Russ Ringsak


September 15, 2010

It's not that difficult to rip a mudflap off your semi tractor. No five guys could do it with their bare hands, but from the driver's seat you can back slowly into, let's say, a portable metal sign. One standing invisible behind you as you carefully jackknife the trailer into the only open slot in the whole truck lot. You feel a slight yank back there and hit the brake immediately. And you are always a fraction late.

It's in the blind spot of your rightside mirror. You hop down, mouth full of blasphemies. Go around to the passenger's side and there it is, torn off, crammed against the bent sign. You curse something like goshdangitanyway fudge sonofagun shoot heck godblessmymother.

The way this happens is that, backing up, the tire pins the sign down and then pinches the mudflap tight to it. A smidge further back pulls the mudflap straight down and the four bolts holding it rip right through the top. Truck does this easy as pulling a page off a little notepad.

Mudflaps are thick and stiff and heavy so they won't wave in the breeze back there like a pair of diapers, and of course they take more punishment than diapers. Salt, rocks, gravel, road gunk, glass and cans. All that road crud.

With the top shredded like that you have no choice but to get a new one. When you see mismatched mudflaps that's usually what happened. An errant backup. I bought a new one and thought I'd install it myself. Save a little money and cover my blunder.

Even a fix as simple as this renews one's respect for mechanics. The flaps are rubber reinforced with fiberglass, tough like elephant hide. They come extra long (to allow for high mounts or oversized tires) and on the ones with the cool truck insignia you want to trim off the top. I do that, not that easy, and hack in four holes for the bolts with a boxcutter and then spread the chromed bracket open to receive the flap and the red reflector strip that goes up in there with it. The bracket's been squeezed tight on the previous flap and it's cratered inward around the bolts. It doesn't want to open. Job takes me most of an afternoon.

A real mechanic would have done it in 20 minutes.

Russ Ringsak

* * * *

Recent news carried an airline flap about a 21-year-old woman with the impossibly cool name of Tiffany Livingston, who was variously referred to as the "Panicked woman tackled by passengers onboard JetBlue flight" and the "Playboy Centerfold Who 'Tried To Open Plane Door' During Flight." This according New York tv news on September 10.

The plane hit turbulence and she suddenly "bolted from her seat and tried to open the door of the plane." She was stopped by "two off-duty police officers." A source told the NY Post that "She said she's gone through this before, but never this bad, and didn't have.... her medication." She was detained but not charged. Another account said she had been tossed against the door and had grabbed the handle just because it was there.

Her profile in the Singapore version of Playboy said she had earlier posted: "I'm the kind of person who needs to feel like everything happens for a reason. When you date a guy and it goes badly, that's horrible. But if you can write a song about it, then it was worth it."

If she writes a song about this episode some likely titles have already been taken: One Way Out, Come Fly With Me, Hard Traveling, My Way, Movin' On, Down Down Down, Free Bird, Here I Go Again, Fly Away, Free Falling, Hit The Road Jack, End Of The Line. I humbly offer I Am Outa Here.

This happened on Flight 552 from Fort Myers Florida to NYC. Is it just me or does JetBlue carry more interesting passengers up and down the Eastern Seaboard than Delta and Northwest shuttle out here in the Midwest?

* * * *

"Congress May Leave Town A Week Early," spake a recent headline. This is not exactly a flap. In fact I thought it the first good news I'd seen in a while.

About a third of big lottery winners are broke within five years and one gets the feeling that being elected to the federal congress triggers the same spending urges that bring lottery winners down. So it's actually comforting, at least to some of us, when they leave town.

Another banner caught my eye, this from CNBC: "Outlook Gloomy At Secret Billionaires Meeting." This may or may not be an accurate indicator of where things are going. It's a couple of luncheons on Long Island held by Byron Wien of the Blackstone Group; fifty individuals including "more than 10" billionaires showed up. The gist of the piece is that they aren't real optimistic.

Friends get worked up when they see big luxury boats out there on the St Croix River but I'm not one to bash the wealthy. They provide amusement for the idle poor and supply politicians with both whipping boys and contributors. Not to mention jobs for boat builders and bartenders. People visualize the rich with huge vaults full of cash and precious gems, all taken out of circulation where the common folk can't touch it. Seems to me the opposite: their so-called greed builds stuff and puts citizens to work. Keeps the circulation active. I don't hang out with them because I'm not invited, but I'm glad we have 'em around.

* * * *

Once the numbers get huge we sort of glaze over and a trillion doesn't seem all that different from a billion or a million. So here's a bit of stiff reality: There are 86,400 seconds in a day. Your next million seconds will get you through 13 days. A billion gets you 31 years. Your next trillion seconds, however, will take your bones 31,688 years into the future; longer than modern humans have existed on Earth. If they found a Neanderthal from 29,678 B.C. with a real good stopwatch it would just now be getting to a trillion seconds.

Another example: If you could buy stars in the sky for $500 million each — that's $500,000,000 apiece — and you had a trillion dollars, on a clear summer night you could stand on your roof and buy every single star you could see out there, from the brightest blaze to the faintest little glimmer. Buy the whole Milky Way and all the rest of your visible universe, all for a trillion dollars.

The national debt now stands at more than 13 times that trillion and is growing by nearly 5 million dollars per second. So reads the U.S. Debt Clock. Right now it's at $121,123 per taxpayer.

It's hard to write about. I'll just drop it. Can't be going to words like madness and irresponsibility. They sound like rash accusations, until set alongside $13,000,000,000,000.00 worth of debt. The national unfunded liabilites come to $110 trillion(!). So what in the heck are they thinking?

* * * *

Here's a small flap about a tab, from the NY Post, this from Sep 10, 2010, by Dareh Gregorian: "A Long Island regular of New York's Penthouse Executive Club stiffed the strip club on a $46,000 tab, according court papers filed Thursday."

The court papers said the guy ran a tab from May 29, 2008, through December 4, 2009. "...Executive Club provided entertainment services, food and beverages to (Mr C.) and/or guests of (Mr C.) which were charged" to his account, and now total $46,698.18.

"They said they demanded payment from him 'on numerous occasions' and ... he has refused to pay up," said the article.

"(Mr C.), of Oyster Bay, could not immediately be reached for comment."

Maybe he has left town a week early, thought I. The Post gave his full name but we decided not to. And this is the second mention of a gentlemen's magazine here and I haven't picked up one of those in fifteen years. I'm hoping this vague reference isn't considered a dirty old man thing.

But a mere 46 thousand bucks kind of sounds like chump change, doesn't it? Not much chance of a smalltimer like that getting elected to congress.

* * * *

A celebrity BBC TV chef named M. Blunos has created what they grandly claim is the world's most expensive cheese sandwich. Sitting in three slices of pricey sourdough bread is a special white truffle cheese along with some farmhouse cheddar, sliced quail's egg, black tomato, epicure apple, fresh figs, pea shoots and red amaranth; they are lubed with extra virgin olive oil and 100-year-old balsamic vinegar. There are also dainty mustard red frills in there and the whole pile is sprinkled with edible gold dust, called E175. Priced at $172.45 (110 British pounds) it is a sandwich with no meat but with a mission, which of course is to get dummies like myself to get all riled up about wretched excess in tough times.

But it's not working at this desk. I am unflappable about what anyone puts into a sandwich or what they charge for it. The old Beef Commercial, the open face roast beef and gravy on plain bread, is about as high tone as most truckers care about anyway. Some of the younger ones go for the hoagies.

But the piece from the UK Daily Mail Online did generate at least 217 comments. John Ford of Watford wrote: "As the Irish say, It is a sin to allow a fool to keep his money." Dutra, of Leeds, commented: "I would toss that under the table to my hound." A few pointed out that a good English country cheddar would overpower the white truffle cheese. Some said the celebrity chef was a con artist. Some took the high road and mentioned starving children relative to gold dust in one's sandwich. Others commented on the chef's ponytail.

I, happily, have no comment at all.

Except maybe . . . well, that ponytail . . . it does sort of remind a person of a mudflap . . .

* * * *

© R.Ringsak 2010

(a.k.a. russring at visi dot com)

Russ Ringsak

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