Monday, August 31, 2009

Drive-Thru or Walk-In?

This is one of our modern day conundrums, like yesteryear’s “paper or plastic.” Everywhere, whether you’re going out for burgers, donuts, or perhaps just to make a bank deposit, you have to make the choice.

My wife and I discovered a couple years ago that, even if we were in the mood to enjoy our Checkerburgers outside at one of the tables, we would get our victuals a lot quicker via the drive-thru than if we parked and lined up at the front window.

The bank? We haven’t quite figured that one out, yet. Like this morning I drove down to Bank America on 52 in Hudson. Because I was making what I believed was a “simple” transaction, and since I know the lines inside were tied up by old-timers who went to the bank just to converse with the tellers, I figured I’d try the drive-thru.

It seemed like the right choice, because the third slot from the window was empty allowing me to pull right in. Hastily, I placed my three checks plus the deposit slip in a canister and sent it off. I wanted to get some cash back, $50, so to facilitate matters, I had remembered to sign the slip in the appropriate spot. Quick in and out, I’m thinking.

I had a good view of the two women who were working the drive-thru. One of them pulled my canister out of the shoot and set it down while she completed the transaction she was working on. My turn. I watched as she ran the checks thru the little machine the tellers have. I guess it’s some kind of scanner. Something wasn’t going right - she seemed perplexed. She went thru the procedure again, with no more success. Several minutes went by, then she gave up and carried my checks, etc. to the other girl.

I was familiar with this girl. She has hair down past her ass. The last time she had served me inside, she had greeted me with a “Congratulations, Mr. Toscano, you’ve been selected to…” She was trying to make it sound like I had won something when, in truth, she was trying to sell me something. “No, thanks,” I replied.

Meanwhile, a lady in an SUV who had been sitting behind me, saw an open slot. So, she backed up and slid into it. Needless to say, a couple minutes later, she was finished and on her way. I pressed the “Call” button. “Yes? Can I help you?” girl number one responded. “Yeah,” I said. “How come she’s gone and I’m still sitting here?” “Well, sir, she may have had a simpler transaction that was easy to complete.” “I’m depositing three checks and getting $50 back. I thought that was pretty simple.” “Well, there was a problem with your checks. They have to be scanned individually…” Crapola. I’ve been going to that bank for years. It takes about 2 seconds to scan on check.

Other customers are coming and going. I’m still waiting. Finally, Ms. Long Hair ships the canister back and says, “Thank you, sir, have a great day.” “Yeah, sure,” I bark back. “It’s gonna be wonderful.” “When you want cash back, sir, we have to scan the checks individually…” I got the message: the delay was my fault because I brought them three checks and asked for $50 back. No chance that the fault was theirs. Next time, I’ll see if I can deposit the checks at Checkers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Off Off Network TV

‘Tis the season - the networks are showing reruns or crappy summer replacements like NBC’s The Philanthropist or Fox’s Mental. It’s downright depressing to think I’ll never get back the hours I wasted watching those two losers. We don't subscribe to the elite channels, like HBO and Showtime. So, we’ve been sampling the original offerings the cable channels have been producing.

First, let me get this off my chest, after panning The Closer some time back, I have to confess Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson played by Kyra Sedgwick has wormed her way into my heart. In a field that includes few gems, this show stands out. Another show worth watching is the resurrected Law and Order: Criminal Intent now showing on the USA Network. With Det. Zack Nichols, played by actor Jeff Goldblum, joining the distinguished team of quirky crime investigators, the show still packs a punch for diehard fans. To be honest, though, my wife and I always experience a letdown whenever an episode doesn’t feature our favorite tandem, Detectives Robert Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Alex Eames (Kathryn Erbe). But somehow we manage to fight through our disappointment.

Burn Notice, starring Michael Westen, Gabrielle Anwar, with Sharon Gless, has also become one of our favorites. The premise, the writing, the acting are all top of the charts. Though the season just ended, we’re already impatient for the next installment.

Saving Grace, according to my wife, gets a little too silly at times and she abhors all kinds of silliness. Still, there’s something there worth watching, so we haven’t deleted it from our preferred list.

Royal Pains falls into the “okay” category. Somewhat lighter in tone, it’s a nice change from the deluge of heavy material. Speaking of which, TNT’s Dark Blue is too dark for our tastes. Its successor on Wednesday nights, Leverage, is too poorly written and acted and should haunt Timothy Hutton for the rest of his career.

But, it’s mid August and the new season of Network TV is right around the corner. Thanks God for small favors.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Golf Channel – Are You Serious?

I was getting ready for lunch the other day, and, since the PGA Tournament was in progress, instead of the usual First Take on ESPN2, I thought I might watch some early round golf action. Too lazy to check out the TV directory, I had been by the Golf Channel enough times to know it was 67 on the dial so I punched it in. Sure enough, the graphics announced that they were covering the PGA Tournament.

Well, I was only half-watching as I messed around in the kitchen making a sandwich. And even when I brought everything into the living room and began to eat I wasn’t paying close attention. Eventually, however, it dawned on me that the Golf Channel’s coverage consisted of shots of the players on the practice tee, periodic expert roundtable discussions, interviews with players and golf dignitaries, scoring updates – basically, everything you might expect except one thing. There was no golf. I’m talking about actual tournament play. None. Nada. Obviously, they didn’t have the rights to broadcast the tournament. I later found some coverage on TNT. They were working in tandem with CBS. Anyway, when I realized I was being duped, I was terribly offended and changed the channel.

It very well could be that avid golf fans already knew about the extent of the golf channel’s coverage. I guess some fans might even find it entertaining. A couple days later, just looking for some background information, I returned to their coverage and who do I see giving a report? None other than Jim Grey. How low can you go, Jim? Jim’s career went into a tailspin shortly after his infamous interview with Pete Rose following Pete’s introduction as part of the All Century Team during Game 2 of the 1999 World Series. Many people, including me, were outraged that he had chosen that particular moment in history to attack one to the greats of the game. His subsequent apology did little to resurrect his career. He gradually became less and less prominent, then, finally, he disappeared. But, now he’s back. On the golf channel! Interviewing groundskeepers and parking attendants. I watched his interview closely. He said nothing the least offensive. Yet, I was offended anyway. He’s performing a job that could just as well go to some worthy Mexican.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ace's Internet – Forever and A Day

This is pretty funny… at least to me.

Back in the 90’s, when we were living in Northwest Montana, long before I had harnessed the vast money-making potential of the internet, I had some web pages on space provided by my internet provider.

This was the early going, when I was just learning html, an era when flowery backgrounds were all the rage. To look at them now, my pages would appear crude. Oops, you can look at them, now. Try visiting My Jerks Page.

Someone pissed me off during our last stint in Big Sky Country. We had previously built a house outside Kalispell along side Lake Blaine on property we purchased from our friends, the Andrews. But developers started crowding in on us so we sold out and relocated to Spring Hope, North Carolina where we bought a house from the sister-in-law of Major League ball player Gary Gaetti.

But I digress. I can’t remember who pissed me off… Wait, it’s coming back to me – it was a couple of asshole landlords. We hooked up with them by chance; they were masquerading as hippies, or naturalites, or whatever you want to call the tree-hugging bastards. Anyway, in between granola bars, they managed to cultivate some pretty severe OCDs which I, in particular, having a degree in psychology, didn’t want to be part of. So, we found alternate digs, they kept our security deposit, blah blah blah.

Anyway, they inspired me to create the Jerks page. As you can see from The Jerk’s List, the page struck a responsive chord and in a short amount of time I accumulated a fair amount of fellow gripers.

The thing is, we moved out of there shortly after Y2K, in the spring of 2000. That’s when I closed my account with my Flathead Valley ISP. Yet, these pages are still out there. I no longer have access to them, can’t update them, or change them – but they’re still out there. Just for the hell of it, I googled “Ace’s Cabin Fever,” the title of an online journal I used to keep. Up it came, top of the page.

Thank goodness, I had the presence of mind to delete a lot of the contents before I closed the account. I mean, some of my journal entries were brutally honest. Hey, neither I nor Al Gore had any idea this thing we invented was going to last!

Last year, my pc crashed and I lost a lot of sentimental pics I’d been storing on my hard-drive. Well, guess what I found among my old Montana pages, the Toscano family album. Check it out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

House Hunters – Home Sweet Home

Staying married for almost 44 years involves more than a little compromising. That’s why I can be found some evenings watching along with my sweeter-half one of her favorite TV shows, House Hunters.

For the uninitiated, House Hunters follows the real-life exploits of a couple or family as they try to buy a house. The show invariably starts off in the buyer's present digs pointing out the dwelling's shortcomings and elaborating on what they are looking for in their new place. Then, a realtor shows them three different places from which they ultimately choose one. That’s the show in a nutshell.

Along the way to hovel happiness, we get to see firsthand the insights and observations of the prospective buyers. Some want yards for their dogs. As if the dogs really care about the place where they lift their legs or squat! Others desire finished basements for their musical pursuits. Recently, a man complained about the narrowness of a bathroom. I couldn’t help wondering aloud, “What’s he want to do in there, practice ballroom dancing?”

And kitchens are very important to some women, and men. Many, nowadays, are disappointed if the countertops are not made of granite and their appliances are not stainless steal. I don’t know what bugs me more, their whining, or their need to keep up with the latest trends. I’ve sold a couple houses and I can tell you that if prospective buyers tried to negotiate the asking price down by citing some perceived shortcoming, I’d simply state “Then this isn’t the house for you. Go look someplace else.”

Another of my wife’s favorite shows involves people who have sold their houses returning sometime later to see what the new owners have done to it. The drama involves the host sharing reactions of the old owners with the new owners. I rate this show a strong Who-the-Hell-Gives-A-Shit. It’s not your house any more! These people can do whatever the hell they want with it.

What I don’t go through for my lady.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Last Chance Harvey Painful To Watch

Dustin Hoffman as Emma Thompson’s father I could stomach. As her love interest? Where’s the barf bag?

I felt like a flick the other day so I stopped at the Red Box just inside the entrance to our friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart. I’m not a snob, but I have little interest in B movies that bombed at the box office. Unfortunately, when you’re standing in front of the Red Box, you cannot access any critical reviews, just the promotional blurb. Categorized as a Romance, Last Chance Harvey was described like this, “In London for his daughter's wedding, a rumpled man finds his romantic spirits lifted by a new woman in his life. Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for brief strong language.” Not much to go on.

When I got home, my wife seemed to recall she had heard good things about it and a subsequent check with indeed revealed that both Bens, Lyons and Mankiewicz, recommended it, Mank calling it “a really sweet and tender movie.”

For critics, these guys are too easily entertained. This slow paced, plotless, romp to boredom did nothing for me except make me groan in agony. The idea of Harvey and Kate getting together is, for me, as sick as great granddad fondling little girls in the park.

Of course, joining Lyons and Mankiewicz was my wife. She, too, thought the movie was sweet. Could be I’ve suddenly become immune to “sweet.” After all, I am a diabetic.