Sunday, September 25, 2005

Confronting a Demon

I was going to avoid this today. I wanted to impart something light and of no consequnce to me or anyone else. Just write some nonsense. But I cannot.

The loss of my nephew hangs over my thoughts like a cloud. His tragedy lurks in the background wrapping everything I do with saddness. The sorrow I feel is more than just the grief of personal loss. It is the grief I have for the loss of a whole family. My nephew's disappearance just brought it to the forefront. Years of self-imposed exile from my family is now exacting a toll. Years of dealing with brother issues by not dealing with them is now "the other side of the story".

I am not sure why I am writing about this obviously personal problem. Sometimes I gain better perspective about how I feel when I write everything down. In this situation, better perspective may not be what I need. What may be needed is to stop feeling guilty and do something to save what I can out of this damaged relationship.

But first I have to finish being angry. I am astonished at just how angry I really am. Actually, the anger I have now is the result of not dealing with this issue years ago. Not confronting my brother was a mistake. Giving as good as I got is not working out. I allowed the years and distance between us to build a wall of resentment that is now tough to breach.

At the least, a first step has been taken at my end. I have my other brother to thank for that. He made the phone call about my nephew. And now I have to come to grips with the immediate sorrow and the pent up rage that has accumulated over the past 15 years. A demon has jumped in my face. It is time to deal with this one.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Talent Kills

I sit here tonight empty again. During the day my mind was going full tilt boogie. Humorous or insightful thoughts breezed in and breezed out. The problem was I was too busy with my hands and what they were doing to take the time to jot any of it down. So, here I am planted. Watching the cursor flash and running the mouse around the screen like a race car and making engine noises. Something will pop up. It always does.

Maybe some tunes. " Sublime Live". Hmm. Seems a contradiction in terms considering when the main man offed himself, the band broke up. It is even more ironical that this album came out after he died. Reminds me of "Eat a Peach", the live album by the Allman Brothers that was deployed shortly after Duane ran into the back of a fruit truck on his motorcycle back in the 70's. I am not sure it was a fruit truck he ran into. But it feeds the myth and the irony of the album name.

What is with these creative types? Is it a prerquisite to be depressed and a miserable SOB to be truly talented. Is it necessary to first be a tormented soul in order to make it as an artist? It sure seems to help. Or do you need to die first to really be appreciated? I did not discover Sublime until well after the main dude expired. His death had nothing to do with my interest. It just made him more interesting.. The reason is actually more mundane and ordinary. Lis had left one of their CD's in the player and I turned it on. Accidental exposure. Unplanned and not forced. And now, his music is a regular go to when I am perusing the pile for something to listen to.
He is dead. But he still speaks to me. The man made a mark. I am impressed. His music makes me know I would like to have hung with him. Shared some beers, laughed at the silly and stupid things we all do. And I do not even know his name. He is only "Sublime". I know because he had it tatted on his back.


Having talent and exercising it sure seems to use people up at a faster rate than the rest of us. It seems almost obligatory to have a drug problem, likker trouble, or be unable to connect with the rest of us for some bizarre reason. Someone once said, artists feel more intensly than most folks. More sensitive to the crap that most of us just deal with. They are able to see connections and draw conclusions no one else could or would have thought of. But their life expectancy runs shy of the norm. Price of fame? Maybe. Or do their lives just mirror our own? They just do it in public.

Hot Pockets

Pockets and how I use them popped into my cranial void the other day. I was emptying my pockets at the end of the day. I took an inventory of what I pulled out. Let's see. $2.23 in change, $7 in crumpled ones, 2 Receipts, 3 reminder slips that failed to remind, 4 bic lighters, and a pocket knife. Also an oddly shaped rock I found awhile ago and oddly, still resides in my pocket. Throw in a passle of keys, most of which are not needed but I carry them anyway. Top it all off with a spoke wrench I forgot to leave at the shop. An intimidating pile when viewed as one lump. But distribute it among the many pockets I have and the load just disappears. Damn, I love my pockets.

A simple and functional add on to our clothes, pockets allow us to seperate, collate, and integrate all those small items we just have to have along for our daily grunts. Keys and knife in the right pocket, change in the left. That cool rock in with the knife, but the lighters with change. The various slips of paper accumulated throughout the day in any pocket that is handy. A man can carry all his daily needs conveniently stashed but instantly available as needed. Taken for granted until the hole in one of them allows my favorite knife to escape to look for a new owner. I never seem to appreciate their worth until they fail me.

Now a purse on the other hand makes no sense to me. All our stuff jumbled up together in one pile. To find anything, 10 things have to be moved, removed, or shoved out of the way. I grew up watching my mother flounder elbow deep in her purse. When she had to dig deep, everything came out and was scattered as she frantically looked for that which was unfound. A pocket on the other hand, limits the search to a much smaller area. And often, the sought item can be located by braille through the outer layer. "Ah, there's that knife. What was I thinking? Put it in the wrong pocket". 15 seconds of panic verse 3 or 4 minutes of purse antics. Pockets rule, purses drool.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Coffee Bust

I am turning into a coffee snob. It has not wrecked my home life yet, but it has tested it. For the last 15 years at least my wife has been in charge of all our coffee needs. She has a special blend she grinds up at the grocery store. Once we found the compromise between my lusting after caffeinated sludge and her preference for tepid and barely brown hot water, we have been happy with this set up.

Then this last Spring, the Poland Spring guy who keeps me in bottled water at my shop mentioned a new promotion they had. If I agreed to buy 10 bags of Starbucks coffee in one year, I could keep this spiffy Cuinsinart coffee maker valued at over $100 for free. Knowing that nothing is free, after I figured the math, it still seemed like a good deal. So I signed up. Spending $2 to $3 bucks a day for take out coffee seemed silly when I could supply myself with coffee dialed to my taste. The savings would start in less than a year. Win, win all around. That's what I thought anyway.

The coffee maker was delivered with my first bag of Starbucks "Verona" blend. My first batch made my eyeballs do somersaults. Too strong. But isn't that coffee maker some spiffy. I left the last of the coffee sit in the carafe for 6 hours. When I poured it out, it was still warm. After several unsatisfactory batches, I figured out the ratio of coffee grinds to water. That is when I found Coffee Heaven. No compromising, no cheap beans, just quality coffee dripped to my personal satisfaction.

I got to the point where I was drinking less of the home brewed my wife was making. My usual 4 to 5 cup daily send off was replaced by an obligatory first cup to placate her and make me feel less guilty. This left a fair charge of coffee wasted every day. My wife, a smart and clever woman, eventually took notice. I mumbled something about wanting to cut the caffeine down. This worked for awhile.

And then I was busted. And busted by an accountant. Accountants do not like being lied to. At least mine did not, that's for sure. My wife handles all my accounting for my bike shop. As she is an accountant and I am not, this division in labor makes perfect sense. My excuse of wanting to cut down on caffeine was thrown right out the window when she opened the bill from Poland Spring with 3 bags of coffee in the line item category. She had known about the coffee maker and the 10 bag deal. When I started to say I was just trying to get the 10 bag committment out of the way, she pointed out that this last 3 bag purchase put me into the 16 bag range so far. She asked me if I forgot how to count or was I now retailing coffee along with bicycles.

I was faced with either coming up with another more outrageous lie or coming clean. Neither option seemed to harbor a positive outcome. The steel eyed stare in her eyes told me there was no option. I knew I had to come clean. I admitted I had been seduced by another coffee supplier. The flashy new brewer and the high-falutin blend had turned my head. I even admitted the coffee at home was nowhere close to what I was cranking out at the shop. I emptied my soul of all the pent up coffee guilt I had been accruing for the last 6 months. It was a pitiful display. Through it all, she kept those steely eyes fixed right on me. Damn! I hate it when she does that.

We are working this all out. Once I came clean and reinforced her low opinion of men and the lies they think they get away with, Life became tolerable again. It does not matter what we get caught for, just that we are caught and we know it. Women just love to catch us being stupid. One more dumb ass husband trick to be filed away in their steel trap minds for future retreival when the occaision warrants it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Daylight

The days here in southern Maine have made their commitment to the upcoming winter. Under 12 hours now, daytime has ceded control to the dark of night. The transition is peaceful and without fuss. The days backpedal in retreat a few minutes a day. By the time Summer has replenished it's will around the middle of December, Winter's invasion will have claimed over 14 hours of daylight every day. The beauty of this cycle is the predictability and annual light at the end of the tunnel. The beast of this cycle is knowing that predicability.

Many of us here in Maine suffer "cabin fever". A depression tied to the annual decline in daylight. I never thought I was a victim until the last few winters. The last few winters have been tough to deal with. I find keeping a upbeat attitude and a smile on my face more trouble than it is worth. Going to work at 7 AM in the dark gets old and the Sun out of sight by 4 just drives home that point.

I understand the mass exodus of seniors to Florida. After a lifetime of bone chilling winters, the year round warmth of Florida might have some appeal. But having lived in that Hell hole as a youngster, I will never make that commitment. The wheather may be warm. But it is not a friendly warm like the western desert. The humidity in the states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico punish my lungs every bit as much as the hard cold of Maine. When it is cold, I can always get warmer. Put on more duds, throw on that comforter, or back my butt up closer to the fire. Down south, I can only take off so much before I run out of options. I would still be hot and the neighbors might look at me oddly as I lounged in the hammock bare assed.

Always mentioned is Air Conditioning. Living in a climate controlled enviroment that re -circulates the same stale atmosphere I huffed out an hour ago. I find climate control at 70' F a boring existence. My lungs may like it, but like food, too much of a good thing is never good in the long run. Give me the erratic performance of Mother Nature here in Maine. Wheather that tests the body and the soul. Wheather that is not wimpy or indecisive. So, as much as I detest the drop in daylight, the winter that comes with it is exactly what I want.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Closer to Home

I punched Beck into the player. I then sat down in front of this screen with every intention of making mincemeat of some yahoo on a political forum I visit on occaision. I was ready to rip him a new one. Lay him low.

But I couldn't do it. The free for all political forums I have had so much fun in these last few years have lost their luster. Where I once found witty and intelligent adversaries, I now find one line Harries who only want to insult. The boards seem overrun with reactionary posters or trolls. So instead of punishing myself there, I came here. I prefer the calm and solitude of my blog. Besides Beck does not go well with trading insults.

I created this blog to work on my writing. Hone the few skills I have. I made only 2 rules when I set it up. One, I would not allow my livelihood or obession with bicycles to take over. Two, I would keep the political commentary to a minimum. So far so good. Well lately, I have run a bit heavy on the bike side. It is difficult to rein in that which your life revolves around. The politics have been easier to deal with. When I wanted to get that fix, I went to some forum of armchair politicians and we could mix it up. But now that I am not stopping in as much. Where will I get my release, if not here in my blog? We will see if I can resist.

I have kept journals forever. Until this blog, I always spent a large amount of energy stating my opinions on how things oughta be. With no feedback, my personal views seemed nothing more than political masturbation. Then I found the political forums. Now I was part of a circle jerk. A little better I guess.

A couple of weeks ago, the group feeding frenzy I was actively part of changed. Or I changed. It does not matter. One of us did. I spent a whole session just lurking. It seemed that all anyone wanted to do was blame Bush, blame Clinton, love the war, or hate the war. Useless and futile discussions from one hardhead to another. Every poster I read had come with a chip on their shoulder and their mind already made up. So I did a search to review some of my recent posts. I sounded just like the rest of them. A whining angry man. Nothing sadder.

Unfortunately this Internet thing is akin to some crazy drug. It gets it's hooks into you and before you can say gigabyte, you are spending 20 to 30 hours a week surfing but going nowhere. I am determined to cut my time wasted on the boards to a minimum. But when I punch this computer up, automatically my fingers do the walking and I find myself looking for some idiot to lay into. I will stop in the middle of that first or second post, re-plant reality in my mind and scoot home or here. Not that here is really reality. But it is closer.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Missing

My brother left a message on the machine today. Apparently my nephew has gone missing in the Persian Gulf. A seaman on an Aegis cruiser, he has been lost for over a week now. At this point, sea searches by the US Navy and the Iranian Navy have turned up nothing. They do not know if he fell overboard, jumped overboard or was forced overboard. No news at all. He is just missing.

This news is shocking enough, but what pounds it home even deeper is this is the first real contact with my immediate family since my oldest brother basically cut me off 10 years ago. Rather than get in their face, I blew the whole family off. I chose to remove myself. I did it conciously. There are a multitude of reasons I could come up with. They all seem so petty and trivial when compared to the family tragedy my oldest brother is dealing with right now.

I am still in shock. A lot of history has come flooding back into my mind. Combine it with the bizarre situation with my nephew and I sit here poleaxed. Dazed. I am not able to sort out the bad blood from the concern for a lost relative. It is all jumbled up. Needless to say, conflicting emotions swirl around inside me. I have harbored hateful thoughts toward my brother, but never once did I include anyone from inside his circle. And now I deal with an intense guilt from thinking ill of someone and having hard times actually happen to them. Falling off a boat is not something I would wish on him or anyone. Some inconveniences and embarrassing moments maybe, but never once did I wish physical harm.

I came into this world the result of an unplanned pregnancy initiated out of wedlock. My parents were older, my brothers were in their teens, and all of a sudden there I am. The proverbial monkey wrench thrown into an already shaky family dynamic. As I grew up, I never felt I belonged. I never felt accepted. Reactions to me ran the gambit from outright meaness from one brother to total disregard by the more distant relatives we would visit from time to time. As a child, I had no information to go on. I thought they just did not like me. I was someone to hate. And somehow I deserved it.

It was not until my mother's death did I connect all the dots. Organizing her papers after her death, I found my parents' mariage certificate. I really looked at it. Unless I was premature, there is no way I was conceived while they were married. Those many years of feeling like an outsider immediately came into context. Suddenly I understood the cooler shoulders I had to deal with as a young kid. And it really pissed me off. That was the day I picked up a serious grudge. That was the day I stopped worrying about what anyone in my family thought of me and how I led my life. I had wasted so many years fishing for affection, it was now time for payback. I would show them. I would give them a taste of what filled my mouth for so many years. I would ignore them. Yeah, good plan.

Now I pay the price for that plan. The price for this grudge is shaping up to not be worth the emotional currency it costs. Of all the relatives I should have identified with, my missing nephew is now unable to know he was not alone. He too was not born into the best of family situations. My brother, fresh off a 17 or 18 year marriage hooks up with a co-worker. He marries her and they have a kid. He comes into this world an add on, an afterthought, a desperate mechanism to save a faltering marriage. And whether he understood or not, he most definitely grew up with serious baggage. God, I hope that baggage had nothing to do with his disappearance.

So I sit here pounding out my pain, hoping to relieve the guilt I have for not taking time to be closer to him. And I can't. I deserve this. He does not.

Part Deux

According to Eastern Time Zone rules, it is a brand new day. September 18, 2005. Whew! Seems like yesterday I was impressed when it was 1970. I feel like such an old fart. I'm ready for plaid pants, a golf shirt, white crew socks and black tie shoes. Get the walker Mabel. I gotta go check the mailbox.

In 1970 I didn't have one foot in the grave. Long haired hippie loser, happy as if I had a clue. Blue jeans, barefeet and tye dyed T shirts. Worrying about next week not in my mind. Remembering last week an impossible task. In 1970, I lived in the moment. In 1970 I existed second to second. In 1970 I lived for the weekend. Bars, broads, and where I could score some good weed about all I worried about.

That was then. This is now. Now I sit here wondering why I felt that aimless existence was a dead end. From where I sit now, the respectable life that latched onto me often feels the same. At age 26 or so, I awoke from my drunken, drugged stupor and decided I was going nowhere. Yet now, my rose colored glasses paint a different picture. When once my biggest worry was sobering up enough to go to work, now, I have a multitude of middle class worries to chew on. So many pitfalls waiting to ruin my day.

I look back on my irresponsible youth selectively forgetting all the angst that comes with that age. I conveniently dismiss the deep loneliness I suffered on a regular basis. I neglect to bring up how selfish I could be back then. Serving only my whims and looking for self-gratification at all times. Unable to share myself, I spent my waking hours getting high, looking to get high, or wishing I could get high. Yeah, those were the times.

As I compare the me of 1970 and the person I am today, I realize I haven't really changed much. I can still be selfish, put myself first, and let others down. The difference is when I was young and dumb, any slights and self centered ways were performed without premeditation. I had no inkling that what I did affected other lives. My connection to the rest of the World unrealized. Guilt free but guilty nonetheless.

And now, I know guilt. Now I know regrets. Now I know what is expected. Now I know responsibility. I have for over 25 years. But knowing it and living it is still a struggle. Waking up each day and doing what's right day in and day out takes a stronger man than I. Thankfully, my lapses are brief and most times of small consequence. They serve as reminders that I am not that far from my past.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Scraps of my past

I cannot come up with anything for the blog lately that does not seem forced, contrived or more banal and empty of substance than the usual dribble I spew forth. I want to write. But there's a fog or barrier keeping the witty and interesting from making the trip from my brain to this screen. Shit! I can't even seem to muster any righteous indignation over the many injustices and mistakes the World honchos are making as we speak. There is always something out there that is pissing me off. Right now though, the energy needed to get excited seems such a waste of time.

I sit here contemplating this latest creative drought as I work the rough spot on that back molar with my tongue. I pause and look at a photo of my dad wearing a silly wig. I jammed it into the edge of the door casing 25 years ago and there it still sits. Dad, Father, the ole man. Of all the pictures, I pick one that is not even a good likeness. I often wonder what he would think of how, why, and what I turned out to be. Would he be pleased? Proud? Or just shake his head?

Right under Dad, a picture of the first mountain bike I ever rode. I borrowed it from a friend for a couple of months in 1984. I knew I was onto something new and unique when I first floundered in the woods on that bike. I did not know or would have guessed the impact the loan of that bike would have on the rest of my life. Something I took up to fill some leisure time became an avocation and quickly turned on me and became my life. Obsession mutated into duty often grudgingly dealt with. Twisting wrenches and selling bikes to John Q is most definitely not a lifestyle of the rich and famous. I often feel it is thankless and a useless endeavor. But I cannot help it. I love bicycles.

Switching my tongue to the chipped canine, my brain follows suit and switches gears. Dropping my eyes along the door casing, my ratty first truck license hangs on by a scrap. Man, was I young and full of cum when I strutted into the Glen Burnie DMV to take that driving test in 1971. Brought down a few pegs when I watched the 2 guys in front of me fail before they even left the parking lot. I remember sweaty palms and a mirror sunglassed test guy monotoning, "Okay, see those offset cones? I want you to back up between them and stop within 6 inches of the dock." Suddenly, all the learnin old Fred had pounded into my head was lost. But somehow I managed it and 20 minutes later I strutted out, Class l license in hand. And then spent the next 17 years delivering what America wanted.

Under the license, a picture post card of the New Dorm at Towson State University dangles. In 1972 it was the New Dorm. I wonder what they call it now? I remember the night Bean and I went over to the half constructed building and checked it out. Rolled and smoked too many doobers. I walked into the elevator shaft thinking it was a closet. I remember being grateful when Bean caught me by my shirt tail and saved me the hassle of falling 3 floors to the basement. One of those moments we all have when we know one of the nine lives has been used up. I have always wondered why I did not take that post card down. Maybe that near death experience is why. Hmm.

My favorite cartoon of all time hangs nearby. Stained and dotted with the many thumbtack holes I punched into it as I took it with me where ever I went. Yellowed and frayed, it has paid it's dues. And even now, it brings a smile to my face.

These few scraps and pictures have no good reason to be on my wall. I do not even remember why they went up. But of all the useless crap I have held onto, I chose these snippets of my past to display. Meaning nothing to anyone else, they have incidents and times attached to them I will never forget. The disorderly and desperate way they are jammed or pinned up seems so temporary. Yet they have endured over 20 years. And my wife, Miss law and order, has respected their place on my wall. She has no clue why they are there, but she leaves them alone. Somehow, they seem important maybe. And they are I guess. Reminders of a time when my step bounced higher, my forehead was smaller, and my outlook brighter. When I pause now and again to look them over, they always have an impact. Sometimes they make me sad. Sometimes they make me glad. And occaisionally mad.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Wake Up Fool!

The other morning I awoke. Not my standard birth of awareness that comes with that first sip of coffeee. I remember opening my eyes. I must have been on my back. The first thing I focused on was the white ceiling overhead. But wait, no, it was moving. And it was furry. Damn! Fernando was standing belly down over my face. I coughed, gasped and tossed 'Nando across the room. Nothing worse than waking up with a mouthful of cat hair and a kitty butt 3 inches from my nose. I hate that.

No easing into this day. I was not going to enjoy the gradual process of becoming aware. Waking to some dumb pet antic has the potential to get a day off on the wrong foot. And sometimes not. I sat up in bed. Fernando, that big dumb tom, jumped back up into bed, stood up on his hind legs and threw his front paws on my shoulders. Briefly he looked me in the eye. I think he was checking out my P-oed index. Satisfied I wasn't going to bounce him off another wall, he head butt me and bit my nose. Fernando is huge and a clumsy lummox as cats go. His idea of gentle will make you want to cry sometimes when he attacks your feet or decides that ear looks tasty. His nose nip caught me perfect in the nerve that goes right to pain central in the brain. The one that also turns on the tear reflex and makes me want to sneeze. Damn, awake 45 seconds and I am already trashed by one of our little darlings.

I sneezed and quickly rubbed my nose to soften the intensity of that perfect bite. I did not toss Fernando. He stayed there front paws perched on my shoulders and hitched his head sideways and it seemed he was smiling. "Wake up fool. Time to rough house. No, let's get the string and, uh , not that, the jingle ball! You throw, I'll go. Get it and then not bring it back." So I obliged and threw him down on the bed and gave him a screamin belly rub. I tossed him, beat on him, picked him upside down and threw him into the pillow. 'Nando gave as good as he got. Those big paws and mouth made me pay. I walked down to the kitchen with shredded hands and a smile on my face.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What a beautiful morning

I was heading back from the doc's office this morning on my bike. I was not in a hurry. It was a gorgeous morning. Brilliant and almost cool. I had to pedal hard to break a sweat. I'm only pushing about 15 mph and rubbernecking the neighborhood. I hear a car come up behind me. I do not move. I am over to the right, there's nothing coming the other way, and besides it was just another of the hundreds if not thousands of cars that pass me all the time.

This joker decides to get up right behind me and honk his horn. Mildly annoyed, I do not move. I keep my line. He blasts again. I move into the lane a tad just to establish my right to it. Then I guess he wanted to teach me the lesson he was attempting to share with his horn only. He revs up beside me, slows down and through the half open passenger window starts in, "What the Fuck are you doing? What are the fucking sidewalks for?" I turn to him and smile and continue on my way.

He zips ahead and pulls the classic cop pull over at an angle to cut me off trick. "Oh Great", I think, "another beautiful day and some jerk is going to try and ruin it for me." He throws open his door and gets out. The bonehead has pulled too far ahead, giving me plenty of time to avoid this tactic and I easily go around him. I keep the same pace. I don't speed up. As I pass him he is spewing epithets and as I pedal away, I envision spittle and bulging eyeballs. Definitely someone I want to avoid. But I can't. It isn't in me.

He does his best imitation cop stop again and this time I pull up. Before he has a chance to get out of his car, I jump off my bike start pounding on his car and screaming, " You want a fucking piece of me Asshole. Just get the fuck out now and we'll fuckin dance. Come you fucking pussy." I do the best imitation of him I can. The man thinks better of it, closes his half open door and speeds off. I smile and continue on my way. What a beautiful morning. And I smiled all the way back to the shop.

The Burnt Car Loop 2

Yesterday, I poached a ride with Keith. I told my wife I was going to the shop to get some work done. I promised to come home and perform domestic chores. I did go to the shop. I did attempt to tidy up some loose ends. And then Keith called. I had forgotten about our tentative plan to ride. In an instant I conveniently forgot my committment to my darling signifgant other. She was there, I was here. My bike was here. The trails were here. And Keith would soon be here.

With a shrug of resignation to the predestined aspect of this day, I quickly changed, found a helmet and off we went. Our ride was a re-run of our night ride last Thursday, only we added in the Old Folks Home downhill. This ride I scooted along on legs twenty years younger. This ride, I was in a groove. Every technical section I nailed and when we hit a downstroke, I left Keith like he was standing still. Well, not really. But I was in front and that is not the way most of our rides pan out.

That brutal creek crossing on the Burnt Car Loop. No problem. Keith watched me make it, and then he did also. Neither one of us remembering the last time we cleaned that section completely. The Old Folks downhill is a trail that dumps into the parking lot of an assisted living complex. It is only challenging if it is hammered full bore. But get up to 20 miles an hour and pedal hard through the couple of rises and it will deliver plenty of pucker factor. This day, I stayed on Keith's wheel and wished he would get out of the way.

As we whooped it into the parking lot of the retirment home, we startled an old lady sitting in the sun sucking on a butt. Keith, the ever friendly guy, decides to engage in conversation. As the niceties were exchanged, I realized we were helping to make this lady's day. Something out of the ordinary for her to discuss with her buds. Two crazed looking guys on bicycles bunny hopping onto the parking lot. We left her smiling.

The negative result of playing hooky was a cold shoulder at home when all the chores I managed to do were the ones I dreamed about when I passed out on the couch. Ah domestic bliss.

Denial

I had hoped to pen something perky, funny or clever this AM. But I awoke in a dark mood. I fell asleep last night to the bad news coming from further south. Katrina is still having it's effect.

This century has certainly been packed with excitment. In 5 or so years, a lifetime of catastrophies have been packed. I cannot help but reflect back to many of the biblical doom and gloom fortune tellers, Nostradamus, and the whacko on the corner sporting the sign that said, "The End is Near". An odd combination of disasters, political events, and economic trends have more of us considering the predictions we all used to quietly chuckle at.

The end may indeed be near. But like so many things not worth worrying about, this is one of them. If it is near, any contribution I may make to avoiding it at this point seems too little too late. Besides, if the prophecies are correct, we cannot do anything anyway.

But even if the end is not near, Life as I knew it is going to be different. Life for my daughter will be different. My US culture is apparently going through some major adjustments. The final outcome may or may not be good. But we are changing. Our short sighted ways are coming back to bite us. Our overwhelming dependence on a finite resource without considering the end of that resource may well be our undoing. What we are doing now is akin to the phases of grief. Right now, we are in denial.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Taken for Granted

I just posted something I had posted before in a different location somewhere here in the 'net. I was just nodding off, satisfied with my effort and listening to some Ani Difranco. And then I felt shame. Not a large charge of it, but enough to bring me out of my stupor and come up with some fresh out of the box writing.

The conceptual getting my mind around the idea of the Internet has been attempted, repeatedly thwarted and cast aside. I see a indeterminable alter dimension filled with electrons bouncing around an infinite other universe but with purpose and a plan. Some yahoo in East Gish, Slobavokia will toss some thought out there with confidence his words will reach someone in Lower Billabong, Down Under. And all those busy little electrical pixies carry his message with accuracy and dispatch. It'd be mind boggling if I did not take it all for granted.

Worm Food

Trying to come up with something to say tonight, I found my bag of tricks empty. Since i am in a writin frame of mind, I needed to do something. Dredge up a pearl. Glean some remnant. Wrestle a thought or two to the mat. But I can't.

The next best thing is to retreive a thought passed on in the past. What follows is a Thread started by "Buck Fitty" in the Dirt Rag forum, "Hangin Out"

http://www.dirtragmag.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7208

A rant about self-importance... from Buck Fitty
I'll start by stating the obvious. I'm not nearly as important as I'd like to think that I am. Neither are you.


There. I've said it.

The movie "the Incredibles" got me thinking about this- "if everyone is special, then no one is..." It's a good point. And my corollary is this- If everyone thinks they're important, then everyone is less likely to see anyone else as important.

Think about it- we rant on websites, just like I'm doing now, spewing forth our opinions about things we may not know anything about, we take out our fears of unimportance on others by inconveniencing or berating or just plain ignoring common courtesy. We puff up ourselves at the expense of others.

What does all this self-importance gain us? Do we gain an increased sense of self worth or an increased fear of obsolesence?

Is our oversized sense of self worth the reason we as a country are increasingly in debt, increasingly overworked and increasingly stressed out and (I know this is pretty subjective, but hear me out) unhappy?

What if, just as an experiment, we all looked in the mirror and said to ourselves every morning "I'm just not that important"- Not in a self loathing sense, but in the spirit of saying "I have permission to take it easy on myself".

And maybe if we all give ourselves permission to take it easy on ourselves, we'll find ourselves with more time to do the things we really love. Maybe by dropping our sense of self-importance, we'll get a chance to learn what is actually important in our lives. Maybe by giving ourselves permission to fail, we'll feel more like taking chances and create something truly incredible. Maybe by seeing everyone else as important, we'll try to be better to each other.

I don't know, I'm just talkin'...

My Reply
Jeez, let me wake up first
Interesting thread for sure. I just need some more coffee and a few more minutes to fix on my important contribution to this subject. Ah, coffee, nectar of my god. Thankfully there are not too many posts to re-read. Heavy thinking this early in the AM ..... Ah, coffee. Good, that other eye is starting to come around.


All the different twists on importance of self. And everyone making good points. I read the first one from Buck Fitty and I start nodding, "Yeah good point there". Often we are not as important as we think we are. But Buck Fitty, I wonder if you are not being a tad harsh with yourself and others. From where I sit I would say we are all important to someone. Our families, our communities, our employees/employers, but most of all to ourselves.

The fact that we may often puff ourselves up on occaision only points to our inability to see the importance of our lives. The fact that many of us beat ourselves up points to that same inability. Most of us do not live lives filled with obvious examples of importance. We work, go home, mow the lawn, feed the dogs, play with the kids, and go to sleep. The rhythms of our lives lull us into a mistaken idea that we do not matter. At least that's how I feel sometimes about my life.

During those odd moments when I am feeling introspective or I happen upon a thread somewhere in the internet ether, I will take a moment and ask if I am important. I worry about it for a few moments. Contemplate what others think. Just about the time I start feeling good about myself, I come to the realization that during the brief instant of time I am on this planet, I am important. But when weighed against the big picture of time, the Universe, and the Big Bang, I am just worm food waiting to happen.

Keep it 'tween the ditches,
CRUM

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hangin On

This summer has been a tough one at the bikeshop. Come to think of it, all 7 seasons have been tough. Not a one has gone according to plan. The first 5 years I actually had a plan. The last 2, hanging on is about all I had in me. I have caught on that wingin it doesn't work either. I need a new plan. I need to find some new enthusiasm. Locate some more will.

Owning a small retail business in a small town is a challenge to be sure. As most are, I am undercapitalized, under educated, under pressure, and under many different thumbs. I rob Peter to pay Paul. I juggle cash flow like some clown at the circus. Daily I check the bank balance to figure out what I can spend that day. Then I give away product for a song just to make next month's rent and keep the lights on. And across this land, hundreds of thousands small businesses feel the same pain I do.

Why do we do it? What madness takes control and deludes us we have a snow ball's chance in Hell to go up against Walmart, Staples, K-mart, X-Mart, and Home Depot? All the pat answers can boost our optimism and fill us with confidence. But when we've been down 30% for 3 months, the pat answers are nowhere to be found. More like we's stupid, gluttons for punishment, truly masochistic. Or just too hard-headed and contrary to give up. So we plug away at the monster. Open the doors everyday, Sweep out the dust, and hope that "brand new day" is today.

This is how I felt about running the shop 2 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago I knew the summer was almost Fall and the big weeks were behind me. Today I sit here perplexed. In the last 2 weeks we have done about 10% of our total to date gross sales for the year. Go figure. Just about the time my spirits couldn't get any lower, a contrary sales wave takes hold and I hang ten. While the uptick is certainly welcome. I am also a bit unsettled about this unforseen boost. Since 9/11 any dependence on historical sales flows has been tossed out the window. Months that are supposed to be up are down and months that are supposed to be down are up. Sales predictions are useless exercises in futility.

So for now, I will just do what I have been. Hang in there, keep the lean and mean attitude and hunker down. But soon I have to figure out how to deal with this new market place. The internet offers opportunities and at the same time eats sharply into my profits. The out of control oil economy has everyone nervous, tense and uptight. The uncertain future dictates I find something different than SSDD.

The Burnt Car Loop

I went for a night ride tonight. All day, I looked for an excuse to bail. I have been doing that quite a bit lately. And now that I have ridden, I wonder why I didn't want to go in the first place. Maybe it's the whiny, pissin and moanin mood I have been in of late.

"Wah, wah wah. I have to get the bike ready. Check the tire pressure, put on riding duds. Get the lights out and hooked up. Check the shifting and the brakes. Find my shoes and strap myself into them. Adjust the lights. Fill the Camelbak. Adjust the helmet. Jeez, gonna take me an hour just to get ready for a 1 1/2 hour ride. Hardly seems worth all the hassle. Wah, wah Wah." All day I was like this. What a whiner. If I had pulled this shit in front of the boys, they would of left me sad and pissy in the parking lot. Pre-emptively I pooped on the party that had not happened yet.

Anyway, 4 of us hit the trails around 8:00PM. Took me 10 minutes to stop whining at myself. "Wah,Wah, Wah, I'm tired. My legs hurt. Jeez guys, where's the fuckin fire? The trails aren't goin anywhere. Slow down fer chrissakes. Wah, wah, wah". And then we hit the first section of singletrack. A sharp left off the railroad bed and into the dark pucker.

It must of been my need to pay attention that got me out of the whining mode. As the boys dropped me like a rock, I fell into the rhythm. "Lift, dip, weight back for this log, up and sharp left. Damn, face plant !" But I didn't whine. I picked myself up, straightened my glasses and pulled some partially decomposed forest out of my helmet and right ear. As I turned the cranks to reset the chain, I grinned. This was gonna be a fun night. I knew right then and there, I was feeling frisky. Tonight, reasonable and judicious fear was MIA.

This trail was not particularily tough, but it requires full attention to stay smooth and on track. Space out a moment and it will stop you. Drop you hard. Make you pay. We call it "The Burnt Car Loop". Named after a burned out car someone managed to drive up the rail bed 20 years ago. They must have had a helluva time that night. Smashed, broken and torched, that car signaled the beginning of a sweet loop that ended with a satisfying downstroke. Go as fast as you dare, it always rewarded. And sometimes punished. Dips, water, rocks, roots, and some low flying branches just to keep you sharp. Corners you can't see around, but if you trust yourself that day, keep those tires rolling, catch the berm around and down. 15 minutes of in your face pleasure.

The Burnt Car Loop ends abruptly, dumping us back onto the railbed 300 yards from where we started. Swooping down to the T, I always wish it would go on a little longer. Tonight was no exception. I almost spoke up and said "let's do it again". But I just fell in behind Warren and we headed up the rail bed and banged a right onto an old washed out tote road. I hate that damn road. I hate it so much, I won't name it. It's just "that damn tote road". Not very long, but full of loose rock and just enough upstroke to make it tough going. I always slow down. Poke along and prolong the agony. Not sure why that particular route doesn't suit me. The other guys scoot along fine. I could barely catch their red flashes up the hill. Falling into that slow grind I am partial to when not happy, I seek a happy place and do a mental re-run of the Burnt Car Loop. It passed through my mind as I slow poked it up to hook up with the crew at the pavement. I thought about the rocky creek crossing that makes most of us walk most of the time. But tonight I had it's number. Tonight I made it. Well, almost. Kinda. Sorta. What was important, I didn't go on auto pilot, get off and walk. I relived the one eighty I survived when I careened off that huge rock I did not see. I lost myself in the last few minutes of glory and in a few I was through it.

Dropping down the paved road to the trail off Butler Corner, we came to "the Rock Wall". Haphazardly placed, the big rocks perform the function the irate landowner had in mind when he tossed them there a few years back. They declare, "ATV's not Welcome", but if you can walk or ride, come on in my friend". The wall is another intimidating barrier that teases you with but one good line up and over. Rewarding with a rush, punishing with sharp edges that bite. Most times I just dismount and do the lift and grunt. Or when I am feeling frisky, it drops me hard onto the same jagged rocks. But tonight the one truth path revealed itself to me. "Right there, That's it, lighten up on the bars and float. Damn! Made it!"

Feeling cocky and full of myself, 20 feet later some deadfall catches my Camelbak and smites me down for feeling so high and mighty. I am laughing so hard, when I start to get up, I trip and fall again. I pulled myself together as we pulled the offending branch off the trail. Hitting the dirt again, the rest of the ride goes by too fast. All of a sudden we were back. It was over. And I was immediately a tad sad. I almost said, "Let's do it again".