Crossing a Line

We’ve crossed a line, many times, I’m certain. I’ve seen it. From both sides of the line.

I was on a lovely run the other day. It was warm, but not as hot as it had been the few days prior. There was a breeze, but not a gusty wind as in the past couple of days. It was just a perfect day for a run. The flower gardens are abloom in vibrant color and sweet fragrance. It was Saturday, late morning, so the smell of bacon and pancakes still wafted from homes along my route. I had bacon and pancakes for breakfast, too, a bit earlier, so I was a happy, happy girl who really needed to go out and run!

I ran my “usual” route, a six-mile rectangle through the northwest end of town, south for a bit, then eastward, north along a frontage road, then west along a rural, vineyard lined road and south, again, back to the park where my car awaits. I deliberately run this route in this particular direction because I save the best, the prettiest pert of the run for last. My reward. Though the prettiest part of the run, it is by far the most treacherous part of the run. There is a narrow shoulder, no sidewalk, and no bike lane marked. Cars travel fast. I use this road, myself, as a bypass for the slow, confused and sometimes intoxicated traffic cluster on the main thoroughfares in Napa. The tourist traffic consists of people looking for the next winery, the restaurant entrance or the hotel driveway, and most certainly not for runners, walkers, or cyclists. Marked bike lane or not.

Dazed, confused, lost, distracted, and preoccupied.

The part of my route that takes me along the frontage road, a road that parallels Highway 29, the main highway into the heart of Napa Valley winedom, is littered with hotels, tourist bus outfits and a few restaurants. There is a bike lane, but I usually break the rules and run on the sidewalk. I cross the line. There are rules for the road, for cars, cyclists, runners and amblers. Cars should stay on the road and not fade into the bike lane to cut corners or to “straighten out” their trajectory so as to not have to decelerate or apply the brakes. Bikes should be on the road, in the bike lane, or shoulder, if no bike lane is afforded, single file, headed in the same direction as the cars. Runners should be on the road, in the bike lane, single file, going the opposite direction of cars and bikes. Walkers should stick to the sidewalk, if there is one, or obey the rules of the runners. If everyone follows the rules of the road and kind of looks out for one another, no one gets hurt! Bueno!

Ah, but mutiny is afoot. The bikers want the whole road, the cars want the whole road, the walkers want the width of the sidewalk and/or bike lane and the runners just want to run, red lights and crosswalks be damned! Don’t make me pause my Garmin! Don’t make me have to explain my lousy mile time on “Map my Run” for mile four because I got caught by the “don’t walk” sign at three consecutive intersections. We are all crossing the line.

I’ll admit, even I cross the line on the frontage road, I run on the sidewalk. But, I exit the sidewalk for any other pedestrian I encounter, happily, for those who belong on the sidewalk, and with a great deal of discontent, eye rolling and huffing, when encountered by a bicycle on the sidewalk. I forgot to mention all the tourists with rental bikes and without a clue. Another wrinkle.

It’s funny how our attitude tends to change when we switch our mode of forward motion.

When I am driving, I am always mindful of those I share the road with, both those encased in a large metal and plastic pod, and those who are not. And I am more than a little irritated when I encounter pedestrians who’ve crossed the line; whether they are traveling two or three abreast or have tribed up and just commanded the entire vehicle lane. I can see their point, but I can’t help but feel a bit annoyed that they’ve crossed the line if there are adequate provisions, such as an ample shoulder or a well-marked bike lane. I’m not picking on cyclists, there are other offenders, but, frankly, not as often.

I was running a week or so ago and I observed a woman inline skating. I used to inline skate. I know where my inline skates are. I want to inline skate again. She breezed past me like I was standing still, gliding smoothly along in long, graceful strides. She was sharing the well-marked bike lane with me and passed very courteously. As we were both opposing oncoming cars, when the vehicle lane was clear, she’d cross the line and skate down the middle of the street, a few mere inches from the double yellow line. I understand her reasoning. If you’ve spent any time at all traveling on the side of the road, you know the roads are quite sloped towards the gutter to allow water to evacuate the road quickly. For runners, and skaters, too, I suppose, there is some uneven wear and tear on ligaments and such from always running on sloped surfaces. Another reason why I prefer sidewalks and the dirt shoulder along the vineyards. We all cross lines.

Another time, I was just approaching the park where I leave my car. I am a bit of an opportunist, and when the traffic permits, if I’m within a quarter mile of the park, which is on the opposite side of the street, I’ll cross early and walk “with” traffic. The shoulder is wide and I am certainly visible. On this particular day, as I walked towards the park, I could hear a car approaching from behind. Imagine my surprise when the car passed, well over the line and within a fraction of an inch of me. He crossed the line, but, so, too, had I. I was on the wrong side of the road. Sure, if he’d have slaughtered me, which at the rate of speed he was propelling down the road, I’d have been pulp, the law would’ve been on my side. A great deal of good that’d do me dead. Had I been on the correct side of the road, I would’ve seen him coming and would have stood a better chance of getting myself out of harm’s way. I no longer cross early, I stick to my side of the road and wait for traffic to clear before I cross. I won’t cross that line, again.

What’s necessary here, is to look out for oneself. Just because there are traffic laws to protect you, and general rules of the road, and common courtesies, does not guarantee your safety. Ultimately, it’s up to you to keep yourself safe and to decide if you are in danger and then react appropriately.

This goes beyond running, cycling, walking or even driving. This, I believe, applies to the world in general. Laws are passed by the hundreds, if not thousands, each and every day. Many are drafted and passed to “protect” us, from ourselves, from others. Supposedly. I’m not so sure. I have my theories on this, but that’s a topic for another day. My point is, unless the laws are 100% enforced, which, of course, is impossible, no matter how genius the law is, it amounts to words on a page and has no real ability to protect you. It is up to you, first and foremost.

This can be translated in any way you choose. If you think owning and knowing how to use a gun to protect yourself is a good idea, then do. If you think studying MMA is a good idea to protect yourself, then do. If you think hiding in your family room, cringing in your recliner, clutching your TV remote will keep you safe, that is your choice, I’ll disagree, with that one, however.

This can also be applied to general rules, laws, if you will, of humanity. People should treat people in a certain manner; with respect, without endangering others, without harming others, physically or emotionally. There is a certain “code of conduct” that elevates us to a higher life form, and much of that has to do with how we treat one another. Sadly, I think we all fail, from time to time, in one area or another. How often do we yell at our kids out of frustration, ridicule our mates for something they say or do, or don’t say or do? How often do we criticize people close to us for their behavior, their beliefs? How often do we label people in our lives, creating and affirming false limits? How frequently do we dislike or distrust people out of fear, or prejudice? How often do we not return a kindly smile or a well-meaning “hello”? How often do we go about our day, ignorant of the people we pass on the street, the people we ignore in our families, the friends we don’t make time to visit with? We are crossing a line. A line of civility, decency, respect, friendship, and love. This line is far more important than any line of reflective white paint on the roadway.

And what about the line we cross when we are unkind to ourselves? When we think or speak negatively about ourselves, create limits for ourselves, denigrate ourselves, underestimate ourselves, neglect ourselves, mistreat ourselves, physically or emotionally? This line is, I think, the most important of all. Having self-respect, self-love, a good self-image, to care for oneself, emotionally and physically is crucial, not just for our happiness, our ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way, but also for those around us who love us, care for us, and perhaps even depend on us. The lines we cross.

Start being mindful of all the lines we cross, on the road, and off, with others, with ourselves. We’ve crossed a line, but there may still be time to swerve back into our lane.

 

Scarlett’s Letter December 2, 2013

What happened yesterday?

COFFEE GRINDER!!!
COFFEE GRINDER!!!

I got shit done and that’s it. Ten mile run. I finally got the coffee grinder from storage but only after getting coffee at the coffee shop, and breakfast, and running, and a shower. I also got my little Target brand Christmas tree up. Packed. Let Mom cook me GMO laced food featuring medicated, tortured cow. I only buy happy dead cow flesh, you know. Cows that were bottle fed by cherubs in sunny pastures, cattle that were lulled to sleep each night by the voices of fair maidens, fed on only lush, pesticide free grass growing in the richest of soils in some beautiful pasture with a view of the ocean,  treated holistically for any ailment that may materialize, provided with an endless supply of Evian water, massaged, by Swedish masseuses, and then, one day, blammo, hamburger. After a tasty, though suspect, meal, I packed for my two weeks away from home and went to bed. It is so much easier to go to bed at 7:00 PM when it’s actually dark out. I still didn’t end up turning out the light until 9:00. And my alarm went off at 1:00 AM.

Monday, squared.

Nice run yesterday! Warm! Sunny! Napa!
Nice run yesterday! Warm! Sunny! Napa!
Oh Christmas Tree!
Oh Christmas Tree!
Tortured cow. Delicious, though, thanks, Mom!
Tortured cow. Delicious, though, thanks, Mom!

In the few hours I slept, though, I had some crazy, crazy dreams. And I can even explain them! Mostly. I don’t know if my explanation is accurate, but there are some coincidences with what I dreamt and a few things that I viewed in the past couple of days. Either that, or I’m completely off my rails. Or both.

I dreamt, first, that there were a bunch of baby elephants wandering the streets in my neighborhood. Yes. Baby elephants. Just baby elephants. No mommy or daddy elephants. Then, I dreamt there were lions outside my bedroom window, standing on the roofs of the cars in the driveway, roaring, and trying to get inside. Oh, and the only part I can’t explain, I boxed some obnoxious lady in the ear because she was blocking the way to the restroom in some restaurant and she got belligerent when I asked her if I could pass. I’m not normally prone to acts of physical violence, so I’m not sure where that bit of the dream came from. I woke up right then, so I don’t know what happened.

I ground my coffee last night and actually made coffee for myself this morning, just to get me to the Starbucks at the airport in Sacramento, alive. With my “usual” latte, banana, oatmeal and large Fiji water, all in a Starbucks carrier bag, I made my way to the gate. How bad is it that I recognize several people in the boarding area, weekly travelers, like me. The United flight to Chicago every Monday morning is like a commuter train, all the same faces, all the same discussions; mileage, the state of the airline, airports. I look on, and listen, detached. I am not quite yet among their ranks, they all log over 100k miles a year. I’m struggling to make my much desired “Gold” status. Without gold status, I simply cannot imagine travel. I’d have to pay for luggage, I wouldn’t be able to book seats in “economy plus” for free, my bags wouldn’t be the first off the plane and I wouldn’t get premier access to ticketing. I’m not sure what would happen to my TSA Pre-Check status. So easily am I spoiled. I am oh-so close. I was going to book a trip to Hawaii to visit my son, but the ticket prices between now and the end of the year are pretty steep and I’d have to travel before the end of the year, I think, to “get” the extra miles.

The "Monday Morning Line" at Starbucks at SMF 4:15 AM.
The “Monday Morning Line” at Starbucks at SMF 4:15 AM.

The flight to Chicago is miserable. It’s either a brand new plane or a newly retrofitted plane, but, there is no economy plus seating, no extra legroom, it’s like coach. Somehow, after tweeting my complaint @united, I manage to sleep most of the way, just to block out the horrible experience.

No legroom in a seat that would formerly been in the United Economy Plus section.
No legroom in a seat that would formerly have been in the United Economy Plus section.
Legroom! United Economy Plus! THIS is what I'm talking about!
Legroom! United Economy Plus! THIS is what I’m talking about!

I am so excited to have a couple of hour layover at O’Hare! I love O’Hare. I could live in O’Hare! We deplane a couple of gates down from Beaudevin wine bar. It’s noonish. Wine seems fine. But, I am torn. I’d like to have lunch at Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera. There is a bar there that serves Negra Modelo AND has plentiful electrical outlets. Tortas Frontera is very popular, though, I can only imagine the wait in line for food, and then the wait for a seat at the bar or at a nearby table. And especially right at noon. I peruse the food displayed at Beaudevin and it doesn’t look so good. All of the salads feature iceberg lettuce with browned edges. First of all, iceberg lettuce has the nutritional value of water and tastes about the same. It’s only redeeming quality is it’s crispiness, but, the browned edges led me to believe that the crispiness may long since have deteriorated from the salads displayed. I walked past, heading for Tortas Frontera, glance at my watch and turn back, again, towards Beaudevin. I notice they now have electrical outlets beneath the bar AND open seats. I envision waiting for a seat at TF, I think of the limp salads, compared to a Cochinita Pibil torta, I turn, take three steps towards Tortas Frontera, eye the wine selection, again, and the open seating, and turn back. I climb up on an overly padded stool at the bar and look over the menu. I decide on a flight of California Cabs and the cheese platter. You can’t go wrong with cheese and wine that come from NorCal. Can’t. Unless, of course, the cheese is so over-chilled you can’t taste it, so over-chilled it won’t even slice, let alone spread on the oddly textured bread. The wine is good. I pick at my cheese plate, eat about two-thirds of it, and give up.

Very cold cheese with a lovely flight of wine.
Very cold cheese with a lovely flight of wine.
 I shoulda had the cochinita pibil at Tortas Frontera!
I shoulda had the cochinita pibil at Tortas Frontera!
Aaaaahhhh.
Aaaaahhhh.

I pay up and make my way to my gate in the other terminal, and, as luck would have it, is right next to Tortas Frontera, which, by now, is not so busy. There’s an open seat at the bar and I sidle up and order a Negra Modelo. Yes, I enjoy beer and wine, often, but I consume, perhaps, a little too much on travel days. I won’t even begin to try to justify it. Sport? Challenge? Or just seeking an ultra-relaxed and altered state of mind in a “world” of frenzied, unprepared, entertaining, though annoying, casual, infrequent travelers. My subliminal goal is to be the first in my boarding group to board the damn plane, find my seat, and slip into a numbed state of mind, if not sleep. Sleep is preferable.  

This, I accomplish on the flight from Chicago to LaGuardia. I stop at the natural food kiosk on my way to the baggage claim and grab a yogurt and an “Eighteen Rabbits” bar for breakfast in the morning. By the time I get to the baggage carousel, my bags have arrived and been unloaded to the side with a handful of others. They are mighty fast at this airport. And, this is one of the few airports where someone insists on comparing your baggage claim tickets to the bags you’re trying to remove. I appreciate this. I may be the only one.

I catch the bus to the rental car lot and select, as my car of the week, a Challenger. Black. Cool, right? Personally, I prefer the Charger. I have opinions on cars much like I do food, wine, fashion and airlines. It is rush hour and I’m in a muscle car. In Long Island. Talk about a complete waste. I honestly think I could live here for decades, not that I’d want to, and still not be able to visualize the maze of highways, interstates and expressways. It is dizzying, and, not much unlike California, SoCal in particular, most conversations quickly turn from the weather to “how I commuted today”.  I listen to David Zabriskie of Team Garmin on my Nuvii as we navigate fast, then slow, fast, then slow, fast, then slow, the fourteen miles to Garden City where I am to live and work for the rest of the work week.

Challenger; car of the week.
Challenger; car of the week.

I come here, for the same client, every year. Often twice. This is my second week here in the past month. I stay in the same hotel and dine at many of the same restaurants. Tonight, for example, tired and lacking energy and enthusiasm, it will be comfort food; Shake Shack, which is practically across the street from my hotel. A beer there, with my SmokeShack burger, hold the sauce, oh, and fries, don’t tell Jillian, and I am ready to go back to the hotel to get ready for the week.  Iron, organize my training materials, set out the tip for housekeeping for tomorrow and get ready for bed. I need sleep.

Comfort food - the Smokeshack at Shake Shack.
Comfort food – the Smokeshack and a Shakemeister beer at Shake Shack.

Scarlett’s Letter August 16, 2013

Have you ever noticed that everyone considers themselves navigational geniuses? Like talking about the weather, the local sports team or the biggest story on the news, people like to share their navigational wizardry. Why? I don’t know. People dictate directions, suggest routes, compare routes and alternate routes. I find this especially tiresome when I am driving in an area I know very well and my passenger insists on a route different than the one I prefer. I also find it a bit tedious when my passenger argues with my navigational gadget of choice, especially when I am trying to hear what my, usually more correct and more direct, navigational device of choice is saying. But worst of all, for whatever reason, is when the navigational wizard is my mother.

Mom and I went to Sacramento today to have lunch with my son and his good friend. My son is moving to Hawaii, with his friend, to go to school, for at least a semester, and if plans fall into place per design, or at least desire, a couple of years. Lunch was great. My day, leading up to lunch, well, you be the judge. It started with a bikini wax. Then an hour and a half car trip with Mom. Then a mammogram. Are we having fun yet?

Like I said, lunch was fantastic! And for me, by this point, well deserved. We went to one of our favorite places. To clarify; my kids and I love this place, Mom is a newbie. Cafeteria 15L in Midtown Sacramento. Their specialty, and the reason we selected this place for lunch today, chicken and waffles. I love chicken and waffles. My mom loves chicken and waffles. My son loves all the leftover chicken and waffles I’ve given him but has not actually ever ordered chicken and waffles for himself. So, that was the plan. Chicken and waffles all the way around. They even had a chicken and waffles face contest! Post your best “chicken and waffle” face and you could win FREE chicken and waffles for a whole year! I was so geared up for chicken and waffles! So, imagine our disappointment when we were told chicken and waffles weren’t served for lunch. They are served for breakfast, brunch on the weekends and dinner. Not lunch.

It was all about the chicken and waffles. But not for lunch.
It was all about the chicken and waffles. But not for lunch.

We scrambled quickly and all came up with alternate orders. Mom had fish and chips, my son had the pasta special, his friend the Cafeteria burger and I had an heirloom tomato and melon salad. And a side of sweet potato fries as an impulsive, mid lunch addition. Everyone’s meals were devoured and enjoyed. Cafeteria 15L is all about comfort food done with style. The atmosphere is comfortable and the design is noteworthy. It is quite fun to sit and really look at the lighting, the fixtures, the selections for décor. One phrase painted on the wall spurred a lively discussion about the generational preferences for the use of ellipses, for example … I’m a fan. My kids are not. Base on that discussion, I am plaguing my son with texts laced with ellipses, just to be a brat …

My daughter is an English major … she hates ellipses, too … wish she could’ve been here today.

My heirloom tomato and melon salad with a Rubicon Brewing Co. Monkey Knife Fight Ale. http://www.rubiconbrewing.com/beer-3/pub/
My heirloom tomato and melon salad with a Rubicon Brewing Co. Monkey Knife Fight Ale.
http://www.rubiconbrewing.com/beer-3/pub/
I recommend SPF 50 - Sweet Potato Fries, about fifty of them.
I recommend SPF 50 – Sweet Potato Fries, about fifty of them.

The dessert menu arrived. We didn’t really need it; dessert. Or the menu. For on the back of all the wait staffs’ shirts was a picture of the featured dessert and it was so over the top you just had to order it so you could take a picture of it and post it on Instagram to prove to everyone you know that you are “that cray cray”. Bacon waffle sundae. A waffle, vanilla ice cream, bacon, maple syrup and caramel sauce. Double decker. We ordered one with four spoons and somehow managed to clean the plate.

So good. So bad.
So good. So bad.

After lunch, we dropped the boys off at my son’s house and headed back towards Napa. If I had a dollar for every mile I have traveled between Napa and Sacramento over the last thirty some years, I’d be a very wealthy woman. I have completely worn out a 1966 Mustang, a 1992 Ford Bronco and three Honda Accords. I’m working on a Civic now. To say I am fairly well acquainted with the traffic patterns is a bit of an understatement. True, there can be daily anomalies, but there are also the daily patterns. Leaving town at 3:30 PM on a Friday afternoon, I really expected to hit quite a bit of traffic in a few key spots on the way home. Mom, in her navigational wizard’s hat, had some crazy alternate route in mind that would have taken a two-hour detour to even begin. I bit my tongue, clenched my jaw, wrapped my fingers tightly around the steering wheel and stayed my course. She fell asleep and we made it home without nary a slow down. It was miraculous! Both the absence of traffic and the sleeping wizard.

With my son’s move to Hawaii, he will not be needing a car. We are car people. My dad loved cars, my son’s dad loved cars (in his own neglectful way), I love cars, every boy I dated in high school and college loved cars, my mom loves cars, the man I love loves cars, my daughter loves cars, my son in law loves cars, our dogs all loved cars. My son loves cars, too. Any car he owns he will practically, if not literally, disassemble and reassemble the whole thing, cleaning each and every part and restoring it to its original condition. He uses only factory parts and fluids and does all his own maintenance and detailing. Tonight, he sold his car and is, for the first time since his sixteenth year, without a car. It was not nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be, I really thought it may be more like the amputation of a limb than a business transaction, but the whole deal went down and the car is presently being driven to Houston, Texas to a fellow Acura Legend fan. Per the Facebook account of the trek, so far they have only received one speeding ticket for 95 miles per hour.

A reflection of the Acura Legend in the Acura Legend door.
A reflection of the Acura Legend in the Acura Legend door.
The Acura Legend
The Acura Legend
The Acura Legend - A little restoration and repair under the hood.
The Acura Legend – A little restoration and repair under the hood.
The Acura Legend - A little interior work behind the dashboard.
The Acura Legend – A little interior work behind the dashboard.
The Acura Legend - Restored seat belt release button.
The Acura Legend – Restored seat belt release button.

I dated one young man after high school who had an amazing car, a 1940’s era Plymouth Coupe, in black, with a personalized license plate that said, simply, “A Shadow”. His father did hot rod and motorcycle customization, including chopping and channeling. Beautiful work. After a few years, about twenty speeding tickets, threatening and menacing letters from the DMV, and endless expense trying to keep an old car running and street legal, the car was sold. An ad was placed in the local paper that said, simply, “A Shadow has been sold.” I wondered if my son would somehow want to communicate to the world, the world who knows him by his car, especially, that the deed had been done. An ad in a newspaper worked well in the 1980’s. In 2013, it was a Facebook post. In both cases, the letting go of something valued, cherished and even a part of one’s identity, while sad, was, and is, the beginning of a new era. Sometimes we have to let go of something, even something we can’t imagine not keeping, not having, in order to take the next, important steps in life. This is, actually, part of life. Those willing to sever those ties that may be holding us back, or preventing us from growing, moving, leaving, changing, are the ones who will evolve according to their dreams, the goals and their passion.  Sometimes we have to let go of one dream to grasp the next.

A Shadow.
A Shadow.