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Entries in caveat emptor (10)


Costco Chronicles

I've been a member of Costco for about a decade or more. There you can find too much of stuff you don't really need and can't possibly use before it all goes bad. But I've derived a bit of humor and blog/gallery fodder from my time at Costco. Here's two things from the most recent visit.

I was standing in line at the pharmacy there and a lesbian couple stood behind me. Their conversation seemed to be about social/political resistance to legalizing gay marriage. Says one to the other, "they should just let gays marry. I mean, everyone should be allowed to be miserable!" I guess that's one way to spend your married life. Sounds like a bummer deal, but hey...

Then, barely five minutes after that, still at the pharmacy (but this time I'm at the register), two men stepped up from two different waiting lines (one for cashier, one for counseling, I guess) when the cashier said "next, please." One was an older man of about 70ish. Another was maybe in his mid 50s and was a guy who looked like he might be a contractor or a shop foreman at a toilet repair business. They both walked up, and the younger guy started with some attitude and insisted he go first. The older man made a vague protest and decided not to make a scene. The younger guy wasn't content, so he got to the cashier and had to make some comment about being next, and he was up, yadda, yadda. The pharmacist told him the line for his window was where the older guy was standing.

I'm at the register with the other guy just a few feet over. His protestations getting ramped up as he felt he had to defend his honor, that HE was in line and HE should get service first. He even walked over to the barrier post (with the sign requiring patient privacy), picked it up and brought it over to the pharmacist, saying, "THIS is the line! SEE THIS?" The pharmacist guy told him to put it down so no one got hurt. This fool was getting dumber looking by the second.

He realizes he's making a scene and people are looking at him. I was sure to focus on him the whole time. My pharamacist guy is trying to work through my order, then toilet repairman guy sees I am staring at him. He tries to gloss over the fact he just made an idiot of himself with "so, how's it going?" I told him it was going pretty well. Right up to the moment he opened his mouth!


Fixed Gear Fever

It has been a solid six months since I bought my new bike. Loyal readers of this blog have no doubt seen the drastic reduction in my vehicular mileage (only at about 675 miles this year, as I write). I don't really know how many miles I have ridden the bike, but I am finding more courage to use it for longer rides, even as the routes are more urban and hilly—the stuff I tended to avoid in most of my prior biking experience. I've felt good with the effort I've made, and I seem to be drawn to do more. But I haven't hit bedrock yet.

I've been prowling websites and bike shops to prepare for my eventual next purchase. I don't yet know what will do the trick but it is bound to be a fixed gear type. Yes, they are enjoying a resurgence of popularity, but I am far too unhip to get one so I can hang out with the horn rimmed glasses wearing, torn jean and flannel attired, tattooed and pierced hipster set. But ever since I began to pay attention to the fixed gear bike, I've been intrigued by the riding mechanics of it, and how that might help me keep fit. The business of really using leg power to its fullest is alluring. The present bike has done a lot (in conjunction with working like I do) to firm up my legs a lot, but there is still a general downward motion that does the work to build some muscles, while others get toned from the circular repetition. In spite of that, the fixed gear bike with clips or cleats helps build muscles that work in the full circle, with some more benefit coming from the upstrokes, and of course, opposite efforts in resisting for braking. I keep reading and hearing that fixed gear is good for training and keeping supple.

My knees have never been exceedingly great. They bitched at me back in middle school when it was time to jog for P.E. class. Maybe it was the cheap shoes I was given to wear. I didn't like it better in high school, so certainly after that, I never ran for much of anything. While on stages as a tech, I'd sometimes get a pinched nerve or something that would damn near put me down for a while. I don't get that much anymore, but I have some knee grief on the right, and may soon get that checked out after some years of letting it slide. Between work and biking, they do hurt more now, but the muscles around them are far stronger now. So I hope the fixed gear idea will work to keep everything in better condition. I hear it both ways: the added stress of braking resistance is cause for complaint for some while the overall development is praised by others.

So, I've been studying up on bike geometries, gear inches, steel-versus-aluminum, and a host of other considerations. Been trying out any models I can find in my size, give or take some to get a feel for how that affects things. Been talking a lot of shop with a few stores. I'm batting around the pros and cons of the various off-the-shelf bikes that fill this bill, and pondering if I should just buy a cheaper used bike and modify it as needed while actually gaining fixed gear fitness. The consensus is that none of the stock bikes are excellent. The feeling I get is that conversions and custom builds are a lot nicer, but the problem is, you don't get to ride them in the showroom too often. So the homework continues—pedaling this to see how I feel about steel and classic track geometry and drop bars, or another with aluminum frame and more modern lines with straight bars.

I am drawn to the fixie because it is so damned mechanically simple and clean. Things that don't need to be there, aren't. I have not ridden my own ten speed type frame since I don't know when (1990?) so I have some reacquainting to do with that design type, but I am all for a bike with ridiculously little to go wrong that I can't fix. Even my Globe bike, fun as it has been to ride and push myself into deeper territory, has been a bit of a problem to adjust and get settled. The disk brakes have been a challenge to dial in, and I still make good use of the store's free adjustment offer. Well, a fixed gear with just one caliper brake won't be so much to fuss with, would it? I would need that brake for a while. I took a track style bike out for a ride. It had no brakes, as per the track standard, and I went for a bit of a hill, and got a bit frightened and chickened out before a few cars. I guess I need that chance to build the legs' resistance. Less mechanism, more me has been my motto lately, but I do not yet function as a set of brakes!

It is interesting to see how my consumer interests have shifted. I am plenty aware that bikes are my new money drain. But unlike the various instruments and studio gear, and of course, the computers, the bike is one that does something to make me more active and fit, and I've needed that. But it also is the outdoor activity that doesn't come from recording and emailing, and there has been a small trend toward it being a social activity too. These days, I find myself all about the websites to learn how to do biking more fully, and am basically blowing off my impending "need" to get a new computer and software. I am bucking that, and it is bucking back by having bits of software support erode here and there. Yet, I am just not into spending a couple thousand more to get a computer so that I might sit at it more, when for even half the price, I could get a new bike (again) and go out and enjoy things like a kid again, before I ever knew what a computer was, or before I ever let email rule my life. Far from searching out tomorrow's computer technology, I am happy with trying to get into century-old technology in bikes, with a few modern twists perhaps. It is the bedrock of the biking experience I want to reach for.


Customer Service 

It is interesting how major companies can be totally unavailable to you when you have a reason to bitch, but if they need to get in touch with you, they will hound you with utmost efficiency and tenacity.

Some time back, I had some fraudulent credit card activity perpetrated through what I believe must have been an open wireless network connection at the house. (I know I was able to see that others were freeloading on the connection; my iTunes list would have foreign names, and it was interesting to see what other people had in their playlists.) So, some year and a half ago, this happened with an order to Columbia House. As soon as I realized there was this activity, I sent off an email declaring it was not my order, and please bury it and never send anything. If anything was sent, it wasn't to me, but I got the emails nonetheless, and each month, I turned down all the monthly selections that they try to ensnare people into getting by forgetfulness, or whatever. That is, when their emails actually provided a link to any space that I could access. A lot of the time, I got dead links that said there was a server error. Yet their email links didn't work to my satisfaction. I ended up calling a few times to reach no living human being.

Anyhow, the year long intro term must have ended, and despite rejecting all their stuff. The bill for the un-bought movies (that would be the full price stuff that you're supposed to buy over the year of the term) finally arrived at my house as a charge on my credit card. They wanted $94 for four movies and shipping. I called CH and again got no one, being perpetually stuck in the seven circles of hell on their phone system. I contested it on my credit card, having already had one of these instances for a missed selection of the month denial. The credit company was willing to take the charge off till things were resolved. I filed a fraud claim as well. Then it all got beyond fucking ridiculous.

I submitted a package of materials consisting of emails that rejected this whole deal from the get go, and a volley of emails between me and CH as I demand that they remove this charge on the grounds that I didn't initiate this order. All I ever got back was a form letter reminding me that when I signed up, I agreed to blah, blah, blah. The idea that maybe I didn't sign up was not of concern to them. I tore them a new asshole when I demanded to know why their website was perpetually not functional for me, and their phone system had no humans to be found. All to no avail. Just form letter responses.

I sent that to my credit company. Finally, when the charge was taken off the account, I paid the last of my balance and closed the account, but the account would have to stay inactive for two months. Then I realized that maybe two things were at work. I told the people that I wanted that account dead and gone, and in a parallel set of conversations, I think the fraud claim opened up a new can of worms. While the account was paid down and set to be abandoned, the fraud claim then cut off that account and opened a new one. And won't you know it, but that was billed from CH, this time at interest! Well, I never have had a card issued from this new account, nor did I ever use the number. The first bill magically arrived with this new and improved sum on it, a charge that was never made except in some deal between companies. So, while the old account is now dead and gone, the new one has a charge on it.

I called the credit company to complain about this. I got no where. I told these monkeys that I had not made that charge, and that I wanted nothing to do with their company, and that they are my service that I signed up for and they should help me, not the merchants that I want nothing to do with. I was told, back in August about two weeks or so before my new account bill was due, that I could talk to an adjuster. I called this woman four times and left the required info. I got no calls back, despite offering her a time to call me. No response, but four messages. My due date came and went, and nothing happened. Then, in the week or so after that due date, I got a form letter from her. I was livid. These pricks can provide crap for customer service and be in a position to stall in such a way that makes me late for a payment, then have my credit record by the balls. So I just blew off two months of payments.

In the mean time, the credit company, seeing that I was behind in payments, began a daily campaign to call me. I think they called me 20 times or so in a week or so. Many times a day. I blew it off. Finally, after the second bill came, proclaiming my tardiness, I answered and gave the pathetic rep a piece of my mind. I told her it was ethically unjust to make me pay for nothing, an exchange made more corrupt by CH not providing me with service, and more so by the credit company failing me when I needed an adjuster to talk to. It was like she either could not understand my words or she was programmed to ignore them. How many times do I need to tell this broad that I refuse to pay, and that I want this off my record, and all my business with this credit company closed up and put behind me forever? How can there be a charge to a card that I have never used and to which I know the number only from a bill? Where did I sign my name on anything with this account? WTF? She said, the account can only be closed when the balance is zero. So I demanded that they make it zero—because as I said, credit is only imaginary money on computer ledger lines—and get CH to eat shit on it. I told her I wanted a supervisor to call me that day (since she couldn't patch me over to one—yeah, right). None called that Thursday. None called Friday. Funny, they hassled me on a weekend, but their supervisors aren't there to field questions on weekdays? Their system is geared up for vacuuming (imaginary) money out of pockets but not for customer service?



Caveat Emptor

I don't buy cell phones often, but this time, I was in a bit of luck that I wanted to buy two this week so that I could replace my water-damaged piece, and to just treat Kelli to an upgrade. Last week, I only bought one from the T Mobile store near my house. The price, after all the gimmicky price drops and rebates, was to be $99, which for this phone was a fine deal. So I took it home and got cozy with it, and showed Kelli around a bit and said I'd get her one. So, on Thursday, less than a week after my first purchase, I set foot in a different T Mobile store that is near where I work and ask to buy the same thing once again. The guy at the counter tells me it would be on sale for $50 less if I waited until the next day! Holy fuck, Batman. So I reason that I would come in and buy Kelli a phone and see what sort of hell I would have to endure to justify getting that discount on mine. Fortunately, by the end of the day on Friday, I was able to get both at the same discounted price. In my case, it was far easier than I thought; they just voided my sale and resold it to me at the new price. Sort of a goofy way of doing things but I can dig the deal. I was thinking they might offer a greater rebate since the thing was already sold. So, what I found was that T Mobile will drop prices on various items in the second half of the month, and even the stores will barely get any notice. So, word to the wise buyer. Shop early, buy later in the month.


Free At Last! Free At Last!

It finally came through loud and clear. I am now officially not working for AV Concepts. After a three and a half week mini-layoff—modeled no doubt on the six week version that spanned half of December and all of January—I am now free of the job I never wanted to accept, but sorta had to since nothing else came through in time for the move last summer. This time, I was not worked up over the loss. I had been gone for several weeks and had only done a single four hour shift one day and that was only to take a piss test and take the van for an oil change. No, this wasn't the crisis that December was. I was asked to come in to the shop to talk, but only found this out for sure that I was getting canned just as it was happening. I'd been waiting for something to come down regarding the damaged truck from early March. It's not that I didn't pass my piss test; it would be hard for me to fail it, being the square that I am who never even smoked a cigarette, let alone anything else. No, the expense in fixing the truck box was something like $4000, but they were looking to hang me anyway—December was all about the fact that I didn't let them boss my life around as well as they are accustomed, and that was brought up once again today, despite the fact that there was not one gig they offered that I turned down this time, the sum of which kept me working all of the 24 hours at one point or another. No, flexibility was not the issue, but to add it in there seemed to add some weight for what they wanted to accomplish. I guess I got too expensive for them. It's hard for me to lose any sleep over the whole issue. I mean, shit, I am moving in an ever more anti-corporate direction, and more so even now as I am aligning myself with a program that seeks to urge people away from the prevailing system, the corporate system. Oh, I can't tell you how it was conflicting to realize that my company was the cutting edge for a range of corporate giants—Yahoo, GSK, NIKE, Skechers, and so many others that just rub me the wrong way. Yup, I was living the Kafka life, working for the Man by day, and subverting him by night.

But in a really practical way, I am glad to separate from that place because it got to be a physical burden. I came home with more aches than any other job I ever had. Sometimes I apparently strained fingers and only found out the next morning when things just didn't work right. I really had my reservations about the physicality of the work. Pushing roadcases isn't the problem as much as loading trucks in different ways for every load. It could be harrowing at times. Add to that there was this one prick of a young punk there who loved to be sarcastic about my reservations. To which, I mutter something like, Hey, if you want to sling cases over your head and be dumb, that's your business. I can't get paid enough to want to let myself get hurt. Man, day after day, it was usually a fine way to wreck fingers and hands. But usually, just walking on the concrete all day hurt enough. Then, when I was a driver, things got easier except for the fact that I was not doing it all the time like when in the shop, so I sometimes fell out of fitness for it—slower responses, got sore easier, and I just had no real drive to do it as if I wanted to be there. It was clear that I was barely needed there for the last couple months.

I offered to get a class B license if that would help, but never got any clear answer. Then the truck incident happened. That was added to an earlier one that happened in the first week I came back in February when I damaged a rain gutter while backing up. Hey, I didn't ASK to be a truck driver. I was just fine as a shop guy. It seems to exemplify the logic of you get what you pay for. I was just a part timer who doesn't get taken for serious, isn't given any training in this sort of driving, and who also got the odd jobs not done by the main drivers.

Oh well, all that place really meant to me was a short lived way to get out of an awful bind last year when I needed something that paid reasonably well. I didn't want to reenter the field of event production, I didn't want to work around the clock, I didn't want to break my back moving heavy shit. I really was at odds with the place all the way. Given that my July 2005 film presentation featured the movie The Corporation, and that only a month later, I was working for AVC, you can see how I was biting my tongue the whole time. Oh, my interviews were an exercise in outright lying, but I don't care. It was hard to even be there nodding my head in agreement like I was going to be their best employee. It was hard to feign interest in the new gear they talked about. The audio gear wasn't even stuff I was used to. It took me six weeks from the time I applied to the time I set foot on the shop floor as an employee. Jeeze! I "connected" with only maybe three or four guys. The rest were either just "there" or people who irritated me. I was glad to get the driving jobs so I could get out and not sweat having the boom drop on me when the manager walked onto the floor. Many times he would do that and it drove me nuts. He was the total corporate stiff—out for his own ass. In the time I was in their employ, I see that several positions seem to have been slashed—an internal project manager, a site project manager, a salesman, and maybe others I don't know of. So it's no long stretch of the imagination why I got cut. If they don't have any compunction in slashing a $60,000 job or three, what is it to ditch me, who got a measly $11 an hour and tried to defend his time off? Yeah, this ops manager got his gig a few months before I got there. I see he has a shiny new Lexus, dresses in nice threads, and seems to have been able to keep his job well enough—made possible by being all decisive in that classic cutthroat corporate way—fire people so he may advance. I hear he is so bent on pinching pennies that he shuts off the Coke machine at night to save energy.

The great joke on AV Concepts, (and hardly a soul there would entertain the notion—the ones who did were pee-ons like me) is of peak oil reversing that company's fortune. Yup, more than once, I looked at that inventory, the one they so proudly pimp as "the best in the biz" and thought, totally fucking worthless in a few years! One by one, corporations across the country are going to fold up and won't be throwing hi-spectacle product launches for the media, or won't be holding super-classroom Powerpoint presentations for their expanding workforce. They won't be looking in San Diego for a production company if their gig is in San Francisco. Yup. Just wait. AVC is not looking at the growth they think they will achieve. I sat through the meeting last year just before Thanksgiving. The owners (private company) bought us Quizno's food. Forget the fucking turkey and stuffing and mash-taters, we get fast food and Cokes. Then we went upstairs and listened to corporate drivel for two hours about how the company is growing. Funny, I only see people getting fired.

There was this one dude (who I actually got along with best) who was 25 or so, and he hired on as an intern for something like minimum wage for a few weeks. Interestingly, it was the week I got laid off back in December. Hmm, could it be? I get laid off for the darkest winter months just as they find a guy who will bend over backwards to get his foot in the door and won't say no to any work? Mebbe. Consider: when I came back in February, he was working 6 and 7 day weeks. By then he'd gotten his raise to $9 an hour. I was working for $11 an hour. By any guage, he was getting gypped by $2 anyway, since it seems that $11 is the opening wage for us throwaway hands. I've heard it said a few times at this company, if you don't hire on at the wage you want, you better get used to it or get out. Later on, this guy and me got a chance to work together a few times and trade stories. Since I was out of the shop most of the time, I had not been up on all the gossip. But by the time he was due his review, he got nothing. No review. Sort of like me. Finally, I got a "90 day review" on day 120, only to get a layoff for my patience. I never got my review at the end of my extended probation, unless you consider today to be that review. It is, after all, the third month after I restarted back on the first of February. He got a review but it got him essentially nowhere. And the clincher? He wasn't the slacker that I seemed to be. He worked like mad. He learned how to do a lot of stuff. He was actually a good employee, but he seems to have gotten signed up at the real piss-on rate. Sad. I told him to know his limits and get out as soon as he could.

So farewell, AV Concepts, the stopgap job that placed me in contradiction with myself. It's not so much that I hate you. I just am sort of glad you're out of my life.


Of Sublimation And Guilt

I have it again. That nagging feeling that materialism is keeping me from being something far greater than I feel I am now. I have been plagued by this off and on for about three years now in particular, and it usually comes in the form of a profound insecurity about whether or not I have any use for my musical gear anymore. Most of my time with this equipment has gone essentially useless and frustrating. I peaked in my materialism in 2001 when I inherited about $26,000 from my grandmother who had just died earlier in the year. I spent most all of that on new gear—primarily music and recording gear, but also my first computer and some of the things that accompany that. Most of this stuff has been sold off in a long and slow process of downsizing to get to what seemed to be a core of items that would allow me a wide range of options while not having the redundancy that I had in 2001. But now, the core itself seems to be a cancerous lump, and I am having more and more thoughts that it's just time to ditch most of it and get clarity. This would of course mean that I would essentially cease to be a musician, but most of the time now it is almost all frustration and self doubt when I try to do anything in music. All the little things I've tried, and all the big things I've tried have not really ignited a fire under me to work with the dedication to my recording and composing craft like before.

Last summer, when it was time for Kelli and I to move on from the house that I had hoped to live in for many years, I was confronted with all the gear I had, all the furniture, all the books and other household junk that accumulates when you don't have compelling reason to clear it out. Add to that all the similar stuff that Kelli has, and it was a total nightmare of trying to prioritize what to keep and what to toss. I'm sure we could have bailed on more. But specifically, the music stuff was like a dead limb for me—a vestige of some life I'd led four or five years before. It's not stuff that should just be thrown around willy nilly in a shed, or at a storage space. It's still useful in every way as if it was new. It still could be used as a great tool to provide diversion to my life, or to change the world. It's not junk in the least. But it's a lot of stuff to move around, all the while not knowing what to do with it. But the thought nags still! I could get rid of it but then would I soon realize what I had done, feel some loss, then mourn a decision which could not easily be reversed? If I hang on to these things, I have them. They are ready. They are within reach. They won't have to be bought. But if I ditch them, they will be gone and not available to me, and I'd have to spend money to get that sort of experience back, or borrow stuff.

And the greater thing than the fact that maybe I'd put myself out of a guitar or bass is that I am essentially not a musician who plays music solely for the fun of it. I don't know anyone else's songs, I barely know my own anymore. No, I have always used guitar and bass essentially as something to use to record things, sort of like a painter uses brushes or sponges to place paint on a canvas, and the recording for me is the art which sits on the canvas. So for me, or at least the me that I recognize, musical involvement is more than just strumming some Eagles songs on the couch. It's a far bigger thing. But it's a headache to move this stuff—now twice in the last several months, and likely again within the year since my current space is available for that period, with a general expectation that it will end when Adam returns from Brazil. It's a headache to move it all around, get it put together, make it work, relearn how to use things. I am growing ever shorter of patience with regards to gear, technology, material items. I find most of it just tormenting sometimes, quite like when I was seven and took my entire bike apart for fun but was ordered by my grandfather to put it back together, and I was just crushed because I knew I could never really do that.

Essentially, the lofty ideas I had in 2000-2001 about being a cottage industry of music production and promotion has just been a miserable failure, essentially because I gave up the devotion to music when I got on the computer and was sucked into that world of options. Now I swear it all drives me bonkers and furthermore, with my married life on a basically good track and being removed from some of the unnecessarily empty pursuits I ordinarily engaged in, it's just odd to choose to lock myself in the studio environment in hopes that somehow artistic greatness will flow from me. I do dabble on guitar, bass, and drums (all I have left for instruments—no keys or other things), and some of the things don't suck at all, but my ability to turn any of this into art is just lacking. It doesn't happen. My old reliance on "throw shit on the wall and work with the stuff that sticks" is fruitless. I'd prefer to totally erase all signs of an hour long jam if it means sifting for 10 hours to find the good stuff, yet I am not really in control of making good stuff at will. It's maddening. So I frequently storm out of the studio, frustrated, angry, and saddened, often with the idea that I will just turn back around and go to Craig's list and put up a hundred ads for all my shit.

I recently had an odd idea come to me regarding what would have been my muse back in my "main sequence" back in 1997-2000. An odd parallel hit me, and the question is more whether I am attributing too much to the coincidence, or not. Really, it revolves around this non-relationship with Shelby, a girl who I knew I would never ever really get with, but that for some reason, she was the target of my passion. She had primarily been out of town for most of the time I knew her, but I longed for the times she was in town. One time, there was a period of over two and a half years when we had no contact whatsoever. Then, in a total coincidence of me being called to work in La Mesa on a day off from the Pizza Hut, and only being asked to come in at will before rush hour, and making a 20 minute drive to do so, I happened into this Shelby in the lot right as I walked in. It was the first time I'd seen her in two years and eight months. We hugged and it was like angels singing on high for the rest of the day. We agreed to stay in touch again. It was on August 10th. Three days later, I was at a music shop where I bought my VS 880 recorder which was the hardy little machine which I used to record everything on for a few years, and historically now I see it was the best stuff overall.

Anyway, Shelby was on her way out of town soon after our meeting though maybe we met another time or two to reconnect. She was off to Louisiana where she was in school. This was after time in Alaska (where I had seen her last just after the start of 1995), and northern California, and before that back in San Diego, where we had originally met at my church in 1988. Since she was back in my life, I had this overwhelming desire to finally get with her, and was just nuts over trying to somehow get her to come around. I wrote long and charming but still tentative letters to her. I told her all sorts of things that I hoped would make her feel wanted. Blah, blah, blah. My other outlet was recording. If I wasn't somehow focused on this girl and our future relationship, most of my time was spent recording all sorts of things with my new toy. First it was at my apartment for about ten months, then finally at the old Hog Heaven studio at my grandmother's place. The spring of 1998 and the summer to follow was time when I was utterly beside myself with gaga for her. It also happened to be a very lucrative recording period. See, the big fuss was that she was coming to town, leaving Louisiana, and coming to stay at her mom's for a while, and maybe going into the Peace Corps. So of course, there I was licking my chops at the promise of a new period to work on this project with her. Blah, blah, blah.

The summer of '98 was incredible, not because anything actually did happen between us, but because I believed even to a fault that something would happen. She ended up going into the Peace Corps and going to the eastern part of Africa. This lasted for all of two years and more—basically the same period of our total silence, but this was not going to be a total blackout. I was like an eager teenager too choked up on the stagefright to actually say anything that would destroy our friendship, so I always tippytoed around my real feelings, though they had been batted down rather harshly back about eight or nine years before in the earlier days of our knowing each other. The reason I had to tippy toe is because I knew full well it would happen again. But I had hoped that maybe all those intervening years took some of the edges off.

After she left for the PC in September '98, I began a rather prolific two years of recording. I had the space, the gear, the time, and apparently the muse to do that. Oh, I was just head over heels about her, even though I realized that nothing would ever come of it. I continued my letter writing, each time trying to evoke something that would make her come home to me, blah, blah, blah. All through 1999 and 2000, I was recording my own stuff, and things for Loaf, Tamara, Mike Keneally, Mark Decerbo, and others. That little 880 got used like mad.

In the last half of 2000, right before this Shelby was to return to San Diego, giving me another giddy spell of anticipation, I had finished my CD Receiving. In the few days before she actually returned in December, I engaged in a mad flurry of recording activity while I spent about a week recording what turned out to be my Hog Heaven Holiday Theme Music CD which I originally made because of another girl who had entered my life: my four year old neice Kaitlin. Kaitlin and I met only before Thanksgiving when I launched another period of relationship with my mom and her family, most of our lives estranged from each other. Anyhow, I had recorded 15 minutes of music in about a week and was excited to have done it, despite being essentially creatively drained after mastering the Receiving CD in September and having worked on it for a year before that. I finished the Holiday CD on the 21st or so. Shelby returned on the 22nd.

To make my already long story shorter, let me say that our "relationship" that I had so patiently tried to cultivate came crashing down in a single day on the 22nd of December—the day she returned and when we met for lunch and some errands. Total wipeout. I knew my worst fears of it failing were coming true, but in my effort to salvage it one last time, I wrote a long letter with the exact feelings that I'd never revealed to her—good, bad, ugly. I told her of all the times I hung on to this relationship like there was nothing else in life. But I was ready to let it go. I delivered it by hand to her mom's mail box in La Mesa. After that, we barely exchanged a word. By that point, it was in the email realm and I don't think anything exists between us since March of 2001.

The odd thing that freaks me out is this. In the same way as the most prolific recording period of my life started in the very same week as she and I started a new chapter, I am just now catching on that it ended in a similar way, in reverse. I've said for some time that the Holiday CD was the last good thing I recorded that actually got finished. It's the last thing that was done in my usual production style, and to my usual standard. It was the last whole project that started and ended. It was the last one that was done exclusively on the 880, before I went in search of other possibilities with all the gear I bought in 2001.

I'd hate to give this broad more credit than she deserves, but the story has baffled me for a few days now. I already knew she had worked on my psychology for a long time—I already knew I was sublimating a feeling for her and turning it into musical art. I just had not really realized how the times were linked—the new recorder and her reappearance in my life triggered nearly two and a half years of mad recording, and both the recorder and the artistic streak came to an end essentially in the same week as this broad made her final exit from my life.

So now I wonder what my muse really is. Shelby isn't around to mess with my head and drive me to record, and nor should I want that. But what does drive me to record now? I've had some great emotional pain from moving house, or dealing with my psychotic old man. No real music to come of that. I spend my time entertaining notions of civilizational collapse and environmental destruction. No music to come of that. I love my wife, we do things together. No music to come of that. I am aligning myself more and more with the Christian model. No music to come of that. What gives? I find myself asking 'what button do I push to get something out of myself, musically? Who or what is my muse anymore? What the fuck is the hold up?'

If my muse is gone, and I don't get off just playing Eagles and Stones music on a guitar just to pass the time, I find myself wondering what in the world all this gear means to me any more? I have a nagging feeling that maybe $26,000 could have been placed elsewhere, or not spent at all. Who knows what killed my muse? Who can blame me if I find that I'd rather have dinner or a talk with my wife, and not isolate in my little box? Who can hold it against me that maybe I now have what I was so desperately pining for all those years? I don't know that anyone is holding a gun to my head expecting to hear my new music. I guess I just don't feel the need to do this, or to do it the old way. What I keep insisting would do me good would be to find a band and channel my energy that way, but it's hard—I've tried that too, on somewhat my own terms, but it's such a hassle to find people who can work together for more than a few weeks. Even Glenn is too busy working around the clock. I have a shifting schedule. It's hard to make the time for this if people are going to be let downs. That is why I worked solo for so long—to avoid being the victim of letdowns. I've asked Kelli to take part in recordings too—we did one in 1998/9, but to no avail.

So I don't know what to make of it. As gear is concerned, I get crazy messing with options. I get neurotic. As art, I generally have relied on lots of paintbrushes and other applicators to do my painting. As an investment, it's still useful if it's called upon. I got rid of most of the completely gimmicky stuff. My gear now should enable me to make a durable piece of music using the time honored guitar/bass/drum formula, if I can coax ideas from them. I'm just lost.


Don't Try This At Home, Kids

I just got done with my second trip over to my new apartment. With the place being just a one bedroom, it's not a matter of sheer quantity that needs moving. I can pretty much move any piece of furniture myself when dealing with my pickup, a piano dolly or two, and a fairly flat surface. Today I singlehandedly maneuvered loveseat, bookshelf, end tables, boxes, and some other pieces. I still have a crappy computer desk (mine), a good desk (Kelli’s), recliner, dining room table, and a dresser with mirror attachment (that can be removed).

I still have all my music stuff to find a home for. Sometimes I think of just giving it away because I feel it's such a ridiculous burden for the use I get from it anymore. I sold my Rhodes piano last week, fortunately for $70 more than I paid for it five years ago, and that was the one piece of gear I have ever sold at a profit. I’ve sold some other things too but not to amount to much. I still am a well equipped rock trio–drums, basses (3) and amp/cabinet, and guitar and amp/cabinet. Then I also have some outboard stuff, mics, monitors, and a shitload of cables and other junk. All that stuff I just do not know where I will park it. Anyone want to keep my shit for a while?

I am supposed to start work at AV Concepts on the 8th. That is also the day I am supposed to be done here, though there will probably be some leniency since it's family (sort of). I have to take my washer, dryer, and fridge over to the old man’s house where there is at least space for that sort of stuff. Then I have bikes, patio table and chairs, and other junk of that sort to do something with. I don’t think all this will be kept. I still have space in my storage boxes (the drive off type) and will do some shuffling to keep as much as possible, but at one point, paying $135 a month for an extra bedroom’s worth of space will lose its charm and I might find myself wishing for a two bedroom. That is, except that the storage boxes are rather crammed with stuff that would take some serious floor space (full sofa, office desk, chest of drawers, hutch, ANOTHER dining room table, etc.)

And this week, it's time to manage all my utilities—shut off a bunch of stuff and restart some of it at the new place. Cable internet will cost more just because. Only because. Because it's a monopolistic service and Cox is all I can get there. Roadrunner doesn’t serve the area, so I can’t just change addresses. Cox has comparable but slightly lower spec service for $5 more a month, and wants to rent me a modem for $10 more than that, or sell it to me for $80. Grrrrrr. RR gave me a free modem. WTF?

At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Kelli starts school in a few weeks, about two weeks after I start work. She just got a replacement car after her POS Saturn died a week or two ago. I may be able to get more done with EONSNOW once I have a locked schedule again, and she is gone for a few days a week. But change, what change! I’ve never been the leaseholder on an apartment before, and it's been seven years since I was in one at all. I don’t remember liking it a lot. Very sterile and boring. I did have music then and recorded a lot in that period, but I won’t be doing that as much. More internet now. Never had internet then, and since four years ago when I got my computer, it's been all internet all the time, and barely any music. So, we’ll see. I am cozying up to the idea of living in a tiny place, but I can really only imagine wanting to get the hell out of it. Who knows? Maybe I will get a social life again. Scary.

Downsizing from a four bedroom to one is hell. Don’t try this at home, kids.


Deep In The Bowels Of Hell

What fucking hell. Utter fucking hell. It's the middle of summer, so we got our Florida-like humidity and heat that helps sour the whole experience even before the sleep is wiped from my eyes, and even waking up at 8 am is no help. (Hell, in less than two weeks, if I wake up at 8 am, I will be an hour late to work!) What a time to have to do this mad amount of work. Later on, I am looking at working primarily in a warehouse in the Mission Gorge area of town, where it's notoriously hot. Good times. But therein lies the ticket to my new life. Maybe.

The last two days have been just totally draining in every way. Arguments with Kelli like never before. We’re both in massive change mode, and it's worthless to figure out who is getting the shorter end of this moving deal. What I do know is that she signed up for a school with a commuter program so that she could live in San Diego and attend school three days a week in Claremont, with the option of staying in their on-campus commuter housing for the two nights that are obviously necessary, but possibly for a third, to make things safer. Her class starts rather early on Wednesdays and it's early enough that she can’t just take a train up there (timing doesn’t work out), and it's also early enough that it would make for one hell of an early morning commute to class (leave SD at 6 am and negotiate the two hour drive and whatever traffic too, and rush into class, not to mention getting up early enough to do all that in comfort). So she really should make the commute on the night before when early morning stress is not a problem, but it adds another night to the housing costs, an additional $35, bringing the weekly cost to $105 and the monthly to $420. And all that is ON TOP of whatever we pay to stay here in San Diego.

So for most of the last three or four months, the talk has been about commuting while she lived here, in this current house. So of course we were shocked to be issued a notice to leave. The next most possible option was to actually get one of the apartments the school has for students and totally leave San Diego. At least we were assured a place, and it was but a short walk to class. But it would still cost about $900 for a one bedroom on campus! About double what the commuter housing would cost, but a single price for a single place that is all ours to live in, instead of the dorm-like commuter rooms. Still, neither of us sounded ready to leave SD and neither of us were working at the time, so it would be a challenge, even if the housing was secured for us to move into. But we still had no assurance of any way to sustain that since we had no jobs. Even if we had jobs here, it would be meaningless; we’d have to start over up there, and it's harder to find stuff up there while perched at a computer down here. So for a couple weeks right after we got our notice to leave here, we perused Craig’s List and looked for work up in the greater LA hellhole, and down here too. I got not one single response to the LA area calls and emails/resumes, and when I looked at the map I found that some of the places were going to be a godawful distance to commute not once a week, but once a day! I think a 35 mile commute, or a 50 mile commute can actually take years off a person’s life!

After some fumbling with the LA work scene, and the other “opportunities” in the Claremont area (really closer to San Bernardino and Riverside), we resorted to looking down here again. We drove to Claremont to go to the school and do some administrative things, see the apartments, and taste the area. The lady who showed us the apartment asked us to be there at 9:30 am, which meant we had to leave here at 7. We got there with 10 minutes to spare. Then she told us she didn’t actually have an empty unit to show, so she arranged some Asian student to show his place, but he had three kids and another family member or two there visiting, so it was mad clutter and noise. Less than two minutes later, we were out of the apartment and I had not done anything more than stand in the living room and peer into the bedroom. Well, so much for that place. And they have no cable service whatsoever. DSL, if anything. The apartment complex was made out of block. Pretty soulless, but not about to be torn asunder by the southern California hurricanes and tornadoes. It was institutional. But it was a few steps from there to class. The school is utterly tiny, so distance is measured in yards, not blocks or such. The rest of Claremont, the city, is not far, certainly in biking distance, and it's a cute cute little downtown, totally cool for the peak oil/new urbanist guy in your family. But after traipsing about doing school related work and stopping in at a couple of the other colleges and their admissions offices possibly for my benefit, we got some lunch and it was already after 3. Hardly time to look for any real work. Nothing jumped out at me. Nothing seemed to be the sort of thing that would have gotten me the ideal $2700/mo to live in that $900 one bedroom apartment. I did go to the local Costco to once again try my hand at applying, but they said Costco only does online apps now. Fuck. We stayed and looked at the rest of the cute downtown of Claremont, and talked to people. Upon finding out that the commute to LA central is a 35 mile drive, we mostly were talked out of looking for work in the LA area. Most everyone suggested a far more local search. Then we drove home, and I filled out the Costco online app, complete with that absurd psychological profiling shit all the online apps have now. And it was an app for ONE store, not chainwide, or even a selection of stores!

So, since I had already been waiting a week and a half for AV Concepts to call, I called them that same day and told them I needed to start making some plans. They told me it would be until Monday (this was a Thursday). Then I called on Monday and was told that I could come in for a second interview the following Monday. This is now three weeks after the first one. So I am crossing my fingers like mad because I got the idea that this job could actually anchor me in town here and get us a new apartment, pay for storage at least until we can sell things down, etc. We’ve been talking about how important it is that we stay in SD because we have all our friends and church folks down here, and that is our life. We don’t know anyone in Claremont, and most of all, we have no plan for how to pay for that apartment either, so the talk was that it was far more risky to ditch our San Diego life entirely than to move within SD and keep with the commuting plan. I reasoned we could always complete the move later when commuting and separation became unbearable or gas got too expensive. We’ve both been unemployed for months now, so it seemed silly to totally bet the farm on a new life in Claremont when we could barely afford the move itself. Maybe we could get a running head start in SD for at least a semester or two, and when one of us gets some experience with the new place, we could have some idea of opportunities there.

So back to hell week.

We did our garage sale thing and it took three of us three days to get the thing done from early clean up and inventory to late clean up. We put a lot of stuff into two drive off containers. We still have a messy ass house. I still have all my music gear here in a corner and it still takes up about a third of a bedroom. Girl stuff is still scattered about—knickknacks, picture frames, plants, and other stuff still surrounding us. We still have a number of pieces of furniture that probably won’t make the cut and will have to be sold or stored. We still have mad amounts of half filled boxes and stuff. Closets left unmolested. All Kelli’s office space is intact. Bathroom and kitchen stuff is still unpacked. We got our work cut out for us still! I supposedly start work on the first of August. Shit. I have no fucking idea what to do about my music gear. It takes up space and is of high value. I can’t just shove it in a closet nor can I leave it unsecured, nor do I like the idea of leaving it with others. Not all of it anyway. It's pared down rather thin from my erstwhile glory days of studio extravagance. Still not ready to sell it. Right now it's a burden. I guess I could get another drive off container or storage facility, but that's added expense.

Well, I did finally get the AV Concepts job and started to look up and could finally release my crossed fingers that were getting sore after three weeks. After weeks and weeks of stress, one key piece came into place. We got a job that could keep us in SD. Starts at $1760 a month (to start, with more on the way in a few months, or so they say), which for me is pretty darn good. Add whatever Kelli can make and her financial aid, and it seemed that things were falling in line. We had exactly three weeks to get out of here. Miracles do happen, I guess.

So in the midst of all the other stuff, which everyone agreed was hell enough, Kelli’s car started giving her hell, and it became clear that the cost of fixing it would be silly and it's time to start looking for a new car, especially if she is going to commute regularly. So we have this fucking ordeal added into the mix. That just means more time is getting sucked up into criscrossing town looking at stuff. Time not spent packing or moving, or looking for another job. When I came home and told Kelli that I got the job, she did get excited but then found out that it paid less than I had been proposing, so she started getting all bent out of shape that there was no way we could live in SD and have her do the commuter thing too on that sort of money. Uh? What happened to her commuter housing being covered? What happened to her two weekdays remaining to work, or up to four if she wanted to bury herself with some weekend work too? Uh? I could not believe it. She started on gasping about how all her plans were falling apart, and how she might as well just quit school, and all sorts of other stuff.

So I suggested we just ask for money now, and so I reminded her that my old man had made some offer to help us with the transition. She protested, then she suggested we go, then protested, and back and forth. Finally, after going around and around on the issue, I just went over to his house on my own and started on the pitch to help us with some moving costs, and oh!, the car needs to be replaced too. Kelli really doesn’t like my old man much given the current state of things, but we are in a pinch here, and frankly, he could help. So I got to his house a couple days ago and she followed over afterwards, choosing to drive her little death trap on wheels to a place she would rather not be. After some negotiating, the old man went and collected a thousand dollars and gave it over. It was, in a strange reversal of the usual patterns of the universe, the best thing that happened all day! We so often think of a trip to his place as a disaster waiting to happen, but the last few weeks have been different, and he has expressed some desire to be charitable toward us since he can see an end to this housing dilemma here.

Kelli and I didn’t say much before we went to counseling that night, and I was thinking she would have been totally dumbfounded and surprised to have received a cash gift from my dad, so I thought things would be better. What I do remember happening is one of the most tense and overtly confrontational sessions ever. Just fucking hell. It was like the planets reversed their orbits that day—the best thing to happen was the exchange with my dad, of all things! Kelli elaborated how she thought we were going to Claremont after all this time, to which I had to say, well, then why the hell have the last two weeks been filled with looking at San Diego properties and jobs??? Shit, if all we needed to do was to move into the Claremont apartment, we could have done that a while back! But now I got my decent job in SD that can hold things together, it's not good enough??? I found myself in the odd position of defending two things I ordinarily am not known for: the actions of my father, and the prospect of my job (which of course is one that helps lift up the vanity of corporations, uses massive amounts of energy for nothing of any real use, and operates across huge geographical areas, but it's giving me what I need, when nothing else is).

So yesterday I got up at 8 and was ready to go apartment hunting by 9. Kelli woke up then, so we left at 10, and hit up a number of places in the North and South Park areas, University Heights, and the like. We finally found one place that for the price and the financial incentives was great, but it was actually a nice little place–a reconditioned place from the early 60s or so. Tasty and a nice step above the ghetto shack I anticipated we could get for the newly revised price we were looking at, if indeed we were going to pay the whole price together: $800. So we drove to the offsite manager’s place, which was another complex a few blocks away, got the apps and went to a restaurant to fill them out over lunch. Then on the way back to the manager’s place, I asked her if this was okay, and well, fuck me, the whole thing opened up again! All sorts of cries that we talked about Claremont this and Claremont that, and that this is only good for me, and what about her? Fuck, I lost it then. We got to the truck and were shouting like mad, finally I tore up the apps and threw them out and said we really need to fucking decide what town we’re gonna be in because this half in-half out shit is messing things up big time. She doesn’t have an answer for how to actually pay for any place in Claremont, and yet, for weeks we’ve been looking HERE, not THERE for work and housing, which finally turned up something and was about to turn up some housing too.

She might feel her world is crashing down, and maybe it is. We both feel that way. But being totally ripped out of home, studio, familiar settings, and from friends, all while being pressed into doing a new job that I am really pretty ho hum about is a bit much, you know? Add to that I have to store or sell stuff that I have used and lived with for years, and some of it is the last of the stuff I have to inherit from my grandparents. She faces the commute plan, and she could commute with other SD residents, or take the train, or whatever. She has to buy a new car. She has to go to grad school and work part time. Who is getting off cheap here? Me? Her? Each is being thrust into something beyond challenging, but what the fuck? If we were supposed to live in Claremont, why spend the last few weeks looking here and nonchalantly packing and filling storage containers here? We should have been in Claremont! Of course, then my new job here would be utterly useless. And any talk of living in two apartments full time is financially out of the question, and she associates that with a divorce. Well, what the fuck? One of us has a job, we both have lots of reasons for being in San Diego, her original idea was to commute. Hell, maybe we should just go up to Berkeley where she could go to Pacific School of Religion (first choice, and one that she could get, since our minister is an alum there and could help her in) and we would be VERY clearly out of San Diego and would give up the idea of living in two places at all! And, at least we’d be around some other smart liberal minds and nicer land when the shit starts hitting the fan in the post-peak days.

Bloody hell. That’s all I have to say.


Contradiction, Much?

I got drawn into watching the evening news with my Kelligirl today, and the local segment had a few interesting segments, back to back.

There was the SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) awarding companies that support vanpooling for their employees. The award went to SAIC for getting 12 passenger vans for their employees to use and paying the employees more to use it, while expecting them to pay for gas and share driving responsibilities. The story said that it was predicted that in thirty years, commute times would double if people kept driving the way they are now. Ha. Like anyone will be able to afford anything of the sort in 30 years. Like the infrastructure will be around in shape in that time. Like there will be any more land to create freeways and roads. There was one dude who looked 55 or so, totally scientist looking, who rode his bike 35 minutes each way, and had lost about that many pounds since biking. Good. Said his car commute was 25 minutes anyway, so he really only upped his time investment by 20 minutes or so and got a workout to boot. Good.

Then there was a story about global warming. There were pictures taken of glaciers in Alaska, at the same time and place each year with a noticeable fall in level. There was talk about how this may affect us down in So Cal—stuff like the tropics basically moving northward, with the flora and fauna, and pests to go with it all. Not good. There was talk about how our local shrubs and grasslands would die. Not good.

But then there was a story about how a mortgage lending corporation donated a $275,000 fire truck to San Diego for fighting brush fires. It was a monster. With the exception of being the usual bright red and polished metal, it looked ready to go into battle. I bet it gets five miles to the gallon or something. Apparently the city is looking forward to getting two more of these, presumably on its own dime.

Before the story was over, I commented to Kelli that the next wave of commercials would be pitching gas guzzling cars and trucks for zero percent interest. FORD! DODGE! CHEVY!  "Hey, the world is coming to an end, but we may as well throw a party. The Lord might appreciate the head start! We may as well make the place ready to burn so when he comes he'll only need one match!"

The second commercial after this series of stories was an ad for Chevy trucks on sale now for 0% interest.

So let's see here... The case for high density urban development instead of suburban sprawl was made for me in one news cast...

Long commutes bad. Fire endangering outer ring houses bad. Global warming bad. But then put a fucking ad on so that some company can sell us the very things that are to blame for this whole fucking mess. In fact, the car companies are tripping over themselves to sell us these vehicles that they are willing to forgo the business of charging interest! Oh, and did you notice the fire truck was donated by a MORTGAGE lender? You think they are trying to save their asses by keeping the fires down while developments are popping up all over what used to be far off lands outside the city? Oh, and all those houses demand the use of cars because people aren't really hip to using any form of mass transit (doesn't even exist around here, to speak of). And now people in El Cajon are making the NEWS for getting into a van together and riding to La Jolla? That is the NEWS, folks. Wow, some people are really fucking enlightened.


Vote With Your Dollars

Let me be blunt: Restaurants and other service oriented companies will just about get down and suck the customer's dick so that they don't go away unhappy. Unhappy customers cause problems, like bad publicity on someone's blog, and revenue loss. In the event of a customer versus customer issue, they will err on the side of the one that is spending more.

Kelli and I had been at our favorite local burger joint, Hodad's in Ocean Beach. One night we got our onion rings AND sodas AFTER our meal had been eaten. We got the bill, and I took it up to contest it. Now, Hodad's is one of those completely down home Southern California sort of beach joints. They are so far from corporate it's stupid. They make one of a kind burgers. So I thought maybe the dude could comp me the sodas or the rings. But no, he wouldn't. The counter dude and another employee gave me a look like I must be joking. I wanted to just go back to the table, leave half the bill and get out, but Kelli talked me out of it. I don't really want to boycott Hodad's but this has certainly soured me on them. I at least feel that a letter to the owner would be useful. But fewer and fewer places are actually run by the owners anymore. So many franchises, so much distance between policy makers and customers.

Today Kelli and I went to IHOP for breakfast. Two booths away, there were these two Mexican mothers with a kid each, both looking like three or four years old. I don't know if the Mexican has anything to do with it, but there is a universal language that was being spoken at that table: that of really fucking loud and obnoxious kids. The moms did next to nothing to stop this. The restaurant was busy, and a little noisy, but these kids reigned supreme, yelling, slapping each other, banging silverware together and onto the table. I gave a few disapproving glances that way when I thought it would matter. Still nothing.

Our server came and took our order, and we asked if she could do anything to squelch it over in the romper room. She gave that sort of embarassed smile that shows she knew we were right but she was in such a place she would get a talking to if she spoke up. I guess she decided it was better to do nothing. The chorus and percussion ensemble continued almost without pause during a lot of our meal. We pulled the middle-aged manager aside and told him we were thinking of leaving but had already ordered, but were still bugged at this, and our server had been no help. He smiled and said there wasn't much he could do, as per the expectations of the upper management. He apologized that he couldn't really do much.

Or course, the implicit message was we don't want to scare people off by telling them how to live their lives. Or, more cynically, I think he said, you are only buying two meals, and they are buying four, therefore, they need priority treatment, not you. I might also extend the cynicism to include: we need to ensure that the kids don't have a bad experience here because they are our future customers. It was the typical sort of response I was told to give during my fast food years at Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Jack In The Box. Typical. Worthless. I wonder how many other people were sitting around that area who were ticked off, but didn't say anything, but might think twice about coming in. But, no, for the restaurant, they need to make sure they don't cause waves.

My bill came. It was $17.53 before tip. I thought of not tipping for bad service. But then I decided to take it up a notch. Since the manager himself was as worthless as a Bush in the White House, I decided to take a little more off. I paid $17 in cash on the table, and we left. I actually felt that I should have left $10, so we could comp ourselves one meal, since the boss did nothing of the sort, nor did he offer us a dessert or anything. Next time I will push it a little more when I get this sort of service. I just think if businesses are in the business to serve, they should serve. I mean, they would offer bad service and expect my money. What incentive is there for them to change? Maybe coming up a little short once in a while may send a message. As I am finding more and more, the only way to deal with this is to vote with your dollars.