The Usual Way, Unusually

Like many moto clubs, we have a series of roads we often ride and often default to when we don’t have anything else in mind. For us, that typically means Highland Valley Road (HVR,) Old Julian Highway (OJH,) Palomar Mountain, and various other roads in that area. We know these roads well and travel them frequently.

Yesterday, I took a lot of our usual roads in an unusual manner – in my car. For the first time ever.

My dad and step-mom, Janet, are visiting for a few days, and I wanted to take them out sight-seeing. Motorcycles not being an option, we piled into my Maxima and struck out toward Palomar Mountain as our first stop. The road out to Palomar is, in itself, a good time with light traffic. We enjoyed the gorgeous, day with its blue skies as the sun shone down on the mountains and valleys around us, and then began the trek up South Grade.

I love my car – it’s fun to drive, though I’ve not done that very much since arriving here in San Diego; I put more miles on it yesterday than I have the entire time I’ve been here. The Maxima is a wonderful platform – other than the CVT (which is above-average as CVTs go,) I have no complaints about it. The interior wraps around the driver, the engine sounds great and performs well, and it grips the road insanely well. As any bird or any passionate motorcycle rider will tell you, however, a gilded cage is still a cage. I missed the wind in my face, the elevation of being on a bike, the leaning and rolling, the sense of adventure. However, showing my family some of my favorite places was well worth the tradeoff.

Going up South Grade, I made sure to keep a very sedate pace to prevent alarm or motion sickness in my passengers. The visibility was fantastic, and, as we reached the top and began down East Grade, we pulled over for a photo opportunity and took in the view.

Click for panoramic view.

We admired the houses we could see and were envious of their general living conditions. I suffered having my photo taken with my dad, too:

Turnabout is fair play, Janet:


As we cruised down East Grade, I pointed out the place where my FZ1 met her untimely near-demise, and then we stopped at the vista point overlooking Lake Henshaw. As we got out of the car, we heard this crazy WHUMPING noise nearby. Peeking over the edge of the viewing platform, we saw a highly skilled helicopter pilot helping a crew set a new power pole below us with a Karman K-Max – The intermeshing rotors on those things always blow my mind. Winds were very strong, so we were really impressed with his or her skills. They were at the edge of my phone camera’s digital zoom, so photos weren’t very good.

After a few minutes, the pole was set, and they flew back to pick up another. This crew has been really busy around the valley since 2016, running power from the new substation.

My step-mom has always wanted to see the Salton Sea, which worked well – I really wanted to show them the views from Montezuma on the way out to Borrego Springs, and also to take them to Kesling’s Kitchen for lunch. It was well worth the time – the views were, as ever, beautiful.

Click for panoramic view.

Janet has now seen the Salton Sea from a safe, non-stinky distance, and I got to share some of my favorite roads, views, and places with Dad and her. We needed to get back to their hotel to let their two tiny, crazy, adorable, trying dogs out, so a nice drive on Banner Grade through Cuyamaca and back down to the 8 just in time to have a near-miss with rush-hour traffic. We stopped for pie at Lake Cuyamaca, and as we were leaving, a fire truck went by, sirens a-blaring. A few miles down the road, we saw a Harley had run wide on a sanded curve and was lying up against the ridge on the outside of the road. All people seemed to be up and moving, thankfully, but anyone taking the 79 through that area should use major caution – the road is decidedly unfun right now.

 

Luck of the eDar

June 15, 2017

I mentioned in a recent post how I have weird luck: Major things tend to go well, while the small things make me work for them.

Take today, for example.

I’ve been meaning to get a new passport  for years, as my old one expired decades ago and was lost to the sands of time. I’m terrible about Actually Going Places to Do Things: Post Office? The worst. Get copies made? Ha. Get my photo taken? FUCK OFF.

Yesterday, however, I Successfully Adulted. I went and got the odious passport photo taken, and I actually look human in it, despite my face being all nekkers without my glasses. I celebrated by getting frozen yogurt and accidentally telling a punk asshole kid to shut the fuck up whilst doing so.

Reading over the requirements carefully, I printed out everything I needed (or so I thought.) I read the requirements several times to be sure.

Today, I started looking for my birth certificate, knowing I’d seen it as I’d been sorting through all the things in my office. It took literally less than two minutes to find.

It’s like I know how things tend to go for myself. It is exceptionally hot and humid here today (87 degrees with 48% humidity as I was heading out,) but when I was preparing to leave, there was not a cloud in the sky. What the hell, I’ll ride the bike – it’ll be easier to zip around on. I have these super comfortable, totally waterproof, highly-protective Sidi motorcycling boots that are probably the best motorcycling boots I’ve ever owned. They’re amazing, but also loud as fuck. They squeak. And when I say “squeak,” this is not a cute little mouse-sized squeak: This is “everyone in the whole building can hear three squeaks per step” levels of noise. There is no sneaking up on anyone in these bitches, I can tell you. They attract significant attention.

They are also hot. Like, temperature-wise, not so much sexy-wise.

I needed to get copies made, so I did a quick “OK Google: Make copies near me.” Google directed to me a spot a couple of miles away. I geared up, saddled up, and headed over. As I arrived and told the woman at the counter what I needed (two copies each of my birth certificate and driver’s license,) she chuckled a little and told me they were a commercial print shop with much larger minimum order requirements.

Fortunately, there was a Staples two blocks away. Boom, headshot. Sauntered back out into the waves of heat and moisture, got my hands into my sweaty gloves, and hopped over to the Staples. No line, woo! Did my stuff for less than a buck, and left. Started saddling up, somehow remembered I’d left my driver’s license in the copy machine before getting to the passport agency office – whew! Lucky me.

Back on the bike to find a parking spot downtown.

Now I say I have crap lucky on the little things, but I also realize I often make poor choices. No, no – hear me out: While this assuredly comes as a complete shock to anyone who’s ever spent more than 10 minutes with me, it’s actually true. The only parking spot I could find wasn’t exactly… legal. It was an end cap spot that was huuuuge, but already occupied by a car. There was easily another car’s length of space behind it, however, so in I went, mumbling a silent prayer to the parking gods to be merciful.

Lansing’s parking enforcement officers are, shall we say, “vigilant.” They cruise around like contented sharks, waiting for an opportune moment to strike. In the past, if I blinked too slowly before inserting a coin, a ticket appeared on my windshield, and the only trace of the officer was a fading puff of a breeze. I had seen one drive past just as I was getting ready to park, so I had a few minutes. Surely, I could get in and out before anyone noticed.

Everyone in these buildings could hear me coming from a block away.

I walked the block and to the City Clerk’s office, announcing my squeaky presence to the entire State Capital grounds. The squeaks literally echoed off the buildings as I approached the door. Once inside, I was confronted with a security checkpoint, which I had not expected. I let everyone behind me go ahead, as I had 1000 things plus motorcycle gear to be inspected. The checkpoint ladies were very friendly and gave me little grief about the small whirlwind of chaos that whirled in with me.

Noticing me looking at the building directory, one asked where I was going, and directed me to the ninth floor. Yay, elevators! Squeak (echo squeak, echo squeak) and so on across the lobby.

I had worked up a bit of a sweat with the biking jacket, helmet, and gloves, and with the walking around in heavy boots. I could feel my face all shiny as I lumbered out of the elevator and let my boots announce my presence in the City Clerk’s office. A very kind woman came around and started to help me, offhandedly asking “you’ve got your cashier’s check or money order, right?” as she looked through my paperwork.

“A what? No, it says right here I can use credit cards…”

“Sorry, not here, you can’t. We have to staple the method of payment to the application, and I don’t suppose you want your card stapled?”

SON OF A BITCH.

I had been so thorough, and even over-prepared by bringing multiple copies of everything. Alright, ok. There was a bank a few blocks away. Off I went, nearly careening into a woman as she came off the elevator, who laughed good-naturedly. Super cute lesbian, too. Alas, no time for flirting (like I know how to do that with girls, anyhow, amirite.)

Squawked my way back to the bike (which was, mercifully, ticket-free,) rode a few blocks down to the bank, grabbed cash out of the ATM, and went inside to get my cashier’s check.

Aaaand that’s a big negative, there, Rubber Ducky: My account at this particular credit union was closed yearrrrrs ago, and they won’t do anything for non-members. Of course. She referred me to the liquor store at the corner. I checked Google again, and discovered my bank had opened a branch right downtown. Score!

Putting my gloves on was becoming increasingly difficult the sweatier I got: My fingers fought every millimeter of leather as I wrestled them into my gloves. My face was no longer “shiny;” it was dripping. 

Rode five blocks to the bank, found a parking meter right out front with 16 minutes left – which was a good thing, because I had zero change on my person. The bank got me all squared away, and I had a decision to make: Walk the two blocks back to the City Clerk’s office and hope that the remaining 10 minutes would cover me (ha, not bloody likely,) or try to find a better, paid-for spot.

I opted for the latter, but found none. There was, thankfully, an open space right in front of the building, but it had no time on it. I scrounged through my tankbag for change – nope! As I was disembarking, the parking dude slowly cruised by me, eyes alert, dorsal fin upright.

If I hurried, maybe, juuuuust maybe, I’d be able to get back before he could complete his circuit!

Dashing (imagine how much louder these boots are whilst “dashing”) back into the lobby, much better prepared for the metal detector and wanding this time, I walked into the City Clerk’s office for the second time.

The City Clerk was there this time, and we chit-chatted about motorcycles, heat, and passports. One of his staff finally meandered back to her desk, and we began the incredibly slow process. There were more hitches: I only had one cashier’s check for the full amount, when I should have had two. This resulted in overpaying the US Government by $25. I gave zero fucks – they can have it. “Oh no, they’ll send it back to you – they just get a little cranky about it.”

Great – that shouldn’t delay things at all, right? Sure.

When all was said and done, I successfully applied for the damn thing. I hastily went back outside to see what parking fine awaited me, and not three steps out the door… it began to rain. WHAT?! Sure. Fine. Great! Maybe it’ll break the humidity, and maybe I’ll get home before the skies open.

[NOTE: I ran out of gumption to write at that point, and let this sit for over a month.]

I was only slightly damp by the time I reached home, and, happily, my passport arrived last week. It was followed the very next day by a $25.00 check from the US Treasury (no hostile note included,) and the day after that with the returned copy of my official birth certificate. Amazing!

Amusingly, I just checked the mail before I hit “Publish” on this post, and received the following. Today.

Anxiety Attacks

Pretty sure today has been one big, long anxiety attack – something I’ve never experienced before. Tachycardia, shortness of breath, inability to control thoughts – the symptoms are all there. Fun!

This song brought me back to earth, however:

Bassnectar remixes the Pixies “Where is My Mind?” About a minute in, it really starts showing off Bassnectar’s unique spin on the song:

What’s causing all the panic? SO MUCH STUFF, you guys.

Mostly, it’s uncertainty – I don’t have a solid date I’m leaving, let alone a solid date for the movers to come pick up stuff, let alone PICKING A MOVING COMPANY… there’s just so much. My house… my  house has been goddamn chaos for over a month now. This is the current state of affairs:

People have been seeing my house like this. People I don’t even know, because I’ve been giving away a fuckton of stuff for free lately. Now, housekeeping has never been my forte. At all. However, I DO NOT LIVE LIKE THIS. I am going insane.

The more people come and get, the better it becomes. Later tonight, the couch above will be gone, as well as a few other odds and ends. Tomorrow, the desk and the wooden cabinet in what is passing for my office goes, as well as the vintage dresser that’s served me for most of my life – and served my dad before that.

I bought four industrial-strength ratcheting tie-downs to see if I can compress my Luxi mattress into something that will fit into my car. This is unlikely, but it would be nice to have a bed when I get out there.

I did find a transporter to haul my motorcycle out there for $600.

No inquiries on the Harley yet, despite dropped the price by two grand. I’ll be dropping it again shortly.

Finances have me freaking out, as well. I got my credit card debt nicely under control as of last month, but this move is going to piss that all away again, since it’ll cost on the order of $5,000 probably. Trying to decide whether I should use my savings (all $4,000 of it, woo) or just put it all on the cards. If the damn Harley would sell, that would resolve the issue quite handily.

Most (at least I hope “most”) of what I’ll be taking is here:

Not pictured:

  • Large glass-top table
  • Bicycle
  • Bed
  • Sofa table
  • End table
  • A few boxes of kitchen stuff
  • Some clothes

More AudioShield Fun

It’s so much fun introducing people to this game. 🙂 We had a bunch of lock-ups for some reason last night, so this isn’t a full “Centipede,” but he was doing a good job.

Nicole rocked a bunch of Audioshield, too, and has a very nice artistic flair:

Luke was pretty  much born to play this game – I soooo sincerely wish I’d had recording set up properly for this. Instead, I just got a few minutes of off-center GoPro footage:

Audioshield works with pretty  much any music at all. Today, I tried some swing:

 

Bethesda Software’s First E3 Conference

[aka, “an orgy of awesome”]

I wrote this bit for a friend’s game review site back when the 2015 E3 conference happened, then forgot to put it anywhere under my own domains after a time (so his site would get Google credit for the original content.)

We saved the best for last: FUCKING BETHESDA

Bethesda absolutely nailed their bit: The presentations were smooth, polished, entertaining, and unbelievably gorgeous. The speakers were engaging, confident, and clearly knew their material – These guys love what they do, and it really shines through. Besthesda have truly outdone themselves for their first E3 ever.


DOOM!

So many weapons, so much gratuitous, glorious gore. Did you just rip that guy’s arm off his corpse and use it to unlock a door? FUCK YES, YOU DID. And you loved it. This incarnation of the DOOM franchise blew us away. It’s beautiful in a demonic, hellbeasty sort of way. Wait – is that a Revenant… with a jet pack… and goddamn lasers? You’d best believe it. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better – SnapMap! This may be the best player-driven content we’ve seen yet. The system makes it incredibly easy to create and instantly share levels and play styles of your own design – no more external dev kits, man; do that shit up natively.


ESO expansion! 

More quests, more dungeons, more mind blowing, boss killing, ASS KICKING ADVENTURE. Explore Orsinium, Realm of the Orcs in the latest expansion of Elder Scrolls Online. Drink Beer, Ride Bears, Do whatever the fuck you want because it’s ESO…….We Know.


Fallout 4!

We’ve all seen the trailer, and it looks amazing. That dog, right? Our hopes were high; FINALLY! The next Fallout! Fears and anxiety ran rampant, though: Would it be up to snuff? Would it be too strange and fail to fit well into the franchise? What if… what if it sucks? NOPE! If anything, Bethesda recognized the enormous expectations their fans had for this game, and met them. Then surpassed them. Then ran them over with a tank, while humming along to swing music from the 40’s, lighting a cigar, and field-stripping an AK-47. Build my own settlement? Fuck. YES. Sure, it’s Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC, but dammit if I didn’t get giddy thinking about possibilities here.

Have I mentioned the dog? You can tell the dog to do things – “Hey, bring me that wrench;” “Go kill that mole rat;” “Wait here.” So. Good.

The dialogue, character creation screen, voice acting, and overall look and feel are just mind-blowingly good. Our hero even has a voice now!

An app that gives me a fully functional PIP-Boy? Are you kidding me? Is this even real life right now? A collector’s edition with a wearable PIP-Boy casing?! Shut up and take my frickin’ money!

Another Overseer app that’s like the The Sims meets Fallout? Pinch me.

This may be the biggest, best-hyped game of the year, and given what we saw at the conference, it’s going to be fucking amazing.

—————

All in all, the E3 conference met, and in some cases, surpassed our expectations. We’re looking forward to many hours hunched over our keyboards and controllers, forfeiting things like “outside,” and “the sun,” and “sex with our lonely partners.”

Baller

“Could my favorite thing about myself be that I’m baller as fuck?”

~The Pond Isle Princess

As I read her posts, I could be reading things I wrote 20 years ago. She struggles with things I struggled with, and in some of the same ways. Her passion is a double-edged sword, forcing her to dance on its blade.

She has no specific target for her uncontainable outrage, and it blasts out in all directions, splashing everything it contacts, regardless of justification.

I recognize those feelings, the blurting, the railing against the unfairness of the world at large. Sadly, there is no advice I can offer her to make the journey more comfortable, but I’m glad she is on the path.

 

 

The Ride

The Bandit and I sidle up to the gas pump, rumbling. I’m still getting back into the groove of motorcycle-related processes, getting used to a new bike, getting my feet under me again for things I’d done a million times years ago. I fumble with the tank bag, forget the tank cap needs to have the key in it to close and lock, have to look for the sidestand.

As the tank fills, I feel the cold gasoline radiating its chill into my thighs; it’s a refreshing burst of coolness on this hazy, late summer day. A full tank of gasoline; so cool and full of potential. It whispers promises of miles romped and sights unfolding, of fields of wheat and hay, of bugs and sunsets.

The heat index is 104, and the Bandit’s 1200cc engine will not abide a cool tank for long. Before I am even five miles down the road, the gasoline is quietly baking my recently-cool legs. It is a completely acceptable price for freedom.

This is our first ride since she had a bunch of maintenance work done to bring her up to spec. Too, she’s sporting new shoes: Pilot Road 3′s – a miraculous new-to-me dual-compound tire which carries promises of its own – longer center tread life, grippier edges, plenty of traction in the rain due to copious siping. I can’t wait to see what they can do.

This bike hasn’t as yet spoken to me. We communicate in vague thought pictures and impulses, but no words. I can sense her eagerness to break free of the suburban traffic and get out into the gently rolling
countryside, her excitement of trying out her new shoes, her clean and shining carbs. It’s a feeling I share.

It becomes immediately apparent the new tires suit us both exceedingly well. As we reacquaint ourselves after a 3-week separation, everything is smoother, easier, less edge-of-chaos. Like a horse and rider paired for the first time, neither is sure what to expect from the other; is it to be a constant battle of wills, or shall a miraculous simpatico unfold? Each is a bit reserved, unsure, for the first little while – soon it’ll be clear.

A slow, but giddy, grin creeps across my face as I crank the throttle fully open in second gear, accelerating away from a four-way stop. Mercy. I believe the bike and I are already in sync.

We share a pleasant thirty miles or so along quiet country roads. I’m becoming more confident the mould release compound has been worn away from the rubber, and am taking corners more aggressively – but still well within sensibility. I see a 25mph curve ahead and begin easing off the throttle, coming down from fifth gear into third.

As the curve approaches, I’m coming in at a slightly warm pace, but nothing a friendly local police officer would seriously consider a conversation-starter.

“Downshift,” she urges.

I blink. What?

“We’re going 50mph in third gear; I’m pretty sure we’re ok,” I retort.

“Second gear, please,” she insists, calmly but with great conviction.

I acquiesce and consciously loosen my shoulders, making sure I can flop each elbow easily. I fight the urge to clench.

The downshift is smooth, easy, and as I let the clutch out and begin applying throttle through the curve, I hear myself hissing, “Jeeeeeeeeeeeesus fuck” as the curve is suddenly and effortlessly behind us at a speed I’d rather not discuss publicly.

My riding companion on his more sedate cruiser is a half-mile behind me and disappearing quickly in the mirrors. The Bandit and I slow down, and I shift back into fourth gear, a wide, silly smile taking up every available inch on my face. I want to adorn her half-fairing with nose art like a WWII warbird. I want to buy her expensive jewelry. I want to take her to a bar and get lousy drunk, try to get under her skirt at a tall table. I want to take her skinny-dipping.

She is not a blushing, giggling schoolgirl – she knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it. She is not interested in clothes or celebrities; she wants twisty roads and unlimited time. She wants speed and adrenaline. We are perfect for each other.

From that point forward, the bike is more communicative. The new tires are a gift from some divine place, free of straight roads and speed limits. We are absolutely one functioning being – but we still don’t  know each other very well. There is a bright glimmer of mutual trust and respect forming.

Despite only having been recently united, this bike and I have a history.

In 1996 or thereabouts, I was working for a university computer helpdesk hotline. There, I met this bike’s previous owner, a wonderful, kind and gentle man named C. C had an old Honda CB750 and was contemplating upgrading to a better bike. I was riding my own Honda CB500, and looking for my second bike.

Suzuki had recently come out with this model, the Bandit 1200S. I positively drooled over its quasi-naked-sportbikeness. I lusted for it. I enthusiastically shared my findings with C, and he was equally intrigued. So much so, he soon acquired one.

I left the helpdesk for other IT pastures not long after, and C and I gradually lost touch. Fast-forward 15 years to winter, 2010. I had picked up a contract working for a fire department, trying to make sense of their trainwreck of a computer network – and I was failing. My predecessor had left a “network diagram” that looked loosely like a ping pong table wired to a refrigerator, which pointed to the internet. After less than a month, I had to admit defeat, but I didn’t want to leave the guys at the firehouse hanging.

C and I had become Facebook friends, and were loosely back in touch. C, in addition to being a primo computer geek, is a recently-retired volunteer firefighter himself, and he was the first person who came to mind who could rock out on the HFD gig. I asked, he stepped up, and apparently, it was a good match. Win!

Fast-forward another few months to summer, 2011. Several of my friends have acquired motorcycles, really giving me the itch to ride. C mentions he still has this old Bandit, while he’s upgraded to a newer version of the same bike. He says we should go riding sometime. I heartily agree and set about becoming re-licensed to ride.

Shortly after I am road-legal, C and his wife suggest we meet up at a point midway between our towns; I could take the Bandit out for a spin. We meet, and C says, “take it out, and then I want to talk to you about something.”

I do indeed take her out, while C and N wait for me back at the restaurant. It’s a brief, exhilarating ride, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome on the bike, and soon return. It felt wonderful and refreshing to be on a motorcycle again. I gush to them a bit about how much I like the bike.

C gets a thoughtful look on his face and tries a few times to begin a conversation, but has a bit of difficulty. “I’m doing this wrong,” he states, and begins again. I felt fairly sure he was going to offer to sell me the bike at a wildly discounted rate, or offer to take payments over time, but was having difficulty trying to form the words in a way that wouldn’t be seen as overly pitying my financial straits.

C, however, blew me away – he felt moved to give me his bike. Give it to me. “Free-gratis,” as Al Swearengen might have said in “Deadwood.” In the clear.

I am not certain what expression may have been on my face as he said this, but inside, I was simultaneously overwhelmed and furiously muppet-arming all over my brain. Here was an opportunity to have my own bike again! It did not take long for me to agree, and it was done – I rode the Bandit home that very night, flabbergasted, humbled, grateful. And very happy.

My husband was, to say the least, somewhat shocked when I came home sporting a motorcycle when I had left in a Subaru. Bemused, he looked at my toy, shaking his head.

C had let me know certain work needed to be done, and some of it perhaps sooner than later, to make the bike completely happy. Less than a week later, I made an appointment: New tires, various gasket replacements, carb clean and sync, all fluids flushed and replaced. The shop said “about a week.” Assorted shenanigans ensued, and it was three weeks before I got her back.

Reunited tonight, though, we flirted like new friends trying to figure out “is she or isn’t she?” Playful, sporty, full of heady possibilities, each action moving the flow forward until there is only a sweaty tangle of arms, breasts, legs and no more wondering.

My last motorcycle, a BMW K1100RS, and I had quite a love affair, but it was never easy. The bike was slightly too tall, far too heavy, Too Much for me. While we spent tens of thousands of miles together, I don’t think either of us was really Happy. The first time I rode a K1100RS, I heard the words my friend Allen had spoken months before: “When you ride one of these things, you’ll rob a bank to have one.” I did have to have one; I was seduced by the power, the smoothness, the luxury. Thankfully, a felony was not required.

I remember, too, the night that bike and I parted ways. I handed the keys to her new owner and listened to that so-familiar whine of the K-bike engine slowly wind down our private road at the top of a little mountain in Washington state. I visualized with absolute clarity in my mind everything Grak’s new owner was seeing, feeling, hearing, experiencing. I could feel the buzz in my hands, see the green glow of the instruments, feel the Russell Day-Long saddle cradling his ass in exquisite comfort. I felt the snick in my left foot as he shifted.

As I watched him accelerate down the winding road into the valley, a desperate cry filled my head: “That’s my bike.” A useless, three-year-old “no fair” response to losing a favored toy. His headlight wound along the road at the bottom of the hills while I watched from the balcony. “That’s my bike…”

I watched until the headlight was gone, out of sight around the bend, miles away. I imagined I could still hear the engine, but of course, I couldn’t.

Alas, it was mine no longer, and I wouldn’t have another until five years later.

Compared to the K-bike, the Bandit is slick and nimble. She reads my mind and is eager to play. She is exactly what I need; the hot little mistress to tempt me away in free moments. She whispers excruciatingly naughty things into my ear, somehow engenders a feeling like someone secretly stroking my leg at the office Christmas party.

Tonight, as my riding companion and I enjoyed our evening outing, the Bandit and I bonded, and I reaffirmed the custom license plate I’d ordered was entirely a propos: ISHTR, after the Egyptian goddess
Ishtar, deity of fertility, sex, love and war. Also, one of my favorite ships to fly in an online video game I play – a heavy assault cruiser capable of giving and receiving massive amounts of damage. The Bandit may not be much to look at, but once you ride her, she’s sex on wheels, ready to assault whatever roads you place her upon with a vast, sweeping power.

We ended the ride at a lakeside park, where a blues concert played in the middle distance. The sun slowly set behind us, as we reclined on a small hill, talking. Small, harmless insects flitted around us. We picked at the clover, completely comfortable and pleasantly in tune.

Our conversation paused for awhile. In another time, I would have asked him to kiss me there in the grass as the strains of music flowed over the park. It was one of those Moments when kisses are magical, almost expected – the Moment wants people to kiss, wants to ignite passion and let it burgeon.

And then it was time for us to part ways and the Moment was broken. He went West, I went East, toward home and my husband.

Speeding away from the sunset, the first sensation of the evening’s cool touch permeates my mesh jacket. I enjoy the warm happiness from the ride, from having bonded with the bike and with one of my best friends.

The bike and I share a serene, purring accord, each of us knowing this is going to be a long-term relationship that will not disappoint. Pulling into the garage, I switch off the ignition with a touch of regret. Coming home after a ride is almost always bittersweet occasion.

Tomorrow beckons, calling me South to twistier roads and more wild grins.

The Times, They Have a-Changed

As most of you know, my last half-dozen years have generally sucked out loud. Knowing I brought much of it upon myself didn’t really help me get through it any better, but with time, understanding how it all came about has brought a certain … oh, I don’t know, perhaps “maturity,” or “wisdom,” or at the very least, “a healthy sense of humility.”

Being an only child, I have always had a very strong need to spend time alone. When I had slumber parties as a little girl, I could sometimes be found up in my room to get away from the busy-ness of the other girls. Thus, a lot of the time during the past six years was spent by myself, which afforded me perhaps entirely too much time to dwell on my misery.

During my last year in Washington, I discovered The Olympic Club and a wholly terrific group of guys there who taught me how to play snooker. More nights than not, I went down there to have a few beers and spend hour upon hour glued to that enormous table with the many tiny balls. It was great fun and had the added bonus of getting me out of my head for the duration. I focused on my shots, and on Wendy, Mark, Andra, Allison, Gene, Stanley, Terry, Donnie, John and the others in our little group. The jukebox, the company, the atmosphere, the food and the beer were all outstanding.

As I drove the two miles home, up the winding road to the top of my hill, my mind would begin to get itself back on track, and I found myself thinking almost subconsciously, “was there something bad? Is there something awful I’m forgetting?” There usually was, whether it was dreading my impending financial doom, being wracked with grief over Zephyr’s brutal death, hating my job at the ranch and then the motorcycle shop, or worrying about any number of the bad things that had happened over the last years. There was a brief sense of panic, wondering what was going to hit me first and plummet me back into depression, and then there it was, whatever the demon of the moment would be.

It wasn’t so bad, once it washed over me – it was where I was used to being. It was just that moment of wonderment, “was there something bad,” when I felt four years old. That was the perhaps one of the worst parts, the transition from being happy and distracted to realizing there was something awful I had to remember in the next few seconds.

After work today, I had to go to the local enormous grocery store to procure the ingredients for my Christmas mushroom pie and black sticky gingerbread. Gathering the supplies, I was thinking of Mike and I picked up an impulse item for him. Happily going about my business, and very happily thinking about Mike and how lucky I am, I checked out, hopped into my car and began the drive home.

We’ve been getting a truly glorious amount of snow here, which makes road conditions interesting. It’s as if Michigan was wholly unprepared for such an event as a metric honkload of snow. My Forester excels in the snow, though, and I enjoyed clawing through it with ease. It did require some concentration for awhile, though, and as I came into a clear stretch of one of the main roads, I realized I had previously been focused on something pretty intently, and it had slipped my mind.

“Was there something bad?”

I felt the tiniest trace of frightened, desperate tears as the thought came to me, the realization of being about to remember what I’d been thinking about. Years of well-worns paths opened up before me; surely, here comes the hurting.

And then it slowly encompassed me, this warm wave of comfort, remembering I am deeply in love and deeply loved in return. Remembering I’m insanely happy in a healthy relationship. It wasn’t something bad – it was something wonderful, and I had to wipe away tears of happiness and relief. Knowing Mike was out there, caring about me, perhaps thinking of me, was a steadying and reassuring force.

I can’t imagine a better Christmas gift at a better time.

Brilliance

Last week, BBC World News had a series of interviews with a Chinese economist that aired as I was on my way home from work. Listening to him speak was the most amazing thing; he spoke with absolute brilliance, confidence and such depth of knowledge. It was incredibly humbling. No hesitations, not even a pause for thought – just absolute, thorough knowledge and understanding of vastly complicated world economic forces, something about which I know nothing at all.

On Saturday, NPR aired the Prairie Home Companion’s Christmas Special. I only caught the tail end of it, as Garrison Keeler told one of his patently brilliant and insightful tales. Toward the end, he started singing “Silent Night,” and the crowd all softly joined in. I’m not normally a huge fan of Christmas carols, but as everyone began pitching in, tears sprang to my eyes and I got goosebumps all over.

For all of humanity’s evils, every now and then, we are pretty amazing.

Engrish Support Poetry

“Weird

Before the hour was terribly high and I Bofragh Volume
Three times

I hope that you are watching it again

Now see him start to rise

Received by me

Tmp folder is constantly rising and rising non-natural
Server Load abnormal rise high
Has any information server you will do Pthmeliha”

Um, ok; I will do Pthmeliha on your server, as soon as you tell me what Bofragh is.