Me and my black bike are still at it, though my own words have come back to haunt me. I told my friend Joedie to go travel as much as possible while it was possible. She has the terrible misfortune to have Multiple Sclerosis. I gave her my unsolicited advice several years ago to see as much of the world as possible, starting with a Las Vegas trip she considered taking. “Girl, go down that strip on your own two feet in case you ever end up in a damn wheelchair” (I’m paraphrasing from memory, here). She’s since taken a couple road vacations that I know of and seen both the mountains and the beach.
How could I push my opinion off on her like that without heeding my own urging and put my butt on a bike saddle instead of the recliner where it’s usually perched? Now I’ve committed to doing the MS150 Ozarks in September 2019. One hundred and 50 miles in the less-challenging yet still formidable rolling Ozarkian mountains. I now contend perhaps I should be committed.
“Training” is happening, if not at break-neck pace. I use the word in quotes, as I’ve never trained for a darn thing in my life. Past efforts amount to being an athletic supporter, aka high school cheerleader a bazillion years ago, and yogini at present. Yet I continue getting all geared-up for the current biking venture by buying triple-link pedals and gloves yesterday. My new Schwinn helmet came in the mail, too. Prince could have gotten me the old purple one, partying like it was 1999. It WAS 1999 when I got it.
And in case anyone asks or even mentally assumes it (you know what Buttermaker said about assuming, right?), this effort is not just a shopping opportunity. All my sporting exploits have consisted of movie-watching and admiring dudes in various tight pants at Kaufman and Arrowhead stadiums.
More of my soapbox harmony is also back in my throat. Kinda stuck there, as a matter of fact. In Kansas City the recycling community used the slogan, “If we all do a little, we’ll all do a lot.” I chirped that as a mantra or sorts. So now I witness a plethora of discarded trash along my so-called training and began to accept some personal responsibility to my community in this setting. Instead of simply singing “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” ala Woodsy the Owl in my head, I usually find a disgusting plastic bag discarded along my route and collect somebody else’s McDonalds or Taco Bell trash, even a housing insulation package and though of my grandpa and his favorite cartoon when I saw the Pink Panther on it blown away by recent storms.
If we all do a tiny bit, we can all do a collective lot. It starts with one. While I’m blasting my quads and thinking of Flo from the Progressive commercial doing the same, I laugh while trekking down the terrain and hope not to face-plant. Neighbors might wonder about that crazy biking woman and grab their phones in case I need an ambulance. Continue reading →
“I thought you died, stupid cur,” Marie muttered as she walked Woody past the house next door. She hated and cursed it since the bulldog mix attacked her Lab. He’d simply tried to make friends, invisible fence or not. Its instinct taught Woody canine manners and territory.
Just like his owner.
Another neighbor said Tom wasn’t such a bad guy. Marie couldn’t deny what Robert Frost claimed about fences and neighbors.
“I’d sure hate to beat you both with a plastic bag of shit …” She flashed them the side-eye and brought Woody to heel.
Even though sunrises generally took place in my long-ago Girl Scoutian past, my friend Kezia thinks she’s going to turn me into a morning person. That woman coaxed me into the far-fledged notion I could potentially drive 150 miles at my pedal power propulsion. I asked her, “WTH, are you kidding me?”
The road teaches you a few things. Not so much in a Jack Kerouac sort of way, but early-morning bike rides can impart both mental and physical training. My past involves lots of the former but none of the latter. Let me just say if I ever wanted to go on a run, it was down the driveway to get the mail.
Kezia was not kidding. She could sell ice chips to a polar bear.
Step one meant attending an informational meeting. She had me at the “Best of Luck Beer Hall” FB invitation. How prescient that name may become. It’s like the universe cursing me and laughing under its breath all the while. “Ha, ha, ha, you mere mortal. Dare you contemplate this ride!”
I’ve tentatively accepted the challenge. Can I cobble — better yet, maybe cudgel — something out of that chaos?
Things I’ve learned over the last two (morning) six-mile bike trips:
Girl, you don’t know what training means. Better “brace up,” just like Momma said!
Shut your fly-catcher. Open-mouth breathing can do some damage.
In through your nose, out through your mouth. Just like in yoga, breathe like you heard a dad tell his kid at the recent Almost5K you walked. (That’s right, “Almost5K,” and “walked.” No shame in my game.)
When taking pix along the route, trust your gut in assuming it’s probably not a good idea to snap a quick shot at a house with “NO TRESPASSING” and “PRIVATE PROPERTY” signs out front. That lonely beater car out back almost covered in weeds didn’t get there by accident, and the purple plastic tape around poles doesn’t only mean no hunting.
Instagram isn’t everything. Don’t flood your feed with multiples you find cool. Not everyone thinks an ironic Axe Spray container in the ditch is as funny as you do.
You are not that funny … just funny looking on a bicycle at 6:30 am raising a leg over the crossbar to walk a country road incline while laughing at yourself.
Mother Nature gives you a church in every second of silence that only birdsong breaks.
Lucky seven. I’m gonna need that luck. Or something. Maybe my head examined.
My 22nd birthday blurs into distant memory’s oblivion. Ancient history, it seems. Why did I ever trust that drunken punk enough to fly down a county highway on the back of his crotch rocket? Woe to imagine our parents’ horror at having to identify the remains in morgue boxes had one gravel slide caught narrow tires just right.
Naive bravado haunts me, though. The innocent ignorance of not caring about a possible tomorrow, just the next beer tab to be popped. A boy to kiss. No future prospects considered. Yet another night of fun.
“Owww, dammit!” Glenda howled, hopping on one foot and landing to limp on the other. “I’m gonna feel that later.”
Kicking that cedar stump was one way to take out frustration felt for Don. “It ain’t hurtin’ him none, though,” she told it. Controlling his behavior came as easily as conquering invasive plant infestation. Chopping at it soothed her feelings little though.
“I may never forget what he said, but I better get over it or cut him out of my life. Just like this non-deciduous crap I’m fighting here.
Except the Kudzu of her heart she fought even harder.
I saw my mom outside today, although she died last year. Kind of supernatural how she draws me outdoors. Almost serendipitous.
A doctor said I’m okay, just grieving. Actually recommended
this therapy. I’m going back again to make sure.
These moments of self-professed genius are her doing. Practically a doctor herself, just without the initials. Said so herself, passed on that confidence. Had to find it somewhere. Mother was my biggest cheerleader, champion actually.
Now I hear her calling me through nature, a cardinal’s trill, dirt under my nails. I’m glad springtime is here. And kindly brought Mom with her.
Pain in her toes grew the longer Casey remained hidden in that secret spot up her favorite climbing tree. Wintertime made sitting on its fork all the more arduous a wait for the time-sensitive inevitability of another sibling getting in trouble inside to make her transgressions be forgotten.
Her skin went from a healthy pink to a near-frostbitten red there in the elements.
Mother demanded, “Go out and pluck your own switch. I’m gonna to blister your behind.” That whole matter of finding a birch branch in the snow only added insult to injury.
The group was cobbled by parental geography of the mainly blue collar side of town, kids from the nicer eponymous street and others who lived in the surrounding neighborhood or north-side farms. All blank slates awaiting life stories’ unfolding and hoping for legacies of greatness any parent would want for their child.
The nest’s small-town
nucleus kept its diverse congress circling into adulthood.
Even if drawn elsewhere by aspirations for more, many of those lives became fraught with attempts to fly away. Both externally and internally. Mother Nature is now trimming her aerie until she finally comes for us all.
“Why is this jerk hanging around here?” Timmy wondered aloud. He realized the inevitable certainty his sisters would become interested in boys but still eyed their neighbor with suspicion when he showed up at the door. The visitor didn’t suit him one bit.
Luck brought the trio together by chance, finding a forever family within the foster care system never a guarantee. Timmy being younger than the twins didn’t keep him from feeling protective of their little nest of a home and hovered near them from the next room just like a mother bird.
Walking the dog was never so harrowing before. An unseasonably cold chill in the air that morning sent my hands directly into my coat pockets for warmth. Finding no comfortable gloves there meant my hands stayed put and my canine companion ran off-leash. His sharp Setter nose zoned in on a smell that led us into a landfill and on an adventure like no other we’d had or hope to experience again.
Max barked to signal he’d found his prize. It was one for which there was no requital. Only the dog’s olfactories had paid off, but the much-sought-after scent offered little reward. Except perhaps to friends of the person discovered there if he’d been missing. A middle-aged homeless man’s remains lay amidst the rubbish. He met his final demise in a mound of debris, and his perfectly still body was unmistakably that of someone long-perished from this life. Maybe his family hadn’t known where he was and longed to see his face again, its features weathered and worn since the last time they’d visited each other.
An immediate call to the authorities didn’t erase the image from my mind or lift the weight off my heart. Their investigation revealed he was apparently crushed in a garbage truck before being dumped at the trash transfer station. No detail of the circumstances could possibly bring closure to the guy’s family.
I wonder where he was resting to preserve body heat. It bothers me to imagine having nowhere else to go under those unbearable conditions. The bitter, miserable cold that could cause someone to sleep in a dumpster for warmth or what other dire conditions might have driven him there. Such utter desperation.
My hands didn’t feel so cold after all.
Odd, how all of humankind’s refuse ends up in a landfill somewhere. A person isn’t trash, though. I can think of no one who deserves such a place as their burial plot.
Everything seems so disposable. Except people. We pollute the planet with both the items we discard and the beings we ignore. So much is discarded that it may build up enough one day to ultimately destroy this place, our home.
Earth is an interesting place. I’ll hate to leave it one day.
–for Steven, a man I didn’t know, who lived but 44 years on this planet
*This fictional post is based on a true story in the newspaper. writing prompt: planet