Friday, March 31, 2006

The Land Whale Awakes

The only thing that keeps me going on these early season ole fat guy coming off winter bike rides is the knowledge that if I can just suffer through the next 3 or 4 weeks, I will actually start having a blast again on a bike. But right now, every pedal stroke is pain and discomfort as I haul around the 25 extra pounds I gained over the winter.

I am enjoying the rides. The wheezing and atrophied lard laced muscular torture does have a damping effect. I am a slug right now trying to evolve into a butterfly. Well, a faster slug anyway. I have turned a corner. I rode most of the upstrokes. I didn't puke. I guess there is a cyclist in here somewhere afterall. Hmm. Cyclist might be assuming a grander image than the reality. I am just a guy who rides a bike. In three weeks I will be a thinner guy who rides a bike. Still a slug, the group sweep.

I was in my late 30's or early 40's when I started to notice a bit more of me in the Spring than there was in the Fall. That faster high octane metabolism had been replaced by a slower and more sedate energy consumption. I still had the appetite of that young and numb calorie burner. The Big Macs stopped passing through and began to settle in for the long run. I had supersized me.

The first few Springs of supersized Mike bothered me. I agonized about the lard and the tight jeans. I toyed with creating the "Fat" wardrobe to go with the "Skinny" wardrobe. But then I remembered I really have never concerned myself about how I looked. Why start now? So I didn't. I used the torture of squeezing myself into pants too tight as an incentive to lose the winter belly roll. The only problem is each year the feasibility of actually pouring myself into that summer wardrobe began to fade. The time it took to lose the weight stretched from March and April into June and beyond. One summer, I only lost a total of 5 pounds the whole summer. I was miserable. I spent the summer hovering around 180. Now 10 years later, 180 seems like the impossible dream. I'd be happy to make it down to a svelte 190.

So another rite of Spring has begun. Like the birds flying north, the crocus poking up through the leaves, another land whale begins to shake off his hibernating barco lounging sad self.

Big Boy

When I got home tonight, a letter addressed to me from Victoria's Secret sat on the kitchen table. "It's your birthday Big Boy. Treat yourself" in large bold type jumped out at me. It looked suspiciously compromised. Like someone other than the addresse had peaked inside. I guess my darling wife could not contain her curiosity. Neither could I. So I looked at the card inside. A $10 gift card indicated that I could save a bundle off my next purchase of dainty and sexy under things. Damn! Just last week I spotted this lacy ensemble at Kohl's for half price and they had it in Queen size and it was so pink it hurt my eyes. I had to have it. So I shot my deviant budget for the month. And then what happens? Victoria sends me a coupon and I can't take advantage of it.

Actually, this silly scenario ran through my mind as I tried to figure out why Victoria's Secret would think I would want some of their wares. Especially since they were using my birthday as an excuse to reach out and touch me. A gift card from LL Bean would make sense. I could save a bit off my next big outdoor purchase. Save $10 on that $500 kayak. But split crotch undies and strapless bras?

This attempted connection made me roll back my recent memory tape. What sites had I visited recently that, well, you know, show naked people and stuff. I could not retrieve any recent visit from the dustbin of my mind. I was not much of a porn site surfer. There's only so many ways they can exhibit the nasty bits in action before it all just gets redundant and boring.

So the Secret has me on their radar now. Great. More junk mail to toss. I will say though, I did puff up a tad when they called me "Big Boy".

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Apparently Not

Jill Carroll was released yesterday. A reporter, she was held captive for 3 months in Iraq after a bloody confrontation when her translator was killed. This is some good news. But in the overall cluster-fuck that is Iraq, her safe return is nothing but a positive blip on the radar.

I sit here in Acton, Maine, typing commentary on everything and anything. I preach. I rant. I vent about issues far from my town. I seem to know more about what is going on 3000 miles from here than next door. This should strike me odd, but I accept this fact as a normal circumstance. Why am I more connected to events outside my influence than those within reach? Laziness perhaps. It is certainly easier to rant and rave about something than face the ugly little problems in my day to day existence. It is easier to ignore what is obviously wrong than do something to move it in a positive direction.

I have convinced myself that I am way too busy putting one foot in front of the other to give up any of myself to making my little part of the World a better place. I own a business. I own a home. I raised a smart and ready for Life child. I pay taxes and I stay out of trouble. Is that not enough? Apparently not. Or I would not feel so damn guilty.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I have long since stopped worrying if anyone will drop by to read my blather here. It definitely no longer matters. I write for an audience of one. I started out that way back in the day of poor penmanship in numerous spiral notebooks with the margins filled with bad doodles. Should I develope an audience, I would be thrilled. But other people's stamp of approval is not what I am seeking.

Seeking? Hmm. I am not seeking so much as I am relieving myself of an insistent pressure that builds up inside me over time. Just getting the words out often leaves me as drained as any 50 mile bike ride. I will pound out some drivel in manic bursts until my wad is shot. I then sit back and re-read what I wrote and feel good. Whether the text is worthy or the topiic timely is not important. I have performed some self medication, call it self therapy. As pointed out in the blog "Kill the Goat" , these blogs are nothing but jacking off anyway. I can live with that. Self-gratification is way underrated. The difference with blogs is we are doing it in public, not behind the protective covers of notebooks, journals and bad hand writing.

Call it journalistic flashing. The problem is I do not seem to be able to find anyone who is impressed enough, amused enough, or outraged enough to even take notice. It's as if I am in some huge public park trying to impress all the pic nickers, walkers, joggers and such with what I have behind my jacket, but I don't even get a titter. Maybe a pink dildo with an American Flag attached would get some hackles up or make someone smile. Well, that last sentence made me chuckle anyway.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Are you Open?

My workday ran into the night tonight. At 7:00PM, I knew if I was going to push further into the evening, I would have to eat something. I ordered up a cheeseburger grinder with LTM &Os. "Throw some fries in the grease pit too, would ya", I added. 10 minutes later I locked the doors, unfolded the greasy delight on the tool bench and proceeded to stuff it in. I was some hungry. Right in mid-inhale, I hear someone rattling my locked front door. With my mouth full of dripping cheeseburger pleasure I look at one of D&D twins outside. I look at the clock. 7:25PM. My sign says "Closed 6:00PM". Then the genius says as he continues to rattle the locked and unyeilding door, "Are you open?"

I swallow before I should. The lump of burger drops like a golf ball being forced through a garden hose and I holler, "Is the door locked?"

"Uh yeah", D of D&D says.

"Well, I guess I'm closed then. Thanks for checking."

Thursday, March 23, 2006


If I am going to turn this damn thing on tonight, I should be doing bike stuff. Taking care of some of the boring but necessary computer drudgery that will make my business run marginally smoother. Credit app to fill out. Search Quality's website for some bike parts and doo dads to order for my customers. E-mails are waiting patiently to be dealt with, replied to , and hopefully deleted. Plenty of work, I just do not want to do it. I'm beat. I'm tired man. Been at it since 8 this morning. Time f**king out!

Before my eyes cross and I black out from fatigue, I figured I'd stop in and share for awhile.

A friend of mine stopped by the bike shop tonight. I was working late and having a good repair day. The unforseen detours that haunt the world of bike repair were MIA. Every bike behaved, following the estimates like I knew what I was doing when I wrote them up. Brian showed up just about the time my feet and legs were telling me to call it a day. So we sat down, poured the last of the coffee and had a conversation. Nothing special. A little politics, some local gossip. The typical inane and meaningless talk between friends. Somewhere between a mutual rant dissing the Colbert Report and a mutual rave for South Park, out of left field, the subject of smells dropped into the spotlight. Totally random.

To be precise, we focused on smells that evoke pleasure and a sense of well being. Coffee brewing. A bakery a couple of hours into the daily bake. Wild mint after I hack it down with the mower or the scythe. Bananas in bunches waiting in a mound at the grocery store. An orange held close to my nose and I breath in hard. A barbeque fired up and reeking as I pass by on my bike. Woodfires on a crisp Fall evening. Thanksgiving dinner an hour before it's time to chow down. A fresh cut Christmas tree. My daughter's blanket when she was a little tacker. Catching the whiff of a freshly struck wooden match. We agreed the list of universally accepted odors is most likely endless.

Once we had tapped our ready reserves of the everybody loves em smells, Brian got off on smells that appeal to the select few. Those odors that appeal to us individually but not someone else. He came up with the smell of an open bottle of Tri-Flow. I had to agree it was an agreeable and pleasant smell. But I also pointed out that huffin petroleum products laced with Teflon cannot be good for the ole brain cells. My suggested toxic pleasure was no better. I said I liked the smell of gasoline and diesel fuel. All those years of trucking come back in a nauseous wave everytime I fuel the Chevy Silverado. And for a second I miss that brutal existence. But only for a second.

It's odd the small things that bring us comfort and help make us feel safe and welcome. Yet, some sensory flashbacks can bring on fleeting moments of sadness and pain. Catch the whiff of pies being baked and I go back to my Aunt Helen's kitchen at Half Way Up Farm on summer visits. And I miss her and Uncle Herb. The connection of our senses to our memories is an awesome and mysterious mainstay of what ties us to our past. Whether they be good or bad, our senses will remind us of times in our lives when we were happy, sad and mad. Proving that memory is not just a simple recollection, but is often a mixture of touchs, sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It's the Trip not the Destination

I had about 50,000 air miles by the time I turned 6. Tough twin prop C-47 "Gooney Bird" miles back and forth over the Pacific. I knew what a barf bag was for before I could talk. I logged over a million miles pounding North America's highways delivering what America wanted. I went to 12 schools before I graduated from high school. I spent the first half of my life on the road. Never settled. I had just arrived or was preparing to leave and arrive somewhere else.

Fast forward 25 years. That life is gone. Now I get nervous when I am more than 75 miles from my home. I find the thought of flying completely ridiculous. Get in an airplane? No flippin way. I compressed a lifetime of travel into my first 28 years. I have no desire to live out of a suitcase again. I do not dream of Pina Coladas poolside at some beachfront hotel in Mexico. Give me a Sam Adams and a soft spot in the sun by the garage and I am a content and settled man.

If I ever travel again, it will be by bicycle. Hook up a trailer packed with a tent, some spare duds, tools and other gear and hit the road. This time I will not worry about arriving. It will be the trip not the destination. I will check out all those rusting roadside historical markers I used to pass at 65mph. "On this spot in 1745 James Bigelow killed himself a bar." I will take the time to smell the air, taste the local water and make some friends on the way. I will look for a Nehi soda pop in an ancient coffin cooler on a rickety wooden porch in front of a store named "Pop's Grocery". The Spanish moss on sprawling southern oaks will tell me which way the wind blows. And I will take their hint to heart and keep the wind to my back.

Monday, March 20, 2006

We were just Joking

The sharply dressed news anchors will spin and build up an event to make it seem that this day, today, has had events unfolding like no other. While in my little corner of the World, Life is the same today as it was yesterday, it just has a new number.

I will watch the world according to Brian, Connie and O'Reiley and wonder just what the Hell is going on out there. They paint a picture of another planet when compared to mine. I don't live anywhere near bombings, floods, and fires caused by drought. Yet, it seems these places are just around the corner from me. A picture unfolds of a World full of hate and discontent, neverending catastophes, and constant international intrique. Like the only place that seems safe and dull day in and day out is the small chunk I exist in on a daily basis. Almost as if "The World" was an alternative universe that is overrun by madness.

Of course I know this is not true. I do live in the same world that seems so out of control outside southern Maine. Of late though, it seems less real than it ever did before. There seems to be more insanity now than when I was younger. Maybe it only seems that way because I am paying more attention. And maybe it seems that way because it is more insane now than ever before.

Take the war in Iraq. 3 years ago this day, we invaded. Not long after that, Bush declared, "Mission Accomplished". And now 3 years later, the Iraqis have extended their violence to include a turf war that seems determined to become a full blown civil war. The ability to reason with clear heads has been lost to our civilization. We have entered a period of mass stupidity. As Buffalo Springfield sang in one of their songs, "Nobody's right if everyone is wrong". Or something to that effect.

We just finished the worst hurricane season in my memory. Jeez, they ran out of regular letters to name them and had to start borrowing from the ancient Greeks letters from their alpahbet. One of America's special cities was wiped off the planet. And now Australia has just experienced the worst cyclone in 30 years. Cyclone Larry tore up the north coast in a cat 5 tantrum. A recent tsunami wiped out untold numbers of people and wild fires are burning up millions of acres of our Midwest. The Ice Caps are shrinking. Mother Nature seems to have caught some of our manic ways.

And I sit here in Acton, Maine and gaze out at all this and I wonder. Can all this foolishness be real? I am sure one morning I will wake up and one of my favorite early morning news folks will tell me, "Hey, we were just joking".

Monday, March 13, 2006

Thank You George from NEMBA

Yesterday, I packed up a couple of bikes, a lot of gear, fueled the pick up and headed down to Springfield, Massachusetts to go riding in the woods with my daughter. My intended departure time for this little adventure was set at no later than 6:00 AM. But when I am packing for two and not used to it, time has a way of getting away from me. It turned into a 9:00 AM realtime start. I was okay with this as the 3 hour delay fell comfortably inside the plus/minor factor I have built into all activities I am in charge of. The silver lining was it also gave my darling little girl 3 extra hours to recover from a Saturday night at college.

The delay told me not to expect this day to unfold smoothly. I would need to remain flexible and take the events of the day in stride. So I did not push it to make up any lost time. Making up 3 hours in a 3 1/2 hour trip would just make me crazy in the attempt. So I cruised.

For some reason I got a tad antsy in Worcestor. I had to be reminded by a Mass State cop that 20 miles an hour over the construction zone limit was a no-no. She snapped me out of my interstate daze with a blast on her 4000 watt PA system. "Red Chevy Pick Up, SLOW DOWN!!!" and accompanied it with that stern look only cops seem able to conjure up. I managed a weak sort of thank you smile and wave while I checked my crotch for wet spots.

Landing in Springfield just after noon, Lis and I quickly changed and headed to Mt Tom, a nearby state run chunk of woods. After a half hour drive, we entered the park and were greeted by a friendly sign that said, "Mtn Bikes Prohibited". Well this sucked. It meant we would have to work our way to choice 2, the Holyoke Range up near Amherst. With no map of the area, all I had was a faint idea of the general direction. North a tad and to the right.

I became agitated. I knew Massachusetts and it's love of illogical road design. Roads based on colonial deer paths the Indians improved on so they could sneak in to raid. They get you there but I often wonder how. I was fearing an afternoon of frantic searching as the sun dropped closer to the horizon. And us stuck in the car in bike duds getting pissy with each other.

The mountain biking gods were smiling on us yesterday. I am sure they took over control of my truck. We seemed to make no wrong turns, even when I would say, "Hey this looks like it might gets us close." Every turn and choice worked some magic and in a half hour we were pulling into a muddy parking lot occupied by the vehicles of our riding brethen. Thule racks and construction pick ups patiently waiting for their mud covered owners to return.

As a final tip of the cycling god's hat, a group was just leaving the lot after their weekly fix. One mud speckled fellow walked over and made inquiries as to how a truck from Maine had located this particular spot. And I proceeded to give the blow by blow but stopped short. The whole day had started and evolved to place me and my kid here on this spot at this moment. I just kind a mumbled something about sniffing out trails was an ability I had developed from the many years of searching for them.

I think the guy's name was George. I can't remember because I was a puppy forced to sit in front of the food dish but not dive in. My mind was on how quickly we could lose this guy and get riding. But I was polite and listened to his riff. He was in charge of the local NEMBA chapter and boosting their cause was an obivious intent. He asked if I had a trail map. I showed him the one I downloaded from the net. He just smiled and said those trails were a joke, but he could help me find some of the good ones.

Between George and his buddy Rich, I think his name was, they hooked us up with some of the best trails I had ridden in a long time. Trails designed and laid down by mountain bikers. Bridges, rock armored wet spots and a flow that just made Lis and I grin with each swoop and down stroke. We only stayed out for an hour and a half. But as the first real ride of the Spring, it was the best hour and a half I had had since November.

We barely touched the network that exists there in the Holyoke Range. I knew this when George looked at his watch while deciding what loop to set us out on. A quick referral with Rich confirmed they wanted to make sure we did not get too deep into it. Lis and I only covered 5 or 6 miles and passed inumerable intersections and trailheads that we knew were just as special as the one we just finished.

Thanks to the folks of the Pioneer Chapter of NEMBA for creating such a special day for a couple of riders from Maine. The trails there rocked!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Catching my Breath

Well I deleted and cleared out a lot cyber junk from my computer the other day. Seems I also swept some good out with the bad. It took me numerous attempts to regain control of this blog. As often as I have had to retreive access to some sites I regularly visit, you would think I would have sense enough to write down passwords, usernames, etc. But nooooo! I prefer to be the repeat flounder and make it a struggle every time. I will admit though, the magic elves who set this system up and maintain it through mysterious and wonderful wand waffing made recouping this blog easier than reclaiming my rights to some other oft visited/used web pages.

Anyway it is Saturday. The sun is out and I am just wasting time as usual before I have to show my mug down at my bike shop. There is plenty to do there. I should be there now. Instead, I am playing part time hooky and using up some bandwidth.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Wailing Violins

Sitting here late at night. In an unusual departure from my usual, I have the ole fart classical station on. As I type I feel like I am enduring a neverending overture score for a never beginning epic starring Charleton Heston. The music is grand and makes me feel like I want some popcorn before the movie starts.

My father used to listen to this type of music all the time. He preferred classical because as he put it, "The human voice is the worst musical instrument in the world." Of course as a young and numb punk know it all, I was sure he was wrong. Hundreds of violins wailing in my mind ranked lower than Jimi, Aretha, or Roger Daltry. Give me some 4 chord Rock and a headbanging vocalist and I was in heaven.

It's odd though. Here I sit 40 some years later. My dad long dead. And what have I been dialing into more often than not lately? Yeah, that's right, classical. Go figure. I guess some influences need time to germinate. Time to come full circle and capture our interest when we are ready.

So I have to once again thank my father for something I did not ask for. But now enjoy even though he and I were sure I wouldn't. He because he thought I had no taste or class. Me because I thought he was just a stuffed shirt stuck in some time warp from 100 years ago. It kind of sticks in my craw too. Having to admit he had more on the ball than I gave him credit for. Oh well. We never stop growing. Or is it we never should stop growing?

Irritating Shoes

I am not what you would call a clothes horse, slave to fashion, or even close to someone who has a clue to what's hip on the runway this year. Or any year for that matter. I dress to fit my personality. Erratically, with a strong focus on comfort. I am usually wrinkled, drooping and look like I wear sacks with sleeves. If it's loose and roomy, I am a happy camper. I clean up ok for those special occasions but would prefer not to. In a word, I am a slob. Clean blue jeans, clean T shirt with no holes, clean socks and undies and I am ready for church.

But when it comes to footwear, I am one fussy SOB. Especially now that my dogs have been around for over 50 years. I cannot tolerate poor fitting shoes. My left foot which has taken more than it's fair share of abuse is especially sensitive. Add in the fact that I am sporting triple E width shovels and finding a good fitting sneaker or shoe can be a daunting task.

So I take shoe shopping seriously. I stay away from the payless wally mart 3 pair for $10 stores. If I find the right pair, paying full pop bothers me not. I will try on 5 pairs and leave empty handed if none meet my demands. And once I have found a pair that hugs my aching feet just right, I will wear them till they rot off my feet.

Late last fall I was sure I had found such a pair. They slipped on like they were handcrafted to my feet. Plenty of width in them to keep those 3E toes happy. Cost me almost $80. Worth every penny. Or so I thought.

Now that they have roughly 3 months of mileage on them, they have developed an especially irritating habit. It started with the left shoe. I began to notice a small squeak with every step once they had gotten damp. This small irritation was nothing if the shoes were comfortable. I could and would put up with it. That was my inclination until the right one started in with a squawk in every step. Now they complain from the moment I put them on in the morning right up to the moment I fling them off for the night.

I am of a mind to continue the battle. I feel as though the noise they emit and others comment on is worth the comfort I enjoy from wearing them. But have I just traded one kind of Hell for another? They make so much noise I tend to focus on them and their incessant chatter than the many tasks at hand. Another bad sign is that I have begun to talk back to them. Not good. I am not ready to throw them in the Goodwill bag. But they are beginning to drive me crazy.