Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Purple Manitous and Riding the Rivet

have refrained from turning this blog into a one dimensional and ongoing diatribe about the one activity I enjoy more than almost any other. I am a cyclist. One of those whackos folks see out there in tight clothes and ugly helmets. Traffic blocking, trail riding oddball whose free time is spent in the saddle whenever possible. The guy who shows up on Monday sporting a new wound and is not only proud of it, but will gladly give you the blow by blow. 
I am the friend whose conversation is liberally sprinkled with terms like, Gnarly, Stoked, Singletrack, and Riding the Rivet. I am mildly fanatic, dubiously talented, but enthusiastic and dedicated. 

I re-discovered the bicycle in 1984 after a hiatus of 15 years. Reliving that feeling from my youth of first independence and exploration. My fun depending on on my own strengths and weaknesses and not someone else's. Since 1984 I have been more than an avid enthusiast. Bicycles came to consume my life and have peaked with the bike shop I have owned for the last 7 years. 

Bicycles became a vehicle through which I once again knew joy from pure exercise. Cycling cleanses the body and most important, my mind. Bicycles became more than a fun and healthy activity, cycling has become a way of life. And while I would like to give myself all the credit for this, I cannot. The timing of my re-birth roughly coincided with the birth of my daughter. Lis took to bikes like a frog to water. She kept me interested those few times I seemed less enthused. My little girl probably gave me some extra years with her laughter as she rode her first solo ride. And she continues to boost my spirits through the regular rides we share. And If I am lucky, I will get to enjoy riding with my kid for the rest of my life. 

I started hauling Lis in a Burley Trailer behind my Peugeot "Canyon Express" mountain bike when she was maybe 3. For several years we put many miles on that trailer. I did not keep track, but I am sure it was several thousand. Spending week long vacations exploring Acadia and surrounding locales. Numerous runs to the lake to cool off on a hot summer days. Screaming down a hill over 40 and I turn around and she yells, "Faster Daddy. faster!". I hauled her everywhere. 

Those early memories are something I will hold onto forever. My darling little girl is now 22 years old. For 19 of those years we have shared a mutual love of cycling. 
Yeah Memories:
The struggle to get her off the training wheels. Her first mountain bike and the purple Manitou shocks I put on it. Her first experience with SPD pedals. The time I ran over her when she crashed in front of me. She still bears a good scar from that one. The first wheel she ever built and her first custom bike build. Off road touring in the real backwoods of Maine. A lifetime of experiences burned into our brains and revisited with a smile. 

We still ride together. I do believe we are each other's favorite riding companion. I know for a fact she is mine. And even though she kicks my butt now, I can still keep her honest. This activity we love has had a dramatic effect on how our relationship has turned out. As a father, I have been one lucky SOB.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Patriotic Index

I'm more than a little tired of this current trend to evaluate a person's "patriotic index" by what they drive, what they hang on their car, whether they support a war, whether they are against a war, or what shoes they wear. Flag waving and chants of USA are empty gestures from the safety of home to assuage and encourage those in harm's way. Patriotism is marketed, pre-packaged and distributed like twinkies. The more you chant, display the flag, and hang ribbons on your car somehow makes you more American than the next guy.

Pointed out to me in a thread in a forum far from here was the opinion that a true patriot is one who has sacrificed for their country. That true patriotism is not what you say you will do for your country, but what you have done for your country. Patriotism does not need to be worn on our shirtsleeves for all to see. Patriotism is caring about your country, calling out fouls, and keeping it going in the right direction. The most patriotic folks I know are buried in Arlington, the shores of France, and the fields of Viet Nam. We do no honor to their memory by pinning flags to our antennas. These displays cheapen the sacrifices they made for us.

If you want to impress us with your patriotism, fight an injustice, put yourself on the line for something that counts. Until then you are just talking the talk, not walking the walk.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A Childhood Memory

It was one of those family trips planned and worried over months in advance. We were in the final frantic moments before departing. Secured the house. Water turned off, lights off, back door locked, maps in hand, and the house in good order. As my wife Bobbi and I headed to the front door laden down with all the last minute items, she stopped and said, " Anyone need the toilet, We are not stopping until my bladder says we stop."

I mumble something about being all set. We both turn around to look back to the stairs up to the bedrooms as Lis, our rugged 5 year old, comes barreling down the stairs. "Elisabeth", she hollers," Let's go and please check to see if you need the bathroom." Lis stopped at my wife's words like she hit a wall. A blank faraway look came over her face. Standing stock still, she just stared through us like we weren't there. After what seemed an eternity, Bobbi says, "Lis, what are you doing?"

Lis snapped out of her daze and disgustly replied, " I'm checking." The self induced stress of beginning a long trip melted away. My wife and I laughed for the first 200 miles.

This memory came to me out of the blue today. It's been 18 or so years since we made that trip. It still rates a top five childhood memory of my sweet daughter's rise to adulthood. It was one of those unplanned moments a parent enjoys for many years after and reinforces the joy of parenthood.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Dangerously Pink

A woman came into my bikeshop a few weeks ago. This is not an unusual occurrence, but how she dressed and acted was. Located in Maine, our community prides itself in reticent Yankee behavior. We dress down most times and are slow to warm to strangers. So, the invasion by a boisterous and buxom woman dressed completely in Pink, big hair, and enough makeup to make Maybelline bust with pride was a noteworthy event.

When I say she was pink, I mean pink. Pink pumps, pink miniskirt wrapped around a rather generous butt and a pink belly button blouse that highlighted a naval piercing with a, you guessed it, pink stone in the setting. She even smelled pink. A heavy odor of what I imagine 2 thousand pink flowers would smell like. And to top off the overall effect, a wide pink hairband that kept her Baltimore doo standing up and living large. As soon as I saw her, I thought of Divine and the movie "Pink Flamingos". The only thing missing was the "Bawlamer" accent. When she opened her mouth, the hard speech of someone from the blue collar fringes of Boston came out.

Our encounter was a comedy. She had recently purchased a couple of new bikes from some mass merchant nearby. She wanted to outfit them and her with many accessories. Racks, Helmets, locks, etc. As I worked through all the options, she took every chance she could to throw her sexuality in my face. She was obviously well versed in using her female wiles to seduce men to her bidding. A touch here, an accidental brush there. And always that pink smell permeating the whole shop. I countered every attempt of hers to get close with tactful retreats to keep her out of "my space". I am only human and that smell combined with her overwhelming femaleness was having it's affect on me. It was not like she was seducing me, rather it was more of winning by overwhelming me.

After setting her up with all the goodies she wanted and I had her safely on the other side of the counter, I began to breath easier. The 3 feet of glass and wood seemed enough of a barricade to keep me faithful to my wife and out of the madness of brief encounters with the opposite sex. She paid for her items and turned to leave. Then she stopped and turned, making sure all that could jiggle did. Dirty thoughts danced through my mind as she began to inquire about having me show her how her new bikes worked. I did not answer. And as she repeated herself, she smiled that knowing smile that she still had it. She could still turn a man's head.

She knew she had me if she wanted me. I had lost. That jiggle turn had done it. The icing on the cake. Satisfied she had another notch in her gun belt. She said see ya and left. I sat there staring at the door for several moments wondering what had just happened. It had been a lot of years since a woman had turned my head like that. The feeling was familar but new at the same time. And then I grinned and thought, "Damn women. Gotta love em. We have no choice. They literally have us guys by the short hairs."