July in North Carolina

If the crepe myrtle is blooming, it’s probably July.  I took this photo with my phone a few weeks ago.

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How about this guy who color coordinated his bird houses with the crepe myrtle bush?  I first noticed this artwork during a “morning 40.”

So much happens on my bike rides, sometimes I think, man, some day I’m really gonna miss this.  Of course I won’t miss last Thursday’s events when some sort of bee (I never saw him) got inside my bike jersey and stung me 4 times.  Ouch!

Then Thursday, I was shooting down the hill just shy of home when off to my right in the grass a hawk pounced on a squirrel, but due to my startling him he gave up on his intended breakfast.  But do you think that squirrel thanked me?

Then there’s the big yellow dog that sometimes chases me out along Morrow Mill Rd.  But his trick is that I never know when he’s actually going to  chase me.  He’ll chase me once and then sleep late for the next two months.  Then, just when I let down my guard, out he comes like a rocket.  I can just visualize myself as a character in a geometry  problem as some unknown math genius calculates whether the dog’s speed combined with his angle of attack will equal contact with me going in a straight line at 24 mph.  Note to math genius:  The dog is aging at 7 years for every one of mine, and I’ve noticed he’s putting on weight.  Note to Cyndy:  If I don’t return home someday, the math problem took an unexpected turn in the dog’s favor.  Look for me in front of the ranch house with a dog house on the front porch, a half mile west of Millikin Rd.

Moving on, I chuckle every time I think about it, but I was fixing dinner last night, and I’ll admit that I’d had a glass of wine, OK maybe two.  I noted that the recipe called for a lettuce side dish, and said to Cindy, “Do you want a ledge of wettuce?”  After she stopped laughing, she said, “From Elmer Fudd, I don’t think so!”

In Pony news, I’ve been doing a little leak investigation.  By the way, Gene and I call the big piece of cardboard that I keep under the Pony his diaper.  Every now and then, just like with all big babies, we need to change his diaper.  I’d also add that the diaper analogy holds up in another way.  What leaks out of the Pony’s rear end is way nastier than what leaks out of the front!

Anyway, by process of elimination (I drained the hydraulic oil), I determined that the oil dripping onto the diaper toward the Pony’s front end was coming from the hydraulic pump.  The photo below is the hydraulic pump and tank.

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So you are properly oriented, the fan screws onto the round thing on the right with all the holes around it.

So, the good news is that the engine is tight, but the bad news is that that pump (which I had totally rebuilt) is leaking.  After consulting with the Idiotic Brother, we’ve decided to try a non-surgical leak remedy.  I’m going to pack the hydraulic tank with grease instead of refilling with oil.  There are several advantages of this fix.  Most obvious, I don’t actually have to do anything.  And second, if this doesn’t work, I get to blame it on the IB.  As a back-up source of advice, I floated this fix by the guys on the tractor discussion board.  I got no “Holy crap, don’t do that” messages, so stay tuned.

The Princess and I are heading up to NYC this week.  There’s a ton of good blog material up there, and I’ll fill you in on my return.  I see now that I titled this post July in North Carolina, and here it is August 1.  Ah well.  Enjoy the dog days everyone.  Thanks for reading.

Passwords

My friend, Art, who’s a design engineer took offense when he saw this photo of the Pony.

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He sent an email (he’s up North this time of year) saying that the white draw string on the Pony’s new seat bothered him.  Picky, picky, picky.  Well, the Pony doesn’t want to offend anyone, and as it turns out I’ve been able to make everyone happy, even Art.  I bought a new pair of athletic shoes recently, and you know how flashy they’ve gotten in the last couple of years.  The pair I got came with two pair of laces, one white and guess what the other color was?  Yeah,  Red!

Of course nothing having to do with the Pony goes smoothly, and even this little job was no exception.  In order to snake the new lace through the hem of the seat cushion, I taped the new lace to the old and started feeding it through.  Uh oh, did my heart sink when about a third of the way around, the two laces separated.  I spent the next 24 hours, off and on, ooching the new lace the rest of the way around about an eighth of an inch at a time.  My poor arthritic fingers were pretty sore by the time I finally got it all the way around.  Then I thought, you know what would really make for a clean look would be to buy one of those little lace-locks that the shoe store sells, so I don’t have an ugly bow in the back.  I just picked-up the lace lock, and so this is how the finished job looks.

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ARE YOU HAPPY, ART?

A number of major milestones were reached this week.
1.  In a lunch sandwich, I finished the last of our Easter ham.  As I recall, it was a nine-pounder, smallest we could buy and still get “the good deal.”
2.  Thanks to eBay, I finally sold that lousy Allis Chalmers draw bar I bought thinking it would fit the Pony.  So, the Cost-O-Meter is off the hook for that one.
3.  We “maxed-out” our credit card for the first time.  Trouble was, we didn’t make most of the purchases.  But I’ll tell you what, a London Apple store made out big time with almost $10,000 spent there alone. (1)
4.  Hit 3000 mi on the bike today, so champagne at happy hour.  Woo hooo!
5.  Damn, I forgot the fifth thing.

Moving on.  Remember how five years ago I was celebrating the end of the donut famine in Chapel Hill?  A Krispy Kreme shop had opened up in downtown Chapel Hill.  It got to be a nice little habit for me.  First thing in the morning I’d hop on the bus a block from here and at the last stop on campus, get off and walk first to the Starbucks for a Brucio and then down the street for box of donuts.  I’d then hustle back to the bus stop and with luck I’d be back home in about 50 minutes.  It was fun too, since that was a campus express bus, it would usually be just be the driver and me on the way back.  I’d offer a donut, and more often than not I’d be taken up on that.  Well, sad to say, but when I last did the little bus ride into town I got to the donut shop, and there was brown paper covering the windows.  Come on!  I alone had to have been supporting that place.  They must have been making tons of money.  I don’t know, I’m feeling betrayed…lost, and hey, what will I use for a source of vitamin D?

The footnote at the end of the post makes a password suggestion, but that got me to thinking about how absolutely nuts the whole password thing has gotten.  I’ve got so many passwords that I have to keep a typed list of them just to keep track (three, single-spaced, typed pages).  I’m not exaggerating.  Since it’s a list I did on the computer, I’ve had to encrypt it, so it’s got its own unique password.  But in case I forget that password I’ve had to put it on a “Post It” note and hide it somewhere.  And do you think I’ll remember where its hidden if I ever need it?  Hell no.  And where do I keep the hard copy list, so that the next house invader can’t just grab the lap top and the list and have a ball?  Someone I know (who shall remain nameless) had all the passwords in a folder nicely labeled “Passwords.”  Oh, thank you, how sweet!  There are a lot of neat things about the modern computer age, but they come with a price.  Think of me as I go about resetting a bunch of my passwords and informing a slew of creditors of my new credit card information.  But crap, first I have to find that “password list” password!

Let me know how you all relabel those folders, and hey, thanks for reading!
_______________________

(1)  The credit card company said that someone had called them (somehow making it look like the call came from my phone) and given enough valid information, so that they honored a request to send a new card to an address in Tennessee.  I was told that this would not have been possible if my card had required a password whenever there was a call-in for service on the card.  So, long and short of it is, sorry to say, make sure you have a password requirement on your card.  By the way, the same party then called them a few days later to say that they’d be traveling in the UK, thereby smoothing the way for some happy spending in London.

Signs

We were in the middle of a prolonged heat wave, with high temperatures each day ranging between 95 and 102.  In order to beat the heat, I was out the door at a little after 6:00 am that Sunday on one of my thrice weekly, 40-mile bike rides.  Not one car had passed me in over 5 miles, and I was about to crest Collins Mountain, which isn’t really much of a mountain, but being as it’s the highest ground for some miles around they named it that and at some point plunked three gigantic antennae among the loblollies.

Due to the lack of traffic, I was just pumping hard, and not really tuned in to what was going on around me.  So I was startled a bit when out of the corner of my eye I saw a large bird fly up on the right side of the road.  Probably 99 times out of 100 that bird will be a buzzard that’d been scared off of a carcass of some sort, but I could see that this bird wasn’t black as it crossed in front of me and landed on a low branch of a small tree.  After it lit in the tree, I saw that it was quite a large owl, and that there, sitting on other branches were two more owls, probably a family, as owls are fiercely territorial.  Just as sure as I was that I’d never seen three owls in one tree before and never would again, I was equally sure at that moment that what I’d seen was some sort of a “sign.”

Fast forward now a few days.  Again, I’m out early, this time heading in the other direction, north.  I was on Dairyland Road just a quarter mile from the dairy store when I saw something that at first looked like a dead cat in the middle of the road.  As I got closer though the undeniable smell of skunk hit me.  I quickly came up on the body and amazingly, it turned out to be an albino skunk!  Now surely that has to be a sign.

The thing about signs like these is that you don’t know what they portend.  Making it worse you don’t even know the time frame.  So all you’ve really got is a notion that something pretty special (could be bad, could be good) is going to happen sometime, probably sooner (but not necessarily) rather than later.  Essentially, you’ve got nothin’, but still…those were signs.

Actually, I take back part of what I said there.  I do know one thing that will happen for sure because of those signs.  I’m going to lose the three dollars (two more than usual) that I spent on (I mean invested in) lottery tickets this weekend.  Crap!

Speaking of signs, I was walking on campus last week, and as I passed by The Ackland Museum (UNC’s art museum) I saw a big banner plastered across the front of the building.  Here’s a photo.

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Holy cow, I thought, those are my initials.  Someone there must have read my last post and recognized my prodigious talent as an artist.  Here’s the photo of my art work from the last post.

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I got pretty excited thinking, my god, they’re mounting an exhibition of my tractor-related art.  Then I read the fine print and saw that their BRB simply means “Be Right Back.”  You know, not in my 68 years have I seen BRB used in that manner.  I’m guessing this new usage was driven by the pervasive need for brevity that today’s social media demands.  So, bottom line, the internet has co-opted my initials, and I don’t get my one-man show.  Double crap.

I guess one good thing has been confirmed.  I’m clairvoyant.  I just confirmed by checking the internet that I accurately predicted my loss of three dollars this weekend.  Woo hooooo!

And to sign off now in addition to thanking you for reading, I’ll add BRB.

CREMATION…$875!

That was the banner I saw in three-foot tall letters along the “main drag” in Sarasota, FL last week.  Jeez, what do they do, just throw you on a bonfire out back?  Put another log on the fire, honey!  Kind of wondering too, suppose I’m not happy with my “el cheapo” cremation?  What is my recourse?

Other Florida observations.  It’s hotter in Chapel Hill than it is in Sarasota, but they got us beat hands down on humidity, rain and not surprisingly, the attendant mosquitoes.  Holy cow, while sitting outside at Starbucks I think I donated more blood than I did the week before at the American Red Cross.  One came at me that was already red with someone else’s blood.  That really scared me, you know, as in “sharing a needle.”  I just got done telling the Red Cross that I didn’t do that!  Yuck!

You can get a giant frozen yogurt outside the Sarasota Costco for just $1.35.  But if your mother gets chocolate and doesn’t like hers, she won’t hesitate to dig her spoon into yours, which was delicious vanilla and slathered with strawberry sauce.  I was the only child there not smiling.

Speaking of children, my mom and I went to see the movie Cinderella during my visit.  Kate Blanchett, Paul Giamatti and others did fine acting jobs.  But at some point while we were sitting there my mom popped out with, “You know, everyone else is here with children.”  Of course, I had to remind her that, hey, she too was there with her child.

Staying with the family theme, I don’t think in all the years I’ve been doing this blog I’ve ever burdened you with a cat picture.  Either you’re a cat hater, or a cat lover, so apologies to those in the former category.  Our son (Andrew) sent a nice photo of his cats last weekend; here it is:

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That’s Junior under the umbrella and Buddy acting like Junior’s shadow, in the back.  Now staying with the animal photos theme, here are some lovely shots of a Pony.

IMG_1208That’s the new draw bar all finished and attached.  Also, of course, my new (vintage) road hazard triangle.  Newer farm equipment signs aren’t yellow and red, so I was pleased to find this older one on eBay that maintains the Pony’s yellow and red paint scheme.  Also you may note in this photo that a seat cushion has been added.  Here’s a shot of that from the front.

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Pretty cool.  Those two items set the ol’ Cost-O-Meter back a few clams, and I’m trying to figure out if I actually added them or not.  Cost altogether though was less than $100.  And now, if you hadn’t already figured out that I’ve gone “round the bend” with this Pony stuff, check out these next couple of photos.

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Yup, that’s some tractor-related art hanging in my new gallery (the garage), and the corresponding “reader card.”  The Princess helped me with the reader card.   Tours of the gallery are available by appointment only.

Did you know the forecast for Chapel Hill today calls for a high temperature of 102?  So, as a tribute to that, here’s this:

A Hundred and Two

It’s a hundred and two,
And everyone’s down east,
but me and you.
Let’s just lie here in bed
on our best fine linen,

and just think about it,
instead of actually sinin’.

Stay cooooool everyone and thanks for reading.

The Homecoming, Part 2

There’s been a lot going on since the Pony came home to Primrose Lane.  The new draw bar arrived; it’s been sand blasted, primed and even had a first shot of Pony red paint.  Before going to work on it, I did a test fit on the tractor, and it fits perfectly.  The trip down to Siler City and Jeff, the sand blaster went smoothly.  I dropped the parts off one day and picked them up the next.  Jeff’s mules were there, but he wasn’t.  Over the phone he just said to leave the $35 inside a cinder block next to his work shop.  Amazing what you can get done without even seeing a guy.  Here’s a little montage of draw bar progress photos.

There was one other item I had Jeff sand blast.  When I first found the Pony back in the woods, in its little glove box there were a few miscellaneous items, all corroded, the most notable of which was an old hatchet head.  After Jeff sand blasted the head, I took it into Fitch’s, our local lumber yard/hardware and bought a new, hickory handle for it.  While I was checking out, I showed the boys behind the counter the old hatchet head and told them the story behind it, even showed ’em the photo of the Pony on my phone.  Just thinking out loud I said that I should probably get the head sharpened, and one of them said, “Ya got a guy?”  It took me a second, but translated that meant, Do you have a person that can do that for you?   I said that I didn’t, and with that he flipped open a folder of business cards and wrote down the name and address of Sig Unger, who’s a CEO, that’s right, “Chief Edge officer!”

I just love all the little side adventures the Pony has led me out on, and meeting a CEO back in the woods, just outside of Carrboro was just another.  I followed the directions given me at Fitch’s and found Sig’s place.  As I climbed out of the car, I spotted an old, tarnished quarter in the gravel driveway and considered that a lucky sign.  The place was closed-up “tight as a drum,” and no one answered my knock, but when I got back to the car, the house door opened and there was Sig.  He was congenial, took the head, asked when I needed it and we agreed he’d have it ready at the same time the next day.  I said how much cash should I have with me, and without thinking much, he said “five dollars.”  When I returned the next day, Sig handed me the head and said, “Be careful,” and when I ran my finger over the edge, I could see why.  By golly, I think I could shave with that edge.  As I was leaving, Sig asked if I had one of his cards, and I said, no, so he popped back in the house and grabbed one for me.  Wow, the business card of a CEO!

Over the next couple of days I sanded and refinished the store-bought handle to “Boehmke standards,” and attached the sand-blasted, sharpened head it.  Here are a few of photos of that little project.  Don’t forget, you can click the images to make them bigger.

Now The Princess says that I can’t keep the hatchet in plain sight out in the garage; it’s just too dangerous a weapon to leave lying around.  Actually, if I can find a way, I’m thinking of mounting it somewhere on the Pony.  The two came to me together, so I kind of feel they should stay together.

Well, I’ve kept you waiting long enough.  I know you’re saying, really? For what?  Just about everyone I know has asked me at some point during the Pony’s five-year restoration, “What will you do with it when it’s finished?”  I’ve put everyone off just saying that I wasn’t even going to think about that until I got to that point.  For all of you and I guess even for me, the slide show that follows is at least a start toward answering that question.  The photos that make up the show were taken during the block party that our little town home community had last weekend.   Enjoy the show. 

Ever since first hearing Lyle Lovett sing that song I knew it had to be a part of my Pony’s story.  Have a great Memorial Day weekend and thanks for watching.

The Homecoming

I volunteered at a local farm last weekend during the 40-farm Piedmont Farm Tour.  I had planned on taking the Pony out to the farm and then bringing it over to our place afterwards, but it was cold and rainy the entire day I was out there, so the Pony never made that trip.  I spent an afternoon on the farm guiding people around, making sure they saw all that the farm had to offer, fielding questions and for some time, manning the gate to the “pet the animals” pen.  Every time someone went in or out, the dang goats would try to get out of the pen.  Both kinds of kids were very cute and and it was a fun day.  I’ve shared the next picture with some of you already, but for those who missed it, what follows is a shot of a dozen green eggs I got at the farm.

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These eggs come from a breed of chicken called an Americana.  Instead of serving them with Dr. Seuss’s ham, we had them with “blue” berry pancakes, a colorful and delicious meal.

When the rain cleared out, I started looking for a day when I could hire a “tilt-back” and have the Pony hauled from Gene’s back to our house for a while.  We’ve got a block party coming up, and I thought folks would get a kick out of seeing the Pony in a relatively complete state.  I called Gary Talbert, the same driver who helped me get the Pony out of the woods almost five years ago.  When we talked and I explained who I was, he still remembered clearly our struggle to wrangle the Pony out of the deep woods that day in the summer of 2010.  Well, this trip went a lot easier, and within the space of an hour, the Pony had made the five mile trip to my house and was ensconced in his new “stall.”

Since Gary handled both the move out of the woods and this move home, I thought it would be appropriate to make a little slide show of both trips.  Gene took the recent photos at his house, and Cindy took the ones at our end.

You probably didn’t notice it, but when Gary tightened down the Pony to the bed of the truck he did it by putting belts around the wheels.  He said he usually reserves that technique for Porshes and other high-end autos, but out of respect for my fine paint job, the Pony got the “high-end” treatment too.

The fit in our garage was a lot better than I had thought.  I had prepared by moving things around a bit, but now as you see, I’ve just got what son Andy calls “your standard one car, one Pony garage.”  The Pony felt a little out of sorts being in his new environment, but as soon as I turned on The Classical Music Station (that Gene always had playing in his garage) the old boy calmed right down.

I’ve prepared the neighbors around here by sending out an email warning them that they will be seeing a new vehicle in the neighborhood.  I sure wouldn’t want our newly rejuvenated Community Watch group to call the police on us!

In other Pony news, its been a long struggle, but the long-sought-after draw bar is on it’s way to me via UPS as I type this.  I feel justified in using that word, struggle, because of the many emails, phone calls, tractor forum posts and some stupid decision making that have been involved over the months.  One of those decisions involved buying a totally useless Allis Chalmers draw bar which doesn’t even fit the Pony.  The lesson learned?  Don’t believe anything anyone says on Ebay.  By the way, I’m not putting that $100 in the Cost-O-Meter, as I optimistically expect to resell it to some AC lover.  I’ll keep you all posted on the restoration of the draw bar, which will begin with a trip out to Siler City to visit the “messing with mules” sandblaster guy…always a fun trip.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank my good friends, Gene and Lynne for being so sweet to the Pony and me for all these years.  You folks are just great!  And don’t worry, the Pony already misses the hills and woods out at Wolf’s Pond, so I’m sure he’ll want to get back out there.

And finally, I got the sad news yesterday that The Idiotic Brother’s cat, Cruzy, has passed on to “kitty heaven.”  This is for you Cruzy.

The best kind of cat is the one that picks you,
It can push all your buttons with a mew.
Was it  just the soft fur,
Or maybe the purr?
Oh so many years shared, but too few.

Thanks for waiting so long for this post and for reading it too.
Happy Mothers Day, Mom, and to all the other moms out there.


Risk Management

When I was about to graduate from college, with that valuable English degree, I went over to the NIU Placement Office to see if anyone was hiring.  There were a couple of companies recruiting on-campus for something called Insurance Underwriter.  I went to the library, read a couple of articles about what an underwriter is and does and then figured, well, even though this sounds pretty lame, I’ll probably get drafted (into the Vietnam War) soon anyway, so why not get one of these jobs that actually pay money (a princely $7000 a year) in the meantime?  The trouble with that thinking was that the year I lost my student deferment, was the first year of the lottery draft, my birth date came up 351 out of 365, so I was pretty much stuck in that job unless I quit.

I did find out during those three years that the thing insurance people do best is drink.  How fortuitous that the closest bar was just across the parking lot, and The Princess and I had an apartment two blocks away.  Tough duty, that daily trek to work, then to the bar and back home again, only to do it again, and again, and again.  Sounds a a bit like the movie, Groundhog Day.

I could’ve stayed in underwriting for my entire life, but the drinking, man, that was getting monotonous, and just a bit dangerous.  So after three years I quit, and went back to school for an MBA.  It was a tough period of detox, those grad school years.  I have no recollection of it myself, but The Princess alleges that at one party, I was found out in the back yard, on all fours barking at the host’s dog…I guess you could say, “howling at the moon.”  After two years and with my MBA in hand, I was once again fishing around for a job.

This time I got a call to come for an interview at a fancy pharmaceutical company for a job in a department called Risk Management.  Once again I read a couple of articles, found the description of the work not too distasteful, took the job and found after just a short time that working in Risk Management was a lot like working for an insurer, but with one notable exception.  Now someone else paid for the drinks…uh oh.  I remember one day in particular on that first risk management job, I had taken the train into the “loop” for some meetings.  An insurance broker or insurer bought lunch, and of course, drinks.  I know that somehow I made it onto on the train, because when it got to the end of the line, well past my stop, the conductor woke me up to tell me that I had to get off the train.

By now you’re asking yourself, “What’s he telling us all this for?”  Well, the incident I’m about to describe has nothing to do with drinking, but a lot to do with what a hot-shot risk manager I think I am.  For the second month in a row, March contained a “Friday the 13th.”  I thought, you know, this might be a good time to practice what us risk managers call, “risk avoidance.”  I’ll just stay close to home and keep myself busy with stuff around the house, thereby avoiding all of those nasty things that could go wrong.  So I spent most of the day giving the Camry a spring cleaning, including a nice, shiny wax job.  The day came to a quiet close, and I congratulated myself at once again avoiding some horrible triskaidekish fate.(1)

The following Monday I was back to my normal routine.  Twice a week I get up at 5:15 am and arrive at Starbucks just after their doors open at 6:00.  I picked-up a Brucio (a four-shot Grande Americano) as usual and drove on to the site of my volunteering gig.  Everything was going smoothly, and I arrived in the parking lot right on time.  I had some stuff in the backseat that I needed to take into the building, so before I opened the back door I put the Brucio on the roof.  It was as I was leaning into the backseat that I felt something hit me in the head.  The amount of time it takes to realize that your day is about to turn horribly shitty can sometimes be measured in seconds, but in this case it was just a fraction of a second.  What started as just a few drops of hot Brucio on my head and shoulders became an explosion as the the cup hit the door sill, the lid popped off and hot coffee splashed inside and outside the car and of course on me.  Argh!

It was still pitch dark out, so the true extent of the vehicle disaster wasn’t obvious until hours later.  But in the restroom, as I tried to make myself presentable enough to continue with my job, my analysis of the accident (more classic risk management) had already begun.  I quickly came to the conclusion that the event that precipitated my current troubles was Friday the 13th!  If I hadn’t stayed home that day, I wouldn’t have waxed the car.  If I hadn’t waxed the car, the roof of the car would not have been so slippery, and the Brucio would have stayed where it belonged rather than ending up on the Bruci.

But wanting to make some sense of this all, I wondered, is there a lesson here?  I’ve given this a lot of thought.  A good answer might be that sometimes one gets into more trouble hiding from risk than embracing it.  You know, don’t let fear hold you back.  Another lesson could be, and I firmly believe this one, never ever put anything on the roof of your car.  But probably the root cause of all my trouble was, as usual, The Princess.  Why?  It’s really pretty obvious; she didn’t warn me that on Friday the 13th, to wax the car…well its a “slippery slope!”

Thanks for reading.

(1) Triskaidekaphobia:  fear of the number 13.