Sunday, August 26, 2007

Retail Hell: Buying a Bike

I just had an interesting experience, trying to buy a bicycle from "Toys R Us." Anna insisted on getting me a new bicycle for the 5th anniversary of our first date, and we started browsing on the internet. We found a nice bike, a Chrysler PT Cruiser, and wrote down the model number, SKU, etc. Next, we called the local Toys R Us store, to see if they had it in stock. I was hung up on 3 times before I found out that "no, we don't have it."

I had bought a cheap bike from them years ago, which fell apart 6 months after I bought it. The bike I was trying to buy now was more expensive, and made by Chrysler. I was told by a manager candidly that the bike I bought was junk, but they had better bikes, after the fact, of course. So, I gave Toys R Us another try, 6 years later.

Anna and I were already planning to go to the Green Acres mall, not far from that Toys R Us, and I suggested we go there, and ask if they could order the bike for us. As we walked into the bicycle area, the bicycle department employee was briskly walking away. Anna said "he saw us coming, and got the hell out, instead of helping us," and she was right. We looked for a rain tarp to put over the bike, but they didn't have any. In fact, they didn't have many bikes, either.

None of the bikes on their rack had fenders or chain guards, which are my two major requirements. There was a workstation with a PC, and I joked that I should use it to order the bike, because there was no one around to help us. We decided to head toward the customer service desk, or find an employee who could help us.

Crossing the front area, I asked a young male employee for help. I asked him "can you order this bike for me?" He said "no," and started walking away as fast as he could. I called to him, getting progressively louder until I hit the lower end of USMC volume. At that point, all the cashiers could hear me saying "Sir, who can I talk to?" He stopped, and pointed to the customer service desk, "with a look of exasperation on his face," according to Anna.

We were lucky enough to encounter the manager at the customer service desk, who informed us that the bike was only available online. He said I could get it shipped to my house, and then bring it to the store to be assembled, for 15 dollars (plus tax). We ended up going this route. I ordered it online, and it arrived on my doorstep from UPS, without me signing anything (a clear violation of UPS' rules, I might add).

I called Toys R Us to make sure that I could get my bike assembled there. I asked "can I get it done today?" The lady said "yes," and nothing more. It cost 16 bucks plus a tip for the cab over there, with the box, but I figured I'd ride the bike home, allowing 3 or 4 hours to assemble the bike. NOT.

The first thing they said at the customer service desk, after I brought the box in, was "tomorrow, after 5 PM." I work from 4 PM -midnight, so this meant 2 days. At this point, I was in no mood to argue. I thanked them all for their help, got a 9 dollar (plus tip) cab home, and took a nap before work.

I went to pick up my new bicycle today. It has a dent in the front fender, and some of the plastic nuts have been replaced by metal ones. I didn't bother making an issue of it, because it rides like a new bike, and it looks cool. Interestingly enough, though it's a Chrysler PT Cruiser model bicycle, it's made in China. Anna and I were both disappointed to find this out.

I have to raise the seat, as all the Toys R Us mechanics were off duty when I picked it up, but other than that, it was a fun 2 1/2 mile ride home. Let's see how well it holds up, because I am a notorious bike-beater. I ride alot, when I have a bike. I'm going to try to take good care of this one, because it's new, and a gift from Anna. Still, it was made in China, so I'm worried about the quality.

I thought the service at the store was atrocious.Toys R Us might also think of delivering online merchandise to a store, to be assembled and picked up by the customer. The culture I saw in the store was one of running away from the responsibilty of doing one's job, so they may not be up to the task. This is no way to run a business, and I know how NOT to run a business, from personal experience!

I'll take a photo as soon as I get the seat at the right height, and angle, but I like the bike, even with the low seat. I look like I'm a "low rider" with my arms fully extended as I stretch toward the back part of the "comfort" seat. I thought I broke some of the springs on the ride home, but it was a false alarm. Cross your fingers.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Cheers to the state flag of California! From LEAV!


I always wanted this car, and was lucky enough to take my first road test in it. It's my friend Craig's Monte Carlo SS, from the mid-late '80's. I had sweatpants that matched it, which look really cool in this photo. I really loved this car, even though it was never mine.


On a low cliff, overlooking the Pacific shoreline. I'm all like "Hey, what a background!"


LEAV, on the passenger side of Mark's souped-up VW Bug, in La Jolla! What a vacation, in '87! I was PHAT! That was in fashion, in NY, at the time! I still had toned legs, though they're barely visible in this photo.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Taking my friend's little sister, and her friend, to Jones beach. I was 25, and they were 10 years younger than me. A fun time was had by all! The summer of '87!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hangin' Out By The Pool!

Hangin' Out By The Pool, 1990!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dad and Me, in Central Park, around 1965...

Dad, riding me around Central Park, NYC. I was suspicious of strangers at a young age, as is apparent in the last photo. In the second photo, dad looks the most like I do today, though I'm older than he was in these photos, and have much longer hair!
Man, I miss him.


20 years ago, I was in California, on vacation. I stayed with my friend, and his wife. He took these pics, and kindly shared them with me. These were great friends, and great hosts, when I visited them. Great memories!


The artist that painted this removed my red chest hair, with good reason: it looks awful! I swear, I didn't shave it for this painting. I like the face; she captured my expression very well. I was in my '30's when I posed for this. I'm grateful that this artist gave me this photo, but I have to thank Mrs. Brannigan, my friend's mom, who was also a member of that painting class. She got me the job, and gave me her painting, which I gave to my mom. My modeling career was short, because I couldn't keep my mouth shut.
No surprise there! Enjoy a great painting!

Monday, August 13, 2007



My First Car: Goin' to the Beach!

My first car, a Chevy Impala. I drove to Jones Beach alot in it, including the day of this photo. Around 1987, I'd guess.


New Year's Eve, '84-'85. Champagne, good friends, "the Good Times." Is my smile too "snarky?" I knew this picture would look good, which made me smirk a little more. It was a fun night! "La" looks beautiful as ever, of course! I'm glad to count her, and her family, among my best friends in the world.

Friday, August 10, 2007


This is a special post, put together for my friend Joe Higgins! The top photo is of Ed "the Ferret" Loftus, doing a phony punch to Tony "Harpo" Montano, with Mickey "Rooney" Montano, Tony's younger brother, throwing in his own "love tap."
The second photo is of Mickey "Rooney," getting out of his stock race car. I had the privelege of painting the designs on this car, including the tag, right below Mickey's legs, that says "SMOKIN' JOE HIGGS!" That refers to the above-mentioned Mr. Higgins.
The third photo is of my brother Bill, who these guys called "Lev" years before I adopted that appellation, though I always spelled it correctly, as "LEAV." In this crowd, I was known as "Howdy Doody," which Harpo later changed to Howard J. Doolittle, or "Howard," for conversational purposes.
All of these photos are from the early '80's, when all of us were much younger. Too bad I don't have any pics of "Higgs" from this era, but I'll publish them, if I get my hands on them. I have more photos of my brother, which I'll publish eventually.
Enjoy the trip to "back in the day!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The MAIN ST. CAFE: Rick Derringer and Dave Mason

These are backstage photos from two of our biggest nights at the MAIN ST. CAFE, in Farmingdale, NY. RICK DERRINGER is drinking in the top one, as I shake his wife's hand. I'm in the back of the second photo, behind Dave Mason, and a group of people. (L-R): My partner John, wearing a "staff" shirt; the promoter (I think); Christine, our favorite bartender; me; DAVE MASON, who gave an excellent performance; and the reporter from the local "club" newspaper, on the right.
Notice that the reporter is the only one NOT looking into the camera. In his paper, the photo they published had him looking into the camera, with Mr. Mason and the rest of us looking away from his photographer, who was standing to the side. I got the better photo, hands down.
These are two photos with long stories behind them, and I intend to tell them. The Main St. Cafe was a HUGE chapter of my life, though it only lasted a year and a half. Since I've found an archive of photos in a friend's basement, I think it's time to tell some of these stories.