Monday, July 26, 2010

What I've been up to lately.

Hey there!

I posted something on my facebook wall asking my friends to suggest blog topics they'd like to see and this is the first reply I received. Since it looked like a good one, I thought I'd use it. Thanks, Nathan for the suggestion and I hope you're not disappointed. By the way, if you're not one of my facebook friends and would like to be, please look me up and send a request. Search for the name Chipley Fortykradio and you'll find me. That's first name: Chipley, last name: Fortykradio.

So here's the thing about summer.....I don't do much inside stuff. This summer has been a particularly outside year. Last summer in the beautiful Eden that is Erie, Pennsylvania we had loads and loads of cool temps and crappy rain that pretty much ruined all of our outside fun. This summer has been the complete opposite and its been stupid hot and ridiculously humid since just about the time the kids got out of school for vacation. Since our house only has air conditioning in the bedroom we spend a lot of time outside. Oh, and I bought a motorcycle....Yeah, a motorcycle. I've had my license for a couple years but was never able to actually pull the trigger and get myself a bike after I finished the Rider Safety Program. So this year I decided it was the summer to try and find myself an affordable used bike to get my feet wet and learn what being a motorcyclist was really about.

You wanna hear about my motorcycle? You know you do....OK, I'll tell you about it if you're gonna beg like that. I found myself a 1996 Suzuki RF900R Sport Touring bike at a local used dealer. It's got some miles on it because it came to Erie from Arizona where you can pretty much ride a motorcycle all year long but its in great condition and looks and runs like a much younger bike. I really wanted a cruiser with a big V-Twin and gobs of chrome dripping off of it but apparently everyone else wants one of those too and they are lots and lots more money than I had to spend. It took me a long time to find a bike that would fit all of my requirements which were not numerous but had little room for compromise. Basically, I needed a motorcycle that was big enough for my girlfriend and me to ride comfortably and powerful enough to do so without the bike straining to keep up with the stresses of frequent 2 up riding. Sport bikes were pretty much out of the question because of the rider's seating position and the tiny, elevated rear passenger seat that they all come equipped with. Let's face it, the back seat on most sport bikes is an afterthought and a way for a guy who really wants one to tell his significant other "Look, honey, I AM thinking of you. There's room for you on there too!" With sport bikes out of the running, the search for a decent motorcycle in my modest price range looked like it might be fruitless and I'd have to seriously consider borrowing a lot more money than I had intended to purchase a motorcycle or just give up on the idea completely. I finally dropped into Northcoast Powersports in Erie and took a look at what they had. Most everything for sale were sport bikes or beautiful Harley Davidsons that were so far out of my price range that I didn't even look at them. I told the owner what I was looking for and he showed me the bike I eventually purchased, the Suzuki RF900R. He worked with me on the price(A LOT) and got me into the bike, helmet, jacket and insurance for the year at as close to my budget as I could have hoped.

The RF900R is a Sport Touring motorcycle. Although it was built in 1996 the bodywork was ahead of its time and most people who look at it think its an early 2000's model. It looks aggressive and sporty but has a long wheelbase and a wide seat that has very little rise from front to rear and is designed for operator and passenger comfort. The bars are decidedly sport bike in position and shape but the foot pegs are much further forward and lower than a sport bike so you sit more upright and it is pretty comfortable on long rides. The 937cc 4 cylinder, water cooled engine has gobs of horsepower and torque and has never left me feeling like I needed more power in any of the nearly 2000 miles I've ridden it this summer.

I spent a couple weeks and a few hundred miles getting to know the bike and recalling all of the nifty things they taught me in my motorcycle safety class and then asked Sylwia if she wanted to go for a ride. She was a bit apprehensive at first but I bought her a helmet(very cool but girly at the same time) and we went to a large parking lot and rode around for 30 minutes or so and she thought it was pretty cool. Since then we've spent our days off going everywhere we can on the motorcycle and planning trips to restaurants and attractions that we never would have thought to go in the past. When travelling by motorcycle you realize that the journey, not the destination, is the experience. The sights, smells and excitement that come along with travelling on two wheels really make even the most mundane trip an adventure. I love riding more than I ever thought I would and spend all of the free time I have riding. The best part is that Sylwia loves it too and always wants to get on the bike and go somewhere when we're off together. We've even been caught in some wicked rainstorms with nowhere to hide and she took it all in stride and actually thought it was pretty funny.

My little nugget of awesomeness for this post is going to be a link to the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program web site. If you live in Pennsylvania and ride or want to ride TAKE THE COURSE! It will save your life some day. If you don't live in Pennsylvania I'm sure that your state or locality offers a similar program. Please take the course.

If you ride, ride safely. If you don't ride, please remember to look twice and save a life because motorcycles are everywhere.

Here's your nugget of awesomeness, that little pearl of wisdom I promised you.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Snake Plissken? I thought you were dead.

I get that a lot.....

Hey there! Damn, its been a long time. Here we are a good part of the way through July and my last post was in June. I'm ashamed and sorry. I sincerely appreciate those of you who are followers that have stuck with me or joined since I dropped off the grid. If you're not a follower yet, I'd suggest you click the button to make yourself one because, as I said in post #1, this blog may be neglected for various lengths of time and irregular intervals and I'd hate for you to miss any of this solid gold. Anyway, I'm back and I'm going to take a break from the tabletop gaming stuff for one post and write about what I was going to write about before my house was robbed and I got thoroughly wrapped up in replacing all my stuff, dealing with the police, insurance and alarm companies and generally trying to get my life back in order.

This post was originally going to be titled "The Smiling Chihuahua" but since I was gone for so long, I thought the "Escape from New York" reference was more appropriate. Anyway, here's the thing about the Chihuahua:

My girlfriend has a dog that she loves a whole lot and he loves her a whole lot in return. Its not a weird, old lady who loves her dog in the place of her dead husband kind of love, its just a really cool owner/pet relationship. I have known my girlfriend for over 2 years now and she has owned Paco(that's the Chihuahua's name for my slower readers) for the whole time I've known her. We worked together and became friends long before we were in a romantic relationship so we had the chance to learn a lot about each other during our budding friendship. I talked about my kids and she talked about Paco. She always told me how awesome Paco was, how everyone loved him and how he was always the object of affection and admiration no matter where she took him. Being a proud parent myself, I couldn't help but think that she was seeing Paco through the rose colored glasses that a parent sees their child with even if the child is a worthless Hellspawn to everyone but their parents. It turns out that Paco is very cool, very well liked by everyone who meets him and very smart(smarter than me, I'm pretty sure).

The first time I met Paco I was getting the tour of Sylwia's house(yes, that is a "w" in her name, yes its supposed to be there and the correct pronunciation is Sylvia but that's a story for another day so get over it for now). I was standing behind the couch and Paco came out of another room barking and growling like I was someone that really, really needed to be chased away from his home and his owner. While he only weighs six pounds....I'm sorry, Paco, six and a HALF pounds, he puts on a pretty good show with the growling and the barking and the ears held in a very purposeful "I'm about to kick your ass" kind of way. I was unintimidated because his owner was there to protect me from his fury and I put my hand out for him to smell and maybe let me pet him. He sniffed my hand and immediately began to chew on it. Not biting in a way that would indicate to a bystander that he was trying to hurt me but chewing on me in a way that said "I'm going to hurt you but make it look like I'm just playing so you look like a total asshole and a wimp when you complain about it". Paco is a master at his craft. As the tears stung my eyes and I did my best to disengage his steel trap jaws and needle-like teeth from my flesh without hurting him or indicating that I was indeed an asshole and a wimp Sylwia said "He does that all the time. The vet said he loves the salt in your skin.". I smiled a little smile and did my best not to hold my arm straight out and scream "Get it off! Get it off!" while I thought he seems to love the blood and bones in my skin more than the salt. Finally, she picked him up and he stopped chewing on me. While she held him and talked to me, paco was curled on her chest with his chin resting on her shoulder. It was a really cute picture and I could see they were close. I thought that perhaps I had judged Paco a little harshly and maybe the chewing on my hand thing was just him getting to know me and enjoying the salt in my skin. Then he smiled at me. Sylwia was talking to me, I was doing my best to make eye contact while I listened to her tell me about her house and the work being done on it and Paco lifted his head off her shoulder and smiled at me. Smiled at me to let me know that the chewing on me was done with malice, he had gotten away with it and that is the way things would be as long as he and I were both in Sylwia's life.

That's crazy, you say. I'm exaggerating, you say. Making something out of nothing, right? Allow me to present further evidence for the prosecution.

Fast forward to when Sylwia and I became romantically involved and Paco and I had learned to peacefully coexist in her life....mostly. Sylwia and I were sitting on the couch watcing TV with Paco between us. By the way, there is always one Chihuahua width of distance between us. When we walk, when we sit on the couch, when we sleep, unless he is locked out of the room there is always one Chihuahua width of distance between us. Paco maintains that as religiously as the Catholic school Nuns enforce the "One Bible Width Between Dancers" rule at the Co-Ed mixers. It, apparently, is one of his primary functions and he is genetically programmed to perform that function without fail. Where was I? Oh yes, Sylwia and I were sitting on the couch watching TV with Paco between us and I was petting him. I touched his foot, just barely, and he screamed a horrible, pitiful, yelping scream that should be reserved for things like being hit by cars or shot with arrows. I barely touched him and he screamed like I was ripping his leg off. Of course I yanked my hand back like I had touched something hot and Sylwia jumped and looked at me with the "What did you DO?" look that immediately made me flush and look as guilty as Hell even though I had done nothing to her dog. Nothing! As she scooped Paco up to inspect him for the horrible injuries I must have inflicted, he curled on her chest and put his head on her shoulder as he likes to do. Then he looked at me.....and smiled. That was the end of my snuggle time in front of the TV for the night as Paco had just received top priority and I was in trouble. I told Sylwia my side of the story and she said she believed me but I know in the back of her mind she was thinking that Paco would never have made such a horrible noise unless he had been injured in some unspeakable way.

Still don't believe me? How about the time we were getting ready to take Paco for a walk and she asked me to put his leash on. So I chased the little guy down and got a hold of him. As I approached the ring on his collar with the clasp on the leash he let out that horrible scream and scared me so badly that he was able to get away and run to her in the other room. A few seconds later she came into the room and I was still kneeling on the floor in the "about to put the leash on the Chihuahua" pose once again looking flush and guilty as Hell. "Did you pinch him?" she asked. "I didn't do ANYTHING to him." I whined. "Well why would he scream if you hadn't hurt him?" she asked with a look on her face that spoke volumes about her dillemma of being in love with a habitual Chihuahua torturer and owning a Chihuahua who obviously did not enjoy being tortured. I gave up and simply handed her the leash. As I watched her attach the leash to his collar Paco looked at me with his little Chihuahua face and, you guessed it, smiled.

Paco and I have become friends. I take him for rides in the car with me, play ball and throw his monkey for him. I have, on occassion, been known to provide the ultimate in Chihuahua spoilage and held his rawhide bone so he could chew on it without holding it himself. When its just the two of us Paco and I get along just fine, he listens to me and doesn't try to run away when I have him out in the yard without a leash. I really thought Paco and I had reached the point in our relationship where I understood that he would always be number one but he would occassionally allow me to think, at least for a minute or two, that it was my moment to shine and I would be first in line for Sylwia's affection and attention.

I really thought we were there. A few weeks ago, though, Paco was laying on the couch and had rolled onto his back when he saw me coming and demanded his belly rub. Did I tell you that Paco is a belly rub addict? Well, he is. He has no shame and expects belly rubs on demand regardless of what else is going on at the moment. Its really hard to function with a Chihuahua repeatedly flopping onto his back in front of you until you rub his belly so he'll leave you alone. Anyway, Paco was on his back with his feet in the air, my kids were on the couch with him, Sylwia was in the other room and I was rubbing Paco's belly just like I do every other time. Paco suddenly screams the scream reserved for being hit by cars or shot by arrows and I again yanked my hand back like had I touched something hot and stood there wondering what could have possibly gone so horribly wrong with a belly rub to make a noise like that come out of him. My kids looked at me like I was a monster, Sylwia ran from the other room wanting to know what happened and I just stood there, red faced and looking guilty while Paco smiled at me.

Game, set and match, my canine friend. Game, set and match.

Thanks for reading and for waiting so long for this post. To pay you for your patience and your time, here's that little nugget of awesomeness that I promised you back in post #1:

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog its too dark to read. - Groucho Marx