Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Nettiemobiles, Through The Years

My buddy Tal has written a very good story about the cars of his childhood, and his eventual journey to Ford (there's a story there). Anyway, it made me pause to consider the cars of my driving life. I'm trying to remember the ones from my own childhood, and when I get all the details straight, I'll post about those as well.

By 1986, I had gotten my permit, and tried my hardest to drive our family car -- a very small car with a standard transmission. I was hopeless with a four-in-the-floor. I consider myself an intelligent girl, but I could not (and still cannot) get the hang of it. So Dad felt there was no choice but to find me a reliable car with an automatic transmission. And that was how "The Bomber" came into my life.

The Bomber was a 1976 Chevrolet Caprice Classic in light metallic blue. You could seat 6 people and have room for a full-court basketball game in there. When I got it in the summer of '86, it had about 90K on it. It had power EVERYTHING .... seats, mirrors, steering, brakes, everything.

I drove it my entire senior year, and it became legendary then..... I hit a tree with the car; not a scratch. A big truck bumped my back bumper on the way to work one day; nothing. This car was indestructible -- and I felt great in it. I didn't care how old it was, how big it was, or anything else. It was my baby.

I left it at home when I went to college. We were told that you couldn't get a parking permit for our dorm (the apartment complex). Massive bummer. When I moved on campus, I found out I could get an on-street permit from the City for the massive sum of $7.50 per year. So the first weekend I went home, I got a ride up from Claudy Fewell, and brought the car back with me. It stayed with me all through my college days, my first job, and my second job.

Everyone in college had the same thing to say about The Bomber .... "It has character." It did. It was hit the day before Thanksgiving 1987 and banged up badly. The body was never the same after that, but oh, it drove like a dream.

When my second job ended, due to a massive shutdown of a facility, we got very nice severance packages, based on how long we'd been with the company. As a less-than-one-full-year employee, I got the bare minimum, but it was enough to get another pre-owned vehicle. I'd had The Bomber for nine years. While it still drove beautifully, it was now 19 years old and getting harder and harder to maintain. The body wasn't holding up well either. As much as it did pain me to let her go, I did ..... My dad sold The Bomber for parts -- because honestly, it was worth more that way. I didn't shed a tear, but now, I kind of wish I had.

Dad told me about another car he found: a 1985 Olds '88 Royale in dark grey. The price was right, I could pay in cash with my severance, and it ran fairly well. All I can say is HUGE mistake. The body was fantastic -- never had a problem with it. But the engine was a nightmare. It was the Anti-Bomber. There was this problem, that problem, eventually rebuild the engine or transmission (I forget which). I sank way more money into maintenance on that car than I care to admit. After only four and a half years, the CV joint went. I was not about to sink another $500 into a car not worth that much. So I took my tax refund and used it as a down payment on.....

Goldie, the 1995 Ford Escort. I had passed this car lot at least 3-4 times a week and they always seemed to have nice, well-cared-for pre-owned vehicles. So I stopped in, said, "Okay, here's the monthly payment I can afford. What do you have?" 3 cars. Goldie, a white Olds (and I did not want another Olds!) and a hot pink Mercury Topaz. Goldie or a hot pink Topaz. The choice was obvious. I ended up walking out with a payment a little higher than I really wanted, but still manageable.

Goldie ended up being a great car. All the factory parts were still in it, and for a four-cylinder compact car, it was incredible. I first had an issue with it about 6 months after I got it. I'd driven to Savannah to see the Glecks, and coming back through Columbia, it just quit on me. Turns out I'd broken a timing belt. That was it. The real cost was the towing to get it both off the interstate and then home from Columbia (YOW!). And the only other mechanical problem I had with it was that the transmission just died on me one day. We installed a rebuilt one, but other than that, nothing but regular maintenance.

I was driving Goldie when the church job went south. On February 1, I turned in my resignation. I was lining up interviews and doing some other things during that time. On February 8, I left work, cranked the car, and it started doing this weird chugging-jerking thing, like a Magic Fingers bed gone way loopy. I called my favorite mechanic (a/k/a Daddy), and he had me drive it (as much as I could) to a nearby mechanic -- honestly, just down the street from the church. The next day, the guy called to tell us it was something where it would be about $1000 to replace. Again, I was faced with the prospect of sinking more into a vehicle than it was worth.

In five years, I'd put about 80K in mileage on Goldie -- trips to Savannah, Atlanta, Biloxi, genealogy trips all over the Upstate, just the daily grind. And now, I was soon to be jobless, possibly for the long haul. I was also deeply in medical debt, thanks to that lovely little cholecystectomy I'd had 17 months earlier. I needed a terribly reliable car in the worst way possible, at the cheapest rate possible, and for the best deal possible. It wasn't looking good.

On the way home, as I was sitting in the truck with Dad, despairing at what to do, we passed a different car lot...... I'd seen them a few times, and pondered going to them. They were just a local mom-and-pop thing, with just a few cars at a time, and their sign offered "We Finance - No Interest - No Credit Check." Okay, that was promising. I admit that faced with tough decisions, sometimes my response has been typically Scarlett: "I'll think about it tomorrow." And that was exactly what I did. I just needed to get through the next few days and worry about it -- later.

That Saturday, my dad said, "Come get in the car." And in a way that told me I had better. He'd gone by the little car lot, and found one for me to look at. It was a 1997 white Ford Taurus. The car looked fantastic, only had 60K on the odometer (not bad for an 8-year-old vehicle!), and had a nice interior. They had another white Taurus there, but Dad said he just didn't like the looks of it. When I went to talk to the people, my heart sank a little. It was a repaired salvage car. That gave me tremendous pause -- I surely did not want a lemon on my hands. But I drove it around, and some of my fears were alleviated. Apparently, the damage must have been strictly to the body. After some discussion with my Dad, and a couple of days to round up the down payment, I left work early on that last day to get it.

I haven't really given it a nickname, like I did with the other cars. It's a good solid car. So far, there have been no major problems, just regular maintenance. I've put over 100K on it-- unfortunately, having a 65-mile round-trip daily commute will do that. But it's been great! It needs a real car-wash (not just the "let me hose her down to knock off the pollen" routine), and is getting another oil-change tomorrow. I need her to last a little while longer.


Last summer, I started thinking about getting another car -- a small SUV, for that matter. Maddox fits somewhat comfortably across my back seat, but God forbid we have him AND other people in the car. I could get one person and that would be it.

There was a used-car place in Greenville where you could check out their inventory online. Great!!! So I looked, with some criteria in mind: small SUV (Ford Escape or Toyota Rav4), less than 60K in mileage, no more than 4 years old, and if at all possible, under $15,000. Much harder than it looked, but I saw a few potential ones. I even did the "contact us!" and never heard a response.

I even (God help me) called the one place I never wanted to deal with. Ever. Those of you who know me well know exactly which dealership I mean: "(BRAND NAME) OF (TOWN!!!!!!!)" yelled just like they do in their radio/TV ads. They suggested I submit my credit app online, and I said, "Oh, okay!" But I thought, "Oh hell no, I will do that in person, and you may pull it ONCE, not 19 bazillion times."

By August, a little voice in my head said, "Wait until October." Now, I claim absolutely zero psychic abilities, and I don't imagine myself to be Joan of Arc and hearing the voice of God. But my intuition is usually fairly good, and so I decided to wait. A few days later it hit me that my review is usually in October, and it might be good to see how that would turn out first. By early October, I looked at their website inventory again, and the little SUV's were hardly around -- surprising, since gas was continuing to rise. But okay, whatever. I eventually decided to hold off a little longer myself......

Imagine my shock when our local news reported a few weeks ago that this particular used-car lot was forced to close to due lack of business....... and the next day that several recent customers couldn't get their titles. And the next day when some reported that their credit reports are showing them owing the full amount (still) of their trade-ins. BIG issues. And I am so glad I listened to my inner voice that told me to wait .... and that their inventory wasn't as good later as I expected.

And as long as gas prices are hovering where they are, I'll maintain my Taurus as best as I can!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

RIP Charlie

I Am Pissed. In Purple. Donny-and-Marie-from-the-70s Purple.

Charlie 106.3 is no more. Apparently, in 10 months, the ratings never got to the level The Suits wanted, and once again, there is a format change.

About 4 years ago, it was an oldies station and pulled in nice ratings -- nothing to ever make it Top 5 in the area, but decent. Then after a corporate merger, it became "The Walk": positive country & contemporary Christian. It was a format destined for failure here. Country stations are owned by "Sheer Panel" around here, and you can't sling a dead cat without hitting a religious station. Combining the two was less of a genius idea than The Suits planned on. I refused to listen to that station on sheer principle. After that failure (though it took The Suits 18 months, maybe 2 years to finally cave) they switched to "Women Talk" with syndicated stuff, mostly from Greenstone Media. Hey, I lean liberal on a lot of social issues of import to women, and even I was bored and occasionally ill-at-ease with the station the few times I listened in. Cooterville has a large female contingent, but this was too liberal for this area, and -- dare I say it -- rather unnecessary. The ratings proved so.

Well, actually, Greenstone went belly up and so did "Women Talk" ...... so The Suits did "Charlie" (a Jack format, re-named of course) starting last August. FINALLY! There was a station to suit me. Johnny Cash one minute and Prince the next, followed by Barry White or maybe even Barry Manilow. A lot of everything. It was fantastic. I wasn't thrilled by the lack of DJ's, but I got used to it because of the music.

And now it's gone. "We gave it 10 months!!!!" Right. 10 months is more than enough time to build a station base and help it succeed. What's replaced it? A simulcast (trimulcast, really) of the AM talk radio sister stations --- Rush, Sean Hannity, Mike Gallagher, the local right-wing folks. Sweet God, deliver me. I'd rather cut off a left appendage than listen to that crapfest.

The Suits have 4 other stations (not counting the gabfest tri-stations), including a couple that I used to listen to fairly regularly. No more. I will even lift my boycott of Sheer Panel if I have to. Actually, I have another option: XM or Sirius (or if things go as planned XM-Sirius)....... and as soon as I save up enough, I'm going satellite. I'm tired of music I hate. I'm especially tired of The Suits and Sheer Panel trying to tell me what music I should and shouldn't like .... because I don't fit their formats.

I'm a P1 for most adult contemporary formats -- at least according to all the demographics. I should swoon every time I hear Josh Groban, right? Is it any wonder I've been listening to SportsTalk? I don't fit any of their demographic molds -- and I'm pretty damn proud of that.

RIP, Charlie. You were good. And taken too soon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To hell with Doc Brown...

To quote England Dan and John Ford Coley...

Wish I had a time machine, I could
Make myself go back until the day I was born,
So I could live my life again,
And rearrange it so that.....

The rest of the verse and song isn't germane, but those sentiments are.

I don't usually have regrets or coulda-woulda-shouldas. I joke on occasion about Doc Brown and not messing up the space-time continuum, but there is some truth there. If I were to change even one little thing, who knows the ramifications and how it would alter what I know to be reality. I honestly mean it when I say that I wouldn't even change the less-than-wonderful moments in my life, because they have made me who I am today. This morning, however, I found that I do have a couple of things to add to the CWS list, and I would give an appendage for a DeLorean and a flux capacitor.

I went for an early MLD appointment. My therapist had told me to go ahead and unwrap at home to make it easier for me, and treat my lower legs to an actual shower. Right now, I'm having to treat the wrappings like a cast -- stick my leg in a trash bag, tape it shut to avoid water (which still doesn't always help) and go from there. I gotta tell you, it felt SO good to be free from the bandages for a while. Until.......

I hopped up on the table and began to slide up my pants legs for the MLD. The area where the lymphedema is most pronounced was a violent shade of red and violet. Drainage wasn't happening without compression. Even for just that short time (about 90 minutes), it wasn't working.

My therapist was okay with it.... within just a few moments of elevation, the color was going back to a more normal tone. It's discolored anyway, but at first looked like a sledgehammer had worked on it. But she said that for the long haul, compression was going to be a necessity, either through bandaging or compression hosiery/socks. I expected it, but I suppose I wasn't quite as prepared for the finality of it. I guess in the back of my mind, there might be a miraculous chance that after just a couple of years or so, everything would be hunky-dory. But it's going to be more like the rest of my life, or close enough to it.

And that's when I wished for the time machine ..... to go back to my teen years and think when I first noticed the problem. To have gone for medical treatment then instead of assuming that it was just part of me getting fatter. To have taken Mrs. D (our librarian) up on her offer of paying for me to attend Weight Watchers way back then. To have just been smarter and wiser about things.

Yeah, I know -- it is totally impossible to redo the past (even if I could) knowing what I know now. And in this case, this condition might have been present from birth -- or certainly during my developing years (when this system didn't properly develop). That cannot be helped.

I have to stop beating myself up over what I failed to do, and concentrate my energies on what I can do now. And to make my next 40+ years a complete change from the sorry way I treated myself the first 36.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Help! Help! I've been tagged!!!

The rules: Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What was I doing ten years ago?
Making it through each day, in a weird fog. A long-term relationship had just ended differently than I'd hoped. My job was just okay. I just didn't really like things, but wasn't sure I could change.

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today:
1. Walk the dog.
2. Vote in the primary.
3. Attend the RFTC Committee meeting.
4. Pick up lunch.
5. Check e-mail.
(all DONE!)

5 Snacks I enjoy:
Pink Lady apples
Weight Watchers minibars (the peanut butter bliss are OMG)
Fiber One bars
Jolly Time popcorn minibags

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Quit, and buy my radio station.
Give money to my old college for a scholarship. Actually, I'd set up my own foundation and do scholarships that way.
Buy some land and create a Lab rescue organization.
Pay off my parents' bills and house. Give money to my brother.

Places I have lived:
Liberty SC
*college - Charleston SC

Jobs I have had:
Computer lab assistant
Box office ticket seller
Administrative assistant
Call center coordinator
Administrative assistant/bookkeeper
Accounting clerk

Ok, time to tag 5 people. I'm going to tag:
Stacey, Bolivar, Vixen, Sheila, and Ballz. Have fun y'all!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hey, just like my real prom.....

Last night, I went to a local radio station's "Awesome 80s Prom" (really an excuse for a party). A friend had gotten me a ticket and I was supposed to meet her over there.

I opined in another forum about trying to find a prom dress at a thrift shop on short notice. It wasn't successful at all -- so I went with Plan B. Jeans that looked quasi-acid-washed, a polo with collar turned up, and my dad's Members Only jacket (OMG, yes, he still has one). I found a cheap blue eyeliner pencil and I was good to go. Couldn't find any blue mascara ... okay, I wasn't willing to pay more than $4 for some because I was ONLY going to wear it once!

I got to the hotel, and the guy asked to see my ID. I gave him a huge hug ..... he made my night! I used to get carded regularly, but that stopped almost altogether around age 32 (except for waitstaff angling for a tip - and I'm a sucker for that).

I got there, and luckily for me, there was a wide variety of clothing styles. Yes, most of the gals had on prom dresses, but I just didn't care. I was happy and comfy and wasn't having people staring going "OMG, what's with her legs?" Of course, I realized later that I could have just worn a regular dress and slung some legwarmers on there.... DUH! Except for that pesky promise I made to myself in 7th grade that I would never ever wear them again (mine were striped -- horizontally -- red, white, and blue. Yay, America.)

I spent the next hour or so wandering around looking for my friend. I never did see her, and by 10 PM, I decided I'd had enough fun. But in the meantime I did get to dance with a total stranger......

Friday, June 06, 2008

Progress is being made!

Today was my 3rd MLD treatment, and my first measurements since treatment. SUCCESS!!!!! In some areas I have already lost inches! And I can tell the MLD is working.

This is good. Very good!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

An interesting medical turn.....

Here's a little background: I have big ugly tree-trunk legs. I do not lie nor kid. It's not just cankles. It's all over bulk, and just ugly. But hey ... that's how it is.

A couple of months back, one of my doctors suggested I go ahead and consult with a plastic surgeon about possible removal of the huge amount of bulk down on my lower legs. Okay, I'm hip to that! So I met with the plastic surgeon, who suggested waiting until I'm a bit closer to goal weight before we even consider surgery..... but in the meantime, she said to get myself a good pair of firm support compression stockings -- which would also have to be special-ordered because of the strength she suggested (and the size of my legs, no doubt).

I found a medical supply place near work, stopped in there to buy the stockings, and the lady took me to a back room for measurements. When I pulled up my pants legs, she immediately about had a cow. Turns out she has a background in people with lymphedema. She suggested that before we order the hosiery, I get MLD -- manual lymphatic drainage -- a massage that will help get rid of all the excess fluid that has built up and can't work itself out because of the insufficiency.

So, I got back in touch with the plastic surgeon to see if she would do the prescription for this therapy (since I can't just walk in and say, "HEY! I'd like some MLD today!"). She enthusiastically agreed, and last Friday was my first physical therapy appointment for MLD.
On Friday, Debbie (the therapist) gave me some interesting news, some hope, and reason to smile about my legs. Turns out that I have primary lymphedema, which means that it is something that didn't develop properly in my lymph system either in the womb or during my developing years. Upon further research, I learned that I probably have lymphedema praecox (Miege's Disease), meaning that it didn't manifest itself until after puberty but before age 35. I had told Debbie that the last picture I remember of myself with normal looking legs was somewhere around age 14. So we decided on treatments 3 times a week at least for the short term (one or two months). The only downside to all this is that even after I eventually have alllllll that extra skin removed, I will still have lymphedema to deal with. I will always have to wear some kind of support hosiery, even if it's just light hose for special events. Maybe a sleeve to sleep in, or wear during the day.

So I was in some light support tubing this weekend -- the same weekend that God decided to flip the "Hotter-n-Hades" switch across the south. But I was determined to make it work. On Monday, I had my first MLD treatment. I got to lay on a table, put my feet up on a wedge, and get worked over. Then I got wrapped after it was over --- Borissa Karloff, from the knees down. I looked like The Mummy. I had a stocking thing (like you'd put on a broken leg before they put the cast on), then some padding over the affected area, and then bandaged from mid-foot to just below the knee. Speaking of casts, I have to treat these like a cast ..... yep, I put my legs in trash bags and tape 'em closed tight.

Today was my 2nd treatment -- and Debbie was extremely pleased!! Apparently, I already have some good results on the horizon. My legs were starting to wrinkle a little, meaning all that excess fluid is finally draining out!!!!

This is just yet another interesting turn in the road of my life. I can't wait to see how it will all turn out!