Thursday, November 19, 2009

sKuNk YoU!

Skunk. Isn’t that the cute, little, furry little animal that could easily disguise itself as a beguiling cat with some black paint? Oh sure, they smell, but pretty harmless right? I am at the forefront of inducting “skunk” into our all too limited lexicon of swear words. “Skunk” should be, if not better than, then certainly on par with shit, crap or damn". "Fuck" might be a stretch but I think it could get there. And you know how? Just give anyone a real, honest-to-goodness run in with a skunk and they will whole-heartedly agree. Have I had a real, honest-to-goodness run-in? Why of courrrse yes. Yes I have. And I’m barely breathing, still stifling the urge to empty the contents of my stomach upwards to prove it. And on day 2, I’m just realizing I probably shouldn’t be in a public place.

Day 1:
I’ve had a nice relaxing day at home, full of nice hippy activities: I washed my mason jars with Dr. Bronners’ soap, moved my dried fruits and grains into said jars and marveled at their jarred beauty. Rode my bike to and from the Old Town L.A. farmers market to pick up some crafty items and some frutas and veggies. Then just chillin’ at home in front of the computer (thinking about how I should be writing instead of idly browsing). Click, click, type type, scroll, scroll…woah. Sits up. What the…waait. Exclaims: woooah! That is skunky! No response from roommate. Opens the door. Oh wow…it smells like crazy frying garlic and onions so powerful it will melt my eyes instead of tearing them. I think I just insulted her cooking! Back to room. Type, type…woahhh…wait a minute…it’s like burning rubber! No…it’s like chemicals burning my nostrils, my lungs! Runs out of room into kitchen. Roommate standing perplexed: “What is that?! I just opened the fridge and”—no dude…that is skunk. “It smelled like rotten garlic or something but now it’s just weird and awful.” Ya, that’s skunk. I’ve heard up close it has a rubber/everything you hoped never to smell, smell. Your dogs (who just ran past us and into the rooms) just got skunked. Hoooly shit. What now.

Well, I can spare you the details of internet searches (tomato juice or hydrogen peroxide?! Vinegar or baking soda?!), phone calls and my poor roommate corralling the dogs, who have now vomited various times because of the smell. Remember, humans have about 5 million olfactory sensors and dogs win-out in a landslide of 200 million. I don’t even want to think of what that skunk spray must smell like to them. Deadly poison I’d guess, as it is the little skunk’s only line of defense. It really isn’t fair that the poor animal can’t differentiate between its cute appearance and foul, putridly pungent, anal secretion. That’s right, anal secretion. MMmmm…don’t you just want to breathe that in all night long! If snakes have venom, can’t skunks have some equally nefarious sounding term for their spray? How about skanum. I don’t know. Something…cause “skunk” just sounds too innocent. Like an awkward predicament or a funky smell you might get a whiff of at your favorite concert. “Skunk”. Ya it’s kinda stinky, but unless you’ve been up close and personal, you have no idea of the malicious power.  If I myself had been sprayed I think I would have sought out urgent care. Ewwwahaaaahhag. Just the thought makes me recoil with vomit-like neck gestures.

Though I (sort of ) wanted to help my roomie, my innate need to flee the house and any grounds in the vicinity of our house had taken over. That and the fact that the smell kept morphing for the worse. What seemed like an hour, but was more like 15 minutes later, I was scrambling around my room, throwing things in a bag and determined to get out. It takes a lot to make me ill, but I honestly felt ILL. Like, lump in the throat, stomach swirling, I will either pass out or puke if I stay in this gas bomb any longer.  Ok, ok…ummm, I’ll go to a movie! Is anything playing at 10:30pm on a Tuesday? Found one! Great, I’m going. Go! At this point I had also desperately contacted friends to see if I could stay at their house for the night, had heard no response (again…probably only been about 5 minutes, felt like hours) and ran out the door. Thankfully I was caught en route to the theatre and made a u-turn to seek refuge in a skunk-free (no skanum!) home for the night. I was thankful for many reasons, but one of which I didn’t realize at the time.

In the short span that I was in my house when the dogs tracked the smell in, I had acquired quite a bit of it. It appears that smell moves like an infectious disease, glomming onto and securing a home in any marginally porous object, myself included. I couldn’t quite seem to get the smell out of my nose but just figured it was lingering in there. More, accurately, it was lingering everywhere. In my shirt, my shoes, my bra, my hat, my HAIR, and I’m not kidding on this one, my cell phone and water bottle. Literally anything I touched got the smell. I walked into Shannon’s house, aware that I might have a tinge of the smell, but her reaction confirmed the worst. “Ohh ryan…can you um…use the other bathroom?” oh nooo! I smell don’t I?! …dammit…it’s everywhere! “ya…use the other bathroom. the other bathroom, can you go to the other bathroom…ya…sleep in that room over there too.” I was exiled to the separate wing of the house (swiftly I might add) and I don’t blame them! Can you imagine if I had gone to the movie theatre? Well, I suppose people who go to see movies at 11pm on a Tuesday may not mind really. But at Shannon’s I tried to be as cautious as possible. I put all my clothes outside and had left to wear only a sweatshirt (that was left in my car…the car which now also smelled just from driving in it 15 minutes) and a shirt that didn’t seem to absorb the smell (or am I just desensitized! I don’t know!). I couldn’t figure out why my hands still smelled until I whiffed my stainless steal water bottle…are you kidding me?! Put it outside…put it outside.

Needless to say, that night I also hopped in her (guest/exiled wing) shower to fully scrub myself of skanum. As many of you may know I’m kind of opposed to imitation smells, fragrant chemical additives and the like. I mean, I wash my hair with cider vinegar people. But that night I wanted the most perfume-ridden, girly hair product you’d got to give and I was prepared to do a triple wash that would dry my hair to hay consistency if necessary. Lotion? Slather it on! (Especially if it’s label includes three variations of flower and fruit) Fabreeze? Yes please! Disinfectant? More! More!

Day 2: My nose is exhausted from smelling everything to make sure I wasn’t reinfecting myself with the skanum stank (please try to visualize this for humor purposes). Next morning I went out to reassess my clothes, billowing in the cool morning breeze and about half of them still stink. Fantastic. Then as I sat on the couch reading my book I get a whiff of something so foul it must be Tron’s (shannon’s pooch) fart. I move to another spot. Oh lordy…it’s still me. But I bathed! I sniff tested everything! I wash my hands again and go to pick up my book. The book. Oh my god it’s the book. And there perhaps you have a picture of the potent power of the skunk. Needless to say that when I returned to my house later on Day 2, the scent rebelliously lingered among the incense, Oust spray, Fabreeze, and lavender essence. Not too bad. Tolerable at least. I sniffed just about every object in my room and the damage was not as bad as I thought. You can imagine what I thought when even my book and cellphone managed to harbor the smell away from the source and through the night in clean air.  But that’s what’s funny. I think I adjusted. I’m currently sitting at the public library with that familiar lump in my throat. Every time I move, I get a whiff of the skanum again. I’ve come to accept that this skunk will be with me for a few more days. I’m making lots of friends….

rambling thoughts

Everyone wants to be a writer, fuck that, sitting in coffee shops, macbooks flipped open, all staring around, checking out the crowd, making the scene, not really writing anything. Sips the coffee, reads a paper, stares outward, over and above, I’ll have another thank you. Tapping to be seen, glaring at the screen, lazily looking inwards at the machine, that they hope will bring about their dreams. I’m a writer, they say, don’t these people have jobs? I’m not a writer, I try to write things, make vain attempts. Sitting there, sipping on a latte, mouths foaming like their 8- worded order, invested in the scene, staring at the screen, one more internet search, they lurch down from a trendy caffeinated perch and atop the summit of authorship. No longer longing isolates, the place dotted with expensive machines, I’m a starving artist, can’t you see? Can barely afford this drink, I’ll take another please. I’m artistic, I’m deep, I wear hemp and don’t sleep. I want to be alone with these thoughts, not in a crowd of lookalike “writers”, internet browsers. A jack kerouac rebel, letting it stream out, a long scroll of thoughts exclaiming from my brain, my mind too frought, this spellcheck bullshit slowing me down. Paper is organic, a screen so sterile, flashing in my eyes, i squint to analyze. A typewriter perhaps, but how will I lug that to the coffee shop to sit amongst the writing elite? I will be the indiest of them all: my hat, my scarf, in 90 degree heat, my typewriter in hand. I’m organic, it’s organic, I say. Now won’t you scoot over, I’ve got heavy thoughts to convey.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I’ll have one frame, two wheels, and a handlebar please. Let’s feast!

I look at my hands and they’re covered in grease. Scooping out a green goop from a tub that looks innocent enough to lube up any moving part. The green turns to a black grime coated in every crease of my hands through to my fingertips, under my nails and etched into my calluses for the next week. I love it: A sign that I’m physically working, “wrenching”, fixing bikes with my own two hands and a set of tools. What a lovely visual reminder and a rarity these days.

After several recommends and even one visit long ago (when I still felt like an utter newbie to LA) to check out a place called “The Bicycle Kitchen”, I have finally applied to be a “shadow” at the Kitchen and learn the tools of the bicycle repair and creation trade.  This has become my home for mechanical refuge. A kitchen you say? Why yes, of course. The name truly fits. You see the Bicycle Kitchen provides an incredible workspace and learning environment for the bicycle clad and bicycle needy population of Los Angeles; The kitchen looks like any co-op; scattered “ingredients” (i.e. bike parts) form an organized chaos: washers, bolts, bearings, derailleurs, gear shifters, things I don’t know how to pronounce (and much, much more) fill an assortment of drawers. Tubes, rims, and frames hang from the ceiling. Wrenches, wire cutters, screwdrivers, allen wrenches and other various tools wallpaper the walls and racks provide the cooking area.; It’s utilitarian but artistic, a gritty and charming kitchen that awaits to cook up another unique bike creation. And it only makes sense that the official workers are termed “cooks”; I aspire to graduate to cook status one day in the bicicleta concina. We even wear aprons.

People can come in and search around for their needed part, hook their bike into the rack and use the Kitchen’s tools (including the cooks) to their hearts desire. Others’ come in needing serious help. We do not take bikes and fix them. We do, however, teach you how to fix your bike and assist you when you need assistance of course. There is usually a small charge for a part, sometimes it’s free and a $5 per hour charge for using the kitchen.  Some people even come to the kitchen to create a bike from scratch using all donated parts. It’s all about learning how to do it. In this case a price is agreed upon from the beginning, anywhere from $20-$60. Bicycle Kitchen runs entirely on volunteer and donation power so no one will ever be turned away due to lack of funds. We’re always open to bike and part donations. Not to mention plain and simple $$ donations! I have only just started out, feel like I’ve learned so much, exchanged bike stories with cooks and customers alike, met some really awesome people and am truly excited to help bring bicycles, bicycle knowledge, and bicycle culture to the masses. Did I mention the Kitchen sits amongst a cute little community of a vegan restaurant, a gelato parlor (vegan options available!), and a bike shop? Let my people ride bikes (and eat delicious vegan food)! And don’t judge me cause my fingers are a bit greasy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bike the Coast

Last weekend (or a couple late as usual) i took to the coast. cyclin style. some of you may know...many of you don't and may not care even...but i just made a long term investment. this is how i'm rationalizing my unusal big-spender ways. to capitalize on the peak of my bicycling obsession i plunked down enough money on this new bike that could have bought me something with a motor equipped. but alas, the only motor on this thing, is muscle fiber: a pair of legs and a mind hopefully sharp enough to navigate the trafficked streets of Los Angeles. and may those hipster angels pray for me. don't worry, it wasn't an impulse buy....even after about a year of wavering i still feel guilty having spent so much money in one place. i spent many a night gazing upon the flashing screen (much like you are doing now) and into the realm of bike blogs, ebay, craigslist, manufacturers websites, measurements, weights, angles, colors, name it (if i haven't already) and i was reading about it. recently i heard someone say that whatever jumps out at you first is  90% of the time what you will end up going with. whether it's a pair of jeans, food selection at a restaurant, gadgetry always come full circle. i'm learning to trust these first instinctual impulses and so far, i've been amazed at how accurate that first inkling proves. but i suppose it is helpful...and certainly education to go around the circle and see what else is out there...just in case...ya know...there might be something better and as our well-fashioned consumer minds think...cheaper. my old bike is a Trek...Trekky 1. i've had that thing since i was 12 or 13 so that's where i started. i've loved that bike...certainly lasted...let's see what Trek's snazzy road bikes have to offer. after Trek, i wanted to see Cannondale, Marin, Masi, Specialized, Fuji, Surly...on and on and on. so i browsed online, went to a bunch of bike shops, took too many test rides, and ya know what i bought? a Trek. of course. Trekky 2 it is! i think humans have more knowledge buried in their instincts, and initial gut reactions than we give credit.try it. at the very least you'll save a whole lot of time and aren't we all about that in today's society. give me speed and i'll give you an illusion of efficiency. ha.

Where was i going? oh right...actually on the bike! along the coast...highway know...that beautiful coastal drive.'s a beautiful coastal ride! friend recommended i check out the LA Tri club as i was looking for some serious road riding now that i had my serious road bike. found a ride early saturday morning, 8:30am, meet in malibu, Zuma to be exact. woke up and it was still dark. i barely made the ride as i drove a little too far up pch (now entering ventura county? ooops) and then scrambled round my car, bike shorts and snacks flying, before showing up with my sunglasses hanging off my face, helmet on backwards, sandals on my feet shouting "wait....don't leave...i'm new! i want to come along!)...greeeat first impression. by the time i got myself together we were off and got wind that we'd be going for a wee ride...50 miles or so. "50 miles!!" i practically blurted back trying to hide those exclamation points "oh, cool" "But some of us will definitely go longer if you want" "ahh, ohhh, no... 50 should be just fine". Ha!

As we started out, i tried to mentally plan on the best way to pace myself. I mean, i've been communting for 8 months by bike now...but that's only 8 or so miles a day. And if you know that section of PCH..."flat" is not the descriptor. But at the slower pace (i usually sprint everywhere else i go) it was no problem. no problem for my legs anyway. my butt and shoulders were another story. the destination and half-way marker was a strawberry stand. how quaint. now that i could ride for. food. i'm not sure anything motivates me more. as we pushed and pulled (the beauty of clip-ins. trust me, these things lose their scary factor in no gain something like 40% more power with each rotation) along the coast, i couldn't believe how lucky i was to be out (and awake for that matter) in the crisp air, the sun lightly touching our backs, and flying down the coastline. When we made it to the strawberry stand (foood! in my haste i forgot to throw my snacks in my pouch and needed some sustenance) i still felt great. A little slower than the rest but i was surely keeping up. We stuffed down strawberries, peanuts, and watermelon (this one provided compliments of the stand!) and chatted away.

On the way back the ocean was literally glistening in the sun. I had to smile, let the warmth of the day soak in, and meditate by the whir of the spinning wheel. By the last few hills i still had energy to burn and pumped up 'em, caught a woman who was riding way ahead  and turns out she's also an ice hockey player! But by now we were both sharing aches and pains. At this point my butt had turned numb, a painful numb, like, i've had all 125 pounds of me distributed on two angry "sit bones" now shouting for relief and each shoulder clenched like a rebellious fist, knots the size of tennis balls pulling every back muscle towards their knotty nexus.  But hey, my legs felt great!

As the ride came to an end and everyone flew by to hop in their respective vehicles, I knew that i'd be back for more.  Trekky 2 's got a good life, and the rider agrees; we're both on for many miles ahead.