Handing over the keys to the Purple People Eater

It was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend in 2002. I had joined a beach house on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, and it dawned upon me that I might need some sort of vehicle to transport me to LBI, among other things.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

After what looked to be a fruitless day of car shopping, I stopped at one last lot and, buried behind cars that were way above and beyond my means (BMW, Audi, Mercedes), I spotted a 1997 Honda Accord.

The good news: The car was exactly what I was looking for. Hondas are reliable stalwarts, and I was looking for something 1997 or newer, because insurance was cheaper for cars of that age at the time. And it was within my price range, or, more accurately, at the very top of my price range. The bad news: It was purple (really dark purple, not Grape Ape purple, but still purple), with gold trim.

However, when shopping for used cars, you have to make sacrifices, so, despite the fact that the gold trim made me want to hurl all over the hood, I drove the 1997 Honda Accord home to Hoboken that day, and it remained with me until Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this year, when I finally traded it in.

All relationships have their highlights and lowlights, and my relationship with the Purple People Eater was no exception. So, without further ado:

The good:

  • The Accord got me down to LBI for several summers, where, among other things, I relaxed on the beach, drank until I forgot how much I hated the planet, met several people who are now close friends, and got to know the future Mrs. 9.
  • The Accord was also my primary mode of transportation to Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center, former home of the New Jersey Nets, during the glorious run with Jason Kidd that included consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
  • And the Accord got myself and several teammates to many Bar None and Big Easy football games. We won the championship of our league in 1996, before the Accord was even born, but we had a successful and fun run, with multiple playoff victories, and the Purple People Eater carried many of us to Randall’s Island, or Grand Street and the FDR Drive, and to the bar afterward for wings and liquid refreshments (only two for me, thanks, I have to drive, and NO shots!).
  • The Accord was part of many a tailgate in the Giants Stadium parking lot prior to glorious shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and other shows at other venues, including my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center and Jones Beach (most uncomfortable, hottest show I’ve ever sat through).

The bad:

  • The brakes on the Accord always sucked, no matter how many times I had them adjusted, and how many different mechanics looked at them. Even though I drove the car for 11 years, I never got used to that nervous feeling whenever I had to stop quickly. And I feel bad for people who were passengers in other cars I drove, because years of having to push down as hard as humanly possible on the Accord’s brakes constantly caused me to slam on the brakes of other cars and send everything within those cars spiraling forward.
  • This was obviously not the fault of the car (or of the driver, I might add), but back in 2008, the Accord met Pothole-Zilla, and the Accord lost, badly, to the tune of two new tires, a new radiator, a new radiator cap, two new hoses, and more than $800 of hard-earned Benjamins.
  • The following year, my transmission died, and I have been driving on a rebuilt transmission since. It worked fine, for the most part, except that I was strongly advised to let the oil temperature rise for a few minutes before driving the car, and I have the same patience level as most native New Yorkers, which is basically zero.
  • The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    Around the same time, I noticed a spot on the roof where the paint had begun to wear away. Over the next few months, this spot began to spread like an STD through a Hoboken bar, to the point where I feared that the roof would rust over and cave in one day. While I love convertibles, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. So, in the interest of selling or trading in the car somewhere down the line, I spent about $2,000 on a complete repainting and detailing. The only good thing to come out of it was that part of the process included removing the God-forsaken gold trim and replacing it with a traditional chrome trim that made the car much less of an eyesore. I kept the gold H from the grill as a souvenir, and I may mount it on a gold rope chain one day so I can sport my very own hip-hop necklace.

  • The motor that drives the power windows needed replacing. The windows would go down, but I would have to jiggle the switch hundreds of times until something connected and the windows would roll back up.
  • The controls for the air conditioning/heating and defroster only worked if you punched the console Arthur Fonzarelli-style, and even then, only about one-half of the time.
  • And just in case I had any lingering doubts as to whether I was making the right move, when I started the Accord for the final time to drive it to the dealership and turn it in, I noticed that only one headlight was working due to a short.

While it was definitely time to part ways with the Purple People Eater, I had a lot of good memories with the car, and I will definitely miss it. I am now driving a dark grey 2010 Nissan Rogue, and I am sure I will grow to love this car, too. It’s in great condition, and it’s a lot of fun to drive, and I hope the memories I will create with the Rogue match up with those from the Accord, although that’s a pretty tall task.

Farewell, Purple People Eater, and thank you for the companionship and a job well done (for the most part).

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My new neighbors: Heat Miser and Puff the Magic Dragon

We’ve had two sets of new neighbors move in over the past few weeks — one in the building directly across from us (we face the backyard), and one in the apartment upstairs. So far, I’m having a hard time deciding which ones are weirder, and I may just opt to go soccer-style and let this competition end in a draw.

I'm Mister Heat Miser ...

When the neighbors across the way moved in, I noticed how much they took advantage of their outdoor space, and I was a little envious, since they have a deck and a small backyard, while we have a terrace that barely fits two chairs and a small table. But after a couple of weeks, the envy turned to confusion and dismay.

For the benefit of anyone who has been in a cave for the past few weeks, it has been brutally hot and humid, every single day, with temperatures often drifting past 100. We are both on the second floor, and while our buildings and the ones around us are far from skyscrapers, they’re tall enough that there is no breeze whatsoever. I will always try to opt for open windows over air conditioning when possible, yet I gave up that battle weeks ago.

Despite the excessive heat and humidity, these people are outside all of the time. And even when they’re not outside, their door is usually left wide open, and there is no trace of an air-conditioning unit.

Are these people insane? Triple-digit temperatures, oppressive humidity, no breeze, bugs (no worse than anywhere else, but they’re still around), and they leave the door open?

Convinced that they are not human, I have decided that they’re direct descendants of Heat Miser, from The Year Without a Santa Claus.

This past weekend, I found out that not only do I live across the yard from Heat Miser, but I live on the floor below Puff the Magic Dragon.

My new upstairs neighbors have been quiet since they moved in, aside from the first couple of days, when they were moving furniture and boxes around, which is to be expected. Saturday night must have been their housewarming party. I have no issues with that whatsoever. If you’re going to throw a party, you might as well do it on a Saturday night during the summer, when the building is half-empty, and they weren’t particularly noisy or rowdy, so party on.

Puff the Magic Dragon

However, these guys played the worst freaking music ever during their party. Like much of Hoboken, our building was built in about 25 minutes, and one of the many details overlooked was noise protection between floors and ceilings. We hear every step our upstairs neighbors take and, when they do play music, it sounds like it’s coming from our apartment.

They played nothing but atrocious 1980s and 1970s songs all night. I don’t dislike 1980s music, but they stuff these guys were playing was pure crap, and not any of the fun 1980s tunes that at least make you laugh a little even if you don’t particularly like them. But the capper of the evening was when “Puff the Magic Dragon” came on. Really? Seriously? Who in the hell listens to “Puff the Magic Dragon?”

Moments after that disgusting song, the party broke up abruptly. I blame the song, either for making guests sick, or making another neighbor sick enough to call the cops (I did no such thing, nor would I). Five days later, I’m still shaking my head. “Puff the Magic Dragon?” Wow.

So, I don’t know if the Heat Miser folks or the Puff people are stranger, but they’re definitely keeping things interesting around here.

Unemployment Nine: Summer is my favorite time of the year but, so far, this one truly sucks

I love summer. I really do. It’s by far my favorite time of the year. But I feel like the economy, Mother Nature and some other cruel forces are conspiring to make sure this summer ranks among the worst of my life.

My mood this summer

I knew I was likely in for an emotional come-down following our wedding and honeymoon. I mean, two weeks in Hawaii represented the trip of a lifetime, so I never expected the summer to compete with that. But I also didn’t expect it to suck a big, fat one, like it has thus far.

First off, there’s the lingering unemployment situation. I’ve been on a whopping total of one interview since returning from our honeymoon in mid-May, and I’ve also had one phone interview. In both cases, I knew right away that the respective positions and I were not good fits. So it’s been months since I’ve even sniffed any hopes of a full-time job, and a very sobering anniversary is quickly approaching. Unless something drastic happens between now and Oct. 2, I will have hit the dreaded two-year mark of unemployment. In my absolute worst assessments of my situation, I’d have never predicted coming close to that milestone.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I’m not sitting around eating ice cream and watching soap operas. But I’m a little frustrated with both of my freelance jobs, as well.

The one I began recently basically destroys my Thursday and Friday nights, and I hate the fact that the pace is glacial, and I have no control whatsoever over it. There’s absolutely nothing I can do but sit and wait, and wait, and wait. It’s good in one way, because I get paid by the hour, so obviously, the longer I’m there, the more I make. But there are times when the hourly rate isn’t even remotely fair compensation for the activities I’m giving up, just to sit there and listen to people debate over every last clause that will appear in a medium that I am completely over: print. I don’t believe in what I’m doing, which makes it very difficult for me.

And when it comes to the one I’ve had for a little more than one year, I’m frustrated because I don’t get the sense that any improvement in my situation is imminent, whether it’s an increase in the amount of money I get paid per post, or an offer to come on board full-time, although those were mentioned as possibilities when I started. I feel like I’ve been bypassed by other people, albeit many of them worthy and deserving, and it seems like I’m speeding down a dead-end street. And the vibe in general has been far more negative than positive. I’m not a dog, and I don’t need someone to pat me on the head and say, “Good boy,” after every story I post, but receiving e-mail after e-mail of negative feedback without one positive note is not doing wonders for my attitude or my outlook.

The problem is, with my current financial state, I can’t even remotely afford to give up either job, so I have no choice but to solider on, regardless of how unhappy I am and how unrewarded I feel, whether monetarily or just in terms of fulfillment and getting some enjoyment out of my work.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m very happy to have both opportunities. Having something to focus on and being able to contribute at least some money into the household are both valuable commodities. But I’m just not happy doing what I’m doing right now and, as I said, I’m doing what I can to keep both jobs out of necessity, not out of pride in my work, or enjoying what I’m doing.

Summer, however, usually provides the cure-all, as I usually spend it doing some of my favorite things: going to baseball games, playing softball and going to the beach. This summer, however, has not been very good for any of those activities.

My wife and I are finally going down to Long Beach Island for a long weekend in a few days. As much as I’m looking forward to it, I fear that it will only whet my appetite for what I’ve been missing all summer.

And this obviously affects everyone, not just myself, but the weather this summer has been about as miserable as any summer I can remember in my 42 years of existence. It seems like the two weather conditions are high 90s-low 100s with suffocating humidity, or raining, and the latter usually comes up if I have Yankees tickets or a softball game. This weather just makes it nearly impossible to enjoy anything.

Softball is usually one of my best escapes from drudgery, but I just can’t get on track this season. Between having to miss games due to the newer freelance job, or games getting rained out, it seems like every time I start to feel comfortable at the plate, I end up not playing for two weeks, which sends me right back to square one. I’ve been trying to hit the batting cage regularly, but even in slow-pitch softball, there’s a big difference between getting it done in the batting cage and getting it done on the field. And I take it very personally when I don’t play well, often because my game that week was the one activity I’d been looking forward to for days. And naturally, when I don’t play well and my team loses, I feel like I’ve let my teammates down.

The weather has taken its toll on my Yankees experience this season, as well. It’s just that much harder to enjoy a ballgame when you’re coated in sweat and you feel like the sky is pressing down on you. Plus, I’ve had to sell my tickets for a few games I really wanted to attend, thanks to, you guessed it, the newer freelance job. I love Thursday-afternoon ball games, but I can’t afford to give up a day’s pay to go to them.

Look, I know things could be a lot worse. I could still be single. I could have no money coming in at all. I could have jobs that are a lot worse and that don’t even resemble what I’m trying to do. But sometimes it’s difficult to rationalize the fact that just because things could be worse, it doesn’t mean they don’t pretty much suck right now.

I really hope things turn around and I get to at least enjoy the second half of this summer, because Oct. 2 is looming and getting closer and closer, which will not do wonders for my mood or state of mind.

The LeBron James aftermath, part 1: Knicks fans and the media are delusional

Now that the most-anticipated free-agent pursuit in sports history has come to an end, with LeBron James’ signing with the Miami Heat, I have to say that I am amazed by the anger and sense of entitlement coming from the New York Knicks organization and fans, as well as the New York media.

KNICKS SUCK

Full disclosure: I am a die-hard New Jersey Nets fan, and I absolutely despite the Knicks. I am not happy with the Nets right now, either, but I will address that in a separate post.

But some of the comments I read after LeBron’s decision was announced were downright ignorant.

First off, even though the Knicks may have planned the past two seasons based on clearing salary-cap money to pursue LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, someone please find me a quote from LeBron saying, “I will be a New York Knick.” Knicks fans and the media acted like they were left at the altar. LeBron never made a commitment to the Knicks, yet he was referred to as a traitor on many occasions. Am I missing something?
Cleveland fans have the right to feel left at the altar, and it has to be horrible for them to see a local product (Akron is close enough to Cleveland for LeBron to qualify as local) raise the Cavaliers from the dead, only to leave them for dead. Knicks fans, on the other hand, need to shut the fuck up.

I think one of the reasons why I hate the Knicks as much as I do is the overinflated sense of importance that flows from the top of the organization all the way down to the fans. The Knicks portray themselves as one of the signature franchises in the National Basketball Association, and they think of Madison Square Garden as a basketball mecca. Why?

The Knicks last won the NBA championship in 1973, when I was five years old. Since then, the Knicks have been to two NBA Finals, including one that was a total fluke, when they only squeaked into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed because of a lockout-shortened season, and they only beat the No. 1 seed Heat because of a lucky chuck and heave toward the basket by Allan Houston, one of the most overrated shooting guards in the history of the league. During the same time period, the Nets, often ridiculed as lower-class citizens, have been to the same number of NBA Finals: two. And the Nets earned both appearances.

Plus, the Nets’ run of success was much more recent. Just a few short years ago, 2006-07, the Nets beat a tough Toronto team four games to two in the first round, and then lost a hard-fought series to , coincidentally, LeBron and the Cavaliers, four games to two. The Knicks, meanwhile, have not been to the postseason since 2003-04, when they needed to remove brooms from their asses after being swept by the Nets.

Let’s face it: The New York Bricks haven’t been relevant since game seven of the 1993-94 NBA Finals, when John Starks, another vastly overrated bum, shot 2-for-18 and handed the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the Houston Rockets.

Yet Knicks management, fans and media parade around acting like it would be a privilege for any NBA player to join their sacred team and play on the sacred hardwood of Madison Square Garden. Seriously? Why?

Stop all of your fucking crying already. LeBron isn’t coming here. Deal with it. Other than people who are part of the Miami Heat organization or fans of that club, no one is happy with the decision LeBron made. But stop acting like your team was entitled to anything. The Knicks are NOT a model franchise. They are a sad joke, and they suck.