Sunday, September 7, 2014

Andrew Tries Skateboarding as an Adult

So the other day I saw how empty The Wedge Skate Park was. It’s a mile from my apartment, so I figured I get to skate there all day, with the park to myself! A childhood dream!

I got today’s schedule cleared. It’s skateboard day. I’m doing this. I have plenty of disposable income, and I deserve something nice.

So I roll up to Scottsdale Sidewalk Surfer, relieved that it’s still there after all these years.

I park in the tiny lot behind the shop.

There’s a guy about my age crouched in the shade, having a cigarette and a Rockstar energy drink.

“Good afternoon!” I say, too excitedly.

“Heyhowsihgoin,” he tells the ground.

I skip around to the front door. Nostalgic stickers of brands from the good old days cover the entrance.

The door glides open, and I’m slapped in the face with things I don’t understand.

Who are these names, these companies, what is this. No.

Most of the store is packed floor to ceiling with clothing, shoes, sunglasses, stickers and other accessories. Everything related to skateboarding without actually skateboarding.

Behind some massive sale racks of shorts and hats, I see the wall.

Yes, the wall of decks. I’ve missed it.

A lone employee, college aged, is handling a gaggle of 12 year olds and their mom.

They’re keeping him busy, perhaps a little stressed.

It’s okay, I want some alone time with this place.

I scan every item in the glass cases. The engineering behind all the bits has changed. They’re sleeker, lighter and stronger now.

I recognize a few brands, like Spitfire. There’s a dusty Element deck, signed by their skate team from 1999 hanging up high. It’s a farewell deck.

Those old pro skaters are probably fat and nursing a bad hip by now.

I look back at the door, then the kids, and I feel like leaving.

But then I see it. A classic Black Label deck. It’s got the little elephant on it. I like it. Behind that one is the memorable Toy Machine devil, but the deck is 8.75” wide, too big for my taste.

Okay, everything’s going to be okay.

I’ll just… I’ll just ask for what I remember and hopefully they understand me.

The kids are ADHD and are pointing at stuff and touching things they won’t actually buy.

Then a backdoor opens and shuts.
The guy from outside emerges.

He sees the noisy kids and tries to remain unnoticed.

“Hey, would you mind helping me for a moment?” I say to him.

“No problem!” he thankfully heads over to me. We’re on the opposite end of the service counter, where it’s dimmer. More pleasant.

“So what’s up man?” he says, scratching what remains of his surfer dude hair.

“I’d like an entire setup. But it’s… it’s been a long time,” I tell the wall of decks behind him.

“How long, brosef?”

“At least 13 years.”

“Ah. Well you’re in the right spot. This is the classics section.”

“Wha… what? Classics?”

“Yeahp. I hear ya,” he grimaces and gives a nod to the kids, “We’re old now, man. Shit’s different now.”

“How different?”

“Whale, y’see these trucks here?” he points to some sleek new truck set. I don’t recognize it.


“Freakin made a hollowed out titanium now. Feather light and strong as hell.”

He hands one to me. It’s laser-cut, perfectly shiny, barely heavier than air.

“Do… do you just have like… you know the regular kind?”

“Stickin to whatcha know, eh? My kinda guy. I keep a set of oh-gee Independents hidden away just in case a guy like you shows up.”

He reaches down low inside a hidden compartment, and reveals the Independent trucks I remember.

He blows dust off them and rubs them carefully with a cloth.

“I still run these. These make sense. Don’t tell the kids workin here though, they’ll make fun of us.”

“I too fear change,” I reply.

We both laugh.

He tells me his name. Aaron. He works here for fun. Has nothin’ better to do, he says.
I ask him what happened to Black Panther, the bearings I used to love. He said they ‘kinda dropped off’ and Black Label has broken into sub-brands. Emergency is a new brand of old skaters stuck in their ways. The ‘classics’ he kept saying. That’s the stuff and the names I remembered and understood.

Aaron builds my skateboard, which seems much faster now than it used to be.
He had this little compression tool thing that put the bearings in the wheels in seconds. He asked if I wanted logos or cutouts in my grip tape. I asked if they just have the normal kind, like Black Magic.

He nodded with a knowing smile, and found an old strip of it.

He mentioned that the wheels now are better, harder plastic. Not rubbery, no more uneven wear, he said.

So I let him pick the wheels: 56mm ‘Bones’ wheels.

I take the free stickers that came with all the glossy new skateboard parts and noticed something.

These logos, all of them, are warning signs of what’s to come.
Not even trying to hide it. Like its sole purpose is to scare me away from doing what I’m about to do.

Look at this jagged fireball. Heartburn. Pain.
Bones. The logo is literally broken bones and a skull.
There’s a cutout for spray paint, so you can vandalize easily. Next to it says “CHOOSE DEATH”

14 year old me would have been all over that. Current me worries about how irresponsible I’m being for not having health insurance.

The other customers have long cleared out. I pay for the board. $157, built entirely how I wanted it.

“Well ya wanna go try it out, man?” Aaron asks, holding it out to me like I’m about to be Knighted.


“Okay, I’ll watch!”

So we both go out front.

I step on the board, cruise up about 10 yards along the sidewalk.

“Wow this is smooth as silk! These new bushing designs are too loose for my liking, but buttery smooth. Not a sound from the wheel bearings either!”

“Sweet huh!” he calls back, lighting a cigarette, “Do an ollie!”

An Ollie. Easy. I can do those.

My brain tells my feet, hips and legs what to do but that’s not what happens.

What happened was a contorting seizure of rocks and scrapes. A hard clatter of softened 9-5 office job body on hot pavement.

The board rolled out lazily into the street, mocking me.
Cars honked and drove around it.

Aaron’s laughing his ass off. I would be too, but I’m too busy moaning in agony.

When did this hurt so much? God. Oww my back. My knees, my ear, my left elbow. Why. What happened to me. This was a poor decision.

It took a good few minutes for me to stand up and retrieve the board. One hand rubbing my spine. 

Aaron’s still laughing.

“Maybe I should just learn to golf?” I holler to him.

“Golfing SUCKS though!” he yells back, smiling.

He gives me a fistbump-goodbye and I hobble back to the MR2, already sweaty.

But happy.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Watched The New Ninja Turtles Movie So You Won't Have To.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) movie review

At first, I wanted someone to go see Michael Bay's new teenage mutant ninja turtles movie with me.

Then I stopped and realized that would be a terrible idea.

Odds are I'd be pissed. Maybe even get sick halfway through.

So I went to Scottsdale Fashion Square's Harkins theater alone. 4:30pm show, on a Sunday.

Matinee showings usually have much smaller crowds.

But it's during the day, so although there are less viewers, many of them are children.

I got there early. Bought a small popcorn and a small root beer from a munchkin girl, for like $50.

F* it. I'm doing this. I'm going all the way.

As the preview for Dolphin Tale 2 concluded, I had already finished the bag.

Picking kernels from my teeth, I moved down to closer seating. Front and center. I needed to see and live every frame of this film. I needed to give it the best possible chance.

The movie begins with hints of weaponry slicing assorted fruits and cinder blocks, that appear from darkness.

The creators must like Fruit Ninja, a cellphone game they probably play in the middle of a first date.

No, no. These turtles live in a sewer. So they have to practice on whatever floats on down, right?

Slicing up turds and used condoms wouldn't make the PG-13 cut.

So it's gotta be fresh seedless watermelon for sewer ninjutsu development training.

Sigh. I'm already defending this film two minutes in. This isn't looking good.

Please, please be good. No, just. Just be halfway decent. I love you, ninja turtles. Please, please don't hurt me with this reboot.

Megan Fox appears right away. In case half of you were already leaving the theater.
Bay uses her as cheap, desperate bait. To make sure you realize how hot Fox is, every other line is someone hitting on her.
She's supposed to be April O'Neil.
With dark, flowing hair that should be red. Or at least a deep auburn. I don't know.

Anyway, Megan Fox whines lines as best as she can. The scenery is overly saturated, vibrant brightness to exaggerate her tan and blasting pink lips. It looks like Michael Bay's Transformers movies immediately, in this way.

I'm about to fall asleep when suddenly there's a turtle tease.

Forget what you know and remember about ninja turtles. These aren't them.

These new guys are huge. Massive, muscular, vascular, CGI tanks.

When Leonardo reveals himself for the first time, flipping down from like 300 feet in the air, cement cracks and crumbles under the sheer impact of his extremeness.

These guys are 15 years old. 5'3'' or so. But not in Michael Bay's world.

Michael Bay shot the ninja turtles up with steroids, then turned their lovable faces into something between a shaved hamster and a disfigured premature infant.

You know who looks more like the real ninja turtles? Whoopi Goldberg. She's in this movie.
With shaved eyebrows. What the F is that. Why?

Stop it, Andrew. Stop it. This isn't the '90s. These are new turtles for a new audience. You're old. You're a has-been. This is what people want now. This is making millions and millions of dollars. Michael Bay knows what's good. Not you.

Splinter appears. He's a tough sensei in this one. For the first time ever, he's shown as a super kickass fighting rat, utilizing his tail like a doom tentacle.

Splinter is clearly better than the turtles. He holds his own quite well against Shredder. Who's basically Iron Man now, but with more blades.

The Shredder, let's talk about him. His real name is never uttered (Oroku Saki), his motivations aren't either. He's just a bad guy. He's gonna do bad stuff because he's bad. Luckily, not a single police officer exists in New York City. So it'll be super easy.

Tohoru Masamune plays Shredder when he's not being a giant bladed robot thing.
He gets a couple little scenes, speaking in thunderous japanese. He's scary and tall. I like him, and wish there was more of him.

Karai, who should be a merciless ninja assassin, is just there because somebody has to be.
Her bones should have shattered when she was steamrolled by a turtle, then thrown like a ragdoll into a brick wall.
But next scene her hair is still lovely, and she's shouting orders to forgettable Foot soldiers, bright as can be.

The origin story of the ninja turtles has been completely redone. That's right, they exist because Megan Fox saved them.

Fuck you, Michael Bay. Just for that.

.. at least they aren't aliens. For a second there, Bay was gonna make them aliens.


Throughout the film, when Megan Fox isn't being hit on, the turtles do their best to be funny. Michaelangelo almost works. Unfortunately, he's been turned into an annoying club bro "hey gurl, come on gurl, yeaaaa gurl DJ Mikey bruh" who also hits on Megan Fox every chance he gets.

There's an 18 minute scene of them falling/sliding/exploding down an icy mountain. No reason, really. There just is.

I know. Suddenly right outside New York City is a snowy mountain four times taller than Mt. Everest. And they slide down it at like 200mph, having regular conversations during all of it. With explosions and slow motion bullets, as you would expect.

Now we're on top of a building downtown, there's a 20 minute fight scene with Shredder. No cops. No news crews. No helicopters. Shredder doesn't have anyone with him, he's working on a computer in his robot suit doing bad guy stuff. I'm still not sure why he's doing all of this.

I don't think he does either. He just wakes up, knows he's a bad guy, and he's gotta do bad things today.

The turtles, each the size of an Escalade, get their 'asses kicked' by Shredder. That was cool. Please kill them, Shredder. Come on man, do it for me.

By the 92nd minute of the film, Megan Fox should have died 27 times. I kept a notepad with me, I'm certain of this detail.

One missed opportunity in particular was Eric Sacks (evil scientist who exists) forgets how to just walk up to Fox and shoot her.

Seriously. Megan Fox is hiding 5 feet away from him, and he sees her, he just forgets how to walk. Deciding to shoot random things around her instead.

Still no cops.

The word 'vigilante' is used a thousand times, and then the day is saved.

Turtles can turn invisible after a massive public scene, and we've returned to one of apparently 10 secret lairs they have.

Everything's cool.

They're keeping a low profile in a dubbed out green van with green neon all over it, now.

Fox starts to respond to Vern's hitting on her.

Then Michael Bay realizes he hasn't blown something up in 8 minutes!

Shit, blow that car up!

So he blows another car up.

Then the movie ends.

I can feel collateral products being sold already. Cash registers beeping and clanging, stuffed with cash for ninja turtle t-shirts, cups, bed sheets, action figures...

I can feel the world getting a shade darker under Michael Bay's cackling shadow, drinking in millions of dollars.

I need to go home and lie down.

The crowd empties the theater around me. They're positive, upbeat. Tiny children are happy, making explosion sound effects from their little faces.

None of them care about the real ninja turtles. And the adults, if they weren't fans before, they definitely aren't now. "What's the big deal, it was okay, I guess. Who cares."

My head hurts. My stomach hurts. I have to get out of here.

I hurry out of the mall, arms tightly around myself, as if infected with an incurable disease.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bum on a 'Busa (Language, Drugs, Bad Stuff)

I'm a bit early. It's 9:15, office expects me at 10.

The best part of starting and ending the work day an hour later is avoiding the masses.

There's very little traffic in this Chevron. Just minutes ago it was a mad dash.

I roll the MR2, who's thirsty for some 89, and park it under pump 7.

The windshield is now squeegeed clean, I turn to the pump and hear a rumbling.

It's a white Hayabusa. Arguably the crown jewel of sportbikes. Only this one is tired, greasy, mistreated.
The owner is a portly guy, sunburnt, crusty looking.

He's asking a man at another pump, who's dressed as a nurse, if he can have a few bucks so he can make it to the VA hospital.

Come on man, that's the oldest story in the panhandler's book.

The nurse is suddenly deaf, hops into his new Hyundai, then drives off.

Now the biker sets his eyes on me, without even changing his tone.

"Hey, hey guy! Can I uh, can I get a few bucksh. I gotta, I gotta make it to the VA hoshpital. Gotta get a uh, a x-shray."

"Hmm, only have a card today," I say, swiping it at the pump.

"Uh, can I get some gas then, you think?"

Persistent, he's a pro.

"Come closer. Let's... let's get a look at you," I say to the pump.

He winces, hobbling. Not from a busted leg or foot, his entire body is failing him.

He props his battered Hayabusa against the pump across from me. The kickstand is broken. He curses at it, then walks around to me.

He's within choking distance now, but I shouldn't need to do that.

"Okay so... uh.. it's. It's gonna need 91 in it."

He's larger than me, but frail. Just standing in front of me takes him considerable effort. An unusual, pale sweat covers him, combined with an oddly sweet odor. Six days of reheated sweat, with some cheap deodorant sprayed on top.

There are sores on his face, around his chin and lips. His teeth are missing in a way that's too early for his age.

It's not heroin he's been using. Heroin doesn't give you sores like that. Sure, you might get some zits from rubbing a tingly nose, but not to that extent. You don't lose teeth shooting heroin, either.

He's also living on a Suzuki GSX1300R, telling by all the clothing strapped to it. A heroin addict would have sold that ages ago. It's too fast, they just want to relax. This guy's a speed freak.

"You stay here. I'll go put some money on your pump. Pump six, right?"

"Uh h- (cough) yeah. Six."

He tries to act normal. When he thinks I'm not looking, he puts a hand heavily on the pump, holding back something awful.

I put $10 of 91 to the pump, from the cashier. This limits him to that exact amount.
I walk back out. The rest of the lot has cleared. Finally, someone took this problem of a man away from them.

"You're all set," I smile.

He nods, grimacing. His hands aren't working. He's trying to open the port to fuel up, but it's fighting him. Everything is.

I lean back onto my MR2, earned through clean, normal living. It guzzles fuel quietly.

With him fumbling, and me filling 9 gallons, I get to relish in this man's pain a bit more.
And yet still, even years out in the clear, I know exactly how he feels. There's a tiny pull from my chest toward him.

I'm only a few suggestive sentences away from getting high as hell with this guy.

"So what did you say the VA hospital was doing on you?"

"Ah..." he clears his phlegmy throat, rubbing his head.

"Hmm. You know you should clean that bike up. Trade it to some kid for a little 250. Pocket a couple grand," I say, plainly.  "That'll keep you high for a couple months if you play it right."

He pauses, his back to me. A freezing wind trembles through him, from his feet to his fingers.

The cover is blown. He's thinking of running, and knows he can't. He's fucked.

The man turns to me, his lips are tight. The sores glisten in the sun. He could lie to me, but his eyes falter.
He knows I'm right. He hates it. Something inside him wants it to end.

Then the heavy sportbike collapses.

"Aw shhhfuck!"

I glance around, no one's helping. So I lean in and pull the bike up with him.

"Hang on, man. Hang on. I'm on your side," I say.

"No one is, no one left. Nobody." His nostrils flare in some oxygen. Breathing is difficult.

"I know you're lying about the hospital. You're going to roll to the next gas station, and beg a bit more until you get ten, twenty bucks. Then you're good until tonight. But then the problem starts all over again, only now you're a day closer to death."

"... and... and tomorrow's gonna be.... worsh..." he tells the ground.

"That's right. You know it, and I know it. Look." I show him my arms.

They're strong, but he notices tiny scars where veins should be.

A noticeable wave of relief washes over him. He's not going to jail, yet.

"Here. Take this twenty. Get high. And during that high, clean this bike. Put it on craigslist for cheap. You need the money, man. Say you'll trade down to a little scooter bike plus some cash, who gives a shit. You need the money."

"Fuck ya I do."

"Right. Then, you have time to think. You can get to a quick rehab spot. A free place. It's not so bad on meth. You sleep through most of it."

"How... yeah, yeah okay. Fuck that sounds like a good idea."

"Get high, first. Then it's easier. Now you're out, you got like $1300 on you. Take a shower and get a gig over there," I thumb to the Walmart across the lot.

"No shit, I could do it. F-fuck i--" then he hacks from deep within his lungs, leaning against the pump.

"Good. Now I know the odds. But I have faith in you, today. Do it man. Just get it the fuck over with."

"Okay," he breathes deeply, "Okay. All right. Okay..." his head bobs up and down, more convinced with each nod.

He heaves a leg painfully over the dusty superbike, and coaxes it off to the corner. He waves at me, before pulling away. I smile back, and get into the MR2.

He did me a favor today. Although I still get hot/cold flashes, and random pain all over, I'll never go back to that life. He was a strong reminder of what to fear. The part of me that needs to stay buried forever.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Got a Model in the Loft.

In the room full of clamoring moth men, I hang her out there like an unquenchable bug zapper.

She glows in apathy, texting while they flutter up to her.

After a bit of feigned flirted interest, she directs the suits to me.

And now he's gotta buy my product, or look like an asshole right in front of her.

That's the plan. And it works, every time.

No matter how powerful or exclusive a man is, my hot chick army never fails to rope them in.
In the past, I'd stress real training on the models. Learn everything about the product, so they could sell it on their own while at the trade show.

Somewhere inside me I try to respect them as real people. That these young models are more than just good looking fly traps.

Like Yvette. She was good. Hard working and friendly, too. I miss her.

Now I collect a small group of new model girls from wherever they grow them. (I think there’s a farm in LA somewhere with rows of hot chicks being watered with compliments, vegan diets and booty squats before being unleashed into the world)

I have a lineup of them in tight-fitting company shirts. All beautiful and they know it. Playing on their phone while I try to explain how and why the product works. It’s extra obvious that they don't care.
They don’t actually need real sales skill, or knowledge of the product.

Just keep it simple. They can't do much more than stand there and look good- which is all they planned on doing anyway.
Just use their hotness to attract business men, zap them. I'll sweep up the corpses and turn them into cash.
The show is a success. We’ve got plenty of new stores to fill.


After the show, I’ve managed to get one of the girls up to the loft. I amazed myself that I could even arrange something like that. It seemed pretty natural too. I think this one likes me!

This place is romantic. To me, it’s like another planet. Surely this LA model girl will think it’s cool too.

We’re on the roof now. Just me and her.  Downtown Los Angeles hustles and breathes far below. From way up here, it feels like we own it all.

“Wow this is really awesome,” she says, smiling at the city view. She asks for a cigarette, I hand her one, and light it for her. She smiles again, and takes a drag.

The cherry brightens between her slender fingers, and briefly warms her face with a soft glow.

“I’m glad I’m not the only secret smoker here,” she says, giggling, “Hey we should pop open that wine bottle for sure!”

She joins me at a large glass table, leaning back in a plush designer sofa, to drink the scenery. A cool breeze encourages us both.

I pop open the Moscato and pour us each a glass. Not my taste, but she wanted it, so I didn’t argue.
She takes a sip, and licks her lips with satisfaction. “Ahh, deeeelicious.”
I smile back and sip my own glass.

A kiss of wind carries some deep red hair across her face. Her skin is like the inside of a seashell. Perfectly creamy, almost polished looking. I wouldn’t have to Photoshop her anywhere.

“So, you wanna go swimming with me?” she gestures to the pool with her glass.

“S-swimming? Oh I didn’t bring a bathing suit so I—I mean yes. Yes I do.”

Smooth, Andrew. God.

“Great!” she grins. She stands up and removes her top, then her skirt. If I took pictures of her now, they’d make the cover of Victoria’s Secret.

I watch her tiptoe to the pool then slide into the water.

“Ooo this is nice.

She looks like a scene from a movie. Am I really awake right now, here doing this?

Get it, Andrew. Now’s your chance!

I set my glass down, and shed clothes to my boxers.

She looks my average body up and down, then takes a big gulp of wine. Apparently she’s used to Zac Efron types.

But I’m a nice guy, so she likes me anyway, right?

I join her in the pool. The water’s warmer than I expected. She floats over to me with an effortless grace. The water doesn’t even ripple when she moves through it.

“You know, Andrew.”


“This is the coolest place ever, I mean isn’t it perfect? I could just stay here forever.”

“Oh really? You wouldn’t prefer a quiet cabin in the middle of the woods? There’s way more stars in the sky there.”

“Nah I like this. I’m a city girl,” she drifts up to me. We’re close now, face to face. Her breath is sweet from the wine.

 “So, how long have you lived here?” she whispers. Beckoning almost, with each syllable. I can nearly taste her.

 “I’m just here on business for a bit,” my face tells her.

“Oh, sooo... this. This isn’t yours? You don’t live here?”

“Nope. I'm just the designer, helping run things where I can.”

"What... what kind of designer?"

"The graphic designer kind. You know I make logos and stuff."

Her entire body changes, rigid now. She stands straight up, taller than me again.

“What time is it. Actually it’s getting late.”

“Like 10, and it is?”

She sloshes out of the pool, sloppily this time. The sexy soothing grace is gone entirely. She grabs a towel and covers herself quickly, then digs around in her purse for her cell phone.

I watch her act like she’s texting for a bit. Probably coming up with a plan to escape.

“Yeah I better go,” she says. She won’t even look at me.

“Uh okay? I’m sorry I- I uh?”
She hurries to the penthouse door, shivering, like she narrowly avoided something awful.

She pulls the heavy aluminum handle, goes inside, and the door closes itself gently behind her. The resulting silence mocks me.

“Goodnight,” I tell the door.

I finish the Moscato directly from the bottle, letting the jacuzzi bubbles pump into my back.

I want to go home. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The biggest mistake you can make to an old car. I just did it.

I've discovered the one thing that turns me into a rabid screaming psycho nut.


In a hurry to clean the MR2 for pavillions car show.

Figured I'd just do one of those quick drive-thru automatic car washes.

Never done one of these in this car before, but not too worried. Maybe a drip of water or two could leak through the t-tops, right? No big deal.

The operator hands me a Vanilla scent tree, ensures that I leave the car in neutral and roll up my window. I do both. He pats my roof and signals to another worker, who hits a switch.

The hungry car wash machine thunks and groans, inching me and the MR2 into its throat.

'Everything's gonna be okay', I tell the dash, petting it.

The first section of pressure water hits me-- right in the face. I gasp at the sudden cold, wiping my cheek in disbelief. What the?

I peek up and discover there’s a good inch of space from the top of the window glass and the surrounding rubber seal- which has apparently rotted away with age. So it's like my windows aren't even closed.

Ohhh no.

Can they stop this thing? Please stop it. Oh God. But it’s too late. No one cares.

A freezing tidal wave of soapy slush sprays me in the face. Pumping, throbbing, heartless waves of slimy soap, wax, and dirt come pouring into the windows and above my head through the t-tops on both sides.

Panicking, I take off my shirt and shove it into the top of the driver's side window, trying to muffle some of the onslaught.

It's no use. The shirt soaks through in seconds. More soapy hell pours down the windows, onto my head, onto the seats, invading the carpets and raping every innocent electronic bit.

I spit soap from my mouth and frantically wipe my hands over the dash and door electronics, trying to prevent the water from flooding them.

The heavy bristles slap and fwomp all over my car, ripping apart my aged exterior plastics. I hear bits of trim tear and snap.
I can't see, I'm soaked and freezing. I’ve resorted to yelling and sputtering.

Then the high-pressure spray attacks the car. I scream a wall of obscenities, rubbing soap out of my eyes.

“GAH I I hate you! I hate y-“
PFFFFSSSHHH!!! The machine shuts me up, forcing more water into my face again, harder and colder.

I paid $12 for this. I gave someone $12 to ruin my life.

I’m helpless. Hopeless. I’ve failed my poor MR2.
I slump into my seat, which is now like an overfed sponge.
Waiting for the end. I'm not even trying to fight it anymore. Doomed. Ruined. Letting the cold water spray all over me, the dash, everything.

A tornado of cold air blasts me in conclusion. A final 'fuck you', then the machine coughs up what remains of me and the MR2.

A little green light blinks and waves Thank you, Come Again!
That did it. I exploded into the biggest Italian rage in history.

I bring the MR2 over to the self-service vacuums. Open the door, scream at everything, completely drenched. My shoes slop and slush water with each step. It looks like I just took a shower in my clothes.

Not an employee in sight. They all scattered.
It looks like my car is crying from the inside out. My quarter window plastics are dangling from one corner. The trim around the back window has been pulled out and bent upward. The front bumper's indicator lights have been pulled out and dangle from their electrical cords.
I cursed every single thing I could think of- from each blade of grass, to the sky, to the sidewalk, that stupid bird in the tree, the vacuum hose - everything in existence all in one slobbering string of incoherent fucks and shits.

I wring out my shirt and wipe out what I can, still yelling fucks and shits, then use the pressurized air all over my interior. But it’s useless. My seats and carpet squish with soapy stinkwater.

Still screaming out the window at everything and everyone, I punch the gas and burn rubber out of the lot, as the MR2 vomits water through the door sills.

I'm so sorry MR2. I'll never, ever do this to you again.

(Now I'm dried off, and the car is basking in the sun, drying off as well. See you at pavillions car show!)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Andrew drives a modern rental car, and concludes we're all going to Hell.

For the first time in years, I spent a day in Scottsdale without a car. I couldn't take it. It's horrible. How do you people do this.

Anyhow, due to needing a new (BRASS, not PLASTIC) radiator, my MR2 has been out of commission. 

So since it's (probably crying) in CarLife Autocare’s mechanic bay, they gave me a paid-for leathery rental. Not just a little economy bucket, no they hooked it up. I could write a glowing review about CarLife, but that's a story for another day.

A young mechanic oil-change kid named Alex picked me up from home and drove me to an Enterprise car rental center. "It's all paid for, unless you want insurance. Take it easy, buddy!" and he left.

Paperwork signed, I'm given a quick tour of my rental car by an Enterprise salesman guy.

Now the car they're lending me is nothing special by today’s super luxury standards. It’s an upper middle class fully optioned Chevrolet Captiva SUV. Brand new. Black on black, with chrome and aluminum accents. It's a car I'd glance over and forget as I'm thumbing for Porsches in this month's Car & Driver.

As I sit in the Captiva's driver seat, the Enterprise employee rambles about something. Then he waves and shuts the driver door with a quiet fump.
And the outside world is instantly muted. Turned off.  Completely gone and separate from me now

I take a look around this freshly stitched interior. So this is what GMs engineers have been up to.

I’m cocooned in fifty airbags, glossy faux aluminum and wood grain accents. There’s like 10 air conditioners and screens all over and I don’t know what it all means. The car is just on all of a sudden, like it knows I’m there. One of the screens flash words and welcoming animations. Asking me what I want in life. It can provide it. Anything you want, driver.

I just want to, uh, drive home. Can you do that, Captiva?

The driver seat alone has more options than my entire MR2. I want to adjust it a bit, so I reach down for a grab handle to find nothing. Instead there’s a handful of smooth buttons on the side. I press a couple of them and make the seat position worse, then give up.

This thing has so many gadgets, I don't even know what Bluetooth is but there’s like 6 kinds of it in here. I never knew I needed air conditioned seats, or responsive interior and exterior lighting, satellite location, onboard HD diagnostics, and warning beeping things and cameras until now.

Every surface has little bits of safety-laden convenience hoping to coddle me in every thinkable way.

I don't understand all this fancy technology and computers and it makes me angry.

So I decide to try and drive it while ignoring the flatscreen thing in the center console. It was offering me food and music and news updates and where the nearest whatever I need is... but I'm scared of all these buttons, so I just leave it.

Cruising along, blasted with ice cold air from the swoopy dash, I can’t feel or hear a thing from the road. It all seems so far away from me. I’m not driving a car as much as just watching a movie through the windshield.

Floating in the vast chasm of headroom above me is an open glass moonroof of the future. It’s letting bright Phoenix sunlight spill all over the chrome automatic shifter, blinding me as a result. 

Squinting my eyes on the movie road ahead, I reach up and grab for a sliding shade to close it.
But there’s no such thing, really. Instead there are a dozen buttons to control the fore and aft degree and angle and temperate and mood lighting of the moonroof. Can’t I just close this stupid thing? 
I hit all the buttons a few times until something makes it close. Ah, good.

The ride is so smoothly muffled and massaged, I can’t tell if I’ve run over a deer or a road reflector. There’s zero feeling. No connection between me and the outside. Not that there needs to be. I wonder if I’m even needed in this car actually. I’m sure it could drive itself fine with or without me.

In my MR2, there are no driver aids. It’s just you and the wheel and this eager little engine and that’s it. You make it all happen. If you screw up even the slightest bit, it’s your fault. Sorry. Learn to drive better or get out, chump.

But in this new Captiva, in this new car, you could have a baboon dowsed in itching powder as the driver, and everything would be just fine. The computers would handle everything. No tires would screech, no fuel would be wasted, nobody would get hurt. Everything’s gonna be just fine. We’ll even get McDonald’s on the way.

I was chuckling to myself about this, when it hit me.

This is what cars are like now. This is what people want.
I’m the weirdo, here. Not them.

I look around at the Scottsdale traffic whizzing by. Many of the cars are far nicer than this Captiva. I steal a glimpse from each driver as they pass. Every driver in their own suede-covered protective tech bubble vacation. They don’t care about anything outside of themselves. Their car makes sure of it.

The modern car can answer their every want and need, with silent obedience. The car makes them feel important, exclusive, and special. No rude boss, no screaming kids, debt, disrespect, stress or noise to worry about.

This is the future. Highways filled with millions of tiny escapes.

…I really miss my MR2. I miss my notchy 5 speed, and two working speakers. I miss my little early 90s Toyota world. Where things made sense.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Policeman at Scottsdale Pavillions Car Show

I’m peacefully admiring a 1968 Jaguar XKE. For some reason, no one else is. Do they not realize what this car is?

No matter. I’ve been wanting some alone time with a quality classic like this. And this one is all business- just beautiful.

My face is inches away from the front left wheel (checking the spokes for specks of dirt and finding none) when I hear a voice behind me.

“What a car! It looks great!”

I straighten up, and face the voice. It’s a policeman.

Now a few years ago I would have instantly turned a sweaty, nervous pale color. But not anymore.

“Oh it certainly is,” I smile. I quickly think of reasons he could have picked me out to approach in particular.  I must feel him out, play this right.

“Well what, uh. What is it?” he asks, rubbing his chin, eyeing the car.

“It’s a ’68 E-type, Jaguar. You’ll see examples like this every year at the Barrett Jackson auctions going for new-house type money. My dad had a white one when I was a baby.”

He nods at the Jaguar. We both do for a moment. He appears to think I’m this car’s owner, letting his guard down completely.

Do I really come off as that… mature?

“Wow well it sure is pretty. My wife, she knows all about cars and stuff. It’s her thing. I bet she’d be all freaked out over this one. I don’t know cars very well. But you know I figure I’ll get a muscle car or somethin’ pretty soon. Retirement’s gonna happen soon.”

"Well a good number of these are for sale?" I gesture to the lot of '60s Camaros and Mustangs.

He grins some good teeth. Certainly doesn’t look retirement age. I’d say upper 30s to early 40s. Short cropped sandy hair. His skin is nicely reddened by a long day under the sun. His gear makes him look bulky, but underneath, I know he’s my height and weight. Normally cops act large and in charge, but not this one.

From his relaxed, friendly demeanor, he seems much happier just blending in like anyone else.

“So what brings you here?” I ask.

“Well they called in and said they needed me at the McDonald’s. And I was like, heck yeah.” He taps the little radio on his shoulder. It chirps garbled words and numbers which he pays no mind.

“I was workin' the baseball game this mornin'. They pay good for that one too. I mean it’s been a long day, but workin' the McDonald’s is my favorite gig man.”

He tells me about the owner of this particular McDonald’s. The one that hosts this weekly car show, arguably the most popular and longest-running car show in Arizona. He knows the owner very well, and has for years. 

Mr. Policeman tells me his name, which is John. Officer John's handshake is just like mine in grip, though his fingers are shorter and thicker.

We’re discussing which restaurant chain he should start getting into after retiring from police work, when his pants ring.

He takes out a smartphone from his pocket, slides his thumb across it, “Oh it’s the wife, hang on. Hey honey. Yeah I’m here…. What? Oh I don’t know what that is… sure, sure, I’ll come look at it. Just gimme a sec. Okay. Love you too. Yes. Okay.”

He thumbs the phone off and puts it back in his pocket, a little embarrassed.

“She’s here. Says there’s some Buick here and she’s all excited.”

“It’s probably the GNX,” I offer. He doesn’t know what a GNX is, he smiles and shrugs bashfully.

I notice eager onlookers now. From a distance, they think I’m in trouble with this cop. Like something's about to go down.

I imagine getting into the E-type, yelling something about you’ll never catch me copper and skidding away.

“So how long you been working this gig, John?” I ask.

“Years, man. They pay forty bucks an hour for this. Sometimes fifty. So I get to look at some cars, the wife’s happy, and then I get to catch a few kids bein’ crazy later on. It’s the best!”

“Crazy kids, hmm?” I say, thumbing to a burnout in the distance.

“Yeah, that kinda crap. I mean come on dude, we got a great thing here. Why ya gotta do stuff like that,” his brow furrows for a moment.

Even with his gun, and his furrowed brow, he still looks miles from intimidating.

“Little while back there were at least a dozen of us workin' this, I’d guess. This week is pretty mellow though,” he says, nodding at the scene around us as he spoke.

He tells me about the ‘riff raff’ that show up later on. And how it doesn’t completely stop until after midnight sometimes.

"It's like every week there's a new batch of morons. Excuse my French," he shakes his head, hands on hips like a disappointed mother.

"You wouldn't believe sometimes, though. You get these kids with daddy's money out here. They don't care about anything, they never earned a cent of it.”

"So they don't care about crashing it, either," I respond. John nods.

"In Phoenix, you know it's just like little old Civics and Altimas with silly wings. But at least they bought it with their own money. They're less likely to do something crazy, because they're worried about hurting their car. These kids out here though, are spoiled. I mean you get a 16 year old kid with a brand new 500hp mustang and it's big trouble."

“You need to get in their head, John. Don’t just ticket them. They won’t learn."

"Whadya mean?"

"You gotta tell them they’re an embarrassment to the scene when they act like that. And that real car guys find their public-road burnouts and crap irritating. Like, prove it at the track, son.

He laughs. “Good idea, think I’ll try that!"

After a bit more chit chat about ‘kids these days’ John’s pants ring again.

“Well Andrew. I should probably get goin'. The wife, you know how they get and stuff.”

I smile and shake his little hand again. Then we part ways.

I hear a slight groan of disappointment around us. No, I’m not a criminal, people.
 If anything, I look like an undercover, just chumming with a coworker. I felt kinda cool about that.

An hour later, I’m moving through the crowd towards my car to leave.
“Hey it’s Andrew again!” Officer John beams. Like I’m the only friend he’s got here.

I smile and wave to him, to some surrounding confusion, get in my car and drive off.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Feel Sorry for the Porsche Owner

It’s them.
The two Porsche Cayman guys. They roll in together. The younger one looks like the rockstar type, in his 30s. Nick. Tattoos up to his neck, but well dressed. The other a forgettable middle aged white guy named Dave.

TechArt Porsche Cayman

The rockstar’s  Cayman is like something from a videogame. It’s glossy black, with a custom TechArt widebody, housing deep dish wheels that seem to devour the road. The other guy, Dave, his is a base model Cayman. Looking like an eager little brother by comparison.

They drive in, park in the middle of the show, get out and talk only to themselves. They’re not even interested in the other cars. They never leave their spot, standing in front of their two prized Porsche Caymans.

I’ve already made my rounds, talking to the regulars, inquiring about their current projects and plans, hearing their stories, shaking hands and moving on.

The Scottsdale Pavillions car show is in its prime right now, throbbing at its finest hour.  The air is cool, but not cold. The cars are packed tightly together as far as the eye can see, with the crowd moving through like waves. There’s some good cars, some rare ones, some beat up ones, some with hidden potential, and some I feel sorry for.

Every 20 minutes police blips can be heard in the distance then cheers from the crowd as showoffs get ticketed just down the road.

“So how’s she been, Dave?” I thumb to his plain Cayman.

He scoffs, like he tasted something bitter. “Still guzzling oil.”

The 2 year old Porsche glistens innocently.

“Hasn’t blown up yet?” I ask, with a smile.

“Ha! Don’t jinx me. These engines are absolute crap.”

The three of us chat about upgrades and parts to make these Caymans fly. Rockstar Nick is in all his glory, while Dave worships every word like a hungry pupil.

“Evolution has made a kit for this that makes 600 wheel horsepower on 5 pounds of boost. 91 pump gas too,” he says.

Dave nods in agreement (with everything Nick says). I scratch my chin at his fiction.

While we chat, passersby glance at the Caymans but don’t seem interested or impressed.

A finger taps my shoulder. I stop my conversation and turn around.

“Yo dawg. You seen a 911?”

I point to one down the aisle.

“Tanks.” And he walks off with his girlfriend, who looks uncomfortable.

Nick and Dave are visibly displeased, with hands on hips.

“Tanks.” Dave grumbles.

“I know. It’s okay guys,” I offer.

“Fuckin whatever. He thinks I can’t afford a 911? What, that I wouldn’t have bought one if I could have?” Nick’s feelings are clearly hurt now.

“It’s okay, man. It’s okay. That guy, forget him. He doesn’t know any better,” I whisper, trying to calm him.

“He doesn’t get it! My car is midengine okay? MIDENGINE. It’s way fuckin better. Stupid 911 is nothing compared to my Cayman!” Nick’s hands are flying all over.

Dave looks at the ground.

“Awright Nick. Dude it’s cool. Porsche blatantly detuned the Cayman so it wouldn’t be faster than their flagship 911. People know that.  The Cayman, with a few tweaks, is a monster that deserves respect,” I sooth.

“That’s—that’s right!”  Nick’s face is intense, his entire body then proclaims “I’ll get that turbo kit and then they’ll see! They’ll all see!”

Dave’s eyes trade between his regular Cayman, and Nick’s glossy super Cayman. Both of these cars are ultra cool in the real world.

 But it’s all relative. Neither of these men have quenchable thirst. Even with a $100,000 car, it’s the same rat race. An endless pursuit of validation and unquestionable admiration.

Nick and Dave only see what’s faster than them. In this car show, it’s easy to feel like your car- your pride and joy- isn’t good enough.

Nick and Dave are enslaved by that. They don’t remember the hundreds of approving glances, photos and compliments… they only remember the occasional “oh but it’s not a 911.” That little jab at their ego, that tiny moment of being brushed off.

It drives them crazy, festering in their mind. When there’s a little ding on an otherwise perfect paint job, that one ding is all they see.

I notice another MR2 roll through, my heart swells.

“My club is really gaining steam,” I say.


“Yeah an MR2 club,” I smile.

“What year?” Nick leans in.

“Mine’s a 93.”

Nick’s face opens up into a big smile. His eyes shine bright. “I used to have one of those! Holy shit that was such a fun car. Little two liter turbo in it was like a secret weapon!”

His super Cayman dims in jealousy.

Dave is lost. Not sure what an MR2 is.

“You know, you could sell your Cayman and buy a perfect turbo MR2 for your wife and each of the kids,” I chuckle.

“Oh… oh I don’t have a wife and kids,” Nick says to the Cayman.

“…Yeah… yeah me neither,” Dave says quietly, more to himself than to me.

They're both silent. Suddenly very far away.

The air hangs heavily. Their flashy cars mean nothing now. And not because they’re not fast or cool enough.

Because these men are getting old, and the reality of being alone just hit them. Under their thin veil of flashy sportscar prowess lies a quiet desire for love. That’s all it is. Someone love me, please.

"Hey you guys wanna grab some food?" I'm desperate to change the mood.

"Oh I... I think you know it's getting late so," Dave says to his feet.

"Yeah I should, I should probably... get home..." Nick fades.

What have I done.

Nick and Dave slump into their super Porsches, people gather around to watch them, but the drivers are miles away in their minds. Their titanium exhausts rumble loud enough to drown out their sniffling. Sad and alone in their leather bucket seats, shielded by their exclusive limo tint facade, they disappear.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Saved by a Witch, then Paying it Forward, in the Same Night.

I’ve had exercise induced asthma since I was little. Fat kid disease, I call it. Sometimes after heavy exertion, I’d have to use a rescue inhaler.

Well I’ve gotten older. Haven’t used (or owned) an inhaler in over a dozen years. Since I don’t go play outside anymore, I don’t have asthma attacks.

Then I got sick. Respiratory infection of some kind, combined with seasonal allergies, the cold dry air, and quitting cigarettes at the same time. My lungs were in bad shape.

I wasn’t doing anything strenuous, just reading, when my chest suddenly tightened up.
I try to breathe in, to just explode into coughing.
Even shallow breaths are blocked out.

My eyes are puffy and red, crying from strain. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Like drowning above water, it took all my effort not to panic. A wheezing, labored mucus flooding my lungs and throat. My body shook, head pounding.

I need an inhaler. Right now.

I don’t have health insurance, no prescription, and I’m running out of time. Even if I did, it’s midnight. Who’s going to help me now? I can’t afford a hospital visit.

Craigslist.  There’s gotta be some crackhead trying to make a quick buck, right?
Please. Please save me, random crackhead.

There’s one! Ad for Ventolin inhaler, factory sealed, $25 bucks.

I text the number, trying to stay conscious between deep wet hacks. The person replies swiftly, and in complete sentences. It’s 12:13am on a Sunday night, but this seller has no trouble telling me their home address.

“I’m on my way, be there in 30 minutes, thank you so much!” I wrote.

I compose myself, grab my wallet, and leave the apartment.

The drive was difficult. My nose was congested solid, and my throat swollen nearly shut. Thankfully, no other cars are on the road. No one to see my swaying in and out of lanes, coughing and wheezing, panicked bulging eyes unable to focus.

I pull up to the house, it’s as described with a Kwik Tow truck out front.

I can’t text anymore, my eyes are too watery to read. Hopefully the person has heard my car arrive.
I push open the door, summon strength, and stumble out of the car.

My head fuzzes in and out, I’m leaning against the MR2, too weak to move.

“Here, take it deary.”

I look up, there’s a figure in the dark, holding out a little white package.

I try to thank the person, but I can’t talk, just hacking and wheezing instead.

I fall to one knee, overcome with coughing, panic has set in. My fingers are numb, heart burning. I can’t breathe, this is it. I’m gonna die here. Right in front of some lady. No one other than her knows where I am.

I hear a tearing sound. She’s opened the inhaler’s packaging.
A hand grabs my hair, pulls my head back.

“Take it, come on. Breathe, just breathe.”

The inhaler’s in my mouth, I hear it click and Albuterol puffs into my throat.

Within seconds I’m 90% better. Now upright, trying to look dignified, I get a better look at her.

She's wearing a tired blue robe with bunny slippers. She’s hunched a bit, with a long hooked nose and stringy black hair. She looks like the witch from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
She looks just like her.

“There you go, deary. You’re all right. You’re all right.”

“Wow. Thank you. Thank you, ma’am,” I say, embarrassed.

She smiles a real smile.

“Oh, here,” I dig out some crumpled bills, and hand them to her. She takes the cash like it doesn't matter.

“Goodnight then, dear. I’m going back to bed now.”

She shoves her hands into her robe pockets, shivering, and waddles back into her house.

Just like that. Some lady. No fear at all, just genuinely saved a complete stranger in the middle of the night.

It’s nearly 1am now. I’m cruising across Camelback road, stopping at the 20th Street light. I'm the only car in the night. Seemingly alone in an abandoned city.

I'm eager to get home and sleep, when...

“Hey! Hey man uh, uh”

A Hispanic guy, college aged, hollers something at me. I figure he wants a dollar or a cigarette. He's approaching my window as he talks.

“I need uh, help real quick, my car.” He thumbs to the Bank of America behind him. I don’t see a car.

“It’s right behind this building, I locked my keys in it, I promise. I just gotta use your phone, man,” he seems relaxed for being stranded.

He’s about my size, non-threatening demeanor. I have $62 in my wallet, so it wouldn’t be a huge loss if I’m being invited to an ambush.

“All right, man. Let me pull around,” I say out my window.

He doesn’t have a cell phone? Hmm.

I roll the MR2 into the Bank of America parking lot. Indeed there’s a single car, lights on, idling, with the doors closed and windows up.

“I went to use the ATM, and locked myself out, man.”

He rubs the back of his head, his hair a thick pile of dark curls.

I inspect the car, it’s as he described. I can see the keys in the ignition, locked inside. The gas gauge is nearly empty.

“Do you have anyone to call?” I ask him, he shrugs.

“I dunno, maybe a locksmith or something? Do you know a number to one?”

He’s hoping I have a smartphone, where I could just do a search, and this problem would be easily solved. But I don’t. Instead I hand him my bulletproof, internet-less, Walmart flip phone. We try 411 on it, but Verizon won’t allow 411 service.

He looks dejected.

“Well, thanks for tryin’ to help anyway, man.” He motions like I could leave him if I wanted.

“You don’t have any family or friends to call?” I don’t want to give up on him yet.

“Uh, not really. I could call my parents, but I just moved out you know, they’d give me a bunch of crap. ‘See we knew you can’t make it on your own’ and stuff like that,” he’s sad, looking at the ground.

 A cold wind hits us both.

“But seriously, thanks for at least stopping to help me man. I tried three other cars before you, and they were just like get away get away!”

“Dude, you’re wearing a Pokemon shirt. How threatening can you be?”

He chuckles for a bit, then sighs. The situation is still bad for him.

A big Silverado truck rolls into the parking lot to use the ATM. We look at it with hope.

The driver, hidden in shadows, pauses, then decides to leave instead.
 Afraid. Just go to a different ATM. It’s not worth interacting with other humans at 1am.

“See what I mean? Just like that. People don’t help. Too scared to even roll down their window.”

“Well I’m wearing a hood, and you look Mexican. We look like trouble I bet,” I say. He nods.

“All right man. I guess you can go if you want, thanks for keeping me company at least,” he says, staring at his car in defeat.

What if I were him, in the same situation? How terrible, alone in the cold. Feeling like a moron. Take him home, help him out.

“Hey, do you live near here?”

“Yeah I do. But it’s okay, I could… I could just walk or something. Don’t wor--”

“-Well get in then,” I tell him.

I clear off the passenger seat, and he drops into it.

“I’ve never seen one of these before.”

“Well shoot, man. Too bad I’m not a hot chick. This would be the luckiest night of your life,” I reply.

He smiles, “If you were a hot chick, you wouldn’t have stopped to help me.”

He thanks me repeatedly during the drive to his home. He asks to be dropped off at an intersection, I insist on just taking him home. He thanks me ten more times. His name is Oscar, he’s 20 years old and just moved out of his parent’s house.

“You said you just got out of work? It’s pretty late, man. You work at a restaurant or something?”

“Yeah, I just started. I’m a prep guy and a dishwasher.”


“At The Henry,” he says to the windshield.

“Oh wow, my sister Jackie works there!”

“Well don’t tell anyone man, this is like so embarrassing.”

“I can’t promise you that,” I smile.

“This is me right here. You could just drop me at the corner if you don’t mind, man. That would be perfect. I’m so sorry for this. So sorry man.”

I bring us to the spot.

“I wish I could pay you, I cou-”

“--No need. I wouldn’t let you if you tried.”

He’s visibly relieved. Yes, his car is still stranded, idling in an empty parking lot. But he’s safe at home, out of the cold. He can call a locksmith or get help of some kind from here.

Oscar shakes my hand and thanks me a few more times. I tell him good luck at The Henry, that Sam Fox is a good company. He waves to me in the dark, and walks to his home.