Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happiness is a Warm Motorcycle

I was having a shitty day.  The kind of day where I didn't want to talk to anyone, let alone even make eye contact.  I just wanted to be alone.  I wanted to cycle to the ocean and think or not think at all, remember everything or nothing and forget it all just the same.  I've always understood the healing power of the ocean but to be able to see it and swim in it everyday becomes a different reality.  I've become a bit co-dependent on the water, craving it's salty attention, which could be a good thing until we break up and I move elsewhere.  I spent the day on the beach and then hunger dragged me back to the hostel where I ate a late lunch in a moody fashion.

After eating, I knew I needed to get some writing done so I planted myself on the roof of the hostel and stared at my computer screen.  The blank page peered back at me only fueling my frustration, blinking cursor taunting me.  How can I lack inspiration when I live in such a beautiful place?  It's not where you are physically though, it's where you are in your head and sometimes you can just get so stuck in there.  You unbraid every thought until you have a pile of frayed string with still no resolutions about anything.  These are the kind of days where confusion begets confusion, no matter how much unraveling you do.

I sat for about an hour and didn't type a damn word.  Feeling stymied and snubbed by my relative thought blockage, I turned off my computer and walked slowly down the stairs from the roof of the hostel to my room.  I placed my computer in my little locker and texted Ashley, asking her what she was doing.  She can always make me smile and plus I could hold her son, Calai, his lush, baby goodness just making me warm could possibly be enough.

The door to my room was open and as my friend, Nimi, walked by, he slowed down and said, "I just took a ride on that motorcycle!"  Pointing to the bike outside, the one bike with an engine next to all the bikes with pedals.  A working, noble BMW machine amongst dinged up bikes, some with flat tires, all painted in rust.  It's been parked at the hostel for awhile but I never gave much thought to it apart from once in awhile eyeing it thinking, "Who's pimp ride is that?"

"Do you want to go for a ride?"  Nimi's eyebrows raised with a glint in his dark brown eyes and a huge grin split my face from ear to ear, "Yes."  Something I've realized since I've been here, when you're having a bad day, say yes to any possible thing that might make you smile.  Being glum gets old fast.  In the box on the back of the bike was a black helmet with a skull on it, this was mine for the ride because it's the law and you're an idiot if you don't.  Also, because I knew it would be the first question my mom would ask of me when I told her that I rode a motorcycle and of course I want to alleviate her concerns.  I won't mention that I wore flip flops instead of my sneakers as the whole event transpired so quickly that it didn't occur to me to take proper podiatric care.  But head care, yes.

"I've never ridden a motorcycle before!" I said to Nimi.  He got on and told me where to put my feet to get on behind him.  Screw the bad day, as soon as I mounted that thing, I couldn't stop smiling.  We rode out of the hostel onto the road, "Where do you want to go?"

"On the beach road!"  I thought it might be spectacular to see the ocean from a motorcycle.  Nimi revved the engine and faster and faster we rode, overtaking one car after another.  I was grinning like an idiot and giggling like a child, it was impossible not to.  I believe a string of drool even flew out of my mouth at one point during the ride.  It made me remember summers when I was a kid and we would go to Darien Lake, the amusement park near Buffalo.  I lived for the roller coasters.  I could barely be bothered with any of the other rides, bumper cars and ferris wheels be damned, speed was the most important aspect for me at amusement parks.  Just like when I used to snowboard in the woods in Vermont and the Alpine Slide rides I've hurled myself down in Austria with my international crew of friends.  Waterskiing with my family in the Adirondacks, jetskiing with my best friend, Katie, when we were teenagers, fourwheeling in the woods once with my brother-in-law, hell even biking down a hill, I love speed.  It is thrilling, your heart in your chest, your eyes wide open, you are seated next to life, it is not merely passing you by.

Trees, hotels, people, cars, scooters, the ocean, we raced by them all.  And I couldn't stop laughing.  My heart grew warm little fuzzies for friends like Nimi, who see you toiling with your bad day in the morning and leave you be.  And it's the same friend who will bring you out of your shit by offering you a magic carpet ride in the evening.  We weaved around other cars and when we could fly, we flew.  We rounded blind corners keeping to our side of the road, leaning with the bike to the right, to the left.  At the end of the paved beach road is the entrance to the biosphere reserve, Sian Ka'an.  Cue in dirt road riddled with potholes and more giggling as we bounced and soared over it all.  We got to a restaurant, called Cesiak, that has a tower to watch the sunset over the lagoon on the west and the ocean on the east.  We were just in time for a bright pink sky dotted with dark grey clouds and a bright red sun hunkering down.

It's one thing to be on a bicycle lolling past the ocean, it's another thing to be in a car and roll down the window to watch the ocean slide by, but to be on a motorcycle, it's different in all it's entirety.  You can focus on nothing in particular and watch the turquoise water rush by or you can focus on one point for a second, another point the next second.  Anonymous faces dart by that you smile at and they smile back because they can see glee all over your face.  Even in that one split second of eye contact, it's good to share delight.  And when you want even more of a rush, just look up and watch the palm trees, the ficus trees, the bougainvillea shuffle rapidly overhead, one after another with the sky intersected between the blooms and the branches.  Then you bring your focus ahead of you again, tilt your head to the right to see past the helmet in front of you and know that you can always look back but the only way to go is forward.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

La Lluvia, Mi Bici y Yo (The Rain, My Bike and Me)

We get spoiled in Tulum.  The weather, most days, is sunny, blue skies and hot.  Most days.  You do, however, get a few days in a row where it rains, or it threatens rain, it's windy and chilly.  Honestly,  I don't mind those days.  It's a gentle reminder that nothing is perfect.  I sign on to Skype, I read and write, I attempt to memorize Spanish that I've learned and I continue to procrastinate writing emails.  However, here's a little secret I know; I realized on the days that it's threatening rain, it's best then to bike to the beach, if only briefly, before the onslaught of drops from the sky.

I've always loved biking and it's become a daily activity for me here.  I bought a crappy little bike, with no gears and the brakes hardly work but it gets me from A to B.  It's a small frame, a bike made for an 11 year old girl so when I ride on it I feel like a giant, which is a rare occurrence for me.  The chain is incredibly greasy so whenever I ride the bike, I have the telltale chain marks on my right calf.  But the bike does a body good.  It's my jam, everyday, it's my sidekick, my plus one.  No complicated feelings in this relationship, just pure nirvana.

A different day from the day I am writing
about but you get the idea....
After several dreary days here where I mostly sat around in the hostel I'm now living in (I moved from my treehouse to a hostel for a plethora of reasons and it's so much fun as a temporary living situation), I got up one morning and figured I'd go to the beach come rain or shine.  The sky was threatening, the wind was picking up but I didn't care.  What the worse that can happen?  I get caught in a downpour?  That's a welcome in the humidity here.  (The humidity alone is worth dedicating a blog post to, how curly my hair has become, how rusty my bike is, how a part my Leatherman knife literally disintegrated in my hand while I was using the pliers awhile ago and I stared in disbelief at the crumbling bits).

Anyhow, back to my bike.  Just me and some handle bars in front of me, peddling my sweaty way through damp air to get to the beach in hopes that I can sit awhile before the downpour.  The thing about Tulum is, it can be sunny and gorgeous in town and pouring at the beach or vice versa.  Micro climates abound, so don't assume it's shit weather at the beach if it's shit weather in town.  I got to the beach early, maybe around 9 AM.  There was almost no one else around.  It was gorgeous, stunning.  There wasn't a smidge of sunlight but the grey and black polychrome sky from above my head to the horizon line was enough to catch your breath in your throat.  I could see way off on the horizon several rain storms scattered.  Veils of rain that look diaphanous from  afar but are certainly not once they hit you.

I stood on the soft, white sand, closed my finger to my thumb and squinted through the hole it made so that the only vision I had beyond my own hand was incandescent ocean and dramatic sky.  All I could think was, "remember this view, remember these colors."  I stripped down to my bathing suit and waded into the crazy turquoise water.  It's funny, when it's not sunny at all, the color of the water is of an intensity on a completely different level.  It's almost as though, when it's brilliantly sunny, that brightness takes away from the intensity of the ocean so that when it's seriously overcast, the water truly shines in a different way.  I hummed to myself as I made my way into the water.  The ocean enveloped me in it's salty arms and I floated on my back.  I was awestruck by the juxtaposition of green water and black sky.  If I floated just right on the backside of a wave with an oncoming wave in front of me, there was a thick line of gossamer green and then a distinct line of black and grey sky and that was all I could see.  I tried to float like that as long as I could with only the view of the wave in front of me and the sky above the wave.  The view, the colors, the experience was something I've never seen or had before and I wanted to capture it as long as I could.  I stayed at the beach until I couldn't take the wind any longer.  Little grains of sand pummeling the pages in my book, disabling me from concentrating on reading

I did get caught in the rain on my bike ride home.  It poured on me.  I just laughed, squinted my eyes and rode on.   

Catching the sunset one night

My skin has become a completely different color these days.
I've even got a decent collection of freckles at this point.

Aaaaand, I just can't help but post photos of Ash's baby, Calai.
I introduced him to the full moon this past month with this Billy Collins
poem in my head, and here, I'm introducing him to being lulled to sleep by
the sound of the ocean...it worked.