Friday, September 29, 2023

Finally, a responsible adult, kinda

 It's usually not a big deal when somebody buys a new vehicle, but it kind of is in my household; as I'm the guy that buys one and drives it until a tow truck has to pull it from my driveway to the junk yard or I get pulled from it with the jaws of life. This stingy Norwegian gets his money's worth. 

So it was a bit of a surprise to wifey and kids yesterday when I traded in two vehicles: my 2002 Dodge Ram clunker with 204,000 miles on it; and my cherry 2006 canary yellow Mustang convertible. 

I traded it for a used 2017 Ford F-150 pickup, with low miles and all the bells and whistles.

To which my wife reacted: "This is much more responsible."

So, now, after 59 years of life and 35 of marriage I am finally responsible, in her eyes.

And she has a point. I've had three Mustangs, and they tend to go fast. Sometimes, you just gotta let the horses run, right? And sometimes when those kids in their RX-7s and Camaros pull up to the stop light next to you, it just might be more than the average old guy can resist to not maybe race them to the next light. But, I will say, in my five years with the latest Mustang, I never received a ticket while driving it.

Maybe I never exceeded the speed limit, or maybe I've gotten better at avoiding HiPo's. Only God knows. Well, actually I know too, but I'm not telling.

Another reason wifey is glad I don't have the Mustang, I suspect, is because I have an aversion to wearing seat belts. I know, I know. But if our most precious possessions, our children, don't have to wear them on school busses, why do I in my own car? (It's a column for another day and a frequent argument I have with a co-worker who, I guess, likes having me around.)

Little known secret: ever since a head-on highway collision in a Mustang when I was 21 (it wasn't my fault, the drunk guy came over the hill in my lane) I've envisioned that I will indeed die via car accident, probably flying through the windshield and in mid-air thinking: "I guess I should've worn my seatbelt".

Gosh, that was dark, Haugen.

Anyway, the latest Mustang had just kind of run its course with me. It's basically undriveable in the snow and the CD player didn't work - two important reasons for getting a new vehicle. Also, as a convertible, it was kind of a pain the butt, always making sure I wasn't leaving something on or under the seat when I parked somewhere. Like a gun, or a billfold, or a Prince CD.

So I've been looking. But the trucks I found that I liked where all white. Nothing wrong with white, but when you've owned silver, red and yellow Mustangs and a purple Miata, I've got a reputation to uphold. I didn't want to look like an electrician. Nothing against electricians, I just don't want to look like one. Shocking, huh? Get it, shocking?

When my dealer, who also takes my Skittles during our Thursday night poker games, told me he had just the baby coming in, I leaped. It's metallic silver. The CD player works. It's got some giddy-up and I traded the two cars to make some room in the driveway. The changing cars around to get out of the garage was becoming a pain in the rear.

Now the problem is the truck will barely fit in the garage. Looks like I'll be spending my weekend figuring that out. 

But I like it and it gave me something to blog about, way too much as you probably agree.

Safe driving everyone!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

In the game of life, be a Tom, not a Bill

You've probably seen the news where a U.S. Senator has led the charge for it to be an even uglier place. They've dropped the dress code of suits and ties and now allow shorts and sweatshirts on the Senate floor. 

While I won't harp on him (enough others have), when your crowning career achievement is to make the Senate an uglier place, you didn't have much of a career. Welcome to Walmart.

I'm with Mark Twain, of course, that clothes make the man. They don't have to be expensive or chic or trendy. But you dress appropriately for the occasion. 

Oddly enough, one of the biggest changes and things I still grapple with after turning from Lutheran to Catholic 25 years ago is the dress code. At the country church I grew up attending, men wore suit coats and ties. And this church was surrounded by corn fields and attended by farmers who wore coveralls and wife-beater shirts Monday through Saturday. They recognized the significance of their venue, of whom they were honoring. They weren't feeding the cows.

Catholics are much, much less attentive to that philosophy and it still bugs me. Blue jeans galore. T-shirts. But not me. You can take the boy out of the Lutheran church but not all the Lutheran out of the boy. You won't find me in blue jeans in church.

My son as a teen wanted to wear sandals one day to church. I told him: "Unless your name is Jesus, you don't wear sandals in church." I was a mean dad.

Don't get me wrong. I can dress like a slob. Catch me on the weekends and you'll see. Often times the same shirt a couple days in a row. Baseball cap, almost always. 

But, elsewhere, I'm generally known for dressing spiffy. Rarely suit and tie, (those are just for special occasions), but I've got my own style. If I had to categorize it, I'd say it trends toward 1970s college professor hip. You know, turtle-necks, mock turtle necks, solid-colored button-down shirts, with sport coat, sweater or vest, sometimes even the always-classy sweater vest not just anybody can pull off.

I like to dress nice and for the occasion. I dress differently for a night in Deadwood than a night at boxing. But I have outfits for both. Fedoras for some, bucket hats for others. 

Shoes too. Not quite an Imelda Marcos situation (Google it, kids) but getting close. 

Am I judgey about how others dress? Yes. Sue me. I figure, if somebody doesn't care about an event they are attending, they don't care how they look at it. I've seen high-ranking government officials in ripped blue jeans at important events where I'm wearing a suit and tie; and I find it disrespectful. It tells me they are more interested in sending some kind of message (look at me, I'm cool) than sending a message to the people the event is honoring (I'm honored to be here and took a few extra minutes to dress nicely to show my respect). 

And it's not like you have to spend a lot of money to look good. I'm still wearing coats and sport coats handed down from my dad. Goodwill has them too.

I remember a friend 30 years ago, lived a couple houses down from me. He didn't own a suit coat at the time, but he was going to a funeral. He stopped by the house and asked if he could borrow one of mine. I said sure. I respected the respect he was showing the deceased and his willingness to overcome any little bit of embarrassment to ask. 

I'll quit my rant for now and send you young'ns to the Google machine again: In a world of Bill Belichicks, try being a Tom Landry.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

When the ban isn't really a ban ...

 I'm against book bans, but let's not over-hype the problem. 

Here are some interesting findings from a couple researchers who looked into claims of censorship.

As it turns out, almost three quarters of the books that PEN listed as banned were still available in school libraries in the same districts from which PEN claimed they had been banned.

Let's not cry wolf. It doesn't help the cause.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Finished: Robert B. Parker's 'Bye Bye Baby'

 This is a continuation of the late RBP's Spenser series but written by Ace Atkins, chosen by Parker's estate to do so. This is Atkins' tenth and he does a really good job of keeping the characters and dialogue in sync with the original author. There are only subtle differences a long-time reader of the series would notice.

Carolina Garcia-Ramirez is a rising star in national politics, taking on the establishment with her progressive agenda. Tough, outspoken, and driven, the young congresswoman has ignited a new conversation in Boston about race, poverty, health care, and the environment. Now facing her second campaign, she finds herself not only fighting a tight primary with an old guard challenger but also contending with numerous death threats coming from hundreds of suspects.

When her chief of staff reaches out to Spenser for security and help finding the culprits of what he believes to be the most credible threats, Garcia-Ramirez is less than thrilled. Since her first grassroots run, she’s used to the antipathy and intimidation women of color often face when seeking power. To her, it’s all noise. But it turns out an FBI agent disagrees, warning Spenser that Garcia-Ramirez might be in real danger this time.

Some of the clever, thought-provoking lines I marked-up, as I tend to do, include:

"With age comes wisdom, but for some age comes alone."

"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." (He likes to drop Shakespeare quotes on occasion.)

And, a reporter explaining why he doesn't read the comments posted below stories he's written:

"Sometimes people get up in the morning, take a shower, grab a cup of coffee, and head to an office. Other people get up out of their cages and start screwing with people. You know what? I think most of them are just lonely and sad."

Amazonians give it a 4.4 of 5; Goodreaders a 4.1; and the Haugenometer a 7 of 10.

Friday, September 15, 2023

How ya doin'?

 Some time ago, albeit gradually, I started taking the "How ya doin'?" greeting more literally.

I know it's basically a perfunctory greeting. To which you're supposed to respond: "Fine. How are you?" Most people don't really want to know how I am. They don't have any real concern for my well being. Sure, they usually don't want me dead or injured, but they don't really care if I'm having a good day or not. They don't want the details. They just want to move on to the business at hand.

Most days I'm doing great and respond as such.

But other days I'm not. And I have to admit it's kind of fun to make some people uncomfortable by responding with the truth.

"Oh, so-so. The dog puked on the carpet first thing this morning, then I got a speeding ticket going to work and my wife is mad because I forgot to take the garbage out. But, the day is young."

Or to my "How ya doin'?" they respond: "So far, so good."

Then I remind them of the story in Magnificent Seven (the first movie, not the lame remake) about the guy falling out of the seven-story building and at every floor below they heard him say: "So far, so good." They look at me like I'm a nut, which I'm fine with (never end a sentence with a preposition).

But, really, most days my head has a three-ring circus going on inside it. There's the clowns in one ring, the acrobats hanging on by their fingernails in the center ring, and the lions eating the lion-tamer in the third ring. And I like to make people aware that I'm not always okay.

If for no other reason, it's that I suspect most other people are not always okay either, and it might give them a little relief to know they are not alone. Everybody has crap going on in their life. If they say they don't then they are liars.

Now I'm not into over-sharing the details. But often times, my response leads to an actual conversation about things that are going on in their life and they want to know a few more details of mine.

It actually works out pretty well that way.

If people don't like that, then maybe they should try a different greeting, like: "Hello."

Friday, September 1, 2023

More on 'Miami Purity' and "what is noir?"

 Polly Stewart discusses one of my all-time favorite books, "Miami Purity," with another crime writer, Alex Segura. Very interesting. I really like his definition of "noir."

It’s where a character is painted into a corner by their own design, like their own mistakes or choices have put them in an impossible situation. And it’s usually relating to some kind of primal urge. It’s not like a plan that goes awry; it’s that they’ve made a mistake based on lust or greed or vengeance. They’ve chosen poorly, and now must pay the consequences. And that’s the story.

And the thing about noir is that there’s never a tidy resolution. You don’t get the happy ending where they kind of ride off into the sunset; it’s usually pretty bad. Miami Purity is very much a noir, a neo-noir, in that bad things happen to people because they make bad choices. And I find those kinds of stories fascinating because it feels like real life, where few things are tidy, and few things are resolved easily.

"They’ve chosen poorly, and now must pay the consequences." I like that.