July 18, 2003

Middle Life

My boss at the computer company found an Alfa-Romeo to buy in Petaluma, about 40 miles north of San Francisco. It wasn't a Spider (2-seater convertible), just a Giulia. Not even a Giulia Super (that with the 2 liter and side draft Weber carbs), but a 160Ti. Still, it was a fine, fine car, which ran better than the GTV he later purchased.

One of the things about buying a second car is that you need a driver to drive the second car back. Now this driver is an accomplice of sorts; Tom had been in a sufficient number of relationships to know that one does not bring a disapproving partner up to pick up a spare car. Plus, I suppose, it is a guy thing.

So we are sitting in Ferrari's cafe near the intersection of 101 and Penngrove Road. As the waitress waits on someone else, Tom leans over the booth table and says to me "Isn't our waitress something? She is hot!" I turn to glance casually at our server, who is admittedly buxom but only OK-cute; mostly she is young -- even for a 23 year old like me. "I suppose she looks all right, but she's like sixteen years old," to which Tom replies, memorably, "The older you get, the harder it is to tell the difference between young and beautiful."

Posted by webs0080 at 6:48 AM

July 14, 2003

Dogs and Motorcycles

So if it's not about dogs or motorcycles I'm not into it.

Part One: Took dog to the vet today. We awoke ca. 3:00am to the overpowering stench of symptoms of a dog's gastro-intestinal distress. She hadn't been too firm this past week, but she always made it through the night. The fun part was getting a stool sample -- it has to be fresh! -- from her. Fortunately, we hoard those little hummus containers from Kowalski's, A few years ago, I could have given you the model number. SL-8? Anyway, they are great for stool -- and urine -- samples. Smelled pretty gall durn revolting until I got that lid snapped on there. Bottom line: she's a healthy 13 year old dog with a case of the runs. Rx: antibiotics.

Part Two: Got the latest MaicoLetter from the UK today. Turns out the Club Secretary is selling off one of his Maicoletta's to make room for a 4 wheeled project. I wouldn't have been interested, but it comes with a spare engine, which I plan to put in Red Wheels, my silver 250. Fixing RW's gearbox trouble is too much trouble. So Sec. Steve and I are working on a way to get the thing plus spare motor to the States.

Posted by webs0080 at 9:07 PM

July 4, 2003

Thanks For The Memories

During the summer of 1989, I rode my Laverda from Italy to Berlin and back, stopping on the way back. Several images come to mind:

1. On the autobahn from W. Germany to Berlin, rows of Trabants would queue up for service at the service stations where Westerners could spend only Western money. Presumably, the mechanic would replace spark plugs and set the points and send them on their way.

2. In East Berlin, I visited the Zeiss Optik shop (my host was a photographer in Wedding and had a friend purchase all his darkroom stuff there). The only other customers at the Zeiss shop were Yanks in uniform, shopping for binoculars -- no doubt to gaze upon the East from Checkpoint Charlie.

2a. In E. Berlin, I met several kids my age for coffee. When I asked them where they lived, they gestured toward blocks of grey concrete highrises, which continued to the horizon.

2b. At the department store, people would leave their old shoes in the stairwell when they bought new ones -- perhaps for their needier countrypersons.

3. Getting a visa to visit Czechoslovakia was impossible to do in the States back then. They wanted to *hold my passport* for *three weeks*, to which I said "f*** that". Instead, I visited the Czech consulate in Berlin -- only a short wait and presto!

4. Riding through E. Germany to Czechoslovakia, I met a gaggle of Danzigers -- perhaps 20 on ten bikes MZ 150 and 250's. The bikes were dangeriously overloaded with luggage, blankets, etc -- fellow Americans can imagine the Beverly Hillbillies truck, but with two wheels. I chatted with the kids about the Laverda -- they were very keen to know how fast it went -- and I asked them where they were headed with all the stuff. They looked nervously at each other and said "Budapest". I thought nothing of it until I got back to Italy and read that Hungary had opened its border with W. Germany and about 10k Germans were emigrating daily. A little slice of history which I shall never forget.

5. En route to Prague, every time I came to a hill of any mentionable size, I would pass a convoy of blue smoke producing, barely moving Trabants, each of which was seriously overloaded with passengers and possessions. On the flat parts of the autobahn, both my SF750 and the Trabants would approach the speed limit, but hills were a formidable obstacle to the Trabants.

6. Prague was amazingly beautiful before the arrival of 45k Americans. And Czechs *liked* motorcycles. Only in Italy did I feel as welcome as a motorcyclist. My lodging was in one of those concrete block highrise complexes which surrounded E. Bloc capitals. A liter bottle of Pilsner was included in the price. Each night, my host would ask me if I wanted to change money. Evidently, buying Western currency (even at many times the official rate) is an excellent way of saving for the future when inflation is high.

6a. As it turns out, on my last day in Prague, I finally spent all the money I had had to acquire upon entry. I also needed to fill the Laverda with gas in order to make it to the Austrian border. On the street, men were constantly calling out "Cambio, change, wechsel", and so I took one up on their offer. Petrol had been expensive in Germany and so I changed 10 marks (about 5 USD at the time). I got a *pile* of notes, half of which I still have! The other half purchased fuel, motor oil, a towel, magazines, souvernirs (Lada and Skoda keyrings) and some miscellaneous hardware. I bought everything I thought would have even the slightest amount of value at every roadstop from Prague to the Austrian border.

6b. The department store in Prague was a trip: they had racks and racks of shirts, but all were the same style and size. Same deal with hardware: when I was there, they had hubcaps and 6mm screws -- and little else! Shoppers would load up with whatever they were stocking, perhaps in order to barter later.

7. Ljubljiana is a beautiful city; from Italy, several of us took an overnight trip and met (by pure chance) some Benellistas -- they showed us a great time.

There is a little irony that each of the countries that bothered to stamp my passport in 1989 no longer exists!

Happy July 4th!

Posted by webs0080 at 8:51 AM