Saturday, November 16, 2013


This is the cake I received at my birthday party two weeks ago.  I didn't know they could put edible photographs on cakes, so it was a nice surprise.  That's me, as a child, on my father's police motorcycle.

While the hoopla over my birthday has ended, the many gestures of friendship and gifts I received linger.  I delight in seeing them in my home.  The gestures remind me that there are people who love me, which hasn't always been the case.  We never have too much assurance of being loved.

My friends Nicole and Jamie gave me a bouquet of flowers for my birthday which, truly, is the nicest collection of exotic flowers I've ever received.  Here are pictures of the bouquet both fresh and as it exists today.  I find aging flowers to be poignant -- their striking beauty still present and their visible decay a stunning metaphor for the atrophy we all suffer from albeit as a slower pace.  It's impossible to be in your fifties and not confront physical decay.  I use that reality as an incentive to take good care of myself.

Another gift which had a time-delay arrived yesterday.  Six close friends who attended my birthday party chipped in and gave me a gift-certificate to my favorite motorcycle store.  I used their $150 certificate to buy an incredible fleece jacket that cost $157.  I probably wouldn't have bought it without their gift-money but I needed one badly and the stars aligned perfectly.

Because fleece jackets are now so cheap, many people buy them.  Most jackets, however, are cheaply made in China of poor materials and they fall apart quickly.  The one I bought is made in the U.S.A. with exceptional skill.  In addition to being super high-tech, the jacket is specifically designed for motorcycle-riding. 

When you buy gear for motorcycling, you learn the tangible difference between high quality and cheap.  High quality gear performs well and lasts long.  Cheap doesn't.  Motorcycle riding places intense strain on everything you use, so that difference emerges quickly.  I've had good boots last four years; I've had cheap boots last three months.  Literally, three months.  You don't "save" money by buying cheap.  Plus, there's the safety factor -- when I crashed my bike in 2003, my $600 helmet absorbed most of the blow and has a deep gouge in it.  The helmet performed its job; a cheaper one would have transferred more of the force of impact to my skull and I might not be writing this now.  Buying the best gear increases your chances for survival.

A cool place I buy most of my motorcycle gear is called Aerostich, located in Duluth.  Their stuff is great.  Not only is it stylish and high-quality, they have a sense of humor.  Their catalogs often have fake listings for products they don't actually sell and it's amusing to see people guess which products aren't real.  They once offered yellow banana-shaped plastic containers so you can carry bananas on your motorcycle without damage -- and people called up and tried to buy them. 

Anyway, my new fleece jacket is lighter than others but warmer due to its superior material and construction.  Its fit is intentionally designed for motorcyclists and conforms to your body as you lean forward with your arms outstretched.  (Discomfort from conventional clothing is something you instantly feel when getting in riding-position.)  The jacket blocks 98% of wind which, on a bike, is critical; air seeping inside your clothing transports coldness more than anything.

Plus, and I admit this openly, it has eminence.  Experienced riders recognize products from Aerostich and infer that someone smart enough to buy them is someone worth knowing.  I and other experienced riders instantly size someone up by the gear they wear.  We know that cheap, flashy jackets and helmets imply their wearer is a newbie or a squid.  Anyone wearing gear from Aerostich has our respect before they've opened their mouth.

Do you ever buy good quality clothing?  For a hobby or specific use, like skiing or a fancy party?

P.S., My favorite birthday card I received this year is shown below.  It's actual leather!


  1. I love this post, Ally. Thanks for sharing your introspection about your birthday, mortality, and friendship with us. I'm so happy you received lovely gifts from your friends- you're so sweet and giving, you should clearly receive in return! I love physical reminders that help pull good memories up for us. It's what makes a home.

    I agree completely about investing in quality. It's not always true that cost = longevity, but there's definitely a positive correlation. I learned about motorcycle gear and where to get a good fleece jacket, too!

    1. As I spent hours on this post, I questioned the effort. I hoped to find readers as good as you. Thanks for tuning in and making it worthwhile, buddy.

  2. the leather jacket card is great :-)
    my hobby can be dangerous as yours - mountaineering. I can understand your considerations for safety and good quality of the equipment. e.g. i invested in very good shoes and can not cope with people running around in sneakers in the mountains.
    happy sunday!

  3. That card wins the coolest card ever award.

    I think this post is so very true. It's very important to take care of yourself. Whether it's buying quality gear for your hobby or paying the extra $5 to let someone else shampoo your hair at the salon (I really do recommend it once in awhile).

    Even though my shopping habits mean I never spend more than $10 on a single piece of clothing, I still comb the thrifting racks for quality pieces, preferably made in the US or ethically sourced.

    As for the fading afterglow, you are lucky in your time of birth, the holidays build up far enough after that you can continue to enjoy your friends and family well on through the winter. I hope your circle of friends can keep you glowing all year round!

  4. Wahh I love the cake :D !!! I'm not a biker, really, but I know the difference between the garment. I have a real biker leather jacket and it's much warmer and better quality than my other leather jackets. Plus that it's in great condition despite to being vintage.

  5. I absolutely agree about investing in quality - the old adage "you get what you pay for" is very often true and it's well worth doing research and saving up a few extra pennies to get exactly what you want and need. Especially with bike gear, you want to know you are well protected and are going to be comfortable; that fleece is perfect.

    And I love that cake!

  6. Oh and PS... you do need to get yourself a banana guard :)

  7. This is a hugely interesting post. I remember one of my university professors rode a motorbike and he always talked about the importance if quality clothing. In Bali, I used to ride pillion on the back of motorbikes and there was none of this thought and I always worried about my safety! X

  8. What a great post!

    I think the most expensive investments in clothing I make are my shoes. I LOVE my docs and since I'm on my feet a lot during the day, I have to make sure my footwear is both comfortable and sturdy. Anything else I would see as a project and tear it up, so I don't really buy expensive clothes.

  9. Great post Ally. I absolutely LOVE the card ~ a lot of work went into that one!

    Speaking about wearing the right gear for motorbike riding ... My hubby has just returned from a few days away on his bike with his friend ... they left on Thursday morning and returned Saturday afternoon after riding 1,350 kilometres (about 839 miles) from home, up the Sani Pass, through Lesotho and back home. Much of their riding is off-road on their Honda XR650's. He always buys the best helmet he can afford and always wears proper riding gear and boots. They came across a group of 4 guys who were all new to riding motorbikes and had on jeans and running shoes ... and they were attempting a very tricky, rocky road which is quite challenging to more experienced riders and the weather was wet ~ I worry when I see guys who are unprepared and not wearing the right gear.

  10. I love your birthday posts. As a fan of birthdays, it's nice to see how you and your friends celebrated. Over the past few years, I try to stick to the cheap with most things because my sweetie-pies have a developed a talent for mean, they are explorers who are very interested in how things work, yeah, that's it.

  11. Beyond COOL, like you! I am glad you had a great birthday. I agree we all need to feel loved by others, not just "guess" we might be liked.

    I will check out Aerostich...I might want to carry some bananas on my scoot!

    Hey, are you going to model that new jacket?

  12. Wow that is just about the coolest card ever. That one needs to be framed.

    My hobby is dancing so that allows lots of different garment choices. Lately I've been into vintage pieces that work well with the swing and Lindy Hop and I do prefer authentic vintage pieces.

    That is too funny about the banana holder. Goes to show they could have had a market for it.


    1. They're real, those banana holders. I got one for my mother after she carried one in her bag in Tokyo and it got mashed, so we ate it at a cafe.

  13. Great post, Ally. I love your thoughts on the gifts you received. What an awesome card!!

  14. The cake and card make for a great party theme. The card in particular is quite rad.

    Glad to read you've been enjoying your birthday month.

  15. Hehe I love that biker jacket card! My hubby rides a Harley and all of his riding jackets are from Harley, but it gets very expensive.

    The Tiny Heart

  16. I like your flower metaphor, because I too think that way and that birthday card kicks ass!