Another Motorbike story - this one possibly interesting...

I have previously described an incident I had involving sand while on my bike (it's here on the chance that you're interested), and concluded with the thought that it might be wise for me to display more caution when riding on the road. This caution I upheld for about two weeks. Allow me to describe my weekend cruise...

Saturday afternoons are the perfect time to ride. I find an empty road out of town and hammer the poor bike for all it's worth. Pretty soon I get into a rhythm and everything just begins to flow through the corners. No longer do I perform the actions of downshifting, turning and twisting, but merely glide through the long sweeping bends and tight corners around my home town. Its awesome.

This particular Saturday I was on my way back into town, blasting along a near empty road composed of fast bends, dips and crests and long straights. Zoom in to a particular right hand bend where there was a patch of gravel and you'll see me leaned over, running wide and quite obviously out of control. I was moving along at about 70kph half way through the bend when I hit the patch and ran off onto the shoulder (which of course is just more gravel). At this point the bike began to slide and I lost all control...half a second later the bike and I parted ways - it into a tree and me onto the grass (and thankful it wasn't the other way around). I skidded to a halt somewhat dased and not quite knowing what just happened. As I tore off my helmet and tried to stand up (I kid you not) some dickhead drove past in a ute, giving me a wave before dissapearing around the bend. How thoughtful.

After a quick inspection I was able to determine that nothing was broken (on me). Somehow I escaped the ordeal with only minor bruising and a gash down one arm (leather jackets are too expensive you know...). Thinking surprisingly quickly I turned off the fuel pump and hit the kill switch on the bike. It had stalled anyway but you can never be to sure. As I always carry a mobile phone I was able to call home to get a lift for myself and my wreck. The bike is now sitting out the back in pieces and obviously suffering from my complete ignorance when it comes to bike repairs.

I learned a valuable lesson from this and that lesson was if you place yourself in mortal danger and survive, people will inevitably buy you drinks all night. Whether a hazy night and seedy morning on the house was worth totaling my bike and suffering the impending repair bill I'm not sure, but at least I have an excuse to repaint it now.

To aid other motorcylclists who may be tempted to push the envelope on public roads, I have compiled a list of Pros and Cons - know them well.

Pro

  • Free alcohol (assumes you have friends)
  • Good story to tell when drunk (assumes first point)
  • If you needed an excuse to tinker with the bike - this is it
Con
  • Repair bill
  • The bike will be off the road for a while - alternative transport needed
  • Possible serious injury/death
Notice that the Cons include the only permanent result in the list - death. This seems like a pretty good argument to me.

And finally: "Learn from other's mistakes, you can't live long enough to make them all yourself..." This seems quite fitting, don't you think?

Things that occurred in Vegas around the time we were there:

A suitcase containing a human arm was found.

I learned (though I don't know when this actually occurred) that while recently interrogating a man suspected of cheating in a casino, officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department sodomized the suspect with a toilet plunger.

Stage magician The Amazing Jonathan accidentally fired a real staple gun into the eye of his onstage assistant instead of the fake prop staple gun. She ran off the stage screaming, yet somehow - impossibly to my mind - is all right, and actually returned to finish the night's show.

While at a coffeehouse with my high school pal Gregory we ran into another local author and high school pal, Dayvid Figler, who as we talked used the recent issue of the Las Vegas Weekly to point out that all the nightclub ads in Vegas now lead the reader to believe they are actually brothels. In one example, a lingerie-clad woman lay on a bed with her legs spread, crotch aimed at the camera. Another featured a nude woman crawling on the floor and indicated they had "private rooms" available for use, while a third mentioned that school was out for the summer, and beckoned us to "come play with hot schoolgirls". Uh. Yeah. A "schoolgirl" was pictured in the ad, a model in her mid-twenties dressed in a plaid miniskirt and a belly shirt, looking...well, like a hooker dressed as a schoolgirl.

Bear in mind that these clubs are not in fact brothels, so this could be considered slightly deceptive. Also bear in mind that actual legal brothels are not allowed to advertise themselves in a similar manner in the state of Nevada. In other words, you can advertise sex at your establishment only if no sex will actually take place.

Then on the way out of town, we saw a billboard where the ColdStone Creamery, in any other town a relentlessly wholesome family destination, was using sex to sell ICE CREAM. "The taste of passion," it read next to a young model holding an ice cream cone, her lust-filled gaze directed at us.

Look. I can deal with having to see a half-dozen strippers' bare asses every time I'm behind a taxicab in Vegas, thanks to the Crazy Girls ad they all carry now. But apparently in Vegas they now feel that in order to get you into an ice cream parlor it's necessary to convince you that you will encounter hot teen sluts hungry for your cock there. Something is seriously wack with my hometown.

They also wouldn't return my suitcase with the severed arm in it. Bastards.

I came home from hospital today. It was a wonderfully dramatic procedure, orthognathic surgery, and according to my MD/DMD, I did remarkably well. Here's what happened:

June 4, 2003
I arrive at North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida, where the surgery is happening. At 10 AM, I get my nifty little ID bracelet, and around 10:45, I'm ushered back to put on my gown and get hooked up to an IV.

Some time later, the oral surgeon shows up, and he and the anaesthesiologist wheel my bed from the staging area back into the bowels of the surgical ward. The ground floor of the hospital has been orderly up to this point, but past the point of no return, everything gets weird. We go through a hallway that passes eight operating rooms, and the doctor wheels my gurney around a lot of hefty machines that look like they belong in James T. Kirk's cargo bay. "I can never figure out how they number these things," the surgeon remarks. I'm fucked, I think.

The operating room is full of even more mysterious machines the size of refrigerators, and there are about twenty people in blue scrubs and aprons standing around looking bored. Once they get me under the overhead lights, which look like they could be used to signal Batman, I can't help but note to everyone that "this reminds me of the time I was abducted by aliens." Everyone laughs. I imagine most patients don't have such a sense of humor.

Suddenly and mysteriously, I'm lying on another bed. I can't feel anything from my head to my toes, but I can feel a cuff on my arm taking my blood pressure periodically, and I can see, and I can hear, and I can move my hands. My tongue is kind of numb, but I can move it around my mouth and feel nothing very out of the ordinary, except a big piece of plastic holding my front teeth apart.

I can't speak without sounding like something between Henry Kissinger and Miss Othmar, so I write a note to my stepmom asking for the time. It's 9:30 PM. Damn, I think, was that all?

A few minutes later, the nurse watching me yanks a catheter out of my schlong. I can feel it come out. It's not painful, but it's not arousing, either. Finally, I get sent to a room upstairs, only half-conscious.

The nurse there, a wonderful bearded man, puts ice packs around my jaw and introduces me to a suction tube, which sits on the right, and a morphine dispenser, which sits to the left. My head feels light, and I can feel a lot of blood building up in my mouth, but I try to suck it out as much as I can. (When you swallow blood, it makes you want to puke, and since your stomach is empty going in, the only thing that comes up is poorly-digested blood, which is a really nasty experience. I knew this because it had already happened to me, in front of a convenience store, after I had my wisdom teeth removed.)

Anyway, the high-grade anaesthesia is beginning to wear off at this point. The nurse helps me with the suction tube and occasionally squirts water into my mouth with a syringe. Finally, around midnight, the nurses move on and leave me alone for a while.

June 5, 2003
An hour passes before I finally feel the vomit come up. I bolt up and try to page the nurses in time to get a bedpan, but my reaction time, combined with their reaction time, is not up to par. Two nurses come in just in time for the second wave, and stay through the third. I'm surprised by how much my stomach could come up with.

After that, my energy disappears, and a couple of zaps of opium later, I'm out for the evening. At daybreak, the nurses come back to check my temperature and blood pressure, and then I get breakfast: grits, coffee, apple juice, and milk. I decide to skip the grits and drink the juice and milk through the syringe the nurses left. There's a copy of the Gainesville Sun on the tray, too, but I don't have my glasses.

I have to piss, so I spend about fifteen minutes plotting how I will do so without removing or breaking the IV, which is on the other side of the bed from the bathroom door. (This is a guy thing, for those of you who can't figure out why I didn't just ask someone.) Finally, I get out of bed, pull the IV as far around the corner as it will go, and manage to get far enough through the bathroom door to hit the toilet, with the line stretched across the room.

The oral surgeon shows up and raves about how well the surgery went. I just nod, completely unsure of how it went. Later, my stepmom shows up with a mirror, and I discover that I look kind of like Chris Farley, which is shocking since I used to look like Conan O'Brien. My mouth is hanging open in a drunkenly-gasping glare. "See? You look great!" Awww, thanks, Mom.

Anyhow, I get the nurse to refill my ice bags, and then punch the morphine again. It keeps me out until lunch: chicken soup. Then it's more ice, more drugs, and a dinner of tomato bisque. The nurses shoot some steroids into my IV to try to bring down the swelling, and then I get to spend my second night hospital.

June 6, 2003
I have to wake up a couple of times to shout "NU-A-E-U-TH! A-A-I-I-I-TH!" Other than that, the night is uneventful.

After breakfast, the oral surgeon appears again and says he wants to take me off the IV later in the day. I briefly want to fight him on this, because if I lose the IV, I lose the morphine, and the morphine is not something you want to lose. But I nod and say "otay," and then hit the morphine again and try to sleep.

The IV ultimately comes off after dinner, and the nurse tells me that he has an oral painkiller if I want it. I decide that I'll let the drugs wear off and see what happens. A few hours later, my head feels like it's in a machine vise, so I say yes to the stuff.

It's an "elixir," although I never catch what kind of an elixir it is. The nurse gives me a sweet neon-green dose in the dim light from the hallway, and then leaves the room dark. Before long, the pressure subsides, and I close my eyes to attempt to get some meaningful sleep.

A couple of minutes pass before I find myself standing in the middle of what looks like a giant whirlpool of dark green liquid, the sort of scene that would be suitable for a Mountain Dew commercial, necking with a girl from high school. The whirlpool begins fading out, and I can almost hear water roaring, only it pounds melodically like an overdriven bass.

I open my eyes. The room is dark and quiet: the frosted glass windows look like sheet metal against the rain outside, and a bolt of lightning occasionally flashes. I'm not dreaming, I'm hallucinating. Holy shit, this will make a great node. Storytelling supersedes all addictions, I guess.

June 7, 2003
Anyway, I'm sure that I slept at some point, although I spent most of the night tripping out of my fucking mind, finding myself managing the Boston Red Sox or trying to assassinate a prominent world leader or going back to Japan and meeting the colonel from The Bridge on the River Kwai. Honestly, I don't remember exactly what happened after the first few minutes, but it was absolutely insane.

After breakfast, I decide that my situation cannot really be classified as "pain." The oral surgeon is impressed with my progress, and the swelling is now down to Newt Gingrich levels, so I'm released from hospital, but I have to stay in town for a couple of days to see him for a post-op.

Fortunately, the hotel is right next to a Steak 'n' Shake, so I am fed for the next couple of days.

June 8, 2003
Possibly one of the most boring days of my summer. I sit up in bed, my face covered in ice, and watch several Steven Seagal movies in succession. They are the only thing on worth watching, and that's quite a statement. That night, the Barbara Walters/Hillary Clinton interview airs, and Hil says nothing unsurprising.

June 9, 2003
Finally, I meet the surgeon again for a post-op inspection, and come home with my upper lip still sticking out like a beak, despite my chin mostly going down. I figure this is temporary, but if I find out that the oral surgeon put collagen in there or something, I'm going to hunt him down and whack him with my shinai.

Five hours on Florida's Turnpike later, I'm home.

Final analysis

Here's what I've learned from my trip through hospital and back:

  1. The U.S. health care system is really, really fucked up.
  2. Unless you're into social Darwinism, you can't say that this country has a good health care system. It's good if you're really well-insured or really rich, and if you have a lot of support from friends and family, and that's about it. If my stepmom hadn't hung around to help me out, I would have never gotten the attention of the nurses for nearly long enough: they spent most of their time running from room to room like chickens with their heads cut off. Thankfully, the operation fell under our family's corporate insurance plan, but if it hadn't, we'd be calling up venture capitalists to finance it. And thank God I wasn't in the emergency room: I'd be screwed down there, and even moreso in other cities (Los Angeles, California comes to mind, where people often wait for hours or days to get treatment). We need more doctors, more nurses, more beds, more politicians who give a damn, and more voters who are willing to foot the bill somehow. But that's another node, I guess.
  3. Hospitals have good drugs.
  4. If you have an operation, take advantage of all the high-octane narcotics they have on hand. Heroin is messy: the hospital is clean.
  5. Keep a sense of humor.
  6. Once you take your operation seriously, it starts to become a major-league pain in the arse. Telling jokes when you're under the scalpel or getting your vein flushed or having your butt wiped is a Good Thing.
That about does it. Don't put off your surgeries, kids. Get 'em while you're still robust.
Good news, everyone!

I met with my surgeon yesterday for a follow-up appointment to my surgery and things went very well. My wound/scar is healing nicely and will improve in appearance as time goes on. I was also given the go-ahead to eat things that I've had to avoid for over a year now. To celebrate this occassion my grandparents took me to dinner at my favorite seafood restaurant and I devoured grilled shrimp, french fries, and a piece of (real) bread! I have not had shrimp or bread in over a year, so as you can imagine it was an amazing meal. It's like tasting my favorite foods again for the first time. So far everything is settling and digesting nicely. Here's hoping this is just the beginning of a successful reintegration of forbidden foods. Next week: red meat.

As for the incision pains I've been having lately, I'm told those will last for up to a year and that on days they are too much to deal with I should stay home and rest. Sounds about like what I do anyways when it comes to sick days: I go and do on the good days and stay in bed on the bad days. I'll need to schedule a follow-up appointment with my gastrointerologist to bring him up to date on my progress, but I don't expect anything much to change as a result of that appointment.

Now that I can eat pretty much what I want within reason, I have some big plans. Some things are still totally off limits, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. However I am anticipating cooking my own hamburgers, baked ziti, barbecue cups, pizza, hot pockets, and other things I used to devour before all this poor health settled in on me. It's been over a year since I've eaten some of these things, so you can imagine how much I'm looking forward to being able to cook and eat them.

I've said it before in a past daylog, but I'll say it again here: do what you love doing as much as you can. I spent the past five months in bed; my hobbies, activities, job, classes, and favorite foods were lost and postponed due to illness. I say to you: go out there and enjoy yourself. Get your friends together and go have fun. Excel at a job you love. Throw yourself into your favorite studies. Cook an elaborate and tasty meal. You never know when you won't be able to do those things again for a while.

And now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to reclaim my meals.

There are not many people out at four o'clock on this particular Tuesday morning in Hanover, New Hampshire.

For some reason, this surprises me. As many of you know, I graduated Sunday from Dartmouth College, and my bus to the airport leaves in about 6 hours. Things being the way they are, and people being who they are, I decided to just take a walk and enjoy the night. It's a beautiful night, cool, a little crisp... I thought there would be more people out. I had hoped there would be more people out, I guess. I think the folks who are still here from the class of 2003, and who are not out tonight, are insane. Two people are on the Green in sleeping bags; they have the right idea, and if I were at all inclined to sleep, I'd do the same. But I don't want to sleep, so I'll just walk around a while longer and watch the sun come up.

I've been saying for months now that I'm ready to go, that it's my time, that I need to move on. It's true that I need to move on, and it is my time, but I am not ready. That's all it comes down to in the end:

I am not ready to leave.

I need a hug, and my friends are either already gone, or asleep.

What am I going to do now?

I got an email informing me of the death of Italy Daily.


"We are planning an Irish wake for the demise of Italy Daily/Weekly on - appropriately enough - Friday June 13. Emily Backus has kindly offered to host. The address is Via Sebenico 14, sixth floor, left elevator. Buzzer Backus/Padula.

The cena will commence at 8 PM, and is pot-luck. Emily and I are doing pasta and salad things and Lucia has promised dessert. Other comestibles are welcome and Emily can be reached via xxxxx or at 02 xxxxx for important coordinating and RSVP matters.

To those that can't make it, but would like their presence to be known, we welcome pithy comments that will be read out during the wake. Just send them to me.

Hope you can make it.

I can't make it so I sent my one time coworkers the following:



From Matthew Londan, onetime Italy Daily intern and now slavish embedded PR translator/writer double agent working in the bowels of the auto industry AKA Opel 'Frischer denken für besseres autos'.



Rosebud...

Well that's that.
The cookie crumbles
The center cannot hold (let alone govern).

It's a sad day on the fair fields of Mudville.
Casey corked his bat and the home team stole the election.
There are no [weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the stock market needs some more Viagra.
It certainly feels like the end of the world as we know it.

I haven't felt fine in some time. Maybe it's the fact that I don't like [Germans. Maybe it's the allergy season.

Maybe it’s worse than we think and maybe there really is a touch of gray in the silver lining of every thundercloud].

It might have been heaven, those three months playing journalist at Italy Daily. If not it was close enough to pretend. So now nearly three years later as I sit here in Rüsselsheim, Germany – slacking per usual - I think back on that first day I walked into the offices at Rizzoli with my head hanging down from jet lag and my backpack, laptop and negative scanner. I was so ready to hit the beat, ready to hit the streets looking for a place to sleep. I think I captured the record for the shortest time it took to find a place to live in Milan. What a shit hole that was.

So now I’m told that it’s all over now baby blue for the Italy Daily crew.

And I can’t help but feel a little seasick.


Look here I’ll do my mystic duty and throw the I Ching and read the writing on the wall:



Hexagram #33

The Judgment
Retreat. Success. In what is small, perseverance furthers.

The Image
Mountain under heaven: the image of Retreat.
Thus the superior man keeps the inferior man at a distance, not angrily but with reserve.



Well folks I guess that pegs it down. I guess if anything we should not the coincidence that Christ too bid his farewell at the age of33.

Don’t ask me who the inferior man is or the superior… I don’t know. Maybe they’re one and the same. Sometimes the light’s all shining on me and other times I can barely see.


You know what I’d say. “Let’s smoke a joint! Wake the dead!”

Or as these heroes of mine put it:


Elwood Blues:
It's a hundred and six miles to Chicago.
We've got a full tank of gas,
half a pack of cigarettes,
It's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.



Jake Blues:
Hit it.



Be good you guys. Stay true to yourselves. Don’t ever forget: What you do isn’t who you are.

Shit I hope this isn’t too long…

ciao and say goodnight Gracie...

I got this in reply:

Dear Mr Landan, thank you very much for your very touching eulogy. I am sure that it will be very well received at our farewell soiree, which I am sorry you will miss. I had not thought of looking to the I Ching for guidance, but we will all take comfort from your findings.

Thanking you again for your kind attention, I remain.

Betta A presto

Betta"

At work I deal with the files of refugees, many of whom state in their statement of evidence forms and appeal grounds that they have never been involved in terrorist activity because they do not believe in violence, even if they were in the LTTE or the KLA or a local militia group.

This assertion has always puzzled me. Do the appellants literally not believe that violence exists? That all violence reported in the media is a sham? Surely not. Violence does exist. It is an integral part of the human experience, one that cannot be removed without removing our humanity. It is a physical expression of the intellect, the heart, the loins and the guts, and should be regarded as one of the greatest achievements of the human spirit, as valid a representation of humanity as any great act of reason, love, sex or cookery. As much evil has been instigated by pure thought as by violence; neither Marx nor Mao were physically violent men, indeed Mao was a weak man, a loathsome fat man with a soft body, but their writings and thoughts have proved to be a poison that corrodes humanity, pulling us back to the level of beasts.

Unreasoning, thoughtless violence burns itself out as the parties involved are either eliminated or worn down by conflict, but violence that stems from the written word - from the preservation of memory - is extended indefinitely by the printing press. The most lethal and persistent killing machine is the book, and mass propagation of such weapons is madness. Libraries stock munitions, whilst writers kill millions with their poison. If memory was eliminated from human beings at birth, or reduced to no more than ten seconds of recollection, the world would be a better place. We would live our lives in ten-second increments, for the moment, according to our primal urges. There would be no fear of death, neuroses, no grudges, and no evil.

Returning to the subject of this essay, it seems more likely that the appellant does not believe that violence produces meaningful change, but this seems equally nonsensical; all physical action, all motion involves force, if only to project one's limbs through the air, and violence is merely a matter of degree of force and cultural context. What one man might consider to be a forceful but non-violent action - clicking one's fingers, slapping a misbehaving child, or killing an adulterous wife, for example - might not be considered so lightly by another man, and change does not come about without action, coercion, persuasion and assault. The right wing uses promises of righteousness and firing squads, the left wing uses subversion and mobs. All is full of war. Art is violence. To witness a painting is to be on the receiving end of a punch to the face.

Violence solves problems. Might does make right, in the real world. No amount of moral justification or high-minded ideals will help you when you are looking at the wrong end of a gun wielded by the impure of heart. Violence eliminates uncertainly, removes dissent, excises disruptors and projects the power of the righteous. In Denmark, violence removed the threat of a right-wing regime assuming power; President Reagan's economic violence against the Soviet Empire removed, at least temporarily, the possibility of global socialism.

Violence does not require conscious intent; neither a volcano nor a lion chooses to cause chaos, yet they do. The Earth's biosphere is violent. Nature is violent. The stars and planets are created with violence. To eliminate violence would require the cessation of all biological and mechanical processes on the planet Earth, the complete extinguishment of all life and motion. We should instead celebrate violence. It is the liberator, the spirit-giver.

And of nuclear weapons, the purest expression of violence - what will future generations think of us, to have such power in our hands, and to not use it? To develop atomic weapons and then to abandon them, unused? They will think us fools. The ICBM is the pinnacle of human achievement, a device which can strike and kill any human being and destroy any man-made object in the world, from any place in the world, at the touch of a button. To keep them underground is lunacy. We should worship them, use them, own them. There is a question and North Korea knows the answer.

“You mean to tell me NOBODY in this BAR knows who won the Belmont Stakes last year?”

So sayeth my eight year old kid

I think I might have created a monster….

For the last couple of years it has been somewhat of a tradition in my local watering hole for some of us to gather and watch the Triple Crown races and make some friendly wagers ( 5 bucks each) on the outcome. These wagers are simple in nature, straight win betting and nothing “exotic” such as exacta’s, trifecta’s and the like. The process usually consists of drawing the horse’s names out of a hat and there is little or no skill involved. This ensures that even those folks unfamiliar with the fine art of picking horses have the same chance of winning as that of any seasoned railbird.

This was one of those weekends that I had custody of my kid and rather than break with tradition, I asked if she wanted to go down to the bar and get some grilled cheese and watch the race. I figured I could visit with some friends, bet the race, feed my kid and all the while enjoy a few libations. Sounded like a plan.

We arrived about a half hour before post time and after exchanging the usual friendly greetings and ordering our food, I inquired as to when the betting was going start. Much to my chagrin, I was informed that since it was such a small field (six horses) that everybody all ready had their horse. Naturally I was disappointed but resigned myself to just watching the race and enjoying the company of my closest friends.

Well, needless to say, my friends sensed my disappointment and quickly arranged for another pool to be started. It was at this time that my kid took notice of what was going on asked if she could “play” too. I explained to her that this was really for adults and that she could watch the race and cheer for daddy’s horse instead. Naturally this didn’t sit quite well with her and she felt left out. It was that I figured “what the hell” and instead of me picking the horse at random I’d go ahead and let her pick. I mean, after all, with the way my luck has been running…..

It was now about 15 minutes or so before post time when she saddled up to the hat, stuck her hand in and drew out a horse. With a caution reserved only for eight year olds, she carefully unfolded the paper and revealed the name of Empire Maker.. Since we had some time to kill, she started asking questions about the sport of horse racing (How long are the races?), jockey’s, (Why do they wear different colors?), and the horses themselves (How do they get their names?).

And then came the killer, “Who won last year’s race?”. My friends and I glanced at each waiting for somebody to respond but all we got were blank stares and some mumbled “I dunno’s”. After a couple seconds of silence, my daughter stood up and blessed us with those immortal words

“You mean to tell me that NOBODY in this BAR knows who won the Belmont Stakes last year?”

Well, embarrassment turned to laughter as we all got a big kick out of her feigned sense of indignation that we, the masters of all sporting events and related trivia couldn’t come up with an answer.

It was now post time and to make a long story short, amongst much hooting and hollering the race was over and Empire Maker had crossed the line first. My kid had just won $30.00 bucks and was happy as could be. I tried to explain to her that it was customary for the winner of the pool to buy a round of drinks for the other participants but she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted to know when the next race was so that we could do it again. I explained that we don’t do that sorta thing for all the races, just a select few. She seemed a little disappointed.

It was then that I got the bright idea to invite some folks back to my house where we partook of various barbecued pork products and were regaled with my kid’s account of the race. All in all, a very good evening.

Postscript: Listen, I know that some people would probably take issue about some of my parenting methods. Sure, taking an eight year old to the bar to watch horse racing is most likely never going to make it into one of those well-intentioned parenting magazines. Sure, teaching her a form of gambling might be considered by some to be a bad precedent. Sure, teaching her “bar etiquette” such as knowing when and whom to buy drinks for might not come in handy later in life. But then again, I have my own methods and for the time being, they seem to be working…

Oh yeah, she’s looking forward to spending the $30.00…

My little Ash is doing a little better today, I think. Ate some small bits of chicken last night (we made fried chicken for the first time at home), slept a lot, and seems a little brighter-eyed today, though still light as a feather. Thanks to all of you who /msg'd me about her yesterday.

Loki, my oriental shorthair, though, is being a total asshole about it. Always the jealous type, he's really ticked that HE isn't being the center of attention (his constant, unwavering need) and is being a bastard to her. So he's getting his whiny, needy self yelled at a LOT. (and yes, we've tried paying attention to him too; doesn't work. He even gets jealous when I pay attention to my wife, not him). Love him lots, but he's such a jerk sometimes.

Tips learned about fried chicken, by trial and error:

  1. Use fresh oil. That oil you didn't think tasted of the last thing you cooked in it a few days ago -- does.
  2. Don't be afraid of salt. Fried chicken needs horrendous quantities of salt in the coating or it doesn't work. Fried chicken is just not going to be a low sodium food no matter what, and it's best just to deal with that. In fact, the rule is even more general: it's very hard to be over the top about flavorings in the coating. Just chuck it in.

To go with it we made oven chips with garlic (British chips, ie. thickish french fries) following something Alana saw Jamie Oliver doing on the Food Network the other day. Cut them into chip shapes, boil for ten minutes, then place in a frying pan with heated olive oil and whole (but squashed) garlic cloves, stir them up a bit, just a minute or so, to get the olive oil all over them, then put them on a pre-heated cookie sheet in the oven, at about 375 I think, for 20 minutes. Or a bit more if you like 'em crispier, which we do. Recommended; they were delicious. Normally I'd do them in the deep fryer but that was being taken up by the chicken; this is a good alternative method for when the deep-fryer is unavailable.

Later on, at the gas station, filling up the T-Bird with the standard $40 of premium (that's about five days' running), plus lead substitute plus octane booster - I feel like a mad chemist, measuring and pouring all these in - and this gives me a lot of time to look around and people watch.

Realising, for one thing, that all these SUV owners, at least the ones driving the big stuff, Navigators, Expeditions, Excursions, Suburbans, Sequoias and the like - they're pumping as much gas as I am if not more.

So where has thirty-six years of automotive development got us, exactly? For what, exactly, did we kill the American automobile? My sixties gas guzzler is scarcely thirstier than their 2003 gas guzzlers. So explain to me why we traded the grace, beauty, power and comfort of my car - or the naked adrenaline overdose of the Dodge Charger or Boss Mustang owned by the guys down the road - for this, these overpriced sheds on oversized wheels, built for mountains they never see, forest trails they'll never be taken down, huge loads they'll never haul.

It might have been worth the dagger in the back of the classic American car in all its glorious excess - for the sake of the environment, the planet, efficiency, sanity and reasonableness. But for this? We might as well have not bothered. At least the old American car was actually built for its real purpose, didn't waste it all on showy offroadability that does no good on tarmac.

At least, too, the classic American car was capable of expressing more emotions in designer and buyer than the couple the SUV is capable of expressing. Aggression, brute force, distance from the world, sheer hulking impossible mass. There's no truly beautiful SUV, no graceful one, no slick speedster one, nothing else.

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