Sunday, June 03, 2007

Installment #55 Big bike license, Golf, and Haunted Forests

I was recently in Hong Kong for business, and had a chance to check out the bar and club scene there. Its very different from tokyo, in that it was much more like New York, in as far as it was very exclusive. You really needed to be on a guest list to get into anywhere. The bouncers were real assholes. I suppose that is what happens when there is a very limited number of trendy bars around, you have to keep the riff raff out somehow. But the thing that was really stupid was that so long as you knew somebody inside, you could get in. So many grubby looking folks got in just because they knew somebody's name. That's lame. Very unlike in japan where clubs pretty much let you in if you look well dressed enough to spend some cash. At least I got to catch a glimpse of Jackie Chan's son, who was at Dragon 'i', a club in soho where we had dinner. He was there with some of his friends, very low key. He looks pretty dopey actually. Big nose like his dad. ah, calpis. I'm watching tv, and the new Calpis commercial comes on. For those of you who don't know, Calpis is the company that makes the infamous Pocari Sweat sports drink here. Anyway, their new slogan makes me spit out a mouthful of their product. It goes with most slogans that have half english and japanese mixed together. Right into the bargan bin of retardedness. The new specimen of comedic relief comes in the form of a cute jingle, accompanied by the phrase 'Karada ni piss, Calpis!' Karada means 'body' or 'health', and the phrase loosely translates to, 'Calpis! It's piss for your body!' Of course, they don't know that piss means urine. They probably thought it cute to state that the company has all sorts of 'piss' to offer for your health. Lovely. OOgata Menkyou That the big bike license here. In japan, for motorcycles, there are 3 separate licenses. 0-50cc, which you can ride with a regular car license, shogata, which allows you to ride 51-125cc, chuugata which lets you mount 126-400cc, and the Oogata, which is the unlimited license that allows you to ride anything with 2 wheels. Its this last license that I have been trying to get for the last 5 times, but have failed the test each time. The system is corrupt here; not corrupt as in china corrupt, but a stupid bureaucracy that has grown to the point of no reform. You can take the test from the DMV, or you can pay 200,000yen and take a school. If you take the school, there is no way you can fail. ( I took the school for my chuugata, and passed without problems ) If, though you decide to pay 4400yen to take the police test, then they will cook up whatever reason they want to fail you at least 6 times. In fact, nobody I know has passed the test with less than 6 tries. The average is 10 attempts. Of course, if you have been riding a big bike for 10 years, and read japanese, you can probably pass it in 1-2 tries. The problem is that on top of the fact that you have to demonstrate that you can pass a series of technical trials akin to the license tests you see in games like Grand Turismo, you also have to know a lot of stupid rules of the road that they do not explain to you until you break one, and fail the test. Couple this with the fact that once you do mess up enough to fail, then they stop you immediately, so that you cannot proceed to even attempt the other parts of the circuit, so you can't practice without failing. Anyway, all this pain is to encourage people to big business to the schools. Once I pass I will write up a step by step 'how to pass' list for the betterment of mankind. The irony of all this is that the tests don't really teach you much about riding in the real world. Anyway, I go attempt my next trial this week. Why am I taking the test you ask? Because I'm looking to get one of these babies, and my 400cc license won't allow me to ride one. These 2 italian dames are the best lookers of the bunch, in my opinion. I just love that naked look. The Shiver 750cc is a new one coming out from Aprilia later in June, with a new engine designed in house, and the first fly-by-wire ECM throttle in a bike. The looks are razor sharp. Just waiting for the first reviews to come in. Or one of these classic beauties, the Ducati Monster S2R1000, air cooled, the quintessential naked that started the whole class. It's still a looker, and comes in red and white or black with a mean racing stripe. The competition in this category would be the KTM 990 SuperDuke, the BMW F800, Honda Hornet, and the Triumph Speed Triple. None of which look as fine.

Bikes

The italian ones are the most beautiful they stop a man in his tracks to gawk, but they require a lot of maintenance, takes a lot of TLC to keep in working order, and they don't age well. (Corrosion of the pipes is a big problem) They are known to be fiery in first gear, and it takes a little getting used to controlling them. They can get you in a lot of trouble. Austrian and German ones are functional, practical, but have a look that you need to get used to. They are angular instead of curvy, and usually have a odd quirk to their styling. In the case of Beemers, they always look a little too bulky for my liking. The engines are so overpowered for their frames that they sometimes leak coolant. (happened on a colleague's KTM 450sm) Japanese bikes are the most reliable, are the easiest to care for, (they practically clean themselves!) and have the best resale value thanks to long lasting parts. Someone once said that you could thrash a japanese bike all you like, and they keep working faithfully. They lack pizzaz, run very quiet, are well mannered, and have smaller displacement. ...Bikes are a lot like women. (ducks) Golf, or nothing. I have recently taken imposing a break 100 or bust policy. My game has stabilized a bit since returning to my old cheap japanese clubs from the taylormades, which had the wrong shaft flex for my swing. Still, I'm hovering around 110 with the score. I've already dropped close to 100,000yen this season on the game, going 6 times, but I need to do more if sub 100 is going to be a reality. Its an expensive game, but its a great one. Why? Because it challenges you at every skill level. You can always improve (unless you are Tiger). And your goals at each different stage changes. First you aim not to lose all your balls in the lake, then your aim to sink all puts in 2-3, then you start looking to get out of the bunker in 1, then you start working on driving relatively straight... etc...etc... No other sport/game demands of you that much diversity in required skills, and no other sport gives equal chance to fat, skinny, short, weak, and women alike. Its an addictive game, and I implore all of you in countries where the game is cheap to take advantage of your gift. In other news, a bunch of friends and I are planning to make a camping trip out to this famous forest near Mt. Fuji, which is allegedly haunted by the souls of the people who commit suicide there. Apparently over 100 bodies a year are found there, thanks to the dark forest being iconicized as an ideal suicide place in popular japanese literature. Sounds like a job for the Mystery Gang! or Blair Witch Project: Japan. Anyone want to join us? Aokigahara Back to work, and dreaming about italian bikes. But I leave you with this bit of twisted humour from the past. I found it like one finds gold nuggets in a stream of endless history. Needless to say, sometimes irony has a funny way of popping into our lives. "Why take diet pills when you can enjoy AYDS? Funny is not the appropriate term here...

1 comment:

Dulce said...

Well said.