Vanity Inanity

license_20130415071614_94143At right is a re-creation of the vanity license plate I saw on the ass of the ridiculously large and and even more ridiculously expensive-looking Fleetwood Revolution LE Earth Schooner cruising eastbound ahead of me in the No. 3 lane of the Pomona Freeway on Friday.

Maybe your interpretation is the correct one, but my reading of the incomplete words was as “SWEAT SUCKS,” which was followed by a semi-incredulous shrug of my shoulders while thinking that if the vehicle’s owner is proud to broadcast his or her or their aversion to any type of physical activity either laborious or recreational that produces perspiration, so be it.

Whatever floats your land boat, Jabba.

But then I got close enough to read the custom frame around the plate (also re-created below), and though it clarified things entirely it opened up a whole other level of incredulity, while inducing some chuckle-induced eye-rolling:

frameInstead of “SWEAT SUCKS,” the plate was an approximation of “SWEET SUCCESS.”

Full Disclosure: I am of the unwavering opinion that with the possible exception of 0.00002 percent of ALL the vanity plates in existence in the galaxy, the rest are lame.

So it is that from so unapologetically biased a basis I decree this particular plate is among the other 99.99998 percent, first and foremost because in the list of unwritten rules regarding vanity plates (the first one being: Don’t get a vanity plate), one of the top ones is:

If, in the course of requesting and acquiring a vanity plate, there is any possible ambiguity in the lettering that could cause a misread, you shouldn’t get that vanity plate.

I can just imagine this owner smugly ordering and blissfully attaching this plate to his spanking new Fleetwood’s backside, proud to proclaim his financial achievement and totally blind to the fact that it can be so easily misread… until it’s finally brought to his attention by other lesser motorists at various red lights or RV parks.

“Ha! ‘Sweat sucks!’ That’s funny! I hate sweat, too!”

“No! It’s ‘Sweeeeeeet successssssss!’

“Oh. Well… ‘Sweat sucks’ is better.”

“But it’s –.”

“Whatever, dude.”

Eventually it happened enough times where the owner frustratingly figured he had to get the frame to put a stop to the madness. And that’s where the unwritten subsection of that unwritten rule above comes in, involving the unfortunate after-the-fact realization of the confusion inducement:

If, after acquiring the plate you only then are made aware that it is being misread, you should immediately surrender the plate and by no means purchase and install a customized frame to clarify and or correct and or otherwise correctly and completely spell out the misinterpreted wording.

Of course, there’s no real penalty for breaking these rules, just as there’s no real cure for dumbshit. But in looking further into this specific violation one wishes there were ordinances prohibiting a person’s transgressions against basic common sense — for their own safety!

Allow me to explain, by showcasing the specific recreational vehicle in question, one which  veritably turns full-sized quad-cab pick-up trucks into Tonka Toys like this, by the way (click it for the bigger picture):

2010 Fleetwood Revolution 42W LE 3 Slides + full sideslide

Check out the size. This beast is 43 feet long. It’s powered by a 400-horsepower diesel engine. Width and height I’d guesstimate to be 10 feet and 12 feet, respectively. Something that big comes with a big price tag. A quick check of the internut found used and new ones in a price range spanning $200,000 to $400,000.

Four. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. Gasoline not included.

In a nutshell: the vehicle alone makes a bigger-than-bold statement. By itself it already screams FLTHYRCH, so putting a vanity plate as a backside exclamation that augments that blaring point is RDNDNT at best and DNG STPD, at worst.

Why stupid? Well see, it’s all well and good if the only attention this vehicle attracts is from the likes of mild-mannereds like me and the reactions don’t go past smirks, chuckling and eye rolls.

But seeing as it’s piloted by a privileged 1-percenter hogging up the public highway lanes across this great city, county, state, and country, rolling along surrounded by the rest of us 99-percenters, there are inevitably some far more desperate and angry than I who instead of seeing a humongous RV with a lame vanity plate and a lamer explanatory frame, sees a giant bag of money driven flagrantly by someone who just has to be an equally ginormous tool. Maybe they imagine a neon sign in the rear window that says RIPE FOR THE PICKING and/ or a bumper sticker that reads:

THAN $10,000 IN CASH.

Maybe it’s a 65-year-old handyman who’ll be lucky to retire at all and sees nothing funny about it. Maybe it’s a 20-something day laborer with a family back in Mexico who hasn’t been able to send money home in a month for lack of work. Maybe it’s a gangbanger and his homies with nothing better to do. Maybe it’s a guy rapidly approaching 50 who’s putting himself through a training program at his own expense in hopes of landing a job that barely pays him in a year a tenth of the top-end cost for that RV. Oops, that last one’s a bit too close to home.

Without belaboring it any more than I’ve already belabored it, my point is: One person’s “success” is another’s “sucks.”  Especially so the latter when it’s those that fail at recognizing they’re doing themselves no favors by flaunting their SUCS to those among us who think that SUCS.



First In An Occasional Series: Bikeway Peds Behaving Badly

With the completion of the stretch of the Los Angeles River Bikeway through Elysian Valley have come conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists. Certainly a percentage of inconsiderate individuals from each side are responsible for these negative interactions, but inevitably blog posts about the topic will be published in which proprietary pedestrians seems to relish making broad generalizations about cyclists as the creators of the friction while righteously holding themselves entirely harmless.

It’s a similar infuriating us-versus-them attitude I’ve seen time and time again from hikers/equestrians who can do no wrong and mountain cyclists who they seem to believe unconditionally suck as a whole.

The thing is, whether it’s on roadways, trails or bikeways, my time in the saddle involves only a very small percentage of aggravation because I’m one of those cyclists who actively strives not to suck. As such I found it a bit ironic that during yesterday’s amazingly enjoyable 20-mile morning ride in which the streets I pedaled upon were almost completely empty, I had two encounters with pedestrians on the bikeway, both of which were caught on my handlebar cam and demonstrate the irresponsible behavior many pedestrians simply refuse to acknowledge — while at the same time getting taxpayer money spent on biased signage that strives to reinforce both pedestrian entitlement and cyclist inconsideration.

As such I’m going to begin this “Pedestrians Behaving Badly” occasional series, starting with the following stills culled from yesterday’s timelapse:

In this first one, I began slowing while ringing my bell at about a one-second interval more than 100 yards away from this bikeway bogarting couple and their three canines (two unleashed), increasing it in intensity and decreasing my speed as I drew closer.

Thanks to their inattentiveness (which wasn’t broken until I had passed them at less than five miles per hour), the smallest dog drifted into my path, but saw me at the last moment and abruptly changed direction with an understandably startled growl as I passed.

Continuing on past the startled couple, I have little doubt that despite my best efforts to show a consideration and caution they weren’t willing or able to reciprocate they found no fault in themselves and complete fault in me.

The next image below shows a jogger coming toward me, a pedestrian heading in the same direction as I was, and two  unleashed dogs. Take the dogs out of the shot and this scene is full of awesome, with both people moving comfortably out of the bike lanes on the shoulders of the bikeway. Trouble is both dogs belong to the jogger and as I approached they were roaming freely and unchecked back and forth across the width of the bikeway.

Were the dogs aggressive? Not in the slightest, but that’s not the point. Did their guardian seem like he was completely entitled to disregard the city’s leash laws? Absolutely. Fortunately neither dog impeded my progress and instead of having to take some sort of evasive action I was able to proceed around the bend where I soon passed another posted biased reminder whose unspoken intent is “Because Peds Don’t Bloody Well Have To Yield To You.”



Re:Cycling — Sepulveda Tunnel Vision

The second time in my life that I biked up and over the Sepulveda Pass was last weekend during my Autocalypse Now Ride. The first time? Waaaay the hell back in 1991. I remember it well because it was a rather epic ride. The woman I was dating at the time had decided to go to the beach in Santa Monica with her daughter, and since I’d already been planning on biking from my apartment in Glendale to a morning softball game in Sherman Oaks, I thought what the hell and decided to bike the rest of the way to the sea.

Think about that for a second: Glendale to Sherman Oaks to Santa Monica. Roughly 31 miles. With a league softball game in the middle. Twenty years ago. Pardon me for crowing a bit about it.

Of course the trek was predicated on my crossed-fingered hope that I would somehow be able to locate my girfriend on the crowded sands somewhere between a pair of predetermined lifeguard stations. If so, I could throw the bike in her trunk for a drive home. If not, it was going to be a long and exhausting ride back to Glendale.

Much to my relief I found her. But that successful conclusion is not the point. The point is that from a bicycling perspective of Sepulveda Boulevard between the two decades that separated my riding it, we’ve come a long way, baby. Both literally and figuratively, with some of it good and some of it leaving a helluva lot to be desired.

When I got on my bike last weekend, the vast majority of the ride from Silver Lake to the top of the Sepulveda Pass was done over a nice mix of Class I bikeways and Class II bike lanes. We had the LA River and Chandler bikeways connected mostly by the Riverside Drive bike lanes. Then the Chandler bike lanes to the Orange Line Bikeway. South of Ventura a bike lane’s been laid down almost to the top. And that bad little bit o’ almost is what I want to focus on.

But before I do, in salute to the good that’s been laid down, let’s remember that in 1991 there was no LA River or Chandler or Orange Line bikeways. There may have been a Riverside Drive bike lane, but there certainly wasn’t a striped lane on Sepulveda.

So I was cheering and marveling all along that first 27 miles from Silver Lake up through Sherman Oaks, but I quit rah-rah’ing just as we were arriving at the three-lane Sepulveda Tunnel when the bike lane abruptly ended, leaving me entering the tunnel with fellow rider Ann past a dark signal light above a Bike sign which hung above an  “In Tunnel” sign (at left, click to enlarge) and wondering what confederacy of dunces decided such an apparently malfunctioning after-thought would suffice in protecting cyclists when they are at their most vulnerable/least visible.

Inside the tunnel I saw there was a sidewalk to our right to desperately bail out to if needed and I reached back to turn on my rear flasher to provide some type of increased visibility. But about midway through when a procession of vehicles (including an MTA bus, several passenger vehicles and a Super Shuttle van) entered the tunnel behind us, I moved to the middle of the No. 2 lane and decided to forsake any coolness by augmenting my rear light with some serious flapping and waving of my arms in hopes my funkily animated silhouette might draw the drivers’ eyes before they were right on top of us. With two southbound lanes all vehicles cleared us smoothly, except the van which somewhat unnervingly got to about 10 feet behind me before it got a chance to change lanes.

Note: It’s distressing times like that when wheeljockeys blithely steering thousands of pounds of steel up my ass  that I wish I had a double-barreled paintball gun with which to level at their heads and splatter their windshields.

Continue reading Re:Cycling — Sepulveda Tunnel Vision

A Front Row Seat On The Collision Course

I knew what was going to happen the moment after the middle-aged cyclist pushed off eastbound from the curb into the La Cienega Boulevard crosswalk from the northwest corner of La Cienega and Venice Boulevard. His immediate destination was the northeast corner of the intersection, but he went to the hospital instead.

I noted how good it was of him to smile and wave a friendly thank you at the southbound drivers on his left who were stopped as he crossed in front of them. But I also noted right away how bad it was that he hadn’t noticed the Don’t Walk sign across the street or me next to it on my bike waving frantically and yelling for him to stop because he also hadn’t noticed the two left turn lanes of traffic on Venice on his right that got their green arrow and had started flowing in an arc from eastbound Venice to northbound La Cienega.

Two cars in a stereotypical hurry in the No. 1 turn lane, managed to zip clear of the oncoming cyclist before he arrived, as did the lead car in the No. 2 lane. But by the time the second car in the No. 2 lane — a Toyota Prius, blessedly traveling slower and safer — entered the crosswalk, the entirely oblivious cyclist literally didn’t know what hit him as he put himself fully in the Prius’ path. The look of surprise on his face was terrifying, and in a split-second 25-feet away from me came the crunch of the collision, which drove the cyclist hard onto the Toyota’s hood, dislodging his City of Los Angeles baseball cap that fell to the ground beside the stopped car while he rebounded off it flying through the air a few feet and landing even harder on the asphalt where he rolled several times until coming to a stop about 10 feet away from the front bumber of the Prius where it had stopped, approximately 20-25 feet away from the point of impact.

In the next moment I was off my bike yelling “goddammit!” and rushing to the side of the downed rider who while obviously in pain and distress, was remarkably and thankfully free from any visible bleeding.

Kneeling beside him, he was coherent and communicative, but in Spanish, so I held his hand and urged him to stay still and not move. As the driver and passenger of the the Prius arrived and tried to keep him calm, others also gathered around I asked if someone could call 911. Someone did.

Paramedics arrived within a few minutes and police shortly thereafter, and after identifying myself as a witness to the senior officer and giving him my contact information, it was good to see that firefighters were able to help the injured man to his feet where he limped over with their help to a waiting stretcher for transport to the hospital.

Needless to say the rest of the ride to work was a safe but somber and sad one and I’m here now at my desk a little unsettled but both thankful that the occupants of the Prius were so concerned and helpful and hopeful that the cyclist’s injuries are minor ones.

Sometimes There Are Victories, Part II


I almost wasn’t going to post about this old gal, because people can only take so many bummers and I’ve been writing about quite a few of them lately. But just as I can’t not stop and offer help, so can I not keep my own personal spotlight shining on the growing problem of abandoned animals.

I got detoured by roadwork off Redondo Boulevard a couple blocks north of Jefferson on my drive in this morning and ended up on Cloverdale where I found her trotting up the street.

Same old story: Collar but no tag. I parked got out and called to her — even commanded her to “come here!” as had been wisely suggested, but nope. Beyond a lingering look at me from a house away it was nothing but “I don’t know you, leave me alone.”

I can relate.

And I almost left it at that. But then I turned around and parked up the block past her as she nosed around  in the gutter looking for scraps. Getting out with my requisite bag of kibble and jerky treats a house away from her, she paid me no mind. But her ears perked up and I got her attention when I shook the bag and clucked my tongue. Was it enough to bring her to me? No. She just stood there.

So I sat on the curb and poured out the bag’s contents onto the grass. She took a tentative stop toward me, but no more. So I got up and got back in my truck. Before I’d closed the door she was on the food, eating heartily. I debated getting back out and trying again, but I stayed put watching her eat, not wanting to risk frightening her away from what may have been the best meal she’d had in a long time.

I take equal measures of comfort and sorrow in that. Victory and defeat.

Sometimes There Are Victories


Literally a day after yesterday’s failed attempt to help out a lost dog in Jefferson Park, comes this morning’s success story, and one much closer to home. Two blocks away even, at the intersection of London and Bellevue.

The encounter with the  young pit bull pictured above had all the makings of a repeat performance of yesterday — and practically every stray I’ve encountered since deciding to be something of a half-assed samaritan a few months ago. He was skittish, stressed and didn’t really want to have anything to do with me. He had a collar, but it was tagless.

He was in better shape than yesterday’s pit, and at least he wasn’t flat out running to keep away from me, so instead we ended up at this bit of a stand-off until in a wonderful case of excellent timing a fellow came walking down the sidewalk to the right. When I pointed at the dog and made the international gesture of “Is this yours?” the guy shook his head.

“He lives here,” the man said, pointing to the house in the picture behind the dog.

Well that makes it easy, I thought. It’s just a case of the dog escaping its yard.

“He always barks at me when I go by,” the guy added as he got to the corner.

Dismounting my bike sent the dog charging down London away from me but I whistled and started walking up Bellevue to where the gate was in the home’s perimeter fence, and the dog came back to follow me. I noticed several large enough gaps in the bottom of the fencing that would allow the animal to get through and I hoped someone was home so I could point that out. Opening the gate, the dog slinked obediently  past me inside, and sure enough immediately upon closing it he turned and commenced barking ferociously while lunging at the fence (although his tail never stopped wagging).

I stood there hoping the front door might open but it didn’t. So I made a note to stop by maybe on my way home to let the residents know what happened. As the dog kept barking I just laughed and scolded him  to stay in his yard while walking back down to my bike where the man was still standing at the corner.

“Why did he behave like that,” the man wondered to me. “He showed you respect outside the fence, but none inside.”

I wasn’t sure of the answer, but I chalked it up to the dog being back on the safe and famliar turf it’s charged with protecting and said so. The man nodded.

“Well it’s a good thing you were here!” He offered.

“You too!” I replied. “If you hadn’t walked by I wouldn’t have known where he belonged.”

“Cool,” he said and started crossing the street. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas!” I replied and rode on my way with the dog barking after me like he wanted to kill me.

But I knew better.