night the train was crowded and day was hot.  Getting home any time between 6 and 7 means 2 things:  it’s hot and there are lots of people.  This had been train that started at the airport; there were too many people with luggage.  I think travelers should stay off commuter trains.  The train gets us to and from work; the side benefit is that it takes people on vacation. It’s bad enough they went away while we work; the semi oblivious way they use their luggage to create a steeplechase is just ridiculous.  Isn’t there a law about being oblivious in public?

I had finally crawled over several steamer trunks and piles of gift bags to get off the train and make my way to the escalator.  Amazingly enough the left side is open and we are descending from the platform smoothly.  This time of year this is amazing, because there are always kids coming home from San Francisco who just stand 2 across and 2 deep unaware of the rules we adults have.  Sadly, my euphoria is short-lived.  Just ahead of me is a man with 2 large suitcases on the escalator.  With both of them in front of him, it is obvious to me he has not developed or considered his exit strategy.

I hate be insightful.  Right on cue, he and his bags left the order of the escalator and mad a pile at the bottom.  The people walking on the right had to stop, forcing those not paying attention to walk into them.  The people on the left were coming off faster than the buffoon and his bags could get out of the way.  There was jumble of arms and legs and “heys.”  It was ugly and ludicrous in a way that only stupidity could be.  How could he not know to wait till the escalator was empty or, god forbid, use the elevator.  Yep, there is an elevator for just this reason.

But ridiculous things are not limited to my commute.  This week I was catching up on several TV shows on the DVR and while the DVR makes avoid commercials easy, it minimizes them more than eliminates them.  Sadly, the bumper for the TV show “Save Me” was unavoidable on several occasions.  Yes, I was watching NBC.  The tag line for the show is, “She choked on a message from G-d.”  Seriously?  All I can imagine is that this 3 second clip is on heavy rotation in Wal-marts in the Bible belt.

I kept wondering when the Westboro Baptist Church was going to start their protest.  This seemed like this is right in their wheelhouse.  The second or third time I saw the indigestion inducing spot, I realized the start was Anne Heche.  I know that here resume has been far from stellar, with many mediocre titles to her name, but everything about this resonates career ending.  I don’t believe this is the vehicle to give her cache.  After all, isn’t the first thing you think of when I say “Anne Heche” is “Ellen’s ex-girlfriend?”

NBC generally has decent comedies, but their dramas tend to, shall we say, suck.  I guess they are trying to pull their comedies in line with those dramas. I know when I think the path to TV rating success I think NBC taking a cancelled concept from HBO and putting their own unique spin on it.  I’m thinking next time someone says Anne Heche you’ll be thinking, “ wasn’t she just cancelled?”  That’s right, I’m choking on a message from NBC.

 

From the Platform to the Couch

Every morning workday morning as I stand on the platform and wait for the train, I perform a small, but significant ritual.  I reach into my left pocket and pull out my smart phone.  That statement in and of itself speaks to how my world has changed and that I recognized it.  Then I reach into my murse and pull out my headphones.  These day’s I use the yellow ones – I like how they fit my ears, but they are probably the least awesome pair have.  The jack slides in the top and I push the icon for the music to play.  I’m no longer another commuter with 200 others on a platform.  I’m in my own music booth, feeling the melodies, rhythms and emotions of any random 1 of the 1200 songs I have preloaded.

Each song brings with it its own set of emotions.  Sometimes, a stray tear finds my eye.  I have an emotional connection to many songs; “Dance Away” by Roxy Music always takes me back to my first real break up and I always sing “More Today Than Yesterday” by the Spiral Staircase to Lambchop.  Today my inner queen wanted to dance while I listened to the Tubes remake of Major Lance’s “The Monkey Time.”  In the 80s, The Tubes should have been bigger as dance band.  Maybe there were. I was a bit too cool for that in college. What is a blog if not for my Midnight Confessions?

What is always amazing to me is that my love of music was not learned.  I never played an instrument.  My parents did not particularly love music; the stereo console was more for looks than functionality.  My parents are young, contemporaries of the Fab Four.  One of my favorite party games is to ask my mother to name the Beatles.  She struggles for Ringo and then gives up.  I pull that out every 2 or 3 years to make my brother laugh.

My father was not better musically.  He had a copy of “Cheap Thrills” (Big Brother and Holding Company, but most of you are probably thinking Janis Joplin) and “Born on the Bayou” (The pride of El Cerrito, Creedence Clearwater Revival), probably because someone at work said he should get them.  I don’t recall my ever hearing my father play those albums, though I’m sure he did twice, just to justify the purchases.  I’m sure he identifies “Proud Mary” with CCR, but I am positive if I mention Big Brother and the Holding Company he won’t know what I’m talking about.  Nor will he think twice about the iconic R. Crumb cover of that album.  I knew all my album art backward and forward.  Yes, my dorm room was covered in Roger Dean art.

As I think back, I recall getting a cube of a clock radio when I was young.  I had it through high school, but I must have gotten it in 2nd or 3rd grade.  I remember listening to it at night, setting the sleep time for the full 60 minutes and listening to the local pop station.  Yeah, I really wasn’t that cool for a 4th grader.  But my growing up was probably a bit different from most of my peers.  My parents were young and ambitious and while we were undoubtedly loved, I don’t think any of us look back and think of them as nurturing.  Dad had a temper to be avoided and mom was always busy with charities or cleaning the house.  We had a black and white TV and it was not be our babysitter. I think we also watched what Dad wanted, but I could be wrong. I learned to enjoy reading.

I was never the most popular kid, but I was also not the weird kid, ostracized by others. By extension, while I often played with the kids in the neighborhood, I also found myself alone in my room, with my books. I read quite a bit and the backdrop was always music, never silence.  Music became part of my environment and 40 years later, I couldn’t be happier about it.  After my bar mitzvah, I added a small stereo to my room, thanks to my grandparents.  This allowed me the freedom to buy my own music – or more accurately have others buy it for me – and define my own tastes, far beyond the reaches of pop and bubblegum.  I think that junior high defined most of us.  I made new friends, my world expanded beyond the square half mile I lived in and I like what I saw.  I embraced these changes.

One of the first bands I grew to love was Genesis and by extension Peter Gabriel.  I didn’t discover them until after Peter Gabriel left the band, but nevertheless, I spent countless hours listening to “The Return of Giant Hogweed,” “The Musical Box,” “Supper’s Ready” and other jaunts into to fantasy and escape.  It should come as no surprise that I saw both Genesis and Peter Gabriel several times once I learned to drive.  I have great memories of those shows, but I haven’t wanted to see Genesis since they went pop and I haven’t seen Peter Gabriel since 88 or so.

Several months ago Lambchop announced that she’d never seen Peter Gabriel and she’d like to see him.  Seeing no reason to deny this wish — I mean I had made her seen UK and Marillion among others — I bought tickets and the seeing was scheduled for the large and anything but intimate Shark Tank in San Jose.  The first 2 times I had seen him at been at the San Jose Civic (1980) and The Greek Theater in Berkeley (1983) both fairly intimate (especially where I sat.)

Peter Gabriel’s first 3 albums are all entitled “Peter Gabriel.”  It makes it hard to keep them straight, but we fans manage. The third album (often called Melt), one of my favorites, is filled with songs about alienation (“Not One of Us” and “Intruder”), introspection (“Lead a Normal Life”)  and politics (“Biko” and “Games without Frontiers”.)  Delightful, no?

No Self Control” is about anxiety, introspection and an inability to solve ones issues.  Did we call it OCD then?

I know I’m gone too far
Much too far I gone this time
And I don’t want to think what I’ve done
I don’t know how to stop
No, I don’t know how to stop

Musically, it moves quickly and the song is urgent, pleading and self-aware.  There is no mistaking this as anything but straight ahead rock and roll, though I believe it was a bit boundary pushing for the time.  He recognizes his problems and won’t give into them.  The song is a metaphorical cleansing scream as he tries to figure out how to not give into his issues. Its powerful and bordering on anthemic.

Music, like people, changes over time.  I used to think of it as static, but music is organic; it grows and changes if you let it.  The Grateful Dead embody this philosophy.  We have all seen singing competitions on TV where one of the judges tells the contestant that they’ve brought nothing to the song.  Sometimes an artist brings new life to a song, with that one wrinkle that changes everything.  I saw that when we saw Peter Gabriel.

The original “No Self Control” was a rallying cry for change; an internal attempt to reboot.  32 years later, Peter Gabriel is no longer 30, his perspective has changed.  The song I heard that night was not purely rock and roll; it had been give what I perceived to be a jazz beat and rhythm.  The vocals were no long pleading, searching for solutions.  Sad, mournful resignation reigned over a devastated life.  There was no mistaking the change in perspective and meaning.

You know I hate to hurt you
I hate to see your pain
But I don’t know how to stop
No, I don’t know how to stop

The implied fist pounding for change was gone in this version.  This was not the apology it was meant to be in 1980.  It was despair.  It was powerful and hit me in the gut.  As I looked around the audience I’m not sure everyone got it.  This was reinforced later when the crowded cheered in the middle of another powerful song, not knowing there was a break and texture change at the emotional climax. It was so off it was wrong.

We get older; we are no longer what we were or have gotten to where wanted to be.  There comes a time where we need to accept what is and what we failed to achieve. It is easy to forget what we wanted long ago, the dreams and ambitions of youth.  I’m not going to be 30 again, but that does not mean I have to let go everything I believed in. It is still important to have dreams and goals; they’ve morphed but I still have them.  If this was intended as a wake-up call for the audience, I hope it worked, but the cynic in me doubts it.