I feel like I haven’t been home in a long time – too much on my mind, I guess. It’s not that I literally feel like I haven’t been home. I just feel like I haven’t been living here, like I’m a traveling salesman staying at a motel or something. I come home and maybe get a little work done, go to sleep, then it’s back to work in the morning only to come home and repeat the process. It takes a concerted effort to get any chores done. I’ve given up on using a hamper for my dirty clothes. I just toss them into a pile by my dining table. Yeah, that’s probably not very sanitary, but a) I’m a dude, therefore filth is part and parcel to my existence and b) I barely have any guests, so being tidy is unnecessary. In any event, it feels good to sit down and do some personal writing even if it isn’t really productive. I really should be working. I’m behind on deadlines and I hate being late for anything.

Decompression

A friend of mine, Mr. Glass, tells me that it’s good to make time and relax – that I need this time to decompress. Maybe he’s right, but I have to disagree on principle. First, I have to make up for lost time. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been precocious. Moreover, I was advanced for my age without having to try. I simply excelled. I got waylaid after high school with depression and other ridiculous circumstances and anesthetized myself with video games. So now that my life is back on track and moving along quite nicely, I don’t want to squander this momentum. I figure that this is the time to work my fingers to the bone while I still have the energy and youthful foolishness to do it. When I’ve finally achieved my career goal then I can sit back and waste time relaxing. Secondly, while I can’t give you any solid examples, I think other people around me are working just as hard and sacrificing just as much to follow their dreams. If they can do it, so can I.

That’s not to say that I don’t take breaks. I still take the time to distract my mind with short video game sessions. Luckily, my newfound work ethic seems to be making core changes in my life, because I find that guilt is preventing my gaming from turning into a marathon. This is good. As I told Mr. Glass the other night, what I really need to do is find a way to be recharged by accomplishment. Finishing an article and seeing it published should be the thing that decompresses me. In this manner, I’ll become a human perpetual motion machine. Regrettably, I’m still a ways off from that goal.

At the Mercy of Mechanics

I got my PT Cruiser back in 2004 as a college graduation gift. Before that, I was driving a 10-year-old E190 Mercedes Benz with leather seats and no air conditioning. It only ran on the highest octane gasoline and vital parts would malfunction one by one like organ failure. When I looked into replacing the cracked plastic casing of a headlight, I was quoted $500 or something absurd, because it was a unique Mercedes Benz part, handcrafted by buxom, teenage German girls who molded the plastic with their cleavage. You can imagine how much it cost me to replace the radiator and two fuel pumps, which is partly why I’m in so much debt today. Before I finally got my Cruiser, the rubber housing that kept the driveshaft of the E190 in place had disintegrated, causing the shaft to smack into the underside of the car with each (now) elliptical rotation. Before the Benz, I drove a 10-year-old Toyota Camry, which was also falling apart, but at least was reasonable to repair.

The very night I graduated college.

The very night I graduated college.

So when I got the Cruiser I promised myself that I would take good care of it since it was my first brand new car. I kept up with my oil changes, did routine repairs and got my car washed and cleaned frequently enough to preserve the “new car” smell for years. In the past couple of years, I’ve been taking my car to my local chain service center. I’ve never had an issue with them despite the numerous service requests and from what I could tell – mind you, I don’t know anything about cars – it seemed like they were treating me fairly and looking out for my best interests. That probably sounds terribly naïve, but I’ll just have to accept that since I have no rebuttal. In any event, I had an issue come up during my last oil change at this place – a stripped oil pan gasket or a stripped oil pan; I can’t remember how the guy phrased it to me. It turns out that the threads that hold the plug that keeps the engine oil from draining out got stripped. The car wasn’t drivable. I asked the guy if this damage would have happened if I hadn’t taken it in and he said no, but it would have happened the next time I got an oil change anywhere. As far as I know, threads don’t get stripped by themselves. Either someone is putting a part in crookedly or they’re over tightening something. The guy told me that this was a common failing on this part on Chryslers. Total cost to replace the part was about $350.

I hate these kinds of situations, because I really don’t know what’s best for me. If I tell the guy not to do the repair I have to find another garage, hire a tow truck, pay for the repair anyway, organize transportation and then sue the first shop. Let’s say I did all that and took them to court. Sure, it sounds like common sense that parts only get stripped by human error, but what if they’re able to prove a history of “thread failure” or whatever just as they told me. Or what if there’s something else I’m totally not considering? Then not only am I out the money anyway, I’ve also wasted a ton of time and energy. So I just paid for the repair. I have to admit that I’m not feeling very secure with my manhood, having succumb to all of my excuses instead of challenging them, especially since I had a “check engine light” scare a couple of days after the repair. Thankfully, it went away after two days, but it certainly highlighted a very weak spot in my role as a man in society, which is knowledge of car mechanics. So I’ve made up my mind to learn engines. That way I can strip my own oil can gaskets.

So Long Cloves

On September 22 of this year some legislation went into effect that banned the sale of clove cigarettes. Cloves differentiated themselves from regular cigarettes by adding clove spice to the tobacco, which offered a sweet flavor to the smoke and a satisfying crackle to each drag. I loved smoking cloves because of their rich flavor, which was a pleasant alternative to plain cigarettes’ acrid taste. Now cloves are gone and it’s hard to deny this feeling of unfair loss in their absence. The reason for banning cloves is silly to me.

From the FDA

“Almost 90 percent of adult smokers start smoking as teenagers. These flavored cigarettes are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA will utilize regulatory authority to reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco products to enhance our Nation’s public health.” (Read the full press release)

For when you need a cigarette that matches your club outfit.

For when you need a cigarette that matches your club outfit.

See, when I read that I can’t help but feel like the government is simply paying the anti-smoking movement lip service while still enjoying the revenue that cigarette taxes bring in. Why simply “reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco products” when the government can eliminate it by banning tobacco products outright? Then, of course, there’s alcohol. Flavored cigarettes are no good, gateways while flavored drinks, like wine coolers, are no problem. How is that fair?

Nat Sherman Classic Mints no longer!

Nat Sherman Classic Mints no longer!

What it seems to me is that the government took a look at tobacco sales and picked the smallest product that would affect taxable sales and banned it in a show of progressivism for a cleaner America. In response to the legislation, Djarum – a clove cigarette manufacturer – released its new line of clove cigars, which are different enough from clove cigarettes to go around the legislation, but not so different that the majority of clove smokers can’t adjust to the flavor. Also, Nat Sherman – my personal brand of cigarettes – has renamed their Classic Mint line to menthol, just in case. For my part, I’m still stewing over the loss of true clove cigarettes just to satisfy political agendas.

On a side note, my favorite brand of clove cigarettes was Sampoerna Xtras. Apparently, their sale in the US was discontinued sometime in 2005 after Phillip-Morris bought them out. If you have ever enjoyed clove cigarettes and you can find Sampoerna Xtras, get them. They’re the best cloves you’ll ever smoke. If you do find them, tell me where and how I can, too. 😉