At Least It Wasn’t Detroit, and the Art of the Impromptu Road Trip


I enjoy the rare and tasty privilege of an impromptu road trip, but I’ve not gotten to take one on my own terms for a long time.  This was not a trip I took on my own terms.  I can’t think of anyone who says to him or herself, “Gee, I’d like to go up to Lansing, MI for shits and grins.”  It’s not abysmal as Detroit or Cleveland, but it’s not what I would call a tourist destination either.  There’s enough ghettos in Columbus without having to drive 270 miles one way to visit another one.  Even so, I can look a little bit on the bright side. There is one memorable thing about the mid-Michigan area I like well enough that I’d love to see it come to central Ohio.

Normally I enjoy trying mom & pop local places when I travel, as I’m pretty open minded about food, but Steve-o can be very hard to please and quite difficult about food. Even so, he grew a pair on the way back and took my suggestion to try a local sub chain called Big John’s. The steak, cheese and mushroom (#4) sub is to die for.  If you go, be sure to try the red sauce.  Even Steve-o enjoyed his sandwich- and it’s rare to get a good food review from a guy who is very fussy about food and will seldom eat at any restaurant other than Taco Bell.

mmm steakNow THIS is a sandwich!

As I said earlier, awesome steak subs aside, I would still have to have a compelling reason to go anywhere in Michigan.  Michigan is NOT a vacation destination, IMO, except for the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, and even then one should remember you have to go through Detroit to get to Dearborn, and you should also remember that anywhere in that area apart from being directly on the museum grounds is highly, highly unsafe.   You couldn’t pay me enough money to be anywhere near Detroit at night, even though an Ohio CCW is also valid in Michigan.  I only have five rounds.

I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but should I ever have to end up in Lansing again for any reason, I will be sure to remember Big John’s.  I will try to forget that Dad and Steve-o and Spencer ended up staying in yet another roach motel, and that half of the city looks like a war zone.  Perhaps I didn’t see the right part of the city.  I know there are neighborhoods right here in Columbus that look almost as bad.  If all I saw in Columbus was the near east side I’d think it was a hole too.

shooting capital of central ohioPlenty of law enforcement are always down in this hizzy!

Saturday night I get a very late call (10:30 PM, and yes, that’s late for me to be getting phone calls) and wouldn’t  have bothered to answer it except for it was Steve-o and he knows better than to wake me up at night unless either a.) someone’s on the way to the ER, b.) someone’s dead, or c.) he has a catastrophic need that if unaddressed will lead to a. or b.

Now I know why I was so wigged out about Dad taking either one of their aged and increasingly unreliable vans to NC last summer, and I’d managed to talk him into letting me drive them down there.

The oil pressure sending unit failed on the van.  GM vehicles are rather notorious for this- especially the 3.4 V6, and any vehicle with 200K (especially an aging GM van) on it is pretty much on borrowed time to begin with.  That van is at the point where I would be surprised if it didn’t have a catastrophic failure on any road trip of more than 20 miles or so.

When an OPS fails, it’s almost always the high pressure unit, which on a 3.4 is only accessible with the vehicle on a rack, and then only after the starter’s been removed.  Pretty.  The sensor itself comes apart, and then suddenly the vehicle’s spewing oil all over the engine compartment- at 60 PSI.  Worse yet, there’s no way to know when one of these is going to fail.  Age can be a factor, but even so, I’ve seen these rude dudes fail on vehicles with less than 100 miles on them.


Two very bad things can happen if one continues to drive a vehicle with a failed OPS.  One of course, is that Al Gore and the greenies aren’t going to be happy with you, because you’re blowing motor oil all over God’s creation, including your engine compartment, windshield, mirrors, back glass  and all over the ten cars behind you.  The other is that if the oil pressure drops too low (and it inevitably will, since you’re blowing oil out the side of the engine) the lifters will fail to be lubricated and the valves will start seizing up which can lead to the cylinder head warping and/or head gasket failure.  That’s bad, but if the oil completely runs out, the crankshaft will no longer be lubricated, which will cause the crank to overheat and seize, potentially blowing a connecting rod through the engine block, which means there is no fixing that- save for replacing the entire engine assembly.

Cliff’s notes version for the non-motorhead:  If you smell oil or see it spattering on your windshield, shut it off. NOW.  Call AAA.  You are very likely screwed.  Especially if you didn’t shut it off right away.

Fortunately the boys knew exactly what was happening.  They knew that if they ran it out of oil they were done.  Even more fortunately, it happened about a mile from the hotel where they were staying.

The only thing about the hotel was it wasn’t terribly sanitary.  Poor Spencer had brought his swim trunks, but the pool wasn’t clean enough for him.  Spencer is not prissy, so I am assuming this pool was pretty gross.

dirty-pool-where-i-foundAn indoor pool is a beautiful thing- if it’s clean.

They had a place to stay the night, but the shower was filthy, the bed sheets looked as if they might have been changed sometime when Jimmy Carter was president, and someone had used the roof outside the window as a party patio.  The window screen was broken and there were several empty liquor bottles standing on the roof when they got there.

Even better, for Dad, they found a Firestone across from the hotel who managed to work them in to get the sensor changed out so he could get to the swap meet they were going to, and so they could get back home.  I took Steve-o back home early so I would be sure he would be back in time to go to work.  The van managed to make it back with Dad and Spencer, although they’ve got some serious powerwashing to do.

Maybe the next time I go on a road trip I’ll get to go somewhere fun, but for going somewhere not particularly fun, it wasn’t a bad trip.  It got me out of the house and to somewhere different, and that’s saying something.

Sins of Omission, Synchronicity, and There’s No Escaping Murphy’s Law

I am sure the tome from the 1950’s advertised above has long been out of print, but I bet it’s most informative.  I can only imagine how quaint and tame the descriptions of sex acts in this book might sound when compared to some of the crazy things people do today.  I am sure this book does not contain terms such as, “dominatrix,” “golden shower,” “dirty Sanchez,” or “fisting.”   It may come as news to some, but there was actually sex before the 1960’s.   It was just kept behind closed doors, for the same reason most people keep the vacuum cleaner in the closet.  You know someone vacuums the floors from time to time, but you don’t necessarily want to keep the vacuum cleaner on display. 

In my case, the vacuum cleaner has been in the closet a very long time, but that’s my problem.  Involuntary celibacy is not for the faint of heart.  It is for the troll-like of body, and too soft of heart, however.

Speaking of vacuum cleaners, sometimes that’s the only thing in my life that doesn’t suck…which sucks because the vacuum cleaner is the one thing that’s supposed to suck.  No matter what I do (and I am sure that having three cats, three large dogs, and an incessant smoker doesn’t help here,) keeping the damned thing unclogged takes more time than the actual act of vacuuming.   I would like to pose a challenge to any vacuum cleaner manufacturer.  If you can provide me a vacuum cleaner (that I don’t  have to unclog, replace the belt, or completely rework every three minutes of use) that will actually suck up dog hair and the various other detritus- especially those damned cigarette pack cellophanes that Jerry trails behind him- that ends up on my floors, then you will actually have a decent product that is that is worth the $100-$500 one has to pay for it.  So far I have not been able to find any vacuum cleaner from any price range, manufacturer or design that I deem to be effective.  Let me do your product testing! 

I highly doubt that any vacuum cleaner manufacturer would be able to build a vacuum cleaner that would work for any length of time in my house.  There are just too many opportunities for Murphy’s Law to manifest itself.  First of all there’s the dog hair, most notably Sheena hair.  Sheena is a Husky/GSD crossbreed- with the horrific perennially shedding thick double coat found in both of those breeds.  To make it worse, Sheena’s hair is predominately white, so it doesn’t blend in.  So at any given time, save for right after I’ve vacuumed, you will find tufts of white fluff pretty much everywhere.  The house has been Sheenatized. Lilo also has a dense double coat, but the bulk of her shedding is in spring and fall (or the Central Ohio seasons of Monsoon and Fall Monsoon) so hers isn’t usually as bad.  Clara is the lightest shedder, with the sparser Malinois coat- but during the twice a year blowouts even she can drop some serious hair.

Dog hair is lethal enough to vacuum cleaners, but then you have Mr. Cig Pack Cellophane dropping those nasty bits of clear (and therefore almost impossible to see) plastic all over creation to clog up the works along with the hair.  One may pose the question, “Why doesn’t he throw them away in the trash can?,” to which I must reply, he was raised by wolves.  I am doing good for him to get a daily change of clothes and a  daily shower.  Beyond that, he pretty well leaves a trail of wrappers, cig butts, pop and/or beer cans, wherever he goes.  There is a laundry chute in the bathroom and the whitey-tighties still end up on the floor.  His mother did not train her POMC very well.  I hope I did better with mine.

My favorite Rube Goldberg machine is in the “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” movie- the machine that serves up Pee-Wee’s breakfast, including his smiley face pancake and Mr. T Cereal.

To me, the Rube Goldberg machine provides a wonderful illustration of logical progression- what led up to this and that and finally the final result.   It also is a wonderful illustration of what happens if a step in the progression fails.

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For the want of a horse the rider was lost.
For the want of a rider the battle was lost.
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
I remember these verses from an old book of children’s stories my Grandma had- all instructional tales with a moral to the story, similar to (and included some of) Aesop’s Fables.  Today when I think about these verses it makes me wonder how history would have been different had Operation Valkyrie succeeded, or even more dramatically, had the elaborate chain of events that led to WWI fallen apart somewhere. 
Yes, it may sound cheeky, but I wonder what my life had been like had I actually had the proper bait to go trolling for men.  🙂   
Then again one cannot forget the condition of synchronicity- all things working in parallel, or what I see to be the overwhelming tide of the will of God that makes the events of history plod onward and forward in ways we can neither control nor fully understand, no matter what  individual human effort is made to prevent or change them. 
Personally, I thought killing Hitler was a pretty freaking good idea- but as sadistic as it might sound, apparently there was a reason he lived as long as he did, and a reason why he wasn’t killed by the many assassination attempts against him.  I don’t understand why despots and sleazeballs are allowed to keep on truckin’ and those who really could be a benefit to society either die in what seems an untimely manner, or live out their days in impotent obscurity.  I can’t see the entire picture and I don’t pretend to.  But God is behind it all, whether we see things to be good or evil or incomprehensible.  One of the hardest things for me to do- being a rational type and all- is to stop trying to understand and just believe God has a purpose.
Far be it from me to claim to have more wisdom than Solomon, or to question the sovereignty of God like Job. 
It can be entertaining to play the history “what if” game- but ultimately there’s no escaping Murphy’s Law.  Humanity has been drowning in its grandiosity and hubris ever since the tower of Babel.  I can’t say Obama is the only human to get caught up in his own hubris, but he’s a good example of it.  I can only hope and pray that by the grace and mercy of God this blathering fool is booted out of the Oval Office- and that the American people have learned a lesson not only about the ways of petty tyrants, but of the folly of “sympathy voting.”  Isn’t it just as racist to vote FOR someone just because he’s black (or half-black) but clearly unqualified to hold the office as it is to vote AGAINST a qualified man simply because he’s white?

I don’t wish even someone as misguided as Obama eternity with Beezelbub, or even scathing, humiliating defeat,  but the way he’s going now it seems like scathing, humiliating defeat might just be what he wants.

Embrace the Technology, Ask the Magic 8 Ball, and Catharsis by Proxy

Thankfully I’ve never really been a technophobe.  Unlike my “better half,” who just about had fits of apoplexy trying to operate a touch screen phone, I would rather embrace the technology, especially when said technology is something that will make my life easier. 

For being cougar-aged I think I do pretty good with texting, Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, etc. and I try not to let the gadgets intimidate me.  The MP3 player, for instance, is one of my favorite innovations, because it has freed me from both testy cassette tapes and CDs that skip at the slightest vibration.  I can also put my entire music collection in a tiny box that is just a wee bit larger than a credit card, which is convenient too.  Granted, most of my music collection was originally released long before both CDs and MP3s, but it’s pretty much all been converted to digital format, so I don’t have to worry about being right in the middle of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Dixie Highway” only to have the damned tape break.  This is a many splendored and beautiful thing.

However, just because something is new doesn’t mean that it’s essential or even desirable.  Some good examples of innovation gone horribly wrong include:

No Wash Underwear!

I bet those would smell really good after a few days.

The “As Seen on TV” crap is always good for a laugh, but as far as practical application goes, I really can’t see it here:

Spray On Hair!

I wonder what this stuff does if you get caught in a rain storm?  Or if you want to go to the pool?  I bet it would be cheaper to just buy a can of Rust-o-leum in the appropriate shade and spray away.  Or maybe try some of that fake fur that Grandma used for those horrible doll faced Kleenex boxes – the same stuff I covered the dash of my ’77 Rabbit with.  I’m sure there’s some waterproof double-faced tape that would hold it on.

One of the more endearing devices I acquired for my amusement actually dates back to the late 1940’s.  Consulting the Magic 8 Ball always ensures a good laugh even though it is about 50% accurate on a good day.  That makes it about as reliable as a Central Ohio extended weather forecast. 

Let’s have a bit of fun with the 8 Ball today, shall we?


“Will I ever be able to go more than a day or two without removing superfluous hair from some area of my sorry old body?”


“It is certain.”

Is this damned thing broke?

Well, I might as well ask while this thing is giving me answers on the far side of credibility.

“Will I be going on a lovely, long Caribbean Cougar Cruise this fall?”


“Better not tell you now.”

That’s probably the best answer this thing’s had in a long time.

I have to admit I have been rather bummed out lately.  I feel as if I have failed at so many things I really wanted to be good at.  Right now I particularly feel like a bad mother.   Maybe I overindulged him.  Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten so pissed off when he was 12 and I got a bill from the cable company for about $300 worth of hard core porn pay-per-view.  That’s one of the things that has to suck about being an only child (although when I was a child I would have been delighted if somehow my sisters would have gotten shipped off to Africa or Siberia or pretty much anywhere way far away from me where they couldn’t kick my ass, and guys couldn’t ask me for my phone number so they could call them.)  With an only child, everyone knows exactly who to blame for everything messed up or bizarre- from the unflushed, toilet paper-less mountain of feces in the toilet to the BB holes in the walls and ceilings.  Even though he denied it, I knew he was the purveyor of the pay-per-view porn, and it was so easy to prove.  It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure this out:

1. Jerry is lucky to figure out how to use the remote to turn on the TV and change channels.  Anything beyond that, including operating the “guide” function, is quite over his head. 

2.  While I can navigate the cable menus with the remote with relative ease, I am not awake from 11PM-2AM, which is when said skin flicks were viewed, and I really have no use for flicks with titles like, “Hot Cheerleaders in Heat” or “Thunder Twats.”  If I were to be the video voyeur, there would have to be a lot more sausage in the titles for them to interest me.

Soooo, the only person in the house who understands the technology (how to access pay-per-view with the remote,) and is awake at such an unholy hour to view the ill-gotten smut, and has an interest in plotless girlie action would be???

Process of elimination?  The fact that the dirty viewing was all done on weekend nights when he had buddies staying over clinched the deal.

I still have pay-per-view disabled in my house, just in case by some weird Murphy’s Law-like corollary, Jerry would access it by mistake.    I know Jerry figuring out pay-per-view (or even accessing it by accident, which would be more likely) would be about as likely as 1000 monkeys banging on typewriters coming up with Webster’s Dictionary, but it would be my luck.

I need to find a site where I can virtually punch something.  Something to make me feel better about completely horribly sucking at everything. Online Frogger is good, but a bit frustrating because the aim is NOT to get the frog hit by a truck.

I guess I am just waiting for something else to remind me what a horrible mother I am.  Oh, yeah, I didn’t buy him those $100 pants he wanted when he was in 8th grade, or the big screen TV.  I made him fess up to his Dad when he was five years old and called me a b—h.  I didn’t staple a full body condom on him every time he walked out the door.

Then again I have to remember, the boy is now an adult and perfectly free to screw up all by himself.  Lord knows I screwed up just about everything, and freaking still do.