Rant: Courtesy, Schmurtesy

There’s a rumor going around that July is Cell Phone Courtesy Month.

I’d say it’s more like Cell Phone Stupidity Month.

Just look at these examples, from this month alone:

on plane

“Courtesy?   Of course I’m courteous!  I called my husband to let him know my flight was taking off two hours late, and yes, I was loud, because those stupid flight attendants were in the aisle talking about that useless safety stuff, and besides, how else would hubby know my flight was late, it’s not like he can go on the Internet and find out, right?”


“Ashley, I can barely hear you.  The stupid dentist keeps interrupting me.”

crossing the street_01

“Ashley, I can barely hear you.  These stupid drivers keep honking at me.”


“So, like, our art teacher?  She, like, said we had to come to like, this museum place?  Or else we’d, like, flunk the class?”

couple at dinner on phones

Pokemon Go Gen 2…That is like, so last week.

eat and phone_06

“Who, me?  Eating?  No!  Why do you ask?”


“Who, me?  In the bathroom?  No!  Why do you ask?”

dog and phone

He’s your dog.  Do you know where else his mouth has been?

eat and phone_03

You’re talking into your hot dog!  You’re supposed to eat your hot dog and talk into the phone!

at the beach

“Beach?  What beach?”

selfie and shark_02

“Teeth?  What Teeth?”

And finally, not that anyone would ever do this…

Gas station

“Who, me?  On the phone?  No!  Why do you ask?”


Book Review: “The Book of Summer”

Publication Date:  May 2017

Review, short version:  Three skunks out of a possible four.

Long version:scary-doctor_06

Michelle Gable’s latest offering, The Book of Summer, involves three central characters:

Bess, 33, a soon-to-be-divorced Emergency Department doctor who, if you have to go to the ER, you do not want her walking into your cubicle;

Cissy, 65, Bess’ mother, who utilizes the mantle of eccentricity to excuse selfish behavior and an extremely foul mouth;

Ruby, Cissy’s mother, dead though very present, demonstrating repeatedly that if she were any shallower, she’d be a dry spot.

Cissy lives in a crumbling old family home, Cliff House, aptly named as it’s perched on ahouse falling_03 Nantucket bluff overlooking the Atlantic.  The house and the bluff are about to fall into the ocean, and Cissy is determined to save both. Bess is asked by her father to save Cissy.  Now, Bess lives in San Francisco, while her father lives not far from Cissy, but apparently he’s too busy making money to rescue his wife.

Cissy arrives at the Nantucket airport to pick up Bess – on a bike.  This is our introduction to Cissy, and our first inkling that Cissy is several dimes short of a dollar.  Their neighbor, a guy named Chappy, arrives on scene and offers them a ride, and here is our first inkling that the author, Gable, is also missing some currency.  On page 10, during the drive, Cissy “keeps emitting small burps, as if she might be sick.”

What?  Why?

Cissy isn’t physically sick, there’s no further mention of this, so how did the “small burps” book of summerfurther advance the story?

Currency isn’t the only attribute Gable is missing; though a native Californian, she’s egregiously lacking in knowledge of the vernacular of San Francisco, twice referring to Beth’s home as “back in the Bay” (pages 151 and 184).  As a longtime resident I can assure you that no one – not even the most ignorant tourist – ever refers to San Francisco as “the Bay.”  It’s called “The City.”  You might even call it “Frisco.”  But “the Bay”?

Eye roll.

Gable also lacks a basic knowledge of motor vehicles, referring to Chappy’s transportation mode as a “wood-paneled truck” on page eight, then as a “car” on page 10, then it’s back to “truck” on page 11.

Did an editor have a crack at this book before its publication?

Not to suggest Gable is lacking in her command of vocabulary, particularly active verbs.  Instead of simply writing “Bess said,” Gable hits us with a barrage of them:

“Ha!” Bess yaps. (Page 49)

“What the hell?” she squawks.  (Page 53)

“What happened after that?” Bess sputters.  (Page 61)

“I know what you’re thinking!” she chirps.  (Page 62)

“Gimme a break!” Bess chirps.  (Again)  (Page 181)

Silhouette_ALPHABET“It’s not like that with Evan,” Bess prattles on.  (Page 182)

We get a bit of a break from Bess and her active verbs, and then:

“Whaaaat?” Bess grumble-moans.  (Page 378)

“Coming,” Bess gripes.  (Page 378)

“Hold on, let me get my shoes,” she mumbles.  (Page 380)

Does Bess ever just speak?

And speaking of active verbs, on page 338 we encounter Bess “jumping up and down, literally hopping mad.”  Remember that Bess is a supposedly mature graduate of medical school, responsible for life-and-death decisions in an Emergency Room.  Scary thought, isn’t it?

Gable handles a number of topical issues – the environment, gays in the military, and aging, the latter particularly badly.  It turns out that Cissy, whom you’ll remember is 65, is having an affair with her contemporary, Chappy.  According to Bess (page 309), “Indeed they are both too old for this shit.”  In case we missed Bess’ attitude, on page 324 ageismshe reminds us, “This is about Cissy and Chappy and their AARP love affair.”

Ageism, anyone?

When Bess reveals to Cissy that she is pregnant and considered an abortion, Cissy’s negative reaction surprises Bess, since Cissy is “a registered Democrat, politically obligated to be okay with this sortstereotypes of thing.”

Stereotyping, anyone?

And not just stereotyping; Gable is equally adept at clichés.  One is Bess’ marriage, because of course while Bess is a saint, her soon-to-be ex is unkind, stupid, vicious, verbally abusive, patronizes prostitutes, and probably kicks small animals.  All of this came as a great surprise to Bess.

aidan_07More clichés:  Shortly after Bess arrives at Cliff House, she encounters her high school flame, Evan, who is kind, smart, handsome, hunky, loves small animals and is a volunteer coach for kids’ sports.  The sparks are rekindled – there’s a new approach – Beth engages in a rebound relationship – another new approach – and Evan declares he was, is, and always will be in love with Bess.

Clearly an aberration for Evan, who otherwise actually is smart.house falling_04

The book winds down with Cissy in Chappy’s arms, dancing; Beth in love with Evan, mostly; and Cliff House in the Atlantic, completely.

The End.

Sigh of relief, anyone?






How to Make a $400 Pot Roast

Abpot roastout every six months I get the urge to cook.  Usually I ignore it, but this time my craving for homemade pot roast was too strong.

That craving coincided with a rare Friday I’d taken off from work.  I dusted off my cookbook, checked the recipe, made a grocery list and headed to the store.

The street in and out of my subdivision, Douglas Drive, was one I’d traveled hundreds of times going to and from work.  The speed limit was 45mph, and I’m very conscientious about not exceeding the speed limit.  From day one of driving I’d never gotten a ticket, and was proud of that.

There’s a school on Douglas that I’d never paid much attention to – why would I?  Besides, today I was focused on how good that pot roast was going to smell in a few hours, and taste for dinner that evening.

It was around 8:15am and there were a couple of cars ahead of me and one next to me, all of us doing the speed limit.  There was also a car behind me, which suddenly transformed from an innocuous sedan into a monster with blue and red lights flashing, siren screaming, and a terrible voice saying, “Turn right at the next street and pull over.”

It was the police.  And they were talking to me.

Heart pounding, I turned, parked, shut off my engine and stuck a smile on my face.  I had no idea why I’d been pulled over.  My license plate tags weren’t expired.  Did I have a burned-out taillight?  What could it be?

police looking down_01The police car parked behind me, and I watched in my side-view mirror as the officer approached.  Stocky, thick neck, buzz haircut, pristine uniform, all business.  “Ma’am,” he said, “do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, sir,” I said.

“You were speeding.”

Speeding, I thought.  Me?  I’m always the one in the right lane, going the speed limit.  Buses pass me.  School buses pass me.  Bicycles pass me.  Speeding?  No way!Deer

I didn’t say this, of course.  I didn’t say anything.  Picture deer in the headlights, but with its mouth dropped open in shock.  Like mine.

The officer continued, “Did you see the sign back there with the flashing yellow lights?  It says the speed limit along here is ‘25mph when children are present.’  Kids are in school today.  I clocked you at 45.  I’m giving you a citation for 20 miles over the speed limit.”

He collected my driver license, registration, proof of insurance and walked back to his car.

I said I’d driven this street hundreds of times and that was my problem:  I went to work before school started, and came home after school was out.  No school, no kids, and no flashing lights to think about during the week, or on the weekend.  But this was Friday and school was in session and I was in deep trouble.

How deep?

For the ticket:  $332, according to the “Courtesy Notice” mailed from the San Diego Superior Court.  (This event happened several years ago, so rest assured these amounts have increased since then.)

The notice went on to advise that if I was eligible to attend traffic school and if I chose to attend and if I successfully completed it, then the violation would be dismissed and no points added to my DMV record.  There would, of course, be an additional fee of $52 for processing the traffic school paperwork.

New total:  $384.Money toilet_01

Cost of online traffic school:  $20.99.

Cost of the trip to make pot roast:  $404.99.

After the officer concluded our get-together and drove away, I sat in my car and stewed.  Then I went from stewing – to steaming.  First, why me?  At least three other cars were going 45, so why did he choose me?

Second, this “when children are present” stuff.  What does that sign mean?  If there are no kids25 mph_02 in sight because they’re all in class, are they still “present”?  If the kids are on the playground but the playground is fenced in, are they still “present”?

Now my steaming evolved into something bordering on self-righteousness.  When I got home from the grocery store – yes, I went ahead with my pot roast plans – I called the police.  They advised that whenever school is in session – any time kids are in, going to or coming from school – the speed limit is 25mph.  Period.

So now I’m painfully aware of where the school is.  When I drive by Monday through Friday between 7:30am and 4:30pm, I slow down to 25mph.

People behind me are not happy.  Expressions of displeasure range from fist shaking to extending the middle finger to illegally passing me.  So far no one has followed me home to share their road rage, but I continue to be vigilant.angry man shaking fist

What’s my takeaway?  Any school with a “25mph when children are present” sign means what it says.

And the next time I feel the urge to cook – I’ll ignore it.

What’s Up With Wine Label Lingo?

Winemaking is considered an art form, but it behooves us to note that writing descriptions for wine bottle labels has become an art form, as well.

Drunk girl sleepingI’ve read numerous wine bottle labels while consuming numerous glasses of wine, so I can say with some authority that this form of writing requires hard work, imagination, and a mastery of obfuscation.

Take, for example, these descriptions from labels of California Zinfandel wines in a recent magazine article:

Lush and textural, with peppery blackberries, mocha, and mineral undertones.

What does this meanWhat does this mean?

My trusty dictionary verifies that one meaning of “lush” is “a drunkard, an alcoholic,” which seems like a strange word to encourage me to drink this beverage.  And “mocha” is “a choice variety of coffee,” which I sure don’t want sobering me up when I’m drinking wine.

Here’s another description:

A gravelly layer full of black pepper and tobacco under generous sweet plum and berry fruit.

driveway_01“Gravelly” – it tastes like my driveway?  And wow – since when is “tobacco” a good thing?

How about this one:

Vibrant, briary berries mix it up with violets, mocha, and espresso through an endless finish.

When I looked up “briary,” my dictionary referred me to the word “brier,” there apparently being no such word as “briary.”  I guess wine description writers have a license to make up words.  Like “zinfandel” – “a word of unknown origin,” which means somebody made that up, too.

And as for “brier,” where the dictionary referred us:  “a tangled mass of prickly plants.”

Yum, yum, pour me some more of that.

green fresh grocery 12-07Let’s get down to basics.  The dictionary defines “wine” as “a fermented juice of grapes,” yet there’s a veritable produce section included in these descriptions.  In addition to the aforementioned blackberries, sweet plum, and berry fruit, various labels advise us we’ll encounter “dark plum, blueberry and raspberry” or “red-fruited beauty” or “blue and black fruit.”

The latter sounds like it was dropped on the supermarket floor numerous times before fermentation.

Always interested in learning new art forms, and figuring I’ve consumed enough wine to qualify, I thought I’d try my hand at writing a few wine descriptions.  First, to round out my vocabulary, I consulted a tutorial at winefolly.com and picked up some words including fat, flabby, fleshy, and food friendly.

This sounds more like a description of me rather than a desirable bottle of wine.

Here are some other terms for neophyte label writers:

Austere Refined
Charcoal Tight
Flamboyant Toasty
Intellectually Satisfying Unctuous

I’ll bet you never knew that squished grapes could be all that.

tuna noodle casserole_02Now thoroughly prepared, here are my efforts:

The angular, earthy, inscrutable, structured bouquet pairs well with meatloaf, kielbasa, and Mom’s tuna noodle casserole.

 The insouciant aromas of peaches, tangerines, and grapefruit plus a kiwi finish will slap you upside the head and make you say, “Yo Mama!”

 Mellifluous overtones and cacophonous undertones make this wine a veritable symphony of harmonious, opulent flavors.

Stone fruits are passionately present in a velvety interfusion of peach pit, plum pit, cherry pit and arm pit.

The elegant, smooth finish from the stainless steel aging barrels always complements your metal dental work.

what-did-she-say-1080x608And finally:

This jabilemno has a hint of plemtoz and oakiness that extrapolate the most discerning ramgrals.

Hey – if they can make up words, so can I.

Something Old, Something New, Why We Do What We Do

June is a big month for weddings, but whenever the Big Day is planned, ask yourself these questions:  Did you know why brides wear a veil?  Carry flowers?

Those and many wedding traditions are based on superstitions that date back hundreds, even thousands of years.  For example…

  1. Bridesmaids: This custom originated in ancient Rome, where the
    ugly bridesmaid dresses
    Can’t wait to wear this frock again.

    bridesmaids would all dress like the bride to confuse evil spirits trying to hurt her.  Today, bridesmaids support an industry making the ugliest dresses in the world that they pay a lot of money for and never, ever wear again.

  1. Groomsmen: Again, an ancient custom, having a bunch of guys around to confuse evil spirits.  Today, groomsmen are responsible for getting the groom sobered up from his bachelor party and into a reasonably upright position at the altar.
bachelor party_01
Dude, love your sister’s dance moves.
  1. The Bachelor Party: An excuse for men to hire a stripper and get drunk, as if men need an excuse to hire a stripper and get drunk.
  1. The Bridal Shower: An excuse for women to go to a club and watch buff, bare-chested men perform erotic dances while the women get drunk, as if women need an excuse, etc.
Where’s HIS white?
  1. The White Wedding Dress: This represents the bride’s purity, so don’t ask me why white wedding dresses also come in maternity versions.  Notice that there’s no corresponding white anything in the groom’s wardrobe to represent his purity.
  1. The Bridal Veil: This dates back to the Middle Ages, when parents arranged marriages and the bride and groom didn’t meet until they were at the altar.  The groom wasn’t allowed to see the bride’s face in case she was a bow-wow and he’d be tempted to run for the nearest exit.
  1. The Bride’s Bouquet: Until the invention of deodorant, for centuries people, quite frankly, stank.  Bathing was an annual event, as was changing your underwear.  Carrying a bouquet meant the bride, for one day in her life, smelled nice.  Everyone else, not so much.
I give it two months.  Maybe three.
  1. The Wedding Cake: Wedding cakes weren’t originally eaten but thrown at the bride for fertility luck.  In ancient Greece, marriages were sealed when the groom smashed a cake over the bride’s head.  Now, couples smash cake into each other’s faces, then post the pictures on Facebook while they’re still at the reception.
  1. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue: All based on superstition, meant to bring the couple good luck, fortune and fertility.  And, oh yeah – to ward off evil spirits.  And finally…
(l to r) Loser, loser, major loser.
  1. Throwing the Bouquet: This, for a change, has nothing to do with evil spirits. Instead, when the bride tosses the bouquet to her mob of single female friends, it’s her way of saying, “Now I’m married and you losers aren’t.”

Here’s a Win-Win: Help Yourself, Help a Vet

A few years ago my husband and I were in need of a plumber for a faucet issue.  We’d hadn’t had a plumber’s services in quite some time, so I called the first plumber who came to mind – a company that does a lot of TV advertising.

To be fair, the company did tell us ahead of time that there would be a service charge for Plumbertheir technician just to show up.  I didn’t know better, and agreed.  The technician did the work in 30 minutes, for which we paid $262, which I thought was outrageous.  According to my calculator, that’s a going rate of $500+ an hour!

Recently we once again needed a plumber and once again, I tried a couple of other companies I’d seen on TV.  The first one asked numerous questions about our problem, set up and date and time, and then asked our address.  “Oh, we don’t service that area,” she said.  Couldn’t she have asked that in the first place, instead of wasting my time?

The second company did service our area – I’d learned my lesson and asked that, first thing – and gave us an 8am to 10am service window the next day.  When they still hadn’t arrived by 11:35am, I cancelled the appointment, annoyed that I’d wasted an entire morning waiting for the technician to not show up.woman-

And grateful that my plumbing need wasn’t an overflowing toilet.

I tried a couple other companies I found on the Better Business Bureau website, but they were “booked out,” meaning “too busy.”

I’m annoyed.  I’m frustrated.  And I still have a plumbing problem.

Since I live in Oceanside, CA I googled “Oceanside plumbers” and Yelp gave me a “Best 10” list of options, including a five-star rating for Vets 4 You Plumbing, Heating & Air, Vets 4 You“Serving Oceanside and the surrounding area.”

The Vets 4 You website stated that “We offer employment opportunities to vets.  We also support organizations that help disabled veterans…every job gives a financial contribution to nonprofit veteran organizations.”

Well, why not? I thought.  Why not hire a vet for the job?  None of the other service providers had dazzled me, so…

Why not?

Was there a Happy Ending to our plumbing problem?  We were 100 per cent delighted with Vets 4 You:

Day 1:

  1. When I asked, the gentleman who answered the phone said yes, he was a veteran. We agreed on a service window for the next day, from 10am to noon.  The day 1technician, Andrew, also a veteran, arrived at 10:25am.  He was impeccably polite, addressing us as “Sir” and “Ma’am.”
  2. There was no charge for just showing up.
  3. Andrew gave us a written estimate with three options for work on our two toilets, with no pressure to choose one option or even work with Vets 4 You.
  4. Andrew fixed a minor bathroom faucet issue while he was here – no charge.
  5. He said the work would take about two hours.

Day 2:

  1. Our service window was 8am to 10am. Andrew arrived at 8:05am.
  2. He got right to work and was finished in about two hours. The cost was exactly Day-2what we’d agreed on, less a 10% senior discount (Vets 4 You also offers a military discount), and no surprises.  I hate plumbing surprises.
  3. Since then, our toilets are working perfectly.
  4. We felt good about working with a company that employs vets and helps vet organizations.

Darn good.

A simple Internet search pulls up VeteranOwnedBusiness.com with hundreds of veteran-owned businesses (VOBs) all over the country by state, then county, then city.

VOB_03So, say your yard looks like the movie set for Tarzan of the Jungle and you’ve finally decided to do something about it.  A quick click on the Oceanside link gives you Arbor Artistry Tree Service – voila!  You can crosscheck or not as you like – Better Business Bureau, google the company’s name for reviews, look for customer comments posted on their website.

VOBs may not do a lot of high-priced advertising, but who says that’s a bad thing?  As I can attest, what good are annoying ads for companies that over promise and under deliver, and your toilets still aren’t fixed?

Help yourself.  Help a veteran.