September 2008


Moods are such curious things. Half the time, at least for me, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to them. The mood of yesterday…poof.

It might have been the conquering of the hill, it might have been the Thai restaurant and the homey welcome I feel when I go there (not to mention the delicious food I took home with me), it might have been a fleeting and unusual sense of the warm fuzzies that said “home” as I dragged my laundry down the hall to the condo’s laundry room.

Maybe it was getting a new windbreaker to wear in the mornings, and laughing at myself because I almost look like a “real biker” in this snazzy new windbreaker. The mornings are just cool enough for me to be more comfortable with it.

Maybe it was needing to leave for work a little later than normal to avoid accruing overtime, and thus riding to work in the blushing fog-diffused morning light that makes me think impossible things.

Maybe it was all of those and none of them.

A low pressure system has moved in, and today was all smiles with scattered clouds.

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It started with a mood…a mood that started maybe last week. And it was set off by the ignorance of a bratty high school kid who glanced behind her several times as she walked along the sidewalk so that when I passed her on the road she could hiss in her childish way, “you’re soooo stuuupid.”

I fumed about the ignorance of the high school brat, and I stewed about the unsolicited advice that people think is socially acceptable to say if you’re on a bike.

And miles later, still steaming, as I flew down the road towards the big hill, I was annoyed by a fumbling bicyclist riding in the sidewalk and cutting off my entrance to the around-the-hill path.

Oh, I could have gotten around them, with much fumbling of my own, but I had a lot of fuel by then, the anger burning bright. I’d been thinking too much about poverty today, about Haiti and hurricanes, about rich white men and taxpayer bailouts, and if I could do nothing about the children starving in Haiti, and if I could do nothing to make those irresponsible rich white men face their responsibilities, I could do something else altogether.

I could take that burn of anger and turn it into the burn of muscles.

I didn’t turn. I didn’t go around.

I went straight up that damn hill.

And I made it.

Take that you bratty kids, you ignorant unsolicited-advice-givers, you irresponsible conscienceless men, and you natural disasters. I rode The Hill.

I was thinking today about how long it had been since I’d gotten any new music. I listen to music a lot, so there is nothing on my iPod (which has almost all of my music collection) that I have not listened to quite quite often.

So I was thinking about this, and half planning on browsing iTunes when I got home, except that doesn’t really work well for me. I seem to need to know in advance what I want, so I do better to get turned onto something that I’ve stumbled on through a blog or through a friend, than to just randomly browse or search.

And then I started thinking about ani. She has a new album coming out. Did I pre-order it? If not, I decided I would do so as soon as I got home. Or, at least, after I’d determined whether I’d already pre-ordered it.

I checked my mailbox on the way in.

Any guesses as to what was waiting for me?

Red Letter Year, naturally.

“‘I’ve got myself a new mantra,” Ani shares on Red Letter Year. “It says ‘Don’t forget to have a good time.'” This attitude clearly influenced the dozen tunes on the album, which celebrate existence, profess love and tackle thorny political issues with an infectious sense of glee. It’s one of Ani’s most joyous records to date!

Featuring her live band and lots of special guests, Red Letter Year was sculpted over the course of two years, a period in which Ani continued to hone her songwriting, performing and recording skills, all the while balancing her new role as a mom. The end result is an album of focused, layered, panoramic music.

Oh, yeah, and it GLOWS IN THE DARK!

Well, that’s what they say about it! I haven’t tested out the glow-in-the-dark bit. I’ve listened to it a few times this afternoon. It isn’t one of the albums that grabs me from the start and doesn’t let go. I found it almost unnervingly simple and light-jazzy at first, actually. But I think it is more layered than that, and like most of her later albums will seep into me over time. Already on the third listen, I realized that there is more complexity than I’d first noticed. At least in some of the songs. She does have a few songs that are extremely happy. A definite sign of a new phase in her life – she talked about that in her concerts last year, so it is no surprise!

One thing that struck me right from the start is how open and vulnerable some of her songs are. Maybe that is a quirk of mine, that when people bare their soul and show the gentle happy emotions, it feels more vulnerable to me than when they share the anger and hurt. Maybe I’m just paying more attention right now, but I am awed by the courage it must take to share some of these things with people.

She also sings about some of her own insecurities. Meanwhile she’s probably the hero to millions of young women! Just goes to show how self-critical we all are.

And of course there is The Atom, finally on a CD.

I’m no good at music reviews, but I will say this: I think this CD is absolutely worth buying for long-term ani fans. It is quite different than most of her other CD’s, and it might not appeal to those who really only liked, say, Dilate and Little Plastic Castles. As usual, ani is not interested in being pigeon-holed into one kind of music. She’s always experimenting, and I think this cd is no exception to that.

I’m so happy the music fairy visited me today. It was perfect.

Yesterday I was walking to yoga class, thinking about how happy it made me to walk to yoga class. I love that I wear essentially my pj’s to yoga. Which says more about my pjs (yoga pants and a t-shirt) than anything else, I suppose. Still, freshly showered from the bike ride home, wearing soft and comfy comfort clothes, walking to yoga class…it had me in a good mood.

I passed a family walking the other direction on the sidewalk, the mom carrying the small person in a small-person holder in front of her, one which had the small person facing outward. Something like the Wallaby, perhaps – I looked it up, in case my description was incomprehensible. The small person had her eyes on me. I don’t know why. Perhaps I was just more interesting than the traffic or the store fronts. Regardless, with her eyes on me and the hint of a smile on her face, I grinned at her. And I don’t know why I did that either, because I’m not the type to see children and automatically smile. But I grinned at this one last night. And she grinned back.

It was our secret communication. Much better than a complicated handshake, and a great way to start a yoga session.

I rode today, and I am glad I did. My hamstrings were, indeed, less sore today, though they were still quite vocal.

It is frustrating to not be able to push harder when I want to. Yet it was gratifying to see that I wasn’t doing too badly, even without the ability to push harder. I got through my tough parts of the morning commute, and as I approached the building I work in, I thought, “I’m here already?

That was the most gratifying part of the ride in, and it was exactly what I hoped for in pushing past my mental tiredness from the ride the afternoon before.

The ride home wasn’t as much fun. More of the mental tiredness, more grouchiness, and more headwinds. Yet I made it.

And I can’t help but to be grateful that the elements are picking up their intensity, so that I have a real and valid excuse for driving to work tomorrow. Mentally I need the break. Physically I need the break. Realistically neither of those matter, because 15-25mph winds with gusts of 40-50mph mean my bike ride just wouldn’t be safe.

Tomorrow: During much of the morning it will be mostly cloudy, increasingly windy, and still dry. By midday, rain chances will go up, and most if not all the area will see rainfall by afternoon. Winds sustained around 15-25 mph will be accompanied by occasional gusts of 40 mph or higher during the day and into the evening; even stronger winds are possible in the mountains and near the shoreline. Highs should top out in the quite cool low-to-mid 60s across the area.

I’m sure there are those who would ride regardless, but me, I’ll be in my truck tomorrow.

And as much of a relief as it is in some ways, there is just as much disappointment. I don’t like driving to work. I have fun riding my bike to work. Tomorrow’s commute will be physically easier, but more disappointing as well.

Now, since I had this song in my head on both of my commutes today, I thought I’d try to get it stuck in someone else’s head. I love this song, but it is the kind of song that makes me want to (try to) sing along with it, and that’s not really to anyone’s advantage, especially not during meetings. On the theory that if someone else gets it in their head, it will no longer be in mine, I give you ani’s Swim.

My muscles have been screaming. Especially my hamstrings and my shoulders. The most comfortable mode of travel for me is definitely on the bike, yet my hamstrings still complain on the bike.

Today on the ride home I came as close to giving up as I think I ever have. It was mental as well as physical. I was mentally tired from two days of these stupid sore muscles, and I ran right into the strongest head wind I’ve ridden into in the past two months. And it stuck with me most of the ride. It was to the point where I wanted to yell at it, because I swear it was coming right at me, no matter which direction I was riding.

I made it up all the hills. I made it home. I have hobbled around getting ready for tomorrow, wondering all the while if this doesn’t qualify for a good reason to stay home altogether. I have made two kinds of cookies – one is a true dessert, the other is an energy bar in cookie shape. I made hummus, reeking of garlic with a raw tahini tang.

I’m prepared, I suppose, for riding to work tomorrow. I keep telling myself that it is always the worst on day two, which was today. I remind myself that the mornings are quieter and easier, mentally.

What I want is a vacation.

I was talking to a coworker at the end of the day, and we were talking about work. Work in the general sense, as in “isn’t there something better to do with my life?”

It is such a common question. I sometimes think about the millions or billions of us around the world who wonder every day “is this what my life is? 9 hours in a cubicle?”

It just seems to me that there must be a better way.

I have no answers, just challenges. My bike commuting is only half done this week. It is going to be a challenge to keep going, to finish off the week (at least through Thursday) on the bike. I’m stubborn enough to try.

Well, I knew it had to happen someday! Despite bulletproof tires.

The many things I am grateful for:

  1. Rich! Not only a handy mechanic, a fix-it kind of person who can figure most anything out, he is an elementary school science teacher, so he’s had lots of practice with being patient.
  2. It was a gorgeous day out
  3. I had the necessary supplies to change the tire
  4. It was on my way home
  5. Though it took me almost an hour to accomplish, I did accomplish it.
  6. Flat tires are no longer something to fear

As I rode today, creaking and aching every where there is to creak and ache (those 108 Sun Salutations are the gift that keeps on giving), I felt like I was especially slow on the one road I find it especially important to be fast on. And then I had a sinking suspicion that I was riding on the rim of my back tire. So I pulled into the next side road to check it out.

That tire was flat as flat could be. I looked at it for a few minutes, hoping to change reality, but just as honking your horn doesn’t change the reality of someone being in front of you, staring at a flat tire does not magically inflate and de-puncture the tire.

And so I dug in my bag to find my spare tire and the tools I’d secretly hoped never to need to use. I loosened the quick release, and started to take off the tire. And that’s when I became intimidated by the chain and the rear deraileur, and dug in my bag for the next most important tool to carry – the cell phone.

Rich answered right away, and in his hello was both a laugh and an “uh oh”. We never talk on the phone. Text, email, visit, but the only time we talk on the phone is when I’m lost, need directions, announcing my arrival, or….have a flat tire.

He talked me through everything, and it was incredibly nice to have a friend there with me, via phone if no other way. I like to think I’d have managed it completely on my own, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.

And in the end, that tube was changed, the new tube was inflated, I got the wheel back on the bike (after considerable effort, and this was where Rich’s experience with 7 years olds came in handy), and managed to reconnect the brake (that’s where my puny muscles were really put to the test), and with blackened hands (I wiped as much off onto the grass as possible, but there is only so much you can wipe off on the grass!) I set back off on my trip.

It was empowering, when all is said and done. It was a great feeling. And I was somehow that much more comfortable on the bike as I made my way home.

So it ended up being a 2 hour commute home, but that just means I was outside for 2 hours on an incredibly gorgeous fall day, talking to a great friend for almost half of that.

A great day, really.

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