Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cheating Death Part III

So I've been my usually irreverent, flippant self about this whole motorcycle accident.

I had a cold dose of reality tonight.

I spent Sunday and part of tonight working on getting my Harley back together. Believe it or not, I was able to cludge and futz it back together. I honestly spent a grand total of $3.44 at Lowe's hardware getting bolts and washers. (I will freely admit I may have gotten stainless steel hardware, and written the zinc product numbers on the bag - - but I know I'm still under $10.)

So I got the bike back together and decided to take a run over to my buddy Snake's shop.... to just give the bike a shakedown after the accident. Snake owns SS Customs in Kirtland Ohio and he is a mechanical and designing genius when it comes to choppers and cars. He's also one of the coolest guys in the world - - he'd literally give you the shirt off of his back. Make sure you check out his site. It's over there in my links (SS Customs stands for Sick Shit Customs, by the way). In fact, if you look carefully, you'll find pictures of Dr. Zombie over there from various gatherings and on my bike - - but you've got to look closely.

Anyway, I stop in to see Snake and he had some bad news for me. Seems I'm not the only guy to have wrecked lately. I was just a shit load more lucky.

Snake's business partner, Dennis (who we call Cowboy) and Snake were coming back from dinner one night on their bikes about three weeks ago. Snake and another buddy got stuck at a light and Cowboy went on up State Route 6. While Snake and the other guy waited at the light, a woman crossed the center line and hit Cowboy head on.

Snake rolled up a couple minutes later to find Cowboy's Harley Deuce in pieces and Cowboy in pieces too.

Snake held Cowboy by the side of the road while he screamed and bled, then rode with him on the life flight helicopter to Cuyahoga County Metro Health Emergency.

Cowboy lived, but they had to amputate his left leg at the knee.

That - - for lack of a better word - - fucking sucks.

Dennis is a good guy, and you hate to hear about this kind of stuff. It's especially hard when it's someone you know. Add to that the fact that I had what is in all reality a very minor motorcycle accident - - but it also makes me realize how lucky I was.

I came home after hearing about it and gave Mrs. Zombie a hug and apologized for scaring her so much on Friday and let her know that I really understand how big a bullet I dodged.

And I did ride with a helmet tonight. It seemed only right.

On a positive note, Snake says that Dennis is doing good and should actually be out of the hospital in a couple weeks. He's got a lot of therapy and needs to relearn how to walk with a prosthetic leg... but he's already said he will keep riding.

He also insists he's no longer Cowboy. His new name is going to be Peg-Leg Dennis, or something sufficiently pirate-like.

Here's hoping to a quick recovery, brother Dennis...

Cheating Death Part II

And the documenting of my Motorcycle accident goes on!

Day two of the swollen angry thigh from hell!!!

Fear the bruise! Fear my angry bruise! Muwahahahah!

Don't mind the gratuitous shot of my Spiderman underwear...

Cheating Death

So - I figured I'd post this here because I know a lot of my friends get information about me through my site.

So - I was rushing home yesterday night (Friday 6/20) because it was mine and Mrs. Zombie's 10 year anniversary. We were having our families over for a small cookout and I wanted to get there so I could help out.

So - - I'm coming up State Route 84 on my Harley...doing about 25 or 30. I was accelerating up to 35 and - truthfully - I was winding up to it pretty quick.

That's when the guy in front of me - with out of state plates - slams on his brakes.

That's right, folks...

I wrecked my Harley.

I locked up my brakes and tried to swing out around him, but there wasn't enough room. I slammed into the back of this guy's 1984 Chevy. Since he managed to jam his brakes enough to stop and then proceed to go forward again - - I think it lessened my impact some. I flipped up and over my handlebars.

What's amazing is that I actually managed to not bash my skull on anything. Looking back - I know what saved me - years of aikido training. I went over the handlebars and all of my martial arts training, muscle memory, whatever.. kicked in. I tucked and rolled on the road and popped back up to a kneeling position. Just in time to see the Harley slam to the ground and skid to a stop a few feet away, the throttle winding up with a horrid roar.

I got up and limped over to the bike just as the guy who stopped in front of me got out of his car with a terrified look on his face.

Shaking from the adrenaline and excitement, I looked at him and said, "Are you okay?" Like he wasn't all safe and comfy in his heavy, Detroit made box, like he was somehow going to get injured by my flipping over the handle bars of my bike.

The guy behind me also got out. They helped me get my Harley up, popped into neutral, and rolled to the side of the road. After assuring all around that I was, in fact, fine, I pushed my bike down a block and parked it.

Then I had to call Mrs. Zombie.

The horror of almost dying, the horror of watching my beloved Harley skid across the ground, the shaking sick-to-my-stomach-because-I'm-coming-down-from-an-adrenaline-dump feeling... all of this paled in comparison to the shameful terror I felt in having to call the wife; with our family at the house.

So, she came to where I was... crying. She then followed me home as I limped the Harley to the house.

To make it even more awesome - my whole family's waiting on the porch when I get home.

It was not fun.

So - - you may be asking, "What's the damage, Dr. Z?"

Let me give you the run down...

In going airborne and launching myself over the front end of the bike, I managed to crack the clamp holding my ape hangers and my apes are now hanging uselessly around the gas tank. I snapped off my right side forward control footpeg, and my throttle's all fucked up (I suspect part of the problem is that there's all kinds of stress on the throtttle cable because my handlebars are ass backwards.)

Unbelievably, I didn't scratch the paint, or ding any of the tins, even though I watched the bike skid across the concrete. I did manage to snap off the end of my brake lever and scratch the chrome on my mirror on the same side. I also but a pretty deep, but small scratch in the chrome of one of my exhaust shields.

I faired about as well as the bike. Even though I didn't have anything broken off of me, my one kneee is kind of sore from the impact. My left thigh, though, that's a thing of fucking beauty. I think I hit it on the apes when I went over, which is what cracked the clamp. The inside of my thigh is sore and has begun to turn the most brilliant purple color. And when i say the inside of my thigh - I mean the ENTIRE INSIDE OF MY THIGH. From my knee to just shy of my groin, from the front all the way to the back, it's turning some really cool violet shades.

And boy does it hurt. So does my whole body for that matter. It's the following day now and I ache all over, as one would think after having had a motorcycle accident. Tylenol is my friend...

So, that's it. I somehow managed to not kill myself, and not do too much damage to my beloved Harley. Either way, it was still a good anniversary - even though Mrs. Zombie is frequently looking at me and shaking her head and saying with derision, "You're a moron!"

Pictures of the damage...

Here's my leg. The camera cannot capture how purple and angry the bruise looks...

Here's my gimped Ape Hangers

...and my broken brake lever

...And my broken forward control.

I'll try and get more pictures of the bruise as it grows because it's cool and chicks dig scars!!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Specialization is for Insects.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

So I was searching for some epigraph quotes for my new novel. I’ve decided on a Cure song - which is something I’ve done in all of my novels. The Cure is my favorite band, besides the Police; but The Cure is especially conducive to my creative process. I always listen to The Cure when I’m writing… it’s part of my whole process and I feel it necessary to pay tribute to Robert Smith whenever I can.

But I digress…

My protagonist, Sully, is an expert outdoorsman with a degree in English Literature and he tends to throw out a quote here and there during the course of the novel as appropriate. At one point, when commenting on the nature of man, he quotes someone who I consider to be one of the greatest minds humanity has ever produced.

I’m talking about Robert A. Heinlein.

Someday – when our society is sufficiently evolved and the narrow-minded, stupid, sexually repressed bigots have been either bred out of our genes or unceremoniously taken behind the house and summarily executed… the world will recognize Heinlein for his prophetic genius.

No other modern writer has so brilliantly or so sensibly explained the human condition ever. Which leads me to today’s post… it’s a series of some of the best of Heinlein’s quotes and quotes that lead me down the path I’ve taken with my life.

This is a tribute to the man’s singular genius…

Everything I’ve Ever Needed to Know, I’ve Learned from Robert A. Heinlein

On Writing…

"There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. The only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick."

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."

"A "critic" is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased — he hates all creative people equally."

"A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits."

"If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait."

Dealing with others…

"You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity."

"An armed society is a polite society."

"The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."

"TANSTAAFL. (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch)"

Approach to life…

"Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks."

"Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect."

"If tempted by something that feels "altruistic," examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!"

"It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier."

"Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage."

"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."

"Place your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark."

"There is no such thing as "social gambling." Either you are there to cut the other bloke's heart out and eat it — or you're a sucker. If you don't like this choice — don't gamble."

"When the need arises — and it does — you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don't farm it out — that doesn't make it nicer, it makes it worse."

"Geniuses and supergeniuses always make their own rules on sex as on everything else; they do not accept the monkey customs of their lessers."

"There is nothing wrong with being scared... as long as you don't let it affect you until the danger is over. Being hysterical is okay, too... afterwards and in private. Tears are not unmanly... in the bathroom with the door locked. The difference between a coward and a brave man is mostly a matter of timing."

Dealing with the fairer sex…
"If the universe has any purpose more important than topping a woman you love and making a baby with her hearty help, I've never heard of it."

"Men are more sentimental than women. It blurs their thinking."

"Rub her feet."

"What a wonderful world it is that has girls in it!"

Sex and Morality…

"Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires."

"Of all the strange "crimes" that human beings have legislated out of nothing, "blasphemy"is the most amazing — with "obscenity" and "indecent exposure" fighting it out for second and third place."

"Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other "sins" are invented nonsense."


"History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it."

"One man's theology is another man's belly laugh."

"A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion - any religion - is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both."

Science, Logic, and Reason…

"Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house."

"Delusions are often functional. A mother's opinions about her children's beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth."

"If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion. It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another — but which one? Differences are crucial."

Dealing with the stupid…

"Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity."

On Freedom and Governments…

"A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill."

"Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something.Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let's play that over again, too. Who decides?"

"Does history record any case in which the majority was right?"

"When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere."

Do you Grokk, water friend?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Adventures in Northeastern Ohio

I'm often amazed by the diversity of Northeastern Ohio. The diversity... and the wierdness.

Take for instance the area to the immediate east of where I live here in Willoughby. Several thousand years ago, the glaciers that covered much of North America stopped roughly a half mile to several miles (depending on where you are) from the shore of Lake Erie. Besides gouging out the massive crater that would eventually fill with water and become the shallowest of the Great Lakes, it left a unique geographic feature on the face of the greater Cleveland area. Where the glaciers stopped, the land swells upward to a higher plain.

This hill transverses Cleveland and the eastern part of the state and is uniformly gouged by the weight of the massive sheets of glacial ice.

This story, however, is not about that. In a round about way, it is though. But I just thought I'd throw in a little geography because I'm a dork.

Anyway, rising onto the higher plain, if you travel eastward, the land rolls with gentle hills and farmland until you reach the Alleghany Mountains some 100 - 150 miles away.

This story is about the farmland east of Cleveland.... and the oddities of humanity that live there.

Anyway... I grew up on the east side of Cleveland and this part of Ohio has a long, storied history of settlement. In fact, Cleveland, and the area to the east of Cleveland where actually not part of Ohio. We were actually, back in the 1700's, part of Connecticut. Yes. Cleveland, and the entire Northeastern part of Ohio where once the Connecticut Western Reserve. That being said, we've seen many a pilgrim and traveler come here in the last 300 or more years.

Besides the Adena, Iroquois, Mohawk, Seneca, and Hopewell indians who once lived and killed each other in savage revelvry and glory... we've had all kinds of non-native settlers who came and... well, killed the indians in savage revelry and glory.

Some of the settlers who've came here have included Joseph Smith and the Mormons after they were run out of New York. Kirtland, which is two miles from my house, still has a thriving LDS community and you can see the house where Joseph Smith lived and took his second wife of many future wives. We also have the occasional FLDS sect, and had some sensational murders a few years back... but I've written about that before.

If you go further east than Kirtland, you start to run into Middlefield, Burton, Chardon, Rock Creek, Orwell, and other communities where people have last names like Yoder and Schnieder. I've always taken for granted the occasional Amish horse and buggy at the Chardon Walmart. OR the sight of Amish children playing in the fields of large farms with white barns and windows with only one curtain pulled to the side.

It's not uncommon to see big Ford E3500 12 passenger vans roll up to the local grocery store or construction site. Disgorging their load of plainly dressed women in bonnets, or men with Abraham Lincoln beards, corded arms, and blue wool shirts; the vans (or Amish taxis, as we call them) drops them off to spend tons of money on commercial, modern sundries - - or build houses in even the poshest and most modern of suburban neighborhoods. Apparently a shunning of modern extravagances only goes so far with today's Amish. This is not your typical Harrison Ford in Witness sort of world anymore!

In fact, you may not know it, but all Amish teens reach an age of adulthood where they are allowed to actually not be Amish.The Amish call it Rumspringa and, for a certain time period, young Amish are allowed to live as Yankees and decide whether they want to actually join the Amish church and lifestyle. It's not uncommon to go into a bar around closing time in Geauga County and find some young, hopelessly drunk Amish men and women pounding Budweiser and singing country music karaoke. I actually have a friend who married an Amish women who decided during her Rumspringa that she couldn't go back to the farm. He now lives with her in Cleveland Heights where they host swinger parties.

But - - and I apologize for my long-windedness - - this story is, sadly, not about the Amish either. But, it's amongst this backdrop of quiet, religious anachronism and conservatism that my story does begin. Imagine this bucolic place that is Northeastern Ohio where the early Mormon Church was founded and is home to Quakers and Amish. The more modern denizens of this geographic area are conservative and, quite truly, solely the reason why Ohio is considered a Republican state - - despite the strongly liberal and Democratic strongholds of Ohio, Toledo, Youngstown, and Columbus.

It is with this understanding of a place where one could just as easily find an Amish buggy hitched up at the Sparkle grocery store next to a Big Ford with gunracks and a 'Redneck' sticker on the windshield and a NRA placard on the rear; that I find it necessary to talk about a gas station that can be found in the vicinity of State route 534 and State Route 422.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the convenience store/gas station there to pay for some gas and pick up a Vanilla coke and some Beef Jerky. I was on the way back from my parent's trailer at their campground (another oddity of living in Cleveland - most people here have a separate trailer out east somewhere to spend their summer weekends at). Anyway, I walk into this really nice gas station in the middle of nowhere... and walked straight into one of the most surreal experiences in my life.

The place was packed, being the only major source of food and other various sundries for miles around.

As I said, it had a convenience store, a gas station, an attached video store, and a service garage. As I also said, it was really nice considering its relatively remote location. So imagine my surprise when I enter the store and see that every shelf, every cooler, every counter, and even the ATM has a small riser in front of it.

This convenience store/video store/gas station/garage, in the middle of Amish country, in the heart of rural Ohio, is run entirely by a family of midgets.

That's right. I said midgets.

It was like I'd suddenly stepped out of Northeastern Ohio and found myself in some forgotten corner of the Shire. Behind the counter, a hobbit was counting change for some redneck in a Harley Davidson t-shirt and cutoff jeans. There was a pretty looking halfling who was using a long claw like apparatus to stock the shelves with PopTarts and Heinz Ketchup.

I glanced with confusion through a door into the garage to see Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee struggling to remove a transimission from a car sitting atop the world's smallest garage lift. Several midget children ran past my legs, gamboling and laughing as they ran into the video store.

I gasped and fought the stange anomie that insisted I had somehow gone afoul of my normal life and had stumbled into some elfen kingdom where the Hostess Twinkees were buy one, get one free.

I don't know why the idea of midgets carving a life for themselves out of the farming community I found myself in so disturbing; I only know that I paid The Mayor of Munchkinland for my gas and totally forgot to get my Vanilla Coke and Beef Jerky. I staggered back to my Jeep, shaken and disturbed for some unknown reason.

I drove away, fleeing like Gulliver from Lilliput.