Monday, June 08, 2009


...peeling off the static stickers for all the bells 'n whistles included in the laptop that I got for Christmas last year.

You waited four months for that; your life is now complete.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Side Of Hamburger, Please

Good grief - looking back on my childhood, I'm amazed that I made it out without being maimed or horribly disfigured.

Continuing with the series on my death-defying childhood, I give you yet another story involving bad ideas, wheeled toys & asphalt.

I can’t remember if it was before or after my physics lesson via the rear spoiler of a Ford Pinto (my bell got rung pretty hard then; a lot of memories were jumbled in the process); I think it was when I was in seventh grade. One of my best friends, Patrick Fisher, lived in what could be called a “rural” area, smack dab in the middle of the Jurupa Hills, offering us plenty of trails to get lost in (we were “extreme mountain biking” before it was invented). The street that he lived on was pretty much a race track, with cars routinely flying by at 70+ mph, so, our on-road escapades were confined to the neighborhood behind his house. The only problem with the streets on that side of his house, though, was that everything was uphill; the upside(?) to it, though, was that for every uphill, there’s always a downhill, &, boy, were there some doosies here.

One night, Patrick & I had the brilliant idea to tow each other around; using his Diamondback BMX bike, Variflex skateboard (any oldtime skaterats out there remember Variflex’s? Cheap, nearly an inch & a half thick & the crappiest trucks known to man), & a length of rope, we took turns pulling each other uphill. To say it sucked to be the tow-er (me) would be a massive understatement.

Finally, it was my turn. My struggle up the hill pulling Patrick along had paid off, as I got to be towed along the relatively flat part of the street along the top of the hill. Given my difficulty in maintaining balance on a skateboard, I was grateful for the smooth ride & the ludicrously tight trucks on the board. Decked out in a pair of shorts (the short, early 80’s corduroy beach variety) & a sleeveless hoodie, life was good.

Until we got to the downhill part.

Being young (read: stupid), we saw not our potential deaths at the end of the street below, but a hill that had to be tamed, preferably at high rates of speed. So, we were off, going faster than I think the Variflex’s hard rubber wheels were meant to go. Eventually, I was going fast enough that the towrope went slack & I was riding next to Patrick on the bike. About halfway down the hill, Patrick pointed out that the street t-boned into the cross street below, right into a curb, & that maybe stopping would be a good idea. I agreed &, against all logic, ditched the rope, leaving Patrick behind.

Cruising down the hill, I thought to myself, “Maybe I should’ve held onto the rope.” Seeing that the curb was quickly getting closer, I began to formulate my plan to stop myself. Not being at all seasoned at skating, I rejected the idea of braking myself by stepping on the tail of the board & grinding myself to a halt. By this time, I was really, really wishing I still had the tow rope. I decided to go with my next idea which, like many of my plans, was not thought through very well; I figured that I could put my foot down on the ground & slow myself down enough, maybe even to the point where I could execute a bit of a tail slide. With nerves of steel (& brains of pudding), I put my plan into action, taking my right foot off the board & placing it on the asphalt speeding by me below &…

Have you ever started doing something, knowing that it’s probably not the smartest thing in the world to do, but you did it anyway? Never works out too well, does it? Well, neither did this, for, as soon as my foot touched the ground, I was brought not to the slow, gentle stop that, in my mind, should’ve happened; no, instead, my foot made contact & I was immediately - & I mean IMMEDIATELY – separated me from the skateboard. The next few moments were nothing but a blinding flash of pain as the asphalt turned my bare skin into raw hamburger. I believe the equation went something like this:

Inertia + 30 feet of asphalt – several layers of skin = OUCH!

Adding insult to injury, I watched as the skateboard landed softly in a lush, grassy yard off to my left. I could swear it was laughing at me.

Amazingly, I don’t think I cried; I was too busy making that sucking-through-the-teeth sound to be able to cry. My side, from knee to elbow, was nothing but raw & bloody skin, with pieces of asphalt added in here & there, y’know, for decoration. Patrick gave me the bike &, unable to bend my left leg, I pushed myself back to his house for more fun with Mr. Bottle of Iodine. You’d better believe that wearing long pants was a joy for the next couple weeks.

And so ends another tale of youth & stupidity (yes, I realize that’s redundant). Come back next time to find out how not to recharge a 9-volt battery.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spoiler Alert!

Yeah - I wish someone had told me that. Allow me to explain via the tale of one of the more painful episodes from my childhood.

I had two bikes before the flyin’ Murray stunt bike from the previous story; this story involves my first bike - an orange Kent street bike that I’d tried (cosmetically, at least) to beef up a little. It originally came with a big, long banana seat, gorilla handlebars & a teeny, tiny sprocket that made racing a test in endurance; it looked like something off “The Brady Bunch.” It was a Christmas gift when I was about seven or eight. I remember being excited about it (I hadn’t even asked for a bike that year); the bloom soon faded, though, as it took me forever to learn how to ride the two-wheeler (I’m honestly surprised that anyone from my generation has been able to procreate, as the center tube on the frame – the “Nutcracker” – was brutal; by all rights, the human race should’ve ended with anyone born in the 70’s). I don’t know when it happened, but, eventually, I mastered it, racing anything that posed a challenge &jumping anything that got in my way.

I learned to love my bike.

At any rate, given that the Kent wasn’t meant for racing & jumping (oh man, could she powerslide, though!), she developed a few characteristic rattles & noises. One, in particular, was a click emanating from the rear wheel. I chalked it up to a loose spoke, but could never find the offending piece. For years, I was plagued by an incessant clickclickclickclick coming from the back of my bike.

One day, as I was coming down the street (fast, as usual), the sound became almost unbearable. Doing what any 11 or 12 year old would do in this situation, I turned around to see if I could find the exact location of the clicking. Again, I was going at a fair rate of speed. Riding while looking over my shoulder, I determined that I could not, in fact triangulate where the sound was coming from.

This is where I really could’ve used a ‘SPOILER ALERT!’ Much to my surprise, I turned around just in time to see the rear end of my friend’s parent’s 1970-something Ford Pinto station wagon – complete with a rear spoiler mounted on top. It was then that I got a harsh introduction into the word of physics; namely, that an object in motion will remain in motion, with the object in question being my face. My bike, upon making contact with the car’s rear bumper with its front tire, endo’d me into the spoiler, face first. Then, because the Universe was feeling particularly vindictive that day, I got my next lesson in physics; in this case that for every action, there is an equal & opposite reaction. I learned this as, after I collided with the spoiler, I was then thrown backward, off my bike & flat on my back onto the street.

I then learned another universal constant: asphalt is really hard.

Sure that my nose had been shoved into my brain & I’d die any at any minute, I lay there, gasping for air like an asthmatic in a Beijing marathon, wishing; hoping; praying for a quick death to make my face stop hurting. My friend’s dad had apparently seen the whole thing & came running out to my aid. Amazingly, after all that, I hadn’t broken anything; I didn’t even have the distinction of a bloody nose. He helped me up & checked to see if I was alright (&, probably, making sure I hadn’t left an impression in the spoiler). After ascertaining that I wasn’t going to die, I picked up what dignity I’d just splattered all over the back of the car & onto the street & rode, slowly, facing forward this time, back home, where I called it a day.

I never did figure out where that stupid noise was coming from…

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

All In All We’re All Just Bricks In the Wall

“Jump it! Jump it!”

And with those words I found myself at the top of Park, where it turned west into Rosewood, on my bike, eyeing the rickety little ramp supported by a cinder block & the curb down the street. Growing up, my friends were all skate rats. As I have the balance (on a skateboard, at least) of a drunken sailor on shore leave with a severe inner ear infection, I gravitated toward bikes. I & my trusty Murray BMX bike were known far & wide as the fastest pedal powered thing on two wheels. We were also known to enjoy jumping.

Which, looking back now, almost got me killed on more than one occasion.

At the time, though, fear of potential broken bones & shredded skin had no place in my mind. Stuffing fear, caution & logic safely into the back of my non-helmeted head (this was back in the days when people took responsibility for their own stupidity & didn’t sue everyone else for personal lapses in judgment), I was primed to make the jump that, ultimately, would make me a celebrity on my street.

My friends, as I mentioned before, were skaters. Being such, they took every opportunity to jump things, be it benches, curbs, stairs or, as in this case, poorly constructed ramps made of rotted plywood & cinder blocks (I said they were skaters, not structural engineers). Yes, this ramp was a feat of engineering that only an idiot – or a bunch of 13 & 14 year olds – would dare attempt to jump. The construction was simple; the logic behind it was completely non-existent. Using whatever scraps we could come up with (& at Pat Fortunato & Billy Dady's houses, as well as, um...some local construction sites, there was plenty to be found), the ramp was built by simply putting a cinder block on the curb & then laying the structurally unsound piece of wood on the block. This set-up was what we called a ‘launch ramp’, as it was meant to simply jump off of on a skateboard, all the while trying to impress the others with the pulling off of different tricks (all of which looked like the rider basically flying off the skateboard) & landing safely in the grass (or, in the case of Pat’s front yard, the dirt & weeds along the side by the neighbor's driveway). Unlike a quarterpipe, there was no intention of actually landing with one’s feet on the board.

The hope was to make it over without landing on one’s head.

Being the biker of the group, I was also the one who towed the skater toward the ramp, giving them a boost of speed in a short distance, which I didn’t mind doing; the sadist in me took a little sick pleasure in watching my friends fly up in the air, limbs flailing in a vain attempt to soften the impact with the ground on the other side.

After a while of doing this, someone came up with a bright idea: why doesn’t Jay try jumping it? Of course, being the biggest, fastest 14 year old on the block (as well as, apparently, the most mentally deficient), this sounded like a fantastic idea! Inspecting the ramp to make sure nothing had shifted & judging the launch angle of the skaters (emphasis to be explained momentarily), it seemed like a perfectly sound plan. So, off I went, to the top of Park. Having raced the block many a time, I knew that Park, going south, had enough of a grade to give me the extra boost that I needed to get me & my bike airborne.

So, there I sat at the top of Park, ready to make my approach. I pushed off &, in no time flat, was probably up to between 25-30 mph. Yes, Loyal Readers, I was haulin’! I made my way down the street, nothing but the sound of my knobby tires humming on the asphalt & the pounding of my heart banging in my chest. Shifting the bike left & right to get the fullest extension of my legs, I powered down the street, toward the ramp; toward infamy.

It was when I hit the ramp that I discovered the first of many flaws in the execution of this jump into immortality. Remember when I said that I gauged the launch angle of the skaters? Well, it seemed that my skater friends & their boards weighed a wee bit less than me & my bike. You see, when my friends hit the ramp, they A) weighed less than I did, B) were hitting the ramp slower than I was going & C) were hitting the ramp at a different place on the plywood than I was about to. When they hit the ramp, they had what weight that they did have on the back of the board, meaning that they were, for all intents & purposes, riding the ramp on their back wheels. When I hit the ramp, however, I was leaning over my front tire, meaning that I had most of my weight on the front of the bike. This, much to my unmitigated disappointment, caused the ramp to bow under me, changing the launch angle from a little above 45º to a nearly vertical 90º. This, to put it mildly, was not good. Instead of launching out over a gentle arc & landing smoothly, the bike launched at a much, much sharper arc, into the mulberry tree just off to the right of the ramp.

Oh, did I forget to mention the mulberry tree? Yes, a full grown mulberry tree, with a branch radius of probably 20 feet, was located at the acme of my current trajectory. I found myself, in extreme slow-motion, flying through the tree, my waist up being battered by branches.

So, you might be thinking that that’s the worst of the story, right? Well, you’d be wrong, for, as I travelled through the tree like some teenaged George of the Jungle, I could hear one of my friends, in slow-motion, say five words that, apart, aren't so bad, but together, well...until that moment, I never realized those words could be so terrifying to hear:


I believe I may have neglected to mention earlier the cinder block wall, located a good 15 feet from the launch ramp. Yeah, my plan was a bit buggy.

As the only conscious thought going through my head at the time was just how much this was going to hurt, my mind switched to auto pilot, telling my hands to pull the brakes for all they were worth. I returned to Earth, leaving 1½ inch deep impact craters in the dirt beneath my tires. Upon touchdown, time immediately returned to normal speed & I abruptly found myself fighting to control my handlebars, which had spun around, catching my shirt in the grips. I began to endo into the wall & closed my eyes, waiting for the coming impact & then the sweet embrace of unconsciousness. Suddenly, everything stopped. Had I hit the wall so hard that I didn’t even feel the merging of my face with the bricks? Was I out? Was I dead?

As the blood rushing through my eardrums subsided, I could hear the cheering of my friends. I slowly opened my eyes…

…& found my face about an inch from the wall.

And thus, I became the coolest kid on the block.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Songs Of The Humpback Whale

“I don’t like this!” said T as we began thirty minutes of bouncing up, down &, I swear, sideways, while flying in over the Rockies into Denver International Airport in a little CanadAir plane this past New Year’s Day. T hates flying as much as I love it. Part of it comes from a rather finicky inner ear that doesn’t find being rocked back & forth fun in the least; her usual routine about an hour before we take off is a couple Dramamine & the hope for a quiet, blissfully unaware slumber until we reach our destination. I, on the other hand, love flying, from take-off to landing. I will readily admit, though, that even I was a little concerned, as this descent was one of the bumpiest I’d ever experienced.

About five minutes into the approach, T noticed that a little boy a few rows ahead of us was riding with the airsick bag on his knee. He didn’t seem too bad off; maybe just a little nervous with all the buckin’ & snortin’ we were experiencing. Then, from out of nowhere, the man seated directly in front of us, father of two &, I’m sure, loving husband, began his own impersonation of humpback whale mating calls. “MWAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGG!” was pretty much all we heard for the next twenty minutes.

MWAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGG! Up comes breakfast!

BLAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGG! Oops, there goes last night’s dinner!

HMRUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNG! There goes yesterday’s lunch! A hat trick, ladies & gentlemen!

I swear I heard his spleen dislodge from his insides & hit the seatback in front of him.

About ten minutes into the concert, I reached for my airsickness bag. T looked at me, knowing that I don’t suffer from motion sickness & figured that the rocking was finally getting to me. “Oh no, you’re not going to get sick, are you?” she asked. “No,” I replied, “I’m getting this ready for the guy – he has to have just about filled up his bag!”

The rest of the flight, we were treated to watching this man sweat profusely while turning himself inside out. We finally landed, with much eternal gratitude on his part, I’m sure. We asked his wife if she needed any help getting him off the plane, to which she requested a wheelchair. We made our way to the counter outside the jetway & conveyed the woman’s request. Suddenly, an attendant flew by us with a wheelchair &, we assume, very gingerly helped the man off the plane.

T & I waited at the counter, as our ticket didn’t show which gate to go to. While waiting, our friend opened up with the second chorus of “Songs of the Humpback Whale.” When the sound of “MMMLEAAAAAAAAAAAG!” emanated from the jetway, we took that as our queue to go find our information elsewhere.

Seriously, I didn’t know that one person could expel that much from inside themselves.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Letter To The Universe

Dear Universe –

I know it’s been awhile since we’ve talked; life in general has been a bit confusing, lately, which is something I’ve been meaning to chat with you about. I don’t know if I’ve done something to displease or offend you. I don’t know if maybe I said or did something that hurt your feelings. Have I?

The reason that I bring this up is that I’ve noticed a startling increase in the number of obstacles, roadblocks & all around nuisances that have been cropping up in my life lately - things like more & more traffic along my route to work; idiot people unable to navigate four-way stops; the inexplicable phenomenon known as “skinny jeans”; the recent blistering of the roof of my mouth with hot pizza; & a rise in poorly perforated paper towels tearing off all but a small piece of the corner of the sheet, leaving not a nice, straight edge on the next sheet, but, instead, a straight edge with a triangle from the previous sheet left dangling. Knowing how OCD I am about things, you can see how this drives me insane.

Now, not to seem ungrateful, I do wish to thank you for the lack of old men parading around naked in the gym’s locker room. What I don’t understand, though, is why you deemed it necessary to replace Ol’ Man Danglybits with the giant hairy guy who insists on drying his crotch in front of the mirror – repeatedly.

Seriously – did I cut you off on the freeway or something? What could I have done to have deserved that vision of horror?

I was thinking that maybe we could get together for a latte & scones sometime & discuss what’s going on. If I’ve hurt you in some way, I’d like to do what I can to make things right. Or, maybe if there’s something else that’s been bothering you, I can offer an ear to bend & maybe some insight from a different perspective.

Just let me know, okay? I really mean it, Universe.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

#1 On My List Of Things Least Expected To Hear My Co-Worker Say Today

"Smell me!"

That's all I have to say about that.