Tuesday, March 25, 2008

He-man Auto repair

Well, I could have had the car towed to a shop and let them fix it. But I figure anyone who can jump out of an airplane should be able to change a starter. Yet, perhaps the former has no bearing on the latter?

She is a 1988 Mustang convertible, and we have a complex relationship. Neither of us know whether we're in the midst of a slow process that will restore her to former glory, or if I am just too stingy to buy a new car. As with many other relationships, we're just taking it day to day and we'll see what happens.

Two things were certainly not in question:
1.) The starter needed replacing.
2.) Whoever designed the 1988 Mustang thought my hands were much smaller.

And there we were. One of the things about growing older is one's skillset tends to decline in some annoying ways. A good third act demands we reverse this natural process much as possible. Try to hold on to old skills, but find new ones too. Now, I've never been much for auto repair. I'm good with my hands on woodworking or playing guitar, but working on cars has never been my forte.

A light bulb came on over my head! Not old-school light bulb, but one of those new fangled squiggly ones that helps save the rainforests and all. I would change my own starter!

The first day, I got one bolt loose. Only took four hours, so I thought that was pretty good!

The second day, I got TWO bolts loose in ONLY six hours!

The third day I rose early, and fortified by coffee, went again to face the beast. Lying under the car, I just couldn't figure out how to remove the old starter from the underbelly of the Mustang, cause I was pretty sure that was necessary before putting the new one in. After some debate with myself (like two hours) I realized I must remove this tubular steel brace and then starter would come out just fine. A couple of more bolts loosened, and WOW!

No headhunter in New Guinea has ever been prouder of a trophy than I was when I held the decripit starter in my hands. Was all I could do not to knock on neighbors' doors and show them the starter. The replacement went along at a dizzying pace! It only took four hours!

The Mustang started right up! Well, after I charged the battery. Turns out I'd accidentally left the key switch on four days. Hey, anybody could make that mistake, all right?

The only thing I really regret is taking three bolts out when the job only required two bolts loosened. Turns out that third bolt had nothing to do with the starter. It was actually one of the bolts holding the transmission to the motor, and you know for best results in vehicle operation, those two have to stay close together.

But hey? Anybody who can jump out of an airplane can spend three hours removing, then another four hours replacing a bolt they needn't have messed with in the first place, right?

Friday, March 21, 2008


Some just shook their heads, while others exclaimed, "OOH! I've always wanted to do that too!"

But regardless of opinions pro and con, there I was about to skydive for the first time. My opinion, when you hit 50 you are embarking on the third and final chapter of your life. Now would be an acceptable time for a few plot twists.

I wasn't a bit afraid, until the instructor began giving me pre-flight instructions. I suppose I had presumed his title was purely honorary or something. Up until the instructions started, my perception of the experience had been:

1.) Pay $200.

2.) Get securely fastened to a professional skydiver.

3.) Jump from plane, land without incident.

So learning I was expected to do certain things and do them correctly made me a little uneasy. Knowing me as I do, and recalling that I have messed up a thing or two along the way, maybe this skydiving wasn't such a great idea after all?

Just a little male pride was enough to get me through. Quickly, all the chutes were packed, we were suited up and bustling onto the airplane. Not much time for second thoughts.

At 15,000 feet, I was somewhat nervous when the plane door was opened. I've been on lots of aircraft before, but never one with the door open. But by then, we're going. Stand in the doorway, rock forward on ONE, TWO, and on THREE thrust hips forward with all your might, and there you are!

Freefall was a little frightening. I had meant to yell "Geronimo!" as I've heard is customary, but just remembering to breathe was a chore. After that hard jerk of the canopy opening though, it is all worth it. We floated down through clouds towards a landscape that looked so much more beautiful than it had at ground level.

I would have been happy to stay up there an hour like that, but you know gravity. All too soon my feet were in the gravel of the landing area, and it was over.

So now what can I do with this experience? I intend to use it as a motivational tool, sort of my own personal "If they can put a man on the moon" thing.

When faced with something I don't particularly feel like doing, but know I should, I resolve to say: "Now anybody who can jump out of an airplane ought to be able to do this!"

We'll see what trouble that attitude gets me into in the near future!