Wednesday, December 1, 2010


You've heard of Catch 22, right? Just to remind you, it's the little problem hatched by the devil to make your life absolute hell. You're trying to solve a relatively easy problem but wherever you turn you're defeated. The term Catch 22 comes from the title of Joseph Heller's book, "Catch 22" which has a universe of very funny problems truly hatched by the devil which nearly drove the hero of the story, Yossarian, crazy. One involved a character named Major Major Major who Yossarian needed to see at times for something very important but he could never see him. Why? Every time Yossarian walked in the front door of Major Major Major's office Major Major Major jumped out the back window.

A few days ago I met Catch 22 for real. Not too surprising, it involved trying to communicate with a particular set of government agencies. I needed to replace a health card; that was all but by the end of the day I would have happily throttled any government clerk who came within sight of me.

One of my sons lives in a halfway house. He lost his Medi-Cal card. In other states, it's called a Medicaid card but for some reason the powers to be in California changed the name--and thus--the government agency assigned to work with it.

I called the Social Services number in Berkeley I was given by Social Security and at first all seemed rosy. It looked as though that card was just about in the mail. Then the gal I was talking to said "He's living in Palo Alto. You'll have to call the Social Services office in Santa Clara County to replace the card."

I called, after spending hours trying to find the Social Services office in Santa Clara county that handles Medi-Cal--which I finally found is in San Jose. That alone nearly drove me crazy. I finally found the telephone number and called and after the usual automated voice routine I got a gal on the phone.

That's where my problems really began. I gave her my son's Social Security number and she said "He doesn't come up on my screen."

This was said very rudely. According to my husband, I should have immediately said "Let me talk to your supervisor". Seriously, that might have solved a lot of problems.

She then claimed he didn't have Medi-Cal at all. More rudeness--really unconscionable. Should I have complained? Absolutely.

I finally recalled that the agent in Berkeley had been able to bring him up on her screen. I decided I would tell a little white lie; whoever I talked to I would simply say that the Palo Alto number was temporary and his permanent address was in Berkeley. With that plan in mind I called Berkeley's office again. This time, yes, they gal I talked to found him on their screen but next to his name was a county code for Palo Alto. The county code prevents them from pushing the proper buttons to send that card through the ether which of course is necessary to get it in the mail!

That gal was lovely, she tried to get someone more knowledgable to change the county code. Can't be done. I then asked for a supervisor. A little late, but there it is. She suggested I call Social Security as my son got his card through another department of Social Security called SSI and that was apparently why that county code comes up.

The supervisor called me back some hours later. He was very helpful and very knowledgable but that county code can't be broken.

In the process of talking to the Supervisor from the Social Services Office in Berkeley I found out my son's record didn't come up on Berkeley's screen at first either.

"How did you get it to come up, then?" I asked the gentleman.

"You just go to a site on Social Security," he said.

The gal from the San Jose office could have brought up my son's record if she had known how.

I have to call San Jose back. If that doesn't work I'll have to try calling Social Security. Wish me luck. Someone in Social Security sent me to that Social Services number in Berkeley.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Almost Final Blog Piece About My BMW

I thought I should write a blog posting about the final chapter in the history of my 85 BMW but somehow I couldn't do it. My BMW was going to be broken up in chunks for parts and that was all it was good for and I just couldn't write that. That all changed this week and do I have a story to tell!

A little back information. Before we took our recent trip to the East coast, Jerry and I left the 85 in a parking lot at the San Francisco Airport for ten days. It got there beautifully; it made the trip back beautifully. It balked a little when Jerry turned the key in the ignition but hey it started! I was very proud of it, never thinking that it would be one of the last times either of us would drive it.

I had it out the next day or so when there was a recurrence of a nasty noise which I thought had been dealt with by my trusty garage at little cost, so I called up to arrange for a time for them to check it over again.

They told me to bring it right in. On the way to H and B the noise stopped. George said he'd drive it around and hope the noise would come back; I then thought to tell him that besides the noise reoccurring, it had been very slow and cranky when it was backing up.

On returning, George said he heard no noise but he was not at all happy about the way the car acted in reverse. He was wondering whether the brakes had dropped down--which made no sense to me but hey, he's the expert mechanic.

They kept it for the day; later he called me with some bad news. The Master Cylinder was the culprit and needed to be replaced. With the cost of the part and the labor we're up to $700. That on top of some $500 to $700 we had just spent on a new gas pump, not to speak of some $1500 we had spend on the new wheels and new tires and an expensive service earlier this year.

I called Jerry and he said no. A final, unequivocal no. The expense on the car was getting out of hand. I agreed--there was no question it was costing us a lot of money. I pointed out that it was still cheaper than buying a new car, but that made no impact as we have a perfectly good Passat for me to drive and he has the brand new Audi--although it's a company car. I didn't even mention that the guy doing the last smog check had said it was a great car. I begged but Jerry was adamant.

I could not stand the thought of donating it. It would have to sit in front of the house and that was not to be borne. I guess it's silly to feel that way about a car but there it is. We're the original owners; we've owned it 25 years. There's an amazing amount of history with that car.

I asked George whether anyone at H and B might want it. With all the work still to be done on it--new rear brakes, a new clutch assembly, not to speak of the shocks which had never been replaced--all things that all cars need but still...

George asked around at the garage. No one wanted it but George said they could really use it for a parts car. They'd tear it apart--there would go my wonderful car--but I figured it would be of some use for the parts so I said yes. It would be something like a person willing over their organs, because my 85 would be dying.

Yesterday I went down to H and B to pick up the registration for the car, which I needed. I cleaned out 25 years worth of junk out of the glove compartment and the trunk--the glove compartment had to be forced open--another thing wrong with it. In there I found the missing registration, which you may remember was a problem from the previous blog posting on the 85. Oh well. That made the second one I found after-the-fact, which is a mystery.

I cleaned out the trunk and ended up spilling oil all over myself. Strange things are left in the trunk of a car, including cans of oil with holes in them from being there for years and years. One thing I had no idea was there was a jumper cable, which I could learn to use when the car wouldn't start... Oh well.

As we'd need to sell the car to H and B and I had no pink slip down I went down to AAA with the registration, as AAA can do a lot of things that need doing around automobiles and that saves a lot of standing in line at a DMV office. I was told I could simply transfer ownership and perhaps H and B could do all the work as they probably did a fair amount of this sort of thing.

Had trouble reaching Allan, the owner of H and B, who was supposed to be the expert on such things, but left my message with the powers to be.

Allan called back later that afternoon. I started with my spiel but he cut me off.

"Before you say that I want to ask you a question," he said. "Would you consider keeping the car if we made the repair on the house? You've been such great customers over the years and it's hard to see a car that's nearly drivable go down this way. Anyway, ask Jerry."

I started to cry. He also told me they were planning on fixing it up and trying to find a good home for it but he'd rather have us keep it. Of course that meant it wouldn't be a parts car! He loved the car!

I somehow managed to tell him I'd ask Jerry. I tell you, I was crying so hard I could hardly talk.

Allan is nuts about BMW's. He has two or three old ones himself--plus of course he's a great guy.

I called Jerry and told him the story. He said, "That's amazing!"

"Please say yes!" I said.

He said yes.

The car is being repaired! It will not be in pieces! I'll drive it again!

How's that for a story?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Continuing Adventures of My 85 BMW.

Given my record with this blog has been so abysmal,I have decided to start a series to inform my readers of The Continuing Adventures Of my 85 BMW. You will recall that my car is always on the edge of disaster, given that it has 250,000 miles on it and my husband is less than enamored with it. The first adventure may be viewed by going back to my blog in April, 2010.

The last two months has generally been a good one for my BMW. The first thing worth reporting happened around the first of June when I was driving down the main street of our neighborhood in Berkeley, through what is generally called Gourmet Ghetto, which is dotted with some of the best restaurants in Berkeley. One, particularly, can claim this distinction: Alice Water's Chez Panisse. I was driving along in my 85, minding my own business, crossing in front of said restaurant when I felt another car hanging onto the rear of my car, much too close for comfort. Some nefarious driver wanted to cuddle with my 85 and I was not happy. Finally I roared around the car in front of me and pulled in front of it, breathing a sigh of relief, thinking I had left the other car far behind.

Suddenly another vintage 85 BMW pulled up next to mine with a young man at the wheel, obviously the same car. My car is a 535i; his was a 528, which is a less powerful version of my 535i. He rolled down his window; seeing he seemed to want to talk, I rolled down mine. The following conversation took place between our open windows.

"Is that an 85?!!" he asked.

"Yes, it is," I said.

"A 535i?"

"Yes." (This said proudly, maybe even a little sniffily, given mine is an 535i and his a 528).

"Did you have it painted?"

"Yes, I did, contrary to my husband's wishes." I wanted to give him some encouragement to have his painted. His
desperately wanted some paint.

"I just bought mine for $700! It runs like a top!"

"They're great cars," I said.

"They are! I guess I should think about having mine painted."

"Good!" I said.

He then roared around in front of my 85, just to show me that an 85 528 has just as much power as a 85 535i.

About three weeks later my husband and I were walking our dog, Plato, through a wonderful park just up from the Gourmet Ghetto. My husband was driving the 85 just to give it some exercise, so it didn't decide to stop on me in traffic. He parked next to the park, we walked the dog, and then came back to the 85, which looked it's smashingly best because it had just been washed.

A woman walked up to us and asked--you guessed it: "Is that an 85?!!"

"It is," I said.

"I had an 83," she said. "They're great cars!"

"Aren't they, though!" I said.

"I drove my 83 all up and down the East Coast for years, it ran like a top. And then I got in an accident and broke the axle. I cried when I had to junk it!"

I just about cried too. Junking a 535i is a horrible thought.

I now realize I have to google an 83 535i. I didn't know there was such a thing!

About three weeks later the time came that I always dreaded with my 85: renewing the license when a smog check was required. If it failed my car was dust, for sure. It has always passed but there's always the first time. The last time the person who did the test simply said it passed; then mentioned that manual transmissions did better than regular, for which I held a little hope for a good result on this test, as our has a manual.

This time did not start out well because I could not find the form and neither could my husband. I looked everywhere but "Bills Folder", which is not a folder my husband set up for someone named Bill, but a folder which holds our monthly bills. A month later I found it in that folder, by then of course it was too late. I have much less esoteric places to put bills but at least I generally know where they are.

We ended up going to AAA on a Saturday, which has a special service for idiots who lose the forms for renewing their car's license. My husband growled the whole way down to AAA. I kept thinking the office was going to be closed, upon which I would really be in trouble. The office was open, at least that problem was nonexistent: we ended up paying another $25.00 or so for the license. We had to have the smog check done before we could get the license, and it was another fifteen minutes to get to a smog check place. We left the car, walked Plato and came back in 45 minutes when the car was supposed to ready. I prayed the whole way.

The car was parked on the street; that looked promising. Jerry walked up to the attendant to pay the bill. When he came back, he had this to say:

"Well, the guy said our BMW was a great car."

"Really!" I said.

"He said it burned so clean it hardly used any oil."

I knew that. The level on the dipstick only moves down when the oil needs to be changed. However, I didn't know what a good thing that was, but now I do!

Of course it passed. Am I going to hold this over my husband the next time my great 535i is threatened with extinction? You bet I am!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Adventures With My 85 BMW

I love my 85 BMW. It's my Baby. Here you see the next to the last thing that almost caused its demise--brand new wheels fitted with Michelin tires, which of course are the best kind of tires. The wheels are gorgeous, as you can see.

All right. You say you want a better picture of the car. I just wanted to show off those brand new wheels before we got to a full fledged picture of my gorgeous automobile.

Some background: we've had this car since 1985. We are the original owners; as such, we have put a lot of miles on it. How many? About 250,000, that's all. That, my friend, is the reason this car has nearly been history more times than I care to admit.

Oh--the wheels--the second to the last thing that almost caused its demise. I took it in to my garage, H and B, for its regular check-up, which happened to be an expensive one. That was the first problem. The second came when George, the Manager of H and B, called and said the car needed new wheels all the way around. I deal with George a lot and also a lot with Allan, who owns H and B. They've great guys. They know the car.

"Well, so we'll get new tires," I said--not quite understanding.

"It does need new tires but we
can't buy tires to fit on the existing wheels. We have to get new wheels and that's expensive. We can skirt on the tires a little but not the wheels."

"How much will those new wheels cost?" I asked.

"With an OK set of tires about $1100," he said.

I'm dead in the water, I'm thinking to myself. Jerry will not want to spend all that money, plus there's that expensive service which I was told would cost around $800.

I told George I'd have to talk to
Jerry. My husband has had a number of conversations about the car with George.

George called me back the next day (I hadn't had the guts to tell Jerry yet).

"I've talked to Allan and he has a slightly used set of wheels already fitted with four brand new Michelin tires left here by a customer who didn't want them anymore. He told us to just get what we could for them--he'd be satisfied. He has a 75 BMW and he wanted to go with 75 wheels so we can offer these to you. They only have about 100 miles on them. We think we can offer everything to you for $800."

Of course I said yes, without thinking. Didn't ask Jerry. Why should I? Those tires were probably worth $800 all on their own when they were new.

Well, the car came back looking so proud of itself. Total cost was $1600--$800 for the wheels and the tires and $800 for the service.

Jerry was so impressed with how my baby looked he said "Well, we have to fix up the upholstery (in shreds) and re-carpet the floors (holes in said carpeting). It deserves it."

Everything was fine until we were out on the freeway about a month ago with Jerry driving and the clutch sank to the floor and just sat there. I had forgotten we needed to have that little problem checked. It had happened to me right after I took it in for a small something--don't even remember what--and after using my foot to raise it from the floor I drove it right back down to the garage. Allan looked at it and said "No biggie. Just make an appointment and we'll fix it."

Well, I forgot about the problem--totally. Jerry was not happy. Here we were stuck on the freeway with a clutch stuck to the floor. Luckily I knew what to do; I told him just to put his foot under the clutch and push up--it had happened to me years ago and out of desperation that's what I did, and it worked. Voila--up the clutch came and off we went--only to have it happen again right after we exited the freeway. He tried the foot routine--didn't work.

"You'll have to get out of the car and raise it by hand," I said.

Without saying a word but with his mouth churning he got out of the car and raised the clutch with his hand.

It worked; he got back in the car. "We're parking this (explicative deleted) car and taking it down to H and B first thing in the morning to get this problem fixed."

All of this said between clenched teeth.

Next morning back to H and B we went where instead of the problem being a "No biggie" it's more like $1200. Being a conscientious guy Allan had recommended a new clutch as it already had 13,000 miles on it. I said we couldn't do that. What else could we do?

George called back and offered various and sundry scotch-tape-type repairs, one of which George felt would be very important for safety but would cost in the neighborhood of $500. I bring Jerry back to H and B the next day.

George looks at him and says "You want to kill the car."

Jerry just nods.

A week later I drive out with the immediate problem fixed--the clutch will no longer collapse to the floor but the clutch may go--anytime. It already has 13,000 miles on it.

I can't wait. We're sure to be on the freeway.

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. That brand new (well, almost brand new) set of wheels already fitted with nearly brand new Michelin tires belonged to Allan. He took them off his own car. He was the customer George talked about. He had stood proudly by me when I went to inspect my Baby with the new wheels and tires. I was so excited I hugged him.

Have I got a good garage or not? They are the best.

In front of our house right now sits a 2003 Passat which will soon be donated to some charity. It had $7,000 worth of needed repairs before I found it not starting one afternoon and it's only worth $6000. It has been the proverbial lemon. Luckily it's the company car.

Jerry drove my wonderful 85 BMW to the Oakland airport about two weeks ago and it actually started when Jerry turned on the ignition.
It's been known not to--I was praying--it had been sitting there for over a week. It actually purred. It sits in front of our house so proud with those new tires and gorgeous new wheels. I'm going to see about getting the upholstery and carpet replaced next.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Baby Carrying Appendage

Here we see my grandson, Nicky, being carried around by Ba Ba in his baby carrying appendage. Yes, Ba Ba is my son, Glenn.
Nicky now gets very excited when Glenn comes in the door; I'm thinking it's because in that appendage he is able to see things at adult height. The other day our daughter-in-law, Wendy, mentioned that Nicky was very upset by something just a day or so ago; he was in his carrier on the floor while the rest of the family was seated at the table eating and he was not happy. He has an amazing pair of lungs. Wendy set him up in the highchair which brought forth a big happy smile. Can you imagine having to forever look at people's feet?

Nicky is now just over six months old: he is beginning to sit, only occasionally finding himself tipping backwards. He is prone to tipping forward onto his head which, for obvious reasons, is not a favorable position. He is also into grabbing things. My husband Jerry and I met Glenn
and Nicky and Nicky's four year old brother, Theo, at a restaurant recently and the grabbing was in full flight. There wasn't a moment when those little hands weren't reaching for something. You had to be quick. At one point I saw him reach for Glenn' plate then put his hand in his mouth and immediately a very funny set of facial expressions was in evidence. I told Glenn he better check his mouth, which he did. He found nothing. Nicky didn't spit it our so he must have eaten it. Glenn was pretty nonchalant about it all. "We've got him on solid food now anyway." I think what he had in his mouth was the remains of some scrambled eggs which wouldn't be too earthshaking to put in one's mouth when you're six month's old.

Theo is amazingly good with Nicky--Nicky is his baby. He has been known to kiss him on the head.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blame It On The Ants

You may recall a problem I've been having with ants, part of which involve an invasion by said ants into the freezer of our gorgeous, stainless steel, Bosch side by side refrigerator. We now have what may be an insoluble problem with the freezer section of said refrigerator. I can no longer open the door in the normal way: I have to grip it at the top and pull. Oh I can do this--no big deal--but this is a fancy refrigerator that's supposed to have two handles. One broke off and I am now waiting for a replacement. I started investigating my problem a couple of days ago and kept getting no for an answer: either they don't handle cosmetic items, or they don't come to Berkeley.

A gal called this morning and said they do handle cosmetic items like handles for Bosch refrigerators and they do come to Berkeley so I inwardly cheered and gave her the necessary numbers. She called back a couple of hours later and said she had nothing but bad news: first the part would be tremendously expensive and two it's on back order. What does that mean? It means, she says, that given this is a three year old refrigerator, the handles of which never break, Bosch is not interested in keeping it in stock which means that it's in limbo: she could get it in a day, a month, a year 0r never.

How does a handle that never breaks break? I'm betting it was the chemical I was spraying inside to kill the ants. Ants are malevolent: they killed the handle.

Monday, January 4, 2010


I know crazy and wild. That, I'm afraid, is how I live. I have so many things going on at any particular moment, and given I'm not a computer but a flawed human being, I tend to get a little disorganized.

I'm trying to think how this crazy New Year Eve Day started. First of all, I guess, is the fact that I had it handed to me rather casually. We hosted this event and I had nothing whatsoever to do with that part of it. My husband did.

We have dear friends who always host it but things have been difficult for them lately so Jerry offered up our home for the event. I wasn't about to say no to that. My husband has the smarts in our family when it comes to doing the Right Thing, the Kind Thing. Thank God for that because I like Kind and Right in a big way and these are very good friends.

I have another dear friend, Max, who, when faced with an important event, prepares for it weeks in advance. We go on adventures together when our husbands are off skiing somewhere. Some of those adventures have been just that--like being thrown out of Slovakia--but no matter what, she's prepared. Sweaters go in plastic bags, ditto for everything else and when she needs to pack she just throws in those sweaters in those plastic bags along with everything else needed in neat, tidy, order.

Me--I don't pack until the day before. Hey, the truth be known, I usually am scrambling around the day before frantically trying first to find what I want to take along and then to wash it or get it to the cleaners and then I pack. Frantic is the name of the game here. I often wear black and maybe it's because spots aren't as easily seen on black.

So, here we have this New Year's Eve event we're hosting. Do I even think about what's going to go on the table? Yes, I actually do. I figure it's going to be served on our lovely everyday wear, which is clean. This would have been perfectly acceptable. Our everyday wear isn't really used for everyday. I put it out for special dinners. This is a set I finally got after forty years of marriage and we paid a mint for it. Jerry complained but now he loves the set. It's Italian, and based on the dinnerware prevalent in homes in the 1400's. It's gorgeous.

No, Jerry is not planning to use this gorgeous dinnerware; he's planning to use our good china and crystal and sterling silver. He doesn't mention this until he starts hauling it in on the day of the event to wash it. Yes, wash it. That's how seldom it's used.

I should have taken a picture. He hardly knows his way around our kitchen and he actually washed and dried everything he put on the table: that good china and crystal and sterling silver. We have all of this good stuff put away carefully but everything is dirty--not put away carefully in plastic bags. The sweet guy--he washed everything!

What am I doing while he's washing the dishes? Earlier I had put on two pots with yams and they're happily boiling away on the stove; ditto with a pot of cranberries; the ham we bought yesterday is in the refrigerator--but at the point when Jerry's washing dishes I'm looking at our dog, Plato, out in his pen in the back and getting concerned. (Plato is relegated to the pen during events like this because he has a bad habit of peeing on our rugs when we're busy and not paying attention to him). Anyway, there's this huge, unsightly lump right next to his eye. I remember I saw it the day before but then it was much smaller. He didn't seem concerned about it but I didn't like it at all. It looked yukky and maybe even dangerous. And then I'm thinking again, yesterday it was smaller--yuck, it's a tick!--and I'm going into my panic mode, things are boiling on the stove and Jerry's not at all happy with me when I come running in because he's now discovered one of our myriad water thingies is spurting water down by the street and all of this is happening just hours before the guests are to arrive. The only thing to do is turn off our entire water system to the garden and I'm now begging him to go look at Plato and the unsightly lump which he does, after I turn off the water, which I have to remember to turn on again and with my track record--good luck.

The water's off but Jerry's still working with the water thingie down by the street which is still spouting water and I'm talking to our son, Glenn, on the phone about the lump. He thinks it could be dangerous--is obviously a tick--and should come out but I think you have to burn the buggers out and how can I do that when it's right next to his eye? He suggests calling the vet, which I already have but they're closed since it's a holiday. Their automated system gave me the number of the Emergency Vet People so after I say goodbye to Glenn I call them and a gal I talk to says, yes, it should come out and they could do it for me but I've got stuff boiling on the stove and Jerry upset with the water spouting on the street. She says you could do it yourself. You just reach down as close as you can to his skin with your fingers, grip it, and pull and twist it out at the same time. I said that would be disgusting and she laughed and said they could do it but that was patently not going to happen and Jerry is absolutely hopeless with that sort of thing so guess who gets to do it?

I call Glenn again, who is probably responsible for Plato getting the lump to begin with as their property, Wild Horse, is heaven for ticks and we were just there. Maybe I'm thinking he'll volunteer. Heck, he's only forty minutes away. Wendy I trust with questions like--what do I do with this unsightly yukky thing that's undoubtedly a tick other than pull and twist it out, which would be disgusting? Glenn I don't trust so much with questions like that but he's the only one there. He agrees it would be disgusting. Actually, he says, I have a perfect way to get that tick out--you do it with your teeth. That nearly makes me upchuck. Jerry, by this time, has looked at the lump and agrees to hold Plato which I pull and twist it out and voila! it comes out just like that! I should have killed it--I could see something wiggling at the top of the lump--but I just threw it. Dumb, as I'll probably have this happen all over again.

I go back to the stove, happy with Plato sans lump, and inspect the cranberries, which cooked fine until they did that obligatory popping noise and then just sat in the water. I enlist Jerry with the job of transporting them to the refrigerator where they're to get cold. I then look at the yams, which given that I was busy with the Plato lump, I didn't check as often as I should have. They are so soft it's really tricky getting them out of the pan and into a bowl. They mash very easily but given that I boiled them with the skins on they're full of these rather large lumps of skin which, given they're hot as blazes, I can do nothing about. I say to hell with it and mix the whole mess with sugar and a little sherry and pop it in the oven to cook.

Jerry has now finished washing and drying everything, the table is set and we go up and shower and dress while the sweet potatoes cook. Everything settles down, I could have even had a glass of wine it's so relaxed but I decide to wait with that--smartest thing I did that day. Jerry has finally figured out why the water thingie had been incessantly spouting and fixed that. Life is good. Our guests come and it's all worth it. We finally sit down together to that glass of wine and it's all good.

The table looked amazing. Oh--the sweet potatoes with all the lumps of skin--I still had to pull all that skin off with my fingers to serve them but at least they weren't boiling hot coming out of the oven.