11 june 2014

last month i told you a soft, shiny story about cycling. i touched on a bit of fear-conquering. riding is still incredibly new to me, and each week that passes means that the shiny luster becomes colored by reality more and more.

i wish i knew where to start with this. as happens to me with something that is both new and close to my heart, i want to say everything. for your sake, i'll aim to stay focused.

where i live right now, in south orange county, we know nothing about cycling or being bicycle-friendly. no, really. i understand that certain municipalities (*cough*irvine*cough*) are laying down better infrastructure to improve road conditions. i do not disregard their efforts. but how many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands (i just checked: as of 2012, irvine boasted a population of over 229,000 individuals) of cars pass through that city every day? how many are residents versus commuters? how many of them ride bikes? how many of them understand what cyclists do to negotiate traffic on the streets?

last week i took a class in traffic safety for cyclists which was designed by the league of american bicyclists. i've had my driver license for about 22 years and before that workshop, i didn't know much of any of the laws that apply to cyclists who are riding on the streets. i didn't know the safety maneuvers, i didn't understand when we can (and should) "take the lane," and i certainly didn't appreciate what it meant to be on the road with such little protection between me and a speeding hunk of metal.

let me be clear: i've experienced my fair share of indignation at what other drivers do while i am driving my car, which i have taken as a personal afront. i know it is wrong to take offense to poor driving skills as 1) that other person is a stranger and 2) i am an equal offender, either by intent or accident. we all piss each other off now and again.

it is a wholly different experience to be an indignant cyclist: it is humbling. it is terrifying.

(if you're reading this, mom and dad, now would be a good time for you to wander over to youtube for some cat videos. i really think it's for your own good. i know you probably won't, human nature being what it is [curious], but don't say i didn't try to deter you.)

i've been riding since the middle of february, and i got my road bike in the middle of april. in that timeframe, there have already been three separate instances where i've felt threatened by a car's behavior. that's an incredibly brief span in the life of the average cyclist. two of those instances occurred this week. each time i want to yell at the driver, "hey! don't you see me? don't be such an asshole!"

one point i'm driving at is the general lack of courtesy we give each other on the road. not only in the car-to-rider relationship, but in the car-to-car relationship. we are, to broadly generalize, impatient, self-absorbed, and distracted. this modern age has flooded us with information and input from every direction that it's a wonder we can even remember how to talk to each other. hey, i've gotten a cell phone ticket...and i should have gotten much more: i was texting while driving back to work in a manual shift car and trying to eat a chipotle burrito while on my lunch break. it sounds funny only because no one got hurt. but really, it's terrifying and who i am today is embarrassed by me two years ago.

the thing is, on a bicycle, everything is amplified--it is wholly different from driving a car. i have never felt more vulnerable than when i am riding on the streets i have driven so many times. how can this change? it's not only educating riders on how to properly navigate the roads, but it means educating drivers on the fact that we are permitted to use the street too.

i'm just beginning to sort this all out, but i will say that i've stumbled into something which is so much bigger than i am and which i want to champion.

safe riding!

11 may 2014

it's that time during an otherwise amazingly eventful weekend when i start to feel a little bit melancholy & lonely. i'm watching/listening to chvrches on tv--recorded from when they broadcast selections from coachella on tv--and feeling hungry and tired. mango has passed out on the coffee table after a hearty dinner during which he ate some of the food that contained the new medicine he's on which is supposed to help with some of his digestive distress. it's been a struggle--he's still got his sense of taste and smell, and this tylosin powder has been difficult to disguise.

this weekend was really amazing. i rode with some friends in the 30-mile leg of the tour of long beach. as i ramp up my newfound passion for cycling, i am constantly surprising myself. i don't think i've liked something quite as much as this since i was in school, and even then this isn't comparable to studying for a degree or certificate. i'm learning in such a different capacity--it's head and heart and body all rolled into one. i've never been particularly athletic, but this...this really feels like living to me. the physicality of it, combined with the fear-conquering, is invigorating.

the fear? on april 15 (a tuesday), i crashed on my mountain bike and was thrown into a fence. i have a bruise that is still healing on my shin and another just below my knee. i took a break. then on saturday i walked into a local bike shop, hung out for a couple of hours checking out a couple of bikes, and walked out with a road bike. go big or go home, right?

just like a musician flourishes on a quality instrument, i've stepped up my game on my new pair of wheels. i graduated from a heavy beast with knobby tires to a lithe, aluminum creature with skinny wheels and clipless pedals. i've bought the padded lycra shorts, lights, insulated arm sleeves...accessories galore. it seems like there are a million things out there to make the ride better or more comfortable. i'm signing up for an urban cycling workshop, joining a local cycling club, and planning future ride events that will garner medals and memories galore. i've found my happy place.

tell me, what's yours?




20 apr 2014

dear new york,

i've been in denial for a bit now, ever since i got the news nearly two weeks ago diagnosing mango with lymphoma. i have been looking forward to seeing you for quite some time, especially because i was so in love with you two years ago that i teared up on the flight home.

can you believe how life changes? it's not surprising, but i think the pacing of things still stuns me at times. last night, as i was talking to my parents about you, my dad pipes up: "i thought you weren't going." i got really quiet because there was no hiding from the truth of the matter.

you see, mango may have as few as six weeks left, and if i am to assess things by the bare minimum, then i can't really justify being gone for nine days. there's really no way to know his exact life-expectancy, of course, but i'm just not comfortable leaving him right now.

i wish there was another way. it's not just missing you, new york, it's missing all my friends too. i know you understand. i know they understand.

and, can i add: what is it about this decision that robs me of any grace i might have when writing about it? i feel like an automaton right now, but i assure you: i am not without feeling about this. is this what others experience when difficult news stares them in the face? i've been behaving badly, for all i know. what i really mean is that i feel guilty for being selfish: selfish every time i think about the cost of this news. not only financial, but emotional as well.

good grief, the rest is just gibberish in my head. at any rate, i know you get it. i don't know when i'll be back, but i'll see you on my next visit when i can be worry-free.

love,
sara

11 apr 2014

when i found out the news on tuesday, i was already en route from work to the vet to pick up mango from his series of tests. somewhere on the southbound five, i kept breathing, kept driving, listening as dr. mckee went through the x-rays and the ultrasound. "enlarged lymph node," she said. "thickening of the bowels." lymphoma. lymphoid sarcoma. i listened intently, but it was more for the tone of her voice than the news she was delivering.

dr. mckee has a uniquely calming tone, and i've always found it reassuring. i guess that's what happens when you know a veterinarian for 16 years. we've been through this before, so i trust her implicitly.

i've been through this before. i trust myself implicitly, though gingerly, with the knowledge that i gained when monty was diagnosed just over 4 years ago. these days i spend time talking to anyone who will listen. to the girl at work who i've never opened up to, who mentioned the word pet hair and got the "i just found out my cat has cancer" outpouring, thank you for listening. for the phone call from nyc in the middle of my work day--thank you, erin. i'm so glad i work a job where i can walk away from my desk anytime without a bunch of questioning glances from management. for the picture of a mango with the words "FUCK CANCER" that ended up on my facebook wall today, thank you lauren. for the texts and the messages and the talks from countless others, for my loving family, i am so thankful for all of you for being here for me right now. i want you to know it means so much to me.

mango continues to lose weight. he's at 13 pounds now (if my scale can be trusted), while he was around 16.2 about 15 months ago. his appetite is diminishing despite the prednisone, and he's picked out a new spot to lay down in my room. the change in behavior and weight loss make me itch because i draw comparisons to my prior experience with monty. my heart is breaking and this is the first time i've slowed down all week to really let myself feel it. i had a brief time of it on tuesday, yelling and angry in my car as i maneuvered safely down alicia parkway. i wanted to get rid of as much negativity as possible before i saw mango. i want him to feel safe and loved and comfortable...

...for the rest of his life.
photo credit: l. skantze, 4.21.11



09 apr 2014

here i am again, dear friends and readers. life's been keeping me busy, and things that i set forth to do months ago (reviewing the entire coachella lineup, i'm looking at you) have been set aside time and again as more important things took priority. i've been having a lot of fun.

yesterday, time stood still as i learned once again that i am facing life with a cat that has cancer.

maybe i'll find my voice about this and share it with you, but for now i'm regrouping.

17 feb 2014

yesterday i visited endeavor at the california science center in los angeles.


science stupefies me. i think i would do much better in school these days given my general interest in the world i live in. as a teenager, i think i was too short-sighted and self-focused to see very far beyond my own circumference of occupied earth. nowadays it's like, "SCIENCE!" that and i pay much more attention to bill nye the science guy.

i highly recommend this, if you are even the tiniest bit interested in space. do this and then go see the 3-D Imax movie about the Hubble Space Telescope. your itty-bitty world/mind will be forever changed. i ended up rounding out the day with the movie "gravity," and i can tell you that it was truly a perfect day. let's hear it for Science!

20 jan 2014

i went to my first (and only) coachella 3 years ago. it was some of the most fun i've ever had for 3 days in a row. it was thrilling and exhausting. it was also expensive. while i think that there's a lot of value built in to the cost (how many bands can you see? i felt like i was riding a roller coaster!), what was even more valuable to me that year was all the new music i was introduced to: fitz & the tantrums, givers, and m ward come to mind, though i can assure you there were many more groups thanks to the friends i was with.

last year i enjoyed the concert from the comfort of a friend's home with an extra-large television and a fast internet connection streaming youtube's broadcast. hot chip really killed it for me (among others, they were the stand out that night). it also helped that there was a comfortable sofa, a whole artichoke for me to eat by myself, and soft blankets. 

over the next several weeks, i will go through the entire lineup, a-to-z, and let you know what i think. it will go something like this: 
  • i'll let you know how familiar i was with the music prior to this experiment, 
  • i promise listen to at least three of the top-rated songs (via spotify) so that i can say i gave them a fair shake, 
  • i'll offer a brief bio of the group
  • and finally, i'll let you know what i thought of the artist/band
the official coachella line up can be found here. i've already begun my research, and i have all of the "a" bands queued up. see you soon!