Friday, August 6, 2010

The Strip + Petcast are LIVE on Sat

We're doing a bit of a Mafia extravaganza this week on The Strip, what with not one but two major Mob-related museums opening in Vegas in the next 18 months. The Strip is on from noon-1:30 p.m., followed by one episode of The Petcast featuring a dog that surfs at LVRocks.Com. More on that below.

Here's the game plan for The Strip:

* At noon, we'll start playing my interview with Meyer Lansky II, the namesake grandson of the man who sent Bugsy Siegel to Vegas in the first place, who is a consultant on the Las Vegas Mob Experience coming to the Tropicana in December.

* Around 12:30 p.m., Miles and I will do the normal show stuff. The podcast edition will include a second main interview, with Dennis Barrie, curator of the $40 million Mob Museum taking up residency in Downtown next year. Barrie not only created the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and the International Spy Museum but was tried and acquitted on obscenity charges in Cincinnati in 1990 after he put on an exhibit of sexually explicit Robert Mapplethorpe photos at that city's Contemporary Arts Center.

In all likelihood, we will also drop in the interview part of a special INTERVIEW edition of The Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week. If there's time, though, we may play it on the air as well. It's a supersized episode of The Strip designed to tide you over while I'm gone to New York and Alaska next week.

At 1:30 p.m., guest host Amy subs for Emily for a Petcast. Our guest is Surfdog Ricochet's Mom. Check this out, but have a hankie handy:

As always, you can listen live at via LVRocks.Com and join the chat with fellow listeners. Or wait and grab the podcast version via iTunes, Zune or that nifty "Listen Now" player on TheStripPodcast.Com.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Seven Images For Thursday

My cup of odd and interesting images overfloweth, which is great because I'll have some fun stuff to blog while I travel to New York and then Fairbanks, Alaska, in the coming few weeks. But I'm in a giving mood at the moment, so first off, a listener sent in this tattoo, above. That's quite a Vegas fan, huh? Anyone else got wild Vegasy tatts? The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority should run a contest! Or at LEAST O'Sheas.

This came in the mail yesterday...

...and yes, it's a pair of sample tampons. Sent by my grocery store. To a household of two gay guys and two Chihuahuas. Presumably, they're supposed to data-mine the information they collect from our saver cards, right, in which case we'd be getting free samples of Good N Plenty and Wheat Thins. So the next time someone paranoid warns you that you're giving up your privacy to these marketers, just tell them about this. I'm no longer concerned; they're not really competent enough. And, in the meantime, anyone need a tampon? (One of them is still unopened. Shall I put it on the TheStripPodcast.Com prizelist?)

The other day I was at the Coffee Pub, a once-hot power-breakfast spot just east of the Strip on Sahara. Not so hot anymore, I guess, seeing how she...

...hasn't worked at KVBC for many years now, and it's not even called KVBC anymore. And this was one of the newer photos on the wall.

Speaking of walls... Mandalay Place, you may notice a new sign touting these three chefs, Hubert Keller, Susan Feninger and Rick Moonen. All were contestants on Top Chef Masters and/or judges on Top Chef. Notice anything missing in the marquee? Oh, that's right: Any mention of Top Chef. I'm sure it's because the Bravo folks hold a tight rein on the branding, but it's odd for them to hold back in this way because it would've been a free billboard for the show in a heavily trafficked shopping esplanade connecting the Mandalay Bay and Luxor. How many thousands of eyeballs march by this every day? Oh well.

I mentioned this somewhere, but given that the R-J reported that July was our hottest ever -- take that, global warming deniers who think a late-season DC snowstorm negates melting polar ice -- I thought I'd show it again because I like it:

That's a dolly full of Häagen-Dazs -- a dolly full of Dolly Madison woulda been funner -- waiting to go up an elevator outside the New York-New York to the ice cream shop in the arcade there. Yum. Which reminds me: Anyone catch any overheated tourists mounting that ice sculpture at the Crystals? Will happen, sooner or later.

At first glance, there's nothing to odd about this image from the R-J during the World Series of Poker...

...until you think to yourself, "If I'm a 7-year-old, female poker fan would it really occur to me to ask this particular guy for an autograph?" I mean, (a) why is a 7-year-old a poker groupie in the first place but anyhow, (b) is Harrah's CEO Gary Loveman really a celebrity in this universe? Do you even think he has ever bet on a hand of Texas Hold 'Em in his life?

And finally, some of you have asked what my old car looked like. I found this from a few weeks ago at the Rio.

It's actually a somewhat flattering angle and still you can see several dings, that yellow stripe directly in front of the front tire, how the stitching on the top on this 1998 Sebring is coming undone. The back bumper was actually mended a little by, uh,White-Out. (A friend thought he was being helpful when I was on vacation and he was watching the house. Scary part: It looked better.) And that doesn't even account for the major engine problems.

Yes, everyone. I pledge to be more careful with my beautiful new vehicle. Especially, Emily, when we're driving you and Archie to Michigan at the end of August for your fancy shmancy fellowship. If anything happened to you, I'm thinking your mom might never supply me brisket again.

LVW Col: The Upside of The Crash

Here's this week's Las Vegas Weekly column. Enjoy. -sf

Las Vegas’ downturn could have a surprising upside

Last month, after moderating a political debate for a local business group, I stayed to talk with some attendees. One chat stuck with me, an encounter with a laid-off mid-level casino corporation executive whose partner had just also lost his job as a manager of an electronics store that closed.

“Between the two of us, we have four advanced degrees and we’re collecting unemployment,” he groused.

“So why don’t you move somewhere else?” I asked him.

“Oh, we can’t,” he said sadly. “We’re so underwater on our house and the house I had before we moved in together. We’re going to have to tough this out somehow.”

This conversation had a profound, unexpected effect on me: It made me realize the prolonged, brutal recession is both the worst thing that’s ever happened to Southern Nevada and, also, potentially the best thing that’s ever happened to Las Vegas as a community.

Hear me out, please. I’m not in favor of anyone going broke or losing their jobs. Really, I’m not.

Read the rest at

No Vegas On Buffett's Giving List ... Yet?

Warren Buffett announced a list yesterday of 40 billionaires he's persuaded to sign a "Giving Pledge," a project in which he convinces the nation's wealthiest people to commit to give the majority of their wealth to charitable causes during their lifetimes.

It's a pretty cool list, and you can read it here. The crowd includes many well-known billionaires -- the Gates, George Lucas, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Allen, Barry Diller/Diane Von Furstenberg, Ron Perelman, T. Boone Pickens, a Rockefeller and Ted Turner -- and if you click on their names you can read their letters explaining the vow.

Not present: Anyone from Vegas or the casino industry. Well, unless some of these lesser-known billionaires live in Vegas quietly, anyway. That would include, off the top of my head, Steve Wynn, Elaine Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Phil Ruffin, Donald Trump, any Fertitta or Greenspun, Bill Boyd and Sheldon Adelson. One former southern Nevadan is there: eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who reportedly traded in his 45,000-square-foot Vegas manse in 2009 for something cozier in Hawaii. And Barron Hilton famously has the Flying M Ranch near Yerington, Nev., which is from where Steve Fossett flew and perished. Fossett's widow isn't on the list, either.

Of course, it doesn't mean anything. Most of the above are well-known givers without such a pledge. But something tells me Mrs. Wynn will be adding her name in due course. Just a hunch.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Show is UP: Rick Thomas

Alrighty, another fun-filled episode heading your way. Click on the date below to listen or right-click to download and listen at your leisure or subscribe via iTunes or Zune.

Aug. 2: Rick Thomas Roars On

Seven years after an on-stage tiger attack ended careers of Siegfried & Roy, there’s still one magician on the Strip using the huge wild cats to stun and fascinate audiences. That’s Rick Thomas, who has bounced in his Vegas career from one resort to another and presently appears at the Sahara. Steve speaks to Thomas this hour about returning to the stage with his tigers after Roy’s injury, about what went wrong for Criss Angel, Hans Klok and Steve Wyrick and about why he hesitated before agreeing to take over the showroom at the Sahara.

In Banter: Gays stop traffic, Nora Ephron hearts SW Steakhouse, Louie Anderson gets a gig, Tony Curtis loses a gig, PA beats NV, Wynn unveils an app and Steve hunts for a car.

Links to Stuff Discussed:

Rick Thomas’s website
Steve’s AOL News piece on the gays stopping Strip traffic
MGM Resorts’ Fabulous Gay Weekend thingie
Norm Clarke on Louie Anderson’s new gig
VegasHappensHere.Com on Tony Curtis’ recovery and lost film role
The AP on PA’s outgrossing NV in gaming taxes
The Las Vegas Sun on Congress’ efforts to undo the online poker ban
VegasTripping has a peek-a-boo at Cosmo and a review of the Wynn iPhone app
VegasHappensHere.Com on Steve’s car-buying drama
Holly Madison’s big no-resort-fee splash at P-Ho
LasVegasDirect.Com offers a list of Vegas hotels with resort fees

A Dear Jon Letter Of Sorts

I read with great interest a Columbia Journalism Review Q-and-A with Las Vegas' very own Jon Ralston. I think it's terrific that they spotlighted Jon and, as I've written many times, our state is better for his indefatigable work.

But, of course, I found one segment of it a little bit silly. And, no, it was NOT the part where he was talking about how he "and maybe one other reporter at the time, raised questions about a U.S. senator calling banks" regarding CityCenter's troubled loans. He, of course, knows that it wasn't "maybe" but, in fact, a fact and that yours truly was the very first to write about it or get reaction from MGM Whatchamacallit and Sen. Reid's office. So "maybe" was just another way to downplay someone else's work even though Ralston himself needs no puffing up. He would never let anyone else get away with such a slight if it were him, so now I've clarified that.

But then Jon gets into the conversation with CJR about whether the two newspapers in Vegas are biased towards one side or the other in the Reid-Angle Senate race.

If Ralston wants to make the case that the R-J's news coverage is biased towards Angle and other Republicans, I'm having a harder and harder time disagreeing lately. Almost every day now, there's a piece on what Sharron Angle had done or said that day, not a stitch of it actually new or different. A few examples:
  • In early July when President Obama visited Vegas, R-J scribe Laura Myers wrote on the same day about a standard-issue Angle stump speech as if that constituted news or balance.
  • The other day, Angle spoke to a Republican Men's Club and Myers' story was loaded with the same catch-phrases that Angle uses in her TV ads. It is NOT news that Sharron Angle thinks Harry Reid is a bad senator and that she'd be a better one. She doesn't get front-page treatment for saying that; she gets it if she says something newsworthy. The key word is "news" -- something we don't already know or haven't heard yet.
  • When something actually IS newsworthy -- say, Sen. John Ensign's staffers were cleared to testify before a grand jury in his scandal's probe -- it needs better, more and more prominent coverage. The R-J gave that example these skimpy seven paragraphs and buried it somewhere deep in one of the sections.
So, yeah, I'm disappointed by the R-J. And it is totally bizarre to have editor Thomas Mitchell believing it's OK for him to post anti-Reid screeds online because "it's a blog," as he told the L.A. Times. He oversees the paper's coverage; his advocacy for or against a candidate in any medium undermines the perception of his judgment. Period.

All that said, however, the R-J does play the broader national news stories that come off the wires pretty fairly. Obama appears on the front page looking presidential on a regular basis. When historic legislation has passed, the front pages have reflected their significance.

But, OK. Ralston can make the RJ-bias argument and there's some merit to it. Trouble is, he goes on with CJR to defend the Las Vegas Sun as if it is not equally guilty from the left:

There’s no question that Brian Greenspun, who’s the head of the Sun, supports Harry Reid. But he does not have that much hands-on impact on the Sun and what it does on a day-to-day basis. Would he like to see Harry Reid win? Yes. Do people who work for the Sun know that? Yes. Does he influence day-to-day coverage? I’m not at the Sun, I can’t really speak to that, but I don’t think so. I know the political reporters and they’ve done some great coverage.

Whoa. For a journalist who makes a career pointing out the fatal flaws and cognitive dissonances of public officials' arguments, Ralston in this passage really works hard to overlook a lot of inconvenient truths. You know, like that time in February when the Sun ran a banner headline across the top of its front page shouting, "A Double Thank You, Mr. Reid." It was an advertisement for the Sun's editorial; the Review-Journal has never, ever advertised what's on its editorial pages from its front page. Ever.

But that's ancient history. The past several days offer even better examples. My favorite came Sunday. For background, you ought to know that the R-J's Myers did a blog post examining this Harry Reid ad:

Myers raised the question of whether the teacher in the ad was actually at risk of losing her job. It certainly does seem like a reasonable conclusion from the ad, no? But, in fact, this teacher probably wasn't ever in such danger.

Was it a worthwhile use of Myers' time? Doubtful. I've yet to see Myers do any coverage of inaccuracies or outright lies coming from Sharron Angle or her campaign -- for a few whoppers, check out my blog post about a recent Wall Street Journal column -- but I can't say it was a completely ridiculous thing to write about, either.

Myers' blog post, however, gave rise to one of the most bizarre, slanted political pieces I'd ever read in any serious newspaper anywhere. Under a SUNDAY FRONT PAGE headline, "R-J story critical of Harry Reid ad misses its mark," the piece by newly hired political reporter Delen Goldberg opens:

Politicians often complain about how they are characterized in the media, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s campaign is especially livid that one of its TV ads was mischaracterized and deemed inaccurate by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Well, shit! If all it takes to get on the front page of the Sun is for a Harry Reid spokesman to be "especially livid," it's going to be a long year indeed. Did the spokesman also write this silly screed, because he could not possibly have been more thrilled by it. It's complete with references to Angle as an "ultraconservative" -- that "ultra" is a judgment call that journalists ought to leave to readers -- and, in the reporter's voice, declares that the R-J made assumptions about the ad that weren't true. Watch that ad again; the conclusions were not off the wall.

Goldberg's gift to Reid included this cute bit where Reid's spokesman Jon Summers gets to give the R-J the benefit of the doubt -- that perhaps they're just incompetent, not malevolent! That's followed by a completely weird passage in which media experts chime in on the broader topic of newspapers analyzing political advertisements.

This quote was particularly strange, given the context:

“What’s really changed with the media is, we used to be able to count on newspapers to give an accurate reporting of what was really going on. They’d almost be the referee,” said Jim Spencer, president of the Campaign Network, a communication and campaign consulting company. “If someone put out an ad that was inaccurate, newspapers set the record straight. That just doesn’t go on anymore. Now newspapers say both sides have a point.”

Huh? It's BAD for newspapers to provide both sides of a story? Myers was trying to set the record straight! Can you imagine how "especially livid" Reid's camp would have been if she had, straight-up, written about how the ad was inaccurate and here's why and NOT given Summers a chance to answer to it? Myers did just that; she gave paragraphs to the same "especially livid" spokesman to voice his view. Seeing how Goldberg and the Sun clearly agree with Reid, would they have preferred that Myers not include that? Ralston himself does truthiness evaluations of TV ads on his TV show, the transcripts of which are published in the Sun -- and without such balance, which is fine by me -- so Spencer's quote is not only confusing and irrelevant but also incorrect.

I especially love this passage for its ability to make Reid's "especially livid" spokesman seem absolutely heroic:

Within an hour of the R-J story going online, Summers had fired off his rebuttal. Time was of the essence. With the Internet, Google alerts and Twitter posts, stories — even inaccurate ones — can spread like wildfire.

“You either define, or you get defined,” Summers said. “It was important to correct the record and get out our position, which wasn’t in the R-J, and serve as a reminder to other outlets that look to the R-J for story ideas to do their homework.”

Time was of the essence! That's the journalist talking there! Can't you just hear the John Barry score swelling? Can we get Kiefer Sutherland to play Summers in the movie?

Today's Sun provided yet another terrific example. Anjeanette Damon has front-pager reporting that the Reid campaign has accused Angle of "attempting to skirt tax law by paying her staff as independent contractors." What, you mean like the way Greenspun Media hires freelance columnists including, until recently, Damon herself?

The key here was this paragraph:

Although not uncommon for political candidates, the practice could raise legal issues with the IRS if she doesn't carefully follow the rules dictating when a worker can be classified as an independent contract.

OK. Then this is not a story. It's not uncommon, there is no evidence that Angle's done anything improper and the only reason it's in the paper is because Mr. Summers, who is wonderful at being "especially livid" for a living, raised it to Damon. If Angle's staff wants to report their income on their own, whose frigging business is it of anybody? But look for this misleadingly bad headline from Damon's non-story in a Reid ad soon: "Angle avoids paying taxes on payroll." Summers is having a helluva week! Maybe he's "especially gleeful" now? The Sun is so concerned about his mood, y'know!

Meanwhile, in the very same day's newspaper, there's a totally entertaining Ralston column in which he imagines Angle's ideal press conference. Every loaded question is asked by fictional reporters with different names but the same initials: RJ. When I spotted that -- it did take a few paragraphs but I was at the vet and my dogs would NOT shut the hell up -- I laughed.

But, Jon, there are plenty of examples of coverage in the Sun that leans assertively towards Reid, too. I just cited three examples. The R-J may be similarly guilty in the opposite direction, but it may just be something of a wash, which is what the L.A. Times piece on the issue to which you mentioned was actually saying.

Hopefully, Jon will come down from his own pro-Sun partisan perch and provide media analysis that is as balanced as the rest of his work or maybe just avoid the topic given the personal interests at stake. But hurry. Time is of the essence!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

From Car-Buying Misery To This Lovely Thing

There she is! I don't have a name for her -- I only name iPods and iPads because I'm not totally pathetic -- but I keep walking outside every so often to look at it. It is gorgeous and I got a tremendous deal at CarMax. But we'll get back to that in a moment.

First, to understand why I put myself through the gruel of buying a car this week, take a minute -- really it's 57 seconds long -- to watch what my 1998 Chrysler Sebring has been doing for the past seven months:

Nobody was able to figure out why the old thing was shutting down while idle, shifting on its own in and out of gears and several other miseries. But one ride across town two weeks ago en route to an interview was particularly awful, with the thing dying at six traffic lights and two speed bumps and leaving me rumpled, drenched in sweat and crabby by the time I arrived. Two days later, the car refused to start twice unless I turned the ignition key dozens of times and somehow pushed it downhill to get the RPMs up. Really.

As much as I loved the Sebring -- bought it off my dad for a song in 2004 after driving it top-down on many wonderful seaside rides along A1A when I visited my folks in Florida -- we were at a crossroads. My trusted mechanic, Juan at this Smog Busters, had spent weeks investigating and test-replacing different parts at no cost to me before saying he concluded that it probably needed a new harness that only the dealership could provide for several thousand bucks. (That video was shot because at first the car refused to misbehave for Juan.) And he didn't even know about the not-starting thing, which just began this summer.

So we got going on finding something new. Or should I say, "I got going" as Miles, a certified car nut, had to take a proverbial backseat or I would run the risk of ending up with something well above of my price range.

It was a thoroughly disorienting and consuming experience to the point that the only thing I wrote last week was my LVW column. First, what kind of car to get? I started out going to Chapman Chrysler early in the week and taking a gander, concluding that maybe I ought to stick with what I know and get a newer, used Sebring.

After that evening browse, I took to Twitter and Facebook for advice on a few things. And that, I hate to say it, was kind of a nightmare. I solicited the insight, so I can't blame anyone, but I learned two fascinating things from all you chatterboxes:

* I had done everything wrong that night before. I'd told them I had a trade-in, I'd told them I was concerned about my credit, I professed love for a specific vehicle and I told them the price range I was considering.

* Carbuying has become very, very politicized. You have to buy American! You must get a hybrid to save the planet! You must punish car companies that took bailout money! All I wanted was something reliable, likable and within my budget. Yeesh!

Later in the week, I stopped by CarMax for an estimate on what my trade-in was worth. For readers outside the US, CarMax is a used-car dealer that does not allow haggling or negotiating. The price is the price. You decide if it's worth it to you. And they'll buy your car even if you don't buy one from them.

I saw a few vehicles that interested me at CarMax, including that lovely Lexus pictured above. What? You don't wish to scroll up? Here's another angle:

CarMax offered $1,000 for the Sebring. Not bad, thought I. Good to know.

Still, I worried about the no-haggle thing. If I didn't get to negotiate, how would I ever know how low I could go? I did query the Tweeps and Facebookers about CarMax, though, and almost without exception heard big raves. It was one of the few things most everyone agreed upon.

On Friday, I went looking some more. I pulled into the Planet Hyundai, saw literally swarms of salesmen eyeing me in the uncomfortable way the guys used to look at me when I was in my late teens (sigh, yes) in gay bars, and drove right away. But the weirdest moment was at Honda West when I got out to look around.

Salesman: "Can I help you find something?"
Me: "No thanks, I'm just looking."
Salesman: "I see you're interested in the CRVs..."
Me: "Yeah, I'm just looking. I'll let you know if I need you, but I just want to look by myself."
Salesman: "What price range are you looking..."
Me: "Hey, I just told you twice I want to be left alone for now. Am I not allowed to just look by myself?"
Salesman: "No, really you can't. That's not how it works."
Me: "Goodbye, then."

Rattled, I stopped for a little dinner and went on the laptop to do some more research. To my surprise, that 2009 Sebring I was interested in earlier on the week at Chapman in Henderson was online for about $2,000 less than the sticker price I'd seen. It's really cute, see?

Off I went all the way back to Chapman to take it for a test drive. It rode really well and I was ready to make a deal, but that's when the whole ridiculous charade began, of course. They sat me at a table with a strategic view of a glass office where some self-important men kept gathering to put on a show for me that was intended to look like some negotiations were occurring.

I knew it would end badly on the first offer. I had asked one of these guys earlier in the week whether trading in a Chrysler at a Chrysler dealer would be advantageous to me and, predictably, said, "Oh, yeah! We can fix it cheaper, blah blah blah." And yet after all that fictional "number-crunching," the same man presented me with an offer that is exactly the Internet price of the Sebring minus a trade-in value of ... $500.

CarMax, I told him, offered me $1000. "You told me that I'd get a better trade-in deal if I did it through Chrysler, then you deliberately low-ball me. Why should I believe anything else you say?" The Chapman guy looked at me and gave me a hey-this-is-how-the-game's-played shrug.

Chapman ended up offering me the $1,000 for the car, but that was the only thing they changed. We were apart by a measly $900, by the way. After many long "chats" in that glass booth and silly moments when two different salesmen had me sign below some scribble to "prove" to the manager I'd buy the car if my conditions were met, some finance guy came along to say they'd be losing money on the car if they moved toward me in any way on the offer. Oh, and they did try to play that hide-and-seek thing with my car keys, but thanks to some Twitter warnings I made sure to insist several times on getting them back so I could leave when I wished.

We were at an impasse, so I left. My first salesman, though, was now by my car feigning outrage that I had been treated so badly and insisting I return inside. At this point, truth be told, I was just playing along out of morbid fascination as I was never going to give any of these jerks a dime. I did go back in and sat down again, watching through the glass yet again as these people had "negotiations."

Then, shock of shocks, he returned to reiterate that they couldn't change the price. So I got up to leave again.

Pathetic Salesman: Oh, you gotta do this deal.
Laughing Me: No. I don't.
Pathetic Salesman: But it's a really great deal.

He followed me to my car again. He stood in front of the driver's side door until I asked him to step aside. He gripped the top of my door window as we continued this senseless banter until I said to him, "You're not really holding my car door open against my will, are you?" He let go and fumbled for a business card to hand me. I left before he could.

At home, Miles finally stepped in. He saw me aggravated and defeated and told me that I was to go onto the CarMax website, pick all the cars they had in my price range with the features I desired and go back and drive every one of them.

And I did on Saturday afternoon. I brought my printout, some of the cars were already sold and others I knew on sight I didn't like. I even drove an '09 Sebring and felt a minor hesitation that was much too familiar given my woes with my current car.

The Lexus, however, was unbelievable. It's a pearl-white 2004 Lexus ES 330 with a measly 37,000 miles on it. One owner, no accidents. And the price was, well, shocking. I'm not going to disclose what I paid -- well, am paying, for the next few years -- except to say it was a few thousand less than the Blue Book price.

My new vehicle is so quiet, so physically flawless inside and out, it's like driving a pillow. I'm going to show it to Juan tomorrow anyhow just to be sure, as CarMax provides a 5-day return policy. I'm also going to see if I can find a cheaper loan, although I got a decent rate from them, too.

All in all, the CarMax experience was blessedly absent of drama and misdirection at which normal dealers are so expert. I regaled the CarMax salesmen with the tales of the night before at Chapman, Planet Hyundai and Honda West, and one of them said to me, "Gosh, I'm so sorry you went through all that."

I'm not. Had I not, I wouldn't be able to sit here knowing that I got a good deal, that there was no way I was ever going to do business at Chapman or any other traditional dealer and feel good about it later.

After leaving CarMax Saturday, I drove to Miles' office to show him. He was proud and elated. Later, at home, he asked if I love it. I do, and I'm scared about how much because I've never been a car person, I don't feel worthy of such a lovely car even if the price was so great and I'm terrified I'll ruin this because I know I can be a terrible driver.

But for now, I'll wallow in this happy feeling because this experience cost a week of my life and now I'm not afraid to make daytime appointments. Here I am at CarMax about to drive off:

Oh, by the way, the Chapman folks called me four times on Saturday. Four times! Each time, the guys who called told me they had other Sebrings that they could get "much closer to your price." Closer? We were only $900 apart and they wouldn't budge! I must have really convinced them I'm unbelievably desperate and stupid.

Ah, well. Maybe I should stop by and ask them to appraise it for a trade-in. You know, for giggles.