The Other End of Sunset

Sunday, February 19, 2006

An Ode to Creepy Guy!

So, I'm on a plane, again, this time headed back to Bay Area from the sunny Southwest. For those of you playing the home game "sunny" does not equal "warm". Yikes! I had to layer. I'm from California. I barely HAVE a coat! Anyway.

I had some funny experiences on this trip. Want to hear?

I did a quick television news interview on Friday. The guy interviewing me was nice, and wore a nice looking tie. Just as the camera started rolling, he asked me a question about my paper towels posting on this blog. Hmm. I thought I was writing for myself – other people are reading it? I'm not sure how that makes me feel. In case you are wondering, he wasn’t very impressed with my choice of topics – apparently paper towels are not a fit purpose for my writing legerdemain. Sorry.

A few hours later I got a voice mail from someone that I haven’t talked to in a very long time, also asking me about my blog. My, my. Suddenly there is some sort of a run on the OtherEndofSunset. Maybe I should option it? Or at least sell T-shirts.

I also had to have some photos taken of me. Getting my picture taken always creeps me out. I am NEVER as aware of bad hair, or odd facial color, or whatever else might hypothetically be wrong with my appearance as I am the minute I see the business end of a camera. Suddenly, on this particular day, at this particular shoot, in this artist loft in a seedy neighborhood, I was unable to shake one key fact about myself. It occupied all of my consciousness for a few minutes. Oh, no – I am having photographs taken of me, and… dare I tell you? … yes, my precious, I shall. I didn’t clip my fingernails. Do you think it will spoil the shot? The (great) photographer said he would retouch the shots. Does that mean he can give me a virtual manicure?

I love this guy’s work – I am in the process of buying a print of his. It’s a self-portrait, of sorts. He rides a Harley. He was out for a ride, and was sick, and a little bored, so he decided to take a picture of his front wheel. From the ground level. While he was moving. I guess he bent WAY over, keeping one hand on the throttle, and shot the photo. It is VERY cool. I can’t wait to hang it in my house.

I rented a motorcycle – yes, we are back there again, but not for long. I rode it home from the rental place. There is a LOT of traffic in the sunny Southwest, and lane splitting appears to be illegal. Or at least ill advised. Or both. There is a road that runs up the East side of the area, called Highway 101. Not the 101 that is in California, but a 101 nonetheless. This 101 is a parking lot, at least it is when you are near Scottsdale. When you can’t lane split, and are stuck in traffic on a bike, it’s not so fun. You can’t imagine how much my clutch hand hurts from being in use forever, constantly.

And I want to give a quick shout out to the lady in the black Ford SUV, on her cell phone. You know, the one who changed lanes near the Comanche exit. Hi, I'm here. Really. That squealing noise you heard? Not feedback on your phone – it was my brakes heating up, leaving a lot of rubber on the ground. Nice straight skid, felt good about my balance. In the moment, I didn’t feel so good about my chances, but sometimes it works out. And it appears to have worked out in this case, yes? The lane chance doesn’t appear to have gotten you any faster down the street, and you nearly killed me. Hope it was useful? Best part? She NEVER looked up. Dude, there was SMOKE coming from my front tire. Wow.

Learned something important from this incident too! Wanna know? When you are on a bike, and something bad happens, suddenly your heart is going one thousand miles per hour, your life has just passed in front of your eyes, and you have that adrenaline taste in your mouth. At that moment, there is one critical thing you must do. Always. Every time.

Stop. Pull off the side of the road, get yourself back together. Just breathe.

Why? Because you can’t ride anymore, you just think you can. But you are wrong.

Guess what? I couldn’t ride anymore either. A few minutes later, I was pulling up to yet another traffic backup, where the cars had all slowed to a stop, and I grabbed the wrong lever. Hmm. The clutch won’t stop you, really, at least not in the short term.

Yikes! Car! And I'm going VERY fast still.

Bail out. Head for median. Hope the guy behind you was watching the brake lights in FRONT of you, and so knows to slow down even though you didn’t help him.

Whew, safe on the median, dodged a bullet there. Then, let’s make another mistake – hit the front brake while swerving. A little late for that, smarty-pants. You needed the brake a few moments ago, now you need to commit to the swerve. Made things even more interesting, there, Douglas, ole buddy!

Pop quiz: What happens when you grab the front brake harder than a Dalmation with a treat while you are swerving? Easy, the front end breaks loose from the road, you start to skid, and you are headed down. I got lucky, I dropped the brake not the bike. I scared a few years off of the life of the pickup truck driver in front of me who suddenly saw me skidding past him on the right side in the median. Morning, dude, sorry to shock you, but it’s probably worse for me!

Then I did stop for a minute to catch my breath…

…before going back to the ride. Riding a little more slowly, feeling a little more calm, and suddenly reminded of just how beautiful Arizona actually is. Even in traffic.

Later on, my friend and I went for a ride, up into the hills above Paradise Valley. I think that’s where we were, anyway, I'm not from here, I was just riding. There’s a big mountain that you can use as a reference point – I think it’s Camelback mountain. But it could be something else. It’s really pretty. We just rode around on these roads that went nowhere, enjoying the cacti, and the desert, and the quiet. I saw a roadrunner. The cartoon one makes better noises. I only saw a couple of other people. I remember why I love the desert SO much. Thanks for taking care of it. Please keep doing so.

// Sidenote, I forgot to lean back from the chair in front of me. The woman in front just leaned the chair back. I almost bought a new laptop. Careful, Douglas, pay attention, now! //

OK, back to my narrative. We decided to get some food, and go dancing. I love to dance, and there was a club that advertised something that sounded interesting to dance to. We found a GREAT restaurant that served a lot of gluten-free options (Havana Café), so I had a great dinner. I even got a flan at the end for dessert! Mmm! (I don’t really like flan, but it was coconut. Hard to get anything wrong that involves coconut, you know?) Dinner was cool – feel free to visit them (~43rd and Camelback). More business for gluten-free-friendly restaurants is good for people like me!

Afterwards, we went dancing. The club was big, had a few different dance areas, and balconies, and all kinds of stuff. The music? Not so great. The ambiance? Well, not so great either, kind of like a bad 70’s disco dream. With video screens. AND a chatty DJ. And go-go dancers… that weren’t in time with the music. Anyway, regardless, it was fun.

We found a place to dance where the music was good enough. It was on a little dais, right under the JumboTron playing music videos that mostly matched the song being played. When I say “little”, I mean teeny-tiny. Like maybe 15 by 25 feet.

But we experienced an odd behavior that I haven’t seen before – let’s call it “creepy guy”. Creepy guy – well, there were several of them, but let’s talk about one at a time – stood around on the dance floor trying to get dancing girls to rub up against them. Some of the girls were dancing alone, some with other female friends, some with men, whatever. Creepy guy would stand right next to girl and … well… enjoy the interaction? One dude was short, bald, fat, with two beer bottles that he kindly held aside in order to try and get closer to some random woman. I'm not sure I'm adequately conveying the image here. Creepy guy isn’t dancing with her, he’s doing something odd. And he just does it, without so much as a word to her.

Like, ask her to dance, really, dude, why do this weird creepy thing? I don’t get it.

As the night went on, I got smarter. I noticed more things. For example, I noticed that the women were, by and large, dancing with their arms out to the side. Elbows first. Mmm. There is a shared meme of how to get rid of creepy guy – bash him “by accident” with your elbow! Wow, and they all know how to do it. Creepy guy must be endemic in this culture. How did the women learn this? Are there, like, classes? Can I audit them? I know I can’t take them for a grade and all, but think about the perspective I could get! Wow.

Anyway, creepy guy wasn’t bothering me, and my friend can totally take care of herself, so don’t expect a Beijing story here. But, I just found it creepy. In a disembodied fashion. Free-floating creepiness, kind of like sweat in a locker room. Somehow you are made dirty by it. Yuck.

The other thing that was weird? Lots of people commented, or noticed, what I was drinking. Or rather, what I was not drinking. I drink water at dance clubs, mostly. I drink water in part because I dance like an Aerobicize instructor on uppers, and so sweat a lot. Hydrate or die, you know. I also can’t drink most kinds of alcohol because it contains gluten. I can drink wine, but it’s hard to look manly on a dance floor, carrying a nice red wine. So, I drink water. Really, it’s not hard for me to have fun, even without killing excess brain cells in the process.

But why, oh why, does anyone else care whether I'm drinking or not?

One woman noticed my second, or maybe third, bottle of water, and said something like “slow down there, cowboy, you will have to drive home.” Umm, cowboy? I think maybe it was supposed to be flirty – or something – but really, try something like “nice shirt” or “nice earrings” or something. It might work better. Well, no it wouldn’t, as I am afraid of people, by and large, but at least it won’t offend me! The bartender told me “you look over 21, you can have a man’s drink now.” Yeah, ok, thanks for the input. My input? Wear less hair gel.

Oops, being mean again. Sorry. A friend just told me that she grew up believing that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Hmm. I think I'd have to be mute. I'm not sure I EVER say anything nice, so I guess I'd be totally silent!

Well, thanks to everyone in the beautiful Southwest for your great hospitality, food, and scenery. I'll try to ride better next time I'm down.

A quick shout out to Orkut – happy birthday, pal, you throw a great party!

I'm going to try to take my Dalmation to work this week, she needs to earn some money for dog treats. It’s important to instill a good work ethic in your pets – they shouldn’t get used to just getting whatever they want, without working for it! I mean, really, they’ll grow up to be trust fund puppies. Who wants that? Drinking too much, running around late at night, barking at the moon, all bad.

I am not going to China this week, going to stay home instead. Nice break for me! I'll try to find something interesting to talk about in my next post even without dance club behaviors.

Thanks for sharing the ride, friends, remember to brake while going straight, and to commit to the swerve when you need to.

And, most importantly, did you check the hamsters?