Random thoughts

9/11

Yesterday was September 11th. I wonder about the motivation for some of what was done yesterday. I think a lot of it had to do with political gain. I did a lot of reading about the actual event in the years past. I’ve read Heart of a Soldier. It’s about Rick Rescorla. He was the head of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. He predicted the 9/11 attacks and no one would listen to him. The Port Authority told him to go back upstairs and take care of Morgan Stanley. Instead, he had an old Army buddy that was a Muslim and he got intelligence from him. He drilled the employees on evacuation routes and he ignored the building’s stay in place order that morning. All but 9 Morgan Stanley employees survived. Rick was last seen going back up to the 73rd floor with his security detail to clear the floors. If you’ve read We Were Soldiers Once and Young, not Mel Gibson’s half assed adaptation, you’ll see that Rick was a hero in Viet Nam as well. His Bravo Company came to the rescue of the column that was torn apart by the Viet Cong.

Another guy that didn’t make it was John O’Neil. He was the Chief of Security for the World Trade Center. He’d been on the job 11 days. John O’Neil was the FBI’s leading expert on Al Qaeda, but he didn’t fit into the FBI mold, so he went into the private sector. His body was recovered on September 22, 2001.

I watched a special on the 9/11 Commission report yesterday. I’ve got a copy of the report, I just haven’t gotten through it yet. Condoleeza Rice looked terrible in the hearings trying to explain why they ignored the August 6, 2001 bulletin that said Al Qaeda attack imminent. How she got to be Secretary of State is beyond me. I thought she was out of her league at NSA. I wonder if other Heads of States look at each other after meeting our government and shake their heads and say “American morons”.

Richard Clarke is another one. If anyone actually read his book, they would know that he was fed up with our government. Years of our government. The Bush Administration was just the icing on the cake. His book has a great story about Clinton being furious with the Blackhawk Down situation. He called them all in and slammed his fist on the table and said essentially “We will not lose another man on my watch” and we didn’t. I wish for the sake of our Armed Forces someone had said that, say right before we went into Iraq. I wish that someone who weaseled around to avoid their Viet Nam service (Cheney, Rove, Bush himself) had demonstrated the same compassion for today’s youth. I wish someone had slammed their fist on the table and said “Bring me Usama bin Laden!” I wish that for my friend’s who’s sons and daughters and husbands are over there.

Wine Train

Ok, I have absolutely no desire to go on the Wine Train. I don’t even really understand why it exists. I wouldn’t mind the stop at Grgich Hills if it were a day when Mike Grgich met the train. That would be cool. Besides making great wine now, Mike Grgich made the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that beat the French whites in the Paris tasting of 1976, long thought to be the shot over the bow announcing California’s arrival on the wine scene. Anyway, we took a run up to St. Helena yesterday. I got a hard to come by appointment at Spottswoode. I knew it was a family winery and I knew it was woman owned and run. I’d heard good things about the wine. The wine is excellent. They make three wines and a second label. A Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and a Sauvignon Blanc. They were already out of the Merlot, we didn’t even get to taste that one. There was only Cab to taste and I think you could buy the Sauvignon Blanc, but we had an ADD moment and never followed through. It’s a gorgeous old estate and the two wines they served us were amazing. Both well balanced, developed and elegant. The wine dogs are Murphy and Riley and they went right up to me. I am sort of a dog whisperer. The matriarch, Mary Novak, was hanging around doing things and at 75 looked to be spry, to say the least. I was expecting a much older woman that the one I met in the hallway. Keep it up girl!

Then we stopped at Freemark Abbey to pick up my shipment. They’ve been sold, although Ted Edwards and Tim Bell, currently remain there. I’ve noticed the change. All the old tasting room staff is gone. The prices have definitely gone up. The 2002 Bosche is typically excellent, but they were pouring a 1991 Bosche as well. It was priced at $140 and finished with mint and eucalyptus. Are you kidding me? I’m glad I haven’t any 1991 in my cellar. I do have a 1994 and I will keep an eye on it.

From there we went to Dean and DeLucca for lunch. I love a roast beast sandwich on sourdough and they made theirs with smoked gouda and horseradish. We split a bottle of Tofanelli 2004 Charbono. It needed a minute to open up, but it was perfect for lunch.

BFL

I’m sort of trying to get back into the swing of things, even though I haven’t a functional kitchen. I’ve started a new 4 week cycle at the gym, and added cardio, since I’m only 4 minutes from the gym now. Current weigh in: 208. I’d like to break 200 by my birthday. We’ll see.

Rocky Raccoon, checked into his room

Only to find a 80 pound Doberman.

Yesterday morning I woke up to a scratching sound outside the window.  Or maybe I woke up because Beauregard had lifted his head and while still lying down, was rigid and on full alert.  Then there was silence and Beau was on all fours, still rigid, looking like the conformation dogs, only pissed.  It seems Rocky had climbed up on the fence and was looking in our open window.  Beauregard was having none of it.  Like a frozen toy dog, he barked and spun in circles without breaking the rigidity of his stance.  Not the come out and play sort of bark.  The she’s-so-fine-I’m-going-to-rip-her-to-shreds kind of bark. He wanted out and Rocky wasn’t budging.  I can’t let him out because Rocky is about 45 pounds and looks like she’s not missed a meal all year.  I don’t need the vet bill.  So I bait and switch.  I make his breakfast instead.  He  wolfs in down and would like to have a heaping helping of raccoon now.  I figure Rocky has headed for the hills by now, but just to be sure, I turn on the back yard light.  Then I talk a lot “we’re coming out now”. “I’m going to let the dog out now”.  “I sure hope Rocky has gone into the neighbors yard”.  Then I get to watch the spectacle of my dog doing what he was bred to do.  Dobermans have an instinct to be perimeter dogs.  Beauregard secures his perimeter and all is safe from the 45 pound raccoon.

Some long overdue photojournalism

Here is the fresh paint on the living room…picture is about 10 days ago:fresh-paint.JPG

Here are the new ovens installed:

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Here’s the paint in the master bedroom, also about 10 days ago:

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And here’s Tile Guy, hard at work, he’s my Eldon:

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And here we go, leaving the other place. Notice the gorgeous weather. The guys moved fast because it was already 100 at 1:54p.m. when they finished:

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Quack, quack

If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

My parents got evicted. There is a chair on the right hand of Satan for anyone who would willfully sell a house out from under two people in their 80’s. Period. In this case, the owner, a mortgage broker, did a full remodel over the last six months. My parents, 79 and 83, boxed up their crap and moved it around and accommodated the disruption. The landlady said she was remodeling to make it better for them. Bullshit. Then low and behold, she decides to put the thing on the market in August of this year. Property values have plummeted in the area, she has good paying tenants but she’s decided to sell. So now my elderly parents put up with the realtors showing the place except for one thing. The first lady who sees the place BUYS the place in this market. Bullshit. I haven’t been in this business for 31 years to not be able to spot a game when I see one. Two guys have gone to jail because I caught them, a third is flirting with disaster because I found the smoking gun. One was the Moureau high school football coach who ran a pyramid scheme that went bad. The other was a guy who was stealing houses from old ladies in Berkeley and refinancing them and running with the cash. The third made up his straw guy, but the company I worked for when I found it doesn’t have the cajones to pursue it. An old friend who used to be a con artist taught me to always look for the angles and you won’t be ripped off. The angle on this one is simple. It’s a World Savings loan and they’re notorious for lousy due diligence. It’s not that they don’t do it, it’s that they’re stupid. The “buyer” isn’t a buyer at all. It’s a straw that she’s promised some money out of the refinance too, so they use her name. She won’t move in to it, who knows what the horse crap reason will be, but the house will end up back on the market or rented to someone else at a higher rate. You see, the real problem is the fact that my parents were paying below market rent. She showed her true colors in a letter. She is using this ruse to get them out. Oh, I’ll help you find another place. I’m sure at a lot more rent. I’ll be watching her and this property. That’s something us title officers can do nowadays without even having to get off of our expanding asses. Lady, I’ve got some acronyms for you. DRE and CAR. I promise, I catch you and you’re going to find both of them up your ass.

Now on to my drama

I’m almost out of the other house. I mentioned the flat tire nearly three weeks ago. Today I finally had time to run down to Costco and get it fixed. With the way things have been going I figured I’d need a new tire, but I got lucky and they fixed it. So the truck no longer lists. The other house is clean, the lawns are mowed, the patio swept, extra pea gravel is laid down and all I need to do it track down a tow truck driver to get my Mustang over here. Right after I clear a space for it in the garage. The other place looks good with the noted exception of a mark on the wall from the television bumping it. I’m going to look for some touch up paint and that will solve the last of the issues over there. Then I will be here, living with one finished sink in a maze of boxes like that lady who never invites anyone into her house because she hasn’t washed the dishes since 1972. With the impending parental move, it’ll be weeks until I get everything finished and put up. I need to finish the final sanding on the cabinets and put on the final coat of stain and then in 24 hours I can put the kitchen together. Except I got pissed off at the cheap ass piece of crap dishwasher that came with the house and went out and bought the matching Kitchenaid the other night. Then the guy insults my torn up t-shirt. I told him that I couldn’t afford t-shirts after spending $1200 on a dishwasher. That shut him up. The master bath is almost done. The driveway is finally clear of debri and I figured out why the plumbing in the kitchen wasn’t going together like it should have. I’m off this week and good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, this might be a home by next Friday. Depending on how many houses I have to look at for my parents.

Originally my Mother said she thought they should look at Assisted Living. I thought it was a bad idea, but that’s what she wanted so we spend all day looking at these places. The last place had something on the menu called “Pidgeon Pea Soup”. So we asked the lady, “How do you get them to pee in those little cups?”. Or is it something akin to “Moose Turd Soup”? Then we walk outside and there’s a bird in a tree and we just start busting up. So that’s how you do it! Assisted Living is out, we need to find them a condo. I understand the new market, but I don’t think sellers do yet. We offered $231k on a place and the bank, that’s right, the same rat bastards that over lended on the thing and then foreclosed on it and haven’t seen one red cent of income on the asset in over a year, the same stupid asses that have been paying $285 in HOA dues for well over a year came back with $252k. Not no. HELL NO. I came back at $241k but I’m currently regretting that concession and I think we’d be best served by pulling it off the table on Monday. On the other hand, it’s close to me, it’s a nice community and there’s only neighbors on one side. All pluses. I guess we’ll let God sort it out. If the little ass clown counters tomorrow I think we will write our rejection across his counter with a Sharpie.

Pride Mountain Vineyards

We opened with their Viognier.  They say it’s their best yet.  I say it’s their best wine.  It’s also the best Viognier I’ve ever had.  Amazing nose, lots of floral, lots of fruit, extremely well balanced, a beautiful wine.  Generally I think the Viognier is the warm up band of wine tasting, but this guy is ready to be a headliner.  My friend suggested Thai food or spicy Chinese and that made a lot of sense to me.  The Chardonnay was ok, but nothing special, very high acid.  The Merlot was an improvement, but at $48 a bottle, grossly overpriced.  The Cab Franc had some potential, a lot of fruit, some licorce on the back end, but also over priced at $60 a bottle.  The Cabernet Sauvignon also had potential, we better developed than the Franc, but I really didn’t think it could stand up to a steak or prime rib.  For $68 a bottle it should.  They’re up on Spring Mountain, way at the top straddling Napa and Sonoma county.  Truth be told, I wouldn’t drive up there for anything more than the view.  I’d buy my wine at Keenan halfway up the hill.

Make it so.

I haven’t gotten the sink plumbing installed in the kitchen yet.  Last night it was numero uno on the list.  I came home, got the new dishwasher discharge hose that I made the dude at Home Depot climb up on a ladder to find and proceeded to find out that it wasn’t the right size.  In addition to this little SNAFU, I had bent the brand new Super Flange that Tile Guy had installed in the master bath.  Bent really doesn’t do the damage justice.  I mangled it.  So off I went for a new Super Flange, another wax gasket, because they’re so much fun to deal with and another dishwasher disposal hose.  I chose Yardbirds this time.  I like to not show up at the same hardware store more than five times a week.  I’d worn out my Bill’s Ace is the Place chits on Sunday.  Four trips one day, besides, they didn’t have a Super Flange.  Yardbirds had the Super Flange, but didn’t have the right hose for the dishwasher, so off I go across town to Home Depot.  They have the Super Flange, they have wax gaskets and they don’t have the right hose.  So I track down the plumbing guy and he says “That attaches to the air gap”.  Air gap.  I don’t have one of those and I know they’re necessary to code.  That’s what goes in the fourth hole in the sink and that’s why I had to drill a hole through the Silestone at Toyon and why I’ll have to drill a hole through the Silestone at The Farm.  Now I’m ticked, but I know I can get the drill bit in the tool cage, so off I go.  I also need a new battery for my 18v DeWalt drill, so I can grab one while I’m in there.  (Insert the sound of a needle scratching across a record here).  DeWalt rechargable batteries are $90 a piece.  Say what?  I can’t pay that for a battery fergodsakes!  So I get the bright idea to just buy another 18v tool that has a battery on it.  I want a 5 1/4 saw that my contractor friend had.  It was small and managable and I have to have one.  They didn’t have one on the shelf, which I found deeply disappointing, until the Tool Guy pointed out to me that I could get my coveted little saw, another drill (because you can never have enough drills) and TWO batteries for $199.  Sold.  Now to return to the kitchen, except I can’t do anything because they didn’t have the right sized drill bit.  My aggravation level with the old dishwasher is just about to critical mass.  I am moments from saying to hell with it and buying a new dishwasher and making Yardbirds install it.  So I decide to install the toilet instead.  It’s the Binford 4000 state of the art high pressure water saver crapper.  It’s kind of attractive as well and comes with a huge rebate from the Contra Costa Water District.  It doesn’t have any of the stuff in it that any other toilet in the world does.  It has a jet pack in the tank.  Scary but true.  So I diligently install the bowl, and then the tank and the water line and follow the instructions to a T, including the note to turn the water on slowly while checking for leaks.  No leaks.  Now flush it three times to establish the correct pressure (or grant a wish, you’re choice).  Whoosh!  I’ve never seen water move at this pace in the bowl of a commode!  Whoosh!  It’s kind of scary in a keep small children and pets at a safe distance sort of way.  Yet, Voila!  You may crap at will. 

Send lawyers, guns and money

Letterman show: October 30, 2002

Warren Zevon: first of all, let me say that I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years.

I’ve always loved Warren Zevon.  From Excitable Boy, to the overplayed Werewolves of London to today’s title, Lawyers, Guns and Money.   To this day, Lawyers, Guns and Money remains one of my personal tag lines.  Along with my other favorite line, thanks to The Grateful Dead-

Living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine, all her friends can say is ain’t it a shame.

Both really apply to this weekend.  I ran as hard as I could Friday night, until I couldn’t lift my arms to put another thing into another box.  Then back up at 4:30 a.m. to finish the packing.  Elias Transportation and Integrated Systems, which is this cool dude named Elias and three other hardworking guys moved me.  Elias did work for me when I worked for the Evil Empire’s Mini-me.  I have never met a better furniture mover.  My biggest concern was the wine.  Elias said “No Problem”.  We’ll keep the wine cooler plugged in until the very last minute, we’ll put the wine in a speed pack next to the cooler and it’ll be the last thing on the truck and the first thing off.  And that’s what they did.  They started at 7:30 a.m and I was headed to El Pollo Loco for lunch by 1:54 p.m.  

Astound me!

That’s the tag line that my internet service provider uses.  I’m friggin’ astounded alright.  I just about went Seinfeld on those guys.  I had a 3-6 appointment.  Why on God’s green earth these companies can’t make appointments when people aren’t at work is beyond me, but it was a 3-6 appointment on Saturday.  I ordered that appointment two weeks in advance to assure that I got what I wanted.  That makes me a good customer.  I didn’t call the day before and demand this that or the other.  I was very reasonable in my request.  So at 1:54 I left the new house to get my dog from the old house and some El Pollo Loco.  I returned to the new house at 2:41.  Well before the 3-6 appointment time, only to find a note on the door that Astound had been there at 2pm and I wasn’t so I should call to get another appointment.  Oh no you don’t!  You have no problem MAKING the appointment, you just can’t KEEP the appointment!  So I call them, give them my cell number because they can’t call me on my house phone.  They can’t call me because they’ve turned off my telephone and those appointments are different than the internet/cable appointments and that appointment is scheduled sometime next week.  So I tell them that I had a 3-6 appointment and their guy was there early and he needs to get his butt back today.  Helpful telecom girl says “I’ll email them”.  Not another word from Astound on Saturday.  So I call this morning to let them know that now I’m pissy.  The not so helpful telecom girl says “I have a 10-12 appointment on Friday.  Well, honey, I have a job.  She says “we all have jobs”. 

Bull.  Red Flag.  Charge. 

TPB: You know what honey?  Had your jackass installer showed up between 3-6 last Saturday for his appointment we wouldn’t be talking right now. 

NSHTG: I don’t have to listen to that language. 

TPB: No, you don’t, escalate this call.

NSHTG: Huh?

TPB: Escalate the freaking call, I want to speak to a supervisor.  (Now I want another 3-6 appointment the following Saturday and I want the guy to show up between 3-6 in pink tights and a push-up bra and refer to me and Le Marchese Le Lapin Rose.)

So I regurgetate the whole inane saga to the super who gets me my 3-6 appointment on Saturday (which mysteriously wasn’t available to NSHTG) and then credits me two weeks worth of service for the headache.  Better.