2010-06-19

Lean into the curve

"Lean into the curve," she reminded me.

I was the tender age of twenty, and my twenty-two year-old roommate was schooling me on how to be safe passenger on a motorcycle. We were waiting for our dates to arrive, and I took her advice seriously.

When in a big turn that tilts the bike, you'll instinctively to want to counterbalance that by leaning towards the other side. Don't do it, just go with it. Lean into the curve.


It's scary, but here's how you do it. Grab him around the waist, and melt forward into him. Just watch over his shoulder. You can switch shoulders, but only on the straightaways. You can look left and right, but only your neck should move independently of his torso. The rest of your body should to follow his movements. When the bike turns, his body will tilt with the bike. You do the same. ALWAYS.

When the boys picked us up and I climbed onto the motorcycle, I was nervous. As we roared away from the curb, I looked to my friend. She looked confident and secure, and her words echoed in my head.

We made our way through some of the suburbs south of LA, and I spent much of my ride leaning into my driver, with my eyes shut. I was scared. Eventually I caught a whiff of the Pacific Ocean and with that I realized where we were. The sudden scent of the ocean combined with the the tilt in the road told me what I needed to know; my eyes were not needed in this situation. I took this route routinely for work and for play, and I recognized not only the scent of the ocean, but also the curve of the road we were on.

I inhaled.

I leaned.

I opened my eyes.

Everything was coming at me so fast...and yet, as I was in the cocoon that was my helmet, everything was peaceful. Sights, smells, the woosh of sounds...all blurred together as we cruised down the highway. I stopped being afraid. I just experienced the ride.

As the road wound its way to the coast, I heard my friend's words in my ears and I leaned into those turns.

As a bike tilts towards the ground while taking a turn, you'll be temped to do what you should do on a boat, which is shift your weight in the other direction. You have to fight that intuitive action and just trust physics to do its thing. You lean into the curve. It's what's right, even if it feels wrong.





2009-11-24

Bunnies don't wear glasses

My daughter was just eating carrots. Without being asked or prompted or begged or bribed. Her sixth birthday was last week and it's as if some switch was flipped; she's proud of being a Big Kid, and she voluntarily seeks out situations where she can demonstrate her new Big Kidness.

She knew I'd be thrilled and so she skipped over so I could watch watch her chomp down happily.

"Look, Mom!" Chomp. Chomp. Chomp.

I told her how happy I was, because carrots are so good for you.

"They are good for your skin! And your hair! And your eyes!" I blathered on.

She nodded.

I decided to dial it down a notch, so I said, "I mean, bunnies like carrots, right?"

She nodded again.

"And have you ever seen a bunny with glasses?"

She shook her head, crunching on her carrot.

"So, carrots MUST be good for your eyes, right?"

She nodded and bounced away.

Oh, my. She nodded. And bounced away.

She usually catches me when I try to pull a fast one over on her like that. I thought she'd roll her eyes and say, "Mooooooooooooooom! That's silly!"

But she didn't. She nodded.

And bounced away.

Someday, not tonight, but someday, it will be the last time she buys my goofiness. I won't know it at the time...but it will happen.

I'm glad it wasn't tonight.

2009-10-29

Schwarzenegger's Assembly Bill Veto, complete with super secret hidden message!

Frankly, I don't know a lot about Assembly Bill 1176, whether it was a good idea or not, etc. I do know it was sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and that he and Schwarzenegger have a rather contentious relationship.

Check out Schwartzenegger's written veto (emphasis mine):

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 1176 without my signature.
For some time now I have lamented the fact that major issues are overlooked while manyunnecessary bills come to me for consideration. Water reform, prison reform, and healthcare are major issues my Administration has brought to the table, but the Legislature justkicks the can down the alley.
Yet another legislative year has come and gone without the major reforms Californiansoverwhelmingly deserve. In light of this, and after careful consideration, I believe it isunnecessary to sign this measure at this time.

Sincerely,

Arnold Schwarzenegger


2009-10-01

The Wagons Are Circling Around Roman Polanski

As an undergrad, I had an amazing English professor. He was one of those rare educators who manage to not only make the course syllabus come alive, but also enlighten in ways that reach far beyond the classroom. He was intense, demanding, insightful, ruthless, dramatic, and above all else, passionate.

Once in a while this Immortal of Immortals (as we called him) would step out of the small, upper-level Literature classes from which I knew him and teach to an auditorium that allowed non-English majors. The subject? The Films of Roman Polanski.

It was interesting to watch him in this different venue, speaking directly into a microphone instead of with a carefully staged whisper. Trading the squeak of leather shoes on worn wooden floors for gestures amplified for an audience of 250. Frankly, it was wildly entertaining for us ever-so-special English majors to see him devour unsuspecting Math/Paych/Bio/Art/whatever majors (who thought that this was going to be an easy A) with his calculated retorts to what they thought was an adequate comment. "Adequate" didn't compute with Immortal of Immortals.

Nothing set him into a tirade more than when someone tried to explain the actions of an antagonist with an offhanded, "He's crazy." Of course, Immortal of Immortals loved this...he'd set up his audience with the question, "What do you think motivated {insert antagonist's name here} to {insert whatever fucked up thing the character did}?"

Inevitably a newbie to Immortal would raise their hand and say the dreaded word, "crazy."

And off he'd go.

"Why would this author spend months, perhaps years of their lives crafting this work, this character, to have them be so readily dismissible as simply crazy? Do you NOT think the author was trying to convey a message with this creation? Why would they bother to conceive, construct, and manifest this character, this situation, this oeuvre if not to convey a message? I highly doubt the message is that the character is, quote, crazy." ***

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As you've likely heard, Roman Polanski has been in the news recently. Because of the aforementioned class, I've got more than a soft spot for him as an artist.

That being said.

In 1977 Roman Polanski (age 43) had in his care a 13 year-old girl. Her mother dropped her off at Polanski 's house as the the famous director was supposed to take photographs of the child for a Vogue session. As it happens, Roman Polanski fed her wine and quaaludes, then despite her protestations and begging him to stop, he raped and sodomized her repeatedly. He violated her in multiple ways.

Polanski skipped the country to avoid sentencing. He's been living in Paris for the past 30 years, continuing with his directing career and raising a family. Last week, however, he got nabbed by the Swiss and is sitting in jail, waiting to find out if he'll be extradited to the United States to face the music.

Astonishingly, there are plenty of people who are defending Polanski's actions, and who believe his actions shouldn't be considered criminal. Take Whoopi Goldberg, for example...she claimed on The View that the drugging, raping, and sodomizing wasn't rape rape. Really? Have you read the court transcripts of her account, Ms. Goldberg? Sounds like rape rape to me. I thought you were a woman's rights advocate. Huh.

Maybe she agrees with Joan Z. Shore's Huffington Post article, "But there is more to this story. The 13-year old model "seduced" by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies."

Ummmm...statutory rape isn't seduction. By definition. And Roman admitted that the girl was begging to be let go. Doesn't sound like any case can be made for "seduction." And so freaking what if the mother wanted her daughter in the movies. Ms. Shore's bio says she is a Co-Founder of Women Overseas for Equality (Belgium)...I'd laugh if I wasn't so disgusted by her.

Some make the case that Polanski should be granted leniency because his childhood in the Krakow ghettos ended with the loss of his mother at a Nazi concentration camp, and years later his happy marriage to Sharon Tate ended with her brutally murdered while pregnant at the hands of the Manson family. Unspeakable, unbearable horrors, for certain. But that doesn't mean he should get a pass at abusing others.

John Farr's defense of Polanski (also at the Huffington Post) even goes so far as to say, "And unless there's something we don't yet know -- for instance, that he actually wanted to be arrested to gain some sort of late-life expiation of his past sins -- then it's clear he thought he was safe going to Switzerland to accept that award."

So...because he wasn't anticipating being arrested, it's not fair that he was arrested? Seriously? By extension that means unless he turned himself in voluntarily, no arrest would ever be fair.

Sadly, according to this petition/press release, "Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians - everyone involved in international filmmaking - want him to know that he has their support and friendship." Signatures include Woody Allen, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, and hundreds of others. This press release also states, "Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom."

Yes. It just might take away his freedom. Jail's like that.

The greater point is, however, the first sentence. "Roman Polanski is a renown and international artist."

That's the crux of the issue, for each of Polanski's defenders, from the above mentioned to all of the others who are rallying behind Roman. He's famous. He's talented. He's one of us.

Their hypocrisy is deafening.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you've seen Rosemary's baby (1968), you remember the demonic rape scene in which Rosemary (played by Mia Farrow) realizes this "hallucination" isn't a dream, but it's really happening. It's hard for me to reconcile that the director who so accurately and sensitively portrayed the horror of being drugged and raped is the same man who did just that to a 13 year-old girl.

But maybe it shouldn't be. Art imitates life, and vice versa, no?

***While I heard variations of this speech many times, this is obviously not verbatim. In fact, I think I can safely say that if Immortal of Immortals read it, he'd be mortified that the quote was attributed to him. He was far more succinct and erudite...my best guess is he'd have given me an "A" for content, but a "D-" for execution.

2009-08-14

Crazy Girl




One of the things I love most about where I live is that I can be on the coast in an hour or so. The ocean is the closest thing my brain has to a reset button.

The last time I was fortunate to be seaside, my children and I were huddled in a make-shift tent of blankets and towels. The wind was whipping so fiercely the next day I was wishing I could market it, but there's nothing like nature's free dermabrasion.

Anyway, as we were trying to keep sand from gouging our eyeballs while still making castles, a man with a huge backpack and a tiny dog settled down not far from us. He pulled a large orange tarp-like thing out from his backpack and flapped it open. We couldn't figure out what it was...a tent? A raft? A kite?

With what looked like a bike tire pump, he proceeded to pump this thing up. It ended up looking like a giant pair of bat wings; we still didn't know what it was. He threw some sand on it to weigh it down, and he left with his dog at his heals.

A few more people came along and soon the beach was dotted with these THINGS.

The things turned out, in fact, to be kites. The people, in fact, were surfers. Surfers who used the wind as well as waves to propel them.

Kitesurfers.

Watching them launch from the beach into the Pacific was breath-taking. One minute they were standing on the shore, all laden with hooks and ropes attached to large swaths of fabric, and the next they were dancing on water.

I watched and I drooled. I swear, my muscles were twitching, just aching to experience that...gliding over the water, jumping into the air and diving back into waves; they were both surfing and flying.

Eventually, a woman strode onto the beach and began the same ritual of pulling out the tarp, pumping of the bike pump. At this point, however, the winds had picked up even more and her tarp was whipping around making it hard for her to keep it attached to the pump. I watched for a few moments, and then headed towards her.

"Can I help?" I asked.

For a moment, she was quiet. She looked at me without expression; there was enough time for me to wonder if she was silent because she hadn't heard, or if my intrusion was unwelcome. I explained myself by gesturing to the wind.

She broke out into a smile and said, "That would be great. Grab this part here."

I grabbed the wrong part.

"No, here."

"Sorry." (Why did I apologize? I need to work on that.)

"No problem. Right here."

She asked me, "Have you seen us kite from here before?"

"No. It looks amazing. It must be incredibly physically demanding."

"It is. I am crazy. I am a crazy girl. This is what I've chosen. I'm a crazy girl...I didn't chose to stay home and crochet or cook or have kids. I chose this."

Okay, honestly, for a split second I felt a bit defensive (yet there was nothing judgmental in her delivery; she was clearly thinking out loud). But for the rest of that second, and for the following minutes, I chatted with amazing woman as we got her gear in order. She shared about kitesurfing, and I talked about my life.

Eventually, she also threw some sand on her kite and went off to put on a wetsuit. She asked me if I'd be able to hold up the kite when it was time for her to launch. I gushed that I would love to; the concept of being a part of this experience, however tangentially, thrilled me.

I filled my kids in on the details they weren't able to hear and waited for her to come back. I kept my eye out for her as we built more castles, as I read to my little one or read my own book as my boy read to her, as we shared some sandy sandwiches.

But then I saw her, Crazy Girl, in the water slipping her feet into her board while another wet-suited person held up her kite. Somehow, I'd missed her reappearance on the beach, and I'd lost my chance. The disappointment crept over me as I watched her take off, gliding across the water.

I looked at my kids arguing about how best to build a moat for their sandcastle, "NO! The moat should be a circle and we make a river to the water!"

"NOOOOOO! We bring the water to the moat!"

"NO!"

"NO!"

Even as I started to intervene to make sure their argument didn't continue to escalate, I was aware that I was so glad I chose to be the Crazy Girl With Kids.

With every choice, there is a loss.

Reset button pushed.

2009-08-12

Did I mention my calfs are full of spider bite welts?

Earlier today, I was watching a spider.

As it slowly, slooooowly crawled up a wall, I considered my options. We're a "No-Kill Zone" when it comes to spiders in our home; we strictly capture and release.

My husband and I have always made a bit of a deal about it for our kids, "Bye-bye spider! Now you can be outside with your family and friends and not be stuck inside! Have fun!" Yes. We really say that. Honestly.

(Then, since we're already outside, we usually decide to barbeque, generally either tri-tip or ribs. YUMMM!)

Anyway, I'm watching this spider painstakingly make it's way up the wall. It. took. forever. Then, I literally gasped as it suddenly plunged to the floor in front of my eyes.

At that point, I started to feel guilty for the moments I considered grabbing it with a wad of tissue and flushing it down the toilet. (Don't tell anyone, but I sometimes do that when the kids are in bed. In my defense, I say, "I'm sorry spider. I hope you are like Nemo and make your way out of this mess." Yes. I really say that. Honestly.)

But! The spider awoke! It hadn't plummeted to it's death...in fact, as I watched, it made a left turn, trucked along for a while, and made it's way back up the wall.

Ooooooohhhhh....

It was spinning a web.

I'm so freaking out of touch with nature.

2009-07-15

Like you haven't thought the same thing. Oh, you haven't? *Ahem*

I was sitting in my family room today, and this little bug flew past me. I don't know what kind of creature it was, just that it wasn't a fly nor a mosquito, so it was cool with me.

It buzzed around the room a bit, as if checking out the piano and bookshelf and sofa and walls. Then, seemingly bored, it made a beeline (HA! But it wasn't a bee!) out of the room. It proceeded to go through a doorway, and purposefully made an abrupt right turn to go down a hallway. It went right down the center of the hall, and deftly turned the corner at the next jog.

That buggie knew the floorplan of my house! My jaw dropped and I thought, "Wow, how fucking cute that the little bug totally knows where it's going!"

So, this is the type of gripping news you've been missing due to my blogging sabbatical. Stay tuned for more!