Why Motorcyclists Are Awesome

Do you know anyone who rides a motorcycle?  I mean, a real motorcycle, not a crotch-rocket or moped, no offense.  I’m talking about an American, loud piped, chromed beauty on two wheels.  I grew up riding on the back of my Dad’s bike, starting a lot younger than I should have and I still get a smile when I hear the pipes roar down the road.

There was something calming about the vibration of the motor and the wind against my face.  I used to fall asleep as a child on the back of the bike, which looking back seems pretty dangerous.  On more than one occasion, Dad felt dead weight on the back and had to pull over to secure me to the seat.  Actually, that is really dangerous, isn’t it?  No wonder my Grandmoms hated seeing me pull up on the back of the bike with that big goofy helmet and my little jean Harley jacket.

Bikers are more than meets the eye.  The do more than rock a leather vest and chaps, which no one else can do.  Maybe a cowboy can do chaps, but I’m tempted to believe they come from the same breed of people; gruff and strong.  From my experience, they come from blue collar background and are down and dirty guys.  Whether the biker you know lives the biker lifestyle or a corporate CEO turned biker on the weekends, they all seem to get along in a roadside bar because they have the bond of the open road.  It’s evident in the way they wave to each other as they pass.  I know I don’t wave to other Ford drivers.

Some of the scariest looking guys I’ve ever met were bikers, and they were also the kindest.  We rode with firemen, military, police officers and men who worked with their hands.  They had long beards, beer bellies and were long overdue on their haircuts.  They remember your name and your story no matter how much time passed.  They’re the guys you meet up with on Sunday morning at a diner and ride through the afternoon with.  They are lifelong friends who will help stop your oil leak and tow you to get your tire fixed.  Some have tattoos, some don’t.  A real rider never wears sneakers and shorts, but long pants and boots, no matter what the weather.  They know how to pack light and be prepared for anything that lies ahead.

They maneuver around people who don’t know how to share the road and with people who don’t see them, while stabilizing hundreds of pounds of metal on two wheels.  They are the first to stop and help you.  They support their friends and all of their causes, and will remember fallen friends in the form of embroidered patches and charity rides or events to support your family.  They talk like sailors amongst friends, but treat a lady like a lady, with respect.  They are sons, brothers, fathers and husbands.  They relish old stories and they aren’t afraid to cry when it comes to reflecting on something important to them either.

I certainly don’t mean to leave the women who ride out.  I’m actually related to some fine female bikers and proud of the way they handle themselves and the road without intimidation, in a predominately male atmosphere.  At this point, I just don’t trust my balance to join them and I’ll stick to the back for now.  Maybe one day…

My opinions here are based on my twenty-plus years of experience with motorcyclists I’ve known amongst my Dad’s various groups, as well as my father-in-law’s. There are always exceptions to everything, in addition to a slutty half naked biker rally girl for each kind of rider I’ve described to you today.   Just never judge a book by its cover, like I almost did with the random Hells Angel who saved me from getting crushed at a concert.  The guy picked me up like I was a feather.  Never imagined a man that frightening looking could’ve been so graceful, and in a mosh pit.

Vroom vroom…the open road is calling.

Photo courtesy of the Rapid City Journal.

Am I What My Parents Expected?

We spent the afternoon celebrating my Dad’s birthday yesterday and while my husband and I grilled dinner and we all enjoyed a few beers, I thought to myself; Is that what my Dad pictured when they brought their little girl home from the hospital?

The Philadelphia Flyers advanced to their second series in the playoffs and as we yelled and threw ourselves out of our chairs with rants aimed at the TV, I couldn’t help but think about his expectations. Did he intend to have a sports-loving daughter, who can yell passionately (and at times like a sailor) at hockey players that will never be listening? Did he think about having weekly hangouts with her at the local brewery, where they’d hang out like pals and try the new nitro on tap?

Probably not.

But I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl and this was bound to happen. Having profound love and respect for my parents, as well as my heritage, I think I’ve adapted so many things from my Mom and my Dad. I just think no one expected the outcome to be such a 50/50 split. I go to tea rooms with my Mom and eat finger sandwiches but ended up marrying a man that I’ve taught the fundamentals of sports to. I know it’s trendy and annoying to hear a girl say they are a “guy’s girl” or “one of the boys”. I used to say that. I don’t know what I am now, except that I’m Shannon. I love sports, beer and rock as much as (some times more than) any guys I know. I also love cheesy romance books or movies.

Sometimes being a mix of what society considers being boyish and girlish can be frustrating though. I’ll never look like the girls who look like they stepped out of a salon or a Mac store because I’ll always be a little rough around the edges. 
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What Did You Want to Be When You Were Five?

The beginning of my short ballet career.

Being five was great.  Everything in the world was possible and no one laughed at your dreams, well, maybe a little but hopefully more of a giggle than a snide snicker.  I wanted to be a hairdresser and also a ballerina.  I also wanted six kids, three boys and three girls and have a house like the Brady Bunch.  Oddly enough, we eventually moved into a neighborhood with Brady Bunch style ranch houses that I giggle at whenever I see them.

My poor Mom used to let me play with her hair relentlessly and I did so in a tutu.  My Gram got me a pink tutu for Christmas when I was three and I crammed my skinny but tall figure into that thing for years until the seams finally prevented me from donning the garb.  It might have been life’s way of saying, “give up kid, you’re clearly too clumsy to be a ballerina, time to pack this thing away”.  I was probably ten.  The netting was so incredibly scratchy and nothing about this outfit was soft or comfortable like the ones I see little girls wear today.  I’m not bitter, I’m just saying I might have succeeded in a more comfortable tutu.  No?  Did I stretch the excuse too far?

I did take ballet when I was about seven.  It lasted for a few months or however long a standard class session is.  It was really hard for me because I’m uncoordinated and I had my Dad’s rhythm.  I felt like it would be so easy, after all, I’d already mastered all the dance moves from Dirty Dancing in my living room.  How hard could a few little ballerina moves be?  Apparently hard; for me anyway.  The class was tied in with tap dancing and that seemed like a plausible career too because I’d seen Gregory Hines do it on Sesame Street and it looked easy.  The only place that wasn’t carpeted in our house was our tiny 10×10 kitchen and since you can’t wear your tap shoes on concrete (or so I was told) so I didn’t get much practice time outside either.

I’m not too sure why I never pursued hairstyling except that maybe doing my own hair didn’t turn out too well and that phase just died out.  I did dye my own hair and sometimes chop at it during my teenage years, but that was because I couldn’t afford to get it done anywhere but my bathroom.  My Mom never stopped me from playing with her hair though because she said it felt nice and I still dance in front of the TV to be goofy.  I do more of a high kick strut with a fake cane and top hat as I pass through the living room now.  My husband will usually give me a pity snicker and wait for me to move but my parents really get a kick out of it when I visit.  It seems the living room will always be my grand stage because I’m embarrassed to dance anywhere else; except at weddings after a few Jameson and cranberries.  And no, I don’t want to see the video of it afterwards, even if I look like I have full confidence; that is temporary.

What did you want to be?

One Hundred Years Was Not That Long Ago

As we approach the on 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I think to myself how recent it was, but just how different life was; or was it?

My great-Grandmom was born in 1912, one month after the sinking and she only passed away two years ago.  Her little sister is still kickin’ at ninety-eight and there are several people alive today that are well over one hundred now.  Think about the transitions they’ve made in life.  We laugh about teased hair from the 80’s and disco music at Studio 54 but this older generation changed fashion, music and pretty much everything life had to offer, repeatedly.

It wasn’t that long ago that women wore corsets, couldn’t vote and got picked up for a date in a Model T.  Most people who served in WWII were born about ten years after the Titanic sank, and just like that generation, soon they will be gone as well.  We only just lost the last WWI soldier in the last year.

It put it in perspective for me when our little town newspaper mentioned that a Titanic survivor lived a couple little towns over.  He was the head barber for the White Star Line, who operated the Titanic.  The man journeyed over seven hundred times on transatlantic ships and nearly perished that night in the cold waters of the Atlantic.  The article touts him a hero, who assisted the crew as they tried to get as many as they could to safety in the few lifeboats available.  He was eventually swept off the ships edge when it split in two and after clinging to dining chairs in the water, Continue reading

Rockin’ With the Chili Peppers

I spent some time tonight writing a commentary on my experiences with the Red Hot Chili Peppers when I was younger. I say that like I’m old, but skipping work for concerts seems like a lifetime ago.

I won’t bore you with all the stories of mayhem; backdoor crashing, wristband making, concussions, “just in case” cigarettes and debt-building concert tours; (unless you ask me to).

What I will share, is that these were some of the happiest days of my life…so far. They are a band I followed since I was eight. And it became much easier to have access to shows and special events while I lived in Southern California after I graduated high school. I was foolish with money, spent time with some weird people and looked up to musicians who did a lot of drugs. I did not condone the drug use, but I did find solace in the music and theirs became a soundtrack to many years of solid memories and friendships.

Some people hate them, some people love them and I’m not here to debate that. I used to try but really, what is the point of trying to convince someone to alter their taste? I personally have a connection to them, which is that I feel happy when I hear them. My hips rock to Flea’s bass and my feet tap to Chad’s drums. I can’t resist singing along, even when the lyrics don’t make logical sense and no matter who is playing guitar, there is a hauntingly soulful sound on most tracks that just make me…happy.

I’ve posted a shot of me when I was 18. I just moved to San Diego and went up to Los Angeles for a charity event that the Peppers would be playing at. I snuck into the celebrity-only area and met the band for the first time. I’m smiling so hard that I look scary in this picture, while Anthony was in the middle of asking my photographer when to smile. My words to him did not make sense that night, and it was the first and only time in my life I was wordless…imagine that. I stood there in my leather pants and platinum hair and grinned for what felt like days. What a doofus, I think now. But what naive joy there is to be that young and happy without a care in the world.

How Do Dumb People Survive?

As a homeowner, I watch HGTV pretty often.  My husband and I are handy people and have successfully completed a lot of DIY projects and renovations ourselves, by planning, budgeting, compromising and seeing the value of hard work.  There is also a crazy concept of opening your mind and imagining possibilities.  Not to toot our own horn, but we bought our first house together, which was a fixer-upper and have made it into a comfortable and modern home.  We also aren’t in debt up to our eyeballs because of it.  We aren’t wealthy, but we get by, so it’s not out of bitterness that I ask this; why are wealthy people so stupid?

I see shows like House Hunters and people will say, “We have a budget of only $900,000.”  Only?  Are you serious?  Then I think, well, they must be pretty smart to have gotten that far ahead.  And then the show continues, followed by ridiculously stupid and naïve comments.

“I don’t want that first house because the kitchen was yellow and that’s ugly.”

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast

As an amateur photographer, I’m hoping these convey contrast properly, particularly with respect to lighting.  I took these inside a photography school in Philadelphia.  It was an old warehouse that was refurbished and converted into spaces for artists and their expressive institutions.

I fell for the old brickwork, the old glass windows and the beauty of the building which was restored out of a previously abandoned warehouse that at one time drew squatters and taggers.  The neighborhood isn’t great, but it appears the building has been respected since the rehab.  How they purposely refurbished the building around the graffiti reminds me of the new life it has taken on.  It encompasses the contrast between the stages of life this building and this area has seen over time; new to decrepit to repurposed.

ABBA, J. Peterman and New York

I missed posting yesterday, but for good reason.  I was lucky enough to join my Aunt to New York to see a Broadway show.  She had won tickets to Mamma Mia.  I am a huge fan of New York City, but of Abba?  Not so much.  I do love many forms of art and stage, so I did not turn down the opportunity and in the end, I was really pleasantly surprised.

My musical taste skips the Abba and spandex generation altogether, but since I’m not technically a musician, I feel I have no place to judge the taste of others.  These people wrote the music that millions know and love today.  You should have seen the crowd at the end.  People of all ages compelled to jump out of their seats and frantically wave their hands and sing along.  I could’ve gone that far if I had a couple drinks from the bar first, but I did clap in attempt to maintain rhythm.

Speaking of which, it’s been some time since I’d been to a Broadway show and I was unaware that there were rolling bar carts next to the candy guy and the program sellers.  Maybe it’s one of the details you don’t notice at a younger age.  I suppose it’s a very good thing that I wasn’t scouting out the pinot grigio before Beauty and the Beast during my school field trip to the theater.  Regardless, I had anticipated a dated show and instead the updated one-liners and costumes gave the show a more current ambiance.

New York was chilly, and the fresh chill and flurries were a good reminder that even though the Northeast has had a spring-like winter, spring is not yet upon us. There’s still plenty of time to pull out the gloves and my nemesis, the ice scraper.  Still the train ride up was easy and the company enjoyable.  This paragraph is making me feel like I’m writing a J. Peterman catalog narrative from Seinfeld.  Wool peacock blue coat, large retro matching buttons, dark jeans and boots that both emulate New York style and provide walking comfort.  I hope someone gets why I just wrote that.

Dance like Nobody’s Watching, Even Though They Are?

Even models trip. And then an entire article about it gets posted on dailymail.co.uk. Whether you're cool or not, no one is safe.

When I was little girl, I was paranoid that other people would see every little thing I did.  What I wore mattered and the fact that my cartwheels were not perfect actually bothered me as I tumbled across our front yard.  I remember helping my Dad to wash his car one day and he said;

“Shannon, you only think people are watching you.  You’re going through a stage where you feel like you’re on display and everyone will take interest or critique what you do.  They aren’t watching, because they are too busy worrying about the same thing; themselves.”

Although I didn’t record this epic conversation to quote it perfectly, that is what he said.  He told me about when he was younger and how he thought that everyone had something to say about what he said or did; even strangers.  He was right, I did go through that phase, but so was everyone else.

In high school, if I tripped on my own chucks, did I not feel the need to recover and look back at the floor like it assaulted me?  I even see adults do that today.  Who gave that floor the right to trip me?  It must be a defense mechanism, in which we place blame on some inanimate object so we don’t look like a fool.  So silly.  So what if we trip up, who hasn’t?  And will worrying about what people think of my slip-up make my life any better in the process?  Certainly not.

I’d like to think those sort of things don’t matter as much to me anymore.  But there is a flaw in my Dad’s grand plan of growing up.  Yes, I did eventually realize that my mundane life is not tabloid fodder but he also did not anticipate the age of the internet, cell phones and YouTube.  Just when you think it is safe to screw up, we find a world around us that is quick to document it for the world to see, in the form of pictures and video, whether you’re famous or not.  Stupid mistakes can end up on your boss’s Facebook page before Monday morning’s meeting and Grandma will never respect you again.  Luckily I’m just still tripping on my feet and nothing too embarrassing is going on over here, but boy am I glad I got my bearings before I realized what the future would hold.

Tattoos Are Permanent

The title is an obvious statement and one which people often don’t keep in mind when getting a tattoo.  The worst is seeing “trendy” tattoos and waiting for an entire generation to have a less than appealing version of it as we age.  As someone with two tattoos, both small but one in an obvious place, getting more is something that makes me both very cautious and very eager.

One of the biggest parts of being a creative writer is expressing who you are.  It is very easy to perfect our niche and allow details to shine through our written works that tell who we are.  People like labeling things, and even ourselves, though many try to dismiss that notion.  Tattoos are a version of that, like putting a permanent sticker on your car, but knowing it’s the car you drive for life.  Also don’t forget that you’re never getting out of that car.  People will judge you on your “decorations” and often decide where to fit you in terms of opportunities that arise.

Tattoos can be expressive in a “wow” way that exudes a look of glowing awe or a “wow” response that hinders more in a “what were they thinking” way.  Your body décor can be appealing and open doors that a plain person may not access or it’ll shut a door in your face.  There are simply open and closed-minded people, and that’s just the way life is.  I suppose it’s a matter of making sure your body art truly depicts who you are and allows room for the opportunities you seek.

I’m often torn between allowing myself to be expressive and artsy or classic and conservative.  I appreciate the notions of each and I’m not quite sure what I am deep down.  Isn’t it ok to be both when the situation feels right?  Do I have to go all in, or does taking myself out of one stereotypical box make me unique?  When I’m out with friends, I don’t wear a watch.  When I’m at work I do, to avoid the distraction of people staring at the tattoo on my wrist.  I’m not ashamed of it and I still don’t regret getting it, but I’m also aware of the snickers I’ve gotten from corporate higher-ups and I don’t need my potential success sidelined by a decision I made when I was 18.

I also worry about what time does to our bodies.  I have an inkling (get it?) to get another piece done, but I do worry that if I choose the wrong location, that time won’t be so kind.  Maybe the conservative side is hindering the artistic one and I should take more of a chance.  Or maybe like many things in life, such as buying a house or finding your spouse, it’ll come to you and you’ll just know.  Same should probably apply to finding something you want to adorn on your skin forever.  If we can’t wait for that to happen, then at least be prepared for the regret later.

Photo courtesy of sodahead.com