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Month: November 2005

Episode 7: “One Expensive Cat” in The Neverending Saga of the Most Beat Up 20 Month Old Car in the World

Episode 7: “One Expensive Cat” in The Neverending Saga of the Most Beat Up 20 Month Old Car in the World

In the past month or two I’ve noticed that the parking garage in my building has some cats. Stray cats I assume. I’ve seen them more than a few times, but I’ve also seen their handiwork in the form of little prints all over my (previously spotless) car. On Sunday Amy and I decided to go to the Robinson’s May that is less than a mile from my place. As I was turning the car around in the garage I saw one of the stray cats. I lurched the car forward at it to scare it a bit and ranted about the cats to Amy.

Minutes later as we drove down Oxnard we heard “meow……meow…..meow.” We looked at each other with a “did you hear that too?” look.. After some discussion we realized we were both hearing a cat’s meow, and it was coming from the car. Amy speculated that it was in the trunk; I thought maybe it was a stray clinging to the bottom for its life. We were almost to Robinson’s May already anyway, so when we got there I popped the hood.

We stood there in amazement at the sight. Wedged between the right side of the V6 and some tubing was an undulating mass of white fur. Amy tried yelling “get out” a few times to no avail. I decided to try a more direct tactic.

I previously reported that part of the plans for fixing my car didn’t go so well. That part was the lit rear “finisher” – a chrome plate that was affixed just above the license plate area. In the center it has the phrase “Mazda6” in red LED lighting. The problem that was once the shop installed it and hooked it up; they discovered that it wouldn’t work. The general theory is that the LEDs never worked, and I bought a broken piece from ebay (damn you, ebay!). A week later I went back to the shop and had them remove the piece from the car. This piece was still in the trunk Sunday and was the only thing that could remotely be considered for use as a “cat-poker.”

I poked the cat with the finisher and it scrambled down deeper into the ductwork of the engine, somewhere near the lower firewall. Then I went to the driver’s seat and turned the car back on. As soon as I did the cat leaped out and scampered away. Amy saw this and started waving her arms. I didn’t notice at first and only caught the back half of the cat as it skittered underneath a nearby car in the parking lot.

We had a good laugh and went inside Robinson’s May.

Hours later I was on my way (alone) to Amy’s mother’s house for dinner. I was on the phone with my mother when I heard a curious whirring sound. The whirring became a chugging and my dash started to light up with warning lights. I dropped the call and took the next exit from the 134 east. I was just outside Glendale, so I took the Figueroa exit. I turned right and hoped for a gas station or something. I found the only freeway exit in Los Angeles with no gas station..or buildings…or anything. The car was sputtering to a stop so I turned it off right in the road (which seemed deserted) and opened the hood. The noise I’d heard was due to the engine coolant bubbling up and leaking out. I turned the car back on and headed back the other way. There was a gas station soon enough near Colorado Street. I sat in the car mulling my options. I called Amy and told her I couldn’t come for dinner. At first I said I’d drop the car off at the dealer tomorrow morning.

As I got back on the 134 heading west the noises got worse. So bad in fact that I decided I should go straight to the Mazda dealer in Glendale (after all I was only a few miles away). I parked the car at the dealer and started making calls to see what I was going to do (how I’d get home). In a few hours Amy came and picked me up. We went back to my place and got another Papa Johns Pan Pizza. Man, those really are good pizzas! Amy had rented movies for herself to watch through the week earlier that day, so she brought those. We decided to watch Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon (most of you already know my feelings about her). How Roger Ebert gave this movie four stars I’ll never know. We both agreed it was really boring and somewhat pointless. I can’t imagine what the book must be like. All I thought at the end was “boy, what a slut..why should I care?”

The next morning we woke up at 6am and Amy drove me to the dealership. They said they’d call me in the afternoon and pay for a rental so I could get to work since it was under warranty (I was mum about the cat). I got to Enterprise quick enough, but had to wait in a long line. Once it was time to choose a car I was informed that I HAD to drive an F-150. Apparently the Star dealerships had changed their rental policy and require renters to drive Ford products. I protested, as I didn’t think a truck that sits four feet off the ground would ever fit into my subterranean (homesick alien) garage. After a few tense moments they offered me a Focus that had just came back and had not been cleaned. I took it. The catch? The gas tank was dry; the little light was even on and blinking. The Enterprise guy told me they’d repay me for gas when I returned the car. I sped off to work and ended up getting there just a hair after 9am. (my day usually starts at 7:15ish)

The repair work took two days. I only put enough gas in the rental for one day, so I decided to do a Kramer on Tuesday and try to drive it all day without putting gas in it. Despite getting caught behind a flipped-car accident on the 118 I did it and turned the car with an empty tank just like I got it. Obviously the guy who promised to compensate me for gas wasn’t working when I returned the car, after complaining an irate employee offered me a “free upgrade” the next time I have to rent a car (which I plan to do some time next year as the dash noise that I’ve complained about in the past has returned and is worsening). Whatever, I just wanted my car back.

At the Mazda dealership I was informed that they had to put a drive belt back on its cogs (wheels, whatever) and replace a “cooling fan.” The fan was why it took two days because it had to be ordered. Turns out the fan is a $600 part. The dealer chalked everything up to warranty and I didn’t have to pay a penny. Keeping my mouth shut saved me at least $800 (figure in the labor hours and rental car costs on top of the $600 part).

One stray cat did $600+ damage to my car.

In unrelated news I feel like I’m getting sick again. My body aches and I’m getting head congestion. Not surprising seeing as how Susan, Mike, and Sherry at work are all already sick. I remember a time though when I’d get sick maybe once a year if that. This new little bug is coming on the heels of one that only truly left my system no more than three weeks ago.

At a time like this it would be nice if one could stay home sick and watch the biggest game of the weekend (known to many as simply “The Game”) on tv. However, our local ABC affiliate in Los Angeles has instead decided to air the monumentally important (please tell me you can smell my sarcasm) Cal vs. Stanford game. Do you think the ABC affiliate in Dayton will be showing Toledo vs. Whoever, or Miami of Ohio vs. Whoever? You are going to have more people watching The Game at watching parties this weekend in LA than you’ll have people watching Cal vs. Stanford AT THE GAME. Outrageous! Yes, this is the same ABC affiliate that cut the feed from the OSU opener halfway through the game because they didn’t think anyone was interested.

I’m going to take as much medicine as I can so I can cheer on with the crowd at the bar. There is speculation that a Montes might show up, but this is only rumor at this point.

Omega sucks

Omega sucks

Ugh! Dammit… Omega changed the date and time of the commercial shoot. Now they are shooting at 8am the day after Thanksgiving. If I worked for a school I’d have the day off, but I don’t…so I can’t…

Pining for the Cuco

Pining for the Cuco

Nothing makes you feel dumber than calling the bank and asking for a stop-payment on your check… yourself. Last week I put in a transfer of funds order with my savings account. I thought I was transferring money from savings to my checking account. I was doing it so I could pay off my car, so we are talking about an amount just shy of five figures here. I went to my checking online account last night to see if the money was there yet. Nothing. So I went to my savings (with a different company) and noticed it had added the amount to the balance there, not subtracted. Needless to say I was freaking out as I don’t keep ten grand in my checking account! This was going to be one heavy overdraft fee if I didn’t correct this. It was too late to do anything on the savings account end; I left an urgent “emergency message” on their voicemail. Then I called USBank and gussied up a $30 stop-payment. Wow does that make you feel like a moron…

My quest to record music on my computer has taken a long and winding road. At first I thought I’d get a used Mbox. Then I thought I’d need MIDI, so I had to get Mbox2. Then I found the Lexicon Omega. The Omega is advertised with the curious phrase “+ Cubase” all over the internet. When you read the fine print it turns out it comes with PowerTracks Pro, which is a baby version of Cakewalk. Not Cubase or even close. This turned me off to the Lexicon. I knew I needed Cubase so I looked around some more. Turns out Steinberg has their own Mbox equivalent called the MI4 that is part of a package called System4 that includes Cubase. I was ecstatic. The lowest price I could find was $400. Then I checked Ebay. One store had it for $300, so I ordered it right away. I paid right away too. Three days later I had still not heard a peep from the seller. I emailed them and got this response:

Hi Andrew,
Sorry for the error, but somebody relisted it over here after we had
sold our only one.
We’ve refunded and do apologize for the error.

So I was back to square one, just when I thought I had a solution…

Then I decided that all I might need to do is use the old MD8 and get a MIDI/USB connection. So, I bought the M-audio Uno at Guitar Center on Saturday. After talking to the guy there about it he said it wouldn’t work for the MD8 for live instruments (to transfer into recording software). He said for that I need to transfer the audio signal, which is different than MIDI. He recommended the Creative E-MU 0404. So, I bought one on ebay for $60. In the meantime I still purchased the M-audio Uno because I wanted to play a MIDI controller keyboard.

Which brings me to my next story:

I’d been looking at/for MIDI controller keyboards on craigslist for weeks. I finally found one that looked like a good price. A Yamaha CBX-K1. I showed up at the owner’s apartment on Wednesday night after playing racquetball with the owner of Addressers (which has become a regular thing). When he first opened the door I saw a bed in the living room and a girl waking up and yawning. He closed the door and told me to wait. A few minutes later he opened the door and told me to come inside, the girl was gone. The apartment was on the second floor of a ghetto-ish (think my neighborhood) apartment complex near Oxnard and Vineland. The apartment was shaped like a long rectangle, with the kitchen running along side the outside wall, and a long (curiously dark) hallway perpendicular to it. The living room had a bed and desk on one wall, and a music-recording set-up on the other. There was an Ovation acoustic, a bass, a full size MIDI keyboard, an apple computer, electronic drum set, and other various pieces of equipment (an M-audio MIDI controller was laying on the floor by the bed for example). Hanging over all this was a moderately sized television on a wall-mount. As I was waiting for the guy to find the AC cord in the back, a person walked down the hall and went to the kitchen to get a drink. He appeared to be an adolescent, but since they were all Japanese, it was hard to tell what age anyone was (including the owner of the Yamaha). Speaking of which, he was a Japanese guy with shoulder length hair, lots of facial hair, and a plethora of facial piercings..

Usually before I deal with anyone off of Criagslist I’ll google his or her name and see what comes up. Once Amy and I were going to buy some Ipods until we goggled the guy’s name and it came up on several websites as a scam artist. This time I forgot to do it until after the sale. He seemed like an interesting guy so I wanted to look him up and see if he was in any bands. The name I looked up: Koichi Fukuda. My results.

Yes, that is right; I bought a keyboard from the guitar player for Static-X. Their latest album dropped in June and landed at number 29 on billboard, and the guy lives in a crappy cramped North Hollywood apartment. Maybe he is just cheap; maybe it wasn’t his apartment, who knows. However, that set-up on the wall sure looked like his. This was a stark contrast to where I was the night before – in the lap of luxury.

Tuesday night the producers of the Dr. Reef show wanted Amy and I to reprise our roles in an “at-home” shoot. They wouldn’t be filming at our homes though, they wanted to film at the shows executive producer’s (Ray Giuliani) home. His house was in West Hollywood with a bunch of posh houses. This is the kind of neighborhood where young (and famous) actors and musicians live that think Beverly Hills is too far from the real action. There was a ten year old Bentley parked on the street. On Santa Monica Blvd. on the way there we were passed up by a rumbling red Saleen S7. Those ring up at a paltry $375,000 by the way. Oh, and earlier by action I meant Gay action, because 99% of West Hollywood residents are gay. I just made that up but it likely isn’t far from the real statistic. In fact, according to articles published in print and online Ray himself is openly gay. We met his boyfriend/partner Kareem, who happens to be an art director. Ray and Kareem left for most of the taping, leaving his house in the care of Jeannie – the director, Adam – the cameraman, and Bill- the soundman. We got paid for this too, but not as much, and it took about five hours to film. It was fun though as we shot two individual spotlight interviews (not fun) and then acted out several scenes from our every day lives (albeit this time in a multi-million dollar Hollywood home that has two full-size guest houses by the pool out back). We shot two phone scenes, a conversation scene, internet scenes (going on, and a bedroom scene. It was a lot of fun, so I decided I’d try some commercial/tv acting. I landed a background actor spot on the pilot for George Lucas’ Star Wars live action tv series: Star Wars Forced Alliance. I decided not to attend though when I saw the call sheet. They wanted us there for over 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Oh, and did I mention this was a non-paying gig. I decided not to go for more than one reason. First off, I’m doing this either A) for fun B) for money or C) to see myself on screen. Since this was going to be a 26 hour (total) shoot, it was going to be far from fun, it wasn’t paying, and it was a non-airing pilot – not to mention I’d be in the background with so much “alien” makeup you wouldn’t recognize me if it was on tv.

I did however decide to take on another project. Thursday night I’ll be part of a small crowd scene on an Omega Watches ad. I took on this for two reasons. #1 it likely will air on tv as it is a commercial about Omega’s sponsorship of the 2006 winter Olympics, and #2 it will be at the Art Center College of Design. Taping is from 8-12pm Thursday.

Amy and I watched The Ballad of Jack and Rose on Saturday night. What a boring pile of crap. I think the screenwriter/director spent a lot of time reading “how to write interesting characters” books. She just forgot that they mean you should make the characters interesting to the audience, not the writer. The ending also sucks. Did Rose kill herself like she said she would? No, she’s living on another fucking commune (and her hair doesn’t grow very fast apparently). Who cares? I felt the actress who played Rose was so peculiar looking that I just couldn’t get into her character. Half the movie I thought they were going to reveal at the end that she was legally retarded or something.

Last night Amy and I dined out at Johnny Carino’s, a new Italian restaurant. Amy had been there a few times and fallen in love with it. The food is good, my veal parmesan was on par with or better than Amazon’s. Their free soup with entrée wasn’t good though (a bland over-beaned minestrone) and had me pining for a return trip to Don Cuco’s. Amy said she was utterly disappointed and won’t go back because our service was poor. #1 WE boxed up our leftovers, not our waitress. #2 we were supposed to get free refills on our soda, but in the course of an hour meal, we were brought one refill, prompting me to say they should change the policy to “free refill” (singular, not plural). I was cheesed at the beginning of the visit though when I spotted “managed by Ken England” on the door in big bold letters. What franchise owner needs to paste his name on the exterior door so it’s the first thing you see?