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The big hospital I love to hate scores a few points during same-day surgery -- and yet

ASS-BARING GOWN: Country music star Trace Adkins tweeted this image of a hospital gown he wore when he got his kidney stones blasted, acc...

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Attention N.J. commuters: You don't have a constitutional right to drive into the city

Photos of traffic heading into the Lincoln Tunnel in Weehawken from The Star-Ledger, above, and NJ.com, below. The top photo shows commuter buses (left of the barrier) in the exclusive bus lane (XBL) on Route 495, linking the turnpike to the tunnel.
Despite increasing congestion and delays, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has never added a second XBL since the first was set up in 1970. More than 463,000 buses carrying 18.5 million passengers use the XBL now, compared to 206,000 buses in the first year. And the bi-state agency hasn't expanded PATH since taking over the trans-Hudson rail system in 1962.

If you venture below 60th Street,
plan is to hit you with $11.52 fee


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Commuters aren't the only New Jersey residents who will be affected when congestion fees are imposed this year on drivers venturing south of 60th Street in Manhattan.

Broadway theater goers who drive into the city for Wednesday matinees, and members of clubs who gather for monthly lunches in midtown also will be affected, unless they take the bus and walk to the venue, as I do.

"Under a similar plan put forward by a [New York State] task force last year, drivers [would be] charged $11.52 for passenger cars and $25.34 for trucks," The New York Times reported in February.

A congestion fee of $2.50 already is tacked onto taxi rides, and Uber users are paying $2.75 more for trips that begin, end or pass through south of 96th Street in Manhattan.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo "is banking on congestion pricing to generate $15 billion for repairs and improvements to the transit system through 2024," The Times said, or, he has warned, subway riders could be hit with a 30 percent fare hike.

A congestion fee also is expected to cut traffic congestion, improve air quality and prompt drivers to switch to mass transit. 

Not a right

The plan to impose congestion fees tells New Jersey drivers, especially those going solo in enormous gas-guzzling SUVs, that commuting to Manhattan isn't a constitutional right. 

These drivers ignore mass-transit options -- and bumper-to-bumper waits at the Hudson River tolls that have ballooned to 90 minutes on some days -- as well as Manhattan's high parking fees.

Many likely are receiving subsidies from their employers to defer the enormous cost of driving to work and parking in the city, compared to taking NJ Transit or a ferry.


Bumper-to-bumper traffic at the George Washington Bridge tolls in Fort Lee. This photo, from Drew Angerer of Getty Images, appeared on the New York Daily News site. Waits of 90 minutes are not unusual.


Credit for tolls?

The Times story on Feb. 19 said some drivers would receive "a credit," if they "use already tolled tunnels or the Henry Hudson Bridge from the Bronx to enter Manhattan."

"Drivers crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and headed directly north on the FDR Drive past 60th Street would not have to pay," the newspaper reported.

So, does that mean New Jersey drivers who pay a toll at the Lincoln Tunnel or George Washington Bridge also will get a credit?

The Times didn't say.

The Record weighs in 

Transportation writers at my local daily newspaper have never met a driver they didn't like.

On the other hand, Staff Writers John Cichowski and Curtis Tate of The Record and their editors have never, as far as I know, fretted over a struggling  trans-Hudson public transit system in one of the world's most congested metropolitan areas or called for its expansion.

Those reporters and opinion writers at the once-great daily -- now a Gannett rag based in Woodland Park -- may be kowtowing to car dealers and makers, whose advertising helps keep NorthJersey.com and the print edition afloat despite declining readership.

'Big costs?'

In a Page 1 story on Feb. 6, Tate warned that New Jersey commuters who pay Hudson River tolls to drive into the city "could face a double whammy that New York drivers coming into Manhattan from the outer boroughs would not."

But he doesn't say New Jersey drivers can reduce the impact of congestion pricing by carpooling or cut their commuting costs dramatically by switching to mass transit.

The clunky headline:


Big costs from NY
congestion pricing?

The cash toll at the three Hudson River crossings is $15 (collected going into the city), $12.50 with an E-ZPass tag during peak hours (weekdays 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and $10.50 off-peak.

Tate doesn't bother giving the E-ZPass carpool discount of $6.50 at all hours -- weekends, too --as long as there are 3 people in the vehicle. 

The Port Authority told The Record 43.2 million passenger vehicles crossed the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey into Manhattan last year, but Tate doesn't say how many of those were then driven south of 60th Street into the planned congestion zone.

The Lincoln Tunnel was used by 14.4 million vehicles going to Manhattan, and 13.1 million used the Holland Tunnel, Tate said.


Will N.Y.C. be first?

New York would be the first U.S. city to adopt congestion pricing, but central London put a fee into effect in 2000.

Stockholm, Milan and Singapore also employ similar charges. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The big hospital I love to hate scores a few points during same-day surgery -- and yet

ASS-BARING GOWN: Country music star Trace Adkins tweeted this image of a hospital gown he wore when he got his kidney stones blasted, according to a July 2012 post on NurseTalk.com, where I found this photo. Many hospitals still provide skimpy, ass-baring gowns that humiliate patients, but Hackensack University Medical Center is an exception.

HUMC, a so-called non-profit, shifts
tax burden onto homeowners like me


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The night before cataract surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, I dreaded having to wear one of those skimpy hospital gowns with an open back that bares all.

So, when I got a call from a nurse who wanted to go over when I had to get to the hospital and other details, I asked if I could wear my own pajama bottoms and robe.

"No. The operating room is a sterile environment," she said firmly, but added I would be allowed to keep on my briefs.

There was no need to worry, because HUMC long ago addressed the dressing down, so to speak, of patients.

"Nicole Miller, the posh designer, came up with new designs, sporting stethoscopes, syringes and other medical-related stuff, for Hackensack University Medical Center...," Joyce Hoffman wrote in a July 2012 post on NurseTalk.com.

"But in the 10 years she has been reinventing the hospital gown, HUMC is her only client," Hoffman said. "Maybe it's because the [two-piece] gowns are double the price of regular gowns."


NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS: The 2-piece Nicole Miller-designed hospital gown and robe I wore on Tuesday during same-day surgery. The gown is generous, going below the knee, but is open at the back and cinches around the neck. But then you can put on a robe over it. Mine had loops, but no belt.

High property taxes

Still, as much as I loved the gown and robe I wore on Tuesday, and appreciated the care I received from the medical staff, HUMC has been a thorn in my side since I bought a home in Hackensack's Fairmount section in August 2007.

My annual property tax bill has grown to more than $19,100 a year.

The enormously profitable hospital, which paid $3 million a year to CEO Robert C. Garrett in 2014, claims to be a non-profit, and pays only a small amount of its property tax obligation to the city of Hackensack, shifting the burden onto homeowners like me.

Noise, traffic

As it has grown over the years, the medical center has destroyed the residential character of its North Hackensack neighborhood, flooded the streets with traffic and the wail of ambulance sirens, and used more and more city services, including police and fire protection.

In a deal the City Council approved last June, the sprawling medical center agreed to pay $4 million a year for 6 years in lieu of property taxes or what officials are calling "community host fees."

If it wasn't tax exempt, the medical center would pay $19 million in property taxes annually.

And, City Councilman Leo Battaglia said today, the hospital also will pay property taxes on a major expansion: 

  • A 9-story, 500,000-square-foot tower on Second Street with 150 patient rooms, 24 operating rooms and 150 intensive-care beds that will begin construction at the end of the year.
  • And a 430,500-square-foot central utility plant for the 2.5 million-square-foot medical center campus that broke ground this year.

Unfortunately for nearby residents and the environment, the plant won't use any green energy, such as solar or geothermal, according to initial reports in The Record of Woodland Park.

Surgery delayed

On Tuesday, my surgery had been scheduled for 2 p.m. and I was told to eat a light breakfast -- such as toast -- and no dairy or anything to drink, even water, after 7:30 a.m.

But when I had undressed and put on the two-piece gown and robe, a nurse asking for my medical history said my operation was scheduled for 3:15 in the afternoon.

That was a determination made by my own doctor, who, she said, was operating on someone else at 2.

I wasn't wheeled into the operating room until about 3:45. I was wheeled out at 4:33 p.m., and returned to my cubicle in the pre-op area, dubbed B Pod.

The hospital "lunch" my doctor promised after the surgery turned out to be little more than a ham-and-cheese sandwich (I don't eat ham), a buttered roll (I don't eat butter and I'm watching my carbs), or crackers.

So, after 9 hours without even a sip of water, I had apple juice, apple sauce, black coffee and salty crackers.

St. Joseph's Day

I've always been struck how some medical staffers talk about their personal lives, oblivious to nearby patients.

On Tuesday, for example, one nurse in the pre-op area announced during a telephone call that it was St. Joseph's Day, and did the person on the other end want her to stop at Rispoli's Bakery for pastries.

When I asked, the nurse said St. Joseph's Day is the Italian Father's Day, and then she and a doctor discussed the best places to buy Italian pastries, though no one mentioned Hackensack Pastry Shop on Hudson Street.

Blended families

When another nurse learned a man who was awaiting surgery and his wife have a blended family, she launched into a tortured tale about her own blended family -- she sold her house and with her kids moved into the home of her fiance, a doctor, who I think has children of his own.

When the doctor asked what would it take to cement the relationship, she said a "3-carat diamond ring" -- and got it. 

But now, he is having second thoughts about marrying her, so the ring is in a safety deposit box.


EYE CHAIR: When it was time for my cataract surgery, I took a seat in this Eye Chair, which was wheeled into the operating room and then adjusted so I was lying face up for the 45-minute procedure to remove the cloudy lens in my left eye and insert a clear plastic one.
PARKING FEES: Weeks after Englewood Hospital and Medical Center made all parking free, HUMC still charges patients and visitors for parking. Given the small amount of property taxes the medical center pays Hackensack, parking should be free for city residents.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Homeowner has another reason to worry when he tries to use his WorryFree service

When the pilot light on my gas-fired water heater went out, I called PSE&G and asked them to send over a service technician. But no one was available for 2 days. Then, the technician sent here had to order a part, which took another day and a half to arrive. But no technician was available for another 2 days to install it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: After I posted this, I recalled a brief conversation with my doctor during a routine exam on how to get a PSE&G technician to come to your house right away. "My wife always tells them she smells gas," he said, whether or not she does. Sad, but true.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The home I bought in the Fairmount section of this small city in 2007 had been completely renovated three years earlier.

But any homeowner knows -- and I soon learned -- that owning a house can be a real pain as appliances age and storm-filled seasons come and go.

So, I turned to PSE&G for what the public utility calls a WorryFree Residential Contract -- basically insurance on appliances, water heaters and central air conditioners that covers repairs, but not replacement and not always parts.

Last week, after I had some electrical work done in the house that required turning off of the power, my son complained the water in his shower was ice cold (probably just a coincidence).

2-day wait for service

The next day, I called PSE&G, but was told a service technician wasn't available for 2 days. 

No, I was told by a woman in customer service, the public utility hadn't laid off half of their technicians, as I suggested.

And another puzzling factor was the nice weather -- no storms and no snow that would demand a lot of PSE&G technicians.

So, while I waited, I called Rheem, the manufacturer, and Mike, one of the techs there, walked me through relighting the pilot. 

But it didn't stay lit for long.

So, my wife and I heated pots of water on the stove, carried them upstairs and emptied them into the sink of our master bathroom, and used a washcloth, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash and shampoo to clean up. 

Water heater needs part

When the PSE&G guy did show up, the fault code on the water heater indicated I needed to replace the flammable vapor sensor, but he said he had to order the part.

"Our guys are always going to the supply house, so it could come in later today," he said. 

But it didn't. 

I got an email from PSE&G on Wednesday afternoon that the part had arrived, but when I tried to schedule the repair, no PSE&G tech was available for 2 days.

So, I again called Rheem and was told the part, covered by the warranty, would be sent to my home overnight, and the tech I spoke with assured me I could install it myself.

I wasn't sure (I'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer), so took a look at PSE&G's online service scheduling -- now, no tech was available for 4 days.

Arrives after noon

I thought the part would arrive first thing in the morning, but it didn't get here until a little after noon (and another bath-from-a-pot). 

I had called Rheem again to track the shipment, and when I got off the phone, a FedEx truck was outside my house.

And, yes, I was able to install the sensor myself by inserting the part into a plastic collar and connecting two wires from the water heater to the device. 

Relighting the pilot involved unplugging the water heater, shutting the gas line, turning off the vented blower and turning the dial seven times from "low" to "very hot."

So, we didn't have hot water for 5 days, and, as you can imagine, my hot shower on Friday morning felt great. 

But now I'm worried that when we have another problem with an appliance, PSE&G won't be able to supply a technician for days.

So, what's the good of the monthly payments to cover repairs, if you're left to your own devices?


The flammable vapor sensor, shown below right on an instruction sheet, installs behind a metal cover under the white gas valve (with the red dial and on-off switch) by connecting two wires to the "male tabs" on the sensor. 


Monday, March 11, 2019

Should you cash your rewards certificate from Costco or use all that moola to shop?

FISTFUL OF DOLLARS: Today, I cashed my second Costco Wholesale credit card reward certificate (cash rebates on warehouse and Costco.com purchases, gasoline, restaurant meals, travel and spending at other stores) at the Costco Business Center in Hackensack. That brought my total cash rebates this year to $451.91.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- I took the money and ran.

In the past, I'd use the cash rebates from my no-fee Costco Anywhere Visa Card to make more purchases at the warehouse in Teterboro or the Costco Business Center in Hackensack.

But that makes no sense when I can use Costco as an ATM and make those purchase with the Costco credit card, earning even more cash rebates.

My cash rebates -- awarded in February -- totaled $451.91 this year, including the $189.78 I received today. 

Compare that to my annual Costco Executive Membership fee of $120.

In August, when my membership automatically renews, I'll get another 2% cash back on my purchases by virtue of my executive membership.

I made a few purchases at the Costco Business Center on South River Street today, and charged them to the Costco credit card:

A large Golden Pineapple ($1.99), a 5-pound bag of grated Parmesan Cheese ($20.19), and a 24-bottle variety pack of flavored Poland Springs Sparkling Spring Water ($8.49).


AT THE COSTCO BUSINESS CENTER: My purchases today included a 5-pound bag of grated Parmesan Cheese I use in pasta, fish and egg dishes, such as those you'll find at Victor's Healthy Kitchen on YouTube.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Best and worst of Tesla: Get 3 Powerwalls installed day after botched Model S service

My 2015 Tesla Model S 60 was returned to me covered with the same winter grime it had before I took it to the Paramus service center on Thursday, above and below, even though my annual service ($600 prepaid) is supposed to include a car wash and interior vacuuming.
A service advisor apparently overruled the service manager, who sent me a text saying, yes, I could leave my car in the service center overnight for a complete detailing and keep my Tesla Model S loaner until the next day.

 My EV has been trouble free,
but I get treated like chopped liver


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK -- Nearly 4 years after I bought the greatest car I have ever owned, I had the worst service experience ever.

I made an April 8 appointment for the annual service on my all-electric Tesla Model S, but last Wednesday received a call that I should bring in the car the very next day to change a defective Takata airbag (which I didn't even know I had).

I explained to Jose Solis, the service advisor, that I had scheduled an exterior and interior detailing with Always Clean, a mobile auto-grooming service that is given access to owners' cars in the Tesla service center on Route 17 in Paramus.

No problem, Jose said: 

Bring the car in at 11:15 a.m. and Always Clean will do their thing, Tesla will service my Model S and change the airbag, and then the detailers will touch up the car.

Mixed messages

But the plan fell apart the next day -- Jose's day off --when another service employee said the detailing had to be performed after the service, not before.

That same employee, who didn't give me his name, walked me outside for the loaner, which I drove home.

Then, I got text updates, including one from Ariana, the service manager, who said:

"Repairs are complete! We will hold your car indoors until Felix [of Always Clean] arrives to complete the detail."

'Pick up your car'

Later, I got a call from another employee that my service was completed without changing the airbag, because the new parts weren't in stock. 

And, no, I couldn't leave my car there for the detailing; I was told it would be washed and vacuumed and to pick it up at 5 p.m.

While I waited in the lounge, I spoke to a customer who was there to have a few fit-and-finish flaws on his new Model 3 repaired.

In fact, he said that one of the windshield wipers was hitting the hood and had chipped the paint.

Tesla in a tizzy

The Paramus sales and service center has become much busier since the introduction of the more affordable Model 3 last year, and that may be the reason service has deteriorated for all Tesla owners.

Then, I was called into the service center, paid for a four-wheel brake cleaning and was told my Model S was at the bottom of the ramp.

When I saw it was still as dirty as when I brought it in that morning, I protested, but the service advisor said the car wasn't washed because I would be taking it for a car wash and detailing at Always Clean's Fair Lawn garage.

Powerwall 2 installation

From home, I sent texts to Ariana, the service manager, asking her to call me, but never heard from her.

On Friday, the day my three Powerwalls (storage batteries) were installed at my home by Tesla Energy techs, I received an email from Jose Solis, the service advisor in Paramus I dealt with originally, apologizing for the mixup.

He offered a free car wash at 9 this morning, but I decided against it when I saw all of the snow that had fallen overnight.


Tesla Energy techs were delayed by Friday morning's snowy weather, and were unable to complete the wiring for my three Powerwalls, which will provide full backup for at least 5 days in the event we have another superstorm that knocks out power to our home. Otherwise, I can use the energy overnight or when cloudy or stormy weather limits how much electricity my solar panels generate.
The Powerwall 2 is so heavy, Tesla Energy employees had to back their van into our driveway and use a large hand truck to move the storage batteries to the work area, above and below.
Two of the three Powerwalls that were installed on Friday. Each battery is rated at 40kWh, meaning I have 120kWh on the wall of my house -- twice as much as in my Tesla Model S with a 60 kWh battery.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Humped by Trump: He's a Putin rootin' serial liar and tax cheat full of nasty tweets

Cartoonist Ed Wexler of PoliticalCartoons.com portrays President Trump in a hell of his own making, being manipulated by Russian dictator and war criminal Vladimir Putin.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- "He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat," Michael Cohen told Congress on Wednesday, describing President Trump, whom he served for a decade as a lawyer and fixer.

Imagine what he is saying behind closed doors today.

In a powerful closing statement on Wednesday, Cohen spoke directly to Trump, according to NBC News:


"I'd like to say directly to the president: We honor our veterans — even in the rain. We tell the truth even when it doesn't aggrandize you. You respect the law and our incredible law enforcement agents. You don't villainize them.
"You don't disparage generals, Gold Star families, prisoners of war and other heroes who had the courage to fight for this country. You don't attack the media and those who question what you don't like or what you don't want them to say and you take responsibility for your own dirty deeds.
"You don't use your power of your bully pulpit to destroy the credibility of those who speak out against you. You don’t separate families from one another or demonize those looking to America for a better life. You don't vilify people based on the god they pray to and you don’t cuddle up to our adversaries at the expense of our allies.
"And finally you don’t shut down the government before Christmas and New Year's just to simply appease your base.
"This behavior is churlish, it denigrates the office of the president and it's un-American and it's not you." 

Cohen described Trump's illegal acts during the 2016 presidential campaign and during his presidency, and said the president's goal was to make the Trump brand great:

"Donald Trump ... ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation -- only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.

"Mr. Trump would often say, This campaign was going to be the 'greatest infomercial in political history.'"

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Here is a great Bergen County dining deal: $29 for three courses with a glass of wine

MEYER LEMON: My entree of Seared Mahi-Mahi with bok choy and oyster mushrooms was moist and tender, and the wild-caught fish was swimming in a bright Meyer Lemon vinaigrette.
ORGANIC GREENS: I started with a salad of Organic Greens with cherry tomatoes, feta and cucumber in a sherry vinaigrette.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

CLOSTER, N.J. -- This seafood lover has traveled to Iceland and Alaska to enjoy their bounties of wild fish, but now I've found their match much closer to home.

The Hill is a fine-dining restaurant in the upscale borough of Closter with a celebrated chef and cookbook author, and a focus on seafood.

Better yet, its "First on The Scene" menu offers a terrific fixed-price menu of three courses, plus a glass of wine, for only $29, plus tax and tip.

The dinner menu, which is available four days a week, offers a choice of two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts and two wines (see days and hours below). 

(The Hill should get extra points for calling the menu "First on The Scene," a clever take on the early bird menus beloved of older Americans like me.

(Did you know the Early Bird is the state bird of Florida?) 

'Elevated dining'

The Hill says it offers "elevated dining," and "seasonal American cooking with the lightness and bright global flavors" the chef is known for.

That's not an idle boast.

The beautiful hunk of Mahi-Mahi I was served on Thursday evening was moist and tender, the equal in preparation of the incredible North Atlantic fish I enjoyed at premier seafood restaurants in Reykjavic, Iceland's capital.

As someone who tries to avoid butter, I was delighted with the Meyer Lemon vinaigrette the fish was swimming in.

Chef Ben Pollinger of The Hill received a Michelin star and three stars from The New York Times when he was at the helm of Oceana, an upscale seafood restaurant in midtown Manhattan.

His cookbook, "School of Fish," has chapters on how you can eat fish raw or bake, roast, braise, broil, steam, poach, grill, fry, sear or saute your catch from the market.

Although The Hill's fixed-price dinner with a glass of wine is only $29, we didn't feel cheated: 

The service was more than attentive, and the ingredients and preparation were at the same level you'd find in a fine-dining restaurant in Manhattan.

A la carte menu

Entrees on The Hill's a la carte dinner menu on Thursday ran from $27 to $38. 

One of the specials was a 40-ounce Porterhouse Steak for 2 at $85 with a suggested glass of Syrah for $15.

Another special, Wild Maine Belon Oysters in a sherry mignonette, were $3.25 each (I was tempted).


FLATIRON STEAK: For her entree, my wife ordered the Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce. The presentation could have been improved by fanning the slices over the parsnip puree, but she loved the dish, especially the caramelized Brussels sprouts, which I kept stealing.
WINE AND FOCACCIA: My glass of Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon and the restaurant's focaccia, served with extra-virgin olive oil. The focaccia proved addictive.
SECONDS? Our server offered us a second serving of focaccia, but we declined. She also offered to make my wife a new serving of her appetizer, Carnaroli Risotto with Hon Shimeji and Maitake mushrooms, when she saw her picking out the mushrooms, which she doesn't eat. I had them instead.
DESSERT: I was happy with pomegranate sorbet for dessert, and declined the ice cream that came with it. My wife chose the Maple Panna Cotta, a softly set Italian pudding made with sweetened cream and gelatin, below.

DETAILS: The fixed-price "First on The Scene" menu is offered Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and on Sundays from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended. The Hill is at 252 Schraalenburgh Road, Closter; 201-899-4700. Website: Bright Global Flavors
FULL BAR: In addition to the main dining room, there is seating in a bar room and in a private dining room.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Auto lovers gather in Manhattan for lunch and laughter, but fortunately no hard sell

The main speaker on Tuesday at Sardi's Restaurant was John Nikas (not "Dikas," as I wrote earlier), author of "Rule Britannia: When British Sports Cars Saved a Nation." Nikas noted the miniskirt was named after Mini Cooper cars of the 1960s.

Members' sense of humor drew me
 to the Madison Avenue Sports Car
 Driving & Chowder Society


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- I've never owned a sports car, British or otherwise, but that didn't stop me from asking to join the Chowderheads.

They describe themselves as "a cheerful gathering of people with one main interest in common -- sports cars and automotive competition" -- and their full name is the Madison Avenue Sports Car Driving & Chowder Society (MASCDCS).

So, my lifelong love affair with auto racing -- from vintage sports cars to Formula 1 -- prompted me to ask a member to sponsor me, and I attended my first luncheon meeting at Sardi's in the heart of the Theater District on Tuesday.

I'm a VP

Upon paying the $50 membership fee, I immediately was elevated to vice president, as explained on the club's website, MASCDCS.ORG:

"The Society had its first meeting March 12th, 1957, with 93 members who, at that time became Members of the Board. Everyone else, since that time, became only Vice Presidents.
"The club is based on three principles:
  1. We have no known purpose.
  2. We have accomplished nothing.
  3. We ain't mad at nobody.

The membership card notes club officials won't assume "liability for any claims, including bar bills, arising from the actions of the holder, ... put up bail for him, or ... even, when in decent company, recognize him on the street.

"Cash value of this card is 1/10 of a cent."

The annual $50 membership fee "permits you to hobnob with lively, witty, charming, famous and talented people -- like yourself" -- and on Tuesday, when I looked around the upstairs dining room at Sardi's, I saw older people like myself, the vast majority of them retired.

IMPA

Late last year, I was bounced from the International Motor Press Association, a group of auto writers and journalists, as well as public relations professionals, after I called all the free stuff writers accept from carmakers "bribes."




I first joined IMPA in the late 1980s, when I was a business reporter for The Record of Hackensack, covering Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo and other importers based in northern New Jersey and writing monthly road tests of new vehicles.

Unlike most newspapers, IMPA doesn't have an ethics policy, and writers rarely, if ever, acknowledge the free stuff they receive in their upbeat evaluations of new cars, trucks and SUVs.

So, that's how A Girls Guide To Cars can publish a rave review of a Volvo SUV, even though Consumer Reports' readers rated their Volvos unreliable.



In 2015, seven years after I retired, I bought a Tesla Model S and started a third blog, Shocking Car News, which focused on Tesla and the transition to all-electric cars, and rejoined IMPA, which also holds monthly lunches in Manhattan.

No free lunch

Chowderheads pay $50 for their lunch at Sardi's, but Cadillac, Lincoln and Subaru and other companies provide a multi-course buffet lunch, as well as cocktails and wine, free of charge to IMPA members, as well as cater meals during that group's two-day driving event at the Monticello Motor Club. 

Along with fresh fruit and other desserts at IMPA lunches, auto executives extol the virtues of their products or explain why they are making more high-profit SUVs and pickup trucks, and in some cases eliminating sedans altogether, to take advantage of low gas prices.

That fits perfectly with the failure of IMPA and most of its members to acknowledge climate change or how gas- and diesel-powered vehicles aggravate global warming and cause the premature deaths of 53,000 people in the United States every year. 


The caricatures that make Sardi's famous line the walls of the upstairs dining room. 
The caricature of Lily Tomlin, who has us laughing on the Netflix series, "Grace and Frankie." She also may be the only character currently on TV who drives an all-electric car (Nissan Leaf).
My lunch included an entree of Orange Teriyaki Glazed Broiled Salmon with Caramelized Ginger, Sweet Potato Puree, Sauteed Spinach, Sesame Seeds and Sweet Lime Soy Sauce. The fish, cooked medium, was moist and delicious. On the other hand, the appetizer of Homemade Mozzarella and Tomato came with pale, tasteless tomatoes, not the "vine-ripened" slices listed on the menu. A small glass of Cabernet Sauvignon was $11.50, plus tax.
The bonus speaker on Tuesday was Casey Putsch, director and founder of Genius Garage in Ohio, where professional mentors guide college students as they build and then race vintage sports cars. They also are involved in both the aerospace and automotive-design industries.