Monday, July 5, 2010

Speed!

Speed!
©By LeeZard

What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven? I’m not talking about all the racecar drivers out there (Dale!). I’m asking all of you everyday out-on-the-freeway motorists. For LeeZard, it was 140 scary, exhilarating MPH. Not bragging. It’s just a fact. Because scientists and sociologists study everything, of course there are studies on driving fast. 


According to DrDriving.org:

"Psychologists who study how we perceive things discovered a type of homeostatic process called level of adaptation. Take the case of speed. The brain records the sensations our body experiences and stores them along a continuum from smaller to greater. The range of speed that we're used to travelling creates a specific level of adaptation. This is the speed your body expects to feel in particular segments of roadways. These sensations are part of your road schema ("Schemas" are slogans or pictures we make-up in our mind about everyday situations as we experience them, over and over.).

One of the thrills that some drivers consistently report is the sensation of acceleration. They talk about it as if it were an addiction they're in love with. Like with addiction in general, there's the inevitable tendency to keep pushing the range higher and higher in order to maintain the same amount of thrill. Physicians talk about developing a tolerance level for addictive drugs, requiring higher dosages to do the same job, in a continuous process of increasing intake. A similar process may be operating with speeding."


LeeZard prefers to break it down to its most simple form, especially for men; it’s a macho thing. It’s a story we can tell to the guys or something we can (ahem) subtly drop into a conversation when we try to impress a woman. It’s a macho thing.

I think I’m a mixture of both the speed schema guy and the macho speed guy. While I like to think I’ve learned humility over the years, I still have an (male) ego and, in the right setting, LeeZard loves to tell the 140 MPH story. But, there’s also the part of me that just loves to drive as fast as I can before the car flies off the road (or I freak myself out).

When I was a new teen driver my dad drove a white 1962 Pontiac Bonneville. It was a huge luxury four-door chrome heavy land yacht but it was beautiful. And, it had a 389 cubic inch V8. When dad was kind enough to let me have it, I  punched that hammer down, burning rubber off every stop sign on the side streets of Queens. All 305 horses screamed like an automotive banshee. At nearly two tons (which penciled out to about 87.5⊄ per lb.), I’m sure I wasn’t going as fast as it seemed but it sure got those 17-year old hormones flowing.

Long-time LeeZard fans will remember The Blue Streak (sigh), which I had to sell last year. Please bear with me while I bring our new friends quickly up to speed.

The Blue Streak (sigh) was my dream car, a 2003 six-speed manual, midnight blue Porsche Boxster S Cabriolet with saddle tan leather interior. I bought it, used, in 2005. A Porsche was my dream ever since my brother used to lend me his 1960 356B back in the early 1970s. It wasn’t a very fast car in those days but it cornered like a Porsche always cornered and was the first true sports car I ever drove.

In 2005 I was in a position to by a used Porsche thanks to the introduction of the Boxster in 1997. It was in every aspect a Porsche but, compared to the rest of the prestigious line, it was relatively inexpensive when it first appeared at around $40K. The “S” model, with a larger engine and sportier set-up, was introduced a few years later because purists complained it wasn’t fast enough (see above re: speed.).

I found The Blue Streak (sigh) on eBay after looking for some time through all the conventional motoring Web sites – Porsche and otherwise. The pictures looked great and the ad said it was originally a company car, owned by Porsche of NA and had only 14K miles on it. When I called to inquire, the seller explained that his avocation was to “buy a fast car, keep it as pristine as possible” and sell it after awhile to finance the restoration of an older classic. Then, he’d sell the restoration to buy a different fast car, and so on. He was selling the ’03 Boxster because he’d found an old Volvo 1800 to restore.

LeeZard is not exactly a motorhead but I know enough to know that a guy like that – if he’s on the level – is just the seller I’m looking for. Problem was, he lived in Syracuse, NY and I was in Seattle. The pistons were lined up in my favor, though; I knew someone – the president of the Washington State Association of Automotive Technicians to be precise. I called him and asked if her could help me find a shop in Syracuse to inspect the Boxster. No problem.

Bottom line, for $100, some guy, whose boss said, “knew everything,” raved about the car. “I put it up on the lift,” he gushed. “This baby is amazing. You can eat off the undercarriage. Come and get your car!” That was saying something because Syracuse is located in New York State’s notorious “Snow Belt” and the salt from de-icing the roads is murder on those undercarriages and engines.

At first, I priced automotive transport companies, which averaged about $2K for the cross-country trip. “Hell,” thought LeeZard, “why don’t I just fly to Syracuse and drive it home?” Not only would it be cheaper, it obviously would be the road trip of my life. I had the (vacation) time and I had the money so, despite it being mid-November, I flew to Syracuse. I would let weather forecasting and maps determine my route home. There was no way I would put my new baby in any danger by driving in winter weather. I would go as far south as I had to, or drive hard west to stay ahead of storms. Perhaps I’ll blog about the whole five-day trip some other time but this piece is about a specific four minute, eight-mile portion. ZOOM!

I’d just crossed the continental divide heading west on I-84 in Wyoming and into Utah to avoid bad weather along I-90 to the north. As I drove out of Wyoming and into the Beehive State the freeway flattened and straightened. I’d been on the road for three-and-a-half days and virtually speed limit compliant. I used the Boxster's cruise control at about seven MPH above the limit. Out west, that’s usually 77 or 82 MPH. I was going relatively easy, still getting used to this magnificent machine.

Out in the wide open spaces, though, on this unseasonably warm morning under a blue sky and fluffy white clouds, I was cruising along an endless straightaway with nary a vehicle in sight. “Hmmm,” says I to me, “this is time to see what this baby can do.” 



Oblivious to any patrol aircraft that might be overhead, I downshifted to fifth gear, punched it and The Blue Streak (sigh) was born.  At 80 MPH, the Boxster leapt forward like a jackrabbit. The engine located behind and below the cockpit (for 50-50 weight distribution front & back) screamed that famous Porsche howl, like a min-jet taking off. It redlined at 115-120 and I smoothly shifted to sixth. LeeZard was entering a new dimension. 


I’d already come to appreciate the solid construction of the car. Convertibles rattle – not this one. As I flew past 100 MPH the ride was smooth and silent, the wind noise minimal. At 120 my hands tightened on the leather wrapped steering wheel. 125, 130 and the eerie quiet of the ride began to fool me. Was I really doing 130? 135, Holy Shit! At 140, I was done. The Boxster wasn’t. Top speed for the S model is listed at 166 but when I saw the speedometer touch 140 I admit, I lost my resolve and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I satisfied LeeZard’s “speed schema” and that was good enough for me.


















Blue Streak, Blue Streak,
I’m ridin’ in the Blue Streak.
Flyin’ down the Interstate,
Top down, feelin’ great.

She’s a low slung mean machine,
Drive ‘er fast, keep ‘er clean.
Tap the brake, make the scene,
Hit the curve, she won’t lean,
.
She was on Ebay,
That’s the way you buy today.
Low miles, High style,
Punch it down, eat the miles.

Blue Streak, Blue Streak,
I’m ridin’ in the Blue Streak.
Flyin’ down the Interstate,
Top down, feelin’ great.

Fat tires, leather seats,
Jump on in, have a treat.
Ain’t no Beemer, ain’t no ‘Vette,
Ain’t no car that’s beat her yet.

Never thought I’d own this ride,
Never thought I’d get inside.
Hit bottom, got clean,
Life’s good, got the dream.

Blue Streak, Blue Streak,
I’m ridin’ in the Blue Streak.
Flyin’ down the Interstate,
Top down, feelin’ great.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Keep on Bloggin'

Keep on Bloggin’
©2010 by LeeZard

Back in February my barrister wisely counseled that I (temporarily) shut down LeeZard on Life while job hunting. Reluctantly, I agreed. LeeZard often writes openly about many personal issues, issues that aren’t really the business of prospective employers.

But, LeeZard also misses blogging and, as I approach two years of under-employment, I am willing to take what I consider the minimal risk of returning to the blogosphere. if you Google LeeZard’s real name (What? You didn’t know LeeZard wasn’t my real name?), this blog never appears. So, let’s catch up before we re-embark on my life journey through LeeZard colored glasses.

I wish I had a lot of good stuff to report since last we blogged but so far the arrow still points mostly south. Let’s start with the good stuff.

Thankfully, I am still blessed to have my sobriety (4,407 days as I write this) and the wonderful Wende (TWBGF) in my life. Her love, emotional support and sometimes-mutual wackiness keep me going without falling into the pits of despair. Why despair you might ask? Let us count the ways (not whining here, just faithfully reporting the good, the bad and the ugly).

As mentioned above, I’m still looking for that elusive gig and the clock keeps on ticking; at this point, each passing month makes it harder for someone of my years to get hired. That’s the reality. I’ve had few interviews but when I do interview, I do well. Keep hearing the term “over qualified” a lot. I still think it means “too old” but that’s just moi.



As a result, Chateau LeeZard is no more. I hate clich├ęs but buying the townhouse was the perfect storm of bad timing. I closed in late 2007, about a month before the bottom fell out of the housing market and a couple of months before someone actually noticed – or bothered to tell us – we were in a serious recession. It also was four months before record-setting rains damaged an earthen dam on the Green River (the river is a block from my place), causing leakage where the dam meets the river bank.

The dam was built in the 1950s to control annual and catastrophic flooding in the valley. After the damage, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would have to release more water than usual from behind the dam and, in the event of serious rains, greatly increase the chances for, you guessed it, catastrophic floods. This came on the heels of news that the levees along the river were deteriorating and there wasn’t enough money to repair them all.

The powers-that-be decided that thousands of large ugly black plastic enclosed sandbags along the length of the threatened valley – and on its wonderful hiking/biking trail – would do the trick. While property values throughout the region began their steady fall, ours in the valley began to drop like a big rock in the river.

One year after I bought the condo, I began my under employment, although I prefer to call it my new career as a consultant-without-clients. Does this sound like whining yet? Wait, I’m just getting started.

Shortly before I lost my job, a degenerative back condition rendered me unable to walk. It took two surgeries to get me back on my feet. Unfortunately, I was falling off my feet financially.

I’d been able to meet all my obligations with the combination of unemployment benefits and my emergency stash – mutual funds, the remains of my 401k, etc. By July 2009, however, I was on my ass and had to notify my lender I could no longer pay the mortgage. Foreclosure loomed. In fact I was literally days from the bank auction when a last minute short sale offer arrived. Looks like it will close soon, averting the dreaded “F” word. The offer is for $140K less than I paid for the unit.

Okay, even I’m getting tired of hearing all this bad joo-joo but wait, there’s more. My 28-year old son got married Memorial Day weekend. I wasn’t invited. And, this is the lad who wouldn’t pop the question until he talked it over with Dad. Then, last November he cut off communication with no warning and no explanation. He merely stopped returning calls, emails, texts, chats, anything. What happened?

After a few frustrating and agonizing months I learned from a professional (and an expert in treating alcoholic families) that children of alcoholics usually don’t begin to deal with their issues until they near 30 and, when they do begin that process they start to uncover long buried – and often angry – feelings. This, she explained, often results in “a cessation of communication that could last for years.” Whoopdeefuckendoo.

Ten days before the wedding he sent me a letter, telling me in the most hateful, hurtful and insulting manner possible that I wasn’t invited. Do ya think I hadn’t already figured that out?

I may be a recovered alcoholic but it’s the disease that keeps on giving. Fortunately, it is the tools that I’ve learned in recovery that help me every day to deal with every day. This is why I may go through brief hours or, in one case, days of despair but always reemerge with the faith that I will be okay and the strength to do the next indicated thing(s).

And, finally, last Friday I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. So, I will close for now, with the following little ditty. In the meantime, watch this space for the return of the usual LeeZard antics.



Hi Sugar

Hi Sugar, high sugar.
It’s not very sweet.
I’ve got Diabetes,
Must watch what I eat.

It’s not a surprise
And, yet I feel shocked.
It’s in my gene pool
But my world has been rocked.

I got it from dad,
And from his mom, Molly
And on my mom’s side
It was Grandpa, by golly.

It’s “only” Type Two
Says cousin Roberta.
She ought to know.
Type One
Tries to hurt her.



It’s the best of the worst
Though she’s not dismissive.
She says of the two
Type Two’s less invasive.

Nonetheless I feel changed.
Bad things can arrive
Unless I do things
To help me survive.

So sweet sugar dear
Do not despair.
I’ll watch my high sugar
And live life with care.