Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Shyster's Christmas Card

Last spring, in a rash moment of adulthood, I decided to put my affairs in order. Will, living will, power of attorney, the whole nine yards. I realize this can be done by downloading forms off the internet for fifty bucks, but I had a couple of unorthodox things to take care of, and wanted them handled just right, so I violated one of my most cherished principles and hired a lawyer.

We met for forty-five minutes, and he offered me the whole package for $1600. (That’s right, I’m sixteen hundred dollars stupid.) As many consultation as I needed, unlimited hours until we get it right, exactly what you want, blah blah blah.

We was right about the unlimited hours; I can’t begin to tell how much time I spent correcting typos, errors of fact, and incorrect interpretations of my instructions. I finally took his boilerplate, a few lessons I’d picked up from his unsuccessful attempts, and finished it myself. Didn’t even go back to his office for he signings; found a notary and witness on my own. Sent the last check and blotted the whole unfortunate episode from my memory.

That was in May; in December, he sent me a Christmas card, soliciting for more business.

I wrote a reply, which I am willing to share with you below:

Please take me off your Christmas list,
I can’t believe you thought
That I would want to hear from you
So soon since last we talked.

You charged me sixteen hundred bucks
So I could spend my time
Correcting careless errors that
Should not have cost a dime.

I will not be referring you
To anyone I know,
I like to keep friends, so I must
Consideration show.

Your reputation’s safe with me,
Your legal skills are slick,
You meet the highest standards of
A greedy, slimy prick.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Danny

I love rooting against the Washington Redskins. Not the Redskins themselves so much as their owner, Chainsaw Dan Snyder. (A nod to Gregg Easterbrook of’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback for the “Chainsaw Dan” sobriquet.) It was hard to root against the Redskins when that meant rooting against Joe Gibbs, but now that Gibbs has retired again, let the games begin.

Rarely has anyone made cheering his demise as easy as Chainsaw Dan. He stepped up right away with the current job search. Gibbs hired Assistant Head Coach – Defense Gregg Williams four years, with a strongly rumored understanding that Williams would be the Head Coach in Waiting. (The Redskins invented bloated coaching titles. On any other team, Williams would be the Defensive Coordinator. Granted, he can get pretty defensive when anyone questions his methods, but that’s a different story. Don Breaux, the Offensive Coordinator, is third on the offensive coaching depth chart, behind the Associate Head Coach – Offense, and the Assistant Head Coach – Offense. The Redskins were also the first to hire a Quality Control Coach. The team has made the playoffs three times in the past eleven years. That guy should definitely be renting.)

I digress. Assistant Head Coach – Defense Head Coach in Waiting Williams has been interviewed by Chainsaw Dan four times in the three weeks since Gibbs re-retired. This is after watching him work every day for four years. If ever anyone is looking for an excuse not to hire someone, this is how you do it. Sooner or later Williams will get pissed off, pass gas, or pick his nose in an interview, and Snyder will have his reason. Unless, of course, Chainsaw Dan only wants to keep Williams hanging long enough for all other coaching vacancies to be filled, thus preventing him from coming back to haunt the Redskins for at least a year.

In related news, the current coaching staff was finally called by Gibbs sixteen days after his retirement with updates on their status. This is the first any of them has heard from anyone in the Redskins’ hierarchy about their jobs. Like Williams, their contracts run through this season, so they won’t be sleeping in cardboard boxes under the Sousa Bridge any time soon, but still, this is classless.

So far we’ve established why you might root against Snyder: he’s an asshole. To his credit, he goes out of his way to make it easy for you, so he’s also a douche bag.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that former New York Giants head coach and Robin Williams look-alike Jim Fassel was the front runner for the Redskins’ head coaching job. This prompted a storm of protests from fans to the Post web site, and sports radio stations. One day later, Fassel was no longer acknowledged by the Redskins as their front runner. The reason given: poor fan reaction.

This is why the Redskins win every off-season and suck the rest of the year. It’s all about the media, and the spin. Snyder made his billions in marketing; he talks people into buying stuff they don’t need for a living. He sells out that white elephant of a ballpark by whipping the fans into frenzy of high expectations every year with flashy free agent signings and coaching changes, then weathers the storm all year when they alternately suck, or play barely well enough to make the playoffs. (This year’s combination of things breaking exactly as they had to would, in a different context, be more than enough for Shrub to justify invading China.)

The best thing about sports is that the true bullshit stops when the teams take the field, rink, floor. Sooner or later, someone has to hitch up his jock and kick ass, or go home. Snyder doesn’t get this. He still thinks he’s so smart he can market other teams into laying down for him like they’re rednecks who can barely make the rent on the trailer who think they need a hemi to drive to the bank to cash their welfare check. It hasn’t worked, and it won’t. Which leaves me with endless vistas of enjoyment spread before me, watching the petulant look Chainsaw Dan gets in the owner’s box every time the Redskins disappoint him yet again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Got Your Tough Right Here

Ray Lewis thinks he’s tough. Administers punishment, has friends who carry knives and carve people up at Super Bowls. Big bad Ray-Ray, the middle linebacker from hell.

Pacman Jones a bad motherfucker, right? Shooting up strip clubs, earning a year’s suspension for repeated – actually continuous – bad behavior. There are entire criminal law firms who don’t spend as much time in court as the Cincinnati Bengals.

Know what they are? Pussies.

In Pittsburgh, the city where “tough” got the H, wide receiver Cedric Wilson’s girlfriend held off police for twelve hours on Sunday before being arrested. Not his homie, or his boyz, or who he run with; his girlfriend! And Wilson’s a wide receiver, which is only a notch above punter on the football tough guy chart. (Hines Ward excepted, but, then again, he plays in The Burgh, too.) Wilson’s only the 42nd toughest guy on the Steelers, and his squeeze is O.G.

Oh yeah. I’m ready for next year.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hearty Congratulations

I spoke with my cousin Ted yesterday. This is not normally blog-worthy news. I speak with lots of people every day. Okay, maybe not lots, but handfuls. And sometimes they reply with more than just hand gestures and restraining orders. But now I’m off the subject.

Speaking with my cousin might not seem like news, unless you take into consideration that until a few days ago there was a legitimate fear I might not get to do it again.

Ted had ten hours of open heart surgery to replace a worn-out heart valve about ten days ago. Valve jobs are no big deal to him; he’s had at least three, I think. The issue here was that enough scar tissue had been formed to create a concern there might not be any place to hang the new one.

Lucky for all, the doctor was able to clean things up, and found the aorta to be in good shape, so another valve could be supported when the time comes, maybe on twenty years. He also inserted a small piece of Velcro to make future procedures easier.

Ted’s home now. Complete rest for a week, off work six to eight weeks after that. He sounded good – and well – on the phone yesterday, the Ted we all knew, and the collective sigh that left my parents, Craze, and I almost blew out the windows.

So that’s all the news about that. No big deal to most of you, but sixty-three years of my cousin Ted is nowhere near enough.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The American Dream

The local sports radio station is playing a series of ads promoting the newest get rich quick scheme: foreclosed real estate. There’s a testimonial from a guy who paid $25,000 for a house and sold it a month later for a $65,000 profit. It’s a reasonable assumption he was looking for three more 25 grand specials on his way home from the settlement.

This is great for those who have the cash on hand to pay for these discount houses. Period. No one else. It does not help the economy. The banks took a bath, and the construction industry isn’t going to build something new when you can pick up something almost new – that the original owner worked the bugs out of – for ten cents on the dollar.

It also doesn’t help those who are trying to get into the housing market for the first time, unless they were fortunate enough to have their financing lined up well in advance. More likely they’ll pay the speculator three to five times what he paid for it. His value add? Call me if you think of something.

What we have here is another wedge driving incomes apart. Those with money will make more; those without have probably already lost it through the mortgage payments they were able to make before the ARM went up, or the balloon payment kicked in. No sympathy here for them; they accepted terms they couldn’t afford. That’s life. Others shouldn’t get rich from their misfortune.

This is a golden opportunity for Congress to take action that won’t cost a cent, and will actually do some good. Since housing prices are going to fall anyway, let’s stabilize them and get some new homeowners set up. Impose a confiscatory tax rate on any property bought at a distress sale that is flipped in less than five years. If you bought it to live in, you’re cool. If you bought it solely to get someone else to pay you more for it, then who is it really hurting if you don’t make all that much off of it?

They won’t, though. Know why? Because they have money, and most people figure they will too, someday. They don’t want to lose their opportunity to screw someone else when it’s their turn. It’s what’s made America what it is today.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Such a Deal I Have for You

The Home Office received a piece of junk – er, unsolicited mail yesterday. I’m sharing it to show not only politicians are out of touch with reality in the metropolitan Washington, DC area.

The front of the tri-fold mailer invites me to “Come Enjoy the Best of Both Virginia’s!” I immediately wondered, “Who’s Virginia?” and, “Both of her whats?” This looked promising until I saw the mail was from Ryan Homes. The housing market is bad, but offering up both of Virginia’s whatevers to close a deal seemed extreme, especially when I thought of what most home sales representatives look like. (Not what they think, or act as if they look like. “Both Virginia’s” could refer to chins, for all I know.)

The inside screams WHY ARE YOU RENTING??? The reader is informed that single family homes start at just $1,396 per month; town homes from just $1,118 per month. Each claim is followed by asterisks galore, referring you to the disclaimers at the bottom of the page, presuming the purchase of a stripped-down home I hope includes exterior walls and a roof. One hundred percent financing is also assumed; apparently developers haven’t got the word about the sub-prime lending crisis.

Closer inspection reveals these attractive features: your brand new home will be within seven miles of the commuter train, from where it is “just a 1 ½ hour train ride to DC!!!” (“Just” is a key word in such brochures, as are exclamation points and asterisks directing you to small print. Example: Payments as low as 3 cents a minute!!!*

* - based on an average month of 43,200 minutes.)

Here’s the deal: you drive ten to fifteen minutes to get to the station, where you’ll wait for a train before spending ninety minutes of your life (Just $2.70 in mortgage payments!!!) to ride to Union Station, where you can walk, take Metro, or hail a cab to work. At the end of the day, the same in reverse. This is at least four hours a day just getting to and from work. That leaves the rest of your day to get dressed, eat dinner, and watch one episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” assuming you have any left to curb.

The area codes give them away: 304. West Virginia. The best of both Virginias they’re talking about means you can live in Appalachia, only passing through the execution capital of the world on your way to and from work. That’s what’s worth $1,396 a month. Just $7.20 in mortgage payments for each day’s commute. And people will jump on them.

You can’t make this shit up.

Oh, yeah. Happy New Year.