Monday, October 31, 2011
In 1985 my first girlfriend moved away to Alabama. We were pretty serious for 15 year-olds. I watched her drive off in the back of the family wagon, pedaling down the street as they pulled away forever. We wrote letters. I told her all about my big dreams of becoming an airbrush artist someday, and she told me the boys in Alabama were nothing like me, and that we would be together again. I never made it as an airbrush artist, and eventually life absorbed us in our own small worlds.
Her name faded into the mythology of my past, holding the place of First Love. I ruefully thought of her living in a separate universe from me, not knowing who she became. We were together forever and trapped in 1985.
We stayed together forever and 15 for 26 years. We bumped into each other this past summer and picked up where we left off- No, I don't airbrush anymore. No, I don't really break-dance either I told her about the Crash of Great Awakening, the perils of sucrose, and my commitment to reading the great postmodern novels of the new millennium. Who has time to airbrush? She was surprised to hear I was still single. With the sweet van you drive? She would say. And the angry political posturing? Single? Really? But it was true.
I said something to her in a conversation this summer that sounded familiar to her and she unearthed the 1985 Nancesowee, our yearbook from 9th grade. What I said was, "I have never met a girl like you before. Sometimes you are so funny and cool to be around and other times you are just quiet and beautiful."
From the day I picked myself up off that pavement (June 2, 2010) a lot of good things have happened in my life, but none so good as this one. I got my girl back from Alabama and she moved in last night. We're all shacked up.
Welcome home Melissa!
Friday, October 28, 2011
There is a bar in town, known for its ambiance and warmth of personality. The clever and erudite of Tallahassee culture gather there to drink heady beers late into the night and watch the bartender spin fire in the street. Before the Great Skateboard Miracle of 2010 I kept office hours there most evenings. Drink this beer, it tastes like Carrot Cake. Try this beer it has more alcohol in it than actual alcohol has alcohol in it. Why thank you! Don't mind if I do! Merry with spirits this bartender and I would talk about the finer points of Eschaton and toast to Interdependence day. Those were good times, full of innocence and cynicism.
After the Great Awakening I stopped going there because I stopped going anywhere. Eventually I traded in my beer money for Om money and transferred my third place to the yoga studio.
This morning I am taking that same bartender riding. We met by me saying, "Hey you look just like Zach Galifanakis!" His world-weary tolerance of this most obvious observation laid the foundation for a friendship. For this I thank him. Today I will honor that friendship by inducting him into the Robot Army. The ranks are swelling like a mullet forgotten in the boat ramp parking lot.
After my ego has been sufficiently stoked by preying upon the novices, I am going straight to the Dogboy's house for a lunch of stinging nettles and bees. Afterwards we will roll out for a ride of indeterminate length whereby I will be inducted into his robot army or at least I will wish for the unfeeling muscles and joints of a machine until I end the ride weeping, all too human.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
My ears quit ringing. The ever-present hissing and ringing of the last six months just stopped. There is no explanation. Is it gone for good? Who knows. This does tell me that it can stop. What have I learned from the ringing? The lesson I learn always and in so many ways- humility and acceptance. I learn the lesson that when you have had all that you think you can take, you can take a little more. You don't have to suffer from ringing ears or anything else forever, you just have to suffer it this moment, and the next moment, and now this moment right here.
That's how we get by, whatever our afflictions.
I didn't plan to ride yesterday. After 4 days in a row of hard riding I thought a rest day was needed. You know how I feel about rest days though. Rest days can suck it. Tommy has the week off from work, if not from the rest of his life, so I had to take advantage and get in some Felasco prep. Maybe it was the 3 day old stir-fry I ate, or the 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep I got, but my legs felt deep and loose. We rolled onto the Silk trail up on the north side and within minutes I knew this was going to be an epic ride. Because I respect him so much I tried to break Tommy early. It took a few miles to awake the sleeping dragon, but he responded in kind. We dropped into Cambodia in the big rings, oblivious to lines or paths of least resistance. It was all smash and grab, full contact brute force over the roots. We continued the aggression across the street at Red Bug and I can't remember ever riding that hated trail so fast. There is plenty of time to lose all this fitness before San Felasco of course, so can someone remind me of this post if you see me gnawing on a fried turkey leg between now and January?
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Daylight was on the wane by the time the Munson Monday ride got rolling and like usual, Mellow Johnny says, "If you want to go fast, get going" and with that about 15 riders coast into a line based on invisible negotiations and off they go. Big Worm was in a full lather when he pulled up at the trail-head so I knew better than to catch that wheel. I tailed in behind the last of the fast guys and watched the line of riders dance and bob through the trees. I stole a glance back and saw as many riders behind me as there were in front. The first time I rode with this many people it was panic city. Where should I be? Am I going too fast? Am I holding anyone up? Now it is all familiar and I get in where I fit in and make adjustments.
I chased the lead group in a 4-pack behind some well-known faces and a wild card on flat pedals wearing gym shorts. All the way to the power-lines we were in sight of the lead group and I was cozy as can be. On the first small climb the gap spread and gym shorts got antsy, asking our front rider, "Come around?" This got him a begrudging, "go for it!" which means I ain't doing you no favors, but if you see the line be my guest. This is exactly what I would have done.
Opportunity presented when front guy got too hot under the collar and abruptly gave way. Gym Shorts lit it up and passed both front riders, one of them a well-known big engine roadie. I had misgivings about trying to ride away from that dude, but Gym Shorts would not be denied. The backside of Munson is full of long open runs of trail across flat ground. It is signature Munson forest with tall pines and wild flowers caught in glimpses as your speed reaches the high point of the ride. We were closing fast on another knot of riders when Gym Shorts asked if I wanted by him. "Hell no" I said, "let's go get those dudes!" Gym Shorts laid into it hammer and tongs and we went by three riders on the outside edge in the grass with no time to look back. I recognized them briefly as lead group riders shelled off the back. Gym Shorts was starting to flag and I offered to spell him at the old trail-head. He gave way and I pulled through steady, trying to give him a chance to recover. He had just finished a 3.5 mile pull. He never stopped pedaling and he never let off the gas. His was the best wheel on the trail, but the seams were busting loose now. Ever the ingrate, I took one last beseeching look at him and saw his shoulders slumping. I stood up on it and chased a flash of blue far up the trail. There was enough time to catch one more.
I buckled down and leaned into it, sprinting through the sandy sections, trees, and uphills. I heard Blue Flash blow some snot. The gap was closed by a third. I heard the snap and crashing of brush behind me and here came Gym Shorts half-crazed and off the trail, but out of the saddle determined. Blue Flash caught a glimpse of me and grabbed his water bottle cuing me to do the same. At the base of the last climb he exploded upwards as did I, timing my jump to his. My big red rig responded, uncoiling its energy into the grade. I had Blue's wheel and I could hear Gym Shorts 50 yards back. I relented, trusting that Blue was all done- and that was a mistake. An old racer from way back, he tucked chin to chest and heaved pedals around to claim some daylight as we pulled to the bench and the waiting pack.
So much fun someone ought to sell tickets. All you folks who make it happen every week, thanks, and big props to Gym Shorts, that guy is a mule.
Monday, October 24, 2011
It was a single track bonanza this weekend. I set myself free from the burden of self-reliance and left the Camelbak at home with all of the tools, water, compass, spare tubes, dental floss, nasal spray, extra contacts, flares, first aid kit, and wheel truing stand. I rode naked. Just a water bottle full of go-go juice and two thighs full of 93 octane. I have been riding the Dogboy's spare 29'er for weeks and the Titus was headed for the dustbin of history. 26" wheels? Can you believe people used to ride those? Que ridiculo!
That risk is over now. Two days of juking and jiving through the trees of Cadillac and raw aggression on Tom Brown Park with (against) my good buddy Mystery put the Titus right back on the podium. That bike should come with a warning label it is so fast.
Still, I'm going 29'er all the way at Felasco. I'm not a complete moron.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Enjoy this excellent reader submission by Scotty B, Thanks Scot!
Someone once said to me
"Ah, I am two kilos over, I show no respect for the machine!"
"What are you saying?" I asked… as we both rode home through a busy Canadian city. He pointed downward, at his bicycle - "to the world, to humankind, this thing is a gift, a fluke really. What if the gasoline had come along sooner? There would not be this!" - he pointed again, down at his bike. He laughed and clutched at his slightly fatty midsection, as if he were caressing a baby in the womb, "today I show no respect for the invention of the machine." "But it is only June," I said to him. "Certainly the kilometers will kill the kilos?! No?" I laughed, he laughed. We passed the Hotel by mistake. I noticed, but I was riding with a famous bike racer who had been paid more to "start" the race we had just completed, than I had been paid by my team in a year - so I kept riding with him through the crowded streets.
While stopped at a traffic light, he looked over at me and my bicycle - up and down, as if committing me to memory. "You are always there, no?" he asked. "Yes," I replied, knowing full-well the implication of his comment. In every stage of the race we were in, I had been, daily, selling my soul - honestly killing myself - and finding - for the first time in my life - the bottom step of the ladder, the entrance to the front of the peloton.
I finished that week of racing with my head held reasonably high. The next weekend was huge though, a one day loop race up "Mountroyal" 13 crazy-ass times. This was no "sleigh ride" as I had heard the flat races where I come from so aptly defined (a race flat enough to "sit-in" the draft). I started the race wearing a new jersey. I was a member of a team for one day. A "man on loan" I think one of the team directors said. "You are from that gutsy New England squad?" someone on the team said. trying to be nice. I said nothing. I had received my bike two hours before the start and was therefor busy trying to find my "home" on the vehicle.
At the start, the hammer dropped as the gun sounded. It is always like this. Up the climb the first time I was hopelessly placed, soft-pedaling, then sprinting in my big chainring, finding a wheel, settling into a rhythm, then seeing a gap ten riders up, sprinting again, and so on. At the top I was about 50 places back, one minute down on the head of the field. The gap was closed by some huge human beings at the front.
On the flat run-in through the city to the foot of the climb there was a section of the course on an interstate highway. The highway had been closed down hours before the start, but all along the sides of the road, people had parked and were standing on the tops of their cars yelling and screaming. The wind on this section was a direct crosswind - a gauntlet of sheer hell. The "giants" at the front made this section like a nosebleed. I pinned myself against the cars in the gutter the first lap and felt the blood in my head trying to escape through my teeth.
Second time up the climb - Still in the top fifty at the bottom. Massive acceleration up the climb from riders you never even heard of. But I was there. Passing people. The rest of the race was a repeat of the exact same tactic - drill it on the climb with repeated attacks, stick the peloton in the gutter along the open sections on the run-in.
On the final lap, as we passed through the congested downtown area of the city, I found myself at the front. This was not purposeful. The field came around the corner, and there it was, clear road in front of me for the first time in three weeks of getting my ass handed to me. As we came around a right hand turn, ( I remember this like it was yesterday) I looked to my left to see who it was at the head of the train flying by me, it was the famous guy I had ridden with after the race the week before. I want to say he looked at me, but that's probably me being neurotic. Whatever the case, there went the famous guy, with a line of other famous guys along behind. I was in the final selection of forty or so riders, headed into the final climb.
On the way up to the finish line, I saw my dead great grandmother, staring at me from the crowd. I had never met her. She was not there. At some point, looking to my left, over the edge of the road, I could see the city below in the background. I kept my eye twenty riders ahead of me, looking for the gaps to form, waiting for the "lull" before the final kilometer. Nothing. Just a straight line of riders. Finally though, something - there was no lull, but with two kilometers to the finish people began to blow, all around me. I was on a good wheel. Some guy from Denmark. He just kept going. With one kilometer to go, the gradient eased to something more like the roads around Tallahassee. The guy in front of me moved to the left to avoid someone blowing up. He looked over his shoulder at me - he was done. He was on a big team. He had nothing to prove. I had nothing, literally nothing, but I kept going.
I remember looking up and seeing the "meter signs" laid out above the fencing and the crowd - 900, 800, 700, or whatever. I could see too, the road, empty in front of the group I was in. "Was I in the lead group?" I had no idea. The crowd was still going nuts though, I went to stand up, but realized I was already standing. That happened to me three or four times I think during that final climb.
At the finish I still had no idea of my placing. A person from my adopted team directed me to the side of the road where there was a roped-off area in the sea of people, I got off my bike there and sat down. It was then I realized all the large boulders around me and the town spread out before me for miles in all directions. I drank about five bottles of water and used a few more to rinse myself.
It turns out I finished just outside the top twenty - 22nd to be exact. No one on my team said anything really, a hand or two on my shoulder maybe. I just went when it was time, and signed for my prize money. It turns out also, the famous guy I had ridden with - he won the race… then several years later, he went on to win the Tour de France. What the hell!?
What am I saying? Why do I write this? Well, I guess all anyone has is their memories… But as well, I think during those few weeks when I was certainly at my "life peak" athletically, that I learned something. I learned to "respect the machine." Hearing those words changed me, matured me, took me to a new space in my head. From then on, I have always considered the "invention." It may not be my "time" forever, or ever, but I will always hold a high regard for those at the front, drilling it, making me pray for my soul - for that is the truest form of respect for the greatest invention of all time - the bicycle.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I did not pedal a single stroke all weekend, not a lick. Que mas puedo decir? I am going down to the holy land tomorrow to pay penance at Santos. I couldn't help it. I am focused on my secret project. If this blog was a puppy somebody would have turned me in to the humane society by now. Lucky for me it is only a temporary, abstract image of pixels that both exists forever in the ethereal and never existed at all in the corporeal. There isn't an office to hunt you down for neglecting these suckers.
It is raining from Tallahassee to Orlando at the moment and all of the trails along the way are likely soaked. If conditions don't permit me to ride I will pull over in the San Felasco parking lot and do some success visioning. I hear that's how the champions do it.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Last night I rode the sun down exploring the industrial and semi-public lands of the south side of town and this morning I dropped into the old Albertson's trail before breakfast.
It is the weather. It is the big Red Rig I'm riding. It is love. It is dedication. It is gratitude and it is escape. I don't know what it is, but I hope it never goes away.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I woke up this morning thinking about Euripedes, and the thinking didn't go far since I had to look him up to learn he was a Greek Tragedian and not the first scientist to discover phlogisten. If anyone knows anything about him that seems relevant I would appreciate a nudge in the right direction. I'm talking to you Gammnu.
Other than that priceless nugget I am full of optimism and hopey changiness (tm). Something magnificent could happen today, or at least nothing too terrible could not happen. I will take either option.
My tiny living room is cleared of furniture and I really like it that way. People who come to the house are compelled to state their business and keep moving. There is no place to linger, or become relaxed. I inhabit a shark tank. This suits me as there is so much to be done before the big surprise at the end of the month. Everything is changing all of the time.
Even if you sit still and consciously try to slow down, you are still in motion. Old cells are sloughing off and new cells come like fluffy popcorn kernels snapping from the oil.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
A schedule cancellation set me free yesterday morning. I jumped at the chance to sneak in a loop at the Miccosukee Greenway with Mystery. On the way over to his exclusive gated community I stopped for a diluted decaf Americano at Craig's Killer Coffee. I needed some calories to see me through the 20 mile slog on wet grass and the options were slim. A pan of blueberry muffins, straight from the oven sat on the counter, wafting buttery steam through the air. Impulsively I changed my order to a full throttle latte and asked for a muffin to chase it down.
On the way to Mystery's exclusive gated community I tore that thing apart and ate it with all the gluttony and guilt of a mother stealing food from her baby's mouth. I chugged down that whole milk, full caffeinated bucket of lust right behind it. Mystery was never the wiser. For the first 30 minutes of the ride I loped easily up and down the eastern hills, my legs deep and oaken. Somewhere east of I-10 the muffin descended into my pyloric valve and seized up the works. Oh the discomfort! The cramping and gassing! The refined white flour and refined white sugar molecules locked in a sticky unbreakable chemical chain of misery. Mystery sensed difficulty in my wheelhouse and began to turn the screws. With belly distended I hung on until the end and beat it out of his community via the service entrance, my gastro-intestinal delegation unsure of a proper course of action.
What had I done? A year without gluten, sugar, or caffeine thrown away in a fit of id-driven berry lust? Was this to be the end of the roll?
I tossed my office like Homeland Security and found my sponsor's number. On the card it read, CORE 5:30 P:M. I rolled up my mats and jumped in the van. I needed a meeting.
For 75 minutes I flexed the valve in every direction, squeezing and stretching my guts while the buttery steam released from my pores.
Oh Great Magnet forgive me!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
This is not true of course, but I wanted to give you a warm fuzzy thought to start your day. You can do whatever you want as limited by: your available time, talent, skills, ability to mobilize, and willingness to assert your vision in conjunction with-- or at the expense of someone else's "whatever they want." Besides that though, it is true. You can do whatever you want.
What I want is to find the perfect couch. My living room is the size of a diner napkin so it is hard to find a comfortable couch with the dimensions of a church pew. Maybe I can find a church pew? People sleep comfortably in those don't they?
Another thing I want is a nice long sit-down here at the BRC, but what I've got is about five minutes before I have to haul ass out of here and go make a living.
Ima be back though, and we will have ourselves a proper chat.
Friday, October 07, 2011
It seems like I haven't slept well since sometime in the mid-eighties, when life lay before me like an unread book. Last night I got an un-tormented 7 hours and I feel like I could walk to Mars. This is going to be a fun weekend in Tallahassee, but I answer to a higher calling and Birmingham awaits. By 1:00 P:M CST I will be grinding up the jeep road at Oak Mountain. The rest of the weekend I will be where I am supposed to be.
I hear that we quit sleeping well as we age because we know time is short. I hope that is not the case. I often say that with one good night's sleep you can change the world.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
March 18, 1922- October 5, 2011
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth got to enjoy Birmingham for 38 years without his nemesis, Bull Connor. Jailed 35 times, beaten, hospitalized, his wife stabbed, his house dynamited-- nothing could stop Rev. Shuttlesworth from pursuing equality in the Jim Crow south. Birmingham is sacred ground for human rights the world over, and this is because the fight was pressed by Rev. Shuttlesworth and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The founding fathers were remarkable one and all, but it is the leaders of the civil rights movement that stir my blood. We have a long way to go. Many people in this country don't enjoy equal rights, but the manual for how to move mountains was written in Bombay, Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, Tallahassee, and everywhere else that people took to the the streets to integrate schools, buses, and the public square.
From Cairo to Wall Street, the people united can never be defeated.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
I got down with the Fire Flow II yoga class last night. It differs from Fire Flow I in that it seeks to punish any muscles FF1 missed I guess. I needed it though. I had to rinse the world out of my body and mind. Nothing but the ecstasy of suffering remains when it is 102 degrees and you are bent at the waist and standing on the palms of your own hands. When I left a bunch of kids were lining up with skimboards to surf across the slimy lake I left on the floor. I hope they got their shots.
I am going to tell y'all a story in a few weeks' time that is going to blow your minds. I mention it now as a literary device known as foreshadowing, although my lazy application of the technique qualifies it more as a "heads up." You will likely forget between now and the time of the telling, but when I tell it you will say, "That's right! He told us he was going to tell us!"
It might not even be that great a story in your opinion, but I think it is a pretty good one- especially from where I am sitting.
Oak Mountain, AL is on the horizon for me this weekend. There is no better trail to become familiar with any weaknesses in your fitness or technique. Either I am going to ride the shit out of that trail, or it is going to ride the shit out of me.
More ecstatic suffering either way
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Just as 30 riders began to roll onto the trail, Mystery reached down and pulled the stem out of his valve, letting all of the air out of his front tire in one big whoosh. He told me then that I should go on without him, but I hung back to help correct the problem. We caught the group at the top of the first hill and riders were charging, ambling, and weaving into a line from fastest to slowest and I immediately cut the corner, elbowed a woman into a tree, and began sucking up the dust of the crowd ahead of me. Welcome to Munson on Monday nights. I rode through the briars and I rode through the brambles, and I rode through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go. I caught a glimpse of Mystery behind me a couple of places when we crossed the power lines and I figured this is where we would make our move.
The dirt was so thick on my glasses I could only see through two thumb smudges I cleared with my own spit, but I could see a jersey ahead of me and I just chased it. Eventually I was all alone. I caught everyone I could catch and that would be the end of the fun. The game now became not getting caught, and I wheezed through the trees with the desperation of a hunted animal. Mystery? He turned for home long before.
Big Worm and I tried to track him in the truck, expecting to find him walking with another flat. I got to hear about Worm's vaccination schedule and his duties in the Tour of Rwanda, where he will be working for Team Type 1 as a mechanic.
I bet there will be some dust in Africa
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Dig it, Elton John shaved his head and came to my conference last week. He's so cool. No, that is me of course, doing my level best to impersonate a neo-conservative and hopefully failing. Somebody should have straightened my tie and helped a brother out. I post this not from vanity or to invite dissection of the image, but as a prelude to a brief meditation on sacrifice and pain. My feet hurt terribly in this picture and yet I smile.
I am convalescing at momma's house this weekend after working 72 hours last week dressed like someone I would personally avoid on the street. I signed on for a 2.5 hour "Detox Yoga" session this morning that was a lot like any other yoga session except with more enhanced interrogation postures and it was 150 minutes long. It did the trick though, since I followed it with a nap of equal length. I almost have the strength to return to Tallahassee.
I woke to the alarm at 6:00 A:M this morning to register myself and Tommy for the Tour de Felasco. The site was not working and I went back to sleep after sending a colorful email to the organizer. I slept deeply, free of the burden yet noble in my intention. What could I do? I tried.
After dozing another hour I woke again to find a kind reply with instructions for registering and moments later the act was accomplished. January 14 at 8:30 A:M we will be in this grey and barren field, surrounded by white people in lycra driving SUV's and rubbing lanolin into their ass cracks.
It will be too early, too cold, too far, too regulated, too crowded, and too expensive. These are generally acknowledged as facts. Still, it will be done.
I really like $50 t-shirts.
Sound off if you are in!