Posts Tagged ‘learning curve’

Pump Up the Jams

April 28, 2014

Pump up the jam.

Pump it up.

While your feet are stompin’  and, uh the jam is pumpin’ ….

And um.


I meant.

Pump up the tires, pump them up, don’t freak out, you can do it, yes you can.

Pump up your tires.

I got a little obsessive in my thinking this afternoon.

I knew I needed to inflate the tires on the Vespa, the front especially, it looked low and the Vespa felt like it was riding mushy last night.

Not a comfortable feeling on a scooter going 35 mph.

But I didn’t want to fuck it up, so I did a bunch of research, looked up proper PSI for scooters, for Vespa’s in particular.

Apparently, and once I thought about it, it made complete sense, the tire in the rear should be inflated at a higher PSI than the one in the rear.

Now, when my friend sold me the Vespa and I nervously asked about tire inflation he gleefully wielded the portable tire pump that was in the little side hubcap of the Vespa.

“This is it,” he said, “you pump it up with a bicycle pump.”

No freaking way.


I have one of those things.

I keep the little portable pump in the Vespa and I have my trusty Park Tool stand up bicycle pump with my one speed whip in the garage.

I have plenty of experience pumping up tires, changing flat tires, exploding inner tubes, once I popped a tube, while changing a flat, and screamed out as it sounded as loud as a gun shot.

Then giggled maniacally when the ensuing silence from the neighboring apartments became apparent to me.

“Blew my bicycle tube,” I hollered up the stair base, “no cause for alarm.”

The noise went back to normal.

I inserted another tube into the rim and made sure it fit.

I have experience.

But I was nervous anyhow.

I shot out a few texts to a good friend of mine who is a bit of a Vespa connoisseur.

In fact he told me that he loved riding his Vespa around San Francisco more than anything, more even maybe so than sex, and he likes sex a lot.

A lot.


He was the first person this morning to get a text about inflating the tires.

I had already been hopping around on-line checking out this site and that and I discovered the old Vespa manual in a PDF file that was on Scooter Masters, it turns out this was the link my friend would send me not even five minutes later.

I flipped through the pages, flitting here and there and not seeing a whole lot of tips and tricks to doing it.

Yes, Carmen, it is just that simple, you don’t need to watch fourteen YouTube videos to figure it out.

Go out to the garage.

Get the bicycle pump.

Use the Presta valve not the Schroeder valve.

Pull up on the pump arm and compress.

And watch the air got directly into the tire and watch the tire inflate.


The only thing, and I went with my gut on this, was that the tire pressure was reading higher on the pump gauge than my friend had suggested I pump my tires too.

BEFORE I had put any air into the front tire.

But I knew just from looking at it that it was under inflated.

I trusted my instinct, pumped it up a bit more than did the rear wheel which did not really seem to need any air, but I figured I would feel it out and just squeeze a little in.

It rode so much better.

I was quite happy.



I still had to pray and psyche myself up to get on her and go for the ride, but the ride in was smooth, I rode up Lincoln to Oak and took that into the Haight then dropped down to Church and Market.

Nary a slip of the gear, smooth sailing all the way.

Same going home after I finished with my commitment.

It was a little more stop and start for me as the traffic was a little goofy.

I had one person in front of me that was either intoxicated or just not paying any attention what so ever and took a turn to the left while he had signalled a turn to the right.

I reacted and responded and zoomed by.

But it was a moment and I realized that now that I am more competent, having gone on a total now of nine scooter rides, that I can do this and I am getting to a point where I am having more fun with it.

I thought some time today about this upcoming week, work goes back to its normal five days, and that I will still ride my bicycle into work Monday through Thursday.

I want the exercise, it’s good for my brain.

I really need it.

I did go for a short ride today as well as getting out for a walk down to the beach with my friend who surprised me in my hood with a guest from out-of-town who wanted to go down to the beach and dip her toes in the surf.

That kind of exertion can sustain me for a day, but not for a week.

I will need a longer bit of exercise.

Plus, the morning commute to Cole Valley is only 20 minutes on my bicycle, less actually.

I give myself twenty minutes from walking out the door to the studio to walking into the garage at work.

I would probably be that much if not more time wise for me to ride the scooter, morning traffic, stopping, starting, I figure when I am working in Cole Valley I will still probably ride in.

Thursdays the same thing, I have a pretty quick commute on the bicycle and there’s not very good parking by the house where I work in the NOPA.

But Friday.

Friday, I believe I will ride my scooter to work.

Tackle that big hill at Noe and 19th.

If I can get up the hill on Castro I can make it up to this gig.

Plus, there will be parking there.

I am going to check with the mom tomorrow, but I should be able to park my scooter by the dad’s motorcycle alongside the garage on the sidewalk.

If so.

It’s on.

Though at times the Vespa learning curve has been more than I thought I could chew, I am finding it more and more palatable.

More fun.

More sexy.

More about the journey.

Less and less about the fear and the nerves.

At least I don’t feel like I am going to vomit before I get on the scooter.

Just a little nauseous.

And butterflies are good.

Nerves are good.

Just not when they stop me from getting on the ride.

The gift of riding, walking, bicycling through the fear.

Never thought I would be grateful for the discomfort.

But that I am.

And that I didn’t explode the inner tube on the front tire of the Vespa.




Nice Vespa!

April 25, 2014

What year is it?


Fucking awesome!


Then, kerchunk.

I killed it on the hill turning onto Fell Street.


That’s what you get for flirting with the guy on the corner.

Well, I might have killed it anyway, it’s my newest challenge, going up a hill in gear, first mind you, while using the rear brake to stabilize me and then easing off said brake, letting out the clutch and giving it a little gas.

Not too much.

Not too little.

Just the right mix.

I have it down when I am in the flats and am getting proficient enough with it that I can smoothly slow down, down shift, stop, and ease it right back out after the stop and keep moving forward.

Most of the time.

I still have my moments.

Then, I have to think about the fact that today was time number seven, of being out on my Vespa riding, and three of those rides were short with someone else with me.

I took it up to Church and Market today to do a meet up at Crepevine and then head over to Our Lady of Safeway, except that I didn’t.

After my meeting at Crepevine it started to rain.

Not a lot.

But enough.

Enough that my companion urged me to skip where I was going and head home before it did start to really come down.

The rain wasn’t supposed to start until tomorrow, but that’s what happens in San Francisco.

The weather can be a little tricky and I did not want to push my luck with it.

As it happened, I made it back without getting more than just a little sprinkled on.

And I can say that I am getting the hang of it more and more.

I still have what I call my pre-game warm up.

I get nerves.

I get anxious.

I have to breathe through it, roll my shoulders a little, loosen up my body, say a word to the powers that be and give myself more than adequate time to get where ever I am going.

There is a ritual involved to rolling it out and starting it up and I am getting a small routine, but it’s going to be a little longer before I just hop on and cruise off.

Granted, it’s getting easier to will my way into riding.

I expressed tonight at the restaurant that I am more scared than I would like to let on, but then, I have had moments of unadulterated fun, the moving through the park, on John F. Kennedy, has really helped, the green, the lushness, the Chain of Lakes, the Bison in the paddock.

Even, yes, the frisbee golfer warming up tonight as I headed home in the dusk trying to beat out the rain fall.

There’s another thing I can get myself into, frisbee golf.



I like those sorts of activities.

It would require a small investment to buy a couple of discs and I could hop my scooter and be over to the course in ten or fifteen minutes.

My friend’s partner, said friend who sold me the scooter,  got really excited for me when she saw me last, giving me a big hug she said, “it’s going to open up the city to you in ways you cannot imagine.”

I knew she was right when she said it, but I think I am just starting to get an inkling of what that might look like.

I am a bit bummed that there’s rain forecasted for tomorrow, I know, I know, we need the rain, but I would have like to have ridden the Vespa into the Castro tomorrow, met with my friends, then headed over to the End Up for some dancing.

I am not willing to take her out yet in the rain.

I will, I am sure, at some point take a ride in the rain, but unless it’s absolutely necessary, I don’t see the point.  I can take MUNI, not worry about my burgeoning scooter skills, and stay dry.

I had visions of perhaps going to Kabuki before heading out, but perhaps I will save that for the weekend instead.

Dancing is the only thing on the menu, so far.

I had my half day.

It definitely threw me for a loop, getting out of my routine, going in early, leaving early.

I did not care for it and I did not know what to do with myself, but I just told myself, next little action in front of you and see where it leads.

Lead me home, but not quite to the house, I buzzed by, on my bicycle, earlier, I am still riding my bike into my nanny gigs, and hit the Noriega Produce Market for groceries and supplies to get me through the weekend.

I knew the forecast called for rain, so I figured, get the shopping for food out-of-the-way.  Then back to the house, chop up some raw veggies, eat some hummus, have a bowl of homemade soup and do my “morning” pages, which were clarifying and helped me resolve to continue taking next action, which, yes, led to me meditating.

I can stand that.

The quieting of my mind.

Getting into my body.

“You are so hard on yourself,” she said to me tonight, leaning over the table, “you really don’t have to be.”

I don’t even know it.

I don’t see it.

I don’t feel it.

Once in a while I can see I am learning to ease up.

But most times not.

It’s rather like learning to ride this vintage Vespa, it’s a practice, an easing up, a letting out the clutch and an easing off the throttle.

I am so used to going full throttle and riding the clutch with a death grip.

Ease up.

Slow down.

Mellow out.

Be nice to the scooter.


Be nice to me.

I may not have gotten as much done today as I would like (laundry, cooked food for the weekend–black-eyed peas with kale and broccoli, laced with browned organic ground pork and onions and garlic, pot of savory brown rice–turmeric, garlic, black pepper, ginger, adobo, wrote four pages long hand–I had the time, rode my scooter, met up for tea with someone who has a better perspective on my life than I do, worked a half day, finished my library book–Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon) but I did do a lot more than I let myself acknowledge.

For today, for at least this moment.

I acknowledge I do a good job.

The best I can.

And that is pretty damn good.


I Killed It

April 6, 2014


I mean.

I literally killed it.

Like, um, four times.


Learning how to use the clutch on the scooter.

But learning I am and I now feel comfortable enough to go out on my own tomorrow.

Not very far.


Just up and down the block, get the feel of it, get used to rolling off the throttle, using the clutch, moving from 1st to neutral, neutral to 2nd, not killing it.

But killing it.

Now, figuratively.



Soon, I will be zipping around this seven by seven tract of city like no body’s business and it’s going to be on.  Of course, there’s a learning curve, and I did not want to get on that curve today, nope, not at all, in fact, I had more than one fleeting thought about how this was all a mistake and what was I thinking and who needs a scooter and I am crazy.

I ate my dinner anyway before my friends showed up.

My friend came over with his girlfriend to help me practice.

And I thought as I hugged her, this was a mistake, the eating of dinner, I am going to throw up.

The feeling stayed with me as I promptly killed the engine on the scooter taking it from neutral to first and letting out the clutch to fast and leaping forward a little and whomp, there she goes dying.

I got to slow down then.


Back it up against the curb.

Practice finding and using the kill switch.

Practice rolling on and off the throttle.

Practice squeezing out the clutch slowly.

My friend noticed my biggest error right away, I was using the clutch like it was a brake.


Makes total sense, at least to me, I am used to squeezing a lever on the handlebars on my bicycle, it means I am engaging the brake on the wheel.

Eight years of habit is a hard habit to break.

And I have to learn how to brake by using the foot brake on the Vespa, the right side has a foot brake on the floor board of the scooter.

The clutch is on the left, the throttle on the right and the right front brake and then the rear brake is on the floor on the right side.


Dyslexia girl strikes again.

What my friend did was genius though.

He just paced right along side me on his scooter.

He went slow, watched for traffic, had me start out in neutral, ease off the clutch, go to first, give it some gas, and practice stopping and starting every ten to fifteen feet for a while.

Then when I was getting the hang of it, I took it into second and went a little bit faster.

Not that much faster, though.

I got passed by cars.


And, mortifying.

One guy on a skateboard.

But what ever.

I got it.

I stilled killed it at a four-way stop sign when I got overwhelmed with the sunlight and the cars and the turn and just fritzed out my brain.

And that’s ok too.

I am learning.

And I got the thumbs up to do some practising on my own.

l feel like I can do that tomorrow, take her out, just zip, slowly, up and down the blocks.

My neighborhood is actually perfect for that kind of practise.  It is so residential and there are stop signs just about every block.  I couldn’t bring the scooter over 25 mph if I wanted to before I would be braking.

I can just do exactly what I did today.

Get on, start the engine, I literally have to kickstart it.

There is not engine on switch.

I put the key in the scooter, turn it, to make sure the handle bars have gotten unlocked, and kick down the lever to start the engine.

It is pretty awesome when I think about it and I really do see myself becoming a pro at it.  I just have to practice and allow myself to be a novice at something.

I learned how to drive a stick shift when I was fifteen.

I did the same thing then as I did today.

I stalled out  the engine.

I didn’t understand the feel of the clutch and the sound of the engine and when I needed to shift.  Mostly I was also mortified to make any mistakes.  Especially with my mom in the passenger seat telling me how to do it.

She made me drive up and down the drive way at the house in Windsor.

What I did not realize when I was first learning was that too often I was putting the car into third gear, first and third being close together on the gear shift, I didn’t know the difference, until, one day, it just clicked.

But by that time I was in a panic to not drive anymore.

I had stalled out at the four-way stop sign in Windsor and had traffic behind me and mom yelling at me in the car and I just wanted to give it up forever and who needs to drive anyway?

I somehow managed to make that left turn, just like today.

And after that it got easier.

And my uncle Jeff took me out in his truck shortly thereafter and was so laid back and easy-going and just explained it to me and I got it.

Same thing happened today.

I got the throttle and easing up and off while using the clutch and I got used to using the foot brake.

My friend was wonderful and patient and encouraging and so was his girlfriend, who had learned from him as well.

There was even a few moments when I was not terrified that I was going to kill it, never worried about killing myself, just the scooter, and I really enjoyed riding, the park is beautiful and I was riding along John F. Kennedy and hey!

I live in San Francisco and I own a vintage 1965 Vespa and I am riding it through Golden Gate Park wearing a sparkle helmet.


Life is amazing.

Even when I killed it.

I was killing it.



December 2, 2013

REALLY uncomfortable

My shoulder is acting up with a vengeance.

It hurts mom.

Make it stop.


I went really easy today and that does not seem to matter.  I went to the beach.  I sat in the dunes.  I talked to my friend Joan on the phone and caught up while watching the surfers swim and slide along the waves, out past the break point and into the sun.

I over heard the chatter of the surfers coming out of the water, comparing differences in boards and rides, waves, and swells.

I did not understand everything that was said, but I am learning.

So much to learn.

Always the learning.

I mean I did not leave the neighborhood at all.

I did get on my bicycle and ride out to the Sloat Garden Center, I wanted to see what they had and just sort of explore and I was feeling a little restless on my last day of “staycation” feeling like I had to do something.

Apparently the had to do something was had to take it easy and gobble ibuprofen.


It flares up too when I am at my laptop so I am sitting on the chaise with pillows behind my shoulder and my laptop propped up on top of my copy of Clockers.

I sat outside a lot today.

Sitting, if you can tell, being a major component of today.

I sat and meditated in the back yard, the neighbors very large black cat sunning itself next to me, the heavy almost oily rustle of ravens flapping over my head and the soft roar of the ocean my accompaniment.

I sat on the tree at Trouble and met new folks in the neighborhood.

One gentleman and his three-year old daughter, who was playing with my housemates daughter in front of Trouble Coffee, and I struck up a conversation about living in the area, Ocean Beach feeling like its own small town beach community rather than a big urban city.

Turns out he is an avid surfer and we talked surfing and getting in the water and what I can work on while I am get my connections together to go out with people.

“Just go out when it’s mellow,” he said, “like it was early in the week last Sunday and Monday, baby swells.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about, I was in that mild water.

“Next weekend is supposed to be quite similar,” he added, “just get in your wet suit and body surf, get used to being in the water, you don’t need to go far out, just go waist-high or chest high and get the feel of the water, then grab a boogie board.”


This is what I want to hear.

He talked waves and swells and lost me a bit, but just watching his long arms and fingers transcribe the roll of a wave and when he turned his body as though he was falling into a trough I could suddenly see him in the water buoyant and long.

“Rubber floats,” he said, “you don’t have to worry about getting pushed down either, you’re just going to pop right back up, just keep yourself waist to chest high in the water and have fun.”


Later, sitting in the dunes, then reclining in them, I did decide I was going to at least walk the beach a little, it’s pretty obvious that I can’t get into the water right now, it’s a challenge maneuvering my bicycle right now let alone a surf board, but I can walk for fuck sakes.

Not fast and not with my bag strapped full, but gentle, slow, a meander along the shore.

Sand Dune

Sand Dune

Blue Water

Blue Skies

Boogie Board Lesson

Father and daughter

I watched a father instruct his daughter how to watch the tide come in and he stood and pointed to where the sand bar was and how the waves broke around it.

He admonished her to pay attention and then finally stood back and let the water lap at his feet while she frisked about in the waves.

It was sweet to watch and to catch the overhead snatches of conversation.

I don’t have the benefit of starting this practise at a young age, getting into the water, swimming in the ocean, surfing, heck, I haven’t gotten in with the boogie board yet either, but I do have the perspective of allowing myself to learn.

Even where I not learning I am still getting to be a part of this community in a way that I find deeply satisfying.

Welcoming and slow, serene, sun saturated.

I am counting myself lucky too that the winter has so far not really been winter.

“I don’t even tell my friends back home what the weather is like here,” my friend said earlier as I was marvelling at the fact it is December 1st and I was down at the beach in my flip-flops, with my pants rolled up, sun beaming on my face, breeze cool but not cold.

I saw a photograph of my aunts on her facecrack page and it was basically an exclamation about how the ice is hard enough to fish from.


The ice on the lake is frozen through enough by December 1 to hold up ice shanties.


And back to the beach.

Which I will be going to again and again, I hazard, I mean, its right there.

I can hear the ocean now, I have the door to the studio cracked open a bit.

As I am sitting here I am thinking that I am going to be investing in some sort of ergonomic set up for my work on my laptop.

And for my hand writing, those three pages have not been comfortable recently.

I suspect that another part of the problem is how I am sitting, I don’t think that the table I am at is a good height, it’s not a work desk and the chair is not a work chair, I am just working with what I have.  I need to do some investigating and perhaps get a different set up.

Pain is a good way to learn what works and doesn’t work for you.

“How you feeling about that?” She asked.

“A little hurt, but happy to know now, good information to have, you know, I can’t make anyone want to spend time with me, I am just glad I know and get to move forward.”

“Your life is so full too,” she said.

It is, sometimes uncomfortable, but always full.

Even with the six days off, even with a lot of down time, I still did attend to a lot of things and I got to the beach so often this week it did feel like I was on vacation.


Hi there.

You snuck right on in when I was busy thinking about my back.

Hello there.

Let’s be friends.

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