Flying East

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Since I didn’t want to ride Jessie with a broken thumb, I decided to winterize her and go to New York for a while. Besides, my 20-year college reunion was happening. Maybe I’d show up.

Winterizing a motorcycle involves emptying its carburetors of leftover fuel, setting the bike on its center stand and off its rear tire, putting the battery on a trickle charger, and putting fuel stabilizer in the tank to keep the gasoline from breaking down. The week before flying, my hand was still in a lot of pain from the break and I wasn’t comfortable moving the bike as it would have required using that hand to control the brake. The last thing anyone should do on a bike is brake too hard and fast on the front tire, which might happen unintentionally because of pain from a broken finger. Doing so while riding could result in a high-side crash throwing the rider over in front of the still-moving vehicle. I didn’t want to run the engine in a shared garage to dry out the carburetors; that’s just not cool. So, I posted on BARF (Bay Area Riders’ Forum) to get help taking it onto the street.

Motorcycle communities everywhere are simply the best. They are true communities full of people who care and are willing to help when someone needs a hand. Within a couple days, BARFer Matt came and pushed Jessie onto the street, then put her back in the garage onto her center stand. It was a relief not having to worry about the carburetors getting gummed up from letting the bike sit unused.

On the Way

One funny thing that happens to me because of PTSD is the surprise when emotions seem to pop up out of nowhere. I was not emotionally expressive in the past when it came to sadness. Tears were reserved for funerals and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC. I almost never cried during movies. If something or someone hurt me, I’d say, “That hurt.” And that was it. Now I cry during romantic comedies. What?!

At San Francisco International Terminal 2, my dog Penny and I approached the security checkpoint. It was like the moment at security at JFK five and a half months earlier but more intense. I don’t remember what I was thinking, but one look toward a TSA officer wearing “TSA” on his uniform got the tears rolling. As much as I tried, I could not hold them back. This time, instead of waiting to go through the explosive detectors like at JFK, I walked through with tears streaming down my face. TSA officers had a box of tissues waiting on the other side.

The security measures in place at airports today are there because of 9-11-01. Perhaps somewhere in my mind this connection was made and the impulse when straight to my amygdala, bypassing cognition in the frontal lobe. This tearful reaction still fascinates me. I think about James Brady who could not speak without crying before his recovery, and then horseback riding.

The difference between JFK and SFO (besides TSA being more sympathetic at SFO) is that in New York, I was full of anxiety and nearly had a meltdown at the ticket counter. But in San Francisco, I felt happy and calm and looked forward to being back in New York.

I laughed at myself in the airport for not hiding the fact I was crying. Laughing and crying at the same time. I must have looked absolutely nuts.

The Love of New York

The tears were gone by the time the plane landed. It felt 100% like New York the moment I stepped onto the A-train platform. People smiled (maybe because of Penny). A woman spoke to me in typical NYC-stranger fashion, commenting on how some people  speaking of the station attendant  don’t do their jobs. On the subway a guy started a conversation about dogs. Another guy looked on at Penny with a pleasant grin. Except for the smiles at Penny, these conversations don’t just happen in San Francisco.

The other thing is that these friendly people in New York had different complexions from each other. Though it has always been as long as I’ve been alive that New Yorkers will talk to anyone regardless of how he or she appears, there is an openness that didn’t exist before the World Trade Center disaster. It was as if in the backs of their minds, these people wondered how the disaster affected me, and also desired to share their experiences. It’s kind of like a motorcycle community.

The closer to home disaster strikes, the softer and more sensitive its residents are. September 11 softened New York. I doubt New York will ever lose its outer toughness, but the city certainly has left its door open.

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