October 26, 2004

Sisters, Guys, and Motorcycles

When I was seventeen, my older sister and I shared an apartment while we attended college. She had a boyfriend back then. I, of course, did not. With three years separating us in age, we were rivals with grades, our parents' affection, and attention from the boys, as well as everything else under the sun. I may have won out on the grades, but she won out with the boys.

My sister and I share biological parents, but we do not resemble one another. She has always been slight of build and most petite. She stands 4' 11 ¾" and back then, probably weighed 90 pounds. She has thick black hair and very oriental features. I stand 5' 6" and weigh a good deal more than 90 pounds and have very dark brown hair. I could possibly look less oriental, only if my hair were blonde. Since I caught up with her in height (when I was five and she eight), she has taken great delight in referring to me as her "baby" sister when speaking of me to others, particularly those who have never met me.

One afternoon, near the end of a spring semester, Steve, a classmate and guy I was interested in, was driving me to our apartment to trade books with me. I was going to give him my Constitutional Law books and he was going to give me some history books for the next semester. As we pulled up, my sister and her boyfriend were talking to a couple of guys who lived in the apartment complex, one of whom had just purchased a new motorcycle, a Honda Shadow 500. As Steve and I approached, I heard my diminutive sweet (sarcasm) older sister say: "My baby sister has a bigger motorcycle than that." This statement, of course, led to much disbelief and then discussion.

After introducing myself to the group, I answered the obligatory: "This is your baby sister?!" The owner of the motorcycle then asked me if, in fact, I could ride a motorcycle. I answered in the affirmative and explained I received my first mini-bike at age five, at eight had a Honda 200, then graduated to a Honda 360 at ten, a Triumph 750 at thirteen, and a cobalt blue Honda Gold Wing 1000 at fifteen. I was uncertain whether it was because he was duly impressed with my stated experience, the number of beers he had already consumed or the challenge issued by my dear sister, but the owner asked me to show him I could ride.

This was not a problem. I straddled the machine, started the engine, and without a backward glance, proceeded to tool around the parking lot, then cut out into the street, opened it up for a couple of blocks, wheeled it around, and returned. It was a cool bike. Yes, it was a bit smaller than those to which I had grown accustomed, but it was quick and easy to handle. I also noticed it had about 50 miles on the odometer.

When I pulled up to return the bike, its owner was apparently having difficulty drawing what appeared to be a sober breath. I then remembered Steve and thought it might be fun to take him for a ride. At this point, it did not occur to me to ask if he had ever ridden a motorcycle before. So, I asked the owner if I could borrow his bike for a while and assured him I'd top-off the tank before I returned it. For reasons known only to him, he let me take his brand new bike!

I then smiled at Steve and asked him to hop on. With what appeared to be only a moment's hesitation, Steve said okay and climbed on behind me. Steve was a big guy and a football player. He was probably at least 6' or so and weighed no less than 200 pounds. There was plenty of room on the bike. It was stripped with no running board, sissy bar, bags or ferring, only two sets of foot pegs.

Because of his added weight, it took a few minutes for me to get comfortable with how the bike handled and, instinctively, I headed for the outskirts of town. Before long, we were whizzing by the rice fields on flat open roads. The thing about flat open roads, they become boring after about fifteen minutes, no matter the speed.

Next, I decided we should head for the interstate. The interstate was busy and more difficult to ride than the country roads. There was definitely more traffic, it was harder to be certain whether other drivers actually saw the motorcycle, and there were grooves cut into the roadway that affected the ride of two wheels more so than vehicles with four or more. We were still doing fine and I, for one, was certainly enjoying the afternoon.

Our destination: along the interstate was one of the tallest, steepest bridges I knew that stood over one part of the Calcasieu River. This was not my favorite bridge. I did not like bridges and was not that fond of heights. Why on that particular day I thought it would be fun, I did not know. I seemed to recall a certain uneasiness as a child when driving over that bridge in car or truck. I had never ridden over that bridge on a motorcycle before. I had certainly not ridden over that bridge with another human on the bike behind me!

As we approached the bridge, I edged over into the right hand lane. The semi-trucks and other vehicles were picking up speed in the left hand lane, it was getting a bit congested, and I was getting a bit nervous. We hit the bottom of the bridge and began the ascent. It was wild! The higher we got the stronger the wind was blowing. I felt I actually had to lean the bike to the right, into the wind, to keep it upright.

We were about two-thirds to the top of the bridge when I began to feel the breath being sucked out of me. My companion had given up his hold on each side of his seat and reached around my waist to hold on tight. He was literally, squeezing me in two. I released the left handle bar in an effort to get him to loosen his grip around my middle. At that point, poor Steve began shouting: "I don't want to die!" "Stop!"

Dilemma: What now? There was no shoulder on the bridge. There was no place to stop. There were four lanes, two headed west and two headed east. People were driving at speeds of 60 + miles per hour. What was a girl to do?

As calmly as I could, without taking my eyes off the road or further endangering us, I screamed back at him: "What?!" "What is your problem?!" To which he screamed back: "I've never been on a motorcycle before!" Oh.

I slowed the bike down and pleaded with Steve to stay calm and hang on. The last thing I needed or wanted was for him to jump or "bail" off the back of the bike. That would certainly have killed both of us. We eventually made it off the bridge and took the first exit which, unfortunately, was a tight loop that did nothing to calm my passenger down. At the first available opportunity, I pulled over to the side of the road and shut the bike down. As I came to a complete stop, poor Steve rolled off the back of the bike and threw himself face down into a grassy-dirt type area just off the shoulder of the road.

After I turned the bike off and secured it on the stand, I walked over to check on him. Oh, dear lord, I was ill prepared for him! He was crying. He was not sniffling, he was all out bawling his eyes out. He could barely breathe. If I had known the term back then, I probably would have said he was having a full blown panic attack or anxiety attack! It took me over an hour and the sun setting to calm him down where he could actually sit up and talk to me again.

Fortunately, there was a convenience store near by and I was also able to walk over and get him a soda, all while he sat on the ground desperately trying to collect himself. It was not a pretty sight. I felt very bad for him. It just never occurred to me a grown man of twenty-one or twenty-two had never been on a motorcycle before. Who knew such creatures existed?

Only after I thought Steve was sufficiently recovered, did I bother to mention that we still had to get home and it was now getting really dark. We had three options for the return trip, the long way on the twisty, perilous Baghdad road with no center stripe to a flat bridge over the Calcasieu, the 210 loop bridge which was taller and longer than the I10 bridge, but had a much more gradual incline, or back over the I10 bridge. To his credit, after I explained our options, he merely asked which was the shortest route. I told him that was the I10 bridge again. Without further discussion, I started the bike and with a very deep breath he got back on. I carefully guided us back onto the interstate. He held onto to me, but allowed me to breathe, and back over the bridge we went, without word, comment or further incident.

Safely back at the apartment complex, Steve got off the bike and without a glance or goodbye, got in his car and drove off. I took the bike and filled it with gas. After I parked it and returned the keys to its owner, I went to my apartment and told my sister and her boyfriend what happened. My sister's only comment: "And you wonder why no one ever asks you out?"

Steve never spoke to me again.

Posted by Christina at 10:34 PM

October 08, 2004

Fleecing the Neighbors

Right or wrong, I have allowed my sweet, eleven-year-old daughter to play poker, particularly when the next door neighbors are over. These neighbors are kind and fun and have spent time with and taken an interest in Sweet One.

One evening when the neighbors were over to play Texas Hold 'em, Sweet One asked to join us. With everyone's agreement, she was given chips and dealt in. A few hands later, the flop showed a rainbow (cards from different suits) of 10, 7, and 3. When the turn (or fourth card) was revealed as a Queen, Sweet One exclaimed "YES!" and smiled broadly. She and Mr. Neighbor were the last two players for that hand. He shook his head, folded his cards, and gave the pot to her. She then showed her hand, a 2 and 5. Junk. She had nothing.

About four hands later, Sweet One and Mr. Neighbor were again the last two remaining. This time, the flop showed an 8 of clubs, an 8 of spades, and a 2 of diamonds. The turn revealed another Queen, this one of diamonds. True to form, Sweet One cried: "YES!" and all but high-fived herself. Mr. Neighbor smiled, said he was not falling for that "trick" again, and raised her bet. Sweet One promptly went all in. He called. With a full house, Queens full of eights, she took the pot and the rest of Mr. Neighbor's chips.

A few weeks later, Sweet One received the allowance she had earned. Immediately thereafter, she asked if she could phone the neighbors.

This was her side of the conversation:

Sweet One: Hi Mrs. (Neighbor). May I speak to Mr. (Neighbor), please?


Sweet One: Hi Mr. (Neighbor) I just got my allowance, do you want to play poker?

That's my girl!

Posted by Christina at 10:36 PM

October 06, 2004

When a Good Idea...Goes Wrong

It all began innocently enough with the thought of a relaxing weekend in the picturesque Texas Hill Country along the clear water of the Blanco river. The plan was three days, a few friends, and some quiet time to enjoy a much anticipated book, meaningful conversation, and nature's beauty. A ladies' retreat, if you will, at a girls' camp which had been in continuous operation for fifty years. What could be better than that?

So, it was with great anticipation that I began, sometime last January, pitching the idea to a few close friends. Immediately on board was Sonnet (the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent) a fellow attorney. She quickly recruited her best friend, a former catholic nun, who is now a professor of literature at a catholic university. We called her what Sonnet calls her: Holy Cow.

A few more phone calls and my friend, who is originally from New Orleans and a lawyer as well, Red, joined the group. Rounding out the quintet, was Bonsai, the New Yorker, world traveler, and fourth and final attorney. Four female attorneys and an ex-nun, sounds very much like the beginning of a bad joke...

We all checked our schedules and found an open date, the last weekend of April, first weekend of May. A flight was booked for Red, reservations at the ladies' retreat were made, and requests that we five be allowed to "bunk" together were noted. Of course, because my eleven year old daughter had been to this girls' camp the summer before, we consulted her as to what was the primo bunkhouse to request: Circle B deck.

Many e-mails and phone calls were exchanged in the months leading up to our retreat. Each had her own vision of what was to come. Mine, as noted earlier, was first and foremost a peaceful weekend to read, chat, go horseback riding, swim in the river or the pool, and just enjoy my friends and being outdoors.

Red flew in from Louisiana on a Thursday and we had a great evening catching up and finalizing our packing list for the next day's adventure. With the morning sun, Sonnet arrived with Bonsai and Holy Cow in tow. Check in was at 3:00 p.m., but we were told we could arrive early to unload and scope out our bunks.

We arrived at the ranch at noon, but once we pulled off the highway and onto the narrow dirt road which wove its way between the tall trees, it was hard to tell the time of day. Of course, I had been to the ranch before to drop off and pick up my older daughter for summer camp, but I had forgotten how beautiful and peaceful it was.

The ranch was set up with a main street of sorts with a General Store and meeting area next to the office in a strip mall type formation. Along the front there were wooden porches with rocking chairs to welcome visitors. Scattered around the premises, tucked into the woods along the river, and elsewhere were bunkhouses. Outside each structure was a huge firepit and picnic tables.

Without difficulty, we located Circle B Bunkhouse and the Deck. There were five or six sets of metal bunkbeds to sleep ten to twelve people in what appeared to be a room literally converted from a deck. Three sides of the deck were covered in floor to ceiling windows. The fourth wall was two thirds open to another room with dozens of bunkbeds in it. Downstairs housed the bathroom facilities.

We immediately chose our respective bunks. As the youngest of the group, I opted for a top bunk in the far corner and Red took the one under me. I tried it out for size and remember thinking at the time that bunkbeds were much bigger when I was a child. Sonnet and Holy Cow picked the next bunk, with Sonnet on top. Bonsai, the truly smart one of the quintet, took the third bunk in that row, unfurled her sleeping bag on the bottom and quickly put everything else she owned on the top bunk.

Happy that we had secured the best bunks on the deck, we set out to explore our new home for the next three days. The weather was warm with a slight breeze. We took one of the many hiking trails and this one led us straight to the river. It was beautiful. The sky, the water, and the air were all clear. Life was good. We sat on a pier constructed of mortared limestone that extended into the river ten feet or so and visited for a little while, then Sonnet requested we head to Wimberly in search of a little lunch and, with any luck, a catholic church.

Apparently, Sonnet's older sisters were due to visit in the coming weeks and they never miss mass. Sonnet began the first of many confessions and informed us it had been seventeen years since her last confession and she wanted to find a church to rectify that so she would be able to take communion with her sisters during their visit.

Our excursion to Wimberly was fruitful. We were able to secure lunch, do a little shopping, and found a catholic church with a Saturday confessional. Thank God! It appeared Sonnet's retreat was to be spiritual.

It was late in the afternoon when we returned to the ranch. Apparently, while we were out on reconnaissance, the masses had arrived. Every type of vehicle lined the small dirt road from the highway all the way to the bunkhouse. Cars, SUVs, and a couple of Hummers were "parked" here, there, and every which way. There was no order or rational thought to any of it. With great luck, we found a secluded spot to park and hiked back to the bunkhouse.

The change in the feel of the place was unsettling. There were women everywhere. There was one group of 50 women with big hair who were walking around in matching yellow t-shirts and flip-flops adorned with boa feathers, fake animal fur (think tiger and zebra), and holding beer with bottle coolers likewise embellished with the fake fur, mutilated boas, and cheap beads. I knew in an instant these were no ordinary women. These were Hoochie Mamas. I had heard about them before and had even caught a rare glimpse of one or two, but never, ever, in these numbers.

Thus, began our descent to hell.

When we returned to the deck of our bunkhouse, it was clear we had been invaded. More women, everywhere. Every flat surface was covered with bottles upon bottles of alcohol and every drink mixing paraphernalia known to man. Over on the bunk across the room from mine was what appeared to be a man with a mustache. One of the other women saw my perplexity and explained with a sly smile: Oh, that's Bob. He's our friend. I would later be enlighted that Bob was anatomically correct with at least one interchangeable body part. At which point I thought to myself: Oh, dear, things are so not improving.

Fighting a rising sense of hysteria, I suggested we return to the calmness of the river. The river was momentary refuge from the insidious chaos which had begun to envelop us. Momentary, indeed. With hoops and whistles the masses were gaining on us and within minutes they had us surrounded. It was the Hoochie Mamas, again. This time, they were without many clothes and parading around in what purported to be swimsuits, but by God, they had those damn decorated flip-flops on.

At some point I really believe women need to be honest with one another. When the silver slivers of stretch marks can be seen at twenty yards and the top of a string bikini cannot keep one's breasts from hanging down to one's knees and the whole visual experience is only one a drunken blind man could appreciate at a considerable distance, it really is time to give up the thought of swimming in public, even if there are only women around. If not, ladies, please think along these lines: artic wet suit. But, I digress.

The cacophony of shrill, high-pitched shrieks with which they communicated with one another registered in my brain with the sensitivity of King Kong playing a pair of giant cymbols. There was to be no respite for us, not that weekend, not with those women.

After dinner was served in the mess hall, the entire ranch was ablaze with bonfires at every bunkhouse. Surrounding the fires were women in camp chairs, mixing drinks, passing bottles, and telling stories, very loud stories.

While most everyone was outside, I abandoned my friends and decided to shower (or I attempted to shower); however, the facilities were designed with the small child in mind. No mirror was hung higher than the level of my chest, no sink quite reached the height of my hip, no commode was more than six inches from the floor, and no shower head was more than four inches higher than my navel. At least the water was hot and I was alone. A small blessing.

Somewhat refreshed, I retreated to my bunk, pulled out two books from favorite authors, and plugged in the headphones. I was just beginning the second book when my friends came in to retire for the evening. Red and Holy Cow made themselves as comfortable as they could and we all watched while Sonnet took fifteen full minutes to get into the top bunk of her bunkbed and then remember she had to pee. It only took her twenty minutes to figure out how to get down.

Bonsai, the world traveler, was by far the most prepared of our group. When it came time for her to retire, she first opened her little knapsack and procured a little white pill or two. If I had known what was in store for me, I would have prevailed upon her to share. She then changed her clothes, put something over her eyes and proceeded to wrap her head in some kind of long silk scarf. Blinded, she cocooned herself within her sleeping bag and other covers. Once settled she lay in the supine position with her arms crossed on her chest. Gazing upon her, I had the vision of her with a sceptor in one hand and a lilly in the other. She looked like some sort of goddess of death. At that point, I made a mental note never to travel with these people again and back to my book, I turned.

Around 2:00 a.m. I finished my second book as the rest of the deck/bunk mates began to stagger in because it was beginning to rain outside. Rest was not on their minds. Apparently, there was an entrepreneur among them who peddled sex toys with the poise and aplomb of a most accomplished tupperware lady. But, alas, these were no ladies. It was then that Bob's exisitence was fully understood.

Finally, the sales show concluded and it was light's out. I thought my education for the day had come to an end. I was wrong again. I learned one other thing before I tried to drift off to sleep: Drunk women snore like fucking chainsaws!

I think I was able to close my eyes for fifteen minutes before a cold front moved in and brought with it bright flashes of light and the monstrous clap of thunder. Unfortunately, despite the storm, I could still hear most of the women snoring.

When dawn finally broke, the storm had cleared and left behind broken limbs, cold winds, and my groggy head. I did not recall the last time I had been so absolutely, totally, and completely miserable.

A hot breakfast and three Diet Cokes were not enough to revive me from my misery. At that point, I decided there was but one thing to do: go home. Red was on board, but Sonnet and Holy Cow, having slept well, decided to stay. Thankfully, they had followed me in Sonnet's car. Bonsai was amiss. We retraced our steps and returned to the place we had last seen her and there she remained, still in the supine position with arms crossed on her chest. I was afraid we had lost her forever. However, with less than gentle encouragement we were able to rouse her from her coma-like state. Once awake, she decided to return home with us.

We learned days later that the weekend was not a total bust. Sonnet and Holy Cow managed to return to the catholic church. Three hours and two priests later, Sonnet had performed her confession and received absolution. However, her penance continues and she is on her second set of rosary beads.

In the last few months, we have had far more fun reminiscing about our retreat adventure than we actually did living it. I guess, memories are a lot like that, aren't they?

Posted by Christina at 10:27 PM

October 04, 2004

Quid Pro Quo

After months of shopping, a pair of nice buttery soft leather chairs were purchased for the living room a year or so ago. They are over-stuffed and heavenly to sit in; however, they stain easily and when they were first delivered, the children were warned not to eat, drink, or even sneeze while sitting on them. I was a bit antsy about them, much like a brand new car and fear of that first scratch.

One afternoon while I was working around the house, Wee One was watching television and playing in the living room. On one of my trips through the living room, I noticed she was drawing with a black ball point pen, something she was not allowed to have. I stopped what I was doing and began to admonish her for using the pen when I noticed there were hieroglyphs across the front of the leather cushions on both chairs, as well as the footrests. One of the chairs had additional markings down an entire side.

In rapid succession, I first had a cow, then a stroke. Only after the stroke, did I lose my temper.

Before I laid a hand on the three-year-old child, I demanded from her WHY she had written all over MY furniture. Without missing a beat, she glared back at me, snatched up the baby-doll that routinely accompanied her to day care, pointed at the initials written on the bottom of one foot and replied: "Well, YOU wrote on MY dolly!"

My life is so not my own.

Posted by Christina at 10:30 PM

October 01, 2004


I am fortunate to have two daughters. They are both bright and beautiful. The older one is eleven and has a sweet, even tempered personality that strives to please. The Wee One is three going on twenty-five. The only master she serves is her own whim and fancy. With little more than sheer will, Wee One can hold her own even when faced with my formidible ire.

Earlier, Wee One asked her older sister to get her something to drink out of the refrigerator. Apparently, Sweet One was not moving fast enough to suit the Wee One. Before I could intervene, Wee One punched her older sister and told her: "Now, dammit!"

In my book, that's not ONE, but TWO infractions for a Wee One! The child was immediately chastised and informed (through gritted teeth) that WE do not hit one another and children do not use bad words. Her only response as she glared back at me: "Dammit."

For those who are counting, that was infraction number THREE. Action was required. I picked her up, walked to her bedroom, deposited her on her bed, and despite my earlier admonition (there is a difference between hitting and spanking), I gave her three pops on the behind and told her she was in time out. For fear of triggering a fourth infraction (Wee One can slam a door), I gently closed her door and left her to calm down, as I tried to do the same.

Within minutes, I heard the door open and a face with an angelic smile peeped around a corner at me. When she saw I had seen her, she walked over to me and said in her melodic, sing-song little voice: "I love you, Mommy."

After I pulled her into my lap, I talked to her about being nice to her sister, not hitting her sister or anyone else, and not using bad words. At the last, she looked up at me and with all seriousness told me: "But, I like saying dammit, Mommy."

Apparently, so do I.

Posted by Christina at 10:41 PM