Tuesday, March 25

Comfort food needed, but "I don't want a pickle!"

When I was around 7ish, my twin cousins, Floris and Doris (yes, that's their real names) used to bribe me to spend the night with them almost every Friday night. They did so with pickles. Big, juicy dill or sour pickles that their father brought home from the pickle factory where he worked. It worked every time. I loved the things. We used to bite off the top, the pointiest part and stick a peppermint stick down it and suck up the sweet-tangy juice. It may sound gross now, but that was tummy-licious snacking then. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I think I tired of having the twins fight over whose bunk I'd share. After all, they only lived downstairs from me and I much preferred my own bed. I had my fill of pickles by the time I was 9. Today, I detest the things. I've eaten enough to last beyond a life time.


A couple of days ago I had one of those insane days at work and I needed comfort food for lunch. Miller's Pub in Chicago makes pretty dang good grill cheese sandwiches but I always have to remind them that I want it with cheddar cheese, not American cheese. I patiently tell them how much American cheese makes me sick, sick enough to upchuck. They get it wrong more often that I care to reveal. I almost always forget to tell them to leave off the pickle--'cause I don't want a pickle. I don't even want it near my sandwich. The word we used as children for really gross food was "vomit-ticious"--and pickles to me definitely are.

Today at work I felt on the precipice of a mammoth meltdown. Murderous thoughts crossed my mind a couple of times. Whenever I feel like this, a motorcycle ride is the panacea. When I get on my bike, I am all business. I am focused. I am centered. To ride safe, nothing can distract me. Whatever is ailing me, must be shelved. Having to focus my energies and attention on the task at hand, amazingly calms the nerves, regulates the breathing, and relaxes the mind. After finding that zone, that place when everything is clipping away at a good pace, the fun begins. Mentally, I am always in a better place at the end of a good ride.

I needed to ride today. In the worst way. Although a bit chilly, I would have endured the temps. Even the angry, robust winds wouldn't have discouraged me. After all, this is the Windy City. I have braved winds that made the bike seem to ride at a 45 degree angle. But Queenie isn't home from winter camp yet. So, I came home and did some motorcycle 'net searching--a poor substitute for a ride, but it's all I had. It did help quell some thoughts of work place homicide.

In my web searching, I found something that captures my sentiments EXACTLY. Arlo Guthrie and the Motorcycle Song.

"I don't want a pickle, I just want to ride my motor-sickle"

Listen and watch Arlo!

Sing it Arlo

Thursday, March 20

Obama, race and motorcycling...

What does Obama's "Race" speech have to do with motorcycling? A cursory glance and the answer is probably "Nothing." But a closer study--to me at least--and race has much to do with riding. As I listened to CNN and MSNBC and various local news stations deconstruct Obama's "Race" speech, I was putting together early plans for the riding season.


Like many, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC praised Obama's speech. For him it had universal resonance. Olbermann considered it reasoned and intelligent in a way politicians are not known for demonstrating. Olbermann felt Obama particularly poignant because Obama's speech drew us in on a personal level. His considered thoughts about his grandmother, explaining how in spite her stereotypical and often cringe-worthy comments, he loves her. She is family and he could never reject her. He spoke of similar feeling about his minister, even while he rejects the content and tone of his message.

Olbermann felt that this mirror Obama was forced to put on his life could encourage a public discourse on race. Olbermann went on to talk about his own grandfather whom he loves but heard use the "N" word when his baseball(?) game was interrupted to announce the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Olbermann remembers his grandfather's admonitions not to touch a black person because it would rub off on him and he would turn black. As a child, Olbermann found these race lessons disturbing and confusing and hard to reconcile in a grandfather he loves. But he has. Many people are forced into this kind of mental reconciliation concerning family and friends we love but with whom we do not agree.

Olbermann remarked that we all probably have people like this in our lives who say inappropriate and unacceptable things. While I may not agree entirely with Olbermann, I get his point. DSC_0738

Cognitive dissonance. That's what was running through my mind while listening to all the post "Race" discussion panels. Simply put, cognitive dissonance occurs when one holds opposing or conflicting beliefs about the same thing. These views co-exist--in an itchy sort of way. The discomfort, particularly if one struggle too long and too hard at reconciling and bringing meaning to the conflicts, ultimately can lead to all sorts of crazy-making thoughts and behavior.

An example of cognitive dissonance I remember hearing in a college class pertained to being an American. Accordingly, we are expected to be patriotic, to love and honor country. But the country can be wrong and do wrong. I recall first reading about the "Trail of Tears"? Cognitive dissonance. Read the Constitution. For me, it leads to cognitive dissonance. I recall my grandfather's tales of serving during WWII and telling me that black soldiers were relegated to sitting in the back of army trucks--behind captured German soldiers because of segregation and how serving in segregated units contradicted American ideals and how it felt returning home to a society as uncivil as ever to him and those who look like him. Let's just say his stories of growing up in Louisiana in the mid 1900's were character building. Many people lived with cognitive dissonance. Yet, until the day he died he remained a man proud of his service to his country, a country that denied him full citizenship during the formative periods of his life. Cognitive dissonance. So, where's the motorcycle connection? DSC_0740

Well, I'm a free woman. I come and go when and where I please--mostly. Riding solo is my right. I know the dangers and I recognize and accept the risks. I am not naive. I consciously quell the voices inside that whisper about strange and evil men lurking about, waiting to slash and murder those that dare to venture out alone or far.



I suffer from wanderlust via two-wheels. I can stay close to home but I read the papers. A stray bullet can shatter a window and a family's life as a child is killed while watching television in the safety of his own home. I ride because it's fun--it brings me peace and a joy that restores my warm-fuzzies about humans and nature in a way that nothing else does. Out there, on my own, I am renewed and and the strength within is unearthed. Yet that joy and peace is often interrupted in some small way that matters a lot. For the most part, I choose to ignore it (or navel gaze on it here) .

As I now hover over atlases and maps and tour guides, my mind fills with dreams of traveling to far too many places than time and funds will allow. Like a kid in a candy store, I consume far more than I can digest. Last summer I didn't go to half the places I put on my wishlist, but I logged a ton of miles just going where I wanted, soaking up memories and taking pictures that pull me through the harsh Midwestern winter. DSC_0555

While planning, a bout of cognitive dissonance creeped in. Deep down, I fear certain places. These tend to be remote (meaning they are beyond the urban centers). They are the kind of places that when I ride in, it is obvious that I am the main tourist attraction. Many places are like this. In some of those places I feel fine. In some others, I feel extra-terrestrial or like I'm sporting a tail. I hear the comments, I see the elbow nudges, and the pointing children (whom I can forgive). None of this ever deters me, mind you. I go where I please and as long as no one puts a mean hand on me, you will not read about me in the newspaper. It can get exhausting, however.

I live in these united states, where principles of equality, freedom, pluralism supposedly applies everywhere and defines our nation. Thus far, however, I've not had a riding season without at least one incident, one experience that is strictly racial. I know we motorcyclists get crazy stuff happening to us on the road all the time. I get that too. I'm referring to something else. I'm referring to eating in a restaurant. A pit stop. A hotel reservation made on the spot. Stupid comments yelled from a car---obviously some people didn't get the memo--and haven't heard about it either--written in 1865.

Our founding fathers Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin all owned slaves. Yes, I know one must understand these human failings in the context of history. Cognitive dissonance. I know it well. DSC_1213-1

I believe in the democratic ideals this country espouses. The reality is that some don't believe these apply to me. Other people's problems can suck the peace and joy out of motorcycling. Riding, in spite of the venom out there, is my way of exercising my freedom.

This riding season, my mettle will be challenged to the max. I admit to fears--rooted in ugly facts--of riding alone through the South. I am reminding myself that my experiences outside the South haven't been a piece of cake. Can riding South be any worst? Collectively, my relatives would say "Yes." But two dear friends now live in the South. I've accepted their invitations. So why has Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" been running through my mind?

It's easy to get stuck in the toxic mucky-muck and never step beyond one's bubble. I must believe that there is more good out there than bad. Cognitive dissonance. And when I dwell in all the contradictions, I tell myself, "This too shall pass." I force myself to refocus on the good. When that doesn't work, it's yoga breathing or taking pictures of flowers or going underground for alone time with a good book.

My riding plans are underway. Come hell or high water, a solo trip South is on the list. Tennessee and North Carolina, here I come.

Thursday, March 6


Well, my new work schedule, 4:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., launched this week. Actually, it was my decision to switch to a schedule more harmonious to my normal sleep habits. beachfront1 I am distracted, exhausted and stressed by a traditional 9-5 work schedule. Normally, by the time I get to work, I've already been up six hours, which means I drag myself through the remaining work day. Given this and the current work load before me, I decided to work on my schedule rather than on some archaic corporate clock. CSC_0367Still, now that I'm no longer totally self-employed, having to be somewhere on any schedule and working regularly with others is taxing. It wears me out. Work environment can be over stimulating and downright toxic, to say the least. DSC_0757 (See the lone motorcyclist? It was 56 degrees Sunday!)

I ride solo for many reasons. It's my time to be alone with my self and my thoughts. It's the only time I can do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it. If my bladder screams, I stop; if I want to ride the whole dang day, there is no one with whom I need to negotiate. I've found that I prefer solo work too. In less than a week of the new hours, I'm feeling less stressed by the work environment but it has done nada for the stress the job itself generates. DSC_0245 (How it looked a couple of weeks ago)

Tonight, in spite of feeling exhausted and crabby, I took time out to peek in on some of my favorite "haunts." I didn't get to comment much or at all on some sites, but the visit leaves me feeling inspired and missing old pals. I may not want to ride or work with others, but I thoroughly enjoy hanging out in cyberspace with kindred spirits.

So, I'm fighting back! Regardless of the chaos of work, I need regular 'net visits with pals, like Crusty the Biker, Sojourn Chronicles, Motorcycle Misadventures, Scooter in the Sticks. Do drop in on them too. And here's a special "Shout out" to a new fav, Jack Riepe at Twisted Roads. Reading him guarantees a smile or outright belly laugh! Tonight, he helped me deal with the pangs of severe PMS--not the kind you're probably thinking of--although reading him might work for that too!DSC_0556(Seen at a motorcycle show)

Here's to my favs--looking forward to catching up and reconnecting!