That Laura is That Cool

Ok, I’ve mentioned my friend, That Laura, before.  Well, That Laura leaves for a bike tour of Vietnam in six days.  She and her father are going together.  On a tour of Vietnam on bicycles.  I know I already said that, but it’s so cool it bears repeating.  A bike tour of Vietnam.  Ok, I’m done saying it.  I’ve really need to get a grip on my jealousy.

Because I will miss her while she’s gone and also because if you think someone is awesome, you should tell them about their awesomeness publicly, I’m blogging about That Laura today.  Here are the top ten reasons Vietnam is lucky to host Laura for a few days:

10. Laura rode the STP without a team last year.  That’s 200 miles in 2 days on her own, folks.

9. She recently adopted a cat.  The cat came with a name: Little Baby Jesus.  You just can’t make stuff like that up.

8. She kayaks on the lake and isn’t even afraid of sturgeon.

7. She takes me kayaking and doesn’t make fun of me for being afraid of sturgeon.  Have you seen those things?  Those are some freaky looking dinosaur fish monsters!

6. She has an awesome movie theater bag.  It can hold a full Big Gulp and has ample candy space.

5. She seems to attract animals in need and always finds homes for them.

4. Laura is authentically nice.  This quality typically drives me nuts, but Laura’s genuine nature is like a superpower.

3. Laura is one of those people who is up for anything.  Kayaking?  Yes.  Cycling?  You bet.  Movies?  Sure.  Games.  Yup.  Throwing bouncy balls from your bike?  Absolutely.  Whatever you’ve got on tap, Laura is game and happy to play.

2. She watches Scrubs and Flight of the Conchords.   I think sometimes TV compatibility is underrated in friendship.

1. Laura signed up for the LiveStrong ride so I won’t have to ride alone.  Mathematically you would think that a team of two would be only be twice as great as a team of one.  As it turns out, it’s an exponential math problem.  A team of two is like a hundred times better than a team of one.

So, Vietnam, take good care of That Laura while she’s visiting.  On a bike tour.  With her dad.  Darn, there goes jealousy rearing her ugly head again.  Maybe I will have tamed my envy while she’s on a bike tour.  With her dad.  In Vietnam.  Oh, I give up.

Stuff White People Like #61

A friend recently routed me to stuffwhitepeoplelike.com.  Go ahead and fire off those angry e-mails about stereotyping.  Some stereotypes are true.  And some stereotypes are funny because they are true.  Naturally when I discovered that #61 on the stuff white people like list was about cycling, I was intrigued.  The stereotypes mentioned in #61 are hilarious because they are true about me.  So here’s #61 in all it’s hilarity with a few observations of my own thrown in.

A good place to find white people on a Saturday is at a Bike Shop. Bike shops are almost entirely staffed and patronized by white people!  There also seems to be a tattoo minimum requirement in order to work at my favorite bike shop.

But not all white people love bicycles in the same way, there is much diversity. First up, we have the younger urban white folks who absolutely love their fixed gear bicycles. These are seen all over college towns, Silverlake in LA, Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Queen West in Toronto, and Victoria, British Columbia. Fixed gear bicycles meet a lot of requirements for white person acceptance. They can be made from older (i.e. vintage) bicycles, thus allowing the rider to have a unique bike that is unlikely to be ridden by anyone else in town. They are also easily customizable with expensive things Aerospoke rims, Phil Wood Hubs, and Nitto Parts. The combination of rare bicycles and expensive parts makes it easy for white people to judge other white people on the quality and originality of their bicycles. This is important in determining if someone is or isn’t cooler than you. I don’t need to ride a fixie to establish this.  Everyone is cooler than I am.  Except unicyclists.

White people also like Mountain Bikes because it lets them be in nature. It’s really not more complicated than that. I also find that Frank hands out regular lessons in humility.  Man, imagine how big my head would be without Frank chucking me to the ground every now and then.

And finally, they love expensive Road Bikes and the accompanying spandex uniforms. This enables them to ride long distances and wear really tight clothes without any social stigmas.  I love me some Spandex.  Especially if I can top it with a jersey so bright that even the shortest of glances in my direction causes retinal bleeding.

These types of riders will spend upwards of $5,000 on a bicycle and up to $400 on accessories, but will not ride to work. Perhaps because they cannot wear the spandex. You’d be surprised how comfortable Spandex are under work clothes.  It’s actually the helmet hair and the necessary change of shoes that keep me from riding to work.

It is important that you never question why someone needs a $5000 bicycle since the answer is always “performance.”  The Rocket cost far, far less than five grand.  She may not be fancy, but I’d give her performance an A+.

For the most part, these rules have been unisex. But there is a special category of bicycles that appeal far more to white women, the European city bike (pictured). White women have a lot of fantasies about idealized lives, and one of them is living in Europe and riding around an old city on one of these bikes. They dream about waking up and riding to a little cafe, then visiting bakeries and cheese shops and finally riding home to prepare a fancy meal for their friends who will all eat under a canopy with white Christmas lights. This information can be used to help gain the trust/admiration of a white woman, especially if you can pull off a lie about how your mother told you about how she used to do all of these things when she was younger. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I had a basket on the front of my bike with a giant loaf of bakery fresh bread in it.  Around mile 65 I will eat anything that’s not nailed down.  A loaf of hot bread would definitely do the trick and might even tide me over for another 1.7 miles.  Then I’d be back to scavenging through my seatpack for year old Clif bars.

And of course, it goes without saying that white people who ride bikes like to talk about how they are saving the earth. If you know a person who rides to work, you should take them aside and say “Hey, thanks. Sincerely, The Earth.” Then give a thumbs up. That white person will ride home on a cloud. Ok, this is especially funny to me.  Sure, I recycle.   I prefer a blanket to turning on the heater.  I wash my clothes in cold water, but I don’t consider myself to be an environmental activist.  People assume I am an environmentalist ALL THE TIME.  I drive a hybrid.  I enjoy walking to work.  I like riding my bike.  It just so happens that the things I like are environmentally friendly.  So, sure give me a thumbs up.  As for riding a cloud home, it sounds awesome, but I prefer to walk, thanks.

The Best Gift

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of having my heart repaired.  I actually thought it was seven years, but when I pulled out my old, jagged EKG, I discovered it’s only been six.  Time flies when you’ve got a heart like mine.  Here are some of my memories from that time in my life.  I know Valentine’s Day isn’t here yet, but I celebrate it all month long.  So, Happy Valentine’s to my friends and family.  I hope your heart is as full as mine.

You lay on the operating table, sleepy from the icy drugs running up the veins of your arm.  The doctor enters and asks “What kind of music do you like?”

“Anything but country.” you slur, the words like marshmallows in your mouth.  You close your eyes and try to block out the jerky beep, beep, beep of the EKG.

It is that very beep, beep, beep that brought you here.  The room is cold and the air wisping through the opening in your gown sends chills tiptoeing down your arms and legs.  You are wearing funny, striped socks on your feet.

You keep your eyes closed and then country music bleeds through the speakers.  The EKG fires in staccato. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep!

“Now.” the doctor says as he threads the wires through your leg and into your heart.  You feel the wires squirm.  Twisting.  Searching.  Repairing.  Your chest is made of bricks, heavy and stiff.  Your body lurches violently with each heartbeat.  A rogue tear slides down your cheek, taking your brave face with it.

The country music is whiny and unbearable.  The EKG is an alarm sounding, a code red noise.

Country music is literally going to kill me,” you think.  Your mouth tastes like metal.  You are sure that this is what fear tastes like.

The wires weave.  Your sweat from every known gland.  Your heart beats so fervently it feels like it has no other choice than to simply give up any second now.  All of the air has been sucked out of the room and you’re sure that you are not going to make it.  Your heart hammers.

You smile at the thought of dying in funny socks and have a moment of pure gratitude for your life.

You do not hear the EKG anymore.

You only hear the doctor say “Okay.”  He slowly pulls the wires out, like pulling a loose thread from a sweater.

The EKG returns to a steady rhythm.  You breathe again.  The bricks are gone.  And, thank God, THANK GOD, a nurse finally turns off the country music.

You lay still in the recovery room.  Your husband, who has paced the entire time, holds your hand.  You lay with your legs elevated in a ‘V’, a ward against blood clots.

You are told “Lay still.  Do not move.  At all.”  After several hours every part of your body, including your hair, aches from all that stillness.

Sometime, maybe the evening, maybe the middle of the night, maybe the next day, you are allowed to go home.  Per doctor’s orders, you ride with your legs resting upright on the dashboard and your husband’s hand warm on your own.

A week later, you ride your bike on the river trail.  Your stitches send a pinch of pain as you swing your leg over the crossbar of your bike.  You pedal loopy, slow circles.  The frost nips at your fingertips and there is a perpetual drip from your nose, but your legs are sure.

The blood in your heart looks for ghost pathways, but your heart is strong.  And strength is what matters most.  Maybe all that matters.

Your heart is better than new.  It is stronger than you ever imagined it could be.

It is Valentine’s Day and you know with every cell in your body that you, the girl in funny socks, have been given the best gift of all.