Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The cat resists the dog. The pedals resist my pushing. The sand resists the wheel.
Dogboy and I at large in the forest, let's call it 30 miles. 4 on marked trail, 12 on surface roads, the rest in off-road no man's land. I would consider it a long ride except I hear Bike Church went 87 miles on Sunday, bartered or begged for a ferry across the St. Mark's river, chased bobcats, made the bonfire party at Ouzt's Oyster Bar, and still got home before dark. I will just call our ride a ride.
We talked and slogged, coming again and again to the same conclusion, "Yes, a healthy tension is a good thing." Someone must push for new trails, and someone must push for no trails. The tree stands stronger when the roots pull against the earth.
The next day
Running a lap around Munson by myself last night, contemplating the unhealthy tension of work and pounding, nay, crushing the pedals. I am the fastest man to ever wear a pair of Dockers. I am the King of the Pogues! I see the chilly October sunset off of my starboard bow and a radiant ascending moon at port-side stern. A rider appears in my path ahead and I tack to unleash the spinnaker and go booming around him. Wait though! It's not a rider, but God, speaking through an old friend who once reminded me that my body was mine alone, and I had free will to do with it what I wished, including smoke cigarettes or revolve my triangle.
We stop. We sit. The moon rises, the sun sets, and there is that healthy tension again. He escorts me back to the trail-head, and as dictated by custom we sprint for the gate. I go way early, he comes around grinning. I lob another assault on his redoubt, and come up short-ricocheting off of the Canadian headwind. I find a pocket of strength in my right quad, the exact dimensions of a hotdog bun, and spend it on a final attempt. He coasts by me just at the line, knocking off my pogue king crown.
I hear its tin tinkle and skitter down the pavement and without looking back I relinquish that throne- I am just another proud pauper of the woods again, in that kingdom no one reigns.
Friday, October 26, 2012
I spent a month on this guy's couch in 1996. Seven of us returned from all corners of the earth- Oregon, Ft. Myers, Sarajevo, D.C.- to organize an event in Tallahassee to help the Bosnian people who were being shot in the streets and starved to death.
It was a heavy time, and we were by and large a bunch of young unemployed dipshits. While we sat around this guy's living room drinking Scotch and making international phone calls, he went to work every day to make signs. Big signs, little signs, vinyl signs, metal signs, it didn't matter as long as he made people's signs NOW!
He came home every day to a changing scene. One of us adopted a puppy that ate the couch and crapped indiscriminately, thanks Tim! Another day a busload of Rainbow Gatherers appeared and laid siege to the house for a week in a passive-aggressive occupation. We skirmished with the hippies all day, fighting for control of Chuck's thermostat and remote while he made the signs, paid the bills, and came home to play guitar in his room and sob quietly in his sleep.
You know how that story ends. With a little help from Bill Clinton and Richard Holbrooke we saved Bosnia, went broke, and left Chuck to clean up the garbage bags of moldy bagels, the dirty ashtrays, the empty bottles, and the dogshit.
There are no friends like old friends, right?
Now Chuck is a full time artist and a musician who makes signs for no man, woman, or child NOW or any other time. Signs can kiss his ass. He does it all, living the dream by playing in three bands, making art, and supporting the work of his immensely talented fiance, Kelly Boehmer.
Together they are anchor members of the art and music ensemble The Glitter Chariot. The GC is a family, and when love found me last year, the GC were quick to adopt her and draft her into service as a hair and makeup artist. We love the Glitter Chariot and everything they stand for, and the shiny, tiny horse they rode in on.
This new song was written and recorded here in Tallahassee at Harmonic Cycle Studio, by my friend and first bike mechanic at Joe's Bike Shop. The yellow guy (sad Bert) in the video is Ryan Berg, Glitter Chariot co-founder and pioneer. He drives the GC vision like a stolen Prius and he loves the wings at Hooter's.
There a lot of links in this post, and there truly should be more, but the talent runs too deep in this group to list everyone here. There are many links because we are all connected.
All I'm trying to say is that I am so proud of my friends, especially Chuck, who knows hard times and heartbreak, and wasn't afraid to share it in this sad and gorgeous song. He got the girl too, and now he has this.
Take a moment to unpack your baggage and listen by clicking here.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I was recently challenged to a game of chess by a friend, Mel (not his real name) who resides in Singapore. I delightfully accepted. This led to an invitation from another old friend who hails from Hoboken, NJ. We don't see much of each other anymore so I thought a vigorous battle of wits would be a good way to keep in touch and enjoy a bit of the old camaraderie we enjoyed as planetary vagabonds during the nineties. I dispatched Singapore Mel in the first match after a hard-fought pawn battle for the west flank. Our rematch is underway and he recently described the board as "an anthill that someone has kicked over" and this before a single shot was fired.
The second match, against Hoboken, became an epic struggle. Like an alligator eating a snake which is in turn eating it, we grappled. Oh the bloodletting! The traps and hard bargains! The mental chessery of it all! 72 moves later, his king quietly succumbed to my persistent army and I walked away delirious with victory. In preparation for the rematch I studied legendary games such as the Opera House Massacre and the Immortal Queen. I devised a strategy comprised of ideas I could not understand and tactics with which I was aggressively unfamiliar. I crowed to my beloved incessantly. The fool! He has no idea what awaits him! When he falls for my knight's sacrifice it will be brilliant! Oh, if only I could see the look on his face when he realizes the fix is in, that all hope is lost!
42 moves later I am wondering what went wrong.
The number one rule of chess is never forget that your opponent is trying to win.
That goes for a lot of things.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Thanks for the kind words y'all. We feel better over here.
Look at this picture. I look happy right? Hale and hearty? Ready for the World? That shows you that a picture lies a thousand words. The Wrecking Ball and I had a Tallahassee bloggers summit meeting, attendance (2) today.
I felt awful. Legs of broken glass. Lungs like tiny ketchup packets of air. Just awful. It was a beautiful blue bird day though, and we set the world to rights-proving once again that the bicycle is magic.
Friday, October 19, 2012
I ask the world to break my heart and leave her heart alone.
The world says I can't do that and it cuts me to the bone.
I'd rather cry a thousand tears then see her cry just one-
but grief's a selfish gift and so her tears are not my own.
If I could beat it senseless grief would fall into the dirt,
but grief's the one who does the beating, the one who leaves us hurt.
I've said that grief's a gift, and an honor to the past-
We do not miss the ones not loved, forgetting them so fast-
but those are empty words I throw into the great unknown,
I ask the world to break my heart and leave her heart alone.
Friday, October 12, 2012
I rode a familiar path yesterday. I was alone and without hurry. I took the harder lines and worried not about my pace, content to grind up staggered rooty banks and awkwardly lope over rock and log. Another entry into the category of just happy to be there, with nothing to prove, and yet I felt the shame of cowardice as I passed a few spots. I used to hit that every time I thought to myself. It's easy and all there. The risk is illusion the reward in the pocket. Hush up another voice said, and just ride your bike.
Every mile is precious and not to be gambled on a brief flash of panic, a steadying, and then the nonchalance of the lucky. We didn't ride with cameras on our heads back then, like reality show contestants, so we are resigned to vague memories and the fading echoes of pride. We were young braves riding stick ponies who pounded our chests at the trails. Oh well, old chiefs ride with prudence and lay long tracks across the land.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
This morning I feel like telling some other people's stories, or letting them tell us themselves.
If you haven't heard about Ernest Gagnon yet, it is just a matter of time. For the record, I wouldn't race cyclocross if my life depended on it, or maybe I would?
And then there is this girl, Malala Yousufzai-- 14 year-old blogger from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. She was shot in the head by the Taliban for writing about how much she liked school and bright-colored clothing. Two other little girls were also shot in the attack.
Two people telling their stories, both fighting for their lives.
This blog thing is potent.
Monday, October 08, 2012
An open letter to TMBA, from Langston Hughes.
Mother to Son
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
So leave some trails alone y'all. Accept that there are places you aren't ready to go, risks you aren't willing to take, pain you don't want to accept. Real "flow" as you call it, is revealed like character. You can't fake it all the time.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
I saw a small group of riders clustered at the bench by the trail-head as I climbed the winding path from the parking lot. My plan was to stop, set the clock, and proceed to disappoint myself with another lackluster time trial effort. I didn't really care about the clock part. It is just something to take my mind off of hard things, and have a reason to dig into the soreness.
I recognized his profile from a hundred dusky yard out. We call him Big Worm, but to be honest, he deserves better. Just the sight of him caused me to bring my knees and elbows in, straighten my back, check my right calf for rookie marks, and downshift to a high tempo spin, in other words- polish up my act. Flanked by five guys ranging from 16- 50+, all of them stone cold trail mercenaries, I un-clicked with a big smile. It's good to be seen on the trail sometimes, by people who understand what it is all about. Lucky for me they had just finished a "hot lap" so they were ripe for a cool-down.
There are some classic wheels to follow in this town on road and trail, but none are better than Worm's. With no debate we insisted he lead out and the rest of us fell in like baby ducks. I don't think I know what the issues are, but confidence must be part of it. Knowing that you are riding a fast enough pace to keep everyone occupied, but not so fast that anyone falls out or blows up, is a hard thing. Most guys I ride with, including myself, take riding point as a direct challenge and pretty much "go 'til we blow." It's only fun for the first 8 minutes, then it can get lonely.
We almost piled up when a Pygmy Rattler crossed our little peloton. In our scramble to avoid the threat, we failed to see it now pinned beneath a front tire, until a slight shift set it free to shoot for the tall grass. Seeing snakes on the trail is a gift. Not seeing snakes on the trail is the concern. Snake season is almost over around here, and the Grey Fox Squirrels come out to reign. I've seen both snake and squirrel in a matter of days as everything handles their plan for winter business.
It wasn't the fastest ride (nor the slowest by far!) and it wasn't the longest ride, but it was the ride I needed last night. Bunny-hopping rollers in the near dark on the way to the parking lot I had a mindless moment- an infinite split-second vacation- where there was only this wheel now that wheel, released from the earth then reclaimed by it greedily.
Monday, October 01, 2012
Let this post just be about the ride.
September steam and tree farm rows, carpeted with copper needles and pressed down by mid-night rain. Let it just be about three boys hidden down inside three men, turning and turning and turning and turning their pedals over again. Let this one post not be about life or death, just another batch of words.
Not deep, nothing heavy, crossed some fences undetected. Torn by smilax, gorged on by ticks, bikes fall away. We float through the mist.
I can hardly breathe because the air is so thick, but it is just another bike ride- feel the burn, light the wick.