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8:36 am - Weds 5/11/05
Dogs on Motorcycles

Dogs On Motorcycles

It's been a couple years now since the idea of getting a motorcycle first popped into my head.

I started thinking about it as a solution to one of the biggest pains-in-my-ass here in L.A., which is my parking situation. Walking down the street, I'd see a motorcycle parked perpendicular to the curb, nestled in between two cars, and I'd think to myself, "Damn...that guy never has to worry about finding a parking space" (Meanwhile, I'd have just finished driving around my neighborhood for half an hour, before finally finding a spot ten blocks away).

On the freeway, when traffic was moving at a crawl, I'd see a motorcycle passing in between lanes of cars, and think to myself, "Damn, I bet he's never late because of traffic...".

I started noticing what bikes I liked and which ones I didn't. Long story short–I like anything that looks "classic" (I think I'd look like an idiot on a "rice rocket", but totally plausible on a Harley "Fat Boy", though that would probably be way too much bike for the likes of me. Anyway, stylistically, when I look at a motorcycle, I want to see more chrome than plastic).

I started looking at What Bike? magazine at work, a British motorcycle catalogue (Why we don't carry an American motorcycle catalogue, instead of one that lists bikes that aren't available in the U.S. and quotes prices in pounds, I couldn't tell ya).

But I didn't have the money for a motorcycle. I didn't even have the money for motorcycle accessories (Not to mention money for the requisite safety course). And you can't really ask friends for the money to buy a motorcycle, because one of the reasons your friends are your friends in the first place is that they don't want you to end up as a bloody smear on the freeway.

That became kind of a running joke when I'd talk to people about my relatively newfound fixation on motorcycles: I'd weigh the "pros and cons" of getting a motorcycle–"On the one hand, never having to worry about parking again. On the other hand, the very real possibility of serious injury or death...". Then I'd hold both hands out, trying to balance the scale: "Hmmmm...this is a tough one...".

And you know something? It really was "a tough one". Because "serious injury or death" was only a "possibility" if I bought a motorcycle, whereas my parking aggravation was happening in the here-and-now.

But when you add "...and you don't have the money for a motorcycle anyway" to "the very real possibility of serious injury or death", the "decision" pretty much makes itself.

Another thing I've been thinking about for a long time is getting a pet–Particularly, a pet dog (Not to offend cat lovers, or tarnish the memory of the late, lamented Leo, but I only think about getting a cat because it would be easier, and possibly be a better "fit" for a lazy guy like me, since cats are relatively "low-maintainance". But in my heart of hearts, I'm a "dog man").

(An aside: It struck me recently that I know the name of three dogs in my building...but only one person, not counting the building managers).

So why not get a dog, you ask?

1. Money.

I felt very guilty when my cat Leo died, because when he took ill–his kidneys shut down, basically–the expense of the back-and-forth to the vet, the overnights at the kitty hospital, and the special food and medicines, made me feel like I was going to end up in the hospital from the stress I was feeling (If you're new to this journal, you may already know me from the evening news–I'm one of "The Nation's Poor"). I wanted to be "Spare-No-Expense Guy", and felt terrible that I was as stressed out about the money I was spending as I was about the fact that my cat, who I'd had for ten years at that point, was dying. It made me feel like an official "bad person", and was a sharp reminder of what a failure I was (At this point in my life, I should have the money to deal with something like this).

Did Leo die because I procrastinated on taking him to the vet? If I'd had more money, if I'd "spared no expense" in terms of his treatment, would he have lived longer? There's no way to be sure, but at the time, and for some time afterwards, I felt like the answer to those questions was "Yes".

It made me think that it wasn't right for me to have a pet, if I didn't have the money to properly care for one. And unfortunately, my financial circumstances haven't changed (If anything, so far this year, they're a bit worse).

2. Being single.

Ironically, the main reason I'd want a dog–I'm alone–is a big reason I feel like I can't have one.

John O. is very big on people not having dogs if the animal is going to be left alone most of the time. And I tend to agree: Dogs are "pack animals" and need companionship.

I'd feel guilty leaving a dog alone while I was at work. And then I think about the possibility of booking a commercial that shoots for 15 hours, or getting cast in a play, or being on location for weeks on a movie shoot, or having a schedule that's an ever-changing crazy quilt of all of the above, mixed with temp jobs, extra work, and notary gigs, and dribs and drabs of a social life (A guy can dream, can't he?), and you get the picture. Doesn't seem very fair to an animal that needs routine, that needs you to be there.

3. I've never done well "caring for things".

Even if I had a decent income and a regular schedule, I'd question my getting a dog: Whether we're talking about possessions, pets, the women in my life (Back when there were "women in my life"), or my own body and soul, I've never demonstrated much in the way of "nurturing skills".

I don't know if it's the sleep apnea, the traumatic childhood, or what, but I've never been able to motivate myself to "make the effort". So my stuff falls apart, pets die, women leave, and as I write this, I have a host of health issues, large and small, that are negatively impacting my life, some that are probably killing me (See "Sleep Apnea" above), that I can't bother to take action on.

Pet ownership as a lesson in "responsibility" is something for a 10 year old. At my age, I think I'm probably about as "responsible" as I'm gonna get, and that's not responsible enough to take care of other living things. I can summon enough "caring" to know that it wouldn't be right for me to have a dog, only to have it suffer from my benign neglect for the next ten or fifteen years.

So, decisions have been made–No motorcyle, no dog.

But I keep looking longingly at motorcycles, and I keep looking longingly at dog books at the bookstore. I look in the "free" section on Craigslist (There's always someone giving away a dog), and in the "for sale" section for motorcycles (There's a new listing for a Honda "Shadow" for $1350, a relatively small bike that would be good for getting around town).

Because I may have "decided" those things would be wrong for me, but that doesn't mean the underlying needs have gone anywhere.

My "underlying needs" never seem to go anywhere. And I never seem to know what to do with them.


 

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