How Can I Earn Your Business?

You are buying a new car.  Your Facebook feed has read your mind and is notifying you of cars slightly above your budget, but still within your reach if you cancel cable and tell your kids they can’t play hockey anymore.  FOMO is messing with you too, because your neighbor bought a Tesla yesterday and you decide it is time to keep up with the Jones’.  Although you can’t afford an Elon Musk creation, you figure you might as well drain the college funds and upgrade your lifestyle the best you can.

It is an arduous process if you’re trying to pay as little as possible for a new car.  You send out a form letter to every dealer within 50 miles of your house stating, “I will buy the [make and model of the car] this week, give me your best price.” Then you start the ground assault.  You walk into the dealers who responded with the best prices to your email.  You tell them, “I don’t need a test drive.  I will buy a car tomorrow from the dealer with the best out-the-door-price.” 

Sending an email blast is a mundane and straightforward process.  When you walk into the showroom and face the slick salesman acting like a wolf wearing grandma’s cloak is when the car buying experience escalates to a higher level.

You never hear, “How can I earn your business?” at McDonald’s when ordering a McRib or at the movie theater paying for overpriced popcorn.  At a car dealership every sales guy wants to “earn” your business.  Why can’t they sell you a car and send you on your way?  Other absurd phrases you hear include: “What is it going to take me to get you into a car today?”, “I wish I could go that low, but I’d get fired”, and “I gotta check with the tower.” 

Some salesmen don’t realize you are living in the twenty-first century where information advantages are neutralized by the internet and women can hold office.

One dealer, wearing a denim shirt, tries asking for $5,000 over the sticker price .  Keep in mind, you are looking for a family car and not a limited edition Italian sportscar.  When the offending dealer calls you the next day, you take immense joy in telling him you are sitting in a different dealership waiting for the porter to finish up the detailing of your new car.  This is your version of Julia Roberts in the shopping scene, “Big mistake.  Big.  Huge.”

Another salesman refers to your wife as “the little lady” and asks her about exterior color choices.  He mansplains to you incentives, warranties, and his strategies for trading corn futures and gold options.  You do not buy a car from him because twenty minutes into his sales pitch, your wife points out he is showing you the wrong model car.

One car jockey suggests you check out the “pre-owned and cheaper” inventory.  Yes, sometimes when you get dressed in the morning you pull clothes out of your laundry basket instead of your closet, but you looking like a bum doesn’t mean you can’t afford a new vehicle.

Your trade-in car was built in 2014.  Your old car feels as technologically advanced as a Ford Model T compared to a new car.  Driving a car made in this decade makes you feel like Will Smith flying the alien spaceship in Independence Day

“What type of tech package do you want?” an Apple watch-wearing car dealer asks.

Huh?

Did you walk into a Circuit City looking to upgrade your Dell computer?  This salesman has an Alfred E. Neuman grin.  He doesn’t talk about the 10-gear transmission, dual turbochargers, and 0-60 times.  Instead, you hear of 29-way seats, quad sectional heating, and iPhone interaction.  Then there are all these safety devices like stay-in-your-lane, auto-braking, and cameras for every angle of your exterior.  If you want to road rage and tail a guy because he is driving like a turtle in the ultrafast lane, it is your right.  You don’t need a car overriding your driving abilities.  You are a licensed Class D driver as declared by the State of Illinois.  Look out world.  Your car goes vroom.

Through grit, determination, and haggling with every dealer in the Lake Michigan area, you convince yourself you found the best deal on the new car.  You discover a dealer who is struggling to get his first car sale for the month.  With the month half over, any warm body with a reasonable offer on anything in the store, be it office furniture, rock salt, or best of all, a car, would get a deal.  You guess you won. Did you?  You don’t know.

As your fast-depreciating asset sits in your garage, you take a bath in a mixture of lye, bleach, and toilet bowl cleaner to remove the buyer’s remorse and new car dealer smell.

Top Gun Revisited

This week I re-watched Top Gun with my kids.  When released in 1986, it was a blockbuster earning $350 million. It cemented Tom Cruise as an ‘A’ list actor leading to other roles such as playing Ethan Hunt in:

  • Mission: Impossible
  • Mission: Impossible 2
  • Mission: Impossible III
  • Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
  • Mission: Impossible—Rogue Protocol
  • Mission: Impossible—Fallout
  • Mission: Impossible 7 (releasing post COVID)

Sidebar: Tim Robbins is also in the movie.  This was before Shawshank Redemption, but after his role of “Mother” in the underrated movie, Fraternity VacationFraternity Vacation, despite Roger Ebert’s one-star rating, is pure 80’s.  It is the reduction of Revenge of the Nerds, Porky’s, Johnny Be Good, Teen Wolf, and Back to School into one fantastic movie capturing the essence of the greatest decade in the last seventy years.  One day, when my kids ask me, “Dad, what were the 80’s like?”  I’m going to give them a Betamax copy of Fraternity Vacation, a handful of ‘ludes, and tell them to “live it up.”

Cue Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins as the opening credits role we see military planes launching and landing on an aircraft carrier.  We also see this guy.  You know he parties.

In 1986, this intro scene was beyond cool.  It was what inspired you to become a military pilot. Planes flying, loud noises, and afterburners.  Today it looks like disjointed stock footage for something played in junior high history Zoom class.

While chasing away some faceless bad guys from an unnamed country (cough, cough:  Russia, China, or Canada), Maverick gives a foreign fighter “the bird”.  This international relations move is later is the primer for Kelly McGillis to dump some old guy at a diner and lust after Tom Cruise.  Tom Cruise’s Kawasaki GPZ900R motorcycle adds to his image of an all-American bad ass. He drives at high rates of speeds and displays wild abandonment as he does not wear a helmet.  (California’s motorcycle helmet law was passed in 1992 so Cruise is not as much of a law breaking stud when you consider the much looser helmet laws in effect in 1986). 

After buzzing the tower, Strickland from Back to the Future I, II, and III offers Goose and Maverick a choice to fly rubber dog sh*t out of Hong Kong or go to Top Gun flight school.

Maverick and Goose bust out a sing-along/serenade in a military bar.  In the real world, everyone in this bar would be blackout drunk and any type of coordinated American Bandstand style karaoke would result in at least two fist fights.  Kelly McGillis, who would only be in this bar to ask for directions, would duck out the side door to avoid a babbling, drunk Tom Cruise slobbering a butchered version of a 1964 Righteous Brothers’ hit.  (This song was ~20 years old when this movie was in production.  If this movie was made today, it would be Liam Helmsworth and Taylor Lautner singing Sisqó’s Thong Song to Zoey Deutch).

In flight school, Goose and Maverick meet Iceman and Slider where there is some alpha-male, frat bro contest of who will be who’s wingman.  Goose has a 70’s porno mustache, so he decides they should all play a shirtless volleyball game.  This beach scene has no relevance to the plot or character development of the movie, but given the movie’s PG rating, a four shirtless dudes rolling around in the sand is all the skin you’re going to get out of this flick.

During a lot more indiscriminate airplane dog fighting scenes involving all the Top Gun candidates, Goose is too busy wondering if he could ever play a doctor on TV, doesn’t eject in a timely manner from his jet, and kicks the bucket. Tom Cruise doesn’t know what to do with himself, so he wanders around town on his motorcycle, learns Kelly McGillis took a job in DC which offered better health insurance than Top Gun school, and he discovers his dad was “the best pilot ever”, so Tom Cruise can only be the second best pilot ever.

Maverick, realizing he has nothing to lose, gets into his jet and wins the Top Gun award for best student. This is really a shocker, because every knows Goose was the true Top Gun much like Ed McMahon was the real star of the The Tonight Show.

At the graduation party, the pilots hear of an escalating international situation.  Maverick and the rest of the Top Gun crew of California jump to the Indian Ocean to the same aircraft carrier we saw at the beginning of the movie.  When I was eight years old and watching this movie, it seemed unfathomable to me the greatest military powerhouse, in the heart of a cold war, only had about ten pilots to canvas the entire world.  You would think the US Air Force would have some pilots stationed in Europe or Asia who they could dispatch to fight the mysterious enemy in the non-existent MiG 28 plane (Russia had a MiG 29, so I’m guessing the writers of Top Gun had a typo and it was easier to leave “28” instead of changing all the “28”s to “29”s).

Bring on more airplanes darting across the screen with no visible purpose or intent.  Maverick talks to Goose’s ghost, which shows Cruise is still emotionally unstable and is not capable of flying a military jet worth millions in a high-tension international conflict.  However, Maverick does not leave his wingman in this conflict even though he probably should given Iceman is pretty much a goner as Val Kilmer is taking fire from three enemy planes.  A couple bad guys’ planes blow up and everyone cheers for Tom Cruise.  Maverick does a fly by of the tower, but this time it’s OK, because he saved the free world from a nebulous, yet world ending, outcome.  Tom Cruise throws some dog tags in the water and decides to go back to Top Gun so he can teach up and coming hotshots how to buzz the tower and say phrases like “This is what I call a target-rich environment”, “I feel the need; the need for speed”, and “Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!”

When I was seven, this movie was awesome.  Today, ehhh, not so much.

Cinnamon Roll Recipe

In the past week, I’ve had two people request my cinnamon roll recipe.

Blogging is a cut throat industry and I’m hard up for content and hits, so I’m posting the recipe here.

Regular readers, this is not an attempt to reposition to a “dad blog” where I publish common sense items disguised as “tips”. This blog will return to its irregular schedule and typical content whenever something bothers me enough to write again.

Total Time: ~3 hours (this includes 2 hours of rising time for the dough)

Makes: ~8

Dough:
1 1/2 teaspoons of active yeast (little less than a packet)
1/8 cup of warm water (~115 degrees)
½ teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup of milk (whole preferred, but any type works)
1/4 cup of room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of all spice
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg
2 to 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

Filling:
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 tablespoon cinnamon-adjust to your desire for cinnamon

Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of milk or cream

Here’s How to Make it Happen:

Dough:

Combine warm water ½ teaspoon of sugar and yeast. Let it alone for five minutes.

Combine butter, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and all spice. Stir and cool to lukewarm.

Add yeast mixture and egg.

Slowly mix in flour.

Knead for 4-7 minutes with mixer.

Let rise for 45 mins-1 hour at 110-120 degrees if oven has proof setting or just leave dough covered in a bowl and leave on counter.

Filling:
Roll out dough on table to rectangle 18″ x 12″. Cover dough with melted butter. Spread the brown sugar on the dough. Freely sprinkle cinnamon on top of brown sugar.

Roll up dough (long side should be 18″). Cut dough into 1 1/2″ rolls. To avoid crushing the dough, use a thin piece of string, or dental floss, to cut through the dough-slide the string underneath the roll then pull the string in opposite directions so it cuts through the roll. I usually scrap the end pieces because they tend to be all dough and no filling.

Place rolls into two greased 8″ x 8″ pans or one 9″ x 13″ so that rolls do not touch.

*If you want to bake these the next day, cover the pans with plastic wrap and place in frig overnight. The next day remove pans from frig and let them rise at room temp for 60 mins prior to baking.

If baking same day, let rolls rise in pans for 60 mins.

Bake rolls at 300 in convection oven for 20-25 mins or just until brown. Or 325 in regular oven for 20-25 mins.

While rolls cool, make the frosting:

Frosting
Mix all ingredients together. You may need to add a little more milk (just do a teaspoon at a time) to get the consistency you want. For a good time, add food coloring to your frosting. For an even better time, skip making the rolls, and eat the frosting right out of the mixer.

Add frosting to cinnamon rolls after they have cooled a bit and serve them up.

To Get Away or Not to Get Away? That is the Question

Special thanks to M.A. for writing our first guest blog post. Lord knows we are hungry for content here at Skiinginjeans, so thanks for stepping up M.A.

It starts before school even gets out for summer.  You may be in the pick-up line for preschool, or waiting at the bus stop for your kids, but inevitably you will start to hear variations on the same theme.  Namely, “what are you doing this summer?”  While this may seem like an innocent enough question, just mom-to-mom small talk, the underlying gist, of course, is “where are you going (translation: how much are you spending) on vacation this summer?” and/or “what camps / enrichment activities are your kids enrolled in?”

While much could be said, and many a blog post have already sufficiently skewered, the myriad options for upper middleclass kids these days – from over -the-top sleepaway camps costing upwards of $10,000 per session, intensive sports training camps for kids (meaning, their parents) dreaming of being the next D1 recruit, or even local or town-subisdized day camps that offer impressive field trips, yoga sessions and sushi making classes, little attention has been paid to the phenomenon of what I call “vacationing en masse.”  In other words, spending your vacation with all of the same people that you spend your day-to-day life with, often in a locale that really isn’t all that different from where you live.  Up and down the East coast, from the suburbs of NY (including coastal CT), all the way to Boston, you can’t throw a stone without hitting someone who spends the majority of their summer in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.  In the city (a/k/a Manhattan), it’s the Hamptons or bust.  Sure, some will claim to be cooler or more lowkey by going to Block Island, Shelter Island, or Montauk (which is technically just the Hamptons, but further).   Don’t be fooled:  these are still just summer outposts of the same communities.   And it’s not just an East Coast phenomenon; Midwesterners flock to their Michigan or Lake Geneva “cottages” (often more akin to mansions), southerners to the mountains of North Carolina or the beaches of South Carolina, and Californians, to Malibu.  It’s getting away, without getting away.  Which begs the question, why go at all?

“Jeeves, please arrange a ferry back to deary old Manhattan”

Sure, all of these places are certainly vacation-worthy in a purely objective sense.  They boast beautiful scenery, pristine beaches, gourmet restaurants, a multitude of activities for both the young and the not-so-young.  However, when you consider paying an exorbitant premium for lodging (assuming you were fortuitous enough to book at least 9-12 months in advance), spending hours in gridlock traffic getting there (if, in the case of Nantucket or the Vineyard, you were smart enough to book your ferry well in advance; more on the particular travails of the ferry below), the horrific traffic once you are there, and getting shut out of the aforementioned gourmet restaurants due to the crowds, one starts to wonder what is the point of it all. 

For wardrobe assistance, head to….
https://castawayclothing.com/collections/mens-embroidered-pants

Meet New People?

More than any of this though, the idea of spending precious summer weeks with the same friends and acquaintances you see daily during the other three seasons of the year is mind-boggling.  Maybe it’s because the summer population of these East Coast locales consists largely of finance douches wearing Nantucket red shorts and their Lily Pulitzer clad wives and kids (most of whom are among the most obnoxious residents in my Fairfield County burb), but I cannot fathom the appeal of spending the summer, not to mention tons of money and aggravation, bumping into them left and right on a tiny, congested island or spit of land.  During the summer months, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with posts by local acquaintances vacationing on Nantucket, featuring pictures of fellow acquaintances eating dinner together, having cocktails together, hanging at the beach together, getting coffee together, and well, you get the point.  But I certainly don’t. 

Ferries are Fun

In addition to the bizarre reluctance to congregate with anyone outside of their usual  social and/or professional network or venture beyond the comfort zone of a preppy East Coast environment, Nantucket (and Martha’s Vineyard) summer residents also need to make sure they book their ferry reservation months in advance of their planned travel dates.  Horror stories abound in my town of families whose kids do not make it home for the first day of school in late August or early September, because the ferries are all booked.  They are literally stranded “on island” as they say.  Or, you have booked and paid for your overpriced yet still mildewed-smelling and miniscule rental cottage well in advance (as most rentals will require), but you forgot to book your ferry six months in advance, so your lodging sits empty for a few nights while you wake up at 4 am several days in a row hoping to get on a ferry stand-by. 

If this sounds like your dream vacation, you are not alone.  In fact, if you live anywhere along the I-95 corridor in the NY tristate area, you will be surrounded by hordes of your neighbors and others exactly like you.  Just be sure to pack your patience along with your Lily Pulitzer, crab-embroidered pants and Nantucket reds. 

For the finishing touch, definitely leave your $150 “Oversand Vehicle Permit” on your car (or, even better, multiple years’ worth stacked on top of each other), so everyone in town knows where you’ve been.