Category Archives: Stories (Non-Kid)
I am somewhat known for my eyebrows. Thick, but not conjoined. I won’t say, exactly, that they are celebrated, but people seem to enjoy them. (Maybe “enjoy” is too strong a word.) They make me, me. Now, there’s some grey. Crap. Because I am old.
And, my forehead seems to be creeping ever higher. The grey used to be an awesome ebony. Trust me.
Jury Duty, 2016. Part I
I last shared my jury duty in Los Angeles experience with you here:
Anyway, here’s my latest story of my run-in with the Judicial System in Los Angeles. No, I am not a defendant.
The story is slightly NSFW, because there is ill-repute involved, not on my part (so ya know). [Mom, that means “Not Safe For Work.” Don’t read this at work.]
My expositions are getting longer and longer. They’re turning into a Beethoven coda. (Music joke.)
So, I got called to serve on a jury in Burbank during Labor Day week. The secret is out of the bag: ALWAYS delay your jury service to a holiday week if you can: 4 chances instead of 5 to be selected. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are the best. Because, no one wants to be convicted on New Year’s Eve.
But, chances are chances. I was called to the Burbank courthouse on the day after Labor Day. Dammit. Do I chance it? Or delay? The poker player in me says: let it ride.
Burbank is a sleepy city in Los Angeles County (any Johnny Carson fans?). Nothing happens there. I do the jury orientation online (:45 minutes) — I understand, don’t talk about the case to anyone, don’t record the case, don’t blog about the case…
I don’t expect to be called for anything. Much less serve on a jury.
Burbank’s jury room is smaller than your Algebra II classroom. 50 chairs facing one another. Knee to knee. Really? 8 hours of this? $1.25 Snickers in the machine. Until the clerk says go home.
Big, meaty trials don’t come to Burbank. They go downtown. Which is why if you get called for Jury Duty, you opt for the smaller jurisdictions of Burbank, Glendale, South Pasadena.
Plus, it’s a holiday week. What could go wrong?
Voice over the intercom: Attention jurors, you are required to move to the Courthouse in Glendale at 1:30.
Shit. They are moving these beautiful people to a different courthouse 10 miles away. Is there a bus?
Court: “You can take a shuttle every 15 minutes. Or get there on your own. Either way, you better be there or we will come after you.” Again I paraphrase. Park in the Marketplace parking lot 65 blocks away. Take your ticket, we will validate.
(This becomes an issue)
So, I dash home (10 minutes), click click through email, have a ham sandwich, then head to the parking lot in Glendale and grab a ticket.
End. Part I.
Jury Duty 2016, a Limited Series. Episode 2.
Ok. All of the Burbank jury pool contestants make it to Glendale. We park in the structure (did I mention, this becomes as issue?) and walk the 4 blocks to the courthouse. By the way, Glendale is lovely. I even walk past the YMCA where Isabella does her flip-flop gymnastics stuff.
The bailiff calls us into the courtroom. We all stand up, raise our right hands, and solemnly swear. The last time I did that, I ended up married. I look around, no one is wearing white. No one says “speak now or forever hold your peace.” Whew.
Wait, this is the Juror pool. Back to the narrative (and I love my wife.):
The judge gives us a 20 second discourse on the trial. A massage parlor. Undercover police. “Services” are offered, allegedly.
The trial will run 7 to 10 days.
Wait. What? 7-10 days? All of these people? For this? A Happy Ending?
But, the judge says kindly: We won’t start until 1:30 each day. Because, it is more convenient to mess up 7-10 days in the afternoon than to mess up half that time all day. (Again, he didn’t actually say that, but he had very expressive eyebrows.)
Crap. (Did I say Crap yet. Probably.)
The judge reads the list of witnesses. It has three names. All police officers. Who’s the victim of this crime? No home owner’s association. No pearl-clutching Church members. No human trafficking victim (a very, very important issue). No innocent bystanders. Nothing.
The State, says the judge.
Judge: Jury selection is often the most time consuming part of a trial.
Hence, 7-10 days.
They call the first 18 people to the jury selection box. I’m number 15. Voir Dire, (a French term meaning: tell us if you think the defendant is guilty so the liberal lawyers can object.)
They ask everyone a bunch of questions. Turns out, my uncle worked in law enforcement for the county of Los Angeles as a Probation Officer. The prosecutor seems pleased. I’m from a family of law enforcement. (She also seems straight out of Central Casting: tall, pretty, thin, blonde.)
Then I open my big fat mouth: Yeah, at family get-togethers tales were told, fables unfurled, bullshit was shared. Cops and FBI agents. Welcome to mi familia. (Did I tell you about the time….)
I mention the “dark side” of police work. Rules get bent, rights are questionable without a lawyer present. You know, friendly, upbeat topics.
The prosecutor seems less enthused than I expected. I thought I was cute and charming, what with my disarming demeanor and story of life as I know it.
Apparently, how the world sees me is different than how I see myself. I am shocked.
The judge declares that today’s session is over. Take your validated parking ticket to the structure and you’ll get away. Oh, and come back tomorrow it 1:45. Because we want to screw your whole day.
(I did mention this becomes an issue, right?)
Jury Duty, 2016. Episode III. A New Hope. (Ewoks need not apply)
Did I mention the parking structure.
(By the way, thank you for reading this far into my silly blog. Also, don’t yell at me about the Star Wars Episode III A New Hope thing. Yes, A New Hope is episode IV. Here’s my back. Get off it.)
So, the bailiff has scribbled some sort of number on the top of the parking ticket. Ignore this, she says, that’s for book-keeping.
The hell you say.
I walk the 33 blocks to the structure and get in my car. I pull up to the gate, insert my ticket. “Please Pay $9.00.” Um, no. The bailiff said Ignore… I take the ticket back, 180 degree spin, re-insert. “Please Pay $9.00.”
Crap. Cars are lining up behind me. I flip the card around, upside down, inside out. origami the hell out of it until it looks like a credit card.
“Please Pay $9.00”
Now, civic duty is one thing. And, I actually took a shower and shaved. Deodorant, maybe.
“Please Pay $9.00.”
Dammit. Now, there’s a line of about 5 cars behind me. And, everyone wants out.
Out comes the credit card. $9.00 ransom. I am not happy. In my haste to get past the arm, I forget to push the Receipt button until I am 4 feet too far.
Grrrrr* (*not the actual expression I used. It was something Factually Funnier and rhymed with Ftuck. There was also an exclamation point, but I didn’t want to offend anyone.)
So, Home I go, gnashing my teeth about the nine bucks, this stupid trial, and the LA Traffic.
Can I please have a beer when I get home?
Crap! We’re out of beer?!
Jury Duty, 2016. Part 4. I AM your father.
Yeah, Empire Strikes Back is “Episode” 5. But, really 1-3 are not three complete movies. Amiright?
Ok, back to the subject at hand.
Easy Jury Duty in
On the second day of jury selection, I’m already pretty screwed. I’m number 15 of a 12 person jury pool. The guy behind me tells the judge that the whore is a prostitute because she was arrested by police and should go to jail. Or be stoned to death. (Again, me and the paraphrasing). The judge tells him that no evidence has been presented.
Doesn’t matter to Juror number 6. Guilty.
He is excused.
Juror number 8 asks why can’t computers determine a persons guilt. The prosecutor tells him that the defendant has a Constitutional right to a jury trial.
Juror 8: Yes, but computers are much more capable of determining facts than flawed people. Why aren’t we using computers?
He was excused. Then texts someone on his Samsung Note 7 before the fire department was called. (I kid.)
Juror 9 was a police academy graduate but, sadly had a brain tumor which cut short his career. He has many, many friends in law enforcement. The prosecutor likes him, the defense attorney, not so much. They pepper him with questions about bias, and his friends, and what he knows about law enforcement.
Surprisingly, he stays.
Juror 13, a spry 75-year-old woman who whispered to me earlier that she always believes the police before I shushed her.
She is excused.
Juror 15 (Hey! That’s me!) admits that he has family members who have been involved in law enforcement in Los Angeles. And, that over Thanksgiving dinner a tale or two was told. You know, about the gang-bangers and the drug deals and the guns. And, maybe some rules that were bent. While I never implicated anyone over any wrong-doing, the prosecutor looked at me and told the judge:
Prosector: The people object to Juror 15.
Judge: Juror 15, you are hearby excused by the court. We appreciate your service. Have your parking ticket validated at the window.
You know how in elementary school when they pick teams for dodgeball and you’re the least capable player. For the first time, I am not the least bit offended.
Now. About this parking ticket.
I talk with the parking attendant guy. He has no power to offer a refund of my $9.00. He calls the Boss. They offer me two all-day parking passes at this random garage in Glendale. Valid through January 3rd.
And, after my 2 days in court, I get a check for $17.62. $15 for jury duty (second day only, by the way) and $2.62 for mileage.
Feel the Noize
I realize that I have have neglected my DDFT fan base by not reporting on Isabella’s (she’s 9) International gymnastics competition. A Gold Medal (i.e. Best in the World), a couple of silvers.
And, I have boasted and boasted about her to anyone with at least one functional ear. And, I sing:
“She is a Champion, my friend…” Freddie Mercury rolls over in his grave.
Since, we are talking music, here’s my story..
Leaving Los Angeles (from the Burbank airport, because LAX is, I believe, one of Dante’s rings of Hell) heading to Atlanta. (Long story, spending the night at Grandma’s before we all drive down to Orlando. World of Mickey Mouse. Look at my joy.)
But, I digress.
Back in Burbank, at the Southwest gate heading toward a layover in Las Vegas, I want my phone charged to 100%. I spy a three-seat charging station. The middle seat is empty. I dash.
As I approach, I notice an obvious Rocker-type guy: Middle-aged, long curly black hair, blue jeans, Quiet Riot T-shirt. He says something to the guy in seat number three. They are together. Seat No. 3 guy is more clean-cut, short hair, tweed sports jacket. But, he obviously rocks. He’s got ‘tude.
I sit and charge up between them
I glance over at Seat #1 guy. He’s looking at a Quiet Riot website.
Whenever I’m in these situations, I usually employ the Urinal Rule (“Eyes Forward, and Don’t Talk to Your Neighbors”). But, this time, I couldn’t help myself.
Me: So, are you guys in a band?
Given the hair, T-shirt, and the Website, it wasn’t that much of a leap.
#1 (annoyed): What?
Me (air-guitarring): You play?
#1: We’re in Quiet Riot.
And, I swear to you, my mouth and hand were reflexive.
Me: No shit! (while my hand formed the devil’s horns rock gesture.)
Me: Are you playing in Vegas.
#1 (clearly not wanting this conversation to continue): No, we’re hooking up with the rest of the band and heading to Santa Rosa for a show. (Then) Hey #3 (whatever his name is), did you call Bob…
This was my cue. I took my 86% charged phone and got up and headed back to the seat next to future World Champion, Isabella.
Me: You see those guys, they are rock stars.
Iz: The ones with the Southwest uniforms.
Me: No, the guy with the hair like Mommy. And the other guy.
Iz: Ok. And…?
Me: No “And.” Just. They’re musicians.
She goes back to playing on the phone.
Meanwhile, I furiously Google Quiet Riot. #1 is Frankie Benali, the only long-time member of the band. He’s the drummer and also manager. #3 is probably Chuck Wright, but I don’t really know the band like John, Paul, George, and Pete.
When we board, I notice that Wright (with what looks like a bass guitar on his shoulder) has a higher boarding number and gets a better seat than Benali. I’m guessing the people who handle their flight arrangements are in fact, Benali and Wright themselves.
When we land in Vegas, I notice Benali standing by the gate, looking for Wright. I resist the urge to ask for a selfie. But, I secretly do the devil horns thing with my hands…
Note: The only head banging on the flight occurred when we hit some turbulence over Barstow. Always keep your seat belts on.
Since it’s June, it must be Street Curb Numbering month. This is the time of year when various “well-meaning” “non-profit” “neighborhood-oriented” “community-based” folks want to paint my house’s address number on the curb outside of my home.
After dropping off the girls at school: I came home to this on my door knob:
It’s an ADVISORY NOTICE!!
Why are you screaming? You’re not official anything.
Blah blah blah.
Let me get this straight, you are going to paint over the numbers on my curb (which are already quite clear) with new paint?
They leave a leaflet on my door knob about how important it is that my house number be clear to First Responders in an emergency. For my family. Think of the Children. (LOL. They don’t read this blog, do they.)
Their service is free. But did they mention “donations are collected at the door.”
So, let me say to you. Thanks for the public service, but No Thank You.
Reading the fine print:
Should I expect rudeness?
Attention Curb Painter Professionals: Customer Service 101… Don’t let people know that they are going to be treated like crap. Literally in their own home. Just say: Expect to be bullied by a guy at the door demanding money for a service you did not request, then call us. And vent all you want to the wall. We’ve never seen this before. Never. I swear. Our business model is not based on this aspect. We are People people.
Now, I’ve watched The Sopranos, Goodfellas, The Godfather. Hell, I was born in northern Jersey. I know a shakedown when I see one.
Read this in the best mafioso voice you can muster:
The Collector: So, uh. We painted your curb for yous.
Me: I didn’t ask for that, but thanks.
The Collector: Yeah, but. You see, there’s a “donation” that we ask for. Twenty dollahs.
Me: But, I didn’t ask for you to do that. And, technically, the curb is City property.
The Collector: You know, we do this as a public service. It would be terrible if something happened to your beautiful house.
The Collector: And, the fire department or police couldn’t find it because you had no number on the curb.
Me: Yeah, but, it’s right there on the side of the house. Numbers on the street are sequential. Also, Google maps and all…
The Collector: It would be tragic if those numbers fell off. Like, in a wind storm…
Me: Wind storm?
The Collector: Yeah. Santa Ana winds. And, then a horrible thing happens here. Is that your daughter’s tricycle over there? Is that your beautiful wife I hear in the kitchen? I don’t know what I would do if something should befall dem.
Me: Um. I’m about to call 911.
The Collector: Good luck with that. They won’t find you. Ever… Twenty dollahs.
Me: Let me get my wallet.
[I’m going to go ahead and officially © copyright this. Because, I hear that Led Zeppelin is in town. And, also because this would be a hilarious bit in something. Why aren’t people asking me to write with them? Oh… Because I never asked…]
“More” Is Less
I don’t normally post this type of rant on the blog. But, it’s a bit long for Facebook, and it does deal with some kid-tangential things. So…
Summer School is in session. I need some help. And, I have a lot of teacher and science/math-oriented friends. Before my brain atrophies any further, I need a grammarian and a mathematician to talk me down from the ledge. Also, I have a feminist or two to keep me on track.
Not your usual vacation photo post, I know. But, here’s a real-life exercise that is killing me. Give me 10 minutes. (Get a cup of coffee.)
Following the fantastic USA Women’s Soccer World Cup victory, I saw the following headline: “U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”
Politics aside, I have two problems: one grammatical and one mathematical.
1) Grammar: This headline is at best inartfully worded, and at worst, intentionally confusing.
When one says that something is “4 times” something else, you immediately think more. But then you have this big fat “less” in there, and now it is reductive. How contrarian of you. You’re beginning to sound like me.
“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”
Is this because of our penchant for hyping things to make them sound grander and more luxurious and glamorous when we actually mean they are smaller? “More” is less.
More is less.
Take the scenario: The 50-year-old Director married the 25-year-old Supermodel. Would you say…
– She is half his age.
– He is twice as old as her. Or…
– She is two-times younger than he is.
Who talks like that?
(And, of course, this is a trick question, because the Director was a woman. And the Supermodel was a man. It’s my scenario, so deal…) But, you get the point.
“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”
I think I know what this headline writer meant (or I don’t, see below), but wouldn’t it be easier to simply say:
“U.S. Women Champs Earn One Quarter of Men’s Winnings.”
Wouldn’t that just be clearer? Why try to inflate things in a smaller direction?
But, here’s where I have a bigger problem with the numbers…
“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”
2) Mathematics. Is this in a Common Core question, because if it is, it is a bullshit, sloppy damn question? And, I totally expect to find it on my 6th grader’s state test.
“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”
“4 Times Less” is not an animal that lives in nature. Times = more, Less = Less. Combining the two is a bit like oil and water. They don’t mix. By nature.
And, this plays out as… Should I grab an abacus?
Let’s say the men earn 4 Units. And the women earn 1 Unit. 4 -1 = 3.
The difference between the Men and Women is 3 units.
Where does “4 times less” factor in? 4 times “what,” exactly? Isn’t there a coefficient? A constant? A Pythagorean or something?
It is a quarter of the men. But how is it 4 times less?
Math people, explain. What am I misunderstanding? (And, I’m not afraid of decimals.)
“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”
But, pay the ladies. Times 5. Sounds fair. I mean, they actually WON the damn thing.
Reality Is Not Real
I’ve been watching too much reality TV lately (hint: there’s nothing really “real” about it…)
If you own a failing restaurant, and you actively seek out television shows like Restaurant Impossible or Kitchen Nightmares for help, understand a few things:
– The production scout singled your place out 2 months ago. Measurements were taken. Menus sampled. Nothing edible was found. Nothing. And, that’s a good thing, at least for you. Your customers, not so much. There’s a reason they found you in this strip mall.
– The TV Host is English, so there’s a language problem to begin with. But, he has a point. Please, don’t advertise your shrimp as fresh if it is frozen. Your salsa is homemade because it comes from a jar. And if you have a can opener in the house of re-fried beans?…
BAM! Go to hell. Straight to hell.
(Also, there’s a TV crew watching everything. So, act accordingly. “Act” accordingly.)
– The Host will hate your food and demand that you update your menu to meet his standards. If you are too stubborn to change the menu, then why on God’s Green Earth did you call these people? You asked them to come. You read the memo. You signed the contract. Don’t look at me.
– Acknowledge this: Your kitchen is filthy, reprehensible, and disgusting. You should be expected to be insulted, infuriated, and/or in denial. You didn’t clean out the fridge before the camera crew arrived? You understand the premise of these shows, yes? They are looking for filth.
When studying your menu…
– Your host will ask you for stuff that no one in their right mind will ask for. Like the “house specialty.” Goat cheese and chicken liver ravioli in a jalapeño pesto sauce?
The Host will spit it out. (Rightly so.)
Everything else on the menu sucks.
– The Host also hates your decor. It’s something from your grandma’s kitchen with a ’50s stained carpet. It deserves to be hated. Everything is covered in plastic. Also, stained.
The Host has a maximum of 48 hours to get this place clean. And completely redesigned. There’s also a laughably small budget. (Because, TV.)
– Also, The Host, despite not having any training in psychology or family counseling, will diagnose and cure you of years of pent up frustrations, resentments, and hostilities with your family and staff. And get you into the 21st century with the computers and the internet and such. In 48 hours. He’s a miracle worker.
But, your regulars are seeking comfort food. Canned tomato sauce. Frozen clams. Reheated burgers. That’s their expectation. And, now you’ve added arugula and parsnips. Who eats that crap?
But, it’ll help if you play along.