TOSRV Terrors

What a cyclist dreams (has nightmares about): getting up too late and being one of the last riders to leave the starting point, forgetting to pack proper cycling clothes, bike mechanics laughing at her. Oh, yeah, and the good part of the dream: I bought a chain tool for measuring chain wear from a Century Cycles mechanic while on TOSRV.

I had these dreams on and off all last summer, even when I wasn’t riding TOSRV. Maybe it’s not always TOSRV, but some other nameless long ride where I have to start at a certain time in the morning or else I will run late all day. You laugh, but running late on a long ride could mean that you arrive at all the rest stops when they’ve closed down (thus no food, no water refills, no rest) and, the less scary but more ego-crushing, you’re one of the last people to amble, like an amateur, across the ending line.

It’s not a race, but in your mind, you don’t want to be last. No one wants to be last except those whose only goal is just completing it–no matter how late. I prefer to arrive at the end of any ride in the middle somewhere. I’m not the fastest and I’m okay with that; I don’t want to be the slowest. On a ride like TOSRV, though, it would be impossible for a rider of my level to be last. There are people on TOSRV who don’t, for reasons that defy logic to me, use road bikes. I know personally that it would be extremely hard to do 100 miles on anything but a road bike given the kind of natural speed it gives you. Without work, on a flat road, I can easily ride at 15mph. On my hybrid the same amount of effort on the same type of road yields an easy 12mph. That’s a huge difference over a long ride. But I could still complete 105 miles in a reasonable amount of time on my hybrid.

Even crazier are those people who ride TOSRV on mountain or trail bikes. I haven’t ridden a trail bike in awhile, but I’m pretty sure the same effort exerted in the example above would be lower than the 12mph obtained on my hybrid. Now we’re talking about a ride going from 6-8 hours to something like 10-12. No way!!

There are some people on TOSRV who ride really old bikes and carry everything but the kitchen sink with them. I kept seeing this older woman on a bike that looked too small for her riding in jeans and a few layers of sweatshirt. She had a basket on the front of the bike which contained a lot of stuff in plastic shopping bags, and in the back she was trailing two gallon jugs of water. Like the kind of plastic jugs used for milk. To each his (or her) own, I suppose. Far be it from me to be a bike snob. I suspect some of these people only do one ride a year and it’s TOSRV, so more power to them! I just would prefer not to ride something that couldn’t get me there in 8 or 9 hours. (Thus my love of rode bike!)

Anyway, in my waking hours, I realize how ridiculous my night terrors about TOSRV are. First of all, I would never forget to pack cycling clothes for a cycling event. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that; last year on the MS 150, I forget to pack a pair of bike shorts for the second day and had to wear the ones from the previous day. Yuck. Still, I doubt I would ever forget to pack any cycling clothes! Secondly, on rides of this nature, excitement drives me to get up at the right time. Okay, except for the second day of TOSRV when I had trouble motivating myself to face a day of rain. Still, though we left a little later than the main group, we were definitely not the last. I have to admit, though, that as I was running around in a grocery store looking for aspirin (to numb my legs) the morning of TOSV, I did panic a little about being the last ones out, kind of like in my dream.

So. The TOSRV freak-out is beginning, here in the last days of January when the ride is still 3 months away. I’m not even sure why it’s so important to me that I freak out. It’s just a ride, for godsakes. I’m going skiing tomorrow at Seven Springs. I don’t even need to worry about training for TOSRV just yet…

Why Boston Mills highly annoys me

So I think I figured out why I don’t like skiing at Boston Mills. It’s not so much that the slopes aren’t challenging or that the runs are too short, but more the fact I enjoy the aesthetic qualities of skiing–the sensation of moving quickly along a slope with the sound of snow sliding off my skis, the aroma of trees and the metallic odor of snow, flakes falling gently around me, the blood bumping through my veins quickly. You just can’t experience this sensation fully at a place like Boston Mills. I guess it is because the runs are so short, the fact that you can see the bottom of the slope from the top. You can see the bottom of some slopes at good resorts like Seven Springs and Holiday Valley; however, the runs are still longer so I can experience some of the other sensations that make skiing to me so gratifying.

It’s weird, but I think the experience of the moment is also what I love about cycling. I enjoy looking at the world on a summer’s day, feeling alive with the blood pumping through my veins as I push myself forward. For me, cycling and skiing has never been about being the fastest or the best, it’s been solely about the experience of feeling that charge of the moment, the thrill of experiencing the world in 3D. You can do the same thing in a car, but you’re caged in. Besides, the natural world is better appreciated when you have to work to see it. Which is also why I love hiking. Or rafting (which I haven’t gotten to do a lot of in my life yet). Put me outside and I’m happy.

At a place like Boston Mills, all I can do is work on improving my skiing form or else I get bored. I just don’t feel that excitement part of skiing that pushes me onward when I’m at a place like Holiday Valley or, even better, a ski resort in Colorado (or anywhere out west, but I’ve never gone to any other place yet). Last night, I spent all my time trying to work on speed and handling bumps. Not that I didn’t have fun in another way, but I just didn’t get that glowing-happy sensation I feel while I am skiing. It was a lot like working on my cycling on my trainer–more work, less pleasure.

Something that really pisses me off about Boston Mills is that none of the skiers seem to understand the skier’s responsibility code. In my first run last night, I almost got hit by two snowboarders (snowboarders tend to be “look out for me” in attitude everywhere you go). The concept of being the uphill skier and needing to look out for the downhill skier seems to be lost on them. Dudes, if I can feel the air from your wake on my face, you were too frakking close to me! One snowboarder nearly crashed into me head on and had the audacity to think it was my fault when he came up from behind me. Whatever.

The kids at Boston Mills are punks. Without parents watching, it’s like an unmonitored playground. Little punks were line-jumping all over the place and they mouth off at you if you point out they are line-jumping. They all seem like they are so entitled to be there and you’re just in the way. Several idiots rolled right over my skis while in line which really peeves me off. I just bought these skis last year, I don’t need to have them all scuffed up. If this is a common occurrence in ski lines, then someone needs to explain to me why people rarely bump my skis at the more upscale resorts. Maybe it’s because people have more control over themselves at the better resorts?

There’s a lot of really amateur skiing going on out there. Yes, I’m an amateur, but I’m a careful amateur. Some of these kids, because the runs are so short, just bomb uncontrollably straight down them and you can plainly see they are out of control. To top it off, these punks who bomb out of control down the runs, never making turns, think they are skiing quite well.

The antics that take place at Boston Mills would never be tolerated at a better resort. The ski patrol or courtesy patrol elsewhere would have taken their lift ticket, especially for line-jumping. The thing that separates Boston Mills from other resorts is that rules are enforced and followed, which makes for a much more polite ski environment. Some of the people at Boston Mills have never skied anywhere else which, I think, gives them a really skewed view of what skiing is all about. I learned to ski at Holimont–a private resort in Ellicotville, NY–so when I learned I was taught properly about how to be a polite and safe skier. Maybe the fact that I was taught at a good resort has really skewed my view of skiing and made it impossible for me to really enjoy Boston Mills.

I also noticed that the ski patrol there aren’t necessarily the best skiers. Last night, I saw a girl in a ski patrol jacket who looked like she was new to skiing! She was making slow, deliberate turns and even I felt like I was a better skier. These are the people who are supposed to help haul you off the slope–any slope, no matter what skill level–if you are injured. At bigger resorts, the ski patrol are expert skiers because they have to go down anything–double black diamond runs, included–and not only that, but they have to figure out how to ski you off what ever hill you crashed your ass on. So I’m wondering if Boston Mills trains and hires their own ski patrol who are not nationally certified… And that worries me slightly. If I injure myself and can’t ski down, and the person who has to help me get off the slope is a worse skier than me, I’m a bit worried. Of course, at Boston Mills, it’s not that far to the lodge, so if you weren’t knocked unconscious, you could probably just walk down the rest of the slope. I guess then you don’t need to have great skiers on the ski patrol.

I know a lot of good skiers who use Boston Mills to practice… And so that’s why I keep trying to make the place work for me because I don’t want to be a ski snob. Until last night, I was tempted to get a season pass there next year to keep my skiing skills going throughout the winter so that when I go somewhere good, I don’t spend the first several hours trying to warm up instead of going straight into good skiing. However, I was so frustrated by the rudeness and the near-collisions I experienced last night that I’m not sure if the little bit of fun I had is enough to make me feel compelled to keep going there. Maybe I am a total ski snob, totally spoiled by learning at a good resort and one winter spent as a resident of Colorado.

My legs feel a little stiff this morning so that means I really did do a good workout on the skis (which is also not something that happens often for me at Boston Mills). I did get a little adventuresome with practicing speed. I purposely took air on some of the bumps (which is effectively like jumping) and didn’t lose balance so it was helping me improve my skiing. I just don’t know if I can motivate myself to ski there enough to pay out the worth of a season pass, though. So I don’t know. Sure wish I lived next to a resort like Holiday Valley! (Or, dare I say it, those AWESOME resorts in that state you all know I love too much… Never bitched about skiing once when I lived there…)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not an expert-level skier. I’m probably more like “upper intermediate”–given the right day and confidence level and I can ski really well. Other times my skiing is a little unsure and sloppy. I’m improving, but I know I still have a ways to go in some respects. At least I can stay upright most of the time (only fell once so far this year, at Holiday Valley). Most importantly, though, is that I enjoy the sport even though I’m not an expert level skier. I’ve had to tell myself that that might be all I ever am–intermediate–and to be happy with that. I’m an intermediate cyclist, too. I guess I’m just one of those people who will always be intermediate when it comes to sports. But, then, I’m not too competitive with this stuff; I just do it because I enjoy it.

Oh well. It’s Thursday and I’m tired. I had to shovel my driveway again this morning. My driveway looks like a flat toboggan chute. I’m really starting to think about getting a snow blower. Except the physical workout of shoveling replaced having to be on my trainer this morning. It’s a toss up over which is more fun.

Week of mechanical breakdown

Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t go to Vail with Michael this week. Lots of things I own are breaking down. I discovered on Saturday that my DVD player–only about five years old–completely ceased to function. All the lights are off on the face. I rechecked the plug–even moved it to a new plug–and pushing power did no good. I guess maybe it got zapped in an electrical surge? Though, none of the other equipment running on the same power strip are having problems. I’d be pissed if my TV stopped working, for I got it just a few months before the DVD player and they are both JVC. Which is supposed to be good equipment. What do I know? That’s what consumer reports had said at the time I was looking at TVs and DVD players…

Disk 1 of season 3 of Roswell was stuck in the machine. I’d been watching the series, which I recently got for Christmas, to distract me while I’m exercising on the trainer when nothing interesting is on TV. Unlike computer CD/DVD devices, there’s no override trigger you can push by sticking an unbent paperclip into a hole. I had to take apart the top cover and face plate to get the damn thing outta there. In the process, I may have broken the DVD player more. I tried not to touch the components. I am certainly no electronics wizard. I couldn’t tell you what all those little colored, bumpy electronics boards do. It certainly looks like the inside of a computer in the DVD player… Vaguely interesting, but scary.

I was going to try to take the player to Best Buy or something to see if it can be repaired, but I’m not too hopeful there. I guess I’m going to have to buy another one. A year ago, my VCR finally gave out. It’s okay–it had permission since it was probably over 10 years old–but now I’m stuck in a media-less world. How depressing!! It’s a good thing I didn’t ask Joanna if I could borrow a few seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, like I was tempted to do when we visited Columbus last week. (I didn’t ask because I figured that she might miss the series, or forget where they are, since we see each other so infrequently. Besides, I still have my friend Penitz’s Babylon 5 season 5 DVDs. As my library record clearly shows, I’m not good at returning things in a timely manner.)

Anyway, you would think that’s bad because, as I’ve stated before, I wanted to use my tax return money for an iPod nano (the purple ones!). Now it looks like I’m going to have to get a new DVD player.

To make matters worse, I feel like a complete idiot. As I was driving into work this morning, I underestimated the distance between the side of my car and an orange barrel on Snowville Road. I ended up side-swiping the barrel and breaking my passenger side mirror. Actually, I’m totally relieved that that is all I did–the rest of side of the car is unmarked. Fortunately, the mirror holder has give and it moved to become parallel with the side of my car, but it didn’t come completely off. The mirror is cracked. And the mirror’s holder is not as secure as it once was.

I’m such a horrible, stupid driver. I’m constantly backing into things when I’m in reverse. I’ve dented my back bumper twice and the second time, I just gave up on getting it fixed. Derrick at Century Cycles always has to resist the urge to pound the bumper back into place (the side hangs out on the passenger side). I told him it’s fruitless to fix it because I’ll just pop it back out of place again, which is why it’s hanging in the first place. I’d had someone bang it into place before, but, of course, I backed into something again and it fell back out.

A few years ago, same car, I dented the front passenger side while driving forward into my garage. Yeah, even managed to ding the entry way of my garage, real brilliant. Everyone was baffled as to how I managed to dent my car while going forward. I never admitted, until now, that it happened because my attention got distracted by looking at package I thought I saw on the other side of the garage. I had continued to drive forward while not looking forward. I’m such an ass.

In my first real accident in college, I rear-ended another car when I was looking down to clean up coffee I’d spilled on my passenger seat. I was in stop-and-go traffic in Macedonia, on my way to Wadsworth to meet up with Gary to see the re-issue of the first Star Wars movie. The light turned green; the coffee sitting on the passenger seat tipped; I looked down for just a second to try to wipe it up; the next thing I knew, my car was crunched up against the car in front of me. The silly side note to this story is that when I got my first car after college, my dad installed a cup holder in it first thing because it didn’t have one.

The poor car I own now–an Acura RSX–has also been through one accident and repair in addition to the many little scuffs I’ve put on it. Another rear-ending incident, though not my fault, really, because I was in the middle of a line of traffic entering I-71 in downtown Cleveland from E. 9th when the stupid dippy girl at the very front of the line stopped suddenly. And this wasn’t rush hour, the highway was completely free of traffic. I realize, yes, it was my fault since I guess I was too close to the car in front of me. But I wasn’t the only one who got caught up in that accident chain, though my car was damaged the worst.

So, anyway, I think my next car is going to be something much cheaper and less flashy because I don’t feel I deserve to drive nice vehicles since I clearly cannot take care of them well enough. I am just a crappy driver all around. Even when I’m paying attention fully to my driving–as I was this morning!–I still manage to cause damage to my car.

I’m just feeling financially crunched this week after paying my bills on Sunday. I guess it’s probably good that I didn’t go to Vail anyway. I’ve got stuff I need to buy for the house too. I guess all this stress gives me an excuse to use the coupon for the free (up to $12) Build-a-Bear stuffed animal I got in the email yesterday.

My cat, Cleo, is having medical problems… When it rains, it pours, I guess. It seems like the Fates don’t want me to enjoy my own music on an iPod… I’m not going to get the mirror on my car fixed–it’s pointless. But I will probably need to buy a new DVD player. Not that I’m addicted to TV. Okay, I am. I think it’s okay, though, because I don’t watch meaningless entertainment; I watch literature in the visual format. Besides, if I don’t have access to my media library, I will never get on my trainer when there’s nothing–which is most of the time–on TV.


Mars Girl strikes again!

I’m becoming slightly worried by the fact that I’m literally becoming known around town, and the cycling community, as Mars Girl in lieu of my real name. You might be thinking, “Is that not what you want? You’ve got vanity plates with that name? Your email address, cell phone screen’s banner, and blog all reference ‘Mars Girl.’ What are you complaining about?”

Well, I’m not complaining, really. I’m slightly bemused. I’m only worried when I consider how people might perceive my mental state. Which has never been a worry, really, because I’d rather be known as eccentric than mainstream. In my mind, eccentric equates to “exciting” while mainstream equates to “boring.” So while eccentric has some negative connotations to it (i.e., “slightly off her rocker”), it’s better than being known as “stick in the mud.”

I bring this up because I’ve been to my favorite bicycle shop, Century Cycles in Peninsula, three times in the last two weeks for various reasons and, oddly enough, have found myself referred to as Mars Girl by the employees.

The first time, a few weeks ago, I was in there to buy a pair of winter bike leggings when I’d received a 15% off clothing coupon from them. After I completed my transaction, the guy working the register that day (I believe it was Kevin?), asked, “Are you Mars Girl?”

I had to stifle my shock. He explained that my blog occasionally comes up on a Google alert he set up to locate articles with the words “cycling” and “Ohio” in them. It sure made me rethink, briefly, some of the things I write about on this blog (not all of them cycling related). Again, the fear of being deemed a little unstable by people I see IRL (in real life).

So, I was in Century Cycles again this afternoon–this time, to pick up a second Giant jersey, which is on sale right now, for Michael. Brent was there today and as he took down my phone number (because he had to retrieve the jersey in the appropriate size from another store) he asked me to confirm the first letter of my last name. After I told him, he smiled and said, “Well, we usually refer to you as Mars Girl.”


Who knew I’d gain such notoriety using a pseudonym? It’s like I have this alter ego. Like Clark Kent and Superman, I’m Heidi E and Mars Girl! I have to be sure that Mars Girl does not partake in any nefarious activities to ruin her superhero reputation. Keep her away from the wine and the Dortmunder Gold, please!

If I’m a superhero, what is my power? Hmmm…. Please no references to the pen being mightier than the sword. Or the keyboard being deadlier than the… um… gun?

But seriously, all, I’m both baffled and humbled by this newfound celebrity. Really, I am. I’m just a cycling geek/ski enthusiast/red wine aficionado/world traveler/lover of life who enjoys hearing herself talk by writing about her passions (for everything, as my banner proclaims). I’d probably continue to write even if no one read a single word. I can’t stop myself. Maybe it is my super power…

Well. The vanity plates probably help gain recognition. So it doesn’t mean I’m known because of my blog. I’m just known because I’m Mars Girl, I guess. Maybe if I do ever publish something, I should write under that moniker.

Unsolicited sponsorship solicitation

All right, y’all. I signed up for the MS 150. ‘Cause I don’t know any better. And if you’d like to help me at least reach the required sponsorship minimum of $250, I’d be much appreciative. Just click the link above and fire away.

If you’d like me to go frak myself, you’re not donating any money to any of my stupid causes, then kindly just ignore this blog entry (in lieu of bombing me with verbal threats–it makes me lose respect for you even though I know you’re just trying to tell me to take you off my email spamming list).

And, yes, I realize I haven’t updated my participant page from last year’s. I’ll get to updating it later. There’s only so much goofing off I can do in one sitting.

(Don’t hurt me, Diane.)

Obama is already MY president!

Two days in office and Obama already has achieved a high approval rating from Mars Girl with what he’s already done in office:

Salary freeze on his staff– About frakking time someone put a lid right at the source. Employees throughout the rest of the country are faced with salary freezes right now and I’m pleased that it extends to our government. This action shows me that Obama doesn’t intend to reap the benefits of his position while promising change for all of us little guys pushing our way through the strains of our daily job.

Closing Gitmo – When I heard this morning about Obama’s drafted order to close Guantanamo Bay within the next year, I did a little happy dance in the shower. I do not condone torture and there’s been a serious breech of protocol going on down there. Close that frakking base down. We don’t need it. We have an obligation to treat prisoners humanely.

I think we as a race have a real chance here to be better than our bestial nature. If there’s a God, that’s what he wants of us. We don’t get a free pass, in my opinion, to give into our baser natures while we’re alive just because Jesus Christ walked the earth. A man cannot say he raped a girl because he couldn’t control his urges; likewise, we human beings can’t surrender to barbarism because our baser nature urges us to seek revenge. I don’t care if others don’t “play fair” in war. We have a real opportunity here to be the better person–the more civilized society. “Do unto others as you would have done to you” does not mean you should be allowed to treat the enemy like something less than human.

I’m already pleased with what Obama’s done. The dust has barely settled from all the Inaugural parties and already Obama’s rolled up his sleeves and started making positive change. I don’t remember ole GW getting down to business this fast. I am seeing good things for the future. I hope some of the neo-cons realize the significance of this moment.

One of my good friends relayed the following to me in an email message on Inauguration Day, “I couldn’t help thinking while listening to the inauguration speech that it is within Obama’s power to return the rights lost by Californians and provide them to the rest of us. Until we all share the same basic human rights, we cannot be free.”

I hope she’s right! I hope the publicly validated discrimination that was allowed to take place under GW gets wiped away over the next four years. I feel like close-minded hysteria has ruled the last eight years. We let a loud minority group of religious fanatics to have too much voice. It’s time to start acting rational again.

Prayer in the Public Forum

I’m not one of those atheists/agnostics/non-Christians who is trying to take your prayer away from you. (In fact, I’d debate that atheists/agnostics/non-Christians are not trying to take your prayer away.) I think there’s a time and a place for everything and I, being somewhat spiritual, am not going to scream discrimination because a prayer is said from time to time in public. However–and this is a big however–I think that 1) there is a time and place for prayer in public, and 2) if prayer is to be invoked in public, the wording should be carefully considered in order to be inclusive.

Yes, “inclusive”–that dirty, word cast about by liberals trying to muck up our human language for a few minority groups. Most neo-cons (who are generally white males) find having to be inclusive cumbersome and annoying. They don’t want to be inclusive–they want all these minority groups to conform to their standards. It doesn’t matter that society innately bends in the favor of the white Christian man. In the view of the neo-con, all minorities should aspire to this standard. And why not? Because they view their way as the “right way.”

I’m not a huge fan of public prayer. To me, prayer, and your underlying religious beliefs, is a deeply personal thing. Do I pray? I guess you could call what I do praying, though I like to say “meditate.” None of it is out loud and I rarely share it with anyone else. I don’t think it’s necessary to pray before meals, but will do it if I’m obliged to by a greater majority of people, though I rarely actually say anything–I let the host or whoever do the talking. Having been an atheist most of my life, now more recently spiritual as a UU, I feel a bit embarrassed and awkward when people ask me to pray with them publicly. Still, I do it, if it makes the people I’m with feel better.

I guess the same could be said of my view of public prayer–the type that occurs around special events where there is an invocation or benediction. I just put up with it, generally. It makes me feel, again, awkward and embarrassed, but I’ll partake if I must. If you would ask me to lead a prayer, I would decline. If you are of a specific religious persuasion, you probably wouldn’t like the generalities of my prayer too much anyway (I would probably replace the word “God” with “Oh, Great Unknown Force of Creation” or something equally as hippy/new-agey as that.)

Though I would never call up the ACLU to bring up a case against prayer in a public arena (such as a commencement or an inauguration), I would have to admit that I’m of the opinion that anything in public–i.e., not in a church or at dinner with family–should not involve a prayer. It’s that whole separation of church and state thing. And I don’t think it’s fair to inflict a religion-specific prayer on a mixed audience who could be Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, etc. etc. Just because Christianity is the majority in this country does not give it the right to be the default prayer structure for everyone in public.

I think prayer is totally inappropriate in public schools. Here’s where I might call up the ACLU. I don’t think prayer is going to make the schools any safer (if you are a true believer, you believe that all happens according to God’s plan anyway, so you have to think that those who die in school shootings were “supposed” to die). I don’t think a reverence to any deity not enforced at home is going to make a kid any better. If you want your kid to pray in school, send them to a private school where such is allowed. Public schools are full of kids of all kinds of backgrounds and to expect them to pray to your deity is ridiculous. I don’t think a moment of silence is appropriate either.

The whole prayer discussion was a source of contention in my high school. The year I graduated, our school board had ruled that we would no longer have a prayer to open our graduation ceremony. Our principal at the time, obviously a man of the faith, was really upset and implored our valedictorian and salutatorian to begin their speech with a prayer. Fortunately for him, the salutatorian was a Christian, so the prayer got said. But I fumed. Had I been smart enough to be the valedictorian or salutatorian back then, I would definitely have not said the prayer because he was infringing on my rights to free speech. Secondly, at the time I was an atheist. Even as a somewhat spiritual/agnostic/UU, I don’t believe I would have said a prayer because, as I stated above, I don’t feel the public arena is really the place for this sort of thing. Also, since it is not in my nature to pray out loud, it is not something I would have naturally inserted into my speech anyway.

All that said, you might ask in what forum I consider public prayer appropriate. Maybe in situations of crisis. For example, if I were speaking after the 9-11 attacks, I might say something like, “Our thoughts and prayer go out to those who died at the World Trade Center.” This leaves room for people to form their own prayer in their own tongue in silence. If someone else is speaking, and they feel it is necessary, I will even allow for a group lead prayer so long as the language is inclusive and not damning of other people. In this case, you are free to use the word “God” if you must, but I would prefer the language not be like that of a televangelist where every other breath is about Jesus and not something we can all relate to–whatever our creed.

I don’t know if I’m making much sense here. I’m trying to explain the reasoning behind why I hated Rick Warren’s invocation but loved Joseph Lowery’s benediction. I felt the invocation was the meaningless rambling of a reverent Christian which really should be reserved for his congregants on Sunday mornings. On the other hand, the benediction spoke beyond the Christian dogma–didn’t try to shove Christianity down anyone’s throat–and called on humanity to get past our racial differences to try to live together in harmony. The benediction spoke of Christian principles of love and applied them in a meaningful manner for all. The invocation was just all “Jesus this” and “Jesus that”–the stuff evangelical Christians love to use to separate themselves from the rest of humanity, granting them special privilege. It was dribble; only words that evangelicals accept as fact and swallow whole. The stuff that does not sell me on Christianity and, in fact, causes me to reject the faith.

I realize that Lowery made specific Christian references that may have not been as inclusive to someone of another faith. I was raised Christian so I’ve got a higher tolerance for Christian references than others, perhaps. It just seems to me that Lowery spoke more broadly to everyone whereas Warren spoke only to Christians or, more specifically, evangelicals. Warren said nothing of bringing everyone together. And he spoke of “God’s judgment” which really offended me because it was said in that sneering exclusive way that evangelicals love to say it.

Warren’s speech was completely off kilter with the theme of Obama’s inauguration which was all about inclusiveness. Obama himself even included “unbelievers” as he listed the people which comprise Americans. At last, a president who recognizes that not everyone in America is of faith! That was a remarkably inclusive statement that gave me a lot of hope for what’s going to happen under this administration.

I don’t know. I suppose I’ve just offended half of my Christian friends out there. Please know that when I place “evangelical” in front of Christian, I’m referring to a group of which you are probably not a part. Most of my Christian friends are liberal and the Christianity they preach–the Christianity of practice and humanism–is the Christianity that does not offend me at all because I believe that I live my life in the sort of walk Christ asked us to. I just don’t believe all of the specifics of Christianity (i.e., that Christ is the son of God, that God is necessarily male, most of the Old Testament, Revelations). But I believe in the message of Christ that includes the fair treatment of all people, loving my neighbor, behaving better than baser instinct urges me.

Regardless of my own personal philosophies, I think that even if I was a full-blown Christian, my views on public prayer wouldn’t be much different. Prayer is such a highly personal experience; I think it’s rude to impose your prayer on everyone else. Being at church is one thing because you’re in a room of like-minded people (which gets really tricky in a UU church). But when I’m at a commencement or a public event, I would prefer prayer be left out. However, if a prayer must be said, it should be inclusive and talk of themes to which we can all relate. It’s not the forum to inflict your brand of religion on everyone else.

Rick Warren

Sucks. I can tell just from his speech. ‘Nuff said.

That Reverend Joseph Lowery was pretty cool, though. He preached my talk with his invocation to God to lead us “to the side of love.” Very UU. Good job. Though, I tried not to giggle too hard. He sounded like Kermit the Frog. But I gotta give the guy a break; he’s 80 years old. Who knows what Muppets’ character I will sound like when I’m 80 years old. You’re allowed to laugh at me when that happens.

And I missed Obama saying the oath of office because a coworker chose THAT MOMENT to come speak to me about something work-related. WTF? I’ve been here all morning!!

Columbus visit

So on Friday night, Diane and I drove down to Columbus to visit Joanna, a friend of ours from college (and venerable author of the blog Poetry Without Pity). Joanna was hosting the Haiku Death Match, a poetry slam, at the Kerouac Kafe.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been a poetry slam. (Queue David Anderson, former Hiram College English professor, saying in his pseudo British accent, “Heidi… you’re an English major and you don’t like pooooetry.” I was admonished in American Lit class for admitting that I didn’t understand a poem because I wasn’t very good at interpreting poetry.) This was a great slam to attend as a virgin for haiku is short and sweet–just 17 syllables. You might think the short length makes it easy to write haikus. It isn’t actually. Trying summarize a larger idea (for all ideas start off large) into a few short syllables is truly an act of creativity. Especially for someone like me who does not know the definition of brevity when it comes to writing (even my poetry is long-winded). The poets participating in the slam were really creative with their use of this–as Joanna kept reiterating–ancient, sacred art form.

The guy who won was hilarious. He didn’t even try to make his haikus have a real point or say anything deep. Someone compared his haiku to those Jack Handy segments from 1990s Saturday Night Live episodes. I used to love those. It’s easy to get me to giggle.

The “headliner” poet was a man named Logic who was apparently a national legend of haiku. He was quite creative. He especially got me rolling with a set of two haikus which he titled “To the lady in Pennsylvania who claimed she was beat up by Obama supporters who had carved a B on her cheek and really pissed me off.” Of course, the haiku was much shorter, but hey, the title made it all the better. Logic also got the audience charged up right before the death match with a series of “battle haiku.” I think I learned that the spoken word is definitely mightier than the sword!

I got inspired to write some haiku of my own and I promised Joanna that I would write an epic series of haiku in honor of the last half season of Battlestar Galactica. Having watched the first episode on Sunday afternoon, I found my muse, inspired to write the following haikus:

The gods bless poor Dee
Who took her life with a gun
Mourning old Earth’s fate.

Tyrol found his home;
Anders played guitar; Tigh swam;
Past lives remembered.

Happy day, Starbuck!
Hybrid prophecies of doom
Made Leoban run.

Apollo, who are
you? Caught between two worlds–old
and new. Lost your way.

Diane was also inspired on the spot to write two haikus about her “Thelma and Louise” experience in college, where she was pulled over and, I think, nearly arrested for speeding 90mph on a highway and conveniently not seeing the cop car following her with flashing lights for several miles. You’ll have to ask her for the details of that “adventure”–or maybe she’ll grace my blog with the haiku–because I wasn’t there. Louise, in this case, was our friend Michelle. Diane performed her haiku during the open mike portion of the show and I was glad to hear the peels of laughter and claps of pleasure that followed her performance. Great job, Diane! Now you need to write some haiku about the time you got caught in the Flats for underage drinking one hour before your 21st birthday! ;) (I was there for that one!)

Kafe Kerouac was really cool. All the drinks were named after writers. I had a Franz Kafka, which, ironically was a vanilla peppermint espresso. Funny, but when I read The Metamorphesis in high school, it didn’t strike me as very peppermint. Existentialism is hardly a peppermint experience. I instinctively wanted to order the Kurt Vonnegut, but it had raspberry in it, which if a flavor I’m not very fond of. In addition to coffee, KK also sold alcohol. Rock on! I didn’t order any, but it was cool to have both the evils of caffeine and alcohol with which to wash down the poetry.

KK also sold books. So, of course, I ended up buying something–Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs. It was a hardback for only $9.50. I couldn’t resist. I promise not to read the book until the spring, though, since we all know Coupland has a negative effect on me.

After the slam, Joanna and her sister Erin, a celebrity from Joanna’s blog, and Diane and I all went out to dinner at a restaurant called The Blue Danube. Joanna, Erin, and I bored Diane with our discussion of the final Cylon and other Battlestar Galactica plots, and then the conversation shifted to my lack of gay-dar (even in the land of fictional characters). We caught up on what we’ve all been doing lately–details not divulged on our blogs, except Diane who had more details to share because she doesn’t have a blog (*hint, hint*).

We were up pretty late, just like our Hiram years, without the obligatory run to Taco Bell. But it felt really good to hang out again with my sisters in the Hiram Experience. We don’t need no stinking sorority to feel solidarity or sisterhood, sucka!

The next morning, we had brunch at a great cafe called First Watch. I had this wonderful strawberry and banana crepe with yogurt and granola sprinkled on top. It was so good I had trouble believing it was really on the healthy portion of the menu. After brunch, we spent a few hours ogling books at an independent book store called The Book Loft. That’s what we Hiram girls do for fun–window shop for books. I didn’t buy anymore books, but I did pick up a “Vineyards of the World” 2009 calendar which was on sale for half price. Hiram girls like a good bargin, too!

All the frigid wintry weather made us crave for a little bit of summer so Joanna took us to the Franklin Conservatory where we thawed out in the rain forest and high dessert displays. We ran quickly through the alpine room as we had more than enough alpine outside.

I took some pictures at the conservatory. Shown below is a funky glass sculpture in the tropical room. I think this is what I look like in my Martian form.

This display was called “Sticky Buns” and was apparently a part a series of artistic uses of furniture with horticulture. Personally, I think this chair would be great to have in your home if you are into acupuncture.

While admiring some Macaws, we noticed this familiar Ohio bird hanging around. I remarked that it was just like an Ohio bird–one particularly known for its appearances in winter time–to know how to take advantage of warm shelter when the climate turns subzero. We Ohioans ain’t stupid! This little guy was taking his own vacation in Florida.

As a side note, I see these guys all the time at the bird feeders in my parents’ wooded backyard and not just in the winter. When you stop to look for them, they are quite in abundance. I guess that’s why they are the state bird.

Aw, look, it’s Di and Joanna by waterfall in the rain forest room. It even looks like there is some sunlight! Are they glowing? See what a little green and warmth can do?

The trip to conservatory was definitely a refreshing break from the snow and cold. It was nice to actually see Columbus from an insider’s view. In that aforementioned software company for which I used to work as a trainer, I did have a month stint at the Franklin County courthouse, training employees with my former boss. But I never really visited downtown Columbus much and I stayed at a hotel in Hilliard during that experience. So it was kind of cool to get a sense of our state’s capital, which seems to be a bit of a happening place (whoddathunk?). Enough time has passed since the bowl game Ohio State–eh-hem, excuse me The Ohio State University, great emphasis on the “The”–lost so I didn’t really encounter any rabid fans on the streets. I guess I’m going to have to make the trip down again sometime. And I don’t mean just for TOSRV.

Speaking of TOSRV, on our way to brunch Saturday morning, I was bombarded with pleasant and painful memories of TOSRV as we passed the Hyatt on Capitol Square where TOSRV begins and ends. As I looked at the snow lining the streets, I reminded myself that in five short months, I’d be starting the mighty TOSRV from that very spot, hopefully in warmth and sunlight, though probably not. Though it was a “tropical” 20 degrees on Saturday, I know that I had no desire to take off for 105 miles to Portsmouth at that particular moment. I told myself that at least I knew the weather in May would be better than it was that moment. I hope.

Well, I know it’s Inauguration Day today. In a few short hours, Barack Obama will become our 44th president and, as you know, I couldn’t be more excited. I plan to listen on the NPR web streaming. I am a little put off at the amount of partying that accompanies these inaugurations. Wasn’t Garfield or someone sworn in hurriedly from his home during a dire moment? I wonder what the founding fathers would say to all this pomp and circumstance. But, oh well, I guess we 21st century folks just enjoy blowing a lot of money on frivolous celebrations… I’m not saying this to put down Obama. I know this sort of circus accompanies all swearing in ceremonies these days. I generally think it’s kind of stupid, but whatever. I’m also the girl who hates on baby and bridal showers, so I guess I really am in no position to comment.

That said, I do recognize the historical implications of this moment. It gives me hope that we’ve moved forward as a society when an African American man has been elected to president. Maybe we’re not as backward as my doom-and-gloom view always screams. Call me Chicken Little. The sky is falling, but maybe this time it’s a good thing.