Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wanted: Dead or Alive?

OK, so I'm talking to a dear friend about strange topics which happens to be my forte and somehow I was reminded of an odd incident that happened to me concerning the above illustrated badge.
My son, bless his heart, had a variety of problems growing up including bi-polar disorder, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder and a touch of paranoia. Naturally, he was an interesting little fellow to say the least and my heart goes out to all the parents who have dealt and are dealing with these terrible disorders. For the record, I wish to report that he did make it to adulthood and now has two children of his own. He can and does joke about his early days and say such things as "But that was then. I'm all better now!" using that same crazy way of saying it and that weird look in his eyes as the comics use to portray criminally insane people. He's a good sport and I love him dearly.
Anyhow, he was always quite sure that the police, the sheriff's department, the DEA, the FBI, the NSA, the IRS, the KGB, Scotland Yard, the Surete, the Israeli Moussad or some other top secret entity was watching our house, just waiting to cart him off into the night never to be seen again. Why? I have no idea other than the fact that during his teenage years, he was indulging a little reefer to go along with his meds which is apparently not a good combination. So he was always telling me about strange vans and cars stalking the neighborhood using their top-secret spy equipment to look through our walls and see us in the shower, etc. Most of the time, I listened patiently to these reports and tried to debunk them as much as possible to alleviate his fears.
So one day he hisses at me from the front door and shows me a plain white van sitting across the street in the post office parking lot. He tells me that the van has been sitting there for three days and that he's quite sure that there are FBI agents in the van watching the house. Naturally, I explain that the parking lot is shady, it was very hot outside and the person or persons in the van was probably just sitting in the shade, taking a break and reading their mail. Besides, I told him in all seriousness, the driver looks like a lady and is probably the owner of a flower shop who gets a lot of mail or something. He was unconvinced.
A couple of days later, I was sitting at my typewriter, banging on the keys when I looked up and noticed a strange lady, dressed to the nines, in my yard, talking to my youngest daughter who looked quite frightened. I walked out on the front porch and caught the woman's attention and asked if I could help her.
She strode boldly across my yard and flipped out a badge.
She gestured to the same white van across the street and told me that she had been surveilling the house for several days.
After I regained my breath and picked my stomach up off the porch, I invited her inside to talk.
Turned out a friend of mine had put in for a federal position that required a secret clearance and had given me as a reference.
I learned three important things that day:
1.) If my son says that UFO's are landing in the backyard, then it's probably time to run.
2.) We spend a lot of federal tax dollars sending FBI agents out on missions that could better be done IMHO by a couple of clerks with a good computer system.
3.) Female FBI agents do indeed look like Dana Scully.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bait and Switch

Sometimes it is very hard to believe that people can be so naive, but it must be so since the old idea of bait and switch skuldugery still exists in this so-called enlightened age. For example, recently, I have been searching on Craig's list for a late model used car in order to buy a second car (the emergency car?). So I've looked at all these automobiles and called a hundred different places asking questions. I've wasted about $200 so far in gas and incidental expenses driving to different places to look at potential purchases. Here's what happens:

"Hello, I'm Dave. I'm calling about that 2004 Lincoln LS you have listed for $6995?"

"Oh, si, I mean yes, senor... er, sir. Just call me Gerardo. That is an excellent vehicle. Only 78,000 miles. Runs like a top. Looks great, smells good. One previous owner. I would buy it myself, but my wife won't let me. Ha, ha, ha, ha."

"Yeah, ha, ha. So have you done any maitenance on it?"

"Oh, si.. yes, sir! We do a complete 100001 point inspection. It's cherry."

"OK. So where can I find you?"

Detailed description of how to get to the lot which is located in the heart of Scary Neighborhood.

Get dressed, grab checkbook, gas up the car and take off. Get lost six times. Have to stop and eat. Spend money. Get more gas. Spend more money at convenience store on snacks and drinks because you don't know when you'll ever find your way home again. Exchange fone calls with Gerardo seventeen times. Finally, his place comes into view and I shudder to my toes.

"Ok, hey, Dave! Glad you could make it. Look, here's the key. Giver her a spin. Take your time. We put a gallon of gas in it last week."

"OK," I say taking the keys reluctantly.

The car starts up. The AC smells like it survived the Medieval Black Plague. The radio/stereo works fine. The odometer shows it has 147,000 miles on it. The sticker on the window says '2001'.

"Hey, Gerardo! I thought you said it was a 2004?"

"Oh, no, senor. We sold that car just 3o minutes before you arrived. So sorry."

"But the mileage is a bit high. How much for this one?"

"$6995 plut TT & L."

"What?! That was what you said you wanted for the newer, lower mileage car!"

"Oh, si, but this car has custom wheels and a moon roof. It has a 6 CD player and special speakers and just look at that custom wrap on the steering wheel. With a new paint job and a little TLC, this car would be mint. A bargain!"

"Oh," I say as I roll up the window and put it in drive.

Clunk. Buzz. Rattle, rattle. Clunk. Grind, bump. I think I'm at a strip club before I get back.

"Hey, Gerardo!" I say, handing him the key. "The car needs brakes. The tranny slips. The back tires are worn out. The spare is missing. The horn doesn't work. The rear-view mirror is falling off and the grill is cracked in three places."

"Oh, well, that can all be fixed," he smiles. "We have a garage out back. Besides, what do you expect. It was owned by Avis, you know?"

Oh, well. Back on the road. More gas. More snacks out of sheer frustration and disappointment.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Retirement Home

Great news! I'll be closing on my retirement home on the Lake next week. The owner accepted my offer and the title search is underway. Speaking of searches... I will have to search for the property boundaries and put up some markers. I was thinking of using that stink bait stuff for bears or moose or something. I know the neighbors are a bit close, but hey! It's Lake Property. You have to compromise when it comes to views and such. If you look close, you can see one of my soon-to-be new neighbors on his balcony, basking in the sun, enjoying the morning. I'll be able to pull my boat right up to my first floor landing and use it whenever I want. Reminds me of the canals of Venice, Italy. Maybe I should hire one of those Gondolier fellows to sing to me while I'm fishing. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Day!!

Retirement is indescribably delicious like eating ten pounds of chocolate with getting fat or sick! I've been waiting a long time for this day and now that it is here, I'm at a loss for words to describe the feeling of complete freedom that comes with it. It's the same feeling I used to get when I went to bed on Friday night and knew I didn't have to set the clock, but instead of only Fridays, it's every night. It's that Saturday morning feeling every morning and it's never having my Sunday spoiled by random thoughts of Monday morning. That's how it is.

Now that I'm retired, I'll have to give up my beautiful Hill Country and move once more back toward the coast and Deep East Texas 'where I come from'. I've invested in a modest lake country home (without a lake view, of course) but the water is within walking distance... not that I would walk there, but it's close. Fishing piers, boat ramp and the biggest lake in the state of Texas.
East Texas has its drawbacks of course. There are those mosquitoes that are the size of rescue helicopters that attack you on those hot, sultry afternoons and mornings, hence the need for screen porches and mosquito spray. Then of course the Gulf is not that far away and sometimes it decides to pay a visit in the form of the occasional hurricane or two. I'll be far enough away that I won't have to evacuate, but I'll be the refuge point for evacuees, which is always fun. Not that I would turn anyone away, but it's better to have people (family and friends) visit because they want to rather than have to. But I was born and raised in the woods and back to the woods I must go, once more proving the cyclical nature of life.
I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. I'm free and it feels good!