Stupid Sheets and Motorcycle Rides: Life Beyond Survival

Tomorrow, it will be exactly ONE YEAR since I purchased my motorcycle. It was one of the most impulsive decisions of my life.

 

Impulsive

Definition: done suddenly without planning or forethought.

Synonyms: passionate; hasty; spontaneous.

 

I was having a rough morning; my husband (at the time) was having a group of friends over for a poker night. It was a designated “guys’ night,” and I was devastated that, as a domesticated woman and wife, I wasn’t invited, so I was lamenting my pitiful fate as I hiked along the winding sidewalk of an old, abandoned golf course with my faithful German Shepherd.

 

I visited a bike lot that afternoon for some routine scooter maintenance. I walked around (inside and outside of the store) while I waited, and as I was meandering about outside, I spotted a black and chrome Suzuki that took my breath away. “Now THAT’S a bike,” I murmured to myself, trailing my hand across the motorcycle’s seat, throttle, and handlebars. It was minimalistic, effortless and badass: in other words, it was exactly what I wanted to be.

 

I drove the scooter home and made a phone call. Minutes later, my best friend Shae pulled into my driveway, picked me up, and took me back to the bike lot. There, I signed papers, spent an hour learning how to ride a manual bike, and the rest is history.

 

And that history includes this fun fact: In the past nine months, I’ve ridden my motorcycle maybe seven times. Maybe.

 

People have been asking me all summer: “Soooooo.. did you take the bike out this weekend, Jace?”

What’s a good excuse? “No.. it was really hot out.”

 

At a meeting on Thursday, a co-worker leaned over towards me, smiled, and whispered: “You bring that moped to work today?”

You always cite the weather as your reason to NOT ride — ‘It’s too hot; it’s too rainy.’ Think of something else! 

“Ahhhhh, I WANTED to ride it to work,” I began wistfully, “but I cleaned out the garage last weekend and now there are tons of boxes, roof tiles, and scrap laminate pieces blocking the entrance to the garage.” I shook my head, trying to look bummed. Yeah.. that sounds good. AND it’s true; there IS a lot of shit in the way right now.

 

He nodded knowingly and reclined back into his seat as the meeting began.

 

I gazed at the front of the room, where the projector would have been lighting up the wall, and then remembered that we were all just sitting at a table, facing each other and a telephone. This was a conference call.

And why exactly DON’T I ride the bike anymore? I asked myself, other voices fading easily into the background.

Because you’re scared.

Scared of what?

Dying, I guess.. crashing, losing your left arm.. you know. Bad stuff.

Yeah.. but the possibility of those things happening never bothered me last year.

True. You seemed to stop riding after the divorce.

 

I paused.

Hmmmm. That’s right.

Why is that?

 

I returned my attention to the conference call.

Jace?

I don’t have time for your questions right now.

***

Chris came by to play music with me last week. We ran through some Pink Floyd songs (with Chris playing lead, Charlie keeping tempo on the drums, and me strumming rhythm) and then I wandered off into the kitchen to prepare supper: vegetarian “ham” sandwiches paired with tomato basil soup.

Feeling another presence in the room, I looked up and noticed Chris standing in the doorway.

“Hey! Will you eat dinner here?”
“Nahhhh, I’m good,” he smiled.

He made some small talk; bringing up Pokemon Go, an Umphrey’s McGhee concert he’d attended recently, and his new haircut. I listened along, responding now and then to encourage him to continue talking. I missed hearing his voice.

“So how are you doing, Jace?” he asked suddenly, the pitch of his voice falling into a lower gear. “Really?

I looked up from stirring cumin and curry powders into the red soup.

“Oh — I’m doing really well!” I responded brightly, trying to sound reassuring. Convincing.

I looked over at him again and cracked a smile to really “sell” my statement. He made a face that seemed to echo his last spoken word: really.

“Yeah,” he murmured, “but I know you. You wouldn’t tell me if you weren’t doing well.”

I laughed at him. I’d been having an “off” week (an off couple of weeks, actually), for sure, but didn’t want anyone to know about it. It’s just hard to keep up a charade with someone who knows you well.

 

On Sunday, I hoped that shopping might help alleviate my depression. I’ve accepted the fact that, for me, it’s a chemical imbalance (which means that, generally speaking, there’s no rhyme or reason for my sudden dips and mood swings), so I’m doing my best to ‘make friends’ with my condition by being gentle with myself and by distracting myself long enough for the worst part of these difficult times to subside somewhat.

 

So I walked into Target for nothing in particular.

 

Did I really come here for nothing? No reason at all? I wondered aloud.

Pause.

Ahhhh, that’s right; I hate my sheets and I’m looking for new ones. Excellent; we’re on a mission!

 

I navigated towards the sheet aisle, passing – on my way – the “pillowfort” aisle: a fun collection of kids’ bedding supplies (things like sheets, comforters, throw pillows, rugs and the like). Amused, I stepped onto the aisle, walking down it leisurely and laughing a little as I imagined bringing different designs and themes home with me. There were astronauts and dinosaurs; vintage stamps and woodland creatures; Super Mario characters and punk animal posses (featuring zebras with mohawks and giraffes wearing combat boots) and so many others.

Damn. These collections are incredible. I wish they sold them in queen sizes. I quickly checked a few labels; in-store, sizes capped out at “full.” Feeling bummed and doubtful as to what kind of fun and exciting designs awaited me in the adults’ section, I shuffled off toward it.

 

And it was just as drab as I anticipated it would be.

 

20160717_134751
The place where stupid boring pointless sheets go to die.

 

I left the store without making a purchase. I was disappointed and frustrated. So — you grow up and, suddenly, fun designs just aren’t a part of the equation anymore, are they? No.. instead, you get to choose from a BLAND selection of mono-colored sheets that boast varying thread counts. Whoop-de-freaking-doo.

“Well I’M not going to be a sell-out,” I resolved, raising my head a little higher as I ducked into my Neon. “Fuck your fancy adult sheets. I’m going to shop online.”

 

I did so, and I was VERY pleased to discover that Target offered a QUEEN-SIZED “Many Moons” sheet set online. I tracked down a promo code, placed my order, and outfitted my queen-sized bed with fun sheets yesterday afternoon. Have a look! Go on — be jealous!

20160723_165801

 

And it gets sooooooo much better.

I didn’t want the bed-rebranding to stop with sheets. I’ve been sleeping underneath a bohemian-looking duvet for the last year; white-based with yellow and blue swirly patterns. It wasn’t as boring as the mono-colored cemetery of sheets I encountered on the adults’ aisle at Target, but I certainly wouldn’t refer to the pattern as being ‘fun,’ either. So I went back online and had a BALL entertaining various options.

 

“Let’s see.. I could go GALACTIC with this and pick some spacey, planetary type deal, or I could decorate with DINOSAURS. They also have MOTORCYCLES.. awwww, rabbits, foxes and dogs would be cute.. or maybe —-”

 

Maybe they’d have it. 

Oh my god, they had it.

I sought out and found a dalek-themed duvet that – like the motorcycle did last year – took my breath away. It is now the crowning glory of my queen-sized bed. Check out Governess Bunny (the lifelike rabbit) and Bruster (the German Shepherd) modeling it below.

 

 

So my bed is wearing fun sheets and is dressed in a cool duvet now; the point is?

 

The point for my ADULT readers is this: Don’t settle for boring. Kids know how to have fun, and they’re programmed to look for fun, while adults forget how to have fun, and how important it is to have fun.

 

My new hires always make fun of me after asking about my personal life.

“So Jace, what do you do in the evenings?”

“Well,” I usually divulge, “I play gigs sometimes — maybe twice a month — but other than that, I go home, make soup and salad for dinner, watch an episode of Doctor Who with my roommate, and then fall asleep around 8:30 with my German Shepherd curled up by my feet.” Isn’t that nice? Your routine is so perfect and dreamy, I compliment myself.

“And you’re HOW OLD?” they ask.

“24.”

“WHAT!! You need to live while you’re young, JACE!” they admonish, looking and sounding genuinely startled by my lack of living.

 

And they’re right. When I stood on the aisle of adult sheets, I looked right at them and saw through them to my quickly approaching elderly future: solid white sheets in the bedroom, a walker with four tennis balls stuck to the bottom of it near the front door, and a thick package of Depends hiding underneath the bathroom sink. “Nope. I’m not ready for this shit,” I decided instantly, and I left the store in a jiffy. But while I’m now highly alert to the boring sheet phenomena, I think that I settle for boring in other parts of my life.

 

A few examples:

My friend invited me to a movie showing that’s happening tomorrow night; it’s a one-time screening of an animated batman movie that revolves around the joker’s story. This person knows that I heart the joker to death.

But it starts at seven, I pointed out to myself. That will put you in bed at nine at the very EARLIEST. You’ll be miserable. Plus, movie theaters are dark and crazy people go there.. you’ll probably get shot.

Good point, I breathed out slowly.

“I’ll consider the idea,” I responded somewhat enthusiastically, “but don’t count me in just yet.”

 

Another friend invited me to her house two weeks ago. “Feel like getting drunk and painting tonight?” her text message read. I paused, imagining the course of the evening.

That would be fun, I admitted, but I already planned on having salad for dinner, and alcohol would zap the nutrients RIGHT OUT of those vegetables. 

“Can’t tonight.. maybe this weekend?” I replied, feeling lame as I doused a heaping bowl of kale and bell peppers with Italian dressing.

 

I had a friend visiting from New York last weekend. I took him to my favorite music venue ever – Saturn – on Saturday night so that he could take part in their dance party.

As I sat at a two-person table by myself, sipping on water and gripping the spine of my novel (the room was too dark for me to read comfortably; it was more of a security blanket than anything else), I looked out onto the dance floor every now and then and observed what was happening: all different kinds of people — young and old, male and female, coordinated and clueless — were dancing and having a BLAST. I tapped my foot a little, turning my head left and right to make sure that no one was watching as I did so, and secretly wished that my friend would invite me to come dance with him.

“Ohhhh COME ON, JACE!” I imagined him exclaiming, running over, grabbing my hand, and pulling me – against my will – out onto the dance floor, where I would, to everyone’s surprise, surrender to the beat and become the most incredible dancer on the planet.

But you don’t dance, I interrupted my fantasy. Remember? You’ve NEVER danced. Ever.

I knowwwww.

And even if he DID encourage you to get out there, you’d make up some lame-ass excuse and say no. You KNOW you would.

Yeah. I know.

 

So, in quick conclusion, I’ve decided to challenge myself to say yes more. To say ‘yes’ to drunken weeknight painting sessions; ‘yes’ to one-night-only movie premieres that center around my favorite characters; and possibly (but unlikely) ‘yes’ to taking on a more active role at cool dance parties. Because life is only as fun and interesting as the experiences and relationships that compose it. 

 

I had a serious conversation with a close friend yesterday.
“I feel like, at this stage of my life, I’ve figured out how to SURVIVE,” he confided, “but I don’t really know where to go from there. I don’t know what comes AFTER surviving.”

 

It was a powerful question. I posed it to myself.

I get up, get dressed, and go to work for forty hours each week. What for?

Well, it pays for my mortgage. Health expenses. Food. Gas and car insurance. $6 mochas at Saturn each Saturday and $9.14 burritos at Chipotle a few times a week. And, as a bonus, I actually, really enjoy my line of work. But work itself isn’t the baseline of what I’m living for.

 

So why do I take care to eat, sleep, and move through each day — what am I working toward? What is my hope? What am I living for? What’s my real, underlying motivation to stay alive?

 

“Honestly,” I shared, “as a loose answer, I continue living so I can see how interesting things get. So I can experience as much as possible, listen to other peoples’ stories, and tell my own. That’s really it.”

 

And sleeping on basic sheets from 8:30-6:30 every single day forever obviously isn’t going to afford much opportunity for new and interesting experiences, so it’s time to break the habit of saying no and staying in. Starting with tomorrow. There’s a one-night-only premiere of a movie about the joker.. did you know that I have THREE joker posters in my bedroom? AND a dalek-themed duvet + moon sheet set?!

******

I was supposed to meet up with a friend at Saturn this afternoon. When I woke up this morning, I picked up my phone to text her the usual disclaimer that precedes every actual hangout.

“If anything has come up and you want/need to cancel, it’s totally np! Just let me know.”

 

“I’ll see you at 2,” she responded moments later. I laughed a little.

 

She then sent a second message that detailed our ‘agenda’ for the afternoon — aka, what our conversation would be consisting of. Like me, she likes plans, bullet points, and clear direction, and as I read over her list of proposed topics, my eyes settled onto one in particular:

  • Your Motorcycle

 

I sighed. I know what this is going to be about.

“Why aren’t you riding your bike anymore?” I quizzed myself (in preparation for our meeting).

It’s too hot, the garage is cluttered.. I recited my go-to explanations, feeling bored.

But you know that isn’t why, I commented. Why don’t you just sell the damn thing? I asked myself, honestly. Sell it and put the money in savings.

Because.. I love riding.

How can you say that? You never ride anymore. Because you’re scared. You know it, AND she knows it.

I bristled at the claim. Since when have I let fear stop me from doing something?

Um, you’ve let fear keep you off of that bike for the last nine months.

 

I couldn’t deny it. So I decided to take action.

 

After making sure that Bruster was all settled into his kennel, I grabbed my motorcycle pants, armored jacket, helmet, and gloves from the laundry room.

Oooooohh.. but did you check on the weather? I inquired, worriedly. It’s probably going to rain — and it seriously ISN’T safe to ride in the rain.

True.. tell you what; I’m going to check, and if the CHANCE of rain is 20% or greater, I’ll just take the car. That sounds fair and reasonable.

I performed a quick google search on my phone and laughed at what I saw; 15%. The chance of rain capped out at 15% for the whole, entire day.

Well okay; close, but no cigar.

I tugged the armored pants on over my shorts.

WAIT, I interrupted again. There was JUST a shooting downtown THREE weeks ago. Crazy shit happens there CONSTANTLY. Do you REALLY think you should be bringing your bike down there? It will DEFINITELY get stolen. Here’s a bright idea: Go to Saturn in your car and then use the WiFi there to list your bike for sale on Craigslist.

I pause to consider the idea.

I don’t want to sell it — I own it outright — and what’s the point of having something that you’re not going to use?

I zipped up the jacket.

 

One last thing, I piped up quickly, and I’m JUST trying to help..

YEAH?

There’s still a bunch of trash blocking the entrance, and exit, to the garage.

I was quiet.

Yeah, there is.. and guess what? It’ll take about FIVE SECONDS to move it over a couple of feet.

 

Moments later, after at least three weeks of no riding, I was descending down the driveway in first gear.

 

My first stop: a gas station.

 

I pulled up beside gas pump #1 and removed my helmet as I stepped off of the bike. An older-looking man held the door open for me as I walked inside; I thanked him and then smiled at the cashier behind the counter.

“This is a little goofy, but can I please get $1 of gas on #1?” I gestured towards the motorcycle in explanation.

“Ahhhh, sorry — there’s a $2 minimum.”

I paused. “Oh — okay.. I think I might have cash..”

“JUST KIDDING!” He laughed and asked me to swipe my card when the blue lights appeared on the machine.

“So,” the old guy by the door called out, “you wearing a shirt that absorbs sweat underneath that leather jacket?”

“Nope,” I responded, returning the card to my wallet and wrapping a rubber band around the wallet to keep it closed. “I’m wearing a black outer space t-shirt underneath this jacket. I’ve been on the road for 5 MINUTES and I’m already soaked in sweat.”

“Well,” he replied, removing the cigarette from his lips, “my buddy got one of those sweat-proof shirts a few months back and he said that it is INCREDIBLE. Got it for his bike rides. Works wonders.”

“Huh!” I mused. “That sounds.. amazing. And what kind of shirt is this? What is it called?”

“It’s likely an under-armor shirt,” the male cashier volunteered. “Just look for a shirt that advertises having ‘cool technology’ and it’ll do the trick.” He smiled. “So is that a Triumph?” he queried, nodding towards the bike.

“Nope — it’s a Suzuki TU250X. Tops out around 65-70. This is going to be my first time taking it out on the interstate,” I mentioned, “sooooo we’ll see how that goes.”

He nodded. “You riding with a cracked visor?”

“…what does that mean?” I answered.

He picked up my helmet and opened the plastic covering a little. “Here,” he handed it back to me. “Ride with it like this and you’ll stay cooler.”

“Thanks!”

“No problem. I’ve ridden a few bikes myself.”

“Really?”

“Yep.. I’ve also WRECKED on a few. I was run over on one once! Was at a 4-way stop,” he began, but then he looked up and noticed my expression. “Butttttt you’re on a bike today, soooooo we’re not going to talk about that. Have a great day!” He flashed a cheesy smile (to cap off the awkwardness of the conversation) and then gave me a real one right afterwards.

“Haha.. kayyyyyy. Thanks; you guys have a great day, too!”

 

I made a second stop at Whole Foods so that I could say hey to my roommate (who was grilling peaches outside, in front of the store).

“YOU’RE ON THE BIKE TODAY?” he exclaimed, eyeing me in my gear and flipping a peach over with a spatula.

“Yep! I’m meeting Felicia for lunch and she’s been badgering me to get back on the bike for MONTHS now. She won’t be expecting it.” I smiled. We talked for a few minutes, and then I trekked back over to where I had parked my bike, preparing to resume my journey.

“Please BE SAFE,” he called out from behind me.

As I climbed back onto the bike, my heartbeat began to accelerate.

Now — you know that, in order to get to Saturn via the usual route, you’ll need to get onto the interstate. Briefly. For about three minutes. Do you really think you’ll be able to handle that?

Hellllllllllllll no.

 

I googled directions (requesting a route that didn’t involve highways) and, it would add an additional ten minutes to my trip, but there were side roads I could take. I wired earbuds up the sides of my helmet and plugged them into my ears, listening carefully as a robot voice instructed me to merge onto highway 280. Once I got the bike going, though, I discovered that the sound of the engine was completely drowning out the sound of the robot voice.

Well SHIT, I thought to myself. I’ll just have to use the interstate then.

 

Ten seconds before boarding the on-ramp, I reassured myself: You could just turn around RIGHT NOW. Make a U-turn, return the bike to its station in the garage, and hop into your car. You’d still be able to make it by 2 pm.. AND, as a MAJOR plus, you would arrive ALIVE.

 

But I can’t stand being AFRAID like this —

 

And then, it was happening. I was boarding the on-ramp with several cars in front of and behind me. I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest; I’d never ridden my bike on the interstate before.

 

I merged with traffic and stole a quick glance at the speedometer; I saw the line hovering above the sixty mark and felt like vomiting.

60 is actually too slow for interstate traffic, I commented quietly. 70 would be more appropriate.

Dream ON and shut UP.

 

I rode along rigidly; sitting up very straight, holding each of my breaths for as long as possible, and gripping the throttle so tightly that I eventually felt the bones in my right hand aching. I tried to relax my grip but couldn’t.

I wanted to close my eyes and let someone else steer us to safety, but it was just me.. me, zooming down the interstate on a motorbike.

 

Finally, I was getting off on the US 11 exit.

Soon after, I began passing familiar buildings — buildings belonging to The Damsky Paper Company and an HVAC supplies store on my right and The Birmingham Water Works Board and a competing paper company on my left. My heart rate slowed slightly; I relaxed my grip on the throttle a little.

 

This is INCREDIBLE! I exclaimed. I’M RIDING MY MOTORCYCLE TO SATURN, AND IT LOOKS LIKE I’M STILL GOING TO BE ALIVE WHEN I GET THERE!

 

I paused at the red light before 41st street, turned right onto it, and then took in a quick breath: railroad tracks. Crap. I’d forgotten about those.

 

How do you safely ride over railroad tracks? I wondered as I neared them. Is there any kind of special maneuver you’re supposed to do?

 

Just.. do it. Confidently and quickly.

 

I sped over them in third gear; it was bumpy, but I kept a firm footing and grip on the bike and even giggled a little as I made it safely onto the other side.

 

Saturn. There it was. Just a couple of feet away now.

Another four seconds, and there it was — an empty parking spot RIGHT in front of the place. That NEVER happens.

 

See? And you were all worried about parking in the side alley.

Oh shut up. If it was up to you, we’d have sold the bike this MORNING.

 

I walked inside, slipped out of my gear, and then approached the front counter to order an iced coffee.

“WHAT KIND OF BIKE ARE YOU RIDING?” My favorite barista, Payton, asked immediately, leaning over the counter. Her eyes were bright with excitement.

Wow, I thought to myself. I’ve been coming here for nine months now, and this is my first time riding over on my motorcycle. That’s so goofy. I shook my head, laughed, answered her question, and then waited for Felicia to arrive, sitting smugly near the front of the cafe with my helmet on display beside me.

 

Sheets and motorcycles.. this post seemed a little hodge-podge and aimless, didn’t it? Here’s your takeout:

 

chinese food

 

  1. Don’t settle for a boring, predictable life.. unless that’s what you really want. It’s easy to fall into a routine, and routines are comfortable and can serve as helpful guides, but don’t hesitate to shake up the routine a little every now and then by taking chances, trying new things, and making it a point to have fun.
  2. Consider what it is that you’re really LIVING for.. because it isn’t an endless cycle of work, sleep, and burritos. Is it relationships? Is that the core of your existence — the thing that brings you the most happiness in life? Or is it your creative pursuits? Are those what seem to give your life the most meaning? Are you driven by ambition? Do goals, accomplishments, and titles give you a sense of purpose? Or is this temporal, fleeting life more of an inconvenient interlude between you and an eternal paradise? Feel free to share your thoughts on THE POINT OF LIFE in a comment below.
  3. Fear can be paralyzing. And yes, motorcycle accidents can be paralyzing too, so remember to gear up, focus, and exercise caution as you take chances, face fears, and embark on new adventures. But don’t ever forgo an adventure because you’re afraid; life is short, and it will only be as interesting and fulfilling as you allow it to be. I just went on a picnic yesterday afternoon, and my friend brought a cheese I’d never tried before: manchego. Why didn’t he just get CHEDDAR or PEPPERJACK?  I wondered. Something I’m familiar with and that I KNOW is good? “This particular block of cheese was aged for three months, and it was derived from sheep’s milk,” he explained, carefully slicing through the cheese as he narrated. Skeptical, I accepted the small cube that he offered me.. and you know what? It turns out that manchego cheese is actually fantastic (especially when it’s melted in the oven over a piece of freshly minced garlic and butter toast). To think — I’m 24, and I haven’t already experienced everything wonderful and interesting in the world yet. There’s so much left to discover.

 

2016-07-24 19.40.43

 

Still here (but I could very easily wipe out on the way home.. fingers crossed),

Aun Aqui

 

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