Saturday, April 23, 2011

Florida State Troopers: Cracking Down on Speeders

Much appreciation to Florida State Trooper J. Johnson who was vigilantly at work yesterday making highway 19 in North Pasco County safe for motorists by clamping down on speeders hell-bent on impeding the orderly flow of traffic. Unfortunately, the speeder he clamped down on was yours truly while I was making my daily run up to Capone's on County Line Road in Hernando County.

A cheerful chap, Trooper Johnson introduced himself by inquiring, "Do you know why I pulled you over?"

Taking a wild guess, I responded, "I was going too fast?"

"You were going 72 miles per hour," he said. "Any particular reason why?"

"Yeah," I said, "That guy in the car from the used car lot was all over the road, so I wanted to get around him."

"I'm talking about when you passed that tractor trailer."

"Oh," I recollected, "That was earlier."

He didn't want details, but what happened was I was behind this tractor trailer in the center lane going about 60 when this old fart in the right lane decides to swing over right in front of me for no good reason except maybe he liked the view better from there or maybe he was planning on getting in the left lane ten or twelve miles down the road. Anyway, he was only going 45 so I decided to pass him and while I was in the process of passing him I decided I might as well pass the tractor trailer, too. Did I get up to 72? Well, to be honest, I wasn't watching the speedometer since it didn't seem like a good time to take my eyes off the road. But, I doubt it. I'm usually pretty good at spotting speed traps. I didn't see this guy hiding on the southbound side of the road, so I have to think he was camped out along the northbound side, which means we were separated by the tractor trailer, begging the question of how did he clock me when I was shielded by the big truck? Of course, in the excitement of the moment, I didn't think to contradict him but on reconsideration I'll say I was going about Sixty-five, maybe a little more. But, not 72.

"Do you know what the speed limit is?"

"Sixty?" I knew it was 55, but I figured I'd play dumb. I knew there was no chance of getting off with a warning no matter what I said, not with his lights flashing like it was Christmas and him having followed me around the corner onto County Line Road.

"Fifty-five," he informed me. "May I have your license."

I dug it out of my wallet while he watched, hoping, I guess, that a pound of pot or a kilo of heroin might fall out. Sorry, Trooper, I don't indulge. I haven't even had a beer since Y2K.

I must've represented Trooper Johnson's quota for the day, because after presenting me with my citation, he drove across the median, headed back to 19 where I, not feeling much like shooting pool, anymore, was also headed, and rocketed south at an appropriate speed for someone in a big freakin' hurry to get somewhere.

Understandably, I'm wasn’t feeling too chipper just then, getting a ticket because some brain dead octagenarian all of a sudden decided he preferred the real estate in the center lane. I mean, do you think it's fun driving in Florida, the place where the dead and nearly dead can still get drivers' licenses? It's not uncommon to pull up along somebody who's on life support. I'm serious! Hey, if public transportation down here wasn't so crappy, I'd be it's biggest proponent. Unfortunately, it sucks.

I'm heading south, today, to DJ's. The roads going in that direction are so clogged with old fogies that it's just about impossible to speed. Not that I was speeding, mind you, but if I was so inclined.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seaside Cleaners, Hudson, FL: They Took US to the Cleaners, Literally

Back home, we had a dry cleaner, let's call them Lupo's Dry Cleaner. The owners, good friends of many people in town, were nice people and standup members of the community. We went to the same church and even had morning coffee at the same luncheonette. When we needed something dry cleaned, it was automatic - we went to Lupo's. And, as friends of ours, they went out of their way to give us good service.

Nowadays, on the western edge of Pasco County, things are a lot different. To tell you the truth, an experience we had several years ago caused us to lose all confidence in local dry cleaners. My wife brought something to the cleaners with pleats and they proceded to press the pleats right out of the garment. She brought the item, a jacket, back, but to no avail. She eventually had to iron in the pleats herself. Right then and there, she swore off Florida dry cleaners.

But, with the passing of several years, her resolve dissipated. We were coming out of our favorite pizzeria, Leo & Joe's, when she notice that next door in the strip mall was a cleaners, Seaside Cleaners. Dare she give them a try, she wondered. Why not, I said. So, a couple days later I brought down three of her jackets.

I picked them up this morning and set them on the bed where my wife could inspect them when she got home. Within seconds of checking them out, she came charging out of the bedroom with her just-cleaned white jacket in hand. Look at this, she said, pointing to a pattern of black marks on the front that covered an area 8 inch square. These weren't on there. Then she pointed out the dirty cuffs which were the reason she wanted to have the jacket cleaned in the first place. They were still dirty. She wanted to bring it back, right then.

So, we hopped in the car and returned to Seaside Cleaners. What would have been nice and, frankly, what we expected, was a promise to have the jacket recleaned for no charge. Unfortunately, that was not going to happen, not without a lot of perseverence, anyway.

The girl who was manning the store was very noncommital. Before a decision could be made on how to handle my wife's jacket, someone else had to inspect it and then call us up at home next week, after the weekend. Pardon me, but the jacket's not just dirty, but dirtier than when we dropped it off. Now, you expect us to suffer through some kind of insane process whereby it is confirmed that there is a problem. Don't be silly, folks, just reclean it.

Out of patience, my wife says, Forgetabout it. Just give me my money back. Not so fast. Once again, before any money can be refunded, the jacket would have to sit there over the weekend until someone in authority arrived on the scene on Monday who would determine if the refund was warranted. Give me a freakin' break! The damn thing's dirty, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that. You had your chance... and failed. Just give us our money. No, she wasn't in a position to do that. Well, call somebody who is! No, she couldn't do that either.

Finally, figuring we had already wasted enough gas, we said the hell with the $5 and took the jacket home swearing, once again, never to go to a local dry cleaner. Upon arriving home, my wife threw all three jackets into the washer because, in truth, none of them had come out very clean and in minutes they came out spotless. If your clothing is washable, I suggest you follow her lead and wash it. If it's dry clean only, then I suggest burning it, or donating it to Good Will. But, please, don't get taken to the cleaners.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's My Fantasy

My Ace's Web World team finished first in the Yahoo Fantasy Basketball League: ROUNDBALL, having eked out a victory over Brooklyn USA in the finals; I finished third in the League: Miami Street Hoops playoffs after having been first in the standings all season long. Anything can happen in the playoffs - coaches rest key players, thereby, decimating your team.

There was a similar story in my ESPN leagues. I finished first after a down-to-the-wire tie-break decided final in league "big ballers." Team Wagoner had had me on the ropes and, in fact, took the lead with just a handful of games left on the final day of the season. But, players in the late games came through for me, gave me a tie, which, with tie-break considerations, turned out to be enough.

Of course, with the NBA fantasy season over, I can now give more attention to my fantasy baseball teams, all eight of them - 4 on Yahoo, three on ESPN, and one at Nothing much to report; many of my best players, pitchers and hitters, are off to a slow start. Check back with me in June.

Last season, in response to an invitation issued by someone I've clashed with in various fantasy leagues, I joined Underworld Baseball, a so-called Yahoo Keepers League which I quickly learned meant that each manager got to keep ten players from last year's roster going into the new season. Other spots were filled through a draft. I battled all season, dropping duds and picking up replacements from free agency, and made it to the two-week head-to-head finals. I led after the first week, but injuries and the all-to-familiar resting up players for the play-offs wasted my offense and I wound up coming in second to Texas Express, just by a whisker.

I picked my ten keepers for 2011 and prepared for the draft, even made my first round selection. Then, the draft order was brought to my attention. As a reward for his Championship in 2010, Texas Express was given the first pick in the draft. Second pick went to the team that had finished first in the regular season, before the playoffs started. My team, the team that had finished second by an eyelash in 2010, was given no special consideration. In fact, all that my efforts from the previous season had earned me was the last pick in the first round. I mean everybody, those who finished ahead of me, and those who finished behind me, drafted ahead of me. It just didn't seem right and the more I thought about it, the more I felt like the league commissioner had given me the shaft. So, I dropped out and moved on with my life. Hey, screw me once - shame on you; screw me twice - shame on me.

The only other thing I have going in the fantasy world is one ESPN Fantasy Stock Car team. Let's just say, thus far, I'm not tearing up the competition.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dana Delany's Body of Proof: Two Pollexes Up

Back in the late 1980s when she was in her early 30s and co-starring in China Beach, who would have thought Dana Delany would still be going strong at 55? Well, she is. And, at 55, she's still looking pretty good. I'm sure some Botox is involved, but, at least, she doesn't have any of that catwoman stuff going on.

When I first heard about Body of Proof, this new series on ABC, I immediately thought to myself "channeling Kay Scarpetta," the world's foremost fictional female medical examiner. And, even though I'm a big Patricia Cornwell fan, I wasn't enthusiastic about the prospect. The last book in the series I read, The Scarpetta Factor, was so steeped in melancholy and depression that I have yet to recover. Thankfully, three episodes in, I'm happy to report Body of Proof isn't anything like that. Sure, the characters have some emotional issues, but their brooding is interrupted often enough with light-hearted quips that we are pleasantly distracted from the murder and death that TV M.E.s characteristically deal with.

Also in the cast are Jeri Ryan, a soap opera veteran, and John Carroll Lynch who has successfully played many roles but who for me will always be duck-painting Norm Gunderson, Margie Gunderson's husband in the classic film Fargo.

Anyway, I've seen three episodes so far and enjoyed each one of them. I only hope this series doesn't get whacked by those network geniuses who knock promising new shows off the air.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blockbuster Express: Black Swan Gouging

If we're at the WalMart, I usually check out what's available on DVD from the Red Box. If we're at Publix, I go to the Blockbuster Express Kiosk (BEK). We were at Publix the other day, so I pressed the "Rent" button to see what was available on the BEK. Placed first among the available movies was "Black Swan." Now, I hadn't been going out of my mind in anticipation of seeing this highly touted flick, but, since it was available, I clicked on it to go to the detail screen. First thing that popped into my eye was the price, $2.99.

Now, the great thing about getting movies at these kiosks is the price which usually is one day for a dollar. There's no better deal. I screwed around with Netflix for a while but all that mailing back and forth can turn into quite a hassle after a while. Red Box, et al, are da bomb.

But, $2.99? What the hell's that about? It's like when I go into a second hand store and find that instead of one price for all books, like Hard Covers for $1, somebody has attempted to place a value on each individual book with prices ranging from $1 to $10. I mean, that's plane ridiculous. What do these people know about books and their content? Absolutely nothing. Basically, they're all the same, just pages with words on them.

DVDs should be the same - they contain movies. Granted some are better than others, but that often is an individual determination. Heck, last week we rented "Due Date" with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis because someone my wife knows said it was funny. Based on the summary, I had passed it over several times because it sounded to me like an inferior version of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," a movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy which I liked a lot.

Well, to make a long story short, "Due Date" sucked. There was nothing likeable about the Galifianakis character and I wouldn't have minded of Downey had murdered him in scene one. But, like I said, there are people out there who liked it.

We've since rented "The Fighter" from Red Box and enjoyed that one a lot.

Anyway, at $2.99, I wasn't interested in "Black Swan" nor, apparently, was anyone else since the DVD was still available the next day when we stopped by Publix for the Sunday paper. I struck up a conversation with an older woman who was returning a movie and led her to the Black Swan detail page showing her the massive $2.99 price tag. "My God," she said. "I've never seen that before."

"Me, neither," I said, adding, "I hear the company's doing lousy. Maybe, that's the reason."

"Yes," she said. "They just closed down the store down on 52."

"I saw that," I said, referring to the old Blockbuster retail store where you'd have to take out a mortgage to rent a movie.

"I think I'll stick with Red Box," I told her. "There's a new one across the street at Walgreens."

"Oh, I'll have to give that a try."

I don't think either of us will ever be comfortable with Blockbuster Express again.