Monday, October 31, 2005

The King and I

When I was younger I never liked Elvis.

I thought that you had to live in a trailer park to be a fan.

Then one day the King came to me in a dream.

I run in to him and his bodyguards in the back hallways of a crowded mall. He was escaping the mob that had spotted him and he was fearful that they had just made a confirmed Elvis sighting. He was supposed to be dead. He was fat and he was old. His hair was mostly gray. He spotted me and told his guards to kill me because I recognize him. The guard walks over to me with his .45 leveled at my forehead. I wake up to the sound of my heartbeat in my head.

When I was attending the Non-Commissioned Officers academy I used the name of Elvis as a radio call sign designator. It was funny to hear the traffic over the wire report that Elvis is alive and coming back in and to hold fire.

My hair is naturally very Elvis-like.

The kids at my daughter’s school shout, “Hey look! It’s Elvis!”

I tell them that I am not really Elvis, but that I am Elvis’ helper.

The above photo is me standing in front of Elvis’ cape that belonged to the famed Aloha outfit. The cape and belt was given to Ed Parker who was Elvis’ martial arts instructor. His wife was gracious enough to invite us to the house to tell us a couple of stories about Ed Parker, Bruce Lee and the King himself.

Friday, October 21, 2005


I was minding my own business.
I was just trying to get home.
I even put on some jazz to help me relax. Windows down, windbreaker on I was enjoying the evening and the ride home as I drove down the street toward the onramp.
A primered Toyota pick up pulls up next to me.
He guns his engine several times both passengers are screaming at me.
The light changes, I let him go, then floor it. The Mini easily catches up and passes the truck. We stop at the next light. They are screaming profanities as they hang out of the windows of the truck. It's obvious that they're drunk. The light turns green and I put it into hyperspace.

I never see them again.

Viva Mini

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The iPod Lives

It was really quite simple. The guy from the Geek Squad just held down the menu and center buttons at the same time for a couple of seconds and the iPod came back to life. “A soft reset was all that was needed,” creaked the geek. After some Q & A banter between the two of us determined that the connector in the Mini Cooper may have been the culprit. I was taking the iPod off of the adaptor without turning the stereo off first. Sure enough yesterday I did it again and the same problem happened. My newly acquired skills that I received from the geek did the trick.

So no, it was not all of the real bad music on my iPod that led it to rebel and shut down.
So now Hooked on a Feeling (the ooga chaga version), Kung Fu Fighting, One Tin Soilder andThe Happy Organ will blaze one the Mini iPod and in the Mini Cooper just a loud as ever.

Thank God for geeks.

The Trip in the Mini

Tire Problems?

Dave checks the tires

Right around 100 miles into the trip the flat tire warning indicator light came on, right in the middle of the desert. The Mini being so small does not have room for a spare tire. So all of the Mini's must utilize run-flat tires. I had to call Mini roadside assistance whose only answer was “we can tow you to the closest Mini dealer (which meant either Scottsdale or Burbank, Ca) or limp you way to the closest tire store and get a new tire. I hung up disgruntled. I limped my way into Quartzite where the clerk at the local gas-n-go recommended a tire place that “was up the road a holler.”
We drove in to Quartzite Tire and discovered that they had never seen nor heard of a Mini. “What the hell is that?” asked one of the customers as he was moving a tire that was larger than our car (really). One of the kid’s there really took the time to check the tires out on the car. David Phoenix (yes, that was the kid’s real name) put the car up on a jack, checked every tire, filled up the car and gave us his card and told us to call him to let him know that we made it okay. When I offered to pay he refused. Talk about customer service. People these days just don’t take care of or care about customers like David did. Thanks to him we made it there and back.

Packing for the Trip Home
Everything fit, barely. Jill’s dad gave me a couple of hardback Tom Clancy novels and it put us over the top, literally. There was no more room in the trunk. The reality of it is that every time we go on a trip we end up bring more stuff back with us. Aimee usually rakes it in with souvenirs and gifts from family. When it comes down to it the Mini is a great car for zipping around and probably a great road trip for car for one, maybe two people. But I have come to the conclusion that it is not a road trip family car.

The Ride Back
David’s solution to our challenge was to inflate the tires on the Mini to the maximum tire pressure recommended by the tire manufacturer. Mini however recommends that the pressure remain at 30 PSI as opposed to 50 PSI. We could feel every single bump and crack in the road. It felt like my teeth were going to be rattled out of my head. On Sunday I was dreading the ride home so I rushed off to Pep Boys, got a pressure gage, deflated each of the tires to 35lbs and began the journey home. The difference was instantaneous and a relief to all. Aimee watched The Incredibles and slept on the way home, Jill read and cat napped until we stopped for dinner at the Spaghetti Factory in Phoenix.

Jill’s comment afterward was “honey, enjoy the car cause I am over it.” And with that Jill’s honeymoon with the Mini was over.

Seeking a Sense of Permanence

If there was one recurring theme to this vacation is that there were constant signs of the wanting to have a sense of permanence in my life. From Los Angeles to Disneyland to Orange County I kept seeing things that reminded me that you can never really go home again. Yet other times I saw reminders that some things never change.

While we were there we ran into a guy that was born and raised in Chinatown. He had been there all of his life and had attended many of the same schools that my mother and my uncle had attended in their youth. It was great to watch my mom and him talk about the area back in the ‘30s ‘40s and ‘50s. So much had changed yet so much was the same. It turns out that the Morgan Laundry closed some 20 years ago. It was the place where my grandfather had worked from when he was 17 to when he was 65.

The park was celebrating its 50-year anniversary. The fireworks show at the end of the day was spectacular to say the least. Disney can't do anything without it being first-rate entertainment and this show really encapsulated the park’s history. The fireworks in the sky and on the ground went off as the sounds and narration from each of the many rides from the park was played along with the narration of Julie Andrews and voice of Walt Disney.

We also got to have a special audience with Mickey. I told him that we drive a Mini, he laughed.

It was nice to see several members from both of our families. Jill got to see her sister, nephew and most importantly her dad. I got to see my mom and my cousins. A great trip overall despite having to drive all over the place to see everyone.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Death of the Mini (iPod)

It is with great sadness that I announce that the iPod Mini has unexpectedly died. It happened sometime during the trip to LA. No worries, with receipt and dead Mini in hand I'll be off to the Apple store to get it fixed or replaced. Oh please, oh please say you can't fix it and I have to get a new Nano instead.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Packing in Spite of my Car

Because we want to save gas, have fun driving and show off the car we have decided to take the Mini to California.

This may not be a wise move.

The Mini is a small car.

While I state the obvious you need to realize that the trunk has 5.8 cubic feet of space.

When I go to school only my brief case and rolling book bag fit in the “boot” of the car. If I want to take a lunch I have to keep it in the back seat.

With Jill’s proclamation to take the Mini in the same breath she stated that we were to go on ration as to how much we could pack.

“One duffle bag per person,” she announced.

I knew that packing clothes would be easy. It was all of the fun stuff that I pack on vacation that I was concerned about.

When on vacation I like to write, use my ham radio and in general be prepared for anything that may come along. All of this yet has to fit in my 1/3 of 5.8 cubic space That I am allotted.

Each day’s clothing is accounted for so there is no extra anything.

We leave on a Thursday and return on a Sunday so both of those days are easy because they are drive days and I can be as relaxed as possible for the long drive.

So here is the packing inventory:

Thursday – I’ll wear my running suit comprised of pants, coolmax t-shirt Pear Izumi runners jacket and of course shoes, socks and underwear.

Friday – we’re going to lunch with Jill’s dad and then Chinatown with my mom for dinner. I am going to wear microfiber slacks a short sleeve dress shirt, a pair of oxfords, maybe a leather jacket if I can squeeze it in.

Saturday – We’re going to Disneyland! Shorts, running shoes, polo shirt and a sweat shirt for the evening (Jill wants to stay for the fireworks).

Sunday – Drive home. Again the running suit, it’s nice to not care what I where when I am off work.

All of the extra things that I have are questionable in nature. Part paranoia part real world experience I always prepare for the worst. Thank god that the worst has never happened.

I pack two separate kits for survival, a first aid kit and an actual survival kit. Both are small enough to fit in an Altoid’s tin.

For the last three years I have been a licensed ham radio operator with a basic technicians license. I like ham radio because it is a neat hobby and I again want to be prepared for anything if the big stupid* ever goes down.

As you can see there is a fair amount that goes into the fun/survival kit

Starting at the top going from left to right in a zigzag:
Sunglasses, prescription glasses, hi-gain 2 band antenna, Kenwood 3 band ham radio Transceiver, Apple iPod mini w/earphones, survival kit in tin, Silva compass, Pelican flashlight (same flashlight used my SPECNAV Warfare), mini Maglite with bite plate, First aid kit in waterproof Aloksak bag, repeater directory, Moleskine journal and Fisher space pen.

All of these items fit in the outer pockets of the Eddie Bauer messenger bag.

I know that my bag will fit and I will not exceed my allocated space.

I’ll let you know how the trip goes driving the Mini.

*The Big Stupid being fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or any other calamitous event of apocalyptic size.