The Saga Of The $42 Shoeshine

IMG_5415I got ripped off and I have no one to blame but myself.

It began a couple months ago when I bought a pair of Danner boots for work, pretty much one of the most popular brands of footwear for those in my profession.

When they arrived I plotted a course to take them to a place south of Downtown called Code 7, my go-to place to get ’em shined up right, since I’m the posterboy for How To Suck At Shining Boots.

Trouble was, I found out that at some point between my academy adventures and the present, that particular branch of Code 7 had closed down (in fact their website still lists the LA location), leaving their only one other store waaaay down in Long Beach.

So I employed the inturnet to find me a suitable local replacement, which lead me to Willie’s on La Brea south of Olympic. The place looks amazing; spacious and chock full of old-school equipment to make or repair any manner of footwear, I dropped off my boots for their standard $12 shine but was intrigued by the proprietor’s pitch for his Cadillac service. Costing $42 it amounted to the boots being left for a week wherein they receive six coats and polishes resulting in basically a pair of leather mirrors on your feet.

I picked up the $12-shined shoes a couple days later and was satisfied with how they looked. Not Code-7 dazzled, but they’d do. The proprietor even blamed it on the boots, noting that the Danners I’d bought were made in Taiwan (what’s up with that Danner?) with a leather not of the same quality as those made in the USA. That fact of course gave him the opportunity to re-pitch me to fork over the green for the Cadillac treatment. He said it would take that type of work to really make them truly glow. So the seed that had been planted got fertilized. I was simultaneously intrigued by the concept of spending almost half of a hundred dollars on a shine as I was repulsed by it.

But the intrigued side of me won out and a few weeks ago when the $12 shine had looong worn away, I dropped the boots off with the promise that a week later I’d be in total freaking awe.

A week later, I wasn’t in total freaking awe. Certainly they looked all right, but really not much better than the $12 shine. Coincidentally (or conveniently) the proprietor was not on-hand, so it was a surprised shop employee who had to endure my brief line of rhetorical questioning, which consisted of “I paid $42 for this?” as I stormed out.

Let it be known that the irony is not lost on me that for the $42 I threw away, I could’ve driven them down to Code 7 in Long Beach with that amount of money in my pocket, waited for them, bought lunch, tipped the server, paid for the shine, tipped the shiner, driven them home and still had about $10 left.

To make matters worse whoever did the quarter-assed job at Willie’s applied polish to e-v-e-r-y leather aspect of the eight-inch uppers of the boot — a complete waste of time, material and effort since those parts of the boots reside unseen under the pant legs. The only thing that work accomplished was to piss me off further because it meant that pulling the boots on or taking them off left black waxy residue on my fingers. The only thing I hate more than a crappy ridiculously expensive shine is to have to scrub off proof of its complete over-priced failure from my digits twice a day.

Now you’d think I’d’ve been steamed enough to march them back to Willie’s, fling them in the proximity of the proprietor’s head and either demanded a refund or at least a make-good, but instead after wearing them on-duty just one day I was so ashamed at being such a total sucker that I chocked it up to being an expensive lesson learned and instead dumped them into the bottom of my locker and went back to wearing my old trusty boots. Once out of sight and mind the Danners sat until yesterday at end of shift when I hauled ’em home and this morning deployed my meager skillset in stripping them and starting from scratch.

Suffice it to say that at the end of that ordeal, they still need a boatload more of elbow grease, but at least my Chrysler-level work (seen at the top of this post) looks far better than Willie’s so-called Cadillac.


Long Before Coinstar

It was late 1986. I worked as a courier for a company that obtained travel visas for clients. I attended L.A. Valley College part time. I drove a Mazda GLC hatchback. “GLC stood for “Great Little Car.” I was 22. I was living in my first apartment. A second-floor single in Van Nuys. On Fulton — 6205 I believe, a couple blocks south of Victory. I don’t remember the apartment number.

I do remember how broke I was at the time. So strapped for cash I was forced to raid my savings, which was kept in a five-gallon glass water bottle and consisted of whatever spare change I’d spent seven years dropping into it.

On a Sunday afternoon, I could’ve put on a mask and gone down to the corner 7-11 to rob it, or I could’ve driven over to my mom’s and asked for her financial assistance. But instead I stayed home and poured the mass of coins out of the bottle clinkily tinkily onto the apartment’s carpeting to begin the time-consuming task of sorting them and then putting them into correspondening sleeves that I’d picked up from my branch of Gibralter Savings in Sherman Oaks a few days earlier.

“How many do you need?” The teller asked.

“A lot!”

It literally took all day to do and in the end my fingers the metallic smell of copper was stationed in my nostrils smelling vaguely blood-like.  I counted several paper and a paltry $53 in rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters stacked up on my livingroom floor. Mostly pennies. But it was $53 I hadn’t had the day before, so I wasn’t complaining. There would be groceries. And cigarettes. And gas.

The next day I loaded all the rolls into a trashbag and shlepped them off to the bank, where of course I generated sideways glances from the security guard and customers when I walked into the place with a heavy Hefty bag slung over my shoulder. At the teller, rather than slip them a few at a time through the slot in the highly fortified window, I was directed to hand them over through the side door where a few random rolls were opened to make sure they were legitimatley filled with coins.

I watched this trying to imagine the cheap desperate bastard who would try to pass off two pennies sandwiching sand or slugs in order to make a profit of 48.

When eventually the teller was satisfied I wasn’t that petty I was told that I didn’t have to go through all the trouble of stuffing the coins. They had a coin counter that could have done the job in an hour.

And I said it would have been nice when I picked up all the empty coin sleeves if that nugget of enlightenment had been passed down to me.

“Well, for next time then,” the teller said, laying out two twenties, a ten and three ones before me.

I took the money and shook my head vigorously. “Oh there won’t be a next time.”

To The Busman At Philippe’s Who Found My Wallet That I Left In The Booth We Sat In For Breakfast And Instead Of Keeping It Turned It In To The Lady At The Register By The Front Door Who Had It Waiting For Us When We Returned After Driving All The Way Back Home And Realizing I’d Forgotten It:

Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

What A Difference A Tenant Makes

Let me start off by saying that it’s still a shame our tenant Joe died this past April. But it’s also a bit of a toss-up in that while Joe might still be alive had he sought out an assisted-living situation, he also might have hated such an environment, and so in a way his going out suddenly in the place that he loved and had lived so long could be seen as a blessing.

I offer that preface lest I come off as callous in stating that certainly his demise has benefited us in providing Susan and me with the opportunity (we’d only hoped could one day happen) to rejoin the upstairs with the downstairs and make the house whole again after what’s been a 50-plus year disconnect that came some time after World War II when the single family residence was split into five units — part of which included the brilliant decision to remove the interior staircase and add an exterior staircase and entrance to the upstairs units. The two of those were eventually consolidated into the two-bedroom, two-bath apartment sometime before Joe moved in during the mid 1980s.

But a more tangible result of Joe’s joining the choir invisible came in the latest bill from the LA Department of Water and Power. See, in addition to Joe benefiting from an insane below-market rental rate of $765 a month, he also paid no utilities — which was triply awesome for him since he had three window-mounted AC units up there and going pretty regularly. On top of that until last year when he hired a cleaning woman who did his laundry off-site, he’d continued to use a washer and dryer he had up there even though Susan had told him to stop because it went against code.

Long story short, in the then/now comparison portion of the current DWP bill it shows our cumulative household electricity and water usage at a whopping two-thirds less than the amount of what it was during this 60-day billing period last year:

2007 Electricity Use: 3,120 kilowatt hours
2008 Electricity Use: 1,081 kilowatt hours

2007 Water Use: 38 HCF*
2008 Water Use: 12 HCF*

*HCF – Hundreds of Cubic Feet (1 HCF = 748 gallons)

Two-thirds!? To me that’s just incredible.

So too will be the construction project that’s been funded thanks to the mortgage refinance that we just closed. Can’t wait until that’s started. And finished.


Well, I’m glad I asked. Last week, something made me wonder where my bike-commute subsidy moola might be for the months of March/April and so I sent an email to the Howard Hughes Center’s transportation coordinator. Typically it arrives a month or so after logs are submitted, but here we were nearing the end of the second month and I got nothing.

Good thing I got curious because the transportation coordinator told me I had not been forgotten and that a Visa gift card for my commutes along with a bonus card for riding my bike on May’s Bike To Work Week had been delivered more than a couple weeks ago. I asked around to the appropriate people in the office, but nope: nothing had been delivered along those lines for me.

So emails went back and forth until finally new Visa gift cards were reissued and delivered today ($68.50 for the March/April commutes and $25.50 (WOO HOO!) for the Bike To Work Day ride, so dang if I ain’t $94 mad money dollars richer — all for just riding my bike:

And hell, I just remembered I’ve still got $25 left on the gift card from my January/February commutes.

Bicycling Pays

Having just crossed La Cienega Boulevard on my ride home tonight I sighted a folded up dollar on the street and stopped to celebrate the find. She’s nothing but a buck and a mangy, beat-up one at that but she’s still legal tender and she’s all mine mine mine.

Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?

Sometimes you need a little rejection to discover something worth keeping. This morning in need of a snack at the office vending machine I kept dropping a coin into the slot that kept working its way into the coin return after each of several attempts to deposit it.

Delicate and sensitive must be the vending machine innards that sit in cold judgment on the legitimacy of a submitted coin, because despite its legal tenderness it just wouldn’t allow this one in. Upon review of the reject I came to see why the lack of recognition: it’s an old fella and made of much different and precious and heavier (relatively) stuff than today’s young’uns.

Upon review at the awesome page, I found that a 1953 dime was made up of 90% silver and 10% copper and weighed in at a whopping 38.6 grains (roughly 2.5 grams). In comparison today’s 10-cent piece is composed of a 75%/25% alloy of copper and nickel surrounding a pure copper center — not even so much as a whiff of silver (the government stopped minting silver dimes back in 1964). That translates not only into a lower production cost but also into a weight of 35 grains or practically a full quarter-gram lighter.

In other words, dropping this heavyweight 55-year-old into the slot tilted the machine’s scale over to the “Hell No” side and out she came… much to my surprise and appreciation when I finally realized what I’d been unknowingly attempting to discard.

What a difference 3.6 grains makes.