Adventures in bicycling: Introducing Bee

The summer after I graduated from college, I bought my first car. I’ve written a handful of posts about him; in August of 2012, when I drove Hazza off the lot, I assumed I would always need a car to commute to work. Last year when I moved to Rhode Island, I realized that if I ever wanted to live in a proper city, having a car wouldn’t be practical at all. It’s expensive, for one, and difficult, for two. It’s hard to find parking that isn’t on the street or outrageously overpriced. Driving in the city is Not Fun.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I had a quarter-life crisis in the spring and ended up selling my car, among making other major changes. Once we moved into the city, I started walking to work. It’s not a bad walk: 45 minutes one way, give or take, and a little less than that if I hustle. Since I sold Hazza, though, I’ve repeatedly said that I want to try bicycling again.

A few weeks ago, my partner acquired a new-vintage bike, rebuilt it, and turned over their five year-old Trek bike to me. Its name was Blue Steel and it was a little too short for me, had a quick-release seat that liked to fall as I rode (not necessarily because I’m heavy, as AR explained to me after a crying jag where I nearly convinced myself I’m too fat to ride bikes, but because quick-release seats just do that), and had a very, very heavy steel, step-through frame. I didn’t mind riding Blue Steel, though. Biking cut my commute time down, made me feel like I was accomplishing something with my under-exercised body, and re-introduced me to biking after over a decade of not touching a bike at all.

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Photo credit: AR.

Last week, AR acquired another new-vintage bike, this one a 1970s Motobécane with all original parts. It had sat in a shed in Connecticut for two decades and needed some serious love and attention, so AR took it to a local nonprofit where they had rebuilt their own bike and took parts from Blue Steel to replace parts on the Motobécane. (They called the process “Frankenbiking”, which is both appropriate and horrifying.) Last Tuesday, I rode the Motobécane for the first time and crashed thrice. Because I wasn’t there for the rebuilding process, AR had to guess on what height to set the seat at, and it was about an inch too high. You wouldn’t think that would make a huge difference, but I could barely touch the ground. It made riding really difficult and I reacted really poorly. I said I didn’t think I could get used to a bike with drop handlebars, that I didn’t want to seem ungrateful but I didn’t know if this was a good choice for me, and some other pretty rude things. Basically, I totally flipped out because I couldn’t immediately fix the seat height. Yikes. (I’m a drama queen. It’s a thing I’ve been trying to work on.)

The next day, I took the Motobécane — which I’ve affectionately named Bee — to a local bike shop and asked one of the employees if he’d mind lowering the seat. He did, at no cost, and also sold me a tea kettle-shaped bell to put on the handlebars so I can make noise at parked cars with drivers who try to open their doors as I’m about to ride past. When I rode Bee home from the bike shop, the difference was like night and day. I was no longer afraid of crashing, felt significantly more comfortable using the brakes on the drop handlebars, and had a whole new level of excitement. It was the first time I’d ever felt genuinely thrilled to be riding a bicycle. That feeling hasn’t gone away. Over the last week, I’ve grown more and more comfortable riding Bee around Providence, learning how to balance and speed up and slow down and react to high-traffic situations. I’ve ridden up major hills! It’s been one adventure after another.

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Today I took Bee back to the bike shop and had brand new yellow handlebar tape put on. For those wondering, I chose Deda Elementi padded foam tape for extra comfort (it’s so comfy); the tape that was on the bike when I received it was thin and black and falling off, and it hurt my hands to ride. I’ll admit some of that pain came from the first few days when I didn’t know how to grip the drop bars and still feel safe. That’s changed now; I’m making it a personal goal to get comfortable enough riding this bike to be able to actually get down and use the bottom parts of the drops and the front brake levers by the end of the summer. So far, I’ve just gotten comfortable resting my hands on top of the bars and using the inside brake levers. We’ll see how long it takes for me to move beyond that.

Riding this bike is a totally different experience from riding a modern bike, not only because of the drop handle bars but because of the gear shift. At AR’s advice, I’ve left the bike’s stem shifters alone for the last week. AR put the bike in third gear for me — a gear that’s comfortable for me almost all of the time — and I’ve just been pretending it’s a single-speed. But today, the stem shifters were jostled while handlebar tape was put on the bike. I was forced to balance enough to shift on my ride home and actually managed to do so successfully without panicking, stopping, wobbling, or crashing. I feel incredible.

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Transitioning from a driving commuter to a walking commuter to a cycling commuter has been really, really hard. I have a hard time adapting to new situations and until even a few days ago, riding a bicycle terrified me. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable, but there are still things I need to learn and situations I haven’t yet encountered. I’ve learned that the main thing is that I just have to get on the bike and go. It’s okay to take breaks and to have doubts and to be worried and to react. But then I have to put my feet on the pedals and ride. It’s a very liberating thing, cycling. Now that I’ve learned how fun it can be, I’ve started to develop a passion for cycling and its history that I never would have expected to have. I feel like a new person. It’s awesome.

 

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Adventures in bicycling: Introducing Bee

Checking in: The many and varied forms of self care

No, really: selfies are a 100% necessary aspect of self care.
No, really: selfies are a 100% necessary aspect of self care.

“Self care” has become kind of a buzz term over the last several years. That isn’t a bad thing; in fact, I think self care is one of the most important commitments a person can make. Taking time to check in with yourself and do something that makes you feel good is really, really important, even if it’s just taking a ton of selfies because you feel good in what you’re wearing. For a long time, I’ve associated self care with the “treat yourself” mantra. I do think the two go hand-in-hand to a pretty significant extent, but I’ve also found over the last few months that for me, it’s also really important to pay attention to how I’m feeling at any given moment about any given thing. It’s important to know where my insecurities lie, and why, and how I can live my life without becoming paralyzed by those insecurities.

For me, self care isn’t just bubble baths and fancy pasta for dinner (though sometimes it is, at its core, a glass of wine in a hot tub after a hellish work week). It’s also taking risks to better myself, making terrifying phone calls, asking for advice on how to do adult things from people who make their living giving that kind of advice, and ultimately, taking care of things to seriously improve my situation. I don’t feel comfortable blasting specifics on the Internet about everything I’ve been doing over the last several weeks to get my life in order, but I will say this: in the last two months, I’ve changed full-time jobs, sold my primary form of transportation, moved into a new apartment, and sought out a second job to help with finances. I took a look at my life two months ago and said, “something has to change”. Then I opted to basically change it all.

To the casual observer, I appear to be a fairly impulsive, adventurous person. At the age of 18, I moved 3,000 miles across country to go to college after being born and raised in the same little tourist town, only traveling to neighboring states until jumping on a plane to visit my parents in New Hampshire right before my senior year in high school. My senior year in college, I traveled to the Philippines alone. Last year, I moved to Rhode Island to live with my partner. Last month, I turned my life upside-down once more.

These decisions are misleading. I’m not really an impulsive person at all. I’m very much a homebody with a deep commitment to commitment. I don’t like mass amounts of change. That being said, I’ve discovered that when I get too comfortable, I become paralyzed with fear of change. That’s not healthy. That’s not okay. So the question is, how do I accept change into my life in little pieces so that when the big changes come, they’re less scary? I think the key is going to be checking in with myself on a regular basis — if not daily (because I’ll be honest, I’m not that on top of things), then at the very least weekly.

Another key to this process of adjusting to change as it comes rather than refusing to acknowledge it until situations become super dire is going to be (you guessed it) self care. It’s going to be serious levels of self care in the form of doing things I love (reading books, baking, cooking, making blog posts, making mixtapes, listening to new music, occasionally binge-watching television shows, keeping up with friends). It’s going to be writing in a journal when I’m feeling overwhelmed and even just to chronicle experiences in my life. It’s going to be aggressively tackling debt so that I can someday go back to school and maybe, just maybe, open the business I’ve started to dream about. It’s going to be walking every day (partially because I have to, now that I don’t have a car, but partially because I’ve found that it makes me feel really good). It’s going to be cuddling with my cats when I’m not yet ready to get out of bed but also getting things done so that I don’t get stressed out about wasting time.

I’ve always been a very driven person, but some circumstances have caused me to drift a little bit for the last few years. I feel as if I’ve grown up significantly in the last two months, moreso than I have since before I graduated from college. I finally feel like I’m developing again, learning and growing and changing into someone I want to be (someone I’ve always been, maybe). I finally feel like I’m properly learning what adulthood means and how to navigate it. It’s a scary thing. Terrifying, actually. But I feel good about things in a way I haven’t for a very long time.

Today I’m attempting some new recipes and watching Netflix’s “Sense8” in my underwear. I’m snacking on a little chocolate and earlier I called my best friend of over a decade just to say hi, rather than to cry over the 3,000 miles separating us about how everything is falling apart. It isn’t falling apart, not anymore, and that feels… incredible. I don’t have it all figured out just yet. There is still a lot that I have to take care of. But I have a plan, and it’s a pretty solid one, and that’s better than I’ve had in a long while.

I wrote this post with the intention of talking about how self care, for me, has turned out to be more about being productive and taking care of business than soaking in a bathtub or indulging in extra calories for dinner on a bad day. I don’t know if I actually accomplished that, but… here I am, 25 years old and starting to properly integrate into the adult world, putting the past behind me and focusing on the present and the future. I guess that’s a decent thing to write a blog post about, too.

Checking in: The many and varied forms of self care

The last two months

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The bike path near our apartment offers beautiful views. (My pasty legs ruin them, though.)

Today, I looked at The Verbal Thing for the first time in a while. I logged into WordPress, went to my dashboard, approved some Pingback comments and realized that I haven’t published a post since March (despite having plenty of drafts to work from). At first, I was irritated with myself. For a while, I was doing really well with publishing regular posts, fleshing out my content and making this space more of what I’ve wanted it to be since it was first conceived. But then, I realized that my two most recent posts were published the week that I packed up my belongings, left my parents’ house in New Hampshire and moved to Rhode Island.

It’s been just over two months since those last two posts were published, and in that time, I’ve learned a number of life lessons, both expected and really unexpected. Living on your own, post-grad, with actual bills is totally different than “living on your own”, in college, eating all of your meals at a dining hall and never having to worry about whether the dorm will have heat or Internet or cable access. Rather than bore you with all of the details of these Very Interesting Lessons (because as we’ve established, I’m kind of a drama queen and not always a very good storyteller), I’ve decided to just… make a list.

Things I Learned at Ages 23-24, After Leaving My Parents’ House, To Live in a Totally Different State with My Best Friend

  1. It is never a bad idea to check your tires for air pressure and wholeness before leaving somewhere (be it your apartment, your place of work, the gas station, the mechanic, the grocery store, anywhere).
  2. It is an especially good idea to pay attention to noises your car is making and take it to a mechanic if those noises are particularly worrisome.
  3. It is always going to be mind-numbingly expensive to fix your car, no matter how well it seems to drive, especially when you lived on a dirt road for two years and have now moved to a state where the potholes are numerous and wide enough to swallow your vehicle whole.
  4. Living away from your parents means that there is no one to yell at you for not doing the dishes.
  5. Despite how awesome #4 sounds in theory, the dishes still, in fact, have to get done. Eventually, you start yelling at yourself to do them, just so you don’t have to think about them anymore.
  6. Cleaning something really thoroughly makes you feel really, really good about your day.
  7. Baking soda is, in fact, an inexpensive but effective miracle cleaner.
  8. Some vacuums require assembly.
  9. Ikea furniture will cause arguments that seem silly, but are ultimately about things that are much bigger than The Fact That You Didn’t Put the Drawer Together Correctly and Now It Can’t Be Fixed.
  10. Communicating with your roommate is of the utmost importance, including (and especially) when you are both frustrated and don’t really want to communicate at all.
  11. You can subsist on nothing but grilled cheese and quesadillas for days at a time.
  12. You cannot do everything completely on your own. Asking for help does not equate with failure.
  13. Doing laundry at the local laundromat is disgustingly expensive.
  14. To amend #12, most things are disgustingly expensive. You still have to pay for them.
  15. There might not always be Enough Money, but in the end, you will always Figure It Out.
The last two months

Mixtape: I hope you wanna let go

Accidental matching move-in day flannels.
Accidental matching move-in day flannels.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that moving is a pain in the ass. I had never truly realized just how much moving sucks until this week, when I packed up all my stuff and drove it from my parents’ house in the middle of New Hampshire to my new apartment in Rhode Island. Actually, let me amend that — I made one trip down a couple weeks ago with about half of my stuff, and attempted to cram the other half into my sub-compact car two days ago. Needless to say, even with my mom’s professionally-honed moving (a.k.a. Real Life Tetris) skills, I had to leave some stuff behind.

I’m currently working on developing a new Internet space with my new roommate, AR, to document all of our fun apartment projects. I also start a brand new job tomorrow morning and soon, we get to go shopping for furniture so that there are actual places to sit! My goal is to write a more in-depth, extensive post chronicling my moving experience soon, but for the time being, I wanted to share the mix I finished today in honor of the occasion.

As much as I love my parents, I never had any intention of moving back in with them after I graduated college. I intended to move to a city, go to graduate school, become a professor and read a lot of Shakespeare. I’ve written before, in other places on the Internet, about the wide-eyed naivete with which I entered college, expecting everything to be just like my dreams once I left. But now I’ve officially moved out of my parents’ house and in with my best friend, and while that’s really amazing it’s also kind of terrifying. This mix contains some tunes that reflect those feelings:

Mix_MovingI hope you wanna let go

Mixtape: I hope you wanna let go

Concert Recap: The Front Bottoms, You Blew It!, Valencourt

One thing I’ve learned since I saw them for the first time in July and then again in November is that The Front Bottoms put on a really fucking good show. On Saturday, Feb. 1, I saw them for the third time in less than a year, and it was the most incredible and intense experience I’ve had at one of their shows. That’s saying something, given how hard their fans go — especially in Rhode Island, which for whatever reason, has kids that go harder than any others I’ve seen. (Must be something in the water.)

The show was at The Met in Pawtucket, RI, a venue that’s on par for intimacy with Paradise Rock Club (though really, it’s even smaller, especially since it’s only one floor and there isn’t even an entryway before the actual venue space — the doors just open right onto the floor). AR saw Transit there in December with their younger brother, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing The Front Bottoms there since AR told me how small the venue is.

TFBTattooThis concert has been at the top of my List of Things to Look Forward To for months. And it was even better than I ever could have hoped or dreamed. Brian Sella and Matt Uychich come out before the show to give us hot chocolate (appropriate, given that it was the last night of The Hot Chocolate Tour) and hang out for a few minutes, despite the cold. And when I asked him to write out one of his lyrics for me to get tattooed (“I wanna be stronger than your dad was for your mom”), Sella gave me a rather dubious look but then promised he’d write it out and bring me back the paper.

He returned shortly before doors opened with a torn piece of paper displaying three versions of the lyric, warned me that his handwriting is awful, and told me to think about it before he went back inside. I didn’t get a chance to tell Sella exactly why I want the lyric, or what it means to me, or how it felt the first time I heard it and every time I’ve heard it since. I’m hopeful that the next time we see The Front Bottoms, I’ll have the tattoo and can talk to him about it then.

AR and I snagged spots right up against the stage for the show itself — the stage was low, and pressed right against my upper thighs when the crowd started to lose it during You Blew It!, one of the opening bands. My entire body aches from being at the front of that pit, getting kicked in the head repeatedly by crowd-surfers and stage-divers, and throwing myself into the music just as hard as everyone around me. My throat still feels raw from screaming the lyrics and until I showered this morning, I felt dead. To be honest, I still feel like a bit of a zombie. The Front Bottoms’ fans always go incredibly hard and it’s been a while since I’ve been at the front of a pit and stayed there. In fact, the last time was at my first TFB show in July. If possible, the crowd at The Met went even harder than the crowd at The Sinclair — I think the intimacy of the space was both a blessing and a curse, in that respect.

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Being jostled by the crowd made all of my photos blurry, but The Front Bottoms nailed it.

The band played a really solid mixture of songs from the self-titled album and its newest release, Talon of the Hawk (2013), as well as “Twelve Feet Deep” from one of its earlier albums. You Blew It! made continuous appearances on stage to fuck with The Front Bottoms, since it was the last night on tour. They sang happy birthday to each member of the band, shoved cupcakes in their faces, came on stage dressed as robots… The lead singer of You Blew It! even appeared in a “wrestling outfit” to challenge Sella, who’d declared he wanted to become a wrestler named The Schwing, and the two “battled” on stage. At the end of the night, when The Front Bottoms played “Twin Size Mattress”, You Blew It! set up its instruments on stage, and helped play the latter half of the song.

The night ended just as well as it started — by the end of the show, AR and I were both drenched in sweat and sore as hell but so, so stoked about the whole evening. The middle parts were also excellent; You Blew It! played a super high energy set and seemed genuinely thankful to be on stage in front of so many people who were so into their songs. A ton of people in the crowd had clearly come to the show to see the band, which was awesome.

Prior to You Blew It! taking the stage, local musician Valencourt played a handful of gorgeous acoustic songs, including a cover of Brand New’s “Play Crack the Sky”. We met him after the show and he was incredibly sweet. I owe him $3, because he let me pay him the only $2 I had in my wallet for the $5, 10-track album. (Jeff, I promise I’m going to pay you back!) He also gave AR his info so that we can interview him about successfully Kickstarting said album for Velociriot!, which is super exciting.

All in all, Saturday was everything I could have wanted and more. Next time The Front Bottoms are in New England, we’ll definitely be at the show — this band has become one that I can’t miss. I don’t suspect that will change anytime soon.

Concert Recap: The Front Bottoms, You Blew It!, Valencourt

New to Me Music: Trophy Wives

Photo courtesy of Trophy Wives' website.
Photo courtesy of Trophy Wives’ website.

In December, AR took their younger brother to his first concert. The headliner was Transit and the venue was The Met in Pawtucket, RI. I received a series of texts about the intimacy of the venue (including several about how excited AR is to see The Front Bottoms there in February — after seeing the photos, I am, too) and about the crowd. Those were pretty standard — but what surprised me was that, maybe an hour after those initial texts stopped, I received several more (and even a video) about one of Transit’s opening bands: Trophy Wives.

Now, AR and I have both experienced shows where the openers were either amazing or terrible — and either memorable or non memorable because of it. AR loved Trophy Wives. In their review of the show, they said:

Their music is solid, punch-life-in-the-face-while-wearing-a-crewneck pop punk – I described them to my friend “like Pencey Prep and The Wonder Years had a baby”, high praise coming from me.

Since then, AR has played them in my car more than once and I’ve sort of fallen in love. They remind me more of Four Year Strong than anything, but that’s awesome — I think there needs to be a significantly larger number of posi-pop-hardcore-punk bands in the world, because the style of music is outrageously energetic and super fun. It’s good for a good mood and helps cheer you up when you’re in a bad mood — Trophy Wives make me want to crawl into a pit and punch ten dudes, but in a good way.

The band is based in Providence, RI, which is great because I’m moving there in March. I always like exploring local scenes and getting into small, local bands. Trophy Wives fits that bill perfectly. In fact, they’re opening a show at The Met at the end of February that AR and I are planning to attend just to see them. I’m stoked to see them play live, because I’ve heard such awesome things about them and their recorded stuff is really solid. It’s catchy and interesting, unique enough to keep my attention while also reminding me of bands on this scene that I’ve loved for years.

Of course, part of that is likely the fact that the first thing I ever heard by them was their cover of Sum 41’s “Fat Lip”, which they performed at the Transit show. AR sent me a brief recording of it (and it was apparent that very few people in the crowd knew the lyrics, which makes me feel so old that I can’t stand it) and it was incredible. After some research on the band, I discovered that their cover of the song won them the chance to open for Sum 41 at The Met (are you seeing a theme yet?) in September 2012:

It’s been a while since I’ve fallen so quickly for an opening band — especially one that I didn’t even get to see in person — so it’s nice to have this feeling again. It’s a weird combination of the satisfaction of a good discovery and the joy of knowing that there’s only more to come.  Long story short, if you need more positive, hardcore-esque pop punk in your life, check out Trophy Wives. I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

 

New to Me Music: Trophy Wives

Concert Recap: Manchester Orchestra, The Front Bottoms

Last November, I attended my first ever show at the infamous Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, RI. It was a great show, but for one of the first times ever, I voluntarily left early. Last night, I returned to Lupo’s — with the same company I had last time — to see a show with fewer bands on the bill and less speechmaking from the local radio station.

Last night totally redeemed Lupo’s for me. The space is small, reminiscent of other venues I love, but the sound is huge for such a little space and can sometimes be overwhelming. That being said, last night, The Front Bottoms and Manchester Orchestra absolutely slayed.

TFBI saw The Front Bottoms in July (at one of my favorite venues) and the crowd went absolutely apeshit. It was clear, at the July show, that everyone there expected that to happen. The Front Bottoms headlined, and the environment at the venue was one that encouraged pits and crowdsurfing and general rough behavior. Last night at Lupo’s, it was clear that tons of people either didn’t know the band or didn’t know the band’s audience — lots of people in the crowd were stunned and maybe a little terrified when the band took the stage and the pit exploded.

The set list was similar to the one the band played in July, but much shorter. Apparently, The Front Bottoms haven’t been playing “Rhode Island” on this tour but made an exception last night because. As lead singer Brian Sella put it, it “seemed appropriate.” The crowd reacted appropriately — everyone in the room who knew the lyrics were screaming them and it was so, so fun. The most amazing thing about seeing this band live is that everyone on stage looks so happy to be there. The more intense the crowd, the happier the boys are. I had an awesome time watching the band perform and I’m stoked to see it when it returns to Rhode Island in February. A.R. and I bought both albums last night at the merch table, since we’ve now seen the band twice and intend to see it a third time. We figure it’s time to own The Front Bottoms’ music rather than just streaming it on Spotify.

MOFollowing The Front Bottoms, Manchester Orchestra took the stage. The band opened with “Shake It Out” and the intensity of that song set the tone of the whole night. I never would have expected Manchester Orchestra to go so hard — nor would I have expected the majority of its audience to be drunk frat boys wearing flannel, but I digress. I’ve listened to Manchester Orchestra for years, but never listened to them obsessively. Seeing them live was an awesome experience, though. The band is ridiculously talented and clearly very, very, very into the music. There was so much energy in the room — coming from the band as well as the crowd — and it was a really cool feeling to be surrounded by it all. I only sang along to a handful of songs, but that didn’t limit my enjoyment. I went to the show for The Front Bottoms (admittedly), but I stayed for Manchester Orchestra.

At one point, a crowdsurfer actually stood in the middle of the pit and the band saluted him for the effort. Lead singer Andy Hull called for the crowd to find out if the fan was “actually Jesus Christ” and said he’d “never seen anything like that before”. It was a good moment. Another fan did the same thing several minutes later — in the same part of the pit — and the staff at Lupo’s seemed exasperated by the whole thing. People putting themselves in danger isn’t necessarily cool (Hull told the second fan to get down before they hurt themself) but it was really cool to see how into the show the crowd was. The band-fan interaction was awesome.

I’m not sure if I’ll go out of my way to attend shows at Lupo’s, even though I’m planning to move to Rhode Island in March, but I really enjoyed myself last night, and A.R. and I stayed for the whole show (save the tail end of the encore, because we were beat). Other highlights included dozens (and I do mean dozens) of people trying to get into the pit and encountering the railing we were leaning on — their faces were hilarious, every time — and talking to the super sweet merch guy for The Front Bottoms afte the show. Fantastic fucking night.

Concert Recap: Manchester Orchestra, The Front Bottoms