Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dare to Suck (Crackpot History and the Right to Lie)

I've been reading Scott's blog Hard to Want for a number of months now. I think I found him through Mr. Schprock who makes me laugh out loud and wish I lived near Boston, because I think it would be fun hanging out with him. I found him through Trinamick. In reverse order of how I listed them this is how I read them most mornings (Mondays I normally don't have time because of my weekly reports). I was just reading an interview Scott gave to Flood re: writing. I do not consider myself to be a writer. And I don't say that because I’m searching for compliments. I'm not. I babble and hope it's readable when it's over. I don't have the Great American Novel or Bizarre Short Story sitting in my brain, I know this, and it doesn't bother me. For me blogging is about connecting with people and sort of keeping some sort of chronicle of my life during this time. Anyway, in the interview, they discuss Scott's entry about "daring to suck."

The short story contest is closed and the results will be posted tomorrow at noon (if I read correctly). Winning or placing would be nice, but the contest already gave me a primer--a relit pilot light. I had another idea last night that I plan to work on. Part of my writer's block is an over exacting self editor--every idea had to be a gold mine. Basically I need to dare to suck. Besides, how many times have we all surprised ourselves with something wonderful out of nothing?

And that's what I feel I did this weekend. I normally don't "dare to suck" because I dislike failure – my own. I'm very forgiving about other people's failures, mistakes or faux pas (whatever they may be), but despise myself when I fail. I'm sure I can blame the FF for that, but we won't go there today, that's not what I want to tell you all about.

I might have mentioned recently that HRH, Roadrunner and I started discussing going to Europe next year for the 24 hour race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Being complete race fans (geeks or freaks, if you prefer), we feel the need to see the Mecca of road racing (Spa), but the F1 race at Spa is too bloody expensive (I spent more than $200 for a race weekend ticket to the F1 race in Montreal five years ago and I think Spa would cost more). The next best thing is sports car racing and a 24 hour race. In fact, it's probably better seeing closer to 60 cars on the track than the 20 (or is 18) cars that F1 has these days.

We're talking about making a two week vacation out of it, as it makes no sense to go all the way to Europe and not see some of it, right? Now, I know that rental cars in Europe generally have manual transmissions, but I've never been able to master the art of clutching, shifting, braking, accelerating and steering as I have zero coordination. I didn't want to make HRH do all the driving for two solid weeks, so I asked The Libertarian if he would teach me. He's told me before that he's taught many people and he could teach me, blah blah blah. Nobody else has been willing to let me learn in their car, so when the whole Europe trip came up, I thought of him. I know I complain about him a lot (because it's fun), but I have to give him credit, he was unbelievably patient and instead of just throwing me in the driver's seat and pretending I knew what to do, he took the time to explain not just what I should do, but explained why, i.e., how the gears mesh, etc. I basically knew, but he put it in terms that made sense.

He's always said that it's easier to learn on a Jeep or a truck, but I was thinking he was crazy as I don't like driving large vehicles (not that the Jeep is larger, but it's bigger than my cute little Focus). And as much as I hate to say it, he was right. We started out in low gear (as if I were going to go climb rocks or something) to get me comfortable with the whole clutch thing. Shifting wasn't even discussed (well, I asked, but he told me not to worry about it). After I was able to clutch/accelerate well throughout the four gears (since these were all low gears, I still wasn't shifting and it was apparently okay to start in each of them – I was worried for his transmission, but he assured me it was fine), he put the gear in regular gearing (how do you like all these technical terms?), so I could get the feel of what a real 1st gear feels like. 1st gear, in the past, has always been my Achilles' heel. The last time (before this past weekend) that I drove a stick shift was my brother's car out in CA (1997 or 1998). He was drunk and I wasn't, so I had to drive us home. He reached the point where he said, "Kat, you're killing my clutch. Just blow off the stop signs." Thankfully it was 3:00 a.m. and there weren't any cops or other cars around.

I think I stalled the car once in 1st gear on Friday night and The Libertarian gave me a B+ for the night. He said he was scared that if he gave me an A, I wouldn't feel the need to try harder on Saturday night.

Saturday night the Jeep was back – oh yeah, the Jeep. He has that baby jacked up a few extra inches since he does go off-roading in it and needs to clear rocks or something. I almost fell out of the damn thing on to my face one time Friday night because it was so freaking high and as I have said, I have no coordination. I hated to do, because I'm fiercely independent (especially when it comes to him), but I finally had to give in and ask for help getting into and out of the damn thing. I swear men do that on purpose, so that they have excuses.

So, Saturday we went back to the parking lot (where I almost hit a bicyclist as I wasn't expecting one to be there) and I practiced shifting up through the gearbox and how to make turns properly. It was nerve-wracking, but I apparently did pretty well, because the next thing I knew I was back in the passenger seat and we were heading over to a friend's house. I had no clue why, but figured whatever. Turns out that The Libertarian had talked to his friend ahead of time and that the friend had a CAR with a manual transmission and he was apparently willing to let me practice on it. When the friend opened the door, he simply introduced us and asked "Can I borrow the keys to your car?" Friend went and got the keys and handed them over. I looked at them both and said, "Aren't you going to tell him why?" "He knows." Oh.

After being in the open to the elements Jeep, it was weird getting into a closed off car (I have to admit that except for the lack of three-point harnesses, I liked riding in the Jeep, it was fun). We found a church parking lot and after maybe two circuits, we decided I was ready to try streets. I managed to find a cop which had The Libertarian reaching for his seat belt (just one of the reasons he makes me crazy). I laughed at him, but turned to stay away from the cop. I can be nice to The Libertarian on occasion.

I only stalled about 3 times and each time there were people on the street corner or nearby and I got nervous. I also have an issue with the proper foot movement re: clutching/accelerating when shifting. And part of the problem is that I don't remember if I'm supposed to accelerate before clutching and then shifting or what. I think The Libertarian decided that I need a break, though, because we made our way back to the car's house and put the keys back in Friend's hand. Of course, I woke up the next morning remembering that I had not moved the seat back in the car. OOPS!

We ended up staying at the Friend's house until damn near 3:00 a.m. drinking beer and talking. The Libertarian refused to give me a grade on the night because I was annoying him – we have very different ideas re: the 2nd amendment. For some reason I don't let him piss me off when he gets going, I just laugh at him, probably because I'm pretty sure I'm annoying him way more than he's annoying me. I hate to say it, but I had a good time with him both Friday and Saturday night. I was feeling a bit conflicted about this but then I simply reminded myself that he's a Libertarian, he's an engineer and that he owns guns. Lots of guns. In fact, Friday night he told me that whenever I piss him off re: the 2nd amendment, he goes out and buys himself another gun, and since I was pissing him off that night he wondered what my favorite country was, because he was going to buy one from that country. I looked at him and said, "Sweden."

Kathleen 1
Libertarian 0

I'm off to Cleveland on Thursday afternoon and as soon as we (Mom, The Geek Squad and me) get there, we're meeting up with my friends at Damon's for dinner or drinks. Cleveland is always a fun race with the wide open spaces of the Burke Lakefront Airport, but to me Cleveland is special because it's the one race at which most of us still get together. It'll be great fun to see Row and Spike, and DH1 and the Boys. And of course, LT, his wife and the kids will be there (at least they better be). Long time readers might remember their son Tyler from my Danica Patrick is a bitch story. (Starts around paragraph #8.) I see LT, his wife and the kids once a year but the kids just love me. Talk about unconditional love. They all want to sit on my lap and hug me. I think Justin's 9 this year (if I remember correctly, LT's wife was pregnant our first year in Cleveland – 1996) and he's been to every single race, same with Tyler and Jessica (the twins). Tyler really came into his own last year and was talking to everybody, complete strangers included. At one point I was sitting down with them (still our section but next to the aisle whereas my seats are on the inside) and Tyler wanted to sit next to me. We ended up sitting next to some African-American teenagers with their shorts hanging off their ass and doo-rags on their heads. Tyler patted the one guy's leg and said, "I'm Tyler." The kid responded by shaking Tyler's hand and introducing himself. I think they even chatted for a bit (as much as Tyler chats). I love finding teenagers who are raised properly and blow away the sullen stereotype.

My new camera arrived last Thursday (two days after I ordered it and asked for the cheaper delivery rate of 7-10 business days), so I'll be taking pics of the kids this weekend and then once I get my new computer, I'll be posting pics so you can appreciate Tyler yourself. I just love that kid. Yes, I love Justin and Jessica, too. There's just something special about my Tyler!



At Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, Blogger Dave said...

Way to go on the whole learing to drive standard front.
I learned one night at some kind of dance/party/excuse to drink event. I mentioned to a friend that I've never driven standard and that's all it took. Next thing I knew we were out on some country road, half-buzzed and grinding gears. I actually did ok. Loved it so much that my next few cars were all standard transmission. Now I'm back to automatic, putting as little effort into driving as possible.
Love the Tyler bit. Kids can be so cool like that, and much more fun than the type that hide under their parents' arms and shy away from everyone and everything. But so much for the whole "don't talk to strangers" thing.

At Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, Blogger MW said...

Kat: "I swear men do that on purpose, so that they have excuses."

MW: Excuses for what? ;-)

An excellent and very funny post.

You're very proud of beating the Libertarian, aren't you? And in a self-described shut-out, no less. ;-)

I shall respond to your 2nd Amendment debate via email.

At Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, Blogger MW said...

I forgot to say that I totally agree with the following:

"Part of my writer's block is an over exacting self editor--every idea had to be a gold mine. Basically I need to dare to suck. Besides, how many times have we all surprised ourselves with something wonderful out of nothing?"

I have had to remind myself of that very same thing many times, yet somehow I always forget again. My very best writing has frequently occurred when I forced myself to try to be creative when I was not in the mood to be creative.

At Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, Blogger trinamick said...

My uncle made me learn on his old welding truck. It would kill on the corners, and it was always where a bunch of construction guys would be working.

No comments on the 2nd amendment. :P

At Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, Blogger MW said...

Wow, I'm doing it again. I keep thinking of "one more thing."

I first learned to drive in the 4th grade. What was my "training" vehicle? A very tall 1971 Ford 4-wheel-drive pickup. It had no power steering and no power breaks. Of course, it was a stick shift. My dad had way too much faith in me (or else I didn't have enough in myself). I was on the highway at one point (in South Dakota), and the corner leading to our farm was fast approaching. I couldn't brake very easily nor put my other foot on the clutch very easily. Shifting down to a lower speed was also a difficult prospect, so I skipped it. All the while my dad was demanding that I do this thing and that (not a patient teacher). I hadn't even wanted to drive the thing. As the corner approached, and I was still going relatively fast, I was told to slow down and turn. I could only do one of those things at a time, and the time to turn came first (I had to sacrifice the part where I slowed down). I just barely missed the electric utility pole as I made a wide arcing turn and barely stayed on the gravel road. I remember getting shouted at in somewhat of a panic (instead the usual annoyance). I think I was scared enough at the close call that I threw caution to the wind and defended myself to my dad. I learned pretty quickly after that, and there were no more close calls.

From 1982 to 1993, I drove a 1979 Ford Mustang (turbo, Indy Pace Car, wide wheels, etc.). It was a four-speed stick shift. When I eventually got an automatic, I kept trying to put my foot on a non-existent clutch.

By the way, here's a hint regarding my email: I'm not a gun person. In fact, I hate them, but I agree with the Libertarian on the 2nd Amendment. ;-)

At Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a woman and a race fan you must be real darn proud of Danica Patrick. Of course you are!

At Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, Blogger Jason said...

I wouldn't be worried about driving a stick in Europe. I'd be worried about simply driving in Europe. It of course depends on where you are. Autobahns are scary. I feel completely safe driving in insane Detroit, but imagine being passed when you're doing over 100mph. Mountain driving can be a lot of fun, but it could be a real challenge with a stick. I think you have to have an international driver's license to drive in Europe but I don't know how to go about getting one. Driving a Focus you should at least be comfortable with European car size. Of course there are cars much smaller than that. Have you ever seen the Swatch car? Just be ready to drive fast and figure out how to get out of a turn-about without circling more than once. Thank goodness for wonderful public transportation in Europe. Trains are the best way to travel in Europe...

At Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, Blogger Kathleen said...

Dave - I wasn't too worried about Tyler talking to strangers since I was sitting right there and his mother was behind us.

MW - You're a smart aleck. I would actually give myself a better score against the Libertarian (with him still in the shutout range), because I piss him off, but I just laugh at him. BTW, time for you to "dare to suck."

Trina - The Libertarian swears learning on trucks is the easier because of something...I don't always listen when he speaks.

Anonymous - I prefer to be a fan of drivers who have actual talent. Check out Katherine Legge who has actually won a race - three in fact.

Jason - The Swatch car is called the Smart car and I would love to get one. I like small cars - my favorite was my Pinto. Public transportation won't get us to the racetrack!

At Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, Blogger mr. schprock said...

I have been on record as saying no way in hell will I ever try to teach my wife to drive a standard. We could be stranded in the desert, my legs and arms broken, the cell phone battery dead, and the only way for me to get medical attention would be to talk my wife through driving a standard transmission automobile, and I wouldn't do it. Some people were never meant to drive a stick and my wife is one of them.

Having said that, good work, Kathleen! Stay with it. If I had my choice, I'd rather drive a standard. It's just more fun.

At Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, Blogger Scott said...

First of all, learn manual, it's a lot of fun. I took right to it because I rode motorcycles growing up, and the concept is the same. You are such a racing fan that I am suprised that you wouldn't embrace it anyway.

Thanks for the massive shout out here!

At Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, Blogger Kathleen said...

Schprockie - I always thought I was one of those people, too. I really felt like I accomplished something this weekend.

Scott - You deserve the big shout out. And yes, I've heard many many many times how shocking it is to find out I don't drive a stick being such a race fan.

At Thursday, 22 June, 2006, Anonymous Woof said...

Kathleen, as much as I like Spa, the mecca of road racing for me anyway would be LeMans (Ok, so it isn't a permanent road course, so it's sorta cheating), or even what about the Nordschleife?

At Thursday, 22 June, 2006, Blogger Kathleen said...

Woof - Probably, but we can't afford Le Mans either - besides it comes right before Cleveland and after Milwaukee. That's not going to happen! ;-)


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