You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/13/david_foster_wallace_was_right_irony_is_ruining_our_culture/

So, this article is so bad it’s not even WRONG. I mean, I could start with the fact that they don’t understand what irony is. I could end with the fact that they seem to be living in a different country than I am, and using a different Internet.

Instead, it appears that I will be defending hipsters.

Dear My People:
Yes. Gen Y is younger than we are. They make cultural references we don’t understand. Remember how mad the Boomers were at us for the same thing? Let’s not do this, okay?

This weird stereotype of the hipster who does everything ironically and doesn’t allow himself to care about anything is EXACTLY WHAT BOOMERS SAID ABOUT US.

061312_hipster-musical

Here’s what I want to know: what is ironic and cynical about creating a vibrant bicycling culture? Listening to and supporting really great local roots music? Flicking homophobia off of you like a booger and experimenting sexually and with gender in ways my generation is still too afraid to do? Eating organic? Meticulously brewing your own? DIYing everything? Passionate, heart-on-the-floor spoken word performances so earnest they make me squirm? Duct-taping your shoes instead of buying new ones? Learning to knit? TRYING TO TAKE DOWN WALL STREET?!??!

There is nothing ironic and cynical about those things, that’s what. LAY OFF THE KIDS, PEOPLE. They’re actually pretty fucking cool.

Love

Biking home in the gloaming, I stopped at Lake Street and 13th Avenue. A prostitute worked the corner across the road and her pimp lounged on a bench next to me, his baseball cap pulled down over his face.

An extremely inebriated man who was weaving vaguely across 13th Avenue saw me coasting to a stop at the light, stopped dead in his tracks, and performed his best imitation of a beeline for me.

I looked at him and waited. Drunks love me. I am their lighthouse, their safe harbor; their hope. Their succor.

He saw someone coming toward us over my shoulder, thought better of approaching me, and lurched away. The pimp retreated further under under his cap brim. Only the prostitute seemed unafraid, focused as she was on drumming up business, peering into a car that had slowed to turn the corner and smiling into it like she saw an old friend.

Uh oh, I thought. Only one category of people can scare off a drunk and make a pimp look nervously away (no category of person can intimidate a street prostitute).

‘Jesus loves you,’ said the woman who frightened everyone, and handed me a tract.

Like most agnostics, I have dealt with proselytizers in various ways over the years: invitations for the person to immediately engage in vigorous acts of onanism, a refusal to accept the tract combined with a stony silence, a tight-lipped dismissive smile as I took it, head turned away.

Each time I did any of these things, the proselytizer would take this as an invitation for further engagement.

This time, I looked her in the eye, smiled like she had given me money, and said brightly: ‘Thank you! Jesus loves you, too!’

In that moment, for whatever reason: the light, the foiled commerce across the street, the wandering alcoholic, the proselytizer’s heartbreakingly awful fanny pack– I meant it.

And she said: ‘You must be a believer! Give that to someone who needs it!’

‘I will,’ I said earnestly, folding the tract in half and tucking it into my bag.

AND SHE WALKED ON.

I felt like someone had given me a secret handshake. Everyone on the corner relaxed. The light changed. I stood on the pedals and moved on, the cool breeze of the evening rushing tenderly over my bare shoulders.

I loved everyone, like Jesus does.

A Riot in Bloom

peonies

When I was a little girl, I misheard “a riotous bloom” as “a riot in bloom.”

Today, on my commute to work, the peonies were the very definition of a rebellious riot in bloom: tossing their gorgeous, heavy, fragrant frowsy heads, careless of how their skirts fell or whose eye they arrested: loud and crowded and dangerous on the hillside.

I could almost hear their throaty, wispy voices crying: “We’re here! Mid-June! Get used to it!”

I could almost see the placards held in their glossy, leafy fingers that they’d thrown together the night before in a drunken fit of spontaneity, with blowsy strokes of their petals in vivid pollen: “Beauty is fleeting, but give it a chance!”

On assuming you know things and being happy and biking

I posted this wonderful article on Facebook last night by The DIY Couturier: 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed.

It was a direct response to one of those interminable articles by happy people on how to be happy just like them (quick sum-up: it’s not luck, stunningly easy access to the upper middle class, or the blessing of well-balanced brain chemistry! Happy people are happy because they are doing things right, and if you just followed their blithely oblivious rules you’d be happy, too) titled The 21 Habits of Happy People, which I will not link to because after reading a few of them my blood began to boil AND I began to die from boredom, which is a uniquely unpleasant sensation I do not wish upon my readers. Also the stock photography was aggressively banal.

Besides the fact that these 21 alternate rules are extremely helpful and well-written and make me feel less alone in this world, I share this article because I want to talk about biking. Yes.

When people hear that I am a year-round bicyclist, I get, mainly, one of three reactions:

  1. You’re crazy! (Often followed by stammered reasons for the person’s failure to bicycle. I am not a bike nut AT you, my dear fellow on this planet; I couldn’t care less if you bike. I do not exist solely to make you feel bad about yourself.)
  2. You’re so brave! (Often followed by even more panicked reasons for the person’s failure to bicycle. If a cripple can do it, she must judge me for not doing it!)
  3. You must have something to prove. (This being Minnesota, this judgment is nearly always couched in alternate but crystal clear language.)

Oh! People are saying. I know you. I know you are crazy. I know you are brave. I know you have something to prove.

And none of these things are true.

I bike year-round because it is fun. I also bike year-round because I am depressed, anxious, and I have an autoimmune disorder. If I do not bike nearly every day, I get sick, I have a flareup, or I become a heinous bitch. I have real and rather personal reasons for bicycling every day, and if I don’t share them with every random person who asks me about the bicycle helmet in my office that’s my prerogative. Speaking out in a chosen time and place (such as this blog) to de-stigmatize mental illness is one thing, but telling someone deeply personal health information who just stopped by to borrow a stapler and wants to get defensive about my reflective vest hanging on the doorknob is another.

When I got my concussion on glare ice this winter (after writing a commentary on the joys of winter biking, ironically), someone actually said to me: “Well, I hope you learned your lesson.”

I’m sure many, many more people thought it.

The only way in which this comment makes any sense is if you are assuming, incorrectly, that you know why I bike.

Well, if you’re reading this, you now know why I ride. I ride for the OPPOSITE reasons of crazy. If I were to ‘learn a lesson’ from this concussion, it would be: do not do things that make you happy and healthy; you might get hurt! Do not fly gloriously over the frozen tundra. Do not take dance classes that make you look silly. Do not try for that job that might be a stretch. Do not write a book that digs into your deepness. Do not ever, ever fall in love.

So, no — I have not learned my lesson, and I hope I never will. Yesterday, even with a very bad head cold, I biked to work for the first time. It was glorious. Even just 25 minutes of bicycling made me start to feel myself for the first time since I fell in early February. Today, I biked again, in the rain. It is now snowing out. If the puddles have not iced over, I’m riding home again.

I bike because it makes me feel solid, sane, and whole. I am working my own 21 Tips in my own way.

Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle, as the famous quote misattributed to Plato goes. Be kind.

You work your own tips, and I’ll work mine.

Concussed

I type this looking away from the screen, out the front window where it snows lushly and my neighbor has parked her truck and climbed up her icy, snow-covered steps into the apartment building across the street.

My neighbor is very glamorous; today she wears a pink scarf over her beautiful red hair.

The couch I sit on is shaking from the epic battle going on between Wolverine and The Hulk — a very noisy battle that manages to penetrate my earplugs with piercing sincerity. I have no idea what their quarrel is. Perhaps they simply needed to see who would win. They wanted the challenge.

I have been unable to do much more than sit around staring into space and stewing in my own juices for nearly two weeks now.

Shortly after I delivered my most recent in-air commentary about the joys of biking in winter, I fell on glare ice on my way to work after a freezing rain so suddenly and completely that I didn’t even realize I’d fallen until I heard the sound, like a shot, of my helmet hitting the ice.

Ha ha ha. Irony is funny.

I watched the sky whiz past me for a while, lying on my back and flying so fast down the on-ramp to the Greenway it felt I was a hovercraft. All I could think of were my beautiful, brand-new crutches, strapped to my back underneath me.

Please let them be okay please let them be okay, I thought.

My bicycle slid down the ramp with me, companionably.

After we stopped, I sat up. Whew! That could have been bad! I said aloud. I’ll be more careful. Now I know the ‘wet pavement’ is ice. My crutches weren’t even scratched, the ice had been so slick. All I felt was relief and a bruise starting on my hip.

The chain had jumped and jammed; I fiddled with it and got it back on. Rode shakily along the smooth, slick Greenway for one exit and then got on Lake Street where the motorists, if annoyed by my presence, had at least warmed the asphalt.

Got to work. Ran the beginning of the staff meeting. About an hour after the accident, began to feel very, very queasy. Uh oh, I thought. I’m getting that stomach flu that’s going around.

I was not; I had a concussion.

And I still do, two weeks later.

It’s my fourth or fifth one, and from what I’ve been able to read since then (admittedly I can’t read much), the more concussions I get, the easier they’ll be to get from relatively light blows to the head and the harder they’ll be to get over.

For now, I’ve been able to tolerate very small amounts of work from home, I’ve gone into work for a few very hours (which I immediately regretted). I cannot really look for long at a computer screen. I cannot multitask, which makes me feel like I’ve lost a limb. Loud noises and light hurt my head (the battle on the couch next to me rages on). I am slow. Stupid. Irritable. Unpleasant. Things which brought me joy (companionship, whiskey, reading, old episodes of Deep Space Nine) now overwhelm me and fill me with misery.

Pretty much all I’m good for is sorting laundry or sleeping. MAN I’ve gotten good at sleeping. I am a champ.

Often, when people have something fundamental to themselves taken away, they have some sort of spiritual awakening. Some sort of self-awareness. Some deeper connection to the world or to themselves, due to enforced solitude, stillness, and a break in the routine.

Here is what I have discovered: I AM INCREDIBLY BORING.

When I am not in relation to other people, there is just not really much going on in here, folks.

The battle on the couch has been decided; I believe it was a draw. My noisy children (how did I not realize how incredibly incredibly noisy they were before, I wonder) have been banished upstairs to clean their room.

I am left to sort laundry and contemplate the gorgeous snow. Light bad. Snow pretty.