5-26-2008 The automotive Rapture

I don‘t want to suggest that I’m some sort of automotive bigot, but most cars look alike to me. Is that a Mazda? A High-un-day? A Die-woo? That’s a Chevy? Really? How can you tell? By the rice stains on the end of the exhaust pipe?

Gone are the hemi engines, the Super Cudas and the reverse Cragers. Gone is the steal, the chrome and the engine compartments cavernous enough to raise a family of five in. No more Hurst four-speeds. No more bald-looking tires sticking a half foot out from within the wheel well. And no more shackles on the ass-end. Nope. These days, the cars designed and manufactured in this country look as if the original inspiration for them came from Woody Allen’s “Sleeper.” All too often, they look like AMC Pacers, only sleeker and much more effeminate-looking.

I’ve stood next to muscle cars who’s idling engines caused buildings to lose small pieces of their facades. I was once in a ‘67 Chevelle SS that went from zero-to-sixty fast enough to violently eject the Craig cassette player right out of the dashboard and on to the seat. One time I was in a Rocket 88 armed with one of those nitro-injection kits, or whatever they used to call them. No license, no registration and no insurance. Didn‘t matter, though. Because when a police car pulled out behind this rusted old bucket and the nitro was engaged, you instantly knew what all astronauts know about the terrifyingly exhilarating seconds immediately following a successful liftoff. And without seat belts, no less. Whew!!!

Nope, these days, automobiles have the testosterone levels of a henpecked husband, the character and style of a luge, and the sex appeal of a militant feminist. Mind you, I’m not complaining. Just stating the obvious. And I have to crack up when “modern” women equate some guy’s big monster truck, or his muscle-bound throwback to the old days as some sort of replacement for what he lacks under the denim hood with the zipper attached. Imagine that. Being criticized for tooling together something that doesn’t completely suck?

Doesn’t matter. Feminized women won’t lay off until all of the men think and behave as they do…like girls. Case in point, Steve Rodham Corbett, the henpecked tough guy. And when they finally realize that lofty goal of theirs, they’ll then criticize us for being too sissified. Whether they know it or not, most heterosexual women think and act like lesbians, in that, they want a man that could pass as a woman on most days. Perhaps Dr. Foglietta can walk us through all of the corresponding psychobabble and the like. But I digress.

We’ve known for thereabout 20 years that gigantic Sport Utility Vehicles were rolling proof that the great majority of Americans are self-centered to the point of repugnancy. Face it, we could care less. We want it, we want it big and loud and crass, and we do not care how many of those “people over there” are starving while fighting for the half-eaten scraps. We want what we want, damn the torpedoes, and that god-damned president of ours had better continue to deliver gasoline far cheaper than can be reasonably expected in perpetuity. Feeling stupid yet? No? You should be.

We’ve been lectured to for years now about our wasteful ways. Some have even fought to have SUVs banned, made more fuel-efficient or scaled down altogether. And all to no avail. Despite that growing undercurrent, some SUVs have grown larger than the meteorites that can supposedly snuff-out life on this planet as we know it. And nobody seemed to care, save for the neurotic folks who continually wring their hands at the thought of darn near everything not featured in Mother Earth News.

But now the not-so-proverbial sh*t has hit the fan. At the moment, we equate a trip to the gas station with having a root canal/heart surgery performed, and without the laughing gas. Yep, it’s getting to the point where the TV game shows are going to nix the all expenses paid trips to Cancun as prizes, and start offering a weeks supply of gasoline as the grand prize. While gasoline is not yet a scarce community, it sure has become an expensive commodity. And too much so.

So, now the Mother Earth crowd finally has it’s dream of dreams coming true. Americans are shunning the hulking SUVs in droves, and in favor of the sexed-up AMC Pacers, which are purported to be able to go from here to the moon and back on a single gallon of fuel squeezed from lemon peels and the direct byproducts of a taco-eating contest. Yes, for the purposes of stretching a greatly devalued buck, Americans have been all but forced to go small and effeminate.

If we want to keep our satellite dishes, our 400-inch televisions, our central air, our in-ground pools, our landscapers, our garishly huge ATVs, our in-car GPS, our Onstar emergency gadgets, our palm-sized texting devices and our appointments to have our sagging asses restored to what they were before gravity savaged them, the gas-guzzlers must go the way of the dinosaurs.

And the way I see it, they’re not coming back. They’re not coming back because our party-first, country second politicians can’t even be honest enough to identify the true source of the fuel crunch problem. One side says it’s a supply versus demand reality. And the other says it’s the shameful work of some of this country’s largest employers and largest contributors to the bottomless tax vault, the dreaded Big Oil. There is no unity, no solidarity of purpose for the sake of national security. No, there is only political wrangling of the most debilitating, possibly, the most devastating sort. One says we need a clear strategy and immediate action. The other says we need to inflict further punitive taxation upon companies already paying the second-highest corporate tax rates in the world. One sounds right. One sounds ridiculous.

Long story short, enjoy your new rice burner. Or your lemon peel burner. Your weed/electric-powered hydrogen whatchamacallit. Your flatulence-powered hybrid thingamabob. Your Schwinn. Whatever it may be. And get used to it. Oh, yeah. And tell your kids not to hit it with a half-inflated beach ball, because to do so would probably result in $2,000 worth of damage to it’s carbon fiber and plastic exoskeleton held together by cellulose extracted from bio-engineered bamboo.

Welcome to the automotive Rapture.

Now, since we’re rapidly switching to vehicles not capable of transporting even my collection of Archie’s bubblegum comics with room to spare, we need to cover some of this feel-good regulation that only added fuel to the wasteful fire here in the United States. Here goes nothing.

You know the deal about being over regulated. Think about it. The bike helmet laws that go wholly ignored and wholly un-enforced. Your kid under 12-years-old has to wear a bike helmet while operating a bicycle. It was passed and has been largely less successful in achieving it’s stated goal than was prohibition legislation. Be honest, your kids don’t don the helmets, even though they are required to by law. You know it, I know it, the legislators that passed the laws know it, the police know it.

But it doesn’t really matter until your kid rolls his bike and splits his fat head in two. And at that point, you will be hauled off in handcuffs and made an example of. In other words, you will then be labeled as a bad parent for all to see and mock. And even though you did exactly as all of the other parents did--ignore the feel-good, completely unnecessary law--you will be in a world of legal hurt.

You see, it doesn’t really matter if we all know deep-down that the feel-good legislation was interloping nonsense in the first place. It was “for the children” and none of us had balls enough to vehemently object to it’s expedited passing. So, otherwise good parents become criminals. The perpetual hand-wringers pat themselves on their backs, and, in retrospect, the manufacturers of arguably-ineffective bicycle helmets see that one-time campaign contribution they made as an ultra-smart expenditure. Or, as some of us might say, it’s all a bunch of complete “for the children” bullsh*t.

All of which leads me to feel-good legislation that lead directly to average Americans, working families, needing bigger and bigger and bigger vehicles in which to transport their growing families. Namely, their babies and their toddlers.

I’m not completely up to date on the latest intricacies of the fast-changing laws, but the long and short of it is that your “child” has to be fastened into a child seat until they’re…I dunno, 14-years-old? Or, perhaps, until they are taller than the you-must-be-this-tall sign at the entrance of the Super Duper Looper? A child seat that is oftentimes far-safer than the seats our shuttle astronauts are belted into before being launched into space atop some of the largest Roman candles ever conceived of.

Yeah, I know. It’s for the safety of the children…blah, blah effing-blah. So, traveling three times the posted speed limit is safe, so long as your kid is strapped into a plastic and cloth cocoon? Blowing the stop sign, ignoring the yield and two-lane passes are safe and acceptable, provided that Junior is embedded deep into that most cheesy of cheesy, oft-recalled plastic imports? Excuse my temerity, but I think the lot of you, average folks and legislators alike, have this entire thing ass-backwards.

You drive like your at Talladega and trying to get back on the lead lap, and then you lie to yourself by thinking your kid is safe because he’s got some Chinese import wrapped around him? Sorry, but that’s sophistry of thought. That’s hoping a piece of plastic will make up for your bad habits when you’re treated to a self-induced vehicle rollover. If you were honestly concerned about your kid’s safety, you would be driving much like a sane person would. If you were truly concerned about your kid’s safety, you would be acting, er, driving accordingly. But you’re not, are you?

Here’s the part of this child seat nonsense that makes it virtually impossible for some to do away with the SUVs that less than thought-out “legislative triumphs” all but forced them to buy.

My daughter down Tennessee way owns a Mazda. I don’t know what kind. It looks like a Chevy, sounds like a rice burner and has this Mazda nametag firmly attached to it. Let’s just call it a Mazda Smallota. It’s a good, little car. You know, it runs when it‘s asked to. Most importantly, it’s fuel-efficient.

Well, that is, far more fuel-efficient than what those Soccer moms are trying to kill themselves, their kids and just everybody else with. It’s small, it runs, and if everybody was driving a Mazda Smallota and somewhat sanely, we wouldn’t be trying to substitute fermented fecal matter, vegetable skins or recycled child seats for gasoline. It is what the environmentalists and the closet communists have been demanding that we drive all along, glorified, Orientalized Matchboxes with decent FM antennas imported from Guam and just enough legroom to comfortably fit an immature colony of Citronella ants.

But, when she packs up something approximating three-quarters of her family and heads for this smallish adobe, the Smallota has it’s drawbacks bordering on hefty challenges. Having two small children, the entirety of the back seat of the Smallota is gobbled up by the two child seats she is mandated, by law, to employ. So, the pooch takes the front passenger seat, her smallish bags are packed in to the trunk and the trunk is then forced shut after someone jumps off a roof, lands smack dab in the center of it and forces it shut. That’s the reality of having a small, fuel-efficient car, two small children and two child safety seats large enough to protect an astronaut hurdling through time and space.

So, I ask you, and I ask our most dimwitted of all-knowing legislators, what should she do if a third child suddenly ups and kills an unsuspecting rabbit? For the purposes of visiting us, should she then strap that third child seat on top of the roof? Should she use it like a hood ornament? Or should she put that third child seat in the right front passenger seat and risk infuriating animal lovers by tying the dog to the back bumper? Or risk being pulled over by a state trooper for illegally putting her child and it’s oh-so-effing-safe child seat in the ultra dangerous front seat? Oh, I know. Since she’s white and diversity is most-important, perhaps she should get an abortion.

You tell me. If a third child ups and makes a sudden emergence, what options does she have available to her? Come on, say it. I promise, it won’t hurt. With gasoline prices topping out at $4 a gallon and on it‘s way even higher, it’s practically environmental heresy, but say it anyway. Are we ready for this? Okay, here we go…

Thanks to the short-sighted, counterproductive and counterintuitive laws currently on the books, she needs a larger vehicle!!! There, we said it!

So as to not be put in prison for the rest of her life if something goes horribly wrong on the highways, she needs a larger vehicle!!!

Calm down. Yo! Calm down. Provided that no one heard you say such a completely ludicrous and politically incorrect thing, you’ll be all right. I mean, think about it, it’s not like people are being stoned to death for bucking the prevailing wisdom, right? Well, at least, not in this flailing country. Well, at least, not yet. But stay tuned on all of that. Think of it as a coming attraction, since the left-leaning are becoming so increasingly intolerant of those bucking the prevailing nonsensical non-wisdom.

Seriously, if our legislators must persist in passing feel-good legislation making it just about impossible to transport a growing family legally and economically, what’s that growing family to do? Stay home? Never visit their loved ones ever again? E-mails in lieu of hugs? I know it, you know it…they need a larger vehicle. And I shudder to say it, but, what they need is a gas-guzzling SUV. A big one. Well, that’s assuming that they’ll be able to afford one after the closet socialists, I mean, the Democrats inflict their hellacious and frightening and scattershot national health care program on the lot of us hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying chumps. You got it, the few…the proud…the rapidly diminishing producers of tangible results.

The way I see it, our incremental loss of freedoms directly led to this most unforeseeable of dilemmas. If our legislators would stop telling us what we have to do during the course of our busy lives, we’d all have what we always had, five kids stuffed uncomfortably in the back seat of the car. But, no. They mandated that our children needed to be saved from us, by them, so now we need vehicles large enough to tow a rocket sled just to transport two toddlers from Point A to Point B.

Meanwhile, sans the much-needed sanity that would be a bipartisan, coherent and doable energy policy, we need veritable monster trucks we can ill-afford to operate just to comply with the law.

With that said, I think you should be mandated by law to wear a helmet while showering. Wouldn’t want to fall and fracture a skull, would we? Call your legislator, dumb as they are, and getting dumber with each passing moment.

From the e-mail inbox Marc: Re my "low opinion of law enforcement types."...There you go again, shooting from the hip. It's as if you didn't even read the letter. Like people who don't listen when somebody is talking to them; their cortical folds are visibly straining for some pre-digested and embalmed repartee, something we are all guilty of from time to time.

You're a bright scribbler with many talents, but, alas, objective textual analysis is not (yet) one of them. The whole thrust of my letter is precisely my huge respect for law enforcement and community safety. [Chief Larry Semenza and Captain Jamie Krenitsky of the OFPD are friends of mine; they know that].

How you could have reached the opposite conclusion is a matter best left to specialists in semiotics and literary deconstruction, subjects well beyond the range of this meager polemic....I know that you would vehemently disagree, but I think you still have some separation anxiety issues. You worry when the mayor snubs you. You're tight with police. At times you don't want to "offend", etc. These things are not worthy of a true journalistic artist, whose only concern is the Truth.

Ultimately you must stand alone. Emotional attachments are detriments. You must move on, friend, we are not children anymore. [Even the Buddha left his wife and kids at age 30]. You must become hard. I don't have a so-called "friend" in the world. My family has even disowned me. Over time though you find that it's a relief. You must create distance between you and your "loved ones." I have come to believe that all "friendship" and familial piety is bogus anyway. The only realities are sex and self-serving transactions. We are all very nasty animals under that thin veneer of "civilization." Even Jesus said that the family is your worst enemy. When it comes to crunch time, usually caused by some minor, insignificant bump along the totemic highway, they'll tear you apart like junkyard dogs. I have been the victim of the slobbering philanthropy of "friends"and family, who later, for no apparent reason, viciously abandoned me and trashed talked me all over town - before the cock crowed ONCE.

Getting back to our fish. The great novelist Thomas Mann said it perfectly:

"Art [journalism is an art] is the sacred torch that must shed it merciful light into all life's terrible depths, into every shameful and sorrowful abyss; art is the divine flame that must set fire to the world, until the world with all it's infamy and anguish burns and melts away in redeeming compassion....." (Death in Venice).

My arguments can be summed up in a few major points:

(1) Every community must form a crime watch.
(2) But there are inherent obstacles in such projects.
(3) Law enforcement officers, who go through vigorous training, strive for conventional rewards; perks, pay, recognition....To be expected.
(4) Crime watchers might interfere with good police work and diminish the prospect of these rewards.
(5) Policy should be written to sharply delineate police work from crime watch organizations. Deviation from these rules should be severely punished.
(6) Crime watchers should by duly recompensed.

If there is disrespect for police in these suggestions, I fail to see it.

Cordially, David Foglietta, Publisher, oldforgedailynews.blogspot.com....

Objective textual analysis, my derriere!

You scribbled:

They started a crime watch here in Old Forge a few weeks ago which was quickly discouraged and ultimately disbanded - by the police! I thought it was a great idea. They were patrolling the streets in their cars and bikes in the early morning hours. I felt much safer. But I also foresaw the problems that would eventually ensue:

(1) The police felt that the citizen patrols were showing them up and interfering with good police work. These officers, despite their dedication and value to the community, and like the rest of us, compete for conventional rewards....more perks, higher pay, advancement, recognition of their achievements. The more the crime watchers uncover, the more it makes it look like the cops aren't doing their jobs. A tendency could imperceptibly emerge in the borough councils to put a damper on police pay raises and other perks.

Let’s try this again, the “objective textual analysis” bit.

Gee, I’ll admit it. I think I missed your intended point. Your fledgling crime watch outfit “was quickly discouraged and ultimately disbanded - by the police!” And all because “The more the crime watchers uncover, the more it makes it look like the cops aren't doing their jobs.”

Ah, yes. I now see the glowing endorsement you were sending to your police department. My bad. The only thing missing is your clever spin on the most classic of donut jokes.

What the fu>k?

And what’s up with the excess verbiage? Got a point to make? So make it.

Ultimately you must stand alone. Emotional attachments are detriments. You must move on, friend, we are not children anymore. [Even the Buddha left his wife and kids at age 30]. You must become hard. I don't have a so-called "friend" in the world. My family has even disowned me. Over time though you find that it's a relief. You must create distance between you and your "loved ones." I have come to believe that all "friendship" and familial piety is bogus anyway. The only realities are sex and self-serving transactions. We are all very nasty animals under that thin veneer of "civilization." Even Jesus said that the family is your worst enemy. When it comes to crunch time, usually caused by some minor, insignificant bump along the totemic highway, they'll tear you apart like junkyard dogs. I have been the victim of the slobbering philanthropy of "friends"and family, who later, for no apparent reason, viciously abandoned me and trashed talked me all over town - before the cock crowed ONCE.

What-effing-ever. As if you really know me, or anything about my immediate family such as it is in it‘s current, fast-dwindling state. My relationship with my mayor? With my police department? What would you know about it?

Your journalistic excess kind of reminds me of the following:

Evelyn, a modified dog

Viewed the quivering fringe of a special doily
Draped across the piano, with some surprise

In the darkened room
Where the chairs dismayed
And the horrible curtains
Muffled the rain
She could hardly believe her eyes

A curious breeze
A garlic breath
Which sounded like a snore
Somewhere near the Steinway (or even from within)
Had caused the doily fringe to waft & tremble in the gloom

Evelyn, a dog, having undergone
Further modification
Pondered the significance of short-person behavior
In pedal-depressed panchromatic resonance
And other highly ambient domains...

Arf she said

Is that what you were trying to say? Something akin to that? You know, unlike yourself, not all of us have experienced shock treatments firsthand.

And “art?” Do not confuse what you or I endeavor to do with mere words with art. If any of what I see on the internet is ever deemed to be certifiable art, I hope to lose my eyesight and soon afterwards.

Do we really want to rule the streets again? Yeah? Well, it’s the boys and girls with the guns and batons in tow that can make it happen. Not the folks with the cell phones and too much time on their hands.

I sleep very well at night because I have 91 highly-trained, well-paid, well-equipped and self-motivated law enforcement professionals on the streets. And not once have I ever gone to sleep feeling contented in the knowledge that untrained, unarmed and ill-equipped average citizens were thrown in to that most dangerous of mixes.

The crime watchers help. But let’s not get all off-track and misbelieving that we’re safe or significantly safer because of what little they bring to the law enforcement table.

When this city was losing control of it’s streets some years ago, the angered and shell-shocked residents of the city demanded that the new administration hire more police officers and take back these streets. They didn’t demand an increased commitment to volunteerism. They demanded and received more boots on the ground. And we’re reclaiming these streets, one block at a time.

And in these respects, Wilkes-Barre is almost a case study in what not to do. You do not balance a budget, or force a union to offer givebacks by cutting back on policing. Because, without those boots on the ground, as we have experienced in a loud and grotesquely well-publicized fashion, nothing else matters. Above all else, you need cops and plenty of them.

Cops, not volunteers.