Thursday, September 24, 2009

License to Drive (Final Chapter/Cop-Out)

I gotta stop posting these multi-part stories. They're exhausting for me, and they hang around my neck like an albatross until I finally get my ass in gear and finish them. Plus, I've gotten very few comments on this latest one, so I sense no one's really interested.

So let me cut to the chase here: I failed my written driver's exam. That's right, failed it. I'm a DMV reject.

Before you all laugh your asses off at me, let me say in my defense that it was a REALLY difficult exam. Here are some actual sample questions; try them yourself and tell me how many YOU get right:

1) You are approaching a railroad crossing with no warning devices and are unable to see 400 feet down the tracks in one direction. The speed limit is:

A) 15 mph
B) 20 mph
C) 25 mph

2) A white painted curb means:
A) Loading zone for freight or passengers.
B) Loading zone for passengers or mail only.
C) Loading zone for freight only.

3) You just sold your vehicle. You must notify the DMV within ___ days.
A) 5
B) 10
C) 15

4) With a Class C drivers license a person may drive:
A) A 3-axle vehicle if the Gross Vehicle Weight is less than 6,000 pounds.
B) Any 3-axle vehicle regardless of the weight.
C) A vehicle pulling two trailers.

5) If you are involved in a traffic collision, you are required to complete and submit a written report (SR1) to the DMV:

A) Only if you or the other driver is injured.
B) If there is property damage in excess of $750 or if there are any injuries.
C) Only if you are at fault.

Answers: 1)A 2)B 3)A 4)A 5)B

NOT SO EASY, ARE THEY?!?!


There were 36 questions in all, and in order to pass, I needed to get at least 30 correct. I got 28.

Luckily, the DMV lets you take the test two more times. On the second try, I got 32 out of 36. At last, I had my California license.


And it only took me three hours!

I'm off to Yuma, AZ tomorrow for my first road gig in ages. I'll be appearing at Yuma's only gay bar, The Closet. The forecast calls for temperatures around 103 degrees. BW is coming with me, and his mom and sister are driving up (down? over?) from Phoenix.

Photo-blog to follow.

Homo licensed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Banana Bread: A Heartwarming Story

I promise to finish the driver's license story before week's end. But first, a quick tale to warm the cockles of your cynical hearts: (Ha ha... he said "cockles.")

Sunday morning, I baked banana bread for my cousin, Stacey. Stacey is one of my first cousins on my mother's side and one of my favorite people on earth, along with her sister and brother. They're roughly the same ages as my sisters and I, and some of my happiest memories of childhood involve vacations spent with our family and their family together -- in Miami, where they lived, in New Jersey and Long Island, where we lived, or in Aspen, CO where we all skied together one glorious winter.


All the cousins together for Granny's 90th birthday.
Stacey is second from right.

For most of this summer, Stacey has been battling breast cancer with incredible bravery and fortitude. She is currently recovering from surgery and continues to handle whatever comes her way with tremendous grace and good humor, as do her kids, Alexa and Max.

Anyway, she mentioned in one of her recent mass emails to all of us who love her that she appreciated all the cooking and baking people have been doing for her. It hit me then that I should send her some of my famous (at least in my mind) banana bread.

It's a simple recipe, made extra-moist and delicious by a giant quantity of sour cream:

6 Ripe Bananas, Peeled and Mashed
4 1/2 Cups of Whole Wheat Flour
3 Cups of Sugar
3 Eggs
3/4 Cup of Butter
3 Teaspoons Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 24-Oz Container of Sour Cream

Beginning with the sugar, butter and eggs, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour into four small greased loaf pans and bake at 300 degrees for one hour. Done.

I mentioned to Stacey via email that my banana bread was in the works. She replied that she and the kids would be eagerly awaiting it, and could I please add chocolate chips? Personally, I think the chocolate chips overpower the flavor of the bananas, but who am I to argue with a cancer patient, right? So chocolate chips it was.

Not a photo of the actual banana bread I baked, but mine looked exactly like this, I swear.

BW and I kept one of the four loaves for ourselves and gave one to a neighbor. That left me with the challenge of shipping two loaves from San Diego to South Florida overnight without their becoming stale or getting pulverized en route.

Cut to later that day, as BW and I were walking through the parking lot of Blockbuster Video in our neighborhood. I spotted a California driver's license on the ground and stopped to pick it up.

"Oh, look," I said, scrutinizing the photo of a handsome, short-haired woman. "Some lesbian lost her driver's license." For the sake of this blog, I'll call her Christina Crawford, because she looked a bit like the actress Diana Scarwid, who portrayed the daughter in "Mommie Dearest."



Wow: That's two "Mommie Dearest" references in the last two blogs. I'm getting gayer by the minute.

"What are you going to do with it?," BW asked me.

"I'm going to try and find this woman," I said. "God knows if someone found my license, I'd want them to do anything they could to find me."

When we got home, I googled "Christina Crawford" and "San Diego." I had considered simply mailing the license to the address printed on it, but BW pointed out that Christina could have moved since then. There were no google hits as far as a phone number, address or place of employment. But I did find a Christina Crawford in San Diego on Facebook, although there was no face photo on her public profile. I gave it a shot and sent her a message:


Hi, my name is Adam, and I live in Hillcrest. I just found a driver's license on the ground with the name Christina Crawford. If this is you, reply to this message or call me at 917-xxx-xxxx so I can get it back to you.

Best, Adam

Two hours later, I got a reply:

yes. i was looking every where for it. If you want u could bring it to the ups store I work at in Hillcrest. Thank you so much and if you do not have time, u could mail it to me. Thanx again
Christina

UPS store? It was fate. (Though not terribly surprising, given that she's a lesbian.)

The next morning, before work, I pulled into the UPS parking lot, banana bread in hand, to return Christina's driver's license. I spotted her immediately, loading a cart outside the store.

Christina thanked me profusely for returning her license to her. I explained that I was also there to send banana bread to my cousin who was fighting breast cancer. We chatted a bit, and she told me about her sister, who also survived breast cancer some years ago. As we talked, Christina boxed up the banana loaves for me all nice and secure and had me fill out the paperwork to ship them to Stacey. When I pulled out my credit card, she shook her head.

"This is on me," she said.

I spoke with Stacey moments ago, just before posting this blog. I wanted to make sure she was OK with my writing about her illness, and to make sure the banana bread arrived safe and sound. Yes on both counts. She's feeling much better this week. And she was also very happy about the chocolate chips.

Stacey's daughter, Alexa, has started her own page on the American Cancer Society's web site, which you should visit and donate to by clicking here.

I love you, Stacey -- keep staying strong.

Homo heartwarmed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

License to Drive (Part 2)

For most of the 80s, My mother worked as Director of Development at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. I don't know what the job entailed, exactly. I just know that she used to come home most nights filled with rage. Calling her at work for any reason was never a great idea; calling her to ask that she leave work to immediately drive ten miles to Springfield so I could take the driving test in her car was soul suicide.

"Oh, no. NOOOOO! THIS IS FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE!"

"Mom, please!," I whimpered. "If I can't take the test right now, they're going to make me come back another day. I have to get my driver's license today!"

"YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH THIS IS GOING TO FUCK UP MY DAY!"

Click.

Exactly eight minutes later, a candy-apple red Ford Taurus came screeching into the DMV parking lot. Behind the wheel was a rather crazed, tall, late-40s Jewish woman. Anna and I cowered in fear as she stormed in to the lobby.

"HERE!," she said, flinging the car keys at me. "NOW GIVE ME DAD'S KEYS! I'M ALREADY LATE FOR MY NEXT MEETING!"

"Tina! Bring me the axe!"

Moments later, she was gone, her last words ringing in my ear: "THIS IS A TOTAL FUCK-UP!"

The Ford Taurus wasn't even her car. It was a rental car she was using that week while her massive station wagon sat in the shop for repairs. As a result I had never before gotten behind the wheel of the Taurus. And here I was about to take my driver's test in it.

Fortunately, it was an easy car to drive -- certainly easier than the Jeep and 280-ZX, though I probably used my left foot for the brake once or twice, accustomed as I was to driving a stick shift. The only part of the test I flunked was parallel parking, and that's a Sank family tradition. In the end, I had my driver's license.

"You're driving back to Summit," said Anna, as she slumped down in the passenger seat to resume her nap.

"OK, how do I get there from here?"

"Figure it out yourself."

Ours was a loving home.

I was flooded with these memories as I drove last week to the DMV in Clairemont, not far from where I work. While I wouldn't have to take a behind-the-wheel test this time around, I was required to take California's written exam. I wasn't worried; how difficult could it be?

The DMV office was so packed when I got there that I could barely find a parking spot. The line was at least 100 people deep. Fortunately, I had made an appointment three weeks prior, and went straight to the appointment desk. In front of me was a man who looked to be about 97.

"It's my birthday!" he announced to the woman behind the counter. "I'm here to get my license renewed! And how'd you like to have dinner with me tonight?"

The woman chuckled politely and turned down his offer before handing him his waitlist ticket. Now it was my turn.

"Hi, I'm Adam Sank. I'm here to get a California driver's license, and..."

"Letter?" she interrupted.

"Excuse me?"

"WHERE IS THE LETTER WE SENT YOU?!"

"Um, I didn't get a letter."

"Well, do you have an appointment?"

"Yes. For 2:40 p.m."

She flipped wildly through a list on her desk before finally spotting my name. "You should have received a letter," she said, handing me my ticket. It read "C210."

I sat down to wait for my number to be called. Every 30 seconds or so, an automated woman's voice would announce: "Number A362. Please proceed to Window 23... Number G287. Please proceed to Window 18..." and so forth. But as the minutes ticked by, not a single "C number was called.

Finally, after 15 minutes or so, the voice said, "Number C140. Please proceed to Window 6."

I looked down at my ticket: C210. I glanced back up at the monitor: C140. It was then that I noticed the 97-year-old man taking an eye test at Window 23.

I marched back up to the appointment desk. The original woman had vanished, replaced by a co-worker.

"Excuse me," I said. "But I had a 2:40 appointment, and it's been 20 minutes, and the old man who came in right before me -- see, that guy over there moving closer to the eye chart -- he got to go to his window right away...."

"Let me see your ticket," she said. I handed it over. "OK, this is a non-appointment ticket. She should have given you an appointment ticket. Here you go." She handed me a new ticket. This one read I347.

I resumed my seat in the waiting area. It was now 3:05 p.m.

By 3:20, I had yet to hear a single "I" number called. Through the window to the parking lot I could see the 97-year-old man get into his beat-up old Chevy and turn the wrong way onto a one-way street.

I decided it was time to return to the appointment desk. The original woman, the one who had given me the wrong ticket, had returned.

"Excuse me," I said. "But you gave me a non-appointment ticket before, and I had an appointment, so while you were gone, I got a new ticket from the other lady. But I've been here 40 minutes now, and..."

"It hasn't been 40 minutes," she interrupted.

"Actually, it has. My appointment was for 2:40, and it's now 3:21."

"Well, I'm sorry, sir."

"It's OK, I just want to know if there's some way I could move up in the line, because they're not calling any 'I' numbers, and..."

"No, I'm sorry, sir. You'll have to wait your turn."

"But that's the problem," I explained. "My turn should have been 40 minutes ago, but you gave me the wrong ticket..."

"Yes, and I apologized, sir."

"And I accept your apology. But isn't there something you can do now to expedite my position in the line so that..."

"No, I'm sorry, sir."

We stared at each other for a few more seconds, our eyes locked like those of angry housecats, and then I returned to my seat.

A few moments later, the female automated voice sounded again: "Number I335. Please proceed to Window 32."

I checked the number again on my ticket: I347. Inside my head, I could hear a familiar voice screaming:

"THIS IS A TOTAL FUCK-UP!"

To be continued.

Homo pissed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

License to Drive (Part 1)

I know, I know. It's been forever. My lack of blogging hasn't been only due to sheer laziness and writer's block, though that's part of it. In truth, my day job got really crazy-busy at summer's end, and I didn't want to try and write something only to be interrupted every 30 seconds. Plus I've been doing a lot more comedy of late, which is a good thing... but means less time for everything else.

Speaking of which, I just got booked for my first road gig in ages. It's at a gay bar located in... wait for it... Yuma, Arizona! How does one get from San Diego to Yuma, I wondered. "It's easy," said fellow San Diego comic Joe Robinson, "go east on the 8.... then when you don't see any signs of civilization, you're there."

Some Wikipedia research has informed me that Yuma is one of the hottest places on earth, with an average July temperature of 107 degrees. I'll be sure to pack deodorant. Stay tuned.



Cue the Roadrunner and Wyle E.

As regular readers know, I was recently ticketed for failing to possess a California driver's license. I am now the proud owner of such a license, though barely so. Details to follow.

But first, apropos of nothing, and at no popular request, a recipe for making the world's most delicious low-carb confection: Adam's Hot Dog Omelet.

(WHAT?! That sounds positively disgusting! You're right -- and even more so when you hear the ingredients. But trust me: It's absolutely wonderful and totally satisfying.)

2 Extra Large Eggs
1 Frozen Hot Dog (Preferable High Quality Beef)
1/4 Cup Shredded Cheddar and/or Jack Cheese
1 Tablespoon Thick Teryaki Sauce (Preferably Kikoman Baste & Glaze)
2 Tablesppons Ranch Dressing
1 Pat of Butter
Cooking Spray

Combine eggs, teryaki and ranch dressing in a small bowl and beat until completely blended.

Spray a light coating of cooking spray onto a medium skillet, add butter and heat on medium-low just until butter is melted.

Add egg mixture to skillet and cover.

While egg cooks, microwave hot dog for two minutes or until it's sizzling hot and medium-brown. Remove from microwave and cut into tiny slices.

Check under lid periodically. After about four minutes, when egg begins to pucker on all sides, flip over using a large spatula. Sprinkle cheese and hot dog evenly over egg, replace lid, and turn heat off. (Skillet will remain hot.) After one more minute, when cheese is completely melted, remove lid, fold omelet in half, and voila!

You won't need to add any salt or pepper to this -- and I promise you you've never had a fluffier, tastier omelet. Let me know if and when you try it...

Leggo my Eggo!

OK, on to the driver's license story, beginning with a little adolescent flashback (because I know how you people love those):

The last time I took a driver's test was on my 17th birthday... more than 21 years ago. I don't remember the written part at all; I assume I breezed through it.

The behind-the-wheel test was a different thing altogether.

My family lived in Summit, but the closest DMV was in Springfield -- only about four miles away, but at the time, a different universe altogether. I had traveled to Springfield that day with my learner's permit and my over-21 sister, Anna, in our father's Datsun 280 ZX.

I wasn't accustomed to driving that car; the power of it sort of frightened me, as did the automated, female, Japanese-sounding voice that would suddenly yell things like, "Lights are on!" and "Right door is open!" (Remember those talking cars of the 80's? Talk about a useless innovation.)

The reason I was in the Z-car was that it had a hand brake. And Jersey DMV regulations stipulated that new drivers had to take their test in a vehicle that either had a hand brake or a brake pedal that was reachable by the instructor. My Jeep had neither.

Anna was in one of her famously foul moods. I had wanted to get some last-minute driving practice in on the way to Springfield, but she quickly vetoed that: "I'm driving. You drive like shit."

Talk about the pot calling the kettle shit!!!!


Isn't she lovely?


So there I was, behind the wheel of the Z-car, instructor beside me, ready for the moment I had been waiting for my entire teenage life: My driver's license... my freedom.

"Please start the car slowly," said the instructor.

I did so.

After rolling about five feet, he suddenly yanked the hand-brake. The car did not react one bit. Even the Japanese lady was silent.

"Stop the car," he said.

I did so.

"You cannot continue the driver's test in this car. The hand brake doesn't work."

I was horrified. "What happens now?" I asked.

"Now you find another car to take the test in within the next 15 minutes. Otherwise, you'll have to make an appointment for another day.

!!!

Panicked, tearful, I got out of the car and went to find Anna, who had fallen asleep on one of the benches in the DMV waiting area. "I don't know what the hell to do," she barked, angry that I had awoken her. "Call Mom."

No two word ever filled me such dread.

To be continued.

Homo hand-broken.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I, Rock Star


Curtain Call at the Dirtbag, Aug. 29, 2009.
Photo by Dawn Egan.

Homo grabbing crotch.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Enter Rhoda (Part 5 - The Finale - I Hope!)

There's a little device on the right-hand side of my blog page that lets me know how many readers are viewing it at any given moment. The number usually ranges anywhere from one to six, depending on how recently I've posted. At the moment, there are nine(!) people reading my blog, which is a rather high number given that I've posted no new material in over a week.

Who are you people, and where did you find me? I wish everyone would leave a comment now and then. It's hard to describe the satisfaction I derive from such feedback -- not unlike an old dog feels when you scratch him behind the ears. I just finished reading Julie Powell's "Julie & Julia" (as well as watching the excellent film adaptation this weekend). Powell is the first blogger I've read who really captures what it means to have strangers giving you their approval. It's kind of sad and narcissistic, but that's me, I guess (and Julie).


Marvelous Meryl.

Anyhoo, back to the car story. As usual, I hadn't intended it to drag on so long. And things actually got way more complicated after I bought the car, so I'm going to try and bullet-point it for you as best I can:

You'll recall we last left off with my storming out of the Lemon Grove Honda dealership in a huff, on my way to Bob Baker Toyota. I don't know who Bob Baker is -- I picture him as a doughy Evangelical type -- but he sure owns a lot of car dealerships. In the San Diego area alone, there's a Bob Baker Toyota, a Bob Baker Subaru, a Bob Baker Volkswagen and a Bob Baker Lexus, not to mention a Bob Baker Scion and a Bob Baker Chrysler. Bob is big. And on his Toyota lot that day were three '08 Yarises (Yarisae?), just as pretty as could be.

One had over 60,000 miles on it and smelled like stale syrup. Another was a beautiful sea-foam green color, had very low mileage and was by far the cheapest of the three -- but it was a stick shift.

I can drive a stick, a fact that seems to surprise people. I'm actually quite adept on the stick (insert joke here), and Rick, the salesman with whom I test-drove the green Yaris, actually complimented me on my down-shifting skills. But in the end (and after a phone call to my father, who offered advice based on his 60-odd years of driving), I decided a manual transmission is just not practical on the freeways of California.

That left Rhoda.

She was bright red -- Toyota calls it Barcelona Red Metallic -- and had 42,000 miles on her. This seemed like an awful lot of miles for an '08 car, and I pointedly asked Rick if the car had ever been a rental vehicle in her previous life. "Oh no," he assured me. "In fact, we'd have to post that on the car if it were." (And they do -- by law.)



¡Ay, que bonita!

I'll skip ahead, because you already know where this story is going: I bought Rhoda. The final out-the-door price, including the trade-in value for Carmen, was $12,500. A week later, Bob Baker Toyota mailed me my extended warranty, along with Rhoda's CarFax report, which I stupidly, stupidly, stupidly neglected to demand to see BEFORE driving off the lot. And of course, the report listed Rhoda's previous owner as rental car company in Nevada.

I think the Nevada part bothered me the most. I immediately pictured Rhoda gasping her way back and forth through Death Valley at the hands of countless reckless rental drivers. In any case, I was livid.

Not surprisingly, Salesman Rick had no recollection of my asking him about whether Rhoda had been a rental car. "Maybe we talked about it, maybe we didn't," was the most he would cop to. Shithead.

I took computer and hand and banged out one of my famous customer dissatisfaction letters. (Seriously, I'm great at writing these. I've gotten lots of after-the-fact hefty discounts over the years due to the strength of my pissy pen. Once, a Pottery Barn representative called me an asshole when she thought I was on hold. You can bet I got free delivery on my home entertainment cabinet that time.)

Marwan, the used car manager at Bob Baker, called me upon receipt of my letter. He sheepishly admitted that they had neglected to inform me of Rhoda's rental car past -- even on the vehicle disclosure history form -- but claimed it was an honest mistake. Yeah. Because used car salesmen are famous for their honest mistakes.

"What do you want us to do?" Marwan asked.

"I want $2,000 back on the car," I replied simply.

This brought a sinister chuckle from Marwan. "That's not going to happen. You might as well bring the car back. We'll give you your money back."

Then he added, as an extra kick in my stomach: "And your Passat, too."

Aw, hell no.

Marwan and I spoke on the phone about half a dozen times over the next two weeks. Some of these conversations bordered on pleasant; others ended in screaming and tears. Mine. Finally, when we had both exhausted each other, we agreed the only solution was for me to bring the car back for a full refund. And the Passat.

So this past Monday, I drove Rhoda back to Lemon Grove, the temperature hovering at a lovely 97, and met with Mario Lupinacci, General Sales Manager at Bob Baker Toyota.

To describe Mario as "smooth as custard" would be doing a disservice to custard; Mario was far smoother. He practically purred. He asked me about my move from New York, my comedy career , my day job, my family back home. By the end of our meeting, he was promising me he could get me booked to perform at his friend's restaurants in San Diego's Little Italy.

He also handed me a check for $1,200, and we parted the closest of friends.

And so, $1,200 richer and none the wiser, I climbed back into Rhoda -- my car at last -- and drove out of Lemon Grove for what I sincerely hoped would be the last time.

Homo loving Bob Baker Toyota.