Monday, October 27, 2014

Maybe Sunflowers

My grandpa died today.

Wait, let me start over.

One night, when I was a kid, I got in an argument with the bulk of my father's family. I felt slighted and desperate, and I ran to my grandpa, who was just waking up to go to work--third shift in the boiler room of a psychiatric hospital--and cried into his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around me and sleepily told me not to let them get me down. It would be alright.

I sat on the bed next to him in the dim light and sobbed. This argument was only the latest in a long line and it certainly wouldn't be the last. But, through it all, my grandpa was a rock.

When I was a kid, my grandpa collected the family's cans and took them to the recycling center once a month. He wore a driving cap when he drove. And suspenders.

When I was a kid, and my parents were still married, my grandpa was kind to my mother. He treated her like a daughter and never said a bad word about her (at least in my presence) after my parents divorced.

When I was a kid, my grandpa made breakfast--biscuits and thick gravy--and it was delicious.

When I was a kid, I sat in the living room on Saturday afternoons and watched Westerns with my grandpa until he fell asleep in the recliner.

When I was a kid, my grandpa was a dedicated family man and madly in love with my grandma. Theirs was the most loving and generous marriage of my entire family.

When I was a kid, my grandpa retired and took up video games. Together, he, my cousin, and I played hours of Mario Kart, Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil. Later, my grandpa took up the Metal Gear and GTA series and, as far as I know, played every Tomb Raider sequel. Whenever I visited, he would hand me the controller. "Ashley, can you get through this level? I can't get through this level." At this point, he was better at video games than I was. My only hope was the internet and the 1999 version of walkthroughs--we didn't have the YouTubes back then, kiddos.
Eventually, I got busy with high school and college and my own marriage. I moved out of town and my grandparents did as well. The tumultuous relationship I'd always had with my family became a relationship more of silence than anything else. It was my choice.

My grandpa died today. And I live three thousand miles away. The funeral is Friday, in Kentucky, but I live in California and, the thing is, I'm awful at funerals. Even if I could go, I would be useless and awkward. I think, "I'll send flowers." And I go to the "Sympathy" section of the flower-ordering website. But nothing seems adequate. Pale bouquets with pastel ribbons seem dreary and depressing. My grandpa was not dreary and depressing. He was cheerful and stalwart, tough and vibrant. The carnation wreaths, rose crosses, and dusky sprays all look... Damn it they all look like funeral flowers and funeral flowers mean that someone has died and then I realize again and again that my grandpa died today.

My grandpa died today and my friend Jim, a Jesuit priest, contacted us to see if we could go out next week. Scott answered that we weren't sure, that we'd just had a death in the family. Jim offered his condolences as a friend and his services as a priest--could he say my grandpa's name in his Mass this week when asking for prayers for families? I replied yes and then, as I said my grandpa's name out loud, I burst into tears.

My grandpa died today and I am still the little girl who cried into his shoulder.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fair Haven On Wheels

Alright, it's been ALMOST a month since I've written a post. I do apologize. 

Basically, I'm working under a deadline and working on two projects at once. Here's a still from one of them:
And here's a still from the other:
I've been writing or working in some other fashion about 10-12 hours every day. When I've not been writing I've been doing regular AshleyRose things like eating and sleeping and knitting and going to the gym and playing the new Borderlands game and celebrating the seventh anniversary of my wedding and... putting together a bike.

This bike--this bike. Oh man, let me tell you about My Nightmare Schwinn. Basically, since we moved to our latest place, I've been seeing bicycles, thinking about bicycles, wishing I had a bicycle etc etc. I finally picked one that I liked and that wasn't too pricey (for a bike) and I said, "When this (financial goal that I set for myself) is done, I'm going to get this bike." And then I worked and did normal me things for a few weeks and suddenly I'd reached that goal. I went over to the Walmart website (I know, I know) and tried to get my cheap Schwinn (I know, I know) and it was... out of stock.

Ok, that's alright. I spent about another week trying to figure out whether I should find another bike or wait for that one but I ended up really liking the Schwinn Fairhaven. I like that it's kind of Dutch-style, kind of vintage, kind of easy-looking to ride. I gave it (likely unwarranted) bonus points for sharing a name with the fictional, holodeck town the Voyager crew all love so well.
I realized this thing wasn't going to be a feat of engineering or even probably a well-loved treasure that would last me several years. I realized this was a Walmart bike. But, I've heard of Schwinn bikes my whole life and my needs were few and simple:

1- Not too expensive.
2- Comfortable to ride--as I haven't ridden a bike in about 15 years.
3- Not bad to look at.
4- Would get me around my little, bike-friendly neighborhood a few times a week as stress relief and fun.
5- Not awful to put together. I've assembled A LOT of Ikea furniture, art supplies, and full-scale theatre sets so I was pretty confident but I didn't want a huge headache.

The cheapo Walmart bike I had when I was a kid completely served this purpose. I figured this one would too.

Man, was I wrong. The bike was shipped to my house in a big box (which I expected) and all of the parts, bolts, nuts, and little washers were free floating and not bagged or bunched together at all (which I did not expect) and the only way I found one of the washers was that it was stuck to the packing tape on the outside of the box. I probably should've just stopped right there. But, optimistic as ever, I sallied forth.

 I soon discovered that I would be needing an allen wrench and perhaps various other tools I didn't have (no my vast collection of Ikea allen wrenches were the wrong size) but I couldn't be sure until I got there--the Schwinn manual is a manual for basically every big box bike you can buy. There's a lot of, "If you have this type of seat, you'll need to do x, y, z." I eventually found a Schwinn Cruiser manual online and it was marginally more helpful.

Look at Past AshleyRose. What a sucker.
Anyway, once I got some of the stuff put together and resigned myself to a trip to Home Depot for an allen wrench, I decided to try and put more of the bike together to see if I needed anything else. Turns out, I did. The nut holding the front fender on had gone missing. So... I had to go off to the Home Depot with my little bolt and find a matching nut. This is a pain in the ass--even though I really like Home Depot.

I did all that. I came home. (By the way, I don't exactly have time to just run back and forth to Home Depot or Walmart or whatever--remember all that stuff I was going on about a million years ago at the beginning of the post?) This afternoon I decided to put the front fender on. It doesn't fit. Not even a little bit. It will bolt to the front fork and it'll bolt to the little holes next to the tire but, once it's on, it brushes against the tire. It's crooked. Just like the Schwinn sticker on the front, which is kind of... glued on all wonky and messy. I figure, hey, I live in the desert, and it never, ever, ever rains here so I probably don't even need a front fender. I get on and give it a shot. The seat rocks back and forth. No amount of bolt tightening (while the seat is on the bike and therefore testable) will happen. I have to take the seat (quick-release) out and put it in my lap to tighten the bolts. (I scraped my finger in the process--which is probably my fault, in fairness, but still.) So now the seat doesn't rock back and forth. I put it back on. I get on. Now the quick-release has loosened up. I have to tighten that again. Over and over.

Is the bike rideable now? I mean... I guess? 

I keep having this dream of taking a de-stress ride around my neighborhood, on my lovely bike, with the breeze in my hair and probably some Standard Urban Groceries in my panniers.

Basically, this.
As of tonight, the Schwinn Fairhaven (aka- My Nightmare Schwinn) is put together well enough that I can--mostly--ride it. I gave up on the front fender--which makes the whole thing look (even more) silly, but I guess I can live with that.

This process--from the time the tattered box arrived on my doorstep (crushing the box of Borderlands The Pre-Sequel, which arrived the same day--this is the carrier's fault but I feel like I should've taken it as a sign) has taken eight days but feels significantly longer.

So, basically, I'm just wondering when the Holodeck will put a bike (and a town, and standard urban groceries, and an Irish pub) together for me so I can finally enjoy my dream bike ride.

No time to think about it now though. Back to work. Hopefully it won't take a month for me to get back here.

About A Year Ago: Affairs of the Holographic Heart

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