Category Archives: buy something

Week 2 update: Training in style

Racing day is nearing already. According to my calculations, it’s 36 days from now. In that case, it’s a damn good thing I kept up with my training this week.

Yep, yay me! Two successful back-to-back weeks. I ran 5 miles (and change) on Sunday and another 2 miles during the week. The 2 miles were on a treadmill and they sucked. I need new shoes.

Oh, wait. I got new shoes. They’re the latest Asics GT-2000 series. They’re blindingly white with bright blue striping and neon yellow details. In short, they’re sick. They’ll go great with my lime green compression socks. Even in sport, the shoes make the outfit.

Now I need to avoid dirt trails. Then again, at one point, my dirt grey kicks did look a lot like these.

Oooh

Aah

Whatup, awesome shoe?

PHOTOS: Me getting to know my new running shoes — the Asics GT-2170s

Sucker: The True Story of What Guilt Buys You… or You Buy It

Armed with little knowledge of crime/mystery literature and with even less knowledge of my purpose, I walked into Mystery Bookstore last night.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it’s not what I got.

TO RECAP: This specialty book store has been operating on Broxton Avenue in Westwood for more than 20 years. A bad economy and a flux of new technology translated into steadily declining sales. At the end of the month, they will close the doors for good.

I think I half expected empty shelves or almost empty. Stocked with the dregs of crime fiction literati. Having undoubtedly heard of the store’s upcoming demise, people would have flocked to pore over books—old, new, first editions, signed copies and all at a minimum 35% off. They’d circle and strike like vultures. And they’d leave scraps for poor, defenseless, yet well-intentioned looky-loos like me. And not knowing any better, I’d pick up some obscure crime novel from and even more obscure Eastern European writer that I’d crack open and lose interest in after a paragraph.

Hey, at least I tried.

That picture didn’t unfold last night.

The place I walked into was warm, charming, inviting, stock full of books and character. Posters announced upcoming author signings. With little more than 10 days left as a functioning business, they’re still planning a few more in-store events. The only signs of trouble brewing were the little orange and green stickers on book spines that signaled massive markdowns.

Overwhelmed and waaaaay out of my element, I started along the left-hand wall. I’ve been in my fair share of bookstores and have always managed to make my way through the stacks and come out with a gem or two. There were John Grisham-esque book covers and fonts, some books that looked more at home in grocery store aisles and a whole slew of awesome macabre-type stuff. I managed to find some books that I’d read—Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Strain, The City of Falling Angels, The Devil in the White City, Da Vinci Code.

Now more lost than ever, I turned for advice.

Me to the clerk: I know nothing about this, but I know I like nonfiction thrillers and an occasional low-brow Dan Brown conspiracy. Oh, and L.A. noir. WHAT CAN YOU RECOMMEND?

Famous last words from a sucker with a guilty conscience.

What I bought

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much:
The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession

by Allison Hoover Bartlett

A story about a book thief who “steals for love” and the “self-appointed ‘bibliodick’ driven to catch him.” Praise from Devil in White City author Erik Larson: “Compelling with elegant suspense.”

The Sleepwalkers
by Paul Grossman

A high-ranking Jewish detetective working a bizarre murder in Berlin 1932. “About a good man trapped between his duty to serve and his grave doubts about what, and whom, he serves.”

L.A. Requiem
by Robert Crais

Apparently one in a series of Los Angeles detectives that I won’t have any trouble reading midway through. Joe Pike/Elvis Cole ring any bells?

PS I’m aware of the gross irony that I use Amazon.com (the very cause of the store’s closing) for the book links.

What’s in a name?

There have been a few additions to Casa Bustamante that require some Proper Names.

On Saturday, I replaced Rodal, my 1999 VW Jetta, with a newer, flashier model. I’ll formally introduce the newbie at a later date. After it’s gotten its shots and, more importantly, been named. Rodal was the perfect name for my Jetta. My high school French teacher—Mme. Rodal. Jetta Rodal.

Before Rodal, there was Alvin. A late ’80s (or early ’90s?) Cadillac Seville. Why Alvin? Because of the fateful Alvin and The Chipmunks episode where the boys are sent to army boot camp. Alvin, lagging at the bottom of the hill and caving under a heavy backpack, gets yelled at.

“Move it along, Cadillac!”

“It’s Seville, sir.”

“I don’t care what kind of car you are!”

So you see? My new car needs the same thoughtful consideration before being named. I know this much:  I’m getting a masculine feel off him. No sissy names that ends in a -y or an -ie. Until I arrive at the right word with the right amount of gravitas for the German beast, he shall be known as Rodal 2.011.

Proper Name No. 2

There’s a new puppy at Casa Bustamante. He’s 3 months old and is a Chihuahua/terrier mix. He looks like a little wolf with huge pointy ears and an extremely long tail. Since last night, all he’s done is run around the old geiser dog Coco (actually just 2 years old) and cry A LOT.

¡Llorar! ¡Chillar! ¡Fregar!

One of my brother’s friends needed a new home for the puppy. It was either us or the shelter. So that’s how we got Rudy. Yep, Rudy.

What did I just say about cutesy names that end in -y. VETO!

I think the pup is young enough to not get an identity complex from a little nip/tuck in the Proper Name Department.

PHOTOS: Official pic of my new Jetta. PUPPIES!!

Drama don’t come cheap

I understand that the Thanksgiving holiday can be quite stressful for families getting together. The hours leading up to the full-fledged meal. Liquor flowing freely. Tongues even more.

My Thanksgiving stress came two days after the big sit-down meal. After I made a big to-do about being grateful for my family.

Before I knew it, everyone minus the damn dog, was on their way to downtown Los Angeles to see me get my new car. The madness!

After a 30-minute trip in a packed SUV to downtown, fending off the silly USC game traffic and construction. We pulled into the dealership.

“Thanks for the ride. I’ll see you guys at home.”

Damn, didn’t work.

After doing my thing with the salesman, test-driving a car and deciding on a specific model… the drama began.

My dad wanted a better price.

The guy showed him the Costco invoice.

My dad said, not good enough.

The guy said, It’s the best I can do.

My dad said, you’re lying.

The guy said, I’m not, sir.

My dad said, What about the Costco price?

The guy said, That’s what I’m giving you.

I said, Ok, that’s enough. Let me do this.

The guy said to me, He keeps asking me questions. What should I do?

I said, Avoid him.

Dad said, blah blah blah.

Guy and me hide in the car while paperwork is processed.

Guy said, Thanks for getting me in this mess.

I said, Maybe you should take an early lunch?

¡OI VEY!

PHOTO: Downtown Los Angeles skyline

If you can shop for my mom, you can rule the world

Ah, mothers! Love them most days. Can’t stand them around the birthdays.

Since my mother’s birthday is this week, I thought it would be fun to discuss the complex psychological trickery and chicanery that occurs this time of year. It’s different from Mother’s Day or Christmas. Her birthday is an event. And you’d be a fool to forget it… A word to the wise, she keeps track — sometimes mental, sometimes written — of who calls and when.

Ever since I was a wee kid and could conceive of spending my own money on presents for my mother, I realized this would be tricky. I loved painted macaroni and glitter and mom presents were a perfect excuse to dust them off and play a little. The end result would be proudly displayed on a refrigerator for a couple weeks, at least. When was it no longer OK to give the gift of art? High school? College? Last year?

I was guilted into parting with cash while I was a UCLA student. That was right around the time my money was tied up in paying for rent, paying for books, paying for coffee. What little spending cash I had leftover was graciously provided by the Bank of Parents.

The first time I chose to get her more than a card and flowers on Mother’s Day was the last time. It was spring 2002 (maybe ’03). A nice pair of sunglasses was just what she would love. So I threw down almost $300 on those two-toned rimless Chanels. The ones with the rhinestones in the emblem. Remember them? They came in different colors: blue, purple, pink, black, brown.

For my mom, with her penchant for gold, browns and animal prints, I bought the brown/gold pair. Match made in heaven. And I told her, even though your birthday is four months away, that’s it. This is all I can afford… maybe even for Christmas too.

All proud of my purchase, I wrapped it up nicely. Made a whole production of the affair. Sunday comes. She opens it. All smiles. SUCCESS!

A few weeks later, we meet up for lunch or something and I catch her wearing some chafa on her face. (chafa: Spanish for cheap, chintzy crap) If those weren’t dug out of a bin at the Dollar Store then they certainly came from the deep crevices of a couch cushion.

The OUTRAGE!

Why aren’t you wearing the pair I just sacrificed my food budget for???

Oh, those? Because they keep sliding off my face and I don’t want them to accidentally fall and get scratched.

So when will you wear them???

I don’t know.

Ok, how about when I let you have them back?

It was right around this point where I ungifted those Chanel glasses. Considering I spent some $$ on them, they were going to get used one way or another. (Fast forward many years: They’re still around and now they look worse than that chafa she originally had.)

Another time…

…for her birthday, I got her another nice pair of glasses. These were prescriptions. Some sweet Elizabeth Arden green frames. I even sprung the extra bucks to make sure there was no classy bifocal line. What of those? Lost.

Lesson learned: Do not get her eyewear for presents. Poor investment.

Now she tells me that she should look into getting new, quality lenses. Her eyes are starting to hurt. And those headaches she sometimes gets? I shrugged and said something snarky about the 99¢ Store.

New problem…

It’s her birthday. Obviously, glasses are not an option.

If I get her flowers… “Hmm… You shouldn’t have… really. I have my own rose bushes in the back.”

If I buy her clothes or accessories… “Where’d you get this? I could have found it cheaper.”

If I suggest a massage or spa day… “Just give me the cash instead.”

This year, I decided to buy her some Aveda products. I got her relaxing and yummy-smelling treats and the Green Science line, mainly to keep her fingers out of my .5-ounce $50 jars. It’s a bit pricey all together but she can’t poo-poo it. My mom’s at that age where she’ll gladly accept any gifts (no matter the cost) that will help her look like a young girl of 40.

¡Feliz Cumple!

PHOTOS (from top): The infamous glasses as they looked many years ago; Now, though still around, they are missing rhinestones, are super scratched, dirty and uncomfortable.

EX-CEL-LENT, he says

The search is on for Rodal’s replacement. I’ve taken some pretty big preliminary steps and am ready to make the move to driving off lots and testing out the vroom vroom.

1. Registered Rodal

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s very hard to part with $144 to register a car that you know you won’t be driving for the full year or even a quarter of a year. Also, it sucks to throw down that much money when you’re adamantly trying to save your pennies for a new car and realized long ago that you were done even spending $$ on an oil change for the Ol’ Girl. If she needs oil, she’s gonna get it a quart at a time at gas stations.

2. Got my credit score


Like everything else I avoid, I hadn’t checked on my credit score for some time. Considering the mountains of student loans, maxed out credit cards and closed accounts, I figured I already knew what the number was going to be—Awful. Oh, is that not a number? How about… Terrible. Subpar. Presents serious risk.

With a stiff drink in one hand, I took a deep breath and clicked my way through my *free credit score. (Free, my arse! Is $1 free? Is $4.95 free? Is $24 a month free?) But, alas, HUGE mistake on my report and one I’m in no rush to fix.

It seems yours truly has EXCELLENT credit. That’s right, fools. Jealous? Superb. Outstanding. A-OK. EX-CEL-LENT, as Monty would say. Truthfully, I don’t know in what Twilight Zone universe I end up with excellent credit, but I’m going to let it slide until someone tells me different.

With my EXCELLENT score in hand, I’m going to strut on car lots this weekend and see what kind of steals deals I can finagle. I am a prime person to sell to. They’d be happy to make comish off me. It’s great to be in this position for a fraction of my life.

I’d rather be… driving a busted-up car

For the last week, I’ve chosen to drive this beauty instead of my v-dub. Of course, it doesn’t still look like this. It’s put together, more or less, after my younger brother crashed into a dumpster. Yep, a dumpster. Let’s move on, that little chistesito is a whole different story.

I started off driving the busted up 4Runner out of necessity. Needing to take a 60-mile road trip, I knew my car would have been the wrong choice for that journey. Plus, with expired tags, that’s a lot of real estate to travel and avoid cops. Of all the times I’ve been pulled over, 90 percent have been for expired tags. It’s one of those things I never get around to in a timely manner.

At first, I had trouble adjusting to this car. All the dashboard lights are out of whack. Had to double check I wasn’t driving with the emergency brake on. Had to figure out how to stay in my lane. Had to come up with a plan B for changing lanes since I couldn’t see through the blacked-out windows.

But then, I realized something profound. I loved riding around in this behemoth. Not needing to worry about shifting in traffic. Changing lanes when I want to because I’m huge. Seated up high I can see around other cars. Dark windows so no one can see and steal my dance moves.

I doubt I’ll trade in my Rodal for an SUV. This is a fleeting summer fling I’m having. Nothing serious. I know it won’t last and I’m not looking for it to last. In the week I’ve been driving around in it, I’ve already had to make a couple trips to the gas station. That’s lame.

If anything, this has made it clear that I have to start looking for a new car. Also, I shouldn’t put off registering Rodal. I’ve missed two deadlines so instead of paying $77, now I have to shell out $144! That’s too much for a car I’d gladly ditch for one that looked like it’d been through a meat grinder a few months ago.

PHOTOS: (top) Morning after hitting the dumpster, the 4Runner looks a hot mess; (left) cinder blocks and cracked wheels; (right) dangling eyeball lights.

My Zack Morris evolution

Every now and then the world gives you the little push necessary to make some big changes. Recently, in order to join the world of competent communications professionals of the 21st century, the world decided that my phone first had to die.

Granted, it didn’t “die” as in “stop working.” The battery just needed to be charged. My charger was rendered useless by a little white maltipoo named Coco, who thought it would be fun to chew through the wires. Of course, instead of buying a new charger, I decided it was time for an upgrade. And, of course, since I can never do things immediately after they happen… I was left without a phone for six days until I got my new *DROID.*

Yep, I hear an awesome little *droid* any time I get anything… a new email, text, upgrade, update… I’m still in the honeymoon stage and haven’t gotten sick of the *droid* noises, but I am marveling at the amount of junk I get.

In honor of my very first smartphone and baptism into this brave, new world, here is my cell phone evolution:

Ahh, the Nokia. It served many noble purposes. And was HUGE to boot. Does anyone else remember all the cool cases you could buy at the mall for these suckers…?

… or these suckers? Of course, I went from the HUGE nokia to the palm-sized model. I don’t remember much about this phone other than being the proud owner of one for what seemed like eons.
My first foray into flip phones was this piece of shit. By the end of my time with it, I couldn’t shut it. I carried it in my backpack and my car wide open or else all calls would drop.
Of course, since I was done with flip phones, I went back to the tried and true. I’m not sure this is the exact model. It looks shinier than what I had, but you get the point. This is around the time Jack Bauer and the rest of the 24 crew were pimping Ericsson phones.
Yep, I got the ultra cool Motorola razr. Of course, I got it maybe a year after it was in vogue and as a hand-me-down from my cool-with-the-hottest-phone-trends younger brother.
Another hand-me-down from my younger brother. So embarrassing! It served its purpose until I used it to oblivion. It was missing a handful of buttons by the time I finished using it.
The Movistar! My Mexico cell phone!. Man, they give you cheapie phones if you’re not looking to invest. I’m gonna blame Carlos Slim for this obvious backward slide in modernity. I’m talking circa 2009.
What?! It slides. I’ll take it. After my long back-and-forth battle between flippers and non-flippers, I felt like a slider was just what the doctor ordered. So while everyone else was busy with their iPhones and Blackberries, I was sliding my baby open and shut. You got nothing on me.
Another black mark on my evolution. This prehistoric little number was courtesy of Vodafone in South Africa for the World Cup. It served its purpose well. But, I never realized how much I loved predictive texting–my apologies, I mean SMS–until I came across this phone.

Ten signs its time for a new car

10. NEEDS A PEP TALK

You find yourself giving your car a pep talk before turning it on. “Come on, Rodal. You can do this. You’re stronger than you think. It’s only one little hill and 20 miles until we’re home. That’s nothing for a beast like you.”

9. NEW ROUTINE

You’ve added a new step to your routine. Seatbelt, check. Shades, check. Ignition, roar. Hazards, yep.

8. PREEMPTIVE CALLS

After the pep talk, after the hazards, but before you start that now-treacherous 20-mile commute. You make a preemptive emergency call. “Hey, I’m on my way now. If you don’t see or hear from me after an hour, you’ll know why and whereabouts to find me.”

7. IT’S THE BIG ONE

Continuing to show its age, your car decides now, in the winter of its life, to SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL uncontrollably. Every stoplight, stop sign and yield, serves as a reminder to get your emergency kit in order. Hey, it could also be a public-service announcement to other passersby. Silver lining, folks!

6. FREQUENT PIT STOPS

Suffering from incontinence, you notice your car is leaking fluids and burning through gas like no one’s business. You’re filling her up more often with less miles than in her glory days. But now, your trips to the gas station also include water and oil checks. Sometimes, twice a day.

5. NEVER-ENDING LIGHT

Everyone has that moment. The time when your CHECK ENGINE light comes on and you have no idea why. After an amusing quest to figure it out, you realize you’ll just have to live with it. My light, the one that’s been on for months—nay years—just started blinking.

4. BLOWN LIGHTS

Unlike the annoying Check Engine light that never burns out, everything else goes. One right after the other. Newest victim: BACKUP LIGHTS. Both of them. An easy fix to be sure, but one that won’t be replaced anytime soon because the trunk won’t open.

3. TRUNK WON’T OPEN

Enough said.

2. 5TH GEAR? WHAT’S THAT?

Since your car won’t/can’t go much faster than 60 mph without dragging and jerking, what’s the point of shifting into fifth gear? You’re comfortable cruising in 4th, in the slow lane, with your hazards on and your windows up. Why? Because…

1. HAZARDOUS EMISSIONS

Apparently, your car is toxic. It’s best not to inhale any of that. “Better out than in,” as Shrek always says. Now, there’s no conclusive evidence yet; however, a certain passenger has complained that fumes of God only knows what aggravated her eyes. There may or may not be some eye drops involved. Oops.

*BONUS

You’re scared to write/speak ill about your car for fear of vehicular retribution.

YA NO LE BUSQUES… PORQUE LE VAS A ENCONTRAR.

PHOTO: Cartoon by Andy Davey of The Sun.

Day 8: $15?! I’ll take it!

Yesterday, MexiCAN #2 and I hit Santee Alley, better known to Spanish-speaking Angelenos as los callejones. It was one of the last weekends for us to try to score some good deals on Mexico gear before we leave. MexiCAN #2 came for the company. I was on strict orders not to let her spend $$$. I’m the worst person to put in charge of reigning in frivolous shopping and impulse buying. I went in with a budget of $100 for the day. It broke down a little like this:

Got free street parking. It’s Sunday at a meter!!

Super hot, so I splurged on a $5 sun hat. Made all the difference in the world.

Saw a lot of custom Mexico Ts, but finally settled on a bright red, Ed Hardy-esque t-shirt. Not my all-time favorite style, but the shirt was hot. Threw down another $8.

Walked around a little more. Started looking for other deals. Then, came back to the task at hand. Went into a soccer store spent the largest chunk of my budget.

I’ve been looking for hats. Ideally, I’d like a big charro sombrero. My mom thinks that’s ridiculous and I’m pretty sure MexiCAN #2 agrees. Perhaps MexiCAN #2 is more embarrassed by my poncho. But, like I said, the more naco you are for the World Cup, the better. They just haven’t realized how cool it’s going to be.

Didn’t find the sombrero there, but did see a slammin’ hat that looks fierce on me. It was just $10. Bought another for MexiCAN #2.

Money well spent. But, lo and behold, in the racks there was one small black away jersey. Grabbed it and deliberated if it would be excessive. At this point, MexiCAN #2 confirmed that her mamá got us replica green jerseys. I didn’t really deliberate that much…

Official black jersey: $70

My replica: $15!!

Took a break for a bacon-wrapped hot dog. Spent another $1.

On our way back to the car, stopped by a jewelry store. All jewelry 50% off, plus another 10%. Looked around and bought two earring/necklace sets for mi mamá and me. Grand total: $22

On way to car, lent MexiCAN #2 $3 to buy a baby apron. I dunno? It’s cute, but I’m just glad she knows a small kid who likes aprons.

Left downtown LA with some cash in my pocket. From here, MexiCAN #2 and I headed to Hollywood. Before meeting up with friends for a movie, we kicked it at Boardner’s, where I spent another $10 on happy hour drinks. From there, walked to the Arclight and threw down the rest of my money: $16

Grand total: $100

PHOTOS from top: Santee Alley vendor selling Mexico swag on Sunday, May 30; red Mexico shirt; green-and-white cap; official black jersey and replica.