A stressful week called for some deep breaths on a park bench and a leisurely ride home.
Hey, all! Long time no post, I know. I’ve been working behind the scenes to get the blog fine tuned, fixing some functionality issues and adding the Midtown Monkey shop, which I’m very excited about. Check out the first official Midtown Monkey t-shirt design, “Track Is Whack,” which I came up with after a nasty spill on R Street thanks to a totally whack transit track. I had the offending track torn up…just kidding, the city did that, but I was happy to see the nice, smooth pavement and new subtle, (decorative?) non-tire-grabbing tracks. Now perhaps the crash was somewhat brought on by the slippery satin elbow-length opera gloves I was wearing at the time (true story), which are admittedly not great for keeping your grip on bike handlebars during a rough track crossing, but “Opera Gloves Are Whack” didn’t quite have the same cachet. Hope you like the new shirt, and I plan to have more fun products for you soon!
Another reason for the lag between this post and the last is simply this: I have too many great post ideas for you, and I got completely frozen about which one to write next (such a Libra). So tonight I sat down and just started typing the title, and “The Long Way Home” is what came out, so here we go!
A couple weeks ago (yes, I’ve procrastinated that long on this post) work was particularly tough, adulting was tough, the weather sucked, and I was feeling bummed out in general. That was the morning I rode to work in the rain wearing my beloved ear muffs, a Frogg Toggs rain hat, jacket, and pants, my armored scooter jacket, scarf, gloves, backpack with rain cover, the whole nine yards. Needless to say I looked like a maniac. After work it was like a totally different day: fresh breezes, blue skies, springy smells in the air. I crammed everything in my backpack, and my anxiety-induced chest pains and I decided to take the long way home.
How indulgent, right, with a to-do list a mile long waiting at home? But what is it about commuting that compels us to make a beeline from the stress at work to the stress at home, point A to point B, with no break in between, no pause to draw deep breaths? I’m not trying to be glib; I know many of you have babies to pick up from daycare, and dogs that need walking, and husbands that would die of starvation if you weren’t there to feed them, but is it ever ok to just take 10 minutes on a park bench to breathe in the fresh spring air and breathe out the bullshit of the work day? I say yes!
On this day, the simple act of cramming all that moist and gloomy rain gear into my backpack and riding around in my shirtsleeves was like a revelation. I suddenly felt carefree, grinning like a dork and pedaling slowly towards the Capitol building. I think most Sacramentans would agree that one of the great perks of living in Sacramento is enjoying our beautiful Capitol building and the surrounding park year-round. Have you been yet? If not, please allow me to recommend it. If you’re on a bicycle you can start by pedaling north on 11th Street while gazing up at the stately white structure of the Capitol building peeking through the tree branches; that day it was framed by puffy white clouds and a brilliant blue sky. After carefully crossing N Street you will need to slip through the cast-iron bollards, which are there to keep bicycles out. But there are also bike racks on the other side, so I consider that a compelling argument for taking bikes past the bollards. However, since you’re technically not supposed to, and since there are many pedestrians around, and because it’s douchy to do otherwise, I entreat you to ride slowly and respectfully. And if you get questioned about it, tell them Midtown Monkey said not to ride bikes around the Capitol building.
Sometimes I take a more straightforward route around the building, a quick circle and home, but today I meandered slowly, exploring the web of pathways that encircles the Capitol in a clockwise, semi-orderly manner: First the south side, up and down, passing state workers as they headed home from work and Capitol building staff lounging on the steps in black and white uniforms. On the west side, up and down, stopping on the west steps to check out the Tower Bridge in the distance and interrupt a pack of tourists posing for a group shot. On the north side, up and down, where a man was eating something out of a trash can, skateboard in hand, and another man rested on the steps with two tiny dogs; he put a calming hand on one wiry-haired pup who tensed as I neared, perhaps to greet me, perhaps to attack me. I passed so many orange-laden trees, the fruit juuuust out of reach, heard the sounds of traffic and birdsong, helicopters above, smooth pavement below. Back and forth, up and down I meandered, taking deep, cleansing breaths.
About halfway through my journey I realized I was still wearing my work badge like an albatross around my neck. Bad! I whipped it off in a blink…then answered a work email. No! As penance I took a picture of some gorgeous flowering shrubs, proof of this perfect spring day. Stopping at a park bench I lay all my rain gear out and took a picture of the pieces because they seemed like ridiculous relics from a million years ago. So silly now, these trappings.
A little girl in hot pink rain boots passed by with her family. She was enthusiastically scooping up an armload of fallen, also-hot-pink camellia blossoms while her mother tried to convince her to leave some for others to enjoy. Finally, mom laid down the law: “You can only hang on to two. One for each hand.” The girl agreed to those terms and set about finding the BEST two blossoms, which she presented to her mom for approval and then continued down the path, all pink boots and perfect blooms.
After a few deep breaths I repacked my rain relics and continued on, completing my circuit. Some people may not realize that on the east side of the Capitol building you will find many hidden treasures: Vietnam Veterans Memorial, California Firefighters Memorial, Civil War Memorial Grove, Purple Heart Monument. I like to think about the men and women these monuments were built for and say a quiet thanks. Sometimes I get a little choked up.
There are also a couple rose gardens to enjoy, a trout pond, and so much more. And on this trip I found a new treasure. Did you know there was a cactus garden in Capitol Park? Just a small circle of soil chock full of myriad cacti and completely riddled with ground squirrel burrows. I chased a couple of the chubby rodents with my camera but they were too wily for me.
Exiting the park I carefully made my way via sidewalk north up 15th to K Street and headed east. After my Capitol experience I was feeling relaxed, making up jovial greetings in my mind:
“Hello, Mr. Maserati Driver. You and I live in two different worlds. Wakka wakka!”
“Hello, puff of marijuana smoke. Since the laws changed I sure do bump into you a lot around town.”
“Hello, my favorite mural in a city of amazing murals. Looking mighty fine! (finger guns)”
Oops, I ended up at Tres Hermanas! Hate it when that happens. I made time for a quickie margarita before finally heading home, mentally and physically prepared to start on my aforementioned mile-long to-do list. Just kidding! I didn’t accomplish anything that night. But I sure felt a heck of a lot better, with the tightness in my chest loosened and the clutter in my head cleared, so I call it a win.
Thanks for reading! Do you have a favorite commuting detour you like to take from time to time? Do you make time to unwind after the work day and before the home duties? I would love to hear about it. I hope you follow this blog so you don’t miss out on future posts; my brain is filled to the brim with things I can’t wait to tell you about! And if you like what you’re seeing, please vote for Midtown Monkey on Sacramento’s A-List!