Monthly Archives: March 2008

Pithed At Pith.

Dear Liz,

I don’t do suck-up very well. I was a tad disappointed to see so many of my friends compelled to “get your attention” to have their blogs put back on Pith’s blog-roll. Oh wait, I mean compelled to “make their case.” Look, I know you were merely employing a bit of drollery…tomfoolery, joviality. I like a good caper myself. But I have to be honest and say that I was a little ticked off. It is starting to look a little like NiT all over again. For months, loyal readers were looking for information, or really, just feedback from the Powers That Be to tell them what to expect post-Brittney. The silence was deafening. Brittney was an ambassador for that blog. She read other blogs, tons of them. She engaged, she ridiculed, she supported, in short, she earned every reader she had. The Bosses let her twist over a stupid, emotion-filled attack by cyber bullies and they lost her. Then, they compounded their stupidity by clamming up, and letting the readership slip away like they didn’t care about them.

Suddenly, (actually, months and months later) there was Christian G, popping up all over the place. He commented. He linked. He twittered his little ass off, as if he had been doing this all along. The trouble was, it felt forced and more than a little insincere. By the time he saw fit to engage “the blogger community” again, MCB had provided essentially the same haven for us, and there was no going back. The slick, gadget-filled new and (improved?) NiT is a flop, IMO.

Bloggers take linking very seriously. Some even love their detractors and trolls because at least they can count on their participation. Perhaps a comparison to LTEs might better explain it. I’m sure the Scene loves to get mail, either in praise of, or in admonishment. For a writer, its an acknowledgment that you reached someone. You’ve been heard. These days, when bloggers have Feed readers at their disposal, it’s a huge compliment to be linked to, or given a comment. Someone stopped reading, and took the time to comment. I think this is the part of blogging that I’m not sure you get, or, you get but find it…I don’t know, a little amusing? Needy?

Sure, huge blog-rolls don’t mean very much to seasoned bloggers, if all you have to do is ask to be on one. If you had cleared out your entire blogroll, then asked for auditions, it may have set differently with me. But you selected certain blogs to keep, and removed the rest. Stacey Campfield? Seriously? I have to wonder about your qualifying criteria. Frequency of posting? Writing ability? Readership? Your personal connection? Had you been more receptive to us pajama-people from the beginning, again, I may have played along. But you and I both know that you have been, in the past, if not openly disdainful of bloggers, then at least suspicious of us.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the increase of activity at Pith. I still think there may come a time when Pith must compete for online readership along with everyone else, so this makes perfect sense to me. I guess I would have rather seen more of an effort to recognize some of the very talented writers that blog right here in Nashville. Had Pith linked to and commented on other blogs in the area, and by doing so, legitimized what we do, I think you guys had every chance to attract and keep a loyal blogger audience. You have some very talented, very funny people on staff, and almost any local blogger would have relished the thought that someone at The Scene recognized something they wrote on a given day.

Or, maybe I’m just pissed that I got booted. I’ll get back to ya.

Your friend,

Mack

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave The Driving To Me

Dear Greyhound,

I’ll admit that I have never been a loyal customer. If I can fly where I need to go, or drive, chances are pretty good I won’t be enjoying your service. Years ago, in what I guess people refer to as their “salad days”, I was at least a more frequent customer. My last experience with you just guaranteed that I will never hand you another of my hard-earned dollars.

I was willing to put up with quite a bit as a greyhound customer. I’ve gotten used to the fact that your terminals are always placed in an area of town that would make Moqtada Al Sadr nervous. I’ve perfected the “don’t fuck with me” look one needs to negotiate the gauntlet of pimps, panhandlers, dealers and deadbeats always lurking around your front doors. I’ve come to grips with greasy, over-priced “food” at prices so high as to make airport vendors blush. I don’t even miss the shoes I’ve had to burn after walking on your floors, waiting for my bus to leave. I suppose I always figured that the 7-8 employees standing around talking, smoking or playing grab-ass had just somehow managed to synchronize their breaks.

See? I don’t expect that much from your organization. In the back of my mind, I always figured that if I ever, in some kind of karma driven pay-back from the universe, had to ride one of your buses, I would take solace in the fact that I wasn’t on Amtrack.

So, Wednesday, I didn’t arrive at your ticket counter with undue expectations, and, true to form, you guys did a stellar job of reinforcing my beliefs about greyhound, Inc. That said…this is where, if you will excuse the pun, the wheels come off the bus. I walked up and asked two questions of your bored to the point of hostility ticket clerk: “Is the bus to Huntsville an express bus?” and, “how much is the fare?” Her answers: “Yes. The bus to Huntsville originates here.” (Good, I thought. ) and “the price of your ticket is $23.50″. Hmmm. $23.50. In my head, I’m doing the math, and instantly decide that being transported roughly 120 miles for around 19.58 cents a mile wasn’t bad at all. “SOLD!” I proclaimed, and, with customary flourish, presented my credit card and I.D. The clerk yawned, swiped my card, and, after the printer thingy spit out my ticket, placed it into a folder approximately the size of a standard brochure. She then wrote the gate number on the front, and waved me away from her.

Quick explanation is necessary: I had to be in Huntsville before 7:00 pm. The 4:25 express bus that originates in Nashville was scheduled to arrive there by 6:20, and was only 1 mile from my destination. I had arranged to be picked up at that time. Sure, it was cutting it close, but I allowed for traffic getting through Cool Springs.

At 4:30 pm, some woman burst through Gate 2 and announced that the 4:25 bus to Huntsville would be leaving promptly at 6:00 pm. Again, like a microchip on on steroids, I did the math. “But, excuse me ma’am, but my calculations lead me to conclude that I would then not arrive in Huntsville until almost 8:00 pm!” I swear, she looked at me like I had just emitted a Taco Bell fart, and walked away. I hurried to the ticket counter and informed the woman there that since they could not place me in Huntsville at the time agreed to, I would like a refund. She snatched the folder from my trembling hands, reached in, removed my ticket, and with a yellow marker, highlighted the #2 sized font that informs the traveler that the ticket is non-refundable. She says “you purchased a non-refundable fare”. I asked, “Is there a refundable fare?” Yes, she says, its 5.00 more. “But you didn’t offer me that choice, ma’am.” “Next!” she screamed.

Thankfully, I have some good friends. I called Aunt B, and said one word: “Roadtrip!” She was all “I’ll be right there, anything to skip doing dishes!” And I made it on time. No thanks to Greyhound.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m Done! (And A Note To Plimco)

I’ve decided to write about my latest car buying experience, which has been, even for me, an exhaustive, demoralizing trip through hell.  (Oh, and a note to Plimco:  call me)

I’ve been trying to buy a car for almost three months.  For most of my life, car buying was pretty easy.  After all, I was in the business, and I knew what a car was worth, which cars to avoid, and I could insulate myself from the arduous process that the average person must endure at almost any dealership.  (A note to Plimco:  call me)

Let me first clear up a misconception about a certain organization whose name ends in MAX.  Yes, its true, there is no haggling….unless you have a trade (which most people do).  Also, while the process is more streamlined and laid-back there, be prepared to pay between 1000 and 2000 dollars more than you should for almost any car they offer.  I don’t know about you, but the thought of paying a thousand dollars more for something than it is worth, plus handing the State a tax of 9.75%, plus paying a “doc fee” for the privilege of buying the car rubs me the wrong way.  (Speaking of rubbing, a note to Plimco:  call me)

I will jump through some hoops when purchasing a vehicle.  My friends laughed at me because a few years back, I had a friend drive me to the bus station in Nashville, where I caught an express bus to Atlanta.  From there, I boarded an Amtrack train to Columbia, S.C., and hailed a cab to a nearby motel.  In the morning, a friend from the Democratic Blog who I had never before met picked me up, and took me to the dealership that had a car I knew was undervalued.   I bought it, and drove it back home, stopping in Knoxville along the way where I had a CD player installed while I ate dinner.  I got home quite late.  The next morning, I washed it, put a sign on it, parked it in my yard and  sold to the first person who looked at it the very next day.  After all expenses, I made 2000 dollars.  Like I said, I’ll jump through some hoops.  I spent the next evening driving to my friends houses, banging on their doors, and when they answered, shoving a fistful of money at them and shouting “LOSERS!” at them in my very best Jim Carrey impersonation.

So anyway, when I approached this latest purchase, I was of two minds.  I wanted something both extremely reliable, and extremely good on gas.  On the one hand, I could select something new, or nearly new,  and finance it, but this economy has me wary of any long term debt beyond our mortgage.  Or, I could buy something older, and pay cash.  The trouble with a new or nearly new purchase is that you must also insure the vehicle against everything from uninsured motorists to bubonic plague, and it can wreak havoc on a budget.  (You thought I forgot, huh?  Hey Plimco!  Call me)

The last car I bought was a 1997 Buick LeSabre, with 112,000 miles, leathered up, and in excellent shape.  The car gets around 25-29 miles a gallon, (3800 series engine is an engineering wonder) and I paid the princely sum of 1800 dollars.  In my mind, if I get two years out of it I am way ahead of the game.  The air conditioning doesn’t work, so it will not be suitable to drive in the Summer, and I may not want to invest the cost of replacing the compressor.  So, I started looking for another car.  (Everybodys lookin for something.  That said…Plimco, call me.)

By far,  Nashville is the hardest place to buy a car…ever.  I assume that the local dealers figure that most people will not travel into Georgia, Kentucky, or Alabama to purchase, and they may be right.  I’ve been here over five years, and in that time, I’ve purchased 9 cars, only one of them here in town.  The ones that know about the internet do a shitty job with it, and I can’t tell you how many dealerships in this area put no effort toward an online strategy whatsoever.  But each and every weekend, they will buy horribly expensive full page ads to attract buyers, with no thought about what kind of buyers will respond.

I tried, Nashville, I really did.  I talked to countless salesmen, none of whom saw fit to call me to see if I was still in the market.   Here is a little nugget of wisdom for you area dealers:  A “doc fee”, or “retail delivery fee” or “administration fee” is bad business.  Heres why.  On a new car, just about every dealership can and will arrive at roughly the same price.  Why would I buy from yours when you charge a $599.00 fee, and the dealership down the road charges a $199.00 fee, or none at all?  Yet, here in Nashville, there are at least 4 dealers that charge a $599 fee, and countless others that charge fees ranging from $199 to $399.  (Imagine, ladies, that you go to pay for your 12 inch  “personal massager” at the Hustler Store, only to have the clerk charge you a “customer service fee” of roughly 5%.  You’d balk, right?  That reminds me, Plimco, call me)

In the end, I decided on an older, but reliable used vehicle.  Sure, its a roll of the dice when you buy a used car, but certain brands make it less risky.  Knowing what to ask, and WHEN to ask can also mitigate your risk.  I found a 1998 Toyota Rav4 in Huntsville, Al.  One owner, and properly serviced in its lifetime.  I paid less than 5000 dollars.

The Primary wife drove me to bus station on 8th yesterday, where I planned to catch an “Express Bus” to Huntsville.  Tomorrow I should  explain how that plan ended up with me driving down 65 South with Aunt B. It is difficult to maintain one’s proper speed and stay in one lane while simultaneously shielding yourself from splattering sneezes and soppy wet coughs coming from the passenger’s seat.  I finally stopped at Lowes, bought some supplies, and wrapped her in a tarp secured by duct tape.  Every once in a while, I leaned her out the window to spread her germs along the saturn parkway or whatever.

I should really start a site about car buying.  I really should.

Plimco, you should call me, you really should.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Paying Attention?

I really wanted to write another light hearted post today about our adventures in Gatlinburg, but, after reading this, I don’t have it in me.

In a nearly perfect illustration of the flaws in a totally “free hand of the market” mindset, approximately 500 shipyard workers from India were lured here to work with promises of permanent jobs, and citizenship. Once here, their passports were confiscated, and the men were forced to live in guarded, overcrowded and isolated labor camps. There are accusations of threats of deportation and physical harm endured by these workers.

To me, this seems no different than the exploitation and suffering heaped upon trafficked sex-workers. How many stories have we heard about women from poor countries making a desperate decision to leave their homes and families to seek a better life somewhere else? What happens to those women is wrong, and what happened to those men is just as wrong.

The story quotes some of the workers as saying the conditions were slave-like. Since the men ponied up as much as 20,000 bucks a piece for this “opportunity”, perhaps indentured servitude is more accurate. Whatever its called, its morally bankrupt to allow this to continue. These 500 men will likely return to India, poorer for the experience, and rightfully angry at an American Govt that ignored their situation. They will talk to their friends and family, and those people will talk to their friends and family, and, before long, thousands upon thousands of Indians will be rightfully angry at the United States.

This is the type of mala en se act that a morally centered Govt can prevent, if it has, as it’s core philosophy, the duty to protect those without power.

I think the thing that chaps me the most is that when this is all over, Signal Corp will likely pay a fine and go on about it’s business. If you total the fine and the money spent on attorneys, the amount may have been less than if they had paid these workers a fair wage in the first place. Or, better yet, if they had hired some unemployed Americans to do those jobs in the first place.

H/T to Bizgrrl

EDIT:  Seems Dr. Byrd felt compelled to draw attention to this as well.

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Two Questions

Before I forget, I noticed that Gatlinburg, the Wisconsin Dells, and Orlando all have something in common, beyond the same shitty neon-lit tourist traps.  Foreign workers.  I met people from Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Lithuania, Bulgaria,  and various other (mostly) eastern European countries, working in restaurants, bars, and attractions.  In the Dells, many of them were students, working their school breaks in America in exchange for a free trip here.  They work so many days, then they get time off to visit as tourists.  The largest theme park in the Dells contracts a company to fill these slots for them year round.  Most of the workers spoke passable English, but many did not.  Now, I think its great for these kids, because for most of them, a trip an expensive theme resort in America would be unaffordable, but it has me wondering why these businesses are unable to staff up using locals.  Is it the pay?  Are there not enough teenagers and young adults living nearby to fill those positions?  I need to research this a little more….

Next, I asked this question in a thread I posted long ago, and no one was able to answer my question to my satisfaction.  So, I will stubbornly ask again:

My eldest daughter is a server in a well known, somewhat expensive chain restaurant in Southern California.  We have one of their stores here in Nashville.  In California, the servers are paid a State-mandated minimum wage, which is presently 8 dollars an hour.   Here in Tennessee, I believe it is still legal to pay a server well under three dollars an hour.  I know California real estate is much more to buy or lease.  I’m sure utilities are more expensive than here in Nashville.  You can bet California taxes businesses at a much higher rate than Tennessee.  Yet, somehow, those businesses manage to pay their servers five dollars an hour more than they pay them here, and continue to profit, and profit handsomely.  The prices are the same, yet the costs of doing business is much higher.  Does anyone believe that if Tennessee enacted law that required chain-restaurants to raise server pay to say…5.00 an hour, that the chain stores would simply elect not to do business here?  I doubt it. Also, I don’t see that the “lower cost of living” argument is valid.  It may very well be that a floor manager may take less salary than in Los Angeles because he can raise his family on less here, but the fact remains that many servers have families to feed as well, and 2.67 an hour must be supplemented somehow.  Usually that means more theft, more turn-over, poor job performance, etc…as well as using ER’s as clinics, and forgoing car insurance, etc.  Why can’t we use some sort of scale based on the size of the corporation, with safeguards to protect start-ups and sole proprietors? I think we could, and we should.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

How Not To Do Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is a very silly place.  I’m standing on the balcony of my hotel room, looking at some of the most beautiful acreage ever created, and cursing the corporations that have come here to turn it all into yet another tourist trap.  Yup, like everywhere else I have taken my children to, there is a Ripleys Museum, a Motion Theatre, and a host of other gaudy, unfun and horribly expensive distractions.  Of course, the same situation exists with respect to eating establishments, I saw an endless parade of bland corporate restaurants, mostly occupying what used to be locally owned buildings.  Most of you know it is my habit to talk to the locals, so I thought I’d share a little about this place and a couple of cool people that earn their living here.

First, we stayed at the Park Plaza, on a recommendation from a friend.  That friend will NOT be receiving any kahlua from us this Christmas, or our patented spicy pickles, and, in what may be the worst punishment of all…I’M REMOVING THEM FROM MY BLOGROLL!  (Did you feel the collective shiver of a thousand bloggers just then?)  What a dump.  To be fair, they are trying, I suppose, to do the right things.  Your room rate includes a breakfast buffet, for instance, but I have eaten far better food in hospitals and jails.  (Like I knew the city fathers of St. George, Utah would look unfavorably at a drunken motorcycle ride through one of their pristine malls…sheesh.) The “room” did indeed consist of two beds, a TV, and a toilet, thank God, but I wished I hadn’t gone to retrieve my reading glasses from under the bed…just sayin.  The place really needs a top to bottom cleaning, or, if that is inconvenient, a fire.  My kids liked the arcade, of course, but not the furious hosing down I subjected them to upon returning from there.  I mean, it was a bit chilly outside.  On either side of our room were cheerleading groups on their way to some type of competition, I’m beginning to think that they get bonus points based on the number of people they keep awake all night with their endless practicing.  After the first night, I went to an adjacent hotel and booked a room there.

The Park Plaza does have a bar, though, and I uncharacteristically wandered in to try an adult beverage.  Or three.  The place is called Sade and Dora’s, and though small, was actually kinda fun.  The regulars seemed friendly, and the bartenders were professional, and the prices were quite fair.  I sampled something they call tequila. (ta-kee-la) Interesting potion, that.  There was an apparent regular there, adorned with a head scarf of some sort, who may have possibly been, as they say….over-served.  He was extremely belligerent and loud, (I’m told people who have had a drink often become quite animated) and I think he may have even wanted to tussle with someone.  Had Sarcastro been there to have my back, I might have obliged him.  As it was, he finally kept yelling for the young bartender who was dealing with him to “call the law!” “call the law!”  I believe I would have done so.  To her credit, young Dixie Drinks (she gave me her name, I didn’t make it up) eventually talked him into leaving under his own power.   Dixie is heading to upstate New York for the Spring/Summer seasons, and will return to her gig here come November.  She has kids, and a mortgage, and credit card bills that are apparently easier to pay with the extra money she earns by traveling back East this time of year.  She made me feel welcome, and I wish her a happy and profitable trip.

I believe I have much more to say about this trip…but it seems that the children are now awake and would like to hit the indoor pool again before we head home.  More later.

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Rednecks and Long-necks

Damn.  I’m on a brief vacation with the kids, somewhere in East Tn, and a friend calls to tell me that WKRN sacked Kleinheider.  Ruined my day, it did, though I expected it to happen well before it did, especially after seeing what they spent on their shiny new fucked up NiT.  Note to WKRN:  It was Brittney and Kleinheider that made it work.  They could have been as successful with a free WordPress template and aggregator.  Adam, you’re a talented guy. I know you will do well in your next gig.  Heres a little pic you can remember me by.  (Oh, and Aunt B as well)  Tee hee.

babymoses.jpg

Oh, and the thread title has nothing to do with ACK, it has to do with this hell-hole of a place we stayed in last night.  Makes Springfield look positively cosmopolitan by comparison.  Just….damn.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized