Sunday, October 30, 2011


it was 5:30 in the morning, and i was freezing cold.

she had told me to wear the knee warmers she had loaned to me. she had told me to bring a jacket and warm riding gear. i had brought all of these things. i had checked the forecast. i was ready. i was layered and layered but not wrapped in a jacket. i had strong enough legs, doused in warming embrocation, but no knee warmers. it was 5:30 in the morning on saturday, and i was chattering my teeth down sixteenth street into the heart of washington, d.c.

best buddies is an organization dedicated to facilitating the interaction of persons with developmental disabilities with the rest of us and our disabilities. the fundraising requirements were steeper than the hills (we got some over 10% grade). the temperature was lower than my energy level after an all-night drive less than 24 hours before. and all around, there were smiling faces and ridiculously-enthusiastic rest stop spirit-cheerleaders. this was a great ride.

sometimes, the point is not to go fast. and sometimes, the point is to go, not fast. the entire day was spent trying not to break any teeth as they chattered in the shade, trying not to fall asleep after gorging myself at the rest stops. we stopped often. we ate much. we hydrated. and through it all, it was great to go slow. other than being cold, it was a great ride. never once was i worried about my equipment or whether or not i'd be able to keep up with the group. i had energy and time to do stupid things, like charge hills so i could pee at the top and jump back on before being passed, or pedal a super low cadence on the little hills on the course, coaxing a burning workout out of the slow, slow pace. best of all, i spent the day with a couple of guys i don't see often enough, and we did it on bikes, and we laughed heartily in spite of any and all discomfort. even if it was slow, it was well worth the drive.

i've been reflecting further and further this year, mostly on achievement of goals. as we all know, my goals are few, simple, and generally unexciting. my realtime goals lack panache, which is odd for someone of my own history, but they are true and few, and generally unexciting.

my dad told me once, when i was in high school, about a time when he was in high school, and he figured out that to do all the things he wanted to do, and be all the things he wanted to be, at that time, he needed three things: a really good camera, a really good guitar, and a car. i can't remember what the lesson was in that conversation (inevitably, there would have been at least one), but i feel like i've had those thoughts frequently in my life. if i could just get/accomplish these three things, i'd be set. of course, things are never this simple.

my job is relatively simple. unfortunately, it is starting to pile up and i am utterly unmotivated (hence the writing/procrastination right now) to do the homework that is sitting in the kitchen. my children are wonderful and rarely require above-and-beyond measures of being/parenting to meet their needs. my lady is solid and hard-working and even likes me every now and again. the big pieces of the puzzle have mostly been figured out. the part that grates on my mind, then, is all the stuff that hasn't been figured out, and that must be addressed, on one level or another, every single damn day. these things require myriad steps just to be solved or disposed of or cleared from my to-do list, and they are not simple and few like my goals; they are ubiquitous and incessant, like my insecurities.

i thought like my dad a little while ago, sure that i would be set once these few things happened or were acquired. i got and built a custom steel dream bike. i worked extra in the summer. i trained smart in running and got new shoes and stretched more than ever in my life. i did photography for free. i planted vegetables and drank smoothies and drove safely and made special trips for important events. and now all of those goals, all of those well-meaning pieces of the method puzzle, have come and gone and been tarnished by some aspect of the present reality. the dream bike has been anything but a dream since its acquisition and import to the country. the plantar fasciitis in my left foot has kept me off running for the last two months. the extra summer work pay has fizzled to goodness knows where. and all the safe driving in the world couldn't stop the utter destruction of the only things we invest in after the children and our overpriced educations.

now i'd be set if my homework was done, my bike was actually in my goddam house in full working order, and i had more than a hundred bucks to go on till the next paycheque. i'd be set if i got up in the morning and didn't have to take off the night brace that keeps my plantar fasciitis at bay. i'd be set if all the photography i do could actually be downloaded onto a computer that doesn't crash or run out of memory at the mere mention of an additional 3-MB file.

i don't mean to whine. of course, it's the easiest thing to do and write about, as happiness is too busy being enjoyed to be yearned for. it's just that these days, all the simple goals, simply achieved, have dissolved into dissatisfaction. it's time to achieve something else.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


i've been a bit of a hypocrite.

back in my younger days, having so much energy and anger-driven optimism, i took it upon myself to be exemplary. i was exhausted all the time, because i was doing so much, all the time, that i collapsed at the end of every day, utterly spent, and authentically beat. i woke up each morning to do it all over again, with slightly renewed fervor, and i never expected to stop, really, or at least, not until i was old and retired. i couldn't wait to retire.

all day, i spend the best of me with the youth, hoping for them and encouraging them and judging them and encouraging them some more. then i come home and spend the rest of me with my own young ones, loving them and encouraging them and hoping for them to be better than i ever will be. but i've been faking a bit these days. i've been dormant. i've been answering greetings with, 'fine thanks, you?' i've not been saying the whole truth. i've been lying.

in my day, i tell people what to do. and more than ever, it has become outright hypocrisy. i demand excellence in this format or that, but i do not put forth the greatest effort i can to be excellent. i speak highly of loving so hard it hurts, but i can't remember the last date i went on, or how exactly a dinner can be romantic. i talk about running fast, while i sleep with a night splint and a case of plantar fasciitis to beat the band. all this, and i can hardly come up with ideas for photo shoots, or grammatical examples for lessons on grammar, or other ways to write good.

hopefully, it's all just a case of the blahs. it's a case of not riding enough. it's a case of the house getting cold and winter-like and drafty again. maybe it's a case of going dormant before coming out again, swinging and sweating, in some kind of raging creativity. whatever it is, i hope the fog clears soon, and gives way to either sunshine or snow. something must precipitate.

Monday, October 10, 2011

32 spokes.

from the waning golden light on the back porch amid hopeful mosquitoes and the smell of liquid cement and acetone and rags, i looked long and hard at the rim, and committed. standing shirtless in white socks and birkenstocks and running shorts, i quietly refuse all logic and dive, headlong as usual, into something more mythical than practical. this is usually the way it goes.

and, as usual, the doubter calls out from the kitchen, checking my progress, laughing at my foolishness, hoping i don't glue myself to a stretcher.

i'm starting tubulars.

tubulars are tires from the days of yore, the earliest pneumatic tire design, and they are fussy. like wine, they are as much about tradition as they are about science. there is heated and endless debate about process and result. they have pros and cons and no one can agree on which ones are true. people swear by them. people get injured by them. people fix them. people flat them. people win on them. there's a tube sewn inside a casing with a tire laminated to the top. it's like a football on a bicycle wheel. it's supposed to stay there via chemical adhesive bond. glue. i'm going to rail 20mph turns on contact cement.

of course, i poured more wine. i had already finished a beer. this is a meditative process.

many hours and glue layers later, i was still in my funny outfit, though i had added an apron, now in the kitchen, on the counter, adding more glue. i was being careful not to miss a spot. i was wrestling with the one major flaw that will screw up any tubular tire glue job: impatience. i wanted to get another coat on the tire. mount the tire tonight. align it in the rim bed and let it seat and bond for the next couple of days. inflate it and enjoy the most phenomenal road riding tire system ever. but i don't have a bike. and the work week starts tomorrow. and we are out of wine.

so i was in the kitchen, gluing, and my lady friend, the doubter, responding to my question as to whether her ironman-triathlete-friend rode tubulars, stated matter-of-factly: no one rides tubulars.

thankfully, i am no one.

furthermore, i asked, somewhat dejectedly, why she always has to doubt the things i do. she said that she doesn't doubt, i just like to do complicated things and she doesn't have time for complicated things; she has enough complicated things going on otherwise. that got me to thinking. of course, complicated things are what get me excited. i like to figure things out. i like to fix and refurbish things. i like to pursue mythical things and steep myself in them. i like to love and make art and write (bad) poetry and take pictures and express and learn about stuff and understand systems so that i can adjust them. i like to have to glue my tires on. i thought, further, about complicated things. i wondered if i was a complicated thing. i wondered if my life was too simple, so i sought out complication in hopes of retaining some kind of validity. i don't think so. i don't think i have time for that. i think the things that i do that are complicated are done in simple ways, to the best of my ability. i think beauty is a complicated thing, and i think i've denied myself too much of it, and i'm sliding back into it, one goopy, stringy, sticky step at a time. i'm sure it'll be worth it, eventually. the first little whiles are always messy and steep.

so here's to being unnecessarily complicated, if only in the pursuit of something great. here's to sticking it out, process and result, just to see something through to the end. simple.


if i asked you to wrap your lips around
the parts of me that usually come undone
if i asked you to stem the flow
of so many deeds and oversown seeds
and all my pent up needs

would we still be on our knees?

or would we see beyond the trees and be lost in tangles
of undergrowth
and overgrowth
and exhausted metaphors for love

if i asked you to wrap your lips around
the parts of me
that always come undone
you would button me
fasten me
stem the flow

knees are for the things
we repent.