Monday, September 13, 2010

"Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More" Review to come.

I was contacted by (who I'm assuming is) Stever Robbins publicist about a week ago. Who knew ANYONE read MY blog, right? Anyway, she asked me if I would read and review Stever's new book, "Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More".

I'm not familiar with Stever Robbins or his "Get-It-Done Guy" podcasts, so I did a little Googling (mostly to make sure it wasn't a scam). After that, I checked out the micro site she set up for it at It all checked out, as I was impressed by the excerpts there. Not just the advice itself (most of which I knew already, but often just don't motivate myself to do), but the style in which it was delivered. I was impressed. The guy seems to write a lot like me...but...better.

Anyway, she's sending me a copy of the book, providing I review it. It's available tomorrow on, if you want to get a jump on me for it. You know how my time gets. Reading something other than traffic signs as they whiz by between jobs isn't something I often have time for.

For this, though, I think I can squeeze in some time. Hey, I'm not above being a media whore for free stuff. I can't afford principles like that these days. ;)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Status Quo is SORELY Underrated...

For years, I have been frustrated whenever my life has stagnated. Taking the next step, earning more money, becoming more professionally respected, trying to reach the presumed level of my peers, meeting what I assume are the expectations of those I love and respect, these have all kept me moving forward. What I've realized lately, is that these have been the most significant sources of stress in my life. In today's society, everyone's looking for the BBD (Bigger Better Deal). Acquiring more things, gaining more friends, making more money, looking better, have made life SO hectic and fast-paced that we take no time to appreciate what we have. By the time we do, we want the NEXT big thing. What ISN'T appreciated, it the contented status quo.

I was going to entitle this "contented stagnation", but the word 'stagnation' just has a negative connotation to it. 'Stagnation' implies ennui, malaise, and an inability to emerge from a given situation. That's not what I'm talking about. If a situation is frustrating, intolerable, or even just plain boring, it needs to be changed. What I'm talking about is looking at what you have, realizing that it's not only enough, but you're happy with it, and pausing for a while to enjoy what you have achieved.

Working at (a popular and busy coffee place), I see perfect examples of the victims of this kind of "BBD" thinking. Uptight, irritable, over-stressed, overbooked yuppies, zooming from place to place in their $50k+ automobiles, needing their over-priced triple lattes for the energy to maintain their overblown lifestyles, usually with the goal being to simply 'keep up with the Joneses'. They rarely take the time to get off their cell phones to even acknowledge a smile from another human being, let alone the luxuries they worked so hard to attain. Even their vacations are so booked to the rim and often interrupted or cut short by work or catastrophes of their own making, they don't take the time to enjoy them - just finish task A so they can get to task B, C, and D.

They come in a self-deluded swarm through the morning drive-thru on a daily basis, in a constant fog of their own existence, created by observing the same fog surrounding other people they wish to emulate or outdo. They become so obsessed with having the respect and approval of others for what they have, or for their perceived status, rather than who they are, all they know is improving their surroundings rather than their lives. The budding executive, trying to set himself up for that VP position and the extra $10k/yr with it, the stay-at-home mom in the Cadillac SUV with the Prada bag taking Johnny to karate practice, then a soccer game, then piano lessons in the hopes that she can pin her pride on him to supplant her disappointment in herself, the medical intern working like hell to finish so he can move into his specialty and get that BMW he's been dreaming of, while paying off his student loans for the next 30 years - they parade by me on a daily basis, like marathon runners grabbing a cup of water en route, heading toward a finish line they keep extending. Not every one of them, of course, but enough on a regular basis for me to be relatively certain I can recognize them when I see them.

Now, by no means am I perfectly content with my current income, the shape my house is in, or even several other parts of my life. I'm FAMOUS for trying to fit more than 24 hours into a day between 4-5 jobs at a time, surviving on 4 hours sleep for several days of the week, and burning my candle at several ends in hopes to make this repair to my home, that improvement, get my kids what they want for Christmas, or more often, just to make sure by cell phone doesn't get shut off. I'm every bit as much a victim of the Rat Race as anyone in today's society, and I won't make excuses that it's always "just to survive". It's just as much to maintain the lifestyle I'm accustomed to as the ad exec in the Jaguar yelling through his cell phone at his assistant while he snatches his large quad-shot French vanilla latte from my hand without a word and speeds off. We all like a certain level of comfort, and work like Hell and do whatever we can to maintain it, and I'm not the one to say one lifestyle is any better than the other.

What I have learned over the past several years, however, is that while moving forward and making progress toward a goal is necessary for us to grow as human beings, affording us the opportunity to succeed or fail and learn from both experiences, pausing the rat race for a while and stopping to appreciate the progress you've made is even more important. Now, I don't have the luxury of taking a week's or even a few consecutive days' vacation, but I have intentionally taken a day off each of the past 2 weeks where I don't have a major commitment (well, at least not for most of the day), sacrificing some financial stability for more emotional contentment.

What I've realized in my moments of calm, is that I really have it pretty good. Oh, I know I've praised my wonderful friends and family a lot here, and rightfully so, but what I realized this time was what I've created for myself: I have a house, a working car that is comfortable and practical, furnishings that not only are comfortable and (mostly) clean, but fit my style and personality, two computers with accessories that do exactly what I need them to, two wonderful and brilliant children who are making great progress in all areas of their lives, a wonderful girlfriend that appreciates and understands me, I'm keeping my bills under control, not digging myself further in debt, and most importantly, clearing the fog once in a while to see it all in perspective and those around me that help make it happen. Much of this is through the help of friends and family, yes, but not without my own hard work, as well. Because I realize this, I'm happy and contended most of the time. Yes, I work A LOT, but I work to live. I don't live to work.

This started out with a clear purpose, but I've once again gotten long-winded and redundant. Suffice it to say, that despite my current humble professional and financial status, I'd like to offer what little advice may be valuable to the rich, successful, and powerful: take the time to step back, breathe, and appreciate it. For a while - be it 5 weeks, 5 days, or even 5 minutes - stop trying to get more, be more, or do more. For a brief time, block out some time in your iPhone planner to live.

That's what I just did, and I'm a lot happier for it.

...and now, back to the Rat Race...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

September Song...

Okay, well, ALMOST September.

I just couldn't come up a decent song title or lyric. Meh.

Anyway, after getting a long-overdue haircut, I'm sitting here at the Bigby Coffee in Madison Heights, having intentionally and very deliberately blocked out some "me" time. Stopping here wasn't necessarily on my intentionally non-existent agenda for the day, but I haven't chosen this place as my "decompression" zone since I started working at Starbucks. Not because the coffee's necessarily any worse, it's just no longer on my way to work. I used to stop in 2-3 times a week before work for a few minutes of solitude, coffee, and blogging. When I left that job, my route no longer took me by here. Still, after more than a year, as I walk in, I'm greeted like Norm at Cheers by Travis (awesome barista guy), grab my usual cranberry/orange muffin and coffee, and proceed to catch up with him on life, work, women, and the usual guy talk.

I missed this place, and I didn't even realize it!

I've been working at Starbucks nearly 40 hours a week, in addition to my other jobs, for nearly 4 months straight, and it was starting to wear. I finally decided to be a bit selfish and request 3 days off this week. Needless to say, I'm scheduled for a full shift every OTHER day this week, but at least I can plan one day of of actual rest and/or personal productivity this week.

Anyway, a lot has happened over the past 2 months, but nothing that has really made any huge difference in my direction, attitude, or social or financial status....which isn't bad. I've had no major catastrophes, no major epiphanies, no major financial windfalls, no unexpected large expenses. "No gnus is good gnus," as the puppet says.

As for the minutia that has maintained this life balance over the past few months:

My minivan started chugging and wasn't freeway-capable (which is NOT acceptable with my kids an hour's drive away and my directing gig 40 minutes away), but after some running around to a few different places and a few days of bussing to work, it was back in good working order for under $200. Still needs some work, but as usual, the non-immediate concerns will have to wait for the finances to improve (if ever).

The job I interviewed for (referenced in my last blog) seemed to fizzle, as they wanted to have their new software up before hiring, and that seems to have no foreseeable completion date. When I e-mailed them after 3 weeks with no word, it was suggested I keep looking for a better job, but they WILL call me when things are a 'go' and hope I'm available. However, after a talk with the president/regular Starbucks customer of mine yesterday, they've changed their plan of implementation for new hires, and it looks as if she may want me to start training! It's not carved in stone yet, but it seem I may be starting a new job with better pay soon! Still, I'm not counting my chickens before they've hatched. I've turned into the boy who cried "JOB!"

Foreclosure may be looming for me, as it has been for a while, but for now I still have my house. I'm hoping the new job will let me catch back up, let me avoid giving up my house, and eventually help me start fixing it up. Even if the worst should happen, though, I know I have places to go. It's my goal not to ever have to take advantage of my friends or family's good nature and generosity again, though, as I prefer the comfort of knowing it's there rather than ever utilizing it.

In the meantime, I am still proud to say that I'm still one of the 80% of Americans who hasn't needed to take advantage of a government program to survive. I appreciate they exists and don't begrudge those that need them. Personally, I'd just rather make it on my own as much as possible. I wouldn't be able to boast about that, though, were it not for the love, generosity, and consideration of my dad, sister, grandfather, girlfriend, and scores of other friends and family who have come to my aid - particularly over the past year and a half.

My Awesome Girlfriend FINALLY closed on her new house last week! It's a major step up from the apartment she was renting and a mere 2 blocks from its location! This made moving (relatively) simple. Her parents are helping a TON with getting it cleaned, painted, landscaped, repaired, and such, while I chip in with some muscle, elbow grease, word of encouragement, and a minivan capable of hauling several moving boxes at a time. This place is perfect for her in every conceivable sense, is looking better every day, and I'm IMMENSELY proud of her! Oh, and best part? Central Air. Ahhhhhhh... :)

The chorus directing gig is getting better every week. I'd love to have a bit more time to help with planning and such, but a) I don't want to overstep my bounds, and b) I just don't have the time to put much more into it than the rehearsals & gigs themselves and the occasional learning track. Still, the guys are getting better every week, and I'm getting chills more and more from chords locking, dynamics swelling, and REAL barbershop sound! I love the Livingston Lamplighters!

So that's the most of my life the last couple months. Hopefully, I can find some time to blog about more introspective, philosophical, and interesting topics next time. That, however, would require the time not only to sit and write, but the time to think without distractions, which is, as always, VERY rare these days. Till then, I'll keep on keepin' on, appreciate the little things, stay solution-oriented, and as always, stay true to myself!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summertime, and the livin' is...CRAZY!

Well, the main reason I haven't posted in a while is that shortly after my last blog, we lost a few people at Starbucks and I was working 40 hours there, 12 hours at Blockbuster, 2 hours (plus 1.5 hours in commute) directing a chorus, 1/2 hour giving a trombone lesson, 2 hours at quartet rehearsal, and 3 hours (plus 2 hours commute) for my weekly dinner with my kids. That's 63 hours out of my week, plus household chores, miscellany, and trying to see my girlfriend in there, somewhere!

Oh, did I mention? I'M A CHORUS DIRECTOR!!!! I can't believe I haven't mentioned it yet, but about 3 months ago, I got the position of Director for the Livingston Lamplighters Barbershop Chorus! The pay's not much (basically enough to justify the 2 hours and pay for the gas there and back), but then again, barbershop chorus directing gigs rarely pad the wallet. Mostly, this scratches my professional itch - and does it EVER!

As a music educator, I appreciate a challenge. That's not to say the chorus is bad - far from it! They are, however, small in numbers, varied in musical background, and have not had a lot of exposure to the nuances of the style, its traditions, or its evolution over the past several decades. That's where I come in.

I have always most enjoyed coming to a group with room for improvement, connecting with them, and getting them to understand what I'm looking for. From there spawns an avalanche of progress. I've always said that with a directing job, I'd rather take a small, budding program and build it, rather than a huge successful program and try to maintain it. It's more fun, more satisfying, and let's face it, MUCH less pressure. When there's no where to go but up, there's nothing to look but good.

What I liked best about the Lamplighters after visiting their rehearsal for the first time, was the camaraderie and brotherhood they shared. That's the benefit of a small group. Beyond that, they all had a visible passion for singing. They may not have had the guidance to fine-tune it or the background to interpret it, but it's much easier to refine passion than to try and create it. As I listened, I heard things I liked and things I didn't. Some chords would ring beautifully, some vowels would line up wonderfully, while certain phrasing and tempos were awkward and lyrical meaning lost. The entire time, I sat back and thought, "I can FIX this! I have the ability! I can make them better...stronger...MORE MUSICAL!"

As I began directing them, I started to realize more the responsibilities and work that would go into this job. The first month or so, I stumbled a few times: I wasn't as prepared as I should have been, I allowed too much talking during rehearsal, my conducting left MUCH to be desired, etc. Thankfully, after a few tips from the baritone of my quartet and one of the members (and former director), I started to find my footing.

My debut as director was for the senior living complex that offers us the rehearsal space. My girlfriend made it a point to drive 45 minutes from home to be there for me, showing enthusiastic support for my endeavor, which meant the WORLD to me. The song selection was a bit awkward, random, and dated, and the script was full of groan-worthy puns, but for a mid-season barbershop show with a brand new director, that's par for the course. We sounded solid, with few noticeable gaffes. I was pleased.

Since then, things have only gotten better. They're ringing chords more often, they're working on the parts on their own more diligently, and they're starting to sound more like a solid barbershop chorus, rather than just a group of guys singing barbershop songs fairly well. They're learning my conducting style, even as I refine my own technique to match their response. They're watching more closely, emoting more, expanding dynamics, and starting to FEEL what they sing. It's truly beautiful to watch their progress week to week.

I wish I could make a living out of this and make it full-time, but sadly, I gotta pay the bills otherwise. Enter: a new job opportunity!

A regular at my Starbucks was so pleased with my demeanor, she asked for my resume! After researching the company, I find out she's the president! I've had 2 interviews and am awaiting a final decision, which should be along within a week or so. I don't want to say too much at the risk of jinxing it, but I truly hope this comes through. My current employment situation has me barely hanging on, and all it takes is one catastrophe with the car or some other unexpected bill to have me running to family for help. I just can't have that any longer. I'm beyond grateful to know that my family is willing to catch me when I stumble, but I'm 36, and shouldn't need the help. I love my jobs (usually), but they simply aren't enough to live on with any financial certainty.

So, as always, I'm on the financial precipice, but have enough good things going for me to keep me chipper. Life's all about balance. :)

Coming up: Fall district contest - Chorus? Quartet? Both? Neither? and a potential West Coast vacation!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

525,600 Minutes....

My 36th Birthday. Usually on my birthday, I tend to mournfully recount the myriad accomplishments I HAVEN'T made to date: finishing my degree, obtaining a steady teaching job, becoming a well-known and well-paid drill designer, having a well-maintained and reasonably spacious house, etc. This depressing tradition is particularly observed on milestone birthdays - 5's and 10's, mostly - where I have particular goals set forth in the naivete of my youth. This year, however, given all that has happened, I tend to be focusing on the aspects that actually matter. I have a job (3+, actually, depending on how you count), two increasingly brilliant, talented, and impressive kids, a house I'm make more and more my own every day, a WORKING car (knock wood), scores of absolutely wonderful friends whom I cherish, and an amazing girlfriend who understands and adores me every bit as much as I do her.

As happy as I am, on the whole, and as well as things are going for me now (which I'll recount later), something's missing today. The one thing missing to make this happiest of birthdays is the traditional (if exceedingly corny and often ill-timed) early morning call from my mother, singing "Happy Birthday" to me in a sappy, kid-like voice, followed by the long-winded recounting of the day of my birth.

My mother, Nancy Orton Keiser, passed away this Easter Sunday morning, April 4th, at the age of 65 . She died of congestive heart failure, which she suffered from several years back and recovered (mostly) from. It was likely a combination of factors - diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, arthritis, and being a good 300 lbs overweight, among other factors - that led to this latest episode being fatal. She died in my grandfather's house, with him at her side. It was quick, sudden, and she didn't suffer.

My mother was the most loving person I ever knew. She would always try and help in whatever way she could - for anyone. No, she was not always encouraging. She didn't always tell you what you wanted to hear, and would often make snap-judgments based on little information. As a child, whenever I saw a TV commercial for something I wanted, she'd say, "Well, save your pennies!", resulting in a disappointed pout and "hrumph!" from me. To this day, proudly painted on the change jug on my dresser is the phrase, "Mom always said, 'Save your pennies!'"

Still, her motivation behind whatever she said was ALWAYS to help. She had a unique way of distilling situations into quotable catch phrases and cliches, which one of my mothers friends referred to at her funeral as "Nancyisms". Some wholly inapplicable to the situation, but many times, offering a clarity of perspective that would allow for a fresh approach to a situation.

It was this willingness to listen to people and help them deal with their own problems (not so much the snap-judgment part), that has formed a great deal of how I relate to my friends and those I love. It's that inexhaustible, unflappable, unconditional love and willingness to help others, despite your own problems, that I have tried to emulate and has made me who I am. This is likely the biggest part of my mother that I will miss. Not always her help or advice, but the spirit and pure love behind it.

I credit her most of all for my involvement in music. Not just my LOVE of music, which I get equally from both of my parents, but my motivation to LEARN about music and create it, rather than just appreciate it. This was one area of my life where her support was absolutely unquestionable. I remember being maybe 5 years old and her trying to teach me to play our old electric organ in the living room. I didn't have the patience to endure much instruction at that age, but she taught me where 'C' was on a keyboard and where the notes went from there...and that started everything. My first music theory lesson.

This is my first birthday without her. Even as I type this, I'm tearing up, which is rather odd for me. In the month or so since she passed, I haven't allowed much time for myself to feel her absence or cry over it. You all know (or can read in my previous posts) how insanely busy I am. That, combined with the pride I take in being people's emotional 'rock', have forced me to push my feelings about my mother's passing aside for the time, and do what needs to be done, which is to be there for my family, continue to work my insane schedule to pay the bills, and fulfill the obligations I have to myself and others, like the quartet, chorus, and friends.

I don't resent this. This is not a feeling I want to deal with. I feel it's selfish, coming from myself. I'm MORE than understanding helping OTHERS deal with their feelings and being there to support THEM, but I'm not great at expressing my negative emotions to others. It's not their problem to deal with, and I don't want to burden anyone else with my problems. Sure, I'll whine and bitch about work, cars, computers, and other insignificant situations that others can easily relate to, and yet feel no real responsibility to fix, but emotional crises are different. Most of my friends are VERY supportive and sympathetic and want to help. I don't want to put them in a situation where their help may be ineffective, inadvertently dismissed, or in a moment of weakness, irrationally resented. Believe me, I know how much that stings.

In the past year I have had my car die (several times), lived in a gutted, filthy house with no heat or hot water, had my manhood, character, and parenting called into question MULTIPLE times, doubled my workload, had my income cut by more than half, nearly lost my house, had to swallow my pride and accept charity on more occasions than I am comfortable with, even walked 4 miles in the freezing rain on Christmas Day before going to work at a barely-above-minimum-wage job. All of these are insignificant. I didn't even consider these things over the past several months. This year, I lost my mother. I lost her ill-timed, sleep-interrupting calls at the crack of dawn 'just to talk'. I lost her oversimplification of complex issues to reach a conclusion that had no real world application - or often even vague similarity - to the situation. I lost her meddling into my business and relationships to try and get everyone to see things her way. I lost her obnoxious, cheesy references to embarrassing incidents from my childhood and their "supposed" relevance to my problems today.

Most of all, I lost the absolute love behind every single one of those maddening habits. As much as she drove me absolutely bananas, I NEVER felt unloved by these acts. She always had love behind it - and I knew it.

I'll get to the HAPPY birthday stuff later. Right now, I'm penciling some time into my schedule to grieve for a bit.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'....

You get busy, preoccupied, bombarded with work, car troubles, gigs, and the occasional drama, you blink and the next thing you know - *POOF* - 3 months go by and you haven't written a blog!

Well, you can thank my dad for reminding me to keep all of you who don't stalk me on Facebook up to speed on my life (such as it is). This was SO much easier when I could plan an hour of "me time" in most days before working at my predictably scheduled desk job. As it is, this is the first day off I haven't booked solid in MONTHS it seems!

Okay (deep breath). We have a lot of things to cover, so let's get down to business... Meeting is called to order! (BAM!)

Most of the past 3 months have been sucked up in trying to get my money-pit of a car dealt with. It's working - then it's not - then it is... UGH! Basically, this was an extension of all of the problems with it that I covered in the LAST blog: mostly overheating. Without going into the details of that POS I'd rather forget, I'll just say that nearly $2000 in repairs, lost wages, bus fare, and bottles of Excedrin after it all started, just to attempt to just get it safe to drive, I dumped it off on someone who can do something with it.

Once I decided to get rid of it, the guy I had been paying to put all the parts that he THOUGHT he needed to fix it into it offered me $200 for the whole thing. The day I'm ready to sell it, he chickens out, in what was likely a chance to talk down my price. "Fuck it," says I, and head to CraigsList. I list it for $500 and sold it that day to a guy who owns a shop, can fix the problem, and give it to his teenage daughter. I got about 20 calls and dozens of e-mails on it and I probably could have gotten more, but I just wanted it out of my life. I got 2.5x what I was planning on getting for it, and it went to the best of all possible homes: a teenager who needs a simple, safe junker that her dad can fix right and for cheap.

Next (actually, first), I needed to find a replacement. After scouring CraigsList for deals, I found that the only cars in the Detroit Metro Area available that DIDN'T need major repairs BEFORE they were drivable, all cost at least $1500. That was assuming I could find a way to BFE (read: outer suburbs), with no working car, to even LOOK at them. Thankfully, my friend Jenelle's husband knew a guy who was getting rid of one of his cars - a 1994 Pontiac Trans Sport with 185k miles on it. I wasn't keen on owning a gas-guzzling minivan with so may miles, but the price was right - $800. If it was running and ready to go, I was in.

My friend Lou drove me out there to look at it. It was in IMMACULATE shape (for a 16-year-old car with nearly 200k miles), and owned by a retired GM engineer who mostly used it for road trips to Florida (highway miles, good). I only got to drive it on the bumpy back dirt roads of Clarkston, but it seemed solid. Regardless, it ran, no weird noises, and all the gauges seemed to be in the right place.

My cousin (who I hadn't actually seen in person for over 2 decades) had been following my Facebook feeds about my car woes, and being grateful for getting back in touch with her and providing a family connection and support during her time of need, she offered me the money to cover the car. I had initially refused, as I had hoped my old car would be repaired after the last round and didn't want to take advantage of or burden my family with my problems, but when that didn't work, I reluctantly took her up on her offer. Once again, I am in awe of the wonderful friends and family I have accrued over the years, and hope to perpetuate this positivity and sense of selflessness. Since I can't make a difference monetarily, I just 'pay it forward' in every other way I can think of.

As I drove my new car home last Wednesday, I noticed a slight wobble coming from the back end. It didn't seem severe, but I decided to get it looked at. Thursday and Friday I worked both jobs and I had the kids for the weekend, so I planned on taking it in today (Tuesday). Well, after taking off to drop the kids home on Sunday, the tire exploded on the freeway. I pull over, instruct the kids to stay in their seats, and assess the damage... "Hmf. Just change the tire. No problem."

Well, in a standard sedan, no, but with an under-mounted spare with some weird gear system to release that I had no clue as to access - yes, problem. I called a tow truck. They responded quickly, let me watch the process carefully in case I needed the spare again, and had me on my way a scant 40 minutes (and $45) after the initial hobble to the shoulder.

All was well, however the brakes didn't seem to escape unscathed. I crept along at a snail's pace to the nearest exit and called the ex to come meet me to get the kids. The kids and I piled out at a Meijer to wait for their mother and sat in the book section, reading - Courtney read Dr. Seuss aloud, Liam read one of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books, and I started Stephen Colbert's "I Am America (And So Can You)".

The next day, after limping my car to work, I limped to a shop Lou had HIGHLY recommended, to get the car looked at. They gave me their wi-fi password so I could use my laptop while I waited, and were exceedingly friendly, up-front, and honest. They repaired the severed brake line, replaced the blown tire with a solid used one, and gave the whole thing a good 'once over' to warn me of potential problems. They even ran the diagnostic computer on it. They ran down every part of the bill in detail with me, in case I had any questions or concerns. All tolled, it took about every penny left in the "Murphy's Law" fund I had expected to pay for an $800 car, but no more. For this I got a clean bill of (immediate) health for the car and a good does of peace of mind! I was back on the road again!

Anyway, the long and not-so-short of it, is that I have a bright red 1994 Pontiac Trans Sport SE that runs beautifully parked in my driveway now!
My new car!
(FYI - this is NOT my driveway!)

There are an ass-load of other things that have happened in the past month, including a quartet gig at a REAL gentleman's club (tuxes, brandy, and cigars, not strippers, kamikaze shots, and venereal diseases), an invitation to the first Michigan Harmony Brigade, becoming the director of a barbershop chorus, and PLENTY more, but I'll get to those when I have more time (hopefully sooner than 3 months). I figured those stories would all be playing in the background of the transportation debacle, so I should hit that one first.

And later....the rest of the story(ies)...