Travel

Cicadas are coming! Why I Wear Cordura Chaps

Hello.

Scientists and the media are warning us cicadas will soon emerge from the earth. Some weird sh$t might happen! I have some first-hand knowledge of said sh$t, so I'm sharing my funny and almost entirely true piece, Why I Wear Cordura Chaps. I hope you enjoy the read and then prepare for the cicada invasion. 

Why I Wear Cordura Chaps

I’ve been hit by crumpled burger wrappers, glowing cigarette butts, and a pink rubber flip-flop while driving my motorcycle. The laws of physics tell us, and our bruised bodies back up, that objects hurt more when they strike us while we’re driving fast in the opposite direction. The formula is: one-half the weight of the object times the square of its speed = kinetic energy. I dress for 70-mile-per-hour levels of pain.

I’ve seen bikers travel at top speeds with no windshields and wearing short helmets that didn’t cover their faces. Plain stupid, is what I called them, even if their casual protein consumption was higher than mine. Were you aware that caterpillars contain as much protein as, and more iron than, beefsteak? I didn’t know if the same held true for butterflies, which bikers were more likely to consume. I preferred the nutrients I got from foods I ingested on purpose.

I had nothing against insects and understood that much of the food we eat contains ground up bug bodies. For example, the Food and Drug Administration determined that chocolate met their safety standards as long as there were fewer than 60 bug fragments and one rat hair per 100 grams (3.5 ounces or two regular-sized candy bars). And pasta was A-OK as long as it contained less than 225 bug fragments and 4.5 rodent hairs per 225 grams (about 8 ounces). We’re all bug eaters, even those of us who think we’re vegans. A serving of canned spinach shouldn’t contain more than an average of 50 or more aphids, thrips, or mites; or two larvae or spinach worms. And while bugs were in many of our foods, I didn’t want to inhale or swallow them while riding my motorcycle. Most tasted bland or bitter served splattered raw and without the benefit of spices or hot sauce.

My Honda cruiser named Hazel had a windshield that kept most flying objects from hitting my torso and head. Most, but not all. Wind swirls sometimes rerouted horizontal rain and low-flying birds toward my bike that then smacked me in the chest, neck, and head. I once had a pigeon cream me at about 50mph and, while I know that many fine restaurants serve pigeon, I wasn’t in the mood for warm dove tartare with no capers or crusty French bread. These wind-eddy encounters were rare, and my windshield and full-faced helmet did a suitable job of sheltering my upper body.

Protecting my lower body was another matter and a greater challenge. I didn’t know what was about to hit my legs until it happened because safe driving protocols demands that I kept my eyes forward and in front of the bike. Imagine being blindfolded in a cage with a ball-pitching machine aimed at your legs. The balls come at you fast and some are spikey. That’s the difference that speed makes on the hurt that bikers experience.

To reduce pain and injury to my lower body, I wore Cordura chaps—cut long, so they’d cover my ankles and boots while riding. You might notice bikers walking funny to keep their chaps from dragging on the ground. We’re all modern-day cowboys and girls.

If I crashed, they’d keep me from scraping the skin off my legs. The durable, abrasion resistance, and waterproof qualities of Cordura prevented rain from soaking my legs and boots, and the chaps protected my knees and calves from flying debris. After an afternoon ride, I could stretch out my leg and see remains from thousands of little bugs and a few larger ones.

And then there were the enormous bugs: cicadas. I rolled into Chicago June 16th while on a solo cross-country trip. I’d heard on the news that cicadas would be invading the area as they emerged from the incubation period they spent underground. Once every 17 years, cicadas came out by the millions to live, breed, and then die. They lived only a few months above ground but made a lot of noise and a sizeable mess while they were here.

I saw a handful of cicadas on my first day in the area and hoped this would be all I encountered. No such luck. My heart sank as I rounded a curve on I-94, heading toward Milwaukee. I heard their sinister high-pitched buzz through my full-faced helmet, over the roar of my 1100cc engine, and despite the droning traffic noise. Their friction-induced screams for attention from the opposite sex warned me they were ahead, and then I saw them. Like a cloud of bulked-up flies, some the size of White Castle sliders, they floated in erratic circles. I was going seventy miles per hour in heavy traffic and couldn’t stop or avoid getting hit by their freakishly gargantuan bodies.

My motorcycle’s windshield took the blow for my upper body. They hit with a smash and then splattered part. It was disgusting. A few bounced off the top of my helmet; they’re juicy suckers. I didn’t have a fairing to shield the lower half of my body. When cicadas started hitting my knees and legs, they felt like rocks except that they broke apart on impact. Even with my Cordura chaps, my knees and calves jerked with pain each time a bug hit them. Percussive thuds punctuated their shrill buzz as the Cicadas became rush-hour victims. I didn’t slow down or want to stop; I ached—literally—to get through the ordeal. My voice boomed as I shouted into my full-face helmet. You can do this! Just focus! Don’t look at the splats. It will end soon. You’ll be OK.

I believed the cicada storm would stop if I could make it through the next mile or two. How many could there be? Although I kept my eyes focused forward, I saw people pointing at me from their cars. Counting their blessings that they weren’t me. The bombardment ended after about five minutes, and I pulled off the road and into a truck stop to wash my windshield, headlamp, front grill, helmet, and chaps. It took me over a year and many washes to get the all cicada DNA off Hazel.

Cicadas—which are high in protein and nutritious—were a staple food for many peoples, including Australian Aborigines, New Guineas, and American Indians. The ancient Greeks found the cicadas a delicacy because of their nutty flavor. Cicadas are the most desirable just after hatching (when they’re called tenerals), because their shells are still soft. Hatchlings emerge from the ground early in the morning and are easy to catch because they can’t fly for several hours. For best results, marinate live cicadas in Worcestershire sauce (this kills them, I know you were wondering), dip them in egg and flour and fry them until golden brown. Count on having fifteen cicadas per person for an entrée-sized portion.

Two days later, while I was driving north of Minneapolis, I encountered hail. It was loud and fell hard, even though the ice pellets were about pea sized. I made it through the hailstorm after two or three miles. I couldn’t seek shelter because this unpopulated stretch of highway had no overpasses or exits. In case you think I was a fool; I would’ve pulled over if the hail had been larger.

Before I took this forty-day solo trip, I used to moan about riding in gray drizzling rains common in the Pacific Northwest. Even soft rain felt like little nails when they hit my knees and calves. Our occasional fat-rain storms hurt enough to cause some bruising. I also whined to my husband when I had to drive in the rain the long way home around the Puget Sound when the ferries were out of service. My perspective about these minor inconveniences have changed because I know it could be worse.

You might wonder why I bothered with these painful pursuits. Why anyone would put themselves through a gauntlet of unwelcomed road obstacles. If you added accident stats and the high costs of bike gear and accessories to this theoretical discussion, you might suggest I should’ve re-assessed my priorities. Perhaps you think this avocation adds up to an illogical mess best avoided.

But consider this question. When we’re eighty and looking back on our lives, what will we remember? Which recollections will make us smile? I hypothesize that we won’t talk about the times we drove a silver Honda Accord to work and back or the places we didn’t go because the conditions were uncomfortable. While motorcycles provide a means a way to get from point A to point B, they also tap into our spirit of western-ho independence. Each outing offers riders obstacles and opportunities to feel victorious. We sashay off our bikes wearing our ride and full of pride because we owned the road. We have splendid stories to tell during coffee shop gatherings and on our Facebook pages.

I got stuck behind a semi that blew a tire. Chunks of hot rubber and rocks hit me for what seemed like forever. Cracked the plastic red cover on my left turn signal. I could see the driver cackling in his rear-view mirror and did the highway cha-cha to get away from the SOB. I’d show you my scars, but I wore my Cordura chaps and sustained only a few bruises. Those chaps are worth more than a lifetime supply of MoonPies. And you know how I feel about MoonPies.

My biker friends know I speak the truth. Wear Cordura chaps to ensure your misadventures don’t land you in the emergency room. And relax. A few bugs up your nose won’t kill you.

 


My Mother's Death Changed Everything: Maybe Covid Will, Too.

My mother died from complications of a stroke when I was forty-three-years-old. Her passing hit me like a ton of bricks and catalyzed a need within me to manifest a carpe diem life. We never know how many days we’ll have. On the plane ride home from my mother’s funeral, I decided to get a motorcycle. I selected a Honda 1500cc cruiser motorcycle I named Hazel, short for Purple Haze, on account of her purple flame gas tank.

Hazelinshadeblog

My first motorcycle didn’t have a name, but it would’ve been The Vibrator on account of its wobbling wheels and rusty, old body. I was a cash-strapped college student at the time, living in Tampa and working as a server at TGI Fridays. My tips paid for tuition, rent, and my addiction to disco bars, so there wasn’t much left for transportation.

What? Those are the correct order of priorities, right?

It was the 80s, and tube tops, wide pants, and big hair were the fashion. All three were problematic when on a motorcycle. I groaned when I bought my first hair-crushing helmet. The Vibrator, a 250cc Honda that had seen better days, was parked in a neighbor’s yard with a sign that read $125. I paid one hundred bucks and then taught myself how to drive it. This was before Google and You Tube, so I relied on my mechanical instincts to figure it out.

This is probably the right time to tell you I have no mechanical instincts.

I only crashed a few times.

Decades passed before I got Hazel, motorcycle #2. Although she wasn’t a fancy bike, Hazel fit my sassy mojo and was comfortable enough, especially after I added a custom Corbin seat and upgraded the suspension. After getting my riding legs and eyes back (where you look when driving a motorcycle is very important), I wanted more. Having and riding a motorcycle wasn’t enough carpe diem for me, so I asked my husband Bill an unexpected request.

I want to do a solo ride with Hazel around the country to promote one of my books.

Never mind that Hazel, a cruiser, was not designed for touring. Never mind that the farthest I’d been on a motorcycle was fifty miles around the Puget Sound when the ferries weren’t operating. I asked my Bill to support the crazy idea that I’d take forty days and go 9,400 miles through thirty-eight states.

Map of trip

Bill came back with a request of his own and went on a research trek in the Himalayan Mountains with other geologists at the same time as my motorcycle trip. There were ten days where we were unreachable to each other, but our separate adventures transformed us both. Carpe diem on steroids.

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I'm sharing this wee ditty to help me remember that sometimes the worst of times - like my mother's passing - catalyze the best and most interesting of times. I'm feel like this past year was a tipping point that I'd like to use as a springboard for my next big adventure. 


How to Have More Microadventures - Outside Online

Outside

I like this piece written by Alastair Humphreys for Outside Magazine called, 8 Principles for Living a More Adventurous Life

In particular, I love the idea of microadventures (and mini-misadventures, which I've written about). Humphreys wrote that the secret sauce seems to be:

"Simple + short + local + cheap = an achievable microadventure, unlike the vicarious adventure thrills you read about in magazines but never actually do yourself."

As you think about ways to make 2021 more satisfying than 2020 was - even with this pandemic still raging - the idea that "there's always something new to try" is worth mulling.


BHAAGS for Covid Era Planning - Big Hairy Audacious AGILE Goals

BHAAG - Big Hairy Audacious Agile Goals

Many of us have put off planning because, for the last six months, we've had to cancel or modify everything we intended to do. Jobs, vacations, and get togethers have gone by the wayside. It may have been draining, devastating, or depressing. Or all three!

And with the pandemic far from over, we might be wary of planning, afraid that whatever we shoot for will fail. I believe that not planning might make things worse because we tend to live in the future. No plans = nothing to live toward.

For example:

  • Imagine you've planned for a two-week camping vacation in Montana. In the months and weeks before the trip, you enjoy researching and getting ready for the trip. You watch movies about camping and conduct energy-bar taste tests. The excitement builds as your departure time arrives. You're living in the future.
  • The week before your trip, you're super-focused at work and ensure co-workers will take care of any loose ends. Even at work, you feel the anticipation. You're living in the future.
  • Then you go camping. You enjoy the moment but also relish thinking about the next few days. You're living in the future.
  • A couple of days before the end of your trip you start thinking about what's next. Getting home, picking the dog up from boarding, and what's waiting for you at work. Your spirits dip a bit during these moments. You're still living in the future. 

All the leading up to the trip time is awesome, fun, and helpful. I crave that right now. How about you?

"But the pandemic," you say. It's true, we don't really know how the next week, month, or year will look and if we'll end up cancelling any plans we make. I'm going to make the case for planning anyway with the following considerations:

  • Be realistic - planning for a trip next month might not be smart. We KNOW the pandemic will still be raging a month from now.
  • Plan with flexibility - don't buy nonrefundable travel. The good news is that many companies are offering no-risk booking. 
  • Prepare fully and resolve to be OK with delays and changes. If you make an agreement ahead to be totally engaged during this unsettled time, it will make any changes you might have to make less devastating.
  • Train, research, and discuss with abandon!

Another example. Here's my new broad plan.

Bill and I are going to spend two weeks in New Mexico in late March, 2021. We both LOVE New Mexico and know the state well. We're planning on a lot of outdoor activities like walking, hiking, and exploring. We intend to get a rental home for a lot of this time so we can cook and stay away from crowds.

There will be one event with more people we hope will be safe to do: I'm going to walk the Duke City Half Marathon in Albuquerque on March 28th. This means TRAINING with a capital T. Several days ago I committed to creating a training plan on this blog. I've Shared the details of my plan at the end of this post for those who are interested.  

We have five months to plan, research, and discuss our trip and this will make the next five months more enjoyable and healthy even if we end up changing our plans. I've already made the hotel reservation for the half-marathon (can cancel). I will not be stupid...timid, or hesitant.

In the business world, it's common to hear about BHAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

BHAGs are goal that challenge us in ways that energize, engage, and expand.

"A BHAG engages people– it reaches out and grabs them in the gut.  It is tangible, energizing, highly focused.  People "get it" right away; it takes little or no explanation." Source here. 

That sounds great and scary, right? Let's adapt the BHAG to the times because I get it that many of us are hesitant to commit to a highly-uncertain future. 

BHAAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Agile Goals.

You with me?

I'm not suggesting that a trip to New Mexico qualifies as a BHAAG in and of itself. But it is my goal to have a couple of BHAAGs wrapped up in the trip. Walking the half marathon is the first one. It's a BHAAG because of the training and transformation that will be required for me to be ready and able to complete the 13.1 miles. And the second BHAAG? That's TBD.

What's your BHAAG? I hope you've got something that you can live into with excitement. A goal that requires research and preparation you'll enjoy doing. And that this productive anticipation will help you cope with and get through this difficult time. 

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Lisa's Half Marathon Walk Training Plan

As I write this post, I have about 24 weeks to train for the 13.1 miles. I found a great 16-week training plan here. This plan assumes that the walker has formed a base of regular walking several miles without difficulty. I'm not quite there yet, so I'm going to take the next four weeks to build my base (with a goal of walking 8-10-11-12 weekly miles). I'm also adding a two-week fudge factor to the schedule (since this will occur during winter) and plan to begin the 16-week plan on Thanksgiving. 


Biker's Bell - Further on the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Lisa and hazel

Yesterday I wrote about the self-fulfilling prophecy and how it can enhance our lives or increase our struggles. 

Here's a humorous (I hope) essay about a biker's bell that demonstrates what can happen when one's self-fulfilling prophecy swirls out of control. This draft is based on a blog post I wrote years ago and have expanded.

Biker's Bell

I find myself in an awkward situation. I need a bell, but if I buy my own, it will not work. And if I ask for the bell, the one I receive will possess fewer protective properties. If I neither buy nor ask for the bell, it is unlikely that I will get one and I’ll have no protection at all. Let me explain.

Perhaps you’ve noticed motorcyclists who have a small bell hanging near their front fenders. Or maybe you’ve heard the little ding of such a bell and wondered why it was there? Legend…superstition…or a clever bell manufacturer tells us the bell protects bikers from road gremlins. Monsters that loathe bikers and show their animosity by tossing debris at us, placing nails in the road, or convincing deer to cross the road at the worst time.

The bell works because as the gremlins rise up from the road to attack, they get stuck in the bell of the bell, bounce around, and then vibrate to death. The little bell is powerful in a chaos-theory-packed-into-an-ounce-of-cheap-molded-metal kind of way. Butterfly effect except the bell and its tiny clapper are what reverberate. Kaboom go the road gremlins when confronted by a jangling bell.

And the gremlins are real. Most many some believe I heard a guy say the gremlins are half jackalope, half iguana; a mess of DNA that enables them to eat everything, outrun anything, and concoct creative ways to bring down motorcyclists. That last trait comes from the jackalope side, I’m sure. The cunning beasts. I once got hit by a warm burrito when there were no cars in front of me. Now where do you think that burrito came from? Who warmed it?

Gremlins are relentless but little bells appear to be the best way to combat them. And it’s not just getting a bell that matters, how we acquire it is important, too. Here’s the hierarchy of effectiveness:

Maximum: Someone gives you a bell without you asking for it—often from one biker to another because bikers understand the importance of having a bell attached to your motorcycle. Like mothers know you need underwear. This rider-to-rider tradition seems more prevalent among cruiser owners, by the way. I see and hear fewer bells on crotch rockets (speed bikes).

Good: Asking someone to buy a bell for you. This is not optimal, however, because you create some bad juju if you request the gift of a bell. Akin to begging for love, which is just sad.

Minimal: Buying your own bell. This approach offers some protection, but it’s better if someone else gives you a bell. They cost just a few bucks and come with a printed explanation of the legend. Most motorcycle stores sell biker’s bells.

Back to my problem. I have a new motorcycle - a lovely purple Honda Sabre 1100. Her name is Hazel (short for Purple Haze). When I sold my BMW R1200C a few years ago, I gave up my biker’s bell, passing it along to a fellow rider because it had served me well.

My challenge, now, is that I live in a new state and spend most of my time with non-riding writers. No one knows, or is likely thinking, they ought to get a bell for Hazel and me. My literary pals are lovely people, but clueless about gremlins and beneficial bell reverberations. What should I do?

This all sounds ridiculous, I know. I get it! I’m assigning meaning, weight, and importance to the bell I don’t have, and by doing so, I’m increasing its power over me. Is the fact that I am thinking and writing about this bell going to affect the quality and effectiveness of my two-wheeled adventures?

What about the fact that I just wrote that sentence? Have I now surrendered to the gremlins by broadcasting that I have no shield? It's a conundrum. I could buy a bell and get minimal protection. But what if I need the extra bit that comes from an unsolicited gift?

Have I now doomed myself by writing that sentence?

The psychologist in me—well, junior psychologist, what do you call someone who got a B.S. degree in psychology and an M.F.A. other than someone full of BS and able to write about it—knows that self-fulfilling prophecies are real. That our predictions, in and of themselves, make outcomes more likely. If we think it’s going to be a terrible hot mess of a day, it likely will be! And if I predict road gremlins will attack and make me crash, then…

I’m wondering if I ought not ride until I get a bell. Wiping out around a gravel covered corner or being t-boned by an SUV driver talking on his cellphone would be unappealing. Yes, gremlins cause those catastrophes, too. I wince thinking about me and Hazel skidding down the road. An eyes scrunching, stomach clinching wince, like how men react when someone mentions being kicked in the balls.

Have I doomed myself by writing that paragraph?

This situation feels like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. I can hear the ringing of the bell I don't have. At first it sounded like a soft little ding but is now bellowing strong like a migraine. As I pull on my full-face helmet, the ringing bounces around my head, crushing all non-bell-related thoughts. It’s unsettling, and the last thing you want to be on a motorcycle is off balance in any way.

“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night.” Edgar Allan Poe

Have I become my own gremlin?

The quasi-junior-amateur-psychologist in me knows what projection looks like and how it manifests. Am I transmitting my fears and self-timidity about sitting on top of 600 pounds of steel, hot rubber, and gasoline onto miscreant mythical beings made of source creatures who couldn’t possibly have sex? Perhaps motorcyclists everywhere are using the legend of the biker’s bell to displace their guilt for living dangerously when their spouses are begging them to switch to mid-sized sedans.

Maybe the road gremlins exist as a stand in for the devil, or whatever evil supreme being we believe in and dread. That buying a bell is like going to church/synagogue/mosque or praying Hail Marys with rosary beads.

Although that would be transference, not projection. Who’s the amateur now?

Chaos theory, projection, transference, or who knows what’s behind this I’m guessing multi-billion-dollar market for little bells in fake velvet pouches. I’m petrified that I could research every aspect of this racket and be left with one unanswered question. What if the legend of the biker’s bell is true?

Have I doomed myself by writing this essay?

I need a damn bell, and I’m NOT asking for one.


Update: Fitness Misadventures

ABQ

Several weeks ago I wrote about how I needed to focus on getting stronger and lighter and that this effort would be a big potential misadventure that would enable me to live a more misadventurous life. Here's an update.

My plan. I have a new virtual personal trainer, and she's awesome. The format suits my style and needs. She created a plan for me and then we did a couple of live sessions where she showed me how to properly do the strength training exercises. We have a private Facebook group where I post what I do each day, and include any proof (like screen shots from the Fitbit app). The result is that I have accountability, independence, and flexibility. The plan will be updated as needed with additional one-on-one sessions to learn new strength exercises.

My activities include:

  • Strength training twice per week using routines my trainer designed.
  • WaterRower and Peloton bike twice each per week.
  • Easy and light yoga once per week.
  • Dog walks (were already doing these).

To augment my home gym, I've purchased 3,5, and 10 pound dumbbell pairs, a set of resistance bands, a thick yoga mat, and ankle weights. I already had the WaterRower (15 years old still my favorite piece of exercise equipment) and the Peloton bike.

I'm in the middle of my third week! I'm getting stronger...slowly...which I know is all that this 56-year-old immunocompromised body can manage. I feel the usual hey-you-worked-out muscle pain the day after, and the next, and next...

I'm feeling optimistic about the "get stronger" part of my goal. The "get lighter" intention will be a tougher challenge because my diet is fairly plugged in (90% while food plant based) and my metabolism runs like a sloth on quaaludes. 

Although I could've researched and created my own plan, having a virtual personal trainer helps me stick to a schedule because I've promised to post my activity in our FB group.

I could fib, but it would be obvious because the post would lack the detail or proof of my truthful checkins.

And lying would be wrong, of course. I meant to say that first. I'm not religious, but it seems plausible that I could be struck down for such shenanigans. Bad juju, or something.

I'd surely get caught and suffer greatly EVEN in spite of my considerable prowess for creating far-fetched fiction...I'm not doing it. (I know adverbs are bad but are they bad juju? I don't think so.) 

Why so much energy about fibbing to your personal trainer, Lisa? 

Let's just say I experienced a moment of truth the first day I fell short of the assigned activities. I'm proud to admit that I did not lie. I requested and was granted a mulligan.

Today is my "Pull" day of strength training. I'm getting psyched up for it right now. This set includes 8 exercises that I'll do 2-3 times, each for 12-15 reps. I'll do some stretching, too. 

Progress. I'm progressing in wee bits. Therefore, and in usual Lisa form (delusion), I'm imagining walking a 1/2 marathon in Albuquerque in March and then biking 50 miles or so through the rolling hills of the Bluegrass next summer. Plus hiking for 2 weeks in New Mexico's High Desert (or Sedona), and kayaking a lot.

Some of these aspirations might be a stretch but the thing in March is for real. Such a lovely time of year in New Mexico. The picture above is of Sandia Mountain (means watermelon in Spanish because of how the mountain looks at sunset) in Albuquerque. Lovely, eh? Oh, and I'm going to hike all the way from the bottom to the top of Sandia. And eat lots of chile (that's not misspelled).

Focus. I should probably start with finishing a 5k around my neighborhood without having my knees file for desertion. Or divorce. Whichever applies to abused joints seeking another body or arrangement. 


Mini-Misadventures: Running Amok

I used the phrase running amok this morning to describe sprouting sweet potatoes that are vining all over my dining table. If I don't do something with them - kill or plant - the vines might just take over the kitchen. Then I wondered...where does running amok come from? Who was the first person to run amok?

Here's the fascinating story of the phrase quoted from the Mental Floss website

"The English word most directly comes from the Malay amuck more or less meaning “attacking furiously” or “attacking with uncontrollable rage” or, more aptly, “homicidal mania.” Some theorize this Malay word may have Indian origins or be from the name of a group of professional assassins in Malabar, called the Amuco. Others theorize that it came from the Malay word amar, meaning “fight,” specifically via Amar-khan, which was a certain type of warrior. Yet another theory is that the Malay amuck ultimately comes from the Sanskrit amokshya, meaning "that cannot be loosed."

I've been to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or KL, several times and enjoyed it. This capital city is both modern and traditional. I didn't witness anyone running amok there. The book, Common Phrases: And Where They Came From, suggested that the phrase was first used to describe opium addicts in Malaysia who, apparently, sometimes did extreme and violent things. I didn't hang with any opium addicts while in KL. That I know of. 

I think it's doubly interesting that so many words - amuck, Amuco, amar, and amolshya - describe something ominous or dangerous. Makes me wonder about a guy I dated decades ago named Amar who seemed a bit off. Hmm.

Back to my current problem. Are the sweet potato plants furiously attacking my table or should I have used a tamer phrase to describe their advancements?

I think they are.

Let's hope we don't transition into the homicidal mania stage...

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Four Degrees of Separation

Have you watched the 1993 movie Six Degrees of Separation? It's a brilliant film that explores the notion that we are all connected by six or fewer human links. It features wonderful performances by Will Smith, Stockard Channing, and Donald Sutherland and is set in New York City. 

It's funny, dramatic, and surprising. If you've not seen the movie, please watch it soon.

A few years after Six Degrees of Separation came out, I found myself in a book store in Taos, New Mexico. I'm not usually a chatty person, but I enjoyed a long discussion with the shop's owner, Lucile.  She connected me to an artist I admire, Georgia O'Keefe

Here's a short piece I wrote after meeting Lucile.

Four Degrees of Separation

Artist Georgia O’Keefe first visited New Mexico in 1917. She returned in 1929 for four months during the summer. She stayed in the Taos area at the home of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Pink House, a small adobe guesthouse across a field from Luhan’s main residence. O’Keeffe also rented a tiny studio next to a stream to interpret and paint the wild and wonderful landscape. It was during this trip she visited Ghost Ranch in Abiqui for the first time.  Eleven years later she bought her now famous property with its breathtaking view of the Cerro Pedernal (Spanish for flint hill).

Taos resident Mabel Dodge Luhan was a former easterner, wealthy socialite, and arts patron. She was celebrated for the avant-garde and intellectual mix of people she hosted at her sprawling hacienda she called Los Gallos (the roosters). Aside from O’Keeffe, a few of her famous house guests included writer D. H. Lawrence, photographer Ansel Adams, Psychologist Carl Jung, and actress Greta Garbo. After moving to Taos, Mabel divorced Maurice, her third husband, and married Tony Luhan, a tall, handsome, and influential member of the Taos Pueblo.

Robert, a native-born Taos resident, was a driver for both Mabel Dodge Luhan and Tony Luhan in the late 1940s. Robert began driving for them when he was only fourteen years old, as licenses were not required. One day, while Robert was driving Mabel, she pointed to a piece of property adjacent and across the street from her main house and asked Robert what she should do with the property. Robert said it that there was an excellent spot for a house toward the back of the property. Mabel later gave the property to Robert, or rather to Robert’s father with the stipulation it be given to Robert when he came of legal age. Robert built his dream house on the property many years later for he and his wife Lucile. They sold their previous home to the famous Taos artist R. C. Gorman.

Lucile was the owner of a used bookstore one block off the plaza in downtown Taos. She had operated this small and overstuffed book gallery, as she called it, for over 25 years. Lucile had lived in Taos since her family moved there when she was four years old. She knew all the local writers and credited her loyal customers for enabling her to stay open through many building owners who imposed daunting rent hikes.

I met Lucile on a hot summer day in July 2005 while attending the Taos Writer’s Workshop. I was looking for a book about Roswell, New Mexico, and left with two books and an interesting story.

Four degrees of separation between Georgia O’Keeffe and me.


Lavender Sales are Soaring. Real placebo effect?

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We the people are buying a lot of lavender right now (according to this story on CNN)

I've not bought lavender and am now wondering if something is seriously wrong with me. Because I love lavender. 

Case in point: I named my purple motorcycle Hazel, that's short for Purple Haze. And while you might think the name referred to the Jimi Hendrix song by the same name (which I like), it was actually paying homage to a lovely lavender farm in Sequim (western Washington) called Purple Haze. We visited that Purple Haze several years ago during the Sequim Lavender Festival.

That's pronounced SQWIM, I know you were wondering.

I loved sitting in the lavender fields and breathing in the lovely fragrance. So much, in fact, that doing the same thing among lavender fields in Provence, France is on my bucket list.

On the when things get back to normal bucket list. The make it through the pandemic bucket list should apparently have "buy a bunch of lavender products" on it. 

We're buying lavender because we're stressed and we think it will help. That's what the article claimed. It also said that there's no actual proof that lavender helps us de-stress.

But does that matter? Placebo affect and all? If we love how it smells, and tell ourselves that it's calming, then BINGO, it will be. I suppose we could ask Dr. Lavender, but I bet his answer would be pro-lavender for stress, fear, loneliness, and, agoraphobia. For all the things, lavender is the answer.

Placebos, even when we know they're a placebo (inert) are often more powerful than things that claim to not be placebos. I bet there are more placebo things than not placebo things. 

I gotta go. Time to place an order for some lavender. How about you? Might make your weekend and week more ________ (fill in the blank with whatever you want, that's what's cool about placebos, they're flexible!). Perhaps I'll roast some root vegetables with Herbs de Provence, heavy on the lavender, which I'm sure will feel pretty close to being there.


What "In the Middle of Greatness" Feels Like

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I was thinking about what it must feel like to be in the midst of doing something epoch - a grand accomplishment.

And here's the odd thing. It feels like ordinary living with healthy progress. I suppose there are big adventures that start off and remain larger than life, but most are big ideas executed with quiet daily perseverance. It's something to consider if you are, like me, drawn to the idea of epoch adventures and misadventures.

Instead of asking, what's next, maybe we should notice what's now, because our adventure is unfolding and we would hate to miss it.

This might also be why many of us give up on things too soon - because the reality of getting it done does not match our romantic notions of what we thought manifesting the endeavor would feel like.