Thursday, July 28, 2011


I'm your friend bike.

I'll take you to run the parks,
I'll help you grow and glide on two wheels.
On top of me the world is at its mercy
You run into me and the world below you.
Body in the wind, released by the thinking air,
For that to happen you just ride me.

I'm your friend bike.

Am I the company will do so,
Between streets, avenues, in the sea.
I'll buy you and helps you to enjoy
Popsicles, chewing gum, baseball cards and comic books.
The wheel and road wheel and the time it's back,
For that to happen you just ride me.

I'm your friend bike.

It very recently entered the fashion for real,
Executives come to me without stopping.
Everyone is worried about emagracer,
Even your parents decided to adopt me.
A lot of people lately has been riding me
But in a strange way I do not go out of place.

I'm your friend bike.
This song, by Brazilian artist, Toquinho, captures (in a rough and nearly literal translation to English) what bicycles have meant for me. From the moment it dawned on me that a bicycle meant freedom and inclusion, I wanted to ride.  Don't get me wrong, I was a huge fan of the Big Wheel and had inherited one that my grandparents were given as a hand-me-down from Johnny, Chuckie, Danny, and Kevin's mom and dad- they lived behind my grandparent's northeast Philadelphia row home on the street that ran perpendicular to theirs.  Our driveway backed the side of their house but was separated by a common drive.  I drove that Big Wheel that had "YARDLEY", the last name of the family of boys, written in black, permanent ink in the center of the handlebars, until I outgrew it and wanted to be a big kid.  

My aunt and uncle were only eleven and fourteen years older than I and were the first best friends I ever had.  My uncle was already driving, but he enjoyed the leisure of riding bikes.  So, when they started "ditching" me (they weren't really, but I loved them and couldn't understand why they'd want to go someplace without me!) to hang out with friends, I knew I had to learn to ride a bike.  

A couple months shy of five years old, my grandfather sawed two blocks of wood to fit on each of my aunt's banana seat Schwinn bike pedals and screwed them in to affix them.  The weight from the blocks would pull the pedals down, block side and I used to have to tuck my foot under the pedal and spin it in an attempt to catch the wood side-up.  I was about two inches too short to reach the pedals and about six inches too short to reach the ground.  I would ask him to take me outside two or three times a day on weekends and every night after work that summer.  I was determined to ride.

The schoolyard at Samuel Fels Junior High School (now a high school) was surrounded by a high, chain-linked fence.  We would enter from one of the three or so rear entrances.  Typically, a couple games of basketball and one game of stickball were happening at any given time, and there was always someone running their dog in the L-shaped, asphalt-covered yard that ran adjacent to two city blocks and had scarce a tree planted near the fence with glass sporadically littering the ground.  One could see the glass by the reflection of the sun that made it look like diamonds.

Growing like a weed, I asked my grandfather to take the blocks off the bike.  I was also able to balance myself on the pedals, scooting off the seat, pedaling fiercely, always trying to go faster. The blocks were in the way. 

That year, in 1981, my family and I moved to Deptford, NJ.  Amazingly, the house was situated at the border of an enormous community park and sports complex that had a swimming pool, basketball courts, a football/soccer field, a hockey rink, bike loop trail, and best of all- a professional, American Bicycle Association sanctioned BMX track where riders came from all over to race or just have fun.  I was in heaven, but I quickly learned that the pink Huffy was not up to racing standards with its banana seat, chain guard, kickstand, reflectors, and lack of pads. 

When races were held every Saturday, I'd climb over our fence to watch the riders and I stopped an older girl who looked cool to me, she was wearing a GT racing suit and had blonde hair peaking out from her full face mask, "Hey, can you tell me what I need to do to make my bike regulation?" She was kind to entertain my question and told me everything I needed to do.  She should have said, "Kid, get your parents to buy you a real bike."

I had $80 saved and made my mom bring me to Kmart where I bought a black pads, an orange helmet that was really for motorcycles, and the most important thing- a Haro number plate: 1.  The helmet was $39.99 and when all was said and done, I was left with twenty bucks.

The next morning, I woke and found a screwdriver and wrench.  Promptly, I began working to remove the kickstand.  It was so difficult and banging my fingers against the metal, trying to loosen the assemblage was frustrating.  After prying it off, I went to work on the chain guard, and then unscrewed the reflectors, put the pads on the frame, neck, and bars, attached the number plate and rode over to the track.  There was a gang of boys and not one girl, none but I, that is. There was a killer starting hill that sat at a 45° and had long planks that created a starting gate.  The kids would take turns, one dropping the gate while the other racers would balance their bikes, front wheel touching the gate with their feet up on the pedals.  Ready, set... drop!  It went something like- Down the hill, over a jump, into a left turn, over another jump, over the whoop-de-doos, into a right turn, over two more jumps, into a left turn, and then sprinting to finish. But I was little, so my memory is a bit skewed.  

I hauled my pink bike up the back of the hill and moved to the gate.  No one noticed me, it seems.  I don't recall them even caring that I looked ridiculous with a giant, adult-sized orange helmet on my head and a bike that anyone would be crazy to take over jumps.  Not sure that I could balance, I went up on my pedals and felt surprisingly stable.  Ready, set... drop!

It took me longer than anyone to make it to the finish line, but I managed not to fall, despite being scared and not anticipating things like the painful force of impact on my little wrists and the fact that the enormous starting hill would propel me faster than I had ever gone and my legs could pedal.  I hated those whoop-de-doos and hit every one with my front wheel.  It would be a while before I was able to master the timing and finesse needed to fly and glide over them.  The Huffy held up well until 1984 when I scored my first real bike after we moved to Philly, an all chrome Mongoose "Expert", an aesthetically beautiful racing bike that never saw real dirt.  The track, unfortunately, had a rather sad ending and was eventually flattened by the township.

Now, I have my own kids and until yesterday, only one of them could ride a bike.  Unbelievable, right?  I mean, I half expected my girls to be riding bikes in diapers, but noooooooo! My kids liked playing with dolls and having their nails polished and had little desire to learn to ride a bike.  It was a tomboy's nightmare.  I just can't fathom that they'd have rather hopped on a friend's pegs than to have the freedom of movement, or that they like their parents enough to want to hang out with us.  When I was eight and lived in Philadelphia, I was riding my bike up to Roosevelt Mall to go to the arcade and that was nearly two miles from our home and riding through the miles-long trails in Pennypack Park.

When she was almost nine, my now twelve year old, under peer pressure, learned to ride a bike with the help of an older friend.  She's now become a fairly proficient rider, though I can't see her taking jumps.  In fact, that thought scares the shit out of me- she'd have to be dressed in one of those Sumo wrestler costumes, you know, they're the ones that blow a person up like the Michelin tire guy.

Well, after trying for the past three years to get her to ride, my now nine year old had me convinced she would never ride a bike.  It bothered me because I thought she was going to miss out on an entire part of childhood independence and lifetime enjoyment.  So, two days ago, I saw the same girl who taught my elder daughter and said, "Hey, if you teach her to ride, I'll give you twenty bucks."

The next day at dinner time, the kids walked over to the teenager's house.  In an hour, one of their friend's came running inside our house, "Gab, Gab! Come outside, quick, she's coming down the street!"

There she was, riding her pink Huffy with it's kickstand, chain guard, and reflectors, with a giant smile on her face.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Over the Quasi-Rainbow

This morning, I awakened and immediately began house work. Before having coffee (blasphemous, I know), I washed dishes in the sink, unloaded the dishwasher, put a load of wash in, and folded clothes that were in the dryer. Even now as I sit, I am only one-third of the way into my first cup, a 16oz Disney mug that shows Tinkerbell in hair rollers and a nightie, holding her own mug with her left hand while her right hand is resting on her hip, appearing as I feel prior to coffee. On the back of the mug, it reads, "Mornings aren't Magical," hm, precisely.

However, something else is magical: Color.

There's time to get personal later, but for now I'll ask the reader to gloss over the fact that I'm about to tell you that I live with my ex-husband, but that I also have a long-standing boyfriend- right, anyway... I digress and now, one may observe how important coffee is for my brain... ramble, ramble... This has nothing to do with anything, but it sort of does, and I'm certainly in an odd mood this morning.

So (echem), the ex (one of my best friends) was looking for a shirt and I said, "Your little, green t-shirt is folded on the sofa, if you want it."

"What green t-shirt?" he asked.

"You know, your soft, green one... it's over there," I said, pointing from the kitchen.

Walking into the living room, he moved to the sofa and bent over to pick-up the shirt. As he lifted it, his face scrunched and he moved the shirt to arms length in a scrutinizing fashion. "This shirt isn't green."

"What? Yes it is."

"Well, if I were to say, I'd say it was colorless. It's grey," he said, confounded.

"Dude, that shirt is green. Hey babe...," I said to my boyfriend, "what color is this shirt?" I said with a bit of an attitude in my tone.

"Definitely not green, it looks grey to me." he said.

"You're both fucking nuts!" I yelled, in disbelief. It was like some bad dream or crime story where one is blamed for a murder and must prove one's innocence.

"No, we're both color blind."

"It's all you other, crazy people just making colors all over the place that are confusing things," said the ex.

Ha! Now there's a twist!

Burnt sienna, cerulean, magenta, mulberry, forest green, maize, peach, apricot, tangerine... while the absurdity of his statement was clear, so too was his logic. He was right!

It reminded me of the movie, Pleasantville, where a brother and sister in modern times are given a special remote control that thrusts them into a 1960s family sitcom where the world is black and white, and shades of grey. The world gradually becomes color-filled as the teens' influence and "new" ways of thought spread through the minds of the colorless.

Certainly, this is all metaphor for spreading the concept that free-thinking and creativity, unbound, are perceivably positive characteristics- the tell-tale signs of a healthy, societal constitution. So, I wonder whether there is some sort of real, psychological effect on those individuals whom many colors escape? Does the world judge the 10% of people who are considered "color blind" as being narrow-minded?

It's not logical to say that this judgment is consciously directed; rather, it may be unconscious. What I have noticed is that those afflicted with the inability to physiologically see all the colors that exist in the world feel a sense of inferiority to some degree.

"Hey, your socks don't match."

"They don't? Well, it doesn't matter, I'm colorblind. I'm like the comedian, Steven Wright, who says that he doesn't match socks by color, he matches them by thickness. If they feel the same, that's all that matters."

Yeah, okay, make excuses for the fact that you're wearing one army green sock and one beige sock if that makes you feel better...

Or, maybe they've got it right and life is just simpler where one so bedeviled just let's it all go and says, "Screw it! I'm wearing this shirt because it feels soft and these pants, because they're comfy. I know in my heart that the shirt is lilac and the bottoms, orange, but my color confusion matters not, and you colorful folks can all hang!"

Have we color-seeing folks complicated the world, or is not such a Wonderful World for the color blind?

I see trees of green, red roses too  (No, you really don't... and I'm not sure you can see this either! hahahahaha, just kidding)
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
They're really saying "I love you"

The Rainbow Connection by Kermit The Frog
True Colors by Cyndi Lauper
Color My World by Chicago
Silver, Blue and Gold by Bad Company
Rainbow in the Dark by Dio
Rose Colored Times by Lisa Loeb
Rose Colored Glasses by John Conlee
Karma Chameleon by Culture Club

The list goes on. In fact, here's an entire webpage dedicated to providing names of songs that have a color in their titles.

You color blind people, I hope this article doesn't make you see red, with your blue eyes cryin' in the rain, by the light of the silvery moon...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Putting the "Hysterical" Back in Hysterectomy

Last week, my mother had a necessary hysterectomy. Several weeks prior, I was made aware that the procedure would take place and it made me a little nervous, because no one likes seeing one's loved one being hospitalized for even the most minor of reasons.

I began thinking about the surgery, not obsessing, but it was firmly planted in the back of my mind as being somewhat troubling. So, I did what I generally do with all of life's affairs, no matter how mundane or upsetting, and tried to find humor.

Hysterectomy sounds awfully like "hysterical". I wanted to look up the etymological origin, as the thought of tying the two together was a bit puzzling. The word comes from the Latin hystericus "of the womb" and " from ek "out" + temnein "to cut". Oh, okay. Well, that makes sense- still, I wasn't understanding the relationship to the word hysterical, Greek -ikos "in the manner of; pertaining to the womb." Well, I should have guessed:

Hysterical comes from the 17th C. when craziness or neuroticism was thought to be an affliction of the womb.

Evil women- yeah, we get blamed for everything: drought, famine, war...? women.

The days leading up to surgery moved quickly and on the morning of surgery, I went as a support person to my mom, who I had only seen in the hospital once when my brother was born. After about an hour of seeing two pre-op nurses, two O.R. nurses, an intern, and a resident, the surgeon visited to discuss the procedure (we later met the anesthesiologist). The surgeon said, "We're going to attempt to go in vaginally and hopefully with the two c-sections you had previously, there will be few adhesions to the uterus. I will remove the uterus and the cervix."

"Oh, you have to remove the cervix?" she said.

"Well, they're attached, so...," he paused, "Then, I will have to re-attach the vagina."

"Oh?!" My mother's eyes grew wide. My stepdad was with us and he's a relatively modest man with puritanical values, so I imagine he would rather have his intestines eaten by vultures while alive than to have to sit in that room with me. He looked away and I looked at my mother, then the surgeon and simultaneously, my mouth and eyes opened wide.

The surgeon continued, making a gesture with his right hand where his palm was facing up and his fingers were spread open, but were curled up like a basket, as if he were holding something and then said, "Yes, the vagina has to be re-attached, otherwise, it'll just..." he motioned, moving his arm downward, but retaining the shape of his hand, "...fall out."


At that moment, I joined my stepdad and together, we shared a moment of instant, torturous embarrassment. I mean, holy shit! Not only wasn't I nor anyone else aware that this information would be shared with everyone, I had no idea one's vagina could just fall out. I gotta say that this has caused me an entirely new form of worry. I've become quite attached to my vagina and can't fathom such a horror.

For several hours, I worried about my mom in surgery and my stepdad and I did what any normal person would do after having to hear such information, we went to the bar. It was quickly realized the alcohol had no effect- nothing could penetrate the vagina, the thought that is.

At around 5:30, we were allowed to see my mom and the surgeon spoke to us and said that the surgery went as well as he had hoped and everything was great. I was a bit emotional, internally, but just sat silently and remained peaceful, waiting for my mother to open her eyes. Finally, about thirty minutes later, my lovely mom's eyes opened and I softly said, "Hi mom, the doctor said everything went great! How do you feel?"

"Where is my vagina?"

I looked at my stepdad, his eyes caught mine and then he looked down at the floor, shaking his head with his eyes wide, "What?" I said.

"Where did he put my vagina?" my mother asked, in a halfway coherent state.

"Um, I don't know, Mom. He didn't say."

Staying with Mom until visiting hours ended, while she mostly slept, I drove home to my kids who were very excited to hear the news as to how "Gram" fared. I told them everything went well and then, bursting with inner laughter, I just had to tell them what the surgeon said about the vagina needing to be attached.

My nine year old daughter stood up and said, dramatically, "Oh my God, my vagina just fell out in the shower... and it went down the drain!"

I almost peed my pants.

Life is wonderful, it's just so damned funny and I thought that I immediately had to blog the experience. So, I began thinking of possible article titles:

"Waiter, There's a Vagina in My Soup"

"Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Vagina?" and my personal favorite-

"Nothing Could be Fina'h Than to Locate My Vagina"

Ladies, take care of your vaginas and Mom, get better soon!