|February 4, 2013||Filled under Motherhood, Uncategorized|
“I want a divorce,” my husband said, like he might as well have asked me to make some chicken fricassee for dinner. For a moment, the world stopped turning.
I looked up from my knitting needles, but just for long enough to see the validity of the statement behind his tired eyes.
You can’t blame the man. Having a relationship with me is sort of like living with a running addict who has Turret’s and believes all wounds can be healed with the proper application of cupcakes. We’d just been prolonging the inevitable since… oh probably that first stolen kiss in my office over a decade ago. We had a good ride. I don’t regret a minute of it.
After initial falling-to-pieces-of-life/grasping-at-lost-dreams phase, greatly supported by the occasional consumption of valium and frequent sobbing on the phone to, well, anyone who would listen, I decided I was determined to handle divorce with a proud, quiet grace. Of sorts.
There were plenty of options, of course. I toyed with the idea of alcoholism (but it isn’t Paleo), the 20-year-old neighbor boy, a team of cut-throat lawyers, reconciliation, ultra-marathons, and pretty much anything other than the ominous reality of: Reality.
So much for grace – months later I still go blubbering through enough tissues to be single-handedly responsible for the rise in Kleenex stock prices. I’ve learned a lot of things in that time though: Not the least of which is the fact that hemorrhoid cream takes the puffiness out of eyes and that the worth of a good water-proof mascara should never be under-estimated.
Now at the threshold of A Whole New Life, the possibilities seem limitless. If you could wake up one day and do ANYTHING you wanted, what would you do?
Me, I’d move to the Rockies. I’d pack up my kitchen toys, my bike, and my kid, and I would high-tail it to the trees and trails that were my childhood memories and my adult solace.
And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do.
My flat here in Germany currently looks like a Joseph Beuys exhibition only I have fewer moldy sausages in display cases. Boxes upon boxes are sorted and labeled. Pictures in frames lean against walls. And my failure to dust with any sense of thoroughness is shamefully obvious. I swear I haven’t seen the tops of some of these shelves since I hung the buggers.
Trying to pack your life into the equivalent of ten extra large boxes is not easy. Particularly when your offspring is convinced that her entire livelihood relies on the much nurtured bond she’s developed with no less than 13,583 stuffed animals. Which all have names like Pie Star and Bluesy and LateeshaDeVonne (that one must be from New Orleans). But still, Mama, I would DIE if I could not have seven thousand tattered cat stuffed animals.
Divorce guilt made room for about fourteen. Cats. We still have the rest of the animal kingdom to get through. I tried to explain that the import of Chinese-manufactured stuffed animals in the US is big business and that, as she now had to get a paper route to afford her consumption of cereal, she could get some new faux fur friends. She wasn’t having it though and thus most of my packing looks like Hoarders for Toddlers.
I swear to God, if a single freaking Kinder Egg surprise toy makes it into one of those boxes, Mama’s gonna lose what’s left of her frail sanity.
In early March we’ll be setting up our new digs. It will look a lot like our old digs except we can hang unicorn pictures wherever the heck we want, and I can finally realize the full potential of my love of throw pillows. I’m gonna furnish my whole damn house with throw pillows, like some Pottery Barn version of a harem tent. You can never have too many throw pillows. Unless you think you do, in which case, please send them to me.
Some things in our new life will be different though. B will wrack up frequent flyer miles like an international executive. Mama will have to tell her socially unacceptable jokes to house plants. Our appliances will be 120V. Our laundry basket won’t have boy cooties.
Some things will be the same. My daughter will be loved and raised by two caring parents who will teach her to appreciate Monty Python, vegetables, and German soccer culture. I will continue running trails and crashing my bike. I will blog about adventures gone awry (now about single-motherhood, middle-age dating faux pas, and bike trails I probably should not have taken my kid down).
We will still laugh and cry, love and hurt. We’ll still have tradition, home, and family. Christmas and birthdays will still come. We’ll still dream.
And the world will keep turning.
|November 16, 2012||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose, Patagonia|
There is mariachi music playing on the radio. It makes 4 a.m. at the dentist’s office seem much more festive. The only other thing I hear is the incessant scraping in my head and a bitter, aged doctor knuckle-deep in my mouth asking why he ever became a dentist in the first place. I wonder if the scars on his hands are because someone tried to bite them off. Then I wonder why he isn’t wearing gloves.
There are certain corners of the planet where you do not want to be when you have a medical emergency. Smack dab in the middle of Chilean Patagonia is one of these places. If they had vets, they would probably be surgeons on the side, but in the absence of even animal care it is highly more likely that a pisco-soaked Swiss army knife is considered modern medical treatment.
Unfortunately, I had not brought my Swiss army knife (having left it and several others at airport security), and was left at the mercy of the Chilean health care system. Which appears to consist of an aged dentist working out of his garage.
It began some days into my Patagonian adventure when I assumed I had bitten wrong on something. The strange pain in my face increased at a rate relative to the increase in my ibuprofen consumption. By day three, I was just mixing the stuff in milk as my morning muesli. That was the day I ran the Patagonian International Marathon. In freezing winds, over endless hills, dodging giant ankle-breaking stones for hours, what hurt the most was not my tired legs or worn feet, it was my face. It had begun to throb in rhythm to my steady pace toward the mountains.
As my limited drug resources were failing post-race, I appropriately medicated with alcohol until not only my face was numb, but the rest of my body was too. Much to my chagrin, it was not possible for me to stay stumble-drunk the next day. People tend to frown on vodka shots at breakfast. Even in Chile.
Confused, in agony, and at the verge of tears, our team of race organizers and writers drove out of the Torres Del Paine National Park on the sort of bumpy dirt roads that make your kidneys rattle against your ribs. We headed south to Punta Arenas (Population: 130,000 – Qualified Physicians: unknown), arriving at two in the morning. By this time, I had hit up most of the media crew for any drugs they may be transporting only to come to this conclusion: Photographers are squares. Hurting and helpless at the tip of South America, my request for narcotics was left unanswered.
And then it came over me like an undeniable force, resistance futile: The need to cry.
Most people who have ever seen me cry have not survived to tell the story. Now here I was, big sappy tears streaming down my face in public. I could have cared less. Something was wrong – REALLY wrong. The desire to perforate my cheek was increasing, along with my regret for not carrying a pocket knife. I asked to be taken to the nearest hospital and was surprised to find they actually have them in Punta Arenas.
Of course, they wouldn’t take me. They suggested we call a dentist, which led my designated care-giver for the next 24 hours, Ann, to flipping through the yellow pages while I cried like a sissy and held an ice pack to my face. The dentist said it is really very late, or early, and that he needed some time to wake up, but we could come over. We piled into a taxi and drove through the cold Magellan night into the unlit streets at the edge of the city.
Had I been able to string together two conscious thoughts at this point, I would have been alarmed. In fact, I would have been downright scared when told to walk around the house, past the cars parked in the dark driveway, to a funky little garage in the back yard.
The dentist, who had been calling from an upstairs window in Spanish that I did not understand, appeared wearing a thick coat and carrying a backpack. He smelled of sleep and fumbled for keys to open the door. Red flags were left unnoticed as a result of blinding pain.
Lights turned on and instead of seeing a workbench and a rusty wheelbarrow as I half expected, the garage had been redecorated in 1974 Art Dentist interior, complete with wood panelling, pea green, and porcelain signs declaring “Salon de Rayo.” Dr. Guzman (I saw a plaque on the wall, it looked real) proceeded to pull various utensils out of his sterilizing oven that he likely purchased years before he redecorated.
Then he prepared for examination by using clothes lines to pin a cotton, blood-stained bib to my chest, looking around for some latex gloves but then thinking better of himself and opting for the time-trusted bare-hand approach to medical intervention. I was already crying, so getting more upset about the likelihood of a Hepatitis infection would have just been wasted energy.
The good doctor poked around in what felt like a sadist test of seeing how far out of the chair I would leap, then declared some sort of bad tooth thing (malo de dento or something) and said he was going to drill into said culprit, release unseen pressure, and send me on my merry way.
Seduced by the promise of relief, I nodded and nearly sucked that Novocain shot right out of the needle.
After several more shots and two hours of drilling (most of it by hand) accompanied by a plethora of Spanish cursing, Dr. Guzman decided an x-ray might by of use, along with some Mariachi music. We transported to the Salon de Rayo, various metal things sticking out of my tear-covered, nerve-damaged face where he proceeded to fry his testicles by standing RIGHT NEXT to my head with each x-ray. Over the course of the next several hours, he took a total of four x-rays, each time standing inches away. Considering this guy had probably been a dentist before the invention of radiography (I looked it up, 1895, probably about right), he seemed impervious to its carcinogenic effects.
Having just run a marathon and sustained myself on booze and Advil for two days, the Novocain was wearing off every twenty minutes. My cheeks had so many needle holes in them, I was pretty sure I’d have to drink with a straw to avoid leakage. Luckily, most cocktails come with straws.
The hours wore on. The mariachi band echoed in the background. The dentist said he couldn’t get through, and I begged him with promises of my second born, riches, my soul, to do whatever it takes to make the pain go away.
He worked, I heard a strange pop and then a surprised stare from a man I assumed had seen it all.
“Your tooth broke off!” he said, showing me in case I did not believe him.
Now would be a good time to catalogue my greatest fears in life:
- Being mauled by a bear
- My teeth falling out
Hours before, I had arrived with a seemingly FINE set of chompers. In fact, I had been at the real dentist just weeks before and knew for a fact that my pearly whites were in good order. So whatever was hurting, it was not just my tooth, especially since I now only had half of the damn thing left. Right in the front of my mouth. I looked in a mirror, and burst out into a renewed force of tearful sobbing.
“Ees no problemo!! No problemo!” he says. For every problem, there is a solution.
His solution was to tape a banana-colored piece of something I can only assume was a shard from a broken vase into the black hole that has now become my bite. He tries to tell me I’m all done now and can go home, the new pirate tooth he’ll just throw in there for free. But I should blend all my food from now on and try not to swallow the tooth if it falls out.
Five and a half hours later and half a tooth down, the garage dentist sends me out the door with an invoice that would afford him a new house (even one not made with oil barrels), and promises I will feel better now.
He was wrong.
Writhing on the floor of my hotel with a much-alarmed Ann staring at me, I call my mom and cry: What do I need? What will help me? Please for the LOVE OF GOD will someone help me!?!?!? She says I need opiates, which Ann directly translates to Opium, declaring me a junky but too sympathetic to say it out loud.
My face is beginning to swell. The pain makes me want to pass out. Something is very, very wrong. In hysterics and appropriately scared, I beg her to find a new doctor, which she does. The new doctor, who subsequently earned sainthood in my book, actually had studied medicine and wore latex gloves.
While keeping me on a steady, if nearly toxic, dosage of Novocain injections and shipping me back and forth across town to this or that scan, he identified an old fracture wound that had, for reasons unknown, infected and spread to my jaw. He said “Do you ever crash your bike?” Uhhhh. Maybe I need that full-face helmet.
Hence the pain, hence the fact that poking my tooth around (or replacing it with some scallywag jewellery) was of no use.
By this time my face had taken on the shape and size of a prize-winning pumpkin and working on me was not possible. I transferred from my lovely hotel (which I did not even get to enjoy) to the five-star hospital down the road and was introduced to the glories of The Morphine Drip.
Now I understand heroin addicts. If the nurses so much as suggested turning my drip down from maximum dosage, I freaked out to the tune of Courtney Love in detox. However, while kept apdequately sedated, I pretty much sounded like a John Lennon song.
Time passed, infection controlled with antibiotics, my new hero doctor (Dr. Jorge I called him), fixed me up right. This part was all a little scary because the remnants of my poor tooth needed to go and the risk of breaking the weakened jaw was rather high, but it all worked out fine. I subsequently and of free will opted to reduce my morphine intake.
Dr. Jorge suggested I leave without a tooth replacement (maybe missing front teeth are a fad in South America) and I explained in brief, concise words that I would not leave his office looking like a crack whore who had just had a run in with her pimp. Face swollen and bruised, eyes bloodshot, tooth missing, and suffering morphine withdrawal symptoms, that would be the only conclusion people draw. Thus, the good doctor made me a new pirate tooth (though I did decline the gold version), applied some of that fast-acting super glue, and sent me on my way with a warning to not bite into any apples. And try not to swallow that tooth.
In a couple of months, when my jaw bone heals, I get to sell a kidney so I can afford a tooth implant. Until then, I’m hiring myself out as an authentic pirate for birthdays and bar mitzvahs.
For contributing to this story, special thanks go to:
Ann, for tolerating my hysterics, surviving sleep deprivation, and getting me the best care possible. Martina, for her diplomatic translations of “get me more fucking pain medication right now.” Chelsea, for letting me doze off mid-conversation and not telling people how much I drool in my sleep. Evelyn, for her direct translation of “the woman said she wants more jello.” And Pete, for simply being there. And bringing me lots of coffee. To Dr. Jorge – who went to extreme lengths to take care of me. And to the Clinica Magellanes and all their attentive staff, willing to supply me with both narcotics and pudding. And to my husband, who had the foresight to purchase travel insurance for me.
|October 17, 2012||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose, Patagonia, Uncategorized|
I’ve been running for over two hours and my face hurts. It seems a rather odd sort of place to be suffering when the last one hundred and twenty minutes have been spent running up hills, down hills, and battling the constant gust of Patagonian winds. Anyway, I haven’t noticed much of anything but the view. Because this land is proof of God.
I woke up this morning to see the sun pour pink flamingo colors over the jagged snow-covered peaks of the Torres del Paine. They stand before me in the cool dawn air like a surreal painting of nature. Surely, only chemicals and acrylic can produce this sort of iridescence. A blanket of gray clouds covers the mountains, as if they too are just waking from a slumber.
I have none of the race nervousness one would expect before a marathon. I am filled, rather strangely, with gratitude. For the next several hours, I’m going to run through the wilderness of Patagonia, ever approaching these spectacular mountains.
Despite the distraction of Mother Nature, some pesky thing in my head hurts and I apply my usual approach of self-medicating with ibuprofen. I’m aware the levels are reaching near-toxic, but I haven’t had a cell phone signal in days and the closest thing to a doctor out here is probably the Guanaco shepherd, so I figure a little anti-inflammatory will get me through whatever the pain is. Added benefit: No sore knees during the run.
The starting line is deep in the Torres del Paine National Park, located at the edge of the Andes in Chilean Patagonia. In what is seemingly the middle of nowhere, a band of Lycra-clad runners are trotting themselves warm at the edge of a glacial lake. There is a generator-powered stereo blaring warm-up music, audible only when the wind carries it in the right direction. The gravel roadside has been decorated with orange Gatorade flags – the only other indicator that perhaps some sporting event is going to take place.
There are interviews around us and conversations. War stories of previous marathons are being swapped. People are openly wondering what the hell to wear. In Patagonia, you can have all four seasons in a five-minute period. It is barely above freezing, but the wind is howling (a light breeze by Patagonian standards), and the clouds can’t seem to decide whether they’ll rain or snow or just ominously hover. We make our way to the starting line. I stand near the back with Marathon Pop Star, Stefaan Engels. He’s run something like eight hundred marathons, but for a moment I thought I saw the twinkle of nervousness in his eyes. Because no matter how many times you may have run a marathon, there is no marathon like Patagonia.
The course map is deceivingly pleasant. Some rolling hills, winding past a few lakes, over a few creeks, and toward the foot of the overwhelming gray towers of the Torres. The race profile shows some elevation changes, including a rather sadistic climb from kilometer 21 to 31. Considering that speed bumps hurt late in a marathon, I’m emotionally prepared for the potential agony of those late hills.
There will not be spectators beyond the excited vans of journalists cruising up the road. And of course, the herds of Guanaco that graze disinterestedly. And a few puma who are eyeing a potential meal shrouded in Gore-Tex.
I watch the leaders round the first bend ahead of me, led by Australian Luke Myers. Not far behind him is fellow journalist, Sean McCoy. I try hard to hate Sean, because he just gave up smoking and started running, and he is planning his marathon debut with something like a 3-hour finish. In white basketball shorts and a gait resembling the hurried scurry of a fast bug, he pulls away with the leaders.
I pace myself behind Marathon Man and the little group that has formed around him. He runs steady and with as little resistance as possible – cutting all corners efficiently, his feet barely coming off the ground. That’s a dangerous step out here, because the “road” is a mine-field of rocks too large to be called gravel, but too small to be called boulders. I think to myself that the finish line will be a graveyard of toenails.
I would have tried to get serious about my run, but all I could do was gasp in amazement every time I rounded a bend, or summited an incline. Along the course I heard the same thing again and again: Wow.
Nature has been kind enough to load our planet with all kinds of wonders and beauties, but Patagonia has its own special quality of awe sprinkled with harshness that makes it unique. The trees grow crooked and close to the ground, bullied for years by the relentless winds. Valleys with flowing water seem almost lush, but are soggy peat bogs that will swallow shoes (or sheep). The turquoise lakes are blown by winds from the ice fields, leaving them frothy and bitterly cold. The rolling foothills of the Andes are scattered with islands of brown rocks that sing like sirens when the wind whips around them. In the distance, the violent walls of the mountains appear like a gate one may not pass.
When the sun comes through the moving clouds, it almost feels warm. In the first half of the race I am chatting lightly in basic English or haphazard Spanish as I run along. I can’t even remember the word for run, but I replace all my intentions of a supportive statement with a wide grin and a thumbs-up, which I assume is the international sign for “you’re lookin’ awesome!”
As the hours wear on, I feel my face more than my feet. Something is wrong but I can’t tell what so I try to ignore it. I pass the only other runner in Vibrams and he looks rather miserable. The terrain here is essentially the most difficult you could find for this type of minimalist shoe. I’ve already kicked a few rocks into my ankles and dropped a few F-bombs for the wildlife to hear. I pass the half-marathon start and see friend and colleague Pete Clayden laying in the dirt and taking pictures. It’s the closest thing to a spectator we’ve had the entire race. It is also the start of a climb that will last more than 10 kilometers.
It doesn’t matter though, because the higher we get, the better the view. I’ve been running alone for a while now, but I can see people ahead and behind me, moving like florescent game pieces down the road in the distance. I am left with nothing but the sound of my feet on the gravel and the ceaseless blowing of the wind. It blows me left and right. It blows me up hills and down hills. It comes in gusts that nearly lift me off the road. Sometimes I think I could just put on a cape and fly to the finish line. By kilometer 35, I am rather wishing I could.
Marathons are, as a rule, hard. This marathon is, however, in a category of its own. Between the wind, the extreme weather changes, and the terrain, training to run 42 kilometers is not enough. One must train in hills, on dirt and rock, in rain and shine, in snow and mud, possibly while trying to outrun a puma.
The last seven kilometers feel like twenty. The road gets rougher, then changes direction and the wind hits us directly from the front, sometimes bringing runners to a complete halt. People look tired. Whenever I feel tired, I lift my chin and stare up at the Torres. They are right in front of me now, forming the stone walls of a half-circle, snow falling down the steep crevices between pillars.
I can smell the post-race BBQ wafting down the valley from the finish line. Then I can hear the thumping of music, then the cheers of onlookers. At last I see the end, a firewood-lined path through a field that leads to the final banner. I’m tired and dusty, thirsty and hot or possibly cold. My legs want to stop, but for a brief moment I am sad that it will be over, because I feel like I could run toward those mountains all day long. I cross the finish line with a sigh of completion and turn to face the snowy peaks behind me.
And I think to myself, “This was the most beautiful run of my life.”
Sometimes a run is beautiful because you feel strong. Sometimes it’s beautiful because you find yourself winding through trees in autumn colors. And sometimes it is beautiful because it makes you keenly aware of the blessing of life. This was a run of gratitude – gratitude to my body for allowing it, gratitude to nature for providing it, and gratitude to all the circumstances and people involved in creating such an incredible experience.
Luke ended up winning the race by a long shot – his bright blue eyes pioneering the way several minutes ahead of the pack. Sean came in third in his fast-young-whipper-snapper category. As for me, I made a lot of new friends in the middle of the pack and kept all of my toenails.
My face, on the other hand, nearly exploded after tinkering by a gloveless man humming to mariachi music on the radio at four in the morning. Coming soon: Part II – The pirate tooth and other South American urban legends.
|October 2, 2012||Filled under Uncategorized|
Coming soon: One Patagonian marathon. One visit to the Chilean tooth mechanic. Two days on a morphine drip. Just another South American adventure…
|August 23, 2012||Filled under Uncategorized|
Once upon a time, doped up on enough post-operation narcotics to numb at least a third of the Burning Man population, I rode my bike through Hamburg. It started out as a trip to the clinic for what I was sure was a little operation. Like with most things in life, I was overly optimistic about the whole procedure, because when a doctor tells me it will take 45 minutes, I assume I’ll be at the track for speed work by six. And when I asked if I would be able to exercise again “soon” (thinking at six), I guess he thought I meant like… in a few weeks.
“Aber klar!” he said, then continued explaining the procedure to me in German that I apparently understood none of.
If I had understood something, I would have arrived more prepared. Like with pants. Instead, I showed up a week later, pedaling my bike to the hospital in a pair of checkered shorts and flip-flops. Upon arrival, people sort of poked and prodded me, then an angel of a nurse gave me a happy pill (all dispensers of happy pills are angels). Between that and the breezy gown they dressed me in, I was feeling rather like I was on holiday.
They rolled me into an operating room and plugged some machines into me. It felt rather… cold and sterile and sort of… serious because there were a lot of people with face masks on. I was starting to think everything looked rather excessive and I ought to maybe inquire, when a nurse told me I should count backwards. And just as I realized they actually intended to put me OUT, I was actually out (German vocabulary of the day: Vollnarkose = general anesthetic).
Somehow, I had been under the impression that I’d get some laughing gas, a Valium, and maybe a juice box to sip on.
When I woke up some indeterminate number of hours later, I completed the mandatory urination like a champ then put my shorts back on. I was too lit to even notice or care that my legs were covered in that yellow iodine stuff, in fact I thought it looked like a had a good tan, not a very bad case of diarrhea. I wobbled around my room until a nurse found me and asked me who was picking me up.
“I’ve parked my bike right outside!” I blurted as I walked into the food tray, sending it and thousands of peas flying through the room.
For some reason, this seemed to alarm the nurse because she tried to tell me I could not ride my bike home. I carefully explained, while eating peas off the floor, that the doctor said I could walk right outta here as soon as the surgery was done. She said it was too late for that, I’ve been sleeping for eight hours. Note: The night before general anesthesia, a Caipirinha binge is not recommended.
The nurse flat out refused to let me leave on my bike. She said I had to call someone and leave in a car. One that I was not driving. I said, “No problem! I will just call someone.” And then I made a pretend phone call to my mom right in front of her. I’m not sure what tipped her off – the fact that I spoke German to my phantom mother or the fact that I got a phone call half way through the conversation, but the nurse still wouldn’t let me go. She called my emergency contact (my roommate) and told her I needed to be escorted home and that I could not leave alone.
My roommate apparently didn’t have the whole story either because she showed up on HER bike. I was dancing to the elevator music in the waiting room and sipping on that juice box when she came in and asked what in God’s name I had all over my legs.
“I got an operation today!” I said, breaking into a Foxtrot. By this time, my recently operated upon legs were starting to swell from all the commotion, taking on the appearance of a medical anomaly right out of a National Geographic photograph. My rather concerned roommate suggested a chat with the nurse when I ushered her out the front doors in a series of defensive dance moves that would have impressed Beyonce.
Once outside, I whispered that she should quickly retrieve my bike without making a scene and roll it around the corner and out of the sight from the receptionist. At this point, I made about fourteen phone calls to miscellaneous acquaintances informing them of my post-op status: The secretary at the office, a sales-rep I’d never met, my mother, an ex-boyfriend or two, my mother again. The list went on (as my cell phone memory would later prove). I left more than one voice mail stating “Whassup? I just got cuttup!!!”
My roommate returned with my bike and asked who I was talking to. ”I didn’t call anyone,” I said. ”How did you know I was here?”
Now might be a good time to explain the gross motor skills necessary to direct an over-sized antique Dutch bike weighing no less than the Titanic and steering with as much efficiency. This bike was one of those purchases of intent – as in I was intent on purchasing it regardless of how impossible it was to ride. When the bike was originally manufactured, the Dutch had a record national average height of seven feet, and my squatty Norwegian frame barely reached the pedals. This led most of the general public to assume I was commuting to my job at the circus, where I performed as an over-sized midget. As awkward as actually pedaling the bike was, the braking process only made it worse, requiring initiation approximately a half-mile before complete halt. The captain must also sustain a constant bell-dinging at high-frequency to warn traffic and pedestrians should the distance have been underestimated.
It was upon this steel horse I mounted for the rush-hour journey home. I say “mounted” but I mean something more like clambered because it took about three attempts and eventually a boost from the roomie before I was actually sitting on it, clinging to a light post with which I may have had an intimate moment. My roommate came rolling by and told me to follow her and she’d lead us home. Easier said than done.
Hamburg’s population of 1.7 million not only all ride bikes, but from behind they all look like my roommate riding her bike home. A bike would go whizzing by and I’d try to catch up – no easy feat when your weave requires you to cover twice the distance – and then suddenly my roommate would appear from behind. I was pretty sure she has some sort of cycling magic.
Occasionally alarmed strangers would look at my bizarre state of wobble and color and I would try to comfort them with a nod and a simple informative statement of , “Dysentery.” This meant most of the light posts were left for me to lean on and intersections were cleared for me to ride ahead.
In this fashion of slalom and dodging, we made our way through the neighborhoods until my surgeon saw us at a traffic light. I tried to outrun him but the Mercedes I’d just paid for was faster, and he caught up and insisted that we push our bikes the rest of the way home. By the time I got home, my shorts were operating as compression tights for my elephantiasis legs. I declared this curable by ice cream, as ice creams cures all things, but I was passed out in my bed before I got any. I’m not sure if I actually fell asleep or my roommate took a frying pan to me just to be sure I stayed down.
In any case, I’m not sure where the bruise on my head came from. Or what exactly I said to the mail room guy when I called him, because from then on, always delivered my post personally with a wink and that creepy crooked grin of a guy who might know what you sound like when you try to have phone sex in German.
|August 20, 2012||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose|
I’ve noticed a sort of phenomenon among my peer group lately. They’re finding God.
It was as if they were slipping their shoes on one day, something bumped their toe, and they pulled their foot out only to discover God was stuck in the toe box. They’re finding God in pockets they clean out before laundering, in forgotten lunch boxes, and old cedar chests. They’re finding him at the discount shelf in Target.
One day they are considering whether or not they should line up a retirement plan, when suddenly the impending doom of post-mortum darkness and the potential of eternity spent watching Full House reruns (my version of Hell) brought them enlightenment. Even my husband the Atheist decided there must be more to life than what they discover in Star Trek episodes.
I’ve been watching this from a distance and wondering if it is contagious. First it was that damn Twilight series. Now it’s church! Will I be overcome too? Will I replace pajama party Sundays and hangovers with big hats and post-prayer fried chicken? I’m not even sure white people can go to those cool churches where they sing gospel and then fry hallelujah chicken thereby bringing glory to gluttony. I’d probably be forced into one of those Utah churches where my first born is married off in utero. And since I can’t sing, I’d have to talk in tongues (See: Freakishly weird behavior of the faithful).
Obviously, I’ve been in full panic and avoiding most social contacts on Sundays out of fear that someone might invite me to their church. Taking me to church is like auctioning a sun-weathered stripper at a Hospice fundraiser: Obscene, but for a good cause.
Whether or not I secretly feel compelled to go to church, I’ve been relieved to discover that I can develop my relationship with God elsewhere, thus reducing the probability that, if there is a hell, I have to share a room there with Carrot Top.
Because God joined Facebook.
After he did all that universe creating, evolution, birth of Mark Zuckerberg, and inspiration of Facebook, of course. Though I know he’s omniscient, I still salute his forethought that connecting to our modern population would be best achieved through modern means of communication. God also appears to be a bit of a techie because he uses HootSuite to manage all his social media, from Twitter to Instagram. He just posted a picture of himself walking on water with the caption, “No need for PhotoShop, Suckahs.”
Instead of attending church, I’ve decided to friend God on Facebook and win favor by liking every post he ever makes. I’ll follow this up with some poignant commentary like, “And God spake.” I don’t actually know what that means because, despite his use of the latest technology, he still uses rather archaic English in his quotes of the Bible. Which is all he seems to post anyway. Like one of those comedians who makes it big and then just keeps doing the same material in Vegas.
I’m suspecting he’s just programmed an algorithm to randomly post from Psalms while he sips some umbrella drinks on the Maldives – two things that are proof there is a god and not just universal chaos. Universal chaos is also proven, but by the existence of fusion restaurants and walking as an Olympic sport, neither of which disprove the existence of God.
In any case, God and I are FB friends now and I’ve been inviting him to all my events and my Farmville ranch. I haven’t had a drought since and I’m pretty sure it’s because I spelled out “Genesis 1:12″ with my corn rows. In my real urban garden I only had room to make a peace symbol out of radishes, which sort of got out of control and now just look like a warped Mercedes logo.
Once again, I have narrowly escaped religion and maintained my resistance of the church without having a negative impact on my relationship to God. Thanks to Facebook, I can even poke him before prayer time, or send him a message. Most of the time I CC Santa Clause too, just to make sure I use a two-pronged approach.
God must be pretty busy though, because he still hasn’t responded to my Words with Friends request. Which is good, because with words like spake, hath, and worketh, I don’t stand a chance.
|August 12, 2012||Filled under Uncategorized|
I have this sort of elitist obsession with avoiding things that I determine are too trendy. I know it’s ridiculous because… honestly… who can really be original these days except for a few starving Bohemian artists on Etsy? However, it’s the only thing that has kept me from ever seeing Titanic, reading those damned sexless vampire novels, and feeling compelled to say things like “I’m so PUMPED about that Flying Fran I just did!!!” I never want my workouts to potentially be confused with an LSD tab or an easy girl at a frat party.
Right now, the only thing more trendy than CrossFit and Paleo nutrition is planking on miscellaneous landmarks, and since I’d done that, I figured resistance was futile.
I was not a complete rookie. I once went to a CrossFit gym with my friend in Redmond, Oregon. They told me to jump up on a big box and do some push ups, so I stuck a two by four on the ground and laid on it. Then I watched a bunch of petite women bench the equivalent of a double-wide trailer with a carport, so I faked injury and sipped water in the corner. My brief but rather intimate relationship with a kettle ball that day led me to a three week hiatus from coffee because I could not lift my cup past my elbows without a complicated system of ropes and pulleys, and sitting was out of the question anyway.
For those of you who are not yet exposed to CrossFit but wondering what sport is awesome enough to allow the pretentious positioning of a capital letter in the middle of their name, a few observations that may or may not be representative:
- CrossFit is for real. This is no Jane Fonda in spandex and legwarmers people. These are real men and women. Sure, they’re wearing compression socks, but they probably just threw a tractor tire across the parking lot, so it’s safer not to judge them.
- CrossFit turns librarians into that dude from Indiana Jones who wants to eat the beating hearts of victims – or at least bad ass enough to do it if it were on the WOD. 5 times in 15 minutes.
- CrossFit expands your awesomeness lexicon by at least 50 terms, including: PSYCHED! ANIMAL!! OWN THAT! and much more. Yes, all capitalized and always with at least one exclamation point. Followed by high-fives and knuckle-bumps. Because…
- At CrossFit, everyone is your fan. You are awesome. Everyone is psyched for you. You’re an animal. Now pull that damn laden sled across the parking lot like you OWN IT!!
This place is not for people who need mirrors. It’s a place for people who want to feel their potential. And there’s some sort of juju synergy that happens, some kind of humanoid gene of success that is triggered, and a tribe of collaborative animalistic back-slapping is formed. And I want to stay there because it feels nice and warm and safe. At first.
Don’t be fooled.
Optimistic as I am, I show up at CrossFit Wiesbaden because I met their owner at a bike race and he made a bunch of pleasant sounding references like “good time” and “so much fun” and “anyone can do it!” There was no mention of tractor tire lifting, sled pushing, or shirtless men running around with glistening abs. Obviously if he had just mentioned that last part, I would have been there months ago.
We warmed up with a brief jog, misleading me into a the belief that I had a chance of survival. Then reality showed its pretty face and I was left pumping iron with two women who consistently lifted the equivalent of fully grown livestock (which I assume is what they actually do on rest days). This was followed by a series of crazy things that seemingly have nothing to do with working out. Like throwing around concrete balls, flipping tractor tires, and pulling sleds across parking lots. It made me want to go Rocky and chop trees in Montana or something, then run down a deer for dinner. I think they actually have that WOD. It’s probably called Baggin’ Bambi.
I heard Stephen Glover (owner, in high school voted Most Likely To Climb A Rope with Car Strapped to Back) mention that it was a slow day. I assumed that meant only half the group would vomit and maybe a third would get nose bleeds. If they had gyms in medieval times, it would have been like CrossFit (minus the boils). In fact, I half expected to see some swords and skins on the wall, or at least some Scottish highlands bloke throwing bare-breasted women over his shoulder while log-running. And yes, CrossFit is that cool.
Overwhelmed by the moment and clan support, I hauled that rope in as fast as I could, and thrust that giant ball onto my shoulder no less than 18,000 times. By the time we were done, my muscles had turned into a sort of gelatinous mass of trembling fear. Humbled and impressed, I declared the next day exercise-free and food-plentiful.
The next day I couldn’t move. Rather, I could, but not without the defeated whimpering of a girl who owned it yesterday and is paying for it today. Those mountain biking legs of mine? Wrecked. Those marathon-running quads? Shredded. That climber’s back? Has about 15 new muscle groups and they all hurt. However, my testosterone levels have surged by no less than 40% and my Kong chest-beating form is greatly improved.
And I’m psyched. And I’m going back for more.
As soon as I can stand up straight again.
|August 5, 2012||Filled under Uncategorized|
I have this sort of pet peeve about cooking. I should take it up with Jamie Oliver, because he does it to me every time I see one of those fabulous natural, simple looking spreads in one of his misleadingly basic-looking books. I am thoroughly disappointed when I find a tempting recipe only to discover that it requires at least 14 obscure ingredients, most of them obtained at a black market in Morocco from a man who runs guns.
So in my attempt over the years to make my own energy bars, I’ve tried various versions with miscellaneous cupboard debris, from oats to flax, leftover cereal to stale nuts,
recycled bananas to black beans. This recipe is a sort of basic guide to homemade energy bars and you can easily change out ingredients (I’ll provide some examples).
I started making my own bars back in the Vegan Years (also known as The Dark Ages), and now I make them because I like to be able to pronounce the ingredients of the foods I stuff in my pie hole when I am on a ride or run. Along with the challenge of making a bar that doesn’t turn to mush in a backpack or pocket comes the challenge of creating sustainable fuel sources – the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and minerals to keep a body moving. If you don’t know what this is, don’t worry, science changes it every year. This particular bar has about 200 calories per serving (for comparison, a PowerGel pack has around 100, a Clifbar has around 250).
The Recipe: Coconut Cranberry Bars
100 grams ground hazelnuts (or almonds or walnuts)
100 grams cereal flakes (corn, wheat, bran, etc.)
50 grams coconut flakes
80 grams cranberries
1 tsp Fleur de Sel
300 grams peanut butter
150 grams honey
25 coconut butter
Instructions: In a small pot, on low heat, melt wet ingredients together, stirring frequently until you have one gloriously sweet, gooey mess. Set aside. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Pour your warm goo over the dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. You’ll want a uniform sticky, clumpy mixture. Consistency is a trick in these bars (or they’ll fall apart) and it depends on what kind of flakes you use, how ground your nuts are, the peanut butter texture, and more. If it feels too dry or crumbly, crushing it down with a wooden spoon might help. If you need more moisture, use small amounts of melted peanut butter and honey.
Dump mixture onto a square pan or baking tray, cover with wax paper and flatten evenly. This is a good time to put a lot of pressure on and crush the flakes together to help bind the bars a bit. Form into a large square or rectangle and let cool. I do this outside or in the fridge until the bars are hardened (between 30 minutes and an hour).
Remove, cut into a size you like, and package.
I pack mine in wax paper and plastic wrap. The wax paper keeps them from getting too soggy. These will keep for about two weeks in a fridge without a problem.
Some notes on ingredients: You can replace coconut butter with real butter, or if you prefer, just add more peanut butter. I use coconut butter as a nutrient-rich fat source and find it easy to digest while in motion. In general, you can replace the ingredients (dry or wet) with alternatives of a similar composition. Any dried fruit, oats instead of flakes (flakes make it crunchy and light), rice syrup instead of honey. If you want to add chocolate chips, these must be mixed in the dry ingredients and your wet mixture cooled before mixing, or the chocolate chips will just melt and spread. Experiment with what you have around the house, foods you like, and come up with your own delightful energy bar!!
|June 29, 2012||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose, Uncategorized|
My dad is sipping coffee from across the diner table, an Oregon map in front of him. He hands it to me and says “When plans don’t pan out, the adventure begins.”
It doesn’t feel like an adventure yet. I’ve been sitting in a truck with a five year old for hours and if I hear Raffi sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star one more fucking time, I may drive off a bridge. We’re heading to Mt. Rainier in what is becoming an epic journey of gas station food bribery. It’s amazing what a kid will do for a bag of Cheetos.
The weather on Rainier has turned and a storm is coming in. Anyone who knows mountains knows you stay off them in sketchy conditions. We’re sitting in this Eugene, Oregon diner trying to figure out what to do with two days of bad weather delays. We decide to head east and visit family, driving through Oakridge. This depresses me. I can’t just DRIVE through Oakridge.
Oakridge, Oregon is a little gem of a town. Population 3,300. Streets: 2. Trailer parks: 17. Trails: 500 miles of some of the best mountain biking in the country. I see cars laden with bikes as we head east. I have fantasies about telling B to just crack a window and lock the doors, Mama’s gonna ride for an hour. But I know if I leave her in the car, she’ll just eat all my camping food. As we pass more bikes and head into Oakridge, I can hear the tears of my ibis on the rack.
Then I see my dad waving me down. He’s pulled his motorcycle over and he’s got the map out again. He tells me to drive up to Waldo Lake, where he’ll hike with B and I can go for a little ride. You know, check out the trail for an hour. I should have known better.
Waldo Lake is an alpine lake in the Cascade Range. At 1650 meters, it sits in some of the most picturesque landscape overlooking Mt. Bachelor, and surrounded by a 38 km trail. This is where the adventure begins because it is genetically impossible for me to ever go out-and-back. I cannot ride, turn around, and take the same trail back. There is some kind of physio/psychological defeat associated with turning around. It is 4 pm, I’m on my bike, and I’m going to try to tackle this loop in two and a half or three hours. The trail cutters I ask on the road tell me they haven’t cleared the south end of the lake yet, but it was not a bad year for tree falling. They were wrong.
The lake, though beautiful, appears to be the breeding ground of the world’s most aggressive, giant form of mosquito. I cannot stop even to pick my bike up over logs without twenty of them attacking me. In fact, they are so numerous and insistent, it’s starting to freak me out, like some scene from The Birds. I hear them buzzing all the time.
I am pedaling as hard as I can through a burned forest landscape. It is like being on a different planet. The trail is pristine, except the tree fall. The trees are like standing gray needles, the forest dead but somehow alive as new grass begins to grow. Determined to get around the lake, I throw my bike over and under logs as fast as I can, pedal through creeks, and crank up the hills. It is perfect and I can’t stop smiling and catching mosquitoes in my throat.
Which is how I first realize that my Camelbak is actually not full of water, but weighed down by bike tools and a rain jacket and a single sports gel. Apparently some small five year old has been sipping on my bag.
I think it is not a problem because there’s lots of water here but I underestimate the mosquitoes, who try to carry me away if I even slow down to check a creek out.
I am making good progress despite the fallen trees, and all the while curving around the shore of this incredibly, pristine lake. The water is a cool turquoise and I can see right through it to the bottom. About half way in and an hour fifteen on the watch, I hit the first patch of snow. Critical decision point here. I made the wrong one.
Do you turn around and lift your bike over all those logs again or assume that the trail ahead is probably logged and a few snow patches are easy enough to walk through? You turn around.
I do not. Because, like I said, stupidity, determination, and at this point, dehydration, are making decisions for me.
The snow patches get deeper and longer. I’m pushing my bike more than riding it. And I am doing this at break-neck speed because I realize that the sun will set, that I don’t have a light, and that the mosquitoes will have sucked all the blood from my dad and daughter if I take too long. For a while I can still find the trail between snow berms. And then I can’t find the trail anymore.
I’m standing in the middle of a thick forest. I can’t see the lake. I can’t see the trail. The last sign I saw said 8.7 miles to a bay. And I can’t stop moving because the bugs are eating me alive. Part of me wanted to cry and part of me wanted to eat some snow because I was hungry and thirsty.
I kept finding the trail again, looking for cut logs or any sign of opening, and working my way around the lake as fast as I could. Running in snow is hard. Running in snow in bike shoes is harder. Sometimes I’d fall in pockets up to my thighs. Some of the bridges were broken and bike and I had to wade through the waters. Sometimes I just rode through swamps and snow. Sometimes I crashed and got wetter. Sometimes I’d see enough trail to almost be able to ride, but a fucking tree would be in the way.
I came across a shelter that had a stove and firewood in it. And fourteen billion million trillion mosquitoes. I checked it for matches, found none, swore at my unpreparedness again, and told myself I’d have to camp there in the cold if I couldn’t find my way out tonight. Maybe I could build myself a firewood force field to ward off mosquitoes. Probably, I’d need a blood transfusion the next day.
Three and a half hours in, and having run the last eight miles or so, I finally ran up a snow bank and onto, hallelujah, a road. A paved, snow-free, easy to follow, ROAD. I pulled out my little picture of the area map and figured out where I was, and started to pedal. The sun was behind the mountain, dark clouds were looming, and it was getting cold. I thought it was just a mile or two to the parking lot… it was six. Plus the two miles I got lost in the wrong camp ground, because, as we have firmly established, I can get lost really good.
Exhausted, bruised, hungry and muddy I finally saw the truck in the waning light. I figured I’d see worried looks of relief and hear stories about rangers being sent out for me. Instead, B was showing Dad how to play games on the iPad, safely shielded from bugs in the cabin of the truck. My dad nonchalantly asks, “What time is it?” as if I’d just left, as if I had not just spent over four hours expending every bit of energy I had in a race against the dark, fantasizing about the cougars that were sizing me up for dinner.
I collapsed onto the front seat, a soggy, scratched pile of mosquito bites and mud, thinking, “And so the adventure begins…”
|June 12, 2012||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose, Uncategorized|
I am standing in the kitchen making my husband his favorite meal and batting my eyelashes so much it’s making me dizzy. My husband is a smart man, and it’s going take more than a few logical arguments to convince him that what would be really good for our marriage right now is if I bought a new bike.
No really, bikes make everything better.
If you’re a mountain biker, or any kind of biker, bikes are sort of like babies. You may have been fine without one, or fine with the one you’ve got, but some unknown force compels you to need one, a new one, another one.
They are different from babies insofar as you have to sell a kidney outright to pay for a bike, whereas children bleed your money out of you slowly. Until they want bikes too.
I had been looking for a bike for months and reading bike magazines like porn, including drooling on the pages and groaning. I think my husband was getting jealous as I eagerly flipped pages in bed. I promised him that if I had a new bike, not just any new bike, but THIS new bike, things would change. I would love him more. The sex would be mind blowing.
That last part did the trick.
I had been trying to find my dream bike here in Germany but was greeted by the standard German customer service that repulses most people from ever buying anything. This is a sort of magic force in Germany, similar to the one that discourages anything but sausage and bread from the plate.
Germans are so effective at repelling potential buyers from actually spending any money, they have managed to create the most stable economy in Europe. They act like it’s the result of financial planning and prudence, but really it’s just bad customer service. Conversations with bike shops would go like this:
Me: So do you sell bikes?
23 year old stoner on a scooter: Uhhhhh.
Me: Can I test ride one of your bikes?
Shopkeeper: Not unless you buy it first.
Me: Then it wouldn’t be a “test” really, would it?
Shopkeeper: Go avay, you are not gut enuff to be ze customer.
Stefan Hartrampf was like a German version of your neighborhood California bike shop owner. He was even… friendly.
Days later I arrived at the Wiesbaden main station to meet Stefan who was awaiting me with a cup of coffee in his hand and an ibis Mojo behind him. The coffee wasn’t for me (room for improvement there, Stefan), but coffee drinkers are sympathetic. I decided right away he must be trustworthy if not a kindred spirit. He gave me the scenic tour of the beautiful city that his gallery calls home, and then we hit the trails on the sweetest bike I ever rode.
One test ride on the ibis and I was in love. This crisp, nimble bike had a geometry that simply fit. The power transferred so immediately with each downstroke that I had the feeling I flew up the mountain. How would it handle coming back down?
If the ibis Tranny is anything, it is competent.
That’s what makes it such a versatile bike: Light and stiff for cranking up hills, agile and responsive for ripping down trails.
A few weeks later Stefan called to tell me all my parts were in, and if I wanted, we could build my bike together. When I arrived, all the parts were laid out on a table like an organized puzzle. I recalled the time I took a bike apart only to discover all the parts fit in a shoe box and I’d never be able to put it back together again. Fortunately, tri-cycles knows how to build bikes better than I.
One Saturday afternoon and several cups of coffee later, I had learned a lot about carbon
frames and shifting cables, and Stefan had learned a lot about English swear words. Once just an idea, then a few parts, and suddenly a bike was born.
Which of course we had to take for a ride. It’s all part of Stefan’s incredible customer service package: cappuccinos and test rides. And he gets something that few shops seem to understand: It is not just about buying a bike – it’s about buying happiness. It is about knowing where your bike came from, how it fits together, and why you chose a specific frame and components. It’s about creating the foundation for miles of dream riding.
Apparently, the ibis was a good choice. Every time I race it, it rides me straight to the podium. It is the perfect bike for me, with the perfect fit and the right components for my style of riding. These are things you can only discover with time, experience, and a bike shop that knows their product.
And every time I ride it, I feel like calling up tri-cycles and thanking them for helping me build not just any bike, but my bike.
God help me if I try out road cycling… I only have one kidney left to sell. But I bet it would be worth it.