Saturday, October 16, 2010

a new era begins; a new SUV and the battle of the logos.

click on any picture to make it larger
note: the only ones that are actually mine are the first one and the last one

So I got a new truck last week. The accident was two weeks ago Monday and it took me until last Thursday to get back on track. That's more than ten days. This involved the rainy Monday being a total disaster. Many many phone calls with insurance people. Trips to the auto shop to talk about repairing my truck. Then they told me the truck was a write off. So I had to start looking for a new truck. I had borrowed my friend's car, who was on tour in England, and I only had until Thursday when he returned.

I can't tell you how much I hate car shopping. Mainly because I don't know much about cars. I really only care about the color and the stereo. Because of my work I need something that can carry stuff around (photography equipment, DJ equipment, paint, ladders, other people's clutter, furniture to be repaired or refinished, etc).

I thought about buying a pickup, because you can carry more stuff. But then the back is open and you can't really store anything in there. And I would have to have a truck with an extended cab. I can't just throw my DJ equipment in the back of a pickup. So that’s getting big when I live in the slightly cramped area of silverlake and hollywood; I have to keep traffic and parking in mind.

I love(d) my Ford Explorer (SUV) and it seemed perfect for me and my needs. So I swung back to the SUV.

Several trips to car dealers. Wrenching. They all seem to be trying to take advantage of me (one) and of course are trying to make money. It's hardly a humanitarian venture, owning a used car lot. Every car I saw was "the best", at least according to the dealer of the moment. "Do you want me to go get the keys?" "(no, because the color is completely wrong and I don't even like the logo).

I have only ever really bought four cars in my life. Each time I felt like I had been put through the ringer and left out in the desert while they drained my bank account and rifled through my most private papers (ie bank accounts, tax records, etc).

My first car was a gift from my dad for my 16th birthday. It was a 1966 powder blue Ford Fairlane. It was only three years younger than me and my dad bought it off a local farmer for $250. The stereo I installed cost more than the car. But at this time, I was in 11th grade and going to an academic high school in the city, a 30 - 40 minute drive. Having my own car meant I could drive myself and I didn't have to rely on my mom to take me to school and back.

Which, looking back, was kind of a nice time and I miss that.

But having my own car (with a kick ass stereo) was awesome.

Most of my “friends” took advantage of me, asking for rides to concerts and anywhere else they wanted to go. Sometimes it annoyed me, but most of the time it was ok; even though I knew they were using me, it was kind of nice to be included, even if it was only as a chauffeur.

(Not a lot of self esteem in my family, as you can probably guess)

I also had a job, working at a record store, which was more a full time than a part time job, so I had a fair amount of money and access to very cheap records.

At one point I was in a minor fender bender, but being that my car was so old and somewhat fragile, it didn't take much. By this time I was in college and my dad again got me a car, it was a 1973 Mercury Montego GT, and while it was originally red, it had faded (as red used to do) and was kind of a dusty pale orange color. But it was very sporty (which didn't go with my personality at the time one bit). But it had a nice logo and more importantly it had an awesome sound system. The cassette deck had AUTO REVERSE and you could play a tape either way.

That sounds totally lame now, but at the time it was pretty cool. I also had an amp and a pre amp and I remember blasting Frankie Goes to Hollywood "Two Tribes" at unearthly levels. I was in heaven. God bless Trevor Horn.

I don't remember what happened to that car, but I moved to Toronto to continue my education and I assume my dad took the car back.

Several years later I was again living in Edmonton and needed a car. I bought a car off my friend's brother for I think $200. I don't even remember what kind it was, it was a total beater car and had no brakes (I'm not kidding). One day, in the winter as I recall, the drivers side floor fell out and that was that.

But by this time I had graduated college and was working as a computer graphics artist and had a pretty good job. I was also working part time in a record store. I can't remember how it happened, but I ended up buying a brand new 1988 Honda CRX, which I totally loved. I loved the hatchback. It was white, and brand new, and had a great stereo and an awesome logo. And, even more importantly, given that I was living in Edmonton in the winter, it had a great heater.

I was living with a guy I had known for several years, one of my semi friends, a friend of a friend, who hung out with us in Vancouver and did a lot of drugs while we went out dancing every night (they did the drugs, I did the dancing). I knew he was a bit sketchy, and he was still doing a lot of drugs, but we had fun.

One day when I got into my car, I noticed that the heater fan was on full. I never ever turned the fan on full, so it was a bit curious, but I never thought much of it. The a few days later I got into the car and there were pistachio shells on the floor of the drivers side. I had never eaten pistachios in my life.

I realized that my room mate was borrowing my car while I was asleep to go on 7-11 runs (I'm again giving him the benefit of the doubt). Without asking me! So I began taking my keys to bed with me. He still borrowed it sometimes during the day, with my permission, but one day he came home and he had been smoking in my car (ugh!) but worse, he had tossed his cigarette out the window while he was driving, and it flew back into the car and land on the back seat, burning a hole in the seat.

Which was there, of course, until the day I sold that car several years later. That was the end of him driving my car, and when I ended up getting a different place to live, without him, that was the end of our friendship. I don't recall that I've ever seen him since that day, which was 22 years ago,

With the Honda CRX I moved to Vancouver and then to Toronto, and then I moved to Los Angeles. I sold every thing I owned in Toronto, I shipped a few boxes of cds and records, and I drove across America in my CRX, from Toronto through Detroit, Memphis, Nashville, etc, stopping at the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas on the way.

I lived in LA for several years with that car, I ended up working at Tower Records and Rhino Records (at the same time) and was doing pretty well. I decided to buy this car that I had fallen in love with, it was a Mustang convertible, 1992 and only had 17,000 miles on it when I bought it from a used car dealer in Santa Monica. I can't tell you how much I loved that car, and I drove it until it literally fell apart.

It was to the point where the top didn't close any more, so it was permanently down. This is OK in the summer as it doesn't rain, but it was coming on fall, 2002, I was living in Silver Lake, and I was doing all right financially, so I decided that before it started to rain I had to buy a new car.

I had been looking at cars for several weeks and getting very frustrated, and concerned that it was going to rain and me stuck with a car with no roof. One Sunday, in fact it was the long weekend in September, I was on my way to the Pasadena Flea Market and I drove past the Ford dealer on Hill St, they were having a huge Labor Day sale, with balloons and everything short of a guy dressed in a chicken suit. I just stopped in to look, but I found a black Explorer Sport SUV that once I sat in I knew this was the car (truck) for me. I ended up buying it that day and driving it home.

And it served me well, up until last Monday when it was done in by a light sprinkling of rain while crossing the Hyperion bridge over the 5 freeway. (see previous blog for details and photos of the death of my SUV).

It's funny, you don't usually realize "this is the last time I will be doing this." Like "this is the last time I will see this person" or "this is the last time I will have sex with this person" or "this is the last time I will get in my truck and drive to the post office."

(Maybe sometimes you know when this might be the last time you have sex with someone.)

Sometimes you think, "this will be the last time I see this person." and it turns out not to be the case at all. Sometimes for better or worse.

The last time I saw my grandmother I thought it might be the last time I saw her (she had been very sick and was in the hospital). The last time I saw my Dad it never occurred to me that would be the last time I saw him (he died very suddenly). I said goodbye to my truck a few days ago, I took all my stuff out of it, it was very sadly smashed up and wouldn't start. But a week earlier when I had gone to the gym, and got in and drove across the bridge on my way to the post office and breakfast, I never thought, "this is the last time I will turn this ignition key."


The first place I visited was the Ford dealer in Glendale, because I sort of knew them, having gone there for several years for maintenance and repairs. I had also gone there a while back, when they had the "Cash for Clunkers" extravaganza. It turned out my truck qualified, and I was really on the market for a new one, but when I discovered that they were going to kill my truck (literally, they would pour a chemical in the engine so the truck would be scrap metal) I just didn't have the heart. Sure, the explorer had seen better days, they don't make trucks like they used to, and even though it was only a few years old, once the warranty expired, things started to fall apart (coincidence?). But it wasn't ready to be put down. Taken out back and injected chemicals that would kill it. I just couldn't do it...

I went to all the car dealers on Brand Blvd, in Glendale, the Auto Row. I looked at several trucks and had more or less decided I would get this Jeep Cherokee that I sort of had a crush on, and it was only $8500 (plus tax and licensing). I love the Jeep logo, and the truck was a silvery blue which I quite liked.

But I had this friend who owns a car dealership in Santa Monica. While I was literally worrying about my truck situation, he butt dialed me and my phone showed "Jeremy car dealer". I took it as a sign from the universe and, while I knew that he was mad at me (long story, but basically because I wasn't moving at the same speed he was moving at (ie lightning") so I texted him that I had totaled my truck and needed a new one asap. He texted me that he had a truck for me, for $3000.

Monday morning I drove out to Santa Monica to see the truck, but as soon as I saw it I knew it wasn't the one. First of all it was gold. and it had a padlock on the back. Jeremy suggested that I take the insurance money and buy this truck and have some left over. But when I told him it was important for me not to feel like I was dumbing myself down, he understood.

He got online, a special 'car dealers' sites and checked out the upcoming auctions. He ended up finding this SAAB 9-7X, which as soon as he clicked on it, he said, this is the truck for you! Even though it was significantly more than I had been planning on spending. He said, it you're going to pay $8500 for a 2002 Jeep Cherokee, which isn't worth that, you should pay a little more and get something really worthwhile. He called the dealer in Santa Ana (about an hour from my house) and negotiated a deal.

So the next day I somewhat reluctantly drove to Santa Ana, still more or less intending on buying the Jeep Cherokee, waiting patiently for me on a parking lot in Glendale, but I said I would check out the truck. While I was on the freeway, the Ford dealer called me to see if I could come in and I told him, I'm going to check out a truck in Santa Ana, and then I will come to you.

But once I got there, the truck really felt right. And of course it was much nicer (and newer) than the Jeep. It basically took the rest of my day to work out the details, but a deal was finally hammered out. the only hitch was that I had to wait for the check from the insurance company to come. I called them and they said it would be in my hand the next day. By now we are getting down to the wire, it's Wednesday and Phideaux arrives back from the UK on Thursday morning.

But the check arrived Wednesday around noon, as the insurance company had promised, I took it to the bank and I took Phideaux's car in for a tune up. My friend Colleen drove me out to Santa Ana and dropped me off, she said she would stop in Anaheim and visit her dad. So it all worked out.

When I arrived back in LA, I picked up Phideaux's car, took it to the car wash, filled it up with gas, took it back to his house, parking it in his garage, fed his cats and left the keys. Walked to where I had parked my new truck (next to the car repair shop) and promptly drive to Pasadena to see a movie (of course!). What else would I do in my new truck?

I do want to take a road trip to Las Vegas to see the Beatles Love show, which I have see a couple times already but it's the most amazing spectacle I've ever seen. (and it has a great logo!)

When I woke up this morning, my new truck was in my driveway, all shiny and clean. Waiting to chauffeur me into the next phase of my life. I feel like it's a little better than I deserve, or at least what I'm used to (it's by far the most expensive vehicle I've ever owned, or perhaps even been in) but I've decided that I will rise to match the level of my new truck.

Except for the logo, which I hate. It’s an eagle (?) with a worm in it’s mouth, on a navy blue background. Now, I’m an artist and I can appreciate all colors, but navy blue is the worst color ever. Once I had a BF and a year after we’d broken up and become friends again (not always easy, not always possible) he told me his favorite color was navy blue. I said, “you know, you could have saved us a lot of time if you’d only mentioned that in the beginning.”

The other lesson I think is to be grateful and live in the moment. Because you never know when this is the last time you will see that person or the last time you do this thing that you've done a hundred times. This just is, it's not necessarily a bad thing it can certainly be a good thing. I'm reminded of the saying,

"This Too Shall Pass."

©2010 Rod Reynolds RocketManLA.Com

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

As fate would have it: the intersection of five random people on the Hyperion Bridge, and the death of my SUV.

As fate would have it: the intersection of five or more random (?) people on the Hyperion Bridge, high above the 5 freeway at 10:20 am last morning, in the first October rain.

I awoke at the usual time, with no trepidation whatsoever. Not even a tiny clue from the universe that this day would be anything out of the ordinary. Meditated a bit, fed the cat and the fish, had a shower and set out. It was raining, but lightly, I made sure everything was covered in tarps before I headed over to the gym for cardio, all seemed copacetic. I left the gym at 10:20, carefully calculating just enough time to get to Eat Well for the breakfast special, which ends at 10:30.

Halfway across the Hyperion bridge, I'm listening to the new David Sylvian cd in the truck. Traffic is light, there's a little silver sports car in front of me, I'm paying little mind, listening to David Sylvian's wonderful voice filling my truck. But suddenly, the little silver sports car spun around and was facing me! Wha wha wha??

I hit the brakes, but not too hard, because I knew the pavement would be slippery, especially on the bridge. It was just barely raining, and it hasn't really rained here for many many months, so the oil on the road would be treacherous; imagine a very slippery frozen pond, then covered in oil.

The silver car spun around in the middle of the road, and then someone coming from the other direction hit the sports car. Suddenly the sports car was heading back towards me, but coming at me sideways. I ramped to the left, but then I started to slide. I could see the side of the silver car coming towards me, in slow motion, like in some action movie, but by this time I had no control and the right side of my truck slammed into the left side of the silver car with a tremendous crunch, the sound of glass hitting steel, and losing.

(click on any picture to see it larger)

Both of our vehicles, side to side, slid over into the oncoming traffic, and a fourth car slammed into the right side of the silver car and careened over the road to hit the curb on the other side. The silver car flipped around backwards and slid to a stop, facing oncoming traffic, and eventually hit the curb and came to a stop.

Of course, all this happened in literally a fraction of a second.

I hadn't been going very fast, but it was all quite a shock. Not to mention the actual physical jolt of being hit by not one but two cars in rapid succession. Sideways.

My truck sputtered and stalled. My head reeled.

I quickly got out and I could see the driver of the silver sports car was slumped over in the passenger seat of his car. The side windows had blown out, and the front fender of his car was torn off and lying on the road. There was glass and car parts all over the pavement and sidewalk, and the cars on the bridge had all stopped. There was also two other cars who managed to avoid crashing into anyone, but we were all askew on the road, with parts and plastic and glass all over the pace, as if god had shaken the road and we all just kind of landed where we landed.

I went over to the silver car to make sure the guy was ok, he was smashed into his car and the door wouldn't open, but he nodded he was ok but his leg hurt. Meanwhile the driver of the second car came over and he said he’d called 911. I told the guy in the silver car not to move, help was coming. He sat in his car for quite a while until the firemen arrived and pulled him out.

A firetruck arrived and two young firemen got out and went around asking if everyone was ok. They got the guy out of the silver car and he sat on the side of the road with his head in his hands. We were all basically ok, obviously a little shaken (more than a little shaken) but our vehicles had definitely seen better days.

I got back into my truck which was now facing the wrong way, in the wrong lane and effectively in the middle of the road. The engine turned over but it wouldn't stay running. I popped the hood and everything looked ok, but after several tries to get it running, I gave up.

My first call was to my auto body shop, and I asked if they could send a tow truck, which he dispatched right away. Everyone else was by this time out of their cars and on their phones calling various agencies and family members. It's so amazing that every single one of us had a cel phone.

A few minutes later my tow truck arrived. The driver tried to start my truck, but it wouldn't stay running. So they pushed it out of the middle of the road so the traffic could get past. Then the police man arrived and stopped in the middle of the road, so once again both west bound lanes were blocked.

The police man said none of us could leave until he had taken statements from everyone. So my tow truck driver had to stand there waiting.

Meanwhile, one of the people had called AAA, their tow truck driver clearly had been through this a few times, and he calmly collected everyone's insurance info, drivers license and registration, and began making photo copies (!!) in the back of his truck.

So the cop took statements from everyone and when he was finished with me he said, "Ok, you can go." The driver of the silver sports car was pretty much in shock, and wasn't saying much. Also his car was clearly totalled. He showed me his insurance and it was bare bones. So he had lost his car, and was clearly at fault in an accident involving 5 people (there were two people in one of the cars) and 4 vehicles including a 2010 Mercedes.

The damage to my truck is pretty intense, on the passenger side, and of course it's not running. Also the door on the driver’s side doesn't open very well, and the sport panel fell off.

It is now sitting in my local auto body shop, waiting for the insurance inspector to come and look, which will hopefully happen soon, so they can start restoring my truck. But the mechanic told me they will probably write my truck off; because of the way the crash happened, the front end of my truck is twisted.

So clearly I had to rent a car. I was expressing concern over this at the auto body, and they said, "hey, there was just a guy here who is from a car rental place, his card is right there on the bulletin board."

So they called him, and a half hour later he arrived to pick me up. He said, "sorry it took me so long to get here, there was some sort of accident on the Hyperion bridge and they had it closed off."

We all laughed. “Ooops!”

The tow truck had gone back to pick up the totaled silver sports car, which was facing the wrong was in the oncoming lane. I imagine they had to close the bridge to get the car and all the debris taken care of.

So I got a rental car, and then headed over to my insurance company, who I had already called a couple times. Since the drive is underinsured, I am responsible for payments to repair my truck and the rental car. Or, if they write it off, I will have to buy a new truck!

Then the insurance company will reimburse me, minus my $1000 deductible, and I will have to submit the rental car bill to the silver sports cars insurance company. The insurance agent said they will recover what they can from the sports car driver, but it will not cover all the cars and people involved. So that kind of sucks.

I am often bemused by the hands of fate, or coincidence. Some people say there is no such thing as coincidence, and everything happens for a reason. A Course in Miracles (or at least Marianne Williamson) says every person (or car?) who is in front of you (or beside you, or behind you) is an opportunity to learn, and it is our choice to learn through love or through fear. I crossed paths with a lot of people yesterday. The three drivers of the other cars, the tow truck driver, the policeman, the firemen, the mechanics, the car rental guy, two insurance people plus one on the phone.

And these things took up nearly my entire day. I was talking with the insurance agents at 5pm as they were closing, setting up a time for them to see the damage on my truck. I went to the gym and then to a movie; I was just too beat to attempt any work.

I took a warm bath when I got home from the movie, I knew I would be sore when I woke up and thought the heat might lessen the damage. I sat there looking up at the ceiling, wondering what the lessons here were for me, and if I negotiated the day as well as I could have. And how in the world I am going to be able to buy a new truck!

I thought, as I often do, one minute (or even thirty seconds) earlier or later either way, heading across the Hyperion bridge, my day would have been entirely different. And my truck would be safely sitting in my driveway when I woke up the next morning.

But I didn't. And it's not.

I wonder what this is all about?

©2010 Rod Reynolds Los Angeles CA USA