Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good Habit Bag

Not sure what I am going to end up writing about tonight. I was stoked to share my pleasure and anxious anticipation over the new Hydraulic brakes I just ordered for my hardtail mountain bike. But somehow my antsy childlike eagerness over new bling for my ride lost some of it's edge when I looked in the mirror and saw an old fart staring back. There's rules I guess about being too happy when you reach a certain age. Yeah big deal, new brakes. Shit. What am I? Fourteen?

Maybe I'd tell the tale of the first bike ever stolen from the parking area outside my shop. Embellish it just enough to make it more exciting than it was. But it turned out to be a practical joker thinking he was being clever and funny with his buddy's bike. Had all of us wound up hard for an hour or so.

And then there's the classic rendering of a typical Thursday night ride in weather so hot, the bikes were sweating. But again, just more mud, gears and tears bull shit. Great ride, but definitely one of those "you had to be there" situations.

As it turns out, the highest point of my day was leaving the shop at 11:30 PM and knowing that when I go back into work tomorrow, I will have a spotless workbench to start my day from. I could fill your heads with self serving garbage about how I always keep a clean and tidy shop, work area, and I know where everything is because I have drawers neatly arranged and labeled clearly with what is in them. All my product hangs logically and in a hip fashion....................Yeah, I could do that.

But as ugly as it often is, the truth is my safer bet.

Tonight marks the first time I have seen the top of my bench in .... oh I guess at least a month. Jim, that neatnik jerk, will probably insist it has been two months.

Took me over an hour just to unclutter the clutter that had coagulated there over the last 30 days. I found tools I was beginning to think were gone forever. I found that note I had torn the office up last week looking for. Lost invoices were located. A trail map I had hoped to use 2 weeks ago but was secreted under some magazines on the corner finally came up for air. Tonight I reinforced why cleaning my bench every day is much less painful than the shovel job I had to do tonight.

I finally found that friendly old blue Formica top with the hammer dings in it. Grease spots and coffee stains were all that were left when I finally stashed or tossed everything that was on it. A quick wipe up with some 409 and a clean rag left it glistening. Like it was saying to me, "There ya go bub, this is how you are supposed to treat me." Now I have a fresh uncluttered surface to start my next clutter collection.

All of this unnecessary effort and wasted man hours brought with it another one of those Life's lessons I should have long ago established as part of my "Good Habit" bag. Problem is, I noticed early on, say about age 15, my "Good Habit" bag was smaller than some of the other guys bags. It could only handle so many "Good Habits" at a time. This threw me into a funk. One of those painful realities of the looming future of adulthood rearing up and making me take notice. I was learning about priorities. My less than average size bag forced me to pick and choose which "Good Habits" I would develop and which ones I had to leave on the side of the trail. Like survivors on a lifeboat and in order for some to be saved, one or two survivors have to be tossed over the side. Being neat and orderly seemed a logical first choice. After all, it's all about staying sane throughout the trip.

Onto the next misstep....................

(680 / 2708)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dumb Parasites

Better late than never I guess. Even a token appearance with only a month or so left beats a blank. Summer had to at least stop in for a minute before the leaves on the trees started turning.

Which somehow brings me to one of the top ten hairs across my butt. One of the buzz topics that has fed the fires of heated debate over the last decade at the least. Yeah, that's right, Climate Change, Global Warming - whatever word you find comfortable to use.

What I find interesting is rather than be proactive and face this obvious switch in climatic trends, the issue has become politicized and is now just another topic for folks to fight over. Each side working hard to convince the other who is right. Arguing about stupid details that mean nothing and all the while we sit on our hands and do nothing tangible to deal with what might be coming. Precious time wasted in a pissing match over definitions and who or what is to blame. Our climate is changing. We should pay attention.

A while ago, I watched an interesting treatment of the problem by a futurist who put forth the idea of an Earth as a living organism. A living, breathing, functioning entity that had been alive for billions of years. For the sake of the argument, those of you who might not agree the planet is this old, please bury this notion and go with it. With regards to the argument, it matters not how long the planet has been in existence.

So we have this orb rocketing around a star for many years. As it followed it's elliptical route, it's one concern has been to travel. What happened on it's skin mattered not. Life evolved like some skin rash and has been tenaciously holding on for a long time. Earth could care less. It's only concern is making it around the Sun one more time. At least that is how it appears.

In reality, the planet has been in a constant state of change since it's inception. It has created some of it's own change through chemical reactions of heat mixed with various chemicals. It will continue to do this until the day the core goes cold. Pressures will build. Continents will shift to release this pressure. And obnoxious expulsion of gases and hot fluids will be the result.

For most of the planet's time in existence, this was no big deal. There was no other life around to even care one way or the other. But at some point, a sentient race evolved (or for you theists out there - was placed here). Regardless, humans popped up. The Earth did not care. It's the trip, remember?

Over the time we have been aware, we have noticed and even studied the predictable climatic and environmental changes that have littered the history of this place we live on. Some of the smarter humans among us caught on to the fact that the conditions necessary for us to even exist have only been existence for a relatively short time when considering how long this piece of rock has been circling the Sun. And if we are to continue on our happy parasitic way, we need to address changes in the overall climate or we will be out of a home. Remember the Planet just does not care. What we do matters not to it. It knows it will survive with or without us. I can just imagine it chuckling at how stupid we are as we waste time arguing insignificant details.

I don't care to place blame. I don't care why it is happening. I just know that in the short 57 years I have been alive, I have seen dramatic changes in the climate. And even if this is just a small uptick, or burp if you will, the changes have made me aware of what we as parasites have been doing. We can be be smart parasites or dumb parasites. Parasites that use up the available nutrients with no new host to hit on are dumb parasites. Smart ones look to take just enough to survive without killing the host. In our case, it means not shitting in our own nest and adding more toxins to the flow of natural ones. Until we have a new host(planet) to set up shop on, we need to make this one last. And from what I can tell, we are doing a half assed job of it.


(756 / 2708)

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I tried to resist a post about cycling during the Tour de France. Not sure why. Maybe it was because I just did not want to be so predictable. What the Hell? What is so damn wrong with predictable, ruts, and the same ole same ole? Seems to me, we humans should be more comfortable with who we are and not so concerned with being someone we are not.

I will admit that for three weeks every summer since the 1980s, my mind is distracted by a sporting event thousands of miles away that most American sports fans have only a passing interest in. And this interest is only teased to something of note if an American is doing well. It is odd but many Americans consider Golf and Nascar more challenging as athletic events than a multi day, multi-thousand mile event that requires inhuman endurance, inhuman strength and intelligent team strategies to win.

The lack of respect America has for professional cycling used to piss me off. Now I just chuckle at the chuckle heads on "Fanarchy" many of whom have not developed past the knuckle dragging phase of human development. Actually, I wonder if the producers of the show have evolved much further than the fan base drawn in. Given that they ask the dumbest questions and expect intelligent answers as they seem to weigh each answer as if any of them have weight. And then allow some kind of democratic stupidity be the final answer if a majority of the fans asked agree. Whenever I tune in, I am reminded of a scene in "Stand BY Me" where the 12 year old boys argue which TV hero is the baddest ass of the bunch.

To reach the top of any sport or athletic endeavor, certain physical gifts, tenacity, and focus are needed. Comparing one to another is but an exercise in stupidity in my opinion. The recent comparison of Michael Phelps to Lance Armstrong in "Fanarchy" is the perfect example. There is no comparison but the fact that both have become the top dogs in their sport of choice. Yet the morons interviewed on Fanarchy argue with each other which one is better than the other.

I won't rehash all of Lance's accomplishments over the years he has been riding professionally. His comeback after 4 years away from the sport is phenomenal. Unprecedented. Cyclists vying for a podium spot at age 37 are unheard of in modern professional cycling. And while the talking heads of sports discuss his reasons for the comeback - proving he doesn't have to dope to do well, or he just couldn't stay away, or Pro cycling needed the PR boost his name would bring - none of these matter to me. I am just glad to see his face, hunched shoulders, and legs pumping up insanely steep mountain roads faster than I can ride on a flat road. The man is the most exciting cyclist I have ever watched. And this Tour is no different. Glad you came back Lance. Give em Hell.


(512 / 1952)

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Am Not From South Dakota

I really should be sleeping right now. Maybe I am and I just don't know it and this is all just part of the recurring dream I have been experiencing recently. I seem to be picking up where I left off the night before.

Let's see................In this dream sequence, no matter what foolishness I get myself into, I always seem to end up on the wrong side of the law for one reason or another. The common denominators are legalities, ID cards, always ID cards of some kind whether a passport that makes me a citizen of New Zealand, a Green Card that expired twenty years ago with a picture of me at age 12 on it, or some bizarre drivers license from South Dakota. Each dream has cops, ID issues and incarceration of some kind. Weird. Really weird.

Shit, I don't know, it seems I have some hang ups about ID cards and being a legal citizen. The reality of being born in Colorado never seems to enter the picture. A bizarre mini series I have been experiencing of late while the clowns are down for the night anyway.

I guess I should be grateful to even remember my dreams again. It seems they come when I am getting decent hours of nap time. I do not seem to dream when I am in the grips of insomnia. Any sleep I get then seems to be an illusion I convince myself I experienced. Any dreams, real or imagined, lost in my rush to convince myself I actually closed my eyes for a time. Regardless, the days of mindless sleep are well behind me I guess.

Truth be told, I have enjoyed these recent brushes with real weirdness. This run of similar dreams reminds me of a brief period many years ago when I had dreams of being chased and falling great distances to escape my pursuers. I always landed on my feet no matter what I jumped off or out of. There was a whole slew of these dreams with enough variations in setting, cast and plot so that each one was enjoyable and did not seem redundant. Well except for the falling part and the chasing part. Just when I thought they would last forever, I stopped having them. I figure the same thing will happen with this run. My brain will come to grips with whatever is eating at it and the ID card/incarceration hang up will just disappear.

I thought I had a point to make when I started writing this tonight at dark thirty on Sunday morning about 2:00 AM EST. But now I am not so sure. No. I am sure now I have no point. I just woke up from a bad scene in which I had no answer for why I was traveling alone without an ID. And I figured I would write about it before I laid my head down again. They had just clamped the cuffs on me and tossed me in the back of a horse drawn wagon when my eyes popped open.

Back to Sleep......See Ya............

(514 / 1440)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Favorite Riding Partner

I will be the first one to agree that parents can and will often go over the edge when gushing, bragging, or just mentioning their children. I often listen to them go on and on about how wonderful little Johnny is or the latest award their darling Susie just received for collecting the most pop bottle caps for some charity gig. Whatever. There is no one prouder than proud parents.

Positive I am not such a parent, I consider the pride I have in my daughter. I run through all of her accomplishments I can dredge up from the swampy goo that is my memory and I realize I am no better and if being honest counts, probably worse than those parents I often roll my eyes over. But I usually choose to put it here or in a letter. At least folks do not have to listen to me.

I won't go into the specifics of Lis' many accomplishments over the years. They are too many to mention. Many are just the normal victories, many if not most kids manage to find as they make it from child to adult. She may not be a future Nobel Laureate or future president, but she turned out better than I deserved considering the poor role model I offered up. Anything she is, she did herself. She is smart. She is kind. She has courage. Her work ethic is phenomenal. And did I mention the most important thing? She kicks serious ass on a mountain bike.

Of all my memories of her transition from child to adult, the one that sticks in my mind as my favorite is her progress on the bicycle. The one activity I can puff up my chest and say my influence was what prodded her to become the skilled rider she has become. From the first pink Schwinn single speed with tassles to the high end Jamis hardtail she favors now, Dad was the guy who put her there. There were tears. There were skinned knees and bruised egos. I even ran over her once on a ride in Pawtuckaway State Park. Rather than give up, she showed her mettle and always came back for more. Lis has serious sand. And that makes me proud.

(378 / 1304)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Free Range Holiday

Hey now. It's the 4th of July. Depending on one's time on the planet, the 4th of July will be a family day, a day to burn burgers out back on the Lanai and suck cold brew out of cans that turn blue when they are cold enough. Or for many past the oblivion inbibement age, this weekend will be grandkids and sparklers, or maybe spreadin a few small flags around the local cemetery on friend's graves who did not make it home alive.

The 4th offers up any excuse one wants to use to celebrate it anyway they want. Some folks will go camping and toss M8Os at each other in drunken stupors after burning some food on an open fire. Thankfully the majority of us, either of the age that signifies surviving the stupidity of youth or those too young to know what's coming will keep the weekend mostly sane and keep things from getting totally out of hand. Regardless we all seem to tolerate a bit more craziness than we would, say, on a Monday in March.

The common denominator is the 4th is a day to do something, anything you do not normally do any other day of the week. Or make it just another day on the planet. Go to work, work at home, or do something nice for a neighbor, the town, or a church. Bottom line - The Fourth is a day to celebrate being an American. No flag waving needed, but no one notices if you do.

Of all the holidays I have celebrated over the years, the 4th always seems to end up being my Free Range Holiday. The central theme of Independence manifests itself in infinite ways. I have played marathon games of softball. I have been in the outback with nothing on but some sandals and a smile. Once I floated around the Chesapeake on a boat that had no gas. Got towed to shore by Marine cops and had to eat a ticket for being drunk at the wheel of a boat. Didn't matter that it was dead in the water. And I wasn't even the pilot. One Fourth I spent in a lockup in Mississippi after getting too much of an early jump on the holiday the night before. Camping outside Dallas, Texas in 1977 with 6 other whacked truck drivers, we touched off some booming rockets and they touched down in the campsite across the lake and burned it to the ground. Mix some bone dry knee high grass with tents, coolers and sleeping bags and let me tell you Mr. Man, it makes a for a pretty good blaze. Yeah, I have found many ways to celebrate the Fourth over the years.

Here's hoping your Fourth leaves you smiling as you pass out from too much food, spirits, or fun.


(475 / 926)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sump Wars Revisited

With almost a month of rain under our belts, it would seem even thick skinned Mainers have their limits. I certainly have reached mine. It's one thing to have the weather add insult to an already injured bike shop. It is another to have to deal with yet another flooded basement at a time of the year when we are normally whining about the 80 degree heat and the sump hole tosses dust up when the occasional salamander ventures through it.

I was dutifully staying late at work last night trying to act like the responsible business owner I should be when I get a call from my wonderful wife. "How do you get this F*#^king sump pump to work? It's ankle deep down there."

As I listened to her, all I could think about is how I finally knew for certain the notion of sump pumps and their dependable failure when I need them the most will one day, maybe not this time but at some point in my diminishing future - one day I will die from a blown blood vessel when they fail once too often. It appears the "Sump Wars" are not over. The 28 year struggle continues. And I seem to always be on the losing end. Sigh.

I know other folks nestled next to the rivers, lakes and streams are anguishing over much more serious issues like losing everything they own and not just concerned over the kind of junk we all put in unreliable storage areas. Anything of real value, not counting the furnace, the water heater, and the coffin freezer are safely up and out of harm's way. It is just the psychological toll of that yearly wet reminder and the occasional extra inning tossed in that Mother Nature proves she rules and the rest of us drool. She will take her pound of flesh. All at once or a piece at a time. Suffering the slow agony of a death by a thousand floods seems worse than having her smite me down in one fell swoop.

So now I have learned a new lesson. A sump pump that runs continuously for days on end probably ought to have it's own electrical circuit. It certainly is not a good idea to have it plugged into the same circuit as the furnace, the washer, and a variety pack of lights and other fixtures. Loew's here I come. I have an unused 30Amp circuit I can tap into and by the end of this holiday weekend while others cavort and recreate, I will have wired up this unused 30 Amp circuit with 12/2 wire and a GFI plug receptacle. Happy Fourth of July! ................Yeah right.

See Ya........