The Love Bug

Check out this beauty.

Inspired by a racing documentary, my buddy Jim bought a junky, engine-less 1969 VW bug from a guy who was about to tow the car to a junkyard. He showed the documentary to a few friends, discovered that they, too, had always fantasized about exploring their inner NASCAR driver. So they signed up to race the Baja 1000, a grueling 1,300-mile race through the Baja California desert in Mexico.

For the past eight months, they’ve spent their weekends giving major love to their Love Bug (OK, they’re really calling the car the Desert Dingo), equipping it with a new engine and enough high-tech gadgetry to make even Fry’s Electronics’ geekiest shoppers jealous. We’re talking GPS units for navigation and satellite phones for communication and Twitter updates.

They’re having fun, doing it for a good cause as they raise funds for diabetes research (World Diabetes Day is Nov. 14). And at the same time, they’re not taking themselves too seriously. “We’ll average about 25 miles an hour if we’re lucky,” says Desert Dingo Racing co-owner Mike Aquino in the International Diabetes Foundation press release.

Jim and his crew were just featured on a CNET photo spread. KPIX-TV (Channel 5) in San Francisco will feature them on their news show on Monday. Race starts Tuesday. Follow their progress via Twitter. Go Jim go!


Time for some short-attention span blogging.

Remote control misfire: I TiVoed the movie, “Hollywoodland,” a few weeks ago, and was looking forward to having some free time to watch it — and that moment came Sunday night. I reclined on my chair, pressed play, clicked on the information button to get a little blurb on the plot, and I couldn’t read it. It was words, but it was scrambled. I know my eyesight is poor, but this was borderline dyslexia. So I squinted and leaned closer to the TV screen and realized… it was in Spanish. I recorded the movie from HBO’s Latino channel. Argh.

Corn dogs, anyone? So on Monday afternoon I was in this new development anchored by Home Depot three blocks from home when I came across Wienerschnitzel! Yes! Previously, the closest Weinerschnitzel to my home was a 10 to 15 minute drive away. Much too far. I ordered a chili dog, a chili burger and two corn dogs to go. When I reached the window, I told the woman, “I love Wienerschnitzel! When did you open?” She said, “Last Friday. Are you from California?” And I said, “Yup.” Apparently, I’m not the only one from Cali who screamed for joy.

The Californiacation of Arizona continues. We have invaded your state, we’re clogging up your freeways, and now our fast food joints are clogging up your arteries! (more…)

110 degrees

Every Arizona summer is scorching hot, but this year is one of the worst ever. Two weeks ago, the state broke its record for most number of days in a year with 110 degree temperatures — 32 days! The old record was 29 days in 2002. On average, we only get 10 of these super-hot days a year.

Telling myself “it’s a dry heat” doesn’t help when I walk outside and it feels like I just walked into an oven. We have this rule when we go out. We call it the “one-minute rule.” To minimize our global warming-induced miserableness, we give ourselves one minute to go from our air-conditioned, parked car to our air-conditioned destination, whether it’s a restaurant or a store.

So this past Sunday, the TV meteorologist predicted a five-day forecast of 104 to 106 temperatures, and I actually yelled, “All right!” because it was going to be cooler. Let me repeat — 104 to 106 degrees, and I’m happy. How sad is that?

Another month of this and we’ll enter the pleasant part of desert living — mostly 80s and 90s and sunny skies — in the fall and winter. We do run into a rough patch in January when the overnight weather dips to below freezing and we have to cover our fruit trees to protect them. But then it’s pleasant for another few months until temperatures start reaching the century mark in May. That’s when I start complaining about the weather and start eyeing flights to the Bay Area.

24 Hour Johnny

Remember that wonderful dot-com called Kozmo? Bike messengers delivered everything from music CDs to Starbucks coffee to your door within an hour? I never used the service, but what a terrific idea for the ultra-busy person or the ultimate couch potato.

I want something in my neighborhood that’s on a smaller scale. Earlier tonight at 11:30 p.m., I was craving a piece of banana cream pie, but I was in my jammies and much too lazy to schlep to my neighborhood diner half a mile away. In times like these, I often wish I could call some kid named Johnny down the block who can come to my rescue. And I’d gladly pay a $5 to $10 delivery fee.

So there you have it: A free idea for an enterprising teen who wants to make some good money on a part-time basis. Your company name can be “24 Hour Johnny,” with the tagline, “Every Neighborhood Needs a Johnny.” (If you’re female, you can be “24 Hour Janie.”) Think of the opportunities! Our neighborhood is full of young parents. They sometimes run out of milk. They might need their lawn mowed. They might even want a piece of pie after midnight!

In the time it took me to write this, the diner has closed. I could have gone there and back and consumed my piece of pie. Instead, I munched on BBQ potato chips, and it didn’t hit the spot.

Where’s 24 Hour Johnny when you need him?

Finding the perfect bowl of wonton noodles

I push through the restaurant door seeking noodle nirvana, but what I get is so much more. It is late afternoon – too late for the lunch crowd and too early for the dinner crowd – so the restaurant is empty, except for the three faces at a table looking up at me. As I stroll toward the counter, a woman, probably in her 50s, maybe early 60s, jumps out of her seat to join me, leaving her laptop computer, Chinese language newspapers and two male cohorts behind.

I pick up a menu, but the woman bats it away. “I’ve got a Chinese menu for you,” she says. I tell her I can’t read Chinese, but she says it’s got English, too. So I scan the menu and see what I’ve been lusting after: wonton noodle soup. Cool. Since moving to Arizona nearly five years ago, I’ve been seeking a Chinese restaurant with good noodles. But every time I’ve ordered it, I’ve been disappointed. The broth is either bland, or the noodles lacked the right flavor. Back home, the best Chinese restaurants are grungy hole-in-the-walls, and this one has the look and feel. “I’m from San Francisco,” I tell the woman. “And I miss eating good wonton mein.” She replies: “If you’re from San Francisco, you’ll love our food.”

She’s spunky, full of energy. I like her. And I want to believe her. So I order two bowls of wonton noodle soup, and one order of crispy chow mein and some jook for good measure. “Are you going to be able to eat all this?” Yup, I say. Do you want that crispy bread to go with the jook? Yes. Do you want this order to go? Yes. One of the men, wearing an apron, hurries into the kitchen to prepare my meals. After paying, I turn to join Miiko, who is parked at a corner table, when the woman says, “You should eat the wonton noodle soup here.” It wasn’t a question. It was practically a demand. A bit bizarre. I look at Miiko. She looks at me. Moment of truth… and I say OK. (more…)