Tuesday, May 28, 2013


You can't choose your parents; that's true. You can't choose your neighbors, either.

Neighbors are a special breed. You live shoulder-to-shoulder; not as family or friend, because your relationship to one another is entirely accidental.

If you're lucky, though, you and your neighbors will be on hand when something extraordinary happens -- say, there's a fire in the hills, the power shuts down or

Max bikes his first one hundred meters.

(Ok, this is totally posed. I made Dad sit on the bike, and by the way, Mom is an accomplished rider.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My hiking shoes

Just the way I like them.

Took me six months to break these puppies in.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We're Back in Business

My car is fixed, home, and, by the way, washed a polished. Thanks Alex, GM at Star Ford, for reaching out to me and seeing to everything -- from the car rental to the transmission/electronic repairs. And for calling me regularly over the past two days to let me know exactly how things stood.

And a toast to you all. May this be the last Ford Fiesta story you ever read on my blog.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What to expect when you buy a Ford Fiesta

Expect that in two years, at 11,600 miles, you’ll have a transmission problem. Expect:

  • That when bringing your car to the dealership of purchase, it will die within a block of the destination.
  • That you’ll run to the dealership, ask for assistance with the tow, and they’ll tell you to do it yourself. “We’re busy.”
  • That when they have your car, they will not call you with an update.
  • That you’ll call six hours later, explain you have a transmission problem, and be told there are three other cars ahead of yours, and they won’t look at it today. “We’re busy.”
  • That they will not call you the next day.
  • That you’ll call the next day, at 1 p.m., then again at 2 p.m., and finally get a call back. “I’m the Fiesta with the transmission problem,” you’ll say. They will reply, “Yes, we looked at it, you have a transmission problem.”

Expect that you will be told they will not fix your car for another week. “We have lots of problems ahead of yours; we’re busy.” Expect:

  • That when you ask for any sort of help with a transitional car, since they are “so busy,” and too busy to fix your car for a week, you’ll be promised a mere $20 stipend a day towards a rental. A rental at a specific location near their shop. “We’ll put it in the system so they’re expecting you.”
  • That when you get to the rental agency, there is nothing in the system, so you charge the whole thing to your credit card.
  • That the car from the rental agency is on empty. Well, they told you this, didn’t they? You just didn’t realize, until after you’d pulled away, you have exactly three miles worth of gas with which to find a gas station in an area with which you’re entirely unfamiliar.
  • Expect to hyperventilate. Over the whole bloody experience, but most of all, the immediate problem. Where can you find a gas station?

In short, expect that when you buy a Ford Fiesta, new, and pay for it in cash, that two years later at 11,600 miles, when your transmission breaks down one block from the dealership where you bought the car, you’ll get neither assistance, effort, interest, or your car.

In short, expect nothing.

I realize, in the grand scheme of life, my car floats somewhere in the bottom-feeder category. Still, this whole experience has crawled under my skin (can you tell?).

What Ford and Star Ford in Glendale can expect from me: This story; posted to every place I can think of, including my blog, Facebook, Yelp, and any email address I can find at the corporate office. I don’t expect corporate to care, of course. I’m past expectations, and am working my way towards worst-case scenarios.

For my blogger friends -- those who comment and those who prefer to just read -- who have followed this story, thank you. You have no idea how much I've appreciated your support.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why I hate Ford .2: How a new car warranty will screw you

Buy a new Ford, and Ford will throw in a 60,0000 mile warranty. Sounds great, what?

You get this terrific warranty on a new car -- 60,000 miles or 5 years (or whatever), stem-to-stern. Oh, I'm living in clover, you think. What they don't tell you is that the dealership makes small profit on fixing a problem when it's under warranty. And if you have a Ford, that you'll have a problem, that I can guarantee.

Hence, the dealership doesn't really care about any problem under the cloak of warranty. That's not their meal ticket. Not even small potatoes; just annoying potatoes. Potatoes they wish would just wilt and die. Particularly if you bought the car for cash, outright. They'll get around to your problem, when they're good and ready. And maybe the service department will call you, and maybe it won't. After they've worked on the big-ticket items -- the ones that pay the bills, the major money, out of pocket.

Under warranty? You are the dealership's worst nightmare and charity case, something the corporation foisted on them all. The dealership will hate you, and wish you'd go away; better yet, just collapse from the frustration of it all.

A Ford warranty? When your car dies at 11,000 miles, you will not receive satisfaction, an apology, service, or anyone who cares. Oh, and most importantly, you will not have a car. Unless you rent one, partially or entirely charged to your own credit card.

It's my fault. A Ford? What was I thinking? Why did I get a sudden surge of patriotism and feel compelled to buy American. Previously, my life had been so calm and easy, when all my cars spoke Japanese.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why I hate Ford

"Go Further." That's the new Ford Motor Car slogan. They should specify. Further than what? An inch?

Don't buy a Ford Fiesta. Ever.

Not that you planned to. It is kind of a kiddie-car. Something parents might buy their 16 year old daughter, but only if they didn't like her very much and had lost their life savings.

Still, I bought one, new. It seemed so uncomplicated, just one step above a Schwinn with training wheels. Because all I ask, all I've ever asked of a car is that it, you know, start, and the FM radio works. I'd even opt for roll-down windows over electric, as it's one less thing to go wrong.

But this car, this 2011 Ford Fiesta, couldn't even make it to 12,000 fucking miles without a total meltdown. I was taking it in for a service appointment -- where I bought the car, mind you -- (a 9:45 a.m. appointment; surely they must be efficient if booking on the quarter hour), and it died completely, at an intersection, one block from the destination, Star Ford. I coasted down a side street and it came to a complete stop in the middle of the driveway of another dealership.

I hoofed it over to Star Ford and said, "I've got a 9:45 appointment and my car just died one block away. Can you get me a tow?"

Well, no. "We're really busy," said my -- what's the title? -- oh yes, Service Adviser. "As you can see, I've got people waiting."

"But I'm blocking a driveway. You have my info, can't you call so I can get back to the car and make sure the city doesn't tow it away?"

Well, no. "I've got people waiting." And he pointed me to a phone so I could make my own arrangements.

Which I did. And ran back to the car. An hour later, me and my pumpkin arrived.

"I'm sorry I couldn't help you," said my Service Adviser. "But you understand..."

"I know, you had people waiting."

So he processed the paperwork and told me to wait with the other lost souls, under the red tarmac. I lasted about ten minutes and called for a ride.

It's six hours later and I haven't heard anything. I phoned. "We haven't gotten to your car yet. There were three that arrived before yours."

I pointed out that I had been on time, it was my car that died, one block away, and had to be towed, with no help from him. So technically, these three cars were not ahead of me.

"But now they are," my Service Adviser advised. "I can tell you, we won't get to it today."

Which I found interesting. Would he have left me waiting under the red tarmac all morning and afternoon, and then sent me home, car-less? Was that his plan of action? Is that what generally worked for him, under similar situations?

"Can you guarantee I'll have my car tomorrow?"

My Service Adviser scoffed. "I don't know if we even have the parts."

I'm no good at customer service arguments; some people manage to come out on the winning side, I never do.

I brought up the Ford Corporate Facebook page and posted a tantrum, next to the "Ford Does it Again!" and "Quality is Our Job" entries. I haven't heard back so they probably zapped it.

Yeah, I just checked, they zapped it. Replaced by: So You Think You Can Dance auditions head to Detroit tonight and we were fortunate to have host Cat Deeley film some scenes from the line of our very own Dearborn Truck Plant!

Take my advice, and don't buy a Ford. Or don't take my advice and buy a Ford -- then you can Go Further, but only if you're walking.

Monday, May 13, 2013

We interrupt this blog for an Altadena APB

Do you know me? If so, let me tell you, I've had one helluva day. The bad news is, my leg is injured. The good news is, I've been taken in for treatment. I'm chipped, clipped, and have shiny white teeth. But there's a problem reaching my owners. My home is probably somewhere in Altadena. This karin-character (who had nothing to do with my rescue) has visited three houses where she thought I might live. She must be blind or something. I didn't look anything like those dogs -- I'm way more handsome.

Feel free to email Karin if I look at all familiar. Provide the possible address. Her skills may be limited, but she can ring a doorbell.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The HIgh Seas

When I was a little girl, I had two godfathers -- one was the assistant DA of Washington State (retired), and the other a bank robber. I loved them both.

Uncle Harald, the DA, not the bank robber, is the only old guy of my early life. The only old man I knew personally until at least a decade later. I grew up in the subdivisions, and subdivisions didn't grow old people. We read about them in books and school, of course. But now I wonder where the subdivisions stashed all the old people -- None of us seemed to know any or see them wandering about the place.

Except my Uncle Harald. Uncle Harald was a most jovial fellow, a hugger, the only person I'd let muss my hair, and a teller of terrible jokes. Not dirty jokes, just incomprehensible ones.

"What's the difference between a red and white onion?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know your onions."

I assumed this joke must be funny, as he just laughed and laughed, so I told the joke myself with a certain amount of regularity. My friends were more honest than I was and would say, "I don't get it."

How he hooked up with my Aunt Erika, I have no idea. She wasn't even vaguely humorous, and could shut me up with just a look. Even when she smiled, there was something pained about it; effortful, like maybe her feet hurt or something.

Uncle Harald was a first generation American like me, and had certain assumptions about his ancestors, such as, all Norwegians can navigate the high seas. So he bought a boat that slept eight and an instruction manual, and we all climbed on board for a week-long trip around the San Juan Islands. He appointed my dad captain.

You know how it is when people think you can do something you've never done and you don't know if you can do it, but somehow you must figure out a way? That was my dad, on this trip.

Uncle Harald dubbed himself activities director and bartender. I don't remember my mom or Aunt Erika ever on deck. They attended to my sister and infant brother, somewhere in the bowels of the boat.

I never left deck. A five-year old who played with the big boys. My dad steered, my Uncle Harald mixed the drinks. My mom poked her green face out from the door once and said, "Jorg, is she wearing a life jacket?"

And Uncle Harald stirred the martinis and said, "What do you take us for? Of course she's wearing a life jacket."

When my mom disappeared down the rabbit hole, Uncle Harald said, "Jorg, where do you suppose we keep the life jackets?"

Dad, busy keeping us out of a coral reef or whatever, didn't answer.

"Hmmm, maybe under the bench? Starboard? Or is that aft? Oh hell. Karin, sit on this cushion. If we go overboard, hold it -- it's a flotation device."

[more to follow]

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Just because

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

--E.E. Cummings

All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.
--E.B. White

With tender new leaves and flowers all about, it is easy for the gardener to think he has done well. Payday will come in summer, when all defects shall be revealed. Spring is Scarlett O'Hara time in the garden. Tomorrow is another day. These are the few days the gods give us to jump up and down in. Tomorrow, when all that is wrong will be evident in the garden — tomorrow, well I say tomorrow is spinach and I say the hell with it.
--Henry Mitchell

Monday, May 6, 2013

Waiter, there's a rat in my lamb

"Rat Meat Sold as Lamb
The Ministry of Public Security said on Thursday that the police had caught a gang of traders in eastern China who bought rat ... and sold it as mutton." New York Times

When the food labeling bill lost in this past year's election, I said, Hurrah! Another blow to the nanny state.

Who doesn't inspect their leg of lamb for a long and naked tail. It's called personal responsibility, folks.

Of course, the most curious thing about this story is that, until exposed, no one complained about the flavor. Apparently diners happily chowed down on those lamb kabobs and never said, "Hey, this is super gamey and tastes like my attic."

For those of us who missed out on obvious investment opportunities, Apple and Google booms spring to mind, you and I can both sniff a ground-floor opportunity when we smell one.

Gnaw on this: Does anything scream sustainability like rats? I don't think you even have to feed the fuckers. Why not this other, other white meat. (I'm making an assumption here -- maybe rats have both white and dark meat, in which case you-know-who will fight for the drumstick.)

Think about it -- someday thousands of investors will have made millions by betting that little rat ranches will dot the countryside. Trader Joe's will offer your free range rats, and Whole Foods will scoop up the locavore crowd, with a surcharge for steaks certified soy-free.

And we're only scratching the surface.

Keep your eye on the commodities exchange and rat belly futures. Fortune favors the bold. And sometimes fortune doesn't call your name, it just squeaks.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Of dogs and spring

During a whole host of springs this century, my friend and I would share a weekend drink, after tennis. Sometimes, tennis was a mere formality, part of the ritual where he'd throw down his racket and I'd throw down my racket and we'd shout, "Cocktails at the Ritz!"

We always took Phoebe along to the Ritz. The bartenders, and over the years we went through three of those -- and the waitresses, we went through about six -- would say, "Up here, Phoebe." And Phoebe would give a hop and place two gentle front paws on the mahogany bar. Then the kissing would commence.

Phoebe kissed in the European fashion; a buzz on the left side of the face, then the right, and the left, again. I don't know where she learned this, probably from the movies.

My friend and I would take our wine to the porch -- a grand porch where you could view the whole aspect of Southern California on a good day, or see nothing but fog on a bad day, which was even better. Phoebe would settle in a chair and count squirrels, waiting for her subjects to pay their respects.

Which they would. Oh, under the auspices of bringing the humans some condiments or topping off our wine. The wine supply was endless and on the house, save for price of another continental smooch. In fact, with all that topping off, we never seemed to make any headway with our drinks at all.

My friend and I played on the Ritz tennis court a couple of times. No one said we could, but then, no one said we couldn't. Phoebe made out with the tennis pro, which kept him occupied.

Phoebe at the Ritz -- that's how I like to remember her.

I have lots of windows into spring; this is one. And it makes me think we should take all good things for granted, or at least without question, now and then, or even as often as possible for as long as possible. Enjoy the magic when glasses of wine fill themselves, when those you love will never die.