Around 1:45 pm I visited the Hollywood DMV office on Cole Avenue to once again, for the third time, try to pass my written motorcycle test. 12 or so multiple choice questions (I think), and all you need to do to pass is get nine of them right. I got four wrong and failed. So I renewed my temporary car driver’s license in the main room (I’m trying to get a combination car and motorcycle license) and went back into the Alcove of Agony and took the written test again. I failed it for the fourth time. But consider one of their fucking questions. They show you an overhead drawing of a motorcycle cruising alongside three or four parked cars, and I mean parked really close together, 9 or 12 inches between bumpers. Question: “Which possibility is the most dangerous to a motorcycle operator? (a) one of the cars pulling out, (b) a pedestrian walking between the cars and into the street? or (c) a car door suddenly opening?”
Yesterday afternoon I once again took the DMV motorcycle operator written test, and once again I failed it. Four or five wrong out of twelve questions. My fifth failure since last fall. To say I felt exasperated and deflated doesn’t begin to describe it. I was only a couple of emotional steps away from weeping on the curbside. But it’s not me, dammit — it’s their deviously worded questions. I’m stopping all Hollywood Elsewhere duties at 2:30 pm today to sit down and study the evil pamphlet again and then drive down and take the quiz again. If those malicious DMV people would simply allow learning-disabled persons like myself to view 15 or 20 sample questions online I’d memorize the answers and we could all go home. There are sample questions available at a DMV.org cheat-sheet site but apparently they aren’t from the actual tests.
I was at a stop-sign intersection the other day in Beverly Hills with the drivers of two or three cars looking at each other and wondering who would go first. The DMV handbook says to defer to the guy on your right, but that never seems to work as the guy on the right is usually deferring to some timid, deferential impulse and is unwilling to make the first move. Or he’s texting or not paying attention. The best strategy is to wait two or three seconds and then go for it. People usually roll with the idea of a guy on a motorcycle going first, and I tend to take advantage of that. So I crossed and was rolling along down the next block and then I saw a guy halfway into the next intersection and was ready to turn left. So I approached with an assumption that he would go first and I would wait before continuing on. But when I got closer he didn’t have the balls to go for it so I went instead, and so the guy honked. The honk meant “hey, show some manners! I was about to turn left in the intersection and you just pulled in front of me like you own the road.” I understood what he was saying. I didn’t mind that he honked. It’s okay. On the other hand I presume that he understood then and understands now that if a driver lacks decisiveness he/she is going to have to wait for decisive, take-charge drivers to go first. It’s not a big deal. Sometimes I’m the timid guy and when somebody else goes first, I accept it.
Last Monday I went back again to the Hollywood DMV office on Cole, this time to get my regular Class C driver’s license. I had flunked the motorcycle driver’s written test for the sixth time three days earlier, and I just couldn’t stand the feeling of failure any longer. I hadn’t felt that badly about myself since I was flunking history and science exams in high school. (I’ll try to get the motorcycle license again after I return from Europe next June.) Anyway I was waiting for my number to be called when a guy who looked a lot like Richard Benjamin walked in. He seemed older than I expected (wanted?) him to look and a wee bit haggard, but it was Benjamin, all right. I checked his Wiki bio and realized he’s now 76.
The last time I had spoken with Benjamin was during a 1982 New York press event for My Favorite Year, which was the first film Benjamin directed and which is still arguably his best ever. During our chat I remember telling him that I liked his performance in Paul Sylbert‘s The Steagle (’71), which was kind of a wipe-out but which had, at the time at least, a certain cult following.
Benjamin walked right in front of me on his way to the DMV bathroom, and on the way back I was seized by a very slight impulse to say “Yo! The Steagle!” but I suppressed it, thank God. A voice told me this wasn’t the right moment. The DMV is not for socializing. It’s for sitting around and filling out forms and feeling grim.
Benjamin had a hot run as a leading actor between ’69 and ’75 — Goodbye, Columbus (’69), Catch-22 (’70), Diary of a Mad Housewife (’70), The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker (’71), The Steagle, Portnoy’s Complaint (’72 — the peak), The Last of Sheila (’73), Westworld (’73) and The Sunshine Boys (’75). During this time Benjamin was the proverbial “interesting guy” or more particularly one of the main “Jew Wave” guys along with Dustin Hoffman, Elliot Gould and George Segal before the Italian-Americans moved in. Donald Sutherland was also on a roll back then.
I’ve failed the DMV written motorcycle test four times since last October. Last night I purchased some kind of DMV-related study-guide course for $10 bills. My main problem in passing these idiotic multiple-choice tests has been my stubborn insistence on using basic logic, which of course you can’t do. You have to check the answer that the DMV believes is the most correct, but which is not necessarily logical and is sometimes infuriating. Between posts I’m been studying this damn thing, going over the material until it seeps out of my ears. It’s a kind of torture but I have no choice. I’m living in a kind of hellish limbo, and I will continue to do so there until God or fate cuts me a break.
I wasn’t sure until an hour ago if it was cool to post a Selma review. I was told last night that Paramount publicists, in defiance of the usual system in which any film that plays at a festival is fair game, were talking about a review embargo. In any event I only had time this morning to bang out the American Sniper review. Right now I have to get down to the DMV and pick up my temporary driver’s license, which I took care of a couple of weeks ago but which I didn’t walk away with because I simultaneously tried and failed to get a motorcycle operator’s license. I flunked the written test and was told, naturally, to come back and try again. The DMV guys said once I pass it I’ll get both licenses. That’s the DMV for you. With any luck I’ll be back in two or three hours. Or four.
I was over at the Cole Avenue DMV this morning to (a) renew my Class C driver’s license, which expires early next month, and (b) get a motorcycle license. The first part is the written test, and of course I failed it. I got five or six questions wrong, but my answers were only sorta kinda somewhat wrong. I always choose the most conservative-sounding answer but they flunked me anyway. Dicks. I’ve been driving scooters and motorcycles for decades, man. I know everything about handling myself on two wheels but they got me. The questions ask you to choose one of three answers, and two out of the three answers usually sound fairly reasonable. The (b) answer isn’t crazy or stupid — it’s just not quite as correct in a bureaucratic petty-ass way as (c). Now I have to study the damn booklet tonight and take the test again tomorrow. And then a driving test. When’s the last time you needed to study something in order to pass something? I always hated school. It took me years to get past the feelings of low self-esteem, etc. Almost everyone who gets good grades grows up to be a dullard, and the ones who get lousy grades always grow up to be cool.
I’m always watering my plants too much or too little — I’m good at misting but I never water them just enough. And I’m always putting off scooping out the cat shit. Not to mention taking out the garbage. Instead of doing that I put my foot in the trash can and cram it down. That always buys me an extra day or two. It usually takes me three to four days to do a wash…make that four or five days. A couple of days of thinking about it, and then thinking about it a little more and making sure I have enough liquid detergent, etc. And then doing the first wash and then forgetting about putting it in the dryer for a day or so, and then finally doing that and starting the second wash. I also have to go down to the Cole Avenue DMV on 10.29 and renew my driver’s license and get my motorcycle license and also add my Yamaha 400 to my AAA insurance and yaddah-yaddah. And poor Zak has a castration appointment at Laurel Pet Hospital next Tuesday. I hate all this stuff. Well, I don’t “hate” it but I wish it would just go away. I just want to write and fiddle and ride my sickle and see movies and pet my cats. But it won’t.