Like A Complete Unknown

Maintenance.

There was a period of time in my life when I was pretty convinced that The Rolling Stones were, in fact, the greatest rock and roll band of all time. I don’t really believe that anymore, although I do testify to their talent and general greatness. The problem is that the classic rock radio stations have completely ruined them for me, by endlessly pounding the same songs into my head. I know there’s thousands of other Rolling Stones songs I could be enjoying other than the 5 that get repeated constantly, but for some reason the radio has ruined the band for me. Don’t get me wrong, the occasional “Memo From Turner” or “Sister Morphine” have to pass through my ear-stream now and then, but I haven’t listened to them in any meaningful way for probably 10-15 years now.

I also have always been so-so on Keith Richards. I think he’s funny. A cartoon, in fact.  Obviously he’s talented. I think given he’s still alive, I can pretty much do whatever I want to my own body and I will survive it. So I appreciate him being the ultimate guinea pig for humankind. But I was never into his voice much. It’s an acquired taste, as they say and I’ve never acquired it.

So why did I buy his book? How can you not!? It’s Keith Richards, for god’s sake! I believe it’s the first actual Rolling Stone to pen a bio. If you’ve been a fan at all during your lifetime, and I have, it’s gotta interest you. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much. What I got was a well-written, insanely interesting, heartfelt biography and maybe one of the best music books I’ve ever read. I have to give Richards credit – he’s a smarter, deeper, more serious and more interesting person that I could have ever imagined. Certainly rough around the edges – and he admits as much via his stories. He carries knives and guns and has used them more than once.

He also doesn’t dance around the drug use. It was bad. I would have never guessed he’s been clean for 30 years, but that’s his claim and I now believe him. The most amusing part of the drug use is his assertion that he never overdid it (i.e., overdosed). He was never the guy who tried to get higher and higher, because that’s how you die. He was the guy who did it to feel good and after a certain amount of time, to maintain. He called it maintenance. But of course, he overdid it.

Anyway, I don’t want to give away any of the book. I can tell you that by the end, I was DYING for more and insanely sad it was over. It’s that’s good. And when I say it’s that’s good, I mean it – and I ONLY read biographies. You must read it.

So I went back and listened to some of his solo stuff, x-pensive winos, vocals on his Stones song. Thought the book might inspire me to appreciate it more. Still not working for me, but maybe I’ll try a little harder.

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They’re Just Four-Wheeled Friends, Now

The New Ride

I sort of knew ever since I read that book back in 2005 that my next car would be a hybrid. However, in 2005, my car was only four years old and it was paid off. It also was not causing me any problems whatsoever. So I wasn’t exactly rushing to get myself into a new car, mostly for financial reasons. Fast forward five years to October 2010, the month which shall be forever known as the month when my trusty Toyota Camry stuck a spark plug deep into my back and twisted it crudely back-and-forth, in-and-out, forcing me to cry uncle. Three times in the space of four weeks, I had a check engine light on. $2,500 in repairs later, I knew it was time.  The third check-engine light was, perhaps, the cruelest blow.

The night before #3, Steph and I laid in bed and I sarcastically said, “well, my car will go over 100,000 miles tomorrow. Do you think the check engine light will go on again the second I cross over 100,000?” I laughed, feeling secure. Surely it couldn’t happen for a third time in a month! Not to my Toyota! The next day, at mile marker 100,015,  as I drove through Nashua , NH, the light made its appearance again, taunting me. DARING me. I could almost hear the car laughing at me. It was funny and not funny. But that was it.

Shopping for a car, to me, is terrific fun. I’ve always been very interested in cars. How they look. How they drive. New model designs, etc etc. I even have the Motor Trend app on my IPhone. Test driving, though! When else can you roam around the area and drive more-or-less whatever car you want for a few minutes? I liken it to rental cars and hotels – you still have to be respectful, of course, but in the back of your mind you know you can take some minor liberties. It’s not mine! I ended up driving the 2011 Subaru Forrester, a 2011 Subaru Outback and a 2011 Ford Edge. And while they were all good fun to drive in their own unique way, one thing was lacking for me, a guy with two kids and a family – space. The Ford Edge is awesome – a gadget lover’s dream, really, with an interior that resembles a chic nightclub. If you’ve flown Virgin America, you’ll get the picture. But they don’t have a hybrid version and the gas one gets 17-23 mpg. Not gonna fly.

You see, we already have a 2007 Subaru Forrester. While we really, really like that car – it is great fun to drive – we still have to take two cars on vacation and the cargo area of that car fills up fast. So I wanted something with space and good-to-decent gas mileage. I’d love to have one of those Ford Fusion or Prius cars that gets 38-50 MPG, but right now it’s not what our family needs. We also don’t want a minivan, not because we think they’re square or lame or whatever, but because we don’t really think we need that much space. If we had three kids, it becomes a different story. But we don’t.

So that propelled us into the option of crossovers and SUV’s. The options for gas efficient crossovers and SUV’s are fairly limited. Hybrid SUV’s and crossovers are also rare, but it’s where I think I wanted to be. I couldn’t drive a Ford Escape SUV because nobody had one. Plus I think the interior is ugly. And the cargo space in the back was roughly equal to our Forrester. They’re also re-modeling those in 2012. That pretty much left the Highlander Hybrid. My wife will tell you that I’ve been talking for years about how much I like the Highlander, both interior and the exterior. And it’s true. It’s what I’ve clamoring for since they redesigned them back in ’08. The regular Highlander is priced fairly well, but the gas mileage is SUV-like. I needed something that was comparable or better than my Camry for gas, given I’m driving a whole lot more now.

The problem with the Hybrid version is the price. It is priced at an absolute premium and out of my league. The brand new Highlanders with navigation go in the mid-$40K range and that’s kind of obnoxious. So I restricted myself to a used one and found one of them – a nice deep green 2009 Highlander Hybrid with 18,000 miles on it, loaded to the gills with options. It’s just the right amount of space – less than a traditional SUV, but bigger than the Forrester. Lots of fun on the inside – nav, bluetooth, rear DVD for the kiddos – all kinds of buttons and lights, all kinds of mileage computers and gas performance indicators. A car nerd’s delight, really. I put an offer on it that was soundly rejected. Bah. But I waited a week, increased my offer and they came down on their number and voila! Mine! The Camry? Well, I traded it in and actually did pretty well on it, given I took very very good care of that car. I really thought I would get a lot more mileage out of it – and I probably could have – but why gamble, given the month of October it had?

The early report – a delight to drive. I, of course, keep it in ECON and EV mode, so I’m getting used to a different way of driving. For example, when I step on the gas, very little happens. Oh, I move. But not like my Camry or the Forrester. There is a reason why I bought this car, after all. I suspect it goes 0-60 mph in, oh, 14 days. But once you do get to cruising altitude on the highway or to 30-40 MPH on the backroads, it’s an absolute delight to drive. Just a really great car. Now, I know I can turn off ECON and EV mode and get that more instantaneous zip when I hit the gas pedal, but I have to keep remembering what I bought the car for. Not just space, buttons and fun, but some level of responsibility with gas mileage.

Thus far I’m getting 26.5 miles to the gallon on average, which is about a mile-and-a-half better than the Camry got. It’s fun seeing all those readouts on the dashboard about my efficiency as well. It’s kind of a challenge – an adult video game, if you will. So yeah, it’s not getting 40 mpg. But it’s also pretty much the best I could do for the space I need, so I’m very very happy with it. Today I will import all my phone contacts into it, too. I loves me the extras!

The kids? Well, they call it daddy’s new Zamboni.

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Driving All Over The Road Here

Hey, if there was an extra hour every weekend, you’d see a post from me more often! (Facebook people, you might as well just go here now, because there’s some videos in this one).

  • Isn’t life so much better now that all the politics are over? I know, I know, people are passionate about this stuff. Those folks who stand out on the corner of every town waving their signs. The talking heads on TV. The whirlwind of hot air that encircles us every two years, it all just gets worse and worse. THE TV COMMERCIALS. Please help me. PLEASE. We’re lucky if we watch five hours of TV each week in this house. Spare me the accusations, the twisting of truths and all the blowhards. Oh, the blowhards. Just let me enjoy a Bruins game or an episode of Modern Family for shit’s sake. Let me ask you this and I am serious – how has politics made a difference in your life? I mean a true, honest-to-goodness difference? Think about the past 20 years. Can you think of a time when things were so horrible or so amazing because one party was controlling the House or Congress? Can you? Have you ever sat back and said “oh – the late nineties, man, that was the peak for me. So-and-so controlled the House and my life was just perfect!” What about the Governor? Did anything meaningful in your life occur because of who the Governor is/was? (if he hired you for a job, you’re exempt from the question). Honestly, how have political parties changed your life in a material way? Sometimes taxes are higher, sometimes they are lower. There is one consistent measure across the board, though, when it comes to politics? Do you want to know what it is? They’re all DOUCHEBAGS. Maybe I’m generalizing. But I tell you what, it seems like people in general get heated up for a month or two and when the elections are over, we all just go back to working hard, trying to enjoy ourselves and being with the people we love. Politics is a joke.
  • Tonight after everyone went to bed I dialed up the Bruins/Blues tilt from the TD Garden. Sometimes you get a dud hockey game, but when you get one like I saw tonight, man, that is satisfying. Nothing beats a great hockey  game. That St. Louis team is a blast to watch. They smother everyone and everything, but they do it fast, up-tempo and aggressively. They’ll be around in the springtime, believe me.

Recent music:

  • Black Mountain: oooohhhh, sludgy rock. Me likes! They’ve gotten a little softer, actually, over the past couple of years, but they can still bring it:
  • Arcade Fire: not feeling it
  • Autumn Defense: Pan Sansone is a absolute monster and I’m sure this is good. But maybe I’m just not into ’70’s AM gold lately. Will come back to it.
  • Kelley Stoltz: the guy everyone should listen to once. This isn’t from the very good new album, but who cares? You should like this anyway:
  • I don’t know what else. Life is insane. Totally. No time. I’m doing this at 12:27am on a Saturday night. Is that really the only time I can blog now? Looks like it. But like I said before – when it comes to spending time with kids vs. writing blogs, is there any doubt who wins? None.
  • Work is nuts. I will never catch up. Every time I think I’m catching up, four more things happen. Whack-a-mole.
  • Oh, check this out. I went to a town meeting a couple of weeks back because they’re trying to get a new high school built here in Maynard. Yes, I care about this stuff now that I have kids. I’m a fair-weather school supporter. That’s not true. Maybe it is. I don’t know. Anyway, because of the super heavy turnout of a lot of other people who care because they have kids, some of us got herded into the school gym to watch the meeting on video from the auditorium next to us. Things kick off and it takes approximately 14 seconds for my ass to start really hurting from the gym bleachers. I mean, aching pain here. I can hear and see the video fine and I suspect every one else can as well until some woman, maybe 55 or 60 or so, gets up and gets angry, shouting at the top of her lungs about how “nobody in the gym can hear the meeting” and that she was going to “go to the state because this is illegal! It’s ILLEGAL!” She marches into the auditorium, because annoying one giant room full of people isn’t nearly enough for her. She steps up to the microphone in the neighboring room and sings the same song, squawking like a crow and I think she’s truly believing that we’re pumping our fists in support next door. Then comes the best part. We start booing. The whole gym booed it. For a moment, my ass aching and my mouth catcalling, I feel like I’m 12 again. And not in a good way. They dismissed this woman, fly-swat like and she storms out of the building. No word from the state.
  • I really should go to bed now.
  • How’s that for a blog post?
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