Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Cheer & A Little More Work Shit Talkin'

First of all, whoever sent me this oven mitt here, is a genius. Could this be more perfect? I love it. When I opened it, I stared at it for a long time because 1). I have been on this girl's website before and I nearly bought something from her. In fact I had to think long and hard whether I had actually bought the mitt, like, a month or so ago and I was just receiving it? But I knew I hadn't. 2). It's so me. Thanks so much, Friend Sender. Reveal thyself!

Let's talk bikes for a second. I've been getting acquainted with Whitey Heidi. We're getting more and more comfortable with each other though it has certainly been a transition. That bike wants to fly. For all my friends who know that I'm old school, hell yes I'm wearing a helmet on Whitey. In fact, I get all geared up for her in fancy padded pants and snug long-sleeve jerseys. Oh and the clipped shoes. Every time I leave the house in my get-up I ask Husband, "Do I look like a total douche bag or just a little like one?" He says he thinks it's hot, but saying such things is in his marriage contract. Good on him. I've reported before that I don't feel vulnerable on Loops, my commute bike, but it's another story on Whitey. Cars notice you much less on a bike that cooks. You're more of a surprise, like, surprise! I'm going 20mph too! Also, the bike is so slight. That feels very vulnerable to me. I've been on the tentative side around a lot of cars, but in less busy areas I try to open her up and my heart rockets to my throat at what she can do. I realized I could climb a hill all day long, but I don't know how to go fast. I grew up commuting on bikes in cities my whole life and I've watched for doors, I've watched for eye contact with drivers, I've watched for cars backing up, pulling out, turning left, and I've watched my speed. Learning how to go fast on a quality bike will be my biggest learning curve.

I've been hit on a bike by cars twice in my life; once in junior high, once in high school. In junior high I was actually doored when a guy was peeping out a garage sale that he had parked for and he swung his door wide open right as I came by. The strain -- I let out a long, wind-sucking grunt -- kept me from flying over the door. I told the guy I was fine and shakily I went on my way as my front wheel wobbled around lopsidedly. In high school, a woman turned left into me as I rolled through the intersection. She braked pretty good almost in time and I was only knocked down. She was a mess. She threw my bike in the back of her convertible and frantically lectured me about how I needed to be aware for myself AND for drivers. She drove me the half mile more to school. I didn't tell her that she hadn't given me enough time to be aware for the both of us. I couldn't wait to get out of her car. My mother was pissed that I didn't get any money from her. So, yea, I'm more tentative on Whitey than I thought I'd be, but she and I are working that out.

The other thing I've learned on my rides is that the seat that came standard with Whitey is a motherfucker. Wow. I've unaffectionately named it the Pooty Killer. It ain't killing my booty. No. I think I've had bike booty for a long time, but the aggressive positioning of the road bike coupled with the steal rod they call a seat kills the pooty, y'all. Whoa. I just ordered the saddle pictured. The below photo will give you more indication why this should ease what ails me. Hello Female-Friendly Friend:

So, about work: Mitch and I do all the buying and selling for a huge account in Arizona. He works in-house at the client's office in AZ and I work the magic from Cali. Every year our Big Client holds a Holiday Cookie Off, and every year Mitch volunteers me to bake for it. He tells them, "Oh yea, we got this. We'll represent and kick all y'all's cookies' asses." And then he'll IM me on the side and say, "Right? Is that cool?" Hell yea, Mitch. We got this. This year I made some Rose Water Pistachio joints from Veganomicon and my own Gingerbread Creams. I tried to recreate a vegan oreo filling and sandwiched it with gingerbread cookies. To Die! I fed ex'ed them out on Tuesday and the Big Client's warehouse promptly lost the box on Wednesday. Sigh. I have visited the Big Client's warehouse before. It's 100,000 square feet. I'm not joking. They have programmed robot/tractor things to retrieve product from rows, off pallets. So, I guess cookies could get lost in there. I think the "ATTN: MITCH" part threw them off. Ooo, Mitch was hot over it. The running joke for the last few months has been the Big Client's warehouse. They lose our product all the time. They'll say, Nope, didn't get that order. And we'll say, Isn't that your signature on the fed ex website? Pissing match then ensues. But when they lost the cookies, that sent Mitch over the edge. It's one thing to lose the cables and screws and credit card swipers and other stupid shit we sell to them, but not the cookies. Come on, not the cookies, guys.

Out here in Cali, we had the company holiday lunch yesterday. The lunch was in lieu of the killer parties we've had in past years. It was still fun and a little wild. We just can't help ourselves because though the event was scaled down dramatically, they still opened the bar unlimitedly. That's all brokers need; a little gas for the tank. In fact, the filling up started at the office when one of the top sales guys gave the owners and other big shots each a bottle of Patron. After a couple shots at 10:30 in the morning, you couldn't keep one of the owners off the intercom. That's always fun. He sang a little, talked to individuals over the speakers, said some personal stuff about himself. Then called us all into the conference room. Lindz, Rob and I groaned. When we schlepped into the conference room, thirty paper cups were filled with two inches of Patron. The Intercom Owner handed me a cup and said, "Oh just drink up." I said, "Hell no." He laughed and gave me the smirk he always does. He loves my spunk, he's always telling me. I said, "Yea, spunk this." He laughed harder.

Margaritas were pounded at a record pace at the restaurant. Rob and I bet the over-under on how many drinks certain people would have at lunch. I bet over four, but four was the most consumed in the hour and a half. I hate losing a bet! One guy ordered a rum & coke and he was immediately interrogated as to why he didn't get a high-end Margarita. He said, "I'm just keeping it real," which is a ridiculous thing to hear from a 30 year old guy. Another broker yelled across the room, "Yea, real high school!" Oh we're a funny bunch. One sales guy asked a buyer what the word "arroz" was on the menu. He said, "What's this 'aarrr-zz'?" Oh my man, we fell over on that one. I said, "Hey, what do Spanish Pirates eat? AARRRR-zzz.!"

The drinks loosened the lips of many. The most damaging thing that was tossed out there like a moldy brick was the fact that one of the owner's hair-brained ideas was costing the company tons of money. One guy slurred to another, "Just take a guess at how much money we lost in this deal so far?" He was tapping the back of his hand on the other guy's arm, "JUST GUESS!" he yelled. I bet you didn't guess $800k. Because I surely didn't. Rob and I eyeballed each other from across the table and our lips curled up. "I didn't need to hear that," he said quietly. I said loud enough, "Well, that's where our party and bonus went. Great, thanks!" One of the guys involved in the deal yelled over, "Next year, we'll be taking you guys to Hawaii for Christmas! As soon as everything hits." "I've heard that before," I said. "Until then, you'll be riding on all of our backs as usual. Awesome!" They laughed. Oh, they love my spunk.

Then a flying napkin fight commenced which evolved into an intra-table sugar packet war. Good thing there was no music pumping over the speakers or table surfaces would've been cleared, and god knows what would've happened.

Sigh. I told Mitch this morning, as I tell Rob and Lindz all the time, I appreciate him and our partnership. The three of them are some of the finest folks I've ever worked with so that keeps me going. I also told Mitch that I've got nothing else on the horizon so I should just shut my damn mouth and remain thankful for what I have.

Happy Holidays almost!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Need Nothing

On Monday night, we walked along a dark, small street that was sandwiched between the 10 freeway and the high school. I powered along holding Mina's hand. I called for Maya to stay close. I checked to make sure their jackets were zipped. We were behind the tennis courts and near a large, building-like trailer that was unhitched and read "Santa Monica High School Viking Band." I pointed out the baseball field, told Mina about the good tennis program. But I pulled them forward. We didn't lightly flitter around in our wondering and curious conversation like we normal would. I was aware of the darkness and the cold, the presumably empty street. We had a few more blocks to go. The girls didn't complain, but settled into my intentional grove. They stayed near and alert. We talked a bit, but they sensed I needed them to stay on task.

Forty minutes before, my car had been towed from a meter behind the Santa Monica library. I was so happy to have found a 2 hour meter open that I failed to see the tiny sign below reading that a restaurant valet would tow after 5pm. It was shocking to see my car gone, disappointing more especially when I had just told two people last week how it made no sense to drive in Santa Monica. But on the fly, after picking Mina up from an after-school reading program, I decided to drive to the library this time. It was cold. We had trumpets and heavy back packs. Why wait for the bus tonight? The blanket of disappointment was suffocating when I looked at my girls with backpacks on shoulders lit yellow by a street lamp. I am good (especially when I was younger) at hunkering down, alone, to solve things; muscle through anything that seemed like an obstacle. Alone, these things could roll off me and a mechanical-like track could take over where I simply do what had to be done. With the girls, I softened a bit knowing that I'd have to stretch and spread this hunkering over them; I'd have to pull them in tight and show them how to handle their shit. The thinking was over dramatic really, but it's the process I put myself through. They put their hands on my coat sleeve and said, "I'm sorry, Mami." And I shook off the disappointment and said, "Well, this kind of stuff happens, but we have to take care of it. We have to stick together and just knock it out, ok?" They nodded. They were ready. They knew not to be goofy or jokey.

Cars are so often towed from this spot that the valet had many slips of paper in his drawer where he had written the number to call to find the car. First we'd have to go to the police station about a mile away. We caught a bus traveling that way, and the driver, close to the end of his route, didn't charge us. The policeman at the counter took his time He called the back impound lot to see if my car was still there, "No?" he said, "By the way, that sandwich you brought me earlier was really good. Yea, fantastic," he said before he hung up and picked up my paperwork again. He then charged me a police pimp cut to release the car. Over $100. I didn't flinch or sigh. There's no use in that. As I waited for the release slip, I looked back at the girls. They had both retrieved a book from their backpacks and read quietly until I was done. The tow yard was another mile or so away, a straight shot behind the high school, over the 10 freeway overpass, past the Salvation Army and industrial buildings. The tow yard attendant told me through the intercom that there would be an extra fee for opening the gate after hours. "Yes," I said, "the police told me. Thank you." The gate clicked and rolled back to reveal a grave yard of cars and mopeds. A small Christmas tree stood on a box on the porch of the office, lit and lopsided. The man rang me up and we stood behind the chipped linoleum counter, the three of us with Mina just peeking over the counter and Maya standing erect, not moping or sighing either. I stared over the man's head looking at a collection of toy trucks displayed in a neat disarray on slanted shelves. I was calm and to the point. And these men that you sense could be rough and rude were soft and apologetic. I took the keys and we traipsed over to the car. I peeled a parking ticket -- on top of it all! -- from under the windshield wiper. Safe in car, my guard went down a bit as did the girls. They were new to the fact that hunkering down together pulls the strings closer. I let the high price tag of the night go. It would be fine because at least I had gotten a holiday bonus on Friday.

But about the bonus:

Friday, a holiday bonus from the job hit my bank account without announcement or forewarning. There is was. I only looked because Mitch my partner at work asked if I had noticed any money falling into my hands that morning. It was a good bonus. A validating one; one that made Mitch and I feel valued for all the hard work as of late. I have to say the bonus put a wind in my sails. All was well. I worked hard, my family is perfect, I had a little change in my pocket for the holidays.

Yesterday, Mitch asked me again if I had checked my bank account. Half of the bonus had been reversed, taken out of his account, he said. I said, "Shut up." But he said his account was now negative. I raced online and it was true. Half was gone, sucked back out on Monday. It turned out that it was an accidental double deposit. My Job had really only wanted us to have half of the amount that we thought was validating. I was light headed. All the air in my guts had let out. I wasn't angry. I was embarrassed that while that really nice bonus sat in my bank account for the entire weekend I felt I deserved it, that they understood what we were doing; that they recognized all the hard work. And that was not true. It ended up being the same bonus as last year. This year there's no party. And sales are up. I left the office for lunch, still feeling a little sick, and I noticed the sparkly new black Jaguar with no plates sitting in one of the owner's parking spots.

I let it go then. Seeing the Jag reminded me that I need nothing. I have everything. I need nothing more to make me feel more loved or complete. I have perfect girls who are sincere and honest and good people, my loving dogs, my favorite cat, my friends, and my Husband who immediately said to me after the half-bonus news, "I appreciate you and everything you do to make our family the best." This is all he said. It was all I needed.

So what is disappointment? There is none, really, is there? Feh, the car, the money. Who cares. The rent is paid, there's food in the fridge. Most presents are bought. I got a bike! (And I deflect that guilt!) The tree is lit, the fire goes on and all I have is the love that fills me and the love that surrounds me.

Friday, December 05, 2008

And Back to Biking . . .

I'm ready to talk about my ball of energy. Only because it's time to get some collective energy building, get me rolling so to speak.

I've been in training to take road biking more seriously. For the last three months I've been working out, taking a lot of spin classes, reading/researching nonstop, commuting around on Loops, of course, and most importantly, all these months I've been saving up for a road bike. Today Loops got a sister.

She's a Cannondale Six 2009, carbon frame, Shimano 105 components. And she's gorgeous, no? My friend Rob asked me which character I was in Breaking Away? Dennis Quaid? I said the fake Italian dude for sure.

I researched bikes for a long time. I was close to pulling the trigger a couple times, but I had to wade through some emotional shit to commit to such an investment. It was an odd process. It took me a lot of self coaxing to let myself buy not just a bike, but an expensive beautiful piece of cycling technology. After months of this, I test drove this bike, and I was done. This was it. I was in love.

Mina and Husband had gone with me to test the bike. When we left the bike shop, they knew I had finally broken through and that this was going to be the one. I asked Mina what we should name the bike -- she had named Loops after all -- and without hesitation she said Whitey Heidi. Man, we laughed, but I thought OH NO, I don't want that to stick. But it stuck. It's too good, too funny. Whitey Heidi for crying out loud!

As I've gotten stronger, my daydreams of the biking possibilities have gotten grander. A century (a 100 mile bike event) is on the 2009 list for sure. Y'all know I want to do some touring. But maybe if I actually learn how to ride Miss Whitey properly, maybe I'll enter a race or two. Time trials even! Maybe earn a yellow jersey in a Tour de Middle Age. Feh, we'll see. In the meantime, I'll spend the next however many months becoming as one with my beautiful Whitey Heidi.