Who’s Biking Her Porker-Sized Butt Off?

Chick and dog donning the type of orange you can see from outer space.

Me. “Mace.”

I’m down 50 big ones.

In 4 months.

At 52.

How’d I do it?

I quit indulging in the Drinkeepoo and family-sized bag of Chex Mix every night, traded my flat bars in for drops, and got my porker-sized butt out on the road.

The catalyst?

Self-discovery stumbled upon through free-writing.

Huh?

Free-writing.

Two paragraphs to be exact.

Long-ass sentences that explained why and what I’d been running from all these years—the bouts of drinking, the trying on the wrong different people, places and things, the “girls don’t come along askin’ for ranchin’ chores.”

The unreconciled grief.

The “inflicted void.”

When I was on the edge of 20.

Edge of 20?

19. (Not 17, like Stevie Nicks.)

The discovery?

It was so powerful I sought a path to recovery.

I ride that path on my Trek Alexa.

A 47-mile bike ride down the Cape a couple of weeks ago helped shed those few pounds to achieve the big 5-0 milestone. Calcium was leaching from my muscles making my quads scream. The popping a squat to dispense fierce diarrhea and relieve the cramping in my lower gut didn’t derail me either.

Just made me dirty.

Hell, yeah. 52 and riding strong.

I got no strength, but I got endurance.

I got no core, but I got guts.

And I’ve dropped from an all-consuming 3X and comfortably sitting in a size 16 (know it sounds big, but think in relative terms). My inner thighs no longer bunch together and become one when I roll over in bed.

Does it feel great?

It rocks.

Has my presence of mind returned?

Not the kind I need to secure my smaller porker-sized ass in the technological workplace amid the Millennials. It’s troubling. What’s left of my mind is fleeting. And it’s not entirely due to alcohol consumption ’cause my high school girlfriend’s Cyndy and Kathleen’s minds are like sieves too.

And they ain’t boozers.

Nothing stays in my mind for long and there’s not alot of computing going on, just anxiety. Cycling helps. Yoga helps. My former writing coach did yoga. I wrote about the paradox (her doing yoga and my doing drinking to acquire the same effect) in the essay called My Dear Friend the Dirty, which the editors of Elephant Journal scooped up and devoured nearly 3 years ago.

My coach has since left me to pursue work with ‘better’ writers, those who are book-publishable-friendly and can afford her soaring hourly rates.

(And tolerate her sense of self-importance.)

I kept drinking the Dirties.

She used to say before reading one of my manuscripts:

“I’m eager to read me some Lisa Mae DeMasi.”

That translates to, this is going to make me laugh in parts but it has no depth or meaning.

I write when I can; back on the subject of my time spent in Cody. When I fell in love with toiling in the elements and fighting the boys to do the chores they hated. A 3-month period when Heartbreak was displaced by the cows and horses and mountains.

Saying goodbye to a foal in Cody at the Grin-N-Barrett Ranch, September ’95. My knee got torn up by a hit-and-run driver in Cody Central just days prior, necessitating my left leg remain immobilized. I’m styling a full leg immobilizer here before grease, dirt and tomato sauce made it visible. Wonder where my crutches were.

I wish I had gobs more time to write.

I chant every morning for a grant to fall from the sky and into my lap. Especially now since I can finally give meaning to my work. You know, having discovered the discovery, and feeling like a person again without all that “blind heartache weight.”

****************

The impact of loss scars the heart and you go on living your life ’cause you’re young and have to conform and can’t fall apart and you don’t realize those wounds are still there, throbbing raw, the fibers of tissue meshing over that open gap of mess. You don’t realize you mask that pain with the alcohol thirty fucking years later, that there’s a reason why you drink until the TV and the stand it rests on becomes unhinged.

You write and write and write. For seven years, straight, you do nothing but write and you’re told your writing has no depth or meaning. You keep writing because you’re still madly and blindly driven to it despite having lost all your assets and pockets are filled with nothing but dust and lint. You’re there writing, looking up the definition of a word online, fact checking, and you read, alcoholism is a well-documented pathological reaction to unresolved grief and glance down at the billionth line you just put in black and white and Jesus, the whole goddamn story comes clear.

****************

Adanna, a journal for women, about women, printed in its October editionWhy I Love Bike Commuting in Boston.

I no longer get to play chicken with city buses living in the Metrowest.

Damn, I miss it.

My work was also published in an Anthology last month, nestled inside other essays and poems by 50-something kick-ass women writers who are still enjoying sex with others and themselves. I flew out to attend and read at the launch in Santa Barbara, but never made it due to the fires.

Pick up a copy on Amazon and read it in the bathtub.

With rose pedals. And bubbly.

Unmasked: Women Write about Sex and Intimacy After 50

Time to go to spin class to burn away the remaining excess weight.

Where’s my low-calorie Gatorade.

Write to me at lisa dot demasi at gmail.

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Why I Love Bike Commuting in Boston

With Sabrina and My Jamis Coda

Commuting to work on my bike has brought my competitive spirit back—a quality I thought I left behind on the softball field my senior year in high school. My heart pounds in excitement as I gear up to ride, just like it did when I stepped up to the plate. The ride into Harvard Square means exertion and potential hostile territory as I move in and out of the flow of traffic through the Boston neighborhoods.

I savor the challenge of the road, the required vigilance. I’m one of the only 50-something women out there amid college girls on candy-colored bikes, wearing headphones and flip-flops. For them, a bike is a frugal means to get from point A to B. Not me. Riding my bike renews me; makes me feel like a kid again.

Commuting during the summer is a piece a cake, the best of times. I have free reign over the construction-laden bridge into the Square and Bert’s Electric isn’t squeezing me into the orange barrels vying for command of the lane. The driver will have longed passed this way before me, eager to get a jump on his schedule so he could suck down beers and fish in the Charles come three o’clock.

When Labor Day gets behind us, the worst of times, tradesmen aren’t reporting to work early and city bus drivers are laying claim to the asphalt. I’m a part of this, a moving component amid congested traffic, doing my best to obey the rules of the road and thank those drivers who are courteous. Courtesy is an act tradesmen do not extend to bike commuters. And city bus drivers? I’ve lost count how many times I’ve played chicken with ‘em and won.

One morning on North Harvard Bridge I lay claim to my share of the asphalt by scaling my way in between a Jersey barrier and Stan’s Heating and Cooling. That’s one foot plodding along the van and the other along the barrier, when the driver catches sight of me in the passenger side mirror. He goes wide-eyed as I slap my hand down on the front fender with a “You’re-seriously-blocking-my-right-of-way” expression playing across my face.

It is dangerous out there. Risk is 360, whether the bike commuter obeys the rules of the road or not. But because I behave on the road—I expect respect. As with the tradesmen that squeeze me off the bridge, when someone moves in on my turf, I feel compelled to take it back. Think of Kathy Bate’s character in Fried Green Tomatoes when she rams the car of the young girls who rob her of a parking space: “Face it girls, I’m older and have more insurance.”

Yesterday I encountered bad sportsmanship. At Watertown Yard, I break off the river path and onto the road. I’m up out of the saddle pedaling like hell in the middle of the right lane to catch the green to make a left. But time runs out and the light turns red.

I’m closing in behind a Ford truck when a VW passes me and zips in behind it. This infuriates me to no end, but damn, it’s too bad he leaves a good five feet of space between his front end and the truck’s bumper. Now, what do I have to do? Exercise my right to asphalt again. I ride past him. The 30-something driver has his window closed and stares straight ahead like he just didn’t pull a fast one.

“Am I invisible?” I huff, and wedge what I can of my bike and person between the two vehicles.

My focus steadies on the red light. The guy is seething, staring at a heavy-set chick on a sleek bike donning an orange jacket so bright you can see it from outer space. The effin nerve of this lard ass.

Perspiration slips into my mouth.

It’s a matter of principal as well as law in the Commonwealth. I’m just after my share of the asphalt, fair play, and I’m willing to fight for it. Sure, there’s an obvious disadvantage. I’m on a two-wheeled 18-pound carbon frame and this guy’s driving a ton of steel.

I’m ready. Got one foot flat on the ground, the other poised on the pedal. I take getting out of people’s way seriously, although its plain I’m not going to come out of this showdown with the least amount of respect.

My foot plunges the pedal down at the green. I’m standing up on the bike. Sisters are doing it for themselves. I pump hard, try to break out in front. The air moves in and out of my body in breathy bursts. The VW and my bike continue to advance, accelerating. The driver forces me to shadow his car on the inside, squeezing me to the median. I grunt; want to pound my fist on his door, but my brain warns me good and loud that my jacket could get caught on his side mirror. What’s even more upsetting is I’m incapable of conveying my disgust; he’s still eluding eye contact.

“You bastard!” I yell over my shoulder. It’s a novelty this outburst. Why I don’t call him an asshole is beyond me, it’s usually there handy in my on-the-road arsenal of expletives.

Hell, I’m not even afraid. Should I be?

Reality is too much for him to bear; the witnesses are screaming lawsuit. He breaks away, swerving his VW to the far-right lane. I straighten out in the left; wave a clenched fist and pump to the right side of the road knowing the traffic behind me is minding my back.

Competition over.

Once I’m seated on my bike navigating Boston’s streets, the risks and venturing the unknown enables me to handle the challenges life continues to bring. I’m still the same, the fearless girl swinging the bat on my high school field; invigorated and ready for action.

This essay was picked up by Adanna Literary Journal, 9/17.