Wheels, Life

The fires are still burning, many miles away. The sky is bright and gray and the air hot and humid. Every undisturbed surface has a light film of ash. This light-industrial city out on the edge of the state capital seems made entirely of concrete slabs. The ugly buildings, the ugly cars, the ugly sky, the dust on everything, it feels like Los Angeles up here.

I took a scenic detour and went to the wrecking yard. They took my name and let me walk through it. As a reminder of usefulness past and the hopeless future that awaits us all, it was a good fit for my mood.

As described a few months ago, I need a wheel for my trailer. It’s taken a while because there was more to learn about wheels than I ever expected. One thing was it is evident that my trailer has car wheels and not trailer wheels. Also that no car still on the road has wheels with a 13″ diameter. I think that, years before it came to me, some kid got new rims for his late-model foreign-made hot rod and put his old ones on this trailer. But then a few decades went by, and the cars that those little wheels fit became too old to take up space at wrecking yards, and they and the wheels that match went away to be melted down. Upshot: I can’t find a match for my damaged wheel for threats, love, or money.

I’m damned if I’m going to buy three brand new tire and wheel assemblies for this, so I think my most economical step will be to buy three old tires/wheels from a single car in this wrecking yard (so they match), and remove / modify my trailer fenders if need be so they fit.

Three? Yeah. If I’m headed somewhere far away and blow a tire, it does me no good to have a spare that doesn’t match in terms of diameter and offset, and we’ve already established I can’t get one wheel to match the existing two.

The above was written a week ago. Things have changed.

One, the fires have diminished and the smoke with them. There is actually blue in the sky today.

Two, I learned that I was measuring wheels wrong. The tire may say R13 on it but the wheel measures 14″ from edge to edge. I found this is normal: that car wheels are an inch larger than their stated size. This meant that I might have found some 14″ wheels in the wrecking yard, and ignored them. I went back and found one after looking at only a few dozen cars.

It was filthy, its inside coated with road grime. I cleaned it up and decided to check the fit before I go have tires swapped. Put the trailer on a stand, found it had lug bolts instead of lug nuts that my cross wrench didn’t fit, dug up a 17mm socket that did fit and a breaker bar, and discovered the existing wheel was rust-welded to the axle-end. I was able to force it off with a hammer and pry bar, thankful that I didn’t have to do this on some dark rainy night far from home. Then I raised my old-new wheel into place and learned the center hole, where the hub pokes through, was a tenth of an inch too small in diameter.

It’s no surprise that nothing, however simple, is ever easy.

My next step will be to take the trailer to work where I can borrow a dye grinder and enlarge the hole. (Why the whole trailer and not the wheel? So I can be sure my enlarged hole is large enough and is centered enough the first try and get the job finished.) That’ll be easier and cheaper than going back to the wrecking yard to find another 14″ wheel (they are not common) that happens to have a 2.25″ inch center hole.

The point of this long boring story was not just to illustrate some random picture of my life. Or just for practice: I know a rewrite would make it shorter and easier to read but I’m not yet to the point of writing blog posts in multiple sessions. Does anyone do that? Hard to tell. But anyway, the other point was to say I hope that your life doesn’t consist, as mine has for pretty much all of it, of making parts fit that don’t fit naturally.

The Notarious Mr Phim

With fires raging and friends of friends losing their homes and their animals and decades’ accumulations of things, my ad hoc collections of family papers and furniture and unfinished projects and whatever else is in this house feels less and less real. Still, I was delighted the mortgage company saw a way to help me keep this wood and sheetrock shell. After over a year of process, all I had to do was sign some new documents and get them notarized.

Simple, right?

Well, I don’t actually own my home. A Trust that I established several years ago owns my home. This is the standard thing so that when you kick off your kids don’t have to go through a bunch of shit to inherit. I am the Trustee of the Trust and can thereby do what I want with the house. When I kick off, my eldest child automatically becomes Trustee with the same power and responsibility. The Will divides it up, and the Trust makes it simple. Simpler anyway than the alternative, which has the word “probate” in it and I don’t know or care to know any more about that.

So, documents came in the mail for me to sign and have notarized. I took the packet to UPS so their notary could do it and it could be sent off toot sweet. There was a deadline, Miss the deadline, modification offer is withdrawn, and I either pay a year’s worth of late mortgage payments all at once or short sell my home. For us college-educated types of advanced middle-aged, that much money should be a cinch. I once spent cash like that all at once on art supplies. I was stupid then — no, halt, I gotta learn not to talk about myself like that. I was in a particular (and peculiar) place then, but I’m in a very different place today and might as well build a ranch on the moon as make a payment that size.

Sending the docs in was important, in other words. But they were rejected. The signature was wrong. There had been no instructions or examples, so I excuse myself for not knowing that the signatures were supposed to be “My Name”, and “My Name, as Trustee of the My Name Trust, established Month Day, Year”. (These are not exact quotes.)

OK, so having learned that, I went back to a different notary and had it done the way I was told, and sent it in again. The lender never called or wrote but the deadline was looming so I called and got passed around and learned it was rejected again. Signature notarization was wrong. Over the phone, the guy told me the first of the two pages needed the notary’s stamp too. Fine. OK.

Went back to my second notary but he’d left the company so I visited a third one and he wouldn’t notarize it at all. Notaries don’t notarize actual documents, only the Certificate. We had evidently done the Certificate correctly the second time, but now it seemed the lender wanted a stamp on the signature page too. The notary, however, who verified this with a call to the National Notary Association, said this wasn’t legal. Not the way it’s done. We were beginning to wonder if this lending company back in Florida and New Jersey had any idea what the hell they were doing.

I called them, of course. Really wanted this over with. Started to picture some nefarious lending company who acquires houses by creating a home retention program because some law requires it and then devises bureaucratic runarounds that no one can actually get through. But instead of more runaround, they just sighed heavily and said, look. We’re going to send a notary to your house. Our notary. That way, we’ll make sure it’s done right. I thought, wow, that’s actually good news.

And so he came, a young man in a suit who explained that the previous notary was correct and the signature page cannot be stamped. The problem was he’d filled out the Certificate wrongly after all. He had left out a My Name. In other words, correctly done as explained by the fourth notary, the proper wording was “My Name, and my Name, as Trustee, of the My Name Trust, established Day Month, Year.” That was tedious, but he got it done.

Interesting fella. If I were writing a book I would describe him as Vietnamese-African-American with a French first name, sight of whose left-handed writing made my wrist hurt. As some lefties are trained, he wrote with his hand crooked around so that the writing instrument is actually on the right-hand side of the letters, and the letters are pulled out of the pen as with you right-handers. I’m a leftie who was not trained that way, which results in the pen pushing the letters out and the palm of my hand hiding what I just wrote and smudging the ink. He said writing was the only thing he did left-handed. Everything else, like swinging a baseball bat or punching someone, he did with his stronger right hand. I thought it interesting that he used punching someone as an example. He was slight of build, but it would be no surprise if he knew what to do with what he had.

He drove away in the smoke-attenuated sunlight and I am hopeful, but not yet convinced beyond doubt, that the ordeal has been passed through successfully. I suspect it has and I am grateful for the visit from the notarious Mr Phim.

Into the Maelstrom

I am signing up for a ten-week novel writing class. I want to structure my work and get some feedback, and a class is the best way. If you have been thinking of taking such a class, have a look here:


I met Erika at a writing seminar several years ago, have enjoyed several of her books, and consider her a friend. That she periodically gives this course made it an easy commitment. Otherwise I could be shopping for months.

It starts the same week as Virtual Burning Man so right off the bat I get to practice dealing with distraction.

The Man Without Feet

On the corner between the freeway and the light industrial warehouse district where I have a job sits a gas station and convenience store. The sidewalk is a clean stretch of concrete few pedestrians ever have cause to use. Periodically the corner is a gathering place for a few of the unhoused and transient. You see them camped for a few days, and then they’re gone. Small footprint, not a lot of trash. One can imagine one’s world shrunk down to a couple square yards in the blazing heat, and that the convenience store owner or the police compel them to move on after letting them rest a night or two.

Of late there’s mainly been just one denizen of this sidewalk. He was there all last summer, disappeared over the winter, came back in the spring. He has a wheelchair and an assortment of means to keep the sun off his head and always seems absorbed in a book or his phone or fast asleep despite the constant rumble of passing cars and trucks. More often than not his legs are up or out somehow where the sun has given his truncated legs a deep suntan. He has a beard with no gray and a face that has seen perhaps more than its share of harsh sunsets.

Once in a while a car or pickup has pulled over and someone is visiting. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t have a hand out, doesn’t appear to be starving, often has something new like a hat or a folding chair.

He wasn’t there today. Just this.

I guess his name was Mike.

Ghost slash Microtornado

Leaves, hole, bottle

This morning she said, “Look around. Figure out what’s different.”

We have a round glass table out back, with an umbrella hole in the center. I had it collecting leaf-imprints and rain-muck in the front yard for years. No idea whose it was, how it got here. Now it’s out back, all cleaned up. The umbrella is one my neighbor threw away. One of the points had broken through the fabric and I gathered it up and we fixed that. The foot of the pole is secured in the hole in a cinder block, snugged up with a rock. As of last night, the table had a pile of yellow leaves trimmed off a bush (they’re going to be infused into butter), and right next to the umbrella pole an old wine bottle full of water with a succulent growing out of it.

Took me a minute. The umbrella was no longer in the table. It was leaning into the corner of the fence. The fence has a gate whose latch broke so we lean a stepladder against it to keep it from swinging and squeaking in the middle of the night. The fabric of the umbrella was neatly tucked between the stepladder and the gate. The glass bottle and the pile of leaves were undisturbed.

This means the umbrella had to have risen four feet straight up and then moved over to the fence, all without touching the bottle and without the slightest breath of air to move any of the leaves. Same time, the folded-up stepladder had to come away from the gate just enough to let the umbrella fabric in while the umbrella descended to earth, but not enough to tip over.

Right next to all this is the open window to our bedroom. We didn’t hear anything. There is no evidence that anyone was in the back yard. Because of that gate, they would have had to climb a fence to get in and out anyway.

I know wind does weird things. But I also know every spirit-sensitive person who’s ever been to this house has had something to say about the entities we share it with. I’m deciding not to decide what happened. It just did. I don’t care how.


She sighed heavily and went for his beer. Opened the fridge. There were only a few left.

“Hey! There’s only a few left!”

“Shut up and bring me one!”

“Fucker,” she said quietly. Pulled one out. Stuck her nail under the flip top but it wouldn’t flip. Felt like her nail was going to peel off.

She could hear the TV. That old show he always made her watch. It made her feel crazy. Coming down was bad enough without that crap.

“Sit down, Kirk. I’ve got all of Bela’s communications bugged. He can’t make a date with a broad unless I know about it. Well, I guess you want to know why I brought you here.”

She shook her head at the fake Brooklyn accent and looked for something to peel the flip-top with.

“You want to make a deal.”

Sounded like big bad Captain Kirk. She found a knife. That ought to do.

“Hey, I like that. That is sharp. That’s sharp, eh, Zabo?”

She liked holding the knife.

Sharp, Boss”

She heard him laugh and mimic the gangster’s voice. “Sharp. Sharp, Boss.” More chuckling, then “Hey! Beer!”

“That’s right, a deal. I want you to help me.”

She popped the can open. Turned around. On the TV a girl came up behind Kirk and started massaging his shoulders. She came up behind him with beer in one hand and knife in the other.

“Hey,” she said. “You want a massage?”

“Got my beer, bitch, or what?”

“Sharp, boss,” she said. “Let’s see how sharp.”

Prompted by Thursday Inspiration 49

Monday Peeve Thing

I’m reluctant to get all peevish here. Depression is serious business and to put energy into something that isn’t consciously positive sounds like a bad idea. But Paula has this meme going and since it is about peeves it resonates somehow. So let me start off small.

Among the many ways the universe is showing me it loves me is the way I got a free car. It went like this. I suddenly felt the need to get rid of my pickup once I made one last haul and realized it was a) a gas hog and b) a very tangible reminder of The Relationship. That is the one that ended a year and a half ago and that I will be doing cleanup after for years to come.* Here I had this lightly-scarred silver pickup that carried countless reminders of art projects hauled all around the state, of art friends borrowing it to haul art projects all around the state, of events large and small we used it to haul artwork and arty handmade decorations to, etc. etc. etc. It had to go. And just like that, Mom didn’t need her little car any more and could sign it over to me.

About time, too, because the money I got from selling the truck made it possible for me to make a mortgage payment that was otherwise out of reach, and catch up on a couple other bills. Perfect timing.

So I have this car. It gets good mileage. And you know what cars have? They have clocks. How do you read the clock? The digits light up. Except when they don’t. And the little digits in my clock only light up sometimes. Sometimes I have a clock. Sometimes I don’t. So far I have correlated this behavior to nothing. No combination of dash light on / off, weather, radio use, time since activated, nothing. No, I haven’t performed an actual electronic troubleshoot, that will come in time, but meanwhile this on-again off-again clock is a little peeve of mine.

Pretty small one but hey.

Yeah, the theme is The Monday Peeve and today isn’t Monday but eh.

* – Relationship cleanup. LOTS of peeve material can come out of that. Hmm.


Birthday. I wrote this earlier in my journal:

I was driving down La Riviera towards Home Depot and a truck pulled into the left turn lane for the river access at Howe. He had our flag flying on his left quarter panel and the rebel flag on the right. I rolled my window down and as I drove by, pointed at him and gave him the finger. What’s funny is as I did so, I saw he was a tough looking dude, sun bronzed, shaven head, covered with tattoos. No question I wouldn’t say a fuckin thing if I wasn’t safely driving by.

Still, that shit pisses me off. We don’t need no god damn slave flag. Those fuckers broke away when they knew they were going to lose their pro-slavery votes in Washington and thus broke the rules in favor of keeping slaves. Fuck those motherfuckers. And fuck anyone who flies their battle flag a hundred fifty eight years later.