That time my car got stolen.

I was telling Amelie recently about the time my car got stolen.

In the summer of 1998, I had been at UCF for about six months, and I was still driving a fairly new 1997 Honda Civic.  The ’97 Civic was my first new car ever.  All my previous cars were used, but I needed something super reliable to go to college because there was going to be a fair amount of driving back and forth from Orlando to South Florida.  (Kind of like now, actually.)

Not actually my car, but it basically looked like this.

The ’97 Civic hatchback was a deep metallic purple color, dubbed “Dark Amethyst Pearl” by Honda.  I was driving down to South Florida to attend the wedding of some friends.   A friend who was catching a ride with me back to South Florida had just returned my spare keys to me, for reasons I no longer recall.  Because we were driving back I tossed them in the glove compartment and forgot about them.

When we got back to South Florida, I dropped off my passenger and parked at my mother’s house in Boynton Beach.  I grabbed most of my stuff out of the car, but left a small bag containing a cigarette case full of clove cigarettes, some clothing including my 1994 Nine Inch Nails long-sleeved concert t-shirt (the one with “All the piggies all lined up” written down the sleeve.)  Also left in the hatch of the car was a bottle of mixed alcohol, called Mage’s Fire, which was supposed to be a wedding gift for my friends.

A quick word about Mage’s Fire-  it’s a mix drink that I learned about during my extremely-brief interaction with the Society For Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-enactment group.  Mage’s Fire is 25% vodka, 25% blue curacao, and 50% DeKuyper’s “Hot Damn” cinnamon schnapps.  Mage’s Fire is best aged at least six months because it blends together a bit more over time and becomes smoother.  It is sometimes referred to as the mouthwash of the gods.  People have a very polarized reaction to Mage’s Fire-  they either love it or hate it. I can’t stand the stuff, but I liked to mix it up and share it with people who enjoyed it.  But I digress.

I woke up the next day, to find that my car was not where I had left it.  This is a very disorienting thing, because normally cars don’t go wandering on their own after you park them.  I realized with a quiet dread that this was the one and only time I had ever left the car parked with keys inside.  I called the police, filed a report, and wondered what to do next.

After a little while, the police called-  my car had been found abandoned in a field, with the sprinklers on around it.  The people who stole it just took it for a joyride, and then left it there with the doors wide open.    I had to go to an impound lot and pay a fee to get back my car, which I felt was a huge injustice for someone who was the victim of a crime.

The aftermath was kind of anti-climactic.    There was dark greasy powder all over the center console and on the seats that I was never able to fully clean off.  The Mage’s Fire and smokes and good t-shirts were stolen from the back.  In their place, the joyriders had left a shiny silver club shirt and a dirty pair of overalls.  It seemed for all the world like my car had taken place in a hillbilly raver exchange program.  I wondered if they were thankful for the fancy moonshine and tobacco they found in the hatch. I also wonder if they would have stopped at petty theft if they hadn’t found keys in the glove compartment to start the engine. Damn it.

As I write this, nearly twenty-one years later, I honestly don’t remember whether or not they stole the stereo from the car.  Memory is a strange thing.

Have you ever had a car stolen?

Just after the Summer solstice, a post!

I’m borrowing this post idea from Bevchen.  I don’t usually do a lot of meme-inspired posts, but lately I haven’t been posting much at all.  So here’s the “What’s New With You” format…  here’s what I’ve been up to just lately.

Reading.  I haven’t had much time for the Kindle lately, but I did start Jen Bradley‘s novel “Virago,” along with  the fascinating “Cleaning Up The Kingdom, which is written by people who are former members of the Disneyland custodial staff.  Really interesting stuff here!

Watching.  Summer is upon us, which means there’s not as much new television to be seen.  I’ve nearly completed a re-watch of Star Trek: Enterprise, which I absolutely despised on the first run.  I find it considerably less revolting now, and I’m not sure what changed.     I’ve also nearly completed a re-watch of Leverage, which was a delightful and fun show that could easily have run another season without losing steam.

I also watched the first episode of the new Dangermouse, and it’s definitely got flavor of the original ones, even though some of the new voices completely take me out of the show.  The new Silas Greenback voice is particularly terrible.  I’m rather surprised they didn’t try to get Sir David Jason back… after all, he was the original voice of Dangermouse. (And Count Duckula!)  Maybe he wants to retire from acting, since he’s 76 now.

It’s also the summer movie season.  I haven’t had time to watch everything I want to see, but I can say that “Finding Dory” was exceptionally adorable, and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was super entertaining.  It was basically a two-hour live-action movie version of an episode of the 90s cartoon.

Fascinated by.  This news that the Earth has picked up a second moon.   Basically, an asteroid got caught in our gravity about a hundred years ago and it never managed to break free.   It’s tiny, about 150 feet by 300 feet, and it has a weird orbit.  It’s still technically a moon, though.    We have two moons!  Next up, Jedi Knights!

Cooking.  I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve been using the slow cooker for the occasional moist fall-apart-y chicken breast. (Amelie’s Salsa Chicken recipe:  Put a chicken breast in the slow cooker with mild salsa for a bunch of hours, then shred and eat with rice or something.  It’s super delicious!)

I’ve also been taking advantage of the meats that they sell which have already been prepped/seasoned/marinated-  Target sells a garlic and herb roast that is absolutely amazing after about six hours in the slow cooker.    I’ve also been making more easy-prep foods like spaghetti at home.  I want to eat out at restaurants less frequently, because I enjoy having money.

Exercising.  I’m still probably going to talk about exercise in more detail in another post down the line, but I’ve been trying to go to the gym several times a week.  When I lived in Germany, I walked most everywhere, lived upstairs, took the bus to work, and walked all over creation whenever I traveled.  My life in Florida is so much more sedentary, and I needed to get up and move.  So, the gym.  I just use the little gym at my apartment complex,  because paying for one that I would never drive to is just a waste of money.  I do some of the weight machines, some Couch-to-5K stuff on the treadmill, some time on the bike, and as little time  as possible on the Devil’s Elliptical.  I hate every second of it, but so far I keep going.

Buying.  Since I’ve been doing the gym stuff, I got myself a new Fitbit.   The Fitbit Charge HR is a wrist-worn step counter that also checks my heart-rate and tracks my sleep.  It’s great for being reassured that I am, in fact, terribly unhealthy and in need of drastic lifestyle change.

I also recently bought an install-it-yourself basic alarm system for my apartment, and the little SD card that activates the maps in my car.  The Mazda 3 model that I drive had the GPS built in already, and just needed the maps to activate the navigation.  There’s an SD card slot in the console.

Traveling. Not so much lately.  I did the Germany/Switzerland trip a little while back, but there’s nothing else on the near horizon, except a planned Disney trip in late August.  Orlando is only about a three hour drive from me, so I tend not to think of it as travel.

Thinking about: Speaking of Orlando, I won’t get into the Pulse nightclub shooting very much, except to say:   Orlando is my second home city (Regensburg is my third,) and some of the victims were friends of my friends.   I love Orlando, and I want to live there again some time in the future.  The attack was brutal and insane and it saddens me greatly.  It also makes me very angry.    I won’t say more about this, because the logical thread here gets into religion and politics, both of which are not topics I can be calm or cheerful about right now.

Listening to.  Mostly Pandora at work, but I’ve been working on an upbeat playlist called Jim Rhatt for the iPod while I’m on the aforementioned treadmill or Devil’s Elliptical.

Recent concerts with Amelie have included Florence + The Machine, Panic at the Disco, and Weezer.   The Cure is playing Miami early next week, but that’s the last show we’ve got tickets for until October (Sia) and November (the Pet Shop Boys.)

Regretting.  That my car has a manual transmission.    Almost all of the cars I’ve ever driven have had a stick shift, but this might be the last one before I go automatic.  I’ve always enjoyed driving manual because I feel like I have more control.   I’ve always preferred cars that were small and quick and maneuverable, like a White Star or the Millennium Falcon.  In fact, whenever I downshift in a turn, I feel kind of like Han pulling this lever, which is obviously the Falcon’s shifter:

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The problem with driving manual is that I live in South Florida again, and I spend most of my drive time on the highway, especially I-95.  This means there’s a lot of stop-and-go driving, and I spend a large percentage of my drive with my foot pushing the clutch all the way down while I coast along at eight or ten miles an hour.  It’s very annoying, and I often get out of the car with an ache in my clutch foot.

What’s your preference, automatic or stick?

Because Japan 2: Engrish, Safety, and Sweetness

Since I took nearly 2,500 photos during my five weeks in Japan, this is another post full of stuff that doesn’t really fit into my entries about specific places or events.

As a longstanding fan of Engrish, I thoroughly enjoyed a chance to see some wonderfully funny missed translations while I was in Japan.  Tokyo did not disappoint.

This is the very steak!  I regret that I did not have a chance to eat The Very Steak.

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I’m not sure if Meat Potato truly counts as Engrish, but it’s still a funny food descriptor.

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This restaurant in Otemachi was absolutely delicious, but their sign was chock full of poetic Engrish.

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I’ve learned since my departure that Drug-on Taco is actually a fairly popular chain of taco trucks.  Depending on the drug, I can see why that might be the case.

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That wraps up my Engrish examples.  Next up in this post is the magic that is the Japanese parking garage.     As you might imagine, space is at a premium in a city as crowded as Tokyo.  It’s no surprise then that the parking solutions here are fascinating and creative.

The first time I walked past one of these bays, I didn’t quite understand what I was looking at.

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What I learned later was that cars are returned to this front space in reverse, and the large disk is a giant turntable to rotate the cars so that they are facing forward for departure.

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Japan’s focus on safety is omnipresent, so it makes sense that they would not want drivers having to back into city traffic.   I would never get tired of the car turntable, because it reminds me of the way the Batcave always kept the Batmobile facing forward in the movies.  parking-50

This appears to be the back of the bay shown above.  The cars are kept in vertical racks, and I believe the car retrieval is automated.  I’m not entirely clear on that, however, because I never saw this in operation.

 

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I keep mentioning how Japan is very safety-conscious.  My first exposure to this was the very first time that I went to Akihabara with my colleage.  As we were walking out of the train station, we saw this worker staring at the building across the street.

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Across from her was a coned off area and signs to direct your attention upward.

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Above that sign, a single worker is washing lots and lots of windows.

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Those with acrophobia or poor balance need not apply.

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While walking home from the office at night, I would often see road construction being set up for the night.  The crews would dig up tremendous sections of the street and it would all be put back into place by morning.  At night, however, the safety gear came out in force.  The vest lights blinked in alternating patterns.

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Teams of safety workers would keep traffic moving around the dig site with their blinky vests and glowy flashlights.

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This man’s vest is not off.  It’s just on the off part of the blink cycle at the exact instant that I took the photograph.   safety-dance-12

Even the cones glow in the darkness!

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People doing work on the street in Japan often work in teams.  It takes two to ticket this parked vehicle.

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These two are really just there to make sure that you don’t get clobbered by falling debris from this tower.  There are always two!  safety-dance-142

Let’s move on to some sweets.  Japan is full of fascinating flavors.  Some of them are amazing, and some of them are not.  These green matcha tea flavored Oreos were not great.  I was optimistic when I saw the package, but the flavor was just not much fun.

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These tiny crunchy balls of chocolate joy were amazing, and I bought packets of them throughout my trip.  The outer shell is crunchy, and the inner part was a sort of creamy fudge.

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In the mood for ice cream?  7-11 has you covered, with these ingenious cone-shaped containers of single serve.

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The things on the left?  Too chewy, and I didn’t enjoy them at all.

The things on the right?  Green tea flavored Kit-Kats, which are amazing.  Kit-Kat has many fascinating flavors in Japan that are not available in other places.  I brought back a small sampling of strawberry flavored Kit-Kats, cheesecake flavored Kit-Kats, and even some Rum-Raisin.   The green tea flavor is the best one, though.  You can find this in the United States, at specialty shops.  Usually near the Pocky.

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Have you got a good idea for an end-of-post question?  I can’t think of one right now.

[Stone Cold Brunchin’] – Bat-breakfast At Waffleworks

Of all the meals, brunch is my favorite.  I never want to wake up early enough for a proper breakfast, and lunch is usually stuck in the middle of doing other things.  Brunch is a graceful compromise, however, and it never fails to cheer me up.  Plus, it’s yummy.

With that in mind, I’ve decided that some of my posts moving forward will be  tagged with [Stone Cold Brunchin’] in the subject line.  I’m not turning this into a food blog all the time, but I do love to share interesting breakfasty places.

This first one will be kind of shaky though.  I’m going to talk about the amusingly named Waffleworks in Hollywood, Florida.  However,  I didn’t know I was going to do this when I ate there, so I don’t actually have any pictures of the food.    I have only three photos from Waffleworks.

The first is of the receipt-  yes, the car on the receipt is a vintage Batmobile.  There’s a bunch of Batman memorabilia from the Adam West/Burt Ward years on the walls, and I’m a little miffed that I didn’t get any pictures of that.  The Waffleworks site has a gallery of newspaper clippings with photos of some of it, though.

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The owner is a collector of scale model cars, and they adorn the walls of the entire place in lucite racks.  You can see a few of them in this photograph.  You could easily spend an hour or two just studying the walls.

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Oh, and the Batman stuff isn’t limited to the walls-  this is the door to the bathrooms.  I found this to be extremely amusing.

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Oh yeah, and the food was pretty decent also.

Waffleworks can be found at:

3265 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, FL 33021
954-963-9161
Open 7am-3pm every day.

What You Own

On the rainy Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I spent a long chunk of time  in the parking lot of a storage facility.  I was waiting for the delivery of my stuff from Germany.

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I shipped eleven boxes of stuff to Regensburg in November of 2011, and brought back eleven boxes and a carpet.  I have no earthly idea how I managed to keep the number of boxes the same, because quite a few things were bought and sold in those three years.

Yesterday, I moved all the stuff I had stashed in my brother’s storage unit into a second storage unit which contained my shipment of stuff from Germany.  Once I was done combining all the stuff into one storage unit, I had a good look at what was there.  This photograph shows everything I own, save for a small closet’s worth of clothing, my laptop, a coffee table and mirror still at my brother’s house, and my car.

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Everything I own, aside from the car, can be placed into a five by ten foot storage unit, with room to spare.   It seems a little light, doesn’t it?

The old me, the version of Steven who existed before living in Germany for a few years, would have lamented that it seems like I haven’t accomplished anything.   I even wrote about packing and storing my belongings in an introspective post just two years ago.  Now that I’m back to staying in my brother’s spare bedroom, it’s going to be at least another two months before I’m ready to snag an apartment of my own.  For now, the majority of my stuff will remain in that storage unit.  Old Steven would actually be kind of depressed at the situation.

That was then, and this is now.  In the last three years, I visited 23 countries I had never visited.   I made friends all over Germany.  I may not have collected much in the way of personal belongings, but the experiences I’ve collected are irreplaceable, even if my terrible memory means that I will have to re-read my blog to see just what I’ve accomplished.   Today is my 42nd birthday,  and starting right now my repatriated life is basically a do-over.  I bought a new car nine days ago.   I finally have all of my belongings in (more or less) one place, even if I can’t pull them out of storage just yet.  I’ve got a stunning new (but not really new) girlfriend.  In another two or three months, I’ll be ready to get a new apartment and start filling it with stuff.  (I’ll need a bed, a desk, and an internet connection.  Everything else is negotiable.)  Forty-two is gonna rock.

Since it’s my birthday, I reserve the right to fill the rest of this post with random stuff from my recent comings and goings.  First up, my Thanksgiving dinner plate.  I’m not sure why everyone takes pictures of their Turkey-day plates, but I’m no outlier here.  Clockwise from the upper left, it’s turkey, yams and marshmallows, cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and some stuffing in the center.  Yes, that’s the cranberry from the can.  Shut up, I love it that way.  I even love the little can-shaped ridges that show up in the sides of the cylinder of cranberry.

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I’ll go for the bonus points here, and also show you my dessert plate.  On the top row, there’s a chocolate and cream cheese brownie which is more cream-cheese than chocolate, “twisted and evil.”   Next up is a tiny pecan pie.  A pie-lette, even.   And on the bottom is a slice (and I use that term loosely) of chocolate pudding pie, a family tradition.  There was also pumpkin pie, but I can have that almost any time.

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I mentioned the new car in the last post, but I didn’t have a proper picture of it yet.  Here’s one, taken in my dad’s driveway.  His driveway gives good photo-angle.  You still can’t see the pretty blue color of the car though; that only seems to show up in photographs when it’s raining or overcast.

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While we’re on the subject of the car, I took a photograph at a specific mileage because a) I’m twelve years old, and b) I knew many of my friends would also be amused.  (Cara, I’m lookin’ at you here.)

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That car was a birthday gift from me to me.  My niece is turning four this weekend, and I bought her some Bavarian bears before I left Germany.  I’m glad my shipment arrived in time.

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Moving on with more randomness,  I’m utterly fascinated by the things people decorate their houses with in South Florida.  Amelie were walking through the neighborhood the other day, and we stumbled across a house where the owner was proudly flying an FSU 2013 Champs flag, and had decorated their tiny front lawn beneath the flagpole with… well, it’s better if I just show you.

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On that same walk, we attempted to photograph a very friendly cat.  As you might expect, this was the outcome:

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I’ll leave you with this video of the Turkey-day fire on my sister and brother-in-law’s patio, as observed by someone who just figured out that his phone has a cool slow-motion mode.  Check it out!

How was your Thanksgiving?  Did you film anything in slow motion?