Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Recommended Reading

I am a long-time (40+ years) motorcycle rider, and have been subtly shaped by that activity/hobby/lifestyle over the years, including my reading habits.  I must recommend two riders/authors that I have read, and find their work quite satisfying to my tastes.
The first is Daniel Meyer, author of several notable works.  I have met Daniel on several occasions at motorcycle-related events, and had the privilege of talking with him.  Daniel is a man's man, and a straight-up, totally direct individual.
Daniel has five published works, one fiction and four non-fiction, all wonderfully enjoyable.  His books are available from anywhere you buy books, but I recommend that you purchase directly from him, as that will contribute a few more cents to the author himself.  The website is  lifeisaroad.com , and I recommend his work enthusiastically.

The next is Jack Riepe, the character responsible for the Twisted Roads blog.  I have just finished reading his latest, "Conversations With a Motorcycle".  It is a totally honest part autobiography, part humor work, much of the humor at the expense of Jack himself, as he describes his motorcycle beginnings on a Japanese street bike in blue-collar New Jersey.  Totally honest, totally fun, and a read that many riders and non-riders alike can understand and find their own youth reflected therein.  Highly recommended.  Contact Jack at  jack.riepe@gmail.com , and order up.

Both of these guys are competent, heartfelt writers, and care about their readers, and both offer hand-autographed and personalized copies.  Get 'em.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Culture On The Skids, and why FaceBook is History...

I saw a post the other night promoting an appearance by the music group "Southern Culture On The Skids". 
I like the group, and enjoy their music, but their group name stirred up a thought.  One of my FaceBook friends posted "Why do so many young women these days talk in a "croaky" voice, as if imitating a frog? I know I'm an old fossil, but (to me) frog-voice isn't very compelling. If you wanna hear a sexy voice, check out one of this lady's movies..", followed by a black-and-white peak-of-her-career photo of Lauren Bacall.  I, being also a fossil, remember her movies, and yes, she had the voice.
I commented "And who is telling them that piercings are attractive?", which prompted a comment from a young lady, whom I do not know, "Also, Clifton, my piercing a are cute as FUCK. :-P" (sic).
There was, of course, a profile pic, and no, young woman, you are not, though you may be absent the overstated make-up, and the lip, nose, and eyebrow hardware.  Her reply however, with her vocabulary and poor sentence structure, are indicative of those who think that the piercings ARE attractive.
Our culture, indeed, is on the skids.  I have noticed, as you may have also, that in the recent presidential campaign, Mitt Romney was concentrating his campaign on idealogical grounds, but the Barack Obama campaign was continuously attacking Romney, not as a conservative, nor on idealogical grounds, but portraying him as an evil capitalist. 
The same seems common in many aspects these days - have you noticed how many movie villains these days are portrayed as rich capitalists, or officers of some evil huge corporation?  This is a reflection of our public education system in recent decades, which we have handed off to fools and charlatans.  Those who have money are evil, unless, of course, they are good caring liberals.  In the original James Bond movies, the ones based on the novels of Ian Fleming, the villains were, in some way or other, an aspect of the Soviet Union.  I notice that in the recent productions, the bad guys are some sort of capitalist or corporate entity.  I grow weary.
At any rate, Facebook, which started out as mostly students at what once were institutions of higher learning, have taken the path of cellphones when they began to offer texting and ringtones; it has filtered down to the bottom layer, and is not long for my menu of computer uses.  'Bye guys; it's been real...

Friday, September 14, 2012

A 50-year comparison

An old friend of mine has bought a piece of property, including a couple of storage buildings, one containing a 1963 Ford Falcon 4-door sedan.  It has 1971 plates on it, so it has been sitting that long, and shows just under 33000 miles.  He has no idea why it was parked here, nor does the former owner, who inherited the property from his parents, and does not remember the Falcon.  Tom has done some basic examination of the thing, and considers it fixable with much elbow grease and minimum money, so he is going to take it on as a project next spring.  It is, of course, his now, as before 1974 Alabama had no title law.
This being the 2013 model year, I thought I would generate a comparison to today's vehicular standards.
First, the Falcon.  The original window sticker (what is left of it), was in an envelope in the glove box, and is mostly readable.  It is a local car, purchased from Adamson Ford in Birmingham.  The options listed on the sticker are heater/defroster (optional), AM radio (optional), front lap seat belts (optional), and outside rearview mirrors (optional).  In those days, A/C, power steering, and power brakes were not available on the base model Falcon.  The optional AM radio in Tom's car is tube-type, and still actually works, though poorly, through a single speaker in the top of the dash.  The optional outside mirrors are not remote-controlled, and are adjusted by grabbing them and moving them to where needed.  The floor is rubber mats, and the seats are vinyl - anyone old enough to have lived through a winter or summer with vinyl seats is cringing right now.  The transmission is a 3-on-the-tree manual, the engine a 144 ci inline six with a one-barrel carb.  The dashboard is all metal, and full of sharp pointy knobs and things.  The windows are not tinted, so it is hell in hot weather.  This car required a "tune-up" about every 10,000 miles, with replacement of points, condenser, distributor cap, and rotor, and adjusting of ignition timing and carb.  Aligning the front end was recommended at the same time.  Polishing and waxing were required to keep the paint shiny and protected from the sun.  There was no warranty for rust-through.
The sticker price for this high-maintenance roller was $2228, which is, in today's battered dollarettes, $16774.
So, in these modern times, what will this price buy?
Oddly enough, it will still buy you a small base-model 4-door Ford sedan, The Focus S.  So how does today's little roller compare to the Falcon, 50 years later?
You still get a small engine and manual transmission, but these days, you get carpet, fiber upholstery, tinted glass, heater/defroster and outside mirrors as standard equipment.  Standard equipment, on the Focus S, also includes: A/C, AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers, three-point seat belts, front and side air bags, crush zones, an engine that does not require tune-ups (although replacement of the timing belt is required at 60,000 miles), more power and much better mileage than the Falcon, speed-sensitive power steering, cruise control, stability and traction control, power brakes with 4-wheel ABS on its fade resistant disc brakes, longer-lasting radial tires, front power windows, rust-through warranty, and clear-coat paint that does not require waxing.
I'll stick with today's offering...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finally able to post...

As I get older, and my health slowly deteriorates, I find my outlook changing, and many things that I used to consider inconveniences are now starting to royally piss me off.
 I am typing this in a text editor on my computer, because my internet service (DSL) has folded up, and I no longer have service. It is not a matter of the system here in the house being overtaxed - we have DSL-only service; no TV, no landline phone, no anything else, just internet service. Not now, however. This pisses me off.
I am pissed off by a growing number of young people, who apparently think that piercings are attractive. They are not, kids. One of these was recently angry that he was unable to find a job. Considering the red and green reptile tatooed around his neck, and the nose ring, who besides him was surprised? Another had a 20-hour-a-week job in a taco joint, and was angry that he did not have health coverage. That is how entry-level jobs work, kids. These kids piss me off.
 The Zombie fad pisses me off. If you think that the dead walk among us eating the brains of the living, seek professional help, and stop pissing me off.
If you think that every happening of every day is an evil conspiracy of the government, the Klan, the Masonic order, the Central Bank, the Bilderburgers, or whoever, seek professional help. I have worked for government, been a union member, have long-time friends in banking, organized religion, and the Masonic orders, and I assure you that none of these entities, collectively, are competent enough to pull off a grand secret conspiracy. Stop pissing me off.
 No political party is your kindly daddy, and none of them cares about you in any constructive way. If you elect Democrats, the entire nation is not going to become a communist collective. If you elect Republicans, you are not going to become a poverty-level victim of rampant evil plantation owners. If you elect tea-partiers, probably nothing will happen, because the movement is not organized enough to print up decent leaflets. I have best heard Congress described by Lewis Black as a bowl of manure staring at itself in a mirror. So stop trying to tell me that your particular party is the end-all-be-all of political salvation, because you are wrong, and you are pissing me off.
 And get off my lawn!

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I saw a kinda enlightening thing today at the Publix. I was finished with my shopping, had loaded my goods in the truck cab, stumbled to the rear of the truck, opened the hatch and dropped the tailgate, and sat down to pack up my portable mobility scooter. As I sat down, a car pulled into a handicap space across the aisle, and a young woman got out and trotted into the store. I saw that she had also been observed by a couple coming out of the store, he a double-above-knee amputee in a lightweight manual wheelchair, and she pushing a buggy with groceries. She went to the crew-cab pickup next to me, opened the rear door on the passenger side, and began loading groceries. He went to the SUV driven by the young lady who had parked, crooked in the space, just a few moments before. He was evidently looking for a handicap plate, or placard, or something to indicate handicap access, and did not see any. (neither did I) He rolled over to the woman he was with, spoke to her, and she handed him two soft drinks from the buggy. He rolled back to the SUV, opened the soft drinks, and slung the contents onto the windshield, on the driver's side. In the sun, the sugary soft drink would make an interesting windshield-cleaning exercise when the young woman came back out. He then rolled back to his vehicle, opened the driver's door and the rear door, which was set up as a "suicide door" with the hinges at the rear of the door, threw the empty soft drink bottles into the rear area, grabbed a couple of handles and swung himself into the driver's seat. He then reached out, grabbed the wheelchair, swung it into the rear compartment, closed the rear door with a cord hanging between the door and the facing, closed his own door, the woman with him got in, and they drove away. As they drove away, I saw that the truck had a "Handicapped Veteran" plate, and a banner sticker on the rear window that read "U S Marines". ooo rah!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Just a needed update, after some absence. Things at the estate are proceeding at their own pace, and I seem to be holding on. Sandy is in Illinois visiting the daughter, and I am knocking around here. I have been working on some needed projects here. On the fun front, I found that the website for the biker TV show Sons of Anarchy has a viewer gallery, and one can send in a photo, which they will "anarchise", and place it in the gallery. I could not resist, and sent one of me, taken on a ride with the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club.
So now I am famous and immortal and all that, having been placed in the Gallery. Sandy says that the disturbing thing about it is that it looks "too authentic"; she thinks I could be mistaken for a cast member. [chuckle] More later, I need to get semi-busy around here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring may have actually sprung...

On several fronts: Survivable scootering weather seems to be upon us after, thanks to global warming, an unusual April cold snap. It appears that spring is finally taking hold. ABC 33/40 7-Day weather discussion On the SCA front: Following the untimely passing of our much beloved Royal Majesties, our beloved Royal heirs, Ailgheanan and Amber, have stepped forward to assume the throne, and Their coronation was held the weekend past. Long live King Ailgheanan and Queen Amber! The Kingdom of Meridies Here at Castle Clifton, life goes on. I have acquired blades and drive belt for the lawn muncher, and look forward to their installation, probably tomorrow, so that care and grooming of the Estate can take place. I will also build a base for my tire changer, so that needed motor scooter tire replacement can be done, and I must have a battery for the trike, to replace the present one, which is failing. The long, long list of needed projects around here grows ever longer. We are making preparations for Sandy to leave in a couple of weeks; she is flying north to visit the daughter, and will stay probably 2-3 weeks, and/or until she and Lindsay get tired of each other. Lindsay is about 20 mi north of Chicago, in the town of Crystal Lake, within the Chicago metro Area. This trip will be an eye-opener for Sandy - Birmingham, Alabama is the largest city with which she has experience.(we live in a suburb town adjoining Birmingham) Birmingham is the 68th largest US city, with an in-city population of about 233,000, with a Metro Area population of about 1.2Million, and the total population of the state of Alabama is 4.2M - Chicago has an in-city population 2.8M, and a Metro Area population of 9.3M, so Sandy is traveling to a place where a four-county area has twice the population of our entire state! Lindsay is planning to take her into Chicago, to eat pizza and hot dogs, and see some sights. Sandy was stunned at the idea of taking a commuter train from Crystal Lake into Chicago, and that these trains run about once an hour. One does not drive, of course, since traffic is horrendous, and there is no parking as a general rule, and Lindsay has had to explain to her that they will train into the city, and buy one-day bus passes to move around in town, ideas totally new to Sandy. It will be quite the experience for her. There is something I look forward to, in a way – because of my state of health, Sandy is sometimes more protective of me than she needs to be, and with her not here, maybe I can get a couple of needed projects done with out her hovering over me. We will see. We will have plenty of contact, though – we both have cellphones with nationwide long distance, and cell-to-cell calls between us are unlimited minutes. Sandy is taking her computer, and we will have Skype. It should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her. I was a bachelor until age 26, and am perfectly capable of feeding myself, doing laundry, etc, so I will be fine.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Back from the War!

We are back from the big medieval war in Missisippi! Yes, we have been out o' touch - we were in the only motel in a 30-mile radius of the war site, originally an early Holiday Inn, about as old as I, and very little improved. No internet, unreliable reception of south Mississippi local TV, and no food, but there is hot water, and working A/C.
Attendance at the war was about 4000, off the peak years, but more than the last two. It was a good time - good people, fighting and other activities well planned and executed. It always amazes me how smoothly and well this thing runs with an entirely volunteer staff and workforce. The "winning side" of the war has yet to be determined, as points and bonus values are still being compiled, but it really doesn't matter; it is promoted as "A War With No Enemies". Sandy earned volunteer points for our Shire by putting in more than 20 hours working Troll [registration]. There was attendance from almost 30 states including Wisconsin and California, and from Ontario, Canada. The merchant Renaissance Clothing Arts was there, so I can say that I went there, did that, and got the t-shirt!
Sandy and I are about at the end of our energy reserves, but content.
Local SCA events happen somewhere in the kingdom almost every weekend, but this is the only large war in the southeast. The dogs of war have been kenneled, at least until next year, when the Oracles have determined that the uneasy peace will collapse, and the Kingdoms of Trimaris [the Florida peninsula] and Ansteorra [Texas and Oklahoma] will again go to war, and will march against each other, again meeting in the Kingdom of Glenn Abhann, in their province of Mississippi, and war will again rage. The Crowns of my Kingdom [Meridies] have pledged to monitor the situation closely, and to keep the populace informed, should we again be called to ally with our neighboring Kingdom, to defend their fair lands. More information to come as our scouts and observers collect knowledge.


Monday, February 27, 2012


Someone said to me recently that he thought my scooter was kinda cool, but that he could never ride one, because he still cares what people think of him. Well, I too care what people think of me! I hope people will think that I am independent minded, one who works with the resources I have (my battered and cut off legs), a person with a sense of humor, and someone who doesn't take himself too seriously.
My Honda Silver Wing will cruise the freeways at extra-legal speeds, my creaky old Honda Elite 250 will go anywhere that I want it to go at 55 mph (made many, many out-of-state trips pre-SilverWing), and my funky Sunny reverse trike is not only a handy and economical around-town bike, but also a conversation-starter almost anywhere it goes. My penis is large enough for my purposes, and I feel no need to make myself think it larger by riding a heavy, loud, overpriced motorcycle. I have as much fun on my scoots as anyone I know does on their Harley. I also prefer quiet bikes, so I can more easily hear the traffic around me - those car drivers are generally not used to recognizing and dealing with right-of-way issues with motorcycles, and I need to keep track of what they are doing!
I don't say all this to make people mad, to be unnecessarily disrespectful, or to dismiss anyone who rides and enjoys large bikes, but only to explain my position. I have an odd, but highly-developed sense of honor and respect, and while I automatically give a certain respect to everyone, I find that my respect for others varies, much as the "point value" that I maintain in my wife's eyes - I gain points one at a time, but I can lose them in multiples. In much the same way, one who refers to my Sunny as "chink crap", as someone recently did, loses units of respect in multiples in my mind. I use the word "chink" in its original meaning (a flaw or damaged area) in reference to armor (actual armor, as used in my medieval society, where a weak spot in one's armor can get one hurt), a sidewall flaw in a tire, a roof leak, and many other contexts, but never as a reference to Asians, and one who does loses it with me. Nor do I refer to someone else's vehicle as "crap", even if I think it is.
Drive what you like, ride what you like, eat what you like, weigh what you like - if you have respect for yourself, I don't care, and I will talk to you, and may even find you interesting...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sidewalk Shortage...

There is a subject that has been very much bugging me lately - sidewalks. Sounds like a simple thing, but these days, sidewalks seem an ignored and neglected thing, due to plentiful private cars and a society that no longer walks. I began my stroll on this mortal coil in the East Lake section of Birmingham. This is part of the "core area" of Birmingham, built from 1871 - the early 1940s. When I was a mere kidlet in East Lake, starting from the intersection of 10th Av south and 81st St, one could actually travel through the East Lake, Woodlawn, Wahouma, and Avondale communities, through downtown Birmingham, through the Elyton and West End areas, to Fair Park, a distance of more than 25 miles, on sidewalks.
In the post WWII era, residential suburbs began to sprout up, and formed different communities, and the sidewalk paradigm came to an end.
My address is in Trussville, Alabama. Trussville began as a depression-era government project in the mid-1930s, in a flat valley encompassing part of the Cahaba River. The land was unsuitable for farming, but was suitable for suburban housing. Fired by the vision of project manager W. H. Kestler, the "Cahaba Project" went up, opening in April 1938. Homes were sturdily built, with indoor plumbing, running water, electricity, septic systems, and amenities rare at that time in much of Alabama. The project included 287 residential units, duplexes and single-family homes, all of which still stand today. The government also built a high school and cooperative store, interspersing the area with malls, paved streets and parks. And sidewalks - sidewalks everywhere. After WWII, development went on, but no longer included the sidewalks, as the postwar booming economy was selling everyone cars! Trussville, named after Warren Truss, who settled in the area in 1820 and built a mill on the Cahaba river, incorporated as a city in 1948.
Today, Trussville has "sprawled" into separated residential communities, major shopping areas, and all the goodies that go with being a modern small city. There is no way to get anywhere on foot (in my case, by mobility scooter). From the original housing area, The sidewalks end at Main St. (which is also US Hiway 11) and in the other direction at Trussville-Clay Road. There is a major supermarket across Main St, but no way to get there on foot. There are traffic lights but no marked pedestrian crossings, and getting across on foot would be an extreme adventure, and of course, if one makes it across the street safely, there are no sidewalks on the other side. In the original core neighborhood, there are no businesses, and only an elementary school, in the original high school building. The community center used to be there, but now has been replaced with a much larger, more modern center near the new middle and high schools, and none of these have foot access. What a shame.
My maternal grandmother lived in the city of Fairfield for 60 years, and did not own a car. Fairfield is an old town in the Alabama sense, originally incorporated under the name Corey in 1911. And yes, there were sidewalks everywhere, built as part of the original city planning. My grandmother did her shopping, churchgoing, bill paying, and whatever business by walking sidewalks, from her home on 41st street to downtown, with her hand-truck-looking shopping basket. My mother and her siblings traveled to school, to the park, and wherever else, on sidewalks.
How we have changed...