Off the fritz



leftovers & links
Friday, Feb. 3, 2023

My Chevy's been on the fritz since autumn, and I haven't much cared. Anywhere I'm going, I take the bus.

I've considered selling or junking it, but the car has sentimental value. It's the last car my wife drove. It took us everywhere in Wisconsin, and after she'd died it took me from Wisconsin to Washington.

And if I don't like the commute to my new job, I might want to move closer to work. Moving would be lots easier with a car. 

And getting the car running again will be much more difficult once I'm working five days a week, so last Friday I finally called AAA for a jump or a tow.


While I was waiting, leaning on the trunk with the hood up, a stranger pulled over and offered me a jump. "Triple-A is on the way," I said, "but thanks, man."

Seattle's a nice place. Or else that man was trying to lure me for mugging and murder and what-not. Nah, let's go with "Seattle is a nice place."

The battery was completely dead, so the tow guy jumped it, but reminded me that if I turned the engine off, it wouldn't start again. "Needs to run for at least hours to get enough of a charge, he 'splained, but I knew that already. It's not the first time that car wouldn't start. Probably it needs a new battery, maybe a new alternator. Money, money, money.

So there I was, behind the wheel again, for the first time in ages. It felt strange to be driving, and the car sounded awful. It groaned as it moved, wheezed more when it turned, and touching the brakes rattled everything. Instead of a few hundred dollars, I envisioned a bill for a thousand.

Fortunately, the car got quieter as it got closer to the repair shop. Makes sense — it's been sitting at the side of the road for months, never moving, so the noises faded as the various fluids got where fluids are needed. By the time I got to the repair shop, it was just making the ordinary bang-bang engine sound it's made since about 2014.

The shop is Community Automotive, in Burien. They have no website, so you get no link, but it's a good local place run by a guy I trust.

I parked the car in the only open space at the side of the building, left the engine running because of the weak battery, and went inside.

"With you in a moment," came a shout from the garage part of the building.

In the promised moment, Dan emerged, same guy I've dealt with before — the guy I trust. "I've got a problem," I said.

"I can see that," he said. "You're old."

"Also constipated," I said, "but that's not a problem you can fix."

"Tell me something I can fix."

"My car won't start" I said, "so she's parked with the engine running. Maybe it's the battery, or maybe the alternator?"

"I'll check for power drains," he said. "Do you leave anything plugged into the cigarette lighter?"

"Only the GPS," I said, "but that's such a minimal power pull—"

"Famous last words before needing a jump," he said, and laughed.

"I ain't too bright," I said, "and the GPS hadn't really occurred to me."

"You're plenty bright," he said. "You're white. You people built all this technology." 

"Uh, my dad was the smart white guy," I said. "I'm an idiot."

"Well, I'll be the judge of that," he said.

Some people would've found the 'white' remark offensive, and I might've myself, but from Dan it was clearly a good-natured crack. It made me take a slow look at him, though, and under the scraggle of his beard, I guess he's not white. Maybe he's native or slightly Asian or Mexican or black. Hard to say, fifty shades of gray, plus grease cuz he'd been working on somebody's car, plus I don't care.

So we talked about my dented old Chevy, and he wrote 'battery' and 'GPS' on a Post-It note, plus my phone number. Same as last time, he gave no estimate, never asked for a signature or even my name.

"There's no hurry," I told him, which was true. "You could take a week and I wouldn't care."

He said he'd text me when the car was ready, so I said goodbye and crossed the street to the bus stop, figuring I deserved a Mrs Rigby's cheeseburger.

From the bus stop, I could see my car idling in the lot. The door was unlocked, the engine running, and I was leaving, which made me uneasy, like — what if someone steals the car before Dan or his man gets around to working on it?

Mulled that thought over for a moment, and decided that if the car got stolen it would be, literally, no great loss. It would save me the cost of the repairs, which would probably be more than the car's worth anyway.

The bus took me to a marvelous cheeseburger, which I topped with peanut butter. There's always an old prescription bottle filled with peanut butter in my go-anywhere bag. Makes a marvelous burger even marvelouser. 

An hour later another bus took me home, past the auto shop again. Out the bus's window I could see my car, still idling and presumably still unlocked in the parking lot, spewing hot fumes into the cold air.

Even hating cars and getting tired of constantly getting mine repaired, it's a challenge convincing yourself not to care when your car is running and unlocked and you're not there to stop someone from stealing it.

It's twenty years old, though, seriously rusting on one side, has a long strip of molding hanging half-loose under the right passenger door, and when the engine's running it sounds like seagulls getting shot. No discerning thief would want my car, but hey, help yourself.

All that was last Friday, and Dan took my "There's no hurry" to heart. I didn't hear anything until he texted me this morning, a week later. His text said, "Hey Mr Old Man, your Chevy is ready," because he seriously doesn't know my name. When I walked in, he said, "Ah, the old man with the Chevy."

He says there's no power drain, not even the GPS. The alternator is fine, too. "Had to be the battery," he said, so he'd replaced it. $135 for a genuine Delco, installed, and now the car starts.

Again, I'm a happy customer, and again I told him I'd be back in six months when something else goes wrong, same as I told him six months ago. My car is dependable that way.

To celebrate, I drove to Mrs Rigby's for another cheeseburger. I've been eating there a lot for the past few weeks, basically saying goodbye. They're open the same hours I'll be working, so there'll be no more weekday burgers at Mrs Rigby's once I'm employed.

After lunch, I walked all the way to the bus stop before remembering my car was in Mrs Rigby's lot. So I walked back to the car, drove it home, and parked it across the street, where it had been parked for months. And where it'll stay parked most days, because I seriously prefer riding the bus.

News you need,
whether you know it or not

EzriCare eyedrops are blinding people, one dead 

It's now legal for domestic abusers to own a gun in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi 

Kroger is sued for "widespread wage theft" 

Biden administration recommends major Alaska oil project 

Insanity. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is only the difference between bad and worse.

Video shows Seattle Police back down after bystanders step in over heavy response to "shots fired" 911 calls 

I love you, Seattle.

Portland police officer fired for leaking false allegations is reinstated, with back pay 

US man cleaning out late grandmother's apartment shot dead by police 

Botched prosecution lets notorious ex-detective walk free 

Video shows California police kill double amputee in hail of gunfire 

Republicans aim to decimate abortion access in post-Roe haven states 

Ohio's Dissident Homeschool Network instructs 2,500 members on how to raise "wonderful Nazis" 

Unable to burn digital books, Orange Unified School District bans the whole virtual library 

Florida teachers hide their books to avoid felonies 

King of the Hill is coming back 

Humans and wild apes share common language 

Scientists launch project to 'de-extinct' the dodo, reintroduce to natural habitat 

Beth's Café in Seattle reopens after extended closure 

I've mentioned Beth's several times here. It used to be my favorite diner in Seattle. It's great that they're back, and maybe I'll eat there some day, but they're charging upwards of $30 for an omelet, so you're much more likely to find me at Mrs Rigby's.

Child molester gets Hollywood biopic 

Clicks ahoy

How Southern landowners tried to restrict the great migration 

"If you had to make a list of the 10 most important airplanes ever built since the Wright Flyer, the 747 needs to be on that list. It was a quantum leap." 

Patti Smith remembers Tom Verlaine 

43 hours on the Amtrak Southwest Chief 

Not only can you experience much more of the country, but you are also almost forced to do nothing. On many other trips, I pack my schedule full of things I want to do. It is easy to be stressed about the feeling of missing out on something and being so busy that you don’t get to relax very much. On a train trip? Not so much. You can do nothing except eat, drink, listen to music, and watch the scenery pass by. Internet access is unreliable, and you can’t do much with your phone. It’s you and all the other people on the train with no schedule except the stops on the journey.

Eight secret features of Grand Central Station 

Stump homes 

Electric tuk-tuk 

The future of space travel might rely on buildings made of mushrooms 

♫♬  Mix tape of my mind  ♫

All That — Sparks 

Catch the Wind — Donovan 

Fight the Power — Public Enemy 

In A Gadda Da Vida — Iron Butterfly 

NeverEnding Story — Limahl 

Eventually, everyone
leaves the building

John Adams 

Bob Born 

Cliff Emmich 

Charles Silverstein 

Charlie Thomas 

Top Topham 

Tom Verlaine 

Cindy Williams 

Myrtle Witbooi


Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always extra special thanks to my lovely late Stephanie, who gave me 21 years and proved that the world isn't always shitty.


  1. "Fight The Power" is great. I have a Public Enemy shirt with the famous "cop in the crosshairs" logo. I wear it often, only older black people recognize it, as it is only the logo, no band name.


    1. It's a lovely graphic for its shock imagery, though I would hesitate to pull the trigger.

      The song as it was released is fine, but the version from DO THE RIGHT THING is better, perfect.

    2. The logo is obscure enough that it doesn't bother me to wear it. I still won't wear my fake MAGA hat that says "Made you look - Black Lives Matter." I'm actually afraid of being assaulted if I wear that here.

    3. You should also lend an ear to the follow-up single, "Welcome to the Terrordome," which to some degree mentions some of the backlash the band faced due to some shitty/ignorant things said by their Minister of Information, Professor Griff. It also deals with the various racial issues of the time in Brooklyn and Virginia Beach. It's a dramatic piece, arguably the most virtuosic performance by Chuck D. I have strong memories of the first time I heard it. I'd bought the cassette single, so I could hear it immediately as I drove off from The Wiz (Nobody Beats the...) with my then girlfriend, the late Wendi (RIP), down the highway. Neither of us said a word for the five minutes it took to play. Each verse gains steam and by the end we were both stunned. Rewound the tape and listened again. Just incredulous.

      Of course, now that I've written all this, I've created an expectation so high that it can't possibly meet them. So, forget what I said and just check out this little ditty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4Zey7o04Qk
      -- Arden

    4. "Welcome to the Terrordome"

      Also a fascinating film:


    5. Sorry, Arden. I've listened to the song, read the lyrics, and I like the sound of the song, but I don't know what it means.

      Claude, WELCOME II THE TERRORDOME goes onto the list, but it's a long list and soon my time will be vastly shortened by (dammit) work.

    6. The song's growing on me. Still too much, though. Guess I'm old.

  2. Until today I was blissfully unaware that Rita Renoir existed, much less that she was the Vedette in a hot club in France. I guess you movie guys know about her acting career, but it took a nice photo in a favorite newspaper for me to know I missed her by eight years. In 2016, she became a late Vedette, which seems better than no Vedette at all, but opinions vary.

    I was aware of hot clubs, in particular the Quintette du Hot Club de France featuring Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, and my current favorite living hot club, The Hot Club of Cowtown, featuring Elana James, formerly Elana Fremerman on fiddle/violin (violins have cases, fiddles have gunny sacks).


    Perhaps obviously, Orange Blossom Special is not entirely typical of their repertoire - they even cover a little of the original Hot Club material on a good night.

    Django Reinhardt was a fascinating musician, who, because he lost two fingers (and nearly a leg) in a wagon fire, invented a new style of jazz, adding the gypsy flavor much of jazz has today. He was pivotal in the evolution of both jazz and the use of the guitar and guitar tunings. I oversimplify to abbreviate.


    1. Hot Club of Cowtown's take on "Someone to Watch Over Me" is the best I've heard, of one of my favorite songs, and then it's a reminder of how recordings of live music destroy the music, as some bozo starts talking at the end.

      Looks like they've never done any studio recordings.

      I know less of Rita Renoir, apparently, than you do. All I'd known was the photo.

      This is kinda nice, by Django.

    2. I have a Hot Club of Cowtown studio recording (Ghost Train, 2002) and I think they've released a dozen in this country and a couple in Japan which might not be available here. I don't think I'm mistaken about the one I own, and Wikipedia lists quite a few. I assume most of them are available one way or another.


    3. My late brother-in-law was a great guy, and he was one of those people who listened to music. It was a thing he did, and when he did it it was the only thing he did. He's walk into the living room, take his time selecting which album to play, nestle it onto the turntable, lower the needle, and sit down, and listen. Wouldn't read a book during the music, wouldn't tolerate conversation, because he was busy listening to the music.

      I'm guessing you're kinda like my late brother-in-law. And I kinda envy that, but simply lack the concentration levels required.

      Other than the first few times I played DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, I don't think I've ever listened to music without also doing something else.

    4. There was a time, but it was a lifetime ago. My bigass speakers are in the basement. I have a pair of Koss cans, a computer, and a genuine Discman. My ex sold my vinyl after I moved out. I'm running out of time and there's still music to hear. Heart surgery next Monday. I'm listening as fast as I can. There was a time and place where a casual audiophile was commonplace. Now it's time for Rhiana. I refuse to look up the proper spelling.


    5. You almost never hear about some surgeon getting the hiccups at the wrong moment and botching things up, so I'm certain and assuring you Monday will go splendidly. The food in the hospital will suck, though.

      In your hurried listening, don't miss "Fanfare for the Common Man," and Cher's cover of "Love is in the Air," and give yourself a wide selection of Ennio Morricone. If you miss Rihanna or however she spells it, though, you won't be missing much IMHO.

    6. One of my surgeons is from Arkansas (trained at Razorback Med School), one is from India, and I'm not sure where the standby chest-cracker hails from. The Razorback plows through my convoluted vascular system to the heart, the Indian gent then enters the two left chambers to improve performance, and the standby guy is playing with his scalpel. I haven't admitted my anti-Confederate bias and this seems like the wrong time, but I haven't had a steak in years. I'm scared, not of death, but of dying. There are books to be read, music to be heard and conversations to be enjoyed. I gave up booze and coffee in the last millennium, but Diet Pepsi with a water back is a fine accompaniment to enjoyable reading and listening. And I'm only half way through my second go-round of Justified.

      Sorry, too much information, but I'm reluctant to discuss this with my non-digital amigos, half of whom are deceased. Thanks for listening.


    7. I like listening to you, almost as much as Peter Sellers likes to watch.

      Anti-Confederate bias should be universal, but still, you're smart not to mention it. Mine is an anti-Southern accent bias, which, like any prejudice, is probably stupid, but it's hard not to notice that a disproportionate portion of America's assholes have that Southern twang. It's probably my biggest ongoing bias, and I scold myself over it often, remembering truly fine people I've known from the South. And then Mitch McConnell opens his stupid yap and it's back. It's a real bias, says science.

      Your vascular plow-guy had to be smart to learn vascular plowing, though. He or she is probably *not* Mitch McConnell, MD.

      Which is to say, Monday might not be the very chipperest day of your life, but your long run of books, music, conversations, and Diet Pepsi will resume on Tuesday.

  3. If you haven't yet clicked on and read Patti Smith remembers Tom Verlaine above, do so. Her writing is just showy enough, and she's just showy enough to get away with it. Her writing is evocative and readable, two attributes that are not always friends. Patti is special. Everything about her should piss me off, and nothing about her does.

    Thanks, Duggles, for including this link. I simply wouldn't have found it otherwise.


    1. Yes! I was about to recommend the Patti Smith piece on Tom Verlaine, (saw her at St Marks Church in 1975 along with Ginsberg and the gang, Yoko did a silent song...)...Eel

    2. I always enjoy and envy good writing, and it's that.

    3. The writing is a little showy and a little baroque for my tastes, and, like Ms Smith, it should piss me off, but I found myself reading faster and had to slow down. Patti has a little mojo. It takes an enormous pair of balls to stop halfway through a Dylan song and start over in front of the fucking Swedish Academy, but Patti just says fuckit and starts again. In a fearful world she's fearless.


    4. "Had I been a boy, I would’ve been him," she writes, and I know that feeling. Not often, but I'll see a performer, hear a song, read an article, and think dang, if fate had twisted me just a little different from the way I'm twisted, I could've maybe done sung or written that, though probably not as well.

    5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72LanJTWVHY



    6. A strange toe-tapper. It's making me tap my strange toe.

      I like to raise my freak flag *and* be alone. Being alone is one of my freak flags. Cool song, though.

  4. And Jeff Airplane from my mescaline days . . .



    1. OK, that one I don't even understand. Who's talking into an open mike while Grace sings?


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