Sunday, October 30, 2005

Time is on our Side

Happy Daylight Saving Time. Once again we get to enjoy one of those magical moments when Time stands still for an hour. Go to bed on October 29 and wake up on October 30 an hour younger. Pretty cool. I'll bet fitting into those jeans I struggled into last week will be no problem now. The problem is, next Spring they take this instant of youth away from me and I end up the same as I ever was. And each time we screw with the clock, it takes me 3 weeks to convince my body to go along. For 6 weeks a year I have to struggle to line up the bio rythmns of my life just so we can save something that wasn't in trouble in the first place.

I won't get into whether Time even exists or not. I am comfortable with the fact that Time does exist because we say it does. Okay now. That potential pit of philosophical debate is closed. So what and where does that leave us? It leaves us with an intangible concept without which dentist appointments would be missed, production schedules would always be met, and I would never be late again. In my world of always being a a day late and a dollar short, no Time would be a good time. For me anyway. My wife on the other hand, would go bonkers. She lives to keep a schedule.

My major bitch about Time and how we set it up is the number of hours in a day. They did not give us enough of them. This yearly rebate of one hour hardly makes up for that oversight. Especially in light of the fact that 6 months from now, they will take it away again. 24 hours is just not enough time to get through a full day here in Maine. 30 hours would have been a smarter choice. Sleep for 8, work for 8, and then you still have 14 left for personal use.

Metric Time on the other hand is way too crazy. First of of all, they want to cut back the day to 10 hours. Noon becomes 5 o'clock and an hour drags like you would not believe. A benefit might be that for those of us who have too much time on our hands, our problem is quickly solved. Anyone ought to be able to handle 10 hours a day. Especially when you consider that at least 3 of them are spent with mouth open in a mindless REM wonderland where Time stands still.

So here we are in the "Fall Back" mode. The government would like to convince us they are responsible for adding another hour of daylight to our day. Nothing unusual in that. The government is always taking credit for percieved good deeds whether they deserve the credit or not. Considering that they are trying to give us something that is not theirs to give, I find it funny we swallow this gambit so completely.

They say Time brings order and predictabilty to our lives. Hmm. I'll go along with the order thing, but we already have predictability. We already know that the Sun will come up everyday. We know that at some point, we will die. What else do we really need to predict? What else do we really need to keep track of? Unfortunately, our world has become accustomed and dependent on this artificial breakdown of our lifespan on this planet.

"Time is Money". "Time is on our side". "No Time like the present". Cute and catchy phrases point to our obsession with time. By far my favorite is "No time to lose". The phrase is supposed to point out that something is in need of immediate attention. However, if you take the words literally, then no truer words have been written. Since Time does not exist outside of our minds, how can we lose it? "Losing our minds" makes more sense.

I re-read the previous words. I am struck by how dependent I am on the concept of time. Finding words that do not lead or point to it's passage or impact was harder than I thought. I guess it's time to admit that I am a slave to the ticking clock. So I will follow the government directive and be the good citizen. I will turn the clocks back and live in the past for the next 6 months.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mary the Princess

The sound of a tailgate slamming shut emphasized the fact that Mary and her family were gone forever. I looked across the road that separated our properties. Piles of dirt had replaced the 200 year old house that stood there 24 hours ago. Bernard pulled the dump truck out of the way. He fired up the Cat excavator and dropped the blade to fill the grave of a house. Mary's house. The ancestral homestead she visited many times these last 50 years. The house she hadn't slept in since the early 1970s. 

When I see the empty lot she used to plant flowers in, I am struck by the sadness that was her existence. A lifetime she spent caring for her parents. A lifetime she feared to share with anyone else. And she died alone in a camp on Wilson Lake. I was called upon to identify the body. 

I remember my panic when I saw the county cop walk up to my door. And then the relief I felt and later guilt when I found out no one close to me was involved. No one close? I was profoundly affected by that realization. Anyone close to her had died years ago. Her eccentricities had kept everyone else at arm's length. Even me. Ten minutes with her could be torture. Dogs barked and cats hissed. 

It's sad. Mary was a nice person. She was caring. She was thoughtful. She was intelligent. But she was odd. Not funny ha ha odd, but strangely odd. All these thoughts ran through my head as I followed the cop to her rented camp. It was a cold raw winter day. Grey and threatening to snow. 

The back door was propped open. Two volunteer emergency guys were outside looking pretty peaked. As soon as I entered the warm draft from the open door, I could smell why. The unmistakable stench that accompanies death. A stench locked up for several days at the least. I retched and backed up like I had been poleaxed. 

I took a few moments to regain control of my stomach. As I hunched over and gasped for air, an emergency dude began to give me the blow by blow. More sadness. Mary had died alone in the bathroom. From the smell, he figured a week ago probably. 

No one had missed her for a week. Her landlord in Massachusetts had been unable to reach her by phone and called 9-1-1 long distance. In Life and Death Mary had been alone. Not so tragic as it was a shame and so sad. A person deserves some notice. Humans need recognition and contact. A pet. Some fish. We all need something live to reinforce our own life. Interaction with others helps to ease the loneliness that would consume us if we did not have it. Mary's trip through Life surely verifies that fact. 

So I sit here and write an obituary of sorts. A dedication to another lost soul. I have no tears. What I used to think was pity turns out to be sad realization. But for the love of my wife and daughter, the friends I have connected with, I could easily be in Mary's shoes. 

Later ............................................

Another Manic Moment

Downstairs in the basement I use to feel safe from all the negative and unseen forces trying to emasculate and strip me of my vital essence. And then I found out about Radon. Damn. I am sure now there is no such thing as a "natural disaster". 

I prepare for the worst. I anquish over what to save and what to toss as I stockpile the many items that may or may not see me through the upcoming upheaval. But does it matter anyway? They will find me and they will have their way with me. So I hunker down in my hovel quivering and shaking, awaiting my pre-destined doom. 

I still occasionally look out the one window not boarded up to watch as we hurtle toward the abyss. Assured that I am right by the lack of leaves on the trees, I retire to my tin room and open another comic. Finding no solace from the words and pictures therein, I jump to my feet and look out the cracked window again. 

"Oh my God! It's here". Damn the Radon, time to repair to the basement. I hastily grab a six pack of Coke and some Slim Jims and disappear to the cellar. Alone in the dark I listen for the evil I know is hunting me. 

A door creaks open in the muffled distance. Is that the front door? Are those footsteps? I hold my breath and hope to escape notice. Footsteps creep closer and stop at the top of the stairs. A sudden and bright light envelopes me and I am blinded. 

Alas, my game is up. I stagger to my feet to await the blow of the ax ................................... 

"Honey? Are you down there?" 

Edit Note - The previous paranoid rant was a response I wrote in a forum. The question was - "Do you feel it?" The poster went on to explain his unease of late. That Life as he knew it has been altered. And he wondered if anyone had felt similar disquieting vibes. Not sure why or how this came to me as I read this thread, but it did. I have always been uneasy about change of any kind. Something is afoot. Back in the 70's, one of the many things I read, predicted events that are now eerily close to the events of the last 6 years. When I try to put my finger on what is bothering me, I always come back to the word "predictability". The ability or comfort of that idea is gone now.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I could use a pick me up

Nothing picks up the pace or pulls one out of the complacent doldrums like instituting significant change. I have been busily going through the process of picking up a new bike line for my bike shop. This is a big deal for me. A lot has to be considered, chewed on, and thought through. A new bike line brings uncertainty. One of those "am I making the right decision for the future" kind of decision. The investment in time and money is no small draw upon our meager resources. The stress level has increased. Energy invested these past few days has left me drained and kaput. But strangely I feel great. Instead of the usual "dread that dead winter coming on" feeling, I have new plans to make. I have new plans to bring about. I have new possibilities to focus on. I feel rejuvenated and re-charged. That enthusiasm I started out with 7 long years ago has stopped in again. I will see if I can convince it to stay awhile. My Life, my business, my brain could use the pick me up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


My brother called me this evening at the shop. My letter had reached him and he had read it. I dreaded this call. This re-connection made me nervous. This awkward phase of renewing our kinship.

We had both decided years ago to drop each other from our lives. Happy to ignore the other's existence, we kept our connection by proxy of the relatives around us. "Hello, CRUM Cycles", I answered in my usual way.

"Mike? This is Joe." For a minute I was confused. A familar voice, but not one of recent memory. Then my stomach tightened and I remembered the voice of a brother. "Oh Hi, I am sorry I did not get right back to you...." I had failed to return a message on the machine last week. I could have squeaked in a few minutes to call back, but I didn't. It was the dread of this moment that had delayed me. He was having none of it. Classic Joe. He launched right into what he had to say and the ice, as they say, was demolished. Managing to fit a word in here and there, I began to relax. Somehow hearing my brother's voice brought me comfort. I hope mine brought him some.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Irrational Legislation

Somebody brought up pot smoking again. In all the forums in all the World, pot and it's prohibition will always serve as one of the dependable "go to" subjects when the threads start wearing thin. But like many of the "go to" subjects, Marijuana has been beaten to death. Every last bit of opinion has been posted. Nothing new, but rehashing the same old crap. I usually do not participate anymore. But tonight I was sucked in. A poster whom I respect but rarely agree with based his defense of pot laws on some obscure study done by some obscure doctor using obtuse and ambiguous statements. This poster listed about 15 medical reasons not to use pot. Never mind that there are probably an infinite number of medical reasons to not do almost anything, the point is not health related. The point is rights and how we distribute them. We allow the consumption of all kinds of substances that can and do hurt us. The Man even makes money in the form of taxes on these items. Tobacco and alcohol have killed and ruined more lives than all the other drugs combined. The peripheral crime associated with them have at times in the past been as evil and nasty as any today. So why the prohibition of some drugs while allowing the worst of the bunch free rein? Many contend that there is just too much money at risk to make them legal. On both sides of the law. The criminals like it this way. Their profits stay up as long as they can keep us illegally high. The government can support a huge bureaucratic industry made up of drug enforcers, penal institutions, and huge judicial organizations. They stay in power by instilling fear and loathing for the drugged and stoned. Legal business concerns from banks to lumber conglomerates have a vested interest in keeping pot and the other drugs in the black market. Money always ends up in banks, no matter how it is made. Cutting trees down is so much more expensive and profitable than farming hemp for paper pulp. Can you imagine the whining in the pulp boardrooms whenever it is mentioned that an acre of hemp produces a higher quality pulp and more of it than an acre of forest. They know it does, but it is not in their interest to broadcast this energy saving, money saving, and sensible alternative to the waste we seem to love creating. No, there is no logical reason other than greed for the laws we have against certain drugs when the worst ones are legally accessed and reasonably priced. Play to irrational fears by emphasizing and exaggerating the effects of some drugs on society. At the same time, give a free pass with mild warnings on the really bad ones. This is so hypocritical and so wrong I can no longer take any law seriously. I have come to the conclusion that most of the legislation passed since the boys in white wigs got all this going have hidden agendas. No law since the Constitution is really for the public good. They are more for the privileged few. Rationally, I know that is not completely true. Nor is it completely false. Just look at the drug laws in this country for proof.

Blog Envy

I am suffering a type of penis envy. I should have known better, but I checked again, and yes, I am feeling inadequate. Less than most and inferior to many. What gets me is what they are usually packin is no better or more impressive than mine, yet they get all the attenion. Must be the clothes.

When I began to strut around showing everyone what I had, the girls were all supposed to fall over in a dead faint and the guys go "Duuuude!". When they didn't, I looked in the mirror. Naked and exposed, what I saw was an aging and pudging middle ager with some tough miles behind him. Just another flounder with more self-importance than he was entitled to. Basically a regular guy.

And that is the problem I guess. A regular guy with regular problems, regular desires and regular deviations. Nothing about me or what I have done with my life is grist for more than a good yawn I guess.

To attempt to fix this lost in the crowd problem I have, I surfed the cyber waves and lurked hither and yon. For the most part I decided my efforts were as good as most and better than many. Then I would stumble upon a star. A shining example of what all this is meant to be. Prose so well put together, it does not matter what the subject is. Dialog so clean and tidy, you know exactly what is meant without having to think. Immediate recognition of writng superior to anything you have read in a long time. Immediate recognition of talent grander than yours.

And even though I am jealous and wish I could lay down words like them, I am also thrilled to have met them. Their words lift my spiirts, blow me away, and sometimes leave me breathless.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Not Bad Lookin for Roadkill- A First Timer's trip through Hell

I have been somewhat frantic this week. Any extra time and quite a bit that was not extra time has been spent getting ready for the "Crummy Century" this Sunday. A 103 mile bike ride through York County Maine. Before we see CRUM Cycles again, 15 towns will have been touched and 60+ turns executed. Many small hills and a couple large ones are strategically placed to punish and humble at the right moments.

The fast guys will be somewhere between 5 and 6 hours. The rest of us will spend up to 8 hours toughing it out. Many of the people threatening to show up have never done a century. Some of them are too cocky and will most likely bail or suffer one of the worst days of their lives once they bonk. Other rookies are way over anxious. Their fitness and mile base is more than enough to make it physically. They have the mind game to deal with.

I remember my first century. An unplanned, spur of the moment excursion one Sunday in the mid 1980's. I was on my first mountain bike. It weighed at least 35 pounds. I wore cut off jeans and sneakers. Took one bottle and $30. Told my wife I was going to ride as far as I could and then come home. I figured 30 to 40 miles. But I got off track somewhere in New Hampshire.

Ever since my years of driving tractor trailers all over this country, I decided I was never lost, just misplaced. Lost is so final. And let's face it, if you are on pavement, there is a way out. Not even close to being stuck in 3 million acres of pucker up country Maine. I also learned that being misplaced was a fact of my life. I had become accustomed to often being clueless about where I was. So I learned to deal with it. Pick a direction and head that way. Eventually the road will either end or it will lead to a way out. a way back, or if I was lucky, right on target.

So with the proper attitude, I became properly lost. Yeah, that's right, lost. Not misplaced, but good and lost. About 4 in the afternoon, I found myself again. Where I was was not as close to home as I would have liked to be. About 4 in the afternoon, those cutoff jeans had become denim Hell for my crotch and butt cheeks. The sneakers had proven why they are a bad idea for cycling shoes. I was in tough shape. I was in Ossipee, NH - 35 miles from home.

Thirsty, tired and sore, I stopped at a local Mom & Pop grocery store on Rte 16. Ordered up a sub, grabbed a couple of beers, some bottled water and sat out front with glazed eyes in the afternoon Sun. I wolfed down the sub and guzzled the 2 beers. 20 minutes later another lesson came home to roost. Beer and intense exercise really don't go well together. I had to pull over and do a roadside review of that sub I just crammed down.

Now I was truly miserable. But do I call my wife to come get me? No, of course not. I got myself into this mess, I was damn sure gonna get myself out. With that hardheaded stupidity in mind, I pedaled the most painful 30 miles I had ever ridden. Or probably ever will in the future. The memory now has not softened the misery I was experiencing. There are no rose colored glasses here.

I pulled into our dooryard just about sunset, 12 hours after I left. I threw the bike in the grass and collapsed under the big Red Maple by the well. There I contemplated and took inventory of the body I still had left. Every nerve in my body had been pushed hard and now they all complained. I felt like roadkill looks.

As I wallowed in pain under that maple, my wife came out to teach me the final lesson of the day. New riders always seem to be married to new and upcoming bike widows. The learning curve for a cycling fool is tough on both in the beginning. Since I hadn't called or ended up a statistic so the cops would have, my darling wife was not very darling at the moment. She laid into me. Read me the riot act. Instead of sympathy and a soft hug, I was verbally kicked in the balls.

What was odd though, her harsh and brutal words were music to my ears. I was finally home. I just smiled. Didn't that piss her off.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rage Against the Machine


Okay now. Calm Down. Take a deep breath. Whew.

The two hours I just spent creating a spiffy new email list of important and infuential folks in my little world just went down the cybernet toilet. Locked up. Nothing stirred. Not even my fucking mouse. Over 100 addresses entered by hand lost. Gone! See ya later alligator. SHIT!!!!

Easy there big fella. Think happy thoughts. Punch in a favorite CD. Walk the dog. Breathe some fresh air. Look at the stars. See that big Universe out there. That's where your foolish email addresses are now. Deal with it dude. Trashing your computer won't help. Might feel good for a minute, but when the wife finds it, there will be Hell to pay.

15 minutes later.

I am back now. Somewhat drained, but the bowels, they feel a lot better. And Stubb sure appreciated the attention and the late night pee.

Does the sage advice of my savvier wife help now? No. But now that everything is lost and the damage done, I remember the lesson well.

Back up frequently. Back up often.

That's just great. A little late wouldn't you say? Wish I had reminded myself of that little tidbit before I started this project I put off the last 3 months.

I did want to take the monitor and throw it through the office window. I actually laid hands on. I almost did it. It has been a long time since I have felt anger this intense and useless. It kinda felt good once I calmed down. Like something was purged, forced out. I feel better now. And I did not break anything. Cool. Must be finally growing up.

This latest lock up is but another in a recurring series of lock ups. Yeah, yeah, I have been Defragging, scanning disks, and emptying the useless and unwanted. But it would appear my machine has an affliction deep within it's soul. Outlaw bytes are running amok. Dancing around inside the guts throwing monkey wrenches here and there. Having a Helluva time. They wait until just that special moment when I have forgotten all precautions and dropped my guard. And then they pounce. Little bastards.

And man, aren't they quick and hard to find. I have had several computer gurus check it all out. All for naught. Like at my bike shop, the bikes never make that noise when I am hangin over them. The puter just hums along like it is supposed to when one of my geek friends is exploring the inner world of my PC.

"Sorry Dude. I've done a DOS diagnostic and everything checks out. Tell you what though. This puter is a dinosaur. You'd do yourself and me a favor if you did toss it out the window. Just dump everything on the hard drive to some disks before you do."

Yeah, like I don't know that. The chip fan wails for a few minutes evrytime I boot up. Some of the keys are semi stuck, and the speakers crackle if I don't mess with the wires leading into them. The screen saver's been stuck on some stupid logo, half in and half out for several years now. None of the games work. The printer only works right when certain stars line up just right. It's a tired machine.

Yeah, a new computer with all the bells and whistles and real balls would sure be a pleasant change. CD burner. No games, Great speakers and an awesome soundcard. It would be nice to have gigabytes instead of megabytes. A spiffy optical mouse with a nice red glow when it moves. Top it all off with a liquid screen 27 inches huge. Yeah, that would be special.

Yeah, I could enjoy a new one, that's fer sure. Hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Unjustified Superiority

Riding my bike to work this morning, I noticed the loud, stinking, exhaust belching infernal combustion machines more than I usually do. There was not more traffic, but for some reason, their 50 mph intrusions in and out of my proximity made more of an impression than usual. I was not bothered so much as I was feeling superior and high on my tree huggin , be kind to the planet , save a whale high horse. I watched them whiz past and I smirked.

"Losers, all of you. Sitting there encased behind metal and glass traveling faster than you really need to. What's the fucking hurry anyway? Drive too fast just to be on time at a place you most likely hate a good portion of the time. I don't get it."

The negativity just rolled naturally from my mind. So I went with it.

"Mobile temperature controlled enviroments moving through but not part of the natural flow of the day. You probably all own ATVs, RVs, and a Suzuki. A boat larger than my house sits right next to your 3 car garage. Your idea of grilling is that 6 burner gas fired beauty with 1000 sq inches of grill and two burners on the side for heating up canned beans and corn on the cob. If it doesn't use a key and go vroom, you have no use for it. Your idea of camping is hauling the RV with the mopeds lashed down on back to Jellystone campground and plugging into the internet, the power net, and the cable net. Fishing to you is a 20 foot Bass boat with 200 horses purring under your butt as your scream down the lake to that favorite spot to suck down beers and wet your lines while you wet your whistle. Hunting from the cab of your truck makes sense to you. A hike to you is when you have to park in the fifth or sixth row at the mall. "

I spent well over half my commute digging deep for every obnoxious value judgement I could come up with. It started out as just something to do while spinning the pedals. It soon turned ugly when I really got into it. This holier than thou attitude I sported this AM was an abberation. I am usually a go with the flow, mind my own business, live and let live kinda guy. Besides, I had no right to the high horse I was on. I only commute by bike a few days a week. Every other day you will find me sitting behind metal and glass traveling fast like the rest of them.

So I sat down tonight to glean some insight and make sense out of this contradiction I have inside me. When I think about it, there is no contradiction. I have never been particularily fond of cars. I did lust after a few when I was young, but it did not last. I did not even own a car until I was well into my 20's. I much preferred bumming rides from friends or riding my bike.

I now own vehicles. I drive them on a regular basis. I dutifully maintain them like any tool should be maintained. I like using them up instead of trading up. For me, watching 200,000 miles tick off on the odometer gives me more satisfaction than having the latest fuel infected turbo charged waste of technology. Cars are a necessity not a pleasure. Although I will admit to some guilty pleasure when cruising a tightly curved country road with new 10 ply sneakers on the truck.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Credit Report

I just finished up my free credit report online. Took an hour to apply, read and print all the information. The account summary almost tapped out the paper in the printer. I have apparently been a good All American consumer these past years. Paid my bills on time and stayed in a constant state of debt for over 30 years. This resulted in a credit rating that was way higher than I thought it would be. 

 I am not sure how to take this. My wife and I have struggled financially for, well forever it seems. And while the bank account is almost bare, lenders are waiting with bated breath to suck us in. We get at least one new credit card offer every day the mail comes. The mortgage folks inundate my email with spam promising low rates on stupid large amounts of money. And here I sit in clothes 10 years old at a desk bought through surplus 40 years ago on a computer with one foot in the grave. 

All I have to do to have what the neighbors have is sign up and more money than I know what to do with will be made available. It is a good thing I don't care what the neighbors have. I want nothing to do with boats, long vacations, new cars, another home, or the latest electronic gizmos that pop up everyday.

I would like a new stove. The 40 year old electric one in the kitchen has finally let us know it is time. So, I guess we will have to succumb to the urge to borrow and break out the plastic again. Who do I credit with this apparent good fortune? Lord knows, I did not have much to do with it. Well, I have not desired much, so that obviously helped. The responsibility for our good standing in Credit World belongs to my wife. She handles all our money. We earn it where we can and she divvies it up. 

With an income status of lower middle class, she has performed magic these last 25 years. Robbing Peter to pay Paul and somehow managed to keep both happy. I have learned several things about myself running this report. First of all, we have a lot of accounts out there. And knowing that we have been conservative with what we opened, I cannot imagine what the national average is. 

My account report ran to almost 20 pages. I learned that that Filene account I opened in 1996 is still open. I only opened it to get a better deal on a nice coat for my wife. It has sat dormant ever since, just sitting there waitng for me to drop by. I also seem to have a Bank card at a bank in Texas. It is close to being maxxed out, but it's history is good. Someone else is paying the bills because I haven't even been near Texas in almost 20 years. But I do appreciate their timely payments on my behalf. It does not appear to be a case of identity theft. But if it is, the perp is some considerate. All in all, a good report. We have borrowed enough and paid back enough to rate a high score. 

We have done our part to keep the machine well oiled and running smoothly. I almost feel like a patriot. Is that a hint of a tear in my eye? Where's my flag? I feel the urge to do some waving.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Dark Side of Brotherly Love

I have begun the arduous and gut wrenching chore of re-establishing contact with my siblings. After 10 years of self-exile, a tragedy in the family has jogged my emotional need to touch base again. 

I am grudgingly fulfilling some sense of duty to the family clan. I would have been happy as if I had a brain if no emergency had popped up. I could continue to nurse this chip I have on my shoulder and get on with the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I must now face up to the anger I have savored these last 10 to 15 years. 

 Yesterday my lovely wife verbally slapped me out of my haze and into the here and now. "Can't you let it go for Chrisakes? You are being so petty." 

As usual, she was right and as usual it always pisses me off that she is. So I penned an unsent letter to one brother with condolences and an olive branch of sorts. And then I started another letter to my other brother venting my built up frustration and anger. I have also not sent it either. Just writng it all down seems to have helped. Now, I just need to use that 24 hour cooling off period, re-read both, edit as needed with a calmer hand, and then send them. I have no idea where this will take our relationship. It certainly cannot make it worse.