Thursday, September 5, 2019

Dragon Cycling

I've come to learn that many people think I am brave/nuts because I enjoy cycling year-round.  Largely the exclamations of shock/admiration/horror occur when it is cold, but rain is another major factor.
A springtime commute selfie

I had a realization this year though:

  • It is a thousand times crazier* to cycling when the sun is beating down and it is 90+ degrees**.  A bajillion times.

Someone left me this rock painted like candy corn while I was donating blood this summer.  
Cycling when it is 40 degrees can easily be made tolerable, heck even enjoyable.  Same with a drizzly day.  I create my own heat just from the act of cycling and I've built up a stash of dependable all-season gear.  Like those flannel-lined ice fishing pants I got at the thrift shop.  Or those killer rain pants from my dad which render me downright impervious to water.  I am cozy and dry even on a mid-winter day--if anything I struggle not to layer so well as to be too hot.

There is little to be done when it is 100 degrees though.   So I just pant and breathe like a dragon, breathing fire from my a parched little mouth all the way home.

Yesterday was the third time since 1950 that it hit 100 degrees in September here.  I rode 10+ miles.  Like a lunatic.

*or braver, if you're being charitable.
**I walk or ride the bus when the snow accumulates on the bike lane because I find that to be actually dangerous, not just cold.  I haven't yet gone full bore and gotten studded snow tires or chains for my bike.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Seein' The Stones

We finally got to see the Rolling Stones.  Finally.  And oh!  Oh!  It was so fantastic.  A superbly special, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.
This concert was so long in the making that the final conclusion was especially sweet, wrapping up almost a year of building suspense and eager waiting*.  But, good things really do come to those who wait.  Patience is a virtue.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  
Oh.My.Goodness.Gracious.  Holy Smokes.  Unbelievable.  Outta this world.  Better than I'd hoped.  The most "rock starry" rock stars I've ever see--and I've seen Elton John.  You'd never know Mick recently underwent heart surgery.  Or that he's 76.  The strut on that guy, oh baby!  He was especially fun to watch on stage, though they all were.  
The Rolling Stones played a single long set with a mellow acoustic section in the middle instead of a set break.  They had a soulful female back-up singer who had a fancy fringed coat that was amazing--though she couldn't rival the five sequin jackets that Mick changed up throughout the evening.  Karl Denson played the horns which was a special treat.  Matt has wanted to hear him live for a while so it was like a little cherry on top.  
Neither of us had been to a stadium concert before, nor any sort of show that large--54,000+ people.  That was really something to behold.  We were walking toward the stadium in a sea of humanity, a river of smiling humans in tongue t-shirts.  At one point the crowd lit up the stadium with their cellphones (modern day lighter waving) and, despite my love-hate relationship to phones at shows, it was fairly stunning.  Tier upon tier.  So.Many.Ecstatic.People.  It is a rare thing, in my experience, for so many people to be on the same page about something.
We love the sense of family that exists in the Grateful Dead community and were not surprised to find it among the Stone fans, too.  The crowd was really cool.  High energy, but never out of hand, at least in our little neighborhood of it.  We bought standing room only floor tickets.  
I would say the average age was easily 60 years old, but there were younger folks like myself scattered throughout.  I started chatting up a silver-haired fellow in front of us because he was wearing a Rolling Stones North American Tour 1981 shirt that still looked new.  It was a "special occasion" shirt.  He said that he was about to see them for the 5th time, his first show being in 1968 as a senior in high school in California.  He said they were "pretty raw" back then.  He'd also seen Stevie Wonder open for the Stones.  (How wild is that!?!)  He said in 1968 the tickets were $1 in advance and $2 the day of the show.  The standing room floor tickets in 2019 were $150 each, after all the fees.  (How wild is that?!?)  Worth.Every.Penny.
The stage included an impressive amount of lights and an even more impressive array of 60 foot tall video screens.  They mostly featured close-ups of the band as they rocked out, but there were also segments with computer graphics--a swell Day of the Dead/Playing Card/Roses themed sequence which accompanied Honkytonk Woman, for example.  While they performed the song Paint It Black they used black and white video which was a pretty dramatic effect after all the bright, vivid color and lights.  The screens were so large I kept calling it Attack of the 60 Foot Rock Stars.  The video was a nice addition to the experience since its not like 54,000 people can all have close seats.  
Loving the desert as we do, we opted for the Phoenix leg of their North American tour atState Farm Stadium.  It was hot.  Like...hot, hot.  114 degrees F the day of the show.  At the end of it, when we were sitting around slamming Gatorade and water at 1am, waiting for Uber/Lyft prices to go down, I do believe we were both a little heat-exhausted.  That was the main drawback to having the show rescheduled.  It was heavenly in May.  Still, I basked in the August heat quite readily, though.  Matt actually said it was "sick" that I wasn't "oppressed" by the heat every time I went outside.  We had a pool and a nearby vegan ice cream shop though so even Matt managed.  
They rolled the roof back on the stadium right before the show which was pretty cool and did help with the temperature as all those bodies filed in and started to dance.  As it was, I still danced myself sopping wet.  I couldn't help myself.  I was so pumped and they kept playing hit after hit, covering basically every tune I'd really, really hoped to hear.  The guy next to me told Matt that my excitement was "a good thing!  It helps everyone!"  
Just that one show and I can totally see why these dudes have been touring for 57 years.
*We bought the tickets in November for a show scheduled May 7th.   ...but then Mick Jagger needed heart surgery in April so the show was postponed.  It was rescheduled for August 26th. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Homeplaces

In the early evening, usually before dinner, Matt and I sit in our little home library (on the megacomfy futon we have in there for when it has to double as our guest room) and we talk about our day and all the things we've read, heard, or thought of throughout.  Sometimes we do this on the back porch, depending on the weather.  Either way, it is part of our post-workday routine.
Our bedroom catching a little morning light.  August 2019
A few weeks ago I told him about this interesting list my blogfriend Pen had crafted of all the homes in which she's lived.  It was such an interesting glimpse into her remarkable life.  (Here I had to stop and ruminate on the ability for a life to be both extraordinary and humble at the same time).  Pen's list--and the subsequent discussion between Matt and I--prompted us to count off on our fingers a similar list for ourselves.  Mine was just slightly longer than Matt's, which surprised neither of us.  He's always stayed close to home, being born and raised in the same town where we still reside today.  Later on I fleshed my list out even further, reminiscing about these homes that sheltered and shaped me.
Grilling veg and tofu on the back patio.  July 2019
Home(s), Sweet Home(s):
  1. The Little Green House:  We lived in the little green house in my earliest childhood.  It was the home my parents brought me to upon leaving the hospital when I was born.  It was diagonally across the street from the Catholic church we attended and adjacent to the church parking lot.  We had so much fun in that parking lot since it wasn't used much except Sundays and Wednesdays.  I learned to ride my bicycle there, crashing spectacularly when I beckoned my sisters to watch me show off my new skills.  We made the best snow forts along the perimeter of the parking lot since the snow was plowed to the edges making humongous mountains to climb and excavate.  I thought the unfinished basement was creepy and full of spiders.  I avoided it if possible.  This is the house where I first fell in love with the mystery that is cats.  We always had cats.  I can distinctly recall Chin-chin skittering over the newly installed hardwood floor in the living room like she was ice skating.  I guess she hadn't been expecting the change.  She slid right through the living room, across the linoleum and smashed against the refrigerator.  It is weird the scenes that get burned in to the mind.  We had a garden and a juniper bush, which I can remember vividly because I tried the berries once.  We planted three trees along the south side of the yard which I equated with my sisters and myself.  Lisa's tree, Sarah's tree, my tree.  Eventually My Tree would be run over by someone who didn't quite make the corner.
  2. The House on 9th Street:  My parents bought this house when I was about eight or nine years old.  This is the house I think of as My Childhood Home.  I lived there from grade school on through high school, plus the first summer I went to college.  It underwent a boatload of renovations while we lived there and my bedroom moved around accordingly.  I started out in a small bedroom upstairs that had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle wallpaper border when we bought the place.  I insisted that we keep it, being a tomboy and infatuated with TMNT and G.I. Joe.  There was an unfinished room in the basement that I can remember my parents overhauling into a bedroom for Sarah.  In high school I moved down into Lisa's old bedroom in the basement and, somehow, convinced my mom to let me paint one entire wall with the cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  She put her foot down on painting all the walls black however.  I think my mom gained a lot of empowerment through her DIY projects on that house--wiring, installing ceiling fans, pouring concrete, putting up fences, painting, ripping up carpet, etc.  I thought that her and her friend Penny could do just about anything.  The house was in a fairly wholesome neighborhood quite close to my school.  It was the sort of place where we could play Night Games (think:outdoor hide and seek for teens) throughout the block--sneaking in and out of neighbor's yards, hiding between sheds and fences, etc.  I can't really imagine doing it now.
  3. My Dad's Apartment:  My parents separated (and subsequently divorced) when I was in 5th grade--and my dad moved into an apartment.  I can remember being quite nervous the first time he took us over to see it.  I wrote about the occasion in my diary.  I was nervous about the family changes and I was nervous about living in an apartment instead of a house and about having two homes, in general.  It was all so new and unfamiliar to me--though it worked out in the end.  Sarah and I shared a room, but it was basically mine.  Lisa must have just stayed at mom's, I guess.  My dad developed a repertoire of dinner recipes in that apartment that includes some of my favorites to this day--things like tatertot hotdish or spaghetti pizza bake.  There was a park RIGHT across the street and a creek just a stone's throw away.  I remember playing in both a lot.  There was also a pasture of horses diagonally across from the apartment and I loved to go over and rub their velvety noses and feed them grass over the fence.
  4. My Dad and Dana's House:  My dad and his girlfriend (who would soon enough become my stepmom) bought a house just a couple blocks away from our house on 9th Street.  I don't know how all the adults felt about their close proximity, but it was really ideal for Sarah and me.  We were able to bounce back and forth quite effectively.  Again, Sarah and I technically shared a room, but it was even more mostly mine in this case.  Dana's son, Jayde, also lived with us.  His room was upstairs and would eventually be turned into a proper dining room.  Prior to that it was pretty close quarters around the table at dinner time.  Whoever had the seat closest to the fridge--usually Sarah, if memory serves--had to be the "fetching girl," getting the salt and pepper or milk or whatever for those less free to move.  I lived in this house until I graduated from high school and moved from home.  We had a cat here, too, but he mostly loved Dana.  There was an empty lot behind the house and then the railroad tracks.  I used to enjoy playing a daredevil, climbing up and monkeying around on the train cars when stationary.  They were a lot taller than I initially expected.  The empty lot was good for kite flying except it you happened to crash land on the opposite side of the train.  
  5. Petro Resident Hall:  I waffled about including my university dorm as a home, but it was 100% mine and I was quite happy there, spreading my wings for the first time.  My assigned roommate decided not to come and so I ended up with a dorm room all to myself.  It was a perfect setting to transition from living at home to setting off on my own.  Quite frankly, I loved living in the dorms.  The laundry, cable, internet, and utilities were "free."  My friends were supremely close at hand and new friends were just waiting to be discovered.  I could walk everywhere on campus in a matter of minutes, including work (at the library!) which meant I could sleep in.  I didn't even mind the shared bathrooms since I didn't have to clean them.  I had some hilarious good times in the dorms--staying up into the wee hours playing Dr. Mario with my friend Hannah, eating EasyMac, listening to Dave Mathews Band for the first time, even riding a mattress down the stairs like a sled once.
  6. The Burnsteads:  I moved home for the summer between my freshman and sophomore year at college.  When I returned to college I rented a two-bedroom apartment in a fairly low class apartment complex on the northside with Hannah.  We'd went to school together in Sidney, but really cemented our relationship after we left home--starting in the dorms.  I wouldn't have described her as "my bestie" back in high school, but that is totally her tagline in adulthood.  We racked up some fantastically good times living together in this apartment.  Hannah did almost all of the cooking.  We moved my two cats in, quite illicitly.  We loved having a place of our own where we could have friends over and, basically, do whatever we wanted for the first time.  I'll never forget the Christmas tree we put together there.  We didn't have any true holiday decorations and so studded our fake tree with all sorts of figurines, knick-knacks, and the like.  We used Hannah's Kyle from South Park plush toy as the topper.  The apartment was conveniently close to the college I was attending and we made a bunch of friends in neighboring complex buildings.
  7. The 8th St. Apartment:  Hannah and I eventually moved in with my then-boyfriend.  Hannah's then-boyfriend would also later move in, or maybe he just stayed there a lot.  I can't remember now.  The two-bedroom brick apartment was so trashed that Hannah and I had to deep clean before we could move in, especially Hannah's room.  In retrospect, that should have been a giant red flag.  Ah, my sweet, naive youth.  We had two cats and three ferrets and I loved them all deeply.  They're a bright spot in my memory of this particular home.  My baby ferret was about the cutest thing I ever saw.  We would dance together, her nipping at my skirt hem.  I loved playing with them during their bathtime and how curious they were about everything.  One of them loved soft, squishy stuff and so would steal balled up socks and hide them behind the refrigerator for safekeeping.  They were sure stinky though.  Our house was so messy and gross, embarrassingly so in retrospect.  I can't believe people came over--just shows how much they loved me, I guess.  Less than a year after moving in I moved out again.  Hannah'd wised-up even quicker than I did.  This is a low point in my life.  I don't dwell on it, but I'll never forget it either.
  8. The Tiny House on Beverly Hill:  Matt was living in this itty-bitty house when I met him.  It was an absolutely perfect house for a single person.  I only lived there for a couple months and debated even including it on the list of my homes.  It was always more Matt's home.  One of the first times Matt and I hung out was because he'd lost power for more than a day at his Beverly Hill house and couldn't cook a proper dinner.  I invited him over to my 8th St. apartment and cooked for him.  It was probably Hamburger Helper or spaghetti since I didn't really know how to cook back then.  We were friends from work, schlepping boxes for Fedex Ground, and we got along really well.  On his first day on the job I remember spotting him and thinking that he looked like the sorta person I'd be friends with--and so I set out to befriend him (little did I know!).  Months later, I was having a hard time and he let me crash with him in the teeny-tiny house...and... here we are almost 15 years later.  I can remember thinking it was weird to have a full-sized window IN the shower.  The "dining room" was basically just a hallway.
  9. The Orange Apartment:  Matt is the one who dubbed it The Orange Apartment on account of the astonishingly orange countertops in both the kitchen and the bathroom.  It had one of those set-ups where you had to walk into the bedroom to access the bathroom and, just like at a hotel, the bathroom counter and sink were IN the bedroom.  The actual bathroom was just a toilet and tub.  We moved here both because the Beverly Hill house was too small for the two of us and because my ex was being a serious drag.  We only lived in the Orange Apartment a short while though--moving out because our new landlords were serious drags, too.  As such, it isn't associated with The Best of Times in Life of Matt and Beth.  We did have some supremely happy days there though.  We started our tie-dye arts at this house and loved to have our friends over for dye parties.  We spent our second New Year's Eve as a couple watching reruns of The Simpsons and drinking cheap champagne in a nest of pillows and blankets on the floor in front of the TV.  It reallywas romantic, even if it doesn't sound that way.  
  10. The House on Second Ave: This is the home that would cement Matt and I as a couple.  We lived here for almost seven years.  It is where we first started dabbling in a garden.  We converted a tiny flower bed into a vegetable patch.  Our landlord told us we'd never get anything to grow there.  He would later tell us he always stole a couple tomatoes when he came by to check on things.  So, shows what he knew, I guess.   We put up our first bird feeders on 2nd Ave and loved having dinner parties since we had an actual dining room.  It had terrible lighting, ugly blue scalloped wall paper, and periodic infestations of mice.  I can remember catching 17 in just a few days at one point.  Over all though, we loved it there.  It was close to downtown and I'd cycle to the brewery and fill a growler every Friday.  My morning commute involved a big hill to cycle over.  I had a family birthday party with a pinata in the backyard and my dad and I ended up playing a sort of keepaway badminton with the pinata's head.   Boatloads of good memories like that at this house.  We were were more than ready to cease renting though and saved and saved and saved until we thought we could buy a place of our own.
  11. Home:  We bought our house about six and half years ago.  It is a pretty darn perfect house for us--two bedrooms and one bath, more yard than house.  It has a room for tie-dye and a cool basement for Matt to retreat to in the summer.  I have a dedicated sewing space AND puzzle table which makes both of those activities so much more enjoyable.  We love our big yard for having fires, playing bocce, grilling, and, of course, the garden.  We have ditch rights for water which makes a huge financial difference when compared to watering all the plants on city water.  Every year we improve on the land--building a greenhouse, adding wildflower beds, planting trees, shrubs, and grape vines.  This is the house where Matt welcomed his first kitty roommates and I re-fell in love with cat companionship after a ten year hiatus.  It is just over two miles from the college where I work and there is a bike lane the entire way.  It is a little more ambitious to cycle downtown to Farmer's Market, say, but we still do it some of the time.  I do wish we were a tiny bit closer to downtown, but there are pros and cons to all things.  I love having a bank, grocery store, and two hardware stores just a five minute cycle away and being closer to Matt's family and our signature landscape feature:  The Rims.  I genuinely feel that the great times are just beginning in this home and I expect we'll stay for a long, long while.
Johnny trying to limbo into a slim box in the livingroom.  July 2019
I'll tack Matt's list on at the end here, but wouldn't dream of trying to narrate his experiences in them as I did for myself--though I've heard some real fantastic stories.  I will note that the our well-worn leather sofa is from The House with Pizolato some 15+ years ago.

Matt's List:
  1. Matt's Childhood Home
  2. The Trailer
  3. The Apartment with Bek
  4. The House with Pizolato
  5. The Little House on Beverly Hill
  6. The Orange Apartment
  7. The House on Second Ave
  8. Home

Thursday, August 1, 2019

"I Can Fix That For You."

My car* broke down on Tuesday.  It would turn out to be an unexpectedly heartwarming and humanity-affirming experience.  The way it all played out still baffles me with awesomeness.  (How many can say that after a breakdown?!)  I am so pleasantly shocked and delighted.  It is so easy to overlook and minimize the good people in the world and the simple acts of community and care they perform.  The stories about them don't make the news nearly often enough.  That's why I am telling this story far and wide.
On Tuesday I visited a friend who was at home recovering from eye surgery.  When I went to leave, my car wouldn't start--clicking noises and flashing lights, but that was all.  Because it was blazing hot and we had other plans and obligations we didn't bother with sorting out what was wrong with the car until last night.

Matt was going to jumpstart it, but when he looked over the engine the problem was immediately clear.  The belt around the alternator had snapped.  So, we shook our heads and sighed, envisioning the process of waiting for a tow truck, getting it to the shop, waiting for the shop to get to it...and, of course, I was supposed to leave town for work the next day so that would all fall to Matt.
All of the sudden a man around our age strolls over from a neighboring garage to inquire about our car trouble.  I told him we'd hoped it would just need a jumpstart, but alas, we were going to have to get it towed because of the broken belt...blah, blah, blah.

Immediately--and I mean immediately--he pipes up, "I can fix that for you."
Matt and I were unprepared for this offer.  We waffled in our uncertainty--it isn't really our car, does he really know what he is doing, etc.  Damon wasn't pushy or anything, just gave us a simple, "If you go get a belt I could fix it for you right now.  Save you the towing and everything."  Matt talked to him a little bit more, we both observed his garage full of tools--including a tool box that probably cost more than our car is worth--and we decided to take him up on it.

We went to a nearby auto supply store and got a replacement belt for $20.  We took it back to Damon and he (with a little help from his friend Casey) had the car up and running less than 30 minutes later.  It.Was.AMAZING.  He saved us so much time and so much money, so much hassle.  Without being asked.  For no reason.  Just because he could.  A modern day Knight in Shining Armor.

I was floored.  I had to marvel at how empowering it must be to have the skills and tools to do that sort of basic car repair for yourself--or random strangers stranded on your block.  Matt, though not tremendously mechanical, understood what needed done, but lacked the tools to do so.  We tried to buy Damon a six-pack or give him a $20 and he outright refused.  He actually said, "I got plenty of beer already.  You're welcome to come have one with me, but you don't need to get me any more."

I felt like I lived in a small town again instead of the largest in our state.
Photos from a car show in Helena in May 2019. 
I know squat about cars except the ones I think look cool, like this old beauty.  
*When I say "my car" I actually mean my mom's car.  She has an extra that she leaves parked at my house which I use a couple times a month.  It belonged to my late step-father.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Scent Memories: My Great-Grandma's Perfume

I made a delightfully sentimental score while browsing an antique shop last weekend.  My family was visiting and my dad loves this particular store as much as I do, so we try to hit it up when he's in town.  We could spend half a day in there, poking around.  There is so much cool old stuff to admire and figure out and puzzle over.  My dad will tell me stories about remembering this-or-that brand of soda or soap.  He'll pick up toys he always wanted or remembers from his childhood.

This is how I came to learn that my great-grandma wore a perfume called Evening in Paris.
With Joyce's Quilt as the photo backdrop--for extra antique awesomeness.
My dad uncapped one of the bottles and we had a sniff.  It made my dad smile.  I decided that my sentimental soul couldn't resist.  I wanted to wear my great-grandma's perfume.  I had to take a bottle home with me.

It smells light and fresh and vaguely reminds me of roses and baby powder.  It seems a perfect grandmotherly fragrance.  There actually was an Evening in Paris powder set for sale, too, which my great-grandmother also used.  I love family stories like that.  Little things.  Everyday things.

I told my niece, Keleigh, about it and we both put on a dab.  Now, despite the fact neither of us ever met her in life, Kel she knows what her great-great grandma smelled like, too.  My happy heart did backflips.

I'm wearing Evening in Paris today.  With a string of my grandma's pearls to cap it off.  Oh, my heart!  It is full of familial warm fuzzies.