Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Chewy Nougat Center (A Guest Entry by Joel)

Hey there, Chunky Photojournalist Barbie here.. Work has been crazy for me. I've been working my butt off for Milestone clients so everyone is all situated before I leave for the honeymoon, and every time I think I have the lion's share of wedding planning managed, a bunch of other tasks seem to pop up.

I'm fine, but I need to slow down, and soon. The trouble is, an Angie in motion tends to stay in motion, and- to continue the physics analogy- Joel is the only thing keeping the household from careening into a state of entropy. I need to give Joel a lot of credit. He's grocery shopping, vacuuming, doing more than his fair share of pet care. He's the best. He's even updating the blog for me! So without further ado, Joel's guest entry about his latest toy, er, Earth-friendly endeavor: his Vespa. Except it's not a Vespa, persay. It's a Vespa-like scooter of a different brand. What was I saying about "Without further ado"? Ah, yes...


Everyone is noticing that the price at the pump has really gotten out of hand these last few months. During my first $50 fill up in May, I decided that I had to do something different. Gas plus tolls to work was adding up to around $100/week,and I don’t even drive a big car.
Angie and I have talked on and off about getting a pair of scooters. I decided to go ahead and get mine. I did a lot of research, took lessons, bought a scooter, passed the motorcycle road test and have been on two wheels instead of four for a week now. Instead of a 4 cylinder, 2.0 liter engine, I now primarily use one cylinder at 150cc. Angie is a bit concerned that I’ve traded in the hard candy shell of my car, and now I’m riding around with just my chewy nougat center exposed. (Well, yeah...)
Don’t get me wrong; I still own my car. I still use it for big shops at the supermarket, when I anticipate having a passenger and for long trips. I’ll be taking the scooter to work (weather permitting. I’m thinking of giving it a nickname… maybe the “Chinese Mosquito” because it’s made in China, it buzzes and from the front, it kinda looks like a mosquito. (As God as my witness, I will NEVER call it that.)

It’s orange… not my first choice for a color but it was the last one they had of that model. I decided to make the best of it and get a blue helmet so now when I ride it, I’m riding around with the Mets’ colors. It hits 65mph and gets about 75 mpg. I love going to the gas station on empty, giving the guy a $10 bill and getting back change after my fill-up.
As for the chewy nougat center, I understand the concern… ( I love you, honey, but let's face it: We're accident-prone jackasses) and I’m taking as many precautions as I can. Aside from rethinking the process of driving as a more deliberate and cautious act, I bought a full face helmet, even through I got a half-helmet, which just covers everything from above the ears up, for free when I got the scooter. I also got Kevlar reinforced riding gloves and an armored riding jacket with padding in the forearms, back, elbows and shoulders. Additionally, I have enough light-up accessories and reflective materials that as soon as another car’s headlights shine on me, they won’t be able to not see me.
I already had a few strange encounters on the scooter, though. First off, I have to break in the engine so I can’t open the throttle all the way, which means no highways for a while. I’ve been taking all side roads and surface streets. Even though I’m a native New Yorker, I’m going through places that I didn’t know existed, everywhere from the peaceful, woodsy road through Pelham Park, to the urban congestion and squalor of Webster Avenue and White Plains Road in the Bronx.
Responses from other people on the road and sidewalks have been… mixed. Every day I’ve ridden, people have asked me where I got my scooter. How much did it cost? Do you need a motorcycle license? Is it easy to ride? How fast does it go? What kind of mileage does it get?  I’ve been asked so many times that I’ve memorized the phone number of the dealer I got it from. Hopefully he’ll get some more business. I think he will, just because of gas prices. So those are the positive responses. On the other hand...
I stopped in Corona, Queens the first day I got the scooter. I went to a pizza place that sells Coca-Cola from Mexico where they make their Coke with actual sugar, not the high-fructose corn syrup crap that’s in everything up here in the US. It makes a difference, trust me.

I got out of the store, enjoying my bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola with regular sugar by the scooter with my keys on the seat,
when two clearly intoxicated Hispanic men came to me and started speaking to me in Spanish. This is Corona, so Spanish really is the first language of the neighborhood. I told them I didn’t speak Spanish, so in broken English, one asked me for money so they could buy lunch. My street-smart radar went off, so I told them no.

The surlier of the two grabbed the scooter keys off the seat. I almost punched the guy- (This is a funny mental image for me. Uh, I mean, you're a lover, not a fighter, Joel.) but I was able to grab the keys out of his hands since his reflexes were impaired by the alcohol. Then they asked for money again, this time saying please. If I wasn’t going to give you money before, I’m definitely not going to give it to you after you steal my keys… Duh!
Earlier today, I headed down to midtown Manhattan to go to a Q&A/Meet and Greet with the NY Mets announcers Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Lee Mazzili. (I am so fucking jealous that you get all summer off.) I was riding through Harlem and stopped at a stoplight. I hear a thwack on the scooter and saw something bounce away.

Now… I’ve heard that sound before… It reminded me of how sometimes in the fall acorns fall on my car. That’s the first thing I thought of. Then I realized that it’s July, and the thing that hit me was shiny and metallic. It was a AA battery. WTF? There were some people standing on the sidewalk nearby, but no one was paying much attention to me. I’m doing my part for the environment… are you trying to tell me I should go straight electric? Please don't throw batteries at me. Thanks. (Note to self: never throw batteries at Joel.)


michelle said...

Ahhh, NYC. Come out here to Seattle where 20,000 people use bikes (you know, the kind you used to have training wheels on) to get to work everyday and ride your scooter around with the other thousands of people who commute to work on Vespa-type vehicles. We won't throw batteries at you and, we'll even WAVE you in front of us on the city streets. "Please, go ahead of me, sir. I am a Seattle-ite and I don't have anywhere to be." I heart Seattle.

Luke said...

Is that a new crime? "Assault with Battery"..........

shannon said...

I love that Joel has a scooter. We've been thinking of buying Ernie one, too, since he only drives about 14 miles each day to and from work.
Be careful on that thing, Joel. I know you will be, and it sounds like you've already researched how to be safe, but the mom in me dictates I have to say it anyway. :)
And man, a coke made with real sugar sounds really good...must figure out where to get one of those around here.

Jillian said...

Oh man am I jealous of your scooter! I wish I had one of those.... from the girl who is destined to always have a station wagon.

Love the guest entry! You must do this more often! :)

And yes, stay safe on that scooter...

And Ang, i hear you about the wedding planning never ending... i felt like no matter how many checklists i had or thought i was DONE, something else always popped up. Although one piece of advice that someone said to me -- was this-- think about if it's really going to make your day that much better or if you're doing something out of obligation or if it's because you're so wrapped up in all the wedding stuff and can't see normally. I seriously don't know how Nik put with me leading to our wedding. She was the practical one and i was the one who was like but this is ultra important that we stay up to 2 am and make wraps -- that we oh wait never used. :)

Jason said...

Congrats, you are now offically a "biker". You get extra cred for having something thrown at you. My initiation was a half full beer bottle from the back of a pickup truck on a highway. Maybe they thought I looked thirsty...who knows :)

Joel said...

I'll bring you one when we see you at the wedding/rehearsal, Shannon.

Kelly said...

Assault with battery--hee! Be safe!

Luke said...

I'm glad someone appreciated my humor... :)

Carl said...

Yikes. You're going to ride that on the freeway? Shouldn't you have bigger wheels and at least a 200-cc motor for freeway riding?

It looks pretty cool though!

Joel said...

Highways here have a 50mph speed limit and people normally top off around 60. I can do that easy. I won't be taking it on interstates outside urban areas. If I decide to take it outside the city, I'll keep it on state and US routes.

There is something called the scooter cannonball that's held every September. They take 150cc scooters across the country

Keeper0 said...

Out of curiousity, why a scooter and not a motorcycle? There are lots of scooters here in CA, and I wonder if people think they are safer than they actually are... often riding without helmets. (Visions of Audrey Hepburn, I suppose).

It seems to me that on the same roads with similar defensive driving, that a motorcycle would actually be safer.

Joel said...

It's a matter of design. Scooters have a flat board where you rest your feet instead of straddling the entire vehicle.

A motorcycle has the fuel tank between you and the handlebars whereas in a scooter, you're sitting on it.

The smaller tires of a scooter make it easier to manuver and faster to respond to rider inputs.

The placement of the engine behind the rider and it being much lower than motorcycles add stability since the center of gravity is lower.

I never ride without my full face even if it's 95 degrees. I know the risks and don't underestimate the them.