HCAYMAN

Seriously Irreverent Musings

Author: hkraushaar (page 2 of 10)

More Than The Street

For those of you who know me you would be wrong in assuming that my title, More Than The Street, relates to one of my somewhat infrequent visits to the race track in my Porsche.  Very wrong.

If you knew Pam was involved, you would know that it does not relate to anything having to do with automobiles, but you would have an inkling that it is related to something current.  I tend to live in the past.  One of my cars is 30 years old.  One of my watches, Pam’s late stepdad’s Omega Speedmaster, is 34 years old.  I wear it all the time, even though it requires winding every day.  Staying current for me is nice, but not a necessity.

If you know Pam, you know that she is all about being current, staying relevant.  Downtown LA is a happening place.  Until recently, our younger daughter, Kimberly, was living downtown.  Kim and Pam went to many of the fun, Instagram moment exhibits that pop-up downtown.  Exhibits like the Ice Cream Museum and The 14th Factory, among others.  They usually go together, and enjoy some great mother daughter experiences while staying current.

A new pop-up art exhibit, Beyond The Streets, opened in downtown recently.  The exhibit features street artists and street art.  Its tag line refers to vandalism—literally—as contemporary art.  Pam wanted to go, and as Kim is spending the year working in Australia, she invited me.

I freely admit to being underwhelmed by most 20th Century, or later, art, especially the pieces created after the Impressionism era, pieces that are defined by symbolism, cubism, futurism, or a host of other isms.  I look at them, and they leave me floundering.  I lack the insight and/or the ability to relate.  Because of that, I like very little of it.  I have been to the Broad a couple of times, most recently to see the Jasper Johns exhibit.  I just stare at most of the pieces.  Other than Warhol and some of the Pop Art stuff, I leave scratching my head in disbelief.  I have been to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  More disbelief.  I have been to the Picasso and Miro museums in Spain.  More disbelief, though I liked early Picasso works, before he got the blues.  I have been to the Guggenheim in Bilbao.  Even more disbelief, though I loved the building.

I am also usually politically incorrect.  I prefer labels that explicitly state the obvious, not labels that soften the impact of the words.  Sayings like vertically challenged, reality challenged and sex care provider also leave me scratching my head in disbelief.  Though I do chuckle when bribes are referred to as public sector bonuses.  As a result, I have never bought into the term Street ArtI just considered it a politically correct way to refer to Graffiti, which literally means writing or drawing on public or private property.  In short, vandalism—not something to which a suburban dwelling, middle class, unhip, reasonably irrelevant, curmudgeon-like boomer is going to appreciate or pay much attention.

I like hanging out with Pam, though, so I decided to go to the exhibit with her, not really expecting to enjoy it.  I knew nothing about the artists or their art.  I really had no idea that spray paint wielding graffitists had transcended from the street to the studio.  I really had no idea any of them had followings or showed their works in respected galleries.  But then I am not current.  Thankfully, Pam is.

Our older daughter, Shelby, and her husband, Bryan, joined us when we went to see the exhibit.  Shelby and Bryan are consistently current.  They do not even have to work at it.  But then they are millennials, and they are the current generation.  They know about street art and street artists, which helped me get into going to the exhibit.  It turned out that I did not need their help.

As I wandered around the 40,000 square foot exhibit curated by Roger Gastman, I shook my head in disbelief, not because I didn’t like it, but because I did.  There is no doubt that I will never fully understand or relate to street art.  I did not grow up with enough angst.  I do not have that “stick it to the man” mentality, which is necessary to really get into it.  The most rebellious I get is listening to country music in West LA.  Having said that, lots of the art, even the more gritty pieces, resonated with me.  For a brief time, I felt like Mikey in the infamous Life Cereal commercial.  The pieces resonated in a way no other modern art has.  I am not sure why.  I really do not need to know.  I just liked it.

No doubt that some of the pieces bordered on the type of modern art I do not like, but a lot of it was great.  I found the works of Kenny Scharf, Banksy, John “Crash” Matos, Eric Haze,  Faile (Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller), to name a few, to be really interesting.  I expect I will be spending more time looking at and appreciating street art in the future.

Thanks to Pam, I am current for the moment.  Too bad it won’t last.

 

Sugarland At The Greek

The other night Pam and I went to the Greek to see Sugarland.  It was our first time.  It was a long time coming.  It was worth the wait.  I hope it will not be our last time.

I have been a fan of Sugarland for years but never saw one of their shows.  Then the leaders, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, decided to take a break from Sugarland and pursue solo careers.  Thankfully, they decided to reunite and collaborate on new music and tour again.

Jennifer Nettles is one of the most amazing lead singers I have ever heard.  We saw her perform live at the Wiltern Theater when she was solo.  At the time, I realized just how good a singer she was, though I did not enjoy or relate to her solo efforts as much as I did when she was paired with Bush as part of Sugarland.  The other night, the duo, backed up by the rest of their band, put on a spectacular show, singing a mix of their new and classic material.  Pam and I enjoyed it from the outset.

The Greek is one of our favorite venues.  It is small.  It is comfortable.  The sound is good.   The issue we have with it is getting there.  It is a pain, so we only go about twice per year.  It is  about eight miles from our house, but it feels like it is about 25.  There is no easy way to get there.  Parking is always an issue.  Thankfully, Pam has developed a good strategy for dealing with getting in and getting out.  We get there early.  Park in an overpriced lot.  Eat while sitting in our car.  Continue to sit in the car and watch people streaming by, either on foot or in cars, until it is time to enter the venue .  Lastly, we leave a tad early.  Relatively minor concessions to ensure that we have  good time and want to go back.

We had seen Sugarland’s two opening acts, Clare Bowen and Brandy Clark, before.  Clare Bowen is angelic when she sings.  She has a beautiful voice, and she is really nice and endearing.  I am just not moved by her music, which I find way too slow, uninspiring and unengaging, though she delivers it flawlessly.  Sort of like the way I feel about Adele.  The other night was no exception.  She was, well, Clare Bowen.

Brandy Clark, on the other hand, is one of my favorite singers.  Generally, performers need a shtick.  Most great ones have a charm, a charismatic style, a ton of energy that pulls the crowd along with them.  There are several notable exceptions to this, including Eric Clapton and Chris Stapleton, who can almost stand motionless while they play without losing their audience.  Their music is that good.  Brandy Clark is a singer, not an entertainer.  Though she sings about crimes of fashion, we generally see her perform in basic black.  She is almost as motionless as Stapleton and as expressionless as Clapton when she plays, though she does have a nice rapport with the audience when she chooses to use it.  In my opinion, she is totally captivating without moving around on stage, and I could spend hours listening to her perform.

Pam and I have seen her four previous times.  The first time, ironically, was when she opened for Jennifer Nettles at the Wiltern.  As I have written about before, I loved her voice, lyrics and music that night, and I still do, though I prefer to see her when she performs with just an acoustic guitar.  I believe that Brandy Clark has the perfect female country voice, pure and twangy.  An acoustic guitar for melody is all the accompaniment she needs.  The other night she performed with her band and did a great job.  But……

And then it was Jennifer time.  If Brandy Clark is statuesque in a literal sense and drab in a fashion sense.  Jennifer flits around stage like tinkerbell with a wildly colored cape, taking away some of the joy I experience while listening to her.  Many times the other night I found myself listening to Jennifer Nettles and watching Kristian Bush, as he stood there strumming and singing with an expression of absolute enjoyment on his face.  Kristian Bush is a great artist.  He is great guitar and mandolin player and a great songwriter.  I like listening to his solo music—maybe more so on my computer than live.  I would, though, jump at the chance to see him perform an acoustic set in an intimate venue.  One of the highlights of the show for me was when Kristian sang Trailer Hitch, one of the songs on his solo album.  He performed it with Lindsay Ell, who made a surprise guest appearance.  I love listening to Lindsay Ell.  Moreover, I love watching Lindsay Ell shred on the guitar.  The other night was no exception, as she and Kristian ripped the trailer hitch right off the bumper with their guitar playing.

But at the Greek, it was really Jennifer’s show.  She dominated the vocals with her voice.  You knew Kristian was singing because you could see his lips moving and once in a while you actually heard him.  Though it was not obvious, you knew he was contributing to the vocals and overall sound, making it better by balancing it with his smooth baritone notes.  Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are good solo artists, but when they are together on stage, they are amazing.

Sound of Silence

The internet of things (IoT) is not ready for the real world.  Or at least it is not ready for my world.  Or I am not ready for its world.  For the past 24 hours, I experienced a frustrating, yet telling, example about just how tough it is to get everyday devices to maintain communication with each other.

It started innocently enough.  Pam turned our newest TV, the 55 inch 4K device from Sony, off Friday night.  It was working perfectly when she turned it off.  Neither of us used it until Saturday afternoon, when I turned it on to watch the Belmont Stakes.  I had just returned from a great day with my PCA Los Angeles friends, having driven about 220 miles in my 89 Carrera to Arrowhead and back to celebrate Porsche’s 70th Birthday.  I had had an awesome time, but I was a little tired and just wanted to chill.  Then I turned on the TV, and I immediately noticed the sound of sound.  At first I thought one of us had accidentally muted the sound, but that was not the case.  Then I thought that maybe one of the buttons on the TV remote, versus the cable box remote, had been accidentally pressed before the TV was turned off.  As it was hanging out behind our pillows, this was not an unreasonable assumption.  Independently, Pam made the same one, many hours later.  It was, however, not correct.  By then the world had another Triple Crown winner to talk about.  I had missed the call, which given the tightness of the race and the rarity of accomplishing the feat, was too bad.  So much for my ability to chill for a bit.

Starting to get frustrated, I began pushing all the set up buttons I could find on both remotes.  All to no avail.  Still no sound.  At that point, I started to think like the technical guru I am supposed to be, and I rebooted the cable box.  No effect.  Still no sound.  I got even more technical.  I unplugged the TV, waited the de rigueur minute or so, plugged it back in.  Voila, still no sound.  I then got even more technical.  I unplugged and re-plugged all the cables.  Still no sound.  Worse, still no chill, and more than a tad more frustration.

Then I got creative.  I tried to use Netflix on the internet, bypassing the cable box.  Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, I had to reset my wireless connection to get to Netflix.  No problem.  No sound either.  At that point Pam had come home and I was grousing and grumbling.  Given my state of agitation, she wisely chose to ignore me.  I played with the remotes some more, and all I got was an earful of silence.  Lots of picture, but no sound whatsoever.

By then I had spent about 90 minutes on this issue and decided to contact Best Buy, as that was where we had purchased the TV.  After about five tries to get a human in the Geek Squad to speak with me at 5:30 on a Saturday night, I was connected to a nice young man who simply said, “You have done all the triage we would have walked you through.  We have no idea what else to tell you to do.  You need to speak with Sony technical support directly.”  He gave me the number and then transferred me, but not before I had rummaged through my desk, found the invoice for the TV and was relieved to know that it was still under warranty.  Of course, the Sony support line was closed.  I figured I would call back on Sunday, which I did.  It was still closed, but I listened to the message long enough to jot down their technical support web site.

I went to the web site, and the first thing I noted was a support issue relating to a recent Android TV upgrade.  I sort of knew the TV an Android TV, but as we are an Apple house, I never had given it much thought.  I decided to read the symptoms that might exist if the upgrade went awry.  The last symptom partially related to the absence of sound.  Intrigued, I checked out what to do about it.  It turned out I had already taken the first couple of steps, but the third step, relating to a menu driven factory reset, was new to me.  I followed the directions and did the reset.  Again to no avail, as the sound was still silent.  There was a fourth step, forcing a factory reset, but the text seemed to indicate that the preferred method was the one I had already done.

Feeling disappointed and still grousing, I decided to try to have an online chat with Sony tech support.  I initiated the communication, got connected to a support person, typed in my issues and waited for a response.  None was forthcoming, as a minute or so later, I was informed that our connection was lost.  As far as I was concerned, that was par for the course.  I started over, re-typing all my data and issues and started a chat session again.  Shockingly, I got the same tech person.  He remembered me, and just asked one question in the chat dialog,  “Have you done the forced restart yet.”  I replied, “No.”

He sent me a link to a document describing how to do the forced reset, and as I was following it, I inadvertently disconnected myself from the chat session, which reminded me once again why I hate communicating via keyboard.  “I am a boomer, not a millennial,” I muttered to myself, as I generated the enthusiasm for going thru the reset and resulting setup process yet again.  I had to enlist Pam to do the forced reset.  It was not hard to do, it just needed more than two hands at once.  We began the process, and I sat and waited while it went thru its steps.  It took about 30 minutes, the bulk of which were spent while it checked for updates, which I found ironic, as I still thought that that was how I got into this mess in the first place.  The reset ended, I dutifully navigated via the remote buttons to enter all passwords and waited for sound.  No luck.   Still silence.

I went back to the document describing the steps on how to fix the Android upgrade, and noted that it said that if the forced reset did not work at first, try it again.  So we did.  Same result.  No sound.  By now I was resigned to the fact that I needed a new TV.  Pam was in favor of just dropping it into the alley to be recycled by one of the myriad of people trolling our alley for castoffs.

I had spent between five and six hours on this, and I was really frustrated.  Thinking I would give the chat one more try and then set an appointment to have a service tech come out, I started the chat process yet again.  I re-typed all the information, adding the fact that I had done two forced resets, thereby eliminating that from consideration.  I was sort of surprised, and a little disappointed, that my new chat partner was different from before.  Thankfully, it didn’t matter.  She reviewed my comments.  She thanked me for all work I had done already.  Then she asked me if I had tried to use an App since I had done the forced reset.  I said, “No.  The last time I tried was the previous day before the forced reset.”  She suggested I try again.  I figured why not.  So I tried it.  I put on Netflix, and, to my amazement and utter delight, I got sound.  It was glorious.  Feeling somewhat better, I tried to use the cable box again.  No sound.  Damn.

I went back to the chat dialog, reported the results and waited.  While I was waiting, inspiration struck.  Maybe I needed to reboot the cable box again, now that I had reset the TV.  I informed my chat companion I would do so, and she agreed.  Unbelievably, and to my utter amazement, when the cable box rebooted, sound came out of the TV.  Problem solved—at least for now.  I am sure I will need to go about this choreography again after another unilateral upgrade of an independent device occurs.

So almost 24 hours after I began trying to get my TV to work, it worked.  TVs and cable boxes have been co-existing for quite some time.  I would think that they should be pretty easy to keep synced, but I guess not.  I can hardly wait for the issues that will crop up when we try to keep really complicated devices, like cars, synced.  I guess we’ll hear the sounds of crashes when we don’t, and I will yearn for the sound of silence.

Donut Hole Party

Politically, I am lost in the donut hole.  Not the infamous Medicare coverage gap referred to as the donut hole, but the political party one.  I am one of the most under represented people in American politics.  I am adrift.  And I am not alone.

I never felt this way so strongly before.  Maybe I should have.  Maybe I was too naive to realize that I was never represented.  Maybe most people are never truly represented.  Or maybe, just maybe, the parties I have been aligned with over the years have changed, and the gap between my beliefs and the party platforms has widened.

I started my voting life, some 40 odd years ago, as a Republican, mainly because my mother was an irrational liberal and was always railing on the Republicans.  My sister and father followed her lead, leaving me with Alex P. Keaton as my sole political role model.  I was the only one in my peer group who voted for Ford, not because I like cars but because I liked Ford.  For decades I voted Libertarian, mainly because they were the most aligned with my apparently misguided belief in personal responsibility.  But I could not ascribe completely to their minimalist government platform.  Over the past decade or so I have had to swallow my rational economic roots and my aforementioned misguided belief in personal responsibility and vote Democratic, mainly because I strongly believe in human rights.  Having said that, every time I hear a Democrat speak I want to throw things at them.

Feeling frustrated I went in search of other parties and platforms that represented me.  Despite scouring the web and reading many, many party platforms, I remained frustrated because all of the platforms I read were flawed in one way or another.  A couple of parties, namely the world not so famous Unity Party of America and the Objectivist Party, came close but not close enough, and besides they are so obscure that there would be no value in aligning with them.  As my frustration mounted, I actually read the Peace and Freedom Party platform, which shockingly I felt really good about until I got to the part about the socialist run economy, which is a non-starter for me.

My problem is that I am not easy to categorize.  I am neither fish nor fowl.  Most would label me a centrist, as on average I do not lean too far left or too far right.  But am I a centrist?  No way.  That is way too simple of an explanation.  In general using an average to analyze a population is fraught with risk.  Simply put, “On average every one in the world has one boob and one ball.”  Obviously, not many of us are built that way.  Depending on the issue, my leanings can be liberal or conservative.  So much so, that I have been labeled everything from bleeding heart to heartless.

So where does that leave me?  Somewhere down the donut hole.  Maybe you are there with me.  If so, let’s have a party.

Pure Barre(d)

I should have known better.  Actually, I did know better, but that did not stop me.  I took a Pure Barre class with Pam Friday night.  It was a date night, sort of like 50 Shades of Grey was a love story—a painful one.

Pure Barre is Pam’s exercise regimen of choice.  It has been for the past couple of years, and she really rocks it, despite being one of the few baby boomers to take these exercise classes that are mainly filled with millennials the ages of our daughters.  She loves the workouts, which are based on the principle of using small, isometric movements, accompanied by a ballet barre, a small ball, light weights, and rubber straps, to burn fat, sculpt muscles and create long, lean physiques.  Pure Barre, a franchise of independent studios, also works hard to create a supportive community for its devotees that celebrates participation and achievements, having members sign ceremonial ballet barres representing workout milestones.  Pam has passed her 250 workout milestone and is well on her way to her 500 workout milestone.  I may never get to two.

Every six months or so, the Pure Barre studio in Beverly Hills, where Pam goes to take her classes, has a “Bring On The Men” class to which the regular attendees can invite their favorite member of the weaker sex to join them in a Pure Barre workout.  A couple of weeks ago, Pam asked me if I wanted to go with her.  I said yes, knowing full well that it was going to be a painful experience.

Generally, when I write about Pam, I refer to her as a saint, mainly because she is.  She is also tough—physically and mentally.  I do not know if she was born that way or became that way after giving birth to our two children and enduring me, and my quirky sense of humor, for the past 45 years, 38 of them as my wife.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that Pam likes the Pure Barre workouts because they are hard, low impact, full body workouts.  She literally works her ass off.

Pam and I do not usually workout together, though I have been invited to join her a couple of times.  Once for a boot camp class and another time for a series of Pilates classes.  Neither was a really good showcase for my talents, though I did do pretty well in the boot camp classes and eventually became somewhat proficient at Pilates.  I am a pretty fit guy.  I have been a cardio junkie for decades.  I spent time doing Triathlons in the late 80s.  I have run the LA Marathon.  I have competed in numerous ocean swims and bike centuries.  I have run with track clubs and swum with masters swim teams.  I still run, row and lift light weights five or six times per week.  Despite all that, and quite possibly because of all that, I had a pretty good sense of just how tough the Pure Barre workout was going to be and how unprepared for it I was.

I was more than a little apprehensive the week before the class.  I adjusted my workout schedule to skip Friday morning and was thankful that I was planning to have breakfast with my Porsche buddies Saturday morning instead of working out.  It turned out that those were really good ideas.

Pam and I arrived at the studio a few minutes before the class started.  The studio, owned by a delightful 30ish young woman named Jill, feels like a day spa.  Its ambiance is soothing.  Its decor is soothing.  Its smell is soothing.  It has the de rigueur ballet socks and workout attire for sale.  It has cute little cubbies to store your stuff while you sweat.  It has innocuous implements of destruction, including the aforementioned small rubber balls, light weights, and rubber bands.  And it has a deceptively pleasant looking studio with mirrors and ballet barres on three walls.  It is the perfect place to get your butt kicked.

Pam introduced me to the instructor, Katie, another 30ish young woman with the face and demeanor of an angel, though she wore a microphone on her head instead of a halo. I nervously found a spot on the floor, feeling thankful that I was not the only guy there, feeling a little better that I would not be the only one to suffer.  The workout started a few minutes later, and for the first five or so minutes I rocked it, just like Pam.  Then the instructor calmly said the warmup, which I survived and felt was hard, was over.

The instructor proceeded to lead us through a complete body workout over the next 45 minutes or so.  Pam worked out the entire time, doing all of the exercises really well.  Generously, I think I  was able to complete 25% of them.  I spent the remainder of the time either trying to figure out what to do, how to get my muscles to actually move as the instructor requested, or how to stop my muscles from cramping if I did perform the requested movement.  Needless to say, I was shvitzing, not to mention quivering, when the workout ended.  I had no idea that three pound weights in each hand could be so heavy.  I had no idea that standing on my toes could be that painful.  I had no idea how a little rubber strap could cause so much muscle pain.  I do now, and I am not alone.

After the workout, we gathered for a group picture, had some beer and laughed at the general ineptitude of the guys in attendance.  It was all in good fun, and we all enjoyed the experience.  Pure Barre is a helluva workout, one I should probably voluntarily do once in awhile but probably won’t.

As I write this, it is Sunday morning about 36 or so hours since I was Pure Barred.  Pam just returned from her third Pure Barre class of the weekend, feeling great, having taken morning classes on Saturday and Sunday.  I spent Saturday morning resting at the Spitfire Grill at the Santa Monica Airport, swilling coffee and stuffing my face with a mondo breakfast burrito laden with eggs, cheese, bacon and hash browns.  I spent Sunday morning running one of my normal routes, though it took me several minutes longer than usual as I tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to flush the lactic acid from my muscles, the majority which still ache.  Like I said, I should have known better, but I would most likely go back if I am invited again.

 

Cinco de Drivo

A great drivo and a little drinko.  A perfecto way to celebrate the May 5, 1862 Battle of Puebla!!!!  Ironically, it’s celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico.  Yes, in the United States it’s better known as Cinco de Mayo.  Yes, my PCA buddies and I went for a drivo.  Yes, we then met in Santa Monica at El Cholo for some food and drinko—all before noon.  But, hey, at least we drove first, and it was five o’clock somewhere.

It’s been several weeks since I had my 89 Carrera on the twisties.  And it’s been many weeks since I had it out on one of my favorite roads, Mulholland Highway.  My drought ended this morning when I met my PCA Los Angeles buddies for a spirited drive along Mulholland and then a beautiful cruise down Pacific Coast Highway before stopping at El Cholo for brunch, either liquid or solid or both.

I have been too busy to drive for fun lately.  Pam and I were away.  Then I had to go to Luftgekühlt—yeah, I know, poor, poor pitiful me—which was tons of fun to be at but the drive was on freeways, not twisties.  Then I had other stuff to do.  Then I began to work on a project that requires lots of commute time, which I do in my Cayman.  But not today.  Today, it was drive time.  Today, it was 89 time.  Today, it was Malibu time.  And I smiled all morning.

This was a pretty simple drive.  We met at Gelson’s in Woodland Hills on Mulholland Highway.  We drove on Mulholland.  We drove on PCH.  I left before the group, hoping to get to a decent place to stop and take some pictures of the rest as they raced by.  Unfortunately, my plan fell apart.  Before I found a suitable spot from which to shoot, the lead group, let by my buddy David, was on my rear bumper.  David was leading a group that I can hang with when I am in my Cayman.  When I am in my 89, I don’t even try.  After I found a spot to pull over and let them by, I thought I would have a few minutes to find another spot from which to shoot before the next group on the road caught me.  I was wrong.  The gap between the groups, which was supposed to be at least five minutes, was about 20 seconds.  I could hear them coming up behind me while I could still hear the the lead group screaming away from me.  At that point I knew pictures were not in the cards.  I just inserted myself into the middle of the next group and focused on driving, which was really nice.

I had the oldest car out there today.  It has the fewest driving aids.  And the fewest horses.  But it is lighter and nimbler than the newer models so I can still keep up on shorter radius turns, which are prevalent on Mulholland.  I was maintaining contact with the group, but tenuously.  Suddenly, I reeled them back in.  I figured they came up on a group of bicyclists.  I was shocked when we finished the penultimate turn running up the Snake and saw a Model T lumbering around the last turn.  Unbelievable.  Only in LA.

The group crossed Kanan Dume and headed out towards Decker Canyon then dropped down to PCH.  My tolerance for Decker is just a little more than my tolerance for Yerba Buena, which is also in Malibu and which I call Yerba No Bueno,  So I bailed on the group and headed down Kanan to PCH feeling relaxed, refreshed, happy and windblown, as my Targa top was off. The ride down PCH was great.  The sun felt good.  The wind felt good.  Most importantly, the ocean smelled good.

We all met up at El Cholo and had a great time eating, drinking, swapping wildest turn, I mean biggest fish, stories and celebrating the Battle of Puebla.

Lufting Good

Time flies.  Things change.  Cars come and go.  Classic cars remain classic.  Luft grows.  At least for now.

Luftgekühlt, the epic air-cooled Porsche show, has reached staggering proportions.  This year’s installment was last weekend.  From my perspective, it was way better than last year’s event, and I loved last year’s event.   This was the fifth Luft.  I have been to three of them.  I have had cars in two of them.  I am one of the lucky ones.

Luftgekühlt has risen from obscure roots to become THE air-cooled Porsche event of the year, every year.  Porsche aficionados flock to it as if it were Mecca.  This year was no exception, though I have to admit that the anticipation of the event and getting to the event may have been a tad more enjoyable than the event itself.

Pat Long and Howie Idelson, Luft’s founders, are freakin geniuses.  Though if you asked them, I am not sure even they could have dreamed what would transpire since the first Luft at Deus Ex Machina in Venice four short years ago.  I was at Luft 1.  I thought it was epic then.  I still do.  Even Pam, who has

never been to Luft, thinks it was epic, but that had more to do with Patrick Dempsey being there than the 911s.  But Luft 1 was a backyard party compared to the stadium show they held this year.  Luft has tapped into

the mother lode of passion residing in air-cooled Porsche enthusiasts—enthusiasts that will put up with, or secretly get off on, the underground, industrial, forbidden fruit, cult-like kind of vibe its organizers have  fostered since Luft 1.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am one of the enthusiasts who have caught the Luft bug, and I do not want to be cured.

Over time the number of cars at Luft has grown, but the cars have remained essentially the same.  Initially, I went to see the cars.  Now I go more for the chance to take pictures and see  people.  I see more than enough cars all year.  Seeing one more car, even one I drool over, has become increasingly less interesting.  Of course, I love to take pictures of them, especially in the locations in which Luft is held.  Talking to the people who own them, learning why they have or have not modified them, listening to what they do with them has become way more interesting to me.  Luft provides me with opportunities to shoot and talk—in spades.

This year the location was spectacular.  The lumber yard was huge, encompassing 17 acres.  Cars adorned the outside aisles, inside aisles, and open spaces.  What was nice was that they were spread out and that, despite the throngs in attendance, it did not feel too crowded, unless you wanted a t-shirt or food.  In those cases, the lines were as epic as the show.

My pilgrimage to Luft started Saturday afternoon, the day before the event.  My Guards Red 89 911 Carrera Targa needed cleaning.  After cleaning it, I put it back into the garage, which is located at the back of our lot.  As I was leaving the house around 6 am Sunday morning, this meant that I would be moving a couple of cars out of the driveway, opening and closing the garage and backing the 911 all the way down to the street at the butt crack of dawn on a weekend morning.  Not the best way to ingratiate myself with the rest of my family or my neighbors, but there was no way I was exposing my clean 911 to the elements the night before Luft.

My entry time to get my 89 parked started at 7:00 am.  I planned to be early.  I was not alone.  The drive to the show, which was in Torrance and about 20 miles from where I live in West LA, was epic in its own right.  My first inclination that the ride was about to get very interesting happened a few miles down the 405.  I was cruising at a sedate 80 and minding my own business when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a 911 coming from behind at warp speed.  It was going so quickly as it passed me that my 911 was buffeted from side to side.  It went by so fast I could not tell if it was an Outlaw or a Singer.  Either way, it was heavily modified.  About two minutes later, the first of a large pack of 911s caught up with me.  My sedate ride was over.  I hopped on the back of the air-cooled train and drove with them the rest of the way to Torrance.

Getting everyone sorted and parked before the show started went pretty smoothly, though I did see at least one 911 stall and refuse to restart.  It was pushed into the show lot.  Frankly, the time time before the show started at 9 am was great.  Cars were being staged, but the place was empty.  It felt great.  I really had nothing to do, so I got a coffee and just sat back and reveled in the spectacle that was being played out.  Eventually I got motivated to buy a t-shirt, which I am wearing as I write this.  Then I went over to the 000 table. I have been a Pete Stout fan since he was the editor of Panorama, the Porsche Club monthly magazine.  A year or so ago he founded 000, a high end, high quality, coffee table magazine dedicated to all things Porsche.  I had been flirting with subscribing to it for a while, and after taking to Pete, I decided to take the plunge.

A bit later, my friend Marc, who had come from Las Vegas to see the show, arrived.  Marc is a Porsche guy and very well connected in the automotive community.  We were friends in high school, lost touch and then got reconnected based on our common interest in Porsches.  I spent the next several hours with Marc and his buddy, Kris.  We looked at all the cars on display, of course paying particular attention to green cars, which were Kris’ favorites, and my 89, as it was my favorite.  We saw some amazing cars, from Outlaw 356s to Singers, with all sorts of modified and stock 911s in between.  I took a bunch of pictures, playing with my aperture setting to get some special effects of some very special cars.

Just before we were done, Marc met up with Pat Long, and Kris and I tagged along with them as we went in search of Rod Emory.  After a brief conversation with with all, I said good bye and headed home.  Getting my 89 out of the show lot was fun, as several people stopped to point at my personalized license plate.

As I drove home, I was already wondering where they will hold Luft 6.  I will not complain if they go back to the same place.

 

 

50,000 and Two Steps In Austin

I am a native Los Angelino.  As such, walking is just not in my DNA.  It’s not that I am not fit.  I love to run—for exercise, not to get anywhere.  To get somewhere, my preferred mode of transportation is the car.  I am not alone.  The rest of the world is well aware of Los Angelinos’ aversion to pedestrianism.  Steve Martin highlighted it in LA Story by having the characters drive one block to dinner.  Missing Persons sang Walking in LA, a song that makes it abundantly clear that nobody walks in LA.

Pam is also a native Los Angelino, but somehow her DNA mutated.  She loves to walk—not for exercise, just to get somewhere.  She also likes to walk fast.  I have almost no ability to walk, and, despite my height advantage, I struggle to keep up with her.  When I complain and ask her to slow down, it lands on deaf ears, as her usual response is, “If I go any slower, I will fall over!”

As I begin to write this, it is mid-day Sunday, and I am feeling a modicum of pain while seated on a plane heading back to LA from Austin.  Ironically, the pain is not from the plane, which is unusual, as pretty much all planes are a pain.  Instead, I have a dull ache emanating from both legs, the result of taking fifty thousand and two steps in Austin over the past three days.  Steps I would have never taken on my own,  But I was not on my own.  Pam and I spent the past three days vacationing there.

We were excited to go to Austin.  Austin is a cool town.  It is the hippie part of Texas.  It has been voted one of the best cities in which to live a number of times.  It has a ton of history, including Lyndon Johnson, Sam Houston and the real Steve Austin (Stephen F. to be precise),  It is damn close to the Alamo and Davy Crockett.  It has music, culture, music, BBQ, music, boots, music, University of Texas with throngs of college kids and the Johnson Library, music, bats, music, Formula 1, music, Tex-Mex cuisine, including queso and Mexican Martinis, and more music.  We wanted to experience it all, except for Formula 1, as the race was not scheduled during our trip, and the Alamo, as it was not within walking distance.  Git Along, Little Dogies!

Before the trip Pam was focused on planning.  She knows me, and if she does not have a list of things to do while we are on vacation, there is a high likelihood that I will want to hang out at the hotel, sitting on my butt watching television.  So she scoured the internet and asked friends for recommendations for things to see, places to go and stuff to eat.  Then she focused on music.  We knew Austin had a great music scene.  The city motto is the “Live Music Capital of the World.”  The city is known for a wide range of music, especially the blues and outlaw country.  In my mostly misguided opinion, it’s musical renaissance began in the 70s when the outlaw country artists, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earle and Ray Wiley Hubbard, took up roots there.  At first, Pam focused on bars with live music, as we really enjoy just sitting in bars drinking beer and listening to music, especially in the afternoon.  But we really have only done that in Nashville, and she quickly realized that Sixth Street did not have the same country vibe as Lower Broadway in Nashville.  Unfazed, she persevered and found a show at Antones featuring Shooter Jennings, Waylon’s kid, which was most likely more than enough country for us, as we would still be checking out the bars on Sixth Street throughout our stay.

Our plan was simple.  It only had one fixed element.  We had to be at Antones at eight pm on Friday night.  Everything else was fluid.  We landed on Thursday morning, went to the hotel, checked our bags and planned our day.  We decided that we would eat BBQ at Iron Works, buy boots at Allen’s, watch the bats leave from under the Congress Bridge at dusk, and then check out the food and live music on Rainey Street at night.  I assumed that we would get it all done with some walking and a handful of Uber rides.  Pam thought differently.  17,000 steps later and lots of time spent standing waiting for the bats to emerge, we got it all done sans Uber.  We had really good BBQ and Shiner Bocks at iron Works.  We had fun buying cowboy boots, which neither of us really needed, as we had just bought some about 18 months ago on our last trip to Nashville.  I had an especially good time, as I tried on a pair of Alligator (AKA Cayman) boots, but they were just too expensive.  I did get to meet a fellow Porsche Club member and Cayman owner while in the store.  Small world.  We spent an hour waiting almost in vain for the bats to emerge from under the bridge, and when they did, they did so on the other side of the river, making for a less than spectacular view.  We ate killer grilled cheese sandwiches from a food truck for dinner.  Our only let down was the lack of quality live country music at the bars on Rainey Street.  Maybe it just was the wrong night or maybe it was just not the venue for us.  We did have fun, though, people watching  and drinking Texas beer, which we would later learn was going to be the recurring theme of our trip.  Pam had a really good draft Thirsty Goat amber ale, which was funny because she bought goat leather boots, and I had an amazing draft (512) Nitro Pecan Porter.

Friday, we decided to visit the local landmarks, including the Capitol, University of Texas and the Johnson Library, check out Voodoo Doughnuts and the afternoon Sixth Street bar scene, eat queso and Tex-Mex and drink a Mexican Martini before heading to Antones for the show.  Again my Uber dreams were scuttled.  18,000 steps and even more standing later, we arrived at Antones.

Despite the walking and standing, Friday was a great day.  I am not a huge fan of visiting Capitol buildings, finding them less than thrilling.  But the history of Texas is cool from the perspective of the United States.  Besides being a regal building with a great rotunda, the building is filled with dark art featuring Davy Crockett, the Siege of the Alamo, and the Battle of San Jacinto.  Very sobering stuff, but I really liked the paintings.  To top it off, while we were in the building, we were treated to the Ukulele strumming and vocal prowess of a bunch of grade school kids, who, among other things, treated us to a rousing rendition of Deep in the Heart of Texas.

From there it was off to UT, its football stadium and the Johnson Library.  We are essentially inept navigators, though collectively we have a decent sense of direction.  Just to be safe,we were relying on Google to provide directions.  While Google works pretty well when driving or when walking on city streets, it does not always work in less developed areas like river banks and college campuses.  We found that out in spades while visiting UT.  Google apparently has access to facts, like street names, that are not apparent or visible to pedestrians, causing us to second guess the directions and backtrack a ton, adding yet more steps to our journey.  Oh joy!

The campus is huge and really nice.  We made our way to the Johnson Library.  Before we went, I was nonplussed, about seeing it.  Though I lived through the Johnson era, I was too young to have formed any real opinion about him.  All I really knew was that my mother, a devout Kennedy supporter and conspiracy theorist, dissed him most of the time, and that he escalated the Vietnam War, something at the time I dreaded more than anything else.  The tour of the Johnson library was very impressive.  I was mesmerized by the memorabilia.  I was almost brought to tears by reading the timeline, as it recounted Johnson’s role in the civil rights fights of the 60s as well as other critical events of those years.  I was fascinated by his ability to intimidate and strong arm his political foes to achieve his, mostly admirable, goals.  I was saddened to think about how far our political system has devolved from a government which enabled decision making despite differences to one which is mired in gridlock.

We left UT with Sixth Street on our minds—mainly doughnuts, but music and beer, too.  We arrived at Voodoo Doughnuts and got in line.  The place is part of a small chain that began in Portland, Oregon, and is known for its uniquely crafted doughnuts that would have made Andy Warhol proud.  I learned most of this from the people standing in line in front of us—college kids from Arizona State University.  One of them was from Portland, and we got a complete Voodoo education.  We also got a good laugh when I asked them why they were in Austin.  They replied, “We are competing in a Quidditch tournament!”  Hermoine would be so proud.

We ordered a huge box of doughnuts and ate a few of them for lunch.  Of course, we way over ordered, even as we over ate, though we did take what was left back to the hotel and picked at them over the next two days.  It turns out that there is a Voodoo Doughnut location in LA, but thankfully it is in Universal City, which is pretty inconvenient.  Otherwise, I think I would frequent it way too often.

We then checked out a few bars, needing a beer chaser to wash down the doughnuts.  We settled into the San Jac Bar, which is pretty highly rated on the internet. Pam ordered some more Thirsty Goat ale and I ordered some other beer, and we listened to some old school acoustic county.  Then we walked back to the hotel.

We walked, what else, in our new boots to dinner at the Cedar Door and ordered Mexican Martinis, essentially Margaritas served from a shaker and poured into a martini glass.   When the waitress delivered them, she said there were two rules, “First, hold the top of the shaker when you pour, and second, there is a limit of two per person.”  Pam and I looked at the size of the shaker, and, while wondering if we could finish one and still walk, nodded and said, “No problem!”  The Mexican Martinis were great.  For dinner we ordered an appetizer of queso and entrees of Tex-Mex tacos.  Pam and I were both a little leery of queso, which is just a boatload of melted white cheese, but we soon realized why it is so popular.

We decided to go to Antones because of the act that was playing.  Not because we knew squat about Antones.  It turned out that Antones, which is sort of like a smaller version of the El Rey in Los Angeles, holds a hallowed place in the musical history of Austin,  It is generally known as being a house of blues, not country, and is one of the top rated music venues in the city.  Apparently, many legends, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, played there often.

We knew none of that when we arrived.  All we could think about was getting a place to sit, as neither of us relished the thought of standing for the duration of the show.  As we entered and looked around, we quickly realized that all the tables were occupied.  Pam noticed that two people were sitting at a table for four and it appeared that two seats were unused.  We walked up and asked if we could join them.  They said yes, and we had a lovely time learning about them and the history of Antones.  They were a unique couple.  She was a Texas girl who grew up in the area, hated country music and moved to Southern California for work.  He was an ex-Dead Head from Santa Cruz who had moved to Southern California for work.  They married, and as they can work remotely, moved to Austin.  While they are not country fans, they love Shooter Jennings, who it turns was not as country as we thought.  Thankfully, the opening act was country, and fortuitously, Shooter Jennings played a lot of new material from his soon to be released album, and all of that was country.  Yee-Haw!

Saturday, we decided, was nature day.  Naturally, we walked.  Another 17.000 steps or so.  I did not even utter the word Uber, except when enjoying the scenery.  Our destination, which was a botanical garden, was not as important as the route we walked, which was on the river.  We walked the river, made it to he botanical gardens and then walked back.  On the way back we detoured back through Barton Springs, which was a delightful area filled with Tex-Mex and food trucks.  On the way, Pam said, “Let’s check out the bars on Sixth Street some more.”  We did, but we were not impressed with the musical options.  As we started back to the hotel, Pam, in a completely out of character, but spot on, comment said, “Let’s go back to the Cedar Door and have beer and queso!”  What a brilliant suggestion.  Pam had another Shiner Bock, and I had another Pecan Porter.  That really wet our whistle!

Saturday night we ate at the hotel.  I was stoked, not because of dinner, which was good, but because we were done walking—for the day, the night, and the entire trip.  I only had Two Steps to go, Texas style.  And it was finally time to call Uber.  Hallelujah!

Our destination that night was the Broken Spoke, a vintage 60s honky-tonk, where we would be learning to Texas Two Step and listening to Two Tons of Steel,  a regional Texas rockabilly, Americana and country band.  When we first got there, we were a little underwhelmed.  The place is on the rundown side, a little scary and a whole lot kitschy.  At that time we did not know that Garth Brooks loved playing there.  When we first walked in, all we could see was a little dining area and a tiny bar.  All we could hear was a pretty pathetic band playing old time country.  We did not see a dance floor anywhere.  That changed a couple of minutes later when we were ushered into a pretty good sized concert area with tables surrounding a dance floor.  We had fun learning to Two Step, though I have to admit that I am a better walker than a two-stepper, despite the Scamper Juice (AKA whiskey) I drank, which is somewhat disheartening.  We loved Two Tons of Steel.  They put on a great show.  We tried out our Two Step skills.  Mostly though, we sat back and relaxed, listening to the band and watching the people, all the while wondering if the lead singer would hit is hat covered head on the ridiculously low ceiling.  We Uberred back to the hotel feeling really good about the evening and the entire trip. Yippee Ki-Yay!

Wallow Springs Raceway

I spent the day wallowing around Willow Springs International Motorsports Park last Monday.  I was supposed to be doing anything but wallowing, but wallowing was pretty much all I did.  I was participating in a PCA GPX Region Day Away From Work event.  Cumulatively, it was my fifth day of high performance drivers education.  A dispassionate observer would perceive it to be my fifth day starring in the movie Groundhog Day, as I seem to have to start from ground zero every time.

The event was billed as a drivers education and autocross day.  We drove clockwise on the Streets of Willow track.  Streets is the small, technical track at Willow Springs.  Willow Springs describes the Streets track as useful for testing and tuning.  In our case it was useful for learning—at least for some of us.  Willow Springs has another track, Big Willow, which was built for speed and for more experienced drivers.  I doubt I will ever drive on it, and that is okay with me.

Most participants experienced the day as billed.  For me it was yet another humbling attempt at circumnavigating a race track in a proficient manner.  I participated in the education portion.  I did not even consider the autocross portion.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had a blast.  I really enjoyed the event, which was really well implemented.  I also had the chance to meet and hang out with many really nice people.  But, as usual, I was painfully aware that I just do not have the desire, personality or skills to excel at this.

But I do have a car that does.  My 2015 Porsche Cayman GTS is an amazing all around car.  It is good on the street, and, in theory, good on the track.  I am not sure I will ever drive my car too much beyond five tenths of its limits, as I am way better suited to being an accountant than a driver.  My instructor for the day, Ian, never considered being an accountant, and it showed.  Ian started life as a fighter pilot.  He sees the world very differently than me.  On top of that, he is a track junkie.  He also has a Cayman GTS.  Not surprisingly, he spec’d his for the track, eschewing most options that added too much weight.  Options that I would deem absolutely necessary.  After my first less than stellar lapping session with Ian, he offered to drive me around the track a few times in his car at what he felt was seven or eight tenths.

The time I spent in the passenger seat in Ian’s car was very instructive on many levels.  I learned that Ian can drive, with a capital D.  I learned that he could actually follow the line around the track that kept vanishing like a mirage for me.  As my brain fired off warning signals, continuously triggering my fight or flight hormones, I learned that the Cayman GTS is a helluva car on the track.  To be fair to Ian, his skills were spot on.  His technique was excellent.  His line was precise.  I never felt like we were out of control.  I just never felt comfortable that the car could do what Ian was asking it to do.  Boy, was I wrong!  I did learn one other lesson—I had no interest in ever going around the track that fast.  That does not mean I did not want to get better, though.

What made Ian a good instructor for me was that, despite his uber macho fighter pilot training, he was able to understand my needs, and we shifted focus from speed to smoothness.  It turned out that besides being slow on my first lapping session, I was also abrupt and jerky in applying inputs to the car.  For the remainder of the day we focused on smoothness, starting with steering and then touching on accelerating.  We ran out of time before we tackled braking, leaving me something to work on next time.  We also worked on my seat and hand position, as I have a bad habit of shifting my hands out of the preferred 9 and 3 o’clock positions.

I definitely improved during my next three lapping sessions.  Some of my improvement related to learning the track.  Some related to working on what Ian was telling me.  Some related to the confidence I had in the car.  When I finished my last session, I realized that I had improved dramatically during the day.  For a couple of minute at a time during the third and fourth lapping sessions  Ian actually did not perceive the need to pepper me with constructive comments as I drove, a sure sign I was improving.  I was reminded yet again that smoothness comes first.  Speed follows.

My day ended when the autocross began.  I was beat.  I had arrived at the event hotel the afternoon before.  I sat through two hours of ground school where I listened to a lot of information that was well organized, well presented, well intended and, through no fault of the speakers, ultimately not well processed, though I did get it into my head that I needed to get cotton socks for safety reasons.  After ground school was over and before the group dinner, I trekked over to Walmart to buy some socks.  I was beyond shocked at how crowded Walmart was at 7:30 pm on a Sunday night, but that needs to be part of an entirely different story.  I was up early the morning of the track day.  During the four lapping sessions I had spent over 75 minutes driving on the track.  I was done.  I took a few pictures of the guys doing the autocross, cleaned the painter’s tape off my car, put all my luggage and loose items back into my car, and headed home.

My ride home was pretty uneventful, and it gave me the opportunity to keep my hands in the 9 and 3 o’clock positions, something I have been working on all week, and even used during the 100 plus miles I put on my 89 Carrera this weekend.   Pam came home after I got home, and after verifying that I was okay and that I had a good time she asked, “Why did you leave tape on your car?”  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I was sure I had removed all of it.  I was wrong.  I guess I was so tired before I left that I missed a few spots.  Her next words were, “What did you do to your front tires?  The tread looks disgusting!”  I guess I did a little less wallowing than I thought.

Paisley At Staples

Pam and I went to see Brad Paisley at Staples at the end of January.    It was his first stop on the extension of his Weekend Warrior World Tour.  When it was announced that he would be playing in Los Angeles, there was no doubt in our minds that we would be going.  We did not care that we had just seen him in mid-December when he put on an acoustic show at the intimate Saban Theatre.  We did not care that we already had tickets to see Justin Moore at the Microsoft Theater the very next night.   We did not care that he would be performing at Staples, arguably our least favorite venue.  We only cared that we were going because we love Brad Paisley shows.

Brad Paisley is one of the greatest natural entertainers we have ever seen.  He may not write the deepest songs.  In fact, many of his songs, like Alcohol, I’m Still A Guy, I’m Gonna Miss Her, Crushin’ It, and Ticks,  could be construed as sophomoric at best and disturbing at worst.  He may not have the best, most melodic country voice.  He may not be the best guitar player (but he is damn close).  But none of that matters.

From the opening notes at a Brad Paisley show, it is obvious that he is in his element when he is on stage.  His shows are fun.  He has enough thought provoking, sensitive songs, including Waitin’ On a Woman, We Danced, Last Time For Everything, He Didn’t Have To Be, She’s Everything, to balance the sophomoric ones.  His voice, though not overwhelmingly great, is really good, and he rarely misses a note.  His band is spectacular.  Then there are his videos and animations.  They are unique.  They are a work of Brad.  He has a great sense of humor and is happy to share it with the audience.

The show at Staples was no exception.  The opening acts, Lindsay Ell, Chase Bryant and Dustin Lynch were all really good.  Though I sometimes have issues watching Dustin Lynch perform, I thought he did a really good job, and when I shut my eyes, I thought he did a better job.  I was surprised at how well Lindsay Ell and Chase Bryant could shred on the guitar.  They were great, and each had an opportunity to accompany Brad as he wailed on his guitar.  They were really fun to watch and listen to.

But we went to see Brad Paisley, and we were not disappointed.  His show was stellar. and we enjoyed it tremendously.  Studies have shown that endorphins are released while attending a concert, which can affect your sleep, as it does to me.  Hence, I usually rate a show by how well I don’t sleep when it is over.  Thankfully, I slept like s**t after the Brad Paisley show at Staples.

That was the good news.  The bad news was that Pam and I had to rally to go see Justin Moore the next day.  We went and were glad we did, as he also put on a great show.

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