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The Most Killer Travel App of All

November 19, 2014

Golden Gate

I often say I have good travel karma. On trips, things usually go my way, despite my best attempts to screw them up (for instance, the last time I flew, I arrived at the airport without any idea of what airline I was flying. I used to be incredibly obsessive about that stuff. I think my pendulum has swung a little too far in direction of “Tra la, it will all be ok!” I finally remembered I was flying on “The one with the cookies!” and got myself to the Delta terminal. Biscoff biscuits are a powerful incentive for me).

I do not, however, have good travel technology karma. I should be voted the person most likely to be squatting next to the electrical outlet behind the trash can in the airport. While everyone else is speeding along, cleverly consulting apps that get them discounts and priority boarding, I am watching a spinny circle on my cell phone screen, waiting for something to happen as my battery life is sucked away.

Last week my friends CC and Ish and I went to San Francisco for a few days, and my travel tech unlucky streak held. We were using public transportation, so the guy who rented our house to us (we rented it on! I love it so much!) suggested we download the Muni app.

I tried, but didn’t have enough room on my phone to download it. I tried deleting some old apps but then accidentally told my phone to update everything, so I had to wait for 72 apps to update, but there wasn’t enough room for the updates, so it got stuck with a bunch of apps half-loaded and just sitting there, and the Muni app never did load. Apparently I would never know which bus route was which.

I needn’t have worried, though. I soon realized that we had the most killer travel app of all in the form of my friend Ish. He often claims to be the shy, retiring type, but he is lying. Ish will talk to anyone and everyone about anything and everything.

At Hearst Castle’s (empty for repairs) Neptune Pool, he quizzed the pool guy about filtration. In case you’re wondering, they both favor sand over diatomaceous earth.

Ish has enthusiasm and excitement about everything he encounters. He’s the human equivalent of a French Bulldog puppy. He finds someone to ask, and starts asking. I’m always afraid I’m going to bother someone. I think “Oh, they don’t have time to talk to me,” but in my experience with Ish, most people are delighted to share what they know.

He got us directions. He got advice. He learned stuff. He found out who made the pies at the diner we went to. He met nice people, including a 68-year-old Filipina lady named Edna who showed us her vegetables and walked us to her favorite BART station (the one inside the mall at Powell Street). He introduced CC and me to nice people he met, and their dogs.

If you have to take a trip, download some apps. But I’d also suggesting packing Ish or someone like him. Your trip will be the better for it.



November 12, 2014

Dang it, it occurred to me as I fell asleep Monday night that I had missed posting that day. And yesterday I was traveling, so that’s my excuse.

I’m having fun, though. Photos to come!

Hey, NPR, it’s time to let Car Talk go.

November 9, 2014

Even if you’re not a fan of Car Talk, you have probably heard, at some point or another, the raucous laughter of Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click & Clack, the Tappett Brothers, as you flipped around the radio dial.

Car Talk was on for 35 years, 25 in syndication, and was one of NPR stations’ most beloved shows. It aired on more than 650 stations weekly and had an audience of over 3 million.

I was one of the people who loved my weekly dose of Car Talk lunacy. I could recite the fake staff names at the end by memory…”Our statistician, Marge Genovera; our seat cushion tester, Mike Easter; our Russian chauffeur, Pikup Andropov.”

Last week, Tom Magliozzi died at age 77 after a rough go with Alzheimer’s. The show had been airing for the last couple years as re-edited re-runs, which explains why so many of the episodes featured pre-1995 cars and their problems.

Even though I treasured those hours spent laughing with Tom and Ray, I think it is time to let Tom rest in peace. Doug Berman, the show’s producer, has said that they plan to keep airing the re-runs because that’s what Tom would have wanted. I think Tom would have said “What kind of wacko idea is that?” followed by his trademark exuberantly out-of-control cackle.

I know it’s hard to let good things go. It’s especially hard when those good things are a huge cash cow. But when we cling to the old and known, we leave no room for surprises, for creativity, for new delights.

Car Talk bashed through the grey wall of seriousness that had enclosed NPR before Tom and Ray got there. They opened up the field for other great, innovative shows like This American Life and RadioLab which manage, like Car Talk, to be informative and fun and playful.

I understand about clinging to the past, but as a creative person, I always have to vote for the future. It gives me a pang that our newspaper is still printing Peanuts in the Sunday comics section, 14 years after Charles Schulz’s death. Every time I see it, I can’t help but think he would root for a new young cartoonist to have that valuable comic real estate.

My guess is that Tom would think the same thing about Car Talk. The show has done all that it can do. Tom left us mentally a while back. He left us physically this week. Putting Car Talk to rest would show no disrespect to his memory. The most Car Talk thing to do would be to drive bravely into the future, leaving a trail of laughter behind us.


A Modest Proposal, Oh Canada Version

November 8, 2014

Everyone I meet from Canada is just a stellar human being. Maybe it is because they are all wacky bloggers like me, so I can relate to them.  I have strong suspicions, though,  that if I met other Canadians, like David Rakoff or Deadmau5, I’d probably like them, too. I even love the much-maligned Celine Dion, because I think she’s hilarious and, like it or not, the woman can sing.

Conversely, there’s Florida. It’s a state with a truly criminal governor. I mean bigtime crime, not fooling around. It has so much weird news that it has it’s own tag, which makes it, I believe, the only state so dishonored. The latest news is that they have arrested a Ft. Lauderdale 90-year-old man who feeds people in the park.

It’s already snowing in parts of Canada. They’ll likely have seven or eight more months of freezing-butt weather.

Meanwhile, the lunatics in Florida are romping around in their cargo shorts and flip flops.

Here’s my proposal: land swap. Pack up all the lunatics in Florida and send them up to one of the less-occupied parts of Canada. Say, Nunavut. There’s plenty of space out there. Surely Canada can lend us some. Then let my lovely friends the Canadians enjoy their newest province, Florida. Or to make the Francophones happy, En Fleur.

Just think, Canadians with suntans. And no more “Florida man” news stories. Do you think we would miss them? Or do you think the heat and palmetto bugs would start getting to my friends, and they’d start acting like Florida natives?

I say we try it and find out.

Brilliant Thoughts

November 7, 2014

Do you ever have brilliant thoughts in the middle of the night and think “This is so great that there’s no way I will forget it!” and then you wake up and you have forgotten it?

I hate that. It has happened to me one billion times, more or less.

My new strategy is to record voice memos on my phone, which leads me to the following conclusions:

  • Stuff that seems brilliant at 3 am is often kind of stupid in the morning
  • Boy, is my voice weird at 3 am
  • Really, I sound like I need a decongestant
  • The ideas that are truly brilliant are also the ones that would take the most work. I am an idea person, not a work person. Where are my work people at?
  • The brilliant ideas that sound like fun have already been done. For instance, do you know there are several sarcastic dictionaries of corporate-speak? And a website, too. Pretty funny.

What do you think about at 3 am?


Bad Dream

November 6, 2014

I don’t remember many dreams, but one from decades ago has stuck with me.

The world is ending in three days, and everyone knows it. We wander the streets, lost. Chests of gold and silver and gems, looking for all the world like a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean, lay scattered about. No one cares. We look at each other and shrug. The world is ending. We don’t have anything to do.

We’re in a climate crisis.

We look at each other and shrug. Do we have anything to do?

The Crazy Animal Lady of the Westside

November 5, 2014

“Mira la loca.” Yeah, lady, I know what you’re saying. I speak enough Spanish to know when someone is calling me a crazy loon.

But the crows are my friends. They LOVE dog treats. Can I help it if they love treats so much that now they wait for me every morning and caw if I don’t come out to feed them?

And can I help it if they told two friends, and those crows told two friends, and dang, crows are large birds, so a few crows looks like A WHOLE BUNCH of crows.

They are so smart and funny though, hopping around the driveway, looking down at things with one eye, head cocked. I have to love them.

Then there are the dogs. Yes, I know all the dogs in the neighborhood, but I don’t always recognize their owners. What can I say? The dogs are cuter.

This morning, Abbie Lynn took me on a different walk. We crossed a parking lot where two dogs were YELLING, just barking their fool heads off at anyone who passed. Then they saw me and began to wag. Their ears went down in that happy way. Their eyes squinted with anticipation. They were my friends, Lobo and Bobo, from up the street. They usually get treats from me every day in their yard. Today they were going to work with their dad, and here I was to give them treats in their pickup truck bed!

Lucky dogs. Treats appear like magic when dogs are good.

Mira la loca. There she goes again.

Lobo and Bobo

Lobo is the big one. Bobo is the little guy.


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