A strange and unexpected thing has happened. There’s a select number of movies whose appearance on cable requires that I stop, abandon all channel hopping, and watch with undivided attention. “The Wrath of Khan” is such a movie, for example. Not because it is great, but because it is good. Whatever that means. It now seems that “Shaun of the Dead” has joined that august circle. In fact it awaits me now, paused in mid-zombie peril. But first, this.

The summer has truly begun: I’m getting up much earlier to take Gnat off to summer camp. And of course “camp” means” half a day in some musty cement room where teenagers teach elementary yarn sorting, or whatever they do in art class. Fine; this was the way of things last year, and going to this particular place now constitutes a Tradition, and I love Traditions. This morning I filed a piece, headed to her school; stood back and admired the Element, which I’d just given a little buff. Drenched the tires in Special Wet-Looking Chemicals for that utterly ridiculous but oddly testicularly fortifying Wet Tire Look, ran a shine-enhancing cloth along all the plastic, cleaned the rims. As noted, I love this car. Just love it. Which is why I want to scream in fury when I look at the hood.

Did I mention that I spent a while at the dealership when I sent it in for some upgrades? Did I mention that it came back with sap all over the hood, and the dealership dispatched a crack band of employees well-skilled in the ways of wax-off / wax-on to restore the shine and banish the sap? Right. Well. Apparently they used Lava soap and fine-grit sandpaper, because the hood of the Element looks like I flew her through the dreaded Chore Boy Asteroid Belt. Scratches. Millions of ‘em, Mister Rico. Since I was on record about the initial Sap Incident, and had gotten the attention of an alarmingly gung-ho manager, I wasn’t worried about what would happen when I called to complain about the scour-job. Actually, I was worried, inasmuch as a I feared the offending employees would have their bellies opened, their intestines hooked up to motorized spools,  and slowly withdrawn from their bodies. When I showed up I would be taken to their place of trial and patted on the back: see, we have paid them for their treachery. Have you thought about that extended warranty?

So it was back to the dealership again, with another complaint besides the scratches. I bought running boards, so Gnat could get the car without having to strain. The ends are crimped and bent; the plastic tips are not flush. Let me repeat, just to give you the full horror that is my life: the plastic tips are not flush.

I showed all this to another manager, who sunk to his knees and banged his head on the curb until white bone shone in the bright summer sun. He staggered to his feet and said everything would be fixed and the car would look exactly as it did the day I bought it.

When I got home, there was a message on the machine – a few add-ons I’d ordered had shown up, and I could come by any time to have them installed.

Now. Will they put 2 and 2 together? Will they fix the paint AND add the other items? It’s a test. Because if I show up to get the car and the items aren’t on, it would indicate that the garage is NOT BEHAVING TO HONDA STANDARDS, and the lamentations and shame that would induce will probably let me trade up to the ginormous Pilot for seventy-five cents. Plus tax and license.

Not that I want the Pilot. I just want my Element.

They gave me a Honda Civic – a two-door. Great. Just what I need, hauling around a kid. But it’s a sporty little rocket; I passed everyone going home. Seems small, though. After all the room in the Element, it felt claustrophobic. I should note something else I discovered about the Element: the back seats are removable. I can get 50 bags of cedar chips in this thing.

Or would, if I had it.

Anyway, that was my day. Running around. Went to Target after the auto dealer, and was so exhausted I had no desire to cook and took Gnat to McDonald’s for salads. Once again, I found myself annoyed by this Dvd kiosk. (The picture does not do justice to the blank disdain of the fellow’s face.)

Well, good for you, friend. YOU choose. YOU rent. YOU enjoy. It’s a welcome relief from having the grim overbearing collective determine what you want, eh? What annoys me about this slogan is the fellow himself – sucking down on a jumbo cup of sugar, pointing the remote, and constitutionally disinclined to smile. Granted, ads with happy beaming teethy people on the brink of orgasm because the salads now come with sourdough croutons are irritating as well. But this guy does not seem happy. It would be a sign of weakness and unhipness to be happy. Because he is CHOOSING and RENTING according to his rules, okay, and he’s not going to let on that he’s ENJOYING, aside from the occasional grunt and nod: damn, this “Hills Have Eyes” is hard.

At some point the  cultural historians will do a study on the strange period in American advertising when people stopped smiling as a matter of course, and started scowling. Compare to the ad at the top of this page: when was the last time you noticed that most of the ads showed people not only smiling, but working AND smiling? No one seems to work in ads anymore. It's as if it's beneath our dignity.

My, that's a lot to get from an automated DVD machine.

Anyway. Busy day - Finishing one column  in the morning, writing another in the afternoon, doing the Newhouse when wife & Gnat were at the park, and this before I get back to Newhouse. I also did the motels tonight – completely forgot about THAT, so excuse any typos or inelegant bollixed writing. So there’s a 14 page update there, and that ain’t hay, as they used to say. (Was there ever a point when they said “indeed, that is hay” and meant it as a compliment?) If I have time I might actually read a few pages of this book I’ve started – “Vodka,” by Boris Starling, a crime / gang novel set in Russia. It’s pretty good, but I think the author takes Russophilia a bit too far. In his preface, he calls Russia “the most fascinating and inspiring country on earth.” It certain is fascinating, but inspiring? To alcoholics, perhaps. They put a probe on the moon, and everyone had been drinking since 9 AM! Yes, but they were aiming for Venus. So vhat? Have a drink!

Speaking of which: I haven’t had a vodka review lately. I am suspicious of flavored vodkas, since most put the flavor up front, and make it cloyingly sweet. But Stoli has released a Blueberry-infused vodka – no one saw that coming, did they? In retrospect, it’s so simple. Of course! It’s pretty good. I’m not a big fan of Stoli’s flavored vodkas, but this one is subtle and different. And it goes without saying the label is gorgeous.

The clerk at the store said she had tried it and LOVED it, but couldn’t figure out what to mix it with.

“Ice,” I said. “Ice and good wishes.”

Same to you. And now back to work. New Motels, as advertised. (Note! New Quirk link: Adjust your world accordingly.