Thursday, February 14, 2013

Our Valentines

We celebrated our Valentines early this year—my husband and I. We left the house in the early afternoon, off to a day and evening “sans les enfants!” We were free! What do two grown adults do when they are “free”?

First, we headed out to a car dealership. My husband’s current mode of transportation (Mustang) has been declining in “health” lately. Rich wanted to test drive a few cars he had been doing research on, so there we were sitting in cars, and taking test drives. It was like watching a little kid in a candy store; the new car smell can be intoxicating, and all those new gadgets! They actually make cars that can "touch" you. Yes, the car will “nudge” you on the butt cheek if you change lanes without first using your car signal. Yes, it’s true. If you change lanes to the left, you will get “nudged” on your left butt cheek. Change to the right lane without using your blinker—hey, guess what? You’ll get nudged on your right butt cheek! Unbelievable genius! Rich had a lot of fun changing lanes WITHOUT using the turn signal; almost too much fun.

Then it was to the movie theatre! Yes, the theatre parking lot is pretty much empty on an early Saturday afternoon. We were kind of surprised to find a parking spot right in front of the theatre. Even more surprised to find a perfect seat without annoying people around us. We saw Identify Theft. It was funny, not hilarious, but funny enough to be called “entertaining.”

After the movie, it was time to check into our hotel. This hotel was a nice hotel…and as we entered the lobby, we were immediately alerted to a streamline of men in tuxedos and women in ballgowns. I did of course feel just a tad under-dressed. There were apparently two very formal events happening at the hotel. We would later "crash" one later during the wee hours of the next morning.

We got to our very nice room, and got changed for dinner. Of course it was cold out, and I forgot my coat in the car, so we waited for one of the valet guys to fetch my coat. Of course, they “couldn’t find our car” and it was parked way in the back, so we waited a good 20 minutes. Meanwhile, we continued to watch the stream of handsome men in tuxedos, and lovely ladies in gowns coming into the hotel. Rich noticed a group of guys in front of the main bar. I guess he didn’t want me to get too excited and cause a scene—like really? Did he think I was going to go crazy and take pictures of something? After they left, he then told me they were a group of comedians-one of them was “Larry” the guy from According To Jim, the guy who played the the brother-inlaw on the show. Apparently "Larry" could tell Rich knew who he was, and have him a big smile as he walked by. Apparently I didn't make the connection.

The valet finally came down with my coat, looking rather ridiculous hanging from my hood on that fancy gold luggage wagon all alone. After tipping the valet, we walked outside next door, and had a nice dinner at a restaurant that served the best filet mignon I’ve ever tasted, and made the best margaritas..yum. It was quite chilly out, but I think the drinks made us warmer as we walked a few blocks toward the comedy club. We got there 10 minutes before the show, but as luck would have it, we got seated right in front at the stage---near the stairs..

About 10 minutes later, here comes Jim Belushi in front of us walking up the stairs—I almost tripped him. Larry and the others were soon on stage, and they were all hilarious. Belushi’s son, Robert (who looks nothing like him) was performing as well. The show was quite entertaining. We were so close, I could see up Belushi’s nostrils-which were clean, I must add. After the show, they all walked down the stage, where they were greeted by Rich who gave them all a handshake. (Yes, he had a few drinks during the show—very happy guy..)

After the show, we made our way back to the hotel, and as we made our way near the main lobby live music was heard , and people were starting to dance. We stayed there at a table near the dance floor the rest of the evening, drinking a few more drinks and enjoying the atmosphere. I think those few hours near the dance floor was the highlight of our evening. We talked about how we first met, and how life was back then, and how far we both have come, and Rich got very sentimental with me. The cognac may have helped him express his feelings...ha ha. We people watched, did a lot of laughing, and danced. The singing and music was very good. There was one older gentleman in particular that really was something else. He danced for hours with a mutltiple of younger dancers; really out there cutting the rug, non-stop. Rich was quite impressed. He finished the evening with one younger woman in particular, and continued to chat with the youngster well after the band was packing up for the evening. This older gentleman was only one of the few enteresting characters on the dance floor. Who knew you could buy body socks in leather-quite peculiar looking.

"This is better than the 10 o'clock news!" Rich exclaimed.

After the band put away their instruments, we decided to crash one of those fancy loud parties, because we are thrill seekers, but no one cared or noticed we were there, or about 20 years older than everyone else. So we took a walk around the hotel. We took pictures in the elevators, and checked out the empty lobbies. Yes, we acting like children again, but, once in awhile, it's good to do. My feet were starting to hurt and when I informed Rich it was already past 2:30 am, he could not believe it. Wow, we are way past our bedtime! We went to our room and had a very pleasant end to a very perfect evening.

Happy Valentines!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mr. Flores Makes It Happen

Used car salesmen: You just don’t hear too many positive things about them, however, there is one in particular that I will never forget.

Let’s go back to the year, 1998. I was driving a green Ford station wagon that seemed to start to fall apart around the same time as my first marriage. I clearly remember signing papers with our realtor to start the proceedings to sell our house with the ex-husband. From one of the large windows of the building, I noticed clouds of smoke coming out of the hood of the station wagon, with my two kids still inside. I left the building as soon as I could, to see what was the problem. The realtor, followed quickly behind me, and kindly put water in my engine, and advised me to see a mechanic. The ex, who apparently wanted nothing to do with the problem, left quickly in his truck.
From that moment on, for the next two years, I was taking that station wagon to various mechanics, until finally, one of them told me that it was leaking oil, and it would continue to leak oil, and it would never be permanently fixed, and that I should just go to a dealership and “get rid of it.”
So, with my two kids in tow, that is what I did. I drove over in my leaking station wagon to a dealership. I wasn’t expecting any favors, and I knew I would probably not get much as a trade in, but it was what I had to do. That is when we met Frank Flores. Yes, I still remember our salesmen’s name. I don’t think I’ll ever forget him. He was true angel in disguise.
Sure he came up to us almost immediately after we got out of the station wagon. I could see the many other salesmen spying at us as we made our way around the lot. But he approached us first, a stocky , middle aged man in a brown suit, and smirky grin, he offered his hand in a handshake and offered his services.

“Hello! I’m Frank Flores, how can I help you today?”

I was a little nervous, and apprehensive about it all. I knew my credit at the time was not what you would call “stellar”. I explained my situation. I was a single mom, with a fixed budget and I needed a reliable car. I was honest. I told him that station wagon was leaking oil, but I needed to trade it in, because I didn’t have any other money for a down payment. He looked at me, and smiled while saying:

“We’ll make it happen Julie!”

I’m not quite sure if he appreciated my honesty, or he took pity in me, or if it was the cute angelic faces of my children that really “made it happen”. He took us around the lot, and showed us a few cars, but then showed one in particular that he thought was the best. It was an used Nissan Altima. It was a few years old, but it was nice, and according to Mr. Flores:
“I’ve driven the same car for years, and it’s the most reliable car I’ve even owned.”
I test drove it around town with the kids, and they were quite impressed.

“Mom, let’s get it!” the kids said excitedly.

I wasn’t quite sure if Mr. Flores could actually “make it happen”, but I was willing to try.
Once we got back to the lot, Frank took us inside, and we waited patiently for the manager to give the okay, and check out my pitiful wagon. Mr. Flores reassured me that I would get a good down payment with my trade in.

“But, Mr. Flores, I’m afraid there is already a puddle of oil underneath the engine of the station wagon.”

Mr. Flores shrugged and reassured me that “he wouldn’t see it.”
So we sat there for about a hour. I could see the manager coming back from the lot, and to me he didn’t seem very impressed. They ran the credit check, and checked for current insurance. I was sensing negative vibes everywhere. After a number of visits to the ice cooler, and a bag of chips from the vending machine, the kids were getting restless. I was almost at the point of considering to give up and leave the premises in shame. The only positive thing in the building was Mr. Frank Flores’ smile as he came out with the papers.

I don’t know how this guy did it, but he made it happen. As he handed over the keys to our “new” car, I was finally free from my oil guzzler station wagon, along with it’s unhappy memories that were attached to it—now I thought, perhaps, it would give all three of us, the kids and I a new little beginning.

On the way home, the kids went on and on, and made up a song about Mr. Flores. He was the hero of the day for sure, and he will always be remembered, for he “made it happen.” Although that car is no longer with us, it saw a new marriage,a new combined family and home, and many other happy beginnings and memories. Mr. Flores was right. That car was the most reliable car I had ever owned. Thank you again Mr. Flores for making it happen!