Cleaning Up

So here it is, the third day of February, and I’m writing my first blog post of the year. Anyway…

At the end of 2019, I had decided to make some changes once 2020 rolled around and once it did, you bet I started and am continuing to stick with them. So here they are, in no particular order.

I Started Reading. For those who know me really well, they understand why this is a big deal and pretty surprising. Why, you ask? Because my job requires me to read All. Day. Long. and the last thing I want to do when I get home is read some more.

The main reason I did so was because I discovered that there is an iOS app for Google Books where, as an Android user year ago, I amassed a decent collection of e-books. And I started to read some of them but because my Samsung tablet had such poor battery life and awful performance, I stopped. I wiped the tablet clean and tried again and nope, it was still slow. But once I installed the Books app on my iPad and realized how many I had, I thought that it would be a good time to start all over.

I did at the beginning of January with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living and, much to my surprise, finished it yesterday. A whole book. All 300+ pages. That’s something, and I’m not done yet. I’m going to take a break and focus on something else this month and start on my next book in March.

Being Clutter-Free. One of the things mentioned in said book is the removal of clutter from your living space in order to keep your mind focused, and ridding yourself of material goods as a means of sticking to one of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths: attachment is the root of all suffering (and it really is). For me, it went beyond that silly made-for-television “Does it spark joy?” mantra by someone the world has since forgotten about; it was a matter of “When was the last time I used this shit?”

And if I couldn’t remember, it got thrown out. I started in the den by cleaning out the cabinets around my TV where I found so many useless things I had collected over the years. But if they had been in there for this long and not used, away they went. There’s still work to be done but it was a real test to take on this task and see exactly how badly I might be attached to any of this stuff. I got my answer.

This also continued in the garage where we applied the same philosophy. If not for my rarely used drum set in the back, we’d have more space but I keep it because it’s fun to bang on now and then. But wait! There’s even more room in there now because…

I Sold My Motorcycle. I bought a 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 back in February 2016 because, after two years of riding my scooter, I wanted something a little faster and sportier. Here she is, showroom-fresh just before I started the paperwork:

IMG_3992

Was it fun to ride? Yes. Economical? Of course. But once I was in my scooter accident in October 2016, I swore off riding and returned to being a “cager,” a not-so-endearing term that riders use to describe people who drive cars.

So basically the motorcycle sat in the garage from then until this weekend when I sold it to a local dealer. I had tried to sell it there in the past but because I owed so much on it then (the dreaded “negative equity”), they wouldn’t buy it because there was no money to be made. When I got my last statement I decided to research its value and realized it was now worth more than I owed. So I rode it over and pretty much said I want to get rid of it and they made me an offer which I happily accepted because selling a motorcycle privately is a bit more difficult than a car. I didn’t make a lot of money on the deal because it needed some maintenance but I didn’t care. It’s gone, there’s room in the garage, and I’m saving over $150 a month from the payments I no longer have to make, plus insurance I no longer have to pay. I loved riding but with the Big 51 coming in a few weeks, nah, I can’t take anymore chances.

I’m Fasting. I had heard about intermittent fasting as 2019 was wrapping up and decided to give it a try to see the benefits. While you can simply set timers and alarms on your phone to notify you when you need to start and stop your fast, I’m using an app called Zero that keeps track of all of your fasts and lets you add journal entries and emojis to record how you felt each day. There are several fasts you can try or you can personalize your own: mine is currently a nightly fast of 12 hours. It’s by no means easy – I often find myself wanting to snack once I’ve started but that’s something you have to resist along with drinking lots of water. The app has lots of useful tips if you’re just getting started.

Have I felt any different? After the first week, I went for my walk/run and did more running than I had in a long time. The energy was definitely there and I felt great. Then, of course, I got sick with a cold for about a week, took a few days off work and didn’t exercise for a week.

Tip: I would not recommend the Zero Apple Watch app. It will drain your battery since it will be running the entire time of your fast.

So the literal and proverbial cleaning will continue for as long as it takes to get things in order.

Change is hard. But change is also very, very good.

Manic Monday

Monday night was crazy.

Earlier in the day, Ann had sent me a picture of my wonderful neighbor — you already know I’m being fatuous — standing in the street next to his car. That is, his damaged car.

Turns out that another resident on our street came flying around the corner at their usual high rate of speed, lost control, and wiped out my neighbor’s car. They flipped their car twice after impact which shows you how ridiculously fast they were going, with a child in the back seat. All are fine and I’m sorry that kid has a mother that doesn’t take his safety into consideration when she gets behind the wheel. They are known for speeding on our street all the time.

Ann told me the sound of the accident was horrible as they usually are but being close to the scene made it sound worse. She was a bit shaken up by it all and I can’t say I blame her. Accidents are truly scary to hear, scarier to see, and even more scary to be in.

That’s when I enter the picture, about 7 miles away.

I was making my way home as usual, taking the same streets as I always do. Just another ho-hum ride home for me.

Then it happened.

Just as I passed an intersection, a car made a right turn into my lane on their red light. Contact was made and the impact threw my scooter out of control. Yes, I was on my scooter.

I went sideways for a moment before finally losing control and falling to the ground, rolling in the street maybe about four times at around 35 MPH. My helmet made contact with the asphalt and got scraped up pretty bad. The impact on the asphalt jammed my scooter’s center stand into the body and it is no longer usable. All of this happened within seconds.

And all I was thinking while I was rolling was “Hang on…hang on…just hang on…don’t let go.” The adrenaline was pumping anyhow and that’s probably what kept me going. The worst thing I could have done was panicked — and I didn’t. Macho man.

Once I stopped rolling and dusted myself off, then having a few choice words with the driver who hit me, I texted Ann the following: “I got hit. I’m fine. Exchanging information.” But with all the chaos happening outside our own house, she left her phone in the kitchen and didn’t get the message until much later.

Daylight was quickly fading into night.

In the midst of all of this, between police questioning and fire trucks and ambulances, I finally got a call from her to make sure I was okay. I assured her I was. Then I got one from Anthony and it was something I never want to hear again. He was absolutely hysterical but again, I was fine and I calmed him down.

My bodily damage? Minimal. I have a few spots of road rash on my left leg (DON’T EVER Google that if you’re not ready for it) and not much else. Thankfully, nothing is broken and I didn’t suffer a concussion with my head hitting the ground. The police made their report, the paramedics checked me out, and I refused to go to the hospital as I felt good enough to ride home, which is exactly what I did.

There are more details but that’s all I’m divulging. I don’t pay my insurance for nothing.

Since I started riding, I’ve always worn a video camera of some kind on my helmet. Not because I was doing stupid tricks to share on YouTube but for the one time I may need it. Plus it keeps my own self honest. And after two years of riding, I thought I was about as safe as they get: lane-splitting only at red lights, avoiding any kind of trouble, etc. I’d never had an accident; just a few close calls that were wiped clean from the memory card of my GoPro. Of course, I keep the clips of interesting things I’ve witnessed on the road.

The camera itself was an investment and a form of insurance provided anything ever happened. And so far I was certain that I’d never need any footage recorded with it.

That was until Monday night. The point of impact, me rolling several times in the street, my feet flying up in the air, my brand new Vans shoes being ruined.  It’s all on there and…well, remember what I said earlier about being in an accident? Try having yours recorded. It really makes you sit back and think.

But perhaps the most gut-wrenching feeling I had was when Anthony called me, crying like never before. There I was with flashing lights all around me trying to reassure him that everything was going to be okay. Easy for me to say.

But I’d heard that cry in the past, and it was from me in 1976 when Mom got the call that Dad had passed away at the hospital. It absolutely tore me up.

And that was it. That ride home on my scooter would be my last.

I took Tuesday off so that I could take care of business. First, I submitted my insurance claim to see if it would cover any damage to my scooter. As of this post, the other guy has yet to contact their insurance or make a claim. I get the feeling they won’t, but that’s when the GoPro footage will come in handy. My company already has a copy of it and all they have to do is send it over to the other insurance company.

Second, I cancelled the insurance on the motorcycle and it’s going to sit in the garage until I can find a buyer. Yes, I’m getting rid of it. I do, however, plan to keep the scooter only because I’m so deep into it with the credit card that was used to pay for it. I won’t get much for it anyhow, and even less now that it’s been in an accident. I don’t know the extent of any damage to the body of my scooter so I’ll have to have it checked.

Third, I went out and got myself a car. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was done riding. It’s a 2015 Nissan Versa Note and I have to admit that since Nissan pays me (although I don’t work for them directly), there’s a sense of pride being behind the wheel of their product. I already know everything about it and I just got it.

Granted the payments aren’t exactly what we negotiated but it’s a small price to pay for my own safety. There’s no doubt I’ll miss riding and all that goes with it, but when I got the scooter it was meant to be a temporary fix until we could find another solution. And it worked, until Monday night.

And I’m willing to hang it up and put all of it behind me.


Because I’m not putting my family through this kind of misery ever again.

Composed with the WordPress iOS app

Better Luck Next Time 

Way back in July of last year, I boasted about the fact that I passed my written motorcycle exam which granted me a permit to operate my scooter, albeit with a few quid pro quos. 


That was then. This is now.

I had made an appointment with the DMV a few weeks ago to take my behind-the-handlebars exam and I was ready for it. After all, how hard could it be? It’s just riding in a simple serpentine pattern through some cones, going in a circle, then riding back through the cones. The second part is easier than that. 

Today I found out just how not easy this test can be because, despite my thinking that I would easily pass it, I didn’t. Oh, how I didn’t.

First things first, the exam is done on the property. The lollipop course is painted on the parking lot and tiny cones are put up by the DMV official. You are then given a quick quiz about where things like the horn, ignition switch, brakes, etc. are located on your bike. Easy enough.

Once that’s done and the way is cleared, you’re free to start the exam. 



And there are three simple rules to follow or you’re immediately sunk: your feet/foot can’t touch the ground, you can’t hit a cone, and you must stay within the lines at all times. Any one of those is cause for disqualification.

So I was ready. I eased my way through the cones and started to follow the circle. About a halfway through it, I noticed that I was slowly drifting outside the circle and tried to correct myself. In the process I lost my balance and my foot touched the ground. In most cases that would be the end of the exam.

But the DMV official gave me a second chance which I thought was nice. I made my way to the starting point again, took a deep breath, and hit the throttle gently.

I ran over the third cone and immediately turned around to meet the examiner. It was over this time — no third chances.

She marked up my exam sheet and handed it to me, telling me to schedule another appointment and to avoid the cones next time. I nodded, thanked her,  grabbed my paperwork, and disappointingly left the property.

And you know what sucks about not passing this exam? It takes place in the parking lot where people are waiting for whatever reason and where there is a line of cars with drivers waiting to take their exams. That means that unlike the car license exam, you’re exposed to a bunch of people hanging around watching you. You fail and everyone will know it — especially if you do something stupid like run over a cone. It’s really embarrassing.

So now I have to schedule yet another appointment to take the exam again. This time, however, I will make it a point to practice both serpentine ride and circle, ensuring that the exam will be easier next time.

Because I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to slalom through cones and ride in a circle while out and about in the city. 

Legit

Well, it’s official: as of today, I’m a permitted motorcycle rider according to the wonderful state of California.

Permitted but not licensed. I will get that one I pass the skills exam, the behind-the-handlebars test that shows the DMV that I can skilfully navigate through a row of five cones and a “lollipop” course, both scenarios that drivers routinely encounter on a daily basis here in the Golden State.

I’m being facetious, of course.

But yeah, anyway. I had been reading the official handbook and studying for the written exam off and on until I got a good idea about what the test might include. Once I believed I had learned enough, I went online to schedule an appointment to take the written exam.

That was a week ago. I now had a week to make sure I knew my stuff, so I then started taking some online quizzes that are supposed to be very similar to what the DMV administers. I took them over and over this past week plus studied the handbook in PDF format. And while you get three attempts to pass the exam, I wanted to be done with it on the first try, hence my endless studying.

And people, I did that. I fell asleep countless times with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 on my lap, the screen still displaying the page where I left off. For that week, I did nothing online at night. I wanted to get this exam done and over with.

Well, today was the day I made it happen and like most Californians, I despise dealing with the DMV. Even with an appointment the place is always packed with not just people who need to be there, but also their entire families complete with screaming kids. And, at least to me, most people there seem to be shady or of criminal intent. Call me crazy but that’s just how I feel. It’s a perfect environment for taking tests for a legal document that shows you know how to drive.

Fortunately, freaky people and families aside, my process turned out to be painless, probably because a) I had an appointment and b) I filled out my forms properly. That said, I don’t think the appointment expedites things as much as correct paperwork does. It makes the otherwise miserable DMV employees a bit less stressed when they are dealing with someone who is competent.

The good thing about going to the DMV is that the average person doesn’t have to go there more than maybe a dozen times in their life and usually there are years between said visits. At 45, I’d wager to say that I’ve been there maybe a total of six times for exams and behind-the-wheel tests. I couldn’t tell you the last time I was there but I do know that when I took my exam, it was on paper.

It’s not like that anymore. The DMV now uses touchscreen monitors which I think is an attempt to not only cut down on paper use but to also discourage cheating. The exam questions are no longer numbered as they used to be on paper so there’s no real way to cheat. They could also be completely randomized as far as I know, and your incorrect answers are shown immediately after you touch the Submit button.

But I didn’t know this when I started taking my first exam which was the standard driving test that I was required to take for some reason. I answered the questions and didn’t know if I was getting them right or not until, finally, I got one wrong. I missed only one question on the driving exam.

Then I started the motorcycle exam. This was it and I was nervous.

I read the first question and chose my answer: it was wrong. Ugh. I was screwing this one up already. That sort of set the stage for the rest of the exam with me taking my time with each question, pressing the Submit button with my face wincing as if in pain.

The exam seemed to go on forever with me missing a few here and there. I think I was up to about five wrong answers when I started to feel the pressure. I didn’t know when it was going to end when finally, after what seemed like Question 5,742, I submitted my answer.

There was a message on the screen congratulating me on passing the motorcycle exam. I took a deep breath, pumped my fist, then finally smiled. It was over, and I can finally ride without fear of being pulled over. Because, you know, police are always looking for guys on scooters to bust for exceeding the speed limit.

I walked over to waited in another line to turn in my paperwork for approval. The clerk congratulated me, I had my picture taken (it’s 1,000x better than my Class C license, back when I was a 300-pound gastropod), and I was done. She then told me I had a year to schedule my skills test which gives me some time to get even more used to riding. I’ll wait a bit to schedule that one.

In the meantime, I’m just happy to have gotten this far and that my endless nights of studying paid off.

http://instagram.com/p/rDVZ7JDQpm/

Composed on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 using the WordPress app, because the laptop was too cumbersome for me tonight.