Beginner’s pluck part 2

Shirley Tam came by today, on time this time. She used a real map (last visit, Mapquest screwed her up). Shirley’s a courageous woman who has decided that if All Those Other People Can Ride A Bike, So Can I. She also quit a very stressful job at er, some biotech corporation because they seemed to think they owned her weekends.

So she decided in her month or so off, between gigs, to focus on getting two inflated wheels to behave underneath her.

When we got out onto the street, she told me that she also learned to swim later in life, and that swimming seemed easier because you can just float even if you can’t swim….I am not sure of that, since I have living proof that certain body types (bonnie mince Charlie’s, for example) SINK upon being lowered into water.

“Shirley, you mean that in Hong Kong, nobody swam, rode a bike, played?”
“Right.”
“What did you guys do for exercise?”
“We took buses and walked and we did shopping marathons.”
“You’re joking”.
“No. In Hong Kong, shopping is a serious sport.”

“OK…about this bike…we’ll keep the pedals off for now…let’s see if you can propel yourself down Dogbark Lane (slight decline) using both feet to push off…yeah, double foot-strike…No, not alternate tip-toeing like we did before…I want to see how long you can coast after pushing off from both feet at once, and letting your feet sort of hang back behind the pedals for a second or two.”

She did it, but it was clear that she didn’t like the sensation of Going Too Fast (3 mph).

“Let’s try something different. I’ll hold the saddle, you will simply steer, but be sure to look where you are going not a fixed blank stare, either. The real deal. Like: tell me how Camilla there (pregnant neighbor walking her first kid in pram) is dressed…”
Shirley fights a little with the wobbly handlebars, then:
“She’s got on…capri’s below the knee, floral pattern. Red and white. Flat..heels.”

As she spoke, I could feel her “gyroscope” starting to work…my light hold of the rear of the saddle with just a couple of fingers was sufficient…for short spells…and then she’d pitch to the side, abdicating control.

The same happened on Friday: when she focused on something else, a tiny bit of relaxation became evident…. only different stimulus. She had mentioned that when she ice-skated, the music helped to relax her and set the rhythm.

“You mean, just HEARING an external tune?
(began humming the Blue Danube)
(and she remained upright visibly longer…for ten long seconds)

Sometimes I wonder why I charge to teach, when I learn so much FROM my (star) students!
GO SHIRLEY GO!

Then, another brainwave today: “Does it feel like you’re going a little too fast?”
“yes”
“Then how about gently squeezing the brakes WHILE I’m assisting back here, and you steer as before, but scrub off a little speed, yes…just like…that…”
“You mean you can ride with the brakes ON?”
“Yeah.. it dramatically improves your precision in a tight turn (reader: when you are riding very slowly, NOT when you’re flying at speed), oh, God, Shirley you’re giving me another idea…”

I realized that the sensation of a completely free-rolling wheel without resistance, specially on even the gentlest of declines (Dogbark Lane loses ten feet in a third of a mile) give the neo-nervous rider a feeling of No Control. But braking, there is a noticeable feedback loop… even if Shirl hasn’t figured out the subtlety of pedaling-while-steering/looking-while-microadjusting-the-handlebars-again-and-again/-trying-to-remain-relaxed-while-petrified.

“Touch yr shoulders to yr ears. Now, let ‘em down…. “

It was a two hour session, a bit long. We rested a few minutes in the shade under the huge oak at the bottom of the lane.

Every few minutes huge pick-up trucks would roar past. Dogbark Lane’s a fleeping dead end, but God they go fast..We stayed put most of the time, had the trucks work around us…there are a dozen little kids on the street, even the sewer workers from San Francisco oughta have a clue it’s just a slow driving street. But, no. They are late.

Finishing a bit later than I’d anticipated, I had to doff the Super Patient Lady hat and throw on the Late For My Next Act cape.

Shirl put her bike in her car, promised to steal the neighbor kid’s bike (joke) so she could be even closer to the ground…And I realized there was no way , at ten minutes til one, I could be at College of Marin in time for my classical Russian Music appreciation seminar. First I said, “Take me in your car, I’ll have mother-in-law drive me home”.

Then I worked it out, remembered the six other things I had to do….like they say in London: You’re better off by bike. I don’t know what I’d been thinking. Ancient American reflex? I KNOW better.

“Skip it. See you later, I’m gonna stick to the bike, and just risk being a bit late…”

On went my special lock-in shoes (untied, cuz I’m late all the time), lace gloves, helmet with wings on top…plus a folio of comics I did 20 years ago that a friend will scan for me so YOU CAN SEE WHAT A DREADFUL COMIC ARTIST I YAM.

After music class, I realized that I hadn’t eaten a bit all day. For someone who usually shovels a thousand calories in at breakfast, this is headline news. Blame the computer. I’ve been typing every free instant.
Hint to reader: *please send reassuring comments, which give no caloric energy but are still useful*

Now it was mid-afternoon, and all I could think of was: Dumpsters (normal kid would think:fridge). Androgeno’s didn’t disappoint. I pulled: 3 things of ricotta, one thing of fresh mozzarella, a bunch of organo bananas, ripe (the hardest to deal with because they canna take any pressure), six pints of readymade orange colored indian sauces vindaloo and Korma (which I’ve never heard of) of course those are about 3 pounds(UK) six bux each…score!!! an’ what else?

Mmm…oh yeah hearts of palm from the deli. Only slightly tired. From a can, into the plastic deli tub. Taste of sodium phosphate but that’s ok, minor preservative…I sobbed inwardly for having taken my fast Cunningham road machine (truly I can get to COM in 14 minutes) which has NO ‘carrion’ capacity…DANNNNGGGG

For dinner I threw a small orb-y zuke from the garden into a small pan, added a sploosh of vindalo –coconut and lemongrass and curry sauce–then glop of ricotta and tried to sit and eat it instead of typing. But the buzz from the “InSainsbury’s” Dry Cider I hauled home from London is awfully fun. Empty stomach, and all.

It’s approaching dark.

Oh, yesterday “Spaceway” had six pints of Benign Jerry’s Pissed Offio icecream!! Only slightly well ok all melted but still cool.

Color me: sated.

~ by jacquiephelan on September 26, 2007.

One Response to “Beginner’s pluck part 2”

  1. Wish I’d had you around when I was first learning – thank the heavens for being able to attend one of your clinics at least! Please keep me in the loop when next you head East…

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