Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bicycle cookies!

I rode my bike yesterday.

I rode my bike yesterday for 55 miles.


This is, by far, the longest bike ride I've ever attempted. I set out to ride 30 miles, but I just kept on going. In fact, I would have kept going even farther, but the people in charge of the organized bike ride in which I was participating pulled us off the rode at 3:00pm because they said it was getting too late for us to do the full 80 miles and at that point, well, I didn't argue. I put my bike on the bike rack of some stranger's car, put my smelly self in his front seat and let him drive me back to town. As soon as I sat down my thighs began twitching with gratitude.

Most people participating in this ride were a lot more experienced than I. Here is how I know this to be true: 
1. Everyone but me was wearing spandex and fluorescent colored tight-shirts with logos all over them and fancy shoes that clanked on the ground when they walked like they were clog dancing. 
2. I was the only one with a bright green milk crate attached to the back of my bike filled with unnecessary objects like my entire wallet including a lot of coins, a rotting banana and all 20 keys on my key chain. (I learned yesterday that every ounce counts, especially when facing the wind head on.)
3. At the various rest stops, no one else seemed to be eating as many of the free cookies as I did. Some people didn't even stop at the rest stops and sped by in their spandex, waving at the cookie eaters as if passing up free nutter butters was no big deal.
4. I finished last out of 125 people.

Granted, we did stop at my friend Rick's house on our way out of town to get sunscreen (which I put on my face and arms but not my legs, one of which got really burned - but only on one side. I look like I fell asleep for about 10 hours under a beach umbrella, on my side, with one leg sticking out in the sun.) We also managed to get lost at one point and biked down one of the busiest highways in Athens for a bit before realizing we were totally off track and having to find our way back... so yes, for these reasons (not at all because of time spent cookie consuming and/or the cornucopia basket-o-plenty riding behind me) I finished last out of 125! Pretty good if you ask me.

You know months ago some friends were planning a super long bike ride and I thought about going but I felt intimidated and thought that I would need to do all this training before hand in order to make it - so I decided not to go. But yesterday, I ended up biking 55 miles on a whim and I could have kept going still.... . And I was fine!

Moral of the story: Doubt only stands in your way and you are probably always capable of accomplishing a lot more than you realize.

Also, no matter what anyone tells you and no matter how good they look in spandex as they say it: never pass up free cookies. They may make you come in last, but... well....winning isn't everything.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My relationship with Spring

So, you guys, I'm having a really hard time right now with Spring. I love her so, so much, but our relationship is, well, complicated.

You see I've loved Spring for as long as I can remember. She's been an important part of my life and although she usually only sticks around for a few months a year, I really look forward to my time with her. First off, she is absolutely beautiful. I mean stunning. She's also super thoughtful and romantic and leaves me flowers like everywhere I go. She has a nice, sunny disposition and she makes me feel giddy and energetic and excited to be alive..... but, then, after awhile, well, it becomes really difficult to be around her. I feel overwhelmed. I start crying all the time and my eyes end up so red and swollen by the end of the day that I can hardly see. I start to feel run down and my head feels kind of heavy. I try to get through the day without feeling this way, but I'm reminded of her everywhere I go - even if I wanted to I couldn't forget about her. It's like she infiltrates my whole world, covering everything around me, so that I am always thinking of her. It's ridiculous. I look at the roof of my car, my shoes, my bicycle - and I think of her. She is there when I walk down the sidewalk, she's in the air for lord's sake. The only way I can truly escape her is to stay locked inside my house in hiding.

But I don't want to hide from her! I love her! So yesterday I decided to go straight to her, to embrace her, riding my bike for miles until I reached the place where I knew I would find her in all her glory. I arrived, finally, at our favorite meeting place in tears. She was there alright and she looked amazing. She always does. But me? Geez, I was a complete wreck. I couldn't help it. My face was all puffy and I had to keep blowing my nose into my nasty handkerchief over and over and over again. I hope I didn't embarrass her. But she was so gracious and sweet and again, presented me with so many flowers, that I just had to forgive her.

You see, she makes me feel really awful sometimes, but I never think about the bad feelings when she is away. I sometimes hang out with this guy Winter, before Spring gets back to town, and, well, he's got nothin' on Spring. He's ok, but he can be kind of harsh. And while I don't mind this as much as some of my friends do, his temperament usually only makes me yearn for Spring's return. I think about her pretty much continuously until she gets here, waiting to once again see her beauty and feel her energy and I forget completely about how awful she will make me feel. And then she comes and I become a sniffling mess. Oh, Spring. You are so lovely, yet you cause me so much pain. I wish you would be nicer to me. I wish you would leave tomorrow and I wish you would stay forever. I'll miss you when you are gone and I know I'll yearn for your return. See, you guys?!? Me and Spring, well, it's complicated.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


You guys... I think I'm a super-recognizer. It turns out that tonight, a mere two days after posting my last blog-post (in which I discuss my super ability to recognize faces), "60 minutes" did a segment about face-blindness (some crazy condition where your brain doesn't let you recognize faces, even when they belong to people you see everyday - you know, like your own children).

But they have also posted online a video clip about a lady who is a "super-recognizer" - someone who has way-better-than-average face recognition. In the video clip they test her ability by showing her pictures of famous people when they were super young and you guys, I aced this test. I mean aced it. According to Dr. Ashok Jansari, some neuroscientist in London, only 2% of the population have this ability! So then I went and took other online tests in which they cut and paste features from one person's face to create 6 different faces and ask you to rank the faces in order of resemblance to the original face.... and I aced that one! And I mean without even a second of hesitation.

So... I realize random and pointless face recognition might not be the most practical super-ability. Forget telekinesis! Forget invisibility! Forget being able to leap a building with a single bound! I can recognize the face of the person who sold me deodorant 3 months ago!!!!

Anyway, still feels special to think I might be better than 98% of you at something :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Its a small world

So a friend of mine (lets call her Jillian) just recently found out that her crazy sister (Janna) has been spreading a totally false rumor that Jillian obsessively collected dead animal carcasses as a child. Yes, this is weird. But what's even weirder is the way Jillian obtained this information.

You see, my friend's sister-in-law (Jadri) is currently in Moscow. It was here, a few days ago, that she entered into a conversation with a group of American students and it turned out that not only do they know previously mentioned crazy-sister Janna, they also know all about her sibling Jillian's carcass collection. Say what?!? I mean, you know its a small world when you find out about your family's crazy-lies through strangers in really far away countries you have never been to.

But I've known for awhile that the world is small. I've had so many experiences of unexpectedly running into people I know that I actually find it surprising when traveling to NOT see a familiar face.  Once, I was talking to some people about this phenomenon while sitting in a bar in Washington D.C. and I swear, as I was talking about it, a guy walked in that I knew. Granted, I didn't know him well - but I recognized him and eventually figured out that we had been at the same wedding (in Georgia) a few months back, although we hadn't really interacted. This kind of face-recall might lead you to believe that I have special powers to call up the past, but the opposite is in fact true. I remember next to nothing about my childhood, my adolescence, or even my 20s. I hardly remember what I did yesterday. If I were in a life threatening predicament and had to depend on either my memory or some drug-addicted, self-destructive pop star to get me out - I swear I'd go with the pop star.

But there is something about faces that stick. I see someone in the grocery store and then again at a gas station and it kills me for hours trying to figure out where I know them from. It bothers me so much that I usually just approach them and ask "Excuse me, but do I look familiar?" Most people then look at me like they think I'm about to mug them or something. I recently met a woman and she looked so familiar I just had to start asking her questions so that I could figure it out.... It turns out we went to preschool together and probably haven't seen each other since. Anyway, possessing such a weird face-recall ability means that of course I see people I know all over the place! Think about all the faces we see everyday... walking past us on the street, driving past us in their cars, standing behind us in line at the store... we're most likely in different places with the same person all the time without even realizing it. And sometimes these places can be very far away from each other.

Like, for instance, the time I met the same person twice - once on a train in Morocco and again in a small apartment in Paraguay.

Craziest small-world story ever:
So after getting bathed in the Marrakesh bathhouse (please see previous post) me and the friend-from-home, his Austrian girlfriend and the ditsy American got on a nighttime train heading north to catch our ferry back to Spain. The train was rickety and cold and full of people trying to sleep. There were mostly local folks on the train, with a few tourists scattered here and there. Friend and Austrian girlfriend sat in one car, and me and ditsy American sat in another car that was packed full of these young Moroccan soldiers going home for a vacation. We sat in a booth-like corner of the train car with two tourists from Spain who had bought a lot of musical instruments as souvenirs. These souvenirs turned what could have been a very long, boring, cold journey into a par-tay. All the young Moroccan dudes grabbed up the instruments and played and played and sang and sang and we all had a blast. Eventually the party died down and I spent the rest of my evening talking with this sweet, handsome Moroccan guy who had came to sit with us. He showed me pictures of his family and of a goat hanging upside down in his living room. He shared with me his dreams and we held hands and I totally fell in love. (I was 19 yr old by the way). His train stop came first and he begged me to get off the train with him. I cried. He cried. One of the Spaniards, who had been eavesdropping the whole time, cried. It was intense. I remember getting home to the US and seriously considering writing Oprah Winfrey to ask if she would sponsor my Moroccan boyfriend so he could come live with me.

About 5 years later I am living in Paraguay in the middle of nowhere working as a Peace Corps volunteer. During one of my visits into the city I run into a fellow volunteer who tells me he was hanging out with some Spanish guy and he swears he saw a picture of me in this guy's photo album. "Well, of course its not me," I say. "But it totally looked like you!" he says. "The guy said it was a picture of some crazy night on a train in Morocco with some American tourists, one who fell in love with a soldier in a few hours and cried when he got off the train."  Say what?!?

So the next day I went to the Spanish guy's apartment because it was just too weird.  He opened the door, and I, of course, immediately remembered his face. But now I can't remember why he was living in Paraguay. I can't remember his name or what his apartment looked like or how I got there or what I did after I left. I can't remember what we talked about, only that it was a little awkward since we didn't actually know each other at all. I do remember, however, feeling this sense of obligation, like if the world was going to have us end up in the same place twice it must mean the universe wants us to know each other, right? But after spending an hour or so in his apartment, with his wife and baby and photo album, it didn't feel that way. It felt more like we had tried to find meaning where there was none. He was just some guy and the world is just a small place and you shouldn't feel that surprised if strangers in Russia tell you your sister's lies or if someone in Paraguay has a picture of you in their living room. Seriously. No big deal you guys.

Anyway... that's the poopy scoop!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mama Seuse

Today I cashed in on my Valentine's present and spent an hour and a half lying on a table while a small middle-aged woman (who is way stronger than she looks) dug deep into my muscles until I felt like a little baby made out of spongecake. While lying face down inhaling essence of lavender as Ma'  Seuse dug her elbow into my gluteus maximus I had many thoughts. One of which was the following:

Why it is that women are so often freaked out by the idea of going to a male gynecologist, but not so freaked out when going to a male masseuse?

Granted, I can totally understand a woman wanting the person who delivers her child to have some idea of what birthing a baby is like. I understand feeling more comfortable conversing with a woman about some more delicate and intimate lady-topics.... but the whole "Why would a Man wanna look at Vaginas all day?!?" question has got me confused. Like looking up people's noses or examining people's fungusey feet all day is any better. I mean if my options were to deal with new life on a daily basis or to treat all the nasty and depressing ailments that come afterward,  I'd probably wanna look at vaginas all day too. Seriously you guys, I've been to male gynos and well, its awkward and uncomfortable - and I don't think either of us particularly enjoy it.

I've also been to male masseuses, however, and I think here we have a different story. I mean, they get you naked and then rub you down with oil while playing soft, romantic music. This is very different than getting a cervical smear test! When seeing a male masseuse I am unable to completely relax because I am certain the guy is trying to sneak a peek or cop a feel or something. A male masseuse massages my butt or my inner groin and I'm all like "watch it dude." A Mama Seuse, however? She can rub me down wherever she wants and I could care less.

I once got a "massage" from a 250lb topless Arab woman in which she scrubbed my ENTIRE body, including some hard to reach places, until my skin shone bright as the morning. And I didn't bat an eye. Let me explain:

I was in Morocco and had been riding camels in the desert for several days and needed a bath. I was traveling at the time with my friend from home, his jealous Austrian girlfriend and some ditsy American girl I had picked up along the way so as not to be a third wheel. After our journey through the desert me and the ladies decided to check out the local bathhouse. We entered with no idea what to expect and were greeted by the bath attendant who handed us a towel and a glob of what we later realized was soap but what at the time looked like pepper jelly and smelled like fish. The Austrian understood enough french to at least think she had figured out that we were being asked if we wanted the "massage" option - in which we all nodded yes very eagerly. Let's just say riding a camel for two days doesn't leave your body in its most relaxed state.

So - We then are led into a large, steamy room completely covered in tile where various women are crouched in various corners bathing each other. It is in the exact center of this room where our Mama Seuse awaits - and she's the real deal. Huge woman with large sagging breasts wearing nothing but a pair of sagging, white cotton panties. We remove our clothes and then she points at me. She points at the floor. I lie down. She takes my fish soap from my hand and proceeds to scrub and scrub and move my body around in such a purposeful and assertive way that I feel more like a floor mat than a lady. I feel even less like a lady when she starts to wrinkle her nose in disgust at the dirt and sand and grime coming off of my skin in rolls.

But the thing is, I felt totally comfortable and cared for, like a young child being bathed by her Mom after a long day at the playground. By the end of my "massage" with Mama Seuse I was cleaner than the day I was born - a.k.a the day I was delivered from my mother's womb  - by no doubt, a man. Which is fine with me, as long as he didn't rub her down with oil in the process.

Anyway.... thats the poopy scoop!