Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Alberto Who?

Tropical Storm Alberto was due to hit the Florida coast yesterday, and it dominated our local weather forecast. We’re close enough here in Western North Carolina, that Storms in the Gulf of Mexico can effect our weather. Some places near here are still cleaning up from hurricanes in September, 2004.

The morning weatherman on our local channel is not a meteorologist. He’s a man about my age who has lived in these mountains all his life and has been a local TV personality forever.

His primary job at the station is to do outdoor reports every Friday at the end of the 6 o’clock newscast, and they are quite interesting. He hikes to area waterfalls, goes fly fishing in local streams and highlights the region’s natural beauty.

Yesterday morning however, he fucked up! He showed the weather map that featured the entire southeast, with that big, red storm symbol floating near Florida’s west coast. He must have been thinking about lunch at his favorite Italian restaurant, because when he began talking about the storm, he hesitated.

“Tropical Storm…uh…Alfredo is moving toward Florida this morning,” he stammered. He continued with the forecast as if nothing had happened, but we knew that he knew what he had done. He never corrected his mistake, or even mentioned it again.

This morning when he talked about Alberto crossing Florida, he simply referred to it as “that tropical storm.”

Way to go Bob.



Monday, June 12, 2006

Laredo II

Ah, yes. Laredo, Texas – the Garden Spot of absolutely nowhere. Laredo sits on the Mexican/US border. Not near the border – on the border. In fact, one wrong turn in Laredo, Texas and you’re on the International Bridge heading for Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

I’ve never been across the border, but other drivers have related their experiences. Nuevo Laredo features a section of the city called Boy’s Town. It’s nothing like Father Flannigan’s version. This one is all bars, strip clubs and hookers. Yeah, it’s a cultural center.

My first trainer, Tony, told me a story about his first trip to Laredo, TX. Quite naturally, he got lost. He went to a convenience store to ask directions, but the clerk spoke no English. A younger man came out of the store’s back room and, in excellent English, gave Tony directions to his drop.

As Tony thanked him and headed for the door, the younger man said, “Next time speak Spanish.”

Tony’s classic reply was, “When did they move the fucking river?”
I never got out of Laredo in less than 2 days. The worst was a 4 day wait during which I sat and observed my surroundings – a dusty parking lot filled with empty trucks waiting for loads.

I watched an empty Styrofoam coffee cup blow across the parking lot. Because of its tapered shape, and the fact that one end is open, the path it took across the gravel was a sight to behold. It flipped, pirouetted, spun and scooted as the wind and air currents caught first one end, then the other.

At times it would be sideways to the wind, so that it’s tapered shape caused it to spin in circles. Because of the unpredictable nature of wind, the cup would start and stop at irregular intervals, reminding me of a bird scurrying across the lot looking for food.

This diversion continued for about 15 minutes. Then, during one of the lulls in wind power, the cup stopped and was crushed by a passing truck. Now that it was flattened and had no sides to act as sails, the once dancing and whirling dervish was inert. It was just another piece of trash on the landscape of life.

Yeah, that’s how bored I was.

More to come on Laredo.



Friday, June 09, 2006

"W" is a Dunce

Did anyone else notice this?

When “W” held his press conference yesterday morning to announce that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been killed, he never mentioned al-Zarqawi’s first two names?

Knowing Bush, I’m sure that he could not pronounce either one of them. But the thing that confirmed to me the fact that he is a complete idiot is that when he referred to al-Zarqawi, he made it sound like he thought his first name was Al.

You know – like Al Gore.

And this man is leader of the “free” world?



Friday, June 02, 2006

Laredo I

Laredo, Texas, has to be one of the most fucked up places I was ever sent as a truck driver. And I was there a lot.

My initial trip to Laredo was with my first trainer, Tony. We dropped a load going to Mexico, and then sat at our terminal there for about 3 days. I was to discover that this was not an unusual occurrence. It seems, even with NAFTA, that there is more freight going into Mexico than there is coming out.

We never delivered across the border. We would drop international loads at our drop yard and Mexican drivers picked up and delivered them. They also brought freight out of Mexico, dropped them at our yard and we took them north.

Occasionally, we would get deliveries to brokers in Laredo. The load would be delivered to their warehouse in town and they would handle breaking it down and shipping it across the border.

On one such load, I was given a street address in Laredo, along with instructions to be there at 8 am. I spent the night before the drop at our Laredo yard and headed out at 7 o’clock for the 15 minute drive to their location.
At 7:45, I was still looking for their address and the name of the company. There were no street numbers and all the company names were in Spanish. I eventually found a local who was bilingual and located the right warehouse. Of course the damn gate was still locked.

I messaged my dispatcher with the news that it was 8:30, my delivery was scheduled for 8, and there was no one home. His reply was simply, “Remember where you are.” It reminded me of a line from an old Tom Waites song – “No one speaks English and everything’s broken.”

At about 9:15 two men arrived, opened the gate, told me where to drop my trailer and pointed me toward the office. Of course, it was empty.

Around 9:45, a woman parked in the yard and entered the office. I followed her in with my paperwork. “Oh, no – not me,” she said. Pointing at another office she said in broken English, “Down there. They be in about 10.”

So, by 10:30 I had my paperwork signed and was on my way to our drop yard, hoping to get a load going north.

More on Laredo soon. It’s a treasure-trove of stories.



Thursday, June 01, 2006

Not Just Sitting

I’ve been reading a lot lately, because it’s hard to do many things around the house with a left elbow that doesn’t work well and a broken right wrist. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just sit.

I’m in charge of making the bed every morning, washing dishes, walking the dog twice a day, cooking dinner several times a week and other “light-duty” household chores. We had new vinyl installed in one of our bathrooms last week and I attempted to put in the trim myself; cutting baseboard and quarter-round to finish it off. That turned out less than perfect. Maybe next week.

But, I can still read.

My taste in literature normally runs toward Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker and Jonathan Kellerman. I’ve read all of Parker and Kellerman’s books except for the most recent, and those are still harder than hell to get at the library. I’ve also read everything our local library has by Leonard. What to do, what to do? I expanded my horizons.

Recently I was surfing around on TV, and saw a movie listed that looked interesting. It was adapted from a John Grisham novel about an inexperienced young southern lawyer faced with the daunting task of defending a black man accused of murder. To top it all off, there were witnesses to the act, and he actually admitted doing it. It was a very good film and I decided to search the library stacks for more of his work. I’ve now read several, and have yet to be disappointed.

I visited my daughter about a month ago and during the day while she and her husband were at work I scanned their book shelves for something interesting to read. What I came up with was a Tom Clancey novel called Debt of Honor. It envisiones a war with Japan; an economic conflict that escalates into limited physical battles.

The son-of-a-bitch was 990 fucking pages long. The first 300 or so pages taught me everything I needed to know about Wall Street and the intricacies of stock trading, this country’s State Department, and the operation of our military branches. I hate to admit it, but I started reading the first sentence of each paragraph and skipping the rest. While it did contribute to the story-line, it was boring as hell.

At about page 350, the pace started to pick up. To make a very long story short, I finished the book today – and what a fucking ending!

The book was first published in 1994, and ends with a 747 jet being flown into the Capitol Building in Washington. Shades of 9/11, but written a full 7 years before that horrendous event.

Is Clancey clairvoyant?