Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bike freedom

Nothing takes me back to my childhood more instantly than a bike ride. Last summer my bike had a warped rim and a flat and we never got around to fixing it. This summer, I set a goal to get that thing fixed. And SO, God bless him, got around to it this week. And so, tonight we took an exhilarating ride along the east shore of the lake.

Lots of people were out and about. I saw a scissortail flycatcher and a poor old mama dog. (I hate seeing strays. I want to rescue them but am stopped by the thought of SO's face. He only just tolerates the dog we've got.) I tried to hang back with Sport, who has a much smaller bike and shorter legs, but I couldn't do it. Soon I was racing Lego for the lead. I let him win. Got to give him a little confidence. (Umm, okay, I didn't "let" him.)

My first capitalistic enterprise involved a bike. Mine was ancient and blue, with a kind of metal flap on the back one might use to secure a notebook. It was a perfect perch for a passenger. One Saturday, I took that bike ("Old Blue" as I creatively called it) up to an apartment complex and started charging kids for a trip around the facilities. My memory is a penny a ride. It might have been a nickel. Anyway, I wasn't going to get rich off of it and I only had a single customer -- a little red-headed girl with a bank full of change. Eventually, the apartment manager chased me off, but I was a quarter richer, so take that old man!

Like most every kid, I thought I was something special on that bike. In my mind, I could do any trick in the book: no hands, side saddle, legs on the handlebars, balance on the bike seat with legs splayed, heck, I could stand on that seat while the thing was in motion if pressed. Whether or not I could really do those things was beside the point. I believed I could do them, therefore, I was amazing. I would win any bike rodeo (yes, we had bike rodeos in those days) if only I deigned to compete (which I didn't do, because I didn't need a trophy or a blue ribbon to prove my point). I was that good.

Old Blue and I went everywhere. We explored "The Trails" (an undeveloped subdivision), the "Gravel Pit" (a gravel pit) and the ruins (abandoned pool where some kid was rumored to have died by breaking his neck after jumping off the diving board). I knew every nook and cranny of the neighborhood sidewalks, each bumpy and gravelly part of the street. That bike gave me absolute freedom, or the illusion of freedom.

I'd give anything to have Old Blue back. (It would also be nice to be about 30 years younger.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Passed 3 graves"

My current read is Best of Covered Wagon Women, a collection of diaries and letters of women traveling the overland trail to California. In between daily reports of terrain, weather, and run-ins with Indians is the stark notation of grave sightings.

"Passed 3 graves" writes Parthenia Blank. Some burials are only days old. Some have been there longer; many have been dug up by wolves and coyotes. Other than taking note of the graves, the women don't spend much time wondering about the occupants. It must have been frightening seeing so many reminders of death and dying: not just women and their children but young men as well.

I love the descriptions of the west before European settlement. I can't imagine the difficulties of undertaking such a journey in a covered wagon. Amazing women.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Like my dear friend QueenBee, I am through the roof with excitement over Barack Obama's nomination. I don't think I could say it any better than she did over at her blog, so read it here and I second the emotion.

I heard today that Millennials tend to be gender- and race-neutral, which gives me another great infusion of hope for the future. Although I've (barely) tried to respond to my Republican father about Obama, I often come up against a brick wall of bigotry. It's sad to see people inour country so twisted by fear about the color of someone's skin -- the amount of melanin programmed into their genetic code.

Juxtaposed against a story I saw about a group of Floridians flying a gigantic Confederate flag, I'm thinking that over time, that kind of racism is going to die out and be replaced by the more realistic approach to things espoused by Generation Y. My own children don't seem to view Obama as a black man. He's an inspirational figure who happens to be bi-racial.

I'm not saying they don't have playmates who are prejudiced. Sport asked me for an information sheet debunking myths about Obama and his "hidden Muslim agenda" so he could read it to his friends at school. I was stunned that even 10-year-olds are talking about him. And Lego quickly corrects his friends when they call Obama "Osama." Such ignorance can only be addressed one person at a time. But I think a lot of that is coming from things they hear their parents say.

It's times like this that I'm proud to be a librarian! When my kid asks me for a fact sheet, that's a power trip, baby!

UPDATE: My sister feels I indirectly accused my mother of being racist, which I did not intend to do. I apologize for that. I have had issues with some of the things my father has said in the past and I make allowances because I feel it is a direct result of the way he grew up. And they did not raise us to be prejudiced.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Our little corner of Hell

Arriving on Monday, I knew we were in trouble when I saw the duct tape on the toilet seat. There was a hole in the ceiling in the kitchen. The refrigerator had been turned off, so it was going to take hours for it to get cool enough to transfer our food from the ice chest. The cabin was full of sand and roly-polys.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to pack cups, plates, or cutlery.

Oh, and one more thing -- the forecast for Tuesday was 107 and windy.

Welcome to Quartz Mountain Resort in southwestern Oklahoma. It's got a unique beauty. We learned that it is the second oldest mountain range in the United States. (The oldest are the Appalachian Mountains.) The pinkish-red rock that colors the mountains is granite. Granite holds a lot of heat. Climbing the Quartz Mountains during a freakish heat wave can give you second degree burns and a heat rash. We decided against doing this when we were halfway up Mount Baldy and a gust of wind nearly toppled Sport over.

Settling instead for a nature walk, we listened as SO read about indigenous plants and the ways Native Americans put them to good use. The boys wanted to swim in the lake, which seemed like a really good idea until we were blasted with sand from winds that had to be gusting up to 50 miles an hour or more. Seriously, the lake waves resembled crashing ocean waves. If we'd had some boards, we could have done some surfing.

At one point, we watched a water moccasin slither near the shore and into a nearby rock formation. One of the beach Bubba's, clutching a Pabst Blue Ribbon in one hand and a fist-sized rock in the other, ambled over to search for the little critter. I wondered if he was drunk enough to actually feel around in the rocks for the snake. Turns out he wasn't.

Trying to grill up some hamburgers in this kind of weather is an exercise in frustration. After numerous attempts to light the charcoal, they finally got done. They were a little crunchy, but if the Egyptians could eat bread seasoned with sand then we could eat burgers with only a light dusting.

The wind never let up the entire time we were there. Temperatures soared. We went out on a paddle boat and were nearly roasted alive. The only relief came when we were in the lake water.

I think my entire body underwent an involuntary exfoliation. Perhaps I'll look 5 years younger when I get back to work.