July 6 2011 Ride: Love, Visited and Revisited

I’m still processing my trip to Vancouver with The Boy, and by processing, I think I mean “recovering.” Along with my skin tone, The Boy has also inherited my considerable gift of the gab. In educational-lingo, he’s a “verbal processor,” in the extreme. To know something, he must first express it, no matter what it is. It’s almost impossible for him to think without speaking. I’m much the same way, though time has taught me some control of this tendency. Still, I recently had this conversation with a student:

“Ms. M, I saw you this morning on the way to school. You were having a conversation with someone on your phone headset or something. You were so animated. Who were you talking to?”

“I wasn’t talking on my phone. I was talking to myself.”

So I do understand the problem here.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the many years of education-related rounds of personality testing: extroverted folks aren’t good listeners, and introverted folks are easily overwhelmed by the task of keeping up with extroverts. I’m an introverted extrovert (yes, such a thing is possible). I like to talk, but I also like to listen, and I need lots of silent time each day to unwind. Put me in a room with a child who talks non-stop for 72 hours straight, and though I love that child with my whole heart, I will eventually collapse with the effort of both listening, and getting a word in myself. Right now, I’m collapsed. I think the only reason I survived at all was that The Boy has discovered the “Owls of Ga-Hoole” series and read for nearly two hours each day, thus giving his exhausted mama time to tune him out.

Must. Nurture. This. Reading. Thing.

Anyway, I’d like to get to my Vancouver experiences while they are still relatively fresh, but I have a couple rides to enter first. Do I have to enter every ride I do? Well, no. But I kinda want to, you know? Writing allows me to… uh… well, process them. The entire reason I started this blog, after all, was to tell the stories of my rides to someone who wasn’t already sick of hearing about bikes (hint: family). Thus, this short (but entirely meaningful) entry from a week ago.

First off, this ride involves a bike we haven’t seen around here much lately: The Viva Kilo.

I really don’t want to spend an entire rideblog comparing this bike to The Raleigh. After all, they are not supposed to be the same. The problem is that right now, I’m deeply in love with one of my bikes. I’m head-over-heals for my Raleigh Sports, despite having owned it for two years. And now that the honeymoon is over with The Viva, so to speak, I feel like I’m focused a great deal on its relative “faults.” To be fair, most of these are actually in the nature of the bike, and I knew its nature when I bought it. This is sort of like my ex-husband, though that’s an entirely different blog…

Anyway, back to love: can one love two bikes at the same time? Well, of course. I’ve been around the block a time or two (metaphorically and literally), and I’m old enough to know that love is complicated. As simple as romance novels portray our loves to be, life simply doesn’t deliver our emotions in the happily-ever-after mode. I am an English teacher, after all. While I love Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, I know that both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester (okay, especially Mr. Rochester) would be utter pains in the rear end to live with. Come on, brooding and moody is interesting in a sexy boyfriend, but long-term? Stable and kind wins the race every time. The problem for all of us is that our minds live in all time frames at once: past, present and future. Short-term, and long. My students and I recently hauled ourselves through William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, which is a novel where happily-ever-after comes… and then goes… and then is left far behind, until life — messy, complex and ultimately somewhat unsatisfyingly beautiful — triumphs over the fairy tale.

Needless to say, they mostly hated it. Only at the very end did it start to make sense to them. It’s hard, when you’re young, to understand the idea that even when you think things are “perfect,” life keeps going anyway. But I’m no spring chicken: I know that eventually The Raleigh leaving its dirty socks on the floor will stop being adorable and will just feel like another chore. At that moment, The Viva will step up and I’ll fall in love with it all over again, as folks do. Love wanes and waxes, like the moon.

The Viva is a heavy bike, slow and cumbersome. A few weeks ago, when its front brake cable shifted and the brake lever become “soft,” I couldn’t be bothered to fix it right away. The Raleigh is comfortable and easy to ride. I was bombing up and down hills, sort of. I was riding like a kid again, and having a great time doing it. The idea of sitting up like I was at a state dinner just didn’t appeal.

Then one day, pulling The Raleigh from its spot in the garage once again, I found myself itching to ride my other bike. Variety is the spice of life, right? I picked a nice flat trail, where a “soft” drum brake wouldn’t matter much, and I hauled The Viva out to the car and hoisted it up onto the rack. Holy Mother of Mud, is that bike heavy!

Instead of feeling like Superwoman as I lifted the bike, I was just annoyed. Does no one else ever take these things anywhere? Who are these Danish people, with their vikings and their massive biceps? Do they all look like this guy?

According to Wikipedia, that font of all trivia, “Denmark has frequently ranked as the happiest and least corrupt country in the world.” Oh, okay, fine. Whatever. But have they ever tried to pick up their own bikes? I don’t think so.

Ah, but love is supposed to be hard work, right? Sometimes you have to make an effort to figure out what it is exactly that attracted you to someone in the first place. I find, though, that a good foundation makes it easier to return to the place where love was as intense and as real as the ground itself. The Viva did its sneaky best to charm me again. First, it’s a very photogenic bicycle. Posing with Mount Rainier or a train… it’s all the same. Pretty!

And looks, as we know, do count for something. When all else fails, attraction is at the heart of many a rekindling of love. Even The Boy, whom I love without fail or conditions, gets by on his cuteness sometimes (like 11pm when I’m trying to sleep in the same bed with him and he suddenly says: “Mama, what will we do if I don’t wake up in time to go to the bathroom?”).

The Viva is pretty much game for anything, as long as I try to accomplish it slowly (rather like attempting anything with a child, actually). Going over incredibly bumpy railroad crossings? The sort that take out roadies doing 30 on their 23mm tires in the rain? No problem on a pair of Fat Franks:

Those tires would roll smoothly over the flames of hell, as long as I could keep steering. The Viva’s heft makes it an ideal subject for a certain kind of riding. If things are relatively flat, and no one is in a hurry, it pushes ahead over almost any surface with the same steady plodding, oblivious to road changes.

Mountains standing around looking threatening? The Viva laughs at Mountains! Who’s up for a game of H-O-R-S-E?

Throw down, Mountain. Throw down! Who’s the big white thing now? Huh? Oh yeah? Your momma was a single speed!

The Viva, filled with Mountain-defeating bravado, tried to sweet talk me into a go at the local skate park, but even those considerable Danish abs couldn’t convince me that it was up to this:

Though I’ll admit that it would almost have been worth seeing the looks on those teenage punks’ faces to have given it a go. Almost. I mean, there’s love, and then there’s just stupidity.

In the end, I wasn’t completely seduced by The Viva, which remains a bike for when I feel most like taking things slowly and enjoying the ride. Clearly, this is not my present mood. I did enjoy it enough, however, to haul it all the way down to Ballard the next day to get the brake cable adjusted. More on that, of course, in the next rideblog.

And Vancouver. When I recover.

For final words on love, I leave you with this, from the ridiculously popular English folk band, Mumford and Sons, who are the writers of a genre lovingly referred to as “Banjo Anthems,” which must be a good thing, right? The song is called “After the Storm,” and it’s actually banjo-free, which may comfort some of you.

There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears/And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears/Get over your hill and see what you find there/With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

Amen, Banjo-lovin’ English brothers. Amen.

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8 Responses to July 6 2011 Ride: Love, Visited and Revisited

  1. Tom Reingold says:

    I am so moved by this post that I can’t express it. At first I strongly empathized with the introvert-extrovert thing. I, too, am too good a listener and can’t find my voice to speak with others. I, too, process thoughts in an odd way, though not always by talking out loud.

    When you came to the bit about life moving on to its complicated nature, after having reached perfection, I was stunned. I had never heard it expressed that way, and you piqued my interest in Vanity Fair, which I have never read. It’s possible I’ve never read any novels of that genre. It’s a scary genre to me, as my ADD makes reading some novels difficult to impossible. But I can see the reward more clearly now.

    Loving different bikes is like loving different children. I have two daughters. Each love feels like I’m giving one entire, complete heart. Yet to love two daughters, I must have more than two hearts, because I give one to each, and I have heart left over for so much more and so many more. And as we switch bikes because of the occasion or because one is awaiting repair, my daughters have always seemed to take turns needing me. I used to joke that they coordinated their acting out so I’d always be in crisis. It is still that way from time to time, and they’re 22 and 19 years old! But life is sweet when you look at it right. Or bittersweet is more like it. But bittersweet is more poignant, meaningful, and rewarding.

  2. Auchen says:

    “And now that the honeymoon is over with The Viva, so to speak, I feel like I’m focused a great deal on its relative “faults.””

    Why is it that while we have it, we see only the bad, and then remember the good, long after it’s gone?

  3. your ENTJ BFF says:

    You know, you got the child you deserved. 😉 Verbal verbal verbal. This is why, perhaps, I prefer talking to you IN PERSON rather than on the phone. You can see my eyes glazing over and let me say a few things while you take a deep breath. It’s funny because it’s true.

    And unsurprisingly, my parents taught me to read and love reading at an early age because it would make me shut the hell up. Has he started Harry Potter yet? It makes me feel old to say it, but he’s getting to be the right age…because I’m assuming he reads way above his actual age, like both of us.

  4. rideblog says:

    Tom, you’ve captured it perfectly, I think, in that last paragraph.

    And you should absolutely read Vanity Fair, but do it slowly, and don’t have the expectation of finishing it anytime soon. Think of it as a world to be immersed in, for a long time. I’m always sad when I’m done, because I’m so invested in who the characters are. There are slow bits, but you just push through those. The reward is worth it. Many people are afraid of Victorian lit, which is my favorite time-period, because they think it’s going to be heavily old fashioned. Instead, think of the Victorians as people just like people are today. I tell my students that the Victorians were great thinkers: amazing scientists, artist and inventors. They LOVED science. But… they were also hugely supersticious and religious. They had gone from a world where the Bible was literal truth to Darwin in a generation. And they believed Darwin, by and large. So they struggled, constantly, with the notion that what they had achieved, all the advances in technology, all the beauty in archetecture and medicinal miracles… that all that was just a veneer, hiding the primative heart of man within. That at any moment, that heart was doing to burst out and overwhelm them. I see us as living very much within that connundrum today, as well. They were very black and white. Things were good, or evil. And Thackeray, damn him, liked to put things firmly in between the two. One of my favorite points: he creates a perfect Victorian hero in one of his characters: young, handsome, in love, brave, virile, a bit stupid, a ladies’ man and a man’s man… then he kills him off early in the book and lets us follow his bumbling, ugly, thoughtful, love-sick, incredibly human best friend instead. That’s the kind of book it is. Great stuff.

  5. rideblog says:

    Total human nature, Auchen. The trick, I think, as one gets older, is learning to wait patiently for love to return, instead of immediately selling off the dang thing!

  6. rideblog says:

    My gosh, BFF, (sorry, but I think I was ENTJ too), for a second you sounded just like my ex: he says The Boy is a karmic reward :). You should see The Poor Man I Live With: his eyes glaze over, he starts moving uncomfortably, and then he starts inching over toward his computer nervously… or worse, down the stairs to bed!

    The Boy and I are reading HP together. We’re on book five. He’s on a countdown to the last movie. At first, I was pissed when his dad started renting the films and got him all the way through to the last one in like six weeks, because as I watched them, I realized how dark and violent they are. Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, I’m glad he’s getting to see the final two in the theater. It’s amazing to be waiting and waiting for this one, anxiously wanting to know what’s going to happen (we haven’t read the whole series yet, so we have an idea — as mommy had to go look up some Snape spoilers or go insane). It’s like he gets a bit of that magic we had in Star Wars, but even more so.

    And yes, he reads above grade level. He started this year unable to read a very basic picture book, waaaay behind his peers, and has finished reading chapter books like Ga-Hoole and the Jedi Apprentice series. I guess that’s inherited too, as both dad and I are serious readers. While he was immersed in owl-land, I was reading our Upper School summer reading book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which is amazing and sad and wonderfully done. He got to page 60 with the owls. I read 200 pages. He was a bit dispirited until I pointed out, yet again, that mommy is 40 and The Boy is 7.

  7. your ENTJ BFF says:

    Ohhhh, Henrietta Lacks is sitting on my bookcase right now, waiting for me to finish, well, the 20 other books I have to read. (Puttering through the end of China Mieville’s Embassytown right now. Why do I read dense books?) You know, other people comment on your blog and are nice and thoughtful. Whereas I am myself. I should really confine myself to email.

  8. rideblog says:

    BFF, I know you love me, and read everything in the spirit in which it is intended. No worries. I probably shouldn’t compare you to my ex, huh? Considering how he felt about you (a sure sign you are a good human being. It’s like the opposite of when your dog likes someone). Love you right back, and you know it.

    For those of you wondering what the heck is going on, my BFF (she is one of two; the other doesn’t comment here and doesn’t love bikes) is totally honest and I love her to death. We’ve been friends now for… a long time. Over 12 years, certainly. It’s love, most definitely. She’s outlasted my marriage!

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