I went to a class with a new yoga instructor on Sunday and it was super inspiring. Lately I’ve been lulled into an easy, relaxing routine with an instructor who is very sweet and earnest but entirely too careful, which is not what I need. The new one was loud and high-energy and encouraged us to get off our mats and move around, way outside our comfort zones. THIS is what I need. “Go out into the world,” she kept saying as she made us partner up and touch!! strangers!! “The world needs you!” At the beginning of class everyone looked shy and vaguely horrified, but by the end we were all smiling, and I was relaxed on a level that way surpassed the physical. That’s what I need. I also need a lot of money, so I can go on a yoga adventure to India! The person who put together the amazing trip to Mexico earlier this year is leading a three-week retreat to India next February and it sounds all kinds of awesome. I had pretty much figured it was out of my league, but it looks like the lad might’ve found me some freelance work that could earn some travelin’ dough, so maybe it’s meant to be?? We’ll see…
Today it was hot! hot! hot! To celebrate not having to wear sweaters we went on a long, beautiful ride through Snohomish, Sultan and Monroe. After skirting a murderous pothole by millimeters and braving a shoulderless bridge in HWY 2 traffic I was feeling pretty cocky, but then we turned onto Mann Road and there it was — the Skykomish River. I don’t know what I ever did to the Skykomish River, but it has a history of trying to kill me. I spent a lot of time on its banks as a kid and we used to be friends:
But then one day it turned homicidal and tried to carry my tiny toddler self away. Luckily my dad caught me by the toe and I lived to tell the tale. When I’m around rivers I never forget who’s boss, and that goes double for the Skykomish. Even as I’m marveling at its gorgeous green expanse and peaceful, bird-chirping beauty, I’m imagining that breathless feeling of being pulled under and not even having the option of putting your foot down to ground yourself. When you’re inside your house and your car and your office it’s so easy to forget what a frail, breakable species we are, but when you remember it’s a magical thing. I think that’s what I love the most about biking and hiking, and the Skykomish River.
Procrastinators like me can take awhile to get around to something, but once we do it’s like a terrier with a toy: we focus on it intensely for at least 5 minutes. Or, in other cases, 5 hours. Such was the case today as I was hell bent on cleaning up the bike room. I’d gotten a small start the other day, but today by golly was going to be the day!
The bike room has been a mess ever since the water heater went crazy and flooded the back utility area and I threw all the bike stuff in boxes to quickly vacate the inundation. Add to that years of errant piling, idiosyncratic filing and plain old American laziness, and things was looking bad. Cleaning up and organizing the bike room was a big dream, and I knew the only way to tackle it was to start small, so I started breaking down the endless cardboard boxes. There’s a bit of my Grandmother’s Great Depression pack rat in me in that I will save cardboard boxes to save other cardboard boxes in. (There’s also a bit of my great Uncle’s rat packer in me in that I look like Dean Martin if he’d had acne problems and was from Illinois.)
So, first order, The Cardboarder (that would be my super hero name, if I was super and/or heroic).
Next up were those boxes which actually had contents. Wow. There were lots of bits and ends of things I’d forgotten I had. Old pedals, seatposts, parts for fenders, about three dozen plastic caps for presta valves, several empty bottles of chain lube (saving them for the next Great Depression!). Eventually I got everything out and somewhat organized while rocking out to Sonic Reducer on KEXP, enjoying such treats as Run, Run, Run, Run, Run by the Velvet Underground, something called ‘Toilet Love’ from a band I don’t remember and, best of all, Mongoloid by Devo! I think that was the first song I figured out on the old bass guitar! Nothing like cranking some hissy FM radio punk while piddling in the bike room. Piddling BTW, for you younger snappers, is what old people do when they appear industrious but in fact are just shuffling things around.
Speaking of getting rid of boxes, here’s a bit of seeming bling I was about to fling: Dura-Ace! The name sends shivers down the spine of most, and loathing among the Campy Italianate crowd. Before you wonder if I got a second mortgage no, these are the $80 bar-end Dura-Ace shifters, that I’ve put on the Vaya, or Fred (the old Trucker bar-ends’re going on the new La Cruz, or Tom).
And so I’ll soon retire for the night, at about the time I used to get ready to go see a punk show. Sigh. At least the bike room is cleaned up (relative term: it still looks like the spastic brain child of a pathologically reverse-savant) and ready for some La Cruz building. At least I can see a few square feet of the main bench, right? Before sleepytime, how about some dessert:
I flew home from Mexico last Monday, and boy were my arms tired! Seriously—arms, legs, brain, everything was just wonderfully exhausted. The trip was made up of moments I can’t even find words to describe the right way—hours of yoga every day, snorkeling with sea lions, investigating an amazing new landscape, intense massage therapy from a self-described witch doctor, mind-melding with a group of strangers who turned out to be smart and hilarious and exactly who I would’ve chosen to share the experience—but right now I’m thinking about the morning meditation. We’d walk through the warm sand up to a dune, with mountains on one side and sea on the other, and sit in silence, exploring the ridiculousness of our own minds. I can still feel the sun heating my back and the soles of my feet and hear the birds and bugs and waves that get so loud when your eyes are closed and all you’re doing is processing. It actually felt a lot like it does when you’re well into a long bike ride, and the endless pedaling lulls you into a state of relaxation that, if you let it, opens you up to a whole new level of sensory experience.
Morning meditation at home is a much different experience, with a cat head-butting my leg and a refrigerator cycling on and off, but it’s still a pretty amazing exercise. Just acknowledging the ridiculousness, appreciating it and letting it go.
The SurlyLady has been AWOL on a fantasy yoga vacation (to Fantasy Yoga Island… The Plane, The Plane! Now, Warrior Pose Two, Warrior Pose Two!) and frankly the house has gone to pot. It’s like my old bachelor days, except without the health inspectors trying to get in.
Dishes are piling up, cat poop be piling up, clothes? Eh, all over the place. Bills? Never been to Buffalo. Dinner? Eh, those leftover pieces of the leftover nachos will do, then order a pizza and leave the box on the floor for the cats.
Aw, who am I kidding. I’m almost more fastidious when the ‘Lady isn’t around. It’s like a philosophical question, no doubt, from her perspective: if she isn’t here, do I really clean up more than normal, and what if nobody is around to see it happen?
Last Thursday in the morning I got all suited up and was about to leave on the bike when I turned and gave the pups a guilt treat because I hadn’t had time to take them to the field. They wagged their tails and smiled, ABSOLUTELY SURE I was going to take care of them, vis a vis the running around the field option, the steaming poop in the cold frosty morning thang. They refused to believe anything different. They had faith in me. Sigh.
So, off with the togs, quick into the shower, then up to the field to run around and then car to the bus barn to bus to work. Yech. But, worth it in the end. I was able to go to spin class at lunch, and so it felt like a happy compromise.
But really the house has just been so… quiet. Shsssh. Sorry, I won’t type so loud. Everyone, the cats, the dogs, me, we just walk around without saying much. It’s almost eerie. Coupled with the fact we had 8 thunderstorms in 15 days and something like record amounts of rain for the first half of March and, yeah, there’s been lots of walking around the house.
Cooper tried playing Scrabble with me at first, but he spells everything phonetically. The girl tried a little soft shoe to cheer me up but hurt her hip and blamed it on me. I tried telling them both about my day at work about how so-and-so said this-and-that but all they want is the cold hard wet food.
So ultimately all I do is bake kale, make the same dinners as we always used to so it feels like normal, and sit and think about stuff, finish my children’s book, chop down the half-dead lilac tree, clean the roof of the potting shed, go to Marymoor park with the pups, and come up with a suggestion for a whole new initiative at work. But truth is… we miss her!
Okay pups. Time to clean the house. No, Coop, you should probably let me get the bathroom. No, I insist.
What a day. Poor SurlyLady was feeling sick and decided to work from home. I decided to drive to work, with the fleeting thought oh this will give me a chance to stay late and get some stuff done! Traffic was really backed up in Shoreline due to an RV that went off the side of the freeway, knocked out some guard rails and etc and had the roof get torn off, spilling the contents all over the place. Very odd. I rubbernecked like everyone else and then suddenly the freeway opened up full speed again.
I got on to the express lanes and things were hunky if not outright dory. The far right lane, the exit for Stewart Street, a wee fine street for those of us who’re fine Scots, not like some of those lowlanders I won’t mention, anyway the far right lane typically gets backed up, as in cars get stopped up onto the freeway due to the stoplight ahead. I was in the process of following suit when I heard a terrific noise. I knew what it was immediately, and had time to look in my rear view mirror to watch in an almost detached way the young driver of the minivan behind me look startled, then panicked, then airbagged as a car crashed into him from behind, propelling him straight toward me. My foot was already on the brakes but now I really put it down and then BAM I got crunched, my head whipped back and hit the glass window of the truck’s cabin, and what I could only assume was a chain of cars lurched us all forward. By some good amount of luck I was able to keep from, in turn, rear ending the car in front of me, but only by a close call.
With my head ringing and that sort of chalky taste familiar from my past mountain biking axcididdles I pulled over to the shoulder, put on the hazards, and went to check to see how everyone was doing. The minivan had been piloted by a young man with what appeared to be his mother and sister. They seemed shaken but not too stirred. The woman who initiated the whole thing didn’t look as good. I won’t go too far into details to spare some privacy, but she was clearly in shock and the airbag had really taken a toll on her. I tried to calm her down and let her know I’d call the state patrol. My biggest concern at that point was the possibility of someone ramming into us as we huddled on the shoulder. As for the truckie, it appeared the rear bumper had taken the full impact, bent under as you can see from above. No other obvious damage anyway.
After understandably exasperated reroutes from 9-1-1 to the state patrol to local fire/rescue, we got help on the way. I just felt so awful for the woman. I could tell she felt bad, as she asked anxiously how everyone else was. I in turn asked her on a scale of 1 to 10 what kind of pain was she in? Eight she said. I knew we couldn’t move her, with traffic whizzing by, and with uncertainty as to her injuries, and it didn’t seem like the car was going to blow up or anything.
The troopers showed up and were amazingly kind and efficient. Paramedics showed up and quickly spirited the woman away on a gurney.
I find it funny how the mind works at times like these. I called the SurlyLady but for a moment was more worried about telling her what had happened than about what had actually happened, just because I knew she would worry, and she’s sick. But it went okay. Then I left a message for my boss, then sent an email to her boss, and when I got in to work Wow it was amazing how nice everyone was! The genuine care from everyone was so heartwarming, offers to get me things, take me places. I almost said, I’ll have the caviar, and bring round the Bentley, please, I’d like to go to a matinee if you don’t mind. They even tried really hard to laugh at my jokes, the ones about thick skulls and knocking some sense into things and project whiplash.
They unsuccessfully tried to get me to go to the hospital, gently suggesting I see a shrink while there and, failing that, shooshed me home where I am currently, happy to be alive and fairly well except for a rather sore neck.
The way any of this is related to biking is that while waiting for the emergency response I was able to see the street next to the freeway, the one that goes right past REI and the one which I myself take when bike commuting. Biker after biker went whizzing by. Graceful arcs, contained bundles of energy, purpose and direction, foot, leg and lung directly in the chain of energy transmission.
Ah, if only I’d ridden today, I thought, even if I would have been unpardonably late, even with this monsoon. Wet socks is always better than a sprained neck, my Ma is fond of saying, the smart lady.
In the midst of kickboxing class tonight, when I wasn’t gasping or worrying about a heart attack, I had the most interesting reflection… and I’m not talking about the one of me in the mirror looking sweaty and awkward. Rather:
During work hours I collaborate quite often with a woman who is a business analyst. Her group interacts with the ‘business’ or end users or customers of systems and software products; she liaisons between them and IT, of which I am. Several times as we commiserate or otherwise kind of step back from the madness of a project we’re working on, she has asked me in a moment of candor: “Am I doing this right? I’ve never worked on a large project like this before.”
It’s an interesting question – and I tend to think it does her great credit. I’m a big believer in showing a little vulnerability. As long as the vulnerability isn’t your belly button and the skull-and-snake tattoo draped thereon.
It’s interesting because she has incredible instincts. I predict she’ll one day be running a team in the business analyst group. She has the genuine passion for getting the job done, and doing it right, but sometimes she gets hung up on doing it the ‘right way’ – using the right form, filling it out in triplicate, worries about did she schedule the meeting at the right time with the right people with the right agenda. And etc.
Most often, when I don’t tease her and say, “Well I guess we’re screwed. I’ve never worked on such a large project either!” I reassure her she’s doing great. As much as I think software project management professionals like to bluster and pontificate about due process, best practices etc, I’m a firm believer in following your gut, being open with people and being as smart about it as you can – and that will always win the day. In other words, sometimes I feel like saying to her that her concern for form is sort of like the Platonic cave/shadow deal (the caves and the shadows are just friends, nothing going on there…) where the form of things is the abstraction or a refinement. We like to think that those who work on projects such as we do get so used to the form of a thing that it becomes second nature, but I argue that it’s the first nature, that instinctive one, that almost always gets us closer to ‘right’ or ‘good enough.’
This is all a long preamble way to say, I used to get so hung up on the form of things when I first started as an obsessive biker. I used to clean and lube the chains on our bikes… after every ride… by hand, link by link. I used to clean the rims and hell every inch of both of our bikes if not after every ride, then every other one. Although I’m not a flamboyant dresser I paid way more attention to the strictures and dogma of biker apparel than anything I might wear to work. My socks had to match, or not match, deliberately. I had to have the right hat. One day I saw how ridiculous my first helmet looked in a picture and ran out and got a different one. Oh vanity! My bikes had to have a certain look. Experienced, somewhat clean, a sensible mix of parts with an eye toward lasting quality. The rims had to be just so, just the right color. Tires, well, reflective sidewalls looked dorky but I was able to get over that due to riding at night. For net effect, I didn’t want to be too obvious, or be too obvious about not being too obvious. For instance, I may have wanted to get that bright yellow water bottle on sale at the bike store for $2.99 with a garish Tour de France logo, deep down, but I daren’t: such a thing just wouldn’t do!
Today I’m much different. I barely even notice what I’m wearing beyond the functional aspect of it. I could grab a Sesame Street water bottle and not notice the goofiness or the irony of it. It’s a water bottle. SurlyLady’s CrossCheck hasn’t been cleaned in two years. Original ‘Wash Me’ graffiti has been overwritten with a subsequent ‘Please’, finger painted in the grease. I do clean her rims now and then but that’s a safety thing. I can’t even remember the last time I checked the brakes on anything.
I don’t mean to say I’m getting crazy lazy about all this; it just doesn’t signify as much as it used to. I used the word obsessed earlier but without exaggeration. I used to go out to the garage and just stare at the bikes, rub them with a clean cloth diaper, and talk to them like African violets struggling in an office cubicle without direct sun exposure.
I guess I’m saying, several years into this gig, I’m not as concerned with the form of bicycling things, but more on the fun of them. And with that I think I have finally achieved, through hard work, endless hours and obsessive noodling, my ultimate goal of bicycle nonchalance.
Do you get a prize for that sort of thing?