Monday, December 26, 2011

New Me At Age Forty Three

It's December 26th as I write this. This time of year, a lot of bikers the world over (or at least in the Northern Hemisphere) take the opportunity of winter to rebuild or repaint or otherwise re-do their bikes. My bike is running great, no need for paint, either, and here in Texas we ride year round anyway. However, I'm about to start an even bigger rebuild project. On myself.

First, let me say that I'm opposed to New Year's Resolutions. Everybody makes them; hardly anybody follows through on them. The only New Year's Resolution I ever kept was about fifteen or twenty years ago when my resolution was to never make another New Year's Resolution. I'm still going strong on that one. So, this isn't one of those. However, my birthday is the 27th of December, and honestly, that means more to me than flipping the page on a calendar, anyway. I'm gonna build a new me at age forty three.

It's time for me to trim some excesses in some areas and to build up other areas of my life. I've spent a lot of my life sort of spinning my wheels, wasting time. Not terrible on a Saturday afternoon when you have no plans, but not so good when that Saturday turns into your twenties, then your thirties, then runs into your forties. There are things I keep thinking I'll do “one day”. Well, on the back side of the big 4-0, you start to realize “one day” isn't guaranteed. It's time to put up or shut up.

First up: I'm taking a break from drinking. I've been doing it more lately and it's just become a distraction from other things I want to accomplish. I've also had some instances where I didn't realize just how much I'd had until way too late. I'm 42, not 22; I don't need that. I think I need to reboot and recalibrate that internal gauge that says “Hey dude, you've had enough – back off”. Starting on my birthday, I'm going going a full year totally 100% sober. No alcohol at all. Birthday to birthday. Which, actually, since this is Leap Year, will be like a year and a day, but that's okay. I don't think it's a serious problem, because I don't have to drink. If I find that going dry for a year is a real challenge, then I'll address it as a problem, but I think a simple reboot is all I need. That, and being able to focus on other things.

Next on the list: I recently had my first physical exam since I got out of the Navy. Which was twenty years ago. The only real surprise I got was that there were no major issues. I'm out of shape, which I knew. The doctor said I should probably lose about ten to fifteen pounds, but I've put on thirty since I quit smoking a couple years ago, so that's what I'm going to shoot for. My cholesterol is high, but he said if I start exercising and watch what I eat I should be able to avoid medication. We'll see at the next check up.

I'm always saying I want to start exercising more. Well, now I have my motivation. I need to lose the weight and get the cholesterol down. Also, it would be nice if my back didn't ache 90% of the time. I'd really like to stop making old man noises every time I stand up, too.

I used to read all the damn time. There have been times I had a book I was reading on my lunch breaks at work, a book on my nightstand I'd read before bed, and maybe even a book in the living room that I'd pick up during commercials. I haven't read like that in years. Damn internet. I need to spend less time with “Facebook” and more with “book”.

Which leads to the next point to be trimmed. I'm going to be spending less time on social networking. Facebook is great for keeping in touch with people from all aspects and time periods of my life, but it's also an awful black hole of time. It just sucks me in. I don't think it's a bad thing to spend a few hours on it once in a while, but I'm not going to do it every day anymore. Sadly, this means I'll be stopping a lot of the political and theological debates that I've grown fond of. Those really suck me in, keeping me waiting for someone's rebuttal so that I can retort. I'm not saying I'll never engage in those debates again – they'll just be fewer and farther between. I think I've also been sort of harsh and offensive at times with some of those posts. I'm going to make an effort to soften that a bit. Not that my line of thinking has changed, mind you. I just don't want to alienate anyone. Well, okay – anyone I care about.

Cutting out the social networking will leave me more time for writing. It's funny. For most of my life, I've sort of thought I'd be a writer “one day”. I just always thought it would be fiction. Turns out I don't get much inspiration to write fiction, but I do get these sociopoliticoreligious ideas that beg to be posted to anyone with an internet connection. I'd like to post more often, but I get distracted by Facebook, TV, Jim Beam, etc. If you follow this blog, hopefully you'll have more to read more often now.

I'm going to work on being more conscientious at work, too. For years, I've sort of felt a “me vs them” environment and I've acted accordingly. I feel “they” don't cooperate with me, so I haven't been very cooperative with “them”. It affects my attitude, and I wind up just adding to the negative atmosphere. It's really gotten me nowhere. What I need to do is to accept the situation as something I can't change, and change what I can: my attitude and my reactions. If I can't change them, and I can't really fight them, maybe it's time to rise above them – time to be the better man. It is what it is. Deal with it. Right?

While I work on cleaning up a lot of this mental clutter, I'll take a stab at the physical clutter, too. It's not that I'm a hoarder, and I'm not dirty. I am, however, very sloppy and messy. Time for me to grow the hell up and deal with it.

I've already begun working on my fiscal fitness. My credit was really really bad. Terrible. But I've had a loan on my bike for four years, had a credit card for about six or so. My name is on the lease here. My credit's looking up. On a whim, I applied for a Sears card a few months ago. Holy crap, they approved me! I remember years and years ago, Sears was really picky about who they approved, so I figured I must have done some good credit repair. Then, a couple months ago, I got an offer for a new credit card, with 0% interest on purchases
and balance transfers for a year, after which the rate would be 14.99%. Well, hell, my bike loan was already 14.75%, and the credit card was 23% (thanks to a quick rate hike before some new law took effect in 2009). So, I'd be better off after the year was up either way. I applied, and got approved, and for what I considered an astronomical credit limit! I moved my bike loan and my old credit card balances to the new card. So, now, the bike is technically paid off, and I canceled the old card, because it also charged an annual fee. If I buckle down, I can be virtually debt free in a year's time! That'll be a new feeling for me – it's been so long, I can't even remember the last time I wasn't in debt.

Finally, I have a tendency to be depressed or angry when things don't go so much in my favor. I hide it in public, but it's there, beneath the surface. I've heard throughout my life, but I'm starting to believe it more lately, that your thoughts and words can shape your attitude and reactions. I'm going to work on being more positive, and try to guide my thoughts in a better, more productive direction.

So, there we go. Self Improvement, HandGrenades and Horseshoes style.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"-Porn" As A Suffix

“Porn” can mean different things. It’s usually applied to sexual imagery or writing. That’s an appropriate context, and probably the only one considered correct by the people who write and edit dictionaries. However, if you think about what it is that distinguishes porn from what I’ll call for convenience “normal sex”, then you can broaden the definition.

The separation comes from the fact that pornographic photos represent some “ideal”, usually in the form of a woman. Actually, a photo of a woman who’s probably had some “augmentation”; she’s been reworked with makeup, and finally the photos have been modified with editing software. In other words, a modification to fit some sort of fantasy ideal. Porn viewers who are honest with themselves will admit that they know this is something that can never actually be attained. It’s there to enjoy visually, to daydream about maybe.

I’m not a huge fan of pornography myself. Nothing against it. Have at it if it’s your thing. I just never thought of sex as a spectator sport.

However, with the broadened definition, well, now we’re getting to my point. The broadened part being that intent of visual enjoyment and fantasizing.

At some point in the last year, I was introduced to the term “bike porn”. It was after I’d spent an evening reposting pic after pic of cool bikes on facebook. An old friend of mine from the Navy, who is currently without a motorcycle, commented “Enough with the bike porn! You’re driving me crazy!”

Then, I discovered Blogger and Tumblr. I found a lot of blogs that post lots of photos of custom motorcycles that I’d love to have/ride/build. These, too, have been repainted, had their frames and suspensions modified, they sometimes only bear a vague resemblance to their stock form. However, much like the sex starved man who will never be with the porn star, I know I’ll never have these bikes. Which is fine - I’m actually very happy with my current ride. But still, it’s nice to dream, eh?

Same with tattoo blogs. Again, with the changing and customizing of the body to fit a desired appearance. This one’s a little different, though - more attainable. I’m pretty heavily tattooed, and I’m not stopping. I really appreciate the artistry and imagery of tattoo.

Thus, “porn” as a suffix. Most of the blogs I follow are either bike-porn or tat-porn.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Older Man's Christmas Wish List

Isn't it funny how our Christmas wish lists change over time? And yet, how often they stay similar, but we just modify them a bit? They say the biggest difference between men and boys is their toys, but personally, I think the toys are a lot alike. For example, look at this sample wish list sent to Santa Claus from a boy under 10:

1) Tinker Toys
2) BB Gun
3) Little Red Wagon
4) Pony
5) Erector Set

We can all picture a young boy making this list and thinking of all the possibilities these gifts hold for future fun and excitement.

And yet, I say that a man over 40 could make the same list, and be just as excited by the potential fun in store for him, post-Christmas. Take a look:

1) Tinker Toys
2) BB Gun

3) Little Red Wagon

4) Pony

And, finally:

5) Erector Set

Friday, December 9, 2011


I'll never understand it. Why are we expected to pay more for merchandise just because it has a company's logo on it?

They take a black T shirt that's worth about $7, tops. Then, they silk screen a Harley Davidson logo on it, for example. Now, it costs you $25. I can go to Wal Mart and buy a Dickies work shirt for about $16. But if I look in the Dennis Kirk catalog, I can find work shirts with logos of Vance & Hines (exhaust), Throttle Threads, Yoshimura (exhaust), Wiseco (pistons), Suzuki, etc. starting around $55! I realize there may be some cost associated with the patches and/or silk screening, but come on. Seriously?

Why the high price tag? Because the shirt maker/vendor had to pay the company whose logo they're using a licensing fee. Which is kind of stupid, if you ask me. I think Wiseco (or whoever) should look at it as free advertising. They should be freaking subsidizing the price of those shirts, just to get them out there in circulation! But no, they charge more. Then, some people are ridiculous enough to pay the inflated fees for the "privilege" of advertising for these companies.

It's like charging the billboard to display the ad, ain't it?

(Honest disclosure: I do indeed own shirts with motorcycle company logos, but I've never bought them myself - they've been gifts or door prizes at events, with the exception of buying one dealer T shirt - but they were a cool dealership who'd cut me some deals, so I felt I was repaying the favor.)

Thanks to my Other Half for the title.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Rules For Kids

Unfortunately, there are some things that children should be learning in school, but don't. Not all of them have to do with academics. As a modest back-to-school offering, here are some basic rules that may not have found their way into the standard curriculum.

Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teenager uses the phrase, "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.

Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)

Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.

Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.

Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me" and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.

Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4)

Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interesting in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)

Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.

Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20.

Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sailor's Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and he lived in a crowd,
In a 40 man berthing, with shipmates so loud.
I had come down the exhaust stack with presents to give,
And to see just who in this rack did live.
I looked all about, and a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stockings were hung, just boots close at hand,
on the bulkhead hung pictures of far distant land.
He had medals and badges and awards of all kind,
and a sobering thought came into my mind.
For this place was different, it was so dark and dreary,
I had found the home of a Sailor, this I could see clearly.
The Sailor lay sleeping, silent and alone,
curled up in his rack, dreaming of home.
The face was so gentle, the berthing in such good order,
but not how I pictured a United States Sailor.
Was this the hero whom I saw on TV?
Defending his country so we all could be free?
I realized the families that I’ve seen this night,
owed their lives to these Sailors who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world, the children would play,
and grownups would celebrate a new Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
because of the Sailors, like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, on a sea far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The sailor awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, for this life is my choice.
Defend the seas this day, the peace do I keep.”
The sailor then rolled over and drifted to sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours so silent, so still,
and we both shivered from the night’s cold chill.
I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night.
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the sailor rolled over and with a voice soft and pure,
whispered, “Carry On Santa, it’s Christmas. All is secure.”

(Stolen from a friend and fellow Navy veteran on facebook, original author unknown)