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Merry Christmas, asshole.

20 December 2010

It’s been a rough few weeks for my beloved car.  More on that in a moment.

I wanted to mention briefly that I’ve started a project I’ve been dreading for a while now.  I have begun converting all of my 250+ MySpace blogs to this site.  I’m doing everything I can to preserve the historical accuracy of each, including the comments and timestamps.  The only thing I’ll consciously be changing is updating the links that pointed to other blog postings so that it’s all on here.  Each conversion takes about 10 minutes.  Even at one or two a day — which is a big assumption I will be motivated to keep up that pace — it’ll take me the better part of a year to get them all done.  I’ve added a new category called “MySpace Archive” if you want to see what I’ve gotten to so far.  I’m going chronologically starting from the beginning.  And for those of you who subscribe to my blog here (which I encourage you to do!), I won’t be hitting you with any email notifications for the converted blogs, so don’t worry about an additional 250+ emails.

I’m trying to get in the holiday spirit.  You all know my feeling on exchanging gifts, but I did put together another Xmas CD.  You know, making mix CDs has been a hobby of mine for ages.  But with the move to digital media (iPods, etc.) there’s been an unanticipated casualty.  CD jewel cases are becoming harder and harder to find.  You can still get plain black of course, and white and clear ones at a few places.  But there was a time when you could order tons of colors, and even this slick glossy black of which I only have a few left.  Nowadays it’s all slimline (which don’t allow me to design sleeves) and digipak (which I don’t have the tools to create at home and isn’t realistic for the one-off projects I do).  I am better than average at sourcing hard-to-find things on the net, and I’m telling you this stuff just isn’t out there anymore, anywhere.  I’ve asked the internet specialists, and they’ve told me that the market for the classic jewel case is dying.  They’re dinosaurs.  I can get by with plain black and white, but I don’t like it.  I need a new strategy for future CDs.  Is it time to give up the hard copy for good and just start giving out digital copies with a .jpg attached?  Lame!  Ideas anyone?

Otherwise, the holiday season so far has had its high points.  Some good times with family and friends.  The Yard Dogs Road Show was amazing as usual.  We’ve got tickets to see Wanda Jackson and Jack White together in L.A. next month, which is going to be memorable I’m sure.  And some good TCB shows are in the works.  But yeah it’s also been fraught with all kinds of trouble, not least from my car.  Allow me to explain…

Part I: The Tale Of The Golden Fuel Pump
About a month ago, after leaving my car unattended for a couple of stormy nights on a hilltop, I found it wouldn’t start.  It cranked but wouldn’t turn over.  For some reason, I thought of the electrical storm we’d been having, and I wondered if that didn’t have something to do with it.  Friends and the tow truck driver agreed it sounded like a fuel pump problem, but what could we do?  I had it towed ~100 miles back to the S.F. area to the only place I knew I could drop it at 1am: the dealership.  Now I know what you’re thinking… of course they’re gonna rip me off.  They’re famous for it.  But in the years I’d been dealing with these guys, I feel that by and large they’ve been pretty good to me.  Well, this time they weren’t.  They charged me $1100 to replace the fuel pump, a job that most other places later quoted me $600-$700 for.  And it doesn’t end there.  A few weeks later, I was reading through my car’s manual investigating another warning light (which I’ll get into next), and what did I see?  A section that explains something to the effect of “if there has been an electrical disturbance, the vehicle’s fuel pump breaker switch — located just under the hood — may activate as a safety precaution.  Check to ensure there are no fuel leaks, and then flip the breaker switch back and the vehicle should start.”  Which is all to say that it’s possible, maybe even probable, that all I needed to do was flip a fucking switch under my hood and I would have been on my way.  It’s also possible that my car really did need that $1100 golden fuel pump (which are known to crap out at around my current mileage).  But for the rest of my life, I will always wonder if that dealership totally fucked me and overcharged me to install something they knew I didn’t need in the first place.  And the worst part is I will never, ever know for certain.

Part II: I Can Make The Ass Drop
Cut to a couple weeks later, where I’m investigating the aforementioned warning light.  I’d seen one come on a couple times for the ABS brakes.  Then later a couple times for the air suspension.  Eventually, my rear suspension went out on me on the freeway, and I was barely able to get it home with my tail almost dragging on the ground.  I wasn’t about to take it back to that dealer, but it seems there aren’t many other shops that do air suspensions on Town Cars.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this years ago, but what’s special about Town Cars?  How about the fact that they’re widely used by fleet services!  Where do those guys go?  Well, I lucked out and found a place that specializes in Town Cars.  And this place, you cannot imagine, it was a parking lot full of smashed up limos and cabs.  A giant warehouse with 20+ Town Cars being worked on by as many mechanics.  A whole body shop in the corner.  Tires, electric, and they even custom convert/build stretches.  I mean full service exclusively for Town Cars.  The waiting room was full of what were clearly limo drivers which tells me this place must be fair, honest, and reasonable… because these drivers wouldn’t keep bringing their business vehicles back here if it didn’t make financial sense.  And unlike the dealership that fucked me, these guys see dozens of Town Cars all day, every day.  Their expertise is beyond dispute.  If there is a problem a Town Car is capable of having, these guys have seen it before.  I will be going there exclusively from now on.  How many other car models have whole warehouses dedicated to just them?  One of the unexpected benefits of driving a limo for your personal car (along with being flagged down and offered money for rides at 2am every night — honestly).  They were super quick (45 minutes!) and super cheap.

Now the here’s the rub: in what was surely a freak occurrence, someone forgot to latch my hood.  I got less than a mile down the freeway before the hood flew up, cracking the windshield and bending over the roof.  The hood itself was totalled and bent upwards so it wouldn’t close.  The roof was dented and the sunroof broken.  Luckily, I was in the slow lane for once and was able to quickly get off the road before anyone was hurt.  I meant to take a picture to post here, but I was in shock at first.  To their credit, the shop immediately sent out a tow, gave me a loaner car for the week, and fixed everything up, good as new (as far as I can tell), free of charge.  They even detailed it.  Every little dent and nick in the paint from years of use.  They even replaced a tire that was somehow damaged and ready to blow out.  When I picked it up, it looked nicer than when I bought it!  Scary story yes, but relatively happy ending, all things considered.  I have no doubt it was a freak accident (how could they stay in business otherwise?), and I will continue to bring my car to these guys… they seem to be honest and fair.

So with any luck, my car trouble is done for now.  These Lincoln problems are Cadillac worries, you know.  I know these stories make it sound like a hoopty, but those of you who’ve seen it know that it’s anything but.  It’s been a great car to me, and I don’t want this spate of malfunctions to sully that otherwise sterling reputation.  That last tow truck driver told me — without knowing my car’s recent history — that the fuel pump and suspension are the most common problems for aging Town Cars of similar mileage, but that with some TLC they will last a very long time.  Just look at how long limos and cabs are on the road.  We’re talking upwards of 400,000 miles and more.  I would love that, because I’m in love with this car.  I may have to cover that affair in a future post.

The quote of the week comes from last weekend’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell me!” on NPR.  They were discussing that the long-abandoned Chernobyl disaster site is being opened as a tourist attraction.

Kyrie O’Connor:  Well, actually, it’s supposed to be… I mean, it’s like totally overrun with wildlife because there’s, like, been nobody there.
Peter Sagal:  Right. I mean, if anything bites you, chances are you’ll gain the strength and powers of that animal though.

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