Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Starved Rock Rocked

Starved Rock
Good trip.
15 people
Total Miles: 219
Wind: never at our back–almost always a direct headwind

Friday:

Our self-serving map didn’t win the Critical Mass cheering election, so we busted off from the Mass pretty early to head SW. Only a few miles from downtown, and still well in Chicago it began raining so we stopped to don our rain jackets in a Burger King parking lot, peed and then continued pedaling. We were rewarded with the sight of a wonderful rainbow–and our first flat tire on Sam’s bike. While he and Sarah fixed the flat, we stood out in the wet at the Panorama at 27th & Kedzie before continuing onward.

At the end of Bethania Cemetary in Justice, we massed up because we were entering a ‘tricky’ part of the ride. On the corner of Frontage road we stripped off our rain gear and turned on our blinky lights. This was a long stop–first we waited for everyone, then people decided to go pee, then rain gear came off......yellow roses were found and distributed before we started moving again. Soon we came to a trailer park and wiggled through it until we stopped at a patch of trees. I think everyone but T.C., our leader, was confused. Word was passed back that we were to lift our bikes over a short fence and down a rooty, rocky dirt hill. Our bikes were loaded with camping gear and not only heavy, but really unbalanced between the front and back. At the bottom of the hill we had to again lift the bikes up a steep gravel railroad embankment and cross several rail lines. Once again–heavy bikes, steep climb and unstable gravel did not make this fun. Someone (Todd?) gave my bike a boost as I trudged up the incline.

Again after we crossed, we stopped for a decent amount of time. Gin and I relieved our bladders–and Sarah got a flat tire. We rode/walked our bikes to a highway overpass, where Sarah and Sam tackled Sarah’s flat as it started raining–hard. Again we busted out our raingear and ate cookies and trail mix. I actually wore my icky new rainpants and took off my skirt. A train rumbled along the tracks we recently crossed and we hoped the rain would stop. After the flat was fixed we continued on to the trailhead in rain that had slowed to about a drizzle. It was dark now and only our meager blinkie lights and some cat-eyes lit our path, before we were directed to turn them off and just let our eyes adjust to the darkness of night. My night vision has always sucked, so this was quite stressful for me. I rode the whole time bracing for a wipe out or collision of some type. We yelled "bollard," "hole" and "stick" to warn riders behind us of the obstacles we encountered.

Finally the trail ended and we found ourselves at the edge of a highway. Here we learned we would lift our bikes over the guardrail and into traffic. I have good upper body strength, and was the only single woman on the trip, so I always just hefted my bike onto my shoulder, but most people took help from others. My shoulders look dirty with bruises from this treatment. Anyway, I thought that our ride on Highway 71 was just going to be a short jaunt, but I learned that the last 15 miles was riding along this busy county highway (brothers–think hwy 57 or 67). We took the right lane together at some points, but at other times we thinned, separated and rode on or near the shoulder. The view of the group from the rear was terrifying because the red blinky lights looked pathetic alongside the speeding cars. Oncoming headlights completely blinded us and overwhelmed the meager red lights of our friends flashing up ahead. This part of the ride also felt dangerous because not only were we damn near invisible and unexpected on the rainy highway, but we were also riding fast in the dark and couldn’t really see or react to road conditions well.

At one point, the cry of "Hole" came too late, only to be followed by thumping and the simultaneous hissing of air and "Shit!" from my roommate John. He and Todd stayed behind to fix the pinchflat. We stopped at a gas station to again remove raingear, pee, rehydrate and eat some more. We cheered when John and Todd arrived and finally we continued on for the last few miles. Once in Joliet we were greated by the universal whooping of bar-hoppers shouting encouragement. We stopped again because poor Sarah had another flat tire–I tossed her a new tube and we happily talked about eating dinner and having a few drinks in a few short miles. In between us and the hotel was a steep open grate bridge that was No Fun to ride on. In Chicago these bridges are everywhere, but this was the steepest incline and decline by far that I have ridden. The wetness and the pitch made our weighted bikes feel super unstable, and I seriously thought I was going to lay down my ride at several points.

We trucked our bikes up to the second floor of the hotel and began unloading gear. John and I shared a room, while the other singles: Shawn, T.C. and Todd stayed in another, two other rooms were shared by two couples and Jan and Katy arranged for their own room. After unweighting our bikes, some of us rode for take-out Mexican food, while another group went to buy liquor. We received a dreadful call at the restaurant informing us that Will County has some ridiculous Draconian liquor laws and that we couldn’t buy liquor (besides in bars) after 11:00PM. Always resourceful, we changed our plans and ate our take-out in the restaurant while several people had a few beers. Then we crashed at the hotel.

I think I fell asleep just after 2:00--John stayed up later reading. The state of the hotel room was damn funny to me, because it demonstrated how different John and I am. My gear was thrown in a heap just inside the door with bags torn open as if attacked by bears. Fearful that my sleeping bag was wet, I unstuffed it and draped it across a chair. John took a more deliberate path and neatly laid out his gear and hung his clothes on hangers instead of piling them on the table. His shoes were neatly paired and tucked out of the way. Order and Chaos were the two opposing sides of the room. John showered before bed and I didn't bother.

46 Miles, post critical mass

Saturday:

I awoke, showered and peaked outside. Sarah was sitting outside her room, patching tubes and the weather was lovely. I started re-packing my gear in consideration of what items I wanted most accessible for the day. Soon we heard Michael knocking and yelling "Five Minutes," or as John said later, "Thanks for taking on the the thankless role of being a Dick this morning." I was just barely packed and John was still sleeping in bed: Kevin was running around outside in just a towel. As we gathered downstairs, the boys thought that the girls 'planned' to wear skirts together because all but Gin and Katy were skirted. Nope--they are just damn comfortable.

Finally, after we all checked out we rode through the parking lot and onto breakfast--but then Jan announced that he had a flat and the whole group groaned because we weren't even out of the hotel parking lot. Most of us ended up riding the few blocks to breakfast. The diner wasn't very full, but it took us a long time to get served. Jan and Katy fixed his flat before we ordered food. Our breakfasts were huge and many of us glutted ourselves. Outside, we suntan lotioned ourselves and slowly became ready to ride. After only a few blocks trying to find the trail, we were lost and backtracked. We rode for another few blocks and then realized that Jan and Katy were missing. Todd took off to find them and we waited. Sarah found a frisbee and her, Sam, Karen and John started flinging it about. The rest of us waited and griped about our late start and considered pressing forward. Finally, Todd returned with them and we learned that Katy had a flat tire. Not a good start.

But then we got on the limestone Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail and took off. We rode basically in one or two clumps, two abreast for many (25?) miles before reaching the first Lock along the canal. Here we stopped, ate, peed, took pictures and goofed around. Jan and Katy were somewhere behind us and people were considering whether or not to wait for them. Hui Hwa and Mark decided to leave before the rest of the group and the rest of us shortly followed. I don't quite remember how it happened, but sometime afterwards, T.C. and I met up with them and we all rode together for most of the rest of the ride, switching positions to chat with different people.

At one rest stop, I accidentally pissed on my own skirt. Smooth move. I washed it out at a gas station where we stopped for Gatorade a few miles ahead, but was still unhappy about it. I have peed often outside, and haven't peed on my own clothes since I was a child (shoes don't count). Grrrr.

At this rest stop, we discovered a problem: T.C. couldn't get ahold of the Park Campgrounds. There are weird rules that require people to A) reserve a campsite for the whole 3-day weekend, instead of just the days they are staying, and B) require people to be there at particular times (3:00) in order to claim the site before it would be sold to others. We obviously weren't there on Friday night and wouldn't get there by 3:00 either. Unfortunately it was almost 3:00 and the park wasn't picking up their phones for us to let them know that we were going to be late, But still wanted the spot.

Eventually T.C. and I paired up and rode ahead together, chatting and leaving Hui Hwa and Mark behind. We had planned to meet up with the rest of the group in Marseilles for lunch, but weren't paying attention and overshot the town by several miles. Cell phone conversations occurred and we hoped that the rest of the group would catch up, but they wanted lunch immediately. They also informed us that Gin had fallen into the Canal! We decided to ride to Ottowa for lunch, but I wasn't very hungry and really wanted to get to Starved Rock soon and hoped to convince someone to ride ahead with me. Once in Ottowa, T.C. had the same idea and we quickly shared an ice cream sunday and then pushed onto Ithica. Mark and Hui Hwa went for real food. We picked up our pace because we didn't need to let others catch up. I was concerned about keeping up with T.C.'s pace, but he didn't think I would have a problem.

Arriving in Utica we stopped at Duffy's for a drink before tackling the big hill up to the state park. The city had been hit with an amazing tornado the year before and was still recovering. T.C. knew a lot about it and chatted it up with the bartender for quite a while and discussed the damages. Apparently the city's tourism suffered greatly and three tourism-related businesses closed down since the tornado. Even though I grew up in a small town, it is odd to be reminded of close communities that know and feel each others' problems that closely.

Anyway--the Hill. Damn did it suck--and damn did I suck air as I huffed my way up the long, steep, curving hill. Each time I rounded a bend and hoped that the hill ended, but it seemed to go on forever. T.C. is known to be a really strong rider, and I was concerned that he would think I was a huge sissy on the hill. I also thought that he was right behind me and going my pace to be courteous. Towards the end I dropped into the small front chainring and just spun up the hill--I think this should have been done earlier, because the hill was much easier to spin up than to try to hammer up. I really don't know how to tackle long and/or steep hills, and living in Chicago doesn't give me any real opportunities. At the top I finally turned around to commiserate with T.C.--but he was quite a ways behind me. When he caught up we bitched about the hill and he said that he thought it almost killed him. Cool. Why am I always concerned that people will think I am wimpy?

Katy and Jan called us shortly after we scaled the hill to tell us that they wouldn't make camp that night, but instead would camp about fifteen miles away and meet us the next morning. Katy's daughter would come to the camp in their vehicle (nicknamed the "Canyonero" by Katy). I immediately determined that my tent and other unnecessary gear would hitch a ride home in this SUV--at least it's good for that.

Onto the campsite and we learned that our sites had been given away and that we would have crappy, open (as opposed to wooded, walk-in sites) child-infested sites. Grrr. The guy in the station was also a total tool, too. Once at our site, we set up our tents and were pretty much disgusted by most of our 'neighbors'. There were tons of RVs with their generators humming, American flags flying and tons of kids on motorized scooters and mini-bikes. What. The. Fuck. This is camping nowadays? People had fucking TVs!!!! Campfire pits were replaced with big grills. There were a few remaining hours of daylight, but the camps all seemed full of people just hanging out--why weren't they hiking? Seriously, most of these people should have just stayed home and barbequed for all of the nature and activity that I observed them experiencing.

I went to take a shower and on the way there I saw some of our group ride up. Woo Hoo! By the time I came back, there were more tents set up and people were starting to cook dinner. Mmmm. Then I learned something both wonderous and horrible: there was a second entrance! This second entrance didn't have a tortouos hill and therefore T.C. and I were the only two who had climbed that monster. Oh well--it's nice to know for the future, and I was clean and unpacked when I found out, so I took it in stride--although I did tease T.C. about it, of course.

After dinner we stood around the fire passing a flask of whiskey, telling stories and singing every once in a while. Good stuff. I stayed up drinking with Todd and Sean before swathing myself in my sleeping bag to heat it up by the fire and then bunking down. I didn't sleep very well that night and often woke up cold.

The next day was fun. We awoke and lounged around for a while before heading to the buffet to gorge ourselves before hiking. Many packable desserts were smuggled into our bags for the ride home--tehehe. As much as our group of hungery biking, hiking people ate, it was nothing compared to the food a lot of other (obese) diners were packing away. Watching the other patrons waddle to and from the buffet with their piles of food was fascinatingly disgusting. Several people couldn't even walk between the chairs without their hips or guts rubbing against the furniture, and yet they still made repeat trips for more greasy food. blech.

After feeding we hiked to the top of Starved Rock, passing many huffing, puffing people along the way. There were also many people dressed or geared completely inappropriately: I saw several pairs of sling-back stillettos and other impractical shoes and far, far, far too many strollers. How the fuck do you expect to carry a stroller up hundreds of steps, or a steep rocky trail? If your kid is too young to walk, then he should be light enough to carry in a snuggly or a hiking rack thingy. If he's too heavy for this, then he can goddamn walk himself. I don't understand seeing parents with 4, 5 and 6-year olds in strollers: They Can Walk Themselves!! To the person who complained, in all seriousness, that there should be an elevator: Yes, I shot you a dirty look. Why? because you're an Idiot and deserved it. Not all of the world need be accessible for the lazy and stupid to ruin.

At the top we sang Illinois First's song, "Starved Rock" amidst perplexed stares by the other tourists. Continuing onward we hiked to some waterfalls and played in the cold water. Many, many people had carved their names or symbols in the sandstone, altering the natural beauty. The impulse to add my own marking was strong, but I refrained. Considering cave paintings, this must be an almost innate desire for humans to mark where they have been. As we walked back along the river, I was again disgusted by the carelessness of people. The shore was littered with soda and beer cans, disgarded tackle, bait containers and various other trash. Slobs. I probably 'leave more than footprints', but I would never, never, never purposefully litter anywhere--much less an area of natural beauty.

After hiking we had some drinks on the patio of the lounge and then snuck into the whirlpool/pool/sauna combination. Ahhhhh........ Back at camp others prepared dinner, so there was warm food at our arrival. Then a beautiful, complete rainbow appeared, soon to be shadowed with the faint outline of another! A complete double rainbow--amazing. As night set we made s'mores (T.C. is a s'mores snob/nazi we discovered) and sang some more songs around the fire. Our plan was to leave early the next morning.

Sunday:

Kevin and Karen made us nut and raisin-studded outmeal for breakfast and we packed up our gear. I shamelessly left my tent, camping pad, sleeping bag and garment bag with Jan and Katy. My load was considerably lightened, and I only took one panier back home on my bike. tehehe. Most other people left behind their gear, too. A few boys (Sam, John & T.C.) took all of their gear home.

I felt absolutely great going home. At first we rode two or three abreast in a solid, drafting pack. A few people stopped for a picture at Bianchi's Pizza, John got a flat and Karen had a blow-out, requiring Michael to ride back with a spare tire. The group got spaced out and I rode in the front of the pack. For about 7 miles I felt like riding faster than the group over the open, hilly roads. I pulled ahead and stepped it up to 18-19 mph and left most people behind because it was more fun to go fast. I ended up stopping and biking pretty slowly until Mark caught up with me and then we rode together at a more moderate pace.

We re-grouped at gas station at about 30 miles and then T.C., Mark, Hui Hwa, Todd and I headed off again just as the last group pulled in. At some point Todd, T.C. and I pulled away and lost sight of the rest. I lead and we went pretty fast as the boys drafted behind. Towards the middle of a steep hill, I seemed to lose all of my steam and struggled to make it up the rest of the way. I stopped for a red light just as the boys pulled up alongside me. I asked them to look at my rear wheel, and Todd confirmed my suspicion: flat tire, mile 43.

After crossing the intersection of, we pulled over and I began fixing my tire in the hot sun. Already the straps of my sundress were getting crusty with salty sweat. I found a staple in my tire and was replacing the tube when others from our group passed us. I used a CO2 cartridge to fill the tire and people watched with interest, because most hadn't used or seen this method of filling a tube. They especially liked the ice-cold cartridge at the end on such a hot day--sure as hell beats getting more sweaty using a pump. The rest of the group rode on and Todd stayed behind with me as I put the wheel back on my bike and gathered the gear I had strewn about. We biked pretty fast to try to catch up with the group before stopping in Aurora for lunch.

At one point, a semi-truck passed us with only about 8 inches from from my shoulders. This stretch of road didn't have a paved shoulder, and instead dropped off into gravel. It was pretty freaky, because unlike cars that whip by too close, the semi seemed to go on forever. Plus the air around semis creates turbulance and suction. I don't know the physics involved--but I do know that under the wheels of a semi is not a place I want to be. Todd cursed fruitlessly as the semi recklessly passed us. I'm glad I was riding in front, because seeing cars come too close to my friends (or other bikers in general) freaks me out more than when it happens to me. For the most part the drivers were pretty considerate, though.

After reaching the group about five miles before Aurora, we had some confusion about how to reconnect with the trail, and backtracked and wiggled a bit. Then a few miles on the trail, Shawn's seatpost bolt broke. He and Todd went back a few miles to a bike shop to fix it, while the rest of us moseyed onto lunch. We lingered at the restaurant/brewery for a long while as the entire group trickled in. It was decided by Todd, Karen and myself that the Hbar would open up upon our return to Chicago for our group. Woo Hoo!

Shortly after leaving the restaurant the group splintered and Hui Hwa, Todd, Kevin, John and myself broke ahead on the limestone trail. At an underpass, Kevin and Todd pulled out a pipe to smoke, and Hui Hwa, John and me continued. We rode another 20 miles (the expected afternoon 'ice cream' stop) and waited for the group. They didn't show, so we went off the trail for frozen custard--keeping an eye on the trail crossing for our group. We didn't understand why they weren't showing up, and finally hit the trail again.

A few miles into our last leg of the trip, we called the group and found out they were already in the outskirts of Chicago! WTF? We picked up our pace and raced back to the Hbar, where food was out and drinks were poured for us. The mystery of how everyone else got ahead of us was solved when we learned that we had taken a 10-mile detour on the path network. Oops. John had lead us, and he seemed upset and embarrased about this error. No big deal--we were the only ones who rode over 100 miles on Memorial Day, so I actually thought it was cool.

After dark we closed down the Hbar and rode home. I basically crashed out without showering or really unpacking my gear. Good Stuff. 104 miles on Sunday.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Starved Rock Countdown

Bike smuggled into grocery store: check (It is a bungeed work of art that I don’t want to dismantle until Starved Rock)
Cookies purchased for the ride: check
Fully-loaded bike smuggled into office building: check
Huge Chipotle burrito eaten at lunch: check
Credit Card situation resolved: check
ATM withdrawal of $200 for weekend: check
Motion to Quash Subpoenas finished: check (and partner said they looked great–after doubting earlier in the day that I could get them finished AND after I informed him that his interpretation of HIPAA law was completely wrong...tehehe)

Countdown to Starved Rock began the moment I woke up today. I’m biding my time and busting out as soon as 5:00 hits. Off to the bike shop I will go for patch glue and some CO2 cartridges.

Then Critical Mass and the journey to Starved Rock.

Rock on–and have a great weekend!

Worst Night Ever

The day started out fine--another attorney in court approached me to ask if I really bike in "those shoes and clothes," meaning my skirtsuit and 3" spike heels. We then got into a discussion about biking around town--she currently bikes to work, but never bikes in 'good' clothes during the workday. I gushed about how quick and easy it is to get around downtown compared to walking, cabbing or CTAing and she said I inspired her to give it a shot. We work on the same file, so she has seen me in court several times with my helmet and apparently has been wondering about the biking for a while. Maybe she'll inspire someone else to start biking, too!

Then in the afternoon, a deposition that was supposed to take about one hour lasted for almost three hours. Opposing counsel's nickname is 'pitbull' and she is extremely abrasive and hard to deal with. Even so, compared to my client, she is an absolute treat. What a miserable experience.

When I got back to the office, I basically checked my messages and cut out of there. I had to deliver a mannequin torso to CBF for the weekend. Riding through downtown rush hour on the Julep with a naked mannequin tucked under my arm was challenging for me--but at least several pedestrians and drivers got a chuckle.

This is when things went weird. First, I stopped off at the bank to get money for the weekend and to buy t-shirts at the CBF office. The ATM said my account was $0.00 -- obviously not what I expected. Odd. Onward to the office I went. I didn't see the bike of a boy I didn't want to see, so I bounded up the stairs and knocked on the door--and the offending boy answered. Damnitt! We ended up having a conversation that seemed far too natural and odd at the same time. Overall, rather disturbing.

I biked home feeling slightly weirded out by him and by the bank account situation. Since we leave tomorrow for the Starved Rock bike-packing trip, I had lots of stuff to do. There was a message waiting for me from my credit card company saying that there was questionable activity on the account and to call them immediately. Going on-line I found that my bank account had a strange, unexpected transaction that overdrew my account, and that my completely unrelated credit card account couldn't be accessed, either. Fuck.

I still haven't learned anything, because the business that withdrew the funds isn't open, and I can't get through to the credit card company. Obviously some sort of identity theft is what I'm worried about. Not cool under any circumstances, but especially not cool when I'm planning on going away tomorrow.

I decide that there really isn't anything I can do, so I try to start preparing for the trip.

First step: Laundry--the washing machine is broke after eating my quarters. Breath.

Second step: Waterproofing my jacket, rainpants, paniers and tent -- the can of water repellant spray is missing the entire nozzle mechanism. Seriously--I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I opt to laugh because I ran all over the city last night looking for this spray--and now it is completely useless.

Third step: Bake cookies and buy snacks for the road--oops, No Fucking Money for snacks or ingredients.

This is absolutely ridiculous. Murphy's Law is obviously working pretty damn well--if tonight is any indication, I'm sure this weekend will be quite eventful. Before I was only worried about it raining and me being cold, wet and miserable--maybe with blisters or sunburn, too. After tonight though, I feel like the possibility of things going wrong has increased. Will it hail, snow or tornado instead of simply raining? Locusts, frogs or rivers of blood? Perhaps we will be attacked by bears or wolves or an escaped pack of circus midgets. Instead of flat tires, maybe my bike will spontaneously combust or melt. The possibilities of the calamities that might befall us are truly endless.

Anyway, hours later--my bags are packed and my gear is strapped to my bike. I found my sunscreen and remembered my swimsuit. I have both a sundress and woolen winter hat/mittens/socks to defend against various weather. Two spare tubes are packed, and I think I'll bring the one at work, too. My lights have new batteries and I finally got a water cage on my bike. My paycheck was deposited to my bank account, so as I write this I am not completely broke. My bike weighs a ton, and it looks like I am running away from home.

Tomorrow morning I have decided to NOT go swimming or work out before work, in favor of sleeping or running pre-trip errands. Before we leave I need to: stop at the bank for cash, buy snacks, buy CO2 cartridges and grab some toiletries and a sweater from the office. Oh yeah and I also need to bust out a motion to quash several subpoenas--My crystal ball fortells the motion being a big pile of horseshit. Too fucking bad--my mind is on the upcoming bike trip:
Friday--critical mass + 40 miles of nightime highway riding
Saturday--70-80 miles of riding to Starved Rock (the last three miles are apparently a pretty steep incline)
Sunday--hiking, camping, gorging on brunch, sneaking into the lodge's pool and sauna
Monday--110+ miles back to Chicago

Too fucking fun. As long as the weather isn't horrible (or tonights luck repeats), this should be a great trip!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Spandex, Herbs and Dogs

1. Holy Spandex! Last week I bought a) a new swimsuit, b) bike shorts, and c) spandex shorts all in one evening. The swimsuit had to be exchanged the next day and the diaper-laden bike shorts were returned at the same time. No diapers for me, sorry. Saddle soreness isn’t an issue for me, only a little discomfort where my underpants end. So I’m going with the diaper-free spandex shorts. The only problem with them is that they tend to ride up, but I’m thinking of ways to fix that. Swimming with a good suit, goggles and swimcap rocks!

2. Hbar. More of the staff know who I am and are treating me well–plus my ‘owner discount’ rocks, too. At a brunch party on Sunday, I felt like a quasi-celebrity when Chris announced that I was a new Hbar owner. I didn’t know most of the people at the party and they apparently all love the place and thought it rocked that I own part of it. Previously they were impressed with my cooking/efficiency in the kitchen, so adding the lawyer, Hbar-owner, bikey girl to the equation made me feel uncomfortably cool in their eyes. The group was really cool already, so being the center of attention for a while felt unjustifiable and odd.

3. Flirting. I got my share of flirting this weekend. Two cool boys who I have been getting to know seemed particularly flirty. They are both nice, greenie, bikey boys who garden, compos and cook. Nice.

4. The Julep. Last week she was my commuting bike and then on Saturday I took her for a ride that ended up being longer than I expected. Most days last week we got about 20 miles in a day and then Saturday we went 50. We did well, although I could sort of feel it in my knees–not pain, but awareness. In the next few weeks she is going to get some upgrades: new chain (Kevin says so), bottom bracket (too ‘crunchy’ either an overhaul or a completely new one), smaller rear cog (now that I’m more comfortable riding her, she needs to be geared higher), bar tape (maybe), streamers and some sort of new pedal system (I’d like either barefoot pedals or clipless–maybe a jerryrigged campus-style combo is in order).

I really like riding her, and when I rode the Bianchi this week, it feels like cheating–and makes the need for bottom bracket improvement more evident. The coolest thing about the Julep is that I can easily rider her while holding things in my hands. I rode to brunch with a potted mint plant in my left hand (I swapped the front brake to the right side). Normally carrying things causes near-catastrophies, but since I don’t need my hand to slow down, this wasn’t a problem at all. I bet it looked weird when I stuck out the mint plant to signal a left turn, though.

5. Kids and dogs. At brunch a four year-old girl ‘adopted’ me. Kids do this pretty frequently, as do dogs. I’m not comfortable around either of them, yet they seek me out and try to win me over. It’s weird, because there are generally other people around who’d love to get the attention. This girl was clinging to me and even tried to kiss me as she reluctantly said good-bye (sorry, not on the first date). Dan and other were laughing at me because it was so obvious that I was freaked out by random kid affection. One guy however wouldn’t believe that she wasn’t my daughter based on her behavior. This struck me as crazy, but I guess I am old enough to have a four year-old. Weird.

The scariest point was when the kid and I were outside on a porch and the neighbors dog saw us and charged up the steps. Normally I would hide behind whomever I was with in this situation, but instead, I nervously put myself between the child and the dog. God–it was horrible. Apparently I have a wisp of maternal instinct. The dog owners just lazily yelled her name and, ‘don’t worry–she’s friendly!’ and ‘she’ll just lick you!’ Fuck that. She is charging at me and not listening to your commands. I hate dogs off leash. Why can’t the owners understand that some people are afraid of dogs? Or, even if not afraid–don’t want to be licked, sniffed, humped or jumped up by strange dogs? Leash ‘em!

6. Gardening. I transplanted my herb seedlings outside on Sunday morning after weeding the plot for about two hours. Fun stuff. However, this morning I noticed that something has been digging around in the area and a lot of the plants have been trampled or uprooted. Maybe it’s the second floor dog. I’m also re-seeding the area with additional herbs, so hopefully some will survive. I’m very excited about my little herb garden and look forward to tending to it.

7. Starved Rock. We leave in three days. I am so excited!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Work Blows

My boss went crazy around 4:30 on Monday, and I was trapped like a leaf in the whirlwind of his craziness until 7:30. He spent this time raging at MM (junior partner) and me for the way a file was being handled. He thought we were spending too much time going through the documents and then created a plan to ‘fix’ the situation by 1) undoing all of the indexing/organizing of the file that has been done, 2) taking these documents out of categorical order and re-ordering them according to Bates numbers (random) and then 3) indexing every fucking page. This will take a paralegal at least a week, whereas finishing the organization that we already started will only take about one more day. Besides wasting time, this method will produce a file that is incredibly hard to access and an index that is almost useless. PLUS, it is completely different than the Firm’s Standard Filing Method–which I directed the paralegal to use. Schitzo-crazy-irrational-OCD-Boss.

Besides having to deal with his craziness, this also meant that I had to console the poor paralegals, who don’t roll well with the boss’s craziness because they take it personally (why in the world would anyone take blatant craziness personally?). Morale at the firm is super-low right now, and the boss seems to be getting crazier. Both the junior partners are extremely unhappy, the staff is on edge, most of the associate attorneys are sending out resumes and the other senior partner is ready to throttle the boss at any given moment. I honestly don’t know what the long-term prospects of this firm are if he doesn’t pull it together. Another recruiter called me yesterday with a job possibility that would significantly would increase my salary, so I think I should take this as a sign to get my resume in order and pound the pavement. I thought I would try to stick around here for another year or so, but if the craziness doesn’t subside soon, them I’ll need to bail.

However, my boss is so well-connected that getting a job that I actually want to do will be much easier with his help, whereas the recruiter was calling about another litigation position. Blech. Although an extra $40,000/year might make litigation more tolerable. I don’t know that the extra dough would be worth the expected extra hours and professional behavior/dress code, though. Additionally, I’m getting put on a case that will require me to be appointed to a position on a governmental committee. That might be neat–or in the alternative, it sounds like resume fodder to me! Plus, in the corrupt state of Illinois, getting an appointment might be the first step to becoming an ‘insider’ of sorts–or to being indicted myself.

No matter what, work is a drag. I just want to fast-forward to: 1) the complete pay-off of my Hbar investment, 2) the point where I have a decent down-payment for a home, and 3) the ability to jump into public interest law and get a job that I really like. A higher-paying job would of course help me reach these points quicker–but probably cause more misery in the process. Maybe I should instead aim for a new job at the end of summer. That way I can burn through my vacation time (and slack off) to enjoy the summer and then take off a few weeks for more vacation (BurningMan + brother visits!) before starting a new gig. The ‘have your cake and eat it, too’ plan, or maybe the ‘try to keep your sanity while pretending to be a professional’ plan.

Work blows and recently I have been just killing more and more time at work because all of my current projects are boring.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Training Ride

Sunday was a ‘training ride’ for the Starved Rock bikepacking trip which will take place over Memorial Day weekend. About 80 miles each way will be on crushed limestone paths. This ride was an opportunity to try out/adjust our bikes, gear and basically have an opportunity to remedy possible problems before the longer ride.

Just like on the Frozen Snot Century, I woke up at our meeting time and scrambled to pack my gear. This time I wasn’t very dehydrated and not hung-over though–so I began the ride much more chipper than in February.

I think we rode about 95 miles yesterday with probably half of those miles on the crushed limestone. Add in the ride to and from the start point, and I’ll just call it a century. I had two primary concerns: First, the limestone really freaked me out because I am ridiculously cowardly about riding on non-paved surfaces. The slightest bit of instability terrifies me, and I was considering buying a set of 32mm tires for the ride. My second concern was how my bike would handle (especially on the limestone) when its rear was weighted down with gear. So I loaded my paniers with law books to simulate my camping gear.

We headed out into the wind and the ride was fun. I wore a tanktop and most people wore a jersey and jacket and more. After about 20-25 miles someone noticed that my tires looked low, so we stopped at a park for peeing, cookies, tire pumping and general shenanigans. Kevin touched my tires and scolded me for riding them so low and said that I needed to work twice as hard to ride the bike than when they were fully inflated. Oops. I guess he had a point, because I threw on my merino wool shirt (thanks again Frick!) shortly afterwards because the tanktop wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Almost immediately afterwards we hit the limestone path–and it was fine. My imagination about the path consistency was completely wrong. For some reason I was imaging crumbled reddish sandstone just slightly smaller than pea gravel (this stuff absolutely sucks to ride on!). Instead it was pretty fine whitish limestone that packs down pretty hard. While my bike didn’t roll as easily on it as pavement, it handled almost the same. (Apparently if it rains this will not be true and biking will be much harder). The only time the weight made my bike feel very different was when we climbed steep hills, and when I turned onto steep curb-cuts. So my major equipment concerns are alleviated. WooHoo!

Some people cut off at various points because they had other commitments back in Chicago. In our group of nine I was the only woman for about half of the ride–and the pace stepped up. This was fine with me, and we could have gone a mile or so faster. On the hilly parts of the ride the boys started teasing me about my law school books and asking if I regretted bringing them. No–not really. I wasn’t lagging and I wasn’t tired, so lugging the books was just fine with me. I now have no doubt that the ride to and from Starved Rock won’t be too much of an ordeal for me. None of the other riders carried heavy gear and they were remarking how fast we were going, so I’m pleased with my performance. It was also slightly amusing to be weighted down with Catherine McKinnon’s Sex Equality, and still easily keeping up with the boys.

I did realize that I will need to swallow my pride and get some better gear though. It’s time for me to get bike shorts. After about 60-70 miles, I can feel the edges of my underpants rubbing uncomfortably–and going commando in non-bike specific clothes makes me nervous about other seems chafing me. Plus, my helmet presses into my forehead to leave a red mark–this isn’t a big deal for short rides, but about the same time I became aware of my underpants, I also started getting annoyed at my helmet and developed a wee fetus of a headache. I should get some rain gear. The possibility of spending an entire weekend of biking and hiking while wet seems just too miserable to me. Gearing up must happen in the next week. Oh yeah–I should probably also install a water bottle cage, too–maybe I should get a handlebar-mounting system because I usually don’t drink enough water on rides. If it is right in my face maybe I’ll remember to drink more often. Hmmmmm. If I’m really industrious, I’ll also slightly adjust the cleat on my right foot to angle my toes inward just a wee bit.

Finally, I really need to readjust my bike and/or get a new handlebar stem. I still reach too far and am stretched out more than I should be. The last twenty miles or so I couldn’t get my arms/hands comfortable and my elbow joints started feeling weird. The bike has an adjustable stem–in order to bring the handlebars closer–they also have to go higher. I want them closer and lower, instead. I might try to swap the stem from the Julep and see how that rides. I can bring my seat about 1cm more forward–but then there won’t be room for my seatbag. Damn it, damn it.

This is a pretty common problem with women and road bikes. Women overwhelming tend to have longer legs/shorter torsos than men of the same height. However ‘standard’ bikes are based on men’s proportions. This means that women can purchase a bike that fits their legs–but the top tube is too long, or they have to buy a frame that is much too small and get an extra-long seat stem–and still maybe have to reach too far. (The 45cm frames will often only have a top tube that is 1cm shorter than the 49 or 50cm–grrrrr.) I think the bike manufacturers are inexcusably dropping the ball on this. Almost everyone who purchases a 45, 49 or 50cm frame will be a woman, because these are the frames for people 5'4" and shorter. Knowing this, why can’t the bike manufacturers slap on a stem to bring the handlebars closer? Given that women also don’t have the same upper body strength as men, the current configurations are a recipe for massive discomfort. Grrrrr........ My upper body strength is much more considerable than most women, and the extended reach bothers me–what must it be like for scrawny-armed women? Inexcusable.

Anyway, if it isn’t apparent, I am super-excited about the Starved Rock trip. Even without the extra gear or bike adjustments that I hope to make this week, I feel good to go on this trip. I just hope it is warm and sunny instead of raining too much.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Unacceptable

Around noon today I received this gem (look at a calendar to see how truly obnoxious it is):

The Boss sent me an email. On Saturday May 21st, he wants EM, TL, AJ and MM to come in to work from 9:00 to 1:00 on the motions in limine. The following Saturday he wants everyone on Mearday to come in from 9:00 to 12:00 for a team meeting to go over the status of Mearday. Don't shoot the messenger.
_________________________
Utter and Total Bullshit. First of all–why in the world can’t we hold these meetings between business hours?–throw it on the calendar and we’ll be there. This is NOT an emergency that requires potentially messing up everyone’s weekend. Plus–Memorial Day Weekend! No way–I’m going on a bike-packing trip that has been planned for months now.

So I sent my boss this (HE chose to work from home today....convenient) after bitching with the other attorneys about it. They were just resigned to forfeiting their holiday plans:

I have plans to be out of town on Memorial Day weekend, starting on Friday evening. I do not wish to cancel these long-standing plans, although I understand that Mearday is an extremely important case for the firm.
Please advise.
_________________

Vindication was quick:

I forgot that is Memorial Day weekend. We will have a team meeting the next Saturday-- the first one of June.
_____________________

Ok, so all’s well that ends well (although the later weekend is still messed up–but at least not a holiday weekend). What’s crazy though is that even the partner who requested that we not shoot him didn’t have the nuts to question the boss about this. All of the guys just planned on moping and griping, but felt completely helpless against the boss’s edict. What an office of meek, spineless cowards.

My Birthday (whiny)

I turned 28 on Thursday. My birthday generally makes me feel uneasy, because it usually sucks. Starting in junior high school my birthday was celebrated with my friends at my dear friend Stephanie’s birthday party a few days later. It was just sort of an add-on celebration, which was fine but always a little weird. Then when we went to college, my b-day was always overshadowed by two events: Mother’s Day weekend and Final Exams. Friends were either out of town for M-day, or freaked out about finals and not able to visit or go out. Bummer.

Anyway, I developed this weirdness about my birthday, because it was always disappointing. None of my attempts to deal with it worked well. When I tried to ignore it, I was later ‘scolded’ by friends for not planning anything–and felt crummy for being lame. However, when I have tried to plan an event, it usually turned out pretty lame, anyways. So the weirdness continued.

This year I invited friends to come drink with me at the H-bar last night, and have also invited people to a party at my house on Saturday night.

On Wednesday night I baked cookies to bring into work and the CBF office the night before. On the way to the store I saw a small envelope addressed to me. It was a b-day message from big brother, with a great present inside--a bracelet mocking the LiveStrong et.al. charity bracelets: "LIVEWRONG" on black rubber. Sweet. I also appreciated that the message was typed on his antique typewriter on the back of scrap paper. Thanks! My roommates were excited about my birthday and sang to me at Midnight. I felt hope that this birthday wouldn’t be lame.

My actual b-day gave me negative signs and indicated that this was going to be another lame year, and I actually started getting angry. At work I sent out a message that there were b-day cookies for everyone. Most of the support staff thanked me and wished me a happy b-day, but almost none of the other attorneys did–including Gabe, a supposed friend from law school. WTF?!

The court hearing that I was supposed to attend was canceled, and I found out after waiting at court for a while, so that was a waste of time. The trip itself was worthwhile though, because it was my first time riding the Julep in high-heeled work shoes. I was nervous about heel scraping on corners (since you can’t just coast through turns in the 3:9 position) but it worked fine. Plus every time I was locking-unlocking my bike I got surprised/approving looks from cute bike messenger boys–especially from the two also riding fixies. Tehehee.

Over lunch I had planned to attend a CBF lecture which I have been looking forward to for months. However, the stars aligned so that an attorney who I have been trying to get documents from for weeks finally dropped by the office minutes before I planned to leave, and ruined my ability to attend the lecture. Happy fucking birthday.

Very few friends sent me b-day greetings during the day–generally to tell me that they were out of town for the party on Saturday. Plus I started getting nervous about whether many people would attend my b-day party on Saturday. I’ve noticed something interesting about people who RSVP to events: Most of my supposedly closest ‘friends’ (law school) rarely respond to invites, regardless of whether they attend or not. However, bikey friends and acquaintances, many whom I don’t know very well and most who I’ve known for less than a year, are very good about replying. This seems backwards to me.

Anyway, my spirits were low when I arrived at the h-bar and I was expecting lameness. However, upon walking in, cries of ‘happy b-day’ filled the air from the other owners and a few other bikey people. Throughout the night bikey people came in to wish me well. Several of them had heard word-of-mouth and stopped by even without an invite. Also it seems that most of them are also planning on attending the party on Saturday. Cool.

Isaac was the only law school friend who showed up--and he actually mingled with bikey people pretty well. He is often shy and awkward around too many strangers, so this was very good of him and I was impressed. Overall, the night was very nice, and I didn’t wake up too hung over this morning. Still, I can’t help but feel annoyance at the law school ‘friends’ as a group, though. Proof again, that bikey people overall are far cooler than lawyers. Last weekend the lawyer friends seemed really excited about my party on Saturday–so hopefully they are still planning on attending. I’m really interested in bringing my bikey and attorney friends together to see the dynamic–but so far my attempts have been thwarted. Hopefully Saturday will bring together this elusive mix. Maybe there could even be some biker/lawyer hook-ups.........

Anyway, I’m going to step down from this self-centered, whiney perch and actually get some work done today. Despite the law friends disappointment, yesterday ranks as one of my best birthdays in many years. I joyfully leave behind my yucky mid-twenties and enter my late twenties with high expectations.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

One month away....

The World Naked Bike Ride is one month from today. I've been looking forward to this event since riding it last year. I'm even missing another bridal shower to do this ride (Yes, dear friend since kindergarten--I won't be able to attend your bridal shower because I'd rather bike around Chicago naked with a bunch of freaks). The only 'problem' is that I don't want to cut my hair until after the ride, and I'm itching to whack some inches off.

Last year there were several points in the ride where I strategically pulled my hair to the front for some.....coverage. The ride drew out about 200 people and we created a spectacle everywhere we rode. The tourists and bar-hoppers especially loved us--cameras flashed constantly and people cheered in support or shock. However, the group got really thin and spread out as we wiggled around the stand-still traffic on Michigan Avenue. Me and two guys got cut off from the group by heavy cross traffic and had to wait out a red light.

Let me say that riding nudily in a large group of people feels radically different than being stationary and straddling a bike at an intersection on Michigan Avenue. The latter feels...well--just like being exposed on Michigan Avenue. Plus this time there was no denial that the cameraphone and cameras flashes were pointed directly at me and my companions. All of the rationalizations of other pictures (the pictures will be blurry because of our speed, I'm just one in a large group, they won't have time to take a good picture....) pretty much disappeared. I modestly pulled the hair forward and took off when the light turned green. And so--I have to postpone a haircut for another whole month!

If your city will participate in the WNBR, I highly recommend it. If you think it would be fun, but your city isn't signed up--well, then get off your butt and organize it yourself!

NFL?

Tuesday was not a normal day. First, I decided to go swimming before work. I also learned that my removeable rear rack fits perfectly on the Julep. My swimsuit on me–not so much because I swim in my Speedo even when I’m dry, because it is super-sloppy on my body. This is not caused from weight loss–but instead apparently the material is just shot. I think the fact that it is about 10 years old must be the cause. I remember buying it when I still lived with my parents. Pretty good stint for a suit. I wore yoga pants over the suit to ride into work, but soon I will be back to biking just in a swimsuit. WooHoo!

Anyway, I did some laps this morning, and my form has gone the way of the swimsuit–loose, sloppy and ugly. I threw some of the hand-paddles on and did some backstroke laps. Damn–that feels interesting in the arm muscles.

I don’t know why I have been postponing showering at the gym instead of at home–because it is sooo good. I feel super-clean today at work. I’ve been wasting a lot of time in the mornings eating and getting ready. But when I used to shower at my destination I was usually out of the house in about ten minutes. Contacts, brush teeth, pack clothes, leave. Make oatmeal at work to eat while booting up computer.

Besides being cleaner at work and saving time, I get the bonus of showering in a place that I don’t have to eventually clean. I have complete disregard for the drains at the gym so I gleefully dropped clump after clump of loose hair on the floor. tehehe. I also lost a bandaid in the pool or shower. Bad. Bad. Bad. I was the person we all hate today. I left the gym barefoot and my swimsuit is drying on my office doorknob. So professional. At least I hid my stank-nasty Sketchers in the closet to keep the stench from invading my office.

Then in the afternoon I started dragging ass in a serious way–so I closed the door and laid down on the floor for a quick nap. Apparently I fell asleep, because I was jolted back into consciousness when the phone rang less than ten minutes later.

This is when a weird thing happened: I received a call asking if I would represent an NFL football player in his civil dispute. What. The. Fuck. The details aren’t worked out yet, but the bosses are pretty excited. My boss is an egomaniac and loves to see his name in the paper–so he’s all over it. The question of course is–where did they get my name?

Answer: law.com.

Law.com is basically a generic white-pages for attorneys. My profile does nothing to instill confidence. Here is a search string that would bring up my name if the profile was more fleshed out and unbiased: [inexperienc* /s lazy /s "JD 2003" /s unprofessional]. Seriously though, who looks at lawyers’ profiles and picks a really young lawyer? The fact that the case will generate press is incentive enough for many firms to take it. Besides, from the profession that invented ‘ambulance chasing’ it’s not as if most firms are turning clients away at the door. Plus, NFL guys probably need other types of legal help–wills, real estate, investments....and have friends with the same needs. Handling a small matter of this type well can bring in more lucrative business later. So basically, we are perplexed by why, given all of these factors would I get the call? But assuming he agrees to the firm’s retainer and payment policies, we have a new client.

Too friggin’ weird.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mother's Day Weekend

I missed my train, and therefore Steph's bridal shower. It was mostly my fault for cutting the timing so close--I flew downtown, but then took a street East that didn't connect to the southbound street that I wanted. Then all of the bridges were up and I waited helplessly, trapped on the wrong side of the city. Had I realized how long I'd wait at the bridge, I could have gone back West to follow the river's curve and made my train. But instead I waited and then frantically raced to the station--and making poor navigating decisions in my haste. I wasted precious minutes trying to save time. I think I would have been completely fine if I would have initially taken the correct route, because I would have avoided the bridge fiasco and probably all of my creative detours, too. But, instead I missed my train.

Unexpectedly, my parents offered to pick me up in Milwaukee if I caught a later train. So I ended up going home for Mother's Day, at least. Saturday night I spent at Kim and Brian's house and got to see their baby Oliver again. [Expect a post about babies in a few days when i have scanned in some pictures.] Damn do I love that family. Talking with Kim always makes me feel better.

They dropped me off at my parents' house the next morning--and I was locked out. I immediately surveyed my options to break--in. I first considered the woodroom entrance, but was too lazy to dig in the shed for the correct tool. Then I walked around the house until I saw what I was looking for--a window with the screen partially up. I forced the inner glass completely up, and further opened the screen. Then I scampered up and through the window and slid down the couch and onto the TV room floor. The dog was going happily crazy throughout this procedure and whimpering for me to succeed.

I brought my stuff inside, made the dog a leash out of string and took her for a 2+ mile walk. When I got back my parents were home preparing brunch and I pitched in. The visit with the Gparents was nice and I didn't let my mom annoy me too much.

Afterwards I went out into the shed to investigate the two bikes I saw there. They are my parents from years ago. One had a flat front tire, and the other one's tires both held air, but the rear was rubbing against the frame. I tried to reseat it, but then realized that it was hopelessly out of true. Dad and I swapped out the rear wheel from the other bike to make one functional bike. This rear rim was wider so I had to adjust the brakes. It was very bizarre, because my dad tried to adjust them, but was loosening the wrong bolt. I took over and he was my assistant--this was probably a first in my lifetime that I had more mechanical insight than my dad, and it felt cool.

I took the bike for a short spin and came back to find my dad tinkering with the messed up rear wheel. He was using an adjustable wrench to loosen the spoke nipples. Considering the brake incident, I was surprised that he knew anything about spoke adjustment. I did teach him how to figure out the righty-tightey, lefty-loosey trick [judge by the looking from the rim, not the hub]. He managed to pull the wheel closer to true, but I think it is probably useless. The wheels on those bikes are heavy steel. After raising the seat about four inches, the working bike road pretty well and shifted easily. Those bikes were from Sears probably 20 years ago--so I'm pretty impressed--plus the chains were well-oiled and clean-looking. I hope my dad gets the other bike working and they actually use the bikes this summer.

Overall it was a pretty nice weekend. To be honest, I don't feel very bad about missing the bridal shower. That sort of event isn't my thing and the bride's mom is pretty obnoxious and materialistic, so I think I would have spent a lot of time rolling my eyes and biting my tongue anyway. For one reason or another I have missed all of my friends' bridal showers: Kim, Kristine, Shalan and now Steph. I think this streak should continue (I still buy gifts, I just miss out on mingling with old relatives and playing stupid, cheesy games).

Friday, May 06, 2005

Mum

Warning: this digressed into a pretty bitchy, negative post

I’m going home tomorrow for my friend’s wedding shower (expect a future entry soon about how much I hate the wedding-industrial complex and its effects on my friendships). It also happens to be Mothers’ Day. Blech. My mom is crazy and we rub each other the wrong way. That woman can push my buttons like no one else and she brings out the worst in me. My hackles raise and my temper is always one spark away from igniting when I see her. Respect for my dad is probably the only thing keeping me from speaking my mind to her and getting disowned again.

Besides being crazy, my mom is also a bitch. Other people’s mothers are reputed to say "If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all." My mom instead chooses words to salt wounds. We spoke on the phone the other night and she was laughingly recalling how she was ‘teasing’ my cousin about how he will never get married or have kids (he wants both) after his long-term relationship recently dissolved. I told her that she had been rude and mean, but she honestly couldn’t understand how her comments were anything but funny. Bitch.

She gloats when bad things happen and always foresees the worst-case scenario. Classic ‘supportive’ quotes from this bizarre woman who bore me:
"You’re not smart enough to go to college"
"You blew it, and should drop out of college and work in a factory."
"My daughter is the worst student ever."–to the chair of my department at the swanky awards ceremony honoring the outstanding graduate [me–sociology] from each of 13 college departments.
"Why do you talk so silly?-- you know you won’t graduate from law school"–holiday dinner during my first year of law school.
"You’ll never be a lawyer."–many times during law school and afterwards when I was unemployed.
"Well, you haven’t started working yet."–upon hearing that I was offered and accepted my current job after a long unemployed stint.

Add to this a ton of crazy behavior to sabotage happy events and her efforts to always be the sodden blanket squelching sparks of excitement and optimism. I honestly can’t remember her being supportive instead of negative and criticizing.

If there is a way for her to make a complicated, strained situation out of ordinary events, she will jump on it with gusto. Since I am going home this weekend, I want to see my paternal grandparents [no crazy gene], and asked her what the Mother’s Day plan was, explaining that I need to leave in the very early afternoon. She said that the Gpa had suggested going out for lunch (too late for my plans). I suggested getting reservations for brunch, but she didn’t think there were any places open for brunch. WTF–Mother’s Day is a huge brunch day!!! As an alternative, we could host my Gparents for brunch at my parent’s house–because that would be more flexible to conform with whenever my ride decided to leave.

She acted like this was a huge dilemma, when needn't be at all. For some reason she seems to behave as if my Gpa is some sort of dictator who will pitch a tantrum if his every whim isn’t satisfied. He isn’t. She kept saying, "if I can’t get early enough reservations, then we’ll just keep it a secret from them that you were home." Umm.....NO. I want to see the Gparents. I am the only Gdaughter and they adore me–my Gma will be tickled to see me, and will certainly arrange her schedule to see me.

How does my mom respond? She decides to make it a ‘surprise’ that I am home and she is making brunch. Apparently she lied to them about having dinner reservations. They will show up at my parents house to the ‘surprise.’ My Gpa will grumble because he was planning on treating for the dinner; Gma will exclaim with horror that she didn’t bring a dish to share and they will both act awkwardly--feeling bad for coming empty-handed, and embarrassed about being ‘tricked.’ My mom will spend hours on Saturday night and Sunday morning cooking* a feast to feed an army, and then will breezily laugh and say that it wasn’t any trouble and completely ignore their awkwardness.

Despite the above, everything will be Fine. My Gparents will be excited to see me and it will be nice to catch up with them. Gma will have ‘granddaughter gossip" to brag about for the next several weeks and she will consider it a good Mother’s day. Still, it will suck to see my Gpa slightly emasculated by being tricked and not being able to take us out for dinner, and hear my Gma bemoan about the pictures/scrapbook/whatever she would have brought for me to see, if only she knew I was home. I should probably just give the Gparents a call and let them know I’m coming and tell them to pretend to be surprised. Oh the drama and the deceit.

Another gem from our phone conversation was after I told her that I bought the Hbar. Her response: "Oh," and then she started babbling for 20 minutes about a necklace she bought. Later she said disappointedly, and in all seriousness, "so there’s nothing new in your life." I swear that unless I tell her "I'm getting married!" or "I'm pregnant!" she will consider my life stagnant and worthless. Graduating from an elite law school, getting a good-paying job, moving and becoming a partner in a business apparently aren’t noteworthy events.

If I ever start turning into her, please help me with a:
Bitchslapping,
Intervention,
Bullet.

Can this be put in a living will?

[I, of sound mind, order that upon the event that I demonstrate symptoms of morphing into my mother, symptoms that do not diminish in response to regular Bitchslapping or Intervention, then I shall be shot down like the rapid dog I have become.]

Mum has developed a new weirdness recently whereby she acts as if she has maternal instincts more mammal than reptile-like. What this means is that she feels that she has the right to complain like other mothers do when their adult children don’t give them enough attention. First, the phone works both ways and any perceived lack of communication should be borne by both parents and children. Secondly, us kids spend far more time and effort to visit them, than they do us. Third, when we kids are home my mom will often pick fights and/or spend ridiculous amounts of time watching TV or surfing the internet. There is little to indicate that she values spending time with her children. Additionally, what the fuck are we supposed to talk about? We have so little in common it is absurd. Our values, lives and interests have almost no overlap and there isn’t affection or mutual respect for one another. Finally, at least in relation to me, her actions have long since revoked her maternal rights and privileges. People reap what they sow–and she has a garden of emptiness and bitterness to tend.

I don’t think Hallmark makes a Mother’s Day card to adequately express my feelings. They should start a new sub-category called "obligatory". Along the lines of, Birthday: Humorous, or Get Well: Religious, I want to look under, Mother’s Day: Obligatory. This would be great for cranky mother-in-laws, trophy-wife step-mothers, or any other mother-like relationships that lack warmth, but need to be recognized to prevent strain on other relationships. The "Obligatory" cards could have a boat motif–as in, "I’m sending you this only to prevent rocking the boat."

Oh, yeah–I see construction paper in my future tonight! Guess whose mom will be getting a homemade card from her *doting* daughter?


* I would love to help, but if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that my mom and I need to stay the fuck out of each others’ kitchens. Besides, she bitches that the food I cook is weird and tastes bad–stupid, bland farmtown pallets.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I'm a Business Owner

Yup, I took the plunge today and cut a check* to become the newest owner of the Hbar. I am both really excited, and really friggin' freaked. I have an entire professional kitchen at my disposal--plus I can order bulk food at commercial rates and have use of the company's bike trailers. Next year's holiday truffle-making exercise will NOT take place in my living space. I can work to revamp the menu and have the opportunity to cook when I want to. Too fuckin' cool.

I was unemployed up until seven months ago. After being near-broke and constantly freaked out about finances I've become used to the idea that I can role with pretty much any reasonable financial situation that rears it's head (moving, new bike/accessories) along with paying for friends' dinners/drinks/tickets..... I still lived pretty frugally, but the truth was I didn't have to worry about money. I paid about 2/3 cash and 1/3 credit financed the Hbar purchase. Now I am in the red and will try to reign in my money even tighter for the next few months until the borrowed money is completely paid off. [Goal--end of August] Being a complete cheapwad runs in my blood, so it probably won't be a traumatic adjustment, but still, I'll actually have to budget for things instead of just ponying up on a whim.

Today I commuted with the fixie and only really used my hand brake once, when cars did crazy unexpected/illegal/stupid manuevers. My butt muscles feel like they have been worked pretty hard, because stopping takes so much energy and control. After I came home from work I couldn't find my checkbook and thought it might be at the office. I sped the Bianchi back to work in search of my checkbook. Riding him is so easy compared to the fixie. Time was ticking, so I flew downtown and back. It felt great to really push it without worrying about how I was going to stop. It's also obvious that the Bianchi is just a better bike than the Julep and rolls beautifully on the pavement.

I counted up the miles I rode today and it totals about 20, plus I lifted weights at the gym over lunch break. It's weird to think that this is more activity than many people do in a week.

Anyway, I'm babbling and tipsy. I wasn't planning on drinking tonight, but Todd, one of the other owners exclaimed that "You can't buy a bar without having a drink or two" and I was persuaded to imbibe. To spare more babble--this new bar/restaurant owner is off to bed.



* I didn't order checks when I started my new account, so I wrote by far the largest check of my life on a blank starter check. I have a feeling I will be hearing from my bank by the end of the week. tehehe.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Miss Mia

Mia is awesome! Both she and John have been in a ton of Chicago bands in the last ten years or so, so they both know a lot of people. Mia also hosts a Cable Access music/dance program so people she hasn’t met know and recognize her. She received free tickets to a Spoon show last night at the Metro and we all biked up there together after making a communal dinner of beans & rice, quesadillas and chips/guacamole/salsa. We rushed to leave for the show, and the sink is a massacre of disgusting pots/pans/dishes. Guess what I look forward to tonight?

I didn’t know the music, but the show was good. I’ve only been to the Metro before at sold-out shows so it was nice to have a little more room. John and Mia are freakishly knowledgeable about the music scene and seem to know the band history of every musician—almost all of the names fly straight over my head. Fortunately neither of them is a ‘hipper-than-thou’ scenester—they just are really involved with music. At the show they declared the month of May to be Guitar Month at the apartment and want to teach me to play. I’m game, but it’s sort of depressing to realize that two more people will discover my incredible finger-dexterity incompetence and tone-deafness.

I rode the Julep (fixie) up to the show and only had to use the front brake about three times. I feel like I am getting the hang of her. As we locked our bikes up, I overheard the door guys saying that “there sure are a lot of bikers coming to shows lately.” Fantastic! Events like this are ideal for biking—because parking around the city’s concert venues blows and costs a lot of money, then there is the traffic nightmare afterwards, hailing a cab takes forever because there is too much competition from other cabriding hopefuls, and walking and waiting for CTA is often a buzzkill. While unlocking one of the door guys came up to ask me about the bike and how I braked it without a rear brake, because he was thinking about getting a fixie. John and I explained it while Mia piped in that “She built it herself—isn’t that cool?” When the guy realized that a fixed gear was different from a freewheel single-speed w/ coaster brake, he changed his mind because it sounded ‘too hard & dangerous.’ Funny to hear a big, pierced, tattooed guy admit this.

Anyway, the evening was very enjoyable. It’s too bad that Mia wants to live alone, because it would be fun to keep her as a permaroomie.

Monday, May 02, 2005

I Finally Did It

I forgot to bring my work clothes today. I think they are lying on my bed. I expected this day to eventually come, but it still felt weird. Luckily I have clothes in reserve at my office, so I didn't work in a tank top and yoga pants. But now I am stuck in a suit for no good reason--and I think my shirt smells a little.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Hostel

My apartment is becoming a borderline hostel--and I love it. In May (and maybe June) we are hosting Mia, a friend of John's and the drummer in his band. She lives in Chicago but had a weird vacation/moving crisis and brought over her stuff before spending a month in Bupal. She came back on Thursday and will stay here until she finds her own place. Mia seems very cool--and I will shamelessly blame her for any hair-clogged drains or other long-hair related problems for at least the next three months. tehehe.

Today we were all discussing future house guests--besides Mia we are also hosting John's friend from Switzerland for a week, Mia's Franco-friend for a night, her friend from Austin for a weekend and my two friends from WI for a weekend. I think this is very fun. Living in the co-op, we regularly had houseguests and it was cool to meet so many new people. I'm looking for forward to many interesting wine-laden conversations in our kitchen.

Besides just being nice, Mia is pretty devoted to yoga classes. I used to take classes down in Hyde Park, but never sought out a new instructor when I moved away. Lately I have been feeling sort of creaky, and have been meaning to begin doing it again. I expect that Mia will inspire me to actually do it, instead of just thinking about it. woo-hoo!

I rode the fixed gear Mint Julep around town today to try to get the hang of braking. I'm getting better, but still don't think I could stop suddenly to avoid a collision. I am trying to use the front brake as little as possible in order to make sure that I instinctively slow down the rear wheel. I also switched the brake from the left to the right hand of my bike, and that feels more comfortable. My concern over braking also prevents me from really biking fast--this should be an interesting learning process. One of my casual bikey friends who is amazingly graceful on his fixies offered to spend time in a parking lot teaching me some tricks of fixie riding. I think I'll take him up on it in a few weeks.

Besides the braking concerns, riding the Julep isn't much different than any other bike. I did learn that I coasted more than I expected: going over rough pavement, open grate bridges, when I signal or when I use my hands to zip/unzip my jacket or anything else. Another thing I learned is that I will probably need to buy a smaller cog once I get confident enough to ride her fast.

I think riding the fixie is going to be good for several reasons. It will work different muscles when I slow the bike down. Slowing the bike down currently feels very jerky, but I can imagine it becoming fluid as I get used to it. I've been focusing on pedaling in a smooth circular motion instead of jackhammering an up-down pedaling style: I need a lot of work. Slowing the rear wheel down with my legs seems to work better when it is fluid, and I think learning this skill will help my forward pedaling, too. Since I can't easily kick the right pedal upwards (my normal starting position) I was forced to start with my left foot several times. I don't think this will really improve my performance, but I like the idea of becoming more versatile and comfortable on my bike.

Speaking of comfort--I installed my roadbike seat on the Julep and put the Butterfly seat on the Bianchi. My guestimation wasn't very accurate, and I was resting far too much of my weight on my pubic bone instead of my sit bones. Not good. I'll have to tinker with that some more.

I think I will try to ride the Julep into work on Monday: Poor braking, rush-hour downtown Chicago traffic--what could possibly go wrong?

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