I had a paper-route when I was young, and am surprised that my spine didn't curve over time from the compressing weight of the bag I'd carried. We'd collect our papers at someone's home, a Lucky kid who didn't have to walk beyond his front door to get started. They called the place we'd pick-up our papers the "bundle-stop". Each day we'd convene at this one kids house where the back door of a blank white van would open and out they belched nearly a thousand pounds of paper strapped in square stacks. If you arrived early to the "bundle-stop" you'd witness a dragging/falling muffler, with the throat of the devil blazing through belching dark smoke, as bundles fell upon the sidewalk, where we would collect them rain or shine. Most days they would be there prior to my arrival, each marked with wax marker to designate the route number. This predated inkjet printers, or anything of the like, and frankly forms would have cost a penny, so the wax marker would suffice for scrawling whose stack was whose, well before dawn made it viable to read the numbers. Kids who had paper routes were really the lowest "employed" strata of the working class. You could actually not dip below a Paper route before you slid off the chart entirely as the dreaded unemployment caste. Never had it dawned upon me whilst throwing papers at porches, that this was the worst job one could possess. There is a blind spot that we generate, in particular when we are young, that betrays us, and relegates us to shit jobs. Paperboy was a shit job.
It would be a decade or more before I realized that the pathway to something other than a shit job, was one typically paved by doting parents. Without them, and from a large tribe, I had to first finish school, with a shit job, and get my first shit job, all for which I was grateful. In a sense, I'd need to first clear the cataract that blinded me from realizing that seemingly everyone I knew chose another path, which was somehow (if not paved with gold) at least lined with padding, good food, and more free-time. Sure, I had several jobs between Paper Route, and Present, but I didn't begin to realize that others seemed to be led by a silver carrot, if not a silver spoon. I remember literally starving in College, and I recall resuscitating my roommate with ketchup packets, and Braunschweiger Liverwurst, when he was too week to get up. Some self induced, selling blood plasma to buy books, and a beer. It's no mystery that Liverwurst is whatever falls on the floor. With respect to it's inventor, it's basically cat food for humans. Making it through my formative years without sight of any real goal was equal parts dumb luck, survival instinct, and great friends.
When I saw the first bike in an Amsterdam bike shop called "The Paper-Boy" I was enchanted and nostalgic feelings bloomed within me as I recalled the ordeal of my formative job. Nearly every rainy, numb, exhausted day revived in an instant and then rinsed me hollow like an empty glass. 45 minutes and one pint later I saw a Dutch Postal worker delivering the mail on the very same bike. I carried the weigh of the bag on my back until that moment, and then released it. Work smarter, and not harder, came into focus. I reconciled the paper-boy moment against the backdrop of a seemingly sturdy, tall & attractive man making a living on a bicycle, and working half as hard as I had, through a pissy rain. I then started to see good looking Dutch garbage collection workers, and custodians, and realized that a Job worth doing was one worth doing well, but this didn't define who one is. In fact, I remarked of the prominence in America, and emerging through Latin and Asian Communities this false prestige about the work one does. It nearly always irritates me to hear the rehearsal of praise over and again lavished upon Doctors, Lawyers, and Engineers, conferring great respect for their standing as pinnacle achievers, whilst nearly everyone else had a "Shit Job". This may sound far fetched, but I cannot think of any person more important in my life, than a Teacher; However they barely exceed minimum wage in some communities. Second Perhaps is a Nurse, who seems to do all the billable work for health care, and is rewarded with the salary of an american garbage man. This is not a monologue about inequities, but about being blind to what shapes us, by what we seek. For me the option to become a Doctor, was abstract, and hence unlikely. There were none before me, and none to come in my generation, nor did any of my close friends, siblings, or near relatives become one. More strangely anyone in my periphery who may have received a PHD, would still not have been called a "Doctor". Funny.
Blind to the fact that I could have amounted to far more, having chosen another path, I stumbled through my formative years creating who I would become, and eschewing the need for certain "Job" status.
I've always wanted to design things, and build things and have had several forays in these tasks. Yet the penchant to make that into my career never clicked. I would remain a worker bee, like the handsome Dutch post-man, and never look back. Age has a way of creating more mental space to reflect, whether by suppressing or merely forgetting, my brain now seems to have more bandwidth to look back and query the structural lattice within my head for feedback on how I ended up here. Room to roam about the cabin, I'd suppose. I think it was the Paper Route, which forged me to believe that work was always difficult, exhausting, and uncertain, and this trinity was necessary for survival. Funny how hindsight makes itself known, and we come to discover that many friends, siblings, and colleagues really don't work that hard. I know for a fact that this Bukowskian drama cannot possibly resonate with many readers, so I think it's important to mention that nearly every one of my friends who went on to become "Successful", never had a job until they were 19 or 20. This said, I think that has now become normal that your job as a Kid, is to play the sport that your parent wished they were good at, or that which grants them the most free-time, while your sport is usurping yours -- Even-though you may resent their desire to live vicariously through you, now it's not so odd that you seek a similar career to theirs. I have countless friends who fit this description. My Parents never had a paper route, nor were they ever in sports. But my grandmother worked at a candy bar factory to put my mother through school, and it's no wonder that she had full dentures at 60. Anything which hit the floor was "food".
I wanted to play an instrument in school, but the one chosen for me was so large that I had trouble lugging it home to practice. A weight like my paper-bag, I could not endure the ritual of heaving it to school any longer. I wanted to play Trumpet, (a manageable briefcase) but my brother chose that, and I was told we could not play the same thing. Once I thought I'd play the piccolo merely because it would be light and simple to carry home.
Fast forward, to high school, without an instrument to practice, and without a sport to ruin my idle moments playing Galaga, I set about again to invent something to occupy my free-time. Building upon a solid past of escaping ridicule, (under the shadow of my elder siblings, and bullies), I was lean and fast, on a bike, and on my feet. A friend came to town who'd lived in California, and he brought back a real skateboard. It was a Black Tony Alva, with Tracker Trucks, and Kryptonic wheels, and we all kicked it around the parking lot, learning the basics. That year when he re-visited his Dad in CA, we placed orders with him for more decks and so began my official high school sports roster. We would build several ramps at school, home, and in public. In fact we had a ramp in the basement of my High-school, and parking lot improvements included new berms, and curved for grinds and jumps. There are several disqualifying yearbook images showing us jumping cars and picnic tables, and more tricks were captured there than an avery Thrasher Magazine. Others played Sax, Guitar, or Soccer, and we attended cult ramp sessions, fueled by day-old donuts, and soda.
This is principally how I became malformed, and jeopardized my success index. I could have played Soccer, and Violin, met important people in prep-school, and became a Doctor, or... one could deviate from that path and become a skater. What do skaters become when they hit adulthood, and endeavor into the working class...? Not much, I suppose, or is there more to them? The thing is that they don't change very much, principally because they form bonds, and skills which follow them and continue to shape them, but they remain more or less the same people. I think it is reasonable to say that each and every person that I've skated with as a youth has remained the same person to date. And every other person that I was close to, but who never skated with us, has changed significantly. Is this a "blind-spot", or far fetched speculation? Nah!, it seems that what happens in sequence to adulthood, is a bit of the road that diverged in the wood, and some go down a path working hard to re-identify, themselves in the image of some kid of fashion, or form which represents an ideal, but not necessarily who they are/were. Other's move to the left and solidify a stronger form of who they were, and will always be. I say this without any reservation, but knowing full well that there will be objection. It just so happens that for me the friends forged in the crucible of our half-pipe never became new people and if 20-30 years pass since, they are still approachable, they still offer their hospitality, a couch to surf upon, and they seem to catch-up precisely where they departed, even with a speachless chasm of several decades.
Recently I reluctantly bumped into three old skater friends in a small town, and found that they'd all moved away and made themselves, but had returned home to catch up and pick-up with each other. We sat down, and in-spite of the time-gap, and of course our aging appearance..., we all spoke as though not a moment had passed. Whats-more, it wasn't a "Glory Days" reminiscence, where we each re-hash how cool we were, and prod each other with compliments, but we all earnestly had interest in how our lives shook out. Everyone has a group like this, Fraternities, Unions, The Elks, Church Groups, and even Swingers, but I'm not sure these carry the same weight. Everyone knows that a reunion is uncomfortable, whether for families, high schools, college soccer teams, or for AA. but there is always one dude who feels conceitedly confident in every nuance of her opportunity to flaunt something. This person, not surprisingly is also organizing the event. Is it any wonder that people post their best self on the inter webs, and craft a Resume version in hopes to extract some social leverage? Is there any doubt that the organizer of your reunion has the most to brag about,? Perhaps this is why you skipped it. Perhaps it didn't convene, because your cadre of classmates didn't have such a person. My blindspot is my perception that a reunion is merely about bragging, or that the organizer, is interested in comparatives more than commonality. When a rag-tag group of mad dogs re-groups to shoot the breeze, it is nothing more or less than that. The motives are not comparative, or worse, superlative, but they are driven by the desire to re-kindle common ground. I wish I had organized a reunion.
My friends had paper-routes, and one dropped out of High-school to help pay the family's bills, while the other joined the Marines at 17 3/4, for a chance at a better life. I think, everyone got to where they wanted, and i know everyone struggled to do so. Each of us had a job before 16, none of us has seen a doctor in 25 years, and none take pharmacy of any kind. Funny that our group that seemed destined to fuck up, actually didn't, and many of those in our outer-orbit (who went to soccer practice, sorority socials, and had a full ride to the big-time), have also been in rehab, remission, prison, or are dead.
My blind-spot, is not recognizing sooner that some of these people can or could have remained good friends in all the time which has passed. I wish I had seen that; and recognized the need to remain close. Ego is a blind-spot which sorts your former friends into buckets of benefit. In short, if you don't see how they could serve your advance, then they get dropped. You only carry one or two with you. But if I had a larger basket on my bike, or if I wasn't a dumb shit, I would have made space for more of them.
My blind spot is always the clearing through the trees, which often I don't have any interest in finding. But In a forest -- Who really wants to find the road again? Apparently most do!
Most people left in the woods, are working to find the way back to town.
Most people in a room without a TV are looking for the door.
Most (not surprisingly) cannot wait to leave church as well, but that's another story...
I think it's fair to say that not so many are content being lost, or a bit lost, if even off the grid.
As we look at our screens for support, and forgiveness; Is it any wonder that we crave an "open concept floorpan"? is it any wonder that we crave praise on the inter-webs, while pushing our family away, and our elders into a home? If the outside world for you comes though a screen, then you have work to do.
Selfish is my blindspot. I'm never sure what I'm doing to ruin my social life until I don't have one. When I'm two-hundred pounds overweight spooning directly into the ice-cream, glued to a netflix series, I wonder how I arrived here. If the cure for diabetes is less sugar, less carbs, and more exercise, but a drug alleviates my symptoms, then why give up anything, and recognize my shit choices until I can no longer walk?
An honest job is one we can do daily, and then separate ourselves from, to endeavor into something fun. An honest job is not one which we need to bring up to our friends at a party. The best job is not having one, but that doesn't work long-term. Asking a new acquaintance at a party "What do you do?" is loaded on both sides, and should be avoided. If they are a garbage man, would you be comfortable finding out more?
If you are looking for comparatives, then try sizing up your free-time, not your work-time. Asking them, "What do you like to do with your free-time?," is never out of bounds, and may show you whose chosen the right path.
I should get out more. I should ride my bike, climb a rock, sail someplace, see a punk show, and grind my skateboard on my neighbors curb. We are blind to what we need, until we are desperate, and then we no longer have the mojo to make it fun. If we save our money and energy for a vacation, but don't take one until we are too old to wander, then we are lost, or in the least misguided.
It may be my greatest desire some days to dissolve into the ether and not return. A long ride away from everything which grinds me against the lush consumer circus. If one could break away from everything that makes them comfortable and tell no one, where would they go? Whenever I ponder telling no one, and drifting away, I also contemplate the bliss of a specter, concealed in a wall or tree, watching how people may react to it's absence. Will you be fondly remembered? will your favorite things matter when they disappear. Getting away is the destination alone, and wherever that is, it never seems to matter as long as I am not right here, right now. A bit of anonymity, and a bit of adventure brings calm, anticipation, and excitement where we plan to slough off the toil of the day to day, and pretend we are out of work. ...And so it began. But, Fuck Hollywood screenplay garbage, we have serious business here... I set about to put the pieces in place for the next bikepacking trip. Calculating the gear, the grams, and the weather, which inevitably leads to new gear, new kit, and provisions which were formerly unnecessary.
I meticulously removed tires, and cleaned the inner skin, re-seating them with new Finishline tubeless goo. I wiped the bike down and cleaned the chain up a bit, broke the mechanism down & dressed it in foam, then zipped in into the virgin carton like a newborn papoose. I spun off the disc rotors, and packed them in padding and packs, and chose each ounce of my bare necessities until I had arrived at the most meticulously packed bike and gear to date. The frame was an U.P.P.E.R, by Open, and the packs waterproof, stuffed with the Zpacks Two Man Dyneema tent, Quilt by Enlightened, and all the shelf stable sealed bacon by Pedersons, that I could fit.
Watching the Tracking like a trans-ocean sailing race, the bikes deviate at day two and begin to divide at a fork mid-country, whereby one heads through Texas and the other through Oklahoma. I've forgotten which was which.
Four days into the race to California, the bikes stop, along with my heart. One begins to progress again, and the other just sits there. No scan, no movement, no update, no explanation, just waypoints, without reason. Sounds a bit like my life plan.
Have you seen that movie where the guy goes off into the wilderness ill-prepared and never returns? Yes, me too. He may have been wearing three FedEx Package labels and a cardboard box -- But you know that they don't have bar code scanners in the Canadian wilderness. Yesterday my brother told me that, "UPS Breaks shit, and FedEx Loses it". So if you need something/someone disappeared, then place it in a brown paper carton, and then into the capable hands of either carrier, and your outcome is a bit of roulette. Here, the day my bike and gear were to have arrived, was the tracking status:
Delivered January 1, 0001.
Odd date, yes? January 1 is a fabulous time-table considering I had shipped in In February, and that it's ETA stated March 1, 2019. So it came and passed, and nobody knows where the package is. Literally No one. The trace shows it offloaded into a facility, and never being loaded or scanned again. The local warehouse manager asked for pictures of the box, so that they could look into their "Cage". You know the land of misfit toys, or that sinking feeling when you get off your plane late for an international connection and your luggage is sitting scattered about the airport baggage area, with some scary street dwellers, and enterprising nare-do-wells lurking about. You have precisely two minutes too little to find yours, re-check and get on the next flight? You know that feeling when you've specifically sat on his lap, and asked Santa for Legos, and you end up with socks, and a Book? It's like that. ...And then it was gone.
I know what you are thinking. Your advice is that I relax, and do some mindful meditation with our friend Sam Harris. That the stress and pain is not real and that one merely needs to get out of that mind-space. Or... You are thinking I may have actually benefitted by going back in time, (considering my age and the time warm that could bend me backward from shipment on February 25 to arrive on January 1) -- So here he is; just arrived on January first, and so I should be grateful, as long as I can align my temporal plane with that of my bike, and my Gear, and then I should be great! And who doesn't need to step back a bit in both time, and in mindfulness and hang in the shadow of what has been to reflect upon how foolish it all was? All of the toil, and the heartbreak? after all it's just a bike, and we Americans have three months of vacation each year, Right? --
So what's another week wasted? No Bike?, No Problem, so long as you get to go back a full two months this winter, and re-live the coldest February on record.
My bike has been off the grid for three days, perhaps with that guy in the Yukon. Man I wish I was off the grid for three days already. I rented a minivan about an hour ago. I have a plain white minivan for my bike-packing vacation in California. No Tent, No Bag, No Bike, No Bottles, No Bacon, and no Pedals. I suppose that this defines the "Eggs in one basket" anecdote.
I miss my bike, and worse, I really miss being able to watch the tracking as it faded into some obscure guys home between Chandler Arizona and Sacramento. The blip fades like a dot in the vector of a Tempest pattern. No place, off the radar, and into the sea of other people's orbit. Lost in space, like a frisbee into a murky pond.
Tip: When you want to disappear, be careful what you wish for, and pack well, because if someone gets it wrong, you may never emerge from your cardboard nightmare.
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.