Since 1887 When Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire, Cyclists have been more or less happy creatures. Evolution, periodic even glacial -- improved upon the same basic butyl bounce... With the Clincher wheel came the fresh thinking of a far simpler road-side repair. From World wars to World Cup racing -- humankind's ability to mend a flat mid-route has made the difference between being stranded, exposed to the elements and the enemy -- And completing one's mission. So, today we can bring a book of matches, some glue, or a 3M plaster, to make a mid-route repair. It goes without saying that flats never come in a "super convenient place and time". It is always on the hottest, driest, wettest, coldest, muddiest, buggiest, most infectious, most desolate stretch of road. With that hiss, comes the sinking feeling, in one of two ways: One is the intuition that one is working far harder, or that cornering feeling a bit 'Splashy'. The Second, comes without that slow sucking hiss -- But as an immediate surprise burst, often with a "BLAM!!". Whether one senses the splashy bounce, and squishy control, giving way, to safe deceleration; Or the dreadful rim to pavement grinding stop, what follows is damage management, followed by whatever triage your inventiveness can muster. A folded dollar as a boot..., chewing gum melded to latex, a Bad Patch resuscitated to work with pine sap, even a folded tube, can limp you homeward.
Mustering the head-space we contemplate pertinent questions: "Did I bring a spare tube", "Is my spare any good", "Is this the spare I pledged to patch when I finally got home the last miserable time I flatted"? "Do I have a Patch"? "Are my patches wet..., any good, dried out, expired"? And so we dismount uncertain about our outcome. One may have to swat Mosquitos, or fend off a wild animal or rabid cat, but this is certainly preferred to fixing a flat while being shot at, or shelled. The Bicycle has served in every war since invented, and it is a near perfect methodology when fossil fuels go dry. Is a Tubeless tyre without air a good idea? Is air necessary for my happiness?
Luckily, like fishing -- every flat comes with a story. We embellish everything, because this minor set-back stirs the soul, and sharpens the mind. Saga is far too often the locomotion of change. ...And nearly ANY Flat-tire, is preferred to pedaling on a stationary rig -- ...Of course it is.
But to whom should we credit the cushy ride of our beloved air filled doughnuts? The Patent for these "Pneu" Inventions belongs to Robert William Thomson, another Scotsman, who filed his patents in both the U.S., (1847) and in France, (1846). Thomson also invented the Fountain Pen, which changed another category most completely, untethering the writer from dipping a pen every few words. Each clever stroke of genius has saved the modern world decades of time, travel, and effort to correspond. Imagine The Bronte Sisters, or Bukowski putting pen to paper with a chisel, or a feather. Incidentally Jane Eyre was published the same year as the fountain Pen was patented. Soon, where and how deftly one could pen a novel would be eased.
Thomson's tyre consisted of a hollow belt of India-rubber inflated with air so that the wheels presented "a cushion of air to the ground, rail or track on which they run". This elastic belt of rubberised canvas was enclosed within a strong outer casing of leather which was bolted to the wheel. Thomson's "Aerial Wheels" were demonstrated in London's Regent's Park in March 1847 and were fitted to several horse-drawn carriages, thereafter, greatly improving the comfort of travel and reducing it's noise. One set of these ran for 1200 miles without sign of deterioration. (Source: Wikipedia) The Below Patent Illustration shows that most exquisite soft sponginess compressing below your carriage.
We are now barely beyond the event horizon for the next phase of innovation, which seems to be fairly infantile, considering "Tubeless", and "Airless". These technologies are not new to the automobile, but for Bikes are rather disparate if sluggish innovations struggling toward a standard. What merits do these new strategies proffer. It's fair to say that "Tubeless" technology is "not all that". In fact if you have left your home this year at all... an honest person, will admit to many irreparable punctures. A friend of mine gets a flat or destroys a wheel with each adventure. For me, I consistently stare forlorn at flatted or leaky wheels, whether mine or someone else's. By this, I mean that the sluggish advancement of any standards for airless tires, has led to many mornings demanding more time to fill, or service a tire, valve, or tube. Amongst a plethora of bikes, at any given moment, the bikes with Tubes seem to retain air, (Thank you Dunlop) whilst my Fat Bike, My 650b Gravel Knobbies, and my 28c Road hoops require air, or repair, because of Leaky Valves, Poor Tubeless tape, or expired Sealant. What is true, is that with tubes, I've generally never had as many disappointing Mornings, nor postponed outings from finding a flat, or slow leak. What forces a last minute course correction, bike swap, or delay is the reliability of compatible systems? So... are Tubeless combos "all that"? For me, they are not. An honest person will concede the same.
It merits mention that I have personally repaired more than 2500 flats, and in a single evening ride support, replaced or repaired 72 flats (this owing to a saboteur tossing tacks along the service course.)
It is not without experience nor acumen that I criticize the status quo. It is simply true that flats are not preventable, and your favorite brands are to blame for a conspicuous lack of cooperation.
Alas with all things "bike", it is true that if Dunlop's valve, were not adopted early -- cyclists would likely have as many air valves as Bottom Brackets. While innovation burns like a brush-fire, "Standards" are a unicorn mired in a sticky pudding of Latex, and glue... Cooperation is ever elusive in cycling.
While collaboration is nearly always a myth in the cycling industry, Innovation seems to be unfettered. More competition yields more creative work-arounds. Brilliance often emerges from tireless work to circumvent patent boundaries. Unlike the technology industry, cycling may suffer from far too much pride to either concede to pay a royalty, or to offer a collaborative olive branch. Exhibits abound from Chain-ring teeth, to rim profiles, spoke patterns to shift buttons.
A short list of bicycle bottom brackets follows:
PF24 (Chris King)
Specialized Alloy OSBB
BBRight (Direct Fit)
BBRight (Press Fit)
Specialized OSBB Carbon (Road)
Cannondale Asymmetric Integration (Ai)
Truvativ ISIS Overdrive
These are simply the cups and/or bearings which hold ones rotating cranks to the bike.
Why we have any flats at all, is equal parts karma, and conditions. For nearly 60 years the square taper BB spindle was perhaps the last agreed upon "standard system" used universally. This leads me to believe that if the technology can outlast the patent, then we are all happier, paying less, and enjoying more free time.
Tubeless Tyre leaks should equally be blamed upon bad karma, and adversarial brands, who cannot or will not concede that "Brand X" simply has a far better design. Instead, innovation follows stubbornness to constantly re-invent the wheel. While Punctures are rightfully blamed upon saboteurs, and the slobs who litter -- That slow hissing sound is not your tube, but every vendor conspiring to suck money from your pockets. Fitment between a tyre, and the hoop it clings to is anything but standardized, and while Mavic, and a few others work to make combinations of tyre and rim, this bicycle industry seems destined to march in distinct directions, and to different music. It should be noted that one can shod a car with new tires for less than their race bike, and it is no surprise that nearly any rim measured to match it's car tyre will run until bald without a tube nor fickle servicing. Just like when bikes used inner-tubes, I have a 1956 Schwinn with one original tire, and it seldom requires that we bond over a pump.
If you are riding A RACE DAY TIRE out for coffee and flat..., then you can take solace that this is far preferred to flatting nearly any place else. While inconvenient and not any less hazardous, the inevitable outcome is preferable to the calamity of a high-speed corner descent.
Many hope for a "Tyre Standard" (for rim and tire beads to at last match perfectly), but the best we have to offer today, are clogged valves, tight fits, and that bubbling hissing geyser of latex which is your cushy "pneu" lifestyle. One thing is certain, keeping air in your tire is fundamental for a good ride, and however you manage, it is certain that when you hop on your bike it would be swell that you didn't look down to see a splashy tire. For people with less time to fuck around with fickle systems, perhaps keeping a few inner tubes around the house is a good idea.
Hushhhh!... Can you hear that?, the silvery slow hissing hush of nothing whatsoever?
In times like these..., a silence is surreal. When it lifts, will we return to straight-talk? honesty?, bringing more people into the conversation, using plain language? Cognizant, of how unprecedented things are -- Perhaps the most irritating thing is not our collective CoVid dread, nor the outgoing fascist's half-baked insurrection, What is most irritating to me of late, is our abuse of the word "cognizant". In what context will the word "aware" not suffice? While we are at it... Can we please dispense with the term "unprecedented"?, at least through the inauguration? Everything we are witnessing today, has precedent. If you cannot find precedent for autocracy, racism, classism, and even hapless rebellion, then any compendium of white-washed 8th grade world history, should suffice. Finally, can we please dispose of the excruciating phrase, "...In times like these"? What the fuck other times did you have in mind? These are of course "times like these".
What I've learned from the recent well-precedented melee, is that we were all 'aware' (cognizant) of what was going to happen at Trump's final Tea Party. But, let's not use such fancy words around common folks, because it's precisely this "fancy smart-talk" that makes 'them' hate fancy-talking democrats. It is precisely the collective's lack of straight-talk, and not calling-out fascism, that tossed the keys to an adolescent autocrat.
The fact that it took this long for him to break Twitter's cardinal rule of "No e-vites on our platform", "...whether it be for birthdays, cross-burnings, or lynchings" Quoting Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, when interviewed about share value tanking after removing Trump, Dorsey continued ..." Our policy is plainly stated in this-here cryptic EULA agreement", "This President (a blatant narcissist sexist racist fascist homophobe), and half a billion other plain folks willingly click our EULA daily..."
As for Twitter, when the Democrats put these fans on trial in February for their loose rules and anti-trust violations, and shine a light on Social Media for complicity in the coup-party, they can say, much like Betsy De Vos, "...As soon as I noticed the party was out of control, and the dickhead was an autocrat, I left".
Alas, cosmic justice for this historic (Mr.) Precedent. And, peace for the rest of us.
But what comes next, Now?... Bedlam? Revolution?, nah... What comes next is real work, the sound of progress like a 6th grade study-hall.
Silence comes now. All conceivable oxygen stolen from a raging media fire. As the embers cool to black charcoal, grab a chunk to draw some new boundaries, and the factual history upon your cave wall.
As the lights come up, these bugs will skitter into the shadows, We'll grab a mop, and begin cleaning house. It will be quiet, for a spell. A short-lived holiday from hideous scowls, flash grenades, and tear gas.
Until their next charismatic leader leads them by the hand, lured out of the shadows... -- for now, it's quiet.
It should remain calm without: Cognizant, Unprecedented, and the phrase, 'In times like these'. Life was far simpler without such fancy talk.
A year from Now, as the new holiday emerges, to commemorate January 6th -- May I suggest, January 7th 2021, remain as ("Insurrection Observed Day"), where we celebrate the silencing of America's first true Autocrat?
Can you hear it? Nothing at all sounds perfect right about now. Soon a new warm wave will crash against this shore, This new hushed wave looks like every other, but this one will change us. Be ready for a complete easing of your tensions. Roll your shoulders back and stretch your neck up toward the sun. You will not be alone basking in this new conspicuous quiet. What's about to wash over this great country will feel like a heavy silent wave. Your most comfortable bed, a dark room in which to rest, and recover. We will repair as this gentle tide consumes us, softness and solitude washing over, our ears fill with warm white-noise, our heads become softly submerged, our hair loosely floating, lolling about to the sound of absolutely nothing at all. This, our first warm bath after a miserable unshakable flu... We will remember this hushed moment above all else most conspicuously. This, our first real holiday during the plague years. This numbness will subside gently, and we will return to the work before us. Queue some Marvin Gaye, for some quality 'alone time'.
...But for the next few days, turn off the netflix, the news, give your thumbs a break, and have a walk outside in your fairy garden, to enjoy the hush.
To be dissuaded by inclement weather is no longer a thing. This is simply because, to remain indoors for a solid year, cannot be one's destiny. Living through adversity means braving some of it's sharpest edges, and being brave really is not the point. Bragging rights do often come to those who struggle, true -- But as everyone does so now, it's not a badge of courage.
Rule Number 5: Harden the Fuck Up.
Just get your ass outside, and if you happen to stumble upon a shelled out building burnt down the evening before, or a carcass in the road eviscerated by coyotes... Then may it serve as a reminder that you have it far better than some.
Velominati state that riding outside in the cold makes you a badass. This is a stretch of course, but doing so does give you something to bitch about during and later. Those who remain silent, returning from an epic winter ride with ice beset upon their brow, edge closer to doing it for the right reasons.
Rule Number 9: If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work.
So perhaps now is the ideal time to work on your character, welcome winter, and get away from it all, if only for a few frigid hours. As they say..., "A bad day riding outside is far better than a great day on a fucking Peloton". This will serve you well when the weather breaks and your milk-toast friend with bad balance and wobbly legs drags you out hungover on a sunny Morning before 8 AM.
Rule Number 10: It never gets easier, you just go faster.As this famous quote by Greg LeMan tells us, training, climbing, and racing is hard. It stays hard. To put it another way, per Greg Henderson: “Training is like fighting with a gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.” Sur la Plaque, fucktards.4
Yeah, I'm losing my edge.
I'm losing my edge.
The kids are coming up from behind.
I'm losing my edge.
I'm losing my edge to the kids from France and from London.
But I was there.I was there in 1968.
I was there at the first Can show in Cologne.
I'm losing my edge.
I'm losing my edge to the kids whose footsteps I hear when they get on the decks.
I'm losing my edge to the Internet seekers who can tell me every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978.
I'm losing my edge.To all the kids in Tokyo and Berlin.
I'm losing my edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties.
But I'm losing my edge.
I'm losing my edge, but I was there.
I was there.
But I was there.I'm losing my edge.
I'm losing my edge.
I can hear the footsteps every night on the decks.
But I was there.
I was there in 1974 at the first Suicide practices in a loft in New York City.
I was working on the organ sounds with much patience.
I was there when Captain Beefheart started up his first band.
I told him, "Don't do it that way. You'll never make a dime."
I was there.
I was the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids.
I played it at CBGB's.
Everybody thought I was crazy.
We all know.
I was there.
I was there.
I've never been wrong.
I used to work in the record store.
I had everything before anyone.
I was there in the Paradise Garage DJ booth with Larry Levan.
I was there in Jamaica during the great sound clashes.
I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988.But I'm losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent.
And they're actually really, really nice.I'm losing my edge.
I heard you have a compilation of every good song ever done by anybody. Every great song by the Beach Boys. All the underground hits. All the Modern Lovers tracks. I heard you have a vinyl of every Niagra record on German import.
I heard that you have a white label of every seminal Detroit techno hit - 1985, '86, '87.
I heard that you have a CD compilation of every good '60s cut and another box set from the '70s.
I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real.
You want to make a Yaz record.
I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables.
I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars.
I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know.
But have you seen my records? This Heat, Pere Ubu, Outsiders, Nation of Ulysses, Mars, The Trojans, The Black Dice, Todd Terry, the Germs, Section 25, Althea and Donna, Sexual Harrassment, a-ha, Pere Ubu, Dorothy Ashby, PIL, the Fania All-Stars, the Bar-Kays, the Human League, the Normal, Lou Reed, Scott Walker, Monks, Niagra,Joy Division, Lower 48, the Association, Sun Ra,
Scientists, Royal Trux, 10cc,Eric B. and Rakim, Index, Basic Channel, Soulsonic Force ("just hit me"!), Juan Atkins, David Axelrod, Electric Prunes, Gil! Scott! Heron!, the Slits, Faust, Mantronix, Pharaoh Sanders and the Fire Engines, the Swans, the Soft Cell, the Sonics, the Sonics, the Sonics, the Sonics.
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
You don't know what you really want
All of these awesome Lyrics are the copyright of LCD SoundSystem.
It has truly been stranger than Fiction of late, and as such, science fiction and music may be two of the best releases to/for this macabre moment. Both of these medicines could be consumed in "The Man Who Fell to Earth".
So what of falling to this earth, at this moment?
I was thinking about the new term applied to Children conceived during COVID, and their auspicious birthdates coming up in September & October. I was thinking about the advantage of not knowing a world before this shit hit the fan. Being uniquely well equipped (Naive) to the boundless disappointment of generations, They won't be missing what once was, as we now all seem to lament, and wander, and wonder about the future. We now circle the drain at the feet of a mad wet naked emperor, as never before, wondering if one maligned evil man-child's ego will come to remake this word in ash and ruin like Adolph did. Will this September be remembered relatively well, as a good time just before a firestorm. This, our awkward look-back generation's self image is now reflected in pictures & papers which comprise nothing important to the new COVID Kids. As 'WE' cling to a ledge, yearning to restore our Reagan year's -- We weak ones crane our necks back for inspiration, and truth?, with blatant disregard for what's coming up ahead. As our future edges ever closer to an apparent abyss. Do we dance to some Disco Tracks, Some Synth, and even a Yaz Record, and say... Fuck -- it, it was fun, right...? The new kids will not know any better. But we will. The New Kids will know only what we tell them. And we will. And they may not care.
Will these final weeks hosting garage sales... weigh at all to the COVID Babies?, as we hide-out, holding onto fond memories, eating our final packs of smack-ramen, making clever protest signs, our fears beset upon our record collections, and memorabilia. We are betrayed only because we know better. Things were once a bit better. As we collect condiment packages, squirl-away social-welfare checks, and as we restock canned goods and ammo, can we project to know the soundtrack of the 2020 Generation. Will there be LCD Soundsystem after the revolution? These days -- Will these days be recalled as good, and solid, at all? Will that Kid born this month buy their first record in 16 years, and simply not give a shit about your war stories? ...Or will they recall their parent's waxing Reagan-esque nostalgia, of "Happy Days", The 1950's, Blatant Racism, and White Insecurity. Will the new gen only vaguely glean through re-written history this moment as significant in time?, or scoff at your lamentations, and your misplaced nostalgia? Will this moment be tangible at all as the Big War was to a generation? If THESE are/were to become "the good old days", (again), then what will the new ironic chubby iconic bands play to celebrate their lives just before tipping over that Seussian Precipice? When the sleigh begins to tilt downward upon it's boundless snowy descent down the mountain, will "Gen 2020" play this track?
If the next gen comes forth through this storm, and they rifle through my record collection, without the nostalgic baggage of Trump, COVID, and our collective of visceral loathing, will they cue the needle to this track "Losing My Edge", and revel in the same ironic lyrics, that which we celebrate as a universal fond reflection point for that 'post-peak', moment where we still felt sovereign? Now that we distinctly hear, see, and feel ourselves begin to grind down the other side -- Is this the moment where we all lose our collective edge? ...If we even had one, then yes perhaps mine has left.
Will the COVID Kids play The Cold War Kids, and ask where that name came from? Will there be ironic music when they are Teens?
Yes, I think so. "This will all blow over in time..."
Quick Question... Do I love my country enough to try to save it?, or do I move on? I recall in college reading all sorts of Beat Poets, and embracing the common mythology that where they were headed to, was some fixed place with perfect days, plenty of rest, golden sunsets, and perhaps a soul mate. I recall the Book "Elegiac Feelings American" by Gregory Corso, and I recall that it didn't impress me that much, but thematically, It swam about in the same soup of warm sand, rustic breakfasts, glamorous cigarettes, and stoic half empty bottle of whisky next to a Smith Corona. Corso did serve up a nice nod to Kerouac, He scribbled in the margins, and further complained about the American Mythology, The same American Myth that we stalk today, like a varmint rooting through our trash. He was exploring a bit about where America was bound. He was miffed that everything was not coming up roses, but did he really have the same context as we today?
The Myth that the Beats were selling was one of disobedience framed by American exceptionalism, from the perspective that success could be measured through it's poets, artists, and their suffrage, (however not too much, because well, we need enough for beer, whisky, and weed) and so surviving Beats somehow surfaced on the other side with a book deal or honorary professorship. (If the heroin doesn't kill you, you could be a regent).
Nevertheless, one could get on board with the idea that somewhere in this great land exceptional adults lived out of a shoe-box, but with enough beer, sex, and manuscripts, to feel connected, float a plane of existence where one is always engaged, entertained, and in love with something.
The trouble with leaving college is the let-down. The party ends and the music stops, and you bandy about looking for meaningful relationships that never seem to approach the deep stare of some tramp, or bum you once partied with. You deflate as you unpack all of your new things into a new larger space, with more things, nicer things, and even a bed-frame. How bad can this be? Lest we unpack being furloughed from scholasticism (college) itself, we must now leave campus, even before messing around with gender roles and re-inventing oneself. So the future gen is doomed, unless we start to hand out subversive paperbacks on the street once more.
...And that's the rub. Right there! Who the fuck are we to become, without the promise of America?
Have you read the Book "Fantasyland" by Kurt Anderson. If you answered no... Then stop right here and buy this book.
We begin building the mountain of shit post college, where exquisitely loose fitting relationships served over beans, rice, chicken wings, ramen, and perhaps a joint, washed down with some flat beer, are exchanged with and for, stuff, that makes no difference whatsoever. Stuff made from particle-board, and a Keurig no less replace your Chemex; Comfort-food, swapped in where your soul once stood, you vacate the 'YOU' from whence you were cool, where you were engaged, and sloppy, and completely imperfect, for the polished person that does not give a shit nor stand for anything. So it begins that you box up the Beat-Poets, and move into a house, (finally), and that box never emerges again, because well... design wise your weak collection of filthy paper-backs which frame perfectly who you were are aesthetically not aligned with your new shitty self. Welcome to the ice age of your Kindle Book Club. We are weened on Bullshit, paisley mythologies, and ironic facial hair, true --But the clown-car doors have come off, and we take turns driving this jalopy, until alas we need to give up the steering wheel to the next inductee. "Click Here", and then swap your squalid masonry block shelving lined with cutout LP's and used Paperbacks for hollow hallowed halls where Alexa picks your literature. It's so simple, I wonder if the devil now inks deals at the crossroads with a tablet. Inducted sans signature, once we click "agree to the terms".
Here is where you have landed, This!, and it's all rainbows and unicorns, and then
and then Ampersand, and Hashtag.
and then ....It's not!
(fingers snapping, click, click, click...)
So the thing I'm seeing is that that one interesting person that you used to be, is lusting after Douche-bag Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson for scoring citizenship to Greece. I've been to Greece... A few times, and even when they were facing the worst austerity since The two world wars, sometimes worse; But the Greeks, were not dickheads, they were not spiteful, and they were certainly not divided. And Man, I can tell you that I've never liked Tom Hanks since that stupid Shrimp Franchise. Not since "Bosom Buddies", has he held anything for me, But that fucker now has me seeking an invite... Antiparos of all places. It is magical. I now like at least what he represents now more than ever because he has accomplished the one key thing that I dream about every night. G'ingTFO
So that one fictional helmet under which the Beats, and and later Hunter Thompson roamed the west to a soundtrack of Eric Burden, Jim and Van Morrison, Mo Tucker, Lou and JC -- Is, or seemed to be that complete place where even though the adults in the room were behaving badly..., The rest of we dreamers, deadheads, yuppies, rock climbers, and their Sherpas, could find air. From Astronauts, to their spouse's casseroles, we were OK. WE, the rest of us, were gonna make it through.
The beauty of the cold war was that upon matriculation from Elementary school, One knew that tomorrow may be the end, and that sat well right next to the La Choy Chow Mein, and one drifted off to sleep to dream about Fantasy Island, Gilligan's Island or even a Greek Island such as Antiparos. Your Meal kit of conflict, and pending doom, in Cold War USA, was fictionalized enough because it was so innately possible to evaporate, that we all simply kept it frozen in that floor freezer in the basement. We just floated on. Today ... Today I don't have that childish optimism. Today I find myself like many more millions, looking for fiction to fill the void, while we endure an uncivil discourse, and a civil war.
You may recall William F Burrow's "Naked Lunch". You may recall this novel fondly and still have no real idea what his lit-up mind was fetching toward, but you will recall that from the Beats to Waites, From Springsteen to Supertramp's Breakfast in America... we all used "America" in ALL writing fondly. We always suppressed our gripes, and doodled in the margins what we'd wished the truth to be, but we always revered our republic as sound. It was seen, witnessed, and proven to be a fractured but solid America, and yet today "American" becomes a pejorative worldwide. So, as I reflect over the good ol' Days when a Thermo-Nuclear War was imminent, but we more or less agreed... -- Where today is your sentiment headed?
Scribbling in the margins, whilst stoned?
A Greek Island for sure. What now of your republic?, "If we can keep it".
For me, I see such a snowstorm of divisiveness in the USA, that I wonder if kindness, and daily sunshine can melt it, even in Mid-July.
So it brings me around to that "novel" idea again... Do you work to fix this shit?, or do you buy a boat?
The lonesome "Ampersand", which is survived by it's popular sibling the "Hashtag", (AKA The artist formerly known as "Pound") Have sliced us all up in a bit of a magic act in which we the audience secretly hope the trick backfires. The Owners of this stage show set a kind and lovely lady in a box, and begin sliding swords through the box, until what remains is a box, and well a macerated pulp of what it once was. So the trick backfires, and we cant get enough as gawkers. This Internet, News-Feed, and Celebrity Shit-show, is enough to drive one mad, but sprinkle in some hatred, a plague, and landing upon your ass squarely as the laughing stock of the developed and undeveloped world, and you now face a moral crisis.
So, do we fix this shit? Do we run up there and triage what we recall it was supposed to look like? Storm the Bastille, and perhaps die trying to resuscitate this train-wreck; Or do we simply find another place to emigrate to? Is there a patch large enough to cover the puncture in this thing? "America" which has given me so much... I think I wont get stoned tonight, Instead, I'll just sit quietly listening to that hissing sound of my country as it exhales for it's last time.
Fucking Tom Hanks.
Nostalgia has it's own gravity.
Nobody ever happens upon a wad of cash, dropped by someone else. It may of course have happened once or twice, but when this occurs it is so rare as to be nearly improbable, and hence we can just agree that stumbling upon wealth simply doesn't happen. So it goes that if you were to find some money in an awkward or obvious place, the first reaction may be a bit like discovering a baby floating down a river. Hmm... What Tha!?... Then we look about us for the hidden camera, or someone who has a twisted sense of humor. Of course there will always be the case where someone else says, "I saw that first!." and swoops in, cause hey, "Free Baby!"
In all cases this context notwithstanding, the prankster, or the poor sap who pulled something out of their pocket and dropped the wad of cash will soon discover it missing, and become upset. But "wealth" can be something else.
One time in Paris, a gypsy street hustler played the wedding ring game with my brother and I and we decided to go along with it for a moment, and once the person pointed the 14K stamp in the ring, for the second time, we simply pocketed the ring and ditched him. So whereas the scam which nearly always works on the right foreign mark, conscribes a tourist to split the money with the gypsy, we simply took the ring, and the con ended.
It is normal to be skeptical of others, and their pranks. It is desirable to have the good sense to anticipate their moves steer around the pitfall, and work the scenario forward to its logical conclusion to wiggle out of the set-up before becoming trapped in the game.
So what I'm about to say may appear to conflict with a Critical rule. Rule Number 25: The bikes on top of your car should be worth more than the car -- Or at least be relatively more expensive.
...And so You do not immediately persecute me for outlandish blaspheme, remember that this rule operatively states "Worth", more than your car. "Worth", like beauty, is value weighed by it's beholder. (this is not always a Dollar, Pound, Euro, Peso equivalence scale).
If you are lucky enough to have a bike then you are lucky enough; And if you have several bikes then you are a bit obsessed. Bearing in mind that many people agree that the correct amount of bikes one should own is 3, there is another way to look at this equation, and it is well foot-noted in The Rules.
Rule Number 12 // The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
Keeping the N+1 equation in check, is a daily struggle. Where "N" is the current 'allowable' Number of Bikes to be brought home, and "+1", the quantitative tipping-point. As an equation and a cautionary pitfall, "N+1" is well recorded in Bike lore, and is heretofore subscribed to as Rule #12 in the Velominati Rules, otherwise referred to simply as "The Rules", This equation is best also written as S-1, whereas "S" is the number of bikes owned, that would result in separation from your partner.
So it goes that we often need to thin the herd, or merely be mindful that both relationships and mental health are crucial considerations when considering such logical problems.
So, here is a great, if futile way to save 10K today.
Imagine a day in the past when lean men, with wholly unscientific diets worked in factories, making shoes, or as a plumber. The same lean citizens entered a challenge a few times a year to prove themselves to their neighbors and family. These black and white peasants climbed aboard equally thin steel diamond-shaped contraptions amidst other wiry men dodging and lunging up and down hills as if fish schooling in a pen to trick a predator.
After a lengthy but indeterminate amount of time and exhaustion, they'd each stop for a big fat lunch, sipping a few glasses of Bordeaux , before a cigar, then coffee, and then remount their ordinary single geared bikes to endure an extended afternoon of punishment amongst their peers. Over snowy passes they rode on crappy crushed gravel and piss-poor pavements sun-stroked, frost-bit and exhausted, they'd close the day after dark with a dinner similar to lunch, but perhaps with a whisky, and they'd count sheep. By the next dawn, they'd gather again and continue the ritual for the rest of the week, likely collapsing, crashing, or dropping out, but always doing their best.
Whether the winner or one of many many losers, they'd return to work as Brick-layers, Chimney-sweeps, and the like and use the same bicycles to deliver and fetch groceries, Fuel, and tools. Their bikes were unremarkable, their spirits doused, but their resolve unfettered.
"Next Year...", they would say.
Amidst a Grand Tour, Short Chase, or a Fondo, A rider reluctantly becomes one with their bike. For a short while these riders were not riding bikes to deliver firewood, coal, or feed, but they were floating above their bikes, their ordinary lives like phantoms, majestic, mock champions. Pressing into that envelope of prickly air, to stab forward. It is unclear whether the feeling of riding at this pace is otherworldly, or merely a brief disentanglement from the plane of the ordinary, but one never forgets their first experience of floating locomotion. Alas, "Coming down", as they say, is always the hardest thing. But if the next day someone were to ride that very same bike to work, or church, they will assuredly recall fondly the "Almost" moments when the race, and it's victory were within sight. For most of us, that is before the gun-shot, and we know how this typically devolves.
In the unremarkable lives of so many spectacular people who rode hard in all weather and all conditions to savor the pipe-dream of the podium, only to pedal the same bike to church the next day and reflect... It is poignant that 3 Bikes is two more than so many champions who came and went.
To be a great rider, as with a skilled Carpenter, Mason, or Smith, is to do the work well, and to maintain and respect the tools of one's trade. For this, we rejoice in the mere opportunity to have a ride, and that feeling, above the tools, where the skillset is planning pace, timing, and breath, but never the tool. The tool in the work-day of a race is independent of the craft. Once the motor winds-up one floats seemingly above the bike straining and coasting. breathing and spitting. Today will be a far better day if you bank the money for a new bike and air up some neglected friends for a spin as if for the first time. Celebrate the opportunity to ride them, wipe them down, and consider your luck. When you have another steed sitting in a cart, and you are a click away from people on the other side of the planet rushing about to dispatch it to you, consider your fortune, your time, and your collection, and if nothing else consider it's use. Considering the supply-chain shortage... if you are the fortunate person at the bloody threshold of S-1, then maybe take a pass.
We hold these truths to be self evident:
If you are lucky enough to ride a bike, then you are lucky enough. If you have 3 or more bikes, then you are surely winning, -- But if you ride none of these sexy bikes, and your legs are not broken... then -- I'm afraid you are a simply a dickhead!
My first job in a bike shop was for two pricks who didn't like bikes at all, but one inherited a store, and so it goes, that he grew to own a few branches. His near disdain for cyclists wore like a badge on a border patrol agent. He'd look you over with X-ray eyes for parasites, flaws, and weakness, before snatching your money. Fortunately he never visited the stores. He and his partner were both married to other people, but They seemed to also be romantically affiliated with each other, which made their judgement incongruous. The second bike shop I worked for was owned by a one eyed drunk who was kindhearted, and generous, but mostly a complete train-wreck. He also inherited the biz, and the family squeezed a lot of cash from it before the next changing of the guard. More on this Guy later...
So Bike shops are a strange and magical place, where every day feels like Christmas, mostly because you are always rewarding yourself with a new gift in the form of component upgrades, and infinitely aspiring toward the next glossy ride. The thing with this lusty enthusiasm, is that it does not make for good business sense, any more than the dealer who shoots-up, or a Pizzeria owner who can't get enough zah. You will end up the overzealous snake who swallows a bichon, and then can't slither out of the road. You will end up an addict... You end up with a lot of toys, and inverted cash-flow. This I suppose was the fate of many independent dealers, and so in the Late nineties, Trek Bicycle set about to coach dealers on how to be "business-people", and not just enthusiasts. They built a training program called "Eye on 2000". (ION2000) was a look forward to the millennium, and how to market, brand, and sell more shit and stop eating all of your own pizza, or Bichon's. Anyway, before the fin de' siecle, when Lance was likely learning to dope, and the way things were done in Europe, Le Mond was haggling with Trek about another partnership... In that enchanted and fictional shit-hole called Las Vegas, the world was spinning on it's perfect axis. Our restaurant was also spinning. The Inter-bike trade-show was in Vegas that year, and we sat above it all spinning atop the Stratosphere with our vendors and those who would change everything, again. Our table held several key influencers. (but back then the word 'influencer' had not yet been invented). The Key principals at Trek were the venerable Dick Burke, and his well heeled son John Burke. (they sat across from us.) Beside me were a few other big shop owners, and some fictional characters; Greg Le Mond, Lance, Keith B, Gary Fisher, Missing from this epicenter of talent was Gary Klein, (who was not yet on Trek's radar). Another Brilliant thinker and tinkerer who dined with us was Rolf Dietrich, who was exhibiting in a side flank of the Trek Booth. Rolf reinvented the wheel. At this day in time, Trek was not yet a complete corporate monster and it's patriarch dined with us holding the helm, and our attention. Before Trek 2.0. SRAM, (at the time Grip-Shift) was exhibiting in the margins of the convention center, They began with nothing more than a folding table, some print collateral, lithium grease and a dream. Being from Chicago, we spent time with them at their booth, and with several others, like stoned kids in Wonka's Workshop. If you blew-up that table, that night -- It is fair to say the cycling world would have been Way way different. Under John Burke Trek would Sue Le Mond, acquire Bontrager, Grind Fisher into a pulp, and ruin perhaps the most coveted brand in the biz, and arguably the sexiest maverick in the spray booth, Klein.
Trek inked deals with Le Mond to Build Bikes under his name, and secured the wunderkind from Texas to Keep America Great again, and again... (and to keep it squarely upon the medal table of a wholly European sport). Before Amazon, before The Dot Com Bubble, and the Y2K apocalypse, There were magical places called bike shops. Independent retailers, and not Franchises. Generally shitty business people an infectious passion for shiny toys. In those days, this seemed to be enough. Certainly before Bikes were bought from strangers over the phone, and shipped unassembled to your door, Bike Shops were rather important. At this time everything magical came from a cool crusty place with a greasy floor, bad marketing, a coffee maker, parts washer, and a gray box to write a buyers name and address in triplicate. Bike shop consolidation...seemed far off. In this Fantasy land there was a torrent of way cool innovation. Trek's affable and enthusiastic founder was about to hand the keys of his kingdom over to his posh ivy-league son John. Trek's founder Dick Burke, scored a business degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, and later worked at an appliance distributor. He was a business man, and a tinkerer like many of those who sat with us that evening. He saw a gap between Schwinn and Asia, and Like so many others who envisioned something new in a schism -- He set about to exploit that gap. We chatted it up with the intelligentsia at every Interbike show; Keith Bontrager, Gary Klein, Le Mond, Rolf, Fisher, and even Stan and FK Day, of Grip Shift. The Day Brothers saw their space for inventiveness in a simple shifter. In this spirit of invention, whether it be four-bar linkage, the press-fit bearing, or a dual cylinder thingy that indexed your derailleur -- All of these exploitations of market gaps were being filled by Americans. They were all tinkerers, inventors, and enthusiasts.
You could definitely say... These were extraordinary times.
I remember Trek's Owner Dick Burke fondly, because he was like a kind uncle full of inventive stories, always oozing with interest and ideas. He was a sponge. He asked good questions, seemed charmed, and truly engaged with people. At a trade-show, you would find him, much like Klein, Keith, or The Day brothers showing you what they'd recently come up with, and asking you what you would do to improve it. It was a name-dropper tour de force that evening. I asked Le Mond what he thought of Carbon bikes, and we digressed into the nuance of all sorts of whacky new innovations.
From a trade show folding table, to a leader in an industry -- Stale trade-show air seemed to blow new ideas up from the convention hall basement -- This wind is not the rarified air of elites & MBA's. First the idea must be born, and those ideas come from enthusiasm.
So the business would boom through the "Cross Bike", and the "Mountain Bike Boom", would flourish with crazy and useless Full Suspension Junk, The "Y" Bike, Klein's Mantra, Pong's Super V, and soo many more gears were yet to come. Specialized and Trek who first looked incredulously at Raleigh while they glued tubes of "Technium" (round aluminum) into traditional lugs to speed construction. This was soon imitated. John Tomac, would break several parts before they were near perfect but never that glued joint, and..., Then Raleigh would advance into Titanium. Trek stared, and took it all in. Sinyard listened, and re-tooled. The two giant American bike makers would covet, drool, and spurn Kestrel, Merlin & Ibis as they shaped carbon and Titanium into smooth organic forms. Later Trek and The "S" Word, would steal the profitable ideas rejecting Titanium as too tough to tool for, and they'd both begin to glue, screw, and bake bikes together at the bleeding edge of demand. But demand only comes when the product is lust-worthy. Meanwhile Klein quietly advanced toward their 20th year in Aluminum with perfect double pass welds, indestructible enamel, oozing sex.
The whole military industrial complex had recently unraveled, gutted -- it later bleed out so many mat-sci wonders, and innovative tooling, into the open I.V. of an industry ripe for such innovation. Downsized Engineers, and Literal Rocket-scientists, CNC operators, and CAD grads, made the perfect pedigree for what was about to boil. As the Cold war fizzled like a spent bottle rocket..., every type of carbon, & composite, rare metal and exotic material process was about to be homeless. Bikes, Cars, Boats and Motorcycles, seemed prime to dip their bread in that trickle-down. Specialized marketed M2 Metal Matrix, which was basically decommissioned helicopter Alloy. Cannondale looked to new engineers, while stoically sanding smooth gloppy 6061 welds in Bedford Pennsylvania. Trek & Specialized began to Glue and screw carbon to aluminum, and so it began.
Bikes, and parts were being churned out in the USA in volume like a brand new war machine.
It was awesome.
This industry was born of innovators, enthusiasts, and excitable bike junkies who could not get enough, like Tom Ritchey, Phil Wood, Race Face, Hershey, Paul, Avid, Control Tech, Ringle, and many many more. Bridgestone marketed ridiculously light steel Bikes in a whole new way, selling lifestyle in muted tones through near perfect hard-bound varnished catalogs. The world was perfect.
The Bikes were glorious, and we could now begin bad arguments with ludicrous statements like, "Steel is Real".
I like to recall fondly this torrent of cool historical sponge-cake, so we can take a break from our news-feeds -- Simply because these too, are also extraordinary times.
I remember sitting at the top of the Stratosphere in a pair of loosely fitting pants, these bad khakis were not my style. These were Extraordinary pants, with a poorly matched wrinkled button-down, Bike shop people had trouble dressing up for dinner. I suppose you could say that was the very issue Trek sought to tame; Later it would take a Franchise model to fix it. We were going to ride the rollercoaster next, around the top of the spinning restaurant; pairing up with our fellow dinner guests. I recall fondly talking to Dick Burke like he was my estranged uncle, just before he handed the keys to the chocolate factory over to his son. He told me the secret to success is listening, that ideas are not born in a vacuum, but come from people we meet every day. He Told me he was ready for something else. Dick Burke built a beautiful brand and a beautiful reputation by being a good human being. Sinyard turned tire imports, into the "S" Word, ceaselessly innovating, and SRAM came up from the basement to dominate the kit market.
Yesterday I wandered into one of my old bike shops to kick a few tires. Naturally I had to wear a mask. I was selected and ushered in to chat it up with a sales-kid, and we both noted that the place looked as if it had been looted. Empty racks, Open space like missing teeth, where bikes had once filled every conceivable slot. It was the new way. Bike shops are booming, and the supply chain is faltering. He said, "...we can't build them fast enough, and we are out of everything that's not a road bike above 5k." "It's a rough problem to have today", I said -- Meaning in this reality, Bike stores still with inventory are either doing something wrong, or they are quite lucky. But Bikes will now line the garages and Hallways of many more homes, and perhaps everyone will see them again as an indispensable way of moving forward. Sadly a Klein will no longer hang from a venerable TV set -- But perhaps the next Sit-com will feature an Allied, or an O.P.E.N. This too is an extraordinary time for Bikes, as it was in the mid to late nineties.
"Here is to our next generation of enthusiasts," Dick Burke said... -- And so I suppose, that the lovely products will lead, and good business will follow.
Can we be straight with each other? How can you be sure that you are thinking straight these days? Me I cannot. I believe that honesty with oneself is an important step, because knowing I'm "not quite right" protects me a bit against the hijacking of my healthier brain from Zombies and Space Aliens.
If you don't wear tin-foil over or beneath your helmet, and you don't yet speak to trees and rocks, you may believe that you have this new world in the bag. But do you really "Got this"? The more I interview friends, and strangers, a noteworthy reaction which I'd never noticed prior, seems to leak out a bit. We all lack hugs, and earnest smiles, and what has replaced them is caution, melancholia, a wide berth, and sympathetic gestures like those waiting for news in a Hospital, or exchanging condolences at a wake. The thing is, that if you are not yet in the hospital, nor at a funeral, could you please dispense with the long face, because it's fucking bringing me down! I know for a fact that most people these days are wasting 80 percent of their time. Maybe you need some tin foil... Cuz if this thing had a moral it would be this, “Normal” happen when you act “Normal” — When will that be for you?
Whereas previously my elderly parents were THE ONLY people to send me re-hashed internet anecdotes, silly images, and awkward signs pawned from the stale innerwebs c. 1998 -- NOW, everyone seems to quip small B.S. sundries, like they are sharing a chiclet in prison. I now get texts with dumb-shit images, and Gifs created by someone so far up on the food-chain, that I'm not even certain of the context. The issue is that this crap now comes in torrents from formerly smart people. Small comics, a 'la The New Yorker, with self inserted quotes or quips, which are meant to make them clever'er, but which simply make me look away with disgust. I've tried to play the same game sharing an article or two from a scientific or nature journal, or by sharing a story from a friend or author, but now it seems that in our global malaise pandemic, we can only read gossip, jargon, crappy gifs, and anecdotes, that amount to a shit-soup and sandwich. I do love hearing from people, and really love to be engaged, and to feel busy ascending the social ladder, but -- That ladder broke in March, and we all tumbled back down into this murky well. You pretend that you will glean some clever intel from your news-feed, , and that by sharing it you will enlighten others, but the truth is that your addiction to a quick paragraph every ten minutes is a plastic carrot in front of your fucking peloton. You are getting dumber.
In your new relationship with a global pandemic do you:
A. Feel profoundly overwhelmed?
B. Feel like you have everything completely under control?
C. Feel nothing whatsoever?
D. All of the above?
If you’ve answered “D”, then go ahead and drink that whole bottle of Pinot Grigio tonight with your pizza, because you deserve a reward for your honesty — and you are at least partly in control over these somber emotions.
If you didn't answer "D" then Go Here
We now look up from your damp silo to that bright light, sometimes eclipsing into a half-moon depending upon our slouching posture here upon the bottom. You make-believe that "we are OK", but that is far from the truth. We are not OK. We will surely be stuck here as if in a mauve laundromat, fluorescent green glow flickering over your phone waiting for wisdom and your pants which never seem to get dry. And so here we sit, reading comics, giphy junk, this dumb blog, and trash novels, hoping to feel something akin to a hug. We will stand around in this laundromat forever if we don't make an effort to walk the fuck out without our pants on. Fuck it! Nobody wears pants anymore anyway!, Just break with the low-rent coin-op dungeon, and have a walk. Whatever side of the spectrum you dwell upon doubled up with masks, and a carabiner clipped sanitizer upon your belt like a holster to inoculate you or your friends like Jesus, you must know that you have become, well... Not quite yourself lately. If you are the fucking messiah, and you could squirt a bit of that magic juice on my forehead to anoint the doldrum out of me and my friends, then do it already! I'm, so over you Mr. Preachy Pants. I have reconciled my binge drinking, and my lack of follow-up, and I have cleared my calendar to spend every waking moment of free time slumped upon the couch in a wet-hot heap, like someone squirted me into it's palm. I am OK with being in a funk, and I've resigned a few months to figuring out just how bad, it is. But what the fuck is happening to us all? Today I realized that we are all waiting for a shot in the arm. We are all clinging to the kitschy "back to normal" cliche' such that we forget to do anything whatsoever in the mean-time. The best week I had this summer arrived last week when I forgot my phone in my pants pocket and laundered them. Peace and Quiet.
Did your 86 daily glances at your news-feed reveal some wisdom today?
Did your preachy-pants friend link you to a story in which some bad actor caused you to writhe again in anxiety?
Do you believe that the end is nigh, or that "normal" will return soon?
News Flash, there is no going backward. Just because you have been thinking of yourself as somehow walking this drama backward like a locomotive backing down to latch your comfort animal, that ain't gonna happen, and it's no joke. Don't be the brunt of this joke, You will not find a magic regression therapy once you test positive for antibodies. There is no "getting back to normal", THIS is NORMAL, Own it. The moment you begin to act human again, you will inspire others to become humans again. Kindness, Pass it on.
You cannot chum around with one real person for six months or a year and five imaginary stoned friends on your couch hoping to "get back there". Your only path is forward, through this. So, dear brother, when you are completely finished sucking at the teat of Social-Security CoVid Style, and marshal the courage to stand again -- You can walk quite upright straight through the front-door of your cave, and go look for a job.
Your recovery begins, when you call your friends back, When you make a date, When you stop popping xanax, and lunesta. Yes technically "a whole bottle of wine" is too much... Think of the whole world as being in the same funk as you in your slouchy pants, and a dirty T-shirt, and now try to imagine the weight of all that comfort food. Things get back to "normal" when you act it. By the way THE Surgeon General has determined that being a slob is bad for your health, (even though he also wants to quit his shitty job and shovel sleepless cereal upon the couch at 3 AM), He has nonetheless determined that you are not making the most of your free-time, and this is bad.
Grab that tin-foil and wrap it around your smart phone, toss it in a drawer, and go outside, it's lovely out, and it's humanizing.
If you don't, then you may be better lining your helmet with shiny foil like the rest of us, and sitting on your couch until the abduction is over.
Lately it has crystallized that the "Good ol' Days", when 'Merica was great, was not so great for everyone equitably. Paper or Plastic?, VHS or COVID?, Red or White?, Ass or Crotch?, The Blue Pill or the Red Pill?, Fight or Flight?... The simplest decisions seem to rot up in my brain for several seconds now, as passers-by stare at the 'Blank-me', masked, emotionless. Like a deactivated dickhead robot, hands outstretched whilst burning sanitizer dries in the summer heat. I've frozen in place, stalled in my tracks trying to recall just what the fuck I was last doing or planning before I drew the white "Blank-Card", then the white-noise sets in upon my temples like a plush-bunny suffocating in a soft B.F. Skinner waterfall... And so today, right now I blankly stare at the cashier in front of me. I mumble (spital behind my face-mask,) a curt reply un-polite, as if the simple question took me to Mars as I gather my wits, ..."Of-fucking-course, I want a Paper bag, pfffft..!" 'who does he think prefers plastic, besides dog owners?' -- the "other me" thinks aloud; 'Do I look like I'm buying Dog Food?' ...I don't know, maybe I would if all the dogs weren't taken in April. My brain fizzles into the background with that soft hissing sound again, like static on the radio. I am almost always lost in this static.
...Then, I collect my thoughts, and my things, leaving my maligned misgivings & dignity at the register -- I parade away in a numb and collected manner to the sanitizer pump, which is either empty (of-course), or so ungodly caustic, that I imagine it is about as toxic as my mood before I zombie-walk out of the grocery waving my filthy hands in front of me like the monster I've become.
It's June., or or is it July? It has been June for a while and I can only know that because a few days ago, some people who say they knew me, sang me the brutal birthday song, and we ate cake together, until we passed out drunk, (again). This, I vaguely recall. I am so in touch with being a newly minted monster, that I am not really sure if this is all real, But I cannot focus on them, work, life, love, superfluous rants... and I can certainly no longer afford the intellectual energy to read; in particular the news. I now have the attention span of my neighbors shitty chihuahua dosed on adderall.
I seem to still be cogent enough to put underpants 'under', and slacks 'over', but Beyond that... I wonder when my faculties may return. Rallies, Protests, Racists, Riots, Looting, Shooting, Vigils, Range Practice, Antebellum Robert E Lee vs Aunt Jemima, all bathed in sanitizer. All of these ghosts have come like a chain-saw to liberate me from my former world. I have been cut down, weeded, detached from the earth like a bad haircut, and now I am floating above the sphere looking down at my shitty self -- I am without roots, free-spun random as cotton candy, and just as vile... I am without a reference. I say dumb shit, give bad advice, read questionable news coverage, and crave only potato chips. I'd best learn to navigate this new swamp and clean up my person before I land again... lest I become unrecognizable to myself, and my parts no longer fit together when I crash land.
So today I looked up how to use a compass, and for one thing, it turns out that I still mis-pronounce the word "Compass", as though it had a "U" like "Dumb-piss". I'm a dumb-ass, and so I know not what I do. But even before COVID, and far before Trump killed the universe, I thought I had a solid handle on the American English lexicon. Nope! It's "Com" pass, (Not like "some" or "come"), but "com" -(like comical) piss. I only want one so I can navigate my way to Canada for asylum on some upstate waterway.
But a "Moral Compass" may also be a good idea right about now.
Here I've found that what I thought I knew about navigation and dead-reckoning was wholly incorrect. I thought I was master of my domain until I got the new zombie virus. The Novel "Alone'a-Virus", which makes us all insane, and incapable of reading a map -- But it also causes us to spring a leak, and our senses begin to hiss out. If you have not yet seen your edges crack a bit, you are either lucky, or blind. As the leaks set into your imperfect hull, you may wish to learn to use a Compass too, before you become un-moored, and drown in this filthy pool with your soggy bag of crisps.
And so we float on, Those of us who are honest and know enough to call it shit. We drift from one empty street, to another shuddered business, covered in Plywood painted with "BLM", and as "Already Looted" graffiti, replaces vibrant commerce, Once hip edgy streets with cool shops, (our former way-points), are all completely shuddered. And so we float without bearing. We are adrift amidst the boarded up North Face, and Lululemon, (ok fine so what) but self-tagged and monogrammed, brands sport R.I.P. G.F... Corporate posers carrying condescending Woke-Signs and Rainbows like Disney actors carry skate-boards for street relevance.
Tonight iTunes would like to offer you "12 Years a Slave" "Blood Diamond" or Something Purple with Oprah in it, at a very special rate and something else by the Wayon Brothers, or Eddie Murphy for .99 cents, In case you were feeling strong empathy. You can watch them at a reduced rate this week only while discontents are lighting your trash cans ablaze. Or you can watch white trash for $5.99... or, are you too appalled?
Amazon and Netflix still feed me blond Chinese soft-core lesbian bank robber films... but are NOT concerned with my ethical re-education. Please everyone jump on this woke bandwagon at once, and let's see if we can sink it. VHS won't save this hissing raft of horrors.
I have thought about this so much lately that I can now say as a monk, or Shaolin master may teach me, That I have arrived on the other side of this chasm completely unenlightened. "We are sorry", they will tell me, before bowing me goodbye, "We cannot help you". Enlightenment seems to be for those who study, but what we weak eager ones have been doing lately is an awkward immersion therapy in idiocy, liquor and re-runs. Breathe in and you may absorb more than a virus -- Hold your breath, and you may succumb to madness. Neither action will let you up for air. My detached cranium held down, submerged by a big harry cop's arm, as I thrash in a chocolate brown river of shit. Then I snap out of my daydream and find myself crossing a street far too slowly for traffic.
We are all immersed in this fiction, and as always have been lost in "The Big Game". Being drowned in shit, stuff, and junk food won't crystalize your thoughts into a clear blue picture. The only way to manage these murky rapids is to not struggle. Go smoothly with the current. Drink it in... I am Augustus Gloop eager for the chocolate river to swallow me, I now see the error of my lily-white ways, as I drown a white linen seer-sucker in dark cacao. I am a balding Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán soiling my linen in the next episode of Fantasy Island. 'Make yourself small like a ball, like a pill, hold your breath, and hope to be spat out', (he thinks).
We do need The Big Cleanse you understand. We need to rinse ourselves of the filth of our forebears, and unpack our suitcase of racist, materialist complicity. We need to get clean of being terrible humans; Of fights, disparities, and bickering. There is no moral compass-heading to adhere to here, no spirit guide for white glibness gleaned from a discounted docudrama. Accumulated shit just sits there in your home to remind us that none of it helps. Stuff won't change you, and religion won't change you... So far this month, shootings in Chicago, Philadelphia, and NY have nearly doubled. The areas with the most gun crime, suffer from endemic racism, & built-in societal disadvantages. When we add to that Covid19, food insecurity, housing insecurity, job loss, police violence, we plateau with stratospherically high crime rates, and low case closure resolution. There is no mystery why lawlessness grows. There is also a complete lack of any leadership from the top-down.
Some have said, that, "...If they don't kill us, and 'it' doesn't get us, then we will likely kill each other". Socially we are isolated, and divided, while the perfect storm brews, the broken trifecta seems to be:
1. Citizens become scared to call 911 from fear of police,
2. Officers become reticent to rush-in, facing heavy scrutiny & unresolved procedures,
3. It's damn hot inside and out and cool beaches, cooling centers, and parks remain closed.
Violence skyrockets, and as an organism we are all complicit, watching it burn. Leadership blows on the embers exhaling more venom threats and gun violence.
What will change you?
There is no lesson, taken in pill form as seen on TV. There is no lesson written here. The lesson is everywhere. We So-called 'Americans' are in need of a revolution, and this revolution will be televised.
(Gill Scott Heron R.I.P.)
So last night as things settled a bit, we sat outside sipping a glass of wine in the stifling heat, watching strollers & bicycles silently drift by. Far off music played through a cheap speaker, and the heavy humidity blanketing the rest of the darkness in a hush. The street lights halo'd from heavy humid still air. Where were we? ...We were discussing my friends recent bike crash, and beside the abrasions which seemed to be healing well... The deep set aches which follow a bad tumble at speed were barely anesthetized by wine. He hadn't yet seen a doctor, or got an X-ray, but we surmised he'd be OK, once the aches subsided. I tried to imagine what my last crash felt like, and what my next one would look like. We all shuddered at the thought.
Our chilled Chenin Blanc reverie ended abruptly when an aggressive driver intentionally swiped a trio of cyclists in front of us, knocking two down in the street, and then stopping to get out, the driver and passenger (a woman), pounced upon the downed riders' and beat them with their fists. They then stood up, got back in their car and sped away, shouting expletives into the hot still darkness. There was nothing anyone could do. Just a rogue wave of lunacy, perfectly aligned with the times. Staggering to stand back up, the light changed again, and traffic and onlookers froze. Everyone survived this attack, and as the burst of intensity ratcheted down to stillness, we discussed the many possible outcomes, as if their story was in need of our fictional ending... One suggestion was that the cops chase them. Nah! Another ending reminded me of the Scene from Unforgiven, when the bad-guy tells his Barber that what America needs is a King. Someone like a king would not be as likely to be assassinated as Lincoln... Because people love and fear their king. "If one of the cyclists had a gun... then the outcome would have been different..." someone conjectured... but that more violent remedy would not have changed this evening much.
We talked about some joggers and cyclists who carry pepper spray. We seemed to relish in an ending where the bad guys get sprayed in the face... and they register that bad experience within their lizard brain -- But alas that too would only tip them farther towards the dark-side.
Revenge he said, (the anonymous phrase), "Revenge is a dish best served cold." became the next hypothetical ending, but this being the most remote of chances; If anyone even got the plate number, the likelihood of retribution was close to nil. Still it is sweet to plot and plan to get ones revenge in a cooler moment when the adversary is "off-guard". Not to give blanket forgiveness to the idiotic act of rage carried out tonight, but this toxicity is a scourge, and it comes from the top down. We the People are under siege from a shitty torrent of spite, rage, plague and fear, whilst the White House plays golf.
Today we still have to choose from only two pills. These same two prescriptions have long been offered. The Blue Pill (the cooler one) prevails and we rise above the occasion painfully swallowing our pride, and pressing-on to form a more perfect union. The Red Pill (the Hot mess) simmers in our prefrontal lobe igniting a vengeance that never seems to extinguish. What does change look like? As for the bully on the playground... There will always be one, how you handle them is a rough dialectic, and you can't even have a dinner guest for discourse now.
Revenge and Revolution are not the same thing.
We really aught to swallow the Blue pill, (even if only for the time being) because almost none of us have the nerve to see this "vengeance thing" through to it's ultimate end, do we? I'm struggling with this. And...As I've already admitted I'm struggling with things as small as potato chips, so I am certainly not the sage advice you seek. We can watch politically correct Netflix shows, but only the good ones take those morals to heart. You can rent all the films you like, but if you are already on this side of the fence -- then here is where you belong. If you peer over that fence, you will find Judge Judy, and perhaps Ted Nugent. What is clear through this milky lens however, is that we have one hell of a toxic cultural dialog today, and as with a bad bully in school, no one is safe from his white hot pathogen. So a jump in the dark river seems soothing. We may be fortunate that we don't have a King or Queen, as I can definitely say that my hand may shake a bit, but that won't last.
'Nobody would shoot the king', "There is a dignity to royalty, a majesty which precludes the likelihood of assassination..." as your hands begin to shake in the presence of that royalty, The bully, the autocrat... for that revenge, you would lose your nerve... right? But would you? It is a temporary solution to a sustaining issue. We are fundamentally un-equal, and We The People, the disenfranchised, and the unheard cannot stay silent forever.
"When they kick at your front door, How you gonna come? With your hands on your head Or on the trigger of your gun? When the law break in How you gonna go? Shot down on the pavement Or waiting on death row?"
"Guns of Brixton" -The Clash
As you find the will to steel yourself, catch your breath -- Steady your hand, as you get up from the ground, if you fight back, (whether it's pepper spray or protest) -- As you flip the safety off, remember that revenge and revolution are both better served cold.
There is a place in the universe where all good things converge. This condensation of goodness, and kindness, and boundless energy to put everything right, guides the lucky with an indominable spirit. The magical force doesn't come in a bottle or in a brown box to your doorstep.
The place where you will find the power to heal anything, and to steel yourself against adversity, will not be televised. That gravity which holds it all together isn't illusive, nor pressed between the pages of an ancient text. At that intersection of all great things, where we all work together to better ourselves, to help eachother, and to feed and nurture one another is a connective tissue unlike any other force in the universe. That place is your Mother — And we can go there on a two-wheeler.
Bad men don't sin from fear of punishment, Good men won't sin for love of virtue.
Whichever side of the knife edge you fall will depend largely upon your Mother. In fact your very character flowed into you from your mother like an I.V drip., and you never knew it. Sadly without a good one of those, or without a reasonably tight bond to Mum, you now lack character. When you meet someone, and later reflect positively about them, you are likely paying compliment to the home they came from. I have all sorts of friends like this, and some souls who sadly don't fit that mold at all. If you've ever been punched in the face, then the person who did that didn't have a good mom. If you've been sued, or robbed, then you can also surmise that there was something lacking in their relationship to Mom. What I would like very much to acknowledge, is the secret dendrites which stretched like branching roots throughout your developing brain as a kid, and remain the reason that you don't completely suck. What is most amazing in the Nature v. Nurture thing is that once you develop, your skill to be your best, or in the least a little less terrible, seems to stick. I know a lot of people who have been thoroughly saturated with latter-life crappy experiences, but they always seem to emerge through the same super powers imbued by their moms; often with some to spare. It's no surprise conversely that there are people who didn't have the benefit of a right-good Mom — and they became the daily tide we swim against.
Enter the asshole.
In politics, the misguided minority who's unnatural upbringing flood our daily dialog with every form of "Ism", are the unfortunate few who didn't benefit from a solid Mom. Many learned people and many more lay-public regard Freud as a dickhead. Treatises about strange attractions to one's mother may seem preposterous, and to resent our fathers for their relationship to mom is also far from a universal accord... But looking at it the other way, it may simply be that Freud had an unhealthy maternal rearing, which he never overcame. Freud, as with the bully-pulpit of political discourse, manufacture myths & agendas from misguided and dangerous ideologies. Racism, fascism, and sexism, all emerge from either an unhealthy relationship with one's mom, or none at all. You know the saying, 'I know it when I see it'? -- Well that certainly applies to Dickheads, Hitler, and Napoleonic douchebags with little hands. All of these infect the weak, and this may re-wire future generations, when toxin spills upon the “fairer sex”.
The only quote from Freud which does not seem absurd to me is, "If it's not one thing -- It's your Mother".
In truth, with tongue stuck in cheek, I don't know what he meant -- But for me, it may mean that one's mother has the attribution of being the single largest influence upon ones formation, and certainly one's psyche, and soul.
I was a teen, without an alarm clock, but without fail, my mother made sure I got up each day with a kind voice, instead of a brash beeping. She fed, clothed, consoled, and taught me nearly everything I know, and many unconscious things I am still discovering, and she did that for 7 others. From My mother, I learned to cook, shop, swim, sew, tie my shoes, brush teeth, and how to be kind. She also taught me how to care for others, and to be careful. Her techniques were always calm, considered, and cogent. My father is great, (no Freudian resentment here), but this too is likely attributable to my mom. She taught me to forgive and forget, and to seek only to control the faculties important to the task at hand. I learned that to complete something, presently, leaves more time later to address that which was less pressing. "We'll do that later...", she would say.
Through many recessions, we ate well as a family, (or so I thought), and very seldom did I think -- "Man I wish I had...'X'". We learned to shop, select, cook, bake, and portion.
Food at my home, at a picnic, or in my lunchbox, was typically the envy of others, and neighborhood kids would often skulk around at meal-time, hoping to "eat over". "Mom, can so and so eat over?"... was so common a phrase, but nearly never was the answer 'No'.
I could trade one home-baked snack in the school lunchroom for several cellophane wrapped Hostess or Little Debbie's. This was perhaps my first legit currency. Later, like most kids, I would become bad with cash, but with every trip to the store, I would return with change, and a receipt and then we'd count it out. I'd become thrifty by example.
One fateful Spring day, perhaps today, my magical Mom held the chrome loop behind my glittery banana seat until I coasted without falling or dabbing a foot. I soon learned to ride a two-wheeler down the block, and when too far to be assisted, I’d learned to ride it back toward her. She was proud, as she beamed, but I was taught again to be proud of myself. My mom handed me the keys to the kingdom that day, riding a two-wheeler became my first true sense of freedom to travel anywhere. She taught me to ride a bike, and like so many others, I’d begin to plan adventures. I was proud to be her son, and in a sense I’m still turning around and riding back to her today. I thought decades later, that I could teach my Mom the same tricks, that I’d learned.
My Mom mis-spent her youth in a body cast from a barbaric spinal surgery. She lay in repose while her sister envied the ‘attention’ she gleaned in recovery. She’d be wheeled on a table into the lawn to get some sun, until she shed her chrysalis. Time lost to doctors, and procedures, she never learned to ride a two-wheeler. One Summer when I’d returned from college for a few days, I brought with a new Bike just for her. It was a gamble, met with surprise, and trepidation... She was not feeling it.
Now topping 50, she’d harbored the nostalgic desire, but falling was not the downside risk she had always longed for. She said, "Thank you, I really love the idea, but I'm rather sure I shouldn't... I may fall and break my hip."
She contested that perhaps "she was just too old", or even "it may be too late" (for her to learn). I said, "I totally understand Mom, this was a lark on my part, and you certainly shouldn't feel obliged to ride a bike just because your silly kid bought you one". The truth being, I was broke, but working in a bike store for barely 8 bucks an hour meant that (even with a fair discount on a whimsical bike) this discretionary spending would decimate my pocket money. Never matter, I was home, the fridge was stocked, and expenses were low at the moment. I beamed with anticipation, while placating her, that “I still thought she'd like riding, if she found the courage”.
A few evenings passed through light sleep, and bundled anxiety from each of us. She went to bed with the pressure of her stupid kid's encouragement to break her hip, and I slept poorly under the anxiety of knowing I'd take the rap from siblings if my lovely mother did in fact find the courage to fracture her hip. As I stared up at the scars on my childhood bedroom ceiling, beneath adhesive stars, cuts from knives, darts, and scotch-taped posters.., I resolved to tell her the next day, that I agreed it was a bad idea -- And that she should definitely not try to learn to ride a two-wheeler ‘at her age’. The fact being that I wasn't even sure of her true age. With this resolution, I'd tell her not to try, I finally slept through the rest of the night.
The next day I slept late, (no surprise), but when I did wake up the house was empty. In my collegiate illusion, the day of the week meant nothing, and so I'd missed the Monday through Friday queue, as days blended. My Mom and Dad both beiing at work, I was the only kid home. I put my tacky foam avocet helmet on, Crocheted gloves, and some still gaudier neon-esque lycra shorts, with a concert T, and left for a bike ride. By mid-afternoon, starving -- I returned home to scrounge for food. The fridge was a wonderland filled with left-overs, cold-cuts, several orange cheeses, and bountiful condiments. I made a sandwich, drank loads of water, and watched some TV, while writing a letter to a girl.
When my mom came home from work, she was ready. She said she, “wanted to try to learn”. Initially, I was clueless what she meant -- Then it hit me... She wanted to have a go learning to ride a two-wheeler. I had my speech prepared, so I told her that I may have been wrong about the whole idea, and assured her that the bike was basically free, and would be re-purposed. "Mom", I said, "just because I like to ride bikes, doesn't mean it is going to become your thing too", Let's table it, and go to the beach. She declined.
I think I'd like to give it a try.
And so we started the same way she had with me nearly two decades prior. I held the seat, and ran beside, holding her upright, while she pedaled -- Until I let go and she fell into the grass. We continued, until the falling and the bruises turned from exhilaration to exhaustion. On the final try she made it down the alley, no hip broken. Whether she ever rode the bike again was of no import. I fetched some ice in a zip-loc bag, some bactine, and a few band-aids, and we rested on the same giant couch which like my mom had held our whole family together. "Today", I said with a childish smile, "You learned to ride a two-wheeler at 50 something". While she rested I made a delicious dinner, both of us thrilled & exhausted, we each enjoyed the first time, I ever really needed to tend to my magical mother.
The indominable spirit of Mom, to whomever she belongs, is the force in the universe which creates everything we are. They never stop inventing, creating, and overcoming; and neither should we.
Live your life as though your mom will be home soon.
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.