Monthly Archives: February 2008

It’s a Wrap!

candless

I suppose I should wrap-up the birthday celebrations and leave some glory for everyone else. This has been a particularly decadent birthseason, stretching nearly two weeks. If I continue at this pace, there won’t be any cupcakes left for anyone else.

Speaking of cupcakes, I’m starting a 21 day Boot Camp at the gym tomorrow morning at 6 AM. I’m a little afraid.

Kerry and JJ took me out for Indian food. So here are some more photos from Kerry’s camera. She brought me flowers, And then we went to Verite for Cupcakes Royale. I wanted a Chocobunny, but there were none left in the display case. So I got a Triple Threat, and then JJ asked for a Chocobunny, and the barista pulled a tray of them from behind the counter. I threw a hissy fit, so JJ split hers with me. She’s a good friend. Kerry brought purple glitter-infused candles. They sang and everything.

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JJ, Kerry and me. There is steam coming out of my ears cause I ordered four stars.

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A picture of me taking a picture of my cupcake, which didn’t come out.

Mark & Lori are here from Rhode Island with toddler Maya, who has doubled in size since I saw her last and is ridiculously cute. Every time I hang out with them, I’m like, “Well, maybe I could do this kid thing…” But for now I’ll stick to borrowing other people’s because then there’s more cupcakes for me.

Oh and then Miguelito was here and took me out to dinner, and conned me into seeing Persepolis at the Harvard because I didn’t know it was animated. I hate animation. It was artfully done and an important story, blah blah blah, but if I wanted to watch cartoons I could just stay home. It was, however, fabulous to see him as always, and he invited me to Coachella, which I obviously must attend. I’m going to fly into LA and we’ll drive out to Palm Springs. Michael is my kind of traveler — when I raised an eyebrow at the invite because of the 100 degree dusty tent camping, he says, “Are you kidding me? I got a hotel room.” I’m all about clean sheets and hot, running water. High maintenance bitch? Perhaps. But it’s important to accept ones weaknesses and plan accordingly. Especially 1300 miles from home.

What else? Um, still no Vespa to speak of. Big People Scooters can’t find the problem and Vespa Seattle is not returning my calls, so it’s Ducati de-ja-vu all over again. Thankfully the Frankenstella is holding her own, though I’m still uneasy about longer rides so I will avoid them for now. Not that getting back an un-diagnosed dying scooter is going to assuage my fear of being stranded halfway to Portland.

We’ve been restoring old photographs in my Digital Imaging class and I’m enjoying it so much that I’ve been thinking about going into business. I would have a blast. I’ll have to post some of the pics I’ve been working with. If only I could figure out how to fix 80’s hair.

At 6 AM, John in the Morning decided to take me on a private flashback and played an insane set circa 1995, including old Smashing Pumpkins, Morissey and a Beatles song from Sgt. Pepper’s. I felt like I was in Ruby’s dorm room chain-smoking Marlboro Lights and drinking Beaujolais from the bottle. Then the pledge drive started and my trip down memory lane hit a detour.

Not much else going on. I have a ping-pong tournament today at work. I discovered that the new floor my department is moving to features a gameroom and a lake view. Not from my desk, of course. But I’ll enjoy it vicariously through the Chief of Staff.

Rock safely, friends.

Raising the Dead

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I returned from class on Saturday via the bus, exceedingly motion sick, to find both Orin and Celeste the Frankenstella awaiting my return. The two had spent the day together and after some pleading, tweaking, and I’m sure, threatening, Orin convinced the Frankenstella that she indeed desired to be on the road, cruising in the open air, basking in the sunshine.

The Frankenstella’s story is an unbelievable tale fraught with so much intense emotion that I’ve tired of even discussing it. Especially among my scooterless friends, who simply don’t understand the level of involvement I have with Celeste. I had so much invested in that bike that I decided the best plan of action would be to take her off the road, restore her to showroom condition, and retire her to my garage, perhaps taking her out on sunny days for a spin around the lake. Hence the purchase of the new Vespa. I had totally and completely written her off as a viable form of transportation.

Then, of course, came the unfortunate chain of evens involving the new Vespa, wherein I rode it for three days and it has since been in the shop undergoing diagnostics because it will not start. Three days on the road for every ten days in the shop is my historical ratio with scooters, and this one is no different.

At Soundspeed on Friday, I was advised that riding the Frankenstella in her current state was dangerous. She only performed well with wide-open-throttle and often died in fourth gear. The idle would race psychotically when in neutral, and sometimes it would race in gear uphill and continue to accelerate until I removed the keys from the ignition. My Stellaspeed Forum posts for help resulted in the diagnosis of an air leak, which I didn’t want to hear, because I didn’t know how to fix it. Jeb offered to keep the scooter for a while and figure out what was wrong, but I was sick and tired of dealing with mechanics and couldn’t reconcile leaving two scooters at two different shops while I continued my adventures on foot. Again.

So I rode Celeste home, using the kill switch and the brakes, crossing my fingers that the engine was running rich and not lean, so it wouldn’t seize while doing 45 m.p.h. on Westlake.

This was the state of affairs on Saturday when I got on the bus for class. And when I returned home, Celeste had been revived and sat brightly pop-pop-popping in my driveway. It had been an air leak after all, resulting from the Sito-plus exhaust installation. Orin’s PX was showing similar symptoms, and he fixed that, so he was able to fix the Frankenstella as well.

I took her for the test route – Montlake loop up the backside of Capitol Hill. She cleared her throat and growled, didn’t hesitate in third or fourth, and each time I pulled in the clutch or put her in neutral, the idle returned to normal — an unsteady heartbeat, rather than the usual rollercoaster on acid.

I was afraid to talk about it too much, or look directly at it, like the sun threatening to burn out my eyes if I paid too much attention. So I invested very little energy in the restoration, even though I wanted to throw a party and string purple lights across the scooter and ride it down Broadway blasting “I’m Walking on Sunshine!” from a boombox strapped to the rear rack. Instead I parked her in the garage and turned off the light.

But Sunday she started right up again, first kick, an arrhythmic pop-popitty-pop to greet me in the early morning. So I rode to Edmonds with Orin, tool kit in my glove box, AAA card in my wallet.
She didn’t falter. Not a hiccup. Barreled on down the road, coasted contentedly, returned to a leisurely idle when left to her own devices. I was, and still am, amazed.

My only consistent issue, which I’ve had for quite a while, is that the Sito+ pipe increases the gear range. When I’m riding with a group, most of the roads seem to be 35 m.p.h. zones. That’s the exact speed at which the Frankenstella wants to shift from third to fourth. So if we’re traveling at 35, I’m either winding it out in third or glugging in the bottom of fourth. Neither is comfortable. It’s a bit frustrating. She just wants to go fast. All the time. Who can blame her?

The resurrection of Frankenstella requires a bit of a schema shift, as I had written that bike off and established some new rules about The Way the World Works. I’m learning these rules must be fluid — in fact, they are not rules at all. And situations in my life are constantly under flux, so I should let them ebb and flow, even though it makes me extremely nervous to not have an Excel spreadsheet to guide me through everything.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned out of the past six months is the importance of community. While I was raised vigilantly to be completely self-sufficient, I don’t think that’s the best way to go through this world. It’s satisfying to know I can get along just fine on my own if the need arises, but I’d like to change my default setting. It blows my mind how much generosity, help and support I’ve gotten from my friends and Westenders family through my many trials and tribulations with this silly scooter. As my new favorite motto goes, “It takes a village to raise a Stella.”

Here are some photos I took during the ride to Edmonds. Edmonds is pretty. It smells like pine. You should go.

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Birthday Pity Party & You’re Invited

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The avuncular driver from AAA who picked up my new Vespa for its second tow this week was so nice that my bitter sarcasm was totally lost on him. After I realized this, I stopped being such a bitch and tried to let him cheer me up.

“Oh, no no no — no crying allowed,” he said, visibly concerned. I tried not to. I really did. But as I sat in the front seat of the tow truck, watching my scooter in the rearview mirror bob and weave on the flat-bed as we lurched down Airport Way, the tears just overtook me.

“It’s my birthday,” I said sullenly. I was missing my class. I parked downtown to grab a bite before school and when I returned to my Vespa, it sat stony and silent on 6th Ave, unresponsive to key or ignition.
“Really?!” he cried, “It’s my fiancé’s birthday too! What a coincidence! Wow! That’s so great! A week after Valentine’s Day!” He was so nice. I felt bad crying in his truck. He told me animatedly that he had left his fiancé at Tulalip Casino at 10:30 that morning for her birthday, and eight hours later she was still there, having a blast, playing the slots.

I asked him what would happen if the scooter fell off the back of the truck, because I figured that was the next step in my obvious karmic disaster. “That would never happen,” he assured me. “I have VERY good truck karma.” Great, I said — maybe it will compensate for my previous life as a blood-sucking cockroach.
“Oh no, you have good karma. You broke down in a well-lit area of downtown, and that space opened up on the street right as I pulled up to park. You could have broken down on the side of the highway. That’s the worst thing ever. It could have been really late.”

He was right. But I’m not buying that argument easily these days.

He said, “Well okay, if it falls off the back of the truck, you have insurance, so you can just replace it with a new one! You could even get another color if the blue isn’t working out for you. Maybe the blue’s bad luck.”

“Maybe I should have gotten the yellow one.”

“Yes — lemon yellow! Lemon, wait — that might be a sensitive word right now. Sorry.”

He talked jovially the whole way and I stopped crying. His joy in life, he said, came from helping others, so driving a tow truck was the perfect job for him. “If your friend isn’t there yet when I drop you off, I can take you someplace else — someplace safe.” Georgetown is sketchy during the day; at night, it’s downright frightening. He’s not supposed to provide taxi service, but he’s a nice guy, and he likes to bend the rules if it means helping a damsel in distress.

We arrive at Big People Scooters without incident, though I could have used a couple Valium. The shop is closed for the night and totally deserted. As we unloaded the scooter, my friend arrived to pick me up. The driver’s fiancé called to check in and update him on her winnings, and he handed me the phone so we could wish each other a happy birthday. I should have just hit the casino with her.

Today I returned to BPS to drop off the key. I had my fingers crossed when I pulled into the parking lot, hoping the Vespa would still be there. It was. I had hidden it behind a big electrical box against the building, and it was still safely stowed. Maybe my karma is making a comeback.

They said they’re going to keep it over the weekend (in cycle shop terms, this means “till Tuesday or Wednesday” since everybody is closed Sundays and Mondays here — slackers). He said they’d replace the whole electrical if they needed to. I guess the big question is, WhyTF would they need to?
In order to stay sane, I need to recount the positives — I broke down in a safe place, I had a nice tow truck driver, I had many friends offering to pick me up, and I ate an enormous piece of German chocolate cake.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly praise AAA. I know I’ve said it before that it was the best $60 I ever spent, but I am SO serious. (It cost me $60 to add cycle coverage to my existing account; it’s a total of $119 per year.) My dad got me a membership when I turned 16, and I’ve kept it ever since. It’s the greatest invention ever.

Especially if you were a blood-sucking cockroach in a past life.

If Jesus Gets 12 Days…

… I get a week.

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Jasper, courtesy of SPV.

On my birthday I get to wear a tiara and a tafetta gown. I’m a Pisces and I like to be doted on. I start celebrating my birthday (read as: milking it for all it’s worth) several days before, and continue to celebrate for several days after. It’s the only holiday I don’t have to share with anyone else. Anyone I know. (Anais Nin and I don’t hang as much as we used to.)

Bet you didn’t know this — the first phone book was issued in my hometown — New Haven, Connecticut, on February 21, 1878. This day was destined from greatness, and I’m just a tiny sliver of that.
Time for Cupcake Royale.

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Magnolia Sunshine

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Took this today at Magnolia Park. Every time I think I’ve seen the most beautiful thing Seattle has to offer up, I get a whole new view. This sunshine seems as rare as tonight’s Lunar Eclipse. I’m enjoying both.
Oh and I’ve decided to trade in “sick” days for “scooter” days. Sorry boss — I’ve got wanderlust today. And it’s pretty serious.

Renton/Zen

This weekend was red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. It was your favorite pair of jeans. An electric thunderstorm ending a draught. Four cherries on your scratch-off ticket. Flawless, like the duck — perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

A memory resurfaced this morning in the cafe, a strange correlation made by my sleepy mind. The image I remembered was one of those golden moments when you’re afraid to move or breathe or change anything because at that second, the entire world is so perfect you don’t want to scare it away. Moments of fleeting bliss. Zen moments.

Queue this song: Luna: Ride Into the Sun.

I remembered a Sunday spring afternoon long ago, zipping down Storrow Drive on my little white scooter, cute blue-eyed boy riding on the back, en route to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. It was late afternoon, the time when the sun descends from the sky and shoots gold all over the trees. I smiled into the rays. I knew we were both hearing the same music playing in our heads — the boy and I — it was Luna’s cover of the Velvet Underground song “Ride Into the Sun,” and I could hear it clearly as if it were being piped in through my little white helmet. We rode that stretch of parkway in a breath of bliss, nothing but sunshine and Luna, the Charles River, open road. A perfect moment, savored. I smiled and thought, “I could die right now and be so happy.”

I don’t remember if the Red Sox won that night, but I remember coming out of the stadium to find my little white scooter missing. The next day I would be called down to identify the body, opening the glove compartment to let the water and seaweed spill out. She had been found floating in the Charles River. The Kryptonite lock was still through the wheel, which meant she had been lifted and carried to the Mass Ave Bridge by some drunk Yankees fans, and thrown off into the icy depths of the dirty river.

That was a decade ago.

Yesterday was shamelessly delicious. We rode to Renton, this long stretch of dusty road past Boeing, holiday deserted. The sun warmed my face and I basked — it felt like it had been months since I’d seen daylight. Aphrodite skimmed the pavement effortlessly, vibrationless, nearly silent, and I was free to simply enjoy the ride — no shifting, no pleading with her to top 50 mph, wondering if the engine was going to explode around the next bend.

After Renton we climbed up to Alki, riding along the beach, every mountain within 100 miles pushing its snowy shoulders above the water for us. We looped West Seattle at a languid pace. Coasting along the waterfront, sunshine on my face, warm, with a bellyful of lunch, I realized my head was totally silent. I was not planning, not analyzing, not trying to make sense of anything, or capture my experience in words. I was not replaying or practicing or archiving. I just… was. I soaked in the moment, the air, captured it with my skin, savored it on my tongue. It was a pure moment of Zen. And I thought, “I could die right now and be so happy.”

The glow persisted for the rest of the afternoon, and though my head predictably turned the volume back up, I didn’t have much material to work with. Good friends, new scooter, perfect apartment, good job with a fat raise, fulfilling school, I’m healthy, I’m sane — there’s not a single thing I would change right now, if I could. So I’d review that list, reassuring myself, making the dialog quiet down again, so it could just become waves in Puget Sound, and mountains in the sky, and sun making the metallic midnight blue Vespa sparkle like a chariot.

When I returned home in the early evening to pick up some items and venture back out, the scooter would not start. The LCD display sputtered and the engine clicked and whirred, and then silence. I checked the kill switch, which has a habit of getting pushed in when you put the seat up. I made sure the brakes were in. I checked the oil. I checked the sparkplug. I tried again. No dice. Aphrodite, my three-day-old scooter, was dead.

See, I don’t want to become one of those people who really believes that when things seem too good to be true, they are. I want to believe I deserve a shot at happiness. I felt like the universe was getting back at me for having such a great day. “For every action, an equal and opposite reaction.” But that can’t be true, can it? I’m trying to hang onto the other maxim, “shit happens.” Sometimes, shit’s timing is not so great. In this case, I’m glad I got to enjoy Monday so fully before the shit happened, and I’m grateful the shit happened in my driveway and not in Renton.

I was paralyzed by the irony of riding the Frankenstella out to Greenwood last night for dinner. The scooter I forcefully abandoned because I know an abusive relationship when I see one. She took me all the way out to 120th without incident, and then home, in the pitch black night, over the Ballard Bridge which smelled like the sea, all along 15th to Denny, where I rode past Vespa Seattle, gazing through the showroom window and grinding my teeth in frustration.

Big People Scooters came this morning and picked up the immobilized Aphrodite, loaded her on a trailer next to another midnight blue Vespa (though an LX150), and I watched her disappear around the corner. I returned sullenly to work. My friends are trying to convince me that the coincidences are just that — but my sister can recommend a good exorcist for the Frankenstella.

Luckily, it appears Aphrodite suffered only from a dead battery, which I imagine was from sitting in the showroom for so long. Lots of people have cited the stock battery in the GTS as total crap, and recommend replacing it as soon as you get the bike home. Well, she’s got a new battery now, and I’ll have them examine the charging system to make sure that’s working; I’m not totally comfortable with the fact that I rode nearly 200 miles over the weekend and the battery didn’t charge. But she’ll be due for her first service in a week or two, based on my current weekend adventures.

I’m hitting the restart button. Control + R. Refresh. Clean slate. “Coincidences” bedamned. From here on out, it will be smooth sailing. Or scooting. Maybe it’s all the X-files I’ve been watching, but, I want to believe.