Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Only in the Worst Way

So, I have a friend... maybe more of an aquaintance at this point... who is in a band. A fairly popular band - Motion City Soundtrack. Sometimes I listen to their records. Though not as much as I used to as my tastes have moved into a more progressive and heavy direction - Isis, Rosetta, Neurosis, Cult of Luna, etc. And when I listen to MCS I find that my man, Justin Pierre, seems to have captured my memories of that near year in 1994-95 and has spun them into emotionally powerful tales set to a pop-punk beat that often brings a tear to my eye and sets me strolling down memory lane.

This usually results in some rather terrible poetry. But at least it gets me thinking about my thoughts - how meta is that? - and putting those thoughts down on paper. Something I've not done enough of since paying a whole shitload of money to refine my craft. Money wasted? Probably. Maybe not. Who knows? Who cares? Good experiences, or something. Grad school didn't teach me to be brave, though, which is something I think the poet must be. Brave and willing to work hard at the craft - revising and revising and revising - never my strong suit. Instead I dash it out and it's over and done.

It used to be the norm to puke out three or four poems a day. Now it's three or four a year. I wonder how much age has to do with it?

So, poetry Tuesday today.

Nelson Hall - 1994-95
Someone once asked me
How can you love me if you don't love yourself?

The question's rattled around my head for years
and years. I've never found a satisfactory
answer. Is this really all we are?

I'm still trying to determine, at
39, who I am and if I give a shit at all.

Most times ambivalence abounds - 
the wrapper that is me - the bag of flesh
around a consciousness
that doesn't understand how to empathize,
but empathizes so much it cannot
see its own emotions are valid and
need release, need validation.

A psychobabble bubble expanding against
the walls of my skull. Threaten to burst, 
then pull back and leave the empty feeling again.

Looking back now, she just wanted a convenient
excuse to get away with a clean break.

But the truth lies there.

At the heart of it, something in those words
must feel true or why do they still prick
after twenty years have accumulated over them?
And how is it that I can remember her eye color
and the small gold stud she wore in her nose
but can't remember her name? 

Did I love her? Fuck, I don't know. I don't know much
from that time - I was just fucked out of my head
as was everyone around me - like the sixties
wrapped in flannel and torn denim, life in a madhouse,
the beer can, Nelson hall - bastion of future rock stars
business majors, burn outs, and wasted lives.

Nine months crossing boarders from 1994 to 95,
a gestation period. When you're 18 each moment seems
an eternity. When your mind is eaten away with chemicals
they seem longer.

I can remember, kind of, nights alone with the northern
winter dark out my window - glass crazed with frost - screaming
in the concrete bunker of that dorm, trying to feel
something real - the disconnection with the world out that
door so complete
I wouldn't talk to anyone for weeks, paranoid
and watching the world melt around me.

It's only in this dark near-winter mornings when
these memories flood back, these strange emotions
that I couldn't process then and can't connect
to anything real now.

I can feel with each year the razor edge of confusion,
of passion, of everything that used to make life both
painful and wonderful and mysterious, slowly dull. Like a TV
on the brink, colors all fading to sepia monotone,
a rerun of a rerun, Mr. Ed and My Three Sons, canned laugh
tracks and over-worn plot lines. Do I really have
another twenty, thirty, forty years of this? A continual
reduction of stimulus, of impulse, of making all

the same mistakes time and again trying to get them right? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Oh, I Ache, Part 2

Is it new bike day if only the frame has changed and if the new frame is the same as the old frame? I don't know. I guess it feels like a new bike and it pisses me off on so many levels.

I suppose I should tell the story of how we got here, first.

A few months ago I was looking at getting a new saddle. A Brooks. Not that that really matters, but it is the set up. Anyway, I was researching the Brooks saddles and found that I would likely have to adjust my seat height to accommodate a new saddle. Makes sense, right?

Out to the garage I go for to adjust my seat. Actually, I had been thinking about changing the height for a while - making it just a touch higher. Out comes the allen key for with to loosen the seat collar. Seat collar loose, hands on saddle to give a nice easy twist and raise and… nothing. The post won't budge. This is late August.

The last time I know I adjusted the seat post was in December. My family bought me a new saddle for Xmas so I had to adjust for it.

I also know that when I originally put in the post, I greased it liberally.

However, here's my error. When I adjusted it in December I didn't regrease it. Nor did I regrease it at any point between December and now. The spring was, as springs are here, wet and dirty. Months of road salt and grime being thrown up on to the seat post and soaking down between the post and the tube. Steel and aluminum. Salt and water and air. A nice warm, dry, summer. A wet fall.

I can't say that I'm surprised by the galvanic corrosion. I'd like to, but I'm not. It makes perfect sense.

I talked to a couple of mechanics, consulted the interwebs, and in the end tried just about everything.

WD-40 bath morning and night - the post just laughed at me.
Deep Creep - my favorite penetrating lubricant and a dang fine engine starter - Nothing.
Soaking the seat tube and post in cleaning vinegar - Nada.
Beating the post downward with a big freaking hammer - Yeah, that worked… not.

There's the Drano method where you fill the post and seat tube with Drano or similar to dissolve the aluminum post while leaving the seat tube untouched. I'm a bit scared of chemicals, so I decided to avoid that one. And I'm cheap and wanted to try to salvage the 100 dollar post.

Looking back I should have just sacrificed it.

The final option was to place the post in a bench vice and use the frame as leverage to try to break it free. I don't have a bench vice so I used Vice Grips with steel tube for added leverage and my wife helping to hold the frame in place.

It seemed to be working.

But let me back up a bit. After I'd tried most methods to try to get this thing unstuck I kind of resigned myself to just leaving it and knowing that I'd just not be able to change seats. Then when it was time to upgrade I'd just hang it on the wall as a reminder of what not to do.

For some reason the wife talked me into giving it another try with the Vice idea.

And it seemed to work. I clearly got some movement in the post.

So I doubled my effort and started cranking on the post in the opposite direction.

Can you guess where this is going?  Yup. Pop. The post snapped like a rice crispy diving into the worlds largest bowl of milk.


Well, now that the post is gone, I guess it is time to start cutting. And chiseling. And grinding. And prying. And cursing.

I spend a good two hours the first night working away at the stub of the post, getting it down to about an inch inside the seat tube. The next day I continued to work on it for another three or four hours, I don't remember now, and got it down another two or so inches.

Now it's Sunday and I've got a hangover. I go to work on the bike. Working slowly and carefully. Because I have a hangover and because I don't want to hurt the frame. I work and I work and I seem to be getting nowhere.

Then I chisel away for a bit and the chisel (really a long ass screwdriver) seems to pop through something. My first thought is "Fuuuu I just put a hole in the seat tube." I look. No hole. Must be to the bottom of the seat post. The chisel is stuck, though, so I put the Vice Grip on it and twist, trying to get it out like I had done many times before.

Then it happened. Of course it did. The second great break. The seat tube rips and there sits the screwdriver poking out.

So long story short - I call every bike shop that was open on Monday. No frames. One of the local valley shops has one, but it is a size large instead of extra large and they're closed on Mondays.

I scour Craigslist looking for possible bikes, but I really can't see buying someone else's over-priced used bike that has a crap mix of components. I come close to pulling the trigger on a couple, but in the end decide that no, I'll just get a new frame and use the parts I have. I've spent a bit of money on some good parts, some of which can't be used on anything but a fat bike.

Tuesday I get the frame and build it up, noticing a few things. 1 - my headset is fubar. The bottom bearing is missing a few balls and is distinctly red instead of bright stainless steel color.  2 - the front der cage is broken.

No biggie. I can live with these things in the short term. I just need to get my rig back in order so I can get my booty to work. I build it up, adjust what needs adjusting, and then end up heading up to Hatcher's Pass to take her on her maiden voyage. Gold Mint Trail. A nice, rocky climb. A challenging out and back ride. Hard on machines and people.

Or it can be, anyway.

Helpful hint number 1 - do not try to ride anything where you might need traction with a bald ass Knard tire.

After much futzing on the first part of the ride getting stuff dialed in, I end up making it to about 4.5 miles up the valley before I have to turn around to head back to my meeting with the wife and kids in the parking lot. The bike is feeling right for the most part. The difference in frame size isn't noticeable other than I don't feel as stretched out. I'm feeling good, like this my bike.

And I let it rip a bit on downhill sections. I clear a few rocky climbs I've not in the past. I'm feeling it.

Then blam. Lights almost out. A section of the trail is quite muddy. I know this from the trip up. There's a small dry line next to a VW Beetle sized boulder. I shoot that line. What happened next I'm not sure. I just remember thinking that it's going to hurt. What I think happened is that the back end slipped out on the mud and the front, as I tried to overcorrect, caught the edge of the trough and sent me flying.

All I know is that I have a nice constellation circling my head, my neck feels a bit catawampus, and my leg is screaming at me.

I lie there on the crowberry bushes and yell a few choice explitives once I regain my breath and slowly start the process of evaluating the damage. I can still feel my feet and hands, so that's good. I slowly begin to move, first arms, then legs, then sit up, and, finally, stand. I'm bleeding. I'm bruised. The bike's taken some damage - the handlebars are 90 degrees from where they should be, but overall things are looking good. I'm not too badly hurt and the bike is ride-able, thanks to having my multitool with me.

In the end I made it back to the parking lot and everything was fine.

I do have to wonder just what I did to deserve such a rash of bad luck with the bike. Hopefully my karma bank is balanced out now. I'm not sure I can take much more. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


My new favorite quote:  The geometry they just sold you sucks frozen monkey ass.

Thanks Mike C

Transportation Poetry Oh My

The bulk of this came to me last night while on the bus. Observational. I tried to wrap it up this AM with some sort of resolution or something. Not sure that I'm completely happy with it, but it is a good start and it felt good to write this way again.

Imagine this: talcum powder's delicate scent
on the surface, covering the rank sweaty smell
of food fried in year's old grease
burnt and salty, a black-brown smell like
putrefying fungus on the forest floor.

Picture this: black woman missing two front teeth
promising she'll be good this time, the ghosts
aren't riding with her today, demanding
that she be allowed to show her pass
even after the driver waved her by, knowing which pass
she possesses and not wanting to
hold up boarding as she digs to the
furthest reaches of her rolling suitcase.

Imagine this: 58 years old. Skirt so short
the veiny thighs show right through even
as the hemline is continually tugged down and down
again, the backs of thighs rubbing against the stained and
filthy polyester and polyvinyl of the
molded seat, a cushion that does not cushion.
high heels six inches - well maybe really just three,
strappy and cork soled like something from 1979
the straps maybe once sexy or seductive, now
just constricting, impleading
the ability to walk with comfort and ease and, really, who
wears something like that when the rain is falling
and autumn is here? Maybe a drag queen or a
woman of a certain age trying to recapture
the male gaze that feel upon her in youth? 

Picture this: stained chinos and a hat emblazoned
with 4:20 - a canned rebellion.
Sweat shirt - hoodie two sizes too
big and reeking of cheap ditch weed,
sandalwood incense-
I suppose it brings back memories of college,
memories of when chemical
alteration of the consciousness
was a fun weekday activity instead of the constant tight rope
balancing act between harmless fun and serious
addiction issues that its become.

Imagine this: 5:15 in the morning, every morning,
a scent like rotten eggs mixed with half digested
baked bean mixed with the smell of water
in which hot dogs have been boiled, left on the stove
overnight - the gaseous outpour of some
working-class stiff or the off-gassing of the swamp
that rests silent and beautiful between the highway and the sea?

Picture this: another day begun and ended
wrapped in a steel box hurdled down the road
at 70 miles an hour, an act of faith, of trust that
the operator is awake at the wheel. We try to clear our minds
of thoughts of mass suicide and icy patches
and large herbivores on the roadway, drunk drivers
and insane gunmen and sink into dreams or our
twisted thoughts - processing the day to come or
the day just ended - a family road trip minus the bickering
of the two youngest siblings. And is it worth it? Is it worth it
each of our eyes seem to ask - this getting up
so damned early in the morning and being away from
our homes for so long through the day just so
we can save a bit of gas money at the expense of our time.
Is it worth is and is it worth it? The questions hide
just under each word we say and the answers
change by the day, change on the mood and whim
of the weather and circumstance. But yes, it must be worth
it, that time spent watching each other watch each other,
that time spent in fitful dream. That time spent reading or
working or just staring into the black expanse of forest that
speed by  and we are free to reside in
a thoughtless world for forty minutes twice a day

letting someone else worry about our safety for a change. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Oh, I Ache...

How do you spell birthday fun?  I think this picture pretty much sums it up for me:
Grade. That's how I spell birthday fun anymore. I just can't decide which is more fun. Going up or coming back down.

On Thursday I turned nearly 40. Old. That's what that is. And to celebrate I rode my bike. Surprise, huh? I rode my bike from my home at about 355 feet of elevation to Independence Mine in Hatcher's Pass State Recreation Area - the pass tops out at 3886 feet, though I'm not sure of the exact elevation at the mine. Gold Cord weather station is 4050, so let's say that the mine buildings are ~3900. A climb of 3545 feet in 24-ish miles.

Not too shabby.

And the funny thing. Or at least I thought it was funny at the time. Road bikes. They are funny machines ridden by funny people. So, the set up. I pull off at the Government Peak campground/picnic area to use the restroom and grab a snack. Just below the start of the real climb. As I'm pulling out, I see a road biker coming up the road. Cool. I know he's going to pass me so I just keep telling myself to ride my ride and not worry about keeping pace because I'm going to make it to the mine come hell or high water.

So he passes me, of course, and I keep riding at my pace. He never gets quite out of my sight and I can see where he makes the curve at Gold Mint to start the real, real climb. I remember thinking to myself that he's going a bit slower than I expected based on how quickly he caught up to and passed me. And he'd already been out of the saddle and climbing on a couple hills already, even before stuff was going to get real.

I keep peddling.

About a quarter mile before the Arch Angel road parking lot I catch him. He's out of the saddle climbing. I let him know I'm behind him and that I'm just going to wheel suck for a bit because I just know that if I pass him he will just have to pass me right back. And probably soon, too. I know that the climb before the Mile 16 parking area is even harder than the one to Arch Angel, after a brief flat to slight declamation.

So I hang on his wheel to the apex and then he gets back on the saddle and picks up some speed on the flat bit. As soon as the road starts to climb again, though, he is out of the saddle and slowing. I catch him less than a quarter mile into the climb. I'm on my seat and cranking. Not hard. I'm not pushing it. Which surprises me. I always find myself trying to run down riders in front of me - I think they call it Cat6ing. Today, though, I am just riding. I'm keeping my pace and I'm on his wheel and if I intend to stay on his wheel, I'm going to have to slow way down.

So I decide that I have to pass. It's a slow pass. Slow enough that we have time to share a few words. I quip that the ride would be so much nicer if they'd install a few more flats and remove some of the hills. He chuckles and then as I start moving ahead gives me a "way to go" or something to that affect.

I push on. I don't look back because I know, at this point, if he moves to pass me, I'll pick up the pace and likely ride myself right out of the ride.

I do look back when I get to the Fishhook parking area. Not so much to see where he's at, because it seems weird to me that he hasn't passed me back yet, but rather to see how many cars I have coming up behind me. Three. But no cyclist. What?

So I keep my pace and make it to the mine. I call the wife and arrange to meet her at Turner's Corner thinking that ice cream was in order, eat a snack, stretch a bit, and have a drink before hopping back on the bike to head down. And who do I see coming up to the mine? Road bike dude.

I realize that he was probably riding a training ride with a specific pace and specific goals and that he probably pulled off at the 16 Mile parking area so that we wouldn't get into that awkward situation where our paces caused us to continue leap frogging each other, which is what I should have done earlier, but… well it is what it is.

The story I like to tell myself, though, is that he pulled off because he was embarrassed about getting passed in the middle of a climb by a fat guy on a fat bike.

Maybe my wife hired him to be out there for my birthday. A way to make me feel a little bit more potent? Maybe.

Though I still like to think it's just that I'm a freakin' beast.

Not a bad way to spend the morning. Not a bad morning at all.