Keys Disease

Keys Disease
Battling Keys Disease at the Futura Yacht Club in Islamorada, Fla. three years ago.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bro Advice: How to Shutdown That Well-Intentioned Match Maker

You mean you aren't dating anyone?
I'm not the kind of guy who wants acquaintances fixing him up.

My friends know me well enough to not even broach the subject. If I want to meet the female friend (or relative) of one of my friends, they know I'll ask. “Hey, can you introduce me to so-and-so?” If I don't utter those words, I'm nyet interested. Nyet, no, no way, no how, not on your life, nein, nada, not a snowball's chance in hell....you get the picture.

For one thing, people who know me have grave reservations about inflicting me on some unsuspecting, fragile female friend or relative anyway. I mean, I wouldn't inflict me on someone I like. Moreover, people who know me are well aware that I am not so much a confirmed bachelor as a commando bachelor. That is, I love my singleness and defend it vigorously. I could see myself developing a relationship from scratch with some unknown female quantity, but I would have to be sufficiently smitten to do all of the hard work and spend all the dough required to attain a relationship status. A long shot, indeed.

If it's not a relationship, I don't need it.

Sometimes the well intentioned will say to me, “But don't you want some companionship? Wouldn't you like someone to have dinner with or go to the movies?” Let me think for a second....uh, no. I have friends and I have a cat. The damn cat I can't get rid of, and I can always track down a friend for some human interaction.

I've reached a point in my life – read that: mellow and mature – when I am no longer willing to invest the time, emotion or cash required to court someone new. It was tough enough 30 years ago when women in my target-age group weren't hauling around the tons of baggage they would carry three decades later.

I can imagine many of you tsk-tsking and shaking your head. Here's the thing: I only have a limited number of hours, days, years left. What is the point of treeing a woman at this stage of my life? To grow old together? I'm already old!

So, I'm not on the market to be fixed up. That, however, doesn't stop some acquaintances from giving it the good old college try. Some people just can't stand to see someone else unencumbered; while others see fixing you up as some sort of good deed as if they are mating missionaries converting  unwashed savages in the jungle of the companionless. These are the worst and toughest to convince their efforts are unwanted. I could always yell, “Please, just shut the ef up!” But that's frowned upon in polite company.

I had a conversation about this issue with a single pal of mine who had a terrific suggestion. When he told me, it was an ah-ha moment. I slapped my forehead with the palm of my hand and yelled, “Why didn't I think of that!”

I wish I would have had this advice a few months ago when accosted by one of those do-gooder busy-bodies in one of my favorite Greenville watering holes. This is a guy I know marginally and will have a casual conversation with whenever I run into him. But he's not a pal and certainly not someone who knows me well enough to understand my revulsion to fix ups.

He began dancing around the margins with innocuous questions about how I spend my time and about my interests. Eventually, though, he got around to questions on whom I date and so forth. Finally, he launched into descriptions of female friends he thought would be “just perfect” for me. Every once in a while he would nudge his wife and attempt to enlist her support for this or that candidate. She prudently stayed out of it.

No matter how many times I told him I wasn't interested – and even a couple of my friends who were there told him to stop wasting his time – he relentlessly continued on and on.

Knowing now what I should do, I could have nipped it in the bud by looking him dead in the eye after talking about the first woman he proposed, and without cracking a smile said, “Wow, she sounds great! However, here's what's really important to me: Can she take a punch?”

If I said something like that to someone who knows me, they'd know I wasn't serious. But anyone who doesn't know me well enough to try to fix me up with his twice-divorced cousin, couldn't be sure.

This is all speculation at this point because I haven't had the opportunity to test it, but I know that, sooner or later, I'll get to try it out in the lab of life. In theory, though, it sounds nearly foolproof.

I'll post the results when I have them.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Second Verse Same as the First: Ground Hog Day at the Kia K900 Event!

I'm not the kind of guy who says, no, a lot. 


Several years ago I read an interview with Virgin's Sir Richard Branson in which the interviewer asked him something to the effect, “With all your money, why do you continue to risk your life doing crazy things like hot-air ballooning around the world and jumping out of airplanes?”

His paraphrased response: “Because life is more fun when you say, yes, than when you say, no.”

Indeed, it is.


I've sort of followed that philosophy since reading his interview, and it has led me to some very interesting, entertaining and fun episodes – fodder for some of my favorite and most regaled tales. Anyone who has heard the telling of my Audi R8 adventure can appreciate the power of “yes” over “no.”

Out in the Kia K900.
So, when faced with the dilemma of “to go or not go” presented me by the predicted “winter storm of the century in the Southeast” last week, I chose, yes, and last Monday boarded the airplane bound for the Kia K900 media event in Newport Beach, Calif.

Even with all their satellites, computer models and high-tech barometers, weather prognosticators continue to be wildly inaccurate when gazing more than a day or two into the future. It wasn't that I was laughing in the face of an impending, road-closing winter mess; I just wasn't convinced it was going to happen. I did pack some warmer clothes in case I was stranded out in the open somewhere, and I made arrangements with the vendor that swapped out cars for me at Atlanta's airport to have an AWD vehicle waiting upon my scheduled return.

I took what I considered the prudent precautions; and then, I pressed on.

I arrived at Atlanta's airport after driving 160 miles around 7:30 a.m. without incident. I skated through Prechek with no problem. I was number 35 on an upgrade list of 91. I'm not making this up. The Premium boarding was something akin to opening the doors of a Walmart on Black Friday. I managed to sneak on the plane among the first half-dozen Premium boarders. So far, so good, right?

Stepping off the plane after the five-hour flight, I saw that I had a message from Delta: My return flight Wednesday was canceled! Oops.

Yep, without the first raindrop or snowflake falling, Delta began canceling flights.

As I checked into Kia's hospitality suite at The Resort at Pelican Hill, I reported that my return flight was already canceled. I had rescheduled my return for Thursday. Delta routed me through Minneapolis and then into Atlanta. 

The main entrance to the lobby area of The Resort at Pelican Hill.
Pelican Hill is an uber up-scale joint priced far above the budget capabilities of anyone who didn't invent oxygen, or who isn't a drug dealer, trust-fund baby, CEO or Hollywood celebrity. Or, a long-standing member of congress. Someone mentioned that they had seen George Clooney wandering around the lobby area. I had been at Pelican Hill in August with Nissan; so, I had some idea of the opulence. 


This resort was a solid choice to introduce the K900. It now serves as Kia's flagship car. It won't coax a lot of enthusiasts out of their BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it is a luxury car on the order of those revered German luxury sedans. It's a 420-horsepower V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive sedan. A V6 version is coming later in the year. Its 119.9-inch wheelbase compares favorably with those big Benzes and Bimmers. Oh, and it will retail for about $20,000 less!


Inside, it's chocked full of high-tech and upscale amenities: Nappa leather, heated steering wheel, a 12-way power driver's seat, a 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon surround-sound audio system, a 9.2-inch color touchscreen and Kia's UVO telematics system are only the tip of the features iceberg. Among the other available upgrades is the dual-zone reclining heated/cooled rear seat.

Don't spare the horses please, Amy!
 I got to really experience the upgraded rear seat as I was being chauffeured around by Kia PR types on Thursday. Yes, my Thursday flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta was canceled, causing me to stay yet another day under the wing of Kia.

As a luxury car, the K900 checks all the boxes. It is more engaging than some target competitors. It's outrageously quiet, too. 

A little song and dance at North Africa.
Dinner my first and third nights with Kia was a progressive setup in four Villas. As a meat-and-potatoes guy, it was mostly lost on me, but fun nonetheless. Spain, Italy, the Middle East and North Africa were the culinary stops. I did find some stuff to eat in Italy. There is actually a North African dish called Baba Ghanoush. So I learned something as well as getting filled up.

Draw me a beer, please!
Lunch on our ride and drive the next day was at the Crush & Brew in Temecula, Calif. I had a world-class burger while salivating over the 20 or so local micro brews on tap. Sadly, I couldn't imbibe.

Tequila sippers!
 Dinner that night was another exercise in how the restrained wealthy live. The food was terrific, but I was blown away by the beer, wine and tequila bars. Upon arriving, I moved directly to the tequila station to check things out. Oh, Momma! Ten or so tequilas and a mescal were being offered. Don Julio was prominent among the tequilas. I'm a big fan. I sipped its Reposado and Anejo before graduating to its 1942! You couldn't pry me away from there with a crowbar.


The post-dinner activities in the hospitality suite included a photo contest with a “Matrix” theme. My stunning performance earned me the second-place nod. It was good for a set of Harman/Kardon headphones. Harman is Kia's sound-system partner and a welcomed addition to Kia's media programs. Harman had a $20,000 home-theater surround-sound system hooked up with a huge flatscreen TV in the hospitality suite's media room. You haven't seen a movie until you've seen one with this caliber of audio system. It knocked me out.

Large, please!
Day number three for me was day number one for the second wave of journalists. I got to sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, and generally goof off all day. I returned to the hospitality suite, where I was greeted by the resort staff with whom I had become well acquainted. I like “Norm” status wherever I can get it. I guess I was getting a little ripe because Kia gave me a couple of the event shirts the internals were wearing. 

Having already been through the product presentation, I skipped that portion of the Wave Two activities, but I did hitch a ride with a couple of Kia PR types to the ride-and-drive lunch stop. 


Mmmm....stout!
My plan was to visit one or two of the micro breweries in and around Temecula, have a beer and buy a tee-shirt. It was foiled when I discovered not one of the five local micro breweries opened before 3 p.m. Unwilling to miss out on the local micro brews completely, I sneaked into a second bar at Crush & Brew and ordered a terrific stout from Temecula's Wiens Brewery. It was delicious.

It's good to be king!
I returned to Pelican Hill with my Kia/Zeno PR buddies, who were ready to issue me a W-2 and make me a part of the team, and we headed to the hospitality suite. We beat the bulk of the group back by a couple of hours and took advantage of the time to snap a few “Matrix” photos. 



During the “tequila tasting” dinner my first time around, there were only a couple of people hanging out. I really talked up the tequila bar after my first experience and the Kia Krew took it to heart. On this second visit, the tequila station was two or three deep with people wanting to sample the 1942. Who could blame them?

Sunset music at the big "Tequila dinner."
I retired to my room and bed at a respectable hour my fourth night. I had a 5 a.m. shuttle to the Orange County (John Wayne) airport the next morning. I was upgraded to first class – no clue how that happened. 

Oh, finally!
I returned to Atlanta to find it utterly snowless. In fact, I didn't see any real snow until I turned onto my street 160 miles later. The AWD of my Infiniti QX60 didn't come into play until I turned into my ice-covered driveway.

Eight ball in the corner pocket. Nero never had to endure this!
Despite Kia's hospitality and being stranded at a Five Star resort for several days, I was happy to be home.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Show Time in Chicago!

Kia Soul EV!
I'm not the kind of guy who gets all lathered up about auto shows. They are a lot of walking and standing around punctuated by short spurts of jabbering from auto-industry executives. Sometimes there is a reveal or two of some new or redesigned model, but sometimes not.

Detroit is by far the worst show I've ever attended. The goal of show planners there is to credential as many people to attend the media days as want to. As long as the show issues more media credentials this year than last, media days are considered a success. So you have thousands of people rushing from one press conference to the next, stampeding across the exhibition hall floor every 15 minutes or so. Half of these people have never written, blogged, tweeted or broadcast so much as a word about a car and received payment for their efforts. No clue who these people are, but media they ain't.

I haven't attended Detroit for several years. If I had an assignment or two and could make a few bucks on attending, or, if one of the carmakers invited me, I would go. Neither of those things have happened in a while, so I stay home.

One of Chrysler's two indoor ride-and-drive tracks.
Both of those things happen for me at the Chicago show; so I attend it pretty regularly. Coincidentally, it is my favorite major domestic auto show. It's laid back and accessible with basically a one-day media event. Usually there are a lot of industry executives milling around looking for some media type to talk to. Chicago is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some of these folks.

Nissan has been the show's travel sponsor for the past four years, bringing in and hosting 150 or so media types. For the past couple of years, I've had a few writing assignments from Bankrate for the show. I'm not cranking out Pulitzer Award-winning copy on the show, but it gives me a reason to be there, provides some PR for the show and extremely readable content for my client. Win-win-win!

This year Nissan housed us in the Hyatt connected to the exhibition hall. What an improvement that was! No more getting to and from the show floor on shuttle buses that would run every 30 min or so. Nope, just pop out of bed, shower, dress and walk the equivalent of a city block – inside, out of the cold and weather – to the show floor. Sweet!

Nissan Frontier Diesel concept!

Nissan rolled out its Frontier Diesel concept this year. There were six or eight reveals during the media day and the Frontier was one of them. More than likely Nissan will wind up putting the diesel version into production. 

Toyota Tundra TRD Pro!
Subaru brought out its redesigned 2015 Legacy. Toyota unwrapped its Tundra TRD Pro. And so forth and so on.

Mmmm, beer....
Nissan threw a little welcome get-together the first night. The highlight was the Goose Island Brewery Nissan NV van dispensing some delicious elixirs. 

I'd like chocolate-covered everything, please!
Several of the carmakers holding press conferences provided refreshments at their show areas. Chrysler – that didn't even have a press conference – took the refreshments to a new level with a mid-afternoon snack of Sanders chocolate-covered treats and Bumpy Cake – a chocolate/marshmallow concoction that brought tears to my eyes. 

Heart attack in a pan....
Mazda hosted dinner for 75 or so of us at Gino's East. OMG! That was some good pizza. Each deep-dish pie weighs roughly eight pounds and contains eight slices of heart-stopping goodness at what must be nearly 800 calories a slice. 

What a great sound from the band at the Subaru bash!
After dinner we were whisked off to the after-dinner party arranged by Subaru as part of its Legacy reveal. This is a gathering open to anyone affiliated with the show. What a blow out!

Although getting into Chicago was a bit iffy because of the weather – a number of media couldn't make it – going home was a breeze. The timing of my flight, though, dumped me into Atlanta rush-hour traffic. Making the drive to Greenville was a slugfest for the first 50 or 60 miles, but then the scrum of cars thinned out.

Another Chicago show into the record books.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Drive Through the Great SC Winter Storm of 2014 or I Knew I Should Have Flown to the Toyota Highlander Event

I'm not the kind of guy who bellyaches endlessly about the weather. It's hot; it's cold; it's rainy; it's snowy; it's dry; it's weather. I can't change it. So, to hell with it.

Of course, that liaise-faire attitude evaporates rather rapidly when the weather in question is snow that I have to drive more than three hours through. Then I revert to “old Russ” mode and throw a tantrum. Well, maybe not a tantrum, but I'm less than thrilled.

Greenville's "big snow" as observed from my front porch.
 That was my situation last Wednesday when Greenville got its first dusting of snow in two years. Scheduled to drive down to Charleston for the media launch of the redesigned Toyota Highlander, I wasn't eager to battle the elements. The snow didn't end with Greenville either. Greenville received enough of the white stuff overnight to almost hide the grass and coat the streets. It was a bit worse – but not by much – farther south into Columbia. The foul weather continued all the way down to Charleston, my ultimate destination.

I wasn't tremendously worried. It wasn't much snow and I had an AWD Kia Sorento for the excursion. Yet, it was cold and I had a concern or two about ice.

Actually, I-385 and I-26 were fairly clear. It wasn't until I got into Charleston that the ice began to get a little ugly. There are so many elevated highways and bridges in Charleston, ice was a much bigger issue. Police had lanes blocked and traffic averted in some areas.

Market Pavilion Hotel.
Toyota put us up at the Market Pavilion Hotel on the corner of S. Market St. and E. Bay St. It is ideally located as base camp for a Charleston visit. It is central to everything downtown. Sadly, downtown was closed. It was almost spooky. E. Bay St. was empty of traffic, vehicle and pedestrian. 

What!

After checking into the hotel around 1 p.m., I struck out for the Southend Brewery about a block and a half away. Slipping and sliding my way down the sidewalk, I reached Southend's entrance to find a sign on the door telling me it would be closed all day for weather. I was crestfallen. I had to settle for a few beers at the hotel bar. They were serving a Southend Amber, so it wasn't a total loss.

The bar and downstairs dining area at McCrady's.
 Dinner that night was scheduled for McCrady's – another E. Bay St. establishment. I'm not convinced it would have opened had it not been for Toyota's scheduled dinner. The food was terrific. A couple of glasses of after-dinner tawny port was the perfect capper to a great evening. 

Drink at your own risk! I'll pass.
 Rather than port, I could have opted for a Nitrotini that is made with a couple of scoops of nitrogen. But, my policy is to steer clear of any drink with a warning label. Yikes!

The next day our ride and drive went off as planned. 


Toyota has an interesting two-vehicle midsize SUV strategy. The 4Runner fills the wants and needs of owners looking for the extra capability of a truck-based SUV; while the Highlander answers the call of owners who are really looking more for a minivan alternative.

With three-row seating for up to eight, Highlander is comfortable and loaded with standard features. All but the base LE come equipped with a 270-horsepower V6 and new six-speed automatic transmission. It delivers an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in combined city and highway driving. 


The Highlander at Magnolia Gardens.
I hustled the Highlander I drove out to Magnolia Gardens. It wasn't a taxing route, but did showoff the Highlander's levels of comfort and off-the-line acceleration when the light turns green.

I got back into downtown in time to take part in the fantastic southern lunch at Poogan's Porch. The fried-chicken sliders brought tears to my eyes.

No adventure in the drive home. Traffic was much heavier, but there wasn't a trace of Tuesday night's weather.