Life on three wheels
I never used to take the elevator in my apartment building until I started riding a pedicab. Since March, despite the aches in my legs and sometimes my knees I’ve lost thirty pounds and I’m in the best physical shape of my life.
My emotional health is another story. But so far that’s okay too, even with the mad spikes in adrenaline and endorphins that come hauling folks of various shapes, sizes and attitudes into the headwinds along San Francisco Bay en route to Pier 39 or climbing up Market Street to Macy’s and Union Square.
I’m only half-joking when I tell friends that I sometimes fantasize about reenacting Thelma & Louise’s famous drive off that cliff, but that the drop from the sidewalk into San Francisco Bay is too small and the waters too shallow. And yes, while my jokes about whom on the waterfront I’d shoot first if I ever go postal – office workers doing boot camp or couples posing for wedding photos – are a bit off key, dark humor keeps the jealous, I wish I were them not me side of my brain from getting too bitter.
Food and water
When I first started riding I was told that first my muscles would adjust, then my metabolism. Despite the aches my muscles have adjusted, but my metabolism makes about as much sense as homophobic, right wing preachers snorting crystal meth with their male prostitute boyfriends. Thank you self-hating Ted Haggard!
It’s become mysterious and inconsistent, like a bully that shows up sporadically, especially when it’s feeling ignored. More than a few times I was so achy and tired I thought I was getting the flu. But after drinking huge amounts of anything liquid – water, Gatorade, kombucha, 7-Up, seltzer, lemonade – my unknowingly dehydrated camel-at-the-oasis-tired-ass-self felt fine a mere few hours later.
Some friends tell me I eat like I’m pregnant. Other’s call me the Billy goat. Savory or sweet, protein or carbs - my life these days is a metabolic wheel of fortune. Where it lands I never know.
Other times I come home from work too tired to eat. Instead I retreat to the sofa enjoying the company with my favorite little twins – good California weed and coconut milk ice cream. Waking up hours later, crawling into bed in the middle of the night I find I can’t sleep and instead end up cooking a pound of bacon to go with a dozen pancakes that I make in extra-large Brady Bunch-sized batches and reheat in the toaster. With food in my gut, my restless, anxious body relaxes and goes back to sleep.
Aches and pains
The rigours of my job seemed less arduous in the beginning of the summer. But these days, after too many weeks with too few days off, I’m left a few rides heaving and wheezing, sucking wind like a vacuum while trying to tell three tourists about the best bars in North Beach or where not to eat downtown. Wheezing like a dog that should have been put down a month ago, I try not to show any strain because I don’t want the family of four to feel fat, even though they are.
I often wake up tired, snap at people unexpectedly and cat nap on the bus while heading to work. My body is a mix and match of aches and pains - muscles, wrists, shoulders, knees, lower back, both feet, right ankle, neck, but luckily not all at the same time and rarely acute. Like a Chinese menu one ache and pain from Column A, one from Column B along a couple a la carte hurts as well.
Another day, another dollar
I never know how each day will go. Sometimes it’s busy, sometimes it’s slow, money is good, money is bad, passengers are heavy, others, light. My body has never worked this hard before in my life. At the age of 53 I have the blessing of working with my body, outside, in a city I love in a job that is never the same one day after the next.
I try and see that as a blessing but unlike most of the other drivers, men and women in their 20’s or early 30’s, who love the freedom, the space, the endorphins and the beer in lieu of food, folks who I’m frequently older than their parents I sometimes wish I was still stuck inside an office. Bored, I left my job in 2005 - the that one that paid me 65k a year along with four weeks vacation, sick days and office parties, the occasional company trip, great healthcare and a 401k too – to work freelance. But we were told and I believed freelancing was the new economy. Who knew that Bangalore was just around the corner?
So these days I’m my own boss, work when I want, quit when I want but I have no job security or sick days, never know how much I’m going to make and sometimes I’m so tired I’m happy to spend my day off never leaving my apartment.
At times I get angry – at myself, at America. Angry at my lack of follow through and those projects littering my computer like a junk pile of great ideas. Angry that I believed freelance was more than just another way to squeeze more sweat and flesh from working people, who once were lucky enough to be middle managers and get benefits that come with the old economic means to an end.
Oh lucky man
But even if I don’t know when I need to drink more fluids, work less hours or consume more calories, I’m aware of how lucky I am to be alive. Dead folks don’t have aches and pains. I won. HIV lost! I’m one of those unlucky folks who are lucky enough to understand how stupid it is to complain about getting older. Those who once wondered what people would say at our memorial when we died way too young, but then never passed away.
When passengers ask me how I like my job I tell them it's Dickensian, the best of times, worst of times. But when I’m not feeling sorry for myself how can that be true; it’s as shallow as the drop from the sidewalk into San Francisco Bay. I’m alive and peddling, sometimes but not always as fast as I can and that’s a blessing deeper than the ocean.
But if you know me, hold your horses and keep your self-projections to yourself, please!. Curb your enthusiasm. Don’t tell me how great my job is. Ask me how I like it instead. Because if you hate your office or job or your waistline and wish you could work outdoors and eat whatever you want, I understand. But I’d bet you a free ride from the Ghiradelli Square to AT&T Park (it’s $60 bucks, folks) that you’re either trying to be nice or you take too many things in your life for granted. A steady pay check. Health and retirement benefits. Calling in sick days when you hurt.
In the meantime here’s something I listen to many times a day . . .
The stars light up my life
The stars light up the sky
It reminds me that the world is too big for me to understand and more beautiful too. Like while stretching my sore body on some grass overlooking San Francisco Bay when a smiling dog suddenly appears, says hello and wants to play.