The Absence of Presence – Part One

I began writing this on November 6th while I was back in Michigan. Things have happened since then, and will be in the next few posts.


My mother is dying.

For many of you, this statement strikes a powerful and poignant chord in your hearts as you envision how you would feel were your own mother dying, or as you remember how you did feel when she passed. I empathize with you deeply, and envy you having a relationship with your mother that was different from me with mine.

My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, which brings with it histrionic, manipulative, and generally cruel behaviors. While she stopped short of physical abuse, the emotional and psychological abuses were vicious. Because I didn’t know how dysfunctional our family was until I was in my thirties, I felt “close” to my mother for a few decades before realizing what we had was not closeness at all, but a wildly co-dependent relationship. I was the very definition of a preoccupied child.

My mother raised me to be both ego-maniacal and incredibly insecure. Depending upon her mood, I was both the best and worst possible child a mother could ever have, and I’ve written about that elsewhere on this blog. To this day, I still wrestle with low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, and other psychological and emotional issues as a result of her unceasing, relentless judgment. Fortunately for me, a gang of wonderful millennials taught this old dog some new interpersonal and personal tricks, and I’ve been so enriched by following their example. Thus, anyone who denigrates millennials as a whole will receive an entire earful from me about “not all millennials,” and how my particular kids have given me a lot of hope for the future of our species.

I don’t remember why she was crying here, but this was before The Great Schism.

In 2010, my mother was in a very minor 5mph car accident in which she hit her head including a direct blow to her Broca’s area on the driver’s side window, which left her with very bad paraphasia, visual disturbances (including the inability to make sense of written words or letters,) bad coordination, and terrible memory issues. Her life was irrevocably altered in an instant due to the misconduct of one reckless driver, as was my ability to reconcile any issues from my childhood with her – she simply did not remember them, and, cruelly, could not remember why I resented her so much. She only remembered the happy times, whereas I mostly remembered the bad.

I’ll spare you the lengthy details of the ensuing legal battles with her insurance company, but suffice to say she was completely screwed from every quarter. Despite the fact we had not spoken in over two years, I became her legal Guardian and Conservator, as well as her primary caretaker for over a year. It was unpleasant for both of us, and I admit I resented her the entire time.

Due to the duration of the legal battle, and the pitiful insurance settlement she received, she lost her car, her home, and most of her belongings. After 15 months, I could no longer stand it, and I surrendered Guardianship and Conservatorship to a law firm who specialized in those things. They’ve done a good job, as far as I can tell.

Since surrendering responsibilities, I have not seen or spoken to my mother. I learned she had been placed into an assisted living apartment because she was not safe living on her own. Then, she went into full-fledged adult foster care in a hospital facility. Last month, her case worker phoned to say she was not doing well and I should come see her if it was important to me to speak to her before she died. She wasn’t expected to pass immediately, so I had some time to decide.

I debated a lot as to whether I wanted to go back home to say goodbye. 90% of me did not. I sought my friends’ advice, which was overwhelmingly (and gently) this: Go, because you may regret it if you don’t. Go for yourself, if not for her. Go, in case she might recognize you. Go, unless it will truly destroy you as a person. Go, because you’re more likely to regret not going than having gone. Go.

Thus, when I received the call last week that she was in the end stages, I booked a flight for the next day and made arrangements.

This was how she looked about a year ago in a photo taken by my aunt:

Such a lost, yet hopeful expression; it just about makes me cry to look at.

Driving over to the facility, I made attempts to steel myself for this visit, but I had no idea what to expect. I realized I couldn’t very well prepare myself for whatever lay ahead and surrendered to whatever was going to happen. I was both relieved to be alone and also really wanting “Walter” with me. Business had taken him back home, and he could not come along. He told me I was strong, and that I could do this. Part of me believed him. Part of me was glad he wouldn’t see me crumple because that would surely inevitably happen.

When I arrived at the absolutely wonderful rehab facility that has been her home for the last year, I parked and went inside. Registering at the desk, I received her room number and directions. Exiting the elevator, I knew I was scant moments from seeing what I didn’t want to see, but had to see.

I approached her room, which was near the end of a hall. Inside, two beds, both empty. Some personal effects I recognized as inherently “Mom.” The beds’ mattresses were thin, much like camp cot mattresses atop frames that could be hand-cranked to raise and lower head and feet. There wasn’t much in the way of noticeable smells.

I knocked softly and called, “hello?” as I peeked inside. To my immediate left, two nurses had a gruesome figure in the shower. I saw this wretched, skin-and-bones, whimpering … the only word that comes to mind is “hag” of a woman being held up and firmly but gently sponge bathed. I don’t use “hag” as a derogatory term here: It is the only word I can use to convey the grimness of the apparition before me. Skin hung off her bones from head to foot, her breasts swung around her waist, bones jutted from her hips and legs, her normally dyed-dark-brunette hair was shoulder length, wild, and completely gray, her face a contorted rictus of misery. She was whimpering in misery almost constantly, in obvious physical and emotional distress.

The expression she wears here is how she appears most of the time – in agony. In hell.

Thus it was I saw my mother for the first time in over five years.

I would never have recognized her.

I stepped back into the hallway to preserve her privacy in such a state of misery and nakedness. I was stunned, heart-broken. My aunt had sent me a photo to help prepare me for what I was going to see, but even it didn’t show anything near the depths of despair to which my mother had sunk. When she went into assisted living, I would imagine she weighed well over 200 pounds. Now? Perhaps 100. When I last saw her, she was oriented and aware of her surroundings, had a sense of herself, and could remember some things about the past. Here? No longer.

When I told the two lovely women who I was, they were astonished. “Lynn!” exclaimed one woman with a beautiful central African accent. “Lynn! Your daughter is here!”

I heard a whining, barely-audible mumble from the skeletal figure. The nurse replied, “I’m not lying, your daughter is here!”

After a few minutes, they had finished bathing her and dressing her in what must have been clothes from the Goodwill, and then helped her teeter-shuffle out of the bathroom. They managed to get her into her Jerry chair, a wheeled medical chair with a locking tray to hold her in – an adult-sized high chair, as it were.

I knelt before her, overwhelmed with compassion and sadness.

Continue Reading: Part Two

 

The Marvelous Miracle of the Human Brain, Time, & Relativity

In my eighth grade Physics class, they had us read a short book by Einstein, the title of which escapes me. One of its teachings was that 1 + 1 does not always equal 2. WHAT? Okay. Eighth grade me rolled with it.

It was a small group at breakfast this morning, but five of us set out to help Scott R. break in his brand-new tires. We took a leisurely stroll down Lyons Valley (I now understand how to keep up with Scott on Lyons Valley – put nails in his tires so they are always new) to Japatul, where we were treated to a 15-minute demonstration of a helicopter trying to pick up and reposition a power pole section. The flagman is the nicest I have ever encountered – he apologizes repeatedly for how long it was taking, explains their policies, and generally looks guilt-stricken. We reassure him it’s fine, and to not get himself fired by letting us go, anyhow.

Eventually, the pilot gets things sorted, and we carry on. I feel, and I can almost feel Scott feeling, an insane desire to chase the two sportbike riders who pass us – just to show them we can – but Scott has new tires, so we behave.

I parted ways with the group as they turned toward Julian. I needed more miles. A hell of a lot more. My brain was going faster than the GS could keep up with, and there are only a few ways to get it to simmer the hell down (“miles,” of course, being my favorite.)

Sunrise Highway was practically deserted and glorious, offering vistas of the desert that were stunning in clarity and detail, made all the more beautiful with shadows cast by the scattered, puffy clouds.

If one stops to ponder the act of riding a motorcycle, it is incredible we don’t all just die all the time. The minutiae are overwhelming to stop and think about. Our brains are processing a metric honkload of information every single nanosecond and still somehow manage to tell our bodies to do whatever needs doing in an instant. We react without even realizing. Amazing. All that, and we still have spare processing cycles to Think About Stuff.

Toward the end of Sunrise, I flipped around and putted down Pine Creek to enjoy the scenery and the quiet. Sunrise was pure focus on speed, lines, road detritus. Pine Creek was relaxing, almost like a soak in a mental hot tub. I paused frequently to breathe it all in and forced myself to take no photos (harder than it sounds.) At the bottom, I was so awash in memories and nostalgia that I almost forgot where I was (my brain being less remarkable than most, perhaps.)

Where to?

Hoping to run into my infrequently seen pals, Frank and Donald, I mushed the GS up the fast side of Palomar, finding it necessary to dodge a few large dollops of gravel toward the top in the most inconvenient places. My brain did all the things it needed to do to avoid them without much thought. Miracles.

Most of you would know Frank and Donald if you were to see them, and Donald is actually a member of the club. I haven’t seen Frank in months, and Donald in weeks. Today would not break that streak, sadly, so I enjoyed a slice of Mother’s apple pie and contemplated my many choices.

Borrego, what the hell.

Back down East Grade at maybe a 6 out of 10, enjoyable, not stressful, following familiar curves like tracing a finger along a known human body. I thought of my riding buddies back home, especially Jim and Alex, and missed them intensely, wishing I could show them these roads that would absolutely blow their minds. Someday.

As I crested one of the final hills before the left turn onto Montezuma, I saw two LEO’s coming at me, lights fully ablaze, pace just short of “frantic.” No sirens. I politely pulled to the side and waited for them to pass.

After the left turn, another, but no disco lights. A beat, then two more. A mile down the road, three more. What was this, a parade? All told, nine officers of our law passed me by, and it wasn’t until about the fifth that I slowed way the frick down and just chilled out rather than continually get puckered about doing 75 where I perhaps ought not to.

Once through Ranchita, the road mercifully cleared of all traffic. Coming over that final hill to a perfect view of the Salton Sea and distant peaks time froze for a moment into a perfect still-life, and I said “thank you” aloud to what I hoped was a receptive universe.

I remembered the time I met Homemade Bob in Borrego Springs for lunch, and how we chased each other down this road with me having no idea who he was.

The wonder and the perfection of this area when it is free of traffic is just … overwhelming. The road unwinds before me like a river flecked with gold and white, weaving its way through the wind-battered peaks and flood-worn valleys. Time is visible here, and my mind boggles at the immensity of it. It is… a bright abyss of sorts, a thought exercise that cannot be solved.

At the turn into Borrego Springs Proper, I see three sportbike guys I know from The Chairs heading back the way I came and wished them the same good traffic fortune I had experienced.

Quick gas stop.

Onward through Yaqui Pass, thinking of John Hermann, and this road is also remarkably free of other vehicles going in the same direction.  Bliss.

Bliss for awhile, that is.

After passing Scissors Crossing, I see many cars going up the hill and decide to catch up and pass them before hitting Banner Grade. The GS was certainly game, and while I will not mention specific speeds, I’ll impart unto you an IronButt Association term that will live in infamy forever and ever (R-amen:) “Higdon Triple-Veiner,” or a “Triple Higdon.” In short, that is how many veins on his forehead would threaten to burst upon hearing a specific speed mentioned in an email.

The cars were moving a fair bit faster than I expected they would be. Fun. Still do not want to be stuck behind them on the Grade, so I go all-in.

It was not the fastest I have gone on a BMW, but it was close. And it was uphill. I do so love this bike. I catch up, but it’s too late to pass at that moment.

We all pop over the hill, one by one, our suspensions stretching and reaching for the ground as we go over the top. There was oncoming traffic, so I politely waited for it to pass, putting on my left indicator a few moments prior to moving into the oncoming lane. Plenty of room, though I was aware the first curve was drawing closer with each second, and I had four vehicles to put behind me.

I waited to make sure none of the four cages in front of me were going to hop out, and then I proceeded.

We were still at Ludicrous Speed, all of us moving together, a hurtling caravan of metallic death just waiting to happen. My brain was processing everything in real time, like you do, noting the roadrunner on the left, the distant oncoming white van, the beautiful clouds, the new, disconcerting vibration in the front end, THE BLUE SPORTS CAR I AM PASSING LEAPING OUT INTO MY LANE.

Time slowed, very convincingly, to approximately one millionth its normal pace. My eyes see the car jerk toward me as I was abreast of its rear wheel. My mouth opens to gasp, my left wrist instantly pushes, resulting in an ever-so-slow-motion change in course which is, of course,actually happening at an unwise speed. To me, it feels like molasses.

Why does my landlady insist upon starving her outside cat? She’s onto me sneaking him food at night, I have to adjust strategy there.

The GS is not pleased with the abrupt input at such a pace and begins to wobble, one oscillation every ten minutes or so. The car is halfway over the yellow line now.

1+1 does not always equal 2, eighth grade me piped up uselessly, but insistently.
Three-year-old me reminded me of the days when I could walk up to wild bunnies and pet them.
Thirty-year-old me admonished her because Parasites.
Present-day me rolled her eyes because Immune System. Also, imminent demise; can we please focus here for a moment, girls?

The left white line lazily drifts toward me and my wobbly bike. My right wrist has instinctively pegged the throttle to even out the wobble and to get ahead of the car – brakes now would be suicide. My subconscious brain knew this reflexively and acted, while my conscious thoughts were reflecting back over events both recent and not.

Intelligent Design for a moment seems plausible.

I should start painting again. I wonder where my easel got to in the move? I should look up that tutorial I never finished. Do I really want to go visit my apparently dying mother? (NO.)

My head gradually turns toward the encroaching car, and I am now even with the driver. I see him see me with a look of sheer terror in his eyes, his mouth is wide open in a rictus of horror. He thinks he’s about to kill me. I think I think so, too. An absurd part of me wants to reach out and boop him on the nose – he’s that close.

The white line has stopped coming closer, the wobble is almost under control, and it has only been a mere three hours since I began my pass.

Are modern kerosene heaters safe? Building a fire every night is going to get really old, really fast.

Right wrist still utterly pegging the gas. Body lowering into a crouch to more easily maneuver or to leap off the bike before running into whatever it was I would run into first.

I remember the time my buddy Dale split a deer in two on his ST1100, went off into a deep ditch, did his best Jeremy McGrath impression, and came back onto the pavement unscathed, but covered in blood and deer shit. A piece of that deer poop would rest, unnoticed, upon his mustache, haunting him for the rest of his many miles to Reno, where he would meet up with Chuck Hickey, me, and various other IronButt Lunatics and regale us with his story.

The sports car driver jerks as hard as he can to his right, scant inches away from my thigh. I wonder what his brain is pondering, how slowly time is moving for him. I absently hope he doesn’t careen off the road.

I remember the water line under my kitchen sink is still leaking and make a mental note to check that when I get home. As if my brain will remember. Ha. Every song lyric from the 80’s? HELL YES. What I did two hours ago? Forget about it. NOPE.

My gaze leisurely returns to the road ahead. That first curve and that white van are much, much closer now, or at least seem to be, and I have one more vehicle to pass.  Oh, and I also have to survive the next few seconds (or hours, relatively) and navigate back into my own lane.

And I do. No problem. SUDDENLY… Nothing Happened.

The GS calms herself, the flow of time returns to normal, and I have miraculously not pooped myself or died in the process.

Leaving what I can only assume to be four fully puckered drivers in my wake, I carry on.

I wind up behind another ADV rider (so advertised by a sticker on his pannier) as we enter Banner Grade, and we two soon find ourselves behind The Slowest White Van in the History of Ever, which is followed by The Biggest Dodge Dually Belching the Most Black Smoke Ever. This is a painful, horrible combination. I quickly become annoyed, and I have entirely forgotten that, literally two minutes ago, I was in a seemingly protracted battle for the road.

Brains. Wow.

The other rider gave up and pulled over after a couple miles. I stood up out of sheer boredom and rode vertically. The driver of the stenchy Dodge was clearly as annoyed as I was, waving his arm out the window in a “WTF?!?!?!” gesture as he looked at me in his side mirror.

I mime shooting myself in the head. He does the same.

The van driver remains steadfast in his slow, deliberate, 10-20mph tour of our lovely Grade. Brakes on the whole time. Slowing for each. And every. Damn. Curve.

First gear is barely low enough. I have to feather the clutch many times.

The dually’s exhaust causes my head to throb, but it’s only a few more miles (which potentially equates to actual hours, not slow-mo ones) until I can make the turn onto my Wynola Road.

There it is. There’s the sign. I put on my signal.

SO DO THE TWO DRIVERS IN FRONT OF ME.

<shriek>

They come to such an abrupt and unexpected full and complete stop, I barely have time to sit down and get my foot down before toppling over. Falling down on pavement is PHIL’S job, not mine (said she, thusly dooming herself to fall gracelessly down whilst leading tomorrow’s NMR.)

I am faced with a choice: Follow this asshat presumably all the damn way down Wynola, or keep going straight and fight tooth and nail to get through “downtown” Julian for the second time today. No thank you, please: I’ll enjoy the scenery.

We pause for a long, LONG time at this intersection, because there are (horrors) cars coming off Wynola, and the van driver doesn’t think he can negotiate the tight turn with them there. Everyone is waiting for someone else to make a move, including oncoming traffic. I begin quietly bashing my helmet into my gas tank. I swear I heard the ADV rider behind me (who had caught back up with us long ago) laughing before he went straight instead of turning.

So, Wynola. At 6 mph. With no chance in hell of passing two large vehicles. I was standing most of the time, taking the opportunity to practice low-speed maneuvers whilst on my feet.

The triple-digit dodge/wobble/recovery incident is a distant, vague memory. This new frustration consumes my every molecule. Each breath brings too-rich black exhaust into my burning lungs, which complements the glowing embers of anger awfully well.

Ok, eDar, get yourself together. Enjoy. The Damn. Scenery. Already.

FINE. Oh, look – TREES. A meadow. Ok, it’s actually quite lovely. I relax. Deep inhalation and sigh, followed by a coughing fit from the exhaust. Ahhhh, my life in a nutshell, right here.

After a small eternity, we reach my driveway. I have been so lost in thought that I … drive right the eff by it. Shit.

Fine. FINE. I’ll go to The Chairs, see if anyone is there.

Both the dually and I pass the white van on that final straight section of Wynola, and we both gesticulate wildly as we do so. I stop short of giving him the finger.

Turns out Dually Guy is going to The Chairs also, and is an off-road rider. Cool. After parking, we look at each other in amazement. What does one say? “Holy SHIT, dude,” is all I had to offer. “Yeah,” he replied, shaking his head.

The three Borrego sportbike guys were also there, and we all shot the breeze for awhile before I needed to get moving again to appease the brain weasels. Still no Frank, no Donald. Darn. I hope Frank is ok (I know Donald is, he found me on email earlier this week.)

It’s been a long minute since I did Mesa Grande, so I do that. I contemplate Black Canyon, but think better of it. I contemplate taking another run up Palomar, but it sounds less appealing than simply going home.

I turn around and screw up every line on the fast side of Mesa Grande. Since changing my suspension from single rider, no bags to single rider, with bags, everything is a little “off,” but I love the way it handles, and I also love not scraping things off the bottom of my bike anymore.

I do not love the loss of precious footing, however.

Ok, enough. I have no point – I just felt like sharing something today. I suppose I should admonish everyone to be safe and to be vigilant while passing, but I know Eddie will chime in with “Ride Fast, Take Chances.”

Three-hundred-ish miles, still not enough, but it will have to do. Tomorrow, I’ll do my best not to get the NMR group (should there be one) lost or killed.

Ta.

Implausible Non-Fiction

For the last thirty minutes, I have systematically put myself into a state of exceptional terror. This is what happens when a vivid imagination is bored, anxious, and mildly startled.

No one else is on the homestead tonight, we have no neighbors in shouting distance.

Just outside the front door, I heard one of the cats have a very brief fight – a couple of yowls, a few growls, then silence.

Concerned for my feline friend, Jasper, I turned on the very dim front light and opened the door, calling him quietly. Nothing in reply. Crickets and tree frogs continued their conversations without pause.

I closed that door, and went to the kitchen door where Jasper usually lurks, and cries for me to come out and pet him, and makes me feel just horribly guilty for not being able to accommodate every single second of every single day.

I called him again through the screen door, and began to open it… but developed a very strong, very weird feeling and stopped. I listened. The symphony of night stopped. One lone frog gave a half-hearted croak and fell silent.

A moment later, I heard what sounded like two heavy footsteps in the lava rock mulch right around the corner from the door. I closed it, locked both locks. Locked both locks on the front door. Locked the sliding glass door. Closed all the drapes as closed as they would go. Fretted about the gaps.

Paused.

Performing fear-based tasks such as these tend to reinforce one’s sense of paranoia. “My God, I’m locking the doors, there must really be something out there, this isn’t something I’ve ever done before, what in hell is going on? Ok, better safe than sorry in cases like this. “Cases like WHAT?!” “I DON’T KNOW, SHUT UP AND BE VIGILANT.”

A stronger, very bad feeling. Situational awareness felt insanely acute.

Got my bear spray canister. Desperately wished I had a firearm. Turned off the computer monitors, the only source of light in the house. Crept to the stairwell and sat there, halfway up. and began listening.

Here’s where the actually scary stuff comes in – in my head: This is what it’s like to live in my brain.

I sat, still as a stone, breathing slowly and silently, listening. My pupils were expanding wide enough to make out a few things in the minuscule light cast by LEDs in two power strips upstairs. My insane imagination began to work:

  • It’s a prowler, just looking for an easy score. Everything is locked up, if he takes the bikes, they’re insured. He’ll move on, you’re fine.
    But what if he breaks in?
    You’ve got your bear spray.
    What if I get it all over me and am equally incapacitated?
    Fair point. Don’t do that.
    Ok, but what if he’s on PCP and doesn’t even notice the bear spray?
    Well, then you’re fucked, aren’t you. Also, PCP? Seriously? What is this, the 70’s?
  • A few moments pass…
  • Remember the scene where the T-Rex busts into the wooden outhouse in Jurassic Park?
    Of course I do, everybody does.
    Isn’t this house made out of wood?
    [Image of T-Rex bursting into stairwell fills my brain. Vividly.]
    Oh COME ON. Be serious.
    Shh, listen. Do you feel that?
    STOP IT.
  • [A few thumps on the roof.]
    Probably acorns – we have those here, right? Probably.
    OR IT’S RATS.
    I’m not even afraid of rats.
    Oh yeah? What about rabid rats with brains the size of Camaros. That have opposable thumbs.
    Are you being serious right now?
  • Alright, so it’s a monster – some kind of werewolfy, black-furred, scraggly, red-eyed, growly, toothy beast that’s as strong as an ox and easily bursts through the sliding glass door.
    …Ok, you have my attention…
    It can smell you and hear you anywhere you go, it can even sense the heat of your body. You can’t hide, and you’re halfway upstairs. You know what’s upstairs? NO WAY TO GET DOWNSTAIRS WHEN A MONSTER IS ON THE STAIRS, that’s what.
    [nervously]… Go on…
    Let’s say you somehow manage to jump through a window down to the ground without breaking your ankle, then where do you go?
    I get in the car!
    THE CAR IS LOCKED. Where’s the key? That’s right, inside the house. Oh look, the monster just broke through the window and you’re being torn to shreds and eaten.
    [heart pounding] This is terrifying. [I remove the bear spray’s trigger safety.]
    It’s not supposed to be a guided meditation up in here. Ok, it bursts through the door, and…
    Ok, I trick it! I turn on the TV in the upstairs bedroom…
    The TV that’s not plugged in?
    I plug it in! Then turn it on as a decoy and when the monster goes past me to the obvious target, I run downstairs and over to Mary’s house and lock the door.
    The door that’s just like the one that thing broke through as if it were balsa wood. It runs up the stairs, pauses ever so briefly to break down that door, too, and begins consuming your entrails while you scream into the lonely darkness.
    [The dogs begin barking their heads off]
    I’ll run in with the dogs! There are five of them, surely…
    The dogs that are terrified of your stationary, inert motorcycle.
    SHUT UP, they’re different when threatened.
    The dogs that sing with the coyotes.
    YES.
    If you say so. It kills the dogs first, and then kills you. Happy?
    NOT THE DOGS. Can we please be scared to death in another way? Please?
  • So a T-Rex bursts through the wall
    [Images]
    YOU ALREADY DID THIS ONE. It was more effective when I was six. Or thirteen.
  • A giant Anaconda escaped from … oh, from somewhere irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, it’s 27 feet long and has just pushed its way through the screen of the open kitchen window. It is, at this moment, slithering toward you, flickering its tongue which is roughly the size of Florida deliberately, seeking you out, sensing you hiding here in the dark. It doesn’t give a fuck about the dark. You know who can’t see in the dark? That’s right, YOU can’t. It could be right in front of you, coiled to strike, and you’d never know it was coming. It would grab you by the face, teeth sinking into your skull, wrap itself around you more quickly than you can fathom, and squeeeeze. Every time you struggled or exhaled, it would get tighter, tighter, until you feel your ribs popping, and your arms breaking and then you don’t care anymore because you couldn’t breathe anyhow with a snake mouth over your face, so you’re dead. Again. You’re that long, vaguely human-shaped lump in a big-assed snake. Creepy, right?
    You are SUCH an asshole. Next?
  • An elite squad of a paramilitary group has mistaken you for someone important and dangerous…
    Ha, if they only knew.
    HEY, T-REX!! Ha ha, just kidding. Anyhow, they have infrared and microwave and so on, and sniper rifles, and it would be so very easy to just pick you off right through these walls. Ok, this isn’t even fair, you’re of no use here. Well, what would the boyfriend do?
    BOYFRIEND would have already killed these motherfuckers. With, like, a shoe. And he would’ve left me with a shotgun. And a machete. And probably some napalm. As well as a plastic cup, whose genius purpose would only become clear the moment it was needed.
    Fair point. Moving on, then.
  • Land-dwelling great white sharks have…
    That’s not even fair.
    Sorry, ok.
  • ERIN, GET YOUR PISTOL!
    Real-life situations aren’t cool.
    Sorry, for real this time. T-Rex?
    Ok, T-Rex.
    RAWWWWRRRRR
    Thanks, not bad.
    Grizzly Bear?
    I don’t think I’m up for Grizzly Bear right now.
  • It’s surely been long enough now, nothing and no one is coming.
    They only want you to think that. They’re patient – unlike Little Miss AntsyPants here. You move and BOOM! Snake. Or sociopathic serial killer, your choice.
    How about no. Just… no. I’m going to go write down this completely insane chain of thoughts before I forget.
    Pff – “forget.” As if these things aren’t going to haunt your nightmares for, like, 17 years. I’m just that good.
    Tragically, yes; yes, you are.
    Sorry.
    Oh, you are not.
    True fact.

I snuck carefully toward the computer, only tripping over something in the dark three times in the span of 15 feet. The “Mission: Impossible” theme quietly played in the back of my mind, mixed with the womp-womp trombone.

I kid you not, I knelt in front of my desk, waiting for a good 30-45 seconds to make sure my movements hadn’t triggered a stealthy attack. I flipped on one monitor and ducked, all ears. Nothing moved. A small thump on the roof. Acorn.

Surely.

Slowly, I moved up onto the chair, still gripping the live bear spray canister. The house creaked. Suddenly, nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen for sufficient time that I began typing and completely forgot all about the perceived reality of the story I was getting written down.

Then, a distinct thump on the patio.

FOR FUCK’S SAKE, SERIOUSLY?

I pretended not to hear it, unceremoniously got ready for bed, climbed under the sheets… made sure the bear spray was right next to the bed… and listened to the cacophony of my heart pounding and blood racing. I could feel every capillary in my body, every cell was in total fight-or-flight mode. Of course, neither fight nor flight would save me, because the sound was actually…

[…and so begins another endless loop of self-torment.]

What do you do when the enemy is inside your own mind? No hiding from that. No bear spray fends off the brain weasels as they burrow deeper, getting good and comfy, writhing and biting, digging and chewing, scraping and clawing.

“Meditation,” some will say, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” others will murmur gently. The brain weasels chuckle, genuinely amused. “Yoga?” Oh, sweetiebabyhoneychild, you are aDORable. Brain weasels are as old as time and are as inexorable as the tides. They ebb and they flow by their own rules, and are swayed by no other law.

This is how we develop tics. This is how we begin talking to ourselves aloud without noticing and become That Lady. This is how it begins. The descent.

Buckle up.

“We’re Not Doing Boulder Creek.”

I began my day by swearing a lot: Cranky customers with unreasonable demands, followed by Motorcycle Shenanigans. Per usual, the latest piece of SW-Motech frippery came with absolute crap instructions. No order of operations, just a bag of bits, a terrible diagram, and a tech writer laughing his ass off somewhere. The instructions were basically, “put this on your bike.” Thanks!

To add insult to virtual injury, I opened my right pannier to discover that, at some point, the liter of water I carry had up-ended and emptied itself and my tool roll had been swimming around and marinating in it for God knows how long. Long enough to grow a nice, healthy amount of rust on the majority of my tools.  I don’t carry many of my Craftsman tools in the roll – that’ll teach me. “Hey, Sears! I ran over this with a steam roller – please give me a new one for free, thanks.”

Ok, Google – how to remove rust from tools?

After an hour and only having to redo things three times, I managed to get the Givi topcase more or less secured to the SW-Motech tail rack. Score. Life is good! Off to Gio’s for the usual Sunday romp. The topcase, despite being the smaller model of the two offered, is Fricking Enormous:

On the plus side, if I do cave and buy the GS, I can live in the topcase since I will be unable to afford my rent.

It was a small turnout for our Sunday ride today – only a pair of Scotts, a couple of Chucks, one Rex, one Mike, one Phil, one Larry, and I set out toward Lyons Valley. In the parking lot at Gio’s, the taller Scott and the Rex laid out our route. “There’s an amazing road leading to Boulder Creek, but we’re not doing Boulder Creek because it’s dirt, so we’ll just do a u-turn.”

Okeydokey! Off we went.

Spoilers: This is us “not doing Boulder Creek.” Thanks to Scott D. for the photos!

Other than a few spots of detritus from the weather here and there, Lyons Valley and environs were in pretty good shape. It was a brisk 44 degrees at times, but the down jacket and my Widder gloves kept me plenty warm. In several places, we could see snow falling a few hundred feet above us, though the sun was generous with us for the duration. Larry, Mike, and one of the Chucks waved off at the 8, while the rest of us carried on, three of us blissfully unaware of what was in store.

I hadn’t been on the roads leading to Boulder Creek before – they were, as promised, Quite Amazing.

We reached the pavement’s end, where Rex and the Scotts dutifully stopped, cognizant of their non-dirt-enthusiast cohorts in tow. Well, the lankier Scott stopped – the ponytailed Scott was too eager to play and plowed ahead until he realized the rest of us had halted and eventually came back for us.

The kinder Scott D. flipped around and came back to talk to those of us he knew were not especially keen on pavement-free riding. I could see the yearning coming off him in waves – he wanted this road so very badly. It was singing its siren song to him, and he was vibrating with eagerness to answer. I know the power of lust – Who am I to deny him what seems to be one of his favorite kinds of fun? If I’d said “Nah, no thank you, please,” I suspect the rest of them might have politely turned around with me. Maybe. Regardless, I’m not one to turn down a challenge on two wheels. Usually. (This will kill me one day.)

The road before us looked like any other slightly damp dirt road – nooooo problem. How bad could it be? I know better than to think this – I wondered “how bad could it be” when Markus et al told me about “the really bad potholes” south of El Rosario in Baja. Well, those were pretty effing bad – so bad that a statistically significant portion of my brain just wanted to crash so I could stop thinking about potholes for more than a nanosecond. Maybe take in the view. Ha.

 

So here we were, heading off on Adventures. My brand new Pilot Road 4’s slurked up enough mud to turn them into racing slicks after about a foot and a half, but things were pretty chill.

Initially.

 

Soon, mud, clay, and other nonsense presented themselves, most often in corners, and it became less “adventure” and more “ordeal.” How often that is the case, though – tomorrow’s “funny story” is Right Now’s fucking shitshow.

Poor Chuck H. had brand new tires on his XR, but he is an accomplished dirt rider. I have spent about an hour in dirt – almost 20 years ago, with this very same Chuck, in a very dry, very flat, Black Rock Desert. I don’t know How to Dirt. At all.

Have I mentioned that I have not yet bought The Perfect GS That Has Been Begging Me to Buy it for the Last Two Weeks? I have not. It is still sitting in the showroom, squeaky clean and perfect, much to everyone’s apparent disappointment (particularly Phil’s and his dog memes’ disappointment.) My resolve remains intact.

For now.

But we’re not talking about GS’s or my lack thereof, although this road would have likely been far less unpleasant on one. REGARDLESS.

The remaining Chuck was behind me, which was probably rather painful for him – watching me clumsily navigate the “road,” plus being held back by my turtle’s pace. Even a fully-laden swallow would have been going significantly quicker than I was.

Mud. Clay. Sand. Gravel. The occasional pile of cow shit (shown below:)

Shown here: A very unamused Phil with some poop.

A new, quite pronounced button tuck in my saddle. Knuckles so white they must have glowed through my thick winter gloves.

“Just relax. Just relax. Let the bike do what it’s going to do, let physics work. RELAX!!! WHY AREN’T YOU RELAXING?!?!” I kept muttering to myself.

Physics, despite being pretty predictable, can seem like a fickle bitch to the inexperienced (read, “me riding in mud.”) My head knew (only from having been told) “go faster to keep stable,” but my eyes saw mud and my lizard brain said “WHAT!?!?!? FUCK THAT, SLOW THE FRICK DOWN, MISSY. Jinkies!”

First gear. Second gear. Standing up. Sitting down. Standing up again. Foot allllmost down in the muddy curves.

“THIS IS GREAT!! LET’S DO IT AGAIN!!”

Oh good, there’s Scott D. waiting for us with his phone camera – At least the sunglasses hid my wide-as-saucers eyes, right? Wave at the camera? Ha; that would require unclenching my paw.

Washboard surfaces varying from violent sine waves to v tach. The occasional small river flowing across the road.

I’m sure there were gorgeous views to be had, but I surely didn’t see any of them. Would I rather ride this or Mexico 1 near Catavina? Tough decisions.

Occasionally, when the road was particularly bendy and wound back on itself for awhile, I would catch a fleeting glimpse of one of the guys approximately 6 miles ahead, and I could feel the grin all the way back where I was.

We slogged on. Periodically, The Scotts and Rex would stop and wait for us. When we caught up, they would (I assume) cackle maniacally and tear off around the next soggy bend. As I followed their trail, I could see they were having a great time – mud and sand thrown up where they’d goosed the throttle mid-turn — the very same turn where I was in first gear, desperately trying to keep my tires turning but not spinning, and the bike upright despite it wanting to slide down the sloped “road” and into the ditch. Occasionally being passed by elderly persons on their daily constitutionals.

Whee!

Much like on Mexico 1, there was a small but loud part of my brain that irrationally and stupidly wanted to give up.  “I’ve enjoyed about as much of this as I can stand.”

In an email to the club, I wrote:

Afterward, at the Chairs, I mentioned about halfway through that muck I was thinking, “yknow, I could just stop and live here forever. That would be fine.”

Scott D. said, “yeah, it’s beautiful up there, isn’t it?”

Yes. Yes, that is what I was thinking. It was most definitely not “fuck this shit with a wheelbarrow.”

I resigned myself to the fact that today was the day I’d drop the FJ – at least it would be at slow speeds and (I hoped) on soft mud. Maybe I wouldn’t break anything on the bike or on myself, even! Winning!

I had literally no idea where we were or how long it would take to reach the end of this road: Ten minutes? An hour? Thursday?

Ah, adventures.

Eventually, after several dozen more fishtails and before the sun went down, no less, I caught up to the crew under the tree where we stop on Engineer’s Road. Everyone was already parked, dismounted, and well-rested. I looked at the area under the tree: Hell if I was parking in the soggy dirt – I kept the even-more-filthy-than-usual FJ on the pavement, thank you very much.

Look at those happy faces! I’m glad we went.

I dismounted, and there were high-fives all around, comments about “rites of passage,” and so forth. The elder Scott said something about looking forward to the story I would write about the matter (here ya go, bud.)

Truth be told, I can see how that ride would be a hell of a lot of fun for someone who a.) knows what they’re doing, and b.) has an appropriate bike to tackle it. Sadly, I do not fall into either camp, but somehow, some way, I managed to stay upright. The Mighty FJ 09 persevered – who needs a GS, right?

Right?

(Hush, Phil. And Greg.)

(And everyone else “helping” me to decide.)

As an added plus, the Givi topcase didn’t bounce off, and neither did the GoPro I’d forgotten all about under the tail rack. Score. But my bike is dirty! My spotless, meticulously polished… no wait, that’s not me. It’s never me. My bikes are always dirty.

All in all, I love riding with these guys anywhere – even Engineer’s Road, even whatever the hell this nonsense was, to Hell and back, wherever: I’ll follow them, and I’ll keep on admiring their insane riding skills. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to come along and have them put up with me.

I could ride with them 12 hours a day every day and still have a grin on my face at the end of it all.

I’m romantic, ho

Many of you are familiar with my complete aversion to online dating – It gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. Nevertheless, having utterly failed to meet any single people who seemed like Dating Material, I decided to enter that particular fray One. More. Time.

Once more unto the breach…

[Incidentally, if you haven’t seen Brannagh’s “Henry V,” fucking do it. Possibly the best Shakespeare film ever.]

There was an approximately zero percent chance I would ever give OkCupid another go – that site is a good idea that turned into a complete shitshow. It’s a nightmare for all genders, an onslaught of both information and assholes. The whole thing is awful. When I first moved out here, I got onto OKC (as the hep cats call it) for about a minute and a half in the hopes of meeting people to ride with or possibly date. Silly, silly me.

I met with one guy as a potential riding buddy (nooooo dating potential at all there,) but he was only interested in dating. That, and shoving information about every detail of his (actually really shitty) old WRX at me. Fine, there’s the door. No, really – go away. No, it’s not the ratty car – it’s your ratty personality. Fuck. Off. Off you shall fuck!

I met a second guy, who is actually wonderful, but who is also 20 years my junior and a fair distance away. He’s perfect for someone, but not for me – we still chat online, and have hung out a couple of times platonically. He’s a fucking phenomenal author, incredibly woke, and just generally super cool. I’ll put that one into the “win” column in terms of meeting someone interesting, even though dating isn’t an option.

A couple of women I know here in San Diego recommended Bumble, an app driven entirely by women — only women can initiate a conversation if both people indicate interest. This cuts down on the volume of dick pics and random assholes by orders of magnitude. The profiles have only a tiny amount of space to try to catch someone’s eye, which has its pros and cons.

However.

I am profoundly outclassed. The devs apparently front-load a new user’s experience with the wealthiest, most classically beautiful people in the fucking world. I joked on Facebook the other day that this is how I typically compare with what seemed to be the “average” Bumble user:

Their profile: “CEO of $THING, singlehandedly funded $PHILANTHROPIC-THING. Clean-eating. Passionate and fun. Here is a photo of me holding a perfect Crow Pose on my yacht in Tahiti – notice my 72 abs. President Obama came to me for advice. Fit, athletic, motivated, spiritual, deep thinker. Love dogs. Invented powdered sugar. I organically grow my own cars. Award-winning National Geographic photographer. Working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. Here’s another photo of me being genuinely happy and quirky in the company of many beautiful people. Work out 18 days a week. Seeking a partner with all these same attributes and more. Ego plus quam perfectum, et ego in æternum vive.”

What I would have to say to such a person: “So… I went to Mexico on my motorcycle once. I’m really bad at yoga, but I do like powdered sugar. I make terrible financial decisions, and I can’t take a good photo to save my life – Chandler Syndrome, ha ha. Wait, you never watched ‘Friends?’ You found it trite and boring? Ok, ok. Anyhow, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. What’s that? Yes, I am 47 years old. What’s that face about? I listen to NPR… I stand up for other people, and I … sorry, I got distracted thinking about powdered sugar. Oh hey, you speak French!!

Par example:

Hi Doctor – 

space cadet nerd atheist,,, awkward dull chubby maybe fun numbers go here… born and raised, um, literally in the middle of a cornfield… traveled also. I traveled to the store just this afternoon, in fact, and also went to the bank. Obviously, I’m going to need a nap after all of that activity. I do not like children. @jupiter (also a planet!) semi-adventurer,like the idea of being an activist but bad at it,animal lover too! I also love spaces after punctuation, so I have to stop that nonsense immediately. Luv 2eat pudding say things breathe sleep watch shows while on edibles… and here I am, talking to you and seeing! Hey, by the way, I have this growth thing right on the front of my face – what might that be? It’s about 6 inches in diameter and smells terrible. OK THANKS HAVE A NICE DAY HEY TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PENIS.

(The penis thing comes in a bit later.)

Those who didn’t sound like completely pretentious tools seemed to be far too conventionally attractive and down to Earth to even give me a second glance (not that I would want them to:)

Hi David –

Jesus fuck, are those your actual arms, or did you have bear arms surgically grafted onto your body? I, too, know some words. Here are some now:

mittens
poodle
swim trunks (is that too suggestive?)
stoichiometry (I IZ SMARTS!)
egg
faucet

I’ve heard people say that I am super awkward and they do tend to stare when I dance, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. But who knows, maybe they were just… no, they were right, I’m a terrible dancer. I have made a series of unfortunate financial and career choices, so I will be working literally until the day I die. WRITE ME BACK OK THANKS BYE.

Hi James, 54!

Born in the middle of nowhere. Lived elsewhere for quite a few years. Ran my own business for 6 years and then gave it away for free to my best friends back home. I, too, am Single, though not really into the sportsball – but I fucking love watching hockey and MMA. Couldn’t tell you a damn thing about who’s competing these days, mind you, because who has that kind of time? Manhattan is terrible. Uniformly. Oh wait, we’re just saying words now! This seems to be a popular pastime on Bumble. Bees, Doritos, tabletop, roof tiles, appetizer! Looking for… you know what? Never mind. You are not at all what I’m after.

Many of these ostensibly “perfect” men and women put literally nothing in their profiles – they rely solely upon their (admittedly fantastic, yet wholly unappealing to me) photos to sell themselves. Who reaches out to someone like this, knowing literally nothing about him?

I’ll show you who – Tamara, who relies on a similar tactic, and is…. oh. Oh my…

Um. Gawrsh.

Gosh, Tamara –

Blush. Stumble. Um. So, live around here often?

A few have interesting profiles, but what the hell would I say to someone like this?

Hi Alexandre –

I’m Erin (nope, just plain ol’ E-r-i-n.) While I have never danced on a kitchen, per se, I have danced in a kitchen – and I broke three toes doing it because there was a fucking table in the middle of the floor. I, too, enjoy eating delicious things in places (it looks like you enjoy seeing lists of places, so here you go: City, country, plains, ocean floor, that bench by the sell-your-plasma lab.) I most definitely cannot afford to purchase an airline ticket to anywhere on the spur of the moment “just cuz,” unless that ticket was to, like, Bakersfield, and who the hell wants to go there at all, let alone pay for the displeasure? I have only one layer to my personality. I WILL NEVER OPEN TO ANYONE MY HEART IS DEAD INSIDE. 

Hi Ken –

DON’T WORRY ABOUT WASTING MY TIME, I DO A GREAT JOB OF THAT ALL ON MY OWN. 🙂 Deal breakers: People who can’t punctuate or spell properly, Labradoodle owners (Labradoodle is a ridiculous word, right? Fuck those dogs!! Figuratively, I mean, obviously.) (j/k – I love dogs, all of them.) POT IS A DRUG?!?!!?!? Fucking hell, thank goodness you were here to elucidate me on that one. Phew. I am lighting all of my weed on fire (though I admit it will be in very small amounts at one time.) I am very kind, and I am also active – just now, I, in fact, walked downstairs to the mailbox. I mean… I used the elevator, but there was movement involved both before and after that. Being transparent must be rather difficult! Due to your disability, I assume I can’t see you in your photo above, and that you are in between the two guys on the left. Have you ever thought about wearing clothes so you could be seen by other people? Just a thought. You do you! I’m totally not trying to smother or change you right now, ha ha ha. You’re still using “I’m” when listing things like “outdoors” (I am indoors myself,) “live music” (maybe this explains why you are transparent – you are music, not a person?) and so on. You’re touching 6′ of what? That sounds a little risque. I can totally solve the math problem at the end!!! If you just need one, subtract 2 from 3, and there you! Magic! Lastly, I notice you mention “fit” in your description. I still fit into most of my clothes – does that count? OK THANKS HAVE A NICE DAY.

After pummeling my self-esteem into the ground, the next day they began to show me people of a slightly different caliber: Those covered in prison tatts. Seriously, teardrops, the whole nine yards. Everyone makes mistakes, and being a felon doesn’t necessarily immediately disqualify someone, but we went from literal millionaires to felons in a heartbeat.

My friends encouraged me to “just get out there!” so I sent a few half-hearted introductions, and holy shit… well, I’ll just let you see for yourselves here in a moment.

On the plus side, just as I was getting ready to give up, I met Someone Kind of Awesome. Pretty cool. We went out the next day (which was last night,) and had a great time. We’re having dinner tonight, too. So, thank you, Bumble, after all. You rocked it just as I was about to bid you adieu, at least I got a friend out of it.

Without further ado, behold – I’m probably going to keep the app around purely for the comedic value. I’ll start you out with the whinging I did on Facebook, and select helpful answers:

Some actual conversations with people I matched with largely no hope of having anything in common – this is where the penis thing comes into play:

#UnMatch

#UnMatch

This one… this one realllllllly made me question what the hell I was doing on the app:

No, wait! David! Come back! I llllllllooooooovvvvvve youuuuuuuuuuuuu – I take it all back, Baby! How could I possibly resist your charms?!?!?!

Sigh. #UnMatch

This poor guy had the app cut him off at a truly unfortunate place, and his prize is winning the title of this blog post:

I sent him a quick note letting him know he might want to proofread his profile.

I don’t even know what to say about this one:

Pros:

  • I know what his bangs look like UP CLOSE.
  • He’s either terribly honest or a halfway-decent troll

Cons:

  • Well. I mean… yeah.

Bumble can be used to meet same-sex partners, too. I picked both genders, even though the likelihood of meeting an interesting girl would be far lower than a dude. Of the approximately 1839 women the app showed me, exactly 3 were interested in women. The rest apparently tapped the wrong button. They were nearly all, however, astonishingly beautiful, incredibly successful, and generally superior to me in every quantifiable way. Whee!

Bumble can also be used to meet…. clowns.

Some people do a fairly decent job of self-description, and then go one bridge too far:

It’s not easy for the dudes, either, I’m sure. More than a few said things like, “I’m X’Y” tall, because apparently that matters a lot here,” and some seem to have just Given Up Entirely:


Hi Mark!

I did actually read that, but I’m honestly more alarmed by your apparent state of entanglement with what I can only assume is some sort of human fishing rig.  Do you require assistance? Please send exact geographic coordinates, approximate speed, heading, bearing, and color of attire, and I’ll see what I can do to help. 

DAVID –

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO THAT POOR ALIEN DOG?!?! You are squeezing her so hard with your … anaconda arms… that she’s about to explode, eyes-first. Stop it. Also, RE: This photo:

I am really sorry you got kicked in the nuts so hard, or that you see someone eating the sandwich you left in the fridge for lunch.

Nurse Cody – 

Fucking hell, you can sure jump high. Not to brag, but I, myself, can jump almost three full inches into the air, unaided. So, did you ever find your way out of the desert? 

Some images defy explanation. Others can be explained by the next image in the series:

Dear Marty –

The hell are you doing to that tiny car? Oh – you are going to crush it into the ball we see in the next photo. Got it.

Like many other men here in Bumble World, you seem to have an interest in fitness and…. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS, MARTY?!!?

Marty, I don’t even know what to say anymore. I was just starting to feel safe with you, despite your car-crushing robot arms, and then you go and pull this shit? Don’t get me wrong – I, too, watched “Magnum, PI” a thousand years ago. HOWEVER. I do not recall Tom Selleck running around in junk-hugging … Speedo… short… things. I’m not sure I can get past this, even though things were going so well between us (well, between your previous photos and me, I should say.) Is there anything you can say in your defense?

Dawwwwwwww. Marty, I’ve never seen this side of you! You’re so fucking sweet, despite your egregious random apostrophe for no reason. Wait, though – you’re a bloody attorney and you can’t figure out an apostrophe? What kind of law do you practice, anyhow? And who are you to make demands on me already, like “court your significant other?” I don’t even know who she is – would I like her? You know me so well, Marty… I mean, there was the whole Porn ‘Stash Selleck Thing awhile ago, but we’re past that, right? This is a whole photo later – entire seconds have passed now. Ohhh no…. country music. And here I was already planning a surprise grammar class for you to improve your skills and to therefore be a more suitable mate for me. Goodbye forever, Marty – it just was never meant to be. Shhh now, no tears.

Hi Michael –

We are so ill-matched, but I just wanted to warn you that your shirt seems to have begun annexing the table next to you. Watch out – who knows where it will strike next.

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU POINTING AT, DAVE, 52?! Do you realize we, your audience, cannot see it? Oh wait, is this some kind of bad Saturday Night Fever parody?

Robert –

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but that photo is fucking terrible. I mean, unless you are really proud of auditioning for the voice of Phlegm in an upcoming Nyquil commercial, you really might want to pick something else here. You’re 63, man – time could be short. 

Dear Kamran, 

I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?

Lastly, I leave you with… um…Robert.

Robert –

I am having tremendous difficulty reconciling these two images. You are either the second coming of George Peppard or you are in talks to act/direct/write/exec-produce/produce “Sheldon! The Retirement Years.” We get it, you’re versatile!  Either way, I’m not sure if you realize this, but Bumble isn’t a place to get acting gigs.

I feel like this guy hit “match” accidentally on my profile. Call me utterly shallow and judgmental about appearances, but I can’t imagine ever being comfortable in his presence with my lumpy self, even though he said, “good things come in all shapes and colors, right?” You look nice, Scott – best of luck to you, bud. And can we just talk for a minute about your fucking obliques? SHIT, SON.

 

So, I have once again discovered that online dating is fatiguing. Exhausting. Depressing. Horrible in every conceivable way.

I am spent.

And yet… I did find someone who was really cool, and we met a few times:

"I just kept swiping until I found the nerd girl!"

“I just kept swiping until I found the nerd girl!”

But, at the end of the day, I had to say “fuck this” all over again. I just … I can’t do online dating. Nope. Not for me.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

For many years, I was a thoroughly shitty person. Competitive, judgmental, negative – all the things – probably more internally than externally, but I’m certain it was obvious to others more often than not.

Many of these thoughts and behaviors were directed at other girls (and later, women) because I had been so fully conditioned to see other women as some evil force in the world, competition for male attention, threats to my personal satisfaction, et cetera.

What. Utter. Bullshit.

It was doubly idiotic in my case, because I am I am often attracted to women as well as to men, so I had this ridiculous war going on in my head of hating women, of feeling ultra-threatened by them, and yet also being drawn to a number of them.

Thankfully, somewhere in my thirties, I managed to break through that insane socialization and began to appreciate women, to respect them, and to be very gentle with judgment. Of course, there are a ton of women who are better at things than I am. Of course, there are women who are far more intelligent, more together, more attractive, more everything than I am.

And that’s ok.

I’m sure many, perhaps even most, of you grokked this far earlier on in life than I did, but my perfect storm of a wretched, judgmental mother combined with American marketing and general socialization, had me swallowing that particular bait hook, line, and sinker.

I couldn’t be more grateful to the people who unknowingly helped me to climb out of that pit of despair. Thank you. My life is so much richer, far less miserable, now that I can accept other women as whole people rather than just Competitors.

Recently, I became friends with a woman who would have sent me through the roof with jealousy and anxiety a decade ago. She is intelligent, kind, driven, skilled, generous, supportive, gorgeous, and just generally neat. The more I get to know her, the more I adore her: She’s all the things. The good things. Sure, I’m certain she has her baggage like the rest of us do, but her level of kick-ass far exceeds that other stuff. Look at this girl:

Right? Not only does she ride, but she races. And she rides dirt.  She does all manner of things I’d love to do myself but never made priorities in my life. So, I’ll live vicariously a little through her adventures and hopefully share some, too. Ten or fifteen years ago, I would have just quietly seethed with raging jealousy and avoided her, because I was dumb.

This post started knocking around my head this morning as I was scrolling through footage of the lunch ride down to Ensenada, Mexico, we took yesterday with two other friends. Raven (because of course her name is “Raven,”) was behind me for some of the trip, and I found myself looking for frame grabs in which she looked awesome (these, incidentally, are not hard to find.) I had one of those “huh!” moments as I realized I wanted her to look awesome, to be seen as spectacular. The me of days past would have quietly swept those under the rug. Here’s one now:

So, this is a sort of self-congratulatory post, which makes me wince, but I’ll throw it up here anyhow as part of my journey. You know me – I seldom have a thought that doesn’t come tumbling out of my fingers. Plus, since The Dawn of the Internet, I’ve found when I share shortcomings, it often helps someone else wrestling with similar things not to feel alone.

Here’s Raven’s Stuff so you can follow along with her, too:

Website: http://raventurous.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/raventurous/?hl=en

 

Motorcycles & Relationships

“Do you really need more than one?” is a question commonly asked by non-riders. N + 1, baby; N + 1.

I have dated many men and women over the decades, and I’ve run the gamut of good relationships and bad. Of the <cough><insert number here> people who have been in that mix, vanishingly few of them have ridden motorcycles – which is simultaneously a tragedy and a blessing in disguise.

On the “blessing” side, having partners who don’t ride guarantees me a certain measure of Alone Time, no matter what. I’m an only child (“ooohhh,” people always say, nodding; “that explains a lot,”) and I needs mah Space. My soul gets restless and itchy if subjected to people non-stop for a long period of time.

On the tragedy side, if someone doesn’t know that irresistible beckoning of two wheels, hasn’t ever experienced the promise of a full, cold tank of gasoline pressing against their thighs, hasn’t ever had to dodge an errant cage driver, hasn’t ever downshifted and rolled on through a big, long, smooth sweeper… can we really connect? Yeah, of course we can… but there’s always going to be that impassable gulf between us. Stopping and taking a break on a particularly breathtaking ride and being able to share the view and the whole damn experience with someone I care about is superb. I miss that.

Non-riders look at motorcycles and see Machines; we look at them and see beautiful, endless possibilities. Miles of ’em.

Fuck yes, I want this between my legs more than most things most of the time. This is apparently difficult to understand. No, it has nothing to do with vibration.

Too, I don’t just ride – a ride a lot. It is, after all, the biggest reason why I moved to San Diego. It’s November 26th, and I just got home from a spectacular five-hour ride that was only a little chilly at the beginning of the morning. My poor Michigan friends, as well as our other northern bretheren, are stuck making vroom-vroom noises in their garages for another 5ish more months.

Time and time again, so many of the married riders I know (men and women alike) who don’t have a spouse who enjoys riding lament their misfortune. They speak of “kitchen passes” and sometimes have “curfews” and limitations on how many days per week they’re “allowed” to ride. Others are more fortunate and have understanding, gracious partners who happily allow them the time they need to bond with their machines and riding buddies, which makes the time they choose to spend together all the more fantastic. I love seeing my friends happy in their relationships – it’s such a refreshing change of pace from the all too common bitching and moaning about a less-than-perfect marriage.

My ex-husband just didn’t get it, and over the brief six years we were together, the more time I spent on the road, the more he came to resent my most treasured hobby. When I bought a Harley in 2012 (sssshhh, we’re all friends here, no judging,) he was so furious… he called his mom to tell on me. Oh gosh – Stuff just got real. He was a great guy, make no mistake, but our compatibility fell well short of where it should have been in a number of areas. Eventually, I had to flee to save both of our sanities.

Now, having uprooted myself and relocated cross-country for the third time, I am faced with a dilemma – Am I willing to compromise on this key area again? The bigger part of me says “of course!” but there is a nay-sayer in the back of my head, clucking her tongue and inhaling through her teeth if someone isn’t a rider. “I dunno,” she says, skepticism virtually dripping off her words, “is s/he going to start getting shitty when I do overnight trips with other people? What about when both weekend mornings are consumed by club rides? Are we willing to sacrifice that?”

Sure, if I’m head-over-heels in love, I’ll compromise, but “head-over-heels” seldom happens. I am a seeker by nature, and it takes a lot to get me in it to win it. Once In It, however, I’m 100% there as long as everyone’s happy.

Cue the inner pragmatist, who seldom sees the light of day: There are a lot of damn pitfalls in any potential match – politics, monogamy versus poly, incompatible schedules, lack of geographic proximity, hatred of something important to the other… should I really narrow my field by another order of magnitude?

Sure, I could drive up here… but it’s soooo much more fun to ride.

Thus far out here, every rider I’ve taken a liking to has already been snapped up by some other lucky human, and I have painfully learned my lesson about keeping my hand out of that particular cookie jar. Granted, there are a lot of good things about being single – a whole lot. I am beholden to no one, I set my own schedule without fear of reprisals, I don’t have to check in. “Is there money in the bank? Yes? Sweet, let’s go!” “Do I feel like just not coming home tonight? Fuck it, I’m staying in Borrego Springs until morning.”

Of course, there’s the distinct lack of sex, which is problematic. But these are the choices I make. For now. <twitch>

Meeting people is a bit tricky when online dating doesn’t work for me. I need to meet someone organically through a common thing – motorcycles, for example, would be great. Or shooting pool. Or snorkeling. Shooting. Photography. Or whatever thing we have in common that provides a foundation to build upon other than, “Hey, so I hear you’re looking for someone to date, too!” <awkward laugh> OKCupid is a fucking nightmare. Tinder? Ick.

It would be fun to have someone to Do Stuff with (it’s difficult to talk random friends into cage diving with Great White Sharks to the tune of $3000,) but at what expense? As with all things, I need to relax and just let time play its track out. I’ve sort of settled into being single for the rest of my life at this point – I’m 47; my dating pool is shrinking by the nanosecond.  The last several people I’ve dated have been in their twenties, but obviously, while super fun, those sorts of gigs aren’t going to be terribly long-term due to the sheer magnitude of experience differentials. At this point, I’m seeking a grown-ass person who has their shit together, who, for one reason or another, is single.  Oh, and who would find me remotely interesting. Where they at?

<crickets>

Alright, enough bemoaning the woeful state of my non-existent love life, y’all. I am so exceptionally fortunate in damn near every other area, I think I can be cool missing out on this. Right? Right.

… Right?

Spoiled brat, c’est moi.

Internalized Misogyny

It wasn’t until Wonder Woman came out that I fully understood how deeply I had been missing legitimate female badass characters on that scale and of that quality. We’ve all been aware of the very few roles that have heretofore fallen into that category because most of the scripts with those types of women also had men that did one of a few things:

1.) Bailed them out when they got in over their heads;
2.) Resented their power and were assholes about it;
3.) Betrayed them and caused them to question everything, ultimately finding the real meaning of love with another man;
4.) Et cetera.

In terms of the writing for the women characters themselves, the badass women were often bitches, hardasses, man-haters, childless, incapable of love, commitment, or relationships, or were just utterly cliche. There were precious, precious few otherwise “normal,” functioning human beings.

Years and years ago, I wrote a blog post about my favorite female characters in media. It begins by saying, “I may not be remembering correctly, but when I was growing up, I don’t recall many totally independent, strong female role models in television.” I want to reach back in time to my thirty-year-old self and pinch her cheeks. “Oh sweetheart,” I would say, “you’re remembering just fine.”

What brings this to mind is watching “Continuum” on Netflix. I’m only a few episodes in, but right from the first minutes of the show, I was struck by the complete normalcy of the lead character’s life outside of her badassedness. She is happily married with a child. Her husband just grins when she beats up a punk on the train and doesn’t try to stop her or back her up in any way – he knows she’s got this and he loves her for it. He just grins and lets her do her thing.

There are other shows now which have similarities: “Game of Thrones,” “Once Upon A Time,” and so forth, and they make me super, super happy. Farther back, “Buffy” did a pretty good job, too. Xena? Ehhh, not so much, really.  “Firefly,” definitely.

This gives not only women something to reinforce what being a strong woman can mean, but it also helps men who might not understand that accepting and embracing a woman’s skill and strength is possible – it doesn’t have to be threatening. Some men of course just know this, but as a society, we do not – men and women alike, generally, don’t understand what’s possible because we have been told these stories since birth.

The media has done its damage to both genders, and part of what it’s done to men is to train them to be misogynistic in many ways, both large and small. Much like how racism is so ingrained in this culture, some of us with the best intentions and mindsets might have these things we feel or think and believe to be true that are only figments of what we’ve been told about race. It’s work to overcome, and such important work at that.

I think it probably takes a lot of mindfulness to be a good man in this world when it comes to women. Everything screams at them to behave in these certain masculine ways to their detriment and to women’s. They’re taught to believe that what I guess I think of as the “frat boy mentality” is the way things should be. Women are taught to believe this, too (myself definitely included,) and that steals away from us. Speaking from a heteronormative perspective here, we’re taught an entirely skewed meaning of sex: It’s the male’s job to convince us to “let them” have sex with us, and it’s our job to deny that unless it’s some kind of reward. We’re taught that denying sex to our partners for any reason will lead to smoldering resentment that will force him into the arms of another woman. “Isn’t it easier to just give in than to worry?”

Louis CK, for all his flaws, is one of my favorite comedians; I think he’s one of the most genuinely funny people alive today. I love watching his shows. In my most favorite of his shows, “Live at the Beacon Theater,” he does a bit on Pussy. You can see it in full here, with an introduction about how hormones make men stupid. The Pussy Bit begins at about 1:45 in. That’s the mentality. About four minutes in, he offers some redeeming thoughts about women having just as much sex drive.

Anyway.

This Saturday morning, I attended the breakfast before our BMW club’s group ride. Typically, breakfast is from 8am until about 9am, and then we ride. Today, things were not wrapping up on time. I found myself wanting to say, “You guys are worse than a bunch of women, let’s GOOOOOOOO,” and realized “… wow. That old saying actually has some important shit behind it that I never really thought about.”

In years past, I thought could utter that phrase “without harm” because I’m a woman – typically the only one present – and it should be funny and perhaps shame the men a bit into action. It must be obvious I don’t really believe all women have this problem, I know better, right?

Wow. There’s so much wrong with that, and I never saw the full scope of it until that day.

First, there’s the obvious dig at women in general because we (I first wrote, “they”) can’t contain their talking to get anything done. Next, there’s a woman saying it, reinforcing that notion. Last big one, it’s implying that men should feel ashamed to be compared to women. How the fucking hell was I so obtuse as to miss these points? Crossed that off my list of go-to phrases.

At the midpoint of the ride, there were four of us left in the group. Two of the men took off their helmets and immediately began combing their hair. Before I could think, “Look at you two, doing up your hair. Worse than women!” spewed out of my mouth and flopped onto the pavement like a dead animal. Everyone had a chuckle, but inside I was filled with shame.

Oh my fucking hells.

I know I’ve said these things countless times in the past; it’s an old habit. Old, stupid, wrongheaded habit (as habits often are.) I had made some similar comment in a group forum probably 20 years ago and another female member said, “wow, internalized misogyny much?” I scoffed, offended. This bitch doesn’t know me, she has no idea. I am, quite clearly, certainly far too self-aware to even entertain the idea of buying into that sort of misogyny. I’m being ironic, I convinced myself. This was before the term “ironic” was obliterated by millennials, mind you, and actually meant “ironic.”

Clearly, this must stop. I can soooooo easily see nuances of racism, but sexism is apparently an enormous blind spot for me – because a large part of me bought into it part and parcel. Some incorrect beliefs about myself, sure, but a huge number of absolutely 100% wrong notions about the entire swath of the female sex.

At my going-away party back in August, I was showing people how to play AudioShield in VR and likened it being like Wonder Woman fending off blows. I asked one of my favorite male friends, “do you want to feel like Wonder Woman,” in a mostly-joking kind of way, with overtones of sarcasm. Without missing a beat, he said, “Hell yes, I do!” and jumped in. Because Nathan is awesome and he knows it would be super fucking cool to be Wonder Woman. [EDIT: After reading this, my longtime friend Alex sent me the following fantastic link: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/halloween-gender-non-conforming-kids_us_59f7712ce4b09b5c25682078?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009 ]

There are so damned many blind spots, so many nooks and crannies that have been saturated with bullshit for so long, they don’t even recognize it anymore. In March of 2016, I underwent The Great Girly Transformation of eDar: I spontaneously fell in love with clothes and shoes and make-up for no reason I could think of.

This sent me into a tailspinner of an identity crisis, man – a whole bunch of Who I Was had heretofore been tied up in jeans, t-shirts, and engineer boots. Motorcycles. Guns.  Cars. Planes. You know – Guy Shit. <sigh>

Part of me wonders if it’s because I’m a large person, and I perhaps subconsciously gave up on ever being the “perfect” vision of femininity, so I violently and completely rejected all the trappings of it. Maybe I saw the roles and stereotypes and couldn’t figure out how to reconcile those with who I was and wanted to be, and wasn’t bright enough to realize I could blaze my own feminine path. I dunno.

Recently, the universe has, through various means, dictated I now have two pink riding jackets. I’ve come to accept them, despite being wildly uncomfortable at first. I have violently hated pink for most of my life because it is girly. Far too girly for a non-girly girl such as myself, right? I wanted nothing to do with it. (“Internalized misogyny much?”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Indeed, I’ve started actually embracing these pink jackets, and even bought matching pink gloves the other day because fuck yeah I can wear pink and still be a badass. I don’t have to try to disguise myself as Not A Girl – that’s silliness and insanity.

Yesterday, riding home from the club’s Sunday morning excursion, I stopped at a light near my home. I looked to my left and saw a little girl’s face pressed up against the car window, eyes wide, mouth literally agape. She was quite young – maybe six or seven, and she rolled down the window, but didn’t say anything; she just stared, eyebrows up as high as they would go. I grinned and waved at her. She giggled and waved back before hiding under the window. Her very young dad grinned, too.

This happens from time to time – young kids noticing a girl on a motorcycle and just going bonkers with surprise (usually followed by delight.) If I can inspire a few kidlets to shed stereotypes and be awesome? I’m very, very happy with that idea.

When I first starting creating website content for myself circa 1994 (before “blogging” was a word,) my main objective, my mission, was to connect with people and to put myself out there – warts and all – in the hopes of helping other people feel “ok.” Life is not television-show neat. Life is messy and complicated and human beings even more so. Some of my friends at the time objected, thought I was going too far, “showing my ass in public,” as it were, and they were in some cases absolutely right: There is such a thing as TMI sometimes. By and large, though? No regrets. I’ve met some of my closest friends from writing things on the internet.

With the advent of Mommy Blogs, that 1950’s Perfect Housewife mentality began making a resurgence, but a funny thing happened ten or so years after Mommy Blogging became a super lucrative venture: The mommy bloggers who wrote about imperfection, rather than having everything together, started to take off even more than those who portrayed their lives as neat and tidy. People who put their struggles and failures up got more traffic, and more loyal return traffic, than many of their “perfect” competitors. I have no hard data to back this up, mind you – I have over 10 years in the web hosting industry, and my source is purely anecdotal experience.

So, fellow humans, don’t hide, don’t buy into the shame, don’t isolate yourselves out of fear or anxiety. Connect and support and love and indulge and communicate with each other, warts and all. Steal the stigma away from those powerful talismans (mental illness, “embarrassing” health issues, feeling scared or small or like an imposter,) and talk to someone about them. If you don’t have someone in your life you feel won’t judge you, seek the anonymity of the internet (mind the trolls, obviously, but there really are Actual Safe Spaces for just about everything and everyone out there – moderated, supportive places.)

Having, as usually, strayed quite far from my original point, I’ll leave you with this: If anyone would be inclined to talk to me about anything at all, my ears and my heart are always open. I have made so very many bad decisions in my life, I’ve done so many things I regret and am ashamed of, I don’t judge. I can’t – I know what it’s like to be imperfect – it’s my every waking moment. If I seem like I have stuff together, that is an illusion: The Swan Defense – Serene on the surface, paddling like fucking crazy below. You can talk to me if you want. Anytime. <3

Wanderlust Sated

…and various other ramblings

If you follow me on Facebook, you know things are happening very quickly for me right now, and man – I need to write this stuff out to get it all clear in my head. We’re going to cover a lot of material here, and I’m going to digress many times, so I won’t blame a soul if you get three paragraphs in and say “FUKKIT, TLDR.”

One of the roadways in the complex. This, to me, screams CALIFORNIA!

I have somehow managed to stumble through life riding this immense wave of luck on so many levels. When I step back and really look at where I have been, and what I have done… holy shit I have been incredibly fortunate. I am not saying this to brag in any way – I am saying it because I recognize I have not done anything to deserve it; it is LUCK. None of this happened because I earned anything. I have careened, headlong, into the most amazing people, places, and experiences. I am awed to my bones. I am grateful. I feel unworthy.

My day-to-day luck on the little things is often terrible – from the airline lying to me about carry-on sizes to almost losing my luggage to my Lyft driver getting lost several times an nearly getting me a parking ticket to computers loathing and despising me to a laughable first class “upgrade” to catching every red light… these are little things. These, I can handle.

The big stuff, though, and I realize I am tempting fate by saying this aloud, tends work out well. For this, I am thankful and humbled.

This is not a “humble brag,” nor is it fishing for reassurances or compliments –  you guys already take care of me on that front very well. This is honesty – I don’t feel like I deserve you, or some of the good things in my life, but holy wow am I ever glad you have, for reasons I may never comprehend, taken a liking to me. I hope I am able to give some of that back to you – I pour my love into you, I carry you with me in my heart every moment of every day, but I don’t know if that shines through. I surely don’t tell you enough. I let my hermity ways interfere with socializing too often.

The Next Adventure

Because I work from home now, I can live pretty much anywhere on the planet I want (well, anywhere I can afford, anyhow.) While I love the idea of going ex-pat eventually, for now, I’ll stay state-side.

Right now, I’m in San Diego, in this lovely AirBnB house, hosted by a wonderful woman named Jessica. That I got this house at all was pretty much a small miracle unto itself – she is constantly booked, but just happened to be available for the duration of my time here. She is friendly and chatty. Originally from Jalisco, she’s now an American citizen, though that journey unto itself is quite a tale. We bonded quickly, and yesterday, we spent three hours talking while she colored my hair (she runs a hair studio next door.)

I’m here in San Diego (henceforth SDO because Lazy) because I wanted to scout it out as a potential place to move when my current lease is up. I must get out of Michigan. There is no other option. I am so miserable there in that environment – my people have made it fun and wonderful when I’m with them, but the every day of living there is just an ordeal, even with my beautiful friends backing me up. I resent it, because I know there are far better places out there. I have seen them. I’ve lived in some of them.

Riding around with my friend George today, I mentioned I’ve been on anti-depressants for years, but how only recently have I begun to feel Not Depressed.  “Oh, they took years to start working?” he asked. I talked about how the drugs were doing their job just fine, but I wasn’t doing mine – I was just… coasting. I wasn’t doing the things that would make me happy. Increasing my serotonin uptake can’t make me happy in a city where I am miserable, or erase decades of self-doubt and self-loathing: That took a team effort.

This Job, Though

I am so fortunate Justin found me on LinkedIn. I almost didn’t answer him, because who ever gets legit, interesting offers there? I bumbled my way through the technical evaluation and my first few months. I am still not great, but he’s happy with me, and that’s what matters.

This man has my undying loyalty. He is a wonderful person, a generous and kind person, a laid-back and flexible person. He is not perfect, but he is in the top three people for whom I have ever worked.  I will do whatever it takes to keep him happy with me…even if it means… learning Python. <shudder>

This job has, literally, changed my whole life.

Breathing

I’ve noticed over the last few months it’s not just that I don’t feel depressed anymore – I think I’m happy. The weight of financial stresses, the enormous pressure from my last job, the fears of not succeeding at the new job… all of these things have sort of melted away, leaving me able to breathe for the first time in a long time.

George and I have wrestled with many similar issues, but have taken very different paths as a result. I still feel a deep kinship with him, though, as our mental states have a great deal in common. It was really nice talking with someone who understands what it’s like to be chronically troubled in some of the same ways I am.

Over the course of my life, I have met the most amazing people through completely random happenstance.

Motorcycles

I met my Iron Butt friends on a total fluke – I was on a Honda 4-cylinder, single overhead cam motorcycle list, and heard of this “crazy guy” doing a record-breaking long-distance ride visiting all 48 contiguous states on his motorcycle in a ridiculously short period of time. He had a huge network of friends helping him with parts and logistics, but the ride itself was incredible.

My first reaction was, “wow, what a colossally stupid, dangerous thing to do!!” Then I read more. And more. And I joined an email list.

Less than two months later, I rode my first 1000 miles in 24 hours with my friend Troy, going from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Plano, Texas. There, I met icons of the motorcycling world – too many to name. They were warm, welcoming, and immediately adopted me as one of their own. I’ve known these folks for almost 20 years now, and they’re no less wonderful, though living in Michigan has kept me apart from them for a decade.

Two icons of the endurance riding world raising hell in Gerlach.

Thanks to them, the country opened up to me – I never would have considered pushing myself that hard, but once it’s possible to ride 1623 miles in 24 hours (my personal best,) travel becomes Different. I rode to some of the coolest places in the nation, and saw amazing things, thanks to extremely clever (and devious) rallymasters.

Planes

Similarly, in 2004, I walked into the Olympic Air Museum on a whim for a tour, and, on another whim, asked if they needed volunteers. They eagerly said yes, and I was accepted. I gave tours, washed the planes, marshaled air shows, and just generally helped out. Once again, the group took me under their literal and figurative wings, and I ended up not only spending time with, but being tossed around the sky by some of my childhood heroes in the most amazing planes. It boggles me to this day how incredible that summer was.

I was able to arrange a flight in a WWII plane for my dad, an even bigger plane nut than I am, and I will never forget the look on his face when he landed:

Dad Post-Yak Flight

Catalyst

I got to do that for him! One of the things that makes me happiest is being the catalyst for someone else to experience an amazing thing. Whether it’s my dad in a Yak-11, or George piloting a sailboat, or getting Jim a tour of Fifi, or taking Heather on an unscheduled boat ride in the Gulf of Mexico, or getting Wes to finally tear down his garage or giving Adam the bike that Wes gave me… I love making things happen for people. I think I may enjoy that even more than experiencing these things myself.

Historically, when I am not out there being the enzyme, being the catalyst, and I am alone – I shut down. My attention turns inward, and the brain weasels come out to play. Like many people, my childhood scarred me, and left me with baggage I carry to this day, though I am slowly shedding much of it.

Therapy Failures

Some of you have heard the story of my last encounter with therapy. My counselor was a very nice woman, who was very good at what she did. However, I wasn’t ready for our fifth or so session, when she made me look into a mirror while she said nice things about me.

I never went back. I made excuses and cowardly exited the whole process. Like many people, I crave compliments and positive feedback, but when I receive them, I become deeply uncomfortable – self-esteem issues, of course. I have so many narcissistic traits, yet I am completely at war with myself. Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Society! Thanks, people who dragged me down a a young person!

Lately, though? I don’t eat myself alive and tear myself to shreds.

My Saviors

“eDar, you are my favorite planet.”

My amazing group of friends gently, but persistently, pulled me out of that dark place over the course of two years. My friends at Liquid Web and elsewhere really did save me from myself. They filled me so full of love and faith that I had no choice but to accept that maybe… just maybe… I am a person worthy of those sentiments. This has made a huge difference in not only my mindset, but also in how I comport myself. I owe all of you an enormous debt of gratitude.

Unexpected Opportunities

I am a sucker for Stories. I so truly love hearing about peoples’ lives and experiences, things I’ll never see or hear or experience myself. I’ve gotten slightly better at telling stories myself, but I really lack the knack. Toward the end of Jessica doing my hair, she mentioned she belongs to an anti-human-trafficking organization, and asked if I wanted to come with her to a meeting Right Then. Surely!

She told me most of the ladies were older, and so I took about 45 seconds to cast off my Dr. Whisky t-shirt and ratty jeans in favor of a vintage pin-up dress, stockings with ribbons at the heels, and incredibly awesome vintage dancing shoes, hoping to offset the crazy teal-colored hair and tattoos with nice clothes and a kind smile. Jessica has taken some kind of crazy shine to me, calling me “so cute!” and giggling when she introduces me to her friends as her sweet friend “Erin, who wears these clothes and I did her hair and she rides motorcycles!”

When she spoke of this organization, she was surprised I wanted to come to the meeting, because it was “kind of dangerous to be involved.” Her brother-in-law was killed, apparently, for helping some of these women. That just made it all the more appealing to me, in truth – you know me, eDar the Adventurous.

As I drove us to the meeting down the street, I envisioned this kind of cloak-and-dagger scenario, meeting in a dim room off a dark alley, speaking in hushed voices, pulling up case files of the woman who had most recently called the rescue hotline, organizing plans for extracting them from their entrapment… you know, that kind of thing.

Expectations Dashed

I pulled up to the Lemon Grove library, which they had publicly reserved.

We walked in the door, and there were about 20 women present, as well as a snack table in the brightly-lit community room. The average age, myself included, was about 60. I was initially regarded with some strange looks, and some people looked outright hostile about my presence.

Rather than planning emergency escapes, they were planning… a chili cook-off. To raise funds.

They held a drama-fraught election for their Treasurer – “fraught” because there were tense words between the two candidates. The responsibility of their tiny budget was too much to treat any less seriously. I wasn’t supposed to be there for that, which was quite embarrassing for both Jessica and me, but everyone eventually decided this top-secret process was ok for a guest to witness.

They organized organizing their storage unit.

They wrote things down by hand. On paper.

Well, this was certainly not what I expected. This was most definitely not The Front Lines of the Fight in any way, shape, or form. This was a tiny, local, volunteer fund-raising thing. Le sigh. But ok, I’ll roll with it.

One of the things I strive for in life is to be a good ambassador of the things I “represent:” Motorcyclists, tattoo-bearing people, people with crazy hair colors, white people, you name it, I’m going to try to make a good impression and let people know I’m nice to shatter some of the stereotypes. It gives me such pleasure to win someone over who previously regarded me with judgment, and to perhaps help open someone’s eyes that even the “odd” people like me are just folks. This has long been a life mission.

One woman solicited toiletry donations, and I told her I would send her some homemade soaps if she could use them. A few eyebrows raised at my offer – maybe I wasn’t some random punk-rock interloper. Incidentally, I never thought of myself as “punk” at all – but that’s how Jessica has labeled me because of my hair color. She’s so tickled at the color she gave me – “it’s my first punk hair!!”

A short time later, they began discussing their online presence – or rather, their lack thereof – and I offered to host their website for free, to help with tech things, and so forth. People started actually meeting my eyes and smiling.

After the meeting was adjourned, most came up to me to compliment me – not on my offers to help, but rather on my dress, stockings, and hair. They were quite friendly after the meeting was over. The sternest women kept their distance, but by everything holy, I will win them over.

At any rate, this is one example of how things are coming together nicely for this big shift in my life. I want to give back, and an opportunity came at me when I least expected it. Whether it’s the right fit remains to be seen, but it’s a beginning. One of many.

“I will fight and I will love and I will give”

I wrote all of the above last night, and tonight, I saw the film Wonder Woman. I had tears streaming down my face for most of it – it was powerful on so many levels. I have’t stopped being weepy since I left the theater, as I replayed scenes in my head. The line that keeps resonating in my head is the one above: I WILL FIGHT AND I WILL LOVE AND I WILL GIVE.

That is what I try to do, what I want to do: Fight for justice and equality, love unconditionally, give unceasingly, pour myself out into the world. I will keep trying.

Surrendering

For the last six or so months, I have been riding a surging tide of strong emotions. I cry when I least expect it, I love more deeply than I ever have, I am humbled almost to the point of collapsing to my knees at times. Music moves me more than it ever has in every way. I sing.

As I sat in the darkened, comfortable theater tonight, surrounded by three friends and several dozen strangers, I was in tears within the first few moments. In the past, I would have fought them – bitten my cheek, looked away from the screen, thought about hockey, whatever it took to keep my lip from trembling and the tears from spilling over. I never wanted to cry in front of anyone – it was “weak,” and I am not a “pretty crier,” and it would make me “too vulnerable.

I stuffed and squashed and hid all of that as much as humanly possible – until recently. Tonight, I let the tears flow openly to the point of dampening my sweater. My lower lip did what it does when I am profoundly moved. The film stirred and challenged and validated and gratified and comforted. It was immense.

As I drove home to Lemon Grove, my heart was full of something I cannot describe – it was powerful, an enormity, and I had an epiphany: I cannot fight and love and give if I do not also forgive. And so, I sent three lines to my last boyfriend, with whom things did not end well at all. I have carried around bitterness and hurt and anger and resentment and a bizarre sense of gratitude that we had what we did, however short-lived it was:

i forgive you.
despite the lies you told to me and about me, i forgive you.
i release it all, and wish you peace.

It was this person whom I felt rescued me from my dark, imaginary, soul prison. But it wasn’t – it was me. He was, perhaps, the catalyst, but he didn’t rescue me, and no one else could have, either. I rescued myself. He may have provided what I felt was a safe space into which I could emerge, and for that… I am grateful. I am happy to know I can love that deeply, to trust so completely, to make room in my heart, my home, and my life on that level. It is sad that things did not work out – but they so often do not.

I bought this shirt awhile back, and will treasure it always.

I spent decades in that cage, and can only imagine this is what it feels like to be free, what many people must feel like all the time, and it is wonderful.

Things happening quickly

A series of things happened over the last several days:

  • I mentioned to George I was struggling with the logistics of moving my belongings, a car, and two motorcycles to SDO. He offered to drive my car for me, for the price of an airline ticket. Problem solved: I can tow the motorcycles behind the truck.
  • My current lease expires at the end of September, so I planned to move sometime that month. I found a perfect apartment, available August 7th, which they would either a.) hold for me until September, or b.) use my deposit if another, top-floor unit became available before my move. Perfect.
  • When I put my deposit down, I really didn’t know what part of town I was in, relative to anything else; I thought I was quite far out to the northeast – nope. It’s 10 minutes from everything. Five in light traffic. There is a trolley stop at the complex which runs downtown, if I don’t feel like driving. The location is perfect.
  • My adorable, planet-loving friend Luke asked me if he could maybe take over my lease, as his is up in August. Hm. Interesting.
  • This morning, I got a text from my landlady saying they were thinking of selling the house I’m living in, and did I have any plans for staying or leaving? I told her I would be happy to leave in August if she would let me, and also that I had someone interested in taking over my lease and/or renting it next term. She is considering these things.
  • Barring crazy, unforeseen circumstances, SDO will be my home in either two or three months – tops.

My new home

The apartment I will be renting, to me, borders on the absurd. It is so nice, so beautiful, so big… so expensive. It is at the upper limit of my budget…but within my budget. When I first walked into the leasing office, and was looking at the floor plans, I first looked at the smaller two bedrooms as the likely targets. When I saw this one, I said, “wow, I wonder what it must be like to be able to afford that.

Nancy, the agent, and I bonded instantly – that is her job, of course, but you know when someone is being genuine. I was wearing my dia de los muertos skull sweater, she liked it and commented on it, and she was so warm and friendly, she immediately put me at ease. This is a girl I’d like to get to know.

Nancy’s the kind of girl who can get along with anyone, but I like to think maybe we bonded a bit more than the usual agent/client relationship. When I went back for a second viewing, she gave me a big hug, and we chatted about all kinds of things. I just adore her.

The first time we spoke, I didn’t even mention to her that their largest unit was something I would consider – surely there was no way I could afford it. Then she asked what my budget was, and I told her “less than $2800, hopefully.”

Girl,” she began, “why are you not looking at this one?! It is perfect for you.” And she was right – it is.

It is bigger than my house by at least 50%. It is also almost four times more expensive. But this is where I will live and work. It needs to be someplace I love. And I do. The windows and the community and the perks are just… well, better than I should probably have. Photo album here: No Facebook account required.

The unit I’m holding is a third-floor apartment, which doesn’t have the topmost windows in the master bedroom, as it has a slightly lower ceiling. However, Nancy is on the lookout for me if a fourth-floor unit becomes available. My hold can be applied to anything in the complex, thankfully, even something smaller if need be.

There are three fourth-floor units available right now, but those are likely to move before I do.

I put down a deposit to hold the unit. And then I had a minor freak-out about money.

Finances

I know talking about money can make some people uncomfortable, so skip this next section until the bold if you don’t want to see specifics about my finances – trust me, they are not impressive.

I am bad at money – this is no secret. Just when I got myself into a stable financial state, with a credit score over 700 for the first time in over a decade and money in my savings account for the first time ever, I went batshit crazy, turned into a girl, and came damn close to maxing out my credit cards buying clothes, shoes, jewelry, make-up, and toys. I went from a few hundred bucks on my credit cards to over $11,000 in the course of a year.

Since getting this new job in March, however, I have been aggressively paying that down, knowing I needed to move, and soon. Currently, I have less than $5,000 on my cards. I took out a loan at a lower interest than my high-rate retail cards and paid them all off. My remaining bank cards are at 10%, I have about $1,000 six months interest-free on PayPal credit, and less than a grand on Home Depot interest-free until next April. I owe about $850 on one motorcycle.

I’ll have most of that taken care of by the time I move, whether it’s August or September, so I feel like I’ll be ok on that front, and that my credit score will get back to where it should be over the next year or two (it fell to 680 when I opened several new accounts.)

I’m going to meet with a financial consultant to talk about my state of affairs, including my abysmal retirement outlook – at present there is about $50k in my various funds, and I am 46. Not good.

You might say, as George has about a dozen times, “but edar – get a smaller apartment and save more money! Jesus!” And you’d be right… but life is for the living, and I am all about The Moment. Future edar may well fucking hate me for this, but it will be ok. I’ll work until I die, and that will be fine.

SDO in General

When I first saw Seattle, it reached into my soul, gathered me up into its arms, and welcomed me home before I knew I would move there. It was an immediate, intense, passionate connection, and I was a part of it instantly.

SDO did not do that: I initially found it “nice.” I love lush, green things, and jagged mountains, and flowing waters and lakes. SDO doesn’t really have those things (though they’re not terribly far away north.)

However, it does have its own beauty, especially as one moves out into the desert. The mountains aren’t the young, rough, sharp peaks I’m accustomed to: They are old, worn down, eroded, exposed. They are a visual reminder of the immensity of history. They are living evidence of the passage of time.

More important than the landscape, though, are the other things here. Sam and kphelps are 10 minutes away in Lemon Grove. George is two hours north in LA. Chuck is 30 minutes east in Poway. Various other friends I haven’t seen in a small eternity are near or nearish.

Gerlach, and pretty much everything west of the Rockies is a day’s ride away.

The roads are spectacular and perfect for motorcycles, and I can ride year-round. The weather is paradise. The ocean is less than 10 minutes from my apartment, and Kevin has a sailboat harbored there.

And yet…

Remember how my people saved me? Being in SDO means I am not with them, that I will seldom see them. Sure, sure, there is Facebook and Slack and email and whatnot, but I can’t grab Smuj, Cait, and Lilith and go to Jumbeaux for lunch on a whim. I won’t see Han and Forty whenever we like. They will be physically out of reach most of the time.

I won’t hear Nat’s giggle, or see Kev’s eyes, or listen to Jack rail against the evils of customer support, or hear Gary’s genuinely tickled laugh, or hang out with Sarah, or listen to my little spaceman’s fork-bomb stories, or hear tkillian call me “kiddo,” or have Sewell come to me in person for advice or to fix whatever most recent computer plague ails me.

No after-work drinks with Brueggy, or seeing Nicole’s newly-found confident smiles, or having Byerly regale me with tales of his hilarious love life, or getting hugs and dinner with Lexy, or going drinking with Russ and Jordan, or watching ckelly’s man bun mature as he does, or helping out when Jenn gets her lungs, or seeing Stephanie at Jumbeaux, or hearing mattador’s crazy sneezes, or watching Josh L get stupid drunk and silly, or witnessing the many moods of Siena, or calling Jerry a giant Asian man, or standing by and admiring Ani be the powerful being she intensely is.

No seeing dpock’s dancing eyes, or talking politics with Calvin, or having Wineland fix something in 18 seconds flat, or catching up with gamborg, or getting to know John B better, or going riding with Jim and Mary and Brandon and mtodd and Sam and Steven, or watching McBride shuffle around in his sandals in the middle of winter, or tasting Lucia’s cooking, or hearing Tommie’s soothing amazing voice, or hearing Jaspers laugh, or watching Misty tear out her hair at the latest work shenanigans,

No more getting hugs from Alex K, or going riding with Alex O, or going dancing with Deakin, or seeing Cal’s “dammit, edar” face, or watching in amusement as Luke bounds up to me like a giant puppy with his latest ideas in tow, or seeing Shooltz’s smirk, or hearing Bianca agonize over some thing she rrreeeeallly wants, or watching Zack blossom into an amazing adult, or watching mrjung’s face light up when he talks about his passions, or, or, or.

I am leaving so much. But I am also moving toward many things.

Ok. Enough now.

ALL OF THIS CAN BE SUMMED UP THUSLY: BE BOLD, MY FRIENDS – BE BOLD.

Fight, Love, Give.

Do the things. Live it. I can’t say this strongly and loudly enough – BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE. Fuck everything that stands in your way: Find a way around or through it, find a way to be yourself within it, make peace and move on – just do it.

Careening Pinball

A few days ago, someone to whom I had not spoken in a very long time wrote a lengthy, wonderful, deeply touching bunch of words to me when I really needed them. Much of it I cannot share, because it’s just too much, but this bit – this really helped me to wrap my brain around a bit of why I have been so extraordinarily lucky to have people sometimes pay attention to what I say and do, who wish me well, and who seem to truly care about what happens to me:

We want you to win. We see ourselves in you. You’ve managed to channel the angst and hope and struggle and random joy of life into a strange and wonderful arrangement. We want to know it works, that there’s a better way, or at least another way. “If Erin, that careening pinball, can make it, doing all that crazy shit, maybe I can do this.”

“Careening pinball.”

Adding that to my usual “Tornado/Catalyst” self-description lexicon.