max of switzerland


In the summer of 2003, we had exchange students Stephan from Switzerland, Max from Germany, and David, the exchange student from heaven and also Sweden, staying with us. At the same time, in Tucson, my dad’s kidneys shut down. My mother got him to the hospital where their, as my mother describes her, “Asian doctor who was at least as big as a third grader” saved my dad’s life. Once his life was saved, my mother drove home and had a heart attack. So, I had three exchange students who had arrived maybe ten hours earlier in my house, a dad in one hospital in Tucson, and my mother in another hospital at the opposite end of Tucson. It wasn’t the best day.

Months later, my dad was given a settlement from a class action lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company that had sold the drug that nearly killed him. My parents kept most of the settlement but gave a bit of it to me and my brother. I think my brother bought a bedroom set and dining room table and we bought a motorcycle. 

I’d been raised to be scared of—everything. We weren’t to ride a bike without our hands on the handlebars. We weren’t to skateboard. Mini-bikes? Forget it. (And the one time I did ride a mini-bike, I absolutely shredded my knee. That was also the day we first landed on the moon, but, anyway, my knee.) So, for me to be on a cycle was—unexpected. And frowned upon by my parents. Well, my dad, who was the one who had raised us to be so cautious, was kind of intrigued. My mom spent her time clipping articles out of the paper about motorcycle wrecks and deaths. She, who never paid the slightest bit of attention to cycles, suddenly had friends all over the place with horror stories about their friends and cousins and kids who had wrecked and torn jeans and jackets and definitely knees apart. Let’s say that my parents thought my brother’s furniture purchase was a wiser choice than our cycle.

Strangely, I’ve never been scared on the cycle. I grew up in boats and skiing behind boats at the Lake of the Ozarks. I was never scared in a boat and one of the most nostalgic and recognizable feelings to me is the wind blowing my hair while on the Lake. I think that’s what being on a cycle feels like to me. Like boating on the land. While boating on the land, I’ve cleared my head of politics and parents who are sick, kids in crisis and broken toes. I’ve written most every essay first in my head on the cycle and later on my Mac. 

We, Pete and I, have taken the cycle for early morning rides to We-B-Smokin’ (stupidest name for a restaurant ever?) in Paola and to The Roost in Lawrence, The Pullman in Leavenworth, and the cider mill in Louisburg. We’ve taken after-work rides to Shawnee Mission Park and Olathe Lake. Our first long ride was with six other people from our cul-de-sac when we all went to Arrow Rock, Missouri. The day after we got home, one of the riders, the one so missing his wife who had died from cancer, killed himself with a shotgun. We’ve pulled it to South Dakota to Custer State Park, my favorite park in the world. While cycling at Custer, we’ve gotten way too close to buffalo and lived to tell the tale. It’s been through the Badlands where I worried about snakes. Our cycle went with us to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. It’s been to Minnesota where we pulled it home in a monsoon. It’s taken us to the Bikers and Blues rally in Fayetteville where I didn’t exactly blend in with the biker babes. They were, in fact, just plain—-mean. 

Once, we took the cycle to the Tallgrass Prairie near Manhattan. On our way back, a thunderstorm of biblical proportions popped up. We stopped at a Walmart and bought the only rain suits they had. They were pretty inexpensive and yet still not worth the money. You know those banners that used car dealers have? Those plastic strip things of blue and red and green and yellow that flap in the wind? That’s what our rain suits looked like. The longer we rode, the more they tore apart until we were just wearing these strips of plastic that were not covering us in any fashion. We were soaked and it was the only time I was ever scared on our cycle. I guess I was a little bit scared that time that Pete, for some inexplicable reason, laid our cycle down in our—-DRIVEWAY!. I am not kidding. We were just in our driveway and suddenly I was on the concrete looking up at the underside of our truck. No explanation. 

That was the only time we kind of wrecked. Once, we were with our friends when they wrecked on a country road. The husband got too close to the edge of the asphalt and slipped off and they just kind of tipped down into a ditch. They weren’t really hurt although the wife was kind of shaken. The guy was so weak that he couldn’t get his cycle back up to vertical and so Pete had to get down and haul it back up for him. “You shouldn’t be riding if you can’t get your fucking bike back up on your own” might be what Pete muttered to me as we got back on the road. Another friend, who is no longer a friend once he went right-wing bat-shit survivalist moving-us-all-to-our-ranch bible-beating crazy, gave Pete a Guardian-Angel-kind-of-like-a-St.-Christopher medal that Pete hung on the handlebars to be nice. I don’t think Pete or I really thought that was what was keeping us from wrecking but the friend did.

We loved our cycle. Pete deliberately chose a Honda rather than a Harley even though there’s a Harley plant just down the road. (I’ve been to that Harley plant. A few years after our one short day with the three exchange students, we had another student who was the exchange student from hell. Trying to think of something else to do with him, I drove him to the plant and we took a tour of the Harley plant. It was about as interesting as it sounds.) Anyway, we chose a Honda and, with 13 and a half years and almost 40,000 miles on it, never had a single problem. It was a basic bike because we didn’t want anything flashy. It was the most comfortable one we tried and it kind of felt like sitting on a couch. I hated our saddlebags with a passion and mentioned this quite frequently. Pete thought maybe I should shut the fuck up about the bags. I didn’t. Shut up.

Who would have thought that a piece of metal smaller than a deck of cards could bring that cycle down? The mechanic who yesterday verified that it should be totaled told us that “this engine would have gone for another 100,000 miles if you hadn’t hit that metal.” 

We’re just sad. We’re looking at new and used cycles and today Pete showed me this picture of a cycle with ridiculous red and orange and yellow flames on it. Another one was candy apple red. I said, “Pete, you’re showing me cycles that are appropriate for someone just graduating high school. Not someone getting ready to sign up for AARP.” 

(Speaking of candy apple red. That reminded me of when Pete made that stupid stupid beaded seat thing out of a car seat thing. He asked me if I wanted one and I said, “No, it’s hard to remain a badass when you’ve turned yourself into such a candy ass.” Needless to say, I, the badass, don’t have a candy ass beaded seat thing.)

We’ll get a new cycle. It won’t be the same.


Remember Max Liebermann
Max Liebermann found his own interpretation of impressionism in the middle of the 1890’s. He left his home country in 1873 and settled for a while in Montmartre, hoping to mingle among the realist and impressionist painters. But being a German, he wasn’t accepted by the artist community (the Franco Prussian War had only just ended two year before). 

He died in Berlin at the age of 89 on 8 February 1936.

Max Liebermann, Terrasse des Restaurants Jacob in Nienstedten an der Elbe (The Terrace at the Restaurant Jacob in Nienstedten on the Elbe), 1902. Oil on canvas, 100 x 70 cm. Hamburger Kunsthalle
Max Liebermann, Papageienallee, 1902. Oil on canvas, 88,1 x 72,5 cm. Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany
Max Liebermann, Selbstbildnis (Self Portrait), 1927 (detail). Oil on canvas. Berlin, Germany.
Max Liebermann, Das Atelier des Künstlers (The Studio of the Artist), 1902. Oil on canvas, 68 x 810 cm. Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland

So far today we have:
- Max Whitlock winning his country’s first gold medal in gymnastics
- Two Brazilians medalling in front of a home crowd
- Simone Biles becoming the first American gymnast to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games (sure to increase)
- Giulia Steingruber winning her country’s first gymnastics medal with a vault bronze.
- Simone is the first American vault champion at the Olympic Games.
- Max Whitlock won his country’s SECOND gold medal in gymnastics, AN HOUR after sealing the deal on the first!
- Aliya Mustafina defended her gold medal on uneven bars
- USA should medal across all six finals with Kocian’s silver
- Sophie Scheder takes bronze for Germany!

I will update this after the next two finals.