Category Archives: Life-ism

Banish The Pixie Dream Girl

I was going to write a post seeking riding buddies and new friends on the road, but then I got sidetracked by a recent episode of the podcast Modern Love.

At first blush ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl‘ seemed like it was going to be a cheesy love story, but you know, that’s not really Modern Love style. There must be some insight. There is always a lesson.

As the narrator talked about his love of the genre of manic pixie dream girl romance. He told a story of how he once found his very own manic pixie dream girl. Describing the exciting but damaged personality that makes up the manic pixie dream girl, I wondered if I envisioned myself as a manic pixie dream girl too.

No, I don’t envision myself as a Natalie Portman from Garden State. I lack the physique and eating discipline to actually be pixie-like (note: photo is nothing like Natalie Portman) But that old trope of the fun, interesting, quirky and intriguing girl who is also emotionally and mentally damaged from whatever ghosts haunt her and she needs fixing by a stable, strong, infinitely patient protagonist. The storyline goes that the stable protagonist finds himself a manic pixie dream girl. She, through her wild antics, she draws him out of his shell and introduces him to an exotic new world of new experiences and, of course, sex.

They fall in love. But the heroine can’t escape her mental defects. The sexy intrigue becomes unbearably eccentric. The wild excitement turns into fear-inducing volatility. The fun quirkiness becomes mental instability. The sass becomes mean.

We worry about what she will do to him. Or what she will do to the relationship. And we are certain she will ultimately hurt herself. Naturally, love overcomes all and our strong and stable protagonist is able to fix her; thus saving her from herself.

My favorite of this genre is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It doesn’t follow this exact formula and our manic pixie dream girl, Clementine, is less hapless and cutesy pixie and more self-assured and decisive woman. I hesitate to add manic, because that would imply she actually has a mental health disorder that the audience thinks she needs fixing. She doesn’t need fixing.

As I declared myself an atheist at age twelve, I am not so into the idea of fate nor star-crossed lovers nor soulmates nor one true loves. So, it’s odd that I love this movie so much. It relies entirely on fate – our two soulmates, despite erasing each other from their minds, they find each other again because they are destined to be together.

The movie abruptly ends after they find out they erased each other from their respective brains. They learn about their previously volitile relationship that ended in heartbreak.

Roll credits.

We are left to believe Joel and Clementine are fated to be together. Armed with the knowledge of how their relationship failed, perhaps they avoid all the mistakes of the past and live happily ever after.

Or maybe they are the same people, the same personalities and the same relationship they were the first time. Perhaps, they are destined to just repeat the same heartbreak again and again and again. Groundhogs Day.

Okay, that was a fun recap of my favorite movie. So, why, you might ask, would I envision myself some sort of manic pixie dream girl? I don’t want to, really. In fact, it’s not even specifically the manic pixie dream girl that is the problem.

She is just the embodiment of that tired old mentality that most of those smart, intriguing and fun girls we love are flawed. They need to be fixed. The “I like all these things about you and you would be perfect if you could just fix all these things about you.” Your amazing, but totally screwed up. I’ll take all the good stuff, but let me help you identify and eliminate all this shit that stinks and offends me. Your great, but broken.

Here is the problem. We are all flawed. No, not flawed. We are all different. With the good weirdness comes the bad strangeness. With the exciting and exotic comes the scary and different. With the wild and fun come the unpredictable and volatile. It is all matter of degrees and increments, compromises and acceptance. It is not flaws in need of fixes.

I fell for the romantic construct of the manic pixie dream girl. We all do at some point, don’t we? We envision ourselves as some gauzy, doe-eyed creature who is wonderfully and tragically imperfect. We are broken and we need someone to fix us and save us from ourselves. And it’s not just any anyone – it is only the fated one.

No doubt, I can be improved. But let’s banish the manic pixie dream girl and all her incarnations. The concept of her is broken. I am not.

Happy cooking and dreaming!

Marked Improvement: A 180-Mile Test

I woke up a achy, groggy and a bit puffy. I was retaining water because I sweat so much the previous day that my electrolytes were all out of wack. I needed some potassium. I wanted to take a day of rest.  I was being booted from my temporary accommodations, so, I had to hit the road anyway (side note to my friend, don’t take that statement the wrong way, I am just writing things build in some captivating drama and hook the reader, I really had to hit the road regardless). The previous day’s motor cycle training promised a marked improvement in my riding; today, a 180-mile ride back to Pollock Pines would put that to the test.

I spent the previous day taking the Intermediate Riding Clinic with 2Wheel Safety Training. The training was the real reason I took that trip to Sunnyvale last week. The side trip to commune with Ceridons and college friends and also catch up with a friend and get some riding in around the Bay Area were serendipitous happenstance.

Despite my the verbose and descriptive post last week about riding to Sunnyvale, the experience was sobering. After 4-1/2 hours in the saddle, I was exhausted. I felt wind and road abused. My ass hurt. And there were a few moment where I thought, “I am in over way my head.” I might sound wildly confident (one of my special talents is faking the shit out of confidence), but I was having existential doubts about launching myself onto open road alone for multiple weeks.

My subconscious also subtly made its trepidation known by distracting me from sitting down to do the work of mapping my route. On Monday, I finally forced my conscious brain into action and plowed through pinning way points and preliminary routes on Google Maps. Despite road tripping to both coasts a few times, the land is enormous and vast and empty. It was overwhelming to see the trip laid out in 19 discreet steps. A friend and I once pulled an all-nighter from Denver to DC. The need to refuel forced our only stop with a  short nap parked next to gas pump waiting for the station to open. In my slow, road trip, self-discovery, two-wheeled mentality, I will make that run in 13 stops – at least 13 full overnights.

The combination of feeling my own smallness on the road and the staggering immensity of my intended road trip sent me into a contemplative funk on Tuesday which looked an awful lot like me laying around on my friend’s couch wasting time on social media. My subconscious again wedging its protest as wasteful avoidance in brain cell burning Facebook feeds, YouTube videos and online political analysis.

But Wednesday brought the real reason for my trip to Sunnyvale, my riding class. The twenty-some-odd mile ride to the class reminded me again of how freaking big the highways around the Bay Area are and how small I was. Seriously, seven lanes in both directions?!?! My side trip to Colorado caused me to bump my class from Sunday to Wednesday. That lucky stroke put me into a class with only one other student.

As it turns out, 8 hours of practically one-on-one training is exactly what my subconscious needed to give it a swift kick in the medulla oblongata and move my inwardly actual confidence closer to my outwardly feigned confidence.   For either hours, we alternated between classroom lessons and road lessons. Did you know that the highest percentage of motorcycle road fatalities are NOT the 18-25 year old males? Nope, it is us mid-life crisis riders that own that category. Apparently, there are more of us and we are more affluent and more reckless. That factoid made my subconscious tingle in a little smug “told you so.”

The morning fog and clouds burned off and left us on a blacktop parking lot in 86ºF heat in full cycling gear. Most skills were done at less than 20mph, so we weren’t getting the wind for air cooling.  We stopped hard and fast, we road in circles, and patterns and swerves and we did evasive maneuvers over and over and over again.  It was hard work physically and mentally. With just two of us in the class, we rarely rested between runs, but that also meant we got way more practice and way more opportunity to work skills into out automatic reflexes and way more personal coaching. Shout out to Kevin Magee for the awesome instruction. If you can take a class with him, I highly recommend it!

I needed that. I needed to push my new bike and my subconscious brain to limits I wouldn’t dare try on my own – force activating the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS), leaning my bike over so far it scrapes the pegs on the ground, positioning my body way over the tank and my ass way off the seat, letting the bike ride like its meant to and learning not to fight it but work with it. I sweated through everything and exhausted my brain.

By the end of the class, I was already pondering ways to maximize my rest time and delay my departure back to Pollock Pines. My stubborn subconscious wanted the rest day. It was saying “You are tired. You worked muscles in new ways yesterday, take a break. You need to re-hydrate. You should wait. ” My friend’s eminent departure the following afternoon meant I would head back the next morning regardless. This unfortunate circumstance turned out to be the right thing to do.

For the next 180-miles, I took the concept of marked improvement to task. On the bighighways, I re-positioned myself for aerodynamics. it is a scarier and more uncomfortable way to ride, but I felt more in control and prepared for the unexpected. The big highways still sucked, but they weren’t abusing me. While I thought I was moving my ass in the saddle before, I realized my previously paltry weight shifts with my ass glued to the center of my seat was not really maneuvering the bike. It served marvelously to numbing my glutes and turning my tailbone into a pointy hot spot. Now, I actually moved my ass and worked with the dynamics of the bike rather than the handlebars to steer. I shifted my weight as road conditions changed practically eliminating the sore ass feeling. The two winding mountain sections were more controlled and more fun.

I arrived back in Pollock Pines sweaty and hot, but energized. It wasn’t just a marked improvement from my ride one week earlier, it was a completely different ride. Even my subconscious smiled, relaxed and even slyly admitted, “You. Got. This.”

Happy cooking and improving!