Wednesday, October 24

It's all about perspective, isn't it?

The Chicago area experienced the most gorgeous weather this past weekend, the kind that anyone who loves the outdoors appreciates. Temps in the mid-seventies, a gentle caressing breeze, a beaconing lakefront, and a city holding tightly to the waning days of festivals, food feasts and ethnic parades.

It might be somewhat early, but I think this is Indian Summer.

This weather deserves engagement. Before the motorcycle, I'd probably power walk along the lakefront or hike through a forest preserve or take a long bicycle ride. Since the motorcycle, the weather produced the kind of weekend that would have me on the road by 5:30 a.m. heading out for a weekend trip. It would also have made a perfect Saddle Sore weekend.

Ideal conditions for sure. But I have a sick motorcycle. About a week ago Queenie was towed away. I should have taken pics of her being hoisted on the truck but my heart was heavy and just not interested. That day, I was determined to get down to why the turn signals worked intermittently, why the instrument panel remained inactive and dark. I put on the choke, turned the key and Queenie fired up immediately. Like me, she wanted to ride. I jiggled some wires in her tail compartment and the left turn signal flickered a little but I could never get any life from the right signal or the brake lights. I debated if I should ride her to the shop. It was early morning and I figured I could make it without too much trouble. Then I realized that I was fooling myself with desperation talk. Even with the lights functioning it's a challenge to navigate downtown Chicago traffic. Without a speed odometer, turn signals and brake lights it would be crazy to ride with only a working headlight.

But if I were caught out on the road and the lights went out, I'd have to ride it, right? It's easy to rationalize one's desires. I came to my senses and accepted that while I could definitely ride the bike, that wasn't the important question. Whether it was safe to ride it, whether I wanted to accept that increased level of risk was the real question. And, I didn't, really. I just wanted to ride the 5.5 miles that is, at best, a 30 minute ride through traffic.

Queenie's week away was tough even with the the roller coaster, make that, schizophrenic weather we've had. Just last week, we enjoyed balmy, summer-like temps. Then came coat weather. Sudden changes in the climate made it difficult to anticipate what to wear in the morning. Just last week, I was pelted with cherry sized hail that hurt like heck as I ran for cover from a nasty brief storm! Then came magnificent weather this past weekend.

I learned that Queenie needs a "combo kit," which is the device that controls the turn signals, the brake lights and the instrument panel. I'm guessing that the glitch in the extant one was causing the blown fuses? Or, perhaps it wasn't a fuse at all, just this faulty device screwing up things. Overall, it sounds like a minor matter but the "kit" must be ordered, which means hospitalization for the bike until it arrives.

Motorcycles were ubiquitous.

I had company this weekend and that helped take the edge off. Yet, I literally gave myself whiplash at all my snappy head turns trying to catch a glimpse of a passing bike. My visiting friend, who is pregnant, came in from North Carolina. It was the first time we've seen her in pregnant form. Everywhere we went, she and her little bowling ball served to remind me of matters far more important in life than yearning for and whining about my bike. Her family and friends eagerly await the birth of this new member of the tribe. That's big stuff!

Then came the fires and the Santa Ana Winds that roared at hurricane speeds. This was Sunday. I have close friends in La Jolla and in several San Diego counties. I learned that some relatives of close friends has surely lost their house. They were roused by a red and yellow glow shining through their window. They had enough time to grab a few personal items, load the car and flee for their lives as falling embers trailed them. They've not been able to return to their canyon neighborhood but from all accounts, they have most likely lost every thing.

After contacting my friends and finding out that they are, for now, okay and busy housing other friends who are now homeless, thoughts of my precious bike seemed woefully self-centered. My friends reside near the ocean, away from the canyon and direct line of fires but they can smell the smoke, taste the fumes and now live under a smoke-filled sky. They remain on alert in case things worsen. It's the winds, they say, that are wrecking havoc, feeding the flames and building the walls of fire across southern California.

Right now 1000 homes have been destroyed and approximately 1 million people have been displaced. Eighteen fires are active and still being fought with only three fires contained thus far.

I've never experienced such devastating lost, never felt the Santa Ana winds but I recall reading a memorable essay by Joan Didion in her book, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, on the Santa Ana winds. Her vivid description is permanently etched in my memory...


"... without darkness
Nothing comes to birth,
As without light
Nothing flowers." --
May Sarton