Sunday, February 5, 2023

A $2582.94 VRBO Rental Scam is

was how I began my winter getaway of (somewhat) discontent.
It all began so innocently in Snobsdale, AZ. My usual Holiday season hangout. 

Snobsdale is all about the sunshine, uphill hiking, tank-top wearing warmth, viewing blockbuster movies and of course, the fabulous shopping. I rented a VRBO condo with all the above nearby. 

Admittedly, I had a malevolent premonition about this joint. My kosher “Spidey Senses” were warning me, but the price was right and it was available. (For a reason). 

I booked it.

Upon entering, I was overcome by the distinct smell of mold (and a possible scam.)  It didn’t take me long to find the source. A dripping warm water pipe splashing into a full turkey roasting pan below. The carpet was spongy boggy wet. 

A did a quick 360 through the rest of the wreck. It was heavy on TLC. Tender Loathing Care. 

I retreated outside before I developed an upper respiratory infection. I phoned the management company. “Plushy Hosts” the name itself should have tipped me off. (More like Flush the Toilet Hosts.) This began a roiling blend of actual conversations, texts and emails filled with platitudes and stonewalling. I was getting nada with my demand for a refund. 

I took a deep breath and headed back inside to shoot crime scene photos. I knew this was going to become a full blown 💩 poop fight. 

I was right.

I booked another rental 200 feet away. It was clean, quiet and comfortable. That same day, I filed a dispute on the VRBO scam charge with Capital One. Days later I was credited the dough, BUT the slumlord could dispute my dispute.

We’ll get back to this drama later…

As I mentioned before, Snobsdale in December is usually fine weather. One doesn’t expect freeze warnings, or gloomy skies or an Noah’s Arc deluge and hale. This isn’t Fake Weather Reports. This really happened. I soldiered on while wearing more fleece and Windstopper jackets. At times, I even donned pants.  Outrageous! 

It wasn’t just me. The locals concurred it had been an atypical in a weird way winter. 

On January 2nd, I marked myself “Safe!” after surviving another holiday season. I aimed Sanctuary Too further south for my 2023 inaugural campout. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument would be my pad for three weeks. 

In January 2022, I spent two glorious weeks in this jewel of BIGLY views (including the Great Border Wall of Bigotry which can be seen from the campground.)  Last year the weather was perfect with incredible sunsets . The vibe was senior citizen retiree chill.  I could have easily spent more time there.

It was not to be in 2023, the swaddled baby layered look was the typical campground fashion statement. Morning lows were often in the high 30’s. Sunsets drove me quickly inside my cab or camper. Throughout the night, I could hear my neighbors furnaces kicking on but not off. 

The worse stretch was the three days of low lying London like clouds, which caused my solar panels to valiantly strain to keep my camper batteries charged. Low energy batteries means no cold IPAs. A true Sambini catastrophe. 

But the real true catastrophe was the Capital One message I received five weeks after filing a dispute. The slumlord disputed my dispute. The scam was back on and I was the victim. The onus was on me to prove my innocence to Capital One. I had two weeks to gather the information they requested. The corporation wasn’t  asking for much, just Police Department confirmed fingerprints, a swab from my inner cheek for DNA sampling, a note from my Bar Mitzvah Rabbi vouching for me being a mensch and a cover letter plus copies of texts, emails and photos. 

All the while being in the middle of nada with problematic WIFI coverage and obviously no printer.. A total aggravating inconvenience. 

Fortunately long time buddy Brad was granted a week off from the Ms. He’d be joining me in Organ Pipe and later on in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Brad became Mr Xerox printing off a pulpwood forest’s worth of evidence and documents. 

From the border town of Lukeville (formerly known as “Gringo Pass”) I Priority Mailed the weighty package to Capital One. 

After that it was onto Puerto Penasco. Brad and I were supposed to spend six nights there. We left after four which were three too many. 

And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

I returned to Organ Pipe for the simple reason, camping there is simple. 

Meanwhile my  important provisions such as IPAs, coffee and lastly food were getting low. After a month of camping I decided to spend a few nights hoteling it in Yuma, AZ. It was here at the termination of the Colorado River where I’d decide my next move. Baja, Mexico or Anza/Borrego State Park in California. 

By now astute readers have picked up this hasn’t been a typical winter getaway for me. It’s usually invigorating and fun. This one has been a grind. My kosher “Spidey Senses” screamed “No Bueno!” for taking on border crossings, military check points, pesos and a language barrier. 

Back to the 1.7 years of $$$$ for Happy Hour IPAs scam. (Based on two IPAs/night. I’m not the lush many people think I am).

On a feeling Meh and cloudy afternoon in Yuma an email appeared from Capital One. 

“Please check your documents for an important message.” I followed their instructions. “Capital One will be giving you a refund since your DNA, fingerprints, letter from the Rabbi, photos, texts and emails were conclusive proof of your innocence. UNLESS the scammer disputes your dispute with another dispute. The scammer has 90 days to dispute. Please hold onto all your evidence since we still don’t trust you.

Hugs and kisses from Capital One,
By the way. What’s in your wallet?”

I’m now in Anza/Borrego State Park where the sun miraculously appeared. The winds abated. The temperatures now are pegging the delightful range. Birds are fluttering about and singing. Flowers are in bloom..Hummingbirds pollinate them. Butterflies go about their business of being beautiful.  Plus my IPAs are still cold and the morning coffee still hot. 

Now this is what a winter getaway is supposed to be like. 


Last photo, This is what the inside of Sanctuary Too looks like. Would anyone really want to spend a lot of time in this chaos of camping clutter? 

It’s all about the weather.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

“Have you no sense of decency, Sir?”

Was the question asked by Joseph Nye Welch to Senator Joe McCarthy on June 9, 1954. 

The confrontation happened on Day 30 on what would become known as the US Army-McCarthy hearings. The dialogue took place during the heady times of “McCarthyism.” The Red Scare was everywhere. In McCarthy’s hard drinking inspired imagination Commies were deeply imbedded within the Federal Government  Finger pointing and waving sheets of paper was his purported evidence. 

Many historians consider this Joseph vs. Joe slap down to have been the demise of McCarthyism. Joe M. was later censured by his fellow Senators. 

On December 6th, 2022 the midterm elections have finally been concluded. Once again Georgia came through in a Senatorial runoff election. Mr Walker (A Trump endorsed candidate) can now ponder the benefits of being a werewolf instead of a vampire. 

Trump’s  “Red Wave” never materialized. For the GOP it was similar to an oozing paper cut. A tiny trickle of blood easily stanched.

Since the dawn of Trumpism, our Nation has been flooded by flawed Republican candidates. Many hitched their wagons to the runaway Trump train where reality takes a back seat to Q’Anon theories, so-called rigged elections, gun rights over human rights, White Supremacy and the opportunity to undermine democracy itself. 

George Santos with other Republican officials after Election Day in November.

When it comes to alleged widespread election fraud there’s no need of proof or evidence. Just click those ruby colored slippers three times and repeat. “I do believe in Trump. I do believe in Trump…” All the while wearing a “Lions not Sheep” T-shirt. Just like McCarthyism but more dangerous.

For the sake of blog brevity, I’ll nuke the 2020 rigged election notion. A few of you may recall the February 3rd, 2020 Iowa Democrat Caucus. To put it bluntly it was a fiddle f—k. The caucus results dribbled in. It took an inordinate amount of days (in a state where potential pork products outnumber Democrats) for the final tallies to be announced.

Of course, Trump the Tweeter King texted.

“The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the Country,” 

Isn’t it amazing nine months later, the same screwball Democratic Party was able to steal the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and Georgia. Of course that didn’t happen. Yet, it doesn’t matter. Delusion and Fake News are so much more exciting than reality and truth. Facts are real coup/party poopers.

For the record, approximately 200 Republican election deniers were recently voted into office. Source NY Times.

Speaking of coups. In many countries, POTUS 45 and his traitorous sheep would have been corralled into a pen. Then led blindfolded against a wall. There the last thing they would have heard would be “Ready! Aim! Fire! Not the ceremonial 21 gun salute they were hoping for. 

The Constitution they seemingly disdain (and want “terminated”) saved their sorry asses.

By now you’re aware of Trump’s pitching his MAGA hat into the ring. Many of you might be thinking, “He can’t win.” Bullshit! This was what the pundits said in 2016. If there’s anything anyone who has been paying attention to this fat sycophant is this. Trump is slipperier than snot on a banana peel. He doesn’t go away. Rule of Law doesn’t apply to this shameless excuse for a human. The old system of checks and balances has been derailed. Since the advent of Trumpism, we’re in a fine mess.

So where’s the present day Republican version of Joseph Nye Welch? Answer. He/She doesn’t exist. The Republican moderates have gone into severe hibernation since 2016. Now the Crazies are calling the shots.

Please don’t  count on any repercussions from the final report of the January 6th investigation either. (Bummer. I was hoping for a worldwide televised, “Ready! Aim! Fire! moment.)

There’s really only one end to Trumpism. It’ll happen when the Demon of Death makes a house call at Mar-a-Lago. A true final solution.

Last thought to the 30% JINO sheeple (Jews In Name Only) Republicans. 

Cheers to the continuation of democracy in 2023 and beyond.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

“Jeffie! Be a Mensch.

Do the right thing.” was Sid’s (my father) admonishment whenever my personal performance was less than stellar. (For those who need a Yiddish refresher: Mensch. A person of integrity and honor). 

Honestly, screwing up in the Sambur household wasn’t worth it. Sid had no qualms of issuing severe punishment. Jewish Guilt. One transgression was worth a billion verbal tuneups. There was never a pardon for our “crime.” I learned quickly to do the right thing. OR! When I was doing the wrong thing, (like smoking pot in the house), don’t get caught. There’s a reason incense sticks were so popular in the 70’s. 

As I age, I realize the unstated purpose of Jewish Guilt was to get me to consider friends, family and stranger’s needs and feelings. To look outward instead of always inward. That simple gestures count. Empathy, generosity and kindness can go a long way in a world which seems to be growing more impersonal, uncaring, and chaotic by the day. 

Now I believe trying to make a difference carries more weight than ever before.

Tikkun Olam is a beautiful Jewish concept. Although I’m sure all religions sport versions of it. Here’s the definition: 

Few Hebrew idioms are so well known in the American Jewish community as “Tikkun Olam”, “repair of the world.” The term is understood in modern America as the idea that Jews are called upon to make the world more just, peaceful, tolerant, and equal, through acts of charity, kindness, and political action.

Source Jewish Funders Network. 

Being a Mensch or Mensch-ette is a calling. 

I heard the call awhile ago. Fortunately I have the time, energy and finances to look beyond myself. Being a minimalist with little baggage doesn’t hurt either. 

When an acquaintance is sick/injured or going through a rough time. Bring him/her a meal or run errands for them. 

When someone is keen on fundraising for a non-profit charity, hand them a check.

If replacing a stolen Buddha can make a neighbor happy. Do it! 

Are you an advocate for literacy? Become a member of the Friends of the Library. Help spread the gospel of reading. 

Perform gigs as a Trail Angel. Distribute sandwiches to hungry CDT and CO Trail hikers. Listen to their stories of perseverance and battling through the hardships. You will get inspired by the simple act of handing over a simple PB&BOYSENBERRY sandwich.

Right now my passion/crusade is collecting food and or check donations for our Durango Food Bank. Of course there’s an old blog as to the why:

BTW. There’s hungry folks in La Plata County! When I stopped at the Food Bank to get signage for the Parkside Terrace Food Drive. This is what I saw. People queuing to pick up boxes of food. The need is there.

This Holiday Season do the right thing. Give whatever you can. It can make a difference. 

Sid and Clara would be proud of you.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.