Well, Shit.

Everything is unusual until we become accustomed to it.

Last Friday, I “crashed” the GS for the first and second (but assuredly not the last) times.

I don’t want to talk about it.

Who am I kidding? OF COURSE I DO. (Have we even met?)

EDIT: I feel compelled to add a very important thing here; no one forced me to do anything; I went along all roads and trails willingly and I take full responsibility for dropping the bike both times. The fault lies with me, and with no one else.

I have been semi-bitten by the dirt bug – I love the idea of getting out there and thrashing around on trails and such, but before I can do that, I have to… well, learn how to do the basics. I sent a query out to the Let’s Ride list, and a few folks answered the call. Rich advised me to take off my aluminum panniers and provided me with an impressive list of people in the club who’ve had their legs broken by them. I took his advice, though I was “sure that wouldn’t be an issue.” Ha.

I arrived at the designated gas station fairly early, and there were two GS’s already there. Given I didn’t know two of the names who said they were or might be coming, I figured they were the two. I walked up, introduced myself, and said, “so, where do you guys want to go?” They looked at me like I was a crazy person. We very quickly figured out they were not in any way affiliated with the club – derp. We had a good chuckle and shot the shit for awhile.

Rich, Brett, Don, and Juergen did show, and we all aired down to about 25 pounds which seemed insanely low to me, but I deferred to Rich’s expertise. Ember was alarmed – for the duration, a flashing red warning light constantly reminded me she did not approve. We rode over to the entrance to Black Canyon Road following Rich’s lead, and I was happy to run into Scott R. as we did. Easy-peasy, that road, though I’m still not confident enough to keep up with the more accomplished dirt riders, who left me in their (literal) dust. Juergen and I held up the back end of the group, mincing our way along. I was on Anakee 3 tires, which are about 90/10 road/off-road – not great traction in the dirt at all, but better than my Pilot Road 4’s, assuredly. Don was kind to remind me at several points that he and I were working harder because we didn’t have dirt tires.

The Anakee 3’s look like this:

Whereas the TKC 70’s I’ve just mounted as of yesterday are:

I really do hope they make the difference people have told me they will.

We reached a gated turnoff and found the gate open – off we headed down the truck trail. It was a little intimidating at first – I had no idea what sort of bump or rock or gully would be A Problem for the GS, and there were times when I got pulled off-course by sand or gravel or slope and had to go over some shit I definitely would’ve avoided, but man – she took all of it in stride. I’m sure I’ll continue to be wildly impressed.

Once we were on the truck trail, Rich kindly took up the sweep position so Juergen and I would have help if we needed it. About 45 or so minutes after we started our adventure, maybe 20 minutes after getting to the trail, we took our first pit stop. I was whipped and my legs were quaking like the proverbial aspen. I’d been watching some off-roading videos, and they all said to keep my knees bent to help soak up the bumps, so I was. Rich later told me to just keep my legs straight and let the ridiculously good GS suspension do the hard work unless the bump was really awful. Had I known this when we started off, I’d have been in much better condition as time passed. As it stood, or rather, as it tried to stand, I was, as one of my Texas buddies, Allen, would say, “tahrd.” Not just “tired,” but tahrd. Cooked. I felt like I’d spent the last hour doing squats… which, I suppose, I essentially had been. It was hot, but not super hot, and I was sweating like a mofo.

After taking a short break, we pushed onward. We reached a fork in the road where the leaders had graciously paused to let us catch up. Rich wanted me to do some dirt-based practice – standing up and turning in a tight circle. In front of everyone? Oh, gosh. Ok. I wobbled around in a few circles, sitting at first, then standing. I was so tired, though, I didn’t want to generate any more lactic acid than absolutely necessary. After practice, some of the group headed for home, which I also probably should’ve done given how exhausted my legs were.

But no. Of course I did not, because I didn’t want to miss out on the fun ahead. Mistake number one.

The next section of trail was about at the limit of my skills when I’m this out of shape and already struggling with muscle fatigue. I was so disappointed that the GoPro overheated and shut off for that section because I kind of felt like a badass afterward… a graceless, slow badass, but a badass nonetheless. That was mistake number two – hubris, baby.

After a small eternity, we reached another stopping point. Brett carried on to the end of the trail, but I opted to stay behind and rest for a bit. Rich was kind enough to hang out with me, and we soon turned around and headed back down the trail – we knew Brett would catch up. 😀

Rich is a fantastic dirt rider, and wanted me to do some skills practice. I don’t think I managed to adequately convey how very, very tired and made-of-Jell-O my legs were. I opted to pass on his “find the tipping point hitting the brake and the throttle at the same time,” drill and will save that for another day. We did do some emergency stopping, however, so I could try to get used to that feeling. The first few went well, but then… then, I slammed on the brakes and discovered my right foot couldn’t touch the ground – I’d stopped over a small gully on that side. WHAM! Over we went. Hard. Past horizontal, too. I didn’t realize how hard a hit it was until I watched the video – wow. I suspect that’s what knocked my gaskets out of alignment, rather than the second incident a few minutes later.

Rich came back and we got the bike back to a “normal” dropped angle. He offered to lift it for me, and did – thank goodness, because I know my legs would’ve crumbled into dust. The paracord wrap on my crashbar didn’t seem any worse for wear. 😀 I learned repeatedly pressing the keyless ride button does not kill the engine, so the bike ran for longer than I would’ve liked on its side. Foo.

When I first got the GS, Dr. Tom had told me I should just go out and throw the bike down once to get that first damage “out of the way.” I politely passed, but I must admit that once I had that first damage done, I gave far fewer fucks about subsequent accidents. I was tired, I was getting a little hangry, and I was ready to head for home. I felt a little too cocky, and went a little too fast, and paid the price for it.

The new prevailing theory is that I crashed because there was a sand monster lying in wait for me. Shown here as we hit the ground – it has a gaping maw and scary eye, and you can see my helmet in the top right corner.

Everything was going just fine until I hit some fairly deep sand in a right-hand curve. When I realized what was happening, it was too late – the bike was on the ground faster than I could react. I remember very distinctly flying a short way through the air saying, “oh bugger,” as if I were suddenly British. Upon landing, I felt a small “pop!” in my right shoulder, which squarely absorbed all of the impact. “Oh, bugger indeed,” I mused, thinking I’d broken my clavicle or torn my rotator cuff. Both of my parents have torn their cuffs and said it was the most excruciating recovery of their lives. And it was a long recovery, too. Fuck. Noooo! Incidentally, Rich may have saved me the trouble of a broken leg by having me remove the hard cases – this was exactly the scenario he had described to me. Thanks, Rich!

Rich and Brett weren’t too far behind me. They got the bike up, and I said we needed to get going Right Now before this shoulder becomes A Very Big Problem. It felt like a very long ride to pavement and I took it very easy. Each time I had to move my right arm, agony, which increased every so often. Shoulders are complicated joints. In my head, I was negotiating the injury with the universe – “ok, a fractured clavicle over a rotator cuff, please. I can handle a bone break, that’s easy. Just don’t let it be the rotator cuff!”

We reached civilization and pulled off to the side of the road. Rich asked me what my plans were, and I said I was taking myself right to the emergency room on the way home. “Who are you going to call?” he asked.

“Oh, no one – I’ll just take care of everything myself, and if I need someone to get the bike from the hospital for me, I’m sure a few folks would help out.”

“But who are you going to call?”

I paused. “… I guess I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking…”

I’m an only child. A polite, Midwestern, only child, who assumes she can take everything on by herself. I hate inconveniencing people. I am not overly fond of asking for help. Rich assured me he had inconvenienced people in far greater ways, and offered to escort me to the ER in Escondido, and then to help with the bike. What a guy! I followed him to Palomar Health, a very nice facility. I’d guess from the point of impact to the time we arrived was perhaps two and a half hours.

To a person, everyone at the hospital was incredibly kind and friendly. There was a lot of laughing and joking around, and when they asked me my pain level and I said, “oh, about a 7,” the nurse said, “Oh, honey, no no – 10 is high, 1 is low.” “Right, I’m going to stick with a 7, because this bitch hurts. A lot. But acting like a jerk and being grouchy about it isn’t going to help anyone – don’t let the jokes fool you, I’m definitely not ok.” They offered pain meds, which I declined.

For me, “a high tolerance for something” (in this case, “pain,”) doesn’t mean you don’t feel the thing – it means you feel it, but it doesn’t affect you as much as it might another person. I have a high pain tolerance, but an insanely low itch or tickle tolerance. A mosquito bite that a normal person might be able to ignore will drive me insane. Being tickled in certain spots makes me very, very angry and uncomfortable. I am basically incapacitated by a minor case of poison ivy, but hell, slam my finger in a door and I’m going to giggle through the tears and carry on. They palpated, saying it felt more like an AC issue than a rotator cuff or broken clavicle, and popped me into a sling.

We waited for perhaps an hour for me to be taken to radiology, where a very sweet radiology student named Kimmy was my caretaker. Kimmy informed me I had to take off my bra. Ooooh, boy. That was not possible given I couldn’t move my arm much anymore. I mentioned previously it was hot, and that I was sweaty. Three or four hours had not improved that condition any. Oh, Kimmy… I’m so, so sorry. Maybe I could just leave now, rather than ask for help?

I apologized profusely and said I was going to need help. Unfazed, Kimmy dove into the sweaty miasma that was my back and between the two of us, managed to wrangle it off.  Because Kimmy was new, we had to redo several films, and then she brought out two bags of sand. I was to hold one in each hand while they took the next set of images to diagnose a possible AC tear/separation. Each bag weighed about 15 pounds. It was their turn to apologize because this was not going to be any fun for me.

It wasn’t.

Fortunately, those didn’t have to be redone, and that completed our tasks. Kimmy, herself sporting rather large breasts, asked if I were comfortable going without my bra. I looked into her eyes for a moment, and we both burst into laughter. “Comfortable” without a bra. Mmhm. Sure. Just get prepped for all the passers-by who will have black eyes as I walk past. Fortunately, I was wearing one of those HeatOut shirts that are fairly tight, clingy, and supportive, so the girls were less unruly than they might have otherwise been. I opted to forego having Kimmy deal with all the eDar sweat again, and just went without, comfortable or not, though I did keep my arms self-consciously crossed most of the time, and the sling helped.

Perhaps a half hour later, the radiologist came out to chat with me. He was probably about my age, super jovial, and a former rider himself. “You’re not 20 anymore, Erin,” he joked, and a small, sensitive part of me wanted to punch him right in the mouth hole for reminding me. Instead, I laughed. We proceeded to talk about the accident, and he said the R1200GS was an amazing machine, but far too big and too heavy for off-road. I told him that was a lengthy discussion for another time, but that I had about 50 friends who would disagree vociferously.

It took longer to be discharged than anything else, and I lamented all the riding I might be missing out on for awhile. “What am I going to do with my weekends,” I mused. “I know! I’ll do some snorkeling!” Wrong. I am not terribly bright – no, there would be no snorkeling, because that requires even more movement and joint stress than riding does. I supposed I could read. Or write. Or … something.

Rich and his lovely bride, Deb, loaded the GS into their truck and drove me home through rush-hour traffic, for which I was very, very grateful. It was as I was getting myself into the truck I noticed the oil leaking from the right valve cover. Shit. Yep, something was definitely not ok.

That first night was rough. Every time I moved, agony. Not much sleep was had, and I did end up taking a Norco I’d had from the year prior, when I ruptured my S1/L5 vertebral disk and had sciatica the likes of which I could barely stand.

Saturday, however… so much better! Vastly improved. Not good enough to ride, but I could function. In 2005, thanks to a freak alpaca incident, I was without the use of my left hand for about a year and a half.

That is a very, very long time to be at half-capacity for hands. I had to learn all kinds of coping strategies – How2Pants, How2GroceryCart, How2Shower, How2OpenJars, and so on. Not any fun whatsoever.

And that was my non-dominant hand. This was my right arm – might be a bit more difficult.

I dutifully wore my sling all day long, including to Saturday morning breakfast at Palomino’s with the gang. My dearest Phil did a lovely job of alllllmost not saying “I told you so,” and gave me a referral to his excellent osteopath. I can’t get in until the 23rd, but I hope they’ll be able to do an MRI that same day to check for soft tissue damage.

After breakfast, I ran some errands and found myself near a Rite Aid that I haven’t used before. Since I was there, I figured I’d fill my Norco and mega-Ibuprofen scripts there. They had my address from 2005 on file, which seemed strange. They also didn’t have any valid insurance information they could find, which seemed odd, given my Rite Aid has that. The scripts were from “out of the area” (20 minutes away?) so they don’t normally fill those kinds of controlled substance scripts. The pharmacist’s assistant kept looking at me sideways, and I’m sure she thought I was drug-seeking.

Not to downplay the opioid epidemic, but come on: The best I could hope for was, “WOOOOO! I FEEL A LITTLE DROWSY!!!

Fine. I’ll just go back to my own Rite Aid. They filled them without question, and I keep forgetting to go get them.

Sunday morning, I felt able to ride, so I did. I stayed toward the back of the New Member Ride group, and dutifully took it easy. My right boot was absolutely covered with oil by the end.

Monday, I was able to shoot some pool. Tuesday, things were a bit sorer. Today, Wednesday, things seem to have plateaued, so I’m looking forward to seeing the doctor Monday. It feels very much like an AC issue at this point, given where the pain is.

I had the bike fixed yesterday – both valve cover gaskets and an hour of labor. Could’ve been worse!

My first look at Ember’s innards.

All in all, I feel very lucky, and will not be deterred from doing more dirt. I also had a set of TKC 70’s mounted yesterday, and I am absolutely dying to see how different they feel off-pavement… but I know it would be stupid to risk reinjuring the same site. Maybe I’ll just go find a nice, flat dirt road somewhere. Or maybe… I could just be patient.

AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.

At any rate, photographic evidence:

Flickr Album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/compassionate/albums/72157694950645384

Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qNOqZpThFU

Now I’m off to pick up the headlight guard that’s just come in, because I can’t just ride up to the dealership once in any given week, no; it’s a three- or four-times-a-week gig for me. Luckily, I adore the staff and they tolerate me. 🙂

 

 

“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 Awesome. Totally super 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.

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 super flippin’ cool. 🙂 Counting no chickens, but it’s nice.

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

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

 

The Sky’s Ceaseless Parade

I love the view from my apartment. While I’m not crazy about the human-built objects filling much of its lower half, more days than not I am treated to a gorgeous display of clouds at dawn and at dusk. I’m still trying to figure out whether I’ve been replaced by a pod person who gets up with (or before) the sun, because in my forty-mumble years of life, I have never been an early riser: As an infant, my parents had to wake me up for feedings, and through childhood, they had to wake me up on Christmas Day. Since the very day I left Michigan this last time, I’ve not slept in past 7am more than a handful of times, and have not once woken up after 8:30am. This, without alarms more days than not.

This morning, I woke up at 5:30am, despite not getting to sleep until midnight (a crazy late hour for me, now –  who the hell am I?) but I was soon greeted with a beautiful sunrise. I’ll share some of my favorite recent cloud photos here. They were all taken from my balcony with a Pixel XL, which does a surprisingly good job with most photos – but it’s no DSLR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanoseconds to Eternity

Instinct is a funny, crazy thing. I had a friend who was about ready to strangle me for a minute on a hike in the Cascades many years ago when we crested a small ridge and I came to a slow but certain halt.

“Wait,” I said.
“What?” he asked, looking around.
“I saw something.”
What?!
<long pause>
“I don’t know yet.”
He blinked and started to say something, but I held up a finger.

It took me a good 15 or 20 seconds to suss it out, carefully examining everything in front of us. As it happened, what I saw was a bear about 50 yards ahead, upwind, in light scrub cover. Some reptilian part of my brain that wasn’t fully connected to my consciousness managed to send up a flare to get my constantly wandering attention and saved us the trouble of careening headlong into her. Of course, I’m pretty sure she would’ve skedaddled long before we actually got too close, but with bears it’s a good idea to be cautious.

Similarly, we all know when something isn’t quite right with our bikes – even if we can’t articulate what that might be. Something feels “off.” Pay heed, friends: Your gut is trying to tell you something, and with two tiny rubber contact patches keeping you upright at speed, it warrants listening to that niggling feeling. Such an occasion arose today on our Saturday group ride.

It’s December 2nd, my first December in San Diego, and I am absolutely basking in the glory of not having to winterize my bikes. For those of you baffled by what that might mean, “winterizing” is the act of draining the fuel (or stabilizing it,) hooking the bike up to a battery tender, and (ideally) getting the tires up off the ground. There, the bike will remain inert for the next four to six months while the weather plays cruel tricks on those unfortunate enough to reside in chillier climes.

I know, right? Madness.

During those dark, somber months, Northern riders are afflicted with PMS – Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. We.. rather, they… watch YouTube videos, “Long Way Round,” and whine. A lot.

But I digress. Here in glorious San Diego, the sun continues to bathe us in warmth and delight, and temperatures make even the southern routes not only bearable but sublime. Today was just such a day.

Most of the group took off after The Chairs to help a club member move, but those of us unhelpful slackers who carried on blasted down Wynola and Sunrise Highway, then stopped for lunch at an ice cream shack nearby. There, we ran into new club member “My Bike Blew Over at Borrego” Eric and had a nice, relaxed meal. I promise I did not kick his bike over, you jerks.

Post-lunch, Scott D. led us through some of the most gorgeous sweepers and hills I’ve thus far seen (every new road is a favorite for me) at what I assume was, for him, an incredibly relaxed pace, because the only way I could have a chance in hell of keeping up with Scott is if I shackled him to a Road King.

Towing a trailer.

With one eye covered.

At any rate, I did not even look at my speedo, and just focused on keeping lines and so forth. On Lyon Valley Road, not too far past the little shop where we often stop for breaks, there’s a pretty sharp left-hand corner. As I slowed a bit, thinking about the upcoming lean/roll-on, my reptilian self said, “oh, shit.” Taken aback and totally uncertain what had caught my eye, I rolled off and gently applied some brakes. My back tire immediately began fishtailing, and, while my memory might be playing tricks on me, it seemed like the front got a little squirrely, too. [expletive]

Welp, time’s up – It was either turn or go through the guard rail, so I gingerly eased the bike through the turn, everything feeling loose and horrible the whole time. While it was assuredly only about a half-second for which I was at risk of launching myself over the cliff, I must have said “don’t look at it don’t look at it don’t look at it look where you want to go look where you want to go” a thousand times in three nanoseconds, which stretched into an eternity.

For those however many split-seconds, the bike was fishtailing like a son of a bitch, something she Does Not Do, Ever. The FZ1 is a solid bike, and she loves fast curves. The Pilot Road 4’s have served me incredibly well, and continue to do so: Something was definitely Not Right. Experimenting with gentle braking while my cohorts vanished in the distance, I realized there was something most definitely amiss – hell if I knew what.

There was a small amount of loose gravel in the center of the lane, but the two sides seemed free of any debris. The behavior exhibited itself regardless of the gravel. Slowing, way, way down for the right-hander ahead, I damn near bit the dust again as the rear end tried to wash out beneath me. “WHAT THE EFF,” I yelled into my helmet, heart in my throat, resisting the overpowering urge to stiffen up and clench the grips. The next left-hander was worse. I envisioned myself hurtling over the edge to my demise, and thought for a moment that would actually be a pretty cool way to go – provided I was guaranteed a swift death at the bottom, and not some tormented, vegetative state: I’m not afraid of death, but mercy, save me from Lingering.

I had to stop to see if I’d gotten a flat or worse. A pullout presented itself, and, fortunately, it was “just” a nasty streak of something wildly slippery coating both tires – maybe oil, maybe diesel, maybe ATF, who knows, but the end result was the same: Bad Shit was present. I hoped my colleagues wouldn’t be so worried as to turn around and come back for me, even though it had only been a few minutes – I’m a fairly new member to the club, and hadn’t ridden with this particular set of dudes terribly often.

Wiping off what I could with the cuff of my glove, I got back on and rode, very sedately, for a time, trying to wear off whatever crud was trying to ruin my day. After a couple of miles, I began leaning slightly more and more with every turn, until finally everything seemed more or less back together. Not perfect, not the rock-solid normal, but “ok.”

Then, I rode like hell to catch up, still taking it pretty easy in the curves. Thankfully, that amazing four-cylinder puts out enough power to make up time in the straights, and the group had likely slowed a bit; maybe five or seven miles down the road, there they were.

Some of you might know that awful feeling following such an event – every tiny dip or bump or change in surface texture makes me wonder if something else is going wrong with the bike. It turns into this cascading vortex of doubt that steals my focus and pretty much kills the joy of the ride. Fortunately, we were winding up and it was mostly in-town roads and freeway for the rest of the way home.

Once safely parked in the underground structure (man, do I miss having a proper garage!) I checked everything over and found the substance had worn almost entirely away – a few dark spots on the far edges of the rubber were the only evidence (ok, those, and my elevated blood pressure.)

We’re creatures with 4280 million years of evolution behind us – instincts and reflexes we aren’t even aware of are all there, serving their functions. Our eyes blink before we  feel the mote of dust brush past our eyelashes; our brains and bodies are processing a metric honkload of information every single moment, and we only fully experience a fraction of it all. The rest usually slips past unnoticed and unannounced, but I tell you what – when that primal portion tries to tell us something, boy howdy, we need to pay attention.

While nine times out of ten it might be a false alarm (Google “cats afraid of cucumbers video” for examples – https://youtu.be/pXv44YL_Gio?t=14s ) that other time might be something truly dire. Whether my subconscious recognized an almost-invisible oil patch or some other tiny detail my consciousness had overlooked, that added moment of caution before I would have actually hit the turn at speed probably saved me. Phew. I’ll have to save my need for plummeting headlong toward the ground for my next skydive.

Whether it was the heightened emotion from all of that or whether it was something else, about 15 minutes later I found myself breaking one of my cardinal rules: Never give a cage driver the finger. EVER. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I try to be a good motorcycle ambassador as much as I can be. Flipping people off serves no purpose and just makes me look like an asshole. Better to let the other asshole do whatever assholey thing he was doing and ignore him.

  2. I never know who the first person to arrive at the scene of my accident is going to be. Do I want it to be someone I just flipped off? Nope.

Regardless, a green Kia driver wouldn’t let us pass him, so we passed one by one on a reasonably safe stretch of double-yellow. As Dave rode by, the driver stuck his hand out the window and invited him to go eff himself, then held that invitation aloft for me. As I passed, before I even realized what I was doing, my own left hand lifted up and offered the same salute in kind. BAD RIDER!! BAD!!!

I should have just left him and his flipped bird hanging impotently in the breeze, but no – my dander and my hackles were already up. Shit. Note to self: Stop it.

Tomorrow is the BMW Owners of San Diego holiday party, so no morning ride for me. This is probably just as well; I need to put myself in the penalty box for a minute for that lapse of poise.  While I am not much of a Holiday Person, I do sometimes enjoy getting gussied up and hanging out with my friends; I’m very much looking forward to it!

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.

Motorcycles, Politics, Camping, Sex, Compassion, and Bees

Part One: Bees

Some days we never want to end, others cannot expire soon enough. This past weekend held a little of both, though the good certainly outweighed the bad and the ugly.

As one might surmise from the title, this is going to be a long one, folks, and we’re going to cover a lot of ground (badly, and without much in the way of Organization, might I add.)

Let’s start with the bees, because they’re important, they’re dying all around us, and three of them had important cameos this week. Wait, lies – Let’s start with this weekend’s plans, because they factor into everything.

On Tuesday, I decided to tag along on a group motorcycle camping trip to the Salton Sea from Friday through Sunday. I’d not done motorcycle camping since 1996, and what better way to get back into the swing of things than with a gaggle of other like-minded folks?

Ok, now the bees.

That morning, I had found a very sickly looking bee on my patio furniture. I see dozens of dead bees around my apartment complex, which is always a sad thing. I have to assume there is some kind of pesticide they’re using which is killing them off in tragic droves, one by one, dozen by dozen.  I find them lying on the sidewalk every day. I don’t know what sort of bees they are, or whether they are solitary, but I do know we need every last one of them that’s left on this Earth.

“To understand many things you must reach out of your own condition.”
~Mary Oliver

Thus, when I saw the wee girl on my chaise lounge, I didn’t have much hope of her being alive. I gently blew across her wings, and she reared up into a groggy but distinctly defensive position: Middle legs and stinger raised, wings outstretched, facing this new unknown threat. Immediately after assuming this posture, she lost balance and tumbled onto her side. Oh, dear. Poison? Cold? I have no idea how to distinguish a poisoned bee from one that is simply too cold. I watched her for a few seconds as her legs clumsily churned in slow motion, trying to get her upright.

I can’t stand to see animals suffer; it causes me anguish in a deep, sensitive, delicate area. My first instinct was that she was dying, and that I should end her suffering. That’s such a final solution, though – I wanted to give her the chance to survive. Hoping she was cold and that I could warm her up, I placed my index finger alongside her body so the heat would radiate out to her. She immediately perked up and began scrabbling toward me – not in an aggressive manner, but in a keenly interested one: Her antennae and front legs reached forward ambitiously, her abdomen and stinger remained relaxed.

As quickly as she could, she climbed up onto my finger, legs frequently missing their steps and wobbling with every one, but she got there and then she sat quite still – only her antennae moved, daintily touching my skin, perhaps trying to figure out what I was, whether I was food, or just a heat source.

“This is quite an exercise in trust for us both, isn’t it?” I murmured.

I waited. After perhaps two minutes, her movements became more regular and coordinated, and after a minute more, she adroitly took to the sky where I hope she will live out a normal, healthy bee life. Thursday, the spectacle repeated itself as I found a similarly beleagured bee clinging to the wall near my elevator. She took much longer to come around, but eventually she, too, flew off into the sun. I videod that one, which is probably only of interest to me (and maybe Steven and Leslie:)

I hope this is amongst the right things to do, and isn’t causing them harm or more stress that will lead to terrible things. Thinking back to both of these times makes me feel happy: Altruism serves the self, too.

Flash-forward to Saturday night around a campfire burning in a large metal pit. A pale, half-inch-long spider ran in circles for over an hour along the rim of the pit, sometimes stopping to inquisitively check out its surroundings, but mostly just running around the rim fairly quickly. For awhile, no one else seemed to notice it, then Chuck pointed it out. We wondered why the circles – if it was too hot, why didn’t it simply hop off the edge into the cool darkness? Around and around and around, sometimes at what seemed like its top speed. Others began to notice it and watched.

I was worried someone was going to knock it into the flames – people are so often mindlessly cruel to tiny beings, particularly when we find them distasteful – but as far as I know, nobody did. I watched them watching it, trying to figure out what everyone, arachnid and human, was thinking. Naturally, I’ll never know. At some point, I looked for it, and it was gone – I hope off into the night to hunt some bugs, and not into the flames to briefly wither and then die. I was heartened, though, that at least for a half hour or 45 minutes, the humans elected to let it live. This brings us to:

Part Two: Compassion

We are strong when we show the smallest of beings compassion. Humans, lacking any real predators (though I do hold out hope for the bacteria and viruses to rein us in, perhaps soon,) might think we have little to lose or to gain by stepping on a spider or by putting it outside, unharmed. I posit we have everything to gain through compassion. The simple act of choosing kindness over cruelty or even over neglect actually changes our brain chemistry and our bodies. For the better. You can read a summary of one such study right here: Compassion Meditation. Scientific article here: Compassion Training Alters Altruism and Neural Responses to Suffering

Beyond quantifiable results, though, lie the more immediate, personal, less tangible ones: We feel good when we do good.  Some might feel a sort of smug satisfaction when squishing an insect, but is it really a good feeling? Perhaps for some. If you’re someone who likes the idea of Power and Control, what greater satisfaction is there than to have the ability to decide whether something lives or dies? In the grand scheme of things, one spider, one bee, is meaningless to most of us – but it’s pretty fucking important to the spider and to the bee.

Let’s flip this around for those amongst us who aren’t of a mindset to live and let live. Let’s think for a moment about wild dolphins – these are powerful, intelligent animals, capable of quickly, easily, and efficiently killing humans in the water. Seldom does anything ever go wrong when people dive with them, though. Sure, there is the odd, misguided attempt at coupling, or a “rogue” habituated dolphin getting cranky, but most dolphin “attacks” get no worse than this – spoilers, no actual attack occurs, just enjoy:

They could kill us, but they choose not to. There’s a lot of power in that. Wild-animal-related human fatalities typically happen under circumstances that are usually the fault of either that particular person (getting selfies with wildlife, trying to pet or feed wildlife, provoking wildlife, et cetera,) or of People in General (areas where wildlife is often fed, encroaching onto territories, et cetera.)

Predators other than humans don’t tend to attack without cause – the stakes are too high, even for the apex predators (wolves, sharks, bears, et al.) They forever live in a PVP, very permadeath world (non-gamers, click the links to learn the lingo.)

All of us have the physical ability to intentionally harm or kill lesser beings should we so choose. There have been (thankfully rare) times in my past when I was needlessly cruel that to this day cause me the greatest shame I have ever felt. I don’t know why I did the things I did, and I wish more than anything I could go back and not do them. Instead, I have to live with those memories as a reminder of what I was capable of when my worst self took over and beg the forgiveness of a vast universe.

That Ian Malcolm quote, though: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”  We all know how that ended up, don’t we: Velociraptors. Right? Right. The next time you see a spider or an ant that is not especially in your way, choose to let it live and see how that sits with you. I hope it takes, not only to benefit those critters who might otherwise be harmed, but also to benefit you, yourself – walk into the warm light, man; it’s really nice here. For all of us. I promise you won’t be any less of a badass by being kind – in fact, your level of badassitude will increase immensely because you could choose pain or death, and you instead chose kindness and life. That? That is the ultimate in strength.

I have digressed, per usual. My point: Be compassionate, because you can afford to be. It costs nothing to extend kindness, and I suspect that even the most calloused, blackened heart can be warmed through its practice.

Let’s get off this particular soapbox and move on: Part Three: Motorcycles (coming soon…) 

Leopard Shark Snorkeling Tour

In about an hour, I’ll be heading up to La Jolla Cove for a leopard shark snorkeling tour which was rescheduled from Saturday due to poor visibility. These sharks are entirely harmless unless provoked, so I’m not even a little bit nervous about them. What I am nervous about, as one might surmise from two posts ago, are Other Sharks, most notably Great Whites.

Thankfully (and very deliberately,) I will be in a group – I don’t know how many will be in it, but I won’t be alone – which reassures me. Safety in numbers, and so on.

In addition to The Shark Issue, I also want to make sure I have basic snorkeling instruction before I go leaping into unknown waters alone: Reading things on the internet can only get one so far. I’m very keen on more snorkeling but have so much to learn. While La Jolla is the hotspot around here for this activity, it is also home to caves and currents and swell and surge and sometimes enormous surf.

There are many huge rocks on the shore into which the surf could gleefully pound a soft mammalian body. This guy below was diving off the rocks into the surf and didn’t get pummeled, but he sure did make me nervous. Look at the action of the water around him:

I’d like to learn where is safer and where to absolutely avoid (other than the caves – nofuckingway am I going into a damn cave in the ocean.  Nope! That’s reeeeeeally way up on my List of Things Which Terrify Me. I watched some videos yesterday of people snorkeling, kayaking, and just swimming in the caves up there, and it made me insanely uneasy – who knows what could be in there? What if a crazy tide/swell/surge comes up? What if I brush up against some horribly poisonous/sharp/spiky cave creature thing? <shudder> All the Nope. For now, at least, and probably for considerable time in the future.


And we’re back! Shark-wise, the tour was a little light (we saw only 5 or 6, and briefly,) but I learned a lot about La Jolla and about snorkeling in general. Benji, our tour guide, met me at Kellogg Park which is right next to the beach. He explained the other two members of the group were running a bit late, so we stood around and talked for awhile. I had brought all of my own gear, so he said, “You’ve obviously got a lot of experience, right?” Ha! I told him it was my first time other than 20 minutes in Mission Bay. and that I’d love all the advice he can give me.

He’s been diving here for about 13 years, and in all that time he has apparently never seen any dangerous sharks at all. Phew. He used to have a huge fear of Great Whites, too, but that has faded over time.

Our companions arrived about 20 minutes late, and Benji said he would extend our time in the water to compensate – very nice guy. They were a very sweet, absolutely beautiful Muslim couple, and the woman had not thought about how to keep her headscarf on in the water. We eventually got things sorted, though, and off into the water we went.

I couldn’t get my wetsuit zipped up for some reason, so I asked Benji to help just as a wave knocked me off-balance in my flippers and down I went. “Pride goeth before a fall, eh?” he chuckled.

As we were wading in, a medium-sized leopard shark cruised slowly by. Strangely, it’s much easier to see them from above the water than below – they appear to be really dark from above the waterline, and not nearly as dark below.

The other woman was having a terrible time with her fins, so Benji and I spent a lot of time on our own while we waited for the other two to catch up or do their own things. Benji was great at spotting wildlife, and asked “Did you see that huge sea bass?” “Did you see that big spiny lobster?” “Did you see that $THING?” and my answer was almost uniformly “…no…”

Turns out the mask I bought isn’t great – it fogs up very quickly and just doesn’t seem to have great optics. Benji switched with me, and from there on out it was a much better, clearer experience.

Visibility didn’t seem fantastic to me, but he said it was actually really good for the area. I think it was disappointing because when I think of snorkeling, I think of the videos I’ve seen of crystal-clear tropical waters, rather than this silty stuff.

As I practiced diving down, I realized my chubby body coupled with a neoprene suit is actually an excellent floatation device – I can’t stay down at all without continuously kicking, and those big leg muscles, of course, burn a lot of oxygen. When I get into better shape, that will be less of a problem for several reasons, but for now, I’ll probably pick up some weights to help keep me down. And a better damn mask. >.<

Right now, sitting still, I can hold my breath for just over a minute before I start getting uncomfortable – that’s not a very long time, and when I’m moving I’m sure it will be cut about in half. I’ve been watching some freediving YouTube videos and am starting to do some breath hold exercises.

My main goal with this tour was learning basic snorkel/ocean safety tidbits – the wildlife was just a nice extra bonus. I did manage to see Garibaldi fish, some kind of small, sandy-colored ray (probably a Round Ray, maybe a Thornback,) sea bass, opal eyes, and other things I didn’t recognize. Benji said there were a bunch of vermillion fish right by me he couldn’t believe I missed. I also didn’t see a small seal that was apparently cruising nearby. Cursed.  I will be going back and I will see these things!

There were enough people on the water to make me feel fairly safe from predators, and the passing thought of dangerous sharks only popped into my head a couple of times. Had I been alone, I’m certain it would have been more paralyzing.

This was the only shark I managed to capture on video. She was almost as long as I was, and was a bit skittish. Still, it was a neat experience, and I’ll definitely go back soon to try my luck again.

Settling In

[I started writing this post quite some time ago and never finished.]

It has been one week and three days since I first arrived in San Diego.

Those of you following along on Facebook know the journey has not been without its trials, but on the whole… I am so happy.

To catch the non-FB’ers up:

I had a very nice going-away party the Saturday prior to departure, and greatly enjoyed the company of my friends who were able to come. I was especially touched by people I hadn’t seen in some time who went out of their way. There was a lot of booze:

What people didn’t drink was given away. I took only one photo, and wish I’d taken more, but enjoying the moment was more important:

The movers arrived three days early, with three days’ advance notice of that fact. I figured what the heck – the earlier they picked up my stuff, the better the chances they’d get there sooner rather than later. Right? Ha. Read on.

Within ten minutes of their arrival the guy in charge of loading the truck hit me up for some weed. That raised an eyebrow, but ok. I had contracted through Colonial Van Lines, but they sub-contracted me out to Allied. Ok, fine. They loaded me up, and gave me a revised estimate of twice the weight I’d thought. I was unconvinced – yes, there were things I hadn’t weighed, but twice the amount? Seems unlikely.

They had taken the weight right before the pickup, and were supposed to drive immediately to the nearest scale to get a fresh weight, thereby giving the total weight of my belongings. This did not happen. More on that later.

I left my tiny house empty:

The day before I left, I got in touch with the still-absent motorcycle hauler to see why he hadn’t picked up the bike yet. He was going to be delayed, and hadn’t thought to let me know. I let him know I was unhappy in fairly diplomatic terms, and he outright canceled on me. FUCK. I found another hauler that night, but now my step-mom has to deal with them when they arrive for the loading up.

The drive out was quite lovely. It was great to spend time with my dad – I hadn’t spent that many hours with him since I left for college in 1988. He is truly a warm, wonderful, outgoing, and loving person, and I’m proud he’s my dad.

Whether it was leaving the oppression of Michigan, the weariness from the road, or some other factor, I started falling asleep early and waking up with the sun. At first, it was 530am, now it’s between 6 – 7am — without an alarm. You guys – that’s not me. I don’t simply “wake up in the morning” like a normal person. Only once have I slept until the alarm went off at 7, and holy wow did I feel like I’d wasted the day. If I’m not in bed by 11pm, oh shit – I’m up past my bedtime.

We drove about 700 miles per day, a very comfortable pace, and had some unexpectedly wonderful encounters along the way, including a period-correct, stupendously wonderful hotel on Route 66, complete with vintage magazines, and (fresh) Moon Pies in the rooms:

The astonishingly good-looking, and astonishingly kind young man at the front desk recommended a restaurant just a few blocks down for dinner. It, too, was remarkable. Just the right amount of kitsch, amazingly food, huge drinks, good prices, even better service. The waiter earned a 50% tip.

Breakfast across the street matched the impressiveness of the night before on all levels – kitsch, service, food, prices.

Should I ever pass through Tucumcari, New Mexico again, I will revisit each of these places.

We saw beautiful clouds and scenery once West of the Mississippi, some of which I tried to catch at 75 mph when I wasn’t driving:

We passed through a perfect parting between rain storms:

We spent a lot of time like this in various construction zones near cities – Tulsa, in this case:

The Mighty Maxima had nary a free inch of room inside the cabin or in the trunk. We squeezed water bottles into every available nook and cranny, leaving only room to see out the rear-view mirror:

As we neared what was to become home, the scenery became more dramatic:

Yuma was literally on fire as we passed through, but no photos of that.

We passed through a section of the country I can only describe as “god’s cat’s litterbox:” Giant mounds of huge rocks and gravel:

And then, suddenly… we were here. Nancy, the wonderful leasing agent, was on vacation, so Dan the Imposter showed me around my new home. The view is better than I could have hoped:

Even the walk from the elevator to my door is lovely:

The courtyard is very pretty, and its centerpiece, an enormous fountain, is relaxing and beautiful:

There is, however, a train stop literally right outside my bedroom window:

While this makes accessing the public transit system incredibly convenient, there is a near-constant stream of electric trolleys going by 24 hours a day. Before departing the station, the driver must signal his or her intentions by beeping an electronic horn. Some of them are quite polite and brief; others, however, must be having bad days, because they can lay on the horn for several seconds.

For the most part, this is just another aspect of the experience of living here, much like being in an apartment rather than a house. There are people everywhere all the time, but mostly I don’t hear them. The walls and floors are quite solid, and only very infrequently do I hear a neighbor, and then only briefly.

There is very little I cannot find within a mile of my apartment. There’s a Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt 3 minutes away – my green hair makes me stand out a bit, and they already recognize me. Uh-oh. YES, IT IS THE GREEN HAIR AND NOT THE FACT THAT I HAVE BEEN THERE ABOUT 5 TIMES SINCE MOVING IN, SHUT UP.

One of the first things Dad and I did was to run across the street to a furniture store to gather up a chair for him to sit in, a desk so I could work, and a nightstand to store stuff in. I had not realized the extent to which Mid-Century Modern had come back into vogue – it was either that, or 1970’s Country. I opted for the MCM look, as I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about it either way, and it might be fun in the long run.

The Flexsteel recliner is super comfortable. Turns out, the color of the chair quite nicely matches a quilt top I made years ago, and recently had finished. Dad broke it in with a nice nap:

The nightstand I bought was on clearance and, as such, could not be delivered – despite the fact they were delivering the other stuff. It would not fit in my car. Thus, I borrowed a dolly and walked it home – fortunately, it was only about a quarter of a mile.

It was on the way back home when things began to go awry with The Movers. My account manager, Alecia, called to say that, despite picking my stuff up several days early, they were going to be late. She also did not have a final weight for me, but promised a.) to have the weight by the end of the day (false) and b.) to have a final arrival date by Friday (also false.) Fine, fine – I have the essentials. I can make it work. I bought a coffee maker, though, because fuck no coffee for a week.

Thursday night, I got to introduce Dad to some of my favorite people: George, Sam, Kevin, Chuck, and Lorraine:

The new motorcycle hauler had given me a window of “before 8/14” to pick up the bike. On the 12th, I called to see how that was going to work out. It wasn’t. Delayed by a week. Great! New arrival window is “sometime before 9/10.” I’m totally not itching for my motorcycle at all, nope. Not with this perfect weather and gorgeous, perfect roads. This is fine. (fuck)

Rolling with the MCM theme, I bought some additional seating: Two counter stools, and one regular one:

I have a roommate. She is approximately the size of a Volkswagon:

So far, she stays in her corner, and I stay in mine, and it’s working out alright.

Every night, about a million crows pass overhead on their way to wherever they roost at night, which is really cool to watch. Dad stayed until Saturday morning, when I saw him off at the Surfliner train. He went up to Fullerton to visit one of my step-sisters and her kidlet, and then went on to Sacramento to visit the other.

Most mornings, it’s slightly to moderately overcast when I wake up, but it burns off by ten or eleven. Then, one day, the craziest thing happened:

Rumor has it, it has happened before. It is likely to happen again.  God help us all.

—–

And then Charlottesville happened, and everything darkened. Holy shit, how is this our world, our country, right now?

Yesterday, I spent a few hours at La Jolla Cove, which reminded me on a very primal, profound level how much I love the Pacific coast. This is where I belong – everything in me knows it, feels it. I posted this:

I had an appointment at 5pm out near La Jolla, and to hide from the rush-hour traffic on the return home, I, along with everyone else in the state of California, decided to hit to the beach. 

There is no better drug, no better cure for depression or anxiety, no deeper, more peaceful feeling for me than when I am near the pounding surf of the Pacific. My soul calmed, my mind quieted, and my body relaxed. I melted.
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It did’t matter there were a hundred other people around – everyone was happy, and playing in the spray, taking photos, and enjoying the overwhelming beauty. I could have fallen asleep on the sun-baked sandstone, listening to the surf, for the rest of my life.

While I’m really impressed with the camera phone on the Pixel XL, I can’t wait until my actual camera arrives. These would be well-served by running them through a quick post-processing, but it’s getting late, and my brain doesn’t want to computer anymore.

One of the things I love about life in the West is there is precious little in the way of protections against killing yourself doing something stupid, either knowingly or unknowingly. This ocean and many things in it will kill you. The rails to the edge are easily climbed over or under, though, and most people do. One slip, and into the churning waves you go, likely getting knocked unconscious by the rocks and quickly drowning. I love it. One day, that may kill me, too.

How many pictures of waves and people and sea lions can you stand? Enjoy a little bit of paradise with me.

I took over 500 photos – rest easy, I’ll just link to the album:

A few hours of bliss. Photos straight from the Pixel XL for FB, post-proc on some for Flickr later..Videos in the next album; these are just stills.

Posted by Erin Darling on Thursday, August 17, 2017

I’m not sure what language that is there at the bottom, but it’s pretty.

Those hours reaffirmed everything about this move.  I plan to spend many more there.

Now that I’ve been here a week, it should feel more real. Still, when a beautiful, friendly barista over on Mission Beach asked if I was on vacation, I still reflexively said, “yes,” followed by, “wait, no – I just moved here, it just doesn’t feel real yet.”

I feel like it all could be taken away at any second for any reason. It’s a little terrifying, but I know whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and I’ll be ok regardless.

I thrive on change – almost immediately upon arrival, my creative urges came stampeding back: I want to paint, I want to quilt, I want to write. I started reading a book for the first time in about three years (no, I’m not kidding; I wish I were.)  I’m learning Spanish. I’m dying to get a new camera to spend hours shooting, but that will have to wait until my finances recover, because… oh yes, we haven’t gotten back to The Movers, have we. Yes, yes.

You see, I have been jerked back and forth by these asshats for over a week now. We’ll be late. We won’t be late. Your final weight wasn’t taken until 21 hours later. Can I see the fuel receipts to make sure some of that unexpected weight isn’t diesel? No. Also, we’re going to be late again.

Long story short, I’m probably going to owe about $2,000 more than expected. So much for almost having paid off my credit cards! I will be SUPER fucked financially for awhile here. I had over $10,000 in the bank when I left Michigan. After the travel expenses, move-in check to the apartments, groceries, and basic furniture essentials, I now have $2,500, plus almost $2,500 more in credit card charges.

Movers finally called with my final weight, which is more than twice the estimate. I asked when the truck was weighed after they loaded me – 21 hours later. They were supposed to go to the nearest certified scale, and I have a difficult time believing there wasn’t one closer, because they weighed the truck shortly before it arrived at my house.
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“What assurances do I have nothing else was loaded in that time?”
“Well, that would be illegal.”
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I did not mention the guy who loaded me asked me if I could hook him up with some pot 10 minutes after arriving.
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“I was told they would weigh the truck at the closest scale. In fact, you just told me that less than 5 minutes ago – the closest scale.”
“Technically, they have up to 24 hours to get that final weigh-in.”
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Remaining balance: $3600.
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I am One Unhappy eDar right now, very thoroughly researching my options.

That really is the only stress factor right now – money. There are other niggling things – I’m still sleeping on an air mattress and wake up sore every morning, and I’m working at my desk from a camp chair, so my back is just miserable all the time. I can’t vacuum. My internet is only 120Mbps at its best. On several nights, there have been some loud people near or at the trolley stop when I’m trying to go to sleep. It gets dark at 8pm. All of that is laughably minor compared to the overall exuberance – I’ll pay this tax.

Flashback to Day One in California:
We went shopping at Ralph’s, the Kroger of California. Gathered up a full cart of STUFF, proceeded to self-checkout…

Me: “Oh shit, where are the bags?”
Dad: “There are no bags.”
Me: “…what?”
Dad: “They’re illegal here.”
Me: “*BAGS* are illegal?!”
Dad: “Plastic bags are, yeah.”
Me: “Oh – that’s actually kind of cool, but… I sort of need them.”
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I ended up buying 6 or 8 very nice reusable ones, but My Face When. 
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Good on ya, CA – nicely done.

 

Welp. I just walked face-first through my patio screen door. A not-insignificant amount of skin scraped off the tip of my nose, and an even larger bruise to my ego, as the door is probably toast and I’ll have to get a replacement. Derp.

Met with my first truly unhinged trolley rider just now. He got on, ranting and raving about self-defense, trying to teach “the class” a thing or two about defense. Naturally, nobody was interested. I stopped reading and started paying attention to where this was going. He didn’t initially single anyone out, and no one seemed particularly upset, but the driver opened his cab door, asked him to calm down or depart.

The guy, of course, did neither, and the trolley continued on. There were some timid tourists who looked uncomfortable, but he left them mostly alone.

He moved right next to a young jock, who took umbrage at the yelling guy’s proximity, and then escalated things quite a bit. He yelled back, swore at the guy, threatened him, and finally began to shove him. The driver hollered that security was on their way at the next stop. One of the shoves just about landed the homeless guy in my lap. I sighed, and readjusted to free up my hands.

I caught the jock’s eye and said, “it’s not worth it, man. Just take a step back and breathe.” He ranted about how personal space, being tired of losers, and kept at it. “Dude, this isn’t helping, just chill. It’s not worth getting arrested over.” The three of us went back and forth a bit, then he puffed up his chest, but moved away, and got off at our next stop. The homeless guy went back to bothering the car at large. Yay, small victories.

However, he next fixated on a younger guy who pretty clearly had some developmental issues. He towered over the kid, tapping his hand over his head, asking him intrusive questions, and making the kid uncomfortable. The kid didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone and tried really hard to ignore the guy, who just redoubled his efforts.

Enough. I asked the ranting guy to come talk to me. He didn’t initially want to, he was more interested in harassing the kid, and pretty much told me as much flat-out. I kept at it – not with much skill, mind you, but I was determined.

“He doesn’t want to talk to you, but I do. I’ll listen.” I motioned him toward me.

“Nah, fuck that, I don’t want to talk to you, I want to know what’s going on with him.”

“Come over here and teach me about self-defense.” That got him. He switched from towering over the kid to towering over me. Hanging from the overhead railing with both hands. Those armpits, though.

“Well the first thing about self-defense is not talking to people you don’t know.” He put his face fairly close to mine, but I didn’t change my relaxed posture or expression. I was, however, glad to be wearing dark sunglasses, lest my eyes give away my unease. I nodded – “good idea.”

“NEVER FUCKING TALK TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW!!”

“I see, ok. So I’m curious what you were doing when you got on the train and started talking to everyone you didn’t know?”

<pause> “PRACTICING. But now you all know me, right? So it’s fine.”

“Ok, right on. Tell me how to…”

“You’re just a woman, you’re just a woman who don’t know nothing about shit, your whole job is just to be a woman and annoy the shit out of everyone you meet. What do you think about that?”

“I think I know a lot of people who would probably agree with you.” The guy in the next row tried and failed to hide a smile.

He carried on about the same topic, and I nodded, said “sure,” and kept asking him questions while the kid he’d been harassing moved to the other end of the car.

“You women just want to tell people how to live their lives and give your opinions and make everyone around you miserable. What do you think about *that*?!”

“I think you’ve had some bad experiences with women.”

By that point, we’d reached the next stop, and security got on the train. The security guard watched us for a moment, and then escorted the dude off the train. He had to get one parting shot in, though, so he stuck his head back through the doors, and shouted, “JUST A WOMAN!!” before vanishing.

An older gentleman seated across from the kid who’d been the target gave me a quick thanks, and that was the end of it. I have a feeling that won’t be the last time, though. Safety pin: Gotta be one. That’s a promise.

It’s been over two months since I wrote the above, and a great deal has happened since that time. The movers arrived with “most” of my stuff, but a lot was missing and even more destroyed. Still trying to get that sorted out.

Plenty of other things to talk about, too, but I’ll save that for another time.

The Stuff of Fucking Nightmares

Literally.

I grew up on NOVA and Jacques Cousteau and Cosmos and other wonderful PBS documentaries, so even at a very young age, I understood shark encounters are rare; however, ever since I first saw “Jaws” at a tender elementary school age, I have been terrified and fascinated with sharks, particularly Great Whites.  While I knew it couldn’t possibly be, I was still convinced there were sharks in our inland Michigan lakes, especially on overcast days. I was absolutely certain a dorsal fin would erupt from the bubbles in my bath. And, naturally, huge White sharks patrolled the house at night, mostly circling around my bed in the hopes I would dangle a limb over the edge of the mattress. Relentless shark nightmares haunted me into college, though thankfully I haven’t had one in decades. Cue tonight’s dream agenda, probably. NEVERTHELESS.

Decades of Jacques Cousteau, other documentaries, and countless books, magazines, and scientific journals educated me well about sharks and our best understanding of why they do what they do, but none of this has quite reached my primal, lizard brain, which is content to believe the following: As soon as I set foot into water above my knee, I will be attacked. It is certain. My lizard brain is a stubborn, stubbon asshole.

An irrational fear of sharks was all fine and well when living in Michigan, a place utterly bereft of not only sharks but oceans entirely. Not really a problem. I enjoyed fantasies of “someday” diving with White sharks. In a sturdy cage. No, I have not seen “47 Meters Down,” nor do I plan to until I get more comfortable in the sea. My imagination is too good at inventing horrible things and requires no further fodder.

Here, in San Diego, this fear has become a bit more pressing. Last week, I went up to La Jolla and swam in waters about up to my shoulders. Briefly. Mostly, I stuck to knee-depth shallows. When I was deeper than that, I was very acutely aware of how fragile the human body is, but forced myself to laugh off any thoughts of actually seeing, let alone being nibbled upon by, a shark.

La Jolla is home to a large colony of sea lions and another of harbor seals, so there is sufficient reason for larger Whites to prowl, I suppose. But shallow water is safe water, right? One of my favorite assholes people in the world insists otherwise:

Later, at home and quite safe in my fourth-floor, five-miles-from-the-sea-and-therefore-probably-shark-proof apartment, I did some research. Oh holy fucking shit, you guys. Big, stupid, brain-weasel-feeding mistake. Now, I knew Southern California was a Great White nursery – there are sharks here and lots of them. I assumed, however, they were a goodly ways offshore. AND THEN I SAW THIS:

One sure-fire way to turn my intestines to liquid:

“Attention in the water: This is the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.… You are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white sharks.”

Yes, they were pups and juveniles. Yes, juveniles eat fish, not mammals. But seriously – 15 fucking great white sharks at the bloody surf line. That got the ol’ nightmare juices flowing.  Undeterred, I plowed ahead and found this from earlier this year:

A 16-foot great white shark feeds on scarlet, a whale that recently died off the coast of Southern California.

That was a sixteen-footer. At Data Point. Jinkies.

The litany of sightings is enormous, the list of attacks or mistaken identities vastly shorter. The odds of getting bitten, let alone killed, by a shark are infinitesimal. HOWEVER. You want to talk about High Stakes, kidlets? Should that one-off situation happen… well. Nightmare fuel.

I did find this hilarious image taken during a non-hilarious event – fortunately, the surfer was unharmed. Be honest now – if the red circle weren’t there, could you possibly find the shark in this photo?

Given the prevalence of Whites off the coast of South Africa – the big, breaching ones – I can’t imagine anyone ever surfing there. Watch the full video in the link – it’s amazing, and also quite moving as literally everyone on the water immediately came to his rescue, despite the danger to themselves.

The story which is lingering the most in mind is this, which I found just now on a page by the Shark Research Committee:

“On Wednesday, 4 December 1991, commercial urchin diver David Abernathy, age 25, was attacked by a White Shark at Shelter Cove, between Eureka and Fort Bragg in northwestern California (40°01.7’N; 124°05.0’W). Abernathy, accompanied by boat owner Joe Lara and tender Gerald Vickers, had been diving for about six hours. He was dressed in a black wetsuit, hood, boots, swim fins, mask, and weight belt. The diver was attached to a hookah airline and carried an urchin rake. Under a sunny sky, the sea surface was calm with 1-to-2-meter groundswells rolling rhythmically over the sandy ocean floor. Air and water temperatures were estimated at 15ºC and 10ºC, respectively. The water was 8 fathoms deep with visibility of 5 meters.

“Abernathy started his dive day collecting urchins off a reef at the Point Arena Buoy. Picking was consistent, but not as good as other spots in the area, so he decided to try at Black Sands Beach and work his way south. At 1500 hours, he entered the water 100 meters off Abalone Point, near the airport in Shelter Cove. Abernathy and his fellow crew members saw a “single clump of kelp” in open water and maneuvered the boat alongside. Abernathy entered the water. As he started his descent, about 4 meters below the surface, he noted the kelp stipe was attached to the top of a pinnacle that was 5 to 7 meters in width and at least 10 meters in breadth. While slowly descending to the bottom, the diver reported observing “a couple of tons of urchins on this pinnacle.” Upon reaching the bottom, he scouted the area for urchins, then slowly began his ascent. Abernathy had been in the water about six minutes.

“Upon surfacing above the pinnacle, Abernathy spat out his regulator and turned to tell his companions on board the boat to drop anchor. The diver recounted, “When I looked at the guys on the boat their eyes were huge and their mouths wide open.” Lara and Vickers watched in disbelief as a large White Shark surfaced directly behind Abernathy and charged very quickly. The shark struck the diver in the middle of his back and simultaneously bit down, pushing him 2 to 3 meters across the surface of the water.

“Abernathy recalled, “When the shark hit my back, shoving me across the surface, I was spun around. I felt my diving hose become caught in the shark’s mouth as it began pulling me across the surface. I ended up against the shark’s side and could see its gills and enormous gray body. I started thrashing wildly before realizing my legs were not in its mouth. I went limp as the shark continued to pull me across the surface by my hose. My companions later told me that the shark would look me up and down and then lunge at me, bending its head almost back to its tail. Each time it would lunge I was thrown up onto its back. I realized the boat was getting farther and farther away. I started yelling, ‘Come and get me, I’m alive,’ but they were in shock and unable to respond. During the surface struggle, the shark would, from time to time, look over toward my friends on the boat. Finally, after yelling Lara’s name, he snapped out of it and started the boat’s engine. As they headed toward me the shark dived, pulling me five to 10 feet [about 2 to 3 meters] below the surface before my hose was severed. When I surfaced I found the shark had pulled me 75 to 100 feet [about 25 to 30 meters] away from my boat. I started screaming ‘Hurry, hurry!'”

“While Lara and Vickers sped toward Abernathy, they saw the shark surface 20 to 30 meters behind him, then quickly charge. They maneuvered the boat past the diver to cut off the shark’s approach path. In response, the shark sounded and swam under the boat and past the diver. The shark then surfaced, turned and charged Abernathy again. The diver’s perspective, from the water, was no less dramatic.

“He recalled, “Joey [Lara] sped up and they went past me by about 15 feet [5 meters], then reversed abruptly. I thought they were trying to get closer to me until they started screaming, ‘Come on! Come on!’ When I reached the rail of the boat I was unable to pull myself on board. They started yelling, ‘It’s turning around. Hurry!’ as they ran toward me to pull me into the boat. No sooner had I been pulled aboard than a large swirl and splash erupted next to the boat.” Once on board, the three badly shaken men sat down and took stock of Abernathy. As he sat in the bow of the boat, Abernathy told his companions, “I’m whole, I’m whole, I’m whole.” Abernathy and his companions thought the White Shark was 6 to 7 meters in length. The diver’s right swim fin had several slices to its upper surface. David Abernathy was most fortunate to have escaped his White Shark attack with only shattered nerves and several bruises.”

I have been given to understand most shark “attacks” are cases of mistaken identity or are “merely” curiousity, something akin to us touching something unfamiliar to get more information about it. Of course, given our fragility and their strengthy and pointy-toothedness, that’ll cause some damage. Witness:

When dealing with something of this size, which can move so quickly and cause so much damage.. how does one prepare? One uses a cage, preferably, but it’s difficult to surf in a cage. Check this footage of Deep Blue, the largest White caught on film to date  – “We realized immediately that she was very big.” Indeed, behold:

One remarkable shark researcher, Mike Rutzen, actually free-dives with Whites outside a cage, because he has learned their body language. Wow – talk about balls. I’m so awed by this man on all the levels. “Don’t try this yourself,” the video admonishes – NO PROBLEM.

I watched his full documentary about body posture and behavior and was absolutely captivated. If you’re interested in learning how he “puts sharks to sleep,” look up “tonic immobility.”

Most of us aren’t so lucky. From another Shark Committee page:

“It was a pleasant Sunday morning, 20 August 1961. David Vogensen, age 16, decided to go for a swim, accompanied by several friends. They had swum out to a sandbar about 75 meters from the beach and were returning to shore. The young swimmers crossed over a channel to a location about 6 meters from the beach near Salmon Creek, Sonoma County, California (38°20.8’N; 123°04.5’W). It was about 0930 hours and the water was cold and very clear. Vogensen was wearing dark blue swimming trunks.

“He saw the shark swim over the sandbar and parallel the beach until about 10 meters from his location. The youth observed a large dark shape, a few feet below the surface, approaching him head-on. The shark circled Vogensen twice before grasping the lower groin and upper inner thighs of both legs. It held its victim for several seconds before it began mouthing his left leg down to the ankle. The youth was unaware of any sensation of pain, only a great deal of pressure, until his foot went numb. It was then that he knew a shark had bitten him. What he did not know was the extent of his injuries. Vogensen made his way up the beach, where he collapsed, clutching his bloody trunks. From this time until hours later in the hospital, events were unclear to the young man.

“The swimmer was taken by automobile to Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol for emergency trauma care. Following emergency treatment, he was transferred to Hillcrest Hospital in Petaluma. Vogensen had received numerous slash wounds to his groin, with secondary lacerations to his left leg and foot. Several tendons and nerves were traumatized, requiring several hours of surgery to repair. Vogensen’s physicians expected a complete recovery without any physical limitations. The shark’s description and measurements of the wounds are indicative of a 4-meter White Shark.”

First: THIRTEEN-FOOT WHITE SHARK SIX METERS FROM THE BEACH, PEOPLE. That’s less than twenty feet from shore! FUCK! A curious shark of that size, no thank you, please. Mistaken identity or no, I would move to the middle of the damn desert and never touch water again. I would probably sponge-bathe for life.

That Abernathy attack above, though? That, to me, speaks of something else. My imagination says ANGRY KILLER SHARK AFTER PEOPLE, but that’s unlikely. Still, I have to wonder what provoked the animal to continue its attack after realizing what he had was probably not a seal, after all. Maybe because he didn’t get his teeth into Abernathy’s flesh to realize, but one would think it wouldn’t go to that much trouble for a meal unless it was absolutely desperate or irretrievably stupid.

I cannot even fathom what it was like for all parties present, let alone the incredibly lucky survivor. How does one ever swim again? Sleep? Ha!

One would think this might keep me out of the water. Fuck all that. Naturally, what I have done is to sign up for a leopard shark snorkel tour and surfing lessons. I am going to be absolutely terrified the whole time, probably, but at least I won’t be alone.

Until I learn more about The Various Ways the Pacific and Everything In It Is Going to Try to Kill Me, Perhaps Accidentally, I’m sticking to insanely safe solo activities. Mostly. The main risk is my own inexperience/ignorance. For example, in my first swim at La Jolla mentioned above, I got absolutely drilled by the first large-ish wave I encountered because I sort of forgot waves are a bit powerful. This was the sort that hammered me off my feet, into the sand, and dragged me along for what felt like an eternity (but which was actually about 5 seconds.)

The one thing I remembered as I got swept under was to remain calm – I wasn’t going anywhere but back to the beach, after all. I was fairly convinced I’d lose my prescription sunglasses given the perceived violence of the thing, but they miraculously remained on my face.

My first leopard shark tour was supposed to be this past Saturday, but was canceled due to utterly crap visibility (1-2 feet max.) I would have seen nothing. Eager, however, to get into the water and test out the new snorkeling gear, I went to the rather safe Mission Point Beach area, which is heavily-trafficked by swimmers, paddlers, and boats, and is also completely sheltered from the surf by a nice spit of land.

I donned my gear, did the stingray shuffle into waist-deep water (one generally should not just walk across the sand, lest one be stung by a very perturbed ray in our path,) and pushed off. The wetsuit was glorious – I was so warm and barely felt the water at all. The snorkel, mask, and fins all worked exceptionally well. I could make out my hands in front of my face and that was about it. In the video below, it’s pretty impossible to hear me – mostly, just photographic evidence that I’m in waters of unknown depths without the ability to see anything lurking near me. 😀

Sharks absolutely did cross my mind, but they would have so many other targets to choose from before they got to me, I felt almost safe. Quick fun fact: Did you know Sleeper Sharks may live up to 700 years? Wow.

Given the nothing to see, I swam back to shore after 15 or 20 minutes, thoroughly unbitten. Yay. Baby steps, y’all.

Baby steps.

Thursday, I’ll reattempt the shark dive. Saturday, surfing lessons. I kind of love this local shark celebrity: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/san-diego/sd-me-leopard-shark-20170716-story.html

I know Leopard Sharks are completely harmless unless provoked – but it’s not the leopards I’ll be watching anxiously for: Hammerheads; Makos; Great Whites; Seven-gills. While it would be freaking amazing to see one of those, I don’t think I’m quiiiiiiiite ready for that yet. I’m the person who needs to touch the stove to see if it’s hot, and no amount of “no really, they won’t bother you” will placate me until one does, indeed, leave me alone (and even then, I’ll probably assume it was a fluke and that the next one will grab me.)

Fuck you, brain weasels. And, in the incredibly unlikely event of some sort of shark-related mishap occurring, I hope I have the presence of mind to at least appreciate the irony before I either die of a heart attack or am consumed.