Tuesday, December 25, 2007

'Twas the day after Christmas
by David Hurtado

'Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the country
Children were playing with new toys a plenty.
The presents all opened, the wrapping all shreddy,
I set about clearing post-Christmas confetti.

The ornaments, bubble lights, nativity scene,
The garlands, the wreaths, our fake Christmas tree,
And the stockings I carelessly tossed into storage
mingled with all sorts of cheap plastic whorage.

I bagged all the paper, the tinsel, the trap
The gift bags, the boxes I crammed in a sack
And dragged all the trash to the end of the drive way
For the big garbage truck to pick up the next day

When, what to my wondering eyes should be popping,
But a black limousine, at my curbside a-stopping.
The driver quick-opened the passenger door
And out stepped a man little children adore.

He wore no red coat, no white furry trimming
He was chubby and plump, but his Armani was slimming
Yet I knew from his chuckle and twinkling eye
It was good old Saint Nick, no doubt in my mind

"To what do I owe this great honor old friend?"
I said with a question mark placed at the end.
"Just came to find out how you liked all the gifts
It's a pain in the neck, but Marketing insists.

"Focus groups and surveys can only do so much
They tell me good marketing takes a personal touch.
It seems like a chore, but it's money well spent
Our profits are up thirteen hundred percent."

I stared at my shoes, unsure how to say it
Afraid to discuss it, I tried to delay it
But most of the toys broke right out of the box. . .
Lead paint, choking hazards, electrical shocks. . .

I crafted a carefully worded reply
A compliment masking a jab on the sly
"Christmas was great as it always has been
The best gifts, you know, well. . . they come from within

"So what does it matter if toys are unsafe,
If they're made by small children for minimum wage?
There's more where they came from on Wal-Marts toy shelves
And with prices so low, who cares about elves?"

He sprang to his Limo, to his driver he nodded
Then speeding away, from the window he shouted,
"What's it to you Bud? Don't be such a whiner,
The elves joined a union, I outsourced to China"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Christmas Letter

Dear Friends, Family and Various and Sundry Loved Ones,

Once again I get to write the Christmas Letter, and by "get to" I mean Laquita* is making me do it. You may remember that last year our "beloved" dog Midnight got totaled. I'm "thrilled" to report that this year Midnight didn't eat any more poison and is alive and well.

Recently however, our "beloved" Ford Windstar got totaled. In this case we're doing the sensible, humane thing and putting it down. You see, unlike some animals (Midnight, I'm looking in your general direction) we learn from our mistakes.

BoJamboJambo is turning 7 this month. He's huge! He reminds me of Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV. One of these days we're going to ask him to clean his room and he'll solemnly reply, "I must break you." This is my second greatest fear. I'll tell you the first in a second.

Mr. Scootypants is 5 and he's doing really well in school. He's a very sweet little kid. He taught himself to whistle, and now reminds me even more of Opie. He entered a drawing in the "Reflections" art contest and it was great. However BoJamboJambo's "Jambotopia" took first place overall. So unfortunately it looks like we're keeping family tradition and letting Mr. Scootypants languish in his older brothers shadow for now.

Twinkiebuns is a lovely little girl and she loves princesses and her daddy, in that order. This brings me to my greatest fear: One day Twinkiebuns will become a teenage princess and all my hair will fall out from the stress. She's going to be a real heartbreaker.

Laquita has worked as a pediatric nurse for five years and she loves her job. She probably wouldn't love it so much if her greatest fear came true and she accidentally killed some kids. But she's an excellent nurse, so there's little to worry about in that department.

As for me . . . well, like Midnight I'm still alive. I'm overweight and my hair is thinning, but I'm not totaled yet. The Scooter Lounge continues to be a fun business. In fact, I think I've pretty much got it made, because how many bald, fat guys love both their jobs and their families? We are truly blessed.

We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Friday, December 07, 2007

If you've been following my blog recently, you're probably aware of a certain problem I was having, and you may have noticed that certain items have disappeared from the internet.

There is no need to panic. My freedom of speech has not been infringed upon. It's just on hiatus until January 15. Then we'll see. For now, certain things will not be published.

This is not bad news, so don't panic. And to anyone out there in cyberspace, if you have anything you need to discuss with me, all comments on this blog are now directed straight to my inbox for me to moderate, so don't hesitate to comment and I will be happy to discuss any concerns you may have. Your comments will not be published unless you want them to be, and I approve of them of course.

The best news of all is that for the time being I can go back to regaling the internet with tales of my youth and other stupid stuff. Like there was this one time when I was younger and I fought injustice and I kicked it in the teeth. It was awesome!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

After dinner on Sunday at my moms house, I went downstairs to play Barbies with Exxxx. My attention span for playing Barbies is about 2.5 seconds, so before long I was going through boxes to see if any of my old things were there. Inside a box of photos I found some shots of me at 19 mountain biking in Moab. There were a couple of pictures of me with my shirt off flexing and stuff. I showed them to Exxxx and said, "Look Exxxx, this is Daddy." She looked at the pictures and then back at me incredulously and said, "Daddy, you ate too many cookies."

Monday, November 12, 2007

I've always been a sucker for homeless people. For example, there was one time I picked up a lady and her babies that were begging on the side of the road and took them to Wendy's for a meal. There was another time I fixed the power window of a guys truck because it was really cold and the window was stuck down and his truck was also his house. There was Stinky Hugo and then there was Richard Guhn.

I'm not trying to make myself out to be some kind of a saint. I'm not, I just have a sharpened sense of middle-class guilt. That and I can't look a crazy person in the eye without sympathizing on some level. After all, mental illness runs in my family. Plus, my family says I'm a "weirdo magnet."

There was this one homeless guy I affectionately call "Captain Combover." This is his story.

Back when I worked at BYU I used to watch the surplus equipment sales just to see if anything interesting ever came up. One day I found an old travel trailer that had belonged to the Archaeology department. It was pretty run-down, but I thought it would be fun to fix up and pull behind my Galaxie 500. I bid $200 and won it. I was pretty excited about it and took it home to show my wife. She wasn't thrilled, but supported me and encouraged me to fix it up with some kind words. I believe she said, "I'm not setting foot in that trash heap until you get rid of that awful smell."

I found the source of the offending odor in short order. Below the rear window there was a mossy green growth on the wood paneling. It looked like your everyday moss, but when I touched it, instead of being moist and verdant it disintegrated into a dusty cloud that invaded my sinuses. It was like the stuff that comes out of the Ark of the Covenant and melts the Nazis faces on Indiana Jones. The next day I was miserably sick: coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, watery eyes, trailer smell permanently welded to my olfactory receptors, it was awful. I went to the doctor but apart from reassuring me that I didn't have the Hanta Virus, he said there was little he could do.

I was sick for about two weeks. When I finally felt better I wouldn't go near the trailer without a surgeons mask and rubber gloves. I decided the trailer would have to go, there was no way I'd be able to fix it.

The problem was, how does one get rid of a trailer that's infected with deadly mold? I came up with a solution. The next day I posted a note on the buy/sell board at the Wilkinson Student Center. "Make all your white trash dreams come true with a fabulous travel trailer. Free to good home."

Within minutes there were two calls. One was from a student who probably would have gotten sick and sued me. The other was from middle aged guy who lived in his van. Of course I picked the homeless man. If he got sick and died, who would notice, right?

It's sad, I don't remember his real name, but the nickname "Captain Combover" will never be forgotten. He had a combover the likes of which not even Donald Trump could compete with. I think he had the kind of Male Pattern baldness where the hair only grows on the temples and at the back of the head. He must have grown it about two feet long, then folded it up over his head, then flipped it back over and back down to the nape of his neck. It looked like a morticians pompadour. He held this hair contraption in place with copious amounts of gel and a few bobby pins. See the picture below to get an idea.

I actually let him come over in the evenings and work on the trailer until it was livable, so I got to know him a little bit. The funny thing was that by the end of the day, after working up a sweat battling Satan's jock mold, his hair would fall off to one side in great clumps. He'd push it back up and keep working. Here was a guy who lived in his car, who hung around the Wilkinson Center hoping to meet a homely coed with a heart of gold, and who probably followed Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect yet was single. Are you getting the picture? He was a man with absolutely no dignity. Yet he persisted in maintaining the illusion of having hair, and believe me, he wasn't fooling anyone.

Luckily I'm pretty tall, because people can't usually see the top of my head. But the fact is, I'm losing my hair. I haven't even combed it since I was 17 years old, and yet it's thinning on the crown. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but one day I'll have to deal with the fact that my baldness can no longer be concealed. I don't know what I'm going to do.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dear Britney,

I never liked you and your music sucks. I always knew you were just another child-turned-skank that Disney is so adept at pimping out. I expected you to enjoy your 15 minutes, then make several turns around the toilet bowl before finally getting spit out the bottom of the fame machine.

(But secretly I admit I thought you were hot. Sometimes. In the right light.)

When you got married to a man who can most kindly be described as a poor man's Eminem, and let's be honest, that's being extremely generous to him, I didn't care. Just more hollywood crap. So what if you had grits and bacon rinds at your wedding? Is any of that newsworthy? No. You married a loser. That's your problem.

Then, something in the news caught my attention. You did something that surprised me enough for me to start paying attention. You filed for divorce.

I thought, maybe there's more to Britney than meets the eye. Maybe she has a shred of dignity, an ounce of common sense, a scrap of self-respect. Maybe Britney Spears is more than the sum of her parts. (Her parts being a digitally enhanced voice, lip-synch skills, the ability to look hot in leather pants, and a weak chin.)

So I started watching the trainwreck that is your life. I wanted to see how you would rise to the occasion, take advantage of an opportunity to reinvent yourself, to become a sympathetic character instead of a hollywood caricature, to grow up.

I even started reading Perez Hilton's stupid site for the latest Britney news. (Just admitting that is humiliating for me, but I did it for you Britney.)

Now, I know I can't believe everything I read, but seriously, if even a fourth of it's true, I'm deeply disappointed in you. You're a disgrace to motherhood. The fact that a judge deemed Fed-Ex a more fit parent for your children than you speaks volumes about your maturity level. How screwed up can you be, that K-Fed is a better candidate for full-time custody? They might as well be raised by a pack of wild dogs.

So please Britney, get your act together. If you don't do it soon, your only remaining fan may be that fruity blonde haired kid on youtube with the gender identity crisis.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I switched to Apple computers around six years ago. I imagine that if an amish person were to trade in his handcart for a Mercedes, he wouldn't be as thrilled as I was when I tossed out my XP machine and learned to live without the CTRL+ALT+DEL key combination. I have never looked back.

That's my two cents.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today I visited an old friend of mine. We've been friends since about Junior High, but haven't hung out much in the last few years. Come to find out, he got a vasectomy a few weeks back. I asked the typical questions: Did it hurt? Where does the sperm go now? Are they just swimming around in your bloodstream? Can you get a girl pregnant with your sweat?

He said the body makes antibodies, hunts the swimmers down and kills them.

"In fact," he said, "I just had my stuff tested and my sperm count is zero."

He was happy about this, of course, but I've known others for whom this news has been devastating.

I teased him about the whole process of providing a sample, and we laughed about how the doctors offices have these exam rooms made over with dimmer switches on the lights, leather recliners and dirty magazines. As if you would feel comfortable under those circumstances. "Umm, okay nurse, I'll just get you that sample right away then. I'll be in here for a few minutes looking at smut and abusing myself, and then I'll come out and hand you a little of my genetic material in a cup."

My friends wife isn't one to let her husband treat himself with this sort of contempt, so they took matters into their own hands in the comfort of their own home, then rushed the sample to the lab. They were only given a 20 minute window though, so it wasn't exactly a cakewalk. (Incidentally, I heard a morning radio show once where they were wondering how long the swimmers stay viable and a technician at a sperm bank actually called in and said she had just gotten a rather large sample and she would let it sit out and see how long it was still good. She called in a daily report for three days and those little buggers were still going strong, so I think the 20 minute window is bogus. The doctor probably just had a tee time to make.)

All this talk of male reproductive mechanics reminded me of the "maturation clinics" they held in elementary school. The girls got to have a maturation clinic in fifth grade and another in sixth grade, but for the boys there was just the sixth grade one. Some of my classmates and I wondered why girls needed to have two. I speculated that the first one was to learn about boobs and the second to learn about vajayjays. I suppose I'll never know. The girls were all sworn to secrecy about it and came away with a donut and a smug sense of superiority. "We had two maturation clinics because we're more mature."

The boys maturation clinic wasn't bad. First, there were donuts for us too. Second, it was given by Brad Wilcox. Brad Wilcox was a sixth grade teacher at the time, but he's pretty well known around here because he's since written several books for Mormon youth, he is a regular speaker at Mormon youth conferences, and he's a well-respected church leader and just generally all-around nice guy.

The things I'm about to say about him may give the impression that he's creepy or weird, but he isn't. In fact, since sixth grade he's been one of my heroes. So here goes:

Mr. Wilcox used to give out assignments in class and then while you worked he'd walk around and rub your shoulders and whisper that he loved you and that you were special. Undoubtedly this was creepy for some kids and alarming to some parents, but it was benign. And for a kid like me who felt about as valuable as a dogs' hemorrhoid, it was a positive experience. (This was back when the wannabe cheerleaders used to chant, "who's the biggest dork in the class? David Retardo!" at every recess.)

Mr. Wilcox was a positive affirmations kind of guy. He worked hard to make you feel good about yourself. This is a work ethic he brought to the maturation clinic with gusto. He explained to us that we were undergoing changes, special changes, that would enable us to be fathers one day, special fathers. He talked of special little factories working overtime to make millions of special baby seeds. He explained that those factories were located in a special, wrinkly, climate-controlled pouch where we may have noticed special new hair growing.

"You may wonder," he said, " what your body is going to do with all these baby seeds. After all, you won't be needing them for several more years. Well, when your body has too many seeds, it has a natural way to get rid of them. It's called a nocturnal emission."

He then went on to explain the process in greater detail. Words like "semen", "epididymus", "testes", "seminiferous vesicles" and "erection" were thrown around like basketballs at a globetrotters show. It was mindboggling. The best part though, besides the doughnuts, was this, "'When this happens to you, don't be ashamed or scared. Do your mother a favor and put your bedsheets in the wash, then quietly go inside your closet and say to yourself, 'Yay, My body works!'" This he said while flashing his broad toothy smile and gesturing like a guy who'd just won an international foosball tournament. As if the greatest thing in the whole wide world was being awakened from a boneriffic dream to find you'd made a mess in your tighty whiteys.

(I don't know about you, but I'd take that lecture over the modern hands-on, put-a-condom-on-a-banana approach any day.)

Now if I could just figure out what exactly birds and bees have to do with any of it, I'd be in good shape.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My daughter Exxxx is my honeybunch, sugarplum, pumpy-umpy-umpkin, sweetie-pie, cuppie cake, gumdrop, schnookum-schnookums. . . the apple of my eye.

In fact, one of her first phrases was "apple eye." And she would poke me in the eye while she said it. She is the best little girl in the world.

A few days ago my wife and I were in an office signing some papers with a loan officer. Exxxx was sitting on my lap, when suddenly she turned around and asked me, "Why is his name Won Ton?"

"Won Ton?"

"No, Wong Thumb"

"Wong Thumb?"

"No, Wrong Turn!"

"Wrong Turn?"

"No!" She grabbed my beard and enunciated very carefully while looking me squarely in the eyes. I finally understood and burst out laughing.

A few moments before this exchange my wife had asked the loan officer, "What are your plans, long term?"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Here's a post a friend of mine wrote that I thought I'd share. It goes well with my last post.

Click here to read it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My dad's a sucker for a business opportunity. First there was Amway. I remember getting "Glister" toothpaste and "Deter" deodorant in many a Christmas stocking. Then there was Melaleuca. For a while there we were putting tea-tree oil on everything from abrasions to jock itch. That's only the beginning of the list. The most recent "business opportunity" my dad has become involved in is called Mona Vie. It's another hocus-pocus antioxidant beverage from an exotic plant. I met my dad for lunch one day recently and the guy in my dad's "up-line" was there to ambush me. He was this skinny, cheesy-looking old fart with a bad blonde toupee and teeth worthy of a polident commercial. I didn't take the bait. (My idea of an antioxidant is bacon grease. Think about it for a second: Oxidation is a fancy word for rust, and grease is a fabulous rust inhibitor, therefore, if you're looking for antioxidants, look no further than the deep fryer.)

My dad isn't the only person in the world who thinks he'll make it big selling snake oil to his neighbors. It seems like every time I turn around somebody is trying to get my wife and I in on the "ground floor" of the next big thing. Everybody from my in-laws, to various old classmates has offered me the key to financial independence. That key has been shaped like nasty chocolate, or vitamins, motor oil, or even financial planning, and it always comes at a price.

I've started to wonder whether this phenomenon is widespread or if it's more local. While certainly there are get-rich-quick schemes everywhere, they really seem to thrive in Utah. I think that one thing a lot of network marketing people have in common is their faith. I'm serious. Multi-Level Marketing might as well be called Mormon-Level Marketing for all the faithful LDS adherents jointly striving to serve both God and Mammon.

(Before you start accusing me of "Mormon bashing" remember that I am a Mormon myself. This is like when Chris Rock uses the N word, okay?)

For those who aren't familiar with MLM, here's how it works:

You don't just buy a product for personal use, but you buy the rights to distribute the product, and you don't just distribute the product alone, you sell the rights to distribute the product as well. Every time someone signs up under you, sometimes for several levels, you will recieve a commission. They are called your "down line." Often the majority of the money circulating through the system comes from the sales of distribution rights, rather than from actual product sales. With some companies, it's difficult to determine what the product even is, but that doesn't deter people from buying in.

Remember 12 Daily Pro? It was a big hit with a lot of local morons. All you had to do was surf 12 webpages per day, spend some money, and you'd get a 144% return on your investment every 12 days. That one came crashing down when a BYU business student presented it to one of his professors as a great opportunity. The professor at least had the sense to recognize it was a scam and report it to the authorities. The student on the other hand, is a fantastic example of whats wrong with education these days. Obviously he was absent the day they taught critical thinking.

I have a theory as to why we Mormons are so gullible when it comes to MLM: It is familiar to us. Multi-level marketing is very familiar in fact. How so, you ask? You might want to sit down for this: The gospel as we know it is spread in the same fashion. I know I'm going to get some angry comments for this, but it's true. Take for example, the following scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants Section 18: "And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!"

How many times have you heard missionary stories from the pulpit about how a missionary only had one convert and felt like a failure, but then that convert went on to share the gospel with many?

These are stories about a "down line." In MLM they practically quote that scripture when they show you the charts and figures about how you will get rich by sharing the "opportunity."

As missionaries, we were taught that the most effective way of finding people to teach was through "member referrals." This is the process in which active mormons prepare a friend to hear the missionary lessons. We were told to visit member families and ask them to make a list of everybody they knew that wasn't a member of the church. We would encourage them to talk to everyone-- friends, family, cashiers, hairdressers, etc. Have you ever been to an MLM meeting? They do the very same thing!

So you see, Utah is the perfect breeding ground for MLM. Here we have a surplus of twenty-somethings that served missions where they were inadvertently inculcated into network marketing strategies. These young people come to Utah for college, they need some income, they're recruited. It makes perfect sense! I have no hard statistics to back me up, but I think this is what happens. MLM is presented with missionary zeal. The opportunity to get rich becomes a counterfeit gospel.

The other day I was driving and I saw a big yellow SUV with "PRODUCR" on the license plate. It's possible that the guy was in the movie business or something, but I suspected something more sinister. There is a guy here in Utah right now who is making a big noise about what he calls the "producer revolution." He runs a pay-to-play, MLM type real-estate investing scheme that has made him obscenely wealthy. I think the Hummer driver was one of his disciples. His name is Rick Koerber and he calls himself the "Free Capitalist." He has billboards all over the place with pictures of his sneering, goateed face below phrases like "principles govern!" or simply, "I am the free capitalist!"

I wanted to know what a "Free Capitalist" was and what kind of "principles" he was talking about. In my mind, the term "free capitalist" conjures up a robber-baron type whose greed is unfettered by the inconvenient restraints of charity and common decency. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. But I did find a list of the Free Capitalists 13 principles. You know what principle number two is? "Faith begins with Self-Interest." Seriously. So I guess we are to believe that faith (the substance of things not seen) begins with greed.

I've tried to give this the benefit of the doubt. After all, I've never listened to the guys' radio show, nor did I have the patience to wade through all of the fluffy motivational spinmeistering on his website to actually get to the meat of his programs. But I can't think of any interpretation of "Faith begins with Self-Interest" that doesn't smack of scriptural gerrymandering (a term I just made up to describe how people re-interpret the scriptures to support behaviors that run counter to the scriptures own true message.) Are we to believe that faith is excercised in order to get personal gain? I don't get it. I thought we were supposed to do good because we love God, not because we love money.

Luckily for me, I was invited to a weekend getaway at a cabin that, it turns out, belongs to the free capitalist. It's a modest mountain getaway-- a primitive retreat. It gave me time to reflect on things like wealth, virtuous capitalism, and faith. I especially meditated on these subjects while I swam in the indoor pool there. Maybe the guy is a saint, but what little exposure to him I have had has led me the conclusion that he represents everything that is wrong with Utah County Mormons. When I was getting out of his pool to take a leak, I thought of his freeway billboards and changed my plans.

Now instead of feeling annoyed while I drive down the freeway, I just chuckle to myself quietly.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This weekend was our fifth annual "Provophenia" scooter rally. Here are the details:

On Friday we met at 4pm at the store. There were about ten scooters. Those who came early voluntarily cleaned up the back lot, which was really nice of them. I can't say thank you enough. Derek T.O.B, Martinio, the Mowers and Jay from Boise were especially helpful. When we finally left we took a roundabout route through the foothills of Provo, past BYU and down highway 89 into Springville. We ate at Brand X.

I don't know whose idea it was to eat at Brand X, but I'm looking in the general direction of Dusty Bottoms and Flocahontas. It could also have been Tommy Two Shoes' idea, but he doesn't eat beef, so I doubt it.

Whoever is responsible, I'm glad there was a McDonalds across the street with a restroom. I'm also glad I bought a copy of the Daily Herald there, because I needed something to read. I've found that when there is an emergency of this nature, reading material is the best medicine. Without it, the IBS I got after my first adventure with Cafe Rio would surely have had me doubled over in agony. Brand X is pretty beat down. I ate there once a few years ago, and all I remembered was that there were a lot of flies, and that the food was good. At least my memory was right about one thing. There's still a lot of flies.

After Brand X some people split, the rest of us rode out past Lincoln Beach, around West Mountain and into Genola. Then we headed back through Santaquin, Payson, Spanish Fork and Springville. It was a nice long ride.

On Saturday we met at the store again for a barbecue, scooter shenanigans Derek T.O.B. put together, and a ride around the Alpine Loop. Dereks Slow Race and Scooter Slalom were a hit. Nearly everyone participated, and Dusty Bottoms won a free massage from Tim. It was down to me and Dustin, and frankly, I'm glad Dustin won, because I would feel a little too much like George Costanza getting massaged by a dude. I know it's different for women, but in my book, massage is just a means to an end-- like foreplay. I've heard it said, "backrubs in the front room lead to front rubs in the back room." Truer words. . .

So Tim, nothing personal, but you and Dustin have a nice time, ok?

The ride around the loop was great as usual. We had a total of 21 scooters in attendance. After the ride we went to sliding rock in Alpine. It was fun too, though only my wife and I actually went down the slide. Everybody else wussed out.

But the real purpose of Provophenia for me, was to have fun with my friends and get out and enjoy scootering for a change. Thanks to everyone who came. I hope you all had a great time.

Friday, July 27, 2007

When I was a kid I wanted a go-kart, but I didn't think I'd ever get to have one. We didn't have money for those kinds of things. A go-kart was something hopelessly out of reach, something exclusive to princes and potentates.

I'm not sure why I wanted one so much. It might have stemmed from the fact that after my parents' divorce, I was at the mercy of adults to visit my dad. I couldn't see him at will, but only when someone could drive me there, so I think I became obsessed with transportation. I was fascinated with mobility. I can remember vowing to ride my bicycle to my dad's house (50 miles away) when I was seven or eight years old. I didn't actually accomplish that until 8 years later. To my surprise, the go-kart dream came true first.

(Incidentally, the post-divorce transportation-fixation probably factors into how I wound up becoming a "motorscooter professional." I remember seeing the older neighborhood kids riding mopeds and scooters home from school. It was like seeing Aladdin swoop past on a flying rug, or Elroy Jetson on a space-bike. As they passed, their engines steadily whirring like magical bubbles popping, the riders smiles transcended the limitations of my own little world. It was a freedom I coveted, one that wasn't too far out of reach.)

I was about 13 when my brother Tom brought news that an older neighbor kid had a broken go-kart in his yard. We immediately set about scheming to procure the kart. As it turned out, Scott didn't really want it anymore. It was broken, and he was old enough to drive. Tom and I, along with a couple of his friends, pooled our money and bought it from him. I don't remember exactly what it cost, but I'm sure it was less than fifty bucks. I think I probably conned the other three investors into letting me make a small cash contribution in exchange for putting my mechanical skills to use in getting it running.

The other three raised money with a lemonade stand, and briefly, a lip-sync stand.

In case you were wondering what a lip sync stand is, think of a lemonade stand, only instead of paying a dime for an icy cold glass of lemony refreshment, you pay a dime to watch kids dance to top 40 hits. Not surprisingly, people didn't want to pay to see them lip sync so the venture went under. This was a bitter irony though, since the songs on the menu were all by Milli Vanilli, a duo who at the time were playing to sell-out crowds, but were later exposed as lip synchers themselves.

Somehow, in spite of their failed business venture, Tom and Co. were able to chip in with me and buy the go-kart. One of the front wheels was broken off, but that didn't stop us from riding it. We just couldn't make any left turns, or the front left corner would dig into the pavement, showering the driver with sparks and gravel.

It was the best thing we had ever bought.

We had a lot of fun with that old kart, until in 8th grade I decided to try and stretch the frame to accomodate my now longer legs. I did a pretty good job cutting it in half, but a pretty sucky job welding in the extensions. It broke in half on the maiden voyage.

So in 9th grade I took a metals class and built a new go-kart. I fixed up an old 8hp roto-tiller engine, and built a frame that had two seats so Tom and I could ride together. I even leveraged the project to get my "model design and building" merit badge. We also had a lot of fun with this second kart. We even took it to our dad's house once and he drove around in it with us.

In many ways kart #2 was the best car I've ever owned. But it wasn't without its problems. It only had one-wheel drive, the steering was jerky and imprecise, and the brakes were nothing more than big metal pads that rubbed directly on the tires to slow it down. By 12th grade, I had higher aspirations. Having considered all of the weaknesses of the original, and having need of a project to keep me sane in the wake of Becky's death and Zeebo's dumping me for a major douche, I decided to make a new go-kart. (If you want to see a movie about this period of my life, go watch "Better Off Dead." It's basically the same story only there was no cute French foreign exchange student in my version.)

This third kart was supposed to be my crowning achievement, though few people around me understood what I was trying to do. Like beating a sword into a plowshare, I aimed to make a 1974 Yamaha DT250 into a high-performance go kart. I had only ridden the motorcycle once, with Becky actually, before disassembling it to see what made it tick. Since I had the motorcycle engine already, I designed the kart around it. The frame I built had front and rear suspension, a special homemade steering box, disc brakes, and a really wide track for stability. My objective was to reach a top speed of 100 mph, though I didn't know what I would do after that.

In the end, it didn't work out the way I'd planned. Not that the kart broke in half or anything, I just never really finished it. I drove it home from school one day, without brakes, and parked it in the backyard. Soon after, I graduated from high school and moved on to other things.

Sometimes I regret never finishing that kart, but maybe some things are better left unfinished. Like a lip-sync stand, or Milli Vanilli, the Go-Kart served its purpose without actually accomplishing its goal. I didn't need to drive it, it didn't need to actually work. In the end, none of that mattered. It was a con. The real purpose of the machine was revealed in my own survival. In the middle of a maelstrom of personal problems, I daydreamed about a vehicle, planned and calculated and designed a vehicle, and I built a vehicle to see me through to the other side.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yesterday, as I was leaving my mom's house, I noticed some weeds growing in the sidewalk cracks so I pulled them. Then I noticed that the storm drain was partially plugged with pinecones and mud so I cleared it out. Then, since I had the garden hose out already, I watered some dead spots on the lawn.

Dxxxx came out and asked me what I was doing. When I told him, he gave me a suggestion on a "great product" to help with the situation. He says, "each time it rains on that, it grows very fast." And, "They are even better than ordinary seeds, they're robot seeds."

I gotta stop letting them watch infomercials. What kind of sicko television programmer decided to put infomercials on when they should be airing Saturday morning cartoons?

"Um, Dad, what if you took a shower with patch perfect all over you?"

I gotta ask again, "What kind of sicko. . ?"

Saturday, July 14, 2007



So here's a fun one: After nearly five years in business, I finally reached a milestone of having a complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau. Not only that, but the day before that complaint was filed, a different customer also threatened to complain to the BBB, but didn't follow through.

I won't pretend to be a saint or anything. In both cases I felt that the customers were being unreasonable to the point of frustration. There were no compromises to be made. Both were way out of line in my view, and I wasn't about to get pushed around or forced to kiss up to them. I was direct, firm, and a little volatile.

The first guy to threaten me was some turd who bought a piece of junk Roketa scooter. Like most, he began experiencing problems with the scooter in short order, and adding insult to injury, the place he bought it from didn't have the resources to help him troubleshoot it. This is almost always the case with these gray-market scooters.

So a few months ago he called and said his scooter wouldn't start and could we pick it up and bring it in to the shop. We explained to him that we charge $25 for in-town pick ups. He agreed to it and Dustin went and brought the scooter in for repairs. As soon as Dustin unloaded the scooter from his truck he found the problem: there was no battery in the thing. That's right, just an empty compartment where the battery should have been. (I think that was the case, but actually it could have had a dead battery, my memory is a little hazy on this point. I know Dustin picked up a scooter with no battery in it, I'm just not sure if it was this particular one. Makes for a better story though.)

Dustin immediately called the customer and informed him of the problem. A couple of hours passed, and the guy sneaked up to the store with a battery, put it in his scooter, and took off without paying the pick-up fee.

Dustin called him repeatedly and left messages politely reminding him that he had forgotten to pay the fee. The kid never answered his phone. Then one day, after being threatened with legal action, he called right back and apologized. He claimed he had been out of town or something. He said his scooter still had a problem and that he needed to bring it back in. He would pay the $25 fee when he brought the scooter back for repair.

So just to recap: Guy hires us to pick up scooter and do repair. We pick it up and do a preliminary diagnosis. Guy buys part somewhere else, sneaks over, gets his scooter, and robs us of our fee. Got it? Good.

When he brings the scooter back in, we immediately write up a ticket on it with the $25 dollar fee being the first item on the repair order. It's a matter of principle. The customer complains of the scooter not starting, headlights and horn not working either. We make sure he knows that we are at least two to three weeks backlogged in our service dept. and that he will have to be patient.

Almost two weeks to the day later, he calls me on the phone. He's upset. Wants to know what's taking so long. Asks me if I've ever considered hiring another mechanic. I am very appreciative that he is willing to counsel me on how to run a scooter shop. I tell him that I will personally take a look at his scooter that very day, so that I can at least tell him what may be wrong with it.

Immediately after the phone call, I dropped whatever else I was doing and brought his scooter into the shop. It started right up. The headlight switch was turned off. I turned it on and they worked. High and low beams both worked fine. The horn honked like a champ.

Brief recap: Customer complains that scooter won't start, headlights don't work, horn doesn't work. Customer is unwilling to wait for repair. Customer is belligerent on phone and insists that we speed things up. I make an exception for him and move him to the front of the line. Scooter starts, headlights work, horn works. And remember, this is the same kid that tried to steal from me.

I'm perplexed. Everything seems to be fine with the scooter. I leave it in the shop, and several times over the next couple of days I test the scooter to see if any of the problems surface. Finally on the third day, the horn doesn't work. Simple. I adjust the voice coil on the back of the horn and it's back in action. The adjustment takes about five minutes, but a big body panel has to be removed in order to get to the horn, so in all I spend about 45 minutes to an hour on the job (including the time I spent testing it.) I write up a bill for half an hour of labor in addition to the original pick up fee, and the customer pays and picks up his scooter.

The story should have ended here, but it didn't. The next day the customer called me to complain that his scooter wouldn't start and that we didn't fix it right. I explained to him that I had tested it and it had started fine several times over a few days, so I hadn't done anything with the starter and charging system. He complained that I had charged him money for the repair, so I explained that what he was charged for was the horn repair and the pick-up fee he had tried to steal from me. I explained that I had found no problem with the starter, and that the headlight switch was just off, so I hadn't charged him anything for those because there was no apparent repair needed. He complained that the scooter had been in the shop for a long time and that it wasn't fair. I explained that what wasn't fair was that I had put his scooter ahead of lots of other people in order to take care of it. He told me that I had an attitude problem. I told him that I didn't have an attitude problem, but that I did have a problem with people who tried to steal from me. He said he didn't pay the pick-up fee the first time around because he didn't feel that we had done anything to deserve it. I was appalled and so I restated in the form of a question, "You don't think that sending two employees out of the store for a half-hour to go to your house, pick up your scooter in a truck, bring it back and identify a problem was worth anything? I told him that if he desired, he could bring the scooter back in, wait at least three weeks until I could get to it, and pay a minimum hour of labor for me to diagnose the charging and starting system more thoroughly. (This is what I would regularly have charged anybody.) He said he was going to report me to the Better Business Bureau. "Go ahead," I said, "they won't do a damn thing."

The moral of the story: That guy sucks.

The second guy was even more awesome. The first time he came into the store, I wasn't there. I was at home with my kids. I got a call from the store because this customer was there and wanted a quote on a scooter to take to his bank and get a loan. My fabulous employee Flocahontas wanted to double-check the price of the scooter. She said, "I'm quoting him $3500, is that ok?" I asked if it was the orange one or the black one and she said it was the orange on he wanted. So I told her to knock off 200 bucks because the orange one, though new, was a 2006 model.

The following Monday, the guy came into the store and explained that he was on the way to the bank to get a loan for the scooter and just wanted to ask a couple of questions. I don't recall all of the details, because I talk to a lot of people about a lot of scooters, but he seemed really concerned about the scooters top speed. He wanted to know if it would go 70. I said that I had never gone 70 on one, but that others had told me they could go that fast, and that I had gone 65 on one and I weigh 285lbs.

He got the loan and bought the scooter.

One or two days later, he called and said that the scooter handled great, it had a great ride, but that it wasn't as fast as advertised. I said that he would need to give it some time to break in, and it would be faster. This is an immutable law of machines. They need to break-in. There is extra friction in all of the moving parts of an engine until it has seen some use. (My wife and I used to have a Toyota Corolla, and that wonderful car which I highly recommend, saw a significant power increase at about 110,000 miles.) Stuff has to break-in. Period.

Well the customer insisted that something was wrong with the scooter, so I told him to bring it in and we would look it over. Dustin took it for a ride and assured both the customer and myself that the scooter was perfectly fine. The customer had some particular concerns about the rev pattern of the engine and I explained to him that unlike a geared transmission in which RPM's are directly related to speed in a given gear, a CVT transmission, by nature, will allow the engine to rev differently according to load, throttle position, and speed. He looked at me like I was speaking Punjabi, but he left the store somewhat contentedly.

A few days passed and the customer returned to the store. He spoke calmly but his upper lip was twitching. Among other absurd things he said he wasn't going to pay off a $4000 dollar loan on a vehicle that was just going to sit in his garage. I asked why it was going to sit in his garage and he said it was because the scooter wouldn't go 70. I said that that was a stupid reason not to use a vehicle that functioned perfectly and that if he would give it time to break in I was sure he would be pleased with it.

He insisted that it should go full speed without breaking in, and that every other vehicle he had ever owned would go full speed right out of the box. I said that that was ridiculous and that any mechanic at any shop would agree that break-in is a necessary process.

(I think at this point I will just copy and paste the customers BBB complaint, as well as my response to it. It's long though, so go to the kitchen and get a snack, get comfy, and read on.)

Here is the customer's complaint, unabridged:

I recently purchased a new scooter from the Scooter Lounge in Orem (June 13th 2007). I was not able to take the scooter for a test ride because the dealer told me that they didnt want to spend the money for dealer licence plate. I had to base my decision to buy the scooter on the brochure and what Dave the manager told me about it. I was told that the scooter could go at least 70mph and the brochure also says that it will as well. My speedometer has never made it over 62mph. I told Dave this and he says its because I have not broken it in yet. I was 100% sure that the speedometer was inaccurate so I checked it against a GPS unit and it displayed a speed of 50mph when the speedometer showed 60mph. I told Dave this as well and he says that he can file a warranty claim on the speedometer. He also says that he believes that Im not telling the truth about the scooter only being able to go 50-52mph. I told him that the GPS was checked against my cars speedometer and the speed on the GPS always matched my cars speedometer. I asked him to please refund my money since I consider the scooter to be a lemon and falsely advertised that it does something that it doesnt do. He became angry with me over the issue while I spoke calmly to him and then he told me that I can take it up with the manufacture because its there problem and that I paid for it and that its now mine and he wont do anything for me about it. He then asked me to leave his dealership and not to come back. I now have a scooter that my bank holds a lean on and the bank says I should get a refund for the scooter. Even if the scooter had its speedometer repaired to indicate the proper speed then it would show that I am going almost 20mph under the speed I was told it could go. I first started talking to him about the problems on June 15th 2007. I want a full refund for the scooter and the interest that it has accruded on the loan. My bank feels I should be refunded to get my loan paid back.

Here is my response to the above hogwash. (Only the customers name has been changed):

It seems that the nature of Mr. Numbnuts' complaint is that the vehicle he purchased doesn't meet his expectations regarding speed.

He contends that he was led to expect more performance from the machine than what it delivers. He further contends that because of this, the vehicle he purchased is a lemon and he is entitled to a refund.

This argument is false on both counts. He was not led to believe that the vehicle would perform any differently than it does, and the vehicle does not suffer from any defect that would make it fall under the purview of the Utah lemon law.

First, the vehicle he purchased was not falsely advertised or misrepresented. He claims that I said things to him about the vehicle that I did not say. (This is the part that is the most frustrating to me on a personal level. The customer is, in effect, calling me a liar, which I resent.) It would be futile to rebut his claims point-by-point, because it would be a "he said, she said" argument. But let me give two examples of how his argument is flawed:

First: Mr. Numbnuts claims he was not allowed to test drive on the road because we told him we "didnt want to spend the money for dealer licence plate." (sic) I assume he made this claim to cast aspersions on our sales strategy, as if to indicate that we knew the scooter was slower than we claimed, and therefore made some excuse to prevent him from driving it on the street. I personally resent that implication. The fact that because of liability issues we don't allow anyone to test drive on the street (and neither do most of our competitors for that matter) is not important to Mr. Numbnuts, he would rather paint a picture more compatible with his strategy of bullying an honest business into caving to his unreasonable demands.

Example 2: Mr. Numbnuts claims he "was told that the scooter could go at least 70mph and the brochure also says that it will as well." Again, this is false. There is a difference between being told that the "top speed" is 70mph, and being told that the vehicle can go "at least" 70mph. At no time, verbally or otherwise, were assurances made that the vehicle could go "at least" 70mph. The vehicle he purchased is capable, when properly broken in and under the right conditions, of reaching speeds up to 70mph. One of my employees took the time to ride Mr. Numbnuts' scooter, and then to ride a brand new one for the sake of comparison, and he reached the same speed on both, 68mph. He reached this speed on the freeway, where he kept up with the flow of traffic. Yet still Mr. Numbnuts refuses to be satisfied. He now insists that the speedometer is inaccurate and that my employee is dishonest.

When Mr. Numbnuts first complained that the vehicle was not as fast as he expected, I assured him that it would develop more power after being properly broken in. He objected to this assertion. But I ask you, If Mr. Numbnuts won't take my word for it, or give any credence to the manufacturers recommendations regarding proper break-in, what is the basis of his complaint? He has been told the facts, but refuses to accept them. The only way I can explain his persistent reality denial is that he is experiencing a bad case of buyers remorse.

In an effort to resolve the problem I offered to file a warranty claim and look into the possibility that the speedometer could be inaccurate. If there were something wrong with the vehicle mechanically, we would gladly fix it under warranty. But this is not good enough for Mr. Numbnuts. He demands a refund. Yet the vehicle he purchased performs exactly as it should. There is no mechanical defect to speak of. The vehicle does not meet the criteria to be classified as a "lemon." And the vehicle was never advertised to do anything that it doesn't do.

The bottom line here is that Mr. Numbnuts will not get a refund because there is no basis for giving him one. He may as well complain to me that the scooter doesn't fly and demand a refund on that basis. There is no merit to his complaint.

We have a record of good customer service and honest business practices. After nearly five years in business and after selling hundreds of vehicles, including many of the model Mr. Numbnuts owns, we have not had a single complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau. There have occasionally been problems. This is normal for any business. And when there have been problems we have always given the customer the benefit of the doubt and done our best to make them happy. We treat people by the golden rule, and people buy from us because we have an excellent reputation. The products we sell are among the finest in the industry, and we stand behind them.

This is why Mr. Numbnuts' complaint is so bewildering. He clearly doesn't want to be satisfied. A repair to the speedometer isn't good enough. Breaking the engine in so that it develops full power (something all manufacturers require) is not good enough. Nothing short of a full refund will satisfy this customer and I think I have adequately laid out my reasons not to give him any sort of refund.

I was somewhat relieved to find out that Mr. Numbnuts has a reputation for being unreasonable. It happens that a good friend of mine is well-acquainted with this customers unreasonable demands at another retail establishment. This may not change the fact that a complaint has been filed against my business, but it does provide me with a context in which to place this transaction.

No further communication on this matter will be necessary.
Thank you for your kind attention.

David Hurtado
The Scooter Lounge Inc.

So now I bet you all are dying to know what the customer had to say about this. I haven't heard back from him yet, but rest assured, no amount of coercion is going to make me refund him a penny. Last time I saw him he was peeling out of the stores parking lot in his rice-rod Mazda. Later that same day, three of his former roommates came to the store to show me their bullet bikes. One of them used to be my neighbor and they're good guys, even if they do ride bullet bikes. I was still irritated about Numbnuts so I told them the story. They said that Numbnuts had taken his car back to the dealership no less than 30 times for nitpicky complaints. They said that after an oil change Numbnuts claimed the dealer had left a mark on the headliner (the cloth upholstery on the inside of the roof) and made them replace it. After that, he complained they had scuffed the glovebox and made them replace that too. (I wonder if he'll make them replace his tires for wearing out prematurely.) After hearing that, I can see that I got off easy. Numbnuts is is the kind of person you can never satisfy.

While we were standing in front of the store by their bullet bikes conversing, Mr. Numbnuts rode by on the "lemon." I wish I could have had a radar gun on me.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Moab Part 3:

After a hearty breakfast of Krispy Kremes and juice, I talked my wife and a few friends into scooting into town for a hearty breakfast at the Jailhouse cafe. (I usually eat two breakfasts a day, but normally one before bed and one in the morning. This habit may be the main reason riding slickrock was such a disaster.)

After breakfast number two, we all rode through Arches National Park. Here are the highlights: Riding scooters through amazing scenery, hiking to the Delicate arch, hearing two funny off-color jokes, not getting ripped apart by the wife over said jokes because I wasn't the one who told them, having a front-tire blowout going 60, fixing said tire on the side of the road.

I think part of the reason I enjoy riding scooters so much is that there is always the risk of something going wrong. On a larger cycle a certain element of adventure is removed from the equation. So I'm serious about the flat tire being a highlight of the day.

Later Tommy Two Shoes, Dusty Bottoms, Leslie Lew, my wife and myself ate pizza at a wood-fired buffet called Zax. Zax's motto should be: "The name's pretty gay but the pizza is great." I can't even think "Zax" without singing to myself the Flash Gordon song by Queen. "Zax! Ah Ah! Savior of the Universe!"

I think I ate about 15 pieces of pizza. One of them almost came out of my nose I laughed so hard at something Leslie said. For some reason the subject of marriage and divorce came up and I said that if I ever got divorced I would never remarry. Leslie said, "Oh, that's so sweet!"

My wife and I busted up pretty hard over that one. I had to explain that what I meant was that if I ever got a divorce, I'd never be dumb enough to remarry.

I've seldom felt so close to my wife as when we both laughed at Leslies naive outlook on life. Yep, those moments are the foundation of a long and happy marriage.

Later that evening, basking in the glow of a fun trip together, we drove home. It was at this stage in the trip that I was forced to listen to "The Secret." My wife brought the CD's along because her mom had been trying for months to share this "life-changing" wisdom with us. A lot of people are firm believers in "The Secret," so I have to be careful what I say about it.

"The Secret" is the biggest pile of horse crap the world has ever known. If all of the Budweiser clydesdales went and ate at Zax pizza, then chased it down with cola and pop rocks, the aftermath would pale in comparison to the staggering payload of equine dookie that is "The Secret."

If you aren't familiar with "The Secret," here is the the transcription I made while driving back from Moab:


ANNOYING AUSTRALIAN LADY (Picture a female Steve Irwin who gets off on money instead of crocodiles.)

"Throughout the ages, a great secret has separated the successful from the losers, the haves from the have-nots. I used to be a have-not like you, but then I discovered the secret. People like Plato, Einstein, Newton, and every other famous person I can think of, knew the secret. I know the secret too because here I am, making a tape for you to spend lots of money on. Now you can know the secret. Blah, blah, blah, the secret, blah. . ."


"The law of attraction works like magnets. You will attract that which you express. (This isn't true by the way. Magnets are attracted to opposite poles.) Now you hold the greatest secret of all time. You can have anything you desire. You are master of the universe! (By the power of Grayskull, I have the Power!)


By this logic, I now can have whatever I want. Therefore Universe, I command you to create a human race smarter than the average bucketful of Lemmings. Make mankind stop paying attention to this nonsense. And I want a billion dollars. Right now.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

On the way to Moab, we stopped for gas at the mouth of Spanish Fork canyon. Not to reinforce any stereotypes here, but it's worth mentioning that the this particular Chevron station is owned by Indians. I'm not mentioning it in order to make reference to Apu and the Quick-E-Mart, but because this gas station advertises an Indian buffet.

Common sense tells me that an Indian buffet inside a gas station in Spanish Fork Utah is as likely to give one food poisoning as a McDonalds in Mumbai, but I'm neither common nor sensible. For the same reason I once ate a pickled egg after learning that the scuzzy crust on top of the vinegar was a mat of microscopic worms called vinegar eels, I knew I had to try the Indian buffet.

Actually, it wasn't bad. I didn't even get diarrhea. And since my van is really drafty, the remaining drive to Moab wasn't made too unpleasant by my customary flatulent aftershocks. I would even go so far as to say that if you are ever at the mouth of Spanish Fork canyon and you don't feel like eating at The Little Acorn Drive-In, and you don't feel like driving anywhere else to eat, and you don't feel adventurous enough to forage for nuts and berries in the woods, you might as well try the Chevron Indian Buffet. It's that good.

For the rest of the drive we talked about a book I had just finished reading. This doesn't sound too exciting but you need to understand that usually our conversations revolve around things like potty-training and family finance. Discussing a book was a wonderful indulgence.

When we got to Moab we went straight up to the slickrock bike trail. This is the part of the trip that I affectionately call "The Tour De Humiliation." You see, the last time I rode slickrock I weighed nearly 100 pounds less than I do now. I also rode my mountain bike everywhere I went and I rode fast. I used to ride so hard and fast, that one time a stranger pulled me over and said, "Boy, you look like a hard worker! Let me tell you about a business opportunity called Amway. . ."

Back then, I could ride the entire slickrock trail without getting off my bike. At least that's how I remember it. This time, I was just a flabby has-been. When I got a flat tire a few miles into the trail, I secretly breathed a sigh of relief, and rejoiced at the opportunity to walk back to the car with a good excuse.

The entire ride I kept telling my wife, "I used to be able to ride up this hill" and "I used to do this whole trail in a few hours" and "I used to weigh 185 pounds." It was like getting slapped in the face by a former, better self. I am a shell of the man I once was.

That evening we met up with all the other rally people at the Big Bend campground and watched people get drunk for a while. We got tired of that pretty quickly, so then we went to sleep in the van down by the river.

In the morning everyone gave us a hard time for going to bed early. Wisecracks abounded. My personal favorite came from my friend Martinio Calderrama of Senor Martgage Mortgage who took to calling me "magic fingers Dave." I had helped him fix his scooter and he commented on how it made him feel dumb that I could do such fine work with my big clumsy fingers and I made the mistake of saying that my wife is amazed at what I can do with my big fingers. (That's not what I meant, get your mind out of the gutter.) I knew it was a mistake as soon as I said it. Damn Tourette's. The fact is, my wife has commented in the past upon seeing me work on machinery that it's amazing I can do delicate work with such huge hands. (Oh come on!) There's really no way to say that without it sounding dirty is there? Anyway it was a compliment and I'll take them when I can get them.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Back when my wife and I were expecting our third child, we decided (and by "we" I mean my wife) that we needed a minivan. It's a sad day in a mans life when he must consider buying a minivan. It's a little known fact that when you buy a minivan the dealers will take your testicles for a downpayment.

In fact, driving a minivan is second only to buying tampons on the emasculation scale. There is no way to look cool driving a minivan, it's impossible. Put George Clooney or Shirtless Matt McConaughey behind the wheel of a Chrysler Town and Country and you've got nothing more than two middle-aged douchebags and a dozen dirty sippy cups.

So I played a little trick on my wife. Here's what you do: She wants a minivan, you don't want a minivan, so you offer a ridiculous alternative. The more rejectable the better. In my case, I suggested that we get an old VW bus instead. I didn't really want a VW bus, but I didn't want a minivan either, so I insisted that a VW bus would be the best choice. I made the most compelling argument I could for it: It wouldn't depreciate, I could fix it myself and save money, any improvements made to it would be money in the bank, etc. . . Then, after arriving at an impasse, I offered a compromise. I casually suggested we consider buying a 1967 Dodge Campwagon van I found on eBay. It was like a VW camper van but with a powerful and reliable water-cooled American V8. She took the bait. My balls were off the hook. I could roll in style and have seats for the kids. It was a victory for my house-brand jedi mind trick.

That's how I got the Campwagon. Unfortunately my victory was short-lived. It has no air conditioning. The poor kids were cooking back there. After seeing their sweaty little red faces I gave in and bought a '99 Ford Windstar. It's like the Ford of minivans. Yep. Pretty sweet.

But on the bright side my wife reminded me that she got the deed to the family jewels on our wedding day anyway, so they were already long-gone. But out of a mixture of pity and having-something-to-hold-over-my-head-laterness, she let me keep the Dodge.

Fast-forward three years: In February I drove the Campwagon to Las Vegas for a scooter rally. On the way back six feet of the tailpipe fell of in the Virgin River Gorge, wires got melted by the hot exhaust and killed my taillights, the fuel gauge went nuts and insisted the tank was totally full all the time, the temperature gauge followed its lead, my heater blew ice-cold, and motor oil began hemorrhaging from every orifice. Adding insult to injury, when I finally pulled into Provo 24 hours later, my brakes went out.

Probably right here I should insert a reminder that I am not normal. In case you were wondering, I'm a little strange. Most people would probably have been pretty discouraged about their vehicle at this point, but I was really excited because I had so much fun camping in the old Dodge that I was motivated by the setbacks to fix it and make it better than ever.

Two months later the Campwagon was all fixed up. I even built a loft in the top so when the roof is raised you can sleep up there. Just in time for the scooter rally in Moab, too.

So with the kids at sitters and our scooters, mountain bikes and gear loaded in the back, my wife and I set out for Moab.

(Stay tuned: this is going to be a trilogy, or maybe even a guadrogy.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

We don't have In-N-Out Burger in Utah. But in spite of this, every Utah kid old enough to read knows about In-N-Out. It's a long story, but here's why:

Utah is a landlocked state. Our largest body of water is so salty, it's toxic to nearly all life. Utah isn't famous for anything very exciting. Our license plates have a picture of the desert on them for crying out loud. We have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Book of Mormon, the Mormon Church (of which I am a card-carrying member), and the occasional polygamist. Imagine Nevada without gambling, swearing, drinking, or hookers and you have a pretty good idea of what Utah is like. (Okay, it's not that bad, we sometimes swear here too.)

But don't get me wrong, I love Utah. I am proud to be what they call "Utarded." I like it here. So don't send me any nasty emails. The truth is, If it weren't for the siren-song of California, nobody would complain about living in Utah. But unfortunately for us Utahns, California exists. The San Andreas fault hasn't swallowed it up yet. Growing up I dreamed of California. Like a poor Israelite wandering in the wilderness thirsting for milk and honey but only finding manna, I dreamed one day to visit Disneyland and to swim in the ocean. Who wouldn't?

So it really isn't any surprise that whenever a kid moved to Utah from California, he or she was instantly popular. I remember one time at a BYU merit badge pow-wow, a schoolmate from Farrer Middle School told everyone he was from California. I called him on it and he shushed me. He knew he had a chance to make an impression on strangers, so told the one lie guaranteed to get him some respect.

Another time a friend invited me to go with him to meet up with an old buddy who used to live in Utah, but had moved to California. This friend of his was staying in some low-rent student housing for a week during a church-sponsored youth program. You should have seen my swelled head when I told my scout leaders I was ducking out early to meet up with some dudes from California.

One thing all the cool kids did in order to associate themselved with California was wear In-N-Out shirts. With respect to this phenomenon, there were the "haves" and the "have-nots." I was a "have-not." I initially thought the shirts were just made up. I didn't know there was an actual burger joint called In-N-Out. I thought it was just a trendy-shirt fad like the "Big Johnsons" shirts cool kids also wore.

All of this changed when as a High-School Junior I took a trip to Disneyland with the A Capella choir. We were going to sing at Bear Country or something, watch The Phantom of the Opera, shop some outlet stores, and eat at In-N-Out. When the choir director announced In-N-Out, people applauded. The rest was moderately exciting, but In-N-Out got everybody worked up. Every "have" turned to every "have-not" and with a special gleam in their eyes, extolled the virtues of the In-N-Out burger. At last my time had come! I would finally get to eat at In-N-Out and get a shirt to prove it! It would be like losing my virginity but without the guilt and subsequent therapy.

Well to make a long story short, talk about a disappointment. After all those years of wanting to belong to that exclusive club, I finally ate at In-N-Out, and you know what? It wasn't any better than Mickey D's. I was so disappointed I didn't even waste money on a T-shirt. Everybody else was feigning orgasms over the fries and shakes, but I knew they were faking it. Fast food is fast food, no matter what state you're in.

Every now and then I run across one of the In-N-Out kids I grew up with. They are all attorneys and high-rollers now. Magna-Cum-Groupies. Turds. All because they learned early on that they were better off if they affiliated themselves with people and places of higher social standing than Utah afforded them.

After reading this diatribe, you'll be surprised to know that at the Las Vegas High Rollers Scooter Weekend in February, I ate at In-N-Out burger for the second time in my life. I didn't go there for the food. Again, it was unparallelled in its mediocrity. I went there so I could spend around $40 on T-shirts for my kids.

After all, I want them to get into the best schools.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I've been accumulating a bunch of blog topics over the past several weeks, but haven't found myself in the mood to write about them.

There was the story of Richard Guhn's third annual pilgrimage to The Scooter Lounge, which would have been titled "Richard Guhn: How we got rid of him for good this time-- we hope."

There was the story I was mulling over about how as a kid growing up in Utah, kids from California were automatically admired and accepted into the coolest cliques-- even if they were from a hellhole like Bakersfield, or Barstow.

Then there was the story of how certain individuals at Genuine Scooter Company, (in spite of me having been one of their most vocal supporters and one of their top dealers), began waging a campaign against my mental health, financial security, and general happiness by becoming a major pain in the neck. But although that was a big, big headache, and I'm still mad as hell about it, it's neither funny nor entertaining, and I think it would be ill-advised to publicize it.

In the wee hours of this morning I awoke from a dream about my Brother-In-Law whom I never met on account of his suicide ten years ago. For some reason it cast a pall on my whole morning. I thought about writing about that, but it's pretty depressing.

A few weeks ago my six-year-old son intentionally broke a big plate-glass window and began working at the store for an hour a day to pay for it. Hilarity did not ensue. Nothing to write about.

My wife and I went to Moab for a scooter rally and slept in my van, down by the river. It was fun, my friend Marty nicknamed me "Magic Fingers Dave," and there were plenty of wisecracks about "If this Van's a rockin'. . ." all totally unfounded. And I took my mountain bike on a "tour de humilation" from which parts of my body are still recovering.

Speaking of "still recovering" I crashed a customers scooter in the parking lot of my store. That's a great story too.

So my blogfriends, help me to narrow the field. Tell me what stories you most want to hear.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Becky wasn't my girlfriend.

Later, I wished so much that she had been, that I took her younger sister Rachel jet skiing. We sat in the middle of the reservoir, engine off, and talked for about an hour. But I just couldn't make-believe Rachel into Becky. As much as I would like to have been buried in the silt at the bottom, I was floating on top of the water. I was with Rachel and she was very much alive. We returned to shore, possibly both realizing that expectations were too high. Either way, I realized that it was unfair to hold her hostage to her sisters memory.

But "Becky wasn't my girlfriend". This was the opening line of a short-story I attempted to write after her death. Not a very good line, I know, but much better than everything that followed it, I assure you. Teenagers write such sentimental and trite garbage without the aid of dead friends, you can imagine how bad it gets when the reaper really digs in and gets involved.

Many times we sat in my car, or hers, and talked late into the night. One time in particular I remember. And in my memory I'm not wearing a shirt, though I'm sure that in reality I was. We talked about nothing and everything. She played me that song by The Proclaimers. I'd never heard it. It wasn't until Benny and Joon came out a few years later that the song went mainstream. You know the song, "and a I would walk five hun dred miles and a I would walk five hun dred more just to be the man who walked a thou sand miles to fall down at your door."

Becky wasn't my girlfriend because I already had Zeebo. That's a stupid reason, I know. It's the worst reason, in fact. But In my mind at the time, Zeebo was it. End of story. And Zeebo was even jealous of Becky. She told me. Even she, the booger-eater, could see what was going on. I was blind. I spent every waking minute with Zeebo. I lost touch with Becky for a few months until I got word that she was comatose and on life support. An allergic reaction to trace amounts of peanut oil.

After Becky died, Zeebo went away to college and dumped me for some skinny douchebag who ran around telling people the ridiculous story that I had raped his girlfriend. I'm not sure how he got any gratification from that fabrication. I was a wreck. I didn't sleep or eat very much. I hardly went to school. Completely opted out of church. I pretty much just slept and worked. Strangely, I felt more of an obligation to my employer than I felt to my God and my education. My bishop came to see me and I told him to leave me the f#@$ alone. It was an all-time low.

Do you know who I missed the most? Becky. To hell with Zeebo. Becky was the one lost. From Zeebo I got paroled.

One day I tried to get myself ready for church. I made it as far as the bathroom, after which I frantically penned the following:

I felt trapped under ice, so I took a hot shower, possibly hoping to melt the rock inside
But I cried for lack of a better outlet, and stepped out to find you standing there,
Like the smell of a casserole I hadn't had since childhood, and I was embarassed, or maybe a little bit flattered
So I wrapped a towel around myself, and took your hand, and sat on the edge of the tub.

And it was "Becky, Becky, Becky I've missed you so much dear and I've never loved anyone more dear and It's me inside again dear. I'm coming home! I'm pushing to the surface, Becky!"

But you're dead now. And my hand is empty.
And I use it to spread the shaving cream on my face
And try to make myself look like I haven't been up half the night
Missing you.

Shortly after this experience, Becky's mom called. She had a letter for me. Becky had left it taped to the bottom of her dresser. It said, among other things, that she loved me, that she thought I was great. She admired me and wished we could be closer. She wished she could tell me, she said, but there was Zeebo, and there were her own insecurities. She said that if I ever read the letter it would be because she was dead and someone had found it and given it to me.

And that's exactly what happened.

Friday, March 23, 2007

When I was 15, my best friends were these two brothers in the neighborhood. I would go to their house every day after school and hang out. One day they wouldn't open the door for me. They were home. I could see them through the window. But they pretended I was invisible. They had new friends over.

That was pretty much the worst and the best thing to happen. Had I remained friends with them, I probably would have turned into a real tool. On the other hand, being exiled from nearly all of my friends was devastating.

In the aftermath, I began spending a few hours in the school library after classes every day. I would do all of my homework, then walk home. This brought my GPA up a lot, but I was really lonely. Sometimes I even cut myself.

It was during this blue period that I met a girl named Julie Williams.

She was sitting alone at a table in the library. It looked like she was either writing a letter or writing in a journal, or both. She was pretty, but not in an unapproachable way. The main thing about her, the thing that was so attractive to me, was she had this long scar on her cheek. The cumulative effect of the vision of a pretty girl with a scarred face surrounded by journals and papers, was that of a small bird with a broken wing. Immediately I wanted to take care of her.

As it turned out she was a Senior. Bad news for a Sophomore. But also, as it turned out, she was in my Health class. So after coaching myself for a few days I introduced myself to her as we were leaving class one day. We began talking on the phone and sort-of became friends. I guess we were friends. We were friends enough that she expressed insecurity about having fat thighs. (Which she didn't.)

So one day I penciled "Julie has perfect thighs" on the door of her locker. It became a thing I would do on a regular basis. I think she liked it. She even picked me up one Saturday and we went to the mall together so she could buy some shampoo or something. We took pictures in one of those photo booths and she sat on my knee. I can't explain it, but my knee stayed warm, as if she were still sitting there, for hours afterward. I didn't know how to approach her, how to talk to her, how to befriend her. All of which happened somehow. And she had even sat on my lap in a photo booth! How any of this happened was completely beyond me.

Thinking back, in light of day, I see how I was inundated with such insecurity and self-doubt that my conscious self was one step removed from my physical being. I know this sounds like metaphysical-mumbo-jumbo so I'll break it down for you. It was as if I was a small child inside my own head, controlling my awkward teenage self by manipulating knobs and levers.

I was consumed by thoughts of Julie. Instead of the usual recreational cutting of my forearms, I cut a J and a W one day. That was when things began to unravel. Though I covered it with band-aids, someone in whom I had confided told Julie about it, and she demanded I show her. Naturally, she freaked out and didn't want to talk to me any more.

To make matters worse, shortly after that someone penned "Julie has fat thighs" on Julies locker. It wasn't me. I suspect it was one of the other wierdo's also pursuing her. Sabotage. Julie was really mad. Of course she didn't believe me when I insisted I hadn't written it. That was the end of it.

I don't know what happened to Julie. It doesn't matter. It was a learning experience for me. I learned that If I called girls on the phone I could actually carry on a conversation without choking up. I learned that if I studied a little bit I could get straight A's. I learned that I would rather have friends than study. And I learned that no matter how often you tell a girl, she'll never believe she has perfect thighs.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hola amigos, I know it's been a while since I rapped at ya. I've been busy. Here's a funny video to tide you over.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

Kent called the other day to tell me about a movie that's going to screen at Sundance. (He goes to the festival every year.) He was appalled and shocked and amused when he read about a film called "Zoo," so he called to tell me about it immediately.


The film is described on the festival guide as follows:
"In the predawn hours of July 2, 2005, a dying man was dropped off at a rural emergency room in the Pacific Northwest. A surveillance camera captured the license plate of the car that deposited the man at the hospital. This led detectives to a nearby horse farm, where they found hundreds of hours of videotape of men from all over the world having sex with Arabian stallions. The man's cause of death was a perforated colon.

Although this incident made headlines and the tabloid news, Zoo is the complete antithesis of what you expect. Robinson Devor's filmmaking is as smart as it is eloquent. To begin with, Zoo is neither graphic nor exploitive. Most of it takes the form of recreations, but from the point of view of the men "who met for years without disturbance in the shadows of Mt. Rainier," as Devor puts it. He cleverly captures the essence of these men and their alienation by creating a visual poetry.

The cinematic language invented for the film permits us to examine where we draw the line, how much perversity we can tolerate in others. In a broader sense, Zoo is really about thresholds. What can we stand to know, and, more importantly, what can we stand to accept?"

"Visual Poetry?" Gross.

My friend Kgordee calls it "Horseback Mountain."

Friday, January 05, 2007

I know I've written a lot of random stuff lately. (A friend of mine said he wasn't going to read my blog anymore because of the post about my phobia.) Random is the norm with me.

And then to think I had the nerve to post U2 lyrics followed by a picture of baby Jesus. I am a heretic and an infidel. No wonder nobody left comments on the last post. Everybody must be getting ready to round up a lynch mob.

I've been thinking a lot about alternative fuel vehicles and stuff. I think generally I'm a big supporter of alternative technologies and innovative products. There are a couple of things that bother me about the current enthusiasm for alternative fuels.

1. There is no such thing as a zero emission vehicle. There are too many factors contributing to environmental impact to make that claim. Even if the vehicle produces no hydrocarbon emisson in the exhaust, there are many ways it impacts the environment. Lets say for example you have an electric car. Zero emissions right? Wrong. The electricity you use to charge your batteries is produced in a factory that probably burns coal. The coal is transported to that factory in trucks that burn hydrocarbon fuel. The car contains many batteries. The batteries are produced in factories that use electricity produced by coal, or nuclear, or whatever. The batteries are made of toxic lead and sulfuric acid. The batteries will eventually need replacement. The tires of the car leave rubber on the roads, are produced in factories, and transported in trucks. The people who work in the factories defecate and fart and urinate and spit and sweat and breathe. Guess what they exhale? Carbon Dioxide- a greenhouse gas.

2. When viewed with an eye that looks at total environmental impact, the benefits (if there are any) to the alternative fuel vehicles currently on the market really don't amount to much. What really matters is the energy density to cost ratio. Let me explain: Energy density is the a measurement of how much energy can be contained in a certain volume or mass. With gasoline for example, the energy density of gasoline by mass is 46.9 MJ/kg and by volume is 34.6 MJ/L. While gasoline engines don't exploit this potential due to inefficiencies inherent in their design, they use a fairly efficient fuel. Compare that to the energy density of Lead Acid batteries. By mass you get a whopping .09-.11 MJ/kg and by volume .14-.17 MJ/L.

What this means is that to have an electric car that has the performance of a gasoline car (without adjusting for higher efficiency inherent in electric motors, and the energy recovered by regenerative braking) you would carry 500 times the weight and your fuel would take up 200 times the space of gasoline.

This isn't a fair comparison at all because as I mentioned, electric motors are more efficient than gasoline engines and there are ways to recover some of the energy used in an electric car that can partially compensate for losses. Nevertheless, major obstacles have to be overcome before alternative technologies can compete with the established infrastructure.

Getting back to the energy density/cost ratio. Ultimately the price of energy will be the factor that determines what technology succeeds in the marketplace. The price of gasoline, high as it is, is still lower than competing alternatives when viewed in terms of cost per energy utility (that's a name I just made up for mass energy density and volume energy density taken together.) And there are huge incentives to manufacturers to further develop technology to increase the efficiency of gasoline engines. They benefit from an established infrastructure that would have to be redesigned from the ground up for most alternative fuel sources.

So what will happen if the market price of gasoline gets so high that alternative technologies get a foothold? Some analysts believe gasoline will be sold cheaper to stay competitive. This is probably true. As long as producers of petroleum can lower prices and still be profitable they will do so.

So basically what I'm saying is, it takes a long time for changes to happen. And the hype surrounding alternative fuels is just that: Hype.

So what can we do as consumers to make a real difference? We can reduce our consumption in realistic ways. We can drive less. We can be more sensible in the choices we make about what we consume and how we consume it. We can be educated and take a more reasoned approach to reducing our environmental impact. And most of all, we can ride more scooters from the Scooter Lounge.

(Hold for applause)

Thank You, Thank you very much.

(Bow, exit stage left.)