Sunday, December 30, 2012


the snow gave way to pavement, eventually, just like we all do, melting or sublimating into the shiniest thing we can show, sometimes blinding, to passersby and other folks yearning to be elsewhere. we drove for hours and hours and hours, and all this, to get home after only six days away. inevitably, we arrived in a flurry of disappointment and chaos, the renderings of an ending. this ain't no happy new year. not yet.

this holiday season was one of those that brings me immediately to a list for the next one: How to Fix All the Things That Sucked About the Holidays Last Time. there weren't a ton of things that sucked, really, but it seems that the holidays happened without enough buildup, with very little spirit, and it all just passed by without enough notice or pause or momentum or panache. so here i sit, still sitting as i have for so many of the past six days, yearning instead of doing, planning to improve, improving my plans, sixteen steps to a better me. one step would be to get up and go and not worry about who can keep up or who wants to stay. another might be to hug my mom more; we had great chats but not enough of them. i might continue with the imbibing and staying up late, if for no other reason than the opportunity to sit next to those i love and just be there. i will run more, a lot more, even if it is cold enough to freeze the snot inside my nose, while it's still inside my nose. and i'll take a lot more pictures; things look better 1/125th at a time, and i can focus better through a pentaprism. and there must always be a fire, and a slackline, and enough time doing enough things in the cold to get sweat frost on my hat.

back in the big, dirty city where no one gives a fuck and there's enough concrete to keep everyone's mood to themselves, we have a dishwasher that might work and a four-year-old who has already puked her holiday all over the dining room table. we have clean laundry, a seven-year-old who is perfect, and a freezer full of bread products whose consumption will inevitably fall to me. there are tires to be changed, bikes to be put to action, and enough bailey's to get through any project hot or cold. merry christmas. and happy new year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


i don't know what it is about december, but sometimes, people are horrible.

i got home from work on friday and had had a fine ride, had picked up the girls, was getting changed to head to my sister's, and made the unfortunate move of checking up on some stuff online. splashed across the news page was another tragedy, but this one hurt more than many: twenty children had just been killed, on purpose, without a reason.

there are so many things wrong with killing children that there is really no unblurred location for the raging reasoning to start. i don't care if you are mentally ill or suffering from anything physical or mental or social or spiritual; you have no right to take the life of a child. having children of my own, and having grown up in two different cultures of varying gun/violence-centricity, i hate the headlines about this news. i hate that this is news that we have. i hate that anyone, on a whim, shattered so many people at once.

some of the things i have been hearing/reading other people say include making sure to not remember the name of the murderer. some people say we should only remember the children. some people say remembering will never be enough, and perhaps too much.

whatever the case, i cried when the president cried. i don't know how to bring up the topic to my girls. i can't even imagine having to not come home with my girls. i have to hope harder for the future.

guns suck.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

hilly 1

because we had been so far and so wet and so cold for so long, we took some solace in the red glow of the last obstacle between ourselves and completion: it looked warm.

we had talked ourselves to and through this last little point, the point where we would be confronted with the fact that it was over, and we had succeeded, and there must be something next because the ache in the legs will never appease the ache in the heart. so we pedaled forward, wondering about the last few meters of the rise, about the cop in front of whom we almost ran this stupid red light, about how in the hell we willed ourselves through the last two hundred and forty kilometers. it would, of course, be a sprint finish.


tumbling down the pseudo-smooth highway from the highest point in southern ontario, it never occurred to me that i was flirting with the edge between sanity and something else. i was screaming at myself in the hopes that vocal volume alone would generate some much-needed heat beneath my layers. i was repeating phrases like 'nice and warm nice and warm nice and warm nice and warm'. my teeth were chattering. i could not brake because my fingers would not bend. i was stuck, as it were, in the highest gear i had and i was hammering my pedals into it for all i was worth. my tires sprayed road grime up my back and into intimate areas that had long since gone numb. i was blind with the abrasive impact of infinite rain drops that felt like a sand storm on the parts of my face i could still feel. my legs went round and round and round. my words did the same. nice and warm and nice and warm and nice and warm and dry and dry and dry and nice and warm and nice and warm and dry and dry and dry. i couldn't wait for the next ascent. i couldn't wait for the next instance of warmth, no matter how much my thighs screamed for rest, the rest of me screamed for heat. we needed a hill, and here we were, screaming down the biggest hill in southern ontario, trying to not fall off the edge altogether. scary things are afoot when we start talking about our body parts as individual entities.


jada said, months later, that she had gone out in the car on that dismal day to look for us. no real plan or map or route, just an idea and a general profundity of love that would likely guide her to us. she mentioned that it warmed her heart to see so many riders on that scrap of land we were lucky to call home once upon a time. i responded that if she saw riders, she would never have seen us.

we saw riders at the first rest stop, and again at the turn that they all missed to cut their ride short by some miles. there is something torturous about knowing just where you are, just where a warm home and hot chocolate could be, and how many miles, vertical and surface, have to be ridden in between. ignorance would have been bliss. i hadn't studied the route map for that very reason. then i had decided to take some ownership of it and make sure that i would know the turns and the order and all that other crap that ends up hurting my brain after my legs have spent all of its oxygen. as luck would have it, i should have kept to myself and remained in ignorant bliss. for i made the correct turns, knew exactly where i was, and always had too far to go, re-learning every vertical inch one pedal push at a time.


outside of kaszuby the road regresses to its original garbage state, more pothole and patch than pavement of some kind. hopefield is a rugged and beautiful ridge that shoulders up to other high points and eventually foymount, and its inhabitants are varied and few. outside of a modest brick home whose aesthetics leaned more towards military practicality than soaring architectural ideals, i was powering up a hill, optimistic about my chances of keeping up, cautious about using my reserves to climb too fast too soon. i need not have worried. as i drew abreast to the upper limit of the hill, and parallel to the pragmatically gravelly driveway, i felt something begin to ease, and i noticed the sickening hiss of a tube gone flat. this was to be the first of two catastrophic punctures of the day, the first of only two CO2 cartridges, the first of three oversized tubes carried, and the last time i would feel confident.


Sunday, October 28, 2012


it was a rainy day after so many of the same when he sat down and i got up and he was in that chair that his mother had given to us and the children that used to sleep in it after a good feed now bounced around his knees in capes and costumes that could never disguise the truth: he has colon cancer.

i have a pretty good imagination but i cannot imagine the cold, sinking feeling that must come with a diagnosis that contains the word 'cancer'. most of mine include mere mentions of things like 'cortisone' or 'sterol' or 'bronchiodialator', to say nothing of any disease other than that breathing hassle that bothers me when i do the thing that gave it to me. i stood up and came upstairs to stare at cycling goods i could not afford on a forum classifieds section populated by affluent cyclists and starving artists alike. i went back downstairs and did the dishes, just a few steps away, and there was not enough air in the room or soap in the sink. sometimes everything feels like this: just sickeningly grossly inadequate.

it's been raining for weeks here. the forecast bears more of the same for the remainder of its foreseeable future. i didn't want to ride today or yesterday. i don't feel like suiting up to run again in so may droplets and so much wind and so many things against me when everything else is already stacked. and then he sat down and told us these things, casually optimistic. words like 'prognosis' are nauseating. 'biopsy' offers no comfort. and 'protocol' is a process too clean to be undertaken by a human. we haven't cried yet. i don't know what to do to support. there must be a cancer patient's family support how-to manual somewhere. somewhere. somewhere to begin. these are the inevitabilities that sound a long way off, and then breeze to an awful stop right in front of us, brakes squealing, tires shredding, teeth gritted, the stop soon enough, or not.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Caroline had a way of hunching her shoulders to convey humility, authentic or otherwise. Well-proportioned and unpretty, she had learned the importance of suggestion without follow through, and the magnetism of her breasts over her gaze. She shifted conversations from their origins below her neckline and concluded them with a flourish of unassuming vocabulary and above-average insight. She was a prize fighter in the cafe boundaries. She always won.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

when the difference between life and death became as fine as a flicker, we knew we had become men. and when life and death reversed themselves on the shelves of our yearning, when we ran to the dark, away from the searing light, we knew that never again would we, men, be.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

kars road.

we had been driving that way for a while: her, restless, me, uneasy, the children, relatively oblivious and on the lookout for grazing bovines. as i am wont to do on these long drags between our parents' houses and our own home, i had asked some kind of stupid question. sometimes it's to spark conversation. sometimes it's to cause shit. sometimes it's because i really want to know and don't know any other way of discerning and i also want her to know and i can't bear to tell her outright.

so i asked a question.

"what do you think about when you're riding?"

of course, there was too much to say, and her knee-jerk response was, "nothing."

also of course, i had hoped for much in her response, and to be part of that much, and to be much a part of what she thinks about, ever, maybe even while she's doing what she loves most. instead, i was part of nothing, or of all the things that would be cleanly removed from her thoughts while she went out there and tore the legs off of men twice her size.

the car tires hummed along. i switched my thoughts to some rare traffic movement ahead of us. the children yawned. i was glad to be wearing sunglasses that reflected back the world and would not bely the truth of panic in my eyes. nothing? eventually, she collected enough of something to revisit the subject and started a litany of her typical on-bike thoughts. i don't really remember the list; i was just glad to hear that she had one, that she could tell me what it was, that i wasn't on it. i know, i wanted to be on it, but the more she listed the less i wanted to be part of it. i wanted to be an annexed idea, something saved for full attention, for dreaming, for something less mundane than cadence and nutrition in gel format.

in turn, she eventually asked me what i thought about on the ride. my inevitable answer, the one in the question i posed to her, was, "you." and it was true. i had spent six and a half hours in the saddle two days before the drive, and most of what i thought about was trying to make her proud. i wanted to live up to her, to meet or exceed some kind of expectations she might have for me. i wanted to ride hard, like she always told me to before i left. somewhere after a flat and four substantial gravel sections and about twenty-five kilometers of cracked pavement, i started riding for me, or all of us, and it hurt more and went better.

i am not a great rider. in fact, much of my recent time on a road bicycle has been spent figuring that out, learning it acutely, and finding every possible glaring or insidious flaw, one chain link, shift, or pedal stroke at a time. you would not believe how tedious this can be, grinding against the inevitability of physics, on a broken road covered with sand, somewhere west of the highest elevation point in southern ontario. there was no greatness there.

and there was no greatness on the flat land stretching from ottawa to the saint lawrence seaway. there were long miles and deep cracks. there was gravel and smushed sandwiches. there was sweat and streaks of salt and remnants of energy-promising gel. so i thought about things that were great. i thought about the fact that i was riding. i may not be good at it, but i can do it. i thought about my children, whom i missed, who would be spoiled rotten by their grandparents, who would know that riding is important and suffering is too. i thought about my lady, how far ahead she would have been on the ride, if i could have caught her in the gravel sections, whether i'll ever ride well enough to live up to her. i decided that i would likely not, but i could love riding well enough, love her and our children well enough, to exceed any expectations. so i smiled to myself and pushed on, looking forward to that snickers melting in my back pocket, wondering what was after this broken stretch of road.

Friday, August 24, 2012


in the summer of 1997, i moved to virginia to work for a landscaping company. the heat was sweltering, the ground-level ozone at an all-time high, and i was working for six dollars an hour, averaging 14-hour days. as usual, i was in for a hard-ass learning experience, and my one big saving grace was my family.

my family dropped me off on a humid june night, just a day after my last high exam. i watched with a heavy heart as the tail lights of the beat-up suburban faded into the dark, and i was left with two people i didn't really know and a summerful of the hardest work i hadn't yet done.

i would come to grow up in that house, living with my boss and his beautiful, pregnant wife, fighting it out in their newlywed year, making a business take and grow, tolerating the heat, and me, and that endless seeping humidity.

about an hour and a half away, somewhere up the 270 corridor, my uncle was hashing out his life with his young family. he had been my favorite uncle growing up. we had spent summers together. he taught me how to draw and he gave me my first road bike frameset, a glorious fat-tubed cannondale with red paint and a steel fork and enough acceleration to kill a horse. every weekend, my uncle would pick me up, and take me to the washington d.c. area to be around the rest of my cousins and aunts and uncles. this saved my life.

we were sitting on the floor of my uncle tom's house one weekend, watching bits of the tour de france highlights, talking the interspersed talk of people who get interrupted by chubby children and the proceeds of dinner melee, and my uncle asked me if i had heard about lance armstrong. i told him i had, that i had seen his picture on the cover of bicycling in the world champion's jersey, that he was barely older than i was. my uncle told me that lance had cancer.

i was floored.

this was not the first time i had heard of cancer. this was not the first time i had heard of cancer affecting someone i knew of, or even knew. this was the first time i had heard of cancer affecting someone so young, someone who did the same thing i did, on two wheels, as much as possible.

obviously, i didn't know lance. he is just a bit older than i. he was the most naturally talented adolescent athlete america had seen since greg lemond. maybe the most talented because he could do so many sports so well. i happened to ride bikes, slowly, and had grown up with the names merckx and lemond. lance was new and brash and interesting, but not a classic, not yet. and then he was diagnosed with cancer. i remember feeling a sense of despair at the time, a vague sense, at the way that a lot of stars seemed to hold a great deal of promise, and then have that potential taken away by one force or another. AIDS. Cancer. things that shouldn't happen to anyone. (and i only really knew a little bit about the privileged developed-world people to whom these things were happening, to say nothing of the rest of the world and its large-scale tragedy.) people were dying.

lance didn't die. in fact, he went on to become the most successful cyclist ever to come from america. he raced hard, and dominated the field, in a charismatic and flashy and exciting way, in the dirtiest years of a doped-up sport: professional cycling in the 1990s and 2000s. blood doping. EPO. dirty doctors and webs of lies and covered up controls and bags of blood. HGH. everything everywhere, race horses and 'trainers', careening through the dark. the rest of us cheered in ignorance, adopted or true. and on top of it all, on top of the world, lance armstrong took his handsome face to the primetime view and told us all that he was doing it clean.

just yesterday, news broke that lance was giving up his handsome face fight, that he is done with the courts and allegations and legal proceedings and WADA and USADA and tygart and non-believers. i figure he probably doped. i was never there when it happened so i don't know for sure. i figure there were once dinosaurs. i wasn't there when it happened so i don't know for sure. and i haven't built my cycling passion on armstrong and his charisma. this is important, because armstrong was a huge kick in the ass to the sport of cycling in north america. i know people who started riding because they saw him do it, and do it with the panache and boldness unique to american pride. armstrong was not subtle. he went big, american big, and he commanded the attention of millions. he had heroic qualities, he was born-again, he was a survivor of one of the most widespread diseases of our time, he shaved his legs and wore spandex, he wore oakley and nike, he rode a bike made in wisconsin. he was an all american hero, and he used this to his advantage, and to the advantage of his cancer-fight-funding foundation. he became an american celebrity, something generally unheard of for athletes not in the major leagues sports like baseball or football. for people who shave their legs and wear spandex and get things thrown at them from the windows of passing pick-ups while they practice the sport they love, the celebrity and machismo of armstrong was a bit of a beacon. and now, here we are, faced with the fall of the hero.

lance didn't get me into cycling. my dad did. and then my uncle gave me his hand-me-down kit. and that beautiful red cannondale. and my dad built it while i worked for it, hour for hour, him inside stringing cables and housings, me outside catching rough-cut lumber off a portable saw mill. i built my first wheels for that red cannondale, and they're still rolling today, almost 20 years later. i learned to wrench bikes from my dad. our first christmas in canada, my dad got up with us at 5 in the morning and set to work unboxing and assembling four brand-new bicycles i'm almost positive he and my mom could not remotely afford. i will never forget his blue coffee mug, the stubble on his chin, under the profound smile that only comes from giving someone a bicycle.

it sucks that lance probably doped. it sucks that everyone in the peloton at the time was probably doping. it sucks that positives must exist among negatives in order to be positive. but i know that my children want to ride like their mama, like emily batty, like clara hughes. they want to ride the ride for heart and the tour for kids, because the money they 'get' goes to people who need it. and i want to ride because i love bikes. i love remembering rides with my dad. i love riding with my girls. i love the sound of tires revolving over pavement, the wind in my ears, the feeling of sweat dripping off the end of my nose, the washing off of road grime from my shins. i love the ker-chunk of my chain dropping into a faster gear. i love leaving and arriving, each moment at a time. and none of that is tainted.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


when my cousin jake died there was nothing i could do.

jake was an exemplary young man of interesting talents and diverse pursuits. he chopped wood. he made movies. he wore his hair long and his mouth in a smile. he adored his nephews. he was formerly a talented wrestler. he could draw and sing and dance. all this to say: i didn't actually know jake. he was younger than i by a few years, but not many, and our paths crossed less frequently than with those of some other cousins. i only came to know him through his passing. and when someone is so young and full of the about-to-happen, death is not just a tragedy; it is a full-on crime.

i mention all of this because there was nothing i could do. i had no stake in the guy's life other than being a blood relative who knew him vaguely and genuinely liked him. we hadn't talked much. and i think the last time i had seen him had been with his hand in a canoe full of icewater and kegs, participating in a willpower test with my brother. i don't know who took his hand out first, but jake was the first to be taken from all of us, and for no goddam reason. jake died of heart failure two decembers ago.

when there's nothing i can do, i resort to the normal process of making something for myself to do. my brother and i fuelled up his truck, installed the snow tires at 2 in the morning in knee-deep snow at minus 20, slept for three hours, and started driving south. what the hell were we going to do? help out? with what? we got to maryland just in time for the wake, changed in the cab in the parking lot, and walked in to cry.

crying was something i could do.

i realized at some point that although i could do nothing to console a family who'd had a son stolen from them, i could feel. i could stand there, in the funeral home, and weep like a man obliterated. i could stand, in honour (and lack of seating for the honouring of such a great man), soaking the lapels of my suit. i could rage at the injustice of the death of a young man so full of possibility. i could see his simple, perfect coffin, remember the grandfather who started our whole family and seeing him in just such a coffin, and i could drip these memories hot and salty down my cheeks. i could see my family ruined. we were undone. and i felt it, bleeding from somewhere very red and very deep.

i do not believe that i did anything helpful by feeling all of this. i merely felt, and i believe this to be a valid, important thing. somewhere on the spectrum of feeling, i am on the further side of rather. i feel rather a lot. maybe it's an artistic thing. maybe i just can't help myself. i temper this tendency, daily, with a good dunk in reality, and hear my afterthoughts and should've-saids hissing away in steam clouds. regardless, i still feel quite a lot, and i think the world needs people who do this. we all, of course, need people to feel less and do more or feel lots and do lots and think and dream and all that other great stuff. but this feeling must not be let to waste. it must not be shut off. i may not drown in it either. it is important, and it must be done.

Monday, August 13, 2012


it is possible to be flat broke in the bank and utterly filthy rich in the heart. i know this, because this is where i am today.

apparently, one of the stupid habits of poor people is to know exactly how much money we have at all times. another is to spend it before the new instalment gets in. i am guilty of both of these, frequently. today, however, i had the privilege of spending hours and hours, from a little after dawn to early evening, with a wonderful child. the child is mine, of course, and it probably helps that we had the weekend away from each other so i was really in the mindset of appreciating each second with her, but she is a great kid, and our day of wonderfulness dwarfed any debt i have.

i was walking from the kitchen to the front closet, glancing at the wall of bikes, stepping on the worn-out hardwood cracks that will never sweep clean, and all of a sudden, i was overwhelmed with happiness. it was like christmas or my birthday or somehow something wonderful had just burst into my consciousness, and i was shining. all the moments of the day had added up, and i was struck with wonder.

there was nothing overtly special about the day. we did the morning routine. we drove downtown to collect documents and then uptown to submit them. i may even have earned a raise this summer. we ran errands at bike shops for my lady friend. we got groceries, filled the pool, and went for a ride. she asked me, with her toothless lisp, if i was going to wear bike clothes for the ride. i could tell by the question and tone that my answer would dictate whether she would wear bike clothes for the ride. we had been planning this ride since this morning. i figured she really wanted occasion to wear her bike clothes. we agreed to wear bike clothes. we rode almost 20k. she ate a bar and finished two bottles. she rode singletrack and ruts and gravel and paved path. she lifted her bike, the heaviest one in the house, over obstacles and gaps and kept riding. she smiled the entire time. and so did i. i rarely come back from a ride sore in the face, but i had smiled so much and so intensely and for so long, that my mouth hurt from the exertion. that's what happens when you set out to just ride with the world's greatest 7 year old. we came home and changed and she ate an egg that i boiled for her and we picked up her sister and i made dinner. we vacuumed the car. we set the table. nothing special.

now the children are fast asleep, dreaming about magic wands and railing turns on their bikes, and i am dreaming, right here in my chair, amazed at the immediacy of things come true.

Monday, July 30, 2012


the moratorium on writing is now over.

for clarification, the coffee has been consumed, the nap looms on the horizon, both children are well taken care of, elsewhere, and it's been a month since my last post: july was busy. i knew that july would be absolute hell, and full of writing more scholarly than what is to occur here, so i resigned myself to writing entirely for class, and not at all for this blog. unfortunately, that means that i have a lack of creative juice running over these keys, and an habitual itch to capitalize things.

i learned a lot in july.

there is something about going back to the role of student in classroom subject to others and their learning and teaching styles that brings back all the notions and prejudices and uncomfortable recollections of the last time i was a student in a classroom. thankfully, these things are now mixed with a heavy dose of coarsely chopped perspective and teaching experience, and nuggets of genius have been folded in gently. there will always be more to know, and learning is more fun than knowing. it's also harder, significantly more taxing, and not as immediately beneficial.

regardless, i learned a lot, and now i know a little more, and this is pretty exciting. i learned that i can be a student again, and that i'm not as bad at it as i was in undergrad. i learned that i know some things that are important and valuable to people other than myself. i learned that i'm terrible at giving critiques, which used to be a strong point for my art endeavors. i learned that all those prints look better when i collage them, and that cedar is a tough ground to glue to. i learned that postmodernism is the loose term for what i think about education, that, if nothing else, it helps to define a bit of the crisis of the system right now. i remembered that much of this only applies in my head, as i grasp things, and not in the world where rich people are still rich and it's hard to be one if you're not born that way. some systems and metanarratives will not dissolve as easily as education or religion or the Truth. i learned that i still have something to say, and much to do, and it's important.

i also raced a bunch in july, and there was learning there too. second overall in the duathlon. a good hard finish for my leg of sinister seven. i can run much better than i can ride. and, if i put my mind to it, an impossible thing can really become possible. and sometimes, we need to borrow before we can pay everything back in full.

welcome to the first day of summer.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


we undulated, and the wind whipped out and curled back in around us like a tongue ready to soothe us toward inevitable devouring, pushing and pulling use toward fangs and black gums and a throat that led to absolution. it was neither tailwind nor headwind or belgian crosswind laced with sleet and that farm smell that is at once haltingly fresh, and historically stale: it was wind, and it was going to win.


i heard his footsteps so delicately placing the pavement behind him, as if selected carefully before executed, as i plodded foolishly to my demise, and the hill began to rise. he had a close-cropped beard, round glasses, a bandana round his forehead, and sweat pouring down his bare torso into the dark-stained waistband of his blue running shorts. i knew this without looking behind me. i knew also, from listening, that he was suffering as i was, though it wasn't his feet, rather, it was his breathing. we were going to do it, then, we were pitted. it was lap four of seven, no reason to race, or to cede an inch, so we drove forward, each to his doom.


i knew that i would win. this is a bold statement from someone who never wins anything, but this wasn't really winning anything, so i knew i would do it.

i led to the beginning of the false flat. he waited. i led to the beginning of the last kick of the hill. he came round. i let him get a few strides on me, maybe three at most, and then i decided that i would kill myself reeling him back in. step for step, i suffered, sweat and snot streaming down my face, shoes pounding audibly into the hill in that funny kick-step way, just on the balls of the feet, never there long enough for more than a temporary purchase of traction. i came round. we ran even for three, maybe four more strides. then i pushed. he faded. i pushed again to come clear, he huffed his resignation, and i went.

there's something exhilarating about departure. as soon as those perfect striding footsteps faded into the background, my beleaguered cadence lit up. i attacked. it was only a few more lengths to the top of the hill, to the metal post with fading yellow paint, to the cloud of smoke rising from the tourist on the bench, but it seemed to take forever. i had become time. at the speed of light, time ceases to exist. legs churning, muscles dissolving, the finish line impeccably preserved, i approached, but never gained. it was yearning, perpetual.


we sweated back down the slope in our 'easy' gaits, each plotting the next one's death, a perfect murder amid pines and race flats. he sweated and jogged, coughing now and again with the remnants of a near-death exertion. some spit or sweat landed on my face. i lapped at it, unconsciously, eating the heart of mine enemy, ingesting the meat of an animal that is fast, taking in the flavor of victory. i had broken him. and i was still running.

Monday, June 25, 2012

mortal coil.

he was the only one trackstanding, in a blue jersey on a blue bike that looked like it wouldn't be able to handle the size of his calves and he was making all that hulking power look graceful and stationary.

i would end up memorizing the number of rectangles on his back (7) over the next hundred kilometers, straining to keep up, even in his slipstream, and imagining the cries from the carbon stays when he stood up, and really went hard. he was a mountain biker, a cross racer, a roadie with unprecedented handling skills and fluid movement. he educated me about the roadie snobbery - it's safety/trust-based because the risks are exponentially higher on pavement, in groups. he looked like the bike was an extension of himself; he was poised, like a guitar in the monstrous hands of a man who looked more like a boxer, or a bricklayer. the bike was strung and tuned, humming, suspended from his physicality, a delicate instrument cradled by immense power, skill ready to unfold.

i turned down the invitation to the sunday group ride i suffered through last weekend to embark on this saturday group ride that i had at least suffered through a few times before. composition of the group usually dictates the nature of the ride, and i've only just begun to figure out whose attendance will spell my disastrous undoing, and to whom i must dedicate myself to hanging on. i had never met the man in the blue jersey before. he was easygoing, ready to grin, too strong for his flimsy-looking bike, and he could trackstand. must be a mountain biker. we spun out easy onto lakeshore heading west, and were told at a light to ease off the pace as it was too much for a warm-up. i'll blame it on him, of course.

as we headed into mississauga, the pace was great, the draft was fine, and i did some pulls. it was going to be a great ride. i even kinda knew where we were going. we set up for a hard paceline on mississauga road. we dropped and got dropped and caught back on and it was not the devastating 'i'm f&*$ed' situation of last weekend. i could hang. i wasn't the worst off in the group. i had an extra bottle in my jersey.

somehow, there cannot be a weekend group ride where i avoid getting dropped.

my favorite spot, it would seem, is somewhere where the wind picks up, the stretches are long and lonely, and the air is clear enough to see just how far ahead 'unreachable' really is. this is the airport loop. sandwiched between highway and runway, the noise is not distracting enough, with the wind, to truly detract from the suffering at hand. and somehow, i got pegged with the 'fastest' group. damn it. so there i was, staring at those rectangles, mesmerized by those calves, trying desperately to hang on, to pull through, to take my turn. i did. then i got dropped. then i clawed my way back, up a hill and into the wind, then we dropped the third guy. then i sat up for him. then i clawed back to the blue jersey. then i let him go. i was shuffled off like a mortal coil, he churned away into the wind, and i finished the chase in absolute no mans land. it was glorious.

although getting dropped seems to have become a certain theme in my group ride attendance, i would admit that it is fantastic. i've learned how to chase, and in chasing, have become a much faster rider than i would be on a solo ride. and there's always a benchmark, a goal: to get dropped later in the next ride, and, eventually, not at all.

and the best part about following that blue jersey everywhere: he was gracious. all he ever said was 'nice!' when i pulled through, or, 'you caught back on! wicked job!', or 'great ride, man'. he didn't rip me apart for dragging down his pursuit team. he didn't offer pointers or tell me to get the hell off his wheel (that i'd been sucking since we started) and man up to a pull. he even let me attack up a hill and then came around after we crested, enough to make it a contest, but not enough to lord his power over my measly attempts. i never ride with people. and i can't wait to go again.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


i want you to have a great time tomorrow. i want you to ride hard. seriously...

she told me these things as i prepped all my things and i tried to remember everything and the last thing i wanted to think about was how hard i had to ride. but that's the way it is with a partnership, a family, a dream: you own up to it, and you don't screw around.

so i got everything ready. aired the tires, filled the bottles, set out the kit, organized the food. then i went to bed, to chew the inside of my cheek and unconsciously panic about everything that's going on these days. it's a hard june.

i got up at 5 and putzed around, waiting for my body to wake up and the espresso to creme. i ate a little and drank a lot and went to the bathroom a bunch. i put on my kit. i put on chamois cream. i put on some embro so that my calves wouldn't lock up too readily after my 12k run yesterday. i drank some more. i drank the espresso and ate a clif bar and had another drink and left.

everything was in my head and most of it was positive as i set out to the meeting place, some 26 minutes away. i rode the shit that is bloor street, abetted by the pre-dawn glow that lent everything a softer, more ponderous pose. i avoided some potholes and hit others. i spun easy, hoping to lap up every second of this warm-up pace, before i'd be hoping to hang on for dear life, or at least a satisfactory end to it.

we met at the coffee shop and it wasn't open. we left when everyone got there and names were exchanged. mikel, of velominati fame, was the one who'd invited me on this adventure, and i was hoping to not let him down. i knew he was a stronger rider and that it would really hurt if there were just the two of us, but then a whole group showed up and they seemed alright and friendly enough and only two guys were on carbon wheels. it might have been a fine morning.

we spun easy out of the city, gliding quickly through what will soon be the tail end of my new commute, chatting in a double paceline, interrupting ourselves every now and again to call out 'clear' or 'right'. it was that flow that makes bicycling cycling. as we got out into the suburbs and then the county roads, the pace picked up. i recognized some of where we were, but i kept most of my attention on holding my line, not dropping the pace, and generally trying to find a draft. problem was, i was in a group of extremely different riders, and they were riding, and racing. my draft was not mine; i would have to fight for it. and it was a crosswind, so someone would be the ticket puncher. the wind drifted across my nose at a gainly clip and i wished for a smaller cross section, a bigger rider in front of me, and a little more room to the right. but i was getting edged out by that severe racer-looking guy with the audacious swiss kit. so all i could do was hang on, and get battered.

we made it around the airport, that same road of prior infamy where i ended up getting dropped and then towed by a man more than twice my age. then we headed out further and further, and the further we headed out, the more i dreaded having to take a turn on the front. i took my turn. i took turn and then turn and then one more turn, and eventually, after one hill and a couple of traffic lights, i would take the turn of my life.

we were flying. it was upwards of 50km/hr. but i didn't have the wherewithal to look down and see that at the moment; i was trying to breathe. i was trying not to overlap wheels in the tightest paceline i'd ever ridden. i was trying to make it tighter. i was trying to stay relaxed and hammer down on the pedals and keep my eyes on the road and stop hearing the lady's words in my head 'i want you to go out there and ride hard'.

it was those words, those expectant, vulgar words, that ran seething laps through my skull as i pulled through and pulled through and then popped.

we were somewhere on an overpass that had a sign that said to take the 403 east to toronto. we were far from home. i would have a long ride back by myself. the lady would not be pleased.

the group pulled a few more through and then sat up. i worked to catch back on and ride right through to the front to tell the leaders that they should just go and i'd see them later. they insisted that i sit in. they refused to drop me that far out. i said it was fine. we pedaled on. i sat in for a good long time, and even tried to pull through a bit to show them that i was cooked, but still willing to work for them as much as i could. it was no use. as soon as we hit even the smallest hill, my legs gave out and they pedaled away. i used to use hills to pedal away like that. today was different.

one good thing about getting shelled, for the second time: i had to chase my ass off.

another good thing: i found out that i could chase. i spent most of my time on mississauga road hammering myself in the drops at 37km/hr., with the singular focus of getting the group back into view. i rode past enormous houses with driveways nicer than the street. i rode past girls learning to ride so that one day, training wheels off, they could suffer like the blithering idiot blurring past them. i rode past basketball hoops never used but weathered nevertheless. i rode myself into the pavement.

i caught up at the light at lakeshore. we spun easy back into the city. we meandered. i recovered, a little.

i got home and was met with a glorious father's day breakfast. i was met with little girls with big brown eyes and bigger sunhats and beautiful, personal, rickety, humorous gifts that couldn't possibly be purchased anywhere, with anything like currency. i was home.

i had to tell the lady. i had to admit that i'd been shelled, that i bit off more than i could chew, that she would have been the better one to go out there and hammer and represent the family. after all, she's the fast one. i told mikel it was like sending out the soigneur to race with the stars. he laughed. only i knew how true it was. bill strickland has a t-shirt: "every domestique has his day". i wasn't even a domestique today. i wasn't pack fodder. i was weight. dead, stinking, sinking weight, off the back, on my steel bike and wool jersey and glasses i only put on as the sky got darker. i had a garmin to tell me just where i popped, how much i was suffering when it happened, how far we had gone. i just don't know how far i have yet to go. there is, again, much work to be done.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


there was nothing wrong with the thrust, except that it was inaccurate. if such had been used to force a sparring position, or an instrument into a surgeon’s waiting hand, a life may be taken or saved, but here, both. giorgio withdrew then, to gaze upon his glistening error: soul killed, pregnant with soul conceived. the irony would not reach him, until it was within striking distance.

katya had longed for just such a man: irreverent, lusty, and hard as the nails that crucify criminals and their heroes. here she was, then, balking at her success. breathing shallowly, her breasts trembled, rippling and white, surrounded by the secretions of afternoons and the itch of honest woven wool. she was a garment.

in order for the sun to reach the striped blanket, it fought heartily through the crusted window glass, its final passage a shadowy memory of its earlier fervor, a surrendered, broken kind of light. it was no longer a ray. nevertheless, it made a drunken path over the bedclothes, cavorting over tangled wet hair, goosebumps and blemishes, and a bold blue bolt underneath her shoulder blades.

the bolt extended to her hands. her hands extended to her fingers. her fingers barely curled in relaxation, succumbing, ultimately, to the truth of the moment: it was over.

the baby would be called jake.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

thank you to phil lee.

once upon a time, i was waiting in line at a hotdog stand, biding my time before trudging off to another dreaded biology lab.

i had bribed myself, with a hotdog i could not afford, into attendance at my bi-weekly punishment for being a science student: 3 hours of torturous biological bliss. it was horrible. i don't remember the details of these terrible times, but i remember avoiding them like the plague, and having my grades in the class decline terminally.

back in line: it was a beautiful october evening, with the sun setting and everything crisp but not yet cold, basking in golden nostalgia for the summer, about to don a toque for the fall. i was savoring another glorious drawing class in the studios of the heart of the campus. i had spent the last three hours putting charcoal to newsprint and manila paper, scraping conte contours and smearing true, absolute black into shadows only i knew the depths of. it was second year drawing, my only elective in the fall of my first year, and i was in love.

how i would fantasize in those days! i would picture myself walking along the paths of the quad, bearing the weight of my artistry in a massive black portfolio slung over one shoulder. i would dream of the victorian, jacobian, elizabethan volumes scattered across my desk. i would envision myself, twitching, pressing buttons to different floors in the library, seeing the stacks instead of the scientific journals, signing out shakespeare instead of organic chemistry for absolute idiots.

i was in the middle of just such a daydream when i recognized a classmate heading away from the cart with his own hotdog. he was actually in second year. he was dashing, charismatic, friendly, and, most importantly, a really good artist.



we made small talk, gabbed a bit about the class and our crazy but gifted prof, and what we were working on for our series due next week. i eventually got my hotdog. i looked at my watch. he asked me what my plans were for that night. being an absolute novice, i didn't recognize the invitation in the inquiry, and couldn't have wished to respond appropriately if i had, and i told him the truth: biology lab.



what are you studying?

human biology, a major. i'm going to be a doctor.

what? i thought you were in art!

no. i wish. i would love to be in art. i really hate science here.

man. you should switch.

what? no way. i can't.

yeah. well. you should. your stuff's really good.

and i don't remember much of the conversation past that because my head started to swirl and everything faded away and all i knew was this: someone, who didn't know me at all, who owed me absolutely nothing in confidence or compliment or commitment, who was hardly even a friend, and who made wicked works on paper, told me that my stuff was really good.

for someone who grew up to become someone like me, that moment was crystal. and, about a year later, it would all come to a head and i would make the big switch and paint a painting of it and rid myself of the suffering sciences forever. i was an artist. and that fact shone so truly that a stranger could see it and believe it! here was no daydream. here was no sick fantasy about having a pile of homework written in verse and iambic pentameter. here was no coaxed and forgotten cheap thrill compliment from a girl i'd rather kiss than critique my art with. here was the real potent deal.

i grew up always looking for praise. my parents tried very hard to make me non-dependent upon praise or other stimuli in the model of externalized self-esteem. this was, despite all their efforts, to no avail. maybe they wanted me to depend so little on direct praise that they almost never gave it to me, or i learned to ignore it if it did happen. maybe i internalized every struggle, triumph, and pride so that my rewards were mine, and i wouldn't mess up the tenuous balance between my sister's moods and my brother's learning disability and my mother's shift work and my father's philosophies. either way, whatever happened, i learned to keep to myself, and give absolute licence to the things i could not help but love doing. i didn't need praise if i just needed to do the thing, no matter how "well". i didn't need approval if i couldn't help myself but do it.

the hotdog started to drip grease and relish onto the web of skin between my index finger and thumb. the grease joined some of the conte and charcoal dust trapped there, and i thought a minute about primitive pigments and visions and the big Truth. it was all there. i went to the lab. i barely passed the course. i didn't become a doctor. and i'm still an artist, approved or otherwise.

Friday, June 8, 2012


silas clears his throat and breathes through his 's's and 't's and never shaves all the way and frowns to consider things but smiles readily, and often, at me and my foolery. he is smarter than i am, and this has not served him as well as he had hoped. she may not love him.

when her breasts were pushed up against him, her hands went hot and she imagined blazing searing addresses over his skin, cauterizing half-truths and full insomnia into each freckle and benign mole. he was solid, she was supple, and they would both do, for now.

kathleen turned to him with her unprecedented brown eyes and asked whether these were good feet. he, puzzled, fumbled over a mumbled response and made up for it with a quick look to water, all pollen green over too-warm blue, considering hue and saturation variations that would have been more suitable. she fell for it. so did he.

after she read the first four and a half lines of the letter, the doorbell welcomed distraction and her footsteps adopted the destination of every woman he'd ever written before: away. it was only in the fifth line, second verb, that she may have been coaxed back, that the bathrobe may have stayed white, that there would not have been that mark on the tiles under her hip.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

a scratch in the paint.

after getting my bike across the border, getting it built in a day, and riding it tentatively for a few miles, i began the process of owning it. i would say it is the process of owning because it is not a simplified, finite act. first it had to be conceptualized and then realized, step by excruciating step, and then it had to be held and ridden and experienced. this is a process.

my bike is painted in liquid pearl-finish black. when i spent my nights in darkrooms printing pictures of fleeting beauty, i printed on pearl-finish paper. i printed for tones from black black to white white, leaning more towards grit, grain, and contrast than an easy grey curve. my bike is gritty, and black, but pretty, and hard. except for the paint. the paint is not hard, or at least, not hard enough.

i had read about chipping liquid paint. i had heard that liquid isn't as durable as powder coat, but that it has a deeper tone, a more satisfying lustre. i didn't really care about either at the time; it was the only, and fastest, paint option available to me. i took it. the bike arrived. i built it.

i chipped the paint.

marking one's things with the evidence and damage of use is perhaps the final step in ownership. scratching the clear coat on my carbon fiber crank; grinding the teeth of the big ring on an unsuccessful attempt over the gate at the spit; tearing the bar tape in an overcooked corner; these are the marks that make the thing mine. i have at once ruined, and released the chains of perfection from the thing. it is tarnished, flawed, real, and, now, perfect.

after sending a tweet to @truebs notifying him of my appreciation for his writing, i got a little too excited and tweeted the link to this blog. i was absolutely elated to see a subsequent tweet of an excerpt from the blog, my blog, and the response that i have some decent writing going on here. in all honesty, i was like a kid with a shiny new bike: i had the thing, it was sitting there are perfect and liquid, and i didn't dare touch it for fear of making it real.

this is the scratch in the paint.

in all honesty, it would be a dream come true to have a writer i respect give my words a similar respect. it would be beyond my hopes to make a break in the world of writing, to get somewhere because of the way i string together vowels and consonants and imagery without device. but in getting so wrapped up, i forgot that i need to do that thing, i need to write, i need to keep looking for something gritty and grainy, and i need to print it for black blacks and white whites. the writing must go on. i may not sit idly by and be satisfied with a shoutout, a tweet.

now, we ride.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ontario Cogal: Velominati Ride Dundas

we sat at the shed in erin, talking about bikes and riding them and all that other stuff that happens between the wheels and moments and our legs and memories and right and wrong answers. i mentioned poutine as a poor fueling choice. adrian and mikel ganged up on me, insisting that such behavior is the basis for insanity. i was about to counter with the fact that i am artistic (yes, it's a condition), and that madness and genius feel pretty much the same to me; it's the audience that decides. problem was, my mouth was full of italian panini at the time, so i just smiled and chewed.

just to make sure that i didn't miss anything obvious, i typed 'cogal' into and came up with a very satisfying '0 results'. i was hoping such would be the case, as i had spent the day yesterday learning that term, memorizing it, chanting it, cursing it, and ultimately digesting it in every molecule i could still retain after 185 kilometers and 1796m of elevation gain.

a cogal is a ride.

a simple concession, to be sure, but therein lie its absolutes: beauty, truth, communion, and bare humanity. a cogal is a ride, on bicycles, among fellows committed to these two-wheeled elements, for a long, long way.

bicycle rides start out at the meeting place, or before, at the trash-talking conversation, and then at the meeting place. we watch how the others wear their caps, we note the lengths of their socks, study their angle at the urinal, and ultimately make a mental catalog of likely strengths and weaknesses, traits to be considered or discarded, who to follow when, and who to let go.

i arrived at the domestique later than planned and preferred, in keeping with my innate talent for getting lost despite every gps and printed-map auxiliary one could ask for. i was early enough to assemble my bike, find the washroom, and don my kit. i was too late to not look flustered and nervous while doing it. a girl was putting up pink balloons in honor of the last day of the giro. everyone was hoping against hope for ryder hesjedal's win. the baked goods were stacked high. the espresso was stocked. and we were set to depart exactly an hour before canada's original cycling hero, steve bauer, would enter the cafe to watch the final stage.

timing is everything.

next in the steps of the ride and the constant cataloguing of one's ridemates is the inevitable equipment appraisal. old wheels. new brake pads. dirty chains. shiny cassettes. appropriate bar tape/saddle color combinations. campy or shimano. carbon or metal. 23 or 25c. it's all there. the writing is on the wall. and one by one, we succumb to out and out classism, basing expectations on the numbers presented by the outward appearance of our possessions. there were two steel bikes, a couple of carbon bikes, and an aluminum bike or two. six of us. only two on campy. i worried that my equipment might project falsities of fitness or ability. i hoped i would live up to these.

we stood in the drizzle for a group photo, twice. i tried to relax. i hate being photographed. worse is being photographed while on a bicycle while not actually riding said bicycle. awkward hasn't enough double V's for the sentiments involved.

after brief introductions and briefer instructions, we rolled out from the cafe to begin the most epic ride of my season thus far. we took a right, almost missed the second right, then rolled far too briefly to the first climb of the day. sydenham.

my lady rides around dundas regularly, and has mentioned this hill to me, along with the side note that she climbs it in the big ring. i considered this for the first four and a half revolutions into the climb, then banished the thought as i shifted ever further up my cassette, taking no shame in the 27 tooth cog as i enjoyed the view and worked into a rhythm. the hill was over as soon as it had started, though not without repercussions: it was going to be a long day, and we were not all climbers..yet. (i am never a climber at only 3 minutes into any ride.)

much of the rest of the first few kilometers remain a blur. i kept confusing mikel and michael, as i was sure they had both introduced themselves as such but i wasn't sure that there were two of similar-sounding names. and they were both leading and trash-talking and wearing white kit. regardless, i took some photos and worried about the longevity of the new tube in my front wheel and wondered about rattlesnake, the big feature of the day.

as we cruised along the ridgeline, enjoying rollers and shouted directions, we settled into that easy, assumed conversation: we're both on bikes, so we must like each other, and as such, we must have something to talk about. among the members of the group, this was absolutely the case. there were conversations among all subjects, age groups, and depths. i remember talking about the states and the auto industry with seth; about suburban riding with will. michael fascinated me with history and psychology while adrian piped in with intermittent sound bytes. and mikel, well...we covered everything else: pink, V, and that loving feeling.

·      we did rattlesnake and no one walked though several returned to get photos of the last 100m push.
·      rattlesnake was not the only hill with switchbacks.
·      we had some gravel and lots of chipseal but no extended grange road.
·      michael successfully unloaded his jersey cargo at the shed, only to be saddled with a jersey for the return trip.
·      ryder won the giro by 16 seconds, and i told everyone as we waited for a light. we stood in the middle of the road, clapping and cheering.
·      we continued to revel in ryder's victory intermittently throughout the rest of the ride, somehow sharing in something so monumental that we were a part of it, whether we could even pronounce hesjedal or not.
·      mikel at the hill on the terra cotta course: race ya. me: yeah right. subsequently: my ass kicked as mikel rode away.
·      michael and mikel pulled all of us, most of the time.
·      never let a gap open.
·      have you seen my horse?

i posited long ago that a good ride must, at some point, be so hard as to make me want to quit the sport. i posited that alone, somewhere on a road, suffering by myself. such a conclusion would never occur on a cogal, surrounded by gentlemen and nature and the opportunity to bury oneself on an ascent, skirt one's fears on the descent, and take an honest pull every once and again. the cogal showed some of the best roads of the country and county, for terrain, challenge, surface quality and utter lack thereof. there is no pulling anyone up a hill. at 22% gradient, the truth is distilled and even if it burns when it goes down, it tastes good. and then at the top, everyone regrouped after their honest efforts, happy to have buried themselves and to be with others to tell the tale in a double paceline at 38 km/h to the next climb.

when i got back to the house and was recounting different parts of the ride to my lady, she asked what my favorite part was. i sat there, confused, and unable to come up with any single moment where i could really pin down any favoritism. then it hit me: mikel. besides the two of us having to be separated by michael for bad behavior and filthy humor, we had a tendency to ride off the front while conversing deeply about childbearing and rearing or movie quotes from the eighties. so, two favorite parts: unintentionally pulling away up a gravel road while recklessly recounting all the pros who crashed, sustained broken clavicles, and continued to race (sometimes for weeks); AND riding off the front, up a hill, into the golden part of the afternoon as it rested on the tops of green fields, singing You've Lost That Loving Feeling much too loudly for the crest of a hill more than 100km into a ride. a cogal is for the people. we happen to be on bikes, but what we are is so much more complicated than the circles we spin. there are stories there and manners and mannerisms, sweat drips and drink drips, clicking cleats and inappropriately long track stands. we are supersaturated, making our way through most days condensed and solid and stoic. only when heated by that hill or that effort or the sun or a hand on a back at just the right time do we spill forth all that molecular adhesion, coating the moment and remembering it with flavor.

my dad always told me that a good party is one where everyone gets to bring something and participate, and then leave wanting more. on sunday, we all brought something, left it all on the road, and departed wanting more. i can't wait til the next one, if only to know more, get more than a glimpse, of the people who came together to make it happen. it's always a good day for pink.

Monday, May 28, 2012


i was on a river trip once in high school, all meek ambition and a fantastical concept of my own capabilities. tanned and tired and happy and dry for the first time in 18 hours, i was contentedly sitting by the cooking fire on an unlikely island in the middle of the petawawa. a guy named jim played a crooked guitar and sang johnny cash like only a guy named jim can, on a crooked guitar in the middle of a canadian river.

my friend nick, the taller, good-looking one, full of talent and charisma and enthusiasm, had found something in the river and wanted to share it. he stood there, dripping from his life jacket onto the pine needles between his teva straps, grinning like an idiot and waiting for me to join him.

i hate being wet.

and there i was, dry and fed and halfway to bedtime, with a glistening guy demanding company. of course i said yes.

i donned my life jacket and followed him to the river to discover his treasure and there it was: no river booty or skeletal remains or even anything shiny, just a big, black rock. thing was, i couldn't see  the rock. there was a strong, liquid current coursing over the top of it, hiding it from view. nick carefully picked his way through the shallow rapids, careful not to get tied up and break an ankle, and waited for me at the ever-changing bump of water. over the noise of the current, he told me to reach down and hang on. i didn't understand, so he demonstrated, squatting in the water, gripping the invisible ledge on the invisible rock, then he extended his body downstream behind him, and it all made sense.

he was weightless.

thousands of gallons of water from millions of years of water cycles and glaciers and evolution bore down on him, filling every fissure and pressing him downstream. he held on, face down in the current, as long as he could go without air. then he turned face up, let go of one hand, and smiled, squinting up at me.

i understood.

i took my turn and gripped the rock and eased into the current and disappeared. i was gone. there was no day or night or wet or dry or air or time. there was only current. streaming and streaming against me, i knew what it must be like at the speed of light. everything stopped and everything existed all at once. there was only now. i opened my eyes and watched light invade me at warp speed, surrounded by a constant blue pressure, my two-handed anchor forgotten. i had become the present.

i don't think i ever thanked nick for that evening. we returned to camp only after we had sufficiently waterlogged ourselves and used up all the strength in our hands, holding on for dear life, and finding something so much bigger than ourselves, and knowing we belonged.

Friday, May 25, 2012

guys with guts who hammer.

we must beware the rider with a gut, bib shorts, hairy legs, and mismatched kit at the saturday group ride.

he will hammer.

i showed up to the group ride last weekend, slightly nervous but mostly just optimistic; i was out for a ride and it was all i would have to do for the next little while. the sun was shining. i was wearing sunscreen and my usual kit. my bike worked, mostly. it was going to be beautiful.

at a group ride, like a group anything, there is much sizing-up and scrutinization. the categories and criteria are varied and storied and often false. that lady with a couple extra pounds and a really expensive shop-floor bike: she will hammer you. that guy with a comfortably rambling laugh, a mop of grey hair under his small carbon helmet and a white pinarello: he used to be a time trial specialist, and he knows more about wind than you do about being winded. then there's the unassuming, awkward-looking vince vaughan lookalike with a green jersey from a bike company that didn't make the bike he's riding with hairy legs: he showed up late, he will make the air part before him and drop you before you know it. the engineer riding his 'other' aero road frame: he will drop you. the nice, scruffy, grey-haired casual rider who got second at the race you finished DFL in: he can hammer AND corner so watch it. the shop owner and provocateur of all this two-wheeled silliness: he will drop himself in a ritzy neighborhood along the way and wish the group well. this is the saturday ride. assume the worst.

i spend my life knowing that few people ever know much about me, and those who know anything probably know too much. i assume the same about others: they are so much more than the nickname they've lodged in my brain, or the association i use to remember it. damon is an engineer and rides a bike made by engineers. jonathan lives in parkdale and went to italy to meet dario and have his pegoretti made for him for the italian fondos he does each year. chris rides a cervelo and broke a shifter cable on the first ride i did with him, finishing easily with the rest of the group, in a 39-12 gear combo up every hill. i'm just a weird guy on a steel bike who started crashing their group rides weeks ago, i'm terrible in the wind, but i'm okay on the climbs, and i make awkward conversation. we don't know each other. we ride together.

that ride ended up being a hard one. i ran out of water somewhere around 70k in, which was also around the time that i got dropped on a small rise into a whipping headwind next to the airport. we had attacked. i had worked, just enough to pull through two or three times, then i spun off and popped. jonathan passed me, working solo. then graham came up, a man of more than 60 years old, pedaling smooth as you like, into a stiff headwind, humming softly to himself. as i sucked wind and bottle and thrashed my pedals while trying not to look like i was beaten, i drifted to the right and let graham go by. then i did what any ashamed, beaten, no good rider would do: i went for his wheel.

i hung on to that wheel all the way around the airport.

an old man pulling a young man like flashy tin cans behind a beat-up VW.

it turns out that jonathan never did catch the leaders. they stopped at a stop sign and waited for the rest of us, jonathan soloing in, graham pulling my sorry ass. i thanked him, throughout the rest of the ride, for the pull that saved me. he shrugged it off, said no problem, and mentioned that time trialing was once his specialty. he's twice my age, and i couldn't bridge up to him if i was paid to.

and that other guy, in the wrong jersey with hairy legs and a vince vaughan-ness about him: he was up there with chris in the breakaway, and i couldn't hang with him. his belly hung low between his bib straps, but every time he pulled in the paceline, he jumped and we broke pace. when we attacked, he pulled through and left me behind.

we often don't look like the complete stories of ourselves. our scars may or may not be a starting point. we may or may not know any good stories, or even how to tell them. we don't know who woke up where or how they got there or whether or not they go home afraid of getting hit every night. we guess. we go on hypotheses. we must be proven wrong. we must be willing to look and learn.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

let's not do the editing thing here.


i hope you don't mind
but i started reading your book
and i dog-eared some pages
that reminded me of you.

i hope you don't mind 
but i'm borrowing your car keys
to drive away from you and this and those things and that taste
that i got in my mouth
like last time.

i hope you don't mind
but i've squandered our sex life
spent my best elsewhere
and left you the scraps.

i hope you don't mind
if i beat down your love song
and hum those tunes to myself
as i ruin your day.

i hope you don't mind 
if i cut off those pretty parts
praise them and water them and frame them
separate from you.

i hope you don't mind
if i forget the rest of the words
you were always so good with them
i'm sure you won't mind.