Suburban Snapshots

Next Year I'll Tell My Dentist I Ride a Motorcycle for Fun

Monday, August 27, 2012

If you asked anyone I know to describe me, none of their adjectives would be "daring" or "adventurous" or even "spontaneous". In general I'm none of these things; it's okay, I'm fine with that. I've never thought, "If only I were brave enough to hurl myself from a plane and let a large piece of fabric keep me from having my internal organs spread across several acres."

So when Steve got his motorcycle back in January and I decided I wanted to learn to properly ride it, people were surprised. And when I posted the image below to Facebook during our basic rider course, friends commented "Cool!" and "Badass!" And if you've ever taken a 3-day motorcycle training course having only spent maybe a quarter mile on a motorcycle (and almost running yourself down in the process) you'd know that more appropriate statements might be, "Grueling!" or "Exhausting!"

The class made me realize how long it's been since I've had to absorb any amount of new skills and information. Those brain cells I used a little bit in college started to come out of their midlife hibernation so that by the fifth drill when we had to not only remember the million steps to make a bike stop and go safely (there were 5 steps just to start up my wee training bike) but pay attention to curves, other students, traffic patterns and the instructors' hand signals, all I wanted was A/C, a nap and a beer in whatever order I could get them. My brain and body were spent.

I woke up the night before our second riding day dreading getting back on the little Suzuki. I was tired of the unrelenting heat and sun out on the tarmac where our range was set up. I was tired of clumsily  shifting gears and accidentally riding outside the lines, I was anxious about the licensing assessment and my clutch muscles were killing me. But at 7:45 a.m. we arrived back at the airfield and by 8:00 I was taking curves at a breakneck 12 miles per hour. People, it was fun as hell.

Steve and I both passed the course; he got 100 on his written test to my 98 (NERD ALERT), we tied on the riding assessment. I still don't feel tough or badass or especially confident. I have a lot of practice ahead of me that I'm looking forward to starting on. But I'm proud of myself for stepping way out of my comfort zone and for doing pretty well, for going back even though I really thought I'd had enough of drills and videos and sunburn, for taking a risk and following through.

Ironically, the most dangerous part of the 3 days happened on the asphalt before class had even started,  when Steve made me laugh so hard I choked on a piece of my Egg McMuffin. Sure, I almost asphyxiated, but I did not dump my bike. True story.

Sorry Dad, I Didn't Get
Pregnant for Your Birthday

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I've been telling people all week that my dad's turning 60, and without exception the response is, "Wow! That's so young!"

Dad may not share their assessment, but I happen to think it's awesome that though I'm about to be 39, he's barely past the age when AARP starts sending you things you didn't ask for in the mail.

My parents had me young; I can't do math but I think Mom was 22 and Dad was 21. Can you even imagine? Things between them were good and happy, and then I have to assume things were really neither good nor happy, and now that I'm an adult I realize how much credit they both deserve for keeping my sister and me mostly in the dark about the ugly stuff for a really, really long time.

As far as my sister and I knew, we pretty suddenly had a couple of new parents and a few trips a year to visit Dad in whatever super cool new place he was stationed (that's him below in an old Coast Guard photo, standing under the number 4 totally owning that mustache and tiny hat.) Dad showed up at all the big family functions and Mom still visited her ex-in-laws and my sister and I remained blissfully ignorant to any residual bad feelings.

We pulled the usual shit that kids with parents living separately tend to do — always wanting to go to Dad's when Mom was being "mean," (note that if you were my mom raising the three of us you'd be "drunk" as well as "mean" and also likely "clinically insane"), insisting that child support checks be cashed and spent immediately at Toys R Us, threatening to go live with Dad, you know the drill. It was all very After School Special.

And even though the time we've spent with Dad has been exponentially less than the amount our mom was forced to endure enjoyed, there's no mistaking that my sister and I are his own.

For one, my sister Steph walks just like him. Her feet turn out and her hips move in exactly the same way. She's practically his twin, her expressions — hell, just her regular face — have Dad all over them. And her sense of humor is all Dad. We both lucked out and got his thick, wavy hair; she got more of his red than I ended up with though my hairline is unmistakably his, as is Steph's mustache. Zing!

I'm over-analytical and thinky which Mom says is all Dad, as is my 5'10" height. Everyone says I got his brains, I know for sure I got his crummy eyesight (edit: this may have been a joint contribution).

I'm a car snob because of my dad, not because he's superficial but because he knows how to work on cars and appreciates good engineering. I drive a Passat because he owned 2, and maybe also because I still have some memory of the red VW wagon my parents had when I was born. I try to figure out problems that I notice in my cars because I've always seen Dad go to work on his. I used to be amazed that he could change the oil in his old diesel Mercedes. When the clutch cable snapped on my first car, it was Dad who taught me that you don't need a clutch to drive a 5-speed, then, if I'm not imagining this, he fixed it with the brake cable from my 10-speed. MacGyver who?

I'm proud of my dad. He's done a lot with his 60 years. I'm sure his next 40 will give me even more to brag about.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

One Thing I Won't Do for Fun
is My Dentist

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A few weeks ago I was at the dentist — the one who kept saying, "You don't want me in your mouth for that long," like he had no clue that it might sound a little, I don't know, FILTHY — and during my compulsory pre-cleaning interview he asked, "What do you do for fun?" Note that this was actually on the interview sheet and in no way related to him spending any time in my mouth.

I was stumped. I thought about people who could quickly say, "I golf!" (snoresville) or, "I run." I felt a little inadequate at not having one major outlet. I wrinkled up my nose and said, "Uh, I drink?" Then he asked me what kinds of things I like to drink and wow, the more I type about this dentist appointment the more I think maybe he did want a date. Anyway. I don't really drink all that much and it's definitely not the first thing I turn to for fun. But what I do do for fun seemed kind of lame at the time, and there are a lot of things I do, so it was hard to point to just one hobby on the spot like that.

I guess I'm not a person who's all "work hard play hard." My day to day life is actually pretty good, so while I love a long weekend or a nice afternoon playing hookie (spellcheck really wants me to change that to either 'honky' or 'nookie') at the beach, I don't punch out on Friday and take off on a 12-miler to relieve the stress of my work week. I feel really lucky about that.

Still, I'm a little disturbed that I don't have a formal hobby because everyone has something, right? And Facebook doesn't count, or at least I don't want to admit that it might.

I like to cook, I like to read blogs, I write, I enjoy making funny graphics for your entertainment, I take walks with friends, I try to Rollerblade a few times a week, I enjoy driving fast and blaring top-40 dance music, I like the beach but not for more than a few hours at a time, I love the farmers market on Saturdays, grilling out with neighbors, I enjoy having sex with my husband and flirting with strangers, long talks at happy hour with girlfriends, impromptu dance parties in my living room and huge outdoor concerts in summer. I also love a good nap.

So, if your dentist asked you the same question, what would you have to say?

I'll Never Be
Convinced Otherwise

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I don't expect any of you to be interested in my political views, because there are people who are far more well-informed than I am on most topics of national importance. I don't think what I feel compelled to say here is actually a political issue, but you can bounce off the page now if you're not in the mood for some soap boxing. You can also keep on reading and contribute to the conversation in comments, or unlike me on Facebook, or donate to a good cause. It's your call, I just need a little bit of a podium for a few minutes.

Last week you may have heard that little flap about Chick-fil-A and you probably had relatives proudly posting photos of themselves enjoying fatty, overprocessed chicken sandwiches in solidarity with the restaurant's president. I'm not going to get into that whole specific controversy, but it all reminded me, harshly and brutally, that in this country it's still perfectly legal to discriminate against people because of their sexuality. To quote one of the best articles I read on the issue: "In 29 states in America today, my partner of 18 years, Cody, or I could be fired for being gay. Period. No questions asked." (Here's another good article.)

Does that not seem completely fucked to anyone else? I mean fundamentally, horribly and totally fucked.

I know I just lost a whole bunch of you, and that some of you will strongly disagree and want to comment, and I just ask that you do it as the reasonable and intelligent people I've known you to be since this blog's inception (though you're free to curse indirectly, as I have just used some choice words myself.)

It breaks my heart to hear stories of people who couldn't visit their partners in hospitals, or adopt babies, I'll never understand or empathize with parents who disown their gay children. It is utterly unfathomable to me that someone can be denied such basic rights, that in this great society there are laws limiting -- even prohibiting -- freedoms that those of us who happened to be born straight take for granted every day.

The whole thing truly puzzles me, it boggles my mind. I'm astounded by the ignorance of people whose convictions dictate that homosexuals are somehow in a lower caste, that it's acceptable to legally deny them anything that any other citizen is given freely. It makes me deeply sad and incredibly frustrated.

I can't change the whole world, I can only demonstrate what I hope to see. I'll continue to celebrate the local victories of my gay friends, support their equality, love my little girl boundlessly, regardless of who she loves, and hope I live to see the day when we finally, collectively recognize this injustice.