Monday, January 31, 2011

A Road Trip as a Survival Mechanism

A book report on a 50,000 mile road trip
Ghost Rider
Travels on the Healing Road
Neil Peart
The moment I realized I could get this book in e-reader form it was only a matter of time before I would acquire it and read it. I had been reading some mysteries lately and when I discovered this book I knew I wanted to read it. And report on it. For I know very well who Neil Peart is. I didn't know he was also an author. My knowledge of the author goes back to the 1970's. A time when I used to play a little electric guitar. We used to put a record on the turntable, plug in our guitars and play along to the albums. We would dream of playing on the big stage. Most of all we would just have a lot of fun. Sometimes we would nail the music sequences. Sometimes we could hit the 'licks', other times not so much. One of the bands we liked to play along with was the Canadian Rock Band "Rush". I remember a couple of their early albums very well. After more than 30 years they are still Rockin', even though there was a couple of years where they took a break. The author of this book, Neil Peart, is the drummer for "Rush". I didn't know until just recently, that the author had experienced some personal tragedies in his life. The kind of tragedies you wouldn't want to wish upon anyone. First, his 19 year old daughter, his only child, was killed in an automobile accident. Then, not too long later, the love of his life and mother of his daughter died. She officially died of cancer, but as the author puts it, she really died of a broken heart. Damn! Now, I can't begin to even try and understand what I would do in a similar situation. I just hope that nothing like it ever happens to me. But the author, also an avid motorcyclist, decided he would try and deal with his grief by going for a ride. The author thought that maybe riding would help him get his mind off the pain and grief he was experiencing. In an almost Pirsig like expression he talks about how riding his motorcycle causes total concentration and attention to the road in front of him. That would help keep his mind occupied and even lull him into a tranquility caused by the the constant motion and vibration of the motorcycle as the world passed by him. We're talking a lot of miles, hopefully a lot of healing and a lot of months all over the north american continent.
Peart's weapon of choice. A BMW 1100GS
I believe the author calls himself the "ghost rider" in part because of the many demons, memories and monsters that travelled along with him. He mentions that the world around him doesn't seem quite real and that he experienced a disconnect with the world surrounding him.
In the book, the author really bares his soul, his deepest thoughts and that is part of what made the book so fascinating to me. Some of the book is also a compilation of notes from the road and letters to friends and family during his "self imposed exile". The effect is to make the words more immediate to the moment being experienced and more real to the reader. There's some great stuff here.
Did I mention Pirsig like phrases?
"And sometimes there was music playing in my helmet, too, as my mental jukebox transformed the white noise of the wind passing into a soundtrack in richly detailed high fidelity ... When the riding became demanding, the music receded into the background, but when it was just me and the motorcycle on a pretty stretch of road, my brain would turn up the radio."
. Man, have I been there. I constantly have my "music" with me when I ride. There's no stereo on Max, just my mind.
Part of the book talks about the author's love for literature. He mentions various authors that he admires or has enjoyed. Names like Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis and even Truman Capote are mentioned in the book. He would buy books in bookstores, then mail them back to his home in Canada to be read later or given to a friend. He even stopped momemtarily in the town I was born, Garden City KS. He was interested in Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood" about the murder of a farm family occuring in the late 1950's. He wanted to stop by and see if he could find the farmhouse of the Clutter family. He did.
I took lots of notes as I read the book. I enjoyed it that much. The subject, yes, is a bit gloomy, but the insight into his mind is fascinating. At one point as I read, I imagined how the end of the book would turn out to be. The author gives a couple of hints. In a silly fashion I imagined sort of a Hollywood type of ending, which of course didn't turn out to be the case. The issues were much deeper than my mind was envisioning at the time. The ending is maybe a bit peculiar, but as I think back on it more and more, the better I like it.
A final conclusion I drew from the book is that life is just what it is.
It Just is, Deal With It!
Alex Lifeson on the left, Geddy Lee in the center and the author, Neil Peart, in the background to the right.
They first played together as a trio in 1974, the year I graduated from high school.
I just really like their "sound". I always have. I'm not sure they are the greatest rock group ever to be, but three and a half decades later, they still tour and play together. I have never seen them in concert and had a chance to this year, but we had already bought tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band (who rocked the house, btw), and the family budget for attending concerts isn't unlimited.
But I will tell you that I have a little CD player at the office and the "Rush" CD's get played as much, if not more than a lot of the other CD's I have.
I highly recommend this book for a bunch of reasons. Motorcycles, Rock n Roll, philosophy and life. How good can it get.

Monday, January 24, 2011

There's a Book Report Coming

You may just have to wait for it for a few days. I had told a few readers and friends that I hadn't been feeling very well for the past couple of months. I was pretty sure the problem was related to a drug I was taking to help me quit smoking. Chantix is a ridiculous creation of the drug companies, with all sorts of weird side effects, and only one benefit. It sometimes can help people quit the nicotine habit. I emphasize "sometimes" because I'm not convinced that the manufacturer knows exactly how it works. I'm just here to say that it makes you feel kind of shitty, and not even want to smoke. The good news is that the last cigarette I had was 2 days before Thanksgiving, and the last time I took the Chantix was about a week and a half ago. The bad news is that my symptoms of not feeling well were sort of masked by the effects of Chantix. There was another, more serious, set of symptoms involved that I mistook for the effects of the drug. I had a heart attack last Friday morning. I was incredibly lucky. The paramedics and ambulance arrived quickly. I got to ride "Hot" with sirens blaring in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The people in the ER were waiting for me. The OR was ready. The cardiologist was "in the building". In a very short period of time, they had done a catherization and placed a stent in an artery supplying blood to me heart. A lot of very competent people saved my life. I was doing so well afterward that they released me on Sunday afternoon and I am back at home. No, I don't feel 100%, yet, but considering the circumstances, I can't do much better. I am taking a few days off of work, then gradually ease back into it a bit. With the time off I plan to finish up a book I have been reading on my Nook that will be the subject of a book report for the blog. I don't want to say what the book is yet, but I am enjoying the heck out of it and just need some to finish it up. I am doing fine and will try and finish the book this week. I do have a little extra time, now. There are even some possibly interesting parallels between the book and my own life that may get explored a bit. So, just hang tight and I'll be back soon with a book report.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Max Takes a Few Days Off

It had to happen sometime. We haven't had any snow this year, until Sunday and early Monday morning.
That's great for riding. Last year I had already missed out on a number of days. This year I haven't missed much..... until this week.
We woke up to this on Monday morning:
If you look close you can see tracks out to the treee. One of our cats always thinks he will want to go outside for the day even when it snows, but eventually changes his mind and comes back inside. This morning he went out to the tree and back, then decided it wasn't worth it. Too cold on them paws.
Max is safe and sound in the garage with his new cover that he got for Christmas.
Now you might ask why Max uses his cover even though he is safely in the garage. Well, it's partly because of the cats. They like to sit on his seat and you don't know how many mornings I come out to find cat hair on my seat.
There was about 3" of snow, not really a lot, but more was possible during the day on Monday. Schools were cancelled in some parts of Kansas, but not in Wichita. But the streets had not been plowed and travel was very slow on Monday morning. There were the usual accidents. Wichita has a plan regarding accidents in these conditions and they call it "EARP", the emergency accident reporting plan. In effect it says that if there is a fender bender and nobody is hurt and no one has been drinking, then just exchange insurance information with the other driver and fill out an accident report at the police substation later in the day.
I drove "Monty", the famous Canadian Subaru, (the one with the heated seats) to work. We didn't have any problems, but don't think I got out of second gear except for a brief moment or two. I followed a Volvo sedan downtown for much of the way, I noticed the car had a "Ron Paul '08" sticker on it. Don't they know that the election was 2 years ago? And he didn't even make the finals?
Thw weather is supposed to turn very cold this week, so the snow may stick around for awhile. Usually, with a snow like this, it's gone in a few days. Maybe I can ride again later this week, but I sort of doubt it.
Oh well,,,,,,

Monday, January 10, 2011

Have a Nice Day "Bub"!

As I finished my banking transactions on a cold Friday afternoon, the teller sent the receipts back to me and said: "Have a Nice Day, Bub!" Now I have to say that I can't recall the last time someone called me "Bub". He was genuinely trying to be friendly. And he wasn't obnoxious like the tellers at Bank Of Ameri-something who seem to always say the same thing like they are some sort of slightly malfunctioning robots. Oh, they are friendly too, but I get tired of hearing the same worn out phrases spoken like they are forced to be sincere and really don't want to be. Was it the fact that I rode up on the scooter all decked out in my Denim Gear Jacket looking very cool? (If I don't say so myself) He didn't call me "Sir" or "Mister", just "Bub". I sensed that if I had been dressed differently, or arrived on 4 wheels, rather than 2, he wouldn't have called me "Bub". Did I look like a "Bub"? I don't mind being called "Bub". It's better than "Bubba" or even "Dumbass". I just went through the drive up rather than go inside. I like riding Max through the drive up. This bank is usually crazy busy on a Friday afternoon, but today I got right through. I was in a really good mood and was looking forward to dinner that evening with my wife. You see, it was our anniversary, 32 years no less. We went to a Japanese Hibachi restaurant that we hadn't been to for some time. The food is excellent, but not cheap. It's a fun place to go on a special occasion. Our chef was fast, good and very entertaining. Jayna ordered salmon and scallops with hot green tea. I had chicken and salmon with some extra veggies. I drank a Tsunami which was spiced rum and fruit juice. The chef kept trying to goad me into more drinks. I had two and Jayna drove home. One thing though, for some reason, the chef kept referring to me as "Big Daddy" whenever he would serve up some food on my plate. He repeated this 4 or 5 times. Other people at the table had steak and he went around the table making sure how much they wanted their steaks cooked, rare, well done, etc. Then he looked at me, with a little smirk on his face and asked me " How do you want your chicken cooked,,,,, "Big Daddy"? After 2 Tsunamis I wasn't quick enough with a witty comeback, just some laughter. So today I was referred to as "Jim"," Bub" and "Big Daddy". It wasn't my idea. It just happened that way. It didn't bother me, just made me ponder. What I'd really like is if Jayna would let me continue to be her "Big Daddy" for a long time to come. She's pretty special!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some Drivers are Dense, Others Just Plain Dangerous

I had to chuckle a bit at the lady driver at a stoplight next to me. While everybody else stopped before the crosswalk, she had solidly placed her Yukon in the middle of the crosswalk as she waited for the light to change. My chuckling turned to wariness as the light turned. We proceeded together through the intersection and I realized that she was intently busy with a cell phone at her ear. I sort of sped up to get past and away from her. A mile away was the next stoplight and wouldn't you know it, we both ended up first in line at the next red light, the Yukon to my right. She was still talking on her phone. Well at least she stopped before the crosswalk this time. Sort of....... As we waited for the light to change, she inched forward a foot or two at a time, numerous times until, again, the Yukon was well into the crosswalk. This time I thought maybe I should be crabby and motion for her to hang up the phone, but a good opportunity didn't present itself. She probably wouldn't have seen me anyway. We have a new law in Kansas, taking effect January 1, that outlaws texting while driving. But the new law doesn't outlaw talking so we riders still have that hazard to look out for. Luckily, this driver wasn't appearing to be real dangerous to others, just a bit 'dense'. The light changed again, I took out in front of her again, and once again, a mile away at the next stoplight, we both ended up first in line waiting on the red light. Some things in life are certain and never change, the Yukon was still at my right and the driver was still talking on the phone. She had stopped again just before the crosswalk, but proceeded again to get antsy and inch forward into the crosswalk. Is there no justice in the world? Shouldn't I go over to her vehicle, tap on the window and express in colorful terms (remembering Monty Python) that I wanted to fart in her general direction in retaliation for her driving technique. Dense! I proceeded on after that, she turned off somewhere and I didn't see her again. Here's hoping she got safely to where she was going. I was glad to be out of her range and was enjoying the ride, still using my usual caution, but not having to worry about that Yukon anymore. Then sort of suddenly a white Lexus appeared in my right side mirror. I glanced again a second later and he was much closer this time, right on my ass, just a few feet behind me to my right and attempting to pass me through essentially what were unused parking spaces on my right. I was in the right lane, traveling at approximately the proper speed limit, and real surprised to see this idiot doing what he was doing. I guess he was late and really needed to get to the next intersection so he could make a right turn. I must have forgotten that I owed him that favor (Prick!). Well the better part of safety ruled over anger and surprise. I moved left into the lane next to me, let him go by, and after he did I saluted his amazing driving technique with a very demonstrative one finger gesture. He glanced back, saw my finger, and hopefully got the point. I was thrilled to see that he had to stop at a red light only a block away. I hope he was late as hell to work that day! Some dense, some dangerous. Riders be aware.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Didn't Click "Purchase Now" because.....

Years ago I admit to being timid about purchasing "stuff" on the internet. I was leery of the security of giving out credit card information. For instance, if ordering clothes from LL Bean, one of my favorite stores, I'd look at the items on the internet, make my selection and then mail a check with the order form. It would take a few days more, because they would wait to ship until my check had cleared, but I didn't care. Nowadays, I seldom think twice about internet purchases. We buy lots of things from various internet sites and have almost never encountered any problem. We just continue to be careful about it. But the other day I was in the process of making an internet purchase from a well known online motorcycle clothing and accessory site. I won't name the site but I have a couple of sites that I have used in the past for buying scooter "stuff". It has been cold enough recently that I have experienced a bit of a cold neck while riding. The rest of me has stayed relatively warm, but I was considering buying a new balaclava. I found one that looked nice. It was priced at $18, maybe a little more than I wanted to spend, but then again, it wouldn't break the bank and I don't mind spending the money if the quality is good. There was no doubt that the quality would be good from this site. I really didn't need a new balaclava. I have a perfectly good nylon one from my prior bicycling days. It's not new, but not very used either. It works fine and I don't really need it that often. I use it when it is maybe 25-30 degrees and below. But part of the reason I was looking for a new one is that the old one is kind of ugly. It is a sort of blue/purple color and really not very attractive. The new one has a nice additional feature. The material for the neck area is thicker and almost like fur, while the top portion is thin, much like my old balaclava, so that it can fit nicely while wearing a tight fitting helmet. The new one is made specifically with motorcyclists in mind. The old one can be used by anybody. The new one is not a sickly sort of faded blue/purple color, just basic black. Now part of me says that if it keeps me warm, then what's it matter what the old one looks like. The vain person in me says this is not tolerable. It doesn't match anything else I wear color-wise. And it would be "cool" to say I got a new one from one of my favorite motorcycle web sites. (I am so bad, I keep a copy of that particular catalog in the bathroom so I can peruse and dream over all the "stuff" as I take care of some of my daily duties.) I also found a particular belt I wanted at the same site. I didn't really need it either, I just wanted it. Do you ever fight with yourself about stuff you "want" as opposed to stuff you really "need"? Anyway, I entered the two items, totaling less than $40, into the shopping cart on the web site and clicked the button to see what the shipping cost would be. $9.00 Nine friggin' Dollars !!!! I am sure that the two items could be shipped in a relatively small box. It can't weigh very much. And I wasn't interested in overnight or even two day fares. Just your basic normal shipping. $9.00? Are you really kidding me? The "shipping" was about 25% of the total purchase. I suppose I might have felt better if it had said "Shipping and Handling" rather than just "Shipping". Maybe I subconsciously don't mind paying for a little "handling". But I know for a fact that the shipping would not be more than a few bucks. Hell, you could parcel post it for almost next to nothing and I don't really care how it gets here, just so it does. So I never finished the transaction. Maybe I should have, but at that time, economy won out over vanity, and it sure seemed that the balaclava and belt just got a little more expensive than I felt comfortable with. Damn! Now I have to ride "ugly".