Monday, April 30, 2007

Thongs for the Memory

Yeah, I am still playing with that search engine on Photobucket. I was bored this AM, or maybe not quite awake yet. I figured some visual stimulation might jump start my day. So I typed in "Thong". 100,000 images of sweet young things wearing a string and a smile might just get my day moving. Poor man's porn. Know what I mean?

Problem is only 5,498 images popped up. Throw out the repeats and what I ended up with was a paltry 4,000 or so distinct images to pick from. Cull out all the buffalos wearing thongs, weed out the ad graphic images of thongs with nothing in them, and don't waste my time with silly shots of thongs on heads, on pets, cars or rhinos. What I ended up with was hardly a Penthouse worth of succulent young butts barely street legal. Jeez, I'da had better luck looking under the mattress.

What's up with that? I did a search the other day on "mirror" and 98,000 something images popped up. But try to find a picture of something we know is always on us Zippers' minds and what I get barely makes me yawn.

As a matter of fact, the lead in image was not even there. Or if it was, it was buried deeper than I was willing to go. I lost interest at image number 1,000 or so. Hmm. Some would say I should get a life. This is it I guess. This is my existence. Cruising through pictures from other folk's lives hoping to enhance mine.

I'll get bored and find something new and even more meaningless to add meaning to my life. And I do apologize for the god awful title. I am having a particularily goofy Monday.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Gnarly Dudeness




When I imagine myself out there riding my bike, I often come up with this dude to represent me in the dreams. He is fast. Real fast. Get out of this guy's way. He is no wheel sucker.


Yeah, I have a vivid imagination, even after 55 years of serious reality. The problem I have now is I realize the dream is just that. While fun when lost in the contemplation of Gnarly Dudeness, the reality is more like the clown on the right. I ride with the heart of the bad ass cyclist and the butt I inherited from Aunt Helen.

As sad a picture as I represent out on the highways and byways of Maine these days, it is my imagination that keeps me coming back to this great sport. I have been that guy. I am now this guy. But the one thing that runs true through both lives is my absolute dedication to cycling.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sidewalk Art


Ever feel like this guy looks? My recent battle with sinus troubles and the annual Spring explosion at the bike shop make this sidewalk art piece an excellent rendition of how my last 2 months have been going.

About the time I really start crying in my beer, I run across someone else who is more of a suffering bastard than I am. Their trials and tribulations make mine nothing but the whining of someone who has become too comfortable. And now has to deal with a headache and a few more hours at work.

It is so easy to get completely wrapped up in the negatives of my own trip. I fail to notice that in the scheme of things important, I am one lucky buckaroo. So far all the truly bad events that could or should cross my path have missed and settled into someone else's life. It is a shame I sometimes have to be slapped into awareness of my good fortune by the tough times that visit others. That using their misfortunes somehow diminishes mine.

So, this is really an upbeat post. Believe it or not.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Appearance is Everything

A double treat today. I could not decide which to post. So, here are both.

Most folks consider bike duds to be fringe lunacy. Why anyone would want to wear skin tight anything when the skin being held tight might be better off behind a curtain with pleats. Lots of pleats? Yet, we cyclists insist on sullying up the scenery with our outlandish garb and traffic congesting mode of travel. The fellows in the line up here represent a very fine example of whacky team garb design. They point up exactly why we cyclists and our clothing are held up to ridicule. What is up with the crotch accenting red ending up just under the chin anyway? Their outfits scream, "Look at my crotch, and now follow the line to my head." Or, "Look at my head , and now follow the line to my crotch".

Gotta love the cyclist. No one does it worse than we do.


I have become numb and now ignore all the jokes made at my expense when caught out in public by a non-cycling friend or the occaisional obnoxious redneck. All the homophobic comments, the "all you need is some clown paint" clever digs. I don't hear them anymore.

It was worse 20 years ago when I squeezed into that first pair of crotch hugging lycra shorts. I was new to it and there were noticeably less folks out there looking silly in skin tight bicycle duds. But I wore them anyway. I have always been a function over form kinda guy. If something works, I tend to go with it. Lycra shorts work. They decrease the discomfort and increase the pleasure when I decide to punish my ass with a 3 or 4 hour ride.

Anyway, back to what is important. Appearance. How we look to others. Doesn't matter how well we do as long as we look good doing it.

I gaze into the casket at the same time Aunt Martha does. She speaks to the wrinkled up codger laying therein.. "You was a contrary old fart, but didn't they make you look good? You ain't looked this good in 30 years. You also ain't worn a suit for 30 years. Shoulda buried you in your overalls."

I smile at her, and she blurts, "What you looking at? I weren't talking to you. Move along now. Maybe some other old broad will be impressed. Someone smiles at me, I figure they's about to fart."

So I moved along. And considered the words she spoke. The guy's dead and all she can comment on is how they gusseyed him up? I could tell there was serious history left unsaid. I was probably lucky I was spared the punishment of hearing it.

Even in death, we are often judged by what we wear for that final trip.

Replaced by a Stranger

My recent fascination with images has me winding my way through hundreds, no, make that thousands of thumbnails in the huge cache of bitmaps and jpegs on the Photobucket site. Still relatively new to all this, I am always impressed with the new image counter. It is in the billions and always increasing.

I use their internal search engine with an arbitrary key word to begin some viewing pleasure. This morning I chose "mirror". 33,000 plus images were quickly made available. 33,000! The things folks waste time on. Taking a picture of themselves in a mirror has to rate a gold star for stupid narcissism.

But there you have it. No one is more impressed with themselves than themselves. And I noticed that if 10 pictures popped up, the majority were females engaged in some way in front of the mirror. Mirrors seem to be more gender specific than other basic self-gratification tools.

The mirror is a two edged sword. It can be used to pump us up or to let us down. I always hope on those rare occaisions when I peak at myself, that I will spot some magical improvement or positive change. And while I feel like the same guy who started out 55 years ago, I have been taken over by someone else who does not look a bit like me. It is a stranger looking back now.

I never used to bulge there. And that never sagged as much as that. What's up with the larger face anyway? And come on, that was always bigger than that, even when it was cold.

No, someone else inhabits my body now. Same mind, but different appendages. A kind of "Body Snatcher" scenario in reverse. Instead of snatching minds, they give us their throwaway bods and take our virulent young physical beings for themselves.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Collateral Damage


I had one chore on Monday. One thing the whole day was designed for. Making sure I was at Manchester Airport at 5:18PM to pick up my wife. She was flying in from North Carolina after a whirlwind drive down there to deliver a new/used car to my daughter.

My lovely wife is not the World's best traveler. Rather than allowing the inevitable problems of travel roll off her shoulders, she sucks them in and allows them to ferment. Waiting to explode upon the first poor slob who unwittingly creates that next straw. It was my turn yesterday.

Knowing this about her had the obvious affect on my Monday. The flow of my entire day was aimed at making this appointment. I went to the dump early. I took care of shop business and made the obligatory Monday contacts with a few vendors. I gusseyed up the house a tad to hide the bachelor mode I had been in these past 5 days. By 3:00 PM, I was in the truck and headed to Manchester. My day was on time.

Hitting the airport at 4:57 PM sharp, I parked in the A lot. At 5:03 PM sharp I was looking at the Arrival screen. Being 15 minutes early I was on target for an uneventful pick up.

Damn! Flight 7388 from Philly is delayed. It's new arrival time this impersonal screen tells me is now 7:18 PM. Just fucking Great! Not only do I have to sit here for 2 plus more hours, but so does my wife. And with each extra punishing minute in another airport, her demeanor and composure takes an incremental dive into the bucket called "shitty mood".

I head for the news stand. Grab a magazine. And then back to the truck to listen to Jimi Hendrix and wile away the time waiting for a plane with a bad ass wife on board. My anticipation was less than enthusiastic.

At 6:50 PM I head in to check the arrival screen. Double Damn! Not only is Philly #7388 late , it is later now. New arrival time is 7:37PM. I can feel my shoulders drop as I head back to the truck. This is not going to be a joyful ride home to Acton.

At 7:20 PM I decide sitting in the truck sucks. I head in. Who do I see coming at me full bore? That's right, the little woman. Only she looks much larger now. I want to cower and hide. But I can't. She had spotted me and had her patented "I hate your stinking self" look on her mug.

She had landed 15 minutes earlier. Not seeing my smiling face had topped off a very poor day with the airlines. As she laid into me, I resisted the urge to give as good as I got. I just opened the door to the truck, threw her bags in and got in and drove. Did not say a word other than, "Hungry?", the whole way home. Even our stop for grub passed without a word.

It mattered not that I had been where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. No consideration was given to the fact that US Air screwed her up and I did not. I was just there when the explosion happened. Collateral damage.

Monday, April 23, 2007

By Invitation Only


I did not have anything burning in my belly to rail about today. There was no picture that crossed the screen to loosen any creative juices. I decided to clean up some garbage and do some sweeping and dusting in the memory banks of this computer. I am soon to be firing up a new computer and it would be stupid to move the junk I never use here to the new digs. So uncharacteristically, I am stepping out of character and cleaning up.

Since blogging has recently caught my fancy again, I figured a good reaming of the older "favorites" in the bookmark section would be in order. I had not visited many of them since the day I honored them with a listing in my computer. Instead of deleting all, I opened each one and took a peak. Many had died from lack of interest. Many had changed their names to protect the innocent. And one, "That was Hardly Necessary" is now so exclusive, readers may enter by invitation only.

In a world where all the inhabitants seem to be clamoring for some recognition and are ecstatic to even find "U Suck" in their comment boxes, here is a blog that pretends to be so special you need a pass from the guy guarding the door. I envision a cybernetic velvet rope of sorts keeping the pressing masses from entering yet hoping to glimpse what is on the inside. That somehow, should we get to enter, some of the cool factor that permeates from every corner will rub off and our lives will be magically elevated to the hip and with it.

But then maybe the blog has stooped to some horrid new low that only attracts the scum and losers of this planet. And in keeping with their lower standards, they now must screen all who enter in order to weed out the normal among us. Considering the complete lack of any standards throughout the Internet, I find this idea implausible. I cannot think of anything so low and ghastly a google search won't turn it up.
So I left the exclusive site in my bookmarks. If only to remind me that while I wish someone would stop by, there are those who really don't care.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Jumbo

This piece of cutting edge heavy equipment from the 1920s was affectionately named "Jumbo". I came across it after doing a search on the word "*****" (Search word deleted to keep it suspenseful) on the Maine Images website. Without reading it's description, I attempted to guess it's function.

Obviously a wagon of some type, I showed my brilliance in deductive reasoning and figured it was used to haul something. Once over this safe leap of logic, I strained myself and considered what it's cargo might be. Something big and heavy that's for sure. Those reinforced larger rear wheels told me this wagon was meant to wear the over load banner. But considering the bed sat inside the wheels, the freight of this rig had to be heavy but not bulky.

That's as far as I got. I could not for the life of me consider what this might haul. It was not a wagon made for the road. They had trucks in the 20s. That this was farm equipment on steroids is all I could think of after some minutes closely regarding the picture.

Frustrated and I did have other things to do, I gave up and peeked at the answer. And you will too if you want to know what it is. Or you might be a idiot savant who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of wagons dating back to Rome. Either method will work.



Friday, April 20, 2007

What Goes Around Comes Around

This fine bike shop was located 50 feet from the front door of my current shop, CRUM Cycles. Fred Philpot ran the operation. Being a no nonsense Maine Yankee, he did not waste time anquishing over the name of his store. It is simply "Philpot's Store". This man was on the cutting edge of what was hot and what was not in the year 1900. A merchant extraodinaire.

My shop is in the building to the right and at the rear. Philpot's is no longer there. A common, small grassy area, a place for trees to grow exists in it's place. And has since his store burned down in the great Springvale Fire a couple of years after this picture was snapped. Have no worry for old Fred Philpot though. He had his fingers in many local pies. The store burning down was but a minor setback for Fred.

I love this picture for many reasons. It connects me and what I do to the long history of my area. I am part of a great American tradition. Several of them actually. Keeping the local cyclists, families, and occaisional gnarly dudes happy with product and service. Keeping the idea of entrepeneurship alive and well at it's root level. And last, I continue the legacy of being a pillar of my community. Albeit a small pillar. That's what my wife contends anyway.

Which brings up a new question. Just how would she know?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Taking Stock

I am entering my 9th season here at CRUM Cycles. After 8 years as the typically under capitalized mom and pop operation I would say making it this far has been a real struggle.

When I started this shop, I wrote the obligatory business plan. I made rosy predictions about 10% growth per year. I anticipated being in a new location that I would own not rent in 5 years. And I was sure true happiness and contentment would be easy and I took them for granted.

It is time to take stock. Time to weigh my optimism then against my reality now.

The business plan became toilet paper by my 3rd season. The economic downturn in our area following 9/11 caught me with my pants down. Business dropped 20% that season while my payables increased 35% from the previous season. I was over extended and that sick feeling in my gut from my previous failing effort in the bike business began to creep into my soul.

Thankfully, the earlier failure also taught me some valuable lessons in survival. I tightend my belt, dug in and rode it out. But the local economy has not bounced back from the boomtown ride of the 90s. We seem to be in a kind of holding pattern here in Springvale, Maine. Folks spend money, but are much more cautious now. Especially with their discretionary dollars. I hear this is a nationwide trend. I can only speak to my own experience. Combine the negative pressures of Internet Sales, and these last 5 years have been tough.

But I am still here. I am still offering bikes and repairs to my small corner of the World. I have not caved and gone whimpering back to the yoke of working for another man. I am still my own man. And though the financial rewards may not be up to what I expected, I am content. I have what I want.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My Sweet Daughter

I found this picture by chance last night in Photobucket.

This photo proves the "it's really a small world after all" idea. Of the billions of images available to me from Photobucket, just what were the chances I would run into my daughter performing what has to be one of the first slap stick routines we learn as small fry? Some fun never gets old. She is the the one on the right by the way. It is nice to see all that college tuition money has not been wasted.

She really is an intelligent, hard working grad student. And while she whines about not having enough time to have any fun, this picture indicates she is able to squeeze some in once in awhile.

I have not confirmed with her that this is a picture of her. But I know my kid. And if this sweet young lady is not, she should be. I deserve no less. I guess finding her on the web with her finger knuckle deep in her petite beak is better than coming across a shot of her with naughty bits exposed on some "Wild Co-eds on Vacation" site.

I haven't checked one of those sites out yet. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cranial Torture

My current troubles with my sinus/ear/head in general feel like this sculpture looks. It is odd how inhaling a a full cup of coffee and then blowing half of it out both nostrils would be Tee Time for the 4 week bad acting my head aches and throbs melodrama.

"Thar She Blows! Port Starboard, a tad astern of the bow. Why Harold, it's a duet."

" Watch out Scout, projectile coffee! .....Uh......Sorry dude. Were those new kicks?"

So the rest of the day whenever I took a good hit of O2 through the snauze, I smelled Starbucks-Verona Blend, brewed stronger than is advisable if one is planning to suck it into their sinuses at 60 mph. I got used to it after an hour or so.

"Say Mike, wanna a cup of coffee?'

"No thanks, I'm still working on that last cup", as I huck up a decent dollop of caffeine infused flem and let it drain down the ole throat.

So in a day or two, An invisible tormenter begins to drive an icepick into what I thought was my jaw. And he didn't just stick it in. Once impaled, the asshole twists and rotates the handle. I degenerate immediately into a pitiful sad feel sorry for myself loser for the next 4 weeks. When I finally decide to turn off the dumass button and actually visit a doc, Doc drops the ball. Several times. And I am still a suffering bastard.

This Photobucket image strikes a chord here in Acton. Maybe If I looked like that I'd score more sympathy from the little woman. Right now the only place I can find sympathy is between shit and syphillis in the Webster's Dictionary.At least I know where to look.

Happy Patriots Day - 1 Day Late....I was Busy




Greetings from Maine! After 8 inches of rain on top the Spring sponge that precedes Mud Season, we had our pants full yesterday. In the 40 plus years I have been associated with this great state, I have never seen flooding like we had on Patriots Day. Horizontal rain driven by winds up to 50 mph battered us poor Mainers for 24 hours.

I guess I ought to be grateful it was not snow. I don't know though. We know how to deal with snow. Just shove it out of the way and go about our business. After spending several hours in the basement trying to shove water out of the way, I realize snow gives me decided advantage. Didn't take me too long either. Pretty quick on the uptake on this one. Yes I was.

Let's see. I have completely soaked 3 pairs of rugged Maine footwear. There are at least 5 hats hanging in the basement going drip drip drip into the river that runs through on it's way to the sump hole. Forget the raincoats. They shit the bed early into it. Leaks, torn, and soon felt like wet saran wrap. And I think I wore the floor squeegee out.

A neighbor who thought he was cute and didn't ante up for a culvert under his drive came home last night from work. The storm sent him a reminder he was going to pay for one anyway. A six foot deep ditch, 6 feet wide was now straddling his drive. He had to park it in the mud and walk 150 yards through his cheapskate mudhole of a drive to get home. And no raincoat. I derive some small satisfaction knowing this.

For those of you who would like to see more pictures just click here. Go to the bottom of the page and check out the slideshows. We had us some real weather Mister Man! Mother Nature spanked us hard.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Sad Day

I had hoped to relate something humorous today. I had every intention of not letting the severe North Easter battering my area get me down. Returning from a short errand and witnessing the destruction left from many inches of horizontal rain and high wind, I had hopes that some fun writing would pick my day up to at least tolerable. But I turned on the tube before I sat down to write.

The news was full of the events that transpired earlier today at Virginia Tech. Many dead. Many wounded. And a nation stunned by the outrageous insanity that gripped the campus this day.

I sit here too astonished to even be angry. I sit here poleaxed by the thought one person could lose their mind in such dramatic fashion. I sit here saddened by the lives lost for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I cried.

The events of this day have overwhelmed me. I have nothing more to say.



Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Nice Lady

I am a lousy patient. That is probably why I get what I consider lousy healthcare when I must suck it up and actually cash in on all that medical insurance that has drained my pockets for so many years.

The healthcare business is a mystery to me. I always feel as if I have entered another dimension created just to drive me completely bonkers. I admit my attitude when ill, wounded, or whacked out is less than the ideal patient profile. I can be surly, uncooperative, and generally a pain in the ass. At least that is my wife's opinion. After 26 years of dealing with my peculiarities, I would say her opinion might be considered expert even if it is biased.

So anyway, I have been dealing with something new for me. I would convey just what this recent ailment was if I could. The folks with scopes and thermometers don't seem to know. How can anyone expect me, a simple citizen who doesn't even know where his spleen is, to have a flippin clue. All I know is it is some painful. It has cut my cognitive 2+2=4 abilities to a trickle. And the left side of my head looks like a pear on steroids.

It is at this point a sinus, ear, bad tooth, or just some evil little gremlin inside my head causing mayhem and wreaking havoc in the left side of my head. Things went well the first few days. Antibiotics kicked the major pain down to a dull roar. But one look in the mirror and I could tell we were only fighting the flames with a squirt bottle.

So I get on the phone. Call the Doc's spiffy new million dollar set up with all the fancy furniture in the waiting room. I get a nice lady on the phone.

"This is Mike Macrum. I was in 3 times over the last 2 weeks about my sinus, ear, uh the problem in my head. The Doc wanted me to call in and let him know how it was going. It is not going well."

The nice lady - "Could you explain just what is wrong sir?"

Me through the haze of pain and discomfort, " No, that is your job dammit. And so far throwing pills at it is not working. My head hurts. Does that work for you?"

"Do you want an appointment sir?"

"I don't know, the doc told me to call if I was having problems. So I am calling. The ball's in your court now."

This conversation continued this way for a few more moments and then abruptly I was told to "Hold Please" and the line went click. Dis - fucking -connected!

I had learned from previous encounters with this impersonal uncaring healthcare system that calling back in a rage does little to move the sluggish medical machine in a positive way. So I laid back down on the couch in my misery and tried to make sense of the Sopranos DVDs my wife bought me for my birthday.

A couple of hours later, the phone rings. It's the doc. Like the nurse he asks me what is wrong. Doesn't this guy have my file in front of him? What the Hell? But I do a re-run of the problem and when I say the swelling and pain is still there, there is a moment of silence and then "Oh, uh, well this is not good".

I am thinking this is not good that he thinks it is not good. But I marshall up some civility and just ask what does he want to do. "We'll have to get an X-ray", he says.

I think this is odd because 2 weeks previous I asked if I should get one. But I just say okay, get me an appointment. He ends the conversation abruptly with, "The nice lady will call you with an appointment".

3 hours later I am still waiting to hear from "the nice lady". Feeling abandoned again, I call and get "the nice lady" back on the phone. By this time I am guessing my file has been flagged with whatever color code they use to flag the pain in the ass patients. She obviously recognizes my whiny voice and is not so nice this time. "Mr Macrum, please be patient, we have to get authorization first from your insurance provider before we can schedule an X-ray."

"What authorization? Last year when I crashed on my mounain bike I was x-rayed the same day and it was not an emergency. You guys just wanted to make sure I had not broken my hip. I had the same insurance then. What the Hell is going on?"

"SIR, you will just have to be patient. It may take up to 24 hours to get authorization."

I shut up and then hung up. The next day the hospital called. "We can get you in for your CAT SCAN next Tuesday at 7:00 AM. Will that work for you?"

"CAT SCAN? What CAT SCAN? I was told this was an X-ray." The light had clicked on. The reason for the delay made sense now. And my anger at the lousy communication skills of "the nice lady" and the doc increased three fold.

This has been my week. Feeling terrible and dealing with officious uncaring medical professionals. And now I get to wait until Tuesday to get a 3D rendition of my cranial voids. How long after that will it take for them to get a clue so I have a clue is the big question now.




Sunday, April 08, 2007

Did you See That?



This picture intriques me. I wonder just what is going down on the other side of the fence that is so fascinating that there is no room to squeeze in another bike with a guy standing on it.


A sporting event? Most likely I guess. Some futbol game in the bush league lands of Eastern Europe perhaps.

A construction site? Not out of the realm of possiblity. We all know guys are suckers for the big digging machinery.

Regardless, the picture shows another one of the many uses for the simple bicycle. It is not just a tool of transport, but a prop, a way of lifting oneself up above the obstacles in our lives.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Risk



I have had moments like this. Times when I looked over the edge and hesitated. Sometimes my pause to reflect future consequences turned to grudging but logical refusal. While hesitation often saves me from myself, it also leaves a nagging "I shoulda gone for it" feeling behind. Wisps of regret that creep back when I face that next big plunge.




When I look back at the choices of my life, I realize that more often than not, I did go for it. Some worked out. Some did not. Some were just time wasted. Some left me wasted.

The one thing I do know is the chances I have taken fleshed out what would have been a damn boring existence otherwise. I could never imagine a life with no risks. Taking risks feeds life into me. There is no moment when I am more alive than that millisecond before I jump from the cliff.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Exploits of Robbie

This is not Robbie, but it should be.


I have known Robbie since he came into the first bike shop I worked in the late 80's. He was another one of those damn skate punks, only pint size version. He insists he is 5'3", but he isn't. 5' 3" in heels maybe. My daughter at 5"3" always calls him on it.

Having lived the life myself, I knew punks. They were always a pain. So I kept Rob on my radar. It took him about 5 minutes to completely tear down any barrier. An infectious smile, the pint size, and an obvious intellegence just made me not able to dislike this guy. He was still a punk, but you couldn't hate him for it.

Robbie was one of the best skaters in town. The day I watched him ollie off the top of an Econoline van in the parking lot and nail the landing, I realized he had no fear. Ever on the look out for a new bike sale, I broached the idea of mountain biking to him. Skateboards rule and bikes drooled were his sentiments.

The next year Rob bought a road bike from us. Figured it would be handy when he headed off to college. We had created a monster. A cycling monster. Rob rode that Nishiki everywhere the summer before college. He could not get enough of it.

His biggest problem was his inability to locate that line he should not cross. Several accidents with cars skunned him and his bike up that first summer. He always said he was JRA (just riding along). Right. I never let him get away with that.

Rob hits college. Rob rides his bike through a 3rd story window in his dorm. After healing up, Rob is asked to leave college and take his bike and crazy man ways with him. By this time Robbie has finally discovered the joys of mountain biking. He enters his first race and does well. But I hear complaints as race director about the "crazy guy who passes in the pucker". It had to be Robbie.

The next 8 years or so Robbie's priorities were his time in the saddle first and his time in the saddle last. Anything else he did, girlfriends, work, go to another school, whatever ran a distant second to his intense passion for cycling. Robbie went through bikes like shit through a goose.

At some point during this time Robbie became a messenger in Boston. He lasted a year or so until he finally realized that getting hit by cars can have lasting repercussions. I think it was the Jeep that T-boned him, leaving him in bunch under the front fender that told him being a messenger probably meant a premature death before he hit 30.

So Robbie moves out to San Francisco to be near his girlfriend who had transferred to Berkley. Life is idyllic for awhile until one day his girlfriend comes home with her new girlfriend. She tells him he can stay long enough to find a new place, but he has to leave. So what does he do? He rides. And then rides some more. On one ride Robbie has another encounter with a car at an intersection. He doesn't skate so easy this time. Rob spends 3 weeks on the couch healing up at his ex-girlfriend's apartment while she and her new squeeze set up house in the bedroom.

Throughout this soap opera, the bike remains the focus for Rob. He has graduated from college on the 8 year plan, loved and lost, and crashed and lost. But the bike is always there to show him it's love.

Robbie is a graphic artist living in Idaho now. He has a good paying job, his own apartment, a new girlfriend, and his bikes. He lives to ride. And even though he has mellowed some and his head has less hair on it, he still manages his minimal 5000 miles a year. It has been a pleasure knowing him.




Thursday, April 05, 2007

Quite a Rack

Let's see. Uh, yeah there it is, up near the top on the right.
Owning a bike shop brought wry acknowledgement and a smile to my face when I stumbled on this whacky solution to an obvious "the 5 pound bucket's too small", let's get creative genius so many shops have to come up with. Can't spread out. The attic and basement are full or not even there. These guys figured it out. Go up!

Fred



I knew a Homer-sexerull once. Didn't like him much.

Today's entry is brought to you courtesy of Fred Phelps. Right Reverand, Holier Than Thou, and general all around whacky religious guy. If there are Sins of the flesh to root out, this is indeed the man to call. He knows a light loafer when he sees one.
This Bud's for you Fred. I can see you have something on your mind.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words



I just uploaded my very first image to my blog. In the column to the Right. Naturally it is an accurate rendition of myself. I really look like this. When I am not wearing the clown paint and nose, that is.

And to see if I can also muster up enough intelligence to follow idiot proof prompts, hopefully I will find another image somewhere in this post. Where will it turn up? And what will it be?

Well lookee there! Up at the top. Who's the flounder making it look like a hard climb?

Uh, that would be yours truly actually finishing a brutal 3 mile ascent at Blue Job in New Hampshire. Even the gnarly dudes have a tough time with this one.

An astute observer might ask why I am the only one in the shot? And why was there enough time to set up a tripod, mount the camera, and get the dark room ready before my muscular manly legs pumped me over the crest?

Good questions, all. I can only state that this was not staged. It is however an indication of how far off the back I was on this particular group ride.

So I have successfully reached for and attained a new level of sophistication in the blogging world. No more will I need to hang my head in shame when browsing other blogs filled with images they think help to make their points. I can stand tall now. About time.

Nothing

I love the diverstity of the Internet. There is no subject too minute or silly that someone will not dedicate a site to it. Some sites like ClickClick Click do not pretend to have a point. They are barbs to remind us to get over ourselves. We really are just specks in the cosmic debris.

The sites that kick my butt are the ones that insist I take seriously the various outfits a barbie should have to be considered well dressed. Or huge amounts of bandwidth dedicated to proving that each snowflake may not be unique and how this is important in the scheme of things. Or how about the site that is solely about barrels of smashed assholes?

Google "Nothing" and 500 million hits come up. There are Nothing blogs. There are online stores selling Nothing for those who want for nothing. Nothing has a place on the Internet. Nothing finds a way to fit in with the 200 billion other wastes of bandwidth. At some point you'd think even the electronic ether of the WWW would fill up. But no, it just keeps coming up with nothing.

Nothing Ventured - Nothing Gained

Uncomfortable Comfort

Recently my wife and I had just begun to become more financially stable. It has been an uncomfortable, unused to situation that made us both nervous. Many years of struggling to get my business up and running, college for the kid, and the usual poor spending choices had created a kind of perverted comfort zone for us. We were living the dream. Plastic and home equity kept the fires burning and the hamster moving. It may not have been the lap of luxury, but it was something we could get our heads around. Owing money to everyone was a way of life for us.

That all changed when my wife was fired from her accounting job. That steady income she brought in was gone. What to do? Panic? Yeah, we did some of that for a couple of days. Anquish? Yep.

With no prospects of another firm picking her up, she hung out her shingle. "B-A Accounting". Since her firing had been a matter of economics for the firm, she had many contacts inside who threw business her way. That was just over 2 years ago. Now she is turning work away and her income is twice what it was as a staff accountant. So we became better than solvent. We actually began to get ahead a tad. And did I already mention this made us nervous?

We had every reason to be as it turns out. In the space of 2 weeks 2 of the 3 family cars died. Well maybe not dead exactly. But close enough so's you had to hold the mirror under their nose to see if they were still breathing.

We needed vehicles. My business and our rural lifestyle demand that both of us have motorized transport. Dependable transport. My wife puts 300 plus miles a week on her car visiting clients, And I needed a truck for my bike shop and home obligations.

So we went car shopping. Damn I hate car shopping. But after 2 intense days of frantic internet searching and then dickering with the local Ford dealer, my wife drove home in a spiffy new red Focus to the tune of $17,000 or therabouts. The next day my 15 year old Chevy pick up blew a head gasket and wouldbn't pass inspection.

2 more days of frantic internet searching and then back to the local Ford dealer because we liked how we were treated. After looking at the new trucks, I settled on a sweet little Ranger with only 10,000 miles on it. Nice rig. The bed's smaller than I am used to, but I'll figure it out.

Whew! That uncomfortable comfort we were just getting used to is gone. We now are happy as pigs in shit and owing everyone again. What a great country.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Retro-Grouch

I am a crusty ole fart when it comes to embracing all the new technology that changes hour to hour now. Ten minutes ago it was I Pod with 2 giggle bites of memory. You could store 14,000 songs on this little box and stuff it in your shirt pocket. Hey cool. Now the little I Pod box holds 50,000 songs and you can hang it off your earlobe or stuff it where the sun don't shine.

This is really cool and state of the art. But I wonder what the Hell good is it? In order to store the 50,000 songs, you have to have a computer to download them from and it has to take some time. Before you can do that, you have to have a file of songs to download from. And these must have taken some time to download to the computer you use to download onto the IPod. Add in the time to edit, collate and pick your nose, and the time spent setting it all up probably took 10 hours out of your modern, always in a hurry, lifestyle day.

Me, I listen to one CD at a time. Just like the vinyl I used to listen to. I am pleased that CDs have made this simple operation even simpler. No careful placement needed of the needle over fragile plastic grooves. Just stuff that CD in a slot. It magically disappears and music comes out clean and pure. Technology basically stopped here for me. I need go no further.

But I will. Kicking and screaming. The world has me tied to the back of the wagon. I have no choice.
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My daughter calls the other day. "Dad, there is something wrong with my cell phone."

"Uh, okay. Are you using it right now?"

"Well, yeah."

"I see. You seem to be coming through crystal clear here in Maine."

"No, Dad. (picture exasperated daughter voice like I am an idiot) "My Text Messaging does not work. I can't text my friends. I need my Text messaging."

Need? Entitlement? Can't live without it? Right.

So I did what any father confronted with the dilemmas of youth would do.

"Wait a minute. I'll go get your mother".

Monday, April 02, 2007

A-I who calls Himself Tom

Instead of whining about my lack of visitors, I have decided to do something positive instead of flapping my gums. A new blogging sub forum in Bike Forums goosed my sorry blogging butt into action. With the help of one of the cycling forum posters (we'll call him Tom), I am dedicating this post to a first attempt to really add something new to my blog. Actual links in the post as opposed to the "Oh BTW, over on the right are some links I like" type recognition.

I don't know Tom in the classical sense of knowing anyone I have had face time with. He has become an internet buddie. We both seem to be of similar mindsets. Twin sons of different mothers so to speak. Tom has/is going through a life changing metamorphisis at the moment. His story is what I would call true inspiration. A brave struggle to overcome daunting obstacles.

His story is one of millions of stories that tug at our heart strings. And it would be easy for me to just say, "Hey cool dude, you are the Man!" and then go off on my merry way and forget him. But I got to know him before I had the back story. His sharp and intelligent mind came through crystal clear. His easy going manner of blowing off flames and turning them into humor really struck a chord with me. I liked him.

So if anyone out there is listening, stop by his Blog or Tour de Cure Page . His story might just inspire you also.

Feed em some rope, then we'll let em drown.

Earlier in a post in a forum far far way, a member had referred to the instability of long term employment as a reason to not buy a home. Why would anyone do it in this country now? A good point. But one that only brushes the surface of the problem. Along with that house, so many Americans also have the 2 year old cars, the house full of unecessary gadgets and gizmos, and children dressed off a budget that would feed 10 third world families for a year. The overall nut folks have allowed themselves to get sucked into is more a reason to be nervous than the mortgage.

They lose the job and all of a sudden that monthly nut they easily paid with none left over, comes crashing down on them like a ton of bricks. And the lenders, ever so friendly when times were good, get ugly in a heartbeat. They raise the rates when checks start coming in late. They become vicious in their quest to bleed a downed man before he croaks. Once in the Hell of Credit Card late fees, they make it even tougher to get out.

I say we have a sick system that needs addressing from many angles. The lifestyles we have been sold by Madison Ave are not within everyone's budget yet we have been told through stupid high credit limits, it is. The banks no longer push savings as much as their new credit card. "0% interest for a year" or "No Payments til 2010". In a natural response to a gift horse, we think, "Cool, I can get that new truck even though the old one is fine and I won't have to pay the piper til next year." We have been seduced by snake oil salesmen.

Ultimately, it is no one's fault but each individual's. We are responsible for the debt we take on. But the atmosphere is so permissive, it invites financial failure when the edge so many live on crumbles. We need to adjust our thinking. And if our private sector had any real interest in long term profit, they would begin adjusting theirs also. But they won't. They have no concern if a consumer fails. There are more where they come from. But once the personal debt of millions becomes multimillions, it will be their problem also. Can't sell much if most everyone is broke and under the yoke of bad credit.

It is so easy to blame the fool for failing and not look at the one feeding him the rope.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Five Pound Bucket.

Went shopping over to Sam's Club in Portland today with my wife. I didn't want to go, but I could tell it was not an option given the suggestive look and the baseball bat she had hidden behind her back.

I do not like to go shopping for those everyday things. Food, soap, underwear. Bores me to tears. And Sam's with it's industrial sized packaging makes the trip not just boring but tiring also. Lift a few 30 packs of canned beans into the cart, 20 pounds of frozen fish sticks and few five gallon buckets of 10w40 and by the time the cart's full, I want to rent some punk to wheel it out to the car.

But Sam's holds a serious fascination for my wife. The calculating domestic that she is, I can just imagine the 2 months of meals tumbling around in her brain as we leave the parking lot. Somehow she has convinced herself that a monthly trip to Sam's negates the necessity of that twice weekly visit to the local super super market in town. She won't admit that it doesn't, and wisely I do not comment one way or the other.

So the first thing I see when we pull into the parking lot is a mom and son duo struggling to stuff a brand new high impact driveway basketball backboard into the back seat of their American version of a Mini Cooper. Junior is on the inside pulling and Mom is tossing all her weight into it on the outside. As we pass by, they have it stuck half in and half out. Mom looks at me pleadingly like somehow I will magically turn this five pound bucket into a ten pound one and the box will instantly slip cleanly into the watch pocket that is their back seat. After years of training in the fine art of exercising futility, I avoid eye contact and pick up the pace to the front door. "You are on your own darling" I think. "I have my own 5 pound bucket to fill in a little while."

The First Link

I just moments ago, placed a link to this blog on a forum I visit regularly. I figured that since no one was going to accidentally find the genius in my mind, I would have to invite them. I am sure that the genius of my mind will be questioned and possibly be relegated to, "a legend in his own mind".

Anyway, the link is out. We'll see if anyone drops in.