Posts Tagged ‘desperation’

Flat Day

13 November 2009

Dear J-

The love-hate relationship I have with my bike centers around its reliability; while I have no significant complaints about the frame (it has borne my carcass around for over two years without significant complant), the drivetrain and componentry scream that it was built down to a price, and that’s where the compromise was forged.  I remember going in to the bike shop to explain what kind of chain I needed (“Yes, it’s a nine-speed Sunrace.  Stop laughing.”) and that exact moment of realization that I’d either need to start taking better care of it, or face the all-too-frequent breakdowns I am now.  Today I had a flat on the way in — halfway along, and too late to turn back to get the car.

What I really need is something with solid tires and a sealed drivetrain; I could live without the suspension on the back, which has ended up causing nothing but compromise after compromise (difficult to fit a fender or a rack, and it seems to cause the chain to derail every time I go over a bump).  I could get better tires, but the dream of going to hub gearing would mean that I’d need to upgrade the crank as well (it is depressingly cheap, like the rest of the components).  I am unstintingly cheap about these things, though the difference would be having a bike I didn’t have to worry about versus the occasional pain of having downtime to fix the beast.

I suppose like everything else it comes down to how much you value your time:  is it worth doing, and is it something you enjoy doing?  I think even if I had a workshop and tools, I’d still resent having to fix up another tool I use to get to and from work; there’s too much else to do and enjoy to have to worry about things that should just work.  It was just about seven years ago, in fact, while I was teaching myself TeX that I started to realize these things:  instead of shelling out a few bucks on a shareware text editor with basic formatting capabilities, I convinced myself that TeX was the way to go — it was, after all, the professional typesetter’s choice.  Stepping back twenty years in user interface (there’s a reason every computer comes with a mouse, after all) — or finding ways to make your life harder isn’t the right direction.



Daytime Nighttime

16 November 2006

What does it pay to play the leading lady
When, like the damsel in distress
Daytime nighttime suffering is all she gets– Paul McCartney, Daytime Nighttime Suffering

Dear J-,

They should have had the first reunion at fifteen years. Ten isn’t quite enough time to forget faces, and twenty, well, no one wants to be facing forty without making some kind of an effort. Fifteen is enough to have had some perspective, not just on high school, but on your life to date. Plus you’re at the point that those folks being born when you got your driver’s license are now menacing the elderly you on the roads.

Nothing quite like seeing all the significant milestones of your life fall to kids you remember baby-sitting to force you to grow up, right? I met someone today who confided his excitement in his first grandkid at one turn and the dismay of “finally having to grow up” in the next. Time moves ever forward; if I’m already afraid of tomorrow, how can I enjoy today? What is it, exactly? When do you give in and say that you’re getting old? The first white hair? Done. Music gotten too loud? Years ago, now. I’ve always thought that the baby boomers (and here I go tarring all with the same brush, just as I get slotted somewhere between Gen X and Y) were self-absorbed image-conscious youth-seeking idiots, but the older I get, the more I understand the truth behind “Age is just a number.”

We cling to the idealized memories of youth, not remembering living someone else’s life, those first fumbling attempts at love, waiting always waiting for changes pointing the way forward. I remember the delicious anticipation, the night before handing out the new trimester’s schedules and hoping that I’d have the right mix of folks — someone to crush on, someone to talk to, someone to keep the lonely away. How can you possibly know at eighteen who you are, let alone who you need? I’m in awe of childhood sweethearts who make it work; they remember the wonder of the new, the bloom of youth, the steady pace of life, the joy of every wakening.

Everyone dreams of being out on their own without thinking twice about what it might mean. I had roommates in college up until my last semester of senior year, and even that wasn’t so bad because I was semi-officially living with theVet by then (maintaining separate rooms for the public’s sake). Loneliness is coming home two thousand miles from everything you remember to the unheated house you rent from the landlady upstairs. Loneliness is the last bus of the night, riding past Fenway Park on game night and hearing the distant cheers. Loneliness is reading the “personalized” messages left when you asked for more signatures in your yearbook to reduce the desperation inside. Loneliness is realizing why you wrote and saved so many letters knowing you never followed up on them, all the while listening to something suitably nostalgic — let’s say the first album you bought alone. Alone.

Even though the overwhelming memory of Jamaica Plain is of that isolated loneliness, I still want to go back and wander through the Arboretum by myself; I want to wander, and then return and remember how lucky I am to have known so many people to call, so many people to write letters to. Nights I’m alone make it so much easier to be grateful.