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Thursday, May 29, 2003 - 5:26 p.m.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Stores have taken to doing what high school girls have been doing for years — making mix tapes. But this is the 21st Century, so naturally, the stores are putting out mix CDs (just as the teens are moving onto iPods and minidisks).

When I came in this morning at 9 a.m. (explanation to come), Frank was listening to harry Belafonte's "Jump In The Line," and I asked if it was on his computer because I wanted it for myself. He handed me a copy of a Pottery Barn compilation called Margarita Mix, pun most certainly intended. There's even an article that rates it the top compilation by a retailer.

The tracks are as follows:
Baila La Charanga 4:02 Tito Rodriguez Orchestra
Jump In The Line 3:44 Harry Belafonte
Mas Que Nada 2:42 Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66
Bilolo 4:01 Ricardo Lemvo And Makina Loca
Mambo UK 5:38 ¡Cubanismo!
Stop The Train 2:21 Bob Marley And The Wailers
Butché 4:04 Sambo Ngo
Me Voy A Pinar Del Rio 2:47 Celia Cruz
Guantanamera 3:39 Tito Puente
Zing Zong 4:56 Kanda Bongo Man
Martini For Mancini 3:37 Joey Altruda
Agua De Beber 2:17 Astrud Gilberto With Antonio Carlos Jobim

Suffice it to say, it's a great pick-me-up CD for those slow mornings.

This morning, however, was anything but slow. Well, it was in the sense that I was slow getting up. That's because I had to be up at 7 a.m. so Casey and I could leave by 8 and get to the tire place. Because of her flat, which we couldn't get off her car because the tires were on wheels (rims) that didn't come with the car, meaning that the tool that did come with the car with the intended use of loosening lugnuts in order to change a spare was useless because the hold into which the lugnuts are recessed is too small for the tool to reach them.

Follow?

Good. So after trying the one in my car, asking downstairs neighbor Miguel when he came home if he had one and driving to Sears to purchase a socket set, we still couldn't get the tire off the car. And it wasn't even flat. The way it happened, there was a slice at a low angle across the face of the tire, as if someone tried to shave a sliver of rubber off it. The way Casey had pulled into the driveway, the tire was not leaking air. When I fingered the piece of rubber, a hsssssst! of air shot out at me. I managed to seal it up again, and before all those other attempts at removing the tire, we tried to drive to the repair shop. I stood in the driveway as Casey backed up, but the tire had barely turned a quarter of the way around when the change in position of the slit caused air to escape. We put the car back, tried all those other things, then called AAA.

They came within 20 minutes, but with a traditional tow truck and a socket thingy that couldn't reach the lugnuts either. But because the tire was on the back of a frontwheel drive car, they couldn't tow it (because the back wheels have to be the ones on the road). So we had to wait another 45 minutes for a flatbed from a different company to come and tow it to the shop.

Which, if we had just done that from the start, we could've been home watching a DVD by 7:30 and eating dinner rather than shoving nachos down our throats at 9:15, then slugging home from the shop at 10:30.

But it's all fixed, so yay.

We also experienced living on a congested block with older people who like to watch things. When the tow trucks pulled up with their lights flashing after dark, neighbors came to their windows (lights out, of course) to check out the action. But we could see their silhouettes. We also encountered each of our neighbors in the building — Miguel, Jo and one of the kids early in the adventure, Succubus and her lesbian lover sometime later in passing, and the Troll from the basement when we finally arrived home from the repair shop.

My investigative journalist/curious sleuth/nosy neighbor instincts kicked in the other day when I returned the empty trash cans to their spot alongside the porch. On the ground was a white envelope and the letter from inside it, both still rather clean and obviously recently tossed toward the trash cans and flown off the mark. It was a letter to Succubus. From the cable company. Threatening her to pay. The letter was folded. A gust of wind — or perhaps my foot — flipped it over and there, on the other side ... in the middle of the other side ... in boldface ... was the amount she owed: in excess of $600.

OK, a bit of background. There are two main apartments in the house, plus the basement and attic. The main apartments are entitled to the driveway, but the first floor tennants did not have a car until a few weeks ago. Casey and I have been and continue to park there. We haven't yet tried to establish a way for the first floor to park one there too that makes sense with all our work schedules. We have one half of the driveway; the other half is devoted to Cranky Old Man's single car, which he more often than not insists on parking in the middle. If he parked it all the way at the bottom, we could get three cars into ours and be able to move the middle one out without waiting for the last one to leave first (thereby allowing the bottom one to get out even if the top one remains).

Miguel wants to talk about getting his car into the driveway, but when he brought it up to me when I was in the basement doing laundry last week, the Troll jumped in to say the landlord is going to allow Succubus to park at the bottom because she keeps getting tickets and can't pay for them and is on welfare, blah blah blah you chain-smoking mole — er, sorry, that's just half your face. The Troll went on to say that we should support her and try to help her and pray for her and it "could be our sister, our friend," and that's when I threw up into the clean laundry and had to do the load a second time.

Well, no, but I wanted to.

Call me a conservative, but I'm sorry — if you can't handle the responsibility of owning a car and reading the posted street signs that tell when when and where parking is illegal, then I have no sympathy for you. If you can't figure out that parking along the yellow curb on the corner will get you a ticket, or leaving your car on the street from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays when the street cleaner comes, then that's your problem. If you can't figure out parking and pay for that, then maybe you shouldn't have a car.

Now, the cable. We've noticed cable bills regularly left in the mailbox for weeks. They're addressed to whom we presume is the woman upstairs, since I don't think we know her real name (but the last name is a dead-on synonym for "idiot"). Now call me crazy, but just leaving the bills in the mailbox does not make them go away. It's not enough to convince the cable company that you never got them. One morning a few weeks ago as I was leaving for work, a cable truck pulled up and a technician went down the driveway, presumably looking for the wire that went upstairs. He may have been carrying wire cutters, but I don't think it's that dramatic. (I also took note of that so that I made sure our cable still worked when I came home.)

I mean, listen, driving is a privilege, not a right. Cable TV is a privilege, not a right (though maybe a necessity). If you can't provide the resources to allow you to have those luxuries we've all come to take for granted, that's your problem. Maybe if you're kind and courteous and not stomping around in combat boots at 1 a.m. and playing house music at midnight I'll have a little more compassion.

But don't look to me if you don't have the sense to cancel the cable when it becomes an expense you can no longer handle.

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Fifty years ago, westerners reached the top of the world. I could never do it, and I wouldn't want to attempt it. I might be intrigued enough, as one of my mom's cousins told me he was, to trek up to Base Camp and experience that much of it.

And 100 years ago Bob Hope was born. I just saw a stat that says only about 30 of the New York Yankees' 15,600-something games were played before Bob was born.

<><><>

So the Republican tax cut will get me about an extra $9 on my paycheck every two weeks. That's around $250 in a year. Fuck them. They could keep it, frankly. I get twice that in my tax refunds each spring. And just to spite them, I'm not putting that money back into the economy. After taking a year off from my loan payments (because I put a large sum toward them last year that covered me until 2005), I've resumed them, and now instead of paying whatever it is I pay per month, I'll pay whatever it is I pay plus $18 per month. Maybe if they had given the cuts to the people who need them and will use them, maybe if they hadn't cut the dividend tax (which benefits no one but the wealthy, because that's who own significant stock investments) and tried to claim it was a victory for the working class, maybe if they hadn't tried the "this will create jobs and boost the economy" line again (it's the same thing they said in 2001, and fat lot o' good that's done), maybe if they'd tried harder, I'd be less bitter.

HA! Fat chance.

So yeah, I'll be getting an extra $9 every two weeks starting sometime this summer.

Dick Cheney's going to get $100,000 per year.

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