Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Under the Sword

When the samurai Kikushi was ordained a Bodhisattva (one devoted to lifelong service), his master told him, "You must concentrate upon and consecrate yourself wholly to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair".

I was once told by my boss that I seemed to live my life at mach with my hair on fire, so I can relate to this quote.  I am finally reaching a point of equilibrium with respect to the speed at which I live, but I am still working hard to consecrate myself wholly to each day.  I believe that to be a worthy goal.

We have reluctantly left our beloved home in Kings Langley, UK, behind, and we are working at the cultural adjustment necessary to live comfortably and successfully in our new adopted home: Folsom, California. While the weather is great, we are all finding things that are completely normal to Americans to be a little strange to us. If we had parked our car in the UK the way most people park here, there would have been fisticuffs! But the parking lots here are massive, and are designed to accommodate the latest armored personnel carrier that the average suburbanite Californian drives.

And the driving! Good grief! At least they mostly do it at a decent pace here, unlike when we lived in Oregon. I used to call Oregon "the land of ridiculously low speed limits, and drivers who fail to achieve them".   But one does have to remember that over 50% of your fellow car pilots on the road here are paying more attention to their text messages than they are to you, something to keep  in mind once I have a bike back on the road.

The Hawk is being refurbished, in hopes that I can use it to explore some of the lovely local roads. I have a Vespa P200 that I intend to use to ferry Alex to school once the title is sorted out with its former owner.  I am not in as big a hurry as I was, due to the driving factors mentioned above. And the distances are far longer than what we were used to in the UK. The good news is, rather than having to navigate several large roundabouts, including the infamous "Magic Roundabout" in Hemel Hempstead, which was quite local to us  (see: for a leisurely trip though when there was almost no traffic-it is usually ten times worse!), we have roads in town that are larger than all but the biggest motorways in England!

So far, other than the local gun shop, which is positively heaving with customers every time I go by, we haven't seen any gun action. The neighbor over the road from us did tell us he was broken into and all of his guns stolen, but thankfully they haven't come back. My friend who lives here does have a gun safe  in her house, but her boyfriend uses it to keep a bunch of 'spare' guns, in case he wants to go shootin' when he's in town.

That's my rather chatty post for today: this blog is all but moribund, thinking about starting a new one someday soon. Meanwhile I will keep working on my 'zen' while I enjoy the pool, the smooth roads, and the large garage!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Lost Boys

When I was pregnant I remember hoping that I wouldn’t have a girl. I was relieved and happy when my son was born. This wasn’t out of any misguided cultural notions that a boy would care for me in my old age, or that the burden of the sizable dowry that a daughter would have to married off with would be too much. It wasn’t even the perhaps slightly less idiotic fear of raising a girl in a misogynist, patriarchal society that would value her for her sex and beauty more than for her strength, athleticism, kindness or smarts.

No, I shuddered instead at what I went through when I was growing up, and I felt too feeble and weak to deal with the vagaries of shepherding a girl through minefields of schoolyard bullies, predatory men, drugs and alcohol, and adolescent hormonal freakouts. 

Now, in the face of what has become a regular news barrage filled with sad, hate-filled young men, twisted beyond recognition into models of rage and violence, I think back and wonder how I was so far off the target. Why I assumed those issues to be uniquely female problems I can only ascribe to my own sex and gender stew.

I feel sadness and regret at the waste and loss of life. At the victims, the list of whose names gets longer and longer as the bodies pile up. At the young men who are so emotionally stunted, so tragically tweaked, that the only ‘manly’ way they see to deal with the emotional wreckage of their lives is to take out as many people as they can when they kill themselves. I do believe that the staging of a public killing spree is as much “death by cop” as running at a line of armed police officers can be.

As I watched the video footage of the horrible, sadistic bombing of the crowd in Boston, I couldn’t help thinking that we were about to find yet another twisted teenage boy or young man at the end of the hunt. Turns out, there were two lost souls behind the rampage this time. But the unfolding tale appears to be the same as what we are beginning to recognize as the blueprint for such tragic circumstances to occur: one or more boys who clearly got the message that in a male, weakness is bad, and that the notoriety of killing as many people as you can before dying in a hail of bullets is better than asking for help.

I sincerely hope that we begin to talk about and address the outmoded and ridiculous codes of behavior we demand that men adhere to, and start to turn the tide of hurt that drives young people to commit similar acts of desperation. My hope is for America, for the world, but most of all for my son.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Motorcycle Blues, Part Two

Back in November of 2011 I posted a long whine about how I was trying to get my motorcycles licensed to ride here in the UK.  I ended that post with one import document having been received from the authorities, and the other one having been sent a day later, but not received. I expected anxious readers to be pestering me with questions about how it all turned out.

Alas, I have given up waiting to be prompted for the REST of the story (thanks Paul Harvey) and I’m just going to tell you. If you remember, or more importantly, if you don’t; I was planning to license the Honda Hawk first as, being more than ten years old, it didn’t require a single vehicle inspection to get licensed. The Suzuki GSX-R750 did need such an inspection, another bureaucratic hoop to jump through which I hoped to postpone.

Alas, the Hawk turned out to have two blown fork seals and a broken tail section from the move, problems which have yet to be remedied. So instead I decided to focus on getting the Gixxer on the road. This was all brought to a head when I got a job in May 2012 and needed the bike to ride to work, as they did not have car parking but would let me squeeze the moto into the car park. They are so civilized about that sort of thing here, and I love it.

After waiting on the document from Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue, I finally got a duplicate sent out to the DVLA licensing office. I then managed to find a lovely bloke to come and load the bike up to take it down for inspection, and of course he knew the bloke at the place who was doing the inspecting, and the whole thing went tickety-boo like that.  Next, I trotted down to the licensing place. From there I had to take the papers in to the moto shop up the road to get my plate made, and then I was shockingly on the road all completely legal (well, except for the tax disc not being mounted on the bike somewhere, but I did have it right there in my tank bag!).

Those first few days in traffic were absolutely hair-raising. If you’ve never driven or ridden in England, you have to realize that the roads here are approximately the width of one lane of a North American freeway. On this road, you have vehicles, including giant lorries (semis to you TransAtlantic-ers), going both ways, cars parked on the verges, bicycles and motorcycles lane-splitting up the middle. Both ways. There are, out here in Hicksville, very few stoplights, but a great many roundabouts, some of which have three lanes of travel or more, and multiple exits.

Anyway, I survived, and am now a happy veteran of more than six months of motorcycle commuting. Unlike the hardcore locals, I have put the Gixxer away for this season of ice and snow, darkness and incessant dampness, and look forward to riding again in the slightly warmer dampness in the spring.

That missing document? OK, well, months after I spoke to the fellow and got a new one sent out to the DVLA so I could license the Gixxer, we got a knock on the door of our house on Hempstead Road. It was the lady who had moved into the house we had been renting when we arrived here, up in Tom’s Lane. She had mail for us. You guessed it: the document from HMRC for the Gixxer was in there!   The guy had sent the one for the Hawk to our correct address, and sent the one for the Gixxer ON THE SAME DAY to the old address on Tom’s Lane!