Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I said I would be back and I am working on it. I am now at the boomerang point of my trip- West Point, Mississippi. Tomorrow I start the rewind process and haul it back through Alabama and across the Apalachicola River into Eastern Standard Time.
There's going to be some serious bike riding going on this weekend. Holy smokes will there be some riding.
Friday, August 26, 2011
I was driving down I-95 yesterday with the split ends of Hurricane Irene's long hair whipping rain across the road when the local public radio affiliate out of Jacksonville announced that Stetson Kennedy was in palliative care and not expected to recover. It broke my heart.
I looked out the window to the east and the sky was dark, dark blue with clouds stacking up on top of clouds, with a big anvil-edged nimbus crown leaning in over the coast. The report said he was in and out of consciousness and I wondered if he knew the storm was coming, and if he was waiting for it to carry him away?
I felt the urge to get off the interstate and go to his home in St. Johns County, and wait with other friends and acolytes who no doubt have gathered there, but instead I turned west towards the rest of my own good fight.
Monday, August 22, 2011
A little discussed aspect of my wellness program of 2011 is literature. When you give up certain behaviors and habits they must be replaced with something. Brown rice and kale are only part of the story. Books are an essential part of my continued turnaround. I have always been a reader and a lover of books. I worked in the FSU Strozier Library for the Inter-Library Loans office my first two years of college. I would rush through my rounds of picking up and dropping off titles to be loaned abroad so I could have the rest of my shift to browse the stacks and take naps on the ledge of the 5th floor, where they keep the Early American Literature.
In 1995-96 I worked for Powell's Books in Portland, OR. At the time it was the largest independent bookstore in the country. I worked in a satellite store that specialized in books for cooks and gardeners. I was the guy who produced the UPC Scan stickers and put them on the books. I was happy to do it.
In recent years my taste became lazy. Challenging books began to intimidate me. Why bother? It will take forever. It's probably stupid. With an entire bookcase of Louis L'Amour to work through, why would I ever ride my Appaloosa in off of the prairie?
Last September I set a goal of reading one book in particular, Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I had read many of his non-fiction books and found his voice and breadth of references exhilarating. Reading DFW is like sticking your finger in the light socket over and over for fun. Infinite Jest was his most powerful wattage. This book was big enough to replace all kinds of demons and hobgoblins. So that is how it began: Brown rice, yoga, and 1,079 pages of compulsively footnoted compound sentences. As my brain woke up to the rigors of such a demanding read, I added new books to the list. I added some only because of their daunting reputations, and others because they caught my eye as books do.
I do not recommend any of these books to any of you, because recommending books is a lost cause. Books find us, and no third party can make a book the right choice for us at any given time. I draw inspiration and food for thought from many of you, so consider this a vanity post. As I pat myself on the back, feel free to read over my shoulder as you see fit. I will keep my comments brief.
Titles are linked, if you can't tell.
Infinite Jest- It had to be done.
The Instructions Instant Favorite. Join the Side of Damage.
Chronic City- Late nights with Perkus Tooth
Cloud Atlas- The best 3 short stories and a novella to ever pretend to be a novel.
Freedom- Held my nose through the entire story, loathing everyone, then cried at the end.
State of Wonder- Chew all the flavor out of this one.
-A Visit from the Goon Squad Rock and roll as high art
War- Happening right now.
Matterhorn- Dude must know people. Reads like an 8th grade book report. Not a good one.
-Stephen King On Writing Stephen King must have serious issues with Infinite Jest.
Libra This is a fantastic book if you have trouble falling asleep. Well-crafted, but oh so what.
The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris. A tender account of an American affliction.
How about you guys, read any good books lately?
Thursday, August 18, 2011
That's what people used to call the flu. The Grippe. It makes sense because it grabs hold of you and drags you down. I don't know if I caught the full on grippe, but the last 48 hours have left me disconnected from reality. A spaceman on the dark side of the moon. Fever dreams and broken glass in my joints. On Monday I carried 2000 lbs of furniture with my new neighbor. I barely had time to speculate on what a hernia feels like before I was laid low with the grippe.
Two days of twilight sleeping and wet sheets. Sneezing and snotting. Planning how to get to the kitchen and boil water for tea as if it were an endurance event. The bright side is I am closing in on the end of Cloud Atlas which has proven to be the toughest read in my 2011 list of tough reads. A fever should be mandatory for reading this book which respects neither time nor space. It has me looking forward to a little Elmore Leonard.
What have I missed?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I am the son of a carpenter. His father, my Papa, was a carpenter also. He served in the SeaBees Naval Construction Force. My brother is renowned for his knowledge of tools and trade systems. We built our house when I was about twelve. My brother was six. He was on the roof hammering in shingles while I walked around below picking up lost nails and scraps of wood. I was not jealous. I thought he was being punished.
I am told I was a pretty good waiter, and I can cook anything under any conditions. I was a better than average breakdancer and I won an award in World History in 10th grade. I am not without worth.
Tools though, have a way of getting lost, or not being where I want them to be when needed. Tools are never the right size and they are rarely charged to functioning capacity. Tools for me have been unreliable. Most of my friends take a lot of pleasure in strapping on the tool belt and going about the manly business of tooling. My friends can build rock climbing gyms and pole barns. They can tile floors and mix mud with Tommy's drill, "Old Grandpa." They lay fiberglass in the boat and run duct work above and below as required.
For me, this type of activity means picking up nails and being confused. I can't keep the necessary steps in the right order and every act appears to be random and mystical. As they solid block the floor joists I wonder if burning some sage might not accomplish the same thing. Once the nails are picked up I get right to the next task, feeling dumb.
Things might be changing though. Mungam, Robot Army Regular, stopped by last night to further improve upon the rescue job Tommy did on a leaky faucet. I helped. Fixing stuff is about more than feeling stupid. It is about spending time with your bros in comfortable parallel play activity. It is about self-reliance and the joy of knowing what you have to do today. When the hot water is running freely you don't deliberate between a bike ride or yoga class. You make the water stop.
Mungam and I rode to the big Hardware stores in his gigantic pickup truck and just riding shotgun in such a rig extended my manhood a quarter inch. At one point I encouraged him to go ahead and ram the Kia in front of us since we were almost in the backseat anyway. "Nah" he said. "She should hang up and drive, but that's somebody's mom." A garnet-colored H2 Hummer passed us on the right and I said, "What about ramming that guy?" With a glance Mungam said, "and that guy is somebody's douchebag cousin."
You got to love tools.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
I just stood in the tub watching the hot water run. I turned the handle on and off again just to be sure. Hot water, otherwise known as cash money, continued to pour from the faucet. 5 hours later and I have some quality time with my old buddy Tommy to be thankful for, and some knowledge of the mystery of where the water comes from. All anyone ever tells me is, "Shit flows downhill and payday is Friday." That's not enough to fix a faucet.
That's okay. I didn't want to ride anyway, and my bike is at the shop. What better on a Sunday morning than the suffocating responsibility of home ownership? There's your buzz, your precious endorphins.
Yesterday I rode with the Dogboy and Greg the Leg. I went until I was spent. Somewhere on the backside of the Pedrick Greenway I said, and I quote, "I don't think you pussies could drop me if you had the gas to try." They disappeared like the Starship Enterprise. After that the ride got a little nicer, but I saw them again later. That mouth of mine, it does its own thing.
Friday, August 12, 2011
I am thinking about everything up to this point. Over the years I have said that life is like stumbling down a dark hallway with your hands in front of your face. That ignores the fact that you can learn a lot about hallways by stumbling. I should get a medal for resisting things that are good for me. Last to Learn it would read. I get it eventually, and I want a medal for that too. He Gets it Eventually proudly displayed beneath Suspicious of Motives.
To achieve is admirable, to persevere is sublime.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Yesterday the Great Magnet saw fit to allow me to complete some tasks that I have been working on for months. You grind and grind and then all of a sudden, boom, it's done. I had to celebrate by breaking my ride fast of 6 days. I got to the trail-head at 3:30 P:M. The thermometer read a cool 96. That number rose sharply as I pedaled into a controlled burn in the forest. The woods were charred black and still smoldering and the air was hazy with smoke and heat shimmers. I stopped to dampen a bandana and tie it around my face as a filter. With that I felt like I was being water-boarded next to a pizza oven. It was still a good ride, as most bike rides turn out to be.
Back in the Safari I trekked over to yoga and slipped into a Pranayama a few beats behind. With no time to stop at the house I was wearing my bibs and a dress shirt I found wadded in the seat pocket of the van. My shins were covered with soot and the sweat rolled down my polished bald head unchecked. Although the room was packed I seemed to have plenty of room for my Warrior Two. I went through the motions and held poses for days, but I played Whack-a-Mole with my thoughts. At its worst yoga is still a good stretch. With the tails of my button-up shirt sticking to my backside I namasted out of there and back to the van.
Swinging by the house I changed, ate a banana (major sugar!) and bumped some Nas on my way to the Tallahassee Rock Gym. The rock climbing revival is still going strong. The Torso and his family were already there and the place was packed for student half price night. I waited patiently, belaying babies and teaching newbies to tie figure eight knots. I climbed on Tuesday and the Torso's beeper fell out of his pocket from 20 feet up and brained me on my exposed dome. He appraised the lump and the nick in my scalp with chagrin. When you are climbing rocks fall, it is part of the game, but who carries a beeper in 2011? I got to tie in eventually and go at it on a couple of stiff 5.8's that were more than enough to satiate me and close out my triple play evening.
The pull-up count is at 4.
Monday, August 08, 2011
This time last year I was close to getting my arm out of the sling, and thinking that would end my misery. In fact things were about to get a whole lot worse. Confining a joint for 3 months atrophies the muscle and cartilage resulting in this case with a condition called "frozen shoulder." To move it beyond its stunted radius was to feel broken glass grinding in the socket. The pain meds were gone. The howling nightmare of withdrawal was swooping in with a black lust. I was so fatigued I couldn't walk to the mailbox and back without getting winded.
Then things got worse.
By September I was sucking the scum off the bottom of the barrel. Somewhere deep inside my heart I found a little courage and I fought back. One step at a time. One grain of brown rice at a time. I shut out the world and all earthly pleasures save for sweat and a search for a new way. I stacked the words of the doubters like bricks in my ramparts and thought of the day I would launch my opening salvo. -
For them all a feast of crows. Patience is its own reward.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
I drive a sweet van. A GMC Safari that my mom has driven from Florida to the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and back a few times. She also drove it to California, Ohio, the grocery store and elsewhere. It is silver with tinted windows, and I know I look good behind the wheel. Anybody would. Most of the time my bike is in the back, and maybe some golf clubs, yoga mats, and a dozen empty water bottles. I call it the mobile toy-box. Some people call it the Turtle or the Shovel. This weekend it will be an art collection vehicle in New Orleans for some friends. It will return full of glitter, scraps of fabric, and coffee cups. It makes me happy to loan it to my friends who dare to do great things like make art.
What does not make me happy about it is driving around town looking at my Tallahassee neighbors standing in the heat waiting for the buses, which can take 45 minutes in some parts of town. I don't like passing people by who are walking my way on long, two lane roads peppered with decomposing opossum and sand-spurs. The conversation in my head goes something like this;
It sure looks hot out there. Those people are hating it, and that old man looks like he might fold right over his walker and pass out. I could load them all up and take them wherever they need to go. People will think that is weird, and it will likely scare them, or make them feel suspicious. I better just keep on rolling.
That's what I do, I keep on rolling. And yet I remember standing at a border crossing on the line between Slovenia and Austria in the middle of the night, desperate for a ride to catch the Croatian bus that abandoned me when I went to the bathroom in the station. Cramped by intestinal disease, dizzy from a stomach emptied by violent retching and diarrhea, my foot bandaged and bloody with 14 stitches received the day before, I had a few seconds to beg in a foreign language to each passing car to take me with them. Hundreds passed me within the first hour. A blue mini-van driven by a woman with blonde hair and tired eyes looked at me and turned to an elderly gentleman in the backseat and he nodded. A toddler was buckled into the bench seat next to the man.
She waved me around to the passenger seat.
What to do?
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Happy Birthday Lopo!
It will be 100 degrees by 2:00 P:M today with a suck factor of 107-110 projected by 5:00 O'clock. Ladies and gentleman, I bring you AUGUST. I have been thinking about what to do in August since last September, when I first lurched my XL frame off of the opium couch and decided to choose life over broken-ness, Vicodin and Wife Swap. You must have a plan for August I thought. I hoped to be in San Diego, riding my bike along the western edge of this grand experiment, learning to surf at Tourmaline and playing pirates with my nephew. This was not in the Great Magnet's plan.
The BikeChain crew, whom I will soon join in the black and the orange, rode last night in the stifling confines of the north-side hardwood trails. Early reports from the wounded are that Big Worm roared a mighty roar and savaged the rest of the pride. I was safely in savasana by then after a spirited round of golf. I shot a 57 on 9 and enjoyed every chunker and topper along the way. You must have a plan for August. The bugs are so intense right now that the ticks are complaining about the dog dick gnats and the mosquitoes have to walk everywhere because they are so bloated on on sweet cyclist blood- enriched by Zone 5 cookies and cold beers, that they can't lift themselves from the ground.
You make different choices and different things happen.
I am going to do more rock climbing at the Tallahassee Rock Gym. I'm going to hurl disc golf at Tom Brown Park. I'm going to paddle, swim, and rope swing my way around the Big Bend. I'm going to break 50 at the Jacques Gauthier Golf and Social Club. I'm going to ride my bike early in the morning and late at night. I am going to drop 10 lbs and read The Pale King.
I have no idea what to do about September.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
I grew up on the back of a bike, riding in a plastic seat strapped to the back of a 1970's Schwinn 3-speed, if I remember correctly. My parents would ride my sister and I around the neighborhood, which was a bunch of trailers spread out along a road I can't believe was paved. It was good living back in the day, when I had the freedom to wander across the fields to my friend's house to watch the Star-Spangled Banner play on television when network television came on first thing Saturday morning before cartoons. Before that though, I saw the world from the back of the bicycle, and legend has it I spoke all things I saw into being. When one parent couldn't take it anymore they would stop and switch. Did they switch bicycles, or just us children? I don't remember this displeasing me. I was happy to have a new audience to whom I could explain all of the wonders of the world through my toddler eyes. I still like to talk on bike rides.
Monday, August 01, 2011
If you have ever had a bike stolen, you know that sick feeling when you realize your ride is not where you left it. When I was 12 my bike got stolen while we were on vacation. when I was 21 a friend hid my bike around the corner from where I was standing to teach me a lesson about not locking it up. My bike was found and returned back in 1982, damaged, but sound. It made me sick to think of some other kid riding it around, showing off my yellow mag wheels. The friend who hid my bike in 1991? I never forgave him. I hold a grudge to this day and I hope he rots in hell. We all lose so much in this life. There's no room for simulated loss. What a jackass. I digress.
A reader out in California (Thanks SY!) shared a video of a bike theft in progress outside of his company, captured on a security camera. The theft itself is illustrative as it takes about two seconds for the thief to cut the lock and ride away. Too bad for him a quick-thinking young woman only needed one second to get out there and shut him down. Click the title to view the heroic save. With moves like hers she is likely to wind up in the BRC Clydesdale Hall of Fame.